[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 4 #4 1939]
DAVID CRAINE, M.A.
(Retiring President's Address.)
In the latter half of the seventeenth century, as a consequence of the evergrowing trade between the western British ports and America, together with such fortuitous influences as the Great Plague and the Fire of 1666, there was some dispersal of merchants from the City of London. According to Bullock, at that time a number of commercial adventurers made a settlement in Man, having realised the opportunities of lawful and illicit trade offered by the Island's position and its low import duties.
The Hills House, Circular Road, Douglas,
built in 18th century by Philip Moore
Among later immigrants was one Philip Moore, a citizen of London engaged in the Norway trade. He is said to have belonged to Wigtonshire, and in Man he founded a family known as the " Moores of the Hills," the Hills being an estate near Douglas now swallowed up by the modern town.1 He died in 1728 and was succeeded by his son Philip, who was one of the Keys until his death in 1746. He had four sons - Philip, George, James, and John.
Philip III (1708-1788), the eldest, inherited the family business, whose nature was tersely described by the unfriendly pen of Thomas Heywood of the Nunnery. Commenting on the candidature of Philip's son-in-law, Thomas Moore, for the Deemstership, he wrote : " Thomas Moore was not bred to the profession of the Law, but served an apprenticeship to one Philip Moore, a man in trade - if the late smuggling business can merit that appellation." 2
George (1709-1787), the second son of Philip II, was the most notable of the family. A merchant from his youth up, he established a flourishing business in Peel, was a member of the Keys, and their Speaker during the trying period which followed the Revestment in 1765. He received a knighthood at the close of his public career.
Among the Bridge House papers now in the Manx Museum are Letter Books which once belonged to him and which form the chief sources for this account of one of the leading and most successful Manx merchants of the eighteenth century. The first foolscap volume contains correspondence closely written in various hands during the years 1750 to 1760, and for the most part relating to his business affairs. The second, a slim volume of a hundred pages, is mainly occupied by Moore's letters when he was in London in 1766 on deputation from the Keys. The last entry was made in 1780.
These two books covering only a small portion of his long life convey some idea of his interests and business activities during a quarter of a century, and enable the reader to sketch in, however vaguely and inadequately, a portrait of the writer.
Not all the features of this picture are attractive. But it does reveal Moore as a man who, in spite of certain defects of heart and mind, was a dignified representative of the shopkeeping and trading class of which he was a member - enterprising but prudent in his ventures, a man of integrity in his dealings with business associates, and a good citizen according to his lights.
The Letter Books do not record the date at which Moore settled in Peel. In 1733 he had married Catherine Callan, the daughter of a Dublin merchant, and his substantial interests in Ireland, including an estate at Donnybrook, took him annually to that country. In his younger days no doubt he took part in his father's business at Douglas, and on one occasion in 1736 he, with his brother Philip and other prominent merchants, was caught smuggling spirits into the town - a contemptible evasion in view of the extremely low duties levied by the Manx Customs, 3 and the standing of the traders involved. In 1750, the earliest date of the Letter Books, he had been established in the western port for many years, and had no further share in the family business.
As far as possible he avoided Douglas in his transactions, owing to the risks incurred by dealing with the alien merchants who swarmed there. He resented the presence of these intruders, not only because many of them were shady adventurers of uncertain financial stability, but because they were formidable competitors who did not hesitate to undercut in prices, and thus embarrassed him in his dealings with customers. Writing to Dan Mylrea in 1751, he says: " Pity it is that no method has yet been taken whereby the trade of the Isle might be solely occupied by its natives."
With the expansion of his business he found that it would be advantageous to have premises in Douglas, and in 1751 he bought property called " Oats's Concerns," consisting of a house with a small garden and outhouses, and a seat in the Chapel of Douglas. " I have now," he wrote "a house and cellars in Douglas, whereas I was in want of both. With great difficulty such conveniences are there to be met with, for the town is so burthened with foreign curs dayly flying there that no manner of roome is unemployed."
His main business interests were centred however in Peel. He was anxious to improve and deepen its harbour for the accommodation of all sizes of vessels, and he displayed characteristic energy in seeking financial aid, not only from the local merchants but also from Liverpool shipowners whose Guineamen sometimes were forced to ride out a gale in the unprotected bay. His fellow citizens subscribed £500 of the £1,500 required, and his plans received the approval of experts brought over from England. But the scheme was frustrated by the jealous opposition of Douglas and the other Manx ports whose ruinous harbours were likely to suffer in competition with the projected alterations at the mouth of the Neb. It may be argued, as indeed it was at the time, that his exemplary enterprise on behalf of Peel had as its main object the provision of better facilities for his contraband ventures. What cannot be denied is that at all events he had the will and vigour to take the initiative.
The chief commodity in which Moore dealt was spirits imported into the Island and intended for sale to smugglers. He had been born into a society whose prosperity rested on the insecure foundations of illicit trading. Everyone in the Island, from the highest to the lowest, was affected directly or indirectly by a commerce which enriched a few, impoverished many, and corrupted the State. The official class, the owners of large estates and the merchants, for the most part condoned or participated in the traffic, and the Church as a whole displayed little sign of the will or the courage to attack an evil which was sapping the morale of the Manx people. The ecclesiastical courts condemned the porters who rolled brandy casks from cellar to quay on the Sabbath, and whilst the sinners repented in St. German's prison their employers dined with the Vicars-General.
Here and there, it is true, a voice was raised in support of Bishop Wilson, who throughout his episcopate had fearlessly denounced the contraband trade and drawn upon himself the abuse of its powerful supporters. In a sermon preached in 1735 he referred to the disastrous effects- idleness, drunkenness and thieving - produced by 4 the sin of running goods, and," he said, " defrauding the [British] nation of the rights and power of supporting itself. This we have borne testimony against ever since it first began in this place, but, God knows, to very little purpose."
Moore was astonished and angered by the steadfast opposition of the Bishop. In the matter of trade the merchant had no lively sense of obligation to the sovereign State which pursued a short-sighted selfish policy towards its dependencies, raising tariff walls and placing restrictions whenever the interests of its own producers and manufacturers were threatened. He himself had experienced the irritations to which the system gave rise. On one occasion he was asked to buy some Loghtan sheep for a Durham peer, Lord Barnard. Twenty were obtained after some difficulty and shipped to Whitehaven. They were refused entry by the Customs, and five days later, when the animals were put on shore at Ramsey; nearly half were dead or dying of starvation.
