HC Deb 06 May 1862 vol 166 cc1292-303

said, he rose to move— That this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Act of the 8th and 9th of Victoria, for the endowment of the College of Maynooth, with a view to the Repeal of the same, due regard being had to vested rights and interests. He owed an apology to the House for again bringing the subject under its attention. He desired hon. Members to observe, however, that the Motion was not for the withdrawal of the grant to Maynooth, but for the repeal of the Act of 1845, by which that grant was withdrawn from the control of the House. The only effect of the Motion would be, to restore to Parliament the power of dealing with the question in any way it might think proper, and to superintend the administration of the grant. The subject had been so often discussed in former years, and the House had so very recently expressed an opinion by a large majority in favour of small grants for the payment of Roman Catholic chaplains, and also in favour of a grant for the erection of a chapel in connection with some Hibernian college, that he thought it only respectful to the House to present the matter to them in some other shape than it had hitherto borne. The fact was that the grant of £30,000 a year directly to Maynooth College was of itself but a mere trifle compared with other grants to Roman Catholic priests in this country. As much as £300,000 was paid to these men openly and avowedly, but indirectly and surreptitiously they received as much again, if not more, in the shape of grants to female refuges, reformatories, and so on. The time had arrived when the whole question, whether the Roman Catholic religion and the education of the Catholic priests should be supported out of the revenues of the country, should engage the real and earnest attention of the House. Upon that subject he begged to refer to the speeches of the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which had been re-echoed throughout the whole of Europe, with regard to the affairs of Italy. The question was not one of mere money, but of principle. It was bad enough that we should maintain an in stitution which taught young men lying, perjury, thieving, and homicide. ["Oh, oh!"] These were not his own words, but the language of others. It was not merely a question of averting that civil war, to prevent which the late Duke of Wellington granted Catholic emancipation, but it was a question involving the consistency and the honour of this country in its relations with foreign powers. How could the Government profess to sympathize with Italy in her struggles for liberty when they gave directly £30,000 to Maynooth, and £300,000 surreptitiously and indirectly for the maintenance of those priests who belonged to the identical body which was described by the, noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman as arrayed in opposition to the Italian people? By making those grants they had actually enabled those priests to save their own money and to spend it in equip ping brigades for the support of the Pope, which, though it was an evasion of our law, was done, he might almost say, with the sanction of the noble Lord himself. So far as the Roman Catholic religion was concerned, he had nothing to say on that occasion; he left that to be discussed in pulpits and elsewhere, and he would endeavour to deal with the question on a broader view—to bring it before the House not only as respected the grant to Maynooth, but as regarded the various other surreptitious grants he had mentioned. It was time that they laid down some principle as to the extent they were prepared to go in endowing Roman Catholic priests in this country. [Cries of Divide. divide!] He was sensible of his inability to engage the attention of the House; but he was desirous to save it from future discussion on the subject. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House seemed rather over confident, but the matter was really entitled to the earnest attention of the Government. What were the advantages which Sir Robert Peel professed would accrue when he adopted the extraordinary course of withdrawing the grant from the annual consideration of the House? They were, that it would avoid discussion and prevent irritation. But was a Minister, when he happened to have sufficient power for the purpose, to put a stop to all further discussion on such grants by passing an Act of Parliament—grants which engaged the interest and feelings of a large portion of the community, and which at other times he would probably have found it difficult to get the House to pass? If the object which Sir Robert Peel had in view was to prevent discussion, that object had been defeated. The subject had continued, and must, so long as this country remained a Protestant country, continue to be discussed. A serious violation of the constitution had been committed by with drawing the grant from the consideration of the House. The withdrawal of the grant from discussion was considered to be the advantage of the Act of Parliament; but what wore its disadvantages? They were those—No sooner had the Act passed than the whole policy of the College of Maynooth was changed. Previously the doctrines taught at Maynooth were those which were termed Gallican; but the moment the Act was passed they were abandoned, and the doctrines of the Ultramontane school were substituted for them. The complete effect of those doctrines was exhibited by the Papal aggression of 1851, and the introduction at that time of the whole body of the Canon Law into this country. To show how rapid had been the progress of the Roman Catholic religion since the grant was made permanent, he might state that in 1845 there were in England 757 priests, now there were 1,388; in 1845 there were 517 chapels, now there were 1,019; in 1845 there were three monasteries, now there were 50; in 1845 there were 31 nunneries, now there were 162. The aggression of 1851 was condemned by almost the whole people of England. Every county and every town indignantly protested against it. The Government undertook to meet it, and the result of their