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History of the Commercial and Financial Relations between England and Ireland from the Period of the Restoration (Author: Alice Effie Murray)

Chapter 3

The Restoration and its Commercial Policy.

Irish Export Trade in Live Stock-Growing Apprehensions and Jealousy in England — First Act against Irish Cattle — Remonstrances of Ormonde — Effects of the Act — Further Jealousies in England — Final Act against the Importation of Irish Cattle, Sheep, Swine, and their Products — Immediate Distress in Ireland — Ultimate Effects of the Act — The Navigation Acts of Charles II. and their Effects — Efforts of the Irish Parliament and Ormonde to Promote Trade and Industry — English Duties on Irish Manufactures — Growing Prosperity of Ireland till the Revolution.

We have seen that in the years directly succeeding the establishment of peace Ireland began to recover rapidly from the effects of the war. Henry Cromwell seems to have governed wisely, and at the time of the Restoration of Charles II. there were already certain signs of returning prosperity. A large export trade in live stock had been established. The breeding of cattle and sheep was an industry eminently suited to a country possessed of little agricultural skill, in which the chief part of the land was owned by alien landlords, afraid to employ large numbers of the native Irish on their estates. Years before Edmund Spenser had noticed the fitness of the soil of Ireland for pasture farming and cattle breeding, and even in his time the Irish owned a large quantity of live stock.35 Later, in 1620, one hundred thousand head of cattle had been exported from Ireland to England, forty to fifty shillings a head being paid for them.36 The trade had, of course, practically


ceased to exist during the Cromwellian Wars, but now it was increasing by leaps and bounds, chiefly owing to the fact that many of Cromwell's soldiers and adventurers who had been granted lands in Ireland had become sheep and cattle breeders on a large scale. In 1663 there was exported from Ireland one third more of oxen, sheep, butter, and beef than in 1641,37 and that in spite of the high duties imposed in Ireland on the exportation of live stock. Sheep and oxen had to pay on shipment a duty of three shillings and fourpence per head,38 while that on horses was still heavier.

At this time Irish cattle farmers devoted themselves merely to breeding live stock, and made little attempt at fattening. It is true that a certain amount of beef, mutton, pork, and butter was exported from Ireland, but Irish butter was carelessly made and badly packed, while Irish meat was poor. This was because the animals were killed young in order to avoid the trouble and expense of fattening them. The export trade in live stock was so flourishing that it seemed scarcely worth while to spend money in fattening in order to procure good meat and dairy produce for sale abroad.

For the time the country flourished under this condition of things, but the new prosperity was destined to be but short lived. Three years after the Restoration the English breeders began to raise an outcry against the growing importation of Irish cattle. For the last three years on an average sixty-one thousand head of cattle had been brought over every year from Ireland.39 The breeders complained that land in Ireland was so plentiful and cheap that cattle and sheep could be bred practically for nothing, and that in consequence English cattle, which could only be bred at great expense, were being undersold.


Irish competition was bringing down the prices of live stock in England, and this fall of prices was the cause of the present decline in rents. So it was argued, and the result of these arguments was a rather tentative attempt by an English Act of Parliament to prohibit the importation of Irish cattle into England between July 1st and December 20th in any year, under penalty of a heavy money forfeiture.40 Scotch cattle were included in the Act, but in less severe terms, and it was evidently aimed chiefly at the Irish cattle breeders. The Bill met with practically no opposition in either House. The Earl of Anglesea had been sent over from Ireland by the Lord Lieutenant to protest against the measure; but he arrived too late to influence the decision, and the Bill rapidly became law.

Ormonde had done all he could to prevent this Bill from being passed. He had tried to influence the King against it, and had pointed out the little trade possessed by Ireland and the impoverished condition of the country by reason of the recent wars. But the King was powerless to resist any measure which his Parliament was really determined to bring about, and could therefore do nothing to help the Lord Lieutenant. After the Act was passed Ormonde devoted his energies to obtain its repeal or at least to prevent a worse thing from happening to Ireland. Some time before he had appointed a Council of Trade to encourage the industry and commerce of the country. This Council he now ordered to draw up a report on the effects of the recent Act. On November 4th, 1664, the report was sent up.41 It seemed that there had been a total cessation of the export of cattle and sheep for the last few months. There was great discontent in the country. Tenants were giving up their leases; the customs were beginning to fall; the expenses of the civil and military lists could not be defrayed. This stoppage in the


export of cattle and sheep meant practically a universal cessation of trade, for live stock was the staple commodity for exportation. The exportation of salted beef was not profitable to the country, because the poverty of the people necessitated the cattle being killed too young. Also Ireland had no ships in which to export her beef. The Council prophesied that the rents of lands in Ireland would decline and the trade of England with Ireland would suffer, as Ireland would soon become too poor to purchase English commodities.

