HC Deb 13 March 1855 vol 137 cc518-32

rose to submit the Resolution of which he had given notice to the House, "That it is expedient that more effectual means should be adopted to improve the Education of Pauper Children in Ireland." The hon. and learned Gentleman said that, although the subject which he had to bring under the notice of the House might not be so interesting as that which had just engaged its attention, yet it was one which was deserving of careful consideration, inasmuch as it involved the interests and welfare, both in this world and in the next, of a large and helpless portion of the population, whose characters and future dispositions in life would mainly depend upon the training they received under the guardianship of the State. He found from returns in his possession that in 1853 the average population of the workhouses in Ireland was 150,000, of whom more than one-half were children under fifteen years of age, and of these again not less than 41,000 were orphans and deserted children, whose parents had died or abandoned them in the midst of the dreadful catastrophe which had befallen Ireland some time back. Their number had no doubt somewhat diminished since 1853; but there certainly could not be less than 30,000 of this helpless class of children at present deriving support and instruction from the State. It remained for the Legislature and the Administration to make adequate provision to give these unfortunates a suitable education, which was their only hope of becoming useful members of society. With regard to other classes there may be room for choice; we may rely upon other agencies, but here there can be no doubt that we are in the fullest sense responsible for those whom we have determined to place in public institutions under the sole protection of the law. There were three classes of evidence as to the existing state of education to which he could refer—the reports of Poor Law inspectors, those of officers engaged in the administration of the criminal law, and a special report on the subject, made to the Commissioners of Education in Ireland, by Mr. Cavanagh, one of their most active and experienced officers. That report was more unfavourable to the state of education in the workhouses than any other document with which he was acquainted, though he was bound to say he believed its statements and views to be in some respects exaggerated. The first point to which he wished to call the attention of the House was the inefficiency of the workhouse teachers. Out of 359 workhouse teachers but fifteen were included in the first of the three classes into which the National Board of Education had divided the schoolmasters of Ireland; but fifty-two were even second class teachers, and the remainder were either in the third class, or classed as mere probationers. Only 113 had gone through a training sufficient to fit them for their duties. This was a lamentable state of things, when it was considered that the children in the workhouses were wholly dependent for instruction and education upon the tuition they received from the schoolmaster. He believed that the cause of this state of things was the ill-judged parsimony of the boards of guardians by whom the teachers were appointed. On an average these officers did not receive more than 23l., nor the schoolmistresses more than 20l. a year, with rations such as were given to the lower officials connected with the poor law unions. It was not to be expected that able and well-qualified men could be found to undertake these onerous and important duties at such a rate of remuneration. To show still more conclusively the parsimonious spirit by which the administration of the poor law unions was conducted on this point, he might state that the average sum spent on each child in the workhouses per head per annum was only 5s. 8d. The boards of guardians had the selection and payment of these teachers, and if they were niggardly they could quote in their excuse the invectives which were constantly being launched by hon. Members in that House at every item of expenditure in the administration of the Irish Poor Law which did not relate to the absolute feeding of the paupers. He could not too strongly protest against the clamour on this subject, founded, as it seemed, on the idea that men were to live by bread alone. It was quite vain to expect that we could have better teachers unless the teachers were better paid, and no less idle to think that the education of these children could be improved unless a better class of teachers were provided; and with a little liberality all this could be easily done. It would not be necessary to pay them on quite the same scale as in England, because competent persons could be procured at a lower rate in Ireland. Another important deficiency in the Irish workhouses was the absence of separate departments for the care and tuition of the infants; and a still more serious evil arose from the want of any means of keeping the children apart from the adults in the workhouse. It was impossible to overestimate the evil consequences which arose from this circumstance. But however good might be the literary instruction given to these children, it would not be sufficient to secure their being good and efficient labourers in future unless these schools were made, much more than at present, places of industrial education. He now came to the subject of the religious instruction given in the workhouses of Ireland. He feared that there was too much disposition in the boards of guardians to use their power to promote their own sectarian views. In Ulster, where the majority of the upper classes were Protestants, there were thirteen unions where there was not a single Roman Catholic officer in the service of the guardians, although the population were principally Roman Catholic. In one case there was not a single Protestant pauper in the workhouse, and yet the board of guardians thought themselves justified in refusing to appoint a Roman Catholic officer, and in placing a Protestant teacher over the children. On the other hand, he did not mean to deny that the Roman Catholic majority in other boards of guardians sometimes abused their supremacy in a similar way by unfairly excluding Protestant officers; though as there were few or no Protestants in the workhouses in these parts the same injustice was not inflicted in this case. Seeing that the law prevented any attempts to proselytise, he thought that these proceedings were simply the assertion of an unfortunate spirit