During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Irish Parliament had little direct control over Irish finance. The hereditary revenue which formed by far the larger part of the total receipts of the Irish Government was by common law the property of the Crown and beyond the direct control of Parliament. It had grown chiefly out of the confiscations made after the Rebellion of 1641 and rested on the legislation of Charles II. It consisted of such items as Crown rents, quit rents, hearth money, customs, excise, and licenses for selling ale, beer, and strong waters, and was vested for ever in the King and his successors.
It was this peculiarity of Irish finance which made it so difficult for the Irish Parliament to cure the numerous financial abuses under which the country groaned. This was especially the case until the beginning of the eighteenth century, for up to that time the hereditary revenue of the kingdom was sufficient for all civil and military purposes and even furnished a considerable surplus, which was annually remitted to the King.364 But
p.154during the reign of Anne new wants arose and the hereditary revenue was found to be insufficient to support the establishments. Fresh taxes had to be granted, it became necessary to summon frequent Parliaments, and the Irish legislature began in consequence to acquire some sort of modified control over the finances of the country. As time went on and this control increased, Parliament grew more bold and began to attack the corrupt financial practices of the Government. But the power of the purse possessed by the Irish Parliament never became really complete, and after 1782 this want of complete financial control was bitterly resented. After the Restoration much hardship was inflicted on Ireland by the system of farming out the revenue. The Irish revenue was often farmed out for nearly twice the sum that was received by the Treasury; in consequence the farmers of the customs made huge profits, the people paid double their legitimate taxes, and the Treasury gained nothing. In 1669, for example, the estimated expenditure on the Irish civil and military establishments amounted to £170,000, and the taxes necessary to defray these expenses were farmed out for the sum of £219,500.365 In 1672 Lord Ranelagh agreed to receive and issue the whole revenue for five years. This gentleman actually undertook to defray the growing charges and all arrears due to the establishments and other debts owing from the King in Ireland, and over and above to pay the King £80,000 a year.366 At the same time, we may be sure that he did not lose sight of his own interests. In 1676 the Irish revenue was again farmed out, this time for £240,000, raised in 1678 to £300,000. From this time, however, the system of farming ceased. Charles' successors were not quite so impecunious as their predecessor, and commissioners were appointed for the management of the Irish revenue.
p.155But in spite of this system of farming out the revenue under Charles II., Irish finances were in a fairly prosperous state during his reign, and they continued to remain so until nearly the end of the century. In 1681 the hereditary revenue amounted to £600,000 for the year, while there was practically no debt. The Revolution, of course, gave a shock to the credit of the country, but once Ireland had recovered from the effects of the war, trade and industry soon began to flourish, and the revenue increased rapidly as a result. But from the beginning of the eighteenth century things changed. The impoverishment of the country through the commercial policy of England led to an immediate diminution in the revenue. As early as 1702 there were complaints of the want of specie in the country. The Bishop of Derry writes, "We have no money at all, nor like to have any without some vent for our commodities."367 From 1700 the revenue sunk rapidly. In that year the total revenue had amounted to £505,149. Five years later it was only £335,505, and in 1715 still only amounted to £342,222.368 This decrease in the revenue was almost entirely due to a diminution in the yield from customs and excise, and this diminution in its turn coincides almost exactly with the prohibition placed by England on the exportation of Irish woollens. In 1700 the customs and excise yielded £458,150. In 1703 this yield had decreased to £276,964, and in 1705 it amounted only to £324,418; in 1710 to £314,908, and in 1715 to £333,776.369 Not until the year 1725 did the customs and excise yield as much as in 1700, and the total revenue in consequence increased to £636,461. The Irish revenue was at this time nearly altogether dependent on the yield from the customs and excise. When this yield dropped off, not only by reason of a total cessation of the exportation
p.156of all woollen stuffs from Ireland, but also through a decrease of all exports and imports because of the shock given to trade and the want of employment in the country, it was inevitable that the revenue should diminish also. The increase in the yield from customs and excise, and consequently in the revenue from about 1720 was not, however, due to an increase in the exportation of raw or manufactured products. We know that neither the exports of linen nor those of provisions and live stock were as yet very large, while Archbishop King tells us in 1717 that the revenue was gradually beginning to recover by means of larger importations "but little or no exportation."370 These increasing importations were no doubt balanced by the large and growing sums of money that had to be annually transmitted to absentee landlords, sinecurists and pensioners, both civil and military, living in England. Certainly the Irish Government found itself in continual financial difficulties during the early part of the eighteenth century. The long series of wars began to affect Ireland as well as England. The war of the Spanish Succession was entered into before Ireland had recovered from the effects of the preceding struggle. A large sum of money had therefore to be borrowed to defray expenses. Further, in 1715, the Government had to borrow £50,000 from the Irish Parliament for the purpose of taking military measures to crush out the rebellion in Scotland and secure the new Dynasty.371 But after peace was made, the debt went on increasing simply through want of resources and the sheer inability of Ireland to support her establishments. The country soon became thoroughly exhausted. Archbishop King, writing in the February of 1717 to the Archbishop of Canterbury, says: "We are poor to the utmost degree in Ireland. Our Lord Lieutenant the night before he went issued orders for the payment of near fifty thousand pounds
