Chapter V.

On the Trade of the Island.

COMMERCE like the arts and sciences, increases gradually from a small beginning, and most flourishes where least restrained by law. In this country it was subject to a most singular regulation, which prevailed to the middle or latter end of the seventeenth century. That my relation of the practice may not to any one appear chimerical, I shall merely transcribe the words of my authority. "There are four merchants which are ever chosen by the country, which choice is usually made at the Tynwald court, and sworn by the deemsters to deal truly, and most for the country's profit: these, for the present, are Mr. John Stanley and Mr. Philip Moor, for the south side; and Mr. Thomas Crelling and Mr. David Christian, for the north side. These, when any ship of salt, wines, pitch, iron, or other commodities good for the use of the country comes into the island, the Governor, having first consulted with the merchant-stranger about the rates and prices of the commodities, he sends then for these four merchants of the country, to appear before him and the merchant-stranger, and drives a bargain, if he can, betwixt them: if he cannot agree with them, he commands the four merchants to spend another day with the merchant-stranger, to deal with him if they can. And whatsoever bargain is made by the said four merchants, the country is to stand to it, and take the commodities of the merchant-stranger, and pay for them according to the rates agreed upon: which most commonly is, that the country are to bring in their commodities of wool, hides, tallow, and such like; and for the same have their equal commodities of salt, wine, iron, pitch, &c. so brought in and compounded for as aforesaid. And if the commodities brought in by the country will not extend to the value of the strangers commodities, then the four merchants are to assess the rest of the commodities upon the country, every one his equal proportion; for which they are to pay ready money, as the four merchants had agreed for them. Soby this means the merchant-stranger is much encouraged to bring in necessary things for the island; and the people have, by the faithfulness of the four merchants, the full benefit of the commodity brought in; which otherwise some private man of the country might and would have taken for his own profit: and this is an especial benefit for the enriching of the people, and for the several good (1)."

The present exports of this island are strong linens and sail-cloth, their annual value being from 50001. to l0,000l.; herrings, varying in quantity with the success of the fishery; lead, or lead ore, fowls, butter, a few eggs, and some other trifling articles.

The report of the commissioners, appointed by his majesty to inquire into the state of Man, furnishes the following list of exports for the year 1790:


To Great Britain.

1743 bushels Potatoes,
1313 crocks butter,
201 boxes and baskets of eggs,
7 barrels pork,
1½ ditto, beef,
195 cow and ox hides in hair,
57 dozen calf-skins,
4½ cwt. leather,
1400 cow and ox horns,
26 cwt. cow and ox hail;
4 cwt. honey,
1335 cwt. kelp,
2 cwt. wax,
17 cwt. wool and woollen yarn,
159 cwt. linen yarn,
69 tons lead ore,
258 dozen rabbit-skins.


To Ireland.

103 doz. rabbit-skins,
11 cwt. feathers,
50 cwt. bacon,
2 tons cotton twist,
143 tons limestone,
282 tons marble and paving stones,
102 tons slate,
1807 reams coarse paper,
17 cwt. fern ashes,
1 cwt. hair powder,
130 hanks candle wicks,
1 tombstone,
3 qurs. of cwt. dried beef.

In the same year were exported to Great Britain,

1878 barrels white herrings,
2747 barrels red herrings:

To other parts.

125 barrels white herrings,
6866 barrels red herrings.

In ten years, beginning with 1781, and ending with 1790, the year first alluded to, were exported to Great Britain,

506,365 yards linen,
727 horses,
4019 black cattle,
238 sheep,
248 pigs,
1 mule,
4 goats:

To Ireland

1,564 yards linen,
113 horses,
4 black cattle,
12 mules,

The imports are manufactured goods of almost every description, chiefly from Liverpool; coal from Liverpool, and from the ports of Cumberland; wine from Oporto and Guernsey; brandy and genera from Guernsey; and rum from England: the balance of trade being greatly against the island. The deficiency may, perhaps, be made up by remittances to strangers, who, in order to avoid the sight of a bailiff, or the extravagance of English living, take up their temporary or permanent abode in this country.

Gold coin is not plentiful, and silver coin is very scarce. The copper coinage is peculiar to the island, fourteen Manks pence making one English shilling. Greenock guinea notes are the chief substitute for gold. Mr. Scott, the collector of the customs, being a partner in the Greenock bank, has, in most of the notes, the initials of his name in water-mark, and gives them every currency in his power. The merchants and manufactures are very desirous of preventing any inconvenience that might arise from the scarcity of silver, by issuing as many as they can of their one-shilling, half-a-crown., three-shilling, five-shilling, and seven-shilling tickets or cards. One of these is usually accompanied with the motto, " pro bono pu bo ;" and the form of the engagement generally run. thus: " I promise to pay the bearer on demand ---shillings, on his bringing the change of a one pound note." Tickets with only one signature are not much liked, since in case of the death of the party, the executors are not obliged to pay his debts till the expiration of three years.

Till the act of revestment in 1765, and the subsequent regulations, the chief business of the place was smuggling. The annual returns of this trade exceeded 350,0001. and by some were estimated so high as half a million, while the value of seizures was not more than 10,0001. so that the profits to those engaged in it were probably enormous. The Duke of Athol, having a small duty upon imports, rather encouraged than set his face against it. The place formed completely the harbour and the storehouse of smugglers, whence they shipped their goods, as occasion offered, to England, Ireland, or Scotland, to the great detriment of the British revenue, Many persons being by its failure thrown out of employment, emigrated to America; some went to sea; some engaged themselves in the fisheries; and others turned attention to the cultivation of the ground. To exchange an irregular and idle life for one of constant activity- and industry is no easy achievement: the waste lands and short crops evince how much remains to be done.

The following is an extract from an account of the smuggling trade, written about 1753:.

"The English government perhaps do not know to what a height it is come. The captain of a cruiser did venture to do his duty by following a valuable Dutch dogger into port and seizing her. But the man found himself mistaken. Acts of parliament and English commissions could not protect him in that petty principality. Five of his men, who had taken possession of the dogger, were thrown into a gaol, where they will probably lie till their death. The captain himself with two men and a boy narrowly escaped to Whitehaven. Quere, whether the Officers of the Isle of Man are not guilty of an act of rebellion in seizing the king's boats and arms ?

" The loss to the revenue, upon the most moderate calculation, is, at least, 200,0001. year.

" In short, this island may be looked upon a' a fortress in the hands of our enemies: and the whole question is, whether we ought to dispossess them or not; a question that admits of no dispute."(2)

Since the year 1765, the contraband trade has been nearly annihilated. The little that is now done is supposed to be by means of coasting vessels, or of ships, which, on account of bad wind or weather, anchor for a short time in some of the harbours of the island


1: See King's Description of the Isle of Man, published with his Vale Royal, London, 1656, fol. p. 30. This short treatise is the work of James Chaloner, who, with Robert Dynely and Joshua Witton, were appointed by Thomas Lord Fairfax, Lord of Man, commissioners to inquire into the revenue, government, religion, and learning of this island. The dedication to his Lordship is dated Dec. 1, 1653.

2 Postlewaite's Commercial Dictionary, fol. vol. ii.


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