Moore took up the position that his trade was conducted in conformity with the Insular laws and that if there was smuggling into Great Britain and Ireland, the chief offenders were natives of those countries. In 1750, when the English cruisers increased their patrols in the Irish Sea and appeared to threaten the safety of brandy landed on the Manx shores, he talked indignantly of " measures levell'd at the privileges of the Isle." Two years later he complained that the Episcopal crusader was still militant, in spite of his eighty-eight years, and working for the Duke of Atholl's disposal of his Lordship of Man.
" The Bishop," he said, " is busying himself too much in these matters it's believed, and trade has received a very considerable stagnation from apprehensions of the Isle being to be alienated. We should follow the example of Jersey and Guernsey, where a much more extensive trade than we have is carried on without envy or noise. By exercising the like caution," he continued solemnly, " we in like manner would establish a reputable character, our youth would have encouragement sufficient to stay at home and not look abroad to be employed."
It is perhaps superfluous to remark at this point that Moore was as inconsistent as the rest of us ; and, although he advocated employment for Manxmen, the captains and the crews (excepting some Manx apprentices) of his two vessels were Scottish, as were also his gardener and ploughman ; and when he built a wherry at Peel he brought his carpenters from Ireland.
If the Bishop was only to be diverted by death from his attacks on the Contraband traffic, there were others of less standing who could be disposed of without much trouble. A letter from George Moore in 1754, when the Parish of Kirk German had lost its Vicar, is eloquent of the attitude of the Insular Administration and judiciary.
" Dear Sir," he wrote to the Comptroller, John Quayle of Bridge House. " it is reported the Lord Bishop or the Clergy are minded to give the Rev. Mr. Gell a Presentation to this Parish . . . the Behaviour of Mr. Gell in all Instances and upon all occasions has shewn his Disposition to prejudice the trade in this Isle. Of such was the recd opinion in this particular of his Behaviour that the Governr interested himself formerly to prevt his being settled in this town to the end that being distt from the Objt of trade he might not have the opportunity of speculation or concern about it. I write this letter on purpose to intimate my fears of his settlemt in this town, and shd you acquaint the Dep. Governors to joyn their Influence with yours I am so well acquainted with our Governor's sentimts on this subject that I daresay you will hereby oblige him and in a most particular manner oblige
Mr. Gell did not become Vicar of Kirk German.
During the period covered by the Letter Books, George Moore had shares in a number of ship ventures, but his chief interest lay in the fortunes of two vessels - one the Peggy of 150 tons burthen ; and, newly built to his order at Boston, the Lilly of 120 tons. They were snows, two-masted ships popular at that period, and almost identical with the brig. He owned five-eighths of the Peggy, which was manned by a captain, mate, apprentice, and six other seamen. The Lilly, his own property, had a similar crew.
These small vessels voyaged across the Atlantic at all times of the year, braved the hurricanes and reefs of the West Indies, and passed through the Straits to trade with Mediterranean France and Spain. A typical voyage was taken by the Peggy in 1751. She sailed for North America with £800 worth of Glasgow-manufactured goods, including tartan and other cloth. These were disposed of at Boston, and the snow loaded with 3,000 quintals of salt fish and New England rum. A course was then set for Gibraltar and eventually the fish was sold at Alicant for a good price. This was used in the purchase of five thousand gallons of Spanish brandy, shipped at Barcelona, after which the Peggy sailed for home on the last leg of her triangular voyage. Another route was followed by the Lilly in 1752. At the end of May she called at Cork to ship £700 worth of Irish beef and butter in barrels. She reached Barbadoes at the beginning of July and disposed of her provisions. With the proceeds rum was bought and landed at Peel in August. This particular voyage of three months did not meet with the vexatious delays which often detained ships at their ports of call. A third and shorter route was that in which the Peggy carried Welsh coal to Gibraltar and brought brandy from Cette in southern France on her return journey.
It will have been seen that a part of Moore's ventures was in trade which attracted no adverse criticism from the British Treasury. But the main objective of each voyage to which everything else was subordinated was a homeward cargo of spirits. His dealings in other commodities have often an air of amateurishness. On the subject of brandy and rum, however, he writes with the assurance of an expert and, as far as his temperament will allow, with enthusiasm. When he begins a correspondence with a Galloway man whose brother has a plantation in British Guiana, the first artless questions which come to his mind relate to rum:-" I take it the Rio Esquebo to be adjoyning of a part of Terra Firma,' he writes. " Is sugarcanes planted there? or have they the mollasses from the Caribee Islands?"
In his trading expeditions much depended on the business acumen of the captain, who had to be given a wide discretion in choosing ports of call and in buying and selling the cargo to the best advantage. Moore sent letters which were picked up at arranged points and often modified the original instructions. These communications generally repeated certain simple words of advice in which he exhorted the captain or agent, as the case might be, to do everything in the most frugal way, and to conduct the business in hand with the same zeal as if it were for himself. Occasionally he supplemented this with a little applied commercial wisdom. " On your arrival at Barbados," he informed the captain of the Lilly, " make yourself acquainted with the prices of provisions and of Rum. You may seem as if you were indifferent about buying Rum, lest your appearance might affect the price."
He saw to it that the Manx apprentices on his vessels were not altogether neglected in education during the voyages. On one occasion he asked the captain to spend up to ten shillings on reading books with a little paper for writing and figuring purposes, their activities in this direction being supervised by the mate. Frugality in this and other matters was the note he always sounded, and in the case of the Lilly it appears to have had disastrous consequences.