of bigotry, which had the worst results, particularly when it was applied to the selection of schoolteachers to be placed over children who are cut off from every other mode of instilling religious and moral truth. The teacher prohibited from instilling his own convictions, is compelled to be silent on topics which essentially affect the very foundations of education. Another very serious point was the extent to which children passed between the workhouses and the gaols in consequence of the great number of convictions which took place for what were called "workhouse offences," such as breaking windows, tearing their clothes, &c. He thought that children should not be sent to gaol and exposed to the contamination of the associates they met there for offences of so trivial a character. At any rate, there could be no doubt that this circumstance was an extensive source of demoralisation, not merely as regarded the children who were actually sent to gaol, hut also as to those with whom they mixed on their return to the workhouses after serving their period of punishment. Among the evils of the present system was another of the same nature which was rapidly increasing, and was very threatening in its nature, namely, the practice of committing destitute children charged with the most trivial offences to gaol instead of to the workhouse. When sent to the workhouse the charge for their maintenance would fall upon a small locality; whereas, when committed to gaol, the charge for their maintenance would be spread over a large district. Notwithstanding all this, he must, however, say that he believed that the state of education in the workhouses of Ireland was better than in the majority of the English establishments. After entering into some details with respect to the management of the North of Dublin Union, where the schools had greatly advanced under the fostering care of a gentleman, Mr. Lindsay, who had been chairman of the board of guardians, and where a mischievous system of separation on sectarian grounds had been established since the removal of that gentleman from his office, in order to show that the education of the children in the workhouses should not be allowed to depend upon the varying votes of fluctuating bodies like the elected boards of guardians, the hon. Gentleman proceeded to dwell upon the importance of establishing reformatory institutions for youthful criminals in Ireland. On this point he might refer to the great success which had attended the institution established at Philadelphia. This was established not for the punishment of criminals, but to restrain and guide those who were likely to fall into crime. In that institution the training was industrial, and the treatment pursued that of kindness. It bad proved highly efficient in promoting the object for which it was founded, and by a judicious system of management the annual cost of each of the 230 boys who were its inmates was reduced to 12l. per head. The 230 boys earned about 1,500l., and the annual expenditure amounted to about 6,000l. The great establishment of St. Michele, at Rome, which contained 500 orphan children, had been attended with similar success. He purposely alluded to that remarkable institution, because it was the only one of the kind in which instruction in art was regularly given to all the pupils. As there was undoubtedly a remarkable aptitude among the youth of Ireland for what might be called the secondary arts, such as carving on wood and stone, he thought a great deal of good might be done by some infusion of the artistic element in the education imparted to pauper children of Ireland. Summing up the various suggestions which he had made, he urged the necessity of increasing the salaries of the teachers in workhouse schools. They could not compel the local guardians to do much in that way; but justice required that the Government should extend to Ireland the same provision which was made in England; and he thought it would be most desirable, that of the sum thus applied a small portion should be reserved for the purpose of paying "monitors." Upon a rough calculation he thought he could not ask for less than about 10s. per head as a grant for the education of pauper children in Ireland, or a maximum of.20,000l., a much smaller sum than was annually expended for the same purpose in England, but which would in a great measure satisfy the claims of the sister country. The only objection he had heard to his proposition was, that the annual allowance for the teaching of pauper children in England were part of the settlement proposed by Sir Robert Peel in 1846, when a portion of the expense of the constabulary force in Ireland was taken upon the Consolidated Fund. It was true that Sir Robert Peel brought forward those two measures at the same time, but there was no connection whatever between them. The constabulary force was a portion of the standing army in Ireland, and it was altogether a misconception to imagine that a reference to the proceedings in 1846 was a sufficient answer to his argument as to the justice, expediency, and necessity of improved measures for the education of pauper children in the sister island. Hitherto it had been said that, in England, the poorer the district the poorer the school, the more the wealth the more the education. He now called upon them to reverse the rule, or at least to extend to the poorer districts of Ireland those advantages which they conceded even to the most wealthy districts in England. Since the measure of 1846, with respect to the constabulary force, the local taxation of Ireland had been greatly increased. The poor rate alone rapidly rose from about 400,000l. in that year to upwards of 2,000,000l., and even now, with all the reductions which had taken Place, it was more than 1,000,000l. As one who had incurred some obloquy by supporting measures for equalising the taxation of the two countries, he was entitled to ask for an equal share in the produce of those taxes. They had in the workhouses of Ireland the materials of future armies, and what would fill up the gaps created in the agricultural population. It rested with them to secure that so great a resource shall be made available for the benefit of the entire Empire; and under these circumstances he trusted they would not refuse the small boon which he now craved at their hands.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it is expedient that more effectual means should be adopted to improve the Education of Pauper Children in Ireland,"


