§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
* Mr. Speaker, in the first place, I beg to express my thanks for the courtesy and fairness with which the noble Lord at the head of the Government has enabled me, on an evening usually devoted to Government business, to bring under the consideration of the House the Motion of which I have given notice. It is perfectly true that I might have laid my Bill on the table, following the example of the noble Lord the late President of the Council, and postponed any explanatory statement until I moved the second reading. But I was unwilling to take that course, partly because there are several portions of this great question of the education of the people to which I wish to draw the attention of the Government and of the House in a preliminary statement of this kind; and, further, because I confess I feel, in my position as an independent Member of this House—possessing no official power or influence—that to propose the introduction of a measure of this magnitude, without giving any explanation of the grounds on which I propose to do so, or of the nature of my measure, would be a course both unusual and disrespectful to this House.
Sir, I am in hopes that the House of Commons will consent, for a portion of this 641 Session, to withdraw their attention from the absorbing interests of the war in which we are engaged, and give consideration to a question which I believe to be by far the most important and the most pressing of all questions of the present day, affecting the safety and welfare of the institutions of this country. After a brief interval of time—I trust after a few months—the war will have ceased, and peace will have returned; but, unless this House will consent to address itself seriously to the present state of public education, we shall still find ourselves surrounded by that mass of ignorance and of crime which is now tarnishing our national character, and, I believe, sapping and undermining our national prosperity. There is no question to which Parliament is more bound to address itself; and if the House will favour me with its attention, I think I shall be able to show that there is no subject to which it is bound to devote more anxious consideration. But even from the events of the war we may draw a sound argument in favour of the extension of education, for if there are still persons who doubt the policy and the wisdom of improved education—if there are still persons who think that to teach our fellow-creatures their duty to God and man—to cultivate their minds, and to raise them in the social scale, is to unfit them for undustrial pursuits and the vocations of useful life—I think I may turn to recent experience of what education has done for the British soldier as a satisfactory, nay, a triumphant answer. No class of men ever made a more rapid advance in moral and intellectual improvement than the British soldier has done in the last forty years. What has been the result with respect to his efficiency? I appeal to the events of the last few months; at any period in the history of the nation has the British soldier proved himself more brave, more highly disciplined, or more enduring than in the present campaign in the Crimea, chequered as it has been by the most extraordinary combination of victory and disaster?
Sir, I can assure the House that I approach this subject not only with a deep sense of its importance, but also of the numerous difficulties with which it is beset. I am also so sensible of the almost impossibility for an independent Member of this House, without official power or influence, successfully to legislate upon this subject, that I think it right to explain the motives which have induced me to bring it forward, 642 lost I should be charged with presumption for making such an attempt. In determining upon the course which I have taken I have been influenced by the belief that the Government of Lord Aberdeen, deterred either by the difficulty of the subject or some other reason, had abandonded all idea of legislating upon it. The House will not fail to recollect that, on the formation of that Government the necessity of the improvement and extension of education was put in the very van of their professions, and shortly after they took office, the noble Lord the Member for London—a distinguished Member of Lord Aberdeen's Government—introduced a measure on the subject. I am not about to discuss the merits of that measure, though, I may venture to say, there was in it much that I approved, and much that was, in my opinion, worthy of discussion and consideration in this House; but that Bill was never taken even to a second reading. The noble Lord introduced it in an able speech, but after it was introduced the subject gradually dropped, and we heard no more of the Bill.
What occurred again last year? In the Session of 1854 the Manchester and Salford Bill—a Bill which, in my judgment, was one of the most important plans for the advancement of education in this country ever broached—was brought under the consideration of this House, and after years of labour, great expense, and most praiseworthy exertions on the part of a great number of gentlemen at Manchester, and, above all, after a combination of men of different religious persuasions in endeavouring to legislate on the subject, how was that Bill treated? It was rejected, in consequence of what I must call a paltry quibble, whether, according to the forms of the House, it was a public or a private Bill. The noble Lord the Member for London made a short speech upon that occasion, and left the House; the Treasury benches were empty—and the measure was discussed in the absence of, and without assistance from, Her Majesty's Government; in fact, throughout the whole of last Session, Government gave no intimation whatever of any intention to revive the question of education, and, as far as the house knew, it was totally thrown aside. It was under those circumstances, that, convinced as I am most deeply that it is a subject which must not be dropped, but that, sooner or later, it must be dealt with by Parliament, I deter- 643 mined, however inadequate I might be to the task, to undertake to grapple with it, and accordingly I gave notice that I should, during the present Session, bring in a Bill on the subject.
Parliament met before Christmas, when I renewed my notice. My Motion was fixed for the 25th of January, but on the 23rd, two days before my notice was to be brought on, the noble Lord the Member for London came down to the House and announced that he would bring in an Education Bill. That Bill was introduced a few days afterwards, and is now on the table. I say it without the least disrespect to the noble Lord, but I cannot help suspecting that I may justly claim the merit of both these Bills, for, in all probability, had it not been for my notice, we should not have had the Bill of the noble Lord; and I think the House will feel that after the notice I had given, after devoting considerable time and attention to the subject during the recess, I should not be justified in now receding from the task which I had undertaken. At the same time, I wish it to be understood that it is in no spirit of rivalry to the noble Lord the Member for London that I bring forward this measure. I gladly recognise the exertions of that noble Lord in the cause of education during a lengthened period of time, and had he last Session given the least intimation that he would deal with the subject, I should not have presumed to do so, but should have left it in his hands. The noble Lord, however, has now taken the matter up, and by doing so has practically recognised the necessity of our devoting our attention to the subject, and I earnestly hope that, by God's blessing, the exertions of the noble Lord, and the willingness of this House to entertain the question, it may at length be satisfactorily settled.
Before I explain to the House the present state of education in this country, I may be permitted to call the attention of the House, and particularly of Her Majesty's Government, to one point which is of the greatest possible importance in connection with the subject, and I am the more desirous to do so because it is not embraced either in the measure of the noble Lord or in the Bill I am now asking leave to introduce. I allude to the present constitution of the Committee of Council, and I must say, that for one, entertain a feeling of great dissatisfaction, which I believe to be very general, both with respect to the constitution and the working 644 of that Committee. In the first place, I think it has become far too important, and is intrusted with functions of far too great magnitude, to continue any longer without being recognised as a department of the State, and distinctly represented in this House. My objection to the action of the Committee of Council is, that while Parliament is liberal — while we from year to year have been voting increased sums of money for public instruction—our grants are badly administered. Of course I do not pretend to deny that the Committee has done great good, or that the liberality of Parliament in voting increased sums has promoted education, but I think that those sums under the management of the Committee of Council have hitherto produced the minimum, instead of the maximum of good. If I remember rightly, we have risen from the paltry grant of 10,000l. or 20,000l., twenty-two years ago, in the time of Lord Grey's Government, to the liberal sum of 300,000l. per annum, and I agree with those who think that no body of men ought to be intrusted with the administration of so large a sum for public purposes, without there being a responsible Minister in this House who can account for the manner of its employment. There is no precedent that I know of; but there is a somewhat similar case of recent occurrence—that of the Poor Law Board.
The House will recollect, that after the institution of the Poor Law Board, gentlemen of great ability and of the highest character were appointed Commissioners. Still, not many years elapsed before dissatisfaction began to arise, and the public demanded a change. The consequence was, that the Poor Law Board is now represented as a department in this House; and why should we not have a department for education? The Lord President of the Council is now, in fact, the Minister of Instruction; but I contend that the time has gone by when we can be satisfied with a kind of half and-half department, practically superintending education, and yet not recognised in the House of Commons. I hope that the time will soon arrive when we shall see a Minister in this House responsible for the money which is expended, and able to give to the House and to the country any explanations which may be required.
In other countries the necessity for an Educational Department is recognised. In France, in Prussia, and in every canton in 645 Switzerland, there is a Minister of Public Instruction; in America education is recognised as a public department of the State; and in Holland there is a department forming a part of the Ministry of the Interior. There are precedents enough abroad, and I think that those precedents, together with our own experience, establish the necessity for such a system at home. The first duty which the department would have to discharge is one of paramount importance, namely, the providing of efficient masters. That is a point to which, in a praiseworthy manner, the Committee of Council have devoted a great deal of attention; but I submit that they have not done it with wisdom or success. The fact is, that the thing is injudiciously done; the masters are so overtrained that they are, in too many cases, above educational duties, and they take to other pursuits. Mr. Kennedy, one of the inspectors, complains that those who have been educated in the training institutions betake themselves, in a great number of instances, to holy orders. Mr. Moseley, a very able inspector, takes the same view of the subject, and so, also, does the Rev. Mr. Mitchell.
In addition to this, I hold in my hand a letter from the principal of one of the largest training institutions, in which, after stating that every one who is mixed up with the practical work of education is very dissatisfied with the Government scheme, and that the funds are badly administered, the poor localities receiving no encouragement, while others get more than their share, the writer goes on to say—I do not believe that one in five of the pupil teachers ever become schoolmasters or schoolmistresses. Hence there is a great dearth of masters. In short, other trades pay better than that of a master, in proportion to the work done and the sacrifices made. The minutes of 1846, therefore, have failed in this important respect.Surely such statements confirm my opinion that we ought to have the means of Parliamentary inquiry into these matters. I am afraid that it would be found, upon investigation, that not more than two-thirds of the pupil teachers ever become masters. It appears, therefore, that we are devoting the public money to educating persons who subsequently become clerks, or betake themselves to different pursuits from that for which they were intended. But more than this; I have said that the public money is misapplied, and I believe that it is misapplied in this way— 646 that the grants which are annually voted by Parliament are given under the Minutes of Council to rich districts to the exclusion of poor ones. The minute under which the grants are issued requires that a certain proportionate sum should be provided by the locality, and the consequence is that the poorest districts, which are in most need of assistance, get nothing from the annual grants of Parliament.
I will illustrate this by a reference to eight parishes in this metropolis—four poor parishes and four rich ones; I will take the four poor parishes first. Clerkenwell, with a population of 64,763, has received 8l. 17s. 4d. for books; St. Giles's, with a population of 37,407, has received 3l. 3s. 4d. for books; Shoreditch, with 25,511 inhabitants, has received nothing; and Shadwell, with 11,700 inhabitants, has received nothing. Now, contrast with this four rich parishes—St. Michael, Chester Square, with a population of 8,500, has received 465l.; St. Barnabas, or part of St. Paul, with only 8,000 inhabitants, has received 400l.; Kentish Town, with 5,000 inhabitants, has received 846l.; and Kensington, with 30,000 inhabitants, has received 2,197l. The four poor parishes, therefore, with an aggregate population of 138,900, have received 12l. 0s. 8d., while the four rich parishes, with a population of upwards of 50,000, have received 3,908l. [Mr. COBDEN: Is that in one year?] No; from the commencement of the annual grant down to the present moment. That sum of 3,9081. granted to these four rich parishes has, no doubt, effected a great amount of good. I do not deny that; but is it the policy or the intention of this House, in voting so large a sum of money as it annually does for the purposes of education, that the rich only should be benefited, while the poor are to have nothing? because, practically, that is what it comes to. I attach great interest and importance to this part of the subject. The Bill which was brought in by the noble Lord the Member for London proposes to give increased powers to the Committee of Council, and I also propose to give increased powers to that department to which the duties of public instruction are attached; but while I am anxious to place increased powers in the hands of the educational department of the State, I must beg at the same time to state that I am not content to place those powers in the hands of the Committee of Council as it is at present constituted. 647 I will now venture to ask for the attention of the House, while I make some statements upon the present state of education in this country. I doubt whether the full extent of our deficiencies is generally understood. I have read and I have been told that this question may be left as it is; that we are going on well; that we have a liberal Parliament and an active Committee of Council, and everything is advancing; but, Sir, I think that I shall be able to show the House that, instead of going on well, we are going on scandalously ill. As regards this great matter of public education, the state of the country is most threatening, and the time has arrived when this House is bound to give its most serious attention to this subject.
