The Worthiest Men of the Land : the Twenty-Four

Eighteenth Century Account by an Attorney at Law

It is seldom we get a really old account of the history of the Keys which can be looked upon as impartial. Such accounts were generally written by one of the Lord's officers and were often prejudiced. The following account appears to have been written by William Curghey, who was an Attorney-at-law. There is no date, given. The writing of the script is very similar to that of the William Curghey who copied out the Minutes of Proceedings in the Exchequer Court from 1580 to 1611, a volume which is now in the Manx Museum, the gift of the Rev. M. W. Harrison. The original of the present article (which was probably written early in the 18th century) was the gift of the late P. M. C. Kermode.

Document No. 184.

ALEXR the 3d K. of Scotland Ano 1263 conquered the Isle of Man making the K. (Regulus) thereof tributary, to the Crown of Scotland. The K. of Man was tributary before yt time to ye K. of Norway, but the Scotch obtaining a great Victory over the Norwegians made them pay a Tribute out of yo out Islands as well as out of ye Isle of Man. We may here fix the end of the Norwegian Govern'. For they left soon afterwards all ye Islands on this side yo Orkneys and had never afterwards any footine either in Man or any of the Western Islands. Whether it was upon refusal of paying the Tribute or on some other ace' ' Mary Queen of Man and last of ye Norwegian Race called the Orrys, was driven out of the Island by y~ Scots in 1292 and put herse4f under the protection of Ed. 1st K. of England, who at that time conquer'd the greatest part of Scotland for Rob' Bruce, for whom that K. enterd into this war agt Ballol. Bruce came with him into England, where he liv'd many years.

Three Years afterwds Jon Waldeboef, Husband to Mary Queen of Man, claimed the Island in Parliam' at Westminster, who obtained no other satisfaction than that he must apply himself to the K. of Scotland viz' to Rob' Bruce, who then liv'd in England as is sd before, and had the Island in his possession as a part of his Dominion.

Two Years after this Claim was made, viz' 1297, the English were defeated by Sr Wm Wallace and in a short time driven out of Scotland. And Rob' Bruce, observing that K. Edw. seem'd rather to conquer for himself than for him, made his Escape from ye Court of England and got into Scotland.

K. Edwd willing to recover ye last Battle renewed the War. He conquered the Isle of Man, and gave it to prince Gaveston under ye title of the Lod of Man. K. Edw. dying, Rob' Bruce was crown'd K. of Scotland in ye 1306, and having driven ye English out of all ye Parts of his Kingdom, among the rest ye Island was reduced by his Brother and given to the Earl of Murray.

In ye year 1344, the war with Scotland still. continuing, W- Montague ye Earl of Salisbury conquered ye Island for ye K. of England and. was according to our Chronicle crowned K. thereof. Wm Scroop Ld Chamberlain of England purchased the Island of the Earl of Salisbury's son who forfeited it in ye Reign of Rich d the 21.

Hen : 4th gave it Piercey the great Earl of Northumberland Ano 1398, who forfeited it for Rebellion Ano 1412. The Sd K. Hen: 4th gave it to Sr John Stanley.

From the Time yl the Scots first conquered the Island to ye years Sr Jno Stanley obtained it there are 150 years or near it, in well Time it was conquered 5 Times by the Scots and English. By Wch Revolutions the.Ancient Govern' was as often laid aside, a Millitary Arbitrary Governt succeeding every Conquest as it happens in most Nations some Time after the Conquest.

What is meant by the Antlent Governmt is the Regal, exercis'd by ye Island's own Princes before the Scots conquer'd it. Consisting of the K., 2 Deemsters and 24 of ye Commons called Taxes Axia. These last were standing Representatives of the. People, eight of them out of ye out Islands and 16 in this.

Sr Jon Stanley takes the Title of K. of Man as the Earl of Salisbury had done before, and therefore did reestablish the Regal Governmt in all its Branches. And particularly the 24 were then made the standing Representatives of the People as they are at this Day, as appears by Patt McKelley's insisting (who was accus'd of a Capital Crime) that it was his Right to be try'd by the 24, in the year 1418.

