§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. STAFFORD
rose to move as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He said that the House, by consenting to the admission of the Bill, had committed themselves only to an acknowledgment of the importance of the subject, and not to the principle contained in the Bill. He mentioned this because there were very many persons out of doors who greatly regretted that even that step had been taken, in the apprehension that the leading principle of the Bill had thereby been recognised. But when the sentiments uttered on that occasion by some hon. Members were remembered, and when the great caution observed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government in respect to the admission of the Bill was considered, it would appear that such apprehension was groundless; and that the House had certainly not recognised the principle of the Bill. Before stating his objections to the principle of the Bill, he must say that, in his opinion, the state of the education of the country at this moment had been too unfavourably drawn by the hon. Member for Oldham, because he knew that there were many rural parishes where the whole education of the children was undertaken; but, as there were no endowments in those parishes, and they were 438 not in connexion with any of the great vehicles of public instruction, they did not appear in any official returns. In Blatherwyke, the parish in which he resided, and within a radius of twelve or fourteen miles of that parish, this existed, and he believed that it was extremely general. For example, the Marquess and Marchioness of Exeter educated, at their own expense, between 200 and 300 children, at Easton, and other schools; the Earl of Cardigan supported five schools for the poor, in five different parishes; at Benefield, Mr. Watts Russell paid for the whole of the education; Mr. Vernon Smith's school consisted of 100 scholars; at Gretton, the Earl of Winchilsea and the vicar educated more than that number. Lord and Lady Lilford paid for the education of the village, as at Achurch and Pilton, aided by the clergyman; the Hon. R. Watson educated all the children at Rockingham; and the Duke of Buccleuch entirely supported the schools at Weekly and Geddington. He had no doubt also that many other hon. Members could state the same or similar facts with regard to the rural districts with which they were acquainted. He mentioned this not to controvert the statement of the hon. Member for Oldham that education was deficient in this country, for that proposition was unhappily incontrovertible, but merely to show that the hon. Member had by his figures unfairly represented the state of education as regarded the rural districts. As to the present general state of education, it must be considered as not compatible with the prosperity, perhaps not the safety, of this great kingdom. There were, however, two main obstacles which presented themselves to the mind when considering how this great evil could best be met. The first was, that respect to religious convictions which ought not to be violated; and the second was, the danger of too great an interference by the State, thus involving the evils of centralisation. He opposed the present Bill because he believed, in the first place, that it grossly violated and trampled upon the rights of conscience; and, in the second, because it directly led to the worst evils of the centralising system. He would ask the hon. Member for Oldham why he had avoided giving a definition of the epithet "secular," which occurred in the title of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman bad not ventured to say what "secular" was, and therefore he would tell him what the great majority of the people believed it was not. 439 They believed that it was not religious, and being non-religious, they believed it to be irreligious. ["Oh, oh!"] In spite of the cheer of hon. Gentlemen opposite, he would say that the time had come when it must be told to them that the people of England would affix to this proposition a still stronger epithet; and although the term he was about to use might be considered a strong one, he would ask the hon. Member if the term "atheist" were not the synonym of the word "secular," what it was? He asked the hon. Gentleman, too, if he had considered that there was a strong feeling against the system of secular education, and what appeals he had made to any of the great organs of public opinion on this question in support of the proposition he had made? It would be idle to do more than allude to the National Society, as representing the Church, for no one would say that the Church was in favour of secular education, and the hon. Member himself would not pretend to say that the Church was otherwise than opposed to his scheme. But to pass by the National Society, why had he refrained from all reference to the voluminous documents published by the British and Foreign Society, as representing the Nonconformists in this country? Because he knew that he would be unable to find a single passage that he could have used in support of his plan. The hon. Gentleman might say, however, that there was a large body of persons, zealous for education, who did not belong to either of those societies, and were in favour of his proposition. But he (Mr. Stafford) would refer to a book which had been sent to him, in common, he believed, with every Member of the House, purporting to represent the views and opinions of a large and active part of the community not belonging to those societies, as explained in the Crosby-hall lectures on education in 1848. The first extract was this:—Every true lover of education raises his standard high. In both processes of education and instruction he would have the sacred and common mingled and interwoven. They are in their own nature allied and mutually dependent and helpful. Everything true is in harmony with all other truth. No knowledge can we acquire of nature, of history, or of art, but if we will trace it either to its roots or to its end, we find it in God.Another extract, p. 64, was as follows:—Nothing could be more natural and inevitable than that Independents should bear part in all 440 movements for popular education, and that they should pay special attention to the principles on which it might be proposed to conduct this work. For them to adopt any separate operations for educating the people detached from Christianity was impossible.And again, p. 74:—Man is something more than matter; he is a spiritual being. Any attempt to educate him, save religiously, is a mockery and an insult. We cannot, indeed, conceive of an education of man's nature without a constant appeal to his relations towards the Deity, and to the influence of rewards and punishments over him. What is defended as secular education is most superficial, considering the depths of his soul—most incidental, considering the laws of his being, most temporary, considering the revolutions of his duration. Such a secular education need not say there is no God; but it must not say there is one. Such a secular education need not say Christianity is a lie; but it must not say it is the truth, and no lie. It need not denounce the faith of an hereafter; but it, as a thing of an earthly sœculum, must never point to sœcula sœculorum.His (Mr. Stafford's) position was, that no man voting for the Bill before the House could claim to be a friend to religious liberty, because the Bill could not be advanced a step farther, without violating those religious scruples which had been so constantly put forward, and trampling upon convictions which had been so strongly urged. It was a mere begging of the question to propose secular education as a means to settle sectarian differences, because by its very operation it raised up sectarian difference. The true friends of religious liberty could not sink the principle of respect to religious conviction—they must say that all or none were to be respected. He would tell those, moreover, who would establish secular education to avoid sectarianism, that on their side they were a very small sect, while their opponents were a very large sect; that the consciences of the latter had a right to be respected, and should be respected; and that they would not sanction a Bill which violated the very principle which the advocates of the Bill had laid down of respect and liberty for religious scruples. He would now try the Bill by another standard. Under the guise of local self-government and local machinery it just transferred the whole power to the Committee of the Privy Council on Education. The final appeal rested with the Privy Council alone. Take the case of two parishes, supposing the Bill to have passed, one of them anxious to be put under the operation of the measure, and the other unwilling to be so placed. The willing parish applied to the Privy 441 Council to be put under the Bill, and the Council had the entire power of refusing the application, without any appeal. The inspector of schools was sent round, and with him alone rested the power of deciding whether or not the school should be placed under the arrangements of the Bill, and the parish had no power. Then take the case of the unwilling parish, having its own educational system and ecclesiastical arrangements complete, and working satisfactorily to all the community, when one morning the overseers would be startled by a letter from the Committee of the Privy Council, desiring them to summon all the ratepayers together, and desiring them to elect a Committee, which Committee was to submit a plan of secular education to the Privy Council. No time even was given to this unwilling parish to summon a public meeting. Within a week, nay within two days, another letter might come down from the Privy Council, saying, "You have not been sufficiently active in summoning a meeting, therefore we send a plan to you, which you must adopt under the 13th clause. The parish, however, might find itself in a more unfortunate situation, for the Privy Council had the power of combining parishes together for the purposes of education under the Bill, whether they were willing or not. Nor was there any limit to the expense to be incurred. Yet this was said to be a system entirely based upon the principle of local self-government; whilst at the same time every facility was given to the Privy Council to override objections to the plan of the parochial committee. The system, indeed, was to tax the whole rateable property of the parish without any appeal or limit whatever. Such parishes might find themselves, in the course of a week, taxed to the amount of 10s. a head for the erection of any number of schools, without the slightest power of appeal or remonstrance. But there was one power left to these unfortunate parishes. The ratepayers being wholly unrepresented, nay anti-represented, in whom did the House think the remains of local self-government were left? Why, in the children.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said, there were certain powers, as the power of complaint was left to parents and guardians.