p.157and did not leave fifteen in the Treasury to pay it, and we have every day new additions to our establishment, £3,000 per annum to one for thirty-two years, which in all makes £96,000, the fifth part of the current coin of Ireland." The consequence was that the national debt, which had hitherto been very inconsiderable, now became an important feature in the national finances. The small debt of rather over £16,000 which had existed at the beginning of 1715 was increased by midsummer, 1717, to nearly £92,000.372 That this should have been considered a very large debt by the Irish Parliament shows how very poor the country was. During the following years, until the debt was paid off, there was much distress in Ireland, for new duties had to be imposed by Parliament to pay off both interest and principal. By 1721 the debt was reduced to £66,000, but the Commons, after emphasising the decay of trade and the impoverished state of the country, petitioned the King in their address to the Throne to give such directions as would prevent the increase of the debt.373 But by August of the following year the condition of the finances was very bad. There were only five shillings left in the Treasury, and the arrears due to the establishment amounted to more than £200,000.374 In the parliamentary session of 1725 it was found that the debt had doubled in the last four years, and Archbishop King tells us of the "great arrears due to the establishment, above three hundred thousand pounds, and new funds are expected, but where they will be got God knows except we flea the people and sell their skins."375 In 1729 Lord Carteret remarked in his address to the Irish House of Commons, that the revenue had fallen short in spite of the success in the linen trade, and that still larger arrears were owing to the establishments.376 In 1731 there
p.158was an even greater deficiency of revenue; the debt had enormously increased and now stood at £330,000.377 Resolutions concerning the decay of trade and the scarcity of money fill the Journals of the House during these years. On the accession of George I., in 1727, further duties equal to about one-third of the hereditary revenue, were granted by the Irish Parliament in support of the establishments. This new taxation combined with the duties levied for paying off the debt apparently burdened the country. However, by exercising the strictest economy, the debt was finally paid off by 1754, in spite of heavy additions which had been made to it by the expenses of the war which ended with the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. But fresh money had soon to be borrowed, for the ordinary revenue of Ireland was not equal to the new demands made by England to support the expenses of the Seven Years' War. At the peace of Paris in 1763 the Irish debt amounted to as much as £520,000, the largest ever contracted in the country. Instead of diminishing in the succeeding years of peace, the debt continued to increase, and by 1773 it had risen to £1,757,000, including funded and annuity debt.378 The truth is, that the Irish revenue was no longer equal to the expenses of the Government. While the revenue of Great Britain had been increasing by leaps and bounds, that of Ireland had remained fairly stationary. Between 1727 and 1773 no new taxes were imposed in Ireland for the public service of Government. The loan duties were not granted in support of the establishments, but were appropriated to the payment of the interest and the liquidation of the national debt; while the additional duties imposed during these years were appropriated to the encouragement of tillage and various branches of trade and manufactures.379 Between 1701 and 1759 the British revenue increased by about
p.15940 per cent, while during practically the same period the Irish revenue increased by only 5 per cent Although the Irish system of taxation followed the same lines as the English, it had not developed alongside of it. The new taxes levied in Great Britain during the latter half of the eighteenth century were never applied to Ireland. The Land Tax has never existed in Ireland, and the excise and custom duties were always very light.380 Intoxicating drinks were hardly taxed at all, and this was a misfortune for the country, as no check was put on drunkenness. Arthur Young tells us that a man could get drunk on whiskey for 2d. and that "other spirits, wines, and tobacco are also very well able to bear much heavier taxes than they labour under at present."381
Nevertheless, it is difficult to decide whether Ireland was, on the whole, lightly or heavily taxed during the eighteenth century. If we look at the total sums raised, they certainly appear small compared to the size and population of the country, and side by side with the huge sums paid by British taxpayers. But other considerations have to be taken into account. The poverty of Ireland was extremely great during nearly the whole of this period, and if we look at the small industrial resources of the country, resources reduced to their most insignificant compass by the commercial policy of England, we have to admit that the Irish people paid almost as much in taxes as could reasonably have been got from them. It is often said that Great Britain alone bore the whole burden of the expanding Empire. Even if such a statement were true, it must be remembered that until the last twenty years of the eighteenth century, Ireland was almost entirely excluded from the trading benefits which the colonial expansion had conferred on the people of Great
p.160Britain. But although Ireland may have directly contributed little to the needs of the Empire, she indirectly contributed a great deal through the large military establishment she had at all times to keep up, in readiness to help England in her wars, and through an enormous pension list, of which only a very small part was given to persons resident in Ireland. At the same time, the vicious custom of keeping nearly all remunerative offices in the Government, Church, and Army in the hands of Englishmen who hardly ever set foot in the country acted as a huge tax on the Irish people. A great part of the money paid by Ireland went to uses which corrupted and degraded the country. The financial abuses of the eighteenth century in the shape of pensions to the kings' favourites, and sinecure offices of all kinds, not only ground down the people by unnecessary taxes, or taxes that might have been spent in useful purposes, but also perverted the morals of the upper class of Irishmen.
There were thus two ways in which Ireland contributed to the general needs of the Empireby her military establishment, and by her pension list. After the Restoration Ireland contributed no ships to the Imperial navy. Under Strafford part of the public revenues of the country had been constantly spent in furnishing ships for the defence of the Irish coast.382 But when, after the Restoration, the Irish Parliament made a perpetual grant for the support of an Irish navy, the grant was never permitted to be applied. At this time England greatly feared any increase in the power of Ireland, and the idea of an Irish navy was particularly obnoxious to her. The fund was, therefore, reappropriated to the increase of the army.
At the Restoration the Irish army was not large. It consisted of eighty-eight old and fourteen new companies of foot, and a regiment of guardsaltogether about 6,400 men. In 1678, however, it was thought that Ireland did
p.161not pay her full share towards the support of the general military establishment, and the army was increased by the Duke of Ormonde to 9,120 foot and 1,464 horse.383 At the same time Ireland was made to contribute £36,000 a year for shipping to secure the Irish coast, and £44,000 a year for the maintenance of Tangier.384 This increase of the military list and the necessity of supporting two new establishments fell heavily on the country, and when soon after a further £18,000 a year had to be raised for the maintenance of Tangier, the Irish revenue was strained to its utmost. It says a great deal for the general condition of the country that under these circumstances no debt was incurred. In 1678, out of a revenue of £300,000 Ireland paid £97,000 for naval services and the keeping of Tangier, almost one-third of her total revenue. At the same time she kept nearly as many men on her military establishment as she did during the first part of the eighteenth century, when she had not the other expenses and when her revenue was larger.
