§ Mr. Hume
said, that in rising to bring forward the motion of which he had given notice on the subject of national education, he feared that the discussion might not be quite so satisfactory as he could wish after the manifestation of excitement that had been recently produced throughout the country on the subject. His views however compelled him to take up the question in a different way from that in which it had hitherto been brought forward. He had not pressed the matter on the House during the present session, but had waited in the hope that her Majesty's Government —for it was a task which could be sucessfully prosecuted alone by them—would have been induced to adopt some such plan as he should suggest to the House. It was impossible for any individual member to carry any such measure as that for 1330 the adoption of a plan of national education; it therefore became the duty of the Ministers of the Crown to take up such a plan. He had arranged with his hon. Friend the Member for Bath, in the first week in the session, that he (Mr. Hume) should bring this subject before the House; but when he heard the notice that it was to be brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire, he waited in hopes that the noble Lord would induce the Government to take up the subject. He had further postponed his motion, after the failure of the Government plan, in hopes that the noble Lord the Member for London, who had so often taken an active part in the matter, would have taken it; but as that noble Lord had not, and as the Government had not, he felt called upon, before the close of the session, to submit his views to the House. It was impossible for him, after having occupied his mind with the subject of the diffusion of general education among the people, for a period of upwards of thirty years, when the subject was not fashionable as at present, not to feel the greatest interest in any thing calculated to promote that object. His views were confined entirely to secular education, and he, no doubt, should be told that the greatest difficulties would be found to exist in the way of carrying out such a proposition. He, however, entertained no such opinions as to the difficulties in the way were the Government to take up the matter. He alluded to the principle of the measure, and not to the details, which must be a matter of arrangement. He intended to ask for leave to bring in a bill for the establishment of schools to promote a sound education for the rising generation of the United Kingdom at the public expense, without wounding the feelings or injuring the rights of any sect or class of the community, confining the business of the schoolmaster to the secular and moral training of the children, and leaving all religious instruction to religious teachers distinct from the school. If the House would agree to the simple principle involved in this point, namely, that education was a good, and that it should be imparted to every individual in the country, the only difficulty then was as to how this should be carried out. He admitted that it was hardly possible to expect the House to agree to all the details of a matter of this extensive nature at once. 1331 He knew that the objections that might be entertained could hardly be expected to be removed by a simple statement, such as he was about to make; but he trusted that he should be allowed to introduce the bill, so that he might be enabled to show by what means he proposed to carry his views into practice. He might, be allowed to introduce the bill, and have it printed. and no one would be pledged to its details. His opinion was that education should be a national object, and that any plan for its establishment should be controlled in its operation, and superintended by the Government, but that the details should be carried out by those connected with local interests, and by whom the expense was defrayed. All the attempts made in this country to promote any extensive system of education had been defeated by attempting to unite religious and secular education together. He was convinced that no one could successfully carry out a general system of education in which an attempt was made to keep those two principles united. He, therefore, wished that the House would adopt the general principle for the establishment of a secular plan of education, and afterwards to look to the clergy of the various denominations to impart religious instruction to the pupils. When they had a system in which all could agree, and all cooperate and act harmoniously together, they might look for that beneficial result which had hitherto been prevented by the partial and contradictory opinions which prevailed. Instruction might be given and morals imparted, to the rising generation, without the schoolmaster being called upon to teach a more important branch of knowledge. The province of the schoolmaster should be confined to imparting moral instruction, and to the clergy of the various denominations should they look for the diffusion of religious instruction. Looking to England, divided as it was into twenty different sects, if they asked for the cooperation of the clergy of all classes in promoting 'a combined system of secular and religious instruction, they could not obtain it. Those parties could not agree as to the nature of the religious instruction that should be imparted. The dogmas of each sect differed, each man entertaining a strong conscientious belief that he was right, and that the course which he recommended was the best, or, indeed, the only safe course, and none would yield up 1332 to others that which was to confer such a great benefit as the instruction of the young. If such benefits as had been pointed out by the most eminent writers were derived from the diffusion of education, was it not of the utmost importance that the Legislature should take steps to insure its general diffusion, and that in such a way that our just expectations should not be disappointed. Many disputes had often arisen on this subject from a want of a proper definition of terms, particularly the meaning of the term