HL Deb 13 May 1873 vol 215 cc1849-69

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


My Lords, I ask your Lordships to give a second reading to the University Tests (Dublin) Bill. The Bill is an extremely short one, although the object of it is very important. This Bill follows exactly the precedent, and contains almost the exact words of the Act which passed some years ago for abolishing Religious Tests in the English Universities. Many of your Lordships, and I myself among the number, were opposed to that measure; but Parliament having passed it, it is now the opinion of the Governing Body of Dublin University that there is no reason why a similar measure should not be applied to their University. In fact, there is a still stronger reason for applying a measure of the kind to Dublin University, because in this country the Church of England remains the Established Church, whereas in Ireland the Church, by what is called the wisdom of Parliament, has been disestablished. The object of the Bill is, as I have said, to abolish Religious Tests in the University of Dublin. The history of the question is a very large one, and the field of observation very extensive; but I shall not venture in any shape upon it—my object is not to raise debate, but to present a Bill which, as far as I can learn, will not be opposed by anyone in this House, as, indeed, it was almost unopposed in the other House of Parliament. I will add only that if the Bill is to become law, it is of importance that it should pass without delay, because the Fellowship Examination in the University of Dublin is at hand. I beg to move, therefore, that your Lordships give a second reading to this Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a,"—(The Lord Cairns.)


said, he would feel himself in a difficulty if this question should come to a vote; for, while, on the one hand, as a Catholic, he could not but rejoice at the abolition of tests which were objectionable and blasphemous, yet, on the other, he could not give a vote which would appear to sanction mixed University education in Ireland. He trusted this was not a final measure, but if it was he (the Earl of Denbigh) wished to declare in his own name and in that of his co-religionists that he could not accept it as even an instalment of that justice which Ireland had a right to expect—that of being able to educate her Catholic youth in the principles of their faith. Her Majesty's Government had professed a desire to do justice to Ireland and to remedy the disabilities under which she had been unjustly suffering in the matter of education; but the only boon they offered her was what she resolutely refused to accept—mixed education. The assembled Catholic Prelates of Ireland not long ago drew up a formal document in which, condemning mixed education as a principle, they forbade their flocks from patronizing the Queen's Colleges instituted for that end, and he (the Earl of Denbigh), in a recent interview with the Pope, was told by His Holiness that he should be put into a position of exceeding difficulty if the English Government insisted on mixed education, as he had always systematically opposed it, and would continue to do so. He (the Earl of Denbigh) therefore trusted that the feelings of the Irish would be duly considered in this matter, and that means would be given them for giving an exclusively Catholic education to such of their youths as required it.


I agree with the noble and learned Lord who moved the second reading of the Bill that we ought to pass it, but I cannot concur with him that it would be right to do so without a fuller consideration, than he seemed to think necessary, of the circumstances under which it is brought before us, and of the effect which its passing in its present shape will have upon the state not only of Ireland, but of the United Kingdom. These circumstances, and the probable consequences of the measure, seem to me to require our most serious attention, and I am confirmed in that opinion by what has been said by the noble Earl who has just sat down, who has declared in the name of the Irish Roman Catholics that this will not be considered by them as even an instalment of that justice which they demand. This statement, made by the noble Earl in behalf of the members of the Church to which he belongs, is of very grave importance. I must remind your Lordships that when the subject to which this Bill relates was a few weeks ago brought under the consideration of the other House of Parliament by the Prime Minister, he declared that the position of the Roman Catholics of Ireland with respect to University education was "miserably bad"—he added "he had almost said scandalous." Now, my Lords, it has just been de- clared by the noble Earl, and it is indeed admitted that this "miserably bad," almost "scandalous" state of things will not be in the slightest degree improved in the opinion of those who suffer from it, by the passing of the Bill before us; so that while the grievance has been admitted by the highest authority, all redress for it is indefinitely postponed. At a time when the movement for "Home Rule," as it is called, is daily assuming more serious proportions, it is no light matter that the people of Ireland should be told that although it is admitted they are suffering a grievous wrong, the Imperial Parliament either cannot or will not undertake to give them relief. Such a state of things cannot continue without risk if not to the stability of the Empire, at all events to its peace and welfare, and I am persuaded that the more the danger is considered by your Lordships the more serious it will appear to you. But if we recognize the danger, it follows that it is the duty of Parliament to lose no time in taking steps for its removal, and the first step of all which