Wall(CatholicMiddleClass)

Wall(CatholicMiddleClass) - 3

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Unformatted text preview: 3 __________'f__,_.__._———————————- The Rise of a'Catholic Middle Class in Eighteenth-Century Ireland Historians of eighteenth-century Ireland agree in stating that Catholics succeeded in amassing considerable wealth in trade, in spite of, or even because of, the popery laws, but little effort has been made to examine this question in detail. What percentage of the principal merchants and traders of Ireland belonged to the Catholic faith, or what percentage of the trade of Ireland was in their hands during the century? It is doubtful whether these questions will ever be answered completely. Contemporary travel books, and even contemporary local histories such as those of Charles Smith,1 scarcely mention trade, and contribute not at all to solving our particular problem. Local histories of more modern date concentrate on political rather than on economic history; and although it is to be hoped that local historians and genealogists will fill in some of the gaps, from family papers, from local newspapers and other available sources, the general historian investigating the problem has at present no regional or local studies to assist him in his researches.z He must therefore try to piece together such scraps of information as are available and endeavour to arrive at some general conclusions. Source material for the first half of the century is difficult to find, for at that time Catholics did not seek publicity. For many towns, lists of corporation officers, of freemen, and of guild members are available, but names of Catholics are not to be found among them, since they were not eligible for membership.3 Without such lists it would be exceedingly difficult to trace the names of Protestant merchants and traders and of course these lists do not by any means provide the names of all, or even a substantial portion, of the Protestants engaged in trade in the towns and cities during that period. Early in the second half of the century, trade directories become available for Dublin. but apart from Richard Lucas's General Directory, published in 1788, nothing similar is available for the remainder of the country. From 1755 on, lists of Dublin merchants and traders were published annually in Wilson's Dublin Directory, but these give no indication 74 Collected Essays ofMaureerz Wall CaillOliC Middle Class 75 of religious affiliations. It would not be easy to assign names to the different have seriously operated against the accumulation of wealth, the chief obstacle Protestant groups, to decide who were members of the Established Church, placed in the path of Catholic traders and manufacturers was the law who Presbyterians, or members of the Society of Friends; but for Catholics the “ preventing them from taking leases for longer than thirty-one years?" There Pmblem is eVen more diffiCUIt- Few CathOIiC ParOChial registers are available can be little doubt that the considerable expansion of Irish trade which took until the end of the eighteenth century, and one has to search elsewhere for place in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and which is generally proof that a given merchant or trader is a Catholic. If he became at any time a attributed to the granting of legislative independence, owed much to the fact member of the General Committee of the Catholics of Ireland, during the ithat Catholics in 1778 were again permitted to take long leases, and in 1782 period 1772 to 1793, he can be easily identified as a Catholic.‘ But by no were placed on the same footing as Protestants in the matter of property means all the Catholics of Dublin were members of this committee, and the , rights. Although Catholics in general were subjected to extra taxation for only other important source which would assist in identifying a merchant or ' paying the militia,12 and although the grand juries were empowered to trader as a Catholic is the index to the Catholic qualification rolls, which does reimburse persons who suffered robberies by enemy privateers ‘during war not, however, cover the years before 1778.’ This index gives the names of with a pOpish prince’ by levying the full amount on the Catholic inhabitants of Catholics of substance from all parts of the country, and is especially valuable the county,13 the operation of these two acts could only have been because, in addition to the names, the addresses and occupations of those intermittent.