Until the end of the reign of William III. the regiments sent out of Ireland for foreign service were paid by England, as once out of Ireland they were deemed to be off the establishment. But in 1701 three regiments sent from Ireland to the West Indies were, for the first time, paid by Ireland, England merely making up the small difference between their pay and that of the English troops. In the war of the Spanish Succession, however, England paid the Irish regiments sent to Flanders, Spain, and Portugal, because of the great poverty of Ireland at that time.385 This was the last occasion on which England supported Irish troops serving abroad. From this time Ireland always paid her own troops, whether on active service or merely stationed abroad in times of peace; but until the
p.162death of George II. England continued to pay the difference, when there was any, between their pay and that of the British regiments.386 During the second half of the eighteenth century the expenses of the Irish military establishment necessarily increased greatly. In 1759, during the struggle between England and France in North America, Ireland raised six new regiments and a troop of horse.387 A specific vote of credit for £150,000 was given by Parliament, and afterwards provided for in the Loan Bill of that session.388 A little later a second vote of credit was given for £300,000,389 and the interest on Government stock was raised by 1 per cent. In little more than a year there was paid out of the Treasury for military purposes rather more than £703,957.390 These fresh expenses, brought upon Ireland by the war, produced some distress. Three large banks in the country stopped payment, and the remaining three did practically no business; paper stopped circulating, and no bank would discount even first class bills391 In 1761 the rupture with Spain increased the expenses of the military establishment, and the Irish Commons agreed to provide five new battalions, and a fresh vote of credit was passed with unanimity.392 For the next two years Ireland kept in pay an army of 24,000 men, 8,000 of whom were sent to fight abroad, 16,000 remaining at home for defence. At the same time Ireland sent 33,000 recruits to fill up gaps which had been made in British regiments, while she spent over £600,000 in Germany for the support of the war.393 After the Peace of Paris, in 1763, the new regiments were disbanded, and the number of men reduced to the
p.163peace footing of 12,000. The number of regiments, however, was increased, and consequently the number of officers, additions being made at the same time to their pay. There were now forty-two regiments on the establishment instead of only thirty, although the number of men remained the same. All this caused an additional expenditure of £15,000 a year. The annual expense of the staff of general officers now amounted to £12,000, while in England at this time it only came to £11,000.394 The cost of maintenance of the Irish army was very extravagant; it had been created by an English Act of Parliament, and the absence of an Irish Mutiny Bill made it impossible for the Irish Commons to obtain any real control over its management.
In 1767 the king decided that Ireland must bear an augmentation of her military establishment. But in spite of the prosperity of the victualling trade and the growth of the exports of linen, the debt had increased in the four years of peace by as much as £60,797;395 the revenue was still below the expenditure, and all this in a time of unusual commercial prosperity. After investigating the matter, the Lord Lieutenant and Council decided that the country could only bear an increase of 2,000 men to its peace establishment of 12,000. But their representations were useless, and the Irish army was raised to 15,235 men.396 It was, however, agreed that 12,000 of this number were always to remain in Ireland, except in the cases of rebellion or an invasion of Great Britain. The number of officers was to be diminished, and also the number of general officers who were absentees. At the same time the Irish battalions were to be assimilated to the British, thus reducing their cost.
But in spite of some actual reforms, this addition to the
p.164Irish army involved an increased charge during the first year of £54,118.397 Later on this new expense increased, for during the nine years from 1769 to 1778, when it was discontinued, the whole additional charge came to £620,824. These expenses, combined with the rapidly swelling pension list, led to a period of considerable financial distress in Ireland. From 1769 the revenue steadily decreased for some years; in 1770 it was very low, and £100,000 had to be borrowed in order to provide for the troops. Public credit was at its lowest, and great commercial distress, due to circumstances connected with the war, made the condition of the country miserable in the extreme. Nevertheless the Irish Commons managed to help England in her hopeless struggle with the American Colonies. In 1774 the king asked Ireland for 4,000 men out of her home establishment of 12,000, at the same time offering to replace them by an equal number of foreign troops to be paid by Great Britain. There was a certain amount of discontent at this request, for the Irish Act of Parliament of 1769 had laid down that none of the men on the home establishment could be sent abroad on active service. But the exigencies of England were so great that the loyalty of the Commons prevailed, and the 4,000 soldiers were sent to America. But Ireland refused the offer of foreign troops, and for a few years paid half the expense of her regiments in America.398 In every war of the eighteenth century, except that of the Spanish Succession, Irish regiments, paid by the Irish Treasury, formed a large part of the British forces. The cost of the Irish military establishment was in times of peace generally three times as much as that of the civil establishment, while in times of war the proportion was very much greater. During the
p.165greater part of the eighteenth century the permanent military establishment of Ireland was larger in proportion to the Irish population than that of Great Britain in proportion to the British population.399
But Ireland contributed in yet another way to the support of the Empire; this was by means of her pension list. Pensions were given by the king out of the whole proceeds of the hereditary revenue. This, as a matter of fact, was illegal, for many of the taxes under the head of the hereditary revenue had been granted for specific purposes. For example, the Act establishing the excise lays down that it is "for and towards the constant Pay of the Army, and for defraying the Public Charges in the Defence and Preservation of the Realm."400 In other cases the Acts had clauses declaring that no pensions should be granted out of the revenues arising from the Acts. Thus the Acts granting hearth money, quit-rents, and licences on ale, beer, and strong waters all had barring clauses to this effect.401 In fact, the only revenue left by law in Ireland at the absolute disposal of the Crown amounted to about £15,000 a year.402 It was only this amount that the king had a legal right to dispose of in pensions. But little attention was paid to legality, and as the various duties comprising the hereditary revenue had been granted in perpetuity, the Irish Commons could do nothing in the matter. The Act establishing the excise was perverted so as to include pensions in the category of public services. As to the rest, Government argued that the king had an uncontrolled right to charge the money brought into the Treasury with pensions, for the barring clauses in the statutes granting hearth money, quit-rents, and licences could affect the money only before it was brought into the
p.166Treasury; once the money was in the Treasury, it became part of the aggregate fund to be used indiscriminately for the support of the Government. In England there was no instance of the Crown granting any pensions for a number of years or lives on the produce of funds raised and granted by means of a statute law for specific purposes. But in Ireland the theory of the Government was accepted and acted upon all during the eighteenth century, in spite of the spasmodic protests of the Irish Commons. The whole of the hereditary revenue became thus burdened with pensions.
