[Appendix B(84) 1792 Report of Commissioners of Inquiry]

APPENDIX (B.) N° 84.


[ In Lieutenant-Governor SHAW’s Letter of the 20th of October 1791]

At a Meeting of the Keys at their House in Castletown, in the Isle of Man, the 19th Day of October 1791.

JOHN Spranger, William Osgood, William Roe, and David Reid, Esquires, Gentlemen directed by His Majesty’s Secretary of State by a Letter dated at Whitehall the 8th Day of September 1791, to proceed to this Island for the Purpose of obtaining the most accurate Information upon various Points respecting the same, having intimated to us through the Channel of the Honourable Alexander Shaw Esquire, Lieutenant Governor of this Isle, that they are ready to receive any Propositions which may tend to elucidate the present State and Condition of this Island, and promote the Welfare and Happiness thereof ; We, the Keys, the Constitutional Representatives of the said Isle, out of the Duty we owe to His Gracious Majesty, being equally inclined to give our best Aid to such Inquiries as may tend to promote the interest of the said Isle, do therefore before you, the Gentlemen aforesaid, the following information and Remarks, which we conceive merit the Attention of Government.

The ruinous State of the Court Houses, among which may properly be included the House of Keys, where we sit in our judicial as well as legislative Capacity, the bad and tottering State of the Gaols and Harbours within this Isle ; the Innovation made in our Constitution by depriving the North Division of this Isle of a Deemster ; the Inadequacy of the Resident Lieutenant Governor’s Salary, with the Want of certain salutary Laws for the better Regulation of the Police of this Isle; these are Matters which we conceive ought to be presented to your Inquiry under the Head of Articles respecting the internal Police of this Island.

It is unnecessary to take up much of your Time by stating those Matters in full ; suffice it to say, that we conceive that there is an absolute Necessity for erecting Court Houses in the different Districts where Justice is administered, for repairing those already erected, and for repairing and modifying anew the Gaols of this Isle,, which are in a State shocking to Humanity, and unprovided with Cells for the different Sexes ; they are therefore doubly unfortunate who are doomed to Confinement here.

With respect to Courthouses, the Courtroom within the Castle of Rushen, though much out of Repair and inadequate to its Purposes, is the only Convenience yet erected wherein a Magistrate can sit with any Honour to himself to administer Justice. Public houses, Barns, and Places of such sort, are in general the humiliating Accommodations of the judges of this Isle ; a Circumstance this that diminishes the Respect and Decorum which ought to attend a Court: And we cannot but lament, that the Police of this Island in general is much disordered and deranged by the Suspension of the Legislative Power of the Governor, Council, and Keys, who, for want of Funds, can neither obviate the Grievances the Country has long laboured under, nor provide for the Contingencies that the Revolutions of Time bring with them.

We cannot but lament the ruinous and deplorable State of the Ports and Harbours of this Island, of which your own View must furnish the most complete and distressing Evidence. Respecting the Harbour of Douglas in particular, the principal Port in the Island, you are not unapprized that it is of the highest Importance to the Trade carried on in St. George’s Channel ; that from the Violence of a Storm in 1786 a great Part of its Pier or Quay was destroyed ; that its Entrance having become dangerous, and Vessels within it not being in a State of Security, the Port ceases to be frequented, and the Trade of the Island in general, and the Herring Fishery in particular, not only sustains much Injury, but the Lives of many Persons and considerable Property have been loss as well in the Attempt to enter the Harbour as from the Want of that Protection which it formerly afforded ; that the Pier may be rebuilt, and the Harbour itself deepened and improved at a very moderate Expence, when compared with its Utility, so as to form a secure capacious, and useful dry Harbour superior to any in St. George’s Channel, and equal to any in His Majesty’s Dominions, affording a Retreat in tempestuous Weather, as well to the Trading Vessels navigating that Channel as to His Majesty’s Cruisers which frequently put in there for the Purpose of cleaning and victuailing.

That by an Act of Tynwald passed in the Year 1734, certain Duties were made payable in order to raise a Fund for the Purpose of repairing, cleaning, and rendering commodious the Harbours of this Isle.

