HC Deb 23 June 1856 vol 142 cc1807-86

MR. FORTESCUE rose to submit his Resolution on the subject of the National System of Education in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman said he was well aware of the responsibility which he had undertaken in addressing the House on this occasion; and he felt it necessary to ask the indulgence of hon. Members, especially as he was about to address them under somewhat unusual circumstances, inasmuch as he was going to ask them to abandon a former Vote, and to review a decision at which they had then arrived. But if the course which he was about to take was very unusual, the circumstances which had given rise to it were very unusual also. Very seldom, indeed, had it happened that an Address to the Crown, especially one on a subject so momentous and so vitally affecting the interests of a considerable portion of the people of this empire as that of national education in Ireland, had been adopted under circumstances similar to those which had occurred last Tuesday night. It was not necessary for him to go into those circumstances in detail; but he might say that it was notorious to every one that on the evening in question there was a general expectation that the debate would be adjourned. [Cries of Assent and Dissent.] Well, if ever there was a debate which it would have been reasonable and natural to adjourn, it was that debate. He might remind the House that, considering the importance of the subject, the debate of Tuesday night was quite inadequate. Hardly one of the lending Members of that House, whose opinions they would have been so anxious to hear, had spoken; not one of those statesmen—men to be found on both sides of the House—who either had taken a part in the establishment of this great system of national education twenty years ago, or had since that time been year after year its supporters, had expressed their opinions on the question before the division was come to on Tuesday night. He might further remind the House that, with one exception, not a single Protestant Member from Ireland had addressed them. Under these circumstances, he felt it due to the House, and due to the importance of the subject, that they should have an opportunity of reconsidering the matter and reversing the decision to which they had come in adopting the Address to the Crown. On applying to the Speaker, he found that in point of form there was a certain amount of difficulty in the way of his so doing—that it was contrary to the usages of the House for a Member to propose a counter Address to the Crown, containing any different request to that made by the Address already adopted. His course had, therefore, been to endeavour to frame a Resolution which, while it showed the utmost possible respect to the House and to the Crown, would yet virtually and in fact have the effect, if adopted, of reversing the decision to which the House had, he thought rashly, come. His Resolution would, at all events, enable the House to review its former decision, and give an opportunity to many Members, whose opinion on the question would naturally have great weight, to express their sentiments on the subject. He trusted that the House would, that evening, be convinced by the argument of Gentlemen of far greater ability than he could boast of, that the proposal made on the previous Tuesday evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) was inconsistent with those principles which he (Mr. Fortescue) had endeavoured to lay down in his Resolution; and that that proposal, if carried into effect, would be subversive of the present system of national education in Ireland. He hoped that the House would declare that to be their opinion; and that that declaration would have the effect of guiding Her Majesty's Ministers in the answer which they would advise the Crown to return to the Address, and that it would also have the effect of relieving the minds of the people of Ireland of the anxiety caused them by the unexpected expression of opinion which the House had appeared to give a few nights ago in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition, He believed in his conscience—and without that belief he did not think he would have been emboldened to address the House on the present occasion—that the effect of that Vote, if not rescinded, would be to subvert the most just, the most equitable, the most Irish, and therefore the most successful institution that had ever been established by this country in Ireland. The proposal contained in the Address of the right hon. Gentleman attacked the national system of education in its tenderest part—namely, the religious portion of the question. It proposed to modify the principal rule of the National Board as to religious instruction. The House would allow him to read the rule of the National Commissioners on that subject— Religious instruction must be so arranged that each school shall be opened to children of all communions; that due regard be had to parental right and authority; that, accordingly, no child be compelled to receive or to be present at any religious instruction of which his parents or guardians disapprove; and that the time for giving it be so fixed that no child shall be thereby, in effect, excluded, directly or indirectly, from the other advantages which the school affords. They were told by the advocates of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition that the great and only object of the national system of education was to produce combined education; that that object had failed; and that, therefore, Parliament might now fairly be called upon to give up an unsuccessful principle, and adopt a principle of another kind—namely, the principle of the Church Education Society in Ireland. Now, he (Mr. Fortescue) on the contrary maintained that the rule he had just referred to embodied a principle which was the fundamental principle of the national system. That principle was laid down in a number of Reports of Commissioners and Committees of this House before the establishment of the system, and the assertion of that principle ran through all the documents of the national Commissioners themselves, and had been declared and maintained over and over again. That principle was—in the words of the Resolution he now proposed one which respected the parental authority and maintained and secured the rights of conscience to the children attending the schools, and excluded anything approaching to compulsory religious teaching—that was to say, anything that made religious teaching a necessary condition of secular instruction. He found that principle shortly laid down in the fourth Report of the national Commissioners at an early period of the establishment of that Board. He found it also in the letter addressed by the present Earl of Derby—then Mr. Stanley—to the Synod of Ulster in 1833. A question had been raised as to the time when religious instruction should be given in the schools; and Lord Stanley said— The days and hours for religious instruction must be specified in order to remove from the mind of the Roman Catholic parent the possibility or suspicion that his children may be influenced to join in studies of which he does not approve. And the Resolution he (Mr. Fortescue) proposed to the House asserted and maintained the same principle. That, as he contended, was then the principle upon which the national system of education in Ireland was based; and when he was told that combined education was the whole gist and object of the system, and that that having failed, Parliament might be called upon to overthrow the system and adopt another, he begged to say, in the first place, that he utterly denied the entire, or anything like the entire, failure of the system; and next, that the principle which he had attempted to lay down in his Resolution, and which he conceived to be embodied in the rule to which he had referred, was