§ Mr. Goulburn moved the order of the day, for the House going into a committee of supply on the Irish Estimates. On the motion, that the Speaker do leave the chair,
§ Mr. Spring Rice
rose, in consequence of the notice he had given, for the purpose of moving a resolution, affirming the general principles upon which alone he conceived any national system of Education in Ireland was practicable, or could be effectual. He could assure the House, that he did not take this step with any hostile feeling towards the Irish government, as he was ready to admit, that many very useful and practical measures had been introduced during the present session, which deserved all possible praise. Still less was it his object to add to the jealousies and distrust which, on this question, necessarily existed in Ireland. Most anxious to obtain the acquiescence of the House in his resolution, he would endeavour to exclude from his argument all that was not indispensably necessary for his purpose, and all topics of an irritating nature. Hence he would not at present dwell upon the odious Charter-school principle, nor the atrocious cruelties which it had created 3 and tolerated. This, in fact, he considered to be disposed of by the vote of the House in the last year. Neither would he dwell upon the cruel and unjust laws against education passed in the reigns of William and Anne. He would come to more modern times, because in those times he obtained sufficient evidence to justify his motion. He therefore would, in the first place, refer to the proceedings of 1806. In that year an inquiry into the state of education in Ireland was conducted under the authority of a royal commission, and fourteen reports were presented to the House, all of which were entitled to respect; but the last of which, the fourteenth, he considered the most important and valuable document ever prepared upon this subject, though as yet it had unfortunately led to no practical results whatever. It was true, that an act was passed in 1818, establishing a board of education; but, with what effect that body acted could best be estimated by a reference to their annual reports and to the late statement respecting the Middleton school. So the matter rested till 1824, when his right hon. friend (sir J. Newport) submitted a motion for the appointment of a committee on the subject. He regretted very much the way in which that motion had been met, and the substitution of the present commission. He originally thought, and was now from experience, convinced, that the committee would have been the safest, the most authoritative, and the most efficient instrument, that could have been employed. That committee would probably have looked less to the past than to the future, and would have bounded its inquiries to the practical question of what system would deserve the support of parliament. The government had, however, preferred the appointment of commissioners, and his right hon. friend had abandoned his original views for the sake of insuring unanimity. The report of their commissioners was now before the public and the House, and yet the estimates, which were proposed to be voted that night, in place of adopting any one principle laid down in that report, was in direct opposition to the recommendations of the commissioners. The estimates threw the report and the commissioners overboard; and, if adopted in their present form, rendered the whole inquiry a farce and a delusion. Practically, indeed, the inquiry was worse than a farce, if it did not lead to practical results, as it only created 4 hope and produced agitation, which the votes of the night were ill calculated to satisfy or to allay. It was those votes which actually forced on the discussion, and which made it his duty to submit the present motion; and he called upon the chairman of that commission (Mr. Frankland Lewis) either to defend those votes, if justifiable, by his report, or to oppose them if they were not so to be justified. The first vote which they were called upon to make was one to the Association for Discountenancing Vice. This was a charitable society reported upon by the commissioners; it had already received grants of public money to the extent of 77,975l. and it was proposed this year to add nearly 2,000l. to the former vote. He asked the hon. member whether this was in accordance with the report or in opposition to it? But, independently of the report, he objected to the grant. The schools which he felt it to be the duty of parliament to encourage were schools for all; whilst the schools of this society were of a character exclusive and objectionable. They contained 9578 Protestants, and only 6844 Catholics; the masters must necessarily be of the established church; the whole control was vested in the minister of the parish; they were, in fact, a substitution for the schools, which the incumbents ought, under a better system, themselves to provide; and the central institution was managed in some particulars so carelessly, that the bounty of government was absorbed in uselesss and extravagant profits. Would the House believe that, out of the annual vote of 7,000l. 1,900l. had been expended in the profits of a favoured bookseller? Was it for this that the public money should be given? Another most improper use of the public money made by this society was the expenditure of 2,500l. in catechetical premiums. Was the House to be told that the interests of the Irish church required so absurd and ridiculous an assistance from the public? If requisite to make these grants, had not the church sufficient wealth or zeal to supply them? The report stated, that these schools were "too few in number, and too Protestant in character, to become generally available for the education of the Roman Catholic children;" and their observations concluded with the following important words: "The respectable schools under the care of the Association can hardly be expected to inspire the 5 Roman Catholics or Presbyterians with confidence, being under the immediate superintendence of the clergy of the established church, the doctrines of which have been always consistently and avowedly taught to all who would consent to hear them. The education of children of other persuasions is so entirely accidental and secondary that Dissenters and Catholics view this class of schools with some degree of distrust."