Mr. S. Wortley
wished, before the House proceeded to the debate upon this measure, to make a few observations upon the course it would be most expedient to adopt. As 1412 suming that the motion of the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Ewart) would be negatived, the discussion would be mainly directed to that portion of the bill which related to the establishment of a system of education for children in factories. There was, however, another part of the measure which was so important, that he apprehended it would be admitted that it was desirable that it should undergo a separate and full discussion. What he alluded to was, the time to be prescribed by this bill for the labour of those who were between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. He might be told, that he could take this discussion in committee, but they could not there raise so general a discussion as might be wished as to the hours. When the right hon. Baronet had proposed to fill up the blank with twelve hours, his noble Friend, the Member for Dorsetshire had announced his intention of proposing that the hours should be limited to ten. He understood, that any hon. Member was competent to introduce another amendment in case the first motion was negatived; but if the first motion were carried, no other proposals could be introduced. He believed, there were many hon. Members who were anxious to express their opinions upon this subject; and he thought it was most desirable that those gentlemen should have an opportunity of an unrestricted and unfettered discussion on all these proposals. His object was to impress these considerations upon the House, and to suggest what would be the most convenient course to pursue, which was this, that before the subject of education was entered upon, there should be an understanding on the part of the House and the right hon. Baronet, that before the Speaker left the Chair, and before they went into committee, they would be allowed an opportunity to discuss those points of the bill touching the time which young persons from thirteen to eighteen years of age should be allowed to work.
§ Sir James Graham
assured his hon. Friend that to any recommendation which should come from him, he would be disposed to yield; but his experience in that House had convinced him that a strict adherence to the forms of the House was, upon the whole, the most convenient. They were to discuss this evening the principles of the bill, which were these:— First: Whether there should be any limitation in the hours of labour of children; Secondly: Whether there should be a 1413 limitation of the time and hours of work of young persons; and Thirdly: Whether that education, which, under the law, as it now stood, was compulsory, should be aided by the state and under the control of the Privy council. The question raised by his noble Friend was a matter of detail, and he had stated truly that the question of limitation of the hours of labour would arise very early in the bill. It was his intention to fill up the blank with the word twelve. His noble Friend, the Member for Dorsetshire, intended to move that the word ten be substituted. According to the forms of the House the question of the longer time would be put first, and if that were carried, no shorter time could be proposed; but if his hon. Friend were dissatisfied with that decision it was perfectly open to his hon. Friend, on the reception of the report, to move that any other number be substituted. This would be the ordinary course, and it was the best. As at present advised, he could not consent to any lesser period than twelve hours, but when the bill came out of committee, any hon. Member who was dissatisfied with it, could vote against it.
§ Mr. Labouchere
rose to ask what were the intentions of the Government as to the future progress of this bill? He was not one who would complain that the Government were asking for any undue indulgence from the House, when they called on it to agree to the second reading of this bill. He thought the principles of the bill, as stated by the right hon. Baronet, were so broad and distinct that the House was as well prepared to agree to them at once as it would be at a future time. Still, he could not but feel that this was a bill of which the details were of the utmost importance: and it was due not only to the Members of that House, but to the constituencies of hon. Members, that the country should have full opportunity of discussing these important details, which, indeed, involved principles in themselves. His object was to ask the right hon. Baronet, or rather to express a hope that he would give ample time, if the House agreed to the second reading, to consider of the details of the measure before going into committee. He trusted the right hon. Baronet, would not object to state, what the intentions of the Government were, with respect to the consideration of the bill in committee.
§ Sir James Graham
said, that nothing was more fair than the question of the right 1414 hon. Gentleman, and he was extremely glad that the right hon. Gentleman had given him an opportunity of stating to the House what were the views taken by her Majesty's Government with respect to this bill. He thought it was most important that the opinion of the House should be taken on the principle of the bill. At the same time he could not dissemble from himself that the details were, if possible, more important than the principle. Though he objected decidedly to dividing the bill into two parts, for the purpose of discussing its principle; still he thought that course might be adopted with advantage when the bill was in committee. If the House affirmed the second reading to—night, what he should propose was that they should go into committee before Faster upon the manufacturing clauses in the bill, and when they came to the clauses with respect to education, he should propose to postpone the further consideration of those clauses until after Easter. He was very confident, though he might unhappily deceive himself, that the more these clauses were considered—the more deliberately they were weighed—the more deeply would the public be convinced that they had been framed with impartiality, and with a view to the benefit of the people. He fully concurred with the right hon. Gentleman that time ought to be given to consider these clauses, and he hoped that the statement that he had made, of the intention of the Government to postpone the consideration of these clauses till after Easter, would induce the hon. Member for Dumfries not to press his motion for postponing the whole bill.
§ Mr. Hume
wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question with regard to the principle of the bill. In the first place, he wished to know if all the expenses which would be incurred by the working of the bill were to be defrayed out of the Poor—rates? He disapproved of the entire system of management provided under the bill, for great disapprobation would be manifested if the rates were raised from all classes of the community; and only a portion were to have the management. If a particular class of persons raised amongst themselves a sum of money for the promotion of education, then undoubtedly those persons had a right to the management of the plan; but if a dissenter was taxed for the support of a school, and then was precluded from having a voice in the management of that school, such a bill was manifestly unjust, and the right hon. Baronet 1415 would find that, such a plan would give rise to the same sort of discontent, as the imposition of church—rates. He objected entirely to the principle which appointed members of the church as the sole directors. He was desirous that the second reading should pass unanimously, but there would be difficulties in the way of that unless some alteration were made in the proposed system of management.
§ Sir James Graham
asked the assent of the House to the second reading, with the utmost latitude as to the decision afterwards, who should be the governing body. If, upon the whole, the House should be of opinion that, the time had arrived when the children in factories should have national aid for their education, the House would decide that which was the great principle of the bill. He understood the non. Gentleman's objection to be confined solely to the proposed system of management. Now, there could be no doubt that the constitution of the local boards was a matter of immense importance, and deserving of serious consideration, but still it was only a matter of detail, and no gentleman, by voting for the second reading of the bill, would be precluded from entering into the present discussion on any one of those clauses, and opposing the whole of them, if he thought proper. He could not conceive that any Member, by consenting to the second reading of the bill, would fetter himself in the least from entering into the fullest discussion in every part of its details, and if, after the bill should have passed through committee, any hon. Member should feel dissatisfied with the details, it would be perfectly open to the hon. Member so objecting to vote against the third reading of the bill.
§ Mr. Hume
wished to ask whether it were the intention of her Majesty's Government, to bring in a bill, to promote education among the other classes of the community? It would be recollected that the right hon. Baronet, after the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley), stated that her Majesty's Government were prepared to give effect to the object which the noble Lord had in view. The object of the noble Lord was not limited to factories, it extended to education in general; and as the right hon. Baronet had stated, that her Majesty's Government were prepared to carry out the object of the noble Lord, he wished to ask whether they intended to introduce any other bill to provide for the general education of any other classes.
§ Sir James Graham
said the hon. Gentleman had failed to remember very accurately what passed upon the occasion to which he had alluded. What he had stated was, that the Government contemplated the introduction of a measure to extend the provisions of the Factory Bill to two classes of children. The Factory Act had been brought into operation among four large classes of manufactures, the woollen, the cotton, the silk, and the flax manufactures. He had said that the Government also contemplated the introduction of another measure to extend the operation of the Factory Bill to two other classes of children, those employed in the manufacture of lace, and in the print works. He then went on to state, on the part of her Majesty's Government, that they intended to introduce a measure with respect to pauper children in workhouses, under certain restrictions with regard to locality; in point of fact, confining the operation of the bill to large cities. So far, however, from the Government intending to deal with the education of the great body of the working classes, without local distinction, he stated on that occasion, what was still his opinion, that such a measure would be a signal failure, and that the only chance of success, in any measure which might be adopted, would consist in its operation being confined, as he had stated, to the large classes of the community. He was quite sure that he had accurately stated what passed on the occasion in question, and that he represented the present views of the Government in relation to that subject when he said, that they were not prepared to introduce any other measure on the present occasion.
§ Mr. C. Wood
was sure that the right hon. Baronet's expression as to the conduct of this bill would be received generally with great satisfaction. To the principle involved in the second reading, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated it, hardly any one would object. With regard to the education of the working classes, which was to be compulsory, being aided by the state, very few in that House were prepared to deny the propriety of that plan. The proceeding suggested to the right hon. Baronet of postponing the details of those clauses till after Easter was wisely adopted, for he believed that it would facilitate the carrying of proper clauses, by giving time for discussion. Her Majesty's Government must be aware that the general education of any other classes. 1 the dissenting body, he would not say 1417 whether rightly or wrongly, were excited in consequence of their apprehensions. From some statements received from them he believed that they were under some misapprehension: if this were so, time would remove that alarm, and they would be better able to consider these clauses more calmly and deliberately. No one was more anxious for a general system of education than he was. That there was a great practical difficulty attending the subject no person would deny, and he thought it could be only overcome by a determination to provide some system that might be carried into effect without exciting objections of a conscientious nature. He thought it would be unwise at that moment to enter upon a discussion of these important clauses. By delaying, then, till after Easter, representations could be made upon the subject to the Government, which would have more force in inducing them to make such alterations as might be deemed necessary, than any arguments which could at that time be used in that House. With this understanding, that there should be full power to discuss every part of the measure in committee, he for one was ready to agree to the second reading of the bill.
§ Mr. Hawes
was not disposed to look upon the bill with the same satisfaction as his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax. He agreed to a certain extent with the hon. Gentleman opposite. His hon. Friend stated that it was intended by the bill, that the funds of the nation should be applied to the benefit of certain parties in the factory districts; but he could not overlook an important portion of the bill, which placed the education of the people wholly at the mercy of the Church. To that, as a principle, he intended to give his utmost opposition. If the second reading of this bill were taken that night without being considered as any compromise whatever with respect to the education clauses, he had no objection, on those terms, to consent to the second reading of the bill, not sanctioning the general principle which ran through those clauses. The right hon. Baronet entertained the hope, that the delay would remove the objections to the education clauses; but he consented to the second reading to delay those clauses, because he believed that the more they were understood the more vigorously they would be opposed.
§ Mr. C. Wood
explained that the great 1418 principle of the bill was, that the education of the factory children was to be aided by the State—to that; principle of the bill, and to that only he was pepared to consent; further he would not allow that his vole should go.
Mr. H. Lamblon
having presented a very important petition from the Wesleyans, wished to make one observation. He thought the proposition of the right hon. Baronet a very fair and reasonable one. He had had an interview that morning with a leading Wesleyan to whom he expressed the opinion, that he thought if the Government would consent to put off all these educational clauses until after Easter, he would attain his object of delay, and ought to be satisfied. The reply of the Gentleman was, as he understood it, that that would satisfy him. The hon. Member for Lambeth talked of this bill placing the people and Dissenters at the feet of the Church, but surely that would depend on the educational clauses, especially the clause with regard to the composition of the board of trustees. All this might be altered in committee, so as to satisfy the Wesleyans in whom he openly professed to take a deep interest.
§ Mr. Stansfield
said, that the bill had created considerable consternation in the manufacturing district which he represented. It would give great satisfaction if more time were allowed, and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would postpone the whole bill till after Easter.
§ Mr. Brotherton
thought that the parts of the bill which related to the labour of the children might be considered now, but the education clauses might be postponed till after Easter; they would then be considered by the country, and of course some modification might be expected.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, that the object of hon. Members on his side of the House, was to give time for mature consideration. The right hon. Baronet said, that by allowing this time, the justice of his clauses would be most strongly felt, whilst he and his friends thought that the more time was given, the more would the justice of the opposition be acknowledged. He concluded from what the right hon. Baronet had said, that if the House assented to the second reading of this bill, it would be perfectly in their power, when in committee, to discuss what many considered the most important principle of the education clauses, namely, how far the factory education of this country should be trans— 1419 ferred to the hands of the church. He understood that this discussion was to be fully open to them; and he was perfectly willing to withdraw his motion, on the arrangement that they should take the discussion on going into committee, or on those clauses in committee to which objection was made.
§ Mr. M. Philips
thought it desirable to divide the bill into two parts, and from communications he had received since the first short discussion, he was convinced of the propriety of that recommendation. He did not say this with the slightest view of obstructing that part of the bill which related to the working of the factories. Although his opposition was not so strong as to lead him to divide against the second reading, when his hon. Friends thought it should pass, yet he would have wished that more time had been given to the operative portion of the people to see how the bill would affect them, for they, and they principally, ought to be consulted. He entertained the strongest objection to the education clauses. The great body of dissenters whom he represented, and a great portion of the Catholics, were opposed to these clauses; for although the clauses exempted the Catholics from the compulsory religious education, yet these clauses held out a temptation to parties to stretch their consciences upon matters of religion to secure the welfare of their children—under the guise, therefore, of giving education to the infant factory children, they were recruiting for members of the Church of England. Great objection to these clauses was entertained by all conscientious dissenters.
