HC Deb 18 April 1834 vol 22 cc968-79
Mr. Sinclair

had not expected, that this vote would have been brought on this evening, which, as he understood, was to have been devoted to the discussion upon Irish tithes; and he regretted the consequent absence of his hon. friend, the member for Oxford, and others, who felt a decided objection to this grant. But, although the sentiments which he entertained were by no means popular in the House, yet, as he had conscientiously adopted them, he should not shrink from the duty of a candid and public avowal. He could not forget the nature of that solemn oath, which he had more than once taken at that Table,—an oath which involved the principle, that the Popish worship was, in his opinion, to say the least of it, irreconcilable with Scripture truth,—an oath, which, though now abolished, yet stood recorded, as far as he was concerned, in Heaven; and which he could not have safely taken then, if he did not fearlessly adhere to it now. He deemed the College at Maynooth a great source of the evils which afflicted Ireland,—that it was a dan- gerous institution; and those who were educated there, were, in the opinion of those persons whom he considered as best qualified to judge, less well-affected than others to the institutions of their country. He thought that, without any impeachment of their motives, or derogation from the respectability of Roman Catholic priests, they were bound by duty, as well as prompted by inclination, to labour with unremitting and zealous assiduity, and with a feeling that they were doing God service, not only to overturn the Protestant Church in Ireland, but to subvert the Protestant religion under every possible modification. The celibacy of the Popish clergy, which severed them from many domestic ties, caused the current of their affections to run the more strongly and exclusively in favour of the Romish Church, which was by them considered as father and sister and brother and mother. This was his deliberate persuasion; and he should think he betrayed the cause of his country and of his God if he voted a national provision for the education of individuals who must direct the best energies of their minds to the overthrow of those principles which he deemed most essential to the public good. He should as soon think of granting money to a college for the education of officers, who, when carefully trained at the public expense, would direct all their efforts to the subversion of our civil institutions. Every Protestant must be a rebel against lawful authority, in the estimation of every priest. It was true, that the Papal power was at present at a low ebb: the loudest thunders of the Vatican, if wielded by the successor and namesake of those who excommunicated the Emperors Henry 4th and Frederick 2nd, Henry 4th of France, and Queen Elizabeth, would not now shake the weakest of Sovereigns on his Throne, or seduce the wickedest of subjects from his allegiance. But the spirit of Papal domination was unchangeable and unchanged; and the Roman Pontiff viewed all the Protestant realms throughout the world with the same jealousy and indignation which Ferdinand 7th experienced, when he saw the revolted colonies in South America enjoying that independence, which they had earned by shaking off his hateful yoke; and which independence, though he could not annihilate the colonies, he never would acknowledge. Between the Protestant and the Papist, he considered that, in regard to religion, there was a great gulf fixed. The Presbyterian could receive, with joyfulness and brotherly affection, from the hands of the Protestant Bishops, the sacred symbols of a Saviour's dying love; the Baptist might derive edification from the ministration of the Independent; but, although there were exceptions, it was undoubtedly the rule, that the Roman Catholic would deem it a profanation to approach the Protestant altar, to read the Protestant Bible, or to join in the domestic worship of the Protestant family. With these sentiments, and for many other reasons, which he should not obtrude upon a reluctant audience, he should deem it a sacred duty, as an Elder of that Church which had experienced Popish persecution in its infancy, and had always borne testimony against Popish doctrines, to enter a solemn protest against the grant now proposed.