“ There was a possibility that Catholics engaged in commerce Catholics who qualified are usually given. Unfortunately both these aids to might be subjected to special taxes, and pamphleteers and writers of letters to identification belong to the last quarter of the century. For the period before the press liked to hold this threat over their heads. We find a Cork pamphleteer 1772, names of Catholics can be identified in lists of Subscribers to works of calling himself Alexander the Coppersmith writing in 1737:15 Catholic piety, or in newspaper or other references to breaches of popery acts, or in city or town documents where they are mentioned as having transgressed the by-laws, but this is material which could best be examined by the local historian.6 This paper endeavours to give an account of the part played by Catholics in the commercial life of the country up to 1782. The difficulties outlined above prevent the story from being complete for the whole country, or for the whole period under review. Isolated references have been collected and some examples are given which, added together, go to show that Catholics did The parliament to restrain papist power and suppress clans has incapacitated them [papists] from purchasing estates; it would be therefore too hard as well as imprudent to exclude them from the benefit of employing their money in trade. But then they should be cautious how they extend the reign of policy and by a vehement impulse of interest raise themselves into objects of Protestant jealousy. . . .Their bold monopoly of home and foreign trade will create such popular clamour, that at last they will be controlled by parliamentary restraint. become rich in trade in spite of the penal laws. But perhaps the best proof of But it is extremely doubtful whether this course was ever seriously considered their wealth lies in the fact that the laws against them were modified in order ‘ by the Irish parliament. When the hereditary revenue was found insufficient to to make that wealth available for the economic advancement of the country in meet the needs of government and when the Irish parliament had to vote the second half of the century. additional supplies, as it did from 1692 to 1800, most of the supplies were Catholics were shut out completely, for obvious reasons, from one found by taxes on commerce. In a parliament composed almost entirely of occupation — that of making or selling arms or ammunition.7 Otherwise the landed gentlemen it was unthinkable that new taxes should be levied on land. only restriction which the statute law imposed on them as far as trade was While parliament would gladly have followed the example of England on concerned was the limit of two placed on the number of apprentices a Catholic matters such as a habeas corpus act, there was never any question of imitating might employ.8 How far this operated to their serious disadvantage it is her when parliament there introduced the land tax in 1692. The other difficult to state with certainty. I have not seen it mentioned as a major possibility in that age — a tax on absentees — was equally unpopular in England, grievance in any petition9 and it was probably to a great extent disregarded.10 " “and the procedure under Poynings’ law would ensure that it could not become Most business concerns in Ireland in the first three quarters of the century law. There were few sources for revenue left except in the field of commerce, were run on a quite small scale, and there was nothing to prevent a Catholic taxes on exports and imports and on the sale of tobacco, ale and spirits.The fear from taking as many skilled workers as he pleased. But even more important that it would adversely affect the revenue was, therefore, a protection for was the fact that this rule did not apply to the hempen and linen manufacture, Catholic merchants and traders against any suggestion of penal taxes on their which were expressly excluded from the scope of the act; and linen was the commercial activities.16 main manufacturing industry in the eighteenth century, those engaged in it . Another reason why Catholics enjoyed opportunities in this field was that receiving the active assistance of government. trade was held in considerable contempt in Ireland in the eighteenth century. Apart then from the by-laws passed against them by the corporations of the Samuel Madden,l7 who made such efforts to promote the country’s prosperity. cities and towns, which they resisted‘1 and which,on the whole, do not seem to was much perturbed by this attitude. Writing in 1738, he instanced the ———'———_—i 76 Collected Essays of Maureen Wall merchants of Italy, of Holland, of China and other lands ‘where merchandise is held highly honourable’ and where ‘they never retire from business, to buy lands and turn country gentlemen as we do’.” Forty years later Arthur Young was making the same complaint. Trade is held in contempt, he writes, ‘by those who call themselves gentlemen’. Commercial people are ‘quitting trade and manufactures, when they have made from five to ten thousand pounds, to become gentlemen’. He considers that ‘this is taking people from industry at the very moment they are best able to command success’ and recommends the Irish who are so ‘ready to imitate the vices and follies of England' to imitate her virtues instead, especially ‘her respect for commercial industry'.19 It is easy to see how in these circumstances, Catholics were permitted to control a large share in the trade of the country. It was a lowly occupation, and it was natural that they should be engaged in it until some of them became quite wealthy. Already before the end of the seventeenth century Catholics were reputed to be in control of much of the trade of Ireland — a trade which was not extensive since the population was small and the peasantry almost entirely self- sufficient in the matter of food, raiment and housing. Sir William Petty in 1690 comments on the fact that the trade in most countries is carried on by those who are not of the established religion, and cites Ireland as an example.