§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
The question to which I wish to call attention is one of very considerable importance, and I am sure the House will excuse me for trespassing on its time while I bring the subject under its notice. I wish, at the outset, to disclaim any intention whatever of using any harsh expressions towards my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, for I infer from his reply to me, or rather from his manner, that he was displeased that I should in any way have questioned a statement which he made in the early part of the Session. If my right hon. Friend had answered my ques- 843 tion in a manner satisfactory to the House, I should not have persisted with the Motion which I am about to make on the present occasion. But the matter is one of so much importance, involving, as it does, free unsectarian education in Ireland, that I feel bound after what has passed, and seeing what interest the right hon. Member for Calne and myself have taken in the subject, to bring it under the notice of the House. It will be in the recollection of this House that last year, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Tralee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) stated that Government would be prepared to consider the question then brought before them during the recess, and in the observations which my right hon. Friend made I entirely concurred at the moment, because they expressed the feelings which I entertained upon this most grave subject. My right hon. Friend stated that the first step towards the foundation of the Queen's University was the establishment of the three Queen's Colleges, and its object—and in that I entirely concurred at the time—was to afford the best possible secular education for the youth of Ireland irrespective of religious teaching, none of which was to be admitted into the system, means, however, being provided for the religious instruction of the students by clergymen of the denominations to which those students belonged. I understood, and I think the House understood, from what fell from my right hon. Friend who was then Home Secretary, that the Government proposed to consider the question during the recess, and in the early part of this Session to bring the matter under the notice of the House. I know that in the course of last autumn my right hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Bruce) went to Ireland for the purpose of obtaining information, and I believe he had interviews with the Roman Catholic Prelates and other persons; and from the draught of the charter which I have in my possession I believe that the scheme then contemplated was abandoned, and that the Government could not acquiesce in the proposals submitted to my right hon. Friend. But then the commencement of the Session arrived, and it is only fair to say that men of the highest class in Ireland, and among them the Duke of Leinster and the Marquess of Kildare, observing that it was the intention of the Government to deal—to tamper, I would 844 almost say—with this great and important question of University education in Ireland, drew up a memorial, most numerously signed, and presented it to the Government, urging them to adhere to the system then in force. I will not read the resolutions contained in the memorial. Every one who has seen the Irish papers is aware that a memorial most numerously signed was forwarded to the Government. In the beginning of this Session my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne and myself had frequent communications with parties in Ireland, who drew our attention to what they believed the threatened invasion of the system of University education there established; and on the 20th of February I put a Question to my right hon. Friend who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Leader of the House, as to the intentions of the Government. I asked what were the intentions of the Government on the subject, and what changes were in contemplation; and my right hon. Friend replied—I am by no means prepared to say that they involve a departure from the present system of University education in Ireland."—[3 Hansard, clxxxi. 811.]The result has proved that that is not the case, because the supplementary charter does involve changes in the present system of University education. "But," he went on to say—I can pledge myself that the charter and the correspondence will both be presented to this House at the very earliest moment in the power of the Government; and, indeed, with regard to the correspondence, some of it is already prepared for presentation, and is about to be moved for."—[lbid.]And, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne, he said—The Government will, upon their own responsibility, make known their advice to the House of Commons, fully admitting the right of the House to call them to account."—[3 Hansard, clxxxi. 812.]That was the state of the case on the 20th of February. That answer was thought by many in this House unsatisfactory, and, accordingly, that very night I put upon the paper a notice of Motion for an Address to the Crown praying that Her Majesty would be graciously pleased not to take any steps towards altering the charter or constitution of the Queen's University before the House should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the subject. Before that Motion could be made a Member of the Government 845 came to me from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and told me that it was not necessary to make it, and that if I would ask a question that night the Government would be disposed to give a satisfactory answer. I consulted with my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne, and agreed to waive the Motion then standing in my name on the understanding that the answer of the Government would be satisfactory. Well, what was the reply given? These were the words my right hon. Friend used on the 23rd of February, and recollect it was at the instance of the Government of the day that I did not proceed with the Motion which stood in my name, and which, I believe, would have been carried if it had gone to a division. These were his words—I think I may say to my right hon. Friend that he need not be in the least afraid that he will be unable, in point of time, to bring the subject under the notice of the House, and to challenge the Government, if he thinks fit, before the Crown has committed any formal act."—[3 Hansard, clxxxi. 967.]Well, I certainly understood, and I believe every one who heard these words understood, that this question, this really grave question, of education in Ireland would be discussed by this House before the Government became pledged to any particular course, and before the Crown was in any way committed, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, to any formal act. I think after that assurance of my right hon. Friend I was justified in believing that we might rest satisfied with the conduct of the Government. The House, therefore, can well understand the astonishment with which not only I, but I believe everyone else who knows anything of the matter, heard in the course of the debate on the Irish Reform Bill, when there were not more than a dozen or a score of Members in the House, that grave question raised incidentally and brought in such a manner to the notice of the House. Why, the Prime Minister himself, on receiving a deputation at the very time when I had given notice of Motion for an Address to the Crown, admitted that the present system had worked well, that it was based upon a sound principle, and that he was glad to hear of the success which had attended it. Well, with the positive assurance of the Government which I have quoted, was it to be expected that we should be kept in the dark as to what was doing until the Government failed by their inability to retain the confidence of their supporters 846 and any longer to count upon that majority with which they met Parliament in the beginning of the year? The hon. and learned Member for Belfast asked a question of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who then represented the Law Officers of Ireland, and a very important question it was—namely, whether the changes contemplated in the condition of the Queen's University were to be effected by a surrender on the part of the corporation of their present charter or in what manner, and, if by the surrender of the charter, whether the assent of the Senate was to be obtained. What was the answer of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland? He said that the changes which were in the contemplation of the Government would be laid upon the table of the House in the form of a letter to the Lord Lieutenant from the Secretary of State, and he would observe that it would be necessary to obtain the assent of the governing body to those changes before they could be proposed, and that consent had not yet been asked. That was the answer which the Law Officer of the Crown gave to the hon. and learned Member for Belfast, and until the other day when the charter was signed the assent of the governing body had never. been asked. The late Attorney General for Ireland told the House that they should have an opportunity of discussing the question, and then in this underhand way, as it were, he settled the matter. But for the information I received as a Senator that would have been settled the other day. But I took good care to prevent it. I should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire thinks of the value of opinions given in that manner. Either the late Attorney General did not mean what he said or he told the House that which he could not believe to have been done, and which he knew well would not have been accepted by the Senate if it had been submitted to them. The correspondence between the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey) and the Roman Catholic Bishops had been presented to us to-day. I do not find fault with the way the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with the question. He has stated the case very fairly, and I should have approved the decision of the Government to consider the question with the view of introducing a measure on a large basis. I have already said that the late Chief Secre- 847 tary to the Lord Lieutenant in his Reform speech the other night alluded to what had been done in this matter. He stated, three weeks before, that the Sign Manual of the Sovereign had been attached to an instrument which possibly might have no authority, as by the law of corporations a supplemental charter does not become valid until the parties to whom it is granted have surrendered the one they are already in possession of. I see that the late Attorney General shakes his head, but I have obtained the very first legal advice in the country on the subject, and, acting upon this advice, the Senate declined to accept the new charter. I would now make a remark on the position of the new supplemental charter and its submission to the Senate last week. I received last week a sudden notice from the Vice Chancellor of the University. I may state positively that the noble Lord the Chancellor of the University has throughout disapproved of this tampering with the University of which he is the honoured Chancellor. I know that for some time past Lord Clarendon has not been a party to, and has disapproved the conduct of, the Government with respect to this institution. Only last week I received a notice from the Vice Chancellor of the University —the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland—inviting me to attend in Dublin to receive this supplemental charter—the charter in regard to which a positive assurance was given to this House that it would not be granted, and that the Crown would not be committed by any Act, until the House had had an opportunity of discussing the merits of the question, and of approving of the policy of the Government. I was placed in a disagreeable position, but I did not hesitate as to the course I should adopt. I attended a meeting of the Senate on Wednesday morning, to consider that supplemental charter which we were told would make no difference in the constitution of the University. I recollect that the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland said that we had better accept it, because it would not alter the constitution. I asked him whether he had seen it. He said he was only privy to it as the first Law Officer of the Crown, but he was sure it would make no change in the constitution of the University. An animated discussion took place in the Senate, and a resolution was moved by an hon. Gentleman which was not thought suitable for the occasion, and he was persuaded to with- 848 draw it. I then moved, with the consent of the Vice Chancellor, a resolution to the effect that the Senate, having had brought under its notice the patent for a supplemental charter to the Queen's University, postponed the consideration of it to a future day. That resolution was seconded, and on a division was carried. When I asked the question some time ago, the right hon. Member for Morpeth said it was not true that the Senate had declined to accept the new charter. [Sir GEORGE GREY: I said they had not rejected it.] It was thought more respectful to the Crown to word the resolution in that way. It was first proposed that the Senate should decline to accept the charter, but the resolution agreed to was to postpone the consideration of the charter, and that course was taken for the purpose of allowing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire an opportunity of clearing himself from the grave imputations under which he laboured. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Oh, oh!] It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman, so lately the Leader of the House, to break out in that unmannerly manner ["Oh! "]; but I assure the House that the right hon. Gentleman most positively asserted in this House that nothing should be done in the matter without the House having an opportunity of expressing its opinion. Whether it is becoming in the right hon. Gentleman to turn round and "Oh, oh!" me when I make a remark I leave to the good sense and feeling of the House; but I again say that the object of the Senate in postponing and not rejecting the supplemental charter was to afford the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of stating why he made that declaration, the interpretation he put upon it, and of removing from himself that feeling of dissatisfaction which very many hon. Members of this House feel at the manner in which they have been treated. But then it is said that this supplemental charter really made no difference whatever in the constitution of the University. The supplemental charter was sent down to us three or four days before the Senate met. None of us had seen it—not even the Vice Chancellor. None of us had been consulted on it, and we were asked to pass it because it made no alteration. So far is this from being the fact, the alterations are of the gravest possible character. I do not say whether they are fitting or not, but I do say it is not right that the House should have no opportunity of dis- 849 cussing their merits before they are forced upon the University. Never has there been for five years, to my knowledge, any personal or religious animosities in the University. The Senate were eighteen in number, but when the late Government were falling, and they knew that their tenure of office was at an end, they appointed six additional members—I admit, gentlemen of the highest character—increasing the number to twenty-four. I do not know what object they had in view, if it were not for the purpose of carrying the charter by force, or, as it is stated in The Times, for the purpose of packing the Senate, in order to carry this supplemental charter. That is not the way of dealing with a great and grave question, involving the education of thousands of young men who did not want that these religious differences should be everlastingly brought up under their notice. I think that these Colleges have educated 3,350 of the youth of Ireland. I have asked the Presidents of these Colleges, and have been told that never has any question been raised as to the different religious denominations of the students. The whole system has worked admirably hitherto, and what, then, is the object in appointing these six gentlemen, three of whom are known to be of very ultramontane religious opinions? One of them, Mr. Sullivan, is a Professor in what is called the Catholic University in Dublin. The very first thing done by that gentleman was to write to the newspapers under a feigned name as to what had occurred in the Senate. That was not the way to deal with a question of that kind. I saw the letter in the newspapers. I believe it emanated from him. It could not have emanated from any one else, because there was no one else in the room. And this was the new Senator? One of the statements in the letter was that Sir Robert Peel was greatly taken aback, and then it went into details of a puerile and most unbecoming character. I left Ireland at the end of December, and no question was raised then about increasing the number of the Senate, and I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) why, without the consent of the House, and without any apparent reason for this grave change, these additional Senators have been appointed. The charter of 1845 distinctly lays down that no degrees shall be conferred upon any candidate who has not matriculated at one of the Colleges 850 of the University. These Colleges were established in order that students might pass through them to the University