The comment of the Times—in which Mr. Moore as a rule finds an active admirer of his political methods—is interesting:—
"Mr. Bailey is a public servant entrusted with certain quasi-judicial functions. That a member of Parliament, whatever may be his opinions of the conduct of such an official, should inform him that he had been appointed 'to see fair play' between his colleagues, and that he had not seen it, and should couple this charge with a promise to press for an inquiry into the working of the department whenever there should be a change of Government, is indefensible."
The whole incident is worthy of attention as showing the atmosphere of suspicious hostility with which the Orange faction in Ireland surrounds every act even of Civil Servants and Executive Officers who are not as active supporters of the ascendancy as they would wish.
Of further legislation dealing with the laws of tenure, the Town Tenants Act of 1906, which Mr. Balfour denounced as highway robbery, gives tenants in towns compensation for disturbance so as to prevent a landlord making a vexatious use of his rights. An attempt was made by the House of Lords to limit the compensation so paid to one year's rent, but the rejection of the amendment by the House of Commons was acquiesced in, and no such limitation exists in the Act.
With regard to the question of the agricultural labourers, the fact that the last Census Report discloses that there are in Ireland nearly 10,000 "houses" with one room and one window apiece, wretched cabins inhabited by about 40,000 people, the peat smoke from the fire in which escapes through a hole in the thatch, gives some idea of the miserable conditions existing in parts of the West of Ireland. Of the quarter of a million of cottages in the second class of the Census—those, that is, with from one to four doors and windows—a large number also no doubt are quite unfit for habitation, and do much in the way of leading to the asylum or to emigration. It is to secure the replacement of these by cheap sanitary and comfortable cottages that the Labourers' Acts, ever since the first of the series introduced by the Irish Party in 1883, have been passed. By them Boards of Guardians, and by the Local Government Act, Rural District Councils, may build such cottages. In 1905, 18,000 cottages had been built under existing Acts, and they are let to tenants at rents of from 10d. to 1s. a week, but the difficulty had always been to effect the improvements sufficiently rapidly owing to the costly and elaborate procedure which involved an appeal to the Privy Council and a heavy burden on the rates of a poverty-stricken community. The Act of 1906 has simplified procedure by replacing the appeal to the Privy Council by an appeal to the Local Government Board, and that it was needful is seen from the fact that under Wyndham's Act only 25 cottages were built. It is hoped thereby to circumvent the apathy of District Councils, and their parsimony is to be appeased by the fact that the funds, which are largely derived from economics in the Irish Executive are advanced at a rate of interest, not as heretofore of 4-7/8 per cent., but, as in the case of land purchase advances, of 3-1/4 per cent., repayable in a period of 68-1/2 years. The urgency of the problem is obvious. The bearing of this state of affairs in rural housing on the fact that in 1904 two out of every thirteen deaths were due to tuberculosis shows that it is impossible to overestimate its importance, and I think that this condition of things, put side by side with the other economic facts with which I have dealt, are a sufficient reply to those who declare that conditions in Ireland would appear couleur de rose were they not seen through the jaundiced eyes of a discontented people.
If the catalogue of Acts of Parliament which have been found necessary to effect the transformation of the system of tenure in Ireland from the state in which it was forty years ago to that in which it is to-day is evidence of the pressing grievance under which the country has suffered; it is also proof that there cannot be legislation other than by shreds and patches on the part of a legislature which lacks sympathy for and knowledge of the country for which it is making laws.
The need for exceptional and separate legislation in Ireland has been admitted, and the system which existed in fact, obtained legal sanction only in 1881, to be in its turn swept away by further legislation which will have a deeper economic bearing on the future of the country than any other change since the relaxation of the Penal Laws. For the rest I cannot do better than quote, in this connection, the opinion of the most dispassionate critic of Ireland of recent years—Herr Moritz Bonn. Speaking of the landlord who has sold his estate he says—"He has no further cause of friction with his former tenants, who now pay him no rent. He no longer regards himself as part of an English garrison. He will again become an Irish patriot. He no longer talks of the unity of the Empire, for Home Rule has few terrors for him now. He talks of 'Devolution,' of the concession of a kind of self-government for Ireland. He will struggle for a while against the designation Home Rule, because not so long ago he was declaring that he would die in the last ditch for the union of the three kingdoms, but he will soon be reconciled to it. It will not be very long till the former landlords, whose chief interests lie in Ireland, have become enthusiastic Nationalists."
THE RELIGIOUS QUESTION
"I am convinced that if the void in the lay leadership of the country be filled up by higher education of the better classes among the Catholic laity, the power of the priests, so far as it is abnormal or unnecessary, will pass away."
—DR. O'DEA, now Bishop of Clonfert, speaking in evidence before the Robertson Commission on University Education, as the representative of Maynooth College. Appendix to Third Report, p. 296.
The scruples of George III., who although as King of Ireland he yielded to the claims of Catholics to the suffrage by giving the Royal consent to the enfranchising Act of Grattan's Parliament in 1793, were such that they made him declare that his coronation oath compelled him to maintain the Protestantism of the United Parliament of the three kingdoms and express himself to Dundas of opinion that Pitt's emancipation proposals were "the most Jacobinical thing ever seen."
The continuance for thirty years of these political disabilities, and the obligation incumbent on Catholics to support an alien Church with the full weight of endowments and tithes, did more than anything else to maintain the wall of prejudice between the two creeds which the eighteen years of Grattan's Parliament had done much to destroy.
It was James Anthony Froude who said that the absenteeism of her men of genius was a worse wrong to Ireland than the absenteeism of her landlords. This evil the Union accentuated by reducing Dublin from the seat of Government, which in the middle of the eighteenth century had been the second only to London in size and importance, to the status of a provincial city from which were drawn the leaders of that liberal school of Protestantism the rise of which was the marked feature of Irish politics at the end of the eighteenth century.
The dividing line between parties in England has never been one of caste or of creed, still less of both combined. In the past the Whigs could claim as aristocratic and as exclusive a prestige as could the Tories. In point of wealth there was little to choose, and, most important of all, in respect of religion, though the minor clergy were very largely Tory and the Dissenters were allied to the Whigs, yet the Anglicanism of the great Whig families, and their appointments when in power to the Episcopal bench and to other places of preferment, saved the Church of England from being identified in toto with either party in the State.
In Ireland, unfortunately, the case was far different, for there property and the Established Church found themselves ranged side by side in the maintenance of their respective privileges against the democracy, which, as it happened, was Catholic, and which for many years after the Union did not recover from the long and demoralising persecution of the Penal Laws.
The aristocracy resisted emancipation, in spite of the fact that it was advocated by all the greatest statesmen and orators of two generations, and it did so quite as much because it was emancipation of the masses as because it was emancipation of the Catholics. The Church of Ireland at the same time dreaded the reform since it had the foresight to perceive that the outcome would be an attack upon her prerogatives and an assault upon her position. The anticipations of both were well founded. Nine years after the Emancipation Act, tithe, which an English Prime Minister had declared was as sacred as rent, was by Act of Parliament commuted into a rent-charge no longer collected directly from the tenant, but paid by the landlord, who, however, compensated himself for its incidence on his shoulders by raising rents. Forty years later the Church Act was passed, and almost simultaneously was begun the assault on the land system which had given support to, and received it from, the Church Establishment.
I have heard it said by Englishmen who have watched the course of politics for some years that the jingling watchword which Lord Randolph Churchill coined for the Unionists twenty years ago, that Home Rule would spell Rome Rule, if used again to-day would to a very great extent fall flat. They have based this view, not on the assumption that Englishmen love Rome more, but rather upon the opinion that they care for all religions less, and that hence the appeal to bigotry would make less play.
The fact, however, remains that one meets men in England with every sympathy for Irish claims who shrink nevertheless from the advocacy of the principle of self-government through fear lest the Protestant minority should suffer. This fear for the rights of minorities serves always as the last ditch in which a losing cause entrenches itself, and timid souls have always been found who hesitate at the approach of every reform on the ground that the devil you know may turn out to be not so bad as the devil you do not know. The legislative history of the House of Lords during the last century, if examples of this were needed, would provide them in large numbers; and as to the question of whether it is better that the majority or the minority of a nation should be governed against its will, one need scarcely say which is the principle adopted in a normal system of Parliamentary government. The rapidity with which under Grattan's Parliament an emancipated Ireland ceased to be intolerant leads one to suspect that the bigotry of creeds which is attributed to us as a race is not a natural characteristic, but rather the outcome of external causes. This view is borne out by the opinion of Lecky, who declared that the deliberate policy of English statesmen was "to dig a deep chasm between Catholics and Protestants," and if proof of the allegation is needed it is to be found in the fact that in the middle of the eighteenth century the Protestant Primate, Archbishop Boulter, wrote to Government concerning a certain proposal that "it united Protestants and Papists, and if that conciliation takes place, farewell to English influence in Ireland."
Under Grattan's Parliament Trinity College, Dublin, opened its doors, though not its endowments, to Catholics. In 1795 a petition from Maynooth, the lay college in which was not till twenty years later suppressed by Government for political reasons, was presented to the Irish House of Commons by Henry Grattan, protesting against the exclusion of Protestants from its halls. In the ranks of the Volunteers, who secured free trade in 1779 and Parliamentary Independence in 1782, Catholics and Protestants stood shoulder to shoulder, and the independent legislature, which was the outcome of their efforts, granted the franchise to the Catholics.
