[from W Ralph Hall Caine Isle of Man]
TWENTY years after Bishop Wilson's death Wesleyanism began to take root on the island. It forms the outstanding feature of the religious life of the succeeding century. John Wesley braced his adherents by a personal visit in 1777, and again in 1781, when the preacher was in his seventy-ninth year. (Reference to these visits are contained in Wesley's 'Journal,' of which a complete edition is now in preparation by the Rev. N. Curnock. )
Christianity was no longer associated with ecclesiastical discipline and the crypt of St. Germain's Cathedral, and it prospered amazingly as a consequence. Bishop Richmond bitterly assailed ' the new Society'; but forbearance, even to generous recognition, prevailed during the greater part of the nineteenth century, when members of a household might be found at church in the morning and at chapel in the evening, without seriously imperilling their eternal welfare. If no such catholicity has been everywhere maintained, Methodism generally must bear its share of reproof for this misfortune.
With the tenth Earl of Derby the direct line failed, and the sovereignty passed to James Murray, second Duke of Athole, as descended from Amelia Sophia Stanley, the third daughter of James, seventh Earl of Derby.
In 1765 the British Government, with a view of curtailing smuggling from the island into Great Britain, entered into a compact with John, the third Duke of Athole, and Charlotte his wife (the succession was through the latter as Baroness Strange), by which, in consideration of the payment of £46,000 for the island, £24,000 for the Customs, and an annuity of £1,740, the Duke and Duchess relinquished all their rights of sovereignty.
By statute, 5 George III., c. 26, known among us as ' The Revestment Act,' the island was revested inalienably on the King of England and his successors ; and on July 11, 1765, the Manx flag was ceremoniously hauled down, without anyone having any proper notion of what flag was to be hoisted in its stead !
All that had occurred was this: the regalities of the Atholes reverted to King George. The King of England had one more title. The change of Sovereign had in no way destroyed or varied by a hair's-breadth the constitutional independence of the island.
Our Attorney-General (Mr. G. A. Ring), in an article in the Law Magazine, 1902-which, together with the companion article appearing in 1905, no student of our law and history dare neglect-in the elucidation of this point, has reminded us that in 1763 the enactment was made ' by the most Noble and Puissant Prince James Duke of Atholl, Lord Strange, Lord of Mann and the Isles, etc., with the advice and consent of the Governor, Council, Deemsters, and Keys of the said Isle,' etc.; while in 1776 we get the following: 'We, therefore, the Lieutenant-Governor, Council, and Keys of the Isle of Man in Tynwald assembled, do, with the permission of the King's most excellent Majesty, ordain and enact,' etc.
The Act of Revestment remains a great turningpoint in our island story, and it roughly marks a great upward movement in the comfort and wellbeing of the community. Practically no reliable testimony regarding the social conditions of the island is of earlier date than the sixteenth century.
Bishop Meryck in 1577 found the larger farmers very much like those of similar station in Lancashire. ' The poor were honourably poor and averse to begging from door to door.' Blundell, a member of the well-known Lancashire family, declared the native Manx of much possessions to be 'gentle, courteous and affable,' and not distinguishable from those of his own county in countenance, carriage, apparel, diet, or housekeeping.' Of the farming folk he had no such praise. They were ° tall and big, slow-witted, surly, grasping, and penurious, and as austere and strict in their religious observances as abstemious in their living.' But Blundell came of a suspected class.
In the eighteenth century we were found to be jovial and sociable, ' much inclined to music, very loving among ourselves, good-natured, but choleric.' We had attained great skill in the use of the bow and arrow, and dancing was our diversion. Wesley's tribute was: ` A more loving, simple-hearted people I never saw.'
But perhaps the best picture of the old-time Manxman-a picture not very wide of the mark even to this hour-was that given by a parson who attained the rank of Vicar-General of his native isle. He described his fellow - countrymen as orderly, religious, and industrious, patient and persevering; anxiously careful in gathering riches, which they know well how to take care of when got; not prone to quarrelling, nor revengeful but by the law, to which they are more addicted than any other people I ever knew; not given to theft; very cheerful over a glass, of which they are very fond; great lovers of music and dancing.'
The conclusion of the island story is told in a few words. We were not done with the Atholes by the Act of Revestment. In 1793 the fourth Duke was made Governor. From 1804 he made his home at Castle Mona, now an hotel on the seafront at Douglas. He pressed certain manorial rights and claims to tithe; argued that his predecessors had made a bad bargain, and that he should have something more; and generally made himself disagreeable. The dispute lasted till 1830. The British Government put an end to all further haggling with the Scotsman by a payment of £417,114-a heavy price admittedly, but it has proved a better bargain and a sounder investment than at the time was deemed possible.