said, he must complain of the inadequate salaries given to the teachers in the national schools. There were in Ireland 5,383 male and female teachers; the salaries of male teachers varied in amount according to the class in which they were placed, from 11l. to 36l. a year; assistant male teachers from 11l. to 15l. Female teachers received from 8l. to 25l. a year, or considerably less than the wages earned by a day labourer. In England, in eighteen districts, the salaries of teachers ranged from 60l. to 132l. One effect was, that for every two teachers who entered the national schools the Government had to educate three. Nearly 40 per cent abandoned the institution the moment they had passed their examination, and came over to England, where they received four times as much as they would have obtained in Ireland. The absence of complaint from the Irish teachers was owing to an order issued by the Board of Education in 1850, that any schoolmaster who should communicate with the newspapers, or in any other shape make a public representation relative to his condition, would be liable to be dismissed from his office. It appeared from the Estimates of last year, that no less a sum than 1,353,000l. was voted for the purposes of law and order in Ireland. A large portion of that sum was devoted to the maintenance of the constabulary force. The amount voted for educational purposes was only 193,000l., although it was admitted on all sides that properly educated men were the best police that any country could possess. He trusted the Government would consent, as one means of improving the quality of education in Ireland, as well as an act of justice to a meritorious class of public servants, to raise the salaries of the teachers in the national schools.