should be taken is to ascertain clearly how we have been brought into this dangerous position. For this reason, though the noble and learned Lord thought it inconvenient to raise so large a question, I feel constrained to offer to your Lordships some remarks on the history of this Bill, and on the circumstances under which it is brought before us. For many years the Roman Catholics of Ireland have complained of grievous injustice being done to them in the matter of University education. They have complained that while University education is provided for persons of other creeds, there is none available for members of their own Church in any institution endowed by the State. This is what they have for many years complained of, insisting that no remedy for the grievance would be sufficient short of the endowment of a University for Roman Catholics, in which they might receive education under the control and superintendence of their own Church. In this state of things two lines of conduct were open to Her Majesty's Ministers. They might have denied the justice of the complaint of the Roman Catholics, and might have contended that if the Universities were open on perfectly equal terms to persons of all religions, no preference being given to any, there would be no grievance that could be fairly complained of; or else they might have admitted the reality of the grievance, and have taken measures to redress it. Either of these courses would have been perfectly straight-for-ward, and there is much to be said in favour of each. But, unfortunately, the Government did not think fit to take either the one or the other, and for two or three years, by a series of what I cannot help describing as manœuvres, they contrived to evade the expression of any definite views on the subject. But while they avoided any distinct explanation of their intentions, they so acted as to lead to the belief that the Roman Catholics would obtain what they desired. On more than one occasion when Mr. Fawcett's Bill for opening the University of Dublin was brought forward, Her Majesty's Ministers resisted it as being insufficient to remedy the grievance of the Roman Catholics, and declared that in due time they would themselves deal with the question. Such language could not fail to excite expectations on the part of the Roman Catholics that the redress of their grievance, as they understood it, would ultimately be proposed by the Government. The time at length arrived when the intentions of Ministers could no longer be shrouded in obscurity, they were compelled to declare them, and early in the present Session they introduced their Bill. But when that Bill came to be understood it was found that instead of giving to the Roman Catholics the redress they had looked for, it was in fact a plan for the extension of mixed education—the thing to which of all others they objected; nor were they in the slightest degree reconciled to the Bill by the provisions which were proposed with that view, and which, in the eyes of those who were not Roman Catholics, would have tended to injure the existing institutions for University education. No wonder, therefore, that the measure failed, and was regarded by the Roman Catholics as a mockery of their expectations, while it was disapproved by Protestants. It had no doubt been very convenient for the Government to avoid as long as possible taking a decided line in one direction or the other on this much disputed question; the tactics may have been very clever by which for two or three Sessions, Ministers staved off the evil day when they must risk a quarrel with one wing or the other of their Parliamentary forces; but the result showed that it would probably have been better in the end, even for themselves, if they had been less clever and more straight-forward. I believe this would have been better for themselves; unquestionably it would have been better for the public interest, which they had no right to sacrifice to party convenience, by taking a course which has of necessity had the effect of aggravating the difficulties of a question only too difficult already. Perhaps I may be told that I am making an unjust charge against the Government—that their language in former years did not warrant the expectations entertained by the Roman Catholics—and that the measure brought forward in the present Session which they rejected, was really a fair one, mid failed only from the unreasonableness of their pretensions. I could understand this plea if there had been any doubt for many years as to the real nature of the grievance complained of by the Roman Catholics, and as to the remedy for it they demanded, but there was none. There had never been any secret in the matter. The grievance complained of was that while there were Universities for those professing all other religions in Ireland, there was none available for Roman Catholics, and it was proclaimed by the Pope, by the assembled Prelates of Ireland, and by every authority entitled to speak on behalf of the Roman Catholics, that what they demanded was a University for their Church, which must be under strict ecclesiastical control. Nothing less would satisfy them; no scheme for mixed education, however carefully guarded, would do; there must be a Roman Catholic University under the complete control of the clergy—the equality for which they contended could, they said, only be given in one of two ways, either by putting an end to the endowment of higher education in Ireland altogether, or else by giving an endowment for a Roman Catholic University. It was well known to all the world that this was what was demanded by the Roman Catholics; it was especially well known to Mr. Gladstone, for he had himself quoted in the House of Commons in 1868 the declaration of the Irish Prelates that no