[Appendix D(28) 1792 Report of Commissioners of Inquiry]

N° 28.



[Received from the Duke of Atholl, October 8th, 1791]

IT having been alleged, that the industry, population, and trade of the Isle of Man had been unnecessarily cramped, I beg leave to support that allegation by the following short statement.

Previous to 1765 the isle of Man was certainly a considerable depôt for many articles that bore a trifling duty there, and high duties in Great Britain and Ireland. The importation of such articles into the Isle of Man was agreeable to the rights my ancestors possessed. The running trade an abuse of our charters, committed by those who carried on this pernicious kind of traffic, which I have ever considered as the greatest bane, both to the inhabitants, and to the lord of the island.

From the beginning of this century to 1736, when my grandfather succeeded to the Isle of Man, the Earls of Derby had paid no attention to this valuable property, except indeed in 1703 and 1704, to drain all the ready money from the inhabitants for securing their tenures. From 1736 to 1764, when my father succeeded, the same inattention continued : and about that period the losses sustained by Great Britain and Ireland from the illicit practices carried on by those who abused our charters, was stated by the different Revenue Boards to have amounted to 350,000 1. annually ; while the whole annual revenues of the Lord of the island arising from import duties, both for the consumption of the island, and on these goods so clandestinely run into these respective countries, was about 6,000l.: a clear proof that a great part of these articles must have been smuggled into the Isle of Man, as the insular duties ought, from the injuries sustained by Great Britain and Ireland, to have amounted to near 20,0001. yearly. And as a proof that our officers, from their salaries, were not placed out of the reach of temptation, I beg leave here to subjoin our Revenue Establishment previous to the revestment:


£ s. d.


John Quayle

31 13 4


John Quayle, Daniel Mylrea residing at Castletown

20 0 0


William Clague,Deputy Searcher
Monk[sic Mark ?] Nixon, Assistant

5 0 0


Paul Bridson, Deputy Searcher
Ewin Callestor, Assistant

3 0 0
3 0 0


Ramsay, George Murray, Deputy Searcher

3 0 0


William Lidderdale, ditto

3 0 0


Manx currency

£69 13 4

I firmly believe, from what I have heard my father say, that he considered the practices arising from the Isle of Man as pernicious both to the Islanders and the Lord ; that he meant to have remedied the evils complained of, and to have introduced fair trade and manufactures : but time was not given him ; and the immediate introduction of a bill, which went, in his mind, to deprive him of all his valuable rights, for no consideration whatever, forced him to an immediate surrender of an estate, which, not having had time to visit in person, he was totally unacquainted with the real value of. This bill, which, after having been read twice, was held back for a few days until the revestment took place, seems to have considered the Isle of Man only as a nest of smugglers, undeserving of any trade at all ; whereas, in fact it contained at that period near thirty thousand inhabitants, and, from its peculiar situation, was capable of being made as flourishing a spot as any within the British dominions.

My father, discontented with the transaction, never came near the Isle of Man while he lived. All trade being cramped, and no manufactures introduced, at least so trifling as scarce to be worth mentioning, the only resource of the inhabitants seems to have been agriculture and the herring fishery. With respect to the first, it has gone very heavily on, and, excepting near some of the towns, it is nearly as backward as before 1765. With respect to the second, from the mode in which it has been pursued, it has turned out since the revestment a real misfortune to the country.

There are at present near four hundred boats employed in this fishery, carrying from eight to ten men in each boat : these are not regular-bred fishermen, but generally occupiers of land in the island. This want of a division of labour has nearly ruined numbers. The mortgages within the island, incurred mostly by the expence of herring boats and nets, have increased since 1765 nearly 100,000l..

If by degrees the fisherman and the farmer became distinct, and manufactures of different kinds were established, (and which the situation of the Isle of Man is peculiarly adapted for,) an increase of inhabitants would immediately take place. Indeed, the population of the island is excessive : it is no uncommon thing for fourteen to be grown up in one family ; but in general, except the eldest son and daughter, the whole are obliged to quit the island to gain their bread, and seldom return.

Much has been said with a view of endeavouring to shew, that if illicit practices had been prevented, our revenues in the Isle of Man would have been extremely low. I have ever held it as an undeniable truth, that if the owners of an estate for a century together never paid the least attention to that estate, it cannot be either so flourishing, or so productive, as if it had been carefully attended to during that period. The Isle of Man was in this state of neglect. I aver, it was the interest of the Lord of the island himself to have abolished the pernicious practices complained of; It was the ruin of the morals of his subjects ; it made them dissipated and idle ; no manufacture of any kind was ever thought of ; their lands, capable, under proper tillage, of yielding considerably more than sufficient for their own consumption, lay in a neglected state. Then I would ask any reasoning man, if these practices, so highly injurious to the inhabitants, had been put a stop to, if manufactures had been introduced, if agriculture had been promoted, would the island have become more wealthy and flourishing ? And here I must just beg leave to say, that I know but of one instance of any individual within the island having throve by the trade (as it was then called) that was carried on prior to 1765. if it became more opulent, would it have been reasonable that the Lord of the Island should have shared in the advantages brought about by his care ? or could it be supposed that any reasonable duties would have been withheld from him ? Prior to 1736 every duty had been laid on by his own Governor and principal Officers who were of the Council. In 1736, on the accession of my grandfather, he wishing to gratify the inhabitants, and thinking it would be a popular measure, for the first time permitted the Keys to give their sanction in the form of a law to an ordinance of the Lords Officers made in 1692, for the purpose of imposing certain duties on imports, and under which ordinance, from 1692 to 1736, the duties had been levied : but admitting that their concurrence then given conferred on them a subsequent right of interference, with common attention on the part of the Lord, their consent to any reasonable addition of duties would undoubtedly not have been withheld. Whether the constitution of that body is right or wrong, I will not enter upon here ; suffice it to lay, they consisted of twenty-four, thirteen of whom were competent to do all public acts ; on a vacancy, a majority of the remaining number gave in two names to the Governor, one of whom he appointed. There must have been gross mismanagement on the part of the Lord, if he could not have obtained the content of this body of men to any thing reasonable. But it has been further said, You could not have given the British trade to the island. To this I answer : if the Lord of the Isle of Man had shewn to Great Britain that he was serious in preventing the illicit practices complained of, it is scarcely reasonable to suppose that the would not have allowed such a trade as was not inconsistent with her own revenues. But had that even been denied, which I can never think it would have been, still the Isle of Man was open to have carried her manufactures and produce to every other nation on the face of the earth.

But clearly to prove my own ideas of the capability of the Isle of Man, give me leave to say, that I should confider it as the greatest boon Great Britain could bestow, to be restored. to the situation my ancestors possessed. within this isle, under every restriction to prevent the possibility of illicit practices, and upon the repayment of the 70,0001. given by the public for it. And when I add, that I have a numerous family, and that the duty which I feel I owe to them would deter me from foolishly throwing away 70,0001. I trust I have said enough on this subject.



Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000