Public revenues and expenditures of Ireland in the 18th century

Overview

This database draws upon the accounts printed regularly in the Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland throughout the 1700s to arrive at consistently categorised and detailed presentations of the public revenues and expenditures of Ireland in the 18th century.

The original accounts were remarkably sophisticated and comprehensive, reflecting the evolution of the role of the Irish parliament, and providing a focus for élite controversy on fiscal politics. However, they do need to be processed, to allow for meaningful analysis and comparison.

You can:

Note that as of May 2014, this server is still quite experimental: the full underlying dataset and supporting documentation will follow before long.

Let me know what you think!

Comments, suggestions, questions, etc. about this dataset are very welcome via comments on this blog post.

Using the database

The charts of the processed data can be used interactively, for example, by selecting particular time periods and/or data series of interest.

Processing the data involved:

Three of the original accounts are the principal ‘flow’ accounts presented to the Irish House of Commons and printed in the Journals, which are referred to here as:

A fourth original account, which proved very useful in constructing and checking the processed data, appeared as part of a famous UK parliamentary paper produced in 1868, by Henry Chisholm, which detailed (over 1200 pages) the 'net public income andexpenditure' of variously Ireland, Britain and Great Britain (after the Union), from 1688. This is referred to here as:

These browsable accounts preserve most of the ordering, structure, as well the textual/numeric content of the originals as printed in the Journals, while the underlying database format allows for processing as needed.

About the accounts

The Treasury Account. This was the main account of income and expenditure, generally described in the original as “an account of receipts and payments in the Treasury office/by the Vice-Treasurer. etc.,”. This account is typically presented for standard two year periods from the 1730s, and for one-year periods from the mid 1780s, but for the earlier (pre 1730s) period, the account cover varying periods. These are almost always multiples of a quarter-year, which facilitates averaging and summing, to generate a ‘stitched-together’ or processed series aligned to a standard fiscal year. The Treasury Account typically records net revenue receipts i.e., after the costs of collection and certain other payments (such as some premiums/bounties) were deducted. Thus this account alone provides a somewhat partial picture of the fiscal reach of government, understating revenue and expenditures by the amounts deducted. Printed Treasury Accounts from the Journals were not available for period from 24th June 1697 to 31st December 1702, so there’s a gap in coverage, which mainly affects the expenditure side, since the Revenue Accounts for this period were available.

Many of the items deducted before net payment to the Treasury Account appear in the Revenue Account account. It’s generally referred to in the originals as “An Account of the Hereditary Revenue”, since the main receipts here were those tax revenues which were due to the monarch (and therefore, in the main, to the executive branch) without the need for continuing parliamentary approval. As fiscal demands increased, and parliament approved additional taxes, mainly directed towards specific purposes (paying debt interest, supporting the linen industry, etc.) the accounts of these additional/appropriated duties appeared initially along with the details of the hereditary revenue, i.e., in this Revenue Account. Later (from the 1730s), they were recorded in a separate account, referred to here as the Duties Account.

These three original accounts were presented in terms of Irish pounds. The arithmetic of the originals seems generally sound (there are occasional minor discrepancies in totals) and in particular, it’s possible to account fairly accurately for transactions between them.

The fourth account, Chisholm's Account of Public Income and Expenditure, was presented in terms of pounds Sterling (itself compiled from the records of the Irish House of Commons, as per the above three accounts), applying the par exchange rate of 13 Irish pounds to 12 pounds Sterling. To allow for easier comparison, you can browse both a the Irish pound and pound Sterling version of this account. Chisholm’s account covers essentially the same flows of revenue and expenditure as the Treasury Account above, but there are some important differences. Chisholm generally presents less detail than the Treasury Account, but does almost always present accounts for standard (12 month) fiscal years (either ending 25th December or 25th March). The Chisholm Account also provides more detail than the Treasury Account, in one case i.e., in respect of parliamentary grants for specific purposes, especially from the 1790s, and Chisholm data for these items were used for consolidating and categorising to generate processed data series.