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The 18th century

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(9) Mill Weaving shed, built in the eighteenth century for the linen industry - 96K

At the Roe Valley Country Park, near Limavady.


There were further Jacobite risings in Scotland in 1715 and 1745 before Charles Edward Stuart (the Young Pretender) was defeated at Culloden. Concern about the threat from Jacobites and possible war with France had led to the Act of Union in 1707, joining the parliament of Scotland to the parliament of England and Wales. There were some moves towards religious toleration, but the Irish Parliament, reflecting the insecurity of Protestants after two major rebellions in the 17th century, passed several laws to "Prevent the Further Growth of Popery". The laws were mainly directed against Catholics, but also contained provisions which applied to Presbyterians. The effect was to create a privileged Úlite (later called the Protestant Ascendancy) who were members of the Established Church.

Between about 1717 and 1775, large numbers of people, mostly Protestants, left Ulster to settle in America. Bad harvests in 1726-29 led to a famine, and there was another terrible famine in 1741. Harvest failures, high rents and payment of tithes were some of the factors which convinced many Presbyterians to risk the hazardous sea crossing to America. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin estimated that the Scotch-Irish formed one third of Pennsylvania's 350,000 inhabitants. Many fought against the British in the American War of Independence.   
"If defeated everywhere else I will make my last stand for liberty among the Scotch-Irish of my native Virginia"
- George Washington

From about 1730 to 1770, there was a steady increase in Irish overseas trade. Butter and beef continued to be important exports. The export of manufactured woollen goods from Ireland was prohibited by Westminster in 1699, although woollen yarn was still produced both for domestic use and for English manufacturers. The restrictions on the woollen trade increased the importance of the linen industry, particularly in Ulster. From 1696 onwards, Irish linen was imported duty free to England, and by the end of the 18th century, linen accounted for about half of Ireland's total exports. By 1783, Joy & Co in Belfast had set up one of the first cotton spinning mills and the cotton industry began to expand in Ireland as it was doing in England.

During the American War of Independence, Volunteer companies had been formed in Ireland to guard against a possible French invasion. The Volunteers had considerable political influence, and successfully campaigned for increased powers to be granted to the Irish Parliament. In 1791, a group of Presbyterians formed the United Irishmen in Belfast, and the following year Samuel Neilson launched their newspaper, called the Northern Star. The society campaigned for a complete reform of the Irish parliament and for Catholic emancipation. However, tension between Catholics and Protestants was also increasing. The Orange Order was formed in 1795 after a faction fight between Catholic "Defenders" and Protestants near Loughgall in Co. Armagh. Many Defenders joined the United Irishmen, which became a secret society plotting an invasion of Ireland by France.

A storm prevented a French fleet landing in Bantry Bay in 1796, and it was not until June 1798 that the rebellion broke out in the North. The United Irishmen captured Ballymena, but they were defeated in Antrim and Ballynahinch. After only seven days, the rebellion was over in Ulster. News of atrocities by the rebels against Protestants at Scullabogue and on the bridge in Wexford reduced support for the rebels in Ulster. One consequence of the rebellion caused little public interest at the time, but was to become a significant issue in Irish politics during the following century. This was the Act of Union, joining the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland to form the United Kingdom, in January 1801.   
"A few executions more ended the outbreak in Ulster; for the accounts of the bloody goings-on in Wexford had their full share in bringing the Northerns to their senses"
- Army officer

See also:
The origins of the 1798 rebellion in Ulster

The Battle of Antrim


(8) The 17th century
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The 17th century
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