§ MR. STAFFORD
said, the hon. Gentleman might intend to include the words "parents and guardians" in the 7th clause; but as the clause stood, it certainly made complaints to originate with the children. The words were—"And be it enacted, 442 that upon the complaint of any of the children who may have attended any school," and not "parents or guardians." He took the Bill as he found it, and the hon. Gentleman must not make him chargeable for its omissions. But if the hon. Gentleman really meant that complaints should originate with parents or guardians, he must have felt an immense amount of scruple to prevent him from mentioning their names. The hon. Gentleman had eulogised the profession of the schoolmaster, and with truth he exclaimed, "the schoolmaster is, in fact, the school;" but he (Mr. Stafford) would ask the House to tell him what sort of schoolmasters would place themselves under the control of a committee chosen every year by all the ratepayers in the parish? He could not conceive a situation more objectionable to a respectable man, than not to know what religious or sectarian feelings might be roused in relation to his school. The unfortunate schoolmaster under such circumstances, would be called upon to serve two masters—the Privy Council on the one hand, and the parochial educational committee on the other—a body which was to be changed every year. The chances were, then, that the popular elections for this committee every year would give rise to party feelings, from which the schoolmaster must suffer, unless he altered the complexion and animus of the school, to receive the tinges and hues which they might wish to give to his instruction. These circumstances, he contended, would render the services of the schoolmaster in the district wholly valueless. He would now advert to the title of the measure. It was called "A Bill to Promote the Secular Education of the People in England and Wales." Now, the hon. Gentleman had neither told the House the meaning of the word "secular," nor why the Bill was to stop with England and Wales, though it professed to be founded upon a parochial system, sufficiently common to the other two countries not named, to authorise its extension there, if the hon. Gentleman believed in the value and healthfulness of this new principle. Hero, then, was enunciated an important principle of education in a Bill, whose characteristic was the exclusion of Scotland, Ireland, and Christianity. The hon. Gentleman had paid a great compliment to Scotland and Ireland by the omission; and he hoped the conduct of the House would show that England and Wales were 443 entitled to a similar favour. Let it not be imagined that the principle of this Bill at all resembled the principle of education under the National Board of Education in Ireland. It differed from it in two most important distinctions—distinctions as important as any that could be laid down. With regard to the parochial system, there was no mention of it whatever in the system of the Irish Society; and with regard to its irreligious—or, at all events, its secular character, he (Mr. Stafford) asked if there was the slightest analogy between the Bill and the Irish system? Let the hon. Gentleman take the books of that society, and show the House if there was any reference to a merely secular education in any one of them. The Church of England would certainly protest against any such system; the Roman Church in Ireland would also certainly protest against it; for they never had been, and he trusted they never would be, charged with being latitudinarian in this particular. But the hon. Gentleman, silent with regard to the British and Foreign School Society and the National Society, eulogised one plan, which he said was worthy of consideration in that House—and this was a plan for the establishment of a general system of secular education in the county of Lancaster. He (Mr. Stafford) had ventured to write to the secretary of the association promoting this system, and by his courtesy he had been furnished with the "plan," which it was stated had been stereotyped, and had gone through twelve editions; and he begged the attention of the House to the way in which the association proposed to deal with the question of religious education, which, after all, was the question of the Bible. They set out by saying, that, inasmuch as virtuous truths, having reference to the Divine Being, were powerfully enforced in the Scriptures—a selection of examples or precepts shall be made therefrom, and read and used in the said schools, but without reference to the peculiar religious tenets of any religious sect or denomination.Then—for the purpose of making this selection, a committee shall be appointed by the county board, constituted of nine individuals, no two of whom shall be members of the same religious denomination; and, in order that no peculiar tenets and no religious sects may be favoured, the unanimous concurrence of the committee shall be required in the selection.It was lamentable to see benevolent and 444 intelligent men, for such he believed them to be, driven to such a melancholy shift in attempting to perform that which was impossible. Should they not rather, as the House of Commons would, with all its faults and all its differences, have at once come forward and said, "We will not recognise any system which shall, as the necessity of its existence, exclude all reference to another world." Would not that House, upon the principle of local self-government, rather say, "We will protest against a system combining all the despotism of tyranny with all the confusion of democracy, and we will not, as respecters of liberty and religion, endow or give assistance to the smallest and worst sect amongst us—the sect of secularisers?" But the hon. Gentleman proposed that each scholar, as a mark of good conduct, should receive, upon leaving school, a copy of the Holy Scriptures. The Bible was first compulsorily withheld, and then, of necessity, it was to be given, on the principle, he supposed, that two compulsions would make up the voluntary principle. Why, when a boy opened that book, and therein read the splendid apparatus of prophecy and miracle with which the mission of Christianity was announced and attested, and saw that its earliest office was to preach the gospel to the poor, with what feelings would he contrast a system which proposed to exclude him from this knowledge? With what feelings would he remember that within the walls of their schools no appeal might be heard to the authority—no sanction drawn from the law—no invitation given to the love—no mention even made of the holy name—of that beneficent and awful Being who "suffered little children to come unto him." This was not a Nonconformist or a Church question. It was not a party question. It was even higher than a national question. And because the people of England believed this project to be at war with Christianity, he was sure that House would not, and dare not, say to it, "God speed!" The more the people of England felt their conduct on this occasion would be watched throughout all Christendom, the more necessary was it that their representatives in that House should do justice to their constituents, by utterly rejecting the project now laid before them.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."445
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
The EARL of ARUNDEL and SURREY
rose for the purpose of seconding the Amendment moved by his hon. Friend. The Bill, as it appeared to him, was founded upon one of two principles: either that secular education was more valuable than religious education, or that secular education was certain to lead to religion. The former, he apprehended, would not be maintained by any hon. Member; for he was not aware of there being in that House any professed infidels; and none but an infidel would contend that an education fitting man for this life alone was more valuable than an education for eternity. The second question was, whether secular education was calculated to lead men to religion? All experience proved the contrary. Man, born into this world, and surrounded by all sorts of material affections calculated to draw him to the earth, unless carefully instructed in his earliest youth, was much more likely to prove irreligious than religious. It was not wonderful that he should stand forward before the country to speak against a system of merely secular instruction, for the church of which he was a member had invariably maintained the principle that religion should be the groundwork of education, and that the education of the people should be placed under the care of the ministers of religion. It was for this great principle that the Roman Catholic Church had worked and struggled for years in France and throughout the Continent of Europe; and he would show the House the results which had been realised from a contrary policy. The House would pardon him for producing a few extracts from different publications on this subject, because he felt strongly upon it, and he deemed it absolutely essential that the natural results of a merely secular education of the people should be thoroughly known and understood. The works of Mr. Lang were well known to every hon. Member—he was a Presbyterian traveller; and Dr. Ullathorne, Bishop of Hetalona and Vicar Apostolic of the Central District, in his Remarks on the Proposed Education Bill, had the following passage:—Mr. Lang is admitted to be an authority upon this subject. He is a good observer, has not wanted opportunities, abounds in statistics, and is a Presbyterian in religion. He wrote his Notes of a Traveller some time before the social disruptions on the Continent, though his own observations 446 anticipated them. He has well defined the Prussian system, and his definition as correctly applies to Mr. Fox's plan, as being 'the educational drill of all the children of the community to one system in schools, in which the parent has no control or election of what is taught, or by whom or how.' He has described its desolating effects upon the moral condition of the people. He shows how it has lessened and brought down the independent character of the people—how it has tended to make man a mere State machine. He points to it as one of the I great causes why the great body of the people submitted with stolid indifference to the new State religion imposed upon them by their late king. And we have now ourselves come to witness the reaction both against the State religion and the State in the workings of that revolutionary spirit which must ever follow, sooner or later, the usurpation by States of those functions the exercise of which are among the legitimate rights of the family. He shows, and that by statistics, that female chastity is in a lower state than in almost any other country of the Continent, and equally so the condition of morals generally.Dr. Ullathorne went on to say:—The following passage from Mr. Lang's chapter on the Prussian Educational System is too apposite to be omitted:—'If the ultimate object of all education and knowledge be to raise man to the feeling of his own moral worth, to a sense of his responsibility to his Creator and to his conscience for every act, to the dignity of a reflecting, self-guiding, virtuous, religious member of society, then the Prussian educational system is a failure. It is only a training from childhood in the conventional discipline and' submission of mind which the State exacts from its subjects. It is not a training which has raised, but which has lowered the human character.'But had Mr. Lang's views been altered? Certainly not; for in his late work, Observations on the Social and Political State of the European People in 1848 and 1849, being the Second Series of Notes of a Traveller, he said, speaking of public opinion being in the hands of the educational functionaries:—These doctrines and opinions, however true as abstract propositions, are not practically applicable to the existing Governments in Germany by any reform short of revolution; and national education in Government schools, under exclusively privileged teachers, has proved not merely a failure, but a powerful lever, overturning the Governments which established it as a support. In France we see it declared that all the teachers of the primary schools in very extensive districts are Socialists. Those who taught, qualified, and licensed them must be Socialists too; and tracing back to the fountain head the theories of Communism and Socialism, and the fanaticism for impracticable objects which have seized on the public mind in Germany and France, it is evident that a few dreaming philosophers in the chairs of the universities may infuse, through their educational machinery, a poison into the public mind which these educating Governments have no means to counteract.447 He might, however, be told that religion was too firmly established in England for this country to fear any experiments of this kind in the way of education. That was by no means his opinion; and in proof of it, it would be his painful duty—a duty he had not imposed on himself without serious consideration—to read some passages from works of a high intellectual character, which would show that it was not safe to trust only to secular instruction. Some of these works did away altogether with the Scriptures, reduced our Saviour to the level of a heathen philosopher, and, so far as their principles were concerned, entirely destroyed every vestige of the Christian religion. The sore, therefore, was among us, and it was impossible to probe it, or to tell how deep it had gone. He therefore demanded the attention of the House, as Christians and as statesmen, whilst he endeavoured to point out its nature and substance. First, then, he would attempt to show the character of the teaching now among us. The Rev. James Rose, in his State of Protestantism in Germany Described, being the substance of four discourses delivered before the University of Cambridge, in 1825, speaking of the majority of the divines of the German Protestant Churches, during the last half of the preceding century and the commencement of this, said—Although they rejected, as I have said, all belief in the Divine origin of Christianity, they retained the name of Christians, and the language and profession of Christianity. Since our intercourse with the Continent has become free, many of the works of these divines have found their way into the hands of English students of divinity. It appears to me, therefore, indispensable that these students should have a clear conception of the principles of such writers, that they may not, by the deceptive use of Christianity, be betrayed, at a period of life when their judgment is not matured, into conclusions wholly subversive of Christianity.Now, what the Rev. Mr. Rose addressed to the students in divinity in the University of Cambridge, he (the Earl of Arundel and Surrey) addressed to the British House of Commons, and to the people at large; for some of the works he referred to were now among us, in the most attractive forms, and couched in language so deceptive that many an English lady would think she might with perfect security trust them in the hands of her daughters unsuspicious of the fatal results which might arise from works of such a pernicious tendency. He would refer to what was called The Catholic Series, published by Chapman, which 448 were highly eulogised, he could not help thinking without any knowledge of their real nature, by such respectable publications as the Morning Chronicle, the Foreign Quarterly, the Nonconformist, the Economist, and others. The effect of the praises of these respectable prints was, that the young got hold of these books, read them with attention, and thus, almost insensibly, poison was instilled into their minds. These works were got up in an expensive as well as in a cheap style, the purpose being that they should circulate through all classes, the lowest as well as the highest. He would read one extract from this series, from Popular Christianity, by F. J. Foxton, a minister of the Church of England—he hoped no longer so—as follows:—To bring the spiritual government of the world into sounder and more consistent relations with the existing intelligence of the age, it will be necessary at least to modify so much of the doctrinal teaching and external government of all Christian churches as is involved in the assertion of the following dogmas of the popular theology, namely—1. Of the vague and indefinite doctrine of the 'inspiration of the Scriptures.' 