Edward G. Stanley, to the Duke of Leinster
on the Formation of a Board of Commissioners
for Education in Ireland, October 1831*
His Majesty’s Government having come to the determination of empowering the Lord Lieutenant to constitute a Board for the superintendence of a system of National Education in Ireland, and Parliament having so far sanctioned the arrangement as to appropriate a sum of money in the present year as an experiment of the probable success of the proposed system, I am directed by his Excellency to acquaint your Grace, that it is his intention, with your consent, to constitute you the President of the new Board: and I have it further in command to lay before your Grace the motives of the Government in constituting this Board, the powers which it is intended to confer upon it, and the objects which it is expected that it will bear in view, and carry into effect.
The Commissioners, in 1812, recommended the appointment of a Board of this description to superintend a system of Education from which should be banished even the suspicion of proselytism, and which, admitting children of all religious persuasions, should not interfere with the peculiar tenets of any. The Government of the day imagined that they had found a superintending body, acting upon a system such as was recommended, and intrusted the distribution of the national grants to the care of the Kildare-street Society. His Majesty’s present Government are of opinion, that no private society, deriving a part, however small, of their annual income from private sources, and only made the channel of the munificence of the Legislature, without being subject to any direct responsibility, could adequately and satisfactorily accomplish the end proposed; and while they do full justice to the liberal views with which that society was originally instituted, they cannot but be sensible that one of its leading principles was calculated to defeat its avowed objects, as experience has subsequently proved that it has. The determination to enforce in all their schools the reading of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment was undoubtedly taken with the purest motives; with the wish at once to connect religious with moral and literary education, and at the same time not to run the risk of wounding the peculiar feelings of any sect by catechetical instruction
* Parliamentary Papers, 1837, IX, Cmd. 485, app. 1, 579–81.