HL Deb 02 April 1852 vol 120 cc580-3

My Lords, I now beg leave to ask the question of the noble Earl the First Lord of the Treasury, of which I have given notice—namely, whether Her Majesty's Government contemplate any change of policy with regard to the maintenance of the College of Maynooth? Your Lordships are doubtless aware that the grant to the College of Maynooth rests upon an annual vote in the Miscellaneous Estimates, for, I believe, a sum between 8,000l. and 9,000l., until the year 1845, when the annual vote was converted by Act of Parliament into a permanent charge of 26,000l. on the Consolidated Fund. That measure had its origin with a Government of which the noble Earl now at the head of Her Majesty's Government was one of the most distinguished Members; and I believe the noble Earl is the only Member of your Lordships' House, who, having been a Member of that Government, is also a Member of the present Cabinet. The subject was very maturely and very deliberately considered—the debates upon it occupying fourteen nights in the House of Commons, and five nights in your Lordships' House. On the third night of the discussion in this House, the last speaker upon the question was the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government. A noble Lord who is since deceased—the late Earl of Charleville—had stated that the Government, of which the noble Earl was a Member, would lose his confidence and support, and reminded the noble Earl opposite that he (the Earl of Charleville) was one of those who had helped to place him in power. And the noble Earl opposite, at that time sitting in this House under another title, professed the regret which Her Majesty's Ministers would feel in losing the confidence of those who had called them to power, but added that that consideration would not weigh so much on the minds of the Government as the still higher duty which they owed to their country and their God. [3 Hansard, Ixxxi. 105.] The noble Earl closed that speech—a speech which occupies ten pages of Hansard—by calling upon this House, as statesmen and as Christians, to pass that measure. I mention these circumstances in order to show to your Lordships the deep interest which was at that period felt by the noble Earl in the question of the grant to Maynooth. Under other circumstances I should have thought a question such as that of which I have given notice, a work of supererogation; and it would be so now if it were not for the distrust and suspicion which appear to pervade the public mind with regard to the uncertainty which characterises almost all the measures of the present Government. The fact is, my Lords, there seems to be a want of fixity of purpose—a want of fixed principles. There seems to be a tendency to shift off responsibility from their own shoulders to appeal to the country, and, as it were, actually to court an agitation out of doors. It is for these reasons, then, that I rise to ask the question on the present occasion. But the subject of the grant to the College of Maynooth has of late assumed another feature; and perhaps it would have been unnecessary for me to put the question if it had not been for the very ambiguous and unsatisfactory manner in which a question of similar import to that which I am now putting was answered a few days ago by a right hon. Colleague of the noble Earl—the Chancellor of the Exchequer—in an other place. What I wish to elicit from the noble Earl is some distinct acknowledgment of his policy on this question; because it appears to me that the subject of the grant to Maynooth comes within the same category as that of free trade in corn. [Laughter.] I will endeavour to explain to your Lordships in what way. They both seem to be put up before the public to be knocked down to the highest bidder; corn was to be put up to competitition between Protectionists and Free Traders, and the Maynooth grant between the Protestants and Catholics. It seems as though the friends and supporters of the noble Earl are to go to the Roman Catholic constituencies of Ireland with one set of principles; and to the Protestant constituencies of England with another. We have one statement made in one place by one Member of the Government, and another statement made in another place by another Member of the Government. Here is the Secretary for the Treasury—and what does he say upon the subject of Maynooth? I pass by free trade, with respect to which he completely throws over the noble Earl. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was made on the 1st of April to his supporters at Liverpool, and the report says—"The speaker then referred to his votes on the Maynooth grant, and his determination for the future to give his unqualified opposition to any grant to the Roman Church, whensoever, howsoever, and by whomsoever made." Now, I ask the noble Earl, is this the language of a subordinate, or an insubordinate officer of his Government? Is it a declaration which the noble Earl is prepared to support or disavow? At any rate, the uncertainty ill which the subject is involved constitutes, in my opinion, sufficient ground for me to put the question of which I have given notice—"Whether Her Majesty's Government contemplate any change of policy with regard to the maintenance of the College of Maynooth?"


The noble Earl will excuse me if I do not follow him in all the reasons which he has assigned to your Lordships for putting his question—if I confine myself simply to answering that question, and in stating to your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government has no present intention of proposing to Par- liament any interference with the Act which was passed for the endowment of the College of Maynooth in the year 1845. But the noble Earl must allow me to add, and I do it with great regret, that the course which has been pursued by a large body of the people and by a large body of the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland, and the aggressive attitude which that Church has of late years assumed, has added materially to the difficulty of defending an endowment which was intended for the purpose of maintaining peace and good-will—for the purpose of binding the clergy of the Church of Rome to the State by the ties of gratitude for material assistance afforded, of gratitude for goodwill shown, and binding them by the ties of loyalty, contentment, and peacefulness.

House adjourned to Monday next.