Front Page Titles (by Subject) Subsection IV.—: Influence of the same principle on the parish. - Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1
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Subsection IV.—: Influence of the same principle on the parish. - Gustave de Beaumont, Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1 
Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, ed. W.C. Taylor (London: Richard Bentley, 1839). Vol. 1.
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Influence of the same principle on the parish.
It only remains to examine the effects of the same principle on the parish, where it exercises perhaps a still more potent influence than over all the other powers.
Irish parishes are, in theory, constituted on the very same principles as those of England; the parish in both countries has a democratic foundation, and forms an equal anomaly amidst institutions derived from feudality.
The powers mentioned above, that of the state, that of the counties, that of the municipal corporations, have all the same origin: they all proceed from the sovereign, the only source of power in a feudal society: the municipal corporations themselves have a free and democratic constitution, only because they have received from the sovereign the privilege of thus constituting themselves. The parish has a principle absolutely opposite: it proceeds from the people.
This double source of political institutions in England explains better, perhaps better than anything else, the perpetual conflict between two adverse principles which we encounter in English society, and which we find in perpetual war; the one authority, the other liberty; the former drawing all power to a centre, the latter diffusing it amongst the people: the first supported, sometimes by the sovereign, sometimes by the parliament; the second taking its root in the parish: one a Norman principle, the other a Saxon principle.1
When William the Conqueror and his Norman knights succeeded in the conquest of England, they found the Saxon parish established there, the free principle of which was then in perfect harmony with that of all the other powers. William and his successors destroyed those institutions which placed power in the hands of the people, and seized on all authority themselves; still, in this general destruction, one power was spared, that of the parish, which was, perhaps, respected on account of its semi-religious character, and became, under the tyranny of the Normans and the Tudors, the only asylum where the old Saxon liberties found a shelter.
When the Anglo-Normans conquered Ireland they brought with them the Saxon parish as well as the Norman county; there is not a single constituent principle of an English parish which may not be equally found in an Irish parish. How comes it to pass that the Irish parish, so similar in theory, should in practice be so different from one in England?
In England, the parish is full of movement an life; it is the centre of a multitude of great interests; it gives life and vigour to the principles of popular liberty, which are shaded by the aristocratic edifice.
A great social inequality doubtless reigns in England; but it is necessary to be present at a vestry meeting in that country to judge to what extraordinary liberty this inequality is allied. There may be seen with what independence of language and thought an obscure English citizen opposes a lord to whom he bowed down a moment before. He is not his equal:—but within the limits of his right he is equally free, and he is conscious of the fact. His right is to discuss the interests of the parish, and this right he exercises not only with liberty, but with a prudence and skill which it is astonishing to find in an orator whose stained hands and coarse habits prove him to be an artisan, or a man of the lowest class. The English institutions, collectively, form no doubt an aristocratic government, but there is not a parish in England which does not constitute a free republic.
In Ireland, on the contrary, the parish, which presents to the eyes the same external appearance as the English parish, has nothing of its life: possessing the same organs, it is languishing and inert, if not quite dead. Whence is this difference? One principal cause explains it.
Without doubt, the Irish parish did not, at its origin, find the same favourable circumstances which cradled the parish in England. When once the tempest of the Norman conquest was passed, the English parish raised its head, and continued to grow and develope itself in a country where it had taken root. The institution of a parish was introduced into Ireland by the Anglo-Normans, who carried with them the body rather than the spirit of the Saxon institutions; it necessarily suffered from transplantation into a land which had not given it birth: it wanted the Saxon soil, and it may be doubted whether, under the most propitious circumstances, it would have acquired the vigorous existence possessed only by institutions that sprang from a country and its habits.2 But a pernicious influence was superadded, which at once blighted its growth,—that of the Protestant principle, violently introduced into the centre of the Catholic population.
