It is a measure of the wisdom of the deliberations of the Council which met at Finlaggan, and of the guidelines it provided, that the islands were ruled well and peace prevailed within the far flung territories of the Lordship.
The oral tradition of the earlier times meant that there were few written documents, and very few have survived even from the later period.
It is interesting to read of the Constitution of the Council and its work as recounted by the 17th century historian Hugh MacDonald. He mentions 16 members of council, but some other writers say the number was 14.
“The constitution of the government of the Isles was thus: MacDonald had his council at Island Finlaggan, in Isla, to the number of 16, viz: four Thanes, four Armins, that is to say Lords or Sub-Thanes, four Bastards, i.e. Squires, or men of competent estates, who could not come up with Armins or Thanes, that is freeholders or men who had their lands in factory (in virtue of some office), as Macgee of the Rinds of Isla, MacNicol in Portree in Skye, and MacEachern, MacKay, and MacGillevray in Mull, Macillemhaoel or MacMillan, etc. There was a table of stone where this Council sat in the Isle of Finlaggan: the which table with the stone at which MacDonald sat, was carried away by Argyle* with the bells which were at Icolumkill (Iona).
Moreover there was a judge in every isle for the discussion of all controversies, who had lands from MacDonald for their trouble, and likewise the eleventh part of every action decided. But there might still be appeal to the Council of the Isles. MacFinnon (Mackinnon) was obliged to see weights and measures adjusted: and MacDuffie, or MacPhee of Colonsay, kept the records of the Isles”.
* Note -the reference of Argyle above was to the Marquis of Argyll, but there is no record at Inveraray of the whereabouts of either the stone or the table.