§ Lord John Russell
thought the House would be fully aware, after the declaration of the right hon. Baronet, that by assenting to the second reading of this bill they were only consenting to the general principle of the bill. Reserving all details for consideration in committee, he for one said, that placing the education of factory children under the control of the Privy Council was a principle which he was ready to affirm: and hon. Members would be perfectly consistent in afterwards altering that or any other part in committee. The hon. Member for Dumfries, in withdrawing his motion, thought that the House should agree to the second reading without further discussion. He did not think it would be for the public advantage that this course should be adopted. He 1420 thought, that if any hon. Gentleman had any grievances to state from Dissenters or others, they deserved to be stated to the House, and he thought, also, that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the bill should state his reasons why these were not, in his opinion, sound objections. As far as the objections had reached him, they went principally to two parts of the bill. The first was, that it was supposed that by the clauses of this bill the education was too much, if not entirely, under the control of the clergy. The second objection raised by the hon. Member was consequential upon the first, and it amounted to this, that the education proposed by this bill, being Church education, Dissenters from the Established Church would be called upon to pay the expenses of maintaining a system from which they derived no benefit. He had no doubt, that if the right hon. Baronet could not dispel all the objections raised to the proposed plan, yet that he could shew, that the apprehensions of the hon. Gentleman were not warranted by the provisions of the bill. At all events, he thought that it would be most desirable that, the objections which it was intended to raise in committee should be now stated, in order that the right hon. Baronet might be prepared to determine on some line of conduct in reference to them; and in order also that he might determine what should go forth to the world as the reasons on which the Government founded this measure. He was, for his own part, most anxious that the bill should work well and satisfactorily through the country. The greatest misfortune of all would be, that Parliament should be placed in such a situation as to be unable to do anything to advance the cause of education; but second only to this would be the calamity resulting from their passing a bill which should give rise to feelings of religious animosity, or which should produce sentiments of bitterness on such a subject as education. He trusted that by a temperate discussion of the principles and the details of the present bill, the House would be eventually enabled to adopt such a measure as would afford general satisfaction to the country, and as would lead to a general and improved system of education.
§ Mr. Hindley
thought with the hon. Member for Manchester, that it would be extremely desirable to divide the present bill into two parts. Thirty of the 1421 115 clauses which it contained involved principles to which he could not give his assent; and, above all, he thought that the interests of the Dissenters were not sufficiently considered. In the neighbourhood in which he lived the Dissenters formed a most important portion of society, and the condition of their education was not so miserable as had been described, for their Sunday schools and scholars were more than double the number of those of the Church. The bill itself involved principles various in their nature, but of extreme importance. To those clauses which gave to a board of education the management of the new system he had the most positive objection.
§ The Order of the Day read.
§ On the question that the bill be read a second time,
§ Mr. Ewart
said, that understanding from the noble Lord that he thought it desirable that the discussion should be taken on this measure now, however inconvenient that course was to himself, he felt unwilling to postpone to a subsequent day the statement of his objections to the bill. The number and the importance of the petitions which had been presented upon this subject, showed the interest which was taken and the opinions which were entertained amongst dissenters in reference to it. He begged to call the attention of the Government to the short period of time which had elapsed since this bill had been before the House—barely three weeks, and to ask whether, in the case of a bill so important, involving principles of such general interest, this was deemed a sufficient time for the consideration of its voluminous details. His own views led him to wish that in the introduction of a general system of education into the country, care would have been taken to exclude from it all matters of theological discussion. He believed that this measure was founded upon principles involving theological as distinguished from mere religious education, and that it was likely to excite sentiments of animosity amongst the community, and would not advance the general cause of education. The dissenters of this country had not been idle in the cause of education. He begged to refer to the number of schools which the dissenting body had established, and to express a regret that the right hon. Baronet had not paid some more respect to the individual opinions of those persons, than the clauses of this bill 1422 appeared to indicate. Petitions had been presented from every denomination of dissenters on this question. The Wesleyans, who generally leaned with a kind of kindred feeling to the Church of England, had made their wishes known unfavourably to this bill, and indeed he hardly knew a sect of dissenters, from the Wesleyans to the Unitarians, who had not expressed similar views. His first objection to this measure was, that it interfered in a most important manner with the theology of this great question. He cordially united in the feeling of the connection between religion and education, but there was as great difference between theology and religion as there was between law and justice. He deprecated any measure which would have a tendency to introduce the brand of theological discord into a discussion upon education. He begged to remind the right hon. Baronet of the mode in which religion had been hitherto connected with education. Two modes of introducing religion into a system of education had been adopted in Ireland. One mode consisted in the use of those portions of the Scriptures which were agreed upon commonly by various denominations of Christians; another mode consisted in this, that in the schools the education given was purely secular, while that portion of the system which partook of a religious character was administered by the different ministers of the congregations to which the particular pupils belonged; and these were both of them systems by which differences of religious questions were avoided. Until he was thoroughly convinced of the harmlessness of the clauses of this bill in the particulars to which he had alluded, he should not give the measure his support. But he objected to the educational clauses of the bill, because they were conceived in unfairness towards a largo portion of the community. He referred more particularly to that part of the bill which invested in trustees and councils the control of the provisions to be made for the purposes of education. They were, under these clauses, to have clerical trustees, and to this the dissenters had the strongest objection; but the clerical trustee was to be assisted by two churchwardens, necessarily members of the Church of England, and by four other persons, to be selected by justices in petty session. Thus each board was to consist of seven persons, no one of whom would necessarily be a dissenter; and he begged to ask whether, consistently with the position of the 1423 dissenting body, this was an arrangement which could be deemed to be sanctioned by justice or fairness? One of the petitions which had been presented complained that it was impossible that any of the masters who should be appointed even should be dissenters, and, having read the bill he believed that such was its provision. The master was to have the care of not only the secular, but the religious education of the people. He was to be employed to read and to teach the Bible; and this, he maintained, involved the necessity of his superintending the religious education of his people. He objected, on the ground of religious partiality, to the teaching of the Bible to all dissenters, and on the ground of respect for that holy book, to its being read merely, without its purity and spirit being impressed on the minds of the pupils; for he agreed with Mr. Allen, who had evidently written under the influences of pure religion, that the Bible ought not to be made a mere school—book. He now came to that part of the bill by which the Catholics were excluded from the benefits to be conferred by its provisions, and he would, as an argument, not only on this particular subject, but upon the whole scope of this measure, call the attention of the House to the great prevalence of the Catholic religion, and of dissent from the established religion of the country, amongst the manufacturing districts. The report of Mr. Horner showed the vast preponderance of the numbers of dissenters over those of Members of the Established Church in those districts. He said, that upon an inquiry which he had instituted, it appeared, that out of sixty—three factories, the masters of thirty—six were Members of the Established Church, and the remaining twenty—seven were dissenters of different denominations. By the thirty—six masters, 6,576 workmen were employed; by the twenty—seven dissenters, no fewer than 14,000 persons were employed. These were circumstances which showed how vast would be the number of Dissenters amongst the persons to be educated under the new system, as compared with the Members of the Church of England. With regard to the Catholics, their numbers increased in a higher ratio than those of any other class. On this part of the subject, he would also refer to Mr. Horner's report. Speaking of the districts of South Lancashire, he said, that the present Catholic population of Ashton, Staleybridge, and Dukinfield was 1424 6,500, all of them being of the humbler class. He then went on to state the comparative means of education at present existing in those towns for Members of the Established Church, Dissenters, and Catholics. In the three towns already named, he said that the Sunday schools of the Established Church were five only in number; of the scholars there were only 3,100. The Dissenters had twenty—three Sunday schools, and there were 7,025 scholars. The Roman Catholics had three schools, with 850 pupils. This was the calculation down to the month of January last. At Oldham, the church Suuday—schools were three in number, the scholars 1,400, the Dissenters' schools were nineteen in number, the scholars 5,400. He thought, that when numbers so large as these were to be left unprovided with education, a plan more nearly resembling a centralised plan than this semi-national system should be introduced. Mr. Horner, in his report, recommended an extension of the British and Foreign, and of the National School system. It was to be recollected, that the scheme was to be paid for out of the general national funds, or by local taxation—by the advances of the State, or by the contributions of the rate—payers. It would have been better, he thought, if the ratepayers had been allowed to have some voice in the selection of the trustees and council. Another objection which he entertained to the bill was, that its provisions were incomplete. If he might venture to give his own idea of the plan of education to be adopted, he must say, that he should have suggested a system founded upon different grounds to those selected by the right hon. Baronet. He would not have begun at the circumference, and so have drawn lines to the centre; but he thought, that it would have been much better to have adopted an improved system of training masters, which he deemed to be necessary to the vitality of the principle of national education, and so have brought about such a state of things as now existed in Germany. The system which had been introduced by the late Government might have been extended, the Government might have adopted a system which had for its object the supplying of books. Of all the systems which had yet been tried, two only had succeeded—the central and the voluntary, These principles, as carried out in France and Prussia, he thought were inconsistent with the position and standing of the people of this 1425 country. In America, a system partaking of both characteristics had been adopted, and with success. A report was made to the senate of the progress of education, and of the steps which it would be desirable to adopt. This was a system, the introduction of which into this country he thought would be attended with the best results. The greatest encouragement should be given to the voluntary principle, and by the establishment of a central board or controlling power, the country might easily become acquainted with the progress made in the advancement of learning. Unless the right hon. Baronet could show better reason than he (Mr. Ewart) believed that he was able, for the adoption of the principle involved in these clauses which had already produced so much religious excitement, he should, when they went into committee, give his utmost opposition to them. The feeling out of doors was very strong against these clauses, and they never would satisfy the community for whose benefit the measure was intended.
The Earl of Arundel and Surrey
was understood to say, that he thanked the noble Lord who had directed the attention of the Government to the great want of education in the manufacturing districts, which had led to the introduction of the bill which had been brought forward by the right hon. Baronet. Generally speaking he approved of the bill which he believed was intended to be drawn with great fairness, but there were some of the clauses which he trusted the Government would reconsider. As a Roman Catholic, he felt bound to declare that as long as there was a church establishment it must he predominant, and must also of necessity be administrative in any system of general or national education which Parliament might establish. At the same time he asked for a full and secure protection for those who were not of that Church. He begged to ask what was meant by the words "teaching" the Scriptures; whether it were merely meant "reading" the Scriptures, or were intended to imply that the Scriptures were to be expounded in the schools? If it was intended to expound them, it was impossible to entertain the idea for one moment. He was anxious that no suspicion even of such an intention should be entertained, as it would militate against the usefulness of the measure. As regarded the non—attendance of Roman Catholic children at the divine service of the 1426 Protestant Church, it would be considered a great grievance, should it be necessary for the parents, or next of kin of those children, formally to object to their attendance, and he trusted the right hon. Baronet would introduce a provision to the effect that children registered as Roman Catholics, or baptized as Catholics should, as a matter of course, be allowed to absent themselves. The clause in favour of Catholic schools, in the first instance, appeared to be fair; but it stipulated that those schools should be efficiently conducted, and he feared that, from poverty and want of funds, they might not correspond to that description in the judgment of a Government inspector. He would venture to suggest, that it would be proper to make a small grant of money in support of some of the Roman Catholic schools, several of which were very badly circumstanced. As the Roman Catholics contributed their share to the poor—rates, which were to defray the expences of education, he thought it would be only just that they should derive some assistance from the same source. Generally speaking they were a poor class—they had to support their own clergymen and chapels, and were in many instances unable to build school—houses; as a proof of that, he had only to observe that in several places they were obliged to hold their schools in the crypts under their chapels. He gave the right hon. Baronet credit for having intended to frame his bill with as much liberality as he conscientiously could, but there were some parts of the bill, if the right hon. Baronet did not think himself justified in altering them to which he should move amendments in committee.
Mr. G. Knight
was sure, that every Member in that House must have listened with gratification to the fair and liberal manner in which the noble Lord who had just sat down had, as a Catholic, addressed himself to the subject. He trusted the noble Lord would be met with a corresponding spirit, and he quite agreed with him that it would be the duty of all parties not to attempt to make proselytes in the schools. If that attempt were once detected, all confidence would be at an end, and the schools would not succeed. The hon. Member for Dumfries had complained of the right hon. Baronet for having introduced theological disputes into this question, and wished to put an end to them in rather a summary manner, by excluding religion altogether, at least from the schools. But he trusted, that this 1427 House would never sanction a purely secular education—he trusted it would never sanction any system of education which was not based on religion. The hon. Gentleman had adverted to the feelings of Dissenters, not quite, perhaps, in the tone of forbearance which had been admitted to be desirable in discussing this question. He told them, that the Dissenters viewed the plan proposed by Government with aversion and alarm; and regarded it as the total destruction of civil and religious liberty. On the other hand, he could assure the House that a portion of the Church were no better pleased. He would read a short extract from the provincial paper of the county which he had the honour to represent. A leading article in that paper said:—" We confess we do not like the project, so far, at least, as we have been able to form an opinion upon it. If the Church is the pillar of truth, why not provide that the doctrine of the Church shall be the true religion to be taught? Instead of this, however, the whims and caprices of ignorant persons were to be consulted, and the teaching of truth is to be suppressed, it appears, if required by them, in deference to their prejudices. This pseudo-liberality will never do.The English Churchman said,—If this be the Conservative way to educate and to bless the people, and to elevate the depressed church, may God, in His goodness, shield us therefrom;to which the Nottingham Journal devoutly added, "Amen;" so that the House would see that a portion, he trusted not the larger portion, of the Church were equally dissatisfied. Why had he read these extracts? Because he might indulge the hope that when the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dumfries was informed of these things, and when the Dissenting body were informed of these things, if they were not the most unreasonable persons in the world (which he should be loth to think them) they would perceive, not only that there was no intention of using them ill, but that as much was proposed to be done for them, as there was a chance of making the law of the land But what was the inference which he was disposed to draw from the opinions of the extreme gauche and the extreme droit? opinions conflicting with each other as to the grounds of their opposition, but uniting in their condemnation of the plan. Why, the inference which he was disposed to draw was, that the Government plan was 1428 the juste malieu—the golden mean, the even—handed justice, which moderate men would do well to support. Did they not agree, the last time this subject was discussed, that they must all make concessions? Did they not congratulate themselves on the freedom from acrimony and party feeling which prevailed on that occasion? He trusted, that they would return to their first impressions; and that the important subject now before the House would be discussed, in all its future stages, in the same spirit in which it was commenced. In saying what he did now; he by no means pledged himself to support the measure in all its details. He might wish to introduce some alterations, but the proper time for that would be, when the bill was in committee. He felt obliged to the Government for having at length addressed themselves to the cure of a great evil; but whilst he thanked them for seeking to introduce education into factories and workhouses, he could not help expressing the hope that, before it was long, they would extend their care to the children of the rural population. For, though he admitted that much had been done, and much was doing, yet he knew that the necessity in the agricultural districts was far too pressing and too extensive to be met by individual exertions. Affluent proprietors built schools in their own villages; subscriptions might be raised on particular occasions, but there were extensive rural districts in which there were no affluent resident proprietors, and the voluntary principle could not be relied upon for providing the large and permanent income, by which a general system of education would be maintained. He spoke with some confidence on the subject, because he had been, for some years, not an inactive member of not an inactive diocesan board of education. Now, the House would observe that, where such a society as a diocesan board existed, the experiment of the voluntary principle was tried in the most favourable manner—because, in that case, the voluntary principle was not left to itself, but was influenced and stimulated by frequent appeals; yet, he must say, that if the board to which he alluded had effected some good, and had been supported to a certain extent, yet it was a constant source of regret to the members of that board to be aware of the wants by which they were surrounded, and of the utter inadequacy of any means which they could command to afford a remedy. He 1429 repeated that the necessity far exceeded the powers of individual exertion. If it was really intended that there should be a general system of education, it could only be effected by legislative interference. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dumfries, had alluded to the subject of trained masters. He agreed with him in thinking that better masters were desirable; but here lay the difficulty. How was the salary of trained masters to be provided in small villages where there were no affluent resident proprietors? How would you raise 70l. or 80l. a year for the master's salary in one of those small villages? In some cases you must be satisfied with schools of a humbler description; but the best way in which the difficulty could be met would be, whenever two or three villages lay near enough together, in such localities to have district schools, which might be supported at the common expense of the parties benefited, and to which the children of the different villages might resort. There were other topics connected with that subject to which he would advert, but he would not trespass further on the indulgence of the House. He only trusted that something better than legislation would result from these discussions. Good laws were not sufficient in themselves. He trusted that, in consequence of these discussions, the whole community would be impressed with the importance of the subject; that they should all feel conscious that, from their own neglect, a great evil had been permitted to exist; and that all of them, in their several localities, whether as landed proprietors or master manufacturers, should feel it an absolute duty to apply themselves, to the utmost of their power, in removing that evil, and in imparting the blessings of education to the rising generation.
