§ Mr. Roebuck
rose to move a Resolution in conformity to his notice, that the House would, with the smallest delay possible, consider the means of establishing a system of National Education; and spoke as follows:—Although the subject to which I am now about to solicit the attention of the House, can be surpassed by none in the importance of its influence upon the well-being of society; although none even at this time more imperiously demands consideration from the rulers of the people; yet all this, notwithstanding, I dare not, in the present temper of the political world, request the House to listen to anything like a complete exposition of my opinions and my plans respecting it. Men's minds are now in a ferment on matters solely of immediate import—the interest of the day, the pressing urgency of the present moment, are those alone which can command the consideration of the existing race of politicians. It would, therefore, be idle to hope, that a subject like general education could engage their favour, or even occupy their thoughts. Its results are distant—the benefits to be expected from it can only be attained by the slow operation of time, patience, and industry. There is nothing to raise the wonder and admiration of the ignorant many—no party 140 —no individual purposes can be served by promoting it—nought can be obtained by its assistance, but the pure unalloyed benefit of the community at large—no wonder, then, that it has been so long, so steadily, so pertinaciously neglected. For so unpopular a cause I cannot hope to gain more than a brief, a very brief hearing. Amidst the jar of political warfare, I may, however, if peculiarly fortunate, obtain one moment of calm. Tired of contention, a slight truce may be agreed on by hostile parties; and for this brief interval they may be content to listen, by way of relaxation, to suggestions relating merely to the vital interests of society, unconnected with party, passion, or individual interests. I even have been too long in the stormy world of politics, and know too well the temper of this House to demand anything beyond this very slight and imperfect consideration of the great subject to which I am now endeavouring to obtain its attention. I will at once state to the House the course I intend to pursue. My purpose is, at the close of the few observations with which I mean to trouble you. Sir, to propose a Resolution, by which this House will acknowledge as a principle of Government, that the education of the people is a matter of national concern; that, as such, it ought to be the object of the most immediate, continued, and sedulous attention on the part of the Legislature,' and that, therefore, in the next coming Session, this House will earnestly endeavour to frame some plan for the universal education of the people. It may, and perhaps will, be said, that this might have been delayed until the next Session, and our time might at present be thereby economised. This, to me Sir, appears an unwise economy. If the House adopt my suggestion, one step, and that a very important one, will have been gained. It being generally understood that the House of Commons acknowledges the great principle that the Government ought to superintend the education of the people, the attention of thinking men will be directed to the subject, and various matters suggested, by which the control and aid of the Government may be rendered efficient; and thus, when we proceed next Session to the investigation of the subject by a Committee, we shall find men's minds prepared on it, and not surprised and taken unawares. The enunciation of the principle is all that we could at first attempt, and there is no reason why that should not be done at the end as well as the beginning of 141 the Session. Let no one say that it is an abstract question leading to no practical result. This talk about abstract questions is usually an unintelligible jargon, it would be so in the present case. In order to establish eventually a mode of general education, certain preliminary steps must be taken by the Legislature. Ours, from the nature of things, is an operose machinery—what a despot would do, by the mere force of his will, we must do by influencing gradually the will of others. Now, one of these preliminary steps, one which must be taken, is to enunciate to the nation at large, our acknowledgment of the principle. This acknowledgment is itself a practical proceeding, and it leads also directly, and necessarily almost, to the establishment of the means of educating the people—in other words, it leads directly to, it is the necessary forerunner of, an important practical result. Such being the case, it is to be hoped that no one will, on the present occasion, feel indisposed towards the Resolution to be proposed, as not being of a practical description. In order then, Sir, to obtain the assent of the House to the Resolutions I shall have the honour to propose, I must make a few—necessarily a few—observations on the three following subjects—subjects indeed distinct, though intimately related to each other. I would first solicit the attention of the House to the more prominent benefits to be obtained by a general education of the people. Secondly, I would endeavour to show why the Government should itself supply this education; and, lastly, I shall attempt to trace a rude outline of a plan by which every inhabitant of this empire might receive the instruction requisite for the well-being of society. At the outset, to prevent misconception, I may be permitted to describe what I mean by education, The narrow acceptation of this term so generally received, has done infinite mischief. Education is usually supposed to signify merely learning to read and write, and sometimes, by a stretch of liberality, it is made to include arithmetic. But this is not education, it is simply some of the means of education. In ordinary conversation, when men say that education cannot relieve the necessities, or cure the vices of the people, they mean that learning to read and write cannot do this; and in so saying they are right. Putting a hammer and saw into a man's hand does not make him a carpenter; putting a flute into his hands does not make him a musician; in both cases you give him 142 certain instruments, which if he have the knowledge requisite, he may use to good purposes, but if he do not possess it, they will prove either useless or mischievous. So may it happen with the instruments of knowledge. Unless the mind be trained to their exercise—unless the will and the power to turn them to good purposes, be conferred, not only will they be useless, idle powers, but they may be made eminently mischievous. But this narrow, vulgar acceptation of the term education, is not the correct one. Education means not merely the conferring these necessary means or instruments for the acquiring of knowledge, but it means also the so training or fashioning the intellectual and moral qualities of the individual, that he may be able and willing to acquire knowledge, and to turn it to its right use. It means the so framing the mind of the individual, that he may become a useful and virtuous member of society in the various relations of life. It means making him a good child, a good parent, a good neighbour, a good citizen, in short, a good man. All these he cannot be without knowledge, but neither will the mere acquisition of knowledge confer on him these qualities; his moral, as well as his intellectual powers, must contribute to this great end, and the true fashioning of these to this purpose is right education. Such, Sir, is the acceptation which I attribute to the term education. The actual training of the human being in his moral and intellectual being, whatever that training may be, good or bad, is education. The wild Indian, the dull and plodding peasant, and the far-sighted philosopher, are all educated. But to be rightly educated is to be made what I have just described—and when I hereafter speak of education, I shall intend good education. Were I to attempt any description of the mode of training which leads to this so desired result, I should exceed the patience of this House and my own physical powers. Such a description would be a work of months, not of minutes; the labour of a life, not the effort of some hours' consideration. I shall assume throughout, not only that such a training can be discovered, but that we have actually discovered it. I now will attempt to point out one or two results from such a training not usually adverted to, though of unspeakable importance; and I do so the more readily, because they are well calculated to attract the attention of the leading classes of existing politicians. While so doing, doubtless I may incur- 143 censure from the misjudging friends of the popular cause—but sure I am, that its more enlightened and virtuous supporters will bear testimony to the truth of what I utter. I need hardly, I think, Sir, do more than suggest to this House, that of the many evils which afflict mankind as members of political societies, there are many, very many, which are utterly beyond the control of Government, no matter how wisely fashioned, how virtuously inclined. In other words, we may say, that if there were this day in our own, or any other country, established a government perfect in its form, and in its composition completely virtuous, still the happiness or misery of the people would not be completely at its command. Of the evils which men suffer, it is true, some portion, ay, and an important portion, may be controlled by a government; but there is a still larger, far more important portion, which depends solely on the people themselves. Now, one of the first, one of the most important results from a proper education of the people, would be a thorough understanding on their part of the circumstances on which their happiness depended, and of the powers by which those circumstances were controlled. They would learn what a government could, and what a government could not do to relieve their distresses—they would learn what depended on themselves, what on others—what evils resulted from evil authority, what from popular ignorance and popular vice. Of all the knowledge that can be conferred on a people, this is the most essential; let them once understand thoroughly their social condition, and we shall have no more unmeaning discontents—no wild and futile schemes of Reform; we shall not have a stack-burning peasantry—a sturdy pauper population—a monopoly-seeking manufacturing class; we shall not have a middle class directing all their efforts to the repeal of a single tax, or to the wild plan of universal robbery; neither will there be immoral landlords wishing to maintain a dangerous corn monopoly; or foolish consumers, who will suffer it to remain. We shall have right efforts directed to right ends. We shall have a people industrious, honest, tolerant and happy. We often hear outcries against education, based on its dangerous consequences to the peace of the community and the security of property. It is asserted that men will wish to leave their actual station, and be unfitted for the common duties of life, by being taught to long for a higher and more luxurious condition. 