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venture to say what may have been the usages of the Irish Church
in regard to the right of abbots to take part in synodical assemblies :
but I think I may venture to assert that Dr. Fitzpatrick, the abbot in
question, was at this time a very 'young man ; that he had not long
been appointed to his post, which, if not created for the occasion, had a
little time before been resuscitated after a prolonged period of abeyance ;
that his appearance in the Synod, to which he was summoned by Dr.
Cullen, caused considerable surprise ; and, lastly, that in the proceedings
of the assembly he proved eminently serviceable to his patron. It is
very possible that Professor Sullivan's information respecting Dr. Fitz-
patrick, and the part he took in securing the majority of one, may
be fuller than mine ; and, if so, I hope he will supply the deficiencies
in my account. But, however this may be, he will not, I think, deny
that the introduction of this personage into the Synod by Dr. Cullen
was at least a questionable proceeding, and one which at the time
was in fact questioned by many of the clergy of Ireland, and that on
it the indispensable unit of majority depended. In short, I think he
must admit that, had it not been for the tactics which I have exposed
the nomination of Dr. McEvilly, an opponent of the Colleges, to re-
present the " sick bishop," Dr. French, who was known to be favourable
to them ; the similar manoeuvre executed in the case of the Bishop
of Kerry ; and, lastly, the introduction into the Synod o this youthful
Abbot of Mount Mellary the result, in spite of all the influence ot
the Apostolic Delegate, would have been, instead, of a majority of one
in condemnation of the Colleges, a majority of four in favour of sup-
porting them.

But, says Professor Sullivan, to what purpose is this argument, since
"the fact still remains," that the "sick bishop signed the condemnation
of the Colleges " ? This, he says, " is indeed a fact," which " may not
be so well known" to me, but which he commends to my atteatioa ;
and he intimates his opinion that I have never read the Acts of the
Synod. I confess I should have thought from the confidence with
which he makes this statement that he had not read them ; for, with
the decrees of the Synod now before me, I assert that the name of the
" sick bishop," that is to say, of Dr. French, does not appear amongst
the signatures. The place which it would occupy is filled by that of
his procurator, Dr. McEvilly. Professor Sullivan is thus mistaken on
the matter of fact ; and, surely, he is not less mistaken in point of
lo^ic. Docs he really mem to contend that the presence of Dr. French's

r. /:. v


name amongst the signatures to the decrees supposing the fact to be
as he assumes would be conclusive proof that he would have voted
in favour of each of them, if called upon to do so before they were
carried ? With the fact before him that all the dissentient bishops
signed the decrees, it is difficult to conceive that this could be his
meaning ; yet if this be not his meaning, how have I "laboured in vain "
in proving that the " sick bishop " would, if present, have supported
the Colleges ?



THE foregoing was written in 1866, a-propos of the
attempt of the Government of that time to meet
the requirements of the Catholic priesthood of Ireland
and their supporters respecting the organization of
the higher education in that country. As all the
world knows, that attempt consisted in the granting
of a new charter to the Queen's University (known
as the " Supplemental Charter "), the effect of which,
had it come into operation, would have been to
change the character of the University from that
which it then bore and still bears, to a university
of the London type, confining its functions to exami-
nation, and admitting to its examinations all candi-
dates, without reference to previous academic training.
And this measure was accompanied by another
the creation of a new batch of senators, six in
number, to be added to the Senate of the Queen's
University, all partisans of the new policy. The
circumstances under which it was attempted to carry
this plan into effect, and the means resorted to for