That by this Act Supervisors were directed to be chosen annually by the Governor, Council, and Keys for each of the Ports, for the Purpose of directing and carrying on proper Works for the Improvement of the Ports ; that their Accounts were to be audited yearly ; that they were invested with Authority to borrow Money, and with other necessary Powers specified in the Act and that they fully and usefully exercised those Powers, and borrowed considerable Sums, which were expended upon the Harbours, and to this Day remain unpaid, owing to the Operation of an Act of Parliament of the 11th of the King, which changed the System adopted by this Act of Tynwald.

We conceive it would be for the Interest of this Island, and of His Majesty’s Cruisers and other Vessels frequenting our Ports, that the Care of the Harbours should be, as formerly, committed to the Merchants and principal Gentlemen within this Isle.

We cannot but lament the Want of a Northern Deemster, and that our repeated Applications on this Head should have been unsuccessful ; the Civil and Criminal Law of this Isle, from the earliest Times, being administered by two Deemsters, one appointed for the Northern and the other for the Southern Division or District which Institution, from the Experience of Ages, hath been found wisely calculated for the easy and equal Distribution of Justice throughout the whole Isle, as well from its Extent and the Number of its Inhabitants, as from other local Circumstances, the Island being three Times longer than it is broad, and divided by a Chain or Range of Mountains from East to West, separating the Northern from the Southern Division, which made and still renders it necessary to assign a Deemster to each of these Districts,

That since the Death of Daniel Mylrea Esquire, Deemster for the Northern District, no Persons hath been appointed to succeed him in that Office in consequence of which His Majesty’s Subjects within the Northern District have been deprived of coming at Justice without the utmost Fatigue and Peril of their Lives, from the Distance of their Situation, and the Mountains and Rivers they have to cross ; the present Deemster’s Residence being near the Southern Extremity of this Isle.

By our Constitution the two Deemsters are Members of the Legislature and of the Court of Exchequer, Assistants to the Governor in the Court of Chancery, and Judges in the Courts of Common Law and all Criminal Cases ; we conceive therefore, that the old Establishment ought to be revived as Constitutional and necessary.

The Salary of the Resident Lieutenant Governor of this Isle is another Object which we think merits your Notice. The Sum allowed is but two hundred Pounds per Annum. His Rank as Captain General of the troops here, cad his Office of Chancellor and Chief Magistrate, unavoidably subject him to use Hospitality towards the Officers of those Departments in particular ; and when, add to this the general Claims that must be made upon his Civility by Persons of Consequence, who occasionally resort to and reside in the Island, the Salary already allowed must found to be altogether inadequate to these Purposes. The Office of Chief Magistrate of this Isle engages the Occupier in a Scene of exact Diligence and unremitting Attention ; and it is submitted, whether so busy a Station does not bespeak a more suitable provision. To make it necessary for the Resident Lieutenant Governor to draw the Means of supporting the Dignity of his public Character from his private Fortune is, we conceive, a peculiar Hardship.

With respect to the Commons, (in which the Inhabitants have a Right of Commonage of Pasture and Estovers, commonly called Turf and Ling, without Stint, upon Payment of a certain. Acknowledgment,) the Services of Tenants called "Carriages" and the "Game", these are Matters of Meum and Tuum between His Grace the Duke of Atholl and the Inhabitants of this Island ; and therefore, as far as they concern the Inhabitants, we conceive they are not proper Objects of this Inquiry : His Majesty’s Courts of Justice are open and exclusively competent to hear and determine upon them ; and we conceive that neither you Gentlemen, nor the Parliament of Great Britain, ought to interfere with our internal Police : But if any legislative Regulation should be necessary respecting the Game, we are ready to join in such.

We conceive that His Majesty cannot want any further Information with respect to the Herring Custom, Wrecks of the Sea, Salmon-Bay Fisheries, Treasure Trove, and other Matters : These were reported upon by the Crown Lawyers of Great Britain and this Island, as appears by their Reports dated the 27th of April 1780, 7th of June 1780, and 30th of April 1781, to which you, Gentlemen, are referred

It appears by the said Letter, dated the 8th of September 1791, that it is alleged by His Grace the Duke of Atholl, that the Revenues arising to His Grace’s Family were not fairly collected, even prior to the Revestment. But we do not conceive it proper to enter into any Disquisitions on this Head, being of Opinion they will come more properly before Parliament

We conceive that the commercial Regulations of this Isle may be much improved, and we are ready to give our Aid to Government by any insular Acts of Legislation for the more effectual , Prevention of illicit Practices, in a great Measure occasioned by the absolute Prohibition which exists against the Importation of French Brandy and Holland’s Geneva into this Isle.