It will be my duty to lay before the House some very startling statements, but I shall carefully endeavour to avoid anything like exaggeration, and I shall make no statement without giving my authority, and in most cases I think the House will find that the statements which I shall make are drawn from official sources. When the noble Lord the Member for London brought this subject under the consideration of the House in 1853, I think he fell into the same error which has pervaded many similar statements. I think he fell into the error of taking too flattering a view of the question. The noble Lord entered into a history of the progress of education in the country from the very commencement of the first efforts that were made by this House in that direction. The noble Lord told us the increase that had taken place since that time in the number of schools and of scholars attending them; but throughout the able speech with which he introduced the subject he did not once touch upon the other side of the question. It is time that the country should know what is the real truth, and I shall endeavour to state it. What was the point upon which the noble Lord dwelt with the most satisfaction? It was the increase in the number of children attending school between the years 1818 and 1833; and again, between 1833 and 1851. In the year 1818 the proportion of children at school was 1 in 17, in 1833 it was 1 in 11 and a fraction, and in 1851 the proportion had increased to 1 in 8 and a fraction. That, no doubt, appears to be an improvement, and to a certain extent I admit that it is; but if we analyse the figures, and especially remembering that the statistics of 1833 have been called in 648 question, we shall find that the ratio of advance between 1833 and 1851 is by no means equal to the ratio of advance between 1818 and 1833. I believe it to be a fact that many of the most important districts in England were in a worse condition in 1851 than in 1833. As instances, I may mention York and Liverpool. In Liverpool, in 1833, the proportion of children attending school was 1 in 7 and a fraction, while in 1851 it was 1 in 8 and a fraction; so that the state of education in Liverpool has positively retrograded, and that is also the case with regard to York. But I may remind the House that the consideration of the number of children attending school forms by no means the whole of the question to which I wish to call attention, but that we must also consider what is the quality of the education received. Are the children who attend school properly taught? I think that the House will perceive that this question is of greater importance than even the relative numbers of the children going to school at the different periods I have mentioned. In describing our present position, I shall regard it in four points of view—1st, the number of those who receive no education at all; 2ndly, the quality of the education received by those who attend schools; 3rdly, our comparative state with regard to the rest of the civilised world; and, 4thly, the deplorable results of our neglect of this question.
The House is aware that we are indebted for much information to very able reports on the census by Mr. Horace Mann. It appears that the population of this country in 1851 amounted to 17,927,609. The number of children between 3 and 15 years of age was 4,908,696; of these 2,144,378 were at school, so that there remained very nearly 3,000,000 to be accounted for. To account for this number Mr. Horace Mann first makes a deduction of 1,000,000 for children engaged in work. I confess I am unwilling to admit that deduction; I think that in any country where education rests upon a sound basis, children ought not to be allowed to work before they are educated, or, at all events, it is a matter of doubt whether it is right to recognise such a reason for not being educated. However that may be, Mr. Horace Mann makes a deduction of 1,000,000 for children engaged in work, the actual number returned as at work being, I believe, about 600,000. He then makes a deduction of 200,000 for children 649 suffering from illness, and of 50,000 for those who may be educated at home. So that, even allowing these deductions—and I demur to the first—a very large number of children remains wholly unaccounted for. To proceed further, I admit it may be fair when treating of the labouring classes to deduct children below the age of 5 and above the age of 12, and I find the number of those children to be 647,856, and the result is, that the number of children between the ages of 5 and 12 not at school amounts to 968,557. I then come to the natural inquiry, why are they not at school? I ought, perhaps, in frankness to state to the House that the children considered not to be at school were so considered because they were not entered on the school books, but perhaps a portion of them might have been to school at some time or another; but Mr. Horace Mann has observed, and with great justice, that he does not know whether it is a greater evil to have a number of persons without education, and the rest of the community well educated, or to have the whole mass educated badly, and for too short a period.
But I return to the question, why were these children not at school? Some persons say that the reason is, because they are engaged in work; but that, I believe, is a mistake. I find that in Manchester the number of children between the ages of 3 and 15 were 69,500; of those 32,000 were at school, 7,000 were engaged in work, and there remained over 30,000 neither one nor the other.
The general result throughout the whole kingdom stands thus—that 41 and a fraction per cent are at school, only 12 and a fraction are at work, and 46 and a fraction per cent are neither at school nor at work. Now it will be seen from these figures that the number of children at work cannot be set down as the main cause of the existing deficiency in education. The real causes I believe to be partly the poverty and partly the indifference of the parents, and I think this indifference may again be attributed to two causes—their own uneducated state, and the badness of the education which is afforded in this country. Some of these unhappy parents have never been educated themselves, and therefore cannot appreciate the advantage of education to their children; others find the education in the schools to which their children could alone have access, so bad that they care not to send their children to partake of it.
650 Having now shown the House the large number of children who are not at school at all, let me pass on to a point which is not of less importance—namely, the inferior quality of the education which too many of those who do go to school receive. A comparison drawn between the education imparted in this country and that afforded in other parts of the civilised world is, I think, a melancholy one, so far as we are concerned; for I believe we shall find that, with the exception of Russia, Spain, Italy, and the Slave States of America, England is at the bottom of the scale. Thus, I find that in Switzerland, in several of the cantons, there are 1 in 4 and a fraction of the population at school; in Saxony 1 in 5; in the United States—New York and other of the free States—some 1 in 5, and others 1 in 6; in France, 1 in 6; in Wurtemburg and Prussia, 1 in 6; in Denmark, 1 in 7; in England, 1 in 8⅓. But this is not all. In these other countries 1 in 6 receives a good education, while in England 1 in 8⅓ receives an education, in too many cases, of the most deficient and unsatisfactory character.
With the permission of the House, I will now proceed to state the nature of the difference which exists in the systems of these countries. What is the teaching in the elementary schools of Prussia? In Prussia every complete elementary school necessarily comprehends the following objects: I, religious instruction, as a means of forming the moral character of children according to the positive truths of Christianity; 2, the German language; 3, the elements of geometry, together with the general principles of drawing; 4, calculation and practical arithmetic; 5, the elements of physics, geography, general history, and especially the history of Prussia; 6, singing; 7, writing; 8, the simplest manual labours, and some instructions in husbandry, according to the agriculture of the respective parts of the country. The instructions in religion, reading, writing, arithmetic, and singing, arc strictly indispensable in every school. That is the system of Prussia. In Switzerland, the education given by the masters in the parochial schools includes—1, religious instruction; 2, reading; 3, writing; 4, linear drawing; 5, orthography and grammar; 6, arithmetic and book-keeping; 7, singing; 8, the elements of geography, and particularly of the geography of Switzerland; 9, the history of Switzerland; 10, the elements of natural philosophy, 651 with its practical applications; 11, exercises in composition; 12, instruction in the rights and duties of a citizen. In Denmark, education is very widely diffused, there being very few persons, even among the lowest classes, who are unable to read and write. In that country a general code of regulations for schools has existed since 1817, and the condition of the primary education has, since that period, made a continuous and very satisfactory progress. Parochial schools are almost everywhere established, and here, as in Prussia, attendance at school is not optional, for by a late law all children from the age of seven to fourteen years must attend some public school. Children whose parents are unable to pay the usual school fees are educated at the public expense. The instruction in the primary schools includes, besides reading, writing, and arithmetic, history, geography, and natural history. In France, under the system adopted by M. Guizot, when Minister, by the statute of the 25th of April, 1834, upon the elementary schools, the instruction in these schools comprehends— I, moral and religious instruction; 2, reading; 3, writing; 4, the elements of arithmetic; 5, the elements of the French language; 6, the legal system of weights And measures; 7, geography, particularly of France; 8, history, particularly of France; 9, linear drawing; and 10, singing. Every elementary school is divided into three divisions, in which the pupils are ranged according to their age and the progress they make in their studies. The religious and moral instruction is the principal duty of the schoolmaster in each division, and all the classes commence and terminate with prayer. In Germany, generally, there is, it is said, the greatest desire among the lower classes that their children should enjoy the advantages of the excellent education provided for them. But the Governments of Wurtemburg, Hesse, Bavaria, &c., have not trusted entirely to this feeling, but have enacted regulations by which every individual is compelled to send his children to school from the age of six to fourteen years. In Hesse, for example—and its regulations are similar to those in the other States—the public functionaries transmit regularly to Government, once every six months, a list of the children in their respective districts who have attained their sixth year, and they are bound to see that they are sent to school. In the event of the pa- 652 rents being unable to pay the school fees, a statement to that effect is prepared by the parochial authorities, and the fees are paid by the public. In Holland there is scarcely a child ten years old, of sound intellect, who cannot both read and write. For these statements I am indebted to Mr. Kay's excellent work on the state of Education in Europe. I need not state to the House how perfect is the system of elementary instruction which prevails in America. I now come to England, and mark the contrast.
From the report of Mr. Mann, I find that there are 44,800 schools established in England and Wales, teaching as follows:—Reading, 98 per cent; writing, 68 per cent; arithmetic, only 61 per cent; English grammar, only 44 per cent; geography, only 39 per cent; music, 10 per cent; and industrial occupation, which, in my humble opinion, ought to be one of the primary objects of school training for the working classes, only 2 per cent! Such is the general character of the instruction afforded in this country. Now let me state to the House the condition even of the Church schools, and I shall do so upon the authority of the National Society as to their own establishments.
It appears that of the Church schools "not more than 30 per cent are legally secured for educational purposes; that 47 per cent of the whole are neither legally nor virtually so secured; that of the 47 per cent about 50 per cent are in dames' cottages, corners of churches, belfries, kitchens, or other rooms in parsonage-houses; and that the remainder are of an unsatisfactory character." This, remember, is an account given by the National Society of the Church schools in connection with them. Now, let me turn to the authority of Mr. Horace Mann with regard to the character of about 30,000 private schools out of the 44,000 to which I have adverted:—A rough attempt to classify, according to efficiency, the 29,425 private schools which sent returns, produced the following result:—superior, 4,956; 7,095; inferior, 13,879; undescribed, 3,495. The distinction, of course, is, in some measure arbitrary—the returns not always furnishing the means for an unhesitating judgment; but I believe it does not represent unfairly the actual state of things with reference to private schools.He adds these significant words:—In the case of 708 of these 13,879, the returns were respectively signed by the master or mistress with a mark.653 Thus in upwards of 700 out of these 13,800 inferior schools, or about 1-18th part of the whole, the masters or mistresses —the persons upon whom the efficiency of the school mainly depended—were unable to write their own names, and signed the returns for the purposes of the census with a mark! Can anything show more conclusively the miserable inferiority of the system in operation in this country? If you are disposed to console yourselves with the idea that you have one in eight and a fraction of the population of England at school, let me ask you to reflect what sort of schools they go to, whether the education they receive is one which ought to be offered to the people of this country, or whether it does not seem disgraceful to us when we compare that education with the instruction imparted in foreign countries, the particulars of which I have given to the House?
I must now turn to the deplorable results which have accrued from the insufficient character of the education imparted. When I shall have stated what these deplorable results are, I think it will be admitted that the attention of Parliament ought to be directed to the subject. First of all, I will touch for a moment upon a point, the importance of which will be acknowledged by every one who studies this question—namely, the connection between ignorance and crime. The House will be aware that it is difficult to obtain information upon this matter. Our own statistics of crime are very imperfect. We have annual returns of the trials at our sessions and assizes, but the returns of summary convictions are not regularly and annually prepared. The only foreign country with regard to which I have statistical returns of the state of crime is Austria, and I am obliged, in dealing with the case, to draw a comparison between different years. I find that in 1846, when the population of England was 17,018,600, the number of persons committed for trial was 25,107, and the number summarily convicted was 35,749, making altogether 60,856 persons convicted of crime. The population of Austria in the year 1838 was 23,652,000, and the detected crimes amounted to 29,492. The result was, therefore, that, while the population of Austria was upwards of 6,500,000 more than that of England, the detected crime in England was double that of Austria. In Galatia and Dalmatia, the least educated of the Austrian provinces, crime was 654 most prevalent. I give this statement for what it is worth, but it is a point which I could not omit, inasmuch as it shows that in Austria, which is one of the best educated countries in Europe, crime is greatly less than in England. In fact the difference is this, that in Austria 1 in 800 of the population is detected of crime, while in England about 3 in 800 are detected, making a difference of nearly three to one.
I will now give you some statistics connected with the state of education in the metropolis. In four parishes north of the Thames, — Stepney, St. George's-in-the-East, Bethnal Green, and Shoreditch —with a population of 358,601, I find that the total number of children is 44,824, out of which the total number at school, including ragged schools, is 18,897. In the four parishes of Lambeth, Newington, St. George's, Southwark, and Bermondsey, there is a population of 304,093, and the general result, taking the eight parishes together, is that there is a total population of 662,694, of which number, if one in six were at school, as there ought to be, there would be a total of 110,449 receiving education. I find, however, that the actual number at school, including ragged schools, is only 35,306, and, deducting 27,611, or one-fourth, for those educated in private schools, there still remains a balance in these eight parishes of 47,532 who receive no education at all. I can give the House no practical results of the ignorance which thus exists in London, but I think that those conversant with the subject and the state of the metropolis will have no very great difficulty in arriving at a conclusion as to what must be the state of 47,000 children in London who have no means of education held out to them.
