HC Deb 10 May 1855 vol 138 cc359-79

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, he objected to proceeding with a measure of such great interest and importance at that late hour (a quarter to eleven o'clock). Two hon. Gentlemen had occupied the attention of the House for eight hours in discussing the Bill of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington), but the Bill of his right hon. and learned Friend (the Lord Advocate) had been as yet scarcely discussed at all. Under these circumstances he would move the adjournment of the debate.


said, it was most desirable that the Bill of his right hon. and learned Friend (the Lord Advocate) should be proceeded with as early as possible. The Government had been frequently taunted with putting off important measures, and now they were resisted when they proposed to proceed with one in which great interest was felt. He could not consent to the adjournment of the debate, and he hoped the House would feel that it was trifling with a measure of great importance to say that at that hour the House was not capable of duly considering it.


said, he should support the Motion for adjournment, believing that the Bill deserved to be more calmly and fully considered than would be the case if it were proceeded with at that late hour.


said, he thought it would be trifling with the question to proceed with it at that hour. He begged hon. Members to contrast the course taken by the Government with respect to a Bill concerning the whole people of Scotland with that which they had pursued with respect to one merely affecting the local management of the metropolis. He must complain that the Scotch Members were from night to night kept in uncertainty about the time the Bill was to be discussed.


said, he hoped the noble Lord would reconsider his decision, as there were several hon. Members who wished to express their opinions on this subject, as well as the hon. Member for Elginshire (Mr. C. Bruce), who had intimated his intention to speak at considerable lenghth. He (Mr. Disraeli) thought it would he very inconvenient to have an adjourned debate on the question of going into Committee; and he hoped, therefore, that the noble Lord would consent to the postponement of this Bill, and would proceed with the other business upon the paper.


said, that he felt there was the greatest desire on the part of the people of Scotland that this Bill would be proceeded with without delay. The principle of the Bill had been fully discussed on the second reading, and he, therefore, regarded the tactics of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, as directed to postpone, and eventually defeat a measure on which they had already sustained a defeat in a fair standup fight. In deference to the real feeling of the people of Scotland on this question, he hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not consent to the adjournment of the debate.


said, he could not allow the noble Lord who had just spoken to assume to himself to represent the feelings of the people of Scotland, which he believed were hostile to the present measure. This Bill was one of vital importance to the people of Scotland, and it was, therefore, the duty of hon. Members from that part of the country to secure its full and adequate discussion. As he believed this was impossible at that late hour, he should vote for the adjournment.


said, he trusted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not consent to the postponement of the debate. There was now a much fuller attendance to discuss the Bill than (from the dryness of the subject to English Members) there was likely to be if the debate was brought forward at an earlier hour in the evening. The opinion of the people of Scotland on this question was sufficiently shown by the fact that there was a majority of three to one of the Scotch Members of that House in favour of the Bill of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate.


said, he hoped that his hon. Friend (Mr. C. Bruce) would press his Motion for adjournment, as there had been an understanding that the debate on this Bill should not come on after half-past ten o'clock in the evening. Such understandings between the leaders of parties should be kept even if they were made in the lobby.


said, he must deny that there had been any such understanding. So far was that from being the case, that he positively refused to agree to such an arrangement.


said, at all events it was his impression, and that of those who were with him, that there was such an understanding. He could not, however, rest his case on such a trivial ground. It was trifling with the people of Scotland to bring forward a debate of so much importance at an hour of the evening when it was impossible that it could be fully and adequately discussed. So far from the opinion of the people of Scotland being in favour of this measure, it was clear from the petitions that it was directly the reverse; for while the petitions in favour of the Bill were signed by only 1,400 persons, those against it received the signatures of 20,000 persons. Believing that it was impossible to finish the discussion that night, and that the debate must, therefore, be adjourned, he should certainly oppose their going on any further at that time.


said, that Irish Members were accused of obstructing the progress of public business if they objected to proceed with any Irish Bill, however important, at one o'clock in the morning. They were never able to bring on their business at the hour at which the House had then arrived, and if it was to be settled as a rule that no Irish measure of importance should be brought on after eleven in the evening, he believed that not even one would be discussed in the course of the Session.


