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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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bound by the most solemn obligations to consider whether he can
do anything to improve the condition of that large portion of his
subjects. If we watch over our factory children, and he watches
over his peasants, much good may be done. But would any good be
done if the Emperor of Russia and the British Parliament were to
interchange functions; if he were to take under his patronage the
weavers of Lancashire, if we were to take under our patronage the
peasants of the Volga; if he were to say, "You shall send no
cotton to Russia till you pass a ten Hours' Bill;" if we were to
say, "You shall send no hemp or tallow to England till you
emancipate your serfs?"

On these principles, Sir, which seem to me to be the principles
of plain common sense, I can, without resorting to any
casuistical subtilties, vindicate to my own conscience, and, I
hope, to my country, the whole course which I have pursued with
respect to slavery. When I first came into Parliament, slavery
still existed in the British dominions. I had, as it was natural
that I should have, a strong feeling on the subject. I exerted
myself, according to my station and to the measure of my
abilities, on the side of the oppressed. I shrank from no
personal sacrifice in that cause. I do not mention this as
matter of boast. It was no more than my duty. The right
honourable gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Home
Department, knows that, in 1833, I disapproved of one part of the
measure which Lord Grey's Government proposed on the subject of
slavery. I was in office; and office was then as important to me
as it could be to any man. I put my resignation into the hands
of Lord Spencer, and both spoke and voted against the
Administration. To my surprise, Lord Grey and Lord Spencer
refused to accept my resignation, and I remained in office; but
during some days I considered myself as out of the service of the
Crown. I at the same time heartily joined in laying a heavy
burden on the country for the purpose of compensating the
planters. I acted thus, because, being a British Legislator, I
thought myself bound, at any cost to myself and to my
constituents, to remove a foul stain from the British laws, and
to redress the wrongs endured by persons who, as British
subjects, were placed under my guardianship. But my especial
obligations in respect of negro slavery ceased when slavery
itself ceased in that part of the world for the welfare of which
I, as a member of this House, was accountable. As for the blacks
in the United States, I feel for them, God knows. But I am not
their keeper. I do not stand in the same relation to the slaves
of Louisiana and Alabama in which I formerly stood to the slaves
of Demerara and Jamaica. I am bound, on the other hand, by the
most solemn obligations, to promote the interests of millions of
my own countrymen, who are indeed by no means in a state so
miserable and degraded as that of the slaves in the United
States, but who are toiling hard from sunrise to sunset in order
to obtain a scanty subsistence; who are often scarcely able to
procure the necessaries of life; and whose lot would be
alleviated if I could open new markets to them, and free them
from taxes which now press heavily on their industry. I see
clearly that, by excluding the produce of slave labour from our
ports, I should inflict great evil on my fellow-subjects and
constituents. But the good which, by taking such a course, I
should do to the negroes in the United States seems to me very
problematical. That by admitting slave grown cotton and slave
grown sugar we do, in some sense, encourage slavery and the Slave
Trade, may be true. But I doubt whether, by turning our fiscal
code into a penal code for restraining the cruelty of the
American planters, we should not, on the whole, injure the
negroes rather than benefit them. No independent nation will
endure to be told by another nation, "We are more virtuous than
you; we have sate in judgment on your institutions; we find them
to be bad; and, as a punishment for your offences, we condemn you
to pay higher duties at our Custom House than we demand from the
rest of the world." Such language naturally excites the
resentment of foreigners. I can make allowance for their
susceptibility. For I myself sympathise with them, I know that
Ireland has been misgoverned; and I have done, and purpose to do,
my best to redress her grievances. But when I take up a New York
journal, and read there the rants of President Tyler's son, I
feel so much disgusted by such insolent absurdity that I am for a
moment inclined to deny that Ireland has any reason whatever to
complain. It seems to me that if ever slavery is peaceably
extinguished in the United States, that great and happy change
must be brought about by the efforts of those enlightened and
respectable American citizens who hate slavery as much as we hate
it. Now I cannot help fearing that, if the British Parliament
were to proclaim itself the protector and avenger of the American
slave, the pride of those excellent persons would take the alarm.
It might become a point of national honour with them to stand by
an institution which they have hitherto regarded as a national
disgrace. We should thus confer no benefit on the negro; and we
should at the same time inflict cruel suffering on our own

On these grounds, Sir, I can, with a clear conscience, vote for
the right honourable Baronet's propositions respecting the cotton
and sugar of the United States. But on exactly the same grounds
I can, with a clear conscience, vote for the amendment of my
noble friend. And I confess that I shall be much surprised if
the right honourable Baronet shall be able to point out any
distinction between the cases.

I have detained you too long, Sir; yet there is one point to
which I must refer; I mean the refining. Was such a distinction
ever heard of? Is there anything like it in all Pascal's
Dialogues with the old Jesuit? Not for the world are we to eat
one ounce of Brazilian sugar. But we import the accursed thing;
we bond it; we employ our skill and machinery to render it more
alluring to the eye and to the palate; we export it to Leghorn
and Hamburg; we send it to all the coffee houses of Italy and
Germany: we pocket a profit on all this; and then we put on a
Pharisaical air, and thank God that we are not like those wicked
Italians and Germans who have no scruple about swallowing slave
grown sugar. Surely this sophistry is worthy only of the worst
class of false witnesses. "I perjure myself! Not for the world.
I only kissed my thumb; I did not put my lips to the calf-skin."
I remember something very like the right honourable Baronet's
morality in a Spanish novel which I read long ago. I beg pardon
of the House for detaining them with such a trifle; but the story
is much to the purpose. A wandering lad, a sort of Gil Blas, is
taken into the service of a rich old silversmith, a most pious
man, who is always telling his beads, who hears mass daily, and
observes the feasts and fasts of the church with the utmost
scrupulosity. The silversmith is always preaching honesty and
piety. "Never," he constantly repeats to his young assistant,
"never touch what is not your own; never take liberties with
sacred things." Sacrilege, as uniting theft with profaneness, is
the sin of which he has the deepest horror. One day, while he is
lecturing after his usual fashion, an ill-looking fellow comes
into the shop with a sack under his arm. "Will you buy these?"
says the visitor, and produces from the sack some church plate
and a rich silver crucifix. "Buy them!" cries the pious man.
"No, nor touch them; not for the world. I know where you got
them. Wretch that you are, have you no care for your soul?"
"Well then," says the thief, "if you will not buy them, will you
melt them down for me?" "Melt them down!" answers the silver
smith, "that is quite another matter." He takes the chalices and
the crucifix with a pair of tongs; the silver, thus in bond, is
dropped into the crucible, melted, and delivered to the thief,
who lays down five pistoles and decamps with his booty. The
young servant stares at this strange scene. But the master very
gravely resumes his lecture. "My son," he says, "take warning by
that sacrilegious knave, and take example by me. Think what a
load of guilt lies on his conscience. You will see him hanged
before long. But as to me, you saw that I would not touch the
stolen property. I keep these tongs for such occasions. And
thus I thrive in the fear of God, and manage to turn an honest
penny." You talk of morality. What can be more immoral than to
bring ridicule on the very name of morality, by drawing
distinctions where there are no differences? Is it not enough
that this dishonest casuistry has already poisoned our theology?
Is it not enough that a set of quibbles has been devised, under
cover of which a divine may hold the worst doctrines of the
Church of Rome, and may hold with them the best benefice of the
Church of England? Let us at least keep the debates of this
House free from the sophistry of Tract Number Ninety.

And then the right honourable gentleman, the late President of
the Board of Trade, wonders that other nations consider our
abhorrence of slavery and the Slave Trade as sheer hypocrisy.
Why, Sir, how should it be otherwise? And, if the imputation
annoys us, whom have we to thank for it? Numerous and malevolent
as our detractors are, none of them was ever so absurd as to
charge us with hypocrisy because we took slave grown tobacco and
slave grown cotton, till the Government began to affect scruples
about admitting slave grown sugar. Of course, as soon as our
Ministers ostentatiously announced to all the world that our
fiscal system was framed on a new and sublime moral principle,
everybody began to inquire whether we consistently adhered to
that principle. It required much less acuteness and much less
malevolence than that of our neighbours to discover that this
hatred of slave grown produce was mere grimace. They see that we
not only take tobacco produced by means of slavery and of the
Slave Trade, but that we positively interdict freemen in this
country from growing tobacco. They see that we not only take
cotton produced by means of slavery and of the Slave Trade, but
that we are about to exempt this cotton from all duty. They see
that we are at this moment reducing the duty on the slave grown
sugar of Louisiana. How can we expect them to believe that it is
from a sense of justice and humanity that we lay a prohibitory
duty on the sugar of Brazil? I care little for the abuse which
any foreign press or any foreign tribune may throw on the
Machiavelian policy of perfidious Albion. What gives me pain is,
not that the charge of hypocrisy is made, but that I am unable to
see how it is to be refuted.

Yet one word more. The right honourable gentleman, the late
President of the Board of Trade, has quoted the opinions of two
persons, highly distinguished by the exertions which they made
for the abolition of slavery, my lamented friend, Sir Thomas
Fowell Buxton, and Sir Stephen Lushington. It is most true that
those eminent persons did approve of the principle laid down by
the right honourable Baronet opposite in 1841. I think that they
were in error; but in their error I am sure that they were
sincere, and I firmly believe that they would have been
consistent. They would have objected, no doubt, to my noble
friend's amendment; but they would have objected equally to the
right honourable Baronet's budget. It was not prudent, I think,
in gentlemen opposite to allude to those respectable names. The
mention of those names irresistibly carries the mind back to the
days of the great struggle for negro freedom. And it is but
natural that we should ask where, during that struggle, were
those who now profess such loathing for slave grown sugar? The
three persons who are chiefly responsible for the financial and
commercial policy of the present Government I take to be the
right honourable Baronet at the head of the Treasury, the right
honourable gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the
right honourable gentleman the late President of the Board of
Trade. Is there anything in the past conduct of any one of the
three which can lead me to believe that his sensibility to the
evils of slavery is greater than mine? I am sure that the right
honourable Baronet the first Lord of the Treasury would think
that I was speaking ironically if I were to compliment him on his
zeal for the liberty of the negro race. Never once, during the
whole of the long and obstinate conflict which ended in the
abolition of slavery in our colonies, did he give one word, one
sign of encouragement to those who suffered and laboured for the
good cause. The whole weight of his great abilities and
influence was in the other scale. I well remember that, so late
as 1833, he declared in this House that he could give his assent
neither to the plan of immediate emancipation proposed by my
noble friend who now represents Sunderland (Lord Howick.), nor to
the plan of gradual emancipation proposed by Lord Grey's
government. I well remember that he said, "I shall claim no
credit hereafter on account of this bill; all that I desire is to
be absolved from the responsibility." As to the other two right
honourable gentlemen whom I have mentioned, they are West
Indians; and their conduct was that of West Indians. I do not
wish to give them pain, or to throw any disgraceful imputation on
them. Personally I regard them with feelings of goodwill and
respect. I do not question their sincerity; but I know that the
most honest men are but too prone to deceive themselves into the
belief that the path towards which they are impelled by their own
interests and passions is the path of duty. I am conscious that
this might be my own case; and I believe it to be theirs. As the
right honourable gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has
left the House, I will only say that, with respect to the
question of slavery, he acted after the fashion of the class to
which he belonged. But as the right honourable gentleman, the
late President of the Board of Trade, is in his place, he must
allow me to bring to his recollection the part which he took in
the debates of 1833. He then said, "You raise a great clamour
about the cultivation of sugar. You say that it is a species of
industry fatal to the health and life of the slave. I do not
deny that there is some difference between the labour of a sugar
plantation and the labour of a cotton plantation, or a coffee
plantation. But the difference is not so great as you think. In
marshy soils, the slaves who cultivate the sugar cane suffer
severely. But in Barbadoes, where the air is good, they thrive
and multiply." He proceeded to say that, even at the worst, the
labour of a sugar plantation was not more unhealthy than some
kinds of labour in which the manufacturers of England are
employed, and which nobody thinks of prohibiting. He
particularly mentioned grinding. "See how grinding destroys the
health, the sight, the life. Yet there is no outcry against
grinding." He went on to say that the whole question ought to be
left by Parliament to the West Indian Legislature. [Mr
Gladstone: "Really I never said so. You are not quoting me at
all correctly."] What, not about the sugar cultivation and the
grinding? [Mr Gladstone: "That is correct; but I never
recommended that the question should be left to the West Indian
Legislatures."] I have quoted correctly. But since my right
honourable friend disclaims the sentiment imputed to him by the
reporters, I shall say no more about it. I have no doubt that he
is quite right, and that what he said was misunderstood. What is
undisputed is amply sufficient for my purpose. I see that the
persons who now show so much zeal against slavery in foreign
countries, are the same persons who formerly countenanced slavery
in the British Colonies. I remember a time when they maintained
that we were bound in justice to protect slave grown sugar
against the competition of free grown sugar, and even of British
free grown sugar. I now hear them calling on us to protect free
grown sugar against the competition of slave grown sugar. I
remember a time when they extenuated as much as they could the
evils of the sugar cultivation. I now hear them exaggerating
those evils. But, devious as their course has been, there is one
clue by which I can easily track them through the whole maze.
Inconstant in everything else, they are constant in demanding
protection for the West Indian planter. While he employs slaves,
they do their best to apologise for the evils of slavery. As
soon as he is forced to employ freemen, they begin to cry up the
blessings of freedom. They go round the whole compass, and yet
to one point they steadfastly adhere: and that point is the
interest of the West Indian proprietors. I have done, Sir; and I
thank the House most sincerely for the patience and indulgence
with which I have been heard. I hope that I have at least
vindicated my own consistency. How Her Majesty's Ministers will
vindicate their consistency, how they will show that their
conduct has at all times been guided by the same principles, or
even that their conduct at the present time is guided by any
fixed principle at all, I am unable to conjecture.