Ormonde and his Council confirmed the conclusions of the Council of Trade as to the great and sudden poverty of the country and the scarcity of money. Cattle, they said, were a drug in the market, and there was not enough money to pay the husbandmen their wages, so that tillage also was stopped. The measure was defeating all the attempts which were being made to make Ireland pay her own way and not be a burden to England. For tenants could not pay their rents to their landlords, nor in consequence the landlords to the king, nor could either tenants or landlords pay the public taxes. Also by the decrease of trade the King would lose his customs and excise. Ormonde also foresaw that the prohibition of their cattle might force the Irish to trade with other nations for those articles which they used to get from England in return for their cattle. Ireland might then grow rich without England and might set up manufactures of her own to England's hurt. The prophecies of Ormonde showed a foresight on his part which his contemporaries seemed to lack. But although he saw clearly that England would suffer from her unjust measure, he did not foresee that Ireland, in spite of the temporary distress she was suffering and was still to suffer, would eventually gain rather than lose by the prohibition. But after all it was little wonder that Ormonde, and indeed all thoughtful men in Ireland, should have regarded the Cattle Act as destructive of Irish prosperity. There


were practically no manufactures in the country, and cattle was the best native commodity. The difficulties of transportation prevented live cattle and sheep from being sold anywhere but in England and Scotland, while their produce, hides, tallow, and flesh, could not be sold at this time in France and Holland as formerly because of the war. Irish beef too was very inferior to English, and it did not seem possible that it could compete with the latter in foreign markets at the conclusion of the war. The only raw material which Ireland could have exported in large quantities, wool and woolfels, was prohibited from being sent anywhere but to England, and only there on payment of a heavy fee. And so it seemed unlikely that Ireland would be able to compensate herself for the loss of her cattle trade.

There is no doubt that the Cattle Act of 1663 produced great and real distress in Ireland. Between July and December the penalty for importing large cattle into England was forty shillings a head; for sheep it was ten shillings. These penalties equalled the value of the animals, and so were equal to a prohibition. The country was altogether in a very miserable condition, and Ormonde reported that he could not answer for the quiet of the people if the Act were not repealed.

But in spite of the distress in Ireland, which was in itself a convincing proof of the effectiveness of the Act, the English breeders were not satisfied. The breeders of the northern counties sent up a petition to the Parliament which met at Oxford in October, 1665, complaining that they could not sell their cattle except at ruinous prices, that the great fall in rents would drain the country of its resources, and praying for an Act to prevent altogether the importation of live stock from Ireland.42 It is certainly true that rents in England were everywhere falling, but this fall cannot possibly be attributed to the competition of the Irish cattle breeders. The war with Holland, the


plague, and the great drought of the last few summers, were quite sufficient in themselves to account for the fall of rents, which at that time meant more or less the impoverishment of the kingdom. Land was then the great source of taxation, and so a fall in rents meant a decay in the sources of taxation. Those members of Parliament, therefore, who believed the arguments of the English cattle breeders were nothing loath to accede to their wish for protection against Irish competition, while many of those who saw the absurdity of the arguments were willing to support any Act which would impoverish the great Irish landowners, because of their jealousy of the Duke of Ormonde. The result of all these complaints and jealousies was a Bill brought at once into Parliament prohibiting absolutely the importation of large cattle, sheep, and swine, and also of beef, pork, and bacon, from Ireland or any part beyond the seas. The Bill passed the Commons with some difficulty, but it was thrown out by the Lords. For the time being the matter had to be dropped. There was open discontent in Ireland, and even the Members of the Irish Parliament plucked up courage to resent the interference of England with their trade, for when granting the last four of the twenty-four subsidies they had granted since the Restoration, they provided, by an express clause, that, in case the prohibition of transporting cattle into England was not taken off before December 25th, 1666, the levying of the last two subsidies should be suspended.43 Ormonde again came forward, and once more laid before the King all the arguments he had before used against restricting the Irish cattle trade. But although Charles openly expressed his dislike of the measure, he was too much in need of money to be able to resist his Parliament. And so the Bill against Irish live stock and meat was again brought forward in the following session, on September 21st, 1666.44 There was a good deal


