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The economic history of Ireland in the eighteenth century online

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hereinafter provided; and that, for the period of twenty


years from the Union, the articles enumerated in the
schedule No. II. hereunto annexed, shall be subject, on
importation into each country from the other, to the duties
specified in the said schedule No. II., and the woollen
manufactures, known by the names of Old and New
Drapery, shall pay, on importation into each country from
the other, the duties now payable on importation into
Ireland ; salt and hops, on importation into Ireland from
Great Britain, duties not exceeding those which are now
paid on importation into Ireland ; and coals, on importa-
tion into Ireland" from Great Britain, shall be subject to
burthens not exceeding those to which they are now
subject :

" That calicoes and muslins shall, on their importation
into either country from the other, be subject and liable to
the duties now payable on the same on the importation
thereof from Great Britain into Ireland, until the 5th day
of January, 1808; and from and after the said day, the
said duties shall be annually reduced, by equal proportions
as near as may be in each year, so as that the said duties
shall stand at ten per centum from and after the 5th day
of January, 1816, until the 5th day of January, 182 1 ; and
that cotton yarn and cotton twist shall, on their impor-
tation into either country from the other, be subject and
liable to the duties now payable upon the same on the
importation thereof from Great Britain into Ireland, until
the 5th day of January, 1808, and from and after the said
day the said duties shall be annually reduced by equal
proportions as near as may be in each year, so that all
duties shall cease on the said articles from and after the
5th day of January, 1816:

" That any articles of the growth, produce, or manu-
facture of either country, which are or may be subject to
internal duty, or to duty on the materials of which they
are composed, may be made subject, on their importation
into each country respectively from the other, to such
countervailing duty as shall appear to be just and reason-
able in respect of such internal duty or duties on the


materials; and that for the said purposes the articles
specified in the said schedule No. I. A and B shall be
subject to the duties set forth therein, liable to be taken
off, diminished, or increased, in the manner herein
specified ; and that, upon the export of the said articles
from each country to the other respectively, a drawback
shall be given equal in amount to the countervailing duty
payable on such articles on the import thereof into the
same country from the other; and that in like manner in
future it shall be competent to the united Parliament to
impose any new or additional countervailing duties, or
to take off, or diminish such existing countervailing duties
as may appear, on like principles, to be just and reason-
able in respect of any future or additional internal duty
on any article of the growth, produce, or manufacture of
either country, or of any new or additional duty on any
materials of which such articles may be composed, or of
any abatement of duty on the same ; and that when any
such new or additional countervailing duty shall be so
imposed on the import of any article into either country
from the other, a drawback, equal in amount to such
countervailing duty, shall be given in like manner on
the export of every such article respectively from the
same country to the other :

" That all articles, the growth, produce, or manufac-
ture of either country, when exported through the other,
shall in all cases be exported subject to the same charges
as if they had been exported directly from the country of
which they were the growth, produce, or manufacture:

" That all duties charged on the import of foreign or
colonial goods into either country, shall, on their export
to the other, be either drawn back, or the amount, if any
be retained, shall be placed to the credit of the country
to which they shall be so exported, so long as the expen-
diture of the United Kingdom shall be defrayed by
proportional contribution : Provided alwavs, that nothing
herein shall extend to take awav any dutv, bounty, or
prohibition, which exists with respect to corn, meal, malt,



flour, or biscuit; but tliat all duties, bounties, or prohibi-
tions, on the said articles may be regulated, varied, or
repealed, from time to time, as the united Parliament
shall deem expedient.

Schedule I.

" This Schedule contains the articles to be charged
with countervaili^ig duties.

Schedule II.

" Of the articles charged with the duties specified upon
importation into Great Britain and Ireland, respectively,
according to the sixth article of Union : —

Apparel. \

Brass, wrought.

Cabinet ware.

Coaches and other carriages.

Copper, wrought.