University not under strict ecclesiastical control could be accepted by the Roman Catholics. He ought, therefore, to have known both what expectations would be raised by his language in opposing Mr. Fawcett's Bill in former years; and also how completely those expectations would be disappointed by the Bill he lately brought forward. I must add, that I cannot admit that the Roman Catholics are so unreasonable as we are told in claiming for themselves an endowed College or University in which they may receive instruction according to the views of their own Church. You admit that there ought to be equality in the advantages given to all religious persuasions, but you assert that this equality is provided for when all tests are abolished in Collegiate institutions, and no advantages are allowed to be given to those who belong to one communion rather than another. This is no doubt a system of nominal equality, but it is only nominal. We all know that practically Protestants of various denominations, and even non-Christians, can freely avail themselves of the teaching of open Colleges, but that the Roman Catholics are unable to do so without exposing themselves to the censures of their Church. Nor can we fairly condemn the Roman Catholic Church for insisting as it does upon having the control of the education of the members of its own communion. There is no man who more sincerely approves of mixed education than myself—I believe it to be the best system, I wish it could be extended, and I am convinced that there would be no real difficulty in carrying it on, if there were a proper amount of true Christian charity in all denominations of professing Christians. But I am unable to deny it to be true, as the Roman Catholics assert, that experience has shown that to educate Roman Catholic youths with members of other religions is not favourable to their continuing in after life steady adherents of their own Church. This is affirmed, and as a matter of fact I believe it cannot be denied—indeed, as a Protestant, I should be surprised if it were otherwise. With other Protestants I hold that the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church are erroneous on points of great importance, therefore if young men are brought up where conflicting views may be presented to their notice, where the arguments on both sides can be laid before them, and they are enabled to form their own judgment, I should naturally expect—having full confidence in the power of truth—that a large proportion of the Roman Catholics so educated would cease to belong to the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholics do not, of course, accept this explanation of the fact, but they do affirm, and I think with truth, that mixed education under Professors of a different faith is not favourable to the continued fidelity of young Roman Catholics to their own Church. This being the case, can we fairly complain of the Roman Catholic clergy because they say "such an education leads to consequences we believe to be most pernicious to the Members of our Church, and therefore we will not be parties to the mixed system." I do not think this position an unreasonable one, and therefore I consider that the Roman Catholics are fairly entitled to ask that in revising the system of collegiate education in Ireland provision should be made for a Roman Catholic institution, unless, indeed, you are prepared to take the only other course by which true religious equality can be established, and declare that for the future there shall be no endowed Collegiate institutions at all in Ireland. But this is impossible. When we consider what Trinity College, Dublin, has done for Ireland, and how many distinguished men have been turned out from its walls to serve their country in various careers, I feel that no one would listen for a moment to a proposal of such outrageous barbarism, as one for the destruction of so useful and so flourishing an institution. I hope that Trinity College, under the operation of the Bill before us, may rise to yet increased usefulness, and prosper more than ever, and looking for this I do not see how you can with justice refuse to the Roman Catholics what they ask—an endowment for an institution where they also may enjoy similar advantages of high education to those which are bestowed on their Protestant countrymen. I know that it has been urged that this ought not to be done, because it would tend to bind the intellect of Ireland as it were in chains, and to bring up the Irish youth under the yoke of the priesthood. This seems to me a fear little worthy of those who have confidence in the power of truth and in their own opinions. I am persuaded that if young men receive a really good education, if they are taught the facts of history, made to study the writings of great authors, and to read the works of the philosophers and poets of ancient and modern times, they can never be long compelled to bow the minds so cultivated under the yoke of slavish obedience to either layer priestly instructors, or to accept blindly the views inculcated upon them. If a high standard of knowledge is given to the pupils of a College—ever so strictly Roman Catholic—we may confidently expect them to come out into the world prepared to play their part in it with advantage to themselves and to the community. A Roman Catholic University might, therefore—and I hope it would—send out very good Roman Catholics from its walls; but I have no fear that they would generally prove either bigots or bad subjects, as I trust to the influence of high education in liberalizing their minds. No doubt, this expectation would only be fulfilled if the education given to them were really good; but it must be good. If a Roman Catholic University should be established, it will have to meet the