The first attribute of the parish, the very essence of its institution, is the support of public worship, the building and repairing of the church, providing salaries for its officers, &c. Now, what took place in Ireland, a country profoundly Catholic, when the English, having turned Protestant, undertook to make their new creed predominant in that country? In the first place, they forbade those parishes in which there were no Protestants to assemble in vestry, and provide for the support of their religion, the exercise of which was declared a crime. By this single act, three-fourths of the parishes of Ireland were at once despoiled of their first interest. Their next proceeding was to order that every parish in which there were any Protestants should be bound to pay for the support of worship what had been formerly contributed to the Catholic church; so that not only the vestry of a parish composed exclusively of Catholics could not assemble to vote money for the support of their own church, but it was further obliged to assemble, deliberate, and vote the expenses necessary for the support of the Anglican faith, simply because it was the creed of two or three members. Such a requisition was palpably absurd. How, in fact, could men persecuted on account of their religion willingly tax themselves to support the creed of their persecutors? The Catholics refused a vote which it was sheer madness to ask.
What then was to be done? It was required that the entire parish should defray the expenses of the Protestant church; but the vestry, the majority of which was Catholic, refused the rate.
In such a state of things, as it was impossible to force the conscience of the Catholics, it was resolved to violate the essential principle on which the parochial institution rests; and a law was passed, depriving Catholics of the right of voting on all questions concerning the Anglican church, and giving the Protestants, however few in number, the exclusive right of forming the vestry, voting the sums necessary for the expenses of their church, and raising the amount by a rate levied equally on Catholics and Protestants. Thus, in the greater number of parishes, Catholics had nothing to do with providing for worship; and in the parishes where a few Protestants had been raised, a different religious interest, an almost imperceptible minority, gave laws to the majority. Thus, in the greater number of instances, the parish in Ireland was deprived of its proper functions; and in the others it only preserved them at the price of violating its fundamental principle, and perpetrating gross injustice.
Still the law which excluded Catholics from the vestry, where provision was made for the Protestant worship, left them access to those which were assembled for any other purpose. But when once religious interests were set aside, what remained to be done in an Irish parish?
One of the greatest interests under the management of the parish in England is public charity. It is in England a fixed principle, that every indigent person has a right to the assistance of society, and the aid thus claimed by the poor is for the most part given by the parish.3 This is an abundant source of immense duties and endless cares; for this obligation of providing for the wants of the poor brings with it, in England, a multitude of accessory charges. After having given bread to the poor man, the English parish deems it necessary to provide a residence if he wants one, clothes if they be required, medicine if necessary: if the poor man has children, the parish not only offers them the same aid, but further believes that it is bound to support and educate them; so that, in England, parochial charity comprehends not only food for the hungry, but moreover houses of refuge, hospitals and schools.
Why is it that in Ireland we find the parishes undertaking no such charge? The reason is sufficiently plain, and it is found in the English and Protestant character of the aristocracy. The poor-law dates from the reign of Elizabeth. Now, at that period, the sentiment which induced the rich in England to aid the poor had no existence in Ireland, where the rich were English and Protestants; and the poor, Irish and Catholics. The long resistance of the vanquished had inspired the conquerors with too much rancour to leave them accessible to the ordinary feelings of humanity; and on the day when the conquerors became, as Protestants, the religious enemies of the Catholics, it may be said that the sources of charity were dried up in Ireland. This is the reason why, in this country of paupers, a poor-law is but of very recent introduction; why, until now, public charity has never been instituted in the face of the most excessive misery imaginable. Whilst in England it is a principle that every pauper has a right to legal support, in Ireland the principle is rather, that the rich owes nothing to the poor; and hence the management of public charity, which has so greatly extended the sphere of parochial business in England, has added nothing to it in Ireland, where it was already so destitute.
The Irish parish, which was deprived of its most natural functions to advance the Protestant interest, has recently been deprived of its principal and almost its only rights, as a boon to the opposite interest.
The injustice of subjecting the Catholic population of parishes to the vote of an exclusively Protestant vestry having been finally recognised, a law was passed in 1833, prohibiting the levying of church-rates, and the parish has consequently abandoned all care of religious interests. Thus, the Irish parish, possessing the same powers and invested with the same forms as the English parish, is, by the effect of one single principle, so essentially different, that whilst the one is the very heart of political society, the other is almost inanimate power. It is with difficulty that any object can be found to engage the attention of an Irish parish; it is not power that is wanting, but functions; at present its only business is to elect its officers, the clerk, the churchwardens, the beadle, &c., and to provide for their salaries. But when these officers are elected and their stipends voted, they are no doubt legally instituted, but they have nothing to do.4
Influence of the same principle on an institution common to all public powers,—judicial authority, the only supreme administrative power.