—On all these grounds he resisted the vote as improper, and as being inconsistent with general principles —as contrary to the principles of the report he also resisted it. The next, and a still more important question arose respecting the grant to the society for the Education of the Poor, commonly called the Kildare-street Society. It must be admitted that the formation of this society was the first approach made towards sound principles, and a system of education generally available. But it was objectionable, nevertheless, on many grounds. So far from being approved of by the report, its ultimate extinction was contemplated; and it was proposed that the existing schools of this society should be eventually absorbed in others of a more comprehensive and liberal character. Yet, we were now called upon, not only to continue former grants, but to extend a notoriously defective system. The society had already received above 110,000l. of public money, and the former grant of 22,000l. it was now proposed to augment to 30,000l. Was this according to the recommendation of the report? Was it not, on the contrary, in direct opposition to it? But other grounds of objection arose. The society suggested that it adopted the principle of the fourteenth report. It did no such thing. The fourteenth report only suggested the reading of such extracts of the Scriptures as should not give offence to either party. The Kildare-street Society forced the reading of the testament as a sine qua non in its schools. The society had claimed credit for 100,000 scholars. Upon the official returns no more than 52,000 appeared to have been in attendance. If such a correction between the statement and the ascertained fact occurred to any other department, would the House continue former grants: still less would it augment them? The society stated, that its schools were equally available to Protestants and Catholics. In that case, the scholars might be expected to be in pro- 6 portion to the population, five to one; but no such thing was the fact: out of 52,000 scholars but 26,000 were Catholics. The society stated, that "its system is that which is best suited to the Irish people" The report diametrically contradicted this opinion, by suggesting another system—a more liberal one.—With these facts before the House, how was it possible for the government to be so ill-advised as to propose those grants, and would it ble possible for parliament to acquiesce in them, as proposed?—But, before he quitted this subject, it was necessary for him to explain the points in which he felt the Kildare-street Society to be defective; and, before he entered into the argument, he would advert to a few general principles. He denied that these education votes were votes of charity or benevolence. He held that it was the civil duty of the state to provide the means of instruction for all classess of its subjects, not so much for their sakes as for its own. If this was admitted, it was injudicious indeed to clog the performance of this duty with any condition that might impede or counteract its application. But, if these conditions were unjust, the act became as wicked as it was ever impolitic. Now, he considered any condition, interfering with the conscientious religious principles of the people to be of this character. A compulsory Scripture-reading, inconsistent with the discipline of the Catholic church, was the condition imposed by this education society. As such it was unjust, and it counteracted its own object. He begged here not to be misunderstood: he professed himself, as a Protestant, as sincere a friend to Scripture-reading as any of the patrons of these schools, or as any of the reverend associators who headed their circulars with the misapplied inscription of "In nomine Dei cui sit honos." But he had not on that account the least right to force his principles upon others, and it was in these respects he considered the societies to have erred. It was indecent and unworthy of the sacred question at issue to hold the public purse in one hand, and the Bible in the other, and to refuse to give public aid to any who did not sacrifice their notions of right and wrong. It created a prejudice against the Holy Scriptures themselves, and introduced jealousy and hatred on a subject which ought only to lead to forbearance, love, and charity. But a 7 great clamour had been excited against the Catholic priests, for opposing these Bible schools, as they were called. He could prove that on high ecclesiastical authority in our own church they were right in doing so. He referred to the evidence of the archbishop of Dublin, not to be undervalued by the hon. gentlemen opposite. The following were extracts from that prelate's examination in the committee of 1825:—I understand that the Catholics have withdrawn children sometimes from the schools.—Has not the objection generally been, that by the introduction of the Scriptures into those schools, the Catholicity of the children might have been endangered? Certainly.—Does not your grace conceive that the individuals of any; church are not only authorised, but bound to object to any system which strikes at the root of their religion? Certainly.— Does not your grace think the exclusion of private judgment is to the full as much an article of the Roman Catholic faith as transubstantiation? I do.—Does your grace consider it possible that the Scriptures, without note and comment, can be received by individuals in schools, without admitting the right of private judgment? I think it certainty implies that.—Do you not conceive that the distribution of the Scriptures has a tendency in Ireland to increase the number of Protestants? Certainly.—Do you conceive that it has had that operation? I rather think it must have had that operation.—Conceding the sincerity of the Roman Catholic Ecclesiastics in their belief in the doctrines of their church, does not your grace conceive they are bound in duty to oppose any system that tends to undermine their church? Undoubtedly.The Catholics, therefore, had done no more than what one of the most orthodox of our church had stated to be their duty. But let not gentlemen on this account argue that the Roman Catholic clergy were adverse to the reading of the Scriptures by adults. He believed that great efforts at conciliation were made even respecting schools; and he believed also that more had been done for the circulation and reading of the Scriptures amongst adults by the Catholic Church, out of its poverty, than by the Establishment, out of its wealth. To prove these two propositions, he would refer to the following statement in the Report on the table, and to the evidence of Dr. Doyle:— 8Dr. Murray proposed that the Holy Scriptures should be read only when the Roman Catholic children were taken apart for the purpose of receiving religious instruction, and he said there could be no possible objection then to reading the gospels of the week; no objection to a harmony of the gospel being used in the general education the children should receive in common.Dr. Doyle.—Our objection applies to the authorised version. That we have no aversion to the reading of the Bible by the laity, is best proved by the many editions of the Book, under our express sanction, and to which is prefixed the Rescript of Pius VI. to Martini, in order to show that we, and the Head of our Church with us, exhort the faithful to read the Word of God. In addition to three editions by Coyne, one by Cross, and two by O'Reilly, we have procured a stereotype edition, of low price, to circulate among all. There is nothing said of us, more opposed to truth, than that we are averse to the circulation of the Word of God.What were the opinions of the commissioners? They state that "None of the existing establishments, whilst they continue to act upon their present rules, can provide such a system of education as shall be cordially adopted and generally supported."
