To the Editor of the Evening Packet
St Columba’s, March 15, 1848
Dear Sir – In the second edition of your publication of last Saturday, there appeared a letter signed by the Rev MC Morton, warden of St Columba’s, Stackallan, written apparently for the purpose of disclaiming, on the part of this college, all sympathy with my act of joining the Irish Confederation. The concluding sentence of that letter – the only one in it I deem it necessary to notice – was as follows: – “I have no hesitation in affirming that there does not exist amongst the students here any fellow feeling with Republicanism, or with those views which Mr Duffy seems to ascribe to them”. This paragraph renders it necessary for me, as Mr Duffy’s informant, to reserve myself from the charge of having misrepresented to him the students of this college. That there does not exist amongst them a very strong fellow-feeling with the views that Mr Duffy ascribes to them. The words which he used in reference to them, as reported in his own journal, the Nation, do not ascribe to them the sentiments of any political party, but such only as good men of all parties would rejoice to see pervading the breasts of the young.
All Irishmen must for very shame acknowledge that they rejoice to hear that the rising generation “are determined to give their whole souls and strength to the service of their country”, instead of being trained as Irishmen too often have been, to despise their country. I am happy to say that from my knowledge of these boys, I feel confident that there are amongst them many who are thus determined. Some of them, in their manhood, may be Unionists, some Repealers, (if the Union lasts so long;) but they will all, I trust, be guided in their political opinions by a sense of Ireland’s good only.
I think it is right to state, for the sake of the parents of the boys, (some of whom have been alarmed by the recent declaration of my opinions,) that though I hold the fundamental principles of the Confederation, I never have sought to impress them on the minds of the boys.
I have sought, with all the influence I possessed, to make them proud of their country, fallen though she be – to induce them to give a preference to the manufactures of their own starving countrymen in those things which were in their power, and to interest them in her history and antiquities; but further than this, never.
In labouring thus to make them devoted to their country, I have only endeavoured to carry out the views of the founders of the college, as will be seen from the following passages extracted from the address of Mr Sewell, delivered to the warden and fellows at the opening of the college. On page 17 he says – “Although the sons of English gentlemen will probably partake in the advantages of our educations, yet this college is a college for Ireland; not only the language of Ireland, but everything which can bind its rising generation to its interests, its soil, its ancient recollections, its future hopes of peace and good, must be here brought round them, and impressed upon their hearts”. Again, page 29 – “We trust also that they will be here taught not only to love and be proud of their country, by being instructed in the brightest periods of its ancient history, and interested in the numerous antiquities which surround this spot; but to love and be proud of the place of their education”, etc. Again, the statutes found by the present trustees command that “The college shall also encourage in all fellows, scholars, and students, a taste for national antiquities, and to this end a museum of Irish antiquities shall be formed, and the study of Irish history shall be as much as possible promoted”.
I should apologise for trespassing so much on your space, but that I feel assured that your natural sympathies, so uniformly manifested in your journal, will recognise the importance of bringing before the eyes of the public the intention of the founders of this college, that it should be a truly national college, where the sons of parents of every shade of politics might be educated together, without danger to the principles in which they might have been respectively brought up. It is right too that any Irish parents, if such there be, who would fear such teaching as I have endeavoured to describe, should be warned not to send their sons here.
I hope that this letter may satisfactorily account for Mr Duffy’s allusion to our students on Thursday, the 9th inst., without it being necessary to suppose that he intended to attribute to them either republicanism or the opinions of any particular political party. I know that the comparison of them to the students of Paris has startled some; but the only quality in which a comparison was intended was devotion to their country.
I remain, sir, your obedient servant, Elias Thackeray Stevenson, Fellow of St Columba’s