for examination; but this course is interfered with by the supplemental charter, which says—The said University, created by our said charter, shall have power to grant to any person who may have matriculated in the said University, and who may be deemed qualified by the Senate of the said Queen's University in Ireland aforesaid to obtain the same, all such or any of the degrees or distinctions which by our said charter the said Queen's University in Ireland is empowered to grant, notwithstanding that such persons may not have matriculated in any of the said Colleges, or pursued any of their studies therein.This is an innovation upon the system established by the late Sir Robert Peel and the Government of 1845. Their object in passing the important Act of that year, which met with a good deal of opposition in this House, was to secure a free and un-sectarian education for the youth of Ireland, and they hoped to do that by the establishment of these Colleges. At all events, according to the original charter, no graduate can go up for degree or distinction unless he be a member of one of the three Colleges. The new charter alters that. I should like very much to know what would be said if the Government of the day were to deal in this manner with the Senate of one of our great Universities, Oxford or Cambridge, or Dublin? If the Government were to send down to the Senate of one of them a supplemental charter, altering a fundamental principle of its constitution, would there not be an outcry through the country? What would every man interested in education say? What would this House say if such a grave question were dealt with upon the mere whim of the Government, without their consulting the House, to whom, undoubtedly, they are responsible for their conduct in a business of this nature? I give the late Government credit for the assumed intention to promote freedom of education, and if their intention would be realized my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) and myself would be the last persons to impede their action, and to prevent freedom of education; but, unquestionably, quite a contrary result will ensue if this measure is allowed to pass. In 1845, when these Colleges were established for the purpose of bringing the youth of Ireland under one roof, Sir Robert Peel made these remarks, which were concurred in by Mr. O'Connell— 851Surely this also will be admitted that that education ought, if possible, to be given in common? If I am to plant new academical institutions here and there throughout Ireland, making each of them of an exclusive character, with professors of their own faith, of course I shall have an exclusive and separate education in each, and I must forego the advantages I hope to gain. I should relinquish with the deepest regret the prospect of having education in common for the Protestant, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic youth of Ireland."—[3 Hansard, lxxx. 1282.]That was the object of the Government of 1845 in establishing a system of united education. We are told that the object now is to second the views of some ecclesiastics, who want freedom of education upon another basis. Let us see what are the ideas of those who are to be the ruling powers in the University on freedom of education. The noble Lord at the head of the Government (Earl Russell) said—I hope you will allow the Catholic youth of Ireland still to go to the Colleges where they may desire to receive their education.But every one who has had any experience of Ireland during the last five or six years should know that, as regards middle-class schools and national schools, children have been driven away by altar denunciations; and especially has this been the case in the town of Galway. That is freedom of education! In 1862, when there was an agitation about a Catholic University in Ireland, which I am proud to think did not unduly influence Lord Palmerston, Dr. Woodloch, the so-called Rector of the Catholic University, said, in a circular which he sent out—My definition of freedom of education is 'education free of every appearance of State control.' There is another reason why the Catholics of Ireland should refuse to rest satisfied with the Queen's University. It is a Government institution.I would ask Dr. Woodloch who ever heard of a University chartered by the Crown and not subject to Royal statute, a charter without condition? He goes on to say—The religious liberties of Irish Catholics cannot be safe if the Protestant Government of England be allowed to continue to direct, to govern our education. This is why the people ought to support the Catholic University. We will have freedom of education. We will have free, untainted Catholic teaching, untainted by any breath of Protestant interference, free from every appearance of State control; for let us remember that in the Queen's University the Presidents, Professors, &., are all nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, and when students have completed a course of studies which must have been 852 approved by the Lord Lieutenant, and are preparing for the academical grade which is to crown their labours, it is to Dublin Castle they must direct their steps for the examination, and it is there they receive the degree which is at once a badge of political servitude and a protest against the authority of the Catholic Church.That opinion of Dr. Woodloch is the opinion to which it seems the late Government desired to give effect. My idea of freedom of education is better represented by the great institution founded in 1845. The question of freedom of education was raised the other day at a meeting in Dublin, held in consequence of the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey). The Archbishop of Dublin (Dr. Cullen) was present, and Mr. Dillon, who is not now a Member of this House, said—His right rev. friend had referred to a passage which he took from one of the speeches of the late Lord Macaulay, but he (Mr. Dillon) could not find a better illustration of the danger to which the Catholics of this country were exposed by being brought into contact with English literature than by referring to that very writer.And Mr. Dillon then quoted a passage and urged that a Catholic University was necessary to keep Irish Catholics from being contaminated by the study of English literature. And Dr. Corrigan coolly proposes to gratify his Ultramontane friends by abolishing the course of History. He says—There is one subject in the course of the Queen's College, 'History,' which should, I think, be abolished. It is a fruitful source of discord, and, in my opinion, an absurdity.In contrast with the views of these gentlemen, who advocate what they call "freedom of education," I place the system pursued in the Queen's Colleges and the Queen's University; and I should like to know whether the House will not concur with me in asserting that the latter is to be preferred. I stated just now that I did not believe the Government had any power to alter the charter, and the late Attorney General for England expressed his dissent from that observation. [Sir ROUNDELL PALMER shook his head.] No! Then he approves it, and he has changed his opinion while I have been making these remarks. There can be no doubt that when a charter is once given to a corporation it is not in the prerogative of the Crown to alter that charter without consulting and obtaining the concurrence 853 of those persons upon whom the charter was originally conferred. No surrender has been made by the Senate of the University, and I can assure my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) that the resolution passed the other day was worded as it was out of respect for the Sovereign. We felt strongly, and still feel, that it is not in the interest of Ireland, nor of the youth of Ireland who have been educated by so many thousands under the original charter of the University, that that charter should be changed—at all events, not without reasons being adduced to show that change is necessary. I have, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, taken great interest in the Colleges established in 1845; I have been instrumental in raising over £10,000 to remunerate students of the University, including Roman Catholics and Presbyterians, as well as members of the Church of England; therefore, I naturally take a deep and lively interest in anything which may tend to change the principles upon which that institution is governed; and on these grounds I feel the House will not quarrel with me for having brought the subject under its notice. Over 3,000 young men have been educated in the Queen's Colleges. Conversing with a President of one of the Colleges, himself a Roman Catholic, I said, "Tell me honestly, in the course of the education of these students has there been any collision of religious feeling between them?" Nearly 1,000 students had passed through the College over which he presided, and his answer was—So remarkable has been the success of the Queen's Colleges as a channel for exercising an important influence in reconciling the youth of different religions in Ireland to habits of friendly association on absolutely equal terms, that, whereas during fifteen years that these Colleges have been in operation, several thousands of students, being Church of England, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics, in nearly equal proportions, have been educated therein, not one case has occurred of collision or quarrel among the students on religious or political grounds.I think no higher testimony can be borne to the existing institution, and I therefore hope the House will be informed what reasons induced the late Government to make most serious inroads upon existing arrangements, and to recommend changes which have been partially effected without consulting this House. I also wish to ask my right hon. Friend how the case stands now. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George 854 Grey) said that the supplemental charter would be of no effect unless a Bill was introduced into Parliament to authorize its being carried out. The late Attorney General for Ireland stated the same thing, and I believe that the late Attorney General for England was of the same opinion. I am happy to think that that Bill will probably not now be proceeded with; but the supplemental charter has been signed by the Sovereign without this House being consulted according to the pledge given. I want, therefore, to ask my right hon. Friend when he replies to me and to the House—for it is with the House that he has to deal—I want to ask him, as this supplemental charter has been signed by the Sovereign, but has not been received by the Senate, having, in fact, undergone at the hands of that body what is equivalent to a Parliamentary postponement till this day six months, what is the position in which the late Government stands as regards the University? I pray my right hon. Friend to favour the House with some assurance that they have reconsidered the rash and hasty step taken by the late Government for some political purpose which I cannot fathom; for, certainly, there could be no reason for adopting it for educational purposes. And now that the late Government are relieved from the trammels of office, and more free as regards their political supporters than they were, I do hope my right hon. Friend will say that they admit the error of the course they endeavoured to pursue, that that course was pursued solely for political purposes, and that having failed to answer the end to which it was directed, they certainly do not intend in any way to recommend that the matter should be persevered with. I am bound to say that unless the right hon. Gentleman gives a satisfactory reply to-night, it is very likely that a Motion for an Address to the Crown will be moved, and I believe a majority of this House would support me in that Motion, urging Her Majesty not to make any changes in the charter of the University, until Parliament has been consulted on the subject. I trust that in anything I may have spoken I have not said—certainly I have not intended to say—anything which may have been offensive to my right hon. Friend. I believe, and I have repeatedly stated this to hon. Members—that the right hon. Gentleman had conscientiously intended to do what he had promised, and 855 that it was only in the pressure of excitement he was induced to overlook his previous pledge.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Sir, although every step which was taken by the late Government with regard to this question of University education in Ireland was taken after full consideration by the deliberate decision first of the Government of Lord Palmerston, of which my right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) himself was a Member, and secondly, by the Government of Lord Russell, still as, owing to the office I held, the communications on the subject and the details of the arrangements connected with it passed through my hands, I feel myself to be perhaps more individually responsible than any other Member of the Government, and I think it right to offer myself at once to the House in order to make some remarks upon the statement of the right hon. Baronet. That statement consists of two wholly distinct parts or subjects, although in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's observations he has mixed them up in a way which makes it difficult to separate them. The first part is the general question of University education in Ireland, and the expediency of adhering on the one hand to that rule by which no degree can be obtained by any person in Ireland who has not studied either in the University of Dublin or one of the Queen's Colleges; and the expediency on the other hand of giving the people of Ireland the same advantages as are possessed by all classes and denominations in this country, and of enabling them to obtain academical degrees irrespective of the place where they have been educated provided they pass a satisfactory examination. Let me on this subject refresh the memory of the right hon. Baronet. He adverted to the Motion made last Session by the hon. Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue), whom I am sorry I do not now see in his place, and he said that the notice of Motion originally given was for an Address that a charter should be granted to the Roman Catholic University at Dublin, but that it was afterwards altered by the substitution of more general terms, which would secure to Roman Catholics in Ireland, and also to some Protestants who object to the present system of University education in that country, the same advantages as are enjoyed here by their fellow-subjects and fellow-Christians. And that Motion having been made, 856 my right hon. Friend says he entirely concurred in it, and I have no doubt that he did, for he was sitting by my side as Chief Secretary for Ireland at the time. But his memory fails him altogether when he states that I met the matter by merely saying that I approved of mixed education, and that the Government would take the subject into their consideration during the recess.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I meant to convey this—that sitting by the side of my right hon. Friend when he made his speech I approved the intention of the Government to consider the question during the recess with the view of meeting the views of the hon. Member.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
That is what I said myself, and the right hon. Baronet may refer to the records in the Library in order to contradict my words if he pleases. Nothing could have been more distinct, clear, and unambiguous than the manner in which, as the organ of Lord Palmerston's Government, and after the subject had been fully considered in the Cabinet, I stated what the intentions of the Government were as to the Motion of the hon. Member for Tralee, and the means for giving effect to them. In the letter which I addressed to the Lord Lieutenant not long ago, and which was laid on the table of this House, there is one sentence which places the matter in its true light. In that letter, after stating the fact that the only means of access to a degree in Ireland was through Trinity College, Dublin, or one of the Queen's Colleges, I went on to say that while this was complained of by many persons on account of its subjecting them to a serious disadvantage as compared with their fellow-subjects—The subject was brought before the House of Commons last year by a Motion for an Address to Her Majesty praying that steps might be taken to redress the grievance arising from many of Her Majesty's subjects being at present prevented from enjoying the advantages of University education in Ireland. On that occasion Her Majesty's Government, while declaring their own unshaken conviction of the advantages of a system of mixed secular education, admitted as a matter of fact the existence of the disadvantage which was complained of, and they proposed to remedy that grievance, not by advising the grant of a charter to a Roman Catholic University, which had been asked for, nor by an alteration in the character of the Queen's College, [Sir ROBERT PEEL: Hear, hear!] but by enlarging the powers of the Queen's University, so as to enable it to confer degrees, not only, as at present, on students from the Queen's Colleges, but, in addition to these, either on candidates for degrees who had pursued a 857 course of study in other Colleges, to be affiliated to the University, or on all matriculated students applying for degrees and passing the required examination, irrespective of their place of education.Nothing could be clearer or more explicit than that.
