HC Deb 29 May 1854 vol 133 cc1132-5

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to regulate the salaries of the parochial schoolmasters of Scotland. The learned Lord said, if he had supposed that the vote the other night on the Scotch Education Bill was conclusive, in regard to the possibility of having a national system of education in Scotland, he should then have thought it would have been the duty of the Government to have taken the next best course, and to have proceeded in detail to put the educational establishments in Scotland on the best possible footing. But notwithstanding that he was disappointed at the rejection of the Education Bill, yet he did not see any reason to be discouraged with regard to the ultimate result of his question, which was too large to be decided by one defeat. He saw much in the reception that Bill met with to encourage those who hoped to see a national system of education established in Scotland. It had seemed, therefore, better, in any provision that might be made for the parochial schoolmasters, that such provision should be of a temporary character, and the present Bill proposed to continue the conversion of 1828 down to, including, Martinmas, 1855. Whether the Government of ensuing Sessions would, in this interval, make any proposition to solve the question which the Government of the present Session had attempted to do, he could not say, but he did not consider that the solution of the so-called religious difficulty was impossible. The people of Scotland now saw that the real difficulty in the way of the education scheme was not owing to the religious difficulty so called, but to the peculiar and exclusive privileges which the Established Church held with regard to these schools. The people of Scotland not only saw this, but even those who might differ from him with regard to the amount of religious security in these schools must see that the day was not far distant when it was impossible for them to maintain those exclusive privileges; for it was plain that, whether Parliament interfered or not, experience would solve the difficulty in spite of them. It had been said throughout the discussions on the late measure, that it was intended to serve the purpose of, and had been concocted by, the Free Church party, in order to put their schools on the national footing. He begged to say that a more unfounded or inexcusable statement it was impossible to conceive; and, with regard to this assertion, he could only say that the "wish was father to the thought," for, as he had stated once and for all, that from the time when he first began to consider the proposition that should be made to the Government, down to the day on which he introduced the measure, he had never directly or indirectly, by himself or any other person, consulted with any of the leaders of the Free Church party.


said, he did not intend to oppose the introduction of the present Bill; but he regretted that his hon. and learned Friend had thought fit to limit its endurance to so short a time. He should have thought that the fate of the late measure would have convinced his hon. and learned Friend that the success of any similar measure was by no means a certainty, and the parochial schoolmasters would in a short period again find themselves in the same embarrassing position that they now were. He would have preferred that instead of the present, a measure had been introduced to the effect that the existing status of the schoolmaster should have lasted until Parliament should have otherwise determined. He objected to the former Bill of the learned Lord, because it was an attack on the Established Church, which was one of the fundamental institutions of the country, which he should have thought it was the duty of the Government to support. He regretted to hear that it was the intention of his hon. and learned Friend to renew, by another Bill, his attack upon the parochial school system, from which Scotland had derived so much advantage, and he could only say that such a Bill would receive his most strenuous opposition. He said this from no principle of opposition to education, for he would be ready to support the learned Lord in any measure that was really calculated to improve the system of education in Scotland, and that was not subversive of institutions which for 300 years had conferred blessings on the land. As he had already said, he would not oppose the introduction of the present Bill, but would suggest the introduction of a clause to facilitate the dismissal of improper schoolmasters, and to empower the granting of pensions to retiring schoolmasters who were unfitted for duty by age or infirmity.


begged to bear his testimony to the accuracy of the statement of the hon. and learned Lord Advocate, when he denied that the late measure was concocted by the Free Church to relieve that body from the responsibility of their schools. He thought the character of his learned Friend might have saved him from the imputation which such a statement implied; and he thought the character of the Free Church and the sacrifices her ministers had made, might have saved them also from the charge which had been brought against them. He thought a body raising 300,000l. a year to maintain their schools and churches, after having sacrificed all their emoluments as an Established Church, might have been saved from the charge of concocting a scheme for the sake of a paltry amount of some 2,000l. or 3,000l. Had any intercourse taken place between the Government and the Free Church on this question he must have known of it, and he was able to say that no such communications as had been referred to had taken place. The great merit of the Bill, he thought, was its being limited to a short period, because if it should turn out that the attempt to establish a national system of education in Scotland was hopeless, the question then would be, whether, as they were to remain denominational, one denomination, comprising only one-third of the country, should be put on a better footing than any of the others? The establishment of parochial schools having been the spon- taneous work of the peasantry of Scotland, a desire on their part to see that system made national was entitled to the sympathy of English Members, and they also had a claim to the justice of English Members, because he believed the origin of the present dissensions in Scotland might be mainly traced to the legislation of the English Parliament acting in opposition to the voices of the Scotch representatives. He cordially supported the introduction of this Bill.


thought the conduct of the Lord Advocate, in all his efforts with regard to this subject, showed that he had the deepest possible interest in the welfare of the people of Scotland. He regretted that the former Bill had not been allowed to pass a second reading, in order that those points in it to which objection was taken might have been modified in Committee; but he firmly believed that a Bill still less favourable to the views of hon. Members opposite must finally be passed.


thought the House, in rejecting the Bill, had decided wisely; and submitted that the speeches of the Lord Advocate, and of hon. Members opposite, exhibited an amount of sectarian animosity which promised a renewal of angry discussion in the next Session.


believed that, as an English Member, he had done his duty in opposing the recent scheme of the learned Lord for education in Scotland, because he had been informed that it was to be the forerunner of a system of national education for England. A national system of education should either be in connection with the Established Church, denominational, or a system acceptable to all denominations; and he had opposed the scheme of the learned Lord because it complied with neither of those provisions.

Leave given. Bill ordered to be brought in by the Lord Advocate, Lord John Russell, and Viscount Palmerston.

The House adjourned at One o'clock.