HC Deb 12 February 1839 vol 45 cc273-312
Lord J. Russell

presented certain papers relating to Education. In moving that they be laid upon the Table, the noble Lord said, that he was anxious, as so much discussion had recently taken place on the subject, to explain, though without going into detail either as to the degree of education or the plan that might be proposed—to state generally the outline of the views of her Majesty's Government on this question, because whatever objections might be made to their views and intentions—to whatever opposition they might be exposed—it was certainly desirable that the opposition should be grounded on what they really intended, and not on any fanciful suggestions of those who chose to say "such and such are the intentions of the Government," and then launch out into he most violent objections against that supposed plan. He was one of those who thought there still existed a lamentable want of education, especially among the poorer classes of the community; and he had thought it his duty to represent that conviction to her Majesty, and to call her Majesty's attention to that subject. The present state of education might be gathered from the various reports that had been made to this House, from the debates which had occurred both in this and the other House of Parliament, and from the publications of different societies who were engaged in the useful and benevolent task of promoting education in this country. It resulted from all these statements, however much they differed, that there was still a considerable portion of the people without any religious instruction whatever. It appeared from the reports of the chaplains of our gaols, that there were a great many persons who had not received even a portion of elementary instruction; and it further appeared, even from the statements that might be made by those who told them that nothing more was required to be done, that the education at present given was of a very defective nature, and, though had in quantity, was still more defective in quality. The statements with respect to the amount of education varied exceedingly. He believed it had been stated, upon the authority of Lord Brougham, founded on tables of returns presented to the House, that about 1,270,000 young persons were receiving education in England. It had been stated very lately at a public meeting, that there were no less than 1,500,000 persons who were receiving education in connection with the Established Church. In those statements, there was a very great discrepancy; and he did not think it right to lay any very great stress on any returns which he had been able to collect upon the subject. He would refer more especially to an attempt made by him immediately after the recess to procure returns from the Poor-law Commissioners, and they certainly did not produce such accurate results as to make them worthy the consideration either of the Government or of Parliament, as forming the proper foundation of any measure, or the trust-worthy guide to any line of conduct likely to be adopted on the subject. But judging only by the general evidence received even by the Committee that had sat upon the subject of the education of the poorer classes last year, and by these other reports to which he had adverted, it could not well be denied that there was still a very considerable want of instruction in that country. Whether he referred to those nations of the continent which had lately taken a part, by means of their governments, on the subject of education, or whether he referred to the United States of America, there was some reason to say, that greater and more organised efforts had been made upon that subject in other countries than in their own, of which we boasted. It was not his intention to adopt any of those plans, or to compare them with that which it might be deemed proper to adopt in Great Britain. There was an obvious distinction between what could be done in those countries and in ours. In other countries, the Government had from the beginning undertaken the task of educating the people, finding that it was in a very low state, and had established certain laws, to which all the people were obliged to conform, and to which every school and institution was subjected. So, likewise, in the United States of America, from the very commencement of emigration in the greater part of the States, no sooner was there a small village or a few inhabitants collected together, than the establishment of a school formed a part of their political and economical arrangement. It was obvious, that a Government attempting any system of education in our own country would find the ground in a very different state, because it had been occupied in great part by those societies and institutions which had voluntarily undertaken the task of educating the people. They would find it occupied to a certain extent by the Established Church, and in other parts by the Wesleyans and other Dissenting societies, who gave education according to their own religious principles. For these reasons, it would not be possible to establish any system of education which should at once supersede those recognised and established modes; and even were the new system allowed by Parliament generally to be a much better system of education than those at present existing, it could not be expected immediately to supplant and come in the place of those various schools at present in operation; in short, no general system could be introduced without doing violence to the habits and feelings of the people of this country. Such a plan was unsuited to these kingdoms, and was likely to be unsuccessful if attempted. There was another reason which he much regretted to dwell upon, and which made it improper to come to any agreement as to a general plan of education in this country. Those who, of late years, had undertaken the task of education, had acted either on behalf of the Established Church, or of the particular sects to which they belonged, or on behalf of a society of which he had for many years been a member—he meant the British and Foreign Schools Society, which did not profess to teach children the principles of any particular Christian sect. There was a broad distinction, then, as to the mode of conducting the schools, between the parties who establised schools in connexion with the Church, and the British and Foreign Schools Society. As he understood, the Church of England, not only the ecclesiastical, but also the lay members of the Church, contended that they could not unite in any plan of education not immediately under the superintendence of the parochial ministers, which did not make the catechism of the Church of England a necessary part of the instruction, and of which the schoolmaster was not himself a churchman. He would not at present give any opinion as to the propriety of insisting on such conditions. The British and Foreign Schools Society, on the contrary, though they desired the Bible to be read in all their schools, did not allow any catechism to be taught, nor did they countenance the establishment of any restriction as to the particular denomination of Christians to which the schoolmaster was to belong; and, therefore, the schoolmaster might be an Independent or a Baptist, provided he was duly qualified for his situation. Between these two principles of action there was so wide a difference, that after consulting several persons who might be taken as the representatives of the first-mentioned party, he certainly had come to the conclusion that it would be quite hopeless to endeavour to induce those who held such opinions to concur in any one united plan of education by which the views, intentions, and wishes of all might be consulted. He must say, at the same time, that he did not think such a plan ought to be liable to the difficulties here which had been found, and were still found, opposed to the system established by his noble Friend, the Member for Lancashire, in Ireland. In Ireland there was a very great and broad distinction between the one portion of the people and the other. They did not consent to read the Scriptures according to the same version; and those who belonged to one religion required a comment on the Bible, while the other party contended that no such comment ought to be used. Indeed, there existed such a wide difference between these parties, that it was undoubtedly extremely difficult to form any united system of education. At the same time, he thought that great success had attended the experiment. In England, on the contrary, the Roman Catholics did not form any very great portion of the population, and the only other sect which did not agree in the general reading of the Bible in schools receiving children of all denominations, was the sect of Unitarians. Therefore, as far as religious distinctions were concerned, there was not the same difficulty in this country as in Ireland in forming an united system of education. Nevertheless, they must not act upon what, taking an abstract view of the case, they would conclude would be the result. They must take the objections as they found them, and he feared, from what had been stated to him, that they were insuperable. He now came to a plan, which he had lately seen propounded at a public meeting in the metropolis, which implied that the whole of the education in this country must be confided to the clergy of the Established Church; and that no system of education ought to receive any assistance or countenance from the State, except that which was carried on under the immediate superintendence of the clergy of the Establishment, and in which the doctrines of the Church of England should be taught and enforced on all. He must say, that it did appear to him, that the propounding of such a plan at the present day, so late in the history of this country, was interposing a very serious obstacle to the general education of the people. It was, no doubt, the intention and the plan of the ecclesiastical leaders of the reformation in this country, that as the Roman Catholic religion had embraced the whole of the people, so the Protestant Established Church should likewise embrace the whole population. But that such a plan was not successful in effect was well known. He need not go into the causes of its failure, which he thought were founded on the doctrines of the reformation itself; but the result was well known, that, after a very long struggle, after the punishment and degradation of those who dissented from the doctrines of the Established Church, one of the first acts of the revolution of 1688 was to recognise—or, as Lord Mansfield had termed it, to establish—the Protestant Dissenters in this country: the Act of Toleration was passed. An attempt was afterwards made to confine the whole of the education of the country to the hands of the Church; but another great event occurred in our history—another era to which they all looked back with pride and satisfaction—the establishment of the house of Hanover on the throne of these realms;—an era, when the many restrictions were swept away and freedom of education established. From that time, therefore, he conceived the general recognized doctrine of the State to be, that education was free to all persons, whether members of the Church or of any other religious denomination. The admission of Protestants, Dissenters, and of Roman Catholics to civil and political rights was carried still further by the Acts of 1828 and 1829; and he thought, that it could no longer be said, with respect either to education or to the general distribution of political power in the country, that the principle of exclusion (the Church of England being alone favoured) was any longer the principle of the State. On the contrary, the principle was, that there should be general admission of all persons, without distinction of religion, to an equal participation of civil rights. In applying this principle to the subject of education, they must consider whether it were a subject entirely confined to a question of religion; because, if it were so, undoubtedly, as there existed an Established Church, any assistance given by the State ought to be applied to that establishment. But this was by no means the case. Religious instruction was, certainly, a main part of sound education; but there were other parts also, and looking on the whole together, they ought to consider, whether they could not impart the benefits of education as far as possible to the people, not excluding a very great portion of those who dissented from the doctrines of the Established Church. He must, therefore, conclude that this principle of exclusiveness which had been set up, this assumption that the State ought not to recognize or to encourage any education but that which was carried on by the clergy, was an assumption at variance with the general spirit of our laws, and with the existing feeling of society. With respect to this part of the subject, there was another point most worthy of consideration. It was now confessed on the part, not of the Church, for the Church had nothing to be ashamed of, but on the part of the friends of the Church, and those formerly connected with parties in power: it was admitted, that the religious instruction of the people had been constantly neglected by them, and they lamented that the means of the Church of England had not been extended from time to time in proportion to the growth of population. In fact, they had allowed this great flood of population to cover the surface of the land, without taking any pains to form those channels of education into which it might be divided. Had education, then, been altogether neglected? By no means. Not only had the clergy shown great anxiety on this subject, but the Protestant Dissenters throughout the land had been most laudably zealous in the promotion of the knowledge of Christianity, and in the instruction of those vast masses of the population which had been added to the people of this country, in remote districts, without which they would have been left in a state of most lamentable ignorance. After all this had been done by the Protestant Dissenters, after they had established, he supposed, about 10,000 places of worship in this country, no success could possibly attend any attempt the object of which might be to deprive them of any of the means of education which the State might be willing to grant; declaring to them that the State enclosed itself within the Church only, and did not look abroad towards any of those who dissented from the Establishment. Besides, he should say, that such a principle would be entirely novel on the part of persons of the highest authority in this country with respect to education. The first large society founded for the purpose of promoting education by the establishment of schools was the British and Foreign School Society. Among those who were the most forward in promoting the foundation of that society, was his late royal highness, the Duke of Kent, father of her Majesty; and at the head of a large list of subscribers was placed the name of George III. An annual subscription of 100l. was given to the society by that Sovereign, as well as by George IV., and by his late Majesty, and was continued down to the present day. He could hardly, therefore, reconcile the sanction given by those sovereigns with the doctrine now propounded,—that no encouragement ought to be given to any but the most exclusive system of education. For these reasons the Government had been unable either to adopt a general plan of education, on which could be founded new schools for education throughout the country, to which both clergymen and Dissenters might subscribe, and had also been unable to give their adhesion to the system lately propounded, that the Church, and the Church alone, should conduct the education of the country. For himself, far was he from blaming the efforts of the Church to extend the blessings of education. On the contrary, he rejoiced to see those efforts made. He perceived with pleasure that the National Society had lately sent out queries, and were busied in collecting information upon this subject, and that attempts had been made in various dioceses to extend and improve their institutions. He thought that these efforts were most praiseworthy, and he was not indisposed to flatter himself with the belief that the Government, by the agitation of this project, had led to the increased zeal and activity which had been exhibited by the society. At any rate, he rejoiced to see this zeal and activity. But the Government was not able to agree to either of the propositions to which he had adverted, as it appeared to them that it would be better to appoint somebody to which the general management of the plan should be intrusted. The hon. Member for Waterford had recommended the appointment of a central board of education. Now, if a board of education were appointed, composed of persons of different persuasions, in conformity with the plan of educating all religious denominations in the same schools, it would appear from what he had already stated that it would not be a board possessing the confidence of the Church. He thought it better, therefore, that the Government should form that body: call it a board, or a committee, or what they would, not from any one religious body or sect, or from members of various sects, but from the official servants of the Crown, who must always depend upon the confidence of that House, and who must look to them to decide whether or not the system which they recommended was such as should be supported. He saw that a noble Friend of his (Lord Ashley) objected to that plan, but as objections were raised to all the other plans which had been proposed, it appeared to him that nothing remained but to constitute a board composed of persons who, being already the official servants of the Crown, must always be responsible to Parliament. He had, therefore, by her Majesty's command, proposed that the President of the Council and other Privy Councillors, being not more than five persons, should form a board, who should consider in what manner the grants of money made by that House from time to time should be distributed. He had, therefore, addressed a letter to the Marquess of Lansdowne, the President of the Council, and he had agreed with the other official persons named, if the House of Commons should make a grant for that purpose, to conduct the measures necessary to carry the objects proposed by the Government into effect. Now, with respect to those measures, whether they were to be carried into effect by a grant of 20,000l. as was the case last year, or, as he should prefer, by an additional grant of 10,000l., making in the whole 30,000l. He was ready to state to the House what were the measures which the Government thought were in the first place most desirable. He would say, then, that the measure which was most desirable was the establishment of a good normal school. He said a good normal school, for whatever might be the religious differences of the Church and the British and Foreign School Society, yet there must be questions which were not at all touched by their differences, in relation to which he thought that persons must find the systems of both of them defective, and he thought it would also be found that there were modes of education, some of which were in operation in foreign establishments, and others in this kingdom, by which the general system of education in this country would be much improved. It would, therefore, be the endeavour of this body to apply the money granted by Parliament in the first place to the foundation of a normal school, and to make it as perfect as possible. He thought that the four objects to which attention should be directed were in the first place, religious instruction; in the second, general education; in the third, moral training; and in the fourth, habits of industry applied in learning some trade or profession. All these were matters upon which many suggestions had been made from time to time, upon which many plans had been formed, and upon which there was perhaps yet much to be done before a perfect system of education could be established. But this he could say, that the plan followed in very many schools proceeded on an entirely false assumption, when reading and writing, combined with some portion of religious instruction, was said to form education. He really thought that there was much of the shrewd sense which so eminently belonged to him in the observations made upon this subject by the late Mr. Cobbett, who, it was web known, was a determined enemy to all schemes for a general education. He said, "What is the use of teaching a ploughboy to read and write? If he wants to mount a carthorse, reading and writing will not give him a leg up. No; he knows better, without reading or writing either: he first leads the horse to a gate, and then he gets upon the gate, and then upon the carthorse. That is education, and this is the sort of education which the agricultural labourer wants." These observations of his were not without good sense, because it was not only reading and writing which were useful to persons in that station of life, but habits of industry. A child could not be regarded as educated, who at eight or nine years of age was able to read and write, which he might forget when he was fifteen or sixteen, if those habits were not formed which fitted him for his station, and enabled him to fulfil his duties both to God and man, as well as to acquire that skill which would insure him a competency through life. He thought, therefore, that in this respect a good normal school, founded on the most approved system, would be a great advantage to this country, even if it were carried on at an expense of 400l. or 500l. per annum. He believed it would be found so useful as a model, that many persons would, after having visited it, hasten to introduce into their own neighbourhoods the rules there established. He would not read any part of the letter which he had addressed to the President of the Council, but he would read that part of Lord Lansdowne's reply which related to this part of the plan of the Government. The noble Lord then proceeded to read an extract from the letter in question, which was in substance as follows:— That he hastened to express his readiness to comply with the request which had been made, and rejoiced that the office which he filled enabled him to promote so important an object, which it was impossible could be satisfactorily accomplished without the countenance and superintendence of her Majesty's Government. His opinion was, that training in industrial pursuits was one of the most important objects of the present system, and he was also strongly convinced that the teachers should be so qualified as to be able to give instructions on the principles of the Church of England, without excluding members of any other per. suasion, should they be unable, though willing, to receive similar instructions from their own ministers. The regulations should be distinctly promulgated and understood, in order that it should be seen what were the improved methods on which this system was based. The noble Lord went on to say, that supposing such a sum as he had mentioned were voted by the House, and placed at the disposal of the board or committee, there were also other objects to which encouragements might be given in furtherance of the general improvement of the system of education. They might grant gratuities to teachers, for instance, and superintend the compilation of a superior class of school books, and they might, in various other methods, promote the great cause of education. He had stated what it was proposed to make the first step on this subject. Having, however, stated this, he felt called upon to state also, although he was net at present prepared to make any proposition on the subject, that he thought it advisable to introduce a bill by which education might be more generally extended. With regard to the objections which he had stated, he thought that whether they applied to general or local funds, the schools now established, whether under the church or under committees, should be supported out of those funds. He thought it possible that by these means he should ascertain what was the amount of education given in these schools, which he believed now were in a most defective state. He thought it also possible, with the cooperation of the parish, or the board of guardians of the union, to make some advances for the purpose of establishing infant schools. For his own part, he did not believe, that children from three to seven years of age could receive impressions different from those which might be entertained by the religious sect to which their parents belonged. He thought it possible, that instruction might be given to them from the Bible, without its being necessary to point out the differences occasioned by the theories of controversial divinity. He might, perhaps be counting on too much when he looked for this, but he really believed, that as infant schools were the most useful institutions of any, since they formed at present the foundation of the others, he really believed, that if these schools could be more generally established, it would be a material advantage, and would materially increase the means of education in this country. In fact, by the habits which the child would then form, by the inculcation of moral duties, and by the goodness and love towards one another which would be taught to children at those schools, material elements of improvement would be introduced into the other schools. Lord Bacon had said, "Custom is most perfect when it beginneth in young years; this we call education, which is, in effect, but an early custom." He certainly did conceive, and he was yet to be set right if he were wrong, that the most simple rules of religion and habits of morality might be taught to children, without raising those great points of theoretical difference by which this country had been so long agitated. However, he might be mistaken, and his noble Friend, who presided at the meeting the other day (Lord Ashley) might tell him, that there must be exclusiveness and intolerance even in these schools. He had now stated the general plan of the Government in connexion with this question, a plan not indeed, in his estimation, the best which could be proposed, but that which was the most practicable in the present state of the country. He thought, that, considering the way in which education was carried on in the other countries of Europe, and in which it was carried on on the other side of the Atlantic, the time was almost come when we ought to remain no longer with our arms folded. He thought, that a plan which would professedly combine all religious denominations would not be agreeable to the Church, and that a plan by which education would be confided to the Church would be regarded as exclusive, and therefore would be intolerable to others. He did, however, think, that it was necessary to try some plan of general education, and, that he was in a manner obliged to propose one. It was but yesterday, that he had pointed out to the House the expediency of allotting different punishments for different offences, and of appointing different modes of trial, and he now implored the House not to leave untilled this great field of instruction and education, and especially not to leave that class which formed, in fact, the seed of our criminal population, without the protecting shield which religious and moral culture would throw around them; so that afterwards, if they fell into the ways of vice and crime, and Members were called on to put in force against them the harsher provisions of the law, it might not be justly said, that by their neglect and their omission they came to its commission untaught, uninstructed, and without the knowledge of their duties either to God or man.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