competition of other institutions of the same kind. Trinity College and the Queen's Colleges will remain open for young men not satisfied with Roman Catholic teaching, and if the teaching of the Roman Catholic institution should fall below their standard, it will be impossible for any amount of clerical interference to prevent their being resorted to. We know that at this moment, in spite of all attempts to prevent it, a certain number of young Roman Catholics are sent to them. If the education of a Roman Catholic College should prove to be of an inferior kind, and if, as a necessary consequence, the young men trained in it were found in the race of life to labour under a disadvantage, as compared to their competitors educated elsewhere, Roman Catholic parents would not be prevented by their clergy from sending their sons to those institutions, in which they would be best fitted to win distinction and advancement in their subsequent career. A College or University, therefore, though under strictly clerical management, would be compelled to adopt a system of effective and liberal instruction, because, otherwise, it would not be able to obtain a supply of pupils. This anticipation of what would be the effect of endowing a Roman Catholic University is confirmed by the experience of another country. I am informed on good authority that, in Belgium, there is a University strictly under clerical management for the Roman Catholics; but in the same country there are other Universities under lay management, free to all religions, and it is found that the competition with these has so much effect on the Roman Catholic institution, that its authorities find it necessary to secure the services of the ablest Professors and instructors they can obtain, and that the young men taught in it do not, in general, leave it with the narrow and contracted opinions caused by imperfect training. I do not see why what has succeeded in Belgium should fail in Ireland, and I am persuaded that it would be better for the Protestants, as well as for the Roman Catholics, that they should have their separate places of instruction, in which each party should be free to give full effect to its own views with the stimulus of open and honourable competition with the other, instead of being forced into an unnatural union which could only be maintained by mutilating and crippling the education to be given in the joint University, and by adopting the monstrous proposition of excluding from the circle of the teaching of the National University some of the most important branches of human knowledge. I am, therefore, of opinion that to establish a Roman Catholic University would be what is best for all parties, as well as what the Roman Catholics have a right to ask; and if this Bill passes, in justice to them, it ought to be speedily followed by another for the endowment of a Roman Catholic University. There would be no difficulty in providing funds for the purpose. Thanks to the wise interference of this House, the surplus property of the former Church establishment has not been thrown away with reckless improvidence as was proposed. Instead of having been lavished on useless objects for the mere sake of getting rid of a bone of contention, it has been preserved by your Lordships' Amendment of the Church Bill, and now remains at the disposal of Parliament for any purpose of utility to Ireland. I can conceive no purpose to which a portion of this large fund could be more properly applied than that of creating a new University for those of the Irish youth who are prevented by their religious scruples from availing themselves of the existing Collegiate institutions, and at the same time protecting these institutions from the danger of being damaged or ruined by measures adopted in the vain hope of forcing on united education against the will of the Roman Catholics. But, my Lords, we have been told that it is useless to discuss the advantages of this arrangement, because it involves the principle of what has been called "concurrent endowment," and concurrent endowment, whether applied to religious instruction for the people at large, or to religious instruction as connected with the education of the young, is altogether inadmissible. I deny that a mode of settling this difficult question, which seems to offer such great advantages as that which I have described, ought to be thus summarily rejected. Prove that it would be improper in itself, or inexpedient to endow a Roman Catholic University, while maintaining the existing endowments for the education of young men of other churches, and of such Roman Catholics as may choose to take advantage of them, and the rejection of the scheme must command our assent; but I cannot consent to abandon it because I am told it is a foregone conclusion that "concurrent endowment" cannot be allowed. I have been told that when the Church Bill was passed "concurrent endowment" was finally condemned. I answer that this is not true. In the proceedings on the Irish Church Bill, there was no discussion upon University education. That subject was distinctly reserved for future consideration. But I would say further that even if this question had been ever so distinctly decided at that time, the decision—like every other decision of the Legislature—is open to reconsideration. By the Church Act you repealed, without scruple, some of the most important clauses of the Acts of Union, passed by the British and Irish Parliaments, and it would be absurd to pretend that the Act which dealt thus with these important statutes is not, in its turn, liable to be altered, if, in the judgment of Parliament, justice and policy should require it. This question, therefore, of endowing, or not endowing a Roman Catholic University is not to be disposed of by a reference to