I will trespass for a few minutes upon the courtesy of the House. I wish to comment upon the Question put by my hon. Friend opposite (Sir Thomas Bateson) to the First Lord of the; Treasury. My hon. Friend asked the First Lord of the Treasury whether his attention had been drawn to a letter purporting to be; written by me on the 26th of May, with reference to the East Worcestershire Election, which my hon. Friend says had a considerable effect upon the result of the election. Sir, that is a very great compliment to me; and if he is really correct in his supposition, which I am not vain enough to credit, I receive the statement with satisfaction. He has called the attention of the Head of the Government to that I letter. Now, I wish to call the attention of my hon. Friend to the letter; because it seems to me that he has not attended to it, nor does he cite its purport accurately. I will not defend the style of the letter against the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman, which are, perhaps, fair enough under the circumstances; but I own the authorship, and I abide by the assertions. I do not intend to recede from any portion of them. The mistake into which my hon. Friend has fallen is this—He says it is stated in my letter—That Her Majesty's Government proposed during the present Session to endow the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, and also to create a Roman Catholic University, paying its expenses out of the taxes of the country.
§ SIR THOMAS BATESON
I omitted from my Notice the words "during the present Session," after reading the letter more carefully.
If I had stated that, it would have been an over-statement, because Her Majesty's Government did not propose to endow the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland during the present Session; nor, indeed did they make any proposal upon the subject; and I rather think I carefully refrained from saying that they had made any such proposal. I confined my assertion to the plans they submitted on the subject of the Roman Catholic 1113 University. There was a declaration made by the noble Earl the Secretary for Ireland (the Earl of Mayo), which, however important, was not a proposal for the endowment of the Roman Catholic Church. I must also say that I was not guilty of that which the Question of my hon. Friend would seem to impute to me—though I have no doubt he had not the least intention of doing so—namely, of holding up the conduct of the Government to odium specially and singly on account of its being a proposal to endow the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. I do not consider myself, or anyone sitting on the Opposition side of the House, in any manner responsible for the first importation of the odious elements of theological and sectarian strife into this great political controversy. How they were first imported, I will not now inquire; but they were not imported in consequence of anything said by me, or, I was going to add, by anyone on this side of the House; but probably if I were to say so much, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) might take some offence, and therefore I will make no further reference to it. My statement is in these terms—This Government proclaimed ten weeks ago that they were friendly to religious equality in Ireland, provided it was brought about by endowing the other Churches, including the Roman, in Ireland, and not by disendowing the Protestant Church: and by way of earnest they proposed at once to create a Roman Catholic University, and pay its expenses out of the taxes of the country; whereas we take away the Establishment, which now exists, and make no more, in Ireland.This, therefore, the plan of concurrent endowment, or general endowment, is what I exhibited as the policy of the Government, and not the plan of endowing the Roman Catholic Church in particular. The hon. Gentleman treated it as a charge against the Government; but, permit me to say, I have never treated it as a charge. The noble Earl the Chief Secretary for Ireland (the Earl of Mayo) stated the other night, and I think with perfect truth, that this plan of concurrent endowment is a plan which had the sanction of some of the greatest names in our history; and though I am not in favour of it, and think that the plan is in itself quite unsatisfactory, and also wholly unsuited to the circumstances and exigencies of the present day, yet far be it from me to presume to pronounce any condemnation either on the measure sanctioned by Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, and a long series of great statesmen whose names I revere, or 1114 by the noble Earl and the Gentlemen sitting near him, because I think that the time for the adoption of a, plan of that nature has passed away. So much with respect to the assertion of my having brought a charge against the Government that they intended to proceed at once to the endowment of the Roman Catholic Church. With regard to the matter itself, to which the supposed charge would have related, it resolves itself into these two points. I stated that the Government saw no objection to bringing about religious equality in Ireland, provided it was done by endowing the other Churches, including the Roman Catholic—that is to say, substantially the Government were favourable to the endowment of the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches, because these are the only ones of sufficient magnitude to require a large endowment; and if they were endowed, perhaps no one would object to any crumbs of endowment which might fall to the lot of other communions. Is that a just or an unjust charge? The noble Earl (the Earl of Mayo) stated with regard to