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in the first place by the stoppage of emigration to America
as a result of the war, and subsequently by the great
extension of tillage and consequent sub-division of
holdings which followed the passing of Foster's Act in
1784. Thus, although the population of Ireland increased
at least as rapidly as that of England during the latter half
of the eighteenth century, the increase was in no w^ay
symptomatic of the coming of an industrial revolution, as
it was in England, but was due to quite different causes.
The mere growth of the population was not so
characteristic a feature of the events w^hich were happening
in England as was the distribution of the people between
the towns and the country. The period we are considering
was notable in England for the increase of large towns at
a hitherto unprecedented rate. " If we turn to the prin-
cipal towns," says Toynbee, "we shall find in many of
them an extraordinary growth between the end of the
seventeenth century and the time of Adam Smith. While
the population of Norwich had only increased during
this period by about one-third, and that of Worcester
by half, the population of Sheffield had increased seven-
fold, that of Liverpool ten-fold, of Manchester five-fold,
of Birmingham seven-fold, of Bristol more than three-
fold.'" In Ireland there was no increase of the urban

' Industrial Revolution, p. 11.


population at all comparable to this; the population of
Dublin, which, in 1725, was 110,000, and in 1753,
128,000, had only increased in 1775 to 150,000, and in
1798 to 182,000 ;' and the rate of increase in the other large
towns of Ireland seems to have been also small, and in no
way disproportionate to the general increase of the popu-
lation of the country. To this general statement there is
one notable exception — in 1757 the population of Belfast
was 8,549; in 1782, 13,105; in 1791, 18,320; while in 1813
it had grown to 27,832.' This is an exception which
clearly proves the rule, for, as we have seen, Belfast was
the principal seat of the one industry into which the
improved methods, which were then beginning to come
into force in England, were introduced at an early date,
namely, the cotton industry. Indeed, far from the growth
of the great towns as the centres of industry being the
order of the day, there was a distinct tendency in the
opposite direction. The concentration of the wool and
hosiery workers in Dublin had ever been a complaint by
those interested in Irish industrial affairs; it was said that
the workers laboured under disadvantages owing to the
high price of provisions and the insanitary conditions of
town life ; but the real cause of complaint would seem to
have been the danger which Parliament felt from the too
great proximity of large bodies of workers who were prone
to combine and agitate on the least provocation ; however,
whatever the reason, efforts were made by Parliament to
move the woollen industry from Dublin to country

" Another point to be considered," says Toynbee, " is
the relation of rural and urban population. According to
Gregory King, writing in 1696, London contained 530,000
inhabitants, other cities in market towns 870,000, while
villages and hamlets numbered four millions. Arthur
Young, seventy years later, calculated that London con-
tained one-sixth of the whole population, and remarked

1 Whitelaw and Walsh, History of Dublin.

2 Benn, History of Belfast.

s 25 Geo. III., c. 48 ; 27 Geo. HI., c. 13. etc.


that the half of England was found in towns.'" In
Ireland no such disproportion came about. The growth
of population, being due to the operation of Foster's Act,
took most eflect in the country districts, where great num-
bers of workers must have been required to produce the
large quantities of corn which were exported after that Act.
In 1805, Newenham estimated that the amount of tillage
was at least six times what it had been in 1785, and that
the rural population had grown not only in the same, but
in a greater proportion, "" and four years later expressed
the same opinion : " The great number of people employed
in the linen and cotton manufactures, the only extensive
ones which have as yet flourished in Ireland, is incon-
siderable in proportion to the number employed, directly
or indirectly, in agriculture. Three hundred thousand
weavers and spinners is as many as the linen manufacture
can at present employ, if the whole of their time were
devoted thereto ; and probably little more than sixty
thousand are engaged in the cotton manufacture. But
three hundred and sixty thousand form a very small por-
tion of the class of labourers in Ireland.'"