MAYNOOTH. (APRIL 14, 1845)


On Saturday the eleventh of April, 1845, Sir Robert Peel moved
the second reading of the Maynooth College Bill. After a debate
of six nights the motion was carried by 323 votes to 176. On the
second night the following Speech was made.

I do not mean, Sir, to follow the honourable gentleman who has
just sate down into a discussion on an amendment which is not now
before us. When my honourable friend the Member for Sheffield
shall think it expedient to make a motion on that important
subject to which he has repeatedly called the attention of the
House, I may, perhaps, ask to be heard. At present I shall
content myself with explaining the reasons which convince me that
it is my duty to vote for the second reading of this bill; and I
cannot, I think, better explain those reasons than by passing in
review, as rapidly as I can, the chief objections which have been
made to the bill here and elsewhere.

The objectors, Sir, may be divided into three classes. The first
class consists of those persons who object, not to the principle
of the grant to Maynooth College, but merely to the amount. The
second class consists of persons who object on principle to all
grants made to a church which they regard as corrupt. The third
class consists of persons who object on principle to all grants
made to churches, whether corrupt or pure.

Now, Sir, of those three classes the first is evidently that
which takes the most untenable ground. How any person can think
that Maynooth College ought to be supported by public money, and
yet can think this bill too bad to be suffered to go into
Committee, I do not well understand. I am forced however to
believe that there are many such persons. For I cannot but
remember that the old annual vote attracted scarcely any notice;
and I see that this bill has produced violent excitement. I
cannot but remember that the old annual vote used to pass with
very few dissentients; and I see that great numbers of gentlemen,
who never were among those dissentients, have crowded down to the
House in order to divide against this bill. It is indeed certain
that a large proportion, I believe a majority, of those members
who cannot, as they assure us, conscientiously support the plan
proposed by the right honourable Baronet at the head of the
Government, would without the smallest scruple have supported him
if he had in this, as in former years, asked us to give nine
thousand pounds for twelve months. So it is: yet I cannot help
wondering that it should be so. For how can any human ingenuity
turn a question between nine thousand pounds and twenty-six
thousand pounds, or between twelve months and an indefinite
number of months, into a question of principle? Observe: I am
not now answering those who maintain that nothing ought to be
given out of the public purse to a corrupt church; nor am I now
answering those who maintain that nothing ought to be given out
of the public purse to any church whatever. They, I admit,
oppose this bill on principle. I perfectly understand, though I
do not myself hold, the opinion of the zealous voluntary who
says, "Whether the Roman Catholic Church teaches truth or error,
she ought to have no assistance from the State." I also
perfectly understand, though I do not myself hold, the opinion of
the zealous Protestant who says, "The Roman Catholic Church
teaches error, and therefore ought to have no assistance from the
State." But I cannot understand the reasoning of the man who
says, "In spite of the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, I
think that she ought to have some assistance from the State; but
I am bound to mark my abhorrence of her errors by doling out to
her a miserable pittance. Her tenets are so absurd and noxious
that I will pay the professor who teaches them wages less than I
should offer to my groom. Her rites are so superstitious that I
will take care that they shall be performed in a chapel with a
leaky roof and a dirty floor. By all means let us keep her a
college, provided only that it be a shabby one. Let us support
those who are intended to teach her doctrines and to administer
her sacraments to the next generation, provided only that every
future priest shall cost us less than a foot soldier. Let us
board her young theologians; but let their larder be so scantily
supplied that they may be compelled to break up before the
regular vacation from mere want of food. Let us lodge them; but
let their lodging be one in which they may be packed like pigs in
a stye, and be punished for their heterodoxy by feeling the snow
and the wind through the broken panes." Is it possible to
conceive anything more absurd or more disgraceful? Can anything
be clearer than this, that whatever it is lawful to do it is
lawful to do well? If it be right that we should keep up this
college at all, it must be right that we should keep it up
respectably. Our national dignity is concerned. For this
institution, whether good or bad, is, beyond all dispute, a very
important institution. Its office is to form the character of
those who are to form the character of millions. Whether we
ought to extend any patronage to such an institution is a
question about which wise and honest men may differ. But that,
as we do extend our patronage to such an institution, our
patronage ought to be worthy of the object, and worthy of the
greatness of our country, is a proposition from which I am
astonished to hear any person dissent.

It is, I must say, with a peculiarly bad grace that one of the
members for the University to which I have the honour to belong
(The Honourable Charles Law, Member for the University of
Cambridge.), a gentleman who never thought himself bound to say a
word or to give a vote against the grant of nine thousand pounds,
now vehemently opposes the grant of twenty-six thousand pounds as
exorbitant. When I consider how munificently the colleges of
Cambridge and Oxford are endowed, and with what pomp religion and
learning are there surrounded; when I call to mind the long
streets of palaces, the towers and oriels, the venerable
cloisters, the trim gardens, the organs, the altar pieces, the
solemn light of the stained windows, the libraries, the museums,
the galleries of painting and sculpture; when I call to mind also
the physical comforts which are provided both for instructors and
for pupils; when I reflect that the very sizars and servitors are
far better lodged and fed than those students who are to be, a
few years hence, the priests and bishops of the Irish people;
when I think of the spacious and stately mansions of the heads of
houses, of the commodious chambers of the fellows and scholars,
of the refectories, the combination rooms, the bowling greens,
the stabling, of the state and luxury of the great feast days, of
the piles of old plate on the tables, of the savoury steam of the
kitchens, of the multitudes of geese and capons which turn at
once on the spits, of the oceans of excellent ale in the
butteries; and when I remember from whom all this splendour and
plenty is derived; when I remember what was the faith of Edward
the Third and of Henry the Sixth, of Margaret of Anjou and
Margaret of Richmond, of William of Wykeham and William of
Waynefleet, of Archbishop Chicheley and Cardinal Wolsey; when I
remember what we have taken from the Roman Catholics, King's
College, New College, Christ Church, my own Trinity; and when I
look at the miserable Dotheboys Hall which we have given them in
exchange, I feel, I must own, less proud than I could wish of
being a Protestant and a Cambridge man.

Some gentlemen, it is true, have made an attempt to show that
there is a distinction of principle between the old grant which
they have always supported and the larger grant which they are
determined to oppose. But never was attempt more unsuccessful.
They say that, at the time of the Union, we entered into an
implied contract with Ireland to keep up this college. We are
therefore, they argue, bound by public faith to continue the old
grant; but we are not bound to make any addition to that grant.
Now, Sir, on this point, though on no other, I do most cordially
agree with those petitioners who have, on this occasion, covered
your table with such huge bales of spoiled paper and parchment.
I deny the existence of any such contract. I think myself
perfectly free to vote for the abolition of this college, if I am
satisfied that it is a pernicious institution; as free as I am to
vote against any item of the ordnance estimates; as free as I am
to vote for a reduction of the number of marines. It is strange,
too, that those who appeal to this imaginary contract should not
perceive that, even if their fiction be admitted as true, it will
by no means get them out of their difficulty. Tell us plainly
what are the precise terms of the contract which you suppose
Great Britain to have made with Ireland about this college.
Whatever the terms be, they will not serve your purpose. Was the
contract this, that the Imperial Parliament would do for the
college what the Irish Parliament had been used to do? Or was
the contract this, that the Imperial Parliament would keep the
college in a respectable and efficient state? If the former was
the contract, nine thousand pounds would be too much. If the
latter was the contract, you will not, I am confident, be able to
prove that twenty-six thousand pounds is too little.

I have now, I think, said quite as much as need be said in answer
to those who maintain that we ought to give support to this
college, but that the support ought to be niggardly and
precarious. I now come to another and a much more formidable
class of objectors. Their objections may be simply stated thus.
No man can justifiably, either as an individual or as a trustee
for the public, contribute to the dissemination of religious
error. But the church of Rome teaches religious error.
Therefore we cannot justifiably contribute to the support of an
institution of which the object is the dissemination of the
doctrines of the Church of Rome. Now, Sir, I deny the major of
this syllogism. I think that there are occasions on which we are
bound to contribute to the dissemination of doctrines with which
errors are inseparably intermingled. Let me be clearly
understood. The question is not whether we should teach truth or
teach error, but whether we should teach truth adulterated with
error, or teach no truth at all. The constitution of the human
mind is such that it is impossible to provide any machinery for
the dissemination of truth which shall not, with the truth,
disseminate some error. Even those rays which come down to us
from the great source of light, pure as they are in themselves,
no sooner enter that gross and dark atmosphere in which we dwell
than the they are so much refracted, discoloured, and obscured,
that they too often lead us astray. It will be generally
admitted that, if religious truth can be anywhere found untainted
by error, it is in the Scriptures. Yet is there actually on the
face of the globe a single copy of the Scriptures of which it can
be said that it contains truth absolutely untainted with error?
Is there any manuscript, any edition of the Old or New Testament
in the original tongues, which any scholar will pronounce
faultless? But to the vast majority of Christians the original
tongues are and always must be unintelligible. With the
exception of perhaps one man in ten thousand, we must be content
with translations. And is there any translation in which there
are not numerous mistakes? Are there not numerous mistakes even
in our own authorised version, executed as that version was with
painful diligence and care, by very able men, and under very
splendid patronage? Of course mistakes must be still more
numerous in those translations which pious men have lately made
into Bengalee, Hindostanee, Tamul, Canarese, and other Oriental
tongues. I admire the zeal, the industry, the energy of those
who, in spite of difficulties which to ordinary minds would seem
insurmountable, accomplished that arduous work. I applaud those
benevolent societies which munificently encouraged that work.
But I have been assured by good judges that the translations have
many faults. And how should it have been otherwise? How should
an Englishman produce a faultless translation from the Hebrew
into the Cingalese? I say, therefore, that even the Scriptures,
in every form in which men actually possess them, contain a
certain portion of error. And, if this be so, how can you look
for pure undefecated truth in any other composition? You
contribute, without any scruple, to the printing of religious
tracts, to the establishing of Sunday Schools, to the sending
forth of missionaries. But are your tracts perfect? Are your
schoolmasters infallible? Are your missionaries inspired? Look
at the two churches which are established in this island. Will
you say that they both teach truth without any mixture of error?
That is impossible. For they teach different doctrines on more
than one important subject. It is plain therefore, that if, as
you tell us, it be a sin in a state to patronise an institution
which teaches religious error, either the Church of England or
the Church of Scotland ought to be abolished. But will anybody
even venture to affirm that either of those churches teaches
truth without any mixture of error? Have there not long been in
the Church of Scotland two very different schools of theology?
During many years, Dr Robertson, the head of the moderate party,
and Dr Erskine, the head of the Calvinistic party, preached under
the same roof, one in the morning, the other in the evening.
They preached two different religions, so different that the
followers of Robertson thought the followers of Erskine fanatics,
and the followers of Erskine thought the followers of Robertson
Arians or worse. And is there no mixture of error in the
doctrine taught by the clergy of the Church of England? Is not
the whole country at this moment convulsed by disputes as to what
the doctrine of the Church on some important subjects really is?
I shall not take on myself to say who is right and who is wrong.
But this I say with confidence, that, whether the Tractarians or
the Evangelicals be in the right, many hundreds of those divines
who every Sunday occupy the pulpits of our parish churches must
be very much in the wrong.

