IT has been seen that in spite of the great trade concessions of 1779 and 1780, Ireland had not as yet any real equality of trade with Great Britain. Irish ports were open to all British produce and manufactures, while the ports of Great Britain were closed against Ireland in nearly all those articles of commerce which Ireland freely admitted. These were all articles the produce of the British colonies in Asia, Africa, and America, and certain articles the growth or manufacture of both Great Britain and Ireland. The first were excluded by means of a particular interpretation of the Navigation Acts, the second by means of actual prohibitions or prohibitory duties.
The agreements in Ireland not to purchase or consume any British produce or manufactures greatly alarmed British traders, and although now confined to Dublin, seem to have inflicted on them a considerable amount of harm. One London factor's export trade fell from £30,000 to £5,000 a year.565 Calicoes and printed cottons suffered greatly, the Manchester fustian trade from the port of Chester was ruined,566 the exportation of superfine and second cloths from Wiltshire nearly ceased567 and the
p.237exportation of silk manufactures decreased.568 No doubt Irish consumers suffered also from the renewed formation of these non-importation agreements, but the distress which prevailed among certain classes of artisans at this time was the cause rather than the consequence of the leagues. The Irish people were willing to inflict upon themselves some temporary suffering in order to end the inequality which existed in their commercial relations with Great Britain. They realised that their infant manufactures could never permanently establish themselves as long as British merchants with large capitals and extensive trade connections were able to pour their goods into the country while secure in their own markets from all Irish rivalry. The riots that we read of at this time in Dublin569 were chiefly owing to a bad harvest and commercial depression, although the political agitation concerning the reform of Parliament had something to say to them.
Thus there were two causes which led to a desire for a new commercial adjustment between the two countries. One, which influenced Ireland, was the complaints of the Irish manufacturers based on the differences of import duties in favour of England. The other was the action of the non-importation leagues, which was proving very injurious to British trade and which influenced the British people in favour of a new commercial settlement. At the same time, it was seen in England that the prevailing practice of smuggling Irish goods into Britain was largely due to the enormous duties on their importation. Although the importation of salt from Ireland was prohibited, vast quantities were smuggled into the western parts of Great Britain.570 There was also a brisk trade in soap and candles, although they too were forbidden to be imported from
p.238Ireland. A witness before the Council of Trade appointed in 1784 reported that "great quantities are certainly smuggled into all the western counties of England and Wales and from thence by inland navigation into other counties."571 It was thought that if an equalisation of duties took place this contraband trade would cease.
The commercial resolutions seem to have originated in England. As early as March, 1784, Pitt was in communication with Mr. Orde, the Irish Secretary of State, on the subject of a readjustment of the commercial relations between the two countries.572 An address sent up by the Irish House of Commons to the King on May 13th of the same year expressing the hope that a plan might be made for a more liberal arrangement of commercial intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland573 gave a further stimulus to the matter, and convinced Pitt that some sort of scheme might be satisfactorily settled. He commissioned Orde to make inquiries on all points connected with a final commercial adjustment, and in his correspondence with the Lord Lieutenant we see how a plan was gradually shaping itself in his mind. On October 7th he wrote: "I own to you the line to which my mind at present inclines [...] is to give Ireland an almost unlimited communication of commercial advantages, if we can receive in return some security that her strength and riches will be our benefit, and that she will contribute from time to time in their increasing proportions to the common exigencies of the Empire."574 Here we see the idea to which Pitt clung so tenaciously of "community of burdens" with "community of benefits."575 He seems to have been sincere in desiring to give Ireland an equal participation in commerce, and it was only when British prejudice proved too
p.239strong for him that he reduced this "equal participation" to a mere shadow, while still insisting, curiously enough, that he was not departing from his general principle of equality.
There was much difficulty concerning the amount and method of contribution which Ireland should make in return for her new commercial benefits.576 The Lord Lieutenant warned Pitt to go delicately in the matter, for anything approaching the idea of a tribute would be bitterly resented by the Irish people. Foster577 and Beresford thought that it would be better to leave the amount and method of contribution indefinite and trust to the liberality of Ireland, which after all, they said, had never failed Great Britain. Even Orde hesitated about making the contribution a condition of the scheme. But here Pitt stood firm. Great Britain would never consent, he said, to complete the system of equal commerce with Ireland unless some return was definitely and permanently secured to her. And now for the first time he stated the theory which afterwards aroused such indignation in Ireland, the theory that the return made by Ireland "ought to be proportioned not merely to what we have now to give [...] but to all that has been given since the first concessions from the year 1778 downwards."578 Ireland, in fact, was now to pay for what had been given to her five years before as a free gift. We can hardly be surprised that the Irish people saw the matter in a different light.