The snow had lain for months at Antigua in the West Indies awaiting a cargo of rum, and had finally arrived in Peel with the hull below the waterline riddled by seaworms. Moore decided to have her bottom sheathed with copper, and in order that it might be done, as he said, in the frugalest way, she was sent to Boston. In addition to a cargo of Glasgow goods, Irish butter and linen, she took with her a quantity of brown paper, instead of the customary hair, for use as a filling between copper and hull. The owner further economised by shipping a crew of seven apprentices as mariners, thus reducing the total ship's wages to about three pounds a week. In spite of her condition the vessel survived the Atlantic crossing, and in Boston was joined by the Peggy. In the spring of 1755 the two snows set sail with cargoes of fish for the Mediterranean, and off Cape Cod were caught in a violent storm. The Peggy escaped, but the Lilly with her apprentice crew was driven ashore on the New England coast and became a total loss. The ship's company only saved their lives with difficulty.
Moore's apparent heartlessness in the ordering of the Lilly's last voyage, like some of his other faults, sprang inevitably out of the spirit of the paradoxical eighteenth century, in which the culture, beautiful clothes, and exquisite manners of the well-to-do insufficiently compensated for their complacent acceptance of political corruption and social brutalities.
It was a similar lack of sensibility to human suffering which accounts for the mantraps Moore set in his orchard to catch apple stealers, and for his directions in the sale of his slave Douglass, as though he was a bale of merchandise. " I expect you have Disposed of my negroe Douglass," he wrote to the captain of the Peggy, " because his face I never want to see. If he be not sold sell him in Spain for what you can get for him."
On the other hand he was an affectionate father and deeply interested in his children's welfare. He always remembered his family in his letters to captains taking the Mediterranean voyage, and they were instructed to supplement the cargoes of his beloved brandy with quantities of oranges, lemons, prunes, raisins, almonds, and nuts for the children. A list of articles and materials purchased for him at Continental ports hints at the fashionable display with which his wife and daughters dazzled the matrons of Peeltown - boxes of artificial head and breast flowers, fans, earrings and necklaces, silver tippets and Barcelona handkerchiefs, scarlet satin and crimson velvet, yellow lutestring and smooth silk paduasoy in various colours, pink and silver shoes, gauze dress caps and blow lace for ruffles. When his son Phil was twenty-one, he bought him a pair of French brilliant stone buckles and a blue satin waistcoat embroidered with gold.
His daughter Peggy acted as, his book-keeper for a time, and some of her small beautiful script is to be found in the first Letter Book. In 1755 he wrote to a friend in Dublin, " My daughter Margaret is gone off. She liked our young Comptroller [John Quayle of Bridge House] and I thought it the best way not to interpose ; he's a very diligent young man." In spite of Moore's not over-warm comment on the marriage, Peggy appears to have been happy, and her letters to her husband are touching in their expressions of love and devotion. It was her son, George Quayle, who in 1789 built the yacht Peggy which; a unique survival, still lies in its boathouse at Castletown. Another son, Basil, farmed the Creggans, where he continued his grandfather Moore's pioneer work in agriculture.
For his eldest son Moore nourished hopes of academic success which were not realised. His school career in Glasgow was unsatisfactory, and a letter of advice from his father on the eve of his entering the Glasgow College in 1751 was only a temporary stimulus.
" Dear Phil," Moore wrote, " The Time of your entering the college is very nigh and as it is the effect of your own inclination I expect you have used proper diligence to prepare yourself. The means for your improvement you must see that I am very carefull to consult nothing is wanting that I know of to contribute to it. Why I'm thus anxious arises from the knowledge I have of the usefulness of a good Education. This is what makes the Distinction in Mankind. To please me, your Friends, and in the End to please yourself is now in your power by duely attending your studys. If you neglect this opportunity I shall tell you what will be the Consequence. You have another Brother and may have more. When the time comes that Education is necessary I shall give him the same means of Education that I now give you and if he makes better use of his Time than you do whoever is most deserving you may be sure will be distinguished for having exerted his Capacity . If you apply to your Studies I'm extreamly well satisfied . . . for it would be very trifling that you enter the College for the appearance of Education only and that thus I throw away my money to no purpose.... Your mama gives her Blessing your Sisters their love."
A year later when Phil came home for his summer vacation his father soon discovered that the academic learning he had acquired on the banks of the Clyde was negligible.
" I find," he wrote, " it will be very hazardous to lose sight of him, so that I'm minded to keep him here and not let him return to Glasgow where amusement has taken more of his time than study . . . he's more Inclinable to be a merchant than ever. This notion has all along been so grafted in him that I'm satisfied it is the reason he has given so small application to his studies."
Phil commenced his business career at the age of sixteen with the purchase of half a chest of tea, but soon, in partnership with his father and another Peel merchant, John Callin, was engaged in a more ambitious enterprise - the establishment of a tobacco spinning factory. Tobacco had been manufactured in the Island since the end of the seventeenth century and Moore was not the first to spin leaf in Peel. Machines, operatives, and hogsheads of raw tobacco were obtained from Glasgow, and a beginning was made with six men; who received a total of five shillings a hundredweight on the " leaf taking " - four shillings for five spinners and a shilling for the roller. The workmen were expected to give a small gratuity to a master so that the boys who waited on them might be taught to read. No " Tobacco boys," Moore says, could be had if this instruction was not provided.
The entry of young Moore into business was a source of great satisfaction to his father in spite of the Glasgow disappointment, and soon he was buying rum in Belfast and visiting defaulting debtors in Galloway. His assistance was the more appreciated because all through his life the elder Moore appears to have been oppressed from time to time with fears of a decline in health. In 1754, when he was forty-six years old and on the return of Phil from Ireland, he writes : " I was quite tired for want of him for I find this is not in my power to go thro the business with the application that it requires and gives me a proof of that Lesson that there is a season for all things."
A year later he debates whether he should visit Dublin to obtain a doctor's opinion : " I've severely left any Liquor stronger than water and am thinking that this habit may restore my stomach." As credulous as any twentieth-century devotee of advertised nostrums he bought a supply of " The original Balsom of Life," at three shillings and sixpence a bottle from Lombard Street, London. But despite his fears, the heady temptations lurking in the cellars at Peeltown, and the quack medicines of Lombard Street, he survived to the ripe age of seventy-eight.