Next to the increase and changed distribution
of the population, the most striking feature of the
industrial revolution in England was the great agrarian
changes which took place. " An agrarian revolu-
tion plays as much a part in the great industrial
change of the end of the eighteenth century as does the
revolution in manufacturing industries. What were the
agricultural changes which led to the notable decrease in
the rural population ? The three most effective causes
were — the destruction of the common field system of culti-
vation, the enclosure on a large scale of common and
waste lands, and the consolidation of small farms into
large."* None of these changes took place in Ireland.
There was no common field system of cultivation to be
destroyed ; there were no commons or waste lands on a

> Toynbee, Industrial Revolution, p. 12. 2 Newenham on Population, p. 181.
8 Viexv of Ireland, p. 231. ^ Toynbee, Industrial Revolution, p. 68.


large scale to be enclosed ; and, as regards the size of farms,
the tendency was diametrically in the opposite direction
to that in England, owing to the increased tillage which
followed Foster's Act. Indeed, the salient feature of Irish
agriculture during the closing years of the century was the
excessive sub-division which was everywhere taking place.
There were two incidental features in the English agrarian
revolution which should be noticed; one was the great
improvements in the methods of agriculture owing to the
introduction of farming on a large scale, the other was the
rapid rise of rents.' We have seen, in dealing with the
state of agriculture in Ireland, that this period was not
marked by any noticeable raising of the standard in that
respect; and, while undoubtedly rents rose, this was
owing to the rapid rise of population, and to the
greatly increased tillage which followed Foster's Act, and
not, as in England, to the improved quality and price of
the products of the land.

Another striking feature of the industrial revolu-
tion was the great improvement in manufacturing
processes which were then coming into universal
use. The cotton industry was the first to be revolu-
tionised: " Four great inventions altered the character of
the cotton manufacture — the spinning jenny patented by
Hargreaves in 1770; the water frame invented by Ark-
wright the year before; Crompton's mule introduced in
1779, and the self-acting mule first invented by Kelly in
1792, but not brought into use till Robertson improved it in
1805.'" Again, the iron manufacture underwent changes
of far-reaching importance by the introduction, in 1735, of
the method of smelting iron by pit coal. From that date
the new process rapidly spread: "The works which had
formerly been chiefly carried on in Sussex passed to dis-
tricts in the neighbourhood of coal, and a new impulse was
given to the manufactures by Cort, who, in 1783 and 1784,
introduced the process of puddling and rolling iron. The

1 Toynbee, p. 71.

2 A very good account of these changes is to be found in Leclcy, England in the
Eighteenth Century, vol. vii., p. 267.


great period of the English iron manufacture was still to
come, but even in the eighteenth century its progress was
only less than in the cotton manufacture. In 1740 the
quantity of pig-iron made in England and Wales was
estimated at 17,000 tons; in 1796 it was 125,000; in 1806
it was 250,000.'" The progress of manufacture was
further increased by the vast works of inland navigation
which were then being constructed, and the good effect of
these new communications, as well as of the new processes,
was soon felt in every manufacture. Possibly the greatest
revolution of all was the introduction of steam, which was
employed in 1785 in the cotton manufacture, and was
generally adopted as the motive power in all manufactures
during the last twenty years of the eighteenth century.*
This great revolution was scarcely felt at all in Ireland,
where the processes and improvements which were
changing the whole aspect of English life were but slowly
introduced. As late as 1814, Wakefield complained of the
slowness with which the division of labour was being
carried out in Ireland: " Little progress can be made in
Ireland in manufactures without a proper division of
labour, which is still a great deficiency in that country.
In every large undertaking, recourse is always had to the
assistance of some director or overseer, even when the
labour is performed by lathe-work ; because such a person
possessing competent skill and experience takes a more
comprehensive view of the whole business than any
common workman is capable of doing. Hence he is
enabled to distribute the different parts of the work to those
best qualified for the execution of them, and to assign to
each labourer his fit proportion, by which means the whole
is completed in a shorter time and in a much better
manner. But in Ireland the minute divisions of land, and
the manner in which the inhabitants are scattered over the
country render it necessary for labour of various kinds to
be performed by the same individual, and thus each family

' Lecky, England in fhe Eighteenth Century, vol. vii., p.
2 Lecky, op. cit., vol. vii., p. 279.


