HC Deb 05 May 1808 vol 11 cc121-8
Mr. Wharton

brought up the report, of the Committee of Supply, relative to the grant of 9,250l. for the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth: and on the question that the Resolution be agreed to,

Sir J. Newport

contended that the reduction of the grant of last year was calculated to irritate the great body of the Catholics, and particularly to alienate the priests, whose influence had been so much talked of. The question now was, whether the priests should be educated or uneducated, for priests would be at all events found. The reason why the Roman Catholic nobility and gentry did not educate their sons for the priesthood was, because it afforded them neither prospects of honours or emolument. When he looked to the situation of the empire and of Europe, when he considered the exclusion of the Catholics from education on the continent by the revolution in Lisbon, when he looked to the recent promotion of individuals who had distinguished themselves by heaping obloquy on the Catholics, and who were fitter for other institutions than for the councils of his majesty, he did not think this a fit time for any reduction of the grant, and therefore he moved that the Report be re-committed.

Sir A. Wellesley

stated in reply, that when he had asserted in a former debate, that the Catholics had originally proposed to support this institution, he had done so on the authority of their original memorial to government, a copy of which had been furnished him by Dr. Troy. This memorial was dated the 14th of Jan. 1794, and shewed that the object in the contemplation of the Catholics at that time was to be permitted to establish the institution with their own funds.

Colonel Montagu Mathew

expressed his astonishment, that the hon. general who came forward as minister for Ireland, should be more ignorant of its situation than an humble individual like himself. He could tell that hon. member, that the private seminaries were only preparatory schools for the college of Maynooth. He had been within the last ten days at Maynooth, and he could assure the house, that unless the whole of last year's grant should be voted, the buildings upon which former grants had been expended, would fall. There was no lead on the roofs, and the rain penetrated through them. He declared himself to be a supporter of the Catholics, and having lived on terms of intimacy with the people of the South of Ireland for several years past, he could declare for them also. The hon. colonel then alluded to the offer made by order of Buonaparte, to induce Irish Students to go for education to France from Lisbon and Ireland, upon a promise of a restoration of all the Irish bourses, and read an extract from the answer of the Irish Catholic Bishops, stating their gratitude to the government for the liberal support of Maynooth, and denouncing suspension against any functionaries, and exclusion from preferment in Ireland against any students, who should accept the offers of the enemy of their country. Would any one say after that, that the Catholics were not to be confided in? If they were not to be trusted, why not dismiss them from the army and navy? Why allow them to vote at elections? Why had lord Westmoreland come down to the Irish parliament and said, that nothing was to be granted to them, and why had he in six weeks after said that they were the best subjects in the realm, and that they should get the elective franchise and other privileges?—Why had the duke of Portland, the present prime minister, said the same? But this was not the act of ministers. He was sorry to be obliged to allude to the conduct of any of the royal family. But, however, it was rumoured that even the ministers were disposed to agree to the grant, till they went to St. James's Palace, and were closeted for several hours with a royal duke, after which they resorted to the present reduction. That royal duke was the chancellor of the University of Dublin; he was chancellor of a Protestant School, and might wish to put down the education of the Catholics, but no man who knew or valued Ireland as he did himself, could countenance such a project. Unless they acted liberally by the Catholics, they would run the hazard of losing Ireland.

Mr. C. Wynne

lamented the secret influence by which the measures of the government were defeated, and the interests of the country sacrificed. Even the cabinet could not be agreed upon this reduction. Neither the duke of Portland, lord Camden, a right hon. secretary, not then in his place, nor a noble lord high in his majesty's councils, who was also absent, could have concurred in this proceeding. If any one duty was more imperious than another upon that house, it was that of providing for the education of the great body of his majesty's subjects in Ireland.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

disclaimed the odious principle of intolerance. The memorial of the Catholics which led to the establishment at Maynooth, claimed no pecuniary aid. The Catholics promised to defray the whole expence themselves, and though the government and parliament gave them 8000l. in aid of the object, that was no reason that the country should be subject to constantly increasing demands, for a purpose of which there was no precedent in any age or country, that of educating at the public expence the priesthood of a religion differing widely from the established one. He thought it was as much as reasonably could be asked, to educate 250 persons at the public expence, who, with 111 educated in a private manner, were an abundant supply for the Catholic ministry. He took tins opportunity to deny all knowledge of any interposition of a high personage to influence the conduct of his majesty's ministers upon this question, and declared on the faith and honour of a man, his firm belief that no such influence had been exercised in any quarter.

