The Earl of Roden
had been anxious to take the first opportunity of calling their Lordships' attention to the Petition he held in his hand, both because the subject was one which had excited great and intense interest in the mind of every man who had any regard to the religion and morality of the people of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and because he was himself strongly impressed with the great importance of the subject at the present crisis. He held in his hand petitions expressive of the opinions of persons of all classes in Ireland. These petitions proceeded from eight different counties in that country. They came from the officiating Minister, and Protestant Inhabitants of Drumlish, in the county of Longford; from Middleton, in the county of Cork; from the Landlords, Clergy, Farmers, and others of Crossmolina, Adgigoole, Moygaunagh, and Kilfian; from the Gentry, Clergy, and Freeholders, of the Baronies of Iffa and Offa West; from the Inhabitants of Monostereven, the Presbyterian Congregations of Ballykelly and Donaghmore, and from the Session and Congregation of Newhead. They embodied and expressed the sentiments of persons not 852 professing the same form of religious worship, nor agreeing upon various other subjects, but all united in coming forward with the petitions which he had now laid on the Table—they all agreed in declaring that the system of education provided by his Majesty's Government for the use of the people of Ireland was at once unwise, impolitic, impracticable, and unchristian. These were the sentiments of the petitioners, and, in these sentiments, he fully concurred. Nothing, indeed, but a deep conviction of the truth of the statements which these petitions contained, and of the justice and reasonableness of the prayer which they urged, could have induced him to press them upon their Lordships' attention in the emphatic manner which, under existing circumstances, he felt it his duty to do. As a constant resident in Ireland for many years past, earnestly watching over the best interests of that country, he felt it was impossible to avoid devoting his most serious attention to that which he conceived to be of the very last importance—the scriptural education of the people of Ireland; and, under the influence of those considerations, which such a course of conduct could not fail to generate, he had felt bound, in the present circumstances, to come forward and state what he knew to be the sentiments and the feelings of the Protestants of Ireland. He wished to set out with stating, that he was one of those who held that there could be no real sound moral education, except it was founded upon the unmutilated Word of God. That holy Word, pure and unmutilated, was the only fit basis of a system of education for Ireland, or for any Christian country. This was the opinion of the Legislature at the time it voted a large sum of public money for the use of the Society by which the education of Ireland had been promoted; and to which Ireland was so much indebted. There was also the London Hibernian Society; but that never had received any portion of the public funds; but, of both societies the objects were identical, and both had succeeded. That the objects of the Society which Government had hitherto supported were perfectly legitimate—that the means by which those objects were pursued were unexceptionable—he believed no man would deny: that the Society was successful to the extent of its funds was equally undeniable. How did it happen, then, that his Majesty's Ministers had withdrawn suddenly, and without reason, that grant so usefully, so 853 successfully, and so well applied? He understood, from a public document proceeding from the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the reading of the holy Scriptures, without note or comment, could not, in the opinion of the Government, form part of any system of education, without rendering it unfit for general diffusion throughout Ireland. The right hon. Secretary said, also, that the indiscriminate diffusion of the Scriptures in schools must be peculiarly obnoxious to a church which denied the free use of those writings even to adults; that the Catholic clergy had opposed themselves to the system of education previously provided, from a conviction that its object and end would be to advance the work of proselytism, to which they were naturally so much opposed. Mr. Stanley thought there was no distinction between the Catholic priesthood and the Irish people; but he (Lord Roden) told him—he trusted he need not tell their Lordships—that there was a wide difference. The people of Ireland were not discontented with the system of education provided for them, and he rested that assertion, not only upon his own personal experience—not only upon the statements made by the several members of the Society, but upon the evidence given on oath before a Committee of their Lordships' House in the year 1825. One of the witnesses who was examined by the Commissioners, was Mr. Griffiths, who belonged to the Hibernian schools. The difference between these schools and those of the Kildare-place Society consisted in this, that the latter put the Bible, without note or comment, into the hands of the children, while the Directors of the London Hibernian Society thought it wrong not to teach the children, so far as they were capable of learning, the Protestant explanation of the Word of God This Gentleman, Mr. Griffiths, was asked if, in consequence of this system, the Hibernian Society's schools were not very unpopular? Noble Lords would recollect that this was no longer ago than 1825. To this question the answer was "Yes, with the Roman Catholic Clergy, but not with the people." This witness was also asked, whether the Roman Catholic clergy did not caution the people against these schools? He answered in the affirmative, but added, that the schools were, nevertheless, very popular with the peasantry, on account of the advantage they derived from them. This was one evidence of the anxiety of the 854 peasantry to avail themselves of the benefit of instruction for their children, and he thought that was sufficient fully to satisfy their Lordships, that the people of Ireland highly esteemed the schools of the Kildare-street Society. In fact, there was not a man acquainted with the circumstances and feelings of the people of Ireland, who could, for a moment, doubt that they were most anxious to avail themselves of the means of instruction which those schools afforded. It had been alleged, that the efforts of that Society were not attended with success. He would state some facts which conveyed the most complete answer to that assertion. In the year 1816 the Society had no schools and no scholars. In the year 1817 there were under its management eight schools and 567 children. He would not trouble their Lordships with the details of the progress of this institution during the intervening years, but would come at once to the year 1825, when its schools had increased to 1,490, and the number of children deriving the advantages of moral and religious education through its means, had reached the gratifying number of 100,000. And what was the situation of this Society, what the evidence of its failure or success, in the year 1831, in that year in which the wise and liberal Government of Ireland determined to withdraw from it all parliamentary support? In that year its schools were 1634, and the children receiving instruction in those schools no less than 132,530. These were proofs of the success of the system, and they rested upon the published, authenticated, and uncontradicted statements of the governors and members of that Society. The new Board of Education, formed under the direction of the present Government of Ireland, consisted of seven members—the Duke of Leinster, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Mr. Blake, Mr. Carlisle, Mr. Holmes, and the reverend Doctor Sadler. This Board was to exercise the most extensive and complete control over all the schools; and Mr. Stanley's letter, to which he had already referred, stated the number of days in the week—from four to five—in which the children of the Irish peasantry were to receive moral and literary instruction, and from any interference with which the parents, or guardians, the clergy, and landlords of the estates on which they resided were excluded. One or two days were set apart for separate religious instruction; and, on other days, after 855 school-hours, the clergy of either persuasion might give instruction to the members of their respective flocks. According to this document, the selection of books was to be the same for all the children attending those schools; they were to be subject to the approbation of the Board, and such as the clergy of both persuasions considered to be admissible. He must say, that this was reposing great trust in a Board. To return to the provisions under which the education of the people of Ireland was in future to be conducted; the first thing he should remark was, that a Protestant Legislature made a regulation which put Roman Catholic children completely out of the pale of all Protestant instruction. This might, to some minds, appear a very trifling consideration; but he felt that he was addressing the fathers of families, persons who loved their children; he was addressing men who felt that the unmutilated word of God was the best inheritance they could bequeath to those who came after them. That was the sentiment which prevailed in that House, and it found an echo in the heart of every true Protestant in every part of the country. It was the single sentiment which animated the bosoms of two millions and a-half of Irish Protestants, who possessed the property and intelligence of the country—a body of men sincerely and earnestly attached to that faith and those principles for which their ancestors fought and bled—they had long possessed the unmutilated Word of God, and they were unwilling to part with it, for the purpose of serving any objects of political expediency, or of trying any political experiment. The conduct of the Government on this subject had made the administration the most unpopular in Ireland that had ever existed, for they were neither popular with one party nor with the other. He denied that there was any third party—any such party as that whose favour his Majesty's Government seemed desirous to conciliate—any persons who were altogether indifferent to religion; or, if there was such a party in Ireland, he firmly believed that the Castle-yard of Dublin would hold them all. Such a party as this would be an opprobrium to any country, and he rejoiced to say, that it did not exist in Ireland. There might be some exceptions, but, generally speaking, the unanimous voice of Ireland would agree with what he said. But nothing had united the voice of the Protestants of Ireland; never was there anything which 856 called forth the indignation of the Protestants of Ireland, so much as the appointment of that Commission for education, consisting of the men whose names he had mentioned. For many of these individuals he entertained great respect, and particularly for the Duke of Leinster, but of the body he would say, that they were persons who, neither for their religious nor their political principles, were entitled to the confidence of the Protestants of Ireland. He knew that one of the greatest blessings resulting from the system of Scriptural education had been, that it brought the landlords of Ireland and their tenants together; but now, and it was fit that it should be known that when he said this he spoke not his own opinion, but that of the Protestants of Ireland, there could be no longer any hope, under the system about to be introduced, that this blessing would be continued to the country. The petition which he had now to present was signed by upwards of 230,000 of the Protestants of Ireland. This was a document to which he might confidently refer as a proof of the unanimity of the Protestants of Ireland upon this subject, even if it stood alone; but it did not stand alone, there were innumerable testimonies to the same effect. Petitions of a similar nature had proceeded from Cavan, from Fermanagh, from Sligo, from Armagh, from Tyrone, and from many other places. The noble Earl then stated the contents of the petition. It was fit, he thought, that he should make their Lordships acquainted with the opinions entertained upon this subject by the Protestant clergy of Ireland, not only those of the Established Church, but of all denominations. First, then, as to the opinions of the members of the Established Church—and those gentlemen who proposed this new law, little knew the value of that distinguished body—men of learning, virtue, and true piety, and distinguished ornaments of the Church; and he was sure that the right reverend Prelates, who supported this measure, would bear him out in this tribute to the worth of the Irish clergy. The noble Lord here read a letter from a clergyman of the Established Church in Ireland to Dr. Sadler, protesting, in the strongest terms, against the disuse of the Bible in its entire form. Then there was the Presbytery of Ulster, consisting of a great many men of influence and character, and of active and irreproachable conduct. What did they say? The first 857 document to which he would advert from them was, that of a letter from the Rev. Mr. Cooke to one of the Education Commissioners, in which the rev. gentleman protested, in the name of the clergy, against the rules which deprived them of their proper influence and control over the education of their flocks. The rev. gentleman said, that the clergy would never consent to the exclusion of Scriptures for a day, an hour, or a moment, and he also complained that instruction was taken out of the hands of the clergy, and given to the Secretary for Ireland. He said, they knew no such authority as the Secretary had usurped over the Bible; they knew of no Secretary, they knew of no Lord Lieutenant, they knew no Prime Minister superior to their God, and they wished their sentiments respectfully conveyed to the Throne, which were these, that neither of those authorities had any right to interfere between them and the Word of God. A noble Lord opposite seemed to laugh, when they said, they knew no such authorities, but, coupled with what followed, it was language that went home to the heart of every Christian man. The Presbyterians of Ulster, were men of great influence, talent, and piety. Here the noble Lord read extracts from opinions delivered by Presbyterian clergymen, reprobating the system of education attempted to be introduced into Ireland; and he would assure their Lordships, that all these gentlemen were entitled to much consideration as honest, intelligent, upright men. He had received from many members of that body, letters strongly expressive of the disapprobation they entertained of the plans adopted by the Irish Government. He could further assure their Lordships, that, at all the Protestant meetings that he had attended, and he had attended many, similar feelings had been manifested. It was most unwise, when the whole country was anxiously waiting to know what would be the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers towards Ireland, for them to interfere between ministers appointed over their flocks, and the means of giving religious education to these flocks. They were the proper conservators of religious instruction, and to them alone it ought to be intrusted. He warned the noble Lords opposite against the course which they had been pursuing. He warned them not to bring down the wrath of God on this favoured land, by preventing the dissemination of those Scriptures. He appealed to the members of the 858 right reverend Bench to preserve to the people those Scriptures for which their predecessors suffered, and not assist to draw down the indignation of the Almighty, by the rejection of his Word, of that "Wd which maketh wise unto salvation."