a principle totally irrespective of the mere amount of combined education that had been attained, and was absolutely necessary to secure the freedom of the Irish child in respect of its religious creed. It mattered not to him whether the amount of combined education in Ireland was large or small—he equally contended that the rule of the Commissioners was one that ought to be maintained and supported by this House; for as long as there were any schools in Ireland containing pupils of different religious persuasions such a rule was absolutely necessary in order to maintain religious freedom and to establish the principle that every child should have the power, under the authority of the State, of receiving secular instruction without, at the same time, receiving a religious education to which his parents entertained an objection. He admitted that there might have been a smaller amount of combined education—by which he meant education in schools containing children of different creeds—attained in Ireland than was expected by the founders of the system; but considering the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, the division of her population into different creeds, and the enormous difficulties which were to be overcome in achieving such an end, he must say he thought the founders of the system had over-estimated the amount of combined education they were likely to attain—that, in short, they had expected too much. But he believed that the main cause of the failure of combined education, so far as it had been a failure, was, after all, the opposition of that portion of the Established Church in Ireland which was represented on this occasion by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole). As an instance of the exaggerated statements they sometimes heard from the highest quarters with regard to the system being a failure, he might mention that it was lately asserted in that House that it was laid down as a fundamental rule in Lord Stanley's letter to the National Board that the national schools in Ireland should be under the management of joint patrons—that was to say, the patrons of different religious creeds—a result which he fully admitted had not been attained, except in very few and wonderful instances. But so far from such a fundamental rule having been laid down as the foundation of the National Board, the fact was that Lord Stanley stated that one of the main objects was the attainment of a national system of education, and that probably the new Board would look with peculiar favour on any joint application from Roman Catholics and Protestants. Again, it was quite a mistake to suppose that the greater number of national schools in Ireland were separate and sectarian schools. The truth was, that a very large proportion of the schools, if not combined schools in full and fair proportion to the numbers of the different creeds in Ireland, were, nevertheless, mixed schools to a certain degree; and it seemed to him that the point for the House to consider in respect of that fundamental rule of the National Board, which was meant for the protection of the consciences of the children in the schools, was, not whether the children were combined in the full proportion which the population of the country might warrant, but whether there were children in those schools who required the protection of that rule—for so long as there were any such children, he (Mr. Fortescue) maintained that the rule of the Board was absolutely necessary. Now it appeared that the whole number of children of different creeds receiving education in the national schools in Ireland in 1851 was, in round numbers, 456,000, and that of these 390,000 were Roman Catholics, and 65,000 Protestants, of whom 23,000 belonged to the Established Church. In the province of Ulster, where united education, might be expected if any were to be found, the number of children attending national schools in the same year was 146,000, of whom 17,000 belonged to the Established Church, 41,000 were Presbyterians and Protestant Dissenters, and 86,000 were Roman Catholics. Again, in nine of the model schools in Ireland, which combined children of different creeds, out of 2113 children there were 368 belonging to the Established Church, 395 Presbyterians and Protestant Dissenters, and 1350 Roman Catholics. Of the managers of schools of different creeds in Ireland, the returns for 1852 gave eighty-one clergymen and 271 laymen, together 352, belonging to the Established Church, the number of schools under their management being about 600. The number of Presbyterian managers was at the same time 398, having under their management 370 schools; making the total of Protestant managers 710, and of Protestant schools, 1247; whilst the number of Roman Catholic managers was 1143, and of schools under their management 3187. By the Eglinton returns, in 1852, it appeared that of 4483 schools which made reports, there were 2524 mixed Protestant and Roman Catholic schools—that was to say, schools which contained both Protestant and Roman Catholic children in some proportion or other; and that of the managers more than one-third were Protestants. Of the schools, more than one- fourth were under Protestant management; of the children on the rolls, nearly one-seventh were Protestants; and of the teachers trained, one-fifth were Protestants. According to the returns obtained by Lord Clancarty in 1854, of 2764 mixed schools, or schools with children of two or more denominations, 1700 contained Protestant minorities of children differing in faith from the managers of the school, and varying from one to fifty per cent; and 636 schools contained Roman Catholic minorities, differing in faith from the managers of the schools, and varying in the same way from one to fifty per cent. Again, it had been ascertained from the same returns that, omitting the 10,000 children attending the model schools, there were, in 1852, 87,000 children educated at schools whose managers were of a different religious denomination to themselves; and that of this aggregate 15,000 were children of the Established Church, 11,000 Presbyterians and Dissenters, and 60,000 Roman Catholics. He asked, then, if the House would consent to leave the children in these mixed schools entirely without the protection which was accorded to them at present by the rule of the National Board—the very foundation of which was attacked by the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman? He contended that so long as there was a single mixed school in Ireland—no matter in what proportion the children of different creeds might be—it was absolutely essential to any system of national education that the protection of that rule should be thrown around them. The fact then was, that at this moment the national system of education in Ireland was a system which consisted partly of separate and denominational schools, and partly, and to a great extent, of schools in which children of various denominations were to be found. But what was the nature of the new rule proposed by the right hon. Gentleman? That rule would enable the patron of a school to say to every child, no matter what his creed—"The only condition upon which you can attend my school and receive secular instruction there is, that you must also receive such religious instruction as I think fit to provide for you." And the only exception to this was, in the terms of the Address, that no catechism or creed was to be used in the school. No doubt, the object of this exception was to conciliate the Presbyterians and Protestant dissenters generally: but how would this exception affect the Roman Catholic population of Ireland? It was well known that there were a great number of schools under Protestant patronage, in which perhaps the whole, or nearly the whole of the children were Roman Catholics, and therefore differed from the faith of the patrons; there