Cottons, other than calicoes and muslins

Glass. Ten

Haberdashery. pounds

Hats. I per cent.

Tin plates, wrought iron and hardware. / on the

Gold and silver lace, gold and silver true

thread, bullion for lace, pearl, and value.

Paper, stained.

Saddlery and other manufactured leather.
Silk manufacture.
Stockings. /

The result of these commercial clauses was to create a
nominal equality where no real equality could exist. The
industries of Ireland, though progressing, w^ere still in an
undeveloped state, and urgently required the assistance
of protective duties to ensure their fuller development;
whereas the manufactures of England were developed on


a much larger scale, and were consequently able to com-
pete successfully with the Irish industries in a free market.
The result of equalising the duties in England and Ireland
was simply to ensure that the English products should
undersell the Irish not only in England, but in Ireland
also, and that the smaller and less developed industries
should be driven out of existence by their more powerful
rivals. That such a result was foreseen may be gathered
from the exception made in favour of calicoes and
muslins, but the principle of this exception should
have been applied to all the Irish manufactures. From
this point of view, Ireland stood to gain nothing from the
Act of Union and stood to lose much ; the principle
articles of her manufacture, namely, linen and provisions
were already admitted freely into England, and, therefore,
the only articles to which a free entry was granted
were articles which could not in any way hope to derive
any benefit from it. That England felt secure in her
monopoly may be gathered from much of the correspon-
dence of the time: — "The articles which I understand
require a protective duty are beer, cotton, earthen and
glass ware and woollens. Great Britain will, of course,
expect a reciprocal protection on these articles, although
in truth she has little cause to dread a rivalship from

No trade benefits except that of opening the English
markets were granted by the Act of Union, as Ireland had
secured liberty for her colonial and foreign trade twenty
years earlier by her own exertions. Possibly the most
significant feature of the passing of the Act of Union
was that, with the exception of certain wool and cotton
manufacturers, no English industrial interest presented
any petition against it.' We have seen that, whenever
any suggestion was made in England to benefit Irish
trade, Parliament was inundated with petitions from various
towms in England protesting against it, and their absence

> Irving to Auckland, 31st Oct.. 1799 ; Casttereagh Corr., HI.. 183.
2 Castlereagh Corr., MI., p. 249.


on this occasion is suggestive. The Irish manufacturers,
on the otlier hand, were opposed to the Union, but, of
course, their opposition was of no avail, as neither the
Irish pubHc nor the Irish ParHament was in any way
consulted about the measure.

But the greatest argument of all against the commer-
cial provisions of the Act of Union was the constitutional
one, that Ireland was putting her trade and industry at
the mercy of the country which had always been
hostile. We have seen the attitude which prevailed in
England at the time of the free trade agitation and at
the time of the Commercial Propositions, and, indeed,
throughout the whole century ; we have also seen how
Ireland could not progress until she had a Parliament
strong enough to pass its own measures without con-
sidering English opposition, and that as soon as she
obtained such a Parliament she made rapid progress ; and
it must be obvious that, in parting w'ith this Parliament,
she was parting with the instrument which made her
wealth and material prosperity possible.

The financial propositions of the Act of Union, which
were not more favourable than the commercial ones, were
as follows : —

" That it be the seventh article of Union, that the
charge arising from the payment of the interest, and the
sinking fund for the reduction of the principal, of the
debt incurred in either kingdom before the Union, shall
continue to be separately defrayed by Great Britain and
Ireland, respectively, except as hereinafter provided :