§ The petitions read.
in offering himself to their Lordships' attention, begged leave to assure the House, and the noble Lord, that he was as deeply impressed with the importance of the subject which he had brought under their Lordships' consideration, as either the petitioners or the noble Lord himself. He did not, in the slightest degree, imagine that the noble Lord was actuated by any other motives than those arising from feelings of perfect sincerity in the cause which he advocated. He must, however, be excused if he did not believe that all the other parties whose names were signed to these petitions were actuated by the same motive, for he could not help thinking that there was some little matter of politics mixed up with their zeal, and a feeling which ought not to be allowed to interfere on the subject of religion. He (Lord Plunkett) begged to say, that he had as great a respect, and as sincere a regard, for the Protestants of Ireland, as the noble Earl. These were sentiments which he had avowed through life, which he had never concealed, and which he had taken various opportunities of expressing. But the noble Earl appeared to him to assume all through a great deal too much. He had assumed the right of holding himself out as the representative of the opinions of the Protestants of Ireland. That was a perfect self-assumption on the part of the noble Earl, for, so far as his own observations, and that of those who had the best opportunities of knowing the state of the country went, the opinion of the Protestants of Ireland did not go along with the noble Earl. It might be said, from these debates, that there were, perhaps, only two parties in Ireland—the one ultra-violent and fanatical, and the other a violent and factious party. God forbid, however, that Ireland should be so situated, that she should not have a people, besides these parties, who were anxious to preserve a sound and safe Government for the country. When the noble Earl spoke of the meetings he had attended, and their respectability, he might be permitted to ask a question of the noble Earl. It was, no doubt, difficult to find a test by which to judge a matter of this kind, but he would refer to the nobility 859 of Ireland as one test, and he would ask the noble Earl and the House, of the whole nobility of Ireland, if more than eight had attended these meetings? He did not say, that the nobility ought to be taken as an exclusive test, but still they might be taken as one; and of them all, no more than nine had taken part in these proceedings, of whom one was a minor, and another had denied that he was present. Then the noble Earl had told them of an unanimous feeling amongst the clergy of the Established Church, but how had he proved it? Why, by reading a letter from one clergy-man who entertained opinions like those of the noble Earl, to another clergyman who entertained opinions directly hostile to his. He might as well take the Protestant clergyman, to whom the letter was addressed, as the noble Earl the one he had selected, with this difference, however, that when he referred to the letter of this clergyman, it appeared to be one of a taunting and gibing description, and certainly not having any semblance of being dictated by Christian charity. The comparison, too, would not hold when the clergyman to whom this letter was addressed, was known to be the rev. Dr. Sadler, as pious and respectable a man as lived. He did not know who the gentleman was that wrote this letter, but he certainly never had heard one more angry and less worthy of the sacred cause, in defence of which it professed to be written. It assuredly was not very Scriptural in its style, for he was unaware in what portion of the Scripture it could be discovered that the Divine founder of our religion had indulged in gibes. Charity was the foundation of Christianity, and, without adverting to anything said by the noble Earl, he must express his opinion that many of the reverend letter-writers and speech-makers on this subject, appeared to have arrived at the acme of Protestantism, without making their way through the foot-paths of Christianity. He was not surprised at the petitions having such numbers of signatures, for when the people were led to believe it to be their duty, of course they would sign. Then the noble Earl had assumed himself to be the representative of the Protestants of Ireland, and had also assumed a series of facts which were without foundation, as he hoped to prove to their Lordships. The importance of the subject must be his excuse if he was led further than he wished. The subject of national education was most important, and he believed every noble Lord was duly 860 impressed with its paramount importance to Ireland. In Ireland especially, education for the lower classes must recommend itself to the heart of every one desirous of peace and tranquillity. When he spoke of education, he did not speak merely of schools to teach reading and writing, or merely literary advantages. He agreed that it was of far higher importance to give those classes habits of discipline and self-control, and to impress them with the great truths of Christianity. He quite agreed with the noble Earl, that no system of education could be safe unless it was based upon religion, and not merely upon religion, but on the great truths of revelation. To do this in Ireland there were only two modes that could be resorted to—either to have separate schools for Protestants and Catholics, or, on the other hand, to have a common course of education for both. The former plan he looked upon as much to be deprecated, inasmuch as it would tend to perpetuate those differences which were already too wide. A combined system, then, would be most advisable. The natural mode which would suggest itself to any one desirous of consulting at once the peace of the State, and the happiness of the people, would be, let us have a joint system—let us have one based upon the truths of revelation and Christianity; but being so based, let it not be carried on so as to exclude the great majority of the people, by adopting a course in which they could not join. They must, therefore, not form this system in such a way as would prevent the Roman Catholics from attending the schools. Every man, not strongly tinctured with prejudice or partiality, would object to a system which excluded or affronted the largest part of the community. When all the members of both religions were agreed as to the great and general tenets of natural and revealed religion—when they believed in the same God, and hoped for salvation through the merits of the same Redeemer, it would be extraordinary indeed if something could not be found that might be made the basis of a common education for both. But he would not rest the defence of this system merely upon the reason and common sense of the thing. He should presently call their Lordships' attention to documentary opinions, expressed in favour of it by persons who entertained as deep a reverence for the sacredness of the Scriptures, and who felt as strong a desire for the preservation of the Protestant interests, as the noble Earl could feel, or 861 was felt by any other noble Lord in that House. And here he begged to say, in reply to what had fallen from the noble Earl, that it had never entered into the head of any one connected with the Government or with the Board of Education, to say, that the reading of the sacred Scriptures should be debarred or withheld either from the Protestants or the Roman Catholics of Ireland. It was a most unfounded assertion to say, that the object of the new system of education was to prevent the Protestants of Ireland from having access to the sacred and unmutilated Scriptures. The proposition of the Board of Education was, that in the public schools during four days in the week, the Protestant and Catholic children should receive jointly and in common, instructions of a literary and moral character, and that, besides, two days in the week should be appointed on which, from an early period in the day, the Protestant and Catholic children should retire apart, to receive separately religious and Scriptural instruction from their respective pastors. It might be said, perhaps, that more time should be devoted to the religious instruction of the children. But was it fair to tell the people of this country that the object of the Government was, to deprive the Protestants of the Sacred Scriptures? Could anything be more unfounded than such an outcry? Could anything be more untrue than such an accusation? Four days in the week were, it was true, set apart for literary and moral instruction, but, at the same time, the children were not only permitted, but encouraged, in the morning before, and in the evening after school hours, to resort to their pastors for religious instruction. That was not all; during school hours the children would be instructed in selections from the Scriptures, conveying moral lessons to their minds, such as were calculated to make them good men and good citizens. These selections were to be learned in the schools during the hours of common instruction. But, said the noble Earl, "we should not mutilate the Word of God—we should give the un-mutilated Gospel." Did the noble Earl mean that all the Gospel should be read at all times, and in all places, and that every day in the week should be devoted to that purpose? Did it never before enter into the minds of Protestant dignitaries, and Protestant divines, to select certain portions of the Scriptures to be read at certain times, on certain days in the week? What was the greater portion of the beautiful and 862 simple service of the Church of England composed of but selections from the Sacred Scriptures? Did the service of the Church throughout the whole course of the year, though it contained a great part of the Scriptures, embrace the whole of them? Why, the noble Earl might as well assert that these selections constituted a mutilation of the Gospel—he might as well call on the people to rise in mutiny against the framers of our Liturgy, and ask 200,000 persons to address the King, and the two Houses of Parliament, to order the heads of the Church to frame a new Church service, as come forward with the assertion which he had made on this occasion in reference to the selections from the Scriptures which he had so vehemently condemned. But what would the noble Earl say, if this system of education