§ Sin ROBERT PEEL
The right hon. Gentleman went on—[Cries of "Order, order!"] I am sure that for the interests of truth the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that he went on to observe that, admitting the existence of a just ground of complaint to a certain extent on the part of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, they were prepared to consider the means by which the grievance referred to might be redressed.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I have no doubt that I stated that. We admitted the existence of the alleged grievance, and we proposed to remedy it, but not in either of the ways suggested—namely, by granting a charter to a separate University or by an alteration of the character of the Queen's Colleges, questions which the House must remember, although my right hon. Friend confuses them, are wholly distinct. We pledged ourselves in this House and in the presence of the Catholic Members who came down to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Tralee to this—namely, that we were prepared, if we were able to do so, to confer on the Queen's University in Ireland the power of granting degrees either to members of affiliated Colleges independent of the Queen's Colleges altogether, or to students coming from other places of education. Of course, it was impossible for me then to have stated in detail the precise means by which the object in view should be accomplished, but I mentioned generally that we intended to place the Queen's University on a similar footing in this matter as that on which the London University now stands. And I was delighted to hear the right hon. Baronet say, as in fact it might have been inferred from his holding office in the Government, that he entirely agreed in the course which I had indicated. But the right hon. Gentleman now being "free from the trammels of office" has altered his mind. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: So are you.] The right hon. Baronet imputed motives to Her Majesty's late Government, and yet he said he entirely concurred in the course they adopted. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: No, no, I never said that.] And the right hon. Baronet having then expressed his approval of the course 858 taken by Her Majesty's Government, when the hon. Member for Tralee's Motion was before the House, now entirely dissents from it, and says he will move an Address to the Crown—a legitimate way, certainly, of raising the question—praying Her Majesty to withhold from Her Roman Catholic subjects in Ireland that boon which the Government, with his concurrence, advised Her Majesty to confer upon them. I will not enter into that question now, nor deal with the extracts which the right hon. Gentleman has culled from pamphlets and anonymous letters on University education. That subject can be more properly discussed when he brings forward his Motion for an Address to the Crown, which I hope I am not mistaken in saying he has pledged himself to propose. Then it may be seen whether any practical grievance exists in this matter, and whether the late Government sought to redress it in as objectionable a manner as he alleges. In his speech the right hon. Gentleman altogether objected to any departure from the present system, and deliberately stated that he was opposed to enlarging the power of the Queen's University in Ireland. I do not propose to follow him into that now, as the subject can be more appropriately considered on the Motion of which I hope he is going to give notice. But the second part of the speech of my right hon. Friend related to an alleged breach of faith on the part of the Government, in advising the Crown to issue a supplemental charter granting additional powers to the Senate of the Queen's University in Ireland without having consulted this House on the expediency of taking such a course. Now, I will say at once that I should deeply regret if anything had been done or written by Her Majesty's Government which could in any way be charged upon them as a breach of faith to this House, after the pledge which was given by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone.) And I think I shall show the House that no such charge can be sustained. Let us see what really took place on this subject, my right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) having given a rather short and inaccurate version of what passed. On the 20th of February a question relating to this subject was asked by the right hon. Baronet of my right hon. Friend who is now sitting near me (Mr. Gladstone.) He asked what changes were contemplated in the charter and constitution of the Queen's University and Queen's Colleges in Ireland, and 859 whether it was the intention of the Government fully to inform the House before proceeding with any measure involving a departure from the present system of University education in that country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said—In reply to the Question of my right hon. Friend, I had better perhaps first say—the question in its terms including the Queen's Colleges along with the Queen's University—that no changes whatever are contemplated in the charter and constitution of the Queen's Colleges. With respect to the changes contemplated in the charter and constitution of the Queen's University, I may best describe them by saying they are such as were indicated and explained towards the close of the last Session of Parliament in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, having for their object to qualify persons who have received their education in institutions where a particular or exclusive religion is taught to take degrees in the Queen's University, and likewise to make some arrangements for the purpose of obviating and removing jealousies and securing confidence with respect to those degrees. In reference to the last part of the Question of my right hon. Friend, of course I cannot say that it would be in our power to keep the House informed of those steps severally before proceeding with them, although I am by no means prepared to say that they involve a departure from the present system of University education in Ireland. But I can pledge myself that the charter and correspondence will both be presented to this House at the very earliest moment in the power of the Government; and, indeed, with regard to the correspondence, some of it is already prepared for presentation, and is about to be moved for by an hon. Member.Sir ROBERT PEEL: Will my right hon. Friend say that the charter of the Queen's University will not be altered without being brought under the notice and knowledge of this House?The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Immediately that any charter varying from the present shall be issued, it will be brought to the knowledge of this House.Mr. LOWE: Do I understand my right hon. Friend to say that the change will take place without this House having an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it?The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I apprehend that the proceeding, such as I have indicated it, will be in conformity with the universal practice of the executive Government, enabling the responsible Advisers of the Crown to give that advice which they think most for the public interest. They will upon their own responsibility make known that advice to the House of Commons, fully admitting the right of the House to call them to account.Sir ROBERT PEEL: My right hon. Friend has not answered the question. What I wish to ask is this—has no alteration at the present moment taken place in the charter of the Queen's University? That is done by the Sign Manual of the Sovereign. Has it not been done, will it not be done without first laying before the house the grounds which the Government have for altering the present system of liberal and united education 860 to one of a sectarian and denominational character.The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: That alteration has not been effected. With respect to the rest, I must refer my right hon. Friend to the answer I have already given.—[3 Hansard, clxxxi. 811.]Not being satisfied, my right hon. Friend put another Question on the 23rd of the same month, being anxious to induce my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) to say that the charter would be laid upon the table of the House before it was signed by the Queen, and before advice was given that it should be so signed. He said he had been privately informed that an alteration had taken place in the intentions of the Government, and he could not forbear expressing his satisfaction at that. In reply to the Question the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—I have to say that there has been no change whatever in the intentions of Her Majesty's Government since or before the appearance of the notice of my right hon. Friend. But the Question put to me upon the former day by my right hon. Friend, if I recollect it rightly, was whether I would lay upon the table of the House a draft of the charter as proposed to be altered before advising the Queen to sign it. ["No, no!"] So I understood the Question. Such I believe it to be, and to that question I must answer now, as then, in the negative. But I said at that time that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department was prepared to lay upon the table of the House at the earliest possible period, the correspondence relating to this subject; and if the object of my right hon. Friend is simply to be fully informed of the advice which the Government may think it their duty to give to the Crown in this important matter, I entirely concur with him in thinking it is quite reasonable that that information should be given. I always thought that last year, when the Government came to its preliminary resolution on this subject, the very first thing done was to state to this House the nature of the changes which it was proposed to make. Since that time there has been much correspondence on the subject. That correspondence is not yet concluded. I believe the House will not think there is anything strange in the delay which has occurred. Naturally, the communications on this subject must be undertaken by the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and recently, as the House is aware, these personages have had other more pressing questions to consider than those of University education. My right hon. Friend himself will move to lay on the table the correspondence as far as it has gone, and when it is concluded, and the Government have made up their minds—not before, and are ready to announce their conclusion, they will put the House at the earliest moment in possession of the fullest information on the subject."—[3 Hansard, clxxxi. 966.]It was in express fulfilment of that pledge that at the end of March I laid upon the table of the House a letter, dated on the 861 26th of that month, and addressed to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In that letter there is a detailed account of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the whole of this subject. The Government, in that statement, informed the House that they intended to do what was done in 1864—though then, I believe, entirely without the knowledge of Parliament—at the time when my right hon. Friend was Chief Secretary for Ireland. In 1864 the charter of the Queen's University was surrendered, and a new charter, which materially altered the constitution of the University, was granted by the Crown, without, I believe, the knowledge of any one except the members of the Senate and the members of the Irish Government. Well, we proposed to adopt the same course upon the present occasion. But now I come to the answer given by the Attorney General with regard to the power of the Government to alter the charter or grant a new one without the consent of the existing corporation. We wished to proceed in such a manner as to prevent the possibility of our infringing the law in any respect, or exceeding the power vested in the Crown. Therefore, we submitted a case to the Law Officers of both England and Ireland as to the proper course of procedure to be adopted in order to give effect to the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. After very full consideration they gave their opinion, the substance of which, and even the very terms—with the exception of a few immaterial words—were afterwards given to the House in a paragraph of the letter to which I have referred. The paragraph is as follows:—It is undoubtedly in the power of Her Majesty, by a supplemental charter, to enable the Queen's University to grant degrees to persons who have not received any part of their education as students in any of the Colleges of the University; and if the object in view can be sufficiently attained by granting such degrees only without giving to this class of graduates the status of members of Convocation, or introducing them into the corporation of the University, a surrender of the present charter will not be necessary for that purpose; but if it be desired to make these graduates members of the University corporation, and to give them the same rights and privileges in the University which now belong to graduates educated wholly or in part in the Colleges of the University, or if it be thought necessary to make changes in the present constitution of the Senate of the University for either of these purposes, a valid revocation or surrender of the existing charter will be indispensable.That is the authority upon which the late 862 Government have acted. My right hon. Friend imagined that the effect of the supplemental charter was to alter the existing charter. Now, that is not the case. It is merely a supplemental charter, giving an additional power to the Senate if they choose to exercise it, but depriving them of none of the powers or rights which they at present possess. My right hon. Friend, on the part of the Government, refused to lay the draft of the supplemental charter before the House; but he said that no definite step should be taken before the House had had an opportunity of objecting to such a charter, if they should think fit to do so. Well, the communication to which I have alluded was laid upon the table in March, and until this evening not a voice has been raised in this House deprecating the course intended to be taken by Her Majesty's late Government. During the period which has intervened, my right hon. Friend did not give notice of his intention to move an Address to the Crown on the subject. We, therefore, had no right to assume that there was any objection on the part of the House to the course which we intended to pursue. My right hon. Friend alluded to the correspondence which has taken place with the Roman Catholic Prelates, and I inferred that he approved it. Then, he said I had stated in the letter which was laid upon the table, that a supplemental charter would be wholly in operative without an Act of Parliament. Now, I did not say that. What I said was that a supplemental charter would fail in accomplishing the full extent of the object which we had in view. We should not have fulfilled the obligation which we entered into with the Roman Catholic Members who came down to support the Motion introduced by the hon. Member for Tralee, but which was withdrawn in consequence of the assurance given by the late Government, if we had been content with issuing a supplemental charter without coming to Parliament for additional powers. There was, it is true, no distinct intimation in the letter that we intended to issue a supplemental charter at all. With the exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, and Mr. Pope Hennessy, who was disappointed that a charter was not granted to the Roman Catholic University, I believe the House concurred in the object we had in view. My right hon. Friend said just now that 863 when the Irish Reform Bill was introduced by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland he said that one of its provisions was that Members should be given to the the Queen's University. My right hon. Friend the Member for Louth, as Chief Secretary, stated in detail not what had been done, but what we proposed to do. Re informed the House that we intended to advise the Crown to grant a supplemental charter. The right hon. Baronet does not say he did not hear this statement made, and he seems to forget that we laid before the House a letter in which the objects which we had in view were distinctly set forth. I do not think that the House will, under those circumstances, be of opinion that there is the slightest ground for the charge which the right hon. Baronet has brought against my right hon. Friend and his Colleagues of having been guilty of a breach of faith. The character of the change which was made seems to be quite misunderstood by the right hon. Baronet. He has confused the supplemental charter with the idea of the revocation of the existing charter, and taking away the rights conferred under it and the conferring of a new charter different in its character. Now, that idea was altogether abandoned, and it is in the power of the Senate to act now under the constitution which has hitherto existed. My right hon. Friend has taken great credit to himself for having gone over to Ireland for the purpose of opposing the supplemental charter, though he was ignorant of what it contained, and having induced the Senate at a meeting—which consisted, I believe, of five out of ten or eleven members of the body—to reject it. I interrupted him when he used the expression "rejected." There is, of course, as he is aware, a great difference between rejecting a charter and refusing to consider it until further notice, which would mean, I suppose, putting it off until the first meeting in October, when, perhaps, my right hon. Friend may deem it to be his duty to attend in order to induce the Senate still further to postpone it. The charter, I may add, is simply an enabling charter. It does not alter or vary the form of that which is already in existence, and I hope, in the interests of religious peace in Ireland, that the good sense of the Senate will lead them to accede to it. I firmly believe that the opinion of this House, if my right hon. Friend should venture 864 to take it, will be in favour of relieving the Catholics of Ireland from that which they allege to be a grievance, and of placing them, in reference to this question of education, upon the same footing as other religious denominations. By taking that course we shall, in my opinion, be acting in the manner most conducive to the interests of education generally in Ireland; and when the day arrives when the discussion of the question is, in accordance with the intimation of the right hon. Baronet, renewed, I think we shall be able to show that the course taken by the Government of Lord Palmerston in the first instance, and by that of Earl Russell in the second, was one dictated by sound policy, and a due regard for religious freedom.
§ MR. LOWE said
On the 20th of June last year a conversation took place in this House between the hon. Member for Tralee and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire, who was at the time Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the course of that conversation the right hon. Gentleman, speaking of himself and his Colleagues, laid down very clearly the policy which the Government intended to pursue in reference to the question under discussion. The hon. Member for Tralee asked for a charter of incorporation for the Roman Catholic University in Ireland. My right hon. Friend declined to accede to that request, but both the right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth gave it to be understood that the difficulty might be met in another form; not by a charter to the Roman Catholic University, but by a new charter to the Queen's University, by which the Roman Catholic College would be, as it were, affiliated to it, and the students would come up to the University board for examination. My right hon. Friends, also, if I am not mistaken, threw out that not only some alterations might be made in the constitution of the Queen's University, but that the University itself might be so modified in its construction as to bring it more into accordance with the feelings of the Roman-Catholic Episcopate in Ireland. I did not concur in the objects which the two right hon. Gentlemen proposed to themselves at the time to accomplish, and my reasons for not doing so shall, when a suitable occasion arises, be at the service of the House. But the question now, he was sorry to say, did not relate to any political matter; it was a 865 much narrower question. I approach it with the most unfeigned reluctance, because no good purpose can, perhaps, be served by discussing the matter with a Government which is no longer in existence, and because it is particularly painful to say anything which may wear the appearance of being dictated by a spirit of hostility or enmity to my right hon. Friends. But I am placed in this position. I have undertaken carefully—and I mean to fulfil the undertaking—to watch this question in the interests of mixed education in Ireland, and as I believe a great change has been made affecting those interests, either I have been most remiss and censurable in the manner in which I have carried out my undertaking, or else the Government—I will not finish the sentence. That is the position in which I stand. I do not stand here to accuse the Government, but to defend myself. I contend that the Government have so managed matters as completely to lull to sleep the vigilance of all those who watched this question, and who were anxious that the House of Commons should have the fullest opportunity of pronouncing an opinion with respect to it. As to the causes which led to this relaxation of vigilance, they will be found in the conversation which took place within these walls on the 23rd of February last. From the discussion which then took place I shall, with the permission of the House, read one or two passages which have not yet been mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer said, on that occasion, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth—In the first place, let me say that I think no man could blame my right hon. Friend, with the feelings which he ascribes to himself—believing that the House was in danger of being taken by surprise—for having looked for the first opportunity of interposing."—[3 Hansard, clxxxi. 966.]Now, I quote that passage to show that the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly aware that what we had in view was not so much to ascertain the substance of his proposition, but rather to be afforded an opportunity of knowing it before anything definite was done, in order that we might not be taken by surprise. "As to the charter," the right hon. Gentleman said—It will naturally follow the conclusion at which the Government shall arrive upon points which that charter may embrace, and I think I may say to my right hon. Friend that he need not be in the least afraid that he will be unable in point of time to bring the subject under the notice 866 of the House, and to challenge the Government, if he thinks fit, before the Crown has committed any formal Act, but not before the Administration have given any advice they may think it their duty to give to the Crown before the Crown is committed to that formal Act."—[Ibid. 967.]["Hear, hear!"] Some hon. Gentlemen appear to think I can prove my whole case at once, but I must first prove the undertaking before I can show how it has been violated. The right hon. Gentleman added—We entirely agree with the right hon. Baronet in thinking this question one of great importance and great difficulty. I promise the right hon. Gentleman that the Government will fully and cordially state their views on the subject to the House, and that nothing shall be done to preclude the House from fully considering the question at the proper time."—[Ibid.]Again, in answer to a Question put by myself, the right hon. Gentleman said—Nothing could be more unworthy on our part than to bring this important question before the House previous to our having made up our own minds as to the course we should pursue. It will be perfectly practical, right, and convenient that no definite proceeding shall be taken by the Crown before the House has an opportunity of expressing its opinion."—[Ibid. 968.]["Hear, hear!"] I agree with the hon. Gentleman who cheers that statement, although I cannot cheer myself. Nothing could be more distinct, candid, and fair than the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend. The question we have now to discuss is whether that undertaking has been adhered to. What has happened is this:—Unknown to any Member of this House—whether we had the means of acquiring the necessary information is a point to which I will advert in a moment—without the knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman the present Attorney General (Sir Hugh Cairns), who took a great interest in the question—without my knowledge, who was in communication with persons belonging to those very Colleges, without the knowledge of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, without the knowledge of anybody in Ireland, a charter of some kind or another was granted to the Queen's University. I cannot enter into a controversy with respect to the merits of the charter, because, in point of fact, it is not before the House. I do not know in what it consists. [Sir GEORGE GREY: It was laid upon the table.] But it has not been distributed to Members. This charter was dated the 19th of June, the day after the division on the 867 Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Galway took place. It was signed on the 25th of the month, and it is not yet in our hands. That is what has happened; and it has also happened that the Senate of the University has been remodelled by the addition of six gentlemen in order to make that body, I suppose, more acceptable to the Roman Catholic Prelates in Ireland. Such are the facts of the case, and I deemed it to be my duty to put a question to the late Chief Secretary for Ireland with respect to them. I called his attention to the undertaking which was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and asked him how, in the face of that undertaking, he could account for the course which his Government had adopted in this matter? In his reply the hon. Gentleman admitted the full force of the undertaking. He repudiated the least intention to quibble about the words, adding that the information to which they referred had been given to the House not only once, but twice—first in the correspondence between the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth, and, in the second place, in his own speech in introducing the Irish Reform Bill. Now, that being so, the question at issue is narrowed to this point. Has the information which was promised, and for which we sought, been given or not? What was the information for which we asked? We wished to know what steps the Government proposed to take with respect to a charter acting on the Queen's University; and we also desired to be informed on the subsidiary question as to what alterations were contemplated in its constitution. The hon. Baronet who has just spoken now tells us that he gave us that information in his letter to the Lord Lieutenant. Allow me to read the concluding passage of that letter. It is as follows:—After a careful examination of the existing charter the Law Officers have come to the conclusion that the powers both of the Chancellor and Senate and of the Convocation are too limited to enable both or either of these bodies to make any valid surrender. It thus appears that it is impossible, under present circumstances, to give full effect to the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. The degrees to be conferred under the power which would be given by a supplemental charter would fail to place the recipients of such degrees on a footing of equality, as members of the Convocation, with other graduates of the University. The inferiority of their position in this respect would give rise to well-grounded dissatisfaction. Her Majesty's Government, there- 868 fore, propose to submit a Bill to Parliament, with a view to remove the obstacle which at present prevents the accomplishment of the object which they have in view.The effect of that is that no new charter carrying out the views of Her Majesty's Government could be valid without a surrender of the previous one, and that surrender was not to be hoped for.
