[From Wood's Account of IoM, 1811]

Chapter VI.

On Public Wrongs, and their Punishment.

I HAVE already observed that capital crimes are very rare in Man. The laws respecting them are consequently few and short. No distinction is made in any of the statutes between principal and accessory, except in this one instance: that the husband, if he concealed his wife's felony, was equally implicated in the guilt.

Of all offences, treason, in its original sense, seems the most injurious to a community. I speak of rebellion, or of any act which may tend to plunge a nation into the horrors of a civil war. Among the 'laws reduced to writing in 1422, treason is thus defined- rising upon the Lord or his Lieutenant ; or striking in his presence any of his waged men, or servants : robbing him in any court, after fence made: murmuring and rising at a Tinwald Court: constraining him to hold a Tinwald Court: relieving or concealing a rebel, knowing him to be one. In 1646 another crime was ranked under this denomination - counterfeiting any current coin of the island, or bringing in, designedly, any false money, and making payment with it. Thus treason was extended to a copper coinage ; and not confined, as in England, to that of gold and silver, The offence was unknown till the year in which the act passed. Though the Lord hard the prerogative of coining, the money was not considered current till it was declared to be so by an act of Tinwald. When five hundred pounds worth of copper pence and halfpence were introduced in 1733, the former coinage of 1716 was declared to be no longer a legal payment.. Such conduct; however proper they, to whom, it was explained; might deem it, was likely to occasion unpleasant rumours, if not murmurs ; and. I have been told that its intrinsic was little more than half its nominal value. By the next copper coinage of 1757, the currency of the preceding one was not affected. In order to detect false coin, every holder of copper money was ordered, under the penalty of twenty shillings, to bring to the Governor on a certain day each year, all that he had in his possession, to be examined ; a practice very inefficacious.

No offender can be convicted of any capital crime except by a jury, at the Court of General-goal delivery : but formerly, as we learn by the laws written in 1422, he might be condemned, without any trial, for an attack upon the Lord or his Lieutenant. At that period it was the custom, in England, to hang rebel-leaders without any form of trial. The punishment of a traitor is, to be drawn with wild horses and hanged ; to have his head cut off and stuck upon the Tower of Castle Rushen ; and to have the body quartered, one quarter to be exposed at each of the four chief towns. His goods become forfeited to the Lord. " That which toucheth treason" is thus defined : striking any one within a court, aid within twenty-four paces of time Lord or his Lieutenant ; the punishment for which offence is the forfeiture of life and goods : if beyond this distance, or in the presence of the Lord or his Lieutenant out of court, the offender is punishable at the Lord's pleasure; and is also liable to have damages awarded against him in a Court of Law; as a satisfaction for the assault.

The law respecting seditious speeches or writings is of so late a date as 1796. Any person, maliciously doing any act, or circulating any. written or printed paper or pamphlet; tending to bring into contempt his Majesty's person or government, is subject, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds British, and to imprisonment not exceeding the term of six months. He may, in the first instance, be arrested by warrant from the Deemster, complaint by affidavit having been made to him.

Against the compounding of felony, a great breach of public justice, there was no law till the year 1736. The punishment of it is, simply, a fine to the Lord, at the discretion of the Court, not exceeding six pounds thirteen shillings and four-pence.

An escape, or an attempt to escape from prison does not subject the party himself to any legal punishment., nor was there till 1736 any law in force to punish such as assisted him. Assisting a criminal to escape from prison subjects the offender to a penalty of twenty pounds assisting a debtor to escape from prison, or from the island, without a pass, to a penalty of three pounds and the payment of all his debts. Should his effects be insufficient for the purpose, his goods are to be seized and sold ; be is to be imprisoned for three months, and publicly whipped at the four towns. Any one conveying another off the island, without a pass, is liable to the payment of his debts, and a fine of ten pounds to the Lord. A pass or licence to leave the island is thus ordered

" Insula Mona. Permit the bearer hereof, Mr. A. B. to pass for - upon his lawful occasion, without let, stop, or hindrance, he behaving himself as behoves all liege people, and departing this isle within one month from the date hereof.

Given at Castle Rushen this --- day of (Signed.) Lieut. Governor."

An Officer in each of the four towns has blank passes, ready signed, which, he immediately fills up, and delivers, on the payment of nine-pence, unless a debt be sworn against the party in order to detain him.