which he had so violently attacked, had emanated—not from the present—but the preceding Administration? That such was the fact he (Lord Plunkett) could easily establish by documents which he now held in his hand. The first document that he should read was an extract from the fourteenth Report of the Commissioners of Education in Ireland, dated in October, 1812, as to the selection of books. That Report recommends as follows:—In such selection of books for the new schools, we doubt not but it will be found practicable to introduce not only a number of books, in which moral principles will be inculcated in such a manner as is likely to make deep and lasting impressions on the youthful mind, but also ample extracts from the sacred Scriptures themselves, an early acquaintance with which we deem of the utmost importance, and, indeed, indispensable, in forming the mind to just notions of duty and sound principles of conduct. It appears to us that a selection may be made in which the most important parts of Sacred History shall be included, together with all the precepts of morality, and all the instructive examples by which these precepts are illustrated and enforced, and which shall not be liable to any of the objections which have been made to the use of the Scriptures in the course of education. The study of such a volume of extracts from the Sacred Writings would, in our opinion, form the best preparation for that more particular religious instruction which it would be the duty, and, we doubt not, the inclination also, of their several ministers of religion to give at proper times, and in other places, to the children of their respective congregations,This recommendation of those Commissioners, embodied the very proposition against which the noble Lord would raise the stones 863 to mutiny, and which he so vehemently denounced as constituting a mutilation of the Scriptures. Now, who were the persons whose names were affixed to this Report, thus recommending that which, according to the noble Lord's doctrine, went to rob the people of the Word of God? The first name to it was that of the Archbishop of Armagh, the late Dr. Stuart. The next was that of the Archbishop of Cashel. The third was that of the Bishop of Killaloe; and here he might say, before he continued reading the names, that he had already neutralized the value of the testimony of the noble Lord's clergyman. The fourth name was that of Isaac Corry, who was Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer under Mr. Pitt. The next was that of Provost Elrington, the present Bishop of Ferns; the sixth was that of Mr. Lovel Edge-worth; the next was that of Mr. White-locke; and then followed—would the noble Lord believe it?—the last name signed to the Report from which this extract had been faithfully taken, was the name of Mr. John Leslie Forster, one of the present Barons of the Exchequer in Ireland. Was it fair, after this, for the noble Lord to tell the people of England that a system of education which was founded on such principles, and which was intended to convey common instruction to both Catholics and Protestants, had for its object the depriving the Protestants of the Word of God, and that the selections from the Sacred Scriptures which had been made in accordance with the recommendation of those Commissioners, formed a mutilation of the Gospel? He would next state what was recommended in the Report of the Education Commissioners in 1825. Those Commissioners were, Mr. Frankland Lewis, Mr. Leslie Forster, Mr. William Grant, Mr. Glasscock, and Mr. Blake, the Chief Remembrancer. This Report which was dated May 30, 1825, states,On the fullest consideration which we have been able to give to the subject, we are of opinion, that it is desirable to unite children of the different religious persuasions in Ireland for the purpose of instructing them in the general objects of literary knowledge, and to provide facilities for their instruction separately, where the difference of religious belief renders it impossible for them any longer to learn together. Various opinions are entertained with respect to the extent which it is necessary to devote to religious instruction, and in the different schools now in existence the practice is also various; we collect, however, that portions of two days in each week would 864 be fully sufficient. The careful instruction of the children in the Bible, not merely by making them read it, but by fixing their attention to its doctrines and precepts, and by exercising their minds in the perception of their true force and meaning, is the first and most important object of Protestant religious education. In addition to this, the teaching one catechism to the children of the Church of England, and one also to the Presbyterians, is the course which appears to be approved by persons qualified to form an opinion on the subject. The mode of giving religious instruction, by teaching in succession a variety of catechisms, has been condemned to us by high authority, and has, we believe, deservedly fallen into disrepute. It is stated by Mr. Daly, as the result of his practice in the schools superintended by him in his parish of Powerscourt, that he finds the children who attend to the comment and explanation of a limited portion of the Scriptures, which are given by him at certain periods of the week, make more progress in religious knowledge, than others who range through a greater extent without the advantage of exposition. The nature and extent of the religious instruction to be administered to the children of the Established Church, will, however, be more properly arranged by the clergy, under the direction of their respective diocesans.The opinion of every enlightened individual, indeed, who had any experience upon the subject, seemed to be against the proposition of the noble Lord, that in the education of the children of Ireland the Scriptures should be read without note, comment, or exposition. That concord should be established between the followers of the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches must be the desire of every man. To attain that object, or to take a step towards it, it was well, nay, it was wise, that the children of both should receive their literary and moral instruction together, but surely it must be admitted by every unprejudiced person that the religious education of either ought to be left to the care and management of their own clergy. The noble Lord had stated his wish that the Roman Catholic children should participate in the benefit of reading the Scriptures with their Protestant schoolmates. He would take the liberty of stating, that there never was a greater mistake than to suppose that the reading of the Scriptures was withheld from the Roman Catholics. They were fully admitted to that valuable privilege, accompanied with the additional benefit, as he must maintain it was, of having them explained to them by notes and comments. He thought it must be obvious to every 865 one that, to attain a proper Scriptural knowledge, it was essential, nay, necessary, that the texts of Holy Writ should be expounded and explained. He ventured to express this opinion with the utmost deference and respect for the right reverend Lords who occupied the bench to his left, but he felt satisfied that their opinions, must, to a great extent, coincide with his own. They could be no strangers to the beautiful, the powerful, and the copious commentaries which Locke had published on many portions of the Scriptures. They could not forget how forcibly that able writer had elucidated the some what abstruse epistles of St. Paul. Many adult persons must have felt themselves relieved from the difficulties of St. Paul by consulting the admirable commentaries of Locke. The Commissioners, in the report of 1829, reported the opinions of Dr. Murray, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, and of the other three Roman Catholic Bishops of Ireland—all of whom concurred in the propriety of allowing the Scriptures to be read, but accompanied with exposition and comment. In conclusion, the Commissioners stated, that, after the fullest investigation, it appeared to them that no better system for the united education of the Roman Catholic and Protestant children of Ireland could be adopted than that which they proposed. Then followed their proposition, which was in these terms:—We propose that public schools of general instruction be established—one, at least, in every benefice—in which a literary and moral education to the children of either creed should be given. Two days in the week the school shall break up at an early hour, and the remainder of the day be devoted to the separate religious instruction of the Protestants, the clergyman of the Established Church attending for the purposes at once of superintendence and assistance, and the Presbyterian minister likewise, if he shall so think fit, for the children of his communion. That, on two other days of the week, the school-rooms of general instruction shall, in like manner, be set apart for the Roman Catholic children, on which occasions, under the care of a Roman Catholic lay teacher, approved of as mentioned in the minute which we have given, they shall read the epistles and gospels of the week, as therein mentioned, and receive such other religious instruction as their pastors (who may attend if they think fit) shall direct. It may be right to notice, that in the Roman Catholic Church, there are epistles and gospels appointed, not for Sundays only, but for almost every day in the year, and they comprise al- 866 together, a large portion of the Old and New Testament.It will be necessary also to provide a volume, compiled from the Four Gospels, in the manner adverted to in our conference with the Roman Catholic Archbishops. Such a book, together with the Book of Proverbs, and the work containing the History of the Creation, the Deluge, and other important events, extracted from the Pentateuch, may be profitably used in the schools during the period of united and general instruction. We by no means intend such works as substitutes for the Holy Scriptures, although we propose that the reading of the Scriptures themselves should be reserved for the time of separate religious instruction.Having read those extracts, now he would ask their lordships—he would ask any candid man—whether this system had been fairly represented by the noble Lord opposite? He would ask