The Irish Cattle Act

The Irish Cattle Bill, 1666

Public bills ostensibly affecting the entire realm could be significantly influenced and shaped by the self-interest and prejudices of the legislators dealing with them. The Irish Cattle Bill was introduced in the autumn of 1666 in order to benefit English landowners by prohibiting the import of cheap cattle from Ireland. But peers used the debates in the House of Lords to destroy the careers of leading members of the government and to vent anti-Irish prejudices. The bill’s proceedings in 1666 reveal divisions both within the peerage in the House of Lords and between the Lords and the Commons. The 2nd duke of Buckingham and the chancellor of the exchequer Lord Ashley (later earl of Shaftes...