The most striking feature in the political powers of society in England and France is the almost total absence of an organised system. It is true that the houses of parliament enact supreme laws destined for all parts of the empire, but no state-authority attends to their execution. The parish acts by its officers, the corporation by its magistrates, and though there are state-agents in the counties, such as the lord lieutenant, the sheriff, and the justices of peace, yet their functions are gratuitous, and it is difficult to establish any durable direction given by superior power to unsalaried agents. The trustees of roads and canals are only controlled by parliament, and a deliberative assembly is obviously unfit to superintend the execution of the laws. In England and in Ireland, the only authority that has really a right to exercise a direct control over all these various powers, is the judicial authority.
The tribunal which in this respect exercises the widest and most potent jurisdiction is the Court of Queen’s Bench, which in both countries is considered the supreme representative of the executive power. But this court does not and cannot interfere, save on the requisition of the interested parties. Such a system of administration, though perhaps good for England, cannot but be defective in Ireland.
The object of a system which places the control over all administrative bodies and agents in the judicial authority, is to give inviolable guarantees to the liberty and property of the citizens. But, in the first place, what can be the protection of this authority in a country where it is so difficult for the judge to be just, and where the person in need of justice is so little capable of demanding it? Such a system, we must see, is singularly complicated; it requires not only the confidence of suitors and good feelings in the judge towards the suitor, but also that the latter should have sufficient intelligence to comprehend the wrongs they sustain from power, and sufficient fortune to defray the expenses of a suit. Now the justice that is open to all is expensive, its forms are tutelary, but singularly slow, and the abuses of authority must have become excessive before persons will apply to law for redress.
It is easy to conceive that such a system might be applicable to a country like England, where the law is sufficiently popular for the citizens to seek its protection, and where these citizens are sufficiently enlightened and sufficiently rich to have recourse to justice. It may happen that several frauds and abuses of power will be committed in such a country, without the injured parties making a formal complaint; but there will, nevertheless, be always a sufficiently large number of suits instituted by personal interest or passion to bind public functionaries to the observance of the law.
But what must be the effect of such a system in a country where law is hated as hostile to the people, where the citizens, unaccustomed to defend their rights, are nearly all indigent? Of what value to a nation of paupers, long kept under the yoke, is a principle which, to be put in practice, requires great wealth and old habits of freedom? How can the judge, who is often unable to preserve his impartiality in the trial of an ordinary crime, because the prosecutor and accused are of a different religion, or because he looks upon them as of distinct races,—how, I say, can he decide, without favour or affection, a quarrel between public authority and a private individual? The plaintiff is a Catholic! the defendant is a Protestant! and is not the Catholic population in a state of war, not only against the Protestants, but against all authority? The functionary inculpated is rich; the plaintiff is poor; and is not the poor man in Ireland at war with the rich? The Protestant and wealthy functionary must therefore be supported against the poor Catholic complainant. When once his part is taken, the magistrate will not be in want of legal excuses to justify it: even supposing that those obstacles which shut the heart of the judge against complainants did not exist, can it be supposed that this population, which, as we have seen above, is scarcely able to demand justice for ordinary crimes, would be better able to establish its grievances against the agents of public authority, and distinguish at a glance the limits, often so hard to be discovered, between the legitimate exercise of power and its abuse? Assuredly, if ever there was a country in which the administration ought to act alone,—without demanding any money from the people, or requiring from it any cognizance of its rights,—by agents all whose movements should be spontaneous,—that country is Ireland. The Irish functionary, menaced by the possibility of a judicial suit, is in general little restrained by this fear, when the abuse of his authority is directed against some unfortunate being with whose ignorance and poverty he is acquainted; and yet does he not easily persuade himself that his conduct has been irreproachable, since it has never been made the subject of a trial? Thus, at the same time that redress is offered in the sanctuary of the laws to all who have reason to complain of public functionaries, a thousand obstacles render its attainment almost impossible to the people. Judicial authority is the sovereign guarantee of all rights—he who is charged with its administration does not dispense it,—he who needs it does not demand it. This is the reason why, with a principle designed to protect the property of the rich and the liberty of all, we find in Ireland liberty without defence, property without guarantees, and security for nobody.6
Legal and official Establishment of Protestant Worship in the midst of Catholic Ireland—The University and the Protestant Schools.
