[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3, July 14, 1832]
The woolen manufacture of Ireland was very early celebrated. In the time of Edward III. in 1327, Irish frizes were freely imported into England from Dublin, duty free. Even in Italy, in the year 1357, at a time when the woollens of that country had attained an high degree of perfection, and sumptuary laws were enacted to restrain luxury in dress, Irish serges were in demand, and imported. In the year 1482, not only serges, but other kinds of woollens, were so sought after, and the fashion of the country so approved, that the Pope's agent obtained from Richard II. a licence to export, duty free, mantles made of Irish cloth.
In the year 1673, Sir W. Temple, at the request of Lord Essex, then Viceroy of Ireland, published a formal overture for relinquishing the woollen trade, except in the lower branches, that it might not interfere with that of England, urging the superior fitness of this country for the linen trade.
Immediately after the cessation of the disturbances in Ireland, in 1688, the woollen manufacture was established to a considerable extent in the Liberties of Dublin. The security of property ensured after the capitulation of Limerick, induced a number of English manufacturers to avail themselves of its local advantages, the cheapness of labour, the excellence of wool, and the abundance of the necessaries of life, and to settle here. The Coombe, Pimlico, Spitalfields, and the Weavers'-square were then built, and soon became the residence of all that was opulent and respectable in the city. What a contrast the Liberty now presents!
The silk manufacture is generally supposed to have been introduced by the French refugees, and established in the Liberty of Dublin shortly after their residence in this city. In the year 1764, an act was passed, placing it under the direction of the Dublin Society. To encourage the manufacture, the Society immediately established an Irish Silk warehouse in Parliament street, and the management of it was placed under the superintendence of persons, annually returned by the corporation of weavers, to examine the quality of the goods sent in by Manufacturers, to whom the Dublin Society paid a premium or discount of five per cent on all sales made in the house. While the trade was thus managed, the sales were on an average £70,000 per annum, and the silk manufacture in Dublin arrived at the highest state of prosperity. But this source of encouragement was done away by an act of parliament, by which the Dublin Society was prohibited from disposing of any part of its funds for the support of any house in which Irish silk goods were sold by wholesale or retail. From that time, the Irish Silk warehouse declined.
It does not enter within our scope to point out what might be done for the revival of irish manufactures; we merely mention facts, and indulge in the hope that Ireland will not always be miserable. A gleam of hope dawns upon our country-may that good being who delights in the happiness of his creatures, unite all hearts, and "knit them to together" in the bonds of a holy brotherhood.