HC Deb 15 July 1831 vol 4 cc1318-26
Sir R. Bateson

presented a Petition from the Ministers and Elders of the Presbyterian Church in the Province of Ulster, in favour of the Kildare-street Society. The petitioners expressed their regret that the House should have been solicited to withhold or curtail the annual Grant, and asserted, that the persons who advised this, were not the enlightened and genuine friends of Ireland. The distracted state of the country was, in a great measure, to be attributed to the ignorance of the peasantry, which allowed them to become the dupes of designing and ambitious demagogues. The petitioners further stated, that the teachers in the schools established by the Kildare Street Society were partly Protestants, and partly Catholics, and the only thing insisted on was, that they should read the word of God without note or comment. The hon. Baronet added, that the petitioners represented 200 congregations, amounting in the aggregate to half a million of people. He eulogised in the warmest terms the conduct of the petitioners, and said, that the Province of Ulster had not cost one-twentieth part of the sum which other parts of Ireland had cost the country at large to maintain the public peace.

Mr. Ruthven

said, the hon. Baronet had stated this to be an important petition, but he wished the House to recollect, that the state of the Presbyterian Church in Ulster was different now to what it formerly was. A schism had taken place, and many of the most enlightened men had separated themselves from the synod, on account of a degree of intolerance exhibited by that body, which they could not approve of. The members of the Synod would be better occupied in reconciling the differences among themselves, than in endeavouring to extend the differences that unfortunately prevailed between Protestants and Catholics. The Kildare Street Society had failed to produce the effects its best friends had anticipated; for all unprejudiced persons were of opinion, that it would rather impede than promote education, by maintaining the line of separation between Catholics and Protestants. It was matter of complaint, that great part of the funds of the Society were swallowed up by persons who went about making converts to Protestantism, and, under the title of Ministers, travelled through the country, with salaries of 300l. a-year. The cause of education derived no advantage from such grants

Mr. Sheil

would rather rely upon the official Reports of that House than on the statements of interested parties. The Report of 1825, and a subsequent Report decided against the Society. He therefore was of opinion, that it ought no longer to be supported by Parliamentary Grants.

Sir Robert Bateson

wished to add one word of reply to the hon. member for Downpatrick. He had accused the Synod of Ulster of bigotry, and of wishing to perpetuate religious feuds, and he had eulogized the remonstrants, or the party which had separated themselves, as being the most liberal and enlightened. The hon. Member would, he hoped, remember, that the latter constituted a very small proportion of the whole, and that many of them concurred with the Synod in being friendly to the principles of education pursued by the Kildare-street Society.

Petition to be printed.

Lord Castlereagh

presented similar Petitions from Killala, and two other parishes in the county of Louth. He had been astonished to hear the philippic of the hon. member for Downpatrick. If that hon. Member examined the signatures to these petitions, he would find there several of his most intimate friends. They were of opinion the Grant to the Society had been productive of immense benefit to the poor of Ireland; he agreed with them, and hoped the Grant would be continued.

Mr. Hume

said, he disapproved of the Grant, but made no charge against the directors of the Society. He objected, however, to the system of giving Protestants the superintendance of the education of Catholics. The latter felt that to be a stigma, and very naturally wished to be intrusted it with the education of their own children.

Sir J. Newport

had been strongly attached to the Society, but having changed his opinion, he would state his reasons for that change. He found the people were disinclined to have their children educated by the Society, from the circumstance of the funds being placed in the hands of one particular party. That circumstance rendered the Grant useless; there was no possibility of forcing education on those who were hostile to the teachers. The only way by which educa- tion could be extensively diffused in Ireland was, by placing the money granted by the public in the hands of the different bodies of religionists, or exclusively under the control of somebody appointed by the Government.

Mr. Lefroy

said, he must beg to remind the House that the Commissioners for education had reported, from the most undoubted evidence taken before them, that there was no foundation whatever for any charges of proselytism against the Society. The members undoubtedly introduced the Scriptures into their course of education, and if that constituted them a proselytizing Society, they were obnoxious to the charge. They had not professed one principle and acted on another, for they avowed from the commencement of their labours, that this would be the basis of their operations.

