HC Deb 10 March 1846 vol 84 cc845-67

said, that in submitting to the House a Motion to address Her Majesty to institute an inquiry into the state of education in Wales—he might truly say neglected Wales—he felt that he had undertaken a duty, which ought to be performed by a Member representing some part of the Principality, whose local knowledge would enable him more forcibly to point out the great destitution existing in that country, of means for educating the industrious classes of its people; but he should be able to lay before the House such information from sources which could not fail to claim attention, and to convince them that education was in a greatly more neglected state in Wales than any other part of the United Kingdom. The people of that country laboured under a peculiar difficulty from the existence of an ancient language. The gentry and educated class universally speak English, as well as generally the inhabitants of towns; while the farmers, labourers, and other inhabitants of the rural and mining districts speak the Welsh language. This being the language of the poorer classes, important works in literature have not for ages been produced in it; neither have scarcely been translated into it from other languages any works on literature, the arts, and sciences; especially on those important branches of them, mechanics, chemistry, agriculture, and it may be said useful knowledge generally; consequently, although equally industrious with their English neighbours, the Welsh are much behind them in intelligence, in the enjoyment of the comforts of life, and the means of improving their condition. This is universally attributed by intelligent Welshmen, as well as Englishmen and foreigners who have been amongst them, to the want of an English education, which all the common people are most anxious to obtain; but the means afforded to them is lamentably deficient. In many parishes there are no schools; and where there are schools, it is not uncommon for the schoolmasters to be ignorant, uneducated men, and incapable of giving instruction; of this he could furnish numerous proofs: but he would not weary the House, as he only asked for inquiry, which would bring to light an extent of educational destitution in Wales that would call for the interference of the House and the Government. Inquiries had been made into the state of education in every part of England, Scotland, and Ireland, under the authority of the Committee of Council for Education, and most elaborate reports had been made by the gentlemen appointed; much valuable information was also obtained from the inspectors of factories, the Poor Law Com- missioners, and inspectors of mines, on the state of education in England; but only one parish in Wales had been visited and reported upon. Why had Wales been thus neglected in so marked a manner? He was sure no satisfactory explanation could be given. Before he called the attention of the House to Mr. Tremenheere's report on that parish, he would refer to a statement made by the Rev. Mr. Griffiths, President of the Dissenting College at Brecon: that gentleman, from his position, had extensive means of information on the state of education in Wales. He said there were in that country 250,000 children under the age of fifteen, who ought to be receiving the blessings of education; but of that number, only 70,000 attended schools, and the education a large proportion of these received was so inferior, as to be little better than nominal. There were, then, 180,000 children who did not attend any day schools; and, as he emphatically said, whose immortal spirits were deprived of that guide they should receive from a moral and religious education. Mr. Tremenheere, who has been employed by the Committee of Council for Education, and whose able reports prove his high qualification for the discharge of the duties entrusted to him, was sent in the beginning of 1840, soon after the Newport riots, to inquire into the state of education in that neighbourhood. He visited four parishes in Monmouthshire, and the parish of Merthyr-Tydvil in Glamorganshire, which contain an aggregate population of 85,000, of whom 17,000 were children, who, he said, ought to be at school. His report states, that there were in those parishes forty-seven day schools for elementary education, and thirty-three dame schools for children from three to five years of age; the number of children attending all the schools was 3,308; after allowing that 5,600 children of masters, agents, and superior workmen went to schools elsewhere, there remained 8,026 who went to no schools at all: five of the schools are under the care of females; sixteen of the masters have been unsuccessful in some retail trade; eleven of the masters have been miners, or labourers disabled by accidents or bad health; ten of the masters had received some instruction with a view of becoming schoolmasters; four of the masters were dissenting ministers; and one of the masters was a clerk of a parish church. That the children's books were generally soiled and torn, and often mere fragments consisting of a few soiled leaves; that the school rooms were ill-adapted, and in a few only did the size and cleanliness of the room, and the demeanour and qualifications of the master, afford a probability that the instruction sought to be given, would be imparted with effect; that in those of the highest pretensions the amount of instruction was very scanty—in eighteen only were the principles of English grammar taught; that it is manifest that the instruction afforded to the children of this district, can have no permanent effect in raising their taste and habit, and correcting their disposition. From inquiry made of the clergy of the Established Church, dissenting clergy, agents, and others, the result of the general testimony was, that of the adult working population a large proportion could neither read nor write; that very many had only acquired the art of knowing letters and words; and very few could read with ease and understand what they read. He made inquiry in twenty-four houses adjoining extensive works—seventeen families were Welsh, of whom ten husbands could read Welsh, six of them only imperfectly; seven could not read at all, and none of the seventeen could write; four only of the wives could read the Welsh bible: lamentable as this picture is, he feared it only exhibited the