- Maynooth Grant
The Maynooth Grant was a major British political controversy of the 1840s.
In 1845, British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel sought to improve the relationship between Catholic Ireland and Protestant England by increasing the annual grant from the British government of a Catholic seminary in Ireland.
In 1785, the British government supported the founding of a Catholic seminary in Maynooth, Ireland. It was named St. Patrick's College and is often simply called Maynooth College. The college was funded by the British government. The grant given to the college was £8,000 annually. The rate stayed the same from 1809 to 1845, when Prime Minister Peel proposed it be increased to £26,000 annually.
Prime Minister Peel made the proposal to increase government funding to Maynooth College in 1845. Under his proposal, the seminary would receive upwards of £26,000 annually and a grant of £30,000 for repairs. Conservatives in the British government were outraged that the Prime Minister was so adamant about supporting a Catholic seminary. They saw it as unnecessary and dangerous for Britain, a Protestant state, to finance a Catholic seminary. Queen Victoria wrote about the controversy: "I am sure poor Peel ought to be blessed by all Catholics for the many and noble ways in which he stands forth to protect and do good for poor Ireland. But the bigotry, the wicked and blind passion it brings forth is quite dreadful, and I blush for Protestantism!" In 1849, she and Prince Albert would make a point of visiting the seminary on their visit to Ireland.
Also contributing to the political unrest was a group know as the "Volunatryists," who were also opposed to the grant. Their issue with it was not, however, over any sort of religious difference. They opposed the idea of the government granting money to any private institution of higher education, so naturally they were upset about the Maynooth Grant as well.
While the grant was controversial, and weakened Peel's government, it set a precedent, and within three years, government support was being given to Catholic schools in England.
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