The severe restrictions placed by England on the Irish woollen manufacture proved perhaps more injurious to Ireland than any one of the other numerous restraints laid on Irish manufactures and commerce. But when we take all these other restraints together they form an appalling summary of restrictive legislation, and enable us to realise why Ireland remained so far behind other countries in the path of industrial development. It must, of course, be remembered that English interference with Irish trade injured the Irish Protestants far more than the Irish Catholics, for at this time the latter had but a small share in the general trade and industry of the country. The different trades were in the hands of exclusive Protestant corporations, and although the provision trade was conducted to some extent by Catholics, its chief profits went to the great landowners, the majority of whom were Protestants. During the eighteenth century this condition of things gradually altered, and the Catholics, owing to various causes, began to engross a great part of the trade and industry of Ireland. But for
p.75the time being English interference with Irish manufactures and commerce was directly injurious to the Protestant rather than to the Papist interest, and thus, even from her own standpoint, England acted unwisely. She threw away the chance of establishing a flourishing Protestant State on the basis of an impoverished Catholic population, a State which in time might have given leaders to the people and led them on in the path of English culture and civilisation. For the sake of a few temporary gains, England lost the opportunity of making Ireland a wealthy and loyal country.
The Navigation Laws and the harsh interpretation placed on them inflicted severe injury on the colonial trade of Ireland and checked the development of Irish shipping and commerce for ninety years after the Revolution. Previous to the reign of James II., Ireland had not suffered to any great extent by the interference with her trade to the plantations. Victuals were still her staple export, and she was allowed to send them direct to the English colonies and settlements. But as time went on and the woollen and other manufactures sprang up in Ireland, the country began to feel the disastrous consequences of the Acts. No Irish manufactures, with the later exception of some kinds of linens, could be exported to the plantations without being first landed in England, while none of those plantation articles which the Irish needed could be imported without the added expenses due to the extra voyage from England to Ireland. With regard to the plantation trade, Ireland was in fact treated like a foreign country, and in certain respects she received more severe treatment than the American colonies. To take one example, an Act in the reign of Charles II. had allowed plantation produce to be shipped from one plantation to another,149 but this Act was never extended to Ireland.
The importation of English colonial produce by way of England was so expensive, that Irish merchants soon
p.76found it cheaper to import foreign plantation produce by way of France or Portugal. The freight charges between France and Ireland were little more than those between England and Ireland, while the commodities of foreign plantations were cheaper than those of the English colonies. By insisting on her plantation sugars being first landed in Great Britain, England only gained duties of 8d. per cwt. on sugars and 6s. 4d. per ton on molasses; but the Irish merchant, through greater freight charges, loss of time, and increased risk, found it cheaper to get his sugars straight from France and pay foreign duty.150 Thus Ireland traded directly with the French ports for such articles as brandy and sugar, importing on an average by the middle of the eighteenth century about £14,000 worth of these articles every year.151 In return the French had cheap Irish provisions, and it was alleged that this was the reason they were able to undersell the British in the European sugar trade, especially as the French colonies were allowed to refine their own sugars. Before 1779, Ireland imported on an average about £100,000 worth every year from foreign countries of such commodities as were produced in the British plantations.152
How far British commerce and shipping were really increased by the action of the Navigation Laws is a matter concerning which there are many different opinions, and one on which circumstances make it practically impossible to speak authoritatively. But it seems probable that in so far as these laws were aimed at excluding foreign nations from the carrying trade, they were in the long run and for a time successful in promoting British commerce. In so far, however, as they aimed at excluding Ireland and the plantations from the carrying trade, they were unwise and did not really further British interests.
p.77Ireland's peculiar position and circumstances, indeed, resulted in the Navigation Laws injuring her rather than Great Britain. England may have suffered to a small extent from the loss of Irish custom, and Irish custom may have done something to increase the prosperity of foreign countries and their colonies at England's expense. But these injuries were exaggerated by contemporaries and loomed larger than they deserved in their imaginations, while the laws certainly had the effect of increasing Britain's carrying trade at the expense of that of Ireland. Yet in the long run, although Ireland was the chief sufferer from these commercial restrictions, England was weakened by them just as she was weakened by all other restraints placed on Irish trade and industry. She suffered not so much from immediate injuries, however important they may have appeared at the time, but from the general impoverishment of Ireland due to her own legislation. England would have gained enormously from a rich and contented Ireland; she suffered proportionately from a poor and discontented one.