§ Mr. Hawes
hoped, with the hon. Member, that the bill would be discussed in a spirit of amity, and without regard to party considerations. In offering his opposition to some parts of the bill, he did not think that he could be considered as in any way an opponent to the establishment of a general system of education throughout the country. He recollected the opposition of the present Government to the plan proposed by their predecessors with respect to the educational board of the Privy Council, but he did not think that they should be charged with being the enemies of education on that account. He did not conceive, that he should com- 1430 promise his opinions by assenting to the second reading of the bill, but he should certainly oppose several of the clauses when it got into committee. He trusted, that these clauses would be re-considered by the Government, for, as they stood, they would be most strongly and most justly opposed by the Dissenters. His own opinion was, that this measure was a revival of the bill of Lord Brougham, of 1819, which was discussed at great length, and was rejected, chiefly on account of the strong opposition of the Dissenters, who objected to it on the same grounds that they were opposed to this bill. The present bill, however, in some of its objectionable clauses went beyond the bill of 1819, and he had no doubt, would excite an equal or even a greater degree of opposition. By the present bill it was proposed to constitute a trust, and by means of it to give the direction of the whole of the education of the country to the Church; and thus sacrifice the interests and the conscientious feelings of Catholics and Dissenters. In nearly every case the Church would have the complete control for laying down the plan of education in these schools, and the Legislature would thus give it the control over that portion of the national funds to be devoted to the purposes of education. He had received a letter from Rochdale, in which the writer informed him that the bill would excite a stronger feeling against the poor's-rates, for from that source the education funds were to be taken, than at present existed against Church-rates, and he knew several persons who were determined rather to have their goods seized than pay towards this education fund. He thought, that the opposition that had been excited against a scheme of education, might easily have been avoided by adopting either one of three courses. The Government, for instance, might have adopted the plan of the Irish national system of education, to which he presumed the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, would not have objected. Secondly, they might have adopted a system with a popularised system of trusts, and by leaving the appointments of schoolmasters, &c, to the open vestries. The other course which he would suggest, was, that which he thought would be ultimately adopted—namely, that a certain board should be constituted in each district, and that this should have control merely over the finances, and that it should apportion the money to the differ- 1431 ent schools in the district, in somewhat a similar manner as the committee of the Privy Council did with the Parliamentary grant. He wished, with respect to the present plan, the Government had proceeded in the principles which he found embodied in a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, in 1815. He said,—No man could be more sensible than himself of the advantages that would result to Ireland, from the general diffusion of education. In making that statement he wished to be understood, that the benefit ought to be restricted to no particular sect—no distinction whatever ought to be observed. He was confident, that it was the only measure to which Parliament could look for the introduction of habits of industry and morality, among the lower orders in Ireland; and when they considered the avidity which, to their infinite credit, was shown by the lower orders of the population of Ireland, to avail themselves of any means of instruction that were afforded them, it would be a reflection on Parliament, if, by any ill-judged and miserable parsimony such means were withheld. It had been his misfortune, in the discharge of his official duty, to be compelled to introduce into that House measures of a temporary nature, to remedy existing evils in Ireland. But in doing so he was satisfied that those measures must of necessity be temporary; and that they could weigh nothing in the scale, compared with the duration and effect of measures of a more general nature. After adverting to the previous reports of the commissioners, appointed to inquire into the existing abuses in Ireland, and to the legislative measures that had been founded on them, he remarked, that the last report of those commissioners suggested a general plan for educating the poor in that country. The reason which had induced him to forbear from introducing that plan to Parliament in the shape of a bill, was, not any insensibility to the advantage of general education; but an apprehension that the plan of education, advised by the commissioners, would not be advantageous. The report recommended, that the Lord-lieutenant should appoint commissioners for the superintendence of the education. Now, he was afraid, that this direct interference of executive government would tend to excite jealousies that would counteract the benefits that might otherwise be expected from the measure. After due deliberation, therefore, he felt himself fully warranted in forbearing to introduce to Parliament the system recommended by the commissioners. He conceived, however, that the vote which his right hon. Friend meant to propose would by no means involve the evils which he had just described. He was convinced, and he avowed it without hesitation or reserve, that the only rational plan of education in Ireland, was one which 1432 should be extended impartially to children of all religious persuasions—one which did not profess to make converts—one which, while it imported general religious instruction, left those who were its objects to obtain their particular religious discipline elsewhere. On this subject it was unnecessary for him to dilate. The days were passed when there existed a prejudice against the general education of the poor; Conclusive proofs had been afforded that the manner, character, and habits of a people improved precisely in proportion to the diffusion of knowledge among them, by rational education. One argument which had been urged against the liberal system in Ireland, appeared to him to prove directly the reverse of that which it was intended to establish. It had been said, that in times of public agitation in that country the schoolmasters had, by their influence among the lower orders, materially contributed to the evils of those times. But to what was that influence to be ascribed, but to their greater information? If the lower orders, instead of being kept in extreme ignorance, were allowed the means of obtaining information, they would not so easily be operated upon and misled. To the slow and gradual progress of reform among the people of Ireland, Parliament must look for a durable improvement in their character; and he could not conceive a more certain mode of affecting this most important object, than by adopting a judicious plan of general education.And the right hon. Baronet afterwards explained,—As a proof of the impartial diffusion of education to all sects in Ireland, that when Dr. Bell repaired to that country a short time since, and the children were examined before him to show their progress in reading, some of them refused to read in any other Testament than their own, and the school masters stated, that they never checked this independence, and never interfered with the sentiments and persuasion of their scholars."*Now, this bill was not founded on any such principles, for it gave the trustees, composed chiefly of one sect, the whole power over the discipline and the selection of books for the schools. There were great numbers of Dissenters who could not avail themselves of these schools, and who considered the formation of them as casting a stigma upon them. It should be recollected also, that it was to the Dissenters, and not to the Churchmen, that the present state of the voluntary education in this country was owing. The 58th clause of this bill proposed a most objectionable interference with Sunday*Hansard, vol, xxxi. p. 878.1433 schools, for by it the scholars of the schools under this bill were obliged to attend three hours a-day on Sundays, to be taught the Church Catechism. It was reported that the Wesleyans were to be exempted from the operation of this bill; if this was the case, it was an improper mode of showing favour, and would be an additional ground of opposition to the bill.
§ Sir James Graham:
Sir, I am desirous of addressing a few words to the House before the present discussion comes to a close, because I am naturally anxious that the measure which I have had the honor of introducing should have a fair chance of success. I hoped, after what took place in the early part of the evening, that the second reading of the bill would have been allowed to take place without any angry debate relative to the details of the measure. In this expectation I have been somewhat disappointed by the speech of the hon. Member who has just addressed the House. I will, on no account, attempt to follow the hon. Member in some of his remarks. I must say, I think that the hon. Member has, perhaps, without intending it, indulged in a degree of personal taunt in some portions of his speech; and, if the debate should be carried on in a similar spirit, the discussion would, I am afraid, produce anything but amicable feelings. I will shortly notice some of the points adverted to by the hon. Member, and in doing so, I will endeavour to avoid saying anything that can be construed into an angry retort. The hon. Member referred to some opposition which was given by me, and those with whom I act, to the controlling power of the committee of Privy Council, as it stood in the first education scheme propounded by the late Government. The hon. Member must remember, that by that scheme, religious instruction was designedly excluded from the plan of education in the normal schools, and to that arrangement I was entirely opposed. Objections were also taken with respect to the power of the committee of Privy Council, and of the inspectors; and the hon. Member must be perfectly aware, that the result of the controversy was a compromise. The late Government, much to their honor, agreed to an arrangement, by which the inspectors who were appointed to superintend the education in the national schools, should receive their appointments subject to the sanction of the Archbishop of Can- 1434 terbury; whilst the inspectors of the British and Foreign Society's Schools were to receive their appointments independent of any such sanction. That arrangement was accepted by the party with which I have the honor to act, and it has been carried with success into execution. Not only did that arrangement receive our sanction when we were in opposition, but since we have been in power we have strictly adhered to it, and I hope that the conduct we have pursued both with respect to the national society, and the British and Foreign School Society has demonstrated our impartiality, and a sincere desire to act justly. I must observe, in passing, that the hon. Member has dealt unfairly both by my noble Friend the Member for North Lancashire, and my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government. The hon. Member said, that in lieu of the measure which I have had the honor of submitting to Parliament, I might have proposed to establish in this country the system of education which prevails in Ireland; and he added, that to that course it would be impossible for my noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, to object. Now, I am sure, the House and the country will do my noble Friend the justice to remember, that when the Irish system of education was under discussion in Parliament, he never failed to declare, in the most marked and decided manner, that he defended the application of that system to Ireland on the ground of the peculiar circumstances of that country, and that it must not be supposed that he considered the system in the least degree applicable to the circumstances of England. The passage which the hon. Member quoted from a former speech of my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had also exclusive reference to education in Ireland. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend, on hearing his sentiments thus unexpectedly quoted, is quite ready to adopt them, as still embodying the principle on which he has acted and continues to act with reference to education in that country. The hon. Member has stated, that he thinks that the plan I have had the honor of introducing, sacrifices Dissenters and Roman Catholics to the Church of England. Now, I heard, with peculiar pleasure, the declaration made by the noble Lord who sits immediately behind the hon. Member, I mean the 1435 noble Lord the Member for Arundel, which is in direct contradiction to the assertion of the hon. Member. The noble Lord, with a degree of liberality which does him the highest honor, and for which I must be allowed to express my grateful acknowledgments, declared that he conceived my proposition to be framed in a just and fair spirit; and added that, recognizing the existence of an Established Church in this country, he did not think it possible for the Government to bring forward a measure of so extensive a character as this, with reference to the education of the people, without placing reliance in a great degree on the administrative power of the Established Church. The noble Lord expressed his apprehension, that owing to the peculiar circumstances of Roman Catholic schools in the manufacturing districts, rigid inspection, if conducted in an hostile spirit, might call their efficiency into question, and thereby extinguish their existence; thus placing the Roman Catholics in the unfair position of either being compelled to send their children to Protestant schools, or to renounce the advantage of profitable employment for them in factories. I can assure the noble Lord, that the inspectors acting under the direction of the Privy Council would violate their duty, if they applied to Roman Catholic schools an unfair test, without reference to the limited means at the disposal of the Roman Catholic body. Nothing of the sort is contemplated; and it is expressly provided, that the inspectors shall not inquire into the scheme of religious instruction adopted with reference to children who are not members of the Established Church. The noble Lord and other hon. Members, have asked what is the meaning of the words "teaching the Holy Scriptures," which are used in the seventh clause? I understood the noble Lord to say, that though some Roman Catholic parents might object to their children reading the authorized version of the Scriptures, yet he thought their scruples might be overcome if they were assured that, under the words "teaching the Holy Scriptures," no covert design of proselytising lay hid. The phrase "teaching the Holy Scriptures" has been pressed on my attention, not only on the present occasion, but in private communication from various quarters. When I formerly addressed the House upon this subject, I stated, that amongst the improved 1436 methods of teaching recently adopted if not the best, yet amongst the best, was the mode of simultaneous instruction given to children assembled in large numbers. I will now refer to the system adopted by the British and Foreign School Society; a society which, speaking generally, I believe, may be said to possess the confidence of the Dissenting body. Under the system adopted by this society, it is provided that the Scriptures shall be read in all the schools, whilst any thing like an attempt on the part of the master to instil into the minds of the scholars particular religious opinions shall be carefully avoided. I hope the House will allow me to call their attention to what 1 conceive to be, with reference to the point under consideration, most important evidence given by a gentleman who enjoys the unlimited confidence of the British and Foreign School Society; I mean their secretary, Mr. Dunn. This very point as to the meaning of the phrase "teaching the Holy Scriptures," was raised before the committee on the education of the poorer classes in 1838. Mr. Dunn, being under examination, had the following questions proposed to him by various Members of the committee.