general condition of the common people in Wales: he would ask if such a state of things ought to be permitted to continue; he would venture to say that no other civilized Government in the world would allow any portion of its people to remain in such a condition; yet as a proof of the anxiety of the people to obtain education, it appeared that those who toiled for six days in the week in most laborious work, attended Sunday schools in large numbers, both adult males, and females and children. There were in this district eighty Sunday schools, Welsh and English, connected generally with dissenting congregations; but the instruction in them did not extend much beyond teaching to read. Another gentleman (the Rev. H. W. Bellairs) employed by the Committee of Council for Education, visited this district, who in his Report stated— It should be borne in mind that an ill-educated and undisciplined population, like that existing amongst the mines in South Wales, is one that may be found most dangerous to the neighbourhood in which it dwells, and that a band of efficient schoolmasters is kept up at a much less expense than a body of police or soldiery. He begged particularly to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet the Secre- tary of State for the Home Department to this statement. It pointed out, that the moral power of the schoolmaster was a more economical and effectual instrument for governing this people than the bayonet. Contrast their mental degradation with their physical condition, no portion of the people of this country received higher wages. The highest class of workmen obtained 25s. to 60s. a week, and the common labourers 12s. to 18s.; the steady men generally earned the higher wages, yet the instances were rare of their making any savings; this was to be attributed to their want of education and ignorance; men who were industrious to the last degree, were destitute of all means of mental recreation and enjoyment, therefore their place of resort is the public house. It might be asked why the masters, who counted their gains from the labour of these people by tens, twenties, and fifties of thousands of pounds a year, did not adopt means for improving their mental and moral condition by placing competent schoolmasters amongst them; some of the masters, much to their credit, did much in this respect, but as a body they did but little. The cause of their apathy, Mr. Tremenheere rather plainly ascribes to be, that mental ingenuity was not so much required in their occupations as manual labour; he (Mr. Williams) lamented to see this indifference exhibited towards an industrious people, by whose labour such masses of wealth were produced. He expressed with regret his belief, that the landlords of Wales had also greatly neglected their duty in aiding to educate the people. If they had been compelled by law to establish and maintain efficient schools in every parish, as were the landlords of Scotland, they would have been repaid tenfold by the improved condition of their estates, by an intelligent superior tenantry. As a proof of the indifference of the landlords and those engaged in mineral productions, and it might be said the richer class generally, towards educating the people, a conference took place in April 1845 of Dissenters, of various sects, in South Wales, to devise means for establishing a better system of education; they determined the first necessity was competent schoolmasters, and agreed to direct their attention and resources to the formation of a normal school. A committee was appointed for the purpose, who fixed upon Brecon to be the best situation for it, and issued a most heart-stirring address for subscriptions. He held in his hand a list of the contributions, which amounted to 550l., of which 350l. appeared to have been collected in small sums from dissenting congregations; one only of the great iron masters and copper smelters gave 10l. each, two great landowners 5l. each, who were followed by Mr. Sturge, of Birmingham, 50l. The regulations of this normal school, be it observed, strictly exclude sectarianism. The clergy of the Established Church, in the same district, have also used their efforts for the same laudable purpose of supplying the want of schoolmasters by establishing a normal school. At a meeting lately held by them, they pathetically lamented the lukewarmness manifested by the gentry and laity by the small amount of their contributions. Such lamentable testimony precludes all hope of an improvement on the present miserable system of education in that country, without the interference of Government. In contradistinction to this apathy and indifference, there was amongst the people themselves an intense and universal desire to learn the English language. They know that it is the language which affords the best means of improving their condition, and of enabling their children to get on in the world. Were he not fortified by strong proofs of this, he might appear to the House to be overstating this desire; he could refer to numerous authorities, but he would only quote three or four who were well known to the House and the country, whose testimony could not be impugned. The Commissioners appointed by the Crown to inquire into the management of Turnpike Trusts in South Wales, and into the causes of the late Rebecca disturbances, stated in their Report that— It would be improper to pass unnoticed amongst the causes which affect the social condition of the people, the ignorance of the English language which pervades so large a portion of the country—the facts which have come to our knowledge preclude us from regarding this circumstance in any other light than as a great drawback upon the advancement of the community. It practically presents obstacles to the efficient working of many laws and institutions, particular instances of which have been brought under our notice; we need hardly advert to the difficulties which it has long opposed to the Established Church, and to the administration of justice, as an impediment to social intercourse. It excludes a large portion of the community from the career of advancement or change of occupation; and it prevents the development of their minds by restricting them to those very scanty sources of information which their native language affords. We have no reason to believe, however, that any feelings of national jealousy or prejudice