Quayle Bridge House Papers.
The Peoples Petition to William Earl of Derby
The Struggle for their Right of Inheritance
ONE of the most remarkable episodes in the political and legal history of the Isle of Man is recalled by the document entitled
A Summary of the Antient State of the Isle of Man, 1700, extracts from which appear below.
That Manxmen have ever been jealous of their ancient democratic rights is clearly demonstrated by the survival of the Tynwald assembly which is known to have its origin in the days of the Norse Kings. No less striking is the struggle of the Manx people against the feudal system which the Derbys strove to impose in place of the rightful ownership of estates, 'descendible from Ancestor to Heir' according to ancient custom.
Deemster Farrant has shown the close resemblance which existed between Norse freehold tenure and the customary land law of the Isle of Man. He has shown also how the old freehold tenure of 'King Orreys dayes' must have fallen into disregard during the period of misery which succeeded the Norwegian rule so that the Stanleys at first met with little opposition when they seized the land as their own demesne and endeavoured to reduce the inhabitants to the legal position of serfs in a feudal community.
It was not until the close of the seventeenth century that the people felt strong enough openly to challenge their determined rulers and to demand the recognition of their ancient rights. By 1700 the dispute had well-nigh developed into a rebellion, but at the eleventh hour Earl Charles con-ceded the chief demand of his people and the agreement was confirmed by the 'Act of Settlement' of 1704.
It remains, writes Deemster Farrant, a matter of congratulation with Manxmen that their long struggle for the re-establishment of their original rights to the substantial ownership of their land was crowned with success.*
The Peoples Petition of 1700 is too long a document for publication in the Journal and thus only the essential parts of the argument can be referred to here. It is thought, however, that the collection of extracts from the old Books of Rents, and records of the Setting Quests, which the Petition quoted to illustrate Customary tenant Right of Heirship, is worthy of being printed in full.
*Mann: Land Tenure, &c., p. 28.
The Summary of the Antient State of the Isle of Man opens with a brief account of the disturbed period which followed the flight, in 1292, of Mary Queen of Mann and the only Issue of the twelveth Orry Kings of Mann, being Invaded by Alexander King of Scotland, up to the year 1403 when Henry IV gave the Island to Sir John Stanley. Since w~ time the Island hath con-tinued in the truely Loyall and most noble ifamily of the Stanleys.
The document then refers directly to the cause of the peoples grievance, namely that:
The Rt Honrble William Earle of Derby Lord of Mann & the Isles doth not declare that the Comons and Tennts wthin ye sd Isle have any further Right to their holdings & Tenemts therein than what they have by Lease.
The proposals made at several times unto the Condtions and Tennts and particularly on 20th February, 1693, and 3rd July, 1700, are then quoted to show that the Earl was endeavouring to establish leasehold tenure by act of Tynwald, in accordance with certain precedents created by his predecessors, and with a view to the suppression of the customary tenure of the people.
The people Land-holders and Tennts Wthin the Isle afforesd being put to prove Tennt Right or heir-ship therein do say in Generall
ffirst That aitho there were lettings and settings in ye yeare 1505 and downwards, yet whereas there are above a Thousand Land-holders, besides four market Townes and Villages wthin the Isle, there were not as we are informed above fourty two or thereabts of them held by Lease untill the Generall Leasing in 1643. Moreover there are Escheates due unto the Lord whereof some if not the most of the number afforesaid might have been or happend by the several Insurrections made agt the Lords Lieut wch the Books held forth there were, and give Law that such Insurrections agt the Lieutenant is treason as agt the Lord, for wch offence the Rebell is to forfeit life and limb due to the Lord:
Besides it is easy to conceive that from the Reigne of the last King Orry unto the first Sr John Stanley being about 120 yeares in Wch time there happend to this Isle four Conquests, and as many Lords (as has been shewed before) there were many of ye people slaine, most of the Country wasted, and the Ordinary Course of Justice and Customary holdings abstructed. . .