§ "Mr. Wood
—Does the master explain the Scriptures to the children in your schools?— He interrogates them as they read daily, on the plain and obvious grammatical meaning of the text.According to his own understanding of that text?—It must be so.Lord Ashley—But what would be the view taken by the directors of the British and Foreign School Society, if they found that the master did set right this child upon a point which he thought essential to salvation?— They would hold it to be his duty to confine himself to the simple teaching of the Scriptures.The Chairman—If the master were to teach the children in the school a peculiar creed, would that be acting contrary to his duty?—He would be acting quite contrary to his duty if he were to impress upon the minds of the children any views peculiar to him as an Independent Baptist or Dissenter; but I think the reason why there is so little difficulty in the working of the plan is, that there is very little difference among the bodies themselves, so far as the essential truths of Christianity are concerned. There is no difference whatever between the Church of England and the great body of Wesleyans and the Dissenters upon these points.The next question referred to the pre- 1437 cise view that was taken of the meaning of the word "teaching."Sir Stratford Canning—Is it or is it not the positive rule of the British and Foreign schools, that the Scriptures should be given without any explanation on the part of the teacher, or is he left to judge when an explanation should accompany the passage or not?—He is left to judge as to the kind of explanation which should be given. The children are interrogated always as to the meaning of what they have read.Lord Ashley—As to the doctrinal meaning?—I scarcely know to what extent that is to be understood, inasmuch as the doctrinal points are taught as well as the practical, and as the plain and obvious meaning of the text is required, the doctrines are certainly taught in that way. We do not recognise the schoolmaster as a commentator, but we do recognise him as a person bound to see that the child takes up an idea, and does not merely read the words.I know no language which can more accurately express my meaning of the phrase, '' teaching the Holy Scriptures," than that employed by Mr. Dunn in the last answer which I have read. But, i may be said, that this will practically lead to proselytising. Mr. Dunn was asked a question upon that very point. The chairman said:—The master asks if the child understands the passage, and if not he explains the great doctrine contained in it, but in such a manner that the master shall not impress on the child any peculiar creed of any one sect of Christians. Is it so?Mr. Dunn's answer was this: —He simply takes up the obvious grammatical meaning of the text of the authorised version.I have now stated to the House the sense in which the phrase, "teaching the Holy Scriptures," is understood by the British and Foreign School Society. I feel all the disadvantage I labour under in being obliged to refer to details at all upon this occasion. It is unjust to the measure to compel me to do so. The noble Lord, the Member for the city of London is, I believe, friendly to this measure, but I regret the advice he offered to the House, to enter upon a discussion with respect to it at the present moment. Feeling all the inconvenience of referring to the details of the bill before it has gone into committee, I must, nevertheless, in consequence of what, has fallen from hon. Members, allude to one or two points. It 1438 is not correct to say, that by this bill Dissenters are sacrificed to the Church. Although it is indispensable that the masters should be capable of instructing the children of members of the Established Church in the Catechism and Liturgy, yet ample precautions are taken to prevent the abuse of his authority by any attempts on his part to proselytise. The master is removable by the committee of Privy Council, on the complaint of any one trustee. There is another point to which the hon. Member for Lambeth referred, and upon which I am anxious to offer some explanation. The point in question is relative to the interpretation of the 58th clause which provides for the attendance of children at Sunday schools. It is clearly intended that the children of members of the Established Church, not being emancipated, should attend Sunday schools in connexion with the Church of England. But it is not intended that the children of Dissenters, who may object to their attendance at such schools, shall be compelled to attend those schools. [Mr. Hawes here made a remark, which was inaudible.] I tell the hon. Member at once, that it is the purpose of the bill to secure the attendance of the children of Churchmen at the Church of England schools; it is quite right that, until they are emancipated, parental authority should be exercised over them. An apprehension has been entertained in some quarters, that the clause in its practical operation will go much beyond what I have stated, and that it is intended to compel the children of Dissenters to attend the Sunday schools to be opened under this act. The petition which was read at the Table to—night would appear to have been framed under this misconception. I beg to state distinctly, and at once, that that is a complete misapprehension of the object of the clause. It is to be regretted, that imaginary difficulties should be conjured up, when there are so many real ones to be overcome. I can assure the House, that I have brought forward this measure under a full sense of the difficulties and responsibilities which must attend it. I cannot dissemble from myself that, on the right hand and on the left it is beset with dangers. I did hope, and I still continue to cherish the hope, that by steering an honest but a steady middle course between the two opposite extremes we might avoid 1439 the stranding of the measure on the shoals which beset it on either side, and carry it triumphantly, with safety, into harbour. Her Majesty's Government are convinced, that the time has arrived, when some great effort must be made to rescue the rising generation in the manufacturing districts from the state of practical infidelity in which they are unhappily placed. The hon. Member for Lambeth has told the House, that we are much indebted to the exertions which the Dissenters have made to promote education in the manufacturing districts. I give the Dissenters ample credit for what they have done in that respect; I think their exertions have been praiseworthy in the extreme. The Church of England, not having means at command, was unable, without the assistance of the Dissenters, to rescue the manufacturing population, which had rapidly grown up in certain districts, from the state of ignorance in which they were placed. In order to accomplish that great object, the Dissenters honestly contributed the most important aid; and, in my judgment, nothing could be more mischievous than to disparage the exertions of the Dissenters in the cause of education, or to do anything which could lead to the sudden cessation of those useful efforts. At the same time, I would entreat the House to bear in mind, that the difficulties of the case must be met by the executive Government, and that it is necessary, when the means and appliances of the State are called into requisition, that the scheme to be adopted should harmonise with the form of Government, and with the constitution under which we live. I am satisfied that without the cordial co-operation of the Church established by law, no large measure of education can be carried into effect in this country, and I go further and say, that without such co-operation, no Government would be justified in attempting to carry it into effect. The object of the Government is to establish a system of education extensive in its operation, and not confined to any one religious sect and they invite the co-operation of the Church to enable them to carry it into effect, with a due regard to the principles of toleration, and with the respect which must be rendered to the honest scruples of Dissenters. I admit, that this object is difficult to attain; but we have honestly attempted it. I believe, that the time has arrived when it becomes the indispensable 1440 duty of the Government, to make a decided effort to effect the great object to which I have adverted. If we had entertained any doubts upon the subject, previously, the events of last autumn would have convinced us that not a moment should be lost in endeavouring to impart the blessing of a sound education to the rising generation in the manufacturing districts. I speak in the presence of Gentlemen whose local knowledge will enable them to set me right, if I state, what is incorrect; but I am informed, that the turbulent masses who, in the course of the last autumn, threatened the safety of property and disturbed the public peace in the manufacturing districts, were remarkable for the youth of the parties composing them. I am told, the speaking generally, the age of the individuals, who composed these turbulent multitudes ranged between eighteen and twenty-two. This circumstance shows the danger of neglecting the education of the rising generation. If, some years ago, we could have been so fortunate as to agree upon some such comprehensive scheme of education as that which is now proposed; if we could but have done so only ten years ago, my firm belief is that the outrages which took place last autumn, and which at one time threatened such serious results, would never have taken place. Under these circumstances I and my colleagues considered it our bounden duty to introduce a measure which we believe to be sound in principle, large in its extent, and capable, if it should receive the sanction of Parliament, of effecting the object we all have in view. Nothing that I have heard in the course of the present discussion has shaken my belief that the measure is conceived in a spirit of perfect fairness, that it is tolerant in its provisions, that it would prove just in its operation, and that it would be effectual for its purpose. At all events we have relieved ourselves from the weight of responsibility which would have attached to us had we failed to bring forward some such measure as this. We have performed our duty, and it remains for the House to deal with the measure as it may think fit. I am very unwilling to enter into a consideration of the details of the bill upon the present occasion, because I am conscious of the disadvantage of premature discussion respecting them. 1 do not wish to be bound too 1441 closely to all the details on which comments have been made. I am satisfied I speak the sense of my Colleagues, when I say, that it is our earnest desire to weigh calmly and dispassionately every reasonable objection which may be urged by the dissenters, with the view of rendering the measure as palatable as possible in its general operation. We must not sacrifice principle to expediency, but, on the other hand we must not push just principles to such an extreme as to render their application practically impossible. I hope that the debate will not be carried on in an angry and controversial spirit, but that we shall proceed, as we have hitherto done, to consider this measure with the calmness and gravity which its importance demands. I have stated that the Government will attentively consider every objection which may be urged by the Dissenters, and I must also say, at the same time, that we will not neglect what is due to the established religion of the country of which her Majesty, whose servants we are, is the defender and the head. Pursuing a steady course, aware of the difficulties which beset us, not disregarding the dangers which surround us, we shall exert ourselves to pass this bill, and if the House will only second our efforts I am sure that we shall succeed in carrying a measure which will be productive of greater good to the community and will do more to secure the future peace, happiness, and contentment of the people, than any measure which has been passed by this House for many, many years.
§ Sir G. Grey
said, that strong as were his objections to some of the details of the measure now under the consideration of the House, he could see enough of the proposition to be convinced that her Majesty's Government had been actuated by a sincere intention and desire of accomplishing and adopting a comprehensive and liberal system of education without interfering with the rights of conscience. How far they had succeeded by the clauses, as they now stood, was another question; and when the bill came into committee, he should be able to show that the Government had not carried out that intention, as he thought the House had a right to expect, with a due regard to the conscientious feelings of the great body of the Dissenters, whose exertions in promoting education had been justly acknowledged— exertions which entitled them to more con- 1442 sideration than the clauses of the bill indicated to have been shown to them. When he said this, ho fully admitted the many and great difficulties which encompassed this measure, and he rejoiced to hear the right hon. Baronet state that he would not pledge himself to all the details of the bill —that he was now ready to hear and consider the objections that might be raised. It was with a view that those objections and suggestions should be stated that his noble Friend, the Member for the City of London had taken the course which tonight he had taken, and objected to the bill being read a second time without debate, in order that the points which struck hon. Members as objectionable might be suggested now, and that in the time which must elapse between this and the next stage of the bill, the Government might adopt such modifications as they might think consistent with the object they had in view. He did not intend to go fully into the details of this bill, but to state a few points on which it would be his duty either to propose or support modifications. The principle on which the Government, as it appeared to him, had proceeded, was the adoption of the system of the British and Foreign School Society, as applicable to the whole of the children to be educated in the proposed schools, super adding special religious instruction for the children of parents attached to the Established Church. To that principle he should not object, if fairly carried out; but there would be a great difference between these schools and British and Foreign Schools. The hill provided, that the masters and assistant-masters should be Members of the Established Church, not indeed in precise terms, but there was a provision that they must be approved of by the bishop of the diocese, and, of course, practically the bishop would approve of a Member of the Church in preference to a Dissenter. Now, the British and Foreign School Society trained a great number of school masters, who, though not Members of the Church, were extremely efficient teachers. Again, from the reports of the Privy Council inspectors, it appeared, that the most efficient masters in existing schools, had. come from Mr. Stone's normal seminary at Glasgow, the persons trained there being Scotchmen, and of course most of them Presbyterians. Now, the provisions of this bill would exclude masters trained in the Borough-road School, and those trained in Scotland, unless they became 1443 Members of the Established Church. Such was the impression which prevailed as to the effect of the 55th clause; namely, that it would exclude from employment, as masters or teachers, any person not a Member of the Established Church, and this he thought most objectionable, as limiting the choice of teachers, and excluding some of the most eligible. He would not now enter into detail as to the constitution of the trust; but it was a point which he thought required revision; inasmuch as it gave a great preponderance to the Church, without any security that a Dissenter of any description might be upon the trust, or have any control in the management of these schools. This was an apprehension which had excited great alarm among the Dissenters, and he mentioned the point now with a view to the removal of the objection which existed to the proposed constitution of the trust. With regard to the selection of books, for children of the Established Church as provided by the 58th clause, which placed it entirely in the hands of the clerical trustee, he considered this provision most unadvisable. Bearing in mind the great diversity of opinion to be found among the clergy, he thought it very unseemly that this should extend to the religious books for the instruction of the children, and that in the schools in the same town, for instance, totally different books should be in use, each purporting to convey instruction in the doctrines of the Established Church. He thought, that with a view to uniformity, the selection of books should be made by the committee of Privy Council, or if this was objected to, it would be better that it should be made by the two Archbishops, than that it should be left to the discretion of individual clergymen. There was another point to which he attached great importance—it related to the clauses affecting Sunday Schools. He did not, indeed, find any penalty attached to non-attendance on the Sunday, but the terms of some of the clauses implied that it was to be compulsory. To this he decidedly objected—it ought, in his opinion, to be entirely voluntary. There could be no objection to the schools being open for the instruction of such children as were willing to attend, but there were a vast number of Sunday-schools in the factory districts in connection with places of worship, both of the Established Church and of Dissenters, with which it was most desirable not to interfere, and 1444 which would be broken up if the children now instructed in them being employed in factories, should be compelled by this bill to attend the new school on Sunday as well as on the week days. He would only on this occasion further observe, that he doubted the expediency of introducing such minute regulaations as were to be found in this bill into an act of Parliament. He thought it would be better to leave these regulations with the committee of the Privy Council, instead of legislating prospectively on every minute point. He had offered these suggestions with a view to remove the objections which had been raised to the bill, and in the desire to see it put into such a shape that it would not only receive the assent of the Legislature, but that of the great body of the people, for whose benefit and advantage it was intended.
