§ Sir J. Graham
rose to assure the hon. Member and the House, that it was not his intention upon this occasion to move this bill should be discussed and decided, but that the bill should be committed, pro formâ, in order that he might, at this stage of the proceedings upon this bill, introduce, on the part of the Government, important amendments, which it would be for the House, in committee, to discuss fully and fairly. Having stated what were his intentions, he should reserve any further observation until the motion was made for the Speaker's leaving the Chair, when he hoped the hon. Gentleman opposite would concede to him, and permit him the opportunity to state at length the 1104 object of the amendments he should in the committee, propose.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, he felt himself bound, upon the present occasion, to give precedence to the right hon. Baronet, although he conceived that the course the Government had taken was not a judicious one. He agreed that he ought not to stand between the right hon. Gentleman and the country in respect to the explanation of the views of the Government upon this most vital question. But he conceded only upon the understanding, that he should stand exactly in the same situation with respect to the instructions of which he had given notice, as if the right hon. Baronet had not had precedence granted to him.
§ Order of the Day read.
§ On the question, that the Chairman do leave the Chair,
§ Sir James Graham
I have to thank the hon. Member for Dumfries for the courtesy with which he has acceded to my request, and I must be allowed to accept it as an omen that the temper in which this measure was discussed upon the evening on which I had the honour of first bringing it under the notice of the House, will prevail also on the present occasion, and that there will be manifested by the House, that earnest desire which characterised its former proceedings upon the subject—to deliberate with calmness and with patience upon a question of so much importance as the one which I have again to bring before it. I cannot dissemble for myself that although that spirit of calm forbearance prevails within these walls which is worthy of a deliberative assembly, much heat and excitement have arisen out of doors upon this very subject. The petitions which have been presented against those clauses of the Factories Bill to which I am about to advert have been numerous almost without a parallel. I might, if I thought it worth while, make some observations respecting the manner in which, in particular places, some of these petitions have been got up; I might point out the very gross misrepresentations which have been made out of doors, with respect to the scope, the objects, and the intentions of this measure; I might remark upon the means, that have been used to excite and stimulate opposition to it; but I shall abstain from all this. It is enough for me to know that these petitions are numerous, and have received the 1105 signatures of so many parties, that they are entitled to the utmost respect and attention from this House. I am at once ready to admit, that amongst the great Dissenting bodies of this country there does prevail at the present moment a very unanimous feeling against the educational clauses in this bill. Instead, therefore, of addressing to the House any observations such as those I have glanced at, I think that it is the duty of her Majesty's Government fairly to meet the question at issue; and I can assure the House, that I and my Colleagues have applied ourselves honestly and patiently to a consideration of the objections made to the measure, with an earnest desire, as far as it was consistent with the principles which I announced upon the occasion of my first bringing forward the bill—to apply particular remedies to these objections, so as to obtain as much chance as possible of ultimately arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. Before proceeding further, however, I am anxious to notice one or two preliminary objections, which have been much urged. It is not my intention to dwell upon them; but I wish to dispose of them before I proceed to any detail of the modifications I propose with respect to particular clauses, to which the objections of the greater portion of the Dissenting body, more particularly apply. In the first place, it is said that there is something insidious on the part of the Government in coupling the question of education with labour in the factories. Now, the House will do me the justice to remember that when I opened the subject to their consideration on a former evening, I noticed the fact that, with respect to education in this country, there was not a trace of compulsory education except in respect to two classes—first, factory children; and next, children in workhouses. It is not therefore, now, for the first time, that her Majesty's Government has mingled the question of education with the employment of children in factories. A law imposing compulsory education as the condition of employment in factories now stands upon the statute book. There is another argument which has been urged against this measure, to which I would wish shortly to advert. It has been said, that it is attempted, on the part of government, not only to introduce a great change in education, but that the clauses touching it are so framed as to 1106 force on that change—rapidly—suddenly—simultaneously Now, I think that no such intention is manifested in the provisions of the bill; and will the House permit me, before the alterations are introduced, to point out to it the checks which the bill now contains against a sudden introduction of the system of education which it proposes to establish. I may divide this subject into two parts; first, with reference to the schools proposed to be created; and secondly, with reference to the schools connected with the National School Society, to which power is given to place themselves within the provisions of the bill. If hon. Members will turn to clauses 64 and 65 relative to schools to be built and brought into operation, for the purpose of introducing this scheme, they will find the following checks. First, before any such school can be built, a local subscription of one-third of the estimated cost of the entire building must be provided. When that subscription shall have been obtained it is necessary, as the bill now stands, that two—but I propose to increase their number to ten—persons qualified to act as trustees, together with the incumbent of the parish, shall make application to the educational committee of the Privy Council for assistance. Thus, ten persons, as trustees, must be parties to the memorial for a grant, and that only when one-third of the cost has been subscribed. The memorial being despatched to the committee of the Privy Council, they are to determine whether it presents a prima facie case such as will justify further inquiry. If they should be of opinion that the memorial and subscription constitute such a prima facie case, then