HC Deb 07 April 1843 vol 68 cc687-726

House in Committee of Supply—Miscellaneous Estimates.

On the question that 4,122l. be granted for defraying the expense of maintaining Criminal Lunatics in Bethlehem Hospital,

Mr. Hume

objected to the large cost which it appeared each of these criminal lunatics involved the country in. The average was not less than 40l.. per head, whereas thousands of industrious people in this country were able and glad to maintain themselves for 25l. a head, and less. He thought that some means should be adopted by which offenders of this description, when they again had their intellects restored to them, should no longer enjoy comparative impunity, under the idea of their still being insane. He had visited the criminal lunatics confined in Bethlehem many times at intervals, and there were several of them who appeared to him to be perfectly sane. Mr. Hatfield, among others, had been kept for forty years at the public expense, an insane criminal, though as far as he had been able to judge, that person for many years was in full possession of all his mental faculties.

Vote agreed to.

On the question that the sum of 52,474l.. be granted to enable the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland to issue money for the advancement of education in Ireland,

Mr. Shaw

said, he could not allow that vote to pass without troubling the committee with some observations upon it. It was not possible for him to raise the question in such a shape as to take the sense of the committee upon the vote. He did not desire to diminish the amount of the grant. On the contrary, he considered that the sum granted by Parliament for the advancement of education, both in this country and in Ireland, was too small, and the forms of the House would prevent his moving to augment it. His remarks would be in the way of remonstrance, and pro- test on behalf of the clergy and the members of the Established Church in Ireland. If hon. Gentleman opposite expected or hoped that he would be betrayed into any angry attack or harsh language against those of a different religious persuasion from himself in Ireland, he trusted that they would be entirely disappointed. He was anxious to address himself to the reason and good feeling of the House and the country, and to persuade even those who differed from him, both in religion and politics, that the Established Church and the children of her communion in Ireland, had been unreasonably dealt with on the subject of national education. He was free to admit the peculiar difficulties arising from the anomalous condition of her people in respect of religious faith, which attended that question in Ireland; and he would not blame her Majesty's Government for acting with every caution and deliberation, and refusing to take any rash or hasty step in a matter of such great delicacy and importance. He did not dissent from the sentiment which had been declared so long ago as the year 1812 in the report of the Board of Education, signed by the primate, Bishop Elrington, and other prelates and heads of the Established Church in Ireland, that in a system of national education for the Roman Catholic population of Ireland, "all interference with their particular religious tenets should be unequivocally disclaimed and effectually guarded against." He did not object, nor had the Church in Ireland objected, to the state giving to the children of religious sects differing from them, the best education they could be induced to receive. What he did complain of, and what he thought, he could in a few words prove to the committee was, that while the state respected and made provision for the scruples of those who dissented from the Established Church, it had disregarded the Conscientious objections of the members of the Church, and refused all educational aid to the poor children of her communion, because on principle they declined to accept it at the hands of the present national board. He Utterly denied that the clergy in Ireland had been influenced in their opposition to the national system of education, and in their refusal to admit their schools into connection with it, by party or political motives. He maintained that their conduct was governed by the highest sense of religious duty. He personally altogether agreed in their sentiments, and could not understand why the Church in Ireland, merely because her numbers were fewer, and her members more scattered and exposed to danger than the Roman Catholics, should be expected to adopt a system, and act upon principles which had been resisted, and would not for a moment be submitted to by the Church in England. The National Board had adopted the discipline of the Church of of Rome in restricting the use of the Sacred Scriptures—and repudiated the great principle of the Church of England, that it was the duty and the right or all to read them. In the hours of united instruction, and during the time that could only be properly said to be the period of national education, not only were the Roman Catholics not required, but the Protestants were not permitted to read the Scriptures. It was true he did not wish to conceal or overstate a single fact connected with the board, it was true that there were certain works of Scripture extracts published by the board for the use of the schools, and the board recommended—but they did not require the scholars to use them. He would not then dwell upon objections which were felt against some of the extracts themselves, as taken from the Douay version, for what he was observing upon at that time, and what applied equally to some passages of Scripture interspersed through the reading books, was for the purpose of showing that in no one instance was religious instruction of any kind made a necessary part of the education afforded by the national system—and it had been well observed by the distinguished and munificent Prelate who presided over the Established Church in Ireland, in his last visitation charge, that "the character of a system of education was determined by its authoritative requirements, and not by its powerless recommendations." He would not detain the Committee by even glancing at various other objections which were entertained by the clergy and the patrons of the church schools in Ireland to the National Board. Such is the constitution of the board—the commissioners themselves being the representatives of the most conflicting religious opinions—for he was then upon the main objection, and that which most weighed upon his own mind—namely, the dishonour done to the word of God: and the total absence, as a requirement of the system, of any portion of religious instruction, without which he did not think a mere secular teaching could pro- perly be termed, in a Christian Community, education at all. He would advert to but one other topic, and that was the fact, which was undeniable, that the system had totally failed in what had been professed as one of its leading effects—united education. In the north of Ireland there were latterly some Presbyterian schools, in connexion with the board; and there were Roman Catholic schools, but they were separate schools of each—and not schools in which the different persuasions of religion were united together. The county of Cork, he believed, might be quoted as a fair sample of the whole of Ireland—here it appeared there were about 30,000 children on the rolls of the national schools, and not ten Protestant children upon them—while in the same county there were about 9,000 children educated in the schools connected with the Church Education Society. After an experience of nearly twelve years, and under different governments, it had been found impossible to reconcile the Protestant clergy and people of Ireland to a system of which they could not conscientiously approve—and at all events, the fact was indisputable that, whether from what he called principle, and others might call prejudice, still the fact remained that, with scarcely an exception—the exceptions indeed were so few as only to prove the rule—the Members of the Established Church derived no aid from the national grant—and there was less union of the children of different denominations in the schools of Ireland at present than there had been before the establishment of the so-called national board. Last Session there were petitions presented to that House couched in mild and temperate, but firm language, assuring the House that from conscientious objections the clergy and members of the Established Church could not place their schools under the present board. These were signed by nearly 900 clergymen, and by about 25,000 of the laity of the church of Ireland—and they had now, with their own unaided resources—and depressed—miserably reduced—as had been the incomes of the Irish clergy for a long series of years—above 1,200 schools, containing more than 70,000 scholars, connected with the Church Education Society, and under the immediate superintendence of the bishops and clergy of the establishment. Was it fair, was it reasonable—was it right, that these alone should be refused the countenance or support of the State, because they acted upon the principles of the Church which was connected with the State, and upon those which pervaded the whole system of national education in England—while every sect and other religious creed in Ireland were receiving assistance from their grants? He did not say the National Board gave the best possible education even to Roman Catholics and other Dissenters; but still, as regarded them, until a better could be provided, he did not desire the abolition of the present board—all he asked was, that the schools connected with the church should receive at least some share of Parliamentary bounty and support. He had himself brought for ward at a public meeting in Ireland, although he did not claim the merit of having originated it, a plan which he had thought would have been free from objection to any reasonable mind. It was, that leaving the national board in Ireland for Roman Catholics and Dissenters much in the same position as the British and Foreign School Society held in England, the church schools in Ireland should be taken into union with the national society in England "For Promoting the Education of the Poor in the principles of the Established Church," and presided over by the prelates and heads of the church in England—the two branches being really one united church of England and Ireland. This plan appeared most desirable for the church, and could not have afforded just ground of offence to any other body. He might without impropriety say, that the suggestion had been approved of by some of the most eminent prelates, and other leading members of the English national society; a few words of alteration in their charter, and an increased grant to the extent of the preparation intended for the Irish branch of the Church, were all that was required. But the present Government refused their sanction. This had been the source of deep disappointment and mortification to the Irish clergy and the friends of the Church in Ireland. They had felt it more "in sorrow than in anger," but still, they felt it deeply. He most reluctantly made a single observation which could reflect upon the present Government, to winch, in general, he gave his warm and independent support; but in this ease, be owed a paramount duty to those whose interests he represented in that House, with whose feelings upon the present question be cordially sympathized; and still, more, to the sacred cause of sound scriptural education, of which he had throughout his life been the humble, but he trusted, the sincere advocate. As he said in the beginning, the forms of the House would not allow of his moving any amendment to the vote then proposed, which would be consistent with the views he had stated to the committee. He would, therefore, only in conclusion express his earnest hope that another year would remove from the Government and the House the reproach of withholding all aid from the education of the children of the Established Church in Ireland, only because their pastors and parents could not conscientiously suffer them to accept it under the system of the existing national board in that country.

