The distress which existed in Ireland in the years directly succeeding the repeal of the commercial restrictions was by no means universal or widespread. It seems to have been more or less confined to the artisans of Dublin and its neighbourhood, and was local rather than general in its character. So much had been expected from the grant of free trade, that there was corresponding disappointment when this free trade did not at once bring the prosperity which had been anticipated, and there is no doubt that this feeling of disappointment led to an exaggerated view of the distress which did exist among certain of the manufacturing population of the capital. Certainly the acute commercial suffering of the years from 1776 to 1780 disappeared permanently, and official records show that Irish trade and manufactures sprang up with vitality and rapidity. Broadly speaking, the country began to prosper from as early as 1780; this was stated as an acknowledged fact by the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was given by him as his reason for lowering the Government rate of interest from 6 per cent. to 5 per cent. Credit indeed recovered almost at once, and we hear nothing more of the difficulty of borrowing
p.265money or of raising funds by means of fresh taxation. The Irish Commons did much to foster this new prosperity. They could not spend huge sums of money like England in promoting trade and manufactures, but the sums they did spend were wisely allotted. The industrial aspect of Ireland rapidly changed. Ruined factories sprang into life and new ones were built; the old cornmills which had ceased working so long were everywhere busy; the population of the towns began to increase; the standard of living among the artisan class rose; and even the condition of the peasantry changed slightly for the better. Dublin, instead of being sunk in decay, assumed the appearance of a thriving town. Commercial prosperity, combined with the new independent position of the Irish Parliament, brought with it other advantages. Absentees began to return to their country, attracted by the brilliant life of the Irish capital. Dublin became a home of arts and learning. Magnificent public buildings sprang up. The Dublin Society was given liberal grants by the legislature to enable it to encourage Irish manufactures and agriculture. Parliament took the repair of the streets from the hands of a corrupt Corporation; the principal streets were enlarged, and a great new bridge built. At the same time the popular party in the House of Commons took up the cause of the poor. The conditions of prison life were bettered; the criminal law was revised, and, probably for the first time in modern history, free public baths for the poor were established. In fact, the independent Irish legislature set itself to promote the material prosperity of the country in every possible way, and there is no doubt that its efforts had much to say to the really surprising commercial progress which was made from 1780 until the years immediately preceding the Union. The Irish fisheries became the envy and admiration of Great Britain, and agriculture, as we have already seen, increased rapidly. Various manufactures in Ireland began to thrive; the manufacture of hats,
p.266of boots and shoes,618 of candles and soap,619 of blankets and carpets, of woollens, of printed cottons and fustians, of tabinets and of glass, all sprang into importance, while the linen manufacture, which had decayed during the American War, quickly revived, and in ten years the exports of various kinds of linen doubled.
All this progress was made whilst Irish manufactures, with the one exception of certain kinds of linens, were denied admittance to the British market, and whilst Irish ports were open to all British goods. The majority of the Members of the Irish Parliament never evinced the slightest wish to retaliate on England by imposing heavy duties on British goods, and it must be remembered that they were at liberty to do so had they wished. In 1790, when applications were made by persons engaged in the leather trade in Great Britain to limit by high duties the exportation of bark to Ireland,620 Lord Westmoreland, then Lord Lieutenant, opposed the scheme and spoke in high terms of the conduct of Ireland in commercial matters since the failure of the Commercial Propositions. He said that he had never found any desire on the part of responsible men in Ireland to snatch at any commercial advantage for their country at the expense of Great Britain, and that in all matters relative to the trade of the Empire, he had ever found the Irish Parliament ready and willing to meet the wishes of Government.621 Such words from a Lord Lieutenant are indeed the best proof of the moderation of the Irish legislature in its relations with Great Britain. This moderation is all the more to
p.267be admired on account of the pressure brought to bear on Parliament by the Irish manufacturing interest for protection against British manufactures. But Parliament had no wish to stir up fresh strife, and moreover many of the Members were afraid that if high duties were imposed on British goods England would cease to import Irish linens. This would probably not have injured Ireland to the extent supposed, as there was such a large and growing demand for her linens from America and the plantations. But the Irish Parliament was always nervously anxious not to lose English custom, and it preferred to accept the commercial inequality which existed rather than provoke England to possible retaliation. Indeed, Irish free trade was a mockery as far as England was concerned, and it is because of this fact that the progress of Ireland in trade and manufactures in the years succeeding 1780 is rather surprising.
The Irish woollen manufacturers had anticipated much benefit from the Bill allowing the free exportation of their goods from Ireland. It was the restriction on the woollen trade which had always been resented so bitterly, and the free trade in woollens was coveted more than a free trade in any other article. Immediately there was a boom in the industry. Although the restraints on the export trade were not taken off until December 23rd, 1779, already on January 10th of the following year an entry was made at the Dublin Custom House of 1,300 yards of serge for a foreign market.622 At the same time, it must be remembered that there had probably been some clandestine exportation of woollen stuffs from Ireland to America before the war.
