I am assured, that it has for some time been practised as a method of making men’s court, when they are asked about the rate of lands, the abilities of the tenants, the state of trade and manufacture in this kingdom, and how their rents are paid; to answer, that in their neighbourhood all things are in a flourishing condition, the rent and purchase of land every day increasing. And if a gentleman happen to be a little more sincere in his representation, besides being looked on as not well-affected, he is sure to have a dozen contradictors at his elbow. I think it is no manner of secret, why these questions are so cordially asked, or so obligingly answered.

But since, with regard to the affairs of this kingdom, I have been using all endeavours to subdue my indignation, to which indeed I am not provoked by any personal interest, not being the owner of one spot of ground in the whole island; I shall only enumerate, by rules generally known, and never contradicted, what are the true causes of any country’s flourishing and growing rich; and then examine what effects arise from those causes in the kingdom of Ireland.

The first cause of a kingdom’s thriving is, the fruitfulness of the soil to produce the necessaries and conveniences of life; not only sufficient for the inhabitants, but for exportation into other countries.

The second is, the industry of the people, in working up all their native commodities to the last degree of manufacture.

The third is, the conveniency of safe ports and havens, to carry out their own goods as much manufactured, and bring in those of others as little manufactured as the nature of mutual commerce will allow.

The fourth is, that the natives should, as much as possible, export and import their goods in vessels of their own timber, made in their own country.

The fifth is, the privilege of a free trade in all foreign countries which will permit them, except those who are in war with their own prince or State.

The sixth is, by being governed only by laws made with their own consent; for otherwise they are not a free people. And therefore all appeals for justice, or applications for favour or preferment, to another country, are so many grievous impoverishments.

The seventh is, by improvement of land, encouragement of agriculture, and thereby increasing the number of their people; without which any country, however blessed by nature, must continue poor.

The eighth is, the residence of the prince, or chief administrator of the civil power.

The ninth is, the concourse of foreigners, for education, curiosity, or pleasure, or as to a general mart of trade.

The tenth is, by disposing all offices of honour, profit, or trust, only to the natives; or at least with very few exceptions, where strangers have long inhabited the country, and are supposed to understand and regard the interests of it as their own.

The eleventh is, when the rents of land and profits of employment are spent in the country which produced them, and not in another; the former of which will certainly happen where the love of our native country prevails.

The twelfth is, by the public revenues being all spent and employed at home, except on the occasions of a foreign war.

The thirteenth is, where the people are not obliged unless they find it for their own interest or conveniency, to receive any moneys, except of their own coinage by a public mint, after the manner of all civilized nations.

The fourteenth is, a disposition of the people of a country to wear their own manufactures, and import as few incitements to luxury, either in clothes, furniture, food, or drink, as they can possibly live conveniently without.

There are many other causes of a nation’s thriving, which I at present cannot recollect; but without advantage from at least some of these, after turning my thoughts a long time, I am not able to discover whence our wealth proceeds, and therefore would gladly be better informed. In the meantime, I will here examine what share falls to Ireland of these causes, or of the effects and consequences.

It is not my intention to complain, but barely to relate facts; and the matter is not of small importance. For it is allowed, that a man who lives in a solitary house, far from help, is not wise in endeavouring to acquire in the neighbourhood the reputation of being rich; because those who come for gold, will go off with pewter and brass, rather than return empty: and in the common practice of the world, those who possess most wealth, make the least parade; which they leave to others, who have nothing else to bear them out in showing their faces on the Exchange.

As to the first cause of a nation’s riches, being the fertility of the soil, as well as temperature of the climate, we have no reason to complain; for, although the quantity of unprofitable land in this kingdom, reckoning bog and rock and barren mountain, be double in proportion to what it is in England; yet the native productions, which both kingdoms deal in, are very near on an equality in point of goodness, and might, with the same encouragement, be as well manufactured. I except mines and minerals; in some of which, however, we are only defective in point of skill and industry. In the second, which is the industry of the people, our misfortune is not altogether owing to our own fault, but to a million of discouragements.

The conveniency of ports and havens, which nature has bestowed so liberally on this kingdom, is of no more use to us than a beautiful prospect to a man shut up in a dungeon.

As to shipping of its own, Ireland is so utterly unprovided, that of all the excellent timber cut down within these fifty or sixty years, it can hardly be said that the nation has received the benefit of one valuable house to dwell in, or one ship to trade with. Ireland is the only kingdom I ever heard or read of, either in ancient or modern story, which was denied the liberty of exporting their native commodities and manufactures wherever they pleased, except to countries at war with their own prince or State: yet this privilege, by the superiority of mere power, is refused us in the most momentous parts of commerce; besides an act of navigation, to which we never consented, pinned down upon us, and rigorously executed; and a thousand other unexampled circumstances, as grievous as they are invidious to mention. To go on to the rest. It is too well known, that we are forced to obey some laws we never consented to; which is a condition I must not call by its true uncontroverted name, for fear of Lord Chief Justice Whitshed’s ghost, with his Libertas et natale solum written for a motto on his coach, as it stood at the door of the court, while he was perjuring himself to betray both. Thus we are in the condition of patients, who have physic sent them by doctors at a distance, strangers to their constitution and the nature of their disease….