said, that, even if injustice had been done to the sister island, he thought there was no reason for committing an act of injustice with regard to the people of Scotland. The petitions presented from Scotland showed that there was this year, as compared with last, a great reaction against the Bill. To show the change of feeling that had taken place, it would only be necessary to compare the number of petitions presented this year with those presented last year in its favour. Last year there were for the Bill 651 petitions, signed by 61,476 persons; against the Bill, 753 petitions, signed by 40,635 persons; for alterations and amendments, 182 petitions, signed by 20,967 persons. During the present year there have been only thirty-four petitions for the Bill, signed by 1,412 persons; against it, 330 petitions, signed by 24,183 persons; while for alteration and amendment there have been 309 petitions, signed by 16,873 persons, showing the immense change of public opinion in Scotland which had taken place since last year. Under these circumstances, he felt himself fully justified in protesting against the House proceeding with it at that hour in the evening.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

The House divided:—Ayes 119; Noes 165: Majority 46.

Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


Sir, I will yield to the expressed feeling of the House, and proceed—When the House thought fit, after a discussion of some three hours, which certainly, as far as its duration was concerned, bore no very just proportion to the importance of the subject involved in it, to reverse, in regard to the second reading of this Bill, the decision to which it came last year, it did appear to me that, as there were several Members who had desired to express, but had been prevented from expressing, their opinions upon it, there would be nothing unreasonable in an endeavour to afford them that opportunity by meeting the Motion now before the House with an amendment, that the House should go into Committee on this Bill this day six months." I, however, determined not to take that course, and for this reason:—The second reading of a Bill is held to involve its principle. Now, this Bill involves two principles, not necessarily associated with or dependent on each other in such a way as that the assertion of the one should of necessity involve the rejection of the other—yet they are so associated in this Bill. The one is the principle of the guaranteed union of religious with secular education; the other the principle, simply, and by itself, of the extension of the means of education. Those by whom this Bill was opposed voted from considerations connected with the assertion of the first of those principles; those who supported it, on considerations connected with the second. And yet it might very well be, and in respect to many Members—myself among the rest—actually was the case, that they entirely accepted and approved both those principles taken separately, and their votes were influenced by their greater or less appreciation of the principles which, improperly, if not unfairly, as it seems to me—are so connected in the Bill that it seemed impossible to accept the one without, in appearance at least, rejecting the other. Such being my views in respect to the Bill, and to the decision to which the House came the other night—by which, as it seems to me, the first of those principles was practically subverted—I have deemed it right to move the instruction of which I have given notice, with a view of enabling the House to affirm both principles; and I have, therefore, no hesitation in stating frankly at the outset that the object of my motion is to induce the House to consent, if it should agree to give to the Committee the instruction which I propose—that one of the Bills should be directed to the improvement and maintenance of the parochial schools in their existing connection with the Established Church—and the other to extend the means of education to localities where those means may be deficient, in such a way, and on such a system, as the House may consider more adapted to their alleged peculiar and different circumstances—and if this House agrees to give this instruction, I should propose to my right hon. and learned Friend that he should consent to the second reading of the Parochial Schools Amendment Bill, with a view to its being referred to the same Committee (Parochial Schools Bill). My right hon. and learned Friend seemed to taunt us the other night for having expressed our willingness, provided the existing parochial schools were left in their connection with the Church, to hand over the education of the towns and manufacturing rural districts to a system which was characterised as purely secular, and liable to all sorts of objections. But my right hon. and learned Friend did us injustice in this, and did not state the matter with his usual fairness. We never either said or sang— How happy could we be with either, If only we both might enjoy. What we said was this, that while we thought the existing system contained the best security for the maintenance of the religious elements of education, and, as such, that which we should have desired, had it been practicable, to extend to all schools; yet that, being of opinion, in consequence of the prevalence of dissent among large masses of the population, especially in the towns, that such extension was impossible—a melancholy proof, if proof were wanting, of the evils arising from the unhappy differences by which the Churches of the Reformation on points, in Scotland, at least, of very secondary importance are distracted—we were willing to assent to the principle of this Bill, as far as the extension of the means of education were concerned, reserving to ourselves the liberty of endeavouring to obtain in Committee some more reliable guarantee for the maintenance of the religious elements in the teaching of these new schools than were to be found in the clauses of the Bill itself. What we said was this—we have in the parochial schools a sound principle; in the absence of any reasonable pretence for interfering with it, as shown in the practical working of the schools themselves, we desire to maintain it. We should prefer to see it extended to all schools, but, as practical men, we see that there are great difficulties at present in the way of applying it in its integrity, in the large seats of manufacturing and commercial industry, and we are therefore willing that, in so far as they are concerned, it should be so modified as to obtain from it the greatest