In the year ended Lady Day, 1780, the number of yards of woollen goods exported from Ireland was 9,377, but in the year ended Lady Day, 1785, this amount had
p.268actually risen to 876,236 3/4. The greater part of this export consisted of materials of new drapery, but the exportation of old drapery and flannels also progressed; little frieze was exported, as most was consumed at home. These woollen goods were nearly all sent to the plantations or to foreign countries, as it was utterly unprofitable to export them to Great Britain, on account of the high duties imposed on their importation. But the amount exported in 1785 could not be maintained. The manufacturers seem to have overreached themselves, and something of a reaction set in, with the exception of flannels. In 1786 the amount of old and new drapery exported fell greatly, but from that year to 1792 it kept up fairly well, and the whole woollen industry was in a prosperous enough condition. After 1792, however, the quantity of new drapery exported began to sink, although that of old drapery and flannels maintained itself for a few years longer. From 1798 to the Union the general export of Ireland fell considerably, owing to the disturbances caused by the Rebellion, and to the universal uneasiness among the business and manufacturing population on account of the approaching legislative Union with Great Britain. The woollen manufacture shared in this general decline of trade, and from 1798 till the Union the exportation of all kinds of woollen stuffs declined. It continued to decline at a rapid rate from the Union till 1823, from which date we possess no separate records of Irish exports and imports.
On the whole, after the first impetus given to it by the removal of the trade restrictions, the Irish foreign trade in woollen manufactures did not progress to the same extent as the foreign trade in other articles. In 1793 a petition before the House of Commons stated that four years previously 2,000 looms had been employed in Dublin and its vicinity, but now no more than 500 were at work.623 It
|Year ended 25th March||New Drapery: Yards||Old Drapery: Yards||Flannels: Yards||Frieze: Yards||Woollen and Worsted Stockings: Doz. pairs|
must, of course, be remembered, that 1793 was a year of trade depression, but the decline in the foreign trade in woollen goods had already set in, and after this year the falling off in the amount exported was very rapid in spite of the general revival in trade. The price of raw wool in Ireland was extremely high, and several years
|Year ended 25th March||New Drapery: Yards||Old Drapery: Yards||Flannels: Yards||Frieze: Yards||Woollen and Worsted Stockings: Doz. pairs|
|1785||242,995.5||31,411.25||58,495.5||11,412.75||Not entered separately|
|Year ended 25th March||New Drapery: Yards||Old Drapery: Yards||Flannels: Yards||Frieze: Yards||Woollen and Worsted Stockings: Doz. pairs|
|1785||524,976||2,838.5||1,347||||Not entered separately|
|Year ended 25th March||New Drapery: Yards||Old Drapery: Yards|
before 1793 various petitions had complained of its scarcity.624 The wool produced in the country had deteriorated; this was inevitable, as the restrictions which had prevailed throughout the century on the exportation of woollen manufactures had resulted in wool being grown either for combing purposes or for the manufacture of rough stuffs such as were used by the majority of the people, and Irish wool had in consequence become very
p.272coarse.625 In the seventeenth century Ireland had grown good clothing wool, but in 1785 Lord Sheffield tells us that only three counties furnished any quantity of wool, even coarse, suitable for clothing, while the whole amount produced bore no proportion to the quantity of cloth consumed in the country.626 It was thought that the number of sheep in Ireland had decreased, and that the Irish had not enough wool to supply their own market.627 These statements, however, seem to have been exaggerated, and they were disputed by many persons. Laffan, especially, thought that there was enough wool in Ireland for the whole internal consumption.628 He makes an elaborate calculation, taking as his basis the population of the island, which he estimates with approximate accuracy as 2,475,000 persons, together with the amount of wool needed to clothe each person and the quantity of woollen cloth imported. For example, the amount of new drapery imported into Ireland for the year 1783 was only 420,415 yards.629 This would be barely sufficient for a waistcoat and a pair of breeches for 100,000 persons. For the same year the quantity of old drapery imported was still less, only 371,871 yards630, and this amount would give the same 100,000 persons rather over three yards each for a coat. As for the remaining 2,375,000 men, women, and children, they must be clothed in the native manufacture. It is a well-known fact that the Irish peasant of that time was always clothed entirely in woollen garments, and Laffan was of opinion that a stone
p.273of wool was necessary to provide an ordinary labourer with coat, waistcoat, breeches, hat, and two pairs of stockings. After Laffan wrote, indeed, the importation of old drapery into Ireland steadily increased, and this was partly due to the growing wealth and population of the country, and partly to the increasing difficulty of manufacturing in Ireland the finer kinds of cloth. There is not the slightest doubt that whether Irish wool had decreased in quantity or not, it had deteriorated in quality, and could not be worked up into the fine broadcloth which was made in England from English wool. And so in those branches of the woollen industry in which moderately fine wool was needed, Irish manufacturers had to import their wool from Spain, as England still prohibited the exportation of her wool to any part whatsoever. This was an added expense in the manufacture of Irish broadcloth. Great encouragement, indeed, was given to this branch of the trade by the Irish Parliament, and the Dublin Society had some time previously established a woollen warehouse in the capital, to which they gave the benefit of the retail trade in fine cloth, paying all the costs of house-rent and storage and only allowing ready money to be paid by purchasers. But in spite of these and other encouragements the importation of Spanish wool did not increase very greatly.631 Even in those branches of the English woollen manufacture in which the very fine Spanish wool was needed, Ireland was at a disadvantage, for the finest English wool could nearly always be mixed with the Spanish; Spanish wool, too, could be imported into England at a slightly lower rate than into Ireland, while the materials for dyeing were cheaper in Great Britain. It was, therefore, in the manufacture of these rougher and coarser kinds of cloth, commonly known as new drapery, that Ireland made the chief advance, and in 1785 there were complaints from English woollen
p.274manufacturers that the Irish were beginning to rival them in foreign markets in this branch of the trade. From 1783 to 1787 there was a decrease in the amount of new drapery exported from England to Ireland, and even from 1787 to the Union the quantity of new drapery imported was always less than that of old drapery.