In another part they add, "The object of general education has not hitherto been accomplished by any one of the institutions which have been supported at the public expense in Ireland. We are of opinion, that any society consisting of a large and fluctuating body of subscribers, who are bound by no other rules than those they impose upon themselves, cannot permanently be the most proper instrument for controlling and directing a system of general education, maintained principally by the public money, in a country which, unfortunately, abounds in distrust and jealousy, on account of religious opinions."
If he was right in his foregoing statements and principles, we were now, under colour of supporting education generally, supporting that education only to which the Catholics entertain a religious objection, and which the commissioners' report admits to be a well-founded objection; for they observe that "From our examinations and general communications with all orders of the Roman Catholic clergy, we collect that the use of the Testament, 9 without note or comment as a school book, or the reading of it by children, save under the direction of their pastors, or persons approved of by them, is considered contrary to the discipline of the Roman Catholic church."
In making these observations, he would by no means suggest a separate system of education for Catholic and Protestant: on the contrary, he deprecated it. An united system, in which both might conscientiously join, was not only the best and safest, but the only good and secure course that could be pursued. In this he was opposed by the zealots on both sides, but truth would ultimately prevail, and the zealots be forgotten. If separated, our establishments might, perhaps, be more essentially Catholic and more essentially Protestant, but he was convinced they would be less christian, and that the common ties and sympathies, without which life was valueless, would be broken in this unnatural estrangement. As his opinion on this subject was opposed to high authority, he would give his opponents the benefit of a witness in their favour, who stated—"If the two religions could manage so as to afford religious instruction separately, it would answer all purposes best; and, amongst other advantages, it would tend very much to charity. To comprehend the children in one scheme of general instruction, is a contrivance above my comprehension. In my own line, I see my way; out of that line, I am unwilling to venture on any experiments."
Now, in reply, he would beg the House to listen to the argument stated on the other side, much more ably than it would be by any words of his, but in every sentiment of which he concurred:—"I am averse to any plan that would give rise to a separate system of education, because I am convinced that nothing would tend so powerfully (with the exception of our own great and important question) to effect a union of all classes, as the early association of children of different religions. It has been said by some persons; where is the use of uniting in childhood with those whom the law separates in after life? But I ask, are we to form institutions for this country in contemplation of those laws being perpetual? are we, as far as in us lies, to support the spirit of those laws, by widening still farther the breach? I should think that the argument lies the other way, and that 10 in proportion as the law divides and separates, we should join, and unite, and prove at least that we are not accessary to the evil policy of the legislature. Perhaps much of the prejudice that now exists may be traced to the want of that early association which this plan contemplates, and which, at a time when the mind is most alive to every impression, would tend to soften down asperities, and do away with the bad feeling which now exists."
Would the House believe it, that the witness who recommended separation as the means of producing charity, was a Protestant prelate; and that the advocate of the more generous and liberal principle, was a young and eloquent orator, Mr. Bellew, who, at the Catholic Association, pronounced the words I have read, and which do him such immortal honour! It had clearly been shown, that to impute to the Catholics an opposition to the light of the Scripture, was inconsistent with the fact. A still more vile and atrocious calumny had been propagated against them, that they were enemies to education. The returns on the table contradicted this detestable falsehood; for such was the anxiety of Catholics for education, that out of 408,065 children of their persuasion educated in Ireland, 377,007 were educated at their own expense, without public aid; whilst, out of 93,429 children of the established church, 26,025 were educated by grants from this House. Of 69,186 children in the schools supported by the public, 31,058 only were Catholics—less than one half: results for which the House and the public were entirely unprepared. The hon. member concluded by moving, by way of amendment, "That this House concurs in the opinion expressed unanimously by the Commissioners of education, appointed in 1826, in their fourteenth Report, signed by the late archbishops of Armagh and Cashel, the bishop of Killala, the provost of Trinity College, now bishop of Ferns, and others, 'that no general plan of education in Ireland, however wisely and unexceptionably contrived in other respects, can be carried into effectual execution, unless it be explicitly avowed, and clearly understood as its leading principle, that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or description of Christians.'"
