Printer Friendly

Pamphlets, legislators and the Irish economy: 1727-49: a reconsideration.

Contemporary pamphlets were once widely used by historians researching political and economic developments in Ireland. However, the 1960s and 1970s witnessed the development of a rigorous scepticism about the value of contemporary comment, especially the pamphlet literature. L. M. Cullen was among the first to evaluate the reliability of pamphlets as sources for actual economic trends. Cullen argued that pamphleteers, often politically motivated and with no first hand evidence of the events they discussed, presented whichever arguments suited their purposes and ignored economic realities. (2) Cullen's article signalled a major shift in attitudes towards the pamphlet literature. With contemporary claims exposed as unreliable, historians became reluctant to use pamphlets as evidence of economic and social conditions. However, Cullen's thesis has not passed unchallenged. Salim Rashid questioned Cullen's claim that pamphlet descriptions of economic conditions were inaccurate and unduly influenced by political concerns. (3) Other historians have also recognised the usefulness of the pamphlet literature. Recently the historiography of eighteenth-century Ireland has moved away from focusing solely on high politics, becoming increasingly concerned with broader social and cultural themes, notably improvement, political ideas and the assumptions governing public life. (4) Furthermore, contemporary print is now studied as a subject in its own right. (5) In the light of this shift in focus in the historiography, it is helpful to reassess the value of contemporary pamphlets. By examining the relationship between the work of pamphleteers and contemporary political life, this article will evaluate how far the pamphlet literature can serve as a guide to the perceptions and assumptions of wider contemporary society. Furthermore, the article reconsiders the value of pamphlets from the specific perspective of the economic historian, enquiring whether they provide a better reflection of contemporary conditions than Cullen acknowledged.


This article engages with pamphlets on political and economic themes published in Ireland between 1727 and 1749 since the tracts of this period were not dominated by political disputes, permitting a better assessment of their merits. Before analysing the value of this literature, it is useful to consider briefly the contemporary political and economic circumstances, the main themes in these pamphlets and the question of authorship. The period between 1727 and the emergence of Charles Lucas in the late 1740s was one of relative political calm in Ireland, largely due to the pragmatic working relationship established between English ministers, Lords Lieutenant and a key section of the Irish political elite headed by Henry Boyle. Consequently, the political and constitutional squabbles that characterised Anglo-Irish relations in earlier and later decades were kept to a minimum. The period was instead marked by economic crises, precipitated by harvest failures in the late 1720s and the early 1740s. (6) Against this backdrop, pamphleteers focused primarily on economic subjects. Political and constitutional themes, which had dominated the pamphlet literature of the early eighteenth century and would do so again from the 1750s onwards, attracted limited attention between 1727 and 1749. (7) While there was occasional discussion of specific political episodes, the overriding concern was with the improvement of the Irish economy. A number of authors produced general commentaries which discussed a wide range of economic and social problems and identified potential solutions. (8) Probably the single most common form of pamphlet, however, was that which considered how to strengthen a particular area of the economy. Tillage was the sector which received most attention,9 but there were also tracts on mining, (10) fishing, (11) canals (12) and linen. (13) Such pamphlets usually set out the economic benefits of developing these sectors before appealing for support from either parliament or landlords. (14) A common theme was the belief that Ireland could prosper under the existing trade restrictions imposed by Westminster, with most authors content to discuss sectors which were unrestricted.

The issue of authorship is a complex one, since in the mid-eighteenth century it was conventional for pamphleteers to publish anonymously. (15) Nevertheless, it has been established that the majority of those authors who either revealed their names or have been identified subsequently were landowners. (16) Arthur Dobbs, Sir Richard Cox and Thomas Prior, all landowners, were among the most prolific pamphleteers on economic issues. Such authors were motivated partly by self-interest; Cox, for example, emphasised the increase in rental income that would follow if improvement measures were implemented. (17) A significant number of improving pamphlets were written by Church of Ireland clergy. While the publications of Jonathan Swift, Samuel Madden and George Berkeley have been widely discussed, lesser known clergy, including Phillip Skelton and Francis Hutchinson, also published on economic themes. (18) Merchants tended to write pamphlets on matters relating to trade, while some members of the professions are known to have published on the theme of improvement. (19) A handful of pamphleteers, notably Cox, Dobbs and David Bindon, were also MPs. All three adhered to their pamphlet commentary by supporting legislation designed to improve various aspects of the economy. (20) Another indication that engagement with improvement went beyond pamphlet rhetoric can be found in the clear overlap between pamphleteering and membership of the Dublin Society, with Cox, Dobbs, Prior, Bindon, Hutchinson, William Maple and Alexander MacAuley all listed as members. (21) Furthermore, the improving themes which dominated the pamphlet literature bear a striking resemblance to the ideas emanating from the Dublin Society. (22) The pamphlets surveyed in this article, then, were written by authors from different backgrounds, all of whom were influenced by the mood of improvement prevailing in mid-eighteenth-century Ireland.

Cullen's main argument is that pamphlets are of limited value for studying economic history, since authors were often unfamiliar with the practicalities behind economic problems, had few sources, presented unbalanced arguments and repeated the unsubstantiated claims of previous writers. (23) There is certainly a mismatch between pamphlet discussion of specific economic and social issues and the consensus among economic historians. A major theme between 1727 and 1749 was the promotion of tillage, with pamphleteers frequently claiming that Ireland's climate and topography were ideal for tillage-based farming. (24) Yet the secondary literature indicates that Ireland was better suited to pasture, and points to a gap between pamphlet commentary and contemporary agricultural output. (25) The findings of historians have also cast doubt on another central contention of pamphleteers, namely the claim that the value of Ireland's imports outstripped that of its exports. (26) In some cases, the pamphlets provided misleading assessments due to the political agenda of authors. For example, the impact of absenteeism was often exaggerated by those who sought to convince England of the gains it was making from Ireland through remittances to landowners. (27) The tendency for pamphleteering to peak at moments of economic misery also contributes to the disconnection between pamphlet accounts and the conclusions of economic historians. Publications which appeared during periods of harvest failure tend to present overly negative pictures of economic conditions. (28) Moreover, the fact that many authors appealed for parliamentary intervention may well have motivated them to exaggerate problems in their efforts to spur MPs into action.

