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was no corresponding class, much to the detriment of the
country. The Tribune, a periodical which appeared in
Dublin in 1720, calls attention to this: — "Though the
English gave us their own laws and constitution, and have
been greatly instrumental in bringing us the length we
have got, yet they kept from us the secret of a well-ordered
and regular yeomanry, such as they have in England,
which is their chief strength and the grand nursery of their
fleets and armies, their navigation and commerce. Instead
of this, the people who should have been the yeomanry of
Ireland, are a generation of half-starved, half-naked, half-
dead animals, and a nursery for nothing else but the
whipping post, the plantations, and the gallows.'" Dobbs
noticed the same thing: " The want of a yeomanry is the
true evil in Ireland from want of which most of our incon-
veniences flow : it is greatly the cause of our indolence and
martivity and a spur on our extravagance.'" "A True
Patriot." in 1745. thought that the great want of the

> W«kcfi«ld. vol. ii,. p. 809. and sec Arthur O'Connor. St.Ue of Ireland. 179S.
« Trtbmnt. p. 131. , Oobbs Essay on Trade. 1729.


country was in having no class of people between the
gentry and the beggars.' " I believe there is in no king-
dom greater inequality than in Ireland : one class of great
property who live excessively sumptuous : the second and
more numerous class hurting their fortunes by the imita-
tion of the first — the third in extreme poverty.'" " The
only division which a traveller can make would be into
persons of considerable fortune and mob ; the intermediate
division of the scale, so numerous and respectable in Eng-
land, would hardly attract the least notice in Ireland.'"
" In Ireland we see the two classes of men, a pampered
gentry and a starving commonalty.'" Crumpe regretted
that Irishmen were unacquainted with any such division
of citizens as the yeomanry. It will be remembered that in
"John Bull's Other Island," when Broadbent remarks
that the real heart of a nation is the yeomanry, Matt
Haffigan exclaims aghast, "The yeomanry!" and Larry
Doyle has to explain to his English friend that in England
the yeoman means a freehold farmer, but in Ireland it
meant a sort of Orange Bashi-Bazouk. Philologists assure
us that the best evidence of the non-existence of a thing
in a country is the absence of its name from the popular

1 View of Orievatices o/ Ireland by a True Patriot. Dublin, 1745.

^Historical Anecdotes. Cork. 1762.

^Young's Tour in Ireland, vol. ii , p. 146.

* First Littea of Irish Interest. Dublin, 1780.

Economic Effect of Penal Laws.

UNnOl'BTEDLY the most important chapter of Irish
history in the eighteentli century, from whatever
point of view we regard it, is the unhappy story of the
Penal Laws, the evil effects of which are felt even to this
day. It is not proposed here to give a full account of this
terrible code — anyone anxious to read about it can do so
in Lecky or Froude ; it is impossible, however, strictly
to divide up the Penal Laws into two water-tight compart-
ments, one of which had economic effects and the other of
which had not. It is certainly true to say that every one
of the Penal Laws has had economic effects, and important
economic effects; but, at the same time, there are some
of the Penal Laws which deal more directly than others
with the subjects which are usually comprised in an
economic account of a period or a people, and these should
be here given in detail. They mav be roughly divided
into those aimed against the acquisition of property by
Catholics, and those which excluded Catholics from
earning their living at various occupations.

The principal laws dealing with property were the
following : —

7 William III., c. 5. s. 8. — No person of the Popish religion
shall be capable to have or keep in his possession any horse,
Rrlflinjf or marc which shall be of the value of five pounds or over';
and if anv Protestant shall make discovery- on oath of such horse
or horses to be in the possession of such Papists .... to any two
Justices of the Peace .... any such Protestant paving or making
tender of the sum of .£5 5s. Od. to the owner or possessor of such
horse .... from and after such payment or tender, the property


of such horse or horses shall be deemed to be vested in the person
making such discovery.

2 Anne, c. 6, s. 3. (marginal note). — The eldest son bemg
Protestant, from and after the enrolment of a bishop's certificate
of this in Chajncery, his parent, if a Papist, shall be only tenant
for life with reversion in fee to his son.

