HC Deb 26 February 1850 vol 109 cc27-59

begged to move for leave to bring in a Bill to promote the secular education of the people in England and Wales. He said he could not approach this subject, to which he had undertaken to call the attention of the House, without a deep sense of its difficulties. Those difficulties were indeed not the same as in former years. There were many points he was now entitled to take for granted with which he need not trouble the House. It was no longer necessary to prove that education was good—good for the individual, and for the community; that it leads to the abatement of crime and to improvement in manners and morals. Now, although it was held by many that on the one hand it was the duty of Government to educate the people, and on the other that education was a religious question, and that religion was voluntary, and should not have the interference of Government, yet between these extreme opinions there was, he apprehended, a large number of persons who held that although the Government should not educate the people, yet they would exercise a legitimate function in providing that the people should educate themselves, and it was on that view that he had constructed the measure which he should have the honour to submit to the House, The difficulties that attended the educational question, he had said, were not the same now as formerly. They formerly arose from indifference, but they now arose from zeal. Different religious bodies regarded it as something which they might connect with their peculiarities, to which they might make it subservient. The consequence was, that parties avowedly engaged in the same work of instruction and enlightening the public mind, were continually quarrelling with each other. The efforts which had been made for the promotion of education were most honourable to all parties concerned. Of late years the Church had put forth a magnificent degree of fervour and influence in these matters. Dissenters had been the tried friends of education from the very beginning of those efforts which in modern times had spread it so much among the poorer classes; and he believed that the Committee of Privy Council on Education had end eavoured, with great judgment and tact, to encourage those great bodies who have an earnest interest in the cause, to promote their efforts, to stimulate them when lagging, and to guide them when zealous. But what was the state of those great bodies? That they were in collision with each other; that a large section of the National Society repudiated grants of the public money; that a large body of Dissenters, and the British and Foreign School Society, also repudiated these grants; that the Committee of Council had striven in vain to bring together these jarring elements; and that as a consequence the progress of education had been stayed, and he thought in some respects a retrograde movement had commenced. Now, this was a state of things most earnestly to be deplored. He found that the dissenters, the congregational dissenters, who a few years ago declared that they would have nothing to do with Government in this matter—that they could raise a sum of 200,000l., and show that their denomination, at least, could educate itself, had failed in that purpose—instead of raising 200,000l., they only reported that 60 per cent, or 120,000l was known to have boon expended for educational purposes within this period; that only 7,000l. had passed through the hands of the board; and they had announced, though with hopefulness as to the future resumption of grants, that for the present their grants to poor schools were suspended. While that was the case with them, how was it with the National Society? He found by the last publication of their annual report, that the support of schools continues a matter of greater difficulty than the building of schools, as it is found easier to rouse men to one great effort than to induce them to give a steady and lengthened support. And as an evidence that this was not the only difficulty, he found in one of the reports of the Inspectors that in the northeastern district the attendance of scholars was much less than it might be; that with accommodation for 33,656 scholars, an average of only 14,791 children had been attending instruction there. In one of the monthly papers published by the National Society during the last year, it is stated that the state of its finances had become more depressed, and the Committee had been compelled to suspend their operations for the present in building and enlarging schools. They had also considered it prudent to make reductions in the instances of St. Mark's College, Chelsea, and the Battersea training institution; and they also fear that they will be compelled to diminish the supply of teachers at the very time when the exigencies of the Church require that they should be increased. Now he took these statements to be good reason for calling again the attention of the House to this subject. He knew it was but three years since it was discussed, and very freely discussed; but when they found that the machinery had got into such disorder, and that instead of progressively increasing they were in danger of diminishing their usefulness, it was surely time to inquire what means could be taken to stay this downward course. There were other reasons why the subject could with advantage again be brought under the consideration of the Legislature. During the period that had elapsed, a variety of important documents had been published. In the reports and minutes of the Committee of Council, and in the evidence afforded by the inspectors, there was very much indeed which bore both on the extent and on the quality of the education as now administered in this country, and showed that in both particulars there was great reason for prompt and careful attention to the subject. As an additional reason for calling so soon the attention of the House to the subject, he might also mention that in various parts of the country there was an educational movement which the Legislature should recognise, and which imperatively demanded attention. The people of Lancashire, with that energy which distinguished them, had formed a scheme for the complete education of their entire county—he alluded to the proceedings of the association for the secular education of the county of Lacanster. In Scotland, highly advantageous as its position had generally been supposed, in consequence of its ancient parochial system, there were complaints; and these complaints took the same direction, and adopted the same tone. That religious country—a distinction which it had always so honourably earned—felt that more secular education was necessary to give religious education its full efficiency. They had circulated a declaration through the country to that effect, and had backed their opinion with the venerated authority of the late Dr. Chalmers. Besides this, in the metropolis and other places the workpeople themselves were showing a lively interest in the education of their offspring. They had associated themselves for the purpose, if they could, of obtaining it. Many individually had made great sacrifices for the accomplishment of the object. But feeling that they could not in that way fully realise all they desired, they had combined—still adopting the same principle, and pursuing the same object—of more secular education than was furnished by the schools at present in operation. This feeling had been yet further tested by the establishment in London of a number of schools, whore the training of the faculties of children was carried considerably further than was usual in schools. They were not charity schools; they were self-supporting, and had even become profitable; many hundreds of the children of the working-classes attended—the boys paying 6d., the girls 4d. a week; and these schools had attained considerable popularity with the class for whose advantage they were designed. Thus, both the discouraging circumstances and the popular movement acted in the same direction and led to the same result, namely, that the time was come, short though the interval was, for taking some further stop, for making some advances in this matter. But there were reasons stronger and more urgent even than these. No person could consider the comparative condition of this country and other countries as to education, without feeling that the nation to which we belonged was not supporting its high character and its ancient prerogative. It appeared from some statistics which were furnished by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and printed in the Minutes of the Council on Education, that the proportion borne by the children at school to the entire population in various countries of Europe, and in some of the States of America, was as follows:—in Prussia, 1 in 6; in Bavaria, 1 in 7 at day schools, and, reckoning every kind of elementary school, 1 in 5; in Holland, 1 in 8 at public schools, besides those under private tuition; in Belgium, 1 in 9; in Pennsylvania, 1 in 5; in Massachusetts, 1 in 6½. The very highest estimate of the most sanguine calculator of this proportion in England—he meant Mr. Baines—only gave it at 1 in 8½; but if to make out this proportion every kind of school, day and Sunday schools, were reckoned, still there was great reason to believe that it was very inaccurate, and that 1 in 13 would be much nearer the mark. Not only would be direct attention to the general deficiency of education, but to its exceeding irregularity. It was not the same in any two counties, nor in different parishes of the same town, nor in different classes of the working people. In the localities where most attention had been paid to this subject, it was reported that in the district of Vauxhall, Liverpool, the proportion attending day schools was 1 in 11½; in Blackfriars, Salford, 1 in 36; in the diocese of Chester, 1 in 20; in Sheffield 1 in 11; in Manchester, 1 in 14½. Taking the different counties of England, a most enormous variation from the average of instruction was found. In Mr. Fletcher's statistical tables, it was stated— Taking the men's signatures by marks in the marriage registers in England and Wales (1844) as indicative of ignorance—Middlesex, Surrey, and Cumberland, are above the average of instruction by 59.7, 53.2, and 52.1 per cent. Bedford, Monmouth, and Hertford are below, by 53.0, 53.3, and 53.8 per cent. Nearest the average are Warwick and Chester, being above 0.3 and 0.4. So that the map of England had its light and dark spots, and they continually intermingled in the strangest manner. While, according to recent returns of the Registrar General of England and Wales, one-half the population did not know how to write their names, it appeared from well-authenticated returns from 474 cotton mills in Manchester and the surrounding district, that no less than 82¼ per cent of the whole number of factory operatives could read. The disparity extended even to the sexes. In the National schools in London and the neighbourhood, there were three boys educated to two girls; but in the British and Foreign schools in the metropolis and its neighbourhood, there was only one girl to two boys. Everywhere was found disparity, irregularity; and that called for some such measure as he had endeavoured to provide—namely, to excite the localities to exertion, to call forth the principle of emulation between different districts, which should make each anxious to vie with its competitors, and to produce at least as good, if not a better and more complete, system of general and efficient instruction. There was yet something more to be considered—the efficiency of education as well as its extent. How had it succeeded in that which was most confidently anticipated to raise a barrier against criminality? He was aware he was touching an argument which those who were disposed to take any logical advantage of an opponent might endeavour to turn against him, and that it might in appearance, but in appearance only, be made to recoil upon education itself. He should endeavour to guard against such an inference, which was altogether unwarranted by the facts. From tables presented to this House, the abstracts of various returns, he derived these very striking and impressive results, showing that education as now administered had had comparatively little effect in the abatement of crime. He took the years from 1837 to 1848 inclusive, and would adopt the classification of criminals now generally used under four heads, namely, of those who were unable to read and write; those able to read and write imperfectly; those able to read and write well; and those who had received a superior education. During the years above mentioned the gross amount of crime had undergone great fluctuations; it had risen, fallen, and risen again; but, in the relative proportions of the criminals classified as above, there had been no such diversity, but a continuous process, teaching the lesson it was adapted to convey most impressively. For instance, the first—the least instructed class—had not become more criminal; it had been placed under more beneficent influences than in former years, and those influences had operated. During those twelve years the per centage of those unable to read and write had de-creased from 35.85 to 34.40, 33.53, and so on—down at last to 31–93. In the same time the per centage of criminals who had received an instruction superior to reading and writing had also decreased from .43 to .27 per cent. Thus the two extremes showed a decreasing proportion; whilst in the intermediate classes, those who could read and write imperfectly, and those who could read and write well—that was to say, those trained according to the system of instruction now generally practised in our schools—there had been an increased percentage; of those who could read and write imperfectly, from 52.08 to 56.38; and of those who could read and write well there had been an increase also, but a very slight one—only from 9.46 to 9.83 The great increase in the relative proportion of criminals had been in those who could read and write imperfectly—children who had been at the schools which now furnished the great mass of instruction to the poorer