§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said, that its object was to provide a free education for the poor inhabitants of the boroughs of Manchester and Salford; and so far as those boroughs were concerned, to carry out the 380 desire expressed by our beloved Queen, "That the youth of this country should be religiously brought up, the rights of conscience being respected." The funds for that purpose were to be provided by local rates, to be administered by the town councils of Manchester and Salford, or Committees to be appointed by them. He believed that there was some difference of opinion as to whether the Act would carry out the intentions of its promoters; but those differences were not such that they could not be met by the insertion of certain clauses in the Bill. He, therefore, asked the House to allow the Bill to go into Committee, that it might be fairly considered in all its provisions, and any difference that existed might then be arranged. It was certainly very much to the credit of the ratepayers of these two large boroughs, that they had desired the education of the people to be immediately undertaken, and that they were willing to tax themselves by a local rate, in order that a fair experiment might be made on this important subject. The Bill was generally acceptable to the ratepayers of the two boroughs, for petitions had been presented to that House from the three townships comprised in the Bill, signed by the majority of the ratepayers, not only in number, but also, he believed, in regard to the amount of assessment. The petition from Manchester was signed by 27,596 persons, that from Salford by 6,392, and that from Broughton by 2,396; the residence and amount of assessment of each person being in every case appended to his signature. For his own part, he avowed that his own predilection was in favour of a secular scheme of education that should not infringe upon the rights and consciences of any. But we must take mankind as they are; and when all classes in Manchester had united to form a Bill, and had made mutual concessions, with a view to the promotion of the great question of the education of the poorer classes, he felt it was the duty of all to be willing to make concessions, in order that this great object might be accomplished. With regard to particular scruples as to religious teaching, he felt very much disposed to give way, rather than permit the further continuance of that street instruction which led to poverty, misery, and crime. When, therefore, he balanced these considerations, he thought that great good might be effected by carrying out this Bill. He preferred it, in the present state of public feeling, 381 to a general measure, for he was sure that it would he extremely difficult to frame such a measure as would be equally applicable to the agricultural and manufacturing districts. It was from a feeling of that difficulty that it had been desired that the towns of Manchester and Salford should, as an experiment, unite for this laudable purpose; and he hoped that if the Bill underwent the investigation of a fair Committee, they would form such a measure as would give general satisfaction, and would fully protect the rights of conscience of all.
§ MR. W. BROWN,
in seconding the Motion, said, that he was very desirous to see this Bill sent to a Committee upstairs, because he thought that a good deal of valuable evidence would be elicited, and that even if this Bill did not pass during the present Session, the investigation would put the Government in possession of much information, which would be of great value to the Prime Minister in the preparation of the general measure of education, which he had announced his intention of introducing next year.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that he thought the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) had given a somewhat too highly coloured description of the amount of support which the Bill had received in Manchester. It was perfectly true that the Bill was supported by a large body of the ratepayers paying upon a very considerable assessment, and also that it was promoted by gentlemen whose opinions are entitled to great consideration and deference; but it was not correct to say that the Bill was supported by the whole of the inhabitants of Manchester. [Mr. BROTHERTON: I did not say so.] He had understood his hon. Friend to say, that the Bill was supported generally by the inhabitants of the borough. However, up to this moment, he, as the representative of Manchester, had received no intimation whatever of the course which the corporation of Manchester, the legitimate representative of that great body of the ratepayers, was prepared to take upon this occasion. Indeed, the hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. W. Brown) appeared rather to contemplate referring the Bill to a Committee upstairs, with the view of supplying the Government with information on which a measure might be founded 382 in a subsequent Session, than that this Bill should become law during the present year. He should feel very great difficulty, whatever his own private opinions upon this measure might be, in opposing its being considered by a Private Bill Committee; because when a respectable body of men came to Parliament with a measure, asking to have the advantage of their judicial inquiry—for private legislation now came under that description—he thought that there must be some very strong and special reasons shown, before the House would be justified in refusing their request. He could, however, show a special reason for the Amendment which he was about to propose. He wished the House to agree to the postponement of the Bill, because, while on the one hand, he should be unwilling to throw any unnecessary impediment in the way of the ratepayers, or any portion of them, having their proposal considered by a Committee; on the other hand, he desired that all who were entitled to be heard in opposition, had equal favour shown to them, and that nothing was done precipitately, so as to deprive the corporation—the representative of the whole body of the ratepayers—of the opportunity of being heard, if it so pleased them, in opposition to this Bill, and which would be the effect of their reading it a second time. He was informed that the corporation were about to meet, on the 18th instant, to take the measure into consideration; and as by the Standing Orders of the House any person petitioning against a private Bill, and desiring to be heard in opposition before a Select Committee, must present his petition within seven clear days of the second reading of the Bill, if the corporation of Manchester should decide at their meeting to oppose the Bill, they would be deprived of the opportunity of being heard if the House proceeded to read the Bill immediately. This measure was of infinite importance to the future welfare, peace, and harmony of the whole of the inhabitants of Manchester; and he was quite sure that a Committee of that House would feel themselves in a most unfortunate position if, by any hasty reading of this Bill a second time, they were to be deprived of the opportunity of hearing the views of the corporation upon it. Without, therefore, going into the principle of the measure, or stating any opinion whatever upon it, he would upon this ground move that the second reading of the Bill be postponed for a fortnight.
