THESE who at this day are called ye keyes of ye Island are very necessary instrumts, and very usefull in ye politique govermt of ye Island, not only as adjuvants to ye deemsters themselves in cases of judicature (for though both are in some sort judges, yet ye keys are of a lower classis), for ye deemsters sentence alone is not many times soe satisfactory to some yt plead their grievances before, but wth ye keyes ( being called), ye sentence being pronounced, it is then definitive ; these are alsoe impanelled upon juryes, and their verdict is commonly definitive, and setteth an end to ye business.
These keyes being ye representative body of ye whole Island their assent is soe necessary as, yt without them no new law can be made nor any custome be introduced or altered ; wherefore, I much marvell why, in Mr Chaloners Description of this Island, he gave us not of any character of these keyes as he hath done before of ye governor, deemsters, comptrowler, etc. Yea, ye dutyes of a coroner and moors are omitted alsoe, all wch I shall (as far as I am enabled by those Manks papers wch I have pused in ye Island) willingly supply.
They are called ye keyes of ye Island (claves insulae), not as wee call our cinque ports claves regni, ye keys of our kingdome, because these doe open (to set in dr friends), or by shutting of them (to keep out forreigners and invaders), but these are keyes yt doe lay open and discover ye true ancient lawes and customes of ye Island, and to shutt out all intrusions and noveltyes.
These have not anciently been called keyes, for I observed in ye Manks papers that in and before their Orrys reigne they were called Saxiaxe or Saxiaxi, but wt that name importeth in ye Manks speech I wish I had been more curious to have enquired.
Taxiaxai is a Greek word, signifying a worthy assembly, and is writt in that character in ye antient records, where they are also styled ye worthys of Man ; ye government of ye learned Druids in this Isle.
These Taxiaxes or keyes of ye Island are elected and chosen by ye lord himselfe out of ye natives of ye Isle, as are ye deemsters, but not to continue, but durante bene placito, yet seldome any have been put out during their lives.
At ye instalmt of a king or lord they are called in by ye deemsters (as I shewed you before) ; they are there called ye worthiest men of ye Island, for indeed they ought to be men of understanding, and expert in ye knowledge of ye laws and customes of ye Island. It is required alsoe yt they should bee landed men, such as our freeholders in England, having 40 or 50 or more pounds of their owne.
Concerning ye nomber of these keyes of ye Island, Doctor Merrick, byshop of Man, misinforming Mr Cambden (yt they were only 12 in number), hath infected all subsequent writers wth this mistake, for John Speed1 was next, out of those ye Lord Cooke, Mr. Helm, and others, yea strangers alsoe, have thereby been mislead, as Mercator in his Atlas, and Andrew de Chesme (ye king of France his geographer), but ye truth is they are, even at this day, 24 of them ; yet I acknowledge since ye time of ancient Orrys they have not aiwayes been 24 in certaine, but in wt number it pleaseth ye present lord ; notwithstanding, I have not yet found any ground that they were ever soe few as twelve.
They are at this day chosen out of ye 17 parishes, but in and before ye aforesaid Orryes eight of these 24 were chosen out of ye out Isles (ye Hebrides), for in those dayes the Kings of Man were kings of those Isles alsoe, and sixteen only were chosen out of Man (and this I found in their owne notes).
These keyes write downe and keep their manuscripts by them for their memory, and to inform their judgmt (w" called to consult), of all ye approoved customes of the Island, and of ye new made lawes, etc. ; and herein they are very carefull and punctuall.
1 Historie de Anglie et Scotie et Irelande, anno 1634.