At the same time, Pitt did not demand any immediate equivalent for all the advantages Ireland had or was about to receive. What he wanted was a certainty that if the extended commerce of Ireland increased her wealth, the surplus of the revenue which remained after defraying the same proportion of Irish expenses should go to relieve Great Britain. This plan left no room for increased
p.240expenditure in Ireland herself, and no security that the Irish contribution should be in proportion to the resources of the country. Pitt insisted that the settlement should be final. Rutland had pressed for this as the only way to quiet Ireland.579 But the Lord Lieutenant feared that Pitt's scheme for an obligatory contribution from the Irish would be difficult to carry. He wrote to Pitt that there would be no opposition as regards the commercial points proposed if only "some mode and time of contribution (accommodated in any manner to the temper of Ireland) can be fixed. Without this the difficulty is infinite."580 He pointed out that Ireland already contributed in many ways of her own free will to the support of the Empire, but that the present proposition was the first instance of an obligatory contribution, "and I am much afraid of the effect it may have, not only on that account, but as it may probably extend to that which has heretofore been voluntarily continued; and that occasion may be taken to diminish the one so as to take off the effect of the other." In any case the new contribution from Ireland would be very small, and Rutland thought that it was a matter of doubt whether it was worth Great Britain's while to stir up strife in Ireland by exacting it.581 But if the British Government insisted upon making the obligatory contribution a condition of the commercial adjustment, it might be more easily carried in Ireland if provision were made that the contribution should be applied to the support of the fleet in Irish stations, and thus spent in the country. Rutland pointed out that this would make no pecuniary difference to Great Britain, while it was the only chance of getting the scheme adopted in its entirety in Ireland.582 But Sydney wrote back that the King's ministers thought that "the supply
p.241given should be sent to this country to be employed for the purposes of the general defence." He said, however, that if the Lord Lieutenant found it really necessary he might inform the Irish Parliament that there was no objection to declaring in a new clause that the contribution from Ireland should be used "in purchasing goods, the produce or manufacture of Ireland, for the use of the Navy, such as stores or provisions."583
The whole scheme, however, progressed, and early in 1785 was completed. It had been discussed in the British Cabinet at the end of the previous year, and on January 6th an official messenger was despatched to Ireland to communicate the unanimous decision of the Cabinet on the matter. In a letter written on the same day to Rutland, Pitt says that the communication contained the substance of a system from which it would be impossible to depart.584 The Irish Government, he thought, should have no difficulty in persuading Parliament to accept the resolution with regard to the proposed contribution, as the scheme gave complete equality of trade to Ireland.
Pitt certainly anticipated little resistance to his measure. He thought that it would be difficult for "malice and faction to find any topics calculated to catch the mind of the public if the nature of the measure is fairly stated."585 He acknowledged the justice of Ireland's claim to have her foreign trade unfettered, but he held to the old opinion that she could have no claim to the colony trade beyond what Great Britain chose to give her. The colonies were British, not Irish, for they had been established by means of the men and money of the Mother Country. Ireland had no claim either to a direct trade with them or to a re-export trade in colonial produce to Great Britain. She ought, therefore, Pitt argued, to pay for such favours
p.242granted to her by Great Britain, especially as they were a deviation from the almost uniform policy of all nations with regard to the trade of their colonies.
The development of the scheme now passed into the hands of the Irish Government and legislature. Orde put the measure into its final form, and on February 7th, 1785, brought ten resolutions embodying Pitt's scheme before the Irish Parliament. Pitt was now pledged to these resolutions. He had promised Rutland and Orde to press the measures through the British Parliament if they could be first got through the Irish Houses. The resolutions were therefore voted upon in the Irish Parliament under the supposition that they were bound up with the good faith of the British Minister.
On the whole the resolutions were favourable to Ireland. Foreign and colonial goods were to pass between Great Britain and Ireland without any increase of duty, and dutiable goods of Great Britain and Ireland were to pass from one country to the other at the same rates of duty. The quantum of duty not drawn back on re-export was to be the same in both countries. Bounties were to be abolished on all goods (except food-stuffs) exported from one country to the other. There was to be no prohibition in either country on the exportation, use, or sale of any article the growth, product, or manufacture of the other. The duties on all articles when different in the two countries were to be reduced in the kingdom in which they were the highest to the amount payable in the other. Finally the tenth resolution laid down that when the hereditary revenue in Ireland should exceed a given sum (at this time it amounted to £650,000) the surplus was to be appropriated in support of the naval forces of the Empire in such manner as the Parliament of Ireland should direct.586Ir. Parl. Reg., IV., 116125.
