HC Deb 08 August 1836 vol 35 cc1013-21

On the question that a sum not exceeding 38,500l. be granted for the advancement of education in Ireland,

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

said, he could not give a silent vote upon the proposed grant. It was understood that there was to be another vote of 11,000l. in addition to an outlay of a similar sum for remodelling Tyrone House. He considered the vote as a most extravagant one, but he did not rise so much on that account as for the purpose of expressing his unqualified disapprobation at the mode in which this system of education was worked in Ireland. The system was not conducted on the plan originally proposed by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley). It was stated by that noble Lord to be intended as an united system of education—modelled on religious education. Now, he would take upon himself to say, that this system, so far from being an united system, was exclusively Roman Catholic—he did not mean to say, that there were not a few Protestants attending the schools—but he maintained that the great body of the persons attending them were of the Roman Catholic persuasion. He could also state, that schools were under such superintendence that it was utterly impossible that Protestant parents could send their children to be instructed at them. It was placed beyond all controversy that twenty-four of the schools receiving aid from the Education Board were placed under the superintendence of monks and nuns, and he would put it to the House whether, under such circumstances, it was not quite a farce to suppose, that a united system of education could be imparted to Protestants and Roman Catholics? In that respect the experiment had been an utter failure, inasmuch as neither Protestants nor Presbyterians could conscientiously permit their children to attend schools conducted as these schools necessarily must be. He did not mean to divide the Committee upon the grant—but he hoped an investigation would be instituted to ascertain how far the rules had been adhered to, and how far the children of various persuasions were in the course of receiving education at these schools. He was afraid the result of the inquiry would prove that, under the present plan, it was impossible to carry on a system of united education. So exclusively Roman Catholic were these schools in their character, that they were familiarly called the priests' schools—and he complained of that state of the new system of education, because the Protestants of the country ought to be more regarded. This system, being exclusively Roman Catholic, he saw no reason why Parliament should not allocate some funds for the instruction of the Protestants. The Protestants of Ireland had been considerably underrated, and he had not the least doubt that they amounted to 2,000,000. [Laughter from the Ministerial Benches.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but he had data to prove that to be nearly the actual number. But, at all events, the Protestants of Ireland were a body sufficient to demand respect, and he trusted their interests would not be wholly slighted. He must again express a hope, that an investigation might be instituted—the rather as the hon. Member for Weymouth (Mr. F. Buxton), not then in his place, had stated, when the appropriation clause was under discussion, that he would not consent to it unless the charges preferred against the Board of Education should be investigated and proved to be groundless.

Dr. Bowring

protested against any re- ligious distinctions being drawn between the people of Ireland when they were legislating for the general good.

Colonel Sibthorp

said, his hon. and learned Friend had complained of that very practice; he had complained that the schools had been made exclusively Roman Catholic.

Mr. Chisholm

said, the Government of the country was a Protestant Government, and, therefore, the Ministry was bound to support the Protestant Church and system of education. It was against popery that Protestants especially protested, and as long as he had the honour of a seat in that House he should never forget that essential principle of Protestantism.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

thought, the hon. and learned Member for Bandon might as well have said the Protestants of Ireland were 3,000,000 as 2,000,000. It would have been much more satisfactory if he had laid his finger on any particular parish, and proved the inaccuracy of the Commissioners' returns in respect to the number of Protestants. It was true that the schools were called "priests' schools," but only by those Protestants who had done everything to keep up party distinctions, and to defeat the efforts which had been made to render the system of education united and generally acceptable.

Colonel Perceval

said, he considered that the hon. and learned Sergeant had been rather more severe upon his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bandon, than the circumstances warranted. The hon. and learned Sergeant accused his hon. Friend of dealing too largely in assertion, and on the instant the learned Sergeant dealt more largely in assertion himself than had his hon. Friend near him. The hon. and learned Gentleman had asserted that the opposition to those schools emanated from his hon. Friend the Member for Bandon; but the fact was, that the Protestants of Ireland ceased to attend these schools because they were held in Roman Catholic chapels. He could state an instance of his own knowledge. He had named it before, and had no objection to do so again. The school to which he alluded was held in the chapel of Ballymoate, the parish in which he resided. He had himself visited the school, and he supposed it would not be denied that it was one of the rules of the Education Board that no religious books or catechism should be used. Now the first book he took up in the school was a Roman Catholic Catechism. As to the number of Protestants in Ireland being considerably underrated, he would beg leave to give a reason for coinciding in the opinion as to that point expressed by his hon. and learned Friend. In the parish in which he (Colonel Perceval) resided, the Roman Catholic priest returned only one Protestant for the whole parish, and that one was himself. He happened to have a wife and nine children, not one of whom was a member of the Church of Rome. He had at the time upwards of thirty Protestants residing within the walls of his demesne, including his family, gate-keeper, ? and he could add that he was present at the parish church last Easter Sunday, when he saw 180 Protestant communicants; and still the priest's return was limited to one Protestant, and that one he himself was. So much for the accuracy of the returns. He hesitated not to say, that if the grant were worded perfectly, it should be headed "a grant for the Education of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland." As it was it was absurd to call the system a united system.