It was of course natural, when Catholics were excluded from Parliament, that the leaders of the people should have been members of the Protestant Church, but in view of the alleged bigotry at the present day of the mass of the Irish people it is surely significant that Isaac Butt and Parnell were both members of the Church of minority, that to take three of the fiercest opponents of the maintenance of the Union John Mitchell was a Unitarian, Thomas Davis an Episcopalian Protestant, and Joseph Biggar a Presbyterian. At this moment of the Nationalist Members of Parliament nine, or more than ten per cent., are Protestants, and one may well ask if the Orangemen have ever had a like proportion of Catholic members of their party, and a fortiori what would be thought of the suggestion that a member of that religion should lead them in the House of Commons. The difficulty experienced in Great Britain by would-be candidates of either party in securing their adoption by local associations if they are Catholics is so common as to make the excessive bigotry alleged against the Irish Catholics, one-tenth of whose representatives are Protestants, appear very much exaggerated.
That bigotry exists among Catholics to some extent I should be the last, albeit regretfully, to deny, but I leave it to the reader to judge how far this is the result and the natural outcome of a policy the direct opposite of that pursued in Scotland, where shortly after the union of her Parliament with that of England, the Church of the majority of the people was for the sake of peace established and has remained in this privileged position ever since. In view of the use to which the "No Popery" cry has been put in its bearings on the Irish question, it is interesting to consider the relations of the English Government with the Catholic Church throughout the last century and to see how far it throws light on the justice and applicability of the taunt that Ireland is priest-ridden.
In 1814 the Catholics of England, in spite of the opposition of the Irish people, secured from Mgr. Quarantotti, the Vice-Prefect of the Propaganda in Rome, who was acting in the absence of Pope Pius VII., at that date still a prisoner in France, a letter declaring that in his judgment the Royal veto should be exercised on ecclesiastical appointments in Ireland. Under O'Connell's leadership, the bishops, clergy, and people of Ireland refused to submit to the decree, and there, in spite of the indignation of the English Catholics as a whole and of the Catholic aristocracy of Ireland, the proposal was allowed to drop, which would have virtually given a right of conge d'elire to the English ministry.
In 1782 Edmund Burke had written in his letter to a peer of Ireland on the Penal Laws—"Never were the members of a religious sect fit to appoint the pastors of another. It is a good deal to suppose that even the present Castle would nominate bishops for the Irish Catholic Church with a religious regard for its welfare." If this was the case under Grattan's Parliament, its application thirty years later was very much more cogent. Behind the scenes, however, the wires continued to be pulled, as is seen by what Melbourne told Greville in 1835, after the latter had expressed the opinion that the sound course in Irish affairs was to open a negotiation with Rome. "He then told me ... that an application had been made to the Pope very lately (through Seymour) expressive of the particular wish of the British Government that he would not appoint MacHale to the vacant bishopric—anyone but him. But on this occasion the Pope made a shrewd observation. His Holiness said that he had remarked that no place of preferment of any value ever fell vacant in Ireland that he did not get an application from the British Government asking for the appointment. Lord Melbourne supposed that he was determined to show that he had the power of refusal and of opposing the wishes of the Government, and in reply to my questions he admitted that the Pope had generally conferred the appointment according to the wishes of the Government."
These facts must be borne in mind on the part of those by whom the admitted support given by the Whig Catholic "Castle Bishops" of the early part of the nineteenth century to the Government is urged as evidence of a consistent tendency on the part of the Church in Ireland, the political views of the prelates of which, so soon as in the second half of the nineteenth century Governmental lobbying ceased, were of an entirely different colour.
At a later date Greville returned to the topic and noted that "Palmerston said there was nothing to prevent our sending a minister to Rome; but they had not dared to do it on account of their supposed Popish tendencies. Peel might." Melbourne was not alone among Prime Ministers of the time in his appeals to the Holy See. In 1844 the Government of Sir Robert Peel, when troubled with the manifestations of sympathy which O'Connell was arousing, made an appeal to Gregory XVI. to discourage the agitation, and three years later, when the Whigs under Lord John Russell were in office, Lord Minto, Lord Privy Seal, who was Palmerston's father-in-law, was sent to Rome in the autumn recess to secure the adherence of Pius IX., then in the first months of his Pontificate, to the same line of action, and to bring to the notice of His Holiness the conduct of the Irish priesthood in supporting O'Connell. The fact that neither Gregory XVI. nor Pio Nono made any response to these appeals lends point to the sardonic comment of Disraeli on the Minto mission—that he had gone to teach diplomacy to the countrymen of Machiavelli. The views of Palmerston, on the other hand, are to be seen from a letter addressed to Minto, which is extant, in which, with characteristic bluntness, the Foreign Secretary wrote that public opinion against the Irish priests at home was so exasperated that nothing would give English people more satisfaction than to see a few of them hanged.
"Can anything be more absurd," Greville had written concerning the relations which Melbourne revealed to him as subsisting between Downing Street and the Vatican, and the quotation is as appropriate to these later overtures. "Can anything be more absurd or anomalous than such relations as these? The law prohibits any intercourse with Rome, and the Government, whose business it is to enforce the law, establishes a regular, but underhand, intercourse through the medium of a diplomatic agent, whose character cannot be avowed, and the ministers of this Protestant kingdom are continually soliciting the Pope to confer appointments, the validity, even the existence, of which they do not recognise, while the Pope, who is the chief object of our abhorrence and dread, good humouredly complies with all or nearly all their requests."
Two years after the Minto mission, and a few months before he succeeded to power in place of Peel, Lord John Russell told Charles Greville that the Government was "the greatest curse to Ireland," and he spoke of "their policy of first truckling to the Orangemen, insulting, and then making useless concessions to the Catholics, without firmness and justice." It is only fair to Lord John to say that in the following year he ordered a Bill to be drawn up to legalise intercourse with the Pope and to put an end to these repeated acts of praemunire on the part of Ministers of the Crown; for a large number of constitutional authorities believed that their action amounted to this offence, which has been defined as consisting of acts tending to introduce into the realm some foreign power, more particularly that of the Pope, to the diminution of the King's authority.
The Diplomatic Relations with the Court of Rome Bill was introduced and passed into law, with one important amendment which we shall have occasion to notice later, in 1848, less than two years after Peel's ministry had been succeeded by that of Russell. The grounds upon which its acceptance by Parliament was demanded were that the complications resulting from the revolutionary crisis throughout the Continent made it essential that the Foreign Office should be in a position, in dealing with the chancelleries of Europe, to obtain direct recognition, and as a result first-hand information, as to the attitude of the Holy See in any situations which might arise; and the acceptance by Parliament of the change of policy which the Bill was intended to effect, on the understanding that diplomatic negotiations should be confined to foreign affairs, may be seen in the words of Earl Fitzwilliam in the House of Lords. In his speech in support of the Bill he declared that "the very last subject upon which the Government should communicate with the Court of Rome was that which had reference to relations which it should have with its own Roman Catholic subjects."
The Act was an enabling Act, and its proposals, like those as to concurrent endowment which Russell had made three years earlier, were forgotten in 1850, when, in the matter of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, the Prime Minister played the part which Leech immortalised as that of "the little boy who chalked up 'No Popery' and then ran away."
Even in the interval before this occurred the provisions of the Act were not put in force. No appointment pursuant to the statute was ever made, but its object was indirectly secured by the fact that a Secretary of Legation, nominally accredited to the Court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, was kept in residence in Rome, where he served as a de facto Minister to the Vatican. This state of affairs was maintained until Lord Derby recalled Jervoise, who was then Secretary, from Rome, and from that date even this measure of diplomatic representation at the Vatican has ceased to exist.
The Bill of 1848, as we have seen, was directed to the establishment of relations with "the Court of Rome." An amendment on the part of the Bishop of Winchester, which was accepted and passed into law, substituted for these words the phrase "Sovereign of the Roman States," and in consequence, after the loss of the Temporal Power, the Act was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act, 1875, so that the law was restored to that condition, in regard to this subject, in which it had been before Lord John Russell introduced the Act of 1848.
All this, it will be said, is ancient history, but the fact that it is fifty years old does not affect my point, which is this—that the maintenance of an unnatural polity can only be secured by means of a series of subterfuges such as these employed by Unionist Governments, both Whig and Tory, by which, while sympathy was extended to Orangemen in the open, the Ministry endeavoured to twitch the red sleeves of the Roman Curia in the back stairs of the Vatican.
As Macaulay picturesquely put it, at any moment Exeter Hall might raise its war whoop and the Orangemen would begin to bray, and there was no choice, one must suppose, but that you should not let your right hand know what your left hand was doing.
In 1881 Mr. Gladstone appealed to Cardinal Newman to apprise the Pope of the violent speeches which were being delivered by certain priests in Ireland, for whose language he said he held the Pope, if informed of it, morally responsible, and he asked the English Cardinal for his assistance. To this Newman replied that the Pope was not supreme in political matters, his action as to whether a political party is censurable is not direct, and, moreover, it lay with the bishops to censure the clergy for their language if they thought it intemperate, and the interposition of the Holy See was not called for by the circumstances of the case.
