Chapter Four THE BELFAST ACADEMICAL INSTITUTION (Notes are given at the end. Links to the notes from the text are given in groups of five, 1 - 6 - 11 etc)
FORMATION OF THE BELFAST ACADEMICAL INSTITUTION
One of Bryce's leading lay supporters was Dr Robert Tennent, brother of William Tennent, one of the state prisoners, and of John Tennent, who fled to France in 1798 and joined Napoleon's army. Dr Tennent was the chairman at a dinner in Belfast on St Patrick's Day in 1816 at which various toasts objectionable to the government were proposed (including one to Marshall Ney). The dinner was one of the few occasions on which the continuance in Belfast of a political tradition sympathetic to the aims of the United Irishmen was made manifest, and it resulted in a government attack on the recently formed Belfast Academical Institution, which was in the process of replacing Glasgow as the main seminary for the Presbyterian ministry in Ulster. (1)
The formation of the Belfast Academical Institution was first proposed in 1807. It was an ambitious scheme, aiming to combine the functions of a school with those of a college for further education and to provide popular lectures on scientific subjects. In 1808, it was proposed that facilities should be provided for Professors of Divinity responsible to their respective denominations, so that the Institution could become a seminary for the training of ministers. (2)
The immediate precedent was the Royal Cork Institute, projected in 1803 by Rev Thomas Dix Hincks, an English Unitarian who eventually held the chair of Hebrew in the Belfast Institution. The Cork Institute was in receipt of government funds and, from the first, the Belfast Institution sought the support of the government. After one of the earliest applications, John Foster declined to support it on the grounds that its constitution differed from those of the Cork and Dublin Institutes, but said that he would send Hincks to Belfast to examine it. Foster may have had other reasons for concern, since the application was made on behalf of the Belfast Institution by William Tennent. (3)
There is an account of the constitution of the Cork Institute in William Drennan's Belfast Monthly Magazine (Nov 1808). Like the Belfast Institution, it had boards of managers and visitors, but the visitors were appointed by the King and were all members of the established church. The managers had the right to nominate their own successors. The Monthly Magazine commented that 'the want of a principle of renovation within itself, without having recourse to a body so unconnected with it and with one another, so little interested in its aims, and so difficult to be brought into action as the visitors, cannot escape animadversion.' (4)
The Belfast Institution on the other hand was highly democratic. The sovereign body was an annual general meeting of subscribers, who functioned as the shareholders in a commercial enterprise, with the right to elect both boards of managers and visitors, and there was a complicated system (introduced into the scheme in May, 1808) for ensuring the rotation of members on the Boards, the intention being 'to preclude the possibility of the management falling into the hands of a few individuals.' Black wrote to Bruce in Nov 1807, ridiculing the project and incidentally relating the concern with constitutional niceties to the great interest in constitutions which had been excited in Belfast by the French Revolution:
'I see your townsmen have been busy and in their characteristical manner - I have seldom seen a more "rudes atque indigesta moles" than the production of their committee. It is a plan which will not, cannot work, unless modified by soberer heads. It put me in mind of the French Constitution with which we were so frequently amused. The machine is so full of checks that it will not move. I see they are to have a Board of Managers from the aristocracy or 20 Guinea subscribers, but this is to have a Board of Control, or eight visitors from the Democrats or 3 Guinea men. These last are wisely invested with great powers and as they are presumed, of course, to be persons of deep discernment and finished classical taste, they are to appoint and attend Examinations for discovering the proficiency of students etc. etc. etc. and three of these wiseheads may constitute a Board. I will say nothing of the "First Consul for Life" (the Marquis of Donegall - PB) because he is my landlord and of course a very finished scholar and patron of literature - but I cannot help congratulating the sagacity of the Committee in page 9 when they so regulate their schools (before limited to two) "that no Master shall have more pupils than he can properly attend to with a view to their greatest possible improvement" then, after a paragraph about economy (comprehending cheap pens and copy books) they judiciously add - "There shall be no limitation either as to the number or age of the pupils in any of the schools of this Institution." I remember you used to laugh at me about 25 years ago for questioning the infallibility of Belfast and Lisburn at our Volunteer meetings. Forgive me if I am again a sceptic....' (5)
Bruce had already opposed the formation of the Institution. In October, he submitted a memorandum arguing that there was only a need for one school in the town, albeit supplemented by private seminaries; that the stock of charity available for education should not be overstretched; that the Literary Society, of which he was a leading member, was itself seeking government aid to provide popular lectures; that the Belfast Academy, of which he was Principal, had tried the proposed idea of uniting a classical and a commercial school, but had found that it introduced an uncouth element from the country who made unsuitable companions for 'gentlemen's children, reared with such nice attention to innocence and gentleness as is commonly to be observed in this town'; that the idea of businessmen managing a school was absurd; and that the competition between the two academies would introduce an unpleasant rancorous element into the provision of education.