Mr. Grogan

said, he was anxious to avail himself of that opportunity of pressing upon the attention of the Members of her Majesty's Cabinet the propriety, nay, he would add, the justice, of giving to the question of education in Ireland a full and liberal reconsideration, before they should be called upon to vote these estimates in the ensuing Session of Parliament; and this he should think the more necessary, because he did not believe that the Ministry were aware of the true state of public opinion upon this subject in Ireland. Now, after the able and dispassionate speech of the right hon. and learned Recorder on the general question, he should endeavour to confine himself to ground which had not yet been travelled over or alluded to. If, after a full and patient investigation of the subject, her Majesty's Ministers should be of opinion that the system of the national board was the best adapted to the circumstances of Ireland, afforded the best chance of inducing Roman Catholic parents to send their children to the schools of a Protestant state—in fact, of giving to those children such an education as would enable them the better to struggle and push their way in the busy and bustling scenes of life, and afford them a good literary secular education, or if so, it was not necessary for his present purpose to enter into the question, to combat that opinion. But, did the duty of the State stop here, or was it not also bound to furnish to the children a really sound, wholesome, and religious education also? The system was introduced when the noble Lord the Secretary for the colonies was Secretary for Ireland, it was a great and bold experiment, and he doubted not was intended for good. The object was to induce the children of the different religious denominations prevailing in Ireland to unite together, to assemble in the one common school-room, in the hope of thereby causing them to forget their religious and political differences. Had that object been attained? Had that hope been realised? He conceived not; but, like all other schemes in which principle had been abandoned, and any other system adopted as a rule in its stead, it had, in his judgment, failed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had already shown to the House proofs of this failure, and had pointed out that the system of the Church Education Society had tended to unite the children of different religious opinions more effectually than the national system had succeeded in doing. He had shown that 70,000 children were in attendance on the schools of that society, of which number upwards of 20,000, or nearly one-third, were Roman Catholics, thereby proving that there was not that disinclination in the minds of Roman Catholics to receive a religious and scriptural education which some Gentlemen might imagine. That society had very limited means, and yet had already been productive of very great good, not only to the children of Protestant parents, but to those of Roman Catholics also. The right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, had recently laid before the House his bill for the regulation of factories, and had borne the most ample testimony to the very great importance which he attached to a sound and religious education being superadded to one of a purely literary and temporal character, in the previsions which he had made in that bill for affording to the children, whose parents, or who may be themselves, employed in factories, a really sound and scriptural education based upon the Bible, conceiving it to be the best and only effectual remedy against a recurrence of those unfortunate circumstances in which the country was plunged in the autumn of the last year, and the only method of raising these children from the depths of moral degradation, in which, from the reports of the commissioners of factories lately presented to the House, we must painfully admit them to be sunk. Now, the principles upon which the system of education proposed by the right hon. Baronet to be given in these schools was, as nearly as possible, the same, if not identical with, the principles on which the schools of the Church Education Society were based; in both the prelates and clergy of the Established Church have a superintending and controlling power. The Bible was required to be read in the schools proposed by the right hon. Baronet; it was also required to be read in the schools of the society. In the schools of the right hon. Baronet, the children, whose parents might not object, were to receive instruction in the catechisms and formularies of the Established Church, in the manner and for so many hours daily, as the clerical trustee shall determine. The catechisms and formularies of the Church were also required to be taught to all the children attending the schools of the Church Education Society; but here a great dissimilarity occurred—the right hon. Baronet proposed to deduct from the little earnings of the children, a sum necessary to support and maintain these schools, whereas all children, without distinction of creed or circumstances, were admitted to the schools of the society, and instructed gratuitously, without any payment whatever, subject to the only limitations that they should belong to the parish in which the school Was located, and have the approbation of the minister for liberty to attend it. But the right hon. Baronet conceived, that a religious and scriptural education was useful, was necessary for this country. Was there anything so peculiar in the circumstances of Ireland to render it less beneficial, less necessary there? The Church Education Society had already done much good; it was on these grounds that they Were anxious to see the sphere of Its Usefulness extended, by its receiving the countenance and support of her Majesty's Ministers, and it was on these grounds, that the reply of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, conveying the sentiments of the Cabinet to the application of our prelates in the course of last autumn, created such a deep, general, and painful sense of disappointment, to all the Protestant party in Ireland. But he hoped that before the House should be again called upon to pass those votes, her Majesty's Ministers would be pleased to give the question of education in Ireland a full and searching investigation. He did not mean a mere inquiry based upon the reports of the national board, or of the church Education Society, but a full inquiry conducted by any body or committee whom they might think proper to authorise and depute for the purpose, into the whole system, so as to find out the plan beat deserving of the support of the State, and he was confident that the system adopted by the Church Education Society would brave the strictest examination, and come off triumphant. He should conclude by reading to the House an extract of a speech delivered last year by a Gentleman equally distinguished for his piety, his zeal and learning, to which acquirements the Cabinet have borne full testimony, in promoting him to a bishopric—he meant Dr. Daly, who speaking of education, used words far more expressive than anything he (Mr. Grogan) could say. Dr. Daly says:— With regard to education itself, there seemed to be no difference of opinion—there seemed to be a common unity of sentiment—and every one cried out educate the people; and, indeed, he would ask how could there be a second opinion with regard to the subject of educating the people: was there a second opinion, he would ask, with regard to the cultivation of the land?—who was bold enough, or foolish enough, to stand up and say, there was no use in cultivating the land, when the curse that sin brought into the world declared that the earth should bring forth thorns and thistles f—who would, for a moment, advocate the principle that it was not necessary to cultivate the land; and, surely, if the mind of man, if the heart of man had not suffered less from the fall than the ground from which he produces the food he eats, who was there among them bold enough—who was there mad enough to deny the necessity of imparting a scriptural education to the people? Education, without religion, was like turning up the ground with the plough, and leaving it to bring forth thorns and thistles. Such was the view which he took of education without religion; and he thought that man would err from common sense who would set about the education of children without the assistance of religion—he would be turning up the land, but casting no seed into it. Then came the question, if they were to cast seed into the ground, what kind of seed was it to be? Some people said, and he believed the advocates of the national board had sometimes said, that they were in favour of religious education, but did they tell them what that religion was which was the seed of that good tree from which they expected good fruit? No; they talked of religion only, but they left out, they excluded that which God himself had said was the good seed—that seed was the Word of God, and therefore he would maintain, that if they educated the children, and did not cultivate the heart, as well as the ground, and cast good seed therein—and there was but one good seed, and that was the Truth, the Word of the Eternal God—they educated them in vain without it.

