HC Deb 05 April 1827 vol 17 cc243-52
Sir J. Newport,

in rising to propose, that the Irish Estimates be referred to a Select Committee, observed, that if his motion were at all likely to interfere with the bounty of parliament, he would be the last man to bring forward the proposition which he was about to submit to the House. Ireland had, from time to time, received many benefits from the grants that were made in parliament; but while he admitted this, he was sensible that the manner in which those grants were given, and the little opportunity allowed for entering into the details, deserved notice and correction. Care ought to be taken, that what the legislature bestowed should be directly appropriated to the object for which it was intended. Those grants ought, in his opinion, to undergo that examination in a committee above stairs, which it was quite impossible, from the way in which they were introduced, they could receive in that House. The first article he found entered on the estimates was the charter schools. Some years since the report of the commissioners appointed to examine into the state and condition of these institutions, developed abuses of such a nature, as to call down the reprobation of the House; and he then supposed, that it was the determination of parliament to bring those institutions as speedily as possible within a certain prescribed limit. It was then proposed, that the children in those institutions should be apprenticed, and got rid of. This had not been done; though, he believed, they were infinitely beyond the age at which they ought to have remained in these schools. This was an important object for inquiry. And how, in that House, could a proper inquiry take place? It was quite impossible; for, if he got up and stated any particular circumstance relative to any given school, it was met on the other side, by a positive denial, and no opportunity was given for ascertaining the real truth of the matter. This could alone be arrived at in a committee. The sum which was proposed for the Linen Board was 10,000l. less than was voted last year; but nevertheless the House was bound to inquire upon what principle the reduction had been made. In the estimate of the Kildare Society for education, a reduction of 5,000l. had been effected last year. The estimate thus reduced, namely 25,000l., was again proposed this year. It was stated, in a report which had been issued by that society, that finding they could not maintain their establishment on its former footing with the reduced estimate, they represented their case to the Irish government, who, after some investigation, gave them 5,000l. out of the treasury. He thought that the government in this proceeding had exceeded its powers; for he doubted much whether that transaction came within the purview of parliament. The right hon. baronet, after complaining that the commissioners for inquiring into the state of education were too tardy in reporting the result of their labours, moved "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the Estimates presented to the House, for the Miscellaneous Services of Ireland, in so far as relates to the sums intended to be voted for the purposes of Charity and Education; and to report their observations and opinion thereon to the House, as well as respecting the nature and utility of the establishments for which the same are recommended to be granted."

Mr. Curteis

seconded the motion. He considered it hard that the people of this country should be taxed to support establishments in Ireland, unless they were clearly shown to be useful. He saw that in the Cork establishment for education there were professors of botany and mineralogy. Now, what on earth, had the poor people of Cork to do with botany and mineralogy.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

admitted that it was of importance to bring all these votes within the narrowest possible compass. He and his right hon. friend, the Secretary for Ireland, had acted upon that principle, and the result was a reduction in the estimates for this year, as compared with those for the last, of upwards of 50,000l. This at least looked as if there existed a bonâ fide intention on the part of government of enforcing economy. The House would, perhaps, bear with him whilst he very shortly adverted to some of the points which had been touched upon by the right hon. baronet. With respect to the charter schools, he could take upon himself to say it had been resolved to let them expire of themselves. No new scholars would in future be admitted, and those already in the schools would be apprenticed to different trades as soon as possible. By these means the number of those schools would soon be gradually reduced, and only so many would be allowed to continue in existence as could be maintained by their own exclusive funds; which amounted to about 7,000l. per annum. The various other societies which had been alluded to were already under a course of examination by commissioners appointed for the purpose; and he thought it would be inexpedient and unnecessary to subject them to a second inquiry, until the report of those commissioners was before the House. As to the Linen Board, he could assure the House that it was the last time of its appearing on that stage. The abolition of that establishment was resolved on. Ministers had the strongest disposition to curtail unnecessary expenses with respect to these estimates, and nobody could long more than he did for the adoption of some general plan regarding them; but, at the same time, he was of opinion that the right hon. baronet had made out no case for the appointment of a committee.

