presented a Petition from the Ministers and Elders of the South Presbytery, Dublin, and other persons connected therewith, in favour of the Ministerial Plan of Education (Ireland). The petition was signed by men of rank, fortune, and intelligence; it breathed the most pious and Christian sentiments, and he wished, therefore, that it should be read at length. It gave him much satisfaction to be enabled to inform their Lordships, that, from the accounts which he had lately received from various quarters in Ireland on this subject, he could state, that the opposition which had been made to the national system of education, now about being established in that country, had signally failed. These accounts enabled him to state to their Lordships, that already there had been upwards of 600 applications received and attended to, by the new Board of Education in Dublin, for assistance towards the maintenance of schools in different parts of Ireland; that a great number of those applications were signed by Protestant clergymen; that a still greater number came from schools under the management of Roman Catholics, and that several of them were made by Protestant laymen; and that the number of individuals now in the course of receiving the benefits of education in those schools, in consequence of the establishment of this new system, amounted to 120,000 persons. It appeared, therefore, that the number of persons in whose behalf applications had been made, and who were now receiving the benefits of this new national system of education, amounted, in the course of six months, to more than for a similar number of years were being educated under the old system of the Kil- 1183 dare-street Society. He had received a letter on this subject from a most respectable gentleman, and a member of the new Board of Education, the reverend Mr. Carlisle, a Dissenting Protestant minister, which, with their Lordships' permission, he would read to the House. The noble Lord then proceeded to read the reverend gentleman's letter, which commenced by congratulating him on the success of the new system, and went on to state, that applications were pouring in to the Board from various schools for assistance; and that the greatest number of them came from schools which were under the management of Roman Catholics. [Some noble Lords on the Opposition benches, and especially the Earl of Roden, cried "hear hear," on that statement being made.] The noble Lord proceeded to say, that that was the circumstance of all others at which he was most particularly rejoiced—he was rejoiced to find, that the greatest number of applications came from Roman Catholic schools. Why did he say he was rejoiced at the circumstance? Because the system was intended to be a national one, diffusing to the mass of the Irish nation the invaluable blessings of a sound and wholesome education; and though the fact might provoke the sneer of the noble Earl (the Earl of Roden), he was sincerely rejoiced to find, that those who constituted in numbers more than three-fourths of that nation, were ready to participate in the benefits which such a system held out to them. The noble Lord opposite seemed to triumph in the idea that there had been no applications from Protestant clergymen; but, though his (Lord Plunkett's) reverend correspondent stated that the great majority of the applications were from schools under the management of Roman Catholics, he also stated, that there were many applications made by Protestant laymen, and by Protestant clergymen, too. The noble Lord then proceeded with the reading of the letter of the reverend Mr. Carlisle. The reverend gentleman stated, that though the great majority of the applications hitherto received by the Board, were from schools under the management of Roman Catholics, yet that they had received several from schools under the management of Protestants, and that such applications were rapidly increasing, especially in the province of Ulster. The opposition to the new system in Ulster, the reverend 1184 gentleman stated, was manifestly giving way; its origin there he assigned mainly to political motives, for the Orangemen, he observed, took the principal lead in it, and after enumerating a variety of facts to show that the new system was making its way steadily and triumphantly, he concluded by congratulating the noble Lord to whom this letter was addressed (Lord Plunkett), on the certain and not distant success of a project, which had for its object the education upon rational, sound, and liberal principles of an entire people. The facts stated in that letter, the noble Lord proceeded to say, afforded a proof that he was justified in congratulating their Lordships on the success which had already attended this great national experiment, despite of the various artifices and disgraceful manœuvres which had been resorted to for the purpose of thwarting, and, if possible, of defeating, the enlightened object which it had in view. He would just state to their Lordships a circumstance illustrative of the arts which had been resorted to, and, he was rejoiced to add, unsuccessfully resorted to, for that purpose. He believed that a petition had been lately presented to that House from the parish of Ballinrobe, in Connaught, against the new system of education in Ireland. A communication had since been made to him on the subject, which he apprehended their Lordships would agree with him in thinking, fully justified him in stating, that the most strange and unworthy artifices had been resorted to for the purpose of procuring petitions against this system. The communication to which he alluded was from Dean Burgh, the Protestant Rector of the parish of Ballinrobe That reverend gentleman stated to him, that he was himself