After these ten resolutions had been read and an order
p.243had been given that they should be printed, the House of Commons resolved itself into a committee to consider the subject. There was a good deal of opposition to the tenth proposition. Grattan gave a rather unwilling consent to the first nine, but he altogether took exception to the tenth, on the ground that it would be easy for a Minister so to manipulate the revenue as to produce a large surplus, even though the country might be sunk in debt and poverty at the time. The sum to be contributed was too indefinite, and might rise to an amount out of all proportion to the just contribution of the country. He therefore proposed that no surplus of revenue should accrue to the general expenses of the Empire unless the revenue of the kingdom equalled the expenditure. Grattan thought that this would result in greater economy because it would make both the British and the Irish Ministers interested in the cause of economy. The plan would also put an end to debt, while at the same time it would decide the great question of 1753.587 Grattan also proposed that no contribution should be made unless the hereditary revenue exceeded the sum of £656,000.
Grattan's proposals were accepted. The tenth proposition was withdrawn and in its place a new one was put, which stated the expediency of equalising the revenue and expenditure of the kingdom in order to prevent an accumulation of national debt. An eleventh proposition was then added, which provided that whatever surplus the hereditary revenue produced "over and above the sum of £656,000 in each year of peace wherein the annual revenue shall equal the annual expense, should be appropriated towards the support of the naval force of the Empire in such manner as the Parliament of this kingdom shall direct."588 On February 12th the report from the committee was brought up and the resolutions severally read and
p.244passed, although not without some opposition. Flood objected to the third proposition, which precluded all prohibitions on import, from which Ireland might gain, but did not preclude prohibitions on export, from which Ireland was at present suffering. This would enable Great Britain to continue her prohibition on the export of wool. The fourth proposition debarred Ireland from ever adopting protective duties, for the Irish duties, the lowest existing, were to be the port duties of both kingdoms.589 Flood pointed out that these had been found too low to protect Irish industries, and that numerous applications had been made for their increase.
But Flood's efforts were unsuccessful; for although he was supported by a few Members in the House, and although various hostile petitions were sent up by manufacturers who wanted protective duties, the feeling of Parliament was in favour of the resolutions now Grattan's amendment had been accepted, and they passed by a large majority. At the same time the Irish Parliament, in a spirit of generosity and gratitude towards England, voted new taxes to the amount of £140,000 for the year.590 They did this in order to show the British Government that they had no intention of keeping down the hereditary revenue so as to evade the contribution. But it was made on the strict understanding that the propositions would be accepted in Great Britain. The Irish Parliament relied on the good faith of Pitt, who, besides his assurance to the Irish Government, had promised Foster that he would get the scheme through the British Houses without any material alteration.591 Rutland seemed satisfied, and wrote to Sydney that although in the tenth proposition he had not been able to abide by the strict letter of the Minister's despatch, he had attended "in the fullest manner to the spirit of it," and that in his opinion the
p.245object was obtained "completely and explicitly and strictly guarded against misconceptions or perversions."592 The resolutions now passed to England, and Pitt introduced them in the House of Commons in committee on February 22nd in a conciliatory speech.593 His object was evidently to convince the House that by the measure little advantage was being given to Ireland that had not already been given to her during the administration of Fox and North, that Ireland could never be in a position to rival Great Britain, and that the chief object of the scheme was to make Ireland now pay for all the favours she had received from England in the past as well as in the present. He thought, however, that the present propositions were founded on justice and expediency. There were, he said, only two possible systems of commercial intercourse between countries situated relatively to each other like Great Britain and Ireland. The one, which made the smaller country completely subservient to the interests of the other, had been tried; it had been a hard and unjust system, and it had been as impolitic as it had been oppressive. But the system was now exploded. Still, although Ireland could do as she liked as regarded her foreign trade, and was at liberty to trade direct with the British colonies, the actual commercial intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland themselves remained unchanged. The alternative system of commercial intercourse had therefore to be tried. This was a participation and community of benefits and a system of equality and fairness, which, without tending to aggrandise the one or depress the other, should seek as its object the aggregate interests of the Empire. Pitt was anxious to place the two countries in a situation of commercial equality in which there would be a community of benefits side by side with a community of burdens.
It was unfortunate, Pitt lamented, that during the administrations of North and Fox so much should have been given to Ireland without receiving from her anything in return. His object now was to give Ireland the very little that was still kept from her, and to ask in return a payment on the part of that country for all the benefits received by her five years ago added to the few trifling benefits now to be given.
Pitt then went on to impress upon the House the insignificant nature of the advantages which would accrue to Ireland by the new scheme. He believed himself that the permission to export colonial produce to Great Britain would be of little use to the Irish people. All that the concession amounted to was that Ireland should have the privilege of bringing to Britain circuitously what Britain herself was able to bring directly. The circuitous route could hardly be cheaper than the direct route. The freight from the West Indies to Ireland was not very much cheaper than it was to England, and added to it there would be the freight from Ireland to Great Britain, and this had been calculated as one-quarter of the original freight. There would also be double insurance, double commission, double port duties, double fees. It was difficult to believe that under such circumstances Irish merchants could become serious rivals in the British markets.