was, therefore, no denying that the effect of the rule proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would be to leave such children, whether Protestant or Catholic, in all schools without protection as regarded their religious belief. The principle on which the Kildare-place system was founded was one which, ignoring the peculiar circumstances of Ireland and the regulations and requirements of the Roman Catholic church, treated Ireland as if it were a Protestant country, rather than one which, containing many Protestants, was yet in the main Catholic. It was notorious that that system, which inculcated the use of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment, did not obtain the support of the Roman Catholic church. But the system which the right hon. Gentleman now recommended was not that of the Kildare-place Society. It was, as far as the Established Church was concerned, rather that of the Church Education Society—a body whose opinions and practice on the subject of religious education were succinctly explained in the following extract from a report of their Committee in 1847:— The superintendent is left at full liberty to teach the meaning of the Scriptures to every child in the school. … Where the right exposition of any passage of Scripture coincides with the doctrine contained in the formularies of the Church … he gives it, not because it happens to be the doctrine of the Church, but because he considers it to be the meaning of the passage which the child is reading. In a word, while the Church Education Society utterly disclaim all dishonest acts of proselytism, they feel themselves at full liberty to set forth the true meaning of Scripture, for the purpose of 'banishing and driving away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to the word of God,' whatever may be the effect on the religious belief of the children instructed in their schools. Such was the plan of education proposed by the right hon. Gentleman in substitution for that prescribed by the National Board. But while the advocates of the proposed change had made up their minds to give up the use of creeds and formularies, acting upon a principle which he could not understand, they would maintain a rule which was most objectionable to the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland—they would maintain the use of the Protestant version of the Scriptures in the religious instruction of all the children in their schools. Of course he, as a Protestant, regretted that the Bible was not more freely used in Roman Catholic schools, but, as a Protestant, he was also a friend of religious liberty, and would not attempt to coerce the religious convictions of any class of his fellow-countrymen, but the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was an attempt to force upon Roman Catholic children a mode of instruction to which they and their parents were opposed, however conscientiously we might believe it to be the correct one. The precise manner in which the Holy Scriptures should be taught in the schools was a question which had arisen at a very early period of the history of the national system, and Lord Derby, then Mr. Stanley, had made emphatic allusion to it in his well known letter on education in Ireland. Referring to the Kildare-place Society, and to the causes of its failure, he used these words:— The determination to enforce in all their schools the reading of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment was undoubtedly taken from the purest motives; but it seems to have been overlooked that the principles of the Roman Catholic Church (to which, in any system intended for general diffusion throughout Ireland, the bulk of the pupils must necessarily belong) were totally at variance with this principle. It was true that, in England, the State made different grants to the schools of Churchmen, Dissenters, and Roman Catholics, and that it rendered obligatory the use of the Church catechism in the national schools, but these facts did not furnish any argument in favour of the application of a similar system to Ireland, for it was impossible to exaggerate the difference between the two countries. One was a Protestant country, the other a country with a vast majority of Roman Catholic inhabitants. The religious contentions which prevailed in this country were between Protestant sects, and were not to be mentioned in the same breath with the bitter rivalries and fierce jealousies which unhappily raged between Catholics and Protestants. Proselytism, such a bugbear in Ireland, was a word almost unknown—as between Protestants—in England. Moreover, it was a mistake to suppose that the rule prescribing the use of the Church catechism was that feature of the national system which was regarded with the greatest favour by the people and Parliament of this country. The very reverse was the fact. It was a source of perpetual grievance on the part of a large portion of the English people, and the complaints had become so frequent that, in 1846, the Committee of the Privy Council were compelled to notice them in the following Minute— Their Lordships greatly regret that the children of Dissenters are not admissible into Church of England schools without these requirements, and would rejoice in a change of the regulations of such schools providing for their admission. Their Lordships hope that much may be expected from a careful review of the civil and political relations of the schools … as a national institution. Regarded in this light, their Lordships cannot but hope that the clergy and laity of the Church of England will admit that the view they take of the obligations resting upon them as to the inculcation of religious truth must be limited by their duty to recognise the state of the law as to the toleration of diversities of religious belief. That was all that he asked on behalf of the national system in Ireland. Besides, it was notorious that the rule respecting instruction in the catechism in Church schools was in many instances relaxed in favour of the children of Dissenters. Had there been a single proposal for national education in England, based on the principle proposed by the right hon. Gentleman for adoption in Ireland? On the contrary, all the plans of national education in England which had been proposed of late years were founded upon an entirely opposite principle, and as nearly as possible upon that of the National Board of Ireland. The education clauses in the Factories Bill, for instance, embodied the principle, not merely of admitting children of every denomination to join the schools, but that no child should receive religious instruction, or be obliged to attend, without the consent of the parent. The Bill of the noble Lord the Member for London, in 1855, contained the same principle; and in introducing his plan of the present year he told the House that an essential part of the scheme was the freedom to withdraw children from religious instruction. The same principle pervaded the plan of the right bon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich. Nevertheless the House was now asked to introduce for the first time into Ireland a principle which existed only in a very mitigated form in England, and which, moreover, formed no part whatever of any scheme on the subject of national education introduced in recent times by statesmen to Parliament. He (Mr. Fortescue) was afraid to think of the consequences of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. He could not, for instance, suppose for a moment that a single one of the present Commissioners of the Board of National Education in Ireland would remain in office a day after it had been adopted, seeing that it reversed the system they had been administering with such success for so many years. He felt confident, moreover, that no Roman Catholic would be found to replace those Roman Catholic members of