Certainly, putting aside the merely temporary growth of an export trade in woollen stuffs and the failure to manufacture in any quantity the better kinds of cloth, there was an increase in the Irish woollen manufacture as a whole after the removal of the trade restrictions; this increase, it has already been pointed out, was in the direction of manufacturing the coarser kinds of cloths and stuffs, which had been made in the country all through the century. The real effect of the repeal of the restrictions on the Irish woollen industry was not so much a growth of an export trade or an improvement in the quality of cloth manufactured as an increase in those branches of the manufacture which the Irish had more or less always pursued. The whole industry was naturally stimulated and some industrial enterprise was awakened. Several Irish manufacturers made journeys to England to inspect the woollen factories in the western counties and in Yorkshire, and in this way they gained some knowledge of new machines and new processes. These new machines and methods were introduced into the Dublin factories, and also into a new factory which had been set up in County Wicklow, about thirty miles from the capital. This new factory met with some success; besides the machines imported from England, English workmen and their families were induced to come over.632
But there can be no doubt that the admission of English woollen manufactures at very low duties into the Irish market did much to discourage the progress of the Irish industry. Old and new drapery imported into
p.275Ireland from foreign countries were subject to duties equal to a prohibition,633 but English woollens could be brought into the country on payment of the small duties of 51/2d. a yard on old drapery and under 2d. a yard on new.634 English broadcloth was far superior to any that could be made in Ireland, and it was also cheaper. It was even found that the English manufacturers could undersell the Irish in their own markets in articles manufactured with Irish yarn, in spite of all the extra expenses of freight and insurance, etc., incident on conveying their goods from England. In consequence, Irish manufacturers clamoured for protective duties against English woollen goods in favour of the Irish trade. It was felt that in spite of the revival in the industry which had taken place, the manufacture could never thoroughly prosper as long as prohibitory duties kept Irish goods from the English market while English manufacturers were permitted to compete successfully with them at home. The Irish traders demanded that they should be put on an equal footing with the English, and they insisted that this could be done only by laying "such duties on the importation of woollens as might serve to balance the great capitals of the English, the low price of their wool, and their great exactness in furnishing goods."635 There was little spirit of hostility to England. The truth was that Ireland was now in a position to take up a policy of protection just as Great Britain would soon be in a position to take up a policy of free trade. The two countries were at different stages of commercial development, and this was clearly realised by Irish manufacturers. But the idea that their manufacture was hampered by being kept out of the English markets was in reality a false one, for it would have been impossible for Irish manufacturers to have competed successfully with English manufacturers in
p.276the English markets in any branch of the trade. On the other hand, if the Irish Parliament had consented to impose heavy duties on the importation of English woollen goods, the home market for the Irish industry might have been extended, and some encouragement would have existed for the manufacture of the finer and better kinds of cloth.
It is improbable, however, that any possible protective policy could have developed the Irish foreign trade in woollen manufactures to any great extent. That it progressed as much as it did in the face of extraordinary difficulties is a matter of surprise. The revival was considerable while it lasted, but it did not last long. The truth was that the Irish had been excluded so long from the foreign trade that it was impossible for them to begin again at the point where they had left off in 1698. Like the Dutch two centuries before, Ireland having once lost her foreign trade could not permanently regain it. The home trade, however, increased. The amount of woollen goods consumed within the country rose greatly after 1780, and the quantity of both old and new drapery imported during these years did not increase in proportion. At the same time, the exportation of Irish raw wool, yarn, and worsted decreased rapidly.636 On the whole, there is no reason to doubt that this decrease was mainly due to an increase in the Irish woollen manufacture, chiefly for home uses, although a small part of it may have been the result of a decline in sheep breeding, owing to the growth of tillage. But this decrease of sheep breeding did not manifest itself in any marked degree until after the Union.