amount of practical good. My right hon. and learned Friend, therefore, was scarcely justified in this representation of the opinions we had expressed in this respect, or in representing us as indifferent to what might be the effects of his measure on the population of the towns. The difference between us in regard to them is simply this—we agree with you that it is the duty of the State to construct new channels of education where such may be required—but we think, and we contend that you should so construct them as that—to use the just and eloquent words of Wordsworth,— The flood Of sacred truth may enter, till it brood O'er the wide realm, as o'er the Egyptian plain The all-sustaining note. Now, having avowed that the object of my amendment is to preserve in the existing parochial schools the guarantee which they by law possess for the maintenance of a principle which we deem of inappreciable value—and at the same time to confer on the towns and densely-peopled agricultural districts extended means of education, retaining as much of that principle as their different circumstances will permit—I shall not think it necessary to criticise in any hostile spirit the provisions of the right hon. and learned Lord's Bill as it applies to the extended means of education which it proposes to afford. To many of those provisions I entertain very strong objections—still stronger objections to the omission of provisions essential to its professed object; but they are capable of being amended in Committee, and any proposals for their modification may more conveniently be delayed till the Bill is in that stage. My object will now be to show the House, as shortly as I can, that our national system, as it at present exists—and to the extent at least to which it at present exists—is deserving of support—that its maintenance would in no way interfere with conferring additional means of education where they may be required—and that the grounds on which it is assailed by my right hon. and learned Friend, if divested of the fascination with which his very captivating eloquence can invest arguments in themselves of little value—are really insufficient to warrant the conclusions he rests on them. First, however, I should wish, in justification of the course we have already taken, shortly to recall to the recollection of the House what that course has been. The House will remember that, in introducing this measure last year, my right hon. and learned Friend grounded it on the assumption of a great deficiency in the means and machinery of education in Scotland. We, by whom the Bill was opposed, and successfully opposed last year, based our opposition on these, among other grounds—that the existing system, which the Bill, if passed, would seriously injure—was fully adequate to meet the educational wants of the rural districts to which it applied—that it was at the present moment in a state of increasing efficiency—and that it afforded a security for the union of religious with secular education for which we looked in vain in the system which you proposed to substitute. We asserted, farther, that its maintenance would in no way interfere with your power of introducing increased means of education when they might be required. We conceded the existence of such necessity in towns and densely-peopled rural districts to which the existing system does not extend, and we professed our willingness to concur in supporting any measure more adapted to their peculiar circumstances, which might obtain the sanction of Parliament and the country as far as they were concerned, provided it contained some definite and reliable guarantee for religious teaching—all we asked was, that as far as the rural districts were concerned, the right hon. and learned Lord would let well alone—that he would leave the parochial schools iu their useful course of continuous and rapid improvement—conceding to us only in regard to them such changes of detail as might enable them more effectually to carry out the objects of their institution—changes which are admirably set forth in the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend, the Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling) and which, I trust, he will take an opportunity of fully explaining to the House—and, as a further inducement to the right hon. and learned Lord to agree to this most reasonable proposal, we offered to renounce all claim for increased pecuniary support from the State, and ourselves to contribute the additional funds required to bring the salaries of their teachers up to the standard of remuneration assumed in the Bill of the right hon. and learned Lord. The House is aware that already the salaries of the teachers, and the erection and maintaining the school-house and schoolmaster's accommodation, are defrayed by the proprietors of the land—of whom more than 2,000 have declared their earnest desire that the existing system should be maintained. The right hon. and learned Lord, however, has rejected all compromise. He rallies the forces of the Government to the cry of "The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill;" and, as regards the existing system of the parochial schools, his only answer has been delenda est. Now, that answer leaves little hope to such Members as voted for the second reading in expectation of being able to persuade my learned Friend to consent to modifications in Committee, and, therefore, believing that a principle and a system of inappreciable value will be endangered and put in jeopardy if the Bill in its present shape should obtain the sanction of the Legislature, I have considered it my duty to ask the House to take the matter into its own hands, and by agreeing to this instruction, while it concedes all that has been proposed with regard to increasing the means of education where such increase may be required, to take care that an existing system of proved utility, and dear, as I believe, to the vast majority of the rural population of Scotland—a fact sufficiently proved by the petitions presented to the House—shall not be subverted and swept away. You all agree that it is most desirable that religion should lie at the foundation of instruction in your schools. This was the object of those by whom our present parish schools were established. We believe it to be adapted to that object, and that it has solved the difficult problem of the union of religious and secular education better and more effectually than it has ever before been solved by any system of national education—and we desire to maintain it till you have shown us that another system can more effectually work out this first necessity of education—properly so called—and why should you not consent to this? You referred in terms of merited eulogy to the speech of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington), and to the principles embraced in his Bill. I only wish that you had taken a leaf out of his book, and pursued the same fair and judicious course as he proposed with reference to existing schools. I was confident that we should have his support, because I felt sure that he would recognise, in dealing with a question of this kind, the difference which exists between our two countries—in the one of which a national system has long existed—in the other it was to be introduced for the first time. But what does he say with reference to the existing schools?