« PreviousContinue »
MANKS JURISPRUDENCE, &c.
Of the ancient Laws and Constitution of the Isle
of Man, with reference to the authority of the Druids; and the prerogatives of its Kings and Lords.
The laws and institutions of Cæsar's Mona *, derive their origin from the aristocratical learning of the Druids, in: the remote periods of Celtic antiquity, ...
It is asserted by historians, that, in the year 277, Mona, being then under the dominion of Scotland, Cratilinth, a thane of that kingdom, was sent from thence to take upon himself the crownተ .
* Called Monabia by Pliny, Menow by the ancient Britons, Manning by the natives.---Camden, And Eubonia by Buchan.
+ Hector Boethius. A. B. Spottiswood, lib. 1. fo. $."
On his arrival in the island, he found the country entirely under the control of the Druids; who, since the time of their having been driven from Anglesey by the Romans, about the year 60*, had acquired, by their superstitious rites and ceremonies, their philosophical learning +, and moral conversation, the greatest influence and authority over the people, by whom they were held in high respect and veneration.
. Although the Druids celebrated human sacrifices, and performed their religious rites in groves, sacred to the oak, from whence, according to Pliny, they were called Druids I: yet they taught that there was only one God, and that it was not lawful to represent him in any image; that the souls of men did not perish with their bodies, but that, after death, they were rewarded according to their works.
The Druidical institution first took rise in Britain, and passed from thence into Gaul; so that they who aspired to be thorough masters of that learning, were wont to resort to Britain. Such as were to be initiated among the Druids, were obliged to commit to their memory a great number of verses, insomuch
* Bishop Wilson. Si
+ Mona, or Eubonia, was the fountain of learning and eru. dition, and was the royal academy for educating the heirg-ap. parent of the crown of Scotland. Boethius and Hollingshed.
The etymology of the word is doubted by the learned. Go. ropius Becanus says, that Druid is derived from the British or Celtic words tru and wis, signifying a wise man. The Druids are believed to be the same order as the Eastern Magi. Brown, in his Dissertation about the Mona of Cæsar and Tacitus, demonstrates that the Druids came from the East, and that the Isle of Man is Cæsar's Mona.
that some employed twenty years in this course of education: they did not think it lawful to record these verses in writing, but sacredly handed them down by tradition from race to race*.
The Druids lived together in colleges or societies, after the Pythagorean manner, and philosophising upon the highest subjects, asserted the immortality of the human soul t. They possessed, from very remote ages, an excellent system of discipline and manners, and there flourished among them the study of the most laudable arts I, which appears to have had a deep and lasting influence over the ancient Celtæ, a great and mighty people, whose dominion extended over all the west of Europe.
The Druids had not only introduced and established in the island their own religion, laws, and ceremonies, for which they had been so highly celebrated, but had assumed, exclusively to themselves, the decision of all controversies, whether of a public or private nature; and the people cheerfully attended the priest and magistrate from the altar to the tribunal; but whoever refused to abide by their judgment, was afterwards interdicted from being present at their solemn sacrifices and holy rites, which was considered by the people as the most grievous punishment; such, indeed, was their fear and love for this eminent order of men, that Cratilinth and his successors found it extremely difficult to annihilate or expel them.
* Cæsar's Commentaries, Strabo, . Pliny.
4 This doctrine had been long received in the east, before it got any footing in the north-west parts of the world... Strabo, Lucan. · Ammianus Marcellinus.
But amidst all the darkness in which very remote ages must necessarily involve the early periods of legal learning; and after the Emperour Claudius had abolished the religion of the Druids in Gaul *, viz. about the commencement of the fourth century, this celebrated order became wholly extinct, and the feudal system, which was planted in Europe by its Northern Conquerors, at the dissolution of the Roman Empire, was universally established in Mona. From that period, the whole body of the people, at the will of their chief, were convened at a place near the centre of the island, immemorially called the Tynwald Hill; from the Danish word Ting, (Forum judiciale) and Wald, fenced t, where every subject was expected to appear, in order to receive at stated periods the pleasure of his prince. This Court was always held sub dio, after the ancient manner of all the northern nations, where the king or lord, seated on the summit of a mount, or venerated barrow, and attended by the chiefs and elders of the land, pro ulgated his laws and ordinances, which were received by the surrounding multitude with awful si lence and attention.
"The above 'mode of publishing laws was observed in the neighbouring kingdom of Ireland; for we learn from Baron Finglas's breviate of that kingdom, that, “ the laws and statutes, made by the Irish on their hills, they keep firm and stable, without breaking them for any favour or reward ;” and in the Western Isles, “the barons, assisted by the chief men in the community, held their courts on the top of a hill called Cnoc an Eric, viz. the Hill of Pleas*.”
The paucity of Manks history throws only a faint gleam of light on the first legislators of this country, for the most ancient records were removed to Drontheim in Norway by Maude or Matilda, a princess of the ancient race, in the year 1292, and were afterwards destroyed by fire; what few remained in the island were carried away by the illustrious Countess of Derby. (who retained the glory of being the last person in the three kingdoms, and in all their dependent dominions, that submitted to the victorious Commonwealth *:), and from whom his Grace the Duke of Atholl is lineally descended.
It is understood in the island, that Mannan Maclear was the prince, and first great legislator of the Manks. It is believed that this chief flourished in the beginning of the fifth century, and was the son of a king of Ulster, and brother to Fergus the Second, who restored the kingdom of Scotland in 422. The subjects of this Manks prince entertained so great an
* Macqueen on the Western Isles. , , t:Hume, Hist. Eng.