Irish Commerce

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXII

After the plantation of Ulster, Irish commerce was allowed to flourish for a while; the revenue of the crown doubled; and statesmen should have been convinced that an unselfish policy was the best for both countries. But there will always be persons whose private interests clash with the public good, and who have influence enough to secure their own advantage at the expense of the multitude. Curiously enough, the temporary prosperity of Ireland was made a reason for forbidding the exports which had produced it. A declaration was issued by the English Government in 1637, which expressly states this, and places every possible bar to its continuance. The Cromwellian settlement, however, acted more effectually than any amount of prohibitions or Acts of Parliament, and trade was entirely ruined by it for a time. When it again revived, and live cattle began to be exported in quantities to England, the exportation was strictly forbidden.

The Duke of Ormonde, who possessed immense tracts of land in Ireland, presented a petition, with his own hands, against the obnoxious measure, and cleverly concluded it with the very words used by Charles himself, in the declaration for the settlement of Ireland at the Restoration, trusting that his Majesty "would not suffer his good subjects to weep in one kingdom when they rejoiced in another." Charles, however, wanted money; so Ireland had to wait for justice. A vote, granting him £120,000, settled the matter; and though for a time cattle were smuggled into England, the Bill introduced after the great fire of London, which we have mentioned in the last chapter, settled the matter definitively. The Irish question eventually merged into an unseemly squabble about prerogative, but Charles was determined "never to kiss the block on which his father lost his head."[3] He overlooked the affront, and accepted the Bill, "nuisance" and all. One favour, however, was granted to the Irish; they were graciously permitted to send contributions of cattle to the distressed Londoners in the form of salted beef. The importation of mutton, lamb, butter, and cheese, were forbidden by subsequent Acts, and salted beef, mutton, and pork were not allowed to be exported from Ireland to England until the general dearth of 1757.


[3] Head.—The tract entitled Killing no Murder, which had disturbed Cromwell's "peace and rest," and obliged him to live almost as a fugitive in the country over which he had hoped to reign as a sovereign, still left its impression on English society. The miserable example of a royal execution was a precedent which no amount of provocation should have permitted.