becomes the manufacturer of their own clothing and of
everything else that they use. Most of the raw materials
being supplied either by their flocks, or the produce of
their land, they are better able to continue this system,
and to dispense with the use of articles imported or made
by regular workmen. In arts carried on in this manner,
improvement is impossible ; and, while the same system
exists, no taste can be excited for a superior mode of life,
nor will much encouragement be given to the establish-
ment of manufactories. Except in the cotton branches
and the curing of provisions, this pernicious system is
everywhere observed ; it pervades all ranks, from the noble-
man who makes his own candles, cultivates his own patch
of flax, and has it spun by his servants, to the cottier,
whose wife and daughter spin and manufacture the frieze
and woollen stuff's, which serve them as clothing.'"

The one manufacture into which English methods were
to a large extent introduced was that of cotton, "" but even in
this the Irish methods fell far behind the British : " If we
possess the machinery which they use, we are not so adroit
as the English manufacturers in the use of it. "^ The state
of the cotton manufacture, looked at from the point of
view of the industrial revolution, may be judged from the
following description from Wakefield: — "Instead of the
raw material being purchased by the weaver and sold
afterwards in a manufactured state, the cotton yarn is
either given out by the master manufacturer to the weaver,
who receives so much per piece for his labour, or it is
woven, as in England, in looms established within the
buildings belonging to the manufacturer. Besides, there
are here no females employed in spinning for a wretched
pittance, scarcely sufficient to procure them support, as is
the case in the linen manufacture; all the spinning is per-
formed by machinery, a method which embraces two
advantages : the work is not only done at a cheaper rate,
but as the person employed at the jennies must attend to

1 Wakefield, I., p. 760.

2 Letter from Mr. Hrooke, Dublin, 1786.

' Wallace, Manufactures of Ireland, 1798.


tliem while going, the fixed number of hours is thus
worked out in the course of every week.'" But apparently
it was only in Belfast and the North that this promising
state of affairs prevailed. In Dublin the progress of the
industry was so hampered by labour troubles that the
trade was broken up, and in 1816, out of three hundred
looms which were working in Dublin, only one hundred
were in the employment of masters, the other two hundred
being worked by independent contractors. The result, as
may be imagined, was ruinous to the further progress of
the industry in Dublin."

In the iron industry, Ireland was still much behind
England, for, although, as we have seen, the smelting
of iron by pit coal was introduced in the latter
country as early as 1735, it was not practised in Ireland
until 1790, and then only on a very small scale at Arigna.'
In the linen industry, the improved methods were very
slow to appear. In 181 1 a manufacturer told Wakefield
that " the spinning of linen yarns by machinery was not
practised in Ireland until within these few years. There
are now — that is, in 181 1 — several manufactories on this
principle in some parts of the country, though not so
many as might be expected." The leading cause of the
slowness of the improvement in the linen manufacture
was the low price of labour, which arose from the fact that
the workers in the North of Ireland were almost wholly
dependent on this industry for employment, and \vere,
therefore, bound to work at a very low wage." It is sur-
prising to note that even in 1814 in many places the flax
was raised, spun into yarn, and woven into cloth by the
same person and his family," and this industry, as well as
agriculture, were both still being hampered by the old
system of the one man being both a manufacturer and a

The improved methods were practically not intro-
duced into the woollen manufacture at all. " England,

' ^ a"*^ *^'/-7°'- '■• P- 690. 2 Whitelaw and Walsh. History of Dublin, p. 975.
6 «. I*""! "/,\"''""J/°'*^/"'''^' Dublin, 1801. i Wakefield. I., p. 682.
'Wakefield. I., p. 688. 6/6.. p. 701.