should not have trespassed upon the House, had it not been stated by the noble Lord in the course of his speech, that the system of national education in Ireland, which was brought forward by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, had been attended with the most signal success. He thought, that he should be wanting in his duty to the House, and he should certainly be wanting in his duty to Ireland, if he did not in opposition to that assertion state one or two facts. He did not know whether the noble Lord had directed his attention to the report of the committee appointed to inquire into this subject. Perhaps the noble Lord had not had time, but if he had looked into the report, he would have found, that the national education system in Ireland, instead of meeting with the most signal success had proved an utter and complete failure. [No, no!] Hon. Gentlemen might cry "No, no!" but he would satisfy the most sceptical among them, that the fact was as he had represented it, at least if they gave credit to the reports of that House and of the other House of Parliament. It would not be denied, that one of the main objects of that system was to unite the instruction of children of both persuasions. Now, was the noble Lord aware how many Protestant children were educated at the national schools in the immense province of Munster? He would inform the noble Lord—just 146. So that out of millions of people, in a province where there were thousands of Protestants, he had contrived to get into those schools the magnificent number of 146 Protestant children. In the province of Leinster, there were 598 Protestant children in the national schools, and in Connaught there were but 277. The grand total, therefore, of Protestant children receiving education in the national schools was somewhere about 900, short of 1,000 certainly. Now, he would ask the noble Lord if it was fair to state, that the Government plan had been attended with signal success, the main feature of that plan being to unite Protestant and Catholic children when there was only the small number of 900 and odd in those three great provinces? It appeared, also, that the schools in those provinces, were for the most part under the direction of the Roman Catholic clergy. In the province of Ulster, where the national education system was supposed to flourish, some schools were exclusively composed of Protestants, and some of Roman Catholics. Now, he thought, that a failure upon the point which he had mentioned, as it appeared, that these schools were still separate schools: One very remarkable instance of this was exhibited in Drogheda. On one side of the street was a school under the direction of some nuns, and in this school there were no Protestants. On the other side of the street there was a school under the direction, he believed, of some Protestant Dissenters, and in this there was not a single Roman Catholic. Under these circumstances, he should have been wanting in his duty both to the House and the country, if he had permitted the statement of the noble Lord to pass uncontradicted, although in setting the noble Lord right he was actuated by feelings of the most perfect courtesy towards him, and he was sure, that the noble Lord could not have looked into the report, or had not time, otherwise the noble Lord would never have stated, that the Government plan of education had succeeded in Ireland. He was quite aware, that the plan originated in the most laudable motives, and that it was a most desirable plan, if it could be carried into effect. He repeated, that the plan was extremely desirable, but it could not be carried into effect. He would take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to the course pursued by a society on which much vituperation had been lavished of late, a society with which he had had the honour of being connected as secretary for many years—he meant the Kildare-place society. It was proved upon oath, that in 1824, at a time when the Roman Catholic clergy were making the greatest efforts to educate the children of their own persuasion, there was a majority of Roman Catholic children educated in the schools of the society. He could, however, state, that even at this time in upwards of 1,000 of the schools under the care of the Kildare-place society a majority of the children were Roman Catholics. Such might not, however, have been the case but for the system which was adopted, and were those schools conducted on a better principle more Protestants might be found in them. He begged pardon of the House for taking up its time, but after the statement which had been made by the noble Lord, he felt, that he should have been wanting in his duty had he not called the attention of hon. Gentlemen to the facts which he had mentioned.