the course prescribed is, that the committee of Privy Council is to order the memorial containing the alleged facts to be referred to the magistrates of the district, who are to call a special sessions, of which due notice shall be given, and an inquiry having been instituted upon the subject, a report shall be made thereon to the Privy Council. On that report the committee is again to deliberate; and it rests with them either to grant or refuse the prayer of the memorial as they may think fit. Supposing the decision of the committee to be favourable, it will be impossible for them to make any grant except from the funds voted annually in committee of supply. The House will observe how complete is the check 1107 and control of Parliament over-the whole proceeding. The grant in aid of the local fund subscribed, in the manner I have already stated, can only issue from funds annually voted in this House, and in addition to that, and as a further check, it is provided that even after the schools have been established, no rate shall be allowed to be collected under the poor rate Until the accounts have been audited by an inspector, appointed by the privy council, and until that inspector shall have reported that the whole of the subscriptions and the quarter pence of the children have been insufficient to supply the funds necessary for the maintenance of the school. The House will observe how stringent are the checks which I have detailed. And I must confess, so far from believing that this bill, if it pass into a law, will operate suddenly, and simultaneously; so far from thinking that the changes it proposes will be carried into operation, in large districts, hastily and prematurely, it appears to me that the checks upon its operation are of such a nature, that it must work gradually, slowly, and safely. I have enumerated the checks in the new schools. Permit me next to state the checks with respect to schools of the national school society which may be brought under the operation of this bill. First, the committee of management of the national schools must consent to the change of the constitution; next, the consent of the trustees must be obtained; then the consent of the ordinary; and lastly, of the Privy Council, upon the joint requisition of these three bodies. Having disposed of these preliminary points, I shall now address myself to the principal objections urged against this measure; and if I am to seek for those which are presented in the most tangible and clear form, I naturally turn to the resolutions adopted by the Wesleyan Methodists. I am of opinion that the sentiments of Dissenters generally are worthy of consideration; but at the same time, considering the number of the Wesleyan denomination, their conduct as a body generally on the subject of education, and the immense efforts made by them with regard to the establishment of Sunday schools in districts where such a system was wanted to supply the deficiency in imparting religious instruction, and where more wealthy but less active bodies had failed to meet the 1108 evil, I am bound to say, that I consider the objections emanating from such a source should be entertained with the greatest respect and receive the most deliberate consideration. The objection which has been very generally urged, and has, I think, met with most general sympathy throughout the public, has arisen not so much from the intention of the clause relating to Sunday-schools, as from the effect which has been ascribed to it, resulting from the wording. It has been described as a clause violating the right of conscience, by compelling parents whose children are employed in factories to use the Sunday schools established under this act to the exclusion of all other Sunday schools. Now, I beg to state that it is my intention to exclude from the 57th and 58th clauses all words relating to Sunday schools, and I shall also propose that the 60th clause shall be altogether omitted. In lieu of clause 60, I propose to insert a clause which I will read:—And be it enacted, that the master and such other persons as the clerical trustees may appoint shall, on Sundays, and on Christmas-day and Good Friday, at such times and under such regulations as the clerical trustee may direct, open, and attend such school for the purpose of affording religious instruction to the members of the Church of England according to the doctrines and principles thereof, and shall give such instruction to every young person who may wish to attend school at those times, and to every child whose parent shall desire such attendance, and such master shall cause every child and young person not prevented by any reasonable impediment, who shall receive the religious instruction of the said school, on such days as aforesaid, to attend under the care of the master the divine worship of the Church of England, at least once on every such day at the church or chapel which the clerical trustee may select, or at the said school if the clerical trustee cannot select any convenient church or chapel where there is adequate accommodation for such children and young persons, and will provide divine worship in such school for the benefit of such children and young persons.Now the House will at once perceive what will be the effect of this alteration. The school so appointed will be a Sunday school, it will be attended by the master, and by all such children whose parents direct that they should receive instruction in the Catechism and the Liturgy. But I stated on a former occasion, that I recognised distinctly as a principle, that 1109 until the child was emancipated, the parent or guardian should have a paramount right to exercise a free discretion with regard to the education of the child in any form of religious belief. In strict conformity with that principle, this clause allows even members of the Church of England, whose children attend the schools on week-days, if they should prefer any other Sunday-school, to send them to such school, instead of the Sunday-schools established under this act. If I have succeeded in stating to the House the alterations proposed by this clause, my hope and belief is, that every objection urged in petitions, or canvassed out of doors with respect to Sunday-schools is entirely removed. I will now proceed to the second objection, which relates to the certificates to be granted to day scholars. On this point, I propose to introduce alterations into clauses 16, 17, and 18, and also propose entirely to omit clauses 71, 72, 73, and 74. In lieu of these, I propose to introduce a clause that will enable all schools in the district to grant certificates of the attendance of the children, subject only to this condition, that all such schools shall come under the cognizance of an inspector appointed by the committee of the Privy Council, without any other sanction or control, and, with regard to the character of the instruction, only insisting that, in all schools in which Protestant children attend, the authorised version of the Scriptures shall be used.
