HC Deb 15 July 1842 vol 65 cc185-98

On the question that 30,000l. be granted for Education,

Mr. Ewart

regretted the smallness of this grant, which was utterly and discreditably inadequate to its momentous object. He also could not help observing on the benefit which would result from the presentation to Parliament of an annual statement or report on this great subject by some Minister of the Crown, so as to place before the Legislature the state of education in all its branches, and thus awaken more attention to it. He wished to ask, whether there was any intention of altering the grant or its application?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the Government were not prepared at present to alter the amount or the application of the grant, adhering closely to the last minute of council on the subject; and of course it would not be well, on such an occasion, to make any declaration as to future proceedings on so important a subject.

Mr. M. Gibson

concurred in deprecating the extreme paltriness of the grant; but he was yet more concerned on account of the quality of the education. Our national schools, as they were called, gave nothing but mere church-catechism instruction, with no information calculated to interest the mind, or expand the understanding. The authority of the hon. and rev. Baptist Noel would probably be respected on such a subject; and that rev. Gentleman stated (in the last report of the inspectors) that— With the best intentions, those who had conducted the national school education system had given even to the eldest children nothing beyond church catechism instruction, the Bible being the only class book, and the effect has been most injurious. The thirst for variety, which, for the wisest purposes, had been implanted in the youthful mind, was thus led to seek pernicious gratification. Nothing could exceed the contrast between the eagerness for information manifested in a well-taught school, and the apathy in those conducted after the manner stated. The Bible was thus associated with all the uneasiness and discomfort connected with faults in reading or spelling; and it was well if through after-life this appropriation of the sacred volume to purposes for which it never was designed, did not lead to a great distaste and aversion for religion. Was not such a state of things highly discreditable, and did it not call loudly for alteration? The mere hammering at formularies could but load the memory, and that at the expense of the mind. To show how mischievous was the working of this system, numbers of instances might be given of answers, painfully ludicrous, given to questions put by Mr. Noel to the children in different schools; as when a child, asked what religion St. Paul was before his conversion, replied "a Roman Catholic." Was this education? Was this instruction even in that which it professed to be,—viz. religion? And what information was communicated to the children of a general nature? Nothing at all. Surely, there was no use, but great evil, in confounding and confusing together secular and religious education; the result was injurious in respect both to one and the other, and neither would be well administered till they were kept separate. It was fervently to be hoped that, for the growing generations of this country, Parliament would, ere long, provide at least a really sound and salutary system of secular instruction.

Mr. Brotherton

expressed his regret that. Government had not proposed a larger grant. They had voted between 300,000l. and 400,000l. for the punishment of criminals; they had voted large sums for the punishment of crime, but only a miserable sum for the prevention of it. He was sure, that if the Government had asked for a larger grant that the House would have been very ready to accede to it. So far from an increased grant being an additional burden, it would, in his opinion, be an act of well-timed liberality.

Dr. Bowring

thought it a great reproach to a nation so opulent as England, that they should vote the miserable sum of 30,000l. for the most important of all na- tional purposes. When he considered the amount which foreign Governments devoted to the purposes of education, in many instances an amount larger than what they expended in support of the army, he felt ashamed that the Government of England should dole out such a paltry sum. Considering the great number of uninstructed people in this country, he did hope that the time was not far distant when a larger amount would be voted.

Mr. Protheroe

observed, that the people of England were not agreed as to what they would have in the way of education. The Church would not permit the Dissenters to participate with them in the advantages of education, and some of the Dissenters objected to any community of interest with the Churchmen; still he thought, that a system of education might be adopted which would give a great deal of satisfaction, and be productive of beneficial results. No doubt, the reading of the Scriptures ought to be made a sine qua non, and to that the Protestant Dissenters would not object. Then the church catechism might be taught during two or three days of the week, and that species of instruction might be confined to those who were members of the Established Church. He was aware, that such a plan would have the effect of excluding a large portion of her Majesty's subjects, he meant the Roman Catholics; but they were chiefly to be found in Liverpool and Manchester, for which places special grants might be made without in any respect impeding the progress of national education.

Mr. Childers

wished to know from the right hon. Baronet whether he intended to propose any grant for the classes which were taught at Exeter-hall? The hon. Member complained, that the Government had not developed any plan as to their future operations on the subject of education. The question was one of vital importance. There was not one of the northern nations of Europe in which the people were so ill educated as in England; and of the three kingdoms subsisting under this Government, there was not one in which the people were so imperfectly educated as in that part of the United Kingdom called England. The Scotch were decidedly in a better condition, and the Irish were rapidly improving. In England, there were many towns of 6,000 or 7,000 inhabitants in which there was not a general school, national, or belonging to the British and Foreign School Society. In the town of Oldham, where there were 60,000 or 70,000 inhabitants, there was no school belonging to either of those establishments. [An hon. Member: It is not correct.] The present Government enjoyed the confidence of the ecclesiastical authorities in this country, and he hoped that they would avail themselves of that circumstance to bring about the establishment of a good system of education.

