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A HELPLESS PARLIAMENT.
imposed on the importation of English cloths, while ours in England were charged with a duty of £2 os. 6d." *
Mr. Pitt, speaking as Prime Minister in the British House of Commons in February, 1785, stated that on most of the manufactures of Ireland prohibitory duties were laid by Great Britain. “They (the Irish) had not,” he said, "admitted our commodities totally free from duties; they bore, upon an average, about ten per cent.”+
The helplessness of the Irish Parliament during this period is demonstrated by Hely Hutchinson. He states that in 1721, during a period of great distress, the speech from the Throne, and the Addresses to the King and the Lord-Lieutenant declare in the strongest terms the great decay of trade, and the very low and impoverished state to which the country was reduced. “But,” he says, “it is a melancholy proof of the desponding state of this kingdom, that no law whatever was then proposed for encouraging trade or manufactures, or, to follow the words of the address, for reviving trade or making us a flourishing people, unless that for amending laws as to butter and tallow casks deserves to be so called. And why? Because it was well understood by both Houses of Parliament that they had no power to remove those restraints which prohibited trade and discouraged manufactures, and that any application for that purpose would at
* "Irish Debates," vol. iii., 132.
that time have only offended the people on one side of the Channel, without bringing any relief to those on the other.”*
The Irish Parliament did, however, what they could. Thus, “in the sessions of 1703, 1705, and 1707, the House of Commons resolved unanimously that it would greatly conduce to the relief of the poor and the good of the kingdom, that the inhabitants thereof should use none other but the manufactures of this kingdom in their apparel, and the furniture of their houses; and in the last of those sessions, the members engaged their honours to each other that they would conform to the said resolution.” † Many of their suggestions for the encouragement of home produce are of extraordinary ingenuity. In 1727, the Privy Council allowed a bill to become law, entitled “An Act to encourage the home consumption of wool by burying in wool only," providing that no person should be buried "in any stuff or thing other than
* "Commercial Restraints,” pp. 40–41. Speaking of the great distress in the years 1740 and 1741, Hely Hutchinson again deplores the inability of the Irish Parliament to alleviate the misery of the poor.
They (the Commons) could not have been insensible of the miseries of their fellow-creatures, many thousands of whom were lost in those years, some from absolute want and many from disorders occasioned by bad provisions. Why was no attempt made for their relief? Because the Commons knew that the evil was out of their reach, and the poor were not employed because they were discouraged by restrictive laws from working up the materials of their own country, and that agricul. ture could not be encouraged when the lower classes of the people were not enabled by their industry to purchase the produce of the farmer's labour.”—(“Commercial Restraints,” pp. 47–48.)
+ " Commercial Restraints,” pp. 210, 211.
what is made of sheep or lambs' wool only."* The custom, now grotesque and unmeaning, but still in vogue in Ireland, of wearing scarfs at funerals, was recommended in the interest of the linen manufacture, and was first introduced in 1729 at the funeral of Mr. Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.f So, too, spinning schools were established in every county, and a board of trustees was appointed to watch over the interests of the linen manufacture; “but the utter want of capital, the neglect of the grand juries, the ignorance, poverty, and degradation of the inhabitants, made the attempt to create a new manufacture hopeless." I
These efforts of the Irish Parliament, though of little practical effect, demonstrate their keen appreciation of the sufferings around them and their sympathy with the wants and wishes of their people, who were crushed by a system which Mr. Pitt has characterised as one “of cruel and abominable restraint."
7 George II. (Irish) c. 13. This Irish Statute was framed on the model of an Act passed by the English Parliament in 1678, providing that all dead bodies should be wrapped in woollen shrouds. Dean Swift warmly approved of this measure which, however, he seemed to think would never pass the Privy Councils. “What,” he says, “if we should agree to make burying in woollen a fashion, as our neighbours have made it a law?" Swift's Works (Scott's Ed.), vi., p. 274.
+ Finlayson's “Monumental Inscriptions in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin,” p. 27.
Lecky's “Eighteenth Century," vol. ii., 215. § “Parliamentary Register,” 17, 249. Mr. Lecky pays a high compli. ment to the exertions of the Irish Parliament to protect the material interests of their country. “During the greater part of the century (i8th century) it had little power except that of protesting against laws
Speaking in the English House of Commons in 1785, that statesman bade members "recollect that from the Revolution to a period within the memory of every man who heard him, indeed until these very few years,
, the system had been that of debarring Ireland from the enjoyment and use of her own resources, to make that kingdom completely subservient to the interests and opulence of this country, without suffering her to share in the bounties of nature, in the industries of her citizens, or making them contribute to the general interests and strength of the empire.'*
"No country," says Mr. Lecky, "ever exercised a more complete control over the destinies of another than did England over those of Ireland, for threequarters of a century after the Revolution. No serious resistance of any kind was attempted. The nation was as passive as clay in the hands of the potter, and it is a circumstance of peculiar aggravation that a large part of the legislation I have recounted was a distinct violation of a solemn treaty.t The commercial legislation which ruined Irish industry, the confiscation of Irish land which demoralised and impoverished the nation, were all directly due to the English Government, and the English Parliament." I
" If,” says Mr. Froude, “the high persons at the
crushing Irish commerce, but what little it could do it appears to have done.” -“ Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland,” p. 187.
* “ Parliamentary Register,” 17, 249.
head of the great British Empire had deliberately considered by what means they could condemn Ireland to remain the scandal of their rule, they could have chosen no measures better suited to their end than those which they pursued unrelentingly through three-quarters of a century.
English in Ireland,” vol. ii., 213.