promise was the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act. Many Members of the present Government were then in office, and he asked how they could continue and even extend these grants, when the provisions of that Act were continually, and almost daily, violated by the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church. A few-nights before, when objections were made to the Vote of £550 for the Catholic gaol chaplains, a right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench had asked, would they dare to take away the money voted for army chaplains? He told the House plain- ly that the doctrines taught at Maynooth, and all other exclusive Romish seminaries, were theft, homicide, murder, find sedition. It was impossible to speak more plainly than that: but for him to attempt to substantiate the statement would be idle, because the House would not listen to the proofs. The chronic spirit of disloyalty organized and disseminated at Maynooth sufficiently accounted for the difficulty of governing Ireland and the obstacles encountered in all their attempts to promote the happiness and welfare of that country. Could there be anything more inconsistent than for the colleagues and subordinates of the noble Lord at the head of the Government to support a grant to a section of that very Ultramontane power against which the noble Lord himself had launched such a thunderbolt a few evenings since? What possible reason could there be for removing the grant from the control of the House? What would be thought of a proposition to make perpetual the grant for education, or for the army or navy? Such a proposition would be scouted by the House, and would not be tolerated for a moment. Was it not right that he, on the part of those he represented, should ask the House to consider this matter? If the Motion were granted, and the Act were repealed, some person of more importance might take up the question. It was said that this grant was the result of a compact, and consequently that they could not repeal the Act; but in a former debate Earl Russell said there never was a compact. Sir Robert Peel also said that the Act was passed without any stipulation or compact with the Roman Catholic priests or authorities at Maynooth, and the matter was left entirely open for the future consideration of Parliament. It was said that the Protestant population of Ireland were much less in point of number than the Roman Catholics; that their Church was better endowed, and that the sum of £30,000 a year was but a small pittance to give to the Roman Catholic population. In that he would entirely concur if he could assume that there was any parity between the two classes. It was said the Roman Catholics formerly possessed the Church revenues; but supposing that was the case —which it was not—the very fact of their having forfeited them by massacres, and by every offence that it was possible for any incorporated sect to commit against all laws, human and divine, was a fitting reason for not restoring them, until, at all events, they had the matter fairly considered. The numbers of the population or the amount of the endowments had nothing to do with the question. The question was one of principle. Either the Protestant Reformation was right or it was wrong. If persons thought it a mistake, let them raise the question broadly, and have it discussed. But if that Reformation had been right and just, it was an act of political suicide to endow institutions diametrically opposed to Protestantism. Then it was said that the principle of civil and religious liberty required that they should tolerate all opponents, and that it would be quite inconsistent that this country, representing as it did the principle of civil and religious liberty, should make any distinction in favour of one sect. There could not, however, be a greater abuse of the phrase "civil and religious liberty" than to employ it in extenuation of endowments to men who were the hereditary and avowed enemies of civil and religious liberty, and who treated the idea itself as a farrago of nonsense. If the House favoured him for a few minutes longer, he would wish to allude to some observations which he had occasion to make a few evenings ago. An hon. Member had denied that disloyalty was taught at Maynooth. When that denial was made, he had not an opportunity of replying to it, but he should now do so. He asked that the House should resume their power over the Maynooth grant; and, notwithstanding the warning given to him by his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne) against quotations, he should take a future opportunity of proving to the House that the students at Maynooth were indoctrinated with sentiments utterly inconsistent with loyalty, and that those sentiments accounted for the difficulty of governing Ireland. In spite of the efforts which had been made to conceal those things, there was now at the command of the House evidence amply sufficient to prove that disloyalty was taught at Maynooth, and that it would be inconsistent with the instruction imparted there that the priests sent forth through Ireland should be anything but seditious and disloyal. Let hon. Members go to Wales. The people of Wales, in point of race and language, were aliens to this country in a greater degree than were the natives of Ireland; yet there was no disloyalty in the Principality. In conclusion, he had only to direct the attention, of the House to the particular form of his Resolution. He did not ask the House to go into Committee for the purpose of withdrawing the grant. He had no hesitation in saying that for this year he would support the grant to Maynooth, in order that there might be no violent interruption, and that there might be time for full inquiry. What he wanted was to have the Act of 1845 repealed: and with that object he begged to move that the House should immediately resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Act of the 8th and 9th of Victoria, for the endowment of the College of Maynooth, with a view to the re peal of the same, due regard being had to vested rights and interests.


