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going essay examined this doctrine, and have
endeavoured to show under what circumstances


competition amongst degree-granting bodies operates
injuriously, and when it is productive of beneficial
effects. In pursuance of that argument, I shall now
only refer to the support and illustration the view
there contended for has lately received from the
disastrous failure of the principle of centralization as
exhibited in the university system of France, in
contrast with the distinguished success of the opposite
system of independent and competing universities in
Germany. Previous to the first French Revolution,
France was the seat of numerous independent uni-
versities. These were one after another abolished
by the Governments which during that convulsion,
or in the period which immediately followed, ruled
in France, and were finally replaced under the first
Napoleon by what in current phrase is called "a
great National University "the present "Univer-
sity of France." The system then introduced has
now been in full operation for a period of more than
sixty years ; what have been its fruits ? Why, such
that the most eminent and learned men in the
country are now with one voice calling aloud for its
overthrow. " The unanimity," says Professor Play-
fair, " is surprising with which eminent men ascribe
the intellectual paralysis of the nation to the cen-
tralization of administration and examination by the
University of France ; " and the statement is sustained
by an array of quotations from which I will take the
liberty to cull a few specimens. " If the causes of
our marasmus," writes M. Dumas, " appear complex
and manifold, they are still reducible to one principle,
administrative centralization, which, applied to the


University, has enervated superior instruction." " We
demand," says Professor Lorain, " the destruction of
the University of France, and the creation of separate
universities. That is our programme." " The paltry
faculties," writes M. Renan, "created by the First
Empire in no way replace the great and beautiful
system of rival universities with their separate
autonomies a system which all Europe borrowed
from France, and which all countries but France
have preserved. We must create in the provinces
five or six universities, each independent of the
other." And so on through some pages of equally
striking and emphatic testimony.

Such has been the experience of France, and such
the lesson drawn from it by those most competent to
interpret that experience. And this lesson has been
enforced and illustrated by the not less striking results
of an opposite experience in Germany, where, under
a system of rival universities, science and learning
have attained a pre-eminence in all that relates to
originality and depth of research, now scarcely dis-
puted amongst the nations of Europe. With these
facts before us, facts entirely in accordance with our
own experience in England and Scotland, we may
venture, I think, to disregard pet theories, even though
proceeding from such high authorities as Mr. Lowe
and Sir Dominic Corrigan, and to ask for some better
reasons for overthrowing institutions that are doing
good work than the virtues inherent in a centralized
university system under the control of the State.

The plan of centralization under a single university

* On Teaching Universities and Examining Boards," pp. 9 1 1.
F.E. Z


is the most prominent feature in the measure we are
considering ; but it is not that which gives it its funda-
mental character, and constitutes what may be fairly
called the vital essence of the scheme. That essence
is to be found in the attempt to fuse into a single
composite whole two mutually repugnant and incon-
gruous elements. Mr. Gladstone proposes to bring
together in the same system, and to compel to work
in harmony towards a common object, two schools
of educationists who have no common object, whose
iJeals of education are not merely different, but essen-
tially antagonistic and incompatible. We are familiar
in this country with many varieties of view on edu-
cational questions. Similar varieties no doubt may
be found in Ireland, but these all sink into insignifi-
cance in presence of the one great difference which
separates the supporters of united education in open
colleges from the Catholic priesthood and their adhe-
rents. The difference here is radical and profound :
it turns, not on means, but on ends. The supporters
of united education desire to pursue knowledge in
the spirit in which it is pursued in this and other
civilized countries where priestly influence is not pre-
dominant with singleness of purpose, with a dis-
position free alike from arriere pensee and foregone
conclusion, ever ready to accept with frankness the
results of sound investigation and reasoned truth,
whatever these may be found to be. On the other
hand, the aim of the Catholic priesthood and of those
Catholics who place themselves unreservedly under
their guidance, is something altogether different from
this. Truth, according to their conception of it, is


not what facts rightly interpreted and reason strin-
gently applied shall prove it to be, but, over a large
domain of human speculation, something which was
made known to the world some thousand years ago,
and which has since been from time to time supple-
mented by an infallible authority ; and, over the rest,
such conclusions as shall best harmonize with the
knowledge thus imparted. The aims of the two
schools being thus radically different, the methods of
cultivating and imparting knowledge approved by
each will necessarily exhibit a corresponding difference.
The one will naturally desire to give to the human
mind the utmost scope and freedom, and will encou-
rage it to roam unchecked over the whole field of
human speculation ; the other will quite as naturally
endeavour to surround the mental movements with
limitations and barriers. Finger-posts must be set up
pointing the investigator towards the conclusions at
which he is expected to arrive ; notices warning the
ambitious student from straying ever so little upon
any pretext from the well-defined paddock of ortho-
doxy. Astronomy and Geology may be cultivated,
but only on condition that their conclusions shall be
made to harmonize with the ideas of the writers of
the Old Testament, and the ex cathedra deliverances
of mediaeval Popes. As for Political Economy
" the pretended science " of Political Economy, as
Dr. Manning calls it if allowed to speak at all, it
must be with 'bated breath and whispering humbleness,
taking constant heed of the Sermon on the Mount,
and careful not to wound the susceptibilities of monas-
ticism. Such are the two educational ideals which