the Presbyterians that they receive a grant miserable in amount, and wholly inadequate to their requirements. These words may not in themselves imply that the Regium Donum was to be augmented and the Presbyterian Church more largely endowed as a matter of necessity; but when taken in connection with other words used by the noble Earl, to the effect that religious equality was not objected to, if not effected by the process of levelling down; that the ecclesiastical arrangements of Ireland were to be re-cast, and to a great extent equalized; and that there was no objection to make all the Churches equal, but that result must be secured by elevation, and not by confiscation—it appears to me that what the noble Lord meant by "that result" is perfectly evident. And I must again point out that the noble Earl was not speaking on that occasion in his individual capacity. He was announcing on behalf of the Government their Irish policy, and it was not merely because, as Minister for Ireland, whatever he said on the subject of Ireland had a peculiar importance, but because it was a policy professed and promised beforehand by other Members of the Cabinet in "another place," as well as in this place, thereby identifying the Cabinet in the strongest manner with what fell from the noble Earl. But I am bound to say that noble Earl's language in no way went 1115 beyond the spirit and the inevitable meaning of what fell from the right hon. Gentleman at the Head of the Government. The debates on this subject were not the first debates since the formation of the present Government on this important question. Last year, the subject of the Irish Church was introduced in this House, and the right hon. Gentleman was pressed for a declaration on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman declared in the summer of 1867 what he has again declared during the present year—namely, that the state of things in Ireland was unsatisfactory, but that the mode of rectifying that unsatisfactory state of things was the method of creating and not the method of destroying. But, move than that, he on a former occasion, much more remote, explained much move in detail what he thought on that subject; and he has, during the present Session, adopted what he called the "general historical spirit," or "historical sentiment," of his former declaration. Well, then, the only question that remains—the main question—is this—Do these declarations justify the statement which I have made, and which forms the subject of the Question addressed by my hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Bateson) to the Head of the Government. I own I have not met anyone who heard these declarations—these various declarations—in conformity with one another, corroborating one another, that has ever attempted to put on them a different construction from that I have put upon them. [Lord JOHN MANNERS dissented.] The noble Lord the First Commissioner of Works (Lord John Manners) did, indeed, state that he was not aware of this policy. [Lord JOHN MANNERS: I denied it altogether.] The noble Lord says he denied it altogether. Well, I was obliged to tell him on that occasion, what he seems not to know, that he was responsible for the declaration of his Colleagues. Does the noble Lord deny the sense which is affixed to the declarations I have quoted? [Lord JOHN MANNERS: I do.] Well, then, will the noble Lord tell me what is meant by the declaration that, to a great extent, the ecclesiastical arrangements of Ireland are unsatisfactory, and that there is no objection to make all the Churches equal, if the result be secured by elevation and not confiscation? These are words of the English language, and are liable to the ordinary rules of grammatical and rational construction. It is vain for the noble Lord to 1116 think that by means of his denials he will escape from the consequences of these declarations. At a time when these declarations have been found most inconvenient, then comes forward the noble Lord, who listened when the declarations were made, and protests that he knows nothing about this policy. Now, if the people of England know, as they do know, the nature of our Constitution, they will know that it is one of our first duties to decline to acquit any Member of the Cabinet of responsibility for the announced and declared policy of any other Member. We have even been told that these things have not been discussed in the Cabinet. With that we have nothing to do. The Cabinet is a unity in the face of the Constitution and the country, and if it censes to be a unity one of the first principles of the Constitution is at an end. But I have to-day received a letter transmitted by telegraph from Ireland. I received it only about an hour before I came to this House, and if not genuine it easily admits of contradiction. It has a name appended to it, and there will be no difficulty in saying whether it is a genuine letter or not; but according to that letter it appears that as far as the Presbyterians are concerned it was part of the policy of the Government to initiate a plan of increased endowment. I now read this telegram—The following letter was read in the Presbyterian General Assembly at Belfast yesterday:—'10, Downing Street, Whitehall,'March 19, 1807.'Sir,—I am directed by Lord Derby to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 10th inst. on the subject of an increase of the Regium Domum. His Lordship desires me to inform you that he regrets that, as the Estimates for 1867–8 have been completed, it is impossible for anything to be done this year; but the subject shall be borne in mind before the Estimates for next year are prepared.