HC Deb 14 June 1852 vol 122 cc698-704

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to be made to Question [11th May], "That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the system of Education carried on at the College of Maynooth:"—(Mr. Spooner:)—And which Amendment was to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will resolve itself into a Committee, for the purpose of considering of a Bill for repealing the Maynooth Endowment Act, and all other Acts for charging the Public Revenue in aid of ecclesiastical or religious purposes,"—(Mr. Anstey,)—instead thereof.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.


said, that after hon. Gentlemen had refused to read his Bill in respect to polling places in counties, on account of the lateness of the hour, it was most inconsistent to press this question at ten minutes past two o'clock. He should, therefore, move the adjournment of the debate.


said, he should oppose the Motion for adjournment, which he treated as another obstacle thrown in the way of a decision on the Maynooth debate. The Members on his (the Government) side of the House were very much interested in the question, and were prepared to take a division upon it, which might go forth to the country as the expression of opinion by the House.


said, the absence of Members proved the unexpectedness of this discussion, at least on the Opposition side of the House, at the same time he would suggest the impropriety of the Government consenting to allow any division to be taken at that hour of the night. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) was absent, for instance; yet that noble Lord had an Amendment on the Motion, proposing that a Commission should be appointed instead of a Committee to conduct the inquiry; and, as it was a farce to suppose that any Committee could sit that Session, of course the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) meant to alter his Motion, so that the Vote should be, whether or not the management at Maynooth was a fit subject for inquiry. With such benches, a division would be no test of the opinion of the House.


said, he should certainly take the division. He had heard of no such Amendment as that attributed to the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell); it was not on the paper. He himself could not alter his Motion; he had no power. This question of adjournment was interdicted. It was the wish on that (the Government) side to divide on the main question.


said, the course taken by the hon. Member was of a piece with the whole conduct pursued in reference to this question. The hon. Member had told him that he would not bring on the debate that night.


begged to explain that what he said to the hon. Member was, that he did not expect the debate would come on, but he would bring it on if he had an opportunity.


said, after his conversation with the hon. Member, a clear impression was left on his mind that the question would not be brought forward; and many hon. Members, to whom he had spoken, had left under that impression.


said, it was the most unfair proceeding he had ever heard of, to propose a division on such an important question at that hour and in the then state of the House. It was clear the Government wanted to steal a division, so as to make a show out of doors.


said, the House would recollect the character of the last discussion on this subject. It was intended on the last occasion to defeat discussion, and he had expressed his determination to take the sense of the House on the question. He should consider that those hon. Members who voted for the adjournment were opposed to inquiry.


protested against the debate being resumed at this very late hour, near three o'clock in the morning, and after the House had been sitting from twelve o'clock at noon on the previous day. He objected altogether to a division upon this Motion for an adjournment being regarded as any decision of the main question. Such a decision would come entirely by surprise upon those Irish and English Members who had already left the House under the conviction that no important business could be transacted at that very advanced hour. The debate on this great question had occupied only a portion of one evening and of two morning sittings, and but three or four Roman Catholic Members had as yet been heard upon it. It was all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite, who had had full opportunities, both in and out of the House, for ventilating every abominable imputation against the Catholic religion and the College of Maynooth, to desire now to come to a premature decision before those slanders had received their full exposure. He had taken an opportunity, some weeks since, to state distinctly that, although he did not object to, but on the contrary desired, an impartial and searching inquiry, he should certainly require to have the matter fully discussed, and should resist any inquiry of an unfair or insulting character. He did not consider that the true circumstances connected with the College of Maynooth had been as yet sufficiently laid before the House, so as to enable it to form a correct judgment. He could assure them, that in submitting the remarks he had already made, he had been actuated solely by a wish to supply material information, and not by any desire to protract discussion. Should the debate be resumed at a future day, he would feel it necessary to submit some further observations, which he would endeavour to compress into the shortest compass. This, however, was not the hour at which to renew so important a debate, although it might be an appropriate time for those who meditated such a deed of darkness as this plundering inquiry. It was exceedingly harassing to Irish Members to remain here night after night, as they had frequently done during several weeks past, watching the movements of the two Members for North Warwickshire up to two and three, and sometimes near four o'clock in the morning, acting upon the caution conveyed in the well-known lines of Horace:— Ut jugulent hominem surgunt de nocte latrones; Ut teipsum serves non expergisceris? He observed an unusual array of Members of the Government occupying the Ministerial benches, as if through some preconcerted arrangement with the Member for North Warwickshire, and to assist him in carrying out this unworthy surprise upon absent Members. He thought the Government ought not to sit silent on this occasion, but that some Member of it should rise and state their feelings in regard to the present proceeding. A few night since he had heard the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer interpose at two o'clock in the morning, for the purpose of stating that in his opinion the House had sat quite long enough. He wanted now to know the opinion of the same right hon. Gentleman, in regard to a continuance of the Maynooth debate at this most unseasonable hour, after other business had been already postponed, and when another measure affecting Ireland was fixed for twelve o'clock the same morning. He was aware that the Government had hitherto acted upon the policy of endeavouring to conceal their real sentiments in regard to all great public questions, including the continuance of the Maynooth grant, as to which the Premier had stated that he had "no present intentions" on the subject. He thought, however, that delusive system of concealment could not fail to be seen through at the coming elections, and that the country might well apply to the present silence of the Government those lines of Dryden:— Fair hypocrites! you seek to cheat in vain; Your silence argues your desire to reign. He would call upon them now to break through their deceitful silence, and to declare frankly and fairly their present intentions in regard to the continuance of the debate at this hour of the morning, and by way of surprise upon absent Members. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire had just announced most positively that he was quite determined upon having that very night a division on the main question. Now, in reference to that assertion, he (Mr. Scully) should take the liberty of observing, that having been cut short in the delivery of his speech the other day, he would be in the possession of the House upon any renewed debate, and though not wishing to trespass unduly on their time, he was equally resolved that no unfair division upon the main question should take place on that occasion.


