§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
Sir, I rise, in pursuance of the notice which stands upon the paper for to-night, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to make further provision for the Education of the people in Scotland, and to amend the laws relating thereto. I feel that I need say nothing to bespeak the candid consideration and indulgence of the House in the discharge of my duty on this question. Its importance and its difficulty speak sufficiently for themselves. Its importance no one doubts, and its difficulty is only too notorious. There is no question on which so much difference of opinion exists; and none in which difference of opinion, even on points the most abstract and theoretical, creates so many practical obstacles. We had, the other night, a very interesting discussion on Education in England; but there was certainly nothing in the substance or result of that discussion to affect 1152 the truth of this remark, or to remove the difficulties which beset me. And yet I cannot help giving expression to a feeling which constantly comes over me, that difficulties arising from differences of opinion on abstract principles ought, on such a subject, to give way before any earnest and honest endeavour to remove them. At first sight one would think that, with means at our command, and hearty goodwill in the cause, the teaching of the children of this country ought to be the simplest and easiest of all public duties. It might be expected to be the very last battle-field which the dogmas of contending sects, or polemical dissension, should select for conflict. Even if the question were regarded as relating to an ordinary work of philanthropy and benevolence, it might be thought, that all good men would willingly unite to merge their differences of opinion, in order to rescue the rising generation from an ignorance, of which it is scarcely too much to say, that it is often as bad as the worst of creeds, and as fatal as the most fatal of heresies. And this all the more, when it is recollected that the education of the people is a matter, not of choice, but of duty; and that every citizen who comes to years of maturity without having had within his reach the means of ordinary instruction, reflects discredit on the Government under which he lives. There are, however, circumstances under which men proverbially forget their mutual differences, and unite in common action; and such I take to be the circumstances under which this question of education forces itself upon our consideration. Thanks to the negligence of former generations, and our own, it is no longer a mere question of philanthropy, or a mere question of duty, but it has become a question of self-defence. If we do not encounter and overcome the ignorance of the people, the ignorance of the people will overwhelm us. The plain truth is this, that with all our boasted prosperity—while we are founding dynasties in another hemisphere, and bringing our argosies home from the ends of the earth—while we are extending the cords of our political freedom, and making strides in science, and arts, and civilisation, there is all this time growing up in the very heart of our social system, in the very centre of our mighty cities, and at the very base and root of this immense community, what I do not err in terming a savage and barbarian race, tied to you by no sympathy, bound to your in- 1153 stitutions by no common link, inheriting with their blood, the energies and the passions, as they do the thews and sinews of the race from which they spring; but with those energies unsoftened by any humanising influence, and those passions unrestrained by the knowledge of any duty, either to God or to society. I do not say this merely by way of declamation. Those who have been accustomed, as it has been my duty for some years, to look beneath the surface, and be conversant with the statistics of crime, know that what I now say is no exaggeration, but plain, simple, lamentable, and fatal truth. Fortunately, various elements, the increase of emigration, and general employment and prosperity, have to a certain extent relieved during late years, the immediate pressure from this source. But the danger from it is as imminent as it is undoubted, and it must be met, not by a mere patronising sympathy with the ignorance of the lower orders, but with action of such energy as men use when an enemy is at their very gates. We shall never deal with this question rightly except on the assumption that there exists at the very foundation of society a flood of deep, unfathomed, pestilential waters, which, unless prompt measures are taken, any upheaving of our social system may cause to burst their barriers, and sweep us and our boaster institutions to destruction.
I would not be understood, by these remarks, as indicating that anything that I now have to propose, on the part of the Government, is at all likely to be adequate to meet the evils I have now described; but I have thus introduced my observations for the purpose, in the first place, of reminding the House that, whatever is to be done, there is no time to lose. It is one of the miserable consequences of past neglect, that any remedy we apply must be the work of time, while the evil itself impending and increasing. We have now for twenty years been discussing the modes, and forms, and theories of education. During all that time I do not say that nothing has been done; but our efforts have been so partial and capricious, that very little has been done to reach the real root of the evil; and, in the meantime, three generations of schoolboys have become men, and will constitute a large proportion of that world of which we ourselves will have to deal for the future. I therefore trust that at all events, the House will come to the resolution of delaying no longer in com- 1154 mencing this important work. And the other object I have in view is to induce the House to consider the propositions that I have now to make in the spirit of self-defence, and, while the battle of opinions rages out of doors, to claim a candid co, operation from the representatives of the people within this House, whose province it is as much to moderate as to reflect them.
The proposal that I have to make does not profess to be framed upon any abstract principle, and I fairly own I am perfectly indifferent as to whether or no it may be supposed to fulfil any given theory of education. We may go on long enough before we can frame a method of education which shall conform in all its parts to any abstract principle. My great object and desire is to accomplish the practical purpose of educating the people; and if that object be well attained, we can afford, I think, to dispense with the discussion of theories. I may, however, say, at starting, that, as a matter of opinion, I hold very strongly that no measure of education will be effectual for its object which depends for its efficiency on optional or voluntary effort. A great deal, no doubt, may be done, and has been done, in this way; but the necessary effect must always be, that many places, and those generally which stand most in need of education, are completely neglected. In Scotland we have had, for nearly three hundred years, an established system of education—an advantage not enjoyed either by England or Ireland—which is founded on the principle, that the State has a duty to discharge in educating her citizens, and is bound to make provision for this object which shall not be dependent on merely voluntary exertions. I shall not here stop to argue the question whether there be or be not such a duty binding on the civil community. It is enough to say that such is the principle on which education in Scotland has for centuries been founded. In every parish there must be a school, and that school maintained, not at the will of the parishioners, but by a burden imposed by law on the land. Such is the system which I am desirous of extending; nor have I any fear that, in the present state of society, too much is at all likely to be done in the cause of education, or that there is any danger of voluntary efforts being unduly discouraged by national prodigality.
A difficulty, however, that obviously stands in the way of even the first step 1155 towards obtaining this object—not one of those difficulties to which I have already alluded, but one much more real and practical—is the want of definite information as to the real amount of destitution which is to be remedied. It is obvious that no remedy can be applied without the imposition of additional local or public burdens; and it is as impossible to impose these burdens without knowing something of their probable amount, as it is to ascertain, with anything like accuracy of detail, the real extent of the evil which it is necessary to meet. It has accordingly been suggested, that, before proceeding to legislate on this subject, the necessary statistical information should be first obtained, either through the machinery of a Committee of this House, or a Crown Commission. I am happy to say that the Government have not thought it right to adopt either of these alternatives, as, while the result of either of them would have been doubtful, and would have been quite as likely to have increased as to have diminished existing difficulties, the question itself would have remained in a state of abeyance, in which it is both undesirable and impossible to leave it. The course, accordingly, which the Government propose to adopt on this part of the subject is one to which I hope to obtain the ready assent of the House. It is proposed to establish, under the cognisance of the General Board (the constitution of which I shall hereafter explain), a system of educational inspection, on a scale considerably more extensive than any that has been before attempted either in England or Scotland. The object of that system of inspection will be, among other things, to obtain a complete educational survey of the whole of Scotland. It is proposed, that within two years—that is to say, in the Parliament of 1856—the inspectors shall furnish the Board with materials which shall enable them to lay on the table of Parliament of that year a detailed account of the educational statistics of Scotland, showing not merely the amount of educational destitution which prevails, and the number of schools that exist, but descending into details much more minute, and enabling Parliament and the public to ascertain that in this town and in that, in this country district and in that—nay, even in particular streets or localities—so many families do or do not send their children to school. I hope, Sir, that in this way, by having such a statement as this placed on the table of this 1156 House, and revised from year to year, we shall take a most important step with he view to the remedy of the evils I have described. What is fairly begun, is said in common proverb to be half done. It is at least important, with a view to a cure, to know where the evil is, and what is the extent of it; and when that is proclaimed in public documents from year to year, to the people of this country, and to Europe, it is almost certain that before long an effectual remedy must be provided. On these statistics I hope to see built a thorough system of reformatory schools, and that, when knowing with accuracy where the hotbeds of crime are, we may establish, on a scale proportionate to the necessity, that part of our educational system to which, in my opinion, we must ultimately look as our most material rampart against the increase of social depravity. I hope, also, to see carried out on these statistics—to a certain extent, at least—the principle of compulsory attendance at school. I should wish to see the principle acknowledged and acted on, that as it is the duty of a parent to maintain its child, and the law punishes him if he is able and refuses to maintain it, and if he be unable the State provides for its maintenance—so it is the duty of a parent not to allow his child to grow up a savage in a civilised community; that he is as much bound to provide for its moral as for its physical wants; and that the law is entitled to compel him to the performance of duties which he owes to society. To what extent this principle can be carried out, is a different question. Such, however, is the process of inquiry by which I hope, at the end of two years, that Parliament will be furnished with the means of constructing a complete and perfect system of national education. And, until these are obtained, it is obvious that it is impossible to institute any system that can adequately meet the emergency.
But, of course, it is not the intention of Government to rest satisfied with these preparatory measures. There is much that may be done at present; and I shall now proceed to explain to the House the additional provisions it is proposed to introduce.