Y 2


this purpose, are now tolerably well known ; but they
set in so striking a light the sort of influences which
were then operative in Irish politics, and which
perhaps are not yet extinct, that it may be well
here to recall them. Early in the Session of 1866,
it became known that the Government intended to
effect modifications in the Irish educational system
in a sense favourable to the views of the party who
opposed mixed education, and a suspicion arose that,
by having recourse to the powers of the Crown, they
might practically commit the country to the con-
templated change before Parliament should have an
opportunity of expressing an opinion on the subject.
Under these circumstances notice was given by Sir
Robert Peel of a motion for an address to the Crown,
praying Her Majesty not to put her seal to any
charter affecting the system of education in Ireland
until its terms had first been submitted to Parliament.
On this Mr. Gladstone came forward in his place
in the House of Commons, and disclaiming, on the
part of the Government, all intention of acting as
the motion implied, proceeded to assure the House
that ample opportunity would be afforded for dis-
cussing the educational policy of the Government
"before the Crown should be committed to any
formal act." This took place in February. On the
1 9th of June the Government, in consequence of
an adverse vote on Mr. Gladstone's Reform Bill,
resigned. On the 2Oth, authority to affix the Great
Seal to the Supplemental Charter arrived in Dublin.
On the 27th, when, in the words of Mr. Bouverie,
" the Government was really no longer in existence,


although the seals of office had not been trans-
ferred to their successors," the appointment took
place of the six additional senators. This last step
was plainly indispensable to the success of the
scheme, both because without it a majority could
not be obtained in the Senate for the acceptance
of the Supplemental Charter, and because a modifica-
tion of the Senate was needed to bring the govern-
ing body of the University into harmony with the
new policy of the Government. The proceedings
took Parliament and the country absolutely by
surprise. A solemn pledge had been given to the
House of Commons, that "before the Crown should
be committed to any formal act," an opportunity
should be afforded for discussion ; and now, while
the House was still in entire ignorance of the matter,
the formal act was done, and a step taken which,
if unreversed, would alter radically the educational
system of Ireland. Challenged to explain their
conduct, Mr. Fortescue, on the part of the Govern-
ment, replied that the promised opportunity for dis-
cussion had been afforded on two occasions first,
when Sir George Grey's letter to the Lord Lieu-
tenant was laid before Parliament, and again, when,
on introducing the Irish Reform Bill, he referred
to the plans of the Government with reference to
the Queen's University. It is unnecessary to criti-
cise these explanations. As a matter of fact the
House of Commons did not understand the announce-
ments in the sense ascribed to them. Everyone
was deceived. The Great Seal was set to the
Charter, while the House of Commons was still in


ignorance that any charter had been granted. With-
out effectual notice, \vithout discussion, a course was
taken which, had it been successful, would have over-
turned the settled educational policy of the country ;
and these things were done by a Government in
extremis, not properly a Government at all, but
merely locum tenentes for their successors. The
Charter was accepted in the packed Senate by a
vote of ii to 9, the six new Senators al voting
in the majority. But, though accepted by the Senate,
it was challenged by the Convocation. The case
was brought into the Court of Chancery, and finally
a decree was obtained from the Irish Master of the
Rolls declaring the Charter invalid. The Govern-
ment scheme of 1866 thus fell through; and Irish
University education has remained from that year
to the present in the first rank of unsettled Irish
questions. Once more an attempt has been made
to effect a settlement. In fulfilment of pledges given
at the general election of 1868, Mr. Gladstone has
introduced his Irish University Bill. The fate of
that proposal has been sealed by the recent vote
of the House of Commons; but the problem of
Irish University Education is still unsolved. In
1866, as we have seen, the solution was sought
through a reconstruction of the Queen's University.
Since that time the question has grown in complexity.
The Irish Church has been disestablished, and its
downfall has entailed, as an inevitable corollary, the
re-organization in a liberal sense of Trinity College
a.nd the University of Dublin. So much the authori-
ties of the College an4 the University have them-


selves had the wisdom to perceive, and they have
accordingly for some years supported Mr. Fawcett
in his efforts to accomplish this object. Those efforts
have hitherto been unsuccessful. Mr. Fawcett's plan
has been year after year opposed by Mr. Gladstone
and the present Government, as inadequate to meet
the requirements of the case. It was under these
circumstances that the Irish University Bill of this
year was brought forward. As I have said, that
Bill is dead, but in politics as in medicine, a post-
mortem examination may occasionally have its use ;
and I do not think the true nature of the situation
will better reveal itself, and the difficulties with which
it is beset come more clearly into view, than in
a study of the aim and general scope of this now
celebrated scheme. I shall therefore make no apo-
logy for devoting a brief space to its consideration.