Sir R. Inglis

could not quite approve of the course which his hon. and learned Friend had adopted, and he should not be tempted to follow his example, and to carry the discussion to Ireland. He should confine himself to the scheme which had been brought forward by his noble Friend, and to the proposals to which his noble Friend had called the attention of the House. But, in the first place, he could not help expressing his satisfaction at the manner in which the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had developed the plan of the Government in reference to this most important subject. He could not but feel, that, with the exception of one passing allusion, his noble Friend had laid the scheme of the Government before the House with great temper and discretion, and with much ability. The noble Lord certainly lost his temper for a moment, when his (Sir R. Inglis's) lion. Friend on the third bench cheered an expression of the noble Lord having reference to the Church of England. ["No no!"] He might have been mistaken, but he thought the noble Lord lost his temper for a short time when his hon. Friend cheered the expression "exclusiveness and intolerance," used by the noble Lord in speaking of the schools in connexion with the Church of England. He could not but regret, that the noble Lord should think it unnecessary to separate children of different persuasions at an early age, and, that he was of opinion, that they might be united in one school without any danger of receiving impressions at variance with the religion of their parents. Such a scheme he, for one, could not approve of, and was surprised, after the quotation the noble Lord had made from Bacon, and which was entirely hostile to the noble Lord's views, that such a proposal should have been made. He must, however, say, that after all they had heard in that House, and after all the tracts which they had seen on the subject, and which, if not issued under the immediate authority of the Government, were at least issued by the authority of those whose views were supported by Ministers, it was highly satisfactory to him, that so little additional mischief was to be done. He was afraid he could never praise his noble Friend for anything he did in his public capacity, but he felt much satisfaction, that the noble Lord proposed to do so little mischief on this occasion. He could not praise his noble Friend for what he had done, but for what he had left undone. For, in the first place, the noble Lord had reprobated in the strongest terms the unnational and unprincipled system of education advocated by those who admire the foreign schemes of instruction; and, in the second place, he had abandoned formally what was called the joint and comprehensive system of education, as inapplicable to England; such a system was a fallacy and an impossibility, and it was satisfactory to him, that it had been abandoned by the Government. It was a fallacy in every sense of the word, it had never been attempted in England, and was utterly incompatible with the feelings and habits of the people. It was to the advocates of such a system that they owed the confusion which existed in regard to the terms "education" and "instruction." Now, he denied, that instruction was entitled to be called education. Instruction was of high value, but he believed, that knowledge unless sanctified by religion was an unmitigated evil, and it was because of that conviction, that he should always oppose the separation of education from instruction. Religion was the main object of education, and such being the case, the question was, who were the proper persons to be entrusted with the education of the people? He held, that the Church, by her position, was the source from which the people should derive instruction, and it was only when education flowed from the national Church, that the Legislature was justified in diverting any portion of the national funds to this object. He had felt it his duty to make these observations, but still, looking to the whole scheme of his noble Friend, he was bound to admit, that while the noble Lord had not done all the good which was in his power, the noble Lord had proposed to do less evil than he had expected. The noble Lord had also proposed the formation of a sort of board, through which the grant made for the purposes of education by that House was to filter, and that body was to be composed of Privy Councillors, at the head of which was to be the President of the Council. He hardly knew whether this was to be considered an improvement, but he did not think, that there could be any objection to the plan, and he should therefore content himself with the observations which he had made. He did not think, that he was called upon to make any further objections to the scheme of his noble Friend. The noble Lord had, however, stated, that it was his intention at some future time to introduce a bill on this subject, but he (Sir R. Inglis) hoped the time would be a long one, for he was convinced, that the longer the introduction of such a measure was postponed the less would be the necessity for forcing education on the country. Much had been done within the last ten years to promote the education of the people, and he confidently trusted to see in a few years the nation pursuing a scheme of education calculated to improve the morals of the people, and reaching to every class of the community.

