HC Deb 16 June 1845 vol 81 cc626-32
Sir James Graham

moved that the Report on the Colleges (Ireland) Bill be brought up.

Mr. Bernal Osborne

postponed the Resolution of which he had given notice, until the Motion for the third reading of the Bill, in order to afford the right hon. the Recorder of Dublin an opportunity of being present on the occasion.

Sir James Graham

postponed the statement he had intended to give that evening with reference to this Bill, until the Motion for going into Committee upon it. That Motion would be made on Thursday next, immediately after the Enclosure Bill was disposed of. The alterations he contemplated were of considerable importance.

Mr. Hume

objected to postponing the measure in any way. He was of opinion that the reason which had been urged for the postponement of the Bill, was a good ground for proceeding with the Committee on Thursday next.

Mr. Sheil

said, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny had taken for his motto, "religio mihi nulla est." He appeared to think that the object of the measure was to provide secular education for the students at those Colleges; but the Government had stated that they did not look upon it in that light, and that they were anxious to give facilities for religious instruction. When the measure was at first proposed, he (Mr. Sheil) expressed a fear that on this, as on former occasions, a great mistake had been committed in not consulting the Catholic hierarchy—that was an error in policy, it was a signal error, and the consequences of it would be, he feared, most pernicious. After the introduction of the measure, a synod of the bishops took place, and a memorial was agreed to which condemned the Bill in very important particulars, but they gave the Government credit for good motives, and they referred in proof of those motives to the Maynooth Bill. Since that memorial was agreed to, the Government had been called upon to state how far they acceded to the views which had been put forward on that occasion; and the Government undertook a new consideration of some of the details, the effect of which was to produce certain alterations in the measure. The right hon. Baronet had been asked two questions on Friday by him (Mr. Sheil) with reference to this Bill. One was, whether he would consent to the appointment of Roman Catholic and Protestant chaplains, who were to be paid by the State, to attend those Colleges; and the other was, whether it was intended to propose any alteration with respect to the power of the Crown in appointing the professors. The right hon. Gentleman did not then answer those questions; but the right hon. Gentleman stated that he was prepared to answer the question, and he only postponed it as he believed it would be a more appropriate time to answer it when the Bill should be before the House on Monday (yesterday). He (Mr. Sheil) accordingly came down to the House on that evening with the full conviction that the right hon. Baronet would be prepared to afford information as to whether the Government intended to introduce any alteration with respect to those two important particulars. If the right hon. Gentleman thought that further time was required, of course he (Mr. Sheil) could not expect an answer on that occasion; but he would take that opportunity of asking whether the Government had taken advantage of the delay which had occurred to communicate to the Roman Catholic bishops the alterations which they proposed, and whether they had received the assent of the Catholic bishops to those alterations?

Mr. Colquhoun

did not see the necessity of calling in to their aid in such a measure the opinions of any hierarchy, much less a hierarchy who had not concealed or disguised their open and avowed approval of political agitation in Ireland, and who gave powerful and efficient assistance to that agitation, as the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. O'Connell) could testify—a hierarchy who were pledged to an agitation, the effect of which would be to destroy the integrity of the Empire. [Mr. O'Connell: No.] They were the active supporters of that agitation. [An hon. Member: Dr. Murray was not one.] If hon. Members allowed him to proceed, they would have an opportunity of replying to him; but he would remind them that he was not then on the floor of Conciliation Hall—he was speaking to an assembly of Gentlemen; and whether he differed from them in opinion or not, he was confident they would not attempt to put him down in any other way than by replying to him. Whatever was the opinion of the Irish hierarchy with respect to this subject, he hoped the House would decide it, as it was their duty, on principles of sound policy alone. If Ministers, when they had introduced a system of secular education like this on their own responsibility, departed from it in consequence of what had taken place, he should regret it; for such a course would be calculated to raise an opposition to the Bill more formidable than any which it had yet experienced; for hon. Members near him had stated that the Catholic hierarchy were not the advocates of Repeal agitation; but if he asked the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. O'Connell) whether such was the case, he would no doubt answer in the affirmative. Was the hon. Member near him aware that a Catholic archbishop could deprive a priest of his functions, if he disapproved of the course which he took? If such were the case, how, then, could the hon. Member say that the Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland were not favourable to agitation?

