HC Deb 05 May 1845 vol 80 cc186-98

Order of the Day read.

The Report on the Maynooth College Bill brought up, and Question put, that the Amendments be read a second time,

Mr. S. Crawford

said, in proposing the Amendment of which he had given notice, that he did not bring forward that Amendment in any spirit of hostility to the Government; and he rejoiced to think that they contemplated other measures beneficial to Ireland. It was generally thought, and he concurred in the opinion, that there would be not only further grants to the Roman Catholics, but that there would be grants to the Protestant Dissenters also. This, however, he did not regard as matter which afforded any ground for congratulation, because he happened to be one of those who thought that there ought not to be any State provision for religious purposes. He would never interfere with men's consciences; and it was an interference with conscience to call on any man to pay for the support of a Church from which he conscientiously dissented. It was tyranny to impose on any man a tax for not conforming to the State religion. The State had a right to levy taxes which were necessary for the maintenance of the laws and for the due administration of justice; but no Government had a right to levy any tax for the purpose of promoting the interests of any particular religion. He thought that the House of Commons was not an assembly, as it was now constituted, to which any religious body ought to defer in matters of doctrine or discipline. The House of Commons was at present composed of men who belonged to every variety of creed; and even the Established Church was divided on a vast variety of subjects, such as whether their ministers should preach in a white or in a black dress; whether they should have at the eastern ends of their churches a stone altar or a table; whether there should be an offertory; whether certain prayers should follow the sermon; where the baptismal font should be placed; and various Other matters of that sort. These were subjects which occupied the attention of Gentlemen in that House as well as out of it; but the results of his own observation led him to this conclusion, that true religion was not to be advanced by the protection of the State, for when ministers of religion received allowances from the Government, they always appeared to be more anxious to serve the State than to serve the Church. If churches were founded by the State, full accommodation should be provided in them for all classes; but no adequate acommodation was at present provided in the churches for the poor, the greater part of the churches being divided into pews. The support of a church by the State led to domination; and the ministers of such a church generally sided against the rights of the poor. Such endowments were opposed to civil and religious liberty. Holding these views, he was of opinion that all State Establishments were against the rights of conscience, prevented the diffusion of truth, were unjust and impolitic; and the proposition which he should submit to the House was a declaration against all kinds of State Endowments, The latter part of his Motion preserved vested rights; and he proposed to enact that those who at present were entitled to emoluments arising from preferments should hold them for life. As these preferments became vacant he should propose that the emoluments should be received into the Consolidated Fund, to be appropriated as Parliament should direct. He should propose that the tithes should afterwards be paid to Commissioners, to be by them paid into the national funds, and be appropriated to such objects as to Parliament should seem meet. He had no idea of extinguishing the tithes for the benefit of the landlords. The sole ground of his opposition to the Maynooth grant was his adherence to the voluntary principle. He conceived that the Irish church could not stand unless it were supported in principle by grants made to other religious bodies; and, as he did not wish to support other religious institutions by endowment, he was anxious that no new grant should be given to any religious body in Ireland or England. He thought that there was a disposition in the leaders on the other side of the Channel to judge very unfairly of the English people. The greater part of the English people who opposed this grant opposed it on the principle of opposition to State establishments. It was, therefore, not fair to say that hostility to a measure on this ground was hostility to Ireland. Those who were opposed to monopolies should be opposed to a religious monopoly, which was as great an evil as any monopoly. He wished to establish the perfect equality of all sects, and not to have a provision by the State for any sect whatever. These were the grounds of his opposition to the grant, and it arose from no feeling of opposition to Ireland. He concluded with moving, as an Amendment— That any provision for the separate or exclusive education of any particular religious denomination, or for the support or endowment of any religious sect or sects by State grants, or funds raised by compulsory assessment, whether under the name of tithes, rents, cesses, taxes, Regium Donum, or under any other name or form whatever, is a violation of the rights of conscience, detrimental to religious truth, and dangerous to civil and religious freedom; and that all such establishments, grants, or endowments now in existence in the United Kingdom ought to be discontinued with as little delay as may be consistent with a due regard to the rights of those who have life interests in the same.

