[Appendix B(53) 1792 Report of Commissioners of Inquiry]

APPENDIX (B.) N° 53.


The EXAMINATION of SENHOUSE WILSON, Esquire, Deputy Receiver General and Collector of the Revenues in the Isle of Man, taken at Douglas, October 3d, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 20th, 1791.


THIS Examinant saith, That he is Deputy Receiver General of the Revenues in the Isle of Man, and was appointed to that Office by a Deputation from George Watts, Esq. the Receiver General. dated the 31st day of March 1786. He executed the same office under Mr. Lutwidge, the former Receiver General, from the 5th of July 1773 to the time of his death ; and from that time to the appointment and admission into office of Mr. Watts, he acted as principal.

The present Receiver General has never been in the Island but once since his admission to Office, namely, in September 1786 ; he then took the oath of office before the Lieutenant Governor, and remained a few days upon the island. He has never himself executed any part of the business.

This Examinant took an oath of office before the then Receiver General upon his first appointment as Deputy, but none upon his appointment by Mr. Watts. He gives no security the crown, but security to his principal in the sum of 20001.

Mr. Lutwidge was Surveyor General, as well as Receiver General of the Island. Mr. Watts, by a Royal Commission under the Sign Manual, bearing date the 9th day of May 1785, is only instituted Receiver General and Collector of the Revenues of this Island.

During Mr. Lutwidge’s time he was not directed to do any duty as Deputy Surveyor General, and confined his whole duty to what he deemed to be the business of the Receiver General, and since Mr. Watts’s time he has conducted the office in like manner. He never had any written instructions either from the late or present Receiver General.

His duty he conceives to be, to receive the duties from the Collectors of the Revenues at the different ports in the Island; to make the necessary payments to the Officers, as well Civil as Revenue, upon the establishment, and also the necessary incidental payments on account of the Revenue ; and in general to see that the officers at each port discharge their duty. He also receives an account of the imports and exports extracted at Douglas from the files of entries in he port ; and for the other ports, made out from accounts furnished by officers there.

At the end of every quarter an account is made out by the Collector and Controller of each Port, being Douglas, Darbyhaven, Peel, and Ramsay. This account contains the articles imported and exported, with the duties arising on imports, there being none on exports. These accounts are signed by the Collector and Controller, or the officers acting as such at the several ports, and, so signed by those officers, delivered in to him, and sent up to Mr. Knight, Agent in London for the Receiver General.

He receives the duties collected at the different ports from the Collectors, not at any stated periods, but monthly or quarterly as occasion may be. Sometimes he receives the whole of duties in hand, sometimes leaves a balance, but always takes the whole at the end of the quarter. He has not been in the practice of comparing the several articles in the said account with the entries at the ports, but he takes care that the totals in the Douglas accounts agree with the totals in his own books taken as above explained from the files ; and with respect the accounts from the other ports, he takes them as tendered in respect to articles and quantity, but takes care to check the computation of the duties. He has not thought it a necessary part of his duty to compare the reports inwards with the books of the Collectors and Controllers, to see that all the goods reported have been regularly entered, and the duties thereon brought to account. Of the duties coming to his hands he retains so much as he judges may be necessary for the expences chargeable on this revenue. He has directions from Mr. Knight to remit to him the surplus of the duties above the demands upon them at the end of each quarter ; and these directions are so given in consequence of a power of attorney from Mr. Watts to Mr. Knight, empowering him to call upon this Examinant, to remit him the surplus of the duties with the revenue accounts, and to transact all business for Mr. Watts as Receiver General at the Treasury and Audit Office.

He transmits no accounts monthly or otherwise, of the cash in hand on account of the duties, or of any other sort, to the Treasury ; nor does he know that any directions to that effect have ever been given.

If any difficulties arise in the execution of his office respecting legal points or matters of management, he has recourse to Mr. Knight, and not directly to the Treasury.

The account of receipts and payments in the account of the revenue for the Isle of Man for the year 1790, signed by him, contains an account of all the Custom duties received at the several ports within that year. The authorities for the payments in this account to the civil officers and the Receiver General, are his Majesty’s warrants ; for those in the revenue department upon the establishment, Treasury warrants ; for those appointed by the Receiver General, either permanently or occasionally, he has no other authority than the practice of the late Receiver General. For stationary he has had no fixed allowance, but takes the several articles for the different custom-houses as they are wanted ; at the end of the quarter he calls for the stationer’s bill, pays it, and transmits it to Mr. Knight along with the account of incidents. For the other incidental payments, the authority is the practice of the port.

