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On the 3rd of April, the premier moved for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Acts relating to the College of Maynooth, and in the speech with which he prefaced his motion detailed the immediate changes which he contemplated, without committing himself to an opinion, yea or nay, respecting the ulterior measures which might grow out of them. On these he observed a discreet if not an honourable silence, and our main business therefore at present is to ascertain the precise nature of the proposition which he submitted to the House, and the lessons to be derived from the reception with which it met.
The measure of the premier involved three things. In the first place it is provided That the trustees of the said college or seminary' (we copy from the Bill) 'and their successors for ever, shall be one body politic and corporate, by the name of The Trustees of Maynooth,' and by that name shall have perpetual succession and a common seal.'' This corporation is empowered, notwithstanding the statutes in mortmain, to purchase and enjoy property, whether real or personal, to the extent of £3,000 a year, exclusive of the property already acquired by the trustees. This is a large extension of the power .previously enjoyed, and gives a fixed and legal character to the institution, deserving of grave consideration.
The next point respects the provision to be made for the salaries of professors and the support of students, and here we shall best compass our object, which is a fair statement of the premier's case, by quoting his own words as reported in the • Times' of April 4th :
“I next address myself,' he remarked, 'to the provision to be made for the chief officers of the college. We propose that there should be a more liberal salary as compared with the present stipend of the president and professors. As I before said, the stipend of each individual professor does not now exceed £122 per annum. Instead of defining exactly what shall be the amount paid to each professor, we propose to allot to the trustees of Maynooth a certain sum, which shall be placed at their discretion for the payment of salaries. That sum will admit of a payment of £600 or £700 per annum to the president of the college ; of £260 or £270 to the professors of theology; and of £220 to £230 to the other professors. We propose, therefore, that a sum not exceeding £6000 shall be allotted to the trustees for making provision for the officers of the institution. With regard to the students, I would just remind the house that the college, generally speaking, is divided into two departments. The senior department consists of three senior classes of what may be called divinity students, and are the persons from whom a selection is immediately made for the Roman Catholic priesthood. In the subordinate division of the college there are four classes. In addition to these two departments are twenty senior students, who have passed through the college course with peculiar credit, called the Dunboyne students, because Lord Dunboyne bequeathed about £500 a-year towards their support. They are selected by the president, and allowed to remain three years; and each one is allowed £55 a-year, of which sum £25 goes to the college for the student's support. There are at present about four hundred and thirty students in the college, divided into these three classes : the Dunboyne students, the three senior classes and the four junior classes. We propose to allot to each of the Dunboyne students—that is, to twenty Dunboyne students, the sum of £40 each per annum. We propose to make provision on the whole for five hundred free students-that there shall be two hundred and fifty students in the four junior classes, and two hundred and fifty in the three senior classes, those being divinity students. That is to say, there are to be twenty Dunboyne students, and five hundred comprised within the two great depart. ments. 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 £28 per annum for each student. We propose that to each of the students in the three senior classes, the sum of £20 per annum for their own personal expenses shall be allowed separately. This will require a very considerable sum. For the salaries of the professors, for the provision of a library, and for other expenses of that nature, that a sum not exceeding £6,000. For the twenty Dunboyne students at £40, the sum of £800 will be required. The allowance for the maintenance of five hundred students in the two departments, and of the twenty Dunboyne students, at £28 each, will amount to £14,560. The allowance of £20 each to the divinity students in the three senior classes will make £5,000. Thus we have a total for the annual charge on account of the establishment of £26,360. That will not be in addition to the present vote, but including it.'
The other point respects the repair and enlargement of the college building, for which a grant of £30,000 is proposed, with an additional charge in perpetuo, for the repairs of the same, to be included in the annual estimates of the Board of Works.
Such is, in brief, the measure now submitted to the British parliament, and it only remains, in order that the case be clearly understood, that the visitorial powers created by the Bill should be explained. Referring to these, Sir Robert remarked :
. With respect to the visitorial powers of the college at present, for the ordinary purposes of education, it is exercised by certain judges, by parties who either were originally appointed by the Act of 1795, or have been since elected to fill up vacancies as they have occurred since that time. Now our opinion is that ex officio visitors are incompetent. We propose that the lord cbancellor and the judges should be relieved from this duty, and that her Majesty shall
have the power to appoint five visitors, in addition to the elected visitors. But then we do not propose that those visitors so appointed shall exercise any powers of visitation other than the present visitors do. We propose, however, that there shall be bond fide visitations, and that they shall take place as a matter of course, annually, instead of triennially as is now the case. We propose also that the lord lieutenant should have the power of directing a visitation whenever he may think proper. But observe the visitorial powers shall not extend to any matter relating to the doctrine or discipline of the church of Rome. We will not spoil this Act by any attempt at undue interference with such matters. Indeed, it would be utterly ineffective for any good purpose. But no alteration will be made in the visitorial powers, which are to remain and be exercised as at present in all matters which relate to the exercise, doctrine, and discipline of the Roman catholic church. This visitorial power, however, cannot be exercised except by three visitors elected by the other visitors; and those three must be members of the Roman catholic church.”
