John Morley.

The life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 online

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since the establishment of three provincial colleges by Peel's
government in 1845, the flame of the controversy had been
alight. Even on the very night when Graham introduced the
bill creating them, no less staunch a tory and protestant than
Sir Robert Inglis had jumped up and denounced 'a gigantic


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scheme of godless education.' The catholics loudly echoed CHAP.
this protestant phrase. The three colleges were speedily -
condemned by the pope as fatal to faith and morals, and ^t- 64 -
were formally denounced by the synod of Thurles in 1850.
The fulminations of the church did not extinguish these
modest centres of light and knowledge, but they cast a
creeping blight upon them. In 1865 a demand was openly
made in parliament for the incorporation by charter of a
specifically catholic university. Mr. Gladstone, along with
Sir George Grey, then admitted the reality of a grievance,
namely, the absence in Ireland of institutions of which the
catholics of the country were able to avail themselves.
Declining, for good reasons or bad, to use opportunities of
college education by the side of protestants, and not warmed
by the atmosphere and symbols of their own church and
faith, catholics contended that they could not be said to
enjoy equal advantages with their fellow-citizens of other
creeds. They repudiated a system of education repugnant
to their religious convictions, and in the persistent efforts to
force 'godless education* on their country, they professed to
recognise another phase of persecution for conscience sake.

In 1866, Lord Russell's government tried its hand with
a device known as the supplemental charter. It opened a
way to a degree without passing through the godless colleges.
This was set aside by an injunction from the courts, and it
would not have touched the real matter of complaint, even if
the courts had let it stand. Next year the tories burnt their
fingers, though Mr. Disraeli told parliament that he saw no
scars. For a time, he believed that an honourable and satis-
factory settlement was possible, and negotiations went on
with the hierarchy. The prelates did not urge endowment,
Mr. Disraeli afterwards said, but 'they mentioned it/
The country shrank back from concurrent endowment,
though, as Mr. Disraeli truly said, it was the policy of Pitt,
of Grey, of Russell, of Peel, and of Palmerston. Ever since
1794, catholic students had been allowed to graduate at
Trinity College, and ever since the disestablishment of the
Irish church in 1869, Trinity had asked parliament for power
to admit catholics to her fellowships and emoluments. This,

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BOOK however, did not go to the root, whether we regard it as
/ * sound or unsound, of the catholic grievance, which was in

1873 - fact their lack of an endowed institution as distinctively
catholic in all respects as Trinity was protestant.

Such was the case with which Mr. Gladstone was called
upon to grapple, and a delicate if not even a desperate case
it was. The prelates knew what they wished, though they
lay in shadow. What they wanted a protestant parliament,
with its grip upon the purse, was determined that they
should not have. The same conclusion as came to many
liberals by prejudice, was reached by the academic school on
principle. On principle they held denominational endow-
ment of education to be retrograde and obscurantist. Then
there was the discouraging consideration of which Lord
Halifax reminded Mr. Gladstone. ' You say with truth/ he
observed when the situation had developed, ' that the liberal
party are behaving very ill, and so they are. But liberal
majorities when large are apt to run riot. No men could
have stronger claims on the allegiance of their party than
Lord Grey and Lord Althorp after carrying the Keform
bill Nevertheless, the large majority after the election of
1832-3 was continually putting the government into diffi-
culty/ So it befell now, and now as then the difficulty
was Irish.


Well knowing the hard work before him, Mr. Gladstone
applied himself with his usual indomitable energy to the
task. 'We go to Oxford to-morrow/ he writes to Lord
Granville (Nov. 12), 'to visit Edward Talbot and his wife;
forward to London on Thursday, when I dine with the
Templars. My idea of work is that the first solid and heavy
bit should be the Irish university — some of this may require
to be done in cabinet. When we have got that into shape,
I should be for taking to the yet stiffer work of local taxation
— most of the cabinet take a personal interest in this. I
think it will require immeasurable talking over, which might
be done chiefly in an open informal cabinet, before any
binding resolutions are taken. But I propose to let Palmer

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Mr. 64.