Same statute, s. 6. — Every Papist shall be incapable to buy and
purchase either in his own name or in the name of any other
person, any manors, lands, tenements, or hereditaments, or any
rents or profits out of the same, or any leases or terms thereof other
than anv term of years not exceeding thirty-one years whereon a
rent not' less than two third parts of the improved yearly value at
the time of making such lease of the temements leased shall be

Same statute, s. 7. — No Papist who shall become entitled
to enter or to take or have the profits by descent, or by
virtue of any devise or gift, or of any remainder already
limited, or at any time hereafter to be limited, or by virtue
of any trust, of any lands .... whereof any Protestant now is or
hereafter shall he seized in fee simple, absolute or fee tail ....
shall take any benefit by reason of such descent, devise, gift,
remainder, or trust, but from thenceforth during the life of such
person, or until he do become a Protestant, the nearest Protestant
relation to the person who would be entitled to such property, if
such Papist and all intermediate Papists were already dead, shall
have and enjoy the lands without being accountable for the profits

Same statute, s. 10. (marginal note). — Papist seized in fee or
tail of lands, if not sold in his life for good consideration of money
bond fide paid, it shall descend to all the sons, amd not to the
eldest son being a Papist.

8 Anne, c. 3, s. 1.— No Papist shall be capable to have, take
or receive any annuity for life or a term of years determinable on
any life or lives, or for any greater or lesser estate anyways
chargeable on, or that may affect, any lands, tenements, or here-

The principal Penal Laws affecting trades and occu-
pations were as follows : —

7 William IIL, c. 3, s. 8. — No person exercising or using the
mystery or art of making any locks for barrels, muskets, pistols or
firearms, or of making swords, bayonets, knives, or other
weapons, shall take to apprentice, or use, receive or instruct as an
apprentice, any Papist. . . .

10 William IIL, c. 8, s. 4.— No Papist or Papists shall be
employed as fowlers for any Protestant or Protestants.

10 William III., c. 13. — No person or persons shall practice or
act as solicitor in any Court of Law or Equity, or as agent or
manager in any cause or suit or as seneschal or solicitor in all or
any of the courts or affairs of this Kingdom, not having first taken
the oath and subscribed the following Declaration : —

" I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper
there is not any transubstantiation of the elements of bread
and wine into the body and blood of Christ .... and that
the invocation and adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other
Saint, and the sacrifice of the Mass as they are now used in
the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous."


2 Anne c. G. s. 10. — Kvcry person who shall bear office, civil
or military. 'or .shall rccfivo ;iny pay. salary, fee or wages belonging
to or by reason of any office or place of trust by reason of any
patent or Kf'int from iler Majesty or her predecessors .... on the
first day of Kasler term, 17U1, .... shall receive the Sacrament of
the Lords Supper according to the usage of the Church of Ireland
before the first August, 1704. , . , , ,v- r

jjcc. 17. — Any person who shall be admitted to such ornce arter
the first day of Easter term shall receive the Lord's Supper, etc.

Sec. 23. — No Papist or Papists shall take or purchase any house
or tenement, or conic to dwell or inhabit within the cities of Galway
or Limerick, or the suburbs thereof, and the present Papist dwellers
therein shall give security for fidelity or leave the City. . . . Nothing
herein shall be construed to hinder seamen, fishermen, or day
labourers from holding a dwelling or house worth 40s. a year or
under in Limerick or Galway.

8 Anne, c. 3, s. 16. — Whatsoever Papist shall publicly teach
school or shall instruct youth in learning in any private house, or
shall be entertained to instruct youth in learning as usher, under-
master, or assistant by any Protestant Schoolmaster, shall be liable
to certain penalties.

Sec. 37. — No Papist who is or shall be permitted to follow any
trade, craft or mystery in this kingdom shall hereafter take or keep
more than two apprentices at a time (except in the hempen or
flaxen manufacture).

2 Geo. I., c. 10. — For three years from the passing of this Act
no Papist shall be capable of being appointed, presented or sworn
as High Constable or as Petty Constable.

7 Geo. II., c 5. s. 2. — From and after the last day of Michaelmas
Term, 1734, no person shall be admitted an attorney or licensed to
be a solicitor .... who had not been a Protestant from the age
of fourteen years, or for two years before his being admitted an

Sec. 4. — Kvery Master in Chancery, six clerk of the High Court
of Chancery, barrister-at-law and attorney, and officer of any of
His Majesty's Four Courts in Dublin .... and every solicitor
to be licensed by this .-Vet shall take the following oath, viz. : —
" I do swear that I will not knowingly take as an apprentice or
employ as clerk or solicitor any person of the Popish religion."

Sec. 12. — If any person or persons now or hereafter to be
admitted as a barrister, six clerk, attorney or solicitor, shall marry
.... any woman of the Popish religion .... such person shall
be thenceforth deemed a Papist and disabled from being a barrister,
six clerk, attorney or solicitor.

