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fifteenth of Charles II., a single act for laying any duty upon the manufactures, produce, or merchandise of Ireland, when imported into England, is not to be found. On the contrary, all the laws respecting trade, passed in the several reigns antecedent to the restoration, convey to the people of Ireland the same advantages which they confer on the people of England. But, without adverting to all these laws, I shall quote only a few of the most precise, as they will furnish a sufficient proof that, at the time they were passed, England and Ireland were considered as one and the same country.
The first of Henry VII. enacts that no Gascoin or Guien wines be brought in but by English, Irish, and Welshmen.
By the fourth of the same king, it is enacted, that no person, of whatever degree, shall convey or bring into this realm, Ireland, Wales, Calais, or Berwick, any manner of wines or Thoulouse wood, but in ships owned by the king, or some of the subjects of his realm of England, Ireland, Wales, Calais, and Berwick, and the master and mariners being Englishmen, Irishmen, Welshmen, or of Berwick or Calais.
The act of the third of James I., for enabling all His Majesty's subjects to trade freely to the dominions of Spain, Portugal, and France, has a preamble which expresses, in the clearest manner, the sense the parliament then had of the common right of the king's subjects to a free trade, and the abhorrence they entertained of a monopoly: "Whereas divers merchants have of late obtained from the king, under the great seal of England, a large charter of incorporation for them and their company to trade into the dominions of Spain and Portugal, and are most earnest suitors to obtain the like for France; whereby none but themselves and such as they shall think fit, shall take benefit of the said charter, disabling thereby all others, His Majesty's loving subjects of this realm of England and Wales, who ought indifferently to enjoy all the benefits of this most happy peace, and also debarring them from that free enlargement of common traffic into those dominions, which others, His Majesty's subjects of this realm of Scotland and Ireland do enjoy.'
Such were the political sentiments which prevailed at this period; and it appears that from the time that King James established a regular administration of justice in Ireland, it continued to make considerable advances in improvement till the rebellion in 1641, by which the country was thrown into a state of confusion; but it revived in the succeeding reign, and its commerce seems then to have been in a thriving condition, since we are told "that the customs amounted to almost four times their former sum; that the commodities exported from Ireland were twice as much in value as the foreign merchandise imported; and that shipping was found to have increased even an hundred-fold."+
Knox's Extra-official Papers, p. 58.
+ Leland's Hist. of Ireland, quarto edit. vol. iii. p. 41.
After the restoration, Ireland made a rapid progress in improvement, notwithstanding the turbulence which had before prevailed; and from the time that the acts of settlement and explanation were fully carried into execution till the year 1668, it continued in a prosperous condition. Lands every where improved, rents were doubled, towns and cities increased, and manufactures were established in various parts of the country. It had, indeed, suffered severely through the fury of civil and religious discord; yet, having been blessed with a succession of five mild sovereigns, it recovered from its misfortunes, and began to acquire new energy and life. This prosperity, which is ascribed, in a great measure, to the wise administration of James, Duke of Ormonde, received a severe check in consequence of a clamour raised in England on account of the exportation of live cattle to that country, which for several years, had been the principal trade of Ireland,* and which was erroneously supposed to have the effect of lowering the rent of land. To obviate this evil a law was passed in England, in 1663, to restrain, and afterwards, in 1665, to prohibit entirely, the exportation of cattle from Ireland. The Irish, deprived of their principal source of trade, and reduced to the greatest distress, had now no resource but to improve their breed of sheep and to manufacture their produce, a branch of industry to which they applied with the utmost ardour. At the same time, the Duke of Ormonde, who, on this as well as on every other occasion, shewed himself a steady friend to the interests of the country, as an indemnification for the loss it had sustained, procured from Charles II. a letter, dated March 23, 1667, by which all the restraints on the exportation of commodities to foreign parts were removed, except so far as the abolition of them would have interfered with the plantation laws, and the charters which had been granted to trading companies. The lord-lieutenant, also, by His Majesty's permission, prohibited the importation from Scotland of linen and woollen, and other articles, as drawing large sums from Ire. land, and impeding the increase of its own manufactures. Lord Strafford had introduced that of linen, but its progress was suspended by the troubles which afterwards took place. What that nobleman had left unfinished respecting this branch of industry, was completed by his successor. Anxious to promote every thing that seemed likely to advance the national prosperity, while he revived the linen manufacture he encouraged the woollen, not only by his exertion and influence, but by advancing money from his own private fortune, towards their support; and there is little doubt, that to the zeal and indefatigable attention of the Earl of Strafford, Ireland was chiefly indebted for the increase in wealth which she experienced from that time to the period of the revolution.
