HC Deb 15 July 1807 vol 9 cc817-29

The house having resolved itself into a committee of supply,

Mr. Foster ,

in moving that the sum of 13,000l. be granted for defraying the expences of the Roman Catholic seminary at Maynooth in Ireland, entered into a statement on the subject. The additional sum of 5000l. by which double the usual number of Catholic clergy would be educated at Maynooth, had been voted by the last parliament, on the recommendation of the late administration. On enquiry, it had been found that a considerable part of that sum had already been advanced; that the buildings were in a great state of forwardness, and that if therefore the vote was now reduced to its original state, the 8000l. would be very much infringed upon by these circumstances. It was on this account that he now proposed the sum of 13,000l. to be voted for these purposes; but he begged to be understood, as by no means pledging himself to repeat such a proposition in any succeeding year.

Mr. Elliot

defended the conduct of the late administration, in having recommended to parliament the adoption of this grant of 13,000l. founded on a petition, and expedient in every point of view, more especially when the present state of the continent, by which the Catholics of Ireland were precluded from obtaining education abroad, was considered. But, even were the continent in a different situation, were it practicable for the Catholics to go over and receive a foreign education, it seemed to him to be a question easily decided, whether it would not be infinitely more wise and politic to afford them the same facilities at home. He trusted, therefore, notwithstanding the intimation of the right hon. gent., that parliament would not in future refuse that which it was on all hands agreed at present should be voted for Catholic instruction in Ireland.

Mr. Hawkins Browne

thought his right hon. friend (Mr. Foster) had acted, on this occasion, with great liberality and moderation. He said, if he had been a member of the Irish parliament, he never would have given his assent to establish such an anomaly as a college maintained within the realm, at the expence of the state, to educate a clergy for the purpose of propagating a religion contrary and hostile to the state itself; a religion which every member of that house was bound to abjure, before he could take his seat; a religion of superstitious, intolerant, and persecuting principles, and which, however friendly he was to toleration and liberty of conscience, he was sorry to find so inveterately rooted amongst so great a portion of the people of Ireland, and now cherished by the sanction of law. He lamented extremely, that there were so many Roman Catholics in Ireland, and would have no objection to agree to the establishment of parish schools for their education, in common with Protestants; not like the Protestant charter-schools, to procure proselytes, but where they might be instructed in the fundamental principles of Christianity, in which all sects agree. But if the Irish Catholics wished to educate their clergy, let them do it like the Protestant dissenters, at their own cost, instead of loading the Protestants of Ireland with taxes for the purpose of supporting a college on their account.

Mr. Windham

did not expect that such a discussion would have arisen on this subject at this moment; but since it was part of a settled plan of the present government, and the hon. gent. had taken the lead, he should hold it right to follow the ship of the line, and get into deep water. The hon. gent. had expressed his astonishment at the existence of such an anomaly as a Catholic college, for the education of a Catholic priesthood, maintained by government in the midst of Ireland, a Protestant state. The best answer to this was, that the case of Ireland itself was an anomaly, where three-fourths of the people continued Catholics, notwithstanding all the legal cruelties, proscriptions, and privations for so many hundred years, in order to grind them into Protestants. Was it because they refused to become proselytes to Protestantism, contrary to the conviction of their consciences, that they were to have no religion at all? If they would continue Catholics, was it not better for the state that they should be good, enlightened and loyal Catholics, than be left to ignorance, barbarism, or disaffection, under the tuition of priests educated in a hostile country, of whose principles, or whose fitness to instruct the king's subjects, government knew nothing? Was it not better the Irish Catholic priesthood should be men educated under the very eye of government, and be of known character, attached to their native land, than men who imbibed their education and their political principles under the auspices of an enemy? But notwithstanding all that the hon. gent. had said of the gross superstition and barbarism of the Irish Catholics, he conceived it was no more than the gross religion of a gross class of people, and not one whit more so than that of a very great portion of the Protestants of England; and he begged leave to say, that, from every thing he could hear or experience, the enlightened and educated Catholics of this country and of Ireland were not inferior in principles, in virtue, or talents, to any other description of men any where. There was nothing half so barbarous, even in the imputed superstition and intolerance of the lowest of the Irish Catholics, as the cry of "no popery!" so recently set on foot throughout this country, by certain gentlemen amongst those opposite to him.