classes. It was shown by the able papers of Mr. Fletcher, the inspector of the British and Foreign Society's Schools, that a similar result obtained. He said— While the total increase of commitments from 1837, 38, and 39, to 1842, 43, and 44, was 23 per cent, the increase in the wholly ignorant was only 11.6 per cent; and while the decrease in the total commitments from 1842, 43, and 44 to 1845, 46, and 47, has been only 13.2 per cent, the decrease in the wholly ignorant has been 15.6 per cent. There had therefore been an advance in criminality amongst those who enjoyed the instruction of the schools as they at present existed. Though feeling, with the great majority of the House, that religious instruction was the most important that the child could receive, he had also a conviction that to make that instruction produce its genuine results, there must be a proportionate admixture of that communication of knowledge, and of that training of the faculties which, in common parlance, was designated secular teaching. To the want of this he ascribed whatever there might be of failure in the efforts that had been so extensively made to benefit the rising generation. Without this, the religion they gave the child was mere words, whose meaning he did not feel or comprehend; he might repeat them, but they did nor sink into his mind. They required the atmosphere of other instruction, and the stimulus of his own reflective faculties. The results of the gaol returns were also of a kind to hear out this conviction, and to increase our dissatisfaction with education as now generally administered. He would take the gaol returns presented in 1848—the last he had seen; and he would take the test generally applied by the gaol chaplains—whether the parties committed could repeat the Lord's Prayer—a very legitimate test to apply in this case. The children whose parents taught them that prayer were not generally the children to find their way into gaols—while those children who had been abandoned entirely, the children of reprobate parents, who had not been to school, would not he able to repeat, even as a dry form of words, that symbol of devotion which was so dear to all Christians. He took, therefore, this test to separate the children who had been at the existing schools from those who had not. Of course there were exceptional cases, but they were not numerous enough to affect the argument; and he assumed, if a child could repeat the Lord's Prayer, that he had been at some school or other, British or national, public or private, day or Sunday school. In the county gaol at Reading, out of 631 prisoners there were only 204 who could not repeat the Lord's Prayer, leaving 427 who had gone through a nominal education. In Cambridge county-gaol, 61 out of 229 were unable to repeat the Lord's Prayer, leaving there 168 who had gone through a nominal education. In the Cornwall county gaol there were 684 prisoners, of whom 139 could not bear this test, leaving 545 there who had gone through a nominal education. Of 674 prisoners in the Dorset county gaol, only 57 were unable to repeat the Lord's Prayer, leaving 617 nominally educated. In Lancaster county gaol, out of 603 prisoners 115 were in this predicament, leaving 488 nominally instructed. In the Sussex county gaol, out of 522 prisoners, 80 were ignorant, leaving 442. These returns bore out to a large extent the assertion he had made. He could follow them up by other calculations of a similar description. Returns procured by individuals from a great number of the governors of gaols showed that out of 9,387 prisoners, 5,875 had been at Sunday schools, to say nothing of other schools. He was merely giving specimens of the different classes of evidence, the whole of which would fill volumes. Let them take report after report, and they would find analogous results. The impression which this evidence conveyed—of the needful accompaniment of secular instruction and intellectual training to render religious education valuable, and enable it to produce its fruits—seemed to have been imparted in a greater or less degree to the minds of almost all the parties concerned. The statements of gaol chaplains, governors of gaols, inspectors of prisons, inspectors of schools, all tended in the same direction. They might give it more or less explicit utterance, but still this was clearly in their minds. The chaplain of the Pentonville prison said in his last report— I am compelled again to confess that the proportion of convicts who have been educated in some sort, as compared with those totally uneducated, is fully as high as that which exists between those classes in the general population—a fact which should lead to the inquiry wherein the popular education is defective. The same chaplain, in his report for the year, said— Of the 500 prisoners 178 had attended some sort of school upwards of four years; 58 less than four; 193 less than three years; and 71 not at all, being a little more than four years' schooling on an average to each. Their attainments, however, will show the miserably defective character of the instruction which they received; for I do not think that the scholars, with some exceptions, were of much inferior intellect or much worse disposed than the generality, whilst their position as criminals, convicted of most serious offences, seems to argue that their moral and religious training was oven more discreditable. Only 359, upon admission, could read with any degree of intelligence an ordinary book. A larger number could follow another person reading, as in divine service, with the Bible and Prayer-book in their hands, but in the way of learning to read rather than with understanding or ease. The prison inspectors had borne similar testimony. In the 14th report of the Exeter county gaol, the inspector stated that he had examined 120 prisoners, of whom 21 could not repeat the Lord's Prayer, 43 could repeat it, 51 could repeat part of the Catechism, and 5 could repeat the whole Catechism.—giving 99 nominally trained prisoners to 21 altogether untrained. The 14th report from the county gaol at Bodmin showed that of 684 prisoners, 4G5 could repeat the Lord's Prayer more or less correctly, and were acquainted with the simple truths of religion, and 80 had a good general knowledge of the Scriptures. Thus, 545 out of 684 had gone through the training of the schools. Mr. Fletcher, the inspector of the British and Foreign Society's Schools, appended this remark to his last report— However essential such a training may seem to any course claiming the name of education, it has yet to be commenced for all the children in our schools, except a few in the top classes of the best of them. And grateful indeed as we ought to be for the degree of instruction which has been spread among the poorer classes, their 'day-school education' is still in its infancy, even in the most favoured places; while in remote, though often not less densely populated districts, its existence is little more than nominal, whatever may be the exceeding number of infants 'kept quiet 'in the kitchen of the dames, or of uneducated and untrained teachers earning a scanty pittance under permission to assemble a few children on weekdays amidst the superfluous desks and benches of the Sunday schools. The Rev. Mr. Moseley, whose reports were always deserving of the very closest degree of attention, had generalised more his remarks on this subject in the last report of the schools in the Surrey district. He said— It is consistent with my own experience, and, I believe, with that of all other inspectors, that there is most religious knowledge in those schools where the reading of the Scriptures is united in a just proportion with secular instruction, and where a distinction between the functions of the day school and the Sunday school being observed, something of that relation is established in the school between religious principles and secular pursuits which ought to obtain in the after-life of the child. This is a grave error which confounds religious knowledge with a religious character, and that no ordinary sacrifice which is made of the veneration due to the word of God, when it is constantly applied to a secular use. Another inspector, the Rev. P. Cooke, of the metropolitan district, said— Religious instruction is advanced in proportion to the proficiency of children in other studies, and so far as outward observation goes, the best effects are produced upon the moral principles and conduct. The Rev. J. Blandford, school inspector of the East Midland districts, said— Out of 12,786 children who were present at the examination, I find that 2,891 can read the Scriptures with ease, and that 651 can read books of general information with ease and fluency." "In a large proportion of them the books in general use are of a religious kind; and even when others are introduced, the supply is generally very scanty. I need scarcely say that it is impossible for a teacher, however earnest and intelligent, to raise the standard of instruction in his school, and to have it in an efficient state, without an adequate supply of books and apparatus." "I cannot speak favourably of the actual amount of knowledge possessed by the children, or the general efficiency of the schools. The standard of instruction is very low. Upon the whole, they possess a fail amount of Scriptural knowledge. School after school reported "no secular reading hooks," "deficiency of books, and that the children were receiving religious instruction, that was to say, they re- peated prayers and catechisms, but that there was a great deficiency of secular books. The Rev. Mr. Thurtell, inspector in the north-west district, stated that— Very few of the teachers were able to read well, and that it was manifest the state of instruction in these schools was in general very imperfect. The Committee of Council itself was aware of the deficiency; for in their Minutes they observed that while the managers of schools— had been enabled to procure a sufficient supply of Bibles, Testaments, religious formularies, and books of religious instruction, other lesson and text-books were often either not found in elementary schools, or only to a very limited extent. The National Society itself seemed to perceive that it had laboured under some mistake on this ground. The inspector said of the teachers training at St. Mark's College— They will be men, I think, fond of study and desirous of self-improvement. Whether in the estimate they may have formed of the subjects proper to the education of the industrial masses of the country, or in the knowledge they may possess applicable to it, they will be found equal to the exigencies of the times, remains to be proved. The deficiency as to the exigencies of the times was pointed at in the 37th report of the National Society. After mentioning some comments on the Scriptures, which were required, it said— To this list of books required may be added a work on the elements of political economy for the use of teachers; and a very simple book on the same subject might be advantageously put into the hands of the children. This is a topic which is now beginning to be discussed among all ranks; and it is impossible to over-estimate the importance of early imbuing the minds of persons with some maxims on this subject, in order to prevent their imbibing any of the false and pernicious theories which are now broached. How to foster the accumulation of capital in a country, and protect it when accumulated, and at the same time to prevent the manual labourer from being unduly ground down and oppressed, is felt to be one of the great problems of the day; and if the science of political economy cannot solve this problem it can at least prove to the capitalist that it is always, in the long run, his interest to care tenderly for his workmen; and it can demonstrate to the workmen that they are equally dependent on the capitalist. To these evidences he would add the testimony of an intelligent American observer, Mr. Horace Mann, so well known for his exertions in Boston, and so long connected with schools there, who, not very long ago, had made an educational tour throughout Europe. In his remarks on the schools and the religious teaching of this country, he said— After the particular attention which I gave to this subject, both in England and Scotland I can say without any exception that in those schools where religious creeds and forms of faith and modes of worship were directly taught, I found the common doctrines and injunctions of morality, and the meaning of the preceptive parts of the gospel to be much less taught and much less understood by the pupils, than in the same grade of schools and by the same classes of pupils with us, To these observations of an intelligent American traveller, he would add those of a not less intelligent English traveller on the state of education in America. Sir Charles Lyell, in his recently published work on America, said— The clergy are becoming more and more convinced that where the education of the million has been carried furthest, the people are most regular in their attendance on public worship, most zealous in the defence of their theological opinions, and most liberal in contributing funds to the support of their pastors and to the building of churches. His inference from these varied testimonies was the same—not that religious teaching should be in any degree checked, restricted, or abated; but that care should be taken always to accompany it with such training and instruction as would give it its full force on the mind, and ensure its best results on the heart and character. He would now endeavour briefly to explain the provisions of the Bill which he should ask leave to introduce, and in which he had endeavoured not to supersede any existing education, but to render it all available, as far as possible, for calling forth, in supply of the undeniable deficiency, local exertions, in connexion with that central superintendence which would render them most efficient. He proposed that the deficiency in the supply of the means of education in any parish, or combination of parishes, should be ascertained by Her Majesty's inspectors. In estimating those means, he would have them take every