The bounties paid are settled by act of Parliament. The payments to all the revenue officers are made quarterly, to the civil officers annually ; he takes their receipts, and transmits then to Mr. Knight as his vouchers.

The bounties payable in the Isle of Man are, one shilling a barrel on all herrings cured white two shillings and eight pence on all herrings cured white, exported to foreign parts ; and one shilling and nine pence on all herrings cured red, and exported to foreign parts. These bounties are all paid by him.

The shilling bounty is paid on all herrings caught by the inhabitants of the Isle of Man, on their being landed, and cured, and fully packed ; but this has never been taken until the herrings were exported, except in one instance. This is paid upon the certificate of the searcher as to the curing, packing, and branding agreeable to law, and the oath of the person applying made in the terms of the law before the collector and controller, and their certificate as to the oath. Upon this being produced, he takes the receipt and pays the bounty, and this Receipt goes up to Mr. Knight as his voucher. The same fish have an additional bounty of two shillings and eight pence upon each barrel, if exported to foreign parts, paid on the certificates of the Collector, Controller, and Searcher, as to the requisites of law.

The red herrings are entitled to the bounty of one shilling and nine pence per barrel, on being exported in like manner to foreign parts, and that is paid by him on similar certificates. The vouchers taken by him respecting these are also transmitted to Mr. Knight ; these latter are not entitled to the shilling bounty on taking.

The harbour fund and herring and salmon fisheries are not included in the above mentioned account. They are not so included, because they are by act of Parliament appropriated to the support and repair of all the harbours in the Island ; they are therefore kept distinct from custom duties.

A person at each port, called Collector of Harbour Duties, and appointed by the Receiver General, collects the harbour dues, under the authority of the eleventh of his present Majesty. These dues consist of a tonnage on all vessels coming into the harbours of the Isle of Man, and a rate on all goods entered to be landed of the value of five pounds and upwards, either ad valorem or upon the quantities, except salt, which is free.

These dues on the goods entered are collected at the custom house, and paid over either to the person appointed to collect harbour dues, or to the Deputy Receiver General ; but the Collector of the Harbour Dues always accounts for them. Where the vessels paying tonnage are British or Irish, he has directed the Collector of the Harbour Dues to have recourse to the certificates of registry, and takes for granted they obey those directions. If the vessels are foreign, they have directions to ascertain the tonnage by measurement, which he has occasionally seem them doing. Foreign vessels anchoring in the bays are liable to two shillings and six pence per vessel.

He has no other check upon these collectors than their own accounts delivered in quarterly, and verified upon oath. Out of the payments made to him by them he pays the disbursements that have been necessary for the repair and support of the harbours, reserving to himself thirty pounds a year allowed by act of Parliament to the Receiver General, and by him allowed to his deputy for transacting the business. He also pays several other officers employed about the Harbours, as stated in an account delivered in by him.

The accounts of the disbursements made for the repairs of the harbours, are annually examined and audited by the commissioners appointed by the act of 1771, appropriating the duties to the harbours ; and when this is done, a statement of the receipts and payments, with the Commissioners observations, is transmitted by him to Mr. Knight to be laid before the Treasury. Instead of having a balance in his hands, he is often in advance on account of the repairs for the harbours, which frequently exceed the receipt. There never has been any remittance made to the Receiver General on account of the harbour dues since he has been in office.

The herring custom is a payment of ten shillings Manks money on each Manks or British boat employed in the herring fishery, provided the takes ten maize of herrings, which maize is five hundred, of seven shillings and fix pence for seven maize and a half, of five shillings for five maize, and two Shillings and six pence for two maize and a half. Irish boats, which are the only ones except the above allowed to fish, pay double custom. The duties on Manks boats are paid at the end of the season, upon public notice being given to the boat-masters requiring them so to do ; upon British and Irish, either at sea or in the harbour, as they can get an opportunity. The several Sums so collected are kept apart, being appropriated to the harbour fund ; out of them, twenty pounds a year is paid to the Water-bailiff, five pounds to the Admiral, and three pounds to the Vice Admiral, and the Deputy Receiver General also detains eight guineas by usage before he came, for his trouble in collecting them. This herring custom is audited in the same manner as the harbour dues.