§ Sir R. Inglis
would endeavour to imitate the example of the right hon. Grentleman, and would abstain from referring to any exciting topic which might be likely to create irritation. They were now proposing, as a Christian people, a plan of education for Christian children; and as he owned that he was not satisfied with what he had heard from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, he should be unwilling to think that his right hon. Friend could be chargeable with being satisfied with such an exposition of the opinions of the House, as they had heard. His right hon. Friend had deprecated any minute discussion of the measure at present; and into such minute discussion he should certainly not now attempt to enter. It would be sufficient, on a future occasion, to follow in detail the various clauses of the bill; but his right hon. Friend desired to receive generally, from both sides of the House, such suggestions as, when the bill should go into committee, might weigh with him in meeting the several objections which might be made to the bill: but he believed he might say, that thus far his right hon. Friend had heard objections from those only who, not being themselves members of the Established Church, or who, representing the opinions of persons who were not connected with that Church, endeavoured to show that the bill, as it was framed, was unworthy of the adoption of the House. On the part of those who constituted not only the majority of that House, but also the vast majority of the people of England, the members of the Church of England, he claimed for the Established 1445 Church the maintenance of her office as the supreme instructress of the people of this country: and he maintained that a system of national education could never be soundly or firmly based except upon the foundation of a national Church. The great objection of the members of the Church of England to the present bill was, that, to a great extent, although he admitted it applied only to the manufacturing districts of the country, it proceeded on principle which, therefore, might be extended at any time to the whole country, to place the Church of England in a position not so pre-eminent as that which, constitutionally, it maintained at present, and in which, from its inherent character, they would wish to see it. He might add, that with respect to the first element of the organisation of the bill—namely, the committee of the Privy Council—the Church of England was not treated with that confidence which, constitutionally and intrinsically as the Established Church, she was entitled to expect at the hands of a Government. The supreme and appellant functions of the Church, as the instructress of the people, were transferred to an anomalous body— the committee of the Privy Council; no one member of which, unless he greatly mistook the constitution of that body and the functions discharged by it for the last fifteen years, was necessarily or essentially a member of the Church of England. He believed it to be almost possible, as the law now stood, that no member of the Church of England, certainly not more than one, was necessarily, a member of the Privy Council itself. If that were so, then he asked the hon. Member for Lambeth and the hon. Member for Dumfries, were there not great concessions on the part of the Established Church, if she did not oppose this measure? His right hon. Friend called upon Members to give him all the suggestions that occurred to them at this preliminary stage of the measure, and he would consider them attentively, and be prepared when the bill went into committee to take such a review of them as they might severally be entitled to; but he begged to remind his right hon. Friend, that if he conceded to the objections now urged by the opposite side of the House he could hardly expect that degree of support from the Church which his right hon. Friend, in almost the last sentence of his speech, had stated that he regarded as essential to the success of the bill and the 1446 successful establishment and maintenance of any system of national education. In making this declaration, he knew not for how many he might speak in that House, but he could answer for the opinions of a great many in the country. His right hon. Friend had said, that without the cordial co—operation of the Church Establishment, no system of national education could be carried out. He wished to remind his right hon. Friend of his own words, because he was satisfied that if by any attempt at undue conciliation of Gentlemen opposite, his right hon. Friend made any material alteration in the bill, he could not expect that strong or cordial support from the body of the Church establishment which the bill, in its present shape, was likely to receive. But in saying this he wished to repeat that he was fully aware of the concessions which the Church was making to a plan of national education which did not recognise the Church as the instructress of the people. He could hardly have conceived that two grave men could, as the hon. Members for Lambeth and Dumfries had done, seriously state that the bill gave to the Church by the constitution of the Board of trustees not a great or preponderating share, but the whole and exclusive possession of the authority. Did the hon. Member for Lambeth mean to state that churchwardens were necessarily churchmen? Did he mean to state that churchwardens were not, in too many intances, the bitterest enemies of the Church? One of the greatest grievances of the Church was, that its community were in bondage; that those who were called churchwardens were often selected from amongst those whom no other religious body would suffer to take office under their denomination. Did not the hon. Member know that in his own locality there were instances of churchwardens being the bitterest enemies of the Church-establishment? Was there any reason to suppose that at a greater distance in the manufacturing districts churchwardens would be more devoted or better disposed to the Church-establishment than in the suburban parishes of the metropolis? He believed, that unless the influence of the churchwardens was greatly moderated by the influence of the other trustees, the clerical trustee would often be found in the small minority of one. It must be recollected that two out of four trustees were to be owners of mills, and when it was said that twenty-seven out of sixty. or nearly one-half of the 1447 owners of mills—were dissenters; when he found that taken from the number, he could not help feeling the strong probability that there would be three, if not more, trustees in every union, unfriendly to the Church-establishment. It was quite clear that it would be at the option of the justices to elect four trustees, who were not members of the Church of England, and one only of the remaining three would be necessarily connected with that Church. He should greatly prefer an open enemy to an insidious friend; and would rather see an avowed dissenter in the office, than a trustee whose study it would be insidiously to beat back and thwart the efforts of the members of the Church, and undermine her strength. He repeated that it was a great concession on the part of the Church to admit the influence and control of the Committee of Privy Council; an institution not necessarily connected with the Church, and to which all the functions of the Church in regard to controlling the education of the country were to be entrusted. He would not enter into the question how far the Church, in the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was herself the Visitor-general of all the educational establishments of England—although that question had been most learnedly opened by Sir Charles Wetherell before the Privy Council, but whether it were so now or not, that clearly was the case at a former time, and either now or at a former period within the last 150 years, a concession had been made which denuded the Church of her visitorial power over all the education of England. Those functions were now transferred to the Committee of Privy Council. In every dispute reference was to be made—not to the bishop of the diocese, not to the archbishop of the province, not to any ecclesiastical synod, but to the Committee of the Privy Council. The original control was given to that committee, and as all appeals were made to it, a control in detail. He said, then, all the concession was not made by the dissenters, by the Roman Catholics, and the different denominations not connected with the Church of England, but concessions were made, and large concessions by the Established Church. The House had been told on the present occasion, by the hon. Member for Lambeth, as was always said whenever questions of this character arose, "Look at the numbers of the dissenters." He had said over and over again when uestions of this na- 1448 ture were raised, that he would never refuse a claim of justice if it were made by one person, but he never would yield a question of deliberation or expediency' to the threats of thousands, and he would always maintain a question of principle by whatever number it might be assailed. He believed as there were now statistical information on the Table which would refute all the arguments that were advanced on the other side on this subject, it was unnecessary to do more than refer to the tables which existed in various shapes. There had been made within the last month a return which shewed distinctly the number of churchmen and dissenters. It would be found in the fourth Report of the Registrar-General of births, deaths, and marriages. The number of Church of England marriages celebrated throughout England within the last year was 114,448, while the number of non-church marriages celebrated within the same interval was 8,034. Now he defied Gentlemen opposite to resist the conclusion, either that they had exaggerated the grievance of the marriage laws of England, or overstated the number of the dissenters. Either their consciences were not so much oppressed as they had represented, or they had overstated the numbers of those who had refused to conform to the Church of England. For the sake of satisfying those 8,034 persons who chose to be married byrites not of the Church of England, he asked those who had supported the measure—there were not many of them now present, but he saw one who had supported it, and he was the one who was best competent to estimate the value of pounds, shillings, and pence—whether they had made a calculation of the expense at which this toy had been purchased for the Dissenters from the Church of England? The expense of the registration of births, deaths, and marriages was 90,000l. for the year, and this sum was raised upon the taxes paid by the people of this country. He wished the hon. Member to bear this in mind when any request was made in that House for a grant to the Church of England; for if ever there was a question upon which the members of the Church of England were unanimous, it was in their opposition to that measure; at least, they were more unanimous upon that than any other point. The result showed the proportion of Dissenters and of members of the Established Church in the whole community of England, and the practical use which he now made of it was to recommend to his right hon. Friend the Secretary 1449 of State for the Home Department not to be daunted by the arguments of those who condemned the measure in its present form, as unfavourable to the Dissenters—to yield if he were satisfied that what was demanded was just, but to concede nothing on the mere ground that the numbers of the Dissenters made them formidable, as that would have the effect of disheartening and dissatisfying the great body of the people of England, who were in their hearts, and he believed in their lives, cordial and consistent members of the Church of England. Twice did the hon. Member for Lambeth— once in his speech, and again when lie interrupted his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, show the principle of his real objection to the measure. His real objection to the bill was, that it would counteract the efforts now made by the Dissenters. He (Sir It. Inglis) was not one who would at any time speak lightly of the efforts heretofore made by the Dissenters, using that term in a larger sense than, except for the sake of argument, he would recognise it, and including many who denied that they were Dissenters,— he acknowledged that but for those efforts the condition of education in the whole of England would be very different—melancholy as it was in some places—from what it was at present; but he believed, at the same time, that nothing would be more unfair than to withhold the establishment of a Church school, because the indirect influence of it would be to call back to the Church of England those who, because there was no Church school, had found refuge in the Dissenters' school. That was the ground twice urged by the hon. Member for Lambeth. He did not think the hon. Member had now used the word sectarian as applied to the Established Church. They were not now told that the Church of England was a sectarian body. An hon. Friend, however, who had listened to the hon. Member for Lambeth with more attention, informed him that he had heard that expression applied. He hoped, however, that it would not be hazarded too much in the present state of opinion in that House. In the last ten years he had been obliged to hear that expression, but he had never heard it, and never would hear it, without protesting against it. The Church of England was not sectarian. She was the legal and authorised instructress of the people of England. The Established Church was an essential element in the Constitution of 1450 England, and was the strength and the glory of the country, and it would be found that the strength of every Administration was exactly in the proportion in which it maintained the principles of the Church of England; and if he believed, that this bill as now constituted would weaken the Church, he for one should not be content to give a silent vote in opposition to it—he should not omit to divide the House against it. But it was because he believed the bill on the Table was less calculated to injure the Church than any other, and if well worked was perhaps not only calculated not to injure it materially, but might possibly benefit it—he spoke of the bill as it now stood—that he was not prepared to take the sense of the House against it. He supported the bill from a conviction that being opposed by the Dissenters on the one hand, and knowing that it would be opposed by the Church if materially altered on the other, his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would not be persuaded to make any material alteration in it. He believed if the bill passed as it now stood, the advantages which the Church might derive, would be in some degree a compensation for the sacrifices she made, but he repeated, that it was only on that consideration that what was yielded on the one hand, would be compensated in some degree on the other, that he gave his support to the second reading of the bill.