These pensions were of three kinds: civil, French and military. There was little abuse connected with the military pensions, and they formed a very small part of the total pension charge. The French pensions were granted chiefly to French refugee Protestants of rank who had fled to England or Ireland. During the early part of the century the charge under this head was often very heavy, and was the cause of much complaint. At the same time, many Frenchmen had pensions on the ordinary civil and military lists. Archbishop King, writing in 1715, thought that "above one half of the military pensions are to people of that nation, and above one fifth of the civil; besides this, the article of French Pensions is almost equal to all the rest: if we add to this those in half pay and in the army, I believe one ninth of the whole may be their share."403 In 1705 there had been some attempt to make these French pensioners of some use by employing them in active service abroad. On December 4th, 1705, the Lords Justices of Ireland wrote to the Duke of Ormonde stating that they had acquainted the French agent with the Queen's pleasure concerning the employment abroad of the French pensioners. "We are of opinion," they wrote, "that employing them upon this occasion will very much conduce to her Majesty's service in this conjuncture,
p.167and besides the advantage they will reap by it in giving them hereafter a pretence of having served, it will be a means to ease this establishment in part of that charge."404 The French pensioners objected that they had no commissions and were not entitled to bear them, not being naturalised subjects of the king; this want of commissions, they said, would expose them to ill-treatment by the enemy in case they were taken prisoners. Besides which, they thought their pensions too small to support them on foreign service.405 These objections were taken into account and a small allowance granted to the pensioners, in addition to their pensions. The Lords Justices considered it very reasonable that "men who have received an allowance from the Crown for so many years together should go upon service when there is occasion."406 But when the matter was settled, it was found that the majority of the French pensioners were totally unfit for active service; while, as regards those who were sent, there were continual difficulties as to the position they should occupy in the regiments. The Irish soldiers resented being officered by Frenchmen, and after a short time the pensioners were recalled. No subsequent attempt was made to employ them in active service.
Luckily, about 1738 the French pensions began to decrease rapidly in amount, and from this time we have little mention of them. It was in connection with the ordinary pensions on the Irish civil establishment that the greatest abuses occurred. Very few of the pensioners lived in Ireland at all. The vast majority of them were Englishmen who lived in England; some were foreigners, some Irishmen residing habitually in England. Whenever the king wished to give a pension to some particularly scandalous person, he granted it on the Irish establishment,
p.168well knowing the Irish Parliament could do little, while the English Commons might not have allowed the funds they voted to be used for such purposes.
Still, the Irish Commons did occasionally make a bold stand against the rapidly swelling pension list. In 1701 they struck off pensions to the amount of £16,000, chiefly French, and on several occasions it is certain that some of the most scandalous pensions were withheld for fear of the outspoken criticism
of the Irish legislature. In the ten years between 1705 and 1715 the pensions on the civil establishment--exclusive of French--increased from a little over £8,000 to nearly £22,000407 Archbishop King's letters are full of indignation at this state of things. Some very large sums were already given to persons of both sexes high up in the king's favour, and this abuse was destined to become very much worse as time went on. King writes, "It is preposterous that £5,000 pension should be allowed a nobleman, nay a lady, for services that, though very obliging to the person that gave the pension, yet were not proper to be alleged as motives in the grant."408 Very often a pension was attached to an office, and thus put permanently on the establishment. This was the case as regards the office of the keeper of the records in Birmingham Tower. King tells us that these records were not worth £100 to the kingdom, and that the salary for the office was only £10 a year. But when Mr. Addison became Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant he obtained this office together with a yearly pension of £500. Later on he sold it, and the pension as well as the office went to an Englishman living in England, and thus there was no hope of ever getting it off the establishment. "I could instance in two or three more," King writes in 1722, "and of a truth we never had nor heard of so lavish a management as this has been since his Majesty came to the Crown, and, which is yet more mischievous, 'tis whispered
p.169that the Ministry is against these exorbitant pensions, but they are forced to comply with the king or turn out."409 Early in the following year the archbishop writes that, amongst other pensions, there has just been added to the establishment "a pension of £1,200 to the Countess of Walsingham and one of £1,200 to the Countess of Lippic, which makes an addition in one year of £14,400."410
From 1725 to 1759 the pension list steadily increased. In 1751 the Countess of Yarmouth was given an annual pension on the Irish establishment of £4,000, which continued for over twenty years. From this time, too, we may constantly see on the pension list names of Germans like the Baron de Steinberg, Rudolf de Spork, and Herman Hobourg. In 1759 a pension of £5,000 a year for life was given to the Princess of Hesse. The Irish Commons remonstrated against many of these pensions. In 1756 especially, they did their best to remedy the grievance by appointing a committee to look into the whole matter. Parliament was at this time particularly annoyed because a pension of £800 a year which had just lapsed through the death of its possessor, the Queen Dowager of Prussia, had through the influence of the Duke of Bedford immediately been given to Lady Betty Waldegrave.411 The committee resolved that such pensions were an injury to the Crown and to the public, and the House desired the Lord Lieutenant to lay their resolution before the king. The Lord Lieutenant agreed, but the king did nothing to reduce the list. Indeed matters grew worse and worse. From 1759 to the Union, the Irish pension list increased far more rapidly than it had done in the preceding half century. Between 1760 and 1770 this was especially the case. In those ten years the amount of pensions on the
p.170civil establishmentexclusive of Frenchincreased from over £54,000 to £85,000. But the amount of pensions was not the worst injury; the chief grievance lay in the distribution of the pension-money. Huge sums were given to persons who happened to be in the king's favour, while the widows and orphans of Irishmen who had served their country received only the smallest pittance. George III. was particularly guilty in this respect. In 1763 a pension of £1,000 was granted on the Irish establishment to M. de Verois, the Sardinian ambassador who had negotiated the peace lately concluded with France. The result was a stormy debate in the Irish House, and an attempt to address the king on the matter. But through the influence of the Government the motion for an address was thrown out by a large majority.412 In this rejected address, which was drawn up by the patriotic minority of the Commons, it was resolved that such pensions as the one just given to the Sardinian ambassador, were "one great cause of the heavy debt which oppresses the kingdom, and which we can scarce ever hope to discharge, deprived as we are of those resources from trade with which the other parts of his Majesty's domains are blessed."413 During the next month this address was again moved, and again thrown out, so that once more the Commons failed in a direct attempt to oppose the financial policy of the Crown. George III. continued to grant Irish pensions to all his favourites to whom he dared not grant pensions on the British establishment. Lady Kilmansegg had a pension of £750, afterwards raised to £1,250; for a great many years, a person called Christian Shroder414 had one of £2,000 for about twenty years, while the Countess of Bellamont received
p.171one of £1,500. Many large pensions were given to Germans. Augustus Shutz had a pension of £1,200, while Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, was given one of £4,000, afterwards raised to £6,700. Others were given to Englishmen of high birth; Lord Bathurst received a pension of £2,000, the Duke of Gloucester one of £3,000, the Duke of Cumberland one of £3,000, and the Earl of Cholmondelly one of £3,700. The Princess Amelia had a pension on the Irish establishment of £1,000 for life; in 1764 the huge pension of £5,000 was given to the Princess Augusta also for life; while in 1774 Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark, received a yearly pension of £3,000 during the king's pleasure, and this just as she was about to be banished from England. And it is worthy of remark, that while women like the Countess of Yarmouth or the Queen of Denmark received these large pensions on the Irish establishment, Catherine Talbot, the wife of an Irishman who died in action, was only given £50 a year by the Government.