Now, Sir, I see that many highly respectable persons, who think
it a sin to contribute to the teaching of error at Maynooth
College, think it not merely lawful, but a sacred duty, to
contribute to the teaching of error in the other cases which I
have mentioned. They know that our version of the Bible contains
some error. Yet they subscribe to the Bible Society. They know
that the Serampore translations contain a still greater quantity
of error. Yet they give largely towards the printing and
circulating of those translations. My honourable friend the
Member for the University of Oxford will not deny that there is
among the clergy of the Church of England a Puritan party, and
also an Anti-puritan party, and that one of these parties must
teach some error. Yet he is constantly urging us to grant to
this Church an additional endowment of I know not how many
hundreds of thousands of pounds. He would doubtless defend
himself by saying that nothing on earth is perfect; that the
purest religious society must consist of human beings, and must
have those defects which arise from human infirmities; and that
the truths held by the established clergy, though not altogether
unalloyed with error, are so precious, that it is better that
they should be imparted to the people with the alloy than that
they should not be imparted at all. Just so say I. I am sorry
that we cannot teach pure truth to the Irish people. But I think
it better that they should have important and salutary truth,
polluted by some error, than that they should remain altogether
uninstructed. I heartily wish that they were Protestants. But I
had rather that they should be Roman Catholics than that they
should have no religion at all. Would you, says one gentleman,
teach the people to worship Jugernaut or Kalee? Certainly not.
My argument leads to no such conclusion. The worship of
Jugernaut and Kalee is a curse to mankind. It is much better
that people should be without any religion than that they should
believe in a religion which enjoins prostitution, suicide,
robbery, assassination. But will any Protestant deny that it is
better that the Irish should be Roman Catholics than that they
should live and die like the beasts of the field, indulge their
appetites without any religious restraint, suffer want and
calamity without any religious consolation, and go to their
graves without any religious hope? These considerations entirely
satisfy my mind. Of course I would not propagate error for its
own sake. To do so would be not merely wicked, but diabolical.
But, in order that I may be able to propagate truth, I consent to
propagate that portion of error which adheres to truth, and which
cannot be separated from truth. I wish Christianity to have a
great influence on the peasantry of Ireland. I see no
probability that Christianity will have that influence except in
one form. That form I consider as very corrupt. Nevertheless,
the good seems to me greatly to predominate over the evil; and
therefore, being unable to get the good alone, I am content to
take the good and the evil together.

I now come to the third class of our opponents. I mean those who
take their stand on the voluntary principle. I will not, on this
occasion, inquire whether they are right in thinking that
governments ought not to contribute to the support of any
religion, true or false. For it seems to me that, even if I were
to admit that the general rule is correctly laid down by them,
the present case would be an exception to that rule. The
question on which I am about to vote is not whether the State
shall or shall not give any support to religion in Ireland. The
State does give such support, and will continue to give such
support, whatever may be the issue of this debate. The only
point which we have now to decide is whether, while such support
is given, it shall be given exclusively to the religion of the
minority. Here is an island with a population of near eight
millions, and with a wealthy established church, the members of
which are little more than eight hundred thousand. There is an
archbishop with ten thousand a year. If I recollect rightly,
seventy thousand pounds are divided among twelve prelates. At
the same time the Protestant dissenters in the north of Ireland
receive, in another form, support from the State. But the great
majority of the population, the poorest part of the population,
the part of the population which is most in need of assistance,
the part of the population which holds that faith for the
propagation of which the tithes were originally set apart, and
the church lands originally given, is left to maintain its own
priests. Now is not this a case which stands quite by itself?
And may not even those who hold the general proposition, that
every man ought to pay his own spiritual pastor, yet vote,
without any inconsistency, for this bill? I was astonished to
hear the honourable Member for Shrewsbury (Mr Disraeli.) tell us
that, if we make this grant, it will be impossible for us to
resist the claims of any dissenting sect. He particularly
mentioned the Wesleyan Methodists. Are the cases analogous? Is
there the slightest resemblance between them? Let the honourable
gentleman show me that of the sixteen millions of people who
inhabit England thirteen millions are Wesleyan Methodists. Let
him show me that the members of the Established Church in England
are only one tenth of the population. Let him show me that
English dissenters who are not Wesleyan Methodists receive a
Regium Donum. Let him show me that immense estates bequeathed to
John Wesley for the propagation of Methodism have, by Act of
Parliament, been taken from the Methodists and given to the
Church. If he can show me this, I promise him that, whenever the
Wesleyan Methodists shall ask for twenty-six thousand pounds a
year to educate their ministers, I shall be prepared to grant
their request. But neither the case of the Methodists nor any
other case which can be mentioned, resembles the case with which
we have to do. Look round Europe, round the world, for a
parallel; and you will look in vain. Indeed the state of things
which exists in Ireland never could have existed had not Ireland
been closely connected with a country, which possessed a great
superiority of power, and which abused that superiority. The
burden which we are now, I hope, about to lay on ourselves is but
a small penalty for a great injustice. Were I a staunch
voluntary, I should still feel that, while the church of eight
hundred thousand people retains its great endowments, I should
not be justified in refusing this small boon to the church of
eight millions.

To sum up shortly what I have said; it is clear to me in the
first place that, if we have no religious scruple about granting
to this College nine thousand pounds for one year, we ought to
have no religious scruple about granting twenty-six thousand
pounds a year for an indefinite term.

Secondly, it seems to me that those persons who tell us that we
ought never in any circumstances to contribute to the propagation
of error do in fact lay down a rule which would altogether
interdict the propagation of truth.

Thirdly, it seems to me that, even on the hypothesis that the
voluntary principle is the sound principle, the present case is
an excepted case, to which it would be unjust and unwise to apply
that principle.

So much, Sir, as to this bill; and now let me add a few words
about those by whom it has been framed and introduced. We were
exhorted, on the first night of this debate, to vote against the
bill, without inquiring into its merits, on the ground that, good
or bad, it was proposed by men who could not honestly and
honourably propose it. A similar appeal has been made to us this
evening. In these circumstances, Sir, I must, not I hope from
party spirit, not, I am sure, from personal animosity, but from a
regard for the public interest, which must be injuriously
affected by everything which tends to lower the character of
public men, say plainly what I think of the conduct of Her
Majesty's Ministers. Undoubtedly it is of the highest importance
that we should legislate well. But it is also of the highest
importance that those who govern us should have, and should be
known to have, fixed principles, and should be guided by those
principles both in office and in opposition. It is of the
highest importance that the world should not be under the
impression that a statesman is a person who, when he is out, will
profess and promise anything in order to get in, and who, when he
is in, will forget all that he professed and promised when he was
out. I need not, I suppose, waste time in proving that a law may
be in itself an exceedingly good law, and yet that it may be a
law which, when viewed in connection with the former conduct of
those who proposed it, may prove them to be undeserving of the
confidence of their country. When this is the case, our course
is clear. We ought to distinguish between the law and its
authors. The law we ought, on account of its intrinsic merits,
to support. Of the authors of the law, it may be our duty to
speak in terms of censure.

In such terms I feel it to be my duty to speak of Her Majesty's
present advisers. I have no personal hostility to any of them;
and that political hostility which I do not disavow has never
prevented me from doing justice to their abilities and virtues.
I have always admitted, and I now most willingly admit, that the
right honourable Baronet at the head of the Government possesses
many of the qualities of an excellent minister, eminent talents
for debate, eminent talents for business, great experience, great
information, great skill in the management of this House. I will
go further, and say that I give him full credit for a sincere
desire to promote the welfare of his country. Nevertheless, it
is impossible for me to deny that there is too much ground for
the reproaches of those who, having, in spite of a bitter
experience, a second time trusted him, now find themselves a
second time deluded. I cannot but see that it has been too much
his practice, when in opposition, to make use of passions with
which he has not the slightest sympathy, and of prejudices which
he regards with profound contempt. As soon as he is in power a
change takes place. The instruments which have done his work are
flung aside. The ladder by which he has climbed is kicked down.
I am forced to say that the right honourable Baronet acts thus
habitually and on system. The instance before us is not a
solitary instance. I do not wish to dwell on the events which
took place seventeen or eighteen years ago, on the language which
the right honourable Baronet held about the Catholic question
when he was out of power in 1827, and on the change which twelve
months of power produced. I will only say that one such change
was quite enough for one life. Again the right honourable
Baronet was in opposition; and again he employed his old tactics.
I will not minutely relate the history of the manoeuvres by which
the Whig Government was overthrown. It is enough to say that
many powerful interests were united against that Government under
the leading of the right honourable Baronet, and that of those
interests there is not one which is not now disappointed and
complaining. To confine my remarks to the subject immediately
before us--can any man deny that, of all the many cries which
were raised against the late administration, that which most
strongly stirred the public mind was the cry of No Popery? Is
there a single gentleman in the House who doubts that, if, four
years ago, my noble friend the Member for the City of London had
proposed this bill, he would have been withstood by every member
of the present Cabinet? Four years ago, Sir, we were discussing
a very different bill. The party which was then in opposition,
and which is now in place, was attempting to force through
Parliament a law, which bore indeed a specious name, but of which
the effect would have been to disfranchise the Roman Catholic
electors of Ireland by tens of thousands. It was in vain that we
argued, that we protested, that we asked for the delay of a
single session, for delay till an inquiry could be made, for
delay till a Committee should report. We were told that the case
was one of extreme urgency, that every hour was precious, that
the House must, without loss of time, be purged of the minions of
Popery. These arts succeeded. A change of administration took
place. The right honourable Baronet came into power. He has now
been near four years in power. He has had a Parliament which
would, beyond all doubt, have passed eagerly and gladly that
Registration Bill which he and his colleagues had pretended that
they thought indispensable to the welfare of the State. And
where is that bill now? Flung away; condemned by its own
authors; pronounced by them to be so oppressive, so inconsistent
with all the principles of representative government, that,
though they had vehemently supported it when they were on your
left hand, they could not think of proposing it from the Treasury
Bench. And what substitute does the honourable Baronet give his
followers to console them for the loss of their favourite
Registration Bill? Even this bill for the endowment of Maynooth
College. Was such a feat of legerdemain ever seen? And can we
wonder that the eager, honest, hotheaded Protestants, who raised
you to power in the confident hope that you would curtail the
privileges of the Roman Catholics, should stare and grumble when
you propose to give public money to the Roman Catholics? Can we
wonder that, from one end of the country to the other, everything
should be ferment and uproar, that petitions should, night after
night, whiten all our benches like a snowstorm? Can we wonder
that the people out of doors should be exasperated by seeing the
very men who, when we were in office, voted against the old grant
to Maynooth, now pushed and pulled into the House by your
whippers-in to vote for an increased grant? The natural
consequences follow. All those fierce spirits, whom you hallooed
on to harass us, now turn round and begin to worry you. The
Orangeman raises his war-whoop: Exeter Hall sets up its bray:
Mr Macneile shudders to see more costly cheer than ever provided
for the priests of Baal at the table of the Queen; and the
Protestant operatives of Dublin call for impeachments in
exceedingly bad English. But what did you expect? Did you
think, when, to serve your turn, you called the Devil up, that it
was as easy to lay him as to raise him? Did you think, when you
went on, session after session, thwarting and reviling those whom
you knew to be in the right, and flattering all the worst
passions of those whom you knew to be in the wrong, that the day
of reckoning would never come? It has come. There you sit,
doing penance for the disingenuousness of years. If it be not
so, stand up manfully and clear your fame before the House and
the country. Show us that some steady principle has guided your
conduct with respect to Irish affairs. Show us how, if you are
honest in 1845, you can have been honest in 1841. Explain to us
why, after having goaded Ireland to madness for the purpose of
ingratiating yourselves with the English, you are now setting
England on fire for the purpose of ingratiating yourselves with
the Irish. Give us some reason which shall prove that the policy
which you are following, as Ministers, is entitled to support,
and which shall not equally prove you to have been the most
factious and unprincipled opposition that ever this country saw.