Lord Clements

said, that after the very extraordinary speech which the House had just heard, it would be their bounden duty to make some arrangement which would take this grant out of the Estimates, and settle it in some other way, so as that Roman Catholics would be relieved from the grievance of having, year after year, on the introduction of this vote, to complain of misrepresentation and distortion of their opinions and intentions put forth by gentlemen who happened to differ in opinion from what, in Ireland, might be called the religion of the country. He little expected, on that evening, to have heard such a speech as that just uttered; but, as it might be a lesson to the Government to prevent the recurrence of such, he scarcely regretted that it had been uttered. Gentlemen from Scotland might talk of the gulf that existed between Protestantism and Catholicism; but when they remembered that the country for which this grant was proposed was almost entirely Catholic, the consideration should have the effect of lessening their zeal. Objection had been taken to the Catholic Priesthood; but if there were grounds for such objection, those who looked into the reason of things would find, that, perhaps, they might be found in the smallness of the grant given to the institution in question. If it were inure liberally supported, it would be reasonable to calculate that a class of candidates for the priesthood more eligible, it might be, than those who at present sought admission would be found; and the character of the Catholic priesthood would be exalted to its proper dignity.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, he was sure that his hon. friend would not have made the speech which the House had just heard, neither would he have offered any opposition to the vote then before them, if he had been at all aware of the effect which such a line of conduct must produce in the minds of a deeply religious and conscientious people. If his hon. friend knew, that his words would be denounced and repeated from one end of Ireland to the other, a little more caution would have marked his observations. He was quite sure that his hon. friend would not have given expression to such sentiments had he been in the least degree aware that that which was his individual opinion would be proclaimed throughout Ireland as the opinion of any proportion of that House. He begged to remind hon. Members that the vote then before them was a vote of ancient date—that it had been introduced on the recommendation of Mr. Burke, and continued under the sanction of Mr. Pitt—that it had been recommended in time of war, when every possible inducement was held out to the candidates for the Irish Catholic priesthood to seek for education in foreign countries, while they, under the influence of very laudable feelings, declined those offers of foreign potentates, and preferred to receive their education in the country to which they belonged, and under the sanction and authority of that King to whom they owed allegiance. Although he concurred generally with his noble friend behind him, yet he hoped that the time would never arrive when the means of maintaining the college of Maynooth would be removed from a Committee of Supply, for, in his opinion, it was important, that it should not only proceed direct from that House, but that it should be made annually. He was not only favourable to the vote, but he was an advocate for it in the precise way in which it then stood on several grounds, and, amongst others, on this—the length of its continuance and the circumstances under which it had originally been granted. He would ask, was the present a time in which such a vote ought to be rejected—was it in the year 1834, that a great nation, and a powerful priesthood, should be made to feel, that their loyalty and attachment to British connexion and their native country—that their rejection of foreign offers in times of difficulty and danger—were ungratefully forgotten? Did any hon. Member suppose, that if the money were withdrawn, that immediately thereupon the College at Maynooth would cease to exist? So far from any result of that description being in the remotest degree probable, he had not the slightest difficulty in saying, that if an evil as it now stood, that evil would be immeasurably increased, and that the new institution rising on the ruins of the old, would stand forth disfigured by many defects from which the present establishment was altogether free. No man who possessed the slightest knowledge of Ireland could for a moment doubt, that the population of that country would, as one man, stand forward with pecuniary aid for the support of the Roman Catholic College at Maynooth, influenced as much by a desire to support that institution as by a wish to mark their indignation at any refusal of the customary grant. He had spoken of the matter before the House as one might who conscientiously dissented from the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, for if the question was, whether or not they were now to create a Catholic religion, he should at once say—no; but, having found it in existence, what were they to do? Were they to leave the clergy of that persuasion without suitable means of education? In making these observations, he begged it to be distinctly understood, that he was far from saving, that the college of Maynooth was all that it might advantageously be made. He confessed, he should wish to see a more liberal course of study established there, and a higher class of students attracted to that seat of learning. Before he sat down, he wished to make this other observation, that it was quite a fallacy to suppose, that it was mere cheapness of education which brought students to Maynooth; for the fact was, that education could be obtained upon lower terms abroad than at Maynooth. The right hon. Gentleman, in conclusion, bore testimony to the excellent character of the priesthood educated at Maynooth, and expressed an earnest hope, that in future they would not mix up polemics with politics, for, as had often been well said, religion perverted politics, and politics degraded religion.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

observed, that however desirable it might be to have avoided the discussion altogether, it had now advanced to a point at which it could not be allowed to remain. It was decidedly his opinion, that the main objection to the grant was, its being too small. In consequence of what had fallen from his hon. friend, the member for Caithness, he thought it right to say, that in Scotland there were few persons, indeed, who participated in the sentiments which the House had that evening heard, and to which they must have listened with surprise, and with more than surprise, when they remembered that the people of Ireland so largely contributed to the maintenance of an Established Church from which they derived no advantage.

Mr. Littleton

said, that the only feeling of the Irish Government on the subject was that of regret at so niggardly a grant being made. It was his opinion, that whatever defects might be found in the system of education at Maynooth, they were entirely attributable to the parsimonious scale upon which its expenses were conducted.

Mr. James Johnstone

declared, that as a Protestant, he was adverse to such an application of the public money as was involved in the present vote: as a conscientious Protestant, he could not bring him self to vote away any portion of the public money for the maintenance of that which he believed to be a false religion. He must, therefore, express his hearty concurrence in the statements of the hon. member for Caithness.