Lord H. Petty

was not surprised that the right hon. gent. was so indignant at the imputation of secret influence, when it was so well known that the present administration was formed on principles particularly repugnant, to that sort of influence! The proceedings with respect to a late measure (the Reversion bill) were fully illustrative of this point. The absence of the right hon. gent.'s colleagues on the present occasion, was probably owing to a sort of compromise which did not yield obedience to such influence, nor yet decidedly resist its interposition. The money which was the subject of the present debate, was in amount little to give, but was every thing to refuse. It was not a fourth part of what within the last 24 hours had been voted for a more ample provision for the Scotch judges, a provision very proper where service had been done to give a claim to it, but in his opinion, not so proper where there had been no service. The principle of the education of the Catholic clergy had received the countenance of the nominal head of the present administration, who, if he preserved a shred of any principle, was bound to support it now. It had also received the countenance of lord Westmoreland and lord Camden, both members of the present cabinet, when in the situation of lords lieutenant of Ireland. It had been sanctioned by the revered lord Cornwallis, the respected lord Hardwicke, and the late chief governor of Ireland.

Mr. Wilberforce

considered the present as a subject of considerable delicacy, and the difficulties arising out of the subject itself were not a little aggravated by the manner in which it had been discussed, and which tended to produce irritation rather than conciliation. He should have expected something better from the patriotism of the noble lord, and of those with whom he acted, and it was not without very great pain that he had heard the mode of argument to which they had this evening resorted. Toleration, he said, as explained both by Mr. Locke and Rousseau, was to leave to others the right of professing and teaching their own religious principles in their own way, as far as was compatible with the peace and security of society, This degree of toleration was denied to Ireland some years ago, but it was now extended to that country; and as far as an establishment was supported at the public expence, for the purpose of instructing a particular class, differing in sentiment from the established religion of the country, we went beyond the bounds of toleration, and instead of acting upon the principles of bigotry and intolerance, we exercised a degree of liberality unknown in any other country. When he recollected the history of past times, it was impossible for him not to be jealous of the Roman-catholic religion. We could not judge of the nature and tendency of this religion from its influence on certain individuals of high rank, whose minds were, liberalized by intercourse with the most refined classes of society. The only way to judge of it was, to see its effects upon the great bulk of the people. No man was a greater enemy to persecution, or a greater friend to toleration, than he was; but, he hoped to be forgiven for entertaining some solicitude that the protestant religion should at least have fair play.

Lord Milton

doubted his hon. colleague's practical regard for toleration, when he recollected his opposition to a bill to enable dissenters to hold commissions in his majesty's service. He was as warm a friend to the protestant religion as his hon. colleague; but it was because he was a friend to protestantism that he wished to enlighten the catholics; for this was the most likely means of gaining them over to the protestant faith.

Mr. Laing

contended, that the present was not a question of toleration or of bigotry, but of pure legislation. It was only by conferring benefits upon the Roman-catholics that their affections could be gained, and that they could be rendered good and loyal subjects. In this view he considered it as highly impolitic to sacrifice so important an object for a consideration so extremely inconsiderable as 3,000l.

Mr. Herbert

(of Kerry) was of opinion that, in the present circumstances, curtailing the former grant to the Irish catholic seminary was one of the most impolitic measures that could be devised.

Lord Porchester

supported the grant of the larger sum.

Mr. Ponsonby

did not wish to take up the time of the house; but, at the same time, it was impossible not to notice what had fallen from the chancellor of the exchequer. No person was indeed better entitled than that right hon. gent. to deprecate the raising of cries on any subject! But, were these cries about religion; such could never come from him! He was above them! He would be the very last person to tell us that the Church of England was in danger! He was undoubtedly above all tricks and artifices of this kind, and the house ought to follow his advice, in adopting a similarly dignified and becoming line of conduct. When out of power, he had set them a brilliant example of resignation, and of a desire to promote unanimity and good order. The house had additional encouragement to unanimity and christian love coming from another hon. gent. (Mr. Wilberforce), who was himself clothed and wrapped up in a cloak of religion and good will towards all mankind, except towards gentlemen on the side of the house to which he (Mr. P.) unfortunately belonged. According to that hon. gent.'s estimation, ministers were all wisdom and all excellence; but the opposition was distinguished by nothing but faction and discontent. That hon. gent. would have the house go and instil into the minds of the people of Ireland the liberality, bounty, and tolerance of ministers, whether they believed in them or not. The tolerance of the chancellor of the exchequer seemed to go the length of 9000l.; but whenever 13,000l. was talked of, the establishment would step in.