secular. He was anxious to show the difference between secular and religious instruction, and on this point he might refer to various authorities, but he should be satisfied with one quotation. Hooker's definition of education (the hon. Member was understood to say) was the formation of the mind in youth, or it was that system which by reasoning and precept taught youth to make the distinction between truth and error in the intercourse between man and man. He wished secular education to be confined to such matters as referred to acts between man and man; and he would confine the business of the schoolmaster to this. And when it appeared that, by endeavouring to combine the two systems of religious and secular education, the result was a failure, was it not better to take steps to secure the adoption of a general system of secular education as preliminary to religious instruction? Men who had been instructed in worldly knowledge were always better prepared to receive religious instruction, than those who had received no instruction at all. Reading, writing, and arithmetic did not constitute knowledge, but were the means by which knowledge could be acquired. It was of the greatest importance that every youth should be subjected to that discipline which existed in a well organised school, by which self-denial was acquired, and the scholar learnt the advantage of order and regularity, and command of temper, and by this course of proceeding he would become a sober, intelligent, and upright man. He did not wish to prevent the diffusion of religious instruction, far from it, but he wished to promote secular education for all. To show that the matter of education was regarded as of the deepest public interest, he would state that 25,705 petitions had been presented, which were signed by 4,389,496 names on that sub- 1333 ject. During the annals of Parliament, in any one Session, on any one subject, so many petitions expressive of public opinion had never before been presented. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department would bear in mind that almost on the first time that he introduced his bill, he told the right hon. Gentleman that it would be impossible to carry it out in the then state of society, and he urgently requested him to separate it into two parts, the one for secular instruction, and the other having reference to the factories, and to have nothing to do with religious instruction in connection with his bill. The number of petitions presented in favour of the bill, or for some general education, was 170, and signed by 312,669 persons. The number of petitions against the educational clauses of the bill, that was, against placing the education of the people both in a secular and religious sense, under one religious body, was 25,535, and signed by 4,064,832. Now this showed the state of public feeling against any attempt to unite the two descriptions of education. If they looked to the various petitions that had been presented, it would appear that the feeling was against giving the control of education to the members of any one religious denomination. The petition of the independent Presbyterian Baptists, within twelve miles of London, prayed for a solid education of the labouring classes, founded upon scriptural principles. The petition from West Bromwich stated, that a religious and moral education of the people would prove a great public benefit. The petition from the Wesleyans recommended an education of the people founded upon scriptural principles. The prayer of the petition from the Protestant Dissenters of Walsall was to the same effect. Other petitions prayed for any plan of general education for the poor. One of these was from the synod of Glasgow, and another from the congregation of the Surrey chapel. These were the sum and substance of all the petitions; and as they combined scriptural with secular education, could any plan be devised for carrying the prayers of the petitions into effect? He would say none. There was no plan of general education which could combine religious instruction for churchmen. Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, and Protestant Dissenters. Of this there had already been sufficient proof, He did not 1334 mean to say, that the religious instruction of children should be lost sight of, but if the House attempted to take the two steps in conjunction they would fail in both. By adopting one— by furnishing the means of a sound moral secular education they would do much good, and, by means of the schoolmaster, prepare the way for that religious instruction which it was the duty of the clergyman to give; and if as was., clear, it was impossible to do both together, why not do the next best thing, and proceed with one? On the 28th of February— and he called the attention of the House to the fact, because he heard with delight the right hon. the Home Secretary express his intention to carry out the object of the noble Lord—on the 28th of February the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire made the following motion:—That an humble Address be presented to her Majesty, praying that her Majesty will be graciously pleased to take into her instant and serious consideration the best means of diffusing the benefits and blessings of a moral and religious education among the working classes of her people.That vote was carried unanimously. The House did not then affirm an intention of carrying the religious and secular education at one step. The resolution pledged the House to adopt the best means of diffusing moral and religious education. He (Mr. Hume) was of opinion, that the schoolmaster could inculcate moral and secular, but not religious, instruction. He could prepare the pupil for what related to this world, and guide him as regarded his actions between man, and this, if they had the means, as he would show they had, the House was bound to see performed. On the 8th of March, he found that her Majesty was pleased to return the following answer to the Address of that House:—I have received your loyal and dutiful Address.The attention of my Government had