that Board who should so retire. Moreover, it would be impossible for their successors, whoever they might be, to limit themselves to an acquiescence in the specific modification in the system demanded by the right hon. Gentleman. They must go further, and extend separate grants to all other religious denominations as well as to the Established Church. Dr. Denvir, a Roman Catholic bishop, gave important evidence on this point before the Lords' Committee— A separate grant will never give satisfaction to the Catholics of Ireland unless it is an adequate grant—that is, that a Catholic patron should be able to support his school and his teachers in such a way as to be able to compete with the school and the teachers of any other religious denomination within his parish or district. I say, also, with great respect to clergymen of the Establised Church, that they, having more means than others, would be likely to have the grant supplemented and augmented by subscriptions to such an amount that they would be able to give clothes, books, food, &c. to the poor Catholic children, to induce them to leave the Catholic schools and come to theirs. And not only would these things occur, but I should apprehend that the landlords and Protestant employers would tamper with the parents and operate upon them, so as to induce them to send their children to their schools under a threat, which would most probably be put in execution, of dismissing the parents from their work or turning them out of their cabins, in the event of their not sending the children to their schools. Besides, the bishop says— He would have the grant permanent, because he thinks an annual Vote for Irish Roman Catholic schools—exclusive—would lend to angry debates in this House; that many Members would say they could not conscientiously vote for them; and that Ireland would be kept in perpetual perturbation. The fears thus expressed by Dr. Denvir represented very fairly the apprehensions entertained on the other side of St. George's Channel. Some supposed that by means of the modification proposed in the national system of education by the right hon. Gentleman's Resolution that the clergy of the Church of England would get into their hands the instruction of a large portion of the Roman Catholic children in Ireland. He (Mr. Fortescue) however, believed that hope to be fallacious; and he was convinced, moreover, that any attempt at proselytism would be the cause of such an outbreak of Roman Catholic zeal as would effectually defeat that object. Such being, in his opinion, the effects of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal—a proposal which would spring a mine under the foundations of the Irish national system, and postpone for years the progress of a system under which, in spite of pertinacious opposition and disastrous times, was now educating 600,000 children annually in its schools—he asked the House to consider, under these circumstances, who were the parties that called for this great change? It was admitted on all hands, that the national system was satisfactory to the great bulk of the Roman Catholic, and also to the great body of the Presbyterian, population of Ireland. The body who called for this change was a portion, and only a portion, of the Established Church. He (Mr. Fortescue) had frequently asked for whose benefit was it demanded?—whether for the children of the Established Church, or whether for the children of the other religious denominations in Ireland?—and he had found it very difficult to get an answer. He could not help thinking that since the advent of Lord Derby to power some years since, and the inquiry before the Committee, the tone of the advocates of this change had been considerably raised. When the hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. G. A. Hamilton) placed his Motion on the books of the House in 1848, he only asked for a modification of the rules of the Board as regarded children connected with the Established Church; but in the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge there was no such reservation; on the contrary, that right hon. Gentleman's supporters had told the House that the clergy of the Established Church had "a parochial duty" to perform; and that not being able to give the necessary time to the instruction of their parishioners, they asked aid from the State for the purpose. Therefore, it was not for the children of the Established Church alone the change was required by the right hon. Gentleman, but for the children of all denominations in each parish, that they might be educated in the manner which the clergy believed to be right. But the House had been told that the principle of the Established Church was, that its clergy and its members could not conscientiously give secular education to children unless at the same time they were permitted to impart to them religious instruction; and that it was upon the ground of a contrary principle forming part of the national system—on the ground that teaching the Scriptures was excluded from the scheme—that the Established Church had refused its concurrence with that system. As regarded the statement that the Scriptures were excluded from the national schools, he (Mr. Fortescue) maintained it to be totally unfounded; on the contrary, the Scriptures were used in those schools, conditionally, however, that their study was not enforced upon the children contrary to the wishes of the parents. In his opinion, the origin of the opposition of the Established Church to the national system in Ireland was to be found in the false position of that Church with respect to the people of that country. He, though a member of that Church himself, had long thought its position was a false one in Ireland; and, therefore, he had voted for an inquiry into the temporalities of the Established Church in Ireland. The clergy of the Established Church in Ireland claimed to have duties to perform to their parishioners, not congregational but parochial. It was that claim which was at the bottom of the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman. Finding themselves, under the national system, placed on an equality with the clergy of other denominations as regarded the education of youth, and actuated by a sincere but mistaken sense of duty which caused them to consider every inhabitant of their respective parishes as a sort of ecclesiastical subject of their own—these views he believed to be the causes of their opposition to a system which did not enable them to instruct all children in the doctrines of their own Church. But there was another body of Protestants in Ireland besides the members of the Established Church, which was not only equal in point of numbers, but which no one would for a moment venture to say was less Protestant than the members of that Church, or less zealously attached to the free use of the Scriptures—namely, the great Presbyterian body. This body, however, had fully and frankly accepted the national system. It had, he was aware, been stated that they did so only because certain privileges had been conceded to them to secure their adherence to it; but never was there a greater mistake. The privileges extended to the Presbyterians were equally extended to all other religious bodies. As soon as the Presbyterians were satisfied that under the rules of the Board they could give full religious instruction to children of their own communion, they at once adopted the national system. He mentioned these facts to show that the objection of the Established Church to the national system did not arise from such conscientious scruples as the House ought to regard; but from the false position which the Established Church had assumed in Ireland in respect of the legal fiction of ecclesiastical supremacy claimed by it over all the parishioners of every parish. That being the case, he (Mr. Fortescue) hoped the House, while it