It is obvious that laws of this kind must have had a
most direct bearing on the economical condition of the
country. By the first group of Acts, which we have
detailed, Catholics were debarred from obtaining any per-
manent or even lengthy interest in land, and were conse-
quently deprived of the stimulus which goes to make a
great agricultural community. Moreover, they were even
forbidden to lend money on the security of land, and we


shall see that this was one of the principal causes of the
decline of agriculture during the eighteenth century. It
seems to have been the policy of the code that, whereas no
Catholic could acquire any further interest in land, even
the interests they already possessed should gradually, in
the course of time, come to be vested in Protestants.' By
the laws regulating occupation, on the other hand, all
the better class employments were closed to Catholics, and
even some of the poorer ones. Lecky refers to a petition
in the House of Commons complaining that Catholics in
Dublin had the audacity to attempt to earn money as coal
porters.' These two species of discouragement must have
acted on each other in a vicious circle. No Catholic could
pursue any occupation at which much money might be
made, except a small retail trade ; and, even if he made
money, he had no opportunity of investing it, because he
could not buy land, nor could he bring his children up to
professions which might give them a scope for ambition.'
It must not, however, be supposed that the Penal Laws,
which did not deal directly with economic conditions, had
not an important economic effect. The voluminous code
directed against the education of Catholics must by its
nature have kept the Irish people ignorant; the laws which
prohibited them from exercising the civic functions as
voters and jurymen must, to some extent, have atrophied
those functions ; the laws which prohibited them from
being soldiers or sailors must have sapped some of
their martial spirit; and the laws which made the exercise
of their religion a crime, and which rendered priest-
hunting a profitable occupation, must have tended to make
the people secretive, suspicious, and, possibly, servile. If
this be so, it is idle to deny that all these laws had impor-
tant economic effects. One of the greatest sources of the
richness of a country is the character of its people, and
the Irish character must have suffered severely from this
iniquitous oppression.

1 Arkins, The Pennl Laws and Irish Land, " Studies," Sept., 1912.

2 Lecky, vol. i. p. 147.

' Arkins, The Commercial Aspect of the Irish Penal Code, " Studies." June. 1912.



Nor was tin- result confined to the oppressed— the
oppressors also suffered. A system which divides a
country into two classes must, in course of time, produce
something' resembling castes, and the members of the
dominant caste are as unlikely to be possessed of
industrial virtues as the members of the servile caste.
So it certainly was in eighteenth century Ireland. The
Protestants possessed the whole land for themselves ; they
were in a position to monopolise any benefits which the
country afforded ; and it is no wonder that, when such
promising fields of unearned income as landlordism, job-
bery and the Church presented themselves, they did not
see the necessity of indulging in industrial or mercantile

" Before I conclude this section," wrote Arthur Young,
" I must observe one circumstance, which, though not
important enough to stop the progress of commercial im-
provement in Ireland, yet must very much retard it; and
that is the contempt in which trade is held by those who
call themselves gentlemen. I heard a language common
in Irel.-md. \vhi(Mi. if it was to become universal, would
effectually prevent her ever attaining greatness. I have
remarked the houses of country gentlemen being full of
brothers, cousins, etc., idlers, whose best emplovment is
to follow a hare or a fox ; why are they not brought up to
trade or manufacture? Trade! (the answer has been).
They are ^eiitlewen ; to be poor till doomsdav : a trades-
man has not a right to the point of honour — vou may
refuse his challenge. Trinitv College at Dublin swarms
with lads w]io ought to be educated to the loom and the
counting-house. Many ill-effects flow from these wretched
prejudices; one consequence, manifest over the whole
kingdom, is commercial people quitting trade or manu-
factures, when they have made from five to ten thousand
pounds, to beeowe f^entlemen ; where trade is dishonour-
able it will not flourish ; this is taking people from industry
at the verv moment they are the best able to command
success. Many Quakers who are (take them for all in all)


the most sensible class of people in that kingdom, are
exceptions to this folly ; and mark the consequence, they
are the only wealthy traders in the island. The Irish are
ready enough to imitate the vices and follies of England;
let them imitate her virtues, her respect for commercial
industry, which has carried her splendour and her power
to the remotest corners of the earth.'"

The fact is that in Ireland, at that period, the
Protestants looked down on trade, and, as a whole, took
no part in it; whereas the Catholics, if ever so willing,
were not in a position to take any part in it.