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,'J. WILSON.'The words "this year" were italicized in the original. Was that or was it not in perfect conformity with the declaration of the noble Lord (the Earl of Mayo)? Does it not indicate that as far as the Presbyterian body are concerned a promise was given by Lord Derby in reply to the application of the General Assembly for an increase of the grant? I apprehend that it will not be for any Gentleman on the opposite Bench to state that the policy of the Government was to alter the ecclesiastical arrangements of Ireland by augmenting the Regium Donum and putting the Pres- 1117 byterians on a new footing, while they were to leave the great mass of the people of Ireland, with respect to those ecclesiastical arrangements, in that position of exclusion in which they now stand. Why, Sir, these things are in such a position that, having Parliamentary evidence before us, we require no other. But at the very time when the right hon. Gentleman at the Head of the Government was evoking his phantom of alliance between the Court of Rome and some religious party in this country opposed to him, at that very time an official newspaper in the City of Rome, published under the direct censorship, and therefore with the direct approval, of the Court of Rome was praising the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, condemning our rude interference with his plans, and stating that it was well-known that if he were only let alone he had already formed projects and arrangements by means of which he would indirectly, cautiously, and I suppose by what he calls an "educating" process, contrive that the Church of England should be got rid of. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, but that is a good answer to the charge proceeding from the head of the Government, and it is with respect to that charge that I adduce it. It is perfectly easy to go into details at any time hon. Gentlemen opposite may desire it. But what we stand on is Parliamentary evidence, which is not to be shaken or got rid of; and I maintain that the letter I wrote is the fair and inevitable construction put upon declarations as clear as have ever proceeded from the organs of the Government sitting in this House or elsewhere, and by the observations of that letter I abide. As to whether the Answer of the right hon. Gentleman to the Question of my hon. Friend is satisfactory or not, that is not a matter for me to interfere in. The criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman I do not think it is necessary for me particularly to notice. I am perfectly well able to stand under the fire of that kind of small shot. But by the substance of what I have asserted, and the terms, I stand implicitly and unconditionally, and I have no doubt that the matter is one which has sunk deep into the minds and memory of the people of the three kingdoms.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I must apologize to the right hon. Gentleman for having expressed a doubt as to the authenticity of the letter. It appears that the right hon. Gentleman did make the statement that Her Majesty's Government had proposed 1118 to Parliament a scheme for endowing the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. ["No, no."] That is the statement, I believe.
Then shall I rend the words again? They are these—Now, this Government proclaimed ten weeks ago that they were friendly to religious equality in Ireland, provided it was brought about by endowing the other Churches, including the Roman, in Ireland, and not by disendowing the Protestant Church; and by way of earnest they proposed at once to create a Roman Catholic University and pay its expenses out of the taxes of the country.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Well, Sir, I am not clouding my meaning in so many phrases; but I understand the meaning to be that the policy of the Government was to endow the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Well, what is the proof of it given by the right hon. Gentleman now that he is brought to book? Why that Her Majesty's Ministers intended to increase the Regium Domun [Laughter.] That is really all his proof.["No, no!"] His statement was couched in a great many rhetorical phrases, and a great many refinements of phraseology; but this is all his proof. [''No, no!"] I repeat again that is all his proof. Well, now, with regard to the letter of Lord Derby, for which I am in no way responsible, I can only say that I have myself received this year a deputation from the Presbytery of Ulster, the gentlemen who represented Use body to whom that letter was communicated. The same request was made to the Government of which I am now the Head—namely, that we would increase the Regium Donum, and our answer was that it was totally impossible that we could accede to such a proposition; that we entirely agreed in the opinion held by many Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and often expressed by them for years past, without their being accused of a vast and complicated system of the endowment of all creeds, that the Regium Donum was a very poor pittance, and we should he glad to see it increased; but, that in the present temper of the House and the present state of public opinion, we could hold out no prospect whatever to the deputation that it would be increased. I think, therefore, that my answer to the deputation, which was published at the time, is quite as good as the answer which was written by the private secretary of 1119 Lord Derby two years or one year ago. That, then, is my answer to the proof of the right hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's Government had a policy of endowing all the Churches