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Before I speak of the present constitution of the Isle of Man, I will acquaint the reader with whatever I have been able to discover, respecting the rights which the inhabitants have acquired or lost, during the lapse of ages. .
Tradition traces this island to the government of the Druids, bloody tyrants, * who endeavoured to conceal their despotism, as has been too often the practice in modern days, under the mask of religion. Whether this nation was then de, pendent on any other we are not informed.
When Druidism was overthrown, and when the people were first subdued by a tribe of porthern barbarians, we can only conjecture, Neither Cæsar, Ptolemy, nor Pliny ever visited this place; they do not appear ever to bave seen a native or inhabitant; what they relate of it is founded upon hear-say; and we can learn little more from them, except that it existed in their time.
It is generally admitted, but without much foundation, that the wonder-working St. Patrick, the tutelary saint of Scotland and of Ireland, converted this island to Christianity about
* Excisique luci, sæviş superstitionibus sacri : nam cruore captivo adolere aras, et hominum fibris consulere deos, fas habebant. Tacitus, Ann. lib. 14, ç. 30.
the middle of the fourth century. It is not to be supposed that the opinions of a whole nation, particularly on a subject to which people, if not bigotted, are usually zealously attached, religion, should be suddenly changed. The tradition is therefore worthy of credit that the Druids retained much of their power for a cona siderable time afterwards, and were obliged to yield it only gradually to the new race of bishops.
In the tenth-century it was taken by Orry; a Danish prince; and till this reign it does not appear that the people had the least share in the government. He conquered also the Orcades and Hebrides, and gave directions that the inhabitants of Man should choose sixteen repre. sentatives, and the out-isles eight, to assist him in the government. This was an act of policy in Orry, and obtained the object of his wish, a reign undisturbed by domestic commotion, These representatives were called Taxiaxes, signifying pledges or hostages; but, for what time they were elected, though most probably for life; what power was granted to them; or how long the institution itself lasted, are points which we are without the means of ascertaining. Their name, indeed, would imply that they
had no power at all, but were merely hostages, taken from different parts of the country to ensure its allegiance.
Although Macon, a subsequent king of the ! same century, acknowledged subjection to the English throne, we have no reason to suppose that its internal government was altered.
Very soon afterwards, in the year 1066, it was conquered by a Norwegian subject; all the lands, southward of the mountain ridge, were seized by the conquerors; and all, northward, confirmed to the inhabitants, as a condition of the peace. In 1098, the King of Norway took possession of it, but generally governed it by a feudal lord. From 1066 to 1270, the transactions of which period are related in the Chronicon Manniæ, no mention is made of the Taxiaxes or House of Keys, or of any share which the people had in the government. We have, on the contrary, every reason to believe that it was an absolute monarchy. Under a government so arbitrary that the monarch claimed and took possession of the landed property, granting it to his followers on his own conditions, it was not to be expected that the previously existing laws would be much, if at all, attended to.
From the year 1270, in which it was taken by Alexander, King of Scotland, to the reign of Edward the Third, who assisted Montacute to wrest it from that nation, we are equally in the dark respecting its internal polity. Whatever power might be granted to the people in the execution of the laws, it is not probable that they had any voice in making them. The House of Keys seems to have been in existence, during at least the latter part of this period, but to have had its jurisdiction confined to the deter. mining of the laws, and to the petitioning of the lord for new ones: not to the enacting of them.
It appears by one of the early statutes, that the Keys and the Commons of Man were accustomed to be present at the proclamation of a law, and in fact formed part of the Tynwald Court; but I judge that they came to hear and consent rather than to debate or dissent.* It is not how
* “ A Court of all the Commons of Man, holden at Tinwald, before Henry Byron, Lieutenant of Man, upon Thursday next after the feast of St. Mary, in the year of our Lord God 1429; in the which William Scarffe, William Yveno, John Reade, Jenkin M‘Qualtrough, John Nelson, Gubon Quanty, Ffinloe M-Key, Jenkin Lucas for Jenkin M‘Nyne, Patrick M‘John, Andrew M‘John, Gubon M‘Kissage,
ever improbable that the Keys signed the laws.* The preamble of the statute-book states that the laws then extant were made, not only with the consent of the lord, barons, deemsters, and officers, but also of the tenants, inhabitants and commons of the land.† I suppose the case to be, that the last mentioned classes did not dissent. Perhaps most of those, present at the proclamation, gave a cheer.
When the Deemsters' authority commenced, we cannot tell; it was only a branch of des
There were no written laws till the time of
William M‘Alexander, Richard M.Cowen, Donald M.Co. nane, Peter M‘Quiggin, Gubon Gillander, Germot M‘Mar. tin, Gubon M‘Cunneree, with the rest of his fellows." Statute book.
* “In the same court all these laws of Man are confirmed by Sir John Stanley, by the grace of God, King of Man and the Isles, and by the best of the Commons of the Isle of Man, that is to say, William Scarffe ; Raynold Stevenson, and others.” Statute, dated 14-22.
+ “In this book ensueth diverse ordinances, statutes, and customs, presented, reputed, and used for laws in the land of Man, that were ratified, approved, and confirmed, as well by the Honourable Sir John Stanley, Knight, King and Lord of the same land, and diverse others, his predecessors, as by all barons, deemsters, officers, tenants, inhabitants, and commons of the same land.” Beginning of the Statutes book, no date.