A further scandal in the matter was that very often a pension annexed to an office was continued after the owner was promoted to another place, and therefore could not, or would not, fulfil the duties formerly attached to his pension. But the financial grievances of Ireland did not stop with the pension list. The country was still further drained of its resources by the vicious custom of giving nearly all profitable offices in the Government, Church, and Army to Englishmen who generally lived in England, and did little to discharge the duties of their offices. Nearly all civil and military salaries went to persons who hardly ever set foot in Ireland. From the very beginning of the eighteenth century complaints were loud on this score. In 1702 Archbishop King, then Bishop of Derry, complains of "all employments being in deputation. The Government, Chancery, Master of the Rolls, Clerk of the Council, Registrar of the Chancery, Protonotaries, Remembrancers, etc., by which the subject is oppressed,
p.172and the money sent away."415 Later on, in 1715, he writes of the vast numbers of absentee officers of all sorts: "I understand preliminary that there are above 200 of the army absent, and sometimes a regiment is headed by a lieutenant, all superior officers being in England."416 An immense number of Irish offices were given to English politicians, most of them absolute sinecures. Swift tells us in his Drapier Letters,417 that Lord Berkley was Master of the Rolls, Lord Palmerston First Remembrancer with a salary of £2,000 a year; Doddington was Clerk of the Pells with a salary of £2,500 a year; Lord Burlington held the office of Hereditary High Treasurer, while Mr. Arden received a salary of £9,000 for undertaking the office of Under Treasurer. None of these persons ever went to Ireland or gave any sort of return for the large salaries they got out of the Irish establishment. In 1725 King writes that "the people of this kingdom are in effect excluded from the Church, from the Revenue, from the Bench, from the Army, and all considerable offices, all which are in effect maintained by the public money, or that of the kingdom." In consequence gentlemen were in great distress as to what to do with their sons, "all those ways for providing for them being shut up against them; as an instance of this they observe that about seventeen thousand per annum has been given to gentlemen of England, and not five hundred (pounds) to all in Ireland, and that pittance has been disposed of by interest made there in Britain without regard to the Irish claims."418 In 1766 we find an additional salary of £600 a year given to Lord Viscount Jocelyn and Robert Jocelyn his son, and their survivors, as searchers of the port of Galway.419 This office was a sinecure and involved no duties.
p.173All this was a real grievance to Ireland, and as regards the Irish Church matters were no better. Every Lord Primate during the eighteenth century was an Englishman; out of the eighteen Archbishops of Dublin and Cashel during this century, ten were Englishmen, while all the most lucrative bishoprics and benefices were given to Englishmen as a matter of course.420 In 1725 we have complaints from Archbishop King that the bishops sent from England made a point of giving everything in their power to their English friends and relations. "The Bishop of Derry," he writes, "since his translation to that see has given about £2,000 in benefices to his English friends and relations; Lord Primate hath had two livings void since his translation, one he has given, of about £200 per annum, to one of the "Walton" Blacks421 whom he since ordained priest, and the other to one Mr. Blennerhasset, whom they commonly call an Hottentot [...] the Bishop of Waterford has not only given all livings of value in his gift to his brothers and relations, but likewise his vicar-generalship and registry, though none of them reside in the kingdom."422
This scandalous state of affairs, which raised the indignation of an honest churchman like King, was the natural result of giving most of the high offices in the Church to Englishmen. Many people thought that this policy was necessary to the peace of Ireland, in order to secure a preponderance of English influence in the House of Lords. Primate Boulter was of this opinion, for he writes in 1726, that unless some person "be not now brought over from England to the Bench, there will be thirteen Irish to nine English bishops here, which we think will be a dangerous situation."423 There is a curious
p.174letter in the Irish Record Office which well shows how the fattest bishoprics were kept as a matter of course for Englishmen. The bishopric of Ossory had fallen vacant in August, 1730, and the Lords Justices of Ireland wrote from England to the Lord Lieutenant about the appointment to the see. "Though that bishopric," they remark, "lies in a fine country, yet as it is valued only from £1,000 to £1,200 per annum, we apprehend that no bishop in this kingdom will desire a translation thither." They therefore recommend that some Irishman should be appointed instead.424 The whole administration was in fact corrupt to the core. The age, it is true, was a corrupt one, and England under Walpole was nearly as bad as Ireland under her Lord Lieutenants. But in the last half of the eighteenth century matters began to improve in England, whereas the Irish administration was as corrupt at the end of the century as at the beginning. In England various laws and institutions neutralised some of the evils resulting from the great influence of the Crown and ministers, but in Ireland there was no force strong enough to cope with the Executive. And the kind of corruption practised by the Irish Government fell very heavily upon the country. In England lucrative positions obtained by corrupt practices at least fell to Englishmen, but in Ireland such offices were rarely given to Irishmen. Irish Protestants in fact were shut out from all higher employments to nearly as great an extent as the Irish Catholics. England had lost sight of her old idea of fostering the Irish Protestant interest, and governed Ireland only with a view to the material interests of Englishmen. As Irish trade and commerce were restricted to suit the interests of English merchants, so Irish finances were manipulated in order to put as much as possible into English pockets. The administration of Ireland was conducted without the faintest regard for the well-being of her people; the sole
p.175idea was to drain the resources of the country for the pecuniary profit of Englishmen. And it seems undoubtedly the case that the Irish establishments were out of all proportion to the resources or needs of the country. They were practically beyond the control of both the Irish and the British legislatures, and formed a great field of lucrative patronage altogether at the disposal of the English ministers. "As to Governments," wrote Archbishop King, "I have been told that their case is generally this. There is a salary allowed commonly for them to be paid out of the Treasury, and when anyone aimeth at one of them he applieth to some courtier, covenants to let him have the salary, and he is to live on what he can exact and rapery from the people."425