As to the second great principle of the measure, the equalisation of duties, Pitt did not think that Great Britain would suffer. Ireland imposed as a rule a ten per cent duty on all British goods imported. Even with this duty British merchants rivalled Irish in their own markets and with their own goods. It was not therefore likely that when the British duties were lowered to the level of the Irish, Irish merchants would undersell the British in the latter's own markets. And besides, any advantage Ireland would gain from low internal taxes would be neutralised by port duties equal to the
p.247difference of the internal duty levied in Great Britain, being added in that country on the equalising principle.
Pitt then passed on to his most important point, the return which should be made by Ireland for the advantages given to her. It could not be expected that a specific sum should at once be set aside for defraying the general expenses of the Empire. But the proposal that the Irish contribution should be the surplus of the hereditary revenue was a just one; for in proportion to the benefits Ireland would reap from the concessions of 1779 and 1780 and the present ones, the hereditary revenue must rise, as four-fifths of the whole was raised from customs, excise, and hearth money, all of which must necessarily increase with the growth of commerce. Pitt wished the surplus to be irrevocably applied to the general expenses of the Empire, and this, he was afraid, the eleventh proposition did not imply. But as this condition was an absolutely necessary one, he would not call upon the committee to pledge itself to this particular proposition until the Parliament of Ireland should have reconsidered the matter and explained itself more fully. Although he did not doubt the sincerity of the Members of the Irish Parliament, he did not think that in a subject of such moment to Great Britain he could leave anything even to their liberality.
Pitt concluded his speech by moving the following resolution: "That in the opinion of this committee it is highly important to the general interests of the Empire that the commercial intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland shall be finally adjusted, and that Ireland should be admitted to a permanent and irrevocable participation in the commercial advantages of this country, when the Parliament of Ireland shall permanently secure an aid out of the surplus of the hereditary revenue of that kingdom towards defraying the expense of protecting the general commerce of the Empire in time of peace."
But in spite of the ingenuity of Pitt's speech, and
p.248indeed of the real truth of everything he said, his arguments were useless against the mass of prejudice and the spirit of commercial monopoly which still held their own in Great Britain. Everywhere there was a storm of opposition. Within the House, Fox and North denounced the resolutions as destructive of British commerce; outside, the whole country seethed with indignation at the idea of Ireland being admitted to commercial equality. Every manufacturing centre in the kingdom sent up hostile petitions; one, sent from Lancashire, was signed by eighty thousand names. Sixty-two petitions from different parts of the country followed. In London Wedgewood organised the "Chamber of Manufactures in England and Scotland," consisting of delegates from the chief manufacturing centres, to protest against the resolutions.594 Their arguments naturally turned on the low taxes and the low price of labour in Ireland,595 and they declared "that a real Union with Ireland under one legislature would take away every difficulty," and was the only remedy for all evils and the one solution of all commercial questions. This declaration is noticeable as being one of the first of the many suggestions which were soon to follow for a legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland. Its ruling motive was commercial jealousy and a wish to make the Irish people pay the same taxes as the British. In an anonymous letter amongst the Chatham MSS.596 we get a characteristic statement of the growing wish to impose the British system of taxation upon Ireland. "The richer part of the Irish," it runs, "can afford to pay our taxes and the poorer sort would be little affected by them; for what tax can reach in any material degree those who live upon butter, milk, and
p.249potatoes of their own planting? Or if they were affected it would not be probably more than what would oblige them to work an hour more in the week; and at any rate it might be better for the nation that this indolent people did not exist."
Pitt did not hurry the matter and for twelve weeks the House heard witnesses against the propositions. In its present form it was clear that the scheme would never pass and Pitt withdrew it, intending to remodel it and make it more acceptable to the nation.