The pamphlet literature of 1727-49 endorses Cullen's assertion that pamphleteers continuously repeated particular claims as facts. (29) A number of pamphlet ideas, including Prior's calculations on absenteeism, the belief that a lack of tillage caused various economic problems, and the negative impression of cattle farming were repeated by numerous authors, who did not pause to consider the accuracy of these statements. The repetition of ideas also facilitated the development of stereotypes. Landlords, for example, were often portrayed as greedy and selfish individuals, whose short-term leasing practices discouraged improvement. (30) This assessment is at odds with research on landlords' leasing policies. (31) More generally, the gulf between pamphleteers' analysis of economic problems and the arguments of economic historians demonstrates that the value of pamphlets does not lie in their ability to provide reliable assessments of specific economic problems.

Cullen, then, was certainly correct to question the reliability of pamphleteers' claims. However, pamphlets, though unreliable on specific political and economic issues, accurately reflected broader political and economic trends. As the period between 1727 and 1749 progressed, pamphleteers' approaches to economic problems changed in line with general economic trends. This can be demonstrated by a comparison of the pamphlet responses to the harvest failures of the late 1720s and the early 1740s. The former crisis encouraged the publication of general economic commentaries and a full range of tracts on improving specific economic sectors. Pamphleteers also analysed wider issues, including coinage problems, absenteeism and excessive luxury. (32) In the early 1740s, however, authors concerned themselves almost exclusively with promoting tillage. At least two pamphleteers, Prior and an author using the pseudonym 'Publicola', published work in both periods. In the late 1720s and early 1730s both discussed a range of issues, but in the early 1740s they concentrated solely on tillage. (33) Broadly focused works on the economy and trade, common in the late 1720s, were not a feature of the early 1740s. The differing responses to these two crises suggest that pamphleteers were influenced by economic developments in the intervening period, and that this prompted a fresh approach to solving Ireland's economic problems. The more limited reaction to the problems of the early 1740s indicates that authors were more optimistic about Ireland's economic fortunes, a change of mood which mirrored the gradually improving economic circumstances. In the late 1720s, a sense of despair prevailed; the economy was thought to be in a miserable state, and one pamphleteer's attempt to set out a more positive view of Ireland's economic prospects was attacked by his contemporaries. (34) In the 1730s the economy was gradually improving. The crisis of the early 1740s, as Cullen's more recent work makes clear, interrupted a generally upward trend. (35) In response, the pamphleteers of the early 1740s identified the specific area of the economy - tillage - which was assumed to be weak and avoided more general economic issues.

The tone and content of pamphlets also reflected the contemporary political context. The economic literature published between 1727 and 1749 is notable for the absence of complaint about the British connection and the pragmatism which characterised discussion of British restrictions on Irish trade. (36) The more forthright views on this subject articulated by Swift in the mid-1720s and Lucas in the late 1740s find few echoes in the pamphlets of the intervening period. Most pamphleteers were prepared to acknowledge Ireland's dependence on England without questioning the legitimacy of this situation, with some suggesting that dependence had its benefits. (37) Even those who did seek the removal of restrictions on Irish trade grounded their arguments on pragmatism, avoiding the legal theorising employed by Lucas and, earlier, William Molyneux. (38) The change of focus away from the British connection calls into question Cullen's broader conclusion that pamphleteers were primarily concerned with constitutional issues. (39) In fact, the tone and content of the pamphlet literature reflected the pragmatic and less politically charged atmosphere of 1727-49.


The picture emerging thus far is that pamphlets, though unreliable on specific economic problems, serve as a barometer for general economic and political trends. However, if the value of the pamphlet literature is to be assessed fully, an examination of the nature of the relationship between the work of pamphleteers and contemporary political life is necessary. By judging pamphleteering against the yardstick of practical political action and wider contemporary rhetoric, the remainder of this article will determine how far pamphlets can be used as a guide to the assumptions and preoccupations of the wider political classes. One immediate indication that pamphlets reflected contemporary concerns is the concurrent attention given to specific political episodes by pamphleteers, MPs and other members of the political elite. Self-contained, one-off events, such as the 1745 rebellion, the tithe of agistment dispute and the proposed repeal of the Test Act generated surges in pamphleteering together with increased activity in parliament. The pamphlet opposition to the tithe of agistment in the mid-1730s coincided with MPs passing a number of resolutions against this tithe. (40) Like pamphleteers, MPs who opposed the tithe of agistment did so despite the fact that this was at odds with their commitment to tillage, a point emphasised by contemporary authors on the side of the clergy. (41) The pamphlet war over the proposed repeal of the Test Act in the 1730s also mirrored the wider debate. (42) Pamphlet opponents of repealing the Test Act shared with contemporaries concerns over a potential influx of Scottish Presbyterians seeking lucrative offices. (43) The pamphlet literature also reflected another aspect of the debate, with many authors stressing the need to maintain Protestant numbers and arguing that the Test Act forced dissenters to emigrate. (44) Another political development which generated a surge of interest from pamphleteers and MPs was the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. (45) In calling for improved defences, the pamphlet literature overlapped with the rhetoric of MPs and legislation passed in parliament. (46) Yet it is also the case that pamphleteers were increasingly open-minded about the threat posed by Catholicism and were optimistic that Irish Catholics would not rebel. (47) This view was also evident in the private correspondence of government ministers, perhaps indicating a broader shift in perceptions of the Catholic threat. (48)