The glass manufacture probably made more progress during this period than any other Irish industry. Immediately after the withdrawal of the trade restrictions two glass factories were erected in Cork, one for making bottle and window glasses of all kinds, the other for making all
p.277sorts of plate g1ass.637 Very soon the glass manufactured at these factories was held to be equal to any made in Europe, while other glass made at Waterford equalled, if not excelled, the same kind made in Great Britain, in spite of the established skill of the British manufacturers.638 In 1786 the importation into Ireland of all glass except of the manufacture of Great Britain was forbidden,639 and the new policy adopted in Great Britain of taxing glass while in the process of manufacture left the field clearer for Ireland. During this period a fair amount of glass was exported, the greater part of it being sent to the British settlements and the American States. Before 1782 Ireland had imported all her flint glass from England, but now she not only supplied by far the larger part of her own consumption, but also exported some to America.640 Even though some of the materials for the manufacture had to be imported from England, and although wages in this industry were higher in Ireland than in England, Irish glass was sold 10 per cent. cheaper than British, and this must be chiefly put down to the duties levied in Great Britain on glass when in the process of manufacture. These duties placed Ireland more or less on an equality with Great Britain in the industry, for they prevented the English glass manufacturers from flooding Ireland with their goods like the woollen and other manufacturers did, and they enabled the Irish to compete with the British in foreign and colonial markets.
Next to the glass industry, the Irish cotton manufacture seems to have made the most progress after the repeal of the commercial restrictions. As early as 1783 the Lord Lieutenant wrote that the printing of cottons had been brought to great perfection in Ireland, and he was
|Year ended 25th March||Ware: £||Drinking glasses: no.||Cases: no.||Bottles: no.||Vials: no.|
therefore anxious that the Portuguese should be induced to allow their plain cottons to be sent to the country and to be returned printed to Portugal.642 In 1784 the Manchester cotton manufacturers attributed the great decrease in their trade with Ireland not only to the non-importation agreements which were then in existence, but also to the fact that the Irish were beginning to make for themselves such articles as fustians, cottons, and calicoes.643 This progress
p.279was mainly due to the efforts of Robert Brooke, who was the first person to establish the cotton manufacture in Ireland on a large scale and to introduce up-to-date methods and machinery. At his cotton factories at Prosperous, Brooke employed nearly 7,000 persons, while he took as apprentices a large number of children and young people.644 For a little time he found it difficult to sell his cottons owing to the competition of the Manchester manufacturers and the half-hearted co-operation of the Dublin retailers.645 Luckily, his goods were staple articles, and at the close of the war fortune came to him. In 1783, three years after Brooke started his enterprise, several Irish merchants, who believed in the possibilities of the manufacture, bought from him a quantity of goods and shipped them to America. From that time the manufacture took a favourable turn; merchants made considerable purchases for the American market; a promising trade was opened up with the Portuguese, and there was some prospect of a trade to Ostend. This success naturally alarmed the Manchester merchants, and the English cotton manufacturers began flooding the Irish markets with their goods, selling them at reduced prices, in order to crush out the new industry. But these attempts do not appear to have succeeded, for there continued to be a general decrease in the amount of English cotton goods exported to Ireland. In the case of printed cottons and calicoes this decrease was especially noticeable, and it was also great in the article of fustians. Mr. Harper, in his evidence before the Committee on Irish Manufactures in 1784, said that cotton printing in Ireland was as good as in England, and that Irish printed cottons were even being smuggled into England.646 American
p.280importers stated that Irish corduroys were equal to the best British.647 Altogether, the prospects of the industry were hopeful.
There was a good deal of enterprise connected with the manufacture. The best machinery was imported from England. Besides Brooke's large factory at Prosperous, there were in a few years cotton factories at Slane, Balbriggan, and Finglass in County Dublin.648 Several English manufacturers set up other factories in County Waterford.649 Parliament gave a bounty of 88 per cent. on the exportation of fustians, and the Irish Linen Board subsidised Robert Brooke and made loans to manufacturers.650
In 1793, owing to the general stagnation of trade, several cotton manufacturers in Ireland failed. English merchants took the opportunity of pouring their goods into the country at prices less than the prime cost. During the next year several Irish manufacturers sent up petitions to Parliament stating that this action of the Manchester merchants threatened to annihilate their industry and praying for protective duties.651 The cotton manufacture was now well established in Ireland, and its success seemed necessary to the prosperity of the country. The non-importation agreements had ceased, and after some pressure Parliament at last went back from its policy of refusing to impose high duties on British goods and laid heavy duties on all cottons imported into Ireland, British not excepted. These duties were not so high as those levied in Great Britain on the importation of cottons, but
p.281they were very heavy. Duties from 40 to 50 per cent. ad valorem were levied on plain calicoes, and 35 per cent. on plain muslins, while the duties were at a slightly lower rate on coloured, worked, or figured cottons. This protective policy stimulated the industry. There was now a large cotton manufacture at Belfast, and during the closing years of the century the whole cotton industry became so prosperous that it threatened to rival the linen manufacture, and many linen weavers began to take to cotton weaving. At the time of the Union the cotton industry ranked next to the linen in value, and there were in existence thirteen cotton mills capable of working up 500,000 pounds of cotton, while much capital was invested in the industry.652 Fustians were still imported from England, but the whole consumption of Ireland in calicoes and muslins was supplied by herself. The home trade in cotton goods was very much greater than the foreign trade.