In the meantime the report of the Committee on Trade and Plantations was completed and sent up.597 This committee had been appointed the previous January by an Order in Council, which referred to it the question of reducing British duties to the level of Irish. It had taken much evidence and most of the manufacturers who had been brought up as witnesses before it were not, in spite of the outcry in the country, particularly hostile to the scheme. The Norwich woollen manufacturers stated that they did not fear the rivalry of Ireland if an equalisation of duties took place, in spite of the cheap wages of Irish spinners. Since the Irish ports had been opened, Irish merchants had not rivalled them in foreign markets, except perhaps in Portugal, as regards coarse stuffs. Irish wool was not as good as English for the ordinary manufacture, while it was unfitted for the finer and more valuable branches. As long as Ireland was prohibited from granting bounties on export, neither the Norwich manufacturers nor the London merchants were adverse to the plan of equalising the duties in the two countries,598 and they were extremely anxious to bring an end to the Irish non-importation agreements. The iron manufacturers also showed themselves more or less favourable to the scheme, for they witnessed before the Commission that they would
p.250not fear the competition of the Irish in case of an equalisation of duties as long as the duties on bar iron were the same on importation into each country.599
As a result of the evidence brought before them, the Committee of Council on Trade proposed: "That the two kingdoms agree on certain moderate duties to be imposed on the importation of goods, the growth and manufacture of the other; such as will secure a due preference in the home market for the like articles of its own growth and manufacture; and yet leave to the sister kingdom advantages, though not equal to its own, yet superior to those granted to any foreign country," and it added that "the duties now payable on British goods imported into Ireland seem, by their moderation, as well adapted to answer this purpose as any that could be devised."600 The committee considered that these duties if imposed on Irish goods imported into Great Britain would give the British "a sufficient preference in the home market" and would amount in general to 10 per cent besides the expenses of freight, commission, etc., from Ireland. In addition to the duties, the great capitals, and the established skill and credit of English merchants must give them an immense start and enable them to hold their own against all Irish rivalry.
But the committee's report was scarcely listened to. Pamphlets were written denouncing its conclusions and hinting that unfair means had been taken to procure evidence in favour of the new measures. The House of Commons practically took no notice either of the committee or of its conclusions. The opposition in the country precluded all possibility of bringing about a measure which should be fair to Ireland. It was said that if the resolutions were passed Ireland might introduce foreign liquor into Great Britain under false pretences, that she might give bounties to goods exported to the colonies, for this was not
p.251forbidden in the scheme, and so rival England in the colonial market, and even that she might become the mart for colonial produce. England would also lose the monopoly of the East India trade, for as Ireland was given an equal power with Great Britain to trade to Asia, the renewal of the Company's charter would depend upon her consent. The colonies too might suffer from the arrangement, for Ireland was not made to lay any permanent high duties on the produce of foreign colonies. She might, therefore, at any time take off her present high duties and admit foreign colonial produce at the expense of British. It was also feared that if the rates of duty were equalised between the two countries Ireland would cease exporting to Great Britain such raw goods as yarn, kelp, tallow, or unmanufactured iron, and instead would export all these articles in their manufactured state. There were even people who believed that under a system of equal duties the Irish would soon be able to undersell the British in the silk manufacture, the cotton manufacture, the manufacture of new drapery, in the iron manufacture, and in the articles of soap and candles.601 Such suppositions were, of course, absurd to all who knew anything at all about the condition of Ireland. And with regard to the re-export trade there was only one advantage which Ireland might have gained: if Irish merchants after landing their colonial cargo in Ireland found that the British market for any particular article was more promising than the Irish, they might re-export that article to Great Britain.602 All this time an argument was going on between the British Ministry and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland concerning the exact nature of the tenth and eleventh propositions. Sydney complained of the precarious nature
p.252of the arrangement, and said that the compact could not be finally closed until "the reservation of the surplus should be put out of the reach of future contingencies."603
Rutland denied that the tenth and eleventh propositions stood upon a precarious footing. He pointed out that new taxes to the amount of £140,000 had just been granted by the Irish Parliament, and this would amply cover the expected deficiency in the revenue, so that the Irish contribution would begin at once. None of the taxes imposed were such as could possibly lower the hereditary revenue, and in case they fell short in their yield Parliament had passed a vote of credit of £50,000 to make good any such deficiency. At the same time, any measure which put a complete stop to the non-importation agreements would cause a rise in the produce of the hereditary revenue by means of the free introduction of British goods. "Upon the whole," wrote the Lord Lieutenant, "I do not think His Majesty's servants will have cause to complain that the interests of Great Britain respecting the contribution have not been attended to in the most ample and guarded manner."604 But at this point in the argument between the two Governments, the opposition in Great Britain made clear that the tenth and eleventh propositions were not the only ones which would have to be altered. No arguments could prevail against the jealous fears of the trading and manufacturing interests, and Pitt, as we have seen, was forced to abandon his position and remodel the whole scheme, taking into account every prejudice of the British trader. The Irish Parliament was given no opportunity of revising its decision on the contribution point and many of the resolutions were altered to the detriment of Ireland.