Lord Mandeville

said, that the documents of the Roman Catholic Church were decidedly hostile to the existence of Protestantism. The House, if it granted this vote, placed itself in a dilemma, by its maintenance of heresy, for if it could not prove the Catholics heretics, Protestantism must acknowledge itself guilty of schism. From the first moment of his entering that House, he felt the necessity of opposing the grant then under consideration, on the ground that it would be inconsistent in a House, exclusive as that then was, to support a vote which granted money for the purpose of educating a priesthood, the duty of which was to circulate doctrines different from, and hostile to, those which the granters of the money believed to be the true ones. He could not now urge this line of argument, for the House had changed its character, and was no longer exclusively Protestant. It had been insisted that the priests educated at Maynooth exhibited an inclination more favourable to the British connection than those educated on the continent, but there lately occurred a case in Cork, where a priest educated at Maynooth gave but a bad specimen of the system pur- sued there. He did not intend to say, that individual cases formed general rules, but a case of this nature could not be overlooked. At the last Assizes in Cork it had been proved that a priest had connived at the murder of one of his Majesty's subjects, by withholding evidence, which would acquit the accused, and for this purpose he made an evasive use of his sacerdotal privileges; but when the question was put to him, whether the evidence which he withheld was given under the seal of confession, he was obliged to acknowledge that it was not. This was but an individual instance, to be sure, but, coupled with other things, it might serve to argue a general inclination. As to what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Rice) with respect to the year 1834, he (Lord Mandeville) did not see the force of the application. Instead of urging it as a reason for supporting this grant, it was on the contrary an additional one which might be urged in opposition to it, as the circumstance to which it referred furnished new grounds why no grants for the support of any exclusive establishment should be brought before that House.

Mr. Lefroy

allowed every Gentleman in that House full scope for the expression of his opinion, but the same licence which he granted to others, he would also look for at their hands. He felt it due to himself to deliver his conscience from the self-reproach of permitting this vote to pass without an objection. He could not understand the inconsistency of those who, professing one religion, voted funds for the propagation of another, whose doctrines they believed to be erroneous. He believed in the error of these doctrines, and, thus believing, he felt bound in the honesty of his conscientious conviction to oppose the vote, and meet with a decided negative a grant in which, though he might not be able to prevent it, he would not concur.

Mr. Baldwin

was astonished at the opposition given by the hon. and learned Gentleman to so paltry a grant to the teachers of a religion from whom he had in his high professional practice received so many fees, and of whose money he had pocketed far more than the sum now proposed to be granted. The hon. and learned Gentleman was under a mistake when he stated that this grant was made for the propagation of the Catholic religion. The religion was established beyond any power in the State to put it down, and whether this grant was or was not made, its tenets would continue to prevail in Ireland. The question before the House was, not whether it would aid in propagating any religious system, for the system was already fully established, but whether it would assist in yielding to those who were to be its ministers a full and sufficient education to enable them to impart useful instruction to the persons submitted to their ministry. He should not be surprised to hear in his own country such a speech as that delivered by the hon. Gentleman who opposed the grant; but he confessed that in that House he did feel astonished to find a Gentleman of education stand up and say, that he would prefer an uneducated teacher to an instructed one. To convert the Roman Catholic priesthood to any other persuasion of Christianity would be a hopeless task; and it was, therefore, the duty of an enlightened Legislator to afford to those who had the government of the popular mind every facility which would fit them to fulfil their duties in the most beneficial manner. As to the accusations put forth against the Roman Catholics, whether they were uttered by a Scottish or any other Member, he would scorn to rise up in that House to refute or repudiate the charge. "Exterminate" was no term to apply in the way in which it had been applied; and on the part of the Catholic body, he denied, that they had any such intention or wish. All men who believed firmly were anxious to make converts to that belief; and it would scarcely be denied that this was the disposition of all religious sects. Beyond this the Catholic did not go. As to the hon. and learned Gentleman who preceded him (Mr. Lefroy), if he were expressing his own private opinion amongst his friends, he would not make the assertion that it was the wish of the Catholics of Ireland to exterminate the Protestants. It was true, he had not made this assertion himself; but by adopting the sentiments of the hon. Member who preceded him (Mr. Sinclair), he evidently concurred in it. There were other colleges in Ireland for the education of Catholic clergymen, which, even if the grant to Maynooth were withheld, would increase in public patronage, and the propagation of the Catholic religion so dreaded would increase in proportion, whilst at the same time the Irish people would naturally say that they owed nothing to the British Government, which, whilst it extracted so much from the country in so many shapes, was still unwilling to grant a small pittance in return for the education of their clergy. As to the charge against a particular clergyman brought by the noble Lord, the very friends of that clergyman would and did admit, that his conduct in the instance alluded to was censurable; but was the act of an individual to be visited upon a whole body—a whole nation? If such was the standard—if the conduct of an individual was to be the test, he would fearlessly ask in that House what sect, what religion, would be free from the grossest accusation?