— Another and very important point in this Bill is, that in no case will it interfere with existing schools or existing interests. We must not, in our wish for improvement or extension, lose sigh of the progress education has already made in this country. 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 on two conditions, which I believe to be indispensable—the one is, that they will submit to a periodical and satisfactory inspection; the other, that they shall be subject to the provisions of the Act, with regard to religious teaching. Now, this is precisely the course we ask you to adopt—and with regard to your new schools, he proposes an arrangement for securing religious teaching far preferable to your own—at present, indeed, you propose none. But my right hon. and learned Friend rests the justification—the necessity, as he asserts, of the changes he proposes in the constitution of the parochial schools on three grounds—1st, That, being connected with the Established Church, that Church no longer represents the religious opinions of the majority of the people of Scotland. 2dly, That, in consequence of this change in the opinions of the people in regard to the Established Church, the parochial schools have acquired, in consequence of that condition, a sectarian character; and, 3rdly, That their maintenance would interfere with the uniformity which he considers essential to a system of national education. Now, I shall not stop to inquire whether my right hon. and learned Friend has accurately represented this matter of the majority. The Census returns are, on the face of them, extremely deficient; but, such as they are, it would not be difficult to show that my right hon. and learned Friend—and still more the hon. and learned Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop)—has not examined the figures with his usual accuracy, but must have looked at them through spectacles less strongly tinged with a Free Kirk mixture. The educational returns, for which I moved, and which I hold in my hands, would lead to a different conclusion; for I find that, of the scholars attending school in Scotland the return stands thus— Parochial schools connected with the Established Church, 2,035. Free Church, 768; United Presbyterian, 54; Episcopal, 68; Roman Catholic, 28; Church of England, 1; Original Secession, 1; Reformed Presbyterian, 1; Congregational, 1; Baptist, 2—In all, 924. Thus all other denominations, it will be seen, amount to only 924. A margin, returned "Non-denominational," amounting to 1,931 schools may be claimed also, to a large extent, by the Established Church. The scholars stand thus— Established Church, 151,590. Free Church, 67,000; other denominations, 27,586—Amount to 94,686. Non-denominations, 126,991. But, besides the inference which may be drawn from this, it is notorious that the Free Church, on whose account this movement is made, are now rent by dissension; and that in some districts, as in Badenoch and the centre and north Highlands, their ministers are superseded by a set of fanatics called "the men," whose more attractive ministrations are emptying and shutting up their churches. I find it so stated in a paper sent to me this day from Inverness, and the fact—a very deplorable one—admitted by the advocates of the Free Church themselves. But when he objects to the parochial schools, as connected with a Church which is no longer that of the majority, the objection seems to me to rest on a fallacy, or rather on a misunderstanding of the principles on which these schools were founded. Those principles do not depend on the question of majorities and minorities. They are based on the general principles to which you assent, that religion lies at the foundation of all sound instruction, and this principle cannot be maintained without the intervention of some recognised religious body. Accordingly, when the parochial schools were established in 1816, and confirmed by Parliament in 1633, the Church established in Scotland was Episcopalian, not Presbyterian, and the control, now exercised by the Presbyteries, was vested in the ordinary or bishop. No one will pretend that the majority of the population was then more favourable to the Episcopacy than they now are to the Established Church, but this control was then, by our wiser ancestors, vested in the Episcopalian, simply because it was the Established Church, and, as such, the only one over which the State could exercise that control which it had a fair, and, as they thought, necessary claim to exercise in a matter of this importance—for, if it was its duty to provide for the education of the people, it was no less its duty to assure itself, so far as this could be done, that the education so given was such as it could approve. The results, as proved by long experience, have been so eminently successful, that they leave you no ground, even of expediency, on which to set up a plea for withdrawing the superintendence of these schools from the Established Church because of the so-called Free Church secession, without which, I believe, this proposal never would have been heard of. The State, in 1663, having determined that its duty called on it to educate the people, and that the education should be religious, vested the superintendence in the Established Church, not because it was the Church of the majority, but because the State knew what she taught, and must continue to teach so long as she continued to be the Established Church. I must say, that it appeared to me that you have advanced no argument based on this ground of majorities and minorities, which, if pushed to its legitimate consequences, does not apply, in Scotland at least, quite as strongly to the parish church as to the parish school—to the pulpit as well as to the master's desk. But, if it