The Revestment Act 1765
The story of the introduction of popular elections is inextricably linked to the story of the Island’s fiscal relationship with the United Kingdom.
The growth of international trade during the eighteenth century created a lucrative opportunity for enterprising Manxmen. Duties in the Isle of Man were comparatively low and the Isle of Man was situated conveniently close to English, Irish and Scottish ports. Bringing goods into the Island was therefore legal and all the required Manx duties, which could be set independently from Britain, went into the coffers of the Lord of Man. Cargos arriving from overseas - particularly brandy, wine, rum, tobacco and tea - were legally brought into the Isle of Man and Manx customs duties were paid. Where those goods went after they landed in the Isle of Man was the decision of the merchants. As far as Britain was concerned, this constituted smuggling, and there had been great efforts made throughout the eighteenth century to control these activities, both on land and at sea.
The expense of the Seven Years War forced the British Government to take further action to regain lost revenue from its colonies, including the Isle of Man, which at that time cost approximately £350,000 per annum to administer. It was estimated by the British Government that the lost revenue from the War was over £700,000 and they needed to minimise loss of revenue and maximise sources of income.
An Act “for more effectually preventing the mischiefs arising to the revenue and commerce of Great Britain and Ireland from the illicit and clandestine trade to and from the Isle of Man” was prepared. To enforce the Mischief Act, and collect the required duties, the Island needed to be ruled by the English Crown, so the rights, interest and privileges of the Island were purchased from the Duke of Atholl for the sum of £70,000.
The Revestment Act or Isle of Man Purchase Act came into force upon the granting of Royal Assent on 10th May 1765; the Island was officially transferred from the control of the Atholl family to Britain. This purchase meant that the British government could bring the Island under the control of its customs system and therefore eradicate or at least minimise the smuggling trade.
The Mischief Act, legalised by the Revestment Act, became effective five days later. After a grace period of six weeks for the merchants to organise their affairs, the English Crown took over the Island on the 21st June, with the Royal Proclamation setting out that all powers were now to be exercised by the authority of the Crown. The Act was read out at Castle Rushen on 11th July and all revenue from the Island became revenue for Britain.
Over the next century, the House of Keys would repeatedly attempt to regain control of this revenue.
The Revestment Act translated into Manx