[From Atholl Papers - AP 155-23]

[Letter from R Frazer to William Pitt re Isle of Man, 1787]

To the Right honourable William Pitt first Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer

By an act of Parliament of the twelfth year of his late Majesty King George the first intitled "an Act for the improvement of his majesty's revenues of customs, excise and inland duties" power is given to the Commissioners of his majesty's Treasury to treat with the Earl of Derby for the absolute purchase of any estate right title or interest in, or to, all, or any regalities, powers honours, superiorities jurisdictions, rights, priviledges, duties customs, revenues, profits, or other advantages whatsover, in, over, or about, the Island of Man, and its dependencies, for such sum or sums as they should think fit.

And, by an act of parliament of the fifth year of this present Majesty, entitled "an act for carrying into execution the contract made pursuant to the act afore cited, between the Commissioners of his Majestys Treasury and the Duke and Dutchess of Athol the proprietors of the Isle of Man for the purchase of the said Isle and its dependencies under certain exceptions and reservations therein particularly named" The said Island was vested in his Majesty, under certain exceptions comprehended under "the title of Landed Revenues, together with the Patronage of the Bishoprick and other ecclesiastical benefices". And whereas it was apprehended that the said reservations, would not interfere with the interests of the public, but it has been found by an experience of twenty one years that much inconvenience hath arisen from the divided species of empire which these reservations have been hitherto the occasion of taking place. To Government, on the one hand, by clogging and impeding its operations, in establishing regular, and proper influence over the inhabitants of the Isle and by taking away from that uniformity, necessary to produce habits of obedience to law, in a people accustomed to illicit practices; it has retarded the effectual accomplishment of the intention of the purchase of that Isle, and from the former power of that noble family, and their priviledges, a confusion has taken place with regard to rights, & claims not well defined ; but which it is become highly necessary for the prosperity of that little community, for the ease, interest, and dignity of that family, to ascertain and bound.

From the frequent opportunitys I have had of minute enquiry into the affairs of the Isle of Man, perhaps I may be able to place this arrangement in a view satisfactory to all, and at least I humbly hope that the attempt may not be presuming. It would give me the highest satisfaction if any lights I may throw upon the subject, should tend to assist in, doing ample justice to the noble family, the ancient proprietors of that Isle, and at the same time reducing the affairs of the Isle of Man, into that order, and regularity, which may put it in the power of Government effectually to suppress illicit traffic, and, advance the improvement of the Isle, so as to render it an additional source of wealth and force to the public empire.

The terms of the contract are as follows: on the part of the Duke and Dutchess of Athol the absolute surrender of the Isle, castle, and peele of Man, with all rights jurisdictions and interests, in and over the said Island and all its dependencies "reserving only their landed, property with all their rights in and over the soil as Lords of the manor, with all courts Baron, rents and services and other incidents to such courts belonging. Their wastes, commons and other lands inland waters, fisheries and mills, and all mines, minerals, and quarries, according to their respective rights therein, felons goods, deodands, waifs, strays & "wreckage of the sea", "together with the patronage of the Bishopric, and other ecclesiastical benefices."

In the first place I beg leave with great deference to represent that I apprehend it would be a matter attended with no great difficulty to preserve entire the sovereignty of Parliament, and his Majesty over that Isle, and at the same time to give his Grace the Duke of Athol such full powers to preserve, and improve his reserved rights, to the extent of which they may admit, without injuring the liberties of the inhabitants, or the interests of Government

This might be done by continuing the courts Barron, wholly and absolutely under the controul of the kings courts and, allowing his Grace's seneschal to make one of the Governors council, "by a commission from his Majesty", by which he would not only have the power of preventing any injury to his master, from the decision of the courts, but also from any bill brought before the legislature of the Isle. His Grace retaining as at present, "a priority" in the payments of his rents, services &c".

And I do not apprehend that any inconvenience could arise, from his Grace being made Governor and Captain of the Isle of Man, by commission from his Majesty with reservation yo his heirs male, possessing the manor of the Isle of Man "The Lieut. Guvernor" & "chancellor" appointed by the King - and all laws passed by the authority, and approbation of his Majesty, by and with the consent, and advice of his Grace, as Governor & captain General, & the court of Tynwald, that is the Kings Lieut Governor & council, and the house of Keys of that Isle. His Grace receiving such compensation from the Revenues of the Isle, as should be esteemed adequate to the dognity, and importance of the station, and which would lead him to exert the influence which his rank and the habits of the people of that Isle, would add to his office ; in furthering the intentions of Government respecting the Isle of Man.

but f his Grace the Duke of Athol should be willing to part wit the whole of his rights and claims reserved, and excepted, as above mentioned, and it should be thought eligible in Government to purhase them ; I humbly apprehend the sum or sums for that purchase required might be raised, without incurring any burden on the revenues of Great Britain.