On May 12th Pitt once more brought forward the Commercial Propositions, now increased from eleven to
p.253twenty. A few of the new clauses were unimportant and merely related to fishing, patents, and copyrights, but others radically altered the whole scheme. If they had been carried out, they would have placed Ireland in a more disadvantageous commercial position, while at the same time they would have made the Irish Parliament absolutely dependent on the British in all matters of commercial legislation. Orde wrote from Ireland that he was most alarmed at the present aspect of proceedings in England, "where you seem to think that the system cannot succeed unless you may be able to prove that the trade and manufactures of Great Britain cannot suffer in any article, and that, of course, you make a favour to Ireland of what is neither valuable nor interesting to you; and unless at the same time you can also hold out a compensation for this nothing so productive and permanent that every risk is to be run to bind this country to it." He solemnly warned the Government that they were not likely to accomplish their object if they pushed too far upon the feelings and pride of Ireland in matters where British interests were not endangered.605
The Twenty Propositions followed in the lines of the original eleven in decreeing that trade was to be as free as possible between the two countries, except as to the export of corn and flour, and of wool from Great Britain. But they stipulated that the Irish Parliament should enact all laws which had been made or which might be made by the British legislature respecting navigation and colonial trade. They struck a blow at the foreign trade of Ireland by commanding the Irish Parliament to enact all laws made in Great Britain prohibiting or imposing duties on goods imported from foreign colonies as well as British. They again interfered with the foreign trade of a country which Great Britain herself had acknowledged to be independent by stipulating that the British Parliament alone was to
p.254fix the duties not only on goods exported from Ireland to the British colonies in America and the West Indies but even on some of those exported to the United States of America. Ireland was forbidden to import into England arrack, rum, foreign brandy and strong waters which did not come from the British West Indies. Further, as long as Great Britain should choose to give an exclusive charter to a company dealing with the East Indies through the port of London, such as the East India Company, Ireland was to be precluded from carrying on any trade with any part of the world, whether English or foreign, from beyond the Cape of Good Hope to the Straits of Magellan or from importing any goods of the growth, produce, or manufacture of India, China, or Persia except through Great Britain. Finally, the stipulation that no surplus of revenue should be contributed by Ireland in time of peace unless the revenue balanced the expenditure was struck out, and all security that the Irish contribution should be kept within just proportions was done away with.
In the British House of Commons the Opposition took the opportunity to attack the Government. Fox, Burke, Sheridan, and Eden all spoke against the new resolutions, but Fox was the most vehement in his criticism.606 He objected to the whole Twenty Propositions as being entirely different to the original eleven. He reprobated the policy of the Government in Ireland in attacking the liberty of the press and the right of public meeting; "and now," he said, "Ministers are desirous of avoiding the consequences of imprudent insult by imprudent concession." The sixteenth proposition was a surrender of the East India Company's charter to Ireland, and he would never consent to ask leave of Ireland to renew it. As for the fourth proposition,607 it directly threatened the prosperity of
p.255the most important British manufactures, besides being an attack on the liberty and independence of the Irish Parliament. The whole scheme was "a commutation of English commerce for Irish slavery [...] Ireland makes an absolute surrender of what is her chief prideI mean the independence of her Parliamentfor a participation the advantages of which Great Britain can always defeat by her resumed power over the Parliament of Ireland. I will not," Fox concluded, "barter English commerce for Irish liberty; that is not the price I would pay, nor is this the thing I would purchase."
But Fox's fine, if somewhat illogical, speech and the efforts of other Members of the Opposition were unsuccessful.608 Pitt was determined this time to carry his scheme, and hurried the Bill through the House. The manufacturing and trading interests were more or less conciliated, and there was little opposition in the country. At the same time, the feeling of Parliament was in favour of the measure, and on May 30th the Twenty Propositions were again read and passed by a large majority.609
But they were to meet with a different reception in Ireland. It has been seen that the chief point with regard to the propositions was that in all laws concerning navigation, the trade with the British colonies, the trade with foreign plantations, and part of the trade with the United States of America, the right of legislation was transferred from the Irish to the British legislature. It was because the resolutions touched their cherished Constitution that the members of the Irish Parliament resisted them so vehemently.
On August 12th Orde asked leave of the Irish House of Commons to bring in a Bill based on the Twenty Propositions, and entitled "A Bill for effectuating the intercourse and commerce between Great Britain and Ireland on permanent and equitable principles for the mutual benefit
p.256of both countries." His speech610 was plausible, and every seeming advantage which Ireland might draw from the proposed arrangements was insisted upon, while all the disadvantages were slurred over. His chief points were that the Twenty Propositions were based on the original eleven already consented to by the House; that the two schemes agreed in their general principles, though not in all matters of detail; and that those modifications which had been made were necessary for the acceptance of the scheme in Great Britain. But these modifications were immaterial, while the advantages which would accrue to Ireland if the plan were accepted were great. The Irish sailcloth manufacture was to be encouraged, the prohibitions on the exportation of rock-salt and bark from Great Britain to Ireland were withdrawn, while British coal was to be exempt from all duty on its exportation to Ireland. Orde's speech on the Twenty Propositions was the precise opposite of Pitt's speech in the British Parliament on the subject of the Eleven Propositions, when greater advantages were proposed to be given to Ireland. Pitt had pointed out that most of the advantages to be given to Ireland were already hers. He had ridiculed the idea that Ireland could ever become the mart of Europe for colonial produce; he had argued the improbability of Irish merchants ever rivalling British; he had pointed out that Irish labour was only cheaper than British in the inferior processes. But Orde, although his private correspondence shows us that he disliked the Bill, was bound to carry it through to the best of his ability, and so his speech had to be very different to that of Pitt. Orde tried to impress on the House that by the proposed arrangement Great Britain was making many new sacrifices to Ireland; he told them that Ireland might become an emporium of trade, and that even Great Britain might supply herself with colonial and foreign produce from her
p.257market; he emphasised the preferable commercial situation of Ireland, the cheapness of living and labour, and the low rate of taxation; and he even affirmed that if the propositions were accepted, it would be open to Ireland in the near future to rival Britain herself in commerce and industry.
