HC Deb 23 May 1854 vol 133 cc800-4

On the Order being read for the consideration of this Bill,


said, he wished to move the omission of a part of one of the clauses which empowered the committee of visitors, when there was a sufficient number of children of different denominations in a school, to authorise the employment of ministers of different denominations to afford religious instruction to the children, and to perform Divine service in such school. He could not understand what would be done if one school happened to contain children of three or four denominations, whether the various services would be performed simultaneously or one after the other, and, if so, which denomination would have precedence. He wished the House to consider what might be the position of those industrial schools, if it should turn out that a number of juvenile offenders of six or eight different religious persuasions were taught in them at the same time. In such a case they might have the Church of England service, the Roman Catholic mass, and the Jews' feast of trumpets all going on on Sundays at the same time in the one industrial school of Middlesex. He believed there was no precedent for inserting such a provision in the Bill.

Clause 30, page 12, line 14:—Amendment proposed, to leave out the words at the end of the Clause, "and for the purpose of performing Divine service on Sundays, when, in the opinion of the committee of visitors, the number of juvenile offenders of any persuasion other than that of the Established Church is sufficient for that purpose."

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


said, having been a Member of the Committee which sat on this Bill, he was able to state that the clause in question received the unanimous concurrence of all the Members of the Committee. This was called a private Bill because it was confined to the county of Middlesex; but it was, in truth, the first attempt to make in this country some serious effort for the reformation of juvenile offenders, and he trusted it would be the precursor of a general measure applicable to the whole kingdom. It was notorious that a large proportion of the juvenile criminals of the metropolis, being children of the poor Irish, who abounded in all the suburbs, were Roman Catholics, and he contended that they would have been justified, in accordance with precedent, in claiming from the Select Committee the appointment of a paid Roman Catholic chaplain. Instead of that, however, they had contented themselves by merely claiming security for the religious education of those of their own persuasion, to be imparted at their own charge. He trusted that, in this respect, the House would confirm the unanimous decision of the Committee, assented to by every Member upon it, and by the promoters of the Bill.


said, that, as a Member of the Select Committee, he entirely approved the insertion of the words the omission of which had been moved by the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Mullings). The hon. Member's objection had not rested, as he had understood it, upon religious grounds, but upon the inconvenience which would result from allowing the ministers of any religious persuasion to hold divine service within the walls of these schools. The simple answer to that objection was, that the right to celebrate divine service was to be exercised, subject to the regulations to be made for the purpose by the committee of visitors, and only at reasonable hours. There were ample precedents for the course now proposed in the Prison Acts of Ireland. No question of endowment was raised by this clause. It simply gave permission to the ministers of different denominations where the children were in sufficient numbers to celebrate divine service according to the rites of their own Church, and he thought it would be extremely unreasonable to refuse that permission.


said, he also, as a Member of the Committee, expressed his concurrence in that portion of the clause which his hon. Friend had proposed to omit. The insertion of these words was only carrying one step further the spirit of the District Paupers' Schools Act, under which religious teachers of different persuasions were permitted to enter the schools to teach children of their own belief. Every one admitted it to be essential that divine worship should be celebrated in the presence of the inmates of a prison; and upon these broad grounds it appeared to him that the House should concede this boon, if boon it could be called.


said, he could not agree with his right hon. Friend. Middlesex was not Ireland. On the contrary, it contained a more orderly, a more enlightened, and a more civilised population than did Ireland. ["Oh, oh!" from Irish Members.] As a ratepayer and magistrate of Middlesex, he (Mr. Newdegate) participated in the feelings of these gentlemen; and he should then express a hope that such a precedent as the present should not be established at their expense. By this clause it was intended to give the priest the privilege of access to the inmates of this establishment at the wish of the next of kin to the inmates, at any time, not even Sundays excepted. There was also a provision authorising the celebration of mass, a thing totally unknown in a public institution of this country since the time of the Reformation. That would be quite contrary to the spirit of the laws of the Reformation. If it were right that such should be done, let it be done by some public Statute, which the House and country would have time to consider. But he hoped the House would not suffer itself to be trapped into an admission of this principle, contrary as it was to the laws and principles of the Reformation, by a few lines tacked on to the end of a clause of a private Bill.