As to the improvement of land, those few who attempt that or planting, through covetousness, or want of skill, generally leave things worse than they were; neither succeeding in trees nor hedges; and, by running into the fancy of grazing, after the manner of the Scythians, are every day depopulating the country.

We are so far from having a king to reside among us, that even the viceroy is generally absent four-fifths of his time in the government.

No strangers from other countries make this a part of their travels; where they can expect to see nothing but scenes of misery and desolation.

Those who have the misfortune to be born here, have the least title to any considerable employment; to which they are seldom preferred, but upon a political consideration. One-third part of the rents of Ireland is spent in England; which, with the profit of employments, pensions, appeals, journeys of pleasure or health, education at the Inns of Court and both Universities, remittances at pleasure, the pay of all superior officers in the army, and other incidents, will amount to a full half of the income of the whole kingdom, all clear profit to England.

We are denied the liberty of coining gold, silver, or even copper. In the Isle of Man they coin their own silver; every petty prince, vassal to the Emperor, can coin what money he pleases. And in this, as in most of the articles already mentioned, we are an exception to all other states and monarchies that were ever known in the world.

As to the last, or fourteenth article, we take special care to act diametrically contrary to it in the whole course of our lives. Both sexes, but especially the women, despise and abhor to wear any of their own manufactures, even those which are better made than in other countries; particularly a sort of silk plaid, through which the workmen are forced to run a kind of gold thread, that it may pass for Indian.

Even ale and potatoes are imported from England, as well as corn; and our foreign trade is little more than importation of French wine, for which I am told we pay ready money.

Now, if all this be true (upon which I could easily enlarge), I should be glad to know, by what secret method it is that we grow a rich and flourishing people, without liberty, trade, manufactures, inhabitants, money, or the privilege of coining; without industry, labour, or improvement of land; and with more than half the rent and profits of the whole kingdom annually exported, for which we receive not a single farthing; and to make up all this, nothing worth mentioning, except the linen of the North, a trade, casual, corrupted, and at mercy; and some butter from Cork. If we do flourish, it must be against every law of nature and reason; like the thorn at Glastonbury, that blossoms in the midst of winter….

There is not one argument used to prove the riches of Ireland, which is not a logical demonstration of its poverty. The rise of our rents is squeezed out of the very blood, and vitals, and clothes, and dwellings of the tenants, who live worse than English beggars. The lowness of interest, in all other countries a sign of wealth, is in us a proof of misery; there being no trade to employ any borrower. Hence alone comes the dearness of land, since the savers have no other way to lay out their money; hence the dearness of necessaries of life; because the tenants cannot afford to pay such extravagant rates for land (which they must take, or go a’begging), without raising the price of cattle and of corn, although themselves should live upon chaff. Hence our increase of building in this city; because workmen have nothing to do but to employ one another, and one half of them are infallibly undone. Hence the daily increase of bankers, who may be a necessary evil in a trading country, but so ruinous in ours; who, for their private advantage, have sent away all our silver, and one-third of our gold; so that within three years past the running cash of the nation, which was about five hundred thousand pounds, is now less than two, and must daily diminish, unless we have liberty to coin, as well as that important kingdom the Isle of Man, and the meanest principality in the German empire, as I before observed.

I have sometimes thought, that this paradox of the kingdom’s growing rich is chiefly owing to those worthy gentlemen the bankers; who, except some custom-house officers, birds of passage, oppressive thrifty squires, and a few others who shall be nameless, are the only thriving among us: and I have often wished that a law were enacted to hang up half a dozen bankers every year, and thereby interpose at least some short delay to the farther ruin of Ireland.

Ye are idle! ye are idle! answered Pharaoh to the Israelites, when they complained to his Majesty that they were forced to make bricks without straw.

England enjoys every one of those advantages for enriching a nation which I have above enumerated; and, into the bargain, a good million returned to them every year without labour or hazard, or one farthing value received on our side; but how long we shall be able to continue the payment, I am not under the least concern. One thing I know, that, when the hen is starved to death, there will be no more golden eggs. I think it a little unhospitable, and others may call it a subtle piece of malice, that because there may be a dozen families in this town able to entertain their English friends in a generous manner at their tables, their guests upon their return to England shall report that we wallow in riches and luxury.

Yet I confess I have known an hospital, where all the household officers grew rich; while the poor, for whose sake it was built, were almost starved for want of food and raiment.

To conclude: If Ireland be a rich and flourishing kingdom, its wealth and prosperity must be owing to certain causes, that are yet concealed from the whole race of mankind; and the effects are equally invisible. We need not wonder at strangers, when they deliver such paradoxes; but a native and inhabitant of this kingdom, who gives the same verdict, must be either ignorant to stupidity, or a man-pleaser, at the expense of all honour, conscience, and truth.