of opposition to the Bill. Various Members protested against it as being injurious to the interests of their particular counties. They pointed out that the land in many English counties was too good for merely breeding purposes; it was particularly well suited for fattening cattle, and as it was chiefly Irish lean cattle which were fattened on these lands, any law prohibiting the importation of Irish lean cattle would ruin the prosperity of all the fattening lands in the kingdom. But the jealousy felt towards Ireland by the great majority of the Commons proved too strong to be removed by arguments. The Bill went rapidly through its three readings, and a month later was read in the House of Lords. It was at once evident that the majority of the Lords were determined to pass it. There was, however, some opposition from those lords whose jealousy of Ireland and the Duke of Ormonde combined was not great enough to obscure their reasoning powers. Some of these lords urged that Parliament might just as reasonably take away the trade of anyone county in England because it produced some inconvenience to that of another county more in the favour of Government. Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, and other counties would lose as much by the Act as the northern counties would gain by it. Another interesting point urged in the Lords against the Bill was that if it were passed, Ireland would be just as much entitled to desire the King to restrain the trade of England. These arguments show that Ireland was still regarded as a more or less co-ordinate part of the King's dominions, and that the later conception of her strictly subordinate position had not yet generally appeared. The debates on the Bill lasted some time. They were extremely animated, and often went on from early in the morning until four in the afternoon, at that time a very late hour for a sitting to terminate.45 Buckingham and Ashley headed the supporters of the Bill. It was the latter who disclosed that there were other reasons for passing the measure besides


a wish to encourage the breeding of cattle in England, for he urged that if the Bill were not passed, all the rents in Ireland would rise in a vast proportion and all the rents in England would fall as much, so that in a year or two the Duke of Ormonde would have a greater revenue than the Earl of Northumberland.46 Many of the lords were extremely jealous of the large Irish estates owned by Ormonde, and Ashley's argument did something to prevail upon them to vote for the Bill. The Duke of Buckingham declared that whoever opposed the Bill had either an Irish interest or an Irish understanding,47 which so enraged the Earl of Ossory, Ormonde's eldest son, that he sent the Duke a challenge. Indeed, the debates were very disorderly. No parliamentary rules were adhered to, and the Commons, to add to the agitation, kept on sending messages begging the Lords to hasten the matter. One thing, however, rather delayed the passing of the Bill in the Lords; this was that certain clauses of the Act appeared to be derogatory to the King's dignity. Some alterations were therefore made in order to allow the King the prerogative of his dispensing power, and with these amendments the Bill was sent down to the Commons. But the Commons rejected the amendments altogether, and voted that they would adhere to their own Bill without departing from a word of it, except with reference to Scotland. Scotland had been included in the Act, for a good deal of Scotch cattle had been imported into the northern counties. Now the Commons, by agreeing to exclude Scotland from the terms of the Bill, showed their hands, and made clear that reasons besides those connected with the Cattle Bill were influencing their conduct. Indeed, the whole basis of the Bill was destroyed, for if the importation of Irish cattle had been injurious to the interests of England, that of Scotch cattle must have had a similar effect. But Scotland was not an object of


jealousy, like Ireland, and the Duke of Ormonde owned no Scotch estates. Scotland had only been included in the Bill in order to give an appearance of impartiality to the measure. The Bill was aimed primarily at the Irish cattle breeders, and through them at the Duke of Ormonde.

Meanwhile, the various conferences between the Lords and Commons came to no satisfactory issue. The Commons firmly refused to allow the King any dispensing power with reference to the Act, and it is probable that the whole Bill might have fallen through if the King had not been secretly persuaded not only to consent to the Bill, but also to persuade the Lords to give up their amendments in favour of his prerogative. The Lords at last agreed, and the Bill was passed and received the Royal consent on November 3rd, 1666.

This Act laid down that all great cattle, sheep, and swine, and also all beef, pork, and bacon imported into England from Ireland, except for necessary provisions, should be forfeited, the importation of either fat or lean cattle being unnecessary, destructive of the welfare of the kingdom, and a ‘public nuisance.’48 The Act was strengthened by subsequent Statutes, which extended the prohibition to Irish mutton, lamb, butter, and cheese.49 Thus Ireland was not only deprived of her staple trade in live stock to England, but also of any possible future increase in her provision trade with England.