Principally, however, he objected to the idea that the Belfast Academical Institution should become a college - an idea which he said was 'now abandoned by the projectors and, as it would not bear the inspection of professional and literary men, application for signatures was made only to gentlemen in business of unsuspecting liberality."
'Such a scheme would be favoured neither by the opinion entertained by government of the religion, learning, and politics of the town, nor even by its local situation. Neither the church nor the state would be favourable to such pretensions, even if Dublin College were willing to forgo its monopoly of educating the Protestants of Ireland.... In 1799, Government was induced to take the establishment of a Northern college into consideration in consequence of the recent establishment at Maynooth, a desire to do a popular act on the eve of the union, and a legacy of £5,000 bequeathed for that purpose by Primate Robinson. But Belfast was never thought of for the site of it. Armagh was the place in contemplation as the metropolitan see of all Ireland, as situated in the centre of this province, as the residence of the Primate and a body of clergy....' (6)
Sir Arthur Wellesley, Chief Secretary in 1808/9 also opposed it in correspondence with Lord Liverpool as a 'democratical establishment' which would 'separate to a greater degree this numerous sect' ('the Presbyterians of Ireland') 'from the inhabitants of Great Britain and from their own countrymen' and be pervaded by 'the republican spirit of the Presbyterians.' He recommended temporising on the question of granting a Charter of Incorporation until an alternative system of education which would promote the interests of the Establishment became feasible, and he cited Castlereagh as someone to be referred to on the matter. A Charter was, however, granted in 1810. (7)
The Institution attracted some Establishment support, principally from the Marquis of Donegall, "patron" of the borough of Belfast, and Rev Edward May, his son-in-law. Wellesley stated that this support was due to the anxiety of Donegall and May to lease the land on which the Institution was built, which suggests that he was supplied with local information, possibly by Bruce. But messages of support were also received from the Bishop of Down, Castlereagh (which might have been part of Wellesley's policy of temporising), the Bishop of Dromore, the Marchioness of Downshire, and the Lord Primate of Ireland (William Stuart) who enrolled as a first class subscriber. Donegall, May and the Marquis of Downshire were particularly consistent in their support. May's survived an incident in 1813 when he came to blows with Dr Tennent over the latter's attempt to hold a town meeting to discuss the nature of Orangeism (Tennent was imprisoned and subsequently sued May unsuccessfully for unlawful imprisonment). Most surprisingly, the bill for the incorporation of the Institution was moved in Parliament by Sir George Hill. Hill had been connected with Tone's arrest and was the MP for Londonderry, where Black was influential, and which Wellesley had indicated as a possible site for an alternative to the Institution. He turned against it after the St Patrick's Day Dinner affair. (8)
But the main impetus for the project undoubtedly came from the radicals. Its earliest most energetic promoters included the Tennent brothers; Robert Simms, who had been a state prisoner with William Tennent; Robert Callwell and William Sims, who had been among the proprietors of the Northern Star; William Drennan, who arrived in Belfast from Newry at the end of 1807; and Rev Henry Henry of Connor, who had been suspected of complicity in the rebellion and whose opposition to classified Regium Donum we have already seen. (9)
Dr Tennent had been a ship's surgeon and out of the country at the time of the rebellion, but his papers contain notes of a mutiny at Table Bay in which he was involved in 1797, together with some rare items of United Irish memorabilia. He was closely involved with radical politics until his death in 1836. Together with Drennan, Callwell, Sims, his brothers and, subsequently, John Barnet and Robert Grimshaw, who were also involved with the Institution, he played a part in just about every radical demonstration in Belfast between 1809 and 1820. Much of the Institution's establishment support was also anti-ministerial. Downshire was out of favour with the government through his consistent opposition to the Union and in 1815, the Institution sought to raise subscriptions in India with the encouragement of Lord Moira, the Governor General, who had been a leading opponent of government policy in 1798. A list of books for the literary department prepared in 1815 by Professors Cairns and Young (who were not particularly prominent as radicals) includes works by Home Tooke (Diversions of Purley), William Godwin (Life of Chaucer), Joseph Priestley and his successor at the Gravel Pit Meeting in Hackney, Thomas Belsham. (10)
The Institution opened as a school early in 1814 and first received an annually renewable grant from Parliament in July, which enabled it to open as a College in November, 1815.