z 2


Mr. Gladstone proposes to incorporate in a single
scheme, and to make work together towards a common
purpose. Surely we need not go further in order to
understand the incongruities, extravagances, and de-
grading compromises with which the measure abounds.
People have been scandalized at what have been well
called " the ea^Sfinsf clauses " of the Bill ; but that

o oo o

they should have been so, and yet have proposed
as those who voted for the second reading proposed
to retain the measure in its principle, is only a
striking proof how inadequately they had conceived
the problem which the Bill undertook to solve.* The
" gagging clauses " were of the very essence of the
scheme : without these it was impossible that the
system, if it was to do that which it was ostensibly
meant to do to bring together in the same lecture
rooms and examination halls ultramontane Catholics
and the cultivators of knowledge in the spirit of
modern science could be made to work for a single


day. How are those who pursue knowledge with
singleness of aim to be kept within the bounds of
ultramontane orthodoxy without gags ? Even gags,
it was felt, and with good reason, would not suffice in

* Far more logical, as it seems to me, is the view taken by Dr. Manning.
" If there was one thing," he says, "which struck me with shame, it was the
way in which some speakers in the House of Commons treated that most
wise and most just provision of the Bill, as if it was a thing not to be defended.
... I will ask you whether there was not a most just reason to exempt all
Catholic youth from being forced to undergo examination in a philosophy
which is fundamentally false. The study of a false philosophy perverts the
form and shape of the intelligence ; I may say it alters the structure of
the brain." To keep our brain right, therefore, we must only listen to the
reasons in favour of our own side. " To force a young Catholic to be
examined in heretical matters would be tyranny." (Dr. Manning at the
Liverpool Catholic Club, Times, 22nd March, 1873.)


the case of mental philosophy and modern history,
and so these subjects -were lopped off altogether;
while no place was provided for Political Economy
or Jurisprudence. In truth, one can have little doubt
that, had the experiment been fairly tried, it would
have soon been found necessary to carry the process of
amputation very much farther. Geology, Physiology,
and Natural History could scarcely fail before long
to share the fate of mental philosophy and modern
history ; and even such branches of knowledge as
were retained would be cultivated under restrictions
and limitations incompatible with fruitful study, till an
Irish degree came to represent not knowledge, but
limitations on knowledge, a mere caput mortuum> from
which life, energy, and character had departed. Some-
thing like this has in fact happened in Belgium, where
the plan has been adopted, not indeed of teaching
from the same chair, but of examining under a com-
mon Board, the pupils of "State" and of " Catholic"
universities. Candidates for degrees from Liege, for
example, and candidates for degrees from Louvain
are required to submit themselves to a common ex-
amination, conducted by Professors taken in equal
numbers from the two Colleges. M. Laveleye thus
describes the result :

" The rivalry of these four institutions " [Liege, Louvain,
Ghent, and Brussels] " ought to have produced an intellectual
life and activity of a kind most profitable to the progress of
knowledge. That happy result has not been attained, because
they adopted a detestable system of examination for con-
ferring degrees. Diplomas are granted by mixed juries com-
posed, in equal proportions, of Professors of one state and


one free University. The candidates are questioned by these
Professors, under the control of Professors from a rival Uni-
versity. Hence it results, to begin with, that the students
content themselves with learning their note-books off by
heart ; next, that the Professors, thus controlled by their
colleagues, have to conform to a uniform programme, and
thus by degrees routine stifles initiative and the genuine spirit
of research." *

In truth, the problem undertaken by Mr. Gladstone,
when once its conditions are clearly understood,
cannot but be seen to be in the strictest sense in-
soluble. It is quite impossible that those who accept
the intellectual guidance of Cardinal Cullen and his
priesthood should cultivate knowledge in common
with those who pursue it in the spirit of modern scien-
tific research. The attempt to effect such a combi-
nation, as it began with the mutilation of knowledge,
so, if persisted in, could only have ended in the
extinction of intellectual life.

