Fifteen years of almost incessant war followed the Union. Ireland, even by raising taxation to the highest possible point, was unable to pay her contribution without contracting a Debt colossal in proportion to her resources.

While Great Britain only doubled her Debt, and paid 71 per cent. of her expenses out of current taxation, the Irish Debt quadrupled, and in 1817 reached the portentous total of £112,634,773 ; while only 49 per cent. of Irish expenditure was paid for out of revenue. Here is a little table which shows the effect upon Ireland of Clause 7 of the Act of Union :

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The scandal could no longer be overlooked. It was impossible to raise the Irish taxes. Their yield was already showing signs of diminishing. But the Act of Union had provided for the situation which had arisen. One of the sections of the famous Clause 7 enacted that if and when the separate Debts of the two countries should reach the proportion of their respective Imperial contributions, Parliament might, if it thought fit, declare that all future expenses of the United Kingdom should be defrayed indiscriminately by equal taxes imposed on the same articles in both countries, subject only to such exemptions and abatements in favour of Ireland as circumstances may appear from time to time to demand." The framers of this section had anticipated that the English Debt would sink to the level of the Irish Debt. Anglo-Irish finance teems with grim jokes of this sort; but the section was useful in either event. With its terms before them, a Committee sat to consider the state of Ireland, with the result that, by an Act which came into operation on January 5, 1817, the Exchequers, Debts, revenues, and expenditures, but not as yet the taxes, of the two countries were amalgamated. In Professor Oldham's

words, * “ the corpse of Ireland's insolvency was huddled into the grave, and no questions were to be asked.” The whole expenditure, Imperial and local, of the United Kingdom, Ireland included, was to be defrayed out of a Consolidated Fund, and the arrangements, therefore, for a separate Irish contribution on a fixed basis to Imperial services were cancelled. Henceforth her Imperial contribution, for anyone who troubled to calculate it, was represented by the excess of revenue raised within Ireland over the expenditure in Ireland. A mutual free trade was also established, not instantaneously, but in the course of a few years. By 1824 all duties, as between Ireland and England, had ceased, and in 1826 the custom-houses ceased to record the transit of goods between England and Ireland, except in articles such as spirits, on which a different excise duty was charged. No statistics were compiled, therefore, of Anglo-Irish trade until ninety years later, when the Irish Department of Agriculture began to prepare returns. Such was the origin of our Customs Union against the world (for, needless to say, those were still the days of high Protection), and it is instructive to compare it with the voluntary pacts of the German States and South African Colonies, and with their political results.

In one important point unification was left incomplete. It was impossible in 1817 to equalize internal taxation in the two countries, though it was held desirable to do so, because Ireland could not have borne the higher British scale, and suffered enough under her own. Regard, too, was had at first to those important words in the Act of Union which guaranteed to Ireland such “exemptions and abatements” as might appear fair. But they were soon forgotten. Without any inquiry into the taxable capacity of Ireland, the stamp, tea, and tobacco duties were equalized early in the period, the enhancement in Ireland of the last duty from ls. to 3s. on raw tobacco, and from ls. to 16s. on manufactured tobacco, laying an exceptionally heavy burden on the Irish poor. Meanwhile the abolition, after the close of the war, of taxes representing about sixteen millions a year, and purely affecting Great Britain, gave a relief to her which Ireland did not feel. But it was not until 1853, when Mr. Gladstone

* Eight lectures delivered in the National University, Dublin, in 1911,

extended the income-tax to Ireland, and raised the Irish spirit duty, that the principle of “exemptions and abatements was most seriously infringed. Mr. Disraeli followed in 1855 with a further elevation of the spirit duty, which was finally equalized with the British duty in 1858, at 8s. a gallon ; while in 1860 both duties were raised to 10s. In the seven years 18531860 the taxation of Ireland was raised by no less than two and a half millions per annum. It will be recalled that the great famine had taken place in 1846-47, and that between the Census of 1841 and that of 1861 the population sank from eight to six millions, while the British population rose from eighteen and a half to twenty-three millions. The statistical result of the increased taxes, therefore, was to show a rise in taxation per head of the Irish people from 138. lld. in 1849 to £1 5s. 4d. in 1859, while in Great Britain it rose only from £2 78. 8d. to £2 10s. during the same period. Equality of taxation has never been wholly established, for to this day a few quite unimportant taxes are not levied, or are levied on a lower scale in Ireland ;* but from 1858 onward we may regard the taxation of the two countries as almost identically the same.