Mr. O'Connell

had subscribed to the Society on the understanding that it should act upon a certain principle, and when he found it did not act upon that principle, he ceased to subscribe to it. He made no charge against the Society, but against its agents. The disturbances in Clare had been occasioned by children being forced to school by Mr. Synge, against the consent of their parents. The last particle of Orange power was the Kildare Street Society, and he trusted it would speedily be abolished. The feeling of the Catholic Clergy was against it, for he had a petition, signed by twenty-six Catholic Prelates, to present, praying for the discontinuance of the Grant. He had several schools, in which were educated 11,000 children. He should be glad of some assistance, but could obtain none, he did not place the Scriptures in children's hands, because the Bible was a book that required the most mature judgment to understand it.

Sir R. Bateson

strongly condemned the spirit in which the hon. and learned Member had spoken. He solemnly denied the charge of persecution on the part of his friends in Ulster, or by those by whom he was now surrounded. He never heard a speech better calculated to fan the dying flame of religious animosity than that of the hon. Member.

Mr. J. E. Gordon

.—I certainly had not intended, Sir, to trespass upon the attention of the House this evening, and I cannot but regret the circumstances which have rendered it necessary that I should do so. The hon. member for Kerry will excuse my saying, that his reference to the disturbances in Clare was as injudicious as it was uncalled for; but of that reference I should have taken no notice, had he not coupled with the disturbances in question the name of Mr. Synge. Sir, I have the pleasure of Mr. Synge's acquaintance, and I consider it an honour to be on terms of friendship with such an individual. Mr. Synge, Sir, is a gentleman of influence and property, who has sacrificed every comfort which his station in life could afford, for the object of promoting the temporal and spiritual welfare of those around him. He has established schools for the education of the ignorant, and in the defence and protection of these schools he has exposed himself to priestly malediction, and ruffianly vengeance. Yes, Sir, this individual, whose only offence was unconquerable perseverance in the righteous endeavour to diffuse the blessings of Scriptural education through his tenantry and neighbourhood, was waylaid by a band of assassins in open day, fired upon, and dangerously wounded, while his servant was murdered behind him. And for what offence? Just as I stated before: because he determined to persevere against the denunciations of an infuriated priesthood, in imparting the blessings of education to those around him. Sir, I hold in my hand a document which may cast a little light upon the origin of at least that part of the disturbances in the county of Clare which I have just described. It appeared that some cattle belonging to one of Mr. Synge's tenants were impounded for the non-payment of rent; and the House will now have an opportunity of drawing its own conclusions from what I am about to read. (Mr. Gordon then read the following document:—) Patrick Donelly, give the bearer, John O'Loughlin, his two cows, impounded by the notorious Bible-ranting Synge, of Carhue, on account of rent due to his landlord. But I believe the poor fellow's stock was seized because he would not permit the infernal ñend the Devil to seize the little ones with which God blessed him. I promise you that O'Loughlin will deliver up to you the cows on the day of auction. I am yours, John Murphy. Richmond, April 21, 1831. To Patrick Donelly, Pound-keeper, Beggars' Bridge. Here, then, a Roman Catholic Priest, and that no less a Priest than the celebrated Father Murphy of Corrofin—a name well known to this House—directly interfered with the course of the law, and commanded the discharge of cattle impounded, not for the alleged offence of having withheld children from school, but for non-payment of the party's rent. Now, Sir, I shall leave this House to decide in what sense Mr. Synge could be said to be the author of the disturbances in Clare, and also to infer the consequence of such language as I have just read, when addressed to the passions of ignorant people by a Roman Catholic Priest. With respect to the alleged changes in the system of the Kildare Street Society, and the reasons why the hon. members for Kerry and Waterford withdrew from that Institution, I shall be very brief. Of the motives which influenced the secession of these and other hon. Members, I cannot, of course, profess to be a competent judge; but on questions of evidence and fact I do pretend to form an opinion. Now, what is the fact with regard to the alleged change of system in the Kildare Street Society? We have, Sir, before us the original constitution of the Society, and we have also before us the present constitution of the Society. Both, Sir, are embodied in official parliamentary documents, and if I find that they are identically and in every particular the same, then I assert, that some other reason must be adduced by hon. Gentlemen in justification of their change of opinion, than a change in the Society's constitution. But Sir, I not only deny, that any change has taken place in the constitution of the Society, I also deny that any change has taken place in the opinions of the Roman Catholic part of the population respecting the Society. That a change may have taken place in the opinions and policy of the priesthood is very probable, but I must protest against the doctrine, that the opinions and policy of the Roman Catholic priesthood are to be received as the opinions and feelings of the Roman Catholic people. They are, in many instances, totally different from each other, and should never be confounded together. Those Gentlemen who can join the Society to-day and leave it to-morrow, may find it convenient to wheel about at the word of command, but in stating the fact to this House, they must be prepared with a better justification than alleged changes, either in the constitution of the Society, or the sentiments of the people.