The relationship between the pamphlet literature and the wider political world was relatively straightforward with regard to these specific issues, with the pamphlet response to the various episodes clearly forming part of the general public reaction. To provide a full analysis of the interconnections between pamphleteering and contemporary ideas and action, we must consider longer-term trends, in particular the improvement of the economy. A common argument in pamphlets published throughout the period, but particularly in the early 1740s, was that improving Ireland's tillage was central to developing the economy, maximising income from trade, creating employment and addressing a range of social problems. (49) This preoccupation with extending tillage with a view to solving a host of economic and social problems was widely shared. Charles O'Hara's 1752 survey of economic conditions in Ireland linked the predominance of pasture to the beggarly conditions of the poor and echoed pamphleteers' claims that tillage held the key to economic development. Yet O'Hara pointed out that Irish tenants enjoyed increased profits in the late 1740s due to more buoyant markets for butter and wool. (50) This suggests that he, like many pamphleteers, did not take account of economic realities when outlining the desirability of tillage. Other contemporary observers also shared the views of pamphleteers, attacking grazing before listing the economic benefits of increased tillage. (51) Moreover, claims that a lack of tillage was the reason for Ireland's periodic food shortages also found an echo in the correspondence of leading politicians. (52)

A central aim in many of the pamphlets on the subject of tillage was to persuade MPs to support the sector, but how far was the concern with tillage also evident in parliament? (53) Recent historical research has demonstrated that this was a period in which the Irish parliament was particularly enthusiastic about economic development, leading to a marked increase in improvement-r elated grants and legislation. (54) Tillage was certainly attracting the attention of MPs and was frequently mentioned in the addresses presented at the conclusion of the parliamentary sessions of the late 1720s. These addresses, delivered by MPs and Lords Lieutenant, were highly formal and ritualistic, but provide an indication of the most prominent themes in each session. The addresses of the late 1720s echoed the pamphlet literature, emphasising the desirability of increased tillage, the employment it provided, and its potential to increase Ireland's income from trade. (55) These parallels indicate that a belief in the superiority of tillage had become part of the received wisdom in public discourse in the late 1720s. Significantly, the thrust of the pamphlet literature was also matched by practical political action. MPs, seemingly gripped by a climate of opinion in favour of tillage, passed new tillage acts and grants, adopted a series of resolutions citing the lack of tillage as a major factor in the crisis of the period, and called for the construction of public granaries. (56)

The enthusiasm for tillage among pamphleteers and MPs in the late 1720s suggests a clear link between the pamphlet literature and parliamentary legislation. However, while pamphleteers and MPs may have shared similar assumptions on the necessity of tillage, the divergence of pamphlet rhetoric and political action in the 1730s is indicative of a more complex relationship. Despite the fact that pamphlet coverage of the issue declined in the mid-1730s, MPs remained keen to pursue tillage-related legislation, albeit with little success at this time. (57) By the late 1730s, tillage was beginning to attract the attention of pamphleteers once again. (58) On this occasion, however, there was no corresponding interest among MPs, who did not initiate any tillage-related legislation in the 1739-40 session.

The famine of the early 1740s brought pamphlets and parliamentary activity back into line. The specific emphasis on tillage in the pamphlets of the early 1740s was also evident in parliament. In his speech at the opening of the 1741 parliament the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Devonshire, specifically directed MPs towards measures which would expand tillage, pointing out that this would also employ the poor and was of central importance in preventing a reoccurrence of the 1740-41 famine. (59) The addresses presented by the Commons at the opening of parliament in 1741 laid similar stress on tillage, indicating that the subsistence crisis had prompted renewed interest in the sector across the political spectrum. (60) However, while pamphlet commentary on tillage was mirrored in wider political rhetoric, a distinction must be drawn between this and practical political action. MPs initially appeared keen to bring in new tillage legislation but ultimately rejected the tillage bill, seemingly because it was altered by the Privy Council in England. (61) MPs, while subscribing to the notion that more tillage was desirable, were apparently not sufficiently concerned about the issue to abandon their constitutional principles by accepting a bill which was altered in London. After the 1741 crisis had passed parliament's interest in tillage declined, while pamphlet discussion of the subject also tailed off.

The rejection of the 1741 tillage bill by the Irish parliament raises the possibility that some of the rhetoric in favour of tillage may have been contrived. While landlords, in their official capacity as MPs, were anxious to make gestures of support for tillage-related legislation, it is evident from the work of economic historians that they were usually reluctant to discourage pasture on their own estates. (62) Henry Boyle acknowledged privately that tillage was not necessarily as beneficial as the rhetoric of pamphleteers and MPs implied. Boyle lamented the decline in Ireland's sheep population, arguing that sheep were crucial to the improvement of the land and suggesting that growing flax impoverished the soil. (63) Boyle's more objective assessment of the respective advantages and disadvantages of tillage and pasture was in complete contrast to the views of pamphleteers. Yet those landlords who, like Boyle, were members of parliament were often anxious to align themselves with tillage-related legislation. The chief secretary to the Lord Lieutenant seemed to recognise this disparity when commenting on the enthusiasm for the 1730 tillage bill, noting that some MPs would 'pretend' to think that it offered a wide range of economic benefits. (64) The fact that MPs concerned themselves with paying lip service to the tillage issue is, nonetheless, important because it suggests that ideas on the superiority of tillage were widely shared in contemporary society and not just among pamphleteers; MPs were, therefore, anxious to appeal to contemporary prejudices.

While tillage was often the dominant theme in pamphleteering, other sectors of the economy, including canals, fishing and mining, were also deemed to possess economic potential. Pamphlet discussion of these areas matched parliamentary activity in terms of the level of attention they were afforded; while there was some desire to strengthen these sectors, they were not the main priority for pamphleteers or MPs. In the late 1720s fishing received some coverage from pamphleteers seeking parliamentary encouragement for the industry. (65) There were two successful fisheries bills, but these appeared after the period when the subject was discussed in pamphlets. (66) Mining was another area where legislation did not always match the chronology of pamphlet appeals. The 1729 mining bill did coincide with a peak in improvement-related pamphlets, but legislative initiatives in 1741-42 and 1749-50 did not overlap with any significant pamphleteering on the issue. (67) Other areas of the economy did receive concurrent attention in pamphlets and parliament. Pamphleteers appealed for MPs to assist with developing the canal network in the late 1720s. (68) This corresponded with the 1729-30 bill aimed at 'easing and dispatching the inland carriage and conveyance of goods'. (69) MPs appeared to have agreed with pamphleteers on the economic benefits of an improved canal network. (70) The peak in pamphleteering on the improvement of the land in general occurred in the late 1720s and early 1730s. In the same period, MPs passed legislation on issues such as the draining of bogs, the improvement of barren land and the planting of trees and orchards. (71) The record of parliament and the comments of pamphleteers indicate that the political elite was less concerned about areas such as tree planting, mining and fishing than it was over tillage. However, the chronology of legislative efforts relating to these relatively minor sectors is revealing on the interconnections between pamphlets and political action. The increase in improvement-related legislation in the late 1720s and early 1730s matched the rise in pamphleteering on a wide range of improvement subjects in the same period. By the early 1740s, however, pamphleteers concerned themselves primarily with expanding tillage, a narrower focus which was also evident in parliament.