With respect to Wesleyan schools or to those of Protestant Dissenters generally, this clause will be unnecessary; but it is desirable, in order to provide for the cases of certain Roman Catholic schools at which Protestant children may occasionally attend, and also it is necessary to provide against a Roman Catholic manufacturer using the power he possesses, as the employer of labour, of compelling the attendance of Protestant children at any private school within his factory, and there instructing those children in religious tenets, in the absence of the authorised version of the Scriptures. The House will perceive that I have removed all difficulties with respect to Sunday schools. As to day schools, I have provided, that all those now existing or which may hereafter be erected shall have the power of issuing certificates, provided those schools are subject to the superintendence of an inspector to be appointed by the committee of the 1110 Privy Council. I will now proceed to notice the third class of objections, for which I have endeavoured to provide a remedy. I propose to alter clauses 57, 58, and 59. It has been said, that the instruction in the catechism and the Liturgy, during school hours, would be attended with great interruption to the progress of instruction among Dissenters, who must encounter one of two evils, either to lose all the benefit of the system for the time by withdrawing their children, or, if they permitted them to be present, exposing them to attempts which might be made to instill into their infant minds the peculiar doctrines of the Church of England. I provide, in order to meet these objections, that instruction in the catechism and doctrines of the Church shall be afforded during one hour on three of the five days on which the children are to attend the schools; but I also provide that that hour shall be appointed by the trustees, and that it shall be either the first or the last of the three hours during which instruction is given. Further, I provide, that instruction in this branch shall be given to the children of Churchmen in a class held in a room apart from the school-room, and separate from that in which the children of those Dissenting parents who may object to the education of their children in the Church doctrines receive instruction. Then I take a precaution with regard to a matter on which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport urged some objections the other night. I mean with respect to the character of the religious books to be used by the children of Churchmen. As the bill stands, it is in the power of the clerical trustee to make the selection, and of course it is to be expected that the selection would vary according to the peculiar opinions of each clerical trustee. To obviate this objection, I have taken the precaution to provide, that the selection of the religious books shall be made by the two Archbishops of our Church. I propose that no inspector shall inquire respecting the religious instruction of children of members of the Church of England, unless he be empowered to do so by one Archbishop or by the Bishop of the diocese. I wish to point out the exceptions which have been made in favour of the children of Protestant Dissenters. In clause 59 it is provided—That if the parent of any scholar shall cer- 1111 tify to the master or trustees that he desires that such scholar, on the ground of religious objection, may not be present at the periods when such catechism or portions of the Liturgy are taught, it shall not be lawful for any person to compel such child to be present at such periods.An objection has been taken to this clause, because of the introduction of the words "on the ground of religious objection," it being thought invidious to compel a parent to state what may be the grounds of the objection he entertains. I propose, therefore, to omit these words, and it will consequently be competent for a parent, without assigning any reason, simply to state that he objects. Besides this, I propose specifically to enact, that during the hour in which religious instruction is afforded to children of members of the Established Church, which, as I said before, must be either the first or the last hour of the three, provision shall be made by the trustees that the children of Dissenters shall receive instruction in some branch of knowledge taught in the school, thereby providing, that during the interval of the retirement of the Church of England children, the education of the others shall proceed. But I do not think these provisions altogether sufficient to meet the objections which have been urged.
The precautions I have stated I believe to be ample against any attempt to introduce a proselytising spirit; but although I have taken these precautions—although I have provided that education in the catechism and liturgy of the Church shall be afforded in a separate room and at a fixed hour—still I think that these precautions fall short of the necessities of the case. Excepting on Sundays, no provision is made for the education of Dissenters in the peculiar religious creeds they may profess. This is an important point. I propose to introduce this clause to provide for it:—And be it enacted, that the trustees of the school shall appoint a day in each week, to be approved by the committee of council on education, in which any scholar, whose parent desires he may not be present when such catechism and liturgy are taught as aforesaid, may, during three of the usual school hours, receive religious instruction from the licensed minister of the chapel in which such parent attends divine worship, or from any person whom such licensed minister may appoint; and any such scholar shall be permitted to attend such instruction whenever his parent shall notify to the trustee that such licensed minister, or the 1112 person appointed by him, will be present at the time so appointed in each week as aforesaid, at some convenient place other than the school-house, in order to give such religious instruction to such child.Now, Sir, I think I have met with candour and fairness, and I hope completely removed the objections which have been urged with regard to dissenting children; but I should be unjust if I did not notice the remarks made on a former evening by the noble Ear), the Member for Arundel, as to the peculiarity of the creed of the Roman Catholics. It is well known that Roman Catholics have a conscientious objection to the reading of the authorised version of the Scriptures. The subject has been frequently brought under the notice of this House, particularly on the presentation of a petition in 1824, by Mr. Grattan. The House will observe, that I do not recede from one important point of my original proposition. I proposed, that at the opening and closing of the schools, before and after instruction in general branches of education, the children should join in saying the Lord's Prayer, and in hearing a portion of the Scriptures read to them. To that arrangement I do not believe that the Protestant Dissenters have any objections. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Devonport, with that clearness and perspicuity which distinguish him, accurately pointed out the other night the scope and object of this proposal, when he said it was an attempt, by amalgamation, to introduce the combined system of the British and Foreign National Schools. [Mr. Roebuck made some observation.] I am sure the Member for Bath will agree with me, that it is not my duty on this occasion to enter into any controversial points that may be raised. He has upon the paper a motion on which he will discuss this particular subject; but at present I am authorised to say, that it is in conformity with the wish of the Church and of the Protestant Dissenters, that the children should begin the day by saying the Lord's Prayer and hearing a portion of Scripture read to them; but I do feel at the same time that an obligatory provision of this sort would, in certain cases, be a violation of the consciences of Roman Catholics. In districts where the Catholics have schools of their own they would, indeed, have no right to complain. By simply permitting their schools to be subject to the inspection of the officers ap- 1113 pointed by the Privy Council, they would be able to grant certificates. But still, in certain cases, a violation of conscience would undoubtedly ensue. I allude more especially to the case of districts in which the Catholics have no schools. In this case the parent would only have the alternative either of letting his child go to a school at which doctrines were taught of which he could not conscientiously approve, or of subjecting himself to a heavy penalty if he adhered to his conscientious objections—the penalty of not having his child employed in a factory. In order to obviate this objection I have framed the proviso I will now read:—Provided, that if the parent of any child, being a Roman Catholic, shall notify to the trustees, that on the ground of religious objection, he desires that such child may not be present at such teaching or reading of the Holy Scriptures, nor at such divine worship as aforesaid, he shall not be required to be present at such times, but shall be employed in any matter of instruction not religious in a room apart.I hope the House will pardon me for going at such length into these provisions. I think, perhaps, that in this way I may render the matter more intelligible to the House than if I placed the whole of the new clauses before it at once without explanation. [Mr. Gisborne: What do you propose as to the trust?]—The hon. Member is only anticipating me. That is the next point I mean to advert to. The clauses in the bill which relate to the appointment and powers of the trustees of the school are to be omitted entirely. I allude to clauses 51, 52, and 53 of the bill as it now stands, and I introduce new clauses, which will give an entirely new character to the trusts. I will begin with that in which there is no alteration. It is the intention of the Government to adhere to their proposition that if there be only one parish in the district the minister of that parish shall be a trustee; and that if there be more than one parish in the district, the bishop of the diocese shall select the incumbent of any one parish to be the clerical trustee. The bill, as it now stands, enacts that the clerical trustee shall have the appointment of the two churchwardens, or if there be more than two, that he shall have the power of selecting two. I propose that, instead of the selection of the two churchwardens, the clerical trustee shall have 1114 the power of selecting any person duly qualified (he may be a churchwarden), according to the provisions of this act to be a trustee. In lieu of the second churchwarden nominated by the clerical trustee, I propose to have an elective trustee, and I provide for his election in this manner:—And be it enacted, that when there shall be any number of persons, not less than twenty, who shall each have voluntarily subscribed a donation of 10l. at the least in one sum towards the expenditure in the maintenance of the school in any one of the three years immediately preceding any election, or the sum of 1l. at the least for the two successive years immediately preceding any election, or one of whom shall have given the site for the said school, the returning officer aforesaid shall summon a meeting of such subscribers and donors at the school or in some convenient place, and such subscribers and donors as are present at such meeting shall elect some one person and no more, qualified as hereinafter provided, to be a trustee of the said school.As this is the most convenient moment for acquainting the House with what I purpose shall be the qualifications of trustees, I will read the clause I have framed with reference to this point—That any person being assessed to the current poor-rate of any place wholly or partly within the district of the said school, in respect of property situated within such district, and whose assessment is among the first third of the assessments arranged according to the amounts of rental from the highest to the lowest, any person being usually resident within five miles of the school who shall have given the site thereof, or one tenth part of the entire original cost of the school buildings, or shall have given a sum of 20l. at the least towards the expenditure in the maintenance of the school during any one of the three immediately preceding years, or shall have subscribed the sum of 2l. at the least thereto for two successive years immediately preceding the publication of the notice of the said election, shall be qualified to be a trustee, provided that where any firm or partnership shall he assessed, the amount of the assessment shall be divided by the number of persons whose names shall be expressed in the rate, and each of such persons shall be deemed to be assessed at the amount assigned to him by such division, and no person shall be deemed to be qualified in respect of the assessment whose name is not set forth on the said rate.These are the qualifications which I intend to propose with reference to the trustees. The House will observe that I have now mentioned three out of the seven trustees. It is my intention to adhere to the originally proposed number of trustees, 1115 viz. seven. One is to be the clerical trustee, one is to be selected by him, and one to be elected by the donors. The bill, as it now stands, proposes that the four remaining trustees shall be appointed under certain regulations by the magistrates at petty sessions. Now as it is contemplated that the maintenance of these schools shall be provided for, under certain circumstances, out of the poor-rates, I and my colleagues have felt it to be but fair and just that the rate-payers should have a considerable voice in the appointment of this tribunal; and, therefore, it is my intention to propose that the four remaining trustees shall be elected by the rate-payers assessed at 10l. for twelve months antecedent to the election. I think it would be disastrous that in any district where either Churchmen or Dissenters have a preponderating influence, the four elected trustees should be returned exclusively by one party. I, therefore, take the precaution—and I care not how it operates, whether on the right hand or on the left—that in every case the minority shall be represented. To this end I have provided that no rate payer shall vote for more than two trustees, the effect of which will be that in every case where the majority does not preponderate to the extent of more than two-thirds, the minority will return two representatives in the trust. It will be thus seen that fire out of the seven trustees will be elected. [Sir G. Grey: What is to be the duration of the trust?] I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding me of an important point. The duration of the trust I propose shall be five years. I shall now proceed to call the attention of the House to a new power which it is intended to give to the trustees. I propose that the head master, and he only, shall be subject to the veto of the Bishop of the diocese, but that all the assistants shall be appointed by the trustees, and subject to no veto. At the fame