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that in the observations which he felt himself called upon 11 to make in answer to the hon. member, he should take care that nothing which fell from him should have a tendency to excite any angry feelings, or disturb the peace of the sister country. He should not, therefore, follow the hon. member through the various topics upon which he had touched in the course of his speech, but would confine himself to that which was, in his view, the main question at issue; namely, had the government done its duty with respect to the proposed mode of establishing schools in Ireland? In order to establish the fact, that government had so done its duty upon this subject, the right hon. gentleman went back to the report of 1806, and from that, through the subsequent ones, in order to show that the system of education was carried on upon the most liberal principles, and without any attempt to interfere with the religious opinions of any sect or class of Christians. The fourteenth report, in particular, recommended that the system of education should be extended to children of all classes of the community indiscriminately; but it recommended that there should be religious as well as literary instruction given to all. The commissioners, by the course they pursued, had prevented the Kildare-street Society from incurring the charge of being actuated by a spirit of proselytism. Taking the recommendations of that report into view, it had appeared to the lord lieutenant to be his duty to give every facility to this object, but, at the same time, not to abandon at once the schools already established; and this course had the express sanction and approbation of the commissioners, who were of opinion, that the grants ought not to be withheld from the existing schools until others had been formed to supersede them. With regard to the appointment of commissioners of education, all must be aware of the difficulty of obtaining individuals who were competent to a duty so peculiar; and the lord lieutenant had applied to him (Mr. Goulburn) to make a selection of persons who were capable of superintending education. If, therefore, he had not named the persons who were actually appointed, and who had shown themselves so fit to discharge their duties, it might indeed have been a matter of complaint that he had chosen those who were incompetent. The commissioners determined to carry the plan recommended in their report into effect, in 12 order to try the experiment whether that plan was or was not best adapted to the education of the people of Ireland. In accomplishing this design, they had been most sedulously occupied, and they, in the first instance, had endeavoured to lay the foundation of the system. If objections were made to the delay that had occurred, he could only reply, that it would have been much greater if the task had been intrusted to less able hands. The question was, how ought education to be conducted in Ireland? The Irish government said, "Give assistance to the schools that exist until better are established;" while the hon. gentleman said, or at least his motion was tantamount to it, "Destroy the schools that exist, and then try the experiment upon a new system." No man could doubt that the course pursued by the Irish government was best calculated to accomplish the object. The right hon. gentleman then noticed cursorily the proceedings on the vote of 22,000l. of last year, which had been found insufficient, the further sum required having been advanced to the Kildare-street Society. The resolution for the present year amounted to no more than the actual expenditure of the last, and it was independent of the sum to be required for the new schools. For these, 5,000l. were to be voted to the lord lieutenant, to be applied, if he considered the experiment worthy of encouragement and support. Whatever might be the feelings of individuals respecting the Kildare-street Association, and the principles by which it was governed, he could not bring himself to believe that the House would be disposed to adopt an amendment, stigmatizing the conduct of those who were intrusted with the management of that institution, and authorizing an opinion, that, having departed from their original design, measures ought to be taken for the suppression of a system that had conferred important benefits upon Ireland, and had been effective, at least to a certain degree. Avoiding all acrimony of reply, and relying only upon facts within the knowledge of all, he only asked the House to compare the state of education in Ireland, at the present moment, with what it had been formerly. The services which the society had rendered were not to be estimated merely by the numbers it had caused to be instructed, but by the evils it had caused 13 to be avoided. If only 62,000 children had been educated, the example thus set was of the utmost value. He felt fully warranted in saying, that however short the Kildare-street Society might fall of perfection, it was entitled to the thanks of the country for the good it had achieved. In proposing the grant this year he was devoid of all personal feeling on the subject, and did it from a conviction that the society was gaining ground, notwithstanding all the hostility with which it had been opposed. He trusted the House would second the object by acquiescing in the motion; and he was satisfied that it would do so, unless it was prepared to say that the existing system of education ought to be destroyed at once, for the sake of risking an experiment.