Lord Eliot

said, the temperate manner in which his right hon. Friend, the Recorder of Dublin and the hon. Member for the city of Dublin had stated their views, entitled them to every consideration. He (Lord Eliot) did not propose to enter into any lengthened argument, but to make a few observations on certain statements of his right hon. Friend relative to the working of the national system of education. His right hon. Friend said there was no security for religious instruction in the Irish national schools. It was true, that there was no absolute rule on the subject; but it was distinctly stated in the report of the commissioners that they earnestly and unanimously recommended the Scripture lessons to be used in all their schools. They stated that they preferred trusting to such a recommendation, to the adoption of any compulsory regulation; being persuaded, that if those lessons were not received willingly, they would have little beneficial effect; and, in point of fact, there was no school under the board in which religious instruction was not imparted. He believed the board would discontinue its grant to any school in which religious instruction was not given. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the time at which the Scriptures were read. When the Bible itself was read, it was necessary that those children whose parents had a religious objection to such reading should be permitted to absent themselves. It was a recommendation of the commission of 1812, of the commission of 1821, and of the commission of 1828, that there should be no compulsory religious instruction. But by the rules of the board, the Bible might be read at any hour every day in the week, provided those hours were prescribed and made known, so as to prevent the attendance of children against the wish of their parents, and one of the days in the week is set apart for separate religious instruction. The propriety of some such arrangement was, in fact, admitted by an eminent opponent of the board, the Bishop of Exeter, who stated that the use of a volume of well-chosen extracts, and the appointment of times of separate religious instruction, were no more than fair concessions to the circumstances of Ireland. He would now proceed to lay before the House some statistical facts connected with the working of the National Board. The number of its schools in operation in December, 1841, was 2,337; and the number in December, 1842, 2,721, showing an increase in the year of 384 schools. The number of children in attendance in December, 1841, was 281,849; and in December, 1842, 322,778, showing an increase of 40,929. In July, 1842, aid had been given to 1,064 schools, to the amount of 80,961l. In November, 1842, the board was obliged to decline giving further grants for the building of schools or the salaries of masters, from the inadequacy of funds, and to restrict their assistance to the supply of books. That limited assistance had been accepted by 70 schools. The number of books distributed was 1,200,000. Great stress bad been laid on the expectations formerly entertained of a system of combined education. Those expectations certainly had not been altogether fulfilled, but that was owing to the opposition of the established clergy—an opposition he firmly believed to be entirely conscientious, and one in which no party or political feeling was mixed up. The clergy, in fact, had felt it their duty to obstruct the system, and, therefore, it was not so successful as it might hare been in giving combined education. There was nothing in the plan itself to prevent a sound religious education, and it was hardly fair for the to reproach it for a failure of which they had themselves been the cause. Combined education, however, was at present carried on to some extent; of 2,584 schools in operation in July, 1841, 784 were under Protestant management, 1,737 under Catholic management, and 68 under the mixed management of Catholics and Protestants. Since the Presbyterians had withdrawn their opposition, one-fourth of the masters trained had been Protestants—and of 300,000 children under education, one-eighth part were Protestants, which was very nearly the proportion of Protestants in the whole population. The House should never lose sight of the fact, in reference to this question, that 80 per cent, of the population of Ireland were Roman Catholics. He thought it a great step in advance, that the Roman Catholics consented to receive the education given by the national board. It evinced great liberality in the Catholic prelates, that they had consented to the use of the volume of Scripture extracts, which he thought an admirable one. The House should pause before it did anything to shake the confidence of the Catholics in the present system. When the Kildare-place Society began to lose their confidence, the children were withdrawn from the schools, and the House should beware of doing anything to produce a similar movement now. There were some other facts which he should mention. Of the eighty-nine Poor-law unions under boards of guardians, composed of Catholics and Protestants, the schools of sixty-one had been placed under the board, receiving, of course, only the assistance of books and the benefit of superintendence. Ireland was divided, with regard to education, into twenty-five districts, each being under a superintendent. Of these superintendents twelve were Protestants, and thirteen Roman Catholics. Of twenty persons, forming the establishment of the board, thirteen were Protestants, and seven Catholics, the income of the former being 2,998l.., and of the latter 757l.., per annum. Of the commissioners, four were Roman Catholics, and seven Protestants. Thus there was a decided preponderance of Protestants in the management, but the Catholics showed no distrust of it in consequence. As to the proposition of the right hon. Recorder, to give a separate grant, or a proportion of the present grant to the Church Education Society, there were serious objections to such a course. It would be transferring education from a responsible board, to an irresponsible voluntary society. Besides, the Church Education Society was formed in opposition to the present board. It was intended to be, not ancillary, but hostile to it. In supporting it, therefore, the State would be supporting two systems on directly opposite principles. And what would be the consequence, with respect to the national board? It would be left entirely to Catholics, and Protestants would have no right to interfere in its management. The Government must cease to prescribe any system of instruction. Hon. Gentlemen who recommended such a course, and yet opposed the Maynooth grant, should reflect that they would then establish a Maynooth in every parish in Ireland. The schools, he said, must become Catholic schools. The Archbishop of Dublin would feel it his duty to retire from the board, because he would not feel it right to interfere with education intended exclusively for Catholics. The other Protestant commissioners would take the same course, and the management would become wholly Catholic. In several of the schools at present there were no Protestants, but there were many parts of Ireland in which there were no Protestants, and in the south of Ireland, they did not form more than a twentieth or a thirtieth of the population. It was not to be expected, that the schools in those districts should show a greater attendance of Protestants. He must conclude by expressing a hope, that the Irish clergy, whose laudable and praiseworthy efforts for the improvement of the people were highly creditable, might feel it to be consistent with their duty to take part in the management of the schools under the board, because he believed that in that way, they could do more than in any other to promote religious education.

Lord Ebrington

could not admit that the objections to the grant had originated entirely in religious scruples, for he thought that party spirit had much to do with it. No one could doubt that, who knew how unscrupulously and perseveringly the cry of "No Popery" had been raised in connexion with this subject, and how much had been said about the mutilation of the bill by the commissioners of education. With regard to this, he could not but observe, that while the Established Church maintained the doctrine that the Scriptures ought to be read and circulated amongst the people, principles were spreading in it, which were utterly opposed to those Protestant principles which up to the present time had been regarded as the glory of this country. Every day showed more and more that the, principles of some members of the Established Church were less liberal even than those which induced so many Roman Catholic prelates to sanction the use of those Scripture extracts, which he had read and examined with attention, and found to contain all the essential doctrines and principles of Christianity. He knew they had been abused, but chiefly by those who had not read them. As the noble Lord had defended the national system, it was not necessary for him to say one word; but the attack was not to be wondered at, when the nature of the recent Church appointments and preferment's in Ireland was considered. Scarcely a single distinguished preferment or appointment had been given to any Irish divine, except to such as had been engaged, and some conspicuously, in running down the system which the Government now professed itself determined to uphold. That was the case with respect to the Rev. Mr. Daly. The Government complained that they had been attacked on both sides. Why, of course, that was the national consequence of their double policy.

Mr. Colquhoun

believed the appointments made by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, had reflected as much honour on his Lordship as upon the persons appointed, who were distingushed for their enlightened views, their profound learning, and unobtrusive piety. They were such appointments, notwithstanding the aspersions of the noble Lord, which he would yet regret perhaps, as would make the present Lord Lieutenant look back upon them as the most glorious and satisfactory part of his administration, and which rendered him deserving of the greatest public confidence. Surrounded as this question was with great difficulties, and embarrassed by considerations which he thought it wise to appreciate, he must express his sincere regret, that her Majesty's Government had come to the resolution not to grant to the Irish Prelates, and the Irish Church, that assistance which he thought consistent with the greatest toleration and the national system of education. The noble Lord had said, that he preferred a board authorised by the Government to a voluntary association, when, in fact, grants Were made to voluntary associations—the British and Foreign School Society on one side, and the national society on the other. In speaking of conscientious feelings of Roman Catholics, he thought the same regard ought to be had for those of Members of the Established Church. He thought, that to have the co-operation, in a convulsed and agitated country like Ireland, of men inferior to none in learning and piety, and disposition to maintain order, was what no Government ought to neglect, and what all Governments ought to appreciate; and he not know any class of men more free from those peculiar feelings to which the noble Lord had adverted. Even the hon. Member for Lambeth, who advocated the cause of the Dissenters of this country, must see the injustice of excluding Members of the Church of England from the public aid which was granted to the Members of another Church.

Mr. Hanes

said, that not only was he ready to support what had fallen from the hon. Member who had just sat down, but that when hereafter he should, on behalf of the Dissenters of England, advocate a free system of education, he should expect to be supported by the hon. Member, and be would proceed upon the very same ground taken by the right hon. Gentleman, who said,— He could not but complain of the Government, that the Church Education Society should be refused any grant of public relief merely because the parents of the children could not accept the education of the National Society. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would give notice of an address to her Majesty to carry out that view, and he (Mr. Hawes), and many on his side of the Mouse would support the right hon. Gentleman, hoping that when hereafter he should propose a grant to those bodies who dissented from the Church of England, he should receive the support of the right hon. Gentleman awl his Friends.

Captain Jones

said, that the clergy of the Church of Ireland were opposed to the plan of national education established in that country, because they did not consider it a system of Scriptural education. It was on that ground, that he also objected to it, and he thought the children of Protestants had, at all events, an equal right with those of Roman Catholics to be educated properly in the principles of their religion at the expense of the State. The noble Load treated the Church Society as an antagonist establishment, but the noble Lard should recollect, that it a rose but of the necessity of the case, and because the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland had conscientious objections to the system of religious education adopted in the national schools. There was no wish on the part of the Bishops or the clergy to interfere with the education of either Roman Catholics or Dissenters; but they thought, and in his opinion correctly, that they were entitled to a grant of public money for the purpose of communicating to the children of their own flocks that description of religious education of which they could approve. If, however, it were proposed to discontinue this grant, he should not be found to vote against it.