The great evil of widespread absenteeism, which has been already mentioned, followed as a matter of course. During the first half of the eighteenth century the higher offices seem to have been generally in deputation, and matters only slightly improved later on. Until the Viceroyalty of Lord Townshend the Lord Lieutenants were always absent from Ireland for more than half and sometimes four-fifths of their term of office. They were always Englishmen, and although from the time of Lord Townshend they spent the larger part of their official term in Ireland, they continued to spend much time in England until well after the Union. The Chief Secretary and all the great officials were always Englishmen, and were often absent in England, and until the appointment of Fitzgibbon in 1789 every Chancellor was also an Englishman.426 We have already seen how a host of civil and military officials and holders of sinecures and honorary posts of all kinds drew money from Ireland and rarely set foot in the country. This evil was very great all during the eighteenth century, and formed a just ground of
p.176complaint. The Irish Parliament was continually trying to lessen the grievance by imposing a tax on the pensions, salaries, and profits of employments of all absentee officers and persons, but their efforts were generally rendered virtually useless by the interference of the king, who thought that this action of the Commons encroached on his prerogative.
The first attempt of the Irish Parliament to get back a little of the money of which the country was being drained was made in 1727. The second Money Bill of that year obliged all persons holding offices and employments in Ireland and residing in England to pay a tax of four shillings in the pound; but unfortunately a clause was added stating that the tax need not be paid by any person who produced a proper certificate to show that he was obliged to attend directly upon the king, the queen, or their royal children."427 Naturally the tax was successfully evaded, for the absentees had merely to procure any place of honour about court and produce a certificate saying they were employed in the king's service.428 Dorset, writing to the Lords Justices in 1730 concerning two pensions, each of £1,000, to be granted to Mr. Lawman and Herman Hobourgs, gives orders according to the king's directions, that "they shall not in respect of the said pensions be charged with the late tax of four shillings in the pound."429 As the king could exempt any person by his sign manual from the payment of the tax, it was little wonder that this first attempt of the Irish Commons towards an absentee tax should have produced little result. The highest amount yielded by the tax was £8,720 in the year ended Lady Day, 1730; but from then the yield rapidly decreased until in 1753, when the tax was discontinued, the whole amount produced was only £2,110.430
p.177from 1753 to 1757 the finances of the country were in a comparatively prosperous condition, and in consequence there was no attempt to reimpose the absentee tax. But after 1757 the expenses of the war with France began to reduce Irish finances to a very bad state, while the pension list was now swelling rapidly. The money obtained by the new Act establishing tonnage and poundage was used for corrupt purposes instead of "for the better guarding and defending of the sea," as was laid down by the Act.431 From 1757 to 1777 the civil list nearly doubled, the pension list nearly doubled, and the national debt increased to over £1,000,000. It was under these circumstances, when new funds were badly needed, that the Irish Parliament, in 1769, imposed a second absentee tax of four shillings in the pound on all salaries, pensions, and profits of employment of persons residing in England and drawing their money from Ireland. Previous attempts to reimpose the tax had been defeated through English influence, and now in 1770 strenuous efforts were made in England to do away with this new absentee tax. The tax would naturally fall on many of the leading members of the Rockingham section of the Opposition, and they resolved to resist it through their influence with the Ministry. Five of the leading Whig peers signed a remonstrance against the tax and sent it to North.432 They were supported by Burke, who thought the measure unwise and tending to separate the interests of England and Ireland433 Many people of large property joined the ranks of the Opposition, and in consequence the Viceroy determined to do his best to repeal the tax. Many of the Members in the Irish House of Commons disliked the tax because they feared it might lead to a depreciation in the value of land in Ireland. In spite of all efforts, however,
p.178the tax does not seem to have been repealed until the following year, as receipts under this head are entered in the years 1769, 1770, and 1771 in the Vice-Treasurer's accounts. The largest amount obtained from the tax during these years was £16,699 in 1769, and the smallest amount £9,974 in 1771. This second absentee tax thus yielded considerably more than the first had done.
In 1773 the condition of Irish finances was very serious. It was estimated that the arrears upon the establishment by the following Christmas would amount to £300,000. Just at this time the King imposed the heavy pension of £3,000 on the Irish establishment for the Queen of Denmark. It was evident that further taxation was essential, and Harcourt, then Lord Lieutenant, proposed that the plan of an absentee tax should be revived, but that this time it should be only two shillings in the pound, and should only be imposed on the rents of absentee proprietors. The English Government agreed to accept the measure if it were passed in Ireland, on the condition that the hereditary revenue was relieved of some of the heavy burdens which had been thrown on it, and especially from the existing premium of the carriage of corn to Dublin. In 1774 the Act imposing the tax was passed, and at the same time the Irish Commons carried out their part of the bargain by passing a resolution that whenever the bounty on the inland carriage of corn exceeded £35,000 in the year, Parliament should impose fresh taxes to make good the excess.434 This absentee tax was imposed for some years, and then dropped; but it was revived after 1782 by the Independent Parliament. Until 1792 this last tax yielded a fairly considerable sum, and seems to have been much less frequently evaded than the previous absentee taxes. In the year ended Lady Day, 1790, it yielded as much as £63,089, but in all the other years the amount raised varied from about £14,000 to about £15,000 per annum.
