§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
§ Clause 1 (Sheriff or Magistrate may send vagrant children to school, unless security is found for their good behaviour).
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that these schools were viewed with the greatest suspicion by the Roman Catholics, of whom there were not fewer than 100,000 in Glasgow alone, and 250,000 in the whole of Scotland. He had been desired by one of the highest dignitaries of the Church to which he belonged to oppose the further progress of the Bill. It must not, however, be supposed that he was averse to the principle of reformatory schools; on the contrary, he believed that the plan was one of the wisest and most benevolent that could be devised for the reforming young criminals, who were often rather the victims of accident than of their evil passions. The statement which he was about to make referred chiefly to the school at Edinburgh. In 1847, the Rev. Dr. Guthrie published in the newspapers an eloquent address; calling upon persons of all denominations to unite for the succour of this unhappy class. That appeal was most successful; it was responded to by Catholics as well as Protestants; but the cloven foot of fanaticism soon made its appearance. A demand was made to know the principles on which the schools were to be conducted; and the Committee, after much pressing, admitted that the reading of the Bible was to be accompanied with such comments and explanations as were fitted for Protestants. Dr. Guthrie himself admitted that of the 433 297 children in the school, one-half were Catholics; and this declaration of the Committee excited the greatest astonishment and displeasure, not only amongst Catholics, but also among the supporters of the schools generally. The late Lord Jeffrey, amongst others, addressed a remonstrance to the Lord Provost, showing that a large portion of those for whom the schools were designed were by this measure practically excluded from their benefits. This description of the Edinburgh schools applied to all similar schools, whether in Glasgow, Paisley, or elsewhere. The Edinburgh United School was conducted on an entirely opposite principle. There the faith of the Catholic children was respected; religious instruction was given to Protestants and Catholics separately, and they were each allowed to attend their own places of worship. Let the promoters of this Bill adopt the same principles, and every Catholic gentleman would say, "God speed your blessed work." In Dr. Guthrie's school half the children were Catholics, but they were supplied with food, and this secured their attendance. The attempt was made to educate them in a sort of nondescript faith called "the great Catholic faith," which was neither one thing nor the other. When the children left school, they were at liberty to choose their creed; but it was easy to see what would be their choice, looking at the parties by whom they had been trained. This was nothing but a miserable attempt at proselytising by sweeping the very streets. Unless a provision were introduced into this Bill for protecting the faith of Catholic children, he should continue to oppose it. It was said the Catholic children might go to some other school; but there were no other schools; perhaps the Edinburgh United School was the only one in Scotland to which Catholics could send their children. Let the Government take security for protecting the faith of the Catholic children in these schools; he had no confidence in the promoters of this Bill, and recommended that it should not be proceeded with this Session.
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, he should move the insertion of words which would give the magistrate the power to make inquiry of the children as to the condition and residence of the parents previous to their being committed to the reformatory school.
§ MR. DUNLOP
had no objection to the insertion of the words, and which were proposed in the Bill first introduced, but 434 were struck out upon consultation with some of the promoters of the Bill.
§ MR. LUCAS
said, he thought that a case of greater oppression could not be conceived than that a magistrate should be empowered by Act of Parliament to send a child to Dr. Guthrie's proselytising school, where it should be kept till the age of fifteen under the penalty of whipping and imprisonment.
§ MR. DUNLOP
said, that the Bill would, undoubtedly, give the magistrate the power of sending a child to Dr. Guthrie's school; but he did not consider that to be a proselytising school. He had to add that he meant to introduce a proviso under which the magistrate would be obliged to send the child to any particular school selected by the child's parents or guardians wherever there might be more than one school; and he had no doubt but that Roman Catholic schools would be established in all towns in which Irish labourers were found in considerable numbers.
§ MR. VINCE SCULLY
said, he feared that there was some further object in view than appeared on the face of this Bill. He certainly thought that it would be very easily perverted into nothing but a scheme to kidnap the souls of young children. Such a scheme could never lead to any good whatever. Irish children were not to be turned into Protestants in that manner; they might, while young, appear to be perverted, but, in the end, it would be found that their minds were filled with a farrago of religions, and that they were, in truth, of no religion whatever. A little knowledge of ethnological science would, however, show that their work in this respect would be perfectly useless; for they might as well attempt to operate upon a young gipsy as upon a young Roman Catholic child.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, that it appeared to be entirely forgotten that the very large proportion of the children who would come under the operation of this Bill were of no religion whatever, and it appeared to be trifling with a great question to argue its effect upon the children of the Roman Catholic religion. Nothing could, in his opinion, be more fair or reasonable than the proviso of the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop) to give to 435 magistrates the power of sending children to any school which the parent or guardian might prefer. If Roman Catholics thought proper to follow the laudable example of Dr. Guthrie, and establish Roman Catholic Reformatory Schools, there was a wide field open for the exercise of their philanthropy, and he would advise them to adopt such a course.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
said, he felt greater distrust than ever in this Bill, after the observations which had fallen from the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate. The Irish Members had not opposed the Government Bill on this subject for England, because the Government had promised to add a clause providing for Catholic children on the third reading. That promise had not been kept; why, it was for the Government to say. He trusted that the Irish Members would not allow themselves to be misled in that way again.
