State of Ireland during the Eighteenth Century: Irish Trade Restrictions

Edgar Sanderson
The British Empire in the Nineteenth Century
Chapter V

The legislation against Irish industries had its origin in the narrow and selfish spirit of commercial monopoly in England which had devised the Navigation Acts against the carrying trade of the Dutch, and was displayed by her in commercial dealings with her “plantations” and colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Irish manufactures and trade were openly suppressed and extirpated.

In the reign of Charles the Second, Irish land was chiefly used for pasture, and Irish wealth was derived from the export of cattle, meat, butter and cheese to western English ports.

The English landowners complained, and laws of 1665 and 1680 prohibited the importation of all this Irish produce into England.

Her trade with the colonies was ruined by legislation which forbade exports thither save in English ships, or imports thence except with first unlading in English harbours.

When the Irish landowners were prevented from exporting their cattle to England, they raised large flocks of sheep and began a manufacture in wool.

English jealousy was again aroused, and in 1699 Irish woollens were excluded from the English and all foreign markets.

Thousands of workmen left Ulster for America and the Continent, and the country was once more reduced to penury, when the people were thrown for sustenance entirely upon the land.

The linens of Ireland, and some manufactures in cotton, were also shut out from the English markets by heavy duties.

The trade in beer and malt was heavily taxed, and, under George the Second, severe restrictions were laid on Irish manufactures in glass, paper, velvet, hats, and other articles.

The breaking up of land from pasture into arable was restricted by legislation, and disastrous famines arose from time to time in the failure to grow sufficient corn.