time I provide, according to the words of the clause as it originally stood, that the religious instruction in the Scriptures given at the opening of the school shall be conducted by the master only. An objection has been taken with respect to the power of the trustees, namely, that one of them might hastily and capriciously dismiss a child from the school, the penalty of the act being no less than the child's exclusion from factory labour. I propose that 1116 three trustees must concur as to the dismissal of a child before it can take place. I then propose that any one trustee may appeal to the committee of the Privy Council against any decision of his colleagues with respect to the books selected for general secular education, and with respect to any act done in the school by them or under their sanction. And I not only give this power of appeal to the Privy Council, but I give the Privy Council the power on that appeal, to reverse the decision of the trustees, and to dismiss any person against whom a complaint shall be substantiated. I propose, also, in some respects, to enlarge the power of the committee of Privy Council. I omitted to state that, with respect to the election of four trustees by the rate-payers, the election will be by open voting papers, as in the case of the election of boards of guardians. As I have stated I propose to enlarge the power of the committee of the Privy Council, in some respects. I propose that the inspector appointed by the Committee of Council shall have power, at all times, to attend the meetings of trustees, and may summon special meetings of the trustees, but that he shall not have the right of voting at any such meetings. I propose also, that all bye-laws shall receive the sanction of the Committee of Privy Council before they can be finally adopted. I have already stated to the House that a general and absolute power of control, to guard against the violation of any of these regulations, will be vested in the Committee of the Privy Council. The House will observe, that if, contrary to the intention, spirit, and even letter of this act, the master should, through the medium of reading and teaching the Bible, at the opening and closing of the school, attempt to use his influence unduly for the purpose of instilling into the minds of the scholars any peculiar opinions with respect to matters of doctrine, it will be open to any trustee to complain of such conduct on the part of the master to the Committee of Privy Council, which has the power of dismissing him, if the complaint be substantiated. I am obliged to the House for the patience and attention with which it has listened to the explanations I have offered. I have endeavoured, in the most calm and dispassionate manner, to make intelligible to the House, as far as I am able, the precise nature, scope and extent of the alterations which I seek to make in 1117 the measure now before the House. Those alterations, I humbly contend, are in strict conformity with the principles which I originally laid down when I introduced the measure. I feel that I am justified in saying that these alterations have been framed with the respect which is due from her Majesty's Government to the Church established in this country, and, at the same time, with the respect which is due to that perfect liberty of conscience and those tolerant principles which are no less established by law. I have staled to the House, not more warmly and deeply than I feel it, that the necessity of some such measure as this is urgent. It is my belief that imminent danger would result from its postponement. I may be wrong, but I feel intimately persuaded that if this measure, modified as it now is—a measure treated with signal forbearance by the political opponents of the Government, and with respect to which an earnest desire has been manifested to arrive, if possible, at a conciliatory adjustment—if a measure so proposed, so supported, and so treated in Parliament, shall fail to effect the great object of a combined system of education, from this time all further attempts to attain that end will be hopeless, and henceforth we must expect nothing but a system of education conducted on adverse principles, and in an antagonist spirit, which, I say it with deference, instead of producing a feeling of unity and good will amongst all classes of her Majesty's subjects, will but aggravate the bitter spirit which now exists; and I venture to predict that the most fatal consequences will ensue. I am, really unwilling to touch upon these topics, yet the gravity of the question we are now discussing impels me to test the sincerity of some of the opposition which has been raised to this measure. No man in this House can more strongly deprecate the introduction of religious topics into our debates than I do; but yet I feel that the difficulties which the present measure has to contend against in this House, are connected with honest religious differences. How is it, however, that in England, the pride of Christendom,—England, the mistress of the seas, that sends forth her commerce, her language, her manners, her arts, and, more than all these, her missionaries and her religion, to the utmost parts of the earth—how is it that in the heart of this very country, in this fair England, so great a mass of 1118 ignorance and infidelity—infidelity arising not from the perversion of the reasoning powers, but from want of knowing the saving truths of the Gospel—should be found? And how is it too, that at the same time such strife, such anger should be exhibited in the name of religion? Is it any mark of sincerity, either in Churchmen or Dissenters, that they should mingle with religion bitter and angry controversy? I say that the great Author of the Christian faith has left mankind, to the latest day, a test by which the sincerity of his followers may be tried. He has said, "By this shall all men know whether ye are my disciples; if ye love one another." In the early lime, when the small band of Christians, with all its privations and its wants, was exposed to every species of suffering, extending even to martyrdom, the distinguishing characteristic to which I have referred attracted the notice of the Heathen and they exclaimed,—" See, how these Christians love one another." In these later days, the sceptic may point with scorn and derision at professing Christians, and observe—" See how these Christians hate and despise each other." Alas! these are the difficulties with which we have to contend; but I ask the House to continue to manifest the spirit in which it received what I before addressed to it, as well as what I have ventured to state on this occasion, and I say, let us elevate our hearts and minds, let us act the part of Christian Legislators, and evince that we are worthy of our high vocation. I am aware—for the symptoms are but too evident—that upon this question the waters of strife have overflowed, and now cover the land. This [here the right hon. Baronet placed the modified bill upon the Table]—this is my olive branch. I tender it in the hope that the harbinger of peace, ere long, may return with the glad tidings that the waters have subsided. On the part of the Government I tender this peace-offering in the spirit of concord, and of Christian charity and goodwill. I will not yet abandon the hope that if it be received, at least in this House, in a corresponding spirit, it will still be possible to effect an object which concerns, in the highest degree, not only the temporal, but the eternal welfare of a great body of our fellow subjects, and which, if accomplished, will redound to I the lasting renown of this House.