We have seen the influence exercised by the English and Protestant origin of the Irish aristocracy on civil and political society; it only remains to examine the consequences of the same principle on religious society. Thus, having considered how this principle affected the mutual relations of the rich and the poor, governors and subjects, we are about to consider its influence on the reciprocal relations of Catholic and Protestant.
We have already noticed under what circumstances England became Protestant, and how, when she made the change, she was anxious that Ireland should do the same. This anxiety was not merely the consequence of a religious passion, it was also the result of a political principle. No one in the sixteenth century could comprehend the complete separation of the temporal from the spiritual power; but, perhaps, in no country was the union of secular government and religious authority more close than in England, because nowhere else was the head of the state also the head of the church. It is easy, then, to see why the English, having based their own government on Protestantism, should have laid a similar foundation for the government of Ireland. The church and state were then but one. At a later period, a race of kings was hurled from the throne on suspicion of Catholicism; it was then required not only to be Protestant, but Anglican, in order to reign. This is sufficient to show that the English must have wished not only to render Ireland Protestant, but Anglican.
In the same way, as it is generally impossible to comprehend the existence of a religion without a system of public worship, the aristocracy could not understand a church without wealth and privileges; it was resolved that the church of Ireland should be wealthy and splendid, and that the aristocracy of Ireland should have an aristocratic church.
In England, the Catholic church was deprived of its lands and rights, which were transferred to the Protestant church. This spoliation might have been unjust, but it was effected for the advantage of a creed accepted by the majority of the nation. In Ireland, the same means of endowing the new church were adopted. It obtained the confiscated church-lands, and a right to the tithe of all Irish produce; but whilst the aristocracy introduced and established the new creed in Ireland, the people of the country clung to the ancient faith; so that a Protestant church was established at great expense in the midst of a Catholic population. Hence arose a forced alliance between the Anglican church and the aristocracy; the latter being naturally attached to the religious system it had founded, and by which it alone profited; the former being entirely devoted to the political power that had created it, and which could alone protect it from the common enemy. We shall hereafter see that the links which united them from their cradle were drawn closer together: although the king ceased not to be the head of the church and state, the aristocracy soon domineered over both; the rich managed the state, and the bishops the church. Perhaps we may be permitted to see, in this parity of origin and precocious confusion of church and state, the germ of a common destiny.
From the time of this union the invasion of Ireland was not simply political, it was also religious. Ireland was not only covered with an army of soldiers and greedy conquerors, but also with a spiritual militia of archbishops, bishops, and Protestant ministers, who came with the avowed intention of changing the national creed; and the people, from the very outset, saw their religion menaced by the pious auxiliaries of those who had taken away their country.
England, which had been, turn about, Catholic and Protestant at the caprice of Henry VIII., which returned to Catholicism under Mary, became Protestant under Elizabeth, Puritan under the republic, and Anglican after the restoration of Charles II.—England, I say, without doubt, believed it sufficient to establish a religious creed in Ireland, supported by the civil law, to effect the conversion of the country. The Anglican church was therefore instituted under the presumption that Ireland would shortly become Protestant. We have already seen the evils that were derived from this delusion; we have seen the persecutions, the massacres, and the cruelties perpetrated by the church and the civil government, in order to convert Ireland to Protestantism. All these rigours have been vain; Ireland has remained Catholic, and it is now a truth established by the irresistible evidence of statistical documents, that the Protestants of Ireland are fewer in proportion to the Catholics than they were two centuries ago. Their ratio to the Catholics in 1672 was as three to eight—at present it does not exceed three to twelve.1 Thus Ireland is more Catholic after the persecution than it was before; a consoling result to every one who is the enemy of violence, and superior to the efforts of tyranny.