This general pattern of pamphleteers and MPs focusing on the same sectors of the economy is not evident in the case of the linen industry, which was prominent in parliament but less so in pamphlets. Linen received most coverage in pamphlets in the late 1720s and early 1730s, whereas the industry was strongly supported by parliament throughout the period between 1727 and 1749. Legislation in support of linen appeared in virtually every session and, in contrast to initiatives relating to tillage, was invariably successful. (72) While other manufacturing enterprises received only sporadic funding, the Linen Board was granted money as a matter of routine, indicating that it was regarded by parliament as the economic sector most crucial to Ireland's prosperity. (73) The relative absence of pamphlet commentary on linen can be explained by considering the motivations of authors. A discussion of the linen industry, perhaps the most successful sector of the eighteenth-century Irish economy, did not fit with pamphleteers' objective of identifying areas which required improvement and parliamentary funding. (74) The limited coverage of the industry, while misleading as a guide to wider contemporary thinking, does indicate that pamphleteers were responsive to contemporary political developments. With legislation and funding to promote linen already forthcoming, pamphleteers were aware that it was unnecessary to appeal for further parliamentary support for the industry. Authors who did discuss linen tended to focus instead on persuading landlords to establish linen enterprises on their own estates. (75) In this respect, the pamphlet literature was certainly in line with wider contemporary thinking. Throughout the eighteenth century there were attempts to establish linen production on estates throughout Ireland, and some landlords were particularly proactive in promoting the industry. (76)


Leaving aside these specific issues, it is broadly true that pamphleteers reflected wider contemporary assumptions about society and the functioning of the economy. Most Irish economic pamphleteers writing between 1727 and 1749 continued to subscribe to mercantilist ideas which were being abandoned in contemporary Britain and Europe. (77) The major preoccupation for Irish authors was the need to increase the volume of exports and reduce spending on imports to ensure a favourable balance of trade. (78) This fitted with the mercantilist concept which held that income from foreign trade was crucial for a country's prosperity. This idea lay behind pamphlet discussion of tillage, linen and other industries; improving these sectors was seen as attractive because their products could be exported or used in Ireland to replace imports. (79) The fact that these sectors were also supported by parliament indicates that MPs shared pamphleteers' ideas on the need to maximise exports. Mercantilist ideas about the balance of trade also led pamphleteers to criticise the consumption of luxury foreign items, particularly in the late 1720s and early 1730s. (80) This overlapped with the concerns raised over these issues in parliament, where in 1729 Thomas Carter presented a motion that luxury imports were ruining Ireland. (81) Thereafter, MPs regularly voted to raise additional duties on certain foreign luxury goods and use the money raised to fund improvement schemes, a course of action which had been suggested by pamphleteers. (82) In the 1730s attempts were also made to reduce imports of foreign clothes, another complaint raised in pamphlets. (83)

Turning to the question of broader attitudes towards Irish society, how far can it be said that the pamphlet literature reflected wider thinking on the welfare of the poor? Pamphleteers, in their responses to the crises of the late 1720s and the early 1740s, were not motivated primarily by a desire to relieve the immediate distress of the poor, but by a concern for the welfare of Ireland's economy, as distinct from its people. Their focus on improving tillage and other sectors of the economy was driven by the desire to increase income from trade in the long term. The legislative efforts outlined above indicate that MPs, like pamphleteers, also concentrated on longer-term improvement. Legislation which did relate to the poor was most likely motivated by the need to tackle the vagrancy, disorder and crime symptomatic of poverty and covered issues such as theft and the rioting triggered by bread shortages. (84) Bills dealing with workhouses, meanwhile, matched pamphlet discussion of the subject, in that the main concern was not the welfare of the poor in itself but preventing vagrancy, discouraging idleness and ensuring that beggars became productive members of society. (85)

The fact that pamphleteers' views on the poor matched the behaviour of MPs sheds light on contemporary approaches to poor relief. (86) Dickson, discussing the crisis of the early 1740s, argues that both parliament and the government 'can be severely faulted' for not recognising that famine was imminent. (87) However, as the overlap between the pamphlet rhetoric and the record of parliament suggests, MPs were acting in line with the received economic wisdom, which held that long-t erm improvement took priority over relieving distress in the short term. Pamphleteers and MPs, assuming that poverty largely resulted from idleness, believed that promoting sectors such as tillage or linen would address the problem by providing productive employment. (88) Moreover, the conventional mid-eighteenth-century viewpoint was that it was not the role of the state to relieve the poor. Some pamphleteers instead appealed for gentlemen and clergy, in their private capacities, to provide charity. There is some evidence of this type of activity, but it is difficult to build a clear picture of how commonly it occurred, and historians have offered contrasting assessments of its effectiveness. (89) Primate Boulter was particularly active in assisting the poor in the late 1720s and the early 1740s. Henry Boyle offered to donate money for the relief of poor tenants during the latter crisis, while other landlords relaxed rental charges. (90)

The apparent conflict between the private charity provided by individual landlords and the lack of interest shown by pamphleteers and MPs in direct intervention to assist the poor confirms that relieving distress was regarded as something which could be undertaken by private individuals on a voluntary basis rather than by the state. This outlook can be further demonstrated by comparing a pamphlet about the economic problems written by Sir Richard Cox in 1741 with a contemporary letter he penned on the same subject. Cox's pamphlet urged a rigorous enforcement of laws against theft, begging and idleness and implied that Catholic idleness was partly to blame for the subsistence crisis. The letter took a more sympathetic approach, concluding that 'there is such a universal poverty reigning through the country that even thieving is becoming necessary for self-preservation'. (91) In parliament, Cox acted in line with the rhetoric in his pamphlet, taking a leading role in legislation to strengthen existing laws on theft. (92) The case of Cox illustrates that comments on the poor varied depending on the medium through which they were expressed. Privately, there was some concern with human suffering, but in public bodies, such as parliament, there was limited interest in directly assisting the poor. Pamphlets, also intended for public consumption, reflected the prevailing outlook that the welfare of the poor was not a matter for official consideration.