Mr. Spring Rice

was not disposed to give ministers credit for the economy which was professed on the present occasion. He suspected that the estimates were wholly fraudulent. The system was one of gross abuse. The charter schools of Ireland had already cost 1,600,000l., of which one million had come out of the pockets of the people of England. The expense, too, of the commissioners of inquiry was enormous. Up to the present moment, it amounted to between 700,000l. and 800,000l. He wished to know if there would be any objection to referring the report of the commissioners to a committee of the House, under a pledge that the members forming that committee would confine themselves strictly to the objects contained in the report. The House were not prepared, probably, to hear of two very orthodox commissioners having advised, in a separate report, that there should be no further grants of money made to the Belfast Institution for the present, because there were some mathematical professors employed in teaching there who were professed Arians. Nay, more—these grave theological commissioners had undertaken to settle a disputed point in divinity by an entirely new decision. They objected to the Arian professors, because Arianism was hostile to, and wholly subversive of, the principles of Christianity, seeing that they denied the divinity of Christ. From whence did they derive this hitherto unknown definition of Arianism? Surely they ought to have known that some of the greatest lights of philosophy, some of the greatest ornaments of the Christian world, professed Arianism. These were, indeed, questions unfit for the deliberation of the House. He did not introduce them. That merit was due to the two zealous and hon. members who had taken the pains to report separately upon this subject, and who seemed to be not altogether unwilling to conduct the House back to the spirit of those times, when the lower Greek empire was distracted about the right construction of a diphthong.

Mr. Goulburn

denied that he had ever called for any vote in support of the Linen Board, as a permanent measure. The grants for the present year were 100,000l. less than they were in the year 1817, and many hundred pounds less than in any year, with a single exception, since the year 1807.

Mr. Leslie

Foster was surprised that the hon. member for Limerick should have taken this opportunity of making an attack upon the last report of the commissioners, instead of reserving his observations until the period at which the whole reports would be brought under the consideration of the House. He objected to the motion of the right hon. baronet, because, under the character of a financial inquiry, it would have the effect of prematurely bringing the subject of Irish education before a committee above stairs, when the commissioners had not yet concluded their labours. He objected to introducing theological subjects in that House; but the allusions which had been made to the part he had taken, as one of the commissioners, rendered it necessary for him to make one or two observations. The Belfast Institution was not, at present, upon the list of those institutions which received any thing from the public; but he could assure the hon. member opposite, that there was not one of the commissioners more anxious than himself to see parliamentary assistance extended to it. This institution was devoted to the education of the children of persons belonging to the Presbyterian church in Ireland. Now, it so happened, that out of five professors at this institution, three professed opinions considered objectionable by the orthodox members of the church to which they belonged; for he believed that Presbyterians generally—and he was sure that the Presbyterian church of Scotland, in particular—shrunk with abhorrence from the doctrine which denied the divinity of Christ. Under these circumstances, he and another of the commissioners, had felt it their duty to recommend the government not to grant any portion of the public money to this institution, unless security should be given, that in the future appointment of the professors of this institution, no persons holding these objectionable opinions should be introduced into the establishment.

Mr. J. Grattan

maintained the expediency of submitting the grants to a committee above stairs. The Presbyterian system displayed so many advantages in Scotland, that he was happy to see it extended to any other country, and more than any other to Ireland, where he hoped to see it flourish and receive the countenance and assistance of that House. There were many items in the accounts, which deserved quite as much censure as any which the right hon. baronet had mentioned, and he trusted he would see the propriety of making no distinctions among them, but at once determine to move, that the whole be submitted to the consideration of a committee.

Mr. Hume

said, he was anxious to see the Irish estimates reduced as far as was practicable, and would co-operate in any measure with that view, which could be usefully and successfully adopted. He would call the attention of the House to a few of the items of these estimates, and ask if it was prepared to vote large sums of money to be appropriated in the manner proposed. The first item to which he would call the attention of the House, was a charge for the maintenance of one thousand nine hundred and eighty-three children. It was but four years ago, that the Secretary for the Home Department, admitted that the grant ought to be reduced as speedily as possible. Now, let the House observe what were the ages of these "children," as they were called. Of the list of one thousand nine hundred and eighty three, there were no fewer than six hundred and nine above the age of thirteen years; two hundred and twenty nine were from thirteen to fifteen; one hundred and seventeen were from seventeen to nineteen, and a great proportion between nineteen and twenty-one. So that, in fact, there were six hundred and nine persons of an age fit to be apprenticed, and a large grant was to be appropriated, not for the education of children, but of grown persons. There was another grant to which he would call the attention of the House. This was the Foundling Hospital for which 34,000l. was proposed. But four or five years ago, the Secretary for the Home Department declared that this grant was against principle, and the Secretary for Ireland said, that no more children should be received; yet since those declarations and promises, three hundred and fifty infants under one year of age, and one thousand five hundred from one to five years of age, had been admitted, contrary, as had been avowed, to principle. Then there was the expense of proclamations. For this object, a sum of 5,800l. was demanded, while it could be shown, that two-thirds of the sums thus expended went for the support of certain newspapers in Ireland, instead of for any purpose of the state. In printing, also, great expense was incurred by the system of monopoly which was allowed. One individual, sir A. B. King, enjoying all the emoluments arising from this employment, instead of the work being done by tenders, in which way it could be executed for half the amount, 34,000l. was the charge for printing the Statutes in Ireland, which sum, or a great portion of it, might be saved by sending over copies from this country, instead of having new and distinct editions printed there, at an enormous and useless expense. If such items of expenditure as he had read were once sent to a committee above stairs, he was certain that the estimate might be reduced many thousand pounds. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. baronet would not withdraw his motion, or make any exceptions with regard to any particular items.