The age of the religious wars is past; the throats of Papists are no longer cut in Ireland; banishments to Connaught are no longer in force; the penal laws against Catholics have been successively abolished. Persecution has disappeared, but the Anglican church remains. At the present day, as in the first age of the Reformation, there is in Ireland a Protestant militia spread over the whole surface of the country.
The Anglican church envelops Ireland in a vast administrative net; four provinces, thirty-two dioceses, thirteen hundred and eighty-seven benefices, two thousand four hundred and fifty parishes—such is the religious division of the country. The parish is only an administrative fraction of the benefice which constitutes the smallest ecclesiastical unity; the Protestant worship has establishments everywhere, even where there is no Protestant congregation. Thus, there are in Ireland eighty-two benefices and ninety-eight parishes in which there is not a single member of the Anglican church to be found. The services of the church are not dispensed in the ratio of the Protestant population, but a Catholic country is partitioned in reference to the Anglican church. There are entire dioceses where the population is almost exclusively Catholic, but this does not hinder them from possessing a complete establishment suited to Protestantism. To cite only one example, the diocese of Emly contains ninety-five thousand seven hundred inhabitants, of whom only twelve hundred belong to the Established Church; all the rest, to the amount of more than ninety-four thousand, are Catholics. Nevertheless, the Anglican form of worship has in this diocese fifteen churches, seventy-one benefices, and thirty-one salaried ministers.
The establishment of the Anglican church is naturally divided into the higher and lower clergy; four archbishops,2 twenty-two bishops, three hundred and twenty-six dignitaries, such as deans, prebendaries, archdeacons, &c., compose the higher clergy; the inferior or parochial clergy comprises thirteen hundred and thirty-three beneficed ministers, to which must be added seven hundred and fifty-two curates.3 A great number of the Anglican ministers possess benefices exclusively tenanted by Catholics, consequently they have nothing to do, and hence are frequently non-resident. It was calculated, in 1830, that out of thirteen hundred and five beneficed clergy, there were three hundred and seventy-seven absent from their posts, and in 1835 there were a hundred and fifty benefices without a resident rector or curate.
The clerical body in Ireland is nevertheless magnificently endowed. Besides its right to tithes, it possesses six hundred and seventy thousand acres of land. On the most moderate and authentic calculation its annual revenues amount to about a million sterling, and all these revenues go to the maintenance of the clergy.4 The higher clergy, most of whose employments are sinecure, possesses immense wealth,—it takes to itself alone more than 320,000l. annually. The Primate or Archbishop of Armagh has over fourteen thousand a year; the revenue of the Dean of Derry is three thousand seven hundred pounds.5
Here, then, is a country where half of the population is annually famishing, and where a million of money is spent every year on the ministers of a creed which is not that of the people!
Whatever objections may be made to the great wealth of a clerical body, it may still be conceived that a church endowed with large property may be popular and beneficial, when the creed that it represents is that of the entire population.
A religious nation may derive pleasure from surrounding the priests of its faith with splendour and magnificence. The more elevated the notions of the sacerdotal office are, the more such a nation desires to aggrandise its ministers. Among a believing people, the priest is the sacred intermediate between God and man. Without him there is no public worship, no solemn devotion. The priest blesses man in his cradle, pronounces the benediction on his union when he takes a companion, stands by him in all the changes of life; he knows nothing of the joys of the rich, but he is never wanting in the hour of misery: the priest hears the first and the last cry of man. It is he who instructs the people in the duties of this life, and the requisites for that which is to come. The people receiving from the priest the knowledge of things human and divine, bestow on him in turn a merited and splendid support.
Besides, there is commonly in the fortunes of the church a principle of charity expressed or understood, which protects them against the apparent scandal of their enormity: this principle is, that the church has only the wardship and distribution of the property entrusted to it. The church is the natural patron of the indigent. It seems as if it could not be made too rich, because its riches are those of the poor. Whatever may be the liberality of political institutions, there is a multitude of individual miseries that escape them, and which charity alone can discover and relieve. A church is religious charity personified. Thus understood, the opulence of the church is easily comprehended, if it be not justified.