The main objective of this article has been to measure the usefulness of pamphlets for historical research. It must be recognised that pamphleteers often failed to take account of economic realities, accepted certain received ideas as facts and used whichever arguments suited their purposes. To this extent, Cullen was correct in warning that their work cannot be taken as an accurate description of specific social and economic issues. However, the pamphlet literature does shed valuable light on the preoccupations of the political elite. A comparison of pamphlets with private correspondence and parliamentary legislation reveals a definite overlap between the writings of pamphleteers and the world of political debate and policy making. Pamphleteers, MPs and other members of the political elite usually shared a common frame of reference and sought to appeal to the same body of assumptions and prejudices. Furthermore, Cullen's argument that pamphlets provide unreliable assessments of economic trends and are of limited value to the economic historian requires modification. This article has established that the outlook of contemporary authors changed in response to the gradual improvement of the economy from the mid-1730s onwards, with the sense of pessimism evident in the late 1720s replaced by more positive proposals for the improvement of particular economic sectors. The growing pragmatism of pamphleteers and their willingness to concentrate on improvement rather than the British connection likewise mirrored the calmer Anglo-Irish political context after the mid-1720s. Pamphlets, then, reflected genuine economic and political trends, and, while they should not be taken at face value, remain a valuable resource for historians seeking to understand the society in which they were written.

(1) I am grateful to Professor Sean Connolly and Professor David Hayton for their comments on this article.

(2) L. M. Cullen, 'The Value of Contemporary Printed Sources for Irish Economic History', Irish Historical Studies, 14:53 (1964), 153-4.

(3) Salim Rashid, 'The Irish School of Economic Development: 1720-1750', Manchester School of Economic and Social Studies, 54 (1988), 360, 362.

(4) This trend is clear in the most recent general survey of eighteenth-century Ireland: Ian McBride, Eighteenth-Century Ireland: The Isle of Slaves (Dublin, 2009); see also T. C. Barnard, A New Anatomy of Ireland: The Irish Protestants, 1649-1770 (London, 2003); Barnard, Making the Grand Figure: Lives and Possessions in Ireland, 1641-1770 (New Haven, 2004).

(5) Examples include: Raymond Gillespie and Andrew Hadfield (eds), The Irish Book in English, 1550-1800 (Oxford, 2005); James Kelly, 'Regulating Print: The State and Control of Print in Eighteenth-Century Ireland', Eighteenth-Century Ireland, 23 (2008), 142-74; Mary Pollard, Dublin's Trade in Books, 1550-1800 (Oxford, 1989); Robert Munter, The Print Trade in Ireland, 1550-1775 (New York, 1988); T. C. Barnard, Daibhi O Croinin and Katherine Simms (eds), 'A Miracle of Learning': Studies in Manuscripts and Irish Learning (Aldershot, 1998), pp. 209-35; R. C. Cole, 'Private Libraries in Eighteenth-Century Ireland', Library Quarterly, 44:3 (1974), 231-47.

(6) James Kelly, 'Harvests and Hardship: Famine and Scarcity in Ireland in the Late 1720s', Studia Hibernica, 26 (1991/92), 65-105; David Dickson, Arctic Ireland: The Extraordinary Story of the Great Frost and Forgotten Famine of 1740-41 (Belfast, 1997); Dickson, New Foundations Ireland 1660-1800 (Dublin, 2000), pp. 109-42.

(7) Gordon Rees, 'Pamphlets, Pamphleteers and the Problems of Irish Society, c.1727-1749' (Ph.D. dissertation, Queen's University, Belfast, 2011), pp. 132-92.

(8) See, for example, John Browne, An Essay on Trade in General (Dublin, 1728); Arthur Dobbs, An Essay on the Trade and Improvement of Ireland, Part I (Dublin, 1729); Dobbs, An Essay on the Trade and Improvement of Ireland, Part II (Dublin, 1731); Samuel Madden, Reflections and Resolutions Proper for the Gentlemen of Ireland (Dublin, 1738).

(9) See, for example, [Alexander MacAuley], Some Thoughts on the Tillage of Ireland, Humbly Dedicated to the Parliament (Dublin, 1738); 'Publicola', A Dissertation on the Inlargement of Tillage, the Erecting of Public Granaries, and the Regulating, Employing and Supporting the Poor in This Kingdom ([Dublin], 1741); Philip Skelton, The Necessity of Tillage and Granaries (Dublin, 1741).

(10) A Letter from a Gentleman in the Country, to a Member of Parliament (Dublin, 1739); John Knightley, Proposals for Establishing a Fund of 30,000l to be Vested in a Corporation for the Purposes Therein Mentioned (Dublin, 1731).

(11) [Francis Hutchinson], A Second Letter to a Member of Parliament, Recommending the Improvement of the Irish Fishery (Dublin, 1729).

(12) 'Patriophilus', Considerations on the Act for Encouraging Inland Navigation in Ireland (Dublin, 1729); The Great Importance of Shannon Navigation to the Whole Kingdom of Ireland (Dublin, 1746).