said, he must protest against the principle laid down by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), that all who voted for the adjournment expressed an opinion that there ought not to be a fair and impartial inquiry.


thought it would be a surprise to the House to go on now with the renewed debate at nearly two hours and a half after midnight. He was determined this debate should not be carried by a sidewind; he would meet every argument fully and fairly. He had sat and listened to a debate of nine hours' duration the other night about one clergyman (the Rev. Mr. Bennett), and he was determined that this question, which affected the welfare of 500 clergymen, should not be carried by a sidewind. He did not deem it right to go into the general question at this hour, but he would give his vote in favour of the adjournment, upon the distinct understanding that he did not mean to shrink from an inquiry.


said, he was also in favour of an adjournment at that late hour; but he thought the Government wore hound to state whether they sanctioned the view of the question propounded in such an arbitrary manner by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), that those who intended to vote for the adjournment would vote against an inquiry altogether.


said, that if the House did not agree to the adjournment, the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Y. Scully) would be in possession of the House, and would continue his speech. It was then his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) intention, with the greatest respect for that hon. Member, to go home. He was, however, very anxious, as he saw that a division must take place, that it should take place at once without any discussion. He had no desire to put upon the proposed division for adjournment the construction which the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate sought to put upon it; but, of course, every Gentleman had a right to put upon it whatever construction he pleased.


said, that if the debate was to be resumed that night, he should be very happy to pair off with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), and go home too. But if the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) wished the debate proceeded with, he ought to stay and listen to the hon. Gentleman.

If he remembered rightly, the hon. Member (Mr. V. Scully) left off his speech at the year 1814; he had therefore thirty-eight years still to go on with.


said, he roust confess that he could not help looking with great regret at the course which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) was pursuing on this question, which he believed would defeat the object the hon. Gentleman had in view, namely, to have a division that would go with some moral weight to the country. He (Mr. Palmer) should be glad to have an opportunity of expressing his views on this question, if the debate were postponed to another day; but it was a cruel proceeding either to ask Gentlemen to remain in the House at that hon. of the morning [half-past 2 o'clock], or to go away and leave a small House to represent the opinion of Parliament on so important a question.

Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."

The House divided:—Ayes 29; Noes 103; Majority 74.

Question again proposed.


said, he must protest again pursuing the discussion at this late hour. He would suggest that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) should withdraw his Motion for this Session, and bring it forward next Session in a more tangible form.


said, that he did not wish to detain the House at that hour. He was satisfied with the division which had just taken place, and he would therefore not press the Motion.


said, he was anxious that an inquiry should take place into the state of Maynooth; and whenever a fair Motion came before the House for that purpose, he would support it. He protested, however, against the course pursued by the hon. Members for North Warwickshire, as an understanding had been entered into that no business to which there was an opposition would be entered upon.


said, he did not think that the hon. Member had so much ground for complaint as he supposed, against the hon. Members for North Warwickshire. They had announced that they would put a certain construction upon the division that might bind them; but he did not think it would equally bind those who took a different view from them.


said, he felt bound to make protestation on behalf of the mean- ing of words. There was something in them of a stubborn and independent character, which could not be got over by a mere arbitrary construction. If the Motion on which they had just divided, could, according to the fair meaning of words, be made to mean a Motion, aye or no, to the main question, so let it be. But he must confess that the matter was very different when such a determination was not in the least understood. Many of the most eminent men in that House had not yet had an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon this question, and when it was brought on between two and three o'clock in the morning, after a portion of the other Orders of the Day had been disposed of, on the ground that the time for useful discussion had passed, it was not fair to ask the House to go on with the discussion. He therefore, although he was friendly to an inquiry, gave his vote in favour of the adjournment of the House; and he therefore, in common with many others, protested, against the arbitrary construction which was attempted to be put upon that vote.


said, that it had been intimated to him that this Motion was to be talked out of the House, and seeing that the time had come when it was necessary to have some decision, he had given notice that it was his intention to take the next division, whether upon the main question or upon an adjournment, as a final decision.


said, he must also protest against the construction attempted to be put on the division which had just taken place. Could he, or others, have foreseen the possibility of such a construction, they might have acted differently, but he charged the hon. Members for North Warwickshire with having misled the House on the matter.


said, it was only the factious opposition which the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Spooner) had met with that had induced him to declare that, whenever the subject again came on, he would proceed to a division on the question.


said, he trusted at such an unusually late hour (five minutes to three) a termination might be put to the discussion. He thought that some consideration ought to be felt for the labours of Mr. Speaker; and he further proposed that the House should meet the next day at one o'clock, instead of at twelve.

The House adjourned at Three o'clock.