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The Old House of Keys Shenn Thie yn Chiare-as-feed

Manx Home Rule

Cornelius Smelt,

A portrait of Lieutenant Governor Cornelius Smelt by Thomas Barber, 1826. The Keys held Smelt in high esteem and as a result commissioned this painting to be hung in the House of Keys.

The first bids for Home Rule

Following Revestment, a series of Crown-appointed Governors were sent to the Island to rule on behalf of the British Crown. In 1793, the 4th Duke of Atholl returned as the new Governor-in-Chief and the ancient feud restarted between the Keys and the old Lords of Mann.

Also, attempts were made by Westminster to bring the Island under direct English rule, and to make it part of Cumberland.

Throughout, the Keys maintained their belief in the ancient right of the Island to self-determination and the liberty of the Manx people.

...in respect to government and laws, the Manks appear, in all ages to have been a distinct people, and in some degree an independent, or not annexed to any other kingdom… The people, however, beyond all written record, have clearly within claimed and enjoyed the right and privilege of being governed and regulated by laws of their own making, or consented to by themselves, or by their constitutional representative...'

'To maintain this independence of the Legislature, is held to be the first duty of every Manxman… they dread therefore and must ever dread, the interference in their internal concerns, or even a precedent being made for such interference from any other legislature on earth; even the British...'
Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry for the Isle of Man - 1792
(Ref: IOMMM: F64/42X)

A stalemate was reached between the Keys and the Duke of Atholl and as a result no laws were promulgated between 1801 and 1813, although the midsummer fair was still held on Tynwald Day at St Johns.

A conflict of personalities

4th Duke of Atholl (1749-1831) Governor in chief of the Isle of Man (1793-1828). from the collection at Blair Castle, PerthshireThe appointment of the Duke of Atholl as the Governor-in-Chief of the Isle of Man, in 1793, brought him into direct conflict with the House of Keys over the extent of his rights and those of the Manx people.

The House of Keys considered that the Duke of Atholl wanted to exploit his position to gain more power and more money. The Duke felt that:

'...the Keys were no more representatives of the people of Man than the people of Peru...'
(Ref: IOMMM 9845)

Although the Duke won some popular support on the Island for his regard of the Manx, he was less popular for filling well paid official posts on the Island with his own Scottish dependents.

Bishop Murray (1784-1860) Bishop of Sodor and Mann (1814-1827)The most unpopular of Atholl's 'dependents' was his nephew George Murray, the Bishop of Sodor and Man, who, in 1825, despite a very poor harvest, declared a tithe payment (Church tax) of 5 times the rate per acre in the North of England. The resulting famine and poverty led to a series of riots around the Island. A mob attacked the Bishop's residence, Bishopscourt near Kirk Michael, and the Bishop had to flee for his life. The tithes were finally repealed and Bishop Murray was moved to another Diocese.

The unhappy saga of the Duke of Atholl and the House of Keys finally came to an end in 1828 when the Duke accepted a final payment of £417,000 for the remainder of his rights on the Isle of Man, and never again returned to the Island.

 

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All text is copyright Manx National Heritage. Images marked '© MNH' are copyright Manx National Heritage. Text and images are reproduced here by kind permission of Manx National Heritage.
 
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