All this time the linen manufacture continued to develop satisfactorily. The exports of plain linen cloth increased enormously from 1780 to 1796, the comparative fall during the last four years of the century being, of course, due to the general condition of the country. A thriving trade in coloured linens to the American States and the British plantations was opened up. Nearly all the coloured linen exported was sent to these places, for it was still excluded from the British markets by duties equal to a prohibition, whilst most of the Continental nations imposed heavy duties on the importation of these articles. A fair amount of cambric and lawn was also sent to America and the plantations, and at the beginning of the war with France it seemed likely that a demand might arise in Great Britain. As a result the manufacturers increased their output, but in 1794 an Act653 was passed in Great Britain allowing French cambric and lawn to be imported by way
p.282of the Austrian Netherlands. This caused some distress in the Irish industry, for merchants found themselves with stock on their hands of which they could not dispose.654 Fortunately the Act only lasted two years, and the distress in the trade was merely temporary. Thread stockings and a considerable amount of mixed linen, silk and cotton goods were also exported. The Irish foreign trade in linen goods was now far superior to that of Scotland, in spite of the encouragement which the latter country had received for nearly a century. In the article of plain linen cloth alone Ireland exported well over 469 million yards, as against 23 million exported from Scotland.655
Some progress was made in the silk industry, but little was exported, only a few pounds of manufactured and thrown silk and a few pairs of silk stockings every year. It was difficult for Ireland to compete in the trade, for she could not get her raw silk cheap like England, who had the monopoly of East India silk. Ireland took her raw silk chiefly from England, and thus the materials for the manufacture cost her more. It was in the manufacture of tabinets and poplins and other mixed goods that the Irish excelled. During this period there was a flourishing tabinet manufacture in Dublin and its neighbourhood, which gave employment to a considerable number of persons. Some quantity was exported, but never to any great amount; the greater part was consumed at home.
The sugar-refining industry was a subject of much agitation during these years. In 1780 it was agreed that Ireland should have a free trade to the colonies on condition that all colonial commodities should be imported into and exported from Ireland subject to the same duties under which they were imported into and exported from Great Britain. Sugar was one of these commodities. The duty payable in Great Britain on the
|Year ended 25th March||Plain Linen: Yards||Coloured Linen: Yards||Cambric and Lawn: Yards||Mixed Goods: £|
importation of raw sugar was 7s. 2 1/2d. per cwt., and in Ireland 1s. 8d.; it was therefore necessary to add 5s. 6 1/2d. per cwt. to the Irish duty.656 This addition was made, and in consequence the prices of refined sugar in Ireland rose. But there were at once demands for a duty on English refined sugars, because the bounty given in Great Britain on the exportation of refined sugars was 2s. 6d. per cwt. more than the duty paid on the importation of raw sugar. This was, of course, equal to a premium of 2s. 6d., and
p.284was believed to have enabled the British refiners to undersell Irish refiners in the Irish markets. The latter therefore sent up a petition to Parliament praying for such a duty on the importation of refined sugars as would secure to them an advantage in their own markets.657 The petitioners were supported in the House of Commons by Flood and Grattan, and for a long time there were lengthy debates on the subject. Very heavy duties were at first proposed by the popular party, but Government managed to reduce their proposals to a more moderate figure. Eventually it was decidedin 1786that all refined sugars coming from Great Britain or the British colonies were to pay additional duties; refined sugars in loaves, not being bastards, were subject to a duty of £1 16s. 9 1/2d. per cwt., on bastards the duty was 18s. 4d. per cwt., while other refined sugars were rated in proportion.658 At first there was a good deal of discontent in Dublin, for the new duties combined with the original ones did not amount to anything like the import duty on refined sugars levied in Great Britain.659 Meetings were held by the sugar refiners expressing their dislike of the action of Government, and there was some idea of establishing an association not to import British sugars. The idea, however, fell through, owing to a want of agreement among the parties interested, and after a time the agitation died down. This was probably due to the increasing prosperity of the Irish sugar-refining industry, for as far as can be judged from the entries in the Commons Journals it did make considerable progress from this time till the Union. Irish refiners were, however, at a disadvantage compared with British, for the duty on the importation of refined sugars was about one-third less in Ireland than in Great Britain, while the British refiners had the further advantage of a large bounty on the exportation of their sugars,
p.285which more than neutralised the import duty on raw sugars.
