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Duke of Newcastle, and Earl of Winchelsea-Lord Campbell, the Earl of Ellenborough, and the Duke of Wellington speak in favour of the Bill, which is passed by a majority of 131.
N every year there is some one measure which may be singled out as the great parliamentary controversy of the session, which serves as a rallying point to the conflicting parties, and calls forth the most elaborate exertions of argument and eloquence. Such, in the session of 1845, was the bill brought in by Sir R. Peel for improving and increasing the grant to the college of Maynooth. No measure excited more stir and controversy in the public mind. None was more earnestly or perseveringly debated in the legislature, the discussion on the second reading occupying no less than three evenings in the Upper, and six in the Lower House. The interest which it excited among the community at large was evidenced by the numerous public meetings which were convoked chiefly for the purpose of opposing it; by the petitions, almost unprecedented in number, which were sent to Parliament, emanating also in a vast proportion from opponents; and, not least, in the constant introduction of the subject as a ground of hostility or a test of opinion at the various elections which happened to take place in various parts of the kingdom. That large class of persons, comprising a great proportion of the Dissenting bodies, to whom the progress of Roman Catholic doctrines is an object of acute apprehension and alarm, were united, without reference to the general principles of their political creed, in abhorrence to a measure which they regarded as
fraught with danger to the cause and institutions of Protestantism. The Ministry, on the other hand, were supported as well by the Roman Catholic body, as by the main portion of the Whig and Liberal parties, who hailed in this Bill the recognition of their own. avowed principles of the religious equality of all members of the community. The measure is certainly to be regarded in some degree as the first enunciation of a new policy on the part of the Conservative leaders a distinct repudiation of the claim of the Protestants of Ireland to "ascendancy," and a recognition of the principle of an impartial regard on the part of the State to all classes of religionists. The motives and objects of the measure, however, will best be explained by a reference to the speech of the Premier himself on introducing it in the House of Commons on the 3rd of April. In reference to the great number of petitions which had been presented on that evening against any intended grant to Maynooth, Sir R. Peel said, that he had given timely notice of his intention to consider the case of Maynooth in a friendly spirit; and therefore he was not unprepared for the demonstration which had been made, and which no doubt proceeded from persons who were sincerely actuated by conscientious scruples. He should say nothing at present respecting the projected improvement of academical education in Ireland, which would come before the House at a future day-his
present observations would be confined to Maynooth. It appeared to the Queen's Ministers, that there were three courses which they might pursue, to continue the present system and grant without alteration; to discontinue the vote altogether, and repudiate all connexion with Maynooth; or liberally to adopt, improve, and extend the innstitution provided for the education of the Roman Catholic priesthood. Sir R. Peel proceeded to discuss these three courses in succession. With respect to the first, he declared his belief that it was the most open to objection of all. Government professes to make provision for a national system-for the education of those who are to give spiritual instruction and religious consolation to many millions of the people of Ireland: they just give enough, by voting annually 9,000l. a year, to discourage and paralyze voluntary contributions for that purpose. If it is a violation of principle to provide instruction for the Roman Catholic priesthood, they are guilty of that violation of principle now. It is not a mere annual grant. The grant is recognised by two acts of the Irish Legislature, and one passed by the United Parliament in 1808, providing for the "establishment" of the College; the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and the highest judicial authorities are appointed visitors: Parliament has repealed the Statute of Mortmain in favour of that College; has enabled the trustees to hold land to the amount of 1,000l. a year, and to provide a chapel for the rites of the Roman Catholic Church. The grant of 9,000l., however, is so limited in amount, that of the ten professors, the most highly endowed has a
salary of not more than 1227. a year: yet it is expected to obtain the services of men of eminence and integrity. There are in the college 440 scholars. Of those about 130 are "pensioners," who pay a certain sum on admission; and 250 are "free" students. The average sum allotted to each of those free students-for his commons, his dress, the furniture of the rooms-is 231. a year; and out of that sum of 231. for each of the 250 students, the repairs and other incidental expenses of the college must be provided. Nothing can be more desolate than the appearance of the building, which partakes of the character rather of a deserted barrack than of a literary institution. It is impossible to assign a room to each student; in many cases several students are placed in one room, and even in some instances several in one bed. A representation on this subject had been made by nearly the whole of the Roman Catholic Prelacy to the Lord-Lieutenant, Lord Heytesbury: the bishops stated, that so urgent have been the necessities of the establishment, that the President had frequently been obliged to send home the pupils during the vacation, for the paltry but indispensable saving of two months' provisions; an absence injurious to college discipline. Yet, in spite of the utmost parsimony and retrenchment, a debt of 4,600l. had been contracted. The increasing distress among the middle classes had caused a decrease in the number of "pensioners," (who pay.) which had not only curtailed the revenue of the college, but had created the necessity of a proportionate increase in the number of free scholarships: yet the supply