§ Mr. Hume
said that if he took the same views of the bill as the hon. Member for Oxford, he should be disposed to oppose the bill. He was sorry to hear that hon. Member say, though he did not agree in the assertion, that no system of education could be carried out in England without the support of the Established Church. The Church, according to that statement, was more powerful than the Government. That was an extraordinary doctrine to hear from the Ministerial Benches, which were occupied by what was called a strong Government. It might have suited the Gentlemen on his own side when they were in office, and were said to have no power. Was the plan, he would ask, adequate to the wants of the country? He believed not. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the youths between twenty and eighteen years of age, who constituted the great majority of those engaged in the late riots. Now, what provision did the bill make for that class? None whatever. The hon. Member for Oxford had objected to the Church being called a sect; but he 1451 must call it a sect; it was nothing but a sect. It had been always a sect, and a sect only. The hon. Member reproached him with being a pounds-shillings-and-pence Member; he thought that reproach came with a bad grace from the representative of a church which was always struggling for pounds, shillings, and pence. We could not be baptized without paying for it; we were obliged to pay when we married; and when we were buried we had again to pay to the Church. Was not that being in love with pounds, shillings, and pence? The hon Baronet committed, he thought, a great error in arguing that a great deal of good was originated by the Church of England; and he praised it so much, that he was tempted to show by the documents before him, that the Church did not deserve his praise. The hon Member called the Church the supreme instructress of the people; he thought she performed her duties very ill, when he considered the large funds she had at her disposal. She had between 5,000,000l. and 7,000,000l. a-year for her services. ["Oh,oh ! "] Gentlemen would see that he was correct. She had formerly between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l. and her revenue had since been much increased. He was horror-struck at reading some of the accounts of the education of the people, as given in the public documents lately published. In the report of the prison inspectors for England, he found some most extraordinary proofs of the ignorance of the people. He would take first the example of Reading gaol, in which he found there were 189 prisoners on a given day. Of these 75 could neither read nor write; 67 could read only, and 46 could read and write, both imperfectly, so that only one could read and write well. Did that state of the people do any honour to their supreme instructress? In other prisons the state of the people was still worse. Thirty years ago he had been engaged in promoting education, and he well remembered then, that the pulpits overflowed with denunciations against those who were educating the people. The efforts that were then made were chiefly confined to the dissenting body, though they were aided by the Duke of Bedford and some other distinguished noblemen and gentlemen who belonged to the Church. By their efforts considerable progress was made, and the system of education which they had established was doing good now. He thought the hon. Baronet the Member for 1452 Oxford extremely wrong always in assuming, that the Church was so extremely beneficial to the people, He challenged the hon. Baronet to the proof, but the hon. Baronet always assumed that point, and brought no proof whatever that his assumption was correct. Referring to another example of the state of the people—there was in the gaol of Springfield, for the county of Essex, 408 prisoners, and of these 184 could neither read nor write, 92 could read only, and 129 conld read and write, but both imperfectly. In Middlesex again, in the Penitentiary there were 298 prisoners, and of those 62 could neither read nor write, 196 could read only, and 37 could read and write imperfectly. In this district, which seemed one of the best off, 103 could read and write well. Those facts showed that no efforts had been made to relieve the ignorance of the people. He had other statements which made the deplorable condition of the people still more evident. He found by the 6th report of the inspector of prisons, that the total number of adults and juvenile prisoners committed to gaol by the magistrates in 1839, was not less than 82,047. Of these 22,548, committed to be tried at the assizes and sessions, could neither read nor write well. The number sent to gaol on summary conviction, who could neither read nor write well, was 54,579, making in all a grand total of 77,127 who could neither read nor write, or not read nor write well, and only 4,920 who could read and write well: of 71,790 adults, only 4,688, or one in seventeen could read and write well. But the juvenile offenders were still worse: of 10,324 juvenile prisoners, only 232 could read and write well, or not more than one in forty-five. Did not that show that the people had been neglected? He thought it shewed, moreover, that the Government propositions for the education of the people were wholly inefficient. If the right hon. Baronet thought that the dissenters would be satisfied with this measure he was mistaken. He would convince the right hon. Baronet of the contrary by quoting some part of the resolution which had been adopted by the dissenters of the three denominations. If the right hon. Baronet had not seen those resolutions, he ought to see them. At a meeting of the deputies, held on the 16th of March, Mr. Weymouth in the chair, a series of resolutions were adopted, of which he would read the second. It was as follows:— 1453That the provisions of the bill are at variance with the principles on which the orders of the Privy Council for Education,, dated the 3d of June, 1839, were framed; are in opposition to the principles of general education in Ireland, which have been repeatedly sanctioned by Parliament; will widely create new claims objectionable to the Society of Friends and many other individuals, of the same nature, and for the same reasons, as church-rates; will interfere with, and probably subvert, the British and Foreign Sunday School Societies, and all congregational and other schools dependent on voluntary support, and so eminently useful; and especially will create, in favour of the parochial clergy and the established church, new, injurious, intolerant, unlimited, and irresponsible power and authority over the people and rising generation; that will violate all religious equality, and be thoroughly incompatible with the rights of conscience and civil and religious liberty.He would remind the right hon. Baronet of the state and circumstances of that country to which he had exerted himself to apply a good system of education. In Ireland there were a great number of Roman Catholics, and their preponderance induced the Government, of which the right hon. Baronet was a member, to devise a system of education not under the control of the clergy. Now, why did not the right hon. Baronet apply that system to England? Here the dissenters were numerous, and he might say that, including the Catholics under that name, they probably formed a majority of the people, and why did not the right hon. Baronet apply a system here which in Ireland had been attended with the best effects? Did he expect that the English would submit to be treated worse than the Irish? As to the effect of attempting to give a religious education by the clergy of the Church of England, he would quote a passage from Mr. Saunders's report. It was to this effect—No parties, who are advocates for educating the poorer classes, entertain a doubt of being able to secure the attendance of children at schools where they could obtain good secular instruction, if such schools were established; but all propositions for adopting a general system of education for the poorer classes have been hitherto thwarted, by an assumed difficulty as to the religious education which should be given in these schools, without violating the conscientious scruples entertained by parents—It was impossible, he thought, that the right hon. Baronet should be acquainted with all the facts of the case, and persist 1454 in proposing a plan to give a domination to the Church of England in the education of the people. If he yielded to that domination, the people would be loathe to accept the degraded education they would receive in the schools under the control of the church. Did the right hon. Baronet think that the people of England would pay rates for a system of education which was worse than the system established in Ireland? He believed that it was impossible the right hon. Baronet's scheme should succeed. From the sentiments which the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Inglis) had expressed, it appeared to him as if that hon. Baronet regretted that the days of "No Popery," had not returned; and it appeared to him as if this bill were about to restore to the Church that power which it formerly possessed, and which the hon. Baronet was so desirous to give it. Now he objected that all that they professed to do at present was, to give education to but two classes in the community—to those who were children working in factories, and those whose parents had the misfortune of being paupers. These were it appeared to him, the only two classes that were to be taken care of. He differed from the hon. Member for Dumfries in one respect—he thought that every individual ought to be educated; that the State should take care that each individual was educated. He thought that no voluntary system would do—that no voluntary system ought to do. In his estimation the moral and religious education of the people was the first duty on the part of a government, and therefore there ought to be secular establishments for education, in the advantages of which every sect could participate. Where, as ill this country, there were so many sects, differing from each other, it was impossible to have education general, if any species of domination were permitted to any one particular sect in the country. Let all, he said, be educated, and let the public money be allocated for that education as it was in other countries. Every species of property that was made to provide for the support of the poor ought also to be subjected to taxation for the purposes of education. He believed that such an allocation of money would be the truest and best economy in every sense of the word. The expenses incurred in the building of prisons, in the carrying on of prosecutions, the losses suffered by theft, the injuries inflicted by criminals, all these arose from bad education, and all entailed upon the 1455 community an expense which, if brought together, would not amount to anything like the sum ample and sufficient to give that general instruction which was required in the country. If that were done, then they might see a moral and a well-educated people in this country, of whom they might be proud. They might see that, instead of beholding that of which they might well be ashamed—that was the ignorance of all classes—an ignorance that, in the old and the young, was disgraceful to the legislation and the Government that tolerated it. They might, indeed, well feel shame, and especially when they considered what other countries had done; countries, of which it might be remarked, that education in them was not under the management of that "supreme instructress," the Church of England. He had obtained returns from the Government of the United States which threw this wealthy country miserably into the shade in respect to the zeal and liberality of those who would contribute to the dissemination of information and education, in at least two of the states of the union. In the state of Massachusetts, which contained a population of 734,000 persons, there were 3,103 public schools, for the support of which that small state contributed 102,295l. These were the common schools for the common people. There were also endowed schools, and the whole number of those educated was 142,219, at an expense of 171,246l. while all that was expended here, for the purpose of education, was the paltry sum of 30,000l. In New York 357,587l. was expended upon 10,127 district schools. The ruling power was vested in persons elected by the inhabitants, not in the clergy of any sect or denomination of Christians; and the whole of these schools were subjected to the super intendance and control of responsible persons appointed by Government. Where was the danger of leaving the administration of these contributions to the general education of the people in the hands of those who contributed to the fund—namely, the secular, instead of the clerical portion of society? He did not believe that such a control would more favour the growth of infidelity than clerical control. And this opinion was confirmed by what had been disclosed in a speech delivered by the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) on this subject, who then read the names of adult persons in the mining districts who were altogether unacquainted with the names of personages most familiar 1456 in the pages of Scripture. He, notwithstanding his objections upon this point were insuperable, would not offer any objection to the bill being read a second time, in order to give the House a fair and full opportunity of discussing it in detail in the committee; and he trusted they would not suffer it to come out of the committee without making many important amendments in it.
was disposed to support the bill, but felt it necessary to state, by way of preliminary what were the grounds upon which he was prepared to concur in a measure which he could not consider to be a one-sided measure, or one calculated to give all the advantage to the Established Church over the dissenting portion of the community. It was his opinion, that any system of education established by Parliament, which should tend, either directly or indirectly, to check individual efforts, would do more of injury to the cause of national education, than they could hope to produce good. He could not touch on this bill without feeling, that after ten years of all but hopeless attempts and the most heart-sickening failures, they had at length arrived at that point when all parties seemed desirous of meeting the question fairly, and with a desire to conciliate as far as conciliation could be desired or expected, in matters of conscience. Certain points might be considered to be established, as the result of the discussions of the last few years. First, that no system of national education could ever be successful unless it were based on religion. Secondly, to adopt the expression used by the late Government, "that religion should be mixed up with the whole matter of the instruction." And, thirdly, he must add, that the division of religion into "general and special" had been rejected by the country. At first sight of the bill he confessed many objections had met his view. He objected to the power given to the committee of the Privy Council, as being calculated to interfere with individual exertions. He also objected to what appeared to him to be a tendency in the bill to separate secular from religious instruction, by giving the jurisdiction in the one case to the Privy Council, and in the other to the clergy; and again, he did not think it advisable that a plan of national education should be carried on, by 1457 which, in the same school, two classes of pupils should receive instruction upon different principles. Notwithstanding these objections, when he came to consider the bill, he arrived at the conclusion that the State having to propose such a plan, could only act on some such principles, and therefore it was he concluded that he should not have felt justified in offering opposition to it. He felt, then, that the Church had been unable to meet the enormous increase of population by a sufficient education, and if the Government, who are responsible for the safety of the country, think some immediate interposition necessary in the special case of the education of factory children, he dare notasa Member of Parliament—he dare not as an Englishman, refuse to take his share of the responsibility in the attempt to stay the evil. He considered, then, that the State must do that which the Church had not done, and which no exertions by individuals could do within any short period. He had had communications with several persons on this subject, some of whom had very strong and decided objections to the bill, and who, though able to perceive the remote dangers likely to follow, were yet willing to take the bill, honestly expressing, as they did, a hope that it might work well, and be able to meet the evils that were now so pressing, and the dangers that were so imminent. He, on these grounds, was ready to express his acquiescence in the bill, assuming that the intervention of the State was necessary in a case of special emergency, and viewing this measure as one of special and limited application, and taking into account its compulsory character, he concluded by expressing a hope, that all might unite in endeavouring to make the measure as perfect as possible.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
agreed with the hon. Member (Mr. Acland) in two opinions, to which he had given expression. First, that all party topics should be banished, and the discussion carried on with calmness. Second, that unless each of the extreme parties were willing to give way on some points, to which, on other occasions, they might attach importance, he believed it would be utterly impossible for them to obtain that object, which he hoped the House had in view. It was well that the subject should now be discussed, as he believed that the right hon. Baronet might otherwise on a subsequent stage of the 1458 bill, meet with more opposition than if the parties now had the opportunity of stating their objections. With reference to the point of Sunday education, as he understood the hon. Baronet, it was proposed that Sunday education should be furnished for the children of those persons who were members of the Church of England; but that it was to be perfectly competent for the parent to object to that, and then the child need not attend on the Sunday—the parent was not bound to state that he was a Dissenter, but that he objected to Sunday education; in fact, there was no compulsion on a member of the Church of England to send his child to Sunday education. This he thought right, but he saw no security that those children who did not attend at the school-house, should receive any religious education, and he suggested whether it would not be advisable, in such cases to require a certificate to show, that the child had attended some other Sunday school. The material part of the right hon. Gentleman's bill depended upon the trustees. A strong objection was entertained by the Dissenters as to the great power which was given to clerical trustees. There were to be seven trustees; but the clerical trustee was to be the only permanent one, and there were to be two ex officio trustees—the churchwardens. These two, in practice, by the bill, would be nominated by the clerical trustee. The practical operation was to give a preponderating power to the clerical trustee. It was to be considered, that the money was to be levied on the rate-payers, and he certainly should be glad to see some mode by which trustees elected by the rate-payers, could satisfy them that the money raised out of their pockets was properly distributed. He agreed with Sir R. Inglis, in his objection to the nomination of churchwardens; he thought they were not usually persons selected for their fitness to superintend education; and if they intended to give an appointment to the clergyman, he would prefer giving him the power directly. He had rather one was selected by the clergyman, and the other by the rate-payers,and he was sure that the appointments made in that way would give more satisfaction. Great importance was attached to the assistance of the clergy; but also the utmost importance ought to be attached to the assistance of that most influential body, the 1459 ministers of the dissenting bodies. He was glad, that the educational clauses were postponed for consideration, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider the objections offered by honourable and honest men, and do his utmost to obtain their co-operation.
§ Mr. Hardy
hoped that this measure would be the means of affording proper religious education to a large mass of the youth of this country employed in manufactures, but although he agreed that they should make toleration their principle, yet he trusted that religion would be taught in these schools according to the Holy Scriptures, and in the way which alone could guide the minds and govern the hearts of the young working population of the manufacturing districts. He did not think they could hit on any plan which would be satisfactory to the members of the Established Church and the Dissenters; but he thought it important, that in whatever they did they should make religious instruction, according to the Scriptures, their rule. At that moment he would not enter into the details of the bill, but he hoped that when they went into committee they would be able to render the measure such as would afford general satisfaction.