Mr. Frankland Lewis
defended the conduct of the commissioners, as well as of the Kildare-street Society. Mistakes had been made as to the number of children under the superintendance of the Kildare-street Society; because one party had taken the number actually attending the schools, while others had referred to the number upon the roll of the establishment. The Kildare-street Society had made its report founded upon the latter; and he was convinced that no intentional misrepresentation was intended. Whatever might be the result of this question, he hoped the vote would not be withheld from any disparagement of the individual members of the institution. They were men of the highest probity, and of the utmost zeal in carrying the beneficial objects they had in view into execution. The only proper principle, in his conception, upon which they all could vote for this grant was this: "Do not destroy that which is in actual operation, before you have provided another to supply its place." He did not thereupon say that they ought to confine their view to the present system. The only principle upon which he, and those who agreed with him, supported the system, was merely to keep it in operation, but not to extend it; and that was the only one upon which it was necessary to vote at present. The vast importance of spreading education generally over Ireland was unquestionable; and nothing could be of more importance than that the education should be such as to eradicate the seeds of jealousy and dislike to each other, which too generally prevailed in the minds of the Irish Protestant and 14 Catholic children. He cared not what their understandings might be. He had seen enough to convince him that it was necessary to attend to the cultivation of their minds in this respect, before they could dispel those differences, and that want of cordiality which they imbibed at school, and which adhered to them throughout life. If that object could ever be obtained, it must be by promoting union among the Irish Protestants and Catholics on points in which they agreed, and giving them separate instruction in points in which they differed. The circumstances under which the Catholic children were brought into a school, was, that the Scriptures should be read without note or comment. They came there conscious of having deceived their priests, who had forbidden them to go; and induced to attend by the apprehension of injury from another quarter, or the hopes of reward. He did not say that this was general, but he had seen it prevail in many instances, and doubted whether the mischief produced by such a mode of education was not greater than if they had been left uneducated. He admitted that there ought to be no school established without religious instruction. That was a principle which ought never to be lost sight of. But when they saw Protestant versions of the New Testament in the hands of Roman Catholic children, who were told by their priests and their parents that it was dangerous to look at them, as they were subversive of their church, could they call that religious instruction? This was not religious instruction: it had no other effect than that of producing in their minds an impression that the New Testament contained something insidious towards the Roman Catholic religion, and as such they shrunk from it. While he was ready to acknowledge the laudable exertions of the Kildare-street Society, he was perfectly persuaded, that if they abided by the three rules laid down for their guidance, they could not render their labours so beneficial as they might otherwise prove. One of the rules to which he had alluded, enjoined that every schoolmaster should be of the established church, and that the catechism should be taught in the school over which he presided. Now, whether these rules were carried strictly into execution he could not say, but they were clearly incompatible with the principles of the Roman Catholic religion. The 15 children were directed to read the Holy Scriptures without note or comment; which was also contrary to the principles of that persuasion. So long as this was insisted upon, the system of education would be never cordially acceded to by the Roman Catholics. Dr. Murray, a Roman Catholic bishop, had assured the commissioners, that he would have no objection to the Testament being placed in the hands of such as were capable of understanding it. Was it not then probable that its perusal would operate more beneficially, under this limitation, than when introduced into the hands of children, as it were, by stealth? The system, which he and they who agreed with him recommended as the only one which could be generally efficient, was, to instruct Catholics and Protestants together in those matters in which they all agreed, and separately in the religion which each professed. This was the only plan that offered any chance of producing a beneficial effect, and he should hail it as a great good if he once saw it adopted. In addition to this, the schools ought to be conducted upon the principle of rigidly excluding all books which tended to bring hatred or contempt on the Roman Catholic faith, or the tenets of any sect of Christians. Books of that description could not fail to engender and foster that early hatred and dissention, which it was so desirable to eradicate. He might be allowed to say, that the withdrawing of such books from their schools would be a benefit of the highest description. There were multitudes who wished to keep alive that soreness which was too apt to arise between Protestant and Catholic, and who were desirous that the Catholics should herd together in order to keep it alive. Deprive these persons of such pretexts, as far as it could be done, by the careful exclusion of that class of books, and great good would be the result. Formerly, in the Irish schools, there was no rule or regulation as to books. Every one brought what books he pleased; and it was not surprising that many of them should have been of an improper description. The Kildare-street Society had done great good by withdrawing these books, and substituting proper books of instruction in their place. In this respect, the exertions of that society had been most meritorious. But their system was not calculated to answer the great ends of general education in Ireland. There were two important classes of schools in 16 Ireland, Protestant and Catholic; with good accommodations and few attendants in the one, crowds and misery in the other. But the result of all that he had seen and heard was a conviction in his mind, that if education was to be generally given at all, it must be given in the manner in which those to whom it was offered were willing to receive it. They must look at something beyond the present system; but they must not destroy that system until they found something better to put in its place. He looked to the establishment of an extensive and united system of education in Ireland, in which religious instruction should be carefully and impartially dispensed. Such a system would be of inestimable benefit; but the House never could succeed in effecting that object, if it acceded to the prayer of the petition of the Roman Catholics that they might have grants of money placed at their disposal for promoting the purposes of education in Ireland. Many inconveniences would arise by placing sums at the disposal of these irresponsible bodies. He thought that, under no circumstances, should they place a sum of money at the disposal of Roman Catholics for the education of Roman Catholics. He said it not out of any disrespect to the Roman Catholics. With respect to giving what was called a united education, he did not pretend to offer any opinion; but if the House set its heart on such an object, they would not be long in effecting it. There were persons, he knew, who were very opposed to such a scheme of education. Nay, one of the Catholic orators had expressly declared his hostility to any such plan, observing that it appeared to be the object of the English parliament to bring Protestants and Catholics together in infancy by education, and in old age by the Burial bill; but that during manhood they should be separated from each other. The orator concluded by expressing his determination to separate them in infancy, if they were not to be equalized in the period of manhood. However, he set at nought all such declamation. If a resolution to the same effect had even been promulgated by the Catholic hierarchy, he would set it at nought; for he was persuaded that the good sense of the Catholic body would; overrule all such objections, and that they would readily receive the means of education, provided there was no substantial objection against it.
Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald
said, that there appeared to be no difference in principle as to the mode of bestowing education on the people of Ireland; for the desire of the government was, that instruction should be applied without interference with the religious principles of the scholars: at least, such was the doctrine that night inculcated by an hon. member, who might be considered the organ of the Irish government on that subject. The hon. gentleman objected to committing die education of the Catholic population to a body exclusively Catholic; yet the votes then on the table proposed nothing more nor less than to give it to a body exclusively Protestant. It appeared from the report of the commissioners, that of the Catholic children now receiving instruction in Ireland, 5,000 only were educated at schools supported by parliamentary grants; and that 37,000 were educated gratuitously, without any assistance, direct, or indirect, from these funds; so that education was at present going against the principle maintained by the hon. gentleman, namely, that it should not be committed to the management of a body exclusively Catholic. The only difference then was, that at present the superintendence of the education was in the hands of those over whom no control could be exercised; and that he (Mr. Fitzgerald), and those who thought with him, were anxious that it should be placed under the direction of a responsible board. He was free to admit the fact stated by the hon. gentleman opposite, that books of an improper nature had crept into some of the Irish schools; but this applied only to those pauper seminaries which were ready to catch at whatever books came within their reach. It was therefore not to be wondered at, that certain publications were found scattered through them, forming a strong contrast to those furnished by the Education Society. He begged, notwithstanding what fell from the hon. gentleman opposite, to assure the House, that he knew many schools supplied with the most approved books, in which several hundred children were educated under the direction of their priests. It might, perhaps, be right to substitute another mode of education for that which he had just described; but unless it was such as would conciliate the Catholic population, and secure the cooperation of their priests, it must inevitably fell, and thus defeat the object of those who desired to have the two sects 18 together at that early period, when their feelings might become so blended, that, in the future stages of their existence, they could live in peace and harmony. Indeed, it must be confessed by every candid person, that for the purpose of scholastic education, the Bible was not necessary. It was not used as a school-book in those seminaries where the members of that House were educated, and yet all must admit strong feelings of religion prevailed amongst them. The Scriptures, as a book of instruction, were not placed in the hands of the scholars at Harrow, Eton, or Westminster; nor was the Bible used for such a purpose, if he were rightly informed, during the undergraduate course at Cambridge or Oxford. He was anxious that the schools in Ireland should be no longer what they were represented to be; namely, an arena on which the Protestant and Catholic clergymen were contending for the scholars. The most effectual mode of putting an end to such a practice would be to permit the children to attend their respective places of abode for religious instruction. He had the most perfect persuasion, that, unless the obstacles now opposed to the unrestricted education of the Catholics were removed, all attempts to instruct them through the medium, of Education Societies must fail. Indeed, the House appeared to be very much mistaken as to the degree in which education was wanted in Ireland. So far from being in the state of ignorance attributed to them, he was convinced that the peasantry of any district in Ireland, would be found better educated than the inhabitants of any corresponding portion of the empire; perhaps he should except Scotland, where the people were all well instructed; but his assertion was unquestionably true, as far as regarded England. At all events, he could answer for his own constituents, and was ready to set them against the peasantry of any part of England of the same dimensions as the county which he had the honour to represent. The very poorest class of persons in that county were not alone capable of reading and writing, but were well versed in the higher attainments, in Arithmetic, Algebra, Greek and Latin. He did not mean to challenge the members of that hon. House; although he felt that, with the exception of the learned professions, and, perhaps, some coteries of blue-stocking ladies, the poor peasantry 19 of the county Kerry were more learned than the majority of those who composed even the higher circles about London.— It was not an unusual thing to see a poor barelegged boy running about with a Homer, a Cicero, or a Horace, under his arm. Indeed, it was the opinion of an individual, well acquainted with Ireland, the father of a noble marquis (Lansdown), that the Irish peasantry did not want a literary education; that they had already enough of that, if not too much; and that they only stood in need of good practical lessons of industry. Such a system of instruction could never, however, be established, as long as education was administered through various little knots of individuals, who were anxious to pervert every grant of public money to what they considered the useful purpose of proselytism—a mode of proceeding, in his opinion, calculated neither to promote instruction, nor extend the benefits of the Reformation. He would rather advise them to establish a general mode of education, to exclude religious instruction from the schools, and to let the people read the Bible of their own accord; for he was satisfied that if, instead of attempting to enforce the reading of the Scriptures, the lower classes were permitted to follow their own inclination, they would provide themselves with Bibles. The very fact of their being commanded not to look into them would then cease to have any effect. He was the more inclined to think so from a knowledge that the people of Ireland were essentially religious. They were not disposed to treat with levity or inattention any thing connected with religion. They had always strong feelings of piety; and he was convinced that those who were anxious for the instruction, and perhaps the conversion of the Irish peasantry, were, by a perseverance in the present system, marring the object they had in view.