item of educational machinery into account—national schools, British and foreign schools, schools connected with religious denominations, schools without any such connection, public schools, private schools, if they submitted to inspection; be would have them report on any and all as affording the means of instruction for the people of that district, subtracting the exclusion which might arise from too great costliness in some instances, and from exclusive religious peculiarities being enforced upon the children, or expected of them in other instances. The amount of the deficiency of education being thus ascertained, he proposed that the locality should be invited to supply it; that the inhabitants of the district should be summoned to elect an education committee, who should have the supply of the deficiency for their peculiar work, and be empowered to rate the inhabitants for the expense necessarily incurred in carrying out their plans. He would have continued regard to the existing schools. There were two means by which the wants of the parish or district, as regarded secular education, which should be peculiarly the province of the committee, might be met: first, as in the old schools and schools already existing, by the remuneration of the teacher for so many pupils as the inspector should report him to have efficiently instructed in the elements of secular education; and, secondly, by the formation of new schools, to be properly free schools—schools to which any inhabitant of the parish or district should have the right of sending his children, between the ages of seven and thirteen, without charge, without distinction in the treatment and training of the children, with no religious peculiarities inculcated upon them, but with the right reserved and inalienable—the right of the parents to have, at certain convenient times fixed by the master, their children instructed as to religion where and by whom they pleased. He also proposed, that, on leaving the school, each child, having conducted itself to its master's satisfaction, and in his estimation deserving by its attainments, should have a present of books made, of which the Holy Scriptures should always form a portion—thus putting that volume into the child's hand at a time when his mind was most fitted for appreciating its grandeur, and for coming under its moral influences. He proposed that the teachers in these schools should be made as independent as possible. That they should be appointed, paid, and dismissed by the local education committee, giving them in the latter case an appeal to the Committee of Privy Council. And should an instance occur where the locality was so careless, indolent, and neglectful of its duty as not to undertake to provide for the deficiency, he would call upon the Committee of Council on Education to step in, and not to allow that locality to become a sink of ignorance, prejudice, and vice, to its own disgrace and misery, and a nuisance to all the surround- ing country. The masters he proposed to remunerate by salaries, fixing the minimum at such an amount as should ensure them some considerable degree of respectability in their social position. This was of the very utmost consequence. He relied on the schoolmasters for the advancement of education. It was only through their means that we could have any hope of better and brighter results than some we had witnessed. He would stimulate honourable rivalry by the publication by the Committee of Council of a complete report, from year to year, of the state of education in every district in the kingdom, those reports finding their way into the usual channels and to the table of that House; and thus publicity and opinion would give their sanction, and would be found available for all purposes, for encouraging the meritorious, and for shaming the indifferent out of their culpable neglect of duty. He trusted he had said nothing in the course of his observations which could be fairly construed into anything offensive towards the various religious bodies who, undoubtedly, did so much for education. He proposed to put no restraints upon them. Schools might still be erected and endowed in the strictest principles of Church education; they might be put under the entire control of clergymen, and have bishops for visitors. He interfered not with any of these. On the contrary, those schools, of whatever kind, which had assisted the State in sending out, year after year, a certain number of pupils, qualified to take their place in civilised society, would, under his scheme, receive their reward according to the work they had done. The religious bodies would have the opportunity of giving instruction as heretofore, accompanied with their own peculiar religious opinions, and would have the power of making the imparting of education subordinate to what appeared to them a paramount purpose. He did not think the Dissenters would be found objecting to his proposal, because their schools would be left equal freedom. And here he would observe, that he adopted the distinction so finely drawn by the hon. Member for West Surrey, between "education" and "instruction." By education, he meant the complete training and drawing forth of the mind. This could only be accomplished by the highly-gifted teacher or the affectionate pastor or parent. Instruction, or the mere attainment of knowledge, was a lower task, which was to be accomplished by the agency of the school, and the efforts of the schoolmaster. He used the word education, however, for instruction, as the one most commonly used to signify that which was properly expressed by the word "instruction." But there was another class of persons whose co-operation was of the utmost importance in carrying out any system of education—he meant the working people, whose children were to be instructed and trained. Unless they were with the plan—unless they coincided with it, and received it kindly, and as a privilege for their children—although it should have the sanction of the Church and of different religious denominations, it would not have that effect which it was most devoutly to be wished it should have. Amongst that class, whose intelligence was underrated by those who had not the advantage of personal communication with them, a sturdy intellect and moral sense prevailed which recoiled from charity; and whatever they might think of their feelings, rights, and privileges, he thought this sturdiness of intellect, which was invariably the result of self-cultivation, though it might not be accompanied by external culture, was entitled to respect. These people were indisposed to send their children to schools when they found them used for the purpose of proselytism; and thus a suspicion of their intentions was generated which he regretted to say was not always unwarranted. He would read to the House a passage from the manifesto of the working men of London on this subject. They say— We cannot consent that our children should be apportioned amongst the religious sects—that their plastic minds and nascent judgments should be subjected to an external pressure which would give them a permanent bias towards peculiar notions. This appears to us to be the very way to foment and cherish those theological distinctions which already so unhappily divide mankind. Religion is intended to prepare men for Heaven, where the society of the blessed will be united in peace and love. Why should it be made on earth the pretext for cutting up the community into sections, and separating them from one another by unpronounceable shibboleths? We have now for several years been spectators of the dispute going on between the denominations on the subject of popular education. We have noticed that they all agree as to its urgent and imperative necessity; each party has vied with the others in eloquent descriptions of the frightful condition of the working classes. We have been called 'a multitude of untutored savages,' and the places where we dwell have been designated as 'great and terrible wildernesses.' We have sat still, expecting that the religious denominations, in holy charity and pity for our sufferings, would for once lay by their peculiarities, which they themselves confess are not essential to salvation, and agree upon some plan by which the resources of the State might be employed to rescue us from our awful condition. But we have waited in vain; the controversy has waxed hotter and more furious; our little ones have been forgotten in the fray, and their golden moments have been allowed to run irrecoverably to waste, He believed these words to be the genuine opinion of the real working men, and their willingness to receive instruction fairly offered, gave an assurance of success to be derived from no other source. It would be expected that he should say something of the cost of the experiment he proposed; but it would be idle affectation to produce any figures on such a subject. He would remark, however, that first impressions were likely to lead to a much overrated estimate of the outlay. The association for education in the county of Lancaster made a calculation with great care, and they found that they could erect schools for the entire education of the county by a rate of 4¾d. in the pound. The expenses of sustaining and managing their schools for children and adults were expected to be covered by a rate of 6d. in the pound. Such was the estimate for providing education for the entire county; but it must be borne in mind that he proposed by his present scheme to provide merely for the deficiency of education. Then he asked to have a reasonable allowance made on account of the diminished crime which would result from education and moral training, and for abatement of the enormous cost of unrestored property lost by theft. The poorer ratepayers would also find themselves repaid, and overpaid, for what they would be called on to contribute for teachers, in the instruction which would be given to their children. Beyond this general view, it would be absurd to attempt to calculate the expenses of the plan with any degree of accuracy. He had already trespassed too long on the patience of the House, but he would ask their attention for a few minutes longer. He depended on the character of the teachers for the success of his plan. In that view he was warranted by a sound observation of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, made three years ago, when this same topic of education was under discussion. The noble Lord then said— It has always been my view that you can never effectually raise education in this country till you raise the condition and prospects of the teachers of schools. That was what he (Mr. Fox) wished to do by the salary he recommended in the measure for the masters of free schools. And if any one questioned the essential importance of the masters of schools, he would refer him to the Isle of Man, where the most perfect system of education to be found in the world existed on paper, for every parish had its school, the ratepayers had a share in its management, and every parent was made to send his children to school; yet, notwithstanding all this, these children were in a more forlorn condition than any children in the country. This was owing to the want of proper and efficient teachers. The bishop, writing on this subject to the Committee of the Privy Council on Education, says— That unless some plan was adopted for raising the character of the schoolmaster, they would be outstripped by the inhabitants of any other part of Her Majesty's dominions, and they would not have good schoolmasters unless they earned their position. It was not enough to have convenient school-rooms; they must also have a sufficient salary and comfortable houses to reside in. The fact was, that the profession of schoolmaster did not receive that encouragement in this country which was necessary to enable persons to devote themselves heart and soul to their calling. He believed that persons well qualified for the work existed in great number throughout the country. He believed that it might be said of the schoolmaster, as it had been said of the poet, Nascitur non fit. He believed that there existed by nature, in some minds, a disposition which enabled them to sympathise with children—to feel the difficulties which obstructed children, and to accelerate their progress, for which no amount of learning, classical or otherwise, could compensate. He would, therefore, throw the competition for masters perfectly open, without regard to training schools. He would invite true men to come forward; he would make aptitude for teaching the great test of fitness, and would reward them accordingly. The function of the teacher was one of great difficulty; it required time and patience, and it was deserving of the best honours which society could bestow. He trusted the House would judge this subject on its own intrinsic interest and importance, and not from the imperfect manner in which it had been brought forward. He prayed the House to think of the condition of thousands upon thousands of children in this country, to think of the crime which had thriven on soils from which they had hoped it was entirely banished, and which they wished to see preoccupied by better seed, to think of those localities which continued to send forth their "hordes of untutored savages "upon society, who seemed to derive from civilisation itself facilities for becoming more unwholesome annoyances to it—he would have them think of the overcrowded gaols, the hulks, and the reluctant colonies—he would have them think of the peace, quiet, and good order which would spread amongst the homes of the well-disposed, by the general training and moral culture of the people—he would have them look to the higher motives of patriotism, and consider that the intellect and moral lustre of their country had been a glory superior to that even of its supremacy in arts and arms—he would have them look to the highest objects of all, which, when the purposes of civil society had been accomplished, still remained to be realised in the individual, who, by the means which they could afford, would be better qualified to fulfil the great purpose for which he had been formed by a beneficent Creator.