§ MR. LOWE
I do not wish to state anything that is not correct, and I was only putting in a few words what I understood to be the view of my right hon. Friend. I will quote my right hon. Friend again—It thus appears that it is impossible under present circumstances to give full effect to the intentions of Her Majesty's Government.That was the communication which my right hon. Friend made. What he wanted could not be done without a new charter, and that could not be valid without a surrender of the previous one, which could not be effected.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Clearly all that I spoke of as being desired would involve a surrender of the old charter. A new charter would be necessary, and that could not be granted because there was no one to surrender the old one. An Act of Parliament would have been required, but what was granted was a supplemental charter.
§ MR. LOWE
My right hon. Friend said there could not be a charter to give all that he desired to give, but by a supplemental charter some of it could be given. That, however, he added, would be open to grave objection, as placing the persons who would get degrees under the new charter in a position of inferiority to those who got them under the old one. Does he say, "Therefore Her Majesty's Government are bound to content themselves, though reluctantly, with a supple mental charter?" My right hon. Friend said nothing of that kind in his letter. On the contrary, he argued the question as if the Government had no such intention. But does the case stop there? Wait till you hear the end of the letter, and I have no doubt it was a perfectly frank statement of the intention of the Government at the time—Her Majesty's Government therefore propose to submit a Bill to Parliament with a view to remove the obstacle which at present prevents the accomplishment of the object which they have in view.869 The object which they had in view could not be achieved by a charter which they bad not power to grant. They had another alternative. They might grant a charter which would not carry out that object; but they told the Lord Lieutenant, and through him this House and the country, that their intention was to reject the plan of a supplemental charter, and to propose an Act in order to enable them to issue a charter which would give full effect to their views. [Sir GEORGE GREY intimated his dissent.] The last thing I should wish to do would to be to misrepresent any hon. Gentleman, and least of all my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth, for whom, notwithstanding a difference in some political views, I never can feel anything but profound respect. If I misinterpret his language, let him say so. There were two operations—one desirable but not practical, the other practical but not desirable. Let him tell the House whether from the context there can be any other meaning given to his language than that the Government rejected the alternative of a supplemental charter, and would come to the House with a Bill. What, then, were we, who were watching this matter, to do? Were we to bring forward a Motion for the rejection of the Bill before it was brought in? No; it appeared that when my right hon. Friend should come to this House with his Bill it would be time enough for us to move in the matter. When my right hon. Friend modified his views, and selected a different way of carrying them out from that stated in his letter, was the clear and decisive resolution of the Government conveyed by my right hon. Friend—that a Bill should be introduced—a fair notice to this House to give it an opportunity of expressing its opinion on the subject? Nothing could be clearer than the official declaration of the Government referred to over and over again by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech of the 23rd February, and referred to over and over again by my right hon. Friend tonight. That this declaration should have been departed from and the alternative which we were led to believe had been rejected should have been resorted to with out notice to this House is the first part of my charge. I now come to the second part. My right hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) could scarcely have been serious when he said that he thought we would have taken warning as to the manner of dealing with 870 the Queen's University from the speech he had previously made on the subject. We always hear my right hon. Friend with pleasure, and never with more pleasure than when he is introducing measures for the amelioration of his native country; but it was too much after the disclosures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made as to England to expect grouped Members like myself to attend to those points. But my right hon. Friend says he opened the whole subject, and I now ask him whether he regards the statement which he made on this subject when bringing in the Irish Reform Bill as different from or similar to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth in his letter to the Lord Lieutenant. [Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCITE: It was Conditional.] That is no answer. Did the Government ever change their minds since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth wrote that letter? If so, when was that change communicated to the House? Was the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Louth the announcement of the change?
§ MR. LOWE
Well, I will read what my right hon. Friend the Member for Louth said—With reference to the Queen's University, the House knew from what had passed in former debates, and from documents laid upon the table, that the Government proposed to throw open the Queen's University to all students applying for degrees, irrespectively of their places of education. By so doing the Government would fulfil the pledge given last year to the hon. Member for Tralee, and thereby remove a well-founded grievance, and give increased usefulness and importance to the Queen's University in Ireland. For this purpose it would be necessary to prepare a supplemental charter, and also to propose to a certain extent legislation in that House, with a view to supply the deficiencies which under the present charter the Crown alone was not able to remedy.What is the meaning of that passage? Reading it now with the light of fresh events, I can see how it could be twisted into a notice of the supplemental charter; but reading it in connection with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth had written before on the subject of an Act of Parliament being wanted, who could doubt that the legislation referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Louth was the Act of Parliament mentioned in the letter to the Lord Lieutenant? Taking it that full information was given to us—taking it that there was no 871 surprise—though that would require no little effort—still I cannot believe till I hear it from my right hon. Friend that, when he made those observations in introducing the Irish Reform Bill he meant to say that the Government had changed their mind, that they were no longer going to proceed by Bill, that they were going to proceed by supplemental charter and to drop the Bill altogether. What ingenuity could torture into such an intimation the words—And also to propose certain legislation in that House with a view to supply the deficiencies which, under the present charter, the Crown alone was not able to remedy?But my right hon. Friend did not stop there. He proceeded—The Government intended, with the sanction of Parliament, to put the Queen's University on a footing with the London University, and consequently proposed that the Queen's University should have the same Parliamentary privilege as was intended to be conferred on the London University—namely, the right of returning a Member to that House.Who could suppose when he spoke those words that he meant the Government were not going to ask the sanction of Parliament, but to deal with the Queen's University themselves and put it on a different footing from the London University, without the sanction of Parliament? Those notices which we were told we should have were such as would have enabled us to challenge the proceedings of the Government. I maintain that I, and those who have taken the task of watching this matter, are not to blame. The letter of the late Secretary of State was clear and distinct. The clear and distinct meaning of it was that the Government, before they took any proceeding, would come to this House for a Bill to give them power. The statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Louth certainly was not as clear as that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth, because the former was spoken while the latter was written, and I hope my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) will give us some further information on the subject of the charter and the Bill. I now turn to the right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have accepted office, and beg their serious attention to this question. I suppose the supplemental charter if not accepted by the Senate will not be a valid charter; but this is a point on which I hope to be informed. I would ask the Government to give their earnest attention to the question with the view of protecting 872 the interests of education; but, at all events, I feel certain that after what has passed we shall not again have any attempt made to deal with this case without affording Parliament a full opportunity of expressing its opinion.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he was happy to hear from his right hon. Friend an admission that in the course which the late Government took with respect to this matter they had put the House of Commons in possession of their full intentions with respect to the alterations it was proposed to make in the Queen's University, both with respect to what they did, and what they did not mean to do. When these questions were asked in the beginning of the present Session ideas prevailed, as he was informed, that the Government had it in contemplation to make changes much larger and of a different kind from those indicated in the announcements made last Session by two right hon. Gentlemen, Members of Lord Palmerston's Government. It was thought by many, probably by the right hon. Member for Calne and the right hon. Member for Tamworth, that the Government were going to interfere with the constitution of the Queen's Colleges; that they were going to impose by charter or by Act a religious qualification on the office of Senator in the Queen's University, to give a State recognition to the Roman Catholic University in Dublin, and to interfere in some way with the course and curriculum of education in the Queen's University. The degree of alarm which prevailed induced questions to be put to the Government, and the object of the Government in all they had done since was to meet those questions and that alarm by informing the House accurately and fully of what they meant to do, and what they did not mean to do, on this subject. He gathered even from the speech of the right hon. Member for Calne that in that essential respect they had at least succeeded. The promise given by the right hon. Member for South Lancashire, at a time when there was no question of the introduction of a Bill, because the Government had not then been advised by their legal advisers that any Bill was required, was that the correspondence which had taken place should be laid on the table of the House, and that the House should be put in full possession of the intentions of the Government. In a short time afterwards the correspondence was laid on the 873 table, and, more than that, a letter, written by his right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for the express purpose of informing the House of the intentions of the Government, was also laid on the table. For himself, he half expected that the statement contained in that letter would have been challenged in that House by some enthusiast on the subject, but, as that was not the case, he inferred that that statement had disarmed the opposition of a section of the Liberal party, who, to his regret, had taken up a hostile attitude in the name of Liberal principles to a change in Irish University education which, he believed, would be of the greatest possible benefit to Ireland, and which was proposed in fulfilment of the solemn pledges given by the late Government a year ago. Least of all did he expect that his right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth would be the person to complain of what had been done, as the right hon. Baronet must be aware that the intentions of the Government, as stated by the right hon. Member for Morpeth, were neither more nor less than the intentions stated last year when the right hon. Member for Tamworth was Chief Secretary for Ireland. Then came the question of procedure, and for the first time he now learnt that certain words at the end of the letter of the late Home Secretary had given rise to a misconception in the minds of some who took an interest in the matter. He heartily and sincerely regretted that such misconception should have arisen. The intention of the Government, under the advice of the Law Officers in England and Ireland, was to issue a supplemental charter for the purpose of effecting as much as such a charter could effect. That was taking the first step—a most imperfect step—and it was intended that the charter should be immediately followed up and made effectual for its purpose by a Bill. But if any misconception as to those intentions had existed it ought to have been removed by the statement he made in introducing the Irish Reform Bill. He must protest against the idea that that statement was not sufficient to attract the attention of the House to the point in question. The late Government proposed to give a Member to the Queen's University. That was conditional on the very change which the Government then contemplated; for no human being would 874 propose to give a Member to the Queen's University on its present restricted footing, but only on condition that it should be open to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. He ventured to assert, in spite of all that the right hon. Member for Calne might think or say, that if such a proposition as that did not attract the attention of those who took an interest in the fortunes of the Queen's University, it was their own fault, and not the fault of the late Government. He had, indeed, expected at that time a debate upon the subject, believing that the statements made on the part of the Government must have attracted the attention of those interested, and that, if their alarm remained undiminished, they would have taken an opportunity of interposing their observations and criticism, and of declaring their opposition to the course so clearly announced. Could it be supposed that the Government were simple enough to hope that they would be enabled to escape such a discussion. The idea was preposterous. They were prepared to lay the supplemental charter on the table of the House, and to meet discussion at every stage. They were also prepared to introduce a Bill for the purpose of completing the change of which the supplemental charter was the first instalment. That Bill was ready, and he had undertaken to introduce it, and was going to give notice of its introduction at the very time that the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Galway (Lord Dunkellin) put a sudden and unexpected stop to public business. They must have encountered the fullest discussion in that House upon the charter and the Bill.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
maintained that the House had enjoyed frequent opportunities of expressing its opinion and of challenging the conduct of the Government before any definite proceeding. There was nothing in the supplemental charter or in the draft of the Bill which had not been previously stated to the House. Such being the case, considering the absolute silence of the House after the intentions of the Government were laid before it, and totally unaware of any misconception having arisen, they believed 875 that it was their duty to proceed in the fulfilment of their pledges, without doing which they held that they would be laying themselves open to the gravest censure. In treating this question he should have been glad to have gone beyond the narrow ground which he had occupied, and to have dealt with it upon its merits, but he felt that that was not the occasion for doing so. He refused to believe that those who called themselves Liberal Members could have wished to prevent the Government from redeeming the promises that were given last year, with the view of rendering the Queen's University a really national institution. The object was to throw open the University degree, so that it might be rendered accessible to every Irishman who might desire to possess it, by so doing to remove a well-founded grievance, and at the same time, to give an important stimulus to education in Ireland.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I hope, as I have all along taken a very warm interest in the subject of the Queen's Colleges and the Queen's University in Ireland, the House will allow me to make some observations on this subject. And, Sir, I agree entirely in what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth, that there are two questions here which are perfectly distinct; one is the change which it is desired to introduce into the present system of education in the Queen's University in Ireland; and the other is the time and the mode in which those changes have been made, so far as made up to the present moment. As to the merits of these changes, I agree this is not the proper opportunity to enter on the controversy. I am only anxious that the House should understand what the changes are; I shall not say one word as to whether they be desirable or not desirable. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), I think, hardly appreciated the gravity and importance of the changes. He said the supplemental charter has not in any way revoked or altered the constitution of the Queen's University as described in the original charter. The supplemental charter, he stated, is merely an enabling one—the Senate may choose it or not; it is for them to say whether they will act under it or not: it is entirely optional. Now, that is a question which may very easily be tested by a reference to the constitution of the Queen's University. There is a Uni- 876 versity, and the Queen's Colleges affiliated to the University, and the rule of the charter was, that the Queen's University could not confer any degree except on students who had passed through one or other of the Queen's Colleges. The object was to secure not a mere test of attainment, by means of one or two examinations, but a residential system of education at the Queen's Colleges. The student had to reside three years at one or other of the Queen's Colleges before he could come up for his degree. So carefully was this attended to in the constitution that it was provided in these terms—Provided that no degree shall be conferred on any candidate who shall not have pursued his studies in some one or more of the Colleges of the University, so far as is hereinbefore prescribed.The sine quâ non was a certain amount of residential education at one or other of the Queen's Colleges before a degree could be obtained. Now, observe what the supplemental charter proposes to do. It is called supplemental, but it is not supplemental at all. It entirely alters the constitution of the University. The supplemental charter recites—That it is expedient to extend the benefits of the said University, and for that purpose to enlarge the powers of the said University created by our said charter, by enabling it to grant all such degrees and distinctions as are hereinbefore mentioned to persons who may be deemed qualified to obtain the same, although they may not have matriculated in any of the said Colleges of the University, or pursued any part of their studies in such Colleges.I beg the House to observe that this is really not a question between the different denominations in Ireland. It would be a great mistake to suppose that it does not affect Roman Catholics and Protestants alike. The question is as to the system of education, and the rule—be it a good one or not—is, that under the supplemental charter a young man having lived in his father's house, never entering one of the Colleges at all, may go up to the Queen's University, and after passing the minimum examination obtain a degree.