seconded the Motion. He said, I rise with great pleasure to second the Motion which has been so ably brought before this House by the hon. Member for Peterborough, and I do so with a lively, but not a very grateful recollection of the reception I met with on a former occasion from certain hon. Members below the gangway on both sides of the House. I have this day had the honour of presenting; a petition from the Borough of Hull, with upwards of 5,000 signatures attached,; praying for the withdrawal of all endowment from the College of Maynooth, which is some warrant for my occupying the attention of the House. I think, that as a mere question of money, the matter now before us is not unimportant, for, as the House is aware, the expenditure on Maynooth College up to 1845 was £500,00(). and from that year to the present it has reached to the sum of £900,000. It is important to remark that the cost to the country of each priest educated at Maynooth, as shown in a return moved for by the hon. Member for Peterborough, and recently presented to this House, is £500. I also find that the grants to Romish Schools in Ireland in thirty years, from 1833, amount to about two millions and a half, and to those in England in the course of the last ten years about a quarter of a million. I venture to say that in the opinion of the great body of Protestants throughout the kingdom this outlay is worse than thrown away, and that no possible good can be expected to arise from it. Moreover, I do not find that any sum is levied from the taxation of the country for the education of pastors of any other religious community, and therefore I contend that this grant is an anomaly which ought to be reconsidered by this House, To show the tendency of the teaching at this College, I may observe, that although all the Roman Catholic Prelates in Ireland, except three, have been educated there at the public cost, they do not set the example to their flocks of obedience to the laws by constantly signing their names to pastoral letters with the assumption of ecclesiastical titles in direct violation of the law. I need scarcely allude to the events of the late election for the County of Longford; but I hold in my hand a letter from a priest, from which I will read an extract—


May I ask the hon. Member whether he is speaking or reading his speech?


If the hon. Member is anxious to speak, I beg to assure him I shall not be long.


The hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. I want to know whether he is speaking or reading his speech.


then read the following extract from a letter of the Rev. J. Vaughan, P.P., who is a leading member of St. Patrick's Brotherhood, as lately published in the Irishman newspaper:— From the coast of Labrador to the Mississippi, and from the Mississippi to San Francisco, I shall rouse the anger and execration of every portion of ray countrymen, and of every lover of freedom and mankind, on the murderous assault now being made on the defenceless, destitute people of this country by the English Government. Very faithfully, JEREMIAH VAUGHAN, P.P. D. Holland, Esq. He also read an extract from a speech of the same gentleman delivered in the Rotunda, Dublin, 17th March, 1862, as follows:— As we have no hope of aid from the Government, I would suggest that a deputation should go to France, and ask our Celtic brethren to come to the aid of our broken-hearted, neglected countrymen. I will offer myself as a member of that deputation, and assist to place Ireland in her sores, not only before France, but before every city gate in Europe; and by that means bring the withering execration of the civilized world on the Saxon destroyers of our blood and kindred. Such, then, it appears, is the gratitude to be expected from the recipients of such bounty. But by far the most important part of the question is the principle involved. We have, thank God, a Protestant Queen on the throne, whose first title to that throne is her Protestantism, and who is sworn, in the words of the Coronation Oath, to maintain "the laws of God, the true religion of the Gospel, and the Protestant Reformed Religion, established by law." And yet this House calls upon Her Majesty to sanction this grant. For what? For the education of priests at Maynooth, where the books in use lay down rules subversive of all authority save that of the Pope of Rome, who calls Her Majesty a heretic, and absolves, or claims to absolve, her subjects from their allegiance. For these and other reasons I cordially support the motion for the repeal of the grant.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Act of the eighth and ninth of Victoria, for the Endowment of the College of Maynooth, with a view to the repeal of the same, due regard being had to vested rights and interests.