Mr. Frankland Lewis

objected to any vote that would pledge the House to inquiries which it could not satisfactorily make, until it was in possession of those documents upon which the estimate was founded, and upon which the members, composing the commission, had felt themselves bound to recommend the continuance of some of the grants. He conceived that the inquiry proposed was calculated to distress the feelings of those individuals who composed the commission, and who were, he thought, entitled to so much courtesy and kindness, as to be allowed time to lay before the House the reasons and the facts, upon which they grounded their recommendation to support the institutions for the diffusion of education in Ireland. If they waited but three months, in which time he was convinced the report would be ready to be laid on the table of the House, they would see the reasons which had influenced the commission in the course they recommended; and he really did not see how the House could come to any just conclusion upon the estimates, or act fairly towards the commissioners, unless they waited to learn the grounds and the evidence upon which they formed their opinion. It was impossible for the House to understand such a vote as that for the Foundling Hospital, for instance, without being in possession of the documents connected with, and, at the same time, taking into consideration the state of society in Ireland. There were two things to be regarded in the administration of aid to Ireland—the necessity of the case, and the economy to be observed in the applications to that necessity; and he could assure them, that the commission, of which he formed a part, had considered economy to be indispensable in the recommendations of the expenditure. To judge of the propriety of their recommendations, he repeated, was impossible, unless the House had before it the evidence on which the recommendations were founded. It was, indeed, impossible to decide upon the propriety of some of the items, unless by an inquiry in Ireland itself. The great point to be maintained was, to give aid to education in Ireland in the most effective manner, and with the least possible expense; and he was happy to say, that the commissioners had already signed three reports, unanimously. Two of the commissioners differed from the others upon another report; and he would say again, that it was impossible for the House to understand the subject before them, on the grounds of the difference between the commissioners, until they were in possession of the facts upon which they formed their opinions. He was happy to say, however, that they had put themselves in possession of the means of adopting practical remedies for many of the evils which had been most justly made the subject of complaint; they had overcome many, if not all, of the difficulties which impeded inquiries such as theirs, in any country, but more particularly in Ireland; and he implored the House not to take the work out of their hands, when it was nearly completed, or to pronounce upon what they had done already, a hasty and ill-founded decision. It bad been said, that the same thing proposed for charter schools was too much. Who was to be the judge of that at present? Who could tell whether the course they proposed was right or wrong, until they saw from the report what was the state of those schools? It was not at that moment in his power to state the reasons which influenced the commission in their recommendations. He, as well as the other members, could not divulge the evidence until it was embodied in the report, which must be laid at once before the Throne; and he contended, that no time could be so little fitted for any inquiry, as that time which immediately preceded the period when the report was to be laid before the Throne, and communicated to the House.—The hon. member then referred to the difference between himself and the two commissioners, upon the subject of the Belfast Academical Institution, declaring, that however the matter might terminate, or however it might be decided, no result could compensate him for the pain he had endured from that difference of opinion. Three of the commissioners had declared themselves in favour of the grant to that institution. Two had declared against it; and how, he would ask again, could the House determine who was right or who was wrong, without a reference to the appendix of the report, where they would see, by the comments on the facts, the reasons which influenced the decision in one way and the other? When the House saw the report and the appendix to which he alluded, containing the opinions of those persons in Belfast who were best acquainted with the subject, they would see on what grounds the commissioners formed their opinions, and be able to decide what to do with the Belfast Institution. He would not now go into any defence of the course he had adopted on that occasion. That was not the time to justify his conduct; but whenever the matter came regularly before the House, he would be prepared to defend and to explain the vote he had thought it his duty to give, with respect to the institution in question. The hon. member concluded, by imploring the House to wait until it was in possession of the means of information, before it determined to inquire.

