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into Britain was never wholly lost. Certainly England had made considerable progress before the Norman invasion. The whole country was divided into counties, hundreds, and tithings, which possessed local jurisdiction and administrative powers. The division into parishes also dates from the Saxon period, and appears to have received but little alteration subsequently. Most of the towns and villages which now cover the face of the country, appear to have existed then, and bear their original Saxon names. The oppression of the Norman invaders, and the contest between the houses of York and Lancaster, involving the country in civil war, retarded its improvement for a time; but since the termination of these wars on the accession of Henry VII. to the throne, with but little exception, internal peace has been preserved, the laws have been upheld, and the rights of property maintained. To these favoring circumstances we may well attribute those habits of patient industry, which have made England the wonder and the envy of surrounding nations. How different are the circumstances by which the industrial character of the Irish people has been formed. A prey to civil dissension, even prior to the invasion by England; from that period harassed by constant warfare; oppressed though not conquered ; refused the benefits and protection of English law, yet punished as rebels for disobedience to English authority; the whole clan held accountable for the conduct of its chieftain, and the property of all confiscated, if he ventured to assert his independence; such was the condition of Ireland from the time of Henry II. until its more complete conquest by Cromwell. Under such circumstances, improvement was impossible, The peace and quietude which succeeded the unsuccessful attempt to support James II. on the throne of England, might have been favorable to industry, had they been wisely taken advantage of, but the degrading effect of the penal laws,” which were evidently intended to enslave the Roman Catholics, by preventing them from acquiring property, was a serious bar to improvement. To this was added the commercial jealousy of the English people, under the influence of the theory of protection, now so generally exploded. From this jealousy resulted the restrictions on the intercourse of Ireland with foreign nations, a systematic discou
* Of these penal laws Burke observes, that “they were as well fitted “for the oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people, and “the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded “from the perverted ingenuity of man.”
Arthur Young, in his “Tour in Ireland,” speaks of the effects of these penal laws on industry, in the following terms: “The only “considerable manufacture in Ireland which carries in all its parts the “appearance of industry, is the linen, and it ought never to be forgotten “that this is solely confined to the Protestant parts of the kingdom; “yet we may see from the example of France and other countries, that “there is nothing in the Roman Catholic religion itself that is incom“patible with manufacturing industry. The poor Catholics in the South “ of Ireland spin wool very generally, but the purchasers of their labour “and the whole woollen trade are in the hands of the Quakers of “Clonmel, Carrick, Bandon, &c. The fact is, the professors of that “religion are under such discouragements, that they cannot engage in “any trade which requires both industry and capital. If they succeed “and make a fortune, what are they to do with it? They can neither “buy land, nor take a mortgage, nor even fine down the rent of a lease. “Where is there a people in the world to be found industrious under “such circumstances? But it seems to be the meaning, wish, and intent
“of the discovery laws, that none of them should ever be rich. It is “the principle of that system that wealthy subjects would be nuisances, “ and therefore every means is taken to reduce and keep them to a state “ of poverty. If this is not the intention of the laws, they are the “most abominable heap of self-contradictions that ever were issued to “ the world. They are framed in such a manner, that no Catholic “shall have the inducement to become rich. But if, in spite of these “laws, he should accidentally gain wealth, that the whole kingdom “should not afford him a possibliity of investing it. Take the laws ** and their execution into one view, and this state of the case is so true, “that they actually do not seem to be so much levelled at the religion, “as at the property that is found in it. By the law, a priest is to be “transported and hanged for reading mass, but the mass is very readily “left to them with impunity. Let the same priest, however, make a “fortune by his mass, and from that moment he is the object of perse“cution. The domineering aristocracy of five hundred thousand Pro“testants feel the sweets of having two millions of slaves; they have “not the least objection to the tenets of that religion, which keeps them “by the laws of the land in subjection; but property and slavery are “too incompatible to live together. Hence the special care taken that “no such thing should arise among them.”—Part II. p. 33. “The system pursued in Ireland has had no other tendency but that “of driving out of the kingdom all the personal wealth of the Catholics, “and prohibiting their industry within it. The face of the country, “every object, in short, which presents to the eye of a traveller, tell “him how effectually this has been done. I urge it not as an argument; “ the whole kingdom speaks it as a fact.”—Part II. p. 34.
ragement of the woollen manufacture, and much other interference injurious to the trade of the country.” Ireland was treated as a colony to be governed for the benefit of her powerful neighbour, not for her own. In the years 1778 to 1782, contemporaneously with the relaxation of the penal laws, acts were passed by the English parliament, releasing the trade of Ireland from these injurious restrictions. The export of woollen manufactures was permitted, and a free trade granted with the colonial possessions of England. But this was not effected without much and violent opposition on the part of the English manufacturers; the petitions against the plan were numerous; the house occupied more than two months in considering it, and in the end the ministry were forced to modify it by a variety of restrictive clauses.” Trade being so far freed, and the penal laws relaxed, it might naturally be expected that Ireland, thus loosed from the shackles which had hitherto impeded her progress, would rapidly improve. But the influence of long continued oppression did not pass away with the removal of the many restrictions under which the country had laboured. The penal laws, discouraging the industry of the Roman Catholics, and throwing difficulties in their way, as respects the purchase or improvement of landed
* “I shall,” said King William III. to the English Commons, on the 2nd of July, 1698, “do all that lies in me to discourage the woollen “manufactures of Ireland.”
The exportation of wool and woollen manufactures from Ireland was prohibited by laws of the English parliament on pain of confiscation, imprisonment, and transportation. An act of the English parliament, passed in 1699, the 10 and 11 Wm. III. cap. x., after referring to “wool and the “woollen manufactures of cloth, serge, baize, kerseys, and other stuffs “made and mixed with wool,” as “the greatest and most profitable com“modities of the kingdom, on which the value of lands and the trade of “the nation do chiefly depend," proceeds to state 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 of America, “and are exported from thence to foreign markets heretofore supplied from “England, which will inevitably sink the value of land, and tend to the “ruin of the trade and the woollen manufacture of this realm," and thereupon strictly prohibits the export in future both of wool and of woollen goods to any part of the world except to England, from either Ireland or the plantations.
• Pitt, in proposing these measures, said, “the house would recollect “ that, from the Revolution to a period within the memory of every man “who heard him, indeed until these very few years, the English 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 industry of her citizens, or making “them contribute to the general interests and strength of the empire. “This system of cruel and abominable restraints had however been “exploded. It was at once harsh and unjust, and it was as impolitic as “it was oppressive; for however necessary it might be to the partial “benefit of districts in Great Britain, it promoted not the real prospe“rity and strength of the empire. That which had been the system “counteracted the kindness of Providence, and suspended the industry “ and enterprise of man. Ireland was put under such restraint, that “she was shut out from every species of commerce. She was restrained “from sending the produce of her own soil to foreign markets, and all “correspondence with the colonies of Britain was prohibited to her, so “that she could not derive their commodities but through the medium “ of Britain,” &c.