have his say (general) about law reform on Friday.' At CHAP.
Oxford he saw Dr. Pusey, * who behaved with all his old v
kindness, and seemed to have forgotten the Temple 1 business,
or rather as if it had never been.' On November 20, he
records, ' Cabinet 2f-6 \. Some heads of a measure on Irish
university education/ No communications were opened
with the Irish bishops beforehand, probably from a surmise
that they would be bound to ask more than they could

Jan. 16, 187 3, Eawarden. — Dr. Ingram [the distinguished fellow
of Trinity College] came in afternoon, and I was able to spend
several hours with him on the university question. 17. — Many
hours with Dr. Ingram on the bill and scheme ; in truth, almost
from breakfast to dinner. Conversation with him in evening on
Homer and ancient questions. Bead Old Mortality. 20. — Drew
an abstract of historical facts respecting Dublin university and
college, 21.— Off at 11. At 11 C.H.T. at 6 P.M. 25.— Mr.
Thring 3-5 \ on Irish bill. Attended Lord Lytton's funeral in
the Abbey. The church lighted in a frost-fog was sublime.
31. — Cabinet spent many hours in settling Irish university bill.
Feb. 2. — Paid a mournful visit to the death-bedside of my old
friend Milnes Gaskell. . . . Death has been very busy around me.
8. — Cabinet 2£-6 £. Passed the Irish university bill. 13. —
Worked until three upon my materials. Then drove and walked.
H. of C. 4^-8 £. I spoke three hours in introducing the Irish
university bill with much detailed explanation. (Diary.)

Phillimore has an interesting note or two on his friend at
this critical time : —

Feb. 2. — Gladstone looking well, but .much aged. Spoke of
anxiety to retire when he could do so with honour; said he had
forced himself into the study of the whole question relating to
Trinity College, Dublin, and that he was sure that his enemies did
not understand the very curious facts relative to the university. It
seemed as if he meant to frame the government measure on a
historical and antiquarian basis. This will not satisfy the country
if the practical result is to place more power in the hands of the

1 The promotion of Dr. Temple to the bench.

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papists. 10. — Gladstone looked very worn and anxious. Spoke
about the relief he should experience after Thursday, the weight of
A873 * the matter which he had to deal with, and the general misapprehen-
sion which prevailed ; thought the tide was turning in their favour.
11. — Gladstone in high spirits, confident of success on Thursday.
14. — Dined at Gladstone's. Our host in high spirits at his
achievement of yesterday.

The leading provisions of the measure, though found by
the able and expert draftsman unusually hard to frame, may
be very shortly stated, for the question by the way is still in
full blast. A new university of Dublin was to rise, a teach-
ing as well as an examining body, governed by a council
who were to appoint officers and regulate all matters and
things affecting the university. The constitution of this
governing council was elaborately devised, and it did not
make clerical predominance ultimately impossible. The affilia-
tion of colleges, not excluding purely denominational institu-
tions, was in their hands. There were to be no religious
tests for either teachers or taught, and religious profession
was to be no bar to honours and emoluments. Money was
provided by Trinity College, the consolidated fund, and the
church surplus, to the tune of £50,000 a year. The prin-
ciple was the old formula of mixed or united education,
in which protestants and catholics might side by side

What many found intolerably obnoxious were two 'gag-
ging clauses.' By one of these a teacher or other person of
authority might be suspended or deprived, who should in
speaking or writing be held to have wilfully given offence
to the religious convictions of any member. The second
and graver of them was the prohibition of any university
teacher in theology, modern history, or moral and mental
philosophy. The separate affiliated colleges might make
whatever arrangements they pleased for these subjects, but
the new university would not teach them directly and authori-
tatively. This was undoubtedly a singular limitation for a
university that had sent forth Berkeley and Burke ; nor was
there ever a moment when in spite of the specialisation of