144 This whole outcry is grounded on a gross, and, one would have imagined, remarkably apparent fallacy. First, there is a misconception as to the meaning of the term education; and next, a rule is drawn from certain peculiar cases now happening in society, to the detriment of an universal education. What, however, may be true of a peculiar case, when only a portion—and a small portion—of the people receive education, will not be true, when the whole body are instructed. When the whole people are instructed education, even in the narrow sense of the term, will not, as now, be a thing of rare occurrence, and thereby a distinction—all will be alike; and no peculiar privilege will be sought by an individual because he happens not to be as ignorant as a savage. The Archbishop of Dublin in his excellent work on Logic, thus technically and forcibly describes this very fallacy:—'Thus, in arguing, by example, &c., the parallelism of two cases, is often assumed, from their being in some respects alike, though perhaps they differ in the very point which is essential to the argument—e. g., from the circumstance that some men of humbler station, who have been well educated, are apt to think themselves above low drudgery, it is argued, that universal education of the lower orders would beget general idleness; this argument rests, of course, on the assumption of parallelism in the two cases—viz., the past and the future; whereas there is a circumstance that is absolutely essential in which they differ, for when education is universal it must cease to be a distinction—which is probably the 'very circumstance that renders men too proud for their work.' Again, it should be observed that the education intended is expressly the teaching and training men to be all in their several conditions useful to themselves, their neighbours, and society. In the existing condition of society, however, it is worse than idle to say, that this cannot be effected by education, and thus to attempt a continuance of our present situation. If, as heretofore, the majority of mankind were content to be a slumbering mass—an inert and utterly inactive body—then the policy, as a selfish policy—might possibly be defended. But this is no longer the case. The business of Government is not, and can no longer be, the affair of a few, Within these few years a new element has arisen, which now ought to enter into all political calculations. The multitude—the hitherto inert and 145 submissive multitude—are filled with a new spirit—their attention is intently directed towards the affairs of the State—they lake an active part in their own social concerns, and however unwilling persons may be to contemplate the fact, any one who will calmly and carefully watch the signs of the times, will discover, and if he be really honest and wise, will at once allow, that the hitherto subject many are about to become paramount in the State. I speak not now in the character of one desiring or fearing this consummation, but merely as one observing the passing events around me, and I mention the coming circumstance in the same spirit as that in which an astronomer would predict an eclipse; to me the result appears inevitable; and I therefore cast about me to learn in what way this new force may be made efficient to purposes of good, and how any of its probable mischievous results may be prevented. Although I be one who believe that no good Government can be attained without the concurrence of the people—to speak in still plainer terms—that the people will never be well governed until they govern themselves—still I am far from believing that the golden age will be attained merely by creating a Democratic Government. The people at present are far too ignorant to render themselves happy, even though they should possess supreme power to-morrow. Of the many evils even which they now suffer, the larger part arises from their own ignorance, and not immediately from the Government. The Government, indeed, does not inflict much direct and positive oppression, although it produces immense indirect mischief. Indeed the evils of bad Government in this country are, for the most part, not of a positive, but of a negative description. The Government does not often immediately inflict misery on the people by any brutal or bare-faced oppression—but by abstaining from its duty, by shrinking from doing the good that it ought to do, enormous misery is allowed to continue. By fostering and perpetuating ignorance among the people, it inflicts more injury than by any or all of its direct oppressions—all its immense taxation, considered as a burthen, is a feather in the scale when compared with the ills produced by the ignorance it has engendered. Could we enlighten the whole population—could we at one moment give all of them knowledge and forethought—a thorough understanding of the circumstances on which their happiness is dependent—and at the 146 same time endow them with fortitude to resist present temptations to enjoyment—in a few short years they would laugh at the taxes, when called a burthen, and wonder at those who believed, that so long as they existed, no happiness for the people could ever be known. This, Sir, is not a popular doctrine. It is one, nevertheless, which I have long held, and always openly avowed. Holding it, I have been, and am a strenuous advocate of education, as well as a fervent admirer of popular institutions. I am not the less desirous of remedying the ills arising from bad Government, because I see that many arise from popular ignorance. Neither shall I the less strenuously resist the present improvident expenditure of the Government, even though I see that its mischief is much overrated. One of the great reasons, however, for which I seek for thoroughly popular institutions is, that by this means the attention of the people might be steadily directed to the chief great causes of their misery. Bad Government no longer existing, that could not be deemed the source of all ill; they would then set themselves strenuously to discover wherein the mischief lay; and seek with something like a reasonable conduct, to apply the remedy. So long as our present faulty institutions, and faulty conduct continue, so long, I fear, will their attention be misdirected, and their efforts unavailing. Before I leave this part of my subject, there is one other beneficial result to which I would advert in very general terms. It is of a practical nature, and is connected with matters thought of immediate import even by the practical politicians of the day. It should be remembered that no system of police or of punishment, and no system for the regulation of the poor can be complete without embracing education as a part of the means to be employed. In support of the first part of this assertion I will make two short quotations. On the first I do not rest as an authority; but I take it merely as explicitly stating my ideas on the question; it is extracted from an article in the last number of The Jurist, on the punishment of death [Here the hon. Member read the quotation]. In the next extract, however, I do rest with great confidence, as I know of no higher authority in the whole range of practical legislators. This extract is taken from the introduction to the Code of Prison Discipline established in Louisiana, which code, as must be well known to every one in this House, was framed by the profound and philanthropic 147 Livingston [Here the hon. Member read the extract]. I now take leave of this part of my subject with this single remark;—In the observations which I have made respecting the advantages to be derived from a general or national education, I have abstained from any appeal to those singular and exalted motives which may be supposed to actuate the philosopher and philanthropist in their efforts to ameliorate the condition of mankind. I have not attempted to prove, that a people accustomed to derive their chief enjoyments from intellectual sources can alone be a happy people. I have not attempted to describe as the end to be obtained (thereby attempting to make that end the chief motive to exertion) the exalted and ennobling spectacle of a highly enlightened nation, among whom the law had become simply a rule of conduct, which all cheerfully followed, with hardly any other sanction than public opinion, among whom the governing authority was a guide zealously followed without threats and without cavil. I abstained. Sir, I say, from all appeals of this description; for although these to some might have been the most potent arguments, I fear that in the present temper of the political world, had I indulged in this course of remark, I should thereby have received the censure of being an idle dreamer, a wild and dangerous enthusiast. I now. Sir, proceed to the second object which I proposed to myself—namely, attempting to point out the necessity of making the education of the people the business of the Government. In the first place, Sir, I would beg to remark, that this idea is not only not a new one, but that at this moment the most enlightened nations of the earth have taken upon themselves that task, which I am now endeavouring to recommend to the consideration of this House. Within a few days we have seen a law passed to this end by the Legislature of France—a precedent which I pray to God we may have wisdom to follow. In Prussia and in Saxony a more complete system of public instruction is now in operation than has ever yet had place in any nation of the world. Speaking of these two nations, with respect to their systems of education. Professor Cousin pointedly observes—"I consider France and Prussia the two most enlightened countries in Europe—the most advanced in letters and in science—the two most truly civilized, without excepting England herself—all bristling with prejudices, Gothic institutions, and semi-barbarous customs 148 over which there is awkwardly thrown the mantle d'une civilisation toute materielle." I cannot pass this work of Professor Cousin, without pointing out, as an example to our own Government, the circumstances which produced this admirable work. The French Government, desirous of framing a law on this all-important subject, and not being too proud to learn from the experience of others, sent one of its most renowned philosophers to make inquiries on the subject. It sent him, too, into a State to which the people of France are peculiarly hostile—namely, Prussia; thus showing that idle prejudices could not divert them from the path which wisdom pointed out may also mention, that, in America, the magnificent provisions for this same great object surpass all that the world has seen before. The single state of New York has dedicated to the advancement of knowledge a prospective revenue that must shortly surpass the whole revenue of the State, and more than equal to the enormous sums which we lavish upon our Government. Passing, however, from the authority derived from these striking examples, I would endeavour to rest the question upon its individual merits. No one, I suspect, will dispute