p.179It was a great misfortune for Ireland during the eighteenth century that the Irish Parliament was so dependent on England. It was, in fact, simply an institution for registering the edicts of the English Privy Council. The system of government by a weak Parliament and powerful Ministers, with the whole force of patronage at their disposal, could have resulted in nothing but financial corruption and abuses. In England, where the House of Commons was really powerful, it was hard enough to resist the influence of the Crown and Ministers; in Ireland it was impossible. Very often, indeed, the Irish Commons made a good fight, and on a few occasions they managed to make themselves so tiresome that the Government thought it wiser policy to retire from their position. But as a rule the direct efforts of the Irish Commons to thwart the Government were unsuccessful. Their attempt to dispose of the surpluses of the hereditary revenue in payment of the national debt without the King's consent failed completely; the King managed to assert his prerogative and established his own right as to the disposal of all surpluses.435 As the Commons found they could not interfere directly as to the disposal of the hereditary revenue, they determined to encroach on it as much as possible and so leave the Crown more at the mercy of Parliament for its supplies; and in order to do this they began to use up the surplus of the whole revenue before it passed into the Treasury. In 1757 the finances of the country were comparatively prosperous, and the Commons managed to dispose of some of the surplus revenues in local improvements. Money was given towards the erection of the new buildings of Trinity College and for the improvement of internal navigation and roads; bounties were given to fisheries and agriculture, subsidies to the Dublin Society, the Protestant Charter Schools, and the county infirmaries. Although
p.180this assistance to public works and industries seems to have been prompted to some extent by political motives, it did great good in a country so backward in all kinds of industrial enterprise as was Ireland at that day. But the Commons did not content themselves with devising new forms of expenditure, thus restricting the amount of funds at the disposal of the Government; they even began to encroach upon the hereditary revenue itself. In 1754 they used a large part of the additional duties, formerly imposed in aid of the hereditary revenue, for the purpose of encouraging inland navigation, collieries, and manufactures.436 Later on, in 1757, Parliament threw the whole amount of the bounty on the inland carriage of corn to Dublin on the hereditary revenue.437 This was done by seizing the revenue when on its way into the Treasury and making the bounty payable by the collector of the Port of Dublin before he had accounted for his receipts. The bounty was a first charge on the revenue and in 1773 amounted to £50,000 a year.438 The expense of collecting and managing the taxes was also placed on the hereditary revenue, and in these ways the Irish Commons managed to get some sort of indirect control over the finances of the country. They succeeded in paring down the hereditary revenue to such an extent that Government became more and more dependent on them for its supplies, and all this without actually touching the King's prerogative. As the Irish Parliament could not interfere directly in all financial matters, like the British House of Commons, it had to content itself with interfering indirectly whenever it seemed possible to obtain an advantage, and it is certain that many of the terrible abuses of expenditure by the Government would have been very much more widespread had it not been for this policy of the Irish Commons. It is hardly necessary to observe that the
p.181Members of the Irish House of Commons were not always impelled merely by patriotism; they were animated by a sense of the humiliation of their position and by a growing resentment at their lack of financial control. Later on, as the direct result of English misrule, the feeling of patriotism was to come, but for a considerable part of the eighteenth century the Irish Parliament worked more for its own power than in the interests of its country. Still, this did not prevent the Commons from doing good work as regards the attainment of a modified and indirect control over finance.
Theoretically indeed the greater part of the revenues of Ireland still remained beyond the control of Parliament, but in practice the Irish Commons managed by means of their policy of encroaching on the hereditary revenue to obtain more of the power of the purse. It must, however, be regretted that in their zeal to circumvent Government, they often lost sight of the fact that it was in their power to effect one financial reform of great urgency, namely, an amendment in the system of collecting and managing the revenue. There was gross fraud and peculation as regards this matter, and the cost of collection and management was very much heavier in Ireland than in England. In 1778, for example, the gross revenue of Great Britain was collected for 7 1/2 per cent, while that of Ireland cost no less than 17 1/3 per cent.439 There is some suspicion that the Irish Parliament did not desire reform in this matter because it knew that any improvement would simply set free a fresh sum of money to be used in corruption by the Government. If this were the case, the Irish Parliament was certainly short-sighted in its methods of controlling finance; but after all, the peculiarly weak position it occupied and the great difficulties with which it was confronted must be remembered. In their desperate effort to maintain some
p.182sort of independence the Irish Commons could hardly be expected to have pursued a really statesman-like policy. Towards the last quarter of the eighteenth century Irish finances progressed from bad to worse. The rupture with the American colonies and the following war dealt a great blow at the limited trade of the country. The pension list for 1778 exceeded the entire civil list for 1757, while part of the money due to military contingencies was not expended upon military purposes at all, but was used as a kind of inferior pension list for persons of both sexes.440 The financial and administrative grievances of the Irish people combined with the severe restrictions placed on their trade and commerce had in 1779 brought Ireland into such an appalling condition that many sensible people in England at last began to realise that if the country were not to remain a permanent burden on England something must be done to improve Irish resources. The anonymous author of a "Letter to the People of Ireland," written in 1779, gives in a few words the causes which had brought Ireland into this state of bankruptcy:
"It is true that a pension list is a cause, a prodigal succession of administrations is a cause, and an exorbitant military establishment is a cause; but the fundamental cause of our distress is that, being burthened by a pension list and drained by an army, we are disabled by restrictions: the internal system of government is one grievance, the external policy of England is a greater grievance."441 The peculiar financial policy of England towards Ireland during the eighteenth century was due to very much the same general theoretical ideas as those which influenced her commercial policy. The interests of England were on all occasions regarded as paramount; those of Ireland were of no account whatsoever. Only, in the financial relations between the two countries the special and practical
p.183motives which influenced England were more sordid and petty than those which induced her to restrict Irish trade and industry. There was, of course, the broad idea at work that a dependency should be administered solely to the advantage of the Mother Country, and at the same time peculiar political conditions put Ireland altogether at the mercy of England. But in the matter of trade England occasionally showed that she was not altogether unwilling to foster the Protestant interest in such directions as did not interfere with English trade. It was otherwise in the matter of finance and administration. The interests of the Irish Protestants were put on one side almost as completely as the interests of the Irish Catholics, which no one expected to be considered.442 And it is quite idle to say vaguely, as is so often done, that Ireland was taxed lightly during the eighteenth century. The financial grievances of Ireland were not connected with the amount of money raised in taxes; they were connected with the way in which this money was expended. We have, in fact, to look beyond the actual money raised, and into the whole system of Irish administration and expenditure, if we wish to determine whether the Irish people were lightly or heavily burdened during this period. And in any case we are forced to come to the conclusion that the greater part of the Irish revenues were directly expended in the interests of England and individual Englishmen.