We suggest, that it would be for the Interest of His Majesty’s Revenues that Government would permit the Inhabitants to import into this Island a limited Quantity of French Brandy and Holland’s Geneva upon a moderate Duty, these Articles, in a reasonable Degree, forming a Part of the Necessaries of Life.

We conceive that such a Permission upon the Part of Government would in a great Measure annihilate the illicit Importation of these Commodities ; and we are firmly persuaded, that while an absolute Prohibition exists against the importation of them, it will hurt the Revenue and encourage illicit Practices.

We conceive that the Inhabitants of this Island should not be deprived of the Bounty on Red Herrings. An Act of the 26th of the King, intituled, " An Act for the more effectual Encouragement of the British Fisheries," Chapter 81. Section 33. granted a Bounty of one Shillings a Barrel for all such Herrings caught by the Inhabitants thereof as should be landed in the Island from any Boat or Vessel, and afterwards properly salted, cured, and packed, as directed by the Act: In consequence of which the Inhabitants of the Island, in 1787, received from the Deputy Receiver General the Bounty of one Shilling a Barrel on Red and White Herrings without Distinction ; but to their great Surprise and Disappointment he has since refused Payment of the Bounty on Herrings cured Red, under an Idea that the Bounty in Question is confined merely to White Herrings.

It is to be observed, that the Yarmouth and Liverpool Fishcurers, desirous of the Encouragement held out to the Inhabitants of the Isle of Man, applied for and obtained an Act of Parliament in the twenty-seventh Year of the King, intituled, " An Act to extend the Provisions " of an Act made in the twenty-sixth Year of his present Majesty, intituled, An Act for the " more effectual Encouragement of the Brutish Fisheries," which (Chap 10 Sect ) gives a Bounty of a Shilling a Barrel on Red and White Herrings

This Act not extending to the isle of Man, has occasioned the Objection to the Payment of the Bounty on Red Herrings to the Inhabitants of the island ; and those Inhabitants conceiving that the Act of the twenty-sixth of the King in their Favour should receive a liberal Construction, laid out large Sums in extending the Red-Herring Business, the curing of White Herrings being comparatively an Object of no great Importance :If those Bounties should not be allowed by Parliament, it would be a peculiar Hardship, as the Herring Fishery is no where attended with such Risk as on this Coast, it being almost entirely in the open Channel, and exposed to strong Tides, the Fishermen not being protected by Land as those are who fish in Loughs, and yet receive the Bounty Add to this, the Fishery here is carried on at a much greater Expence than the British Fisheries in general are, as most of the Materials used are imported from Great Britain and foreign Nations. You, Gentlemen, are not unapprised of the Importance of this Fishery to Great Britain as a Nursery of Seamen, some Thousands of whom have served in His Majesty's Navy.

We conceive that the Inhabitants of this Island labour under peculiar Restraints Southampton and Whitehaven are the only Ports from which they an import Grain into thus Island , they are not allowed to draw the Debentures on the Importation of Hops and on Debenture Goods, for the Consumption of this Isle.

We conceive that would be for the Interest of this island that the Inhabitants should not be limited to any particular Port, but allowed to import Grain and Sugar from any Port of Great Britain, and that they should be entitled to draw the several Debentures allowed to the People of Ireland

We conceive that the Tonnage of Vessels on the Importation of several Commodities into this Isle is excessive, and ought to be reduced to the Par of Great Britain or Ireland ; and we are convinced that the Trade and Manufactures of this Island in general, without Detriment to the Revenues of Great Britain and Ireland, can, under wise Regulations and Encouragements from Great Britain, be greatly extended, be productive of a considerable Increase of Revenue, and render thirty thousand loyal Subjects flourishing and happy.

This House taking into Consideration the Mode of communicating the beforegoing Information and Remarks to the Gentlemen therein named, and considering that their Requisitions for Information came through His Honour Alexander Shaw Esquire, Lieutenant Governor of this Isle, this House is of Opinion, That the Information and Remarks should be forwarded by the Speaker to His Honour the Lieutenant Governor, to be by him laid before these Gentlemen.

By Order of the House,





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