Persons suspected of perjury were to be tried at the spiritual court. I am induced to believe that fine and imprisonment, with church censures, were the only punishment, and not the pillory and loss of ears, as is generally imagined. Here, as in many other places, I cannot but regret that Mr. Stowell, a Manks Solicitor, who published the Manks laws, in alphabetical order) should have left every thing in the obscurity he found it, and perjury thus : " Whoever is sworn, and their oaths prove false, shall make satisfaction by our law, and to the church for perjury." The words in the Statute-book are, "Whoever is sworn, and their oaths prove false, shall make satisfaction by our law, and reserve them to the church for perjury ;" by which may perhaps be understood, that the person injured by the false oath is to have redress in the Temporal Court ; but the punishment, as for a public offence, is to be by the Spiritual Court. A juryman taking a fee, is made, ipso facto, guilty of perjury ; being treated with liquor, he is to be fined six shillings and eightpence, and discharged. A councilman, before he takes his seat, is sworn not to divulge the secrets of the council : should he be convicted of so doing, he is subject to dismissal, and a penalty of three pounds.

The old laws, relative to trade, were sufficient to exclude any prosperity that might otherwise arise from commerce. No article might be imported by any individual ; nor might any commodity be exported without the consent of the Lieutenant Governor and Council. The punishment for infringing upon these rules was a discretionary fine and imprisonment, besides forfeiture of the goods.1

Trade of all sorts is open to aliens as well as natives : but formerly a five years' apprenticeship was necessary.

Fresh herrings might not be exported till their price was below 1s. 2d. per hundred and this law was not repealed till 1796.

A flight of gulls usually hover about a herring shoal, and serve as a guide to the fishermen. For this reason, the shooting of one during the fishing season subjects the offender to a penalty of three pounds,

The practice of tarring nets, being thought prejudicial, was prohibited in 1796. The offender is to be fined ten pounds, one half to be given to the informer, the other added to the high-road fund: the action is to be brought in the Court of Admiralty. The use of all nets, which the master of any boat could prove to have been tarred previously to the passing of this act was, nevertheless, very properly permitted.

The herring fishermen from various parts of the island having petitioned for some general regulations respecting the casting of nets, it was enacted, in the year 1794, that they should in future be shot from the starboard side of the boat. Offenders are to be fined in a sum not exceeding five pounds, and are to enter into a surety of fifty pound, for their future good behaviour.

In 1711, a severe law passed against the smuggling trade with England, the Legislature expecting that " in consideration thereof, and the poverty of the island, the English Government would grant some encouragement to their trade, agriculture, and manufactories." The act was passed, in compliance with a request of the Commissioners of her Majesty's customs but the British Parliament, not paying any attention to a petition of the inhabitants of Man for a free trade with Britain, it was repealed two years afterwards, the Manks government apprehending that " by a continuance thereof would soon ensue the misery and decay of this land, and the inhabitants thereof, under which they could no longer support themselves." The act was therefore suspended till their petition should be granted ; and, consequently, has not been since in force. In 1726, the exportation of salt to Great Britain was prohibited, under, I know not why, the penalty of thirty pounds for every offence. I have already said that trade is now carried on under the regulations of the British Legislature, and have nothing to add upon the subject. One thing I may repeat, that distilleries are forbidden, under the penalty of two hundred pounds for every offence, and of all the implements used in the process.

The first limitation of interest was made in 1649, when 10 per cent per annum was the greatest rate allowed. A contract for a higher rate was only so far invalid as respected the excess. But, fifty years afterwards, at which time interest, was reduced to 6 per cent, any contract for a higher sum was not only declared to be usurious and utterly void, but subjected the lender to a forfeiture of treble the amount to the Lord of the Isle ; and thus stands the law at present..

Under the head of cheating, I have only one offence to mention, that of selling goods by fraudulent weight or measure. The offender is to be fined 10s. for the first offence; 20s. for the second; 3l. for the third ; and 51. for every subsequent one ; or suffer one month's imprisonment, The High-bailiff is required to examine the weights used within his district four times in the year, The parties do not undergo any form of trial: but an execution is levied by the Governor, on a proper representation of the case being made, in writing, by the High-bailiff to the regulator of weights and measures, at Castletown. The fines are to be divided in certain portions among the Officers, required to carry the act into execution.2

To forestall, is to buy provisions coming to market, either by land or water ; or to make such agreement as to prevent their coming. To regrate, is to buy corn in one fair or market, and to re-sell it either in the same fair or market, or within four miles of it. To ingross is to buy, not being at market, corn, reaped or standing, or any other victuals not having life, for the purpose of re-selling them within the island. The punishment for any of these offences is the forfeiture of the goods, or their value, to the Lord.3 Against monopoly no provision appears ever to have been made.

Against public health there is only one legal. offence, that of selling unwholesome meat. On being exposed for sale it is to be seized by the proper officer, and either distributed among the poor or burned.

The number of alehouses being very great, and supposed to be injurious to the community, was, 1734, limited to two hundred ; but soon afterwards increased to three hundred, its present number.