The great stores of brandy and rum he kept in his sheds and cellars in Peel were, for the most part, destined for western Scotland, and from Kilfinan and Inveraray in Argyll to Kirkcudbright in the south there was scarcely a coast town or village of any size in which his liquor was not drunk, and his agents engaged in the not very remunerative and often difficult task of collecting his debts. They received a half per cent. commission, and sometimes were sent a bag of a dozen bottles of spirits as a reward for zeal, or as a stimulus to greater activity. The Highland bills were the most difficult of settlement, though the Lowlanders were not far behind in their reluctance to meet their liabilities, and periodically his letters went out to his collectors telling them in oft repeated phrases that his occasions for money in Glasgow were urgent, and calling upon them to press for payment.
" It grudges me," he would write, " whenever the payments are delayed to three months." He was not unreasonable, however, where debtors were anxious to pay his dues. He had little of the litigiousness with which the Manx are credited and seldom pushed his demands to the point of court proceedings. Where there was evidence of a desire to make reparation he was willing to grant time or accept a composition, and in those cases always advised his agent to accept the first offer, for, as he was wont to assert, " I have observed that the first offers made in such like circumstances have generally proved to be as good terms as could be thereafter obtained."
When pushed to an extremity he wrote in another tone :-
The backward payments I now meet with from my Customers about Stranraer give me the highest reason to be displeased with my dealings with them, so that as they deserve no favour let me beg that for recovery of one and all my Debts you will use or cause to be used ultimate Diligence.4
Again he writes, " Samson's and Kennedy's Bills I grudge much are so long unpaid ; if you can, by fair or foul means try what can be done." He must be acquitted of intentional irony when he uses an ambiguous alternative expression, " fair or legal means," for the limping prose of his letters, unilluminated by flashes of wit or humour, give little indication of the possession of that sometimes dangerous quality. Perhaps the best example occurs in a correspondence he pursued with the Rev. Anthony Halsall who was trustee of certain family funds. They were left by George Moore's father for a grandson„ Peregrine Moore, but on his death in South Carolina in 1751 before coming of age his three uncles became entitled to the money involved - a sum of £380. Halsall would give no details of any effects in his hands nor did he show any great eagerness to pay out the legacy. After six months of fruitless attempts at settlement Moore brought the matter to a head by drawing a Bill on the reverend gentleman at thirty days' notice,
" to which," he said, " I desire you will accordingly give Quittance to and payment in Terms of my Draft. This method I can have no doubt but that it will prove agreeable to you, for your sister complains of the Great Trouble the Multiplicity of Business not all properly your own has given you to the great Detriment of your health. By so much this therefore will lessen the Troubles and for both our sakes be agreeable."
His brother James, who shared in the legacy, was apparently a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and became proprietor of a school at Cavan. Tiring of his profession he sold his scholastic business. George's letter of approval had a sting in the tail and illustrates his sententious vein. He wrote :
Foreign to the Purposes does any Engagement or Situation in Life turn, if the Circumstances cease to be agreeable or require a disagreeable attendance, which I have often thought with respect to yours, and if you found that this at last became unsupportable the Alternative you have chosen is laudable . . . my hearty warmest wishes but sorry I am no farther can I go to give you assistance ...
James appears to have been a cheerful soul, and after making a tour in Scotland came to stop at Ballamoore for a time. " Sweet Jimmy Moore," as George called him, with the affectionate contempt of the prosperous merchant for a brother who had not had the wit to choose a more lucrative occupation than that of a schoolmaster, had meanwhile been given a chaplaincy in the Army. It was a sinecure, for owing to his ill-health he was allowed to provide a substitute. Then one morning someone came to the War Office in a reforming mood and ordered all chaplains to join their regiments. James's was in North America where he had not the slightest intention of going, and he hurried back to Ireland to pull wires in an attempt to save his post.
The letters do not reveal the outcome. He died in Ireland in 1763 and left legacies to Manx schools.
Moore firmly declined the risks involved in running his contraband goods to Argyll and Galloway, but when misfortune overtook the smuggler and the liquor was seized he was prepared to make an abatement of his bill. His customers sent word of their requirements, and boatmen of their own choice and hire took the casks on board for transport to the Scottish coast. There the goods were landed, generally at night, on some beach unlikely to be visited by inquisitive preventive men. The boatmen received payment from the carriers who met them there. Considering the hazards the wherrymen's charges were not excessive. On one occasion in 1752 the freightage of spirits loaded at Peel for Port Ballantrae was two shillings and twopencé per cask. Manx boatmen disliked the weighty halfhogsheads and often refused to take them, preferring the much more easily handled anker casks containing from five to ten gallons. The vessels employed were light swift two-masted wherries with the stern as sharp as the bow, and easily manoeuvred in shallow waters. They were manned by crews of six.
Danger in one form or another was always lying in wait for the smuggler. Moore tells with sympathetic regret, in April 1754, how poor John McClure of Alloway freighted a Peel boat with a cargo of spirits for Scotland but was driven back from the Mull by a northerly wind, and in Manx waters met a Revenue barge from Ireland which promptly relieved him of his contraband and carried it off to Donaghadee. Some months later Hugh Kennedy, a boatman making for Galloway, was put back and forced to run aground near the Lhen Mooar, where he lost his life. The cargo floated out of the boat and eighty casks were brought to land. But according to Moore the rescued spirits were still in jeopardy, for the people of the Lhen were notoriously lacking in respect for such property insecurely stored, and he immediately sent two boats to bring it back to Peel and safety.
His son had an interest in a wherry which on her voyage out from Peel was seized at Ayr, a town in ill-odour with smugglers because of the distressing alertness of its Customs officers. A letter of October, 1757, in which Moore asked for assistance from a Glasgow merchant, is amusingly noncommittal:
My son Phil is concerned in a wherry that was lately seized at Ayr ... she was taken on her first trip, but had not a Drop of Goods on board and was intending to take some ankers and cables for Capt. Pat Montgomerie of the Peggy refitting here for Virginia and under charter for Ayr . . there are two people who have sworn that Goods were landed at the Troon out of the wherry, which to me seems far-fetched for the Boat arrived there in the night and sailed off before day. This may or may not be true. As the event is doubtful on a Tryal, I cannot tell what to say . Phil has wrote to one Hector Bryce near Ayr to claim the Boat in order to stand Tryal, but Bryce is a very unfit Person. I shall therefore require of you to direct herein in whatever manner you think best by claiming or by purchasing in a frugal way, for Phil would not like the wherry was lost. . . .