Mr. Grattan

attributed the outrage upon Mr. Synge to his conduct in regard to the education of the people He believed that gentleman to be a very worthy, and zealous, but mistaken man. His principles were of a most exclusive character. He dismissed any one of his labourers who did not send his children to the schools he had established. The outrage committed on him was caused by the great unpopularity of these proceedings. He attributed much of the odium in which the Kildare Street Society was held, to the conduct of its advocates. The characters of the gentlemen who directed the proceedings of the Society, and spoke at its meetings, had excited more ill will against it than it deserved. He could say for his own part, that having established schools he had received money from the Society, and much of it was left to his own disposal. Government should act upon the valuable report made by the Commissioners for education, by which it appeared, that a system of national instruction might be introduced.

Mr. Protheroe

would not vindicate the character of Father Murphy, except by saying, that he was an enthusiastic man, of warm feelings, who, he was convinced, would do nothing but what he considered conducive to the spiritual and temporal welfare of those under his charge. The hon. member for Dundalk spoke of the Catholic Clergy as if they were in England, among Protestants, but in Ireland they were of the same religion as the mass of the inhabitants. Two or three years since, he had visited the schools of Ireland, when he found those of the Kildare Street Society generally shut up. He had been sorry to hear, that the reading of the Scriptures was objected to by the Catholics, who sent their children to schools much more uncomfortable than those belonging to the Society, where, however, they learned diligently and profitably. He had heard, when he was in the county of Clare of Mr. Synge and his conduct, and it was such, that if Catholics so conducted themselves towards Protestants in this country, their death would be inevitable.

Mr. George Robinson

said, that as far as the purposes of education went, he should not object to the grant of this Society; but from the spirit which had prevailed in the present discussion, and the animosity that existed with respect to the mode of education adopted, he was led to believe, that the grant would do more harm than good. If the money was calculated to continue this irritation, he should be disposed to withhold the grant altogether, unless some arrangement could be made, that the Catholics should have the benefit of a portion of it. That body might be wrong, but it was absurd to throw away money to attempt to force a system of education upon them, which they did not approve of, and would not attend to.

Mr. Petre

implored hon. Gentlemen to defer going into the subject until it was regularly before the House, and then to discuss it in the true spirit of Christian charity.

Mr. Maurice O'Connell

contended, that Mr. Synge had been guilty of persecution. He had turned a whole family out of its home, because the father refused to send his children to his schools. He must also defend the conduct and character of the rev. Mr. Murphy, the Catholic Priest alluded to, who was then on his deathbed. He was anxious for the welfare of his flock, zealous, and truly pious, and set such an example of Christian charity as the hon. member for Dundalk might advantageously follow, and then there might be less religious dissension in Ireland. A memorial had been presented at the Castle of Dublin, against the conduct of Mr. Synge, which stated, that if his persecutions were not stopped, Clare would be thrown into a state of insurrection; but Mr. Gregory, the Under Secretary at the time, was a near connexion of Mr. Synge, and nothing more had been heard of the memorial.