But how are we to explain the immense riches of a church which is not that of the people? How are we to understand the immense revenues of a clergy instituted for the cure of souls, as its canons declare, and placed in the midst of a population to which its spiritual aid is odious? What means this charge of instructing the people entrusted to men whose teaching the people rejects? What is the sense of entrusting public charity to a clergy which cannot feel sympathy for the temporal distress of its religious enemies?
The Established Church of Ireland is, in reality, useful only to the small number of Anglican Protestants whose religious wants it supplies, and who pay just so much less for the expense and support of their religion as they compel the entire population, hostile to their creed, to contribute. If the members of the Church of England in Ireland, who amount to about eight hundred thousand, were to support their own church themselves, it would cost each of them, on the average, one pound sterling annually; but, by distributing the charge over six millions and a half of Catholics, and six hundred thousand dissenters, the cost to each member of the Anglican church is only two shillings. What a singular foundation for a church is a system which plunders the poor in order to assist the rich!
A generous or wise aristocracy would endow a church out of its own property, in order that this church, its ally and its friend, might be an intermediate between it and the Pope, and alleviate to the people the injustice and rigours of an aristocracy; but here is an aristocracy seeking its support in a church, useful only to itself, and the burden of which is thrown upon the people.
Such, nevertheless, is the institution with which the fate of the Irish aristocracy is linked.
The bond that unites both, is not only moral, political, and religious, it is also judical; the Protestant ministers have not only the same creed, the same interests, the same passions as the landlords, but they moreover discharge the same administrative and judicial functions.
A great many clergymen of the Church of England are justices of the peace;6 that is to say, in other words, the Catholics are placed under the civil jurisdiction of churchmen, whose religious jurisdiction they reject. Thus the Irish Catholic, who only knows the Protestant ministers by the tithes he pays them, finds them on the bench, as judges at petty sessions and quarter sessions, meets them at the assizes, sharing in every process, whether civil or criminal, where favour prevails over right, where the rich condemn the poor. It is bad, as a general principle, to unite temporal and spiritual power in the same hand; it is bad that the voice of the pious minister, which proclaims pardon in the name of the All-merciful, should be charged with the application of a law which does not pardon. And what will be the rule of the priest that is a magistrate? Will he judge crime as a sin, or sin as a crime? Whatever efforts his conscience may make, will he be able to separate one from the other? Will he not condemn, from pious motives, what the law will command him to absolve? and will not christian charity render him indulgent to faults, for which the law prescribes punishment? But, if it is bad to entrust a clergyman with the office of condemning or absolving those whom his religious conscience judges differently from his reason as a magistrate, what will be the result if this minister be the pious enemy of those whom he is to punish in the name of the laws,—that is to say, if counsels of severity be found at the very source of charity; if, even without his own knowledge, every legal severity he inflicts on a misdoer flatters the first passion of his heart; if this same man, who, as a Protestant minister, levies tithes on the Catholics, sends them to prison as a justice of the peace? It must follow, that a church so constituted will excite universal hatred, and will have the power of rendering not less odious than itself, every authority of which it is the auxiliary or the friend.
The University and the Protestant Schools.
In England, the Established Church not only distributes amongst the people spiritual succour for the soul, it believes also that it has a right to direct the faculties of the mind; it not only regulates the form by which prayers are to ascend to heaven, it aims at guiding man in the efforts he makes to perfect his intelligence, and thus raise himself towards the Divinity. The church believes that it is called to superintend instruction as well as worship.
In England, the church and the university are sisters, and this explains the strict union between the university and the aristocracy. The university is bound to the aristocracy by the same link which unites that to the church. In Ireland, the church and the university are joined by the same bonds, and consequently so are the university and the aristocracy. But it is easy to understand that the same causes which have rendered the establishment of the Anglican church in Ireland a grievance, must exercise the same influence on the university, which is an integral part of that church.