be really your object that she should cease to be the Established Church—a motive which I should be loath to attribute to the Ministers of a Sovereign who has sworn to maintain and to uphold her—to Ministers, whose duty, I should have thought, imposed on them the obligation of maintaining her as one of the great and settled institutions of the State; but, if this be your object, and I can conceive no course more calculated than that which you propose to bring about such a result, for no Church can long stand unconnected with any schools, an opinion of the truth of which the Free Church have largely shown their conviction; but, if this be your object, then I do say that it would be more manly and more straightforward to avow this at once, than to go on, year after year, with these covert and insidious attacks on her position and usefulness. We should then know how to meet you, and the question might be fairly raised, whether it was for the national interest to drive her from her place as an Establishment in order to make way—for such, I presume, would be your object, seeing that you hold by the principle of an Establishment—for a Church which rejects all intervention by the State, not only as regards the doctrine she holds, but in the arrangements of her ecclesiastical polity. That battle has been already fought, and Parliament most wisely, in my judgment, determined that it would not sanction the setting up again in Scotland a clerical power which, under the plea of asserting the independence of the Church in things spiritual—an independence which no one ever dreamt of questioning—refused obedience to the law, and submission to its legally-constituted tribunals in matters con- nected solely with her temporalities, and with the interpretation of the terms on which, as a condition of her alliance with the State, those temporalities had been conferred. But the right hon. and learned Lord tells us, also, that now, when, as he alleges, the Established Church no longer numbers among her adherents a majority of the people of Scotland, you impart to her parochial schools a character of sectarianism by leaving them in their connection with that Church; and this character of sectarianism he describes as a great evil, We answer you, and answer you truly, that the teaching in these schools never has been accused of being of a sectarian character. Parents of all denominations, including Roman Catholics, show no unwillingness to avail themselves, for their children, of the education afforded in them; and, except in cases of such bigoted and intolerant interference as has—I am informed—been exercised in one or two of the northern counties, where the Free Kirk minister has refused the privileges of the Church—admission to the Sacraments of Baptism or the Holy Communion—to persons who presumed to send their children to parochial schools, or who refused to withdraw them; except in cases of such excommunicating interference, I have never heard of any objection on the part of parents to avail themselves, for their children, of the advantages of the parish schools on this ground of their sectarian character. I am bound to say that these disgraceful proceedings were condemned and repudiated by the respected leaders of the Free Church; but, in fact, the mere circumstance of their connection with the Established Church excludes, to a great degree, this character; for there is in the very nature of the Established Church something adverse to the spirit of proselytism—an atmosphere of quiet and acquiescence unfavourable to its development and its growth. But you propose to substitute for it a state of things under which sectarianism can scarce fail to take root and flourish. Your schoolmaster, then, must belong to some religious denomination, and I should like to know on what ground you suppose that he will be less desirous of inculcating his own peculiar views than the teacher of the Established Church—or why the parents should be less jealous of the one than the other. Nor would the evils which you affect to deprecate as arising from the sectarian spirit be confined merely to the teaching of the schools; they would extend to the preliminary operations of the teacher—and on occasions of vacancy we should have every parish distracted by the influence of this spirit, and the different religious bodies brought into a state of angry and jealous collision. As the law now stands, the parish schoolmaster must be a Member of the Established Church, and no such contest takes place, because the people acquiesce in a law from which, for 200 years, the greatest benefits have accrued to them, and which, in its operation during that long series of years, has never been chargeable with the evils arising from the spirit of proselytism. The vast majority of the petitions in favour of the existing schools of itself puts this beyond all question, and my conviction is, that if you succeed in carrying this measure, as it relates to the parochial schools, you will throw a brand of discord into our hitherto peaceful parishes, and evoke that very spirit which you profess to deprecate; for remember that your movement is au aggressive movement—against the Church and its adherents—and aggression can scarce fail to rouse a spirit of resistance and retaliation. So much for your sectarian objection—your remedy would aggravate the disease—but I confess that in my view of it, you appear to attach to it undue importance. I agree very much with what Dr. Arnold says, in a letter to the Under Secretary of State, on the subject of the constitution of a college in Van Diemen's Land. He says— I am quite sure that the spirit of proselytism, which some persons seem so greatly to dread, would no more exist in a good and sensible clergyman than in a good and sensible layman. The master must be a member of some church, and if he be a sincere member of it, and fitted to give religious instruction at all, he must be anxious to Inculcate its tenets—but if he be a man of judgment and honesty, and of a truly Catholic spirit, he will find it a more sacred duty not to abuse the confidence of those parents of different persuasions who may have entrusted their children to his care, and will think that the true spirit of a Christian is not exactly the spirit of proselytism. And that the practice of the schools in connection with the Church of Scotland was consistent with this view is proved by the instructions given by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to the teachers of her schools, which say— It only remains to notice that a considerable proportion of those attending