[Appendix B(77) 1792 Report of Commissioners of Inquiry]

APPENDIX (B.) N° 77.


OBSERVATIONS on the TRADE and REVENUES of the ISLE of MAN, by the Collector and Comptroller of the Port of Douglas.

WE the underwritten the Collector and Comptroller of the Port of Douglas within the Isle of Man, beg Leave to submit to the Consideration of His Majesty’s Commissioners at present in this Island, the following Observations respecting the Trade of the Island, and its limitted Importation ; as also for the better collecting and improving of His Majesty's Revenues there.

The Trade of the Isle of Man with Great Britain at this present Moment consists only of a limitted Importation from certain Ports of that Kingdom for the mere Consumption of the Inhabitants, and a Liberty of exporting the Produce and Manufactures of the Island into Great Britain Duty free.

With the Kingdom of Ireland there is very little Connection.

The Trade to and from foreign Parts is confined to exporting a few Cargoes of Red Herrings; and importing Wines, for the Consumption of the Island only: To this may be added a few Cargoes of foreign Timber from the Baltic, for the Use of the Island only.

The Licence Articles allowed to be imported from Great Britain are the following ; upon the Subject of which we beg leave to make a few Remarks:

And first, with regard to TOBACCO:

As the Law hands, only 40,000 lbs. Weight can be annually imported into the Isle of Man — a Quantity, in our Opinion, very inadequate to the Consumption of the Inhabitants, who in general (Women as well as Men) make much use of that Article.

The System laid down for regulating the granting of Licences for this as well as other limitted Goods, is, in our Opinion, by no Means calculated for giving those Advantages to the People of the Isle of Man which we must naturally conclude was intended by Government ; we mean that of the Manx Merchant not having it in his Power to buy such Goods at the best and cheapest Market.

The English Merchants having equally with the Manx the Liberty of applying for Licences, always contrive to make such early Applications to the Board of Customs as puts it in their Power to make a present Monopoly of them, at the Expence of the Inhabitants of the Isle of Man.

For Instance, we beg Leave to state the Mode in which the Article of Tobacco was imported into the Island last Season, and which we understand has been the Plan always followed.

A Mr. Richardson of Whitehaven, by making use of a Number of Names along with his own, obtained Licences for twenty Hogsheads, which he imported into the Island, accompanying it himself. We are informed by the Dealers in that Article, that this Tobacco was of a very mean Quality (which is naturally to be supposed considering the Circumstances of the Case) ; that he purchased the same in Whitehaven at the Rate of 3 d. per lb., and insisted upon the Dealers here giving him his own price, 5d. per lb. ready Money, besides paying the Duty ; and they, from the great Scarcity of the Article, were under the Necessity of complying with this exorbitant Demand, as he declared he would not let them have a Pound on any other Terms.

The remaining Part of the 40,000 lb was imported from Liverpool by four Dealers there, and sold much in the same Manner

The Insufficiency of the Quantity allowed to he legally imported, and consequent Badness of Quality with its high Price, have, no Doubt, operated to the Encouragement of the Smuggler to supply the Inhabitants in a clandestine Manner ; and the Number of Luggers and other Smuggling Vessels continually hovering on this Coast give the Inhabitants an easy Opportunity of supplying themselves with this and other necessary Articles at a low Rate.

To do away this Monopoly, which is carried on entirely at the Expence of the Isle of Man, an to give the Inhabitants of the Island every little Advantage arising from their own limitted Importation, as well as in some Measure to prevent Smuggling, we beg leave to suggest the following Mode of importing this Article

First, As we have already observed the Quantity of 40,000 lbs allowed is very inadequate to the consumption of the island, for though there may have been less than that Quantity legally imported of late, that has been chiefly owing to the Mode in which such Importations have been made which raised the Price of that Article so high as to induce unfair Traders to smuggle ; we would therefore submit, whether an additional Quantity of 40,000 lbs. might not be permitted on the present Duty ?

Secondly,We would propose that the Merchants in the Isle of Man should be permitted to make the best Market they can for themselves in any of the Tobacco Ports of Great Britain.