Mr. Hindley

seconded the Motion.

Mr. Williams

was extremely sorry that he could not go along with his hon. Friend. A question of so much importance ought to be brought before the House as a substantive Motion, and not as an Amendment. If his hon. Friend had restricted his Amendment to the first portion of it, that no public money should be voted out of the taxes for any purpose connected with religious establishments, he (Mr. Williams) would have voted for it. That would be a proper Amendment to the Bill before the House. He had supported the Bill, and would shortly-state his reasons for having done so. He had supported it, because of the vast amount of money which was taken out of the pockets of Roman Catholics and Dissenters of Ireland and England, and appropriated to various religious purposes. He was astonished to see the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University, and the hon. Member for Kent, who were such stanch advocates of the interests of the Church of England, oppose this Bill. He would instance some of the sums voted out of the public money for the support of the Established Church, a part of that money coming out of the pockets of the Roman Catholics of Ireland and England. 1,500,000l. was paid for the building of new churches. 1,000,000l. had been taken out of the public funds on an understanding that it was to be repaid, to pay off the arrears of tithes to the clergy; but it had not been repaid. Then looking to the expenditure on the Colonies since 1826, upwards of 400,000l. had been paid out of the public taxes to our West India islands. We were maintaining bishops and clergy of the Church of England at the public expense in almost all our Colonies. 11,600l. had been voted for the clergy in Canada. The hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University had opposed this Bill on the distinct avowal of his hostility to the Catholic religion. Why, then, did not that hon. Baronet object to the giving of 1,000l. a year to the Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec, and 70l. a year to the Roman Catholic bishop of Newfoundland? Was it because the rest of the 11,600l. a year was given to the clergy of the Established Church? Grants of public money for the support of the Church were spread over the whole of the Estimates. They were to be called on that night to vote 109l. for expenses for entertaining the Bishop of Gibraltar on board one of Her Majesty's steam vessels, on his passage from Malta to Lisbon. There were also other sums, amounting to 310l., towards which the Roman Catholics and Dissenters had to pay, for expenses in conveying the same bishop on other excursions (of pleasure, he fancied); and very pleasant excursions no doubt they were. Then, again, there was an item of 147l. for expenses in entertaining the Bishop of Antigua on board Her Majesty's sloop of war. He found 180l. put down for the Bishop of Barbadoes, whose salary was 4,000l. a year. He would not, however, weary the House by going into any further details; but he must say, that the hon. Baronet, while such expenses as those which he had enumerated were defrayed out of the national income, was drawing the string a little too tight in refusing any grant to Maynooth. He had always objected to such grants of the public money; but he had met with little sympathy out of doors, and with no success in his opposition there. He should, however, support the proposed endowment of Maynooth, though he did so with pain, as he was aware that in giving his vote for the measure, he was acting in opposition to the views and sentiments of many persons whose opinions he respected.

Sir R. Inglis

said, that as he had been so pointedly referred to both by word and gesture on the part of the hon. Member for Coventry, he could not refrain from making one or two observations in reply to what had fallen from him. The hon. Member had asked him how he could reconcile the course which he had taken with regard to the present measure, with his acquiescence in the taxation of his Roman Catholic fellow subjects, for the purpose of supporting the religion of others not of that religion? To this he had to reply, that he did not consent to tax the people of the United Kingdom for the support of any one sect; but he consented to expend a portion of the taxes generally levied upon the Church of England, because that Church was not a sect; and he denied the right of any other party to claim the same support. As to the maintenance of a Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec out of the taxes, he had repeatedly stated in that House his reason to be, that eighty years ago, when the province of Canada was annexed to the Crown under a specific Treaty, one of the terms of that Treaty was, that the religion of the Church of Rome should be maintained there; and it was perfectly consistent with the principles which he had always avowed not to desire to disturb an arrangement guaranteed by a treaty, and yet to be opposed to the endowment of a Roman Catholic establishment within the limits of Her Majesty's dominions. He should not follow the hon. Member into the details of expense attendant upon the Colonial bishops' visitations, but he would merely deny that pleasure was the object, as the hon. Member had asserted, of those excursions; and observe, that those right rev. Prelates derived no more pleasure from them than every good and religious man would do from the performance of a duty. The hon. Member for Rochdale had brought forward a proposition in the form of an Amendment which, if affirmed, would strike at the root of all religion. The hon. Member would not deny that he was dealing with the oldest property in the kingdom; a property which referred back to twelve centuries for its foundation; and not only was this the most ancient of the properties of the kingdom, but also its disposition was made for the best and wisest purposes. By its means a body of highly educated men were placed at the service of the people, to whom they were good and useful religious ministers and teachers. The proposition, therefore, he regarded as nothing less than a blow struck at the root of a Church which Providence had established in the land to be a blessing and a guide to it; and, regarding the Amendment in that light, he must oppose it.