Later on Ireland's prosperity might have increased in many ways had she been allowed a direct trade with the plantations. For example, if she could have obtained rum and sugar cheap from the colonies she might have distilled her own spirits from the sugar and made use of rum instead of French brandy. She could also have improved some of her home-made liqueurs and made some progress in the sugar-refining industry. For although Ireland could import foreign plantation sugars from Europe at a lower charge than she could by way of England those produced in British plantations, these sugars were naturally by no means cheap by reason of the additional expenses of the carriage from Europe to Ireland.
But as far as Ireland was concerned, the most important result of the Navigation Laws was the check they gave to the growth of Irish shipping. During the reign of Charles II. the amount of Irish shipping had been
p.78gradually increasing. But at the end of his reign the consequences of the laws were beginning to make themselves felt, and after the Revolution the shipping of Ireland ceased to develop in proportion to the growth of her population and the increase of her trade. In 1698, indeed, it was said that Ireland had scarcely any shipping at all. Dublin had not one ship, Belfast and Cork had only a few small ships, while as for large ships there was not one in the whole kingdom.153 The Dutch and French seem to have generally fetched the provisions they wanted from Irish ports, bringing in return the brandies, sugars, and other commodities demanded by Ireland. Irish merchants simply sent their provisions to England in English ships, as it was not worth their while to sail direct to the plantations when they were forced to bring their return cargo by way of England. Later on we hear of the "shameful deficiency" of shipping in Ireland, and it was said that the country had fewer ships in proportion to its population than even the American colonies.154 Between 1723 and 1772 Irish tonnage decreased by one-fourth, although the Irish trade required 110,000 more tons in 1772 than in 1723. During these fifty years the tonnage of British ships employed in this trade more than doubled, for in 1723 Great Britain possessed about two-thirds of the Irish carrying trade, while in 1772 she monopolised seven-eighths of it155
In this way were Irish resources wasted during the eighteenth century. "The conveniency of ports and harbours," said Swift, "which Nature has bestowed so liberally upon this kingdom, is of no more use to us than a beautiful prospect to a man shut up in a dungeon."156
p.79But the restrictions placed on Irish trade and industry in the eighteenth century did not end with the Navigation Acts. Restraints were laid on every industry which might possibly compete with the corresponding British industry, and England tried to secure Irish raw materials exclusively for herself by forbidding Ireland to export such materials to foreign parts or by discouraging their manufacture at home. At the same time England did her best to exclude all Irish manufactures from her own markets by imposing on them more or less prohibitory duties. England only wanted raw material from Ireland, and with the single exception of the linen manufacture which it was convenient to encourage up to a certain point, discouraged the importation of all Irish manufactures, while taking care that the Irish markets should be kept open to all British goods at low rates of duty.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century the cotton manufacture existed on a small scale in England, and on a still smaller scale in Ireland. In the latter country it was discouraged as much as possible by various English Acts, which laid import duties amounting to 25 per cent on all Irish manufactures made or mixed with cotton when imported into England.157 Another English Act in the reign of George I., which imposed penalties on any one wearing or using cotton goods in Great Britain unless made in that country,158 had of course the effect of absolutely excluding Irish cottons from the British market, while the Navigation Laws prevented their exportation to the plantations. Under these conditions the manufacture could hardly progress, especially as British cotton goods were only subject to a duty of 10 per cent on their importation into Ireland. The result was that British cottons were imported in large quantities, and with the rapid development of the Manchester cotton industry, British merchants were able to undersell Irish cotton manufacturers
p.80in the Irish market by means of their established skill, large capitals, and extended credit.159 It was impossible for the Irish either to start a foreign export trade in cotton goods or to develop their home manufacture under such circumstances.
