§ MR. EWART
said, that he was desirous of approaching the present subject with a calmness proportionate to its importance, and disproportioned to the degree of excitement which it had created. But whatever had been the excitement out of doors, he trusted that the real friends of education would, within the House and out of it, unite in the common cause. He had always been an ardent supporter of education; but when he had first read the Minutes, he had been struck by their want of comprehensiveness. Even so obvious a subject as the ancient grammar-schools of the kingdom had not been noticed in them. To constitute a national system of education, it ought to be founded upon the representative system—founded upon a plan of local rating. This was the system adopted in America, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh had last night directed their attention. The same was the case in France, where, under the plan of M. Guizot, the communes conducted their own educational affairs. It was true, that if the communes could not do it, the departments did, and if the departments could not, the Government did; but that was only in the last instance. Even the same plan was virtually adopted in Scotland, where the heritors appointed the masters of the schools. The disregard of these principles had been the fault which had presented itself to his notice at the outset; but he had always contended that the Government might give aid to the education of the country, and he should now act consistently with that opinion. But the Government should not interfere. They should rather aid and support the tendencies of the people in favour of education, than force it on them. Secondly, the education ought to be thoroughly of an English character. Exotic systems like the Prussian system could not be adopted in this country. Lastly, the Government should not attempt to interfere 1050 with opinions, least of all with religious opinions. If, instead of forcing any given set of opinions upon the people, the Government were rather to furnish them with the means of forming opinions, it would entitle itself to the lasting gratitude of the country. Looking, then, at the plan before them, he should begin by stating the points in which he agreed with the Government. It appeared to him that the principle of pupil-teachers and stipendiary monitors formed the essential element and leading characteristic of the plan which the Government proposed to the House. This, he regretted to observe, was connected with an undue degree of control; but, notwithstanding this, he did think that many of the charges brought against the Government scheme were most unjust. Again, he thought it unjust to charge the Government with intentionally favouring the interference of the Church. Upon these grounds he gave in his adhesion to the main principles of the measure, namely, that of pupil-teachers and stipendiary monitors, and through their agency to the formation of a more complete normal system than had yet been attempted. He had always held that to influence education they must begin with the character of the masters; and therefore he approved most cordially of that part of the Bill which was intended to elevate their condition and qualifications. He approved also of that part of the plan by which schools of industry would be established as well in the rural districts as in the towns. He likewise assented to the principle that normal schools should be formed for those who were afterwards to become teachers in prisons and in workhouses. No one without due qualification ought to be allowed to undertake the duty of teaching in gaols and workhouses. He should now come to that part of the measure against which he entertained some objections. In the first place, he objected generally against the schoolmasters being made teachers of religion. Religion was not the province of the schoolmaster. He certainly might inform his pupils upon the great general principles of religion; that was, if the parents of the pupils could be prevailed upon to agree as to what those principles were. If neutral ground could be discovered, there was no reason why the schoolmaster should not take his stand upon that undisputed territory. When he said that the schoolmaster's province was not to give instruction in religion, he, perhaps, ought to have qualified the proposition 1051 by saying that the schoolmaster ought not to become a teacher of theology. It was said, let the Scriptures be every day read in the schools. He should, of course, be one of the last to object to the reading of the Scriptures at proper times and places; but to him it seemed that going through the Scriptures mechanically did little towards the advancement of true religion. The religion which he desired to see inculcated in schools, was the religion which would touch the heart and influence the conduct of the pupils. The deep spirit and pure doctrines of the Christian religion were not to be learned by hearing the periodical recitation of Scripture passages. Religious teaching by schoolmasters was a system which had been unsuccessfully tried in Holland; but in a year or two after introducing it, they were obliged to alter it. When the corporation schools of Liverpool were established—the greatest monument in the town raised by the reformed municipality—they were founded upon the principle that the clergy of all denominations should instruct the pupils; and the pupils, after meeting upon the common ground of secular instruction, were afterwards taught by their own ministers the doctrines of their several denominations. He was favourable to making the clergy, and not the schoolmasters, teachers of theology. These were the main general objections which he thought it necessary to urge. His more special objections were these: In the first place, although he was most anxious to see schoolmasters elevated in the social scale, it was not a good plan to attempt to elevate them by giving them retiring pensions from the Government. More or less, it created dependence upon, or at least undue connexion with, the Government. The system adopted in France would have been much better; there the schoolmasters had a kind of savings bank, by means of which provision was made for infirmity or old age. He objected also to the occasional grant of gratuities to schoolmasters. Who was to decide upon the giving of these gratuities? He objected, again, to the Minute which stated that where pupil-teachers in the normal schools were unsuccessful as candidates, they should have a chance of an appointment to some office under Government. This appeared to him a proceeding open to much doubt as to its policy. It invited any man unfit to be a schoolmaster to become one. It taught him to say, "If I do not succeed 1052 as a schoolmaster, I may have a chance of becoming an exciseman." The probability under such circumstances was, that the man who began by making a bad schoolmaster, would end by becoming a bad exciseman. In his opinion, it would have been wiser, and justice would have been better done to the general cause of education, by throwing open these Government appointments upon the principle of free competition, the best man to have the place which all contended for. These objections, however, had not determined him to act hostilely towards the whole measure. They had rather induced him to endeavour to frame amendments, though he feared that the mode in which the measure was brought forward, precluded the usual facilities for that purpose. And what was it that disposed him not to offer any opposition, further than the amendments of which he had given notice, to the plan of Her Majesty's Government? It was the traces which he saw in some portions of the plan, of the elements of progress. It was a progression from a worse to a better system. It was certainly not a progression so considerable as he could have wished, nor was it entirely of the nature he could have desired; still it was a progression, and therefore he could not feel himself at liberty to vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. The grant must always come annually before Parliament. The Minutes must be brought forward upon the responsibility of Government. He was anxious to increase the responsibility of Government on the subject of education; and he trusted they would make an annual statement of all they had to do with the education of the people, from the lowest schoolmaster up to the British Museum. This measure added to the responsibility of Government; and as the people would every year have the great subject brought before them, they would feel they had obtained a greater degree of power over their educational system as a nation. He deeply regretted to find that some of the best friends to education in this country were disunited upon this measure, more from feelings of sectarianism than from views of a more generous or philosophic character; and that, in the language of Hudibras—Civil and religious fearsSet folks together by the ears.He hoped, however, that these civil and religious fears were more imaginary than real, and that, though the friends of education were disunited for a time, they would 1053 not remain in a lasting state of disunion. If the Government showed they were impartial—if they showed no favour towards any sect—if they proceeded at once fairly and fearlessly and firmly—they might accomplish much good, and reconcile many adversaries. He was willing to give them credit for wishing to accomplish that which they had the power, and which they ought to have the inclination, to do. If they thus acted, and if Parliament fulfilled its duty, he should not despair of the cause of education. For these reasons, after much hesitation and much deliberation, and not without an ardent feeling for the general welfare, amidst all the partial dissensions which surrounded them, he should give his vote in favour of the measure proposed by the noble Lord, as distinguished from the proposals of his hon. Friend (Mr. T. Duncombe), reserving to himself the right of supporting other amendments, if he judged fit, and of bringing forward his own.
§ SIR C. NAPIER
said, if he were to consult his own wishes, he should be content to give a silent vote upon the present question, because there were many in that House much more capable of handling the subject than himself, and he felt a great disinclination to meddle with matters that he did not understand. But representing, as he did, a large metropolitan district deeply interested in the question, he thought it his duty to trespass for a short time upon the attention of the House. At the same time, he denied that either himself or his Colleague had been summoned before their constituents, or instructed to oppose the present Bill; neither had they been overawed in their deliberations by any pressure from without. He knew not whether the noble Lord at the head of the Government referred to him the other evening when he spoke of constituencies having overawed their representatives; but he could tell the noble Lord that he was not to be overawed by any constituency, or by any Government, or by anybody else, when he thought he was honestly discharging his duty. The noble Lord stated the other evening that nearly a million children were educated in the National schools—that the liturgy and catechism were taught in these schools—and that the children were obliged to attend church. He said, moreover, that the Committee of Education neither approved nor disapproved of that plan; but he added that he hoped the Church would be more liberal, and that, like the 1054 Dissenters, they would not force any particular form of religion upon the children. It appeared to him that if the views of the noble Lord were followed out, the result would be very nearly a secular system of education. Under the proposed plan it was obvious, when they considered that it was utterly impossible to connect a school with every church and chapel, that in many cases the children must either attend a school where a religion was taught which they did not like, or they must be content to go without education altogether. He (Sir C. Napier) could see no reason why, if secular education were given to all the children of this country during the week, the clergy might not give them religious instruction upon the Sunday. Would there be any danger of the children being without a religious education, if they were generally taught in that manner, as they were at present in many small districts? There would be no danger if that course were adopted; but he feared that the clergy, and the higher clergy particularly, would consider that as a great imposition upon them. The Church did not choose to take upon itself the trouble of educating its own people, and unless they obtained the assistance of schoolmasters they were willing that the children should go without education. He was sorry to state this; but he gave it as his conscientious opinion. If the Church of England generally adopted that system, no doubt Dissenters would do the same; and he saw no difficulty whatever in the way of thus securing to the children a good secular and religious education. The right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster of the Forces, in an eloquent speech, stated last night a great number of reasons why the people of this country should be educated, and referred to the Gordon riots, the Bristol riots, the Nottingham riots, and the outrages of Swing and Rock, as the result of the lamentable state of ignorance in which the people were plunged. He thought, if they gave the people the best education in the world, these things might still occur; but if the right hon. Gentleman were right, he should like to know why Catholics were to be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. These were his main objections to the principle of the Bill; but he had also great objections to its details, which he believed were shared in by a great number of Dissenters, and by many members of the Church of England. The appointment of inspectors of Dissenting schools rested with the Government, 1055 subject to the approval of the managers of the different schools—
§ SIR G. GREY
The gallant Officer is not quite right. The appointment of inspectors of Church of England schools rests with the Government, subject to the approval of the Archbishop of the province; and the appointment of inspectors connected with the British and Foreign schools, which represents different denominations of Dissenters, rests with the Government, subject to the approval of the committee of that society.
§ SIR C. NAPIER
continued: There were many other points of detail to which he objected. He did not think, for example, that the system of training assistant teachers would be found to work satisfactorily, for it would be very difficult to persuade children of tender years to quit their homes in order to enter upon such an occupation. At the same time he did not agree with these who objected to the appointment of certain of the assistant teachers to offices under the Government; neither did he believe that there was any intention towards patronage on the part of the Government in making that proposal; but he believed if the places were distributed impartially, alike to Dissenters and Churchmen, the system would be attended with advantage. Considering, however, that they excluded the Catholics altogether, and that they would also in point of fact exclude a large number of Dissenters from the blessings of education, he felt bound to oppose the present measure.
The EARL of ARUNDEL and SURREY
would not enter in detail into the position of the Dissenters, because that would be much better done by others. He would confine his remarks to the effect of the proposed measure on the body to which he belonged (the Roman Catholics). It was not without a painful struggle that he had made up his mind to the course he should pursue on this occasion. He had, however, endeavoured to look at the question on both sides. On the one side he found a grant made by the State for the purpose of education, from participation in which the Roman Catholics alone were excluded; and he would ask how could the Roman Catholic Members be expected to vote money which Roman Catholics would pay as well as others, but in the benefits of which they were not allowed to share, and which was to be spent in aiding the inculcation of doctrines which they conceived to be erroneous? And further, he 1056 would ask, how could the Roman Catholics, as the advocates of religious liberty, refuse to join these who on this question were engaged in the same cause? It was true the noble Lord had told them, that the Committee of Council did not consider themselves precluded from considering the position of the Roman Catholics hereafter; but he had not said to what extent or when it would be so considered. The Roman Catholics, he considered, were entitled to complain, and did complain, of their exclusion as an infraction of that rule laid down in the correspondence of the Committee of Council, where they say that they respect the lights of conscience. But, while he thus considered that the Roman Catholics had a right to complain, on the other hand he saw the country in a state of deplorable ignorance—the gaols filled with persons who could not read or write, who did not know the name of their Creator, and were altogether in a state of ignorance the most lamentable. It was additionally hard on the Roman Catholics that they alone, of all religious bodies in the kingdom, were to be excluded from a share in the attempt, by a great national measure of education, to rescue the people from ignorance—the Roman Catholics, who had sent missionaries all over the world to explain the principles of religion, and inculcate the truths of Christianity. It was painful that they were not to be permitted to assist in that work; but still he did not wish, like the dog in the manger, to stand in the way of the education of others, because he himself had been refused assistance. He would not refuse to others what they refused to him; but he would throw over every feeling of jealousy, and would give his support to the scheme of the Government. And he need not say that he supported it, not because it was a Government scheme, but because he considered he was discharging his duty in adopting such a course. He relied with confidence on the justice of the British people. Though they had strong prejudices against his faith, he yet believed that their sense of justice was greater than their prejudice, and that they would themselves ere long petition for a grant which so many were now endeavouring to prevent the Catholics obtaining. He did not cast any reflections upon the prejudices entertained by so many Englishmen. Bigotry and fanaticism were terms rarely advantageously used—often entirely misapplied. He looked with plesure and pride upon the deep religious feeling of the people of this 1057 country, and he delighted in the idea that when they were the most disturbed, it was religious feeling by which they were excited. He preferred the "iron-sides" of Cromwell to the demons of the French revolution. He looked upon that deep religious feeling as the offspring of the old English faith—that faith was banished, but the strong religious feeling still remained. If that religious feeling were accompanied by some shade of intolerance, let them treat it with tenderness, and soothe it with love; let them cherish the religious feeling, and trust to God for the faith.