Mr. Wyse

hoped he should not be considered as unreasonable or obtrusive, if from the deep interest he had taken from his first entry into Parliament, in this most important subject, he ventured, on such an occasion as the present, to trespass for a few moments on the indulgence of the House. [Hear.] From the first time in 1830, when he suggested in a memorial to the then Government a plan for a system of national education in Ireland; from the first bill in 1831, in which he attempted to embody that plan, and on which the present system was mainly founded, up to the report of the Committee on Irish Education of last Session, in which it was recommended to extend it, and the means and manner by which it might be so extended to the higher branches of education pointed out, thus forming a comprehensive whole, open to all classes and persuasions of the country, he had not ceased, not only to watch with anxiety the progress of this great question, but had cheerfully too contributed towards such end whatever humble means were in his power. Nor was this interest confined to the sister country; whatever natural preference he might feel in other matters, in this he could know of no distinction; he wished to see its blessings diffused far and wide through the land, without bar or ban, all entitled to it, and all enjoying it to the utmost, wherever men were called on to perform duties, or to obey laws, to maintain or deserve the advantages of a free and civilised community. With that view, he had ventured last Session, to propose to the House a motion, praying by address to the Crown, for the same arrangement if none other could be had, as that now proposed by the noble Lord—a Royal Board of Commissioners of Education, as in Ireland, until the temper of the times, and experience of benefit should admit a Parliamentary one—the wise, equitable, and efficient distribution of the fund granted by Parliament—a school for teachers, and the other accompaniments, such as inspectors, reports, &c., of a national organisation. That motion was lost, after a lengthened discussion, by a majority of two only, and from the greater diffusion of information in the interval, he had with increased hopes of success again placed it on the order book for discussion this Session. But he was glad to find, by the statement of the noble Lord, that this had now become unnecessary, the question was at last placed in the hands which should have originally guided it, and which were most bound by their position to carry it out to its accomplishment. He congratulated the friends of the cause, who had laboured long and patiently, with much to damp and little to cheer them in their exertions. He congratulated the country, which would soon, he hoped, see in its beneficial results, the best eulogy of the measure on this first forward step, however slight it might seem, in establishing, what any country but England at present enjoyed—a sound and comprehensive system of national education. [Cheers.] None but those, who had experienced the difficulties which opposed its progress, even to this stage of advancement, could properly estimate how much was likely to be gained if worked out in a large and honest spirit by the proposition of the noble Lord. But they who did—they who knew what it was to woo, and yet not win, the apathy of a reluctant and uninformed House of Commons, who had to appeal in vain, for aid to a press, which with few exceptions, turned away with disdain from such unprofitable speculations, who chronicled with the accuracy of a Bow-street calendar, every miserable squabble with which parties on that side of the House, or on this, lowered the functions of the legislator, and frittered away the time and interest of the public, but passed at the same time in utter silence, a question which every other nation but our own, regarded as the most weighty which could engage the attention of civilized men, which lay at the bottom of all order, of all liberty, without which these blessings could not be—without which there could be no legislation, no justice, no community amongst men—they who knew and saw and felt, and mourned over all this, they would appreciate, and not without reason, such a commencement, though still below their hopes, attained as it had been, by no adventitious assistance, but in despite of many and great obstacles, solely from its own merits—the internal power of the great question itself. He called the proposition of the noble Lord a forward step; it presented, it was true, nothing complete, nothing adequate, but it was the first which had yet been made in a right sense—it was one which must in the nature of things be followed by others—it was one which led gradually to completion—it was one which was the pledge and guarantee, sooner or later, no matter how much it might now be opposed, to a truly national system. He was not therefore surprised to find it had been well received as far as it went on this side of the House, nor less gratified by the faint and hesitating opposition it had met with on the other. [Hear, hear.] The hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Inglis) had expressed his gratitude for the small share of mischief, which the noble Lord was likely to perpetrate by the proposed measure; it was pleasing to hear such a gentle strain of censure from the representative of Oxford; but he must be permitted to wonder at the strange conversion of the hon. Baronet, the measure which he (Mr. Wyse) had proposed last year, and which was honoured with such opposition, was the same measure as that now proposed by the noble Lord. Circumstances and seasons, however, have their influence, and this year, I, the present proposer am not the same as the last. The noble Lord had not introduced this proposition a day sooner than it had become necessary. This was the only country which had never had a regularly organised system: the only country at this moment without one. The noble Lord had told the House, and truly told it, that the state of education in England and Wales was deplorable, most inadequate, and inefficient—weak in quantity, weaker in quality. This had been the cry, unceasing, and almost unanimous, session after session. It came from all quarters, and all parties. It had been proved by statistics, and confirmed by philosophy. The statistical societies of Manchester, and Birmingham, and London; committees of this and the other House; reports to government; reports to educational societies; the experience of individuals; the indignant denunciation of some; the reluctant. confession of others, all had risen in one prevailing voice, against the ignorance which hung over the land. It would be unreasonable on this occasion to recall any of the many details upon which those assertions had been grounded; they had been again and again pressed on the House; and he trusted they would again and again be so pressed, until it should be roused effectually to a much more comprehensive plan, and wipe away, once and for all, as really became an enlightened legislature, the foul stain, which sufferance, which connivance at such ran evil, necessarily inflicted on the English character. For the present, then, he should confine himself to results, and to those only of the broadest and most marked description. The Prussian calculations gave one-fifth, or at most one-sixth, as the proportion of children of an age to be educated, that is between the age of five and fourteen, the proportion actually under education in Prussia in the daily schools very nearly amounted to that in England, deducting the attendants on the Sunday schools, (an inferior substitute for the daily schools) and a proportion of those between two and five years of age, attending infant schools, the proportion did not exceed one-eleventh. The quality of the education was not more flattering to our national self love than the amount. Bad teachers, bad methods, a very limited circle of subjects, and those taught in the worst manner, from a wretched supply of ill written books in many cases, in the worst situations, and under the most unfavourable physical, and moral circumstances, such was the leading character of all inquiries lately made, either in or out of that House upon that subject. [Hear, hear.] Now what were the remedies which hitherto had been applied to these recognized evils, and how had they worked? The majority he believed had been for altogether standing still, as far at least as either the Government or the Legislature were in question. They talked about the danger of drying up the springs of benevolence, and actually imagined that the moment order or system were introduced, not only no new schools would arise, but the old would probably perish. The existing voluntary system had done little hitherto to ensure either the establishment or duration of schools. It was a tax on the benevolent, and often on the poor, in favour of the selfish and often of the rich. Others had moved a little in the way of assistance, but that assistance was very trifling indeed. They had in the abundance of their generosity gone so far as to vote 20,000l. a year, for the schools of a nation of sixteen million inhabitants, and in the abundance of their wisdom confided its distribution to the Treasury, that is to a body of all others, from the nature and multiplicity of its duties, and the qualifications of its members, the least likely to be well fitted for such a purpose. Was it at all astonishing that hitherto, these efforts had produced no other consequence, than the generally growing commotion of the necessity of a great deal more? Was it surprising that we had at last felt the necessity of taking the matter definitively and effectually into the Legislature's hands? The proposition of the noble Lord admitted the necessity of Government interference; it established a separate specific department under a regularly constituted system, with a minister at its head; it confided to it all the functions of a council of public instruction, inspection, reports, the application of funds, the education of teachers, the composition and publication of books to its care. It rescues education from the random mismanagement to which it hitherto had been subjected, and began the organisation of an intelligible and comprehensive system in its stead. There were two classes of opponents, he was aware, to this arrangement: those who entertained an apprehension of interference with religious opinion, and those who feared it would encroach on the rights of the subject. He confessed, he could not share in a belief of either danger. Honourable Members seemed to labour under the most unfounded illusions on both these heads. Neither in the present measure nor in that he had the honour to propose last year, were any such objects or even tendencies discoverable. He had never contemplated separating religious from intellectual instruction by his motion, much less interfering with conscientious opinions or practice in its administration. He had stated over and over again, in a manner he thought which ought to have secured him from all the misrepresentations with which he had been visited, that he (Mr. Wyse) would leave religious instruction to be conferred in the manner and by the men, whom each persuasion in each locality might consider best, without any interference on the part of Government, but that in addition to this—besides this, (and this was the real ground of objection) and not as a substitute for this—he would require such an amount of intellectual instruction to be given, or guaranteed to be given, in each school, as might really deserve the name of instruction before any claim could be allowed for a participation in the national grant. How was this to be secured? By not leaving, as hitherto, the distribution of the grant to two societies exclusively, but by allowing it to any school ready to comply with these conditions. For his own part, he candidly avowed, he greatly preferred united to separate education. He thought, when public funds were given, they should be given to all without distinction. He thought, without any, the least compromise of the conscientious religious opinions of either party, united education well calculated to promote habits of Christian brotherhood and national union, which, after all, ought to be one of the very first objects of all Christian and national education. Nor did he think it so difficult to achieve this most desirable object, as many hon. Members seemed to suppose. He could not comprehend why instruction should not be given in common upon subjects upon which all agreed; reserving those only on which they differed, such, for instance, as religion, for the separate instruction of their respective pastors. This was not mere theory; it was a practice in full and satisfactory operation in all parts of the continent and America. Now the different religious persuasions were intermingled. [hear!] The practice existed, as they had learnt, from a late interesting report, without any evil result in France, in every part of Germany, in Switzerland, in America, &c. He, (Mr. Wyse) had himself a recent opportunity of witnessing it in action in Rhenish Prussia. In that country, affected as it at present was by the religious dissensions, consequent on the contest between the king and the archbishop of Cologne, the same school continued to be frequented by pupils of both communions. He had not seen himself, nor had he heard after much inquiry from others, that there had been any interference on the part of Government, or the lay or ecclesiastical authorities, with the religious convictions of either party. On the contrary, every guarantee seemed to have been cordially given and strictly observed for mutual protection. The religious teachers were appointed by the authorities of each communion. No books were used for religious instruction, which had not received the sanction of the respective religious superiors. No scholar was compelled to attend religious service of a persuasion, to which he did not belong. There was no attempt to proselytise on the part of the teachers, and no exhibition of the polemical passion on the part of the pupils under their care. [Hear, hear.] A similar course, and with the same results had been