This leads me necessarily to proceed to consider the position of the parochial schools of Scotland, and the alterations which it is thought necessary to make with regard to them. I have already said that Scotland has the advantage of a school 1157 supported by public funds, established in every parish; and, although not much to our credit, that system was almost as extensive 250 years ago as it is now; the advantages which Scotland has derived from it have been so great, and so notorious, that for long she was quoted as an example, and, in some degree, is still renowned, for the superior education of her people. I should be the last man to deny the unquestionable benefits which these schools have conferred upon the country; but it is as impossible to deny that the wants of the population, and the nature of society, have altogether outgrown the materials of which that system is composed. In the first place, the salaries of the schoolmasters are altogether inadequate; and this subject, indeed, forms one main reason for immediate legislation.
It is well known to most of the hon. Gentlemen whom I now address, that the parochial schoolmasters of Scotland are paid by the landed proprietors of the parish, at a rate which is determined by a certain amount of grain, converted according to certain fixed modes of calculation. The amount of grain was last fixed by the Act 43 Geo. III. c. 54. By that Act it was provided, that the price or value of the grain salary should be struck every twenty-five years; and in 1828 these prices were fixed, giving 34l. as the maximum salary, and 25l. as the minimum salary payable to the schoolmasters. The minimum is what the heritors were bound to give; the maximum, the amount which the heritors, as a body, could resolve to give. The House will very well understand that remuneration of this amount has come to be in many—or, indeed, I may say in all—cases very inadequate, and entirely insufficient to attract to the position men of the necessary education, intelligence, and character. Indeed, the wonder rather is, that, with such remuneration, so many men of ability and attainments have found their way to the parish schools. Even under the conversion of 1828, I should have thought that Parliament would have done great injustice to the parochial schoolmasters, a most ill-paid and meritorious body, if they had been allowed to remain in that condition. But the second cycle of twenty-five years expired last year. The value in money has been struck anew, and, owing to the fall in the price of grain, the salaries to which the schoolmasters are restricted, unless Parliament interferes, are a maximum of 25l. and a minimum of 19l. I think the House 1158 will agree with me, that Government have rightly resolved not to allow the parochial schoolmasters to remain in this position of hardship. It is proposed to abolish entirely the payment in grain, though not to relieve the heritors of the burden of maintaining the parochial schoolmaster, but to fix the amount payable by the heritor at the present maximum of 34l.; and, at the same time, it is proposed, that no parochial schoolmaster shall have a salary less than 50l., the remaining 16l. being paid out of funds to be voted by Parliament to the Privy Council, and to be administered by them. This sum of 50l. will be exclusive of school-fees and other remunerations of that kind. There are other provisions for improving the position of the schoolmaster. At present, miserable as the salary is, the schoolmaster has no retiring allowance. It is intended to propose that, subject to regulations to be described in the Bill, a schoolmaster incapacitated for his duty should be entitled to a retiring allowance of 25l., of which one-half should be furnished by the heritors, and the other half by the Privy Council. In this way the Bill will provide against what has been found in Scotland a great evil, that, pinched as the schoolmasters are by inadequate payment during their best days, even the most meritorious have no fund to fall back upon in old age, and, however incapacitated or unfit to discharge their duties, they are compelled to hold by their position to the last, to the great detriment and injury of the cause of education, and to the great scandal of the country at large. With regard to house accommodation, the Act of 1803 provides, that the schoolmaster's house shall not consist of less than two rooms and a kitchen. The proposition now made is, that it shall, in future buildings, consist of not less than three rooms and a kitchen. Such, then, are the proposals that are made with respect to the position of the schoolmaster. And if his position be thus ameliorated at the public expense, I proceed to consider whether any change should be made in the law with regard to the superintendence of parish schools, and the election and qualification of schoolmasters? This leads me to mention a subject, which undoubtedly excites a great deal of interest in Scotland, I mean the subject of the test, which it is, necessary for every parochial schoolmaster to take before his election. It is well known to the House that, under former statutes, to which I need not refer in detail, all schoolmasters in the parish schools, 1159 and professors of the Universities of Scotland, were obliged to profess their adherence to the doctrines of the Confession of Faith, and to the Church of Scotland, as by law established. Looking to the altered circumstances of society in Scotland, Parliament last year repealed this law as regarded the Universities, and the question naturally arises, is it still to remain in force in the parish schools, in regard to which it has always been stringently observed? It has been urged with great force and anxiety that it would be undesirable in the mean time to interfere with this test, and so disturb the connection between the Established Church and the parochial schools, before being certain that we have a better system to put in its place. But, after much consideration, Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion, that it is not desirable that this state of the law should any longer continue. The words of the clause of the proposed Bill relative to this subject are very few and conclusive, and I hope will put an end for ever to a controversy which has too long waged. They are, "It shall not be necessary for a Parochial Schoolmaster to subscribe any Test, Confession of Faith, or Formula." If this provision had been conceived in a spirit of hostility to the Established Church, or with any desire to diminish the security which now exists for the religious teaching of the people, it would deserve to meet with an opposition which, as it is, I have great hopes it will not receive. For how does the case stand as regards this exclusive test? It is proposed, by means of public money, to place these National Schools in a much more efficient position; and when national funds are to be devoted to such a purpose, I declare I do not know by what argument, by what process of reasoning, by what course of logic, I could defend the maintenance of a system, which restricts the choice of teachers in these schools to less than one-half of persons qualified in Scotland. In Scotland we have the reputation of being very keen in polemical disputes. It is said, we set so much store by ecclesiastical differences, that no two Scotsmen can be found to agree upon such subjects. But persons not acquainted with the nature of society and opinions in Scotland, may draw very erroneous conclusions from these ecclesiastical differences, and fall into great practical blunders, if they imagine that these disputes necessarily prevent mutual co-operation on such a subject as 1160 education. These contests relate entirely to questions of Church government. In creed and belief, the country, taking it in its general aspect, is not only substantially, but completely, agreed. All the different bodies of Presbyterians, the Established Church, the Free Church, and the United Presbyterians, comprising, certainly, nineteen-twentieths of the population, hold by the same Confession of Faith, and teach the same Catechism; and of all the schools in Scotland, I am not above the mark in sayting, that 95 per cent teach the very same doctrines in the same way and out of the same books. The substantial question, therefore, in regard to the retention or the abolition of this limitation of the field from which schoolmasters may be chosen, must be considered with reference to this state of circumstances. Is there any ground or reason, at a time when the public resources of the country are applied for the improvement of the parochial schools, for maintaining a provision by which, out of 5,000 persons admittedly qualified in creed and in acquirement, the choice is to be restricted to 2,500, merely because they belong to a different communion without any difference of creed? It appears to me, that this provision, therefore, is inevitable, and I cannot doubt it will be adopted by the House. I am sure that it will receive the strong approbation of the country, and I believe the approbation, also, of a large body of the lay members of the Established Church. If I might take the liberty of giving one word of advice to my friends of the Established Church—and though, unfortunately, I no longer belong to her communion, I give that advice with anything but a feeling of hostility—I should say, that I know nothing that militates so much against her efficiency and influence as the subsistence of this exclusive test. It keeps alive animosities; it promotes dissensions, by which the Established Church has nothing to gain, and everything to lose; it gives strength to those who have an interest in fomenting divisions, and interferes with the active discharge of her duty, by distracting her energies from her proper work. However important the questions of Church government may be that divide us, I see no reason why we should have contending schools established by contending sects. I have no desire to see that; I should wish to see the children of our parishes meeting together in the same school, reading out of the same books, and taught their common creed: and there is 1161 no reason whatever why they should be debarred from companionship at schools because of ecclesiastical controversies, in which it is time enough to instruct them in maturer years.
The test, then, being abolished, and the elected body being left free to choose the best qualified candidate, the next question that occurs is, Who are to be the electing body? It is not proposed by this Bill to make any alteration in the existing law on this subject. The election of the parish schoolmaster, except in the ease which I shall immediately mention, will remain as now, subject, however, to examination by the inspector of the district, and the approbation of the General Board. The election will thus be vested in the hertors and the minister of the parish. But there is a further question as to the hands in which the ordinary management of the school ought to be vested? At present there is no controlling power over these schools except the general superintendence of the presbytery of the district. I certainly did not consider it as important to interfere with the superintendence of the Presbytery as to remove the test. But in this revision of the existing system, the question of real importance is, whether the superintendence by the presbytery be or be not efficient. It is desirable to provide for the superintendence of these schools in the way most likely to be conducive to public advantage. Now, with all respect to the Established Church, I have no hesitation in saying that, for the period of a full century, until twelve or fifteen years ago, the superintendence of the presbytery over the parochial schools was in most cases little better than a name. Under this system it is notorious, and no one who has any practical knowledge of the subject can deny, that in many instances the parochial schools have, in the course of the period I speak of, been debased and degrade, beyond all imagination. Indeed, a body constituted like the presbytery cannot efficiently superintend the schools within its district. Meeting at long intervals and scattered over a territory embracing sometimes many and distant parishes, it is obviously impossible that these church courts can accomplish the necessary supervision. I do not mean to say that even if this objection had not existed, it would have been right or desirable to have continued the superintending power of the presbytery. But, as it is, and looking to the unquestionable fact, that the present 1162 system has not proved efficient, it is proposed to abolish it entirely.