2. Of the doctrine of miracles and prophecy, 3. Of the really Pagan doctrine of the divinity of Christ as now taught. 4. Of the futile and fallacious idea of teaching Christianity by dogmatical creeds and articles. Such must be the basis of any really spiritual reformation, and the foundation of any truly Catholic Christianity.Similar doctrines were imported from America. For instance, there was published A Discourse of Matters pertaining to Religion, by Theodore Parker, Minister of the Second Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts—a book beautifully written, in the most attractive language, but containing horrible doctrines—he would say, accursed doctrines. He would only read this passage:—The most careless observer sees inconsistencies, absurd narrations; finds actions attributed to Jesus, and words put into his mouth which are directly at variance with his great principles and the general tone of his character.One of the worst features about these publications was, that they treated our blessed Saviour not as God, but as man; and that whilst denying his divinity they addressed to him the language of poetry and praise in the way that the most fervent saint might do. The following was an apt illustration—Jesus, there is no dearer name than thine,Which Time has blazoned on his mighty scroll;No wreaths nor garland ever did entwine So fair a temple of so vast a soul.449There every Virtue set his triumph-seal;Wisdom conjoined with strength and radiant grace,In a sweet copy Heaven to reveal, And stamp perfection on a mortal face.But he must read one or two short extracts from Christian Theism, another work of the same school:—It may be asked why, on this hypothesis of imperfect views and mixed motives on the part of the Founder of Christianity, this age should be inclined to render him any allegiance whatever, and to connect his name more than those of many other reformers, possibly more wise and enlightened, with the cause of human improvement? If he were not God, nor the Son of God, nor a prophet, nor even the wisest philosopher or most perfect moral being that we conceive of; if he were, in fact, only a Jewish peasant, of intellect, imagination, and moral feeling, much, although not immeasurably, above the standard of his age and country, why should his name be enshrined in this costly manner more than those of many other philanthropists, which would now be scarcely recognised by any but the students of biographical dictionaries?And the writer thus summed up:—Let Christian Theism then express the feelings of him who, while he admits no authority alone but that of man's reason, and no revelation besides that of Nature, yet listens to and honours one of the best expounders of God and Nature in the Man of Nazareth. Theists of every nation—Christian, Jew, Mahometan, or Chinese—can meet upon common ground. Whatever minor predilections each may entertain for his own most eminent teacher or prophet—whether Christ, Mahomet, Moses, or Confucius—their great principle is the same—to seek the knowledge of the human mind, and rules for the guidance of man, in the great volume stretched out before all men.Then The Soul, her Sorrows, and her Aspirations, by F. W. Newman (the brother of Father Newman, now of the Oratory), actually denied the existence of the Mediator:—Now, where the place of a Mediator is held by priests, saints, or a virgin, it would appear that uncompensated mischief results; but as applied to Jesus Christ, the doctrine of mediation is far more perplexed, owing to the manifold and complicated tenets held concerning his person. There are some who teach he was less than God, and yet that he is the Mediator between God and man. Where such a mediation is not a mere name received by tradition, where he is effectively believed to be a more lenient judge than God, to mc it appears certain that the belief is purely evil.He held in his hand a little hook of very pretty poetry, from the same publisher, called Reverberations, in the 81st page of which he found the following lines:—PECCA FORTITER.What help for hourly errors shall I find?How tread the dangerous path that must be trod?Guileless and simple be in heart and mind.Sin bravely man, and leave the rest to God.450 The works of Fichte and Strauss, which were very much praised by some of the public prints, had been beautifully translated, and were now in circulation among us. They denied the necessity of a Mediator, and held up the supremacy of human intellect, and there were many others of the same class. Now, it was a fact, that the Bill of the hon. Member for Oldham was supported by this school. The Bill was precisely such a measure as the members of that school wanted, and they were cloaking their objects under the common name of Christianity. They called music and painting to their aid, and said there was no harm in surmounting their temples with the cross. It was currently reported that Mr. Froude, one of this school, had been appointed Principal of the New College at Manchester—an institution in favour of the Bill of the hon. Gentleman. Whether this were so or not, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding could inform the House, for he was one of the Committee in whose hands the nomination of the officers of the college was placed. He thanked the House for having allowed him to disgust them with the extracts he had just read. We had now arrived at an important period in the world's history. Every one knew what his religious belief was; but in these observations he was not advocating the claims of the Roman Catholic Church, but those of the poor of England of every denomination. They should not be exposed to these perils of unbelief. Some three centuries ago there occurred a great convulsion in men's minds, and what was commonly called the Reformation took place. The Scriptures were then set up in place of the teachings of the Church, and now we had arrived at another period, when it was proposed to lay the Scriptures utterly aside. Such a school had risen up, their works were praised, in ignorance, he believed, of their nature, by the respectable press, and it was extraordinary the damage they were doing. This Bill he considered as merely a skirmishing party, which would be driven in without much difficulty, but it was not the last attack. The two armies were drawing up their forces, and the battle was now between religion and irreligion—the Church and infidelity—God and the devil—and the reward for which they must contend was heaven or hell.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that the debate, so far as it had gone, proved to him how 451 bold a man was the hon. Member for Oldham. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment had come there with his quiver full of epithets; and he had hound to it a vast magazine of prejudices, and, instead of appealing calmly and dispassionately to the reason, had shot off his arrows one after another—each one barbed, as it were, with an imputation against all who happened to differ from him. How did he arrive at his conclusion? He said he objected to the Bill on two grounds. First, it was an attack upon the conscience; it trampled upon the tender conscience, said the hon. Gentleman; and, second, again appealing to a prejudice through the medium of a word, he said it was a great centralising effort. How did the hon. Gentleman arrive at his first conclusion? He appealed to the hon. Member for Oldham, and said, "you have not defined your word 'secular.'" Thereupon, with till haste, he set himself about giving a definition. "I will tell you," he said, "what it is not. It is not religion." He then changed the word by a curious process, and said, "it is non-religious." Going onward, and becoming bolder as he advanced, he said, "it is irreligious. Therefore"—was there ever such a "therefore" palmed upon the reason of man?—" it is atheistical." Now, these were the steps of the hon. Gentleman's reasoning. Let the House mark them. "Not religious—non-religious—irreligious—atheistical." And all this simply because the Bill was called one for promoting "secular education." But had the hon. Gentleman set himself at work to understand the meaning of the term? With the leave of the House, he (Mr. Roebuck) would explain it. Education, then, as far as he understood it, was fashioning the mind of a human being for a due performance of his duties in this world, and, by his due performance of those duties, to fit him for the next. Now, it was a curious thing that upon all the broad principles of morality there was no difference of opinion among the various sects of Christianity. What was it, then, that they differed about? Why, those mysterious parts of religion which had no reference to the immediate guidance of men's actions, but which had reference to the peculiar state of mind upon doctrinal points. On those they differed; but upon the principles of morality they were in accord. Unfortunately, however, it so happened that, differing upon this large section of religious teaching and 452 religious belief, they were found in such a state of mind, that when they came to combine for teaching their fellows, they immediately began to quarrel upon these points of doctrine, and left out of consideration those large principles of morality upon which they were all agreed. The hon. Member for Oldham would permit him to draw this distinction for him. If he misrepresented the hon. Gentleman, no man was more capable of setting the House right than he was. The hon. Gentleman had seen these peculiarities in dogma standing in the way of the general education of the people; and he asked himself the question, which many good men had asked themselves—if there could not be such a division in the business of teaching that all might apply their minds, their powers, and their purses, with one heart, together and in a united form, to one portion of the subject; and that all might apply themselves in a separate, unconnected, and divided form to the other portion of the subject? That was what he understood by "secular education." But, said the hon. Gentleman, "you divorce the two," and he quoted a book which said the same thing, "and because you do not teach all, you mean to declare that the part you would leave out is a bad thing, and, therefore, you are all Atheists." The imputation was the same, whether clothed in a mellifluous voice and well-poised sentences, or put naked before the House. "All you who are in favour of this Bill are supporting Atheism." Thus he appealed to the prejudices of the House. And then up gets the noble Lord the Member for Arundel, and reads one book after another, which have no more to do with this question than if he had brought before me the separate peculiar doctrines of every saint in the calendar. The books he read are all published in Christian England, with a Church strongly fortified by secular power. All these books are printed in this good Christian England of ours, with no Bill of this sort yet passed into an Act of Parliament. All this poison is circulating without the assistance of any such thing. I want to know, then, how they can be levelled against a Bill which has not exercised one single particle of influence? The noble Lord took exception to the Reformation, and pointed it out as the first great deviation from what he considers the right path. He said you are about to take just such another step, though he did not use those exact words; 453 but that was ill his mind. Like the rest, he addressed himself merely to your prejudices. He retained one half in his mind, and addressed just so much to the mind of the House as he believed would influence It, Well, the noble Lord objects to the Reformation. Why? Because it has taken mankind out of the thraldom of that priesthood which he will call a Church. I deny it altogether; the priesthood are not the Church. The priesthood are not the teachers of religion—that is, not the exclusive teachers of religion; and I, and my family, and every father in his family who opens the hook and teaches the child is just as much a teacher of religion as the meddling priest who came into your house, and forms a portion of the Church as much as he who propounds its doctrines from the pulpit. He would meet the hon. Gentlemen on the very threshold of their arguments. He wanted to vindicate himself in endeavouring to apply the riches and the means of the people to the education of the people. The education of the people came clearly and distinctly within the limits of the Government. He asked for education for the people. He put it upon the lowest ground, and he said that, as a mere matter of policy, they ought to have education; and then up got the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Northamptonshire, and told him that he was talking Atheism. Why did he say that it was a mere matter of policy to have education for the people? The noble Lord the Member for Bath was now sitting on the opposite benches. The noble Lord had been useful in his generation in getting up what he called "Ragged schools." [A laugh.] Why, it was nothing to laugh at. It was a very benevolent effort on the part of the noble Lord; but it was, at the same time, a great imputation upon this kingdom that such schools were needed. Why were they needed? Let any body read the circumstances connected with these schools, and he would see vice swarming in all quarters of our great cities. The hon. Gentleman who has moved the Amendment, said that he, in his circle, had done all he could for the education of the people—that his class had been extremely anxious, willing, excellent, and industrious in the effort. The hon. Member also acknowledged that Gentlemen of opposite opinions were as industrious and as excellent as he and his class were. But he (Mr. Roebuck) would cite the noble Lord the Member for Bath as a witness, who would tell him how impotent and useless 454 were their separate endeavours when there was a mass of vice beneath them that was absolutely hideous to contemplate. Talk to the wretched people, and tell them of the salvation of their souls. Why, it was an impudent mockery. They were in a state so hideous, so mischievous, and so overwhelming, that even the noble Lord himself who had been thus active would find it a hopeless task to bring individual benevolence to deal with this great and growing evil. But because the hon. Member for Oldham came forward and hoped that by some effort of theirs they might bring their powers to bear against this cruel mischief, these imputations were directed against the hon. Gentleman. The cheers with which these imputations were received had no effect, so far as he (Mr. Roebuck) was concerned. They would just make him speak out, and brave all that prejudice which the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Northamptonshire had excited, and treat the question upon the broad basis on which the hon. Member for Oldham had placed it. Was this Bill an attack upon tender consciences? Was it an attack upon religious liberty? He