No previous entry of Manks boats for the herring custom is made, nor has he any official knowledge of those employed in the fishery till the end of the season. The only check upon the number of boats employed is a return upon oath of the different coroners, as to the number of boat-masters engaged in the herring fishery for that season, without specifying the boats. The payment of the whole three fourths, half, or quarter custom, or whether they shall pay any thing, depends upon the oath of the respective boat-masters, and there is no other check whatever as to the quantity taken.

The salmon fishery consists of rents paid to the crown for the liberty of fishing in the Several bays of the island. These fisheries are by orders of the Treasury let for Seven years by public auction ; the rents are paid to him and carried to the harbour fund ; and no payments are made out of these rents, and the accounts are audited as those last mentioned.

No account of the imports and exports of the Isle of Man is transmitted to the Inspector General of Imports and Exports of Great Britain, nor is any account of articles carried coastwise in the Isle of Man at all transmitted.

He does not make any regular or constant visitations to the different ports in the Island, to see that the respective officers execute their duty correctly. He goes sometimes once a quarter to each port, sometimes oftener, but it has happened that he has only gone once in the half year to some of them. When he arrives at those ports, he always goes to the custom-house, looks into the books, and enquires of the superior officer there respecting the conduct of the tide and other inferior officers ; and where it appears that there has been any omission or neglect of duty, he has endeavoured to bring the officers to a better and more regular conduct, by reprimanding them, and giving them instructions for doing their duty properly, as well within the harbour, as in preventing smuggling in the places adjacent. -

He is at a loss to say, precisely, how far his authority or powers extend over the different officers in the Island, none appearing to be delegated or defined in the appointment of Mr. Watts to the office of Receiver General.

If a Superior officer should happen to be guilty of misconduct, he should endeavour to point out and convince him of his error : and, if that failed of effect, he should think it necessary to have the same represented to Mr. Knight, to lay before the Treasury. No instance of this has happened more than twice; in which cases the officers, who had been appointed by Mr. Lutwidge, were also dismissed by him, without, as he apprehends, the intervention of the Treasury.

In case of misconduct by inferior officers, he does not conceive he has any power of suspension, or dismission, or punishment of any kind, farther than reprimand.

He should, on such occasions, summon the Collector and Comptroller of Douglas, to attend him in making the inquiry ; if the fact was proved, and seemed to be of a serious nature, he should have it represented to Mr. Knight, as above explained.

He knows instances where Mr. Lutwidge has dismissed established inferior officers. without, as he believes, any intervention of the Treasury.

He does not know of any limitation in point of age, or any inquiry into the qualifications of any person appointed to any office in the Customs in the Isle of Man.

No account of the ages, capacities, and behaviour of the different officers of the Customs in the Isle of Man is transmitted to Mr Knight, Mr Watts, the Treasury, or elsewhere.

No official orders, that he knows of, are given to officers in the Island, not to trade, or, be concerned in trade, directly or indirectly, or not to keep victualling houses, but their not being allowed so to do, is generally understood; and in one instance, an officer keeping a public house in the name of his daughter, was noticed, and he immediately gave up the pubic house. ‘

No leave of absence is granted to any officer in the Island but by him.- He has taken upon himself to give eight days leave of absence ; but if more is required, application is made to the Treasury by the officer himself.

No entry in the book of the Custom house is made of the instrument appointing officer ; the appointment only is produced, and the date recorded at the time they take the oath of office. The officers of this Island are never instructed in the duties of their offices before admission. There is no fund for superannuated officers in the Isle of Man.