exist, which would prompt the uneducated classes to resist the attempt to give extensive instruction in the English language; on the contrary, we have been assured that they regard the latter in a spirit that does credit to their sagacity, as the language of advancement and promotion, and that they gladly embrace any opportunity of giving their children the advantage of acquiring it; but the means afforded them of satisfying their prevalent desire of superadding to their own a knowledge of the English language, fall far short of the demand. The means of instruction of the children of the poor, and even those who may be styled the middle classes, are lamentably small. Endowed institutions are but few, and thinly scattered. The church is crippled, and individual effort has hitherto done but little. The consequence is, that not only the children of the labourers, but of the large class of working farmers, are almost beyond the reach of mental improvement. It is needless to remark how greatly such a state of things is calculated to minister to those prejudices and misconceptions to which so much of the recent excitement of the country may be justly attributed. This evidence came from a quarter that called for the highest consideration; for the gentlemen who signed this Report were the right hon. Frankland Lewis, the hon. R. Clive, M.P., and Mr. Cripps, M.P. Should their Report induce the House to agree to his Motion, and the result of the inquiry proposed by it should lead to Government interference, as he thought it could not fail to do, the benefits they would confer could not be estimated. He called the attention of the Home Secretary to a most important statement made by these distinguished gentlemen, "that a want of a knowledge of the English language practically presented an obstacle to the administration of justice in that country." He would now quote the opinion of the Commissioner sent by The Times newspaper to inquire into the causes of the Rebecca disturbances in Wales: he resided in that country a considerable time, he was a gentleman of high education and talent, a barrister, and possessed a mind peculiarly adapted for investigating such circumstances; he was the same gentleman who was sent by The Times to Ireland, and who had written such able reports from that country. Mr. Foster said:— Before I bid adieu to the Principality, about which I have written so much, and where I have sojourned so long, let me recur to a subject to which I also alluded in a recent letter—the lamentable deficiency of education amongst its people. During a residence of five months in Carmarthenshire, in which period I have been over every portion of it and the adjacent counties, I may be presumed to have seen much of the population. Amongst them in a period of excitement, perpetually mixing and conversing with large bodies of them, I have had opportunities rarely possessed of observing their character, their capabilities, and their usual attainments—con- cluding my temporary visit amongst them with a tour on the route of Her Majesty's Commissioners through the counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke, Cardigan, Radnor, Glamorgan, and Brecon, I have been able to mark by comparison the advantages which a superior education, consequent on a knowledge of the English language, has given to the inhabitants of some districts over those of others. But why, it may be asked, harp so much on the necessity of learning English? Because it is the road, the only road to knowledge. Because it is the road to improvement and civilization; and because it is the road to advancement to the poor Welshman. Referring to the Newport and Rebecca riots, and the severe punishment they brought upon so many people, Mr. Foster says:— But how is this to be remedied? By education; an extensive, a sound, a feasible plan of education, where English is the oral means of communication; teach the people a knowledge of the useful sciences through its medium. The principle which is at the bottom of the acquisition of knowledge, is a motive of self-interest to attain it. The Welsh have this; every farmer desires, if he can only obtain the means, to teach his son English, because he knows that in every branch of industry, it is the language of promotion; but increase this motive of self-interest by giving increased facilities to inter-communication, give an impetus to the spread of the English language, and to a diffusion of the knowledge of the arts and comforts of civilized life amongst the poor Welshmen, which, while it improves the face of their beautiful country, will make them a more happy, a less servile—a superior people. That evidence was most important; and still more valuable in reference to the same subject was an extract which he (Mr. Williams) would read to the House, from the charge to his clergy of one of the most distinguished Prelates on the bench of bishops; a prelate eminent for learning and ability; pious and universally beloved; he meant the Bishop of St. David's:— To no department of your office are these remarks more applicable than to that which is connected with the education of the children of the poor. In no other way may so much be effected with such slender means. It is not with this, as with some of our other institutions, that they are commonly least valued in proportion as they are least needed. It is, I believe, very rarely indeed that the poor are found to be insensible to the benefits of education, even when they have received none themselves. They are anxious, sometimes the more so on that account, that their children should be better instructed; and many, we have reason to hope, are the cases in which the parents have been indebted to their children for religious knowledge and principles, which they would never have acquired without their assistance and example. This is a consideration which opens a clear prospect of an almost unlimited extension of the most salutary influence to those who are able and willing to wield this powerful instrument. Was not this one of the most astounding testimonies to be found in any production in the English language in favour of the power of education—the power which knowledge gave? And was not the House called upon to remove from that portion of the United Kingdom in which it existed the reproach to legislation furnished in the fact that the order of nature was reversed, and that the