The Suppression of Irish Trade

In the early centuries of the Christian Era the highly civilised Celt was inclined to trade and commerce. The early Irish, were famous for their excellence in the arts and crafts - particularly for their wonderful work in metals, bronze, silver and gold. By the beginning of the 14th Century, the trade of Ireland with the Continent of Europe was important. This condition of things naturally did not suit commercial England. So at an early period she began to stifle Irish industry and trade.
The Irish woollen manufacturers began to rival Englands. So in 1571 Elizabeth imposed restriction upon the Irish woollen trade that crippled the large Irish trade with the Netherlands and other parts of the Continent.
Ireland tried its hand at manufacturing cotton. England met this move with a twenty-five per cent duty upon Irish cotton imported into England. And next forbade the inhabitants of England to wear any cotton other than of British manufacture.
Ireland attempted to develop her tobacco industry. But a law against its growth was passed in the first year of Charles the Second.
Four and five centuries ago and upward the Irish fisheries were the second in importance in Europe. Under careful English nursing they were, a century and a half ago, brought to the vanishing point. Then the independent Irish Parliament at the end of the eighteenth century saved them. Here we have set down only examples of the principal Acts and devices for the suppression of Irish manufacturers and Irish industries, but yet sufficient to show how England protected her beloved Irish subjects in the enjoyment of all they have - how Ireland prospered under English Rule in a material way - and how England in her step-motherly way, took each toddling Irish industry by the hand, led its childish footsteps to the brink of the bottomless pit, and gave it a push - thus ending its troubles forever.
And thus is explained in part why Ireland, one of the most favoured by nature and one of the most fertile countries in Europe, is yet one of the poorest. And why it is that, as recent statistics show, ninety-eight per cent of the export trade of the three kingdoms is in the hands of Britain and in Ireland’s hands only two per cent.

The Volunteers

The Volunteers needed no special perspicacity to see that the most formidable enemy even of the English colony in Ireland was the English trade interest, to which their advantages were ruthlessly sacrificed. The first invasion they set themselves to repel was that of English manufacturing goods. Shopkeepers and merchants who imported foreign goods or tried to impose them on their customers as Irish manufacture, were warned of the consequences. The Volunteers were there to see that the boycott was duly observed. When Parliament met in October 1779, Grattan moved his celebrated amendment to the Address to the Throne, demanding Free Trade for Ireland - that is the right to import and export what commodities she pleased, unrestrained by foreign legislation. The amended address was carried by a huge majority, and next day it was borne to the Castle and dispatched to England. Acts were rushed through the English Houses of Parliament in a few weeks which restored to the Irish the trade rights of which they had been robbed. At any moment England might revoke the concessions she had granted under duress. There still remained on the Statute Books of the two countries the Acts which gave her this power - Poyning’s Act , and the Sixth of George 1.
Poyning’s Act bound the Irish Parliament to legislate only as the British Parliament permitted it. The Sixth of George 1, also called the Declaratory Act declared that the King had full power and authority to make or amend laws. The following year, 1783, under pressure from the Volunteers and Flood a ‘Renunciation Bill’ was carried through the British parliament. It declared that the ‘right claim by the people of Parliament of that Kingdom in all cases whatever, and to have all actions and suits at law, or in equity, which may be instituted in the Kingdom, decided by His majesty’s courts therein finally, and without appeal from thence, shall be and is hereby declared to be established and ascertained for ever, and shall at no time here-after be questionable’.

The United Irishmen

The first general meeting of the United Irishmen was held on 18th October 1791, and the following resolutions were proposed and carried ;
1) That the weight of English influence in the Government of this country is so great as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland, to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce
2) That the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed is by a complete and radical reform of the people in Parliament
3) That no reform is just which does not include Irishmen of every religious persuasion.
During the year 1796, events had moved in Ireland with extraordinary rapidity. On the one hand the Government had let loose on the country a storm of organised terrorism, and on the other the country, as a measure of self-protection, if nothing else - had gone solidly into the ranks of the ‘United’ men. Among the sinister measures adopted by Government to break the ‘Union’ was the establishment of the Orange Society.

  Irish History