The policy, however, which had been applied before was employed once more in another direction in the teeth of British sentiment if not of British law. A mortgage had been foreclosed on Parnell's estate, and the Irish newspapers having obtained knowledge of the fact raised a collection which became known as the Parnell Tribute, and which was headed by a subscription from the Archbishop of Cashel. If precedent were needed for this form of recognition of national services it was to be found in the grant of L50,000—which might, had he been willing, have been double that amount—which was made to Grattan by the emancipated Irish House of Commons, but more exact parallels perhaps are to be found in "O'Connel's Rent," which Greville described as "nobly paid and nobly earned," or in the great collection which marked the popular appreciation in Great Britain of Cobden's services in securing the repeal of the Corn Laws. In the autumn of 1881, when the Parnell Tribute was initiated, the Land League agitation was in full swing in Ireland, and about the same time Mr. George Errington, an English Catholic Whig Member of Parliament, who was about to spend the winter in Rome, called on Lord Granville, the Foreign Secretary, and was given by him an introduction to the Cardinal Secretary of State. In this wise Mr. Errington went, in the phrase of the day, "to keep the Vatican in good humour," and if he was not the accredited representative of Her Brittanic Majesty—for that would have been illegal—at any rate he went with the sanction and under the aegis of the Foreign Office.
The upshot was a Papal rescript, signed by Cardinal Simeoni, the Prefect, and Mgr. Jacobini, the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation De Propagatione Fide, which condemned the Tribute owing to the Land League agitation.
"The collection called 'The Parnell Testimonial Fund,'" so ran the rescript, "cannot be approved, and consequently it cannot be tolerated that any ecclesiastic, much less a bishop, should take any part whatever in recommending or promoting it."
The bishops and clergy withdrew from any further action in connection with the Tribute Fund, but the laity gave the lie to the suggestion that they are under the thumb of their priests in matters which are not within the sphere of faith or morals. The rescript was promulgated in May, and at this time the subscription list amounted to less than L8,000. Within a month it had doubled, and by the end of the year it amounted to L37,000. The amount of the mortgage was L13,000. As Parnell, in a characteristically laconic way, put it in his evidence before the Commission, "The Irish people raised a collection for me to pay off the amount of a mortgage. The amount of the collection considerably exceeded the amount necessary." The retort of the country to the document "Qualecumque de Parnellio," had been, in the phrase then current, to "make Peter's pence into Parnell's pounds."
Two years after the Simeoni letter Mr. Errington was again in Rome, attempting this time to secure the exclusion from the successorship to Cardinal M'Cabe, of Dr. Walsh of Maynooth, as Archbishop of Dublin. A letter on the subject fell into the hands of the editor of United Ireland, who published it in his paper, and so in this way thwarted the objects of the second Errington mission. "If we want to hold Ireland by force," said Joseph Cowen, the Radical member for Newcastle, "let us do it ourselves; let us not call in the Pope, whom we are always attacking, to help us."
A further instance may be recounted of the manner in which the people of what is, after Spain, the most Catholic country in Europe, while submitting to the Pope implicitly in matters which are de fide, refused to take their cue in purely political matters from Rome.
The rejection of the Home Rule Bill and of the Land Bill of 1886, and the return of the Conservatives to power, led to a recrudescence of the land war, to which the hope of ameliorative legislation had temporarily put a truce. The Plan of Campaign, which was then launched—of which it has been said that no agrarian movement was ever so unstained by crime—was of the following nature:—The tenants of a locality were to form themselves into an association, each member of which was to proffer to the landlord or his agent a sum which was estimated by the general body as a fair rent for his holding. These sums, if refused by the landlord, were pooled and divided by the association for the maintenance of those tenants who were evicted.
The wheels were set in motion in Rome to obtain a ruling from the Holy Office as to whether such action was justifiable or not. Mgr. Persico, the head of the Oriental rite in the Propaganda, who had had much experience of English speaking people in the East, was sent to Ireland in July, 1887, to investigate the question on the spot. In April, 1888, a rescript was issued by the Holy Office to the bishops of Ireland condemning the Plan of Campaign and boycotting on the ground that they were contrary to both natural justice and Christian charity. With the Decree was sent to the bishops a circular letter, signed by Cardinal Monaco, the Secretary of the Holy Office, which contained the following statement:—"The justice of the decision will be readily seen by anyone who applies his mind to consider that a rent agreed upon by mutual consent cannot, without violation of a contract, be diminished at the mere will of a tenant, especially when there are tribunals appointed for settling such controversies and reducing unjust rents within the bounds of equity after taking into account the causes which diminish the value of the land.... Finally, it is contrary to justice and to charity to persecute by a social interdict those who are satisfied to pay rents agreed upon, or those who, in the exercise of their right, take vacant lands."
The Tablet, the organ of English Catholicism, speaking of the decision, said that happily there was no suspicion of politics about it, and as to the letter of Cardinal Monaco la Valetta, it wrote—"It adds certain reasons which perhaps may have led the Congregation to answer as they have done, but these constitute no part of the official reply." The next step in this episode should be well pondered by those who accuse the Irish of a blind Ultramontanism. The bishops, with one exception, omitted to publish the rescript to their flocks, and the Archbishop of Cashel went so far as to send L50 to the funds of the Plan of Campaign. Parnell, referring publicly to the rescript as "a document from a distant country," declared that his Catholic colleagues must decide for themselves what action to take. Mr. Dillon contradicted the statements in Cardinal Monaco's letter to the effect that the contracts were voluntary or that the campaign fund of the Land League had been collected by extortion. A meeting of forty Catholic members of Parliament assembled in Dublin, and in the Mansion House in that city signed a document denying the allegations about free contracts, fair rent, the Land Commission, and the rest, declared that the conclusions had been drawn from erroneous premises, and while asserting their complete obedience to the Holy See in spiritual matters, no less strongly repudiated the suggestion that Rome had any right to interfere in matters of a political nature. Mass meetings were held in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, and in Cork, which indorsed this position by popular vote. The Orangemen were delighted at the imminence of a schism, and the discomfiture of the Catholics under a decree, the result of internal division, was hailed with pleasure only by the enemies of the Church. In the event they were doomed to disappointment, for in the closing days of the year the Holy Father wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Dublin concerning his action, which had been "so sadly misunderstood," in which he wrote that "as to the counsels that we have given to the people of Ireland from time to time and our recent decree, we were moved in these things, not only by the consideration of what is conformable to truth and justice, but also by the desire of advancing your interests. For such is our affection for you that it does not suffer us to allow the cause in which Ireland is struggling to be weakened by the introduction of anything that could justly be brought in reproach against it."
In this manner was closed an incident which was expected by its foes to threaten the allegiance of Ireland, and with it that of more than half the Catholics in England, to the Holy See.
The Nationalist members at the Mansion House had flatly declared that the decree was an instrument of the unscrupulous enemies both of Ireland and of the Holy See. The Tablet, which declared that it had been promulgated with full and intimate knowledge of all the circumstances, retorted—"As a matter of fact we believe that the English Government has taken no steps, direct or indirect, to obtain the pronouncement, which is based solely on the reports of Mgr. Persico and the documents and evidence which accompanied them." And it went on to add that Persico was expected to return to Ireland to watch the application of the decree.
Beyond this, until recently, nothing more was known except that it was remarked that negotiations between the Duke of Norfolk and the Vatican were broken off, and that the former left Rome suddenly for England without having an audience with the Pope, for which arrangements had been made. The forecast of the Tablet as to Mgr. Persico's return to Ireland to see that the terms of the decree were enforced and applied, was not correct. The responsibility for the decree was everywhere laid on his shoulders, and the Tablet for April 27th, 1889, records that an Address was presented to Mgr. Persico after his return to Rome "as an expression of respect, and in the fervent hope that his Excellency's mission might largely conduce to the glory of God, the increase of charity, and the restoration of peace and goodwill among men."
It is only in the last couple of years, with the publications of Persico's correspondence with Cardinal Manning, that the real facts of the case have been known. After spending six months in Ireland, the envoy was obliged, for reasons of health, to move to Devonshire in January, 1888. He had orders from Rome to remain in the British Islands, but further, so he told the Cardinal in his letter, "I must not reside in London so as to give not the least suspicion that I have anything to do with the British Government." As to the promulgation of the decree, it was done without his knowledge and, what is more, against his judgment. Having arrived in Ireland in July, 1887, he had concluded his investigations by the middle of the month of December of that year. His requests that the mission might be terminated were met by the reply that it was to continue indefinitely, and he was told that if he wished, for reasons of health, to leave Ireland during the winter months he might do so, but that he must remain in the British Isles.