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE SYNOD OF ULSTER
Although Hanna and Henry were closely involved with the Institution from the beginning, it wasn't until 1813 that negotiations with the Synod of Ulster began in earnest. A letter had been prepared to be sent to the moderators of presbyteries in January, 1808; the proposal to provide facilities for divinity professors was made in March, 1808 and agreed in December; an approach was made to the Synod in 1809 requesting patronage and support in very general terms. In 1810, the Synod reported, through Henry, that it would be prepared to consider any plan to promote the Institution's interests, and in 1811, it expressed satisfaction at the Institution's having received its Charter of Incorporation. But no real progress was made until 1813, when, rather surprisingly, the Institution's letter was presented to the Synod by John Thompson of Carnmoney, normally an ally of Black's. By this time, of course, the Institution was already largely built and it was clear that it would actually come into existence. (11)
A deputation from the Synod met representatives of the Institution in August, 1813 and agreed to all their proposals - that the Synod should treat the Institution's certificates as equivalent to certificates from 'foreign' (i.e. Scottish) universities in subjects for which Professors had been appointed; that the Synod should establish Professorships of Divinity, Hebrew and Ecclesiastical History, and that members of the Synod would help to raise subscriptions for the literary department of the Institution. The deputation was headed by Thompson and also included Black's successor as minister for Londonderry and agent for Regium Donum, George Hay, together with Robert Stewart, later a close ally of Henry Cooke's (though at this time, according to his later assertions, he had Arian sympathies). Six of its sixteen members (Acheson, N. Alexander, T. Alexander, Dunlop, Porter and Stewart) had supported Steele Dickson against Black in the 1813 Synod, and a seventh, Dr Neilson - later classical master in the Institution - had supported Dickson as Clerk to the Synod in 1805 (other supporters of Dickson in 1813 included, in addition to Henry Henry, Henry Montgomery and W.D.H. McEwen, who were shortly to be closely identified with the Institution). (12)
Although the conduct of the deputation was 'unanimously' approved in the 1814 Synod (which was also informed of the Lord Lieutenant's support for the attempt to secure a grant) nothing was done about it until 1815 (after the grant was safely secured) when the Synod resolved - again 'unanimously' - to recognise the Institution's certificates and to take steps to appoint a Professor. In practical terms, the Synod's support dates from 1815, since young men training for the ministry could now take their qualifications in subjects other than Divinity from the Institution, and the Synod joined the Institution in examining them. But the appointment of a Professor turned out to be a slow, unwieldy business, especially when contrasted with the Antiburgher Synod, which also resolved to appoint a Professor in 1815 and did so straightaway (Samuel Edgar). The Synod of Ulster appointed a committee with a minister and elder from each presbytery, which reported that the apparently unlikely sum of £3,000 would be necessary to make the appointment. During the following year, it failed to get a quorum at any of its meetings and had made no progress by the 1816 Synod, by which time the Institution had fallen into disfavour with the government. (13)
In the second decade of the nineteenth century - and especially in the period immediately following the end of the war in 1815 - the government was faced with what appeared to be a recrudescence of the radical spirit of the late eighteenth century. There were, of course, significant differences, principally in a separating out of radical elements. There was a more obvious antagonism between urban and rural radicalism and, within urban radicalism, an antagonism between bourgeois and working class radicalism. Bourgeois radicalism had developed from a broad, idealistic emphasis on constitutional reform into more sophisticated theories of social organisation based on the 'science' of political economy, maintaining the argument for the autonomy of civil society as against the state but developing it to coincide more clearly with distinctively bourgeois interests. (14)
Belfast could hardly be said to be playing a leading part in this development, but insofar as it had a radical caucus, it seemed to be concentrated in the Joint Boards of the Belfast Academical Institution who were now in the process of securing control over the education of the Presbyterian clergy. The suspicions which Wellesley had already voiced over the 'democratical' and 'republican' nature of the Institution seemed to be confirmed by the 'disloyal toasts' of the St Patrick's Day Dinner.