said, he agreed with both the hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, that no Motion could have been brought forward of more importance or interest, and more deserving of attention. He should have regretted to have been opposed to two Gentlemen who were both so well entitled to be heard on this question; but he had not heard one principle stated by either of them in which he did not entirely concur. He regretted with them that so large a portion of the youthful population of Ireland should be in the workhouses, and dependent for their education on the instruction there imparted; and he deplored the low salaries which were given to the teachers, and in the desire that a sufficient remedy should be found he fully concurred. He could assure hon. Gentlemen that it was a subject which the Government was ready to consider, and in which they felt an interest not less than he did. But let the House look to the position in which Parliament and the country were placed on this question. The system was undoubtedly deficient at first; but what had made it so? He had a higher authority than his own for saying, that while the law required the formation of schools in the workhouses, they were rendered inefficient by the want of completeness in the provisions made by the law, which did not provide for a proper system of inspection. The original defect of the law was, that it established schools and teachers, but took no care for anything beyond that; and in order to effect any good there must be a change in the law, which would give such power to the local guardians as would enable them by their own agency to remedy the defects which were caused by the law as it now stood. It was admitted that there had been a great improvement in the system, which was owing in a great measure to the conduct and character of the guardians themselves. During the period of the famine, and when pauperism and rates were at the highest point, a great deal could not be expected from the poor law guardians; but since that pressure had been removed they had made very creditable efforts to improve the system of instruction in the workhouses. It appeared by the Report of the Education Commissioners that there had been such an improvement; and they stated their gratification at finding an augmentation in the number of agricultural schools in the workhouses in the year 1853. There were in that year fifty of these schools, being an increase of twenty-seven on the previous year, and they attributed that increase to the influence of the Poor Law Commissioners, and the exertion of the local guardians, who showed an increased conviction of their importance; and they expressed their belief that it was not only an improvement on the past, but held out a hope of still greater progress for the future. That improvement had taken place under a very defective law, and that many deficiencies had been somewhat removed was owing to the meritorious efforts of the guardians. Speaking of the Board of National Education, of the Poor Law Commissioners, and the poor law guardians, it might safely be asserted of them that they all seemed to recognise the advantages of industrial teaching among the pauper population, and were combining their efforts for the advancement of that laudable object. His hon. Friend having stated the facts, came to the remedy, and spoke of a Parliamentary grant to be applied in the same manner as was done in England. But there were at present some difficulties in the way in the shape of the want of means for separating the youthful from the adult population in the workhouses, and preventing those evils which must arise from their coming in contact with many of the lowest and most dissolute of the population; and he should besides say that it would be rather premature to call Parliament to grant funds for carrying out a system like that adopted in England, which was itself still one of experiment only. There was no disposition on the part of the Government to make this a question of pounds, shillings, and pence, if it could be shown that a great national interest was involved, and that what it was desirable should be achieved could be achieved by means of a Parliamentary grant. The test of the expediency of a Parliamentary grant was the attainment of some great national purpose, which could only be achieved by the Government, and which could not be established by any other means; and that consideration only would justify the calling on the Government for such a grant. That principle had been adopted in the instance of the Board of National Education in Ireland. But care should be taken by the Government not to interfere with objects which could be better carried out by individual and local enterprise; and he thought that in Ireland, where a new era and a new state of things had arisen, and where every one seemed to be roused and inclined to effect, by their own efforts, improvements of all kinds, it would not be advis- able to call on the Government for pecuniary aid, and it would be very unwise for Government to listen to such a proposition. There was one statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. J. Ball) which he had heard with pain, and that was, that in many places in Ireland the education of the children had been carried on in a sectarian spirit, and that religious differences between the poor in the workhouses and the local authorities had interfered with the improvements in the education which were to be desired. There were some things which the Government could, and some which they could not do, and this was a matter in which they could effect nothing. But he believed that that spirit of religious antagonism had much abated, and if it did remain, it was only one consequence of a bad system, which must for a time survive the system itself; and, looking to the happy change which had taken place now in the tone of discussion on Irish questions in that House, he thought he was justified in saying that it was only a reflection of a greater change which had taken place in Ireland, and the beneficial effects of which would be felt hereafter. He felt that with regard to the question of religious differences and industrial education there was a better spirit prevailing among all classes in Ireland, and while that spirit actuated the people of Ireland in the performance of their duties, he felt that the condition and prospects of that country would be much better dealt with without the Government being asked for aid to advance her moral and physical position. He believed that these improvements might be safely left in the hands of the Irish people themselves, and he was certain that industrial education would, among other improvements, be greatly increased. The duty of the Government would be to strengthen any right system which should be adopted, and to remove, as far as they could, all difficulties in its way. So far from regretting that his hon. Friend had brought forward this subject, he was convinced that his doing so would be of great service. It would be painful to him if the matter was pressed to a division, as it might be made untruly to appear that the Government was hostile to the general views of his hon. Friend, and he thought there was no such difference between them as to induce him to go to a division, and he hoped he would be satisfied with the feeling which had been exhibited on the part of every one to do justice to the objects he had in view.


said, he must express his dissent from one opinion of his right hon. Friend, namely, that there was no means of separating the youthful paupers from adults, and that the latter were among the most dissolute of the population, for he (Mr. Roche) had himself had experience to the contrary. He also did not wish it to he supposed that the poor law in Ireland was merely an experiment, but he hoped it would be as permanent as the National Board of Education, which had been productive of so much benefit to Ireland. He was sorry to say, that the physical position of the people was below the standard of the education that was open to them; but he did not wish to mix up the question of national education with that of poor law management; when it was admitted by the Government that there was a remedy for many of the evils complained of by bringing up youthful paupers under a system of industrial education, the Government ought not to leave the promotion of that education only to the guardians, and if a grant was applied for for this purpose it ought not to be refused. The guardians ought not in this respect to be substituted for the Government, when the latter had assented to the necessity for a remedy, when it was found that what was asked for that purpose was right in principle.


explained that he did not say that the poor law system in Ireland was an experiment, but that the system of industrial education in workhouses was. Nor did he go to the length of saying that all the adult paupers in workhouses were the most dissolute of the population.