The condition of the Irish brewing industry attracted attention during this period.660 The Irish Government and Parliament were both anxious, chiefly upon moral grounds, to promote brewing at the expense of distilling. In 1791 the Lord Lieutenant wrote that "a number of very respectable persons, reflecting upon the great mischiefs to society which was daily felt from the immoderate use of spirituous liquors," had solicited the assistance of Government to remedy the evil. The chief measure suggested for remedying the abuse was the encouragement of breweries and the discouragement of distilleries. It was said that the bounty of 1s. per barrel granted upon British beer exported to Ireland prevented any progress being made in the Irish brewing industry, and Westmoreland recommended either that this bounty should be removed or that a higher duty should be imposed on the importation of British beer. The discouragement of the distilling industry was to be effected by an additional duty upon home-made spirits, and by a stricter execution of the laws against private distilling. It was thought that the country gentry would not be against this scheme, "especially if they can be convinced that, malt liquor being substituted for spirits, the consumption of the produce of their lands, and consequently their rents, will not be diminished."661 The suggested duty on British beer imported does not seem to have been imposed, for the British Ministry wrote that the bounty paid on the exportation of beer to Ireland, as well as to other countries,
p.286only took place under certain conditions, and was balanced by the excise duties paid on malt and hops used in brewing the beer, as such duties were not drawn back on the exportation of the finished product.662 The excise duty on beer in Ireland was, however, lowered by the Irish Parliament, and an additional duty of 6d. per gallon was laid upon home-made spirits. This additional duty necessitated a higher duty on imported spirits, and further duties of 8d. per gallon on rum and 10d. per gallon on brandy and other foreign spirits was levied.663 The result of the change in duties was that a barrel of malt distilled paid almost 4s. more than a barrel of malt brewed, and in proportion to the strength of the beer its relative advantage over spirits increased.664 The restraint on the immoderate use of spirits was also assisted by the regulation of licences,665, and the brewing industry was encouraged still further by the admission of foreign hops into Ireland at an additional duty of 1d. per pound above the duty payable on British hops,666 when the price of hops was £9 sterling per cwt.667 The Lord Lieutenant's Secretary wrote that he hoped that this would prevent foreign hops from interfering with British, except in times of scarcity.668 As a result of these new regulations the recent decline in the Irish brewing industry was checked, and the output of beer and porter has continued to increase up to the present day. The progress of the brewing industry was not, however, coincident with a decline in the Irish distilling industry, in spite of the new taxation. Small distilleries disappeared, but the large ones increased their output, and the total amount of spirits distilled steadily rose. In 1780 the total produce of the distilleries was 1,227,651 gallons.
p.287This had increased to 3,497,596 gallons in 1792, just as the new policy of encouraging the breweries was being adopted; but in 1798 the total amount of spirits distilled increased to 4,783,954 gallons.669 Of course, it must be remembered that illicit distillation was probably more widespread in the earlier years, and this would not be included in the official figures. With the growth of large distilleries and the disappearance of the numerous small ones, which had formerly existed, illicit distillation became more risky, and consequently decreased. The excise duty paid on spirits in Ireland was, however, very much lower than that levied in Great Britain.
Some efforts were made to develop the mineral resources of Ireland. The Irish coalfields had been economically of little importance, and had merely yielded a small supply for home consumption. From 1783 onwards various plans were set on foot for increasing the supply. Witnesses stated before the House of Commons that 10,000 tons of Kilkenny coal were sold annually in Dublin, and that if this coal were reduced in price by means of increased facilities for land transit, its consumption would be increased tenfold, as Kilkenny coal was as good as any produced in England for furnaces and for kitchen purposes. It was said that 20 cwt. of Kilkenny coal would last as long as 36 cwt. of the best Whitehaven, and that the coals of the Lough Allen collieries were equal in quality to the best Whitehaven. These optimistic witnesses insisted that the whole kingdom might easily be supplied from the Kilkenny and Lough Allen collieries, so that "the manufactures of Birmingham and Sheffield might be established in Ireland."670 There were also great quantities of ironstone at the Arigna ironworks, in the county of Leitrim, which could be raised at 2s. 6d. per ton.671 But whether these statements were accurate or not,
p.288little success attended the efforts which were made to develop the coalfields and ironworks of Ireland. It was difficult to raise sufficient capital, and the expenses of land carriage were so great that it was cheaper for Dublin merchants to obtain their coal from England. Only a small part of the consumption of the country continued to be supplied by the Irish coalfields. After the Union various spasmodic efforts were made to raise larger supplies of coal in Ireland; but again the difficulties of transit proved too great, and some of the mines were abandoned as unprofitable early in the nineteenth century. In more recent years, however, there has been some increase in the output of Irish coal. For the past few years there have been twenty-four mines at work in the different coalfields employing one thousand persons and raising annually 125,000 tons.672 This figure appears very small when compared with the 30,000,000 tons produced annually by Scotland, but there is no doubt that greater transit facilities from the mines to the main lines of railway might do much to increase the local use of Irish coal and encourage the industry.
