At the conclusion of the Cromwellian Wars Ireland was little better than a wilderness. The country had been comparatively prosperous under the early Stuarts, but since then the Rebellion had taken place, and Cromwell had swept like a scourge over the face of the land. Thousands of young men, boys and girls had been sent off as slaves to the Barbadoes and Jamaica.19 All those who had not constantly supported the Parliament had been forced to give up their estates to Cromwell's soldiers and adventurers and to migrate to new lands in Connaught. There they could hardly keep themselves alive, deprived as they were of their tenants who had been retained on the old lands to work for the new masters, too poor to obtain the necessary implements for cultivating the soil, and unable to acquire live or dead stock. They were mostly Irish or Anglo-Irish, but some were Englishmen who had recently settled, but who had been loyal to Charles. The Irish soldiers who had served against the Parliament, and who were practically all Catholics, were sent by Cromwell into exile to the number of 40,000 "to fill," as Dalrymple says, "all the armies of Europe with complaints of his cruelty and admiration of their own valour."20 Thus the Irish had no armed force, they were
p.17treated as aliens in their own country, they were robbed of the small estates which former plantations had left them, and the peasantry were treated as slaves by the conquerors. The whole native population was in a condition of the greatest misery. The Cromwellian confiscations were practically universal, and they were devised so as to give the greatest possible shock to property. The Irish Catholics had certainly a clear right to restoration from Charles II., for many of them had never rebelled against their Sovereign, and of those who had taken up arms, most had submitted to the King in 1648, and had continued to support his cause. But Charles made little effort to improve their condition. His position, of course, was a difficult one, for Cromwell's soldiers and adventurers were actually in possession, and the end of it all was that they were confirmed in their lands. The settlement was conducted by the advice and management of the Duke of Ormonde, Sir Charles Coote, and Lord Broghill. Commissioners were sent to the King to press upon him a scheme for a new Parliament in which Catholics should be excluded, and by which all Protestants should be confirmed in their estates.21 The Parliament was called and, by means of enforcing the oaths of supremacy and allegiance, succeeded in practically excluding the Catholics. At the same time the harsh laws made by Cromwell against them were re-enacted. All Irish Catholics were forbidden to go from one province to another; those who had been the owners of large estates were imprisoned, and their letters to and from Dublin were intercepted; meetings of the Catholic gentry were prohibited. The aim of these measures was, of course, to prevent the Catholics from combining to petition the King for their relief or from sending messengers to England with the same object. Rumours of Popish plots were circulated in order to frighten the English Parliament into an attitude of
p.18hostility to the Catholics. The consequence of this policy was a proclamation issued shortly afterwards by the King for apprehending all Irish "rebels," and commanding that adventurers, soldiers, and others who were occupiers of any lands should not be disturbed in their possessions, but should be regarded as the rightful owners until legally evicted or until the King with the advice of his Parliament should take further action in the matter. The Irish Catholics were excluded from the general indemnity, and a feeble attempt to ameliorate the position of Protestant loyalists failed through want of funds. The Duke of Ormonde resumed the government of Ireland, and the Acts of Settlement and Explanation were drawn up and passed. Under these Acts, the greater part of the land of Ireland was given up to a crew of motley adventurers, civil and military, almost to the exclusion of the older inhabitants of the island. The Cromwellian Settlement was thus perpetuated, and the foundation was laid of that deep and lasting division between landlord and tenant which has been so great a cause of the political and social evils of Ireland.
It is clear that under such circumstances trade and industry were necessarily at a standstill. Under James I. the revenue of the Crown in Ireland had been doubled, shipping had increased, and exports and imports had grown considerably.22 During the reign of Charles I. the prosperity of the country had continued,23 and Strafford had done his best to develop its resources by setting up a linen industry with the aid of Protestant refugees from France and Holland. Commerce was in no way restricted, and Boate tells us that Waterford and Limerick were "towns of traffic," while the inhabitants of Galway "do greatly trade with other countries, especially to Spain, from whence they used to fetch great stores of wine and
p.19other wares every year."24 But after the Civil War there was little commerce, and the linen industry was as if it never existed. The native woollen manufacture had decayed, and as late as 1672 Petty writes that "the clothing trade is not arrived to what it was before the late Rebellion, and the art of making the excellent, thick, spongy, warm coverlets seems to be lost and not yet recovered."25 The cattle and live stock of Ireland, which in 1641 had been worth £4,000,000, was in 1652 only worth £500,000, so that after the Cromwellian Settlement Ireland had even to import provisions from Wales.26 Fortunately, this condition of things did not last long, for in the years immediately succeeding the Restoration Ireland recovered to a great extent from the effects of the wars, and although the struggle with the Netherlands prevented the country from trading with the Continent, the new settlers soon began to trade in cattle, sheep, and their products to England.