Tennent's papers contain a sketch for a speech to be given as chairman for the dinner, in which he mentions that 'a plan has been suggested for forming a society with some appropriate name, which might become a centre of union to those who love their country, and enable them with more energy and effect to direct and combine their efforts for promoting her prosperity.'
'Such a plan, if executed with sufficient prudence and wisdom, might be eminently useful in any nation, but how much more so in a country now circumstanced like our beloved Ireland - her general happiness should be the paramount consideration sought for on the eternal principle of equal, impartial justice - were this standard once erected in our land and the people but convinced that it were so - how soon would all our lamentable dissensions vanish and the Irish character be again displayed in all its native beauty and excellence....
'My young friends - when I look around I do not - I cannot -despair of my country. I have full confidence that the patriots of 80 and of 92- whose splendid talents, virtue and patriotism were so flattering to Irish hearts and so effectual for Irish objects - shall not all close their eyes on this world without the high gratification of seeing a double portion of their spirit rest upon the heads of their youthful successors'. ' (15)
On 22nd April, after newspaper reports of the toasts given at the dinner, Vesey Fitzgerald, the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrote to say that he could not support a renewal of the Institution's grant for 1816. Soon after, the Joint Boards condemned the sentiments expressed at the dinner, and sought explanations from the teachers who had been present. One of them, James Knowles, published a letter in the papers, defending his right to his political opinions. When he was summoned before the Joint Boards, he said that he 'would have preferred living on bread and cheese' rather than submit to the powers he now realised the Joint Boards had under their Charter of Incorporation.
Early in May, Dr Tennent and William Magee resigned at a general meeting of the proprietors called to discuss Fitzgerald's letter. They were followed by John Barnet, and there was a unanimous resolution that the remaining members of the Boards who had been present -Robert Grimshaw and W.B. Neilson (son, incidentally, of Samuel Neilson, editor of the Northern Star) - should resign. (16)
Notwithstanding the resignations, the attack was renewed in Parliament by Sir George Hill, who had been responsible for securing the Charter of Incorporation. In a letter to the Secretary, Joseph Stevenson, he called for a complete change in the constitution. He condemned the connection with the Synod and suggested that managers and visitors had too much influence over the teaching staff. These - together with the adoption of collegiate status - became the main themes in discussions with Castlereagh and Peel about the continuation of the grant. On 25th June, however, the same day that the Synod discussed its continuing relations with the Institution, Samuel Thompson, one of the Vice Presidents, and Lord Downshire reported that Peel and Vesey Fitzgerald had promised to bring the grant forward for 1816. (17)
Fitzgerald's initial letter to Stevenson had said that 'various and repeated communications have been transmitted to His Majesty's government in Ireland' about the Institution, and Drennan continually blamed the influence of 'the two Presbyterian Doctors' (Bruce and Black) for the government's attitude. In May in fact he was inclined to blame the Synod as a whole: 'The Synod and Mr Hanna are as little friends to the present Institution as Dr B (Bruce - PB) and it is not unlikely are secret prompters of the government' (Drennan was in Chester at the time both of the dinner and of the subsequent row). The government's aim was 'to make it (the Institution - PB) a piece of patronage such as the Synod and such as the learned Doctor may like better than its present organisation.' Black wrote to the Boards prior to the Synod's meeting in June, requesting copies of papers, which the Boards sent instead to their sympathisers, Revs John McCance (the current Moderator) and Henry Henry. At the Synod, Black openly opposed the Institution apparently for the first time (he wasn't present at the 1815 Synod, when the connection was formally agreed). (18)
Nonetheless, the Synod resolved to go ahead with appointing a Professor, and appointed a committee to raise subscriptions (after Black vetoed a proposal to raise the money directly from ministers' Regium Donum, for which he was agent). Drennan's correspondent, Mrs McTier, who seems to have enjoyed expressing opinions which he could be expected to find offensive, described the Synod to him and said 'I think Dr Black in particular pleased me much in sermon and manners; but on his side, he had not one speaker and but four votes against the whole toll.' The four votes subsequently (in a protest against the connection made in 1817) appear as himself, James Elder, Adam Hill and James McCullough. (19)