§ MR. SEYMER
said, the hon. and learned Member for Bath had last night complained that the Government scheme was not a complete one, because it did not run counter to what he was pleased to term the fanaticism of the country. But, whatever might be the amount of the present opposition to the Government plan, he was convinced it would have increased tenfold, and would have been found irresistible, had they attempted to propose a scheme omitting wholly religion from their instruction. There were some persons in this country—he trusted there were none in that House—who viewed all religions alike; who thought there was no such thing as religious truth; and who held what were commonly called very liberal views with regard to education. But he (Mr. Seymer) did not call such men "liberal"—he called them "indifferent." The man was liberal who, having strong opinions of his own, was yet tolerant and forbearing with others. But they might say, whilst he was giving these definitions of liberty, that he himself repeated not the right of conscience in others. These, however, who talked in that way about the rights of conscience, were free-traders in religion, but monopolists in conscience. Had it never occured to them that the Government might have a conscience, and that that conscience might teach them that they were not justified in allowing great masses of the people to remain in the depths of ignorance without making one effort to save them. There was then a Nonconformist conscience versus a Government conscience; and he knew which was the most enlightened of the two. The present question was confined really in a very small compass. He would ask, first, were the present means of education commensurate with the wants and requirements of the people? Then, if they were not, did the proposal of the Government afford a sufficient remedy; and was there 1058 anything inconsistent in it with the principles of civil and religious liberty? In answer to the first question, they had been told by some that there was but little ignorance prevailing—nothing which a little more exertion and extension of the voluntary system would not remove. With that statement he could not agree, when he read such facts as these, that out of 50,000 persons taken into custody in the metropolitan districts, 45,000 either could not read or write at all, or could read or write imperfectly—that in the poor-law unions of Norfolk and Suffolk, which were fair specimens of agricultural districts, one-half of the inmates above sixteen could neither read nor write at all, or could only do so imperfectly—and more especially when he remembered what was meant by reading and writing "imperfectly." When the term "read imperfectly" was used, it meant that reading was always a trouble and a task to the person, and that he was obliged to spell almost every word. And as for "writing imperfectly"—had hon. Gentlemen ever seen a labouring man sign his name? First he looked at the pen, then he looked at the ink, then at the paper, and at length after sundry ponderous groans, he made some extraordinary hieroglyphic, that might arrest the attention of M. Champollion or Sir Gardiner Wilkinson. He should be glad to see any plan by which the boys in rural districts could be kept a little longer at school. Hon. Gentlemen who were acquainted with the rural districts would know that the boys, on leaving school, were generally employed in the dignified occupation of bird-keeping. There they sat the greater part of the day under a hedge, passing their lives in a state of dreamy existence. They saw a rook, and they apostrophised him as a "black rascal;" and that was their occupation; or if they were of a more active temperament, they employed themselves, like a transatlantic senator whittling with his knife, cutting notches on a post. It was much better these youths should have an opportunity of going to school, and acquiring a little useful learning. These were the pupils. Next he came to the masters. Men were generally made schoolmasters because they were unfit for anything else. If a man lost a leg or an arm, the first thing he did was to look for a turnpike; or, failing an empty turnpike, he next applied for the situation of village schoolmaster, and very often with success. He did not mean to say that such a man would be employed in spite of a bad 1059 moral character; but he certainly would in spite of the absence of these intellectual qualifications which should fit him for his office. And he did not blame these who employed him much, for there was little competition for the place, and they were glad to relieve the parish from the burden of a large family, because somehow or other such men always had large families. It was said that the clergy were responsible for the education of their people. He denied that such was the case. It was a portion of the clergyman's duty; but he had to visit the sick and to perform many other offices of equal importance. The clergyman had to deal with such schools as he had, and he never could make a school a good one without the assistance of a really good schoolmaster. Hon. Gentlemen might say that he was making a bad case for himself, for that he was now describing schools in the agricultural districts which for the most part belonged to the Church of England. That was true; but he did not at all wish to blink the truth with regard to these schools. He was tired of friendly reports drawn up by friendly secretaries, and read before friendly committees. He was tired of all that. He wished to conceal nothing, but wanted a fair and impartial inspection by the Government. If he turned to town schools, however, he found that the same thing was the case. He held in his hand a short extract from a valuable publication of the Statistical Society, who appointed a committee to inquire into the subject, which contained some information upon the point. That report stated—The mistresses of the common day-schools were sometimes young persons unable to go to service from ill health, or desirous of staying at home with a sick or aged parent, and glad to add something to their means of maintenance. Some, again, were mothers of large families; and, in all cases, even the most favourable, the female teachers had their own household work to attend to. A very large portion of the masters of common day-schools, and still more of middling day-schools, were men in distressed circumstances, or who had at some time or other failed in trade, and seemed to have taken up the profession of a schoolmaster as a last resource. Your Committee hardly ever entered for any length of time into conversation with the proprietor of a common or middling day-school, but he or she began to talk of having been in better circumstances, and of unforeseen difficulties.A question had been asked of the teacher in a dame's school with regard to the amount of remuneration which she received, and the amount of knowledge which she imparted, and her answer was, "It's 1060 little they pays us, and it's little we teaches them." Such as he had described being the state of education in the country, and such being the condition of the schoolmasters, how were the Government to meet the evil? By placing them (the schoolmasters) in a better condition than that which they at present occupy, making their situation more honourable, and giving them a corresponding advantage after several years spent in the service of the country, for it was truly in the service of the country. That was a portion of the plan which Her Majesty's Government proposed, and it was a plan in which, for his part, he could not see anything dangerous either to civil or to religious liberty. On the contrary, he thought that any one who read it, and carefully looked at the nature of the system proposed, must be surprised that any opposition should be given to so simple and liberal a proposition. They had indeed been told that in foreign countries the catechism which was used in the schools was of a nature that mixed up the principles of absolutism with the reverence due to the Creator: but what analogy, he would ask, was there between these foreign countries and free England? The freedom which existed in the press, which existed in the House of Commons, which existed in that very debate which was then proceeding, showed that there was not the slightest analogy between England and the countries which had been so alluded to. The danger of the system of using such catechisms in Austria or Russia was in this—that if any one thought to publish a catechism in which such principles of absolutism would be controverted, he might expect, if in Austria, a residence in the fortress of Spailberg; and if in Russia, a journey to Siberia. The doctrines of political economy had been brought forward in opposition to the plan of Her Majesty's Government; but he protested against the application of these principles to such a subject as education, for many reasons, amongst which was that in moral questions the very reverse took place of that which occurred in political economy, for often the greater the want the less the demand. They all knew the way in which petitions were often got up on questions of public interest; and he would remark that the system of getting up petitions had been pursued to a great length with respect to this education question. A Dissenting minister in his neighbourhood obtained the signatures of children down to 10 years of 1061 age to petitions against the plan proposed by the Government; and the House could judge of the language in which they described it, when he informed them that one clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Waite, said of the Established Church, that, "false in principle, unjust in character, trembling with age, she stood stained with the blood of her victims, and covered with the mantle of disrepute." What sympathies could there be in common between the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and the Rev. Mr. Waite? There could be none; if there were, the noble Lord would meet with more opposition from Members on his (the Opposition) side of the House than he had hitherto experienced. The British and Foreign School Society, which contained among its supporters Dissenters of nearly all denominations, had never repudiated the doctrine of State assistance in promoting education. But now the Church came forward, and, seeing the want of education, made a sacrifice (for a sacrifice he thought she had really made), the Dissenters discovered that State assistance in promoting education was wrong in principle. Between the two, he feared that, if Her Majesty's Ministers listened to both parties, there would never be good schools for the education of the people in this country. He did not wish to empty the chapels in order to fill the churches. There was ample scope for both the Church and Dissent, Let them both endeavour to reclaim these who went neither to the church nor to the chapel. These were the recruits and the converts whom they should hope to make. And at whose expense would such converts be made? At the expense of the Church, or of Dissent? No! but at the expense of gross immorality, of brutal ignorance, and of practical atheism. He offered his cordial support to the Government for their proposal, and thanked them for the manner in which they had brought it in.
§ Mr. AGLIONBY
felt it necessary to say a few words to the House in explanation of the vote which he intended to give, lest it might be misconstrued by some into an expression of opinion on his part unfavourable to the general spread of education. He thought the hon. Member for Dorsetshire had rather misinterpreted and misrepresented the feelings of hon. Members at his (Mr. Aglionby's) side of the House who were not in favour of the plan as it stood, but who deplored sincerely the evils which the plan was brought in with the view of removing. 1062 The question for them to consider was, whether the scheme proposed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government was the best calculated to meet these evils. A few mouths would show whether the Government had, in the intricate circumstances in which they were placed, taken the wisest and best course; but for his part, he could not see that at present so clearly as the supporters of the measure appeared to see it. He listened with pleasure and admiration to the eloquent speech of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh last night: his premises were true, and he perfectly agreed with them, but his conclusions from these premises he could not agree with; and the impressions left upon his mind after hearing that speech were more in accordance with the opinions entertained by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, who gave a most triumphant answer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh. No doubt existed as to the necessity for additional means of education; for although many persons of activity and perseverance had exerted themselves in furthering education by private aid, yet in many of the agricultural districts, as well as in many towns throughout the country, that anxiety on the part of private individuals to encourage education did not exist. In such cases be agreed with the right hon. Member for Edinburgh that the State ought to step in, for it was evident that private encouragement had not been sufficient to provide for education; and he also agreed with these who thought that this proposal of the Government was not brought forward with the intention of increasing the Government power and patronage; nor did be think there was contained in the plan anything unconstitutional, for in reality the question which they had to decide was, ought the State to provide for the education of all? That was the real question; and therefore he thought it would be worth while for the House to consider whether something like what was contained in the resolution of which notice had been given by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets might not be introduced into the plan of the Government. He thought that secular education ought to be extended to all classes of the community, and extended unaccompanied by any trammels which would be calculated to prevent the whole of the people from taking advantage of it; but by this plan the Roman Catholics were excluded, and so were the Jews, from the advantages to be derived 1063 from the aid of the State. He did not see why the Jews should be excluded from the plan; and although it was true that they might not avail themselves of those schools even if they were opened to them, yet that was no reason for our stamping them with the mark of exclusion. He could not support a plan which did not leave the schools open to all; and therefore, when he opposed the proposition of the Government, he trusted his vote would not be misconstrued into an opposition of education.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
was anxious to trouble the House with a few words to explain the grounds on which he would support the measure of Her Majesty's Government. He wished to call the attention of the House to the fact that those objections which had loaded the Table with petitions against the scheme, and which had brought gentlemen from all parts of the country to hold a sort of parliament in that metropolis, had, one after another, been abandoned by the hon. Members who had spoken within the walls of that House. The hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed them, had told them that he abandoned the objection grounded on the allegation that there was a sufficiency of education; and he had also abandoned the objection that the Government had adopted this scheme with a view to the extension of their patronage. When such objections as these were abandoned, he thought it was probable that a great portion of that excitement which had been encouraged throughout the country on this subject, would no longer continue to exist. He was glad to hear the admissions that it was the duty of the State to provide, so far as it was able, for the education of the people; that religion was an essential part of everything worthy of the name of education; that education did not consist in reading, writing, casting up accounts, and the use of the globes; and that real education consisted in the education of the moral man; and that to attempt to strip education of that which formed the moral man was a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. The State admitted that education, in order to be effectual, must be religious. Could the State, then, give the people a proper religious education? In this country, at least, the natural answer was, that it was impossible. It might be possible in a country where there was a general uniformity of opinion; but, in a country like this, where such unlimited freedom of opinion prevailed, and where opinions varied 1064 so materially on matters of religion, he believed that it would be utterly impossible for the State to undertake the religious education of the people. What, then, did the State do? It took the means the country itself had chosen, and it said, "We will adopt your plans, and we will assist you, on condition that you make your education, effectual." He thought this was a wise principle; and to his mind it appeared to be the only principle the Government of this country could adopt. It was on this ground that he valued the steps taken by the Government. He could not say that he was prepared to give his assent to every portion of their scheme; but he was prepared, without going into a minute criticism of words, to say that every regulation which had been provided by the Government was the wisest that, under the circumstances, could have been adopted. This was, indeed, part of the process that had been going on for the last fifteen years; they had been advancing step by step, feeling their way, endeavouring to do no harm, but to take care that every step they took should be in the right direction. He conceived that, in its main features, this measure was a step in the right direction. He did not say that the proposal to offer situations under Government to those who had been trained as schoolmasters, but who might not be fitted for such a position, was a judicious suggestion. He confessed that he thought it of doubtful propriety. He should also have been glad if some stipulation had been made, that where there was a single school only in the parish, the reading of the catechism, and the attendance of the scholars at the church, should not be enforced. It was very possible that it might be the wish of the Government not to make such a stipulation. They might desire to proceed upon the principle of taking things as they were, and of carrying with them the feelings of large and effective bodies, certain that by such a course much good must be accomplished, rather than to establish a scheme of their own, or to lay down new principles which they thought ought to be adopted. He would not say that the Government might not have been acting wisely and judiciously in pursuing such a course, and in avoiding fresh stipulations which might have induced parties to adopt certain principles with a view of obtaining Government support. He must confess, however, that he would have been glad to see such a principle as that to which he 1065 had alluded introduced, if not enforced; and he hoped the time would come when the Church would see that it was her highest interest—nay, her duty—to invite all those who chose to receive her teaching to resort to her schools, when she would invite those who would only receive a portion of her instruction, trusting to the inherent excellence of her principles, when properly displayed, but not enforced, upon the people. He believed that many of the points at issue among Protestants were often mere questions of verbal distinction, or criticism, or of scholastic theology, which, in practice, were almost entirely lost sight of; and that, in the practical teaching of religion, little difference would be found among them. He must not, however, be misunderstood, as imagining or recommending that schools should be established upon the principle of neutral religion. He believed nothing could be worse than that, because he was satisfied that a man would never teach religion heartily if he was not allowed to speak out. If a man was placed under fetters—if he was compelled to feel "I must not say this or that"—they would find practically that his teaching was cold and indifferent, and that the school would consequently soon fall into general negligence. But it had been said that this duty might be transferred to the teachers of religion—the clergy or ministers of the different denominations. He believed that was equally impossible, on account of the want of time, if there had been no other objection. In many cases clergymen whose stipends did not exceed 100l. or 150l. a year, had under their charge a population of from 5,000 to 10,000 persons; and it was physically impossible for them, in addition to all their other duties, to afford religious instruction day after day in the schools, of which there might be many in each district. He thought religion ought to be interwoven with every part of their education; he meant, that the man who taught should be a religious man, and that in his moral teaching he should always keep in view the principles of religion. Entertaining these opinions he certainly did hail the proposition now before Parliament as a very great step in advance, and he believed in a very good direction. He hoped the measure might be further extended hereafter, for, good as it was, it would not penetrate into all the remoter and humbler districts of the country. He considered that this proposal, so far from discouraging the voluntary principle, would 1066 rather afford a stimulus to it. Why, indeed, he might ask, had so much been done for the furtherance of education by the voluntary principle within the last few years? Had it been done without the assistance of the State? No; but in consequence of the assistance of the State. And if the assistance afforded by the State for the building of schools had quradrupled or quintupled the money advanced for that purpose by voluntary subscriptions, was it not likely that the proposal now made of affording assistance to masters, would be attended with the same result? He should be very sorry to say anything in depreciation of the voluntary system. He believed that it was a most essential feature in the English character and habits; and he considered that the scheme now proposed by the Government was well calculated to draw the voluntary system into action. The speech of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macaulay) had been so conclusive in reply to those who would exclude Government from any interest in education, who would shut up the action of Government to be the mere policemen of the country, that that branch of the subject required no observation from him; and he would therefore only say that he was desirous of bearing testimony to the merits of the scheme, and the honesty and impartiality of the Government.
