At the end of the 18th century most revenue was raised from customs and excise.  Excise duties covered a wide range of goods and materials including hearths, windows, mould, paper, leather , coaches, and even male servants.

There were licence duties and tax on a wide variety of matters and things such as hearts, windows, servants, coaches and numerous other articles.

An income tax was not introduced as it had been in Britain, at the end of the 18th century.


The revenue side of the exchequer, which was of ancient origin, still functioned in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Many of the offices were archaic and sinecure.  They collected random revenue due to the Crown.

The Revenue Commissioners were the larger and more important revenue collectors.  They supervised the Customs and Excise, the Quit Rent Office and Forfeiture Office.  The Stamps Office was founded in 1773, the Post Office in 1784 and the Lottery Office in 1782.

The Revenue, by the end of the 18th century had about 3000 employees including legal advisers, collectors, surveyors, officers, clerks, hearth money collectors, and boatmen.  They were based in the new Dublin Custom house.

The Revenue Commissioners and revenue apparatus were the subject of criticism and investigation with allegations of corruption and inefficiency on a number of occasions by the Irish Parliament.

Accounting for Public Money

The two accounting departments were the Commissioner of Accounts and the Lord Commissioners of the Treasury.  The first department was established in 1761 and audited important offices.  Later in the century they were empowered to require accounts from person who received public money. The Commissioners of the Treasury sanctioned and checked public expenditure.

Following protest by the Irish Parliament, a 1795 Act provided for a Treasury Board to be responsible for the receipt and issue of public money.  In practice the Treasury Board did not play a probing role and  undertook routine functions only, before being merged with the UK department in the early 19th century.

Members of Parliament were often country gentlemen who were happy to use public money to improve infrastructure benefiting their estates.


The grand jury comprised leading landlords and representatives. The grand jury undertook the initial stage of serious criminal offences.  It also was the forum for county business.  It fixed the local tax or county cess.


The basic revenue, the hearth tax was collected by collectors appointed centrally.  The parish remained a significant part of the administration as well as being the basic ecclesiastical division of the Church of Ireland.


The Parliament had the exclusive role in raising revenue.  Hereditary revenue comprised ground rents and quits rents principally derived from confiscations following the nine-year war and the 1641 rebellion, customs duties and licences for alcohol sales.  After the restoration, hereditary revenue was a granted to the Crown for specific governmental purposes.


The late 17th and early 18th century were marked by expensive wars for which the hereditary revenue proved inadequate.  The shortfall was met by loans with temporary additional duties and taxes.  The national debt increased significantly in the early 18th century.  By the end of the century, revenue barely serviced the debt.


The hereditary revenue of the Crown grew in great measure after the rebellions of the 1640s.  The lands which were forfeited are not reserved by the Act of Settlement were bestowed on soldiers, undertakers, and adventurers.


The older forms of Crown property arising from forfeiture of land such as on treason were abolished and a new hereditary revenue was settled by Parliament.  It was derived from several sources including Crown rents arising from religious confiscations of the mid-16th century and from the six counties forfeited after the nine year’s war and the flight of the Earls (Donegal, Cavan , Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Armagh).The quit rents had their origins in the confiscations following the 1641 rebellion.


Hearth-money was first imposed under Charles II. For many years this revenue was sufficient for the civil and military purposes of government and no parliament was convoked in the latter half of the 17th century.  Besides the Parliament convoked by James II, the parliament of 1692 was the first since the restoration in 1660.


The increase of military expenditure required, and the insufficiency of hereditary revenue necessitated convoking parliament. Substantial debt became an element of the national finance.  Parliaments were summonsed every second year in the early 18th century and its power gradually grew.


The Irish parliament exercised a partial and incomplete control over finances.  It claimed the sole right of originating money bills.  The English Parliament repeatedly exercised the right of binding Ireland by legislation without the concurrence of the Irish parliament.  It would refrain from taxing.

Grand Jury presentments were confirmed by the judges of assize.  In this capacity, they acted as part of the administration.  Judges also kept the central government informed of local conditions and sentiment.


The Court of Exchequer was nominally responsible for revenue.  One part comprised a court of law and equity in  which revenue actions could be heard.  Another part comprised the public treasury.


The Deputy Vice Treasurer performed the functions of the Receiver General, Paymaster General, and was responsible for the issue and receipt of currencies and revenue.  The Teller of the Exchequer  was this cashier in the office of the Receiver General.  He received revenue and made payments.


The task of collection of revenue lay with the Commissioners of Revenue, Customs and Excise.


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