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A Letter to the Archbishop of Dublin, Concerning the Weavers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2021

David Hayton
Affiliation:
Queen's University Belfast
Adam Rounce
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
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Summary

Headnote

Composed spring 1729; published posthumously, 1765; copy text SwJ 436 (see Textual Account).

One of four pieces (along with the Answers to Unknown Persons and Unknown Hands, and the Letter on M’culla) written in the spring of 1729 concerning Irish economic and agricultural problems, and not published in Swift's lifetime, the Letter to the Archbishop can be dated reasonably accurately, being a response to an appeal from a spokesman for the Irish weavers, asking Swift to ‘publish a recommendation that the Irish people should wear cloth made in their own country’ made in the Dublin Intelligence, 29April 1729. The intended recipient of Swift's piece, Archbishop William King, died on 8 May. This suggests a composition around the end of April or early May. King, like Swift, was the recipient of petitions and memorials from various associations of Dublin tradesmen.

Although resentment at the 1699 English Woollen Act was ongoing, and Swift's arguments about the unfairness and deleterious consequences of the Act had been elaborated in earlier writings from the Proposal for Irish Manufacture (1720) onwards, the economic difficulties of the late 1720s prompted several authors to discuss ways in which restrictions on Irish woollen exports might be ameliorated or modified, and make his argument particularly relevant. Smuggling of Irish woollen yarn to the continent, which benefited wool producers in Munster, was circumventing part of the restrictions of the Act. However, for the Dublin weavers with whom Swift was concerned, this was of no advantage, because their concern was to export manufactured cloth. Shortly afterwards, in 1731, the British administration sought a settlement by which the Irish Parliament would suppress the smuggling trade, in return for concessions in the English market (F. G. James, Ireland in the Empire, 1688–1770, p. 157; D. W. Hayton, ‘Accounts of Debates in the House of Commons, March–April 1731, Supplementary to the Diary of the First Earl of Egmont’, Electronic British Library Journal (2013)). This was unsuccessful.

Type
Chapter
Information
Irish Political Writings after 1725
A Modest Proposal and Other Works
, pp. 98 - 107
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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