would be disposed to pay the utmost respect to any conscientious scruples, would not listen to the claim of the Established Church to educate the children of all religious denominations in Ireland, as put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge. It might, no doubt, be painful to refuse any claim of a conscientious kind; but it was certain that if ever there was a body which could afford to make sacrifices for their conscientious convictions, and to endure some privations on account of their religious scruples, it was that body represented by the right hon. Gentleman on this occasion—the Irish Established Church—comprising, as it did, the wealth of Ireland, and enjoying, as it did, the whole of the ecclesiastical revenues of that country. He (Mr. Fortescue) anticipated that the time would come when that body would change its mind on the subject of education; and he earnestly hoped that day was not far distant when the Established Church in Ireland would come forward, and by its sincere and hearty co-operation, make the national system a still greater blessing to that country even than it had been up to this period. That day, he believed, was not far distant, but he believed it would be nearer than ever if that body would make up its mind not to mix itself up any more with political contention. He trusted, however, whatever might be the claims put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, that the House would be cautious how it listened to them. The House would see that the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the other night, was a direct reversal of those fundamental principles which had been the salvation and essence of the national system of education in Ireland. Believing that those principles were incompatible with the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, and that the adoption of his Resolution, which embodied them, would have the effect of quieting the minds of the people of Ireland, he trusted that his (Mr. Fortescue's) Motion would receive the support of the House, being assured that, as long as that House and the Government acted upon the principles contained in his Resolution, there would be no fear for the stability of that great system of education which had conferred such incalculable blessings upon Ireland. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


, in seconding the Motion, said it was important that the House should recollect that it was not the Liberal Government of 1831 that originated the system of national education in Ireland, but that it was the result and consequence of a Commission appointed by a former Government, of which Lord Liverpool, Lord Eldon, Sir Robert Peel, and Mr. Goulburn were prominent members, containing several dignitaries of the Church among its members, with the Lord Primate of Ireland at their head. In their Report the Commissioners said:— We have applied our efforts to the framing of a system which, while it shall afford the opportunities of education to every description of the lower classes of the people, may, at the same time, by keeping clear of all interference with the particular religious tenets of any, induce the whole to receive its benefits, as one undivided body, under one and the same system, and in the same establishments. [After which they declare it to be their unanimous opinion:]—That no such plan, however wisely and unexceptionably constituted in other respect, can be carried into effectual execution in this country, unless it be explicitly avowed, and clearly understood, as its leading principle, that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or description of Christians. It was to attain this object that the existing Board of National Education was established, superseding the Kildare-place Society. It had been stated that in the year 1840, at the instance of the Presbyterian body, an important change was made in the fundamental rule. Now he (Mr. Kirk) wished to set this right; and in order to do so, he would first point out the position of vested schools. It was intended that the vested school principle should be the sole and single principle of the National Board at its establishment, this principle being that where local parties procured ground, and raised one-third of the cost of the building, the Commissioners should provide the remaining two-thirds of the sum required, the condition being that the property in the school should be vested in them or in trustees for their use, and should thus become public property. The consequence of their becoming so vested was, that the school building must for at least four hours of each day be used for literary education only, and at least one hour each day for religious instruction, this instruction being given by the ministers of the various denominations, or by those whom they should appoint. When the Presbyterian body came to consider this, they found that the larger number of their school buildings were already vested in trustees, and that, therefore, there was a legal technicality which prevented them from legally conveying them to the Commissioners, so as to make them national property; and there was a further difficulty, that these schools were built and endowed for Presbyterian, purposes, and the members of that body could not agree that the Protestant rector and the Roman Catholic priest should have the right to go into these schools and give religious instruction to the pupils. In 1832, and again in 1835, negotiations took place with the Presbyterians, which failed. In 1840, when Lord Carlisle, who now filled the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland with so much acceptance, was Chief Secretary for Ireland, a negotiation was entered into upon the principle that while the Presbyterians should recognise the fundamental principle of the Board, they should be allowed to retain their own schools for their own purposes; that these schools should be open for the children of every religious denomination for secular instruction four hours every day, but that at the hour for religious instruction there should be Presbyterian teaching and worship only, and that no children of any other denomination should remain, except with the consent of their parents, and that if any did remain, who were not of that persuasion, they should give notice to the parents, in order to remove any suspicion of proselytism. Upon this principle they joined the Board cordially and heartily. There was no teaching in their schools without religious instruction being also imparted, though it was true that they set the Bible apart to be read with due reverence at a distinct time; but the children did not read the Bible as a school-book, and they ought not to do so. Attempts had been made in the course of the discussion to show that Dr. Cooke, in his evidence before the Lords' Committee, had given a very different account of the transaction. He had turned to Dr. Cooke's evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords. Dr. Cooke stated that he was not in favour of any system of compulsion with regard to religious instruction, and he added, in answer to questions put by the Bishop of Ossory, the great leader of the present movement, that it would be a very dangerous principle, to say the least, to make the reading of the Scriptures obligatory upon children, because he held, as a Protestant, that no one ought to force religion upon another contrary to his conscience. The Presbyterians, in their negotiations with the National Board, had always shown an anxiety to maintain their own rights, and to extend the same liberty which they enjoyed to other denominations. They were not less desirous that the Scriptures should be read than members of the Church of England; but they did not wish that others should be compelled to think as they did. He held that the Bible would be rendered distasteful to children by being pressed upon their