I wish, Sir, before the House goes to a division to say a few words on this subject. I admit that the question now before us has given rise to considerable difference of opinion; but as it is one which has been so often discussed without producing any change in the conscientious convictions of those who agree with the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley), I shall, with the permission of the House, as far as possible pursue the course which has been followed during the last few years. If I have risen to address the House on this occasion, it is rather from a feeling of respect for the honourable motives and conscientious convictions of those hon. Members who desire to withdraw this grant than from a desire to enter into any discussion upon the merits of the case. The hon. Member referred to the Act of 1845, introduced and passed by the Government of that day. Of course it is not at all necessary for me to enter into the history of this grant. The House is well aware of all the leading circumstances connected with it, and I would therefore merely refer to one point as bearing upon certain statements made by the hon. Gentleman. The House is aware that this grant was originally made in 1795 by Mr. Pitt, of whom Lord Macaulay has said that "he was the first English Minister who entertained a really sanguine intention of benefiting Ireland by endeavouring to place the people of Ireland upon a footing of equal laws, equal rights, and equal liberties." Well, what had been done by Mr. Pitt remained, with various modifications, until 1845; and the hon. Gentleman is quite correct in saying that the grant, as it exists at present, was established by the Government of Sir Robert Peel in that year. I am bound to say that the grant was established by Sir Robert Peel with a sincere desire to conciliate certain interests in Ireland, and to promote and accomplish those great results which Mr. Pitt formerly aimed at; and I maintain that, from motives of justice as well as policy, the House of Commons has adopted the principles of those two Ministers. The hon. Gentleman has said that it is not the withdrawal of the grant, but the repeal of the Act of 1845, that he seeks to accomplish; but that is precisely the same thing, and therefore I think the House cannot agree to the Motion. I am quite ready to admit that the expectations of the Government of 1845 have not been thoroughly realized. But at the same time, when the hon. Member makes use of the language which he has employed, I am bound to say that the object of that measure was to endeavour to relieve and remove religious irritation, and to unite in one common bond, without distinction of creed, all the subjects of the Crown. I say, perhaps that result has not been accomplished; but I am bound to add that, in my humble judgment, it would not be well for the House of Commons to rescind the arrangements made in 1845. But if the House of Commons does decide upon that course, I would ask whether it would be becoming in me, looking to the past, to be in any way the direct official agent in the reversal of a policy which successive Parliaments have confirmed, and which has been in operation since 1845. The Government must therefore oppose the Motion. I would make one other observation with respect to the grant before I sit down. The hon. Member for Peterborough said that it was surprising that the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be in favour of this grant, because to support the grant to Maynooth was to manifest hostility to Italy. Now, the hon. Gentleman has quite misinterpreted the views of the Government. The Maynooth grant is a question between Protestants and Catholics, but in Italy the question is between Roman Catholics themselves. I maintain, therefore, that the policy of Her Majesty's Government is perfectly consistent. Entertaining these views, I beg to say that it would be quite impossible for me to give my assent to the Motion of the hon. Member.


