HC Deb 10 July 1868 vol 193 cc1054-65

in rising to move a Resolution on this subject, said, that he had to apologize to the House for bringing forward so important a subject at so late an hour; but when an independent Member had been counted out by the tactics of his own party, hon. Members would agree with him that the fault was not his. When he brought forward the Motion last year to place Catholics and Presbyterians on an equality with members of the Established Church with respect to education, it fell to the lot of Mr. Speaker to decide its fate, and in giving his decision the right hon. Gentleman said that the principle of the Motion was so important that the House ought to have another opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. Since that time the subject had made unexpected progress. The question of religious equality in Ireland had made during the present Session a progress as sudden as it had been gratifying and extraordinary. The question had been simplified since last year, because the antagonistic scheme of the Government to grant a charter to a Roman Catholic University had been unanimously condemned by the House and the country. It had been shown that it was impossible to satisfy the Catholics by giving them a charter for a separate University; because the scheme was not more distinctly mischievous it was rejected with contempt by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. They demanded a University which should be exclusively managed by ecclesiastics, and in which Bishops should have a positive veto on the appointment of all officers, and the power of deciding what books should be read. Such demands the House never would concede; and the scheme which he proposed was the only one which would place Presbyterians and Roman Catholics in a position of equality. The country had decided not to grant State endowments to establish sectarian education. There was no chance of an endowment being granted for either a Presbyterian or a Roman Catholic College. If so, there was only one way in which Presbyterians and Roman Catholics could be placed in a position of equality with members of the Established Church, and that was by fairly and impartially throwing open to all the existing University endowments. The creation for either Roman Catholics or Presbyterians of an institution like Trinity College, on which £1,500,000 had been expended, was pecuniarily impossible; and, even if it were possible, money would not purchase associations like those connected with Trinity College. The Presbyterian or Roman Catholic who entered Trinity College might take the same honours and degrees as a Churchman, but he could not compete for a Fellowship with its distinction and income. As long as such a state of things remained the Presbyterian and Catholic inhabitants of Ireland would suffer under grave disability. Endowments were the outgrowth of historical circumstances which were not likely to recur, including the exercise of religious munificence and zeal and the confiscation of property by despotic monarchs. The irresistible conclusion was that the only way of producing equality was to admit people of all religions to existing endowments. An inde- pendent College for Roman Catholics and another for Presbyterians would result only in mischief, from the perpetuation of religious rancour and discord, which must, be removed before Ireland could prosper. It was a mistake to suppose the Roman, Catholic hierarchy represented the laity; and this was shown incidentally by an article in the Westminster Gazette, which, speaking of the increasing number of Catholics who were going to Oxford and Cambridge, said— This liberalism is as contagious as scarlet fever. If the Catholic laity continue to send their I sons to these places, where they receive a mixed '' education, in fifty years time where will be the friends of an exclusive system of Catholic education? It was remarkable that at present the number of Catholics receiving education at, the Queen's Colleges and Trinity College compared with the number of Protestants was nearly in the same proportion as the number of Catholics to Protestants in the lay professions in Ireland. Dr. Lloyd had propounded, with the most enlightened views, a scheme differing from his own. He proposed that Trinity College should be left exclusively in the hands of the Established Church, and that there should be denominational Colleges in connection with the Dublin University for the education of Catholics and Presbyterians. This scheme, said Dr. Lloyd, without destroying the denominational character of Trinity College, would secure many of the advantages of mixed education. But there were two main, and in his opinion insuperable, objections to such a scheme—first, the pecuniary difficulty of providing endowments for the proposed Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Colleges; and, secondly, because the great glory of Trinity College—the educational liberalism which had admitted Roman Catholics and Presbyterians to degrees long before degrees were given to Dissenters in the English Universities—would thereby be entirely destroyed. By establishing Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Colleges at the Dublin University you would put an end to the present mixed; education there. Now great advantages had resulted to Ireland by bringing together at Trinity College men of different faiths, who had learnt to respect each other's conscientious opinions. At Oxford and Cambridge men of different opinions held foundation scholarships; and among the Fellows High-Churchmen and Low-Churchmen lived in harmony, sinking their re- ligious differences in the prosecution of a common educational work. The same result would follow at Trinity College if his plan were adopted. But then it was said that if men of different religious bodies were admitted into the governing bodies that would introduce religious discord. He would only say that was not borne out by experience, It might be true that discord reigned among the members of the National Education Board, because they were sent there to represent three different religious denominations; but among those who were brought together by the bond of literary or scientific eminence religious discord was unknown. He was convinced that if his scheme were carried out in practice it would go far to remove religious prejudices. It was said that it would be impossible to promote the study of theology if they had mixed education. In reply to that, he would say why should there not be in the same College professors of different systems of theology as in Germany and, to some extent, in France? He had high Catholic authority for saying that in no European country was Catholic theology better taught than in Prussia, That the exclusive system had a depressing effect was pretty clear; from the fact that, while Trinity College had produced unrivalled mathematicians and more than one great philosopher, it had, in three centuries, scarcely produced a single illustrious theologian. A few years ago there were living in the College three of the greatest mathematicians in the world, but in the theological department the case was altogether different. You could not, in fact, expect theology to thrive if you bound it in narrow fetters. Sectarianism had a benumbing influence, and probably many a splendid intellect in Ireland was now wasting its powers in fanning the flames of religious discord. He believed he had shown that the scheme which he proposed was the only practical one by which Catholics and Presbyterians could be placed on an equality in regard to University education with members of the Established Church. He would be the last man in the House to say anything against the great principles of Liberalism. He wished his fellow-subjects to enjoy the same religious freedom which he enjoyed himself. He did not wish to force on others any system of religion to which they objected. What he wished was that the Roman Catholics of Dublin, Oxford, and Cambridge Universities should enjoy the same advantages which he, as a Churchman, enjoyed; and he felt that he enjoyed An unfair benefit when he, as a Churchman, had a share of great national endowments, while others, because they differed from him in religious opinion, were excluded. If the youth of Ireland were brought up together, they would inevitably learn a lesson which they would never forget—namely, that a man was not to be shunned because of his religious belief, but that honour and respect were due to all who displayed intellectual eminence or moral worth.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, Catholics, Presbyterians, and other inhabitants of Ireland, will not be placed in a position of equality, in reference to University education in that country, with those who are members of the Established Church, until all religious disabilities are removed from the fellowships, scholarships, and other honours and emoluments of Trinily College, Dublin,"—(Mr. Fawcett.) —instead thereof.