Sir J. Graham

said, he had heard with amazement the statement that there were no schools in Oldham; that assertion, however, having been contradicted by an hon. Member who had the means of knowing, he should say no more on that point. When the hon. Member who spoke last stated as a matter within his own knowledge that there were towns containing 6,000 or 7,000 inhabitants destitute of the advantage of public education, he (Sir J. Graham) was bound to admit that it must be so; but if he had heard that statement from any one else he should be greatly disposed to question its accuracy. Complaints had been made that a sum of 30,000l. was too small— it would be very much too small if that were the only sum available for the purposes of education; but it could not be forgotten that pious, benevolent, and rich men had appropriated large sums for the purposes of education; that portions of those monies had been misapplied was a matter which did not affect the present argument, as a considerable part of them was available for the objects of education, and education in this country, so far from retrograding, was rapidly advancing. On the part of her Majesty's Government he disclaimed any want of sympathy with the public on a subject the importance of which it was impossible to overrate. Hon. Members would recollect that the sum of 30,000l. had been appropriated to education only within the last three or four years, and that after much discussion, it was at length agreed to be granted, and the mode of its application was to be proceeded with on what was called neutral ground. The present Government now asked for the same sum as their predecessors, which sum was to be applied to the same purposes and according to the rules formerly adopted. As to the singing- classes at Exeter-hall, it was the opinion of Government that no portion of the present vote should be granted for their encouragement, for it was not thought that those classes fell within the terms of the original vote. It was the intention of Government to take the matter into consideration, and if they should decide upon proposing any vote on the subject it would be a specific vote, and form no deduction from the sum now under discussion.

Mr. Childers

said, that in Lincolnshire, in Cambridgeshire, and other counties, there were towns of the size he mentioned without general schools.

Mr. Hume

said, that the lamentable state of education in England was a reproach to the nation. It was lamentable to think that they had asked 20000l. for a prison here, and another 20,000l. for a prison there, and that they were so disinclined to give the people the means of that instruction which would prevent crime. The late Government were well disposed to act liberally on this subject, but hon. Gentlemen opposite stepped in and prevented them. They had the power now, and he hoped they would use it, in order to obtain an efficient system of education for the people of this country. The destitution in this respect was deplorable. In some parts of Lancashire he found, from the rev. Baptist Noel's report, that only a thirty-fourth part of the people were educated, while he believed the proportion in Prussia was one-sixth. It was one of the evils of an Established Church that it prevented any education of which it did not possess the control. He wished the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire (Lord Stanley) would apply the principles which he had introduced into the system of education in Ireland to that pursued in England. Government could carry this point if they pleased, and it was a great reproach to them that they had not done so. He wished the Government to take the whole responsibility of the education of the country. Instead of 30,000l. he believed the House would be perfectly prepared to give ten times thirty thousand pounds for such a purpose. The House of Commons were willing, but the Government were unwilling to act liberally on this question; and he thought that the Government was not doing its duty in thus neglecting to give to the country a sound system of secular education, leaving the religious instruction to the care of the clergy.

An hon. Member called the attention of the Government to the report of the commission appointed some years ago, at the suggestion of Lord Brougham, to inquire into charities, which report, he was sorry to say, had produced no practical benefit. The funds of many charity schools were misappropriated; in fact, he knew instances in which they were pocketed by individuals; and there was no remedy against these abuses except the extensive and tedious one of going to the Court of Chancery.