one of those who had signed an application to the new Board of Education, for assistance for a school in the parish of Ballinrobe, and that, to his great surprise, he saw it lately mentioned in the public papers, that a petition from that parish against the new system of education in Ireland, had been presented to the House of Lords. He further stated, that not a word had been communicated to him on the subject of the getting up of the petition in question, though he was the Rector of the parish, and though the parish school, which was under his control, had applied for assistance to the Board of Education; that he knew nothing of the meeting at which it was said to have been adopted; that 1185 the officers of the parish knew nothing of it, and that, upon inquiry amongst his parishioners, he found that a number of the Protestants in the parish signed the petition without knowing the meaning of it; that they told him that they did not know it was against the parish school receiving aid from the new Board, and he mentioned a curious fact, to show that such was the case, namely, that a great number of the children of those petitioners were, at the time they signed the petition, and up to this moment, attending the school in question, and thus participating in the benefits of that system against which the petition was directed. He further stated, that they informed him, that they signed the petition because they were told that the Bible was going to be taken away from them. That was a sample of the tricks and artifices which had been resorted to, for the purpose of deluding and cajoling the Protestant population of Ireland, and of inducing them to oppose a system of education which was fraught with the greatest national benefits. He understood also from the same authority, that one of the persons who had signed this petition, an Orangeman, said, that he did so because he was told that a certain nobleman had promised, as a reward for those who did so, to pay the expense of their passage to America ["name, name"]. He would not state the name of the individual who was represented as having made such a promise.
The Marquess of Westmeath
interrupted the noble Lord, and asked, whether it would not then be well to proceed to the Order of the Day?
said, he would present the petition, and he felt it his duty to press the reading of it at length.
§ Question put, that the Petition be read.
§ The Earl of Wicklow rose.
thought the noble Earl should, according to the usages of the House, allow the petition to be read.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, he should then make but one observation. He was exceedingly happy to find that the noble Lord was so well satisfied with the result of the Ministerial plan. Instead of 600 schools, his only wonder was that there were not 6,000. For his own part, he should not be surprised if every priest, every schoolmaster—
The Marquess of Lansdown
rose to order. The noble Lord was out of order unless he was speaking to matter of motion.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said, that it was a point of order of considerable importance, and ought to be decided. During his short experience in Parliament, it had been usual to read petitions in the first instance, and then the debate upon them followed as a matter of course.
said, according to the known and established rules and orders of the House, it was utterly incompetent to any Peer to object to the reading of a petition presented by another Peer; and if he had no right to object to the reading, he had no right to speak to that point. Every Peer had a right to have his petition read. When a noble Lord presented a petition, he opened the matter of it; then if it appeared, upon that statement, that it contained matter which rendered it unfit to be received, the usual way was, for the Peer who presented it to withdraw it. But, unless it was objected to in that statement, he had a right to have the petition read without any question.
The Marquess of Lansdown
Unless my noble friend who presented the petition had a right to have it read without question, then all the noble and learned Lords who ever sat on the Woolsack, and also the Journals of the House, were wrong. The entries in the Journals on petitions always were in this form; "On reading the petition, it was moved," &c., implying that there was no question as to the reading of the petition.
§ The Earl of Eldon
had never, during the period when he sat on the Woolsack, put the question on reading a petition. But, when the noble and learned Lord Chancellor for Ireland had, in presenting a petition, stated so much extraneous matter, about what happened here, and what took place there, he was as much out of order as the noble Earl (Wicklow) behind him; and he, therefore, had no right to find fault with the noble Earl for being out of order, and introducing extraneous matter.
bowed with the greatest deference to what had been said by a person of so much experience as the noble and learned Earl who spoke last. But, at all events, it was admitted that it lay with him to propose that the petition be read, and to have it read, and it was fitting that it should be so; for, until the petition was read, it 1187 could not always be very well known what ought to be done with it. He had examined the petition, and stated the nature of it, and then it was for him to have it read, and then to move that it be laid on the Table, and on that question a discussion might, and often did, take place.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, if he was irregular in what he had done, then the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had fallen into the same irregularity, for he had put the question on the reading of the petition.