It is possible that the Synod's enthusiasm for home education was influenced by the recent discovery that, under the Act of the General Assembly passed in 1799 against the spread of Congregationalism and itineracy, its ministers were excluded from the pulpits of the Church of Scotland. The issue had arisen in 1814, when the Synod agreed 'to enquire whether the law of the Assembly which excludes from their pulpits ministers of a particular description be intended to apply to the ministers and licentiates of the General Synod of Ulster, and, if so, to request a copy of it.' The Assembly replied in 1815, enclosing a copy of the relevant act and making it clear that the Synod's ministers were excluded. The Synod wrote to request a change in the Act, but no reply was received by 1816. (20)
The Synod had resolved to appoint a Professor at a special meeting in November but shortly before this a deputation from the Joint Boards met Castlereagh, apparently at their own request, for two meetings, one in Belfast and one at Mount Stewart, at which he particularly attacked the connection with the Synod 'which, if persisted in he would consider as an act of hostility towards Government, and might lead to the withholding of the Regium Donum' (William Boyd, on the Joint Boards' delegation, insisted that the threat to withhold Regium Donum was made, though Castlereagh later denied it). He proposed that the managers, elected by the proprietors, should confine their attention to overall supervision of the economy and buildings of the schools, while the visitors would be made up of professional men and would require to combine with the professors to supervise lectures and appoint teachers. (21)
These ideas were developed in a letter later in the month (and after the Synod's meeting) from Sir George Hill, which denied that Castlereagh threatened to withhold the Regium Donum and accused Boyd of going back on an agreement he had made to dissuade the Synod from appointing a Professor. The government, he suggested, had just cause for alarm when the constitution of Belfast's main seat of learning had been dictated by 'men of no slight suspicion of revolutionary character' who were enemies of the established church, aiming by means of the Institution to 'crush and annihilate' the purposes for which the Regium Donum had been granted. The bounty had been increased on the basis of information about the constitution of the Synod, which the Synod now aimed to change without consulting the government. The government could not endow Professors of rival sects to preach at the same University, since this would result in confusion. Hill professed himself nonetheless 'a friend to every enlarged and liberal view which can be imparted to the youth of our country without giving them a democratic, anti-constitutional inclination on the one hand, or a slavish, bigoted bias on the other.' (22)
Supporting evidence for the assertion that the Boards had promised to dissuade the Synod from appointing a Professor in November 1816 is provided by Drennan, who says that 'Lord Castlereagh gave the Regium Donum in his conference the very just epithet of pension - and the annual grant seemed to have the same soporific, paralysing effect on the Boards, until awakened and electrify'd by the behaviour of the Synod.' Stevenson's letter to the Synod explaining the state of the negotiations is indeed rather dissuasive. After summarising Castlereagh's case quite forcefully ('in his opinion, such a measure if adopted would be deemed an act of hostility by His Majesty's Government - and his lordship recommends to the Synod that no such appointment should be made at present. When the Institution has been matured, such a connection may become a measure of adjustment between the government and the Synod') he concludes 'that it would be a matter of extreme regret to the Boards should any circumstance arise to lessen the confidence and harmony which ought always to exist between His Majesty's Government and the Synod of Ulster.' Stevenson later proposed that Castlereagh's proposed changes in the constitution should be adopted almost in their entirety. (23)