‘Nor is it to be denied', he states, ‘but that in Ireland, where the said Roman religion is not authorised, there the professors thereof have a great part of the trade'.20 When the acts passed during the reign of Charles II forbade the export of live cattle, many in Ireland turned to the provision trade instead. Cork became the great centre of this export industry, and there, and in the other towns where it flourished, it was chiefly carried on by Catholics. The legislation passed in England against the Irish woollen trade in 1699 does not seem to have pressed unduly on Catholics. The manufacture of fine woollens, which had been carried on largely by members of the established Church,21 was destroyed, but Catholics still retained the biggest share of the coarse woollen industry which was an important commodity on the home market. From the beginning of the eighteenth century the laws which prevented Catholics from buying land, or from taking long leases, and which left Catholic landed families at the mercy of the informer, the unfaithful wife and the undutiful child,22 drove many more Catholics to seek a living in trade. 50 . much so that we find Archbishop King writing in 1718: ‘I may further observe that the papists being made incapable to purchase lands, have turned themselves to trade, and already engrossed almost all the trade of the kingdom’.23 The council book of Cork furnishes interesting evidence of the strength of the Catholic trading interest in Cork even in the very early years of the century. In 1704 it was decided at a meeting of the council there, that parliament Should be informed that ‘great numbers of Irish are flocking into the city to the great damage of the Protestant inhabitants by encroaching on their respective trades’,“ but it is clear that by 1708 the Catholics in Cork could bring enough Catholic Middle Class 77 pressure to bear on the council to compel them to rescind anti-Catholic by- laws a few months after they had been passed.25 In spite of this defeat the council persevered in its efforts to circumscribe the trading activities of Catholics and, before the end of 1708, ordered ‘that the state of the case between this city and the several Irish merchants touching the petty duties be drawn and sent to Dublin . . . to have the speaker's and recorder's advice thereon’.26 Whether Cork received any encouragement from the Speaker of the House of Commons or from the law officer of the Dublin Corporation, the council book does not reveal, but in May 1709 the council there was anxious to forward a movement among the cities and towns of Ireland to press parliament for legislation which would prohibit Catholics from carrying on foreign trade at‘lall.27 But parliament was not prepared to risk the failure of the revenue by taking any such steps to protect the Protestant interest, and the Catholic merchants of Cork and elsewhere continued to apply themselves to trade. Ireland‘s chief export during the eighteenth century, apart from linen, was provisions, and although Limerick, Waterford, Dublin, Belfast and Derry par- ticipated in it, Cork was the chief centre of the trade.28 Alexander the Coppersmith, the pamphleteer before mentioned, complains in 1737 of the way in which the Catholics have captured the bulk of this lucrative business. As a result of the navigation laws, most of Ireland’s exports and imports were carried in British ships,29 but Alexander makes it clear that Britain had not a complete monopoly. He writes:’° For the French in galleys of four or five hundred ton come hither themselves, always consigned to a popish factor, whose relations and correspondence abroad, and union at home; whose diligence being more, and luxury less than Protestants, will at last swallow up the trade, and suck the marrow of this city; and like the ivy will grow to be an oak, and prove absolute in their power over the commerce of those, on whom they should be dependent for bread; . . .By running away with this profitable branch, not only the prejudice they do a Protestant trader, but the benefit accruing to popish dealers and tradesmen, is destructive of the Protestant interest in this city. Thirty years later (1766) a petition to parliament from the corporation of Youghal complained that popish tradesmen were boasting that ‘they had more correspondents in foreign countries than Protestants' and that they would not suffer Protestants to ‘get a morsel of bread in Youghal'.31 From 1717 on the Catholic merchants of Cork were beginning to take the offensive, and that city became the chief centre of Catholic resistance to the demand of the guilds for quarterage payments from non-freemen. This agitation spread among the Catholics of the other cities and towns of Ireland, as,“ the century progressed. Dublin, Limerick, Clonmel, Drogheda, Carrickfergus, Youghal, New Ross, Wexford, Waterford, Enniskillen, Cashel, Dungarvan