that it is the duty of the Government not merely to punish all infractions of security, whether as regards person or property, but also to prevent, as far as possible, all such infractions. Neither will it be denied, I think, that among the most potent moans of such prevention is a good education of the mass of the people. If, then, we seek no higher ground, we may here safely rest, and say, that, as mere matter of police, the education of the people ought to be considered as a part of the duties of the Government. If, however, we do seek a higher ground, the argument becomes stronger. If we consider it the business of Government not merely to prevent evil, but also, by the concentrated force of the social system, directly to promote good—to increase, by all the means which its powers confer on it, the happiness and well-being of its subjects—then the mode in which the people are educated ought to be one of its first and most important objects of consideration. We find that, in order to maintain the peace of society, the Government takes upon itself the business of administering justice—for the better regulation of the mercantile transactions of its subjects, it takes upon itself the regulation of the money of the country—for the furtherance of intercourse, it superintends 149 the roads of the country;—and in a hundred other ways shows, that it does take an active part in the actual promotion of the well-being of the community. It makes laws, also, for the regulation of public morality, thus actually making the business of training of the public mind one of its attributes. Inasmuch, then, as this training is among the chief means of regulating public morality—as it is one of the chief means of furthering generally the well-being, the happiness of society—insomuch, we may say, without fear of refutation, that the business of education ought to be deemed one of its chief concerns. There are, however, some objections made to this statement, which I deem it right here to notice. The first on which I shall remark comes usually from persons favouring the popular cause, and dreading the influence of Government. It is dangerous, they say, to put such an instrument as education into the hands of Government; lest thereby the public mind be debauched, and slavish ideas and habits alone be propagated. My answer to this objection is two-fold. First, I observe, that by the plan which I should propose, no such result will be produced, because, though I propose to make the education of the people a matter of national and not merely individual concern, I should propose that the persons to determine, in the last resort, on the subject matter of instruction, and on whom the actual task of instruction shall fall, should be the people themselves; the people acting, however, in a public, and not in a private capacity. But, secondly, I observe, that I cannot admire the policy of those whose sole end seems to be to bind the hands of Government, and who fancy that a good Government is one totally without power. I know, indeed, that this policy has been followed almost invariably by the friends of the popular cause in England. All their efforts have been directed to the end of rendering the Government harmless, powerless to good as well as to evil purposes. They seem studiously to have avoided the consideration of a means of making the Government strong to useful, weak to mischievous purposes. Another objection, which I here deem it right to notice, does not, indeed, claim attention from its own interest or cogency, but merely because it comes from an authoritative quarter. It is this:—If the Government take upon itself the business of popular education, it is said, that private contributions and efforts to the same end will cease, and thus one means 150 of connecting the different classes of society, the poor and the rich, will he destroyed. My answer to this is, that I see no reason for believing that the efforts of the more enlightened classes would relax; on the contrary, I have very great hope of seeing, in consequence of an improved plan, a much more constant and affectionate communication between different classes of society, than any which now exists. The efforts, indeed, of all would be more systematic, more sustained, less guided by caprice in individual differences of character and feeling. What is now whim, or the result of peculiar and individual sympathies, and therefore called charity, would then be constant, would be considered a duty, and would thus be far more effective than now. It is true there would be no patronage in the case—there would be no charity-schools of this or that individual—there would be no ostentatious display of aid on the one hand, and abject subservience on the other. The children of the poor man would receive instruction and incur no obligation but to the State—no painful feeling of degradation would attach to it; whereas now a stigma is affixed to every one who receives gratuitous instruction. No independent and exalted feeling can arise amongst those whose existence is marked, every day of their lives, with the broad indelible stain of living by the bread of others. But this objection, in fact, arises from a thorough misconception of the mode in which any well-digested scheme of education would attempt to attain its end. In our Government (and for the present we need not travel beyond it) the real control is in the hands of the more wealthy portions of the population; and, even in the most democratic states, the actual business of Government falls very much upon them. But those are the very persons who now contribute, from their private purses, towards the gratuitous education of the poor. As the leisure class must, of necessity, be the most instructed, and as we should wish the most instructed to undertake the office of instructors, it is this leisure class that would in a good Government—always indeed subject to the control of the mass of the population—be the guides to the rest of the people in the business of education, as also of Government. But, instead of being such guides in their private capacity, and subject to no responsibility, they would be so, in a public and responsible character. Excepting under a despotism, a people can 151 never, as a mass, be raised by any sudden steps above the most civilised classes of the community. You may, indeed, bring the mass up to the highest; and you may, by slow degrees, afterwards hope to raise the general standard. But where the people are to be the instruments of their own improvement, we can only hope to improve them imperfectly at first, and only step by step. The great object, however, in any plan of general education would be to make the most instructed classes the guides; and there is no way, in our country at least, more effectual to this purpose, than by making the mass of persons, who really constitute the governing body, these guides; and as the object is, not merely to make them guides, but active and effectual ones, it would be advisable to make it their duty to perform this important service thus required of them. Do what we will, say what we will, this class must guide and govern; our business ought to be, to act in both capacities under a constant feeling of immediate and urgent responsibility. There is one other and more potent argument, however, against leaving the means of popular education in its present state—and that is, the hitherto imperfect success of all private efforts to educate the people. If the matter were one of minor import, we might, perhaps, be justified in leaving it still to chance; but as it involves the entire happiness of the community—as without a much more complete system of education this happiness can never properly be provided for, all tampering with the difficulty—all hesitation or carelessness as to pursuing the course open before us, is in the highest degree criminal as well as absurd. We all of us seem to feel the necessity of supervising our Criminal Code—our Code of Prison Discipline—our Poor-laws; but all these are only off-shoots of, or adjuncts to, a system of Education. That is the great touch—the main-spring of the whole. We allow crime and misery to spring up, and then attempt, by a vast and cumbrous machinery, to obviate the mischief. We punish, we do not prevent—we try to put down effects, without caring for the cause. Like ignorant physicians, our minds are absorbed by a consideration of symptoms, while the disease is making head, to the utter destruction of life. And why are we thus remiss? Shall it be said, that because simply the benefit of the whole community was concerned in the matter, and no selfish interest could be promoted by it, we were careless regarding 152 it? Shall it be said, that the Government of England only abstained from interference in that case where its assistance might have been afforded with the most pure and unalloyed benefit; and that though boasting of our acts and our learning, and proudly claiming to be placed at the head of the civilized world, we were content to suffer the mass of our population to be educated as chance might direct, and to form what habits and desires the merest hazard might determine; that while we minutely inspected, and jealously guarded the interior of a beer-house, the school that was next door, where the minds of all the parish—and not a few—might be framed to good or evil, was passed by with utter—ay, and scornful—indifference. I have now arrived at the last object, which I proposed to myself at the outset. After having touched upon some of the more prominent benefits to be derived from a general education of the people, and pointed at some of the advantages likely to result from the assumption by the Government of the office of instructor, I have now. Sir, to give a rough sketch of the manner in which this general education might be effected. When considering any system of education, we must carefully divide from each other; first, the subject-matter of instruction; second, the various machinery by which this instruction is afforded; and third, the supervising and contending authority which regulates the whole. Much confusion has unluckily been created by not paying attention to this very obvious division. Premising then. Sir, that I shall endeavour to keep these very dissimilar things perfectly separate, I shall proceed, at once, to the exposition of my plan; remarking, however, that though these matters be distinct, they, in description, will constantly run one into another; and that, consequently, I must often anticipate a knowledge of parts of my plan, when, in reality, I have not yet described it. This is a difficulty attendant on all subjects, complicated as this is, and by no means resulting from any peculiar division of it. The first great innovation that I would strenuously recommend is, to make the education of the children no longer dependent on the mere will of the parents or guardians. I would make it a matter of necessity—in other words, would pass a law, making it an offence to keep a child from school between certain years of age. By the Prussian code this duty is enforced in the following words:—"Art. 43. Every