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research, the deepest questions in the domain of thought CHAP,
and belief more inevitably thrust themselves forward within ^

common and indivisible precincts. ^ T - 64 -

On Feb. 14, Mr. Gladstone reported to the Queen : —
The general impression last night appeared to be that the
friends of Trinity College were relieved ; that the liberal party
and the nonconformists were well satisfied with the conformity
between the proposed measure and the accepted principles of
university organization in England ; but that the Roman catholics
would think themselves hardly or at least not generously used.
All that Mr. Gladstone has heard this morning through private
channels, as well as the general tone of the press, tends to
corroborate tlje favourable parts of what he gathered last night,
and to give hope that reasonable and moderate Roman catholics
may see that their real grievances will be removed; generally
also to support the expectation that the bill is not unlikely to

Delane of the Times said to Manning when they were
leaving the House of Commons, ' This is a bill made to pass/
Manning himself heartily acquiesced. Even the bitterest of
Mr. Gladstone's critics below the gangway on his own side
agreed, that if a division could have been taken while the
House was still under the influence of the three hours'
speech, the bill would have been almost unanimously
carried. 1 'It threw the House into a mesmeric trance/
said the seconder of a hostile motion. Effects like these,
not purple passages, not epigrams nor aphorisms, are the
test of oratory. Mr. Bruce wrote home (Feb. 15): — 'Alas I
I fear all prospect of ministerial defeat is over. The Uni-
versity bill is so well received that people say there will
not be even a division on the second reading. I see no
other rock ahead, but sometimes they project their snouts
unexpectedly, and cause shipwreck.'

Soon did the projecting rocks appear out of the smooth
water. Lord Spencer had an interview with Cardinal Cullen

1 Stephen's Lift c/Faweett, p. 282.

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48 cXtholic COUNTRY AND PROTESTANT parliament

at Dublin Castle (Feb. 25), and found him though in very
good humour and full of gratitude for fair intentions, yet
1873. extremely hostile to the bill It was in flat opposition, he
said, to what the Roman catholics had been working for in
Ireland for years ; it continued the Queen's Colleges, and set
up another Queen's College in the shape of Trinity College
with a large endowment ; it perpetuated the mixed system
of education, to which he had always been opposed, and no
endowment nor assistance was given to the catholic univer-
sity ; the council might appoint professors to teach English
literature, geology, or zoology who would be dangerous men
in catholic eyes. Lord Spencer gathered that the cardinal
would be satisfied with a sum down to redress inequality or
a grant for buildings.

Archbishop Manning wrote to Cardinal Cullen the day
after the bill was produced, ' strongly urging them to accept
it/ It seemed to him to rest on a base so broad that
he could not tell how either the opposition or the radical
doctrinaires could attack it without adopting ' the German
tyranny.' He admitted that he was more easily satisfied
than if he were in Ireland, but he thought the measure
framed with skill and success. After a fortnight the arch-
bishop told Mr. Gladstone, that he still saw reason to believe
that the Irish hierarchy would not refuse the bill On
March 3rd, he says he has done his utmost to conciliate
confidence in it. By the 7th he knew that "his efforts
had failed, but he urges Mr. Gladstone not to take the
episcopal opposition too much to heart. ' Non-endowment,
mixed education, and godless colleges, are three bitter things
to them.' ' This/ he wrote to Mr. Gladstone, when all was
over (March 12) 'is not your fault, nor the bill's fault, but
the fault of England and Scotland and three anti-catholic

The debate began on March 3rd, and extended to four
sittings. The humour of the House was described by Mr.
Gladstone as ' fitful and fluctuating/ Speeches ' void of real
argument or point, yet aroused the mere prejudices of a
section of the liberal party against popery and did much to
place the bill in danger/ Then that cause of apprehension

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disappeared, and a new change passed ovei the shifting CHAP,
sky, for the intentions of Irish members were reported to be v
dubious. There was not a little heat and passion, mainly
from below the ministerial gangway. The gagging clauses
jarred horribly, though they were trenchantly defended by
Mr. Lowe, the very man to whose line of knowledge and
intellectual freedom they seemed likely to be most repugnant
It soon appeared that neither protestant nor catholic set any
value on these securities for conscience, and the general
assembly of the presbyterians declared war upon the whole
scheme. The cabinet — 'most harmonious at this critical
time/ — still held firmly that the bill was well constructed,
so that if it once reached committee it would not be easy to
inflict mortal wounds. On March 8th the prime minister
reported to the Queen : —