" That for the space of twenty years after the Union
shall take place, the contribution of Great Britain and
Ireland, respectively, towards the expenditure of the United
Kingdom in each year, shall be defrayed in the proportion
of fifteen parts for Great Britain and two parts for
Ireland ; and that, at the expiration of the said twenty
years, the future expenditure of the United Kingdom
(other than the interest and charges of the debt to which
either country shall be separately liable) shall be defrayed


in such proportion as the ParHament of the United
Kingdom shall deem just and reasonable upon a com-
parison of the real value of the exports and imports of
the respective countries, upon an average of the three
years next preceding the period of revision ; or on a com-
parison of the value of the quantities of the following
articles consumed within the respective countries, on a
similar average, viz., beer, spirits, sugar, wine, tea,
tobacco, and malt; or according to the aggregate propor-
tion resulting from both these considerations combined ;
or on a comparison of the amount of income in each
country, estimated from the produce for the same period
of a general tax, if such shall have been imposed on the
same descriptions of income in both countries; and that
the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall afterwards
proceed in like manner to revise and fix the said propor-
tions according to the same rules, or any of them, at
periods not more distant than twenty years nor less than
seven years from each other ; unless, previous to any such
period, the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall have
declared, as hereinafter provided, that the expenditure of
the United Kingdom shall be defrayed indiscriminately,
by equal taxes imposed on the like articles in both
countries; that, for the defraying the said expenditure
according to the rules above laid down, the Revenues of
Ireland shall hereafter constitute a consolidated fund,
which shall be charged, in the first instance, with the
interest of the debt in Ireland, and with the sinking fund
applicable to the reduction of the said debt, and the
remainder shall be applied towards defraying the propor-
tion of the expenditure of the United Kingdom, to which
Ireland may be liable in each year; that the proportion
of contribution to which Great Britain and Ireland will
be liable shall be raised by such taxes in each countrv,
respectively, as the Parliament of the United Kingdom
shall from time to time deem fit:

" Provided always, that in regulating the taxes in each
country, by w'hich their respective proportions shall be


levied, no article in Ireland shall be made liable to any
new or additional duty, by which the whole amount of
duty payable thereon would exceed the amount which will
be thereafter payable in England on the like article :

"That, if at the end of any year any surplus
shall accrue from the revenues of Ireland, after defraying
the interest, sinking fund, and proportional contri-
bution and separate charges to which the said country
shall then be liable, taxes shall be taken off to
the amount of such surplus, or the surplus shall be
applied by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to
local purposes in Ireland, or to make good any deficiency
which may arise in the Revenues of Ireland in time of
peace, or be invested, by the commissioners of the
national debt of Ireland, in the funds, to accumulate for
the benefit of Ireland, at compound interest, in ease of
the contribution of Ireland in time of war; provided that
the surplus so to accumulate shall at no future period be
suffered to exceed the sum of five millions :

" That all monies to be raised after the Union,
by loan, in peace or war, for the service of the
United Kingdom by the Parliament thereof, shall
be considered to be a joint debt, and the charges
thereof shall be borne by the respective countries
in the proportion of their respective contributions ; pro-
vided that, if at any time, in raising their respective
contributions hereby fixed for each country, the Parlia-
ment of the United Kingdom shall judge if fit to raise a
greater proportion of such respective contributions in one
country within the year than in the other, or to set apart a
greater proportion of sinking fund for the liquidation of the
whole or any part of the loan raised on account of the one
country than that raised on account of the other country,
then such part of the said loan for the liquidation of which
different provisions shall have been made for the respec-
tive countries, shall be kept distinct, and shall be borne
by each separately, and only that part of the said loan be
deemed joint and common, for the reduction of which the


respective countries shall have made provision in the
proportion of their respective contributions :