This Cattle Act of 1666 naturally greatly increased the existing distress in Ireland. The Irish trade in cattle and animal produce to England had literally been three-quarters of the whole trade of the country.50 In any case the measure must have produced great distress; but the war made this distress much more acute. Farmers found themselves with live stock on their hands which they


could not sell. Horses which used to be sold for thirty shillings a head were now sold thankfully as dog's meat, while oxen which had been sold for fifty shillings a head were now sold for ten shillings. A year later matters had become much worse, for in 1667 the Scotch, who had hitherto allowed Irish cattle to be imported on payment of a duty of half-a-crown a head, followed the example of England and forbade their importation altogether.51 For a short time the Irish carried on a clandestine trade with England, glad as they were to dispose of their cattle on almost any terms. But the trade was too risky and had soon to be given up. An attempt was then made to export Irish cattle to Rotterdam; but this too was found to be unprofitable, for owing to the expenses of transportation, the Dutch could supply themselves cheaper from Holstein, and so were unwilling to give the Irish merchants such a price as would cover the expenses of freight and insurance. So nothing could be done in this direction to tide over the period of acute distress. The debt of the country to England had also greatly increased, for in order to pay this debt, Ireland had now to ship such goods as she was able to other countries, obtain goods wanted by England, and sell them in England for money to meet the various claims.52 It may therefore easily be imagined that there was real and universal distress in Ireland during the years immediately succeeding the second Cattle Act.

But this distress was only temporary, and as it soon turned out, the interference of England with the Irish cattle trade was to prove really beneficial to Ireland, while it inflicted certain immediate injuries on England which were felt acutely at the time. Almost at once England suffered from her ill-judged interference. The price of meat rose immediately, and even before the end


of the session of Parliament on February 6th of the year following that in which the Act was passed, rates of wages had gone up in proportion to the increase in the price of provisions.53 Those landlords who had pasture for fattening now found themselves at the mercy of the Welsh and Scotch cattle breeders and forced to give fancy prices for their lean cattle, so that they lost the large profit they used to get when they bought their lean cattle at cheap prices from the Irish breeder.54 Rents too showed no signs of rising, and altogether England gained nothing, even at first, from the distress of her sister country. In the long run she was to suffer very much from her unwise legislation.

It has been seen that previous to the Cattle Acts Ireland had driven such a thriving trade in young bullocks with England during the five summer months of the year, that very few cows had been bred for milk and few oxen for slaughter. The consequence of this was that Irish hides were thin, small and lank, while Irish tallow was bad in quality and quickly consumed. Little butter was exported, and the trade in beef for foreign export was very small, for as the flesh was young and only grass fed, it was too light and moist for preservation.55 But with the passing of the Cattle Acts all this was bound to change. The difficulties of transporting live stock were too great to allow of them being exported to foreign countries even after the conclusion of the war. All that the Irish could do was to turn their attention to fattening their cattle. The cattle breeders, instead of only breeding young bullocks, fattened their live stock in order to procure good meat and dairy produce for foreign exportation. Irish merchants became more careful as regarded the quality of the provisions they exported. Irish beef, instead of being


thought poor and bad in quality, soon became in great demand abroad; in 1669 some Dutch merchants stated that it fetched nearly as much in the Dutch market as the English, while Irish butter sold for more than English butter because of its superior richness of quality.56 Ireland indeed soon began to rival England in all branches of the provision trade with foreign countries, especially in those of butter, hides, and tallow. French Flanders, Spain, and Portugal had all formerly been supplied with butter by England, but after 1670 we begin to hear of continual complaints on the part of English merchants that they cannot sell their butter profitably because of Irish competition.57 The sale of English beef in foreign markets also suffered. Before the Cattle Acts the young Irish cattle had served for English consumption, so that the older and better English cattle could be kept for foreign export. Now, the English had to consume their own superior beef, while the Irish, by devoting themselves to fattening their cattle, were soon able to send abroad as good a quality of beef as the English provision merchants. Irish beef too was so plentiful, and so little of it, comparatively speaking, was consumed at home, that it could be sold abroad at ridiculously low prices. In Holland and Zealand, for example, Irish beef was selling in 1675 at a penny a pound.58 The Irish could also sell to foreigners wool, hides, tallow, and fish at half the price the English could afford to do.59 This was of course due to the low value of land in Ireland, where an acre could be bought for four shillings as against forty shillings in England. It was also connected with the low price of living and the consequent cheapness of labour.


But not only had the Irish begun to rival the English in the provision trade with foreign countries, they had also begun to compete in the same trade with the plantations. In the fifteen years following the Cattle Acts Ireland began to furnish the English plantations with butter, cheese, and salted beef.60 She also supplied foreign plantations, especially the French West Indies, with salted provisions of all kinds.61 And so during this period England saw part of her provision trade with her own plantations, as well as with foreign countries and their plantations, taken from her by the Irish. This of course kept down the price of provisions at home,62 after the first effects of the Cattle Acts in raising the price of meat had worked themselves out. Naturally the low price of provisions in England proved injurious not only to the graziers and dairy farmers, but also to those cattle breeders who had hoped to gain so much by the Acts.