His Graces landed revenue which amounts by the schedule annexed to the vesting act to 1500 per annum, might be applied to the support of the civil establishment of the Isle of Man, and an annuity granted to his Grace in Lieu thereof payable from the custom duties of that Isle.

(inserted in margin The civil establishment iis 1264 per annum - his Graces landed revenue would sell within the Isle for 37,000)

The custom duties of the two last years amount per An to


The collection has hitherto amounted to 1,400 per An but may be performed at


Clear revenue exclve of civil establishment


In considering of any future appropriation of the revenues of the Isle of Man, it is necessary to take into view the expenditure on the bounties granted to the fish curers of that Isle ; and made payable from that revenue. The amount of this depends so much upon the success of the fishery, and the preventing frauds in the accounts they, the fishcurers may return of the number of barrels cured, or exported that it is not possible to estimate the sum previous to further experience.

But I have reason to think that if this subject should come again under the concideration of parliament, they would be inclined, to circumscribe or limit the bounties, so as to prevent their exceeding the funds from which they are to be paid ; of which there is at present much probability ; or perhaps of changing the mode of distribution from the fish curers to the boats and fishermen which I beg leave to estimate, it is the opinion of those best acquainted with the peculiar nature of the that fishery, would contribute more effectually to raise "the declining spirit of the fishery", and "encrease the number fishermen so as to provide a nursery of able seamen fit for the navy."

But wether it may be thought proper to adopt any measure for the revival of the said act, I humbly apprehend it is by no means improper, to shew in what manner the revenues of that Isle may be further improved.

Proposed saving in the collection of the revenues


Allowance of brandies by licence of the Commissioners of the customs under a duty of 2/gal 20,000 Galns


Do Ggeneva 10,000 gal at 1/-


Duty on sugar imported by draw back 8/cwt


Addl duty on wines Portugal & other wines at present 4 per ton to be raised to 8; french wines at present 8 to be made 12 per ton


proposed addition to revenue


present average as before stated


probable future amount above the collection


The present flourishing state of the Isle of man, and the great increase of its population,"nearly a third", is a striking proof of the excellence of a fair trade, and honest industry, over the baneful practice of smuggling. This practice has in a considerable degree been renewed "since the peace" "by people from the adjacent coasts, who have tempted many of the lower class of the people to enter into that traffic, and to lett their boats to hire for the purpose of assisting them in unloading their large smuggling cutters, and running the goods [hen]ce to Great Britain ; and Ireland" I have not discovered that any of the leading people, or the more opulent are concerned in this pernicious confederacy, and I have not a doubt but that every assistance will be given by the legislature of the Isle, and the principal inhabitants totally to suppress this ,and every other species of illicit trade, in that Isle. And altho I am well acquainted with the numerous frauds committed by the lower class of people of that Isle, "upon the revenue", yet I must beg leave to take this opportunity of stating, that it is not so much the neglect of the legislature of the Isle, that these exist as it is the fault of the officers of his majesty's revenue, and to prove this, I need only to refer "to a correspondence betwixt his excellency General Smith Governor, and the Collector, and acting receiver General of the customs ; which correspondence was transmitted to the Secretary of State, and remains in that office, in the correpondence in 1781 or the beginning of 1782."

And if I shall the honour to be appointed to an office of trust in the revenue of that Isle, I have not a doubt but that I should immediately obtain the consent of the Legislature, to enact such laws as would greatly repress the illicit practices to which I allude. And I humbly beg leave to state, that if the same measures were adopted with regard to the other Islands dependent on Britain particularly Guernsey and Alderney, where smuggling prevails to an enormous degree the objects of Government might be fully accomplished, without infringing on their liberties ; and tending greatly to the real interests of the inhabitants. And with regard to the Isle of Man, if smuggling were wholly repressed, which I am confident it may be, as effectually as in any port belonging to his Majesty, indulgencies in trade might to granted to these inhabitants, which might render that Island a very increasing source of wealth, and force to the empire

R Frazer


June 2d 1787

I beg leave to add, that if it should be the object of Government to raise a sum of money on the revenues of the Isle of man, that might be done with facility, on the surplusage by granting annuities, at the rate of six percent, the legal interest of that Isle.

R Frazer


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