Benjamin Franklin Papers

Questions about Ireland, [September? 1771]

Questions about Ireland

These questions reveal Franklin as the thoughtful tourist. He had long been interested in Ireland, but primarily in its relationship with the empire;4 on his first visit he clearly intended to examine its internal economy, which he viewed from a physiocratic, anti-mercantilist standpoint.5 His memorandum seems to be guidelines for his curiosity. The fact that he began it as questions relating to, and endorsed it as queries in, Ireland strengthens our belief that he had it with him on his travels, and hence that he wrote it shortly before or after he reached the island in September.6 We are assigning it, tentatively and perhaps arbitrarily, to that month.

[September?, 1771]

Questions relating to Ireland

Can the Farmers find a Ready Money Market and a good Living Price for the Produce of their Lands?

Or do they raise less than they might do, if the Demand was greater and the Price better?

If their Rents were lower would or could they improve their Lands to a greater degree and so produce more from them?

Does the Increase of Manufacturers occasion a greater Consumption of Corn within the Kingdom?

Is Ireland much in Debt to England or any Foreign Country for Goods or Merchandize consum’d in it?

Is any other Country much indebted to Ireland for its Produce or Manufactures?

Are the Sums remitted to Absentees transacted in real Money, or done by Bills, founded on the Produce and Manufactures of Ireland sold in other Countries?

Is Ireland in general in a State of progressive Improvement, or the contrary?

Are all Rents paid in Ready money? or are some paid in kind?

Is it easy or difficult in Ireland to borrow Money at legal Interest, on good Land Security?

Is it easy or difficult to find a Purchaser who will pay ready Money and a reasonable Price for a Landed Estate to be sold?

If the Ballance be on the whole, yearly against Ireland, how is it accounted for that any Money remains in it?

Would not more Money remain if there were no Paper passing as Money?

Is there any great Quantity of Goods such as Woollens or Wool smuggled out of the Kingdom, so that no Account can be taken of it among the Customhouse Accounts?

Endorsed: Queries in Ireland7

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4For an example in 1729 see above, I, 162.

5The questions have, we believe, a real if indirect relationship with the views he expressed in 1769 (above, XVI, 107–9, 314–15) and in his “Remarks on Agriculture and Manufacturing” at the end of this volume. For his conversion to physiocratic doctrine see Lewis J. Carey, Franklin’s Economic Views (New York, 1928), pp. 140–55.

6If it had been written later, we should expect it to have given some indication of how deeply shocked BF was by the condition of the people, as he made clear in his letters to Babcock, Cushing, and Galloway below, Jan. 13, Feb. 6, 1772.

7In a blank space at the end of the MS BF listed people to whom he was writing (and to many of whom he did write in August, 1772), and made some simple—and often incorrect—calculations in British currency. These jottings were set down, we believe, long after he wrote the memorandum.

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