would not have ventured, after the able, temperate, and eloquent speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat, to address the House, had he not been one of those Members of that House who, in 1837, were appointed to make inquiries into this important subject. After a careful consideration of the evidence which had been laid before the House, he believed that the hon. Gentleman had not overdrawn the picture of the destitution of the poorer classes of this country with regard to education. The conclusion which a Committee, chosen from both sides of the House, had come to was, that it was absolutely necessary that education should be provided for at least one in eight of the population. They said in Manchester that 1 in 30 was educated; in Leeds, 1 in 27; and in Birmingham, 1 in 26. So that if they took the average of the most populous towns in the kingdom, it would be found that instead of one in eight of the population being provided with education, only one in twenty-six or twenty-seven was provided for; and if the calculation was applied to London, the deficiency was very little less. He ventured to say that the increase of population having gone on so rapidly, he did not believe that any greater proportion of the humbler classes were now provided with an adequate edu- cation than when the Committee made their report. The generality of schools were of a most indifferent character with regard to the quality of the instruction given in them. And in the schools of the poorer classes there was an utter absence of that discipline which was most necessary for them, viz., a regular system of self-control and self-denial; their minds were not sufficiently impressed with all the importance of the great practical doctrines of Christianity, kindness, and courtesy to one another. He was grieved to find that, in consequence of the lamentable want of education in this country at present, crime was increasing ten times more rapidly than the population. He hogged to suggest that an enabling statute should be passed whereby each parish might, on the mode which they should deem best, give instruction to the poorer classes in their district. Such apian, if brought forward in a good-tempered spirit, would prevent any tyranny being exercised over the minority. He tendered his thanks to the hon. Gentleman for having brought forward this measure.