parents were taught by the children? It was, he believed, the first time that the House of Commons had taken into consideration the state of education in Wales; and it would not be hoped be trespassing on their time if he read one more document, shedding additional light upon the subject. It was an extract from an article in one of the leading Welsh newspapers, and from the pen of the proprietor and editor—a gentleman of very extensive attainments, and who from his position, and from communication with all classes, had had the opportunity of acquiring a large amount of that particular knowledge necessary to the comprehension of the question before the House. In speaking of the disturbed state of Wales, and of the manner in which it had been spoken of in the House of Commons, he made the following remarks:— In a late debate it was said, in alluding to the wide-spread spirit of agrarian turbulence in this part of the country, that such a violation of the laws as South Wales is the scene of betokened a general uneasiness, the cause of general disaffection. Now we will venture to affirm, without reference to any periodical written in the. Welsh language, that if the people had been acquainted with the English language, had had proper instruction provided, instead of being as they now are a prey to designing hypocrites, with religion on their lips and wickedness in their hearts—a prey, at the same time, to ignorance of their rights, and to the penal consequences of anarchical proceedings,—they would be at this moment, from the geographical and other peculiar advantages of their position, the happiest as well as the most peaceful and most prosperous population in the world. He could quote other able articles from the pen of the same gentleman, showing the deplorable state of education in Wales, and the evils it produced to its people, in retarding the improvement of their social condition. Was it not a remarkable fact, that, in the parts of the kingdom where education was most neglected, there the greatest poverty and most numerous evils prevailed? Why had Government done so little for education in England and Wales, and so much for Scotland and Ireland? If the Welsh had the same advantages for education as the Scotch, they would, instead of appearing a distinct peo- ple, in no respect differ from the English; would it not, then, be wisdom and sound policy to send the English schoolmaster amongst them? What had been the consequences of an improved and a good system of education in Scotland? It was to be seen in the superior character of her population. As early as 1663 an Act was passed to establish schools in every parish in Scotland, to be maintained by an assessment on the land in each. How well had the landowners been repaid for this charge, in having, by means of the superior education thus afforded, a most intelligent tenantry, and a population not exceeded by any nation in agriculture, in manufactures, or commerce! Education had done more to raise the character of the people, and to enrich that country, especially its landowners, than had been done in any other country of Europe. Besides having a parochial school in each of the 922 parishes, there were, in 1842, 2,172 other schools in Scotland, which gives more than three schools on an average to each parish; but still not content with this extended means for education, the Committee on Education of the General Assembly issued an order in 1844 to the parochial clergy, to make returns of the state of the schools in each parish, and to report whether they were sufficient for the education of the poorer population. Those returns were forwarded to the Committee of Council on Education sitting in London, by whom they were ordered to be investigated; and the result showed that, in 559 parishes, 329 more schools were required, although there were already 3,047 schools in that country, for educating a population of 2,600,000. Every means for giving efficiency to those schools were adopted; the Committee of Council for Education had appointed two inspectors to overlook the whole of the schools, and to superintend the system of education generally in Scotland. There were four Universities in that country, in each of which were Colleges, affording a most enlightened and liberal education, which, to a great extent, were maintained by annual votes of public money. Though he (Mr. Williams) had very humbly endeavoured to enforce economy in the expenditure of public money, he had never objected or complained of its application for the purposes of education in any part of the United Kingdom, believing, as he did, that an educated people could be governed easier and much cheaper than an uneducated ignorant people, besides the vast social benefits and moral power it conferred in a national point of view. He rejoiced that much had also been done for education in Ireland, which reflected the highest credit on the Government. They had established in that country an excellent national system of education; a system which in time would be the means of removing and eradicating many, if not all, of the evils which had hitherto retarded the progress of Irish prosperity. So early as the reign of Henry VIII. an Act had passed for the establishment of parochial schools in Ireland; and other Statutes on the same subject were passed in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth, George I., George II., and George III.; but the system acted upon, being of a sectarian character, was unsuccessful. In 1806, an Act was passed conferring power on the Lord Lieutenant to appoint Commissioners to inquire into the funds and revenues, granted by public and private donation, for the purposes of education, and into the state and condition of all schools in Ireland, and to suggest a plan for the general education of the lower orders of the people; a very elaborate and expensive inquiry was made, and the Commissioners made a very voluminous Report in 1812. In answer to an Address to the Crown from that House, a Royal Commission was again appointed in 1825 for inquiring into the nature and extent of the instruction afforded by the several institutions established for education; for ascertaining what regulations may be fit to be established with respect to the parochial schools, and for reporting as to the measures which can be adopted for extending generally to all classes of the people the benefit of