and Carrick-on-Suir were involved in the disputes; and in the 17705 the Catholics of many of the towns elected Dublin merchants as their representatives in the General Committee of the Catholics, which since 1767 78 Collected Essays of Maureen Wall had been acting as a central organisation for opposing the claims of the guilds.32 The widespread nature of this agitation is evidence of the rising strength of the Catholic middle class in the towns; and the failure of the guilds to have an act of parliament passed which would enable them to coerce the Catholics is an illustration of the way in which the operation of Poynings’ Law acted as a shield for the Catholics of Ireland during the eighteenth century.33 Even in the cities of Limerick and Galway, where Catholics had been placed under severe restrictions by the act to prevent the growth of popery,34 protestants were making similar complaints. A petition from the corporation of Galway presented to parliament on 22 February 1762 stated that of the 14,000 inhabitants only 350 were Protestant, and that the papists controlled the wealth and most of the trade of the city. Protestants were, they complained, ‘discouraged from following trade or business, papists in general declining to deal with them; and the wealth of the town, or by much the greater part of it, being in their hands, they thereby acquired considerable influence and power over the indigent Protestant tradesman’.35 The situation in Limerick bore as little relation to the statute law. Father James White, the Limerick historian who died in 1768, claimed that the whole trade of the city by land and sea was in their hands; and although Protestants gradually began to get some share in it,36 nevertheless the richest merchants in Limerick in the second half of the century were the Roches37 and the Arthurs,” both Catholic families. Early in the century the Catholic tradesmen of Limerick were confined to the St. Francis Abbey district outside the city .proper,” and at that time most of the Catholic merchants in the various cities seem to have lived unostentatiously in the unfashionable parts of the cities. Indeed this very lack of ostentation was one of the reasons why Catholics became wealthy in spite of the popery laws. Their opportunities for lavish spending and luxurious living were circumscribed. They did not belong to the guilds nor attend city jamborees; and, shut out as they also were from any part in the borough representation in parliament, elections cost them nothing. They could not buy land, and the attractions of the turf were not for them since under a statute of King William they c0uld not possess a horse valued for more than five pounds.40 There was little outward display in their own lives, nor did the law permit them to build schools or churches, or endow charities of a purely Catholic nature. The Catholics themselves kept very quiet about their wealth during the first half of the century.‘1 In their petitions against quarterage bills, the General Committee of the Catholics made no boasts about their importance either in the commercial life of the country or from the point of view of the revenue, but simply referred to themselves as ‘a number of industrious tradesmen and manufacturers'.42 It was not until the 17905, when they were adopting a fighting attitude, that they began to claim that they were of considerable consequence in the kingdom because of their wealth.‘3 What was the origin of this Catholic class which we find established in many of the towns and cities of Ireland by the middle of the eighteenth century? Some few members of it could, perhaps, trace their family connections with a ——'———'———————— ,, Catholic Middle Class 79 particular town back for several generations; but, considering the numerous wars, emigrations, banishment orders and persecutions of the seventeenth century, and the fact that town populations require constant replenishing from the countryside, they must have been few indeed by the year 1750. The evidence rather goes to show that this class in the eighteenth century derived from two sources —— from the landed gentry on the one hand, and on the other from the usual, gradual rise of persons from the lower to the middle class. From the time of the early confiscations, it seems likely that many of the dis- possessed Catholic landowners drifted into the cities and towns, and there applied themselves to trade. During the first three quarters of the eighteenth century we find examples of landed gentlemen who retained their estates but who were not above taking a part in commercial enterprise as well. The Bellews of Mount Bellew in Galway were successful flour millers, credited with an income of £5,000 a year.“ Thomas Wyse of the Manor of St.John in Waterford was not so successful in the hardware manufacturing business, despite the fact that he received a parliamentary grant of £4,000 in 1757;” and Myles Keon of Keonbrook in Leitrim, who let his estate and entered the wine business in Dublin, was also a failure.