Thirdly, that having made this Market, they should be directed by Law to apply to the Collector and Comptroller of the Port of Douglas, (where this, as well as all other Licence Goods, are only allowed to be imported,) specifying the Quantity and at what Port in Great Britain lying for Exportation, and requesting the said Collector and Comptroller to apply in their Name to the Honourable Commissioners of the Customs, in either England or Scotland, as the Case may be, for Licence to export such Tobacco to the Isle of Man.

That upon such Application to either of the Honourable Boards such Licences should he granted and forwarded to the said Collector and Comptroller, to be delivered by them to the Person who had made such Application, for him to forward to the Port where his Tobacco lyes.

It would be necessary for the Collector and Comptroller of Douglas to keep a regular Account of all Licences granted, that Applications might not he made for more than the Quantity allowed which Account, as well as the Quantity really imported, should be transmitted Quarterly to to the several Honourable Boards.

With regard to SPIRITS

As the Law at present stands, only 30,000 Gallons of Rum is allowed to be imported from England, and 10,000 Gallons from Scotland , with 40,000 Gallons of British Spirits from England

The Quantity of Rum alone, we are decidedly of Opinion, is not sufficient for the Consumption of the Island ; and as to British Spirits, Experience has fully shewn, that owing to the Predilection of the Inhabitants for foreign Brandy and Gin, none of that Article is imported ; consequently considerable quantities of foreign spirits must, and really are frequently smuggled into the Island by which Means the Inhabitants are plentifully supplied with these Articles, to the great Detriment of the Revenue and fair Trader ; and most likely take the Opportunity of the long and dark Winter Nights to run some Part of such Quantity upon the Coasts of Great Britain and Ireland.

We would therefore propose, that the Quantity of 40,000 Gallons of Rum should be continue as at present at the Duty of 2s. per Gallon ; that 15,000 Gallons of Brandy and 15,000 Gallons Gin should he allowed to be imported, the Brandy on a Duty of 2s. 6d. per Gallon, and the G in a Duty of 2 s. per Gallon ; also that 10,000 Gallons of British Spirits should be allowed to be imported on the present Duty of 1s. per Gallon.

We would likewise propose, that the same Regulations, with regard to exporting these Articles from Great Britain, should be adopted as we have pointed out for Tobacco that the Manx Merchant should he allowed to make his Market at any Port in Great Britain which he found most advantageous, and apply in the same Manner for Licences as for Tobacco to export it from thence.

With regard to TEA

The present Insular Duty being so high is very detrimental to the Revenue as well as the Trader : As the Law stands, 20,000 lb. Bohea Tea. is allowed for the Consumption of the Island and 5,000 lb. Green ; the Bohea Tea on a Duty of 6 d. per lb., and the Green on a Duty of 1s per lb. .

The Consequence is, that but a small Part of the Quantity consumed in the Island is legally imported : We would therefore propose, that the present Duties on Tea should cease, and that in lieu thereof an Insular Duty of 12½ per cent ad valorem (the Drawback obtained in Great Britain) should be imposed, and to be imported without any Licence.

With regard to COFFEE

We would propose, that the present Quantity of 5,000 lbs. be allowed under the Restrictions and Regulations we have already pointed out for the other Licence Articles, and to pay the present Duty of 4d. per lb.

With regard to REFINED SUGAR:

At present the Island is confined to the Port of Liverpool alone for its Supply, and of course a Monopoly is the consequence : We would propose, that the Manx Merchant should he allowed to make his Market in any Port of Great Britain, and apply for Licences as already specified.

We would also propose, that the Insular Duty should be charged by the Cwt. and not ad valorem as at present.

The levying Duty on Goods ad valorem being found subject to great Frauds, we would beg Leave to propose the following Plan, viz.

That all Goods intitled to any Bounty or Drawback of Customs or Excise, as well as some others here specified, should be charged with Duty at a certain Rate, either by Weight, Measure, or Tale, as the Case might be, similar to the Manner in which Duty is levied, and the Drawback obtained on such Goods in Great Britain.