But a much more severe policy was pursued with regard to the Irish glass industry. Ireland had started this manufacture immediately after the Revolution. Boate tells us that several glass houses were set up by the English colonists in Ireland, the principal one being in the market town of Birr, in Queen's County. From this place Dublin was furnished with "all sorts of window and drinking glasses, and such other as are commonly in use."160 The sand necessary for the manufacture had to be got from England, but the ashes and clay for the pots could be obtained in Ireland. The industry made a good deal of progress during the years it existed free from restrictions, but a sudden stop was put to its development by an Act in the nineteenth year of George II,161 which prohibited Ireland from exporting her glass to any country whatever. Nine years before162 Ireland had been forbidden to import any glass not of British manufacture, so Great Britain destroyed the Irish export trade in glass while securing for her own glass the monopoly of the Irish market. She seems at this time to have been extremely anxious to develop her glass manufacture, but the industry made very little progress during the greater part of the eighteenth century, and not much benefit appears to have resulted from the interference with the Irish trade. Still British manufacturers were able to flood the Irish market with their glass, as they had to pay on importation only the small duty of 10 per cent Irish glass manufacturers were naturally soon undersold in their own markets
p.81as their industry greatly declined owing to the prohibition on the export trade.
But for the Act of 19 George II., it is quite possible that Ireland might have competed successfully with Great Britain in the manufacture of glass. She was quite as favourably situated as regards the raw material necessary for making ordinary glass,163 and much more favourably placed for the manufacture of Crown glass, for its principal ingredient, kelp, was produced in Ireland in large quantities. In 1785 it was stated before the Committee of the Privy Council, that practically all the kelp used in the English Crown glass manufacture was supplied by Ireland.164 The glass industry had only been started in England after the Revolution, and it was conducted on quite a small scale in the reign of George II.,165 so it was possible for Ireland to have established a flourishing glass manufacture without the usual fear of being crushed by British competition. This possibility is shown by the great rapidity with which the industry progressed in Ireland after the trade concessions of 1780.
British policy towards the Irish cotton manufacture is easy enough to understand, because the cotton industry was making extraordinary progress in England during the first half of the eighteenth century, and it did not seem wise to encourage possible rivals. But there was not the same justification with regard to the restrictions on the Irish glass manufacture, and here British policy seems to have been prompted solely by a spirit of commercial jealousy which had no practical cause for its existence. The same feeling of jealousy was shown by the way in which Irish silk manufactures were absolutely excluded from the British market, for Irish tabinets and lustrings
p.82were never even made in England, and Irish silk handkerchiefs were of a different kind to those made by English merchants. Irish gloves were also excluded for fear their superior quality would be injurious to the home sale of British gloves.166
It has been seen that in her commercial policy towards Ireland, Great Britain aimed not only at excluding Irish goods from her own markets, but also at securing for herself the monopoly of sale in the Irish market. She fulfilled both of these aims in her dealings with the Irish glass manufacture, but the objects of her commercial policy were even more clearly exhibited in the case of the Irish brewing industry. The British exported large quantities of beer to Ireland on payment of the usual duty of 10 per cent, while they prevented the Irish from exporting their beer to Great Britain by means of a duty equal to a prohibition.167 They also sent malt in great quantities to Ireland, and forbade its importation from that country. But in still another way England took care that Irish breweries should never compete with British, and that British beer should always find a market in Ireland. Hops could not very well be cultivated by Irish farmers, as they were too uncertain a crop for the small capitalist who engaged in farming. Therefore the British Act which laid down that no hops should be imported into Ireland except from Great Britain168 left Ireland at the mercy of the British hop growers for one of the necessaries of life. The price of British hops was naturally very high in Ireland in the absence of all competition, and the Irish brewers had to pay much more for their hops than they would have paid had they imported them also from other countries.169 At first this Act gave a
p.83drawback on the excise of 1d. per pound on all hops exported to Ireland. But an Act in the reign of George I.170 took away this drawback with the evident intention of raising a revenue for Great Britain on the consumption of Ireland, as the Irish had no choice but to pay the price which the British hop growers demanded. Even hops of the growth of the British plantations could not be imported into Ireland though first landed in Great Britain. For some time there were doubts on this point, but two Acts of George II. made it clear that all hops imported into Ireland must not only be shipped direct from Great Britain but must also be of British growth.171 These hops, on importation into Ireland, were subjected by the same Acts to a duty of 1 1/2d. per pound over and above all other duties, customs and subsidies which had been settled and made perpetual in the first year of George II.172 As British hop growers possessed the monopoly of the Irish market this extra duty naturally fell altogether on the Irish consumers.
