[from Manx Soc vol 16]
Political argument founded on the arms of the
The Three Legs of Man.
During the latter part of the last century the affairs of the Isle of Man occupied a considerable share of the attention of the British Parliament. John, fourth Duke of Atholl, conceived that the Act of Parliament (of 1765), by which the Sovereignty of the Island had been transferred to the crown, had deprived him of certain rights which he, as lord of the manor, ought to possess. He thereupon sought to obtain by imperial legislation, not only a recognition of those rights, but also an acknowledgment of other and extensive powers, which he argued he was entitled to. He also sought to overthrow, or at all events to curtail the powers of the House of Keys, between which body and himself a serious misunderstanding had arisen.
The Keys, as the representatives of the Manx people, viewed the proceedings of the Duke with alarm and jealousy, as being calculated to endanger and infringe upon the rights and liberties of the people,. and to place in the hands of his Grace a most oppressive. and unconstitutional power, and they accordingly offered the most determined opposition to the measures adopted by the Duke in England.
It would, however, be out of place here, to refer in detail to the political. battle that was fought between the Duke and the Keys, and to the various exciting incidents connected with the struggle. Suffice it to say, that, amongst other steps taken by the Keys, they petitioned His Majesty George III., setting forth at length the danger to which the Island would be subjected if the claims of the Duke would be recognised, and praying that the ancient and established constitution of the Island should be preserved.
This petition contained the following curious and pointed argument, founded upon the arms of the Island, the harmonious blending of the Three Legs of Man. It is taken from the original draft, which having no date, I am unable to give it here, but it would be between 1781 (when the Duke first applied to the British Parliament) and 1791, when the Royal Commissioners were appointed.-
" All the lights and property in the Isle of Man belong to the Crown, the People, and the Lord of the manor.
" As such, the Crown cannot get more than it has, unless they come from the people or the lord, or from both.
". The People cannot increase theirs, without getting from the king or the lord, or from both.
Nor can the Lord acquire an addition of property or rights here, unless they are derived from the king or the people, or from both.
"Therefore, whether it be the king, the people, or the lord, that bring in a bill on the point of their insular rights, the other two opposite bodies should immediately strenuously defend.
"Their three rights are united like the centre of the Three Legs of Mann; an extension of any one of the three legs injures the length of the other two, and destroys the good appearance of the whole."