The Irish University Bill announces itself in its
preamble as having for its object the " advancement
of learning ;" but Mr. Gladstone's language in intro-
ducing the measure was more specific. Though for
the advancement of learning, it aims at promoting
this object in such a way as to remove a grievance
under which, according to the Prime Minister, the
Catholics of Ireland are labouring. That the Catho-
lics of Ireland are the victims of a grievance in being
excluded, along with various other religionists, from
the highest rewards and offices of Trinity College,
is what all Liberals have long recognized; and it
was to remove this wrong that Mr. Fawcett, at first
single-handed, and latterly with the assistance of the
College and University, has for five years :been


steadily striving. But it is very important to observe
that this is not the grievance or at any rate it is not
the principal grievance which it was the purpose of
Mr. Gladstone's Irish University Bill to remove.
The following words, which occur in his speech on
introducing the Bill, deserve careful consideration :

" It appears to us " (said Mr. Gladstone), " that we have
one course and one course only to take, one decision and one
only to arrive at, with respect to our Roman Catholic fellow-
subjects. Do we intend, or do we not intend, to extend to
them the full benefit of civil equality on a footing exactly the
same as that on which it is granted to members of other
religious persuasions ? If we do not, the conclusion is a most
grave one', but if the House be of opinion, as the Govern-
ment are, that it is neither generous nor politic, whatever
we may think of ecclesiastical influences within the Roman
Church, to draw distinctions in matters purely civil adverse
to our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen if we hold that
opinion, let us hold it frankly and boldly ; and, having
determined to grant measures of equality as far as it may
be in our power to do so, do not let us attempt to stint our
action when we come to the execution of that which we
have announced to be our intention."

And again, in concluding his speech he recurs to
the same point :

" We have sought to provide a complete remedy for what
we thought, and for what we have long marked and held up
to public attention, as a palpable grievance a grievance of

Now what is the inequality of which Mr. Gladstone
here speaks ? As the provisions of the Bill and the
whole tenour of his argument show, it is not the in-
equality which Mr. Fawcett's Bill proposes to remedy,
and which consists in the exclusion of Catholics from


the higher posts of Trinity College though it is true
Mr. Gladstone's Bill does include a remedy for this
wrong * but that arising from the circumstance that
a portion of the Catholics of Ireland refuse to avail
themselves of the opportunities of education afforded
by the mixed institutions of the country. Declining
to avail themselves of these institutions, they lie under
a disadvantage in respect to university education, as
compared with the members of other denominations,
or with other Catholics who accept them. It is this
inequality which Mr. Gladstone and his Government
have distinctly recognized as a grievance, and which
his Irish University Bill was introduced to redress.
Let us now observe how it accomplished this object.

The main provisions of Mr. Gladstone's Bill are
now pretty well known ; but it will be convenient to
summarize them briefly here. And, in the first place,
it provided for the abolition of the two existing uni-
versities of Ireland, and for the creation in their
stead, and on their ruins, of a new university, to be
called the University of Dublin. This new body
was to be governed by a Council composed of " ordi-
nary" and of "collegiate" members; the former,
twenty-eight in number, being nominated in the first
instance by the Crown, and the latter elected by
colleges affiliated to the University. After a period
of ten years this arrangement was to give place to
another, under which the Crown would only nominate
one-fourth of the " ordinary members," it being pro-

* So subordinate a place did this provision occupy, in Mr. Gladstone's
view of the case, that he forgot to mention it in his speech introducing
the Bill, till reminded of it by Mr. Cardwell.