Nonetheless, the Synod agreed to go ahead with the appointment, though it was delayed until June on the grounds that there was only one candidate (Hanna). Further negotiations between the Joint Boards and the government (represented by Fitzgerald and Peel), together with discussions on possible alterations to the constitution took place until, in June 1817, the government refused to renew the grant. Whether by accident or design, this decision was finally made while the Synod was meeting (as was the decision in June 1816 to continue the grant). The Synod resolved to press ahead with appointing Hanna, only Black, Elder, Hill and McCullough dissenting, and resolved 'by a great majority' 'that the regulations for the education of our young men intended for the ministry are strictly a matter of Discipline.' That some ministers continued to have a cautious approach was shown by an unsuccessful motion that Hanna should give his lectures in his own Meeting House rather than in the Institution until the negotiations between the Government and the Institution had been 'satisfactorily terminated'. But the more radical side of the Synod was represented by a protest from Steele Dickson and William Harrison (an only recently ordained minister who replaced Hanna on the committee to raise money for the Professorship) against any explanation being offered to the Government 'as it appears to recognise a right in the Government to interfere with our regulations for the education of candidates for the ministry.' (24)
THE INSTITUTION AND PRESBYTERIAN LOYALTY
Once the connection with the Synod was established, the education of the Presbyterian clergy was removed from the control of the established Church of Scotland through Glasgow University and put under the close supervision of a management elected by voluntary subscribers. The government argued that the constitution effectively meant that the Institution's management could fall into the hands of a clique, though this is what it had originally been designed to prevent. Peel told a deputation from the Synod in July 1817 that he had no objection to the present membership of the Boards (this was after the 1816 purge) but there was no guarantee that they would not fall into bad hands in the future, and the most active members of the Boards could determine the nature of the school. From the time the school was first proposed, in fact, a small number of individuals, who included Drennan and Tennent, played a continuous and active part, helped by the fact that as their period of office on one board expired, they could move to the other (and the distinction between the Boards was becoming rather nebulous). (25)
In part, two rival conceptions of public accountability were at stake. Drennan took the view that the Institution should be directly accountable to a public that was prepared to pay for it. Castlereagh and Peel felt that public accountability meant accountability to the state as representative of the whole society, supporting it through money derived from taxes paid by the whole society. Thus, Drennan described the voluntary subscriptions as 'our first, our best and perhaps it were to be wished our only patron' and felt that the Institution was in the process of selling itself to the government:
'to that ministry which spreads its monstrous palm over every liberal institution moulds them to its own purposes of influence by the modifications it imposes; and while it disclaims all positive patronage, contrives to secure it more effectively by its negative or veto; thus manacling and fettering the Institution, as it were, from head to heel, yet all the time professing, with the most insolent courtesy, its solicitude for your welfare." (26)
The problem was closely linked to the controversy surrounding the Regium Donum between those who believed that the churches should be informal organisations within civil society and responsible only to their membership, and those who believed that they should be supported by and in some degree accountable to the state. Sir George Hill saw the Institution as an attempt to undermine the connection between the government and the Synod. Drennan denied this 'however the exertions of individuals of the Institution, through the medium of a free press, might contribute to inform public opinion with regard to the nature and tendency of that connexion.' (27)
As we have seen, the intention of the increased Regium Donum was to help dissolve the sectarianism of Ulster Presbyterians (their primary loyalty to their own community) into a common British identity. Drennan by this time appears to have been reconciled to the union, but nonetheless he laid great emphasis on the virtues of the Institution as 'patriotic in its ultimate object and end' and patriotism had been the central theme of Tennent's St Patrick's Day address. The government had derived comfort from the Synod's connection with the established Church of Scotland but, now that, this had been revealed to be a dead letter, there was a strong desire to assert the Synod's rights as an independent church. A more stridently patriotic voice was also being heard in the Ulster Register, first published in August 1816 and edited by the Repealer, John Lawless, who had arrived in Belfast from Newry earlier in the year and almost immediately threw himself into the dispute over the Institution, calling for a coalition of all denominations against the government. (28)