said, that after the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham—the temper and ability of which he readily acknowledged—he had waited in respectful silence to hear the opinion of some Member of Her Majesty's Government upon the proposed measure.


rose, and the hon. Baronet resumed his seat; Sir, as my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford seems to have expected that some Member of the Government should rise and state what view he took of the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham, I do not hesitate to say that I should hope the House will not refuse permission to the hon. Gentleman to bring in his Bill. I think no one can doubt, in the first place, the importance of the subject, and, in the next place, no one could say that education is in such a state in England that no further measures are required—that there is not much to be lamented in the present deficiency of the means of education—that there is not much that good men deplore, even in the education that is given, though perhaps there is more to deplore in the absence of education amongst the great masses of people whose instruction, and still more whose training and religion and morality, deeply concern the welfare of the whole community. If such be the case, the only question that remains is, whether the hon. Member for Oldham has approached this subject in a fitting spirit—for he has been deeply impressed with the importance of the task he has undertaken—and whether the object he has in view is to provide a hotter education, not of one portion, not of one sect, but all classes of the people of this country. I think every one must acknowledge that the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman approached this question was worthy of the subject; that he stated fully and ably the deficiency of education; that he seemed clearly to perceive what the wants were; and, whatever may be the merits of his plan, his inclination was to produce a plan which should not excite jarring contentions, but should rather tend to unite the various opinions that prevailed on the subject. If that is the case, I think there is fully sufficient before the House to induce them to agree to the request of the hon. Gentleman, that he should lay his Bill on the table of the House. As to the further question—what the difficulties are of providing a general plan of education—whether the general plan which the hon. Gentleman proposes will overcome those difficulties—what may be the manner in which it will be viewed by public opinion—what view those who are at present engaged in education, and whose services the House I think is bound to honour—those who are engaged, whether in the great societies of this country, or whether individually in promoting and carrying on education—will take with regard to the plan of the hon. Gentleman when it is in the shape of a Bill;—that is a further question, upon which I think it better not at all to enter, than to give any imperfect opinion, perhaps not correctly founded, on the measures which the House means to adopt, perhaps not conveying what may be my ultimate judgment with respect to this plan. I, therefore, decline altogether to give any opinion as to the plan of the hon. Gentleman. I think that a far better course than that I should cither prematurely commend the plan, or make to it objections which should appear to be not founded on the merits of the case itself. This I would say only that I think, perhaps, of the whole statement of the hon. Gentleman that the part which I rather doubt is as to the present state of the different societies that are carrying on education, and their failures of late years to extend that education. My impression is rather that, although the great efforts proposed to be made three or four years ago, have not had the result of so large an ex- tension as was contemplated, both by the Church societies, and societies belonging to different religious bodies, yet that in fact the result of those efforts, as compared on the whole with the state of education a few years before, will show a considerable increase in the means of education in this country. Whether or not there are failures at present in the measures or means to carry on that education, that again will be matter for subsequent discussion. All I wish further to say is, that I thank the hon. Gentleman for the spirit in which he has brought forward his plan, and I cannot but hope that frequently as I have been disappointed in discussing this great question, whether the hon. Gentleman's plan be adopted in the manner in which he proposes it or not—I cannot, I say, but hope that such a plan of general education, discussed in such a spirit in this House, may tend to advance that great cause in which society is deeply interested, and I shall cordially concur in giving my assent to the introduction of this Bill.