(13) Sir Richard Cox, A Letter from Sir Richard Cox, Bart. to Thomas Prior, Esq; Shewing from Experience, a Sure Method to Establish the Linen Manufacture (Dublin, 1749); [Thomas Prior], The Advantages Which May Arise to the People of Ireland, By Raising of Flax and Flax-seed Considered (Dublin, 1732); Some Thoughts on the Importance of the Linnen-Manufacture to Ireland, and How to Lessen the Expense of It (Dublin, 1739).

(14) The publication of pamphlets designed to influence legislative output was common in this period; see Julian Hoppit, 'The Context and Contours of British Economic Literature, 1660-1760', Historical Journal, 49 (2006), 92-7, 105-6; Andrew Sneddon, 'Legislating for Economic Development: Irish Fisheries as a Case Study in the Limitations of "Improvement"', in D. W. Hayton, James Kelly and John Bergin (eds), The Eighteenth-Century Composite State: Representative Institutions in Ireland and Europe, 1689-1800 (Basingstoke, 2010), pp. 137-8.

(15) For a discussion of authorship in this period, see Rees, 'Pamphlets, Pamphleteers and the Problems of Irish Society', pp. 23-35.

(16) Patrick Kelly, 'The Politics of Political Economy in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Ireland', in S. J. Connolly (ed.), Political Ideas in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Dublin, 2000), pp. 107-8.

(17) Cox, Letter to Prior, p. 40.

(18) Andrew Sneddon, 'Bishop Francis Hutchinson: A Case Study in the Culture of EighteenthCentury Improvement', Irish Historical Studies, 35:139 (2007), 289-310.

(19) P. Kelly, 'Politics of Political Economy', pp. 107-8; Desmond Clarke, Arthur Dobbs, Esquire 1689-1765, Surveyor General of Ireland, Prospector and Governor of North Carolina (London, 1958), pp. 26-8.

(20) See the Irish Legislation Database:

(21) A List of Members of the Dublin Society (Dublin, 1734); A List of Members of the Dublin Society, Named in the Charter (Dublin, 1750).

(22) James Livesey, 'The Dublin Society in Eighteenth-Century Political Thought', Historical Journal, 47:3 (2004), 615-40; T. C. Barnard, 'The Dublin Society and Other Improving Societies, 1731-85', in James Kelly and Martyn Powell (eds), Clubs and Societies in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Dublin, 2010), pp. 53-88.

(23) Cullen, 'The Value of Contemporary Printed Sources', 153-4.

(24) See, for example, The Groans of Ireland: In a Letter to a Member of Parliament (Dublin, 1741), p. 4; [MacAuley], Some Thoughts on the Tillage, pp. 51-2.

(25) L. M. Cullen, An Economic History of Ireland Since 1660 (London, 1972), pp. 67-70; David Dickson, Old World Colony: Cork and South Munster, 1630-1830 (Wisconsin, 2005), pp. 215-46; Dickson, New Foundations, pp. 124-30; T. P. Power, Land, Politics and Society in Eighteenth-Century Tipperary (Oxford, 1993), pp. 22-39.

(26) Dickson, Old World Colony, pp. 155-6.

(27) Cullen, An Economic History of Ireland, pp. 45-7, 83; A. P. W. Malcomson, 'Absenteeism in Eighteenth-Century Ireland', Irish Economic and Social History, 1 (1974), 15-35.

(28) Cullen, 'The Value of Contemporary Printed Sources', 152-3.

(29) Ibid., 147.

(30) See, for example, [Jonathan Swift], An Answer to a Paper Called A Memo-rial of the Poor Inhabitants, Tradesmen and Labourers of the Kingdom of Ireland (Dublin, 1728), pp. 4, 12-13; A View of the Grievances of Ireland (Dublin, 1745), pp. 5-9; 'Hibernicus', Remarks on Some Maxims, Peculiar to the Ancient, as well as Modern Inhabitants of Ireland (Dublin, 1730), pp. 4-5.

(31) Dickson, New Foundations, pp. 119-22.

(32) See, for example, 'Isaac Broadloom', The Hue and Cry of the Poor of Ireland For Small Change (Dublin, 1731); [John Browne], A Short Review of the Several Pamphlets That Have Appeared This Sessions on the Subject of Coin (Dublin, 1730); Robert Wilson, The Interest and Trade of Ireland Considered (Dublin, 1731); An Inquiry Into Some of the Causes of the Ill Situation of Affairs in Ireland (Dublin, 1731).

(33) Thomas Prior, A List of the Absentees of Ireland and the Yearly Value of Their Estates and Incomes Spent Abroad (3rd edn, Dublin, 1745); [Prior], Observations on Coin in General (Dublin, 1729); [Prior], A Proposal to Prevent the Price of Corn From Rising Too High or Falling Too Low, By the Means of Granaries ([Dublin], 1741); 'Publicola', A Letter to the People of Ireland (Dublin, 1729); 'Publicola', A Letter from a Country Gentleman in the Province of Munster, to His Grace the Lord Primate of All Ireland (Dublin, [1741]); 'Publicola', Dissertation on the Inlargement of Tillage.

(34) [Arthur Dobbs], Considerations on Two Papers Lately Published (Dublin, 1728); James Kelly, 'Jonathan Swift and the Irish Economy in the 1720s', Eighteenth-Century Ireland, 6 (1991), 24.

(35) L. M. Cullen, 'The Irish Food Crises of the Early 1740s: The Economic Conjoncture', Irish Economic and Social History, 37 (2010), 1-23; Dickson, New Foundations, p. 116.

(36) Cox, Letter to Prior, p. 9; Dobbs, Essay on the Trade and Improvement of Ireland, Part II, p. 16; Samuel Madden, A Letter to the Dublin Society, on the Improving Their Fund; and the Manufactures, Tillage, Etc in Ireland (Dublin, 1739), p. 28.

(37) Browne, Essay on Trade in General, pp. 69-70; Dobbs, Essay on the Trade and Improvement of Ireland, Part I, p. 74; Skelton, Necessity of Tillage and Granaries, p. 54.

(38) An Inquiry Into Some of the Causes of the Ill Situation of Affairs, pp. 8, 12-13; [David Bindon], Some Thoughts on the Woollen Manufactures of England, In a Letter from a Clothier to a Member of Parliament ([Dublin], 1731), pp. 17-20.