education in Ireland. That Commission also made an elaborate Report, which, as well as the Report of the former Commission, was in 1828 referred to a Committee of that House, who, as they stated, entered upon the duty they were called upon to perform, with a full sense of the importance of the subject. Founded upon the Report of that Committee, a Board of Commissioners was appointed in 1831, at the head of whom was placed the Duke of Leinster, for the purpose of establishing and carrying out a general system of national education in Ireland. The result has been that, in 1839, there were 1,581 national schools, which were attended by 205,000 children, which had increased in 1843 to 3,153 schools, in which 395,000 were educated. The Commissioners state that, by the end of 1844, nearly 500,000 children would be receiving the blessings of education in the national schools of Ireland. He (Mr. Williams) trusted their progress would be onward, and that every child in Ireland would in a short time be receiving a good education. There are also normal schools for teaching schoolmasters upon a superior system. They are presided over by professors who give lectures on the art of teaching and conducting schools, the English language, literature, history, geography, political economy, natural philosophy, and chemistry; successful experiments are also being made of making those schools instrumental in diffusing agricultural knowledge. There was also voted last Session 100,000l. for the erection of three Colleges for the education of the middle classes in Ireland, which are to be endowed, with the College of Maynooth, by an annual grant of 50,000l. from the public money. He mentioned this with the greatest gratification, and had given his support to all these measures; but he could not but compare what the Government had done for education in Scotland and Ireland with its almost utter neglect of education in England and Wales, and more particularly in Wales. Since 1839, 248,000l. had been voted for education in Great Britain; of which the five counties of South Wales, where the Rebecca disturbances took place, containing a population of 500,000, only received 2,176l.; while Staffordshire, with about an equal population, similarly employed in minerals and agriculture, received 14,575l., or seven times more; Cheshire more than seven times more, in proportion to its population. The only College in Wales was St. David's, at Lampeter; 400l. was the sum voted last year for the support of education in it, although its funds have been strongly represented as totally insufficient. This is the seminary at which most of the clergy of South Wales are educated; for, in consequence of their Church having been despoiled of nearly all her revenues, by wholesale spoliation in the confiscating times of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Queen Elizabeth, and James I., the livings were not of sufficient value to incur the expense of an Oxford and Cambridge education. This might be pleaded in excuse for the clergy of the Established Church doing so little for the education of their flocks; they had not fulfilled their duty, they might do much more, but their means were much crippled; few of them received the rectorial tithes, which went to lay impropri- ators. He knew ten parishes in Carmarthenshire, the tithes of which amount to 5,985l. 13s. 4d. per annum, of which 5,266l. went to lay impropriators, and 719l. 13s. 4d. to the clergy. One of those parishes contained 12,000 inhabitants, with two large churches, the tithes of which amounted to 977l. a year: 970l. went to the lay impropriator and 7l. to the clergy. There were fifteen parishes nearly adjoining in Cardiganshire whose tithes amounted to 6,000l. per annum, 4,500l. went to a lay impropriator residing in the West of England, and 1,500l. for the maintenance of twenty-one clergymen serving those parishes. There was one other subject to which he would call the attention of the House. It was worthy of their most serious consideration, especially that of the Government; namely, the impediment thrown in the way of the administration of justice in Wales, from the people not understanding English. He could state occurrences from this cause that would excite mirth and the deepest sorrow. The Judges, and all persons concerned in the administration of justice, complain of the difficulties they have to encounter, and often have cause to lament them. The laws, and the forms and proceedings in the administration of them in courts of justice, are in English, a language not understood by the great body of the common people; a person may be charged with having committed a crime which, if convicted, would subject him to the severest penalty of the law; if the witnesses against him can speak English they give their evidence in that language, if not, their evidence is interpreted, the counsel for and against him address the court, and the judge sums up in English, and if convicted pass sentence upon him, perhaps of death; the whole of the proceedings being unintelligible to him. He was told by an old barrister that he had often known juries give verdicts in direct opposition to the evidence and the charge of the Judge, and always for acquittal; when asked the reason, they accounted for it from their imperfect knowledge of English, and thought it best to err on the right side. Another barrister informed him, that he was present in court when the Judge was passing sentence of death on a prisoner in a solemn impressive manner; when he came to the most awful part just at the close, the prisoner asked a person near him what the Judge was saying. On the North Wales Circuit last year a person of the name of Griffith Hughes, who had been out on bail, surrendered to take his trial at the assizes held at Beaumaris in the county of Anglesea, for a felonious assault with attempt to maim; on a jury being impannelled and sworn to try him, it was noticed to the court that eleven of them did not understand English, and consequently the oath they had taken, upon which the Judge observed that the foreman (the individual who understood English) could explain the case to his fellow jurors; and not a, little he had to explain; for the witnesses for the defence deposed in English, the counsel on both sides addressed the jury in English, and the Judge summed up in English. The result was, the foreman audibly and clearly returned