pursued in Baden, in Hesse Darmstadt, in Frankfort, in Bavaria, in Saxony, &c. Nor had he seen or heard of any injurious results whatever in after life from this union of the different persuasions in childhood or youth—quite the reverse. A more industrious, orderly, moral, and religious population, it was difficult to meet, than what formed the great portion of the inhabitants of these very countries. He feared not to plane them in comparison with the most chosen districts of our own land. Our manufacturers already complained of their activity. The criminal returns of Prussia, gave only one juvenile thief in 2000 inhabitants—could we say the same? The crimes of violence were even less frequent; there were few such offences as unhappily marked the calendars of England and Ireland. We piqued ourselves on our exact observance of the sabbath and strict attention to religious duties. In no country seemed there to exist a greater attachment, not only to the principles but the observances of their respective religious creeds than in Rhenish Prussia. In no country were the churches of each communion better attended, or more real piety exhibited in the hours of service, or the performance of religious ordinances than in Rhenish Prussia. He could not therefore understand why we should be so tremblingly alive to this arrangement. He was therefore entitled to believe, that there was nothing injurious in the system itself, and that any such real or supposed injury must be ascribed solely to circumstances of time and place. It was not because it was not good, but because our political and religious passions would not suffer it to work to good, that this system should be objected to. He thought, however, that these circumstances though much to be regretted, should not be disregarded, and neither now, nor when he had introduced the same measure in the House, had he insisted upon the united system as indispensable. On the contrary he had followed strictly the judicious conduct pursued in this particular by foreign countries. He had proposed to leave the matter for the present open to the choice of the locality, they might establish separate or united schools as they deemed most fit, guaranteeing in addition such an amount and description of education, as might deserve the name and justify the application of the public money. It was not the best: but this best would be more likely to be adopted, if not forced, or on compulsion. So much for the religious difficulty:—he now turned to the other—the danger apprehended from a Government Board, to the civil rights of the subject. He thought the dread entertained on this head was still more groundless. A distinction should be made between the power and functions of such bodies in despotic and in constitutional countries. Under a despotic government, like every other institution, they were necessarily the instruments of the despotism; under a constitutional government, on the contrary, they were the means which the people used for carrying more easily into effect the wishes of the people. Such bodies were necessary to work out the details of government, in each of its departments:—governwent was impossible without them. At the same time, he did not say it was impossible they might be abused. Every one function of the executive however exercised might be abused. All that could be done to prevent or remedy such abuse was, to provide and maintain efficient checks against it. Such checks in the present instance he was convinced existed. He could not conceive any government Board, could long or flagrantly abuse its trust in a country like this, with a Legislature constantly ready (and never more ready than in the present balanced state of parties), to call it to account, with a public press vigilant beyond example and a public opinion speaking fearlessly through that press, whenever circumstances required it. But however this might be, it was not from this House such objections were to be expected. They had already not only assented to the principle, but actually carried it into operation. They had already granted every year for these five years past—public funds on certain conditions to schools; thus recognising the right and duty of Parliament to intervene in the encouragement of education; and had confided the distribution of these funds to the Treasury, thus constituting a government Board for the exercise of these very functions. The only question, then, seemed at present to be, whether the Board just proposed, was as fitted for such purposes as the Board already employed; the Board of the Treasury. For his part he could not for an instant hesitate between them. The Treasury he had always considered, and he had taken every opportunity of expressing this opinion, was of all other bodies, the most unfitted, for a Board of education. It was a province, to administer which, with any pretensions to utility, required some study, some experience, no small degree of leisure, very various endowments; were these conditions to be expected, did they actually exist in the Board of the Treasury? Giving them every merit the Members might choose to claim for the discharge of their public duties, he could not admit, that they possessed the knowledge, time, or peculiar talents, required, for men who were to be intrusted with the education of the country. Schools for teachers were to be established, books were to be composed, inspectors appointed, reports examined, and a variety of other duties fulfilled, to which without any disparagement they could hardly be considered competent. Facts justified these conclusions. Whilst the application of the annual grant remained in their hands, it did not appear from the returns he (Mr Wyse) had moved for last year, that they had once appointed an inspector. They had intrusted the inspection to the two societies; but he had distinctly shown from the evidence of the secretaries of each society, that the societies themselves had never had a regular body of inspectors. A minute of the Treasury had indeed subsequently endeavoured to remedy this great omission, but it did not appear with very remarkable success; up to this hour, no inspection existed on the part of the Government, that is, the first of all securities, for the proper application of these education funds had not yet been established. As to the other duties, they seem never to have been thought of. Ten thousand pounds allocated for the building of a normal school, remained unemployed. The composition of books had not even been contemplated—no report beyond the mere number of scholars, and other more material circumstances; had ever been laid upon the Table of the House. The board now proposed to be substituted, had at least this advantage, that it would not, like the Treasury, be engaged with any other object besides education, and with any other object more than education, but with education and education alone; it would have for its president a obleman who had deeply interested himself in its progress for many years, of extensive experience, high in official station, high in the estimation of the public; its other members it was to be hoped, would be chosen with due regard to competency, character, and as much as might be in harmony with the feelings of the several classes and sects of the community. The being chosen from the list of Privy Councillors, did not necessarily limit the choice to Government officials. He confessed, he should prefer to see them, if possible, removed far beyond the circle of political influences, not liable to their passions and changes; permanent officers, unexposed to all the consequences, the risks, fears, temptations, and compliances of Ministerial contingencies. In no one department was system, uniformity, and continuity, more essential, than in that of Education. It could not be expected, that the public would give its confidence to any system which to-morrow might become not only of a different, but of a totally opposite complexion. He had no doubt that such a body, if properly formed and intrusted with sufficient powers, would enter on its duties with far more vigour, sagacity, and utility, than any which hitherto had preceded it. The very first result of its existence, he trusted would be the establishment not of one, but of many efficient schools for teachers. The event was now recognised from one end of the empire to the other [Hear, hear.]. Good teachers, and good schools. We had hitherto been taking count, not of good schools, but of good school-houses [Hear, hear.]. He was not prepared to say, whether the plan submitted by the noble Lord, was the best, or if the best in theory, the most easy to be reduced to practice. A different course had been pursued, indeed had been found necessary to pursue in Prussia. That however depended upon circumstances. Establishments in which pupils were to be boarded and lodged, were obviously to be regulated on different principles from those destined for day scholars only. One thing, however, he considered an essential condition to the efficiency of such institutions. The honours and emoluments to which they were to lead, must be of such a nature, and so secured, as to render it worth the while of a pupil to expend time, labour, and money in preparation. Unless the pupil were required to pursue a really solid course of studies, and for such time as might be found necessary, he must say he could anticipate very little advantage from such an establishment. This could not be expected, unless the position and profession of the teacher were raised. Higher salaries, and better secured than what now was usual, should be given; promotion should be held out for superior merit; superannuations should be assured for long and faithful services [Hear, hear]. The teacher should be elevated in his own esteem, and in that of the public. But he had detained the House too long; he felt, he had no excuse to offer but the great importance of the subject and the gratification he felt at this first effort towards something approaching system and organisation. He should, of course, have much preferred a bill constituting a Parliamentary commission or Board, with a minister of instruction at its head, with minutely defined but comprehensive powers, extended to every branch of education. He should like to have seen the whole plan quite as fully developed as in the codes of other countries, none other could merit the name of a really national system, the government with their board on one side, the people with their local committees on the other, each a check, but each also an aid combining with and assisting the other, the board empowered to apply the parliamentary grants, for the building and outfitting the people empowered to assess, for the support of teachers—the whole under the solemn sanction of the law, and secured from all wishes of change, by the national will expressed through the Legislature. But this for the present he believed unattainable. All that could now be done was to take a royal commission or Board, as had been the case in Ireland, and to wait till a Parliamentary one, by Bill, could be looked for with some chance of success, from the Houses of Parliament. If we could not have the best, let us at least take the best which our fears, our prejudices, our passions, our discords, religious and political, would at present suffer. Time and experience might do more to dissipate these obstacles than the strongest argument; the most profound wisdom, the most glowing eloquence under present circumstances. Let men see, feel, and quietly convince themselves of their errors. Such was the feeling, and such was the course, in consequence of such feeling, that he (Mr. Wyse) had felt himself compelled to submit to his motion of last year. The noble Lord did not think the country then urged even for this amelioration, he had since, inquired more deeply and had found reason to alter this opinion. He was glad of it, he hoped it would be only a commencement, and that next year he would find reasons equally strong to go much further. Crime had not diminished, and means of punishment had been found ineffective; our prisons corrupted as much almost as they reformed; our transportation law, and practice (to judge from a late most able Report) was, so far from being the remedy of crime, a series of crimes and iniquity in itself. In such a state of things, we were imperatively called on to go deeper than we had ever yet done, and instead of laboriously devising expedients to punish guilt, but, at the same time, allowing all its producing causes to continue in their full vigour, we were required to attack and conquer, and extirpate the cause, whilst it was weak and thus render crime rare, and punishment comparatively useless. This, he was thoroughly convinced could only be effectually achieved through a general and sound system of education. If we could secure the man, we must begin with the child. We must not argue, as was too frequently the case, from what we now saw around us, of the effects, generally speaking, of education. No; the present generation, with their follies, defects, and vices, was the creation, not of present education, (defective as it might be), but of an education still more defective than the present. We were reaping the bitter and bad harvest of the ignorance and negligence of our predecessors. How much more earnest then, ought we to be, we, who more accurately and sensibly estimated these evils, and had the means, ample, and certain of preventing them, in our hands—to protect our posterity from their infliction. He again expressed his wish, that the noble Lord could have made his measure more comprehensive, but regarding it as the first stone of a national system, the full completion of which he yet hoped to see; looking upon it as the first evidence given by Ministers in that House of a disposition to take up a question second to none in importance—a question which had engaged his attention for a long period, and which he had never ceased urging on successive Governments, and Parliaments, for eight successive years, he could not refuse (though much below his conception of what a truly national system should be), the small tribute of his approbation, to the proposition of the noble Lord.