Mr. Parnell

said, he held in his hand the Prayer Book used by the Roman Catholics in Ireland, out of which, with the permission of the house, he would read a few extracts, for the purpose of shewing that the doctrines attributed to that body of men were either misunderstood or grossly misrepresented. He accordingly read the following sections of that Book:—"2. It is no matter of faith that the church cannot err either in matters of fact, or in matter of speculation or civil policy depending on mere human reason, these not being divine revelations deposited in the Catholic church." "3. If a General Council, much less a Papal Consistory, should presume to depose a king and to absolve his subjects from their allegiance, no Catholic could be bound to submit to such decree." Hence it follows, "4. That subjects of the king of England lawfully may, without the least breach of any Catholic principle, renounce upon oath the teaching or practising the doctrine of deposing kings excommunicated for heresy by any authority whatsoever, as repugnant to the fundamental laws of the nation, as injurious to sovereign power, and as destructive to peace and good government." "6. It is no matter of faith to believe that the Pope is himself infallible." "7. Nor do Catholics, is Catholics, believe that the Pope has any direct or indirect authority over the temporal powers and jurisdiction of princes. Hence, if the Pope should pretend to absolve or dispense his majesty's subjects from their allegiance on account of heresy or schism, such dispensation should be vain and null, and all Catholic subjects, notwithstanding such dispensation or absolution, should be still bound in conscience to defend their king and country at the hazard of their lives and fortunes (as far as Protestants would be bound), even against the Pope himself, should he invade the nation." "9 As for the king-killing doctrine, or murder of princes excommunicated for heresy, it is universally admitted in the Catholic church, and expressly so declared in the council of Constance, that such doctrine is impious and execrable, being contrary to the known laws of God and nature." "11. It is a fundamental truth in our religion, that no power on earth can license men to lie, to forswear or perjure themselves, to massacre their neighbours, or destroy their native country, on pretence of promoting the Catholic cause or religion. Furthermore, all pardons or dispensations granted, or pretended to be granted, in order to any such ends or designs, could have no other validity or effect than to add sacrilege and blasphemy to the above-mentioned crimes." The book from which he had read these extracts, the hon. member assured the house, was in as general use and circulation in Ireland, and was held in equal respect and veneration as the Common Prayer Book of England was in this country. He had quoted them for the purpose of shewing, that the Roman Catholics of Ireland did not maintain any principles contrary to the constitution of this country.

Mr. William Smith

thought that, in an anomalous government, like that of Ireland, a Protestant government, taking from the large body of the Catholics all the tithes of the country, was at least bound to provide instruction for those Catholics. He thought it most expedient and politic, were it to be argued on that ground alone, that the instruction of the Catholics should be in the hands of the government. Adverting to the doctrines contained in the prayer-book, extracts from which had just been read by an hon. gent., he contended that if sincere in those doctrines, Catholics were entitled to hold any offices of trust. If they were not supposed to be sincere, it would indeed be unsafe to rely upon them, even in social intercourse. The word "toleration" had been very much abused on this subject; and he protested against the false and unfounded idea which it had been attempted to convey by it, that those granting toleration were superior to those to whom it had been granted. He adverted to the conduct of Catharine de Medecis, two centuries ago, who was herself a most intolerant persecutor, and the author of the massacre of St. Bartholomew; yet her last advice to her son and successor was, to establish amongst his subjects freedom of religion. She had tried persecution in vain, was convinced of her error, and fully persuaded that differences in religion could never be settled by force. What was now done, was wise and prudent; and it would be still more wise and prudent, if the present administration would resolve to do the same again, at a future period, and with a better grace.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