of Ireland, and, of course the Roman Catholic Church, the most important of the unendowed bodies—namely, that we entertained a measure which ever since I have been in Parliament has been more or less entertained or proposed in answer to frequent and annual deputations, urging the consideration of the case of the Regium Donum. The only difference with regard to the present Ministry is that we were obliged to tell those who waited upon us, that whatever our feeling upon the subject might be—a feeling, I think, shared by the majority of the House—that it was a very poor pittance, it was impossible, in our view, considering the present state of public opinion, to make any proposition to increase it. That is really the only proof which the right hon. Gentleman has brought forward. ["Oh!"] Well then, the right hon. Gentleman has gone back to the speech of my noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (the Earl of Mayo) and has asked "What did you mean by the equality of Churches?" Now, my noble Friend on a former occasion gave his explanation and interpretation of what he did say in the speech referred to. He told the House that we did not mean the endowment of the Roman Catholic Church; but that there were a great many modes—some of which he had supported, and others; which he was prepared to support—which would effect a very considerable alteration in the status of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. He particularly referred to a variety of measures—some of which he had originated, and all of which he had supported—such as the introduction of chaplains into prisons and other arrangements of that kind, which may be treated lightly now, but which were passed with great difficulty, and but for our upholding them would never have been passed, which in his opinion did virtually give that equality. That is the explanation which my noble Friend gave, and that is the interpretation which has been accepted by the country. ["No!"] It may not have been accepted in electioneering squibs; but it has been accepted by the calm and candid opinion of the country. ["Oh!"] I repeat that, in the face of my distinct statement on the part of the Government that we on no consideration whatever would agree to the endowment of the 1120 Roman Catholic priesthood, these are frivolous charges, the worth of which is properly appreciated by the country.
§ MR. CARDWELL
However unimportant electioneering letters and electioneering squibs may be, one thing, at least, is most important, and that is that there should be no mistake and no misunderstanding about the declarations made in this House by Ministers of the Crown. There will be an end of Parliamentary government when there is an end of distinct understandings with regard to statements officially made by Ministers. Now, I shall be in the recollection of every Gentleman who was present, when I say that on the night when the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House to state that he had received Her Majesty's commands to form a Government, he told us it would be found that he had a truly Liberal policy for Ireland, and he referred us to the following Tuesday, when, he said, we should hear from the noble Earl the Chief Secretary for Ireland (the Earl of Mayo) what that Liberal policy was. Well, we heard that Liberal policy explained in a speech of great length and great ability—a speech worthy of the noble Earl and of the office he holds; and what did it tell us? It told us that there were questions that were of great interest in Ireland—the Church question, the land question, and the education question, It spoke of a Commission of Inquiry upon each of them, and there was only one practical proposal which was announced as the substance of that Liberal policy—namely, the granting of a charter to a Catholic University. We were distinctly told, and I am sure the noble Earl will not contradict it, that the expenses of that University were to be provided by the Votes of Parliament, and that the Colleges which were to be in connection with that University were to be postponed for the present. The noble Earl said—Seeing that this University question has long been a matter of dispute in Ireland, we do offer a plan by which we believe it may be finally set at rest—a plan which will not in any way interfere with the vitality or strength of existing institutions, but will supply everything which has ever been demanded by those whose religious scruples prevented them from taking advantage of the present system. With regard to endowments it will be essential, of course, if Parliament agrees to the proposal, in the first instance, to provide for the necessary expenses of the University—that is to say, for the expenses of the officers and of the professors, and also to make some provision for a building; and I have no doubt if Parliament approves the schemes it will not be indisposed to 1121 endow certain University scholarships. With regard to the endowment of Colleges, it is impossible we could make any proposal of that nature at present, until we know what kind the Colleges will be, and to that extent the question will be left open to future consideration.Now, I think we had bettor have no Ministerial declarations at all; for Ministerial declarations will not be enlightening, but misleading, if we are to be told, after having noted for two months on such declarations, that they were not meant in their original spirit, and that the speech of the noble Earl referred to chaplains in the army and in the workhouses, and some other questions about which there is no controversy and no dispute, and to some past transactions about the Regium Donum and the Bill for the endowment of Maynooth.