§ MR. GISBORNE
would not charge the Government with inconsistency; for this measure was in accordance with the principles which they had hitherto professed, and which had received the sanction of the House. He would not say the measure was marked by great wisdom, nor would he say it was not; but this he would say, that it was marked by great moderation. He felt how much he needed the indulgence of the House, because he was going to state, as the grounds of the opinion at which he had arrived, principles which were characterized by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh as principles which could hardly be maintained by a reasonable being; and by the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, as principles which he hoped would never find their way into that House. He knew no scale by which to limit the duties of Government. There was no limit to those duties except the benefit to the country which would arise from their performance. It was not enough to say that certain things were opposed to the principles of free trade or of the voluntary system. The conveyance and distribution of letters 1067 was contrary to the principles of free trade; so was also the privilege of coining; but the people quietly submitted to these things, because it had been proved by long experience that Government could discharge those duties better than they could be discharged by the competition of private individuals. He, therefore, simply looked at the present question in this point of view, whether the Government could more effectually direct and control the education of the lower orders, than it could be done by other means; and, after mature and painful consideration, he had come to the conclusion, that, first from analogy, and second from experience, the interference of the Government would not be productive of good. He said that, in the first place, he had come to that conclusion on the ground of analogy. He had listened, as every man must have listened, to the speech of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, last night, with the greatest admiration; but it certainly appeared to him that there was not a syllable in that speech which would not have been equally applicable if the question had been the setting up of an Established Church instead of a Government system of education. [Mr. SEYMOUR: Hear!] He was very glad that the hon. Member assented to the position he had laid down, that all the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman last night would have been equally applicable had the question been that of a Church Establishment in the country. All the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman as to the low and degraded state of the population—all his exhortations—all his fervent descriptions—all his denunciations of the inadequacy of the voluntary system — would have been equally applicable in the one case as in the other. Not only was that the case, but the steps which would be taken in the establishment of a Church would be the same as were now taken by the Council of Education. In the first place, no doubt, there would have been a Council of Religion appointed, as there was now a Council of Education; and the first object of the Council would be directed to the building of places of worship, taking such religious instructors as they could find. Having got the instructors, the next step would be to appoint inspectors—episcopoi they would then be called. Having made that regulation, the next step would be that those episcopoi should give in reports similar to those that were now received from the school inspectors. [The House was here counted; but forty 1068 Members being present, Mr. Gisborne resumed, having, however, changed his position, in the interim, from the Ministerial to the Opposition side of the House.] They would probably receive such a report as had recently been received from the gentlemen who inspected what might be called the diocese of Northumberland, Durham, Lancashire, and part of Yorkshire, who stated, that while the schools built were capable of containing 15,000 children, the actual attendance was only 5,904. From another important diocese—that of Northampton, Warwick, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Staffordshire, Cheshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire—another inspector stated, that in ninety-four schools he found an attendance of 6,351 children, while they were capable of accommodating 11,147; so that the schools were only four-sevenths full. Then what would have been the conclusion drawn from these reports? Exactly that which had been drawn on the present occasion. The conclusion would have been, that more and better schools were wanted — that normal schools should be established, and more inspectors appointed; and following out the analogy in the case of a religious establishment, where the normal schools would assume the shape of universities, and where the inspectors would be in the shape of bishops to overlook the clergy. The other particulars of the machinery would be conducted in the same way. The same provision would be made for recommending young men who had distinguished themselves at the universities for their talent and proficiency, and for appointing them as clergymen after they had undergone an examination by the bishops. And now, coming out of the region of imagination into that of fact, had the Church of England answered the end of its appointment in the instruction of the poor? He found the answer to that question in the statement of the noble Lord last night, who deplored the desperate state of ignorance among thousands of his countrymen, who did not even know the name of God, their Creator, or of Christ, their Redeemer. The Church, therefore, had passed by the lower orders; it had passed by the working classes. Do not let them take this as his representation. Let them read the report of one of the inspectors, the Rev. Mr. Moseley, who said that it was not without regret that the poor could be induced to forsake the Church which was rendered sacred to them by many cherished associations; or that they 1069 sought the instruction of teachers, unauthorized indeed, but between whose minds and their own difference of education had not created an almost insuperable barrier; for it was obvious that the public instruction of the Church was too frequently unable to be comprehended by them. Mr. Kay, also, another great authority with the educationist said, the Roman Catholic Church clearly understood this truth, that in order to teach the poor effectually we must choose their teachers from among themselves. They had perceived from the first, with that sagacity which marked all their worldly policy, that to obtain men who would sympathize with the poor, and who would feel no disgust with that which was the greatest duty of a priest's life—the visitation of the meanest hovels—they must obtain their instructors from among the poor. In this country, where the clergy were so much separated from the poor, it became doubly important that the schoolmaster should become the connecting link between the clergyman and his flock. Now the conclusion which he would deduce from these extracts was, that a system of education—founded, as far as he could see, upon the same principles on which the Church Establishment was founded—was not likely to effect the object which the noble Lord sought to accomplish. He came to the same conclusion from all the experience they had been able to obtain. They had already had assistance given to education for the space of thirteen years; and he should be sorry if any one were to take the results from any statement of his, but he would refer them to the reports of the inspectors. The Rev. Mr. Moseley said, he could hardly believe on any other experience than his own that there could be hundreds of children, not of the class that were described by the chaplain of the Preston gaol, but of the highest classes in the national schools, who were incapable of telling the name of the country they lived in, or who attached any definite idea to the question. Some of them did not know the name of Her Majesty; others thought that the Queen of England was also Queen of France, and that England was a part of Africa. When asked how they would travel to go to Scotland, they said south; and they believed that the language of the Scotch was unintelligible. And yet these same children had a pretty good notion of Scripture subjects, and could read with ease. The Rev. Mr. Watkins said that the children in one school, on being asked 1070 who wrote the Bible, answered Moses; and being asked who collected the Bible into one book, they answered Gomorrah. He thought, therefore, that experience did not lead him to the conclusion either that the Government interference with education had been beneficial, or that it was likely to be so in future. But, then, they were constantly told how well the system had worked on the Continent. Mr. Joseph Kay, who was a travelling bachelor of arts, belonging to the University of Cambridge, had visited Switzerland, and had described the admirable system of education pursued there. When he (Mr. Gisborne) read those glowing accounts, he was induced to hope that they might look for beneficial results. But Mr. Kay indignantly repudiated the idea of expecting any results. He said that the development of the education of the people in France and in Switzerland was of too recent date to allow any one to speak of results, for the real education of the country dated only from 1833; and that it was not in less than seventy or eighty years before you could look for any beneficial results. Now, whether this reasoning were good or not, at all events it proved this, by Mr. Kay's own admission, that there had been no beneficial moral results yet arising out of the system pursued in France and Switzerland. Mr. Kay elsewhere said, that he had not visited Prussia or the other German States, and that, therefore he could only give an analysis of the reports of Cousin and other travellers as to the working of the system there. But there was one who had travelled in Prussia, of whom Mr. Kay had taken no notice, though he was bound to do so—he meant Mr. Samuel Laing, well known in the literary world for his Notes of Travel in Norway, and other works. Mr. Laing commenced by giving great credit to the educational system of Prussia, which he described as a master-piece of human wisdom; but, notwithstanding, he said the people were not more moral, nor enlightened, nor religious, nor free. Now, if the ultimate object of education was to raise men in the feeling of their moral worth—in their responsibility to their Creator for every act of their lives—then the Prussian system must be considered a failure. He dwelt the more upon this, because he remembered that, some years ago, the Prussian system was constantly dinned into their ears by hon. Members of that House, and its effects were described in making the Prussians the most orderly, 1071 the most moral, and the most peaceable subjects of Europe. But Mr. Laing gave a very different account of the matter. He said, of all the relative virtues, that which was the most undoubted index to a high scale of morals, was female chastity, and there was less of that in Prussia than in any other part of Europe, the number of females in Prussia between sixteen and forty—that was, of a child bearing age—was 2,000,903, while the number of illegitimate children born in Prussia in one year was 39,501. Prince Puckler Muskau stated that the character of the Prussians for honesty was lower than that of any other part of the German population. Then with regard to the influence of the Prussian system of education in religion, it might be enough to state that a total change in the religious system of the country had lately been made, and that that change scarcely met with any resistance from any part of the population. He concluded, therefore, that the Prussian system of education had not been productive of national benefits—that it had not been productive of that which alone was beneficial in education—the moral improvement of the people. He came next to the arguments which the right hon. Member for Edinburgh had drawn from the diffusion of education amongst the Scotch; and he was sorry that he should be obliged to make a very serious deduction from his eulogium. It might appear to be very invidious for him to meet the descendant of Olaius Magnus on his native heath; but he believed he had seen more of the right hon. Gentleman's countrymen than he had seen himself, for it was his habit, twice a year, to pass from Manchester and Liverpool to Greenock and Glasgow, and to spend a week at each of these two places; and from the specimens he had seen there he could not say that the Scotch had derived much benefit from their national education, either in their appearance, or manners, or anything else. He had seen places in those two towns in which he would be as loth to trust himself as in any place in Manchester or Liverpool; and if he were to pursue this matter further, and take an ordinary Scotch village, partly agricultural and partly manufacturing, and take a village of the same class in England, he believed the verdict of any impartial foreigner would be in favour of the English, as being superior in their dwellings, superior in the cleanliness of their persons, and superior in sobriety. He admitted that they would 1072 not be such good religious controversialists. He had also been in the habit of spending some weeks in every year in a Highland glen, where there was a row of houses approaching to a village; and he had no hesitation in saying that these Highlanders were a mere set of barbarians in comparison to the honest but ignorant workmen he employed in England. He had seen their letters, written both to him and to each other, and they certainly displayed beautiful penmanship, accuracy of expression, and unexceptionable orthography. Yet these were men when he left the glen he had heard it both from the clergyman and others, who said, "As soon as you are off, and as long as their money lasts, it is not that this man is drunk or that man is drunk, but the whole glen is drunk." He had some time since had occasion to inquire of persons in that neighbourhood whether there were any of them particularly in want, and the answer he received from a trusty English helper he employed there was, that there was no one more in want than his own personal attendant, Donald. He (Mr. Gisborne) was surprised at this, knowing that he received good wages, and that he had other advantages; but he was told, in reply, that he was drunk perpetually; that for fifteen or sixteen Sundays in succession the helper had seen him hopelessly drunk. Having received this account, the next time he met him he said, "Donald, I am afraid you are a sad fellow; they tell me you are perpetually drunk." The man at first gave him an evasive answer; but, on being pressed, he said he seldom got drunk except on Sundays, and a bit at Yule (that was Christmas), or the new year. They were capital readers and writers, and were capable of a good deal of arithmetic, but they were a perfect set of barbarians. That was the real character of the Scotch people; but their religious education had not been neglected, and they were great controversial divines. He knew a clergyman in one parish, to whose sermons he had often listened with great pleasure, but who had not felt it his duty to join the Free Church; all his congregation, knowing enough of divinity to judge of the qualifications of their minister, had deserted the Church; and the poor man had left the parish almost broken-hearted. He, therefore, from his own experience of that country, must make some deductions from the glowing account of it given by the right hon. Gentleman 1073 the Member for Edinburgh; and he would not appeal to statistics in support of that position, because he had too much experience in that House of the fallacious results which might be drawn from them. He wished the right hon. Gentleman had been in his place, because he had to complain of him, especially for one part of his speech last night. He (Mr. Gisborne) had been perfectly horrified by the ingratitude exhibited by the hon. Member in the manner in which he had spoken of the Nottingham riots, and the other riots which carried the Reform Bill. From the ample vocabulary of the right hon. Gentleman, he appeared to have selected the very worst words to apply to those who had assisted them in carrying the Reform Bill. [Mr. PROTHEROE, as Member for Bristol at the time, must say that the rioters there were not, generally speaking, voters.] But it could not be denied that they did assist in carrying the Reform Bill. However, to return to the subject at present before the House, he must say that, judging from experience here and in foreign countries, he was not led to believe that the Government could beneficially or effectually direct national education. He believed he might say, that for a Government to undertake anything like a complete system of national education was a perfectly impracticable attempt, and he disagreed entirely from the hon. and learned Member for Bath, that they would be more likely to succeed if they confined themselves to secular education. Mere secular education he was convinced that they could not have; and the combined system of education they had tried and failed. Then this system was founded on the principle of educating all the people; but the Government could not educate all. They were obliged to leave, out the Catholics and Jews; they could not, it was certain, with any chance of carrying their measure, propose to include them in their educational scheme. They might, therefore, tax all, but they could not educate all. He freely admitted that the Church of England did educate sufficiently the higher classes and the middling classes of society to some extent. She gave them that orderly and formal liturgy which suited their tone of feeling; she was animated by a degree of fervour which corresponded with their own, and the liturgy was in fact a very faithful re-script of the religious condition of her followers: but he held it to be undeniable that the Church of England did not educate 1074 the lower classes. The Wesleyan Methodists and the Catholics were the real religious instructors of the lower orders. He knew that he should then be asked, whether he was willing to rely on the voluntary principle, and he admitted the difficulty of answering the question; but he would say that he placed more reliance on the voluntary principle than on the efforts of Government. If Mr. Kay's estimate were correct—that for seventy years they were not to look for any great benefits from this system of national education—he, for one, looking to the great progress which had been already made, and recollecting the ignorance of their ancestors, within a less period than that assigned by Mr. Kay, did not despair of very beneficial results arising from the voluntary system. He had already explained the grounds upon which he should vote; and although he had not any very favourable opinion of the Committee for which his hon. Friend had moved, he took that Motion as an opportunity of recording his opinion on the general subject of a national system of education; and he thanked the House for the indulgence with which they had listened to him.