§ Amendment proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon Wednesday the 25th day of this instant February."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. WILSON PATTEN
said, it was his intention to support the Bill, not only so far as the technical forms of the House were concerned, but also upon its merits. He felt bound to say a few words on the subject, as he had taken charge of this particular department of the private business of the House. With respect to what had fallen from the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson), as to the propriety of postponing this Bill for a fortnight, because the corporation of Manchester had not had an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon its merits, he was in a position to state to the House that this Bill had been under discussion in Manchester for now more than two years, and that during that period it had formed a prominent subject of discussion in the newspapers of every party. Its nature had, therefore, been fully known in Manchester for many months, and it was therefore in the power of any party in that borough to take the proper steps for opposing it in Parliament if they were so disposed. But he strongly suspected that the reason why the corporation of Manchester had not presented any petition against the Bill was, that there was no very great objection to the Bill on the part of the corporation collectively, though there might be on the part of some of its Members. For every party in that town, whatever might be their opinions, looked with great approbation upon those who had brought forward this Bill, and who had for two years bestowed great pains and labour upon its preparation. There could be no necessity for postponing the second reading upon the grounds stated by the right hon. Member for Manchester, because no doubt the Bill would be opposed in Committee, and any feeling which might be entertained upon the subject by the corporation of Manchester would receive the greatest attention from them in a matter in which that body were so vitally interested. With regard to the merits of the Bill, he must say, there was no subject which had created such a strong feeling in the county he had the honour to represent (Lancashire) as that of education, which had been discussed in every part of the county for several years. There was a party who wished to establish a ge- 384 neral system of secular education through the country; but he thought that the minds of the people were by no means made up upon that scheme; though many of the supporters of this Bill were in favour of that system. But what was felt in Manchester was, that if this measure was rejected until the question of national education was settled, Manchester might be left for years in uncertainty upon a question on which its mind was made up, and the mass of its population might remain uneducated. In Manchester, taking the schools of all denominations, there was at present accommodation for 62,000 scholars. By this Bill it was proposed that the present managers of these schools should still continue to manage them; except that they should not be allowed to teach the dogmas of their own religion to the children of any inhabitant who objected to such instruction being combined with the general secular and religious instruction which these schools would in future be hound to furnish to all. Upon this subject there had been much discussion; several plans to meet the religious objections of various denominations had been submitted to the Committee who had prepared the Bill, and who had ultimately come to the conclusion that while the provisions of this Bill would afford education to all, the conscientious scruples of no religious body could be offended; and he thought that no one who read the Bill would hesitate to come to the same conclusion. Then there came a clause enacting that if the establishment of any further schools were required out of the rates, the Scriptures should be read in them. But as there was accommodation in the existing schools for 62,000 children, but by no means that number of scholars, he did not think that this provision, which would offend the scruples of the Roman Catholics, was likely to come into operation. At any rate, it was a question for a Committee of the House to decide whether that clause should be inserted or not. This measure being one in which the religious feelings of every class in the community had been consulted, it had been supported by the bishop, the dean, the whole of the clergymen of the Church of England in Manchester, and the great majority of the Dissenting Ministers; and although the Roman Catholics objected to the provision which he had just mentioned, they felt, that the benefits of the measure would be so great as regarded their present schools, that he believed they 385 were in favour of the measure with that exception, because it would afford them means of instructing their children, far beyond those they now possessed. With regard to the numbers who supported the measure, he believed that, taking out the females and double entries, there were 60,000 ratepayers in Manchester; and of these rather more than 40,000 had signed the petitions in favour of this Bill. Now, as this measure applied solely to the borough of Manchester, and did not seek to involve any other place in its operation, he thought that this fact entitled it at all events to a second reading. If, however, the House considered that the subject, being one of great importance, required a different tribunal for the consideration of its details from that to which a private Bill was ordinarily submitted, he might say on the part of the promoters