would tell the hon. Member what was an attack upon religious liberty. It was a Church having peculiar doctrines, called a State Church, which took from everybody who did not belong to it. Supposing he (Mr. Roebuck) were to come down and cite the hon. Gentleman as a great supporter of religious liberty, and then ask him to vote against church rates, would he do so? Not a bit of it. But he would get up and talk about "religious liberty" and "tender consciences," when he was asked to instruct the poor. Then it was that he could use this barbed and poisoned arrow against him (Mr. Roebuck), because he asked him to rescue the large multitude of the people who were now unable from want of the means to instruct their children, by lending them the aid of the State's money, and allowing every man and every denomination, and every priest of every denomination, full power and liberty to teach each separate child the doctrines which its parents chose that it should be taught—this was an attack upon religious liberty. The noble Lord the Member for Arundel objects to this Bill, because he says it is anti-Christian—in this almost echoing the phrase of the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire. Now, let us ask this question. The noble Lord has also said that we are upon the eve of a great contest. I think so too. 455 He may drive us in, as he says, upon the present occasion. I do not doubt it. We may not, I do not expect to be, successful this day; but depend upon it the growing feeling out of doors will at last compel this House to look at the question without prejudice; and they will do so for this reason. Every day sees the population of the country increasing. Of necessity every day, unless some great means are discovered to prevent the calamity, will see the congregation of wealth into a smaller number of hands; and there will be, and must be, a growing population of poor. The individual exercise of private benevolence will every day become less effective against this great mass of evil. Individual, unconnected, and unaided purpose will never be able to cope with the growing multiplied ignorance which is daily increasing in this country. He did not say this because he had the slightest fear about the future of his country; not at all. He had a sanguine hope and great expectation that they would see a far happier race than the present population rise up; but he said this because he believed that opinions such as had been propounded by the hon. Member for Oldham would become common to them all, and that they would learn to get rid of that narrow spirit which had rendered inefficient and hopeless every attempt which had yet been made to instruct the people of this country by the means which they possessed—for how had their money been hitherto applied? They had exclusive universities, exclusive schools, or small sections of forces employed in this way under the National Schools, a still smaller section under the British and Foreign Schools, and these were almost all the public means applied to education in this country. But what he asked was, "let us see if we cannot by some means devise a scheme which shall avoid the difficulty that has hitherto been in our path." What had been that difficulty? Was it not the opinion of mere dogmas that had prevented the noble Lord the Member for Arundel from coming into the same school-room with the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment. Was it not owing to that cause, that that hon. Gentleman, being an English Churchman, objected to the teaching of the Methodist—that the Methodist objected to the teaching of the Congregationalist—that the Congregationalist objected to the teaching of the Presbyterian, who objected to the teaching of everybody else. Thus they went on together, a sort of 456 power being possessed by every man to drive off every other who did not agree with him in his opinions. And he asked those who would support the Amendment, to tell him why, if he were to meet the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Northamptonshire, the noble Lord the Member for Arundel, and any other Gentleman who happened to be Independent, Presbyterian, or Methodist, they could not open "that book," and make selections upon which they would be unanimous? There were teachings there which were wholly removed from dogmatical teaching. When he used the words "dogmatical teaching," he meant the mere dogma of religion. All the broad principles of ordinary morality, and all the statements which aided and assisted it, they could select and be unanimous upon; and they would be enabled, not only out of the Bible, but out of every other book in which there was a good morality, to extract sentences upon which they might all agree. But in so doing, the hon. Gentleman said, they struck at the root of Christianity and of all religious teaching. Whilst, however, they dealt in these general statements, they could not get on. He would take a child, who came into a school for secular instruction. First of all he was taught to read, and he supposed that would not injure his religion. He was also taught common arithmetic; and if he remained long at school he would receive other portions of education. Now, when the hon. Gentleman objected to the word "secular," and pretended not to understand it, it was only an objection adopted to catch prejudices. He (Mr. Roebuck) was speaking, of course, of what would happen to the poor. The child came to school at nine, and went home at twelve o'clock; came again at two, and returned home at five. All the other hours of the twenty-four he would pass at home, and would go to church or chapel as his parents pleased. How, then, in dealing with the child in this way, did he pervert his mind—for that was the imputation? How did he shut it up, and close it against all religious teaching? Was he doing that? Why, there never was an imputation so utterly unsupported by argument and fact as that. He did not close the child's mind—he opened it. He gave him the means of learning; and when the child went home to his natural instructors in religion—his parents—why could he not learn the doctrines of his religion from them? "Oh," says the dogmatist, "I want him to be 457 surrounded by an atmosphere of religion, and to go to a school where he shall have religion taught to him as well as arithmetic." That was just the impossibility. If a scheme of that sort could be devised, he (Mr. Roebuck) would join him heart and hand; but it could not be done. It was impossible, and there was only one other alternative, which was this, was the hon. Gentleman prepared to vote money and have a school for every denomination? Could they do that? Why, upon the face of it, it was an utter impossibility. There might be in the same parish—a little parish—a hundred different denominations. Were they to have a hundred schools? No, it was impossible. They had not the means. What, then, were they to do? "Oh," said the hon. Member, "do nothing, as a State; you are a Christian people and Legislature, therefore do not educate your children; leave it to others; leave it to private benevolence. I am a benevolent person. You are benevolent persons. We are rich. You are rich. Let us combine and teach the people by means of our benevolence and charitable donations." He (Mr. Roebuck) protested against this principle of charitable donations. He protested against it in the name of the independent poor of this country. He appealed, not to the prejudices of this House, but to the feelings of the people out of doors on this matter; and he asked them, and he asked the House, if they did not consider that the business of education was the first, most important, and all-influencing of the functions of Government? You make laws, you erect prisons, you have the gibbet; you circulate throughout the country an army of Judges and barristers to enforce the law; but your religious bigotry precludes the chance or the hope of your being able to teach the people so as to prevent the crime which you send round this army to punish. It was because he believed prevention to be better than cure, and that it was the business of Government to prevent crime in every possible way, rather than after its commission to punish it, that he asked the House to divest itself of the prejudice and bigotry which was at the bottom of the opposition on this occasion. It is not now for the first time that we have heard these sentiments. The noble Lord the Member for Arundel well said that this was the principle which produced the Reformation. Just so. And he could imagine in the olden times, before Henry VIII, that an 458 ancestor of the noble Lord, an Earl of Surrey, not being a Protestant, might have risen in this House and thundered against and denounced a measure of this kind as impious, heretical, atheistical, abominable, and accursed. That might have been just the sort of person to say, "There is the man who is sowing all this poisonous seed; and mark what the harvest will be. You will find the people 300 years hence a multitude great in every art and science, and making every possible discovery; but they will not believe in the teaching of the priest. They will be heretics, and their souls will be in danger of damnation." Why, the noble Lord said that just now—all that. He meant it all. He felt it all. But let us understand what is the real feeling at the bottom of all this. I want to rescue the people from that sort of domination which we did escape from at the Reformation. I hope it will go on in that spirit, and lead us not to submit our minds and thoughts to the leadings or teachings of any body of persons, whether they call themselves priests or anything else. It made little difference to him what a man's denomination was. The love of power was just the same in one denomination as another; and when Swift said that "Jack was mightily like Peter," he never uttered a truer word. The book which had been read by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Northamptonshire was precisely the same in spirit as that which had been read by the noble Lord. The noble Lord represented grandmother Church, the hon. Gentleman represented mother Church; and he dared say there were many Gentlemen on his own side of the House who would represent some of her improper daughters. But the opposition would be the same throughout. Whether it came armed by the name of a bishop in partibus, or from a dissenting congregation, it would be precisely the same in spirit. It was a love of power. It was an impossibility, in their minds, to mingle cheerfully, and in a true Christian spirit, with those who did not agree on all doctrinal points with themselves. But was it for him to stand up and accuse either the noble Lord, or the hon. Gentleman, or any Dissenter in that House, with being unfit to teach and expound the principles of ordinary morality? Far be it from him to make such an imputation upon anybody. He did hope that he had trained his mind to receive every man as his brother in the matter of educating mankind, without pretending to peer into his heart and brain in 459 order to learn what were his opinions upon those mysterious subjects in reference to which they so often differed, and might all be wrong. He did not pretend to do this; he thought it a great and serious crime so to do. He asked of him to obey the law and to be a good man; and he left it to be decided between him and his Creator whether the opinion which he had formed with regard to the Great Author of his being was the correct one. But of this he was sure, that whatever that good man's opinion might be upon these subjects, he was quite capable of joining in the business of education, and that no man had a right to accuse him, or the hon. Member for Oldham, or himself (Mr. Roebuck) of being atheistical, and raising against them the direful spirit of bigotry, which had now again found a voice because they were aiding in the promotion of the Bill of the hon. Member for Oldham. He wanted an answer to this question. In teaching what was plainly understood by everybody, the principles of secular knowledge, he asked some one to prove to him that they closed and shut up the mind from the possibility of acquiring the teachings of religion—that, if in any one parish there were erected a school for secular teaching, the children who came there in the morning and left again in the afternoon would be rendered by the teaching they received there less fit to acquire religious instruction? It would not do to say this was irreligious and atheistical, and that they thereby separated religion from education. They did no such thing. They made the child better able to understand what he was taught in religion. They gave him instruction in that which would lead him to good. They ameliorated his mind; and if they had good seed let them sow it in God's name. But, said the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire, not satisfied with these imputations, this is a centralising project. He (Mr. Roebuck) asked the House not to take the Bill as a manifestation of anything else but this. It asked the House to pledge itself to this opinion, that the business of education was a portion of the duties of Government, As to the mode of carrying out this principle, if the Bill were in error let them change it. He was glad that there was a Gentleman who had the courage to face those imputations; for he must have known that he would have to face them; and now, having broken the ice, he trusted they would no longer halt on the way, but that they would, in the language 460 of the noble Lord the Member for Arundel, continue this great fight; for a great fight it was, and he was right when he said that the standard was first raised by Martin Luther. If he wanted an authority in support of the Bill of the hon. Member for Oldham, was it not to be found? The noble Lord had said that France and Prussia were educated countries, and that in both infidelity flourished. The noble Lord did not read a French or a Prussian book, however—he read English books—therefore, infidelity flourished in England also, England was not an educated country, that was to say, educated by the State. But there was a country where our own language was spoken—a country the people of which were descendants from ourselves—the most religious country on the face of the globe. In the United States of America there were now 25,000,000 of people, almost all of them the descendants of Englishmen, and who at this moment were being taught through the means of the State. Speaking more particularly of New England, the schools of that State were open to everybody, and so excellent were they that rich as well as poor were educated in them. From one end of that State to the other they had acted exactly upon the principle of this Bill; and he wanted it to be proved to him that the teaching thus adopted by the people of New England had not led to what he contended that it had—the creation of the most moral and the most religious people upon the face of the globe. Would the House repudiate this experience on the ground that this people were not Englishmen? Why, if ever there was a body of men who deserved that name, it was the people of New England. They went out from this country at a time when there existed the strongest possible bigotry—they passed through the flaming furnace of religious persecution after they went there, and they had come out of it purified, tolerant, happy, instructed, and religious. Now here was an instance they could not get over. He thanked the House for the patience with which they had listened to him. This was a question which had occupied his mind for many years. He was glad it had got into hands more powerful than his own, and he promised the hon. Member for Oldham every possible counsel and support.