Viscount Bernard

would not have intruded any remarks of his upon the House, on a subject upon which there were so many Hon. Members present much better qualified to speak, were it not that there was no other Member present, from a large district in the south of Ireland with which he was connected, and that be represented a constituency who entertained the same opinions, which be did who felt deeply on the subject and were keenly alive to the injustice which the principles on which it was administered inflicted On the cause of Protestantism in Ireland, and also if he had not had the honour of presenting to the House a large number of petitions from the united diocese of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, in the course of the previous Session of Parliament, petitions numerously signed by Protestants—lay as well as clerical—who feeling strongly upon the subject, were actuated solely by those feelings in petitioning the House against the system of education as carried on by the national education society. But while he came forward to express how much he disapproved of that society, and how much he regretted the course the Government had taken with, respect to it, he was willing to give full credit to the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) who had originally introduced the education system into Ireland, for having brought it forward with the best and purest motives, though the noble Lord had, he believed, been greatly mistaken in supposing this to be the only mode of giving to Ireland a scriptural education—nor was he ignorant of the many difficulties which the Government had to contend with in dealing with this question—difficulties which had resulted from the conduct of their predecessors in office, who had left this, among their many other political legacies, to embarrass the course of their successors. The late Government had come forward year after year, proposing a grant for united education long after the system had faded as a system of united education, and when the money was virtually applied to a very different purpose, the education actually given being in the smallest possible degree a system of education for Protestants and Roman Catholics jointly, because very few Protestant children attended the schools at all. He conscientiously objected to any Parliamentary grant being given for any system of education, unless the Holy Scriptures formed the basis of that education, and this was the objection of the Church. He was opposed too to what was understood by a united system of education, because he was convinced that it never could be made to work without a compromise of principle, in one or both of the parties to the contract. The Church of Ireland considered that while she waved her right as the natural instructress of the people, to teach them her creeds and cate- chisms, she had a right to demand that in any system of national education the Holy Scriptures should be taught not as an accessory, but as a fundamental portion of it. She desired also, of course, to have some voice in the appointment of the masters of the schools. In the propriety of this he fully concurred. Conducted as it was, the united system, he believed, had a baneful effect on the children, because, if you taught that all religions were equally important, were you not running a risk of causing the children to believe that all religions were equally indifferent? The education was professed to be an united religious and literary education; on what religion was it based? Not on the Established Church; it was not purely Roman Catholic. It was founded on the basis of a compromise of principle; and if such a compromise was good for the young, was it not equally good for the adult? Would it not be equally good for establishing an union between the two churches according to the plan of the celebrated letter of Doctor Doyle? Upon this point he would read the opinion of a most distinguished man of his day, and who had filled the office of Secretary to Lord Castlereagh—the late Mr. Alexander Knox—as it appeared in the 3rd volume of his remains. It was as follows:— I think now in brief, that any prospect of our uniting with the Roman Catholic church is not deeply alarming, only because it is utterly impracticable There are essential differences between the two churches, which admit of no accommodation. To concede in these matters would be in us unfaithfulness to our providential trust, and in them gross inconsistency; but on such points as I refer to they would not concede a hair's breadth, nor could they without unlocking their whole arch. They, therefore, could only indulge us with modified explanations, in the prospect of afterwards drawing us, by subtlety or by force, from such modifications as, in the first instance, the enlargement of their church might have made it expedient to yield to, but merely with the design of re-explanation as soon as it would be practicable. All experience had shown that any system of education that did not proceed upon the basis of religion, must fail. Allusion had been made to the commission of 1812-14, and he thought that an inference had been unfairly attempted to be drawn, that their reports sanctioned the present system of national education. He felt deeply on this subject; for one of those who had signed the report of 1814, was a near and dear relative of his, a late most rev. Prelate (Archbishop Brodrick), and he felt confident, that that most rev. Prelate would have rather put his hand into the fire, or suffered martyrdom at the stake than have signed the education paper of 1831. But if the House would allow him he would read an extract from the letter of Baron Forster and Mr. Glass-ford, for though three of the education commissioners, in the report of 1827, were for combining literary and religious instruction, and expressed their belief that such a plan to a limited extent was not hopeless; the other two Mr. Glassford and Baron Foster said:— Any plan for compelling all the varieties of schools to give way to one inflexible form, would, in our opinion, be a great mistake. We feel strongly that the unexampled improvement that has taken place within a short time in the education of the peasantry of Ireland, ought to be duly appreciated before any of the means by which it has been produced shall be destroyed or endangered. We have stated in our second report that there are at present in Ireland no fewer than 11,823 schools—a greater number, perhaps, than is to be found, for the extent of the population in any other country; and though we lament that many of them still supply instruction of a very objectionable nature, we see, with the utmost satisfaction, the rapid improvement which has already been effected in their character. About twenty-years ago the Scriptures, as we are led to believe, were not read in so many as 600 schools in Ireland, while at present we have ascertained, and stated in our report, that they have found their way into 6,058 daily schools, independent of 1,945 Sunday schools—in all, about 8,000 schools. This great amelioration in the education of the Irish peasantry is still in progress, and can perhaps be checked by no means less powerful than such interference on the part of the stale as would be calculated to counteract it; while, therefore, we are ready to promote the trial of any experiment that may suggest the means of usefulness, or which may, perhaps, be now fitted for some districts hitherto less accessible than others, we cannot too strongly express our opinion that any such experiment ought to be considered only as an accompaniment to those means which experience has proved to be useful, and not as tending to the suppression of any tried instrument of good. He (Lord Bernard) believed that the Kildare-place society, both on the ground of principle and policy, was the nearest approach they could hope to make to anything like an united system of education in Ireland. The system of that society was founded upon the Holy Scriptures for its basis, and was in his opinion, the only one which could be administered with justice and fairness to all parties. It must be remembered that the great majority of the children attending the schools would be Roman Catholics, and looking at the influence they would have on their Protestant schoolfellows, at that period of life when the human mind was most open to such influence—looking at the combination of national and religious feelings which would be brought to bear upon them in their earliest childhood, he thought justice would not be done to the Protestant children, unless there was some counteracting influence in the religious instruction, and in the masters and teachers of the school. They were told that the Kildare-street society had failed in its object. He thought he could show that that was not the case. In the year 1821, there were 381 of the Kildare-street society's schools, and 26,474 scholars—in the year 1831, the number of schools had increased to 1,634, and the number of scholars to 132,530, while it appeared by the first report of the national education commissioners that the number of schools was then 789, and the number of scholars attending them 107,042; and in the eighth report it appeared that there were 2,337 schools, and 281,849 scholars. It would be seen by this statement, that in proportion the increase had not been greater, notwithstanding the many and great advantages the national education society had, than in the Kildare-place society. But the late Government acted in this upon the principle which they had for ten years applied in other measures to Ireland, they held that under the former Conservative and Tory Governments the Protestant party had enjoyed too much influence—and how did they proceed to remedy the evil? Why, instead of endeavouring fairly to equalise the balance, they threw the whole weight into the opposite scale. The Kildare-place society represented the Protestant principle—The National Education the Roman Catholic. The Government abandoned the former, and gave their influence to the latter. He could not agree with the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, that the national society, as an united system of education, had increased. The noble Lord had shown that a great many new schools had been established, and that they were attended by many thousands of children; but he did not show that they were attended by a greater number of Protestant children than formerly. The fact was, he believed, that very few Protestant children attended the schools. And when it was remembered the great advantages which the national education society, with agricultural schools and improved literary education, enjoyed, it was scarcely fair to bring it forward, as having done that which the limited funds of the church society had not enabled it to do. But the noble Lord's numbers had been swelled by the addition of the poor-law schools, and it was exceedingly questionable, he believed, whether, by bringing those poor-law schools within the national education system, the Government were not committing a breach of the poor-law; in his opinion, they violated, by so doing, the neutrality which the Irish poor-law attempted to establish. The Protestant clergy of Ireland had been assailed for the part they had taken in this question, and the noble Lord the Member for Plymouth (Lord Ebrington), had spoken of them as though they had been influenced by political motives. He could tell the noble Lord and the House that there was no body of men, either in that or any other age, whose motives were more pure, or who were less influenced by political considerations in the performance of what they considered to be their duty than the Protestant clergy of Ireland. On the tithe question rather than surrender what they conceived to be the rights of their successors in the Christian ministry. Sooner than violate their ordination vow, or allow the holy Scriptures to be mutilated, they were willing to undergo the severest peril, and risk the loss of all advantages, rather than surrender their principles. But, after all, it was no charge against the clergy that they were opposed to the system—the very outcry that the failure was caused by the clergy was a proof of its failure. For if it were not a system such as the Church could conscientiously support, it would naturally fail. The noble Lord then referred to the number of diocesan schools in the diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, there were only twenty-six attending the national schools. In the year ending 1841, there were 210 of those schools and 8,873 scholars; in 1843 there were more than 200 schools (exclusive of those in the large towns). a large number of the children were Roman Catholics; and these schools were supported by going round from day to day to beg the assistance necessary for the purpose. Were it not for the voluntary subscriptions of the friends of the Church, who came forward to assist, all these advantages must fall to the ground. But he, believed, that the most serious view of this subject was, that the united system was a severe injury to the Protestant Church and the cause of Protestantism in Ireland. Formerly the state gave 25,000l. or 30,000l. a year to the Church education societies—now it gave 50.000l.. a year to the opposite party, which was, in effect, giving an advantage to the amount of 80,000l.. a year. To show the consequence of this, he would read an extract from a work of a clergyman who resided in a distant part of Cork, on the shores of the Atlantic who said, I have myself within the last week seen the houses of two Scripture schools, which for several years had flourished and prospered, but are now closed for want of provision for the payment of the teachers. I well remember when one of them, being in the centre of a large Protestant population, was attended by from seventy to eighty Protestant boys, with about the same number of females in the adjoining department. Now, however, it may well be said, that Ichabod is written upon the doors of the male department of this handsome building, while at the opposite side of the street stands a large Popish school superintended and taught by the four monks. Feeling as he did upon the subject, he thought it his duty to state these facts to the House. It was with great sorrow that he differed from those for whose opinion he entertained great respect, and to whose administration in other respects, and with reference to other measures, he gave his warm and cordial support; but he could take no other course on this occasion than express his sincere opinion and enter his protest and dissent from the system to which he had been referring. He would add, that he did believe that by adopting a fair and equitable course between the two parties, between which unfortunately, the population of Ireland was divided, the Government could do much to conciliate both those parties, and do away with religious differences. Let it be remembered, that at one time penal enactments had been tried, and they hid signally failed. Then came concession—conces- sion not unaccompanied with dereliction of principle—and it was now seen that it had failed too, and he would, therefore, press on the attention of her Majesty's Government to try the plan of giving the people of Ireland an united education based on the word of God.