of the Bill that they had no objection to the adoption of such a course, or to its merits being discussed in any manner upon which the House might decide. He would himself suggest that the Government should name a tribunal by whom the measure should he considered. That was a course which would give entire satisfaction to the promoters of the Bill, who had no objection to the Bill being considered and discussed as a public Bill, though by the forms of the House they were compelled to introduce it as a private Bill. If the House refused to read this Bill a second time, it would cause great disappointment to a vast body of people who were interested in it; and whatever might be the way in which they dealt with it, they would, if they knew the assiduity and trouble and talent bestowed upon it in the town of Manchester, hesitate before they offered opposition to its passing through any of its stages.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that be thought the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat had failed to reply to the objection of his (Mr. Bright's) right hon. Colleague (Mr. M. Gibson), that the corporation of Manchester had not yet had an opportunity of discussing the Bill; and that if the House proceeded immediately to read it a second time, there would not be time for the corporation to present a petition, so as to entitle themselves to be hoard in opposition to it before the Committee. Now, it was no doubt true that this measure, and another with a similar object, had been discussed in Manchester, though not, he thought, for two years, yet certainly 386 for more than one; but the hon. Member must know that various plans had been submitted to the population of Manchester in this period; that they had been objected to, and that repeated alterations had been made to meet the objections of various classes of the community; so that the corporation of Manchester were wholly unable to come to any consideration of the real nature of the measure, until the promoters of the measure laid it upon the table of the House. What could have been more absurd than that they should have met and discussed either this plan or the secular plan until they were definitely arranged and laid before the House in the shape they were intended permanently to assume? The hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Wilson Patten) might find himself much mistaken if he fancied there was such unanimity in the corporation with regard to this matter. [Mr. W. PATTEN: I did not say so.] This Bill proposed that the whole population of Manchester should be rated for education, and the corporation must clearly be an authority recognised by the House, for it was the instrument appointed in the Bill for the collection of the rates. The Bill might go on to propose that some other authority superior to the corporation should interfere in the administration of the funds. If, then, the corporation had any regard for its municipal dignity and character, it had an undoubted right, and in fact it was its bounden duty, deliberately and most seriously to consider this measure; nor was that House less bound, in his opinion, to defer very largely to the opinion of a body elected freely by the large body of the ratepayers of that great town. He (Mr. Bright) and his right hon. Colleague were not acting in hostility to this Bill, and had no idea of preventing it from going to the consideration of a proper tribunal. That was all he and those with whom he was acting asked the House; they did not ask the House to postpone the Bill for a fortnight in order that they might then be in a better position to oppose it; or for the purpose of preventing its deliberate consideration before a Committee. But from what be had heard of the opinions of Manchester, looking at the mode in which this Bill interfered with the powers of the corporation, looking also to the point that it was a question of much greater magnitude than those Bills for lighting and paving towns, &c, which wore usually referred to a Committee of five Members; 387 and looking to the great difference of opinion which certainly prevailed, notwithstanding the number of signatures which the petitions in favour of the Bill had received, he thought they were quite justified in asking the House not to reject the Bill, or to dispose of it permanently, but to postpone it for a fortnight, that they might have the opinion of that authority in Manchester which the House recognised as the municipal government of the town. He quite agreed with the hon. Member opposite (Mr. W. Patten) that the promoters of this measure had shown great industry and great regard for the population amongst which they lived; and although he might differ widely from them in his estimate of some of the clauses, he was not adopting the course which he urged upon the House with any hostile views, but simply upon those which he had already mentioned. He submitted to the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) whether, after the pledges which had been given him, he would not serve the interests of those whom he represented by consenting to the postponement of the second reading to that day fortnight.