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


on rising to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, said, he should not have taken exception to the question raised by the hon. Member, had it not appeared to him that the Motion, if accepted generally by Irish Catholic Members, was calculated to mislead the judgment of the House in respect to the real requirements of the Catholic people of Ireland in the matter of University education. He would state shortly what those requirements were. They might be all summed up in one proposition—namely, that there should be established in Ireland with the sanction and under the protection of the State an University as free from the interference; of the State as the University of Dublin now was, and with equally satisfactory protection for the religious faith of its Catholic students as that now enjoyed by Trinity College for the protection of its Protestant students. He maintained that nothing short of this proposition would or ought to satisfy the Catholics of Ireland, and he regarded it as important that the House should not be led to believe that the liberality of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) in opening up Trinity College and admitting Catholics to its honours and emoluments would or ought to satisfy the just claims of Irish Catholics. He took the present course, therefore, because he believed the opening of Trinity College, instead of being a solution of the difficulty or a removal of the obstacles to a satisfactory settlement, was simply adding another and a very serious impediment to those against which the Catholics of Ireland had already to contend. If justice were done to the Catholics of Ireland in, the matter of a Catholic University, he saw no reason why Trinity College should not continue to be, as it has been since its foundation, the chief educational establishment of the Protestant inhabitants of Ireland. At the same time, however, he claimed equal protection and equal sanction for the establishment of a Catholic, University; but he declined to mix up, that question, which was one of principle, with an assault on the constitution of Trinity College. The establishment of a Catholic University was a national requirement, but he regarded the attempt to make Trinity College a Catholic as well as a Protestant institution a very tempting, but at the same time a very dangerous, expedient. The proposition, although made, he was bound to admit, in a spirit, of justice and fair play was, nevertheless, in his opinion, one of those devices whereby modern Liberalism sought to eliminate all religion whatever, whether Catholic or Protestant, from the institutions of the State. And of all such devices he regarded the plan of "Godless Colleges" as the most dangerous. To him it appeared strange that in an assembly like the House of Commons there should exist any large section prepared to ignore the danger of educating the youth of Ireland in institutions where religion had no place. For his own part, holding steadfastly as he did for the rights of Catholics in respect to University education, he should regard it as less dangerous to faith and morals to send his children to Trinity College to be educated there, while it continued an avowed Protestant institution, than to send them to a College where Christianity was ignored. He was aware that such opinions as he held where characterized in certain quarters as retrograde and re-actionary; but he would not be deterred by phrases of this sort, nor ashamed of the principles he held, because they were opposed to those of the so-called party of progress. There is one question involved which is at the base of this controversy. Was Christianity essential to the welfare of the State, and of the individuals of whom the State is made up? He answered that question in the affirmative, and those who agreed in that answer must agree also in the corollary that it was the duty of the State to protect and foster the Christianity of its people. He could not doubt that the sense and conscience of the great majority on both sides the House would also affirm, this proposition, and he could scarcely believe that human pride had blinded the people of this country so that in any large proportion they would deny it. He admitted, indeed, that the abstract principles of morality, honour, and patriotism might exist independently of religion; art, literature, and science might exist irrespective of religion, but he denied that all these things could ever suffice without the chastening influences of religion to preserve society from corruption and decay. He should have been glad to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice if the rules of the House permitted him to do so, because for the reasons he had stated he could not concur in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Brighton.