‘6 But for the most part it was the younger sons of the gentry who went into trade, and they made of it a wholetime occupation. Irish Catholic landowners were not always anxious to send their sons into the armies of Europe, and, apart from the church and medicine, the mercantile career, as they called it, was the only other opening available to them. During the eighteenth century it was very useful, even essential, for a Catholic landed gentleman to have relatives earning their living in trade and commerce, for, with the scarcity of coin and the very poor banking facilities in Dublin, the discounting of bills by merchants was very important. The very large collection of Blake family papers in the National Library of Ireland reveals the close contact maintained by Isidore Blake, head of the family of the Blakes of Tower Hill in Galway, with his uncle, John Blake, a merchant at 37 Arran Quay in Dublin. For a long number of years John Blake sent weekly or fortnightly letters to his nephew, for whom he seems to have acted as business agent — letters which deal almost exclusively with money and trade, the state of credit and the difficulty of discounting bills; the price of sheep, wool and cattle; auctions, rents and grass; the dispatch of wines and furniture from Dublin to Galway; and, again and again, references to the great fair of Ballinasloe,‘7 which seems to have been the central point in the economic life of the province of Connaught at that time. Many younger sons of the Catholic landed gentry emigrated to various continental countries and to the West Indies to seek their fortunes in trade. An examination of Burke’s Landed Gentry brings to light numerous examples of such persons settling in Cadiz, Seville, Bordeaux, Lisbon, Bilbao, Alicante, St. Kitt’s, Antigua, Montserrat, etc.‘8 The branches of the Bellew family provide an interesting example of the contribution of the Catholic landed gentry to home and foreign trade. Michael Bellew of Mount Bellew in Galway — the wealthy Catholic landowner and miller already mentioned — had a brother Patrick, a merchant of 42 Abbey Street, in Dublin. Patrick was a partner also in 80 Collected Essays of Maureen Wall the firm of Lynch & Bellew of Cadiz,49 which carried on an extensive trade with Ireland.‘0 The Bellew family papers throw some little light on how, in those days, one set about becoming a merchant. Patrick Bellew mentions in 1786 having sent a nephew to Rouen to learn French and figures to prepare him for that calling,” and another letter in that collection gives some idea of the amount of capital considered necessary. This was written by Sir Patrick Bellew of Barmeath in Co. Louth, who was a distant cousin of the Galway Bellews. Sir Patrick had a near relative — Garrett Bellew — who in 1775 wanted to ‘try the mercantile career in Cadiz’ and he was anxious to enlist the interest of the firm of Lynch 8: Bellew on his behalf. Garrett had £400 capital to start him, and his intention was to charter a ship and invest the capital in a cargo to be sent to an Irish portf‘2 Presumably this was a fairly usual way of embarking on this career, and it seems reasonable to suppose that many of the Catholic merchants who sub- sequently became wealthy founded their fortunes on equally small beginnings. Sir Patrick Bellew’s letters give one other interesting sidelight on the attitude of a member of the landed gentry towards this question of partic- ipation in trade. He clearly drew a sharp line between what he termed ’a mercantile career’ and ‘trade’. For, mentioning that Garrett’s brother John had contracted a marriage with the daughter of a seedsman in Christ Church Place, he adds: ‘I confess my pride suffers a little on account of the alliance’.53 Nevertheless it would seem that these members of the landed gentry. by their interest in commercial affairs, contributed in a great measure to the rise of a - Catholic middle class in Ireland. It is interesting to note that the Catholic landowning classes in England do not seem to have shown a comparable flexibility. A modern writer on English Catholicism — Dom Basil Hemphil, O.S.B. — quotes Bishop Stoner54 who complained bitterly of the ‘exclusion [of Catholics] from all places of trust and profit in the state, so that Catholic families have no way of repairing theirlosses nor others of acquiring fortunes’.55 Dom Basil accepts this view and states that Catholics were in effect ‘forced to live the life of recluses, shut away on their estates, with no outlet for the activities and ambitions of the younger sons’." This was the attitude which was adopted to a great extent in Ireland by the few remaining members of the nobility — the Fingall, Kenmare, Gormanstown and Trimblestown families for example, but Ireland possessed a considerable number of Catholic landed proprietors who were not ashamed to find occupation for their younger sons in the mercantile world, thus contributing in a great measure to the building up of a strong Catholic interest in home and foreign trade, and to the rise of a Catholic middle class."7 Many too reached this class from the opposite end of the social scale — men like Edward Byrne and John Keogh, who rose from the ranks in the ordinary way of apprenticeship, becoming first small traders and gradually, by their ability and industry, qualifying