at several of the schools are of the Roman Catholic Church, and it is proper to state that the schools are always open to scholars of this class as freely, and on the same terms as to Protestants, and that the teachers have been directed not to press on the Roman Catholic children any instruction to which their priests or their parents may object, as interfering with the principles of their own religion. They meet, accordingly, in the Assembly schools, in most cases, without jealousy or reluctance, and have every branch of literary instruction in the same classes with the Protestants, in the same schoolbooks, and without distinction between the two denominations. At the same time the Committee have specially directed that the religious instruction given in the schools, whatever may be the number of Roman Catholics in attendance, shall be always accommodated strictly and exclusively to the principles of the Established Church. But you further object to leaving the parish schools as they are, because it would interfere with the uniformity which you consider essential to a national system. I confess I am at a loss to perceive the advantages of this nominal uniformity, I think it would prove opposed and adverse to real uniformity—the uniformity of object—and seeing that we do not object to your trying another system as regards your new schools in the towns, I should rather expect that the difference in their constitution would give rise to a healthy rivalry by which both might be stimulated into increased activity. But after all, what is this uniformity; what does it mean? Uniformity means centralisation, centralisation means Government interference, Government interference, especially under Governments of a certain character, means jobbing, a mismanagement, failure—the weakening of the healthful influence of local self-government—the drying up of the sources of individual generosity and individual Christian benevolence. The price is too high for an article of such questionable utility. Having now touched on what seem to me the main objections urged by the right hon. and learned Lord against the parish schools, will the House allow me to tell them what this mischievous parochial system is, against which the right hon. and learned Lord thinks it his duty to direct his exterminating attack,—and I will observe, first, that while we assert that the whole of these schools are in a state of high efficiency, of which I shall by-and-bye offer large proof, neither the right hon. and learned Lord, nor any of those Members who support his attacks on them, have cited one single instance of either failure or inefficiency which can be fairly assigned to the system of their institution. But we must look for a moment to what the main objects of education really are, or ought to be,—and I have no hesitation in asserting that there is no system of instruction which, in its original aim, goes more directly to the true purpose of education than that of the parochial schools of Scotland. If this be so, why seek to subvert it. Now, an authority to which hon. gentlemen opposite, professing the most liberal opinions, will be disposed to defer, thus defines the true purpose of education—Milton says, "the end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love Him, to imitate Him, to be like Him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue; which, being united to the heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection." Now, the distinguishing characteristic of our parochial school education is, according to its first design and true practice, that it is religious. That such is its character was acknowledged by a high authority on the Liberal side of the Scotch Church—one whose name and memory will command respect even among the adherents of the Free Church, and persons professing the most liberal political opinions, the late Dr. Andrew Thomson, who, in drawing up a constitution for the local day-school institution in the parish of St. George's, in Edinburgh, founds it expressly on this, "that the object of the school shall be in conformity to the spirit and intention of our national establishment of parochial schools, to give the children of the parish a religious education;" and that he justly appreciated that spirit and intention is proved by reference to the first book of discipline in setting forth the necessity of schools. The work, as hon. Members know, is attributed to John Knox. It refers "to the purpose of God that His Church should be taught by Him, and not by Angels;" and because men are born ignorant of all godliness, and God has ceased to illuminate them miraculously, suddenly changing them as He did the Apostles and others; therefore it is most necessary to be most careful for the virtuous education and godly upbringing of the youth of this realm;" and, in pursuance of these views, the parish school was attached as an appendage and necessary part of the parish church, and placed in close and intimate connection with it. Now, so long as that connexion exists, we have a guarantee for the maintenance in our parochial schools of the union of religion with secular education. In your Bill we look in vain for any such guaran- tee, you pay us off in your preamble with certain general expressions of respect for the principle involved in this union, but we all know what is the value of a preamble unsupported by a single enacting clause in your Bill—you keep the word of promise to the ear, and break it to the sense. I cited to the House last year an instance of something much more likely to command the respect of a late posterity than the words of any preamble—the last advice offered to his countrymen by Washington, in which he exhorts them to maintain the religious character of their schools, but which, in the absence of positive enactment, has failed to prevent their public schools slipping down, to use the appropriate expression of my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), into a purely secular system; and if you shrink from encountering the difficulties which you suppose to exist in applying this principle in its full extent to your new schools, if you are sincere in the respect you profess for it, you should rather desire to maintain it where it already exists, and keep your parish schools intact as examples to guide your new ones in the right path—as buoys to indicate the channel in which they may steer with safety. Now, our parochial schools embrace these two objects, as was stated by Mr. Menzies—religious culture and culture for life—for its duties and pursuits. They cannot be separated