§ MR. BORTHWICK
said, that the hon. Member who had just spoken, had, in the course of his speech, changed both his place and his argument. After an exordium of great clearness and abundant point, he had come from the opposite side of the House, and had produced a sequel sufficiently confused and illogical, in which he had completely upset all the propositions which he had put forth on the other side of the House. The hon. Member had said that he would oppose the measure by conclusions drawn from experience, and by conclusions drawn from analogy; but he had had great difficulty in distinguishing between the analogical and the experimental part of the hon. Gentleman's speech. The hon. Gentleman had said, that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh would have been as good an argument for an Established Church as for a system of national education; and he had expected that the hon. Member was about to draw some conclusion by analogy from that observation; but he waited in vain; the conclusion never came, any more than the expected benefits had come from the voluntary system. But then the hon. Gentleman went to the experimental part of his speech, and he said that he was entitled to make 1075 deductions from the credit of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, because he had had an experience of three entire weeks of every year in Greenock and Glasgow. ["No, no!"] Well, then, the hon. Member passed through Greenock and Glasgow to the Highlands in company with a gentleman of the name of Donald, who carried a gun, and the hon. Member complained that Donald was always drunk on Sundays at the Yule season, and at the new year; and he also complained that in passing through he had seen places in which he would not be willing to trust himself, though from the latter part of his speech they might infer that he would not be unwilling to trust himself with the enlightened citizens of Bristol who carried the Reform Bill. The hon. Member had defended the citizens of Bristol who destroyed their city; and he had found fault with Donald, because, he supposed, Donald only carried the gun; but the citizens carried the Reform Bill. The hon. Member, however, had condemned the moral character of the people of Scotland. ["No, no!"] Surely the hon. Member had declared that the people of Scotland were good theological controversialists; but that they were not so clean in their persons, tidy in their habits, or in all moral and educational respects equal to the English. ["No, no!"] Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh was right, and he must take leave to say, that the hon. Member had mistaken the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had compared Scotland with Scotland — not Scotland with England. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that at one period of her history, when she had no national education, she was a by-word amongst the nations of the earth, but that in the course of time national education began, and that, by force and in consequence of that national education, she had raised herself to the position which he claimed for her amongst the people of the world; and the hon. Member might have shaken that argument if he had told them that when he went into the Highlands with Donald and his gun, he had found the massacre of Glencoe, although he had left behind him the riots of Bristol. Then the hon. Member had said, that in Prussia, and throughout a great part of Germany, morals were at a low ebb; and if so, wanted by that example, the Government were now endeavouring to avoid that evil, by combining, as far as possible, the religious 1076 with the secular education of the people. Now, that brought him to the objection, that the Roman Catholics and the Jews were excluded from the benefits of this grant, and to the observations of the hon. Member, that, because they were excluded, therefore the grant ought not to be made at all. He had thought that the hon. Member was a philosopher, and that he reasoned from the book of theories; but he was sure that the hon. Member would find it laid down in all the authorities, and denied by none, that the business of a Government was to study how they could do the most good for the greatest number; and, therefore, when they excluded the Roman Catholics and the Jews, he would ask whether they excluded the great majority of the people, or whether the scheme, which included all but them, did not embrace the vast majority of the people; and if so, then the system did provide for the nation the best system of education which it was possible for the Government to give. He had ventured to make these remarks on the speech of the hon. Member who preceded him; but he had risen for the purpose of expressing shortly the grounds upon which he should vote in support of the Government. There was beyond all doubt an admitted evil of vast importance. The realm of ignorance and crime, which the noble Lord the Member for London had declared his intention of invading, was admitted by the hon. Member for Finsbury to be large indeed; but the difference between the two was this, that the noble Lord proposed a definite scheme for the remedy of this great evil, and the hon. Member for Finsbury proposed only an indefinite postponement of all schemes. The noble Lord proposed certain means for accomplishing that object—means which he confessed might, in his opinion, have been more efficient; but, such as they were, he, as a representative of the people, felt it to be his duty to take the good and reject the evil. The speech of the noble Lord the Member for London was worthy of the best times of English statesmen—it was able, it was bold, and comprehensive; and he must say that he liked the noble Lord's speech better than his measure. He wished that the measure had been as extensive and bold and liberal as the speech. He knew that he ran some risk by making the declaration. But he acknowledged that he was one of those who thought that, as none ought to be, so none need be, excluded from a system of national education. The 1077 noble Lord opposite (Lord Arundel and Surrey) proposed to extinguish Protestantism by the force of reason and the growth of intelligence; and if by such means his object was to be accomplished, he, as a Member of the Anglican Catholic Church, would be proud to follow him, having the utmost confidence that the spread of intelligence and reason would lead to the perfect establishment of the Anglican Catholic Church, and would, at all events, help to soften that spirit of mutual bitterness in which religious discussions were now carried on. It would seem as though the very first principle of their religion, upon which they all agreed, had been completely forgotten; for, differing as they did in everything else, they seemed to be unanimous in renouncing everything in the shape of Christian charity. Every one believed that all who were not with them were against the great God, who had taught the duty of charity to all; and they were all ready to lift their voices and smite with their tiny curse the image of God in their brother man. He did not complain that there had been any peculiar bitterness in the opposition to this measure; and he owned that he wished he could find less of it in some of those who defended the scheme. His conviction was, that in producing the present state of non-education, the Church had to bear no small share of blame. He knew it was the fashion to say that the Nonconformists had done good by creating a spirit of rivalry in the Church; but the spirit of the Nonconformists was to teach by means of preaching. The spirit of the Church was to teach by means of catechising; and the consequence of a system of rivalry was to introduce into the Church eloquent appeals, instead of catechistical instruction. The Rubric ordered that the children of each congregation should be examined every week before the congregation in the Church Catechism, and that they should be taught to say the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments. Now, let it not be supposed that he was advocating any particular system of doctrine—either that which was called Puseyite, or that which was called Low Church; but what he contended for was this, that it was the duty of every clergyman, whether Puseyite or Low Churchman, to convey such doctrines as he believed the Church to teach by the means which the Church appointed to the minds of the poor members of his congregation; and he said that that duty had been neglected 1078 ever since the Nonconformists arose. It seemed to him that in that discussion al-parties had very much forgotten the true meaning of education. At one time, one party would consider it to be the development of the religious part of man's faculties; and at another, when it suited their purpose, they would consider it the development of the secular powers of his mind; but it was seldom argued that education, to be sound, was the formation of the moral character of the mind of man. Reading and writing, the knowledge of the great sciences, were but great instruments in his hand, which might be turned to good or evil according to the inclination of his mind. The first care of the State, therefore, was that the bent of men's minds should be rightly directed; and then any instrument might be put into their hands, in the confidence that they would be used for his own good and the benefit of the State The Government, in his opinion, would have done better if they had given to the machinery of the Church the wholesome sphere of action which belonged to its constitutional right, before they interfered at all with secular education. This machinery had been neglected for centuries; the Church was the only corporation in the kingdom which had no assembly for the purpose of regulating its own affairs, because it had suited successive Governments to add to their power by creating and disposing of the principal offices of the Church. Hence the meetings in convocation of the Church, which took place at the beginning of every Parliament, were dissolved immediately on their assembling, it being taken for granted that there was no business for the Church to do. No business for the Church to do! And yet the people in large masses did not even know the name of the Saviour, and were ignorant who wrote the Bible, and by whose authority it was delivered to mankind. Nothing for the Church to do! And yet it was the common talk—he would not say slang—in that House, that the Church, in its higher orders at least, was supine and indolent. They had closed the mouth of the Church, and then complained of her silence. Ten years ago he had tried to bring this subject under the attention of the Government, and he had failed; but he trusted that the hint which he had thrown out, though coming from a very humble quarter, would not on that account be altogether thrown away. The religious constitution of a country, like the religious constitution of man, was the most important 1079 part of it; and the Government abandoned part of its functions when it neglected that subject. With regard to those who objected to the Government measure, on what ground did their objections rest? The hon. Member for Finsbury had been so completely answered prospectively by the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, and retrospectively by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, that it would be idle to attempt to add anything; but perhaps it was a sufficient answer to the petitioners, who had presented their petitions against this scheme, that those petitions were directly opposed to the prayers of the same petitioners many years before; and what, after all, was the practical objection? It came to this, that because they did not shape their instruction in a particular form which would suit everybody, therefore they should not educate the people at all; that it was better that the people should remain ignorant of their duty to God, to their Sovereign, and to each other, than that they should learn anything taken out of the Book of Common Prayer. When Bishop Bull was called upon to perform the rites of baptism in the family of a Nonconformist, where the liturgy of the Church was proscribed, he performed the rite in the usual manner; and at its conclusion the Nonconformist said, "I wonder much, Master Bull, that a man of such acknowledged piety and such profound learning should be a partisan of that mass of blasphemy which is contained in the liturgy of the Church; for if you had but omitted the sign of the cross I can conceive nothing more perfect." The answer was, "I recollected it as I read it from the book." So he ventured to say that if Her Majesty's Government would, amongst the many commissions they were appointing, appoint one to inquire into the number of persons who, having objected in their petitions to the Church catechism, had read that catechism, he ventured to say that the return would be expressed in the word "nil." He objected to any difference being made between the Wesleyans and the Catholics in the matter of grants; but whilst this sentiment might be popular for him as an independent Member of that House to utter, still he was bound to allow that there was a great difference between his position and that of Her Majesty's Ministers. These Ministers had to contend with many difficulties; and they had brought forward the present modified measure under the belief that it was the 1080 only one they could carry through the House. His conviction was that it would have been better had Her Majesty's Ministers brought forward the measure in all its breadth and fulness, and if they failed to carry it, the responsibility would rest with its opponents; and it was possible that after these persons had seen the consequences of their resistance, they would consent to the passing of the greater measure. The hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Gisborne) had argued from the beginning to the end of his speech in favour of the voluntary principle; but his answer would be that the voluntary principle had not succeeded. He earnestly trusted that Her Majesty's Government would be able to carry the measure, not by a trifling majority, but by such a majority as would show to the country that, while the House had taken into careful, anxious, and impartial consideration all the arguments which had been adduced against the measure, both within and without the House, it was determined, as far as in it lay, that the frightful state of ignorance, and vice, and crime which prevailed in the country should no longer continue; that steps should be taken for the establishment of a better order of things; that an education should be given which did not consist merely in reading, writing, and easting accounts, but would embrace the larger and more momentous concerns of religion and morality, and the formation of good and virtuous character.
§ VISCOUNT MORPETH
After the very full exposition which this question received at the commencement of the discussion, beside the many forcible illustrations which it has received subsequently during the progress of it, I should have thought it unnecessary to make any remarks upon it; I certainly should have consider myself inexcusable to make any lengthened observations in defending the vote I am about to give; but, as a Member of the Government—as a Member of the obnoxious Council of Education—as one who has always taken an anxious part on the question of education—and, above all, as one who is in the painful condition of being separated in opinion from many of those with whom I have heretofore acted—I trust I shall be allowed to offer a few observations to the House on this subject. Indeed, I want the consciousness and assurance of a good cause to sustain me on this occasion; for not only with respect to the petitions which have been presented, an immense 1081 preponderance of which is against the course I propose to take, not on account of these alone, or of anything which can be represented by the mere number of voices and votes, but besides all these considerations, I feel that there are many, very many with whom the habit and pleasure of agreeing, and the novelty and pain of differing, make me feel—as I trust they feel, but I am sure I myself feel—that the sentiments and the regrets which I experience on the present occasion, can be estimated by no common measure. What is it that leads me and strengthens me to the encounter with such adversaries? It is the conviction that the different parties or denominations opposed to this scheme are fighting this whole battle on a lower ground and with weapons of a coarser temper than the nature of the case requires; that they are too intent on the question of chapels, meeting-houses, tabernacles, and conventicles, and too careless as to the condition of the flock which attends each. It is like battling for the armour of a champion, without seeing whether there is yet life in the body. The doctrines maintained in so many of the petitions which have been presented, that the State has no right to interfere with the education of the people, has found but a faint echo within the walls of Parliament. It has been hinted at by the Member for Nottingham, who certainly inveighed strongly against the system of education adopted in Prussia and in Scotland. It is true, as the hon. Gentleman stated, that Mr. Laing gives an unfavourable account of education in Prussia; but I am bound to say, that the majority of the writers and travellers who have visited that country give a favourable opinion of the system of education there; and I hope we have come to the period when it can no longer be cast as a stigma upon the Prussians, that they are wanting in the characteristics of a free people. As I was not born on the other side of the border, I do not consider it incumbent on me to take up the quarrels of a people who are never backward in making good their own case. The hon. Gentleman has told us that the Highlanders of Scotland are a nation of savages. I must say, that for savages, he has given a rather classical account of them, for he says, that he had as a personal attendant one of them called Donald Bane, who always got drunk on Sundays and holidays. Nothing could be then more applicable than the description—Ipse dies agitat festos—1082 (alluding of course to the holidays and Sundays;)—"fususque per herbam,(as poor Donald no doubt discovered himself),Ignis ubi in medio (for it was at Christmas) et socii cratera coronant,Te libans Lenæa, vocat.I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman should have lighted on so profligate a personal attendant. I must say, I take a very different view from the hon. Member for Nottingham of the effect which the Bristol riots had in securing the ultimate success of the Reform Bill. But, whether the hon. Member for Nottingham be right or wrong in attributing the success of the Reform Bill to these riots, at all events I do not wish to abstain from endeavouring to bring the machinery of the State to bear on the education of the people for the sake of keeping of such national ebullitions as these. That hon. Member is the only one who has taken up the ground of denying the right of Parliament to educate the people. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment (Mr. Duncombe) scarcely took up that ground. The hon. Member for Bath distinctly repudiated it. I am not sure that he was perfectly just to Her Majesty's Government. He blamed them for not going much further than they did in promoting the general education of the people; but he had the candour to treat with no more than the consideration it deserved the bugbear that this measure would have the effect of unduly increasing the influence of the Crown and the patronage of the State. For myself, I must say that I never heard anything more preposterous than the allegation that the pensioning of a few deserving schoolmasters, the rewarding and paying more liberally a class of men who are at present not too well remunerated, and the rewarding of a few schoolboys, could ever be turned to the dark and insidious engine of corruption which those who have petitioned against the scheme are disposed to consider it. But the hon. Member for Bath thought that we might have introduced a more effective scheme, and one much less sectarian in its principle and tendencies. Now I am not sure that, so far as my own opinion is concerned, that I very much differ from the opinion he laid down. But what was our option? There were, as usual, "three courses to be pursued." We might have an exclusive scheme. We might have favoured one particular method 1083 of religious teaching; and, probably, if we had adopted one method, it would have been that taught and inculcated by the Established Church of this country. To no such scheme could I have been a party. We might have taken a uniform scheme, in which we might have prescribed the same course to all alike, without adverting to the existing methods, and without adopting any special method of religious teaching; but I believe in my conscience that such a plan would not have met with the consent either of Parliament or of the people. Well, then, besides the exclusive and uniform schemes, there was the co-operative scheme, which builds on what it finds, and which associates itself with the voluntary efforts of the people themselves; and because, first, it is the only one in our power to adopt; and because, next, it is capable of doing great and effective good, although it is more imperfect than we could wish, we are willing to adopt it, and work it as well and as fairly as we can. But, though this cannot be called an exclusive scheme, we have been taunted with an adherence to the authorized version of the Scriptures. I could not hear without some emotion the speech of my noble Friend and kinsman the Member for Arundel (the Earl of Arundel and Surrey); but what was the position of the Privy Council—at least, I speak for myself—with respect to Catholics? When I became a Member of the Committee of the Privy Council, I found certain principles and proceedings laid down and established. It is proposed in the present Minutes in some degree to enlarge and fill them up, but without altering their framework. These modifications have been submitted to you in the late Minutes laid upon your Table; and when any fresh change is intended, I think it will be right to give fair notice to Parliament. Now, I think, that the sanction of the Douay version of the Scriptures, and the admission of Catholics to the benefit of this scheme, would be a change of such importance as to warrant a distinct notice to Parliament; and it is somewhat curious that many of those who are most inclined to complain of the arbitrary power and discretion vested in the Privy Council are also the same parties who complain most that we have not resolved on further changes without any formal record and without distinct notification. But with respect to Catholic applications, I doubt whether they have ever assumed a distinct form. I am ignorant, indeed, whether 1084 the Catholic hierarchy are willing to admit our inspection as a matter of absolute necessity. But having said all this, I must, in justice to myself and in candour to others, add, that of no Committee which refused on principle to admit Catholic applications because they are Catholics could I continue a member. I will not enter at this period into the discussion between rival tables of statistics. I think that even those who make them out favourable to the maintenance of voluntary education, show that there are a large and lamentable number of young persons without education and without the means of education. Whether we take the highest rate or the lowest, I think they show a sad deficiency, and they make out a case for applying a remedy as energetically and perseveringly as we can. Without going into any long details, I beg to read a few extracts from, a document I have lately received from a gentleman who has lately been instituting inquiries into the state of education in Bradford, in Yorkshire. I need not say that this is an important and populous district, and that it supplies as favourable an instance as can be given of the state of education, for the voluntaries have put forward great efforts there on behalf of the cause, and I know that they have some schools which can hardly be rivalled by the Church. Well, this document which I have received states that—"the parish of Bradford consists of 13 townships; its present population, 119,681; and its public schools, 40; its private schools, 111; the day scholars in public schools, 4,287; in private schools, 3,739; in Sunday schools, 19,079.Now, I imagine that voluntary exertions in the district have gone a great way to supply more especially the Sunday-school education of this district. But I hold that Sunday-school education ought not to be considered satisfactory. In the first place, it is inadequate and incomplete; and, in the second place, it forces upon the children the necessity of breaking in upon the repose of the Sabbath to acquire the ordinary branches of learning, which ought to be inculcated on the other days of the week. This document also states—That of these day-schools 23 have both master and mistress, 7 have a master and an occasional mistress, 46 have masters only, 70 have mistresses only, and 1 only not in use, being 147 in all; and only 3 of these are endowed, not more than 10 have annual salaries, independent of the pence of the children; and the charges for education range from 1d. to 1½d. per week. Allowing for another public school, there are, therefore, in 1085 Bradford 1 public school to every 1,100 houses and to every 5,610 of the population; and, allowing 100 scholars for that school, then 1 in every 43 is at a public school, and 1 in 16 at day-schools, and 1 in less than 5 attending Sunday-schools.It is here stated that the ordinary charges for education at these schools is from 1d. to 1½d. per week; but I find that the best national schools require a payment of from 2d. to 8d. per week—a sum far beyond the reach of the working classes; and which, especially in times of pressure, would oblige them to withdraw their children. I hope that the effect of the Minutes will be to give an independent assistance without requiring too expensive contributions from the children, so as to insure a tuition so regular and cheap as to permit at all times the children of the poorest of the working classes to resort to such schools. But I will not dwell any longer upon the deficient quantity of the school education in England; because I know that the very success of the argument only makes us ashamed of not doing more; and I think that the fact of 40 out of 100 only being able to road in England, while 99 out of 100 are able to read in Massachusetts, gives us reason to blush that Old England should fall so short of New England. But, now, with respect to the quality of the education. I think that in this respect we shall be able to effect a vast deal of good by the Minutes of Council. With respect to the quality of education in the same district to which I have referred, I find it stated in the report of the factory inspectors in 1843, that—The education of these children is in an overwhelming majority of cases altogether useless, and a pure mockery of the poor.In a document in my hand I find it stated that there was—One national school built at Allerton by the Church Establishment, by a Government grant. It has been unoccupied for some years, is going fast to ruins, the windows being all broken, and part of them completely out; it has become the dwelling of gypsies.In another case it is stated that—The school has been built about three years: master and mistress dependent on the pence of the children for their weekly income. There are no other funds; school is under inspection.In another case there is—A master, but no mistress: 70 children, and nothing but their pence for his maintenance; pays the rent of the school himself. There are 12 girls. He teaches on a system of his own. Has never been trained.Another school has been built about eleven years. The master had been trained, the mistress not. The master made about 1086 17s. a week, the mistress about 12s. This school had for a long time been in great difficulties. Another school had been built four years. The master and mistress were both trained. For some time it was stated to have had only an occasional mistress, but that was found not to answer. The annual income was 120l. Funds were derived from the pence of the children which fluctuated very much. If the attendance of the children was to diminish, there would be no funds to fall back upon. I do not feel that I am called on to add any thing to what has already been stated as to worldly position of the schoolmaster in this country; but I must say that his is an extremely discouraging position, and that there is an urgent necessity for giving him a better standing with those in the midst of whom he lives and discharges important functions. I will only add to that what has been said by my noble Friend with respect to the connexion of crime with want of education a few facts, in stating which I will confine myself in that respect to the district of the country in which I dwell, and with which I am politically connected. In the West Biding of Yorkshire, in 1846, there were committed to the sessions 417 prisoners, of whom only 3 could read well; 120 could read; 145 could read imperfectly; 149 not at all. The calendar for the last assizes at York contained 66 prisoners, of whom none could read well; 10 could read; 34 could read imperfectly; and 22 not at all. In Leeds—in which borough I must say, without disparagement to other places, the efforts of those who have adopted these views have been most energetic against the Government scheme—there were committed within the year 212 prisoners, of whom 6 could read well; 73 could read; 61 could read imperfectly; 74 not at all; and the cost of all the incidentals of the punishment of crime in that borough last year was:—
My correspondent adds, with perfect reasonableness, that as there were at the last census 31,626 houses in the borough, and as the rate of increase in six years was about one-ninth of the whole, there will 1087 be now about 35,140 houses, which gives the annual cost per house of the punishment of crime within the borough at 10s. 8d.; and he asks, would it cost the borough 10s. 8d. per house in direct taxation to educate their people rather than punish them? and if it cost as much, how great a tax of tears would it save! Much has been said out of doors against State education, on the score of the kind of training it will give to the young, so as to adapt their minds, as it were, to the groove to which the State wishes them to run. When I consider the great variety of disputes, and the succession of differences in religion ever since the foundation of Christianity, whether between Arians and Athanasians, Augustinians and Pelagians, or, at a later period, between Catholics and Protestants, Jesuits and Jansenists, Calvinists and Lutherans, Evangelicals and Puseyites, High-churchmen and Low-churchmen, I sometimes am almost tempted to wish that we could see the experiment tried, what course a young person of fair intellect, and without prepossession from within, or bias from without—would take, and what decision he or she would come to, when the judgment was duly informed on the different questions subsisting between some of the different sects I have enumerated. But there are unhappily too many counter-influences of evil acting on the human heart to enable us to make this experiment. Few parents would consent to it, and no community would prescribe it; but I have yet to learn that the minds and intellects of the youthful population are not liable to be as much influenced, and put into the groove, by the voluntaries who teach these several catechisms, by the leaders of Independent and Baptist communities, as by the admirer of regulations as uniform as those of Prussia. In our case the State officer is not permitted to interfere; and, as it seems to me, the danger, therefore, is purely imaginary. I believe that the teaching of the State, as far as it went, would often be found less cramped and confined than that of its narrow and unreasoning censors. I have already adverted to the painful differences that on this question separate me from many of those with whom hitherto I have been most pleased and proud to act; but in addition to any individual concern I may feel, I own that I cannot but regret that the old Protestant Dissenting denominations of England, associated with so much that is precious in our common history, have committed themselves 1088 to the path upon which they have entered. I regret it, because I believe the cause they have refused to sanction, and so resolutely oppose, is emphatically the cause of the working men and working women of this country. I regret it, because I believe it is the only means at our disposal for largely contributing to the education of the poor. I regret it for myself, because I shall miss the encouragement and companionship I have hitherto enjoyed in a political connexion of some duration, and to which I have grown accustomed. But I regret it more for their own sakes, because I confidently, though not arrogantly, believe them to be wrong, and that in the end they will surely fail.
£. s. d. Constabulary force 6,678 10 10 Quarter-sessions 2,812 5 11 Maintenance of prisoners 5,053 0 2 York assizes 1,945 10 6 Recorder 200 0 0 Gaoler 237 5 6 Annual interest on 40,000l. borrowed for gaol 2,000 0 0 £18,926 12 11
§ MR. BRIGHT
In rising to offer a few observations on this most interesting question, I am sensible that I have to defend men and principles which are not popular in this assembly. Nevertheless, being myself one of the Nonconformist body of this country, and being by birth, education, observation, and conviction, fully established in the opinions I hold, I am bound, though it may be in opposition to a Government sitting on the same side of the House as myself, to protest against the policy and principles now offered for the adoption of the House. I listened with pleased attention to the speech of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh; and I read with due respect that of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I admit the ability of those speeches; but there is nothing in which that ability is more displayed than in the skill with which they have evaded the question really in dispute between the Dissenting bodies and the Government by which this scheme of education is proposed. It is not the question before the House, in the scheme proposed, or in the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury, whether the State has any right or power to interfere with education in this country; it is not the question whether it should be secular education they have a right to interfere in. The question is this: these Minutes that are before us, their object, their tendency, and the effect they will produce upon the position of the Establised Church and the Dissenting bodies in the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh spent three-fourths of the time he was on his legs in proving that the State has the power and the right, and that it is the duty of the State, to see to the education of its subjects. Judging from his speech, it was one of the simplest things imaginable; 1089 the proposition appeared to be so clear that he was astonished any one should doubt it; and with the right hon. Gentleman's opinions I was astonished he should take so much pains to enforce it. But if it be so clear a proposition that Government has the plain right to educate its subjects, it is somewhat extraordinary that by any of all the eminent statesmen we have had in this country for some generations past, there has never been any bold and determined attempt to interfere with the education of the common people of England and Wales. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to me to prove too much. He tried to prove that it was the duty of the Government to educate the people; but if it be the duty of the Government thus to educate them, it must be the duty of the Government to enforce education. I do not know where the line can be drawn. If it be its solemn duty to afford opportunity for education, and see that all the people be educated, it appears to me we must come inevitably to the conclusion that Government has the power, and that it is also its right and its duty to enforce education on all the people subject to its rule. The noble Lord at the head of the Government objected to the Dissenters that they had supported the Committee of Privy Council in 1839, whilst they opposed it in 1847; that they were then in favour of this interference, and are now opposed to it. I admit that many, or at any rate some, of the Dissenters were in favour of it eight years ago. But we have had some experience from 1839 to 1847. At that time the Dissenters regarded the institution of the Committee of Privy Council as a step leading away from that power which the Church of England wished to usurp, of educating the whole people; and the Dissenters hoped we were on the road at last to overcome these pretensions which the Church of England had so long asserted, that she was called upon and bound to undertake the business of education, and that she ought to be entrusted with the education of the people. But from 1839 to this year we have found no step taken by the Government which has not had for its tendency the aggrandizement of the Established Church. In 1839 the noble Lord proposed a scheme which, from the opposition of the Established Church and the Wesleyans, was withdrawn. In 1843, the right hon. Baronet the late Secretary for the Home Department (Sir James Graham) proposed a scheme of educution 1090 in connexion with the Factories Bill—a scheme which was thought by everybody to give undue power to the Established Church, and which, in consequence of the opposition of the Dissenters, was withdrawn. In 1847, the noble Lord comes forward with another scheme. It has the same defect; its object, tendency, and result will be to give enormous and increased power to the clergy of the Established Church. It is a scheme of which the Dissenters cannot avail themselves, in accordance with the principles by which they are Dissenters; and, therefore, they are bound now to step forward and protest against this as against the former schemes. And I wonder not they have come to the conclusion that it is dangerous to them as members of Dissenting bodies, and dangerous also to the civil liberty of the people, that the State should interfere with education, since the Government, it appeared, was not able to interfere without giving increased power to the clergy of an already dominant Church. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, and the noble Lord who has just sat down, have both failed to convey to the House any intimation that there is much doing in the cause of education by voluntary effort throughout the kingdom. Why, if a man came to this House from any other country, and knew nothing of what was going on in England, he would have come to the conclusion that voluntary efforts had not only not succeeded, but had never even been attempted—so little would appear to have been done from the statements they made to the House. If these efforts have succeeded, I take it few Members will say that any interference by the Government is desirable. If there be one principle more certain than another, I suppose it is this, that what a people is able to do for itself, their Government should not attempt to do for it. For nothing tends so much to strengthen a people—to make them powerful, great, and good—as the constant exercise of all their faculties for public objects, and the carrying on of all public works and objects by voluntary contributions among themselves. I will just ask the attention of the House for a moment as to what has been done during the last few years. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh said, we had been trying the voluntary principle ever since the Heptarchy; that the voluntary principle had been, in fact, for generations and ages on its trial; and the result was, that 1091 we had an enormous amount of intellectual destitution in the country. But it is not a fair statement to say, that we have been trying the voluntary system since the Heptarchy. I take it we have not been trying the voluntary system to make railroads since the Heptarchy, but since the year 1830; and it would be as fair a statement to say, that the voluntary system would never make railroads for this country, because it had not made railroads in fifteen or sixteen years, as to say that the voluntary system will not educate the people, because it has not provided full means of education since 1790; many archbishops, bishops, and other distinguished members of the Established Church having opposed themselves to the effective education of the common people, The House is not very fond, and I admire its judgment in this respect, of hearing statistics on a question of this kind; but it is a matter of figures as to what has been done. Looking to the statistics given by the friends and opponents of this measure, Dr. Hook and Mr. Baines, and others who have made calculations on the subject, it appears that from the year 1818 to this time the progress has been something extraordinary. In 1818 there were 674,000 day-scholars in England and Wales; in 1833, there were 1,276,000; in 1847, there were 2,147,000 day-scholars. Thus, in 1818, the proportion was 1 in 17 to the population; in 1833, it was 1 in 11; in 1847, it was 1 in 8. The population has increased only 49 per cent since that time, whilst the scholars in our day-schools have increased at least 210 per cent; that is, leaving out of view the numbers who are Sunday scholars. I agree with the noble Lord who spoke last, that Sunday-school education is not all the children should have: when you are complaining of the want, the destitution, of education, it is fair that should be taken into account. In 1818, the Sunday scholars numbered 477,000; in 1833, they were more than 1,000,000; and from that time to this there has been a very rapid increase. Now, look at Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, I think, is not in his place, or he could tell us something about the Church with which he is so honourably connected, I mean the Free Church of Scotland. If within three or four years they have raised more than 1,000,000l. sterling, if they have built or offered to build schools in some 600 or 700 parishes, what will the right hon. Member for Edinburgh say to this? I have 1092 been in their churches and chapels; and if there be one thing more honourable to the Scotchmen of this generation than another, it is the magnanimous and wonderful efforts which the members of that communion have made to constitute themselves as a Church free from the trammels and embarrassments attendant on a connexion with the State. But we will take Wales, and see what has been done there. In the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald of the 21st of March, 1846, I find it stated, that—"about seven or eight years ago, in the seventy-three parishes of Anglesea, in which there were churches, there was not one Sunday school connected with the Established Church, whilst there were in the county no fewer than 156 Sunday schools kept by the various denominations of Dissenters.And the statement went on—There are now in the six counties of North Wales alone 1,022 places of public worship, in which Sunday schools are regularly kept by Dissenters, and well attended, viz.—