§ LORD ASHLEY
said, it was altogether impossible to overrate the importance of this question; and he thought that its 461 very importance demanded from the House that they should come to its consideration with forbearance, calmness, and deliberation. This was altogether a novel proposition; for, although measures akin to it might have been propounded, there had never before been submitted to that House a proposal so clear, so unmistakeable, and which was calculated to be so prodigious in its results. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken had admitted what had been stated by the noble Lord the Member for Arundel, that this was the beginning of a new series of conflicts, and he had added that, although they might possibly be defeated in this instance, they would, on a future occasion, renew the attempt. He (Lord Ashley) had no doubt that such was the intention of the propounders of this measure; and it was because they had so determined to persevere in the course they had begun that he felt so deep an alarm; because he solemnly declared his firm belief, that upon the issue of the question propounded that day would hang altogether the future history of the British empire. The hon. and learned Gentleman had declared that the difficulty of the case arose from the differences of creed among those who called themselves Christians; the morality of all sects being, he said, one and the same. That was an incorrect position. There were vast bodies, who called themselves Christians, from whose morality the whole of that House would dissent; and, moreover, he protested against the principle which the hon. and learned Member had laid down, that the morality of the Scriptures had nothing whatever to do with its mysteries and doctrines. The moral precepts, and the doctrines or dogmas of Christianity were inseparably connected. He only could receive the full force of the moral precepts of Christianity who received the dogmas and mysteries with implicit belief; and in vain would they attempt to enforce upon the minds of children the binding nature of the parables of the "Good Samaritan," and the "Sower," or any of the other beautiful and moral precepts of the New Testament, if they left them under the conviction that He who delivered them was a mere man, and not the true and eternal Son of the living God. It was from that great truth that the Christian precepts derived their force, and it was by that truth alone that it would be possible to regenerate mankind. This subject might be regarded either in its details or 462 as a question of principle. He would prefer discussing it as a question of principle; but the details were so weighty, they bore so much on the general question, and were so capable of refutation, that he should, with the permission of the House, enter into one or two points. And, in the first place, he would show that the hon. Member for Oldham was incorrect in the statistics on which he proceeded. The first position which that hon. Gentleman took up was this, that on a comparative estimate of the population of various countries, the number of persons receiving education in this country was greatly inferior to the number receiving education in continental States. He (Lord Ashley) would take only one case, because, as the same fallacy ran through the whole argument, one would sufficiently answer his purpose. He would take the case of Prussia. The hon. Gentleman stated, that in Prussia there were one in six receiving education, while in England there were, according to some, only 1 in 8½; but, according to his own estimate, only 1 in 13. Now, supposing this statement to be correct, the comparison was not a fair one, and for this reason, that the Prussian statistics included every person, from the highest student to the lowest street-sweeper, who was undergoing a course of education, while the English statistics included only those who received inferior degrees of education at eleemosynary establishments. Now, this difference was very great, because, if they wished to make a fair comparison they must add to the estimate of those who were receiving education in England all those who were educated at our universities and great schools, as well as all the establishments maintained for private profit, or by private benevolence. What would be the result? That those who were educated at private expense, and were not to be reckoned as receiving State education, and who were not much more than one-twenty-sixth of the whole number educated in Prussia, in England were at least one-third; and, therefore, in order to institute a fair comparison, the one-third must be added to the number of England. This fallacy ran through all the comparisons with foreign countries, it being a known fact, that in no country of the World did people make such efforts as in England for the independent education of their children. Besides, the accuracy of the statement that one in six of the people in Prussia was receiving education Was very question- 463 able, for according to the returns for ten great towns in Prussia, the proportion was nowhere one in six, and averaged about one in nine—a fair estimate for the whole population. But, even if the comparison between the returns for the two countries were fair, it appeared by actual inquiries that there was a much larger number of children receiving education in our own country than the hon. Member had stated. The populations of Prussia and of England and Wales were nearly the same; and, adopting the proportion of one in six, there ought to be in each about 2,500,000 at school. Deducting for the paying scholars in England and Wales (one-third), there would be about 1,700,000 requiring eleemosynary education. But what were the numbers actually under instruction? There were means of approximation. In 1846–47 the National Society, aided by a grant of 500l. from the Government, instituted an inquiry, in which they found that the Church of England had in its schools 955,865 daily scholars, being an increase of nearly 400,000 in ten years. There were, however, many schools not here included, maintained by private founders; and considering, besides, the great efforts recently made, there could be no doubt that the number of daily scholars in the National schools was now, at least, 1,000,000. The British and Foreign School Society stated their numbers at 200,000; the Wesleyans, theirs at 30,000. In the pauper unions there were about 50,000. These numbers, amounting to nearly 1,300,000, would leave a deficiency of about 400,000; but that number was, probably, very much above the actual deficiency. The calculation included no return from the Congregational Union, and they had expended 130,000l in the last six years in the erection of schools. Indeed, Professor Hoppus and others, who had made much inquiry into the matter, estimated the number of day scholars in England and Wales at 2,000,000. But suppose it to be true that there were 400,000 children requiring eleemosynary education, and not, in fact, attending schools; were there no causes besides deficiency of means to account for it? If we would carry out a system of day schools in this country, we must revise our whole system of infantile labour. How many thousands of children from five to thirteen were employed for ten, fifteen, and eighteen hours in the day! Look to the metal works in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Sheffield; the pinworks, the 464 nailmaking, and calico-printing, in Warrington, in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Kent; the hosiery in Nottingham, Leicester, Derby; the lace-mills; the tobacco manufacturers in London. This was indicating only a few departments of labour; but it would explain that, if our means of education were far greater than at present, we should not be able to produce a full effect on the face of statistical tables, and obtain the desired proportion of children to be educated. No doubt there was a deficiency in some places; in others the means of education superabounded. The Children's Employment Commission, in 1843, stated that instances occurred in which children began to work as early as 3 and 4 years of age; not unfrequently at 5; while, in general, regular employment commenced between 7 and 8; that there were instances in manufactories in which the numbers below 13 exceeded those between 13 and 18; that the hours of work were sometimes eleven, more commonly twelve, and in a great number of instances fifteen, sixteen, and even eighteen consecutively; and he requested their particular attention to the closing sentence:—That, were schools ever so abundant and excellent, they would be wholly beyond the reach of a large portion of the children employed in labour, on account of the early ages at which they were put to work.The truth was, that to give effect to any such measure as that before the House, they must have a compulsory system, and it must be made penal—an offence to be visited upon the parents of the child, if it did not attend some place of instruction in the course of the day. The hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to ragged schools, and said they were a symptom of the evil condition of the times. True; but they were a symptom, also, of the great efforts made in the times, and an unanswerable proof that secular without religious education, would be utterly useless, and that religion must be the alpha and omega of all the education they would give to the poorer classes. The hon. and learned Member seemed to think that crime was to be traced in almost all instances to want of education: no doubt, that was in many cases a source of crime, but it was not the only, nor the chief source. Want of employment was the source of a vast proportion of crime. The condition in which the people lived, the influences to which they were subjected, the sunken and immoral 465 state of a vast number of parents, rendered it next to impossible to produce any permanent improvement in many brought into our schools; and so long as you should leave the condition of your great towns, in all their sanitary, social, and domestic arrangements, such as at present, a large proportion of your efforts would be vain, and the education you could give nearly fruitless. But, after all, was the scheme now propounded practicable? Had the hon. Member for Oldham any one of the great bodies of Christians in this country with him? Had he the Wesleyans, the Independents, the Presbyterians, the Roman Catholics? He had quoted Mr. Fletcher, the inspector of schools, as favouring his view of the case, and for severing religious from secular education. Was such a doctrine found in his reports? Why, there did not exist in this country a man more decided for making Christianity the beginning and end, the great principle of all popular education. Then look at the clauses of the Bill; it contained two parts, one administrative, another financial. The inspectors were to have power to inspect every school in the kingdom, including, therefore, Harrow, Eton, Westminster, Rugby, the Charter-house; the terms of the Bill gave them this power, for all schools were included, both those that submitted to inspection, and all that were in connexion with the Established Church. On their report of an insufficiency according to their estimate, in any parish, the overseers were to summon the ratepayers to elect an educational committee, to devise a plan to supply the deficiency, subject to the approval of the Committee of Council on Education, the expense to be paid by a parochial rate. If no educational committee should be elected, or no plan proposed, the Committee of Council was to have power to establish schools. The schools were to be under the management of the educational committee of the parish, or, in their default, the Committee of Council. Here was an enormous power to be vested in these bodies! No parish, however content with its schools, its arrangements, its masters, its system of teaching, would be exempt. In default of the parochial committee, the Committee of Privy Council was to have power to levy rates, and direct what education it pleased. Was there ever such a despotic enactment? Then look at the Bill financially. The first effect of a rate would be the utter extinction of all existing schools, 466 the whole patronage resting with the Committee. A clergyman who had given great attention to the subject, estimated that upon a moderate computation, taking the principles laid down in the Bill and pushing them to their extreme, it would impose a rate of 10,000l. a year for secular education only in his parish, which contained 50,000 inhabitants. There would be also a great number of lucrative places to be given away, supported by voluntary contributions. Estimating, on the same scale, the cost for our whole population of 16,000,000, there would be 3,200,000l. a year levied in this country for secular education alone, an amount to which they would not object for the great purpose of educating the people on the basis of the Scriptures, but which they altogether refused for secular efforts. But he (Lord Ashley) would rest his