But, Sir, am I, because I think thus of the conduct of Her
Majesty's Ministers, to take the counsel of the honourable member
for Shrewsbury and to vote against their bill? Not so. I know
well that the fate of this bill and the fate of the
administration are in our hands. But far be it from us to
imitate the arts by which we were overthrown. The spectacle
exhibited on the bench opposite will do quite mischief enough.
That mischief will not be lessened, but doubled, if there should
be an answering display of inconsistency on this side of the
House. If this bill, having been introduced by Tories, shall be
rejected by Whigs, both the great parties in the State will be
alike discredited. There will be one vast shipwreck of all the
public character in the country. Therefore, making up my mind to
sacrifices which are not unattended with pain, and repressing
some feelings which stir strongly within me, I have determined to
give my strenuous support to this bill. Yes, Sir, to this bill,
and to every bill which shall seem to me likely to promote the
real Union of Great Britain and Ireland, I will give my support,
regardless of obloquy, regardless of the risk which I may run of
losing my seat in Parliament. For such obloquy I have learned to
consider as true glory; and as to my seat I am determined that it
never shall be held by an ignominious tenure; and I am sure that
it can never be lost in a more honourable cause.




On the twenty-third of April 1845, the order of the day for going
into Committee on the Maynooth College Bill was read. On the
motion that the Speaker should leave the chair, Mr Ward, Member
for Sheffield, proposed the following amendment:--

"That it is the opinion of this House that any provision to be
made for the purposes of the present Bill ought to be taken from
the funds already applicable to ecclesiastical purposes in

After a debate of two nights the amendment was rejected by 322
votes to 148. On the first night the following Speech was made.

I was desirous, Sir, to catch your eye this evening, because it
happens that I have never yet found an opportunity of fully
explaining my views on the important subject of the Irish Church.
Indeed, I was not in this country when that subject for a time
threw every other into the shade, disturbed the whole political
world, produced a schism in the Administration of Lord Grey, and
overthrew the short Administration of the right honourable
Baronet opposite. The motion now before us opens, I conceive,
the whole question. My honourable friend the Member for
Sheffield, indeed, asks us only to transfer twenty-six thousand
pounds a year from the Established Church of Ireland to the
College of Maynooth. But this motion, I think, resembles an
action of ejectment brought for a single farm, with the view of
trying the title to a large estate. Whoever refuses to assent to
what is now proposed must be considered as holding the opinion
that the property of the Irish Church ought to be held inviolate:
and I can scarcely think that any person will vote for what is
now proposed, who is not prepared to go very much farther. The
point at issue, I take, therefore, to be this; whether the Irish
Church, as now constituted, shall be maintained or not?

Now, Sir, when a legislator is called up to decide whether an
institution shall be maintained or not, it seems to me that he
ought in the first place to examine whether it be a good or a bad
institution. This may sound like a truism; but if I am to judge
by the speeches which, on this and former occasions, have been
made by gentlemen opposite, it is no truism, but an exceedingly
recondite truth. I, Sir, think the Established Church of Ireland
a bad institution. I will go farther. I am not speaking in
anger, or with any wish to excite anger in others; I am not
speaking with rhetorical exaggeration: I am calmly and
deliberately expressing, in the only appropriate terms, an
opinion which I formed many years ago, which all my observations
and reflections have confirmed, and which I am prepared to
support by reasons, when I say that, of all the institutions now
existing in the civilised world, the Established Church of
Ireland seems to me the most absurd.

I cannot help thinking that the speeches of those who defend this
Church suffice of themselves to prove that my views are just.
For who ever heard anybody defend it on its merits? Has any
gentleman to-night defended it on its merits? We are told of the
Roman Catholic oath; as if that oath, whatever be its meaning,
whatever be the extent of the obligation which it lays on the
consciences of those who take it, could possibly prove this
Church to be a good thing. We are told that Roman Catholics of
note, both laymen and divines, fifty years ago, declared that, if
they were relieved from the disabilities under which they then
lay, they should willingly see the Church of Ireland in
possession of all its endowments: as if anything that anybody
said fifty years ago could absolve us from the plain duty of
doing what is now best for the country. We are told of the Fifth
Article of Union; as if the Fifth Article of Union were more
sacred than the Fourth. Surely, if there be any article of the
Union which ought to be regarded as inviolable, it is the Fourth,
which settles the number of members whom Great Britain and
Ireland respectively are to send to Parliament. Yet the
provisions of the Fourth Article have been altered with the
almost unanimous assent of all parties in the State. The change
was proposed by the noble lord who is now Secretary for the
Colonies. It was supported by the right honourable Baronet the
Secretary for the Home Department, and by other members of the
present Administration. And so far were the opponents of the
Reform Bill from objecting to this infraction of the Treaty of
Union that they were disposed to go still farther. I well
remember the night on which we debated the question, whether
Members should be given to Finsbury, Marylebone, Lambeth, and the
Tower Hamlets. On that occasion, the Tories attempted to seduce
the Irish Reformers from us by promising that Ireland should have
a share of the plunder of the metropolitan districts. After
this, Sir, I must think it childish in gentlemen opposite to
appeal to the Fifth Article of the Union. With still greater
surprise, did I hear the right honourable gentleman the Secretary
for Ireland say that, if we adopt this amendment, we shall make
all landed and funded property insecure. I am really ashamed to
answer such an argument. Nobody proposes to touch any vested
interest; and surely it cannot be necessary for me to point out
to the right honourable gentleman the distinction between
property in which some person has a vested interest, and property
in which no person has a vested interest. That distinction is
part of the very rudiments of political science. Then the right
honourable gentleman quarrels with the form of the amendment.
Why, Sir, perhaps a more convenient form might have been adopted.
But is it by cavils like these that a great institution should be
defended? And who ever heard the Established Church of Ireland
defended except by cavils like these? Who ever heard any of her
advocates speak a manly and statesmanlike language? Who ever
heard any of her advocates say, "I defend this institution
because it is a good institution: the ends for which an
Established Church exists are such and such: and I will show you
that this Church attains those ends?" Nobody says this. Nobody
has the hardihood to say it. What divine, what political
speculator who has written in defence of ecclesiastical
establishments, ever defended such establishments on grounds
which will support the Church of Ireland? What panegyric has
ever been pronounced on the Churches of England and Scotland,
which is not a satire on the Church of Ireland? What traveller
comes among us who is not moved to wonder and derision by the
Church of Ireland? What foreign writer on British affairs,
whether European or American, whether Protestant or Catholic,
whether Conservative or Liberal, whether partial to England or
prejudiced against England, ever mentions the Church of Ireland
without expressing his amazement that such an establishment
should exist among reasonable men?

And those who speak thus of this Church speak justly. Is there
anything else like it? Was there ever anything else like it?
The world is full of ecclesiastical establishments: but such a
portent as this Church of Ireland is nowhere to be found. Look
round the Continent of Europe. Ecclesiastical establishments
from the White Sea to the Mediterranean: ecclesiastical
establishments from the Wolga to the Atlantic: but nowhere the
Church of a small minority enjoying exclusive establishment.
Look at America. There you have all forms of Christianity, from
Mormonism, if you call Mormonism Christianity, to Romanism. In
some places you have the voluntary system. In some you have
several religions connected with the state. In some you have the
solitary ascendency of a single Church. But nowhere, from the
Arctic Circle to Cape Horn, do you find the Church of a small
minority exclusively established. Look round our own empire. We
have an Established Church in England; it is the Church of the
majority. There is an Established Church in Scotland. When it
was set up, it was the Church of the majority. A few months ago,
it was the Church of the majority. I am not quite sure that,
even after the late unhappy disruption, it is the Church of the
minority. In our colonies the State does much for the support of
religion; but in no colony, I believe, do we give exclusive
support to the religion of the minority. Nay, even in those
parts of empire where the great body of the population is
attached to absurd and immoral superstitions, you have not been
guilty of the folly and injustice of calling on them to pay for a
Church which they do not want. We have not portioned out Bengal
and the Carnatic into parishes, and scattered Christian rectors,
with stipends and glebes, among millions of Pagans and
Mahometans. We keep, indeed, a small Christian establishment, or
rather three small Christian establishments, Anglican,
Presbyterian, and Catholic. But we keep them only for the
Christians in our civil and military services; and we leave
untouched the revenues of the mosques and temples. In one
country alone is to be seen the spectacle of a community of eight
millions of human beings, with a Church which is the Church of
only eight hundred thousand.