A person marrying a couple in any manner contrary to law, if a native, is to be transported for fourteen years to some of his Majesty's plantations in America; if an alien, is to be put into the pillory for an hour, have his ears cut off; be imprisoned, fined in a sum not exceeding fifty pounds, and banished. Prosecutions for the offence, the offender continuing in the island, must be commenced within three years. This act, passed in 1757, is the first that inflicts the punishment of transportation. Making a false entry, or altering an entry in the parish register with evil intent, is a crime punishable by death. For bigamy or polygamy there was not in England, until the reign of James the First, any other punishment than ecclesiastical censure, and this is still the case in Man. The second marriage is null, and the children consequently illegitimate.

The punishment for witchcraft was burning to death, as in England, but not. by any statute law. I do not know whether it was ever inflicted.4

I come now to speak of those offences, which in a more peculiar way affect or injure individuals.

For suicide the only punishment is the forfeiture of property.

Of the various species of homicide, none short of murder is rendered criminal. The punishment for this offence is capital, death and the forfeiture of property.

For a rape, the punishment is capital, unless the woman be unmarried. In this case she has her choice, either to hang, behead, or marry the offender.5 No instance of a conviction is upon record, and only one traditionary. After the rope was fastened round the neck of the criminal, the injured woman repented of her determination, desired he might be released, and offered him a ring, the symbol of the third condition. He accepted the gift with thanks; but told her that, having been already condemned to one punishment, he thought that sufficient, and would keep the ring for another occasion.

The unnatural crime, which is made capital by statute of 1665 is only that between man and beast, not that between man and man.

Assault, or battery, and provocation, or provoking language, likely to occasion battery, are determinable, without a jury, by the Governor or Deemster.6 The punishment for the first offence is two shillings ; for the second, thirteen shillings and fourpence, to the Lord, besides imprisonment, at the discretion of the court. This law seems to he made In the spirit of the old proverb, that " prevention is bettor than cure." For the first offence damages may also, be recovered by the injured party.

Not only is burglary felonious, but also entering a house without a door, if there 'be but two sticks across the doorway, or a bundle of gorse reared up there.7 It is remarkable that neither this crime nor that of murder is mentioned in the Statute-book, although one part of it was intended to include the whole common or customary law of Man.

Theft is divided into great and small ; that which is equal to, or exceeds the value of sixpence halfpenny, and that which is under sixpence halfpenny. The first includes necessarily theft of sheep, lamb, goat, kid, swine, or honey taken from bee-hives : the crime is capital.8

The second offence, called petty larceny, subjects the offender to corporal punishment and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

Forgery was not punishable in England, till the reign of Elizabeth, except at common law, The crime was in no case capital. Commerce and paper credit. so much increase the temptation and the opportunity, that a multitude of other statutes have -since this period been, found necessary, and there is now scarcely an instance wherein fraudulent forgery is not felonious. The Manks laws are still silent upon the subject. Only one, and that a modern instance, has occurred, I have remarked the abundance of card tickets, payable on demand, and equally current with the silver coin. Several forged ones, for five shillings each, were issued in the name of a gentleman resident at Peel, accustomed to have his notes in circulation. The criminal was detected, and confessed the fraud. It could not be considered in any other light than that of a civil debt. The matter was in some way compounded, and the prisoner set at liberty.

When a summons to appear at court was, nothing else than a piece of marked stone, we may easily suppose that an error or a perversion of its use might. frequently happen. To counterfeit or make false use of the Governor's token subjected the offender to a fine of twenty shillings ; of the Deemster's token, to a fine of ten shillings, besides imprisonment, in either case, during the Governor's pleasure.9

We have seen that two punishments may, in some instances, be inflicted for the same offence nor is there any thing unjust in the practice, when . public and a private wrong are blended. A statute of Henry the Eighth directs that, in cases of mayhem, treble damages shall be awarded, as a compensation for the civil injury, to be recovered by action of trespass ; and that the offender shall also be criminally prosecuted for a free to the King. .Any one beating a clerk in orders, is, even now, in England, subject to three kinds of prosecutions, which may be pursued at the same time ; an indictment for breach of the peace, by assault and battery ; a civil action for damages ; and a suit in the Ecclesiastical Court.

All felonies, and most crimes, must be determined at the Court of General Goal Delivery.

Before any person can be tried, he must be indicted: I will therefore speak of the indictment first:

When a person is apprehended on suspicion of felony, the Coroner, in whose sheading it has been committed, is obliged, ex officio; to take the offender into custody, and, by warrant of the Deemster, summon a jury of six good and lawful men out of the sheading, together with all such persons as he thinks may be able to give any testimony in the matter, to appear before the Deemster. If the crime be committed in one sheading, and the supposed criminal live in another, the jury must consist of three men of each sheading.10 They are, under the direction of the Deemster; to make inquiry, and take evidence, in writing, respecting the offence complained of. Upon proof, confession, strong presumption; or suspicion, supported by prevailing circumstances; the jury indict the offender. The Deemster is required to receive their verdict; to transmit it, with the depositions that have been taken, to the Rolls Office ; and to release, admit to bail, or imprison such person, so acquitted or indicted; as the nature of the case may require.