In the meantime a great revolution, also beginning at the time of the famine, had taken place in the fiscal system of the United Kingdom. Free Trade with the outside world had been established, and whatever we may conclude about its effect, it had been established, as we know, with a special view to British industrial interests, and without the smallest concern for Irish interests, which were predominantly agricultural. It was certainly followed by an immense industrial expansion and prosperity in Great Britain ; it was certainly initiated at the lowest point of Ireland's moral and physical wretchedness. Opinions differ as to the precise economic effect upon Ireland. Miss Murray, in her thoughtful and exhaustive study of the commercial relations between England and Ireland, holds that, as agricultural producers, the Irish lost far more than they have gained as consumers of foodstuffs, while a number of small and struggling rural industries, whose powerful counterparts in Great Britain could easily withstand foreign competition, did undeniably succumb in Ireland.

* Inhabited house duty, railway passenger tax, carriages, armorial bearings, etc. The license for dogs is half the English scale.


My own opinion is that the past influence upon Ireland of free trade, in the first instance with Great Britain, and later with the outside world, though a highly interesting and important topic in itself, is commonly exaggerated, to the neglect of the vastly more important question of the tenure of land. Free trade did not cause the famine. On the contrary, the presage of the famine was one of the minor causes which induced Peel to take up Cobden's policy for the free importation of foodstuffs. The effect of that policy upon Ireland sinks into insignificance beside an agrarian system which had reduced the mass of the Irish peasants to serfs, kept them near the borders of destitution, and in a state of sporadic crime for a century and a half before, and for forty years after the repeal of the Corn Laws, and, at the climax of a period of high protection for agricultural products, rendered it possible for a mere failure of the potato-crop to cause death to three-quarters of a million persons. These things do not happen in properly governed, in other words in self-governed, countries, whatever their fiscal system, and they have never happened to Irishmen in any other part of the world but in their own fertile island. Manufacturing industries stand on a different footing. Most of the staple industries of Ireland, notably the woollen industry, and the aptitudes which brought them into being, were deliberately destroyed long ago by fiscal measures imposed by England, and their destruction aggravated the misery and exhaustion produced by a bad land system. How far their partial revival under the fiscal Home Rule of Grattan's Parliament was genuine, and might, with a continuance of fiscal Home Rule, have been permanent, it is impossible to say. The retarding effect of the Rebellion, and the long start already obtained by Great Britain in the industrial race, are factors beyond accurate calculation. But one thing is certain, that the revival of industries was, at that stage, of trivial importance beside the rural regeneration of Ireland, and that Grattan's Parliament had not the remotest influence for good upon the land question, which it neglected as heartlessly as its predecessors for a century before and its successors for seventy years afterwards.* Industries are valuable assets for any country ; but countries

* On Foster's Corn Law of 1784, see p. 51.

almost wholly agricultural, like Denmark, can prosper remarkably, and without Protection, provided that they possess or evolve a sound system of agrarian tenure, in other words, a sound relation between tenant and landlord, or, in default of that, peasant ownership. In every country in the world that has been a sine qua non of prosperity. Suppose that English labourers had built out of their own money and by their own hands the factories, docks, and railways in which they worked, and that the resulting profits, wages deducted, went solely to ground landlords. That gives us some idea of the old Irish land system, whose overthrowal began only in 1870 ; a system under which the landlord put no capital into the land, though his rent represented the full profits of the tenant's capital and labour, less an amount equivalent to a bare subsistence wage, governed by competition.

The present influence upon Ireland of the Imperial fiscal system, now that peasant proprietorship has been half accomplished, is another matter upon which I shall have to say more presently, when we have completed our review of AngloIrish finance. Let us return to the point we had reached : that free trade with the outside world and the equalization of taxation between Great Britain and Ireland approximately coincided in point of time, and were also contemporaneous with rapid and continuous growth in the wealth and population of Great Britain, and a steady and continuous decline in the Irish population.

We know now, moreover, though nobody knew it then, because the calculation was not yet made, that Ireland was paying a large contribution to Imperial services, over and above her local expenditure. In the halfcentury between 1810 and 1860 she had paid an average yearly sum of nearly four millions, and a total sum of nearly two hundred millions. In the year 1859-60, when the now equalized spirit duties were raised to 10s., she paid £5,396,000; a sum considerably more than double the expenditure on Irish services, and equivalent to no less than five-sevenths of the revenue raised in Ireland.

Parliament gave no serious attention to any of these phenomena from the time of the fiscal union in 1817 until after the introduction of Mr. Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill in 1893. No settled conclusions were arrived at as to the relative

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