any man whether that system recommended, as the noble Lord had charged it with recommending, a mutilation of the word of God, and whether it went to deprive the Protestants of the Gospel? This report also recommended that this system of national education should be supported by the public money. The meek and charitable clergyman whose letter had been read by the noble Lord to the House, said, that he would not admit the interference of the Irish Secretary, or of the Irish Lord Lieutenant, or of the English Prime Minister, in thus mutilating the Word of God, and that the public money should not be devoted to such a purpose. That was the drift of that gibing and ironical letter, and it was plain that the writer would have the public money only distributed as he pleased. In which opinion he was fully seconded, for the noble Lord said, "I do not approve of the system which you have adopted. I must have the public money expended in a manner which accords better with my own particular views of the principles upon which the education of the people of Ireland should be conducted." Now, if two whole days in the week for reading the Scriptures, in conjunction with Sunday, together with the morning and evening of every other day in the week, were not sufficient for the noble Lord and his clergyman, let them get up an education system of their own—let their friends subscribe money for its support, and let the Scriptures be read under it every hour, or, to use the expression of Dr. Cook, every moment in the week. But no rational man would contemplate such a system as one which 867 should be set up as a national system of education, and to the support of which the public funds should be devoted. The two reports of the Education Commissioners which he had quoted having been referred to a Committee of the House of Commons, that Committee made a report in these terms:—That it is the opinion of this Committee that, for the purpose of carrying into effect the combined literary and religious education of children in Ireland, four days in the week should be exclusively devoted to moral and literary instruction, and that the remaining two days be devoted solely to the separate religious instruction of the Protestant and Roman Catholic children.That report was made in the year 1828, at which time the noble Duke (Wellington) whom he saw opposite, was at the head of his Majesty's Government. The only other document to which he wished to refer—for he feared he had already been too tedious—was the subsequent report of the Committee of the House of Commons in 1830. That Committee adopted the report of the Committee of 1828, and recommended that a bill should be framed and brought into Parliament founded upon that report. The whole of this, it must be observed, was done during the late Administration; therefore, whether good or bad, it was only fair that the noble Lord should bestow his praise or pass his censure upon the real authors. In pursuance of the recommendation of the Committee of 1830, a Bill was prepared and brought into Parliament, and ultimately, after the present Ministers had come into office, was passed into a law. To carry that law into effect, a new Education Board was formed. It consisted of the Duke of Leinster, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Bishop of Cashel, Dr. Sadler, Mr. Carlile, the Secretary of the Hibernian Bible Society, (the choice of whom, if the Government had any project against the Bible, would certainly have been most unfortunate) and Dr. Murray, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The instructions from Mr. Secretary Stanley to the new Board of Education thus constituted were as follow:—They will require that the schools be kept open for a certain number of hours, for four or five days of the week, at the discretion of the Commissioners, for moral and literary education only, and that the remaining one or two days in the week be set apart for giving, separately, such religious education to the 868 children as may be approved of by the clergy of their respective persuasions. They will also permit and encourage the clergy to give religious instruction to the children of their respective persuasions, either before or after the ordinary school hours on the other days of the week. Although it is not designed to exclude from the list of books for the combined instruction such portion of sacred history, or of religious and moral teaching, as may be approved of by the Board, it is to be understood that this is by no means intended to convey a perfect and sufficient religious education, or to supersede the necessity of adequate religious instruction on the days set apart for the purpose.Such was the substance of the instructions which the Board had received from Mr. Stanley. The Commissioners had not yet fixed upon any definite plan which they should propose to be adopted. The only fruit of their labours as yet was, a lesson which they had directed to be fixed up in the schools. It was a lesson prepared by the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin. It was sent to the Board for their approbation; and their adoption of it was moved by the Roman Catholic Archbishop. The noble Lord then read the lesson. It was in these words:—Christians should endeavour, as the Apostle Paul commandeth them, 'to live peaceably with all men,' even with those of a different religious persuasion. Our Saviour, Christ, commanded his disciples to 'love one another.' He taught them to love even their enemies, to bless those that cursed them, and to pray for those who persecuted them. He himself prayed for his murderers. Many men hold erroneous doctrines, but we ought not to hate or persecute them. We ought to seek for the truth, and hold fast what we are convinced is the truth, but not to treat harshly those who are in error. Jesus Christ did not intend his religion to be forced on men by violent means. He would not allow his disciples to fight for him. If any persons treat us unkindly, we must not do the same to them; for Christ and his Apostles have taught us not to return evil for evil. If we would obey Christ, we must do to others, not as they do to us, but as we would wish them to do to us. Quarrelling with our neighbours, and abusing them, is not the way to convince them that we are in the right, and they in the wrong. It is more likely to convince them that we have not a Christian spirit. We ought to show ourselves followers of Christ, who, 'when he was reviled, reviled not again,' by behaving gently and kindly to every one.Such was the lesson which the two Archbishops in the spirit of Christian charity, adopted. It was now his duty to read 869 a document of somewhat a different description. He held in his hand a handbill, which, he understood, had been distributed throughout the city of London, but which had only come into his possession that day. What effect such an instrument might have had in procuring the 230,000 signatures to the address to which the noble Lord had alluded, he would leave it to their Lordships to judge after he had read it. It was in these terms.Who is on the Lord's side? He that is not with me is against me.—Luke xi. 28. Protestants awake! Friends of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible, to your standard! A conspiracy is formed. The powers of earth and hell are combined against the Lord and his Anointed. The armies of infidelity, of Romish Papacy, and liberalism, are united to extirpate the word of God from the earth. They have begun their experiment upon Ireland; and, if you suffer them to make good their ground there, you may rest assured that they will speedily extend their conquests. Shall the Bible be wrenched from the hands and hearts of the children of Ireland? Shall the word of God, and all that has been done by Christian liberality for Ireland, be trampled under foot, and scattered to the wind, at the bidding of the Roman Catholic Priesthood? God forbid.Was that language to address to the people? what must be the effects of a paper containing such sentiments. The noble Lord—
did not suppose that the noble Lord had anything to do with such a document, because the noble Lord must know that when appeals were made to a great body of the people, in which holy names and sacred names were used to enlist their prejudices on one side, the unavoidable consequences of those indiscreet and unwarranted appeals must be such as every good man would lament. The placard continued—Ye that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, will never suffer such dishonour and indignity to be done to his name. Adopt, then, the only means you are called upon at present to use, to prevent such a sacrilege: add your names, without delay, to the petition about to be presented to both Houses of Parliament, requesting them to interpose and prevent the proposed measure of taking the Scriptures from the children of Ireland being carried into effect.He spoke with the utmost sincerity when be said that he acquitted the noble Earl of any knowledge of that wicked and despicable appeal to the prejudice and 870 passion of a large body of the people. But if the noble Lord took up the cause and advocated the views of those from whom such appeals proceeded, he must be amenable for the natural consequences. The handbill concluded by stating that the signatures of persons desirous of attaching their names to the petition alluded to, would be received at 134, Oxford-street, and at 32, Sackville-street. He did not know whether the noble Earl knew anything of the latter place, but he believed it was one at which many meetings had been held. It had been said, that the Roman Catholic clergy had attempted to induce the children of the Catholic parents to withdraw themselves from the schools of Kildare-street society. It was an undoubted fact that they had done so, and that they had been successful. It was the natural consequence of the system, upon which those schools were conducted. In the schools of the Kildare-street Society not half the children were Roman Catholics. But in the schools which were maintained by private subscription, and in which the Kildare-street Society had no influence, four-fifths of the children who attended were Roman Catholics. Those two facts spoke volumes. He must now apologize to their Lordships for the length at which he had detained them, and he would conclude by repeating his conviction of the erroneous-ness of the noble Earl's (Roden) views.