The story of the landing of contraband at the Troon was not so far-fetched as he pretended. From a subsequent letter to one of those interested in the wherry's cargo it is clear that over three hundred gallons of brandy from Moore's cellars were put on shore, and that a portion valued at fifty pounds was afterwards captured by Revenue officers. The smugglers were dissatisfied with the apportionment of this loss, and Moore wrote plaintively to one of the malcontents, " As my son has bore a sufficient share of loss in the wherry to accommodate that adventure, it is hoped neither you or any other concerned will grudge paying their respective share."
Two months later Phil's wherry was released from custody, the authorities having failed to secure a conviction.
Moore sought solace and relaxation from his business worries in the care and development of Ballamoore, his estate in Kirk Patrick, bought in 1750. The dwelling was small, consisting of a parlour, three closets with beds, and an upstairs room, and at first was used as a residence by his family for a few weeks in the summer, the rest of the year being spent at his house in Peel. He quickly set to work to build a new house and improve the farm. During the next seven years there are frequent indications of his keen interest in his new possession. He sent to Ireland for an expert in garden planning, " for," he wrote, " it is much wished my design of improvement be executed in a genteele taste, which perhaps would not prove more expensive than having my improvement in no taste or a bad one."
He gratified his love of trees by laying out a large orchard of apples, pears and cherries;, and planted many hundreds of ash and beech trees ; at the same time trying to grow oaks, hornbeams, and chestnuts, from seed. His vessels brought bushels of acorns and pine cones from Scotland and New England, myrtles, hollies and spruce from Ireland, and grafted filberts from Holland, whilst his vinery was supplied with red and white grape vines from Southern France. Quick to snatch at commercial advantage, he introduced suitable varieties of sallows from Ireland so that he might have a plantation to supply barrel hoops, of which he often bought more than a hundred thousand in the year.
His first attempts at tree-planting were not very successful owing, he suggested, to the climate, and his newly planted apple-trees also failed to satisfy his too great expectations. Commiserating with his Irish brother-in-law John Onge he writes in July, 1752 :
I am not surprized with the misfortune your orchard mett with in your absence for I find nothing so well thrives about a farm as under the Master's eyes. I had but five apples growing last year and they were stole two months before they were ripe. Next year as I'm in hopes, as I shall have occasion, I intend setting fox-traps in my garden I hope will prove some security.5
Moore was equally energetic in the improvement of the farm. " I'm fond of good fences and ditches," he wrote, and the Lord of the Isle was asked to consent to a rectification of the boundary hedge, which was too tortuous in its course to please his orderly mind. The drains were cleaned and thousands of young quicks brought from Ireland for fencing. Red, white, and yellow clover was bought in.London and Rotterdam for the pastures ; and marl, found in two places on the estate, was used to enrich corn land. Later there is mention of an experiment in brickmaking from the same clay which ended prematurely when the Liverpool-born brickmaker deserted to his native town.
He improved the breed of his cattle by importations from Galloway, and an order was given to a Dublin craftsman for a new type of cart. In the end the peace of Ballamoore was disturbed by disputes with a neighbour, Captain Radcliffe, but before that occurred the French war broke out in 1756.
The conflict seriously interfered with the merchant's business and increased the dangers to ocean-going trade. The seas swarmed with privateers, British and French, manned by desperate men, in many case only to be distinguished from pirates by the letters of marque they carried from their respective Governments ; and in home waters the naval authorities were engaged in a ruthless campaign to find seamen for the Fleet. " On our coast there is such a warm Press for seamen and lookout for smuglers that our sales are greatly affected," Moore wrote in 1757 to a French agent with whom he corresponded regularly, regardless of the existing state of war.
About that time the Peggy was seized in the West Indies by an enemy privateer, but within three days was retaken, together with her French captor, and brought to Barbadoes, whence she later returned to Peel with sixteen thousand gallons of rum. In the following year, 1758, a neutral vessel arrived in the bay from Rotterdam, and the master complained that off Dover he was boarded by armed Kentish-men who forcibly entered the hold and carried away the least weighty packages, including tea and gin. Moore was indignant at the seizure of goods he proposed to pass on to Scottish smugglers.
" It seems strange," he said, " that notwithstanding so many repeated complaints against these Rovers the Government have not fallen on an effectual method to prevent such pilferings."
A few months later the Kingston, in which he had a share, was taken by a French privateer, and then retaken. Scarcely had he received this report than news came of the beaching on the Cornish coast of a neutral vessel, the Ceres; carrying a cargo of Spanish brandy for Moore's account. Nearly all the casks were saved, and, wrote the obliging but pompous Customs officer at Falmouth, " Notwithstanding the opposition of the country, which are generally very barberous on these occasions, they are all put into safe cellars and locked up with his majesty and my Keys."
For some time before these last two mishaps Moore had been chafing at the restrictions the war placed on his trade with France, and in November, 1758, he wrote to his correspondent at Cette on the Mediterranean pointing out that all vessels bound for the Isle of Man with French commodities on board would certainly be brought to port and condemned if visited on the passage by British warships or privateers, as all trade with France was entirely prohibited. Unless therefore he could discover some plan to evade the vigilance of the British Fleet he would have, for the time, to suspend his favourite design of obtaining brandy from France.
Whilst he was cudgelling his brains over the problem the safe arrival in the Island of three neutral ships to discharge cargo there filled him with envy, and still further whetted his desire for forbidden fruit. He was thus in a receptive snood when one of his associates, John Callin, approached him with a fantastic scheme involving the use of the snow Peggy. Callin, a roan inferior to Moore in business qualities and balanced judgment, was part-owner of the snow which, at the time, was on her way home from America.
Together the two merchants made the following plan :Moore was to get a French pass through the good offices of his correspondent at Bordeaux. No difficulty was anticipated in this, as several similar passes had reached Ireland. Care was to be taken that Moore's interest in it should not be disclosed. Armed with this document the captain of the Peggy was to ship staves and hoops in America wherewith to make casks for rum to be bought in the French islands of Martinique or Guadaloupe. The pass would give protection, whether she sailed into a French port or was brought there by a French warship. After taking the spirits on board the captain was to apply to the British Admiral Court in the West Indies for a certificate stating that the Peggy was a lawful prize on her way to a British port. Such a document would save her from British cruisers and privateers ; but how it was to be secured except by bribery, does not appear. Finally, insurances on ship and cargo were to be taken out in Holland.