After the issue of the rescript he wrote to the English Cardinal in these words:—"It is known to your Eminence that I did not expect at all the said decree, that I was never so much surprised in my life as when I received the bare circular from Propaganda on the morning of the 28th ulto. And fancy, I received the bare circular, as I suppose every Irish bishop did, without a letter or a word of instruction or explanation. And what is more unaccountable to me, only the day before I had received a letter from the Secretary for the Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, telling me that nothing had been done about Irish affairs, and that my report and other letters were still nell casetta del Emo. Rampolla! And yet the whole world thinks and says that the Holy Office has acted on my report, and that the decree is based upon the same! Not only all the Roman correspondents but all the newspapers avec le Tablet en tete proclaim and report the same thing! I wish that my report and all my letters had been studied and seriously considered, and that action had been taken from the same! Above all, I had proposed and insisted upon it, that whatever was necessary to be done ought to be done with, and through, the bishops." Of this there is ample proof in the earlier letters, and the proposal which he made was that the four archbishops and one bishop for every province should be summoned to Rome to "prepare and settle things." Writing on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1888, he said to Manning:—"I agree fully with your Eminence that the true Nunciatura for England and Ireland is the Episcopate. If the bishops do not know the state of the country they are not fit to be bishops. If they do, what more can una persona ufficiosa o ufficiale do for the Holy See?" And again—"I fully understand what your Eminence adds, the English people tolerate the Catholic Church as a spiritual body. The first sign of a political action on the Government would rekindle all the old fears, suspicions, and hostility. It is a great pity they do not realise this in Rome. And it is also a great pity that English Catholics do not understand all this. I am sure that His Holiness understands it well, but I share your fears that those about him may harass him with the fickle and vain glory that would accrue to the Holy See by having an accredited representative from England also."
It is impossible not to infer from this that the English Catholics were engaged in an attempt to secure diplomatic recognition by Great Britain of the Holy See, and that their anxiety to secure this was in some measure connected with their desire to override the feelings and opinions of the Irish Episcopate, but the overtures of Lord Salisbury were as fruitless as those of Russell forty years before.
The last letter from Mgr. Persico to the English Cardinal, which has been reprinted, reiterates the disclaimer of responsibility for the action of the Vatican, in these words:—
"I had no idea that anything had been done about Irish affairs much less thought that some questions had been referred to the Holy Office, and the first knowledge I had of the decree was on the morning of the 28th April, when I received the bare circular sent me by Propaganda. I must add that had I known of such a thing I would have felt it my duty to make proper representations to the Holy See."
In view of this it is interesting to read the naive record in the Tablet of those who signed the address to Persico on the totally wrong assumption that he and his report were the causa causans of the decree. "The signatures," says the Tablet, "comprise those of all the Catholic peers in Ireland (14 in number), four Privy Councillors, ten honourables, two Lords Lieutenants of counties, nineteen baronets, fifty-four deputy-lieutenants, two hundred and ninety-seven magistrates, and a large number of the learned and military professions." The remarkable thing about this memorial was the absence of the names of any clerics, regular or secular, parish priests or prelates.
There are in Ireland a great many more Protestant Nationalists than the English Press allows its readers to suspect, and it is one of these who, in a recent novel, declares in a wild hyperbole that if the bishops can secure the continuance of English Government for the next half century Ireland will have become the Church's property. No one, of course, with any sense of proportion takes seriously such a statement as this, but I allude to it as showing, in its extreme anti-clericalism, the same tendency, very much magnified, as I have observed to a great extent in the Protestant Nationalist as a class, who has not, as I believe, had time to eliminate the last taint of No Popery feeling in which for generations he and his forbears have been steeped. The existence of this anti-clerical spirit, and, what is more to the point, its expression with the proverbial tactlessness of the political convert, for such a one the Protestant Nationalist usually is, make it very essential that the Catholic clergy should walk warily and avoid giving any handle to their detractors, for in Ireland, and perhaps most of all in the Church in Ireland, there is need to use the prayer of the faithful Commons—"that the best possible construction be put on one's motives." How small is the basis for the allegation that the clergy are playing only for the Church's hand and are prepared to sacrifice for this end the welfare of the country is shown, I think, by the evidence which I have adduced. But in spite of their ill success in the past there is a persistent notion on the part of both English parties that they can drag in ecclesiastical influence to redress the political balance in their favour. The exposure in the Life of Lord Randolph Churchill of the manner in which he proposed to Lord Salisbury to win over the Church to Unionism is an example of what I mean:—
"I have no objection to Sexton and Healy knowing the deliberate intention of the Government on the subject of Irish education, but it would not do for the letter or communication to be made public, for the effect of publicity on Lancashire would be unfortunate.... It is the bishops entirely to whom I look in future to mitigate or postpone the Home Rule onslaught. Let us only be enabled to occupy a year with the education question. By that time I am certain Parnell's party will have become seriously disintegrated. Personal jealousies, Government influences, Davitt and Fenian intrigues, will be at work upon the devoted band of eighty. The bishops, who in their hearts hate Parnell, and don't care a scrap for Home Rule, having safely acquired control of Irish education, will, according to my calculation, complete the rout. That is my policy, and I know it is sound and good, and the only possible Tory policy." And again he wrote—"My opinion is that if you approach the archbishops through proper channels, if you deal in friendly remonstrances and active assurances ... the tremendous force of the Catholic Church will gradually and insensibly come over to the side of the Tory Party."
All this, of course, is perfectly consistent with the views which in 1884 the leader of the Fourth Party had expressed when, speaking on the Franchise Bill, he declared his opinion that "the agricultural peasant is much more under the proper and legitimate influence of the Roman Catholic priesthood than the lower classes in the towns." But how is one to reconcile either of these declarations with his action in 1886, when, the tremendous force of the Catholic Church not having come over to the Tory side, he "decided to play the Orange card, which, please God, will prove a trump," and went, with his hands red from making overtures to what they considered the scarlet woman, to rally the Orangemen with the haunting jingle that Home Rule would be Rome Rule.
This was before the general election of 1886. Seven years later, when another election was approaching, he returned to the charge, this time in a letter to Lord Justice FitzGibbon:—"What is the great feature," he wrote, "of the political situation in Ireland now? The resurrection in great force of priestly domination in political matters. Now I would cool the ardour of these potentates for Mr. G. by at once offering them the largest concessions on education—primary, intermediate, and university—which justice and generosity could admit of. I would not give them everything before the general election, but I would give a good lot, and keep a good lot for the new Parliament. I do not think they could resist the bribe, and the soothing effect of such a policy on the Irish vote and attitude would be marked. Of course the concessions would have to be very large—almost as large as what the bishops have ever asked for, but preserving intact Trinity College. It would assume the material shape of a money subsidy."
I have set down without omissions and with nothing extenuate the data on which is based the indictment that the clergy have been, and are, anti-national, and I ask the reader to say whether the charge is unsupported or not. That overtures have again and again been made sub rosa to the clergy to wean them from the popular side is proved up to the hilt, but that in any single instance they have closed with the offers or been forced by the rigours of ecclesiastical discipline into compliance, appears to me not proven, as is also the imputation that the people have in any degree departed from the lines of O'Connell's dictum—that we take our theology from Rome, but our politics we prefer of home manufacture. If the action of Cardinal Cullen with regard to the Tenant League in 1855 be adduced as an argument in favour of the proposition, it must be remembered that though as Primate his voice was preponderant and his policy was affected, in Dr. MacHale, the Archbishop of Tuam, an exponent of opposite views was to be found, and that it is on the lines laid down by MacHale, and not those advocated by Cullen, that the policy of the Catholic Church in Ireland has as a rule been based.
The clergy in the early part of the nineteenth century were brought up in foreign seminaries, where passive obedience to the established order was inculcated, and where, as was natural in such places, a horror of the Jacobinical principles of the French revolution created among them an antagonism to any violent agitation, which admittedly or not drew its inspiration from that source, but the names of Dr. Doyle of Kildare, of Dr. Duggan of Clonfert, of Dr. Croke of Cashel, of Dr. M'Cormick, to name only four, show how much support was given to the popular cause in Ireland by a considerable section of the higher clergy.
To Protestant Nationalists I would commend that expression of opinion of the greatest of their number—Edmund Burke—who, speaking of the religion of the mass of his countrymen, declared that in his opinion "it ought to be cherished as a good, though not the most preferable good if a choice was now to be made, and not tolerated as an inevitable evil. It is extraordinary that there should still be need to emphasise the fact that the Catholicism of Ireland is inevitable and that there is no hope of making the country abjure it—but this is the case."
Half a century ago, when proselytism was in full swing in a country weakened by famine, Protestants were sanguine on this point. Sir Francis Head, in a volume which bears the very naive title of "A Fortnight in Ireland," declared that within a couple of years there can exist no doubt whatever that the Protestant population of Ireland will form the majority, and Rev. A.R. Dallas, one of the leading proselytisers in the country, borrowing a Biblical metaphor, announced that "the walls of Irish Romanism had been circumvented again and again, and at the trumpet blast that sounded in the wailings of the famine they may be said to have fallen flat. This is the point of hope in Ireland's present crisis."
