HC Deb 08 February 1838 vol 40 cc914-6
Mr. Hume

said, that he had a variety of returns to move for respecting Canada, but in the absence of the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies he should abstain from making any observations. The hon. Member moved for various returns. The hon. Member said, he was sorry that the right hon. Member for Coventry was not in his place, for if he were he believed that the right hon. Gentleman would have availed himself of the opportunity of giving an explanation of a statement he made the other night, that not more than two in a hundred of the constituency of Lower Canada could read or write. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman in his statement alluded altogether to the elder part of the population, and not to the rising generation. He was authorised to state, that since 1833 there had been founded in that colony 1,216 schools, which had not less than 65,000 scholars. This was a very large proportion, for the whole population of the colony did not exceed 800,000. It was also stated, in that which he believed to be the best history of Lower Canada, namely, that written by Mr. Macgregor, "that the schools were under the protection of the Government, and that they had been established principally during the last six years. Indeed in every parish, and in almost every settlement, a school had been established, which was open to all classes, without any distinction as to religion, and both sexes were instructed in English and French. The number of these schools was upwards of 1,200, and the scholars of both sexes were not less than 65,000." The authority of this Gentleman would probably be relied on, for he was at present employed by the Government on some important statistical investigations. He believed that the House of Assembly of Lower Canada wished to devote 50,000l. a year to the purposes of general education in that colony, but the Legislative Council rejected the Bill for the purpose. The plan was therefore now in abeyance. According to the return he had referred to, the proportionate state of education at present in the colony was greater than it was in this country. So much for the statement as to the want of education in Lower Canada; and he had no doubt, if opportunity was afforded for inquiry, that other charges which had been brought against the colony would turn out to be as false and calumnious as that which had been put forth as to the want of education. The hon. Member concluded with moving for a copy of the Acts of the Parliament of Lower Canada, passed since 1828, for the promotion of education and the establishment of schools in that province; together with a copy of the last report made to the House of Assembly of the state of education, and of the number of schools and scholars in each county, and the numbers in the whole province.

Lord John Russell

regretted that his right hon. Friend was not present, as the hon. Gentleman had alluded to what had fallen from him a few nights ago. The hon. Gentleman said, that his right hon. Friend had fallen into an error respecting the state of education in the colony, but he did not think that what had been stated by the hon. Gentleman shook in the slightest degree the statement of the right hon. Gentleman or any other person on this subject. His right hon. Friend said, that the constituent body that elected the House of Assembly of Lower Canada was remarkably ignorant, and that the very great majority, as he said, and a large proportion, as others asserted, could nei- ther read nor write. The hon. Gentleman now said, that there was a great deal of education at present in Lower Canada; but his right hon. Friend did not allude to what had taken place during the last nine years, or since 1828, since which period, a great many schools had, no doubt, been established. Nobody denied that education had recently increased in Canada; and he had himself stated that very large grants of money had been voted since 1828, by the House of Assembly for the purposes of education; but it must be recollected, that none of those who could have profited by the education so provided could be at present older than mere boys. Nobody had said that the House of Assembly was opposed to education; but, at the same time, the statement originally made was far from being calumnious, for it was well known that a very large proportion of the adult population were uneducated.

Mr. Hume

observed, that the statement of the noble Lord merely rested on his own authority; he should produce something like proofs if he wished to remove all doubt on the subject. The charge of ignorance, however, did not justify the depriving of the people of Canada of their constitution. If this were the case, the ignorance of the people in many parts of England would afford a justification for taking away their civil rights.

Sir R. Peel

did not, when the right hon. Member for Coventry stated that the people of Canada were educated in the proportion of two in a hundred, understand him to pledge himself as to the precise number of the educated and uneducated people there. He believed the right hon. Gentleman meant to imply that the state of education was so limited in Canada that a great part of the population who enjoyed the elective franchise, were not able to form a very accurate judgment on the matters involved in dispute.

Returns were ordered.