been previously directed to the important object of increasing the means of moral and religious education among the working classes of my people.The assurance of your cordial co-operation in measures which I consider so necessary, confirms my hope that this blessing will be secured by legislative provisions.He believed that her Majesty's Ministers, who dictated this answer, were prepared to advise that the best means should be adopted to carry out this principle; 1335 but he was sorry to say, that the measure proposed by Ministers was not such as was calculated to carry out the intention expressed in her Majesty's reply, and the House was consequently called upon to adopt some measure for rescuing the country from the danger which was likely to ensue from an ignorant, and by consequence a vicious population. If any doubt were entertained that ignorance and vice went hand-in-hand, he could prove it on the authority of the best and wisest men, and could show to a committee up stairs that moral training, even exclusive of religious instruction, was sure to be followed by the most beneficial effects to society. It was therefore due to the children of this country—it was due to the State, and it was due to themselves, to provide that the children of the working classes should not grow up to manhood ignorant of the principles, a knowledge of which would enable and induce them to support the institutions of the country in peace and in order; or, if they differed from and wished to change those institutions, to enable them to support the grounds upon which they proceeded with valid and rational arguments. To withhold those means was a grievous sin against the community, of which they had a just right to complain; and, at the present moment, the results of such a proceeding were but too obvious. He would adduce some instances to show, that no population which was ignorant, and consequently vicious, could be happy, whatever might be the state of trade or commerce. Such a population must necessarily want that self-control and self-denial, without which no advantages, however great, could be properly enjoyed, and without which no population could be happy, moral, or contented. It might be said, that the expense to the community would be too great, but he would prove, if a committee were granted, that the restraining of vice by means of education would, instead of an expense, be a saving to the community: a saving would be effected in gaols; a saving in the expense of transportation, in the extent to which it now took place; a saving in the trials of criminals; and a saving in the amount of property pillaged of more than a million of money, which was a sum much more than would be adequate to the instruction of the people. Add to this the different aspect which society would then present in its improved comforts and morals. He 1336 would refer to two or three documents of an important character, and calculated to attract attention. In the 5th report of the inspectors of prisons, it appeared that the number of prisoners incarcerated in 1839,—and the increase since was 10,000 —was 54,579. Of these the numbers who could neither read nor write was 23,482; of those who could read, only 11,537; of those who could read imperfectly, 19, 567; and of those who could read and write well, 2,380. Taking these and the number of convicts together, they amounted to 77,121, and of all those who could read and write well there were but 5,000. This state of things was, surely, a reproach to any legislature which had it in its power to remedy it. With regard to the juvenile offenders, it appeared that there were 1,073 males, and 217 females; and the whole result was to exhibit a state of things which was a reproach to this country, for no other country in the world exhibited anything so discreditable. At the summer assizes in York, Mr. Justice Cress-well, in addressing the grand jury, regretted that he could not congratulate them on the state of the calendar, as he found crime on the increase. This was an indirect accusation of the Government. From a statement relative to Birmingham, which was divided into two parishes, it appeared that there were 23,900 persons who received no education. Was that a state of things which should be permitted to continue? On inquiry it had been found that there was only 5 per cent. of the population who were so poor as not to be able to afford education to their children, and that 10 per cent. who were capable of doing so would not afford it. Was not this a matter of the utmost importance, and well worth the consideration of the House? It was the bounden duty of the Parliament to see that the people were properly educated, that their moral as well as their physical wants should be duly attended to, and that they should be rendered fit to become useful members of society. In his opinion education ought to be made compulsory, and the doing so would not be inconsistent with the freedom of our institutions. He would not, in saying this, have the Government take the entire direction in its own hands. It was a question which he would have submitted to the consideration of Parliament. Neither would he 1337 interfere with any of the existing schools; but none of the people should be left to the danger of ignorance, and but few if any would be so left should his plan be adopted. Every district should be called upon to ascertain the number of those within it who had not the means of furnishing their children with education, and then to provide schools and maintain schoolmasters for their education. The expence he would propose to pay out of the local property, because that property suffered most from ignorance and its concomitant— crime. He would not propose to give pre-eminence to any religion or sect, as his plan did not meddle with them. He would have the community of the district who contributed to the fund meet once a year to elect a committee, of which there should be a partial change annually by one-third going out; and to this committee should be entrusted the management of the fund, at the same time that their accounts should be made