anything heretofore decided, but is to be determined upon its own merits. In trying to judge it upon that ground, let me, in the first place, remark that it is a striking fact that two Members of the present Cabinet have publicly declared their opinion to be in favour of that settlement which I have ventured to recommend. And those two Members of the Cabinet are those who have the best means of judging what are the wishes of the people, and what would be best for Ireland, since one of them is now Secretary for Ireland, and the other formerly held that post. If we proceed to inquire what arguments on the merits of the question have been brought forward against the endowment of a Roman Catholic University, we shall find them to be singularly scanty. I can discover only two; first, that such a measure could not be carried, and next that Her Majesty's present Ministers are pledged against it. As to the last argument, it is one which it is needless to discuss, since it is obvious that any rash pledges that may have been given by Her Majesty's Ministers cannot be binding on Parliament. But I must remark that, after having described in such strong language the grievous wrong now done to the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Ireland in the matter of University education, the Prime Minister could not be justified in declining on account of his personal pledges, to be a party to the only measure of redress for that wrong yet suggested. I cannot conceive a greater dereliction of public duty than this would involve, and I am convinced Mr. Gladstone would not be guilty of it; I feel the more confidence that he would not, because he has already had so much practice in re-considering the opinions to which he had most strongly pledged himself, when he has found that justice and policy required it. I come now to the other argument that has been advanced againt the proposal—that it is impossible it should be carried. I have seen no proof of this impossibility. Opinion in Ireland is certainly not opposed to it. The Roman Catholics, who form so large a majority of the population, are earnestly desirous of it, and I believe that a large number of the Protestants of Ireland would also greatly prefer having a Roman Catholic University endowed, to having their own noble institution mutilated and injured in the vain hope of making it acceptable to the Roman Catholics. The obstacle to this proposal is not in Ireland. We all know that the real obstacle to it lies in the fact that there are in this country so many persons of strong anti-Catholic opinions, that neither the party now in power, nor their opponents, have hitherto been ready to incur the unpopularity of proposing such a measure. But, my Lords, if a measure which would be in accordance with the wishes of the great body of the people of Ireland, which we know when discussed in private has the approval of a large proportion of those men in this country who are really able to form an independent judgment on the question—if I say, a measure of this kind is not to be proposed because it is unpopular with the Dissenters of England, and with a great majority, both of Dissenters and of Presbyterians of the Established Church, in Scotland, our position is most serious. My Lords, I have hitherto been firmly convinced that the Irish are making a great mistake in asking for what is called "Home Rule,"—that they would suffer even more than we should do—though it would be a grievous misfortune to us also—if their views were unfortunately to prevail, and if the policy of maintaining the Legislative Union between the three divisions of the United Kingdom were even in the slightest degree departed from. But if anything could shake this conviction of my mind and lead me to doubt whether the Irish people are indeed so entirely mistaken as I have hitherto considered them in seeking for a separate Legislature, it would be to find that a question of this kind, so deeply affecting the welfare of Ireland, is to be determined in the Imperial Parliament not by a wise and deliberate consideration of what is most for the good of Ireland and of the Empire, but by the religious prejudices, or, if you will, the religious opinions of certain classes of the people of England and of Scotland. It will be little to our credit, and it will be a great peril to the stability of the Empire if we allow the policy of the Imperial Parliament towards Ireland to be thus influenced by anti-Catholic feeling on this side of the channel. This feeling has exercised too much power already, not only over one but over all parties in the Imperial Parliament, and the deplorable result is to be seen in the present unsatisfactory state of Ireland. I say its unsatisfactory state, for in spite of the Ministerial boasts, we have heard more than once as to the great things the present Government has achieved for Ireland, and the happy prospect for the future their measures have opened, I must declare that having now for a very long period anxiously watched events in Ireland, in my judgment that country has never before been in a state to raise such serious apprehensions as are justified by its present condition. Neither during the great Repeal agitation, nor in that which preceded the concession of the Catholic claims in 1829, when the Duke of Wellington apprehended immediate civil war, was the prospect for the future so gloomy as at present. I am aware that there are gratifying signs of increasing wealth in Ireland; while open acts of violence and displays of sedition have to a great extent been put down. But I know that in order to maintain this outward quiet it has been necessary to arm the Government with extraordinary powers, both against acts of violence and against the promotion of sedition by the Press, while I believe that dispensing