British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

6
IRELAND: WILLIAM PITT TO THE DUKE OF RUTLAND, 6 January 1785l

. . . The general tenour of our propositions not only gives a full equality to Ireland, but extends that principle to many points where it would be easy to have urged just exceptions, and in many other points possibly turns the scale in her favour, at a risk, perhaps a remote one, of considerable local disadvantages to many great interests of this country. I do not say that in practice I apprehend the effect on our trade and manufactures will be such as it will perhaps be industriously represented: but I am persuaded (whatever may be the event) that by the additions now proposed to former concessions we open to Ireland the chance of a competition with ourselves, on terms of more than equality, and we give her advantages which make it impossible she should ever have anything to fear from the jealousy or restrictive policy of this country in future. Such an arrangement is defensible only on the idea of relinquishing local prejudices and partial advantages, in order to consult uniformly and without distinction the general benefit of the empire. This cannot be done but by making England and Irelandone country in effect, though for local concerns under distinct Legislatures: one in the communication of advantages, and of course in the participation of burdens. If their unity is broken, or rendered absolutely precarious, in either of these points, the system is defective, and there is an end of the whole. The two capital points are, the construction of the Navigation Act, and the system of duties on the importation into either country of the manufactures of the other. With regard to the Navigation Act, it has been claimed by the advocates for Ireland as a matter of justice, on the ground that the same Act of Parliament must bear the same construction in its operation on Ireland as on Great Britain. Even on the narrow ground of mere construction, it may well be argued as at least doubtful whether the provisos in the Act of 14th and 15th C.II (by which it was in effect adopted by authority of the Irish Parliament) do not plainly do away that restriction on imports of colony produce from England to Ireland which is not done away by any proviso or otherwise with regard to the same importation from Ireland into England. On such a supposition it might be very consistent that the Act of Navigation should be enforced here (as it was by subsequent Acts of Parliament) in its original strictness, and in Ireland with those exceptions in favour of colony produce imported from hence which the provisos I allude to seem to have admitted: and the practice of more

____________________
prime minister in December 1783. Charles Manners, fourth Duke of Rutland, was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland by Pitt in February 1782.
1

Pitt-Rutland Correspondence pp. 57-64 and 71-73.

-179-

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