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he saw so little substantial difference in the sentiments of members who had taken part in the present debate, that he was sorry, that on what appeared to him to be a mere matter of form, so much opposition should be excited. All parties were agreed, that no interference ought to take place with the religious principles of the scholars. Two things, then, remained to be considered; namely, under what su- 20 perintendence the education was to be carried on, and what should be done with the institutions now existing? For his own part, he thought the best mode of diffusing education was not through any local constituted institution; and he most perfectly agreed in the principle of Dr. Murray's proposition, that the Protestant and Roman Catholic children should be educated together; that they should learn in common, but receive their religious instruction apart, each from his own pastor. It appeared that Dr. Murray did not dissent from the introduction of some general religious education, founded on the selection of some approved parts of the Scripture; on some harmonious arrangement of the gospel, by which the grand truths of religion might be communicated, and morality inculcated, without trenching on those doctrines upon which the two sects differed. If this plan could be carried into effect, a sound system of education might be established in Ireland; and he trusted that no difficulties would be thrown in the way of accomplishing this most desirable work. He understood that the commission over which his hon. friend (Mr. F. Lewis) presided, were engaged in considering the best mode of giving effect to such a system. No body of persons could possess more ability or information to qualify them for the important task they had to perform. The question then before the House was, whether, in anticipation of the success to which they looked forward, they ought at once to put an end to the existing institutions, which were all they now had to depend upon, and which, though they might not do all the good possible, certainly had done more than could have been expected. Perhaps, in saying that the refusal of this vote would put an end to these institutions, he was, in strictness, going too far; but undoubtedly the effect would be to stigmatise them, so as to take from them the power of doing good for the future. It was during the time that he held office as Secretary for Ireland, that the Kildare-street association was instituted to superintend the general education of the poor of that country. As the conversion of the Roman Catholics was quite out of the question, it was considered desirable to improve them by education; and it was hoped that a course of public instruction might be framed, by which all apprehension of proselytism would be carefully avoided. He was prepared 21 to have acted on the recommendation of the fourteenth Report of the commissioners of Irish Education, and to have placed it under the direction of seven or eight officers, appointed by government. But, after repeated deliberations with those who were politically opposed to him, he found their dread of the increase of the patronage of the Crown so great, that he was obliged to abandon his intention. In the course of the inquiry, however, he discovered that a society was in existence, consisting of Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Presbyterians, and associated for the purpose of conducting the education of the poor on the very principle that was desired. He had, therefore, selected this society to carry into effect the recommendations of the fourteenth report, and he was happy to state that immense benefit had been conferred on the people of Ireland by that society, in the diffusion of books of useful knowledge. That society also gave instruction, on right principles, to 50,000 children, half Catholics, and half Protestants. Doing good to at least this extent, would it be wise to paralyse its exertions? A great number of books of religious instruction, of the most unexceptionable nature had also been circulated by this society. In 1818, the number of tracts issued was 50,000; in 1820, 123,000; in 1821, 153,000; in 1822, 185,000; in 1823, 106,000; in 1824, 121,000; and last year, 172,816 tracts were published, and distributed at the expense of the society. All these publications had been approved by Dr. Doyle, and other Roman Catholic prelates. All he implored the House was, not to imply a stigma, which must be done, by passing the resolution proposed by the hon. member opposite. An hon. member seemed to have expressed an opinion, that education should be conducted wholly apart from religion. For one, he must say, he never could consent to patronize any system of education of which the principles of the Christian religion did not form a part. He did not wish to see a race of young philosophers spring up, who derived their principles from any other source; nor, on the other hand, did he wish to see children educated like the inhabitants of that part of the country to which the hon. member belonged, where the young peasants of Kerry ran about in rags, with a Cicero or a Virgil under their arms. In his opinion, this was not the 22 education which would best fit them for the usual purposes of life. He hoped the hon. gentleman would not press his motion; for if he did, he should be under the necessity of voting against him.