With the maintenance by the Church of her hold over the people governments have recognised the influence of the priests, and have tried to turn it to their own use by methods into which they have been afraid to let the light of day; and for the rest, with every trouble and every discontent, has arisen the parrot cry of cherchez le pretre. Conscientious objections to certain forms of education are respected in England when they are emphasised by passive resistance. How many times have the same objections in Ireland been put down to clerical obscurantism? The priest in politics we have been told ad nauseam is the curse of Ireland, but clerical interference is not unknown in English villages, and one has heard of dissenting ministers whose hands are not quite unstained by the defilement of political partisanship. It is not the habit that makes the monk, and it is possible for sacerdotalism to be as rampant among the most rigid of dissenters as in Church itself. An example of the falsehoods which have at intervals to be nailed to the counter was the one which declared that under the compulsion of their priests a considerable part of the Irish electorate falsely declared themselves to be illiterate, so that the secrecy of the ballot might be avoided and their votes might be regulated by the clergy. On a comparison of the statistics of illiterate voters and the Census of illiteracy a similar proportion was found to exist as that between the total number of voters and the whole population, in this way completely disproving the allegation.
A great deal of capital has of late been made of the alleged excessive church building in Ireland during the last few years. In the light of the fact that less than forty years have passed since the money of these same peasants for the expenditure of which so much concern is now expressed, was devoted to the maintenance of what Disraeli admitted to be an alien Church, it is a little surprising to hear this taunt from Englishmen and Protestants. Relieved, as the people have been only in the last generation, from this obligation it is not strange that the work of providing churches for their own worship should have been undertaken. The Catholic churches have in large measure been built by the contributions of successful emigrants, subscribed in many instances with the secondary object of providing work in building during times of distress. There are 2,400 Catholic and 1,500 Protestant churches in Ireland at the present moment, and there is one Episcopalian Protestant church for every 320 members of that creed and one Catholic church for every 1,368 Catholics.
Sir Horace Plunkett, who started this new fashion of attack by giving it the cachet of respectability in the first edition of "Ireland in the New Century," after declaring that he has "come to the conclusion that the immense power of the Irish Roman Catholic clergy has been singularly little abused," goes on to add in connection with the topic on which we are touching that "without a doubt a good many motives are unfortunately at work in the church-building movement which have but remote connection with religion." What is meant by this I cannot pretend to say. It seems to me unworthy of a gentleman in Sir Horace's position, and with his acknowledged good intentions to adopt an attitude which can only be compared to that which Pope satirised in the lines:—
"Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, And without sneering teach the rest to sneer, Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike."
But the remarkable part of the facts about this unframed charge is that in the popular edition of Sir Horace's book, published in 1905, the passage which I have quoted is omitted, and in spite of the fact that nearly forty pages are devoted to an Epilogue containing answers to his critics, the author makes no mention of its omission, and gives no reason for the implied retractation of what may be interpreted as being a very grave charge.
The books of one or two writers on the abuses of clericalism in Ireland, written in violent, unmeasured invective, and innocent—which is more important—of all notion of the value of evidence, are, I understand, eagerly snapped up and readily believed by pious Protestants in England, and it is from these books that many Englishmen have learnt all that they know to-day about the Church in Ireland.
The picture which is presented of the Irish priest as a money-grabbing martinet, whom his flock regard with mingled sentiments of detestation and fear, is a caricature as libellous as it is grotesque. Even the high standard of sexual morality which prevails in the country is attacked as being merely the result of early marriages, inculcated by a priesthood thirsting for marriage fees, and virtue itself is in this way depicted as being nothing but the bye-product of grasping avarice. I would not have thought it necessary to have touched on this subject if I were not assured of the vast circulation of the type of books to which I refer, which are not worth powder and shot, more particularly in dissenting and evangelical circles in England. The reiterated assertion by their author that he is a Catholic produces the entirely false impression that he is the spokesman of a considerable body of Catholics in Ireland whose mouths are closed by the fear of consequences.
One fact which shows how bitter is the hatred towards the religion of Ireland on the part of a section of the population of England is this—that there is no more certain method by which a book on that country can be assured of advertisement and quotation in the English party Press of the baser kind, which for partisan reasons plays on the bigotry of English people by the booming of such books, no matter how scurrilous or how vile are their innuendoes. The comment of M. Paul-Dubois on these attempts to foist on the Catholic Church responsibility for the evil case in which Ireland finds herself, deserves quotation:—"Cette these grossiere et fanatique ne vaut l'honneur d'un devellopment ni d'une discussion: contentons nous de remarquer comme il est habile et simple de rejeter sur Rome la responsabilite des malheurs d'Erin en disculpant ainsi et l'Angleterre et la colonie anglaise en Irlande!"
The energy of the Irish priesthood in the advocacy of temperance—an energy which in a climate like that of Ireland can never be excessive; their social work in the encouragement of the industrial revival by the starting of agricultural and co-operative societies, and, most of all at this time, of the Industrial Development Association; their whole-hearted assistance in the work of the Gaelic League, and their aid in the discouragement of emigration—all these, apart from their spiritual labours, are factors which have increased their claims to the affection of the people to whom they minister and the respect of their non-Catholic fellow-countrymen. They have discouraged violence, and the weight of their Church has always been directed against secret societies, and if their power has been great it is only because they have been in full sympathy with their flocks. In 1848 the clergy made such efforts to check the excesses of the abortive insurrection of that year that Lord Clarendon, the Viceroy, wrote to Lord John Russell to tell him that something must be done for the clergy, but the bigotry of the English and Scottish people stood in the way. The No Rent Manifesto of 1881 fell flat owing to the ecclesiastical condemnation which it incurred on the ground that it involved repudiation of debts. Every article in the Press of Europe and America on the problem of "race suicide" contained a well-deserved tribute to the moral influence of the Irish clergy on their flocks in this direction, and the figures of illegitimacy show the same results of their inculcation of sexual morality. In 1904 there were 3.9 per cent. of such births in England and Wales, in Scotland 6.46, and in Ireland 2.5. The highest rate in Ireland—3.4 in Ulster—is almost the same as the lowest in Scotland—in Dumbartonshire—and the contrast between the Scottish maximum of 14.3 in Kincardine and the Irish minimum of .7 in Connacht needs no comment.
With regard to ecclesiasticism in the lower branches of education, while convinced that popular control over the secular branches, leaving the religious branches of such education completely in the hands of the clergy, is the ideal arrangement, one must admit that there is a striking testimony contained in the Report on Primary Education drawn up in 1904 by Mr. F.H. Dale, as to the efficiency and good management of the Convent Schools in Ireland, which, it should be noted, are at the same time those of least expense to the State. The cleanliness and neatness of the premises, the supervision and management on the part of the Community, the order and tone of the children, are all highly praised; and in a further Report on Intermediate Education, prepared by the same Inspector of Schools jointly with a colleague, will be found equally strong insistence on the well-known success and efficiency of the three hundred schools of the Christian Brothers, in which, without a penny of State aid, are educated some 30,000 pupils; and it was no doubt to the education given by the Christian Brothers that the Protestant Bishop of Killaloe referred when, in an address to his diocesan synod five years ago, he generously recognised the superiority of the Catholic over the Protestant schools in Ireland.
It was Lord Lytton, I think, who described the Established Church in Ireland as the greatest bull in the language, since it was so called because it was a church not for the Irish. All who are acquainted with those masterpieces of Swift's satire—the Drapier Letters—and who appreciate the fact that Berkeley—the most distinguished of Irish Protestant bishops—was refused the Primacy of Ireland because he was an Irishman, and that to appoint any but an Englishman or a Scotsman would be to depart from the policy followed throughout the whole of the eighteenth century, will see that at that time, at any rate, it deserved the censure which it has received as a foreign body maintained for denationalising purposes.
The maintenance until thirty-eight years ago of the Established Church, which raised its mitred head in a country where its adherents formed one-eighth of the population, but where its funds were extorted from those who regarded its doctrines as heresy, was, I verily believe, the fons et origo of the sectarian bitterness which still persists among Catholics, "Lui demander," wrote a French observer of the position of the Catholic Church in the days before 1870, "de s'associer a une telle entreprise lui parait une injure; lui forcer est une violence; la continuance de cette violence est une persecution." You would find it hard to make me believe that had England been the scene of a similar anomaly, with the roles, of course, exchanged, the feelings towards the Catholic Church, even forty years after its disestablishment, would be the most cordial. The proposals of Pitt for the State payment of the Catholic priesthood were constantly revived and advocated throughout the century. Lord Clarendon's views, which have just been quoted, were a mere echo of the opinion expressed by Lord John Russell in favour of concurrent endowment in 1844, and there is a significant allusion on the part of Charles Greville fourteen years earlier to the feeling of that time, in which, after speaking about Irish disaffection, he shows the results which were expected from concurrent endowment by commenting unfavourably on the policy which the Government pursued "instead of depriving him (O'Connell) of half his influence by paying the priests and so getting them under the influence of the Government."
The whole question was considered merely in the abstract until the Fenian outburst of the sixties—as Mr. Gladstone freely admitted—opened men's eyes to this among the other serious problems of Irish government. It required all the violence of desperate men to call, attention to a condition of things in which the Church which was established numbered less than one-eighth of the inhabitants of the country among its adherents.