Viscount Morpeth

wished to know if the Commissioners adopted the particular return alluded to by the hon. and gallant Member.

Colonel Perceval

believed that they did not; but there were places in Ireland where the testimony of the Roman Catholic priest on this and other subjects was implicitly relied on.

Lord Clements

was sure, that if the Education Board had been made acquainted with the case, they would have interfered.

Mr. French

wished to call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the fact, that 50,000l. was the sum agreed upon as the amount to be granted for education in Ireland, and he regretted that sum was not the amount to be voted at present. By the Report of the Commissioners it appeared that 400 applications for Sunday schools had been made, but owing to want of funds they were unable to comply, and the Commissioners were also unable to procure proper teachers for the schools, owing to the limited sums they were at present able to give them.

Mr. Dillon Browne

said, the grant was opposed solely to obtain an opportunity for calumniating, the Catholics.

Colonel Perceval

denied that he had calumniated the Roman Catholics. He stated that the priest returned to a constable named Thompson the return of the Protestants in his (Colonel Perceval's) parish, and that return amounted only to one. Thompson returned the statement on oath.

Mr. Shaw

agreed with those hon. Friends who had preceded him, that at that advanced period of the Session, and in the then thin state of the House, it would be in vain to divide against the grant to the Board of National Education in Ireland. He could not, however, content himself without again recording his opinion against the system pursued by that Board, as one which was opposed to the conscientious feelings of the great majority of the Irish Protestants, and which he believed never could promote united education in that country. He could, if it were not unnecessary to trouble the House with them at that time, adduce innumerable instances in which the rules of the Board were violated in the schools in connexion with them. He did not mean to say, as seemed to be assumed by his noble Friend (Lord Clements), as the argument of those who agreed with him (Mr. Shaw), that the Board refused to listen to complaints on that subject. That was really not the question. The insuperable objection in his (Mr. Shaw's) mind, to the system was, that it formed a fundamental part of it that the Bible, in its simple and entire form, was excluded from the national schools, when alone they could be considered as such. If it was said, that extracts were allowed, his answer was, that that would not obviate the objection, even if those extracts were fairly made; but he was bound to add that they were not, in his opinion, fairly made, but such as might justly be termed garbled. He was as desirous as any one could be for the success of an united and harmonious system of education for the poor in Ireland; but he was persuaded that such a system, so far as regarded Protestants, never could be successful if based upon the anti-Protestant ground of the exclusion of the Word of God. For his part, he had no doubt that the plan of the Kildare-place society would before then have been generally adopted and successful throughout Ireland, but for the party and political motives which influenced the opposition it had met with. Of one thing he was sure, that without the help of the appropriation clause in the Irish Tithe Bill, there was no desire on either side of the House to refuse from considerations of economy, whatever sum of money might be required for the purpose of education in Ireland. He would certainly prefer that separate grants should be made to Protestants and Roman Catholics, if no system of united education could be agreed upon, rather than that the present delusion should be countenanced of supporting under the name of a system of general education, a scheme which virtually excluded from its benefits the poor Protestants of Ireland.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