Calvinistic Methodists 479 schools Independents 260 Baptists 81 Wesleyans 202 which were attended by upwards of 140,000 children altogether.With respect to Wales, there is this remarkable fact, that the education of the common people—of the labouring classes—has been altogether the work of the Dissenting communities in that part of the kingdom. There is not a Member of this House from Wales, on whatever side of the House he sits, who will deny that something like nine out of ten of the labouring classes in Wales who have received education within the last fifty years, have received that education at the hands of the Dissenting bodies. There is, I believe, a Commission of educational inquiry now at work in Wales. We have not their report yet; but I venture to foretell that when that report is printed it will establish the fact I have stated—that where the Church has educated one child, of late years, the Dissenting bodies have educated from eight to ten. The noble Lord at the head of the Government appears to differ from his right hon. Colleague the Member for Edinburgh. From what he states, I understand he is of opinion that the voluntary principle has done a good deal—namely, it has provided schools sufficient for the wants of the population. The noble Lord said, speaking of his coming back to office—When, however, we came, being newly appointed Members of the Committee to consider 1093 the state of education, it appeared to us that a very great number of schools had been built, and that there was no longer such a demand as there had been for money to build schools; and that as various deficiencies in the management and conduct of the schools had been observed, it would be advisable to make Minutes, proposing a different distribution of the sum which might be voted by Parliament, and laying down in those Minutes what the application of that sum should be.So that we have the authority of the noble Lord for this fact, that the system hitherto pursued, the voluntary system, has provided schools in about sufficient abundance; and it is because the Government actually did not find that they had the means of distributing their grants for the building of schools, that they now come before the House and ask for powers to be allowed to spend the grants in improving the quality of the education. Is it likely, I ask, that the system which has built their schools for many of the population of this country, will be so very long a time in improving the quality of the education given in them—is it likely that we shall have to wait long before it will be no more necessary to pay and pension the schoolmasters out of the public funds, than it is now to build schools for the accommodation of the children taught? The noble Lord says—"I do not understand, then, why any Dissenter should refuse to partake of this grant on the ground that part of this money is given to Church of England schools, these Church schools being supported by the subscriptions of individuals who are members of that Church." I think it was not very ingenuous of the noble Lord to make such a statement as this in his speech. He must know it is not because the Church of England receives money from this grant that Nonconformists object to the grant; but it is because Nonconformists themselves, in accordance with the principles by which they are so, cannot receive public money for the teaching of religion in their schools; and, therefore, they object to the State giving money as an advantage to the Church schools—an advantage by which they must profit, and which will certainly be most damaging to the Dissenting schools. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh does not generally speak with great courtesy of Dissenters and Nonconformists. I have heard him speak in this House, I think, of the braying of Exeter Hall; and last night he spoke frequently of the clamour made out of doors. It is a very old story for gentlemen in office—and there must be 1094 many comforts, conveniences, and pleasures, no doubt, connected with office, or men would not seek it so much—it is a common thing for men in office to say that any opposition made out of doors to their plans is clamour. But I ask whether it is likely that 500 men, from all parts of the country, would come up to London, and take the trouble they have done, meeting all the hostility and obloquy heaped upon them, if they did not believe that there was something important in the Minutes to the interests of the different religious communities with which they were connected? and I think that the right hon. Gentleman is one of the last men in this House who should treat this movement as clamour, and pooh-pooh it as if it came from an unreasonable class of persons. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that they are abandoning all the principles the Nonconformists of past times ever taught; he tells us what republican statesmen and leaders in the United States have said, what has been done or held by Washington, Jefferson, and the commonwealth of Massachusetts. But is there any comparison between the United States and the United Kingdom? Is there any Established Church in the United States? Has the commonwealth of Massachusetts, in every one of its parishes, a gentleman highly educated, well paid, connected by birth or standing with the aristocratic and privileged classes planted in every corner of the country, not influenced by the popular sentiment and the popular mind, but acting always in unison and conformity with the privileged class to which he is attached? Give us, if you please, the state of things that exists in the United States, and particularly in that State of Massachusetts. Free us from the trammels of your Church—set religion apart from the interference of the State—if you will make public provision for education, let not it depend upon the doctrines of a particular creed—and then you will find the various sects in this country will be as harmonious on the question of education as are the people of the United States of America. Just recollect, when the whole of the Nonconformists are charged with clamour, what they mean by being Nonconformists. They object, as I understand, at least I object, to the principle by which the Government seizes hold of public funds to give salaries and support to the teachers of all sects of religion, or of one sect of religion, for I think the one plan nearly as unjust as the other. Either the Nonconformists hold this opinion, or they 1095 are making a sham. They object to any portion of the public money going to teachers of religion belonging either to the Established Church or to Dissenting bodies; they object to receive it for themselves. They find certain Minutes infringing on this principle. You wish to establish a system by which the young persons of this country shall be trained to certain religious tenets. In your Church schools, we are to have the catechism taught, and the liturgy taught, as well as the Scriptures read. All this is to be done under the cognizance and supervision of the clergyman of the parish. The children are to be examined by the clergymen and by inspectors appointed by the Government, who are also to be clergymen of the Church of England. The Minutes do not say so; but under the compact entered into by the Government with the Church, they can appoint no inspector who is not palatable to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The inspector must be discharged if the Archbishop expresses an opinion unfavourable to him. Of course this is in Church of England schools only. I admit that the noble Lord will not carry it the length of proposing this for Dissenting schools; he will not venture to do so. We are not yet so humiliated as that. No Government in this country durst attempt to carry that into effect; but if you had the power to carry out the spirit expressed in the Minutes, I say the Dissenting schools would not be free from interference by the clergymen of the State Church. I am prepared to contend that the powers given by these Minutes to the clergymen examiners are calculated to give a great increase of power to all the clergymen of the Established Church. They are made public officers with respect to schools. Now, the vicar of the parish enters the schools, and inquires about the children; but he has no more power than any other gentleman who may choose to visit it and do the same. But by your Minutes you empower him to enter under the authority of an inspector, who, by your compact with the Church, can only be a clergyman of the Established Church. I say these clergymen and inspectors are prone to meddle with everything. They will go there and examine the children in their books; they will interrogate the teachers as to their methods and their learning. Do you think, if they find a child whose brother or sister goes to a Dissenting chapel, the clergyman will not be zealous enough to use his influence to induce him to attend the Church? This 1096 would be only of a piece with the conduct observed in other respects. It is notorious that, in all parts of England, charities, never intended to be used for the promotion of particular religious opinions, but which are in the hands of the Established Church, are distributed with a view to the effect they may have, in bringing an increase of attendance to the National schools or the churches of the Establishment. I know numbers of these cases myself; and I know that a child who did not bow down to the Church, or who refused to go to a National school, would find himself placed under the ban of the clergyman. All the inducements to him, you vaunt of, to rise in the world, and gain an honourable station in society, would be merely as the idle wind that blows, and would be of no avail whatever to obtain for him an honourable place in life. If anything were wanted to show the effect of these Minutes, look at the triumphs your propositions have excited among the members of the Established Church, and the clergy especially. Was there ever a good and beneficial measure for Nonconformists proposed that was received with an exulting shout of gratulation by the hon. Baronet below me (Sir R. H. Inglis), by the Bishops, and by all the clergy of the kingdom? I am wrong, perhaps, as regards the hon. Baronet; he did not loudly exult, but he took the measure meekly, he took it thankfully. I acknowledge that the Church is thankful for everything it can get, and it never loses anything for want of asking for it. I confess I am astonished that Churchmen throughout the country—I do not speak of the clergy, but the laity—have supported this measure, because I think they are as much interested as the Dissenters in opposing any extension of power on the part of the clergy. Nothing tends more to impede the progress of liberty, nothing is more fatal to independence of spirit in the public, than to add to the powers of the priesthood in matters of education. If you give them such increased powers by legislative enactment, you do more than you could effect by any other means to enslave and degrade a people subject to their influence. There is yet another point to which I must advert. In the speech of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, who dwelt with great emphasis on the impartiality which he attributed to this proposed system, the right hon. Gentleman said:—I do wish that, instead of using phrases 1097 of disparagement against the scheme proposed, hon. Gentlemen would just answer me this plain question:—Supposing in any one city there should be a school connected with the Church, another connected with the Wesleyans, and another with the Presbyterians—will any Gentleman distinctly point out to me what share of the public money or what patronage is that which the school connected with the Church will get, and which the other schools will not get?That was the question to which the right hon. Gentleman asked for an answer. If the right hon. Gentleman had looked over the grants that have already been made, he would have found that out of the sum of 149,000l., which during the last three years has been distributed by the Committee of the Privy Council, the Church has received 141,000l. There never was anything so impartial. ["Hear, hear!"] No doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite, who cheer, will say that the Dissenters might have had it if they had asked for it. True, but the Dissenters were of a different temper from that. They did not separate from the Established Church, that they should afterwards come whining and asking the Government to support their educational system. Their very principle is that the Government has no right to appropriate public funds for the purpose of religious instruction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh knows right well that in times past they have refused the public money for such a purpose, and that in times to come they are likely to come still less forward than hitherto to avail themselves of such support. The right hon. Gentleman took us to the United States last night, and I will ask him to accompany me there now for a moment. The impartiality of your plan is like this. Suppose at the present time in the United States—there being no Established Church there—the Government were to offer an endowment to the religious sects, and nine-tenths having refused to accept it, the Government were to persist in endowing the remaining one-tenth, while the others protested against the principle of endowment altogether; I take it that in that condition of things the plea of impartiality would be as just and fair as that put forward in the present case by the right hon. Gentleman. The Dissenters have not taken, and they will not take this money; and it must be clear to those who know the history and understand anything of the principles of Nonconformity, that any Nonconformist who takes one sixpence of this grant for the purpose of teaching the tenets of his 1098 particular sect, can never afterwards, with any show of consistency and good faith, say one syllable against the domination and usurpation of the Established Church. I think that in this year of 1847 the time may be said to have come, when, although the members of the Established Church may not consider such scruples wise and prudent, the scruples which do exist and are conscientiously entertained by thousands and millions of our countrymen should be respected, and when the Government should pause before it holds out an enormous temptation to men to abandon their principles; and, in the event of their refusing to abandon them, offers an enormous advantage to the members of the Established Church. With respect to the Roman Catholics, the right hon. Gentleman did not give a direct reply to the statement of the hon. Member for Finsbury on that part of the subject, when he read an extract from a speech of the noble Lord in 1839; and, as there has been some talk of the negotiations which have been going on with the Wesleyans during the last fortnight, I should be glad if the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department should think it worth while to notice anything I say, to receive an answer to this question—Has the Privy Council or not communicated with the authorities and dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church with respect to the appointment of inspectors of Roman Catholic schools? If they have, then it follows of course that they must have had the intention when these Minutes were laid upon the Tables of both Houses of Parliament, to make grants to Roman Catholic schools. That would be something noble, something great, something to be admired, in coming forward to otter this great boon to all classes of the people without favour or distinction. In this House I have often heard men taunt the Dissenters with bigotry in their conduct towards the Roman Catholic population; but let it be said that those Dissenters have ever accorded and been willing to accord to their Roman Catholic brethren all and everything they sought and could conscientiously accept for themselves. Civil rights and privileges the Dissenters were, ever willing to grant to Catholics. Why, many of them who have had seats in this House since 1829 would never have found admittance here had it not been for the assistance they received in their struggle for civil liberty at the hands of the Dissenting body. My honest opinion 1099 is this, that when these Minutes were laid upon the Table, the Government intended, and most wisely, to open these grants to all persons of all religious persuasions whatsoever. The Government had no idea that there was going to be a disturbance about these Minutes. They were drawn up by a very clever secretary, who, like other secretaries, was disposed to magnify the importance of his office, and when drawn up they were, no doubt, submitted to the oversight of the Bishops in the other House. The whole thing was comfortably concocted, and it was supposed the Dissenters would take it without asking any questions. But the moment the Wesleyans evinced a disposition to join other Dissenters in resisting the measure, it was feared that the opposition might grow too formidable, and negotiations were entered into. Possibly the Government did not make the first overture to this negotiation; but it often happens in these cases, as every body knows, that there is some convenient friend to make the primary advance, and put the negotiation in train. At this time the Wesloyans are supposed to be under the delusion that the Roman Catholics are to be excluded; and if they are, I am reminded of what has been said by some writer, that it is sometimes almost as pleasant to be cheated as to cheat. I am not now going to detain the House with any observations with respect to the construction of the Committee of the Privy Council, nor will I enter into particulars of the expenditure to be incurred, or of the bribes to be offered. This only I will remark that I believe the last thing any reasonable man would do to elevate his fellow-man, is to make him a pensioner or recipient of the bounty of the Government. But the question is, whether the Nonconformist, forming so large a part of the population of this country, are to have their feelings and principles disregarded in the course of legislation you adopt—whether a new system of education is to be introduced in which you teach every body's religion at every body's expense? The Nonconformists deny your right to do this: they will not receive your money. You offer them that which is of no value to them; and the Church, less scrupulous, receives the gift. The consequence is that the schools of the Dissenters will stand at an enormous disadvantage as compared with the Church schools—the one class depending solely upon voluntary contributions, the other having certain bribes attached to it of provision 1100 for life, and for the maintenance of which the House is asked to vote at the expense of all. I will say nothing now of the wonderful statesmanship which has chosen this particular season to open an arena of strife, and throw down an apple of discord amongst us when there was an appearance of concord and unanimity. I am sorry it has come to this; I am sorry, not because of the particular effect it may have upon this Government or that Government, but because I must ever regret to see discord and bitterness introduced upon religious subjects, and because I know that when once this strife begins, real interests, useful matters, are neglected; and men separate and stray aside from paths which they might tread together to the advantage of their common country. I will now, Sir, conclude; and if I have been betrayed into some warmth of expression, let it be remembered that I am avowedly a member of the Nonconformist body. My forefathers languished in prison by the acts of that Church which you now ask me to aggrandize. Within two years places of worship of that body to which I belong have been despoiled of their furniture to pay the salary of a minister of the Established Church; and when I look back and see how that Church has been uniformly hostile to the progress of public liberty, it is impossible for me to refrain from protesting against the outrages committed by the Government on the Nonconformist body for the sake of increasing the aggrandizement of a political institution, with which, as I hope and believe, the time is not far off when this country will dispense.