for the title ‘merchant’. Byrne was regarded as the richest merchant in Ireland, and in 1792 it was claimed that he contributed ‘ £80,000 annually to the revenue,58 in the course of his business as a merchant, distiller and sugar-baker. He resided from 1779 in Mullinahack, in the house l Catholic Middle Class 81 formerly occupied by Lord Allen, and subsequently went into partnership with Randall MacDonnell, another wealthy merchant, in Allen’s Court where they leased extensive premises.’9 Because of his position as the premier merchant of Dublin, he was elected chairman of the General Committee of the Catholics of Ireland at the time of the Catholic Convention in 1792. He served his apprenticeship to a merchant named Toole, but when W.J. Fitzpatrick was collecting material for his book Ireland before the Union, he was informed by a friend of the Byrne family that Edward Byrne was ‘entitled to a patrimonial estate, but a younger brother taking advantage of the penal laws, “discovered” and turned him out’.60 What foundation there may have been for this story it is difficult to say, since it was the fashion among Dublin merchants at this time to lay claim to ancient lineage. . John Keogh’s enemies constantly harped on the theme of his obscure origins, saying that he was indented to an Isle of Man smuggler,m and that he was a ‘porter and counter-boy to a haberdasher Widow Lincoln’.62 There seems little reason to doubt that these malicious statements add up to the fact that Keogh served his apprenticeship in the ordinary way, probably with the firm of O’Connor63 on the Isle of Man, and later went to work for the Widow Lincoln. Mary Francis Lincoln carried on a business first at the ‘Spinning Wheel’ in Francis Street under her own name,“ and in 1770 she took Keogh into partnership in the firm of Lincoln, Son & Keogh at the ‘Eagle’ in Dame Street.“5 In 1772 Keogh announced that the partnership was dissolved and that he was now in business on his own account at the ‘Peacock’ in Dame Street.“ Here he continued in business until his retirement in 1787."7 He had by then grown wealthy and had acquired extensive interests in Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon as well as the MountJerome property in Co. Dublin.“ Once, when taunted by his enemies in the post-union period about his obscure beginnings, Keogh admitted to being ‘the founder of his own fortune’, but was careful to point out that it was no disgrace to be without ‘a hereditary estate in a country where robbery, under the form of confiscation or the penal code, had deprived all the ancient Irish of their property’.69 Although he refers to himself as the ‘humblest of Milesians’7° it is interesting to note that his land purchases were largely made in and around the Co. Roscommon“ — the ancient seat of a branch of the Keogh (Mac Eochaidh) family.72 This pride of race was characteristic of this period in Ireland. It was partly due to the recent antiquarian studies of men like Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, and to the general interest then being taken by scholars in Ireland and abroad in Celtic culture; but it was a sign too of the change which came over the wealthy Catholics at the first major relaxations in the popery laws. ‘O’s and ‘Mac’s reappeared in surnames” and towards the end of the eighteenth century many of the rich merchants liked to claim, with what degree of right I do not know, that their ancestors had once been Chieftains or , princes of ‘Milesian stock’. Three brothers of the O’Connor family —— ‘ Valentine, Hugh and Malachy — who claimed descent from O’Connor Sligo, carried on a business established by their father, Hugh O’Connor, with branches in Dublin, London and the Isle of Man. Their chief Dublin premises 82 Collected Essays ofMaureen Wall were in Bachelor’s Walk where they dealt in cotton, sugar, wine, rum, spirits, etc., and since the Isle of Man was at that time one of the principal centres of the smuggling trade, it is not surprising that the O’Connors were reputed to have made a share of their profits in that line. Valentine and Malachy, who were both prominent in the Catholic Committee, resided in Dominic Street, then one of the fashionable districts in Dublin, and they formed marriage connections with landed families such as the Blakes of Tower Hill and the Moores of Mount Browne." These Moores of Mount Browne were wealthy brewers, who claimed descent from the O’Moores of Leix,75 while Thomas Braughall, a merchant in Bridge Street, enlisted the aid of Charles O’Conorin an effort to prove that he was descended from the family of O’Connor Faighle.76 The Reynolds family of Ash Street, Dublin, wool and silk merchants, was descended from the Reynolds family of Rhynn Castle in co. Roscommon. These estates had passed to a son who had conformed, and who was ancestor of the Nugent Reynolds family. Thomas Reynolds77 settled in Dublin and went into trade, and his son James was one of the more active workers with Charles O’Conor and Dr. Curry in establishing the Catholic Committee. James’s nephew Andrew, whose obituary described him as ‘the most eminent and extensive silk manufacturer in