a verdict against the prisoner, and the Judge sentenced him to four months' imprisonment and hard labour. The next morning the prisoner's attorney made application to the court, stating that the eleven jurors who did not understand English were not convinced of the prisoner's guilt, and had instructed their foreman and interpreter to give in a verdict of acquittal. Mr. Baron Parke smiled, and told the attorney to forward an affidavit to the Secretary of State. The jury signed a memorial to Sir James Graham. Much delay necessarily took place, and the man was detained in prison nearly the whole period. He could relate many more such occurrences. A parallel to such a state of things could not be found under the most despotic Government in any civilized country. Was it not a mockery of administering law and justice? The House and the Government, he was sure, would not permit such a stain upon our national character to continue. We prided ourselves more on the purity with which the laws are administered in our courts of justice, than on any other institution of the country. The people placed in this anomalous, this unfortunate position, did not want us to translate the laws into, or to administer them in their language, but they ask and pray us to send the English schoolmaster amongst them to teach them the language in which the laws are written, that they may understand and obey them. Energetic means were in operation for giving all classes of people a good education in all other civilized countries, whatever may be their form of Government, from the democratic republics of America and Switzerland, to the despotic Governments of Prussia and Austria. He would not detail the excellent systems adopted in those countries, especially in Holland and Bavaria, but he called particular attention to what had been done in France. Soon after the wise sovereign of that country was placed in power, a national system of education was commenced; a Minister of Public Instruction was appointed, a law was passed to compel each department to establish a normal school; in 1843 there were 76 normal schools for teaching schoolmasters, and 16 for teaching schoolmistresses; 52 of these schools have land attached to them for teaching agriculture and horticulture; there were 87 chief inspectors and 113 sub-inspectors of schools, and 50,986 schools; 500,000l. of public money was voted in 1842, and the vote of this year was upwards of 700,000l. to aid in supporting these schools for the education of a population of 34,000,000. In Great Britain there are five normal schools, seven inspectors, and 75,000l. voted last year for the education of 20,000,000 of people. This is a humiliating contrast; such a noble example should stimulate the Government to establish a sound system of education for England and Wales. He (Mr. Williams) was sure, whatever might be the cost, it would be saved tenfold in the expense of the army, police, and prisons. If such a system had been established in Wales, the people would have been educated, and such occurrences as those of Newport and the Rebecca disturbances, and their lamentable consequences, would not have taken place; the people would have redressed their grievances by constitutional means instead of violence. The public expense of two special commissions sent to try the offenders would have been spared, as well as the severe punishments of many, and the distress brought on their families, and the pain it must have caused the Judges to punish men for offending the laws, who did not understand the language in which they are written, nor the language in which their severe sentence was passed upon them. The expense of sending large bodies of London police would not have been incurred, nor of establishing military stations all over that country where a soldier of the standing army was before unknown. The expenditure now going on of 140,000l. upon barracks at Newport, Brecon, and Bristol, would be saved, as well as the cost of maintaining soldiers in them. He (Mr. Williams) wished he could persuade the hon. Member for Carmarthenshire (Mr. S. Davies) to prevail upon his brother magistrates of that county to dismiss their recently established police, which, according to an esti- mate he saw, consists of 57 policemen at a cost of 4,700l. a year, and take legal power to expend the same sum on education, which would place an English schoolmaster in every parish at a salary of 50l. a year. From his knowledge of the people, he would assert that the moral power the schoolmaster would create, and the parish constable, would maintain peace and protect life and property in that county, as effectually as in any spot in Britain; the whole people would aid them. They know the police are for coercion, and that the schoolmaster would give to their children an English education, the means of acquiring that knowledge which would lay the wide world open to them to improve their condition and for their advancement in life, instead of being confined by their native language in comparative poverty to their native hills and valleys. A good sound system of education in Wales would produce inestimable benefits; it would raise up an intelligent population, who, by the superior skill which it would bring forth, would greatly increase the productiveness and wealth of their country, whose mountains abound in rich minerals, and valleys in rich soil, now to a large extent undeveloped. That reproach would no longer attach to the Government and the country, so forcibly stated by the Queen's Commissioners, that in this portion of Her Majesty's dominions— The people's ignorance of the English language, practically prevents the working of the laws and institutions, and impedes the administration of justice. Nor, as said by the learned Bishop of St. David's, would the very order of nature be reversed, that uneducated parents were indebted to their children, who had received the blessings of education, for instruction in religious knowledge and moral principles, which they never would have acquired without their assistance and example. He thanked the House for the attention they had given to him and moved— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to direct an Inquiry to be made into the state of Education in the Principality of Wales, especially into the means afforded to the labouring classes of acquiring a knowledge of the English language.


