HC Deb 29 April 1858 vol 149 cc1990-9

rose, to move that this House do resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Acts for the endowment of Maynooth, with a view to the withdrawal of any endowment out of the Consolidated Fund, due regard being had to vested rights and interests. He said, I can assure the House that I am not going to inflict on it a long speech. The subject has been so often debated here that I believe everything has been said that can be said on it. There is only one new point, to which I will shortly allude. It will be in the recollection of the House that in 1856 I had four divisions in favour of my proposal, and that I was defeated only by Members talking up to the hour of adjournment on a Wednesday. Last year a somewhat curious circumstance occurred when I brought the question forward. The hon. Member for Birmingham gave notice of an Amendment, but some mesmeric influence was used, and the hon. Member suddenly withdrew it. I believe the more the subject is considered, the more intense will be the Protestant feeling, no matter what Government may be in power, to have the question considered with the view of some arrangement being made which will be satisfactory to the Protestants, and which at the same time will do justice to Roman Catholics. I hope I shall always do my duty in this and all other matters. I bring the question forward from a religious motive. I believe the doctrines taught at Maynooth to be fraught with serious social evils, and to be contrary to the Word of God. I believe the teaching of such doctrines to be a national sin, and so long as I have a seat here I shall protest against the continuance of this grant, no matter who may be Minister or who may lead the Opposition. Will those who persist in paying for the teaching of such doctrines be consistent, and come forward and release the Sovereign from her coronation oath? The Sovereign swears to maintain inviolate the Protestant religion as by law established, and the Articles of the Church declare the doctrines of Popery to be blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits. Will you require the Sovereign to take such an oath, and yet consent to pay for the teaching of blasphemous doctrines and dangerous deceits? Reconcile that if you can. If you wish to be consistent, and at the same time to contribute to the support of the College of Maynooth, you must decide that there is no obligation imposed on the Sovereign of this country to maintain any religion whatever. We could all understand that. But you have no right to set aside the terms of that oath by voting money for the use of such an establishment as the College of Maynooth. There is another point to which I must beg leave for a moment to direct the attention of the House. There is a rubric of our Church which declares that the mass is idolatrous; and yet we give public money for the purpose of educating a clergy whose business it is to celebrate the mass. Then, again, I maintain that the doctrines taught at Maynooth are opposed to the best interests of society. I will not now weary the House with quotations upon this subject. I have, on former occasions, adduced ample documentary evidence in support of the views which I maintain upon this question; that evidence may be found in the recognised history of our proceedings; and I do not think it necessary that I should repeat it at this moment. But I wish to cite written evidence in reference to one new point, and one point only. I hold in my hand a document which, perhaps, has reached no other Member of the House, and which, as I believe, deserves general attention. It is entitled, "Acts and Decrees of the Provincial Council passed in Dublin, in June, 1853," and in that document I find the following passage, which is expressly stated to be itself a copy of an order sent from Rome:— But while we ordain these things, we think that the good of religion and the liberty of the Church demand that in every case of the election (quoties cunque agatur de eligendis) of Poor Law Guardians and Members of Parliament, by whose actions (a quorum agendi ratione), or by whose instrumentality (which is a better translation), the faith and safety of the Catholic poor and the rights and liberty of the Church might suffer loss, they (the priests) ought to be anxious that these offices should be conferred on honest men, and by no means on enemies of the Catholic religion. But we think that all these things should be carried on outside of the churches, without tumult, without a violation of charity, and with due subjection to their own Bishop, lest dissensions might arise among the Clergy, leaving to every one, in doubtful matters, liberty of judging freely for himself. That decree is signed by Paul Cullen, the titular Archbishop of Dublin, and three other Roman Catholic Bishops, and it was afterwards adopted by the "Provincial Council of Armagh," and signed by Dr. Dixon, the Roman Catholic Primate of Ireland, so that it was imposed on the Irish Roman Catholics, with the whole authority of their Church. Mr. Spooner then referred to the Secret Statutes of Armagh as laying down the same grounds of interference with the elections, and traced the origin of the instructions for this purpose to the Pope himself, although they purported to proceed from the whole body of the Roman Catholic Prelates. Decree XIX of Armagh was identical with that just quoted from Dublin. Thus was the will of the Pope used to tell, through