§ SIR G. GREY
I assure the House that no one more deeply regrets than I do, that the elements of angry strife and debate should have entered into the discussion of a question, the importance of which has been universally admitted; but, notwithstanding all the difference of opinion that may exist as to the means of promoting education—notwithstanding all the experience we have had of the difficulty of dealing with the subject—there is one satisfaction which we may feel in common, that in the debates of the present day we hear no more of those fears and apprehensions which, at former times of our history, were expressed as to the danger of diffusing instruction and knowledge amongst the lower classes of the people. The hon. Member for Durham says, that if it is the duty of the Government to educate the people, how is it that amongst our greatest statesmen, 1101 we have had none in this country who have attempted this important object? I am afraid, from this observation, as well as from other parts of his speech, that the hon. Gentleman is not so well read as he ought to be in the Parliamentary history of our country. Even if he looks back a few years—since he and I first became Members of this House—he will find that this is not the first occasion on which great statesmen of this country have endeavoured by the aid of their talents and exertions to remedy the evils of ignorance, and to diffuse the blessings of a sound education. Without adverting to the efforts of living statesmen, it is about forty years ago that the late Mr. Whitbread, whose memory I have every reason to respect, proposed a measure for the establishment of parochial schools; and that measure received the cordial and hearty support of another distinguished Member of this House, who never lost an opportunity of lending the aid of his talents and character to everything that could promote the welfare of the people—I mean the late Sir S. Romilly. That Bill passed this House, though it was opposed in its progress by arguments founded on those apprehensions to which I have before adverted, but which are not now heard of; but, unfortunately, it was rejected in the House of Lords, owing to the prevalence of those apprehensions. But if the elements of strife have been introduced into this debate, the Government are not responsible for it; they have arisen from the ground taken, and from the assertions made out of this House, faintly echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, and repeated by the hon. Member for Durham, who alone appears to represent those who have made them. The hon. and learned Member for Bath last night accused my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh of wasting his talents and the time of the House by arguing a question upon which we are all agreed; and my hon. Friend the Member for Cockermouth asked to-night, where was to be found the man bold enough to assert that it is not the duty of the Government to educate the people? and no one in this House has been found to assert it openly, until the hon. Gentleman, professing to speak the principles of the Nonconformists, said it was inconsistent with those principles that they should receive any money from the State to educate the people. He said that, being Nonconformists, they could not receive money 1102 to educate the people; and that it was this principle of objection to receive money from the State for purposes of religious education, which induced them to separate from the Church. But here, again, I must ask the hon. Gentleman to read history again, before he attempts to enlighten Parliament on the principles of the Nonconformists. Those may be the principles of the Nonconformists of 1847; but, I ask, what were the principles of those great Nonconformists whose names are identified with the history of their time, and whose lives were in jeopardy from the principles they professed? I ask the hon. Gentleman to study, with the attention he has evidently not yet bestowed upon the subject, the lives of Howe, of Baxter, and of Oliver Heywood. Were not they in favour of endowments? Did not they hold livings; and is it not a notorious fact, that it was not their objection to receive money from the State, but their refusal to submit to the Act of Uniformity, that drove those valuable men out of the pale of the Church, and inflicted upon it an almost irreparable injury? But my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham seemed to think he had established a reductio ad absurdum in the reasoning of my right hon. Friend, because his arguments might be used in favour of a Church Establishment. I do not think it is necessarily any reductio ad absurdum of my right hon. Friend's argument if it showed that it was the duty of a Government to encourage Church Establishments, or that on that ground grants of money for the purpose of education must be refused. But I deny that they rest on the same footing; and my right hon. Friend brought forward the example of a country in which there was no ecclesiastical establishment whatever, to show that those who are not in favour of a Church Establishment might consistently support endowments for educational purposes. It is true that this argument, as to the right of the State to concern itself in the education of the people, has not formed the staple of the speeches in this House in opposition to the proposed measure. That it is the duty of the Government to concern itself with the education of the people has been admitted by almost all hon. Members who have spoken on this subject, until the hon. Member for Durham rose. But what has been the case out of doors? To-night the hon. Gentleman presented a petition to which the greatest weight is to be attached, as it represents the principles of those from 1103 whom the opposition to this measure principally arises—it was the petition of 500 gentlemen from all parts of England, agreed to at a meeting held at Crosby Hall on the 13th of April; and the hon. Gentleman said, the petition was expressed in the usual terms in which petitions against the measure were expressed. I agree that it is, and that, if those petitions were analysed, 99 out of 100 of them would be found to object to any grant whatever for education. At the end of the petition is the following passage: "These petitioners distinctly avow that it is not within the province of the Government to educate the people." Although the hon. Gentleman objected to my right hon. Friend controverting this principle, and said that it was not the question at issue now before the House, yet I thought as the hon. Gentleman proceeded with his speech, that he not only regarded it as the question, but asserted that it was the very essence of Nonconformity, and that as a Nonconformist, he felt bound to support that principle. But if the hon. Gentleman thinks that the principle is not explicitly stated in this petition, I hold in my hand resolutions passed at a meeting of the members of various bodies of Dissenters who are opposed to all Government interference with the education of the people, and which, together with many other similar documents, have been widely circulated. This meeting was held in Liverpool, on Thursday, April 15th, the Rev. Dr. Raffles in the chair; and when I mention the name of Dr. Raffles, I beg to assure hon. Gentlemen that I wish not to speak with the slightest disrespect of that Gentleman. I merely want to see what are the principles which have been asserted at public meetings held in the country by the opponents of this education measure, and to contrast them with the tone adopted throughout the debates on the subject in this House until the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) himself rose and addressed us. Two resolutions were passed at this meeting, in the first of which the parties comprising that meeting avowed the deep interest they took in the education of the people, regarding it as a subject of vital importance to the well-being of the country; and rejoiced at the efforts that had been made by various classes of the community to increase the school accommodation, and to improve the quality of the instruction imparted; and stated that they were justified, by what has been accomplished, in expressing their strong 1104 conviction that the voluntary exertions of the friends of education are fully adequate to supply all that is requisite to place the means of sound instruction within the reach of all classes of the people. The next resolution ran in these words:—That, entertaining these views, this meeting regards the interference of the Government with the education of the people as not only altogether unnecessary, but wrong in principle, at variance with sound policy, injurious to parental responsibility, and calculated, especially in the existing state of parties, to produce serious evils, detrimental to the very object which such interference is designed to promote, and therefore cannot but consider the steps which have already been taken by the Legislature in this direction rather as an error to be corrected, than as a benefit to be perpetuated and extended.I think the hon. Gentleman must admit that his objection is here stated in most specific terms, and that the character of these resolutions is that of distinctly laying down the principle that the Government ought not to interfere with or concern themselves about the education of the people. Now, taking the second resolution first, which speaks of the interference of the Government with the education of the people, I must express my own conviction—although I believe it is unnecessary to argue the question, which has been generally if not universally conceded in the House—that the very fact of the admitted importance of the matter, and the magnitude of the interests involved in the sound instruction of the people, is itself a sufficient proof that the Government has no right to stand aloof, and not to concern itself on this most important subject. If it is admitted that the moral, religious, and intellectual improvement of the people is the best prevention of crime, and the best foundation and security of a nation's prosperity; if, to use the language of an eminent Nonconformist, whom, no doubt, the hon. Gentleman regards with equal respect as myself—I mean the late Robert Hall—if, to use his powerful language, the people form the broad basis of the great pyramid of society, which, while it continues sound, affords stability to the whole; but by a rent in which the entire fabric is endangered—if this be true, what nobler or worthier object can a Government have, or what duty can be more legitimate, than to devise, foster, and encourage those means which, without interference with the rights of conscience, are calculated to remove popular ignorance, the source of such extensive evil? The hon. Member for Nottingham, in the course of his address, admitted 1105 the novelty of his views, not as respected himself—for I believe he is entitled to the merit of consistency—but as regarded their avowal in this House. He freely avowed that the views he advocated had not been heard in this House before he himself enunciated them; and I believe that he is perfectly correct in the statement. I believe it is quite true that he is the first Member who ever stood up in this House and maintained that neither with religion nor education was it the duty of the Government to interfere. The very reverse of this doctrine has on repeated occasions been distinctly affirmed in this House. It has been affirmed most emphatically on various occasions within the course of the last few years; and this being so, I entirely concur with the hon. Member for Durham in thinking that it was not at all to be expected that the Government should have anticipated any objection to the principle of a State grant for educational purposes. In February, 1843, Lord Ashley moved for an Address to the Crown to take into consideration the best means that could be devised for securing the blessing of a moral and religious education to the working classes. That Motion was prefaced by an able speech from the noble Lord, in the course of which he demonstrated, by reference to statistical calculations, the utter deficiency of the existing means of education for the requirements of the people, and founded on it the inference that it was the duty of the Government and the Legislature to deal with the great evil, and endeavour to abate it. The right hon. Gentleman opposite expressed his general concurrence in that sentiment, and it was also adopted by my noble Friend at the head of the Government. A debate ensued, but not a solitary voice was raised against the principle of the resolution, which was unanimously adopted by the same hon. Gentlemen who now constitute this House. [Expressions of dissent from Mr. Bright.] Perhaps I am not strictly correct. The hon. Member for Durham, I believe, was not a Member of this House at that period; and I suppose I am to infer that, had the fact been otherwise, there would have been at least one dissentient—at least one solitary voice to cry "No," when you, Sir, put the question from the chair. But I can recall an occasion when the hon. Gentleman was in the House, and when he at least gave the assent of silence to a principle similar to that which has now 1106 evoked in so marked a manner his hostility. I allude to the occasion in the early part of last Session, when the hon. Member for Coventry brought forward a Motion of a similar kind to that proposed by Lord Ashley, though designed to be more limited in its sphere. The Motion in question had an exclusive reference to Wales; and the hon. Member for Coventry, in the course of his prefatory remarks, entered into statistical details, showing that the same educational deficiencies which had been alleged to exist in England, prevailed to a still greater extent in the Principality. His Motion founded on that statement was similar in character to that brought forward by Lord Ashley, being for an inquiry into the state of education; and the whole tenor of his speech led to the supposition that his object in collecting authentic information was, that the Government should take steps to increase the facilities for education by means of a grant from the public treasury. Did the hon. Member for Durham object to the proposal? Did he say a single word to lead the House to believe that they were committing themselves to a Motion which compromised his conscientious convictions? Not at all. How, then, am I to account for the inveteracy of his hostility to the principle now? I confess I am at a loss to account for it. I do not want to multiply authorities on this matter; but if I did, I might quote Robert Hall again, and refer to those eloquent pages in which he advocates from time to time the cause of popular education. He speaks of the parochial schools of Scotland as the source of the superior character, energy, and disposition of the great body of the people of that country; but it never entered into his head that all these ought to be swept away, because they interfered with the religious independence of the people. It has been asserted—and I was astonished when I read the assertion—but it has been asserted by Mr. Baines, in one of his letters, that these parochial schools in Scotland kept down, both in quantity and quality, the character of education. That, I believe, is an affirmation not in accordance with the general opinion of this country. I have one more authority to quote, from a newspaper. But I believe it is matter of notoriety, that whatever appears in that paper is in accordance with the opinions held by Mr. Baines him-himself. I quote from an article in the Leeds Mercury of the 18th of March, 1843. It has reference to the Bill introduced 1107 by Sir James Graham on factory education. The House will well remember the opposition with which that Bill was met by the general Dissenting body of the country. Speaking of the schools to be established under the Bill, Mr. Baines says—In most of the manufacturing districts, Dissenters are more numerous than Churchmen; and we think, therefore, it would only be just that there should be two schools established in each district, and equally supported out of the poor-rates and the public funds; one of them on the principle of the National Society, and the other on the principle of the British and Foreign School Society. This is the spirit in which the Government aid to schools has hitherto been distributed, and this spirit ought still to animate our legislation.The hon. Gentleman has said, in taunting way, that the Government did not expect the opposition which has been raised to their proposals. I confess I never did expect this opposition from parties with these recorded opinions. The publication of such sentiments as those I have cited, seemed to us to have rendered opposition from such a quarter a very improbable contingency indeed. In the face of the recorded opinions in this House—in the face of the practice of the Government and of the Legislature during past years—and in the face of the recorded opinions of the Nonconforming body itself, I certainly did not expect that a new principle would now, for the first time, be started, and that we should be accused of innovation, in adopting principles in which this House has repeatedly declared its acquiescence. The other resolution of those to which I have already referred as having been adopted at the Liverpool meeting, not only objects to the principle of State endowment, but maintains that the interference of Government is unnecessary, inasmuch as that voluntary exertions are fully adequate to supply all the educational requirements of the country. The hon. Member for Durham dwelt much upon this point, and contended that there had been a great increase in the number of day and Sunday schools and scholars since 1818. I do not deny the fact, neither do I desire at all to underrate the value of voluntary exertions. I admit their great value, and confess that, were it not for the assistance of such efforts, the interference of Parliament and Government would be fruitless. Parliament, I admit, cannot hope to effect any material good without such efforts; but, on the other hand, I am bound to express my conviction that voluntary efforts have tailed to meet the growing wants of our people, and 1108 that notwithstanding the extent of their operations a great field remains yet uncultivated, on which we are bound to enter and labour assiduously. It is by the combination of voluntary effort with aid from the Government, that I think larger results are to be looked for. I will not, after the length to which this debate has already been protracted, weary you by quoting from the reports of prison inspectors, or from criminal statistics. Suffice it to say, that a reference to the last criminal tables presented to this House, although there may be a growing increase of the percentage of those offenders who have received some kind of education, show still a lamentable deficiency of education amongst those whose misfortune it is to be the inmates of our prisons—a deficiency which clearly attests that the voluntary system has failed fully to accomplish the great object it aimed to attain. The hon. Gentleman has referred to Wales as an illustration of how much more has been done by the Dissenters than by the Church. I do not desire to say a word in disparagement of the valuable service rendered by Dissenters to the cause of education; but this is not a question of the comparative number of schools instituted by them and by the Church. Taking Wales as an illustration of my argument, I would ask the hon. Member for Durham whether he is prepared to say that the state of education in that Principality is such as he would himself wish to see it? The hon. Member talked much about the Free Church of Scotland; but if he quoted that body as hostile to the principle of Government, grants for educational purposes, he speaks in ignorance of the true state of the case. One large presbytery of that Church agreed to petition against the particular grant now proposed to be made, and did me the honour of entrusting their petition to me; but so far from declaring themselves hostile to the general principle of State endowment, they were most distinct in expressing their unwillingness to have it supposed that they joined in this ground of opposition. They said that inasmuch as "the Government scheme" recognised the principle of grants for education, and of religion as forming part of that education, they hailed it with satisfaction; but they feared that the scheme was too latitudinarian. They did not think that the mere use of the authorized version of the Scriptures afforded an adequate safeguard that truth and error might not be equally inculcated 1109 in the schools to be established under the Minutes; and it was under this impression that they felt themselves called upon to express their disapproval of the plan. Of their opposition, therefore, I can well afford to make a present to the hon. Member. But then again to revert to the authority of Mr. Baines. What course did he pursue with reference to the statements made upon Lord Ashley's Motion? He did not attempt to impugn the proposition for which the noble Lord contended. He did not attempt to deny the assertion that there was a want of education amongst the people; he merely contended that the noble Lord had painted Leeds in too black colours, and London in colours not black enough. In his letter to the late Lord Wharncliffe, the then President of the Council, he merely argues that Westminster and London present more fitting spheres for Lord Ashley's exertions than Leeds. Two things, therefore, appear to me to be admitted—that education is a good thing, and that it is a matter with which a Government should concern itself. We come then to the course pursued by the Government. My noble Friend who is at the head of the Woods and Forests, says, that three courses were open to the Government. It is my own impression that there were only two; for I cannot think that it could have been possible for any Government in these days to have proposed that the whole education of the people should be placed entirely in the hands of the Established Church. Neither can I adopt the tertium quid that we could stand by with arms folded, idle spectators of a state of things which all must admit to be deplorable. Two courses were open—the one that proposed by the hon. Member for Bath, the other that actually adopted by the Government. The first was, that we should form an entirely new system of education, disregarding the divisions into which the people of this country are unhappily broken up on religious matters—disregarding the vast number of schools already existing, and making a scheme for bringing people of all religious denominations together in a general combined system of education. My objection to that project is, that I do not believe it to be practicable. If we had proposed it, I am certain that we should not have been supported by any large class of Christians in this country, nor by any considerable party in this House. The conviction out of doors would be, that 1110 such a project could only be realized by restricting the teaching in the schools to a mere secular