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman never was under a greater mistake, because at Trinity College there was a regular curriculum. At present, residence within the walls may not be necessary; but there must be attendance at three examinations in every year. 877 If the right hon. Gentleman is correct in his view, the question must arise, if Trinity College will admit all comers, where is the necessity for giving to the Queen's University the power of conferring degrees without residence at one of the Queen's Colleges? But the right hon. Gentleman is quite in error in supposing that there is any resemblance between what the supplemental charter prescribes and what is done at Trinity College, Dublin. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth was entirely in error when he stated that this was merely optional in the Queen's University. The supplemental charter provides this—We do, for us, our heirs and successors, further will and ordain, that once at least in every year the Senate of the Queen's University in Ireland shall cause to be held an examination for matriculation in the said University of all such students as may present themselves as candidates for matriculation under this our charter.This is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth calls merely an enabling or empowering clause. Why, it is a compulsory clause. The University is obliged—"we will and ordain that they shall cause to be held an examination of all such students as may present themselves," no matter where they come from. That may be very wise or very unwise; but it is a complete subversion of the whole system of education as pursued at the Queen's Colleges up to the present time. The constitution of the University secured a residential system of education, through the medium of the Colleges; but now it is proposed to substitute a system of providing degrees for all comers. This is a subject on which great difference of opinion prevails, though the system proposed is at present in operation at the University of London. This is not a question of Roman Catholic or Protestant education, it is a question of general education. The change proposed is a very important one, and it is one on which I wish to speak most temperately. I do not wish to impute wilful and deliberate misconduct to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I trust that in this House they all speak and think as gentlemen. I believe every one of the Gentlemen I see opposite is incapable—utterly incapable—of committing a breach of faith upon this or any other question; but I must say that a most unfortunate mistake has been committed, the effect of which has been to put the parties interested in this question off 878 their guard. My belief is that if the statements which have been made from time to time on this subject were to be laid before the Gentlemen opposite—not in the heat of debate, but when they might calmly review them—they would say, "We are obliged to admit that, although nothing of the kind was intended by the statements which have been made, yet they were well calculated to mislead, and we regret extremely that they should have misled, any one." Let me now ask the House to attend to the manner in which the change has been effected. If I am misinformed on the subject of dates I shall accept correction. The warrant for affixing the seal of Ireland to the supplementary charter reached Dublin on the 20th of June; the division of this House which resulted in the tender of the resignation of the Government on the following day took place on the 18th of June. That was not all. The addition of six members to the Senate of the Queen's College was made as usual by the Queen's letter; and I am told that that Queen's letter—if wrong I shall be glad to be corrected—was dated the 27th of June, nine days after the division to which I have referred. The Queen's letter named the six new members of the Senate, a circumstance which would have an important bearing on the acceptance of the charter. These dates may be wrong, but I think they are right. [Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE admitted that they were correct.] Well, then, the Queen's letter, appointing six new members to the Senate was actually dated nine days after the resignation of the Government. How does this fact tally with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth has just now said? He said, " We desire the House to have every information upon the subject laid before it; the matter was dealt with in a Bill laid upon the table of the House which was liable to discussion at a future stage; and we also intended to bring in a Bill in pursuance of our object, which would likewise be open to discussion." Now, my objection is this, that the late Government had no intention of bringing in a Bill at all. [Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE: I beg your pardon. We did intend to introduce a Bill.] But the Government on the 20th of June, when they tendered their resignation, could not have had the remotest idea of bringing in a Bill; the time for doing so was gone. That is the first objection I make; the supplemental charter was 879 actually sealed when the functions of the executive Government, to use the language of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer to this House, were "in abeyance," and when, therefore, the Government had no right to affix the seal. This being the case, it is idle to say that the Government were pursuing one complete and entire course in regard to the matter in question, because the supplemental charter was preliminary to the introduction of a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth stated that that charter was sealed merely with the view of bringing in a Bill. [Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE: Hear, hear!] All I can then say is the right hon. Gentleman has a very singular notion. It is desirable when ideas are ventilated that we should have a full and explicit expansion of them; for, observe, this is a question for discussion by the House of Commons.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
I stated just now that the supplemental charter received the Sign Manual a week before the division on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Galway.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
But I think I am right in stating that the issue of the warrant for affixing the seal—which is an Act of the executive Government—did not follow as a matter of course. The warrant for affixing the great seal was issued after the Government were—I will not say in extremis—but when their functions were in abeyance. The dilemma of the right hon. Gentleman is this—either the Government were or were not serious when they tendered their resignation. If they were not serious when they tendered their resignation, I can quite understand the smooth and even mode in which they conducted the business of the country during the interval; but if they were serious, the act was of a most singular description. Observe, it is not a question whether the Sign Manual was affixed a week before the resignation or not; it is a question, as the right hon. Gentleman has himself put it to the House. He has said—"This supplemental charter was granted as part of one complete alteration; for we intended to bring in a Bill to effect the changes we desired." I say at the time the charter was sealed the introduction of a Bill into Parliament was utterly impossible. Nor does the matter rest there. I will concede what the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) said as to the statement 880 made last Session, when the Government expressed in terms sufficiently clear the changes which they desired to make with reference to the Queen's University; and I agree with the right hon. Baronet that one of the changes at that time intended was to open the University to all comers, no matter where they were educated. The question is, what took place last year? I will avoid what has already been read on the subject, and first I will take what the late Chancellor of the Exchequer said on the 23rd of February. There are words in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which entirely misled me; I might not have been as vigilant as it could have been wished, but I appeal whether they would not have misled any one. As to the charter, he said—Naturally the communications on this subject must be undertaken by the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and recently, as the House is aware, these personages have had other more pressing questions to consider than those of University education. My right hon. Friend himself will move to lay on the table the correspondence as far as it has gone, and when it is concluded, and the Government have made up their minds—not before—and are ready to announce their conclusion, they will put the House at the earliest moment in possession of the fullest information on the subject. As to the charter, it will naturally follow the conclusion at which the Government shall arrive upon points which that charter may embrace, and I think I may say to my right hon. Friend that he need not be in the least afraid that he will be unable in point of time to bring the subject under the notice of the House, and to challenge the Government, if he thinks fit, before the Crown has committed any formal act, but not before the Administration have given any advice they may think it their duty to give to the Crown before the Crown is committed to that formal act. It was our intention, whether we are or are not compelled by law to do so, to clearly place under the view of Parliament the opinions we hold on the subject of University education in Ireland, and the advice which in consequence of these opinions it would be our duty to give the Crown.Now, will the House attend to what follows?—It was and is our intention to raise the question by asking the House to vote certain sums for scholarships to be opened to candidates from the Queen's Colleges, and to any other persons entitled to be examined in the Queen's University."—[3 Hansard, clxxxi. 967.]Now, in the name of common sense and plain language, could any person, after hearing this statement, do other than think that it was the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to propose a Vote in Committee of Supply upon this subject, and thus raise the question for discussion, 881 as he said, in that way? Whether he was bound by law or not to do so, he had pledged himself to this House that the question should be raised in this way. That is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to when he said—"There will be full and ample opportunity for the House to express its opinion before the Crown is committed to any formal act." That may not be the meaning of these words; but if not, I confess I do not know what they mean. I appeal to anybody present whether he would put any other construction upon them. "It was, and is, our intention to raise the question." What question? The question of the changes the Government contemplated—no matter how those changes were to be effected—and it was to be raised by asking the House to vote certain sums of money for the scholarships. The right hon. Gentleman does not fail to repeat his views in various forms; for he said—"In that manner I thought we should bring the matter fully and clearly before the House." Then, in response to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), he said—Our first duty will be to make up our minds on the question. Nothing could be more unworthy on our part than to bring this important question before the House previous to our having made up our own minds as to the course we should pursue. It will be perfectly practical, right, and convenient that no definite proceeding shall be taken by the Crown before the House has an opportunity of expressing its opinion."—[Ibid. 968.]Now, my impression was that, taking the 23rd of February as a starting point, the intention of the Government was to raise the whole question in the form of a Vote of Supply. The next question was this:—I took the liberty of asking the late Attorney General for Ireland a question, on the 6th of March, in reference to the changes, and the mode in which they were to be effected. In answer, the right hon. Gentleman said the Government had not finally decided as to the mode of effecting the changes in the constitution of the Queen's University; but that the changes would be laid on the table of the House in the form of a letter to the Lord Lieutenant from the Secretary of State. He also said that it would be necessary to obtain the assent of the governing body of the Queen's University to those changes, and that that assent had not yet been given. I cannot, of course, answer for other hon. Members, but the effect pro- 882 duced on my mind by that statement was this—it assured me that I might be perfectly content to wait until a letter was laid on the table from the Home Secretary or the Lord Lieutenant, in which I should find an explanation of the mode in which these changes were to be effected. I waited, therefore, for that document, and, when it came, what did it say? The right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) rested his case upon the letter, but I appeal to the House to say what interpretation they would put upon its concluding statement as to the manner in which the changes were to be introduced. The Secretary for the Home Department wrote to the Lord Lieutenant as follows:—After a careful examination of the existing charter, the Law Officers have come to the conclusion that the powers both of the Chancellor and Senate and of the Convocation are too limited to enable both or either of these bodies to make any valid surrender. It thus appears that it is impossible, under present circumstances, to give full effect to the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. The degrees to be conferred under the power which would be given by a supplemental charter would fail to place the recipients of such degrees on a footing of equality, as members of the Convocation, with other graduates of the University. The inferiority of their position in this respect would give rise to well-grounded dissatisfaction. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, propose to submit a Bill to Parliament with a view to remove the obstacle which at present prevents the accomplishment of the object which they have in view.Now, what do these words mean? They mean, if they mean anything, "We tried to do what we desired through a supplemental charter, but we find it would be inoperative to accomplish the object we have in view; and Her Majesty's Government therefore"—what does the word "therefore" mean if it does not refer to the fact that a supplemental charter would be insufficient?—"therefore we propose to submit a Bill to Parliament." I see the right hon. Member for Portarlington (Mr. Lawson) opposite, and I challenge him to deny that this letter, written by a Minister of the Crown, meant anything but this, "We might, if we chose, do a halting and imperfect act through the medium of a supplemental charter, but we will not do it because it would be halting and imperfect, and we intend to come before Parliament and submit a Bill for the purpose of accomplishing the object in view." That, I say, is the pledge which the right hon. Baronet gave in those sentences, and if, by any miserable special 883 pleading those words could be now made to bear a different interpretation, it would be unworthy of the position of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to rest their defence upon any quibble of that sort. The meaning to any plain reader of the Home Secretary's words was, "We are not going to resort to a supplemental charter, because it would be inefficacious, or, if we resort to it, it will be as a part and parcel of a Bill which we intend to submit to Parliament in order to obtain its sanction on the whole matter." But the pledge did not stop there, for on the 17th of April an hon. Member who represents a Scotch burgh asked the Home Secretary whether a Bill was to be brought in for granting a new charter or for altering the position of the Senate of the Queen's University, and the Home Secretary replied that he proposed on an early day to introduce a Bill to give effect to the intentions of the Government as stated in his letter to the Lord Lieutenant, but that the Bill would not be of the precise character implied by the question. Now, what did those words mean? Did the right hon. Gentleman tell the hon. Member he was quite mistaken, and that the Government wore going to grant a supplemental charter, and afterwards, if it proved inefficacious, would have occasion to bring in a Bill? No, he said he proposed to bring in a Bill to give effect to the intentions of the Government, though it would not be so large or extravagant as the question implied, thus giving the House the impression that a Bill was to be introduced, and that the sanction of Parliament would be asked. Well, did the pledge stop even here? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) has referred us to his speech on the introduction of the Irish Reform Bill, but, speaking in all humility for myself, I must say that if I had not been convinced up to that time that the Government had pledged themselves to ask the sanction of Parliament for the whole of their scheme, I should have been entirely convinced by that speech that that was what the Government intended to do. I will not stop to deal with the question whether a speech on the Reform Bill was the natural occasion for giving an explanation of the intentions of the Government with regard to the Queen's University. Passing that by, what did the right hon. Gentleman say? He began by referring to former debates and to documents which had been 884 laid on the table. The only document, however, that had been placed on the table was the Home Secretary's letter.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
There was also the printed correspondence which had taken place between the Government and the Roman Catholic Prelates?
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
But that correspondence and the Home Secretary's letter were all, I think, in one paper. [Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE: No.] Well, I accept the correction of the right hon. Gentleman, but my impression was that I read the whole in one paper. That, however, is not at all material. The right hon. Gentleman's words were these—With respect to the Queen's University the House knew from what had passed in former debates and from documents laid on the table that the Government proposed to throw open the Queen's University to students applying for degrees, irrespective of their place of education. By so doing the Government would fulfil the pledge given last year to the hon. Member for Tralee, and thereby remove a well-founded grievance and give increased usefulness and importance to the Queen's University in Ireland. For this purpose it would be necessary to prepare a supplemental charter and to propose to a certain extent legislation in that House with a view to supply the deficiencies which, under the present charter, the Crown alone was not able to remedy. The Government intended, with the sanction of Parliament, to put the Queen's University in Ireland on a footing with the London University, and consequently proposed that the Queen's University should have the same Parliamentary privileges as was intended to be conferred on the London University—namely, the right of returning a Member to that House.Thus the right hon. Gentleman wound up his statement by saying that the Government intended, "with the sanction of Parliament," to put the Queen's University upon the same footing as the London University. Well, now, does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say, after hearing these statements read, that he has kept faith with the House? [Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE: Yes.] Well, I wish to exculpate hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite from any intention of wilfully breaking faith, but is it too much to say that the words which fell from the Members of the late Government must have had the natural effect of deceiving the House? Speaking for myself, I may state that I was applied to by various persons interested in the Queen's University with reference to presenting petitions upon the subject of the contemplated changes, and the uniform language which I held was—"We are 885 promised, either in the shape of a Vote in Supply or of a Bill to be laid on the table, an opportunity for discussing the proposed measures. We have been promised again and again that the changes are not to be made without the sanction of Parliament, and, therefore, there will be ample opportunity of appealing to Parliament as soon as a Bill is introduced or a Vote is proposed." I must say, therefore, that although there has been no intention of misleading the House, there certainly has been a most unfortunate misleading of the House upon this very grave and important question.