the Prelates and priests, on the election of Members of Parliament; and this document was clearly traceable to Rome under the certificate of Archbishop Cullen, and thus was unconstitutional interference of a foreign Potentate in the affairs of this country established. A further illustration of the doctrine which it sets forth may be found in the evidence given before the Maynooth Commissioners by Professor O'Hanlon, who said that a priest had no right to refuse the sacraments to a man for a vote given at an election, but who made this important qualification of that statement—that a man might commit a mortal sin by voting for a candidate whose return would be injurious to the Church, and that while he was in that state of mortal sin he ought not to be allowed to receive the sacraments. Now, the people of this country were remarkable for their jealousy of the interference of a foreign Power in their domestic policy; and why should they not be jealous of a Pope who gave directions to his clergy how they should interfere in Parliamentary and other elections? Two priests were prosecuted at Mayo for such interference, but priests are obliged to obey the orders of the heads of their Church. I need hardly quote any evidence in proof of that point. It would be easy to show, that for the interest of their Church there is nothing which they would not be held justified in doing. Some of their books go so far as to say, that a man might distinctly deny that which was true, if he only said, "I say no," because he really did only use the word "no." There are in the Roman Catholic books a hundred quibbles of that kind. The whole system of teaching at Maynooth is designed to show the students how they may evade the truth, while they are to give the most implicit obedience to all orders from Rome. That is to be their first duty, and if their allegiance to the people and their allegiance to the Sovereign of this country should ever come into collision, they are distinctly told that it is to the supreme authority of the Pope they are to defer. Will you allow the education of priests so instructed to go on at your expense? Will you continue to pay for an education so fertile in mischief, so completely subversive of allegiance to the Crown, and destructive of social peace, comfort and happines? We are told, however, that the public faith is pledged to the continuance of this grant. But I have, on former occasions shown, upon the highest authority, that no such pledge was ever given. The noble Lord the Member for London stated in this House that there was nothing to prevent us from reconsidering the grant; and Sir Robert Peel, when he was bringing forward this measure, expressly declared that there was no contract in the matter, and that he made his proposal with a hope that it would ensure a better education for the Roman Catholic priests in Ireland, and would contribute to allay angry sectarian feelings in that country. Now, I ask whether the grant has been productive of these results? Has it given us a better class of priests? In order that you may arrive at an accurate conclusion upon that point, I will refer you to what took place in one of your own committee rooms in reference to the Mayo election, and to the proceedings at the trial of one of those priests. I will put it to the late Attorney General for Ireland, whether he can give any satisfactory account of the refusal of some of the jurymen at that trial to enter into any discussion of the merits of the case, while they would not agree in the verdict of Guilty which their colleagues were prepared to pronounce. But we are maintaining an establishment in which young men are taught that where the interests of their Church are at stake, they can refrain from making any statement, or they can make a false statement. Allegiance to the Crown is with these people a secondary consideration, and they must never do anything that can injure their Church. There are two celebrated Roman Catholic authors called Bailly and Scavini. Bailly maintained that a civil marriage might be valid, and that the children of that marriage might be legitimate, although it was unaccompanied by the performance of the religious ceremony; but that doctrine did not suit the views of the ultramontane party, and Bailly's book was therefore set aside as an educational work; and Scavini's book, in which the opposite position was set forth, was substituted in its place. According to the doctrine of Scavini our Most Gracious Sovereign on the Throne is illegitimate, and her children are in the same position, so that they have no right to rule over these realms. I know that no danger can now follow from the inculcation of that doctrine, but a case of disputed succession might arise in which it might be productive of great mischief. I ask you whether you are satisfied with the priests educated at Maynooth? It used formerly to be said that priests educated on the Continent naturally returned home tinged with foreign prejudices, and that it was advisable to remedy that evil by providing a place of education for them in their native country. But has the new system succeeded? Have we got a better class of priests? I do not hesitate to say, in the presence of the Irish Members, who may contradict me, but who, I am sure cannot disprove my statement, that the Maynooth priests in general are, to say the least of it, only half educated, and that they are sent into the world mere tools of the Pope and of the superior