Mr. G. A. Hamilton

rose, not for the purpose of prolonging the discussion, neither could he add anything to the very able speech which had been delivered by his noble Friend the Member for Bandon. But he felt it his duty to corroborate the statement of his right hon. Friend and Colleague with regard to the dissatisfaction which prevailed in Ireland amongst the Protestants generally, and especially amongst the clergy of the Established Church, with whose sentiments he had the opportunity of being well acquainted, in reference to the national system of education; and he had also for himself to express the deep regret and disappointment he felt that her Majesty's Ministers had not thought it their duty, in deference to the conscientious and nearly unanimous opinions of the bishops and clergy of the Established Church, and the great body of those who formed the sincerest and best supporters of the present Government, so to modify or alter the national system, as to render it scriptural in its principle and character, which was all that they required, and therefore enable the clergy of the Established Church conscientiously to join it. He felt very strongly the inconvenience and objections to raising a discussion, and going to a division upon a question of such magnitude, and involving so important a principle as that of national education, in a committee of supply, and on the occasion of a vote for the maintenance of an existing establishment; and, in order that this great question might be raised properly, and discussed fully and fairly, and on its principle, it had been his intention, if the Irish estimates had come on at the usual period of the Session, to have given timely notice, that on the motion that the Speaker do leave the chair, he would move as an amendment a resolution to the effect, that no system of national education is sound in its principle, or worthy of support by the state, in which the supreme value and importance of God's holy word are not distinctly recognised and practically inculcated as the very basis and foundation of education, that the value and importance of God's holy word are not duly recognised, or practically inculcated in the national system in Ireland, and that that system has failed signally in uniting children of different denominations. From the information he had already received from many parts of Ireland, and was receiving every day, he had no doubt he should be able to establish these propositions by strong evidence. He had no doubt he should be able to prove that there was not, on the part of the people of Ireland, that indisposition towards scriptural education so generally imputed to them; and be felt confident in asserting, that the cause of scriptural education was at this moment making way in Ireland, even against the influence of the National Board. He had no right to complain, that the Irish estimates had been brought on at so early a period of the Session. He was glad the state of the public business admitted of its being so, but he would confess, he had been himself taken somewhat by surprise. He had not had the opportunity of giving the notice or completing the information which he thought necessary on the discussion of so important a question. He would not, therefore, prolong the discussion, but would and, that it was his intention to bring the subject substantively before the House at a fitting time, by moving resolutions or an address to the Crown of the purport he had mentioned.