Mr. Hardy

thought, that if a religious education was to be given, something specific must be taught, otherwise the children would be left in a state the most deplorable, of uncertainty as to their faith and those principles which the hon. Member for Halifax had observed ought to be implanted in the heart and to govern the affections. An hon. Gentleman had said be would not. exclude the Bible, nor would he (Mr. Hardy). He would have the children scripturally instructed; but how was that to be done unless the meaning of the Scriptures was explained? And would there not be as many different modes of explaining them as there were teachers? Suppose, for instance, the passage to be read which declares that "We are bought with a price, and therefore ye should glorify God with your bodies and souls, which are his." Suppose the scholar were to ask the meaning of our being" bought with a price? "Would the hon. Member for Montrose prevent him from being taught that the purchase was made by Christ offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins? But would the Socinian permit that? The doctrine would be inculcated by teachers connected with the Church of England, and by those of orthodox denominations, such as the Independents, the Methodists, the Baptists, and others; but there were some who would not tolerate it. Suppose that narrative of the dialogue between Philip and the Eunuch formed the reading lesson of a class. It was there stated that Philip "preached unto him Jesus." Were the scholars to ask the meaning of that statement, would it not be necessary for the teacher to go into a full explanation of the whole doctrine of salvation as held by the Church of England? The orthodox denominations would not object to that course, but there were many that would, and give very different interpretations. If the Bible were used as a class book, it ought to be properly explained, in order that the minds of the children might be furnished with sound and right principles, which would influence them to discharge the duties of life faithfully, honestly, and zealously. It was not for the mere teaching of letters that the Scriptures should be used in schools—that could be accomplished by a more secular course: but for the inculcation of morality and religion, for all true morality was founded on religion. A mere moral man was responsible only to himself, but a religious man looked higher, and owned that he was responsible not only to man, but to the Almighty. As soon then as such feelings were established in the mind of a child you had a guarantee for the soundness of his principles, and a security for his future good conduct. He should be sorry then to see any system of education flourish which excluded the principles of the Church of England— those principles which the country required the Sovereign to recognise and maintain.

Mr. Gibson

must press his question on the Secretary for the Home Department. The inspectors had reported that the instruction in the national schools was wholly inefficient, both in a secular and a religious view of it. Why, the hon. and rev. Baptist Noel, and others, had been formally appointed to report upon the state of those schools. It was understood that the public money had been granted in order, that as far as that money could go to procure it, a bonâ fide education should be given to the people. The clergy had for years the whole apparatus of education in their hands; they had been tried, and found wanting. The consequence was a lamentable deficiency of public instruction. The inspectors who made that report were not indifferent to religion; they were clergymen themselves, and were not likely to say or do anything to discourage religious education; yet they said that the whole system of the national schools was calculated to maintain ignorance, as it taught nothing but mere formalities without any solid information. A plan was about to be put in execution for the establishment of industrial schools for pauper children—would they not also provide for the proper training of the children of the industrious and independent labourer? Let them adopt a sound system of education for the national schools, and not leave them to the mere lifeless and mechanical teaching of the Church catechism.

Sir R. Inglis

earnestly hoped, that his right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department would not suffer himself to be misrepresented as he had been by a noble Lord in another place. He had, from the very first, contended, that no system of education deserved the name that was not based upon religion; and he felt it impossible to reconcile the inconsistency of granting a sum of money to any joint institution composed of persons of entirely different religious sentiments, to support a school in which the Scriptures could not be explained by one party without his being checked and told that he was violating the feelings of another; still, as the grant had been sanctioned by Parliament, as the system had in fact become the law of the land, he did not think her Majesty's Government were to be taunted because they had formerly opposed it, for administering it as they found it, and without carrying it beyond its former extent. He must say, however, that the doctrines which had been set forth elsewhere in relation to this subject, by one of the Colleagues of her Majesty's Government went far to violate that principle of neutrality, and to encourage sentiments which were destructive of the rights and privileges of the Established Church. The hon. Member for Montrose, in a whisper which he intended should be audible, said, that it was high time the interests of the Established Church should cease. He hoped the House would bear in mind that declaration of the hon. Member. But, perhaps, he was not sincere in it. At all events, he hoped that the hon. Member was sincere in another sentiment to which he had given expression, and in which he fully concurred. [Mr. Hume held up his hands with astonishment.] Why, the hon. Member seemed ashamed of it already. [Mr. Hume "No."] The hon. Member had stated, that while we were squandering large sums to repress crime, as he called it, we were sparing of money for the education of the people. He took down the words of the hon. Member at the time:— We should save thousands and thousands by educating and instructing the people— those who are now perishing in ignorance and vice. Why, that was the very opinion which he (Sir R. Inglis) bad endeavoured over and over again to enforce upon the House, and particularly upon the hon. Member and his Friends, with whom he differed only as to what was education. He asserted it was that which was begun in Christian schools under Christian teachers, and perfected in Christian churches under Christian ministers. That was a very defective education which left a youth at an age when he was most exposed to dangerous temptations without a church to go to, and a watchful training of him up to the state of manhood.