inhabitant who cannot, or 153 who wishes not to give his children at his own house such instruction as is deemed necessary, is obligated (obliged) to send them to school (i. e. to the national school) from the age of five years, accomplished." "Art. 44. Starting from this age no child can be absent or keep from school for any time, if not on account of peculiar circumstances, and with the consent of the civil and ecclesiastical authority." These various quotations express pretty distinctly what I intend. In general terms, I would say, that I would oblige, by law, every child in Great Britain and Ireland from, perhaps, six years of age to twelve years of age to be a regular attendant at school. If the parents be able to give, and actually do give their children elsewhere sufficient education, then they should not be compelled to send them to the national school. If, however, they should be unable or unwilling to give them such instruction, then the State should step in and supply this want, by compelling the parent to send the child to the school of the State. Now, Sir, I feel well persuaded that this declaration will be exceedingly unpopular in many quarters. There are two classes of objections to it that I will here notice, observing at the outset of my reply to them, that I consider this compulsion absolutely essential to the success of any scheme of general education. It must be recollected that the power of the parent over the child is a fiduciary power—a power surrounded by various obligations both to the child and to the public. The chief of these is to educate the child in such a way that he be a virtuous citizen. If the parent neglect this duty, the State ought to, and in the case of the rich, does, step in and see that the duty thus neglected shall be performed. But say, one class of objectors, this is an arbitrary interference with the rights of the parent; it is making the State despotic, and robbing the people of freedom. I ask. Sir, in the first place, if it rob the people of rational freedom? We every day coerce the people by laws, and rob them of freedom. We rob them of the freedom of killing their children; we rob them of the freedom of brutally treating their children—and the Magistrate can by fine and imprisonment punish any parent who thus maltreats his offspring; and shall it be said that he ought not to interfere in the far more important case of continuous neglect of the child's best interests, in his most vital concerns? He (the parent) is not permitted to give his child a cruel beating, 154 but he may, according to this class of reasoners, consign him without let or hindrance, to a degrading and dangerous ignorance. He may render him a curse to himself, and a nuisance to society at large. This appears to me a childish adherence to a name—a fatal disregard of the necessary limits, which prudence every day compels society to put upon the freedom of its Members. Freedom in itself is not a good thing—it is only good when it leads to good—if it lead to evil, it must be, it is every day, restrained by the most stringent and coercing bonds. Again, Sir, I would remark, if the State or Government cannot be thus trusted—it is a proof that the Government is a bad one—if so, get rid of it, reform it, make it a good one—but in the name of all that is reasonable, do not deprive it of all means of doing good. The argument thus constantly used is a cogent one against the existing Government—it is none whatever against the proposal to intrust a good Government with the power in question. But, Sir, I must assume that the Government, by its very existence, proves itself good to this purpose. If on trial it should prove to be otherwise, we must not take away the power which must be intrusted to it, we must revise its form, and improve its responsibility. There is another objection, however, which rests on a different ground, and deserves far more attention. It is this; the State school may teach doctrines, which the parent holds to be pernicious, and he may therefore, from conscientious scruples, withhold his children from school. In answer to this. Sir, I would observe, that by the plan which I shall hereafter state, I believe much of this difficulty will be avoided. In the first place, the majority of the heads of families will determine on the subject matter of instruction, and I have little doubt they will quickly see the impropriety of forcing, or attempting to force upon any one, opinions which they regard with disfavour. In fact, I hope, I have very great expectation, that the National Schools will thus, when intrusted to the whole people, become, in the best sense of the term, national; that the subject-matter of instruction will be made to include such matters, and such matters only, as will be in accordance with the whole of the people. With the permission of the House, I would here read a passage from the law of Prussia on this head, which conveys a useful lesson to all people:—'Difference of religion in Christian schools, necessarily produces differences in religious 155 instruction. This instruction will always accord with the spirit and dogmas of the worship to which the school belongs. But, as in every school of a Christian State, the spirit which is dominant and common to all confessions ought to be piety, and a profound respect for the Divinity, every school may receive children of another Christian worship. The masters and the superintendants ought to avoid, most carefully, every species of constraint, and everything that would give pain to the children on the subject of their peculiar worship. No school ought to abuse its opportunities, in order to promote any view of proselytism; and the children of any sect or worship differing from that of the school, ought not, either against their own wishes or those of their parents, to be compelled to attend either the religious teaching or exercises. Peculiar masters of their own sect shall be charged with their religious education; and wherever it is impossible to have as many masters as differing sects, there the parents ought with all possible care, to fulfil those duties themselves, if they desire that their children should not follow, in these particulars, the lessons of the school.' Any people or Government pretending to the character of being civilized, would strictly adhere to these admirable instructions. In populous places also, as in even tolerant Prussia, schools of different sects might be established; and, as with them, even our moral schools might regard different professions of faith. It may be said, that however necessary may be this compulsive attendance, yet the idea to the people of England is too novel to be immediately acted on by the Legislature. I willingly admit this objection to have great weight; but, on the other hand, I ask how long would the prejudice against it live in the minds of the people, if their Representatives in the solemn exercise of their high functions, were deliberately to declare its necessity? Not a day, not an hour, if the people once believed the House of Commons really intent on the welfare of the community. And in this matter, if the law were accompanied by the careful restrictions and paternal considerations evinced by the Prussian authorities, every thinking man (and the thinking men guide the remainder) would at once see, that a pure and exalted benevolence had presided over this legislation. The prejudice would at once fade away, and a cheerful obedience would be given to the law. It being once established, that every inhabitant was to be 156 provided with instruction, all subsequent regulations must keep that point in view. And now, first, as to the subject-matter of instruction. Although the State determine, that every child should receive some instruction, it does not thereby declare that the instruction to all should be alike. What the quantum of instruction should be in the various cases, would have to be determined by the supervising authorities, of whom I shall hereafter speak. I need here only make the following remarks respecting it:—In infancy all children, no matter what may be their after-destination in life, require the same treatment. All that we can do in that tender age is to provide for the due development of the body, prepare the mind for culture, and lay the foundation of habits of application, and self-government and kindly sympathies. As far as regards the moral training, this age is all-important; as regards the mental, comparatively less so. But inasmuch, as all require the same moral training—that is, as in all the same class of virtues are required—so the training by which alone those virtues can be produced, ought to be extended to all. "Effort and sacrifice," profoundly observes Professor Cousin, "Voila les conditions pour savoir quelque chose, et pour être honnête: déguiser à lenforceé ces conditions, c'est tromper sur la vie humaine." When I come to speak of infant schools, I shall draw an important practical conclusion from this fact. After the age of infancy is past, and it becomes necessary to convey instruction eon-sonant to the condition of the receiver, then we must take into consideration the necessities which that condition involves. In the present state of society, however, there are certain instruments to the acquirement of knowledge, which are deemed so to facilitate its acquirement, that to all alike these instruments are imparted—namely:—reading and writing, and the elements of numbers, which last knowledge in a certain sense, may also be considered an instrument. On this portion of instruction I would observe, that its utility depends entirely upon the facility in its employment which is obtained by the scholar. At present it seems very generally believed, that a rough sort of knowledge of reading and writing is sufficient for the poor man. This is a great—a fatal error. Whilst reading is difficult it cannot be made a means or instrument of knowledge. The mind is absorbed by the process, its difficulties attract attention all to itself, and the 157 subject matter is necessarily passed over. Any one may judge of this in his own case by reading a foreign language. Let any one not conversant with Latin, for example, read a passage of Cicero. Let him, by way of experiment, see what he can make of the distinction contained in the essay De Divinations and if the person so making the experiment, be not master of the language he will quickly see how hopeless will be his attempt to direct his attention to the subject-matter of the essay. So with reading in our own language; the process must be one so easy and familiar, that we must not regard it, otherwise we shall vainly hope to make it an instrument of knowledge. This is a much more important point than persons not accustomed to reflect on the business would readily admit. It is, in fact, the foundation stone—if it be not thoroughly secure at first, all future additions will be useless. And the practical conclusion is, that if we do really undertake the instruction of the people the most complete use and facility in the exercise of these important instruments should most religiously be imparted. The next point