protested against the entertaining of any such belief as that he wished to withhold instruction from the Roman Catholics of Ireland. All he wished to do was, to protect the Protestants against the increased and increasing influence of the priesthood. He confessed he had opposed the extension of this grant during the last parliament. But he now thought it better, as he believed he was the only person in his majesty's government who had seriously opposed it, to accede to the proposition of his hon. friend, lest his opposition should appear the effect of spleen, in endeavouring to make this the only exception from the acceding to the grants of the last parliament. He believed, however, the present was the first instance in which the house, on the application of the party alone, without any investigation in a committee, had granted such an increase as was proposed during the last parliament. Had the house gone into a committee, was it possible it could have come to the resolution of extending the Romish priests in Ireland to double their present number? Was this the way to extend the Protestant religion in that country? Only 100 Protestant clergy were educated there annually, yet it was proposed to raise the number of Catholic priests to four times that number. The hon. member for Norwich (W. Smith) had talked as if these priests had been under the care of government. This was a mistake. All that government had to do in the matter was, to bear the expence of the establishment. He submitted, that if this establishment was to be increased, the least thing which could be done was, to give government some say in the institution, that they might know the manner in which the studies were conducted; have the nomination of the professors; or, at least, in some shape or other, know that they were not educating a society of Jesuits, who would not be suffered to exist in any other part of Europe. We ought to know, that the foreigners who might be employed in this seminary were not in actual hostilty to us, and that they were not likely to instil principles inimical to us into the minds of those whom they were called on to instruct. He, on the whole, could not help thinking, that in increasing the establishment in question, we were not only sowing the seeds of continuance for the Catholic religion in Ireland, but, in fact, were doing what we could to root the Protestant religion out of that country. The students of the Protestant church, as he had already said, only amounted to 100 yearly; those educated by this eleemosynary institution to the Catholic persuasion, already amounted to 200; and it was proposed to double them, or to make them amount to four times the number of the Protestant students, thereby giving the Catholic religion a four-fold advantage over the Protestant.

Lord H. Petty

said, if a Roman Catholic establishment in Ireland was allowed, they must have an education; and the question was, whether that education should be in Ireland, or out of it; or whether they should have any education at all? If not educated in Ireland, the priests would go abroad for education, where they would meet with tenets more dangerous to our constitution. The house would recollect, a priesthood must exist in Ireland, and that it would be best under the encouragement and observation of government than under any other. The right hon. gent. had talked as if they were shut up from the knowledge of government; but surely he knew there were five visitors appointed by act of parliament, one of whom was the lord chancellor of Ireland, who were to make a visitation once in three years, or at any time on the requisition of the lord lieutenant; and, if they did their duty, could it be supposed the establishment was not under the controul of government? The arguments of the right hon. gent. that there were only 100 teachers of the Protestant religion in the University of Dublin, while there were 200 Roman Catholic priests in the College of Maynooth, went to nothing but to strike a balance of ignorance; for, if there were not enough to teach the Protestants, it was no reason there should not be enough to teach the Roman Catholics; they should rather enlarge the Protestant teachers, than restrain or diminish the others, and let the education be open and manly, and not clandestine and mysterious, as it had formerly been. If the right hon. gent. had wanted information, he ought to have called for it, by a motion, last session, when he opposed this measure. [The chancellor of the exchequer said across the table, that he had called for this information, though not by motion.]—Lord H. Petty resumed. It was extraordinary on a subject connected with the national expenditure, that the right hon. gent. had not made a distinct motion. There was no paucity of the means of education for the Protestant Clergy of Ireland. There was Trinity College in Dublin, one of the most splendid establishments of the kind that existed, besides the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. At any rate, if the means of instructing Protestant clergy for Ireland were deemed too small, let not the means of instructing the Roman Catholic clergy therefore suffer; let it not be a contest which class should be kept in the greater ignorance, but let it be rather an emulation how to diffuse over the whole country, the greatest possible civilization and instruction.

Mr. J. Leslie Foster

(member for the university of Dublin) hoped, that after the allusion that had been made by the noble lord to the place he had the honour to represent, he would be excused saying a few words on the subject now before the committee. Of the establishment of Maynooth College, as a substitution for St. Omer's, he entirely approved. He did not himself remember the circumstances under which it was originally founded; but believed, from what he had heard, that 8000l. annually were voted for the maintenance of 200 students, and 200 only. The principals of that college had, however, now come forward, and asked of parliament 5000l. in addition, for the erection of buildings sufficient to lodge 200 students more. This he could not help thinking was in effect to do no less than double the establishment. As to the Dublin seminary, the excellent system of learning adopted there, had certainly induced a number of the Catholic gentry to send their sons to that college. He believed the number of Roman Catholic students considerably above forty. Those young gentlemen pursued the same course of studies for four years with their Protestant fellow students, and in returning to their family had a more friendly, liberal, and just idea of what a Protestant was, than they originally had, or perhaps could have otherwise obtained. At the same time, that college would not forget the origin and nature of its institution. The gentlemen on the opposite benches were, he was sure, too well versed in Irish history, not to know that the Dublin College was founded upon Protestant principles, by Elizabeth, and for the growth and dissemination of the Protestant religion. It was, in fact, a Protestant garrison in a land of Catholics; and the learned and respectable characters at the head of the government of that college, had uniformly acted up to the true spirit of its institution. In the reign of James II., the stand that college made for her civil and religious liberties, would remain upon honourable record, and the late spirit of religious moderation that induced her to forbear from taking any part in the disputes of the day, proved that she could forget her resentments as well as remember her obligations.