public. He would also have a board sitting in London for the purpose of carrying out the Parliamentary plan; and he would also have visiting inspectors to report in how far the intentions of Parliament were adhered to or deviated from. There would be no difficulty in the plan. It had been successfully adopted in many countries, and was acted on in all the district divisions of New York. An intelligent gentleman had informed him, that of the 138,185 persons who formed the population of the borough of Birmingham, there were 35,500 under ten years of age. Of that number, about 8,373 were estimated of a much tenderer age. These would not be able to attend the common schools, but would require infant schools, or else would not be educated at all; and perhaps it might not be considered a matter of much importance if children, at so young an age, were not educated; but it was wonderful what impressions might be given at an early age, and there might be, in every district, infants schools in addition. Taking Birmingham as a fair specimen of the state of the population of the country, the House would see what proportion of the entire population it would have to provide for, the proportion would be about 2¾ per cent. Every ratepayer having a voice in the choice of the committee, would be an arrangement tending to remove the jealousies on this subject which existed in 1338 the country. The details by which the system of education might be carried out would be matter for consideration; and if any suggestions of his were found erroneous, they could refer to the practice of other countries. He had got an account of the state of Wolverhampton and Manchester, but he thought the example of Birmingham might be taken as a specimen of the state of other towns. He bad been anxious to have similar information with respect to the agricultural districts, and had pressed for an inquiry at the close of the last Session. The right hon. Baronet opposite consented to institute one; but as regarded education the statements of the commissioners were very defective. From his own information, however, he was led to believe that the agricultural population were not better instructed than the manufacturing; on the contrary, he believed, that in many of the large manufacturing towns the population were better instructed than the agricultural population; and there could be no doubt the establishment of mechanics' institutes had improved the minds of all who attended them, and tended to the promotion of peace and good order. There was not an instance of a well-educated population being otherwise than an orderly, moral, and quiet, population. With reference to drunkenness, the vice that led to all others, it was impossible to believe that if the working-classes were well-educated they would become the victims of drinking, for their minds would be too much improved, and directed to other objects. Looking at the statistics of London from 1831 to 1842, he found with satisfaction that an immense improvement had taken place, and that drunkenness had decreased by one-half in this metropolis during the last ten years. The causes of this improvement might be various. He believed that education had been somewhat extended, though not to such a degree as to account wholly for the improvement. But means had been adopted to direct the minds of the population to other objects besides drinking. He found that. it was the opinion of the Police Commissioners, Colonel Rowan, and Mr. Mayne, that not only the establishments of schools, but the admission of the population to public places had tended in a great degree to effect the change which had taken place. He believed, that the House could not reflect 1339 on, without satisfaction, what was now passing in that neighbourhood; for thousands of that part of the population, which was formerly considered to be dead to a sense of the fine arts, were daily beholding with the greatest interest the exhibition recently opened in the vicinity. When such an advancement was seen to have been made in the public taste, it would be lamentable if means of improvement were not placed within the reach of every individual, however humble. By the London police returns for 1842, it appeared that 65,704 persons were taken into custody, Of these 2,591 were under ten years of age, and 14,250 under fifteen years, making a grand total of 16,841 under the age of fifteen. Of the whole number, 19,850 persons could neither read nor write, and 38,829 could only read and write imperfectly. Under these circumstances the House would be to blame, if, having the power, it did not take means to improve the population. The whole number who could read and write well was 6,464, and those who had received a superior education amounted to 561. He had alluded to the decrease of drunkenness, and he would now state some details on the point. In 1831, the number of persons taken up for drunkenness was 32,353, of whom almost 19,000 were men, and 12,000 females. In 1842, the amount of this vice had greatly decreased, the number of persons taken up for drunkenness being 12,338, of which 7,988 were men, and 4,350 females. And much of this most valuable improvement was attributable to the improved direction which had been given to the public curiosity and interest, by mechanics' institutes, by throwing open places of intellectual and artistic resort to the public, and by similar means. No one who saw what was passing daily in Westminster Hall, who witnessed the deep interest with which the works of art there were viewed by a never ending succession of anxious crowds of people, namely, of those classes who had hitherto been supposed to be hopelessly dead to all the more elevating feelings— no one who witnessed this most cheering and gratifying sight, but must admit that a most important moral change had taken place among the people. It was the duty and the interest of Parliament to foster this improvement to the utmost possible extent; to erase, by every means in their power, the plague spot of ignorance, which 1340 had hitherto so disguised the fair face of this country. So late as a