It is proposed, accordingly, to leave the superintendence and management of the parish schools in the hands of the electing body, the heritors and minister of the parish, with a power of inspection by the inspector of the district, and under the control of the General Board. The management is left in their hands on two grounds: in the first place, because the burden of maintaining these schools is left with the heritors; and in the second place, because I freely and frankly confess, that, while anxious to remove defects and obstacles, I am not desirous of sweeping away entirely the existing machinery of these schools until we are ready to provide a system which has been found to be better. Sir, it does not appear to me that by thus removing limitations on the power of election, and vesting the management of these schools in the heritors and minister, subject to the General Board, instead of in the presbytery, we do anything which can be considered, even if the provisions of the proposed measure rested there, as weakening the guarantees for religious instruction which the country possesses at present. The test has been found to be no guarantee at all, and effectual only to exclude the most conscientious and the most sincere. The Presbyterian superintendence has been found, in times of lethargy, to be little better than a name. I quite admit that I of late years, and stimulated partly by competition, which I consider, in some respects, unfortunate, there has been great and increased vigilance on the part of the Established Church with regard to the I parish schools, and that they are probably now in a, condition of greater efficiency I than they have been for many years. But I times of lethargy may come again, and I the results will be at, before. I have seen a declaration, very largely and very respectably signed by a number of heritors; in Scotland, in which they express a desire that the parochial schools should not be disconnected from the Church, or removed from their superintendence. I think it may be doubted whether, notwithstanding the weight and the respectability of many of the names attached to that document, it represents much of the Presbyterian feeling of Scotland. But the declaration, at all events, may give the Established Church some assurance, that in leaving the management of the parochial schools with the heritors and the minister, we are not taking 1163 a step which is intended or calculated to injure the cause of religion, or which is conceived in any spirit of hostility to the Church herself.
There are two questions, however, which still remain, and to which it may be necessary to advert before concluding my remarks on the parochial schools. The first is a provision to the effect, that if the heritors shall so resolve at a meeting to be called for that purpose, they may throw up the support and management of the parochial schools, and give it over to the ratepayers under subsequent provisions in the proposed Bill. In this case the ratepayers will then be bound to assess themselves for the support of the school, which will then fall under the general management, which I shall immediately explain. The second point to which I refer is the question of religious instruction; and as the provisions on this subject are applicable to parochial as well as other schools, I may as well now advert to that part of the question.
I hope I shall not be considered as dealing lightly with so important a topic when I say that, as regards the present question, I consider the religious difficulty as no difficulty at all and notwithstanding all that has been said and written on this subject, I believe that such is the opinion of nine-tenths of the sensible and thinking people of Scotland. There is nothing so easy as to get up a case of conscientious scruple—to lay down abstract principles, and say, beyond this line or that my conscience will not allow me to go. But it would certainly rather appear that in a country where we are all agreed both in the thing to be taught and the manner of teaching it, conscientious scruples have a very narrow field to work upon.
In explaining, however, my own views on this part of the subject, in so far as any explanation appears necessary, I must revert to a subject on which I said a few words the other evening. An hon. Member opposite (Mr. Adderley) startled me, and surprised some of my friends in this House, by informing them and me that on some occasion I had given expression to a sentiment, the extraordinary nature of which was only equalled by the unusually strong language in which it was supposed to have been expressed. The hon. Gentleman referred me to his authority, which was a pamphlet by the Rev. Dr. Bryce; and I have since had an opportunity of looking at the passage. Indeed, I am 1164 ashamed to say that I found the pamphlet on my table with its leaves uncut. The statement certainly is what the hon. Gentleman represented it to be:—That the Lord Advocate was found declaring, that rather than exclude logic and mathematics from the schools, Christianity should cease to be taught in them.In so far as accuracy of statement was concerned, I stated the other night that I had no complaint to make of the hon. Gentleman. He quoted quite accurately, but I should recommend him, before again trusting to an authority so apocryphal, to verify the quotations he finds there. The rev. Doctor refers to some speech of mine at Leith as warranting the statement. What speech he does not specify; and I have no doubt that many newspaper reports of my speeches to my constituents may have been inaccurate enough. But knowing that upon this subject of education I have always held the same language, and having no high opinion of the accuracy of the reverend pamphleteer, I take leave to say, without having had any opportunity of referring to any of those speeches, that no report, however incorrect, ever attributed such a sentiment to me. I undertake to predict that it will turn out that this supposed sentiment of mine is entirely the workmanship of the rev. Doctor's imagination—that it is a construction he puts on, or a conclusion he draws from, some expressions of mine used certainly in a different, and probably in an opposite, sense. I am the more confirmed in this opinion by finding that the rev. Doctor represents me as having made a proselyte to this extraordinary doctrine—and that proselyte is no other than my esteemed and most distinguished friend Dr. Guthrie, a man whose earnest devotion to the cause of which he is the servant, is as well known as the brilliancy of his eloquence and the unaffected piety of his character. Sir, I am sorry to see statements like these proceeding from the pen of a minister of the Church of Scotland; statements which, if made to a Scottish audience, would have carried their own refutation along with them. I am not entitled to speak of any sentiments of mine as being notorious; but in so far as my opinions are of any consequence, and among those who think them so, it is notorious that my views on this subject are exactly the reverse of those attributed to me in this pamphlet, and that I have always been opposed to the theory of secular education, understanding 1165 that theory to imply that it is undesirable that religious and secular education should be combined, I have always maintained as strongly as any hon. Member in this House, I do not say the expediency, but the duty of uniting religious and ordinary education. I never have been able to think that the theory, as it is called, of secular education has either principle or reason to support it. I think my noble Friend the Member for the City of London, in his observations the other night, put the question upon its true, and on a very short and conclusive ground. He maintained, and I think most justly, that it was entirely a mistake to draw any distinction between religious and secular education. If, indeed, we were prepared to think that religion was a mere dream, that all creeds were alike true, or rather alike false, but at all events were mere phantoms, having no relation to the practical business of life, and to be dealt with as such, then I can understand the distinction. But to my mind the schoolmaster throws away the best weapon in his armoury when he excludes religion from his teaching. There is no agency so powerful as religion to impress and win over the mind of a child. There may be circumstances in which this powerful instrument may not be available, But that is a case to be lamented. It is a case in which education is conducted under disadvantages. Where it is possible to combine the religious element with the ordinary instruction of the school, I cannot imagine how any man could willingly exclude in the list of sciences and arts the teaching of that science which of all others is the most practical and important in its influence on human conduct. In this view, how can there be any accurate distinction taken between secular and religious instruction? for if by secular we mean that which belongs to our present day, which is conversant with things of daily life, which deals with daily duties, which relates to the services we owe to our families, to the community, and to the State, in short, our perpetual obligations to God and man, there is nothing more truly secular than religion.
On the other hand, it seems to be equally true, and I can hardly conceive any one sufficiently bigoted to deny, that there may be occasions where, it being impossible to give religious instruction because those who are to be taught will not receive it, it may not only be our right, but our duty, 1166 to give such instruction to them as they will receive.
To take an illustration from the case of Ireland—for no such thing exists in Scotland—if I open a school in a parish which is entirely Roman Catholic, and propose to teach the Bible and the Church Catechism, and find that the children refuse to learn either the Bible or the Church Catechism, and that my school is deserted; am I therefore entitled, or, much more, am I bound, to close the doors of the school, and tell the children that if they will not learn the Bible and the Catechism in the way that I wish, they shall learn nothing, and even reading and writing shall be denied them? Education must be carried on to the extent and in the way which may be practicable; and I can see neither duty nor sense in any one insisting upon teaching what the people are determined not to learn, and refusing to teach them what they are ready to learn. I hope, however, that this opinion will not again be tortured into a wish to exclude Christianity from our schools in order to teach mathematics.
But how stands the fact in Scotland? The religious difficulty in that country takes altogether another shape. Your difficulty begins, not by introducing religion, but by excluding it, and for one child that may be excluded by the teaching of religion, a hundred would be shut out by the refusal to teach it. In short, nothing is more certain than this, that if it were attempted to establish in Scotland a system of education purely secular, from which religion should be excluded, it would, in the first place, be impossible to induce one tithe of the population to make use of the schools, and, in the second place, the proposition would raise a flame of agitation throughout Scotland more general and more violent than any we have hitherto witnessed. I know that by some the strong Presbyterian feeling of Scotland is deplored. They think it narrow and bigoted, and would like to see its influence diminished. But, however this may be, the existence of that spirit is a fact; and without the free admission of that fact it is impossible to legislate for Scotland with any safety or success. But I for one do not deplore it. I trace to that Presbyterian spirit much that is great and good in the history and character of Scotland. From that source she drew her love of civil liberty—for, while the contest in England took its growth from the jealous defence of political 1167 rights, in Scotland the first dawning of liberal principles of government sprung from resistance to religious oppression. From the same source Scotland has derived the thoughtful, energetic, persevering determination of its sons, which has made them successful, and I hope I may say, without any undue national pride, has made them respected also in all parts of the world.