Thus one of the most important permanent results of the Cattle Acts was to give Ireland a comparatively large provision trade with foreign countries and English and foreign plantations. The establishment of this trade led directly to an increase in Irish shipping,63 and even as early as 1670 Sir Joshua Child noticed that the cities and port towns of Ireland had greatly increased in building and shipping.64 In 1680 we read that for the last five years there were seldom less than twenty Irish ships at Dunkirk laden with beef, quantities of butter, tallow, hides, leather, and some wool.65 Irish ships were also seen at Ostend, Nantes, and La Rochelle, laden with provisions.66 At the


same time all these places had ceased to import from England any provisions except corn.67

The establishment of this new Irish trade in provisions led to another interesting result, and one which Ormonde and other sensible men had foreseen; this was a decrease, though seemingly only a temporary one, in the quantity of English goods exported to Ireland. A falling off in the amount of trade between the two countries was noticed almost immediately. The importation of English goods had not been a necessity to Ireland, nor had it even been an advantage.68 Nevertheless before the Cattle Acts were passed, three-quarters of the Irish foreign trade was with England, for Irish cattle exported to England purchased all the commodities which Ireland needed. These commodities were beer, hops, hats, stockings, cloths and stuffs of all sorts, dyeing stuffs, hides, fruit, sugar, and tobacco.69 It was soon found that the trade with Ireland in hops, beer, and all sorts of woollen stuffs was rapidly diminishing, while the English exportation to Ireland of foreign corn was also decreasing.70 Before 1663 Ireland had, on an average, imported English manufactures and produce to the amount of £210,000 a year, but from that time the quantity of English goods imported steadily decreased until in 1675 it had fallen to less than £20,000 a year.71 At the same time, instead of importing foreign commodities by way of England, Ireland was able to buy them direct with her provisions, and by 1672 only one-quarter of Ireland's foreign trade was with England.72


The consequence of this temporary decrease in trade between England and Ireland was an immediate loss to the former in the way of navigation. Above one hundred ships and a proportionate number of sailors had been employed in bringing over cattle, while a large number of English ships and mariners had been employed in the trade for the return of Irish cattle.73 There were now many complaints that numbers of sailors were without employment, and the pamphleteers of the period are full of gloomy forebodings of the decay of the English navy through want of merchantmen. No doubt all these fears were somewhat exaggerated by contemporaries, but it cannot be denied that as long as Ireland's foreign trade remained unrestricted, the Irish did trade with foreign countries instead of solely with England, and that there was a considerable decrease in the amount of English shipping employed in the Irish trade.

And in various other ways England suffered from the effects of the new trade which she had so inadvertently given to Ireland. The low price of Irish provisions led to foreign ships taking in their victuals in Irish ports instead of in English as before, and the English began to lose their name of supplying cheaper victuals than any other nation in Europe. It was even said that the Dutch and French could victual their ships cheaper in Ireland than the English could victual their ships in England.74 The result was that English ships themselves soon began to take in most of their provisions in Ireland, or at least obtained Irish provisions from Spain and other countries.75 England therefore lost part of the trade in victualling her own ships as well as those of foreigners, and the only result of the Cattle Acts was that England had to go over to Ireland for some of her provisions instead of allowing Irish provisions to be brought over to her. Although the


prices of English provisions had fallen low enough to inflict considerable injury on English farmers, they could not fall as low as those of Irish provisions without absolutely ruining the breeders and graziers. Before the Cattle Acts England had had provisions at moderate prices combined with a flourishing export trade. Now her export trade had fallen off, and the lower price of food was injurious to the large agricultural interest. Breeding lands were also increasing at the expense of fattening, and tillage and horse breeding were decaying. This was a misfortune, for the exportation of horses was much more lucrative than that of cattle.76

But perhaps the most important result of the Cattle Acts was that the Irish breeders, instead of only breeding or principally breeding large cattle, began to breed sheep in great numbers.77 An Act of Parliament had shortly before made it felony to export wool anywhere but to England, and confiscation to export it to England except raw. But although the export of wool to foreign countries was denied to the Irish, they soon began to drive a thriving trade with England in raw wool, after the increasing number of their sheep had lowered the price of their wool. From this time till the Revolution, we read of a great and increasing exportation of Irish wool to England. Though wool could not be exported to England without a licence and the payment of a fee of two shillings a stone, and though the Irish merchant had all the expenses of freight, factorage and market charges, he was yet able to undersell the English woollen merchant in the latter's own market.78 The importation of huge quantities of cheap Irish wool dragged down the price of English. Only a few English counties had been able to complain of the cheapness of