Lord J. Russell
It is not my intention 1119 to attempt to discuss the various alterations which have been announced by the right hon. Baronet, and indeed I think it would be highly inexpedient to do so on the present occasion. I rise to express my hope, in accordance with that of the right hon. Baronet, that whenever this subject shall properly come under discussion, it may be discussed in a spirit of calmness, and that we shall endeavour so to frame the various clauses of the bill, as that we may arrive at the practical result which the right hon. Baronet and the Government wish to attain—namely, a system of combined education. Some observations fell from the right hon. Baronet, towards the conclusion of his speech, on which I feel it necessary to make a few remarks. I allude to the reference which the right hon. Baronet made to the part which the Protestant Dissenters have taken on this question. Do not let us forget the part which the British and Foreign School Society has acted. Do not let us forget that when Mr. Lancaster first announced his plan of education in this country, though many Churchmen agreed to support him, those who first gave him the most active and efficient support both personally and by pecuniary means, were the Dissenters. It was not until some years afterwards, that the National School Society was formed, and the Established Church took up the subject with anything like zeal and energy. But, more than this, the Dissenters, after having gone on many years working in the cause of education; after having done all that they could in the manufacturing districts, where the Church had the smallest number of ministers—a number, indeed, quite inadequate to the wants of the population—the Dissenters after all these exertions, have in latter days been aspersed and made objects of obloquy and reproach by a section of the Church. In discussing the clauses of this bill with Dissenters, I have found prevailing amongst them a feeling that a certain portion of the Church would gain by this measure a great additional power and authority, and that it was that very portion of the Church which is accustomed to describe the Dissenting ministers who teach the truths of the gospel according to their views, as men unfitted for that duty. I say, then, when we consider, that these men have, for the last thirty or forty years, laboured 1120 most zealously in the cause of education, and that to them it is owing, that in the great manufacturing districts practical infidelity is not more rife than it is at present, it is not surprising that, under the treatment they have experienced, they should feel apprehension, alarm, and indignation. The right hon. Baronet, in the name of the Government, has proposed a system of education founded on a basis totally different from that which now exists. From the moment when I heard the right hon. Baronet announce that, under his plan, the Bible was to be read in all schools, the Catechism and Liturgy of the Church should be taught to the children of members of the Church of England, and that teaching should not be extended to the children of Dissenters, I could entertain no doubt that it was the intention of Government to frame a system of combined education with due respect to the conscientious feelings of Protestant Dissenters and Roman Catholics. I think, that the amendments which the right hon. Baronet now proposes must be looked upon rather as intended to remedy defects, and to carry out the original intention of the measure, than as a departure from its principle. I certainly concede that, and I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking it is not now expedient, that the House should be induced to enter upon any general discussion of the measure; still less is it desirable that we should at this time proceed to the examination, point by point, of the several provisions which the bill contains. At the same time, I must refer to one or two points, with respect to which the spirit of equality has not been so well observed as the right hon. Baronet seems to imagine. In the first place, by giving the veto to the Bishop of the diocese in the appointment of the school master, and by providing, that the master, if required, shall teach portions of the Liturgy on Sundays, it is evident that the master must always be a member of the Established Church. It is so far a test of his qualification, and a test by which no Protestant Dissenter will be able to fill the office. With regard to the appointment of the trustees, the right hon. Gentleman now proposes, that that body should be constituted thus: the clergyman of the parish, who is to be one trustee, is also to nominate another, and one is to be appointed by a certain number of persons who contribute to the 1121 funds of the school. The last may be considered as attached to no party. Then there remained four, and the right hon. Gentleman said, that, as he did not wish to throw the balance on one side or the other, two should be elected by the majority, and two by the minority. That would be the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition. Now, if those four and the person to be elected by the contributors, who might be supposed to be neutral, were to constitute the board, then the balance would not be unduly thrown on one side or the other. But with the addition of the clergyman and his nominee, it would happen, if the Dissenters should be the minority, they would elect two representatives who could give no aid or assistance to the other members of the board, whilst, if the Church party were in the minority, and the two were elected by the majority of Dissenters, those elected by the minority would bind the board of trustees; a clergyman and a person appointed by that clergyman and the two elected forming in a board of seven trustees, four directly appointed for the Church. Yet the Church party is in some of the manufacturing districts, an almost insignificant minority. That certainly must be the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. With regard to his other amendments, I will not go into the discussion now. I think the amendments are framed in a very fair spirit. Whether efficiently or not is another question, which I shall be quite ready to discuss when the proper time comes. I have already said, that the course I shall now take is, not to oppose going into committee upon the bill. I will not offer any opposition to the proposal for going into committee on the bill. The hon. Member for Dumfries has given notice of his intention to propose that the educational clauses shall form the subject of a separate bill. I wish that by nothing which I have said, I shall be considered to be excluded from the right of supporting that proposition if I should think proper to do so. I do not think it sufficient to state, as the right hon. Baronet has done, that the only instances in which the Legislature has interfered with the education of children, are with respect to children employed in factories, and the children of paupers maintained in the workhouse. It may be a question, whether in introducing a new system of education which applies practically to a large portion of 1122 the country, and, in principle, to the whole country, it would not be desirable to make it the subject of a separate bill. My object in giving notice of the resolutions which stand upon the paper, was to obtain from the House a declaration as to the injustice of a compulsory interference with religious opinions. I will not say anything further than to express a hope that we may proceed to the consideration of this bill, with the prospect of wiping away from this country the stain of not having an efficient education for the working classes, an object in the attainment of which those classes are more deeply interested than the Government or any party in the state.
§ Sir R. H. Inglis
agreed with his right hon. Friend that it would be inexpedient prematurely to bring on a discussion upon the present measure; still he wished to ask his right hon. Friend a question. In the latter part of his right hon. Friend's speech he was understood to say, that if the master were unduly to bias the minds of any of the pupils attending the school by inculcating upon them his own religious opinions, he would be liable to be dismissed. When it was recollected, that the master was to be a Member of the Church of England, and when the House were told, that the master was not to teach the opinions which he believed to be true, it became important that he should inquire from his right hon. Friend, whether he correctly understood him to say, that the master was not to be at liberty to teach those opinions on religious subjects which he conscientiously entertained?
§ Sir J. Graham
My hon. Friend has raised a question of the utmost difficulty which obviously presents itself on the reading of the clause, in which the phrase "teaching and reading of the Scriptures" occurs. On a former occasion, I stated distinctly the sense in which I used the word "teaching." I said, that I used the word exactly in the sense in which it is received by the British and Foreign School society, and to illustrate its meaning, I read a passage from the evidence given by Mr. Dunn the Secretary of that society, when examined on this point. I have not now Mr. Dunn's evidence before me, but I can repeat the substance of it. Mr. Dunn said, that the schoolmaster was bound to see, by questioning the children, that they received, not only words, but ideas. Mr. Dunn was then asked, whe- 1123 ther the master might offer any comments on particular passages, and he expressly said, in reply, that the rule of the British and Foreign School society excluded all comments; Mr. Dunn's expression was, that the master was not a commentator; but, simply, an expositor. If a master should perceive, by the vacant expression of a child's countenance, that he does not understand what he has heard or read, he must explain its meaning; but if he should endeavour to give a doctrinal turn to his exposition for the purpose of proselytising that would be a departure from his duty, and if any trustee produced proof of such conduct on the part of the master before the Privy Council, he would be dismissed.