of priests from the establishment for the service of the Church, was so inadequate, that it often became necessary to call home students for the performance of clerical duties before they had completed the ordinary theological course, though already very short. This statement was signed by twenty-two Roman Catholic Prelates. "Now, I ask whether I am not right in stating to the House, that you can take no course which is not preferable to a continuance of this state of things; that is, to a continued violation of principle-if it be a violation of principle-in undertaking to instruct a priesthood from whose doctrines you dissent, and yet at the same time making only this niggardly and inadequate provision for the maintenance of those for whose education you have made yourselves responsible? Is it wise-when this subject is brought under our consideration and we must decide upon it-would it be a proper course to say to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, We are bound, it is true, by an inconvenient obligation, contracted by our ancestors, and that obligation we will respect; in a surly spirit, we will continue to give you the 9,000l. a year; but there shall be no improvement in your buildings, there shall be no advance in the salaries of your professors; the acts of Parliament shall continue; our implied sanction and encouragement, so far as statute law is concerned, shall remain: but we tell you we vote the 9,000l. feeling that our conscience is violated, and we give it you only because we have to fulfil a contract into which others entered, and from which we cannot escape?' I say any course is preferable to this."
He came to the second alter
native. "Shall we avow that our conscientious scruples are so violated in the maintenance of this system, that we will discontinue the connexion with Maynooth? that the vote shall, after some temporary arrangements, be discontinued, and the burden of educating the priesthood shall be thrown upon the people of Ire land? ("Hear, hear!" from one of the Ministerial benches.) I infer that there are some who think that a desirable course. (Hear, hear!" from the same quarter.) Before you adopt this course-( Loud cheers, especially from the Opposition benches)-I ask the House to listen to the statement I am about to make of the reasons which prevent me from counselling it. When did your connexion with the institution arise; under whose authority; and how long has it continued? The connexion began in 1795, when George the Third was King, Mr. Pitt the Minister, and the Duke of Portland (afterwards Chancellor of Oxford University) Home Secretary. In that year-a critical periodthe Lord Lieutenant, Earl Fitzwilliam, adjuring the Irish Parliament by their attachment to religion, learning and civilization, recommended to their consideration the improvement of education. The intent of those general terms was pointed out by Mr. Grattan: who stated, that on this subject [education] it is intended that a plan should be submitted for colleges for the education of the Catholic clergy, who are now excluded from the Continent.' Earl Fitzwilliam's immediate successor as Lord Lieutenant, the Marquis Camden, laid the first stone of Maynooth College; and afterwards, at the close of the session
of 1795, the Marquis thus addressed the Parliament:-'My Lords and Gentlemen; His Majesty observes with the highest satisfaction, that during the present crisis you have not failed to cherish and maintain the various sources of your internal prosperity. You have also completed the intention so benevolently entertained of entirely relieving the poorer classes from the tax of hearthmoney. A wise foundation has been laid for educating at home the Roman Catholic clergy.' After the Union with Ireland, Sir R. Peel continued to state, the grants to Maynooth were continued by the Imperial Parliament. Nay, at two subsequent periods -in 1807, when Mr. Perceval was minister, and in 1813 it was increased. After this sanction, continued for fifty years, was the House now to say that they had been all along violating a conscientious scruple, and that the connexion must cease. When it was formed the Roman Catholics were labouring under disabilities; that did not constitute, in the view of the Irish Parliament, an objection to originating this grant. Those disabilities had been now entirely removed; the Irish Roman Catholics were placed upon the same footing with ourselves in respect to civil privileges: should we now, in opposition to the acts of our predecessors, say to themThat favour which was granted to you under the administration of Mr. Pitt, must now be withheld from you on account of a conscientious scruple? "Sir, I should deprecate the effect of such a step. It is not the amount of the pecu niary grant; what I deprecate is the animus it would indicate. We should never be able to con
vince those from whom the grant was withheld, that those scruples which were not felt by George the Third, by Mr. Pitt, by the exclusively Protestant Legislature of their own country, are now felt to such a degree by us that we must abandon the connexion which was thus formed. Sir R. Peel then proceeded to contend against the assumed principle that any religious obligation is violated by giving support to the spiritual instruction of those from whose tenets we dissent, whether in the case of a Protestant landlord whose tenantry are Roman Catholic, in the case of corporations, like the great city companies, holding large estates in Ireland, or in the case of a country like England, possessing colonies in which various forms of religious faith and doctrines are professed." If the proposed grant were condemned on principle, he asked the House if they were prepared to repeal the Acts for appointing Roman Catholic chaplains to prisons and workhouses?