§ MR. LAWSON
said, that the House might naturally ask what was the question it was then discussing, for the Attorney General himself had just stated that he did not impute to the Members of the late Government any breach of faith in that matter. But he was certainly surprised to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that that was not a Roman Catholic question. The whole history of the subject proved that it was pre-eminently a Roman Catholic question, and nothing else. During the last Session of Parliament the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for the Home Department, having the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth by his side, declared, in reply to the demand made by the hon. Member for Tralee for the grant of a charter to the Roman Catholic University, that the Government would not assent to the proposal, while he added that the Roman Catholics of Ireland were subject to a real grievance in that matter, and that the Government would endeavour to remove that grievance by enlarging the basis of the Queen's University, and enabling it to confer degrees on all students who underwent a certain examination. Then there was an exception made in the case of the Magee College in Ireland, which was a Presbyterian College. If this charter were carried out, it would enable Roman Catholic graduates to come forward and to contend with the graduates belonging to other religious denominations for degrees. That was not the case at present, inasmuch as no Roman Catholic students, educated in Catholic Colleges, were capable of obtaining degrees in any of the Irish Universities. Because the parents of these young men, from conscientious motives, declined to send their children to the Queen's Colleges, were the advantages of the Uni- 886 versity to be still withheld from them, and the basis of it confined to its present narrow limits? He repeated this was pre-eminently a Roman Catholic question, and the Attorney General could not evade it and decline to pronounce an opinion upon its merits. But because it was a Roman Catholic question, and because the late Government intended to remove a disability under which Catholic students in Ireland were placed, they had been visited with the present debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman endeavoured to establish that those acts of the late Government were done at a time when that Government was in extremis, and actually after they had resigned their places. But the Attorney General could only make that out by a system of special pleading. He (Mr. Lawson) said that from beginning to end there was no change in the intentions of the Government upon this question. On the 15th March the Law Officers of Ireland had given their opinions upon this point. The letter of the late Home Secretary was then laid upon the table, founded upon that opinion, and stating that two things were necessary for the purpose of giving effect to the proposed object. First, a supplemental charter; and secondly, in order to remedy the defect that would still exist; for the degrees conferred under the supplemental charter would not give the students the proper status in the University without an Act of Parliament in addition. They could not, for example, be members of Convocation, and it was obviously undesirable that there should be two different classes of graduates separated by religious distinction. Immediately after the publication of that letter the late Law Officers prepared two documents at the same time—the one was the draft of the supplemental charter, and the other was the draft of the Bill which recited that charter. They were prepared on the same day, and submitted to the Government upon the understanding that they were to go on pari passu. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth had the draft of the Bill, and was ready to lay it on the table of the House. The Sign Manual to the charter was obtained on the 13th June, a week before the Motion was made upon which the Government went out of office, but the preparation of the document itself had occupied the attention of the Law Officers for a considerable time previously. Their advice 887 was that the charter should issue, and be submitted to the Senate for its approval, and when that was done the Bill should be introduced. There was therefore no ground for the assertion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that all this was done after the late Government had determined upon resigning. As he (Mr. Lawson) now saw the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) in his place, he would take the opportunity of addressing some observations to him. He would first say that there was not a particle of foundation for the charge he had made against him (Mr. Lawson), that his answer to the question of the Attorney General was one of an evasive character, and that he had stated ahat something was to be done which he well knew would not be done. To that charge he (Mr. Lawson) gave the most unqualified contradiction. What he had stated was, that the mode in which the proposed changes were to be effected in the constitution of the Queen's University had not yet been finally settled, but it would soon be laid upon the table. On the 20th June the right hon. Baronet went minutely into the statement, that he proposed to put the Queen's University on the same footing as that of the London University, and enable its Senate to grant degrees to all candidates who presented themselves for them, although not members of the Church of England. The right hon. Gentleman continued to be a Member of the Government who proposed to make that change. But when he heard that a supplemental charter had been submitted to the Senate of the Queen's University having the effect of working out that change, he went to Ireland for the purpose of defeating the acceptance of that charter which he had before stated he entirely approved of. That was the position which the right hon. Baronet had the bad taste to take up against the late Government. He congratulated the right hon. Baronet on the liberality of sentiment and consistency of conduct which he exhibited in thus coming forward to oppose the concession of so small a boon to the Catholic students of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman told the Irish students in effect to go to the London University, and as they could get their degrees there they had no ground of complaint. He (Mr. Lawson) called that an emigration of the worst kind, and he did not understand the nationality of the 888 right hon. Baronet. He could not think what hon. Gentlemen were afraid of; for this charter, so far from interfering with mixed education in Ireland, would be one of its best preservatives. If the Queen's Colleges themselves could not afford to breathe the free air of competition, they had not the vitality which he believed they possessed. The only effect of this change would be to give a fair opportunity for rivalry between the two different systems of the University Colleges and the Denominational Colleges. The change would not in the least degree interfere with the Colleges themselves, and he could not see how it could injure the system of mixed education in Ireland. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth had sufficiently answered the charge brought against the late Government of having been guilty of a want of good faith. There could not have been a more idle supposition than that the late Government should have sought for concealment in this matter, and the matter had been carried out by them from beginning to end in the most full and complete manner with an earnest desire to realize the pledges held out by the then Home Secretary during the previous Session. No injury whatever had been done to the cause of mixed education; the supplemental charter was only to enable the University to confer degrees upon persons who had not been educated in the Colleges. If the Senate of the University chose to reject the charter it would become inoperative; but if, as he believed, the Senate, in the interests of their country and of their own University, accepted it, it would then be for the House to say whether it would be put in motion to confirm that charter so accepted, and to take care that there should be no improper distinction or difference drawn between men brought up at the University and those brought up at Denominational Colleges. It would then be for the House to say whether they would or would not carry out and complete that system. The question was looked upon with great interest in Ireland, and it was by no means a wise or a just thing for the advocates of mixed education to endeavour to promote their own system by proscribing, denouncing, or placing under disabilities those who were attached to a different system.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that from the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), it was manifest that he was still influenced by the same spirit of edu- 889 cational fanaticism which seemed to possess him ever since Ireland was fortunate enough to have him as Chief Secretary. Indeed it was curious that on a subject of such a nature there should be so much bitterness and ill-feeling. The right hon. Baronet hurled imputations and accusations on all sides. He charged the late Government with having yielded to a base pressure on this question, and with having made this concession to the Catholics of Ireland in order to gain the votes of Catholic Members. Now be (Mr. Maguire) did not believe that any such pressure could possibly have been put upon the Government in June, 1865; and so far from any compact or bargain having taken place between the Irish Members and the Government, the Irish Members simply urged on the Government a most just and legitimate claim on behalf of their Catholic countrymen, and the Government dealt with their proposal in a wise and statesmanlike spirit. The language held by the Government in June, 1865 was not of that vague and general character which the right hon. Baronet affected to think it had been. On the contrary, it was so full and clear, so minute and yet so comprehensive, as to their intentions, and the mode in which those intentions were to be carried out, that the hon. Member for Tralee withdrew his Motion—a Motion which seemed to command unanimous assent. The House on that occasion appeared to have come to a right and rational conclusion—namely, that there was in Ireland a large body of Catholics whose only offence was that they held the same opinions and principles on the subject of education as were held and acted upon by the great majority of Englishmen. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) was in office, he defended the English National system of education, which was based upon religious teaching, and was in fact denominational, and he represented it as dear and precious to the mass of the English people; and yet Irishmen were denounced as bigoted and retrogressive, fanatical and desirous of going back to the policy of the Dark Ages, because they asked to have the principle of English legislation applied to their country; and the Government were to be branded as base because they made a concession to Irish Catholics which had an apposite precedent in the boon granted to English Dissenters. When one listened to such a speech as that deli- 890 vered by the right hon. Baronet, one was inclined to ask when was there to he anything like consistency and honour among statesmen and politicians? The right hon. Baronet was in office, sat on the Treasury Bench, when the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—his Colleagues in the Government—made the proposal on the part of the Cabinet, not in a vague, but in a precise and specific manner. He listened to the statements made by his Colleagues in the Ministry, and not one word of objection or remonstrance fell from his lips. By his silence he assented to that proposal; by his remaining in office he equally concurred in the policy which it announced; and yet in twelve months after, and out of office, he discovered that the proposal and policy to which, as a Minister, he virtually assented, were repugnant to his conscience. If the offer made by the Government in 1865 were so repugnant to his conscience, so dangerous and subversive of the principles which he cherished, why did he not rise in his place and say so at the time? Why, instead of remaining in office, did he not at once separate himself from the Government on a question which he held to be so vital? He charged the right hon. Baronet with moral cowardice in not having stood by his principles on that occasion, and he held him responsible, in the face of Parliament and the country, for not having, as a Member of the Government, repudiated their proposition if he believed it to be injurious. What the House had a right to complain of was, that while holding the most important and responsible of all offices, that of Chief Secretary for Ireland, he concealed his real opinions, and that after acquiescing in the policy of his Colleagues when in office, he should turn round on them in a year after, and condemn them for the very thing to which he had virtually assented. There had been too much of the same inconsistency in the late debates on Reform; and it would be well for Parliamentary morality and statesmanlike consistency that, when a Minister did not agree with his Colleagues on any really important matter, involving principle, he should separate himself at once from them, and then free himself from further responsibility. The question had excited a good deal of unnecessary acrimony; but let them look at the matter calmly. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; but while perhaps he spoke warmly where principle 891 and consistency were involved, he could state the views of his countrymen on this subject of education quite calmly. The late Sir Robert Peel had been referred to as the founder of the Queen's Colleges. But if Sir Robert Peel, who was one of the wisest and most sagacious of statesmen, were then alive and in office, he would do the very same thing that the late Government had done, or that the present Government, if they were wise, would do. The late Sir Robert Peel was not one of your pig-headed statesmen—who having once got hold of an idea, could never change or modify it; he went with the times, and yielded to the force alike of conviction and circumstances. He had been the most strenuous supporter of the Corn Laws; and yet he was the very man who, as a Minister at that table, proposed and carried their repeal. In the same way he would have yielded to reason and justice in the present case, and respected conscientious convictions which he could not overcome. He hoped the son of that great statesman would have the moral courage to bring this question fairly before the House, and test his friends opposite on the subject. He would venture to say, whatever hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite might assert in this House, they considered the right hon. Baronet a most dangerous ally. If the Government could evade the difficulty, they would do so, and perhaps wisely; but the question was one of those which, from its present position, was one that could not be shirked or evaded, but should be dealt with sooner or later. The state of the case was this:—There was a vast majority of the Catholics of Ireland attached to the principle of separate education. Was that a crime? If so, then they sinned in common with the vast majority of the English people. One of the supporters of the separate system was Dr. Cullen, whom the right hon. Baronet might perhaps shortly term "the so-called Cardinal." [Sir ROBERT PEEL: No, no!] Well, the right hon. Baronet once said that he did not care three rows of pins for his opinion. Was it because Dr. Cullen held that separate education was the best system that the right hon. Baronet opposed it, and refused any fair concession to those who shared in the feeling of the Catholic Bishops on that point? The great body of the Catholics of Ireland held opinions in common with their Bishops, and, at considerable pecuniary sacrifice, founded a 892 Catholic University, which cost about £100,000, including contributions from Catholics in the colonies and America; and their interest in the institution was still shown by their generously responding every year to the appeal made in its behalf. That showed the sincerity of their attachment to the system on which this University was based. And surely this sincerity of belief was entitled to the fair consideration of Parliament, which annually votes an immense sum for the maintenance of a similar system of education in England. The Irish Catholics—not all, certainly, but the vast majority—held the same opinions on this subject of education which were proclaimed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne when he was Minister. Well, Bishops, priests, and the great body of the Catholic laity asked for a charter for their University; and what possible harm could it have done to give that institution the power of granting degrees to its students? The charter was refused by successive Governments, mainly owing to the noise and clatter got up by a few bigots—educational bigots—who would tolerate no views which were not in accordance with their own. The same demand was made on the late Government by a Motion in this House. But the Government said "No; we will not give a charter to the Catholic University, but we will make a compromise. We will give power to the Queen's University to grant degrees to all students, whether educated at the Queen's Colleges or the Catholic University; and we will so modify the constitution of the Senate of the Queen's University as to inspire general confidence in that body." This was the compromise offered by the late Government; and, taking all circumstances into consideration, it was about as much as the Government could hope to carry, so long as the absurd excitement on the subject continued. In giving this privilege to the students of the Catholic University, they would not do away with or impair the mixed system, which would be amply sustained by the State; but they would bring about what was most essential, and would be beneficial to the general cause of education in Ireland—a wholesome rivalry between the students of the two institutions. If the students of the Catholic University could not win in the academic race, they should be content to remain without the honours and distinctions of success; but if they established their pro- 893 ficiency in the studies necessary to qualify them for degrees, was there any just reason why they should be denied the advantages granted to students of other institutions? There had been a great deal of petting and fostering of students in the Queen's Colleges up to a certain period, and honours were lavished in cases where they had not been hardly won; but with a new system, under which all students should have to compete in a common arena, the greatest benefit would be the result. Would the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer consent to the proposal of the right hon. Baronet to undo what the late Government had done? The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Leader of the present Government had made all kinds of promises to Ireland. What, then, were they going to do in this matter? Here was an opportunity of testing the sincerity of their professions. To the mind of any unprejudiced man nothing could be fairer than the compromise of the late Government. If the present Government were wise and politic, they would do as the late Government had done. When he was Member for Dungarvan a constituent of his told him that he would sooner cut off his hand than send a child of his to the Queen's Colleges. The gentleman who thus expressed himself had realized a large fortune by industry, energy, and integrity; and he (Mr. Maguire) believed he would have made very great sacrifices in defence of his educational views. That gentleman was strongly in favour of the separate system—which exists in this country; and that was the feeling among the general body of the Catholics of Ireland. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to respect the honest convictions of those who were unwilling to barter their feelings for the advantages to be derived from the system of education of the Queen's Colleges, and to redeem the promises given not only by the late Government, but by the Parliament itself.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