without depriving the most important part of education for life—for life extending to an existence beyond this world, but indissolubly connected with it—moral habit and duty, of the authority and influence of their Divine origin. The right hon. and learned Lord and others have urged on us the fearful amount of crime, which they attribute, with some truth, I doubt not, to ignorance—though the Austrian statistics of the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire might warrant the conclusion that false knowledge was quite as prolific of it as brute ignorance—and they urge the paramount obligation which lies on us no longer to delay the consideration of this question of the education of the people. They tell us that the very existence of our social system is endangered, as reposing on a volcano which may, at any moment, burst forth, and leave nothing but desolation and ruin behind it; and, undoubtedly, we have sufficient proof of the insufficiency of mere penal laws, and of the dread of punishment to deter from crime. But you will fail of your object if you limit your education to mere instruction in reading and writing, and what are called the higher branches of knowledge, if you neglect to impress on the mind of the child the sense and habitual influence of responsibility to a tribunal higher than any human authority, and the habit of referring every question of conduct to a law which prejudice and favour cannot change. To produce this impression, to form this habit, is the primary object of our parochial schools—and, till very lately, they were allowed to have so far succeeded as to merit the general approval of all classes and denominations amongst us. Has any such change taken place in them as to justify the subversion of that part of their constitution which, by connecting them with the Established Church, gives us a practical assurance that this object shall not be lost sight of? Quite the reverse. The living and advancing character of these schools may be proved by the increased degree in which they enjoy the public confidence. I will give the House some facts connected with the schools in some northern counties, with which I am familiar, which will bear me out in this. I take them from the excellent report of Mr. Menzies, Secretary to the Dick Bequest—you do not deny the efficient state of the schools subject to its operation—but I can cite others as efficient in other counties; besides, there is nothing in the operation or management of that bequest which might not easily be applied to all schools. I take 124 parochial schools in the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray—a large and fair induction. There are now in each of the parochial schools of those counties, on an average, thirty more pupils than there were in 1833. The entire number of schools, parochial and private, in these counties, excluding burghs, which in 1833 was 528, has risen during the same period to 731, an increase equal to ten new schools in each year. In 1833 only one in nine of the population attended school; in 1853 the number was one in six. The average number of scholars attending each parochial school in 1832 was eighty-five; in 1852 it was 115, being thirty more than in 1832. The total number enrolled shows an increase since 1832 of 5,197, a much larger increase than can be assigned to the increase of the population; the increase in the number of pupils being as 308 to 146 of the population, and this simultaneously with a large increase in the means of education generally, there being of schools, parochial and non-parochial, excluding the burghs, which have no parochial schools, 203 more than in 1833. The increasing appreciation of the parochial schools is further shown by the increase in the amount of fees received by the teachers. In 1833, the fees received by the parochial schools amounted to 1,867l.; in 1842 they had risen to 2,867l.; in 1852, they were 3,110l.; the average amount of fees being now to each teacher 25l. 7s. 4d., or 9l. 9s. 10d. more than in 1833; and this although the number of pupils taught gratis in 123 parochial schools is 3,406, or one in five of the whole scholars enrolled, and four times the number taught gratuitously in 1833. My right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich expressed an opinion unfavourable to the payment of any fees by the scholars, but he will scarcely quarrel with the cost to each pupil for an education including, besides reading and writing, arithmetic, mathematics, Greek, Latin, French (in many cases), geography, history, and drawing. The cost of fees to each of 31,745 pupils is 7s. 4d. for all branches of education. The cost of each, including the salaries and expenses of buildings to the heritors, is only 12s. 10d. Then, with regard to the general state of education in these counties, there are returns for forty-nine parishes, in which they show that there was no person above six years of age unable to read—in upwards of thirty parishes, none unable, also, to write. In the parish in which I reside the number attending school during the past year was one in four of the population. Then, as regards the emoluments of the teachers, it is satisfactory to know that they are such as to hold out sufficient inducement to persons well qualified for the office. In the last twenty years they have increased from 55l. 12s. 6d. to 101l. while the accommodation afforded by the proprietors, which then was limited to three rooms, now averages five rooms. These salaries are doubtless augmented to the average extent of some 20l. by the payments from the Dick Bequest, but in some of the southern counties to which it does not extend, and with one of which I am connected, the emoluments are even higher; Larbert, in Stirlingshire, has for two years averaged 124l. In two neighbouring parishes the teachers have averaged 150l. There are doubtless many cases of retired parishes where the salaries should be increased, but we have offered ourselves to increase them. Now, what I contend is, that the state of things which I have described does not call for, or justify legislative interference, such as is proposed in this Bill with the parochial schools. It proves that they are in a high state of efficiency, and in the enjoyment of the public favour and approval—but if there be one circumstance more than another to which this state of things is to be attributed, it is to the connection existing between them and the Church, and to the superintendence and watchful interest of the parochial clergy and Presbyteries of the Church arising out of that connection.