Strange to say, it is the opposition of the Roman catholic
bishops that brings about the present difficulty; and this
although they have not declared an opposition to the bill out-
right, but have wound up their list of objections with a resolu-
tion to present petitions praying for its amendment. Still their
attitude of what may be called growling hostility has had these
important results. Firstly, it has deadened that general willing-
ness of the liberal party, which the measure itself had created, to
look favourably on a plan such as they might hope would obtain
acquiescence, and bring about contentment. Secondly, the great
majority of the bishops are even more hostile than the resolu-
tions, which were apparently somewhat softened as the price of
unanimity; and all these bishops, working upon liberal Irish
members through their political interest in their seats, have pro-
ceeded so far that from twenty to twenty-five may go against the
bill, and as many may stay away. When to these are added the
small knot of discontented liberals and mere fanatics which so
large a party commonly contains, the government majority, now
taken at only 85, disappears. . .

It is not in the power or the will of your Majesty's advisers to

purchase Irish' support by subserviency to the Roman bishops.

Their purpose has been to offer justice to all, and their hope has

been that what was just would be seen to be advantageous. As far


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BOOK as the Roman catholics of Ireland are concerned, the cabinet con-

, ' ceive that thej are now at perfect liberty to throw up the bill.

But they are also of opinion that its abandonment would so
impair or destroy their moral power, as to render it impossible
for them to accept the defeat. There are whispers of a desire
in the liberal party, should the catastrophe arrive, to meet it
by a vote of confidence, which would probably be carried by a
still larger majority. But the cabinet look with extreme dis-
favour upon this method of proceeding, which would offer them
the verbal promise of support just when its substance had been

He then proceeds to more purely personal aspects and
contingencies : —

What lies beyond it would be premature to describe as having
been regularly treated or even opened to-day. Mr. Gladstone
considers himself far more tied to the bill and the subject than
his colleagues ; and if they upon a defeat were disposed to carry
on the government without him, he would with your Majesty's
sanction take effectual means to provide at least against his being
an impediment in the way of an arrangement eligible in so many
points of view. But his colleagues appear at present indisposed
to adopt this method of solution. There would then remain for
them the question whether they should humbly tender their
resignations to your Majesty, or whether they should advise a
dissolution of the parliament, which was elected under other
auspices. This would be a matter of the utmost gravity for
consideration at the proper time. Mr. Gladstone as at present
advised has no foregone conclusion in favour of either alternative,
and would act with his colleagues as between them. But he does
not intend to go into opposition, and the dissolution of this
government, brought about through languor and through exten-
sive or important defections in the liberal party which has made
him its leader, would be the close of his political life. He has now
for more than forty years striven to serve the crown and country
to the best of his power, and he is willing, though 'with overtaxed
faculties and diminishing strength, to continue the effort longer,
if he sees that the continuance can be conducive to the objects

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which he has heretofore had at heart; but the contingency to CHAP,
which he has last referred, would be for him the proof that con- «■
fidence was gone, that usefulness was at an end, and that he might T * '
and ought to claim the freedom which best befits the close of life.

The next day, in reporting that the estimates of the
coming division were far from improving, Mr. Gladstone
returned in a few words to the personal point : —

Mr. Gladstone is very grateful for your Majesty's caution
against being swayed by private feelings, and he will endeavour
to be on his guard against them. He has, however, always looked
to the completion of that commission, so to call it, which events
in a measure threw into his hands five years ago, as the natural
close of the main work of the present government; and many
circumstances have combined to impress him with the hope that
thus an honourable path would be opened for his retirement. He
ought, perhaps, to add that he has the strongest opinion, upon
political grounds and grounds other than political, against spend-
ing old age under the strain of that perpetual contention which is
inseparable from his present position; and this opinion could
only be neutralised by his perceiving a special call to remain :
that is to say, some course of public service to be done by him
better than if it were in other hands. Such a prospect he neither
sees nor anticipates. But it is premature to trouble your Majesty
on this minor subject