expressed a hope that the appeal made by the hon. Member for Cork would be answered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that a statement would be made of the policy of the Government, not only with reference to education in Ireland, but as to other subjects which were regarded with interest by the people of that country. He might be permitted to say that a rumour prevailed that the people of Ireland were to 894 be subjected to a dictatorship, and that the Government was not to be carried on by the Constitutional Advisers of the Crown. It was said in former days that Mr. O'Connell was dictator to the Whigs. Was it to be said in 1866 that the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) was to be dictator to Her Majesty's Government? These were not mere words. The people of Ireland saw with terror that they were to be legislated for not by the Government of the day, but by the right hon. Gentleman. He did not intend to say a word derogatory to the distinguished individual who had been appointed Lord Chancellor for Ireland; but he asked whether it was true that Mr. Blackburne had not in 1858 declined the great seal on the ground of advancing years? He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had spoken of checks to Irish emigration, would state whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to bring in a Bill in reference to the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. The effectual check to emigration and disaffection would be the declaration that the Government intended to deal in a fair and liberal spirit with that question.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I wish for my own sake and for the sake of the House that I could have refrained from taking part in a discussion which, so far as the late Government are concerned, has been exhausted by the speeches delivered from this Bench. But my right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) has not left me that option, because he has been so kind as to treat this matter, not simply with reference to a default of duty on the part of the late Government, but as a personal breach of faith on my part—acquainting me, as he did in his speech—and, certainly, I am not accustomed to such imputations—that an imputation rests upon me individually as regards the non-fulfilment of my promises in this House, and that a motive of kindness to me operated—I forget whether with respect to himself or the Senate—in causing him to give me an opportunity of freeing myself from these grave imputations. And then, at the close of the speech of my right hon. Friend, stretching his Christian charity to the utmost in order to devise a more favourable interpretation, he was kind enough to let me off easy, on the ground that so favourable and so high was the opinion he entertained of me, that he had no doubt I should have kept my promise but for the pressure and 895 excitement of the fallen fortunes of the Government. I return my best thanks to my right hon. Friend for his kindness in raising this discussion with a view to my special personal advantage, and more especially for the mild judgment that he has been pleased to pass upon the breach of my engagement, mitigated by the considerations he has so kindly adduced. But, Sir, I cannot accept the statement of my right hon. Friend. I must gravely question the discretion with which, so far as he is concerned, he has raised the present question. I must contrast his recital of the facts with the far more accurate recital of the right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe). The statements of these two Gentlemen were fundamentally at variance upon the more important points of the case. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) represented the case generally in this way:—In the summer of 1865 there had taken place a discussion in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), on the part of the Government, promised, in large and general terms, the consideration of the question with regard to the higher class education in Ireland; and then my right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel), leaving it to be understood that the House at that time remained in total ignorance as to what were the real intentions of the Government, came down in his narrative to the present Session of Parliament, and described the feelings of astonishment and dismay with which he at length discovered that it was our intention to open, if we could, the Queen's University so that it should no longer admit to degrees exclusively those persons who were trained in the Queen's Colleges, but that it should admit to degrees all who had complied with the requisite conditions, and had attained the requisite degree of fitness, even although they might have been so ill judged, as he considered it, to receive their education only in an establishment where their own religion was specifically taught. That my right hon. Friend now declares to be a fundamental change in the system established by the late Sir Robert Peel; and I believe he has given indications to-night of his intention to challenge that change, and to invite the judgment of the House upon it, which I hope he will do. But has he totally forgotten that to the official pledge to Parliament and to the people of Ireland to introduce that very change, he himself was a party. My right hon. Friend, as 896 the representative of the Irish Government, sat upon the Ministerial Bench by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth, when the latter, on the part of the Government of Lord Palmerston, not merely in vague and general terms intimated that it was the intention of the Government to consider this or that, but in the most specific manner announced the very object the Government had in view, and which at the very first opportunity it was our supreme desire to make thoroughly known and understood by Parliament, as well as by the people of Ireland. Here are the very words that were then used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth with the assent and approval of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth—Her Majesty's Government think it (their object) would best be effected by an enlargement of the powers of the Queen's University in Ireland, by amending its charter so as to remove the restrictions which now prevents it from granting degrees to any students except those who have passed through a course of instruction in one or other of the Queen's Colleges, thus adopting a system analogous to that found to work satisfactorily in the University of London."—[3 Hansard, clxxx. 555.]These are the terms of the declaration made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth with the official and responsible approval of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
May I just interrupt my right hon. Friend for a moment? What I stated in the earlier part of this discussion was not that I approved entirely of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth, but that the Government had given a pledge to this House, in answer to the speech of the hon. Member for Tralee, that during the Session the Government would consider the question, with a view to the enlargement of the scheme for the University.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I do not undertake to state whether my right hon. Friend approved every word in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth or not. What I stated was this, that my right hon. Friend was Secretary for Ireland at the time that a measure of a specific character and of vital importance was announced by the Cabinet under which he served, and he, the organ of the Irish Government, remained silent upon the Ministerial Bench, and became responsible as much as was any one of us for the measure announced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
With the permission of the House I must again interrupt the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It is not the case that I sat silent upon the Bench while that statement was made by my right hon. Friend. I stated to Lord Palmerston, the then Prime Minister, that if the Government intended to introduce any measure affecting the Queen's University in Ireland, I would not consent to hold the position I did.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
I am unable to follow the reasoning of my right hon. Friend. He says that because he made some statement to Lord Palmerston, of which I have now heard for the first time, it therefore follows that I am not correct in saying, what I must repeat, that he sat silent upon the Bench as an organ of the Irish Government while a statement was made announcing Irish policy, and therefore by that silence he was, and could not but be, and in the sense of the constitution or usages of this House must have been, and could only be understood to be, fully and completely responsible for the whole measure then announced. But my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne has given a much more accurate statement of what has taken place. I must say that if there is anything for which I should be disposed to claim credit on the part of the late Government in connection with this matter, it is for our extreme anxiety to place Parliament from the first in possession of our intentions. I do not say that we were entitled to any special credit for this, because any Government that pursued a different course would find itself involved in infinite embarrassment. It would have been possible to have made vague and general declarations, but the greatest care was taken to make specific statements; and the right hon. Member for Calne, with his clear perception and accurate memory, has stated fully and clearly the declaration that was made by the Government in June, 1865, of their whole intention with respect to this matter. When we came to the commencement of the present year, the very first thing we did was to lay upon the table of this House every document connected with the subject the moment we were in a position to do so. As I stated on a former occasion, we always looked forward to the opportunity we should have, in the natural course of business, to challenge the judgment of the House upon the measures we had taken, by the proposal it was our intention to make for the 898 foundation of scholarships in the enlarged University. It was not supposed by us that that was a security given to the House in order to enable it to prevent things of which it might disapprove. On the contrary, it was quite evident that the proposal of these scholarships must follow and not precede the changes to be made in the constitution of the Queen's University. We looked to that as a means by which we should bring under the judgment of the House those measures which undoubtedly we should have adopted on our own responsibility, without question, but not without the full cognizance of the House. Since July, 1865, I distinctly affirm that our plans and intentions have been well known to this House; and that they were well known is proved by the questions put in February of the present year. It is so far satisfactory that there can be no doubt at all of the meaning of the terms then used. I do not complain that they have been misconstrued by either of the two right hon. Gentlemen who have appeared disposed to complain of the conduct of the late Government. The promise was certainly not to associate the House by acts of our own in the responsibility for those measures anterior to their being adopted—that is to say, so far as they were measures within the compass of the prerogative of the Crown. It would have been wrong on our part if we had endeavoured to throw upon the House the responsibility for these measures, so far as they were within the compass of that prerogative. At the time I speak of we were not aware, from an examination of the case, that it would be necessary to invite the aid of Parliament; but, when challenged, we cheerfully promised to place it in the power of Parliament to interfere if it pleased, for the purpose of preventing beforehand the accomplishment of that of which it might disapprove. When that pledge was given it appeared to be satisfactory; and, undoubtedly, we did believe that when the Secretary of State laid upon the table the letter he had addressed to the Lord Lieutenant we had substantially fulfilled that pledge. I grant, as the right hon. Member for Calne has urged, and as the Secretary for Ireland has admitted, it could not be inferred from that letter that it was intended by us to prepare the draft of a supplemental charter and to advise the Crown with respect to the charter before introducing a Bill into Par- 899 liament. I admit that, and I join with the late Secretary for Ireland in regretting that that letter of my right hon. Friend was not, as I have said, clear and indisputable upon that subject; but I cannot admit that it conveyed the sense which the right hon. Member for Calne has put upon it. I admit that upon that point it was ambiguous, and I regret it. I must say this: it did appear to me that that ambiguity, whatever it was, was made sufficiently clear by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Chichester Fortescue). It has been said by the right hon. Member for Calne that it was not to be expected attention should be paid to that speech considering the circumstances under which it was delivered; but my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth has given us to-night a lively description of the alarm and dismay that that speech excited in his mind.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
I did not say my right hon. Friend was present, but he learnt from that speech the intentions of the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Louth said—In order to carry into effect the purposes of the Government it would be necessary to prepare a supplemental charter; and also to propose, to a certain extent, legislation in that House, with a view to supplying deficiencies which under the present charter the Crown alone was unable to remedy.I must remind the House of a well-known and recognized principle, that there is no declaration more formal and more solemn than that which a Minister of the Crown makes in his place in the House of Commons; and I cannot conceive how anyone, listening to the words I have quoted, could have rested in the comfortable conviction in which the right hon. Member for Calne appears to have rested, that the first step to be taken by the Government was the introduction of a Bill into this House. The right hon. Member for Calne will do me the justice to recollect that all along we have said we could not produce the charter as a draft to this House, and that we distinctly declined to do so; and then the Secretary for Ireland said it would be necessary to prepare a supplemental charter, and also to propose certain 900 legislation to supply deficiencies in the present charter which the Crown alone could not remedy. Under these circumstances, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne says he finds himself reduced to this dilemma, that either he must accuse himself of some laxity or inattention in the pledge he gave to follow up this question, or else he must accuse the Government of that which he would not describe by finishing the sentence, I have not the least hesitation in stating that between these alternatives I accept the milder one, and I think my right hon. Friend must see that after he was told that a supplemental charter would be prepared, and told likewise that it could not be laid before the House until it had been acted upon, he must have shown either a little inattention to the duties he had undertaken or he must at the moment have been under such an excess of liberal and favourable temper as prevented his exercising his habitual vigilance.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
My right hon. Friend now calls the words to my re-collection—We therefore propose, with the sanction of Parliament, to bring the Queen's University in Ireland into the same condition as the University of London.Undoubtedly, because without the sanction of Parliament it cannot be done. The powers of the Queen's University can be extended as far as the point we had immediately in view is concerned—namely, as to the granting of degrees; but that does not place the Queen's University on the footing of the London University. A supplemental charter was requisite; but in order to put the Queen's University on the same footing as the University of London, it was necessary that those who received the degrees should be invested with all the privileges attaching to those degrees, and that could only be done through Parliament. As far, then, as I am able to review the circumstances, it does appear to me that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth has entirely mistaken, and therefore misstted, the nature of the case, because his view clearly is that the real substance of the intentions of the Government was never made known 901 to Parliament during the Session of 1865, or before the time when he himself had promised to move an Address to the Crown. No doubt, if that had been true, the foundation would have been broad enough to sustain the charge which he has made. But I think I have shown unequivocally by quotation from the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) that the foundation of fact is wanting for his argument. As to the case of the right hon. Member for Calne it is of a totally different nature. He does not hesitate to admit from the first that the disclosures made in the debate of 1865 were full and ample as to the nature of the measures we should take. And I must in passing say this on the part of the late Government, that we may have been, I grant, in some degree misled by the exceedingly favourable reception given by the House to these disclosures when made in June, 1865. What happened then? My right hon. Friend the Member for Calne offered, as I understood, no objection at the time. Objection was, indeed, offered by an hon. Gentleman then a Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy) on the specific ground that our measure did not go far enough, and that unless they went much farther we could not expect them to give satisfaction to the people of Ireland. Objection was likewise offered by the then right bon. Member for Dublin University (Mr. Whiteside), and, considering the unequivocal tone of his observations, I must say I thought the views of that right hon. Gentleman were of a narrow description; but the general character of the debate was a character of approval. What said the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley)? He dealt with this question of mixed education, and stated that if there was one thing for which the hierarchy of another religious persuasion were entitled to credit it was for the strenuous manner in which from the beginning they bad stepped forward and denounced the system of mixed or godless education—holding out, as it did, temptations for acquiring a good academical education—as fatal to faith and morals. [Mr. HENLEY: Hear, hear!] We did not adopt that statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but it was a most important statement as proceeding from him, and as expressing what we knew it did express, a wide-spread conviction among those who surrounded him adverse, root and branch, to mixed education. [Mr. HENLEY: Hear, hear!] That indi- 902 cated what we had to expect from that quarter. And what had we to expect from the supporters of civil and religious liberty in this House? I would speak with the greatest respect of Gentlemen who are not numerous, but at the same time whose judgment and character entitle what proceeds from them to the utmost respect and consideration; and I know that there are Gentlemen on this side of the House—firm friends to Ireland, and firm friends also to liberty—who by some process to me wholly inexplicable have