Dr. Bowring

said, that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford occupied a most satisfactory and complacent position. He had set himself up as the standard of religious truth. He seemed to think that what he believed must necessarily be true, and what he disbelieved must necessarily be error; and that his conscience and his decision were to guide and rule the Legislature: this was an easy way of settling all questions. "Truth is with me; so give me patronage and protection: error is with all who oppose me; therefore, you must repudiate and exclude them." He (Dr. Bowring) did not think any man had a right to hold such language. The proposition which his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale had brought before the House should have re- ceived his assent, if it had been brought forward as an abstract question; but as he had connected it with another measure before the House, a measure of conciliation and justice, which it would tend to impede or overthrow, he could not concur with him on the present occasion. He could not make civil privileges depend upon regious tests. He did not think, in that House, he had a right to ask any man whether he was a Protestant, a Roman Catholic, a Dissenter, a Mussulman, or a Jew? He had been told that he would sacrifice the honourable position which he held in the estimation of many of his constituents by the vote which he intended giving in favour of the measure proposed by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government; but he had said in reply to that, that he was prepared to run all the risk consequent upon that vote. He thought it was his mission to represent the tolerant — the charitable — the equitable spirit of his constituents; and not what he must deem their erroneous views and prejudiced opinions. He found much to condemn in the arguments by which the Bill had been opposed by its enemies, and in the temper in which it had been accepted by its friends. But it was not his duty to inquire into the aberrations of excited opinions. He asked not whether English bigots would be satisfied, or Irish repealers grateful. Was the measure just and wise? Ought it to conciliate the friendly feelings of the Irish people? Were the purposes of its promoters liberal? Would the Bill work good for Ireland and for the British nation? Would it effectually strengthen the Union? Would it remove grievances? If so, he cared not for the clamours of the intolerant here, nor for the intemperance of the uncandid elsewhere. The measure was in itself a good, and pregnant with other good. It gave something—it promised more—it was part and portion of a system of conciliation. It had been said that Ireland would be unthankful. That was no reason why England should be unjust. He considered the proposed measure a salutary one, because it held out the hand of friendship and good fellowship to Ireland—because it was a step in the right direction toward equality; and for his own part he confesed he had been delighted by the confession of the right hon. Baronet opposite, "that Ireland was not to be conciliated by violence." He fully counted upon the generosity of the people of Ireland to appreci- ate properly the spirit in which those, on his (Dr. Bowring's) side of the House as well as the Government, entertained and introduced that question. He confessed it was distressing to see the excitement which was caused in this country by the agitation against the proposed measure; to see thousands of men banded together at public meetings, and showing that their hatred of Papists and Popery was the sole ground for their opposition to it. He shared in no such antipathies, and would make such hatred no groundwork for his legislation. He should be grieved to find the demons of bigotry and uncharitableness making their way to St. Stephen's from the heated atmosphere of Exeter Hall. The vote he intended to give might endanger or lose him his seat in that House. He should regret to be obliged to differ from a constituency to whom he owed so much, and for whom he entertained so great a feeling of attachment and gratitude; but he could not, in the fair discharge of a conscientious duty, act otherwise than give his full support to the measure of the right hon. Baronet in every stage of its progress through that House, and take upon himself all the consequences which a faithful adhesion to the principles of civil and religious liberty might bring down upon him.

