Pasture or arable land?
In his book about the wool trade (1732) HIBERNO BRITANNUS (pseudo.), gives an account of the evolution of agriculture over the previous century (doc. A, p.4-5), explaining the phases of decreasing sheep and cattle raising, with the cultivation of arable lands to feed the population and the replacing of wool by linen as a finished product. However he does not mention the Navigation Acts, which were largely responsible for the decline of livestock farming (doc. B, p. 130-131).
Remedy for poverty
From the 1730s, regular observations of poverty and destitution in the country were made. A treatise on agricultural good practices from the Dublin Society mentioned “the present poverty of the nation”, in January 1736-7, and encouraged members of the Society to contribute to agricultural improvement because, otherwise Ireland was “at our looms for the benefit of others (…) while our little wealth is insensibly consumed, and the kingdom wastes under a lingering disease” (doc. C, p. 6-7).
Periods of scarcity and lessons learned
By observing the consequences of the bad harvests of 1728 and 1739, increasing the acreage of cultivated lands dedicated to wheat, the building of granaries and the regulation of the wheat market were suggested (doc. D, p. 16-17). Pastures, which produced beef meat and wool – both products in demand on the export market – were only serving to decrease the cultivated land available to feed the population.
From 1758, Bounty laws for cereals brought to Dublin and subsidies for the building of mills were proposed “in order to remove a present great discouragement to the agriculture and corn trade of Ireland”. But the most appropriate measures were, apparently, to increase protectionism: by forbidding imports and subsidizing exports, which England was already doing at home (doc. E, p. 23-25 et doc. F, p. 4-5). Meanwhile, wheeled-ploughs and, mechanized dibbles and scarification devices were promoted and manufactured in response to the demand for Irish-made tools : A short description and list: with the prices of the instruments of husbandry, made in the factory at Laughinstown near Celbridge in the county of Kildare (doc. G). Towards the end of the 18th Century, large areas of land were being cultivated (Carlow, Roscommon, Tipperary) (doc. H, p. 34-35).