clergy. They are not educated as liberal-minded men, such as it was hoped they would be when Maynooth was established. I will not weary the House by any further arguments. But I now abjure them not to refuse to discuss this question. I ask them to give me leave to introduce this Bill. I ask them to extend to me in that respect the favour which is shown to every Member who proposes a measure upon a great and a deeply interesting subject. The question will, I hope, at all events, undergo a full and fair discussion, and if it should be shown that I and those who agree with me entertain an erroneous view of the matter, the most effectual step it would be possible to adopt will be taken for putting an end to that agitation which the continuance of this grant has excited. But let not the House imagine that any mere evasion of this difficulty will lead to its removal. If they were aware of the number and the spirit of the communications which reach me from all parts of the country, or if they had seen the deputation that waited on Lord Derby the other day for the purpose of inducing him to take this subject at least into his consideration, they would, I am convinced, be struck with the deep and earnest opposition to this grant which pervades that great middle class which forms the strength of this nation. I implore of the House not to compel those men to contribute to the maintenance of a religion which they believe to be completely antagonistic to the word of God, and to be the most dangerous form of belief that could be professed in this or in any other country. One word as to the provisions of the Bill. I propose that it should respect vested interests. I propose that the young men who have entered Maynooth under a promise that they would be enabled to complete their education should have the full benefit of that engagement. All those young men will have finished their studies within a period of a few years, so that their number would he annually decreasing; hut I say that we should make complete provision for fulfilling our engagement with them, although I do not pretend to decide how that should be done—whether by continuing the present establishment, or providing some equivalent in its stead. We should, however, let it be known that we pursued this course solely from a desire to maintain the public faith, and that we were at the same time determined on maintaining the Protestant religion as by law establised in this country. Let me remind the House that among those who dissent from us on mere matters of Church discipline as intense a feeling of opposition exists to the continuance of this grant as among churchmen themselves; and Protestant Dissenters, like the members of the Established Church, will never voluntarily consent to contribute to the maintenance of a religion which they feel and know to be idolatrous. I trust that I have said enough to induce the House to assent to this proposition.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made and Question proposed,— That this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Acts for the Endowment of the College of Maynooth, with a view to the withdrawal of any Endowment out of the Consolidated Fund, due regard being had to vested rights and interests.

MR. WALPOLE, after a short pause said: Sir, I was anxious to know whether either of the two Members who have given notice of Amendments to this Motion was disposed to address the House; but as neither of them has risen, and as I recorded my vote last year against a similar Motion to that now before the House, without stating my reasons for so doing, I hope I may be allowed briefly to state why I cannot support the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire. My hon. Friend has told us that Members are usually allowed to introduce their Bills; and I should be ready to adopt that course upon the present occasion if the proposal of my hon. Friend related to a new question, and if its continued discussion were not likely to keep the public mind in a state of unnecessary and undesirable ferment. But in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, and in the opinion, I believe, of many Members of this House, the introduction of the Bill would only afford an opportunity for continued agitation and subsequent disappointment; and we therefore think it would be better that the sense of the House should be taken at once upon the subject. There are two principal grounds on which I am opposed to the proposal of my hon. Friend. I give no opinion now as to the propriety or the policy of originating this grant; I give no opinion as to whether it has answered the purpose for which it was made. But I oppose the Motion for its withdrawal—in the first place, because when a great question of this kind has once been settled by Parliament it is not wise to disturb that settlement, unless it be clearly proved that there are great objections to its continuance. I say that the consequence of now withdrawing this grant would be that the advantages you might flatter yourselves you would gain from standing on what is called "high principle" would be more than counterbalanced by the great evils which must necessarily arise from a renewed agitation of the subject. It is one thing to refuse such a grant when proposed for the first time, and it is another and a very different thing to withdraw it after it has been given. And, I must add, in reply to an observation of my hon. Friend, that if it be our