regarding the subject-matter of instruction to which I shall advert, is the variety of instruction, or, in other words, the differing sorts, differing in consequence of the different destinations of the scholars. All that I have hitherto spoken of may be called "Primary Instruction," and should be alike in all. The forming the mental powers for the reception of knowledge, and moral powers to fulfil the duties of life—the imparting a perfect facility as to the instruments of knowledge—so far education is the same for the rich and the poor—the ploughman and the philosopher—the maker of pins and the maker of laws. When actual knowledge beyond this comes to be imparted, then comes a consideration of the future destination of the scholar. Any comprehensive system of education would contemplate and include all classes, and for that purpose a series of schools would be adopted rising from infant schools to the all comprehensive university. But in the present state of the public mind, this is more than I dare contemplate. However imperfect the scheme—however reluctant I may be, I must force myself, at present, only to consider the immediate education of the mass of the people. I cannot, however, avoid making one remark on this topic. No education of the mass will be anything approximating to perfection, while that of the higher classes of scholars is imperfect. The infant school 158 will never be properly conducted while the University is imperfect. Reading will never be properly taught while philosophers are wandering in ignorance. Every portion of the whole great scheme of education is intimately bound together—and all are necessarily associated with the every day business of life. The patient thinking of the solitary student, neglected though he be, his name unknown, his influence around him being nought, will often win its way into the world, and certainly, though silently, change the destinies of mighty nations. It is he who fashions the thoughts and feelings of the multitude, though they know him not. How little consonant then is it with ordinary prudence in the Legislature of a civilized people to neglect the institutions by which these guiding minds are fashioned and directed! But, Sir, I quit this subject with reluctance certainly; but under the painful conviction that any attempt of mine would be useless regarding it. I shall confine myself to the consideration of the instruction of the mass of the population—namely, the poor, and the formation of their teachers. The first distinction that suggests itself, is that of sex. Men and women have very different offices to perform in life, and therefore require very different sorts of knowledge. As a striking proof of the necessity of instruction on the part of the women of the poorer classes, I will refer to the evidence of one, who, from personal experience, thoroughly understands the subject on which he is speaking—I mean Mr. Rowland Detrosier. In perfect agreement with these remarks, has been the conduct, I hear, of that noble Lady, the Grand Duchess of Saxe Weimar:—"Mad. la Grande Duchesse, vientd'établir à Weimar une école speciale pour les filles pauvres, où on leur apprend à devenir des bonnes ménagères." As respects the boys, they should be taught their various trades; and from experiments made in America, we see that their labour might contribute materially to their own maintenance, and the furtherance of their own education. These schools of industry might be made a blessing to the nation at large. There is one portion of instruction to which I feel compelled to advert, although by so doing I fear I may incur displeasure. I hold indispensable, both as regards the well-being of the State, and of the individual himself, that every man should receive a good political education. Let me explain what I mean by political education. He should be made acquainted with the circumstances 159 on which his happiness as a member of society is necessarily dependent; and also he should know the general principles of the Government under which he lives. For example, for the well-being of the mass of labourers it is essential that each should know what circumstances govern the rate of wages. If this had been understood, does any one believe, that we should have had "Combination Laws" on the one hand, or combinations on the other? Can any one believe that an enraged, because badly-paid population, would then have burned ricks, in order to raise wages? Or that we should see unhappy, and futile attempts at strikes? Knowing on what the rate of wages really depended, the enlightened labourer would have pursued the only mode by which that rate can be increased. He would have done it peaceably, but certainly. Neither will I attempt to disguise from this House my opinion that good government can only be obtained by instructing the people as I have already asserted, any one who will look before him must see the growing political importance of the mass of the population. They will have power. In a very short time they will be paramount. I wish them to be enlightened, in order that they may use that power well which they will inevitably obtain. I now pass to the second portion of the plan, which I have called the machinery by which the instruction is to be imparted. This machinery is of threefold nature: 1st, schools; 2nd, masters; 3rd, money, whether acquired by taxes or otherwise. The schools which I contemplate (since, as I have already observed, my plan is confined to the education of the poor) are of three separate classes:—1st, Infant Schools; 2nd, Schools of Industry; and 3rd, Normal Schools, or schools for the instruction of masters; separately for boys and girls. As the purpose is to educate everybody, there ought to be in every parish in the kingdom at least one infant school, and one school of industry, and this without any exception. As the law would be imperative in demanding the presence of the children, justice would demand that the schools should be placed within their reach. In all cases where the size of the parish demanded a greater number of schools, more than one would be erected. Many expedients I have heard mentioned, by which the richer classes might be brought into intimate and affectionate union with the poorer. In every part of England, London, perhaps, only excepted, this might effectually be 160 done by sending the children of both classes to the same school; for example, to an infant school. By my supposition this school would be regulated according to the highest state of knowledge now existing respecting the rearing and education of infants; and if the children of the tradesman and gentleman were sent (not by compulsion, but voluntarily) to the school at which the poor cotter's child was taught, much real benefit would be conferred on the last, and no slight good reaped by the former. The more educated mothers would anxiously watch after their own offspring, and thus, in reality, preside over the well-being of the others. A more forcible, and yet gentle bond of sympathy could hardly be imagined than the one here supposed. It may be thought that I am trusting too much to my imagination, and conjuring up a picture which no reality can sanction. Happy am I to be able to say, that experience really bears out what I say. In Massachusetts the national schools are so admirably conducted, that the children of all classes receive their instruction from them; and I really can see no reason why ours should not be equally efficient. I must observe, that if our infant schools were not so conducted, as regards cleanliness, the manner and matter of instruction, as to be fitted for the richest amongst us, then they would not have reached that point at which I aim. If they did, I am inclined to think, that if we were a reasonable people, they would soon supersede all others. The schools of industry would have two objects in view—first, the imparting of what may be termed scholarship; and, secondly, the knowledge of some trade. I would have these two objects connected, because thereby time might be saved, and much knowledge gained with pleasure instead of pain. When speaking of what I have termed scholarship, I would by no means have it supposed that I would confine it to mere reading, writing, and the elements of numbers. Most deeply do I feel the importance of imparting to every human being the inexhaustible fund of enjoyment derived from intellectual pleasures. Ask a man who has once learned to derive pleasure from these pure sources, what power he prizes above all others, that which he would sell for no price, the deprivation of which would render life a blank, and existence a burthen, and he would unhesitatingly answer, the means of mental enjoyments. I speak not in the language of boasting, or of exaggerating rhetoric, 161 when I declare, that from the perennial fountain, the poor man may draw a draught that will cheer him over the rugged path of his life; that possessed of this, he will envy no man his possessions; though poor, he will not feel his want of riches; it will arm him against sorrow, and teach him to hear up against affliction. To rob human life of woe is impossible, but that which most effectually soothes the wounds and stings which hard fortune inflicts, which; will multiply, and enhance the pleasures which cross us in our path through life, is assuredly the godlike attribute of deriving pleasure from intellectual sources. This being my opinion, and I speak from the teaching of experience, I would not curtail the instruction which should be imparted to the poor man. There is one limit which his lot affixes. It is his fate that he labours for the means of his actual being. But I would intreat the legislator, who has to fix what this should be, to stretch to the utmost boundary which prudence will permit. Besides mere scholarship, I would give such knowledge as would create a taste for art, and above all, as a cheap means of recreation, one which every poor man can attain, and also, as a powerful means of softening and exalting the character, music and singing should be made, as in Germany, an invariable portion of instruction. Added to this, such portions of natural history, and of the nature of our own physical system, as would enable the people generally to understand the ordinary phenomena of nature, and to preserve their health. This, with the careful watching of their moral character, and the communicating a general knowledge of our Government and other institutions, with such portions of political economy as regarded their condition, would be the object of the schools of industry. The ages to which they should be limited would be from seven to fourteen. In the towns, however, another class of schools might be established, to contribute to the instruction of persons above fourteen, who might have leisure from their employment during the evening, Sundays, or holidays. Such schools would be of immense service, preventing idle habits, and low and debauching pleasures from arising among the youths in the towns. Of the Normal schools I will speak in conjunction with the next subject, viz. masters. The great object of these schools would be to create masters