century and a half ago, in the year 1696, one of the last acts of the Scottish Parliament, was to pass a law providing for the secular education of the people, entrusting the management of their plan to the Presbytery, a mixed body of churchmen and laymen, and carefully excluding any grounds for sectarian jealousies, by taking care that religious opinions should not enter into the arrangements. All the children learned one common catechism, but no peculiar doctrines were taught, except on Sundays, when the children heard spiritual lessons read by their respective ministers. This was the principle upon which the Parliament should now act. A private individual, who had the means, would justly be condemned as a brute if lie did not educate his children. Why, then, should not the State educate such of its children as were destitute of the means of providing that inestimable blessing for themselves? In the report of the commissioners of Poor-law Inquiry, education was described as a means of preventing the people becoming chargeable on the poor-rates; and a similar observation was made in the report of the handloom weavers' commission. In fact, in proportion as each man was educated he became more valuable. He had statements in reference to the state of Massachusetts, which showed the advantage which every person connected with manufactures derived from having instructed workmen. Mr. Mills, of Boston, stated, that among the persons he employed, he had 300 Irish, who, not being instructed, gave him the greatest trouble and did the least work; and he had come to the conclusion that he would never retain in his service uneducated workmen. Three individuals who had been in charge of that establishment all concurred in laying down this as a principle which had been tested by them for several years. If such, then, had been the results, why had Parliament allowed such masses of ignorance to exist so long in this country? It was said it would be impossible, that with the institutions of this country, such a system as that which. he (Mr. Hume) had described could be carried on; he denied it altogether. He held in his hand reports as to the condition, in point of education, of the states of Massachusets, New York, and Connecticut. He would only refer to one of those 1341 reports to show how easy, and with what advantage to the population, the system was pursued. In this country Parliament hesitated to apply 30,000l. or 40,000l. per annum, while in the United States they did not hesitate to apply 200,000l. to the purposes of the education of the people. In the state of New York there were 184 towns and 10,893 districts, and there was no district without its appropriate schools. Besides the schools there were libraries in all the districts and towns. The money paid for the support of education in the year 1841 was 1,057,000 dollars. The city of New York, moreover had its own institutions; had its schools and its libraries, and expended on them the sum of 98,000 dollars. Now let him show the House the result of this system. In the state of New York the whole number of children between the ages of five and sixteen, the ages when they were expected to attend school, was 601,075, while the children actually at school was 588,000, leaving only 13,075 children who did not attend school either in winter or in summer. Let them compare that picture with the picture of education in England — England which counted its millions of pounds where New York had only its thousands of dollars. The moral advantages of such a system were unspeakable. He called the attention of the House to that as an example most worthy to be followed. In the New York system, while the government laid down the plan and preserved the inspection of the schools, the management was left to the people. The inhabitants of each district chose their own managers of the schools; but they were all subject to be looked after by inspectors. That system was carried on without any unnecessary interference on the part of the government, and there was no reason to suppose, on those various points he had mentioned, that such a system might not be carried on under our Government. It was well known that in uo part of the world was there more attention paid to religion than in New York; yet the government of that state applied 208,000l. per annum to schools and 28,000l. per annum for libraries. He would refer next to Massachusets, the whole population of which, according to the census of 1840 was 734,258, and a sum, as we understood, of 102,000l. was annually applied to the purposes of school education. The schools were supported 1342 by a tax levied on the population of the state at large. The number of parish schools was 3,103, and the number of scholars 131,000 in summer, and in winter 151,000. The result was, that each person received an excellent education for a sum which varied from 10s. to 3s. a head. At the same time that the secular education of the people was so well carried out, religion was carefully attended to. Besides the parish schools, there were eighteen academies maintained out of private funds, in which the children secured a professional or more extended education. With them the inspectors did not interfere. He did not know why we should not have such a system of education in England. In that state, he repeated, there was 102,000l. applied to education by a people amounting only to 734,000, while we who had a population of 24,000,000, only applied 30,000l. to the purpose. According to his plan, he would have the same thing done in England as was done in New York. That system, in fact, was already adopted in Scotland, and the principle was, that the property of the country should provide for the education of the people. He could assure the owners of property that it would be money well laid out. It would be most beneficial to themselves, and he doubted whether they could lay out a sum of equal amount, with equal advantage, as in providing education for the people. He would remind them, too, of the example of Holland. He had himself been in Holland three years ago, and had looked at