Sir R. Peel

said, that it had not been his intention when he came down to the House to have taken any part in this debate, and he should not have risen bad it not been for an observation of his noble Friend the Member for Bandon, who had delivered a speech of so much ability that he was sure the House must wish to hear him more frequently; that observation of his noble Friend was to the effect that her Majesty's Government had adopted this system of united education in Ireland merely because it might have embarrassed them to depart from that system, which his noble Friend had described as one of the legacies which had been left to her Majesty's present Government by their predecessors. Now, he could assure his noble Friend and the House, that no spirit of servile adherence to the policy of the late Government, nor any fear of encountering difficulties, would have caused her Majesty's Ministers to shrink from the responsibility of asking for a grant for another system of education in Ireland, had they felt that to be their duty; but, on the contrary, after a full consideration of the subject, they had felt it their duty to adopt the present system, from a strong impression that in Ireland, in the present circumstances of that country, great benefit would arise from perseverance in that system, and that great danger would be incurred of alienating the minds of the vast majority of the people of Ireland, if they departed from it, or made any arrangements tending to disturb its successful and progressive operation. Let the House weigh well what they were about to do, before they condemned the present system—let them bear in mind these facts—that, under the superintendence and control of a Protestant Government, they had in the last year 2,337 schools in operation, teaching 282,000 children, the most of whom, it was said, were children of Roman Catholic parents, who were contented it should be borne in mind, that their children should receive education under a system controlled by a Protestant Government. Then, as to the progress of this system—this great number of children, chiefly Roman Catholics, from the confidence of their parents in this system, conducted as it was under the control of the Government, received from the Legislature, and through masters, well instructed, an excellent secular education. The commissioners who superintended this system, stated that grants had been made for 200 new schools, which were not yet completed; but which, when completed, would be the means of affording education to 25,793 scholars, giving in all 2,921 schools, and an attendance of 347,000 children, the vast majority of these being Roman Catholics. He had had some experience, in the course of his official connexion with Ireland, on this question of education. When the attention of the Government was first called to it, they looked round for information to guide them, and he would read to the House the testimony of a man of great attainments, firmly attached to the Protestant Church, who had had great opportunities of being acquainted with this subject,; who was afterwards a judge, but now, unfortunately, no more—this gentleman, Mr. Leslie Foster, was one whose testimony was of great weight; he could not be suspected of a bias towards the Roman Catholics, for, though active, he was at the same time temperate in his opposition against a concession to the Roman Catholic claims. In speaking of the system of education in 1813, Mr. Foster stated that he would not recapitulate all the painful descriptions that had been given to him of the state of the schools and the mode of education adopted in them; that in one of the returns made to him it was stated that a more disloyal or more bigoted set of men there could not be than the hedge schoolmasters of the county to which the observations referred; that the want of books was deplorable, the mode of teaching most improper and imperfect, and alike ridiculous and pernicious to the children; that the only means of education were through newspapers or such books as "The Impartial History of Ireland, "The Lives of the Irish Rogues and Rapparees," and "The Life of Moll Flanders." Instead of such books being found in the Irish schools now, or such teachers, the children in Ireland were brought up under effective and educated schoolmasters, placed under legislative control, and they were accordingly educated on the best known system. They had now there 350,000 children receiving an excellent secular education, combined, too, with an opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of agricultural pursuits. But it was said that the great majority of them were Roman Catholics. Be it so. Suppose that the whole of them were Roman Catholics, had they not realised a great public advantage by inspiring the parents of those children with confidence in the present system? But his noble Friend (Lord Eliot) had told the House that they were not all Roman Catholics, that one-eighth of them, bearing about the same proportion as the Protestants of the Church Establishment bore to the great mass of the population, were Protestants. The relative number of Protestant children in the schools did not differ from the relative number of the Protestant population to the other inhabitants of the country. But if he were convinced that not a single Protestant were to be found in these schools, still he should be loth to give up a system, by which so many were secured the advantages of an excellent education. But objections were made to the system of national education, which would be fatal if they were well founded. His hon. Friend who had spoken last had intimated that he would move a resolution that no system of education should be encouraged from which the use of the Scriptures should be totally excluded. Now, with respect to his hon. Friend and other hon. Gentlemen who thought with his hon. Friend on this subject, he must say that he respected their motives; he was grateful to them for their exertions in the cause of education, and he had a great admiration for the perseverance which they had manifested—in many cases amidst circumstances of severe privation and depression—in promoting schools for the education of the people in Ireland; but he did say, that the views taken by the Government of the principle involved in the question before the House, was by no means a novel one in Ireland; and it had been always maintained that if they were compelled to offer the Irish a system of education founded, as his hon. Friend proposed, on the use of the Scriptures, it would have the effect of alienating from the schools a great portion of the Irish Catholics. In the year 1827 a commission was appointed by the Crown to inquire into the education of the poorer classes in Ireland, and he would beg the House to observe who were the commissioners then appointed. The final report bore the signatures of William Armagh (Stuart, Archbishop of Armagh), Charles Cashel, (Broderick, Archbishop of Cashel), James Killaloe, (the Protestant Bishop of Killaloe), Isaac Corry, (the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer), Thomas Elrington, (the Provost of Trinity College, Dublin), Richard Lovel Edgeworth, J. Whitethorn, John Leslie Foster, Member of Parliament for the County of Dublin—all of them, with the exception of Mr. Edgeworth, he believed, were decidedly adverse to concessions to the Roman Catholics. They were instructed to inquire into the state of education in Ireland; into the state of those establishments for education conducted exclusively upon the principles of the Established Church; those Protestant charter schools in which the children received a Protestant education only, and they were to report what had been the effect produced by these seminaries in regard to general education. They did report that these schools were total and unqualified failures. This commission, consisting of eight members, of whom five were members of the established Church, in their report with respect to education, said, that they thought a system might be introduced to improve the education of the lower orders in Ireland. They go on to say— That such will be its acceptance we shall indulge the more confident expectation if all interference with the particular religious tenets of those who are to receive that instruction shall, in the first instance, be unequivocally disclaimed and effectually guarded against. We conceive this to be of essential importance in any new establishment for the education of the lower classes in Ireland; and we venture to express our unanimous opinion that no such plan, however wisely and unexceptionably contrived in other respects, can be carried into effectual execution in this country, unless it be explicitly avowed and clearly understood as its leading principle that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or description of Christians. Then, as to the use of the Scriptures, or scriptural extracts, the commissioners say— It appears to us that a selection may be made, in which the most important parts of Sacred History shall be included together with all the precepts of morality, and all the instructive examples by which these precepts are illustrated and enforced, and which shall not be liable to any of the objections which have been made to the use of the Scriptures in the course of the education. The study of such a volume of extracts from the Sacred Writings would, in our opinion, form the best preparation for that more particular religious instruction which it would be the duty and, we doubt not, the inclination also of their several ministers of religion to give at proper times, and in other places, to the children of their respective congregations. Now, these principles had been precisely followed in the system at present established in Ireland. It was the system which these eight commissioners, five of them being members of the Established Church, and three of them bishops, had recommended; and, viewing the peculiar difficulties with which it was necessary to deal in Ireland, if they said that in Ireland they would not agree to establish any system of education unless it were exactly the same as that which they established in England, they must fail. There was no analogy between the cases, and it was therefore not right to say that they were bound to pursue the same course in Ireland that they adopted in England. Let it be observed, that it was the nature of the education that was given under the old system in Ireland, and the character of the books used in the schools there, that brought home to the minds of the prelates and others who composed this commission, the fact that the education given was not safe for the Established Church, and they consented to that which might be called a compromise, but which must be yielded to if they wanted to have any system of education at all. Mr. Leslie Foster observed— We seem to have a choice of but two general modes of proceeding, either to have separate schools for the Roman Catholics and Protestants, and to teach them each the principles of their respective religions, or to unite them in the same schools, within which the points of their religious differences must never be adverted to. The first, though it may appear to some the most plausible, may, on consideration, be found highly objectionable. To promote the intercourse between the Protestants and Roman Catholics in all possible manners appears to me of the greatest importance, observing, as I always have, that their mutual prejudices abate in proportion as they become acquainted with each other, and that an increase, not of dislike, but of toleration, is the effect of this collision. Let it be remembered, when hon. Members said that few Protestant children attended these schools, that the situation and circumstances of the Protestant population were somewhat different, from that of the rest of the population—that the Protestants were generally opulent, that the number of children of Protestants requiring gratuitous instruction was comparatively small, and generally speaking, they might conclude that a gratuitous education would not be accepted by a great proportion of the Protestant part of the population. But, however, this might be in other parts of Ireland, in the south circumstances were such as not to enable the Government, if they were disposed, to find the means of an exclusively Protestant system of education. In a parish, where perhaps, there were not twenty Protestant children, first ask how many would accept a gratuitous education, and then with the remainder, think how difficult it would be for the Government to establish a school for imparting an education such as would be effectual. Mr. Leslie Foster, in speaking of the south of Ireland, seemed clearly to point out the expediency of mixing the Protestants and Roman Catholics in the schools. He said— There is no plan more calculated to disconnect Protestants and Roman Catholics, than by setting Protestant schools against Roman Catholic schools, and allowing the pupils to look with jealousy upon each other. This was the opinion of a man not influenced by party feelings, and of as much experience as was possessed by any who had turned their attention to the subject, and he distinctly stated, that if they wished to establish for ever a line of separation between the Protestants and Roman Catholics, that the way to effect it would "be to set up rural Catholic and Protestant schools, and to allow the children to view each other with those feelings of animosity which such circumstances would be sure to inspire them with; and therefore he confessed that it would be with the utmost unwillingness that he should abandon the hope of seeing the national system successfully prosecuted. He knew that the number of Protestant children educated under that system was not so great as he could wish; but he could not help thinking, that if the Protestant clergy would take this view of the case which the five members of the Established Church, including three right rev. prelates and the provost of Trinity College, took in the commission of 1827,—if they could reconcile it to their consciences to think with the Archbishops of Armagh and Cashel, and the Bishop of Killaloe, and the provost of Trinity College, that this system might properly be adopted, which, though five days in the seven were devoted to secular instruction, was in reality founded on the Scriptures,—if in the two remaining days of the week the Protestant clergy could reconcile it to their consciences to attend to educate the children of the establishment in the principles of the Established Church,—he believed that the obstacles which had been hitherto found to interfere with the progress of this measure would be removed, and great benefit would accrue to Ireland. He respected the conscientious scruples which were entertained by the clergy of Ireland, because he knew those scruples to be sincere, and he must always speak with the highest respect of the clergymen of the Established Church in Ireland; but if the view of the highest ecclesiastical authority in that country with respect to this subject was adopted, it would contribute very materially to the successful carrying out of the system. It was not because the late Government had adopted that system, that the present administration had subscribed to it. From the accounts which two or three years ago he had heard of it, he had feared that it had proved unsuccessful, and under that impression he came to consider its claims and its merits, without much prepossession in their favour; but when he had inquired into it—when he had seen it in all its forms—he had come to the conclusion that it was their duty to maintain it as they had found it. What would be the consequence, if they were to give support to plans for the separate education of children belonging to the establishment? If this were to be done, all Protestant children would be at once withdrawn from the national schools. They would have a separate Protestant school and a Roman Catholic school in every parish, for they might be sure that if the Protestant parents had the option of sending their children to the national school, or to one where they would be educated in the principles of the establishment, that the influence of the clergy would always cause the exclusively Protestant school to be preferred. What would be the consequence? They would have a system under which Roman Catholic children would exclusively be educated. If they had, as they would thus have, a system sanctioned by the State for Roman Catholic children—why not have one for the children of the establishment—why not have one also for Presbyterian children? Was it not likely that if two such systems were adopted, that the Presbyterians would require a third for themselves? He would tell them, that were such plans adopted as recommended by the advocates of the separate system, that in two years they would have one education system under the control of, and intended for, the establishment; another of the Roman Catholic Church, teaching her principles, and superintended by her ecclesiastics; and a third for the Presbyterians, teaching Presbyterian doctrines, and controlled by the Presbyterian church. In his opinion, the practical operation of such a system would be probably to improve the children in the knowledge of the doctrines of the particular system of faith in which they were born. The polemical instruction in each of the schools might be improved, but the practical effect would not be to conciliate rival sects—nor to abate religious animosities, but to produce new religious enmities, and to deepen those already existing. He felt that it was his duty to state, that in maintaining the present national system of education in Ireland, the present Government did not adopt it, because they found it established, but because they believed that the greatest practical benefits were now derived from it, and that if they could conciliate the confidence of the Roman Catholics in that country by the nature of the education which they gave, and the commissioners they appointed, they would have the best prospect of improving the morals of the people, of gaining their affections, and diminishing those unfortunate differences which had so long disturbed that country.