opposition to the Bill, not on this ground, but upon the principle that it did not make religion the basis of education. It was not necessary to enter here into the question whether the Church of England were or were not the true and authorised teacher of the people; there was a question anterior to all established churches, whether Christianity should or should not be framed in our national seminaries; the issue was, whether religion should or should not be the alpha and omega, the basis and topstone of all education undertaken by the State. No reason was assigned for dissevering religious from secular education. One could understand the State declaring that it would leave education wholly to private enterprise, or that it would not undertake to teach special creeds or decide in controverted matters; but here the State was to declare that having undertaken to educate the people, it would withhold the one thing needful, and refuse to give that which alone conferred force and efficiency upon all the rest. In what age or nation had it been attempted to impart the principles of self-control except by the guides and restraints of religion? Look at all the codes of the ancient lawgivers—look at all the systems of the malservice and honourable periods of heathen antiquity; had they ripened the conscience by the fear of man, who may be deceived? Had they not done so by the fear of God when nothing can escape? Such was their system; and should we, with our greater lights, be less wise and principled than they were? Upon what authority was the measure to be adopted? The proposition 467 of 1839 could not be quoted, for there provision was made for religious teaching without the walls of schools; nor the Irish system, for there Scripture extracts were admitted. Truly, we seemed standing upon the confines of a new era. The House was discussing whether it should establish by law a system of education from which by law all Christianity Was to be excluded. Talk of the persecution and oppression of church rates!—Tithes and church rates were a recognised burden upon property acquired subject to it, and though some might object to the special form in which the teaching was communicated, tithes and church rates were for the maintenance of the name of God throughout this land; but now a new burden was to be imposed for the support of a system from which the name of Christianity was to be excluded. Would that be no infliction upon the consciences of thousands—nay, of millions? A system of education for the people of a Christian country was to be instituted; by what authority, drawn from the word of God, for surely on this point no other could be allowed, was His word to be excluded? Necessity was pleaded for the institution of the Irish colleges; but seven-tenths of the people of this kingdom were willing to receive education even according to the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England, and the whole of them education according to the Scriptures. Would the proposers of this scheme say they preferred a secular to a religious education? Then let them produce their proofs of its superiority. Would they quote France—Prussia—any continental State? Were they not telling the people of England that a religious education was altogether unnecessary? The people would have a right to draw that inference—for, had the State thought it valuable, that education it would have imparted. The only ground upon which the State could interfere in the matter of education was, that the people should be made good and moral citizens; how could that be achieved without the perpetual sanction of religion? Were we to tear up by the roots the principles which had borne us safely through many ages, and which, however imperfectly inculcated and imperfectly obeyed, had made us, with all our faults, the best and freest portion of the human race? At what time, too, was this proposition made? The supporters of this measure were propounding schemes for extension of the suffrage, 468 and for the increase of individual liberty; and ought not the influences of religion to be more than ever applied, and the principle of self-control inculcated, that the exercise of these privileges might be safe and beneficial to the nation? He (Lord Ashley) had been much struck in reading some laws passed in the French National Assembly, and the bitter experience of that nation might be a warning to us. By the law of the 15th of March, 1850, the Conseil Superieur de l'Instruction Publique was to consist of ecclesiastics and members of various religious denominations; the first provision was for "moral and religious instruction." A report presented to the Chamber in 1849, contained this passage:—Constrained by the evidence of danger to ask the Assembly to adopt a law of repression, we shall shortly ask one of a different character, one which shall prevent measures of rigour by founding our system of national instruction on the solid grounds of morality and religion.In the report of March, 1850, on the law for the "enfans trouvês"there was this article—" Every child confided to the public care must receive a religious education." In a recent visit to Paris, he (Lord Ashley) found it the universal testimony from persons of all ranks, and all politics, that religion alone—the religious habits of the people—had enabled England to stand erect during the time of European convulsion. Yet we were now to introduce a system of education which, if not in words, at least in act, would deny the truth and necessity of these very principles. Nothing was more true than that religion had saved this country—borne us through famine and disease, and carried us through long and perilous wars; and the civilised world had not seen a nobler spectacle than when our thousands and our millions flocked to the places of worship to acknowledge the mercies of Almighty God on the days of humiliation and thanksgiving. It was now proposed to us—and we must decide—" Choose ye this day whom ye will serve." He (Lord Ashley) could only answer for him self—yet he believed he might give the answer in the name of millions in this country—"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
§ MR. M. MILNES
said, he could hardly hope, after the manner in which the debate had been carried on, to divest it of the unparliamentary tone that had been assumed throughout. He believed that if a stranger had come in during their proceedings, he would have been quite at a 469 loss to form the least idea as to what the subject before the House really was. One hon. Member warned them not to follow the example of France, and yet, almost in the same breath, told them that the French system was based on the spirit of religion. Other hon. Gentlemen told them not to follow the example of Prussia, and yet the only ground they gave for their advice was, that the Prussian system was very little superior to their own. He was willing to rest the question on a great principle. He took it that this Bill was an attempt, by means more or less advisable, to supply, as far as secular education was concerned, the deficiency of combined secular, moral, and religious education in this country. This was a question that should not be viewed upon a narrow basis. It was one which was not confined to the part of the country which the hon. Gentleman represented, but affected the country at large. It was not a question of statistics only. It was one which was daily presented to their consideration, and which should be dealt with by their common sense. It would have been better if, instead of opposing the Bill in the spirit in which it had been opposed by the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire, and the noble Lord the Member for Bath, those hon. Members had come forward and submitted plans of their own. They had to consider whether they would or would not attempt in some way or other to remedy the defects that existed in the present mode of giving the people a secular education. If the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire, or the noble Lord the Member for Bath, were to ask him which he would prefer to give the people—an education which Would combine sound religious with secular instruction, or secular instruction merely, without any portion of religious teaching—he would undoubtedly give the reference to the system which would combine both. But the difficulty was to contrite such a system. Let the noble Lord the Member for Arundel try if he could revive the old system of Catholic education—let the Dissenters try to impart in schools the teaching of the doctrines which they professed—let the Churchmen try to give instruction according to their system—there would still be left a vast number of ignorant poor whom it would be necessary to educate. And he would reply to the objections raised against this Bill by the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire, and the noble Lord the Member for 470 Bath, in the words of the Primate of the Church of England, who had said, that of all obstacles to improvement in the condition of the people, ignorance was the most formidable. Difficulties vanished as fast as the standard of intelligence was raised, and the more the people were educated the more likely were they to listen to any reasonable suggestion for their benefit. That was the answer which he would give to those hon. Members. In 1844, Her Majesty's Government made an attempt to establish an educational system upon a very large and liberal basis in the factory districts of the country; but the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth was asked—what was wanted of a State education in those districts, where private charity would supply ample means? Well, very large subscriptions had been made for the purpose. But what, he would ask, was now the state of their funds? Were they competent to carry on the education of the people? Was the state of education in the factory districts at present what it would have been if the Bill introduced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Cumberland had been passed into a law? He assured the House, especially his hon. Friends opposite, that it was with very deep pain, and much anxiety, that he felt himself obliged to give up the hope that the education of the people of this country could be accomplished completely by the Church and the other religious bodies, because he could not conceal from himself for a moment the fact that any number of State instructors could not do what the people themselves could do, if they were acting under the influence of strong religious zeal. But the religious education promoted by the zealous would still go on; and it was only to supply the deficiency that would still remain that the Bill before the House professed to accomplish. He begged of hon. Members to consult the papers relating to juvenile crime, which he had laid upon the table a few days ago, and to see if it were not their duty to their country to prevent ignorance from still continuing to produce such lamentable results. He asked them, would they continue to allow generation after generation of those poor creatures to perish, rather than give up their preconceived ideas. ["Divide, divide!"] He begged the House to listen to him. The subject was very important. ["Divide, divide!"] Well, he Would yield to the wish of the House and conclude by asking hon. Gen- 471 tlemen opposite to temper their zeal with discretion upon the question, and to consider whether they were justified in refusing mere secular education to the people of this country. Why, in their public schools for the middle and higher classes of society, the system of education combined religious with secular instruction; and surely no one could be found to contend that the religious instruction in them was paramount. He begged hon. Gentlemen to be cautious how they encouraged bigotry in their hearts. He trusted that when next the question came before the House, it would not be discussed in that violent theological point of view which had characterised much of the present debate, but that it would be looked upon as one of vital importance, seeing that thousands of children were heathens now with the heathen's God, and that ragged schools and all other eleemosynary plans had failed to educate a large section of the community. He hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and his colleagues, would not recklessly throw away this opportunity without pledging themselves to take the subject into consideration. They were the reformers of the people; but to be the educators of the people was a far higher and more glorious title, inasmuch as, without education, even reformed political institutions might be rendered difficult and dangerous.