The efforts of the Irish Parliament to develop Irish resources in another direction met with greater success. Irish fisheries now sprang into importance by means of a careful system of bounties and a wise system of inspection of all fish exported. In 1778 only forty fishing vessels had existed in Ireland, but in 1781 there were 333 fishing vessels eligible for bounty. In the following year this number had increased to 700, while there were three large ships of 200 tons each too large to receive the bounty, and many other vessels which carried less than the requisite number of tons.673. In this year1782the idea was started of exporting Irish herrings to the West Indies in bulk. The experiment was tried, the fish sold at
p.289Barbadoes at half the market price, and a clear profit was made of £200 upon a vessel of sixty tons after all expenses of wages and freight, etc., had been defrayed.674 Whether this policy of giving bounties on fishing vessels would have permanently placed the Irish fishing industry on a secure basis is difficult to say, and it cannot but compare unfavourably with the modern policy of developing fishing by means of increasing transit facilities. The Irish Parliament followed the ordinary policy of the time, and the bounties which it gave seem to have been better organised than those which were granted in Great Britain. Much of the success which attended the development of the Irish fisheries was, however, due to the thorough system of inspection before exportation which was applied to the fishing as well as to other industries. The Irish Parliament was anxious to secure a good reputation in foreign markets for Irish goods. British witnesses testified that Irish herrings were sought after more than their own because of the unimpeachable character of all Irish fish.675 Often the West India fleet leaving the Clyde would go to Cork to ship Irish herrings. Irish fishermen went to different parts of Scotland to teach the people fish curing, while others went further afield and established a "great fishery on the banks of Newfoundland," which, in 1785, "increases daily."676 So high stood the name of Irish fishermen for honesty of dealing that their herrings sold 14 1/2 per cent. cheaper than the Scotch, and they were never charged with the frauds and tricks which had nearly destroyed the sale of British herrings in European markets.677 The same system of inspection which was applied in Ireland to fish was also applied to beef and pork, and the English Inspector-General of exports and
p.290imports stated that, in his belief, Ireland was in no small degree indebted to this regulation for the superior quality and character of her meat and the higher price which it fetched in every part of the world.678
The East India trade was the subject of much discussion during this period both within Parliament and outside. As the Commercial Propositions had failed, Ireland was at liberty to trade direct to the East on her own account. There was a great deal of disagreement as to whether this direct trade was commercially possible. In a report sent up to Pitt on the subject it was stated that it was probably impossible for Ireland to export any goods to the East upon equal terms with England. Bullion could not be sent at all, and woollens, jewellery, and all other manufactures required in the trade could be supplied cheaper by English merchants. The want of credit and capital would greatly hamper Irish traders, and, in fact, "the same causes which have prevented the foreign companies who have small possessions in India from succeeding in competition with the British East India Company will for ever operate against an Irish trade to the East Indies."679 But a party in the Irish Parliament was anxious to preserve to Ireland the right of trading to the East, because even though a direct trade might not be profitable all at once, a new trade through different channels might in the future arise within the countries contained in the East India Company's charter, in which it might be possible for Irish merchants to engage with some prospect of success. It was argued that a beginning had to be made, and that England had not built up her trade to the East all in a day. Time would give the necessary credit and capital to Irish merchants. But the
p.291majority of the Irish Commons were afraid of rousing the hostility of England by starting a direct trade between Ireland and the East, and they began to co-operate with Government in order to arrive at some satisfactory settlement, while leaving the monopoly of the East India trade in the hands of the Company. Mr. Beresford and Sir John Parnell, two of the Government's supporters in the Commons, were requested to draw up a memorandum concerning the legitimate demands of Ireland in regard to the trade, and in May, 1793, the report was sent up.680 It was pointed out that Ireland lay under great disadvantages, because none of the Company's ships touched at her ports and all East India commodities came to her burdened with the extra expense due to their carriage from England, while Irish goods had first to be sent to England before they were taken by the Company. It was therefore suggested that the goods of Ireland should be carried out to India upon the same terms and with the same advantages as those of Great Britain, and therefore that one of the Company's ships should touch at Cork once every year to carry out such goods. In return for the monopoly of Irish consumption the East India Company should either supply that consumption direct from India, or should arrange their prices so that the increased expense due to the carriage from England to Ireland should not fall upon Irish consumers. Ships, the property of Irish subjects, should be entitled to the same liberty of navigating the seas from beyond the Cape of Good Hope to the Straits of Magellan as was allowed to ships the property of British subjects. In return for all this it was suggested that the Irish Parliament should give up all idea of trading to the East as long as the East India Company existed, and should agree to confirm the Company's charter for any term of years that England might grant it.
p.292So far Ireland had not contravened the Company's charter, and by a clause in the Revenue Bill she had annually prohibited since 1782 the importation of tea except from England.