the schools, but he had not made so critical an examination of them as Mr. Chambers, who had made a short tour in Holland, of which he had pub-published an account. The result was most satisfactory. The hon. Member here quoted a long passage from Mr. Chambers's book, mentioning the address that had been issued to the clergy, first in 1806, recommending them to separate school learning from the doctrinal parts of religion, and the answers of some of the clergy, particularly that of the Roman Catholic clergy, which recognized the necessity of abstaining from teaching the doctrinal part of their religion in schools, and which the hon. Member said was highly creditable to them. The hon. Member also quoted that part of Mr. Chambers's book in which he describes his visit to a school, and the surprise of 1343 the master that he should ask what religion the children professed, as that was a question the schoolmaster had never asked himself. Some of those children were Lutherans, others Calvinists, others Catholics, and others Jews. The hon. Member, in continuation, asked, why should not such a system take place here? He regretted, however, to say, that here it was directly the reverse, and our people were filled with bitterness against each other. The Church of England carried its exclusions to a great length. He was in the Isle of Wight for a few months last year, and he saw a school there, a very good school, large enough for all the children of the parish, but into which, not a single child belonging to a Dissenter was allowed to enter; every child was obliged to say the catechism of the Church of England, and without saying that, no child was admitted into the school. The Dissenters were not so exclusive as the Churchmen; they admitted the children of all sects and classes. To him, that appeared an excellent plan; and it did not exclude the Scriptures, for selections from the Scriptures were read in the lessons, yet they were such parts of Scripture as might be read everywhere and by all sects. That was the system of the British and Foreign School Society, and in their schools there were no collisions between the scholars, though they received the children of the different sects. In his opinion it was a good principle which this society generally acted on, that each child should, if possible, pay something for his education. That gave the children and their parents an interest in it, and made them attend better. What was the result of this common education in Holland? The hon. Member again quoted Mr. Chambers's tour to show its influence on the people. There were no people, he said, more religious or orderly than the Dutch. They followed a system of order, cleanliness, and self-denial which was remarkable. In Holland there were no idle boys playing about the streets as there were here; no young vagabonds preparing to fill our prisons. All the children were well instructed; and why, he again asked, should we reject such a system here? In Holland the benefits of that system extended to all classes, and he wished the House could compare the Dutch fishermen with the fishermen of England. He had seen the fishermen of Schevelling and he never saw more orderly 1344 or better behaved men. The fishermen of our country were treated as outcasts, and were certainly not to be compared to those of Holland. Why should we not adopt a system which even taught the fishermen to be examples of piety? Some persons objected to that system that it was too much like the compulsory system of Prussia; but he thought that they were mistaken as to the nature of the Prussian system. Under the Prussian system every man was at liberty to instruct his own child. The Government did not interfere with that. He might instruct the child himself, or he might employ another person to instruct him, and the government only interfered when it found that the parent neglected the child and did not instruct him at all. Then the government interfered, and he thought with propriety and advantage. Because we would not do as was done in Prussia and Austria, we sat with our arms folded and did nothing— we saw the plague_ spot in the land and did nothing to eradicate it. He did not think that what was done in Prussia was an interference with individual liberty, as all that was required was that instruction should be given, and that men should not be allowed to grow up in ignorance of their duties to themselves and others. He did not think i an invasion of liberty to compel parents to bring up their children so as to perform their duties as men, and their duties to the state. But when it was said, that we ought not to interfere, the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) had brought in a bill which interfered more with the people than the Prussian system. The bill of the right hon. Baronet compelled all the individuals belonging to factories to attend school, and required them to produce certificates that they had attended, of a degrading form—so degrading, that he was not surprised that the people had refused to submit to the bill, and had opposed it. The Factories Bill was a complete system of compulsory education, applied to one class alone. Why was it applied to the factories alone? Why should not the agriculturists and the colliers be required to attend school? He regarded that bill as a very strong enactment compared to the Prussian system. By the Austrian law of 1821 no village was to be left without an elementary school, and he should be glad to see England adopt an enactment like that. 1345 The population of Austria, exclusive of Hungary and Transylvania, was about 22,500,000, and they possessed 28,121 elementary schools, and 32,500 teachers. Austria, then, was not afraid of instructing the people. There were 10,280 teachers of religion, and upwards of 22,000 lay teachers. The number of children at school was 3,313,000. No man was allowed to have any employment, who could not read, and write, and cast accounts, and he thought such a test might be applied in England. He would like, also, to see some law to prevent the people marrying, unless they had acquired a