Irish cattle. Now practically every county in England suffered from the low price of Irish wool. England had at that time really enough wool for her own use, and so gradually as the price of wool, both English and Irish, continued to decrease, two important things happened. One was that the Irish woollen merchants, finding the price of wool in the English markets too low even for them, began a clandestine exportation of wool to foreign countries. This, however, was not as yet done on a large scale. The other and more important result was that the Irish, finding the export of their wool unprofitable, began to work it up themselves, and greatly increased their woollen manufacture, hitherto carried on a small scale. The successful establishment of an Irish woollen manufacture in the years preceding the Revolution was the direct result of the prohibition of Irish cattle, and later on was to lead to perhaps the greatest commercial injustice ever inflicted by England on her sister country. The Cattle Acts, by a natural sequence of events, led to the destruction, ten years after the Revolution, of the Irish foreign trade in woollen goods.

It was not long before the evil consequences of the Cattle Acts were seen by many men in England as well as Ireland. There was a considerable decline in the customs revenue, for the customs previously paid on the importation of Irish live stock into England had amounted on an average to £32,000 a year.79 Numerous pamphlets were written during the reigns of Charles II. and James II. urging the repeal of the Acts. It was pointed out that as English commodities were not essential to the people of Ireland, it was in the interests of England to encourage the importation of Irish cattle in order to keep the Irish as customers. It was also urged that if cattle were admitted into England, less wool would be grown in Ireland, and that it was this growing importation of Irish


wool which would in time ruin the wool and cloth trade of England.80 The arguments contained in the pamphlets are often exceedingly curious, especially when we reflect that many of them were urged a long time after the passing of the Act of 1666, when its effects had fully worked themselves out and when it would have been well-nigh impossible to change the current of Irish commerce. The Irish had definitely turned their attention to fattening cattle for their provision trade, and to breeding sheep in order to supply themselves and the English with wool. They had commenced a thriving trade in provisions with foreign countries and the plantations, and even if the Cattle Acts had been repealed, and they had once more been allowed to export their cattle and provisions to England, they would surely have continued at the same time their trade with foreign countries. The only result would have been to give Ireland an extra market for her produce. Of course the repeal of the Acts would have been a wise measure for England, but it is doubtful whether she could ever have gone back to the position she had occupied before the Acts, the position of the importer of lean cattle, which she could fatten up for her own export trade. It is doubtful, too, whether the repeal of the Acts, even after a lapse of only ten or fifteen years, would have led to a decrease in sheep breeding, for the Irish woollen manufacture had already begun to establish itself, and with its gradual extension a further impetus would be given to the growth of wool, even though only a small fraction of Irish wool might be consumed within the country. The soil of Ireland, too, was particularly suited for pasture farming. This could be seen from the richness of Irish butter and the good quality of Irish wool. In fifteen years the Cattle Acts had done their work. They had turned Ireland from a country of cattle breeders into a country with a large provision trade, into a wool-growing


country, and one in which a woollen manufacture was rapidly establishing itself. In return England had lost some part of her trade with Ireland, she found herself rivalled in foreign markets and in her own plantations by Irish goods, while a huge importation of Irish wool dragged down the price of her wool and impaired the prosperity of her wool growers. Certainly the first serious attempt on the part of England to restrict Irish commerce was fraught with disasters to herself.

It was fortunate for Ireland that at the time when the Cattle Acts were passed her trade with the English plantations was subject to little restriction, or rather, that she was not in a position to be seriously injured by the small restrictions which existed. The great Navigation Act of 166081 had excluded the Irish in no way from building ships or manning them, and in everything concerning the plantation trade had treated the Irish simply as English subjects. The thirteenth clause of the Act provided that the ‘enumerated’ commodities might be shipped from the colonies to Ireland as well as to England. In the next great Navigation Act, that of 1663,82 Ireland was not mentioned by name, but as she was not expressly excluded from the privileges of English subjects she continued to carry on her trade with the plantations as before. It was this direct trade with the plantations which probably helped to tide Ireland over the period of distress incident on the prohibition of her cattle. It is true that this same Act laid down that no commodities of the growth of Europe were to be exported to the plantations except those laden or shipped in England, Wales, or the town of Berwick-on-Tweed. But this did not injure Ireland at all, because horses, servants, and victuals from Scotland and Ireland were excepted and allowed to be exported direct to the plantations. Ireland as yet had practically no manufactured goods for foreign export, so for some time she remained unaffected by the Act of 1663. For


several years she carried on a thriving trade with the English as well as foreign plantations, exporting her horses and provisions direct and receiving in return all the commodities she wanted.

