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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.
property, had induced those who acquired money to hoard it in concealment, instead of using it for the improvement of their property; and had in great measure prevented the formation of a middle class. The reckless management of many of the large estates, and the impoverished condition of their owners, had a most injurious effect. The agitated state of the country previous to the Union, the short but bloody contest in 1798, the means taken to quell the insurrection, in arraying one portion of the people against the other, increased the embittered feelings already existing, added to the difficulty, and delayed the period of improvement.
By the enactment of 1793, the lower classes of Roman Catholics obtained all the political power which their position in life enabled them to exercise, while the rich and educated were refused those posts of honor or emolument to which they might naturally aspire. The fruits of this injudicious policy were soon apparent. The upper classes were dissatisfied. They petitioned parliament for complete emancipation from all the disabilities affecting them. For many years their representations were disregarded ; at length the attitude they assumed, the completeness of their organization, their numbers, and the power of the forty-shilling freeholders, whom a stronger motive had freed from political subserviency to their landlords, imperatively enforced their claims; and in 1829, the act for emancipation received the royal assent. The successful result of the means used in Support of the Roman Catholic claims, taught the people to rely on intimidation for the attainment of political objects. The agitation produced in the minds of men by the various political associations, whether for the advocacy of those claims, or for a repeal of the Union, has had a serious effect in depressing industry; by holding out to the people undefined prospects of important advantages, to be obtained from political changes, which have tended to withdraw them from a reliance on their own exertions, as the only sure means of improving their condition. The writer is well aware that the spirit which dictated the penal laws no longer exists; that they have been repealed with the hearty concurrence of the great majority of the people of England; and that for many years past the government and the British people have evinced great anxiety for the complete identification of the interests of Ireland with those of England and Scotland. The subject is here referred to, merely to show the effect of these laws on the industry of the country. The laws have been changed, but their depressing influence has not yet ceased to exist. In spite of all depressing circumstances, Ireland has improved during the past sixty years. Statistical proof could be readily obtained. The city of Dublin may have lost something by the removal of the Irish nobility and gentry, consequent on the union with England; but even Dublin has improved; while the progress of many of the small country towns has been great and rapid. The wealth of the country has increased. This is proved by the large amount of the public funds transferred from England to Ireland. The comforts of the upper and middle classes have increased. The internal trade of the country has increased greatly, and many small towns have well-stocked shops and comfortable shopkeepers, where a few years since . it would have been difficult to purchase the commonest necessaries of life. The state of society is better. The people are more industrious and more provident. But, in all these respects, we are still much behind our richer neighbours, whose wealth and civilization date from a period so much earlier. The agricultural class is certainly much inferior to that of England in wealth, management of their farms, and manner of living; yet in many districts the farmers are in much better circumstances than they were ; the system of cultivation is improved, and a considerably greater value of stock is to be found on the farms. The lowest class of all,