with these severe laws is felt by all to be impossible. I know that through the length and breadth of the land there are every day stronger symptoms of a rooted feeling of opposition to the Imperial Government. Observing these things, I concur in the opinion expressed by Mr. Gladstone in 1868—that the necessity of maintaining severe laws to preserve the peace, and what he called "the juxta-position of economical and social progress with the increased and increasing estrangement and alienation of the spirit" of the people, lead to the conclusion that there must be something deeply wrong in the state of Ireland. The symptoms of estrangement and alienation to which he referred, are now worse than when he spoke five years ago. When he made that speech the then Secretary for Ireland was able to say that juries did their duty. Can the same be said at present? The movement for Home Rule has been extended and become better organized. Fenianism is indeed, at least apparently crushed; and some derive great encouragement from this fact, believing Fenianism to be more dangerous than the Home Rule movement. My opinion is quite the reverse. The wild attempts of the Fenians to over- turn the existing Government were very inconvenient and mischievous, but could scarcely be regarded as dangerous since they had not the remotest chance of success, and the Fenians by appealing to force enabled an overwhelming force to be used to put them down. It is much otherwise with the present movement; against that movement mere force is of no avail, you cannot put it down by force yet it threatens to render the constitutional Government of Ireland as part of the United Kingdom impracticable. For look, nay Lords, what is the state of things;—not a few of the Irish Members are already pledged to Home Rule, every fresh election affords a new opportunity for attempts to increase their number, and these attempts have on the whole met with no small success. We have, too, this significant fact, that to hold office under a Ministry said to have done such great things for Ireland, seems fatal to the hopes of success of any candidate for an Irish seat, and thus we have at this moment the very unusual and very inconvenient state of things, of the Government being without the assistance of an Irish Law Officer in the House of Commons. And we are told by the Home Rule party that they reckon upon a great accession of strength whenever a dissolution takes place. They boast that they will have a majority of the whole Irish Representatives—some assert that it will be much more than a bare majority. I do not possess any means of testing the accuracy of their calculation, but I am afraid there is some basis for it, and it requires but little knowledge of constitutional Government to perceive that it will become impossible in Ireland if these anticipations should be realized. What may be the issue it is impossible even to guess. It is certain that this country will not tolerate the breaking up of the Empire, and will put forth her utmost power to prevent it. Yet it is no less clear that the constitutional Government of Ireland as part of the United Kingdom may be rendered impracticable since constitutional Government requires, not merely submission to its authority by the people, but their active co-operation; and a representative legislature which does not command the confidence and willing obedience of the people in any large division of the kingdom is in a false position. Unfor- tunately the Imperial Parliament is fast sinking into that position in Ireland. In this state of affairs it is idle to talk of the great things done for Ireland. As a tree is to be judged by its fruits, so must the policy of a Minister be judged by its results, and by its results that of Her Majesty's present Government towards Ireland must be condemned. Nor, is this surprising, on the contrary it is what I have from the first expected from the course they have pursued. I have never denied that there has been much real good in their measures, but the good has been tainted by a mixture of evil both in the measures themselves and in the mode of carrying them, which has been fatal to their success. This is eminently true of their great measure relating to the Church. I am not the person to disapprove of the determination to redress the monstrous injustice of keeping up a wealthy Church for the exclusive benefit of a fraction of the people. Against this grievance I have never ceased to raise my voice from the time, now almost 40 years ago, when Mr. Gladstone was one of the foremost among those who denounced as sacrilege and defeated even a very modest attempt to withdraw from the Irish Church a small portion of its property for the general benefit of the people. But though the main object of the Irish Church Act of 1869 was right, the nature of the arrangement it provided for, and the manner in which it was carried, were alike calculated to ensure its failure as a measure to restore peace and contentment in Ireland. The overthrow of the Establishment was first put forward by the party that carried it, while still in opposition, and the language used by them both then and subsequently when defending themselves as Ministers for bringing forward so sweeping a scheme upon a subject they had so lately refused to deal with, naturally produced among the Irish people the impression that they were indebted for the measure not to a sense of justice and a desire to do what was best for Ireland, but partly to the effects of intimidation, and more to the desire of a party to use this question as an instrument for the attainment and retention of power. What was worse, when they came to examine the Bill itself, the Irish Roman Catholics could not fail to observe that the policy of making some public provision