said, that there did not appear to be anything either very new or very fatal in the principle of this particular provision of the Bill. The wording of the clause was certainly somewhat funny, as it provided for the performance of divine worship provided there was a sufficient number of juvenile offenders, so that in fact the religious worship was made to depend upon the having a good supply of juvenile offenders. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) appeared to be very much alarmed at the word "mass;" if the words "celebration of the Holy Eucharist" were inserted instead, probably the fears of the hon. Member would cease.


said, he was sorry to hear his hon. Friend (Mr. Drummond) speak so lightly of the word "mass." He should recollect that the Sovereign of these realms was bound by Her Coronation Oath to maintain the Articles of the religion of the Established Church of this country. Now, what did these Articles say in reference to the mass? Why, that it was a "blasphemous fable, and a dangerous conceit." And yet they were told by the hon. Member for West Surrey there was nothing in the word. If this clause should pass, it would be the first authorisation of the celebration of mass by Parliament since the Reformation, and he did not hesitate to say that the Minister who should advise his Sovereign to sanction this Bill was guilty thereby of a high crime, and should be impeached. The maintenance of the Protestant religion was the condition on which the Sovereign held Her Throne, and whoever advised Her to break Her oath in that regard deserved to be impeached. The principle was a most dangerous one, and one so monstrous that the Protestant feeling of this country would never recognise it. If such aggressions were persevered in he hoped Protestant feeling would be roused from end to end of the empire. He trusted that the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord R. Grosvenor) would not endanger the passing of this most important Bill by persisting in the introduction of the offensive words of this clause.


said, if his hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester went to a division he should vote with him, because he was perfectly convinced that this provision would be found utterly impracticable, and would operate as a very great impediment in the way of the successful management of these institutions. He regretted to find that the religious question was a bugbear in the way of all practical measures like the present. He had spent a great portion of his life in the management of institutions of this description, and he had observed that the difficulties which were so often urged in theory proved absolutely evanescent in practice. He was convinced that it was better to deal with those difficulties as they arose. Another reason for supporting the Amendment was, that the clause, as it appeared to him, was full of absurdities. In the first place, it provided that these juvenile offenders should not be compelled to attend any religious service conducted in a mode which was contrary to the religious principles of such juvenile offenders. Could anything be more ridiculous, when the great probability was, that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred they had no religious principles whatever? The next line provided that their instruction in any religious education should not be authorised except in such religion as was professed by the parents. The majority of these children, however, were orphans, or, if not, their parents professed no religion, Finally, the provision of the words in dispute, which had been introduced for the sake of a new theory. was such as he ventured to say no one would be able to carry into effect. They would find it exceedingly difficult to carry out the provisions of this clause, as it would be impossible in many instances to provide sufficient room in which with decency the various religious services might be performed. He should, therefore, oppose the clause on the ground of its impracticability, and also because it would be a precedent which would induce parties to introduce in all such Bills similar clauses.


said, that he had opposed the Bill when a Member of the Committee, and also on its second reading, on the ground that it was objectionable, as it gave additional powers to the magistrates to tax the people, and because it introduced an important alteration in the law, which he considered ought not to be enacted by a private Bill, but ought rather to be the subject of a general measure. The Government had promised a measure on reformatory schools, and one on the county rate, and if they would state when they would introduce those Bills it would be entirely unnecessary for the House to be occupied with the present Bill. The objections which he had raised to the principle of the Bill in Committee being overruled, it became his duty to make the Bill as unobjectionable as possible, and he considered that the present clause was an improvement to the Bill, as it was founded on the principle of religious liberty, which lie desired to see extended to all sects and denominations, and he hoped the hon. Member for Cirencester would withdraw his Amendment to it.


said, he could not support the Amendment to strike out the words as they stood in the Bill, on the ground that there would probably he a large number of Roman Catholic children in this establishment, and he thought it but right and just that they should have an opportunity afforded them of meeting together for some form of divine worship. He considered that the provisions of the clause were most desirable, and he should, therefore, vote for the clause as it stood.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 190; Noes 108: Majority 82.

Back to