But the ingenious arguments of Orde and his supporters on the Treasury benches were of no avail against the enthusiastic onslaught of Grattan, rising to defend the Constitution that he loved, and the careful and detailed exposition of Flood, who, taking the propositions one by one, proved that they were in absolute disagreement with the original eleven, and that in nearly every case under consideration Ireland would be in a more disadvantageous position if the Bill were passed.611 Flood pointed out that the second proposition declared that upon the performance of the condition of tribute a full participation of commerce should be given to Ireland. This declaration was falsified by subsequent propositions, which added condition to condition until there were twenty-three in all, and also by subsequent clauses of restriction which showed that Ireland's commercial freedom was to be restricted rather than extended. Ireland was excluded from trade with about one-quarter of the globe, to the most part of which England had no title; the interference with the Irish trade in foreign spirits was bound to injure the trade of the country with France, Spain, Portugal, and America; Ireland's new trade in candles to the West Indies would be ruined; and, most important of all, the independence of the Irish legislature was practically abolished. The proposition which retained all qualified prohibitions existing in British or Irish statutes was unfair, because there were many such prohibitions in British statutes, but none to the prejudice of Great Britain
p.258in the Irish Statute Book. Another result of this same proposition would be that Ireland would have to give up all her bounties, for any bounty granted by Ireland was to be taken into account in the countervailing duty imposed by Great Britain. By means of this principle of countervailing duties Great Britain had found a way by which she could have higher protective duties than Ireland without seeming to have them.612 Great Britain, too, was to keep her law forbidding the export of raw wool, while Ireland, by clause 14, was prevented from prohibiting or laying duties upon woollen or linen yarn, hides, and all other raw materials which Great Britain required from her in order to work up British manufactures. Clause 7 of the original resolution had, on the other hand, implied that Ireland might take such a step if England adhered to any prohibition not reciprocal. In other ways the propositions had been altered to the disadvantage of Ireland. The original propositions had made the grant to the Navy conditional; that is to say, in time of war the specific surplus was to be given, but in time of peace the contribution was to be conditional upon the revenue balancing the expenditure. The new propositions, on the other hand, established that at no time should Ireland give less than the specified surplus, while in war she might be liable to further demands. The application of the grant was also required to be made perpetual by one Act, whereas the original propositions had conceived the application as a right to be exercised by the Irish Parliament from time to time as circumstances might demand. If a commercial treaty founded on the Twenty Propositions were passed, Ireland might find herself in a very dangerous position. She would be completely at the mercy of the British Parliament in many matters of external legislation, and would have to
p.259submit to see her custom duties raised or lowered according to the needs or desires of Great Britain.
Flood, in fact, objected to the propositions in their entirety. He objected to any definite contribution being made by Ireland to imperial needs, as savouring of the nature of a tribute. It was absurd, he said, for Great Britain to say to Ireland, "You support no marine; all the burden falls on me," when, over a hundred years ago, Ireland had made a perpetual grant for the support of an Irish navy. England had never allowed this grant to be applied, but had disappropriated the fund and applied it to an overgrown land army, the use of which Great Britain had always had without any expense to herself. Flood also was not at all anxious for the establishment of a free trade with Great Britain, for such a free trade would for ever prevent Ireland from improving her manufactures by protective duties. Thus the advantages which the large capitals of English merchants had already given them in the Irish markets would be permanently secured. As for the plantation trade, it was unfair to make it an element in a new bargain, as it had already been granted by North in 1779 and 1780.
But although Flood's speech was clear, and in some ways convincing, it was Grattan rather than he who, by the sheer force of his enthusiasm, and by his irrefutable logic, gave the great blow to Government by reducing their majority to a mere shadow. Grattan had supported the original propositions because he believed that on the whole they would benefit Ireland, and because he knew that Ireland must give as well as take. Ireland could not expect any scheme more advantageous to herself to be passed by the British Parliament, and so Grattan agreed even to those clauses which Flood had thought so injurious to the interests of the country. But when the British Government returned the propositions, altered in most of their fundamental points, rather restricting than extending the trade of Ireland as a whole, and only throwing open
p.260the British markets at the expense of Ireland's foreign trade; when a scheme was presented to the Irish Parliament obliging it to register the edicts of the British legislature, then the whole spirit of Grattan rose in revolt, and he determined to devote all his energies in defence of the Constitution.