It has been often said, and has been repeated to-night by the
honourable Member for Radnor, that this Church, though it
includes only a tenth part of the population, has more than half
the wealth of Ireland. But is that an argument in favour of the
present system? Is it not the strongest argument that can be
urged in favour of an entire change? It is true that there are
many cases in which it is fit that property should prevail over
number. Those cases may, I think, be all arranged in two
classes. One class consists of those cases in which the
preservation or improvement of property is the object in view.
Thus, in a railway company, nothing can be more reasonable than
that one proprietor who holds five hundred shares should have
more power than five proprietors who hold one share each. The
other class of cases in which property may justly confer
privileges is where superior intelligence is required. Property
is indeed but a very imperfect test of intelligence. But, when
we are legislating on a large scale, it is perhaps the best which
we can apply. For where there is no property, there can very
seldom be any mental cultivation. It is on this principle that
special jurors, who have to try causes of peculiar nicety, are
taken from a wealthier order than that which furnishes common
jurors. But there cannot be a more false analogy than to reason
from these cases to the case of an Established Church. So far is
it from being true that, in establishing a Church, we ought to
pay more regard to one rich man than to five poor men, that the
direct reverse is the sound rule. We ought to pay more regard to
one poor man than to five rich men. For, in the first place, the
public ordinances of religion are of far more importance to the
poor man than to the rich man. I do not mean to say that a rich
man may not be the better for hearing sermons and joining in
public prayers. But these things are not indispensable to him;
and, if he is so situated that he cannot have them, he may find
substitutes. He has money to buy books, time to study them,
understanding to comprehend them. Every day he may commune with
the minds of Hooker, Leighton, and Barrow. He therefore stands
less in need of the oral instruction of a divine than a peasant
who cannot read, or who, if he can read, has no money to procure
books, or leisure to peruse them. Such a peasant, unless
instructed by word of mouth, can know no more of Christianity
than a wild Hottentot. Nor is this all. The poor man not only
needs the help of a minister of religion more than the rich man,
but is also less able to procure it. If there were no
Established Church, people in our rank of life would always be
provided with preachers to their mind at an expense which they
would scarcely feel. But when a poor man, who can hardly give
his children their fill of potatoes, has to sell his pig in order
to pay something to his priest, the burden is a heavy one. This
is, in fact, the strongest reason for having an established
church in any country. It is the one reason which prevents me
from joining with the partisans of the voluntary system. I
should think their arguments unanswerable if the question
regarded the upper and middle classes only. If I would keep up
the Established Church of England, it is not for the sake of
lords, and baronets, and country gentlemen of five thousand
pounds a-year, and rich bankers in the city. I know that such
people will always have churches, aye, and cathedrals, and
organs, and rich communion plate. The person about whom I am
uneasy is the working man; the man who would find it difficult to
pay even five shillings or ten shillings a-year out of his small
earnings for the ministrations of religion. What is to become of
him under the voluntary system? Is he to go without religious
instruction altogether? That we should all think a great evil to
himself, and a great evil to society. Is he to pay for it out of
his slender means? That would be a heavy tax. Is he to be
dependent on the liberality of others? That is a somewhat
precarious and a somewhat humiliating dependence. I prefer, I
own, that system under which there is, in the rudest and most
secluded district, a house of God, where public worship is
performed after a fashion acceptable to the great majority of the
community, and where the poorest may partake of the ordinances of
religion, not as an alms, but as a right. But does this argument
apply to a Church like the Church of Ireland? It is not
necessary on this occasion to decide whether the arguments in
favour of the ecclesiastical establishments, or the arguments in
favour of the voluntary system, be the stronger. There are
weighty considerations on both sides. Balancing them as well as
I can, I think that, as respects England, the preponderance is on
the side of the Establishment. But, as respects Ireland, there
is no balancing. All the weights are in one scale. All the
arguments which incline us against the Church of England, and all
the arguments which incline us in favour of the Church of
England, are alike arguments against the Church of Ireland;
against the Church of the few; against the Church of the wealthy;
against the Church which, reversing every principle on which a
Christian Church should be founded, fills the rich with its good
things, and sends the hungry empty away.

One view which has repeatedly, both in this House and out of it,
been taken of the Church of Ireland, seems to deserve notice. It
is admitted, as indeed it could not well be denied, that this
Church does not perform the functions which are everywhere else
expected from similar institutions; that it does not instruct the
body of the people; that it does not administer religious
consolation to the body of the people. But, it is said, we must
regard this Church as an aggressive Church, a proselytising
Church, a Church militant among spiritual enemies. Its office is
to spread Protestantism over Munster and Connaught. I remember
well that, eleven years ago, when Lord Grey's Government proposed
to reduce the number of Irish bishoprics, this language was held.
It was acknowledged that there were more bishops than the number
of persons then in communion with the Established Church
required. But that number, we were assured, would not be
stationary; and the hierarchy, therefore, ought to be constituted
with a view to the millions of converts who would soon require
the care of Protestant pastors. I well remember the strong
expression which was then used by my honourable friend, the
Member for the University of Oxford. We must, he said, make
allowance for the expansive force of Protestantism. A few nights
ago a noble lord for whom I, in common with the whole House, feel
the greatest respect, the Member for Dorsetshire (Lord Ashley.),
spoke of the missionary character of the Church of Ireland. Now,
Sir, if such language had been held at the Council Board of Queen
Elizabeth when the constitution of this Church was first debated
there, there would have been no cause for wonder. Sir William
Cecil or Sir Nicholas Bacon might very naturally have said,
"There are few Protestants now in Ireland, it is true. But when
we consider how rapidly the Protestant theology has spread, when
we remember that it is little more than forty years since Martin
Luther began to preach against indulgences, and when we see that
one half of Europe is now emancipated from the old superstition,
we may reasonably expect that the Irish will soon follow the
example of the other nations which have embraced the doctrines of
the Reformation." Cecil, I say, and his colleagues might
naturally entertain this expectation, and might without absurdity
make preparations for an event which they regarded as in the
highest degree probable. But we, who have seen this system in
full operation from the year 1560 to the year 1845, ought to have
been taught better, unless indeed we are past all teaching. Two
hundred and eighty-five years has this Church been at work. What
could have been done for it in the way of authority, privileges,
endowments, which has not been done? Did any other set of
bishops and priests in the world ever receive so much for doing
so little? Nay, did any other set of bishops and priests in the
world ever receive half as much for doing twice as much? And
what have we to show for all this lavish expenditure? What but
the most zealous Roman Catholic population on the face of the
earth? Where you were one hundred years ago, where you were two
hundred years ago, there you are still, not victorious over the
domain of the old faith, but painfully and with dubious success
defending your own frontier, your own English pale. Sometimes a
deserter leaves you. Sometimes a deserter steals over to you.
Whether your gains or losses of this sort be the greater I do not
know; nor is it worth while to inquire. On the great solid mass
of the Roman Catholic population you have made no impression
whatever. There they are, as they were ages ago, ten to one
against the members of your Established Church. Explain this to
me. I speak to you, the zealous Protestants on the other side of
the House. Explain this to me on Protestant principles. If I
were a Roman Catholic, I could easily account for the phenomena.
If I were a Roman Catholic, I should content myself with saying
that the mighty hand and the outstretched arm had been put forth,
according to the promise, in defence of the unchangeable Church;
that He who in the old time turned into blessings the curses of
Balaam, and smote the host of Sennacherib, had signally
confounded the arts of heretic statesmen. But what is a
Protestant to say? He holds that, through the whole of this long
conflict, during which ten generations of men have been born and
have died, reason and Scripture have been on the side of the
Established Clergy. Tell us then what we are to say of this
strange war, in which, reason and Scripture backed by wealth, by
dignity, by the help of the civil power, have been found no match
for oppressed and destitute error? The fuller our conviction
that our doctrines are right, the fuller, if we are rational men,
must be our conviction that our tactics have been wrong, and that
we have been encumbering the cause which we meant to aid.

Observe, it is not only the comparative number of Roman Catholics
and Protestants that may justly furnish us with matter for
serious reflection. The quality as well as the quantity of Irish
Romanism deserves to be considered. Is there any other country
inhabited by a mixed population of Catholics and Protestants, any
other country in which Protestant doctrines have long been freely
promulgated from the press and from the pulpit, where the Roman
Catholics spirit is so strong as in Ireland? I believe not. The
Belgians are generally considered as very stubborn and zealous
Roman Catholics. But I do not believe that either in
stubbornness or in zeal they equal the Irish. And this is the
fruit of three centuries of Protestant archbishops, bishops,
archdeacons, deans, and rectors. And yet where is the wonder?
Is this a miracle that we should stand aghast at it? Not at all.
It is a result which human prudence ought to have long ago
foreseen and long ago averted. It is the natural succession of
effect to cause. If you do not understand it, it is because you
do not understand what the nature and operation of a church is.
There are parts of the machinery of Government which may be just
as efficient when they are hated as when they are loved. An
army, a navy, a preventive service, a police force, may do their
work whether the public feeling be with them or against them.
Whether we dislike the corn laws or not, your custom houses and
your coast guard keep out foreign corn. The multitude at
Manchester was not the less effectually dispersed by the
yeomanry, because the interference of the yeomanry excited the
bitterest indignation. There the object was to produce a
material effect; the material means were sufficient; and nothing
more was required. But a Church exists for moral ends. A Church
exists to be loved, to be reverenced, to be heard with docility,
to reign in the understandings and hearts of men. A Church which
is abhorred is useless or worse than useless; and to quarter a
hostile Church on a conquered people, as you would quarter a
soldiery, is therefore the most absurd of mistakes. This mistake
our ancestors committed. They posted a Church in Ireland just as
they posted garrisons in Ireland. The garrisons did their work.
They were disliked. But that mattered not. They had their forts
and their arms; and they kept down the aboriginal race. But the
Church did not do its work. For to that work the love and
confidence of the people were essential.

I may remark in passing that, even under more favourable
circumstances a parochial priesthood is not a good engine for the
purpose of making proselytes. The Church of Rome, whatever we
may think of her ends, has shown no want of sagacity in the
choice of means; and she knows this well. When she makes a great
aggressive movement,--and many such movements she has made with
signal success,--she employs, not her parochial clergy, but a
very different machinery. The business of her parish priests is
to defend and govern what has been won. It is by the religious
orders, and especially by the Jesuits, that the great
acquisitions have been made. In Ireland your parochial clergy
lay under two great disadvantages. They were endowed, and they
were hated; so richly endowed that few among them cared to turn
missionaries; so bitterly hated that those few had but little
success. They long contented themselves with receiving the
emoluments arising from their benefices, and neglected those
means to which, in other parts of Europe, Protestantism had owed
its victory. It is well known that of all the instruments
employed by the Reformers of Germany, of England, and of
Scotland, for the purpose of moving the public mind, the most
powerful was the Bible translated into the vernacular tongues.
In Ireland the Protestant Church had been established near half a
century before the New Testament was printed in Erse. The whole
Bible was not printed in Erse till this Church had existed more
than one hundred and twenty years. Nor did the publication at
last take place under the patronage of the lazy and wealthy
hierarchy. The expense was defrayed by a layman, the illustrious
Robert Boyle. So things went on century after century. Swift,
more than a hundred years ago, described the prelates of his
country as men gorged with wealth and sunk in indolence, whose
chief business was to bow and job at the Castle. The only
spiritual function, he says, which they performed was ordination;
and, when he saw what persons they ordained, he doubted whether
it would not be better that they should neglect that function as
they neglected every other. Those, Sir, are now living who can
well remember how the revenues of the richest see in Ireland were
squandered on the shores of the Mediterranean by a bishop, whose
epistles, very different compositions from the epistles of Saint
Peter and Saint John, may be found in the correspondence of Lady
Hamilton. Such abuses as these called forth no complaint, no
reprimand. And all this time the true pastors of the people,
meanly fed and meanly clothed, frowned upon by the law, exposed
to the insults of every petty squire who gloried in the name of
Protestant, were to be found in miserable cabins, amidst filth,
and famine, and contagion, instructing the young, consoling the
miserable, holding up the crucifix before the eyes of the dying.
Is it strange that, in such circumstances, the Roman Catholic
religion should have been constantly becoming dearer and dearer
to an ardent and sensitive people, and that your Established
Church should have been constantly sinking lower and lower in
their estimation? I do not of course hold the living clergy of
the Irish Church answerable for the faults of their predecessors.
God forbid! To do so would be the most flagitious injustice. I
know that a salutary change has taken place. I have no reason to
doubt that in learning and regularity of life the Protestant
clergy of Ireland are on a level with the clergy of England. But
in the way of making proselytes they do as little as those who
preceded them. An enmity of three hundred years separates the
nation from those who should be its teachers. In short, it is
plain that the mind of Ireland has taken its ply, and is not to
be bent in a different direction, or, at all events, is not to be
so bent by your present machinery.