Officers in the Isle of Man are, as he apprehends, empowered to seize there, by virtue of deputations from the Commissioners of the Customs. When a seizure is made by an Officer he either brings it directly to Douglas, at which port the warehouse for all the Island is, or lodges it at the nearest Custom-house, until such conveyance can be made; and upon delivering the same into the warehouse at Douglas, gives in a note of seizure to the warehouse-keeper specifying the cause of seizure, the place, the article, the date, and of whom seized, where can, and that he is willing to prosecute. As soon as may be, the warehouse-keeper, and the Comptroller, acquaint the Attorney General with the Seizure, and desire that the proper steps may be taken for the condemnation thereof. At the first Court of Exchequer, as he apprehends, the Attorney General informs the Court of the seizure ; the Governor gives an order directed to the Collector, Comptroller, and Searcher of the port of Douglas, or any two of them, to cause the said seizure to be appraised by two sufficient men ; the appraisement is accordingly made, and an indenture sent up to the Attorney General, and produced in Court ; and if no claim is made within twenty days, the goods are condemned the following Court day according to the usual form prescribed for the sitting of the Court ; such condemnation cannot take place in less than two lunar months, and it may be three. After condemnation, the goods are sold by public auction, never under the appraised value. An account is then made out, according to a fixed rule for certain charges ; namely, for the Commissioners, ten shillings each; drawing the indenture, ten shillings; and two appraisers, six shillings and eight pence each; which charges, with those of seizure, condemnation, and sale, are taken from the produce, and the remainder is divided in equal shares, betwixt the King and seizing officer, except in the case of wool, where the whole benefit, after the above charges, is to the officer.

The King’s share, in Mr. Lutwidge’s time, was always paid to him ; since his time, the Deputy Receiver General has received it, and remitted or paid the same to Mr. Thompson, in London, Receiver of fines and forfeitures under the Board of Customs, and has receipts for what he has so remitted, being for the whole balance up to 16th April 1790. The King’s share of any seizure sold Since that time, is now in his hands As soon as the seizure account can be settled, the officers are paid their respective shares : the officers in all cases have been paid a moiety of the seizure.

The prosecution is always carried on at the risk and expence of the officer, in case it is condemned .

There is not any account of a seizure when made, nor any annual account of seizures, fines and forfeitures, made up or transmitted by him, nor has there been any. Extra officers, and officers not having an appointment from the Treasury, are not empowered to seize. Sometimes the military are called in, in aid of the officers ; when so called, though a seizure is made, they have not been rewarded, not knowing how to apportion such rewards ; but they have been paid for their trouble in guarding goods to the warehouse.

In cases of goods seized and condemned, which are prohibited in this Island, since the Staving Act was repealed, Brandy, Rum, or Geneva, have been sold at auction without any conditions. In respect of Tobacco, they are at a loss how to proceed ; and they have at present a quantity of condemned Tobacco in that predicament. Tea seized, is likewise sold at auction, without any conditions.

In cases of penal prosecutions, he should think himself under the act 5th Geo. III. bound, apply to the Board of Customs, for their directions with respect to the prosecution, and should be governed by such direction. No penal prosecutions have been carried on by officers of the Island.

In cases of seizures of horses, they apply to the Governor for the immediate condemnation and sale, and sometimes Courts have been held specially on the occasion ; if condemned in consequence, some difficulties have arisen from the Court not allowing the produce to remain in the hands of the warehouse-keeper, until disposed of to the Crown and seizing officer.

In a recent instance, the Governor has condemned and allowed the officer to retain the produce thereof, in like manner as other seizures.

The ports of the Isle of Man, and the limits of those ports, are appointed, pursuant to a commission from the Court of Exchequer, of the 15th September 1766, and the quays and legal landing places are described in the return to the said commission, dated in November 1766.

All goods are shipped and landed at the different ports, at such legal places except special application is made, in which case a sufferance is granted, and an officer attends.

The same system obtains here as to legal hours of Custom-house business, that obtains in England. With respect to articles imported by licence into the Isle of Man, the first knowledge he has of them, is from the cocket that comes with the goods from the port where they were shipped, expressing the date of the licence by virtue of which they are shipped, and the quantity. They are admitted to entry upon the production of such cocket, and the duty is received; a warrant is granted for landing to the searcher. From the entries prime and post of such articles, at the end of each quarter he makes out an account of the several quantities imported, and transmits the same to the Commissioners of the Customs quarterly.

In these accounts he only states the date of the licence, and the quantity landed, and from what port, with the date of the entry in the Isle of Man ; and does not note whether more or less has been landed than is expressed in the cocket. The Collector and Controller certify to the port from whence the goods came, the landing, and the quantity.