for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, which had been approved by most of the wisest statesmen of a past generation, was now utterly rejected. Extreme anxiety not to be suspected of being in favour of such a policy, or of any leaning to a "levelling up," or "concurrent endowment," was displayed by the leaders of the great rival parties. It was asserted with emphasis to be the main principle of the Bill, that under no pretence was even the smallest portion of public property, though derived from Irish soil, to be applied to the teaching of religion in any form to the Irish people, and that, therefore, even the granting of glebes to the clergy of different persuasions out of the property of the Church must be refused. This rule was to be enforced with the utmost strictness in Ireland, though in England and in Scotland the instruction of the people in religion was still treated as deserving all the assistance it could derive from large endowments. These things could not fail to be observed, and the Irish are far too sharp-sighted not to have clearly understood what they meant—that the real reason why no part of the property of the Irish Church was to b e allowed to go for the religious instruction of the people, was that it could only be applied to this purpose through the Roman Catholic clergy. They saw, therefore, that even in this, which professed to be a great measure of justice to the Irish people, you were in truth acting in a new form on the old assumption, that Roman Catholics are not to be treated like other Christians, that they are not to be regarded as the equals in all respects of their Protestant fellow subjects, and that their religion is to be considered as placed under a permanent ban. There is no difficulty therefore in understanding why this measure has failed to produce the fruits of peace and goodwill predicted from it. It is indeed true that for reasons easily to be understood, the Irish did not in words express those feelings with respect to the Church Act which I believe them to have entertained; but those who have carefully watched what has occurred can hardly mistake the signs that, though they have held their peace on the subject, they have felt very deeply upon it. My Lords, I have referred to the manner in which the question of the Irish Church was dealt with, because I an convinced that the same mistake you made in that case you are now repeating upon this subject of University education. You are now, with reference to the last question, again acting with even less disguise than before, upon the principle that the Imperial Parliament either cannot or will not deal with Roman Catholics in the same manner as with Protestants. This is the light in which what you are now doing as to the University will be regarded in Ireland, and this impression can only be removed by your consenting to pass very soon another Bill as a supplement to that before us, for the purpose of granting to the Roman Catholics what, under the present circumstances of Ireland, they have a right to ask. This is a subject which Her Majesty's Government ought most seriously to consider, as it has an importance far beyond that which it possesses, merely as it affects education. It is as an indication of the spirit in which the Imperial Government intends to act towards them that its course will be watched by the Irish people. Let Her Majesty's Ministers rest assured that all attempts to establish a really good understanding and cordial affection between the people of Ireland and of England will be in vain, until they make up their minds to deal frankly and boldly with anti-Catholic prejudices on this side of the channel, and to tell those who hold them that they must consent to forego them, or they cannot hope to close the long and miserable chapter of Irish hostility to British rule. May I venture to add that this is a matter which requires also the most serious consideration of the great Conservative party, I trust that they will not be induced by any view to party interests to say or do anything which may tend to encourage the pernicious feeling of religious animosity unfortunately to be found among some of our fellow countrymen, or to increase the difficulties of the Government if it should be disposed to adopt a more fair and just policy towards the Irish people. In the speech he made when introducing his rejected Bill, Mr. Gladstone insisted in eloquent language on the necessity of extending the full benefit of civil equality to our Roman Catholic countrymen, and declared it to be neither politic nor generous to withhold it from them whatever we may think of the ecclesiastical influence of their Church. I wish this view of the subject had been better acted upon in the measure that was proposed, for till the policy, so well described and recommended in words, is applied in practice heartily and without reserve, all attempts at conciliation will be fruitless. Above all weak concessions to unreasonable demands, such, for instance, as the release of the Fenian prisoners, will only serve to bring the authority of the Government into contempt. What is wanted is that it should be proved both by their language and by their acts, that in what relates to Ireland, British statemen will not truckle to religious prejudices and ignorance in this country, and that the equality of all advantages which we profess to offer to the Roman Catholics is really and truly given to them. I have to apologize for having detained your Lordships by entering so fully into this subject, but I regard it as one of such extreme importance, and so deeply affecting the most vital interests of the country, that I have thought it my duty to avail myself of the opportunity afforded by the second reading of this Bill to lay before you the opinions I entertain.


My Lords, I must begin by expressing my appreciation of the manner in which the noble and learned Lord the Chancellor of Trinity College (Lord Cairns) moved the second reading of this Bill and left it to the tender mercies of the House. I quite agree that the occasion was one on which it was open to the noble Earl (Earl Grey) to discuss, if he thought fit, the whole question of Irish Education. I have listened with great attention to his long and interesting speech, embodying views many of which I have heard from him before. I do not think it is for me now to express any abstract views on the questions the noble Earl has raised; but I must say a word or two with reference to the pointed attack he has made on Her Majesty's Government. I do not think that they are open to the perfectly novel charge he has brought against them—that they have been dilatory in dealing with, what appeared to them, the grievances of the Irish people. It was under a most conscientious feeling of duty, with perfect cognizance of the difficulties of the task, but in the full belief that there were grievances with regard to University education in Ireland, that we attempted to pass what we thought a just and fair measure, although we were well aware that divergency of feeling, particularly in Ireland, but in this country also, upon the subject, made the object one difficult to accomplish. That Bill is now gone, and therefore there is no practical use in discussing it; but this I may say—that measure when first announced was met by an almost universal admission of its fairness and justice. We are ready to give our consent to this Bill, though dealing with only a portion of the subject. With regard to a great deal which I have heard from the noble Earl, I must entirely decline to follow him. I decline to go into the question of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and the way in which it was effected; but with regard to the present and future state of Ireland, I must be allowed to say the noble Earl appears to me to entertain very dark and gloomy views. I think, my Lords, those views are unfounded in fact, as regards the present; and though it may be much more difficult to speak of the future, I do hope they are also unfounded in regard to the future. With great grievances abolished by the united Legislature, with peace and wealth among the upper and middle classes, with increasing wages among the lower class, with liberty and at the same time order maintained, I believe that we may hope to see much brighter days, in the future, for Ireland than we have yet seen. I say the present state of Ireland is not unsatisfactory; and, with regard to the measures of Her Majesty's Government, even if they had been much more unsatisfactory, where endeavours were made to remedy the unjust legislation of centuries I was surprised to hear their immediate effects brought forward as a test of their beneficial operation. I am happy, I repeat, to entertain much more cheerful views of the state of Ireland than the noble Earl has expressed; and I altogether repudiate the attack he has made so unnecessarily on Her Majesty's Government.


said, he must protest against the statement put forward by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) that mixed education in Ireland had been a failure—on the contrary, he contended that mixed education had been to a great extent a success in Ireland, and would have succeeded perfectly had it not been tampered with for party purposes. When the noble Earl stated that justice and equality were not granted to the Roman Catholics, the answer was simple. The Roman Catholic clergy demanded that the education of the country should be placed in their hands. Since the Reformation education at the public expense had not been monopolized by ecclesiastics, and the people of this country would never consent to its being done now. It was absurd to expect that the people of this country would ignore the fact that whenever that policy had been attempted in any other country the result had invariably been so prejudicial to order and tranquillity that the State had been obliged to interfere and take it from their hands. The people of this country must be blind indeed to these results if they now commenced to endow Roman Catholicism at the very moment that they were taking away their endowments from all other communities. The noble Earl (the Earl of Denbigh) had brought the House a direct message from the Pope as to what system of education it should sanction. It was now a long time since the British Parliament had been favoured with the commands of His Holiness, and he hardly thought that it had so far given up its independence as to be bound by them.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2aaccordingly and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.