§ Mr. Milner Gibson
considered that he should not represent the feelings of his constituents if he were to express his approbation of the present measure. He had very great objections to the bill, and could almost reconcile it to himself to vote against the second reading. But if he did not do that, he meant to give his reasons why he could almost reconcile himself to vote against the second reading, on the very ground that he was anxious to extend education, and especially amongst those classes to whom the bill would apply. If he admitted the soundness of the principle on which they were about to proceed, it did not follow that a partial application of that principle might not be attended with mischievous results. They must consider what would be the probable practical working of the measure before the House. He would ask the right hon. Baronet opposite this question. He had confined the operation of the bill to the masters in particular mills, to those in cotton, silk, flax, woollen, and some other mills, but he had left beyond the scope of his measure the vast number of children employed in a number of other employments of manu- 1460 facture and trade, in which young persons were engaged. The noble Lord, the Member for Dorsetshire, had founded his late speech upon the subject of the education of children—on the report of the commission, which extended to the condition of children employed in every species of labour; but the bill before the House applied only to a particular number of trades and occupations. Now, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite whether the result of his bill would not be to induce parents to withdraw their children from employments under the operation of the bill, if they were at all unwilling that they should be sent to school? All they would do by the measure before the House would be to displace labour, to cause a great number of children to be withdrawn from cotton, flax, and other mills, within the operation of the act, and to be employed in nail-making, and other manufactures in the immediate neighbourhood of the cotton, &c, mills, but not within the scope of the bill. To show that this difficulty was not the result of his own imagination, he would observe that it had been found to occur with respect to the education clauses of their own Factory Bill. The inspectors stated that the effect of that bill had been to displace a great amount of infant labour, and in many respects to make the moral and physical condition of the children worse than it was before that bill came "into operation Mr. Hickson, in a report of the operation of the Factories Act, stated that the operation of that law had been to exclude from labour upwards of 40,000 children; that the mill-owners had no authority to prevent the children after leaving the mills, from absenting themselves from the schools provided for them. That if the 40,000 children excluded from labour were receiving proper instruction, the fact of their having been so excluded would be less to be regretted; but not one in the hundred of these children were sent to school. That the school clauses referred to had placed a great body of young children, under thirteen years of age, in a much more unfavourable moral and physical condition than that in which they had been before the passing of the law. This showed that when they applied partially a sound principle, mischief, instead of good, might be the result, and he feared that the effect of the school clauses in the present measure would be similar to 1461 those produced by the school clauses of the measure of 1827. He feared, too, that the children would be sent to employments still more irksome than those which they were subjected to in mills. He feared that they would be sent to mines and collieries, and those kinds of labour where they would have less chance of moral and physical improvement than they possessed at present. It had been often the practice there, and in other cases, when talking of the gross vice and immorality of certain bodies of the population, to travel for that purpose to the cases of manufacturing towns and districts. Whenever a lecture was to be read on ignorance and debasing vice, the manufacturing towns were instanced as illustrations. Now, he would call the especial attention of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Ashley) to the fact, that it was not among the cotton factory population the this vice and immorality principally prevailed; for it was observed that the regularity and discipline of the cotton mill were calculated to lead to steady habits, and that the practice of vice and ignorance prevailed among the migratory and floating population, among that portion of the population principally transferred from the agricultural districts. Now, this bill would not apply to persons of that class. It would not extend education to those principally in want of it; but it would have a tendency to drive out of cotton factories the very children for whose benefit the bill was intended. With every desire to extend education, he would ask the Government, whether the practical operation of the bill would not probably be as he had stated? With respect to the principle of religious liberty, as it was involved in the bill, he could not help saying that they did seem to him—when they passed an act of Parliament to the effect that the teachers of national schools should teach the Scripture only according to the authorised version—they did seem to him determined to impose terms of admission to these schools, which they knew beforehand that Roman Catholics could not agree to. Did they not know that Roman Catholics would not permit their children to be taught the authorised version of the Scriptures? When the system had been altered, and that version introduced into the Liverpool corporation schools, the effect had been to reduce the number of children attending them from 800 to 300. The immediate effect had been the 1462 withdrawal of Roman Catholic children; yet, with the full knowledge of this fact, they still persisted in enacting that all children should be taught the scriptures according to the legalized version. In no district was there a greater number of Catholics compared with the entire population, than in Lancashire. A large portion of the people there were Irish and Catholics, and the ministers seemed to be trying, by the bill before the House, to make schools as little advantageous to the bulk of the population there as they could. With respect to the attendance on divine worship, he thought it would be well that children belonging to the Church, and those of Dissenters, should all of them attend a place of worship; but he protested against the principle that they were to ask a working man why he did not send his children to their school on Sunday for religious instruction, or to their church. Had not the parent a right to enjoy the society of his own children, if he wished it, upon the Sabbath? Was he bound to part with his children for six hours every Sunday? Was he not at liberty to send his children to whatever Sunday-school he thought proper? Was the right hon. Gentleman opposite to stand up for instituting such an inquisition into the families of working people, as requiring a religious reason why the parents did not send their children to the Sunday national schools? They had no right to ask for any such reason. The matter should be left to the parents' discretion. And should it be otherwise determined, the working people would look upon the measure in the light of a most grievous oppression. With respect to the other portion of the bill, he would not express any opinion stronger than that which had been uttered by the hon. Member for Montrose, to the effect that the rate-payers should have a voice in the selection of those who were to form the local educational boards. He thought that great difficulties would be thrown in the way of the practical working of the bill, if its provisions upon that head were not altered. The members of the society of friends would object to pay poor-rates when they knew that the money was to go to pay for inculcating doctrines to which they had objections, and over the teaching of which they were to have no control. The ministers would conjure up all manner of difficulties in the way of the working of 1463 the bill, if they did not give to the ratepayers a voice in selecting those who were to distribute the funds and take charge of the schools. He entreated the Government to consider attentively the objections to the bill which he had stated.
§ Mr. Manners Sutton
rose to state the leason why he did not agree in the first point urged against the bill by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. The hon. Gentleman had stated that he feared that the school clauses would not have the effect of promoting education, but of inducing children to enter into other employments, as a condition of entering into which the fact of their receiving education was unneccessary, and he had quoted the report of a Factory Inspector, to prove the probability of the view he took. Now he apprehended, supposing that report to be correct, that the refusal of parents to allow their children to be employed in those manufactures, engagement in which made education compulsory, could not fairly be attributed to any desire of keeping from the children the education which they ought to receive; he believed that such was not the feeling of parents. But there was one point connected with the education clauses under the existing law, which had great weight in inducing parents to send their children into branches of manufacture unconnected with any necessity for education, and that was, the fact that the education provided was of the most inferior character, and he believed that in many instances the children were on that ground prevented from being subjected to certain restrictions from which no corresponding advantage could be reaped. But as the system of education was improved so would the reluctance on the part of parents vanish. Indeed, he considered that the enactment of education clauses would be considered by parents as holding out high premiums to send their children to employments with which they were connected. He would conclude with remarking, that the hon. Gentleman opposite, in alluding to the restricted scope of the bill as originally proposed, should not have forgotten that his right hon. Friend near him had announced his intention of submitting two other great branches of industry to its operation.
had experienced much gratification from the declarations made in the course of the evening, that the time 1464 was now come when the state must seriously undertake the education of the people; and he was also glad when he heard it admitted that the voluntary efforts of the Dissenters and Church had been found quite inefficient for remedying the existing ignorance of large masses of the population. He concurred, too, with the statement, that the necessity for education was so pressing that extreme parties should give way in their objections to particular parts of the system proposed to be applied as a remedy. With respect to religious education, as proposed by the bill before the House, he apprehended that its principle was, that children of the Established Church were to be instructed in the liturgy and in the faith of that Church, while the children of Dissenters should be taught from the Bible alone. That principle he generally approved of. He had no faith in voluntary exertions for education. Three-fourths of a million of children, at the most moderate computation, were at the present time receiving no daily instruction. Such a state of things should be immediately reformed, and it appeared to him that the bill before the House—considering all the circumstances of the country—the varying claims of contending parties—considering all that had passed on the question—he said, that bill appeared to him to be the best practical measure which could be adopted under the circumstances. He differed from those who thought that the Church should be the supreme instructress of the people, and that the State should in that respect have no control over her—and, he thought, that the establishment of any school, based upon such a principle would be found impracticable. But he did not think that under the proposed system, children of Dissenters would be a bit worse off than were such children in the British and Foreign schools. With respect to the objection of Dissenters to the bill, he believed that those objections were not so well founded as to have induced them to attempt to defeat the measure. Their objections were good arguments for improvements in the bill, but he had not heard any which would warrant him for a moment in taking upon himself the responsibility of not voting for the second reading. After all it was a practical measure, if they could frame a better, let them do so; but if they were merely to do mischief,—merely to prevent the vast 1465 masses of children in the manufacturing districts, whose condition every report concurred in stating as being most awful—as being lost in degradation and demoralization—from being educated and enlightened, they would be taking upon themselves a very terrible degree of responsibility. He could not sympathise with the hon. Member for Manchester in his remarks upon the division on Sundays of parents and children. Parents undoubtedly had certain rights over their children; but had the children no rights? Had they no right to be instructed? The law did not admit that parents had a right to starve their children—to inflict bodily injury upon them. Why, then, should the law admit the right of the parent to starve his children's minds and souls, and inflict upon them the grievous injury of refusing them that education which they undoubtedly had a right to expect.
§ Lord Ashley
said, that had it not been for what had fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Gibson), he should not have spoken a word on the present occasion; nor would he now be tempted to say anything calculated to destroy the feeling of unanimity happily existing upon this question, or to make him appear in the position of being now the assailant of factories or of factory masters. With regard to the rural districts, he wished the House and the country to understand that it never was his intention to propose a grant of public money to enable landlords to extend the blessings and benefits of education among those who it might be said lived under their protection. He did think that it was a very solemn truth that every man having landed property, with all the advantages and responsibilities that attached to its possession, ought to see that his tenantry, great and small, and his neighbours, were brought up in loyalty to the King, and in the fear of God. And he should be perfectly ready, whenever the time came, to lend his humble assistance for the purpose of making regulations to promote education in the agricultural districts, as stringent as for Lancashire and the manufacturing districts. He should then be able to adduce a vast amount of evidence to show that there were countervailing advantages in the agricultural districts which were not to be found in the manufacturing districts; and it was partly with a view to that that he had abstained 1466 from mixing up the question of education in the agricultural parts with the consideration of the subject now before the House. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the education clauses in the Factory Act of 1833 had been the source of great moral and physical evil to a large proportion of children. It was quite true that those clauses in which he had no share whatever were so ill-contrived and ill-drawn, that they were exceedingly burthensome both to operative and mill-owner. The consequence was, that the mill-owner dismissed from his mill every child to whom these clauses applied. But let it he observed, that the bill now introduced removed a majority of the objections to that act, and would make the education clauses not only agreeable to the parent, but also perfectly agreeable to the mill-owner. One of the great difficulties for the mill-owner was, that of finding a school, and, in many instances, unless he had one on his own premises, there was no school to which the children could be sent; and with respect to the parents, considering the state in which the schools were, it could not be expected that they should wish their children to be educated there. By way of contrast he would state to the House what was the condition of many of the factory schools at that moment, and what their condition might be under the new regulation to be effected by this bill. He was the more anxious to do this, because he found by a circular issued by the dissenters that they laboured under very considerable delusions, and thought that the principles laid down in this bill were totally novel and had never been ratified by the House. First, they said, it was very hard indeed to the child, that out of its scanty wages a sum of money should be deducted for education, and they likewise complained of the necessity for compelling the attendance of factory children at some school. But that was the same as the provisions of the act of 1833; for in that act it was made compulsory on all children in factories to attend schools for two hours every working day of the week. In the same way, by that act, the mill-owner might keep back one penny in every twelve of the child's wages for the school; and that was precisely the proportion under the present act. So that these principles, at least, were not novel. But now observe the difference: compare the quality of the education as given under the act of 1833, and the quality of the education proposed by this measure. At present there were 1467 some good schools, as in Manchester, for instance, though their number was very small. But even in these good schools, whatever might be the regulations of the mill-owner himself, by the statute there was no provision of any kind of religious teaching,—not even the Bible was to be introduced. There was no qualification for the master as to ability, knowledge, or character. In more than one instance it had happened that children were found at school absolutely in the coal-hole, and the stoker imparted instruction as he was engaged in poking the fire. A book was sent to him the other day quite black, and so rotten, that it went to pieces in his hands, and yet that had been one of the standard books of the school for the last two years. In very many cases the schoolmaster and schoolmistress were unable to sign their names to the certificate, in which it was stated, that the child under their tuition had enjoyed two hours a day of moral and religious instruction. That was the state of things under the act of 1833. What was proposed by the bill of 1843? The House would observe, by contrasting what is promised with what exists, the mighty advantages offered to parents, and the powerful inducements held out to them for giving their acquiescence. He believed that the number of mills in which it had been determined to work, on the system of having no more children under thirteen years of age, had reached its maximum; and he had no doubt when this bill passed, additional facilities would be offered, and that, so far from children being turned out of employment, a very considerable number would be introduced, for the parents would then co-operate with the master to fulfil the conditions of the law. Those who had conscientious scruples should not only bear in mind the quality of the education proposed by this measure, but also recollect how the matter stood in respect to conscience at present. Under the act of 1833 no child of any persuasion whatsoever had the slightest protection as to conscience. It was perfectly possible that a Protestant mill-owner, having a school on his premises, might compel Roman Catholic children to attend that school; or, vice versa, a Roman Catholic mill-owner might compel Protestant children to attend a school on his premises. In the one they would be brought up in the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England, and in the other, in the doctrine and discipline of the Church 1468 of Rome. There was no security; and the children might be brought up according to the tenets, whatever they were, of the mill-owner. All that the act required, was the production of a certificate, which of itself was sufficient; and it was not within the power of the inspector to make any comment on the character and conduct of the persons who produced it. Such a system might have been pushed to this extent. It might be possible, that a mill-owner, who was a socialist, had a school on his premises in which children were educated in the particular opinions of that description of persons. It was not improbable; because he remembered, that the great leader of the socialist sect (Mr. Robert Owen) was a mill-owner some years ago, and that he once visited his mills at Lanark. Whether he was so now, or not, he could not say; but "what happened once may happen again;" and, under the act of 1833, if children belonging to the Church of England, or Dissenters, were sent to schools of that sort, and educated in the socialist principles, it was quite impossible for the law to interfere for the purpose of effecting a remedy. If, therefore, this bill went no further, it must give considerable relief, so far as it assured to parents the right of seeing that their children would not be taught any doctrine to which they objected. "Sir," concluded the noble Lord, "I hope that as this discussion commenced so it will end, without any reference to party or political considerations. We have to deal with a mighty evil: it is too late, and it would be useless now to dispute who are responsible for it. This is a time for mutual concession. I have never seen greater evidences of a general desire for some common field on which all parties may strive for the common welfare. I do trust we shall avail ourselves of the opportunity afforded by this precious season, which may not occur again. It is impossible to estimate the evils delay may produce, not only by augmenting the mischiefs against which we are contending, but in augmenting the heartburnings and discontents, and conflicts that must be excited. I do fervently hope this House may find some means for effecting a national improvement, and answering national expectations—for expectations, I emphatically declare, the people do entertain as to the effects of this measure, which is looked to with a degree of eagerness and gratitude unparalleled in reference to legislative efforts. I hope also, that for the honour of the country, some- 1469 thing will be effectually done for the removal of this reproach. Without remorse we have disclosed our disgraceful position, displaying the positive filth that lies on the moral surface of this our land. What a figure shall we then cut among the nations of the earth, if, knowing what we do know, seeing what we do see, and feeling what we profess to feel, we fail to remove the abominations and corruptions which are festering in the very heart of our population. Lastly, and above all, I pray that we may not so signally fail in our solemn duty as a nation, and call down upon our heads the Divine vengeance, by obstinately persisting in a course of neglect, and in disregard of those sacred duties for which, (I sincerely believe), and for no other reason, have been intrusted to us wealth, power, greatness, and dominion.