Most of the suggestions of Mr. Beresford and Sir John Parnell were accepted by Government, and on June 20th Major Hobart, the Chief Secretary, moved for leave in the Irish House of Commons to bring in a Bill "for regulating the trade of Ireland to and from the East Indies under certain conditions, and provisions for a time to be therein limited." He emphasised the advantages which would arise to the commercial interest of the Empire, and pointed out that under the Bill the people of Ireland would be placed in the same position as the people of Great Britain, for the East India Company would be bound to send annually to Cork a ship of 800 tons to take on board such articles of Irish manufacture as might be exported from hence to the East.681 The Bill passed two readings, and on July 4th there was a debate on the subject in the Commons before the House resolved itself into a committee. Grattan, at last, gave an unwilling consent, the committee agreed to the measure, and the Bill passed its Third Reading on July 11th. Westmoreland wrote that the Bill had passed "with a degree of liberality which I must say does very great honour to the House of Commons."682 The new construction which had been given to the Navigation Acts, and which had resulted in allowing Ireland to re-export West Indian goods to Great Britain, was the chief cause of the alacrity with which the Irish Commons acceded to the wishes of Government. Two of the most important commercial questions which had agitated the two countries in 1785 were thus settled, and Westmoreland wrote that
p.293the remaining points ought to admit of easy adjustment. He advised that the commercial intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland should be established upon clear and permanent principles, as this would do away with the clamour for protective duties, and would prevent the clashing of drawbacks and bounties.683 Hobart wrote triumphantly that he hoped the conduct of the Irish Parliament would prove to the British Ministry that he was right when he urged the expediency "of treating Ireland with liberality, and for once conferring a favour without letting it appear to have been extorted."684
A study of the commercial and industrial history of Ireland during those twenty years from 1780 to the Union certainly shows that material progress was being made, and that the Irish were beginning to evince a spirit of industrial enterprise. Of course many checks and drawbacks had to be encountered, and it was difficult for Ireland to compete successfully with those other nations which had such a long industrial start. The effects of the commercial restrictions could not but remain in the country, even after the restrictions themselves had been removed. This is why the foreign trade in woollen goods could not keep at the high level it had attained in 1785; it was one of the chief reasons why Irish manufacturers were possessed of such little capital and Irish artisans of such little skill; and it was the main reason why in later years Irish industries dwindled and decayed under the stress of British and foreign competition brought about by the new policy of free trade. But that so much progress was made in spite of the still existing commercial inequality with Great Britain says something for the elasticity of the country and for the new spirit of enterprise which commercial and political freedom had awakened among the Irish people. From 1704 to 1782 the general export of Ireland increased from one to thirty-two, but in fourteen
p.294years, from 1782 to 1796, it rose from thirty-two to eighty-eight.685 We hear little of the old complaint of want of employment in the towns, except during two or three years of localised distress, for the growing manufactures kept all hands at work. At the same time, there is some reason to believe that the condition of the peasantry changed slightly for the better. The extension of tillage made their position less precarious, and it was not until after the Union that the evils due to the too sudden increase of arable farming began to appear. The famines, which had occurred so frequently all through the century, disappeared for the time being, and the new national feeling did something to establish more humane sentiments towards the peasantry. The class of resident landlords was larger than it had been since the beginning of the century, and especially during the volunteer movement Irish landlords wished to appear at the head of a prosperous tenantry. On the whole this short period of legislative independence in Ireland was by far the most prosperous period which the country had ever experienced. The Irish Parliament included among its Members many brilliant and capable men, who knew by what means they might best promote the prosperity of their country. The pity was that they had only a short twenty years in which to work, and that when the Union took place the industrial life of the Irish people was not fully or firmly enough established to benefit by the new connection. From a material point of view the Union achieved nothing for Ireland, simply because the two countries were too different in their economic life to allow of both reaping equal benefit from the operation of the same commercial system. Almost directly after the Union there began a decline in Irish trade and industry, slow at first, but afterwards very rapid, a decline which only quite recently has begun to be arrested. It is indeed doubtful whether, even at the
p.295present day, Ireland is much richer than she was in the years before the Union. Her population is a little less, the percentage of the population employed wholly or partially in manufacturing industry is less, there is a greater gulf fixed between agricultural and industrial pursuits, so that the mass of the people are thrown far more entirely upon the land. On the other hand, the material condition of the Irish poor has certainly improved in recent years, although this improvement is by no means commensurate with the progress which has been made amongst the lowest working classes in Great Britain.