It would therefore, in my humble opinion, be a very great mistake to propose a system of secular education in Scotland. There is, however, another class of opinions which, from the number and respectability of the parties who hold them; deserve to be considered with respect—I mean those who hold the voluntary theory, and consider it contrary to principle to bestow the public money on the teaching of religion. This class entirely differ from those whose opinions I have just been considering; for they are as much opposed to the exclusion of religion as I can be, and in their own schools they teach it in exactly the same way as I should wish to see it taught in all. But they object to the legislature prescribing or paying for religious instruction. I shall not, Sir, go at any length into controversy on this much-disputed question. I do not agree in these views. My opinion is, that whatever is beneficial to the community there is no injustice in requiring the community to pay for. But I hardly think it necessary to discuss the intricacies of a very subtle dispute in propounding a measure which relates to a matter so practical, and raises the abstract voluntary theory so very remotely as the present.
There are two conclusions that may be very safely drawn from the strong and united aspect of Scotland, both in regard to religious creed on the one hand, and the importance of religious instruction on the other. One is, that in legislating for a country, in such circumstances, it might be perfectly safe and quite reasonable for Parliament to provide, by statute, that the same religious instruction should be given in the schools which, without statute, constantly prevails in them. Another result, and not apparently less reasonable, might be drawn from the same circumstances; and it might be concluded that, in any system placed substantially under the control of the people, the religious element would be sufficiently protected without any legislative enactment whatever. It is proposed by the present measure to take a 1168 middle course between these two alternatives. The preamble of the Bill sets out that,Whereas instruction in the principles of religious knowledge, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, as heretofore in use in the parochial and other schools of that country, is consonant to the opinions and religious professions of the great body of the people, while at the same time ordinary secular instruction has been, and should be, available to children of all denominations.And the 27th section of the Bill provides—That every school committee under this Act shall appoint stated hours for ordinary religious instruction by the master, at which children shall not be bound to attend if their parents or guardians object, and no additional or settled charge shall be made in respect of the attendance of children at such separate hours.It will be thus observed that the Bill is framed upon the principle of recognising the existing state of things as, in its general aspect, a state of things which will and ought to continue. The preamble recognises the present religious element as in consonance with the opinions of the people; and the 27th section secures that religious instruction shall form part of the ordinary teaching of the school. For myself, I have not the slightest misgiving for the security of the religious element in Scotland under these provisions, and the House must bear in mind for what country and for what state of circumstances they are now proposing to legislate. In point of fact, in all but a very slender fraction of the schools in Scotland, in the schools of the Established Church, of the Free Church, of the Assembly, of the United Presbyterians, and in almost all the Adventure or Independent schools, the same course is pursued. The course is this:—The Bible is always, and the Shorter Catechism generally, the subject of instruction in ordinary school hours; but if the parents or guardians of any child object to his reading the Bible in the form in which it is presented, or to his learning the Shorter Catechism, he is not obliged to do so. In the parochial and the Free Church Schools there are, at this moment, very many Roman Catholic children, which of course could not be the case if they were compelled to be present at the hours of religious instruction. Looking, therefore, at the state of things which has always existed in practice, Her Majesty's Government have come to the opinion that, with a properly-constituted General Board, and a popular local management, the provisions 1169 that I have now mentioned constitute all that is necessary to secure the religious tone and character of the schools of Scotland. The Bill fixes that religious instruction is to be given regularly; that the cost of it is to be borne by the ordinary funds it of the school; and the preamble recognises the element in plain and conclusive language.
It still remains to explain to the House the, provision which it is intended to make for additional education in Scotland, and the nature of the ordinary management on which it is proposed that additional schools should be conducted. I have already stated to the House, in the outset of my observations, that the state of our statistical information was not at present sufficient to afford a foundation for a system which should be adequate to the wants of the community. When the Report of 1856 is laid upon the table of Parliament, the Legislature will then be ready to deal finally and conclusively with the question. The object of Government in the remaining provisions of the Bill is, on the one hand, to make as much progress as the present state of information will admit of; and, on the other, to furnish machinery which will leave for future legislation little or nothing to do but to give statutory effect to ascertained deficiencies.
The Bill deals with two classes of new schools: those in the towns, and those in the country parishes. In regard to the first of these classes, it is proposed that, as soon as the inspector of any district shall have reported to the General Board that the means of education afforded by the public schools within the borough are inadequate, the Board, if they approve of the report, and with the sanction of the Committee of Council, shall address an intimation to the chief magistrate of the borough; on receipt of which, the town council shall proceed to levy a rate for the support of the school, and to take the other necessary steps for its institution. I need not now go into the provisions regarding the manner of providing the necessary accommodations, or the other details of the school arrangements. The town council will form the school committee, subject to the General Board; and being a body popularly elected, and varying from year to year, public opinion will be brought to bear en their discharge of this duty. The salary of the schoolmaster will be 50l., 25l. of which will be paid by the rate, and 26l. by the Committee of Council. The 1170 other accommodations will be paid for by the Committee of Council, the ratepayers advancing three per cent on the entire outlay for twenty-two years. The rating in boroughs will be compulsory. As regards additional schools which may be reported as necessary in country parishes, the provisions are similar, excepting that it is to be optional with the ratepayers to establish the school or not. The distinction proceeds on this plain principle, that in burghs there is, for the most part, no educational rate at present, and therefore it is just that they should at once assume their share of the burden. In all country parishes there is an existing rate; and until the deficiencies of the system are fully ascertained, it is thought better to leave the additional assessment on an optional footing. Thus, when the inspector reports that a school is required in a country parish, the Board will address an intimation to the sheriff of the county, who is to call a meeting of parties rated to the prison rate, to decide whether the school is to be established or not. If it is resolved to establish the school, a school committee; will forthwith be elected, one-half by the heritors, and one-half by the ratepayers, it being in the power of the Board, if they 4 think fit, to nominate not more than three members of the school committee. The salary and accommodations will be the same with regard to these additional schools, and provided for in the same way, as I have already described in regard to additional schools in boroughs. There is also the provision, to which I have already alluded, enabling the heritors of the parish, if they think fit, to resolve to discontinue the support of the parochial schools, and to throw the support of it upon the ratepayers; in which case, the school would thenceforth be maintained and managed in the same way as the additional schools in country parishes. In these cases the minister of the parish will be an ex-officio member of the school committee; but, except in these instances, it is not proposed to have any special representation of denominations on the school committees, although, wherever a clergyman has the respect and confidence of his congregation, he will almost uniformly be elected as a member of the committee.
I have still to speak of the composition of the General Board, which I have adopted very nearly from the Bill introduced two Sessions ago by my noble Friend Lord Melgund, whose exertions in the 1171 cause of national education in Scotland well entitle him to the gratitude of the country. It will consist of a chairman and secretary, to be nominated by the Crown, who will receive such a salary as the House may fix; four members to be elected by the four Universities of Scotland; the President of the Educational Institute of Scotland for the time being; and five members to be named by the Crown. But this is a matter of detail quite open to consideration.
I have now explained to the House the principal features of this Bill. It makes provision in the first place for ascertaining the educational wants of the country, and in the meantime reforms the parish schools, throws them open to teachers of all denominations, improves the condition and the comforts of the masters, introduces additional schools in boroughs where these may be found necessary, and in country parishes where the ratepayers agree to found them. And it provides a uniform and central management through the instrumentality of the General Board. Thus, the House will observe, when the Report of 1856 comes to be laid upon the table of Parliament, there will be found a platform already raised on which the complete and perfect superstructure may be founded.
But there is a third division of the Bill, containing a proposition of some novelty, but, to my mind, one of very great importance. I do not know how it may be received by the House or by the country, but it is one which I have always thought essential to complete such a system as that which I have now sketched, in a community such as that in which we at present live. One great difficulty that I have felt in proposing a system to be mainly supported by local assessment, is the fact, that the want of education, and the means of supporting it, are by no means coextensive or proportionate to each other. It often happens that the poorest places are those that stand most in need of additional schools, and that the burden of maintaining these additional schools will fall heaviest on those who are least able to bear it. This is the grand defect of the denominational system, and of any system that is necessarily dependent on voluntary or optional payments. It fires over the heads of the poorest, and the most destitute, and the most ignorant part of the community.
It is proposed to make an effort to adjust the unequal balance, by authorising a general educational rate over all real pro- 1172 perty within Scotland, not exceeding one penny in the pound, to be administered by the General Board, and to be applied to the following purposes. The fund will, in the first instance, be applicable to the assistance or establishment of industrial or reformatory schools. No one can doubt that it will be a very great boon to Scotland, to have some sure and certain fund available for such a purpose. I believe that no one, who is not accustomed to the details of criminal statistics, can have the least idea how much could be effected by the establishment of an institution of this nature, on a scale commensurate to the magnitude of the evil, by means of which our criminal population might be assailed in the hot-beds from which they spring, and vice and lawlessness, instead of being allowed to bud and germinate, might be checked at their very commencement. I do not think that money can be better bestowed than in cleansing out the fountain-head of crime, which costs us all so much, and in converting, as experience has shown it is possible to convert, the Arabs and Pariahs of our great towns into good and useful citizens.