Mr. O'Connell

I don't mean to agitate the question of Repeal on this occasion; and I will, therefere, only say that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is a very bad theologian—an exceedingly bad theologian—and being so very bad, it would be well worth his while to inquire a little into the facts before he makes statements on such subjects as that of which he has just been speaking. No Catholic bishop in Ireland could deprive a priest of his functions after a formal induction, or a triennial possession. The hon. Member for Montrose has spoken of the interference of the Catholic bishops, as if they wished to interfere with a system of education for Protestants, but they have done no such thing. I should be happy to hear of Protestant bishops interfering to secure religious education of Protestant children—of Presbyterian clergymen interfering to secure the religious education of Presbyterian children; and I claim the same right for the Catholics; namely, that the Catholic bishops shall be permitted to take care of the religious education of the Catholic children. I thank the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Inglis) for the admirable description which he gave of this measure when he called it "a gigantic scheme of godless education;" and as regards the alleged success of the system on the Continent, so far am I from assenting to that allegation, that I think nothing can be more unsuccessful than the efforts of those who seek to exclude from education religion, which should be the basis of it. I believe that religion ought to be the basis of education; and I came over from Ireland for no other purpose than humbly to represent the necessity of making religion the basis of education, to establish it not only as a part, but an essential part of it. I sincerely hope and desire that the discussion of this subject will be carried on with good temper and good feeling, and that we shall not imitate the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Colquhoun) in adopting such a tone, and making unfounded assertions of others who are absent. He boasted two or three times that he was a gentleman, and I think it would be far more consistent with the character of a gentleman if he had acted with more courtesy towards the Catholic bishops. He says that he is not in Conciliation Hall. He is not, it is true, and I should like to know what business he could have in Conciliation Hall, or any conciliation assembly. I must again express a hope that the discussion of this measure will be conducted with perfect courtesy and good humour, and I can pledge myself that such will be the case so far as I am concerned.

Sir J. Graham

agreed with the last observation of the hon. and learned Member. He hoped they would discuss the Bill with perfect good temper. It was far from the intention of the Government to interfere with the Roman Catholic religion. The hon. Member for Newcastle said that it would be unworthy of the House to commit the sole discussion of this Bill to any body of prelates, however respectable. To that feeling he subscribed; but, at the same time, he must observe that the Irish Protestants had ample provision made for them in Trinity College, and that the present measure must be deeply and peculiarly interesting to the Roman Catholic prelates. It was a question touching a large portion of the Roman Catholic population, and he was prepared to declare that he did think the opinions of the ministers of the Roman Catholic Church ought to be received with respect; he did not say with humble deference, but at all events with respectful attention. In answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvon, he had to say that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland did receive from the Roman Catholic prelates a written memorial, and that in addition to that written memorial the Lord Lieutenant had the honour of receiving a deputation. The Lord Lieutenant conferred with those prelates: he entered largely into the subject, and he had reason to hope that some of their objections were mitigated by the explanations he had given. The consequence of that conference was, the Amendments which he had laid on the Table of the House. Since that no further direct intercourse had taken place between the Lord Lieutenant and the prelates. With respect to further alterations, he would not say, and it would not be fitting to say, that they had been submitted to the Roman Catholic prelates. The plan which had been submitted by the Government was a plan for collegiate education, from which religions instruction was excluded within the walls; whilst, at the same time, every facility was given to that religious instruction out of the walls with the aid of private endowment. There would be ample opportunities of discussing the details in Committee, and there should be full time given before the third reading for the opinion of Ireland to be given upon them. He would not propose the third reading till after a reasonable time; but considering the period of the Session, and considering that he and his Colleagues attached great importance to the measure and to its becoming law in the present Session, he hoped he would not betray undue haste if he did not postpone the further progress of this Bill beyond Thursday.

Mr. Wyse

had not understood that religious instruction was to be excluded from these Colleges; but that every facility should be given to individuals to endow chairs of religion in the Colleges.

Sir J. Graham

said, it was the intention of the Government to adhere to the 15th Clause of the Bill, which gave facilities for lectures out of private endowments within the walls of the Colleges, subject to the control of the governing body and the approval of the Crown, but with no endowment from the State.

Mr. O'Connell

If they had not religious instruction, the instruction would be worth nothing whatever.

Sir W. James

observed, that whether Dr. Murray was a Repealer or not, he had always abstained from violent political agitation; and he would ever speak of such conduct in a clergyman of any communion with sincere, hearty, and unfeigned respect. But he could understand, and to a certain extent sympathize with the objections of the Roman Catholic prelates, because pursuits of a purely literary and scientific character might alienate the mind from those subjects which addressed the heart rather than the intellect. The Bill, too, had been unwisely named; it was properly a Bill for providing literary and scientific institutions. It did not profess to give education, and it certainly was not collegiate; it supposed that religious instruction was given elsewhere. Still he should be glad to see the Bill assume more of a religious character. Unhappily, our lot was cast in days when every theologian must become a politician, and every politician a theologian.

Sir D. Norreys

thought there was an end to all hope of mixed education if the opinion of the Roman Catholic bishops was to be received as decisive by the laity.

Mr. Roche

observed, that this incidental discussion had better terminate; it was for the interest of all to come to an agreement on the question.

Mr. A. J. B. Hope

thought the statement of the right hon. Baronet might as well have been made to-night, and then the House would have come to the discussion on Thursday prepared.

The Amendments proposed by Sir J. Graham were then read a second time. The Report of the Resolution (for a grant out of the Consolidated Fund) was received, and the Committee on the Bill was appointed for Thursday.

Adjourned at half-past ten o'clock.