2 That all Books of History, Geography or Law wch take notice of the Isle of Mann do say that it has been a Kingdom, having Lawes, Customes, and Usages peculiar wthin itself by wch it has been and is now Governed, and that all controversies arising wthin this Isle are determined by the peculiar Lawes thereof . . . but more particularly that there were among the Comons of this Isle ifreeholders Heirs Customary small holdings, and Lawes and Customes depending upon and agreeable to such holdings before Sr John Stanleys time seemes to be proved,
1st By the Lawes and Customes of the Isle as well since 1643 as before.
21y By the practice of those Lawes and Customes vizt:
(1) By Entring and drawing Tennts names.
(2) By Judicial proceedings in trying title of Land within this Isle.
(3) By settleing widows Moity.
Under the First Section the evidence contained in the Statute Book is considered to show that Sr. John Stanley came not in as a Conquerr to give Constituitions but as a Donr to administr Lawes so it was declared unto him what the Constitutions of it were.
The rather obscure direction that the Commons should shew their Charters how they hold of you is regarded as a declaration that the Coidions had ifree-hold Estates under the name of Charter. It is hard to suppose that in so August an appearance they would be so hardy to declare that there were such if indeed there was none . . . Then and not till then they declare his [Sir John Stanleys] Right by prerogative.
The well-known Declaration of 1422 which begins by referring to the 24 Keyes . . . that were called TAXIAXES those were 24 ffreeholders vizt Eight in the Out Isles and Sixteene in yor Land of Mann, is regarded as A further proof there was a Constitucon of Government & ffreeholders before Sr John Stanleys time, and also proves that [it is] ye loss or want of written laws for 130 years wth makes the Enquirys of the Lord to be First and necessary, and the Peoples answer to ym recd the approbacon of ye Lord.
Instances are quoted from the Statute Book to show that the right of inheritance was frequently recognised even in the case of estates which had been alienated up to a period of 21 years.
Stress is laid on the Act of 1645 which ordained that no person or persons shall have power &c. otherwise than according to the Antient and Customary Law of the Island to dispose of Lands &c. descending unto him or them, or of wch they are Estated by descent or title of descent, but that such lands &c. shall descend from Ancestr to heire "~ . . . A collateral covenant in the same Act, it is claimed, offered that the rest of the people of this Isle may be restored unto the pretended [i.e. asserted] Tenure of the Straw.
The Second Section of the Petition argues that in spite of all attempts to overthrow freehold tenure the right of inheritance had been recognised in the Books of Setting from the yeare 1505 wch are the first of this kind in the office. To prove this was assembled the collection of thirty-nine precedents from 1505 to 1690 all asserting a Tennt Right and heirship according to the Customs of the Country and these appear in full at the end of this summary.
The spirit of the Commons of Mann is well illustrated by this passage:
They and their heires ought to hold and enjoy what came to them from their ancestors and not from ye Lord, from whom it has not been known any man pretended a Title agt the antient and Customary Right of any other man. . . And as sure we are that he is no true friend to ye antient and Noble House of Derby that upon any pretence whatsoever would advise our Lord to settle such a Tenure of Estates in his Isle [i.e. by Lease] , as in consequence may introduce an Arbitrary Govern-ment thereof. .
Finally it is argued that economic misfortunes would befall the Isle if the people be made uneasy in their holdings, and their iforraigne trade continue to be disturbed either by iforeigne power or Domestick temper.
How good, how great, an Act it would be then to prevent these mischiefes by a condescencion in our Honrble Lord to accept of his peoples peticon. And the same people do hereby most humbly petition and may it gratiously please the Rt Honrble William Earle of Derby Lord of Mann and the Isles &c. to Call a Court, as of old has been accustomed by his Noble predecessors and Enacted by Earle James to Admit his Tennts of the 5d Isle according to the Antient way of the Court Rolls; And under the Rents and services they now pay, and for severall Ages past have paid and done; As held forth by the Records, supported by ye Lawes, Honrble before men and Acceptable to God; To whom the people shall for ever pray for your Lopps long and prosperous life here And Eternall happines hereafter.