Almost as soon as he had set his scheme in motion Moore was seized with misgivings - not from any doubts as to the correctness of his behaviour, but because he quickly realised the difficulties and dangers attending the plan at every stage. Apparently the advice he hastily sought from his friends and business agents did not allay his growing fears, and within a few days he had countermanded the application for a French pass, and abandoned the project.
He persisted however in his attempts to circumvent British law and the naval patrol„ and some months later managed to convert the Peggy into a neutral vessel. A Danish captain was procured to make a fictitious purchase of the ship, after giving a bond for her value by which she might continue under the direction of her original proprietors. The Dane took passage on her to Bergen and entered her on the Danish register. Her cargo of tobacco unloaded and with Norwegian timber on board the Peggy returned for orders from her owners, who naturally desired that the change of flag should be concealed.
" To act with caution seems necessary," Moore writes to his captain, " for I would not by any means have it publicly known, for that may do harm and can do no good in case we should have occasion in the course of trade to make use of your old Register."
The further adventures of the Peggy are; unfortunately, not recorded in the Letter Books.
Mishaps to his ventures at this time did not stand alone in their disturbing influence on his easily shaken nervous system. There was a number of long-drawn business disputes in which he was involved, arising out of the actions of his partners or trade connections. He comes well out of these controversies, for in his transactions he met his obligations promptly, and was always much more willing to submit a debatable point to arbitration than his opponents were. He asserted with truth that lie was a man of peace and, like most of that profession, he sometimes suffered losses for the sake of it.
His participation in public life also brought its troubles. At first he had been on very good terms with the Governor, Basil Cochrane, but after his co-optation to the Keys in 1755 various questions arose - among them the construction of a bridge at Douglas and the grant of naturalisations to strange merchants - in which he found himself opposing the Administration. In 1758 he was elected Speaker of the Keys, and, until Cochrane's retirement from office in 1761;, felt in ever increasing degree the weight of the Governor's animosity. To this he attributed Capt. Radcliffe's persistence in demanding quarry rights and a highway across the lawn at Ballamoore, and he accused Cochrane of an arbitrary exercise of his judicial functions which forced Moore to appeal to London for redress.
My Profession (he wrote in 1760) has from my youth up all along been that of a merchant untill of late, and for these two years past the most of my time has been taken up and imployd in Intricacies and disputes appertaining to Law than which nothing on Earth is more disagreeable to my Bent and Inclination, yet this takes me so much from the necessary Exercise of my Business that I may as well be a merchant in Japan as in Peeltown.
On this note the first Letter Book ends.
When the second volume opens six years later the blow feared by Manx merchants for a generation has fallen.
By the Revesting Act of May, 1765, the British Crown acquired the regalities and customs of the Island from the Duke of Atholl. In the following month the so-called " Mischief " Act with its inaccurate official description, " for the prevention of smuggling into and from the Isle of Man," came into immediate force.
It is strange that the English Government had not taken drastic measures sooner. From 1712 to 1765 Parliament passed a succession of enactments to that end, all more or less ineffective in operation. Moore's rum-laden Peggy sailed with other vessels into the security of the Irish Sea, under convoy of British warships. The Falmouth Customs officer carefully guarded his Spanish brandy, and when the C eres was refloated allowed its reshipment for Peel. In Scotland, if his instructions to agents are to be taken seriously, the tolerant Law Courts helped him in the recovery of debts owing on his contraband liquor. And so he and his fellow merchants sat snugly in their offices and parlours, cutting respectable figures in social and public life, taking the waters at Bath, investing in the Funds, adding farm to farm, and leaving the risks of hazardous ventures to their ill-paid underlings. No doubt the smooth course of their trade was liable to interruption by storm, wreck and fire, inquisitive British cruisers or marauding privateers, but the profits were large, and the traders were always able to limit their liabilities by insuring ships and cargoes in London or abroad:
Then in June, 1765, British Customs Officers and preventive cutters armed with powers of search and seizure on land and water appeared at all the Manx ports, and the crazy edifice of the Island's prosperity came crashing to the ground. The golden age of Manx smuggling was at an end.
In the towns the results were catastrophic. The Duke's final negotiations for the surrender of his rights had been conducted secretly, and the merchants had little chance of hiding or disposing profitably of the spirits, tea and tobacco which filled their cellars. The sweeping prohibitions contained in the Act brought trade to a standstill, and the townspeople suffered great privations.
When news reached the Isle of Man that the " Mischief " and Revesting Bills were before Parliament, the Keys sent a deputation of three - Thomas Moore, Hugh Cosnahan and John Christian - to plead with the Government for lenient treatment of the Island. They arrived too late to influence the final state of the " Mischief " Bill, but Moore says they obtained the entry into Great Britain and Ireland, duty free, of goods which were the produce and manufacture of the Isle of Man. A second application was made in April, 1766, by George Moore and Thomas Moore, the Rev. James Wilks accompanying them to make researches. The only tangible result of the mission was that Wilks obtained a copy of the charter, " until then forgot and unknown," in which James I confirmed the rights aaid privileges of the Manx people.
In November, 1766, the Keys returned to the attack for the third. time and sent George Moore as their deputation. He went alone for reasons of economy and with some trepidation, because of fears for his health and the responsibility resting upon him. The second Letter Book gives a detailed account of his actions and experiences.
His first step was to have his case and requests arranged in proper form for presentation to the Lords of the Treasury. For this purpose the London agent of the Keys procured the services of a lawyer 6 whom Moore found to be a tedious pedant. After weeks of maddening delay he produced a prolix document emphasising the prerogatives of the Lord rather than the rights of the people. Alterations had to be made and many weeks passed before it was ready for use.
" Patience," exclaimed the angry Deputy, using an image that must have appeared to him the most natural in the world, " one should have bottled up, to be uncorked and refreshed with as Occasion offers!"
Meanwhile he had been interviewing personages likely to have some influence on the success of his mission. Of them all the one who was warmest in his sympathy was the Speaker of the House of Commons„ Sir John Cust. He displayed great kindness and consideration, advised on the form and matter of the Memorial, and later received the thanks of the Keys.