And now what is our position with reference to this
question, as the result of the defeat of Mr. Gladstone's
Bill, and the discussion it has provoked ? Two or
three points at least have been cleared up which
cannot fail to conduce to the simplification of the
problem. And, in the first place, it has been made
clear that the so-called grievance of the ultramontane
Catholics, whatever we may think of it, is not to be
remedied by any contrivance for embracing in a single
system denominational and mixed colleges. It may
or may not be expedient to combine under a single

* Quoted by Dr. Lyon Playfair.


university Trinity College and the Queen's Colleges.
For reasons stated in the preceding essay, I believe
the interests of knowledge would be best served by
each institution retaining its present character of in-
dependence. This, however, is a question on which
no doubt a good deal may be said on both sides. But
a proposal for coupling either with the Catholic Univer-
sity or with any institution framed on that model, stands
condemned in the light of what has now taken place.
It could not remove the " grievance," while, by intro-
ducing a foreign and hostile element into the organiza-
tion of our national universities, it would effectually
impair their working, converting what ought to be a
field for the peaceful rivalries of academic life into an
arena for the struggle of angry and excited religious

Secondly, the recent discussions have brought very
clearly into view the real nature of the Catholic
grievance. That grievance, as I have already pointed
out, is twofold. As the law now stands, Roman
Catholics, in common with Dissenters generally, are
excluded from competition for fellowships, and some
other prizes in the chief national College and Univer-
sity of the country, and are, as a consequence,
excluded also from all share in its government. This
is undoubtedly a very substantial grievance one
which, I think, may be properly described as amount-
ing to a civil disability. The reality and the gravity
of this wrong, however, are now universally admitted,
and the redress of it has even been pressed upon
Parliament by the University of Dublin itself. But,
over and beyond this, there is the grievance recognized


by Mr. Gladstone and the present Government. A
portion of the Catholics object to mixed education.
They entertain conscientious scruples against culti-
vating knowledge in common classes with Protestants,
or in colleges not under the supervision and control of
their priests ; and, as the nation has deliberately de-
termined to confine its support to institutions of the
character to which they object, it results that they are
under a disadvantage with regard to university educa-
tion, as compared with other members of the com-
munity. Here is an inequality of an entirely different
kind, and needing, if it is to be redressed, an entirely
different remedy.

For as regards what I have called the real or sub-
stantial Catholic grievance, the exclusion of Catholics
from the higher posts in Trinity College, it is
evident at once that a complete and effectual remedy
for this may be found in an Act simply abolishing
tests, such as Mr. Fawcett has for several years been
endeavouring to pass ; while it is not less plain that a
measure of this kind would wholly fail to touch the
grievance urged by the priests and recognized by Mr.
Gladstone. Nor can there now be any doubt as to
the one and only remedy which would be adequate to
meet the latter ground of complaint. One and only
one remedy can satisfy the exigency can place those
who object to united education in open colleges on an
equal footing with those who accept the assistance
of the State on these conditions the chartering and
endowment, on a scale commensurate with the endow-
ments of the National Universities, of a Catholic
University, established on principles satisfactory to


the priesthood. Nothing short of this can place
ultramontane Catholics on an equal footing, as re-
gards the higher education, with other members of the
community ; and the simple question now for states-
men is are they, or are they not, prepared to make
this concession ?

To state my own view of this matter while I
admit the fact of inequality, I am disposed to deny
the existence of a grievance in the sense of a dis-
ability which the State ought to redress. The State
is undoubtedly bound to frame its laws impartially as
between the several classes of citizens; but, as I
understand the case, it is no part of the duty of the
State to provide that all citizens shall derive equal
benefit from the laws. This must depend, in part at
least, on the character and conduct, and even on the
idiosyncrasies of those who are affected by them ; and
if it happen that, in certain cases, these are such as to
exclude some people from the benefit of laws, framed
in good faith and with an enlightened regard to the
interests of the community as a whole, the unfortunate
result is not to be attributed to unfairness in the law,
but rather to the peculiarities of temperament or taste
of the persons concerned peculiarities which, so far
as they go, unfit those who are the subjects of them
for sharing in the general advantages of national

In the matter of education the line taken by this
country the ideal towards which it has long been
steadily and consciously working, notwithstanding the
retention in some of our more ancient institutions of
not a few relics of a former scheme of policy is per-


fectly clear and unmistakable. The State absolutely
refuses to confer endowment or other favour upon any
class or religious denomination, as such. Whatever
may have been the case in the past, it now grants its
endowments only on the condition that all members
of the community shall be equally free to share in
the advantages arising from them. This is the defi-
nitive policy on which Parliament and the country,
after a long series of essays and experiments in other
directions, have at length deliberately taken their
stand, as that at once most consonant to the dictates
of justice as between individuals and classes, and
most conducive to the well-being of the nation as a
whole. Now what the Irish priesthood demand is
that this policy should be abandoned in favour of a
policy which the nation has already weighed in the
balance and found wanting the policy of concurrent
endowment Manifestly it would be impossible to
grant a separate endowment to Roman Catholics, and
refuse the same favour to other religious denominations.
So flagrant a violation of the rules of equality and
justice, committed in the name of equality and justice,
could scarcely be endured. The endowment of a
Catholic University would thus involve concurrent
endowment : in other words, the State would be re-
quired to reverse a policy on which it had deliberately
entered a policy conceived in the interests of the
entire community, adopted upon national grounds, and
supported by the great majority of its citizens in
deference to the scruples of a small minority of a
section which, but for the power which the priesthood
from their peculiar position are enabled to wield,