said, he sincerely regretted that he could not support either the Motion of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) nor the Amendment of the hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna). While he was willing to give both his hon. Friends full credit for the best intentions, he did not think that either of their propositions was a solution of the University question in Ireland. He differed from each of his hon. Friends, however, for very different and almost opposite reasons. He could not agree with the application of the endowments of Trinity College proposed by the hon. Member for Brighton; and he could not accept the proposition of the hon. Member for Youghal, that those endow, merits should be left as they are. After what had lately taken place in that House he did not think his hon. Friend could be so over sanguine or so deficient in political sagacity as to hope that Parliament would ever endow a separate University for Roman Catholics to the same extent as Trinity College, or to any extent at all. He therefore looked upon that proposition of his hon. Friend as an oratorical flourish at the eve of an election. To refuse, therefore, to deal with the enormous endowments of Trinity College for national University education in Ireland is to deprive the Roman Catholics of that country of all endowments for that purpose from public sources. There are three questions involved in the present Motion. First. The amount of the endowments of Trinity College. Second: Whether they are more than sufficient for the superior education of the Episcopalians of Ireland; and Third: What is to be the principle upon which they are to be applied? The Amendment states, or implies, that they are to be left as they are, and the Motion of the hon. Member for Brighton goes to have them applied in one College upon the mixed system. In other words, his hon. Friend wished to transform Trinity College into a gigantic Queen's College. He found by returns before him that the endowments of Trinity College amounted to £64,000 a year—namely, from rent and renewal fines, £34,000, and from fees, interest, &c., £30,000. But he also found by the Report of the Commission into that College that, if properly administered from the commencement, they would be now over £90,000 a year. Was that enormous endowment to be left for the University education of 690,000 Episcopalians, while four-fifths of the Irish people are left without any superior education? The number of students in Trinity College was 1,200, of which only 300 were resident; the number of Professors was 35—namely, 7 seniors and 28unior Fellows. Now, he asked, were 1,200 students and 35 Professors to have a present income of £64,000 a year and a future income of probably £90,000 a year? But in the University of Berlin the number of students was 2,500, of Professors 28, of extraordinary Professors 33, and of private Docentum 29—in all 90. The amount of endowments was £29,518, made up of a State grant of £28,842, and fees and real and funded property, £676. There were out of this a great many exhibitions for poor students varying from £12 to £60 a year, and the salaries of the principal Professors varied from £340 to £400, and with fees amounted in some cases to £1,000 to £1,500; so that this University out of less than half the income supported twice the number of students and three times the number of Professors that Trinity College did. But would this Motion of the hon. Member for Brighton effect the object of giving University education to the Roman Catholics of Ireland? In his opinion it was founded not only upon an ignorance of the opinions and feelings of the Irish people, but upon an ignorance of the actual facts recorded in the returns and records of that House. Out of the whole Roman Catholic population of Ireland the students in the Queen's Colleges and Trinity College belonging to the Catholic faith were a small minority; the Roman Catholics of Ireland protested against the separation of religion from education, and as a protest against the mixed system, they had established a Roman Catholic University at a cost of £120,000. Was it probable that the; Roman Catholics if Ireland would resort to a mixed College in Dublin when they refused to enter a mixed College in Cork and Galway at their doors? What were the grants for the Queen's University and Colleges? University; £2,462; Belfast College, £7,000; Cork College, £7,000; Galway, £7,000. In all £25,265, equal to the endowment of the University of Berlin. What had the Roman Catholics got under this large endowment? Belfast was an exclusively Presbyterian College. Cork, with almost an exclusively Roman Catholic population, had only 30 per cent of Roman Catholic students, and Galway the same proportion. What stronger evidence could they have that the Roman Catholics would not have the mixed system? Cui bono, therefore, establish a system that would not be accepted, and would be only a gigantic Queen's University? But his hon. Friend charged the Irish Bishops with rejecting the Government proposal of a separate University with scorn and contumely. Now, he had read the correspondence on that subject with care, and he thought if his hon. Friend did the same he would come to the conclusion that the Irish Bishops never said or did anything to warrant that charge. They simply were not brought up in the same school of diplomacy as Her Majesty's Ministers, and were consequently out-manœuvred.; They were the victims of political exigency and of mistaken confidence. Turning to the third part