I am now enabled to give the House some statistics of the state of education in the west of England, derived from official sources. In the Report of Mr. Ruddock, Inspector of Workhouse Schools, given in 1853, in reference to the counties of Cornwall, Devonshire, Somersetshire, Dorsetshire, and Hampshire, he states—The new children thus admitted were grossly and absolutely ignorant. I have been painfully struck with the uniformity of ignorance which is shown to prevail among the newly admitted in all the returns sent to me. It is not only that children of twelve to fifteen years of age cannot read or write, but they are not acquainted with the Creed, or with the Lord's Prayer, and scarcely know that there is a God in heaven. Personally, I have made inquiries in most of the uniour my district whether such cases were of frequent occurrence, and the invariable answer has been 655 that they are the rule and not the exception. The most complete and heathenish ignorance seems to prevail among the children of those whom a temporary pressure obliges to apply for parochial relief.Turning to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, I find that in the year 1851 that borough possessed a population of 87,000, and of this number 18,470 were children between the ages of five and fifteen. Mr. Stewart, one of the Government Inspectors, states in his official Report—For the education of this vast population there are but 119 schools, and only 28 of these are returned as public. In all the 119 schools there were only 7,553 children in attendance on the 31st of March, 1851, which leaves the enormous number of 11,447 children unaccounted for.Mr. Stewart subsequently adds—These statistics certainly tend to establish the opinion that neglected childhood and juvenile crime stand to each other in the relation of cause and effect.I will now give the House some statistics of the state of education derived from an entirely different source. Mr. Mitchell, one of the Government Inspectors, thought it his duty, as one mode of ascertaining the state of education in the eastern counties, to apply to the colonels of certain regiments of militia for information as to the state of education of their men. The regiments to which he applied were the Cambridge, the West Essex, the Essex Rifles, the Huntingdon Rifles, the East Norfolk, the West Norfolk, the Suffolk Artillery, and the West Suffolk. The aggregate number of militiamen was 5,677, and the only test applied in this case was whether or not the men could write their names. Out of the whole number of 5,677, only 2,051, or very little more than one-third, could write.
With respect to the state of education in the county of Worcester, I have applied for information to the chaplain of the county gaol—a gentleman upon whose authority I can implicitly rely; and he has given me a return, showing the education of the prisoners committed to Worcester Gaol from Michaelmas, 1853, to Michaelmas, 1854. The number committed during that period amounted to 1,118, of which number no less than 415 were totally ignorant, being altogether unable to read or write. The gentleman furnishing me with this information further states—The result of my experience is to fill me with sorrow at the woeful amount of gross ignorance on moral, religious, and useful subjects in the great majority of cases.656 That is the language of a gentleman of whose personal worth I can speak from long experience. I may now turn to the evidence of another gentleman, who, I believe, is known to many hon. Members of this House; at any rate by name. He has long devoted his attention to the welfare and improvement of the working classes, and he is, I believe, a man of the most unimpeachable character. I allude to the Rev. J. Clay, Chaplain of the Preston House of Correction. I hold in my hand one of Mr. Clays' Reports, and extracts from several others, and I find that in the Report of 1846 Mr. Clay writes thus—During three years' observation, the performance of my duty has brought me in contact with 1,733 men and boys, and 387 women and girls altogether unable to read; 1,301 men and boys, and 287 women and girls who knew not the name of the Sovereign; and 1,290 men and boys, and 293 women and girls so incapable of receiving moral or religious instruction that to speak to them of virtue, vice, iniquity, or holiness, was to speak to them in an unknown tongue.Mr. Clay has been in the habit of ascertaining the exact state of the education of prisoners in Preston Gaol, by submitting to them certain questions, and by his Report in 1849 it appears that of the 1,949 persons committed to that Gaol, 48 and a fraction per cent were unable to read; 41 and a fraction per cent were ignorant of the Saviour's name, and unable to read the Lord's Prayer; only 10 per cent. were acquainted with the elementary truths of religion; 67 per cent. were unable to name the months of the year; 61 per cent. were ignorant of the name of the Queen; 62 per cent were ignorant of the words "virtue" and "vice;" and 19 and a fraction per cent. were unable to count a hundred. I have before me Mr. Clay's Report of 1848, which presents the same general results. I was so struck—I may so struck with horror—on reading these tables, that I wrote to him to ask if there were no mistake, and if I could venture to state these startling facts to the House of Commons; and he wrote me back to say I might rely on their accuracy.
Sir, we are very prone in this country to boast of our institutions. We are very prone to boast of our representative system, and to imagine that we are setting an example to other nations. A little while ago we said, "If our army is not numerous, our military system is at least perfect." I think that dream has been somewhat rudely broken, and let us take care that in other matters of greater weight 657 and moment to the welfare of the people, instead of setting an example to the civilised world, we do not become a laughing-stock to the other nations of Europe.
What can be more discreditable to us as a nation than to have such a state of things existing as that which I have now detailed? Is it a state of things which we should bear with patience and say, "We are doing very well; we are making liberal grants; we have an active Committee of Council, and the percentage of 1851 is better than the percentage of 1833; let us be content." Can we honestly be content? Is it consistent with the duty of Parliament that we should be content? I for one, Sir, will not be content. However unfitted I may be for the task upon which for I have entered, I will say this, that if Parliament permits the continuance of such a condition of things as I have just disclosed it will be neglecting one of the first and most paramount duties of a Christian legislature. Is the state of the African savage, or the North American Indian, worse than the state of the men of whom I have spoken? These are not instances of individual cases here and there. We find in one year, in one gaol an aggregate of 800 persons who never heard the name of the Saviour. We find in one year, in one gaol, 1,200 persons who never heard the name of Queen Victoria. We find in one year, in one gaol, 1,300 persons who did not know the months of the year. This, Sir, is ignorance not of religion only, but of everything, both secular and religious, which can tend to elevate human beings and make them worthy of the name; and Mr. Clay is right when he declares, in one of his Reports, "it is worse than barbarism;" because, while these unhappy outcasts know nothing of a Saviour, while they have scarcely heard of the existence of a God, while in every branch of proper and useful knowledge, they are darkly ignorant, on the other hand, they are conversant with vice, they are familiar with crime, and they are steeped in debauchery; and these are the men who, when they transgress the laws of their country, are severely punished, though it is hardly just to consider them as responsible beings.
Well, Sir, and then I am sometimes told that frightful as this evil is, it is impossible to afford a remedy, and when I ask why, I am told it is because one man is a Churchman, and insists on teaching the Catechism, and another man is a Dissenter, and will not receive the Catechism. I 658 should like to know what these distinctions between Churchmen and Dissenters are to the hundreds, I may say thousands, of human beings who know nothing of even the primary truths of religion? Is it not a mockery? Is it not time we should try to discover some middle ground, on which Churchmen and Dissenters may meet, remembering the great cardinal doctrines of Christianity, in which they agree, and thinking more of them, than of those points of government and discipline upon which in many cases they chiefly differ. I do not ask the Churchman not to teach the Catechism. I am a Churchman myself and will not forego the Catechism. I do not ask the Dissenter to receive anything to which he objects; but I do ask, nay, I implore both Churchman and Dissenter to recollect the urgency of such a state of things as I have developed, and in a spirit of toleration and charity, to see if some mode cannot be adopted by which to spread knowledge amongst these miserable beings and teach them their duty to their country and their God.
These are the circumstances which have induced me to bring this subject before Parliament, and to propose a measure, the nature of which I will now explain. I do it with the greatest diffidence, knowing the difficulties by which the subject is surrounded, and, above all, I can assure the House I do it in no party sense, with no party object, and seeking no party triumph. On the contrary, I believe this subject will never be settled by the struggles of contending political parties, and it is my anxious desire to combine men of all opinions in the endeavour to solve this great question, and overcome a state of things which, I repeat, is dishonourable and discreditable to the country.
Although it is in my opinion one of the most doubtful points in my plan, I propose that the Bill shall be permissive. The noble Lord's Bill is also permissive. I confess I am not very fond of permissive legislation, and we have many instances in which legislation of that kind has not conduced to the public welfare; but, knowing the difficulties of the question, and not having the power which attaches to a Government, I thought it wiser to give the Bill that character.
I shall endeavour to assimilate the mode of proceeding with reference to education to the mode which has been adopted with such signal success with reference to the administration of the Poor Law. In my 659 humble opinion the noblest page in the statute book of England is that which says no man shall be destitute. I wish to see a parallel page in the statute book which shall say no man shall be ignorant.
The areas, within which the measure may be made operative are, in corporate towns, the limits of municipal jurisdiction, and, in the country, the limits of the poor law unions. I propose that it shall be optional to the rate-payers of each district whether they will or will not adopt the provisions of the Act, and the Public Libraries Bill of the hon. Member for Dumfries has afforded me a precedent by which facilities say be given for collecting votes. In the event of a decision to adopt the provisions of the Act, I propose that an education board for the union or town shall be chosen by the rate-payers at large.
I thereby propose, the House will observe, and I do so without the least apprehension or alarm, to place the general conduct of the education of the country in the hands of bodies popularly elected. In the United States that plan has been found to work perfectly well, and, having watched the operation of the Poor Law in this country, my experience has given me confidence in the general ability, discretion, and good feeling of boards thus popularly elected.
I think that as it has been done with regard to the Poor Laws, so, in this matter of education, it is most desirable that those who probably from their position in society exercise the greatest influence in their respective neighbourhoods should be members of such a board. I therefore have followed the precedent of the Poor Law, and I propose that to qualify a member to sit on the board he should be a person rated at 30l. per annum. I also propose that all the magistrates of the district shall be ex officio members of the board. I then propose that the board shall have power to provide schools where necessary, to superintend the general education of the district, and to levy a rate for defraying the expense of maintaining the education of the people in that district. I propose that there shall be an education rate levied by these boards, and that the expenditure of that rate shall be intrusted to the boards, under the provisions of the Act, and I likewise propose that the boards shall act under the general superintending authority of the Central Education Department, as boards of guardians act under the Poor Law Commission.
660 This brings me to that question which I hope will meet with the most serious consideration of the House, as it has engaged mine for a long time; it is this, whether we can carry on the education of the country, or rather, I should say, whether we can improve or extend it in the manner in which it ought to be done, upon the voluntary system.
I have thought much of this subject, and I think that the more we know of it the more general has become the conviction that by the voluntary principle alone we cannot educate the people of this country as they ought to be educated; you can no more do it, than you can carry on a great war or defray all the annual expenses of the Government by a voluntary contribution instead of taxation. I might here give you abundant authorities in support of that view of the subject from persons well qualified to speak on the matter. But is it not the fact that one and all of us are almost daily receiving begging letters alleging the want of schools for the poor in localities of the writers? As a specimen, I have brought down the last letter of this description which I have myself received. It is from the incumbent of Eldon district, Sheffield, and runs thus—Sir, I beg leave to inform you that having been appointed to the newly-formed district of Eldon, Sheffield, containing a population of 5,500 souls, I built a church, which was consecrated in June, 1849, but it is still without a tower, and I have no schools built for the accommodation of the young. Chartism and infidelity avow in all directions their dangerous principles. The young grow up in ignorance and vice. The temptations of a large manufacturing town are felt in numberless ways. Under these circumstances, I am anxious to complete the work I have begun, and to raise a school for the reception of daily and Sunday scholars; but local resources are few and scanty.All I can say is, that the local resources ought not to be few and scanty. I do not know anything of this Eldon district, but I know this, that if this district requires a church it must require a school—there must be the young to educate and to train; and I say that Eldon district ought to do it without resorting to these begging letters. I impute no blame to the individual clergymen who make these appeals, quite the reverse; they are right, the fault is not theirs; but it is discreditable to the nation to have these begging letters going about the country. I hold in my hand an extract from the Report of the Rev. Mr. Kennedy, in which he sums up his views on this great subject in these words— 661There are ten propositions on the subject which my observation leads me to affirm:—1. Elementary schools in general are not, at this time, being adequately maintained. 2. There is not a fair prospect, on the present system, that they will have a sufficient annual income. 3. On the contrary, there is, in a majority of places, a decline of income. 4. The endeavours to obtain yearly contributions to schools are harassing and vexatious, and the means sometimes resorted to for raising funds, such as high fees, and scales of fees, are injurious to the schools. 5. There is a painful and injurious uncertainty about the efficient maintenance of schools, also pernicious fluctuations of income, arising from such causes as the death of a benevolent landed proprietor, or of a liberal millowner, or the loss of a good master, undoing in a moment the work of years, and causing flourishing schools to fall into decay. 6. Many districts are absolutely unable from poverty to maintain good schools without extraneous annual aid. 7. In districts where there is no absolute deficiency of money, or even where there is wealth, the schools are often suffered to languish, from parsimony, or from indifference, and from hostility to education. 8. It is desirable to abate the jealousies and ill feeling often at present engendered among different religious denominations by contests for subscriptions to schools, &c., and to enable every deserving school to have an independent income. 9. It is often very desirable, but not feasible through want of means, to admit some of the scholars free to schools; and, in some cases, wholly free schools are requisite. 10. The above-named evils cannot be remedied, nor the wants supplied, by any other means than by a rate for education.We cannot go on as we are. The voluntary system has broken down. It is harassing and vexatious, as Mr. Kennedy says, and the only legitimate mode in which you can provide education for the people is by calling upon the people to contribute a rate for it. Therefore, that is one power which I propose to devolve on these boards so to be elected. They shall have power to levy a rate for the purpose of carrying on the education of the people; but I ought to add that I think these rates ought to be assisted by public grants from the Consolidated Fund. I do not think the whole burden of education ought to be thrown upon the local rate. I propose, therefore, that where the locality is called upon to provide a certain amount by rate, the public fund of the country shall contribute a fixed proportionate amount. I think this proposition is not only fair in itself, but is perfectly consistent with the course hitherto sanctioned and adopted by Parliament.
