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A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland [...] (Author: Thomas Campbell)

Letter 22


The outlets of Cork are cheerful and pleasant; the country around the city, on both sides the river, is hilly, like that round Bath. The rides to Passage and Glanmire are charming, the acclivities being decorated with a variety of handsome seats.


The harbour called the Cove is one of the best in the world; the entrance is safe; and the whole navy of England may ride in it secure from every wind that blows. Ships of burden, however, are obliged to unload at Passage, about five miles from town, the channel not admitting vessels of above 150 tons.

It is argued, that the situation of Cork cannot be healthful, as it is built upon a marsh, intersected with canals, and surrounded by a large river. Yet the bills of mortality, and even the antecedent reason of the thing, prove the contrary; for the waters in these canals are never stagnant, but always rapid in their current, which communicates motion to the air, and brushes off all noxious vapours that might be supposed to arise.

The island was formerly walled in to defend it against the incursions of the neighbouring Septs, with whom it was in a perpetual warfare; it having been originally built by the Danes, whom the native Irish, to this very day, hold in detestation.

The high lands, which, on both sides the river, command the town, forbid it to


be a place of any defence against cannon. Accordingly we find that after a siege of but five days, and with little or no loss, but that of the Duke of Grafton, the garrison was obliged to surrender prisoners of war, to Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, whom King William sent over upon his return to England, after his repulse at Limerick.

But if Cork is ill placed for resisting the calamities of war, it is happily situated for obtaining the blessings of peace, by universal commerce. It is evidently most convenient for the western world, and, what to some may appear paradoxical, it lies more advantageously for the East Indies than any of the English ports. From this fortunate situation, Cork has grown into such importance, as to be, one of the third-rate cities in the British empire.

If so considerable then without the aid of manufactures, what would it be with their accession? It is not, it cannot be any peculiar indolence of nature; it must be from certain ill-judged restrictions of policy that these people are not industrious. Industry is a quality almost unknown in the


nascent state of rude societies; necessity calls it forth gradually as states advance in civilization. If the Americans are produced as an example to the contrary, let it be considered that those colonies never were in the ordinary state of infancy; they were, like Minerva, born adults.

Before Lord Strafford's administration in this kingdom, the Irish indraped their own wool, not only for home consumption, but for the foreign market. At that time, it became the policy of England to make the woollen manufacture her staple; for even so late as the reign of Elizabeth, she was supplied from the Hans Towns. It was a dispute with them about certain duties, which provoked the Queen to prohibit the importation of their cloths, and thus of course set the English looms at work.

In the infancy of the manufacture, it was perhaps justifiable, upon the principles of expediency, to suppress all competition as much as possible. But, if by tying up the hands of the Irish, we have only employed those of the French; if, instead of monopolizing the market, we have furnished them with materials to supplant us at it, ought not the


same motives of self-interest, which prompted a prohibition of the manufacture of wool in Ireland, now prevail to encourage it?

The fact is, we have totally lost the Turkey woollen trade, and the French have got it. The French are dispossessing us of the Portugal trade also; their provisions being cheaper, they can afford double the price for Irish wool that we can, and yet undersell us. Nay, such is their demand for these raw wools, that their price is enhanced beyond the reach of the Irish manufacturer.

Till of late they used to export from hence, in spite of all prohibitions, considerable quantities of coarse camblets and other stuffs to Lisbon; but now that business is entirely over, the French having got their wool, have also got possession of the market.

It is observed, by the best writers on this subject, that the woollen manufacture in France rose upon the ruins of that of Ireland: her workmen, whose trade and religion were reprobated at home, betaking themselves where both found protection and encouragement. The propagation of the


French manufacture was doubly indebted to the decline of the Irish, first for the hands, and then for the material; it being admitted, that the French cannot work up their own wools for foreign markets, without an admixture of one-third, at least, of a different staple.

France then must have Irish wool, almost at any price; which is such a temptation to smuggling, that not all the navy of England can prevent it; especially, when the wool of this country is first conveyed publicly to England, and thence clandestinely to France. But what force can never atchieve, a relaxation of the navigation laws would soon effect. The Irish would then work up that wool they now export, and, by thus withdrawing the material, would speedily stop the exportation of French woollens.

Such were the considerations which suggested those excellent lines, in a late letter to the Queen, by Lord Clare; the truth of whose painting, and the force of whose reasoning, none can sufficiently admire who have seen Ireland, and weighed this subject.


    1. And O! might poor IERNE hope,
      In sober freedom's liberal scope,
      To ply the loom, to plough the main,
      Nor see Heaven's bounties pour'd in vain;
      Where starving hinds, from fens and rocks
      View pastures rich with herds and flocks;
      And only view forbid to taste;
      Sad tenants of a dreary waste.
      For other hinds our oxen bleed;
      Our flocks for happier regions feed.
      Their fleece to Gallia's looms resign.
      More rich than the Peruvian mine;
      Her fields with barren lilies strown,
      Now white with treasures not her own.
      In vain IERNE's piercing cries
      Plaintive pursue the golden prize;
      While all aghast the Weaver stands,
      And drops the shuttle from his hands.
      Barter accurst! but mad distress
      To ruin flies from wretchedness,
      Theirs be the blame, who bar the course
      Of commerce from her genuine source.
      And drive the wretch his thirst to slake
      With poison, in a stagnant lake.
      • Hence ports secure from ev'ry wind.
        For trade for wealth, for power design'd
        Where faithful coasts and friendly gales,
        Invite the helm and court the sails,
        A wide deserted space expand.
        Surrounded with uncultur'd land.
        Thence POVERTY, with haggard eye,
        Beholds the British streamers fly;


        Beholds the merchant doom'd to brave
        The treacherous shoal, and adverse wave,
        Constrain'd to risk his precious store,
        And shun our interdicted shore.
        Thus BRITAIN works a SISTER'S woe;
        Thus starves a friend, and gluts a foe,

It will, I know, be argued, that, by enlarging the woollen manufacture of Ireland, France may lose, but England cannot gain, for instead of one competitor, she will have two, which is only making bad worse.