The Archbishop of Armagh
said, my Lords, it was not my intention to have troubled your Lordships with any observations on my part; but from the debate that has taken place, and the extracts that have been made from some of the Reports of the Commissioners, and from the part I took in one of them, I cannot satisfy myself without explaining to your Lordships the motives by which I was actuated on that occasion, and without, at the same time, expressing my firm conviction that the proposed plan of education is inapplicable to the circumstances of the state of Ireland—that it will undo much of the good that has been done by the system that has been already adopted—and that it will exclude the Roman Catholic population of Ireland from a free access to the Scriptures which they have begun to feel a duty to attend to, and to exercise a right of consulting. My Lords, it may be said that it is consistent with the principles of the Roman Catholic Church to debar the members of its communion from the use of the Scriptures. I maintain it is not consistent with the principles of the Protestant Church to establish 871 a system of national education founded on such pretensions. My Lords, I presume not to interfere with the exercise of any power which the Roman Catholic Priesthood may feel themselves conscientiously bound to exercise or to belong to them. If they wish to be consistent as Roman Catholics, surely we wish to be consistent as Protestants. If they think that religion may be taught without the Scriptures, be it so as far as regards themselves; but let us not, as a Protestant nation, sanction such a principle by establishing schools which are called national, in which the revealed Word of God is not set forth—in which the Bible is not appealed to, is not recognized, is not read as the Word of God, is not devoutly read as the authentic source of religious faith and practice. My Lords, I would go as far as any man in waiving conscientious scruples, especially for the great and important object of obtaining united instruction; and here it may be permitted to me to mention to your Lordships the part I took in the education inquiry, which I think ratifies the sincerity of my declaration. My Lords, in the fond hope of concord and unity of operation, in that hope, I say, the Protestant clergy were persuaded that they were justified in what they did by the professions of a corresponding spirit on the part of the Roman Catholic clergy, and in that hope, I say, we went as far as was allowable; nay further than it was thought prudent for us to go by some estimable Prelates of our noble Church. My Lords, the point we then mainly insisted upon was an adequate representation of revealed truth—that an adequate representation of revealed truth should be exhibited to the youthful mind in the way of national instruction—an education not resting on any particular Church or any particular sect of men, but on the warrant of the Word of God. This, as we declared, was the ground taken by the Prelates of the Established Church of Ireland. My Lords, in this view, and as a preliminary step, a selection from Scripture was prepared under the superintendence of the late Archbishop of Dublin, and it was thought that this selection would be unobjectionable, as it was formed from a book extensively circulated in the schools of the Greek Church throughout the Russian empire. If Scripture was to be given at all, I say, we supposed that this selection would have been unexceptionable. My Lords, it was according to the plan of the Commissioners, that a work of this kind was to be followed by 872 extracts from the Old Testament and from the Epistles, and that, as we hoped, a summary of Christianity common to the Roman Catholics as well as to ourselves might be introduced into the schools, not in exclusion of the Bible, but in addition to the reading of it at the time set apart for private instruction. That such, my Lords, was our intention would appear from the letter addressed by the late Archbishop of Dublin to the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, which is stated in the ninth Report at page 11. Our objection to the book was, that though it was a part, and, as far as it went, a faithful part of the New Testament, it was not the New Testament itself. We did not object to the use of extracts in our schools; we did not wish to see the sacred volume used as a common spelling-book. What we desired was, that the Bible should not be a banished book from a Christian school—that it should be there the acknowledged source of revealed truth; that it should be there to ascertain the accuracy of any extracts, and to be read by those who were competent to peruse it. And we protested then, as we do now, against the principle of its exclusion. My Lords, the objection of the Roman Catholic hierarchy was quite of a different character. They objected to the book, not because it was unfaithful or imperfect, but because it was an extract from Scripture, and also because it was given in our version. If the latter circumstance had been their only objection it would have been easily removed, for we professed our willingness to attend to any observations on the part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy that could make our work unobjectionable, but no such observations were made. In the minutes of a conversation with the Commissioners, which will be found in the Appendix to the Ninth Report, pages 33 and 34, it is said by one of those Prelates that the use of the scriptural compilation in the English version is a Bible lecture given where we exclude the Bible ourselves; and again, if religious instruction is to be given to Roman Catholic children, it must be by the Roman Catholics. Instead, therefore, my Lord, of the selection which we had prepared, a treatise of Christian lessons was recommended by the Roman Catholic hierarchy—a treatise which might be read by the schools without any knowledge of the existence of the Scriptures, certainly without any knowledge that the precepts and doctrines contained in that treatise had any authority from them. My Lords, from that 873 day to this I scruple not to say that I have despaired of any system of united instruction, formed on a Scriptural basis, being pursued in Ireland—and I entirely concur in the opinion expressed by two of the Commissioners on the late inquiry on education, who declined signing their names to the final Report, that even if the preliminary objection as to the votes could have been removed, enough had appeared during the time that had elapsed from the making of the first Report to satisfy them that there were other and not less formidable obstacles which would have interfered with the execution of their plan. Since the Report was published much has occurred, my Lords, to strengthen this belief in my mind, and I cannot see anything in the formation of the present Board to induce me to think it will be more successful than its predecessor. For the distinguished and eminent Prelate of our Church who is a member of that Board I entertain a high respect. His talents are acknowledged, and his zeal for the Protestant Church is unquestioned; but he is new to Ireland. And great as his talents are, and must be wherever they are exerted, they will be neutralised by the other parts of this most heterogeneous Board. In the principle laid down for the regulation of the proposed system of education, the clergy are positively excluded from any superintendence over the national education—a superintendence committed to them by express legislative enactments—a superintendence which they have exercised with a prudence and discretion which has secured them the confidence of all classes of Protestants, and even of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland. Within the last eighteen years great improvement has taken place in the education of the poor of Ireland; and I cannot see but with deep regret that institutions which have proved their usefulness should now be abandoned, and in their place an untried experiment set on foot—an experiment in which the co-operation of the established clergy of Ireland and of other classes of Protestants cannot be expected, and in which the Roman Catholic hierarchy itself will not join us, as we have been taught by former experiments, unless every Protestant principle be conceded to their pretensions—and unless the national education be given exclusively into their hands.
The Earl of Wicklow
expressed his unfeigned satisfaction at what had fallen from his right reverend friend. If he had wished 874 to speak immediately after the noble and learned Lord, it was only because he thought that the noble and learned Lord was mistaken in his views as to Ireland. Some remarks had been made relative to the late right hon. Secretary for Ireland, not having taken some more active measures on the subject of education; but that right hon. Gentleman said, that the reports were conflicting, that the Commissioners disagreed, and that it was not possible, oft-hand, to devise a better system than that which already existed. He was convinced, that it was not prudent to abandon an old and tried system before a better was devised. If there were no system of education previously established in Ireland which had been found effective, he might not object to the plan proposed; but he did object to substituting that for an old and approved system. The noble and learned Lord appeared to consider that only a small minority of the Protestants objected to the new system, but most assuredly he very much underrated their numbers and moral force. When petitions were signed by 236,000 persons, that alone was a full proof that there was a very strong feeling against the plan. He regretted that the subject had not been noticed in that House during the last Session, and that the noble Marquis, the President of the Kildare-street Society, had not stood up in his place, and demanded from the Government some explanation of its conduct in abandoning the Society. He had the honour to be one of the Vice-Presidents of that Society, and must say, that no system could be better adapted to the purposes required than the system followed by that Society. If that Society were now opposed by the Roman Catholics of Ireland, it must not be supposed that it was on account of general education, but from party views. Up to the time that the Society lost the Government grant, the system was continued to be carried on with increased vigour and effect. It was establishing schools, and pushing education into the most remote districts of the country. He was ready to admit that a great clamour had been raised against the Society, by those whose particular purposes were answered by creating excitement, but between 1816 and 1822 it had been approved of and supported, and advocated by the Catholics of Ireland. He could show, by the evidence of the very highest Catholic authority—that of Dr. Doyle, who had admitted, in his examination before a Committee of that House, 875 that the greater number of the schoolmasters in his own diocese were educated in the schools of the Kildare-street Society, and that he conceived separate schools for the children of the two sects to be mischievous, as it was of much importance that the children should early learn to love and respect each other. That was the language held by a Roman Catholic Bishop. He knew also that two Roman Catholic Bishops had expressed, in their letters, a very favourable opinion of the Kildare-street Society; and that fifty-nine Roman Catholic Priests had described it, in their letters, as a most praiseworthy institution. The clamour against it began in 1825, and then the Roman Catholics first declined to recommend the Society. This was partly occasioned by the hope of inducing two of the Commissioners, who were understood to be of liberal principles, and whose approbation it was believed the Society had not obtained, to discountenance the Society, and to recommend that the funds allowed it by Government should be given to the Roman Catholics themselves. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, even, in proposing the abolition of the Society, had showed its great utility, for he had mentioned, in the very speech in which he recommended that the grant should be withdrawn, that since 1816, the number of schools under the Society had increased to between 1,600 and 1,700, and that they contained 133,000 scholars—one half of whom were Roman Catholics. But it was asserted, the proportions according to the respective numbers of the two persuasions, ought to have been much more in favour of the Catholics. On these grounds a clamour had been raised by the leading Catholics. They entertained a conviction that the other Catholics were not unfriendly to the Society, and were profiting by the instruction received, to the exclusion of the influence they wished to retain in their own hands. The Government had not been influenced, as one of its Members said, by the whisper of a faction, but it had been influenced by the roar of clamour, and had bent beneath it like a willow beneath the storm. At the very time that Mr. Stanley was making his statement, a friend of his was near Mr. O'Connell in the other House of Commons, and on expressing his surprise at the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman, Mr. O'Connell observed, "If you knew as much as I do, you would be still more surprised. Mr. Stanley declared, only fourteen days 876 before he left Ireland that he meant to support the Society." "How, then," said his friend, "came Mr. Stanley to change?" "Oh," replied Mr. O'Connell, "we have threatened him into it." That was not a proper situation for any Government. He now begged leave to refer to the construction of the new Board of education, and, with every respect for his personal character, he must say, that in his opinion, his noble friend (the Duke of Leinster) was not well calculated to preside over it, otherwise it was nominally, well balanced. It consisted of a Protestant Archbishop, and a Roman Catholic Prelate; but the former was not supported by his Clergy, and the latter was; and that would soon make one of the scales kick the beam. Already the Dean and Chapter of the former had addressed to him a remonstrance on the subject, to which he had replied, "You may assure the Church that I will never give my sanction to any measure either for the suppression of any part of the Word of God, or for conceding to the Roman Catholic priesthood that principle of religious education which they claim." The result of this would be, that the whole grant for general education would be appropriated by the Romish priesthood. He had no wish to deprive them of the means of educating their people, but he did not think the Protestant Parliament of the empire would long permit such a state of things. He was sure that if the present Government were in office for twelve months, it would be obliged to abandon its own scheme; or, on the specious plea of economy, would withdraw the grant, and conceal, under some miserable plea, its political blunder. He understood that as yet the measure had not assumed any determinate shape; it was not yet a law; and he, therefore, hoped the Government would re-consider its plan; and he was sure that it would promote the peace and tranquillity of Ireland if it would abandon the measure.