" That, if at any future day, the separate debt of each
country respectively shall have been liquidated, or, if the
values of their respective debts (estimated according to the
amount of the interest and annuities attending the same,
and of the sinking fund applicable to the reduction thereof,
and to the period within which the whole capital of such
debt shall appear to be redeemable by such sinking fund)
shall be to each other in the same proportion with the
respective contributions of each country respectively ; or
if the amount by which the value of the larger of such
debts shall vary from such proportion, shall not exceed
one hundredth part of the said value; and if it shall
appear to the Parliament of the United Kingdom that
the respective circumstances of the two countries will
thenceforth admit of their contributing indiscriminately,
by equal taxes imposed on the same articles in each, to
the future expenditure of the United Kingdom, it shall
be competent to the Parliament of the United Kingdom
to declare that all future expense thenceforth to be
incurred, together with the interest and charges of all
joint debts contracted previous to such declaration, shall
be so defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed
on the same articles in each country, and thenceforth
from time to time, as circumstances may require, to
impose and apply such taxes accordingly, subject only to
such particular exemptions or abatements in Ireland, and
in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, as circum-
stances may appear from time to time to demand ; that,
from the period of such declaration, it shall no longer be
necessary to regulate the contribution of the two countries
towards the future expenditure of the United Kingdom,
according to any specific proportion, or according to anv
of the rules hereinbefore prescribed :

" Provided nevertheless, that the interest or charges
which may remain on account of any part of the separate debt
with which either country shall be chargeable, and which



shall not be liquidated or consolidated proportionately as
above, shall, until extinguished, continue to be defrayed by
separate taxes in each country : that a sum, not less than
the sum which has been granted by the Parliament of
Ireland on the average of six years immediately preceding
the first day of January, in the year one thousand eight
hundred, in premiums for the internal encouragement of
agriculture or manufactures, or for the maintaining insti-
tutions for pious and charitable purposes, shall be applied,
for the period of twenty years after the Union, to such
local purposes in Ireland, in such manner as the Parlia-
ment of the United Kingdom shall direct : that, from and
after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred
and one, all public revenue arising to the United King-
dom from the territorial dependencies thereof, and applied
to the general expenditure of the United Kingdom, shall
be so applied in the proportions of the respective contri-
butions of the two countries."

The relative proportions of the English and Irish con-
tributions were fixed by Castlereagh as follows : — He
first took as a basis for comparison the average annual
values and the total values of the exports and imports in
Great Britain and Ireland respectively for the years 1796-
7-8, and these he found to bear the proportion of 7 to i :
he then took as another basis for comparison the values of
the principal dutiable commodities — malt, beer, spirits,
wine, tobacco, tea and sugar — consumed in the two coun-
tries during those years, and these he found to be in the
proportion of 7^ to i : the mean of these proportions was
7^ to I, and Castlereagh consequently proposed that
Ireland should bear 2/i7ths and Great Britain i5/i7ths of
the annual expenditure of the United Kingdom in future

This proportion, though possibly honestly arrived
at, was quite fallacious, and unjust to Ireland. In the
first place, the result obtained from the imports and
exports w^as of very little value, because no account had

1 Murray. Commercial Relations, p. 321.


been taken of the tonnage of the shipping belonging to
the two kingdoms, and, therefore, no allowance made for
the profits arising from transport ; the figures, moreover,
on which he based his calculation were wrong, as the value
of the British exports and imports was understated by
about six millions, while that of the Irish was overstated
by about two millions.' The result obtained from the
consumption of dutiable commodities was equally incor-
rect, as no account was taken of salt or stamps, two very
important items; in this case, too, the figures used were
quite wrong, as in the case of tea, tobacco, sugar and
wine they did not correspond even approximately with
the quantities imported; the years taken, moreover, were
not average years, as the presence of a large military
force, owing to the French war and internal disturbance,
increased the consumption of dutiable commodities above
the normal. Very valuable criteria for arriving at the
correct proportion which the two countries could bear
were left out of account altogether, such as the amount
of current cash in each kingdom, and the rate of interest
at which money could be raised. The amount of non-
dutiable articles produced for home consumption was also
left completely out of account, and this was a most
important item. The objections to Castlereagh's estimate
were ably set forth in an address moved in the Irish House
of Commons, and in the protests of the Irish peers
against the Union. *