attention against their wish as well as by being altogether kept from them. A similar opinion was expressed by Dr. Chalmers, in his evidence before the Committee upon the Irish Poor Law, which sat in 1830. Dr. Chalmers said that he would have no part of education made compulsory; that a child ought no more to be compelled to attend a Bible class than a reading or arithmetic class, and that compulsion tended to limit and prevent the spread of Scriptural education, and to establish in the minds of the people a most hurtful association with the Scriptures. He entirely concurred in those opinions, which clearly sanctioned the principles now embodied in the rules of the National Board. With regard to the results of mixed education, although it had not succeeded to the extent once hoped, its comparative want of success must, he thought, be attributed to the opposition of the Church Education Society. The Rev. Mr. Woodward, for some time secretary to the Church Education Society, had published a pamphlet, in which he stated that in the first report of the society he had advocated opposition to the National Board upon two main grounds—first, that the rules of the Commissioners "forbade the Church to instruct her children in her own most holy faith;" and secondly, "that they withheld the Word of God from a class of our countrymen." But the Rev. Mr. Woodword, in a manly and candid manner, proceeded to retract those charges. He said:— Plain truth compels me to declare that I regard these two main objections as having been founded on assumptions utterly unsupported by facts. Personal observation of Scriptural and Church instruction, actually given in schools connected with the Board, showed me that there was a discrepancy between my pre-conceived notions and the reality of the case. I was led to examine for myself. I found that I had wholly misconceived the truth. It seemed to me, as it now does, clearer than the day, that the Board is wholly guiltless of either of the charges upon which I founded my original opposition. This was a proof of the misrepresentations which had been made with regard to the national system. He would mention two facts bearing upon this point which he had extracted from the Report of 1852. It there appeared from the evidence of Mr. M'Creedy, inspector of schools in Ulster, that out of 1,095 schools, in eleven districts, there were not less than 755, or two-thirds, at which the attendance of pupils, as regarded their religious denominations, was fairly mixed, Those who knew little of Ireland could hardly conceive the effect which the site of a school produced on the attendance of the pupils, or the dislike of Protestants and Presbyterians to attend a school built on the ground of the Roman Catholic chapel, and vice versâ. Yet, of these 755 schools, at which the attendance was fairly mixed, forty-one were built on meetinghouse ground, forty-two on chapel ground, and one on church ground; but there were still more curious facts connected with these schools well deserving the attention of the House—he meant especially the religion of the teachers and of those who employed them. In forty-six schools the teachers were Roman Catholics, and the managers Presbyterians; in seventy-four schools the teachers were Roman Catholics, and the managers of the Established Church; in forty-five the teachers were Presbyterians, and the managers of the Established Church; in twenty-four the teachers were of the Established Church, and the managers Presbyterians,—one teacher was a Presbyterian, while the manager was a Roman Catholic, and one teacher was of the Established Church, and the manager a Roman Catholic. Out of all these schools only nineteen were under joint management. If they looked to the latest returns they found that the number of vested schools was 1,617, and of non-vested 3,575. Of the 1,617 vested schools, about 1,300 were under Roman Catholic managers; who would not only not submit to the late Vote, but would agitate against it, and be successful. In the year 1853–4, out of 4,458 schools 2,600 were fairly mixed, or greatly more than one-half; and he assumed that this proportion still existed. But it was of vital importance to note that, of the 2,600, there were not less than 1,745, in all of which the Protestants were in a minority; and in 1,400 of them that minority was so small as not to be more than twelve or fourteen per cent of the number of children on the rolls. So that there were 1,400 schools, in each of which there were only seven or eight Protestant children; and, if the national system were broken down, those children must either forego instruction altogether, or take it with such religious instruction as the patron might choose to enforce, as it was clear that a school could not be provided for seven or eight pupils. In almost all these 1,400 schools the patrons and teachers were Roman Catholic. He was anxious to say a word with respect to the district model schools, the first of which was erected in the town of Newry, which he represented. The last return on this subject was made up to December, 1854, and these schools were, he believed, exclusively under the control of the Commissioners. If these schools were fairly mixed according to the nature of the population which surrounded them, there was great reason to believe that the system was greatly successful. In Newry there were 265 scholars, forty-five of whom belonged to the Established Church, 152 belonged to Roman Catholics, sixty-one belonged to Presbyterians, and seven belonged to other denominations; or 113 belonged to Protestants, and 152 to Roman Catholics. These numbers did not bear a fair proportion to the nature of the population, but that there were not more Protestant scholars might be accounted for by the fact that there was a Church education school there and two other very flourishing schools, the purpose of which was to fit the pupils for the Queen's Colleges and for Trinity College. In Ballymena there were 171 district model school pupils—twenty-two belonging to the Established Church, forty to Roman Catholics, 101 to Presbyterians, and eight to other denominations. In Coleraine the number of these scholars was 156, of whom forty-eight belonged to the Established Church, thirty-two to Roman Catholics, ninety to Presbyterians, and three to other denominations. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to give the proportion of scholars belonging to different bodies in seven other localities, and the total result was that in the whole of the ten places named the number of scholars belonging to Protestants was 656 and to Roman Catholics 1,403. He thought that that proportion represented fairly the character of the population by which those schools were surrounded, and showed that where the system had fair play it was found to be acceptable to the great body of the people. He trusted, therefore, that the Resolution he had the honour to second would be supported by a majority of that House.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That this House has observed with satisfaction the progress made in the instruction of the poorer classes of Her Majesty's Irish Subjects, under the direction of the Commissioners of National Education; and is of opinion that, in the administration of that system, or in any modification of its rules, there should be maintained a strict and undeviating adherence to its fundamental principles, securing parental authority and the rights of conscience to pupils of all denominations, by excluding all compulsory religious teaching, this House being convinced that no plan for the Education of the Irish Poor, however wisely and unexceptionably contrived in other respects, can be carried into effectual operation, unless it be explicitly avowed and clearly understood, as its leading principle, that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or denomination of Christians.