Well, then, this Church is inefficient as a missionary Church.
But there is yet another end which, in the opinion of some
eminent men, a Church is meant to serve. That end has been often
in the minds of practical politicians. But the first speculative
politician who distinctly pointed it out was Mr Hume. Mr Hume,
as might have been expected from his known opinions, treated the
question merely as it related to the temporal happiness of
mankind; and, perhaps, it may be doubted whether he took quite a
just view of the manner in which even the temporal happiness of
mankind is affected by the restraints and consolations of
religion. He reasoned thus:--It is dangerous to the peace of
society that the public mind should be violently excited on
religious subjects. If you adopt the voluntary system, the
public mind will always be so excited. For every preacher,
knowing that his bread depends on his popularity, seasons his
doctrine high, and practises every art for the purpose of
obtaining an ascendency over his hearers. But when the
Government pays the minister of religion, he has no pressing
motive to inflame the zeal of his congregation. He will probably
go through his duties in a somewhat perfunctory manner. His
power will not be very formidable; and, such as it is, it will be
employed in support of that order of things under which he finds
himself so comfortable. Now, Sir, it is not necessary to inquire
whether Mr Hume's doctrine be sound or unsound. For, sound or
unsound, it furnishes no ground on which you can rest the defence
of the institution which we are now considering. It is evident
that by establishing in Ireland the Church of the minority in
connection with the State, you have produced, in the very highest
degree, all those evils which Mr Hume considered as inseparable
from the voluntary system. You may go all over the world without
finding another country where religious differences take a form
so dangerous to the peace of society; where the common people are
so much under the influence of their priests; or where the
priests who teach the common people are so completely estranged
from the civil Government.

And now, Sir, I will sum up what I have said. For what end does
the Church of Ireland exist? Is that end the instruction and
solace of the great body of the people? You must admit that the
Church of Ireland has not attained that end. Is the end which
you have in view the conversion of the great body of the people
from the Roman Catholic religion to a purer form of Christianity?
You must admit that the Church of Ireland has not attained that
end. Or do you propose to yourselves the end contemplated by Mr
Hume, the peace and security of civil society? You must admit
that the Church of Ireland has not attained that end. In the
name of common sense, then, tell us what good end this Church has
attained; or suffer us to conclude, as I am forced to conclude,
that it is emphatically a bad institution.

It does not, I know, necessarily follow that, because an
institution is bad, it is therefore to be immediately destroyed.
Sometimes a bad institution takes a strong hold on the hearts of
mankind, intertwines its roots with the very foundations of
society, and is not to be removed without serious peril to order,
law, and property. For example, I hold polygamy to be one of the
most pernicious practises that exist in the world. But if the
Legislative Council of India were to pass an Act prohibiting
polygamy, I should think that they were out of their senses.
Such a measure would bring down the vast fabric of our Indian
Empire with one crash. But is there any similar reason for
dealing tenderly with the Established Church of Ireland? That
Church, Sir, is not one of those bad institutions which ought to
be spared because they are popular, and because their fall would
injure good institutions. It is, on the contrary, so odious, and
its vicinage so much endangers valuable parts of our polity,
that, even if it were in itself a good institution, there would
be strong reasons for giving it up.

The honourable gentleman who spoke last told us that we cannot
touch this Church without endangering the Legislative Union.
Sir, I have given my best attention to this important point; and
I have arrived at a very different conclusion. The question to
be determined is this:--What is the best way of preserving
political union between countries in which different religions
prevail? With respect to this question we have, I think, all the
light which history can give us. There is no sort of experiment
described by Lord Bacon which we have not tried. Inductive
philosophy is of no value if we cannot trust to the lessons
derived from the experience of more than two hundred years.
England has long been closely connected with two countries less
powerful than herself, and differing from herself in religion.
The Scottish people are Presbyterians; the Irish people are Roman
Catholics. We determined to force the Anglican system on both
countries. In both countries great discontent was the result.
At length Scotland rebelled. Then Ireland rebelled. The Scotch
and Irish rebellions, taking place at a time when the public mind
of England was greatly and justly excited, produced the Great
Rebellion here, and the downfall of the Monarchy, of the Church,
and of the Aristocracy. After the Restoration we again tried the
old system. During twenty-eight years we persisted in the
attempt to force Prelacy on the Scotch; and the consequence was,
during those twenty-eight years Scotland exhibited a frightful
spectacle of misery and depravity. The history of that period is
made up of oppression and resistance, of insurrections, barbarous
punishments, and assassinations. One day a crowd of zealous
rustics stand desperately on their defence, and repel the
dragoons. Next day the dragoons scatter and hew down the flying
peasantry. One day the kneebones of a wretched Covenanter are
beaten flat in that accursed boot. Next day the Lord Primate is
dragged out of his carriage by a band of raving fanatics, and,
while screaming for mercy, is butchered at the feet of his own
daughter. So things went on, till at last we remembered that
institutions are made for men, and not men for institutions. A
wise Government desisted from the vain attempt to maintain an
Episcopal Establishment in a Presbyterian nation. From that
moment the connection between England and Scotland became every
year closer and closer. There were still, it is true, many
causes of animosity. There was an old antipathy between the
nations, the effect of many blows given and received on both
sides. All the greatest calamities that had befallen Scotland
had been inflicted by England. The proudest events in Scottish
history were victories obtained over England. Yet all angry
feelings died rapidly away. The union of the nations became
complete. The oldest man living does not remember to have heard
any demagogue breathe a wish for separation. Do you believe that
this would have happened if England had, after the Revolution,
persisted in attempting to force the surplice and the Prayer Book
on the Scotch? I tell you that, if you had adhered to the mad
scheme of having a religious union with Scotland, you never would
have had a cordial political union with her. At this very day
you would have had monster meetings on the north of the Tweed,
and another Conciliation Hall, and another repeal button, with
the motto, "Nemo me impune lacessit." In fact, England never
would have become the great power that she is. For Scotland
would have been, not an addition to the effective strength of the
Empire, but a deduction from it. As often as there was a war
with France or Spain, there would have been an insurrection in
Scotland. Our country would have sunk into a kingdom of the
second class. One such Church as that about which we are now
debating is a serious encumbrance to the greatest empire. Two
such Churches no empire could bear. You continued to govern
Ireland during many generations as you had governed Scotland in
the days of Lauderdale and Dundee. And see the result. Ireland
has remained, indeed, a part of your Empire. But you know her to
be a source of weakness rather than of strength. Her misery is a
reproach to you. Her discontent doubles the dangers of war. Can
you, with such facts before you, doubt about the course which you
ought to take? Imagine a physician with two patients, both
afflicted with the same disease. He applies the same sharp
remedies to both. Both become worse and worse with the same
inflammatory symptoms. Then he changes his treatment of one
case, and gives soothing medicines. The sufferer revives, grows
better day by day, and is at length restored to perfect health.
The other patient is still subjected to the old treatment, and
becomes constantly more and more disordered. How would a
physician act in such a case? And are not the principles of
experimental philosophy the same in politics as in medicine?

Therefore, Sir, I am fully prepared to take strong measures with
regard to the Established Church of Ireland. It is not necessary
for me to say precisely how far I would go. I am aware that it
may be necessary, in this as in other cases, to consent to a
compromise. But the more complete the reform which may be
proposed, provided always that vested rights be, as I am sure
they will be, held strictly sacred, the more cordially shall I
support it.

That some reform is at hand I cannot doubt. In a very short time
we shall see the evils which I have described mitigated, if not
entirely removed. A Liberal Administration would make this
concession to Ireland from a sense of justice. A Conservative
Administration will make it from a sense of danger. The right
honourable Baronet has given the Irish a lesson which will bear
fruit. It is a lesson which rulers ought to be slow to teach;
for it is one which nations are but too apt to learn. We have
repeatedly been told by acts--we are now told almost in express
words--that agitation and intimidation are the means which ought
to be employed by those who wish for redress of grievances from
the party now in power. Such indeed has too long been the policy
of England towards Ireland; but it was surely never before avowed
with such indiscreet frankness. Every epoch which is remembered
with pleasure on the other side of St George's Channel coincides
with some epoch which we here consider as disastrous and
perilous. To the American war and the volunteers the Irish
Parliament owed its independence. To the French revolutionary
war the Irish Roman Catholics owed the elective franchise. It
was in vain that all the great orators and statesmen of two
generations exerted themselves to remove the Roman Catholic
disabilities, Burke, Fox, Pitt, Windham, Grenville, Grey,
Plunkett, Wellesley, Grattan, Canning, Wilberforce. Argument and
expostulation were fruitless. At length pressure of a stronger
kind was boldly and skilfully applied; and soon all difficulties
gave way. The Catholic Association, the Clare election, the
dread of civil war, produced the Emancipation Act. Again, the
cry of No Popery was raised. That cry was successful. A faction
which had reviled in the bitterest terms the mild administration
of Whig Viceroys, and which was pledged to the wholesale
disfranchisement of the Roman Catholics, rose to power. One
leading member of that faction had drawn forth loud cheers by
declaiming against the minions of Popery. Another had designated
six millions of Irish Catholics as aliens. A third had publicly
declared his conviction, that a time was at hand when all
Protestants of every persuasion would find it necessary to
combine firmly against the encroachments of Romanism. From such
men we expected nothing but oppression and intolerance. We are
agreeably disappointed to find that a series of conciliatory
bills is brought before us. But, in the midst of our delight, we
cannot refrain from asking for some explanation of so
extraordinary a change. We are told in reply, that the monster
meetings of 1843 were very formidable, and that our relations
with America are in a very unsatisfactory state. The public
opinion of Ireland is to be consulted, the religion of Ireland is
to be treated with respect, not because equity and humanity
plainly enjoin that course; for equity and humanity enjoined that
course as plainly when you were calumniating Lord Normanby, and
hurrying forward your Registration Bill; but because Mr O'Connell
and Mr Polk have between them made you very uneasy. Sir, it is
with shame, with sorrow, and, I will add, with dismay, that I
listen to such language. I have hitherto disapproved of the
monster meetings of 1843. I have disapproved of the way in which
Mr O'Connell and some other Irish representatives have seceded
from this House. I should not have chosen to apply to those
gentlemen the precise words which were used on a former occasion
by the honourable and learned Member for Bath. But I agreed with
him in substance. I thought it highly to the honour of my right
honourable friend the Member for Dungarvon, and of my honourable
friends the Members for Kildare, for Roscommon, and for the city
of Waterford, that they had the moral courage to attend the
service of this House, and to give us the very valuable
assistance which they are, in various ways, so well qualified to
afford. But what am I to say now? How can I any longer deny
that the place where an Irish gentleman may best serve his
country is Conciliation Hall? How can I expect that any Irish
Roman Catholic can be very sorry to learn that our foreign
relations are in an alarming state, or can rejoice to hear that
all danger of war has blown over? I appeal to the Conservative
Members of this House. I ask them whither we are hastening? I
ask them what is to be the end of a policy of which it is the
principle to give nothing to justice, and everything to fear? We
have been accused of truckling to Irish agitators. But I defy
you to show us that we ever made or are now making to Ireland a
single concession which was not in strict conformity with our
known principles. You may therefore trust us, when we tell you
that there is a point where we will stop. Our language to the
Irish is this:--"You ask for emancipation: it was agreeable to
our principles that you should have it; and we assisted you to
obtain it. You wished for a municipal system, as popular as that
which exists in England: we thought your wish reasonable, and
did all in our power to gratify it. This grant to Maynooth is,
in our opinion, proper; and we will do our best to obtain it for
you, though it should cost us our popularity and our seats in
Parliament. The Established Church in your island, as now
constituted, is a grievance of which you justly complain. We
will strive to redress that grievance. The Repeal of the Union
we regard as fatal to the empire: and we never will consent to
it; never, though the country should be surrounded by dangers as
great as those which threatened her when her American colonies,
and France, and Spain, and Holland, were leagued against her, and
when the armed neutrality of the Baltic disputed her maritime
rights; never, though another Bonaparte should pitch his camp in
sight of Dover Castle; never, till all has been staked and lost;
never, till the four quarters of the world have been convulsed by
the last struggle of the great English people for their place
among the nations." This, Sir, is the true policy. When you
give, give frankly. When you withhold, withhold resolutely.
Then what you give is received with gratitude; and, as for what
you withhold, men, seeing that to wrest it from you is no safe or
easy enterprise, cease to hope for it, and, in time, cease to
wish for it. But there is a way of so withholding as merely to
excite desire, and of so giving as merely to excite contempt; and
that way the present ministry has discovered. Is it possible for
me to doubt that in a few months the same machinery which sixteen
years ago extorted from the men now in power the Emancipation
Act, and which has now extorted from them the bill before us,
will again be put in motion? Who shall say what will be the next
sacrifice? For my own part I firmly believe that, if the present
Ministers remain in power five years longer, and if we should
have,--which God avert!--a war with France or America, the
Established Church of Ireland will be given up. The right
honourable Baronet will come down to make a proposition conceived
in the very spirit of the Motions which have repeatedly been made
by my honourable friend the Member for Sheffield. He will again
be deserted by his followers; he will again be dragged through
his difficulties by his opponents. Some honest Lord of the
Treasury may determine to quit his office rather than belie all
the professions of a life. But there will be little difficulty
in finding a successor ready to change all his opinions at twelve
hours' notice. I may perhaps, while cordially supporting the
bill, again venture to say something about consistency, and about
the importance of maintaining a high standard of political
morality. The right honourable Baronet will again tell me, that
he is anxious only for the success of his measure, and that he
does not choose to reply to taunts. And the right honourable
gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will produce Hansard,
will read to the House my speech of this night, and will most
logically argue that I ought not to reproach the Ministers with
their inconsistency, seeing that I had, from my knowledge of
their temper and principles, predicted to a tittle the nature and
extent of that inconsistency.