said, that the hon. and learned Member for Cashel had made some personal allusion to him, and he therefore felt bound to offer a few observations in reply. If that hon. and learned Gentleman had been in his place on a former occasion, he would have heard him expose the erroneous nature of the returns which the Commissioners of Public Instruction had made to that House. He contended that the returns made by the Commissioners of public Instruction were not deserving of the credit which they too frequently received; and, in his opinion formed no safe ground for legislation. He should trouble the House with but one or two examples to show how little they were to be depended on. Upon a former occasion he stated that a parish in Kerry—the same arish in which the hon. and learned Gentleman who now represented Kilkenny resided—had been returned by the Commissioners as containing but forty-nine Protestant inhabitants, which was one under the number that, according to a Bill of which the House must have full recollection, would be required, to secure to a parish the benefit of Christian instruction by a minister of the Church of England. Now it happened that very shortly after those returns were in the hands of Members he was handed a letter by his friend, the Knight of Kerry, informing him, on the authority of the clergyman of that parish, that the number of members of the Church of England resident therein, amounted to fifty-six at the time the returns were made, and had since then been augmented to sixty-three. He had likewise called the attention of the House to the case of a parish of which the son of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was the incumbent, and in that return 300 Protestants of the Established Church were suppressed. The census of one of the parishes in Dublin was taken in July, when the greater part of the Protestant inhabitants were at the watering place of Bray, and the census of the parish of Bray was taken in October, when they had all returned to town, so that no place got credit for possessing that portion of the Protestants of Ireland. Another instance he was supplied with by Mr. Barnard, in which the return made by the Commissioners was fifty under the number of Protestants actually residing in the parish. Every person must be aware, that it must be much more easy to ascertain the precise number of schools in Ireland than to obtain anything like a correct census of the Protestant population, scattered as they were over the whole face of the country. Now, the Commissioners returned the number of schools, in connexion with the Kildare-place Society, as amounting altogether to only 235, whereas to his (Mr. J.'s) positive knowledge they exceeded 1000. Their return set forth, that in three dioceses there was not a single school in connexion with the Society; whereas in the very district named there were 300 schools, being a larger number than the Commissioners gave the Society credit for having in all Ireland. Now, where a blunder of such a nature was manifest, it was not unreasonable to suppose that errors to an enormous amount had crept into the census of the Protestant population. With respect to the charge preferred against him by the hon. and learned Member for Cashel, of keeping away children from the school, he denied having ever interfered to keep a single person away from them. The hon. Member for Mayo had said, that the grant was opposed solely with a view of calumniating the Roman Catholics. It had never been his (Mr. Sergeant Jackson's) habit to calumniate any person, and least of all had he that night calumniated the Roman Catholics.

Viscount Morpeth

observed, in reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last, that he had thought the testimony already laid before the House on the subject of the parish in Kerry would have been considered quite sufficient: he thought before, as he did now, that the difference between forty-nine and fifty-six being only seven, had been sufficiently accounted for, and he should therefore not trouble the House with any remarks on the subject. As to the discovery which the hon. and learned Gentleman made with respect to the parish at Bray, he wished him joy of it, and hoped that on some future occasion he would explain to the House how it was possible for persons to be returned as in a parish which at the time the return was made they did not inhabit. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for the University of Dublin, had represented the version of the Scriptures used in the Schools under the sanction of Government, as consisting of garbled extracts; to that he begged permission to observe in reply that much higher authorities in matters of religion than the right hon. Gentleman held a totally different opinion, and by those authorities he felt much more disposed to abide than by the assertion of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

wished to say, that what he had charged some hon. Gentleman on the other side with was, having proclaimed to the Protestants of Ireland that the Government system of education was subversive of their faith. They complained that the Protestants were supplied with nothing but a mutilated version of the Scriptures, and they certainly did all they could to prevent Protestant children from attending the Schools.

Mr. Shaw

must insist, notwithstanding the observations of the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) that he had properly termed the extracts made by the Education Board garbled, at least as compared with the authorised version of the Scriptures. He believed, that in nine cases out of ten when the authorised and Rhemish versions differed, the latter had been followed by the Commissioners. The noble Lord boasted of the Board containing able scholars and divines—that might be true—but would the noble Lord venture to assert that such a Board as that was to be regarded by the Protestant people of these countries as a tribunal competent to undertake the great and important work of a new translation of the Bible of the Church of England?

Mr. Archdale

considered the establishment of a national system of education had been hitherto proposed and maintained as an experiment—that the experiment had proved a complete failure—and to ask for it now the support and protection of the Legislature, was to ask, that the public money should be largely applied for the gratification of the Roman Catholic priests, and the propagation of Popery in Ireland. The scheme had been rejected and denounced both by the Protestants of the establishment and the Presbyterian Church, and was notoriously perverted—if it could be called perversion, and not the natural operation of the system—for the purpose of extending the dominion of the Church of Rome. He perfectly agreed with his gallant Friend (Colonel Perceval) that it would be better if the Roman Catholics must have money, to let them have it avowedly for the support of their own un-scriptural and superstitious system. He (Mr. Archdall) did not consider it possible that the religion of Scripture, and that of human authority and tradition, could be brought together into one common system of national education—the former would be corrupted by the foul contagion, and the result would be to endanger the existence of true religion.

Vote agreed to.

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