§ Mr. Cobden
admitted that it was a most difficult matter to deal with the rights of conscience as regarded different persuasions. Amongst the Dissenters of Lancashire it would be found not very easy to fix on a common test; but that difficulty was immensely increased when the Church of England claimed so dominant a power in this question. They were dealing there with a population the majority of which so far as the working classes were concerned, were Dissenters. The master would feel that he must consult the feelings of the minority. He thought it very likely that objections would be raised to paying rates when the majority found they could not have a master of their own views. He did not bring it as a charge against the noble Lord (Lord Ashley), that he had singled out Manchester as specially in want of instruction. He did not want to retaliate; but he must say there were districts more demoralized than Manchester. The very parish in which they sat, and which contained Westminster Abbey, he could prove by authentic documents, was more void of religious instruction than Manchester itself. He found in the Quarterly Journal of the Statistical Society of London for April 1840, a report on the state of the working classes in St. John's and St. Margaret's, Westminster:—Religion professed by the principle members of the families of the working class. Out of 5,3GG principal members of families visited, there were found, 1,181 who professed to belong to no religious denomination, and 2,077 who did not attend any place of public worship. Thus one-fifth of the principal members of the working population visited, professed 1470 not to belong to any religious denomination; and two—fifths attended no place of public worship.He would next refer to the report read at the Statistical Section at the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at Liverpool, September 13, 1837, on the condition of the working classes in the boroughs of Manchester and Salford:—Total number of the principal members of families visited, 50,429; of which there were found to make no religious professions, 4,481, or about one-twelfth.He believed that the greater part of those to whom he alluded in Westminster were the tenants of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey; and as to the number of "disorderly" houses so often referred to, there was a larger proportion to be found in Westminster than in Manchester. He was not so illogical as to argue from this that religious instruction was not required in Manchester; but he thought it due to the character of the dissenting ministers of that place to show how things really stood. A population had rapidly sprung up, and a new, social element was to be provided for. In a town where the revenues of the Church were not expanding; where she still slumbered on in the possession of her old dues, he thought that Manchester had displayed a moral energy and a religious impulse in supplying her own spiritual wants; and so far from being selected as a benighted district, in behalf of which our philanthropic feelings were appealed to, he thought it afforded a fair specimen of what a moral population could do for themselves, when neglected by the Legislature of the country. He held in his hand a report of the state of the prisoners in the Lewes House of Correction, from October, 1838, to October, 1842, drawn up by the Rev. Mr. Burnett, the chaplain. The total number of prisoners in that period was 2,022.Of these (said Mr. Burnett) 276 had a reasonable knowledge of the Christian faith, 229 had a confused knowledge of the leading events in the Saviour's life, 1,120 could tell the Saviour's name, and 646 did not know his name. And these, (the chaplain added), were Sussex born prisoners.These facts he mentioned merely to show that they were not taking a sufficiently comprehensive view of the question. By the system which they were now about to adopt they would have at 1471 school about 60,000 children. Could that be a measure deserving of the name of national education? Could it be sufficient even for the districts for which they were affecting to legislate? The Church was now claiming exclusively the education of the people; but she did not come to the House with clean bands. She had neglected her duty, and it was monstrous that she should now come forward to offer the slightest obstruction to the education of the people. But she was always making herself a stumbling-block to the improvement of the country. She would never allow the people to be taught anything unless they were first taught her doctrines. But Mr. Burnett had well said that, in all his inquiries during the four years he he had attended the Lewes house of correction, he knew only one case where an adequate notion of religion was possessed by a prisoner who was unable to read. The dissenting ministers did not object to the use of the Bible in schools, but the Church would come in, and force its catechism on the scholars, which it had no right to do. He could tell the Government that the Dissenters would resist the measure which had been brought forward. It would be the subject of a long controversy, and it was not worth it, after all. He would not stand in the way of even the chance of the people obtaining better instruction, and, although he had received communications from various parts of the country hostile to the bill, yet, if a division should take place, he would vote for the second reading, and trust to amending the measure in committee. The bill was probably a slight step in advance, as regarded principle; this was the first time that the Government had proposed to levy a rate for the education of children without making it a condition that they should be taught the Church catechism.
§ Mr. Darby
deprecated the tone which the hon. Member who spoke last had introduced into the discussion. As the hon. Member had referred to the Lewes House of Correction, he (Mr. Darby) could state, from his own experience, that a considerable portion of the prisoners confined there were not connected with the rural population. As to the Sussex clergymen, there was no set of men more anxious than they were to train up the people in a religious course. In his opinion, mere secular education would afford no guarantee for a moral population. The hon. Member for 1472 Stockport had attempted to prove that, as regarded education, Manchester was superior to London; but still it must be admitted that Manchester was bad enough, and the voluntary principle had been tried there and failed. The hon. Member concluded by expressing a hope that no angry feeling would be manifested against the measure introduced by the Government; the question was one as to which men of all parties ought to make concession.
Mr. A. Hope
would give his support to the bill. The little discussion which the measure had received, showed that the bill was not looked upon as a great measure of national education. Looking at the disturbances, almost amounting to rebellion, that had taken place in the manufacturing districts last autumn, it was plain that there was a necessity for doing something to provide for the education of the people. The state of those districts with respect to education was a disgrace to the country. He believed, however, that exertions were being made to remedy the state of things that prevailed. In the agricultural districts, the landed proprietors were rousing themselves to a sense of their duty, and exertions were being made to provide better for the education of the people. He hoped, that the present measure would prove beneficial, and he would give it his support.
§ Lord J. Russell
was afraid, that if they went into a discussion with regard to the different kinds of persons assembled in different parts of the country,—that if one hon. Member were to point out the ignorance and vice of the manufacturing districts,—if another took the metropolis as an example, and a third were to point out the extreme ignorance, and in many respects the depravity, which prevailed in some of the agricultural districts, it would prove that the attack was more successful than the defence; for there was no part of the country with respect to which they could say, that there was that religious and moral instruction which the Legislature would be proud to see established. He, for one, could not regret this discussion. He was disposed to think, that there being a very considerable degree of angry feeling amongst many bodies in the country, and much misapprehension with regard to the provisions of this bill, a discussion conducted as this had been in that House would rather tend to produce a similar temper elsewhere, and would pro- 1473 duce in their future discussions a greater probability of coming to an agreement than there would have been if they had reserved the discussion for a later period. Such a discussion as this between Gentlemen of different political parties, differing also many of them in their religious opinions, beginning with his noble Friend the Member for Arundel, his Hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, and the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire, differing as they did in the view they took of this great question, yet he was happy to say, they all spoke of it in a temper which was highly commendable. Such discussion would tend rather to further the great object they had in view, than to push to the extreme any opinions which each individual might entertain. There were some parts of this question with regard to which individuals might feel regret, but with respect to which it was impossible to censure. For his own part, he was one of those who thought that the persons who had at a former time attempted to make the Bible the sole foundation of religious education were entirely right. When, in the year 1807, a society was established, the principle of which was, that no creed or liturgy established by human authority should be a part of the instruction in their schools—that the Bible alone should be taught there in connection with religion—but that the ministers of the Church, or of the different religious persuasions should be at liberty to inculcate their own peculiar doctrines elsewhere—when that society was attempted to be established, he must say he thought it was a misfortune to the country that their principles had not become predominant. He was aware that the Catholics would not agree to accept the authorized version of the Bible; but taking the great majority of the country—those who belonged to the Established Church, and to what might be called the more orthodox dissenting bodies—he thought that they would meet as regarded the Bible on one common ground. It was now more than thirty years since the Duke of Kent proposed to the Archbishop of Canterbury an union on those grounds, but the Church refused to promote the establishment of any schools in which the catechism and other parts of the liturgy of the Church of England were not to be taught. Since that answer of the Archbishop of Canterbury, there had been an 1474 opposition between the schools of the British and Foreign School Society and those under the direct control of the Church. For his own part, he thought the refusal at that time was an error, and he had ever considered it to be a misfortune. He did not think the Dissenters were wrong in making the offer, and were it possible now—though he feared it was not—to suppose that there could be any prospect of agreement, he must still continue to think that the principle he had referred to, would be the best and soundest on which to establish schools for the nation at large. At the same time, however, he must consider it as hopeless now to put forward a principle which had met with such opposition. But in considering the subject with a view to legislation, they must bear in mind, whatever might be their regret, that in the manufacturing districts the majority of those making religious profession did not belong to the Church, and did not attend divine worship under its auspices. Whatever they might feel upon the subject, they must at least admit the fact in framing any legislative measure, just as much as they must admit the fact that the Church and the clergy had refused to agree to the establishment of joint schools, in which the Bible alone should be the foundation of the religious education. And they must take especial care in framing any measure that was to affect the manufacturing districts particularly, that that peculiarity was kept in view. They might say, it was a misfortune that the Church was not sufficiently armed for the instruction of the people in those districts; they might say, that the Church was to blame for not having provided more general instruction; but he was of opinion that the State had been far more to blame than the Church. But, however that might be, still the fact remained, and it could not be altered; and such being the state of things in those districts, the question was, what parts of the present bill were calculated to cause irritation discontent, and opposition? First of all, there was that particular part which was most objected to by Dissenters and others out of doors, and to which his right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth had alluded—the defect in the constitution of the boards of trustees. Those boards were to be formed of the ministers of the parish of the Church of England, and also of two church- 1475 wardens, which last provision certainly did not seem to be a matter of necessity; but it certainly did seem to be an omission in the constitution of these boards, that there was not to be upon them any representative of the ratepayers who would be able to watch over the manner in which the rates were expended. He should think it a very great advantage, indeed, if in the committee they could make some alteration to remedy this defect in the constitution of the boards of trustees; but he feared at the same time that there was no alteration likely to be made in the measure which would not still leave the board of trustees a body that would be considered rather as belonging to the Church and representing the Church, than as being a fair representative of the opinions of the different religious bodies of this country. Looking at this state of things, then, he thought it was for the right hon. Baronet seriously to consider how far the schools to be established under this bill ought to supersede such schools as might already be in existence. There was in the bill a provision that the factory child might be at liberty to go to any other school, being a school of the British and Foreign School Society, or to the Roman Catholic school—should their parents desire it, "provided those schools were efficiently conducted." Now, with regard to the manner in which the schools might be conducted, many dissenters were of opinion that the inspectors, whose opinion would decide whether such schools were efficiently conducted or not, would conduct their inspection in such a way as that almost all the voluntary schools should be declared not to be efficiently conducted, and that, therefore, they would be condemned. One objection had been made which he considered to be unfounded. It had been asserted that the inspector whose duty it would be to visit the schools in question would hold his office at the pleasure of the Archbishop of Canterbury. That he believed to be entirely a mistake. With regard to any of the National Schools immediately connected with the church, the inspector certainly would be appointed on that condition; but with regard to the schools of the British and Foreign School Society, there existed no such condition, and the inspector of those schools was as independent of the heads of the church as any gentleman holding a civil office in the 1476 State. At the same time, however, he could not disguise from himself how likely it was that very considerable jealousy would be created if the inspector of those schools was very severe, and if those schools were extinguished, leaving only the schools that would be directly established under this bill. He therefore thought that the better course would be to maintain the schools in question so long as any jealousy should subsist as regarded the schools to be established under this act. Many of those schools might be imperfect, beeause there were not sufficient means at the command of the subscribers to make them as perfect as they might desire; and with regard to the schools both of the British and Foreign School Society and of the Roman Catholics, he thought it would be better for the Committee of the Privy Council to aid those schools, and endeavour, by assisting them, to make them efficient, rather than press harshly and severely upon them, and force the children to attend other schools. What he wished to suggest was, that in any alterations that might be made, it would be better to avoid all such fruitful causes of jealousy, and not to make sudden alterations, by destroying existing schools, many of them valuable, but rather to constitute a new school as a model to which the others might gradually come up. This was better than in the first instance doing away with these schools, and forcing the children to come to the schools that might be constituted under the bill. Upon the whole he was favourable to the Government scheme, but there was one great defect in it, a remedy for which he should be most glad to see proposed. He alluded to the want of a sufficient number of young men, properly trained as schoolmasters. Unless there were persons properly qualified to teach, they would only increase the number of schools and of scholars, but not add to the efficient education of the country. The hon. Member for Dumfries had said it was high time that some effectual step was taken in that direction. He was of the same opinion, and felt assured that the House would cheerfully agree to an increased grant for education, if they believed it would be applied to the training of an efficient body of schoolmasters. Let the Committee of the Privy Council lay down their own plan of such schools, and the Legislature would sanction it. The late Government were unfortunate in not ob- 1477 taining the assent of the country to the scheme they proposed, but he was quite ready to say, that he would trust to the committee of the Privy Council to frame an efficient plan, and also to carry it out. All he wished to see was an improvement in the education of the country. Of all the questions submitted to the consideration of Parliament this Session, he did think the present most vitally important. They could not allow the people of this country to go on increasing in numbers and power, unless at the same time they increased their knowledge and religious instruction, without the utmost peril; and he should not have made these few observations, had he not thought they would be the means of smoothing the way instead of impeding the progress of the measure.
§ Bill read a second time.