THE EARL OF MAYO
I desire to say only a few words, for I thought that the explanation which I gave the other night was clear, frank, and explicit. The whole gist of my observations was this—that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government, with regard to ecclesiastical arrangements in Ireland, to endeavour to maintain the policy which this House and this country has adopted towards Ireland in that respect for a great number of years. I stated that I believed that any changes that were indicated were indicated only in this spirit—namely, that the ecclesiastical arrangements of Ireland had been for a great number of years sanctioned by Parliament on a distinct line of policy, and that it was our intention to endeavour to maintain, and, if possible, to advance it. That was all I said, and all I intended to say. With regard to the University, distinctly said that it was not the intention of the Government to propose an endowment for the Colleges connected with it. I stated that if Parliament sanctioned the establishment of the University, I thought they would be prepared to provide for the small expenses—which could not possibly exceed more than a few hundreds a year—for the remuneration of the few professors who would be necessary. One of the principal objections taken to the scheme by the Roman Catholic prelates was that no provision was made for a sufficient endowment; and therefore it is clear that they, at all events, thought our proposal on that point unsatisfactory. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) that in his proposal for granting a charter of incorporation to a Roman Catholic Col- 1122 lege he proposed that Parliament should be asked to provide for the establishment of scholarships in connection with the University and with the Colleges which were to be affiliated to it. Thus, in point of fact, the proposal I made was substantially the same in spirit, except that whereas he proposed a University which should have the power of affiliating denominational Colleges, asking Parliament to contribute to the establishment of scholarships, we proposed a denominational University, and intended to ask Parliament to contribute the small sum necessary for the establishment of a few professorships that would be requisite. With regard to any intention on the part of the Government for a proposal to endow the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, I beg to say that such a proposal was never entertained. I believe I am in the hearing of many Gentlemen to whom I have spoken very lately, and who have reminded me of expressions of opinion that I constantly made use of in their hearing, and which amounted to this—that no matter what the opinions of persons might be with regard to the endowment of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, I had always believed that no man in his senses would ever make such a proposal; that if such a project had ever been possible the time for it had long gone by; and that I believed no Minister would ever venture to make such a proposal. With that explanation I sit down, merely adding that it is extraordinary that such immense exertions should have been made by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the other side to attach an interpretation to words of mine which they were never meant to bear, and which no candid mind would attach to them.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I am sorry to be obliged again to correct a misstatement—no doubt an unintentional misstatement—made by the noble Earl as to the intention of the late Government on the subject of University education. The noble Earl has repeated what I was obliged to contradict on a previous occasion, that the late Government intended to found a new University, and to endow it with scholarships in connection with it. [The Earl of MAYO: I said "Colleges."] If the noble Earl meant Colleges and not a University, I utterly deny that any intention existed on the part of the late Government to found scholarships in connection with such Colleges.
THE EARL OF MAYO
I said that it was the intention of the late Government 1123 to endow new scholarships in connection with the Colleges which they proposed to affiliate to the University.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
It was not intended by the late Government to establish a University, but only to extend the powers of the Queen's University; and there were scholarships to be endowed in connection with that University, but with this difference, that they were to be entirely undenominational and were to be open to students from all the Colleges affiliated, whereas the scholarships connected with an exclusive University, such as was contemplated by the present Government, must be exclusive scholarships.
§ MR. H. E. SURTEES
said, that his hon. Friend (Sir Thomas Bateson) had made a great omission in not asking the right hon. Member for South Lancashire to explain his statement about the hon. Member for Athlone (Mr. Rearden). The right hon. Gentleman stated that the hon. Member was no supporter of his or of the Liberal party, and that he believed he had voted against him on most important occasions, except those connected with the Irish Church. Now, taking the Division Lists of those divisions in which the party "whips" had acted as tellers, he found that in no single case had the hon. Member for Athlone in 1868 voted against the right hon. Gentleman, In 1867 the hon. Member had voted against the right hon. Gentleman on the Representation of the People Bill, which, if carried, would have caused a dissolution. In 1866 the hon. Member for Athlone had voted against the right hon. Gentleman upon such matters as the Amendment of the hon. Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue) on the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, the Cattle Plague Bill, the Marine Mutiny Bill, and the Contagious Diseases Bill. And he had yet to learn that the fact of the hon. Member for Athlone voting against the right hon. Gentleman on such measures as the Contagious Diseases Bill, & c, disqualified him from being considered a supporter of the Leader of the Opposi-hon. He was also informed that the hon. Member for Athlone received the missives of the right hon. Gentleman's "whips," and he should now have asked the hon. Member for Athlone a Question of which he had given him Notice, only that he did not see the hon. Member in the House—namely, whether the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, that the hon. Member was no supporter of the Leader of the Opposition, was correct.