Mr. Stephens

adverted to one or two of the general objections which Protestants have to the Catholic faith; but only so far as was necessary to repel some harsh attacks of the opposition speakers, and support his declared opinion that we could not, as members of a Protestant communion, consistently or conscientiously educate clergymen for the Catholic Church, a ground on which he would have opposed that particular mode of assisting the Catholics of Ireland, if the question of founding the Maynooth College were then before the house, and on the same principle felt himself bound to oppose the further, and as he conceived, needless extension of that establishment. He was sure that the feelings of sincere and pious Papists would revolt at the idea of educating, at their own charge, clergymen for the Church of England, to propagate what they deemed heretical doctrines; and sincere Protestants, who regarded the distinguishing tenets and rites of the church of Rome as corruptions of Christianity, were bound on the same principle, not to be directly instrumental in teaching what, in a religious view, they deemed to be dangerous errors, by educating men for the Catholic priesthood.—At the same time that the hon. member avowed his sense of the importance of those distinctions which separate the two churches, and expressed his surprise that any gentleman in that house should treat them as matters of indifference, he strongly reprobated every degree of intolerance in religion, and disclaimed not only the vile principle of persecution, but the illiberality of disliking, or forming harsh judgments of men, on account of their errors in faith. For his part, he respected and regarded a man of whatever denomination of Christians, when he found him sincere and in earnest in the religion which he professed.—Towards the Catholics of Ireland in particular he declared that he felt nothing but good will, and a disposition to conciliate their affections to their protestant fellow subjects by all practicable means. As to the general education of their laity, if not already in a sufficient degree provided for by the state, he thought it an object that we were particularly bound to promote. He intimated even, that the giving a maintenance to their clergy would not in his judgment be liable to the same objections, or by no means in an equal degree, that he felt as a Protestant to the proposition now before the house.—He added, that in his sincere opinion, pious Catholics must rather feel unfavourable sentiments towards us, than gratitude or attachment, on the score of this very objectionable mode of assistance; and that it was calculated rather to injure, than serve the Protestant cause in Ireland; for it would be an argument, not easily to be answered, against our sincerity in our religious tenets, and against all those civil distinctions which had occasioned discontent, and of which the Catholics of Ireland, till lately, had too much reason to complain, that Protestants thought the differences between the two Churches so immaterial as to train up clergymen, at their own expence, to teach the Roman faith.

Mr. Grattan

was sorry to see gentlemen enter so largely into an attack on the religion of one-fifth of the subjects of these kingdoms. He believed they spoke in the sincerity of their hearts, and from the purest motives; but these would produce consequences deadly to the interests of this country, and advantageous to France. To discourage the education of the catholic clergy in Ireland, and thereby to drive them to the continent, in other words, to receive the precepts and charity of Buonaparte, was to throw them at his feet, and of course to teach them to detest England.

Dr. Duigenan

read the oath of the catholic priests, in order to shew that they paid an obedience to the pope, which was inconsistent with the king's supremacy. The provisions for the education of the established clergy, fell short of those proposed to be granted for the priests at Maynooth. There were in the University of Dublin, 30 poor scholars, who got but a dinner once a day; and 72 scholars of the house that got a dinner once a day, and no lodgings. He described the catholics as bad subjects and hostile to the state.

Mr. Barham

to order, objected to the use of such language in speaking of 4,000,000 of his majesty's subjects.

The Speaker

declared, that the freedom of debate did not preclude such language.

Dr. Duigenan

repeated his former sentiments. He declared, that if any one would move to withdraw the public aid altogether from Maynooth, he would second the motion.

Mr. W. Smith

could not help congratulating the councils of his majesty, and the British empire, on the wisdom and liberality they were likely to acquire in the person of the learned gent, who had just sat down, and who, if report spoke correctly, was about to assume the title of 'right honourable.' If ever there was a mark of wisdom in the councils of any country, it was to be found in this latter circumstance, joined to the refusal of the higher grant now moved for. Ministers were now about to recommend to his majesty to take into his councils a gentleman, who told that house that four millions of his majesty's subjects were hostile to his government, and would, in case of emergency, be its bitterest enemies. He called on the hon. gent. (Mr. Wilberforce), to say where was now the liberality of which the government had to boast; and he appealed to him, whether the language of the gentleman alluded to, was not most vilifying and disgraceful?

Mr. Barham

expressed his abhorrence of the language used by Dr. Duigenan, declaring that never words were uttered so dangerous, abominable, and false; or so likely to separate the kingdom and to deluge it in blood. Of the religion of the hon. gent. (Mr. Wilberforce) he had at times been inclined to think well, but if bigotry and Protestantism had so much blinded him that he could not see that the catholics worshipped the same God with himself, his was not a religion in which he (Mr. B.) would either wish to live, or be content to die.

Mr. Tierney

wished simply to ask the right hon. gent. opposite, whether the learned gentleman who had been alluded to was of the Privy Council of Ireland, or was about to be?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

did not believe the order to that effect had gone over.

Mr. Tierney

was sure the right hon. gent. would not quibble with him on this point. It was nothing to say the order was not gone; did the right hon. gent, believe it would go?

Sir A. Wellesley

had no hesitation to say, that the lord lieutenant had recommended that the learned gent. should be made a member of the privy council; and the reason of that recommendation was, that the learned gent.'s presence was absolutely necessary for the dispatch of the ecclesiastical affairs, which were so considerable n part of the business of the Privy Council.

The house then divided on the question, that the Resolution be read a second time. Ayes 106; Noes 82.—On the question that the Resolution be finally agreed to being put, Mr. Tierney moved, that it be postponed to a future day, in order that all the cabinet ministers might be present; the numbers upon this were, Ayes 82; Noes 112.—The other orders were postponed, and the house adjourned.