Sir, as the present Motion, brought forward by the hon. Gentleman who proposes it in a speech marked by great candour and temper, is made with the object, according to one part of the hon. Gentleman's speech, of reviewing, and, according to another part, of rescinding the decision come to on Tuesday evening, I think the House will pardon—nay, perhaps, will expect me to state the course which I think we should take on the present occasion with respect to this Resolution as connected with the Address to the Crown I had the honour to move. I think that two questions are raised by this Resolution—the one is a question materially affecting the relations of this House with the Crown, and the authority and weight of this House as a deliberative assembly; the other question relates more particularly to the merits of the Motion which I brought forward on Tuesday evening—a Motion, be it remembered, that was brought forward after the fullest notice—that was amply discussed, and that was finally decided, not by any pressure on my part, but with the full consent and concurrence of the Government, who voted in the majority against the adjournment of the House. On both of these questions, with the permission of the House, I should like to make a few observations. And, first, with regard to the question which intimately affects the relations of the Crown with this House—I speak in the presence of the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), than whom there is no one who better knows what the constitutional authority of this House is; and I say, upon that question, that it is of infinite importance, when an Address is voted by the House of Commons to the Crown, we should not rashly, or without due caution, stir again in the subject until we have received an answer from the Crown. Such, I believe, is outgeneral rule—namely, that until an Address has been answered it is not usual to move a second Address with reference to the same subject. That, I say, is the ordinary rule; and I beg the House to consider well what the effect of this Resolution will be if it be intended to rescind the Address with reference to the proceeding of this House. It, in fact, amounts to an evasion of the first Resolution. It puts the House, as well as the Crown, in a false position. It represents this House, to the country at large, as no longer what it ought to be—a deliberate assembly, but an assembly deciding a question upon the chance of the moment, or influenced, perhaps, by some attraction or sense of duty elsewhere. But, certainly, even if it be important to attend to those calls, they ought not to draw us away from our duties here, however arduous those duties may be. It also places the Crown in a still more difficult, and, as far as regards its relation with this House, I think in an unseemly position. At this moment the Crown has the Address, which has been moved and carried, in its hands, while we are deliberating upon a Resolution which is intended to rescind that Address. If the Resolution should have that effect, what is to be the particular course which we are to take upon this subject? The Crown has already been advised upon the subject with reference to the Address which has been voted, without any information with respect to any subsequent Resolution which might be passed for re- scinding that Address. I beg to remind the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) that when an Address was carried by this House on the subject of the Post Office carrying letters on a Sunday, and which Address was voted on an evening when many Gentlemen were not supposed to be here, and when the actual attendance was much less in number that it was on Tuesday evening last, and the majority also less than that by which my Motion was adopted, an attempt was made, not by an Address, but by bringing in a Bill, to do away with the effect of the Address which had been so carried. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London was then Prime Minister, the present First Lord of the Admiralty was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they both opposed the Bill, on the ground that it was not right or seemly that we should attempt to rescind an Address voted to the Crown. Subsequently to that, the noble Lord, having deliberated, no doubt, upon the subject, brought the matter under the consideration of the House. The noble Lord, on that occasion—it was on the 1st of June, 1850—made a suggestion, in which I heartily concurred, with reference to Addresses to the Crown, which may be supposed to have been adopted when the House was taken by surprise. As the question has again occurred, perhaps it may be worth while to notice the opinion of the noble Lord on that occasion. The noble Lord then said, that since Addresses to the Crown are carried by a single vote of the House, without any subsequent opportunity of considering the effect of the Addresses, it might be reasonable so far to alter the rules of the House as to assimilate Addresses made in the course of the Session to Addresses which are made at the commencement of the Session; in other words, that the Addresses should be referred to a Committee and reported to the House, so as to give the House the fullest opportunity of deliberating upon that which they had previously and only once considered. Now, as this Motion happens to be my own, I perhaps, in making that observation, may appear to be speaking against my own measure; but I do readily admit that that is also my conviction upon the subject. I think it is a reasonable proposition; and I wish to say, as far as my own opinion is concerned, that I should be glad to agree to such a proposition. Nay, I should have been very glad if that had been already the rule of the House, so that you might have had the opportunity of reconsidering your former decision. Having said thus much upon the constitutional question, with a view of putting ourselves right before the country, I will now proceed to another part of the subject. I cannot refrain from taking notice of one remark made by the hon. Gentleman at the commencement of his speech. I think a few words escaped from him inadvertently. He did not actually say in words that the Motion was carried by a surprise, but he said that the question was carried at a time when everybody expected an adjournment. I should be extremely sorry to stand here and support any Resolution which had been carried, in the remotest degree, by means that could be construed into a surprise. I hope the House will bear with me while I show, at all events, that there was no surprise on my part, and that the House had the fullest opportunity of deliberating upon and of coming to a decision on the Motion. Before Easter I gave notice of my Motion, and placed the terms of it on the paper. After Easter I balloted for a day and obtained precedence. The day for which I obtained precedence was the 6th of May. On the 5th, the day before the Motion was to come on, an important debate took place on the question of peace, and an adjournment of the debate was voted. Believing it to be the wish of the House, I gave way on that occasion, in order to allow the debate to go on; but I made an appeal to the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) whether he could give me a night to bring on the subject. The noble Viscount said that we were early in the Session, that there was a considerable pressure of business, and as I should have another opportunity he was not prepared at that time to give me a day. I then took the chance of another ballot on the 23rd, and I again obtained precedence, and fixed the 17th of June; on which day the Motion came on. That, therefore, gave the House nearly a month's notice. I on a subsequent occasion said I felt it my duty to bring on the Motion, and everybody knew that it was coming on. More than that, on Friday preceding the Motion—and this is important with reference to the question as to whether the division on my Motion was stolen—for that is one of the phrases which has been used—on that Friday I heard for the first time that morning sittings were to take place, commencing on the day which I had fixed for my Motion. I pointed out to the noble Lord the inconvenience of beginning the morning sittings on a day when such a Motion was about to come on, and I suggested that the morning sittings should be deferred in order that the House might fully discuss the subject and get rid of it. Unfortunately, I failed in my appeal to the noble Lord—the morning sittings took place, and my Motion came on on Tuesday. The debate, I think, was a very ample one. At half-past twelve o'clock I moved the adjournment of the debate; only 32 Members voted for that Motion, and 184 voted against it. The whole of the Government voted with me. There was not a word of remonstrance from any quarter against taking the division that night; afterwards the division was taken, and it was in my favour. On reviewing all these circumstances, so far, I think I may say, in justification of myself, that never was there a challenge more fairly offered, never was there a challenge more advisedly taken up, and, I beg leave to add, never was there a battle more honourably won. Now, with regard to the present Resolution, the question is how we are to deal with it. I have pointed out the great inconvenience of indirectly attempting to