Mr. M. Fitzgerald
said, he had never expressed an opinion, that religion should form no part of education. All he had said was, that children should be educated in religious opinions by the respective teachers of the religions to which they belonged, in places set apart for the purpose.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, that the resolution before the House simply went to affirm a proposition contained in the fourteenth Report of the commissioners; namely that no system of education could succeed which interfered with the religious feelings of the people. Now he could not conceive how the affirming of that resolution could cast a slur on the society of Kildare-street. A complaint had been made that improper books were used in the schools. This only showed the general wish of the people to acquire education. An hon. friend of his, on visiting a school in Ireland, among other singular school-books, found Roderick Random in the hands of a boy. He immediately went to the clergyman, and asked why such a book was permitted. The answer was, that the clergy were poor, the parents were poor, and the boys brought whatever books they could find. If religion was to be taught in the schools, he could see no objection to set apart one day in the week for that purpose, and have the children instructed in separate classes. He sincerely hoped, that the right hon. gentleman would not oppose his hon. friend's motion; for if it were negatived, the consequences might be most injurious.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, he could see no good that would arise from affirming a general proposition on which they were all agreed; and much harm might be done out of doors if the House should divide on a question of this nature.
§ Mr. Butterworth
expressed his surprise at the opinions delivered by an hon. member below him. If the Bible were a bad book, it might be well to exclude it; but if it was the work of inspiration, it 23 was impossible its circulation could be injurious, and it was unreasonable to proscribe it. One of the greatest barriers to education was the interference of the Catholic priests, who neglected to educate the children themselves, and withdrew them from schools devoted to that purpose. This interference had the worst possible effects. Indeed, he had been credibly informed, that five hundred children had been withdrawn from schools in one district, chiefly on account of the prejudice raised against the system by the priests. Besides that, he held in his hand a number of resolutions agreed to by the Society of Irish Schoolmasters, which confirmed him in the opinion, that much mischief was done by this interference. The hon. member, read these resolutions, the purport of which was, that the translation which they had of the Gospel, in the Irish language, was full of errors; that owing to the restrictions imposed on them in the mode of conducting the education of the children, and the prejudice which such restrictions and interference raised among the parents, they could not carry on that education in an effectual manner. He knew that these were the sentiments of a large portion of the people of Ireland. He maintained that moral instruction alone could be of use to the lower orders in Ireland; and that such instruction was to be obtained by the distribution of the Bible amongst the people, without note or comment, according to the mode adopted by the Kildare-street Society. Virtually to exclude the Bible from the system of education was what he could never agree to.
said, it was in vain to think of any union of the systems of education in Ireland so long as there was an effort to mingle with the general scheme of education the principle of proselytism. He begged to observe that the hon. member for Dover was in a state of gross and scandalous ignorance in what he had said about the Bible in the Irish language. Did that hon. member know how few Irish gentlemen could read Irish? There was not one in every thousand of the Catholic peasantry able to read Irish. In Fact the language was almost lost, for very few indeed could read it. But the statement of the hon. member for Dover was not only ignorant, but cruel, when he represented that the catholic clergy negated the education of their flocks. If he hon. member wished to know why 24 education was so much neglected in Ireland, he would refer him to the bloody and dark pages of her history. If education was deficient, he would ask the hon. member who it was that had impoverished and plundered Ireland, but the same class of persons who now came forward to educate the people under a vicious system? If he would turn over the records of that country, which he knew he was capable of doing, he would see the cause of that which he deplored. He would find that formerly it was death for a Catholic parent to send his child abroad to receive that education which was denied him at home. If the hon. member meant to assert, that the Catholic priests neglected the education of their flocks, he would tell him, that it was a gross and scandalous libel. Neither was it true that the Catholic priests denied their flocks the use of the Bible; but they said, that in the Bible there were many things unfit to be put into the hands of youth, and therefore they would not allow them to peruse it without some explanation. They therefore put the Bible into the hands of their parishioners, accompanied by notes of the ablest commentators. The hon. member seemed to think that nothing more was necessary than that the Bible should be cast among the people, and that they would work out their own salvation. He held, apparently, every man to be a blockhead who could not do so; and if he found any thing struck a man with horror in the Bible, the hon. member considered him irredeemable. He could tell the gentleman opposite that no possible good could be effected for Ireland by connecting education with religion; and if they thought, by any side wind, that it was possible to undermine the Catholic religion, they would find themselves very much mistaken. The best way was, for the government not to interfere with religion, but to allow the people to worship God after their own method.