for the national schools, and unless great care and diligence were employed in the early formation of these 162 masters, little could be expected from a national education. Such young men as determined on the vocation of a teacher, would upon having made at the school of industry certain advances in scholarship, be received by the Normal school upon examination: and on having gone through the various stages of those schools, which would occupy their time till they reached the age of twenty, they would receive a certificate constituting them teachers of national schools. The course of instruction at these Normal schools I need not touch on, as it would necessarily require great consideration, and would not be determined on without the most grave and deliberate inquiry. The certificate obtained by any young man would greatly aid him when candidate for the office of teacher. Such a proof of merit would have most weight with the people, and I would leave it open to any one to apply for it, on examination, whether he had gone through the Normal school or not. But as the inquiry would extend over his whole life, in order to learn his moral as well as mental character, the certificate would not be too easily obtained. These masters, when chosen by the people, would become an order of the State endowed with a great trust, which, if fulfilling that trust with fidelity, would render them worthy of the highest respect and consideration of the people. The certificate conferring a profession on the teacher, he would be liable to lose it on forfeiting the title of a moral man. In certain cases to be specified, he would lose his certificate, and thus be degraded from his office. If the old age of any public functionary ought to be guarded against the assaults of want, it would be that of a faithful teacher of the people. I come now to speak. Sir, of the money, or means by which these various schools should be maintained. In the first place, all persons capable of paying ought to pay. The authority which shall determine who can, who cannot pay, I shall immediately speak of. If these payments should not prove sufficient, and in very few cases would they be so, a general tax must be laid on the people to that end. If, indeed, the private contributions, and the existing funds dedicated to instruction, be sufficient, I shall feel happy; but if they should not, then there should be no hesitation to lay on a tax for the purpose. And I would observe to those parsimonious legislators who would object to this, that the saving gained in the business of administering justice would quickly cover any increased expense. Does 163 any one believe that maintaining the Mill-bank prison is a cheaper process than a school of some hundred children? On putting the same question in a different form, would it not have been cheaper to have the men, when boys, industrious and honest, than to attempt that process now that they are men, and confirmed thieves? If, however, it should be supposed that, in spite of the improvement of the people, there would yet be an increase of expenditure, I would suggest the expediency of saving the surplus out of any service rather than from that of public instruction. I would point to any and every branch of the Government before this. The Army, the Navy, the diplomatic service, the Home Government, in short, I would curtail every officer in the State from the highest to the lowest, rather than be parsimonious on this most important of all the services of the State. I must here leave the subject of money. I have now arrived at the last subject on which I shall touch; which subject, as ill fortune has determined, is the most delicate point of all—that on which differences of opinion are most likely to arise, and heats and animosities to Lave place; I mean the subject of the governing authority, by which the whole system of national education should be regulated. In this, as in the other matters, I will be perfectly explicit, and at once state what I deem necessary to the good government of these schools. The machinery of my government would be simple—first, there would be the people acting as electors. I should wish that the head of every family should possess a voice; but if this should be considered too democratic, why then every person who contributed towards the funds by which the schools would be maintained, should be endowed with this privilege. The whole country should then be divided into school districts, in each of which there should at least be one school. In the government of the school or schools of each school district, the people having the privilege of voting, should elect every year five persons who would be called, say the School Committee; and it should be their business to select and dismiss the master; to supervise the school, and, in the last resort, to determine on the instruction that should be then afforded. Being fairly chosen by the people, it may justly be supposed, that they would represent their opinions; and being selected from a large number of persons, they would, probably, indeed certainly, be among the most instructed persons of the 164 community. Without this, or some other mode were adopted, of making the people the guardians of their children's instruction, there would be, and justly too, eternal discontent throughout the community. Any attempt to throw the power into the hands of the Magistracy, would utterly ruin any scheme that could be devised. Besides those committees in every school district, I would have one other officer, and he should be among the highest in the State, indeed, a member of the Cabinet; and whatever might be his name, he, in fact, would have to fulfil the functions of the minister of public instruction. The business of his office would be a general supervision of all the national schools in the kingdom. He would have to determine, on the application of the school committees, what extra schools should be built. He would apportion the sum of money to be given to each district, for masters, for books, and repairs, and a hundred other things. Besides this, the Normal schools would be wholly under his control, and he would have to select for himself, and on his own responsibility, the masters and governors of each. In addition to these duties (and it will be understood that I am only giving a rough sketch of what those duties would be), in his character of general supervisor of schools, it would be his duty to make suggestions as to improved modes of teaching, and as to subjects that might be taught. Suggestions combing from a Minister of his high station would always have great weight, so that, by care and industry, he might materially and constantly improve the whole system of education. In furtherance of the same end, also, it would be a very important part of his duty to watch over the composition of books of instruction. The vital importance and great difficulty of this task can only be duly appreciated by those who have paid great and minute attention to the subject of education. The composition of books for the education of mere children is one of the most difficult portions of art. On this point M. Cousin well remarks, when touching on this matter:—"Je ne reprocherais Mr. le Ministre, de ne pas appeler quelques instans de votre attention sur les livres qui sont employés dans les écoles populaires, de diverse importance en Saxe Weimar. Rien n' est plus difficile à bien faire que de pareils livres, et le defaut d'ouvrages convenables en ce genre est une des grands plaies de l'instruction populaire en France." It may be said to be so of all instruction whatever in England; and no 165 Minister could perform a greater service for his countrymen than by providing for the composition of works adequate to the business of instruction. Further into the details of my plan I need not now enter. All these matters must necessarily be made the subject of very close and careful inquiry, over which, it is to be hoped, wisdom will preside, unswayed by passion, prejudice, or partial interests. I have now, Sir, gone through the whole of this very dry and unamusing detail, and have performed, to the best of my ability, the onerous task I had proposed to myself. The subject itself is not attractive; and it has, I fear, been rendered still less so in consequence of the inadequate ability of him who has brought it before you. I cannot, however, quit this subject, and leave it in the hands of the House to be dealt with according to their judgments, without appealing to them with the most unfeigned and deep anxiety, to weigh well, and without the bias of any party feeling, the great question which is now before them. They are not now to determine upon any minute portion of the general welfare, but upon the whole of the multitudinous interests of this mighty empire. They are called upon, in their high character of legislators, to determine on the future destinies of many millions yet unborn; and to say whether their happiness shall be left to the caprices of chance, or be fostered, guarded, and directed, by the paternal care of a wise and benevolent Government. You have this day to declare whether the Legislature of England is imbued with the spirit—whether it possesses the character and feeling—which should distinguish the rulers of an enlightened and generous people; whether we are anxious for the welfare of all, however lowly, and solicitous to provide for the well-being of the most helpless classes amongst us. Perhaps, I may be permitted to observe (and I do so without any intention of manifesting disrespect for this House) that we have not, perhaps, a body of legislators who could have satisfied the expectations that are formed respecting us. There is but too generally received an opinion, that we are not solicitous concerning the well-being of the mass of the population—of the poorer classes—but that all our acts and determinations result from personal, or certainly from partial, considerations. The most effectual answer that we could give to such statements, the most powerful means we could employ to regain our place in the affections of the 166 people, would be to prove to them, by passing the Resolutions which I shall immediately read, that we are alive to their dearest interests, and that we have determined industriously to forward them by the most effectual mode which our judgment can devise. If we do this, we may be regardless of all hasty and partial declarations concerning our motives and our conduct. A patient and thoughtful people, such as the people of this country, will truly appreciate the benefit conferred on them by this beneficent determination, and bestow on us a reward that the proudest would gladly receive—a grateful nation's heartfelt and affectionate approbation.—The hon. Gentleman concluded, by reading the following Resolution:—That this House, deeply impressed with the necessity of providing for a due education of the people at large; and believing, that to this end the aid and care of the State are absolutely needed, will, early during the next Session of Parliament, proceed to devise a means for the universal and national education of the whole people."