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that the great difficulty which he felt with regard to this Bill, and the point to which he was most anxious that the attention of the House should be called, was this, that on the present occasion, under the name, and he had no doubt the technical definitions, of a private Bill, the House was discussing, not only that which was a public measure, as affecting the public and the general law of the country, but that which was a public measure of the very highest importance, involving the most serious difficulties and the very highest principles which that House could upon any occasion be called upon to consider. And he must say that he felt very great difficulty when a question of this kind was brought before them only eight days after the opening of the Session, mixed up with a multitude of other private Bills, when hon. Members were beset out of doors with gentlemen full of zeal for this Water Bill and that Water Bill, and when the House approached the discussion under the circumstances and in the state of mind in which it usually came to the consideration of private business—a state of mind differing totally from that calm and deliberate composure which a measure of this kind required. The hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. W. Patten) had said that this Bill applied en- 388 tirely to the borough of Manchester, and did not in the slightest degree involve any other place. No doubt that appeared on the face of the Bill; but would any one contend that the adoption of a system of education involving principles of the greatest novelty and the greatest importance, for a district containing 400,000 people, in the case of Manchester, would not prejudge the legislation of the country with regard to education. Another reason why he felt the greatest difficulty in assenting to the second reading of the Bill at the present moment was, that there was no Member of the Government in his place prepared to give his judgment on the subject. Within the last few days, too, they had heard an announcement from the First Lord of the Treasury, that he considered that if the question of Parliamentary Reform were disposed of during the present Session, the next great measure undertaken should be the establishment of a system of public education. Would this Bill have no influence on that general measure? He would put to the hon. Member for North Lancashire this dilemma. They were asked to enact for Manchester the principle of supporting out of the rates the existing schools, subject to certain limitations, and to apply to a new system of education a new and specific religious basis as yet unknown to the country, for schools that might hereafter be built out of the rates. It was, in fact, a full, perfect, and consummate system of popular education for one district. It was no doubt true, as the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) had said, that the circumstances of the populous town districts differed from those of rural districts; and that a precedent laid down with respect to a town would not materially fetter their legislation for the rural districts. But suppose they passed this Bill for Manchester, and that the next year they had a similar petition from Liverpool, and the year following one from Leeds, and the year after one from Birmingham; were they to bind Liverpool, Leeds, and Birmingham, to the principles they had laid down for Manchester? If they were, he contended that the House was then considering a public and a national question, and that they ought to have all the opportunities for considering it, which the forms of Parliamentary procedure afforded. On the other hand, were the supporters of this measure prepared to say that on a question affecting the religious divisions amongst 389 us, they would legislate on one basis for Manchester, and upon other bases for Liverpool, Leeds, and Birmingham? Such were the difficulties of the case, that he confessed he had great doubt whether a local Bill of this kind should he entertained in the present case. But at the same time he would not go so far as to say that no such local Bill should be entertained. He felt, in the first place, that Manchester, on account of the energy and intelligence of its inhabitants, and on account of the vigilant attention they paid to all public discussions, had the greatest claim upon the respect and attention of that House. And there was no case in which the inhabitants of Manchester could have a greater claim on the attention of that House than in the present one; because he agreed entirely with all that had been said by preceding speakers of the honour and credit due to the promoters of this measure, for the patience and the vigour with which they had laboured to overcome and conciliate differences of opinion for the great purpose of promoting public education. They could not then go into the difficulties that attached, he thought, to many clauses of this Bill. There were many parts of the Bill in which he could heartily agree; there were many other parts of it in which he could not do so, but respecting which there appeared to be a difference of opinion even amongst the people of Manchester; and there were other parts of the Bill to which he had an insuperable objection. This was a measure to which the attention of the House should be called as fully as to any other measure submitted to them during the present Session of Parliament; and it was as great an anomaly to have a local Education Bill for Manchester, as to have a special Parliamentary Reform Bill or Franchise Bill for Manchester. Therefore he should support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson). He was not aware whether the business or arrangements of the House would permit it, but his object would he fully attained if this Bill were altogether discussed as a public Bill on the second reading. It was notorious that in the case of a private Bill brought forward on the application of ratepayers, it was almost conclusively settled on the second reading, or it was sent to a Committee, and it was left with them to deal with the details. This was too important a Bill to be