Mr. Hunt

said, a great struggle appeared to be going on as to who was to have the disposal of the money to be granted. He would act upon the old and vulgar, but true saying, that when two dogs were quarrelling for a bone, the only way to end the dispute was, to take it away from both.

Mr. Sheil

said, he should at the proper time prove, upon the evidence of the hon. member for Dundalk, that the system of the Kildare Street Society was at variance with the principles of the Roman Catholic religion. He was surprised that the hon. Member should assert, that he did not intend to speak on this subject, when he came prepared with such an important document. The fact was, perhaps, that the hon. Mem- ber was always ready, and always provided with ammunition taken from the Catholics. He came ready primed and loaded, and the smallest concussion made him go off as surely as a patent lock. His unpremeditated speeches were impromptus fails à loisir, and as the hon. Gentleman had now much leisure, his impromptus were always prepared before-hand. The Whole question was one of fact, to be decided by evidence, and not by the reports which would be obscured by any display of sectarian zeal. He must say, in defence of the conduct of the Roman Catholic Priests, to whom their (locks were indebted for all the knowledge they possessed, and all the consolation they received, that there was no more zealous and more enlightened body of clergymen in the world.

Colonel Evans

had understood that the hon. member for Dundalk had been to Ireland, and been there employed in Converting the people from the Catholic to the Protestant religion. That might be a very laudable employment, but it impeached his evidence and his judgment as a legislator on a question which concerned the merits of the two religions.

Sir Richard Musgrave

said, the Kildare Street Society was detested in the part of Ireland in which he resided. It was said, they did not attempt to proselytise, but their agents made Catholic children read the Bible, and then told them to find their religion in that.

Mr. J. E. Gordon

.—Sir, the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Evans) has stated, that a report is afloat of my having been engaged in Ireland as a promoter of education and theological discussion; and he thinks that this report, if true, is calculated to prejudice my evidence upon subjects connected with the education of that country. I really, Sir, cannot discover the bearing which this report, whether true or false, has upon the subject of the present conversation, which, in as far as my testimony is concerned, is one of facts, and not opinion. But, Sir, in answer to the question of the hon. and gallant Member, I hesitate not to acknowledge, that I have spent several of the best years of my life in the promotion of scriptural education in Ireland, not as the agent of any particular institution, but as the unpaid and unprompted advocate of the highest interests of that country. Yes, Sir, it is perfectly true, that I have travelled through the length and breadth of Ireland, promoting and advocating the principles which I profess. It was my privilege to do so, and the information which it has brought within my reach is, I conceive, a good and sufficient reason why, in the judgment of this House and this country, a much greater weight should attach to my testimony on such subjects, than can with justice be allowed to the opinions of hon. Members who arc utterly ignorant both of Ireland and Irish education.

Mr. O'Connell

hoped the hon. member for Dundalk would not get credit for his testimony in Ireland, for he approached no part of that country that he did not augment the previous religious dissention. If he was not paid for his labour, that was no excuse; he had done the mischief gratuitously, and found his reward in promoting strife and discord.

Lord Castlereagh

moved, that the petition should be printed. He had not provoked this discussion by any observation in presenting it. He regretted, that the hon. and learned member for Kerry had uttered expressions calculated to increase the flame of discord which had so long blazed in unhappy Ireland.

Mr. O'Connell

disclaimed the patronage which assumed a right to judge and to lecture him, and judged wrongly. He had not addressed himself to the noble Lord, but to those who had been persecutors, and would, he was afraid, continue to be persecutors if they were not controlled.

Sir Robert Bateson

said, he knew no hon. Gentleman who would condescend to be a persecutor, but it was a duty they all owed their country, to endeavour to promote the reading of the Scriptures. He could assert, that Catholic parents had been persecuted by their priests, and denied the comforts of religion on their death-beds, for not withdrawing their children from the Catholic schools. This was the only persecution he knew of.

Petition to be printed.

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