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, I would be very glad if this Bill, which has been introduced for the purpose of promoting education, had been such as that I could fairly give it my support upon the second reading. In treating of this Bill I will endeavour to avoid as much as possible anything that may savour of passion or of intemperate language whilst stating my objections to it. I will endeavour to make every admission that I think is fairly due to the promoters of the Bill, and to the Bill itself. In the first place, therefore, I may say, notwithstanding some allegations that have been made, that I think there is still a lamentable want of education for the poorer classes in this country; and that it still remains a desirable object for Parliament to promote and succour the education of those people. In the next place, I must say that I think an unjust inference would be drawn from the words used by my noble Friend the Member for Arundel, who seconded the Motion for the second reading of the Bill this day six months, if it were concluded from what he said, that if we were to establish schools where secular education only 472 was admitted, it would follow as a necessary consequence that the opinions of the authors of some writings which he would read would be at all popular amongst the teachers in those schools. I own I very much doubt, even if Parliament were to declare that certain schools should be established in which secular education only should be permitted to be conveyed, whether, in selecting the works upon history, grammar, geography, and other subjects of secular instruction, we would find that, with the prevailing habits and opinions of the people of this country, there would be any inclination to adopt those authors as a standard of creed and belief, and whether the people would not rather go to the clergymen of the Established Church, or to the ministers of the dissenting congregations to whom they were accustomed to look for religious instruction, in order to obtain from them their principles of religion, rather than take them from such sources as my noble Friend has alluded to. But having made these admissions, it remains a very great question whether we should declare that there should be schools established upon the principles laid down in an Act of Parliament, in which schools secular education only should be given. I own I cannot but think that any education established on such a basis must be lamentably deficient. I cannot but think that nothing but the most absolute necessity should oblige Parliament to come to such a conclusion as that they should establish by preference—that they should establish, as it were, as a matter of course, a system of education for the children of the poor of this country from which religion should be entirely excluded. To establish such a principle without an absolute necessity would be a grievous falling off in our own duty, both to our religion and to our fellow-countrymen. I can imagine that there might be places where such a secular education might be the only education that was possible; and I can imagine that, supposing it were advisable to have public rates for the support of public education, and that the inhabitants of a parish were so divided by religious dissension that they could not come to any conclusion as to the mode of imparting religious instruction, and that it was impossible to admit even the reading of the Bible in their schools, the State might interfere, and say that in that extremity it was better to give a secular education to the children than to let them have none whatsoever; and that it 473 might give to the inhabitants of that parish a power of establishing such schools. But the proposition in this Bill differs as widely as it is possible to conceive from such a proposition. The Bill appears to me to be as contrary to all freedom of choice—to be as little conformable to the usual liberty that is allowed to Englishmen upon those subjects—as anything which it has ever been my fortune to see introduced into this House. The course which the Bill takes is not a little singular and remarkable. In the first place, the inspectors of schools appointed by the Committee of the Privy Council on Education, who have the confidence of the Committee of Privy Council, might or might not have the confidence of the people of the Church of England, or of the British and Foreign School Society, or of the Roman Catholic body. They might have the confidence of one or other of those bodies, or of none. But they are to state in their reports, in the first place, their opinion of thestate of secular education in each parish of their respective districts, and of the adequacy of the existing provisions of each parish to afford secular education for the wants of the entire population thereof; and that in such reports the said inspectors shall take cognisance of secular education only; and in estimating the proportion of educational means to the wants of the entire population, private schools which submit to inspection by the inspectors of schools, and schools in connexion with the Established Church and any other religious body, shall be included; and regard shall be had to the effect of every exclusion from instruction, whether arising from the expense of schooling, from peculiar or special religious teaching adopted in any school, or from any other cause whatsoever.The House will observe that it is not stated that the inspector is to go by any rule in framing his report. He is not obliged to say, for instance, that there are, suppose five hundred children in the parish, of whom one hundred do not go to any school. His discretion is very much wider—he is to state whether the education is adequate. But it would depend entirely upon his opinion as to what might be the amount of exclusion from instruction, owing to the peculiar religious teaching adopted in the schools, and to say whether, taking all the circumstances into account, the instruction offered was adequate. The next step is, that the inspector having made his report, the Committee of Privy Council shall issue an order to the overseers of the parish, directing the ratepayers to choose an educational committee for the parish. Now there is no choice 474 left to the parishioners. They must at once appoint an educational committee. The educational committee can then raise rates for furnishing the means of support to the schools, which rates might amount to 10s. in the pound, and they are to found schools in which gratuitous instructions shall be given, and that instruction is to be solely of a secular kind. Why, Sir, we must consider that we are dealing with a country in which many schools have been already established—schools which, however they may differ generally, all agree in one great principle, and that is, the imparting of religious instruction to the children. In some of those schools the children are educated in the principles of the Church of England. We have schools connected with the National Society, which require that the children shall go to church on Sunday, and learn the Bible and the Catechism of the Church of England. Then there are the Wesleyans, who have the Bible taught in their schools, and the Church of England Catechism, but who do not insist upon the children going to church. Then we have the British and Foreign School Society, which orders the reading of the Bible, and makes it indispensable, but which does not admit the catechism or formularies of any particular denomination. We have then the Roman Catholic schools, which are under the direction of their own priesthood, according to whose views and opinions many subjects of school instruction are mixed up with religion, and which are conducted according to the opinions and religious teaching of the community. Here, then, Sir, we have many differences. I will not go through the Congregationalists; but through them all, many as are their differences, runs this one great principle, that, according to the opinions and consciences of those who superintend those schools, and whose money, labour, and time are devoted to them, religion is the grand and uniform object. Well, then. Sir, I say, that if such be the case—if such be the prevailing opinion of the people of this country, it is too much to come forward and attempt to establish schools which should oblige the ratepayers of any parish to subscribe to the purposes of them, whilst disapproving of the principles upon which they were established—the more especially, inasmuch as their giving gratuitous instruction would have the effect of destroying altogether all the existing schools, where payments are made by the children. And, further, where there are gratuitous schools 475 already existing, they also would be destroyed by the reduction of the means of supporting them, in so far as the rates would be increased for the support of the new. What is the feeling which has been excited by this proposition, I will not say amongst Church of England people, but amongst other bodies? I will mention one as an instance. I will beg to direct attention to the feeling displayed by the Wesleyan Committee who have protested against such a method of public education being adopted;—Against any such method these united Committees feel themselves bound to enter an earnest and renewed protest. The children whom it may be deemed necessary to educate, in whole or in part, at the public expense, are (equally with all others in more favoured circumstances) immortal beings; and any system of instruction which does not regard them in that light, and deal with their highest and most enduring relations, must ever he viewed by these Committees as essentially defective, and calculated by its omission to exert a most dangerous influence on those who receive it. A just regard to the welfare of the labouring classes, and of the poor generally, requires that in any provision to be made specifically for their education, daily instruction in the Holy Scriptures should be most carefully included.And I believe that the opinion of the Wesleyans is the opinion most likely to be entertained by all those who are engaged in the great matter of education in this country. And therefore I say, in the first place, agreeing with the hon. Gentleman who supported the introduction of the Bill—do not interfere with the conscientious liberty of the great body of the people of this country, whether they be Churchmen or Dissenters—don't interfere with their very liberty of action, but allow them to continue the system of education which they have hitherto supported. In the next place, as I have already said, I think the education that we would give without religion, though it may even be an extremity, which we would only permit in certain cases, must always be exceedingly inferior to any education which admits of the teaching of the Bible. I cannot but think that it would be a great fault in instruction, when we are providing by Bill or law for the education of the people of this country, not to inform them of the great and leading truths of religion. And when we are teaching moral doctrines we would lose nine-tenths of the force with which those moral doctrines would be inculcated, if we be prohibited from saying to the children that those are the precepts which were given to us by Divine authority, which had received the 476 Divine sanction, and upon which their eternal welfare depended. But, Sir, when we should have established those schools, what do hon. Gentlemen expect will be the result? I cannot but think, according to what I have already stated, that there would be in the first place a very great discouragement given to all those who are now occupied in teaching in schools supported by voluntary contributions. I certainly understood the hon. Gentleman when he first proposed the Bill, when he asked for leave to introduce it, that the first and main object of it would be the supporting, by rate, the schools which were already existing, and that any schools which were to be added would be supplementary, as it were, and would be merely in addition to the existing schools. But, Sir, I own I cannot read this Bill without considering that it is intended that these secular schools are to be a substitute for the existing schools; and how are the people of this country who wish to avoid establishing such schools, if this Bill becomes law, and we are to suppose the Committee of Privy Council as agreeing with the plan laid down by it—how are those who still maintain their opinions in favour of religious instruction, and who still maintain their love for the old schools, and the teachers to whom they have been accustomed, to support their schools? Sir, I find that the Bill is so framed that there is no mode of escape on the part of the people left. The edict is to go forth, and the parish must forthwith appoint an educational committee. And if it should refuse, or that the educational committee would not perform its duty, then what is the course presented by this Bill? Why this—That in case no educational committee as aforesaid shall be elected in any parish, in pursuance of the direction of the said Committee of Council, or if no such plan as aforesaid shall be proposed by such educational committee, or being proposed shall not obtain the sanction and approval of the said Committee of Council, it shall be lawful for the said Committee of Council to undertake to supply the deficiency of provision for secular education by the establishment of a