The deficiency of rum imported appearing upon the account of licensed articles delivered in below the quantity allowed, partly arises, he apprehends, from the high price of that article in Great Britain, and partly from the smuggling of brandy and geneva into the Island, and such smuggling, he apprehends, is more or less according to the high or low price of rum in Great Britain.

It is impossible for him to judge, but he thinks that from fifty to sixty thousand gallons of spirits of all kinds, is as much as the annual consumption of the island can require.

For the deficiency under the quantity allowed, or total non-importation of British spirits, he can account no other way but from the taste of the people.

He apprehends that forty thousand pound weight of tobacco is sufficient for the consumption of the Island.

The non-importation of bobea tea from 5th July 1773 to 5th July 1781, was, he apprehends, owing to the quantities smuggled in ; and the deficiency under the quantity allowed from that period is, as he apprehends, owing to the same cause. Since the commutation act, no draw-back has been allowed on tea exported from Great Britain to the Isle of Man, other than the twelve and a half per cent. ; and there being an Island importation duty of six pence a pound on bohea, and of one shilling on green tea, he apprehends that tea, if legally imported, is higher in price here than in England. The same observations apply to green tea.

With respect to the non-importation of coffee for a number of years, stated in the account, and the under importation as to other years, he is totally at a loss how to account for the same, unless it has happened from Smuggling. Such smuggling has been less since the duty upon the importation of coffee into the Isle of Man has been lowered, which took place in the year 1780.

The quantity of refined sugar allowed is, as he apprehends, sufficient for the consumption of the Island ; he cannot account for the non-importation of bastard sugar.

The tobacco imported into the Isle of Man is all in the leaf, and afterwards manufactured in the island.

The officers of the customs are not regularly furnished with the revenue acts, either respecting the Isle of Man or Great Britain ; they have had none officially since Mr. Lutwidge’s time.

Orders of council respecting quarantine are transmitted to the Governor here, and by proclamation from him communicated to the officers of the customs and civil officers. Only one instance of a vessel liable to quarantine coming into the Isle of Man has occurred since he has been in office ; the was immediately ordered to proceed to Hoy Lake, the place appointed for quarantine for the Isle of Man. .

In the account of salanies, fees, allowances, and gratuities of the several officers in the Isle of Man for the year 1790, delivered in by him, the salaries paid in the Isle of Man are entered according to the establishment, or as fixed by the late Receiver General, or present Deputy Receiver General. The officers paid in Whitehaven receive their salaries quarterly by remittance from the Collector, and he takes and transmits their receipts to him. The entries in the three columns of fees, gratuities, allowances, and deductions, are extracted from the returns made by the several officers to him, against whole respective names they are let.

No table of fees is hung up in any of the offices of the customs in this Island ; the only authority for taking fees since 1765 is usage, grounded upon a table formed, as he apprehends, by the late Receiver General. Some persons complained of these fees being taken ; an action was commenced against the officer for regulating himself by such table, instead of the fees prior to the revestment in 1765 ; the action was carried, but the practice as established since 1765 still remains

Gratuities rest upon the same ground of usage. He does not think that the present number of revenue officers in the Isle of Man are sufficient. for the purpose of performing the duties required, and of guarding the revenue against frauds. This Examinant farther saith, that he is searcher of the port of Ramsay by constitution from the Lords of the Treasury, dated 30th April 1774., at a salary of 50l. per annum. He took. the oath of office on his appointment, and gave security in the sum of two or three hundred pounds. Upon such appointment, he had a deputation from the Commissioners of the Customs, with instructions. He was not put under instructions for the office.

The duties of the office are, to take an account of goods landed or shipped according to warrants issued from the Collector and Controller for that purpose, and to make returns of the same on the back of the warrants ; which warrants are returned to the Collector and Con troller, specifying the real quantity, quality, and number of the goods so discharged or shipped

These accounts at Ramsay are kept on loose slips of paper, and not in blue books.

He executes the duty of searcher by deputy, and has done so from the first appointment to that office. This deputy has taken an oath of office, has not given security, and has no deputation He has no salary, but all the fees arising from the office for his trouble


Jno Spranger.
Wm Osgoode.
Willm Roe.
David Reid.



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