The part of the country in which the greatest proportion of Episcopalian Protestants was to be found was Ulster, and there they were only 20 per cent. of the people, while in Munster and Connacht they were only 5 and 4 per cent. respectively. In 199 out of 2,428 parishes in Ireland there was not a single member of the Established Church. The net revenue of the Church was L600,000, and of this two archbishops and ten bishops received one-tenth. The mode of solving the inequitable state of affairs which produced least resistance lay in the direction of concurrent endowment. Earl Russell suggested the endowment of Catholics and Presbyterians and the reduction of Episcopalian revenues to one-eighth of their existing amount. To the Presbyterians his plan would have entailed a gain, in so far as the Regium Donum would have been increased, but the opposition to it of the Catholics, in spite of the fact that levelling up rather than planing down appealed not only to Russell but to Grey and Disraeli, resulted in its abandonment, and the question of disestablishment became the recognised solution of the difficulty.
With the introduction of the Bill in 1869 began those dire prophecies and grim forebodings which have formed a running accompaniment to every Irish reform, and Mr. Gladstone and the Liberals were denounced for having sanctioned sacrilege. In the end the Church saved from the burning more than in any equitable sense she was entitled to claim. The Representative Body, which was incorporated in 1870, received about nine millions for commuted salaries, half a million in lieu of private endowments, and another three-quarters of a million was handed over to lay patrons.
The commutation paid to the Non-Conformists for the Regium Donum and other payments was nearly L800,000, and in lieu of the Maynooth grant the Catholic Church received less than L400,000, the income from which fund only covers about one-third of the annual cost of maintenance of Maynooth. The history of this grant dates from the L9,000 given to the College by the Irish Parliament, which was increased by Peel in 1844 to L26,000 a year. When in the following year he brought in a Bill to make it a vote of,L30,000 for building purposes, the Times, according to Greville, "kept pegging away at Peel in a series of articles as mischievous as malignity could make them, and by far the most disgraceful that have ever appeared on a political subject in any public journal."
That on the purely financial side the Catholic Church in Ireland would have gained by concurrent endowment these figures, which represent the whole of her receipts from public funds, amply bear witness, but that she gained in a moral sense far more than in a material sense she might have secured, no one will for one moment deny.
The glaring discrepancy between the amount of public funds at her disposal and the amount held by the other religious bodies from public sources did not abate the virulence with which the Church Act was assailed, but at this day what is of interest is that the jeremiads of the Protestants as to the consequences either to the country at large or to their Church in particular were in every respect uncalled for, as was acknowledged by no less a person than Lord Plunket, at a later time Archbishop of Dublin, who, when in that position, admitted that the Church Act had proved not a curse, as was expected, but a blessing to the Episcopalian Protestant Church. This body has at the present moment in Ireland 1,500 churches, to which 1,600 clergy minister, and as the population of that sect amounts to very little more than half a million it appears that there is one parson for every 363 parishioners, 800 Presbyterian ministers serve nearly a half million of people in the proportion of one for every 554 of that communion. 250 Methodist ministers are sufficient for 62,000 people in the ratio of one for every 248, and the 3,711 Catholic priests, who serve nearly four million of souls, are in the proportion of one for every 891, while in England the priests of the same communion amount to one for every 542. These figures show the measure of truth in the alleged swamping of Ireland with priests. In proportion to the number of their flocks all the other denominations have a much larger relative number of clergy in the country, and until the very much more flagrant drainage due to emigration has ceased, it is to be hoped that we shall hear a good deal less about the danger in an increase of celibates in Ireland, a danger—if it be one—which after all she shares with every other Catholic country in the world. The alleged extortion of money by the clergy from a poverty-stricken peasantry is scarcely borne out by the evidence before the Royal Commission on the Financial Relations, in which Dr. O'Donnell, Bishop of Raphoe, calculated that the average contribution to the clergy in the West of Ireland, including subscriptions for the building and maintenance of churches, is 6s. or 7s. a year per family.
That strange accusation of Sir Horace Plunkett, that "the clergy are taking the joy—the innocent joy—from the social side of the home life," was, I think, sufficiently answered by the apposite reply of M. Paul-Dubois, that this is a strange reproach in the mouth of a Protestant who has undergone the experience of spending a Sunday in Belfast. The truth is that attacks on the Irish priesthood came ill from Englishmen or Anglo-Irishmen who have found in the Catholic Church the most powerful agent of social peace in the country. That Irishmen have on this ground any reason to blame the priesthood for lack of patriotism I as strongly deny, for though one may not think necessarily that God is on the side of the big battalions, armed resistance, which from the nature of things must be borne down by sheer force of weight, is as insensate as it is destructive.
The figure of Father O'Flynn, drawn by the son of a bishop of the Protestant Church, professes to be as much a picture of a type as the French cure whom Mr. Austin Dobson has so gracefully depicted, and it is difficult to see how such a figure of genial kindliness could have been portrayed in such a quarter or have received such general acceptance if there were to be found in any number worth considering the hard and worldly beggars on horseback whom their enemies allege constitute the characteristic type of the Irish clergy.
If in the religious nature of the Irish people is to be found one reason for the influence of the clergy in secular matters, a far more potent factor is to be seen in the historical fact that the priest has for centuries been the only guide, counsellor, and friend of the Irish peasant. The absence of a well-educated middle class, which, failing a sympathetic aristocracy, would, in a normal condition of things, provide popular leaders, is the only thing which has maintained any such undue predominance on the part of the clergy in secular affairs as exists. With the development of an educated Catholic laity, among some members of which one may expect to see evolved that critical acumen and balanced judgment which are what the fine flower of a university culture is supposed to produce, this preponderance will disappear, but in the meanwhile, be it noted, it is the refusal of Englishmen to found an acceptable university which is maintaining the very state of affairs in this direction against which they protest.
THE EDUCATIONAL PROBLEM
"When I consider how munificently the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge are endowed ... 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 of 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."—T.B. MACAULAY, Speech on the Maynooth Grant, 1845.
"What the Irish are proposing is nothing so enormous or chimerical. They propose merely to put an end to one very cruel result of the Protestant ascendancy, the result that they—the immense majority of the Irish people—have no University, while the Protestants in Ireland, the small minority, have one. For this plain hardship they propose a plain remedy, and to their proposal they want a plain, straightforward answer."—MATTHEW ARNOLD, Mixed Essays, 1880.
The fact that the recurrent educational problem in England is that of the Elementary Schools, while as to Ireland the only question which is ever to any extent ventilated is that of University Education, has led to the totally wrong impression that everything in this sphere in Ireland, with the exception of Higher Education, is in a satisfactory condition. Nothing, in point of fact, could be further from the truth, and perhaps the strongest indictment against the present Executive system in the country is to be found in the chaos which exists in educational matters.
The National system of Education in Ireland was started by Lord Stanley in 1833. Up to that date there had been no organised education in the country, and in fact there were still many living who could recall the time when for a Catholic to receive education from his co-religionists was a penal offence, involving legal and equitable disabilities.
The main vehicles of elementary education up to this date were the Charter Schools and the Kildare Street Schools. The former, which were founded about 1730 by Primate Boulter, and lasted a hundred years, were frankly proselytising agencies—the address for the charter to the Crown specifically setting out that it was a society for teaching the Protestant religion to Papist children. John Howard, the philanthropist, condemned them as a disgrace to Protestantism and a disgrace to all society, but for all that, in the course of their career, they cost the public nearly two millions of money. The Kildare Street Schools, which were founded in 1811, and which secured a Government grant for the first time in 1814, professed to be non-sectarian, and so long as they kept to their professions were successful, but their subsequent association with proselytising agencies, such as the Hibernian Society, was their ruin, and in 1831 the public grant was withdrawn from them by the Chief Secretary, who two years later introduced the National System.
On the establishment of the National Board all creeds and parties in Ireland were anxious that the basis of the system should be denominational, but in the teeth of this unanimity the principle adopted was that of united secular and separate religious instruction.
One would have thought that on the establishment of the National System the danger of its capture by the Protestant ascendancy, which was very obviously anxious to secure its control, would have ensured the insistence on safeguards for the rights of the weaker section of the community at a time when no longer held good that obiter dictum pronounced from the Bench in 1758, which was equally true for many years after, that "the law does not suppose a Papist to exist in the kingdom, nor can they breathe without the connivance of the Government." On its formation the National Board included among its members Dr. Murray, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin; Dr. Whately, the Protestant Archbishop of that city; and Dr. Carlisle, a Presbyterian Minister. No attempt was made to effect anything approaching a proportional representation of the creeds concerned, and the two Catholic members were outvoted by their five Protestant colleagues on the Board for the control of the education of the children of a population in which Catholics were to Protestants in the ratio of about 4 to 1.
The English Archbishop and the Scottish Presbyterian, in whom power was in this way placed, set themselves by their regulations to effect the Anglicising of the Irish children in the schools of the country. The use of the English language was enforced for the education of children, thousands of whom spoke Gaelic, and though this may possibly be justified on grounds of its greater use in the transactions of everyday life, the same cannot be said of the manner in which the history books employed were of a kind in which the subjection of Ireland by Elizabeth, James I., and William of Orange were extolled, as was also the defection from Rome of England in the sixteenth century.
Whately's policy was avowedly to Anglicise the children in the schools, to effect the "consolidation," as he called it, of Great Britain and Ireland, and in a reading book produced under his auspices occur the following lines, written with that aim in view:—"On the east of Ireland is England, where the Queen lives. Many people who live in Ireland were born in England, and we speak the same language, and are called one nation."