education; and the earnest religious feeling of our community is so strong, that it would be fatal to any such enterprise. It would have been an utterly hopeless attempt. The only other plan is that which is now proposed for your adoption by the Government. I adopt the description of it which has been given in his excellent speech by my noble Friend the Member for Liverpool, who tells us that it is, properly speaking, no "scheme" nor "new system of education." The principle on which the Government has acted is not that of instituting a new system, but of endeavouring to improve existing schemes and systems. We do not supersede any agency at present at work in the cause of education. The object we propose to ourselves is to elevate the character of the education given in the existing schools, and to improve the position and raise the standard of acquirements in the schoolmasters of those popular institutions. Since the principle has been affirmed and adopted of grants from the State for educational purposes, no less than 3,000 schools have been established by the aid of those grants. It appeared to the Government that the time was now come when an attempt should be made to increase their efficiency and usefulness. It is not true, as it is supposed to be by the hon. Member for Nottingham, that ours is a plan to control the education of the people. What we propose is to aid and encourage voluntary exertions, and to make them more valuable. It is very desirable that more union should exist upon this question; but if you wish to see what you consider prejudices discarded, and harmony of feeling established amongst the people, you can only hope to do so by giving them the blessings of education. My noble Friend at the head of the Government has expressly stated that he does not offer this as a perfect and complete plan. If it were offered as such, I could not defend it. I only advocate it as the plan which in the existing circumstances of the country, regard being had to the feelings of the country, and to the opinions which have been expressed in this House, appears at the present moment the best and the most likely to be successful in promoting popular education. But what are the objections which have been urged against this plan? It has been alleged to be the enforcement by law of the Church 1111 catechism and liturgy as a part of the education of the people. That I altogether deny. The effect of it will be, not to impose those or any other books or catechisms which are not already taught—not to interfere with the nature and kind of instruction given in existing schools; but to infuse new life and energy into the schools which now exist, and which at present are imperfect and defective in the character and standard of the instruction given in them. With respect to the catechism, the use of it is already required in schools which belong to the Church of England; but I agree with my noble Friend the Member for Liverpool in the wish that there was a less rigid enforcement of the use of the catechism in the case of all children attending these schools; and I trust that the good sense and right feeling of the clergy will lead to this result. I presented to-day a petition in favour of this measure from a parish in the north of England, which was accompanied by a letter from the clergyman of it, in which he informs me that his schools are attended by many children of Dissenting parents (Presbyterians being numerous in the parish, owing to its being near the borders), and that none of those children were compelled to learn the catechism or the peculiar doctrines of the Church of England; and I hope that this practice will become general. With respect to the allegation that it was one of the provisions of the Government measure that the inspectors of Dissenting schools should be approved by the Archbishops, I can only say I am glad to find the idea has been scouted even by the hon. Member for Durham. It is almost needless to say that anything of the kind was never contemplated by the Government. The object of our plan is to foster and encourage the educational establishments already existing, and to give them new life and vigour. As to the likelihood of its accomplishing this object without partiality, I may refer to a pamphlet written in his individual capacity by a gentleman long connected with the British and Foreign School Society. His experience for many years in the cause of education, and his connexion with the Dissenting body, bestow much value on his opinions. He says, on a review of this plan—That the assistance thus offered to schools will, if generally accepted, be productive of the greatest possible benefits to the community, tending to the immediate improvement of elementary 1112 education, and facilitating all subsequent endeavours to secure a continued supply of well-qualified instructors. That the provision made under the Minutes for the selection, examination, and subsequent support of monitors, pupil-teachers, and candidates for normal schools, is just and equal, in no degree favouring the Established Church, or providing for her exclusive benefit. That the tendency of the whole measure, unless perversely thwarted, will, even in the rural districts, eventually be found favourable, rather than otherwise, to the interests of Protestant Nonconformity.I will not enter further into this part of the argument; I will not touch upon the objection as to the supposed increase of Government influence by this measure; that objection has been disposed of by the contempt with which it has been treated by almost all hon. Members who have opposed the measure; it has been absolutely ridiculed in the House, and I hope we shall hear of that objection no more. Then, with respect to the alleged inequality of the grants. That inequality does nor exist, as between Churchmen and Protestant Dissenters, in the theory of the distribution of the grants. The aid is offered equally to the members of the Established Church and to Dissenters, with the exception of Roman Catholics, of whom I shall say a word presently. It is not, however, on their part, but on that of the Dissenters, that this objection has been made to the continuance of the grant for education. But, whether they be nominal or real members of that Church, there is no doubt that those who are professed members of the Established Church greatly exceed the Dissenters in number; and therefore it must, necessarily follow that applications on behalf of schools come much more frequently from members of the Church of England than from the various bodies of Dissenters. In addition to this, there is a further reason why a disproportion should exist, arising from the objection which some classes of Protestant Dissenters have recently avowed to receiving any portion of these grants. On the subject of the Roman Catholics, I shall say a few words. I admit that there is ground of complaint on the part of the Roman Catholics. I am ready to admit that in some parts of the country, I will take, for instance, Manchester, where there is a large number of Catholics, and where, as a condition of the employment of children in factories, they must attend school, there is a hardship in their exclusion from Government grants for education. After having listened with attention, and I may 1113 add with pleasure, in which I am sure the House concurred with me, to the speech of my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Arundel) upon this subject, I cannot help feeling an increased desire to contribute, so far as I am able, to the removal of what I believe to be a grievance. But I must remind the House that the inequality in this case does not arise under these Minutes of 1846. The money to be voted this year is the same in amount as last year; and the money heretofore voted was expended in building schools for the use of members of the Church of England and of Protestant Dissenters. It is true, Roman Catholics are not excluded by name, if they are excluded at all. I say, if they are excluded at all, for I am not aware of any distinct application from Roman Catholics; but in 1839 a Minute was drawn up which did require that the Scriptures should be used in the daily instruction in the schools; and although there may be some doubt whether it be the correct interpretation of the Minute that the version should be the authorized version alone, yet if, under the Committee of Council which prepared the Minute, and the Committee of Council which acted upon the Minute, not a single grant has been made to Roman Catholic schools for so many years—I say, if neither of these Committees, without avowing distinctly an intention of excluding all but the authorized version, has not made any grant to a Roman Catholic school, it would be liable to a great objection if we acted upon a different interpretation without the authority of Parliament. But I rejoice that the subject has been brought before the House; and I rejoice at the feeling which has been exhibited by the House, that this is an injustice which ought to be removed. I have not heard one gentleman in this House rise and say that Roman Catholics ought to be excluded. I am aware that a deference must be paid to public feeling out of doors. I am aware that there is a great apprehension throughout the country as to the extension of Roman Catholic principles; and I acknowledge that I am myself not free from a participation in that apprehension. At the same time, I avow that I will not be a party to the support of any principle in any way unfair or unequal in the treatment of any class that may differ from me in religious opinions; and if the House shall affirm the proposition that Roman Catholics ought to participate in these grants, no one 1114 will rejoice more sincerely than I shall to see the difficulty removed; no one will more cordially co-operate with my noble Friend in endeavouring to frame Minutes under which Roman Catholics will be included in the benefits of the grants. I shall not touch upon the objections which have been urged to certain minute details of this measure. With regard to its alleged imperfections, I am prepared to admit that they exist, and that it ought not to be regarded as a perfect or a final measure. But I have endeavoured to deal with the main objections which have been made to it, though I must repeat that those objections have been maintained not so much in this House as out of it; and I hope that this fact will have its weight with the country, and that when it is seen that here, where we are further removed from local considerations, and are bound to take a large view of the condition and wants of the whole kingdom, and to consult for the general interests of the community, the objections and apprehensions entertained out of doors are scarcely expressed; those who have hitherto conducted an untiring, and I doubt not, a conscientious opposition against this measure, will ponder and reflect before they commit themselves to a continued opposition to it. I trust that, on maturer consideration, they will see reason to believe that the dangers they apprehended exist only in their own imagination. Let me warn them of the responsibility they incur by opposing this measure without suggesting any alternative. I speak not now of the hon. Member for Bath, who does propose an alternative, but one which I believe to be impracticable; I speak of those who object to any grants for education, and who ask us to abstain altogether from any concern in the education of the people. I ask them to ponder on the details of ignorance and crime, and to think of the thousands who, while we are disputing how they are to be educated, and who is to educate them, are growing up in ignorance and vice, training for crime and punishment, and who, if proper means were provided for their instruction, might become hereafter valuable members of society. I pray them to think of the danger which their conduct may thus promote—of the great increase which is taking place in our population, and of the consequences of not making any provision for the increased wants of the people as respects education. I again address them in the language of the same eminent 1115 individual to whom I before alluded, I mean the late Robert Hall:—These are not the times in which it is safe for a nation to repose on the lap of ignorance. While the world is impelled in opposite directions, and the seeds of mutation are thickly sown, the improvement of the mass of the people will be our grand security, in the neglect of which, the politeness, the refinement, and the knowledge accumulated in the higher orders, weak and unprotected, will be exposed to imminent danger, and perish like a garland in the grasp of popular fury. 'Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.'This is the language of that eminent man, and I implore those who respect his authority, not to endeavour further to induct) us to stand still as mere spectators of the evils engendered by ignorance, without making any attempt to check the moral pestilence that is spreading around us wider and wider every day, and without any attempt to instil moral health and moral vigour into the vitals of the community.
§ MR. HINDLEY
said, the Dissenters had not, perhaps, taken the most prudent course they might have taken with reference to this question; but he hardly thought they ought to have been so severely dealt with as they had been by the first observations of the noble Lord:—Verum ubi plum nitent in carmine, non ego paucisOffendar maculis.It should be borne in mind what the Dissenting body had done for the cause of the education of the people. Including the Wesleyans, they had built at least 10,000 schools, without applying to the public purse, besides the many endowments that they had contributed to the same purposes. Although therefore he did not agree with all the members of that body who had taken part in this question, he still was anxious that they should receive due credit for their exertions in the cause of religion and morality. In 1843 there was a great battle fought on the education question, and the Government of that day thought proper to yield the point which the Dissenters contested. He was certainly sanguine at that time in his belief that the voluntary effort was sufficient to educate the country; and he had himself done all that he could to give force and efficiency to the voluntary principle. Since then he had been at the head of a body by whom 120,000l. had been raised for the establishment of schools. He had been in many counties of England, and had argued the 1116 question, and he had met a response in the hearts of the people; but while he found many bright examples of voluntary efforts, yet, if he were asked whether he thought that the voluntary principle was sufficient for the education of the people, he must in honesty declare his belief that it, was not. He could give the House many examples of the interest taken in this question by the people—especially by the lower orders. He could mention one instance where, at a metropolitan meeting, over which he presided, 5l. was subscribed by a person, and 5l. from his wife; and on inquiry it turned out that he was a gentleman's coachman. When told that it was too much to take from his earnings, his answer was, "Why, I live over the stables, and perhaps the money might be taken from me." He would, however, come at once to the question of the Government grant, as to which he must express his regret that so short a time had been allowed to elapse since the commencement of the voluntary experiment. It was only four years ago that the last education scheme was propounded; and he certainly thought that another year or more might fairly have been allowed, to see how far it would be effective. As, however, the Government had brought forward the measure, it was necessary to see how far it was possible to come to an agreement upon it. He admitted at once that he could not agree with those who considered that education was entirely out of the province of the Government. He altogether repudiated the new doctrine that if the Government took care of life and property, all their duties in regard to the moral government of the people might be abandoned. Some of those who had shone with the greatest lustre in the Dissenting interest had been of the contrary opinion. Above all, he would direct the attention of Mr. Baines and some others who thought with him to a passage contained in Foster's Essay on Popular Ignorance, in which he emphatically said that a time would come when the rulers of States would comprehend that it was their best policy to promote all possible improvement among the people—that it would be given them to understand that the highest glory of those at the head of a community would consist in the advancement of that community in whatever consisted the most valuable, superiority of one man over another—that they would one day esteem it a far 1117 higher honour to lead intelligent minds than to rule by brute force—that it would be better for them to have a people who could understand their system and their measures, than one bent in stupid submission, even if their ignorance should suffice to continue them in that submission—that it was better to have one strong in reason, than in an ever-fermenting ignorance, and always believing the Government to be wrong—and that the time would come when it would not be a philanthropic speculation alone which pointed out how much difference there must be between the enormous expense of repressing crime, and what might be effected with half the expenditure in preventing it. That passage of Foster's was written a quarter of a century ago; but the advice was as sound now as it was then: and, although a new light seemed to have come into the minds of some of his friends, he must admit that it had not yet dawned on his mind—his intellect was too opaque to let in the light of the Mercury of Leeds. Admitting, however, that education came properly within the province of the Government, he must, at the same time, state that on two grounds he should be jealous of their exercise of that power. In the first place, he would have it so guarded as not to endanger the civil liberty of the country. He could very well see how a Government having the education of the country in their grasp might acquire too much power over the minds of the people. He would wish to see preserved that national independence of the English character which, if it sometimes gave the Government inconvenience, at the same time produced great advantage to Britain. If the gales from Exeter-hall or Crosby-hall sometimes blew too strong, yet they might also sometimes purify the political atmosphere, and brace the national mind. The second point was, that he thought no sectarian partiality should be allowed by the Government. He thought it unwise, both in the Government and in the Church, to have retained the catechism. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary did not seem quite to understand this part of the subject when he supposed that because the catechism was only required to be read in Church schools, therefore no harm could possibly be done to Dissenters. He would ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government, did he himself believe the Church catechism? Well, suppose for the sake of argument, that he did not. What did he call on the House to do by these Minutes? 1118 Why, that, in a great number of the schools in the country the children should be taught what he did not himself believe. If the Church chose to use the catechism in the Church schools, let it do so; but leave it out of the Minutes. The sooner it was so done, the sooner would the scruples of the moderate Dissenters be satisfied, without the Church being at all injured. He could not but regard it as an infringement of the rights of conscience to order that to be taught which a great portion of the people believed to be error. He thought the Dissenters had a right to be represented in the Committee of Council on Education. Was it right that that Committee should be composed entirely of Churchmen, and that Dissenters should not be represented there, in order that they might see** that the funds were applied with perfect impartiality? As to the details of the plan, he was astonished at the proposal to pension the schoolmasters of England merely by a Minute of the Privy Council, when it was considered that the money for that purpose must be voted annually by that House. Nothing, in his opinion, could be more unbusiness-like than for the Committee of Council to offer pensions, when they had no authority from that House for the voting of the money. Besides, he thought those pensions altogether unnecessary. He also objected to that part of the Minutes which proposed an assistant schoolmaster for every twenty-five children. Such a proposal was altogether unnecessary, and, therefore, there would be much uncalled-for expense on this head. This led him to a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, who repeated what had been said in a pamphlet published under authority, that if they expended 1,700,000l., they would draw out voluntary efforts to a corresponding degree. What authority, he asked, had they for saying that such a sum would be secured in future? He knew that singular changes of views were taken upon this question—that the Minutes were chameleon-like, ever changing; but he was unable to see on what authority they could hold out that this 1,700,000l. would be granted by that House. He must say that he should prefer to those Minutes a regular Act of Parliament, and a proper system of national education. He would entreat the Government and the House, therefore, only to make the present scheme an experiment. Let them try how far they could go with success; and, if they found that they could 1119 go on with satisfaction to the whole of the country, then let them persevere. For his part, he would endeavour to throw oil upon the waters. All parties had, on this question, but one common object—the diminution of that ignorance which they deplored. But he feared that if this was a new question, which would be troublesome, there was an old question coming up which would be more troublesome still. The Government ought to have impressed upon their minds that the root of all this difficulty was that which had been stated by the hon. Member for Durham, viz., the connexion of Church and State; and the effect which this might have upon the question, depended much upon the course taken by the Government of the day. He would give the advice to be exceedingly moderate, and the time might come when Churchmen and Dissenters would cordially meet on the same platform, and in the same company, and join together in the same sphere of usefulness. He did enter with the greatest pleasure into the sentiment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, that our hearts ought not to be limited to the narrow bounds of Church or Dissent; and that our hearts ought to embrace the welfare of the whole community. He hoped that this spirit would yet prevail, and that men of all parties would cordially unite in endeavouring to effect the regeneration of their common country.
§ The debate adjourned till Thursday.
§ House adjourned at Twelve o'clock.