We have thus succinctly stated the leading features of a measure, which, to the astonishment of all thoughtful men, the leader of the conservative party has commended to the adoption of the legislature. The excitement which has followed cannot well be overrated. It extends through all classes, partakes of various hues, and expresses itself—sometimes in language of the fiercest intolerance, sometimes of an alarmed and unreflecting piety, and at others of an enlightened conviction of the folly and wickedness of the secular power attempting to legislate in matters of religion. Were we to judge of the measure from the arguments which—with two or three honourable exceptions—were adduced against it, in the Commons House, we should unhesitatingly give it our support, for any thing more flimsy or exceptionable, than the reasoning and spirit with which it has been met, we have never witnessed. It is marvellous that our senators should have retained to the middle of the nineteenth century, so many of the dogmas and so much of the spirit of the most intolerant age, and we may well be thankful, in view of the revelation thus afforded, for the protective influences which exempt us from the sufferings experienced by our fathers. If we had to choose between the intolerant bigotryso unblushingly avowed, and the latidumarianism on which the ministerial project is based, we should not hesitate in our preference of the latter. In comparison, it is innocuous, and contains within itself some corrective elements, tending ultimately to the overthrow of the system which it temporarily extends. But we are not reduced to any such alternative. We protest against the measure as vicious in principle, incompatible with the legitimate province
of government, an insult to those to whom the grantistendered, and a grievous wrong to the consciences of all who object to any appropriation of the public money to ecclesiastical purposes. The Conservative minister was warmly supported by the leader of the Whig section of the House. Lord John Russell, with all the warmth of a new born friendship—of which we have had several instances of late—came to his assistance, and the temper of his speech was indicative of the folly of those dissenters who look to his lordship as the beau ideal of a statesman. He was . not satisfied with affirming the proposition of the Premier, but avowed his readiness to concur in any measure for the endowment of the Romish clergy; and that too, on the ground of his preferring the establishment system, to the voluntary principle. His words should be deeply pondered by every dissenter:
‘I must confess,” said his lordship, “that, with those gentlemen who oppose it on the ground that both in the proposal itself of settling this grant by Bill, making it a permanent endowment, and in the reasons the right honourable gentlemen gave for that endowment, there is an indication of further measures than he himself proposed to night, or than the measure itself contains,—I say that with them I am inclined to agree so far, except that, although a ground of opposition with them, it is a ground of concurrence upon my part. The right honourable gentleman stated truly, at the end of his speech, that do what you will, the priests who are brought up in the Roman Catholic faith are to be the spiritual guides of the great majority of the people. He urged, I think most truly and unanswerably, that if that is to be the object, it is your interest that your education should be as good, that the doctrines taught should be of a nature as much to elevate, that the education should be of a character as much to improve, as it is possible by education to improve, the character of that priesthood. In that argument I fully and entirely concur; and upon that ground I shall be most willing to give my vote in favour of the proposal of the government to-night. But it is impossible to hear such arguments without bearing in mind the whole condition of Ireland as it respects this country. Now I am not going to argue whether even with respect to this particular question, the house should or not adopt the motion of which my honourable friend near me, (Mr. Ward) has given a notice; but this I say, that arguments which are so sound, and as I think so incontrovertible, to induce this house to found an endowment for the education of the Roman catholic priesthood, will prove upon another occasion as sound and as incontro: vertible with respect to an endowment for the maintenance of that priesthood. For my own part, preferring most strongly, and more and more by reflection, religious establishments to that which is called the voluntary principle. I am anxious to see the spiritual, the religious instructors of the great majority of the people of Ireland endowed and maintained by a provision furnished by the state. I do not hesitate to give that opinion. I am not committing any person on the part of the government, I am speaking independently for myself, but I will not give this vote misleading any one by the notion, that if there came a question proposed in a manner in which I should think that it could practically and properly be carried into effect, for the payment of the Roman catholic priesthood, I should not think the reasons upon which I shall vote to-night equally conclusive to induce me to concur in that proposal.'
Of the noble member for London, we have frequently recorded our opinion. It has been in no grudging spirit that we have admitted the value of his past services; or sought to do justice to the claims of the Whigs on the gratitude of their countrymen. But our admiration has not blinded us to their faults, and we have long felt, what his lordship's speech,-illustrated by what he subsequently remarked in support of Mr. Ward's amendment-must now render evident to all but his blindest partizans, that the time of our separation has come, and that Whig alliances must be renounced in deference to the higher claims of religious duty. We have no disposition or right to censure his lordship's churchmanship. It has been known to us from the first, and has never been objected to as invalidating his title to our political confidence. But the case is materially altered, if his churchmanship involves an approval and support of new ecclesiastical imposts,the organization, in fact, of another establishment at the cost, and in violation of the principles of the protestant community. In the former case, the plea of antiquity and of vested interests might be alleged, but in the latter, we see an unblushing sacrifice of the religious to the secular, a profane tampering with conscience in order to perpetuate the unrighteous domination of the Irish church. It will be for dissenters to say, whether such a course is compatible with their continued support of his lordship as a political chief. Our own decision is in the negative, and we have strong confidence that this decision will speedily be adopted by the great majority of our friends. We know what may be said—what probably will be said-against this, nor are we unapprised of its force, but we know also that we have rendered to the Whigs an ample return for the services they have done us. It is notorious—and the fact should serve to moderate the superciliousness of some Whig leadersthat the dissenters of Great Britain constitute the strength of the liberal party. Their support is more essential to Lord John, than his advocacy is to them; and he may yet live to feel, that in violating their consciences, and imposing on them additional church burdens, he is only cutting away the ground from beneath his own feet, and rendering himself as powerless as his position is a false one. We have been willing to bear with the churchmanship of our Whig allies. Whether right or not we have acquiesced in their protection of the existing hierarchies; but it is & totally different thing now that we are called on to submit to t