certain degree of education. Certainly, the want of education led to early marriages, and led to an excess of population. Were it a rule that no man should obtain an employment who could not read and write, it would soon make the people apply themselves to education, and take an interest in it. In Austria, too, the Government took care to make all the means of instruction as cheap as possible; while we passed laws to make things dear. We passed laws even to raise the price of food; it would be better to imitate Austria, and pass laws to make books and other things cheap, and spread knowledge abroad. Austria had no fear that her population should acquire knowledge, and the English ought to be taught what they did not know, that she stood below Austria in the scale of education. In fact, England stood at the bottom of the scale of civilized Europe. There was, he believed, but one state lower, and that one was Portugal. Supposing Portugal to be 14, England was 13. Switzerland was 7, Prussia 8, Holland 9, and France and England were about on a par for ignorance, standing at 13. He thought the Government should set zealously about this subject next year, and in a few years, if not immediately, they would see the benefit of their exertions. They must not expect, however, to have good masters, unless they paid them properly, and treated them respectfully. At present, the office of instructing youth, was considered only a step to something else, and the consequence was, there was in our schools a perpetual succession of new men. That was one great evil, and one which he thought it was the duty of the Government to obviate by requiring a qualification for every person who wished to be a schoolmaster. Every schoolmaster should undergo an examina- 1346 tion, and when no persons could be schoolmasters unless properly qualified, they would be well, or at least reasonably paid. It would be a very proper expenditure of public money if the property of every town or district were taxed for the purposes of education. He was of opinion with Adam Smith, that it would be easy to make the study of science universal, and to raise up a generation of competent and valuable teachers. If the Government would take the proper course of holding out sufficient inducement, they need not trouble themselves about searching for teachers; they would soon be found coining forward in abundance. That was one part of the plan contemplated in the bill he now wished to introduce. He did not require that large sums of money should be expended in the establishment and maintenance of model schools. Make the situation of schoolmaster worth looking after,—make it respectable,—make the calling of a teacher appear honourable to society, and then persons would readily enough, and at their own expense, educate and prepare themselves for the work, and come forward to be examined and employed. The model schools might be continued for a time; but they would in a little while be found unnecessary. He was satisfied that would be the case; it was not his opinion merely, but that of others. He had received a letter from a teacher of English, named Knight, one of the compilers of Knight's Dictionary, upon the subject of religious education; and the result of that person's experience was, that it was utterly impossible that religious education could be properly conducted in a mixed school of sectaries. He considered that secular education ought to be adopted prior to religious and moral education; and he mentioned from his own experience the evils of mixing up the two kinds of instruction, and stated the advantages of the other course, that which he (Mr. Hume) now recommended. He (Mr. Hume) regretted to find that the money which was granted by Parliament was not applied where it was wanted, where the places were too poor to found schools, but to the rich districts. The sums of money granted for the year 1840 and 1841 were in the following proportions:—The Church of England Schools received 25,355l.; the British and Foreign School Society, 1,170l.; the Scotch Schools, 980l,; the Roman Catholics, 1347 1501. Total, 27,655l. In the year 1841– grants were—the Church of England, 21,330l; the British and Foreign School Society, 4,140l ; the Scotch Schools, 1,775l ; making a total of 27,245l. Again he said, that was not a fair distribution of the money. In the bill which he proposed to introduce, the details would be given much more clearly than he could then announce them; but he did not, in proposing such a bill, ask the right hon. Baronet to commit himself in any way to his views. As the Parliament had determined, and the Queen had announced her approval of their determination, to forward education, he hoped that the Parliament would not be dissolved without some practical measure being adopted. His only object was to lay before the country the materials for thinking; and though he did not want persons to coincide with him in his plan, still he wished that all might be engaged in considering so important a subject during the recess. When he proposed his resolution, he must say that he did not expect to be interfered with. He had given time to others to propose their plans, and now he felt sorry to see others announce their intention of interfering with him. His object was to put down unpleasant feelings which existed between sectarians in this country. Peace and amity were secured between them in other countries, and he did not see why it should not be done here. As to the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries, he perfectly coincided with him in his views. He agreed with him in thinking that every department in the state ought to make a report of its proceedings. This ought to be done not merely by the Board of Education, but by every other board. He believed that if that were done— if upon a certain day in every year public boards were bound to make a report of their past proceedings, those proceedings would be more satisfactory, and there would be less good reason for finding fault with them. As to the resolutions of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne, he must say that while he himself was anxious to put an end to the differences between sects, those resolutions he considered would set them squabbling as to how much each should get from the public funds. Therefore it was that he did not consider that the resolutions of the lion. Member could be properly introduced. 