General Johnson

was sorry the Motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale was so worded, as, in its present form, he could not give it his support. He had no objection to a grant to Maynooth, even of a much larger amount than that proposed, if taken from the ecclesiastical revenues of Ireland. He only objected to the source from which it was intended to take it.

Mr. Hume

would take that opportunity of making a suggestion to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, and also of asking him whether it would not be desirable to have laymen educated in the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth, as well as those intended for the priesthood? He had understood that formerly laymen were educated in it, and it would be, in his opinion, most advisable if it were still to be continued a general educational institution, and to have it open, as it were, for the education of all classes, laymen as well as those intended for the ecclesiastical profession. He had received several letters in reference to his observations on this subject in that House, and he had always expressed his belief that this was an educational establishment, and, therefore, he denied that the grant to it was an endowment, as it had been called. He had been always opposed to what was so designated. He supported that Bill with great satisfaction, because he was favourable to the extension of education in every part of the globe, as a means of enabling people to become better subjects; and if education was so important an object to the people, how much more essential was it that those who taught 7,000,000 of the Irish people should themselves be enlightened and educated! He believed, in his support of this measure, like his hon. Friend near him (Dr. Bowring), he should not agree with many of his constituents; but he would do the Presbyterian portion of them the justice to say that they did not concur in the opposition to the Bill—the great majority of the petitions which he had presented against it having been from Wesleyans, Independents, and Members of the Free Church. He regretted that the Protestant Dissenters in this country should make so bad a return to the Roman Catholics, for the manner in which the latter had come forward to assist them in their struggles for civil and religious rights. The hon. Baronet opposite, the Member for Oxford, had raised a cry against this measure, which would be equally efficient against the Protestant Church Establishment of this country; and he should take care, lest it might be used against the Church of England, as it was now against the Maynooth grant. For his own part, he was not indisposed to see the principle contended for carried out; for he was generally of opinion that religion was not benefited by a connexion with the State. He could not vole for the proposition of his hon. Friend, because it was an Amendment that might endanger the success of the Bill then under the consideration of the House; but if his hon. Friend would bring it forward as a separate question, he should give it his support.

Sir R. Peel

The question which has been put to me by the hon. Member involves a matter of considerable importance. I apprehend that there is nothing whatever in former acts, nor in the present measure, necessarily imposing an obligation upon the State to provide education exclusively for ministers of the Roman Catholic religion. If the education of Maynooth has been of an exclusive kind, and if it has been practically confined to the priesthood, I must say that the Roman Catholic body are not the party who are responsible for that circumstance. I stated on a former evening, that when in 1795 the proposal was made for establishing a college for the education of Roman Catholics only, it was not then implied that the students should necessarily be candidates for the priesthood. But, the original proposal being for an institution for the education of Roman Catholics only, Mr. Grattan presented a petition from the Roman Catholic body, protesting against the exclusive character intended to be given to the College. He referred to the admission of Roman Catholics into the University of Dublin, and quoted the petition, which expressed a wish that the new institution about to be founded should not be for Roman Catholics only, but that Protestants should be admitted into it, because of the great advantages which they conceived would result from the joint education of the two classes. The Legislature, however, did not act upon that petition of the Roman Catholic body, but determined that the College should be confined to the education of Roman Catholics, without specifying that it was necessarily intended for the priesthood; and so the Act passed. In point of fact, the original superintendence of the College did attach a lay school to it; and it was in consequence of the interference of the Executive that that lay school was suppressed. Therefore there was no desire upon the part of the Roman Catholics that the institution should be exclusively for the priesthood, and there was nothing in the present Bill imposing any such obligation. But, practically, it has been so; and I believe will continue to be so. But before hon. Gentlemen condemn the exclusive character of that institution, I would beg to read a letter which has been quoted in the course of this debate, addressed by Mr. Burke to a Roman Catholic nobleman in 1779, stating very strong reasons, if there were to be a College at Maynooth to educate the Roman Catholics, why it should be confined to the priesthood. Mr. Burke said:— When we are to provide for the education of any body of men, we ought seriously to consider the particular functions they are to perform in life. A Roman Catholic clergyman is the minister of a very ritual religion, and, by his profession, subject to many restraints. His life is a life full of strict observances, and his duties are of a laborious nature towards himself, and of the highest possible trust towards others. The duly of confession alone is sufficient to set in the strongest light the necessity of his having an appropriate mode of education. If a Roman Catholic clergyman, intended for celibacy and the functions of confession, is not strictly bred in a seminary where these things are respected, inculcated, and enforced as sacred, and not made the subject of derision and obloquy, he will be ill fitted for the former, and the latter will be indeed in his hands a terrible instrument. That was the opinion of Mr. Burke—an opinion which I apprehend mainly influenced the Executive Government of the day to give to the institution, not only an exclusive character so far as Roman Catholics were concerned, but exclusive as regarded the education of the priesthood. Mr. Burke went on to say in the same letter that he doubted whether it would be an advantage to laymen to be subjected to the same rules and discipline as those students who were intended for the Church. I have, therefore, only to repeat that there is nothing in this Bill which imposes the necessity of maintaining the exclusive ecclesiastical character of the College of Maynooth; but I should deceive the House were I to hold out the expectation that there was any likelihood of a departure from the course which has hitherto been pursued. Indeed, upon reading and considering the arguments of Mr. Burke in favour of an exclusively ecclesiastical education, I am disposed to admit that they are deserving of great weight.