On the 9th Cardinal Cullen blazed forth in a pastoral that
was read in all the churches. He described the bill as richly
endowing non-catholic and godless colleges, and without
giving one farthing to catholics, inviting them to compete
in their poverty, produced by penal laws and confiscations,
with those left in possession of enormous wealth. The new
university scheme only increased the number of Queen's
Colleges, so often and so solemnly condemned by the catholic
church and by all Ireland, and gave a new impulse to that
sort of teaching that separates education from religion and
its holy influences, and banishes God, the author of all good,
from our schools. The prelate's pastoral had a decisive
effect in regions far removed from the ambit of his crosier.

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BOOK The tory leader could not resist a temptation thus offered by

^ > the attitude of the Irish cardinal, and the measure that

1873. had been much reviled as a dark concordat between Mr.

Gladstone and the pope, was now rejected by a concordat

between the pope's men and Mr. Disraeli.

The discussion was on a high level in Mr. Gladstone's
judgment. Lyon Playfair criticised details with some
severity and much ability, but intended to vote for the bilL
Miall, the nonconformist leader, supported the second read-
ing, but required alterations that were admissible enough.
On March 10 Mr. Har court, who was not yet an old member,
' opened the discussion by a speech in advance of any he has
yet delivered as to effect upon the House. Severe in criti-
cism on detail, he was favourable to the substance of the
bill/ One significant incident of the debate was a declaration
by Bentinck, a conservative ultra, that he would vote against
the bill in reliance on the declaration of Mr. Hardy, which
he understood to be a pledge for himself and others near
him, not to take office during the existence of the present
parliament. ' Mr. Hardy remained silent during this appeal,
which was several times repeated/ Then the end came
(March 11-12):—

Mr. Disraeli rose at half-past ten, and spoke amidst rapt
attention till midnight. Mr. Gladstone followed in a speech of
two hours, and at two o'clock the division was called. During
the whole evening the greatest uncertainty had prevailed; for
himself Mr. Gladstone leaned to expecting an unfavourable result.
The numbers were, Ayes (for the government), 284 ; Noes, 287 ;
majority against the government, 3. It is said that 45 adherents
of the government, or thereabouts, voted against them. It was
the Irish vote that grew continually worse. 1

Of the speech in which the debate was wound up Forster
says in his diary : — ' Gladstone, with the House dead against

1 The adverse majority was made voted with the opposition 43 liberals

up of 209 English, 68 Irish, and 10 — eight English and Scotch, includ-

Scotch members. The minority con- ing Mr. Souverie, Mr. Fawcett,

tained 222 English, 47 Scotch, and Mr. Horsman, Sir Robert Peel, and

15 Irish members. The absentees 35 Irish, of whom 25 were catholics

numbered 75, of whom 53 were Eng- and 10 protestants.
lish, 3 Scotch, and 19 Irish. There

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him and his bill, made a wonderful speech — easy, almost
playful, with passages of great power and eloquence, but,
with a graceful play, which enabled him to plant deep his ^ T - w -
daggers of satire in Horsman and Co/ x Speaker Brand calls
it ' a magnificent speech, generous, high-minded, and with-
out a taint of bitterness, although he was sorely tried, especi-
ally by false friends/ He vindicated the obnoxious clauses,
but did not wish to adhere to them if opinion from all
quarters were adverse, and he admitted that it was the
opposition of members from Ireland that principally acted
on his hearers. His speech contained a remarkable passage,
pronouncing definitely against denominational endowment
of university education.

1 Life of W. E. Forater, i. p. 660.

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. . alia fortuna, come vuol, son presto . .
Perd giri fortuna la sua rota,
Come le piace, e il villan la sua marra.

Irrfcmo, xv. 93.

For fortune as she wills I am ready . . so
let her turn her wheel as she may please,
and the ehurl his spade.

BOOK A week of lively and eventful interest followed, — not only
> interesting in the life of Mr. Gladstone, but raising points
with important constitutional bearings, and showing a match
between two unsurpassed masters of political sword-play.

Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume 2 → online text (page 5 of 91)