"There remains but one other course," continued Sir R. Peel, "and that is the course which we are prepared to take. (Cheers.) Prepared!—yes, I will avow it, that we are prepared, in a liberal sense and confiding spirit, to improve that institution, and to elevate the tone of education there. (Renewed cheers.) Will you not take that course? I think you will agree with me that such is the course which should be taken; that if we are seriously to consider this institution, we ought to consider it with a view to extensive improvement. By improvement I mean, improvement of means only, not an interference with the course of education, poisoning all the good that you might derive from
liberality. I mean, really, that we should treat that institution in a generous spirit, in the hope that we shall be met in a spirit corresponding with ours, and that we shall reap the fruits of the improvement of that educational establishment. He then explained the proposal which on the part of Government he was instructed to make. The trustees of Maynooth college could purchase land to the extent of 1000l. a year; but they could not receive it on any other terms than for the lives of the trustees; he proposed to incorporate the trustees, by the title of "the Trustees of Maynooth College," and to enable them to hold real property to the extent of 30007. per annum, should members of the Roman Catholic faith be desirous to contribute to the college so incorporated. "The stipend of each individual professor does not now exceed 1221.
per annum. Instead of defining exactly what shall be the amount paid to each professor, we propose to allot to the trustees of Maynooth college a certain sum, which shall be placed at their discretion for the payment of salaries. That sum will admit of a payment of 600l. or 700l. per annum to the president of the college; of 2601. or 270l. to the professors of theology; and of 2201. or 230l. to the other professors. We propose,
therefore, that a sum not exceed ing 60001. shall be allotted to the trustees for making provision for the officers of the institution. There are at present about 430 students in the college, divided into three classes the twenty Dumboyne students, the three senior classes, and the four junior classes. We propose to allot to each of the Dumboyne students
the sum of 40l. per annum; we propose to make provision on the whole for 500 free students; that there shall be 250 students in the four junior classes, and 250 in the three senior classes, these being divinity students. We propose that for the maintenance of each student, to cover the expense of his commons, attendance, and other charges consequent upon academical education, a sum shall be placed at the disposal of the trustees, calculated on an average of 281. per annum for each student. We propose that to each of the students in the three senior classes, the sum of 20l. per annum for their own personal expenses shall be allowed separately. The total sum required for the students will be 14,5601.; the total sum for the establishment, 26,360l. We propose that the college shall be made, in appearance and in fact, worthy of an institution of the kind. We propose that proper provision shall be made for the accommodation of the president and professors; and we propose to limit the amount of money for putting the college into repair, and to take a vote, of course not an annual one, of 30,0001. (Hear, hear! and indications of surprise.) We intend that a sum of money, so sanctioned by Parliament, shall be applied for the purposes I have described. We do not propose provision for more than 500 students; there shall be no power of increasing the number to 600 or 700 by reducing the individual allowances. We wish to put the establishment on a liberal footing, that the reminiscences of Maynooth may no longer be revolting. It is therefore that I propose to limit the number of students to 500. We propose, also, that the Board of Works shall