Lord Ashley

wished to ask the noble Lord whether it were the intention of Government to continue the grant of 20,000l. hitherto made annually, for the building of school-houses. Not being in the House when the noble Lord commenced his statement, he had not the advantage of hearing all the remarks which the noble Lord made with respect to some observations which fell from him (Lord Ashley) at a public meeting over which he had recently presided. He would only now remark, that whenever the proper time arrived, he should be prepared to reiterate every one of those observations, and to support that plan of education which he thought the wisest and best. If he abstained from saying anything upon the present occasion, (deeming it to be an inconvenient one), he hoped he should not be considered as bound to an approval of the noble Lord's scheme, which, with its privy councillors, its books, its normal schools, and teachers, appeared to him to be full of the most alarming mischiefs.

Lord John Russell,

in reply to the noble Lord's question, stated, that it certainly was not the intention of Government to propose another grant of 20,000l. for the erection of school-houses. It would be a matter of consideration whether there should this year be any grant for that purpose or not.

Mr. Gladstone

wished to know, whether the proposed board of education was to be composed entirely of persons unpaid, and at the same time holding other offices. He understood the noble Lord to state, that it was to be composed of privy councillors; but he did not distinctly understand, whether they were to be persons actually holding other offices. There was one other point also, a point of much greater consequence—a point of the most vital importance—upon which he wished to be more clearly informed. The noble Lord had given no intimation whatever as to the rules by which the proposed board was to be guided in the distribution of religious instruction. Indeed, for anything that the noble Lord had stated, it was possible to suppose, that schools might spring up under this plan in which no form of religion whatever should be taught. Such a supposition became the more feasible when the plan was found to receive such unqualified support from the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Wyse), who was known to be an active member of a society recently established in this country, entitled, "The Central Society of Education," the general object of which was supposed to be to attain, whether by direct or circuitous means, the universal establishment of schools, in which the business of religious instruction should be kept wholly apart from the business of general instruction. He should also be glad, if the noble Lord would inform him whether, as related to the schools proposed to be established, the board would be free to make grants of money from whatever sums the House might determine to appropriate to the purpose of education?