§ Viscount Melbourne
understood the right reverend Prelate to insinuate that the Government appeared desirous to abandon the principles laid down in the various reports of the Commissioners for education in Ireland, and which had been sanctioned by names of great eminence and piety. He could assure the right reverend Prelate that they had no such intentions, their object was, to carry these principles into effect by establishing a national system of education, instead of one founded on exclusive tenets. The right reverend Prelate remarked that, if the Catholics continued to be consistent 877 in rejecting the Bible, the Protestants ought to be consistent in rejecting extracts from that sacred book. This, of course, inferred, that each party was to hold their own tenets, and it was evident no joint system could be established, unless mutual concessions were made. The plan proposed followed this course, and was sanctioned by great authorities on both sides, and, therefore, he did hope their Lordships were prepared to agree to it, or they must give up all hope of that joint education, which had been so much recommended as the only means of preventing the youth of both parties growing up with hostile feelings towards each other. It was well known that to proceed upon the plans formerly acted upon was impossible, for some of the tenets of the Catholics were directly opposed to it. There was no option, therefore, but to endeavour to establish another system, and he was convinced that when the present heats had passed away, all those who were opposed to the policy of Government would admit they must have given up all hopes of a national system of education, unless they had pursued the course which the Government had followed. The plan which was about to be established was in perfect conformity with all the reports. The first Report which recognized this principle said, "It is desirable, that no attempt should be made to influence or disturb the religious feelings or tenets of any individual, but that such a system of education should be adopted in the schools, that they should be open to all." It then went on to say, that "no attempt for the general education of the lower classes in Ireland can be successful, if any attempt whatever is permitted to be made in these schools to influence the faith of the children." It also laid down as a principle, that "even their religious prejudices, however erroneous, should be respected as much as possible." It was the religious feeling, or perhaps prejudice, of the Catholics, that the Scriptures ought not to be read, and those who put their names to this Report must have contemplated that that feeling should be respected. This Report was peculiarly deserving of attention, because it Was composed at a time of greater calmness than the present, when animosities, both religious and political, were not so great as they had since become—when persons were not influenced by the feeling of exasperation which grew up when a contest had prevailed a long time. The principle was broadly laid down in this Report, and subsequent reports were founded on 878 that principle, and only intended to carry it into effect. The most anxious supporters of the Kildare-street Society recommended it as fulfilling that object; but it had gradually become of too exclusive a character. The various reports recommended a more liberal system, such as that now proposed; but that system was not adopted, and, to get rid of present inconveniences, the Government resorted to temporary expedients. Since that time, difficulties and jealousies had grown up, in consequence of the discussions which took place on the Roman Catholic question. Everything was seized upon that could influence public feeling, and the Kildare-street Society among the rest, and it was held up as hostile to the Catholics. He was aware, that, for a time, the Kildare-street Society was regarded favourably by the public, but this feeling soon ceased to exist. From 1822, when the hopes of the Catholics were first greatly raised with a prospect of success, until 1826, there was a continual system of collision. Attempts were made to convert the Catholics, he did not doubt, from the most conscientious motives; but, unhappily, the zeal of some influential persons outran their discretion. Disputes, accordingly, took place between the two religious parties: these increased, and became more inflammatory, and a wide separation and alienation took place, rendering the task of giving instruction to the people more difficult than it had previously been. From that moment the Kildare-street Society became an instrument in the hands of one of the parties. They took such a course, that Roman Catholic children could not attend their schools, except by stealth, or in defiance of their priests. From that moment the schools ceased to be of use to a large portion of the community. When this was observed distinctly, it became evident that the Society ought to have nothing to do with proselytism. The noble Earl seemed to think, that a different course should have been pursued, and that the Government ought to have exerted all its influence in the cause of proselytism. This, however, was not the principle on which the reports of the Commissioners proceeded; it was not the principle on which the present Government of Ireland was conducted; it was not a principle that had been recognized by either branch of the Legislature. The noble Earl said repeatedly, with great emphasis, that we mutilated the Word of God, which was the great objection that he and other conscientious Protestants had to the proposed 879 system of education; but, with submission to the noble Earl's better knowledge, he had strong reasons to believe, that the Kildare-street Society did not require that the Scriptures should be read throughout. That Society caused a selection of parts of the Scriptures to be made: he presumed, therefore, the noble Earl did not mean to call such a selection "a mutilation." He made this remark, because he supposed that it was only on account of his Majesty's Ministers considering it necessary to give a portion of the Scriptures without note or comment, that they were thus charged with having a wish to deprive the people of Ireland of the Word of God—a charge foolish and unjust. If any noble Lords thought that the noble Earl had substantiated his charge against the Government, with them they must stand condemned; but the House would not fail to perceive, that the present was an attempt to raise a cry upon a subject on which, in Ireland, the people's minds were always much interested, and generally much inflamed. Their Lordships, he had no doubt, would agree with him in thinking, that the noble Earl's speech had received a complete answer from his noble and learned friend (Lord Plunkett). There had been meetings, however, where the noble Earl had made speeches to which no answer could be given, and at which meetings his Majesty's Government were held up as the enemies of all religion. In point of fact, this imputation had formed the principal topic of discussion at all the Protestant meetings which had taken place on this subject. An outcry had been raised in Ireland—meetings had taken place on this question of popular education, and from what he had heard or read of those meetings, there did not appear to have been any other topic started; or, even if there was any other, it was treated as merely a subsidiary one, the absorbing topic that his Majesty's Government were enemies to all religion was chiefly insisted on. If these persons had not met together, and made these speeches, he did not think it very likely they would have heard all this declamation about education in Ireland. With respect to other speeches which had been made elsewhere against his Majesty's Government, connected with the same matters, all that he would say of them was, that they answered themselves, or, at least, neutralised one another. Allusion had been made by the noble Earl to the distribution of patronage, and the Government had been charged in 880 some of the Irish journals, with not making a single appointment which did not offer some insult to the Protestants of Ireland; but the other party had sufficiently answered this statement. Mr. O'Connell charged the Government, on the other hand, with an inveterate animosity towards that country, by preferring to office those whom he designated as its enemies, because they were intimately connected with this very party who complained of neglect. When such statements, so inconsistent with each other, were made, the presumption was, that the Government had pursued a straight course, in distributing its patronage fairly between the extremes of conflicting and contending parties, and that they had really endeavoured to place in office those who had been most calculated to fill the posts to which they were appointed. The noble Earl who spoke last, in the latter part of his speech, made a very violent attack upon the proposed plan of education; but the necessity which existed for some change was acknowledged, and, unless they were prepared to abandon the whole system of education altogether—unless they were prepared to say, there shall be no grant of public money at all for that purpose—a decision which, he believed, nobody would recommend—there was no course for the Government to pursue, but to act on the principle laid down in these reports, and which, in effect, was the basis of the proposed system. The noble Earl (the Earl of Wick-low), not content with having brought charges against individuals in their absence, in a recent debate, which ought to have been first forwarded to Government, had now brought a charge against the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland, upon the authority of some third person. This was a very slender ground on which to found a statement of such a kind as that made by the noble Earl. The better course would have been, before that noble Earl made his statement, to have instituted some inquiry as to whether there was foundation for it. Statements of this description unfortunately made an immediate impression; and although their fallacy might be detected, and subsequently proved, the detection might come too late to do away with the evil impression. With respect, also, to the noble Earl's recommendation, that they should reconsider this question, he begged to assure him, that it had been already fully and fairly considered; and his Majesty's Government had come to the conclusion that the proposed plan was the best that 881 could be devised and adopted under existing circumstances. The responsibility, with regard to its success or failure, would rest upon those who would thwart that plan, and not upon his Majesty's Ministers, who had done their utmost to ensure its success.
begged to say, that he understood that he had committed a mistake in saying that the late Secretary for Ireland had prepared a bill upon this subject.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that the subject of education in Ireland had occasionally engaged his attention for the last twenty-five years; in fact, since he had been Chief Secretary for that country; but he had not as yet been able thoroughly to make up his mind upon the course which ought to be pursued. He agreed in opinion with the noble and learned Lord, who had declared that opinion with so much eloquence, that any system to succeed, must have a foundation in religion, and that it could not stand on any other foundation. The noble and learned Lord had truly said, that this was to be desired, not simply from the advantages to be derived from religious instruction, but from the promotion of those habits of obedience and discipline which it was necessary to instil into the mind of youth. He admitted that the system proposed by Ministers was, as the noble and learned Lord opposite, and the noble Secretary, had stated, founded on, and justified by, the reports of the Commissioners and the reports of Committees of the other House. But the doubt he entertained was this, whether the system laid down in the reports, and laid down in the letter of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, was a system which would inculcate those habits of discipline and obedience which were required by the noble and learned Lord, and which would alone satisfy his mind, that, in adopting it, they were doing that which they ought to do. This was his apprehension. What he felt was this, that there was much doubt whether the new system would answer for the education of nearly 500,000 persons in the same advantageous manner as was effected by the existing societies, by the London Hibernian Society, the Sunday School Society, and the Kildare-street Society. What he would say was, that already there was going on a system of religious education, whereby nearer 500,000 than 400,000 persons were instructed—a system of real religious education founded on the Scriptures, which could be interfered with by nobody, priest nor 882 layman, and which was so directed by the Kildare-street Society, as not to give offence to anybody; and now, when the Government was about to establish another system (which he had admitted they were justified to do by the reports), he doubted much whether it would not be attended with less advantage than that which already existed. He was, himself, by no means satisfied that the system to be substituted was so good as that which they proposed to abrogate. If the system were to be changed, he considered that it would be, perhaps, better to have separate schools for the Protestants and the Roman Catholics. Although he admitted, this would be attended with many inconveniences, still he was inclined to think it would be better than the scheme proposed, and did not conceive that it was inconsistent with the plan suggested by the reports. The first report, that of 1812, by no means recommended a system of joint education. The view was, that the Board of Commissioners should have the power of appointing a Roman Catholic or a Protestant school-master; but he did not believe it was their intention that the education should have been a joint one. And what made him think so was this:—In a letter from Mr. Leslie Foster, which appeared in the appendix to the report of the Commissioners, that gentleman insisted that the education should be a joint one, for the children of either persuasion, which he would have hardly thought it necessary to do if such were the understood recommendation of the report. Mr. Leslie Foster, he believed, afterwards altered his opinion upon the subject; but he merely alluded to the letter to confirm his own view of the question. As to what had been said by the noble and learned Lord, and the noble Viscount, he differed from them. On the subject of public, as distinguished from private education, he disagreed with them. He really could not see the difference between public and private education, or why causes of dispute should arise between two classes of persons, if educated by public grants, rather than between the same classes, if educated by private means. All classes of persons, who were educated together here by their private means, agreed quite well together, as Englishmen; and he did not see why they should not in like manner agree, if they happened to be educated by public grants. In conclusion, he stated, that he never could make up his mind that the system recommended by the reports was a good one.