The Lord Chancellor
It was so. He had most assuredly put that question, and it was possible that he might have fallen into an irregularity, from having been more conversant with the rules and orders of the House of Commons than with those of their Lordships' House. It was true that he was Speaker of their Lordships' House, but then he was in a very different situation in that respect, from the Speaker in the other House, for he had no more reason to know, nor power to enforce, order than any other Peer had. Certainly the orders of the two Houses were very different. A Member of the other House, before he brought in a bill, must move for and obtain leave to bring it in. In this House, every noble Lord had a right to present a bill without leave asked. In the other House, the question was put that the petition be read, and on that question debates often arose, which was the analogy which had misled him, if he had been misled. But, with all due deference to his noble friend (The Marquess of Lansdown), he did not think that the entries in the Journals were quite decisive, and it really appeared highly expedient that the House should have some protection against the reading of improper petitions, beyond the discretion of an individual Peer, for it might happen that a petition might contain matter which ought not to be read.
The Marquess of Westmeath
It would be much better to drop any further discussion on the subject at present.
The Lord Chancellor
It was really a point of considerable importance, and one which ought to be settled with due deliberation.
The Marquess of Lansdown
It was a privilege enjoyed by noble Lords to have their petitions read without question, and was analogous to the privilege which they had to bring in bills without leave.
The Lord Chancellor
Certainly there 1188 was a wide difference between the orders of the two Houses, but he still thought that the House ought to have some additional protection against the reading of improper petitions.
The privilege was analogous to that which every Peer had, to bring in a bill without asking leave of the House, and as to that he would, with their Lordships' permission, mention an anecdote. In the year 1784, a noble Peer, in order to put to the test the right of any noble Lord to bring into the House any bill that he pleased, brought in a bill containing a caricature print of Mr. Fox and Lord North, and a question arose whether he had a right to introduce and lay on the Table a bill of that kind, and it was decided that he had. As to the first reading, he certainly thought that a question might be put on that, on which a discussion might take place, without any infringement of order. But any noble Lord had a right to present a bill, but whether the presenting implied laying on the Table, or delivering it to the Clerk, he could not precisely say.
§ The Petition read, and laid on the Table.
The Earl of Roden
stated, that he had presented a Petition from certain Protestants of Ballinrobe, in Ireland, against the Ministerial Plan of Irish Education. To that petition the noble and learned Lord (the Lord Chancellor for Ireland) had alluded. The noble and learned Lord had alluded to the clergyman who had refused to petition against the system, and he was sorry to say, that he had refused, but then he stood alone. The curate, (Mr. Seymour), however, had got a petition, signed by Protestants of that place, against the system, and that petition he had presented. The noble and learned Lord had also alluded to a Peer, who had offered to pay certain expenses for some people, on condition that they would sign a petition against the new system of education, but the noble and learned Lord had refused to mention who that noble Lord was, and it appeared that he himself did not believe the statement to be true.
He certainly did not believe that any noble Peer in that House would make such a promise, but it certainly did appear that such promises had been made.
The Archbishop of Armagh
stated, that the Protestant clergy of the Establishment were generally adverse to the new system.
There were several Protestant clergymen, and a very great number of Protestant laymen, well disposed towards the Ministerial system of Irish education, but many clergymen had refrained from publicly signifying their approbation of it, in consequence of charges from the Prelates against interfering. As to what had been said about his not being here to see the great number of petitions presented against the system, he was as likely to know the state of public opinion in Ireland, by residing in that country; as by his being in the House.
The Bishop of Kilmore
did not know why any Prelate should charge his clergy against interfering, since the system itself was such as to make such a charge unnecessary. All the Protestant clergy of his diocess were opposed to the scheme.
The Marquess of Londonderry
thought that the noble and learned Lord had but little confidence in the correctness of his own opinion, as to the approbation in which his system of education was generally held, since he refused to state the name of the noble Lord to whom he had alluded. But the noble and learned Lord had derived his statements from the reports at Dublin Castle, and that accounted for his error. He was not here to see the Table of their Lordships' House loaded with petitions against this new system. As to the information collected by the noble and learned Lord in Ireland, the noble and learned Lord knew as much when he set out for that country as he now did when he returned from it.