Mr. Brownlow

said, he wished to make one or two observations respecting the institution in the north of Ireland, of which so much had been said, in order to enable the House to judge how far the hon. member for Louth (Mr. L. Foster) was or was not right in the decision he had pronounced. There were in the Belfast Institution several professors, and he would take the liberty to read a list of them. There was a professor of natural philosophy; a professor of moral philosophy, and professors of mathematics; of logic and belle lettres; of anatomy and physiology; of Greek and Latin; of Hebrew; and two professors of divinity. Mr. Cooke and Mr. Haller both declared, that they never knew the professorships of the institution more ably filled than at present, nor its members so little tainted with evangelical principles. The latter gentleman said, that of twenty-eight young men in one class, there was only one who professed the doctrines of Arian. The hon. member, after some allusions to the separation of the Presbytery of Antrim from the general Synod of Ulster, declared it to be his conviction, and he spoke from intimate knowledge, that there never was any institution better suited to the wants and wishes of the people than that school to which he alluded. The people of the north of Ireland were divided into a great many religious sects, and no place of education was better fitted to gratify all their desires; for it ought to be recollected, that the great object to be attained in the choice of professors for such an establishment, was not in accordance with religious opinion, but pure and strictly moral rectitude of conduct. He felt himself bound to support the motion, not only because it went to inquire into the lavish expenditure of the public money, but because it proposed to inquire into the improper expenditure of that money in Ireland—the land of every kind of abuse, corruption, extravagance, and malversation. He hoped the right hon. baronet would not be induced to refrain from pressing for an inquiry.

Sir J. Newport

briefly replied, and adverted to the different topics urged in opposition to the motion. It had been contended, that the children were to be maintained in the Charter Schools, because no opportunity occurred of placing them out to trade. But, did the House know why they remained in that manner upon the foundation of the school? Why, because they were so badly educated that no one would take them for apprentices. So that, although the House paid enormous sums for their education, they never received any which could enable them to advance themselves in the world. Was not this a fit subject for inquiry? It was said, that these persons might still be taken as apprentices; but he did not think it very likely that any one would take those young men, at twenty-one years old, whom they had refused at sixteen. The Charter Schools, it ought to be recollected, were already inquired into. The right hon. baronet then alluded to the item for the support of the Society to Discountenance Vice, and observed, that one of the sums of 1,000l. for raising institutions and model schools, was for the purpose of educating a number of young men, to fill the situations of parish clerks and schoolmasters. With regard to the Belfast Institution, he considered it one of the best establishments in the country; and when gentlemen told him, that the professors, who were imbued with Arianism, wished to tamper with the faith of those placed under their care, he would say, so far was this from being the case, that he knew an instance of one of those gentlemen, a most respectable man, one of whose sons was a clergyman of the church of Ireland, and the other was attached to the Presbyterian Synod of Ulster. This did not argue such a disposition on the part of those professors as had been alleged.

The House divided: Ayes 69. Noes 135. Majority against the motion 66.

List of the Minority.
Althorp, visct. Clements, Visct.
Archdeckne, A. Clive, E. B.
Barclay, C. Colborne, N. R.
Baring, A. Curteis, E. G.
Baring, F Dawson, A.
Baring, W. B. Davies, T.
Birch, J. Davenport, E. D.
Brownlow, C. Ebrington, viset.
Calcraft, J. Easthope, J.
Calvert, N. Euston, earl of
Fazakerly, J. N. Parnell, sir H.
Ferguson, R. C. Ponsonby, hon. W. S.
Grattan, J. Ponsonby, hon. G.
Grattan, H. Portman, E. B.
Grosvenor, gen. Pryse, P.
Gordon, R. Price, Robert
Guise, sir B. W. Rickford, W.
Guest, J. Robinson, sir G.
Harvey, D. W. Robinson, George
Heathcote, G. J. Russell, lord J.
Howick, visct. Russell, lord W.
Hume, J. Rumbold, C. E.
Ingleby, sir W. Smith, J.
Jephson, C. Smith, W.
Kennedy, I. F. Stuart, H. Villiers
King, hon. R. Stanley, hon. E. G.
Lamb, hon. G. Sebright, sir J.
Lennard, T. B. Thompson, C. P.
Langston, J. H. Tierney, rt. hon. G.
Lombe, E. Tomes, John
Maberly, J. Wall, C. B.
Maberly, W. L. Warburton, H.
Marshall, W. Webbe, Ed.
Maule, hon. W. Wood, ald.
Monck, J. B. $nbsp;
Morpeth, visct. TELLERS.
Newport, sir J. Duncannon, visct.
O'Brien, L. Rice, T. S.