(39) Cullen, 'The Value of Contemporary Printed Sources', 151-3.

(40) Prescription Sacred: or, Reasons For Opposing the New Demand of Herbage in Ireland ([Dublin], 1736); Property Vindicated; or, Some Remarks Upon a Late Paper, Intitled, Property Inviolable (Dublin, 1739); Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland (4th edn, 21 vols, Dublin, 1796-1802) (hereafter Commons Journals), IV, pp. 184, 199, 217, 219; Maurice Bric, 'The Tithe System in Eighteenth-Century Ireland', Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 86C (1986), 275; D. W. Hayton and Stephen Karian, 'Select Document: The Division in the Irish House of Commons on the "Tithe of Agistment", 18 Mar. 1736', Irish Historical Studies, 38:150 (2012), 304-21.

(41) Property Inviolable: or, Some Remarks Upon a Pamphlet Entitled, Prescription Sacred (Dublin, 1736), pp. 32-4; Hayton and Karian, 'Select Document', 308-10; D. W. Hayton, 'Parliament and the Established Church: Reform and Reaction', in Hayton, Kelly and Bergin (eds), The Eighteenth-Century Composite State, pp. 92-3.

(42) Plain Reasons Against the Repeal of the Test Act. Humbly Offered to Public Consideration (Dublin, 1733); [Jonathan Swift], The Presbyterians' Plea of Merit, in Order to Take Off the Test, Impartially Examined (2nd edn, Dublin, 1733); A Vindication of the Protestant Dissenters From the Aspersions Cast Upon Them in a Late Pamphlet Intitled, The Presbyterians' Plea of Merit (Dublin, 1733).

(43) Historical Manuscripts Commission, Egmont Diary (3 vols, London, 1920-23), II, p. 4.

(44) See, for example, A Letter from a Gentleman in the Country to a Member of Parliament in the City (Dublin, 1733), pp. 6-11; Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (hereafter PRONI), T/722, pp. 25-7, Newcastle to Boulter, 5 February 1731/2; PRONI, T/659, pp. 20-3, 'Address of the Protestant Dissenting Ministers of Dublin and the South of Ireland to the King'; R. J. Dickson, Ulster Emigration to Colonial America, 1718-1785 (London, 1966), pp. 35-9; J. C. Beckett, Protestant Dissent in Ireland (London, 1948), pp. 88-90.

(45) An Answer to the Pretender's Declaration: or, a Calm Address to All Parties in Religion, Whether

Protestant or Catholic, on the Score of the Present Rebellion (Dublin, 1745); Hints Concerning the Present State of Ireland (Dublin, 1745); Honest Advice to the People of Ireland (Dublin, 1745).

(46) Commons Journals, IV, pp. 449, 451-3, 456-7, 490, 496; PRONI, T/3019/711, Bishop of Down to Wilmot, 20 December 1745.

(47) The Drapier's Letter to the Good People of Ireland (Dublin, 1745), pp. 5-8; The Drapiers Second Letter to the Good People of Ireland (Dublin, 1745).

(48) Chesterfield to Newcastle, 5 October 1745, in The Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, ed. Bonamy Dobree (6 vols, London, 1932), III, p. 679; PRONI, T/3019/6455/54, Potter to Wilmot, 15 October 1745; S. J. Connolly, Religion, Law and Power: The Making of Protestant Ireland, 1660-1760 (Oxford, 1992), pp. 258-9.

(49) See, for example, [MacAuley], Some Thoughts on the Tillage, pp. 31-2; Samuel Pierson, The Present State of the Tillage in Ireland Considered, and Some Methods Offered for Its Improvement (Dublin, 1730), pp. 1-2; Skelton, Necessity of Tillage and Granaries, pp. 43-44.

(50) PRONI, T/2812/19/1, Charles O'Hara, 'Economic Survey of Ireland', c.1752.

(51) PRONI, DIO/4/5/8, [Sir Richard Cox], 'Irish Politicks Displayed', c.1738, pp. 50-1; Armagh Public Library, KI.II.14, 'Physico-Historical Society Papers: Monaghan', c.1740; Eoin Magennis, '"A Land of Milk and Honey": The Physico-Historical Society, Improvement and the Surveys of Mid-Eighteenth-Century Ireland', Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 102C (2002), 199-217.

(52) See, for example, Boulter to Archbishop of Canterbury, 24 February 1727/8; Boulter to Newcastle, 17 January 1729/30, in Letters Written by His Excellency Hugh Boulter, D.D., Lord Primate of All Ireland, to Several Ministers of State in England (2 vols, Dublin, 1770), I, pp. 178-9, 280-1.

(53) [McAuley], Some Thoughts on the Tillage, p. 53; [Prior], A Proposal to Prevent the Price of Corn from Rising Too High, pp. 3, 6; 'Publicola', Letter from a Country Gentleman, p. 3; 'Publicola', Dissertation on the Inlargement of Tillage, p. 39.

(54) Eoin Magennis, 'Coal, Corn and Canals: The Dispersal of Public Moneys, 1695-1772', in D. W. Hayton (ed.), The Irish Parliament in the Eighteenth Century: The Long Apprenticeship (Edinburgh, 2001), pp. 71-86; D. W. Hayton, 'Introduction: The Long Apprenticeship', in Hayton (ed.), The Irish Parliament in the Eighteenth Century, pp. 1-27.

(55) Commons Journals, III, pp. 570-1, 648, 651-2.

(56) Ibid., pp. 599, 601, 613-14, 623, 647, 649; J. Kelly, 'Harvests and Hardship', 79.

(57) See the Irish Legislation Database:; Commons Journals, IV, pp. 191, 194.

(58) Madden, Letter to the Dublin Society; [MacAuley], Some Thoughts on the Tillage.

(59) Commons Journals, IV, p. 359.

(60) Ibid., pp. 361-2.

(61) Ibtd., p. 378; PRONI, T/3158/198, 202, Wilmot to Devonshire, 21 January 1741/2, 26 January 1741/2.