Mr. Andrew Johnston

complained, that no intimation had been given that this important vote would be brought on to-night, and declared, that if he only received the support of two Members, he would divide the Committee against it. He had heard no argument adduced in the course of the present discussion which could soothe the conscience of any sincere Presbyterian for voting in favour of the proposed grant. If money was to be voted for the encouragement of Popery, what, he asked, was the use of the Reformation? He was told that Popery had of late years changed its character; but he was at a loss to discover any change which the Roman Catholic religion, unchangeable and infallible as it had ever been assumed to be by those who professed it, had undergone. What was the use of the Articles of the Church of England, or of the Church of Scotland, when so many Members of that House, belonging to both those churches, were ready to support the proposed grant? In the Articles of the Scotch Church he found the doctrines of the Church of Rome stigmatized as idolatrous; and could he then, holding as he did a spiritual office in the Church of Scotland, with any consistency, give his consent to a grant of money to be applied to the instruction of the Roman Catholic Priesthood? He was somewhat surprised to hear the hon. and learned member for Kirkcudbright express his concurrence in the present vote. He fancied that the hon. and learned Member would find, that his constituents entertained a very different opinion on the subject. But the hon. and learned Member had travelled in the East; and he supposed this circumstance had liberalised his ideas, and caused him to reject all those old-fashioned prejudices to which strict and honest Presbyterians still pertinaciously adhered. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland also intended to support the vote; nay, he carried his liber ality still further, for it appeared from the newspapers, that he had been pleased to give a liberal donation towards the build- ing of a Catholic Church. This was doubtless all in keeping with the liberal notions entertained by the right hon. Secretary; but if the right hon. Secretary was a member of the Church of England, all he could say was—"Alas for the principles of the right hon. Secretary!" The hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Treasury, had expressed a hope, that politics and religion might never be united. He hoped, on the contrary, that they never would be separated; for if ever they were, he believed that ruin and desolation would fall on the empire of Britain.

Mr. Spring Rice

denied, that there was anything unfair or unusual in the manner in which the present vote had been brought forward. No different notice than that which had been given on the present occasion had ever been given before, and in fact no different notice could be given, according to the forms of the House. The hon. Member who last spoke also misrepresented the few observations which had fallen from him (Mr. S. Rice). He did not express any wish to separate religious and political feelings; but he had complained of the introduction of polemics into the House of Commons, and nothing that had fallen from the hon. Member had induced him to change his opinion.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

, having been pointedly alluded to by the hon. Member (Mr. A. Johnston), begged to observe, that he was prepared to justify before his constituents every sentiment he had uttered. Those sentiments were, he admitted, liberal; but, he would assert, they were Christian; and he was prepared to vote money for the education, not only of the Catholic clergy, but, if necessary, of the Hindoo priesthood too, because he was convinced that religious instruction tended to civilize men and make them better subjects.

Mr. Brotherton

had heard with pain the sentiments which had fallen from some hon. Members in that House. He felt no objection to the proposed grant; and though not belonging to either the Church of England or the Church of Rome, he was ready to admit, that there was a good deal of truth contained in the doctrines of both. If, however, he felt any objection to the grant of money to a clergy not teaching the same belief as he professed, that objection would apply as strongly against the Church of England as against the Church of Rome.

Mr. Gillon

deeply regretted, that any Scotchman should have given utterance to such sentiments as had fallen from the hon. Member opposite. That hon. Member had asked, what was there to soothe the consciences of Presbyterians for voting in favour of the proposed grant; and he should like, in return, to be informed, what was there to soothe the consciences of the millions of Dissenters of this empire, and the Catholic peasantry of Ireland, who were heavily taxed for the support of doctrines to which they could not give their assent? In his opinion it was highly creditable to Scotland, that so few of her representatives had spoken against the proposed grant. The hon. Member had taken care to inform the House of his holding a spiritual office in the Church of Scotland. That was a fact of which he was aware; and as he voted for the exclusion of the Bishops from the House of Lords, so, on the same principle, did he wish, that the hon. Member was confined to the performance of his spiritual duties.

Mr. Edward Ruthven

denied, that the noble Lord (Mandeville) had formed a proper estimate of the Irish character. The noble Lord, it was true, had made the tour of Ireland—but in what capacity?—as a Methodist preacher; but many itinerant preachers were much better acquainted with the feelings of the people, and more extensively versed in divinity, than the noble Lord.

Mr. O'Reilly

said, that after the attacks which had been made on the Catholic clergy, he was sure, that the Irish people, who could not but apply to themselves the insulting and unjust aspersions cast on their spiritual instructors, would be glad to see the grant withdrawn for the present, and brought forward on another opportunity, with a view to having its merits fully discussed. He for one shared in all the sentiments entertained by the Catholic clergy of Ireland, and he asked the House to decide whether he was inclined to exterminate the Protestants? He protested against the imputation thrown out against the Roman Catholic clergy; and he declared the statement made by the noble Lord (Mandeville), that the Catholics were arrayed against all lawful authority, insulting and unfounded.

Lord Mandeville

was not aware, that he had charged the Catholics with being arrayed against all lawful authority; neither had he imputed to the Catholics a wish to exterminate the Protestants. All that he said was, that they must desire to exterminate the Protestant faith.

The Committee then divided, when there appeared: Ayes 137; Noes 11—Majority 126.

Several other Votes were agreed to, and the House resumed.