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A NATIONAL COMPACT.
than in these Addresses and answers, that if the Irish would come into the compact of giving up their then great staple of woollens to England, and cultivating the linens in lieu thereof, they should receive all the countenance, favour, and protection for the encouragement and promotion of their linen manufacture to all the advantages their kingdom was capable of, that the Commons would always be ready to give their utmost assistance, and his Majesty would do all that in him lay to encourage the linen manufacture there ; and they had the effect of inducing the Parliament of Ireland to accede, as will appear from what follows.
“The Lords Justices of Ireland say, in their speech to the Irish Parliament, the 27th September, 1698:* ‘Amongst those bills there is one for the encouragement of the linen and hempen manufactures. At our first meeting we recommended to you that matter, and we have now endeavoured to render that bill practicable and useful for that effect, and as such we now recommend it to you. The settlement of this manufacture will contribute much to people the country, and will be found much more advantageous to this kingdom than the woollen manufacture, which, being the settled staple trade of England, can never be encouraged here for that purpose ; whereas the linen and hempen manufactures will not only be encouraged, as consistent with the trade of England, but will render the trade of this kingdom both useful and necessary to England.'
* “ Irish Commons' Journals,” ii., p. 241.
"The Commons replied : 'We pray leave to assure your Excellencies that we shall heartily endeavour to establish a linen and hempen manufacture here, and to render the same useful to England, as well as advantageous to this kingdom; and we hope to find such a temperament in respect to the woollen trade here that the same may not be injurious to England.'* In pursuance of this answer they evinced that temperament most effectually by passing an Act | for laying prohibitory duties on the export of their own woollen manufacture—thus accepting the national compact and fully performing their part of the agreement, and by that performance giving an incontrovertible claim to Ireland upon England, and consequently upon Great Britain, for a perpetual encouragement of the linen manufacture to all the advantage and profit that Ireland should at any time be capable of.'
“It is to be observed that so anxious was England to confirm and enforce this ratification given by Ireland, that their Parliament soon after passed a law affecting to enact what subsequent times have shown it was incompetent to, and which we therefore here mention merely to point out the stress which England laid on the sacrifice made by Ireland of its great and natural staple trade, in exchange for a new staple resting on a material not the natural growth of the country, and the establishment of which was but in its infancy, though nurtured for near sixty years by
* "Irish Commons' Journals,” ii., p. 243.
The WOOLLEN TRADE CRUSHED.
the Government of the kingdom. The Act we refer to is the 10 & II Will. III., cap. 10, which recites that wool and the woollen manufacture of cloth, serge, bays, kerseys, and other stuffs made or mixed with wool, are the greatest and most profitable commodities of the kingdom, on which the value of lands and the trade of the nation do chiefly depend; that great quantities of the like manufactures have of late been made, and are daily increasing in the kingdom of Ireland, and in the English Plantations in America, and are exported from thence to foreign markets heretofore supplied from England : all which inevitably tends to injure the value of lands, and to ruin the trade and woollen manufactures of the realm; and that for the prevention thereof the export of wool and of the woollen manufacture from Ireland be prohibited under the forfeiture of goods and ship, and a penalty of £500 for every such offence.!"
Ireland's woollen manufacture was thus sacrificed to England's commercial jealousy.* I will give hereafter some account of the widespread misery this industrial calamity entailed. It might have been
* Subsequent Acts completed this annihilation. “The next Act,” says Lord North, after enumerating the Acts mentioned above, an Act of the 5th Geo. I., the next the 5th and 12th of the late King (Geo. II.), which last went so far as to prohibit the export of a kind of woollen manufacture called waddings, and one or two other articles excepted out of the roth and with of King William ; but these three last Acts swept everything before them.” (“ Parliamentary Debates," xv. 176, 177.)
expected that the solemn compact for the encouragement of the linen trade would have been scrupulously observed. This, however, was not the case. The English Parliament deliberately broke faith with the Irish people.
This charge I will substantiate by quotations from the speeches of public men in the English Parliament, the words of the English statute book, and the admissions of English writers.
Lord Rockingham, speaking in the English House of Lords on the rith of May, 1779, “ reminded their lordships of the compact made between both kingdoms in King William's time, when the Parliament of Ireland consented to prohibit the export of their own woollen manufacture, in order to give that of England a preference, by laying a duty equal to a full prohibition on every species of woollens, or even of the raw commodity, and of the solemn assurances given by both Houses of the British Parliament that they would give every possible encouragement, and abstain from every measure which could prevent the linen manufacture to be rendered the staple of Ireland. But how had England kept its word ? By laying duties or granting bounties to the linens of British manufacture equal to a prohibition of the Irish, and at the same time giving every kind of private and public encouragement to render Scotland a real rival to Ireland in almost every species of her linen fabrics.”* " Ireland," says Lord North when Prime Minister
* “Parliamentary Debates," vol. xiii., 33).
A BREACH OF FAITH.
of England, in the speech from which I have previously quoted, “ gave up her woollen trade by compact. The compact was an exclusive linen trade, rather a fair competition with England. Ireland, of her own accord, gave up the woollen trade by an Act of her own Legislature, which, when it expired, was made perpetual by an Act of the British Parliament. But this compact was no sooner made than it was violated by England, for, instead of prohibiting foreign linens, duties were laid on and necessarily collected, so far from amounting to a prohibition on the import of the Dutch, German, and East Country linen manufactures, that those manufactures have been able, after having the duties imposed on them by the British Parliament, to meet, and in some instances to undersell, Ireland both in Great Britain and the West Indies, and several other parts of the British Empire."*
Writing in 1778 to the opponents of some trifling relaxation of the commercial restraints of Ireland, Edmund Burke asks : " Do they forget that the whole woollen manufacture of Ireland, the most extensive and profitable of any, and the natural staple of that kingdom, has been in a manner so destroyed by restrictive laws of their own, that in a few years it is probable they (the Irish) will not be able to wear a coat of their own fabric? Is this equality? Do gentlemen forget that the understood faith upon which they were persuaded to such an unnatural act has not been kept,
* “Parliamentary Debates," vol. xv., 181.