But this free trade with the English plantations did not last long. The growing prosperity of Ireland again aroused the jealousy of England, and the new ideas with regard to the position of colonies and dependencies were now beginning to be definitely formulated. The interference with the exportation of Irish cattle and the refusal of England to import Irish provisions had only resulted in giving Ireland a thriving provision trade with foreign countries and the plantations. Ireland was beginning to undersell England in the English plantations, a thing not to be endured. The plantations were regarded as the exclusive property of the Mother Country, and Ireland was held to have no more part or lot in them, and no more entitled to derive benefit from them, than if she were a foreign country. For though in respect to Ireland's trade with herself, England treated Ireland like a plantation, in respect to Ireland's trade with the American colonies, the Irish were to be treated no better than foreigners. This new conception of the Irish as being altogether outside the privileges of English subjects had been hinted at in the Navigation Act of 1663, but it was not until seven years later that it was further revealed in the Acts of 1670 and 1671.83 These Acts expressly prohibited a large number of commodities, enumerated in the first Act, from being carried to Ireland from the plantations unless first landed in England. The most important of these commodities were cotton, wool, fustic or other dyeing wood, ginger, indigoes, sugars, and tobacco; also coffee, cocoanuts, whalefins, raw silks, hides, skins, and pot or pearl ashes from America.84 As these enumerated commodities practically


included all commodities exported from the plantations, Ireland was now unable to import any plantation goods direct in return for her provisions. This meant great inconvenience and expense to Irish merchants, for they had to incur all the extra freight, insurance, and warehouse charges and port fees incident on transporting their plantation commodities from England to Ireland. It therefore put a check to the increase of Irish shipping, for Irish merchants soon began to find it more convenient to get plantation goods straight from England through English merchants than to import them themselves by a circuitous and extremely expensive route. Further, as Irish merchants could not directly import plantation goods in return for their provisions, they began after a time to cease exporting so many provisions to the English plantations, and began exporting them to foreign plantations instead. Later on this export trade of Ireland, especially to the French West Indies, led to great complaints on the part of England, that the colonies of foreign countries could get their provisions cheaper than their own plantations. But this and other effects had hardly time to work themselves out during the reigns of Charles II. and his brother. It was not until after the Revolution, when the Navigation Laws became more strict and more severely interpreted, that the whole significance of Ireland's exclusion from the colonial trade began to be apparent. Real and great injuries were to be inflicted on Ireland by the Navigation Acts and the peculiar interpretation given to them. In proportion to the growth of her trade and industry these injuries came to be more and more felt, and Ireland found herself permanently shut off from many possibilities of commercial progress.

But it was not merely Irish trade with the West that was subject to restrictions. At this time the English


trade with the East Indies was already in the hands of an exclusive company trading through the port of London. Ireland was therefore cut off from a free and direct trade with the East Indies. This meant that she was unable to import East India goods from the place of their growth; she was also forbidden to import certain of these commodities from any place but England.85 As time went on, Ireland was to find her foreign trade more and more restricted by the establishment in England of these exclusive companies, maintained by English capital and trading through some English port.

Although the commercial policy of the Restoration period was unfavourable to Ireland as regards her trade with England and the plantations, it did not interfere with her foreign trade. And this is why Ireland, until after the Revolution, when England began to interfere in every branch of Irish trade, kept fairly prosperous, although her growing commercial prosperity was to some extent checked by the later Navigation Acts of Charles II. The Duke of Ormonde did a great deal to increase the wealth of the kingdom. As soon as he found that all his efforts to prevent the passing of the Cattle Acts had failed, he set himself to improve the existing resources of Ireland and to establish native manufactures. The Irish Parliament, too, did something to encourage industry. In 1661 it had appointed a committee on trade to consider how Irish trade might be best advanced,86 and in 1662 its Bill ‘for encouraging Protestant strangers and others to inhabit and plant in the kingdom of Ireland’87 had some effect in promoting the woollen and linen manufactures. Many of the French refugees who landed in England were sent over to Ireland at the expense of Government, and received letters of naturalisation from the Irish


Parliament. But it was Ormonde who did most in this direction. He planted French colonies at Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Lisburn, and Portarlington, and at all these places the refugees established glove-making, lace-making, silk-weaving, and the woollen and linen manufactures.88 In many other ways Ormonde did much to promote native industries, and he also did something to improve the foreign trade of the country. Early in 1667, when the distress in Ireland was acute — for the war had led to a compulsory stoppage of commercial intercourse with foreign parts — Ormonde and his Council sent up a petition to the King. In this petition they begged leave to be allowed to trade freely with foreign countries in spite of the war, and asked for authorisation to forbid the importation of such commodities as would drain the country of its coin. In answer to this petition the King ordered that all restraints on the exportation of Irish commodities to foreign parts should be taken off, and that the Lord Lieutenant and his Council should issue a proclamation to this effect. Nothing, however, was to be done which might prejudice the charters of the East India Company, the Turkey Company, or the Canary Company. The Irish were also allowed to retaliate on the Scotch, who had just forbidden the importation of Irish cattle, beef, and corn.89 A proclamation was accordingly issued on April 1st by Ormonde, that free trade was to be allowed between Ireland and all foreign countries whether at peace or war with the King, and that until further orders should be given, Scotch linen and woollen manufactures, stockings, and gloves, were not to be imported into Ireland, as they drew money out of the country and hindered the progress of Irish manufactures.90 The exportation of wool from Ireland had not been