Mr. Sharman Crawford

said he had the misfortune of seldom being able to support the measures of the Government; but on this occasion he was happy to say he could give his full concurrence and support to the measure proposed and the sentiments expressed by the right hon, Baronet at the head of that Government. He considered that great good would be produced by an united education in Ireland. It would tend, by the early mixture of young people in the same school, to take away the prejudices and the bitterness of feeling which in after-life produced such injurious effects on society in that country; and he was of opinion that the system adopted under the National Board was the best which could be devised for that purpose under the difficult circumstances which existed. He lived in the north of Ireland, and could say that the system was decidedly successful in that part of Ireland, so far as respected the children of Presbyterians and Roman Catholics. Both these classes went in common to the schools, and were educated together; but he regretted to say that the clergy of the Established Church still thought themselves called on to oppose the system, and in consequence, there was a reluctance on the part of that section of Protestants to make use of these schools. The right hon. Baronet had truly pointed out the objections to a separate grant to the Established Church. He had stated that each of the other sects would then require separate grants also. Even if a grant were given to the Established Church, the cause of discontent would not be removed, but on the other hand very probably aggravated. Would the Established Church be satisfied with a grant proportioned to its population, as compared to the population of the other religious sects of which the Irish community was composed? He believed that the proportion of the church would not exceed a tenth of the whole grant, the Presbyterians would obtain another small fraction of the grant, and the Catholics would necessarily absorb the great proportion of whatever sum the state should allow. He was quite convinced that this division would be attended with irritated feelings, and would keep up continued discontent—estranging in a greater degree from each other the several religious denominations, and giving a greater power to the extension of sectarian principles.

Mr. Lefroy

, always reluctant to trespass upon the time of the House, yet he felt it a necessary duty to express his opinion on the present occasion, and the more so, after the sentiments which he had, with much pain, heard expressed by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. The right hon. Baronet had treated the question as if it had been proposed that the Church Education Society should be substituted for the National School Society. He had not heard from his hon. Friends about him any such proposition, but he heard them express deep regret, in which he sincerely concurred, that as the Government were determined to continue the national system, they had not felt it their duty at the same time to consider the feelings and wishes of the prelates and laity of the Established Church in Ireland, and at least propose a grant for the education of children of that persuasion in conformity with their religious opinions. He felt some difficulty in alluding even to the letter addressed by the right hon. Baronet on that subject to the highly revered prelate who was at the head of the church in Ireland (which, almost in a single sentence, blighted all the hopes that had existed of a different plan being pursued), lest he might be tempted to depart from the temperate and conciliatory course which the prelates of Ireland had adopted and recommended to all who agreed with them, and which he felt was most becoming so grave and so important a subject; but this much he might be permitted to say, that the blow was as severe as it was unexpected. Whilst he expressed his unfeigned regret that the Government had acted thus to the Church Education Society, he was most anxious to guard himself against the House supposing that he preferred a separate grant being made for the education of Protestants and Roman Catholics in Ireland. He had ever desired to see the children of both religious persuasions trained up together, and, whilst free from the bitterness which too often arises in after life, taught the first lessons of good will and kindness by those scriptures which are the grounds of their common hopes, and the only security for a truly moral life, For this reason he had always been a warm supporter of the Kildare place system; but as the means of usefulness of that society were now so restricted by the withdrawal of the public grant, he felt an increased disappointment that the Government refused any support for a religious education in Ireland, and this at a moment when it was admitted to be so important for England. He must express his deep regret that, whilst the right hon. Baronet seemed to think that Great Britain and Ireland should be assimilated in all matters of civil policy, as respected the all-important subject of religious education (which alone could thoroughly assimilate them), an actual difference must be maintained between them. He thought it was acknowledged generally in that House that a religious education was the only useful one. His noble Friend, the Member for Dorsetshire, had stated in the debate on a similar subject for England, "that it was only to the gospel they could safely look for the lessons and practice of true morality" (Cheers.) This sentiment was cheered by the opposite side, and was it denied by her Majesty's ministers? On the contrary, the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, sanctioned it by saying "all acknowledge that a religious education is, after all, the only true and safe one." He had the opinion of another no less important member of the ministry on this subject—he alluded to his right hon. Friend the Vice-president of the Board of Trade—not, indeed, expressed in this House, but in the great town of Liverpool, from whence it spread and was heard with satisfaction through the length and breadth of the land. He stated, It was a great truth that education, to be valuable and to deserve the name, must be a religious one, and to be religious must be founded on the definite word of God. Such were the declared opinions of the right hon. Baronet's own colleagues for England, and he had not yet heard it explained why as respected Ireland the case was different. He could not understand why the right hon. Baronet quoted the. opinions of three deceased persons however estimable they may have been in their lives, as of greater weight than his own colleagues—but still more as of higher authority than almost the entire bench of living bishops. They and a great body of the laity of the church in Ireland were now united upon the point of a Scriptural education. It was, therefore, unnecessary for him to discuss the point whether they were right or wrong. He thought they were right, though he differed from the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland in this opinion. It had been said, that if a grant were made to the Church Education Society, the Roman Catholic children would be withdrawn; but facts contra-dieted this, as proved by his noble Friend the Member for Bandon. He would in conclusion, add, that he trusted the day would yet come when the Government would be convinced that as in England, so in Ireland, their only hope of maintaining the regard and confidence of the vast portion of the inhabitants of that country must be founded on an avowed determination not to subordinate religion to policy, but to consecrate policy by subordinating it to true religion.

Mr. V. Smith

was astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken lay down the principle that the system of national education in Ireland was not a system of religious education. It appeared to him to be an eminently religious though it might not be a sectarian education, and that but for this they would have avoided a great part of the difficulties they had encountered. When the hon. Gentleman said that all the prelates were averse to this system, he forgot that the Archbishop of Dublin sat at the board of education, and that, however he might differ from them, the opinions of that rev. Prelate were entitled to great respect. As they would soon have another opportunity of discussing this question, he would now only further say that he had listened with great admiration to the manly and statesmanlike speech of the right hon. Baronet, and that he cordially concurred in his deliberate sanction of this system as the best system of education that could be established in Ireland.

Mr. Hardy

quite agreed with the hon. Member for Longford, that they could not call that a religious education which was not founded on revelation; why was revelation excluded from the schools? The extracts used did not contain the great doctrines of religion, nor were they in the language of Scripture. They might afford a moral education, but there was great difference between that and a religious education. They were told by the highest authority to search the Scriptures; but in these schools the command was not obeyed. The Scriptures were not to be searched there. If there were no difference between the religious education which a conscientious Roman Catholic would like his children to receive, and that which a conscientious Protestant would wish his children to be imbued with, why, in God's name, had they the great revolution—why did the Church of England now occupy the situation which the Church of Rome occupied here before her—and why was the Queen of this country placed upon the Throne formerly occupied by the Stuarts? And therefore, if the right hon. Baronet called the national system a religious system of education, he must admit that religion could be taught without reference to revelation. And how he could prove this, even with all his transcendant genius, he (Mr. Hardy) could not conceive. There was this difference between the Churches of England and Rome: one was founded upon Scripture—and the other excluded Scripture. [No, no.] He repeated it—the Roman Catholic Church excluded Scripture from her schools, and therefore the arrangement come to was, no compromise on the part of the Church of Rome, but a surrender of the principles of the Church of England—a surrender of that which constituted the great distinction between the two churches. Our translation of the Scriptures was a good and an honest one, but in some of the publications of the Church of Rome, our translation was said to teach the doctrines of the devil. He regretted that the Church which called itself infallible, had never produced an infallible translation of the Scriptures. That Church could find fault with our translation, but it could not produce a better. If the right hon. Baronet desired to introduce a system of moral education in Ireland, he should be prepared to agree that the children should meet and receive such an education together, and that their religious instruction should be received elsewhere.