§ Mr. Grote
said, he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion of his hon. friend, after whose very able speech it was unnecessary to trouble the House with many observations. He seconded the Motion, in the belief that two things were perfectly true. The first was, that the present system of education was defective—the other, that the defects of the system would not be remedied till the Government bestowed upon this important subject a greater degree of care than was now done. It was impossible that, in the present state of the Session, the details of this subject, or even the general principle, could receive the full attention of the House; but they would give satisfaction to the people at large, and show that they had a strong sense of their great and important duties, if they undertook, that amongst the cares of the next Session, they would attempt—not the least important part of their duties—to remove the defects of the National Education. He should not say anything more on the subject, but that he desired to recommend to the House the work of Professor Cousin. He knew that it was not a familiar idea to the people of this country, or to the Members of that House, that the Government should interfere with the education of the people; but, if attention was bestowed (m that work, they would see, that without any interference with I he comfort or the happiness of the people, 167 they might produce a more important effect on their education than was now done even in a country where wages were than in this and where the lower orders of the community suffered more from the higher orders than they did here. If hon. Gentlemen would read that book, they would be convinced that it was most important that the clergy should join with earnestness in promoting the success of the scheme. Far from introducing disputes and heartburnings, it would be the means of establishing cordiality among all the classes of the people, the object of the plan was to secure to every child in every parish the means of education; and the scheme, if carried into effect, would increase the confidence of the people in the clergy, who most zealously promoted the universal diffusion of the blessings of education.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the subject which the hon. Gentleman had brought under the consideration of the House was one of the greatest importance. He was sure he did not address one gentleman who did not feel anxiously desirous that the education of the people should be increased and improved in the utmost possible manner the question was, as to the best means by which that object could be effected. The hon. and learned Member had stated, in his definition of what education was, that reading and writing, and the first elements of figures, were not education. He was inclined to agree with the hon. and learned Member in that statement. These things were the means of education, but not education itself. He was perfectly ready to concur with the general object of the hon. and learned Member, so far as it was intended to give a better education to the people generally. He believed, too, that he might agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman, that education was not as good as it might be, but he believed that it was and had been for some time improving, that it had been doing so of late years much beyond what was imagined possible twenty years ago. The difference had been caused by the public-spirited exertions of individuals; these had been perfectly successful, as was proved by the greater circulation of small publications. With respect to the plan itself, he thought it would be found difficult to force a national system of education by the Government, from the difficulty of ascertaining the number of schools required. There was a national system of education 168 in Scotland, where it was necessary to have a school in each parish; but to say that there should be a school in every parish in England might be but an ineffectual means of giving education to the people, for some of these parishes now contained great towns for which one school would be by no means sufficient. In his opinion, they ought to consider whether they could not acquire education for the people without the immediate and direct interference of the Government. When the question was first brought under the consideration of that House by his noble friend, the present Lord Chancellor, that learned person expressed a doubt whether it was desirable for the Government to interfere, and whether, by doing so, the voluntary exertions of the people would not suffer relaxation." Since that time the number of schools had been most extensively increased, and though the voluntary exertions of individuals had not, perhaps, gone quite so far as might be wished, yet they had been very considerable. The consequence of the Government interference would, he feared, be to put an end to them. That had been the case with institutions of a charitable nature. If that should be the case here, nothing could be more fatal to the cause of education. He confessed, that he could not agree with the hon. and learned Member, though Prussia was quoted as an authority, that there should be any provision to make it penal in a father not to educate his child. He was of opinion, that they might give a father the means of educating his children, and put it in the power of a man who could not afford the expense to do so without expense; but the actually punishing a man for not having his child properly educated, would, in his mind, be going further than they ought. He feared that the proposition of the hon. and learned Member was not practicable, but, if it were, the hon. and learned Member might as well have moved at once for leave to bring in a Bill as have merely introduced this Resolution, for, if the Government was to take up the matter, they could do as well without the Resolution as with it; and indeed the Resolution would then be disadvantageous rather than beneficial, for it was not desirable to pledge the House, as to what it should do next Session. The Resolution went to pledge the Government to establish a system of national education for the people. Now, he was not sure that the Government's so undertaking 169 would not rather do harm than good. He should think it most desirable to have the details of the plan and the proposed arrangements laid before them, before he ventured to pledge the House to any abstract resolution. Much of the policy of adopting the plan itself might depend on the manner in which that plan was to be carried into execution. For these reasons he hoped the hon. and learned Member would not press the Motion to a division. The hon. and learned Member had had the opportunity of stating his opinions, to which he (Lord Althorp) had attended most carefully; and this having been done, he hoped the House would not be called on to come to any positive resolution on the subject.