In other ways Irish manufacturers were left at the mercy of Great Britain for their raw materials, and forced to pay higher prices than they need have done under more favourable circumstances. We have already seen how the Irish sugar refining industry suffered in this way. In the interests of the British sugar colonies, Ireland was forbidden to import sugars or molasses from the colonies of other powers, and in the interests of British agents, she was forbidden to import them straight from the British plantations. Two-and-a-half per cent commission was charged by English agents on sugar sent from the plantations to Ireland when unladen and re-shipped in England. The importation of rock salt into Ireland was restricted by an Act in Anne's reign173 which laid for thirty years an additional duty of 9s. on every ton of rock salt exported
p.84from Great Britain to Ireland; nor was Ireland allowed to export her salt to Great Britain.174
This duty on the exportation of British rock salt to Ireland was disadvantageous to the Irish fisheries, for it was difficult to get a plentiful and cheap supply from any other country. But these fisheries were not hampered by any direct restrictions. An Act of Charles II.175 had confined the Greenland and Newfoundland fisheries to the inhabitants of England, Wales, and the town of Berwick-on- Tweed, navigating as directed by the Act of Navigation, victualling in England, Wales, or Berwick, and proceeding from these places on their voyage. A later Act176 had vested all the rights of these fisheries in an exclusive company, but in the reign of Anne both fisheries were thrown open to any of her Majesty's subjects.177 So from this time Ireland began to derive some profit from her deep sea fisheries. There was also very good fishing round the Irish coasts. In connection with these local fisheries there is a curious incident that well shows the extraordinary jealousy with which any possible Irish competition was regarded by the English people. In 1698, two petitions were sent up from Folkestone and Aldborough, stating that the inhabitants of these places suffered greatly "by the Irish catching herrings at Waterford and Wexford and sending them to the Straits, and thereby forestalling and ruining petitioners' markets," and therefore praying relief.178 The motion in the English House of Commons in favour of the petitioners was fortunately rejected, but that such a petition should not only be presented, but should also be discussed seriously in Parliament, shows what a spirit of commercial prejudice and jealousy existed at that time.
p.85Only one Irish industry besides the linen manufacture did England encourage in any way. It was to her interest to allow Ireland to engage in certain processes in the iron manufacture, as she required at this time more bar iron than she could produce herself. An English Act passed in the eighth year of William III. took off the duties on bar iron unwrought, and iron slit and hammered into rods, when imported from Ireland, but all other iron manufactures were subject on importation to prohibitory duties,179 as English manufacturers wished to get bar iron cheap from the American colonies and Ireland, while retaining the subsequent processes of the industry in their own hands. This partial encouragement to the Irish iron industry proved disastrous to the country, for it led to the wasteful consumption of timber for smelting purposes. Irish timber, too, was liable to scarcely any duty on its importation into Great Britain, so that by the middle of the eighteenth century the iron trade of Ireland had nearly altogether disappeared owing to the impossibility of obtaining sufficient timber for smelting. In earlier times English policy had aimed at destroying the forests of Ireland for political reasons; now the encouragement of iron smelting in the country and of the exportation of Irish timber to Great Britain completed this destruction of the forests. The Irish Parliament tried to improve matters by imposing duties on all iron goods exported to any country but Great Britain;180 but as the greatest amount of Irish bar iron went to Great Britain, this attempt naturally proved abortive.