A figure of ill omen in his negotiations appeared in the person of Lutwidge, a General Surveyor of Customs with headquarters at Whitehaven, who had been appointed Receiver-General of the Isle of Man at the Revestment. He had no great love for the Manx, but told Moore that although he had received many incivilities in the Island he would do all he could to obtain some Trade. As a Treasury official, however, his one object was to squeeze as much revenue out of the Island as possible and give nothing back,, and the dislike which his autocratic conduct evoked was not confined to the Manx. After Wood was hppointed the first Royal Governor, he had to dun the Home Office for his salary which Lutwidge was holding back, and in 1774 Governor Smith wrote, ". . . illegal and arbitrary every day
I find the actions of the late Receiver General."7 High in the favour of the Commissioners of Customs, he had in his pocket a plan for the annexation of Man to Cumberland, and tried its effect on Moore, who in January, 1767, wrote to John Taubman,
Mr Lutwidge asked me how we wd like being annexed to Cumberland by wch means we wd enjoy the Liberty of an extensive Trade. I told him that if it was with the Condition of being saddled with Taxes that I wd not at all like it, but supposing sayd he that it wd be without Taxes, That I said I wd be very glad of and wd be glad if he wd tell me of it with such Certainty, as that I might send an Express to the Island to acquaint the People of it and for their Opinion - that he said he had no Authority for, But he was sure there cd be no opposition ...
Moore was often in conference with the Duke of Atholl, who promised his support and was obviously anxious that nothing should be done without his knowledge. Lord Clare, the First Lord of the Board of Trade, was suspicious of the proposals attached to the Memorial. Moore's description of the sufferings which had resulted from the stoppage of trade, the flight of the young people to other lands, the deserted dwellings and warehouses, failed to arouse the compassion of the noble Lord.
The inhabitants of all the former trading towns, he said, were a Nest of Vermin collected from the Dregs of the neighbouring Countries. I told him that since the Trade was gone all or most of these Gentry were gone and had dissolved like snow, which as to myself I was not displeased with. . . .
In this conversation as in others, when Moore was trying to overcome the prejudices which existed in official circles, he was embarrassed by the reports arriving in London of happenings at home - the attack by a Ramsey mob on a grain ship bound for Douglas, the pursuit of a Manx contraband-laden boat by a revenue cutter, and the rough handling a few months before of a squadron of cavalry sent to Peel to seize landed goods, when the people of the town, according to the official story, " displayed a very abusive and seditious disposition," bombarded the troops with stones and half-killed one of them. Some of the merchants too were evidently carrying on the forbidden traffic in a new way. Moore shyly hinted at it in a talk with the agent Wallis.
I asked him (he writes), supposing there were any merchants in the Isle of Man who privately were concerned in carrying on an illicit Trade on the Coast of Britain and Ireland with Boats that never appeared on or about the Isle of Man. Such a Circumstance he said wd greatly alter our Cause and destroy the Merits of our Application. I then asked him supposing that Mr. Lutwidge wd surmise a Trade of this Kind carrying on by Manx people. Mr. Wallis said it would ruin our Case and the Fact, cd it be proved, was certain Destruction. I told Mr. Wallis that I might say to him what I pleased, but it was necessary to be in Confidence ; he shook his Head, and for me it remains to proceed in this very delicate affair as well as I can.
The Memorial, which Moore finally handed in at the Treasury, argued very reasonably that the Manx people were not the chattels of the Lord of the Isle, but had inherent rights which had been recognised by the English Crown from ancient times. These rights could not be bartered away by the Duke of Atholl in any bargain he might make on his own account with the British Government. Among them was liberty of trade, including the import into and export from the Island of various commodities. If this trade, which was in accordance with Manx law, was vexatious because of the smuggling of goods from Man into Britain and Ireland, it was not because the Manx had refused to regulate it. In 1711 an Act of Tynwald strictly governed the export of goods and provided safeguards against their illegal importation into Great Britain. At the same time the hope was expressed that the consequent loss to Manx trade would induce the British Government to allow the entry of goods which were the growth, products, and manufacture of the Island, duty free. The Commissioners of Customs freely admitted the justice of the case advanced by a deputation which was sent to London, and gave hopes of sympathetic action. But after being kept in suspense for eight months the deputation had to return home without any satisfaction being given. The operation of the Act was therefore deferred by Tynwald from year to year, and Manx trade followed its old course.
Since the Duke of Atholl had received payment for the surrender of his sovereignty, the Manx people were similarly entitled to compensation for the curtailment of their trade. The concessions asked for were on the whole modest enough - the abolition of the herring custom ; the free import of salt, barrelstaves and cordage ; a bounty on imported English corn ; permission to import a hundred sheep per year for the improvement of the flocks ; and finally, the main object of the petition liberty to trade, under safeguards, with America and Africa. When at length in the course of its leisurely procedure the Board of the Treasury came to a consideration of the Memorial, it very soon appeared that the most important clause, asking for foreign trade, would not be granted. Lutwidge's plan for annexation to Cumberland,, by which the Isle of Man whilst retaining her laws and constitution would pay English Taxes and Excise, was then read. On being questioned, Moore repeated what he had already told Lutwidge, that the Manx in existing circumstances could not pay the Taxes and that their imposition would reduce the Island to beggary. The Board did not dissent from this opinion, and the plan was not again heard of.
Moore was asked to appear before the Board at a future date to receive their answer to his application ; and week after week he sat cooling his heels in the antechambers of the Treasury in a way familiar to Manx delegations of that period,, fobbed off with the excuse that Lord Chatham's absence from London had delayed business. When the great Earl reappeared in March, both the Duke of Atholl and Sir John Cust assured Moore that all hope of anything being done that session was gone, and he returned to Man. He had acted with discretion, shown great zeal and persistence in the prosecution of his task, and claimed to have thwarted Lutwidge's plot to make the Island part of an English county.
