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generations the title, and, till the revesting act, the powers of royalty : they had the sovereign control of government, on every occasion, under such restrictions as were from time to time introduced: they made and repealed laws: they were the fountains of honour, and appointed at pleasure all the principal officers employed in public affairs: they had for ages the patronage of the bishoprick (which the Duke of Atholl still enjoys), and had the patronage of all the ecclesiastical benefices: they drew. a revenue from the country by rents, services, and casual dues, and afterwards by customs and other imposts: they exercised an appellate jurisdiction over all civil causes, and, in capital cases, could pardon offenders at pleasure, The executive power, therefore, in the largest extent, was in their hands, The author shall now proceed to the consideration of the legislative government, which is the more important object of the work.
OF THE LEGISLATIVE GOVERNMENT OF THE
ISLE OF MAN.
:: HISTORIANS inform us, that it was the universal custom of the northern nations, after the dissolution of the Roman empire, to settle all matters of importance by a great council of the country; “ de minoribus rebus principes consultant, de majoribus omnes *;"-and that this was the practice in England before the conquest. In the Isle of Man, this great council, or meeting of wise men (like the Saxon Wittena-gemote, or the Commune Concilium of the ancient Germans, but, perhaps, of greater antiquity), was anciently termed Taxi-axi, a Celtic designation for the most worthy of the land; derived, in the opinion of Dr Campbell, from the Celtic or Erse word, 6 Teagasag," which implies druidism, or elders and senators; but a very learned and reverend native of the island obligingly communicated to the writer, that its derivation is from “ Taxi,” a corruption of “ Taisgi,” a guardian or protector, and 66 Acci," hereditary property. In more modern times, this assembly has been denominated the Twenty-four Keys, and, in the Manks language, is called “ Kair as Feeid,'' viz. “ the twenty-four;" but the correct ancient designation was s Chor na Faid," the assembly of wise men. With respect to the name Keys, by which the members are at present designated, it is said to have originated from their retaining in
* Tac. de Mor.
their breasts the jurisprudence of the country, and unlocking the difficulties thereof at their pleasure,
The members of this assembly are the constitutional representatives of the people, and have from time immemorial consisted of twenty-four principal land owners, or men of the first consequence, honour, and intelligence in the island, and they hold their important situation, during the term of their natural lives, upon the same principle with the “ probe homines” of the ancient Saxons.
The first institution of this council is lost in the dark ages of the most remote antiquity, and probably was coëval with the kingdom itself; and it is now, perhaps, the only Celtic institution remaining upon earth.
The convocation of this assembly, as in the earliest period of the English House of Commons, was entirely at the will of the King or Lord; for, in the year 1422, “ the deemsters and Twenty-four Keys gave for law, that there were never Twenty-four Keys in certainty, since they were first that were called Taxi-axi ; those were twenty-four freeholders, namely, eight in the out isles, and siateen in the Island of Man; and that was in King Orrye's days ; but since they have not been in certainty. But if a strange point had come, the which the lieutenant will have reserved to the Tynwald twice a-year ; and, by leave of the lieutenant, the deemster there to call of the best of his council, in that point as he thinketh, to give judgment by; and without the lord's will, none of the Twenty-four Keys to be," :',
In more modern times, the assembling of the Keys, in their legislative capacity, as forming a part of the Tynwald, was periodical, to which they were summoned by the lieutenant or governor, who issued his mandate for that purpose; and they were also dismissed under his authority.
The Twenty-four Keys so assembled, together with the king, or lord proprietor, his governor, and council, constituted a Tynwald Court, or the Three Political Estates of the land, whose union, or concordance in opinion, was absolutely essential to every legislative act: and since the revesting of the island in the British Crown, instead of the king, or lord proprietor, every act, before it can obtain the force of law, must be allowed and confirmed by his Majesty, and ultimately proclaimed, or read in the English and Manks languages, and signed by the governor, or such of the council and Keys as are present, before the people at the Tynwald Hill. These constituted authorities may make, restrain, abrogate, or revive any insular law, and all mischiefs and remedies are within the reach of their tribunal.
Previous to the revestment, the Tynwald Courts, in which the legislative acts were considered, were held occasionally at St John's Chapel, which adjoins the Tynwald Hill; or at Castle Rushen, whichever happened to be most convenient to the lord or his governor, who occasionally resided at Peel Castle ; but since the revestment, Peel Castle having fallen into decay, and his Majesty's governor usually residing at Castle Rushen, it has been found
inoie convenient to assemble the Tynwald at the latter of these places *. Here the Keys met to try such appeals from the common law court as were legally brought before them. This appellate jurisdiction was, by an act of Tynwald, of the year 1777, transferred from the Twenty-four Keys to the governor, in all cases where the title to land did not come in question; but the appellate jurisdiction to the Keys, was, by an act of 1793, fully restored, and the appeals are now heard and determined in the house built for their accommodation, under the authority of an act of Tynwald, passed in the year 1776.
The Twenty-four Keys, although they are acknowledged to be the constitutional representatives, and natural guardians of the people's rights and privileges, are not democrati. cally elected; for they fill up all vacancies in their own body by co-optation. The form of the election of the members has been for time immemorial, in case of a yacancy by death, removal, or resignation, for the Twenty-four Keys to assemble by summons from the governor, and to agree, by a majority of votes, upon the persons proposed as proper to fill up the constitutional number of their body. In this case, two persons of full age, and possessed of landed-property in the island, are elected by the Keys, and immediately afterwards presented to the governor, for his approbation and
* The act of settlement, and many other acts of Tynwald, between the years 1704 and 1741, were passed at St John's Chapel; many others, between the years 1706 and 1753, were passed at Castle Rushen.