Mr. Dillon

read from a document he held in his hand, a statement of the number of sinecure livings in Ireland, without glebe houses or residences, by which, he contended, it appeared that the Roman Catholics paid one-tenth of their property to a nominal clergy for doing nothing. He said, it was no wonder that the Protestant church was disrelished by the Irish peasant, when the only way through which he knew it was, the exactions of the tithe-proctor. He concluded with an earnest exhortation to the house, to adopt some modification of tithes in Ireland, as the best possible way of restoring the people of that country to content.

Sir John Newport

defended the way in which the grant had been introduced, and asked, why that mode had not been altered by the right hon. gent. (Mr. Foster), since it had been condemned by his colleague the chancellor of the exchequer for England? He was glad he had the authority of the member for Dublin college bearing him out in the assertion made by him in that house, in the former parliament, and which the right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Perceval) did not then seem inclined to credit. There were three reasons for encouraging the education of the Roman Catholics in Ireland: One, that great lucrative objects were withheld from the Roman Catholics, which were the greatest incentives in the education of the Protestant. Another was, that the Roman Catholics were the poorest order, and therefore had a claim on the government to promote their education, because they were notable to support their own pastors. And a third was, that Oxford and Cambridge which were open to the Protestants, were shut against the Roman Catholics; besides, Irish viceroys, in the plenitude of their bounty, took good care to carry over to that country a generous supply of clergy, who were soon provided for on the Irish establishment.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer ,

in answer to what had fallen from an hon. member (Mr. Dillon), assured that hon. gent. that the attention of government should be early and anxiously directed to the abuse complained of, with respect to the want of glebe houses, and sinecure livings. He did think with that hon. gent. that it was extremely hard, that any man should pass away an indolent life upon an opulent living, while a poor curate was discharging the duties of that office for the year round, upon a pittance scarcely sufficient to maintain him. He had before failed in two or three instances, in carrying through that house a measure for the regulation of rectories and cures; he however now gave notice that it was the intention of his majesty's present government to submit to the consideration of the house, a measure for reducing the opulent livings, and out of their abundance making an allowance for the poorer curates. It ought to have been done before; he wished that the late government had paid more attention to the church in Ireland.

Lord Howick

did not mean to protract the debate, nor should he now have risen to offer any thing by way of argument on a subject that had been so ably argued on both sides of the house, had it not been that he could not sit still after the imputation thrown upon the late government by the right hon. gent. He challenged the right hon. gent. to state an instance in which the late government had neglected the church in that country. He desired the right hon. gent. to ask the primate of that country, what he thought of the duke of Bedford's administration as to that head? He desired the right hon. gent. to look into the secretary of state's office for the home department, and there he would see the documents that would prove how far the late ministers were guilty of negligence, with respect to Ireland; but such a charge carried with it all that boldness of assertion for which that right hon. gent. was so characteristic. The noble lord then adverted to the conduct of another right hon. gent. (Mr. Foster) in coming before the house so totally unprepared, without having made the previous enquiries when he was in Ireland, and which he might have made as visitor of Maynooth college, a conduct that appeared to him to evince a culpable carelessness and levity.

Mr. Foster

said, that the noble lord had charged him with levity. He asked that noble lord if there was a document to produce to the house which could substantiate the claim now made upon it, and if there was not, he would say that the noble lord, in charging him with levity, had been guilty not only of levity but ignorance. He contended that no such document could be found.

Lord Howick

did not think the right hon. gent. could satisfy the house of his diligence in office by evading the charge of negligence, in resorting to such pitiful excuses.

Mr. Foster

would not call such language unparliamentary, but he would pronounce it pitiful.

Lord Howick

left it to the house to determine: the right hon. gent. had said, he could not find any document. He then said, he did not say he had made any enquiry; and he now said, that he did not say, he had not made an enquiry: if such was to be the candour and intelligence of the Irish chancellor of the exchequer, he could not congratulate that country on the appointment.