with her long experience, her more extensive capital, con-
ditions with respect to skill, is far before Ireland.
The invention of machinery constitutes part of her skill,
as the general adoption of it shows her wisdom. The
woollen manufacture abounds with numerous and glaring
instances of our backwardness in this respect.'" Apparently
at the very end of the century the principle of the division
of labour was scarcely recognised in this industry. " At
present, he who is this week engaged in weaving durants
or stuffs made of single worsted, three quarters of a yard
wide, will probably next week be turned to double stuffs, or
stuffs made of strong worsted doubled and twisted, and
not more than 15 or 16 inches wide; the following week
it is possible he may be employed in weaving tabbinets or
poplins of which the warp is silk; and from this lightest
kind of work may turn perhaps to the heaviest kind of
worsted manufacture. The rapidity of these transac-
tions produce the worst effects on the manufacture.'"
Fifteen years later, Wakefield made the same com-
plaint, and attributed the slowness of the introduction
of improvements into the Irish woollen industry to
the fact that the people were accustomed to work
up the wool for their own cloth, and not to bring it
into market at all. In 1809, machinery on a large scale
was worked at Celbridge, but apparently this remained
the solitary instance of the new methods in Ireland : " The
manufacture of woollen goods is everywhere prevalent
without due division of labour which could render it of
any value to the country.'" Again, in the tanning
industry, Ireland was far behind England; about the end
of the eighteenth century great improvements had been
introduced into the English tan yards, machinery being
employed for breaking the bark, and for separating the
bad parts from the good, but none of these improvements
were known in Ireland in 1814.*

' Wallace, Manufactures of Ireland, p. 68.

2 Wallace, Manufactures of Ireland, p. 153.

8 Wakefield, vol. i., p. 758.

* Wakefield, vol. i., p, 271 : Charlemout MSS., II., 307.


Steam as the motive power of manufacture does not
appear to have been employed in Ireland during the
eighteenth century, although, as we have seen, it was
quite common in England. The Irish Parliament was
ever anxious to avoid passing any measure which might
tempt the English to retaliate by prohibiting the expor-
tation of English coal to Ireland, but the only industries
which were mentioned in the debates as being likely to
suffer if this were done were those of glass and iron ; and
these were the only industries mentioned by Wallace in
1798 as being likely to suffer if the price of coal were
increased.' This would seem to show that steam was not
then largely employed as a motive power in Ireland.

Indeed, the general industrial progress of Ireland
seems to have been far behind that of England, and the
principle of the division of labour to have been intro-
duced much more slow^ly and reluctantly. In 1814,
Wakefield gave the following surprising account of the
state of affairs in this respect in the country districts : —
" In Ireland the scarcity of tradesmen and mechanics in the
country places renders it necessary for the lower orders to
construct and make every article or implement for them-
selves, and hence they acquire by habit a readiness of
turning their hand to anything; a family spins, weaves
and manufactures its own linen and frieze; those who use
candles make them themselves; and all these people at the
same time cultivate a small piece of land, and raise food
sufficient for their maintenance.'"

It would appear, therefore, that the industrial revolu-
tion did not take place in Ireland at as early a date as in
England. This subject has, perhaps, been treated at too
great length, but its importance will appear when we
reach the chapter dealing \vith the economic achievement
of Grattan's Parliament. Connolly, in his Labour in Irish
History, contends that the cause of the increased pros-
perity of Ireland in the last years of the eighteenth century
was due, not to the action of the independent Irish

» And see Bxamiftators Letters. Dublin. 1786. 2 Wakefield, vol. i.. p. 676.


Parliament, but to the Industrial Revolution. It will,
therefore, be important when we come to examine the con-
nection between Grattan's Parliament and the contem-
porary prosperity of Ireland to be able to gauge the exact
influence on Irish affairs of the Industrial Revolution. If
the facts and conclusions of the present chapter be correct,
it is clear that the extent of such influence must have been



Public Revenue and Expenditure — 1 700-1 780.