Sir J. Graham

I am most anxious to say a few words after what has fallen from my hon. Friend, who must think me unworthy of his friendship, if I could sit still and hear a Colleague assailed who is not present, and, therefore, unable to answer the charges made against him. My hon. Friend is peculiarly unfortunate this evening. My hon. Friend is a great stickler for order in this House, yet nothing could be more disorderly than the course he has pursued upon this occasion. My hon. Friend has not been content with referring to proceedings elsewhere, but he distinctly referred to a speech delivered by a noble Lord in the other House of Parliament. In that respect he had departed from order. My hon. Friend declares himself to be a sincere friend to the present Administration, yet, upon this occasion, he has taken a course which—though not designedly, perhaps, is calculated to foment jealousies and sow dissensions amongst the Members of her Majesty's Government. I cannot accept of any compliment from the hon. Member, at the expense of my noble Colleague, the President of the Council, with respect to whose conduct concerning a bill which has been mentioned, I will say, that bill has been read a second time in the Lords, and that whenever that bill shall be returned, whatever alterations may be made in it, I shall still adhere to my opinions. With the declarations made by my noble Friend, the President of the Council, as I understand the nature of them, fully concur. I am not aware of any one sentence in his speech, from which [am prepared to dissent. My hon. Friend has stated in general terms, that those declarations are subversive of the Church of England. [Sir R. Inglis: If I used a phrase so strong as subversive, I retract it.] The moment my hon. Friend disclaims the expression, of course, I must cease to impute it to him; but he said, that those declarations were injurious to the Establishment. When my noble Friend made the speech alluded to, there were present the Primate of England, and several Members of the Bench of Bishops; not one of them reprobated the sentiments of my noble Colleague. Not one of them expressed opinions similar to those which the hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford, has this night given utterance to, The hon. Baronet may consider himself a better guardian of the Church than the Archbishops and Bishops in Parliament assembled, but I must be allowed to retain my opinion, that if the learned Prelates who adorn the Bench of Bishops, and who were present when that speech was made in the other House, had heard the President of the Council make use of a single passage which merited the censure of being injurious to the Established Church, they would have risen in their places, and repudiated it, and denounce the measure which had been brought forward. But no objection was taken at the time by the Bench of Bishops to the speech of my noble Friend and Colleague, the President of the Council, I would ask, what does the hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford, object to? The hon. Baronet has talked in general terms, but I have yet to learn what his specific objections are. With regard to the grant for the purposes of education, I will inform the House that her Majesty's Government adhere, as the President of the Council stated in another place, to the Minute of Council of 1839. That Minute was the result, it may be said, of a compromise, but it was a compromise dictated by the political opponents of the late Government. Who were the parties to that compromise? The Archbishops and Prelates of the Established Church. They were consulted on the question. Who are the inspectors? The inspectors of the national schools are appointed with the consent of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has an absolute veto. The arrangement which was then entered into was one adopted by her Majesty in Council in consequence of the course pursued by those then in opposition to the Government, and who now constitute the Government of the country. That arrangement met with the full concurrence of the Prelates, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and particularly of the Bishop of London. I can inform the hon. Baronet, the Member for the University of Oxford, that what fell from the President of the Council in another place, is in strict accordance with the Minute of Council of 1839, to which the Government strictly adheres. In the distribution of the grant of public money for the purposes of education, it is the intention of her Majesty's Government to act upon the terms of the Minute of Council of 1839, to which I have already referred. I repeat, that it is the opinion of the Government that no portion of the sum should be appropriated to the classes at Exeter Hall. It is thought that they do not fall within the limit of the Minute of Council, and that such an appropriation would be inconsistent with the terms of the grant now under the consideration of the House. On this point, I will say, that if her Majesty's Government should think it expedient to apply for a grant for the classes to which I have alluded, they would consider it their duty to submit, for that special purpose, a supplemental estimate, and take the sense of the House on the subject. If I were asked my opinion of the classes at Exeter Hall, I would not hesitate to assert, that a more innocent, a more moral or desirable recreation, and one more calculated for the amusement and instruction of the working classes after the arduous labours of the day, could not be well devised. I consider the efforts which have been made by those who have the direction of those classes praiseworthy in the highest degree. [Sir R. Inglis: That is not the question.] I must say then that I do not understand the purport of the hon. Baronet's observations or the ground of his objection. The hon. Baronet declared that the opinions of my noble Colleague the President of the Council have a tendency to encourage sentiments destructive of the rights and privileges of the Church, and are subversive of the principles upon which all education ought to be based. Is not singing an innocent recreation? I cannot conceive what especial objection the hon. Baronet can urge against. What are the other three classes? They are instructed in arithmetic, linear drawing, and writing. I would ask whether there can be anything less exceptionable, or more advantageous and useful, than instruction in the three branches I have specified? It is said, this is education. I say no. The classes are composed of adults and artisans. Education, according to my view of the subject, consists in training the mind of the infant population with reference to their moral and religious duties. This is the recreation mixed with the instruction of the adults, at the class, after hours of labour. It is innocent and useful amusement instead of profligate debauchery. In reply to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester, I will observe, that a large sum has been granted to the normal schools, and in Scotland such schools have been established in Glasgow and Edinburgh, in direct connection with the religious establishment of that country. The hon. Member for Montrose has observed that I speak like a person under the influence of great restraint. I can assure the hon. Member that I endeavour as far as I am able to speak frankly my opinions. I know nothing so indiscreet or unworthy, I was going to say dishonest, on the part of a Government, as to hold out vague generalities, big with promise, before their plans have been deliberately considered and well matured. The course which the hon. Member deprecates is not that which my right hon. Friend at the head of her Majesty's Government is in the habit of pursuing on any question likely to be brought under the consideration of Parliament. My Tight hon. Friend does not conduct the business of the Government on those principles. It is the endeavour of the Government to mature the measures which they bring forward, and having done so they will manfully support them. The subject of education the Government has been anxiously considering. The system of education which we recommend is based on the principles to which I have already referred. It is our own basis, and not that of our opponents. We will not only adhere to it, but do our utmost to extend it. Normal schools I think most desirable. With reference to those it is the intention of Government to enforce a most rigorous system of inspection. I think that it is wrong to suppose that 30,000l. is the whole of the expenditure for the promotion of education. It is true that the grant amounts to that sum, but 120,000l. or 130,000l. is annually appropriated by private individuals for educational objects in aid and in addition to the public grant. I acquiesce in the views expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tavistock. I believe that there are large sums be- queathed for purposes of education, which are misappropriated, and which may be made available. It will be the duty of the Government to investigate this matter, and to apply to the purposes of national education every fund, which in equity and law may be made answerable to this sacred use. If we should find it difficult to carry out these views with reference to education into effect, it is our intention to trust to the liberality of Parliament for an additional grant.