Sir, I have thought it my duty to brand with strong terms of
reprehension the practice of conceding, in time of public danger,
what is obstinately withheld in time of public tranquillity. I
am prepared, and have long been prepared, to grant much, very
much, to Ireland. But if the Repeal Association were to dissolve
itself to-morrow, and if the next steamer were to bring news that
all our differences with the United States were adjusted in the
most honourable and friendly manner, I would grant to Ireland
neither more nor less than I would grant if we were on the eve of
a rebellion like that of 1798; if war were raging all along the
Canadian frontier; and if thirty French sail of the line were
confronting our fleet in St George's Channel. I give my vote
from my heart and soul for the amendment of my honourable friend.
He calls on us to make to Ireland a concession, which ought in
justice to have been made long ago, and which may be made with
grace and dignity even now. I well know that you will refuse to
make it now. I know as well that you will make it hereafter.
You will make it as every concession to Ireland has been made.
You will make it when its effect will be, not to appease, but to
stimulate agitation. You will make it when it will be regarded,
not as a great act of national justice, but as a confession of
national weakness. You will make it in such a way, and at such a
time, that there will be but too much reason to doubt whether
more mischief has been done by your long refusal, or by your
tardy and enforced compliance.




On the first of May, 1845, Mr Rutherford, Member for Leith,
obtained leave to bring in a bill to regulate admission to the
Secular Chairs in the Universities of Scotland. On the morning
of the sixth of May the bill was read a first time, and remained
two months on the table of the House. At length the second
reading was fixed for the ninth of July. Mr Rutherfurd was
unable to attend on that day: and it was necessary that one of
his friends should supply his place. Accordingly, as soon as the
Order of the Day had been read, the following Speech was made.

On a division the bill was rejected by 116 votes to 108. But, in
the state in which parties then were, this defeat was generally
considered as a victory.

Mr Speaker,--I have been requested by my honourable and learned
friend, the Member for Leith, to act as his substitute on this
occasion. I am truly sorry that any substitute should be
necessary. I am truly sorry that he is not among us to take
charge of the bill which he not long ago introduced with one of
the most forcible and luminous speeches that I ever had the
pleasure of hearing. His audience was small; but the few who
formed that audience cannot have forgotten the effect which his
arguments and his eloquence produced. The Ministers had come
down to resist his motion: but their courage failed them: they
hesitated: they conferred together: at last they consented that
he should have leave to bring in his bill. Such, indeed, was the
language which they held on that and on a subsequent occasion,
that both my honourable and learned friend and myself gave them
more credit than they deserved. We really believed that they had
resolved to offer no opposition to a law which it was quite
evident that they perceived to be just and beneficial. But we
have been disappointed. It has been notified to us that the
whole influence of the Government is to be exerted against our
bill. In such discouraging circumstances it is that I rise to
move the second reading.

Yet, Sir, I do not altogether despair of success. When I
consider what strong, what irresistible reasons we have to urge,
I can hardly think it possible that the mandate of the most
powerful administration can prevail against them. Nay, I should
consider victory, not merely as probable, but as certain, if I
did not know how imperfect is the information which English
gentlemen generally possess concerning Scotch questions. It is
because I know this that I think it my duty to depart from the
ordinary practice, and, instead of simply moving the second
reading, to explain at some length the principles on which this
bill has been framed. I earnestly entreat those English Members
who were not so fortunate as to hear the speech of my honourable
and learned friend, the Member for Leith to favour me with their
attention. They will, I think, admit, that I have a right to be
heard with indulgence. I have been sent to this house by a great
city which was once a capital, the abode of a Sovereign, the
place where the Estates of a realm held their sittings. For the
general good of the empire, Edinburgh descended from that high
eminence. But, ceasing to be a political metropolis, she became
an intellectual metropolis. For the loss of a Court, of a Privy
Council, of a Parliament, she found compensation in the
prosperity and splendour of an University renowned to the
farthest ends of the earth as a school of physical and moral
science. This noble and beneficent institution is now threatened
with ruin by the folly of the Government, and by the violence of
an ecclesiastical faction which is bent on persecution without
having the miserable excuse of fanaticism. Nor is it only the
University of Edinburgh that is in danger. In pleading for that
University, I plead for all the great academical institutions of
Scotland. The fate of all depends on the event of this debate;
and, in the name of all, I demand the attention of every man who
loves either learning or religious liberty.

The first question which we have to consider is, whether the
principles of the bill be sound. I believe that they are sound;
and I am quite confident that nobody who sits on the Treasury
Bench will venture to pronounce them unsound. It does not lie in
the mouths of the Ministers to say that literary instruction and
scientific instruction are inseparably connected with religious
instruction. It is not for them to rail against Godless
Colleges. It is not for them to talk with horror of the danger
of suffering young men to listen to the lectures of an Arian
professor of Botany or of a Popish professor of Chemistry. They
are themselves at this moment setting up in Ireland a system
exactly resembling the system which we wish to set up in
Scotland. Only a few hours have elapsed since they were
themselves labouring to prove that, in a country in which a large
proportion of those who require a liberal education are
dissenters from the Established Church, it is desirable that
there should be schools without theological tests. The right
honourable Baronet at the head of the Government proposes that in
the new colleges which he is establishing at Belfast, Cork,
Limerick, and Galway, the professorships shall be open to men of
every creed: and he has strenuously defended that part of his
plan against attacks from opposite quarters, against the attacks
of zealous members of the Church of England, and of zealous
members of the Church of Rome. Only the day before yesterday the
honourable Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas
Acland.) ventured to suggest a test as unobjectionable as a test
could well be. He would merely have required the professors to
declare their general belief in the divine authority of the Old
and New Testaments. But even this amendment the First Lord of
the Treasury resisted, and I think quite rightly. He told us
that it was quite unnecessary to institute an inquisition into
the religious opinions of people whose business was merely to
teach secular knowledge, and that it was absurd to imagine that
any man of learning would disgrace and ruin himself by preaching
infidelity from the Greek chair or the Mathematical chair.

Some members of this House certainly held very different
language: but their arguments made as little impression on Her
Majesty's Ministers as on me. We were told with the utmost
earnestness that secular knowledge, unaccompanied by a sound
religious faith, and unsanctified by religious feeling, was not
only useless, but positively noxious, a curse to the possessor, a
curse to society. I feel the greatest personal kindness and
respect for some gentlemen who hold this language. But they must
pardon me if I say that the proposition which they have so
confidently laid down, however well it may sound in pious ears
while it is expressed in general terms, to be too monstrous, too
ludicrous, for grave refutation. Is it seriously meant that, if
the Captain of an Indiaman is a Socinian, it would be better for
himself, his crew, and his passengers, that he should not know
how to use his quadrant and his chronometers? Is it seriously
meant that, if a druggist is a Swedenborgian, it would be better
for himself and his customers that he should not know the
difference between Epsom salts and oxalic acid? A hundred
millions of the Queen's Asiatic subjects are Mahometans and
Pagans. Is it seriously meant that it is desirable that they
should be as ignorant as the aboriginal inhabitants of New South
Wales, that they should have no alphabet, that they should have
no arithmetic, that they should not know how to build a bridge,
how to sink a well, how to irrigate a field? If it be true that
secular knowledge, unsanctified by true religion, is a positive
evil, all these consequences follow. Yet surely they are
consequences from which every sane mind must recoil. It is a
great evil, no doubt, that a man should be a heretic or an
atheist. But I am quite at a loss to understand how this evil is
mitigated by his not knowing that the earth moves round the sun,
that by the help of a lever, a small power will lift a great
weight, that Virginia is a republic, or that Paris is the capital
of France.

On these grounds, Sir, I have cordially supported the Irish
Colleges Bill. But the principle of the Irish Colleges and the
principle of the bill which I hold in my hand are exactly the
same: and the House and the country have a right to know why the
authors of the former bill are the opponents of the latter bill.
One distinction there is, I admit, between Ireland and Scotland.
It is true that in Scotland there is no clamour against the Union
with England. It is true that in Scotland no demagogue can
obtain applause and riches by slandering and reviling the English
people. It is true that in Scotland there is no traitor who
would dare to say that he regards the enemies of the state as his
allies. In every extremity the Scottish nation will be found
faithful to the common cause of the empire. But Her Majesty's
Ministers will hardly I think, venture to say that this is their
reason for refusing to Scotland the boon which they propose to
confer on Ireland. And yet, if this be not their reason, what
reason can we find? Observe how strictly analogous the cases
are. You give it as a reason for establishing in Ireland
colleges without tests that the Established Church of Ireland is
the Church of the minority. Unhappily it may well be doubted
whether the Established Church of Scotland, too, be not now,
thanks to your policy, the Church of the minority. It is true
that the members of the Established Church of Scotland are about
a half of the whole population of Scotland; and that the members
of the Established Church of Ireland are not much more than a
tenth of the whole population of Ireland. But the question now
before us does not concern the whole population. It concerns
only the class which requires academical education: and I do not
hesitate to say that, in the class which requires academical
education, in the class for the sake of which universities exist,
the proportion of persons who do not belong to the Established
Church is as great in Scotland as in Ireland. You tell us that
sectarian education in Ireland is an evil. Is it less an evil in
Scotland? You tell us that it is desirable that the Protestant
and the Roman Catholic should study together at Cork. Is it less
desirable that the son of an elder of the Established Church and
the son of an elder of the Free Church should study together at
Edinburgh? You tell us that it is not reasonable to require from
a Professor of Astronomy or Surgery in Connaught a declaration
that he believes in the Gospels. On what ground, then, can you
think it reasonable to require from every Professor in Scotland a
declaration that he approves of the Presbyterian form of church
government? I defy you, with all your ingenuity, to find one
argument, one rhetorical topic, against our bill which may not be
used with equal effect against your own Irish Colleges Bill.