Sr Jno himself or his son was in ye Island in the year 1422, at wch Time he called together the Deemsters and 24 and required them to inform him of the Antient Laws, and form and state of Governmt. That is the form of Governmt before ye year 1263 or ye Governmt of their own Princes.

The 2 Deemsters and 24 declared that during the last 150 years preceding Sr ion Stanley's obtaining the Island, there were no 24 in 'certainty but in the Time of the Orrys (The Norwegian Race) there were, Wch Form of Governmt Sr Jon Stanley had already re-established, as appears by Patt McKelleys being one of ye 24 in 1418 as is Sd before; By the Deemsters and 24 giving the Law in the Case of felo de se AFio 1419, and Sr J. Stanley's putting Several Queries to ye Deemsters & 24 this year 1422. Whether the first Thing mentioned in the Statute Book was put into writing this year or some years before is not easily known, but be it when it will, it is very plain that on ye K. of Man's appearing at the Tynwald, the worthiest men of the Land (by we' the 24 are to be understood) were to be called in to the Deemsters to answer such Questions as the K. should have Occasion to ask them relating to the Governmt, 1*.e. the Law of the Land.

The first Convention or Tynwald Court afterwards was in 1430, at Wch Time 6 men out of every Sheading, 36 in all, were chosen by all the Commons, not as Representatives, but as assistants to the 24, who were the unalterable Representatives of the People; For, it was the 24 and not the 36 that gave Answers to the Queries, that were offer'd by the Lieutent in Concurrence with the Deemsters, at that Time, and this is very agreeable with the Practice Since of having 4 men out of every Parish to assist in cases where the Interest of the Publick is in a high manner concern'd.

For 74 years afterwards 'till the year 1504 we find no Laws enacted, noil any mention made of either Deemsters or 24. During this Time there were no Tynwalds kept, that 1 know of & consequently there was no occasion for calling together the 24. In 74 years Time, we may believe that all the 24 that were in Being at ye last Tynwald in 1430 were dead, and therefore it was necessary that 24 new members should be chosen & sworn by the Deemsters as was done in l.',04, and these are called an Inquest in the Statute Book, W~h s a Title the Parliament of England was called by in those Days.

When all the members of the 24 were dead as 1 have observ'd, the necessity of preserving the Constitution as it was in the Times of ye Orrys W," they still had a Regard to,. oblig'd them to take some measures to reestablish that indispensible part thereof, and as the Deemsters at that Time were the Chief Magistrates (for the Govr was no more than a military Officer and had no share in the civil Administration no Person would object agl their Election.

I must not forget to remark that the whole Tenour and Stile of Sr j : Stanley's Laws indicate plainly that Sr Jon was very solicitous to put the Governmt on the same Basis it was on in the Time of the Island's own Kings; for this Reason it was that he assum'd the Title of King himself, that he eriquir'd into the Ceremony us'd when the K. appear'd in publick, for I am very apt to believe that it was in his Time that Declaration was made, that I seem'd to be so dubious about.

For these Reasons it was that he got the Prerogative so firmly and plainly aserted as -he does in the Laws of 1422. This proves that Sr Stanley reestablished the 24 who were laid aside in the Time of ye War and instituted y- as a certain part of the Legislature, as they were in the Time of the Orrys. That they were a certati,t part of ye Legislature in the time of ye Orrys is expressly declar'd by the Deemsters and 24 in the year 1422. But leaving this Digression 1 find that after the year 1504 till the year 1570 there is no mention made of any Tynwald or of any new members Sworn. This makes a Chasm of 74 years, and we may believe that all the old members that were sworn in 1504 were all dead and the Deemsters were put to the Necessity once more to elect & Swear the Keys for the same Reasons they did it before.

After this the Tynwalds came to be more frequently kept, and if any of the members of the 24 were dead or otherwise wanting, their Places were fill'd up by the, voices of the majority of the surviving Members. For in 1577 the Customary Laws were put into writing, and proclaimed at the Tynwald, we" could not be kept without the 24, they being always esteem'd a necessary and indispensible part of that Court. The Same year, the Book of Rates was confirmed by the L d' wlh could not be done without the Concurrence and assent of -k-e 24 first had thereto.