Ireland’, married Rose Fitzgerald of Kilmead, Co. Kildare, and his only surviving son was Thomas Reynolds, the informer. It was claimed that it cost Andrew Reynolds £150,000 to establish his business but that when it was in full operation the profits amounted to between £ 12,000 and £15,000 a year. The application and integrity necessary for success in business do not seem to have been strong in Thomas and he succeeded in dis- sipating the family fortune in a few short years.78 The Dermotts of Arran and Usher’s Quays, Anthony senior and Anthony junior, Francis and Owen — were merchants also on a big scale. (About 1784 they adopted the ‘Mac’ again in their surname, as the O’Connors did the ‘O’ at this period)” They owned ships and carried on an extensive trade in provisions. The Dermotts, although so far as I know, making no claim to illus- trious ancestry, contracted marriages with members of the landed gentry — Owen marrying Frances Laffan of Johnstown, co. Kilkenny, while Anthony Dermott's daughter, Mary, brought Christopher Fitzsimons of Glancullen a dowry of £4,500. All four of them were members of the Catholic Committee, Anthony senior acting as treasurer from 1778 until his death in 1784.80 As a class, the merchant section of the Irish population, whatever its origins, differed in no marked degree from merchants in Great Britain and in other countries during the eighteenth century. Trade depended a good deal on the initiative of individual merchants and on personal contacts, at home and abroad. Religion tended to be a. connecting link, and marriage connections were frequent. So it is not to be wondered at that Catholic businessmen stuck closely together at home, and used their extensive connections in Catholic countries abroad to further their trading interests. This clannishness was a further matter for complaint by the pamphleteer, Alexander the Coppersmith, ant, .... A,» ____ w -m‘. .,.Wwwwmmmm g ,_ "wwmmm m Catholic Middle Class 83 before mentioned, who seems to have observed it frequently in the city of Cork. Referring to the Catholics there, he says:“1 From the mutual kindness of all men under oppression and a natural hatred of their oppressors, they deal with, and always employ one another. If a papist at the gallows wanted an ounce of hemp, he’d skip the Protestant shops, and run to Mallow Lane to buy it. T‘ is ‘corporation spirit"‘2 among the Catholics, and solidarity in the face of disabilities seems to have continued on into the nineteenth century. Dr. William Drennan remarks in 1801: ‘ . . . the Catholics still keep one at the head of the professions in their country, degraded as they are; at least the first physician, the first apothecary, and the first merchant in Dublin are Catholics.83 When it seemed that there was a hope that they might achieve equality in the state in the last decade before the Union, Dr. Thomas Ryan, one of the most prominent members of the General Committee of the Catholics, said in the course of a speech outlining the advantages which would flow from emancipationz“ The Catholic will cease to look on religion as a mark of distinction between him and his neighbour; for let it be remembered, that persecution of creeds begets partiality for those creeds; and that liberty of conscience, while it encourages reason to examine, rubs away the asperities of prejudice, and dissolves the ties, the sympathies, and the corporation spirit, which are the centre and cement of those whom common grievances have thrown together. In the matter of foreign trade, this solidarity among those of the same stock and creed was especially advantageous. Belfast must have owed a great deal of its rising prosperity in the eighteenth century to the trade connections it . enjoyed with 'America through the hosts of Ulster dissenters who had crossed the Atlantic in search of opportunity. And the flow of Catholics from Ireland to the continent of Europe on the same quest had been going on for centuries. Ever since the sixteenth century, Irish merchants had been settling in France and Spain and in the Netherlands, and it was natural that Irish trade with these countries and with the French plantations should be largely in Catholic hands. Dr. Richard Hayes in his Old Irish links with France enumerates scores of merchants with Irish surnames who were settled there, especially in Paris, Nantes, Bordeaux, Rouen and Saint Malo.85 These carried on a brisk trade with Ireland, and the trade connections continued to be strengthened by marriage connections.“ Some account survives of the activities of an Irish Catholic merchant named Francis Tully who settled in Naples, and who during the years before 1739 chartered a ship every autumn, and sent a cargo of fruit, wine, etc. to Ireland and received back Irish products in return”. Close trade links existed between Rotterdam and Limerick, and Limerick merchants traded extensively also with France, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands."8 The firm of Lynch & Bellew, and that of Bartholomew Costelloe'of Cadiz, carried on a thriving trade with well-known Catholic merchants in Dublin.“9 ...
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