§ Dr. Bowring
said the House was indebted to the hon. Baronet for calling on the right hon. Baronet to state the meaning of what he said. They all remembered how emphatically it had been asserted that the Established Church was to be the supreme instructress of the people—that it was the duty of all Members of the Church of England to endeavour to make converts. ["No, no."] He would repeat that the opinion was, that all members of that body were bound to use their best endeavours to church-of-Englandize the whole nation. On that ground the hon. Baronet opposite gave the bill his support, thinking that its tendency would be to advance the interests of the Church of England, and therefore he was right in putting the question which the House had heard. It was evident that with the authority which the bill gave to the master, he most feel that he would not be discharging his duty to society or to the Church of which he was a member unless he did that which the right hon. Baronet said would expose him to the chance of dismissal. The bill was one to which the Dissenters objected, as giving a preponderating power to the Establishment, and be felt satisfied that the people at large would never be satisfied with any system except that which kept the secular education of the people in the hands of the Government teachers, and their religious education in the hands of their respective pastors. In Holland grants were given respectively to Jews, Catholics, and various classes of Dissenters. With the hon. Baronet opposite the great recommendation of the measure was, that it would give a preponderating influence 1124 to the Church; but with him that formed a fatal objection, and he should therefore vote against the further progress of the bill.
§ Mr. Ewart
thought that the best mode of proceeding would have been to increase the education vote of the present year so as to extend the benefit of education to all classes. The right hon. Baronet had interfered with the theological instruction of the people, and he therefore should oppose the bill. Perhaps under all circumstances, it might be better to postpone the measure until next Session, when, possibly, they might get a bill not open to the charge of partiality—not open, for example, to the charge of giving a double vote to the clerical trustee. The bill as it stood was one which he must strenuously oppose, as a measure adverse to religious freedom. He was afraid the plan proposed by the Government had deferred rather than accelerated the cause of education.
Mr. G. Knight
was happy to find, from what had been said by the hon. Member for Dumfries, that in his opinion the education clauses had been greatly improved; in fact, that the sting had been taken out of the bill. But he had principally risen to protest against the inferences which the hon. Member for Bolton had allowed himself to draw from an expression which had dropped from the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford. That hon. Baronet might desire that the proposed system of education might be made an instrument of conversion; but he must deny that the hon. Member for Bolton was at all justified in attempting to fasten that imputation on the bill itself, or on those who supported it. The clauses had been carefully altered on purpose to remove the slightest suspicion, and the right hon. Baronet who brought them forward had expressed himself most distinctly upon that subject. He was aware, that this was not the time to discuss the modifications proposed; in fact, the modifications were so numerous and so extensive as to render the bill a new bill, so far as the education clauses were concerned, so much so that the numerous petitions which had been presented could be no longer considered to apply to the bill as it now stood, or rather they exactly described it, for almost all the petitions desired a national education, upon comprehensive, just, and liberal 1125 principles, which words appeared to him exactly to describe the bill as it now stood. This was the first attempt at anything like a real national system of education, an attempt admitted to be necessary in order to apply some remedy to the frightful mass of ignorance and immorality which had been found to exist in various parts of the country. But could any man say, that a national system could be supported except by a rate? Could any man say, that a national system could be carried on unless it was one in which the Established Church could bear a part? It must be such a one as the Dissenters could support; but it must also be such a one as Church of Englanders could support; and when the hon. Member for Bolton had talked about a dominant sect, he must be permitted to say, that in any country where there was an established church, there could not be absolute religious equality. It was a contradiction in terms. But this was not incompatible with religious liberty, and the proposed system of education might be carried on in such a manner as need not offend the conscience, or interfere with the opinions of any sectarian. He was willing to make any modifications, for the sake of so great an object, that would be compatible with the co-operation of the Church. This he could not give up, but he desired no more. The hon. Gentleman had said, that the plan must be such as would not offend any conscience; but need any conscience be offended by the projected plan? Surely not, when the children would "be permitted to attend such places of worship as their parents preferred, when they would not be required even to learn the catechism, when facilities would be afforded them for receiving instruction out of school in the religious tenets of their parents; and in what other way were the schools carried on which emanated from the British and Foreign School Society? Did they instruct the Children in all the varieties of tenets which exist in this country? Did they assemble the children in distinct classes, and teach them Wesleyan doctrines in one corner, and Socinian doctrines in another? They did nothing of the kind—but they gave them all the Bible to read. What difference, then, was there, so far as the children of Dissenters were concerned, between the plan proposed by the bill and the plan adopted by the British and Foreign Schools So- 1126 ciety? He might say, that he knew that, practically, the consciences of Dissenters were not offended by such a mode of education; for he was acquainted with schools in which the children of Dissenters, and of those belonging to the Church of England, were brought up most harmoniously together; and he knew that, by permitting the children to go to what places of worship their parents preferred, the parents sent them to the schools in which this provision was given with the utmost cheerfulness. But it had been said how imprudent to introduce this plan of education into the manufacturing districts where the Dissenters were so numerous! But was it not in these very districts that there was the greatest necessity for education? Was not this a proof that the Wesleyans, if unassisted, were unequal to the task; and if some inconvenience had to be encountered, would it be right, would that House be doing its duty, if they were to leave that frightful mass of ignorance and immorality to itself? He did hope that the proposed amendments would be dispassionately considered—that on such an occasion no jealousy of the Church, no struggle for power, would be allowed to creep in. He did hope that the Dissenting body would take the modifications into consideration, and not take upon themselves the fearful responsibility of defeating this plan. If they did so succeed, no other plan could be attempted, and the perdition of millions would be upon them and their children.