Under the short, but inauspicious reign of James II., Ireland fell into a state of
Cartes' Life of the Duke of Ormonde, vol. ii. p. 318, 319.
decline, and the many oppressions which the people suffered during the revolution, reduced it almost to the brink of ruin+ The money, however, which that event brought into the country for the support of the army, as it furnished capitals for carrying on the trade of the kingdom, seemed in some measure to inspire it with fresh vigour. The exports increased, while the imports did not increase in the same proportion, so that the balance in favour of Ireland in 1698 amounted to £419,442.
But this agreeable prospect was soon obscured by a new law made in England, in 1669, for restraining, or rather prohibiting the importation of all woollen maņufactures from Ireland. The author of the Commercial Restraints§ considers this law as originating in a system of colonization, the principle of which was, that the colonies should send their raw materials to England, and take thence her manufactures, and that the making of these in the colonies should be prohibited or discouraged. However this may be, it was the more injurious to Ireland, as the linen trade was not yet thoroughly established, and as the woollen manufacture was the staple, and wool the principal raw material of the kingdom.
For several years after this period, Ireland seems to have been reduced to a state of great poverty and distress. The reign of Queen Anne was distinguished by great military achievements, the splendour of which was sufficient to dazzle a people fond of martial glory; but the spirit of party was never carried to a greater height, and the parliament at that time was too much occupied with its own dissensions to attend to the interests of a remote part of the empire.
During the reign of her successor, things continued nearly in the same languishing condition; and little seems to have been done to revive trade or encourage manufactures, except an attempt made to establish a national bank by voluntary sub
* Lawrence, who wrote about 1682, enumerates the high interest of money in Ireland as one of the causes which retarded the progress of its trade: "The fourth impediment is the height of the interest of money; for Holland, that hath money at three per cent, and England at six, cut up traders in Ireland, where money is difficult to be procured at ten; whereby the one will undersell the other at his own doors, and run them down in manufactures at home, and markets abroad; having also the advantage of better and cheaper workmen. The dearness of provisions necessitating their poor to work, the same necessity moves them to inure their children to act from their cradles, whereby they will perform more and better in one day than ours in two." The Interest of Ireland Considered, by Richard Lawrence, Esq. Dublin, 1682. part. i. p. 7. A more modern writer also remarks that, "the lowering the rate of interest of money in Ireland, is no less necessary for the prosperity of the island than a general freedom of trade. -Public credit in Ireland has not yet put on the fetters of monied men; therefore, the legislature of that island, by a most constitutional expedient, may easily reduce the legal rate of interest to three or four per cent, which would be attended with many happy consequences, both to the landed gentleman and merchant, and soon give additional vigour to the state." Comparative View of the Public Burdens of Great Britain and Ireland, London, 1772, p. 54.
+ Hutchinson's Commercial Restraints, p. 22.
Dobbs's Hist. of the Trade of Ireland, p. 5, 6, 7, 19.
scription; but as this scheme did not meet with proper countenance or support, it was soon after abandoned.* That trade was low at this period+ appears not only, from a petition of the woollen-drapers, weavers, and clothiers of the City of Dublin, praying for relief, but also from the deficiency of the revenue, which in the year following amounted to £100,000. The great scarcity of corn which took place in 1728 and 1729, and which became so general as to expose thousands to the danger of perishing by famine, added greatly to the distresses of the country; and though the linen trade seems to have been in a flourishing state, numbers of housekeepers, deprived of employment, were obliged to beg for bread in the streets of Dublin.||
While the poor were thus suffering, from one of the severest scourges with which a nation can be afflicted, much alarm was excited by the emigration of great numbers of the people to America. Agents from the colonies, had for several years, it is said, been in Ireland, and masters of ships had gone about the country, deluding the poorer classes with tales of abundance and estates, which might be obtained, if they would transport themselves to that part of the world. These emissaries were more successful, and better able to seduce the ignorant populace, in consequence of their necessitous condition; and it is stated, that, in the course of three years, above 4,200 men, women, and children, had been shipped from Ireland to America, 3,100 of whom had gone off in the summer of 1727. This propensity to emigration spread like a contagious disorder; it prevailed most among the protestants in the north, which was then the chief seat of the linen manufacture: it created, therefore, a considerable ferment, and, as some of these adventurers had purchased goods on credit, and absconded without paying for them, trade was thrown into a very unsettled state, and no dealer would transact business but for ready money.