* For so the Equity of the Statute runs, nor can an error in words destroy that Equity, according to ye interpretacon of all Lawes. From his or their Ancestor or Ancestors is the reading in Gills edition of the Statutes (I, p. 100).
The following collection of entries copied from the Court Rolls is printed in full as it appears in the Peoples Petition of 1700. The petitioners maintained that an entry in the Court Rolls made a Right of Inheritance to the Tennt and his heires for ever against all pretenders.
These extracts afford a general view of the mode of tenure of estates obtaining in the Island over a period of nearly two hundred years.
The collection is prefixed by a note to the effect that in all the Setting Books or Wast Bookes [ formed by entering and drawing tenants names] the manner . . . of drawing and Entring is in some old Bookes crossing the former and entring the latters name ; But in other and later Bookes such name was entered either as right heire or next of kin by Resignacon in Court or the delivery of a straw, in case of poverty or sail, Recovery at Law or putt in by the Setting Quest, as appear by the following collections.
Lib. Assedatiofles Anno 1505 [Malew]
Arerenam John Clarke p un Tent et un qr terr dimiss. Assign p vii Ano ut supr et Red p Anu. xviiis
Lib. vastar 1539, Paroch. St Columb.
Ardery Tho: Stevenson/* Wm ffargher 1l xijs viijd
* The former tenants names (crossed out in the original) are followed by a dash, thus:/.
Lib. vastar 1555, Paroch. Lupi
Connassary John Moore/ Reginald Lucas 11 xiijs
Ballafaden Tho: McCome 1l xjs
Lib. Vast. 1552, Michaell.
Carlough Johan McKelly/ Ralph MeKelly 1l xxiiijs viijd
Lib. Vast. 1570, Bridget.
Leodest Gilbt Mcylcarane/ Jo. Mcylcarane 1l xviis
Lib. Vast. 1580, Trinitat Rushen.
Scharde Wm Taylor/ Tho : Taylor 1l xxixs ijd
Lib. Vast. 1590, Pattrick.
BallaScick Randall McLeere/ Tho: McLeere 1l xis ijd
Lib. Vastar, 1597 [Rushen] ..
ffishgouth John Quay, Patt: Watterson, John Keig, Ro. Cowen 1l xxxjs. Note the sd John Keig is entred by vertue of a Recovery and that the houses are to be divided betwixt the sd Patt: Watterson and John Keig and the main dwelling house to be sold unto the sd John Keig and the old wall to be given to Patt: Watterson for to make buildings upon it.
KK St Ann Hen. Taylor (xis)/ John, Taylor 1l xjs Provided that the sd John Taylor shall give yearly such a Composition unto Dorathy wife of the said Henry as is ordered by Thomas Samsbury Deemster vizt one bowle Barley, 1 firlet wheat, and six shill : in money.
iiijs iiijs iiijs [each sum over each name in next line]
KK Conchan Wm Christian (/ Tho : Quirk / James Kermode 1l viijs. Memorandu that James McKermode is entred for that he marryed the wife of Tho : Quirk and the said Thomas having a Child being under age, shall enjoy the said parcell till he come to lawfull yeares, and then if he be able to keep it to have it himselfe.
iiis iiid iijs iiijd [each sum over each name in next line]
Jourby Dollin Gawen/ Patt. Brew cu ceteris 1l xxvijs
Lib. Vast. 1602. Att the Head Court of Gaole delivery holden this 17th of May this wast Book of Setting was brought forth into the said Court by consent of the whole Court there at the request and earnest entreaty of the Setting Quest wch by reason of some ffarmes fallen into their hands by the poverty of the Tennts had time given them till this Court after they had according to Law made proclamacon in their parish Churches upon the Sundayes &c. to the intent the kindred of such impoverished psons might appeare at this Court and enter their names of Record, otherwise the Setting Quest to find sufficient Debtors who are entred and drawn lawfully as hereafter followeth.
Lib. Vast. 1619, German.