In 9 years afterw" there was a Tynwald Court kept Ai-io 1.-)86 where the Dee~isters & 24 declared hidden Treasure to belong to the L d. These must be the same 24 that made a part of the Tynwald 1577, filling up the vacaneys that might have happen'd in 9 years Time.

In 8 years afterwards Ano 1594 the Deemsters & 24 answered Several Queries.

Whether any Tynwald was held after that y-car till 1610 wch made a gap of 24 years I am ignorant of, but the Lieuten', Deemsters and 24 made several Rules & Orders at that Time, W"K have obtain'd by practise the Force of Laws.

There is one thing very remarkable in our Records viz' : That when the Lord alone without the Consent or Request of ye 24 sent over any Orders that tended to the Welfare and better Regulation of the People, they were recorded without the usual Sanction given them. Like wise that when the Deemsters & 24 Keys made any Regulations that did not invade the prerogative, they were also receiv'd. on Record without the Royal assent, as I may call the Ld's Signing them to be, and have afterwards by practice obtain'd the Force of even Acts of Tvnwald.

But to proceed: In 1629 Laws relating to Felony etc. were enacted the 4th of June at Castletown and proclaim'd the 24th of the same month at a Tynwald.

By one of these Laws it plainly- appears that the 24 were a Standing Body of men and not chosen occasionally, by. the Deemsters, as the officers insinuate, to be dismiss'd as soon as the Case that Occasion requir'd them for was determin'd. For it says, That no Coronr shall put any of the 24 Keys within his District into a jury. It were ridiculous to imagine that the Coronr could distinguish the 24 from other men, if they were not a Standing Body, and not an Inquest Sworn on particular Occasions, for the Business of one Day, and then Dissolved. This Law does also prove the falsity of another assertion of the officers, viz', the 24 are only a jury and no Representatives of the People For the Exemption of not being put into Jurys, is in Terminis that they were not a jury before; if they were jurors before the Comment must be this, No Coronr shall put a jury on a jury well is a Contradiction & Nonsence.

1637. Laws were enacted by the Ld's Officers, Deemsters & 24 Keys.

1643. Four men of every Parish were chosen by the Commons and sent to Peel town, out of whom 12 were elected and joyn'd to 12 of the 24 appointed as a Committee to enquire into some Abuses Practis'd by the Proctr~. 1645. Several Laws were enacted by the L' Officers, Deemsters and 24 Keys the Representative Body of the Countrey. Tho' this is the lst Instance of the 24 Keys being called Representatives that does not at all prove that they were not so before, for they exercis'd no greater authority at this Convention than they did at all preceding assembly,s. No doubt on't but the House of Commons of England were as much the Representatives of the People before that word came to be applied to the Members ' thereof w"'I am told is not very much older than this year.

1646. The 24 Petition'd for a Law agt Clipping and Coyning.

1647. A Law enacted by the L d' Officers and 24 Keys without the Deemsters.

1661. The 24 Stll'd Representatives.

1662. The 24 Representatives.

1664. They are Stil'd Representatives.

1665. Laws made & proclalm'd, Sign'd by the 24.

1667. The 24 Stll'd the Representatives of the Isle. All the Acts of Tynwald made since that Time bear the Stile.

The 24 Keys' Oath obliges them to preserve the Laws & Customs of the Isle. If they be not the Representatives of the People, why should they be Sworn Conservators of the Constitution?

Some of the 24 were out of the Island when the Statute about the Defamacon of Officers was Sign'd, but when they return'd did sign the Same, Another was Sick, who Sign'd after his Recovery. This proves that they were a Standing Body of Men and not chosen & dismissed Occasionally.

N.B. Where the Dates in the Historical Part differ from the Dates in the Statute Book, I follow Buchannan's History of the King's of Scotland*

*George Buchannan, the historian, was born in 1506 and died in 1582. His 'Rerum Scoticarum Historia,' 1582, was the chief source from which foreigners derived their knowledge of Scotland.

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