This mode of indictment does not extend to petty larceny. In the latter case, the method of proceeding is somewhat different; the suspected party being examined upon oath, and if unable to clear himself, immediately found guilty; a practice, that, in every moral and religious point of view, cannot be too much condemned. If the jury convict the offender of petty larceny, the cause goes not before another jury, as in case of felony, but is by this verdict finally decided.

When any one has been indicted for felony and committed to prison, there must be summoned, at least three days before the sitting of the court, a jury, consisting of twelve good and lawful men, to try the delinquent: and it is usual for the same jury to try all the cases that occur at one time. The court is held at Castletown, as occasion may require, by order of the Governor, himself and the two Deemsters presiding therein.

One credible witness proving the felony, and supported by probable circumstances, though it was not formerly, is now held sufficient to convict the prisoner.

In case of doubt arising to the jury, respecting any evidences or circumstances before them, they may ask the opinion of the Deemsters; but must finally decide according to their own;

A custom, observed by the Saxons before the Conquest, prevails here the Bishop or his deputy sits in the court till the verdict is determined the Deemster asking the jury; instead of ""guilty or not guilty," "Vod fir-charree soie," "' May the man of the chancel continue to sit ?"

Women, convicted of any capital crime, were formerly put into a sack and drowned:11 but, in either sex, the punishment now is to be hanged;

Besides the courts of law is the Great Inquest, a jury or juries of very ancient date, abolished in 1777, but re-established in 1793. It consists of six juries; one for each sheading, of twelve men each ; the two parishes of the Garff sheading sending six men each ; every other parish, four. They are named by the Coroner, and continue in office for one year, They are obliged; by their oaths, to present in the proper courts all known offenders; public or private, whether of the Lord's officers, tenants, or other inhabitants. The act, which reestablishes the Great Inquest, appoints some regulations for their proceedings, and takes away whatever power they formerly possessed, or had assumed, respecting 'the trying or determining the right or title of boundaries not adjoining the commons, or wastes, and of ways, waters, water-courses, and boundaries between party and party; and directs that all trials respecting the boundaries of wastes or commons, should be before a Deemster, and that the evidence should be taken down in writing.' An appeal from the decision of the Great Inquest may be made to the House of Keys.

The courts were not formerly courts of record. The laws were locked up in the breasts of the Governor and Deemsters, conveyed by oral tradition from one generation to another, and. known to the people only by the sentence which they decreed. This practice was followed by the more eligible plan of keeping precedents, as guides for future determinations. Even then; they were kept by three locks, their respective keys in the possession of the three chief officers of state, from the scrutinizing eye of the vulgar; nor were they, till the fifteenth century, generally known to the body of the people.

The inhabitants appear content with their laws and the decisions of the Governor and Deemsters are considered extremely equitable. Strangers, indeed, imagine that in trials between themselves and the natives, the latter sometimes have the preference. Of their laws and constitution they talk little: there are no parties among the generality of the people; and differences of opinion respect English, and not Manks politics. In the House of Keys, however, dissensions sometimes arise. Their debates and decisions are not always so favourable as the other branches of the legislature might wish and they possess a large majority of what is termed the Manks party, or those more inclined ,to the preservation or enlargement of the right and liberties of the people than to the encroachments of any part of the government. Major Taubman takes the lead of this party; and holds the office of Speaker of the House.


1 Item, when any person maketh suit to carry or transport any stuff or merchandize out of the isle into any foreign parts, that the captain shall consult with the rest of the Counceil, what wares may be best spared by the inhabitants ; and, with the consent of the Council, to give licence accordingly," Statute-book 1561. See also 1422.

2 Statute-book, 1777.

3 Statute-book, 1637.

4 Chaloner, page 20

5 Statute-book, 1577.

6 Ibid. 1736.

7 Chaloner, page 20 and 21.

8 Formerly, the punishment of theft was, in certain cases, more lenient. 11 If the thief be the Lord's born man, or els hath made faith and fealty, and put him in grace, if he be indicted, and no mainour in his hand, or the verdict be given, he ought, by the law of Man, . to have his life; but lie: must forfeit his goods. And then he shall have his choice of three things : first, lie shall choose whether he will rest in prison a year and a day, with sustenance of the prison, viz. he shall have bread, one part meale, and another part chaffei: of the same meale, and the third part ashes, and he to drink. of the water next to the prison doore : the second is to foresweare the King and all his land: or els, for the third, to pea the King three pounds." Statute-book, 1422.

9 Statute-book, 1651.

10 Chaloner, page 206

11 Chaloner, p. 20 and 21:


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