Mr. Hindley

would not detain the House long, but he could not allow that opportunity to pass without protesting against the charge of ingratitude which had been made against the Dissenters. They had given their aid in obtaining Catholic Emancipation; but they felt that it was utterly impossible, if the Bill before the House passed, to resist the endowment of the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland. He contended for the voluntary principle; and believed it was impossible to govern Ireland by maintaining the Church of the minority as the endowed Church of that country. He believed the voluntary system was the only one by which they could really carry out the vital principles of the Christian religion. He had, on a former occasion, shown that between three and four millions of money had been raised in this country on the voluntary principle. Its triumph was manifest, from the progress of the London Missionary Society, as would appear from the following facts: for the first ten years after the formation of that society, the sum which had been raised for evangelizing the heathen abroad, amounted to 47,000l.; in the next ten years 87,000l. were raised; in the third ten years the sum which the Society obtained was 280,000l.; in the fourth ten years the amount had reached 407,000l.; and in the last ten years it had been about 800,000l. He had that day been attending the annual meeting of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, and it was there stated that the sum of 105,000l. had been raised for the conversion of the heathen within the last year; of which amount about 1,200l. had been contributed by the emancipated slaves in the island of Jamaica; thus showing that these Christians had found the power of religion to be so strong, that they had felt themselves constrained to apply so large a portion of their pecuniary resources for its promotion. The strength of the voluntary principle was such, that he was convinced it would be equal to the preservation and promotion of the Christian religion, under the blessing of God. He was delighted to read in one of the journals of the day, a statement which had been made by a right rev. Prelate in another place, who said that the time had arrived when the Church should no longer put its confidence in Princes, but trust to the blessing of God, and endeavour to be established in the hearts of the people. And, wishing as he did, prosperity to the Church of England, he should rejoice to see the time when she would be so supported, and be left to pursue "the even tenor of her way," trusting solely to the blessing of the Almighty. An argument had been used that it was necessary for the well-being of the State, that the Church should be united to it. His opinion was that the connexion between the two ought not to be continued; its object was to link together things which could not in their own nature be properly connected—the one was of a spiritual character, whilst the other belonged solely to temporal power—the one had reference to divine and eternal things, and the other concerned only the affairs of time and temporal objects.

The House divided on the Question that the words proposed stand part of the Question:—Ayes 141: Noes 2; Majority 139.

List of the NOES.
Duncombe, T. Crawford, S.
Wakley, T. Hindley, C.

Amendments read a second time. Bill to be read a third time.