If it had not been for her large provision trade, Ireland would indeed have fared badly during this long period of industrial and commercial restrictions. No restraint was placed by Great Britain on the exportation of Irish Provisions to foreign countries, nor was their direct
p.86exportation to the English colonies forbidden. The effect of the Navigation Laws was indeed to check this direct trade in provisions with the colonies, but vast quantities of beef, butter, hides, and tallow were sent to the plantations by way of England, while an extremely thriving trade was carried on with foreign countries. The refusal of England to import Irish provisions was far more injurious to herself than it was to Ireland. In 1759, owing to the high price of provisions at home, she began to realise this fact, and an Act was passed allowing Irish hogs, lambs, tallow, and grease to be imported into Great Britain duty free for a limited time.181 The provisions of this statute were extended by subsequent Acts until the free trade concessions of 1779 and 1780.182 Another Act in the reign of George III. allowed the free importation of raw hides and skins from Ireland.183 These Acts were passed with the avowed object of benefiting England, and with no intention of relieving Irish trade.
The provision trade was the great staple trade of Ireland all through the eighteenth century. In the latter half of the century, however, the linen industry, by means of many bounties and other encouragements, made considerable progress, and did much to relieve the poverty of the northern districts of Ireland. But with the exception of the provision trade, the linen industry, and the lowest processes of the iron manufacture, Irish commerce and industry were fettered in every direction. In most cases this was the effect of direct legislation on the part of England, or was carried out by Acts of the Irish Parliament at the bidding of England. In other cases it was simply due to the existence of close British companies with exclusive privileges of trading to certain parts of the world from certain British ports. The existence of these
p.87companies shut Ireland off from commercial intercourse with a great part of the world, and forced her to pay high for many of the goods she imported. By an Act of 1719,184 Ireland was forbidden to import any Indian, Chinese, or Persian wrought silks unless first shipped in Great Britain, and two years later another Act185 prohibited the importation into Ireland of any commodity or manufacture of India, China, or Persia, unless shipped from Great Britain. It is clear that the organisation of British trade by means of exclusive trading companies must have been injurious to Ireland by checking absolutely her commercial progress in certain directions. Ireland could not have established successful trading companies of her own; the ill-success of the Scotch Darien Company, although backed by the power of an independent Parliament, is enough to show the impossibility of this. It was the attempt of the Darien Company to compete with English companies that more than anything else made England determined to procure a legislative union with the Scotch. Where Scotland failed it was not likely that Ireland would succeed.
Throughout the whole of this mercantile period, one great aim of English statesmen seems to stand out supreme and may be traced all through the commercial relations with Ireland as well as with other countries; this was the encouragement of home manufactures. Now in order to encourage these home manufactures a particular industrial and commercial policy appeared to be necessary. First of all it was very important to secure a plentiful supply of raw material; hence the prohibition on the exportation of Irish wool to foreign parts, and the permission given to Ireland to export bar iron unwrought and iron slit and hammered into rods into Great Britain. The second point in the policy of encouraging manufactures was the prohibition of the importation of finished goods into the
p.88English markets; in the case of Ireland, this may be seen in the general refusal to import Irish manufactures. The third point in this policy was the encouragement of the consumption of English manufactures, both at home and abroad; this was another reason why Irish manufactures were not admitted, and it was also the reason why the Irish foreign trade in manufactured woollens and glass was destroyed, and why England was so anxious to secure a monopoly of sale in the Irish markets.
This desire of English statesmen to promote the manufactures of their country led directly to the Navigation Acts, and shut Ireland off from a direct trade in her manufactured goods with the English plantations. It also shut the Irish off from trade with the East, as the establishment of close trading companies seemed to contemporaries the best way by which British markets might be extended in those parts. Now the principle that colonies should send their raw materials to England and receive in return all their manufactured goods, was more injurious to Ireland than to the American colonies. England did not possess the raw material produced by her colonies, and so the latter could always command a good price for their commodities in the English market. But in Ireland, the soil, climate, and at this time the products also, were much the same as in England. Ireland could have supplied herself with manufactures for which she possessed the raw material in a way the colonies could not. But as a result of English commercial policy she had to send England raw material, for which she could not get a fair price, as it was produced by England as well as by herself.