treated in that way. It was admitted that in this case there was 390 a deviation from the usual course of proceeding, and before they assented to the principle of the Bill they should know what was the course spoken of. He put it as a point of fairness to his hon. Friend (Mr. W. Patten), that before a Bill of this nature was read a second time they should know what security there was for the future discussion of its provisions. The discussion of a measure of great importance, under the title of a private Bill, was a matter of so much moment and of so much danger, that they ought to look a little around them, and see at what point they were likely to arrive. It was perfectly plain that if this system were allowed to prevail, the whole scheme and form of legislation for the country might be thrown into confusion. If Bills were passed through Parliament as private Bills, and escaped on that account the attention of the House, they would prejudge one by one every important question: and when the House subsequently came to discuss those questions in a general and comprehensive form, it would find that its hands were already tied by decisions obtained from it unawares on private Bills. They had already two examples of this nature in regard to the town of Manchester: in one case having erected the collegiate church of Manchester into a cathedral, and put it under the general law of cathedrals, the House took it out of that category, and remodelled it by a private Bill. They had dealt with the chapter and cathedral by a private Bill, but they had brought into existence the bishopric of Manchester by a public Bill. In the other case his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) had introduced, as a public Bill, a measure for regulating the bonding system in Manchester; but last year that public Bill had been repealed by a private Bill. He wished to have a full discussion of this measure before it went to the Committee, and also that they should know beforehand what course it was to take after it passed the second reading, because their votes on the second reading might be regulated by that course. It was a great hardship to parties who desired to oppose a Bill of this nature, that they should be obliged to oppose it by counsel and agents before the Committee. This was a question of public principle, and the rule was, that when they were discussing matters of high public concern before the House, the country should bear the expense. In the present 391 case, there was a great body of promoters, and they did not complain of the expense; but a person should have the power to oppose a Bill of this kind without being put to expense in doing so. Instead of discussing the question as they then were, when one-fourth of the Members of the House were not aware of the nature of the Bill, they should have early attention drawn to every point it contained, and they should know what course it would take if it passed the second reading. He should be glad if the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) was to the effect that the Bill should be discussed as a public Bill on the second reading. The Amendment that had been proposed by the right hon. Member for Manchester would at all events have the effect of calling attention to the subject. This was important, not with a view to risk the Bill by delay, but for the sake of doing what they could to bring this measure into the position of prominence which it ought to occupy. He would, therefore, give his vote in support of the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. CARDWELL
hoped that neither high authority nor great ability would be successful in defeating a measure of this kind on dilatory pleas which he thought he could show were in their nature purely technical, and in their operation entirely inconsistent and opposed to one another. There came before the House 40,500 persons, ratepayers of Manchester and of the adjoining districts, including the bishop, dean, chapter, and clergy, the Independent ministers, the Wesleyan ministers, and almost, if not altogether, every denomination, constituting the majority, both in numbers and value, not merely of the whole community, but of every particular district of the community, and they were all in favour of the Bill. [Mr. BRIGHT: Subject to inquiry.] Subject to inquiry—then go into Committee and inquire. Upwards of 40,000 ratepayers had signed the petition, and when they came before the House on the second reading of the Bill, how were they met? Not by argument against the principle of the measure, but by two dilatory pleas. The two Members of Parliament for Manchester, speaking against a majority of the ratepayers of Manchester, claimed that the Bill should be delayed for this reason—that the corporation might have an opportunity of considering it, while, in fact, the Bill had been before the public of Manchester for the last two years. [Mr. BRIGHT: The 392 plan, not the Bill, which is a different thing altogether.] Not different altogether. If there were any difference of detail, that would appear in the Committee. The plan had been more than a year before the corporation of Manchester, and they had every opportunity of presenting petitions on the subject. They might have a very great respect for the opinions of the corporation of Manchester; but their own Standing Orders were of more importance, and although the corporation of Manchester might appoint a particular time for the consideration of the Bill, it was by the Standing Orders of the House their proceedings should be regulated. His right hon. Friend who just sat down (Mr. Gladstone) took also a technical objection, and of a different kind. He