[From Wood's Account of IoM, 1811]
PROPERTY seems to be divided naturaly into things real or landed estates, and things personal, or whatever does not come within the first division.
All the lands of Man belonged formerly to the Lord. Even so lately as the sixteenth century no person could sell, or in any manner alienate his land, by whatever title acquired, without a licence, either from the Lord, or from three of his principal Officers. The occupiers of the soil were termed the Lord's tenants, and all were subject to the payment of a fine or rental.
James, Earl of Derby, endeavoured, in the year 1643, to make all the tenures leasehold, either for three lives, or twenty-one years; and appointed four commissioners to compound with the holders, and make agreements, in the best manner they could. His conduct gave rise to a warm contest between the sovereign and the land holders, which terminated in 1703, the former agreeing for himself and successors to give up all title the land, so long as the latter paid him the fines and rentals, agreed between them individually and the Earl's commissioners, in and after the year 1643. The Lord's dues were thus made incontrovertibly fixed, however much the land might at any future time be improved, and the value of it increased. The term of a lease must not exceed twenty-one years, and a mortgage, if not redeemed within five years, render the parties liable to the fine of alienation.
In 1777 an act was passed, confirming this act of settlement, the preamble of which breathed an air of greater freedom than had till then prevailed.
Estates became, on the death of the owner, the property of the eldest son; or, if there was no son, of the eldest daughter: and herein did the law of Man differ from that of other feudal nations. The courage of the female inhabitant to whom a signal victory was once attributed was perhaps the foundation of this custom, extant at the present time for estates remaining entailed, and for those of persons dying intestate
Estates of inheritance might be sold by special leave of three of the Lord's principal officers
Such as were sold once were afterwards considered resaleable on the payment of a fine; and thus was the number of entailed estates constantly diminishing,. In this manner began and continued the system of purchase, and consequently of devise. What a man could alienate in his life time, he could devise at his death. If he died intestate, the purchased lands which he possessed descended as estates of inheritance, but the heir was obliged to pay the value of the lands to the executors of he deceased, to be divided as a personal estate. But at present no distinction is made between states of inheritance and of purchase, except so far as concerns the wife's or Widow's right; the whole, with this exception, falling, without an, compensation to be made in return, to the heir at law.
The isle was divided into six hundred portions., called quarterlands; but according to Feltham the present number is seven hundred and fifty-nine; all other estates appear to be allotments out of, or encroachments upon, these.
In the possession of land, no distinction is made between natives and aliens.
A title to land may be acquired by the sentence of .a court of law, or by occupancy as well as by descent, devise, or purchase. The first, being founded upon some pre-existing right, I shall pass over, and speak only of ocupancy.
If a person had unmolested possession ait land for ten years, after the true proprietor had a title to it, and who was not of the age of twenty-one years, non compos mentis, imprisoned, or beyond seas, it became the absolute property of the occupier; but, if such incapacities existed in the proprietor he maintained his title for five years after they were removed. The first period has been since extended from ten to twenty-one years, and the last reduced from five to two.
Every landholder has a right, by prescriptions or immemorial custom, of feeding his sheep or cattle upon the commons, their number being in proportion to the quantity of land which be holds. Every inhabitant possesses the same right of quarrying stone for his own use, and also, on the annual payment of one halfpenny to the Lord, a sum not now demanded, of digging peat upon the mountains(1).
In cases of treason or felony, estates, real as vell as personal, are forfeited to the Lord(2).
A title to things personal may be acquired by prerogative, by forfeiture, by descent, by devise, by purchase, by action at law, by occupancy, by marriage, by custom, by gift, by exchange, by distreint for rent or by execution, subsequent to the judgment of a court. A few of these heads require some explanation.
All wrecks not claimed within a year and a day, and all mines, are the Lord's, by his prerogative. Forfeitures of felons' goods were made to the Lord, except goats to the Queen, and certain perquisites or fees to the Coroner and Deemster, never to the Bishop, or other Barons, even when they held their own courts.(3) The right of treasure-trove has been transferred from the Lord Proprietor to the King of England, but no case relative to felons' goods has occurred since the revestment. Appeal bonds, hereafter to be mentioned, are payable to the King, as are all legal fines. Game belonged to the Lord by his prerogative, The killing of a hawk, heron, hart, or hind, without his licences subjects the party to a penalty of 31.; one half to the Lord, and one half to the informer: the shooting of a pigeon, partridge, or grouse, to a penalty of ll. Thus a pigeon is accounted game; but a hare is not so.
A licence for a year may generally be obtained by application to the proper officer, and the payment of the fee of half-a-crown. The former penalties were 71. to the Lord for every animal , accounted game, that was killed; for every tame deer, killed or taken, 101. besides a discretionary imprisonment; for every hawk or heron, 31.; and for their eggs, 31, each. The game laws are now nearly obsolete.
A widow becomes entitled, on the death of her husband, to half the real and personal estate, entails excepted, possessed by them, whether he has made a will or not.(4) If he dies intestate, their children, or their representatives, inherit the other half in equal portions; and if there are no Children, or their representatives, the next of kindred, in equal degree, representatives among collaterals, after brothers and sisters. If there is no Widow, children being excluded., the whole divided as the half would otherwise be. A will should be proved within three months of the death of the party; and the legacies are to be paid, or the estate divided, within fourteen days of the probation of the will, or the granting of letters of administration. For some cause, apparently very adverse to the public good, the executors are not obliged, by law, to pay the debts of the deceased, before the expiration of three years from the time of his death.
All civil actions, except on accounts current, must be brought within three years of the cause of action, unless the Plaintiff is a minor, non compos mentis, beyond seas, or has any other legal imperfection. In these cases it must be brought within three years of the removal of the imperfiection. Thus a title by occupancy is sometimes obtained..
If a tenant quits the farm on the May half year day he is entitled to the standing crops.
Marriage is a sort of partnership, and does not afford an exclusive title to estates, either rem or personal.
Right by custom is now nearly obsolete, except that of some clerical fees. Certain articles were formerly heir-looms; but in the year 1747, it was enacted that a man's firelock should be the only one so taken.
The goods which are taken in distress or execution, must remain one month as a pawn; redeemable by the tenant or defendant, on payment of the rent, or of money recovered in an action at law. If not redeemed, they are to be sold by public auction. Should goods be fraudulently removed, the landlord may, within a fortnight of his rent's becoming due, seize them wherever they are to be found; and no sale, assignment, or other agreement, can set aside the landord's just claim, in the first instance, to one year's rent. Whatever relates to a distress, or execution, is the business of the Coroner; and he is entitled to one shilling in the pound for his trouble, chargeable on the tenant or defendant.
If the sentence of a court of law is not in due time attended to, or an appeal made, execution against the defendant's goods is granted as a matter of course,
1 Statute-book, Anno 1583, 1637, 1663, 1645, 1647, 1662, 1703,
2 Statute-book, 1665.
3 Statute-book, Anno 1577; " The old customary Laws of the Isle of Man put in writing."
4 Statute-book, 1777
5 Anno 1738.