The second object to which the rate will be applicable will be the assistance of poorer localities, which may either adopt or be brought under the provisions of the Bill with respect to additional schools. That assistance will be given to country parishes which may voluntarily assess themselves for additional schools, and to boroughs where the assessment amounts to more than a certain rate per cent. I think there is great justice in thus applying the general fund, for while each individual locality has of course the greatest interest in the education of its own population, that interest may often be disproportionate to the burden imposed, while the country generally has a direct and important interest in the education of the whole community. In the last place, the fund will be applied to the aid or subvention of denominational schools, provided they are reported by the inspectors to be good and useful, are open to children of all denominations, and come within the rules and regulations of the Privy Council Committee.
Looking especially to the fact that the plan in present circumstances cannot receive its full development, it is thought right to combine the national system with the denominational, and while doing what we can to erect at least the framework of a general system of education, to hold out 1173 at the same time encouragement to private benevolence, to those who prefer with their own means and in their own way to endeavour to ameliorate the condition of their fellow subjects. I have now discharged my duty, and explained the provisions of this measure to the House. How it will be received I do not know; but I think the House will admit that it has not been conceived in any narrow or illiberal spirit. It may be said by some that we propose to lay upon the people of Scotland, by this Bill, a greater measure of burden than the object will induce them to bear. I cannot think so. I have the greatest confidence in the sound sense of the people of Scotland. I am satisfied that if the provisions of the Bill otherwise are satisfactory, the last thing that they will grudge will be the cost at which it is to be obtained. They have far too much penetration not to see that, while lavishing their substance upon poor-houses and gaols is hut scattering their seed upon It rock which can yield no fruit in return, money spent upon the education of the people is, in the most literal sense, the truest economy and the safest investment.
It only remains for me to appeal to my Friends the Members who represent Scotland. I would urge upon them in concluding what I urged in commencing Whatever we do, let us not stand still. In whatever way the work is to be done, let it at all events make progress. The measure now proposed is one embracing many details, and a great variety of provisions. On many of them there must be difference of opinion—there may be on all. They do not all necessarily stand connected, though they seem to me to form parts of a plan which has considerable method and consistency. But I rely on the co-operation and assistance of the Members from Scotland and of the House in the completion of this task; for myself, more than rewarded if I shall have contributed even by a single step to restore to Scotland the character which once she held throughout Europe, as the nursery of learning and of virtue.
Motion made and Question proposed:—
That Leave be given to bring in a Bill to make further provision for the Education of the People in Scotland and to amend the Laws relating thereto.
said, he could assure the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate that, as far as he was aware, an earnest desire existed throughout Scotland to have a 1174 thorough education of the poor; and every effort on his part, both in that House and out of it, should be devoted to the promotion of that object which the right hon. and learned Lord had so moderately and so well described. In the Bill which had just been described to the House, there appeared that earnestness which carried to his (Mr. Hume's) mind a conviction of sincerity on the part of the right hon. and learned Lord, and, backed by the Government, as well as by an ardent desire for education on the part of the people of Scotland, he had not a doubt that the object in view would be gained. It had long been his desire that Government should take up this question, and, expressing his obligations to the right hon. and learned Lord for the manner in which he had brought it before the House, he begged to offer his humble assistance to forward the object which all had in view by every means in his power.
§ MR. STIRLING
said, that agreeing as he did with the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate in most of his arguments, and admiring the speech which the House had just heard, yet he could not say he so cordially approved of this measure as he generally did of the measures brought forward by the right hon. and learned Lord. He did not mean to say that there was not a great deal to admire and approve in the Bill. Thus, he quite agreed as to the propriety of carrying out a system of inspection, of enabling the friends of education to choose better schoolmasters, and to remove those who were inefficient, of the proposed increase in their salaries, as well as of the retiring allowance, the want of which was one great cause of the inefficiency of many of the public instructors. Everybody, too, must admit that education in the large towns required extension and improvement; but he would ask if it were necessary, in order to carry out these reforms, to sever that connection which had so long subsisted between the Church of Scotland and the parish schools? He, for one, thought that some of the remarks of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in that particular were not very fair. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had taken it as generally agreed upon—as a point, therefore, not worth discussion—that the presbytery should be deprived of control over the parish schools, but he (Mr. Stirling) must protest against that opinion. Some presbyteries might, like other bodies of men, occasionally neglect their duties, 1175 but generally they had performed those duties very well; and of late years particularly there had been a great improvement in this respect. He himself could bear personal testimony to their anxiety to improve the condition of the parish schools, and many presbyteries had invited the Government inspectors to co-operate with them in examining into their schools. Was it likely that a body of reverend gentlemen should call upon inspectors from London to come and examine into their inefficiency, and see for themselves the degraded condition in which the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had accused the Church of keeping the parish schools? If there were Roman Catholic children in the schools of the Free Church, there were children of Roman Catholics and Dissenters in those of the Established Church also. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had expressed his desire that all parties should unite in favour of his Bill. No doubt public opinion was very much divided, but the following declaration, which had been signed by several Peers and Members of that House—representatives not of one section of the people of Scotland, but of all shades of public opinion—show that there was, at all events, a very strong opinion against that particular feature of the measure to which he was directing their attention:—DECLARATION BY JUSTICES OF THE PEACE, COMMISSIONERS OF SUPPLY, AND HERITORS PAYING PUBLIC BURDENS CHARGED ON LAND IN SCOTLAND.The undersigned do not propose to give any opinion on the cases of towns being burghs, to which, as is well known, the parochial school system does not apply. But they desire to record their conviction, founded on practical experience, that the present system of parish schools (subject to defects capable of easy remedy) has worked well, and that, practically, children of all religious denominations are in the constant habit of enjoying the full benefit of the instruction given in them. The undersigned, therefore, without in any way asserting that no other principle should be adopted, on which to found additional schools, where the existing system is inadequate, or does not apply at all, declare their strong opinion to be that, except for the purpose of correcting defects in its working, and increasing its efficiency, the present system of parochial schools ought not to be interfered with; and that their connection with the Church of Scotland ought to be maintained.At a great meeting in Edinburgh, presided over by a noble Lord for whom he had a very high respect, there was nothing like unanimity, and nothing like a system suggested. Every man seemed less anxi- 1176 ous to express his own opinion than to guard himself against being supposed to hold the opinions of his neighbours. He did not say that education in Scotland was what it should be, or what he should wish to see it; but how did it stand? So far as he could make out, there were 4,526 schools in Scotland for the purposes of general education, and 500 for the higher orders, giving more than four for each parish, while the attendance throughout the country was one in seven and a half of the population. The proportion of attendance at school in a well-ordered community had been calculated by Sir James Kaye Shuttleworth at one in eight, and Scotland was therefore within that estimate. When he spoke of Scottish education, he spoke not of parish schools only, for he thought the schools of other denominations had also done great good. The Free Church schools were most excellent schools, second only to those of the Establishment; and he ventured to say that the competition which the Established Church schools had met with in them had not been the slightest of the causes of the Established Church schools' improvement. They could hardly hope for religious unanimity; in a country where thought was free and active that appeared impossible; but it was gratifying to find religious contentions take the shape of a generous rivalry in works of pure benevolence. Owing to this emulation, schools had sprung up wherever they were wanted, and even, some said, where they were not wanted, in the last few years. One of the Government inspectors cited a parish in Aberdeenshire where, ten years ago, there was but one school with sixty-four scholars, whereas now there were five schools and 420 scholars. The system of Privy Council grants had been taken advantage of, and with great utility; and why should not that system be continued upon its present basis? There was one part of the plan of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate—he meant that part which had more peculiarly reference to the subject of religious instruction—which he had not been able to understand, and upon which he considered some explanation was necessary. He entirely dissented from the argument that the present measure was analogous to, and naturally followed, that which had been passed last year, for the alteration of tests taken by lay professors in the Scottish Universities. He had himself voted for that measure, because, 1177 in his opinion, the Church of Scotland had shown by her own act and deed that a necessity existed for some such measure. The Universities of Scotland were in the habit of calling to their assistance, and he thought wisely, graduates of Oxford and Cambridge. In some of these Universities the tests were dispensed with; in others, there being no dispensing power, they were taken in a conventional sense, or, in other words, they were swallowed by persons who ought not to have taken them. He did not think that it was proper that persons called upon to instruct the youth of Scotland should profess themselves members of one persuasion when, in reality, they were members of quite a different one, and he had therefore voted for the alteration of the tests. The Church of Scotland had found no necessity for going beyond her own pale for teachers to instruct their youth; and he denied that there ever had been that necessity. If the Legislature would but leave her as she was, he was quite sure that she would find within her pale an ample supply of teachers, and both within and without her pale a sufficient number of children to reward their honourable toil.
MR. E. ELLICE
said, he only rose to return his thanks to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate for the comprehensive measure which he had that evening propounded. He was quite sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's very able statement would be accepted with as much satisfaction by the people of Scotland as it had been listened to with pleasure by that House. For his part he could most cordially assure the right hon. and learned Lord that he (Mr. Ellice) was quite prepared to lend all his endeavours to make the Bill as perfect as possible.
