Front Page Titles (by Subject) [CHAPTER XI]: Of the Trade of Ireland. - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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[CHAPTER XI]: Of the Trade of Ireland. - Sir William Petty, The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1 
The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, together with The Observations upon Bills of Mortality, more probably by Captain John Graunt, ed. Charles Henry Hull (Cambridge University Press, 1899), 2 vols.
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Of the Trade ofIreland.
IF it be true, that there are but about 16,000 Families in Ireland, who have above one Chimney in their Houses; and ‖ above 180 M. others; It will be easily understood what the Trade of this latter sort can be, who use few Commodities; and those such as almost every one can make and produce. That is to say, Men live in such Cottages as themselves can make in 3 or 4 Days; Eat such Food (Tobacco excepted) as they buy not from others; wear such Cloaths as the Wooll of their own Sheep, spun into Yarn by themselves, doth make; their Shoes, called Brogues, are but ¼ so much worth as a Pair of English Shoes; nor of more than ¼ in real use and value. A Hat costs 20d. a Pair of Stockins 6d. but a good Shirt near 3s. The Taylors work of a Doublet, Breeches and Coat, about 2s. 6d. In brief, the Victuals of a Man, his Wife, Three Children, and Servant, resolved into Money, may be estimated 3s. 6d. per Week, or i d.1per Diem. The Cloaths of a Man, 30s. per Ann. of Children under 16, one with another 15s. the House not worth 5s. the Building; Fuel costs nothing but fetching. So as the whole Annual expence of such a Family, consisting of 6 in Number, seems to be but about 52 Shillings per Ann. each head one with another. So as 950. M. Inhabitants of these Edifices, may spend 2,375 M. l. per Ann. And the 150,000 ‖ who inhabit the 16,000 other Houses, may spend 10l. per Ann. each one with another, viz. One Million and half. So as the whole People of both sorts spend under 4 Millions, whereof part, viz. 400 M.l. is for Foreign Commodities, Tobacco included, whereof every 1000 Souls spend one Tun per Ann. or every 1000 Tobacco-takers, viz. People above 15. Years old, spend two Tuns one with another: for it appears by the latest accompt of importance, that what is here said, is true to a trifle. From whence I observe by the way, that the King's Revenue, viis & modis, being about 200 M.l. per Ann. that it is part of the whole Expence; which in some of the Grecian Commonwealths was thought too much, although the Israelites allowed to the Levites only, tho perhaps to defray the whole charge of the Government, the Supremacy amongst that People being then Sacerdotal.
I observe also by the way, that the Lands and Housing of Ireland being worth about one Million per Ann. that the Labour of the People may be worth three Millions, which is earned by about 750,000 (of the 1,1000 M.) who by their Age and Quality are Fit and Applicable to Corporal Labours,’ and consequently each Labouring Person Earns but 4s.1per Ann. if all Work. Or if each earns 8l. then but half of them work, or all but half their full time, or otherwise in other proportions. But be it one way or the other; I am as certain that the Hands of Ireland may Earn a Million per Ann. more than they now do, as I am certain that there are 750,000 in Ireland who could earn 2s. a week, or 5l. per Ann. one with another, if they had sutable employment, and were kept to their Labour.
I further observe, that if there be naturally but 2000 Impotents in Ireland, and that 50 Shillings per Ann. doth maintain the poorer sort of People; It follows, that 8,0001.2per Ann. would amply maintain all the Impotents of Ireland, if well apply'd. For other Beggers, as also Thieves, and Rebels, which are but bigger Thieves, are probably but the faults and defects of Government and Discipline3 .
As for the fitness of Ireland for Trade, we say as followeth.
1st. That Ireland consisting of above 18,000 square Miles; it is not one Place with another above 24 Miles from the Sea, because it is 750 Miles about: Wherefore forasmuch as the Land-carriage of Gross ‖ that1 will be easy in such a Country; it is fit for Trade, because the greatest and most profitable part of Trade, and the Imployment of Shipping, depends upon such Goods, viz. Metals, Stones, Timber, Grain, Wood, Salt, &c.
2dly. Ireland lieth Commodiously for the Trade of the new American world; which we see every day to Grow and Flourish.
It lyeth well for sending Butter, Cheese, Beef, Fish, to their proper Markets, which are to the Southward2 , and the Plantations of America.
Thus is Ireland by Nature fit for Trade, but otherwise very much unprepared for the same; for as hath been often said, the Housing thereof consists of 160 M. nasty Cabbins, in which neither Butter nor Cheese, nor Linnen, Yarn nor Worsted, and I think no other, can be made to the best advantage; chiefly by reason of the Soot and Smoaks annoying the same; as also for the Narrowness and Nastiness of the Place; which cannot be kept Clean nor Safe from Beasts and Vermin, nor from Damps and Musty Stenches, of which3 all the Eggs laid or kept in those Cabbins do partake. Wherefore to the advancement of Trade, the ‖ reformation of these Cabbins is necessary.
