HC Deb 29 September 1831 vol 7 cc817-20
Mr. Crampton

presented a Petition from the Royal Dublin Society against the proposed diminution of the annual grants to that institution. The grant had never been less than 7,OOOl. per annum until the present year, when it was proposed to reduce it to 5,OOOl., and while the House had voted 17,OOOl. for the annual expenses of the British Museum, they ought not to refuse a grant of 7,OOOl. to the Royal Dublin Society. The Society was established in 1745, for the promotion of science and the improvement of art, and it had been much favoured by the Irish Parliament. He was of opinion that the institution had been of the greatest benefit to the Irish community; and that it had been governed upon the most impartial principles was evident from the fact, that it had always cautiously avoided entering into any consideration of political or religious distinctions. He knew that it was imputed to it that it was a political club, but that was disproved by the fact, that during the last ten years, not one member ballotted for had been rejected. It was said, too, that the Society was extravagant; that he denied, but it had been of great service in establishing a school for instruction in the fine arts, and by encouraging a taste for them. Perhaps, to make the Society more useful than at present, some alterations were necessary, but he maintained that it was impolitic and injudicious to curtail the grant.

Mr. Leader

supported the petition, and thought the diminution of the grant was totally uncalled for by any circumstances. He was a member of the Society; he knew that it was not a political club, and that the members of it had contributed nearly 20,000l. of their own money to advance science. The school of arts had been of great service, and the useful sciences of Botany and Mineralogy had been much promoted by the Society. He thought it was very hard on Ireland to destroy all its establishments.

Mr. Lefroy

supported the prayer of the petition. The conduct of the Government in reducing the grant, shewed very little respect for Ireland, or for the feelings of the Irish population. He was not a member of the Society, and therefore was quite impartial. He was convinced that the gratuitous lectures had been of great benefit to Dublin.

Mr. Chapman

could not but lament the very defective accommodation for the public in the Dublin Society as compared with the British Museum. The library of the Dublin Society was totally shut to the public, and the minerals and curiosities of its museum were very imperfectly exhibited. The Society deserved none of the encomiums bestowed on it, and he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Crampton) had made an unwarrantable attack on the Government with which he was connected.

Mr. Ruthven

viewed the object for which the Society was instituted with favour, and thought, the more it was promoted the better for the interests of Ireland. Instead, therefore, of curtailing the grant, he would augment it. He was not a member of the Society, but he was a supporter of the Government while it attended to the interests of Ireland, and he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Solicitor General for Ireland, had done right in opposing the narrow economy which would injure his country, though it was recommended by the Government. He was ashamed of the paltry economy which would take away from such a useful Society the miserable pittance now allowed to it.

Lord Ingestrie

had been requested to give the petition his support, and felt great pleasure in doing so. He was thoroughly convinced that the grant ought rather to be augmented than diminished.

Sir Robert Bateson

conceived the reduction of the grant to the Dublin Society to be an instance of the application of the cold-blooded principles of political economy which unfortunately just now obtained such favour with Ministers, and which no man who regarded the interest of Ireland could honestly approve of. The Society was of great use, and its botanical garden and museum were such as Ireland might be justly proud of.

Mr. Hume

begged leave to remind the hon. Baronet, that the proposition had emanated from a Committee of the late Government, of which Lord Leveson Gower, then Irish Secretary, was chairman, and in which the right hon. member for Harwich (Mr. George Dawson), took an active part. That Committee had recommended the reduction, because the Society had become a mere political club, and because its members contributed but 600l. per annum, while the public was taxed some 8,000l. a year for their exclusive advantage. In fact, while the members had contributed 19,000l. the country had granted 246,000l. All the advantages of the Society were confined to the members, and to the public at large it was of no use. To continue the grant would be a wasteful expenditure of the public money, and he was surprised that the Government should be attacked for withholding the grant, as if it had committed a crime.

Mr. Henry Grattan

had been a member of the Committee, and could bear testimony to the accuracy of the hon. member for Middlesex's statement. The spirit of exclusion prevailed in the Society, and it was much more a Tory club than a scientific society.

Mr. Lambert

thought the reduction most justifiable, as the Society was useless as a public institution, and had degenerated into an exclusive high Tory club. He knew an instance of a learned Gentleman, a member of that House, who had been rejected by the Society.

Colonel Conolly

contended that the Society was highly useful. It was serviceable, not only to agriculture, but to science generally, and to the fine arts; and as Ireland was deprived of so many individuals of the upper ranks, through absenteeism, it would be extremely hard to deprive the capital of that country of this Society. Many of its members he was personally acquainted with, and could bear his testimony to their love of science, and their exertions to promote the interests of the country. Ireland had yet many mineralogical riches unexplored, which were only likely to become profitable by the exertions of such a Society. He must confess he thought it would be bad policy, as well as miserable economy, to diminish the grant. He certainly should support the wishes of the petitioners for an increased rather than a diminished grant. He had never before heard it imputed that the Society was a political Society, and he must beg leave to doubt that assertion.

Mr. Hunt

thought, that the Society was entitled to the grant, and he was surprised to hear the hon. member for Middlesex support the Committee, considering that a recommendation to reduce the amount of the Civil List had been disregarded, which the hon. Member had considered so essential.

Mr. Maurice O'Connell

conceived, that the plan of the Committee, which they had recommended for the adoption of the House, was a good one. The object which the Committee chiefly had in view was, to do away with that spirit of exclusion, that feeling of political party manifested by the Society, and make it accessible to all who wished, and were qualified to become Members.

Mr. Crampton

, in reply, said, the most unjust imputations had been cast upon the Society, which was of great importance to Ireland, and afforded the greatest encouragement to the progress of knowledge.

Petition to be printed.

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