The right hon. and learned Lord may tell me that he leaves the superintendence practically with the parish minister; then, why interfere with the Presbyteries, supposing the parish minister neglects his duty—a possible case, among so large a number—Quis custodiet ipsos custodies—we require the Presbytery to keep him up to his work. But, in regard to the connection with the Church generally, Mr. Menzies tells us, in the Report already referred to (page 133), "That the trustees have always attached a high value to the connection between the parish schools and the Church," and the Report points out how fitting it is that institutions designed to train and mould the young should be under the guidance of those whose office is conversant with man's highest interests, where it connects the teacher with what his neighbourhood possesses of learning, intelligence, and respectability. He says further, that, so far from showing any jealousy of lay interference, the Reports of the Presbyteries are regularly transmitted to the Trustees of the Bequest, and that this communication has proved in the highest degree beneficial in directing attention to points of general interest and importance affecting the welfare of the schools; and he adds that in time of need the minister is the prop of the school, and that the records of the Trustees exhibit many instances of schools being taught for weeks—in one case for months—by the minister personally, when there was a vacancy, and difficulty in finding a qualified teacher. Why, then, should you endeavour to terminate a connection acting thus beneficially? Experience has shown that the sectarian spirit, of which you express so much dread, has really no action in these schools. The principle involved in it is approved by all the Episcopalian community, as may be inferred from the unanimous declaration of the Scotch bishops. The proprietors, by whom the schools are paid, protest against the change you propose. The maintenance of the present system in its integrity will not interfere with your extending the means of education where extension may be required. The separation of the parish schools from the Church is protested against by all the ministers and congregations of the Church, as well as by almost all the present schoolmasters, because it would involve the virtual withdrawal of all guarantee for the religious character of education in Scotland, while it dealt a heavy blow and great discouragement to the Church itself. I implore the House to consent to the instruction which I now beg leave to move.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it be an Instruction to the Committee to divide the Bill into two Bills; the one relating to the Parochial Schools, the other to the New Schools contemplated by the Bill," instead thereof.

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

THE EARL OF DALKEITH moved the adjournment of the debate.


said, at that late hour (it being half-past twelve o'clock), he would not oppose the Motion, as there seemed no likelihood of ending the discussion that night.


said, he hoped the Government would allow the debate to be continued on Monday next, which was agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Monday next.