The Earl of Radnor
observed, that, in his opinion, the noble Duke had by no means supported the sentiments and opinions of those who had introduced the petitions to the House, on which the discussion arose. The noble Duke very fairly said, that Ministers were justified in recommending the adoption of their proposed system by the reports of former Parliamentary Committees, but that he thought, notwithstanding, it would fail. The noble Duke appeared to prefer separate schools, and that the persons of the two persuasions, Protestants and Catholics, should be educated apart from each other; he should like to know how that proposition would be received by the right reverend Bench? What would the right reverend Prelates say, to giving money for the support of Roman Catholic schools. He was a Protestant, and yet saw no objection to the adoption of such a principle; though it was one that would not be favourably received by the country, any more than by the right reverend Prelates. That, however, was a fair and legitimate opposition on the part of the noble Duke, and was a mere difference of opinion between him and the Government. The noble Duke took a very different line of opposition from that which had been pursued by other noble Lords. He thought that many who had listened to this debate, and to the speeches of noble Lords opposite, might have almost doubted whether the discussion regarded education, for it had branched off into several other subjects. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Wicklow) had thought fit to make an attack upon a Member of the present Government, in consequence of something that had been told him, in confidence, by a gentleman, as to what a third party had said relative to a change of opinion having suddenly taken place in a certain right hon. Gentleman on this subject. Such a course as this was very unusual and improper, to say the least of it. But there were other parts of the noble Earl's speech which were also extraordinary. He said, the Kildare-street Society was fulfilling the object for which that Society was originally founded, in the best manner. He (Lord Radnor) was ready to admit, it had acted right up to a certain point, but, when it diverged from that, the Roman Catholics set their faces against the Society's schools, and abandoned them. The result was, that private schools were adopted, with the approbation of the Commissioners of Education, and of the Roman 884 Catholic clergy, in order to effect what the Kildare-street Society had neglected. He had attended to the progress of this debate with some degree of curiosity, and had heard, with surprise, the language which fell from the noble Earl (the Earl of Roden). Although it was of the same character, yet it was not so strong as that which was reported to have been used by him in another place: the burden of these speeches, in both cases, being, that the people of Ireland were to be deprived of the consolation of reading the Holy Scriptures; that, in point of fact, the Bible was to be taken from them. He held in his hand a newspaper which contained an extract from the Dublin Evening Mail, a paper which, he understood, was very favourably disposed towards the noble Earl and his opinions. The report of the proceedings of the meeting where this and other speeches were made (a meeting of the Protestants of the county of Down), and where the noble Earl himself acted as chairman appeared to have been copied into the Standard, to which paper he now referred. It reached him in the country, and he immediately determined to mention the subject on the first opportunity. The noble Earl, in the course of his speech, observed—My friends—many of whose faces I recognize as the faces of those who have, on several occasions, in my visits to their cottages, read God's blessed word together with me—my friends, your children are to be bereft of the consolation which that word can alone impart—and I am sure you will feel the attempt to deprive them of it as I do. Gentlemen, his Majesty's Ministers deny the word of God to the people, and refuse to make the Bible the foundation of their education.What was the consequence of this appeal? Why, several Bibles were held up in the crowd, and the people cried out, "We will have it in spite of them." He would ask, if it was possible that there could be a greater profanation of the Holy Scriptures than taking Bibles to a public meeting of this description? The noble Earl then went on to say—My friends, I am glad to see you do not travel without the word of God; and I cannot but look upon the design of the Government—to deprive you of it—as the worst attempt of all to undermine religion.He would here ask their Lordships, whether the conduct of Ministers, in this respect, deserved the language which was here applied to it? and whether the selec- 885 tion of portions of Scripture, which these Parliamentary Reports declared proper, was to be considered a mutilation of the word of God? Did not the noble Earl, did not every Peer, place in the hands of his children selections from the Scriptures, or some little doctrinal tracts, and not the whole of the Scriptures at once? The noble Earl was also reported to have said—We have to complain that the enemies of the Protestants have been raised up, while the Protestants themselves have been trampled upon. We have to complain that the object of his Majesty's Ministers is, manifestly, to undermine our Protestant institutions, and to extinguish Protestant influence in Ireland.Here was a direct charge against the Government—that everything they did, in respect of Ireland, was an insult to the Protestant faith! And on what account was this charge made? Because, in truth, Government chose to appoint another noble Lord to be Lord Lieutenant of the county of Louth, to the exclusion of the noble Earl! This circumstance was described at this meeting as being an insult to the Protestant faith!What! gentlemen (continued the speaker), is it to be permitted, that he himself who is so worthy of the confidence of any Government—that he should be dishonoured, in order that another may be put in the place where his claims reign paramount—and that other a Roman Catholic? Yes, gentlemen, a Roman Catholic was appointed to the Lord Lieutenancy of Louth, merely because he was a Roman Catholic, in the place of our noble brother, who now fills the Chair.In another place, the same gentleman was reported to have said,We are nearly 3,000,000 to their 5,000,000. We are not only 3,000,000 in number, but, from the true spirit by which we are actuated—by our education and wealth—we are more worthy of consideration than twice the number of Catholics.He would not trouble their Lordships with any further extracts from the report of the proceedings of this meeting, as they must be satisfied as to its true character, from the speeches to which he had adverted, and which in his opinion, ought to have met with the noble Earl's reprobation as Chairman of the meeting. There was also a meeting which took place in another county, at which the High Sheriff presided; and it was attended by the Lord Lieutenant of that county, who was not now present, and by another noble Lord who was also a Member of that House. On 886 that occasion, Mr. Archdal concluded his speech by saying,My friends, I will now only add the words used by Oliver Cromwell to his army, when marching through a ford—"My boys trust in the Lord, and keep your powder dry.He put it to their Lordships, whether it was to be endured that such language as this should be used at a public meeting, on the subject of education in Ireland? But, similar appeals had taken place in this country, for a meeting was recently held at Exeter-hall, in this City, at which a noble Viscount, a Member of this House, presided; and upon which occasion, a certain Resolution was moved by a noble Lord, and seconded by Mr. Shaw, the Recorder of Dublin. He said on that occasion,The Government might make what regulations it pleased; but he trusted the people knew their duty too well to submit to its enactments. It might degrade our mitre. It might deprive us of our property; but our religion was not in our property. If the Government dared to lay its hands on our Bible, then we must come to an issue. We—[exclaimed the hon. Gentleman, with a remarkable energy]—We will cover it with our bodies!—We will!—My friends, will you permit your Christian brethren to cry to you in vain? In the name of my country, and of my country's God, I will appeal from a British House of Commons to a British public. That his countrymen would obey the laws so long as they were properly administered; but if it was sought to lay sacrilegious hands on their Bible—to tear down that standard of the living God, and raise a mutilated one in its stead—then it would be no time to halt between two opinions; then, in every valley, and on every hill of his native country, would resound the rallying cry,—"To your tents, O Israel.These opinions were sanctioned by noble Peers who came down here and deprecated agitation. He really never heard language more decidedly inflammatory or improper; and, taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, nothing could be more likely to produce and to increase agitation than the use of such language Of all wars, a religious war was the most horrible—it led to greater atrocities, and was attended with more misery than any other. And what was more likely to produce excitement in the present state of Ireland, than the circumstance of persons of high consideration in the country, on account of their character, their wealth, and station, holding forth such language as that which he had quoted. He also must take this opportunity of expressing his astonishment that such lan- 887 guage should have been used on various occasions, and he must add, that the persons who had uttered, or who had tolerated, or sanctioned it, had no right whatever to fix the term "agitators," upon those who differed from them in opinion, when they themselves set such a bad example.
The Earl of Wicklow
begged to offer a few words in explanation. The noble Earl, in language not very consistent with that courtesy usually observed by one Gentleman towards another, had accused him of having divulged a private communication. He begged to tell the noble Earl, that he never was guilty of any such act. The matter to which the noble Earl referred, was communicated to him by a friend (Colonel Perceval) who gave him full authority to state it. As the noble Earl appeared to have studied the contents of the Irish papers in some instances, had he chosen to consult them on other occasions, he would have found that the hon. Gentleman had made the statement in public which he authorised him (the Earl of Wicklow) to make in that House. The noble Viscount (Melbourne) had certainly treated him with more courtesy, but he had also made some remarks with reference to another statement of his delivered last night, and accused him of impropriety in having brought forward that statement here, instead of having made a private communication on the subject to him, or some other Member of Government. If the noble Viscount, however, had given a moment's reflection to the matter, it would have occurred to him that he had stated, that this circumstance was actually communicated, in the first place, to the Government, who took no notice of the affair. What object, therefore, could it be to him to make a communication on the subject, knowing, that Ministers had already been informed of the facts, and feeling, too, that if he had made any such communication, it would be treated in the same manner, and share the same fate as the preceding one which had been made?