Of the whole body of Irish Protestants it was the Ulster Presbyterians who suffered most of all from the commercial legislation of England. The restraints placed on their trade and industry were one of the chief causes which led to the large emigration of Protestants from the north of Ireland to America and the West Indies. Protestant artisans and merchants found their foreign trade either
p.89denied to them altogether or rendered absolutely unprofitable by English legislation, while the poverty of the country prevented the development of a large home market for their goods. In consequence, during the first thirty years of the eighteenth century, there was a great and continuous emigration of Protestant families, chiefly from Ulster. In 1718 Archbishop King tells us that "many hundreds of families are gone out of this kingdom to Cape Breton this and the last years, and many more are on the wing. The reasons they give are landlords raising the land so on them that they are not able to live, the great discouragement put on Ireland by the Parliament of England, the cramping their trade, the landlords living in England, whereby the circulation of money is stopped, and there is a want of Government to protect and govern the country, and, lastly, the preferring Popish tenants to them, who live more frugally and meanly than they can do, are able to give greater rents, by which means the bulk of the land of Ireland is soon like to be in the hands of Papists."186 Between 1725 and 1728, 4,200 men, women, and children were shipped off to the West Indies alone, over 300 of them going in the summer of 1728.187 There had been three successive bad harvests, and, in consequence, distress everywhere. The scarcity and high price of corn chiefly affected Ulster, where the people were possessed of a higher standard of comfort, and so helped forward the tide of emigration, which proceeded mainly from the north, and only from among the Protestants. Large numbers also emigrated to the American colonies; they generally landed in Pennsylvania, and from there many of them migrated to Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina.188 The majority of these seem to have been Presbyterians.
p.90The Irish Protestant gentry were much alarmed at this general exodus from the north, for they realised the danger that would ensue to the Protestant interest if the Catholics increased at the expense of the Protestants. The Catholic peasants had at this time a great dislike to emigration. "No Papists stir," says King, "except young men that go abroad to be trained to arms with intention to return with the Pretender."189 The Catholics were now five times as numerous as the Protestants; they married earlier, and their standard of comfort was very low. They had already increased since the Revolution at a much more rapid rate than the Protestants, who were not content to subsist on potatoes, and demanded better conditions of living. It is, therefore, little wonder that English policy was looked upon with dislike by thoughtful men in Ireland, for England, by refusing to allow the Irish Protestants to grow rich in their own country, was driving them by thousands into exile.
There was, of course, another motive, and, perhaps, a still more powerful one, in urging the Ulster Presbyterians to leave their country and seek refuge in America. Only one form of the Protestant religion was allowed free exercise in Ireland, and that was the episcopalian form of worship of the Established Church of England. The Irish Dissenters were shut off from all political rights. In the Anti-Popery Bill of 1704 the Sacramental Test was inserted, and this of course excluded the Dissenters from municipal office. In 1713 the provisions of the Schism Act were extended to Ireland, and so no Dissenter could be a schoolmaster, while the Toleration Act, which was passed in England in 1789, allowing freedom of worship to Dissenters, was never extended to Ireland. The Presbyterians formed the bulk of the Ulster settlers, they were the most thrifty and industrious of the Protestants, and, had they been allowed, might have done much to increase the material wealth of Ireland, and would have formed an
p.91element of stability in the country. But the short-sighted policy of England shut them out from all civil and municipal offices, and hampered their trade and industry in all directions. It is little wonder that so many of the Ulster Presbyterians felt that Ireland was no place for them. Even from the most narrow point of view, English policy was mistaken, for by it she drove the most energetic and enterprising of the Protestants into exile, she prevented the growth of a class which might have done something to draw England and Ireland more closely together, she split the Protestant body by refusing to tolerate any but one form of Protestantism, and she made the Presbyterians hate English rule. It was these men from Ulster, who settled principally in Pennsylvania and the New England States, as well as in the Southern colonies, who later on proved to be the very life and soul of the American struggle for independence. It was the Presbyterians who remained at home that played the chief part in the struggle with England for a free trade and a free Parliament.