arrived at conclusions nearly the same as those of the right hon. Member for Tamworth—that is to say, who disapprove of this enlargement of the Queen's University. Well, Sir, when we get upon this ground we get upon a ground which is much wider than that of the comparatively limited discussion of to-night. I must say that if the Parliament of this country is prepared to adopt that opinion, if it is prepared to mulct the Irish Roman Catholic in respect of his civil rights, because on account of his conscientious convictions he does the very thing that nineteen-twentieths of the parents of England do in the higher classes of society, and that we encourage the parents of every peasant child to do by schools supported at the public expense in every parish—that is to say, to send his child to be taught at places where the religious instruction conveyed to him by his teachers is made part of the system of education—if this House while maintaining this system in England, while refusing in England to recognize any school that is without religion, and while saying to everybody in England who seeks to establish a merely secular school, that not one farthing shall such a school get of the public grant—is to turn round and tell the people of Ireland that, "With all the respect which we entertain for religious convictions in this country, we will show you that Irish feelings and convictions are to be treated with no such deference—that we have one weight and one measure for this side of the Channel, and another weight and another measure for the other side of the Channel"—I must say, Sir, that if this be the sentiment and intention of this House—I care not whether it be Liberal or whether it be Conservative, I look upon the question as a national question, I look upon it as a question of political justice, and it is well that no time should be lost, that we should not too long occupy our- 903 selves in critical and minute examinations of this or of that misunderstanding, of this or of that expression, but that the Parliament of this country should arrive at some clear and distinct enunciation of its convictions and intentions upon a question with respect to which I venture to assert that, although its immediate practical consequences may be grave, those immediate practical consequences are not to be weighed for one moment in the balance against the enormous weight of the principles involved. I hope therefore, Sir, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth will understand that when he was warmly challenged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) to bring this question before the House, that challenge was not one delivered merely in the heat of debate, nor did it aim at any object so comparatively unimportant and secondary as the vindication of the late Government. It aims at giving the people of Ireland information on the vital question whether or not they are to be governed on the principles of political and national equality. And although we have advanced far in the Session, and although this certainly is not the time at which I for one should wish to see raised any question involving the existence or the distinctive opinions of the new Administration, as compared with those of their predecessors, yet this is a matter which I look upon as broader and deeper—it is a matter on which, whatever may have been said by the learned Gentleman the Attorney General, I cannot view the present Government as committed—it is a matter on which I am bound to say I believe that the convictions of many hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite are in unison with the feelings of the representatives of the Irish people, and that they will give utterance and effect to those convictions when the time may come. But whether the decision is to be adverse or whether it is to be favourable, I do put it to this House, and to my right hon. Friend, that the matter is not one which is to remain in doubt. If the Irishman is to be deprived of the strictly civil privilege of a degree on account of a conviction strictly and absolutely religious and flowing for him—I do not mean for all Irishmen, but for that portion of them who choose so to view the matter—flowing, I say, for them straight out of their religious conviction and belief—if that is to be the conduct of the 904 Parliament of the United Kingdom towards Ireland, then not one day should be lost in making it none. I may be permitted just to remind the House that there are two or three points involved in the present question which are quite distinct from one another. There is the point of the appointments made by the late Government of members of the Senate of the Queen's University. I do not know that there would be any great advantage in entering upon that discussion at the present moment, because the debate has already been sufficiently laden with matter which does not directly belong to it. But we are here to defend those appointments—to defend their propriety in themselves, and the propriety of their being made by us under the circumstances and at the time when they were made. To make appointments of that character and to nominate to the Senate a moderate portion of persons whose names would render them in some degree representatives of those for whose benefit the other changes were intended was, in our view, a portion of the pledge which we had publicly and formally given to the people of Ireland, and which, if it were our very last act of administration, we were bound, as far as it lay in our power, to redeem. We saw nothing hostile to the system of mixed education in such a proceeding. I have already stated that we are not able to adopt the strong expressions of the right hon. Gentleman, much as we respect him. I am one of those who twenty years ago—though I was not then a Member of the Government—supported the late Sir Robert Peel in his Bill for the establishment of the Queen's Colleges, and I have never repented in the least degree of the course I then took; but I must say, as has been said before in the course of this discussion, that although they may be perfectly faithful friends of the Queen's Colleges, yet they are not the wisest friends, who would seek to stamp them with the character of a public monopoly, maintained at the expense of the State, and not only invested with those favours and privileges which can be given by supplies from the public purse and the general countenance of the Government, but likewise with severe prohibitions imposed on others, who are excluded from the natural and ordinary advantages which crown an educational career for the purpose of fostering an odious monopoly. We are prepared, therefore, to say that it was wise not to effect 905 a fundamental change in the character of the Senate of the Queen's University, but in a degree, and in a mild degree, to colour and modify that character by the appointment of men wisely, I think, and carefully chosen, who, I believe, will respect the system of mixed education as much as its original promoters, but who, besides respecting that system, have some sympathy also with those who are unable to avail themselves of its advantages. Then an important question, which must be solved in order to effect the equalization of the system of the Queen's University with that of the London University, remains, and must remain, unsettled until Parliament can deal with it. Whether the Government were right or wrong in issuing the supplemental charter, that question is not in the slightest degree affected by it, for nothing that the Government can do can convey any governing power to any persons in the Queen's University other than those who have been educated in the Queen's Colleges. That is an important subject, I fully grant, but it remains intact, and must hold over till the time when this subject comes under the consideration of the Legislature. The only question with respect to which it was in the power of the Executive to do anything independently of Parliament, and that only in case of the concurrence of the Senate of the University, was that one simple question whether those persons in Ireland, be they Roman Catholics, or be they Protestants—for there are a considerable number of both who do not choose to partake of the benefits of mixed education, thinking it important that they or their children should be educated in places where religion is taught as part of the system of education—should be admitted to the benefit of a degree. That was the only point upon which it is possible that Parliament or even my right hon. Friend can lose anything in conse-sequence of what has taken place. My right hon. Friend can lose nothing. He is in time now, as I have already pointed out; for the Senate has postponed to October the consideration of the question of the admission to degrees of persons edudated elsewhere than in the Queen's Colleges. As the Senate has postponed the consideration of that question on which it could act under the authority of the charter, do not let it be supposed that any one who holds the views of my right hon. Friend is placed at a disadvantage. He can 906 even now challenge the judgment of Parliament, and Parliament, if agreeing with him, can easily give effect to his view. I must say that I not only hope, but am firmly convinced, that when that judgment is challenged by my right hon. Friend, though I am sure his views will be sustained with all the force that argument and eloquence can give to them, yet be his argument and eloquence what they may, I am confident that they will be shattered in the conflict with those principles of justice and equality upon which the Government of the two countries must be conducted.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
My right hon. Friend has appealed to me to express upon this occasion the opinions of the Government on the question before us. Now, my complaint is that there is no question before us, or rather the question before us is, whether we should go into Committee of Supply; and I think it most inconvenient that if the opinions of the Government are desired on so momentous a question as Irish education, they should be sought to be obtained without any notice and in a manner so incidental as has occurred this evening. The present discussion has originated in a misconception between the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth and the late Government respecting some engagement that was made about the Queen's Colleges. I myself do not wish to enter at all into that argument. It is clear that Her Majesty's late Government entered into an undertaking in which, from some circumstance or other, they have not been successful. I agree, however, that it is impossible to leave the question in the position in which we find it. We will consider it with candour and endeavour to make ourselves acquainted with all the facts, and I think, with reference to the result, it will be interesting to know what will be the decision of the Senate in the autumn. As this discussion has gone on, we have seen the subject developed into a variety of aspects, until at last, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, it really has touched upon the very principles upon which the whole system of Irish education is to be founded. Now, I will put it to the House whether it is desirable that an issue of so much importance should be discussed in this House in a manner so incidental, and, practically speaking, absolutely without any notice whatever. I do not say this 907 to defend the Government from any expression of opinion on the question. I say at once that if proper notice had been given—even at this period of the Session and under the circumstances in which the Government finds itself—of soliciting and challenging the opinion of the Government on the whole question of Irish education, we should have been prepared to meet the discussion. We should not have shrunk from the discussion, though I think that under all the circumstances of the case it would not have been a very fair proceeding. But as the right hon. Gentleman proceeded, he touched on the vital principles upon which the whole system of Irish education is founded, and I declare that, though I listened to him with the attention which he always commands, I am at this moment in ignorance as to whether he is in favour of mixed education or not. I only say this to illustrate the inconvenience of treating these vast questions in a manner so unexpected, so occasional, and so desultory. We recognize fully the importance of the whole question of Irish education. It will receive from us an earnest and anxious consideration, and when the matter is brought before Parliament in a natural manner, we shall be prepared to state to the House those opinions which we think it expedient to adopt. On the present occasion I think it is unnecessary for me to say more; but I recollect that an hon. Gentleman who spoke early in the discussion made some inquiries of me which it was not convenient that I should then answer respecting some appointments in the Irish Government, and it would not be respectful to the House if I passed them over in silence. The hon. Member for Nottingham favoured the House with an eulogy of Mr. Brewster. Now, I very much agree, so far as I can form an opinion, with the character of Mr. Brewster drawn by the hon. Member for Nottingham. I believe Mr. Brewster to be a most eminent lawyer, and a temperate and sagacious politician, and I have no doubt that he would have discharged the duties of Lord Chancellor of Ireland with great ability and satisfaction. After the glowing character of him given by the hon. Member for Nottingham, I am only surprised that he and his friends did not make him Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman inquired of me whether the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was Mr. Blackburne. Well, I believe I may say that Her Majesty, by the advice of Her 908 Ministers, has been graciously pleased to appoint Mr. Blackburne Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and that he has accepted the office. The hon. Gentleman did not deny that Mr. Blackburne was a lawyer of great eminence, and a man of great ability and experience. The hon. Gentleman opposite referred to the past as having been the period when Mr. Blackburne was distinguished. But three months ago Mr. Blackburne was Judge of Appeal in Ireland. Now, what is the Judge of Appeal? Why, he is the Judge who revises the decisions of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. So if Mr. Blackburne only three weeks ago was deemed by the late Government competent to revise the judgments of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, why should he not now be competent to perform the duties of the Lord Chancellor, and to give decisions himself. Then, Sir, the hon. Gentleman seemed to complain that Mr. Napier had been appointed as the successor of Mr. Blackburne, although another hon. Gentleman sitting near him has just delivered a panegyric on Mr. Napier. I believe no one will deny that Mr. Napier is a very eminent lawyer. I think it will be conceded that when the Act was passed which first established the Judge of Appeal in Ireland it was contemplated that if there were an individual who had been ex-Chancellor he should be preferred to the office. Indeed, it is, as I am informed, so expressed in the Act itself, and there are other reasons, besides legal qualifications, that would recommend such a course. I believe there is no one—certainly not the hon. Member who spoke before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire—who doubts the legal qualifications of Mr. Napier. The hon. Member for Nottingham, with that delicacy which sometimes distinguishes him, touched upon an infirmity to which Mr. Napier is subject. Mr. Napier, he says, is as deaf as a post. I have for several years sat in Parliament with Mr. Napier, and I am sorry to say that during the whole of that time he was to a certain degree subject to this infirmity. He nevertheless took an eminent part in the discussions in this House, and succeeded in obtaining the respect and confidence of its Members for his judgment and learning. He much assisted in the transaction of the business of the House in Committees, and the value of his impartial judicial power was very generally recognized. I am told—and I can, of course, speak only from 909 information which I have received on the subject—that Mr. Napier's infirmity not being one which was the result of age, has not increased since he was a Member of this House, and therefore I cannot believe that there is any foundation for the charge that he is incompetent to perform the duties of the office to which by the favour of his Sovereign he has been appointed. I do not know that I need say anything further in reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for Nottingham. He has to-night, indeed, declared that it was my duty to announce on the part of the Government the policy which we intend to pursue with respect to Ireland. I remember taking seven years ago, under nearly similar circumstances, my place at this table. The hon. Member for Nottingham, who was then Member for some other town, for he really has been an almost universal representative, insisted then that it was my duty to favour the House with an exposition not merely of the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards Ireland, but upon all possible subjects. A debate ensued, in the course of which due reference was made to precedents which regulate the conduct of this House, and it was, I think, all but unanimously admitted that the hon. Member for Nottingham did not take much by his Motion, and that he failed to establish the position which he sought to maintain. No one, I may add, has, under any circumstances, placed as I am, felt it to be a portion of his duty to make an exposition of the policy of the Government upon taking his seat for the first time on this Bench. To-night, Sir, the hon. Member for Nottingham is more modest. His opinions during the lapse of seven years have become somewhat modified, and he now confines his demand to a mere explanation of what the policy of the Government is towards Ireland. Well, I will not on this occasion shield myself, as I did before, under precedents. The hon. Member for Nottingham accuses me of possessing some secret by which emigration from the sister isle may be checked, and he demands that I, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, should, with perfect frankness, explain at once what the nature is of this specific. He seemed darkly to intimate that I was about to impose an export duty upon emigrants, but I protest against any such interpretation of our policy. The hon. Member tells us there are some things he will not endure. He will not hear of 910 Votes for Public Works, but there is one thing which, above all others, he declares he will oppose, and that is a Vote for Railways. Well, I am obliged, in the display of that frankness which he invites, to inform him and the House that it is part of our policy towards Ireland to assist her railways. This announcement may deprive us of the confidence of the hon. Gentleman, although, as he himself is deeply interested in that country, I hope it may not altogether disinherit us from his favour. We may, however, obtain the confidence of others by the declaration that we are about at this moment, under the present stringent circumstances of Ireland, to propose that a loan should be made to her railways, and I think it only fair to say that we are not entitled to the full merit of so expedient and just a policy, because it has been handed over to us by our predecessors. We intend to act upon it, because we are of opinion that they wisely decided that the loan should be granted. I have now, I hope, answered the questions which have been put to me by the hon. Member for Nottingham both with regard to our Irish policy and our Irish appointments. I have confidence in both, and I trust that whether in dealing with questions relating to the railways of Ireland or to her system of education Her Majesty's Government will be able when they come again before Parliament to propound a policy which will entitle them to the confidence of the House of Commons.
§ Motion agreed to.