1348 Then, as to the motion of the noble Lord, he must say that it was proposed in such general terms that he did not know what it meant. It proposed that her Majesty should do that which she had already declared her willingness to do. What more did the noble Lord want? He should expect to find the noble Lord. not opposing but supporting it is resolution. Looking, then, to what their duty was, and what they ought to do, as well as regarding the state of the country, he ventured to declare this to the right hon. Baronet, that if Wales had been better instructed than she was—if English masters had been sent there a hundred years ago—if the Welsh language had been put an end to years ago as it ought —[Hear, and laughter.]—yes, he said so, because there was very little beneficial to be read in Welsh—he said the same of Gaelic, as well as of the Irish language, because there were not many good books in any of these languages—if facilities had been afforded for instruction in Wales—if the men of Wales had spoken English, if they were fully informed, he was sure they would not have had such disturbances in the country, and they would have found the people themselves more disposed to be obedient to the law. Influenced by these views, he hoped that her Majesty's Government would agree with his motion. He therefore begged to ask, in the words in which it stood in the votes, for leave to bring in—A bill for the establishment of schools to promote a sound education for the rising generation of the United Kingdom, at the public expense, without wounding the feelings or injuring the rights of any sect or class of the community, but confining the business of the schoolmaster to the secular and moral training of the children, and leaving all religious instruction to religious teachers distinct from the school; to the end that general instruction and a spirit of Christian brotherhood and good will may be disseminated amongst all classes and denominations.
§ Mr. Ewart
trusted that it would be attributed to his zeal in the cause, if he undertook the duty of seconding his hon. Friend in favour of a more extended system of national education. He was happy in being able to do so on the general principles which his hon. Friend had advocated; though on particular points they might not entirely coincide. His hon. Friend had admitted the system of common religious instruction in the schools on those uncon- 1349 tested points of Christianity on which all religious denominations might agree, while he reserved special doctrinal instruction for the pastor of the denomination to which each of the pupils might belong. He did not see why those beautiful precepts of Christian morality contained in the Sermon on the Mount, and other elementary parts of scripture, might not be points of union for different sects instead of points of separation, while distinctions of creed might be taught separately by the clergy of different denominations. This principle was not founded in theory alone; its truth had been proved in practice. In the corporation schools at Liverpool it had been tried with success, and in Ireland the combined system now united nearly 300,000 scholars. If they could happily agree on an united system, it must be one of perfect religious equality. No sectarian pre-eminence could exist in modern times. They must meet equally or not at all. The measure of the right hon. Baronet had justly roused the spirit of religious freedom; it had scattered the sparks of theological discord instead of diffusing the steady light of fair and equal education, and it had fortunately settled equality as the basis of national education. If he (Mr. Ewart) were to speak his sincere opinion, he should, perhaps, say that his hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) at this important period might have paused. He might have waited till another Session, when the exasperation of party had subsided, and allowed an interval of repose, in order that parties might become calmed, and possibly disposed to unite in one general, equal, and comprehensive scheme of national instruction. On another point also he differed by a shade of opinion from his hon. Friend. He did not think so highly of the compulsory system as his Friend. He believed that more was done by infusing into a nation an habitual respect for education, as had been the case in Scotland, by creating an almost hereditary feeling in its favour, than by compulsory enactments and rigid regulations. He, therefore, did not think the compulsory systems of Austria or Prussia so indispensable as his hon. Friend. But his object, in pursuance of the motion of which he had given notice, was to direct the attention of the House to the importance of causing an annual statement to be made by the Government on the progress and prospects of education. They had their 1350 annual statement on the army estimates, on the navy estimates, and on the ordnance estimates. Why might not they have an annual statement on the education estimates, on the most important of all subjects, education? Education had extended under the authority of Government, into our factory system, into our system of prison discipline, and into our Poor-law unions. On 'all these subjects the Crown, the Parliament, and the public ought to be periodically informed. Within the last three years schools of design, of great importance to our manufactures and to the arts, had been established. They were, more or less, supported by the public funds. The public ought to learn from the Government what was their condition, their prospects, and their progress. And to this subject also the annual report of the Minister might refer.
§ An Hon. Member moved that the House be counted, and forty Members not being present, the House adjourned at half-past seven o'clock.