Germ Will: ffarran hath delivered his ground by the Straw, poverty enforceing him to Patt. Gilchrist & Wm Boddaugh.
Lonan Dan. Teare by delivery of the straw acknowledgeth to have sold the ground to John Key.
Several psons drawn and others entred some by acknowledgment of the parties Resignacon some by the Setting Quest, vouching their Lands to be sold and some upon the death of the former Tennts.
Lib. Vastar, 1638.
Pattrick Sansbury Ratcliff the ffather dead the son Entred.
Germ: Hugh Mcylchreest! Margt Mcylchreest & Tho. Caine, Hugh dead Margt his daughter and her husband entred.
Lib. pro Anno, 1640.
Lez Aiere Rob. Quay! Jony Quay her father is dead and she is right heire as the Quest avouch et sic de ceter.
Jourby Tho: Caine drawne Wm Mcylvorey Entred who is right Tennt by the death of his mother hath yielded it up to the Setting Quest and they have set it upon Wm Caine being Cozen German to ye Mcylvorey.
Another Rent set upon Wm Caine ut supra. The like in KK Pattrick.
Lib. Vastr., 1647..
Bride Patt: Cowle/ Ann Cowle and Wm Howlan, the ffather dead and the daughter and her husband entred as Right Tennt.
Lib. Vast., 1660.
Andreas John Martin grandfather to Christian Martin is dead and likewise Gilbt Martin her father and now the Tenemt having fallen to the sd Christian as next heire thereunto by the Customs of the Country she is entred for the same wth John Quark her husband.
Lib: Vast., 1661.
St. Bridget Cranstall Gubu Jough/ Jo. Johen cu cet. Gubun grandffather to the sd John is dead and likewise Mark his son and now the Surviving heir the said John Joughin is enterd as Rt Tennt thereunto by the Custome of the Country.
Cranstall Christian Christin et Ew. Moore/ Cha: Lace Cu ceter xv]" iiijd
Moore is dead & likewise Christian his wife by whom the Land came by heirship and having but Issue female by ye sd Moor & since maryd to Jo. Lace had ye sd Charles by him who being her succeeding heir by the Course of Tennt Right is entred for ye same. Nevertheless reserving the sd Johns Interest therein during his life by Rt of widow-hood.
Jony Knaele et Mark Christian! Wm Christian 1 xvijs iiijd
Jony and Mark are dead and Wrn the eldest son is entred for the same as next heire by Tennt Right, yet forasmuch as some pretence is made thereunto by John Quark and Charles Quark by hand-fasting bargains their Rights is reserved thereunto if they can make any to appeare.
Lib. Vast., 1670. KK Bride Arthur Moore the father is dead and the son entred as next heir according to the Custome of the Country.
Lib. 1680. KK Bride Dan. Cowle the father dead and John Cowle the son is entred according to the Custome of the Country.
And so for the rest in that Book.
Lib. Vast., 1690. KK Mich. John Quaile the grandfather is dead and Ellin Quaile ye grand Child wth her husband John Cannell are entred as Rt Tennts thereunto, according to the Custome of the Country.
Setting Book of KK Maughold p Anno 1602. Dan Callow delivered up his land by the straw for poverty and his Rent put upon Gilnow Martin and Dan Cottlngham.
Dalby Watterson is entred for 10" of Ralph Quay by delivery of a straw in Court made by Ralph acknowledging to have sold it.
Anno 1602. Raby Wm Quatter hath delivered up for poverty and it is sett upon Patt. Watterson. German 1602 Cowell and Gell are both drawn for poverty and it is sett upon Sill. Broad wch ist a Barron Tennt but was born on ye Ld" Land.
Ballaugh 1602 Several psons have delivered up their several portions for poverty and because ye Setting Quest have found no Debtors for ye same it is left upon the Setting Quest themselves.
Marown 1602 Patt. Caine pro qr. Phinlo Craine hath delivered up for poverty and it is sett upon Patrick his son and Tho. Kelly is surety for him.