would, I venture to assert, be an insignificant minority.
-I wish to insist upon this point ; for let me here say,
that I have no desire to press this argument in a
pedantic or doctrinaire spirit. I quite admit that, if
any large section of the people of the United King-
dom, even though a minority of the whole, such as
the people of Ireland, should deliberately and persis-
tently reject the national policy, the fact might be a
reason for adopting in respect of that section a different
policy. It is, no doubt, the position of the priesthood
that this is the case in the present instance. They
put themselves forward as representing the Catholics
of Ireland, who are assumed to be the people of
Ireland ; and unfortunately the immense influence
exercised by them in parliamentary elections gives a
colour to this extravagant pretension. In point of
fact, nothing is more certain than that the people of
Ireland, as a whole, have not rejected the imperial
policy of open colleges and united education. The
Protestants now almost to a man have accepted it ;
and though the Protestants are a minority of the
people of Ireland, they are a majority of that portion
of the people which aspires to university education.
But it is equally untrue that the Catholics, as a body,
have rejected the imperial policy. I need not here
enter into evidence adduced both by myself on former
occasions, and more recently by other writers. It is
sufficient to point to the large number of Catholics
who persist in attending Trinity College and the
Queen's Colleges in the teeth of the most violent
denunciations of the priesthood, and, on the other hand,
to the scanty band \\hich is all that the utmost efforts


of the same priesthood can compel into the Catholic
University, to convince those who are open to convic-
tion how very small the party of lay Catholics is, who,
being in a position to avail themselves of university
education, support the demands of the priesthood.
True, indeed, the majority of Irish members in the
House of Commons support those demands. But
surely we are entitled to go behind this fact, and to
inquire as to its real significance. Is it not notorious
that the votes which send these gentlemen to Parlia-
ment are, in the main part, the votes of men, who
do not themselves aspire to university education, and
who cannot, from their position in life, be supposed
to have formed any independent judgment on the
question ? What is the value of the opinion of a
small farmer or grocer in Munster or Connaught on
the question of concurrent endowment versus the
policy of united education ? The small farmers and
small shopkeepers in the towns, so far as it is possible
for them to show a preference for either principle, have
done so by sending their children to the mixed schools
of the country, and even to the model schools (when
one happened to be within reach), whenever they have
not been stopped by the fulminations of the Church.
As to university education, probably few of them
know what it means, and they therefore almost neces-
sarily take their cue on this subject from their priests.
In this way a parliamentary majority is sent from
Ireland favourable to the endowment of a Catholic
university, and probably prepared to support con-
current endowment. But surely it would be the
veriest pedantry of constitutionalism to regard this


as decisive of the opinion of Irishmen upon those
questions, and as a ground for reversing in Ireland
the well-considered and deliberately adopted policy
of the country.

Our reasoning, then, leads us to the following con-
clusions : There is no valid reason for abolishing
either of the present universities. On the contrary,
with a view to giving greater freedom and variety to
intellectual life in Ireland, as well as to supplying the
higher education with the stimulus of a healthy
rivalry, it is desirable that both should be retained.
This, however, must be added : if the Queen's Uni-
versity and Colleges are to become permanent institu-
tions of the country, it is essential to their usefulness
that they should be put upon a footing I will not
say of equality with the University of Dublin and
Trinity College, but at least on a footing less widely
removed from equality than that on which they now
stand. It is a simple truth that the endowments of the
Queen's Colleges are at present miserably inadequate.
Their libraries and museums are starved for want of
funds to support them. Their Professors are most
insufficiently paid. The highest income, for example,
that a Professor, holding one of the best chairs in
Belfast College, can attain to is little over ^"400
annually surely a wretched pittance as the ultimate
and crowning reward of a laborious life spent in the
service of learning. If things are to remain thus,
it is scarcely possible that the provincial colleges
should continue to command the services of com-
petent men, or perform those functions, the perform-
ance of which constitutes the reason for maintaining


them. The permanent maintenance, therefore, of the
system of competing universities clearly requires a
rectification of this state of things ; and Mr. Glad-
stone, in his University Bill, has indicated the source
from which, without touching the revenues of Trinity
College, the funds for such rectification might properly

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Online LibraryJohn Elliott CairnesPolitical essays → online text (page 26 of 27)