Mr. O Connell
hoped that the hon. and learned Member would comply with the request of the noble Lord, and not press the Resolution to a division. The House ought not to pledge itself on this subject without a previous inquiry before a Committee. This was a subject on which the interference of the Government was capable of provoking very strong feelings in a country like this. One of the best resolutions they could come to was to govern as little as they could. They might afford facilities for education, but they should do nothing more. There would be great difficulties in carrying such a measure into effect in Ireland. The hon. and learned Member had referred to Prussia. That was a regimental government, and till lately, everything there had been conducted on a regimental plan. The Corporal was the great philosopher of that state, and it was he who made the people there acquiesce in the plans of the Government. The King of Prussia was now, however, the best reformer in Europe. The hon. and learned Member had referred to the French government; but he could only have done so as he did not know what the principle of the government of France was, as those did who had had actual experience of it. He could tell the hon. and learned Member, that the object of the liberal party in France, was to unchristianise that country. It was of little importance to them whether a man was a Deist or an Atheist. They were the party who endeavoured to enforce the education plan of the Normal school. The plan of the Normal school was to prevent that sort of education which the people wished to have. The people preferred to have the assistance of the brothers of the Church in their education. 170 If the Government was to create a Normal school here, it would give great offence to the people. He thought, that they should go no further than give countenance to religious instruction, and assist literary instruction. On that ground he protested against that House becoming a party to any such scheme, so far as having any connexion with that party in France, which, he thought, acted upon dangerous principles. He thought they should leave these details of education which the Government could not interfere with without spoiling. Facility of education should be encouraged, but all domination ought to be abolished. Nothing could be more destructive than to imitate the example of France, in respect to her system of national education.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
hardly knew how to resist the general proposition of the hon. and learned member for Bath; but though he concurred with that proposition, he hardly knew how he could agree with any other portion of the hon. and learned Member's speech. He did not know how the Government could deny the general proposition, that it was the duty of a Government to provide for the people, as it was the duty of a father to provide for his children, the means of education. He knew that the present Lord Chancellor had taken the greatest possible pains, and that, too, at a most important period of his professional life, to obtain complete information on this subject. That learned person had spent three hours a-day for two years together, investigating the returns made on this subject. The digest prepared from these returns was most laborious. It was published in two volumes, in 1818. The Lord Chancellor did not need his testimony, but he gave it most willingly. On the 28th June, 1820, that hon. and learned Gentleman, admitting the importance of the clergy and the value of their efforts, said, "he felt it his duty to return his most cordial thanks to those reverend Gentlemen, without whose assistance they would not have advanced a single step towards that point of their labours at which they had arrived—he meant the whole of the clergy of the Established Church." The hon. and learned Member had referred to the two Universities, and had asked what they had done for the public money they had received The hon. and learned Member was mistaken—they had not received any public money. The sums referred to were the gratuitous donations of the people—[Mr. 171 Roebuck said, he had used the expression, public property, not public money.] There was a most intelligible distinction between the two. The meaning was, to imply that the two Universities were the pensioners of the State. That was not so. The funds to support the Regius Professors were the private gift of the Sovereign, who, in return, had the honour of having the Professors designated by a title which intimated the means whence they were supported. With respect to other appropriations of property, that property had merely been given in exchange for what had been left some three or four centuries ago. He apologised for troubling the House with these observations, but he thought them necessary after what had been said on the subject. He should only add, that there was no class more interested in national education than the clergy.
§ Mr. Hume
expressed deep regret at the observation which had fallen from his hon. and learned friend, the member for Dublin, respecting the mission of the persons deputed from France to inquire into the state of education in England. He would take upon himself to say, that no such object as the hon. and learned member for Dublin had stated was the object adopted in France. If the hon. and learned Member would read the 17th article of the Projet de Loi, he would find that it was enacted that the maire, the curé, and three inhabitants, should be the Committee for managing the schools of each village. Now, the object of these schools was to give instruction to the people, and to avoid anything like that proselytism which his hon. and learned friend alluded to; and he was therefore sorry that his hon. and learned friend should have said anything that was calculated to damp the hopes of the people. If education were necessary to the welfare and prosperity of a people—a point which he thought no man who was friendly to the real interests of the poor could contradict—was it necessary to follow up the bad practices, if any existed in France, which he disbelieved, on this subject." He was not in favour of connecting the education of the people with the clergy entirely. He knew that there had been some difficulty experienced when it was attempted to establish Lancasterian schools, in separating them from the clergy of the Church of England, so as not to place them under the direction of its pastors. He hoped that if any schools were established, they would not be placed under the domination of any Church, for he saw no 172 reason why the State, which felt itself bound to compel its subjects to provide food for its poor, should not provide mental food and instruction for them also. It was not unusual to pledge the House to take certain measures in the ensuing Session; and he should therefore be sorry if his hon. and learned friend withdrew his Motion, for he thought that Ministers could not adduce any rational objection to it. Though the hon. and learned Gentleman might sneer at education, and might endeavour to discourage the plan of education adopted in France, he should continue to believe, that it was founded on the best principles, for the more the people were instructed, the more were the means increased of keeping the people tranquil and their institutions stable. The present vote was only preparatory, and he therefore hoped, that the noble Lord would not object to it. It pledged the House to nothing further than to the opinion, that education ought to be bestowed on the people; and he should give it his support.
§ Sir Robert Peel
differed from the hon. member for Middlesex, as to the policy of the House entering into engagements with regard to what it would do in another Session. He objected also to its entering into the consideration of a mere abstract Resolution. There had been more notices for the discussion of mere abstract Resolutions this Session than he had ever recollected at any former period. Resolutions establishing abstract principles were just the very opposite to the course which the House ought to pursue. We should consider the difficulties surrounding practical questions before we entered into engagements on principles which we were not certain that we might be able to carry into execution. Few persons, he thought, would be found to deny the great advantage of extending the benefits of education among all classes of our countrymen; but it was not quite correct to assert that education in this empire was so very imperfect. He believed that almost every Gentleman who heard him endeavoured, in his own neighbourhood, to diffuse the blessings of education; but that did not appear to the hon. and learned Member to be enough, for he thought that the care of the State was also necessary. Now, that was a doubtful question; but even if it were not, a Bill should be brought in to show how it was practicable, instead of a vague resolution like the present. "But," said the hon. and learned Gentleman, "it is necessary 173 for this House, with the smallest delay possible, to devise means for establishing a; system of universal national education." Now, it would be necessary, in the first I place, to decide what a national education would be ill three countries which differed so much from each other, in many respects, as England, Scotland, and Ireland. The hon. and learned Member had mentioned the case of Prussia, and had said, that it was a great shame that we had not here an officer of State to superintend education. Free countries enjoyed many advantages; and so, too, did despotic countries, both in the management of their police and in their means of superintending public education. It was found, however, rather difficult to unite the advantages of both in one country. A compulsory system of education appeared to him to trench upon religious toleration; for it must, almost of necessity, interfere with religious opinion. The officer of State who had to superintend education, would have to provide books for the different schools. Now, this might be excellent in Prussia or in France, where the government was so different from our own; but if we were once to establish in this country an officer with power to superintend the education of children of all sects of religion, with power to select their books of instruction, we should excite apprehensions of general intolerance being intended by the Government, we should create jealousy in every part of the country. He did not wish to speak with disrespect of the mayors of this country, but would the French system of leaving the education of every town to its mayor do here? Any Bill which made the mayors of the different towns of England comptrollers of education within them, would create a degree of jealousy and resistance which the hon. Member would not be able to overcome. He would himself give every facility to education. He thought that the diffusion of education would produce great benefit; but, in a country like our own, which was justly proud of its freedom, he doubted whether it ought not to be left free from control. The subject was so environed with difficulties, that he objected to their making any magnificent promises respecting it, whilst they were yet in ignorance of the difficulties with which they might have to contend.
§ Mr. Wilks
thought, that the House would be more able to decide this question, when the returns lately moved for by the noble Lord, the member for Calne, were laid before the House, than they could be 174 now. He, therefore, wished the Motion withdrawn for the present. At the same time they must all feel an obligation to the hon. and learned Member for the able manner in which he had brought the subject under their notice.
§ Mr. Roebuck
, in reply, admitted that no final decision ought to be made on this subject without full inquiry. He must say, that of all the observations that had been made, those which had surprised him most were those that had fallen from the hon. and learned member for Dublin; and of all unfounded attacks, that upon the French government and on M. Cousin, was the most unwarranted. To confound persons and things in this manner together, and to say, that a whole body of men wanted to put down religion, was highly unbecoming, and unworthy of the candid manner in which all persons should be treated. In the book of M. Cousin, it was distinctly said, that nothing could be effectually done for the education of the poorer classes without the aid of the clergy of the country. Did that look like a wish to put down religion? The object of the feeling thus expressed, was closely allied with that of the priesthood of Rome. That priesthood was not closely allied with the feelings of the people of France. That people had long had another Church—not the Church of Rome, but the Gallican Church—which was more particularly than that of Rome the favoured object of the French government, the French people, and of the Normal School. The hon. and learned member for Dublin should have known these things; and it would have been better had he brought forward documents than have made assertions, which were often hazarded and often retracted. He would, with the consent of the House, withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion withdrawn.