Sir R. Inglis

said, that he admitted the force of the rebuke, and his justification must be that he followed the example of the hon. Member for Montrose.

Mr. Vernon Smith

was too much rejoiced at the manner in which the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had spoken out, to wish to say anything in contradiction to what he had stated, except on one point. The right hon. Baronet seemed to be in difficulty as to the object of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford. Now it appeared to him, that the only object of the hon. Baronet was, that the Government should revert to the opposition which was given to the Government upon this subject in 1838. There was one expression which had been used by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) in reference to this question, to which he (Mr. V. Smith) objected. It was that the minute of council of 1839 was a compromise. It seemed to him to be an abuse of words. A compromise must consist of mutual concessions; but when the Government of 1839 brought forward their proposition, they did it with as much good faith as they proposed it in 1838. They brought their proposition forward, believing that it was the utmost measure the country would receive from the Government. He hoped the present Government were prepared to act up to that proposition. He conceived that the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford, wished to create dissention between the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, and the noble Lord the President of the Council upon this subject. He, however, trusted that upon the question of education, the noble Lord (Lord Wharncliffe) and the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) would move on hand in hand. He exceedingly admired the speech of the noble Lord the President of the Council; indeed, it was admired by the Marquess of Lansdowne, who was as competent a man as any to pass a judgment upon it. He was also much delighted to hear the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham), and he had risen simply for the purpose of correcting what he believed, if the right hon. Baronet had to speak again, he would admit to be an error, that the compromise was not dictated by the political opponents of the late Government, but that it was the result of mature consideration of the then Government with the heads of the Church, it being deemed essential to so important a measure as that of public education, that there should be perfect unanimity between the Government and Parliament.

Sir James Graham

would gladly retract the word "dictation," but he must repeat that the minute in council was a compromise, and that that compromise resulted from the resistance offered by the then opposition to the proposals made by the then Government.

Mr. Wyse

was much pleased that the Government had determined upon establishing the system of a normal school. He had always anticipated that a light would flow in, and that a period would arrive when both sides of the House would be anxious to assist in the spread of education, and he was glad to find that her Majesty's Ministers were the most forward in advancing those measures which they had formerly opposed. He thought the system should be one of a most comprehensive kind. Not only those schools which were under the immediate cognizance of the council should be the subject of inspection, but private establishments should be invited to place themselves under the same inspection, and should be included in the report of the inspectors to Parliament. He begged, in conclusion, to express his sincere joy, at the recent declaration of the noble President of the Council in the other House of Parliament.

Vote agreed to.