said, that while he was gratified at hearing the right hon. Gentleman's statement with reference to the improving prospects of Ireland, there was something not quite satisfactory to Irish Members in his speech, for he admitted that evils did exist, but suggested no remedy. A more unsatisfactory speech, dealing in generalities, and calculated, if possible, to delude Irish Members with "soft sawder," he never listened to. Government should take their share of the expense, and double the salaries of schoolmasters in the workhouses, and so improve that education which was deficient. He (Mr. Fitzgerald) the other day was in an Irish workhouse, where a number of boys were called up, and asked about the Isthmus of Perekop and the Putrid Sea, and other geographical questions, which they were able to answer; but that was not the education it was desirable to promote—it should be a practical system of education that might be useful to them as men. The salaries of workhouse schoolmasters in Ireland were wholly paid out of the poor rate; in England they were partly paid by the Government. As it was an experiment, industrial education should be conducted partly at the Government expense.


observed, that allusion had been made to the religious element in Ireland, which it was said prevented the proper education of the poor. He would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the constitution of Irish magistracies in the different counties. At present the magistrates were ex officio guardians, and complaints had been made that they often introduced political and religious feelings into the board, which created those animosities which all men of common sense deplored. He attributed the fact of there being a dissolute pauper population in Ireland to the want of proper hospital accommodation, which had the effect of throwing vagrant paupers into the workhouse, and thus corrupting the inmates; and he thought that in the face of the great privations they had to endure, the Irish people were justified in calling upon the Government to assist them in providing education for pauper children. He trusted that on reconsideration the right hon. Gentleman would see that, at present at least, the system required assistance from the Government.


considered that as the sum of 35,000l. had been granted for the promotion of the education of the poorer classes in England, a grant of a similar character ought to be made for Ireland, especially as the Medical Relief Fund, which in England was defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund, in Ireland was thrown upon the poor rates. By raising the salaries of the teachers, the services of a much more efficient class of men would be secured. A great improvement had taken place in the matter of industrial education in the Irish workhouses within the last few years, but a great deal still remained to be done, for many of the unions had no land attached to them. He suggested that the Commissioners ought to insist upon a portion of land being added to every one of them, so that the paupers might be taught practically the principles of agriculture. If his hon. Friend the Member for Carlow divided he should vote with him; but, if he did not divide, he trusted that the result of the discussion would be to place teachers in the Irish workhouses on precisely the same footing as those in England.


said, in answer to the appeal which had been made to him, that he did not wish to press hardly upon his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, who had so lately come into office; but there was a demand of justice in this matter; no reason had been suggested for treating Ireland differently from England and Scotland, and he could not, therefore, withdraw the Motion.


said, that hon. Members from Ireland ought to pause before they insisted upon being placed on an equality with England in these matters. If the question were to be placed upon the footing of equal justice between the two countries, he should feel it his duty to state how the case really stood. There was paid from the public revenue for the Irish constabulary, 650,000l.; assistant barristers, 52,000l.; expenses of prosecutions, 32,000l.; Crown solicitors, 16,900l.; making a total of 750,000l. a year. In England there was paid from the public revenue for prosecutions, 250,000l.; education in workhouses, 22,000l.; half of the medical expenses, 90,000l.; making a total of 362,000l. to be set against 750,000l. for Ireland. [An hon. Member: The county courts.] The salaries of the judges and expenses of these courts were paid out of the fees of the courts, and not from the Consolidated Fund.


said, that when the Civil Estimates came on he should call attention to the injustice done in Ireland, and show that England received much more of the public money. It should not be forgotten that there was the building of that House of Parliament. (Oh, oh!) Yes, for that expenditure, being derived from the taxes, was partly drawn from Ireland, and all laid out here. The Irish people had now to pay the income tax; and he must say, they paid more money than they received benefit from their connection with this country.


hoped the hon. Member for Carlow would not hesitate to press his Motion to a division. Ireland had a right to equality with England, and if her representatives only stood together equal justice they must obtain, whether the noble Lord at the head of the Government wished it or not.


had never heard in that House any observations which in his opinion were more extraordinary than those which had just fallen from the noble Lord opposite. The noble Lord seemed to forget that at the time of the Union it was guaranteed that Ireland should pay only 2–17ths of the taxation of the United Kingdom, and that by the terms of that Act a greater equality ought to be observed between the taxation of the two countries than the figures quoted by the noble Lord manifested.


said, that the county court judges were not paid out of the Consolidated Fund, but by fees derived from the courts in which they presided.

Question put "That it is expedient that more effectual means should be adopted to improve the Education of Pauper Children in Ireland."

The House divided; Ayes 32, Noes 80: Majority 48.