I now come to another point to which I beg the particular attention of the House. I fear that upon this point, perhaps more than any other, the proposal I intend to make may lead to differences of opinion. 662 But I have made up my mind, after the most anxious attention I have been able to give to the subject, that the education of the people ought to be free. I propose that in all the new schools which shall be established under these boards the scholars shall be free; and I propose that, in the case of scholars who may be sent by the board to existing schools no charge shall be made for the education of those scholars. I am aware that this is a point upon which great difference of opinion may prevail; but the more I have considered it the less weight do I attach to the objections raised against it. One argument, and, I think, the weakest though the commonest of all, is, that the poor do not value education unless they pay for it. I hold this to be not only a weak argument in itself, but that it is absolutely inconsistent with human nature. I should like to know what man there is in any class of society who when told he may get a good thing for nothing would refuse to accept it. I never heard of such a person; nor do I believe there exists any such feeling in the minds of the people in regard to free education. If I offer to a labourer a cottage rent free, does that man feel offended, and say he will not take it? If, indeed, I offered an industrious man a ruined cottage, he might fairly say, "I am very much obliged to you, but your cottage is good for nothing, and I would rather pay rent for a good one." And this is the nature of the present feeling as to free education. The feeling arises from two facts—one is, that the only known free education in this country is connected with endowed schools, the greater part of which are very inferior in their quality; and the other is, that, as education is now conducted, the people connect the idea of free education with pauperism, and, therefore, from these two causes they are disinclined to free education. But we must recollect that the education of the poor is not a question relating only to the welfare of individuals themselves, but affects the interest of all classes. It is the interest of the State that the people shall be well educated, and every precedent of free education is strongly in its favour.
Let me call the attention of the House to the example of the United States, and show it what actually occurred on this very question of free education at Philadelphia. In 1835 the state of education there was very similar to that we have now in England. The inferior schools were free schools, but 663 the great majority of the respectable citizens sent their children to private schools, and the result was that in the free schools there were only 9,346 scholars. A change then took place, these schools were placed on a different footing, and instead of remaining inferior became superior schools; the elementary education given was good, the masters were not masters who could not just write their names, but were fit for their occupation, and the effect of the reform was, that in Philadelphia private schools were almost superseded, and, instead of there being only 9,346 scholars at the free schools, there were, in 1845, only ten years after the change, 36,665, and in 1852, 49,630. The most complete success attended the experiment, and the great bulk of the children of all classes met, as they ought to do, and received their education in common at the free school. The increase in the number of children in the public schools, after they were deprived of their pauper character, was astonishing, and offered a complete answer to the objections which had been frequently urged against free schools, proving distinctly that neither apathy on the one hand, nor a feeling of inferiority upon the other, will prevent the bulk of the people from availing themselves of the common school system. What happened in New York? In that city this question of free schools, or no free schools, became a subject of discussion and division, and so strongly was the public feeling excited on the occasion, that it was actually put to the vote, and the population of the State of New York, by an overwhelming majority, decided that there should be no payment; and I believe I am right when I state, that at the present time 700,000 scholars are deriving benefits from the free schools of New York, amounting to a proportion of one in five of the population.
Then, again, what has occurred in other countries? There can be no better educated country than Austria, but the education there is free; in Holland, also, the education is entirely free, and my belief is, that if you will make it free in this country you will avoid great difficulties, promote the interests of the kingdom, and the whole system will be sounder and better than if you persist in exacting the school pence. There are countries, it is true, in which the free-school system does not altogether exist, but in all those countries a certain proportion of the schools are free, and I appeal to the House whether in this coun- 664 try there would not arise very great practical difficulty in endeavouring to draw the line between those who should and those who should not pay? The persons who had to decide would give great dissatisfaction, a feeling of pride on one hand, and pauperism on the other, would inevitably be created, and the only safe plan is to make education entirely free. But the House will feel that, whatever may be the importance of this point, or the difficulties with which it may be connected, it does not essentially affect the scheme I have to propose. The House may strike it out, or adopt it, without destroying the measure, but I thought it right to explain to the House my views upon it.
Another and very important point in this Bill is, that in no instance whatever will it interfere with existing schools or existing interests. We must not, in our wish for improvement or extension, lose sight of the progress education has already made in this country. In many instances that progress has arisen from the agency of private benevolence, and it would be neither wise nor generous to attempt to check it. On that point I have to state distinctly that my proposal will interfere with no existing schools, it will be entirely optional whether they come into the unions or not, and even if they do I will respect existing schools upon two conditions, which I believe to be indispensable—the one is, that the school shall submit to a periodical and satisfactory inspection; and the other, that it shall be subject to the provisions of the Act with regard to religious teaching.
I have now touched upon all the provisions which I propose in this Bill, except, perhaps, the most important of all. On that subject I assure the House I feel great delicacy, and I hope it will grant me its indulgence while I frankly and explicitly state the view I take. I must venture to ask the House calmly to consider whether the dreadful state of things to which I have adverted, and which I believe to be true, does not demand improvement; and I ask them, too, to approach this religious difficulty—for it is to that, of course, I allude—in a spirit of forbearance and moderation. There can be no doubt this country is divided into two distinct parties on that question, one of which insists upon the imperative necessity of religious instruction, and the other on what is called the secular system. I avow that I am attached to the first of these two divisions. 665 Now, Sir, let me say I do not clearly understand what the secular system really is; whether those who advocate it contend that religious teaching should be altogether abandoned in the national schools, or whether the Holy Scriptures alone should be admitted, and all teaching upon doctrinal points excluded. However that may be, I must implore the advocates of the secular system to reflect on certain facts, which facts we must deal with, and which neither I nor any man can deny or get rid of. First of all, we have the existing fact that there is an Established Church in this country, and, further, that an immense majority of the people of this country are attached to it. [Slight murmurs.] I hear murmurs from hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I perfectly understand their meaning; but I beg the House to believe that in dealing with this part of the subject I am actuated by the most single-minded object. I know it is a question whether the aggregate numbers of the Church exceeds the aggregate of Dissenters, and I know that that question turns upon the mode in which you dispose of a certain number of millions of the population whom the Census does not class either as Churchmen or Dissenters. There remains, however, this fact, which cannot be denied—that the Church is in an overwhelming majority as compared with any other single denomination. This must, therefore, be considered as an element of the question, and I may remind hon. Gentlemen of the actual proportion of schools at the present time. I find from the Census returns that the total number of day schools supported by religious bodies is 12,708. Of this number the Church schools are no less than 10,555, while the number of Independent schools is 453, of Roman Catholic schools 339, of Wesleyan schools 381, and the rest of the schools are supported by various other denominations of Dissenters. Out of some 12,700 day schools established in this country, therefore, no less than 10,500 are in connection with the Church of England. I make no boast of this; I merely state it as a matter of fact. In dealing with this subject we must consider, not only the position of the Established Church, but the feeling of the country. Now, without raising the question as to whether the secular system of education is good or bad, but assuming for the moment that it is the best that could be adopted, my belief is that if you attempted to force that system upon the public of this country they would reject it 666 by a large majority. If, then, we wish to remedy the fearful evils which exist, let us, as men of sense, consider not only what is desirable, but what is practicable. Your first duty, as men of business, legislating for a great empire, is to consider the feelings of the people. If the feeling of the people of England is, as I believe it to be, against the secular system, and in favour of the teaching of religion in the schools, I would say to those who think the secular system the best, "If that system be even as good as you think it is, have you the power of forcing it upon the people against their will?" For my own part I believe that you have not. We then arrive at this point—how can we reconcile this religious teaching, with which I believe the country at large will not dispense, with the most scrupulous regard for the conscientious opinions of individuals? This object I desire to effect by the Bill I have prepared, and if, when hon. Members see that measure, they should think the intention is not carried out, I can only say that I shall be most willing to consider any suggestions which they may offer. I wish to provide for religious teaching, but at the same time to pay the most scrupulous regard to the feelings and opinions of individuals.
I propose that schools in connection with every religious denomination recognised by the Committee of Council—be they Church, or Baptist, or Presbyterian, or Wesleyan—wherever they exist, shall be equally entitled to claim the benefit of the rate, but subject to this most important and indispensable condition—that no child shall be excluded from any school on account of his religious creed. I propose that no Church school shall receive the benefit of the rate unless its conductors consent to receive dissenting children, without forcing upon them the religious instruction of the Church. I propose, also, that children belonging to the Church shall be received into dissenting schools, and that every school shall receive the children resident in its neighbourhood without imposing upon them the religious creed of the founders of such school. Well, this broad rule will dispose of all existing schools; but, then, I come to the important question of supplying the educational deficiences which are admitted to exist by the erection of new schools. I have been told that my Bill would be more favourably considered if I did not provide for the establishment of new schools; but I rejected that proposal, and if the House 667 chooses to omit this portion of the measure, the responsibility will rest with them.
In discharging the duty which I Lave undertaken, I will not take the responsibility of submitting to Parliament a measure avowedly incomplete; and I hold that, in the present state of education, any measure would be incomplete that did not provide for the establishment of new schools. The question then arises, what is to be the nature of the religious teaching in these new schools? My proposal is, that the religious teaching of the new schools shall be in accordance with the religion of the majority of the persons in the districts in and for which they are established. Is this fair, or is it not? If the majority of any district in which a school is erected should be in connection with the Established Church, the teaching in that school will be in accordance with the religious doctrines of the Church, subject to the rule that dissenting children shall be admitted, without being compelled to receive instruction in Church doctrines. If, however, the majority of a district in which a new school is established should belong to any other religious creed, I would respect the feelings of that majority, and I propose that the religious teaching should be in accordance with the creed of the majority, subject to the rule I have already mentioned, that all scholars belonging to the Established Church, or to any other denomination in the district, should be received into the school. But to avoid local disputes and struggles, I shall propose that in all such cases the religious teaching of the school shall be decided by the Committee of Council for Education. Now, what alternative is there if this scheme is not adopted? I wish more particularly to address myself to those Gentlemen who are anxious to adopt the American system in this country. A very large meeting for the promotion of education was held at Manchester at the commencement of last year, and on that occasion I find that the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) strongly advocated the secular system, and used these expressions—He could not see any connection necessarily between religion and arithmetic, for example, or between the doctrines of Christianity and any of those other matters which formed the ordinary branches of education. He admitted, of course, that if a man was thoroughly educated—and, speaking in a Christian country, he might add, if he was a complete Christian man—he must not only have that instruction which was to be obtained in the ordinary routine of schools, but 668 he must also have, from some source or other, a training and instruction in matters of higher moment; but then, there was no sort of connection between the teaching of religion and the teaching of those things as regarded the place where they or the teacher by whom they were taught.I cannot attach too much importance to this statement of the hon. Member for Manchester. If there are hon. Gentlemen in this House who contend that religion has nothing to do with education, and that we should teach no religion to children, I can only say that with them I have nothing in common; to them I make no appeal. But I here find a distinct recognition by the hon. Member for Manchester of the extreme importance of teaching religion to children as part of their education. The question, then, as between us, becomes narrow and simple. It is merely by whom and where shall this religious education be given? The hon. Member for Manchester, in a subsequent part of his speech, threw some light upon his views on this subject. He said—The question was, why was it that a system which was established in America, which everybody applauded, which all persons submitted to with probably greater satisfaction than they subscribed any other State impost whatever, could not be transplanted into one of our towns?We have, then, the opinion of the hon. Member for Manchester—first, that religion must be taught; and, secondly, that it should be taught by the adoption of the American system. And I will ask the hon. Gentleman to meet me in a spirit of candour, and tell me, can the American system be adopted in this country? The House will, in the first place, remember that in America there is no Established Church; and, secondly, that the different religious sects are distributed with much greater equality of numbers than in this country. No one sect greatly predominates in the United States. But, above all, let me remind the House of the mode and manner in which the teaching of religion to children is secured. We have valuable information on this subject from an able and distinguished gentleman, known to many Members of this House. Mr. Twiselton visited the United States, and gave great attention to the religious teaching in the common schools. He addressed certain questions to some of the most distinguished men in New England. Mr. Twiselton's work is entitled Evidence as to the Religious Working of the Common Schools in the State of Massachusetts. He addressed certain questions to Mr. 669 Webster, Mr. Everett, Mr. Bancroft, Mr. Winthrop, and other distinguished persons, inquiring what the system of teaching religion was in the State of Massachusetts, and how it worked. Firstly, whether it was found that the masters departed from the understanding, and forced their views upon the scholars; and, above all, whether the system answered. These gentlemen were asked, "Is it within your knowledge that, apart from the common schools, the children educated in them do practically receive instruction in the tenets of the religious denominations to which they respectively belong?" The answers to this question were all in the affirmative. There is no distinctive religious teaching in the common schools, but all the children receive elsewhere distinctive religious teaching according to the tenets of the faith to which they respectively belong. The question, then, is, how did they get it? And the answer is, "in two modes." It is chiefly taught them at home, or is taught them at the Sunday schools. Now, I will appeal to those Gentlemen who advocate the adoption of the American system in England, and let me ask, will they trust to the teaching of religion to the children of England at their homes? What is the home of thousands of those to whom I have alluded in Devonshire and Lancashire, and other counties? Many of the children in these homes have never heard the name of the Saviour, and they scarcely know the existence of God. This is England, but not America. You cannot compare the State of a young country like America, where the population is scant, where work is abundant, where poverty is almost unknown, with England, where we have a dense population, a pauper population, where education has been long neglected, and where the results are such as I have described to-night. If you acknowledge—and the hon. Member for Manchester does acknowledge—that religion must be taught, then you may derive additional confirmation in your views by reflecting that in all the countries of Europe the first item in the educational code is religious instruction. Will you contend that where a population so debased, so ignorant, and so irreligious, as exists around us, is growing up and increasing each year, the wretched parents can teach their children as much religion as they ought to have? No! it these children are not taught religion in your schools, depend upon it they will not be taught at all.