The Earl of Radnor
It was matter of regret that the noble Earl had not, when he made the remark, also added the name of the gentleman from whom he derived his information. With respect to the Irish papers, he had only accidentally seen the extracts to which he had adverted, and on that account was not aware of the circumstance to which the noble Earl referred. He presumed, however, that 888 Colonel Perceval had Mr. O'Connell's authority on the matter.
The Earl of Wicklow
begged to assure the noble Earl that he was again in error, for Mr. O'Connell had made precisely the same statement at a public meeting, and actually quoted the words of Colonel Perceval, the hon. member for Sligo. And what did this prove but that the noble Earl, with that ignorance of facts under which he had spoken, ought not to have attributed to any man that species of conduct which was inconsistent with his duty?
§ The Duke of Richmond
took the opportunity of contradicting, upon the authority of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, the statements put forth during the debate, by the noble Earl (Wicklow), to the effect that that right hon. Gentleman had changed his opinions upon the subject of education in Ireland, under the "threatenings" of Mr. O'Connell. He was assured that his right hon. friend had not given way in any such manner. Mr. O'Connell, Colonel Perceval, and the noble Earl (of Wicklow), who had relied upon their authority, were mistaken. At the same time, in defending his absent friend, he must reprehend the practice of choosing the House in which a Minister did not happen to sit, to make an attack upon him. Before the Chief Secretary was attacked in that House, these hon. Members who had accused him in his absence should have asked him in the House of Commons, if he had changed his opinions. But this was not the only occasion on which such a course was pursued by the party opposed to Government. With all their eloquence, they dared not rise in the same House with the object of their invective; this, he was tempted to say, might be Irish justice; but he trusted it was only the feeling of those, who, in their anxiety to render a Ministry which they thought a bad one, odious and ridiculous, never cared what they said. He did not mean to say, that they did not believe what they said; but their utter hostility to the Administration rendered them credulous in the extreme.
The Bishop of London
said, he feared that the plan of Government involved a principle with which he could not be satisfied; but he thought that the Ministers ought to be dealt with more liberally and fairly. The overcharged statements in which some noble Lords had indulged 889 were calculated only to do injury to the cause of truth. The most that could be truly said against the Government was, that, in striving to attain a good purpose, they had made a great mistake. A system of religious education was going forward in Ireland, supported by public grants: these grants had been withdrawn by Government, because the entire Scriptures were read in the schools which was not agreeable to the religious tenets of the Catholics. At the same time it should be known, that Government had no objection to have the Scriptures read in the schools; and, of his own knowledge, he could positively assert, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had none. But the reading of the Scriptures in an unmutilated state was opposed by the Roman Catholics; and the Government, to promote the purposes of joint education and conciliation, yielded to their objection, and ordered that selections only from the Scriptures should be read—selected, he was afraid, by those who would not be content to give an impartial view of Scriptural truth. It might be said, that the best way to instruct was by selections from the Scriptures. That might be admitted if it did not involve a principle, and if it were not perfectly clear that they were making a concession to the Catholic clergy. As a minister of the Protestant Church, he could not overcome the difficulties which this plan presented. The Ministers had taken away from them a Scriptural education, and had given them one, that he would not say was unscriptural, but which was something that he feared was not perfectly Scriptural. It was thought that this alteration of plan would prevent contention: nothing, he considered, was more likely to promote it. When the Protestant child went home in the evening to his father's house, where he had been in the habit of hearing the Scriptures read, he would naturally ask, why they were not read at school? Because Government did not permit it. Why did Government not permit it? Because the Roman Catholic priests had objected to it. Why did they object to it? Because they did not think the Scriptures should be read without interpretation. And why was this? Because they held the scriptures not to be the sole and essential rule of faith. The whole question, however, was involved in such inexplicable difficulties, that he did 890 not clearly see his way; but he considered that the Government, in forming a plan under the sanction of the priests, had made a great mistake. Unfortunately too that mistake involved an important principle, and was, therefore, looked upon with aversion by a large body of Protestants, not only of those whose connexion with Ireland gave them a partial view, but also by those in England who were acted upon by any political considerations.
The Marquis of Lansdown,
upon personal examination of the system pursued by the Kildare-street Society, had not found any reason to be dissatisfied with the mode of instruction introduced by that Association into their schools throughout that country. From the effect of a difference of religious feeling, however, it had been fully ascertained that these schools had become obnoxious to the Roman Catholics, who withdrew in a great measure their children from them. The grant of public money, therefore, failing to effect the object for which it had been hitherto voted by Parliament, it was intended to withdraw it. This was what might naturally be expected as the result of the failure. He had placed in districts, where his property lay in Ireland, schools nearly similarly organised with those of the Kildare-street Association, and found that they, without any mismanagement of their masters or of his agents, had not produced the satisfaction or advantage he contemplated, merely because the use of the Holy Scriptures was, as a means of education, irreconcileable with the tenets of the Roman Catholics. The real question was, whether the alternative proposed by the noble Duke opposite was to be adopted, and, because the Catholics would not frequent schools so constituted, were they, as Ministers, to completely abandon the hope of improvement through the medium of associated schools, and leave those classes in Ireland to a system by which they must, be disassociated and separated from their very infancy upwards? Had they attempted to continue the present plan, they would have raised up still greater hostility than now existed, and there would have been, instead of 200,000, 500,000 petitioners. He thought the right rev. Prelate should not have dealt so hardly with the Ministerial plan, without giving it a fair trial, more especially when the children were engaged in reading extracts four days of the week, and had the advan- 891 tage of schoolmasters, of Scriptural instruction from their own persuasion on the other two days. An opinion had prevailed among the Roman Catholic population of Ireland that proselytism was at the bottom of the present system and intentions of Government, and they had been led to suspect this intention in what had really sprung from the most fair and laudable motives. He only begged noble Lords to remember that his Majesty's Government, in acting upon the present plan, was not substituting it for any other plan which had succeeded. The new system was founded upon principles in no respect inconsistent with the general object of giving a religious, moral, and Christian education to all, and of affording at the same time to every Protestant child an education purely Protestant. More could not be accomplished, and this the Government was called upon to attempt in the present state of the country. To give a wholesome education to the children of each religion, and to teach a common harmony and a patriotic feeling to all, would be to act upon a basis upon which greater good would be accomplished than had ever hitherto been effected. Upon these grounds, and upon many others, he returned his most hearty thanks to the right hon. Secretary for Ireland for his attempt; for, looking to former failures, the present plan evinced his courage and sagacity, and he felt that if the right hon. Gentleman could accomplish his purpose, of which he had great hopes, it would produce far greater good than ever had been attained by any one single measure in Ireland. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would persevere in his laudable efforts, and that he would speedily see the practical effects of a system, which for thirteen years had been the object of the wishes and received the sanction and support of many highly respectable individuals of the Church of England, and of many Members of the Legislature.
§ The Duke of Wellington
feared he had in some degree been misunderstood by the noble Marquis. What he meant to say was, that, while the grants were continued to the Kildare-street Society, other private establishments continued, nor did the system of the Kildare-street Society operate to the separation of the schools.
§ Lord Cloncurry
begged to remind the House, that Ireland was a Protestant settlement and a Protestant conquest, and 892 that it abounded with the means of Protestant education and of conversion to Protestantism. For more than a century the charter schools intended for Protestant conversion had received money from the Government, and the Protestant clergy were bound to establish schools for instructing people in their faith. Under these circumstances the Kildare-street Society was established by many benevolent individuals, and their object was, to give to the great body of the people what they required, and which had previously been confined to but a few. When the laws established Protestant schools for the general education of the people, the Catholics of Ireland bore but a small proportion to the Protestants compared to what they did at present, and it was not desirable that so large a portion of the country should be left by Government in a state of absolute destitution with respect to instruction. The Kildare-street Society was, in fact, originally intended for the benefit of the Catholics, and assistance was given to it by Government upon the idea that it would enlarge its plan; but one point insisted upon was the necessity of founding this system of education upon the whole Bible. This was impossible, without interfering with the Catholic religion, and the departure from the original intentions of the Society was one cause of a great number of Protestants seceding from it.
The Earl of Roden
maintained that, according to the report of the Education Committee made in 1825, the plan of education now proposed had undergone a fair trial, and it had been found utterly impracticable. No objection had been made by the people to the Kildare-street Society until they had been instigated to opposition by their priests, and because the priests were against the Society, the old plan of education had been given up, and the Government was now acting entirely at the dictation of the Catholic clergy. The proposed system was not founded upon the Scriptures; this he had maintained, and no noble Lord in that House had yet convinced him to the contrary, and, in opposing the present measure of his Majesty's Ministers, he felt convinced that he was only speaking the sentiments of the Protestant body of Ireland. Who could maintain that it was just to take grants from the Protestant Institutions of Ireland while they were 893 continued to the Roman Catholics? He thought that the best mode, under all existing difficulties, would be, to withdraw all the grants from the Kildare-street and Capel-street Societies, and from the Catholic Societies, and to leave every body to educate his own children after his own manner.
§ Petitions ordered to lie upon the Table.