The whole administrative and financial policy of England was more short-sighted than her commercial policy, and at the same time it had not the same important reasons to justify it. In consequence it was resented bitterly by the Irish Protestant gentry. The members
p.184of this class were not all directly touched by the restrictions placed on Irish trade and commerce; but they were all touched by the fact that they could not get profitable employments for themselves or their sons, while they objected strongly to seeing the taxes they paid going into the pockets of kings' favourites and disreputable persons of both sexes. It was this misguided policy on the part of England that did so much to foster the new national spirit among the Irish Protestant gentrya spirit voiced for the first time by Molyneux, taken up in his narrow and satirical way by Swift, and continued by Lucas,443 until in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, patriotic Protestants were nearly as completely alienated from England as were their Catholic fellow-subjects. Through community of suffering, Irish Protestants and Catholics began to be drawn more closely together. Towards the end of the century we see a disinclination on the part of the Protestants to enforce the penal laws, and it must not be forgotten that it was an Irish Protestant Parliament which took the first steps towards alleviating the condition of the Catholics. The sentiment of Irish nationality which proved itself strong enough to sink the religious feud of centuries and to extort one concession after another from England was not born, as in other countries, of common traditions and a common history, but was the direct result of English policy. For one short period the whole Irish people, regardless of race and religion, were to unite against the oppression and spoliation of England.
|Year ended||Civil Pensions £||French Pensions £||Military Pensions £||Total Pension Charge £||Total Revenue £||Percentage of Pension to Total Revenue|
|25th March, 1678||11,743||None||None entered||11,743||300,000||3.91|
|24th June, 1689||9,705||None||None entered||9,705|||||
|25th March 1734||35,569||8,394||2,079||46,042||485,672||9.49|
|25th March 1738||39,063||9,365||1,747||50,175||560,909||8.94|
|25th March 1741||41,229||None entered||1,747||42,976||521,352||8.24|
|25th March 1745||43,234||4,158||1,747||49,139||583,090||8.42|
|25th March 1748||47,573||3,419||1,304||52,296||653,482||8.00|
|25th March 1751||46,349||1,639||532||48,520||1,075,407||4.51|
|25th March 1752||46,960||1,468||532||48,960||894,206||5.47|
|25th March 1753||47,269||1,319||532||49,120||1,013,126||4.84|
|25th March 1754||49,508||1,293||832||51,633||1,091,350||4.73|
|25th March 1755||39,304||1,356||919||41,579||1,086,132||3.82|
|25th March 1756||42,243||None entered||1,719||43,962||1,316,970||3.33|
|25th March 1757||48,903||1,043||1,998||51,944||1,060,574||4.89|
|25th March 1758||53,213||None entered||2,180||55,393||1,133,679||4.88|
|25th March 1759||59,496||920||2,080||62,496||828,758||7.54|
|25th March 1760||54,133||853||2,121||57,107||849,756||6.72|
|25th March 1761||59,383||None entered||2,215||61,598||1,106,540||5.56|
|25th March 1762||67,747||1,276||3,215||72,238||894,539||8.07|
|25th March 1763||70,277||862||2,193||73,332||1,269,626||5.77|
|25th March 1764||71,482||902||3,130||75,514||1,569,584||4.81|
|25th March 1765||82,252||1,002||3,193||86,447||1,722,624||5.01|
|25th March 1766||81,739||666||2,876||85,281||1,911,371||4.46|
|25th March 1767||79,181||911||3,533||83,625||1,786,450||4,68|
|25th March 1768||84,982||811||3,686||89,479||1,609,239||5.56|
|25th March 1769||83,563||795||3,592||87,950||1,789,403||4.95|
|25th March 1770||85,671||717||4,169||90,557||1,227,331||7.37|
|25th March 1771||80,200||None entered||4,085||84,285||1,566,837||5.37|
|25th March 1772||83,665||683||5,222||89,570||1,071,662||8.35|
|25th March 1773||82,606||None entered||6,472||89,078||1,242,813||7.16|
|25th March 1775||86,435||683||5,532||92,650||1,540,089||6.01|
|25th March 1777||92,239||614||6,284||99,137||1,562,702||6.34|
|25th March 1779||90,131||718||6,180||97,029||1,589,246||6.09|
|25th March 1781||84,793||616||6,129||91,538||1,783,574||5.13|
|25th March 1783||92,154||538||6,068||98,760||1,138,293||8.67|
|25th March 1785||92,308||531||4,907||97,746||1,279,503||7.63|
|25th March 1787||98,598||None entered||6,471||105,069||1,409,659||7.45|
|25th March 1789||105,739||514||6,456||112,709||1,576,538||7.14|
|25th March 1790||102,860||350||6,772||109,982||1,583,226||6.94|
|25th March 1791||103,351||259||7,720||111,330||1,638,883||6.79|
|25th March 1792||109,788||459||None entered||110,247||1,687,038||7.53|
|25th March 1793||115,344||459||8,778||124,581||1,626,941||7.67|
|25th March 1795||125,892||None entered||None entered||125,892||1,907,740||6.59|
|25th March 1797||116,527||259||5,591||122,377||1,934,911||6.32|
|25th March 1799||108,589||259||None entered||108,848||2,524,668||4.30|