Various measures were proposed to counteract this spirit of emigration; and as it was conceived that the employment of force might be attended with very serious consequences, it was resolved that a subscription should be set on foot in Dublin, to buy corn in Munster, where it was cheap, that it might be sent to the north,
* Journals of the Irish Commons, vol. iv. p. 832.
Journals of the Irish Commons, vol. iv. p. 136.
Commercial Restraints, vol. i. P. 44,
Boulter's Letters, vol i. p. 20.
¶ Dr. Boulter, in a letter to the duke of Newcastle, dated Nov. 23d. 1728, says: "The people that go from hence, make great complaints of the oppressions they suffer here, not from the government, but from their fellow-subjects of one kind or another, as well as of the dearness of provision, and say these oppressions are one reason of their going." Letters, vol. i. p. 209. In another letter to the same, dated March 13th, 1728, he tells his grace, "There are now seven ships at Belfast, that are carrying off about 1,000 passengers, and if we knew how to stop them, as most of them can neither get victuals nor work at home, it would be cruel to do it." Boulter's Letters, vol. i, p. 231,
with a view of keeping down the markets. This measure, it was hoped, would, in some degree, give a check to the spreading evil, by allaying the dread of those who preferred leaving the country to the horror of perishing by famine. About £3,000. was, therefore, laid out in the purchase of oats, oatmeal, and potatoes; but the inhabitants of the southern districts, fearing that they also might be exposed to want, assembled in a tumultuous manner, at Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Clonmell, and other places, to prevent this beneficent plan from being carried into execution. At Limerick and Cork, in particular, they proceeded to the most outrageous acts of violence; broke open the warehouses and cellars, and distributed the provisions, setting upon them whatever price they thought proper. These riots rendered the calamity still more severe; for the farmers being deterred from bringing their corn to market, the scarcity became greater, and it was at last found necessary to call in the assistance of the military to preserve the peace and restore good order.*
In a country where commerce and manufactures are in their infancy, and where paper is circulated without capitals adequate to its support, an individual misfortune is sufficient to produce, in the operations of trade, a derangement, which, under more favourable circumstances, would scarcely be felt. This was the case in Ireland in 1732. In that year the credit of paper sustained a very severe shock, by the failure of a bank which had been carried on under the firm of Benjamin Burton, Francis Harrison, and others; and as the bankrupt laws were not then established in Ireland, it became necessary to have a bill drawn up for the relief of the creditors, which was sent over to the privy council of England to be passed. Dr. Boulter says, that, at this time, there was so little specie in the country, not, perhaps, above £500,000., that without paper credit, neither trade could be carried on, nor rents paid; and that so much depended on this bill, that had it miscarried, the public credit of the kingdom would have been in danger of being completely overturned.+
These evils, though sufficiently great of themselves, were accompanied by others, which could not fail of having a prejudicial influence on the prosperity of trade, but more particularly on that carried on in the interior of the country. So great a scarcity of silver and other coin prevailed, that the manufacturers and common classes could, with difficulty, find money sufficient to enable them to purchase necessaries in the market. This deficiency arose chiefly from the disproportion which existed between the value of silver and that of the Portugal pieces then current in Great Britain and Ireland, there being a profit of two and a half per cent. by bringing Portugal gold into Ireland rather than silver, and the same loss by carrying gold from it instead of silver; so that the whole silver, almost, in the country was drained, and the return for Irish exports was always made in gold. This evil was attended with such alarming consequences, that a representa
* Boulter's Letters, vol. i. p. 230.
+ Ibid. vol. ii. p. 93.
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 170.