said, that when- ever an attempt had been manifested in the House of Commons to treat with disrespect a large section of opinion in this country, he had always known it to fail. He had had some experience of the House, and had seen many efforts made to crush debate; but he thanked God he had never seen one successful when directed against any opinion entertained by a large body of the people of England. He rose to correct a misapprehension into which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland seemed to have fallen. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the principles of the Act according to which the present Maynooth Grant was administered were the same as those on which the scheme of Mr. Pitt was proposed. No two sets of conditions could be more different. Mr. Pitt simply granted a charter to Maynooth in order that the Roman Catholic community of Ireland might educate the priesthood of their communion, as all other denominations in this country educated the ministers of their religion. There was no pretence for saying that the endowment of colleges and universities of Oxford and Cambridge were the gift of Parliament. They were the gift of the people, who held the religion they desired should be taught, It mattered not whether the nation were Roman Catholic formerly and Protestant now; those endowments had merely followed the change in religion which had taken place at the Reformation. They were granted by a denomination, and were the property of that denomination; and all that the hon. Member for Peterborough, whose able speech he rejoiced to have heard, asked the House to do was to replace Maynooth in the position in which Mr. Pitt had placed it, as an institution maintained by the Roman Catholics for the education of the priesthood of their religion. That was no unreasonable request. It was idle to say that the whole Roman Catholic ecclesiastical property belonged to the Pope. It never belonged to the Pope, but belonged to the people. It was wished that Maynooth should be in the same position. Looking to the state of the Continent, and of Roman Catholic countries, it was obvious that it was for the real interest of Roman Catholics that the proposal before the Mouse should be adopted. In Spain the religious endowments had been resumed by the people. In France the religious en documents had also been resumed; and at that moment there was before the Legis- lature of France an able document, drawn up by M. Dupont, recommending the Government to prevent an unlimited appropriation of the property to convents. In short, the modern history of the Church of Rome showed that a particular political sect in that Church—having grasped the supreme power in that Church—had throughout Europe of late years exercised it so tyrannically, that it was for the interest of Roman Catholics that they should take back into their own control such endowments as were the subject of discussion. He wished the Roman Catholics of Ireland to have the same power over Maynooth as the Roman Catholics of Spain and France and Italy possessed and had exercised over similar institutions in those countries. The country had had proof that the teachers of a political sect in the Romish Church—called the Ultramontanes, but who were, in fact, Jesuits or their followers—had grasped the endowments, and were using them to educate the priesthood of Ireland for their own political purposes. There was no religious intolerance in making that assertion. It was this same grasping spirit of Jesuitism that sent out the brigands in Italy, and disgraced the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Nothing could be more unwise than to leave in the hands of that sect the uncontrolled means of disseminating their destructive doctrines throughout the sister country. That was the position he took—that was the justification of his vote. He rejoiced to hear the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland (speaking with all that deference which was due of the benevolent feelings which actuated his father in proposing this grant) acknowledge that the change which had taken place in the action of the Church of Rome under the Ultramontane influence to which he (Mr. Newdegate) had referred, had defeated the object with which the Maynooth Act was framed, and the grant was made in 1845; that object was the restoration of peace to Ireland. The fact was, that Government after Government had permitted the Jesuits to form establishments in this country. They were avowedly a political body; they were avowedly an aggressive body. They had been ejected not less than fifty times from Roman Catholic and Protestant States, who found that their actions were inconsistent with the welfare of society. That was matter of history. If it way the pleasure of the House and the Legislature, acting on the lax principle of modern Liberalism, to permit the existence and action of a body, which was the sworn adversary of the religion of the majority—if it was their pleasure to permit that aggressive body free action, they must either succumb to all their demands, or the House must resist them. But it was better that the contest should be conducted in a fair spirit than that excitement should grow upon the subject. He remembered a conversation he had had with the late Mr. Hume, who deprecated the agitation of the question. He (Mr. Newdegate) asked him whether it was not better to decide these matters in the House of Commons, with the opportunity of fair discussion and deliberation, than to leave the controversy to accumulate until it resulted in violence. At the termination of the conversation Mr. Hume said, "It will come to this, do what you will: we shall have to take to the hill-side, with the claymore in one hand and the Bible in the other." The repeal of the law under discussion was no more beyond the power of the House than the repeal of any other law. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed actually to believe that they could not interfere with the Act of 1845: they based their opinion upon a continuity of the grants before the Union with Ireland, but that continuity had been broken. They likewise sought to found themselves on a guarantee given for the grant at the time of the Union; but that guarantee, if ever valid, had been but for twenty years, and that period had long since elapsed. The conduct of this Ultramontane sect proved, that whether it acted through a democracy or through a despotism it was equally the enemy of constitutional freedom. There were advocates of that sect who boasted that they could take advantage of the benevolence of the people of England and frustrate their laws, but he told them that the people of this country had power to counteract such efforts. In supporting the Motion of the hon. Member for Peterborough, he claimed for the Roman Catholics of Ireland the same liberty of controlling the education of their priesthood which was possessed by the Protestants of England.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes 111; Noes 193: Majority 82.