duty, on the ground of high principle, to take away this grant, I think it is the duty of my hon. Friend to point out the limits which should be put to a proposition of this character. When you say you are at liberty to put an end to this Parliamentary settlement, I wish to know whether there are not persons who, on similar principles and for equally high considerations, would have a right to seek the repeal of the Act of Roman Catholic emancipation. I would ask whether you can draw a distinction between the withdrawal of this grant to Maynooth and the withdrawal of the grant you make annually to Roman Catholics as well as to the Members of other religious denominations for purposes of education. I can see no distinction in point of principles between these two cases, and I am not prepared to raise an agitation to that extent. That is my first objection to the Motion of my hon. Friend. My second objection to it is this, when the late Sir Robert Peel proposed the perpetuation of the grant, he called it, in emphatic language, "a message of peace to Ireland." Whether it has been a message of peace to Ireland to the full extent Sir Robert Peel desired and anticipated is a point into which I shall not now enter. But of this I am sure, that if my hon. Friend succeeded in repealing the grant, that repeal would be regarded by the people of Ireland as a reversal of the policy of Sir Robert Peel, and as tantamount to a declaration of war. For the sake of the peace of Ireland, for the sake of preserving the religious harmony, which I am happy to say, is gradually gaining ground in that country, and that nothing may be done to impede its social progress, I, for one, cannot assent to this proposal. I can take no part in doing anything, in suggesting anything, in supporting anything that could in the least degree disturb the brighter prospects which are now dawning upon Ireland, or renew the sectarian differences by which she has hitherto been so unfortunately distracted.


I confess I was somewhat disappointed at the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department; because, as my right hon. Friend, as I understood him, holds out no hope that any arrangement than that which now exists with regard to Maynooth shall hereafter be effected. I fully agree with my right hon. Friend with respect to the evils that must follow from a continued agitation of the subject; but I wish to remind the House of what took place on the occasion of a former discussion of the grant in this House. Mr. Serjeant O'Brien, then a Member of the House, stated that he viewed, and that all Roman Catholics viewed, the continuance of the grant as a tardy restitution of a portion of the property which had been taken from the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation. Mr. Moore held similar language; and Mr. Serjeant Shee stated that he regarded the maintenance of the grant as a first step towards, and a guarantee for, establishing the Church of Rome in its full ecclesiastical polity and authority in Ireland. Now, I believe that while you are seeking to prevent agitation by continuing the grant, you ought to consider whether you are not raising up among the Roman Catholic clergy and part of the laity of Ireland hopes which will be defeated, but which will lead to a still more bitter agitation than that which you are endeavouring to avert. Having been a member of the recent deputation to Lord Derby, I was led to entertain a hope that Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to take into their consideration some just and equitable scheme for discontinuing this grant to Maynooth. I, for one, beg to state, that I would never consent to any proposal for the withdrawal of that grant that was not accompanied with a provision for the protection of vested interests. I think you would be bound to provide for the completion of the education of the students at present at Maynooth; and I think you would also be bound to compensate the present professors for the loss of the offices which they hold. I will go further, and say, that it would be wise, and politic, and just to give a liberal compensation for the withdrawal of the grant itself, so as to remove from the minds of the Roman Catholics any suspicion that they were treated harshly and unfairly, while you relieve the consciences of Protestants of the objection which they entertain to contribute towards an education in, and the dissemination of doctrines, and to the maintenance of a hierarchy of which they honestly disapprove. I must protest against the supposition that by rejecting the Motion you will be settling this question; and I warn this House and the Government that they will, by seeming to sanction the permanence of this grant, be laying the foundation for future demands on the part of the Roman Catholic clergy which they will find it most troublesome to resist.


said, he would only say one word in reply. The right hon. Gentleman asked him if his Motion would have the effect of allaying agitation in Ireland; but why, he asked, should it have the effect of increasing it? No other body of Dissenters were paid by the State in this way, and why should the Roman Catholics? He was perfectly convinced that the course now adopted by Her Majesty's Government would not put a stop to agitation, for as long as this great Protestant grievance continued, so long would agitation go on throughout the country.

On Question,

The House divided:—Ayes 155; Noes 210: Majority 55.