It may also be consider'd, whether the Institution of these following Corporations would not be expedient, viz. 1. of Cattel, 2. of Corn, 3. of Fish, 4. of Leather 5. of Wool, 6. of Linnen, 7. of Butter and Cheese, 8. of Metals and Minerals: For unto these, almost all the Commodities exportable out of Ireland, may be referred.
It may also be consider'd, whether the Taxing of those Cabbins with Hearth-money be proper, but rather with Days Labour; the former being scarce possible for them to have, but the latter most easy. Insomuch as 'tis more easy for them to give 40 Days Labour Per Ann. at seasonable times, than to pay 2s. in Silver at a pinch, and just when the Collectors call for it.
The Dyet, Housing and Cloathing of the 16,000 Families abovementioned, is much the same as in England: Nor is the French Elegance unknown in many of them, nor the French and Latin Tongues. The latter whereof is very frequent among the poorest Irish, and chiefly in Kerry, most remote from Dublin. ‖
The Housing of 160 M. Families, is, as hath been often said, very wretched. But their Cloathing far better than that of the French Peasants, or the poor of most other Countreys; which advantage they have from their Wooll, whereof 12 Sheep furnisheth a competency to one of these Families. Which Wool, and the Cloth made of it, doth cost these poor people no less than 50 M. l. per Ann. for the dying it; a trade exercised by the Women of the Countrey. Madder, Allum, and Indico, are imported, but the other dying Stuffs they find nearer home, a certain Mud taken out of the Bogs serving them for Copperas, the Rind of several Trees, and Saw-dust, for Galls; as for wild and green Weeds, they find enough, as also of Rhamnus-Berries.
The Diet of these people is Milk, sweet and sower, thick and thin, which also is their Drink in Summer-time, in Winter Small-Beer or Water. But Tobacco taken in short Pipes seldom burnt, seems the pleasure of their Lives, together with Sneezing: Insomuch, that of their Expence in Food, is Tobacco. Their Food is Bread in Cakes, whereof a Penny serves a Week for each; Potatoes from August till May, Muscles, Cockles and Oysters, near the Sea; ‖ Eggs and Butter made very rancid, by keeping in Bogs. As for Flesh, they seldom eat it1 , notwithstanding the great plenty thereof, unless it be of the smaller Animals, because it is inconvenient for one of these Families to kill a Beef, which they have no convenience to save. So as ‘tis easier for them to have a Hen or Rabbet, than a piece of Beef of equal substance.
Their Fewel is Turf in most places; and of late, even where Wood is most plentiful, and to be had for nothing, the cutting and carriage of the Turf being more easy than that of Wood. But1 to return from whence I digressed, I may say, That the Trade of Ireland, among parts of the whole people, is little or nothing, excepting for the Tobacco above-mentioned, estimated worth about 50,000l. for as much as they do not need any Forreign Commodities, nor scarce any thing made out of their own Village. Nor is above ⅕ part of their Expence other than what their own Family produceth, which Condition and state of living cannot beget Trade.
And now I shall digress again to consider, whether it were better for the Common-wealth to restrain the expence of 150 M. Optimates below 10l. per Ann. each; or ‖ to beget a luxury in the 950 M. Plebeians, so as to make them spend, and consequently earn double to what they at present do.
2 To which I answer in brief, That the one shall encrease the sordidness and squallor of living already too visible in 950 M. Plebeians, with little benefit to the Common Wealth; the other shall increase the splendor, Art and Industry of the 950 M. to the great enrichment of the Common-Wealth.
Again, Why should we be forbid the use of any Foreign Commodity, which our own Hands and Countrey cannot produce, when we can employ our spare Hands and Lands upon such exportable Commodities as will purchase the same, and more.
3. The keeping or lessening of money, is not of that consequence that many guess it to be of. For in most places, especially Ireland, nay, England it self, the Money of the whole Nation is but about of the Expence of one Year; viz. Ireland is thought to have about 400 M.l. in Cash, and to spend about 4 Millions per Ann. Wherefore it is very ill-husbandry to double the Cash of the Nation, by destroying half its Wealth; Or to increase the Cash otherwise ‖ than by increasing the Wealth simul & semel.
That is, when the Nation hath more Cash, I require it should have more Wealth, if it be possible. For, there may be as well too much money in a Country, as too little1 . I mean, as to the best advantage of its Trade; onely the Remedy is very easy, it may be soon turn'd into the magnificence of Gold and Silver Vessels.