670 Well, Sir, but I may fortify my views by examples which I hope the House will not disregard. I will give examples of different countries, of Protestant and Roman Catholic countries. The first is Austria. There, according to Mr. Kay—The Roman Catholic, as the national religion, is that taught in the schools of Austria; but dissenters from this form of faith are neither excluded nor separated, nor are they required to engage in the religious services or peculiar ecclesiastical learning in those schools. In the Roman Catholic schools, the Jews, as well as the Protestants, and other Dissenters, arrive one hour after, and leave one hour before the other pupils, these two hours being occupied with religious services and instruction, such as was attempted in this country some years ago. There are other non-Catholic schools, particularly in Transylvania and the military frontier, Gallicia, Moravia, and Silesia, Bohemia, and Cathia, amounting to 2,037 primary schools, the religious instruction of which is in accordance with the creed of these countries, the oversight of which is committed to the clergy of each particular denomination.Here, in Austria, a Roman Catholic country, is adopted exactly the system which I have ventured to recommend for England—namely, the teaching of the religion of the majority, with perfect toleration for the opinions of the minority. I will now read an account of the schools of Switzerland—In the majority of these schools the members of the different religious sects are received with a willingness and with a Christian charity which puts to shame our religious intolerance. … Those who differ in faith from the master of the school are allowed to absent themselves from the doctrinal lessons given in the school, and are required to attend one of their own clergy for the purpose of receiving from him their doctrinal instruction. Even in Friburg, a canton governed by Catholic priests, who are themselves under the influence or the Jesuits, Protestants may be found mingled with the Catholics in the schools, and are allowed to absent themselves during the hours of religious lessons; and in Argovie, a canton which has lately so distinguished itself by its opposition to the Jesuits of Lucerne, I found that several of the professors in the normal school were Catholics, and that the utmost tolerance was manifested to all the Catholics attending the cantonal schools,Here you have Roman Catholic countries and Protestant countries, and in Switzerland, Protestant cantons and Catholic cantons, all adopting this rule of teaching the religion of the locality, but receiving other denominations with all respect for their religious feelings. In France the same system prevails.It was long debated in France how the difficulties arising from religious differences should be overcome,—whether they should attempt to 671 establish separate schools for all the different sects of Christianity; whether they should open the schools to all these various sects and banish front them all religious instruction; or whether they should open the schools to the different Christian persuasions, and commit the management of each to a master chosen from the most numerous sect in the department or commune of which it was the normal or elementary school.… They (therefore) adopted the third alternative, and resolved to place each of the normal schools of the different departments, and each of the primary schools of the different communes, under the management of a teacher selected from the most numerous Christian sect in the department or commune in which the school is situated. They further arranged that the parents who differed in religion from the master or director of the school should have the power of requiring their children to absent themselves during the period of religious instruction. … So far from religious education being overlooked in France, it is constantly referred to in the different decrees on the subject of education as of the most deep and momentous importance; and the religious education and moral character of the candidate masters are strictly examined into before they can receive their brevets de capacité enabling them to conduct primary schools.I have on several other occasions drawn the attention of the House to the signal success of the laudable exertions of the present Bishop of Manchester when at the head of that splendid school—King Edward's school at Birmingham—one of the best and largest educational establishments in this kingdom. The teaching of that school is that of the Church of England, but no Dissenting child has the doctrine of the Church forced upon him. The consequence is, that there are no denominations of Christians who do not freely and willingly come to participate in the benefits of King Edward's School at Birmingham, and religious difficulty and dissensions are unknown. At this moment the same system is going on at this school, and is contributing to the welfare of the great town of Birmingham. Well, Sir, let me ask, why is it that the system that gets over this great difficulty in France, in Austria, and in Switzerland, and which has been tried with success in some instances at home, is not good for general adoption? I shall be glad to hear an answer to this question. This principle seems to me to solve the difficulty, and if you approach it in the right spirit I see no reason why the difficulty should not be overcome. In a very large number of Church schools connected with the National Society the Catechism is not now insisted upon in the case of dissenting children. Such is the practice in many parts of England, and I hope that we may see it generally adopted 672 throughout the country; for I am convinced that the only result of endeavouring to force any particular creed upon reluctant children will be, not to make them adopt that creed, but to drive them from the schools.
I will not longer detain the House. I have now explained the mode in which I propose to draw my Bill if the House will permit me to introduce it, and I have explained the manner in which, in my opinion, the difficulties which have hitherto beset this great and important question may be overcome. That Bill may, and probably will be, unsuccessful; but I feel a deep conviction that year by year the momentous nature of this question will become more apparent, and that ere long it must be settled upon principles similar to those which I have ventured to explain. Sir, I am willing to incur the risk of failure in a cause which I believe to be so important. I am willing to incur even more than the risk of failure. I am confident that by my own friends I shall be told that I have gone too far. Churchmen will say that I have conceded too much, and Dissenters that I have conceded not enough. I have endeavoured, however, with a single-minded object to deal with the question in a spirit of perfect justice and fairness to all, and in that spirit exclusively I venture to ask leave to introduce this Bill. Be its fate what it may, be the consequences to myself what they may, I can only say that it will always remain to me a matter of satisfaction that I have endeavoured to make same contribution to a cause upon which I most conscientiously believe that the character and future welfare of this country essentially depend.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the better encouragement and promotion of Education in England."
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he could not give in his adhesion to the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman. He would like to see some portion of the national taxation applied to the improvement and extension of education, but not in the way proposed. He attached very little importance to the statistics quoted by the right hon. Baronet, so far as they related to the system of education. The past thirty or forty years had shown the great efficacy of voluntary efforts. The right hon. Gentleman had claimed a preponderance of the Established Church in the matter of education, but how had he 673 come to ignore Sunday schools, in which no less than 4,500,000 children were taught? Taking day schools along with them, there were upwards of 4,000,000 children receiving education. And the great fact ought to be proclaimed everywhere, that there were 260,000 voluntary teachers engaged in Sunday schools, without any remuneration whatever. Of the 4,500,000 children taught in Sunday schools, he believed not more than one-fourth belonged to the Church of England. There was the greatest anxiety on the part of parents to get their children into those schools; and he did not believe that if day schools were supported by rates, there would be any great increase of the children under instruction. When the Manchester Bill was introduced, it had been shown that there was no lack of schools; the difficulty was to get children to attend them. There was a common object among all parties in that House to promote education; but he doubted whether it could be done merely by levying taxes in its support. Such a system was calculated to weaken the efforts of voluntaries in all parts of the country. He should peruse the Bill of the right hon. Baronet with great attention, but he would protest in the outset against the principle of a compulsory tax for educational purposes. He thought that voluntary efforts, properly regulated, were sufficient to provide for the educational wants of the country.
Sir, it would be equally difficult and superfluous in me to follow my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Pakington) through the vast variety of important details which he has discussed at such length. I do not intend to attempt it; but I wish to take this earliest opportunity of expressing, in the strongest and most decided manner, my approval of and adhesion to the general principle upon which my right hon. Friend attempts to settle this question. I think the present is a time eminently favourable to such a settlement. The state of public feeling upon the subject is in many respects different to what it was a few years ago. There is, Sir, a growing inclination and desire upon all sides to effect some compromise—to consent to some sacrifices of opinion—with a view of passing a measure of which the want is yearly more and more felt, and which shall be practically effective. Everything points to such a result. Theories, which a few years ago had great currency, have, after frequent 674 discussion both in and out of the House, been condemned by public opinion. For instance, there is the voluntary system, which a few years ago was much more popular than it is now. Now, I am not going to argue upon the principle of the voluntary system, but I am considering how far it can practically be adopted. We have had Education Bills emanating from every section of the House, and I think it is impossible to look at their results without seeing that the purely voluntary principle is now supported but by a very small minority. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. W. J. Fox), five years ago, introduced an Education Bill founded upon the secular system. The noble Lord the present Colonial Secretary (Lord John Russell) two years ago, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich in the course of this evening, have each submitted propositions founded on a different principle. All these three measures, differing in many respects, agree in this, that they recognise the principle of State interference. That principle, therefore, is practically recognised by a large majority, both in the House and out of doors. I think, then, I may assume that we have got rid of any practical proposition founded upon the purely voluntary principle. Well, then, in respect to a purely secular system—and I am not about to argue that question at the present moment—I know that a strong feeling exists in the minds of some persons in favour of that principle. For my own part I must say I have seen so much mischief done amongst the labouring population by the state of gross and utter ignorance in which they remained, that I hope I shall be pardoned in saying that I am disposed to support almost any feasible plan which would give them the elements of knowledge, and enable them to acquire useful information. I do not object to the secular system upon any ground of principle, but I think that in the present generation, and in the present temper of the country, it would be utterly impossible to carry out such a system. In the first place, you would have the clergy of every denomination against you. In England and Wales there are, in the ranks of the clergy, some 15,000 able, active, educated men, all exercising considerable influence in their respective localities, and possessing at this moment a great and deserved influence and control over the education of the people. Not only the clergy, but the feeling of a great mass 675 of the laity, is against any system of education which does not include some mixture of religious teaching. There may be some persons so convinced of the superiority of a secular system that, for the sake of the advantages it might bring with it, they would be willing to wait even ten or fifteen years to see it established. Well, that is not the view I take of the question. I look to the present state of public feeling and public opinion; I see that some system must be adopted, and I believe the only system that will be successful is one which is, to a certain extent, denominational. Well, then, assuming these two principles, namely, the principle of State interference and of religions teaching, it remains for us to see what other requisites are necessary for an efficient educational measure. I think you will require to have in your system a full recognition of, and a satisfactory means of co-operation with, the various schools that are actually in existence. I do not think that any educational scheme will work successfully that undertakes the removal of the existing schools, and proposes to establish an educational system de novo. At the same time I am fully aware of the inefficiency of the existing means of education. I own that the existing schools are deficient both in number and quality; still we must admit that they do in a manner give instruction to a large portion of the population. To go no further than this fact, there are a great many persons who feel a deep interest in them, and who believe that they are doing a vast amount of good. Now, I am satisfied that any system which would propose to sweep those schools away would meet with such opposition that it could not pass through Parliament. Well, now, then, let us see what my right hon. Friend proposes to do for the schools that are actually in existence. In every way his measure will be permissive, and not compulsory. If all or any of the existing schools stand aloof from accepting his measure, they will remain precisely in the same position as they were in before the Bill passed. If they are willing to accept the aid held out by my right hon. Friend's measure, they will be permitted to do so on two conditions, which are of a simple and reasonable nature. The one is that of periodical inspection—a condition to which, I apprehend, there will be no objection. Indeed, such a provision follows almost as a necessary consequence from the principle of Govern- 676 ment assistance. Nothing can be more just than that those who contribute funds towards the support of local schools should possess the means of ascertaining that their money has been satisfactorily distributed. That is a point which I think will not be disputed. Well, but the other condition of my right hon. Friend is perhaps of a more important and doubtful character—my right hon. Friend proposes to make religious teaching in all schools optional, and not compulsory. I believe that if you are to have denominational schools—and I assume that I have shown them to be absolutely necessary—it is only by such a provision as this that you can reconcile their existence as schools supported by the State, with common equity and justice to the various religious sects. A purely denominational system of education, made compulsory, would necessarily be productive of great unfairness to those sects that are small in number, whose members are scattered, and who would not have an opportunity of establishing a school of their own. If, then, you would do justice towards such religious communities, it is not enough to give the means for the establishment of a school, but you must also have some legislative provision to allow the schools belonging to the various sects to partake of the general advantages of your education, and this you can only do by dispensing with the attendance of the dissenting children during the time of religious instruction. Although I listened with great interest to my right hon. Friend's statement upon this point, I am not quite sure how far my right hon. Friend means to go in this direction; but I have no hesitation in saying that you will not be able to carry out this principle unless you lay it down broadly that the attendance upon all religious teaching is to be optional with the parents of the children. I do not think there can be any well-grounded objection against the principle of such an arrangement. I respect the feelings of a man who claims religious equality for himself, but I do not understand, and not understanding perhaps I do not respect, the feelings of those who will not allow any children to frequent their schools, unless those upon whom they can force their own religious teaching. I have little doubt but that my right hon. Friend's proposition upon this point will meet with opposition from various quarters. Of course, it will not satisfy those who desire to see a purely secular system established, 677 nor yet those who adhere to one strictly denominational. But the principle, after all, is analogous to—I do not say identical with—that which for twenty years has worked successfully in Ireland, and of which the justice and fairness are now generally recognised. As to that part of my right hon. Friend's measure in which he proposes the establishment of new schools, I confess I think that it is open to serious objection. I am not insensible to the