§ MR. CUMMING BRUCE
said, he had listened to the speech of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate with great attention and pleasure, but he must say it did strike him as rather extraordinary that the Government should apply an educational measure to that part of the country first, where, confessedly, the want of education was least felt. He could not help supposing that the Government in this instance were acting under pressure from the "Society for the Vindication of Scottish Rights," and that they wished to give the Lion of Scotland its proper place of precedence, at all events in the matter of education. Addressing himself, however, to 1178 the English Members, he might perhaps be allowed to describe this Bill as a sort of pilot balloon sent out to warn them as to the kind of educational system they were yet to expect; or rather, perhaps—on the principle of fiat experimentum in corpore vili—it was intended, before proceeding to legislate for England, to victimise an institution on which Scotland had such just reason to pride herself, and which during nearly 300 years had conferred on her the greatest benefits. He believed that his right hon. and learned Friend had entirely failed in proving that the defects of the present system were such as to call for so strong a measure as that which he had just proposed. He considered that the Bill would very much tend to weaken the superintendence now exercised over the schools, though he was willing to admit that there were certain amendments in the school system which he, for one, desired to see carried out; thus, they very much wanted a power to remove schoolmasters, as well as a power to grant those amongst them who, from age or infirmity, were disabled for the performance of their duties a retiring allowance; and also the superintendence of some educational authority. The plan, however, of his right hon. and learned Friend was of so extensive a nature, and involved so much that was novel, that at present he would decline to enter into many of his statements. One principle, however, he was exceedingly glad to hear him lay down—that on no account would he ever favour a system based on the idea of a separation of religious and secular instruction. Now, though the preamble of the Bill was extremely satisfactory, he must say, when he came to read the clause which was supposed to embody its principle, he utterly failed to discover how it was carried into practical operation. He was most unwilling to permit the introduction of the wedge which would go to produce a separation between secular and religious instruction, and he must say he greatly feared that the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not wholly to be freed from the charge of attempting to do so.
§ MR. COWAN
said, the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling) had referred to a meeting at Edinburgh, and to the differences of opinion there evinced. In one respect, however, that meeting was unanimous, and that was, that some change was necessary in the present system. It was absolutely necessary that some change should 1179 take place in the Scottish educational system if they would prevent themselves being engulphed in all the consequences of ignorance. He was sure that the Bill would be hailed with gratitude by the people of Scotland. At the same time he should very much like to be informed if it was proposed that any minimum amount of qualification should be requisite for schoolmasters, or that they should be required to have followed any curriculum of study, inasmuch as at present any individual was qualified to become a schoolmaster who had lost a leg or arm, or was in any way maimed, without any reference to his abilities or intellectual acquirements. Now that they were going to inaugurate a new system they ought to have some guarantees as to the acquirements of the teachers; the more especially as the proposed increase of salary would justify such a condition. He rejoiced that there was to be this increase in salaries, and he should have been pleased to have heard that a larger increase would be given than that promised.
§ MR. F. SCOTT
begged to assure the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Cowan), that as to one circumstance at least he was quite in error, for if he had been an inhabitant of a parish which had a regular parochial school he would have known that the schoolmasters were subject to an examination on certain points by the heritors of the parish. On one matter, too, his right hon. and learned Friend had made a great mistake. By this Bill he observed that, whilst examinations of masters on every point seemed to be required, there was none as to religion. The masters were to be subjected to no formulary, test, or confession of faith; and the right hon. and learned Lord said he did not mean thereby to break down any bulwark or safeguard to religion, as if it was no safeguard to have men who were avowedly attached to some religion, to the religion of the country. He believed the right hon. and learned Lord was desirous to promote and preserve religion as it existed in Scotland at this day; but while that was his opinion, the law which his Lordship was laying before the House was one totally opposed to it. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman were legislating for some new-born colony, his theories might be all very well, provided practice elsewhere had not tested the valuelessness of that theory. His plan had been already tested in the United States, in France, in Holland, and in a case some- 1180 what akin to our own, that of Prussia. In France, as they had been told in the Reports of the School Inspectors, the system had brought about almost universal incredulity. In Holland masters of schools were authorised to teach their pupils the history of the Jews, as they did that of the Greeks and the Romans; but they were forbidden to refer even to the name of the Deity; and though the scholars were expected to attend places of worship, the master was not. They had additional testimony also, guaranteeing the state of infidelity in which the people of that country lived. The Bill before the House left it optional to those who were said to be "debased and degraded by the negligence of the Church," whether they should receive any religious instruction or not. He did not think the right hon. and learned Lord had shown any grounds for the magnitude of the Bill. No one denied that there was a great destitution of education in Scotland, but from what cause did that arise? Did it exist where the parochial system had been extended? In the mountainous districts there was certainly a deficiency, because of the poverty of the parishes and the difficulty of access, and there was also some deficiency in the large towns, and especially in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, and the mining and manufacturing districts, but, as was said by his hon. Friend the Member for Perthshire, the number of scholars was now much larger than they were formerly. The right hon. and learned Lord told them he meant to take away the control from the presbytery, but he did not say where he meant to place it. [The LORD ADVOCATE: In the General Board.] They had been told that where the majority of the heritors were in favour of breaking up the parish school they could do so. Now, he wished to know whether the school was to be broken up permanently, or if, upon any alteration of opinion in the majority, it was to be re-established. He entirely concurred in the propriety of increasing the emoluments of the parochial schoolmasters, though he was not at all prepared to say that he was willing to concur in their being supplemented by grants from the Privy Council, as that would be subjecting the schoolmasters to a degree of control which they would much rather be quit of, and which the heritors, rather than allow, would avert by supplying the required sum among themselves. The right hon. and learned Lord Advo- 1181 cate's speech had made out no case whatever for altering the parochial system, which had produced so much benefit to the people of Scotland during the last 200 years.
§ MR. LAING
said, that, without intending at present to commit himself to any of the details of the Bill, he felt sure that on the general spirit of the remarks of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate there could be but one opinion. If it was true that the proportion of persons receiving education in the United States was one in seven, while in Scotland it had fallen from one in five or six, as was formerly the case, down as low as one in eleven, a quite sufficient argument was supplied for attacking the question of national education in a comprehensive manner. With regard to the general principle of the Bill, he thought that the most important point of the whole question of education—namely, the mode of dealing with religion—had been grappled with most successfully by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate. He perfectly agreed in the opinion that any system of merely secular education would be entirely inapplicable to the people of Scotland, though at the same time, perhaps, as far as his opinion went, he would be quite content to leave the settlement of the religious element to the people of Scotland themselves, being perfectly satisfied that religious instruction would be maintained in the schools. Probably, however, the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had adopted a wiser course. He also felt bound to pronounce his satisfaction at the abolition of all religious tests for schoolmasters. The question was, were they to maintain a denominational or national system of education in Scotland? He felt quite certain, at all events, that the people there would never submit to a system based on a connection with the Established Church. He hoped that hon. Gentlemen in that House would bear in mind that a great distinction existed between the cases of England and Scotland. They must remember that whether right or wrong, an Established Church did exist in England, which comprised within it the great majority of the people, as well in numbers as in social influence. Since, however, the disruption of the Free Church, the Established Church of Scotland had only been established in name, and the country was now divided between two or three denominations, equal in numbers, as well as in those elements 1182 which constituted social and political influence. He believed, therefore, that if to-morrow Scotland was to be polled on the question whether there was to be a connection between the educational system and the Established Church, that not a single constituency would be in favour of such a union. One thing he much objected to—the leaving the appointment of the schoolmaster and the superintendence of the school to the heritors and the ministers of one favoured denomination.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, there was so much general good in the Bill that he believed they ought to be willing to make some slight concessions to hon. Gentlemen opposite, such as that just pointed out by I the hon. Member for the Wick district (Mr. Laing). The hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling) had alluded to a paper which had been very numerously and respectably signed in Scotland. But he believed that that paper hail been signed under considerable misapprehension, and, when the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate's speech came to be read in Scotland, he had no doubt that many of those who had signed it would withdraw their names. He was sure that the opposition that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had received had arisen under wrong impressions. He had no doubt but that in Committee they would be able to render the measure perfect as regarded the religious element in education.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he hoped the House would excuse him while he called attention to a few points in the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman which related to a question that was naturally most interesting to every person. Having had some connection for a short time with Scotland, he felt a considerable interest in the prosperity of that country. Although that connection was at an end, he did not fail still to take the same interest in Scotland. With regard to the measure introduced by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, in a speech as beautiful for its sincerity as it was perspicuous in its details, he should be sorry in a measure so comprehensive to throw anything like a damp upon a, scheme which was founded upon two great and noble objects; first, the dissemination, as far as possible, especially among the lower orders, of the blessings of education; and next, the dissemination of those blessings in such a manner that the system to be established should be 1183 founded strictly on the basis of religion. Those were the two great principles, as he understood them, on which the measure of the right hon. and learned Lord was said to be founded, and in those two great principles he believed the greater number of the Members of that House entirely concurred. He, for one, entirely agreed in them. If he threw out any objections to the scheme as proposed by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, it was rather with a view to excite attention to certain points; perhaps, also, to request the right hon. and learned Lord himself to reconsider them—not for the purpose of striking them out of his Bill, but for the purpose of modifying, amending, and making them more consistent with the general objects of the measure. The first point which would obviously strike hon. Members, upon hearing the propositions of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, was the way in which the Bill would totally dissever the connection between the parochial school system and the Established Church of Scotland. Now that was a connection which had existed for a very long time, and had conferred upon the people much good. In the language of the declaration, which had been signed amongst many others by a noble Lord, the brother of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last,—"the system has worked well, and practically children of all religious denominations are constantly in the habit of enjoying the full benefit of the instruction.When we had that testimony, and when we saw the good fruits of that system—when we found that the children educated under the system now existing in Scotland were more in proportion to the adult population than what Sir James Kaye Shuttle-worth thought ought to be the average—then he (Mr. Walpole) said that, unless they could impeach all the evidence that had been given in favour of the existing system, it would not be wise to make the severance that was now proposed—a severance that would cause the greatest dissatisfaction amongst large sections of the people of Scotland. Another point to which he wished to refer was one which involved something like a contradiction. It did not appear to him that the preamble and provisions of the Bill were quite consistent. By the preamble of the Bill, and in perfect consistency with his own speech, the right hon. and learned Gentleman laid down generally and strongly the necessity of a 1184 religious education. But when we came to the provisions of the Bill it seemed to him that they proposed to introduce into Scotland a system resembling in some respects the national system of education of Ireland. And this was to be done at a time when, be it remembered, the Irish system was more or less proved to be unsuccessful. It seemed to him, also, that the Bill was not perfectly consistent with the religious principle, inasmuch as it was proposed to do away altogether with religious tests. When the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate brought in his Bill last year to do away with tests for all professors in Scotch Universities, it was perfectly true that he abolished that part of the test which related to what he said, and justly said, was the only point of difference upon religious questions in Scotland—namely, that relating to the ecclesiastical government of the Church; but he still retained the test of doctrine, upon which he admitted, and truly admitted, that the people of Scotland were not divided. In the Bill of last year the professors were not to inculcate any opinion that was contrary to the authority of Divine Scripture and the Westminster Confession of Faith. It did seem to him (Mr. Walpole) that a similar test should be inserted in the present Bill, which, according to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own statement, could not interfere with the appointment of any schoolmaster that was at all eligible for the office. He wished, therefore, the right hon. and learned Gentleman to turn his mind to this subject. There was a third point to which he wished to refer. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate proposed the formation of a Board to superintend the education of the people. This Board, among others, was to have the power, by means of a rate to be levied all over Scotland, to establish reformatory and industrial schools. A noble proposition! But it could not fail to occur to every one, that, in relation to this part of the subject, there was a palpable defect. For if the principle of the Bill be sound, it ought not to be a measure peculiar to Scotland—it was a national measure. It applied, or should be made to apply, to England and Ireland as well as to Scotland. If, then, it be a national measure, the rate for its support should not be levied upon the land, but the money required should be taken from the national 1185 fund, and to this part of the subject he would beg particularly to call the attention of the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell). A measure to be this, conferring probably the greatest possible benefit upon all classes of the community, should clearly be paid for by all classes alike, and should not be made to bear unduly upon one particular class, and upon that alone. Concurring in the main objects of the Bill, he hoped they would all join in rendering it as perfect in its details as possible, although some details might certainly require considerable modification.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Before I apply myself, Sir, to the subject to which the right hon. Gentleman has called my attention, I must congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate on the clear and able statement he has made of the measure he proposes to bring forward, and on the reception which that measure has met with from this House. I am sure that that statement will convey to the people of Scotland an adequate notion of the extent and scope of the measure, and I entertain a sanguine hope that when they understand it they will approve both of its general nature and of the extent to which he proposes to carry it. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has called my attention to two points. He objects, as other hon. Members opposite have done, to the severance which it is proposed to make, in places where the heritors do not maintain the parochial schools, between the Established Church and such schools. Now, the right hon. Gentleman says that no circumstances have occurred which call for that separation. I own I was a good deal surprised at that sentiment; because, be it observed that, by the connection which is now formed, the schoolmaster is subjected to the test that he must declare that he will conform to the doctrines and practices of the Established Church, and that that test was formed at a time when by far the larger majority of the population—at least 97 per cent of the inhabitants of Scotland—were members of the Established Church. But by changes which took place some time since, and by the still larger disruption which took place some years ago, a great portion of the people, at least one-half of the whole body of Presbyterians in Scotland, professing the same doctrines and the same belief with the Established Church of Scotland, do not belong to her communion, and do not attend her services. 1186 Does not that circumstance alone justify a reconsideration of that provision in the existing law by which the test is applied to parochial schoolmasters? Be it observed, that it is neither a negative test that is applied to the professors of Universities, nor is it a test regarding mere doctrine and belief. But it is a test that is applicable only to those who declare they conform to the practice of the Established Church as now existing. It is obvious that one portion of the Presbyterian body cannot accept that test; and I, therefore, ask whether we are to exclude one-half of them from admission to the office of parochial schoolmaster? Is it a reasonable, is it a practicable and wise provision of the law, under the present circumstances, to frame the measure with such a test. I am not now saying whether it is wise to enact such a test at all—let that point be conceded; but I ask whether you think it is at all applicable to the present state of Scotland? Considering, then, the state of education at present, the question is, shall we continue that test? But if we cannot continue the test as at present existing, shall we propose a new test, which all the Presbyterians of Scotland could take in conformity with the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the other formularies of Presbyterianism? I must say I have the greatest possible objection to enacting, by Act of Parliament, a new test. Wherever you find that an existing test is productive of no inconvenience, it may be wise not to disturb the present law, but to enact a new test would, in my mind, be most objectionable, and I should be very sorry to concur in such a measure. But then it is said that the tests taken by schoolmasters and the supervision of the presbyteries are the two ties which bind the parochial schools to the Established Church. I have already spoken of the test. With regard to the supervision of the presbyteries, has it been found that theirs was a generally useful and practical supervision? I own I was a good deal surprised to hear the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling) say that it was so, because till of late years I was given to understand that their supervision was merely nominal, and that the fact of its being so was notorious. Now, if that be so, then these two modes of connecting the schools with the Established Church ought no longer to be maintained, and I consider that my right hon. and learned Friend has done right in making the abolition of those modes of connection a 1187 provision of his Bill. What is the result? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole), following the example of others, has spoken—though he has not urged his objections so strongly as they have urged them—against the plan of instruction proposed, by which he says instruction given in those schools will be separated from religions instruction. I own I cannot see the force of that objection. You declare in the preamble to the Bill that religious instruction is one of your main objects. Next, you enact in the provisions of the Bill that there must be a committee to provide for the religious instruction of the children. But the right hon. Gentleman says, that this is a recurrence to the Irish national system of education. Sir, I always understood that the great question in the Irish system of education was, whether or not the Bible was to be read and religious instruction given in school hours. The point, which in Ireland was decided against the Bible being read in school hours, is decided here the other way. A school committee is to be appointed to see that religious instruction is given, and given by the master. But the right hon. Gentleman may not perhaps have observed how much the practical good sense of Scotland admits great toleration in respect to teaching in schools. They did not, as in the schools of the National Society, say that they would not admit children to their schools who would not receive their religious instruction. They say, with regard to the children attending their schools, that even the children of Roman Catholics, if they objected to the religious teaching, might be exempted from attending school when such religious instruction was given. Such was the usual practice in the schools of Scotland. I never heard of any objections being made, either by the presbyteries or the schoolmasters, to this measure of toleration. We therefore propose to make no change in the toleration that is already practically established in these schools. And let me say here that I quite admit the great merits of the parochial system of Scotland, as at present existing. And I think that, both with regard to that system and to other points, the practical good sense of the people of Scotland has solved many difficulties over which we are still disputing in England. Now I asked, when in Scotland, a question respecting the number of children that were unable to pay for their education. I found that while there was the greatest anxiety in 1188 Scotland, even amongst persons who were hardly able to procure the means, to obtain education, yet with regard to those more destitute there was the greatest facility afforded for giving gratuitous education. In one school, for example, of perhaps 200 children, there were only five or ten for whom no payments were made. Surely this parochial provision for education is carried much further in the proposal made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate for a national rate in Scotland to be appropriated to the purposes of industrial and reformatory education. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midhurst, in thinking this a noble proposition. I believe that great consequences may flow from the establishment of industrial and reformatory schools. The course of sin and vice that is going on from year to year will thus be checked and corrected. I think that no further time should be lost in attempting some remedy for an evil so great; and I do not know any proposition better calculated to make a commencement in this work than that of my right hon. and learned Friend. I have only further to say, that while I do not want to enter into the statistics of the question, I may observe that while there are 1,100 parochial schools in Scotland which are connected with the Established Church, there are 2,366 more which, though Presbyterian, are not so connected. But this whole question occupies ground much larger and wider than that which relates to the connection between the parochial schools and the Church of Scotland, and I own I should be sorry if any jealousy on the part of the Church of Scotland should interfere to throw obstacles in the way of this scheme. There have been ominous signs this evening of such obstacles being interposed. But I think the Established Church will act a wiser and a more generous part if she throws her energies into this measure, in order to contribute to its success, proposing such amendments as she may think fit, taking care to secure the means of religious instruction, and that the schoolmasters are competent to give it. I believe that the provisions of the measure, as framed by my right hon. and learned Friend, will be found adequate to their purpose. If hon. Gentlemen opposite have other propositions to suggest, which they think still more adequate, they will, no doubt, be well considered by this House; but I hope that hon. Gentlemen will not 1189 consider this as a question between the Established Church and the Free Church—that they will not look upon it as a struggle between rival denominations, but that they will consider it as a measure intended for the benefit of the whole—that with that view they will see whether its provisions be efficient for the object proposed, and if they be efficient I can have no doubt that this part of the Kingdom will ultimately reap great benefit from the example set us in this respect by Scotland.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the noble Lord denied that this measure was any approximation to the Irish system of education, because children of various denominations were educated at the same school, and because separate hours being part of the school hours were devoted to the task of religious instruction. This appeared to him but a very slight departure or difference from the Irish system. But he would beg to ask the noble Lord this, was the measure proposed to the House intended to be inoperative? in other words, was it intended to leave matters as they stood with respect to religious instruction? Because if this measure was intended to leave matters as they stood, then the Government were guilty by the introduction of this measure of most unnecessary and mischievous interference. He must say, as far as he had heard the measure described by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, that he understood it to be virtually the importation of the Irish system of national education with all its faults into Scotland. It was either that, or it was a piece of unnecessary interference. The noble Lord the Member for London by no means denied that the existing system had worked well in Scotland either in respect of secular or religious tests. Every one must admit the good working of the system, as shown by the general education and prevalent religious tone of the people of Scotland. But the noble Lord said that, owing to a diminution in the numbers of the Established Church of Scotland—owing to the separation of a considerable number of persons from the Church, not on points of doctrine, but on matters of discipline—difficulties bad arisen with regard to finding a sufficient number of schoolmasters. Now, it was obvious, that that if the religious test required of the schoolmaster was altered with, aspect to the matters of discipline on which difference of opinion existed, but was main- 1190 tained with respect to doctrine, upon which no difference between the Kirk and the Free Church existed, the difficulty complained of would be removed, but the religious, Protestant, and Christian character of the teachers would be, as hitherto, secured; but the noble Lord said that, whether this was so or not, he would not undertake the proposing of heir religious tests, therefore he would abandon religious tests altogether. He could not understand that there was any tangible reason for the introduction of tins measure, except on the ground that it was intended to assimilate the Scotch to the Irish system of education.