of the question, what ought to be the principle and scheme to be applied to these endowments of Trinity College? In the first place, what was the original idea in the minds of the founders of this University, and had Trinity College realized that idea? So far back as the reign of Henry VI. there was an idea of founding an Irish University in Dublin. The wars of the period prevented its execution. Then came the Reformation, and Elizabeth founded this College; but from the words of her charter, as well as those of James and Charles, it was intended that Trinity College should be only one of several Halls or Colleges. He admitted that the immediate idea of Elizabeth was to use this College as an instrument of Protestantizing the Irish people. Now, had it succeeded in its mission? Was it not admitted that it had failed in that mission as much as the Irish Established Church, of which it formed a part. But Trinity College was also in a great part an ecclesiastical College, and celibacy was enforced until the Royal Letter of 1850. So far, therefore, the cases of Trinity College and Maynooth were parallel. And as they had passed a Resolution to disendow Maynooth, was, Trinity College to be maintained as an ecclesiastical College? Was that the way to pacify and enlighten Ireland? There was only one way of dealing with this question, and that was to carry out the ideas of the founders and the objects of the charters, and to apply the endowments of Trinity College to form a National University with denominational Colleges, of which Trinity College should be one. The Queen's Colleges will represent the mixed system, and the Irish people could avail, themselves of University education according to their respective opinions, tastes, and sentiments. Two objections were, however, made to this plan—First, that the examining body would be independent of the teaching body, and would also be of separate religions; and the second, as to books to be read. Now, as to the first, instead of an objection it was a recommendation that the examining body should be independent of the teaching body. As to religion, there surely could be no objection to have Dr. Russell on the same examining board with the Provost of Trinity College, And as to books, the objection could only apply to moral philosophy; and as to that each student could use the books be was recommended in his own College. There was therefore no force in these objections. There were two courses open to them, First, a separate University with a separate charter, or one Irish University with several denominational Colleges. The former was the favourite plan of Her Majesty's Government, trumpeted all over Ireland by their supporters, but lately hastily abandoned in that House. It was the great "card "—considered by some the "trump card "—but played out very recently, or rather thrown away without any serious attempt to play it at all. The first plan being therefore abandoned by the Govern- ment, and opposed by this side of the House, the second was the only practical and rational course. It appeared to him the only solution of the Irish University question under present circumstances. He hoped that the friends of the mixed system would give up their exclusive and procrustean philosophy, and not stand in the way of this practicable and just solution. Did any Irish Member think, after what he had lately seen, that a Parliamentary endowment was possible for a separate Roman Catholic University? It had been abruptly abandoned by his own party, and had been met by what he might call a howl of disapprobation from that side of the House. Under these circumstances it appeared to him the duty of every Irish Member who wished for Roman Catholic University education to demand a University with denominational Colleges; and for that purpose the endowments of Trinity College were sufficient, and to that purpose they ought to be applied.


said, he wished to make an appeal to the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) with regard to the peculiar position of the discussion which that hon. Gentleman had originated. The hon. Member had had an opportunity of placing his views on that subject before the House, and also of eliciting the views entertained by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House in opposition to his own; and as it was understood that the hon. Member did not wish to go to a division, it did not seem as if they were likely to make much progress with the question in hand; while it should be remembered that they had a heavy Paper of Business still before them, and that the period of the Session was advanced. He would suggest, therefore, that, in order to facilitate the course of Public Business, the hon. Member for Brighton should withdraw his Motion, on the understanding that the hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) should also withdraw his Amendment.


expressed his readiness to accede to the request made to him by the Prime Minister.


said, he would be the last person to interfere with the convenience of the House; but he wished to express his regret that, after the statement of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), he and others on that side who held views contrary to those of that hon. Gentleman, and views, more- over, which might not be altogether in accordance with those of Her Majesty's Government, had had no opportunity of expressing their sentiments on that question.


said, he shared the feeling entertained by the last speaker.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.