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Chap, restrictions, which the narrow and short-sighted po
XXXVIII- . . ox
v^^^^/licy of former times, equally injurious to GreatBritain and the Irish nation, imposed on the commerce and manufactures of this kingdom, would be remitted: that it aggravated the sense of their misfortunes to see the rivals, if not the enemies of Great-Britain, in the undisturbed possession of those advantages to which the Irish thought themselves entitled on every principle of policy and justice: and that it was the expectation of being restored to Some, if not to all, of those rights, and that alone, which could justify to the people the conduct of their representatives in laying so many additional burdens upon them, in the course of this session." Notwithstanding this instance of patriotism in the commons they had rejected the proposal of a tax of two shillings in the pound on the estates of absentees, which tax was designed to alleviate the poverty occasioned by the drain of money from Ireland; and which, on this account, and, for the raising of a revenue, was rather countenanced than opposed by administration.
In 1775 the British ministry procured some small 'relaxation of restrictions ou Irish commerce by permitting the exportation of a few articles of manufacture to a trifling amount; by granting bounties for the encouragement, and annulling certain duties on the imported products of a fishery; and by allowing a premium of five shillings a barrel on imported flax-seed. Soon after, in the November ©f the same year, by a message from the lord-lieutenant. tenant, the concurrence of the Irish commons with Chap. the king's intention was desired, to send abroad, for***^11,' the American war, four thousand of the troops on the Irish establishment, on the royal promise that they should be replaced, if such should be the wish of the commons, by the same number of foreign protestant soldiery; and that neither the support of the former, while abroad, nor of the latter, while in Ireland, should be attended with any expence to the Irish nation. Declining their replacement by foreigners, the commons consented to the transportation of the troops required, whose embarkation at Cork, under Sir Admiral Peter Parker, was delayed till the following February, by a scruple of the viceroy tinpleasing to the British cabinet. Doubtful of his authority to order their departure without the express consent of parliament, he had procured a clause for the purpose to be inserted in an a6t. This clause, as intrenching on the royal prerogative, was indignantly expunged by the British cabinet. But, as the royal promise had been solemnly pledged to the Irish parliament for the permanency of twelve thousand regular troops in the kingdom, the lord lieutenant persisted in his scruple; so that a new clause was hastily inserted in another bill, transmitted to England.* and suffered to pass. On the other hand, the conduct of the Irish viceroy was severely, though unsuccessfully, arraigned by the oppositionists in the British house of commons, as having infringed the privileges of that house by engaging for the payment of any specific sums by the British s 2 parliamentj
Chap, parliament; sums for an absurd bargain, the main
v*-v—' tenance of eight thousand, on account of the service of only four thousand men; in which wag also included an unconstitutional and dangerous measure, the introduction of foreign troops into Ireland.
The Irish commons displayed a spirit for the maintenance of their privileges, by the rejection of two money-bills, in which the British cabinet had interfered to make alterations, one for additional duties on beer and other articles, the other for taxes on stamps; and, as thence arose a suspension of the laws of revenue in some particulars, until new bills, could be framed and receive the sanction of the royal assent, great exertions were made by traders to take advantage of the incident, for their private emolument, to the detriment of the public income. Displeased by this incompliance, and by complaints of national grievance, vigorously urged by the patriots in the house of commons, and but feebly suppressed by the courtiers, the British cabinet resolved on the dissolution of this parliament, which accordingly had place after its prorogation in the April of 1776. When the new parliament had met on the eighteenth of the following June, and the commons had elected for their speaker Edmund Sexton Perry, who had filled that office in the late parliament, a prorogation was pronounced, and its second session commenced not before the fourteenth of October in 1777. That the plans of the ministry might be more firmly supported in this kingdom, an extraordinary
dinary number of new members had been added to Chap. the peerage; and in the place of Earl Harcourt, v—^—/ not sufficiently energetic or obsequious, the earl of Buckinghamshire had been appointed lord-lieutenant.
Ministerial majorities in parliament could not con-National
i i -»• « i . ii distress.
ceal the distress or the nation, perpetually augment-1777-1779. ed by decreasing trade and increasing expenditure. Excluded by war from America, where they had formerly found an extensive market, the manufacture of Irish linens sustained a severe decline ; while, by an unconstitutional stretch of prerogative, under pretence of preventing the reception of supplies by the revolted colonies, but really for the purpose of enabling-some British contractors to fulfil, with ease and profit, their engagements, an embargo had been laid in 1776, and thence continued, on the exportation of provisions from Ireland, When by such means, on one hand, the influx of money was precluded, its efflux on the other was accelerated by augmented remittances, for the pay of Irish troops employed abroad, and the interest of a ra-* pidly increasing national debt, the creditors of which resided mostly in England, A part of this debt had been raised by a scheme begun in 4773, called Tontine, in which the principal, bearing an interest of. six percent, was divided into shares of a hundred pounds each, among the owners of which phares, arranged in classes, the survivors, were to enjoy, under certain modifications, the aggregate interest. In a country drained of its money trade
s 3 became
Chap, became stagnant: the prices of internal produces **XJ*" fell to a miserably low rate: the usual rents and tates could not be paid: the revenue failed in all its branches, and the defect could be only supplied by new loans at an exorbitant interest, when the national debt had already amounted nearly to a million and a half, and an attempt proved fruitless to raise three hundred thousand pounds by another Tontine.
So forcibly evident were the distresses of Ireland that, on the motion of Earl Nugent, in the April of 1778, in a committee of the British house of commons, resolutions were passed, that, with the exception only of wool and woollen manufactures, the Irish might be permitted to export directly to the foreign plantations of Great-Britain all sorts of merchandize, the produce of the British islands, and foreign goods legally imported and certified; to import directly, except tobacco, the products of these plantations; and to export glass to any place except Great-Britain. Alarmed by these resolu-r tions, the mercantile people of Britain, with equal ignorance and illiberality, sent petitions to parliar ment, and instructions to their representatives, to oppose the extension of Irish trade, particularly the towns of Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow, whose petitions even seemed to menace disloyalty to government in case of such indulgence to Ireland. The ignorance of the petitioners appeared particularly in Jheir declarations, that the permission to export wrought iron and sail-cloth from Ireland to Britain