IN the management of her public revenue and
expenditure, Ireland was largely subservient to Eng-
land. By far the greater part of the Irish revenue was
completely free from the control of Parliament, and was
consequently at the disposal of the King, or rather the
Government of the day, who did not scruple to use it for
their own purposes to the neglect of the public services
for the upkeep of which it had been originally granted.
The basis of the revenue law of Ireland was the legisla-
tion of Charles II., which followed on the confiscations
after the rebellion of 1641, and which provided that, in
return for the King's surrender of hi's right to the full
benefit of these forfeitures, he should be granted a large
hereditary revenue. The older forms of Crown property
were mostly done away with, and the new revenue then
granted was vested for ever in the King and his successors.
The most important sources of this revenue were (i) the
Crown rents arising from the confiscations of Henry VIII.,
and from the counties forfeited after the rebellion of
Tyrone; (2) the quit rents arising out of property
forfeited after the rebellion of 1641 ; (3) the hearth money,
and (4) the Excise and Customs duties, and licences for


selling ale, wine, spirits, etc., at the rates fixed in the
schedules to the Acts.

That these sums were intended by Parliament to be
applied to the upkeep of the public services of the country
is abundantly clear from the Acts by which they were
granted; the excise was stated to be " for the pay of the
army and for defraying other public charges in the
defences and preservation of the Kingdom " ; the tunnage
and poundage " for protecting the trade of the Kingdom
at sea and augmenting the public revenue"; the hearth
money " for public charges and expenses " ; and it was
expressly provided that the money raised by ale licences
should not be charged with pensions in favour of indivi-
duals. The only parts of the hereditary revenue which
were clearly the private property of the King were the
prisage on wines, the lighthouse duties, and the small
casual revenues which, combined, never reached ;£i5,ooo
a year.' Parliament, however, in granting the revenue
in perpetuity, had put it out of its own power to see
that the money it had voted was properly applied, and, as
we shall see, the Irish hereditary revenue was the
fund which was resorted to by the Government to
reward the private services of those who had done, or who
undertook to do, the backstairs work of the King or his
ministers. One result of this state of things was that the
English Parliament was ever jealous of Irish prosperity,
knowing that an increase of Irish trade or commerce would
have the effect of augmenting the King's Irish revenue,
and of increasing the possibility of his being able to
govern England without that frequent recourse to Parlia-
ment for funds, which was then looked on as the great
guarantee of English liberty. It is probable that this
consideration played a greater part in determining the
English Parliament's policy of discouraging Irish pros-
perity than is generally supposed.

As long as the hereditary revenue was sufficient to pay
the expenses of Government, the King was completely

' A Short Account of the Hereditary Revenue, Dublin, 1753 : Inquiry into Legality
of Pensions, by McAuley, London, 1763.


independent of the Irish Parliament, and it was only when
there was a deficit and it became necessary for the King
to seek for additional revenue that Parliament got an
opportunity of inquiring into the state of the public purse.
In 1692 such an occasion arose. The great expenses in
connection with the Jacobite Wars of 1690 had rendered
the hereditary revenue insufficient, and consequently Par-
liament was summoned by Lord Sydney in 1692. This
Parliament saw the first of many conflicts which were
waged between the English Privy Council and the Irish
Parliament on the subject of the right of the latter to
originate its own bills of supply. Two money bills which
had originated in the English Privy Council were sent
over to Ireland to be passed; one of them was rejected as
a protest against what was considered a breach of
privilege ; and the other was passed solely owing to the
extreme exigencies of the time. At the same time, the
House of Commons passed the following resolutions in
assertion of their rights: — " Resolved, that it was and is
the sole and undoubted right of the Commons of Ireland
in Parliament assembled, to prepare and resolve the ways
and means of raising money. (2) Resolved, that it was
and is the undoubted right of the Commons to prepare
heads of bills for raising money.'" The Crown was very
indignant at these resolutions, and Parliament was dis-
solved immediately ; the views of the Irish and English
judges were obtained on the question, and their unani-
mous opinion was in favour of the King and against

The merits of this dispute are more properly the sub-
ject of constitutional than of economic history, and have
been ably dealt with by writers on that subject.' It is
sufficient for the present purpose to state that the precise
point in dispute was whether the right of initiating new-
taxes for Ireland should lie with the English Privy
Council or with the Irish Parliament. It is quite clear

Online LibraryGeorge Augustine Thomas O'BrienThe economic history of Ireland in the eighteenth century → online text (page 26 of 38)