mentioned in the King's answer to the petition. But neither was it particularly granted, and as the existing law made the exportation of wool to any place but England felony, Ormonde was afraid to allow its exportation to foreign countries until he had made further enquiries on the matter. He therefore excluded wool from his proclamation and refused to give leave for its exportation unless the King should send a special letter saying it was his intention to include wool in the general freedom given to Irish exportation. But as no such letter ever came, the exportation of wool, except to England, continued to be a capital offence.

Now, until the Restoration, Ireland had generally been allowed to export her raw wool to any part of the world. But in 1660 an Act was passed which laid down that no raw wool should be exported from England, Ireland, Wales, or the town of Berwick-on-Tweed into Scotland or into any place outside His Majesty's dominions on pain of forfeiture of ship and cargo and confiscation of the goods and chattels of the master.91 Two years later such exportation was made felony.92 In this respect, of course, Ireland was merely treated like England and Wales, and the object of the Act may have been to increase the woollen manufacture in Ireland as well as in England. But the chief object was undoubtedly to secure a sufficiency of raw material for England's woollen industry, for Ireland was allowed to export wool to England on the granting of a special license by the Lord Lieutenant. Later on, when Irish wool flooded the English markets, England was afraid to prohibit its importation for fear that such a policy might lead to a large clandestine export of wool to foreign parts, or to an increase in the Irish woollen manufacture.

But although England had no objections to receiving the raw material for her staple manufacture from Ireland,


she had an objection to receiving Irish manufactures. The period of the Restoration begins the period of those prohibitory duties on Irish manufactures imported into England which was to last till the Union. The freedom which Ireland had hitherto enjoyed to import into England all her manufactures of wool, silk, gold and silver lace, and hats, was stopped by the Act of 1660, which granted the subsidy of tonnage and poundage.93 In the Book of Rates which accompanied the Act woollen cloths were rated at £8 10s. the yard, and therefore liable to a duty of 8s. 6d. per yard. Other woollen fabrics were rated in proportion. Silk, gold and silver lace, and hats were rated so high as almost to stop their importation. In no case was any reservation made in favour of Ireland.

But this did not touch the Irish foreign trade in manufactured goods, and so Ormonde's efforts to promote Irish industry and foreign trade met with considerable success. He seems to have had the interests of the country at heart, and continually referred to his Council of Trade for advice in industrial and commercial matters. In 1675 this Council made certain interesting recommendations for furthering the trade of Ireland. It advised the repeal of the Cattle Acts, and recommended that Irish ships should be allowed to convey goods from America to Ireland without first landing them in England. It also strongly advised the nobility and officials of Ireland to discountenance the use of all foreign commodities which might be made in Ireland, and it suggested that corporations should be instituted for the internal navigation of the kingdom, and societies established for the promotion of manufactures, especially those of woollen, linen, and leather.94 But it was not likely that Ormonde and his Council of Trade would be listened to in England, and so they had to promote Irish trade and industry as best they


could with the existing restrictions. Their success was undoubted, for in spite of the great temporary distress due to the Cattle Acts, Ireland continued to progress till the Revolution. Rents doubled, lands improved, trade began to flourish, the population in the towns increased, and the King's revenue advanced proportionately.95 Contemporaries, indeed, were of the opinion that Ireland was improving more rapidly than any other country in Europe. The Cattle Acts had been productive of no permanent injury, and Ireland was not as yet in a sufficiently advanced economic condition to feel the Navigation Laws at all seriously, while her foreign trade remained unrestricted. She was able to export her provisions to the plantations, and both her provisions and her manufactures to foreign countries and foreign plantations. But with the outbreak of the Revolution all this changed. Ireland was once more to go through a period of civil war, followed by wholesale confiscations. Even after the peace, when the country began to settle down and take up the broken threads of its prosperity, the restrictive policy of England took away Ireland's chance of becoming an industrial nation, while the horrible penal laws crushed the life and spirit out of her people.