The emigration of Protestants from Ireland did much to transfer part of the trade and industry of the country to the Catholics. King is very emphatic in stating that the Woollen Acts greatly weakened the Protestant interest in Ireland by driving out of the kingdom "almost all manufacturers, and thrown the manufacture of woollen almost entirely into Papists' hands, and in truth the greatest part of the trade of the kingdom."190 There were also other causes at work bringing about this new state of things. The laws which incapacitated Catholics from purchasing land, taking long or beneficial leases, or lending money on real securities, forced many of the Catholic farmers to leave the land and take to trade. About the second quarter of the eighteenth century we see the rise of a small class of Catholic tradesmen in the towns, many of them comparatively wealthy. The Protestants were
p.92extremely indignant at this intrusion of the Papists in their trades, and levied a seemingly illegal impost called "quarterage" on all Catholic traders. This impost was much resented at the beginning of the reign of George III., and, in 1767, Lucas introduced a Bill into the Irish House of Commons for establishing and defining the privileges of Catholic merchants.191 But although the Bill passed both Houses of Parliament, it was quashed by the Privy Council, and so nothing further was done in the matter. The Catholics, however, do not appear to have been much injured by the impost levied upon them; certainly, as time went on, Catholic traders seem to have gathered a great part of the wealth of the country into their hands. It was not until the middle of the eighteenth century that the growth of the linen manufacture checked the emigration of the Irish Protestants by enabling them to make some sort of profit by manufacturing industry. The large Irish provision trade, however, was nearly entirely conducted by Catholics.
But the well-to-do Catholic traders formed a very small proportion of the total Catholic population; below them were the mass of the Irish peasants ignorant and poverty stricken, hardly able to keep body and soul together. English commercial policy did not directly injure the poorer class of Catholics, but by checking the industrial development of Ireland it injured them indirectly by compelling them to remain entirely on the land and closing all means of escape. At the same time various causes, which will be mentioned in a later chapter192 prevented the people from gaining any but a bare and precarious living from the land. The only persons in Ireland who were comparatively prosperous were the great graziers and a small middle class in the towns engaged in trade. The poverty of the country is noticed by every contemporary pamphlet which deals with Ireland, whether written by Irishmen or
p.93Englishmen, for the first three-quarters of the eighteenth century. We have already seen what piteous accounts Archbishop King gives us of the terrible misery he saw all around him. "The misery of the people here is very great," he writes on one occasion, "the beggars innumerable and increasing every day by the restraint on their industry by your English laws and the tyranny of landlords ... one-half of the people of Ireland eat neither bread or flesh for one half of the year, nor wear shoes or stockings; your hogs in England and Essex calves lie and live better than they."193 Some years later, in one of the frequent years of scarcity, we are told that the Irish poor "are sunk in the lowest depths of misery and poverty; their houses dunghills, their victuals the blood of their cattle, or the herbs of the field."194 In 1764 the description given to us by Bush in his "Hibernia Curiosa" shows that the economic condition of the Irish peasants had not improved since earlier in the century. After they had paid the demands of their landlords, the parish priest, and their own priest, "the poor wretches have hardly the skin of a potato left them to subsist on." These people lived in cabins without chimneys, and built of such bad material that the rain made its way through everywhere. Primate Boulter thought that the tenant had hardly more than one-third of the profits he made from his farm for his own share, and too often but one-fourth or one-fifth part, as the tenant's share was charged with tithe.195
There is no doubt that the penal laws were one great cause of the poverty which was universal in Ireland during this period of restriction. They discouraged thrift, and made the mass of the people contented with a very low standard of comfort, while at the same time they altered the national character very much for the worse. The penal
p.94laws led indirectly to a great decay of trade and industry. It was just because of the existence of the penal code that the commercial restrictions fell so heavily upon the country. Foreign trade was hampered by England, but this would not have mattered nearly so much had the population of Ireland only been progressive and prosperous, and so able to create a large home demand. But no home manufactures could really thrive in a country where the bulk of the people were sunk in a depth of poverty which has seldom been equalled and probably never surpassed in any European nation. It is only when we take English commercial and financial policy in conjunction with the policy of persecuting the Irish Catholics that we can get a clear idea of all the causes at work during the eighteenth century preventing the development of an Irish nation, and leaving the Irish people in such depths of misery and barbarism.