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202.: To [LORD CARLISLE] - Adam Smith, Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 6 Correspondence of Adam Smith 
Correspondence of Adam Smith, ed. E. C. Mossner and I. S. Ross, vol. VI of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1987).
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To [LORD CARLISLE]1
MS., Kress Libr., Harvard University; Rae 350–2.
Edinburgh, 8 Nov. 1779
My friend Mr Fergusson2 showed me, a few days ago, a letter in which your Lordship was so good as to say that you wished to know my opinion concerning the consequence of granting to the Irish that free trade which they at present demand so importunately.3 I shall not attempt to express how much I feel myself flattered by your Lordships very honourable remembrance of me; but shall, without further preface, endeavour to explain that opinion, such as it may be, as distinctly as I can.
Till we see the heads of the bill which the Irish propose to send over, it is impossible to know precisely what they mean by a free trade.
It is possible they may mean by it no more than the freedom of exporting all goods, whether of their own produce or imported from abroad, to all Countries (Great Britain and the british settlements excepted) subject to no other duties or restraints than such as their own Parliament may impose. At present they can export Glass, tho’ of their own manufacture, to no country whatever. Raw Silk, a forreign commodity, is under the same restraint. Wool they can export only to Great Britain.—Woollen Manufactures they can export only from certain Ports in Ireland to certain Ports in Great Britain. A very slender interest of our own Manufacturers is the foundation of all these unjust and oppressive restraints. The watchful jealousy of those Gentlemen is alarmed least the Irish, who have never been able to supply compleatly even their own market with Glass or Woollen manufactures, should be able to rival them in forreign Markets.
The Irish may mean by a free trade to demand besides, the freedom of importing from wherever they can buy them cheapest, all such forreign goods as they have occasion for. At present they can import Glass, Sugars of forreign plantations, except those of Spain and Portugal, and certain sorts of East India Goods from no Country but Great Britain. Tho’ Ireland was relieved from these and from all other restraints of the same kind, the Interest of Great Britain could surely suffer very little. The Irish probably mean to demand no more than this most just and reasonable freedom of exportation and importation; in restraining which we seem to me rather to have gratified the impertinence than to have promoted any solid interest of our Merchants and Manufacturers.
The Irish may, however, mean to demand, besides, the same freedom of exportation and importation to and from the British settlements in Africa and America which is enjoyed by the Inhabitants of Great Britain. As Ireland has contributed little either to the establishment or defence of those Settlements, this demand would be less reasonable than the other two. But as I never believed that the monopoly of our Plantation trade was really advantageous to Great Britain; so I cannot believe that the admission of Ireland to a share in that Monopoly, or the extension of this monopoly to all the British Islands, would be really disadvantageous.
Over and above all this the Irish may mean to demand the freedom of importing their own produce and manufactures into Great Britain; subject to no other duties than such as are equivalent to the duties imposed upon the like goods of British produce or Manufacture. Tho’ even this demand, the most unreasonable of all, should be granted, I cannot believe a that the interest of Britain would be hurt by it. On the contrary, the Competition of Irish goods in the British market might contribute to break down in Part that monopoly which we have most absurdly granted to the greater part of our own workmen against our selves. It would, however, be a long time, before, this competition could be very considerable. In the present state of Ireland, centuries must pass away before the greater part of its manufactures could vie with those of England. Ireland has little Coal; the Coallieries about Lough Neagh being of little consequence to the greater part of the Country. It is ill provided with Wood; two articles essentially necessary to the progress of Great Manufactures. It wants order, police, and a regular administration of justice both to protect and to restrain the inferior ranks of people, articles more essential to the progress of Industry than both coal and wood put together, and which Ireland must continue to want as long as it continues to be divided between two hostile nations, the oppressors and the oppressed, the protestants and the Papists.4
Should the Industry of Ireland, in consequence of freedom and Good Government, ever equal that of England, so much the better would it be, not only for the whole British empire, but for the particular province of England. As the wealth and industry of Lancashire does not obstruct, but promote that of Yorkshire; so the wealth and industry of Ireland, would not abstruct, but promote that of England.
It makes me very happy to find, that in the midst of the Public misfortunes, a person of Your Lordships rank and elevation of mind doth not despair of the Commonwealth; but is willing to accept of an active share in Administration. That your Lordship may be the happy means of restoring vigour and decision to our councils and in consequence of them, success to our arms is the sincere wish of My Lord
Your Lordships Most obliged and Most obedient Servant
[1 ]Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle (1748–1825), statesman, dramatist, and poet; President of the Board of Trade 1779; Viceroy of Ireland 1780–2; member of American Conciliation Commission of 1778–9, together with Eden and Governor Johnstone.
[2 ]Adam Ferguson served as Secretary to the American Conciliation Commission.
[3 ]See Letter 200 from Dundas, dated 30 Oct., and Letter 201 addressed to Dundas, dated 1 Nov.
[4 ]See WN V.iii.89 for Smith’s arguments about the advantages to Ireland of union with Great Britain, for promoting the deliverance of the ‘people of all ranks’ from an ‘oppressive aristocracy . . . founded in the most odious of all distinctions, those of religious and political prejudices’.