Lord John Russell

said, that the board would be constituted entirely of persons holding other offices and receiving no salary. It would, no doubt, be competent to the Government to change the members of the board; but, in that case, though persons holding no other office might be placed upon it, no salary would be paid. With regard to the other question asked by the hon. Gentleman, he did not anticipate that the board would have any funds from which to make any allowance to schools. If there should be any vote of money to the British and Foreign School Society, they might make an appropriation of that sum; but he did not think that any vote of the present year would place a fund at their disposal.

Mr. Gladstone

observed, that at present a sum of money was annually voted to aid the building of school-houses. He wished to know whether the new board of education would be free to make grants of money, in aid either of schools or school-houses, in which schools or school-houses any form of religion, or no form of religion, might be taught.

Lord John Russell

repeated, that he did not anticipate that any sum which might be voted this year would be applied either in aid of schools or school-houses. The only available sum would be part of the grant voted in former years in aid of schools under the guidance of the British and Foreign School Society. If it were intended to appropriate any of the public money to any other class of schools, he should think it necessary to make a statement to that effect in bringing in the bill.

Mr. S. O'Brien

expressed his general concurrence in the plan of education proposed by the noble Lord, He regretted but one thing—that the amount of the proposed grant was so miserably small. A grant of 30,000l. a-year to meet the deficiency of education in this great and populous country was absolutely ridiculous. He hoped that the noble Lord would be prepared to propose a vote of at least 200,000l. for this purpose.

Mr. Goulburn

expressed a hope that the noble Lord would lay upon the Table the definite rules which were to govern the board in the distribution of the funds to be applied to the purposes of education.

Viscount Sandon,

alluding to the normal schools which it was proposed to establish for the education of teachers, begged to know what guarantee was given for the nature of the religious instruction to be given in those schools?

Lord John Russell,

in reply to the observation of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn), stated, that he wished to have as early an opportunity as possible of stating to the House, the general view which the Government took of the subject, because much misconception at present prevailed upon that point. The House would not be called upon to consent to any vote of money without being informed of the exact course which Government intended to pursue. The noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon), had asked him how the doctrines of the Church of England were to be guaranteed in the normal schools? That undoubtedly was one of the points upon which the board, when formed, would have to deliberate. He supposed that there must be a clergyman of the Church of England to teach the doctrines of that Church.

Sir R. Peel

thought it of the greatest importance, before the House was called upon to give any vote on this subject, that these points should be settled—that the House should be placed in possession of distinct information as to the principles upon which this board of education would be guided. For observe, if the House made the vote merely upon an understanding that hereafter the board should decide in what way the system of education to be adopted should be made to accord with the principles of the Church of England, they would be leaving to the board the widest possible discretion. No doubt, the proper time for discussing this point would be when the proposal was made for the grant of money. It would then be perfectly open to the House, if it thought the discretionary power extended to the board too great, to take the course which he, under such circumstances, should decidedly take, of objecting to the grant altogether. He had not expected that the noble Lord would upon that occasion have entered into any exposition of the views which the Government entertained upon this subject, because the noble Lord's notice indicated nothing more than the presentation of papers. The noble Lord's statement, therefore, had taken him by surprise. He had listened to it with the utmost attention, and confessed that he feared the plan it unfolded must be open to much greater objection than would appear from any thing contained in the statement itself, but which was to be inferred from the ready assent given to it by several hon. Gentlemen who entertained views upon the subject of education generally, from which he totally dissented. The noble Lord proposed to establish a board composed exclusively of persons holding other official situations. He should entertain doubts as to the policy of giving to a board so composed of official men, and therefore necessarily party men, any general superintendence or controlling power over a matter of so much importance as a system of general education. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Wyse), in giving his assent to the proposed plan, said it was entirely satisfactory to him. Another hon. Gentleman speaking from the same quarter of the House, also declared that he was perfectly satisfied with it; nay, even went so far as to suggest a grant of 200,000l. a-year, to be placed under the control of this board. He would only observe that the grant of such a sum would at once have the effect of giving to the board a controlling power over the system of education to be adopted throughout the country. The noble Lord in the first part of his speech, combated a number of objections, which he had never heard made. The noble Lord appeared to be labouring under an apprehension which, as far as he was concerned, was entirely without foundation. The noble Lord told the House that at the period of the Revolution, and upon the accession of the house of Hanover, the liberty of education had been disputed by a party in the State; and the noble Lord seemed to imply that there was a design on the part of some party in the State at present disposed to interfere with the freedom of education. The noble Lord appeared to labour under an apprehension that there were persons who intended to propose that the Established Church should have some power over the education of the people, and that the people, though dissenting from the Established Church, should be compelled to receive instructions in its doctrines. He could only say for himself, that he should offer the most strenuous opposition in his power to any plan that would violate the perfect liberty of education. At the meeting at which he attended, it was for this that they contended—that they (the members of the Established Church) should enjoy the same benefit of liberty of education which they were content that others should enjoy. This they claimed to themselves the perfect right to do—to form societies and to establish schools in connection with the Church, and to insist upon it as an essential condition of the education to be given in those schools, that the children instructed in them should be brought up in the principles of the Established Church. I hope (continued the right hon. Baronet) the noble Lord does not dissent from this proposition. We claim for ourselves that right which the Roman Catholics exercise, which the Dissenters of every class exercise, and which it is perfectly just that they should exercise, namely, that education being free, and liberty of instruction having been established, we, the members of the Church of England, should enjoy that liberty for ourselves which we readily concede to others. At the meeting at which I attended these were the principles which were contended for. The noble Lord appeared to apprehend that the House of Commons was inclined to restrict the vote for education exclusively to instruction in the principles of the Church. Now, I apprehend, that when the noble Lord, in the course of last year, proposed a grant of 20,000l. to be distributed by the Treasury, it was perfectly well known to the House of Commons that instruction in the principles of the Church of England was not an indispensable condition in the distribution of that grant. I believe that that was fully understood by the House; and after the assent which was given to that grant, and the little opposition it received, I must say, that those apprehensions which the noble Lord seemed to intimate to-night, and which, judging from the harmony that has prevailed among the Gentlemen opposite, have given such universal satisfaction to his supporters, do appear to me to be rather groundless. For, in the grant of last year, the House of Commons had assented to this principle—namely, that they were prepared, upon certain conditions, to grant public money for the construction of school-houses, in which school-houses an exclusive education in the doctrines of the Church of England should not necessarily prevail. What, then, is it which has raised these apprehensions in the noble Lord's mind. It must be an apprehension, either that there is an intention on the part of some to refuse a grant this year on a similar principle; or, what is still more improbable, a determination on the part of others to compel the education to be in accordance with the principles of the Established Church. Whether there be any such intentions I know not, but I confess I never heard that any such were entertained before in this House. Now, I wish to ask the noble Lord, whether this board, composed of privy councillors and other persons, is to discharge these functions, which the Treasury has hitherto performed with respect to the appropriation of these funds? I believe hitherto the principle of the grant has been this—that you wanted to encourage that which, after all, it is of the utmost importance to encourage, namely, voluntary, local exertions for the purposes and promotion of education. That was the pervading principle of the grant. You said, "We will not take upon ourselves exclusively the charge of the education of the poor; but we will encourage those who have a local interest in the prosperity and peace of the country, in the protection of property, and in the moral improvement of their fellow creatures; we will encourage them by making advances from time to time to those who exert them- selves, proportioning the amount of those advances to the sums raised by them." I hope you do not mean to deprive these persons of the benefit of that principle; but if you adhere to it, do you mean that the Treasury shall still have the distribution of any portion of those funds or that the new board is to discharge the duties which are at present performed by the Treasury? The noble Lord, in answer to the question put to him, said—supposing no vote should be made for the British and Foreign Education Society; but he said nothing of the National Education Society—[Lord John Russell it was forgotten.] I am very glad to find, that it was an unintentional omission on the part of the noble Lord. I do hope that if there is to be a public vote of money, the National Education Society will not be excluded from the benefit of it. The question, then, which I wish to ask the noble Lord upon that head is, whether the Treasury is to exercise any control over the appropriation of the fund, or whether that appropriation is to be placed in the hands of the new board? With respect to the normal schools—my noble Friend has asked a question upon that head which I consider to be of the utmost importance. The noble Lord certainly said, that there were instructors to be brought up in these schools who were to be exclusively instructed in the principles of the Established Church previously to their going forth to the different schools in the country; it is therefore of the utmost importance to ascertain precisely what is the principle upon which the system of education is to be conducted. Of course I infer from the noble Lord's speech that other instructors of youth, professing other doctrines than those of the Established Church, are to be educated in the same normal schools; it becomes also important, therefore, to know upon what principle their education is to be conducted; and generally as a religious education is to be given in these normal schools, it is likewise important to know upon what principle it is to be conducted where it is evident the instructors may profess different doctrines. The noble Lord anticipates very great advantage from instructing children in certain mechanical arts in these schools. I am afraid, that disappointment will be the result of any such experiment. A proficiency in any trade can, I think, be only acquired by the closest application to that trade. This must give the learner an immense advantage over those instructed in schools, and in fact the only way in which an expert workman can be trained, is to bring him up in the profession which he is afterwards to pursue. I did not exactly understand the noble Lord with respect to that part of his plan which refers to parochial assessments. I apprehend the noble Lord will find some difficulty in introducing that principle. I cannot conceive how he will obtain its adoption. The first question in the parish will be who is the master, and what is his religious profession. The noble Lord very justly said, that there is such a difference of opinion throughout the country upon this subject at present that he thought it was better that the Government should not interfere. Now, so strong is my impression that the same principle must be applied to parishes as to the government and the state, that I think the noble Lord must not attempt to introduce the principle of compulsory assessment into parishes. Where the dissenters form a great minority, and the rest of the inhabitants of the parish are members of the Established Church, I cannot believe, that the system of compulsory assessment will give satisfaction to the dissenters, or that they will submit, in cases where the members of the Church preponderate in the vestry, to a tax imposed by them for the support of these schools. I hope the noble Lord will also pause before he gives any control over the education of the people to the Poor-law guardians. It appears to me that the duties which devolve upon the guardians of the poor are sufficiently onerous. I trust the attention of the guardians will be continually given to the schools; but I hope the noble Lord will take care, first, how he over-burthens them with functions; and, secondly, how he gives to them functions to perform other than those connected with the discharge of their duties as Poor-law guardians; and, lastly, I hope the noble Lord will take care that he does not expose them or the law to unpopularity on account of any unnecessary interference with education. I believe the noble Lord disclaims all direct interference on the part of the Government with the established schools, or that the Government should have any direct superintending power over them. But, while it is satisfactory to hear that disclaimer on the part of the government, I fully reserve to myself not only the right of negativing any grant that may be proposed, but also the power of giving the most mature consideration to that part of the noble Lord's plan which vests in the Government the power of superintending, however indirectly, the general education of the people. I, for one, am deeply convinced of the absolute necessity, and of the moral obligation, of providing for the education of the people. But I am, at the same time, perfectly convinced that that can only be effectually done in this country, where so much religious dissent prevails, and that it is infinitely more likely to be done without disturbing the good understanding and the existing harmony between the professors of different faiths, by leaving it to the voluntary exertions of the parties themselves and by permitting each to educate his children, as he at present is at liberty to do, in the principles of that faith in which they were born. I cannot help expressing my confident belief, that the Church of England is now awakened to the absolute necessity—not by force, not by compulsion, not by interfering in the slightest degree with the principles of perfect religious freedom, but awakened to the absolute necessity of assuming that position which she ought to assume, in constant and cordial co-operation with the landed proprietors, and other influential classes of this country, and, that the only satisfactory way of having a system of education—which ought to be founded upon the basis of religion—in this country is, for each party to act for themselves—imposing no restriction upon others—but, above all, that the members of the Establishment, whether lay or clerical, shall not be ashamed of insisting, that, in their education, the doctrines and principles of the faith which they profess shall be an indispensable condition to any voluntary system of education introduced among them.