When the Synod agreed in November 1816 to appoint a Professor, Lawless congratulated them on their refusal 'to bow their consciences and their characters to the insolent dictations of a British minister and an old United Irishman' (Castlereagh was rumoured to have enrolled in the United Irish Society when he was still known as a reforming politician). Castlereagh's attempt to bind the Synod 'has circulated through the North a spirit of Patriotism'. In August 1816, he published a satire on the dispute in the form of 'a letter from Benjamin, near Dromore, to his friend Jeremiah of Newtownlimavady' regretting the new spirit of patriotism. This was based largely on a letter from 'Presbyter' (Bruce) in the Belfast News Letter. Benjamin complains about the Synod being held in Belfast (as it had been since 1815) rather than in Cookstown:
'When removed to this hotbed of Irish feeling, no reasonable man, my dear Jerry, could expect any good to result from our deliberations - we were all ashamed to say anything against Ireland, though our own private interests often goaded us to speak out.' After ministers had been educated in Glasgow 'there is a Scotch sanctity in their physiognomy, a melody in their tones, that make the vulgar Irish bow down with reverential homage to their superiority.' Benjamin did concede that the teachers in the Institution were for the most part English, Scottish or only partly Irish and that there was 'little fear therefore to be entertained that they have any ardent leaning towards Ireland's interests' but they might nonetheless convey 'the poison of their liberality.' (29)
Lawless' call for a union of denominations against the government remained fanciful. While some verbal support was given to the Institution from the parish priest of Belfast, William Crolly, the issue was between Presbyterians and the Government, and the Joint Boards' insistence on the non-denominational nature of the Institution was little more than a complication, at least as far as the college was concerned. By 1825, the Collegiate Department had only forty-four students 'not intended for the Presbyterian ministry' out of one hundred and sixty. Drennan, arguing that it was not a dissenting college, could only point to the appointment of one Anglican minister (Rev Andrew O'Beirne, the classics master who was shortly to leave when he wasn't given the classics professorship in the collegiate department). The interdenominational ambitions of the Institution meant little more in practice than that the Synod did not have control over the education of its ministers outside the divinity department, and that its curriculum was primarily secular, accommodating both the latitudinarian and orthodox wings of Presbyterianism but, in its secularity, naturally favouring the former. The problem that this posed for the Synod itself rather than for the government, formed a major part of the controversies in the 1820s. (30)
CHAPTER FOUR: THE BELFAST ACADEMICAL INSTITUTION
(1) Relations between Bryce and Tennent in e.g. James Bryce to Dr Tennent, 13/11/1818, in Tennent MSS, PRONI D1748/B/33/1. Back
(2) Minutes of the Belfast Academical Institution, Vol i, PRONI SCH524/3A/1, pp.2-4. For the proposal to admit professors of Divinity, see ibid pp.49 (31/5/1808) and 65 (8/11/1808).
(3) Thomas Dix Hincks in DNB; negotiations with Foster in BAI minutes p.27 (13/1/08).
(4) BMM Vol I, no iii (Nov 1808), p. 170.
(5) Black to Bruce, 9/11/1807, in Bruce MSS, PRONI T3041/1/E52. For the constitution of the BAI, see BAI minutes pp. 10-17 (22/9/1807) and for subsequent modifications prior to government intervention, see ibid, pp. 34-36 (Feb 1808), p.50 (May/June 1808) and p.71.
(6) BAI Minutes p.18 (20/10/1807); Bruce's letter from letter book of James McCleery in PRONI (ed): Problems, pp.41-44. Back
(7) Wellesley to Lord Hawkesbury (later Earl of Liverpool), March 1808 and to the Earl of Liverpool (N.D. but apparently early 1809), quoted in Fisher and Robb: Royal Belfast Academical Institution Centenary Volume, Belfast 1813, pp. 39-42.
(8) BAI Minutes, e.g. pp.22 (25/11/1807) and 32-33 (8/2/1808). For the dispute between May and Tennent, see A.T.Q. Stewart: The Transformation of Presbyterian Radicalism in the North of Ireland, 1792-1825, unpubl MA thesis (QUB) 1956, pp. 126-127; for the Bill of Incorporation, see John Jamieson: History of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, 1810-1960, pp. 5-6; and for rumour that Hill was responsible for arresting Tone, see Thomas Pakenham: The Year of Liberty, London 1969, p.344.
