HC Deb 17 July 1828 vol 19 cc1767-8

The House having resolved itself into a Committee on the Appropriation Act,

Mr. Spring Rice

rose, to claim from the chancellor of the Exchequer the fulfilment of his engagement, by the introduction of a clause permitting the lord lieutenant of Ireland to exercise an entire control over the sums voted for Education in Ireland. The pledge given was, that lord Anglesey should be enabled by parliament to issue the sums voted, either in the whole or in part, subject to such conditions as should appear expedient, or should be allowed to transfer them altogether to other establishments, should he consider such to be more deserving of parliamentary support. Under the authority of such an enactment, the government of Ireland might introduce more liberal and rational principles into existing schools, or, if that were impossible, might in new establishments try the experiment recommended by the report of the Select Committee of which he was chairman. He would avail himself of the present opportunity of making a communication to the House, which would have come from his hon. and learned friend, the member for Winchdsea, who was prevented by indisposition and professional engagements from attending. It related to the subject of Education, and he felt confident that it would be gratifying both to the House and to the public Gentlemen would not have forgotten the laborious and interesting inquiries concerning schools commenced at the suggestion of his hon. and learned friend, several years back. The reports of the committees on Education and the digested returns prepared at that period, had given to the public the first accurate knowledge of the means of instruction provided for the poorer classes. These returns, however, proved that the means now provided were wholly inadequate, and that in many cases parishes were still to be found in which no school whatever existed. In 1818, his hon. and learned friend had addressed letters to the clergy of the established church, requesting those rev. gentlemen to furnish him with answers to queries illustrative of the state of Education in their respective parishes. Returns were procured by these means, which though incomplete, furnished sufficient data to reason upon pretty generally. In 1828, after a lapse of ten years, similar queries were circulated by his hon. and learned friend; and, by a careful comparison of the returns then procured with those of 1818, it would be seen that the progress of Education in Great Britain had been most rapid. It was to this most satisfactory fact that he was particularly desirous of calling the attention of the House. In four hundred and eighty-seven parishes in different parts of England—fair indications of the state of Education throughout the whole country—the number of unendowed day schools according to the parliamentary returns, appeared to be 1411, containing 50,034 scholars; such was the state of things in 1818. In 1828 in the same parishes, the number of schools was 3,260, and the number of scholars 105,571. To the friends of freedom, knowledge, and virtue, it would be difficult to suggest a more gratifying subject for meditation; and, though he was aware that much of this improvement was to be traced to the zeal and love of knowledge of the present times, yet he felt it a gratification and pride to consider that these motions had been called into action, and if not actually and altogether created, yet greatly increased in power by the efforts of his hon. and learned friend. He could not sit down without stating the obligation which was due to the clergy of the established church, for the kindness and energy with which they had met the views of his hon. and learned friend. They had assisted with zeal in procuring the information required both in 1818 and 1828, more particularly at the latter period.