§ MR. ALEXANDER HASTIE
said, he thought the subject of religious instruction ought to have been left, not with the schoolmaster, but with the parents and guardians of the children. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate seemed to think that the population of Scotland, with the exception of three or four per cent, belonged all to one religious denomination. He was afraid that in that respect his right hon. and learned Friend had overrated the religious uniformity prevailing in Scotland. In Glasgow alone there were 80,000 Roman Catholics; and he hardly saw how by this Bill they were to provide for the education of that large portion of the population, which, he must say, needed education more than any other. There was one other point to which he would refer, though he would not go into the question at present—he alluded to the compulsory attendance of children at the schools. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate said, that in certain cases parents ought to be compelled to educate their children. He was not sure how that clause was likely to work; and even in its most modified form he would think it right to see the clause before he gave his opinions upon it.
§ MR. DUNLOP
said, he could not refrain from stating how entirely he concurred in those sentiments of admiration and praise which the speech of his right hon. and learned Friend had elicited from all sides of the House. It was not to be expected that on the first hearing of a measure of such magnitude he should be able to enter into all the details, yet he believed that, in its general features, the measure was likely to conciliate the feelings of nearly all classes in Scotland, and he did not doubt that it might be so framed as to give satisfaction to all parties. There was one part in particular to which he 1191 could not refrain from expressing his approbation, notwithstanding the observations of his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. A. Hastie)—he meant the establishment of reformatory schools and the compulsory attendance of children at them. In the case of children who lived with their parents, and who had not gone astray or been brought before a magistrate, he might perhaps hesitate to take such a step; but he hoped they would retain the power where children were neglected, and were brought up for petty delinquencies, of sending them to school instead of to gaol.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, he must apologise for intruding himself on the House with regard to a Scottish measure; but his excuse was, that in the matter of reformatory schools it dealt with a question which equally affected England, and one in which he took the deepest interest. The Bill divided itself into two parts—first, the widening the existing schools in Scotland, and next, the introduction, as a supplement, of a new system of national education. With regard to the first part, some such measure was necessary. Large schisms having broken up the Church of Scotland upon questions of government and patronage, it was necessary, so far, to make an alteration with respect to the appointment of schoolmasters. But the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had entirely failed to meet the objection of the right hon. Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole), who complained that, whereas the schism upon points of government and patronage rendered necessary the widening of the tests, the tests were upon that account to be swept altogether away. The noble Lord said, "When we are sweeping away tests, I do not like to re-enact them;" but the noble Lord did not seem to see the difference between re-enacting a test and retaining that portion which it was unnecessary to dispense with. If the noble Lord could not meet that point, he (Mr. Adderley) hoped the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate would consider whether it was necessary to insist upon it, the only change being in point of government, the unity of creed remaining. With regard to the second portion of the Bill, that which supplemented national education upon a new system, he would just observe that the unity of creed in Scotland upon religious points rendered a measure on this subject much easier than either in England or Ireland. The union in creed, the general con- 1192 sent to the Catechism, rendered a religious national system easy there; but it was very natural for the right hon. the Member for Midhurst to compare it with that of Ireland; for the same system introduced into England or Ireland, where there was diversity of creed, became necessarily the Irish system. He hoped that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, in dealing with the subject of education for the United Empire, would consider whether one feature in this measure could not be also applied both in England and Ireland. This suggestion had reference to the third portion of the Bill, a part of it upon which he congratulated the country, inasmuch as it provided the means for establishing juvenile reformatories in Scotland. The whole country, he believed, was equally anxious for this provision. In this Bill reformatory schools were treated as a part of the national education system, and hopes were held out that England might likewise have them when she could make up her mind to a national education system. Scotland would thus have juvenile reformatories very long before England; and he asked why Scotland should have them, and not England? It was very hard both upon England and upon Ireland to have to wait for their reformatory institutions until a question could be solved, which in those countries was almost insoluble, though of no difficulty in Scotland. Nor was there any reason why this part of the Bill should be mixed up with the rest. There ought to be a Bill for providing juvenile reformatories for the whole United Empire introduced at once. Let him tell the noble Lord that he (Mr. Adderley) and a great many more, both in and out of that House, considered that he was pledged to introduce a Bill this Session, and to pass it too, for establishing juvenile reformatories throughout England. The subject was not pressed in the House by private Members, only because they understood it to be the distinct intention of the Government, from the pledge of the noble Lord the Home Secretary, to introduce it themselves. He hoped they would do so forthwith, or else that this portion of the subject would be severed from the Bill, in order that there might be a general scheme for reformatory schools drawn up for the whole Kingdom. He would only say one word more on a matter personal to himself. He was exceedingly sorry that, if, in quoting a passage from a pamphlet, he had hurt the feelings of the right hon. and learned Lord 1193 Advocate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman would do him the justice to say that he had a perfect right to make the quotation from the pamphlet; he did not, however, state that the right hon. and learned Lord had used the words imputed to him, but only that he (Mr. Adderley) had seen it so stated, and he gave his authority. He would repeat, he was sorry if he had hurt the feelings of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate; but he was sure the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate would thank him for having afforded him an opportunity of correcting a misquotation of his sentiments upon so important a point.
§ MR. FAGAN
said, he could not avoid expressing a fear that if the system was introduced into Scotland, its operation would be to exclude Roman Catholics from its benefits. There were 80,000 of that persuasion in Glasgow alone, and considerable numbers in other parts of Scotland; so that, unless the measure was so framed as to enable them to partake of its benefits, the House would not be doing justice to that community.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
begged to thank the House most sincerely for the spirit in which the measure had been received by the House. Nothing afforded him greater gratification than to see, as he hoped he did, something like a prospect of its passing. With regard to what had fallen from an hon. Member opposite respecting religious instruction, undoubtedly the Bill left things pretty much as they were, and the hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had given the true explanation of it. Parties in Scotland were so much agreed upon the necessity of religious instruction, that it was thought unnecessary to insist upon the laying down of creeds; but the necessity of religious instruction was recognised by a particular clause. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan), he had only to say that in the parochial and new schools the Roman Catholic children were not bound to attend at those hours when religious instruction was given. There would, however, be further opportunities of considering the measure with regard to the Roman Catholic population. As to the reformatory portion of the Bill, he was sure that, if it was the feeling of a large majority of that House, the Government would have no objection to consider that subject as part of a general measure.
§ Leave given. Bill ordered to be brought in by the Lord Advocate, Lord John Russell, and Viscount Palmerston.