§ >Mr. Hawes
said, the object of the House that night ought to be to hear what alterations the right hon. Baronet intended to propose. They had heard them, and he (Mr. Hawes) should reserve his opinions on them for a future stage. The right hon. Gentleman had, no doubt, made great concessions; nevertheless, he (Mr. Hawes) apprehended that several points yet remained that would be liable to great objections. He still thought the constitution of the trusts objectionable, and in the same light he viewed the principle of taking the funds from the poor-rates. The power given to the Privy Council to value property he also thought was highly objectionable, and he saw no necessary connection between such a power and a scheme for the education of the people. In any scheme of national education, there ought to be perfect 1127 equality between the different religious sects; no predominance ought to be allowed. The bill, even in its present form, was one of which he feared it could not be hoped that it would give general satisfaction.
§ Mr. Milner Gibson
thought it would be fair to ask the right hon. Gentleman how many children he thought would be likely to receive education through the agency of this bill? Did not the right hon. Gentleman think, that by legislating in this way for four particular employments,—woollen, flax, silk, and cotton,—that the tendency of his measure would be to cause children to be withdrawn from those employments, and to cause them to be placed in others that were not liable to the control of the factory regulations? He was glad that a noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had it in contemplation to propose a more general plan of national education. The Government plan was involved in a multitude of difficulties, and would necessarily lead to a system of placing every species of employment under the control of inspectors. The same rule that was applied to one description of trade in which children were employed, would apply to farming and every other description of employment. And it was reasonable that the rule should be equally extended to all occupations in which children were engaged. It was for the right hon. Gentleman, however, to consider whether such a proposal would be tasteful to the people of this country. He (Mr. Milner Gibson) was informed on good authority, that there was not at the present moment one child in Glasgow that would come under the operation of this bill, as there was not a child under thirteen years of age employed in a factory there, and yet would any one say, that the children of such a town as Glasgow were not among those pointed at in the report before the House? The bill now before them would affect only those employments in which the children did already receive some kind of education, and from those employments, he was disposed to fear, the proposed bill would only have the effect of withdrawing the children. The religious point of complaint which he heard on every side was this: It is unfortunate that Parliament will meddle with religion. Let Parliament provide secular education, and leave it to the Church to provide for the religious instruction of those of its own 1128 flock, and leave it to the Dissenters to do the same for the children of their several communions. We seemed to be legislating as if there was no Church in the country. Was there such a lack of zeal in the Church that the clergy could not be entrusted with the education of the children of the poor? We were told that the Church was necessary for providing instruction for the poor, and that every clergyman at his ordination made a solemn vow that he would assemble the children of the poor every Sunday to teach them the national faith, and yet we were continually interfering with legislative enactments. Religion ought not in the most remote degree to be made the subject of law. He wished the House would confine itself to providing secular instruction in which all sects would agree and participate—if they went beyond that they would be doing a gross and manifest injustice.
The Earl of Surrey
in the present stage of the bill, did not feel called upon to state his sentiments on the proposed modifications. He should reserve what he had to say for a future evening.
Mr. O. Stanley
hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not press the measure forward without giving full time to the country to consider it. If he did, he would be the cause of division between the Church and the Dissenters.
§ Mr. Hindley
regretted that the right hon. Baronet had not made, before Easter, the statement which he had that night made to the House. He felt convinced that the constitution of the boards of trustees would not give satisfaction out of doors.
§ Sir James Graham
said, it was certainly his intention to adhere to the clauses, the object of which was to limit the labour of children to six hours and a half, and to prohibit their working both morning and afternoon.
§ Mr. Borthwick
said, if those who petitioned against this measure were sincere in the wish to which they laid claim, of communicating religious instruction to their countrymen, he could not understand why they insisted so much on technical points of theology, by which they impeded the object they professed, in common with the Government, to have in view. Had the Church, in past days, fulfilled the duty of providing adequate religious instruction for the people, the 1129 present bill would not have been required. He wished, in education, to combine sound secular instruction with religious knowledge, which was by far the more important. According to the modern system, they were in danger of giving not too little but too much secular instruction. He could not help thinking that one of the greatest curses to this country had been the spread of science among the working classes. A little learning was a dangerous thing, more particularly in the abstruse branches of knowledge. He trusted that the measure which the right hon. Baronet had laid on the Table might be so modified as practically to work out the result of combining wholesome and sound secular instruction with the communication of religious knowledge.
§ Mr. P. Scrope
wished to see a good general system of education established. If rates were to be raised from the property of the country, the proficiency and the education ought to be as general as the rating. He thought it would be well to separate the education clauses from the remaining part of the bill, and mature them into a liberal and comprehensive plan, which might have some chance of being adopted in a future Session.
§ Viscount Dungannon
expressed his admiration of the truly Christian address of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Home Department. If the propositions which Government made for the purpose of obviating the objections brought against the measure were not met in a fair spirit, he should despair of seeing any efficient system of education established. As far as religious instruction was concerned, he thought it was not possible to devise means better calculated to give satisfaction to every class of the community. If any measure were calculated to do honour to her Majesty's Government, the present was. While the external power of the country was extending, it was lamentable to see so great a mass of its population at home sunk in ignorance, and abandoned to scepticism and infidelity. If difficulties were thrown in the way of this bill passing, the responsibility must rest on the heads of those who wished to impede a measure which would be a boon and blessing to the country.
§ Bill went through committee pro forma.