From the reading-books as first published were expunged such verses as Campbell's "Downfall of Roland" and Scott's "Breathes There a Man with a Soul so Dead," owing to their tendency, one must suppose, to suggest emotions other than those which it was deemed fitting to inculcate, and in their place was inserted a verse from the Archbishop's own pen which is familiar to most Irishmen, but which is, I find, unknown to most Englishmen:—
"I thank the goodness and the grace which on my birth have smiled, And made me in these Christian days a happy English child."
To appreciate fully the irony of the divergence between the sentiments expressed and the real facts, one must remember that these lines were written at a time when land reform and church disestablishment were regarded by those in authority as the proposals of unspeakable demagogues.
The views of Whately on the value of the educational machine which he controlled, as an instrument of proselytism are very frankly set out in a conversation which he had with Nassau Senior, which is quoted from the diary of the latter in the Archbishop's biography:—
"I believe," he said, "that mixed education is gradually enlightening the mass of the people, and that if we give it up we give up the only hope of weaning the Irish from the abuses of Popery. But I cannot venture openly to profess this opinion. I cannot openly support the Education Board as an instrument of conversion. I have to fight its battles with one hand, and that my best, tied behind me."
This extract more than justifies the policy by which, when Dr. MacHale succeeded Dr. Murray in Dublin, a bland acquiescence in Governmental action began to be no longer the line of action of Catholic prelates.
The system of National Education was, as I have said, founded at its inception on the principles of undenominationalism, but, as a matter of fact, the determined views of all creeds in Ireland prevailed to a very great extent, so that at the end of the nineteenth century out of a total of 8,700 schools in the country more than 5,000 were attended by children of one religion only; of these 4,000 were Catholic schools, the remaining 1,000 belonging to one or other of the Protestant denominations. Of the 3,700 schools which are not purely denominational, there are many in which the great majority of the pupils belong to one religion, but in these, of course, the minority is safeguarded by a conscience clause.
The members of the National Board are appointed to-day—as they were in 1833—by Dublin Castle. They are nominees in no sense responsible to anyone, amateurs in educational matters, whose debates are carried on in camera, and when they have arrived at decisions their fiat goes forth without reason being given for changes of system or of policy, and without opportunity being afforded for revision or appeal.
In these circumstances it is not surprising that the system of elementary education in Ireland does not meet with the popular attention that it should. There is no consultation on the part of the Board with those responsible for carrying on changes which it orders, and when innovations are introduced without reasons being offered, those who have to apply them are not likely to do so with good grace, still less with enthusiasm. When the arguments and reasons in favour of alterations are unknown to the public such changes almost invariably meet with opposition at the hands of those who have to effect them.
The multiplication of schools arising partly from the denominationalism which so largely holds the field is accentuated by the financial system which is adopted by the National Board. In all the schools under its control, with the exception of the 300 convent and monastery schools, where the State-aid takes the form of a capitation grant, the grant is ear-marked for the payment of teachers' salaries, the largest charge incurred by the school; and in this way the responsibility on that account and the occasion for economy on that score of the managers is removed, leaving to them only the control of the school buildings. Moreover, the non-application of the capitation system of grants fails to bring into play what would be a direct financial inducement to the locality to improve the school attendance of the children, as would also any system of local control. The small size of existing school areas results in inevitable mischief, for under it the poorest districts are those in which the school accommodation is worst, and since more money has to be raised than in richer localities the poorer districts have to pay most and the richest least for elementary education.
A primary effect of the larger number of schools is that the average attendance is much smaller than in Scotland, where conditions are in many respects similar, and side by side with the small size of the schools goes the very low standard of salaries paid to the teachers, which begin at L56 a year for men and L44 each for women, and advance by triennial increments to L172 for men and L140 for women. Two-thirds of the primary school teachers of Ireland have a salary of less than 30s. a week. The average payment to head teachers is in Scotland 75 per cent. and in England 48 per cent. higher than in Ireland. The general state of inefficiency of education in Ireland may be gathered from the fact that the Census of 1901 showed that of persons over five years of age no less than 13.7 per cent. could neither read nor write, the percentage of illiteracy being in the four provinces, 11.3 in Leinster, 12.5 in Ulster, 14 in Munster, and 20.7 in Connaught. The children in Scottish schools attend on 85 per cent. of the days on which the schools are open, in English on 84 per cent., and in Irish schools only on 65 per cent.; but in considering these figures allowance must be made for the fact that school attendance in Great Britain has been compulsory for just over thirty years, while in Ireland it was only in 1892 that an Act was passed sanctioning the formation of School Attendance Committees with power to enforce the attendance of children at school.
In addition to the Board of National Education there are in Dublin the Intermediate Board, the Commissioners of Education, who deal with the few Educational endowments in the country, the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, the Senate of the Royal University, the Local Government Board attending to the education of children in work-houses, industrial, and reformatory schools, all concerned with primary and secondary education in its administrative aspect, while the Board of Works is occupied with the erection of school buildings. The extravagance and inefficiency which results from this diffusion and consequent overlapping of power and duties on the part of officials scattered about in Tyrone House, in Hume Street, in Merrion Place, and three or four other parts of Dublin, is well illustrated by the fact that out of every 20s. given as Exchequer aid to education—
In England and Wales 17/- goes to Education and 3/- to Administration and Inspection.
In Scotland 16/2 goes to Education and 3/10 to Administration and Inspection.
In Ireland 13/6 goes to Education and 6/6 to Administration and Inspection.
Administrative extravagance, it will be seen, is in inverse ratio to the quality of the educational service. If we take the three Irish Boards of National, Intermediate, and Technical Education, the total cost of administration and inspection is L120,000 per annum; the similar charge on Scotland is exactly half that sum, and yet Scotland prides herself on her education, and Ireland is taunted with her illiteracy.
The state of secondary education in Ireland differs fundamentally from that of England in this—that the number of educational endowments in the country are extremely few. Practically the whole of the money spent on this branch of education comes from taxation and school fees. It is controlled by the Intermediate Board, which was established some thirty years ago, and is in its management entirely dissociated from the National Board, so that all arrangements with a view to the transfer of clever pupils from the schools of the one type to those of the other are made as difficult as possible.
The Intermediate schools are, on the other hand, subject to the Department of Technical Instruction as well as to the Intermediate Board. Each of these awards grants, in some instances, for the same subjects, but dependent in many cases on different standards and conditions, so that it sometimes happens that schools earn grants twice over for the same subjects; and in other cases they enjoy aid from one Department of State which is refused for the same subject by another, owing to failure to comply with its conditions or to attain to its standard. Just as the connection of the Elementary schools with the Intermediate schools is very imperfect, so at the other end is the connection with the universities. The system of payment by results, under which the Intermediate schools are subsidised, is notoriously unsound from the point of view of education, since it leads to "cramming," and, moreover, under it the amount of grant earned by a school is subject to extreme variations. Lastly, if the pupils suffer from existing arrangements, the case of the teachers is no better, for from a recent report it will be seen that the average salary of lay teachers in Intermediate schools in Ireland is at least half what it is in corresponding schools in England.
In a country where elementary and intermediate education are in so unsatisfactory condition as we have seen them to be, one would expect university education to be seriously crippled, but in Ireland there arise in this connection further complications from religious differences which serve to perpetuate a state of affairs which twenty years ago Mr. Balfour declared was an intolerable grievance, and which still remains one of the chief disabilities of Ireland. There are at the present moment two universities in the country, but since one of these is only an examining board let us begin by considering the status of the other. Trinity College, Dublin, was founded by Queen Elizabeth with the proceeds of confiscated Catholic lands, both monastic and lay, with the avowed intention of propagating the principles of the Protestant religion. During Grattan's Parliament, at the end of the eighteenth century, it threw open its gates to others than members of the Established Church—an example which was not followed by Oxford and Cambridge for three-quarters of a century. There could be no greater mistake than to imply from this that it thereby lost its strong sectarian character. After Mr. Gladstone's attempt in 1873 to solve the University question had failed, Fawcett's Act removed the religious tests which barred not only Catholics but also Presbyterians from its offices and scholarships, and thereby made the College, in theory, undenominational. In point of fact it is little less Episcopalian than it has ever been. Its chapel services are Protestant, as are also its Divinity schools. Its governing body, comprising the Provost and seven Senior Fellows, is entirely Protestant, while of the 4,200 names on its electoral roll 2,600 are those of Protestant clergymen.
Of other institutions affording opportunities for higher education in Ireland, the three Queen's Colleges in Cork, Galway, and Belfast were destined by their founder, Sir Robert Peel, who established them in 1838, to supply the higher education which was lacking among the Catholics of the country. The Protestant "atmosphere" of Trinity being the great obstacle in the way of Catholics who wished for higher education for their sons, it was thought that by removing this and setting up undenominational colleges all would be well and the religious difficulty would be solved. It was as great a mistake as it was possible to commit. They were stigmatised by a leading Protestant of the time as godless colleges; they ran counter to all Catholic principles of education, which demand at least some connection between secular and religious teaching, and the taboo to which they have in large measure been subjected has to a great extent resulted in making a failure of Cork College, and still more of Galway College. The undenominationalism of Queen's College, Belfast, not being in opposition to the consciences of the Presbyterians of that city, has resulted in the fact that the College there has succeeded to a far greater extent than have the other two.