(62) Dickson, Old World Colony, pp. 215-46.

(63) PRONI, D/2707/A/1/12/3, Henry Boyle, 'Observations', c.1747.

(64) PRONI, T/693, pp. 2-3, Clutterbuck to -, 3 February 1729/30.

(65) [Hutchinson], A Second Letter to a Member of Parliament.

(66) Commons Journals, VI, pp. 102, 122, 239, 258. On the disconnection between pamphlets and fisheries legislation, see Sneddon, 'Legislating for Economic Development'; Sneddon, 'Bishop Francis Hutchinson', 306.

(67) A Letter from a Gentleman in the Country (1739); Knightley, Proposals For Establishing a Fund; Hugh Boyd, An Account of the Progress of Ballycastle Harbour, Together With a Representation of the Present State of the Works (Dublin, 1743); Commons Journals, III, pp. 616, 629; IV, pp. 381-2; V, p. 28.

(68) 'Patriophilus', Considerations on the Act for Encouraging Inland Navigation, pp. 7, 68-9; Magennis, 'Coal, Corn and Canals', p. 78.

(69) Commons Journals, III, pp. 599, 623, 647, 649.

(70) Coghill to Perceval, 23 April 1730, in Letters of Marmaduke Coghill, 1722-38, ed. D. W. Hayton (Dublin, 2005), pp. 99-100.

(71) Commons Journals, III, p. 599; IV, pp. 34, 45.

(72) See the Irish Legislation Database:

(73) Magennis, 'Coal, Corn and Canals', pp. 73-4, 86; Commons Journals, IV, p. 84.

(74) Dickson, New Foundations, pp. 113-17.

(75) See, for example, Cox, Letter to Prior, pp. 35-6; Madden, Reflections and Resolutions, pp. 9, 18-21.

(76) Dickson, Old World Colony, pp. 204, 208; Armagh Public Library, KI.II.14, 'Monaghan', c.1740.

(77) Salim Rashid, 'English Financial Pamphleteers of the Mid-Eighteenth Century: The Last Phase of Pragmatic Political Economy', in D. A. Walker (ed.), Perspectives on the History of Economic Thought, I: Classic and Neoclassical Economic Thought (Aldershot, 1989), pp. 3, 6-7; Patrick Kelly, 'Ireland and the Critique of Mercantilism in Berkeley's Querist', Hermathena, 139 (1985), 102-3.

(78) P. Kelly, 'Politics of Political Economy', pp. 112-15.

(79) See, for example, Dobbs, Essay on the Trade and Improvement of Ireland, Part I, pp. 44-5; Pierson, The Present State of the Tillage, pp. 1-2; Skelton, Necessity of Tillage and Granaries, p. 43.

(80) Madden, Reflections and Resolutions, pp. 59, 64-5; An Inquiry Into Some of the Causes of the Ill Situation of Affairs, p. 38; Wilson, The Interest and Trade of Ireland, p. 6.

(81) M. J. Powell, The Politics of Consumption in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Houndmills, 2005), p. 45.

(82) See, for example, Commons Journals, III, pp. 500, 598; Dobbs, An Essay on the Trade and Improvement of Ireland, Part II, pp. 98, 123; [Prior], A Proposal to Prevent the Price of Corn From Rising Too High, p. 7.

(83) Commons Journals, IV, pp. 24-5, 36, 102, 119-20, 173, 183.

(84) Ibid., p. 378; III, p. 585; Coghill to Southwell, 5 November 1728; Coghill to Southwell, 11 March 1728/9, in Letters of Coghill, pp. 56-8, 62-4; Boulter to Newcastle, 23 November 1728; Boulter to Carteret, 8 March 1728/9, in Boulter Letters, I, pp. 209-11, 228-9.

(85) See, for example, Commons Journals, III, pp. 620, 627, 651; IV, p. 243; J. Kelly, 'Harvests and Hardship', 81; Some Thoughts Concerning Government in General, and Our Present Circumstances in Great Britain and Ireland (Dublin, 1728), pp. 30-3.

(86) On eighteenth-century responses to the poor, see T. C. Barnard, A New Anatomy of Ireland: The Irish Protestants, 1649-1770 (London, 2003), pp. 279-94, 316-27; David Dickson, 'In Search of the Old Irish Poor Law', in Rosalind Mitchinson and Peter Roebuck (eds), Economy and Society in Scotland and Ireland, 1500-1939 (Edinburgh, 1988), pp. 149-59.

(87) Dickson, Arctic Ireland, p. 30.

(88) Barnard, A New Anatomy of Ireland, pp. 281, 289; P. Kelly, 'Politics of Political Economy', pp. 121-2; Sneddon, 'Bishop Francis Hutchinson', 300-3.

(89) R. E. Burns, Irish Parliamentary Politics in the Eighteenth Century (2 vols, Washington DC, 1990), II, pp. 52-3; Dickson, 'In Search of the Old Irish Poor Law', p. 153; J. Kelly, 'Harvests and Hardship', 90.

(90) Boulter to Newcastle, 23 November 1728; Boulter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 13 February 1728-9, in Boulter Letters, I, pp. 209-11, 223-4; 'Publicola', Letter from a Country Gentleman, pp. 1-2; PRONI, T/827, pp. 133-4, Bishop of Dromore to James Payzant, 18 April 1741; Dickson, Arctic Ireland, pp. 35-7; Dickson, Old World Colony, p. 193; PRONI, D/2707/A/1/4/3, William Connor to Henry Boyle, 5 May 1741.

(91) Sir Richard Cox, A Charge Delivered to the Grand Jury (Dublin, 1741), pp. 6, 14-15, 21-2; Armagh Public Library, KI.II.14, Cox to Harris, 23 April 1741.

(92) Commons Journals, IV, p. 378.
COPYRIGHT 2014 Sage Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Rees, Gordon
Publication:Irish Economic and Social History
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Dec 1, 2014
Previous Article:'I have a notion of going off to India': Colonel Alexander Porter and Irish recruitment to the Indian Medical Service, 1855-96.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters