HL Deb 11 July 1879 vol 248 cc151-8

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."—(The Lord Chancellor.)


rose to move, as an Amendment, that the House do resolve itself into Committee that day three months. As their Lordships all knew, on Tuesday, a Bill endowing the Roman Catholics with money derived from the Surplus Fund of the Disestablished Church of Ireland might have been carried by acclamation, so unanimous seemed to be the opinion of the House. That was a marvellous change of opinion since a few short years, when, but for the dexterous guidance of the noble and learned Earl (the Lord Chancellor), a large majority of their Lordships would have thrown out the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. He supposed the change arose from the enlightened progress of modern thought. To his narrow vision it seemed like the blind and dangerous progress of a runaway horse. The past history and the present action of the Roman Catholic Church throughout Europe, equally with its present action in Ireland, were ignored or forgotten. Their Lordships cast aside experience and trusted to theory. The Protestant principles, on which the Constitution was founded, and which so long guided this nation in the path of glory and honour, were now mocked at as vulgar; and this was all the more strange when it was remembered that the question of taking education out of the hands of the Roman Catholics was one which occupied the attention of almost every nation in Europe. In Roman Catholic France, Belgium, Italy, Austria; in Germany, Russia, Holland, with their mixed populations; in Canada, in the United States, in Roman Catholic Brazil, the struggle to keep education out of, or take it from, the hands of the Roman Catholic Church was being fought; and why? Not for any purpose of religious persecution; not with any desire to interfere with the religious faith of that Church; but because the Roman Catholic Church taught that her authority was supreme, independent of and above the State. But all history showed that unless the supremacy of the State was asserted, liberty, order, and good government must become subservient to religious tyranny; for an Infallible Church must consistently teach and practice intolerance, she must and did teach every one to be an obedient Catholic first, and, subject to this condition, a good citizen after. To keep the youth of the country from thus being brought up in antagonism to the civil power, in antagonism to their fellow-countrymen, that question was now the standard round which all Liberals, save a few English aristocrats in Europe and America, rallied. Therefore, he could not but think it one which well-deserved the attention of their Lordships. The action of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland at the present time was matter of notoriety. They claimed and exercised an influence in the appointment to every law office in the country, from the Lord Chancellor to the lowest turnkey. They dictated to the constituency what Members they were to return to Parliament—the Galway election showed how they enforced their commands. In Canada, at the last election, the Roman Catholic Bishop issued public directions to his clergy not to give the sacraments of the Church to recalcitrant voters. In Ireland this was not done by such public manifestoes; but altar denunciations against all who displeased the clergy were the constant practice, and were frequently a source of danger to the persons denounced. They claimed that where the majority were Roman Catholics, without regard to merit, all public officers should be Roman Catholics. Why was it, he would ask, that this general feeling through Europe existed against placing education in the hands of the Roman Catholic clergy? It was not attributable to any wish to persecute Roman Catholics or to interfere with their faith, but because they taught that the Roman Catholic Church was supreme above the law. While such a doctrine was preached—a doctrine so dangerous to civil order—the influence of the law must be maintained by not leaving education in their hands. With reference to the eloquent appeal which had been made the other night by a noble and learned Lord (Lord O'Hagan) as to conceding to the conscientious views of Roman Catholics in Ireland the means of separate education, he (Lord Oran-more and Browne) contended that this was beside the question—it was a mere stepping-stone to power—the claim was only a new development of the claims of the Roman Catholic clergy, for they felt that if the youth of Ireland were educated out of a particular groove they would lose their power over them. Their Lordships were not to think that any measure was really necessary to satisfy the consciences of Roman Catholics. If they accepted that principle, where were they to stop? The present Pope refused to have any relations with the Italian Government because they tolerated other religion! They had gone very far and very fast since the Church Bill had passed through the House. Let the House look back a little. At the time of the Emancipation, Dr. Doyle and Daniel O'Connell gave evidence strongly in favour of mixed education. Within a few years, and for a considerable time, Archbishop Murray aided in carrying out mixed education as an active member of the National Board. Their consciences were not disturbed, nor were they worse Catholics than the hierarchy or laity of the present day. Was not this claim, then, no part of religious teaching, but an Ultramontane development for the distinct purpose of gaining greater power? It was making religion a stepping-stone to power. Was not the passing of any measure aiding separate education a wrong not only to the Queen's Colleges and Trinity College, but to Liberal Roman Catholics, who preferred education at these Colleges, or to choose the places and persons by whom their sons should be educated? This Bill would, by the power it would give the Roman Catholic clergy, bring all liberal Roman Catholics in subjection to their iron sway. Then as to National Education having become denominational, he entirely denied that that statement was borne out by the annual Returns. Those Returns showed that where the population was mixed there the schools were mixed. It was certain that grants had been made to schools which were conventual if not monastic; and he did not think that any sensible Protestant would like to send his children to such establishments, whatever might be the conscience clause put on the chimney piece. Doubtless, in so far, grants had been made to Roman Catholic teaching which were refused to Protestant schools. He would also ask their Lordships to remember that large grants which had been made before the National system existed to Protestant schools had since been withdrawn, and that Maynooth had been for many years supported out of the funds of the Protestant Church. It was urged in support of the Bill that the Roman Catholics laboured under a grievance; but the grievance referred to was one of their own making. All the advantages which were open to other denominations in the country were open to them. At Trinity College, and all the English Universities, all tests had been removed, and for the very purpose of putting the Roman Catholics upon an equality with the others. The Queen's Colleges were open to, and accepted by, every other denomination, and every other denomination had a minister paid for religious instruction; so, also, could the Roman Catholic University appoint a chaplain. He believed, indeed, that a very large proportion of those who did require University Education had accepted the teaching of both Trinity College and the Queen's Colleges. Therefore, he contended that there was no requirement for this additional University. Where Roman Catholics had not already accepted the teaching of Trinity College and the English Universities, now that the endowments were open to them, he felt sure they would do so. If that House passed a Bill granting separate teaching through a hierarchy the result would be to put a penalty on all liberal-minded Roman Catholics. They would be doing an injury not to those Colleges only, but to every man who was inclined to take advantage of the facilities they offered. In fact, they would be putting the Roman Catholics altogether under the sway of the ultra-Romish party. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) had said that the reason Trinity College was not available for the Roman Catholics was that the examinations were in the hands of those in whom the Roman Catholics had no confidence. The noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns) had said the same. It was, therefore, evidently intended by the Charter, by the constitution of the Senate, to transfer the examinations to parties in whom they did have confidence, the University would be made entirely Roman Catholic, and would not be in accordance with the principle which had been adopted for a great many years. He doubted also whether the public, or, indeed, some of their Lordships, understood the Bill. He brought forward his Motion because he thought there was no need for giving further University Education in Ireland, and because the Bill would injure the existing Universities and assist Roman Catholic Universities in oppressing the liberal Roman Catholics.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months").—(The Lord Oranmore and Browne.)


I cannot support the Motion of the noble Lord. I stated, on the second reading, my reasons. I agree with all the non-official Peers who have debated this subject that the Bill is perfectly inadequate. But as the Government adopted the novel plan of announcing in the House of Commons that they would make a clear and distinct explanation of their views on the Irish University question by means of a Bill introduced into the House of Lords, I think it is desirable that the House of Commons, where the majority of the Irish people interested in this question is so much more largely represented than here, should have an opportunity of fully considering the plan. But as to this plan I desire to make an appeal to Her Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) is reported to have made a speech the night before last, in which great heat and eloquence, courage and much imagination, a supreme contempt for his political opponents, and unlimited admiration for the best of all possible Governments in the best of all possible cities, seemed to combine all the elements necessary for a successful electioneering after-dinner speech. The noble Marquess is reported to have described the Government policy with regard to legislation as one which, as far as efficiency would allow, made the smallest possible change. I am bound to say that, omitting the proviso, this Bill is an admirable type of such legislation. But as for efficiency, can anyone pretend that it is so after the debate on the second reading, when not only Liberal Peers and Roman Catholic Peers, but the Protestant Irish supporters of the Government, unanimously gave their opinion that the Bill was inadequate—when the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs stated that the Irish Roman Catholics considered it a grievance that they alone were without pecuniary assistance in higher education—and when the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack at last held out vague hopes that next Session, or the Session after the next, the Government would consider the question of supplementing the present Bill by grants which he did not define? With regard to the claim of some pecuniary assistance, there is no doubt that the lay Irish Catholics are united with their clergy. But there is one reason for their claim which is probably not so much felt by the clergy as by the laity. Some of the latter complain that without pecuniary assistance they are condemned to a Collegiate Education exclusively conducted by priests; that learned lay Irish Professors, just as much as their unlearned fellow-countrymen, desire to marry, and generally, like them, have enormous families; that they must be paid for their services, and that cheap University instruction can only be obtained from the clergy, who, from their vows of celibacy and from the character of their profession, are satisfied with very small allowances. With regard to this question of pecuniary assistance, it has been stated in the House of Commons and in this House—hitherto without any contradiction—that the Irish Government did communicate last winter to the. Irish Bishops for their approval a scheme resembling in its general outline the Bill introduced some weeks ago by the O'Conor Don. The Government have been much pressed here to explain in what way the principles of the Intermediate School Act of last year, proposed by them and cheerfully assented to by us, are not applicable to Collegiate Education in Ireland. The Lord Chancellor gave us the reasons—and when he gives reasons they are likely to be the best that can be found—no one is very likely to find better. His reasons were these—first, that the children in the schools are younger than the students in Colleges; secondly, that there is no Conscience Clause applicable to Colleges; thirdly, that the Colleges cannot, like the primary schools, be inspected. As to the first reason—namely, as to the age of the children—this may or may not be a question of convenience; but, as a question of principle, it has no bearing whatever on the matter. I believe there are several Irish schools of a denominational character which have received, or, at all events, will receive, grants under the Government Act of last year out of the surplus provided by the Irish Church Act. Then, as to the Conscience Clause, the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland, speaking with great authority, said there would be no objection raised to it; and my noble Friend (the Marquess of Ripon) reminded the Government of what they must know, that the Irish Bishops had agreed to a Memorandum to that effect. It is not likely that the Catholic laity would object to having a Conscience Clause when the Bishops are ready to agree to it. Then about inspection. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Ripon) asked the pertinent question, whether Her Majesty's Government had not omitted to take any power of inspection over the intermediate schools? To this there is only one possible answer—in the negative. I am entitled to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can give any more satisfactory explanation of the distinction between the principles they so successfully adopted last summer, and those which more or less they seem to repudiate this year? The noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack most properly stated on the second reading his determination only to argue his case in the manner most likely to promote the settlement of the question. I trust that I am doing nothing inconsistent with the most sincere desire that this important question should be settled if I make an appeal to the Government on this occasion. It is perfectly clear that this Bill will not settle the question. It is not reasonable to expect that it will be accepted, after the Government have themselves owned that it requires to be supplemented, and yet only hold out hopes of the necessary supplement being considered by the Government at some future and undefined period. Her Majesty's Government promised the House of Commons to give in this place a clear and distinct statement of their pledge. I venture to appeal to them to fulfil that pledge, and spontaneously to add to this short Bill those provisions which they think necessary for its complement, or, at all events, to make a statement which will enable us, and especially the people of Ireland, to judge whether such provisions are sufficient or not.

On Question that (" now ") stand part of the Motion? Resolved in the Affirmative.

House in Committee accordingly; Amendments made: The Report thereof to be received on Monday next.