said they should call public attention to the subject by making it a public Bill; and he asked why they should then debate a Bill of this kind when there were gentlemen attending outside to promote the passing of Water Bills. He (Mr. Cardwell) appealed to the House if there could be a better opportunity for dispassionate debate than the opportunity now presented. What better time could be selected than Twelve o'clock on the first Wednesday of the Session for such a purpose, after special notice given the day before at Five o'clock? If his right hon. Friend wished to debate this question in detail, on public principles, let him wait until the Bill came down from the Select Committee. He might then move that it be referred to a Committee of the whole House, and there would thus be a double argument—they would have an argument upstairs, where the interests of Manchester would be considered, and they would have an argument in that House with regard to the public objects of the Bill. It was said that they should not legislate on the question for Manchester alone; but what answer was that to the people of Manchester, whom they praised so justly for their laudable exertions on this subject. Had they no experience of the fruitless endeavours to make an Education Bill a general Bill? A plan for promoting secular education was brought forward by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. W. J. Fox), with consummate ability, and the House rejected it because it was not a Bill involving religion. But they had some experience of the fate of Bills involving religion. Did they forget the Bill of his right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham) in 1843? 393 His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) was a Member of the Government on whose behalf the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon propounded that measure It was a strong Government, and it was no inconsiderable advocate who took the management of that Bill; and what did the people of Manchester find? They found that a whole generation of children had grown up in ignorance and vice since that Bill had failed in that House. When they saw that the most consummate ability could not obtain for them a system of education either secular or scriptural, then they asked for permission to avail themselves of the only means which Parliament laid open to them, namely, to bring forward a Bill peculiar to Manchester, and take upon themselves the whole responsibility of going on with it. That was the case at present; and they had matured a Bill which, in their belief, secured the valuable advantages of good secular and religious education, and was free from objection. The corporation would have seven days to petition against it, and if any person objected to it after it passed through the Committee, he could move that it be referred to a Committee of the whole House. In short, they would have every opportunity for fair discussion, and yet they were now called upon by a dilatory plea to resist the second reading of a Bill which was promoted by a large majority of the inhabitants of Manchester.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said, he would not have thought it necessary to say anything after the lucid speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), were it not that an impression might have been produced by what was said by the hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. W. Patten), and the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell), that there was something approaching to unanimity amongst the religionists of different persuasions in Manchester, on the subject of this Bill. That, most assuredly, was very far from being the case. The Catholic priesthood of Manchester, the Jews, and the Society of Friends in Manchester, had all remonstrated and protested against the provisions of this measure. There were also other rival societies in the field, and out of throe public meetings held on the subject, one only was in support of this measure, and two were hostile to it. It was said that the majority of persons on the rating-books had signed the 394 petition; but it should be remembered that there was a large body of people in Manchester, liberal minded men, interested in promoting education, and willing to make great sacrifices so that something was done, who in signing the petition did not by any means declare that they did not equally or more approve of some other scheme. They had signed the petition in order that some plan or other might be adopted; and if he had been accurately informed, an absolute majority of the people of Manchester had petitioned for a rival and competitive plan. And though they might not be considered as influential as those on the books of ratepayers, yet they belonged to the class on which the provisions of the Bill were likely to operate. They belonged to the working classes, whose children were to be sent to school, and it was important that in passing any Bill they should have their assent and cooperation. There were two large education associations in Manchester: one of them proposed the present measure, and the other preferred a different scheme. These were the persons who preferred the secular plan—men who had bestowed pains and labour on the matter, and who might in that respect be compared to the promoters of the Bill, whoso painstaking qualities he should not by any means attempt to underrate. Besides, there was that large body of persons—the voluntary educationists—who had a title to be heard on the subject. He had received a letter on the preceding day expressing surprise at the rapidity with which the Bill was hurried on; and the writer expressed the determination of himself and those who co-operated with him to give it as much opposition as they could, and hoped that an opportunity would be given them of opposing it. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had referred to the inconvenience of discussing a public measure as a private one. There were principles involved upon which Parliament and Government hesitated; but those local authorities had rushed in prematurely to settle them, while they were looking forward to some more general measure to be introduced by the Government itself. He (Mr. W. J. Fox) was not opposing the Motion on religious grounds. Whatever his own opinions might be as to the best mode of solving the education question, he had no desire to oppose the wishes of any locality if they were unanimously anxious to have religion interwoven with the system. He should be exceed- 395 ingly happy to promote such a measure, and he thought it would he a great benefit to the community to have a union of feelings and thoughts on such an important subject. He did not object to it on that ground, but on the ground that they were not fulfilling the conditions which had been laid down by the noble Lord at the head of the Government in the last Session of Parliament. The noble Lord had said that two things were necessary: first, that the education should he religious; and, next, that they should do, no violence to the conscience of any person. So far as he was concerned with the provisions of the Bill, he must say there were conscientious classes to whom it would be objectionable. What would be the consequence of establishing such a measure as this in Manchester on the eve of a more general measure? They would go forward with a Bill for the exclusion of the Jews and Roman Catholics, and against which the Society of Friends had protested. The result must he heartburnings and the excitement of something like the Church-rate agitation, and the great question of education would be prejudiced. They would destroy the humanising feelings and the grateful expectation with which a measure of education would he looked for, and they would throw the people of a great and populous district into a state of mind that would be unfit for the reception of that benevolent measure which they might expect was in preparation. He hoped the second reading of the Bill would be so arranged that it would come fully and fairly under consideration.
§ MR. HUME
said, as an ardent supporter of education, he must appeal to his hon. Friend who had charge of the Bill whether standing on a matter of form was calculated to advance the common object? Could the delay of a few days affect the great principle so unanimously adopted with respect to the necessity of promoting education? He held an entirely different opinion from those who regarded this Bill as being of the nature of a private Bill. He had ventured last night to call the attention of the noble Lord at the head of the Government to the Bill, stating that it appeared to him to involve a great public question which it was not proper to discuss on a private Bill, and expressing the hope that the noble Lord would be in his place when the measure came on for discussion to-day. He regretted that the noble Lord, being 396 otherwise engaged, had been prevented from attending. He would tell the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell), that so far from this being a fit and proper time for entering on the subject of the Bill, the question of education ought not to be discussed except in the presence of the First Lord of the Treasury and of the Secretary for the Home Department. It was altogether an interference with the private business to introduce the subject on the present occasion. The question involved in the Bill was the great question, whether education should he carried on by means of a rate imposed on the community. He was one of those who held that the whole community ought to be educated by means of a rate on property; for education, in his opinion, was as much required by the general interest as perhaps the law which compelled property to give the destitute physical support. The Bill was intended to affirm the right to tax the property of the community at large for educational purposes at the request of a certain proportion of the community; but of the 40,000 who had signed the petition presented in favour of the Bill, he understood that a large number had signed on the ground that it was a petition for education generally. No open public meeting had expressed an opinion in favour of the Bill; admission to the meetings which had been held was by tickets alone. His objection, however, to now proceeding with the Bill was, that the question ought to be dealt with by Government; and, after the declaration of the noble Lord two nights ago, that it was the intention of the Government to take up the subject, he thought it would be premature to enter on the consideration of the Bill before the House.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
admitted the great importance of the Bill, but thought it was exceedingly desirable that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and also the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, should be in the House when the measure was under discussion. He was of opinion that it would be of advantage to postpone the second reading, and, with the permission of the House, he would move the adjournment of the debate to Wednesday next. [Cries of "This day fortnight."] No. What he thought fair was to leave the question in debate undecided only until his noble Friend should be in his place.
§ Debate adjourned till Wednesday next.