We can get some idea of the economic condition of the mass of the Irish people soon after the Restoration from the writings of Sir William Petty, but otherwise little trustworthy material on the subject exists. Petty estimated the total population of Ireland in 1672 as about 1,100,000, 780,000 of whom were "fit for trade." He found that nearly one-eighth of this working population were engaged in tillage, over one-sixth in cattle and sheep rearing, and nearly one-tenth in the making up of wool.27 This woollen manufacture, however, must have been chiefly a domestic industry, for at this time there were practically no manufactures exported from Ireland, the staple trade being that of provisions. Few commodities were imported, with the exception of tobacco, as the Irish villages were more
p.20or less self-sufficing and made for themselves everything they needed. Petty thought that the ordinary Irish peasant did not spend even one-fifth of his income on articles not produced by his own family, "which condition and state of things cannot beget trade."28
Of the estimated population of 1,100,00, 800,000 were Irish and 300,000 English or Scotch.29 Six out of every eight of the Irish lived in a state of abject poverty, for the English and Scotch Protestants possessed three-quarters of the land, five-sixths of the housing, and two-thirds of what foreign trade there was.30 Six-eighths of the Catholics lived in vermin-haunted cabins with neither chimney, door, stairs, nor window. Their food was chiefly milk and potatoes, but they also ate bread, eggs, and rancid butter. Meat was rarely eaten, in spite of its abundance and cheapness, but the people sometimes killed a hen or a rabbit for food. Those on the coast lived largely on shell fish.31 The one luxury of all persons was tobacco, and Petty estimated that two-sevenths of a man's whole expenditure in food went in purchasing this article. Fuel cost nothing, for turf could be got for the mere trouble of carting it, and in this the Irish peasant had the advantage of the English labourer. In another way, too, he was better off, for he was always well and warmly clothed. In England a labourer wore a cotton smock over his breeches, but the Irish peasant was never without his thick coat and waistcoat of frieze; his breeches were also of frieze and he wore woollen stockings and a woollen cap or hat.32 This was due to the cheapness of wool, for Ireland was prohibited from exporting her wool, and there was no large woollen industry to take up the surplus material. In consequence the Irish peasants were clothed better than the poor of any other European country.
At the Restoration Ireland possessed little trade or
p.21industry, but she had many of the requisites for a thriving industrial nation in the shape of natural products and geographical situation. The soil of England was not so good for pasture farming as that of Ireland, while in many parts of Ireland good wheat, barley, and oats could be raised. The contrast in economic conditions between England and Ireland was not nearly so great in the seventeenth century as it became in later times. Broadly speaking, England was an agricultural country like Ireland, for agriculture employed the greater part of her population. But during the two preceding centuries her industrial life had been slowly developing. At this time she was in full possession of her great woollen trade, for although Cromwell's policy as Protector had interrupted the trade in Norwich stuffs to Spain, it soon revived and prospered greatly for some time in spite of complaints of foreign competition. The immigration of Huguenot refugees had already done something to promote some of England's minor industries, although the most important immigrations had not yet taken place. The shipping trade of the country was beginning to grow and the Navigation Acts were soon to transfer the carrying trade from the Dutch to the English. New methods of agriculture were being introduced, and in spite of the pressure of taxation during the war, pauperism seems to have decreased.33 Of course the Civil Wars had caused great distress; the propertied classes had been hit and manufactures had been affected. Cromwell's policy in quarrelling with Spain had temporarily injured trade. For several years after the Restoration there was a series of bad harvests, and for one or two years wheat rose to famine prices.34 Rents were everywhere low, and it was this fact that caused so much talk about national decay and which soon led to complaints
p.22concerning the importation of Irish cattle. The war with the Netherlands prevented the country from taking advantage of the conditions of civil peace. But all this was merely temporary, and the standard of comfort among all classes was progressing. The condition of the labourer was better than it had been at the beginning of the century; domestic industries were extending, thus causing a rise in family earnings, and the rise of wages which had taken place during the wars continued when peace was restored. The political and social conditions prevailing in England were more favourable to material progress than those which existed in Ireland. The English people were united and chiefly of one religion. England was not like Ireland, a country governed by a small class hostile to the original inhabitants and differing from them in race, language, and religion. The division in Ireland between conquerors and conquered was bound to hamper industrial development. But many English and Scotch had settled in the country, and if England for the next century had pursued the policy of fostering the interests of the new settlers in every direction, the economic history of Ireland would be less melancholy reading than it actually is. Ireland had every prospect of developing a great woollen manufacture like England, and she was possessed of many potential sources of wealth in her splendid waterways, in the fertility of her soil, and in her geographical position. The progress made in the years succeeding the Restoration shows the recuperative strength of the country, and although England also progressed, it was thought by contemporaries that the advance made by Ireland in material wealth was during this period greater than that made by any other European country.