(9) BAI Minutes, passim. Drennan first appears on p. 22 (25/11/1807) and is elected as visitor p.29 (4/2/1808).
(10) Tennent and Table Bay in PRONI D1748/B/261/1-4; for radical demonstrations, see Stewart: Transformation, pp. 120-140; for Downshire's opposition to the Union, see Hyde: Castlereagh, pp. 328-330, 345-346, 354; for proposal to raise subscriptions in India see letter from A.J. Macan in RBAI MSS, PRONI Sch524/7B/9/94. For Moira's politics in the United Irish period, see Pakenham: Year of Liberty, e.g. p.240.
(11) BA1 Minutes, pp.25 (13/1/1808); 45-46 (22/3/1808); 69-73 (21/12/1808); 92 (20/6/1809); RGSU, June 1810, June 1811; June 1813; BAI Minutes, pp.26 (10/6/1813); 267 (22/6/1813 and 29/6/1813); 271 (6/7/1813). Back
(12) RGSU June 1813 and June 1814: BAI Minutes, pp. 276 (5/8/1813) and 277 (11/8/1813). Report of conference in SCH524/7B/7/37. For Neilson supporting Dickson, see Black to Bruce, Dec 1804, in Bruce MSS, T3041/1/E50.
(13) RGSU June 1814; June 1815; June 1816; Antiburgher minutes, p.74 (July 1815); Stewart: Seceders, p. 199.
(14) My main source for discussing general developments m British politics subsequent to 1815 has been Elie Halevy: History of the English People, 1815-1830, London 1926, and 1830-41, London 1927.
(16) W.V. Fitzgerald to Joseph Stevenson, 14/5/1816 in SCH524/7B/10/9; condemnation of St Patrick's Day Dinner in Minutes of the Belfast Academical Institution Vol II, PRONI SCH524/3A/2, pp. 104-105 (30/4/1816); interview with Knowles in BAI Minutes II, p. 106 (7/5/ 1816); general meeting of proprietors in ibid, pp. 108-110 (9/5/1816). Back
(17) Hill to Stevenson, 15/6/1816, SCH524/7B/10/24; BAI Minutes II, p. 119 (25/6/1816).
(18) Fitzgerald to Stevenson as in fn (16) above; Drennan to Mrs McTier, 13/5/1816 in Drennan Letters, pp.388-389; BAI Minutes II, pp.116-117 (4/6/1816 and 11/6/1816).
(19) RGSU June 1816; Mrs McTier to Drennan in Drennan Letters (cJuly 1816), p.392; RGSU June 1817.
(20) RGSU, June 1814, June 1815 and June 1816.
(21) BAI Minutes II, pp.150 (l/l0/1816); 160 (2/11/ 1816); 166-167 (12/11/1816). Back
(22) Hill to Stevenson, 15/11/1816, SCH524/7B/10/49.
(23) Drennan MSS, PRON1 D531/1, pp.47-52 (these papers have not yet been sorted and the present pagination is arbitrary); Stevenson's letter in RGSU, November 1816.
(24) RGSU June 1817.
(25) Diary of a deputation to Mr Peel, July 1817 (kept by Joseph Stevenson), SCH524/7B/11/24.
(26) Notes dated 15/11/1816, presumably for meeting held on the 16th November to discuss constitutional changes in the light of the interview with Castlereagh, D531/1, pp.28-31; and ibid (written at same time), pp. 20-23. Back
(27) Hill to Stevenson as in (22) above; Drennan MSS as in (23) above.
(28) D531/1, pp.28-31; Tennent's speech as in fn (15) above; a pamphlet by Lawless arguing this case is referred to in Drennan to Mrs McTier, 7/6/1816, in Drennan Letters, p.392.
(29) UR 15/11/1816 (p.295) and 9/8/1816 (pp.21 and 25-26); Bruce's letter in BNL 26/7/1816.
(30) Religious composition of pupils in Fourth Report of the Commissioners of the Irish Education Inquiry, PP 1826-7 XIII, p. 15; Report of the deputation's meeting with Castlereagh in SCH524/7B/10/45.