said: I shall not on this occasion occupy much time in making the few observations which the speech and Motion of the hon. Member for Coventry have rendered necessary; and I beg, in the first place, frankly to state, that though I do not concur with him in all, yet I go along with him in much that he has stated. I agree with him, for example, when he says that the establishment of national education in Ireland has been a great benefit to that part of the United Kingdom. My opinion quite coincides with his, when he pronounces the existence of a system of national education in Ireland to be a very happy circumstance; and I am not prepared to contradict his statement when he asserts, that if we were to specify any one source more than another to which we might rationally trace the intellectual superiority of the people of Scotland, it would be their system of parochial education. I also agree with the hon. Member for Coventry when he alleges that the ignorance of the English language which unhappily prevails in the Principality, presents a very serious barrier to the administration of the law. No man can be more strongly persuaded than I am of this truth, that a knowledge of the English language would be highly conducive to the welfare of the working classes throughout the whole of Wales. I entertain no doubt whatever that their ignorance greatly interferes with their prosperity, and prevents their rising in the scale of society; and I regret to say, that in some parts of the Principality the ignorance of the people not only lowers them intellectually, but depraves their moral qualities. In making these several admissions, however, I must at the same time take the liberty of saying, that the hon. Member has not done justice even to those measures which Her Majesty's Government have thought it fitting to adopt with reference to the state of education in Wales. Justice has hardly been done to the steps that were taken immediately after the unhappy events which occurred in the year 1839. It was, I have no doubt, then felt—and the feeling appeared to have been acted on—that the time had arrived when it became the duty of the Government, much more than it had ever previously been, to make strenuous efforts to improve the moral condition of the population of Wales. From that time forward, I can very confidently assure the hon. Member and the House, that the attention of the responsible advisers of the Crown has been sedulously directed towards the great object of improving the physical condition of the working classes throughout the United Kingdom, and more especially in that portion of the country which forms the immediate subject of the Motion now before the House. The physical condition of the people being advanced a step, we are not unprepared to admit that their social, moral, and religious condition does require alteration. We are now engaged in providing for the physical welfare of the working classes; and I have no doubt that their moral and social condition will force themselves upon the attention of Parliament. In Ireland, a system of national education has been set on foot: would to God that we could agree amongst ourselves as to the means of effectually extending it! but at the same time, nothing shall induce me to despair of its eventual success. I do not overlook the fact that many schemes of education have been proposed, and these several schemes have appeared to interfere with each other; doubtless they have done so to some extent, but this collision is far better than a total neglect of all education. Immediately after the events of 1839, it became very evident that there was a great want of education in the mining districts. Mr. Tremenheere was soon afterwards instructed to direct, his attention to the subject, and to supply information to the Government upon the state of education in Wales. The hon. Member has quoted from the Report made by Mr. Tremenheere in 1840. The Government to which the noble Lord opposite belonged directed that a circular letter should be written to the mining districts, in order not only to obtain information, but as a preliminary step to the measures regarding education which they contemplated. I propose, with the permission of the House, to quote parts of that letter; first, for the purpose of showing that the attention of Government has been directed to the subject; and, secondly, for the purpose of showing the appeal that has been made. The letter to which I refer is dated the 25th of March, 1840, and a portion of it is in these words:— The Committee of Council, being anxious to give immediate effect to their wish to provide the means of an efficient elementary education for this population, are desirous to encourage the erection of school-houses, and the settlement of well-instructed and religious men as teachers of elementary schools, throughout this district; and, feeling assured that you concur with them in considering such measures as highly important to the future welfare of the labouring population by which you are surrounded, and not less to the security of property and to the peace of society, are disposed to offer you and the other persons locally interested, who are disposed to co-operate, their assistance for the establishment of a school in your immediate neighbourhood. If, further, the means can be provided for defraying the annual expenses of the schools, so as to secure the services of a teacher, trained either in the normal school of the National Society, or of the British and Foreign School Society, or in one of the normal schools of the Church of Scotland, or in some other school which their Lordships may approve, they will be disposed to afford you one-half of the estimated expense of erecting a school-house according to the plan, specification, and estimate which you may select, upon the transmission of the usual certificate. The letter then goes on to say:— Considering the peculiar circumstances of the district, my Lords are disposed to exceed the usual limit of the grants made for the erection of school-houses, provided they can be assured, by the nature of the plan selected, the form of the trust-deed, and the amount of the annual income provided for a teacher, that the school will be permanently supported and efficiently conducted. I am quite ready to admit that this does not remove the necessity for further exertion; but it shows that some exertion has been made. To eighty-five schools, the Committee of the Council has contributed 10,500l., which sum has been principally employed in building. Mr. Tremenheere visited the district in which these sums have been spent, and his visit quite confirmed the utility and necessity of periodical inspection. From his reports, as well as from other evidence, this was clearly established, that, comparing the state of education in 1839 with the condition of the people in that respect, when Mr. Tremenheere made his last Report, the population of Wales has made a decided progress. One proof of this improvement is to be seen in the exertions made by an hon. Baronet on the other side of the House, the Member for Merthyr-Tydvil, who at his own expense has made provision for the education of an immense number of the working classes at schools under the immediate superintendence of himself and members of his family. The hon. Baronet built schools for the education of the children of all persons in his employment, and as regards education, no part of England is in better condition. Further, it is well known that Sir Thomas Phillipps built schools at his own expense, and that in others of the mining districts of Wales the means of education has been provided, so that progress has evidently been made in various parts of the Principality. Still, I am by no means indisposed to consent that further inquiry should be made into the state of education in Wales, but I object to thus addressing the Crown for a Special Commission. What I propose is, that inspectors shall immediately be sent by the Committee of the Council to inquire into the means of instruction for the people which exist in the Principality; and the inspectors shall report specially to the Committee of the Council. They will report speedily; and if there should be further necessity for interference, a fresh appeal to the House may be made. A considerable sum has been placed at the disposal of the Committee of the Council; and I hope that the application of that money has been satisfactory to the House; at the same time I assure the House, that I am quite sensible of the vast importance of the question before us. I agree with the hon. Mover, that even the diffusion of a knowledge of the English language in Wales, without anything else, is a matter of great importance, and one which I am most anxious to promote next after the moral and religious character of the people. The difficulty with which we have to contend is, how to reconcile conflicting opinions. I do not wish to discuss a question of this kind incidentally; but I will not to the last moment of my life give up the hope of seeing the condition of the people most materially improved by those means of intellectual cultivation which we are now endeavouring practically to carry out. I can never bring myself to believe that in this matter Government will absolutely fail. I do not think it necessary to detain the House longer upon this subject. If the hon. Member will consent to withdraw his Motion for the present, I pledge myself on behalf of the Government that inspectors shall be sent down into Wales to inquire into the state of education in the Principality, and their Report shall be forthwith laid before the House.