urgent necessity for the establishment of such schools which exists in many districts. I quite allow that the plan of making the religious teaching in each school depend on the tenets of the majority in that locality is the fairest and most acceptable that, under the circumstances, could be devised. Although, however, it is so fair and so equitable, that there may be no reasonable ground of complaint against it, still, I think, wherever you found new and free schools with the public money, and diffuse religious teaching upon the children there, there will be a good deal of angry feeling produced, and such a controversy will arise as will, in the majority of cases, render the success of your experiment doubtful. But that is not, after all, an integral part of my right hon. Friend's proposition; it is simply a provision which, if the House thinks objectionable, it can remove without in any way affecting the general principle of the measure. The Bill of my right hon. Friend will not compel any locality to pay for such schools; it will simply empower a majority of the inhabitants of a locality to establish them if such majority shall think fit. I regard that provision as particularly important (I mean the purely permissive character of the measure), because there are many persons who altogether object to any State interference in the matter of education, and contend that such an interference would practically amount to a system of centralisation. I can conceive that there are localities in which the system of free schools would be more desirable. I can also conceive that there are other parts of the country where the inhabitants are quite ready to pay the school fees, and therefore where free schools are not required. But what I dwell upon is, that this Bill, while giving assistance out of the funds of the State, in no way discourages, but on the contrary encourages and stimulates, the efforts of public bodies in various parts of the country, and also the efforts of private indi- 678 viduals. You recognise here the various principles which I believe to be necessary for a successful system of education. You recognise the principle of State assistance. You recognise the principle of religious teaching. You recognise the principle of including existing schools in your system. And, above all, you recognise the principle of local government and self-management. These, I hold, are principles upon which any measure of this kind, to be successful, must be founded. The rest of the Bill, important as it is, is comparatively matter of detail, which we shall have ample opportunity of discussing by and by. We are dealing now with the principle only; that principle I believe to be sound, and I know no other on which it will be practically possible to carry out a measure of education. I am much encouraged by observing that there is comparatively little difference in point of principle between the Bill of my right hon. Friend and that proposed by a noble Lord on the other side of the House (Lord J. Russell). And if the noble Lord who lately presided over the department of education should be able in the present Session to bring in his measure, I think that that measure and the measure of my right hon. Friend might well be referred to the same Committee with a view to their amalgamation. There are certainly no such differences of opinion as should prevent that course being adopted; and I hope that, as a result, we shall ultimately be able, not only to settle finally this question of education, but to settle it in a manner that will meet with the concurrence of a large majority both in this House and in the country.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I presume, Sir, the House will not at present be called upon to express a decided opinion on the measure which has been laid before them in detail by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich. I am desirous, on the part of the Government, to state that they give their willing assent to the introduction of this measure; and I am sure the House will agree with me in thinking that the right hon. Gentleman who has brought it forward is entitled to great credit for the spirit in which he has approached the subject, and for the comprehensiveness and liberality of his scheme. I only wish I could feel sanguine as to the proposed measure proving an effectual remedy for that defect in the education of the large body of the people which we all 679 admit at present to exist. The right hon. Gentleman himself did not speak in a sanguine tone of its success, but I am certain that the discussion which the introduction of the measure will give rise to will be most useful and productive of great advantage. With regard to the basis on which the right hon. Gentleman has proceeded, I to a great extent agree with him, without pledging myself to all the statistics to which he has referred as showing the want of education among a large portion of the lower classes. Without drawing exactly the same inferences from those statistics, I still think that we must admit that there is a great portion of the children of the lower classes throughout this country who receive a very imperfect education, while there is a still larger portion who, there is every reason to believe, receive no education at all, but who are brought up in ignorance, the parent of crime, if, indeed, they are not actually trained by their parents to crime, in order to enable them to profit from the immediate fruits of the nefarious gains of their children. This is a state of things it must be admitted by all to be most discreditable to a Christian country. I must advert to one point which escaped the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and which I believe to be most important. In comparing the statistics of education in this country with those of continental countries, he did not appear to bear in mind that in this country we have never adopted—and I doubt whether we are prepared to adopt—a compulsory system. I do not mean compulsory as regards the rate, but as regards the attendance of the children, and the penalties inflicted on parents for not enforcing such attendance. I believe this compulsory system prevails in America and in several continental countries. I do not see how we are to adopt it, but I am afraid that until we do we shall see that, notwithstanding increased provision for education, there will still be an indifference to education among a large portion of the community; and we must be prepared to see a large proportion of children remain uneducated. The right hon. Gentleman, however, has ample grounds for bringing this subject before the House, and he has given great consideration to the means of remedying the deficiency in the existing means for the education of the people. I quite agree with him that the voluntary system has failed to accomplish that object. It has done a great 680 deal, and I by no means wish to undervalue the laudable exertions of those by whose voluntary efforts schools have been established and supported; but I am convinced that the voluntary system has not kept pace with the wants of our increasing population, and that it has utterly failed adequately to supply the defect in the education of the people which has been proved to exist. I was a Member of the Committee to which the Manchester and Salford Bill was referred. We there received much information on this subject. There were before that Committee three parties—the advocates of the voluntary system, those who approved the Manchester and Salford scheme, and those who advocated the secular system of education. The two latter agreed in the necessity of additional means of education, and in the principle of making a rate for this purpose; but the point on which they diverged was as to the mode of applying the money. With regard to the principle of rating I agreed with the majority of that Committee, that it was, under certain circumstances, in certain districts, desirable to supply increased means of education by a rate; but I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman will find, as we did, that the great and serious difficulty that will arise will be as to the mode of applying the money levied under its provisions. I think that the constitution of the Board of Education proposed by the right hon. Gentleman is sound and good. I do not say that it is not capable of improvement, but I think its principle is a fair one. The new scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, so far as it relates to corporate towns, is substantially the same as the Manchester and Salford scheme, which he proposes to extend to the country at large. I have no doubt that the district boards will have very different duties to perform from those performed by boards in large and populous places like Manchester, and I am afraid—although I do not see how he could make the presence of children compulsory—that the fact of the Bill being permissive will, in many country districts, render it nugatory, and that we are consequently debarred from looking for any large results from the measure. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is impossible to anticipate success for a general system of education that does not include existing schools—for you cannot, by a new scheme, supersede those schools which have been extended throughout the land, and are 681 daily increasing. You must, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, give them the option of coming under the provisions of this Bill, subject to certain conditions which they will be required to adopt. With respect to the new schools, I confess I feel that a difficulty will arise. If I understand the right hon. Gentleman rightly, he intends that in districts requiring new schools the district board should be authorised to provide them out of the rates, and that in these schools the religions instruction is to be in accordance with the religious opinions of the majority of the inhabitants of the district. But take, for instance, a large district, in which the majority are members of the Church of England—would he, in such a case, make no provision for those who belong to other religious denominations? Now, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, as those who differ from the Church of England will be rated for educational purposes, some provision ought to be made to educate their children according to their religious tenets. The right hon. Baronet has said nothing as to the amount of the rate which it shall be in the power of the board to raise, and, although that may be a matter of detail, still it would be as well that the House should be made acquainted with its limit. [Sir J. PAKINGTON was understood to say that 6d. would be the limit.] With regard to the question of religious or secular instruction, I feel, from having attended closely to the evidence taken before the Committee on the Manchester and Salford Bill, that the difference between the advocates of the two systems is less than I had imagined. The secular system of education, as explained by its advocates, is not a system separate from the religious system; but the advocates of the secular system contend that the secular branches of education should be paid for by rates, and that religious instruction should be afforded through the agency of funds raised from private sources. I hope, the difference being so trifling, that there will be an approach to union between the two parties, and I do not despair of seeing them agree to work together on some common ground in promoting the important objects they have in view. It has been suggested that the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman and the Bill of my noble Friend the Member for London should be referred to a Select Committee. Now, to that I have no objection, except that I think we should only be travelling over the same 682 ground that we have so often gone over before. If any hon. Gentleman will take the trouble to refer to the evidence taken before the Manchester and Salford Committee, he will find that the subject as regards large towns has been most fully and fairly discussed, and I think he will see that we possess as much information as is necessary. With regard to country districts the case may be different, and further inquiry may be necessary; but, as to the general question of statistics and the other points on which information is required, I believe that the evidence taken before the Committee to which I have referred is amply sufficient, without referring this Bill to a Select Committee. I presume the right hon. Gentleman will not press the second reading of the Bill before Easter. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: Hear, hear!] It is a measure that ought to be before the country for full consideration before any decision is adopted with regard to it, and I hope, when the time arrives for taking it into consideration, that we shall approach it with the earnest desire of promoting the great object which all must have in view, and of overcoming the difficulties which impede the progress of education throughout the country. I can assure the right hon. Baronet that, although I do not approach this Bill in any spirit of criticism, I think he has made an omission, or rather, I ought to say, he has not fulfilled an anticipation to which the early portion of his speech gave rise. I had anticipated, from that part of his speech, and from the strictures which he passed upon the Committee of Council on Education, that he was about to propose the establishment of a Minister of Public Instruction. Now, I am not prepared to say that the Committee of Council on Education is, under present circumstances, the best scheme which can be devised for its object; but I say that, under all the failures which have taken place in Education Bills, and under all the difficulties which have existed, that Committee has done all immense deal towards promoting education throughout the country, and raising the standard of education by improving the qualifications of the schoolmasters. The right hon. Baronet has pointed it out as one of the defects of the system, that it has made the standard of education of the schoolmasters too high. Now, that may be the case as regards some small schools, but I think that the great defect which first attracted the at- 683 tention of this House was the low standard of education among the schoolmasters, and, in my opinion, great benefit has resulted from raising the standard. What the right hon. Gentleman has said is perfectly true, that you educate men as schoolmasters, and then, when they are qualified for that position, the pay is so small that they are tempted to trust to their talents for advancement in some other career, and to forsake that profession for which they were originally designed. That is no doubt true, in many cases; but the way to remedy such a state of things is not by lowering the standard of qualification in the schoolmasters, but by raising their pay, and making it to their interest to remain in a profession which, however humble and laborious, is not the less honourable. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has done the Committee of Council on Education justice in the reference he made to grants to certain parishes in the metropolis. I thought at the time that exceptions had been made in favour of poor districts to that general rule, by which grants of money are given in proportion to the funds raised in the locality; and, on referring to the list of grants, I found that very large grants have been made to some of the poorest and most populous parishes. I asked the right hon. Gentleman if, in the case of Shoreditch and St. Giles, any application for a grant had been made and refused, and he could not give me any information on that subject. There may be other reasons beyond inability to raise funds which may prevent applications being made. Objections have, in some cases, been entertained on the score of the inspection which was inseparable from Government grants. I wish to point out to the House a few of the grants which have been made, to the poorest districts, extracted from a complete list of them in the last volume of minutes. There has been made to Spitalfields a grant of 770l.; to St. George's in the East a grant of 2,800l.; to St. Mary's, Tothill Fields, a grant of 1,350l.; to Whitechapel a grant of 1,060l.; and to the different parishes of Bethnal Green a sum of no less than 9,062l. If the general rule on which grants are made had been unreasonably adhered to, without exception, I must admit that there would be great force in the objections of the right hon. Baronet, but the instances I have mentioned will, I think, show the House that such has not been the case. With these few observations I with plea- 684 sure assent to the introduction of the Bill, and I sincerely hope that the discussion to which it must give rise will be attended with beneficial results in promoting that which all must concur in desiring—the extension of the education of the people of this country.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, he fully concurred in thinking, with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, that the measure of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) did not differ essentially from the secular system of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The statistics of the right hon. Baronet were, he thought, overcharged, and the right hon. Gentleman had, he considered, drawn undue inferences from them. The right hon. Gentleman drew a fearful picture of the state of crime and the want of education in this country, but the most horrible features in his picture were drawn from the criminality of persons who were now adults, and whose education, such as it was, took place some ten or twelve years ago. Whatever force might be derived from that was consequently worthless for the purposes of the present question; for the very essence of the case of those who were satisfied with the voluntary system, or the system of the Committee of Council on Education, was, that education had made great and rapid progress within the last twenty years. A large portion, also, of the instances adduced by the right hon. Gentleman to darken the picture of social evil were taken from large towns, isolated plague-spots in the country—Gateshead, Preston, Tynemouth, Sheffield, Manchester, and Liverpool—in all of which the want of education was greatly above the average want throughout England and Wales. The right hon. Gentleman also laid considerable stress upon the Reports of the National Society on the schools under their management, but the only details of evils connected with those schools were those which were connected with the buildings, and he did not bring forward a single instance where the system of education in those schools was insufficient or imperfect. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) had dwelt in terms of commendation upon the permissive character of the present measure; but it seemed to him (Lord R. Cecil) that this permissiveness cut from under the noble Lord's feet the only ground on which he supported the measure; namely, that there was a great want of education in the 685 country, and that it was owing either to unwillingness or inability on the part of the people to subscribe to the establishment and maintenance of schools, and to the Committee of Council on Education not extending their aid to districts where, from unwillingness or inability, the public did not come forward with the subscription necessary to obtain the Privy Council grant. Now, if people were not generous enough or rich enough to subscribe for the building of a school, he doubted very much whether they would be generous or rich enough to impose a rate upon themselves for that purpose. Great stress had been laid on the fact that the Bill did not attempt to override existing schools, but left things as they were. This seemed to be a perfect illusion; for the moment a parish imposed a rate upon itself for the support of a school, that moment they would find that all private sources of support for other schools would be dried up and cease altogether. As far as religious instruction was concerned, he looked upon the Bill as the secular system in disguise. The right hon. Gentleman likewise spoke of the necessity of maintaining the great vital doctrines of Christianity, in which we were all agreed; but he (Lord R. Cecil) was not aware of what those vital doctrines of Christianity were in which we were all agreed. Between a Unitarian on the one hand, and a member of the Church of England on the other, there could be no agreement at all; and would they draw a line between the Unitarian and the rest of the Christian community, and say, "We will educate all on this side, but none on the other?" He could tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Unitarians were in some places by no means an insignificant minority of the population. In Manchester they had two schools, and would no doubt be strong enough to swamp a school if they thought proper. They might withdraw half the children from the religious teaching of the school, and so the religious teaching would cease altogether. The schools would be thrown into the hands of those who despised dogmatic instruction; and slowly, by degrees, the instruction given would be reduced to the colourless teaching advocated by the friends of the secular system. He deprecated anything that could tend to confuse the outlines of belief—that attempted to unite sects that were irreconcilable to each other; and still more, anything that would give the children an impression that the religious points 686 set aside in the schools were unimportant points, not worth fighting for—open questions, to be believed or not. The result of the system of teaching, as proposed by the right hon. Baronet, would be to make England a nation of infidels.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said, although he could not join with the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) in giving his unqualified adhesion to this Bill, yet he felt grateful to the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington), for the able, candid, and earnest manner in which he had brought forward this question. It was a gratifying circumstance that the House would have two measures on education before its consideration, emanating respectively from such influential individuals as the present Colonial Secretary and the right hon. Baronet opposite. The speech of the noble Lord, who had last addressed the House, indicated that some of those obstacles to the solution of this question which had hitherto proved so formidable, had by no means given way. The friends of national education must, however, endeavour to approximate as closely as they could, and agree to forego objects impracticable in the present state of society, in order to combine in the great work of elevating the poorer classes from their degraded condition. In this spirit this measure appeared to have been prepared, and in the same spirit it was to be hoped that it would be judged by all parties, whether they were attached to the secular or to the religious system, to Church of England, or to Dissenting schools. Whatever figures might be quoted in that House, showing that schools and teachers had accumulated, no one could gainsay the actual fact which the Census revealed, that out of every four persons who were married one at least made his or her mark instead of signing a name; when, also, a large proportion of the men enrolled in the militia, regiments of many counties were unable to write their own signatures; and when, likewise, although the letters from private soldiers in the East showed an amazing advance of intelligence in the ranks of the army, the tracts distributed in the hospital at Scutari were nevertheless generally read by one person to four or five others, indicating that one out of five was about the proportion of those gallant invalids who were able to read. Now there was evidently throughout the country a failure in our schools as a system. You found this from the reports of the inspectors, one of 687 whom some time ago declared that our schools generally were so poor and so inefficient that it would hardly gratify the friends of education even if every child in this country attended one of those schools. Directors of mechanics' institutions found that the great obstacle to their beneficial working was the want of elementary training among the people, and the experience gained in the course of the first session of the People's College lately established in London was of such a kind as led those at its head to endeavour to combine an elementary school with it, because they found that the minds of those they desired to enrol as their students were not sufficiently prepared. The Bishop of Manchester had lately made the very same complaint in opening an institution at Bury, and the experience of such institutions everywhere showed that sounder elementary instruction must be administered in the English schools. We might then, he thought, even without considering the extension of education, safely assume that a great improvement was absolutely necessary in its quality, if we would bring the country into a condition as regarded instruction which would be creditable to the national character. He would not attempt to analyse the provisions of the Bill now brought before the House, but he was highly gratified with the proposition—which he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would see no occasion to relinquish—that all the schools established under this Act should be free. He believed that the provision was of most material importance, and he thought it would meet to a great extent the objection of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary that you would not get the children into these schools. The working classes generally showed considerable appreciation of superior teaching. If one school had been found better than another it was sure to be especially resorted to; and that had often been the case in defiance even of religious prejudices. One great advantage which he anticipated from freedom in the schools was, that it would afford an opening for the exercise of a very legitimate and wholesome influence on the minds of the working classes by employers. Every employer was desirous of having intelligent workpeople; and when young persons came to ask for employment, they might fairly tell them that they must first attend a gratuitous school in the neighbourhood. This was no mere speculation. It had been stated in evidence that 120 important 688 firms in Manchester had declared their determination to make instruction, to a reasonable extent, a condition of employment in their establishments, provided there were free schools in the neighbourhood, so that the children could get this education without expense; and such a declaration on the part of employers, extending throughout the country, would stand very much in the place of the compulsory system. With schools which were perfectly free, it would be practicable to have, what had been attended with so much advantage in the United States, a graduated system of schools, commencing with schools of an elementary character, and rising gradually till they got to the very threshold of collegiate instruction. In America, one result of that graduated school system had been to lower the cost of education very considerably. One word with regard to the religious question. Had the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington) attended to the speeches of the advocates of what was termed the secular system, he would not have been as surprised as he appeared to be at the observations made by the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) on the occasion to which he referred, because he only expressed the opinions generally held by those who were in favour of that system. These persons did not object to religion being taught at all, but to its being taught by the schoolmaster—and they were supported in their view by the Government, who thought that linear drawing, perspective, and the ornamental arts might be usefully taught without any admixture of religious instruction. There were agencies at work throughout the country which would prevent even the children of profligate parents from being wholly destitute of religious teaching. Moreover, it was an unfounded notion that the poor were prejudiced against anything free. In Prussia, during the stormy political scenes of 1848, the school system remained perfectly unshaken, and only this alteration was made in it—namely, that, whereas, up to that time there had been a payment from the parents, the schools were afterwards, in obedience to the public voice, made perfectly free. This portion of the right hon. Gentleman's measure for making the schools free, he (Mr. Fox) deemed therefore of great importance, and he believed the establishment of such a system would lead to an elevation in the standard of instruction. As to the charge of eliminating religion from education brought 689 against the advocates of what was called the secular system, this phrase arose from a mistaken idea of the character of a school. The school instructed; it did not educate. The entirety of education was far beyond the grasp of the schoolmaster; it depended upon a variety of agencies and influences far beyond him. The best agent in this work was, no doubt, a truly religious parent, and the next best was to be found in the generous exertions made in the Sunday schools—an agency which existed all over the country, and which would never fail to lay hold upon the forsaken child, endeavour to guide him in the way of religion, and do what could be done towards touching his conscience and purifying and elevating his soul. But he thought there were very serious objections to making the schoolmaster the religious teacher, for there was the danger of his converting the school into a mere proselytising shop, and also of rendering secular education subordinate to religious instruction. He should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would seriously inquire whether the low state of education of which he complained, and which was for some reason or other the general characteristic of our schools, was not associated with the fact of those schools being connected with the Church of England and other religious denominations? A teacher was selected, not for his intellectual character, not for his extensive or appropriate acquirements, but for his religious character. He filled the position of a species of missionary. The secular education he was called upon to impart became a matter of secondary and subordinate importance to the religious instruction given, and he unscrupulously sacrificed it whenever he imagined that by so doing he could promote the higher object. This would be a noble state of mind for a missionary, a clergyman, or a Dissenting minister, but he maintained it was not a state of mind for a teacher of reading, writing, and arithmetic. What would be the result if the same feeling were made predominant in the counting house or in the camp? The whole of our schools were at present so closely connected with the various religious denominations that that very fact must necessarily tend to keep down the intellectual standard of the instruction imparted. But, surely, it would not depreciate religious education if the child were led to know that there was a place endowed with greater sanctity than 690 the schoolroom, where his religious feelings were to be matured, confirmed, and expanded. If education were to be raised to a higher standard, he believed there was a power in knowledge which would in itself alone enable the child to exercise his own judgment with a proper acuteness and power. Education called the faculties into their appropriate exercise, and there need be no apprehension that a child would not be religious, even if he had not that specific and dogmatic teaching forced upon him which the noble Lord who spoke last seemed to think so very desirable. Let character have its formation and the mind its nurture and strength, and, though the mind were placed under a supersitious schoolmaster it would outgrow superstition; though it were under a fanatical schoolmaster, it would outgrow fanaticism; though it were under the worst of bigots, it would be likely in time to see its way charitably and generously; and, though it were under a sceptical schoolmaster, scepticism would, he believed, perish with its growth, and it would be open to the influences of truth, history, and science, and would find its way towards that religion which was in harmony with human nature and which raised human nature to its highest pitch. He felt sure that all who thought with him upon the question of education would not feel inclined to stand in the way of fair and grateful consideration of any propositions which might be laid before them by the right hon. Baronet.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he thought the friends of education were greatly indebted to the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) for the effort he had made to bring this subject under the consideration of the House. The right hon. Gentleman, acting consistently with his own predilections, had undoubtedly endeavoured to take a considerable step towards establishing a free system of national education, and had recognised, to a great extent, the principle of liberty of conscience. There was one statement in the right hon. Baronet's speech to which he (Mr. M. Gibson) must demur; he referred to the statement that the Manchester and Salford Bill was thrown out through a paltry quibble. As he was the Member who moved the Amendment which defeated the Bill on the second reading, he felt bound, in justice to himself, to defend the course which he took. Though it was not unimportant whether measures of that kind were private or 691 public, the reason why the Bill was defeated was, that it did not meet with the concurrence of the Corporation of Manchester, who represented the great body of the rate payers. When a private Bill was introduced in that House which would have taxed a locality contrary to the wish of the great majority of the taxpayers of that locality, and whom in this case he represented, he felt that he would be most legitimately discharging his duty in opposing its progress. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had correctly represented the state of affairs in the Committee on the Manchester and Salford Bill, when he stated that there were three parties concerned; namely, the voluntaries, the seculars, and the Manchester and Salford educationists. The Bill now sought to be introduced was to a great extent identical with that of the Manchester and Salford educationists. If ever any system of national education was to be adopted, the three parties to whom he referred must unite and endeavour in some way to settle their differences. He was quite sure, at least, that any two of these bodies could defeat the third, and before any system of national education could be established two of them must unite. The two which he thought most likely to unite, were the party of the right hon. Baronet opposite and the secular party. Those parties were both agreed upon the question of rates, the question of local management, and upon the principle, at least, of separating religious instruction from secular instruction to the extent, that persons of different religious denominations might be associated together in one common school; but the rock a head upon which they split was the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, to make it a condition that in any school supported by rates some religion or other should be taught. The right hon. Gentleman thus involved himself in a scheme for teaching all religions and every conflicting form of theological opinion at the public expense. This was a difficulty hard to be overcome, because the sincere religious world would not consent to any plan that professed to teach all forms of religion at the public expense. If public education were to be supported by taxes and rates, they preferred that it should not go beyond secular teaching, and that religious instruction should be supplied by other means and in other ways. He was most anxious to co-operate with the right hon.