The two features which distinguished the religious
oppression of the eighteenth century in Ireland were, first,
that it was an oppression of a majority by a minority, and,
second, that it was an oppression directed, not against
belief, but against prosperity. The English Catholics of
that period were persecuted just as severely as the Irish,
but the persecution did not produce the same evil effect on
the whole country, because the number of the oppressed
was comparatively so small as to render any resulting
weakness of character unimportant from a national point
of view ; but in Ireland, it was the whole nation that was
oppressed — not a section. The fact that the oppression
was directed against prosperity, and not against belief, is
quite clear from the Penal Laws. "The Penal code,"
says Lecky, " was intended to make the Catholics poor,
and to keep them poor ; to crush in them everv spark of
enterprise ; to degrade them into a servile caste, who could
never hope to rise to the level of their oppressors " ;' and
Young wrote: " The scope, purpose and aim of the laws
are not against the Catholic religion, but against the
industry and property of whoever professes that religion.'"
Young was also of opinion that " the oppression of the
Catholics, by loading the industry of two millions of sub-
jects, has done more to retard the progress of this kingdom
than all other causes put together.'" An eminent

' Young's Tour in Ireland, vol. ii.. p. 217. 2 Lecky. vol. i. p. 152

8 Young's Tour in Ireland, vol. ii., p. 141.

* lb., p. 271. and see Volkaersbeke. La Lutte d'Irlande, p. 148.



I'rt'iuli writtT of the last century remarked that what dis-
tin^'uished this persecution of Irish Catholics from every
other reh^ious persecution in the world was that it was
continued from motives of interest, after the disappearance
of every political justification.'

'Beaumont, L'lrUmd* Sociale, p. 118.

The Lazy Irish.

THERE is no doubt that the Penal Laws had, in fact,
a very bad effect upon the Irish character, considered
industrially. "The Penal Laws, both in their enactment
and in their subsequent relaxation, have affected materially
the position of occupiers and proprietors of land. They
interfered with almost every mode of dealing with landed
property by those who professed the Roman Catholic
religion, and so by creating a feeling of insecurity directly
checked their industry.'" There is no need to quote contem-
porary authorities about the idleness, which seemed to be
a characteristic of the Irish poor of the time, because this
defect is universally recognised by writers on the subject.
Crumpe, in 1793, says: "The moment an overseer quits
them they invariably drop their work, take snuff, and fall
into chat as to the news of the day. The most trivial
occurrence, especially in the sporting line, will hurry
them, unless restrained, from their occupation. Even the
sedentary manufacturer will on such occasions quit his
employment. Nothing is more common than to see a
weaver in the North start from his loom on hearing a pack
of hounds, and pursue them through a long and fatiguing
chase. A low cunning and lying is very observable
among them ; and, as their accompaniment, may be men-
tioned a fawning flatterv. The blunt honesty, the bold
independence of the English yeoman are wanting.'"

1 Finding of Devon Commission, 1845.

2 Crumpe, Essay on Providing Etnploymeni , p. 155.



The idleness of ihc Irish women was especially noticed
by contemporary observers: " No women are apter to spin
well than the Irish, who, labouring little in any kind with
their hands, have their fingers more supple and soft than
other women of the poorer condition among us.'" " As
for the women and children, they are wholly useless every-
where except in the North.'" " In many parts of Ireland,
more especially near the City of Dublin, the women and
wives of the poor small farmers and labourers are gener-
ally of little or no service to the maintenance of their
families, not applying themselves to any useful work.'"
" The women and children are idle throughout the whole
year, except for a few days on which they assist the men
at the potatoes, and pilfer their landlord's corn in the
harvest field."* Arthur Young, speaking of the German
Colonists, says: " The industry of the women is a perfect
contrast to the Irish ladies in the cabins, who cannot be
persuaded on any consideration even to make hay.'"
Twiss heard when he was in Ireland, in 1775, that
the evil was also felt among the middle class, and that no
tradesman's wife would help him in his shop.* " In
Ireland the price of hosiers' work is much higher than in
England on account of the idleness of the women and
chiltlren — in England a workman's family lowers his
necessity for wages, in Ireland it raises it.'" In the
North, however, the women were largelv employed in the
linen trade. Strangely enough, on this point, Wakefield
is at variance with all his contemporaries. *' In regard
to the women of Ireland," he said, " thev work more
like slaves than labourers.'"

One more symptom of the prevailing laziness was
the large number of holidays which were customary in
the country. As early as 1672, Petty complained that
" Irish Papists, besides Sundays and the 29 holidays

' Sir William Temple. Eixay on Tradt in Ireland. 1672.


Online LibraryGeorge Augustine Thomas O'BrienThe economic history of Ireland in the eighteenth century → online text (page 3 of 38)