Is there any peculiarity in the academical system of Scotland
which makes these tests necessary? Certainly not. The
academical system of Scotland has its peculiarities; but they are
peculiarities which are not in harmony with these tests,
peculiarities which jar with these tests. It is an error to
imagine that, by passing this bill, we shall establish a
precedent which will lead to a change in the constitution of the
Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. Whether such a change be
or be not desirable is a question which must be decided on
grounds quite distinct from those on which we rest our case. I
entreat English gentlemen not to be misled by the word
University. That word means two different things on the two
different sides of the Tweed. The academical authorities at
Cambridge and Oxford stand in a parental relation to the student.
They undertake, not merely to instruct him in philology,
geometry, natural philosophy, but to form his religious opinions,
and to watch over his morals. He is to be bred a Churchman. At
Cambridge, he cannot graduate, at Oxford, I believe, he cannot
matriculate, without declaring himself a Churchman. The College
is a large family. An undergraduate is lodged either within the
gates, or in some private house licensed and regulated by the
academical authorities. He is required to attend public worship
according to the forms of the Church of England several times
every week. It is the duty of one officer to note the absence of
young men from divine service, of another to note their absence
from the public table, of another to report those who return home
at unseasonably late hours. An academical police parade the
streets at night to seize upon any unlucky reveller who may be
found drunk or in bad company. There are punishments of various
degrees for irregularities of conduct. Sometimes the offender
has to learn a chapter of the Greek Testament; sometimes he is
confined to his college; sometimes he is publicly reprimanded:
for grave offences he is rusticated or expelled. Now, Sir,
whether this system be good or bad, efficient or inefficient, I
will not now inquire. This is evident; that religious tests are
perfectly in harmony with such a system. Christ Church and
King's College undertake to instruct every young man who goes to
them in the doctrines of the Church of England, and to see that
he regularly attends the worship of the Church of England.
Whether this ought to be so, I repeat, I will not now inquire:
but, while it is so, nothing can be more reasonable than to
require from the rulers of Christ Church and King's College some
declaration that they are themselves members of the Church of

The character of the Scotch universities is altogether different.
There you have no functionaries resembling the Vice-Chancellors
and Proctors, the Heads of Houses, Tutors and Deans, whom I used
to cap at Cambridge. There is no chapel; there is no academical
authority entitled to ask a young man whether he goes to the
parish church or the Quaker meeting, to synagogue or to mass.
With his moral conduct the university has nothing to do. The
Principal and the whole Academical Senate cannot put any
restraint, or inflict any punishment, on a lad whom they may see
lying dead drunk in the High Street of Edinburgh. In truth, a
student at a Scotch university is in a situation closely
resembling that of a medical student in London. There are great
numbers of youths in London who attend St George's Hospital, or
St Bartholomew's Hospital. One of these youths may also go to
Albermarle Street to hear Mr Faraday lecture on chemistry, or to
Willis's rooms to hear Mr Carlyle lecture on German literature.
On the Sunday he goes perhaps to church, perhaps to the Roman
Catholic chapel, perhaps to the Tabernacle, perhaps nowhere.
None of the gentlemen whose lectures he has attended during the
week has the smallest right to tell him where he shall worship,
or to punish him for gambling in hells, or tippling in cider
cellars. Surely we must all feel that it would be the height of
absurdity to require Mr Faraday and Mr Carlyle to subscribe a
confession of faith before they lecture; and in what does their
situation differ from the situation of the Scotch professor.

In the peculiar character of the Scotch universities, therefore,
I find a strong reason for the passing of this bill. I find a
reason stronger still when I look at the terms of the engagements
which exist between the English and Scotch nations.

Some gentlemen, I see, think that I am venturing on dangerous
ground. We have been told, in confident tones, that, if we pass
this bill, we shall commit a gross breach of public faith, we
shall violate the Treaty of Union, and the Act of Security. With
equal confidence, and with confidence much better grounded, I
affirm that the Treaty of Union and the Act of Security not only
do not oblige us to reject this bill, but do oblige us to pass
this bill, or some bill nearly resembling this.

This proposition seems to be regarded by the Ministers as
paradoxical: but I undertake to prove it by the plainest and
fairest argument. I shall resort to no chicanery. If I did
think that the safety of the commonwealth required that we should
violate the Treaty of Union, I would violate it openly, and
defend my conduct on the ground of necessity. It may, in an
extreme case, be our duty to break our compacts. It never can be
our duty to quibble them away. What I say is that the Treaty of
Union, construed, not with the subtlety of a pettifogger, but
according to the spirit, binds us to pass this bill or some
similar bill.

By the Treaty of Union it was covenanted that no person should be
a teacher or office-bearer in the Scotch Universities who should
not declare that he conformed to the worship and polity of the
Established Church of Scotland. What Church was meant by the two
contracting parties? What Church was meant, more especially, by
the party to the side of which we ought always to lean, I mean
the weaker party? Surely the Church established in 1707, when
the Union took place. Is then, the Church of Scotland at the
present moment constituted, on all points which the members of
that Church think essential, exactly as it was constituted in
1707? Most assuredly not.

Every person who knows anything of the ecclesiastical history of
Scotland knows that, ever since the Reformation, the great body
of the Presbyterians of that country have held that congregations
ought to have a share in the appointment of their ministers.
This principle is laid down most distinctly in the First Book of
Discipline, drawn up by John Knox. It is laid down, though not
quite so strongly, in the Second Book of Discipline, drawn up by
Andrew Melville. And I beg gentlemen, English gentlemen, to
observe that in Scotland this is not regarded as a matter of mere
expediency. All staunch Presbyterians think that the flock is
entitled, jure divino, to a voice in the appointment of the
pastor, and that to force a pastor on a parish to which he is
unacceptable is a sin as much forbidden by the Word of God as
idolatry or perjury. I am quite sure that I do not exaggerate
when I say that the highest of our high churchmen at Oxford
cannot attach more importance to episcopal government and
episcopal ordination than many thousands of Scotchmen, shrewd
men, respectable men, men who fear God and honour the Queen,
attach to this right of the people.

When, at the time of the Revolution, the Presbyterian worship and
discipline were established in Scotland, the question of
patronage was settled by a compromise, which was far indeed from
satisfying men of extreme opinions, but which was generally
accepted. An Act, passed at Edinburgh, in 1690, transferred what
we should call in England the advowsons from the old patrons to
parochial councils, composed of the elders and the Protestant
landowners. This system, however imperfect it might appear to
such rigid Covenanters as Davie Deans and Gifted Gilfillan,
worked satisfactorily; and the Scotch nation seems to have been
contented with its ecclesiastical polity when the Treaty of Union
was concluded. By that treaty the ecclesiastical polity of
Scotland was declared to be unalterable. Nothing, therefore, can
be more clear than that the Parliament of Great Britain was bound
by the most sacred obligations not to revive those rights of
patronage which the Parliament of Scotland had abolished.

But, Sir, the Union had not lasted five years when our ancestors
were guilty of a great violation of public faith. The history of
that great fault and of its consequences is full of interest and
instruction. The wrong was committed hastily, and with
contumelious levity. The offenders were doubtless far from
foreseeing that their offence would be visited on the third and
fourth generation; that we should be paying in 1845 the penalty
of what they did in 1712.

In 1712, Sir, the Whigs, who were the chief authors of the Union,
had been driven from power. The prosecution of Sacheverell had
made them odious to the nation. The general election of 1710 had
gone against them. Tory statesmen were in office. Tory squires
formed more than five-sixths of this House. The party which was
uppermost thought that England had, in 1707, made a bad bargain,
a bargain so bad that it could hardly be considered as binding.
The guarantee so solemnly given to the Church of Scotland was a
subject of loud and bitter complaint. The Ministers hated that
Church much; and their chief supporters, the country gentlemen
and country clergymen of England, hated it still more. Numerous
petty insults were offered to the opinions, or, if you please,
the prejudices of the Presbyterians. At length it was determined
to go further, and to restore to the old patrons those rights
which had been taken away in 1690. A bill was brought into this
House, the history of which you may trace in our Journals. Some
of the entries are very significant. In spite of all
remonstrances the Tory majority would not hear of delay. The
Whig minority struggled hard, appealed to the act of Union and
the Act of Security, and insisted on having both those Acts read
at the table. The bill passed this House, however, before the
people of Scotland knew that it had been brought in. For there
were then neither reporters nor railroads; and intelligence from
Westminster was longer in travelling to Cambridge than it now is
in travelling to Aberdeen. The bill was in the House of Lords
before the Church of Scotland could make her voice heard. Then
came a petition from a committee appointed by the General
Assembly to watch over the interests of religion while the
General Assembly itself was not sitting. The first name attached
to that petition is the name of Principal Carstairs, a man who
had stood high in the esteem and favour of William the Third, and
who had borne a chief part in establishing the Presbyterian
Church in Scotland. Carstairs and his colleagues appealed to the
Act of Union, and implored the peers not to violate that Act.
But party spirit ran high; public faith was disregarded:
patronage was restored. To that breach of the Treaty of Union
are to be directly ascribed all the schisms that have since rent
the Church of Scotland.

I will not detain the House by giving a minute account of those
schisms. It is enough to say that the law of patronage produced,
first the secession of 1733 and the establishment of the
Associate Synod, then the secession of 1752 and the establishment
of the Relief Synod, and finally the great secession of 1843 and
the establishment of the Free Church. Only two years have
elapsed since we saw, with mingled admiration and pity, a
spectacle worthy of the best ages of the Church. Four hundred
and seventy ministers resigned their stipends, quitted their
manses, and went forth committing themselves, their wives, their
children, to the care of Providence. Their congregations
followed them by thousands, and listened eagerly to the Word of
Life in tents, in barns, or on those hills and moors where the
stubborn Presbyterians of a former generation had prayed and sung
their psalms in defiance of the boot of Lauderdale and of the
sword of Dundee. The rich gave largely of their riches. The
poor contributed with the spirit of her who put her two mites
into the treasury of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, in all the churches
of large towns, of whole counties, the established clergy were
preaching to empty benches. And of these secessions every one
may be distinctly traced to that violation of the Treaty of Union
which was committed in 1712.

This, Sir, is the true history of dissent in Scotland: and, this
being so, how can any man have the front to invoke the Treaty of
Union and the Act of Security against those who are devotedly
attached to that system which the Treaty of Union and the Act of
Security were designed to protect, and who are seceders only
because the Treaty of Union and the Act of Security have been
infringed? I implore gentlemen to reflect on the manner in which
they and their fathers have acted towards the Scotch
Presbyterians. First you bind yourselves by the most solemn
obligations to maintain unaltered their Church as it was
constituted in 1707. Five years later you alter the constitution
of their Church in a point regarded by them as essential. In
consequence of your breach of faith secession after secession
takes place, till at length the Church of the State ceases to be
the Church of the People. Then you begin to be squeamish. Then
those articles of the Treaty of Union which, when they really
were obligatory, you outrageously violated, now when they are no
longer obligatory, now when it is no longer in your power to
observe them according to the spirit, are represented as
inviolable. You first, by breaking your word, turn hundreds of
thousands of Churchmen into Dissenters; and then you punish them
for being Dissenters, because, forsooth, you never break your

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