vided that the remaining three-fourths should be
elected in turn by the Council, the Professoriate, and
the Senate of the University. The affiliated colleges
would, of course, comprise Trinity College and the
Queen's Colleges, or such of them as were not

<-w O '

extinguished by the Bill, as well as the Catholic
University, Maynooth, and Magee, Colleges. But an
absolute discretion was vested in the Council with
respect to the affiliation of colleges ; and it could only
be a matter of 'conjecture to what extent this would
be exercised.* It might be exercised with a modera-
tion which would leave the " ordinary " members of
Council predominant ; but it would also be quite pos-
sible for the Council to affiliate colleges in such
numbers that their representatives might command a
majority, and carry matters at their discretion. Such
was the constitution of the Council, to which was
assigned the control and general management of the
University under the conditions prescribed in the Bill.
The degrees and prizes were to be open to all candi-
dates irrespective of religious faith, and the principle
was adopted, in accordance with the precedent of the
London University, of admitting to degrees on exa-
mination simply, and without reference to previous
academic training. The new University, however,
was not to be simply an examining Board. A staff
of Professors was provided, to be appointed by the
Council, who were to lecture, but attendance on whose
lectures was not to be obligatory. Besides professor-

* Mr. Gladstone, on opening the debate on the second reading,
announced his intention of transferring the power of affiliating colleges
from the Council to the Crown, acting on the recommendation of the


ships, the University was to have at its disposal a
liberal allowance of fellowships, scholarships, and
bursaries. Lastly, to meet the expenses attendant
upon all these arrangements, funds were provided
to the amount of ,50,000 a year ; of which ,12,000
was to be paid by Trinity College, ,10,000 from
the Consolidated Fund, and the remainder from the
surplus property of the disestablished Church.

Such are the leading outlines of the scheme ; and
now to what extent would it have redressed the
specific grievance, to remove which was the chief
end of its introduction ? How far did it succeed in
placing Catholics who declined to take advantage of
the mixed institutions of the country on a footing of
equality in respect to university education with the
members of other denominations, or with Catholics
who frankly accepted them ? What concessions, in
short, did the Bill make to the denominational prin-
ciple in university education ? It made the follow-
ing : it admitted denominational colleges into what
was to be a great national scheme of university or-
ganization ; it co-ordinated them with colleges of the
mixed type, and gave them representation on the
governing Board, opening at the same time to the
competition- of their students all the prizes and
emoluments of the University. So much the Bill
undoubtedly did in favour of denominational aims ;
but, it must be observed, that these advantages were
offered on the condition that tJwse accepting them should
waive their objections to mixed education. For the
new University was, in theory at least, to be a mixed
University. Its governing body, it was understood,


was to consist of the representatives of different reli-
gious denominations, and of different educational
schools : its professorships, so far as appeared from
the Bill, were to be filled without reference to reli-
gious creed ; its fellowships, scholarships, and bursaries
would be open to Catholics, but only on the same
terms as to Protestants. In short, it was evident that
the opponents of existing institutions could obtain no
advantage under the Bill, except by abandoning those
very objections in deference to which the Bill had
been introduced. For consistent supporters, therefore,
of the denominational and separate system, the Bill
would necessarily be a nullity. Further, even though
the Bill were accepted, the inequality which it under-
took to redress was as far as ever from being removed.
The Catholic University, as well as the various
Catholic seminaries through the country, would still
remain unendowed, while Trinity College and the
Queen's Colleges enjoyed large endowments. So
long as this continued, it could not be said that
those who accepted the conditions of mixed educa-
tion and those who rejected those conditions stood
on an equal footing with regard to university