said, that when he rose before, he admitted most willingly the ability and temper in which the hon. Member for Oldham had introduced his plan, but he could not adopt the principle upon which it rested, or the object at which it aimed. The hon. Member began by stating that the subject was no longer surrounded with those difficulties which formerly encompassed it. No longer, said the hon. Gentleman, was it a question whether it were or were not right that education should be given. But what was education? And what was the proposal of the hon. Gentleman? According to the views of the hon. Gentleman, he limited the instruction of man which the nation ought to provide, to those branches of learning which terminated with man in this world, omitting all consideration of his eternal destiny, for which this world was only a fleeting preparation. Again, with reference to the quality and tendency of education in different countries, he (Sir R. H. Inglis) would ask the hon. Member to reconsider his statement that education was less advanced in England than in any other country in Europe. The hon. Gentleman took his statistical tables, and said there were fewer people educated in England than in Prussia, Saxony, or France. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) asked the House what practically was the character of the education of the people of England? Would the hon. Member for Oldham wish to change it for that which Prussia had two years ago, when she burst forth into revolution. [Mr. B. OSBORNE: Oh, oh!] The hon. Member for Middlesex said "Oh, oh!" He should like to hear the hon. Member give a more distinct and definite answer. He would ask the hon. Member whether, on the 10th of April, 1848, he had not reason to thank God for the character of the people of this country? The hon. Member need not be ashamed of his own constituents who behaved so nobly on that day; and in the face of that day the hon. Member would take little credit either with present time or posterity when he undervalued the state of education from which such results followed. Whatever might be the numerical difference between the number of people who could read and write in England, Prussia, France, and Saxony, the moral conduct of the people in this country was such as to reflect credit on their education, whatever might be the amount of it. Then, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham in some of his domestic statistics, referred to the different counties as showing the difference of education as compared with the number of the people. But he (Sir R. H. Inglis) believed that those statistics were imperfect. He knew a parish from which there was no return as to education, because the schools were maintained by the resident proprietors, and received no support from the national grant. The hon. Gentleman, taking his statistics from the blue books, would contend, that in that parish there was no education whatever, whereas he (Sir R. H. Inglis) believed there was hardly any parish in which there was more. The late Mr. Canning said, on a memorable occasion, give him figures, and he would use them in such a way as to come to any conclusion whatever; and if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham's figures were subjected to a scrutiny, not severe, but ordinarily critical, it would be found his conclusions could not be satisfactorily borne out. But these were questions of detail on which he (Sir R. H. Inglis) would not trouble the House. He would only ask the House to bear in mind that they were asked to give their assent to a Bill which sought to promote the secular education of the people of England and Wales. The hon. Member for Oldham admitted, and he (Sir R. H. Inglis) fully concurred in the opinion, that religious education was the greatest boon which a child could receive; but the hon. Member for Oldham proceeded to state that, notwithstanding this great boon had been extended so far, the only practical result had been a great increase of crime, and that the religious acquirement of persons was, therefore, no evidence of their morality.


said, that what he had stated was, that real religious instruction could not he properly conveyed to the mind unless so much of other knowledge was imparted as to allow of religion taking a deep root in the soil so prepared. If that preparatory step were not taken, it would be religious forms only, and not religion, that would be retained by the pupil.


had no wish to misrepresent anything which had fallen from the hon. Member, but certainly understood him to have expressed himself in the manner he had alluded to. He would, however, appeal to the present state of the majority of the schools where religious education was given to the children, to prove that already secular was imparted coincidently with religious education. The hon. Member appeared to suppose that nothing but religion was taught in those schools. He contended such was not the case; but that, on the contrary, in the greater proportion of the schools with which he was acquainted, there was as large a proportion of secular education given as could be obtained in any schools in England established for similar classes of the population. Look at the teaching of the National Society, and see how much secular education, how much general knowledge, how much history, how much geography were already given there, the great foundation, on which all were laid, being religion. He would recall to the Government a proposition which he made a few nights since, with respect to the propriety of the Government making up their minds at once as to what amount of encouragement they would give to amateur Members introducing Bills of their own upon any particular subject. By their so doing, a great portion of the time of the House would be saved, and he felt assured that no hon. Member ought to feel himself aggrieved by the Government saying, when any measure of a private Member was proposed to be introduced, "this is a good Bill, we will take it up;" or "it is a bad one, and neither you nor we will waste the time of the House by uselessly discussing it." Under the actual circumstances of the House, he did not intend to oppose, by a division, the introduction of the Bill; but earnestly trusted that the ultimate assent of the House would not be given to any measure which gave to its recipients a system of education only which terminated with this world, leaving them to obtain from their father or mother, whom the hon. Member himself admitted to be extremely ignorant, and whose ignorance was indeed the ground of his Motion, the only means of enlightening them upon subjects upon which their ultimate and eternal happiness depended.


said, that were he to set about replying to the observations of the hon. Baronet who had last addressed the House, it might have the effect of provoking a general discussion, which, in the present stage of the measure, was not at all necessary. He took it, that on the occasion of the second reading of the Bill full and ample opportunity would be afforded hon. Members of expressing their opinions in reference to the important question—the establishing more universally than heretofore a system of secular education. He felt certain the hon. Gentleman who brought forward the measure, as well as many others who would support it, could not but feel aggrieved at the imputation that they disregarded religious education ill the measure then submitted to the House. However, they did consider that religious and secular education rested upon different grounds; that one was capable of enlargement, and susceptible of encouragement, whilst the other was not; and that the State might interfere with one when it could not with the other. He wished to place before hon. Members the case of the Lancashire School Society movement, which, he believed, originated with a few private gentlemen, but which nevertheless progressed until it found an atmosphere wherein it expanded and flourished. Looking at the beneficial results that were likely—he might say certain—to result from the Bill, and also considering the able and temperate manner in which it had been introduced to the House, he should declare that he would be prepared to give the measure his most full and cordial support.