The speech613 of Grattan on this occasion was one of his very best. The Duke of Rutland, writing afterwards to Pitt, described it as "a display of the most beautiful eloquence perhaps ever heard,614 and, indeed, its effect on the House was almost miraculous. At the same time, it was characterised, as nearly all Grattan's speeches were, by a clearness, a logic, an absolute mastery of facts, which left nothing to be desired, and which reduced his opponents to a state of bewilderment. Grattan struck with all his might at the clause which restricted the Irish trade to the East. A monopoly was to be given by Ireland to the present or to any future East India Company during its existence. "It has been said that the Irishman in this is in the same situation as the Englishman, but there is this differencethe difference between having and not having the trade." There was to be no limitation of time, no trade for Ireland as long as Great Britain should choose to keep such a chartered company. In the matter of colonial produce Ireland was also to give a monopoly to British plantations. Before she had done so only in certain articles, and then with a power of selection, and only as long as she chose to conform to certain conditions. It was one thing to exclude foreign produce by means of temporary laws made in the Irish Parliament; it was quite another to agree to do so for ever, and to give to the British in the West, as well as in the East, an eternal monopoly for their plantation produce, in the regulating and taxing of which Ireland had no share. It was also noticeable that nearly every
p.261article in the British plantations could be got cheaper elsewhere. As for the assertion that under the scheme Great Britain would bear equal burdens with Ireland in the matter of duties, that was worth nothing, for when two countries were so different from one another as Great Britain and Ireland, an equality in burdens must lead in each to contrary results. "But from this consideration of commerce a question much more high, much more deepthe invaluable question of Constitutionarises, in which the idea of protecting duties and all that detail vanish [...] the question is no less than that which three years ago fired and exalted the Irish nationthe independency of the Irish Parliament." Grattan held the whole scheme to be "nothing less than an intolerance of the parliamentary Constitution of Ireland, a declaration that the full and free external legislation of the Irish Parliament is incompatible with the British Empire. [...] It is an union, an incipient and a creeping union; a virtual union establishing one will in the general concerns of commerce and navigation, and reposing that will in the Parliament of Great Britain; an union where our Parliament preserves its existence after it has lost its authority, and our people are to pay for a parliamentary establishment without any proportion of parliamentary representation. [...] If any body of men," Grattan concluded, "are justified in thinking that the Irish Constitution is incompatible with the British Empire, perish the Empire! live the Constitution!"
Perhaps it was hardly wonderful that from the point of view of a Lord Lieutenant this speech of Grattan should have been regarded as "seditious and inflammatory to a degree hardly credible."615 But then no Viceroy sent from England could possibly enter into the feelings of a man who had played the chief part in establishing the new free Constitution of Ireland, and who, in his own words on a later occasion, was watching over it in its cradle, and who
p.262was, alas! destined to accompany it to its grave. But for the moment Grattan's triumph was complete. His words were greeted with outbursts of applause from the galleries, which were crowded to overflowing, and from the Members, as many of them rose in their seats and cheered. The cheers within the House were taken up outside, where the Dublin populace were assembled, awaiting the fate of the measure they detested. The speech had confirmed the hesitating suspicions of the Commons that their independence was being violated, and, that once done, the defeat of the propositions was easy. When the House divided on the question as to whether Mr. Orde's Bill should be brought in, there was only a majority of nineteen in favour of Government.616 Such a majority was equivalent to a defeat, and Orde found, on canvassing the House, that he could not count on even a bare majority if the Bill were brought in, for many of the persons who had voted for the previous motion could not be prevailed upon to promise to vote for the Bill itself. There was nothing to be done but to drop the whole matter, and Pitt wrote to Rutland that, "with so doubtful a majority, and with so much industry to raise a spirit of opposition without doors, this is not the moment for pressing further."617 The Government dared not risk an absolute defeat by bringing in the Bill.
The enthusiasm of the Irish people at the defeat of the measure was unbounded. The Dublin populace vented their feelings in public illuminations, the non-importation leagues were removed for a short time, Government became unpopular, and the military had to be posted in the streets.
From this time the idea of a legislative union with Ireland began to gain ground in Great Britain. Pitt was disgusted by the failure of his scheme. He was determined
p.263that Ireland should not injure British trade by non-importation agreements, and already he had begun to think of the possibility of a union. Subsequent events during the next fifteen years made the Legislative Union not only possible, but, from an English point of view, inevitable.