This was the view taken of the measure by the
Catholic Hierarchy, who, accordingly, as we know,
rejected with scorn, real or affected, the proffered
boon. It cannot be denied that their course, in thus
acting, was at least logical and consistent. Never-
theless, the apprehensions aroused against the Bill
in the minds of the supporters of mixed education
were assuredly not without solid grounds in the facts


of the case. The new University, they argued,
is to be in theory a mixed institution ; but what
guarantee is given that it will be so in its practical
working ? All would depend on the constitution of
the Council, and this would be composed of the
nominees of a Government who recognized the
complaints of the opponents of mixed education as
expressing a legitimate grievance, and of the repre-
sentatives of affiliated colleges of which the large
majority would probably be denominational and under
the control of the priesthood. The ultramontanes
once predominant in the Council, the game would
be absolutely in their hands. The curriculum for
degrees the only degrees which would under the
new scheme be open to Irishmen would be shaped
to the requirements of ecclesiasticism. The profes-
soriate would be filled by persons having the con-
fidence of Cardinal Cullen ; and the entire system
would be worked in the interest of the section of
Catholics he represents. Assuredly these fears could
not be considered chimerical. Without referring to
Continental experience, we have seen quite enough
of ultramontane action in Ireland to justify the
belief that, the system once established, every effort
would be strained to turn it to ultramontane
purposes ; nor were the transactions connected with
the Supplemental Charter forgotten, which only too
painfully showed to what lengths" certain members of
the present Liberal administration were prepared to
go in seconding such designs. Indeed Mr. Fortescue,
in his speech in the debate on the second reading,
made no secret of what might be accomplished in


this direction. " What I would venture," he urged,
" to point out to the Roman Catholics of Ireland is
this that the Bill gives them an opportunity which,
if vigorously made use of, will in a few years' time
permit them to do almost all that they want
to do."

Thus the Bill, while exciting, not without good
reason, the apprehensions of the supporters of united
education, failed absolutely to fulfil its specific purpose
the redress of what the Government had recognized
as the educational grievance of Catholics. Had it
been carried, so far from settling the question of
university education in Ireland, its enactment would
only have been the signal for renewing the agitation,
which would now be pushed with all the rrjore energy
from the increased sense of power acquired by its
promoters., and the distinct recognition by the Prime
Minister of the justice of their cause.*

But besides the specific purpose of redressing a
civil grievance, Mr. Gladstone's Bill also aimed at
" the advancement of learning." Let us now endea-
vour to appreciate some of the principal bearings of
the measure, regarded from this point of view. And
taking first the proposal to abolish the two existing
universities of the country, and to centralize educa-
tional institutions under a single university in Dublin
largely controlled by the Government, it must be
observed that, apart from the advantages of central-

* Unfortunately this mischief will remain notwithstanding the defeat
of the Bill an example of the truth, of which Mr. Fawcett, in his
speech on the second reading, gave other illustrations, that 'the evil
which men do lives after them."


ization, absolutely no reason was alleged for dis-
turbing the present universities. It was admitted
on all hands that both are doing sound and honest
work. Mr. Gladstone indeed complained of the in-
sufficiency of the results, and endeavoured to sustain
his complaints by statistics. I will not here enter
into his figures, which have elsewhere been amply,
and, in my opinion, conclusively, answered ; but,
conceding all he claims for them, to what do they
amount ? At the most to reasons for reforming
certainly not to reasons for annihilating, two useful
institutions, of which one has long entwined itself
with the best traditions of Irishmen, and the other,
not yet a quarter of a century old, has already given
ample proof of its adaptation to the wants of the
country. If the present Dublin University and the
Queen's University are to be overthrown in order
that a single university of a wholly different character
be established on their ruins, the justification of this
policy must be looked for, not in the shortcomings
of those institutions, but in the still greater results
to be expected from the system which is to take
their place. Now what are the grounds of this
expectation ?

As we all know, the present Chancellor of the
Exchequer has a theory that universities cannot be
too few in number. A plurality of such bodies, he
contends, necessarily leads to a vicious competition
for students which results in a lowering of the
standard for degrees. I have already in the fore-

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Online LibraryJohn Elliott CairnesPolitical essays → online text (page 25 of 27)