was most anxious that no difference of opinion should then be raised on the Bill, which had been so ably introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham. However, he could not refrain from declaring his conviction that his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford had largely misstated, probably not understanding, the nature of his hon. Friend's proposition. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford assumed that secular education was the sole object of the Bill; whilst he (Mr. Hume), on the contrary, understood his hon. Friend to embrace in his plan religious as well as secular education. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford said, there existed a difference in the minds of many as to what education was. He did not know what the hon. Member's definition of education might be; but he (Mr. Hume) considered that mental training which fitted a man to be a good and useful member of society, no less fitted him for being a good and religious member. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford also alluded to State religion and State education, though his hon. Friend, in introducing the measure, gave no ground whatever for any such supposition, but merely wished that Parliament should make it compulsory on property to supply the educational deficiency that at present existed. He pointed out the lamentable results of vice and crime that arose from ignorance, and suggested that Parliament should adopt the best means of remedying such evils, which were deplored by every man in the community who valued life and property, or the well-being of society. Let them remove the ignorance that at present prevailed, and substitute information in its stead; and they might rest assured they would soon have good and moral citizens. If ever there was a time when the question of education might be brought forward with advantage, that time was the present. From end to end of the country there was a strong desire that ignorance should be abolished, and that could only be effected by the instrumentality of education. Allusion had been made in the course of the debate to the Lancashire Association. He hoped every Gentleman who then heard him had read the proceedings of that society. Let them go further north, let them look at Scotland, where a very general and universal desire existed that a similar principle should be applied as that in Lancashire in reference to secular education. Very few were more able to appreciate the results of such a Bill as the present than the Scotch. Within the last fifty years, the character of the Scotch had very much deteriorated, for want of attention formerly bestowed to educational training, which, unfortunately, the criminal statistics too fully proved. However, measures were lately adopted, under which they were again aspiring to the position previously enjoyed by them; and therefore he hailed the present moment as one most propitious to the success of the object of the measure introduced to the notice of the House that evening. He sincerely thanked his hon. Friend who introduced the measure for the able yet mild and temperate manner in which he had done so. He thanked him, because in every point of view in which it could be considered, social, political, or religious, it was certain to act well. Therefore on that ground he likewise approved of the course taken by the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, whose statement that night was what he expected from one who had paid so much attention to these matters. No person could deny the necessity of education; and therefore he hoped there would be a general concurrence on the part of the House, as well as of the country in general, so that they might attain the object which they, in common with the masses, desired—the enlightenment and education of the great majority of their countrymen.


understood the hon. Member for Oldham to have stated that only one child in every thirteen in England received any education.


explained that his statement was, that one in thirteen of the population went to school.


At all events, it was evident that the hon. Member thought the means provided for the education of the rising generation were very defective, and that point he (Mr. Plumptre) was not inclined to dispute. The hon. Member stated that he did not intend to meddle with existing schools; his object was evidently prospective—to fill up the gaps observable on the face of the educational-system by the erection of new schools. These new schools, as he understood, were to be open to persons of all religious denominations, but in them no religious instruction whatever was to be given. [Mr. W. J. Fox: No, no!] That, in fact, religion was to be systematically excluded. The religious instruction of the children was to be left to their parents, or such other persons as might think fit to interest themselves in the matter. Not only that, but the inhabitants of a district in which a school was established were to be taxed to the extent of 4½d. or 6d. in the pound for its support. If that were the hon. Member's plan, he must solemnly and religiously protest against it.


agreed with the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government that they would best do their duty by, the Bill on the present occasion by not entering generally into its details. In fact, the Bill was so misrepresented and so misunderstood, which, he doubted not, was the cause of the misrepresentation, that they were not in a position to discuss it. However, he could not sit still without paying his tribute of gratitude—humble as that tribute might be—to the hon. Member for Oldham, for the manner, the able and statesmanlike manner, in which he addressed himself to the question that evening. It had seldom been his lot to listen to a speech with such unmitigated satisfaction, or to one which would tell more powerfully throughout the country. It was necessary he should apologise to the hon. Member for the University of Oxford for having interjected an "Oh" whilst he was speaking; but the fact was that he was surprised to hear the hon. Baronet attempt to draw a contrast between Prussia and this country. It was because the people of Prussia were highly educated, without possessing a representative system, because, in short, taxation without representation prevailed in that country, that the recent political convulsions there naturally occurred. It was a pity that the hon. Baronet should have revived the old worn-out topic of the 10th of April, which the Secretary for the Home Department had worked so unmercifully on many occasions. The rebellion of the 10th of April could be paralleled by no other rebellion on record except that of Lord Grizzle's in Tom Thumb. The hon. Baronet had taunted him (Mr. Osborne) with the ignorance of his constituents, but he would remind him that in Middlesex; education stood at the highest point as regarded England; and the hon. Baronet ought to accept it as a proof of the intelligence of the inhabitants of that county that they unanimously supported the Government on the 10th of April. The hon. Baronet said that there was a difference between education and instruction. True; and the hon. Member for Oldham drew the distinction. He (Mr. Osborne) had, he was going to say, the honour of being educated at a university; but he would not say so, for he was sorry he had ever boon placed at one. There was no portion of his life on which he looked back with more regret than that which he had spent at Cambridge, for there he was instructed in all the vices for which the place was notorious. He looked upon the universities as hindrances to education. As long as the university system continued, education would be in the hands of particular classes, who would not let it out of their clutches. The hon. Member for East Kent had appealed not only to the religious feelings but to the pockets of hon. Members opposite, by tolling them that the owners of property would be called upon to pay from 4½d. to 6d. for the support of the schools which the hon. Member for Oldham wished to establish. That statement was not correct. The hon. Member for Oldham referred to a 4½d. rate as that which was calculated for the whole district of Lancashire, not the one which would be required to fill up the gaps in the existing system. The plan propounded by the hon. Member for Oldham was an assimilation to the best system of education in the world—the national system of Ireland; and on that ground it should receive his support. For his part, he suspected the philanthropy of those men who would deny the humbler classes education, unless they could make it the vehicle for disseminating their own religious notions.


was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member for Middlesex fasten on the University of Cambridge the bad habits which he appeared to have acquired. Although the hon. Member might have found opportunities for indulging in vicious pursuits, he might also, it was to be hoped, have found occasion for the development of virtuous habits. The hon. Member had adverted to the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford's observation as to the conduct of the population of Middlesex on the 10th of April; but perhaps the intelligence of that district might be judged of by the representative they turned out, and the one they put in. The House would have an opportunity, on the second reading of the Bill, of fully discussing the whole system of national education; and he trusted that the same spirit would be preserved which had marked its introduction. He concurred in some part of the hon. Mover's views, but differed from him at that point where he wished to separate secular from religious education. The proceedings of the Lancashire Association were of great importance. He had looked into its proceedings, and had derived much advantage from it, because, although there were many things with which he could not agree, still he thought it best to do like the bee, and extract all the food there was to be found there. In Manchester a meeting was called a short time since, for the purpose of discussing this very question, and a proposition was submitted to it in the spirit of that brought forward by the hon. Member for Oldham, and yet, after full discussion, an amendment was carried of a very opposite character. He hoped sufficient time would be given for full discussion, and he thought it better that a Bill of this kind should be brought forward by a private Member than by the Government, as the latter might perchance invest with a party character a question which ought to be calmly and patiently considered on its own merits exclusively. In conclusion, he could not but express his satisfaction to see an endowment proposed and advocated by the advocates of the voluntary system.