But granting it to be equal to England, whether she is undersold by France or Ireland; it is not equal to her, whether or no she recover those markets she has lost. And it is as demonstrable as any political proposition can be, that no measure can be so effectual to re-establish her at them, as admitting Ireland to manufacture her own wools. I argue thus—

Ireland can only be supposed to work up the wool she would otherwise smuggle to France, which is one-third of the French manufacture for exportation, and without which the other two parts could not be used for that purpose. Who then shall supply this deficiency to foreigners? Not


the French, for the material being withdrawn, they will be disabled to export any, consequently it will devolve on England to furnish the other two parts. France will lose the whole three, England regain two of them, and Ireland get but one.

To invalidate this conclusion, it will be objected, that the French may get wool elsewhere, of the same quality as the Irish. But, though this might safely be denied, we shall suppose it to be possible; still, it must be admitted, that they must purchase it at a higher price than at present, for if they could get it cheaper any where else, they would not deal with Ireland. Consequently, raising the price of the material to the French, will bring them more upon a level with the English manufacturer.

Thus far we have argued, as if the interests of France and Ireland were perfectly equal to England. But it should be considered, that what the Irish get, we are so far from losing, that the bulk of it finally centres with ourselves. Ireland would be as a sieve, through which the flour would pass to England, and the bran only remain. A distinction should be made between a


natural friend, and a natural enemy: for, surely, there is some difference, whether the dominions of George III. or Lewis XVI. abound with artificers, soldiers, and sailors, I name not money; for men, not money, constitute the wealth of a nation, and the strength of a crown.

The French are not only competitors, but enemies, who would first supplant us in our trade, and then annihilate us as a people. Whatever they gain is a double loss, by exalting France in the same proportion that it depresses England. In the day of distress, it may possibly be felt which is the best policy, to engage this country in manufactures, civilize it by trade, and attach it by affection, or load it with such chains of civil and religious restrictions, that the body of the people, having nothing to lose, may hope for better, but can fear nothing worse.

It was formerly the custom to allow each sailor to carry with him woollen goods, to the value of 40s. and each officer, to the value of 5l. but even this privilege is now taken away, and no resource left for industry.


It will be said, that there is a sufficient field for industry in Ireland, if she would but manufacture her own home-consumption, which she now imports. This, however, is, I believe, said without mature deliberation. Her home consumption is not a sufficient stimulus. The genius of trade sickens at the very thoughts of restriction, and it dies upon actual restraint. Had Ireland been prohibited the exportation of her linens, she would not, at this day, have manufactured sufficient for her own people: her gentry would have still depended upon Hamburgh and Holland for their shirts and shifts, as they did within the last forty years. Nay, we may venture to pronounce that if any embargo were laid upon the exportation of woollens from England, it would so damp the spirit of trade, that, within a century, English gentlemen would be clothed in foreign cloths.

The Irish are, however, very culpable in this affair, but the fault falls not upon the manufacturer, but the consumer. The woollen manufacture, in despite of all efforts to annihilate it, has flourished in the


city of Dublin, while it has languished every where else. But, as if the natives wished to conspire with other agents, in banishing it thence also; they scorn to wear a home-spun coat. Even an attorney's clerk must be dressed in English cloth. And such is the contempt of Irish woollens in Ireland, that it is common with the drapers to sell for English, those which are really Irish. It is the pride of the seller to deceive the buyer, and the frequency of the deception affords him flattering proofs, that the preference given to English cloth, is merely owing to the prejudice of his countrymen. And certainly the superior perfection to which they have brought poplins, some of which, called tabinets, have all the richness of silk, does not discover any want of genius in this line.

At first view, one might imagine this honest deceit to be advantageous to the woollen manufacture of Dublin; and it evidently must be so to that of fine cloths; yet the trade at large suffers. For instead of working up their own excellent wools into


frizes, ratteens, serges, and coarse broad cloths, they export their raw wool; and are supplied with those coarse goods from the north of England; and to complete the measure of their misconduct, they import yearly, between twenty and thirty thousand pounds value of Spanish wool, for the manufacture of superfines.

But nothing, surely, can be more injudicious, than to affect the higher, and neglect the lower branches. The same value of Irish wool, with that imported from Spain, would employ, at least, thrice the number of hands, and bring five times the neat profit to the kingdom. This, I conceive, should be attended to by the Dublin Society. That useful body, instead of giving premiums for the finest sort, should only give them for those of an inferior quality; into whose composition Spanish wool is not supposed to enter.

Upon the whole, it is hard to say, whether foreign or domestic causes operate most powerfully in wasting this fruitful country. Which, by removing unnatural prohibitions, would not only be enabled to furnish


a grand proportion of the supplies; but, by increasing the number of its inhabitants, would become of vast importance by reciprocal trade, and by furnishing a breed of able-bodied men for manning out fleets, and recruiting our armies.

To-morrow, I purpose setting out for Limerick,

and am, &c.