The Royal University, founded in 1882, is, as I have said, nothing more than an examining body, established on the lines of the London University as it existed at that date, with power to award scholarships and fellowships. About fifty years ago John Henry Newman founded the Catholic University in St. Stephen's Green. Unendowed and depending on the voluntary contributions of the poorest people in Western Europe, it is not surprising that the venture failed. From it, however, rose the University College, controlled by the Jesuit Fathers, which occupies the same buildings, and the pupils of which compete for the degrees of the Royal University as those of the Queen's Colleges have done ever since, on the foundation of the Royal University, the Queen's University—of which the three colleges were components—was destroyed. The indirect mode in which the Catholic University College is endowed is worthy of attention. The Royal University, out of its income from the Irish Church Fund, maintains twenty-nine fellows, each with an income of L400 a year on condition that they should act as examiners in the Royal University, and in addition give their services as teachers in colleges appointed by the Senate (namely, the three Queen's Colleges, University College, Dublin, and the Magee College in Derry). Of these Fellows fifteen are allotted to University College. On the assumption that of their salary one-quarter represents the payment as examiners to the University—and the estimate is generous in view of the payment of only L30 to each examiner in the Cambridge Triposes—if this be assumed to be the case, the remaining L300 stands for the salary given as teacher in University College, which thus, albeit indirectly, is endowed to the extent of L4,500 a year—a fact which, though contrasting unfavourably with the L12,000 or L13,000 enjoyed by each of the Queen's Colleges, nevertheless would have seemed to cut the ground from under the feet of those who argued that the University question was insoluble since they would not countenance the application of public funds to a sectarian college.
It is often alleged that the anxiety of the Irish for other facilities for higher education than are at present afforded arises from their priest-ridden condition, and that the clergy urge the demand only in order that they may obtain more power than they already possess. The conditions in University College are some answer to this charge. It is, as I have said, under the control of the Jesuits, and a very able member of that Society is its President. Founded though it was for Catholics, the proportion—namely, about 10 per cent.—of non-Catholic students has for the last twenty years been greater than that of Catholics attending Queen's College, Belfast. Of its professorial staff only five out of twenty-one are priests. There have always been some Protestants among them, and on the governing council only one member is a priest, and of the five laymen one is a Protestant.
The history of the University question in recent years is instructive. In 1868 Lord Mayo, the Chief Secretary, endeavoured without success to formulate a scheme. In 1873 Mr. Gladstone brought in a Bill which risked the life of his Government, and failed to pass. Three years later a Bill of Isaac Butt's was introduced, but was unsuccessful, and after another three years, in 1879, was established the federal Royal University. In 1885 the Conservative Chief Secretary, Sir Michael Hicks Beach, expressed a hope on the part of the Government that in the following session they would be able to bring in a Bill in settlement of the question. The letter of Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Justice FitzGibbon, which has been quoted elsewhere, shows that at the end of the same year the Conservative Government was anxious to make an end of the matter by legislation. In 1889 Mr. Balfour, as Chief Secretary, on two occasions expressed in the House of Commons the intention of the Government to proceed to a solution, for the conditions in Ireland, he went on to say, were "such as to leave them no alternative but to devise a scheme by which the wants of the Roman Catholics would be met." We have seen in another connection the quotation from the Life of Lord Randolph Churchill urging legislation in 1892, and in 1896 Lord Cadogan, as Viceroy, explicitly spoke of it as "a question with which the present Government will have to deal."
Eight years ago, in 1899, Mr. Balfour launched a manifesto on this question which proposed the maintenance of Dublin University with its Episcopalian atmosphere, while a St. Patrick's University was to be founded in Dublin with a Catholic atmosphere, and a University of Belfast with a Presbyterian atmosphere was to be founded on the basis of the existing Queen's College in that city. The reasons which Mr. Balfour gave for desiring a settlement of the question deserve quotation:—
"For myself I hope a University will be granted, and I hope it will be granted soon. I hope so, as a Unionist, because otherwise I do not know how to claim for a British Parliament that it can do for Ireland all, and more than all, that Ireland could do for herself. I hope so as a lover of education, because otherwise the educational interests both of Irish Protestants and of Irish Roman Catholics must grievously suffer, and suffer in that department of education, the national importance of which is from day to day more fully recognised. I hope so as a Protestant, because otherwise too easy an occasion is given for the taunt that in the judgment of Protestants themselves Protestantism has something to fear from the spread of knowledge."
Two years after this declaration a Royal Commission on the whole question was mooted, and immediately the cry of "Hands off Trinity" was raised, in spite of the fact that no Royal Commission had sat on that College since 1853, an interval of time in which there had been four Commissions on Oxford and Cambridge, and three on the Scottish Universities. The terms of reference of the Commission of 1901 on its appointment under the chairmanship of Lord Robertson were vague. A Judge of the High Court in Ireland threatened to resign if Trinity College—the main centre of University education in the island—were included in the scope of the inquiry of a Commission on the means for obtaining such education in the country. The Commission sat in private, and it was not till the first volume of evidence was published that it was discovered that the terms of reference had been so interpreted as to exclude Trinity from the inquiry, and to retain the services of the learned Judge.
After discussing the alternatives of a new Catholic University, or a reconstitution of the Royal University with the addition of a new Catholic College, the Commissioners decided in favour of the latter. Their plan comprised a federal teaching University with four constituent Colleges, the three Queen's Colleges and a new Catholic College to be situated in Dublin. Changes in the constitution of the Queen's Colleges, to remove the religious objections at present entertained towards them were proposed, and in reference to the endowment of the new Catholic College it was claimed that it was not truly open to the objection that it introduced denominational endowment into the University system of Ireland since the Jesuit University College receives, and has received for nearly a quarter of a century, a large annual sum out of moneys provided by Acts of Parliament for University purposes. The reason which the Commissioners gave fer not making this institution the basis of a new College was declared to be its meagre scale which makes it unsuitable for expansion.
In January, 1904, Lord Dunraven propounded a scheme in a letter to the Press by which the question was to be solved by enlarging the University of Dublin so as to include the present Queen's College, Belfast, and a new College which should satisfy Catholic needs in Dublin, each of the Colleges being autonomous and residential, and on August 3rd, 1904, Mr. Clancy, in the House of Commons, read a telegram from the Archbishop of Dublin saying that the bishops would accept either the Dunraven scheme or that of the Robertson Commission.
So matters were allowed to rest until, with the advent to power of the present Government, the lacuna, which owing to the recalcitrancy of Mr. Justice Madden, had been left in the public information on the problem by the omission of Trinity from the Robertson report, was filled up by the appointment of a new Royal Commission.
Early this year their report was published. Five of the Commissioners are in favour of a modified Dunraven scheme, three follow the Robertson scheme, and one—the only Catholic Fellow of Trinity, one of the very few of that faith who had ever been elected to that office—is in favour of no change, an opinion which he expounds in three lines.
It must be remembered in connection with the minority recommendation that the importance of its coincidence with that of the Robertson report may easily be exaggerated if sufficiently strong insistence be not laid upon the exclusion of the University of Dublin from the purview of the latter.
The chief respect in which the majority recommendations differ from those of Lord Dunraven is in the inclusion in the new federal Dublin University of the present Queen's College in Cork, and possibly of that of Galway. It is important to study this proposal, because it is, according to Mr. Bryce's last words on resigning office, to be the means by which the Government hope to effect a solution.
The fact that both the Robertson and the Fry Commissions reported against Mr. Balfour's plan, to the promotion of the success of which in the eight years which have elapsed he has done nothing, on the grounds of the difficulty of bringing it into play, show that for the moment opinion is set against the multiplication of Universities, and the choice for the present lies between the two methods of dealing with the two existing Universities, one of which does not teach, while to the other the students of the country cannot in conscience go to be taught.
After Mr. Bryce's speech we can no longer ask British statesmen, "How long halt ye between two opinions?" That the plan adopted by the Government is the better of the two at present mooted I shall endeavour to show. In the first place, it is a mere accident that Trinity College has continued so long the sole College in the University of Dublin, Chief Baron Palles, in a very able note appended to the report, disentangles from a number of legal decisions and statutory declarations the distinctions between Trinity College and the University of Dublin which it is endeavoured to confound. The Charter of James I., conferring on Dublin the privilege of a University, foreshadowed the establishment of other Colleges. Both the Act of Settlement, 14 & 15 Car. II. (1660), and the Roman Catholic Relief Act, 1793, expressly authorise the erection of another College in the University—a fact which makes the proposed change which partisans are anxious to paint as revolutionary vandalism appear in truth merely the belated performance of a long-expressed intention. The advantages to Trinity in making it a part of a great National University are hard to exaggerate. She has long been described as the only successful British institution in Ireland, and in that may perhaps be found the comparatively evil days on which she has fallen, as her admission lists every year testify, and as was explained to me recently by a member of the very class from which she used to draw her undergraduates, when he said—"The respectable Protestant country gentry don't send their sons to Trinity now in the numbers in which they used to. They send them to Oxford and Cambridge." The last part of his remark I was able to indorse from my own personal observation.