thought that this was a question which ought to be considered irrespective of personal matters, and therefore he regretted that the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last should have thought it necessary to allude to the choice of a representative made by the electors of Middlesex in the manner he had done. This he would say, that whoever the electors of Middlesex might have rejected, they had good reason to be satisfied with the integrity and intelligence of the hon. Member by whom they were represented. He protested against the proposed measure being considered, as the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford had misrepresented it, as simply a plan of education which had regard only to this world and to this life, and having no reference to a future state of existence. The hon. Member for Oldham appeared to be as deeply impressed as any one in or out of the House with the importance of a religious education. He fully concurred in the desirability of uniting as far as possible secular with religious education. But, looking at the vast number and infinite varieties into which religious opinion in the country was divided, it was perfectly impossible to combine secular and religious education, as a State measure, into one system of education. It could not be done. What would the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford adopt as a system of religious State education? Of course his plan would be that of having the religion of the State inculcated as a part of education. But that system would exclude all that numerous body of persons who did not adopt the religion of the State as their religion. That would at once prevent and preclude the possibility of having a measure of national education which should adopt the State religion as a portion of education. And if the religious views of the Dissenters were to be inculcated in the schools, those persons who belonged to the Established Church would not allow their children to be sent to schools of that kind; a great portion of the influential classes, and above all, the clergy of the country, would set their faces against such a system, and it could not be expected that the State would establish any such system as that. What then remained to be done? They could not by possibility have a system of State education into which religion could enter, and if they wished to have a system of State education at all, they must adopt secular education as the basis of it, and confine it simply to that. It was said that religious education was far more important than secular. He fully conceded that point; but if they could not be taught religion by the State, that was no reason why they should not be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, which would enable them to promote their interests in this world at least. By establishing a system of State secular education, they would not interfere in the least with any of the establishments supported by private contributions, or prevent the continuance of those efforts which were at present made for the religious instruction of the rising generation. At present there was no system of religious instruction in schools provided by the State. The matter was left to private exertion, and was carried out by voluntary contributions. That system would continue in force should the scheme of the hon. Member for Oldham be adopted. It could not be denied that education was at a lower point in England than in Prussia and other countries, and that was a circumstance which no Englishman could contemplate with satisfaction.


thought that the allusion which the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin had made to the hon. Member for Middlesex, had been provoked by the latter hon. Member saying that all persons educated at universities contracted vices. [Mr. OSBORNE: I didn't; I only said that I had.] He begged to bestow his humble tribute of praise on the hon. Member for Oldham for the temper and application which he had devoted to the subject. He recollected, however, that in 1839, a course had been pointed out to Parliament for separating secular from religious education. But what did the country say to that? Was there not a cry against it from one end of England to the other? Did not both the members of the Church of England and the Dissenters come before that House with petitions against the plan? Did not a noble Lord, who was now in the other House of Parliament, bring forward a Motion in the House of Commons on the subject, which, though in a minority, he nearly carried; and did not the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the other House, bring forward a Motion condemnatory of the principle of that kind of education? He could hardly think that the country would now look with more favour on a system of education which conveyed secular knowledge alone. But it was not his intention to enter into the subject generally. He should be happy to examine the Bill, and to judge of it by its merits. He should look at the system now promulgated in this country, and consider it in combination with the Bill of the hon. Member. He was convinced that nothing was more likely to do good than a discussion on the system of education which ought to be pursued. He should like to have the question settled by Act of Parliament, and the hon. Member for Oldham might depend on it that he should be quite willing to enter upon the subject with temper and forbearance.


was glad that, as leave was to be given to introduce the Bill, an opportunity would be afforded at the different stages to inquire how far a body not immediately responsible to Parliament should interfere with the education of the Church. He did not collect from what the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman meant to convey any censure on the hon. Member for Middlesex, even to the extent to which the hon. Member for Middlesex censured himself; for he did not understand the hon. Member for Middlesex to say that the education at Cambridge was not good in itself, but to adduce himself as an instance that a good education might be thrown away. It was gratifying to find an hon. Member who confessed he had thrown away great advantages had had great advantages since, for he could not have enjoyed the confidence of the electors of Middlesex, unless he had taken great pains with himself to become at a later age what he might have become at an earlier period.


begged to inquire whether he was right in understanding that under the Bill an inspection was to take place with respect to the secular education of every school of every kind and denomination; and that on the report of the inspector that the education given to the children of a certain district by those schools was not sufficient, it would then be competent for the Government to establish schools on the principle proposed by the hon. Member for Oldham, and rate the inhabitants for the establishment and support thereof?


, in reply, said, that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire had, in part, misunderstood him. His plan was founded on a general view of the deficiency of education in different localities through England. The materials for ascertaining that deficiency, he apprehended, did already exist to a large extent in documents which the Privy Council had accumulated by means of its inspectors, so that it was not a difficult matter to ascertain in any locality to what degree it was necessary to supply the means of education. There would sometimes be cases such as had occurred in the parish of King's Sambre, Hampshire, in the school under the charge of the Rev. Mr. Dawes, who had so conducted his national school, that it was attended by children in and out of the parish, the children of labourers and of farmers alike, all of whom paid, the poor according to their-poverty, the farmers according to their better circumstances; but, by his conduct of that school, he had brought those children to it, and especially by the judicious intermixture of secular and religious instruction, as appeared from the report by the inspector, who said the children were not only well instructed in secular knowledge, but well instructed in religion, which he attributed to their being better informed on general subjects. If there were a parish where the church, or any one sect, had so recommended itself as to be the religion of the entire population, they would be at perfect liberty to interweave religion as much as they pleased with the entire course of instruction. But in cases where the parents and guardians of children were of different sects, it was impossible so to interweave secular and religious instruction. There they must he content with the provision he proposed, giving not half an hour a-day, as had been alleged, but stated times, continuous with secular education, and all through, for such religious education as the parents should desire. With reference to what had been called secular education, he did not believe that the mountains and the stars taught infidelity, or the waves and winds heresy. He should not press the second reading till after the Easter recess. His object was, that localities should make arrangements for themselves; and he should be satisfied to see as many varieties in those arrangements as there were counties in England. Opportunities would be so given of comparing one system with another. As to the question of expense, this country had borne many a heavy load—England sustained without murmuring the splendour of an ancient monarchy; she kept 100,000 men in arms; she maintained a fleet which preserved the dominion of the ocean; she had large and costly establishments of every description, and it could not be said that she was so far beggared as to be unable to teach her own poor and helpless children. But the objection of expense amounted to nothing, for it was not, in truth, expenditure, but the very best economy, and those who retrenched in everything else ought to be most liberal in that. To obtain an orderly, enlightened population, who would see the necessity of maintaining the institutions of the country, and of suppressing anarchy, was surely of all other objects the most desirable. He thanked the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the House generally for the kind attention with which they had listened to him, and for the fair and candid spirit in which they had received his proposal.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. William Johnson Fox, Mr. Henry, and Mr. Osborne.