HC Deb 11 April 1832 vol 12 cc306-9
Mr. Andrew Johnston

presented a Petition from the Ministers, Elders, and Inhabitants of Aberdeen, praying that the Annual Grant to Maynooth College be discontinued. The petitioners expressed their sorrow to feel themselves compelled to approach that House on the subject of the grant recently made by it, for the purpose of educating individuals for the Roman Catholic Church. They considered the principle on which this support to the Roman faith was given as unconstitutional; and they called the attention of the House to those countries where that faith prevailed, in order to demonstrate the melancholy evils which flowed from its profession. They submitted, that the view they took, in their petition, must be received and acceded to by every man who examined the sacred Scriptures for himself; and that, indeed, no other could be received on any truly religious principle. They said, that such a grant, on the mere ground of expediency, could not be defended; and they did not see how it was possible for any evil to the State to arise from withholding it; and they concluded by imploring the House to discontinue the grant accordingly. He agreed with the prayer of the petition, for he was convinced the Government was violating the Protestant principle by encouraging the Roman Catholic priests to make extracts from the Bible for the education of Protestant children. He understood that the proportion of the money paid by Scotland for the purpose of educating the Catholic clergy already amounted to 50,000l., and he, as a Presbyterian, felt that such a course ought no longer to be continued.

Mr. James E. Gordon

supported the prayer of the petition, which, he could assure the House, emanated from an exemplary and intelligent body, whose sentiments were entitled to the most serious consideration. It was wholly unjust, in his opinion, that money should be allowed for the education of Catholic priests, when the Scriptural education in the Kildare-street Society's schools was suppressed.

Colonel Torrens

was surprised at the obliquity of understanding which could induce hon. Members to support such preposterous petitions as that now brought before the House. It was asserted, that it was wrong for a Protestant country to appropriate money for the education of Catholic priests, but did it not strike hon. Members, who made that observation, that it was equally as wrong to make the Irish Catholics support the Protestant Church?

Mr. Trevor

supported the petition. He thought there was nothing whatever in it which merited the term preposterous. If any thing could be called preposterous, it was the withdrawal of a grant from a Society that had done so much good by the promotion of Scriptural education in Ireland, whilst encouragement was to be held out, by a grant to this Catholic College, for the education of Roman Catholic priests.

Mr. Hume

thought the grant to Maynooth a most politic measure, because it enabled the Roman Catholic priests to be educated, without going, as formerly, to foreign lands, and he thought to withdraw this grant would be at once unjust, illiberal, and impolitic. If the principles of the hon. Members who accused the Roman Catholics of intolerance were acted on, a truly practical state of intolerance would be the result. The Protestants of Ireland, living, he might say, in a Catholic country, received a large sum from the public, but in England the Catholics got not a farthing from the public. The Presbyterians in Scotland received much more than all the 6,000,000 of Catholics in Ireland. He knew the petitioners to be excellent men in private life, but their views of things were very limited.

Mr. Lefroy

differed in his opinion of the law and policy of the hon. member for Middlesex. The grant to Maynooth College was founded in the worst policy, for the State ought not to support opposite and conflicting religious opinions. When a part of the Catholic Church thought fit to reform itelf, its livings and its property continued in the hands of its members: they only changed their religion; but that part of the Church lands which was connected with monasteries was granted by Parliament to the Crown, who transferred it to lay holders. If there were any Church robbers, the laity were the guilty parties. The Protestants had never despoiled the Catholics, therefore, he doubted the law of the hon. member for Middlesex.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, that the subject of complaint was, that the grant should be continued to Catholics and withheld from Protestants. The only ground on which the grant could be defended was, as a sort of national compact formed at the Union but other compacts of the same nature had been altered, and he saw no reason why this should be maintained inviolate. He fully agreed with the remark of the hon. Member who preceded him, that the property had never been taken by Protestants from Catholics, but was equally Church property before the Reformation.

Mr. James Grattan

said, that it was distressing to hear such discussion every night—to hear Irish Members saying that the two religions were not compatible. Ministers would find it difficult to govern a country with such conduct on the part of Members. Were the hon. Gentlemen doing their duty when they had suffered the grant to Maynooth College to go on from 1795, without complaining. Now they came forward only because they were sore on another subject, which had no relation to this. The grant at first was very politic; it was given in order that the College students of divinity might study in Ireland, instead of going to France, where such violent principles then prevailed

Sir Frederick Trench

said, in answer to the observation of the hon. Member (Mr. Grattan), that he was one who was always opposed to the grant to Maynooth College.

Mr. Lambert

conceived the grant to Maynooth to rest upon this point—are the Catholics to be educated as Christians, or not at all? If the former was intended, then the grant was highly proper.

Mr. Andrew Johnston

, in moving that the petition be printed said, that some of the petitioners were persons well known for their scientific acquirements, and he considered their opinion well worth attending to.

Mr. Maurice O'Connell

begged the House to remember that the grant had not been sought by the Catholics: the Government of the time had thought proper to propose it to them. He would defy the Gentlemen who opposed it to give an instance in which the Catholic priests had not endeavoured to preserve the peace; he had met them politically and spiritually, and he always found their efforts devoted to the maintenance of quiet.

Petition to be printed.