As for Instance, Beer, Ale, or Porter, so much per Barrel; Candles and Sope per lb. ; Cyder and Perry per Hogshead ; Hides and Skins per lb. ; Mead per Gallon ; Paper per Rheam ; printed or stained Goods per Square Yard ; Starch and Hair Powder per lb. ; Chocolate and Cocoa per lb. ; Gunpowder per Barrel ; Tanned Leather, rough or manufactured, per lb. ; Silks per lb. ; Cambricks per Piece; Playing Cards per Dozen Packs ; Muscovado Sugar per Cwt, ; Molasses per Cwt. ; foreign Fruit, such as Raisins, Figs, Prunes, Currants, &c. per Cwt. ; Tar, Pitch, Turpentine, and Rosin, so much per Barrel ; Rice per Cwt. ; foreign Iron in Bars from Great Britain per Cwt. ; Lead and Lead Shot per Cwt —perhaps no Duty ought to be paid in Great Britain on the Exportation of Lead Shot to the Isle of Man ;—Sail Cloth per Ell ; Pepper and other Spices per lb.

Was this Plan adopted it would be necessary to enact, That all Goods imported from Ireland should be subject to the same Duty as if imported from Great Britain, whether they be intitled to a Drawback on Exportation from that Kingdom or not ; if this is not done Ireland will have the Advantage of Great Britain in sending many Articles to the Isle of Man, and the Revenue there injured.

All the foregoing Articles should be made liable to a considerable additional Duty if imported from foreign Parts ; indeed many of them must be entirely prohibited.

As this Mode of levying and collecting the Duties would be considerably more productive than the present Mode of collecting ad valorem, which is subject to great Frauds, perhaps it might be proper to admit Woollens, Hardware, and Haberdashery from Great Britain and Ireland ; which Articles cannot well be rated upon the present Duty.

With regard to Goods from foreign Parts an Alteration might be made considerably to the Advantage of the Revenue ; for Instance, that all Timber should pay by Tale and Admeasurement

Similar to the Mode adopted in Great Britain ; that Iron should pay so much per Ton, &c. &c.

All Vinegar imported from foreign Parts should be charged with a Duty of so much per Gallon in place of being charged ad valorem as at present, this Regulation would not only tend to the Improvement of the Revenue here, but also be of Advantage to the Revenue of Great Britain.

We would propose, that Hops be allowed the same Drawback of 1½d per lb. when exported from Great Britain to the Isle of Man as when exported to Ireland, and the Insular Duty charged at so much per lb. in place of being ad valorem as at present.

We would propose, that Sheep (to a limited Number) be allowed to be exported from Great Britain to the Isle of Man, under the same Limitations and Restrictions as Sheep are now allowed to be exported from the Isle of Man to Great Britain.

The following ought to be added to the Goods allowed to be imported from Great Britain and Ireland Duty free, viz. Potatoes ; Barley (shelled) ; Fruit the Growth of Great Britain or Ireland; Cheese ; Oak Bark, which is necessary for barking the Nets and Sails of the Fishermen, as well as for the Tanning of Leather ; old Rags and Ropes for the Paper Manufacture ; School Books; British Bar Iron.

: We would propose, that Grain should be allowed to be imported from all Parts of Great Britain for the Sustenance of the Inhabitants of the Isle of Man in place of being limited to Liverpool or Whitehaven.

The Article of SALT.

In regard to this Article it is notorious that considerable Quantities of it are smuggled from the Island to Great Britain, to the great Injury of the Revenue of that Country ; to prevent such Practices in future, we beg Leave to submit the following Plan to your Consideration:

First, That a Warehouse should be built at His Majesty’s Expence at each of the four different Towns in the Island, viz. Douglas, Castletown, Peele, and Ramsey ; and that all the Salt imported to the Island, whether from Great Britain or foreign Parts, should be lodged in the said Warehouses, where the different Fishcurers should have a different Apartment allotted to each of them for their Salt, duly entering such Salt at the Custom house of the Port where such Salt is imported.