Colonel Barry

said a few words against the policy of continuing the grant in future. He had been present at all the former debates on the subject and had not heard of these documents. He disapproved of the wanton and unprovoked asperity with which the noble lord had treated his right hon. friend.

Mr. Sheridan

congratulated the late administration on the honourable testimony they had received from the gentleman who had just sat down: that gentleman had been present at all the former discussions upon this subject, yet such was his confidence in the virtue of the late ministers, that he never once felt himself called upon to deliver his sentiments upon the present subject: [A laugh:] but now when men had succeeded, for whom they both felt such a distrust, his patriotic jealousy at once put an end to that silent and according acquiescence to the judgments and sentiments of honester men.

Colonel Barry

said, that certainly the diligent and punctual attendance of his right hon. friend to his parliamentary duties, in the last sessions, [a laugh,] enabled him to remember accurately all that then passed in that house. Unfortunately, however, he (Col. B.) had spoken on that subject, though he did not expect, nor indeed, did it appear, that it had made any great impression on his right non, friend.

Mr. Sheridan

said in answer, that if he had not been as vigilant and anxious in his attention to his parliamentary duties during the last sessions as he usually was, it was owing to nothing but his unbounded confidence in the late administration. [A laugh.]

Dr. Duigenan

denied that the late administration had manifested any solicitude to promote the interests of the Protestant religion in Ireland. On the contrary, he had to state that a bill which he introduced, at the instance of several of the archbishops and bishops of Ireland, to enforce the residence of the clergy, and which bill was a transcript of that brought forward in this country by sir W. Scott, was discountenanced by that administration, and in consequence rejected. What the administration to which he referred had done for the benefit of the established church in Ireland, he had yet to learn.

Lord Howick

had no idea that the disinclination of the late government to countenance a measure brought forward by the learned doctor was likely to depreciate the character of that government, either in England or Ireland. Therefore he did not think it necessary to make any attempt at vindicating himself or his colleagues against the learned doctor's accusation.

Lord Milton

observed, that gentlemen, in asserting the sufficiency of a certain number of clergymen to administer the duties of the Catholic religion in Ireland, because such a number was thought necessary in 1795, seemed altogether to exclude the consideration of those events which had since occurred on the continent, which events limited the supplies from that quarter, and also appeared to forget the growing population of Ireland.

Mr. Grattan

thought it remarkable, that while the gentlemen on the other side agreed to the resolution, they pursued a course of argument directly against it. Their argument, indeed, would militate not only against the proposed increase of the institution, but against its original establishment. The principle of the original establishment was to provide the means of educating and domesticating the Catholic clergy of Ireland, and thus to protect them from the opportunity of imbibing foreign principles. With that view, the college of Maynooth was instituted, and the state of the continent at the time rendered such an institution peculiarly necessary. Did any alteration take place in the state of the continent to abate the amount or character of that University? It was absurd to say, that the same number of Roman Catholic clergymen would suffice for Ireland now, that was thought requisite in 1795; for that would be to suppose the population at a stand, and nothing could be imagined more absurd than to suppose that 200 clergymen would be sufficient. There were no less than 2400 parishes and 1100 benefices in Ireland; and if so many clergymen were appointed to instruct one million of Protestants, or rather half that number, for the other half at least of those denominated Protestants belonged to the different classes of dissenters, how could 200 clergymen be considered competent to perform the ecclesiastical duties of Catholicity to three millions of people? The idea was preposterous. And as to the expence, the Catholics were generally unable to educate their clergy, and they must be educated at the public expence, or they must be ignorant and a disgrace to Christianity. The expence was trifling, and the object was material. Would any friend to toleration in common policy starve religion to save the treasury 5000l.?—The right hon. gent. animadverted in terms peculiarly emphatical upon the statements of those who dwelt upon what they called the uncivilized state of Ireland. Some indeed, said the right hon. gent., affect to say that the great body of the Irish people are mere savages. I will not defend the Irish against such a charge, but I will defend you. If Ireland, after having been so many centuries connected with you, has not learned enough at least to rescue it from the savage state, while the world has been progressively improving, its connection with your country has not been a blessing, but a nuisance. I will never hear, added the right hon. gent., any reflection upon the morals or manners of my country without rising to resist it. I shall always protest against any reflections upon a country to which I owe so much—to which you owe so much—which is still ready to serve you, and from which, I trust, you will continue to derive the most active and ardent support.—The resolution was then agreed to.

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