Lastly, Many think that Ireland is much impoverished, or at least the money thereof much exhausted, by reason of Absentees, who are such as having Lands in Ireland, do live out of the Kingdom, and do therefore think it just that such, according to former Statutes, should lose their said Estates.
Which Opinion I oppose, as both unjust, inconvenient, and frivolous. For 1st. If a man carry Money or other Effects out of England to purchase Lands in Ireland, why should not the Rents, Issues and Profits of the same Land return into England, with the same Reason that the Money of England, was diminished to buy it?
2. I2 suppose ¼ of the Land of Ireland did belong to the Inhabitants of England, and that the same lay all in one place together; why may not the said quarter of the ‖ whole Land be cut off from the other three sent3 into England, were it possible so to do? and if so, why may not the Rents of the same be actually sent, without prejudice to the other three parts of4 the Interessors thereof?
3. If all men were bound to spend the Proceed of their Lands upon the Land it self; then as all the Proceed of Ireland, ought to be spent in Ireland; so all the Proceed of one County of Ireland, ought to be spent in the same; of one Barony, in the same Barony; and so Parish and Mannor; and at length it would follow, that every eater ought to avoid what he hath eaten upon the same Turf where the same grew. Moreover, this equal spreading of Wealth would destroy all Splendor and Ornament; for if it were not fit that one place should be more splendid than another, so also that no one man should be greater or richer than another; for if so, then the Wealth, suppose of Ireland, being perhaps 11 Millions, being divided among 1,100 M. people, then no one man having above 10l. he could Probably build no House worth above 3l. which would be to leave the face of Beggery upon the whole Nation: And withal such Parity would beget Anarchy and Confusion.‖
Of the other Impediment of Trade, the not raising of Money above the value which the generality of the whole World hath of it, that is, the intrinsick value, I have spoken before: And now return to other matters relating to the Trade of Ireland.
Having shewn that there is little or no Trade or Commutation of Commodities, where people live so simply, and as it were exsponte creatis, as the Inhabitants of 184 M.1 do live; It follows, that what Trade is in Ireland must be found in the 16,000 other Houses of above one Chimney in each, and amongst the Inhabitants of them. Though Trade, properly speaking, be the Commutation of Commodities; that2 generally speaking, ‘tis the way whereby to purchase Riches and Power, the Parents of Pleasure: Not only by getting Commodities out of the Earth and Sea; by ploughing, fishing, Mines, Vecture3 , &c. by getting away those Commodities from them, who first got them out of the Earth and Sea, as aforesaid. And not only, or at all encreasing the whole Wealth of the Nation, but ones own former share and proportion of the whole, though diminish'd4 ; that is to say, Supposing the whole Wealth of Ireland were 10 Millions, and the Share ‖ of A. was 1000l. thereof; I say, ‘tis commonly more the care of A. to make his 1000l. 3000, though by lessening the whole Stock 2000l. than to make the whole Stock 30 Millions, by lessening his own 1000l. to 300l.
Now this is the Trade of Ireland, and I think of most other places, but exercised in Ireland by the following ways, viz.
Whereas the Lands of Ireland have within 150 years been most of them forfeited, and the Lands of Monasteries have since then fallen into the King's hands, by the dissolution of the said Monasteries, and several Defects found in the Titles, older than that of time; It hath come to pass, that all the said Lands have been granted to several others; some legally and formally, some otherwise; some under one Condition, some under another. So as by several Defects in the said Grants, or by non-performance of Conditions, and many other ways needless to enumerate, the King in strictness may find a Title to the Estates of many men who have been long in possession of their respective Holdings, (tho some more, some less, some upon better, and some upon worser grounds.) A principal Trade in Ireland, to find out these ‖ Flaws and Defects, to procure Commission for such Inquiries. And a Branch of this Trade, is to give to such seekers flattering and delusive Informations to bring on other Designs; and withal, prevail with persons conversant with the Higher Powers, to give Grants of these Discoveries, and thereupon, right or wrong to vex the Possessors, at least into such a Composition, as may be of profit to the Prosecutors. Whereby it falls out, that the time of all the persons exercised pro & contra in these matters, who do only take from one another like Gamesters (the Lawyers taking from both) is lost, without advancing at all the Publick Wealth. Now this is no Trade, but a Calamity upon the Nation.