That at the End of each Fishing Season the Fishcurers should be obliged by Law to make a Return upon Oath to the proper Officers appointed to superintend the said Warehouses of thee Quantity of Salt expended by them in the Course of the Fishing Season , which Return should be compared by such Officer with the Quantity imported , the Remainder to be weighed and to remain in the Warehouse under double Lock and Key (one of such Keys being lodged at the Custom house) till next Fishing Season These Checks to be in Addition to the present subsisting Regulations

Second, That an Apartment in the said different Warehouses should be allotted to the Purpose of receiving Salt for the Consumption of the Inhabitants living in the Towns and Country, and who have no Connection with the Fishery, further than their receiving their Proportion of Herrings from the different Boats in which they have Shares for the Supply of their own Families, and that a proper Person should be appointed in each Town (who should give Security for his good Behaviour) to retail the said Salt to the Inhabitants of the Towns as well as those from the interior Parts of the Country, for which he ought, in our Opinion, to be allowed at the Rate of 10 per Cent. for his Trouble from the Consumer , by which Means the Inhabitants (as we are informed) would be served at the Rate of 10 per Cent. cheaper than they are at present. .

Third, No Salt for the Consumption of the Island to be removed from the Warehouses from Sunset till Sunrise next Morning, or without a Permit ; and if any Person is detected in removing Salt on any Pretence whatever from Sun-down to Sun-up, the said Salt , with the Horses, Carriages, and Packages containing the same, to be liable to Seizure ; and all Persons aiding and assisting in transporting such Salt to be liable to Fine and Imprisonment.

Fourth, No Salt for the interior Consumption of the Island to be permitted to be carried Coast. wise on any Pretence whatever, upon Pain of Forfeiture of Vessel and Salt.

Fifthly, As the Business of . Salt Smuggling is principally carried on by the small Boats employed in the taking of Herrings, after the Herring Fishery is ended for the Season, we would beg Leave to submit to your Consideration, if it would not be proper that all Boats employed in taking Herrings should be registered, and that it should be enacted that none of the said Boats should be permitted to sail from any Port or Place in the Isle of Man from the first Day of November in each Year, (at which Period the Herring Fishery is always at an End on these Coasts,) until the first Day of the Month of May ensuing, (a Period when the said Herring Boats are employed in carrying Limestone from one Place to another round the Coasts of the Island,) without being regularly cleared out at one of the four different Customhouses of Douglas Derbyhaven (which is the Port of Castletown), Peele, or Ramsey, under Penalty of Forfeiture of such Boat.

That as by the Act of the twenty-sixth of his present Majesty, Chap. 60, no Vessel is required to be registered, unless the be of the Burthen of fifteen Tons or upwards, or has a Deck ; and as most of the Fishing Boats employed in the Herring Fishery of the Isle of Man are under that Burthen, we would propose that those of the latter Description should only be subject to an Insular Registering, under the Direction of the principal Officers of the Port of Douglas , which Officers may be directed to transmit an annual Return to the Honourable Board of Customs.

We have revolved this Subject seriously in our Minds , and after mature Deliberation, we cannot point out any other Method by which the Smuggling of Salt can be prevented consistent with the Prosperity of the Fisheries of the Isle of Man.

Article of TONNAGE.

As the Merchants of the Isle of Man complain of the high Tonnage in which Tobacco and Spirits are at present obliged to be imported, we submit it to your Consideration, (those Articles still continuing importable by Licence only,) whether for the greater Convenience of the Traders,. the Tonnage might not be lessened without Prejudice to the Revenues of Great Britain and Ireland.

We beg Leave to conclude with observing, that in the Remarks which we have now the Honour to submit to your Considerations we have been guided by our Belief, that Great Britain, for they Protection of her own Revenues, may think it necessary that the Isle of Man should still remain with respect to many Articles under the Restrictions of a limited Importation

Customhouse, Douglas, 10th October 1791


WILLIAM SCOTT, Comptroller


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