§ COLONEL BLAIR
said, he must deny that the object of the Bill was to tamper with the religion of Roman Catholic children. Its real and its only object was to reclaim destitute and helpless vagrants. The course which the Roman Catholic gentry ought to take in that matter was to accept the Amendment proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Greenock, and to build schools to which children of their persuasion would be sent. He (Colonel Blair) wished to ask the hon. Member for Greenock whether he had any objection to change the age fifteen years to fourteen years?
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he regretted to find that the opposition to this Bill was founded on such grounds as would prevent any attempt to provide for the reformation of a mixed population. Surely the Roman Catholic Members would not prefer that the children of that persuasion should remain plunged in crime, rather than that they should come in contact with the Members of another religion. He could hardly believe that any person would rather see the children exposed to the perils which now beset them than to the chance of a modification of their religion. It would be different if they said, "We do not wish to oppose you, but we desire certain safeguards." If they had met the Bill in that spirit, he felt certain that the promoters would have done everything in their power to satisfy them. Those Gentlemen incurred a fearful responsibility who sought to defeat the pre- 436 sent attempt to rescue the children in the large towns from their present state of crime and misery. He was sorry to find the good intentions of the promoters of this measure frustrated. They had had many difficulties to contend with, and it was too bad, when they sought to take a wretched infant from the streets, to be told that their object was to proselytise him. Men actuated by such a motive would not have made the sacrifices they had.
§ MR. LUCAS
said, he must assert that his party had met the matter in a fair spirit. When the question first arose in the Middlesex Industrial Schools Bill, they had attended the Committee, and proposed an arrangement which they thought would be satisfactory to all parties. The clause introduced into the Bill to carry out that agreement was rejected by the Lords. When the Bill came back the bigotry of the majority of the House prevailed, and the Lords' decision was acquiesced in. They were prepared to adopt the same arrangement in the present Bill; the promoters had it in their power to obviate all objections. He had some time since suggested an Amendment to the hon. Member for Greenock to the effect that all the schools under the Act should be registered; if a school was intended for children of one denomination only, it should be stated, and those of any other religion should not be sent there. If a clause to that effect was inserted, all opposition would cease.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, it was unfair to represent the Catholic Members as being bigots, and against the education of these children. All they wished was, that the schools should not be perverted from their proper and legitimate objects.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHEE
said, it appeared to him that they were disputing about nothing. The main principles of the Bill were conceded. He knew Scotland, and was aware that there existed a necessity for these schools. He would suggest that the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop) and the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Lucas) should come to some arrangement.
§ MR. DUNLOP
said, the proviso was 437 this, that if the parent or guardian of any child should express a preference for any one school of two or more within the jurisdiction of the sheriff or magistrate, the child should be sent to such school.
§ MR. LUCAS
said, that the proviso did not in any way obviate his objection. He did not wish the Catholic children to be sent to schools to be made Protestants, and the proviso did not meet this difficulty; it might if there were Catholic schools established in every district in Scotland, but such was not the case. He would not accept any Amendment but that which he had already stated.
§ COLONEL BLAIR
said, he would remind the hon. Gentleman, who was so much afraid of proselytism, that a large number of Catholic children attended the parochial schools in Scotland, but there were no instances of their changing their religion.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he was not aware that there was any provision in the Bill to guarantee the children of Catholic parents against becoming Protestants.
§ MR. DUNLOP
said, that those hon. Members who had opposed the Bill had said that they had done so from a paramount sense of duty; but where was their sense of duty when the Government Bill was carried through every stage?
§ MR. F. SCULLY
thought the present Bill was a most extravagant one. He had been for some years a Member of the House, and he never saw a more wicked attempt to destroy a large class of his fellow creatures. If the Bill was worth anything, why was it not taken up by the Government, and its provisions extended to Ireland?
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report progress.