Lord Eliot

must say a few words on the part of the Board of Education. He must remind his hon. Friend who had just sat down, that under the existing system, the Holy Scriptures were not excluded, and that the only limitation required was, that they should be read at a fixed and prescribed hour—whether that hour was at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the day, it mattered not—in order that an opportunity might be afforded of withdrawing at that hour those children whose parents objected to the use of the Scriptures in the form prescribed. His hon. Friend asserted also, that the revelations were excluded from the extracts used at the national schools; but, surely the revelations were not excluded from the Gospel of St. Luke, the whole of which formed part of those extracts? With regard to the form in which the Scriptures were used, it was certainly neither the Douay nor the authorised edition of the Bible that they read, but what he believed to be a correct, authentic, and perfectly sound version of that holy book. He must also remind his hon. Friend, that two days were set apart for religious instruction exclusively.

Mr. Kemble

deprecated the introduction of questions of religion into debates in that House, for he considered that that was not the proper place for them, and that they were but too likely to give rise to angry feelings. After having seen the reports of the commissioners, and having had an opportunity of looking into the working of the present system of education, he had no hesitation in saying that, on the grounds on which it had been recommended by the commissioners, it was an utter and entire failure. As he understood, it was to have united all denominations of Christians under one general system of education, by which there should be no compromise of principle, and which would form the means of softening down the asperities of religious rancour into one general sentiment of charity and benevolence. But such, he regretted to" say, had not been the result. Walking on one occasion through the streets of Newry, he inquired where the national school was, and could not learn, but was informed that there was a nunnery school, and this he found to be the national school of education. He went into it, witnessed the mode in which the children were instructed, and when asked to record his opinion of it, certainly did express himself to have been much pleased with it, as far as cleanliness, regularity, and general education were concerned; but he did maintain that this was not a school which could be called "national;" that a school which was to unite different denominations of Christians could not be held in a nunnery. He would not join in that ge- neral condemnation of the extracts from the Scriptures which were used, in which the hon. Member for Bradford had indulged. Those which he had seen appeared to contain much that was commendable and desirable to be imitated, for they appeared to combine the Old and New Testament, and by that means to afford explanations of both, which were highly advantageous. He complained, however, that these extracts were not read in the schools, and that the commissioners did not insist upon their being read, only making it a matter of mere recommendation. He did not know what the sentiments were of those Gentlemen whose reports had been that evening quoted; but he believed that Baron Foster had never given his sanction to that system. It was well known that the Presbyterians, in consequence of some concessions or what they conceived to be concessions, after having been opposed to the system, became parties to it; but he could not regard that as a national system against which a large body of the Church of England, whether rightly or wrongly, strongly protested, and from which many of the clergy had severed themselves.

Mr. Ross

, without meaning to doubt the hon. Member who had just spoken, must say that he knew of no school, attached to the nunnery of Newry, which was under the auspices of the Education Board; but he did know that an application to the board for money to improve the national school-house was refused on the ground that the parish priest lived within its precincts. That being the case, it seemed to him very unlikely that assistance would be given to a school held in a nunnery. If the system suggested by the hon. Member for Bradford were carried out, there could be no education in Ireland at all, for, according to the hon. Member himself, the Roman Catholics would not avail themselves of a system which required the whole Scriptures to be read from beginning to end. That the Scriptures or revelation were excluded at present, he denied; for, as the noble Lord stated, the entire Gospel of St. Luke was included in the extracts, and that Gospel every child was encouraged to read; and if the hon. Member for Bradford was a believer in the Scriptures, he must confess with him, that the words of eternal life were in that Gospel. Different sets of children might be brought up in opposite views of the same parts of the Scriptures—so that it all depended, not on what they read in the schools, but what instruction they received out of the schools, and what views they were taught to entertain of the parts they did read. With regard to the translation which had been objected to, he believed, although there might have been some little compromise on the subject of the extracts that it was perfectly fair. But as there were mistakes in the translation which was read in all the churches of the Establishment, and meeting-houses of the Dissenters, it was possible, that errors might also be found in those portions of the Scriptures which were read in the national schools. But he believed they contained no errors of grave importance, while they certainly did fulfil the great object of placing the children who read them within the capacity of knowing the vital truths of Christianity, and were not, therefore, liable to the censures which had been so liberally cast upon them. He was not only a Protestant, but he might say a double-distilled Protestant—and as such, he had no hesitation in saying that he regarded with approbation all that had been done by the late and the present Administration towards conferring on his countrymen the blessings of a moral and religious education. In what had been stated by the right hon. Baronet he fully concurred. That the books now in use were of a superior order to those hitherto employed, he could bear testimony; but he believed that the inadequate supply, previous to the introduction of the new system, was owing to poverty. He remembered going into a village some years ago, where the youth of the neighbourhood were instructed, and there he found a lad, who, he believed, was destined for the profession of a priest, learning Latin, and what did hon. Members think was the work by which a knowledge of the language was imparted to him? It was Ovid's "Art of Love."In this respect there was an improvement. He sincerely hoped, therefore, that the Government would persevere in their present course, and turn a deaf ear to all revilings on the subject, and to all appeals, come from what quarter they might, to alter the existing system of national education in Ireland. By doing so, he was convinced that they would earn a rich reward in their own consciences, and in the gratitude of the Irish people.

Sir V. Blake

concurred with the hon. Member for Surrey in the impropriety of introducing: religious discussions into that House. But he could not help remarking upon the egregious error into which the hon. Member for Bradford had fallen, in saying that the Catholics objected to the use of the Bible, and that they did not allow the introduction of revelations into their religious education. What they objected to was the abuse of the Bible, and for this objection he thought good grounds existed. He begged also to say, that the revolution was effected not to subvert the Roman Catholic religion, but to establish the civil liberties of Englishmen.

Mr. Brown

, as a Roman Catholic, begged leave to say, that they did make use of the Bible although they did not use the English version. In the county of Kerry, which he represented, the national system of education was most successful, most perfect, and free from objection.

Mr. Shaw

said, there was one statement of his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel), which be (Mr. Shaw) could not let pass without correction; it was, that the system recommended in the 14th report of the Commissioners of Education, of 1812, signed by the Archbishops of Armagh and Cashel, and Bishop Elrington, was the system adopted by the present National Board, and now objected to by the episcopal bench in Ireland. So far from it, be bad in his speech that night—when his right hon. Friend was not in the House—quoted from and expressed his concurrence in the principal sentiments that report contained. The present Primate had on public occasions done the same. But, what was still more important, the only two of the individuals who had signed that report, and who lived to see the present national system proposed, had openly protested against it, as totally different from the one recommended in their report. These were Dr. Elrington and Mr. Leslie Foster'—they objected both to the schools—which, according to their report, were to have been supplementary to the church schools, and to the Scripture extracts, which they had hoped could be agreed on by both churches; whereas those at present recommended, but not enforced by the National Board, had been altogether objected to by the authorities of the Established Church—and had, in fact, fallen into general disuse. Again, his right hon. Friend was in error in the sug- gestion he had made to his noble Friend (Lord Eliot), that one week day was set apart for separate religious instruction. It was true that had been originally recommended by the board; but the practice of late years had been generally, if not universally discontinued.

Sir R. Peel

never heard a statement with greater satisfaction than that of his right hon. Friend, who, from his position, was a high authority in Ireland, and who said the Primate of Ireland, concurred in the principles of the report. He would read from the report the principles in which they concurred. The commissioners declared it as their unanimous opinion:— That no principles of national education, however wise and unexceptionable in other respects, can be carried into effect or execution in Ireland, unless it be explicitly avowed and understood as a leading principle, that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect whatever. In another place they recommended the study of a volume of extracts from the sacred writings as forming the best preparation for a more particular religious instruction.

Vote agreed to.