He received the grateful thanks of the Keys, but the conduct of his mission did not escape criticism in other quarters. The gist of his conversation with Lutwidge had leaked out and he was accused of betraying his country. The Isle of Man had not escaped the effects of the democratic ferment in Europe and the New World, which was soon to produce the revolt of the American Colonies ; and a section of the Manx people was becoming highly critical of the Keys, the manner of their election, their exclusiveness, and their secret meetings. Moore's claim to represent the nation was contested by this body of opiniono which pointed out that his activities in London had been mainly for the benefit of one class of the community.
Clouded complexions (he wrote), Divisions and Oppositions every observer knows to be the Characteristick of our unhappy Island. in this way I found them on my Return from London, some pleased, some protesting against every step I took in the past present and future Tense.
Later, following in the tradition of disillusioned public benefactors, he confesses
I am become quite tired about the general Good of the Community of this Island, and of thinking about it, for I find by Experience that it is alike thankless and useless....
One of the last Letter Book references to Manx public affairs relates to the first Tynwald held at St. John's after the Revestment. In the spring of 1770, Governor Wood suggested to the Speaker and his lieutenant John Taubman that the Keys should formally memorialise him to summon a meeting of Tynwald, according to ancient custom, and also to resume the sittings of the Common Law Courts and Courts of Gaol Delivery. The Keys complied with the Governor's wishes, and in July he reported to London that the Tynwald had been very successful and attended by a great and enthusiastic concourse of Islanders who were said to have numbered ten thousand.
Moore does not give a reason for the omission of the annual ceremony in the years immediately following the Revestment, nor does he say that the Keys had made any move before the Governor gave them the hint. This curious incident, coupled with the Speaker's expressed readiness to agree to annexation on terms; makes one wonder whether the Keys were so absorbed in trying to protect their material interests at all costs, that the preservation of some measure of Manx independence and of the symbolic Tynwald had ceased for the time to have any deep significance for them.
Moore cannot be accused of underrating the dignity and importance of the body over which he presided. He appears to have been the first Chairman of the Keys to insist on the title of Speaker, an innovation which was still questioned by officialdom long after his death.8 His fondness for the symbols and trappings of authority led him into further imitation of the customs of the House of Commons. He wore robes of office and he provided a silver mace for use at the sittings of the Keys.
At the end of 1779, George Moore decided to withdraw from public affairs.
Every Day's Experience (he wrote) increases the sensation of my declining State of Health . . . This Debility it becomes me not to repine at, rather is it a Duty to be consoled with the Degree of Health wherewith the Almighty has been pleased to allow at my Time of Life and to be very thankful that at upwards of seventy his Goodness has hitherto upheld me.
He had never felt the qualms which might have disturbed the conscience of a more sensitive man when he surveyed a long life spent largely in flooding South-West Scotland with contraband spirits. From the first he had taken it for granted that he was on the side of the angels, and, as a young man of twenty-five, did not hesitate to bargain for the most desirable seat in St. Peter's, Peel - the first on the south side of the altar - in return for a new church bell. This protective shield of conscious rectitude must have been strengthened by the way in which the news of his retirement was received : not only by the praise of the Keys, but by the sympathetic attitude of the representatives of the Crown.
Richard Dawson, the Lieut. Governor, writing with warm expressions of friendship and esteem, said, " Your resignation goes to my heart ; it gives me inconceivable sorrow to lose you as Speaker. . . ." John Taubman, who succeeded to the Chair of the Keys, voiced their appreciation in sonorous phrases. " We behold with pleasure," he wrote, " the steady able and upright Patriot and exceedingly regret his Departure as a real and public Loss," and he expressed the hope that the merited applause of his fellow citizens might throw a lustre about his setting sun and crown the remainder of his days.
In a farewell letter to the Governor, Col. Smith, Moore incidentally revealed his own and the Governor's keen interest in the Peel Mathematical School,9 where Smith paid for the education of two scholars. Two years before he had reminded the Governor of a suggestion that he should be granted a knighthood and be made a Privy Councillor of the Isle.
In the Island (he said) the traces of honorary distinctions are yet distinguishable, the Notion of Titles and the names of Barons. . If my wishes are attainable they aim at the Honor of being a Manx Baron, and for this Purpose that the King may be pleased to order Letters Patent to be passed under the Seal of this Island containing His Majesty's Grant of the. Dignity of a Barronet to me and my heirs.
In 1781 Moore was for a time in better health and with John Cosnahan appeared at the Bar of the House of Lords in successful opposition to a Bill promoted by the Duke of Atholl. It was during this visit to London that the old man received the long-wished-for accolade of knighthood and so came to a partial fulfilment of his dreams. He lived six years longer and lies buried in the churchyard of Kirk Patrick with other members of his family.
The estate over which he had exercised so intelligent a direction passed from the hands of his descendants long ago, and the house in which his son Philip entertained the Duke of Atholl on the eve of Tynwald in 1793 has vanished, but several relics remain as examples of the taste of his period. The first is the hollow in the old garden once used for cock-fighting. Of the others he wrote in August, 1758
When I was this summer in Bath I took a walk with my son to see Mr. Allans Garden, in our way there we called in at a stone cutters. To look at and cheapen some stone vases was my Business and I bought and paid him for two Eagles and two Pomegranates which with their Pedestals he promised ... to be ship'd at Bristole.
The eagles and pineapples - not pomegranates as he mistakenly thought - have survived the vicissitudes of two centuries and now adorn the approach to the present unpretentious house. These silent witnesses to the mutability of human fortune recall words once written by Moore when he had met with one of the great disappointments of his life. " How uncertain are our Wishes !" he cried. " How uncertain are our Wishes, how uncertain our Hopes!"
1 See A. W. Moore's "Manx Families" (MS.) in Manx Museum Library.
2 Home Office Papers, 1772.
3 Before 1765 the duty on brandy and rum was 1d. per gal. ; tea 2½% of value ; tobacco ½d. lb.
4 Diligence : Scottish law term for distraint upon property.
5 A man-trap from Ballamoore is an exhibit in the Manx Museum.
6 Rolt, author of a History of the Isle of Man (1773).
7 H.O. Papers, 1766, 1744.
8 The Speaker (or more correctly speaking) the Chairman of the Keys . . .-J. Clarke, A.G., 1816.-H.O. Papers.
9 Founded with £500 left by Geo. Moore's father, Philip (dd. 1746).
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