free school or schools under this Act, and to exercise the powers hereby given to the educational committee of such parishes.Why here was a power given to the Committee of Privy Council in these few words, to force on the people a free school according to this scheme, and to levy on them certain rates and taxes, such as the Committee may think necessary. This was a despotic power which he should be very unwilling to see granted. When the pre- 477 sent Committee of Privy Council was established, the noble Lord the President of it, took special care, in writing to me on the subject, to say, that he conceived that the powers of the Committee should be limited to a disposition of the grants made by Parliament for the purpose of education. This was a limited power. The grant was first made by Parliament, and the Committee of Privy Council disposed of it according to the rules and regulations laid before Parliament. If Parliament did not make a grant, the power of the Privy Council ceased; but by this Bill a power of taxation was given which, if the calculation given by the noble Lord the Member for Bath were well founded, amounted to 3,000,000l. If it were only 1,000,000l. instead of 3,000,000l., it was still an enormous power of taxation, and that for an object which might not be asked for by any parish, and not desired by the people who would have to pay it. I regret. Sir, that this Bill is framed in a manner so different from that which I expected, and in a manner which I cannot believe will be in conformity with the opinion or the wishes of the people of this country. While I say this, I must again repeat that I do not think that the means provided for education are such as to enable us to rest satisfied with what we have done. I think, in the first place, it would be most desirable, if we could obtain before we went further, fuller information than that which Parliament now has at its command, as to the means of education existing, and the number of schools established since 1833, the date of the last full information. It is most desirable, too, that it should be ascertained, where there is a deficiency of education, whether it arises from want of schools to which parents may send their children, or from a state of poverty in the district, or from the employment of children so continuously and at so early an age, as to hinder them from receiving education. Information on these points is much wanted, and when it is obtained we can reconsider the subject. That it is one full of difficulties I admit. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon, when he was in power, brought forward a scheme for the education of the children employed in factories. I hailed the effort then being made as one which was likely to prove useful; but there arose so much opposition to it that the right hon. Gentleman, after all the pains he had taken, was so completely foiled in his efforts to satisfy all ob- 478 jections, that he was obliged to abandon the scheme. A great part of those objections were, that the religious bodies were apprehensive that the freedom of education would be interfered with; and one dissenting minister, from a town in Lancashire, told me that no less than 2,000 children were there educated by the voluntary efforts of the people, and he was afraid that the schools thus formed would be destroyed by the scheme then being introduced. These apprehensions, so natural—so widely spread—belonging no less to the Church than to different classes of dissenters—these objections, so deeply rooted and so widely extending, ought to render us very cautious not to run counter to the feeling in question, and not to encounter the danger of producing the effects dreaded by those who entertain it, namely, the weakening of voluntary zeal, and the crushing of voluntary exertion. That we may, by voluntary efforts, still do much, and that we may arrive at some scheme by which education may be promoted, is what I hope. I regret that the present Bill is such as I think it impossible for the House to assent to. When I say so, my general wish for the education of the people of this country is not in the least diminished in zeal or intensity; but I do wish, in the words of a former sovereign of this country—that all its people may be enabled to read and benefit by the Bible—that they may read it at an early age, when they are first beginning to receive the lessons of morality and instruction—that the Scriptures should not merely be received by them as a present, when they leave school, but that it should be their constant companion and guide—held in reverence and respect during their whole educational career.
§ MR. HUME
had entertained hopes that Parliament, seeing the extent to which ignorance not only prevailed, but was increasing, would have seized on this opportunity of applying a remedy. He was truly sorry that any part of the British nation should wish to withhold from their fellow countrymen that education which would enable them to study the truths of Scripture. Let them look at the United States, and say if secular education had produced the evils foreshadowed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. After the speech of that noble Lord, he feared the case was hopeless, and he only wished to express his approbation of the Bill, on the ground that he wished to see the benefits of education shared by all. He 479 regretted the sentiments which had fallen from the noble Lord in reference to the Bill—sentiments which were at variance with the whole tenor of his conduct. Education was the birthright of every subject; and, seeing the amount of crime engendered by ignorance, he did not think it unjust to make it a subject of taxation, especially as they had precedents for such a course; and, amongst other things, had lately enforced sanitary regulations by compulsory means, upon the principle of making private sacrifices for the general good.
The MARQUESS of BLANDFORD
In presence of those opinions so ably and so religiously expressed which have fallen from hon. Members who have opposed the measure introduced by the hon. Member for Oldham, it is not with the idea that I may be enabled to adduce any additional argument that I rise to ask the indulgence of the House for a very few minutes; but, Sir, I feel that my conscience has laid upon me a responsibility from which I cannot acquit myself, of not permitting a measure of this nature to come before this House in which I occupy a seat, without endeavouring to give a more decided testimony against it than a mere silent vote would be able to afford. Sir, upon a question of such great importance, so intimately affecting so large a portion of the people of this country, it is not surprising that a variety of views should be entertained as to the method of communicating instruction, and a number of opinions expressed within and out of this House. But, Sir, we have here a proposition of a novel character, and one which, if its ultimate effects could be as clearly distinguished as its propositions are now clear and unmistake able, I do believe that every lover of his country's truest welfare would unhesitatingly reject. Sir, we are called upon by the hon. Member for Oldham to give our consent to a Bill which professes to supply the deficiencies which exist in our system of education, by the introduction of a purely secular element. The hon. Member has endeavoured to show, by statistical returns, that while, since the year 1842, there has been a general decrease in the number of commitments both in cases where the education had been good, and where there had been no education at all; yet among those who had only been imperfectly instructed, there had been a considerable increase in the number of commitments. Now, Sir, from the showing of the hon. Member we must infer from this that 480 there has been some element introduced into the uninstructed mind of youth which has rendered it more apt for crime; and what should we be affirming upon such an inference by passing a Bill to remedy these increasing commitments, and containing only a purely secular element? Why, Sir, we should virtually be asserting that unheard-of proposition, that religion must be abandoned, as unsuited to the mind and capacities of youth. Sir, it may be said, in reply, that the present Bill does not contemplate any such thing—that the children may receive religious instruction from their parents—and that there are the other means provided under our present system of education, with which the present measure does not interfere. Now, Sir, I trust that I am not harbouring an undue suspicion, but, looking at the proposed object of this Bill, I must say that I am not surprised that it does not direct an open and unmasked assault against those institutions and practices with which, I thank God, that the affections of the people of this country are yet entwined; but. Sir, I believe that it will be by the appliance of a purely secular element that these institutions will be weakened; and, if we thus attempt to fill up the deficiencies which every one must admit to exist in the system of education, it will be by an absorbing principle which will dry up the life, and eventually menace the very existence, of the Christian religion. Sir, if there was one valid argument deduceable from common sense which might be held up in favour of this measure, tremblingly we might approach it, in order to weigh and consider if some new phase had appeared for which it might be well to hazard the wisdom and experience of past years. But, Sir, there is really none, for the question resolves itself into this, what is the object of legislation, as far as education is concerned? Is it not the good of the people—the instructing their children in their duties, their responsibilities, and their privileges? Attempt to do this, but do it without imparting that essential element in all human instruction, for the due reception of which the moral being of man was created, namely, the knowledge of his Creator, and you would not be the people's friend, but their enemy. Bring them to an age when the time is well nigh passed for them to receive those impressions which are to be their restraint in after years, when they have no inclination for reviving them, and then present 481 them with a copy of the Holy Scriptures: this would be mockery indeed; you may make them vain with secular acquirements, but you will have put a suicidal weapon into the hands of the people; you will have taught them to desire great things, without, at the same time, giving them that corresponding portion of instruction which from God's word teaches them to be loyal, faithful, and contented subjects; you will have allowed them to contemplate illusive schemes of prosperity, which are not to be attained by peaceful and honest efforts, but are sought in the inflaming, not in the curbing of human passions. Now, Sir, this House has, on other occasions, witnessed debates arising out of the difficulties which encompass legislation with regard to the amount of interference that the State should exercise over the education of the country—a question with a totally new aspect is now presented to us, and one which I most sincerely hope that both Her Majesty's Government and all who value the truth of Scripture will combine to condemn. I, Sir, am far from being one of those who consider that matters of religion are so far removed from being questions of State, that the latter may not, at times, exercise a very large and salutary influence upon matters of the deepest religious importance. Sir, I rejoice to think that both Church and State are, by the constitution of this country, indissolubly united in the sacred person of Her Majesty; but if this be true, then the interests of the one, as the proper guardian of religious truth, impose a solemn responsibility upon the authority of the other; and it would have been with the deepest regret that I should have seen a measure of this nature obtaining any favour or support from Her Majesty's Government. Sir, the words which fell from the lips of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown at the close of a very recent debate, are fresh in my mind, and have imparted a hope which would make me turn to the prospect of seeing a large measure of the influence of the State directed to the improvement of the religious condition of the country. Sir, I hardly know whether my position of such short standing in this House may warrant the remarks I am about to make, but we have each a solemn duty to perform, and I will say that I believe that such a course, pursued with a plain and upright purpose, would go far to remove those perplexing difficulties with which 482 legislation on those subjects is surrounded; it might make foes, but it would raise up friends—not any precarious ones, but firm and true partakers of its own integrity; but, above all, it would nobly exemplify the truth of this, "that he which ruleth over man must be just, ruling in the fear of God."
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday, 2nd of May.
§ The House adjourned at twenty minutes after Five o'clock.