§ The resolutions of the committee of Supply were reported. On the resolution, "That 22,000l. be granted to defray the expense of the Society for promoting the Education of the Poor in Ireland, for the year 1824,"
§ Mr. Hume
said, that when this resolution was brought forward a few evenings since, it was discussed at so late an hour, that he had not an opportunity of noticing certain speeches which were delivered on that occasion. He now rose to enter his protest against the system which was pursued in the Kildare-street establishment—that establishment which had been so highly praised by a learned gentleman opposite (Mr. North). If the poor of Ireland, who were entirely Roman Catholics, were to be educated, he contended, that the public money devoted to that object ought not to be placed in the hands of the Kildare-street society. That 322 body were anxious to impart a scriptural education in all their establishments, regardless of the prejudices of the Catholic population. If those religious prejudices did exist in the minds of the Catholics in general, they must preclude them from attending any establishment similar to the Kildare-street society. That position was fully borne out by the statement of the Catholic bishops themselves. He would ask the House, if those prejudices existed—if they made so strong an impression on the Catholics, as to induce them not to send their children to those establishments—ought this grant to be exclusively confined to them? Should not the House take care that the money was so laid out as to enable Catholic-children to receive the benefit of education, without having the religion? feelings of their parents interfered with? On a former evening he had stated the opinion of two Catholic bishops on this Subject. He now held in his hand the opinions of six or seven more, who all stated, that they were desirous to see the Catholic population of Ireland educated, but were unanimous in their disapproval of the system adopted in the Kildare-street establishment. Such was the opinion of Dr. Troy, Dr. Murray, Dr. Doyle, and Dr. Coppinger. If those individuals, who had every opportunity of forming a just judgment, declared that the prejudices of the youth of the country prevented them from approaching those establishments, ought not the House to exert itself to devise the means of giving education to the great body of the Catholic poor, without trenching on their religious feelings? The learned member had argued, the other night, that a scriptural education was calculated to meet and to allay the prejudices of all parties; and he had expressed his conviction, from his own experience, that Catholics and Protestants would, in the course of a short time, be educated together. He seemed to consider it absurd to suppose that any dispute could arise, as to the use of the Bible with or without note or comment: but it could not be forgotten, that a few years ago, a contest on this very point was carried on to a great extent in this country. The Bible societies, at that time, did not receive half the support they would have done, because one party insisted that the Scriptures should be used without note or comment; while the other party contended with equal force, 323 that the Bible should be accompanied by note and comment. If such were the case in a country like this, where religious animosity was, in a great measure, set at rest—if it were found almost impossible to establish a school in a small community, because one set of persons favoured Bell's system, whilst another adhered to the system of Lancaster; was it surprising, that a greater difference of opinion should be manifested in Ireland, where the great body of the population professed two different creeds? Having taken an active part in the establishment of the Lancasterian schools, before the national schools, or those of Dr. Bell were set on foot, he could speak with perfect confidence as to the difficulties which he had to contend with in procuring support. The question was, whether scriptural education should or should not be given? Those who were friendly to Mr. Lancaster's system, said, "Education is what we have in view; we will teach the children to read and write, but we will not meddle with their religious opinions at all; these we will leave to the guidance of their different ministers." The society of Quakers, greatly to their credit, had been the chief supporters of those schools; and no man who knew William Allen, or any of those individuals who took so laudable a part in the establishment of schools on the Lancasterian plan, could suppose for a moment, that they would introduce any book which was likely to injure the morals of youth. Yet, such was the prejudice of the tory, or the high-church party, that scarcely any support could be derived from them, merely because it was not deemed necessary to give the pupils a scriptural education. After a lapse of ten years, the animosity which formerly prevailed was greatly reduced, and now schools were established, in which both systems were taught with much advantage. But, when he looked back to the difficulties which existed when the Lancasterian schools were set on foot, he could not consider that education could be carried to any extent amongst the population of Ireland, if money were voted in support of a system which militated against the prejudices of the great body of the people. He did not mean to object to the grant. Nothing could be better for the people of Ireland, than to make them sensible of the advantages of education, by raising them in the scale of civilized life. He should, indeed, have 324 no objection to enlarge the grant, in future years, if the report of the commissioners proved that the money expended had been productive of commensurate benefit.
§ Mr. Butterworth
said, that the hon. member was certainly incorrect in his statement, that any controversy had existed in England, whether the Bible should be distributed with or without notes. He applauded the exertions of Mr. Allen, in favour of the education of the poor, and particularly praised his scriptural lessons, introduced throughout Russia, under the sanction of the Emperor. He was of opinion, that to give the poor of Ireland general instruction without Scriptural education, would be the worst and most pernicious thing that could be done. He had seen a petition from certain Roman Catholics, in which it was asserted, that if the Bible were placed without comment in the hands of youth, they might derive impressions from it that would have a mischievous effect on their minds. Now, he would ask, whether the poor of England, who had Scripture knowledge, were less moral than the poor of Ireland who had not? He looked upon the assertion to which he had alluded, as a gross libel on the word of God. How could any person assert, that the word of God was calculated to produce mischievous effects on the minds of youth?
§ Mr. Hume
said, he did not wish the population of Ireland to be brought up without religious instruction. Let not that instruction, however, interfere with their religious feelings. The Catholics said, "You attack our conscientious prejudices, and thus prevent us from accepting the boon of education." This declaration was sufficient for his purpose; since it showed, that little good could be effected under the Kildare-street system. With respect to the sentiments which the hon. member had quoted, they merely went to this—"Such are the doctrines taught in the Bible, that if read by children of tender years, without interpretation, they may be productive of mischievous consequences." The Catholics did not say that they would not have the Bible taught, but that they would have it taught in their own way.
§ Mr. Grey Bennet
said, it was not fair in the hon. member for Dover to throw out personal reflections, merely because the Catholic clergy professed a different faith.
§ Mr. Butterworth
was not aware that he had used any expressions that could be so construed; if he had, he wished to recal them. He spoke as a Protestant wishing to produce a moral generation. If the House were to compare the state of the lower orders in this country and in Scotland, with their condition in Roman Catholic countries, it would not long hesitate in deciding which system of education ought to be preferred.
§ The resolution was agreed to.