The university of Dublin was founded by Queen Elizabeth, on the same principles as the English universities, and endowed with the confiscated lands of Catholic monasteries, and has at present a revenue of about eighty thousand pounds annually. It is just, however, to state, that it is less intolerant than the English universities, and that its statutes not only admit students of every creed, but that it grants degrees in all the faculties, (except divinity,) without any distinction as to the religion of the candidates.
But is it now necessary to state what renders an institution vicious in Ireland, which, though more exclusive in England, presents there some advantages in the midst of monstrous abuses? Can we not discover, at the first glance, that this institution, which entrusts the highest degree of instruction to a Protestant church, can only excite in Ireland sentiments of repugnance and hatred? What Irish Catholic, supposing him wealthy, will be inclined to incur for his son the expenses of an education, of which Protestantism is the foundation?7 Who will tranquilly entrust his son to the bosom of an establishment which is regarded in Ireland as the very focus of Protestant proselytism? Who does not understand that the Irish university, which in principle is, perhaps, less defective than the universities of England, is in point of fact a thousand times worse?
The university of Dublin is open to persons of every denomination, but, from the nature of its institutions, it is only suited to a minority. On one side, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge attract, by their greater fashion and celebrity, all the young Irishmen of wealthy families; and on the other, the principles and passions which the Irish university conceals within its bosom, repel from it the children of the Irish Catholics; so that, in a country almost exclusively Catholic, the Protestants alone receive the higher instruction requisite for the discharge of public functions. Moreover, the Protestants, to whom this instruction is given, do not belong to the upper ranks of society. Thus, the University of Dublin does not correspond with the purpose of its foundation; it has never been national, and it has lost the aristocratic character which belongs to the English universities. It is, in fact, nothing but a seminary of candidates for the ministry of the Church of England: in this respect it is far from being abandoned; all who aspire to enter the church flock to the university, enticed by the numerous benefices and magnificent livings which it has at its disposal.8
We see, then, that this institution has nothing of a university but the name; it was, at the very outset, paralysed, as an instructing body, by its union with the church. It was founded, like the Anglican church itself, on the presumption that Ireland would cease to be Catholic. Nevertheless, Ireland has remained such, and the university on its side has continued Protestant.
The fate of the Irish university, which is nothing more than a school for superior instruction directed by the upper classes, explains the nature and destiny of the other schools which the church has founded in that country. Once the Protestant church said to the poor Catholics of Ireland, “Entrust your children to us, we will educate them in the principles of pure morality and the knowledge of the true religion.”9 The Catholic population gave credit to the offer, and sent its children to the charter-schools founded by the Established Church, but they were soon withdrawn with horror, when it was found that in these schools the children were taught nothing but hatred of their own creed, and respect for the hostile creed. A second experiment was made; several benevolent Protestants, sincere in their intentions, instituted schools for the education of poor Catholics, from which it was professed that the spirit of proselytism would be rigorously excluded; the enterprise was noble, it was pursued with ardour, good faith, and charity,10 but success was impossible. In spite of themselves, or rather in consequence of their living and ardent faith, these Protestants could not remain impartial between their own faith and that of the young Catholics entrusted to their charge; and for such impartiality, even if it were possible, the people would not give them credit.
Thus, the Anglican church in Ireland, by the operation of one single principle, finds insuperable obstacles to the execution of everything which it accomplishes in England. This principle renders even charity impossible; and the benefits which the church dispenses in England, and which procure for it the respect and sympathy of the lower classes, become in Ireland new causes of hostility from the people.
END OF VOL. I.
printed by ibotson and palmer, savoy street.
[1.]The Saxon institutions were more free than those of the other Germanic tribes.
[2.]The translator does not share in the author’s doubt; parochial self-government is well suited to the Irish character.
[3.]The new poor law limits the right of the English parish
[4.]They regulate the economy of the church and churchyard.
[6.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[1.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[2.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
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[4.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[5.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[6.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[7.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[8.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[9.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]
[10.][Note text has been omitted from the English translation. Please see the French version of the book for the content of this note.]