The result of the financial provisions of the Union was
an inevitable increase in Irish taxation, as the expenditure
of Ireland had during the previous years increased at a
much slower rate than that of Great Britain, in spite of the
extraordinary expenses caused by the Rebellion. In the six
years 1793-99, Great Britain had increased her debt by
186 millions, while Ireland had only increased hers by 14
millions. The liabilities of the two kingdoms had,
therefore, been augmented by 200 millions. If the l^nion

1 Financial Rflatintis Commission. 1896. to!, i.. App. I., p. 340.

2 Both these Documents are set out .Tt full in Plowden. vol. ii.. Appcndiit pp. 333-559 :
and see a Letter from Lord Farnham to Lord Grenville. Fortcscue MSS., VI.. 251.


arrangement liad been in force during diese six years,
Ireland's share would iiave been a/iyths, diat is,
23 millions; in oUier words, if the Union had taken place
in 1793, the Irish debt in 1799 would have been nine
millions more than it was. Of course, the objection to
the financial provisions which weighed most heavily was
the constitutional one, as there was no guarantee that
the conditions of the Union in this respect would not be
abrogated by the Imperial Parliament at any time,
and Ireland was submitting her revenue and expen-
diture to the Parliament of a country which had shown
little regard for her interests. As a matter of fact, the history
of Ireland during the nineteenth century has been one
of continuous over-taxation and unwise expenditure. The
unsoundness of the Union finance is best shown by the
rapidity with which it broke down.

It is clear then, that, in its commercial and financial
aspects, the Union was a measure calculated to be detri-
mental to Irish interests. It is only right, however, before
dismissing the subject to take notice of the economic
arguments which at the time were advanced in its favour.

The first of these arguments was derived from the
progress which Scotland had undoubtedly made since
its Union with England. The answer to this
argument is that conditions in Ireland and Scotland
before their respective Unions were vastly different :
Scotland, in 1707, was very poor and undeveloped,
hampered by trade restrictions in every direction,
and its whole economic condition could scarcely have
been worse: Ireland, in 1799, on the other hand, was in a
state of rapid progress, had never been so prosperous
before, and enjoyed all the benefits, as we have seen, of
a perfectly free trade. Again it may be said that Scotland
only advanced in prosperity, together with every other
country in Europe during the same period, and, as a
matter of fact, did not progress so rapidly, with a
Union, as Ireland without it. The progress which
Scotland made was secured by means of bounties and


premiums, which, in 1800, were no longer in fashion,
although vitally necessary to Ireland's progress; and,
indeed, in spite of much encouragement of this nature,
progress in Scotland had not begun to show itself until
many years after the date of the Union. There was also
a constitutional argument which rendered the I'nion with
Scotland a dangerous precedent to rely upon. It had been
one of the terms of that Union that no tax should be
imposed on malt in ^Scotland at any future time, but, in
spite of this provision, and against the wishes of every
Scotch representative in the British Parliament, such a
tax had been imposed a few years later. The Irish
opponents to the Union felt that there was no guarantee
that a similar breach of the Irish compact might not be
committed at some future date.

The second argument advanced in favour of the Union
was the opening of the Channel trade. The answer to
this was that, with regard to the most important Irish
commodities, the Channel trade was already open ; linen,
many provisions, cable, cordage, sail-cloth and wool were
admitted into England free of duty ; and corn at an incon-
siderable duty. There was no other Irish manufacture
which, in its existing condition of development, could
possibly hope to secure a market in Great Britain, even if
allowed free importation, whereas the Irish market was
certain to be flooded with British goods of all descrip-
tions. It was said, in answer to this, that the Union
would at least secure Irish linen and provisions in their
privileges, but it was replied that the British would
never do anything so hostile to their own interests, as
they only admitted linen because thev could not get it
cheaper elsewhere, and Irish corn and provisions were
becoming more and more vital to Great Britain everv year in
view of the continued war,and of the fact that Great Birtain

Online LibraryGeorge Augustine Thomas O'BrienThe economic history of Ireland in the eighteenth century → online text (page 36 of 38)