692 Baronet, but he would ask the right hon. Gentleman what his hon. Friend behind him, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), would say, supposing he were one of a minority residing in a parish where the majority of the ratepayers were Roman Catholics, if that majority established a school, carried it on in strict accordance with Roman Catholic principles, and then called upon the hon. Member to contribute his rate towards its support? Why, the hon. Gentleman would treat the proposal with all the indignation with which he now treated the annual proposal to give grants of the public money to the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth in Ireland. The existence of a Church Establishment would make the difficulty very much greater; for it would, of course, be argued that it was absurd for the State to raise taxes to teach a religion which was opposed to the religion of the State Church. He should, therefore, for his part, decline to involve himself in the religious element at all. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had very correctly described the secular plan of education. The advocates of that scheme did not prevent religion from forming part of a child's education; all they asked was, that certain hours in the day should be set apart for religious instruction, during which time no child should be compelled to attend, and that the school should be opened at other hours for secular instruction. They recognised the necessity of religious teaching being a part of education, but they maintained that if education was to be supported by public rates the schools must be free and accessible to all, which they never could be unless they were secular and not religious schools of a denominational character. There being three parties in the country on this subject, and two of them now being in a manner before the House, it was not unreasonable that the third—the secular party—should also be permitted to introduce a Bill. That party had a Bill ready, and some time ago a body of gentlemen who had taken a very active part in promoting the secular system of education had requested him to ask the permission of the House to lay it on the table. In accordance, therefore, with that request, and feeling that after what had passed that night it was of great importance, if the different parties ever were to agree, that their respective plans should all be laid before the House together, he 693 would take this opportunity of giving notice that at as early a period as possible he would ask the permission of the House to introduce a Bill for providing a secular scheme of education.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, he thought the House was greatly indebted to the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) for his admirable statement of the condition of education in this country, and for the definite scheme which he proposed for remedying the present lamentable state of things which he had submitted to them. The best course, he considered, for the House to take would be to allow the Bill to be printed and circulated, before entering into its merits, in order that it might be compared with the rival Bill of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. He did not feel, however, any particular deference for the noble Lord's Bill, which, he thought, had been crudely drawn and precipitately introduced. He could not help thinking that the noble Lord, finding that the right hon. Baronet was forestalling him on a subject in which he had always been accustomed to take a prominent part, had hastily introduced his ill-considered Bill, in order that he might still retain the appearance of taking the lead on the subject of education. But he could not consent, either with respect to education or colonial legislation, to wait any apocryphal period for the noble Lord's return from Vienna to discuss measures in that House. He thought that the present question was too important and urgent to be regarded as a matter of personal or party rivalry between any persons, and he would say, further, that the time for discussion was past and the moment for action had fully arrived, though it seemed to be considered as a thing of course that there should be an annual education debate, which had never yet produced any practical result. How many proposals on the subject of education had been discussed in that House, and elaborate resolutions had been passed without any difference of opinion in another place, and yet they had not moved a single inch towards carrying out the common object of them all. At the present moment there were two Bills before the House connected with education, both of which might be called denominational, and a third plan had just been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke, which might be described as the secular plan. Perhaps the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil) might propose 694 a fourth plan embodying the voluntary principle, and then there would exist a more complete confusion and mystification in respect to educational schemes than had existed for many years past. Each of these schemes, with the exception of the voluntary one, assumed the propriety of raising local rates for educational purposes; and that circumstance alone formed an important ground of union in devising some good national system. The denominational and the secular party were agreed upon that point; and as they formed nine-tenths of all the people in the country who had carefully considered that subject, there existed sufficient means of effecting an important part of the object. The voluntary party alone occupied a perfectly isolated position; but that party had almost dissolved of themselves, for they had consented to accept grants from the Privy Council for the maintenance of the greater number of their schools. It appeared to bins to be clearly established that schools conducted on the purely voluntary system could not be maintained in a manner adequate to the exigencies of the country, and that if they could continue to exist at all they must be of a very inferior description. They might be maintained by a few individuals, who were prepared to make great sacrifices for the purpose of carrying out their opposition to Privy Council grants; but such patronage and support were necessarily precarious, like the resources and the lives of its authors. He should further say, that he believed the purely voluntary schools were, generally speaking, the worst schools in the kingdom. ["No, no!"] Why, in nine cases out of ten the voluntary system had broken down, and aid was received from the Treasury or Privy Council. Then, if all the best schools were already receiving public grants, the question to be decided was, what was the best mode of affording the public aid, not everywhere—but wherever neeled—whether by Treasury grants or grants from local rates or from both combined? And here he must say, that all experience was in favour of local rates as the basis of national support in preference to Government grants, though he quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich that the Treasury grant might be continued in aid of the local rate, and that the organisation for inspection might be maintained. He was of opinion that, great as had been the good which the Privy Council system had effected, it had this fatal objection, that it placed 695 all schools in England under one head, and though the person who presided over the system might be a highly educated and able man, he was yet not likely, from his position, to be acquainted with the requirements of all the localities in the country. Besides, he might be a theorist rather than a practical man, and, sitting in his office in London, he might endeavour to apply his favourite hobby to localities, whether it was adapted to them or not. He (Mr. Adderley) maintained that the instruction given to the poorer classes of the country should be mainly industrial, so that they might learn the means of earning their livelihood honestly. He disagreed from the noble Lord the Member for Stamford in his views regarding the Bill of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington); it was strictly denominational; nor did he believe that it was, as had been asserted, a secular system in disguise; nor could he believe that any scheme merely because it promoted the diffusion of knowledge would lead to those disastrous consequences to religion and the Church of England which the noble Lord seemed to dread. He believed that the most material points were held in common by Christians of all sects, and that, so far from the spread of knowledge among the schools of all recognised denominations being likely to increase infidel notions, it would tend to bring the hostile camps more closely together, to clear away the mists which now intervened, and to extend and strengthen sound views of religious truth. In such a case, the Church of England would, in his opinion, have nothing to fear. He would now say a few words on the leading features of difference that existed between the Bills of the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary and the right hon. Baronet. The principle of the two Bills was the same, but there were differences in detail of a very important character. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) proposed to leave the moving agency—the power of setting the schools in motion—in the hands of town-councils and vestries. There were many objections to this proposal, and one of the first was that town-councils and vestries were not likely to move at all. The House would bear in mind the case of Manchester, where the ratepayers were the first to petition Parliament to pass a measure to tax themselves for purposes of education. Here the ratepayers took the initiative, but the town-council stepped in and frustrated the measure. This furnished them with an example of the man- 696 ner in which the Bill of the noble Lord would be likely to work. The right hon. Baronet, in his Bill, put the initiative in the hands of the ratepayers, the class who he (Mr. Adderley) certainly thought ought to be allowed the initiative in volunteering such a tax upon themselves. According to the measure of the noble Lord, whatever scheme a town-council or vestry might propose was to be carried out if it received the sanction of the Committee of Privy Council. He need hardly say what a variety of schemes would thus be brought forward without Parliament having a word to say on the suhject—all issuing from behind the screen in Downing Street, and producing a most complicated and confused state of things throughout the country; and he might observe, in passing, that there was a very great objection to the system of by-legislation in which the Committee of Privy Council was already allowed to indulge on this very important subject. He further thought the House would agree with him when he said that the proposal of the right hon. Baronet to place the management of the schools in the hands of the ratepayers was much preferable to that of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies. Then the noble noble Lord placed his scheme on local funds for its support, as was also done by the right hon. Baronet; but the noble Lord used them only as supplementary to any other funds "that might be available." This evidently pointed to money to be paid by the children. Now, he would not enter upon the question of free schools, but would only observe that, unless the scheme embraced a system of free schools it was not worth instituting. Free schools are the reverse of eleemosynary when paid for by rates on the people. What we required was a system paid for nationally wherever the eleemosynary or private patronage system failed, and placed on the footing of other great national schemes. There could be no doubt that the religious point was one of great difficulty. Whether the principle laid down by the right hon. Baronet was acceptable to the House or not remained to be seen; but he hoped it would be borne in mind that if any one could suggest an improvement upon that principle the right hon. Baronet had stated that he would be ready to adopt it. He believed that if this Bill, or some measure of a similar nature, was not adopted during the present Session, hon. Members would be wearied of introducing Bills, year after year, on the 697 subject of education, which led to no practical result, but merely gave rise to fruitless discussions. He thought it discreditable to the country that such an enlightened assembly as that House should discuss this subject Session after Session, without arriving at any definite decision. The right. hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had stated that one of the difficulties in the way of this measure was that something like compulsory attendance must be enforced, in order to carry out the system which it proposed to establish. For his own part, if it should become necessary to enforce compulsory attendance, he (Mr. Adderley) did not think such a plan would be attended with any great inconvenience; as, indeed, it was already partially tried in the case of factory schools. He believed, however, that the right hon. Baronet was incorrect in stating that it had been found necessary to enforce compulsory attendance in all those countries in which a system of this nature had been adopted, for he understood that no regulation of that kind existed in America, or at least in the New England States. The right hon. Baronet had also said that he thought there would be some difficulty with respect to the distribution of the rate, but he (Mr. Adderley) understood the proposition of the Bill of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) to be that the tax, being generally and evenly levied, should be distributed by the managing committee to all existing schools of recognised denominations, according to the number of children they each contained.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I am sure, Sir, the House is greatly indebted to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) for the very interesting and able speech with which he prefaced his Motion, and which shows that he has applied his powerful and vigorous mind to the investigation of one of the most important subjects to which a public man can devote his attention. With regard to the measure he has proposed, until it is laid before the House, and we have had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with its details, I think it is premature to express any decided opinion as to the comparative merits of the scheme of the right hon. Baronet and that of my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell), to which allusion has been made in the course of the discussion. I must say, however, that I think some of the observations of the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House, referring to 698 the Bill of my noble Friend, were not perhaps exactly apropos to the measure under consideration, but somewhat anticipating future discussions. It is manifest, as the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) has stated, that there is a great necessity for some more efficient arrangement for the education of the lower classes. I cannot help thinking, however, that he has in some degree exaggerated the amount of ignorance, and the amount of consequent criminality, which exists in the country. I have no doubt that the instances he has mentioned were cases with regard to which he is in possession of facts that are accurately stated, but I think we are not justified in taking those instances as examples by which we should judge of the criminality of the country at large. I am happy to say that, as far as my own local knowledge extends, the districts with which I am acquainted certainly do not resemble, in that respect, the places from which the right hon. Baronet has derived his information. No doubt the religious question is one which may, I am afraid, oppose great difficulties in the way of those who take this subject in hand, but I agree with the right hon. Baronet in hoping that those who entertain different opinions upon this branch of the question may recollect that we all hold opinions in common, which ought to be, and which may be, the foundation of a common system of education, and I confess I do not agree with a noble Lord, who spoke on the opposite side, in thinking that differences upon religious subjects are so radical and so complete as to render it impossible that a common system of education should be adopted, applicable to persons of all denominations. Under these circumstances I accept, with the greatest pleasure and cordiality, the proposal of the right hon. Baronet to introduce this Bill. I think he has done right in postponing, until after Easter, the further progress of the Bill, for the House will then have before it the two measures of my noble Friend and of the right hon. Baronet. I must say, however, that I think the criticism in which the hon. Member who last spoke has indulged upon the Bill of my noble Friend does not seem to me very applicable. The hon. Gentleman has contrasted the greater liberality of the arrangements proposed by the right hon. Baronet with what he conceives to be the smaller degree of liberality of the measure of my noble Friend. The right hon. Baronet proposes that the management of the 699 schools shall be confided to persons elected by the ratepayers, while my noble Friend proposes to place the management in the hands of the town councils and vestries. I think the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adderley) must surely forget that the town councils are a creation of popular elections. In either case, therefore, the managers will be elected by a completely popular suffrage. The House will have to determine which of the two plans it may be the more expedient to adopt, but, in point of principle, both measures are founded upon purely popular and general choice. I hope that the discussion which has taken place will satisfy the House on the present occasion, and I trust that hon. Gentlemen will reserve the expression of their opinions in more detail until the two Bills are upon the table, in order that we may be allowed to proceed with other matters which are equally worthy of the attention of the House.
§ Leave given.
§ Bill ordered to be he brought in by Sir John Pakington, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, and Mr. Adderley.
§ Bill read 1°.