Here’s an interesting extract from Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of 1837. It’s about the foreign trade of the port of Dublin.
At the time, trade was classified as either coasting or foreign: since the conclusion of the free trade area between Ireland and Britain in 1825, trade between Ireland and Britain was classed as coasting. As a result, no records were kept of that trade except for corn (from Ireland to Britain) and coals (the other way). To quote Tables of the Revenue [Tables of the Revenue, Population, Commerce, &c of The United Kingdom and its dependencies Part III from 1820 to 1833, both inclusive. Compiled from official returns; presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty HMSO, London 1834 ]:
No general Account of the Trade between Ireland and Great Britain can be rendered for the period subsequent to 1825, the commercial intercourse between the two Countries having, from the termination of that year, been assimilated by law to a coasting traffic.
In this extract, Lewis is therefore talking about Dublin’s trade with places outside the United Kingdom. He starts with northern Europe, then moves on to the West Indies and North America, then China and South America, finishing in the Mediterranean. The indented italicised paragraphs are Lewis; the others are comments.
There is very little foreign export from Dublin. The trade with the Baltic in timber, staves, &c, is greatly diminished by the high rate of duty imposed and the low rate at which Canada timber is admitted. From St. Petersburgh, Riga, Archangel, &c, there is a considerable import of tallow, hemp, and tar, with some linseed, bristles, &c.;
The Baltic had been Britain’s main source of timber and other supplies for shipping (including hemp and tar) but, during the Napoleonic Wars, timber from North America had taken over.
from Spain and Portugal the chief import is wine, with some corkwood, raisins, barilla, and bark; from France the imports are wine in wood and bottle, claret, champagne, &c, also cork-wood, prunes, dried fruits, and some brandy;
Wine, brandy and gin:
from the Netherlands the imports are bark and flax ; from Holland, tobacco pipes, bark, cloves, and flax-seed, and small quantities of gin, Burgundy pitch, Rhenish wines, madder, &c.
So far many of the imports seem to be either inputs to industrial processes (eg barilla, madder) and exotic food and drink for the more affluent consumers.
With the West Indies the trade is chiefly in sugar from Jamaica, Demerara, and Trinidad, estates in the last-named island being owned in Dublin.
For more on Irish slave-owners, insert “Ireland” in the “Country” field of the “Address Details” section here.
Encouraging people to drink whiskey:
Coffee is imported in small quantities and also rum, but very little foreign spirits are consumed in Ireland, in consequence of the low price and encouragement given to the use of whiskey.
The Irish provision trade, which supplied (inter alia) the British navy and slave plantations, had been in decline for many years, with the livestock trade increasing to compensate.
Beef and pork in casks, and soap and candles in boxes, were formerly exported to the West Indies in large quantities, but the trade is now nearly lost in consequence of permission being given to the colonists to import these articles from Hamburgh, Bremen, &c, where they can be purchased at lower prices than in Ireland.
The West Indies could also buy from America (see below) and could buy preserved cod as an alternative to beef.
The linen trade had become concentrated on Belfast; Dublin had lost its role in handling the product when Belfast opened its own Linen Hall in 1783.
To the United States of America formerly there was a very large export of linen, principally to New York, and flax-seed, staves, turpentine, clover-seed, &c, were brought back; but the bounty on the export of linen having been withdrawn, the trade between the United States and Dublin has greatly diminished. The export of linen and import of flax-seed is now chiefly confined to Belfast and other northern ports.
The growing of tobacco in Ireland had been banned in 1832.
The American tobacco which is either sold or consumed in Dublin is brought from Liverpool.
The import of American tobacco via Liverpool was part of a much wider trend. Liverpool was simply so much busier a port than any of its Irish counterparts; it dominated the Atlantic trade (to the chagrin of Bristol). It made sense to send cargoes in large vessels from the Americas to Liverpool; from there they could be distributed quickly, especially to Dublin, to which there were daily steam services. This changed the way Dublin merchants worked: instead of getting a few shiploads from the Americas per year, they could now import small quantities as required, once a week if they liked. That reduced the amount of capital tied up in stock and may have made it available for other investments.
UK port traffic 1833–1836 (derived from Tables of the Revenue 1838)
The timber trade was, in effect, the emigrant trade: emigrants provided a useful back cargo for ships that would otherwise return almost empty to the Americas.
With British America the trade is very great in timber, as a return cargo of vessels sailing thither from Dublin with emigrants.
An inland waterway connection:
With Newfoundland there is no direct trade; the cod and seal oil consumed are imported from Liverpool or brought by canal from Waterford, which has a direct trade with Newfoundland; dried codfish and ling being much used in the southern counties, but not in the northern or midland.
With China there are three vessels owned in Dublin, besides others engaged in the tea trade; the number of chests directly imported is, therefore, considerable.
As well as timber, one of the things that industrialising countries were running out of was hides for leather. Argentina and Uruguay both had extensive exports; they were also able to export salted beef to the Americas and the Caribbean.
With South America there is no direct trade, the Dublin tanners being abundantly supplied with native hides, and any foreign hides required being brought from Liverpool, whence also is imported the cotton wool consumed in the Dublin factories.
And finally …
With Turkey the trade is confined to the importation from Smyrna of valonia, figs, raisins, and small quantities of other articles: madder-roots and emery-stone being always transhipped for Liverpool.
With Leghorn there is a considerable trade for cork-tree bark, and small quantities of hemp in bales, oil, marble, &c, are also imported, but very little communication is kept up with Trieste or other Italian ports.
With Sicily the trade is in shumac and brimstone ; the latter article in considerable quantities for the consumption of vitriol and other chymical works.
Source: Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, comprising the several counties, cities, boroughs, corporate, market, and post towns, parishes, and villages, with historical and statistical descriptions; embellished with engravings of the arms of the cities, bishopricks, corporate towns, and boroughs; and of the seals of the several municipal corporations: with an Appendix, describing the electoral boundaries of the several boroughs, as defined by the Act of the 2d and 3d of William IV S Lewis & Co, London 1837