2. Whereas the Branches of the Publick Revenue being manifold, and the Accompts of the same vast and numerous, and the Laws, with the Cases and Accidents relating to the same, intricate and new; but chiefly the Officers employed about the Premises, such as could make Friends for their Places, whether Persons of Skill, Experience and Trustiness, or not; It hath come to pass, even in Ireland, in former times, that Principal Officers of the Exchequer have represented the State of the Publick ‖ Treasury near 200 M.l. differently from each other1 : So as new men have been admitted to take the whole to farm, who expected vast Advantages, by mending and clearing what others had marr'd and confounded, though they had still their Places and Perquisites notwithstanding: And in this1 case the people thought fit to pay any thing that was required, rather than to pass the Fire of this Purgatory, even tho they need no burning.
This and other Practices of Farming, taken with the whole Doctrine of Defalcations, hath been a great Trade in Ireland, but a Calamity on the people who have paid great Wages to them that have made Faults, but three times greater to those who would but undertake to mend them, tho indeed they could not.
A Third great Trade and Calamity to the people of Ireland, hath been the Gains made by the aforementioned Difference, Confusion, and badness of Coins, exorbitant Exchange, and Interest of Money, all following also from the Premises.
A Fourth Calamity is implicating poor Work-men, and trapanning them into Crimes, Indictments, Bishops-Courts, &c. feigning and compounding of Trespasses, not without making benefit by the Office of Justice of Peace.‖
A Fifth may be from the manner of making Sheriffs, the execution of their Offices, Accompts in the Exchequer, &c.
A Sixth, from raising Moneys at the Assizes, by Authority of the Grand Juries, but raising too much, and in spending or not spending what was to be raised.
None of these Six Trades do add any more to the Common-wealth than Gamesters, and even such of them as play with false Dice, do to the Common-Stock of the whole Number.
And in these Trades ‘tis thought ⅓ of those who inhabit the aforementioned 16,000 Houses, do exercise themselves, and are the Locusts and Catterpillars of the Common-wealth, as the Inhabitants of the other 184 M. Cottages are the untilled part of the same. Wherefore it remains to see what Trade is to be found among the rest; which I take to be as followeth, viz.
1. In Domestick Wealth: Of which sort is building fine Houses and Gardens, Orchards, Groves, Inns, Mills, Churches, Bridges, High Ways, Causeys; as also Furniture for Houses, Coaches, &c. In which kind I guess the Improvement of Ireland has since the Year 1652.1 1673. advanc'd ‖ from one to four, and I think to a better state than before 1641. that is, than perhaps ever it yet was.
The Foreign Trade, if you will believe the Accompts of Customs, Ann. 1657. and now, hath been advanced from one to seven, but in reality, I think, from one to two: For the Customs yielded Ann. 1656. clear under 12,000l. but were within a year or two, let for above three times the sum, but are now at about 80,000 intrinsecally.
But to speak more clearly and Authentically upon this Subject, I shall insert the following Tables of exported and imported Commodities, and from them make the subnexed Observations, viz.
The TABLES2 .
1. THAT the Customs, managed by the States-Officers, yielded Anno 1657. under 12,000l. but was farm'd Ann. 1658. for above thrice that Sum.
2. That the Stock which drives the Foreign Trade of Ireland, doth near half ‖ of it belong to those who live out of Ireland.
3. That Ann. 1664. before the Cattel-Statute, ¾ of the Ireland Foreign Trade was with England, but now not ¼ part of the same.
4. That the Manufacture bestowed upon a years Exportation out of Ireland, is not worth above 8000l.
5. That because more eatables were exported Anno 1664. than 1641. And more Manufactures 1641. than Ann. 1664. It follows, there were more people in Ireland, Ann. 1641. than 1664. and in that proportion as was formerly mention'd1 .
6. That the Exportations appear more worth than the Importations, excepting that the Accompts of the former are more true, but of the latter very conjectural, and probably less than the Truth.‖
In the margin of S stands'q’ in the hand of the copyist. Petty.obviously means 1d. per capita per diem.
S, ‘4l’; 1691, 1719, ‘4s.’
A differing estimate above. See note 2, p. 144.
S has a half page blank after ‘Discipline.’
S omits ‘that.’
The market to the north and east had been tested in 1667 by the shipment of live cattle to Rotterdam, but it was found that they could not be delivered there so cheap as the Dutch could be supplied with them from Holstein. Carte, Ormond, II. 341.
S omits ‘which.’
S omits ‘it.’
‘But’ begins a paragraph in S.
No paragraph in S.
Cox, ‘It is difficult to prove that there can be too much money in a Kingdome.’
S, ‘If suppose.’
S, ‘and sent.’
1719 inserts ‘Hutts.’
1719, ‘yet.’ The copyist of S may have misread Petty's ‘yt.’
1719 omits ‘Vecture.’
1719 omits ‘though diminish'd.’
Cf. Carte's Ormond, ii. 368–371.
S omits ‘this.’
S, 1719, ‘to.’
The promised tables, omitted from S and from both editions, have not been recovered.