Lord John Russell

in respect to the question which the right hon. Baronet has asked—namely, whether the sum which may be voted by this House for building school-houses for the National Education Society are to be under the control of the Treasury or of this new board?—my answer is, that while we are placing other subjects of the same nature under the control of the board, the disposal of this grant would likewise come under its direction. The right hon. Baronet seems to think, that this is a point of some importance; but I do not think it is, because the Treasury, after all, consisting as it does of none but official persons, their disposal of the grant must be with the consent of the board of Education. At present the appropriation of the grant was very much in the hands of those two societies, which pointed out the mode by which it could be most advantageously employed. The mode in which it was disposed of hereafter would necessarily be according to that which the National Education society, and the British and Foreign School Society, pointed out as the manner in which the greatest possible instruction could be given. With respect to the plan itself, I must say, I did think it necessary to make some general statement, even although there were several matters upon which no definite resolution had been arrived at, because I certainly saw, that if the discussions which were going on upon this subject, throughout the country, were allowed to continue without any sort of explanation on the part of the Government, there would soon have been established in the minds of the people some proposition concerning it; and if that proposition were the most objectionable that could be made, it would soon have been given out as the proposition of the Government. In such an event it is well known how very difficult, in the end, it would have been, to contradict that proposition. We know how very easy, and how very common it is in these days to give out, that certain things are about to be done, and that afterwards when it is found, that nothing of the kind was ever even in contemplation, how ready persons were to exclaim,—"Aye, it was our opposition—it was our objections that prevented it!" Such was my reason for having entered thus early into a statement of the plan which the Government intended to submit to the House. It certainly must be some time before any vote can be proposed to this House upon the subject; and, undoubtedly, the right hon. Baronet, as well as every other Member, is fully at liberty to declare his dissent, if he think proper, to any proposition contained in the estimates. The right hon. Baronet has used the expression, and I think a just expression, that the Church is awakened on this subject. I rejoice, that there is now so much zeal shown upon the subject of education. I may doubt, perhaps, whether so much zeal would have been shown if there had not been in some other quarters—I do not say the Government, but amongst other portions of the community—a disposition evinced to forward this subject of education. I must certainly be permitted to doubt, whether, if there had been no such changes as we have seen of late years, there would have been any further exertion on the subject of education than we saw during the very long period of years, when those who assumed to themselves to be exclusively the friends of the Church bad the almost unopposed management of public affairs. While seeing with very great pleasure the exertions that have been recently made, and learning with equal pleasure, that there is an awakening upon this subject on the part of those who certainly have been slumbering a long time, still I do entertain—groundless as the right hon. Baronet may think them—some apprehensions with regard to the manner in which this newly-awakened zeal would be exercised, if there were no suspicions timely aroused as to the possibility of its being abused and perverted to ends very mischievous; because I, in common with others, have seen theories propounded, and have seen doctrines advanced in respect to the state of the Church, which I certainly think, if pushed out to their full consequences, would in the end establish that which the right hon. Baronet says he should oppose, namely, a system by which the whole education of the people would be placed in the hands of the Church, and by which none but members of that Church would have the right of partaking of that education. I do not indeed believe, that even if it had not been the fact, that a great portion of the people were alive upon the subject of education, founded upon the principles of religious freedom, any such consequences were likely to have happened; but I do think if public attention had not been called to it, there might have been reason to apprehend some very considerable innovation upon a subject which seemed to have been settled both by law and by the general grants of this House, which have taken place of late years. I certainly do entertain in some degree these apprehensions; and therefore I stated them. But I trust, that the general feeling of the House, whether the plan of the Government be approved of or not, will be decidedly in Favour of freedom of education.

Mr. Briscoe

begged leave to call the attention of the House to the state of religion and education in the remote parts of the country. He hoped that some alteration would take place on that subject, and that the most necessitous parts of the country would not be the most neglected.

Papers to lie on the table, and be printed.

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