was perfectly willing to consent to the arrangement proposed by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet had referred to the amount of public money expended on schools in Wales. Now, it was proper to observe that during the last seven years no less than 285,000l. had been applied to educational purposes in England and Wales; but of this sum only 2,176l. had been expended in those five counties of Wales where the recent disturbances took place, and which contained a population of half a million; whereas in the county of Stafford, with about the same amount and description of population, no less than 14,500l. had been expended.


said, he should be most happy to support any proposal which was calculated to encourage education within the Principality. With regard to the district with which the hon. Member for Coventry was chiefly acquainted, he had certainly no knowledge of it. Wales was divided, the north from the south, by a ridge of mountains, which greatly affected the intercourse between the two parts, and separated the one from the other as effectually as the Welsh were separated from the English counties. Although he should feel most thankful for any additional encouragement or improvement of the schools in the Principality, he owed it to the class of landowners of North Wales to say that the subject had not been neglected by them as much as the hon. Member for Coventry soemed to think. He could state, from his own knowledge, that there was hardly a parish in which exertions had not been made, and were now making, to extend education amongst the people; that in promoting this object, the conduct of the Established clergy had been most praiseworthy; and, what was a most gratifying fact, they had been seconded—but he would not say seconded, for they were equalled—by the exertions of the Wesleyans, Baptists, and other classes of dissenters. Some parishes might be comparatively neglected; but he did not know of one in which there was the least hostility manifested to the object in view, or where any other feeling prevailed than that of a desire to promote education. In his opinion the principal cause of the deficiency of education in Wales was to be found in the great extent of the parishes, in many of which the people were obliged to walk five miles to get to the parish church, and that the greatest advantage, so far as facilitating education was concerned, would arise from the division of those parishes. With respect to the mining population of North Wales—and no doubt the same observation would equally apply to the same description of population in South Wales—he should say that the deficiency of education might be attributed to the rapid increase of that population, which had augmented at a rate which it was hardly possible for individual exertions to meet. He believed that if the Legislature directed its attention to this important subject, it would have the effect of calling into operation the voluntary efforts of individuals throughout the Principality.


said, that he was acquainted with a large number of parishes in Wales, in which schools had been established by the landowners, though he admitted there were also many in which a great want of education was experienced.


was very happy to hear that there existed in Wales a desire for increased facilities of education, and he was equally pleased to learn that there existed, on the part of the Government, a feeling of anxiety to administer to the requirements of the Welsh people in this respect. It was impossible to overstate the value and importance of education. His own experience of Ireland enabled him to bear testimony to the great improvement which of late years had taken place in the tastes, habits, and feelings of the Irish people; and much of the advantage which resulted from that improvement he attributed to that organized system of education which had been recently established amongst them, and which might indeed be termed, with the utmost propriety, "national," inasmuch as that it was gradually extending its influence through the length and breadth of the land, and that its operation had proved in the last degree beneficial to the best interests of all classes of the community. It was not as yet, however, that the full benefit of the system of education pursued in Ireland, under the sanction of the Government, could be properly understood or appreciated; but when ten years more had elapsed, and when those who were now the boys, would be the men of Ireland, then indeed the advantages of a proper system of mental culture would be perceptible, not alone in the increased amount of information possessed by the people, but in their greater order, their juster regard for life and property, their improved habits both of action and thought, their more refined feelings, and above all, in that higher degree of perfection which they would assuredly be found to have attained in those moral and religious virtues which ought to be the basis of every system of education, and without which all knowledge was of little avail. The habits, tastes, and feelings of the entire population would be seen to be in the highest degree improved, and in that improvement would be found the best possible security for the future prosperity and happiness of the country. He most cordially concurred in the hope expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the day was not far distant when a system of national education would be established in England on a scale com- mensurate with the requirements of our population.

Motion withdrawn.

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