rescind a previous Address which has been moved and adopted. I think there are no occasions on which that course should be pursued, unless there exist some strong and urgent necessity which calls upon you to take such a course. Now, I must judge of the necessity by the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of this Motion. They have rested the Resolution upon two grounds. First of all they say that the Address I have carried, if it remains as it is, and without any intimation from this House as to its adherence to the national system, will be the subversion of that system. The second ground is, that the necessary consequence of the Address will be to substitute a new system of education in Ireland for that which now exists, and which new system will have the effect of enabling persons to proselytise the children of another faith. These are the two grounds on which this Motion is rested, supposing it to be necessary as a Resolution to rescind an objectionable Vote previously given. Let me deal with both these questions. I am first told that this is an attempt to subvert the system of national education in Ireland; but I ask any Gentleman to point out to me what are the terms in the Address, or in any of the observations which I made in recommending it to the House, which tend to show that that Address would subvert or break up your great national system of education? When the Motion was brought on I distinctly said, in the most emphatic terms I could employ, that with regard to vested schools, I left them exactly as they are now. I went on to say that I would not touch, nor in any way interfere either with workhouse schools or with model schools, or the schools for training teachers; and I went on further to say, that I would not touch or in any way interfere with those non-vested schools now in the hands of Presbyterians and Roman Catholics. I said then, and say still, that I wish, to leave them all where they are. But, consistently with that, I think you may supplement and add to your system by giving assistance not only to those churchmen who now belong to it, but to others whom it would be but reasonable to include within your system, so as to enable them to receive a portion of that grant which is paid by the country for the great purpose of national education. The only question is, whether you can accomplish that object consistently with your system. As to the reasonableness and justice of such a plan, it is founded upon what I have stated before—that when you raise a great fund out of the general taxation of the whole community, it is no more than reasonable and right that every class and portion of that community should receive some share of that grant, and that they should not be deprived of it by any regulations which interfere with their conscientious opinions and religious principles. The question then is, whether you can supplement and add to your system, so as to do this act of justice to those who do not receive any portion of the grant. The question is not whether I attempt or wish to subvert or break up the national system. The first part of your Resolution refers to the satisfaction you feel at observing the progress of education in Ireland. I will maintain as steadily as any of you the preservation of the national system which now prevails, provided you cannot add to it in such a manner as to include all that can make it really national. But I believe you may accomplish that object by a modification of your rules, and by making those rules perfectly consistent with the principles you here announce; and that schools which are not now included may, by a modification and relaxation of the rules, be included in your system. If I am right in the opinion that this would not neces- sarily subvert the national system, then I say that one great ground which you think you have for moving this Resolution is taken from you. I think that the whole of the speech of my right hon. Friend—if he will permit me to say so—the Secretary for Ireland, in the debate on the Address, rested on a fallacy in the particular point to which I am about to allude. The second reason which you have assigned for rescinding the Address is this—that if it were carried out it would substitute for the rules of the national system the rules, in effect, of the Church Education Society, which would enable us to proselytise the children of other religious creeds. Now, the whole of the argument of the Secretary for Ireland, and the greater part of the argument of the hon. Gentleman who has made the present Motion, proceed upon the assumption that I wish to substitute a new system for the present. Did I say so—did I say anything like it—in my speech? On the contrary, I never made an observation which could lead any one to infer, and I never made a proposition which ought to make any one infer that I would willingly—taking the words of the speakers and not of the Motion—that I would willingly interfere with or disregard parental authority, or rights of conscience, or that I would compel anybody to be taught contrary to their consciences. As far as my opinion goes, that doctrine is quite the reverse of what I maintain. I hold that such an attempt ought not to be made; and I now distinctly say that, if my proposition could not be carried into effect without interfering with parental authority, and the rights of conscience which you mention in this Resolution, I would be the first man to say that my Address ought not to stand. But, say you, "Whatever may be your observations on the subject, the effect of your Address will be, if it be carried out, to substitute one system instead of another." If so, for Heaven's sake show me the words which will have that effect. Observe how the matter stands. You have 5,000 schools in Ireland at this moment—3,000 of those schools are under the management of Roman Catholics. I do not interfere with any of them. I do not wish a single Roman Catholic to come to the Church schools. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion—or it may have been the hon. Gentleman who moved it—dextrously passed over that part of the case and said, "Your object is not to compel your own children to be educated, but to compel the children of other creeds to come to your schools." That was not my intention, nor would it be the effect of my Address. There is not a town or village in Ireland where Roman Catholic children at this moment are not suffered to receive education in schools under Roman Catholic management; and, as long as that is the case, so long the Church of England schools would have no power to force the consciences of any Roman Catholic, nor of educating any Roman Catholic children unless their parents chose to send their children to them of their own accord. If there is any doubt upon the point, if you think it might be feared that against their own will an education might be forced upon them contrary to their consciences, then I say, lay down regulations to prevent this, and I will consent to them. But what I contend for is this—that there is nothing in the Address that leads to that conclusion, and nothing in my observations that warrants it. But I think, if such an objection as this be taken, that after what I stated the other night with reference to the inquiry which has been conducted in the House of Lords, and with reference to the results of that inquiry, and also in reference to the effect which that inquiry has made upon the mind of the representative of education in this country at the present moment,—I mean the Lord President of the Council,—I say, recollecting the reference I so made, it is a little too much to charge me with an attempt to introduce a system which would have the effect of proselytising and interfering with the rights of conscience, when the very identical thing which I proposed in principle was proposed by him. No doubt there are in the House of Commons many Members of great eminence; but are there not many Members who have not read through those two large volumes on the table? Have they weighed all the evidence that was brought before Lord Granville? Have they heard and considered the discussions which took place between the persons who were the Members of their Lordships' Committee? And can they really disbelieve that Lord Granville stated as the result of that inquiry, that after full discussion he was of opinion that a case of great injustice had been made out; an injustice, however, for the removal of which he thought he had found a way, and that way was to give grants to the Church schools, not indeed salaries to teachers, but books and school requisites, so as to give the children the advantage of attending school without any condition or restriction, except that the schools should be subject to a Government inspection. I think, therefore, that it cannot be said that the Address to the Crown which this House has adopted will, if acted upon, subvert the existing system. When the noble Lord the President of the Council has pointed out that in the first place the principles upon which that Address was founded may be acted upon, and in the second place that, in his opinion, it is right and just to act upon them, it does not appear to me that the House would do well in consenting to rescind the decision to which it has already come. I now come to the Resolution before the House, and I ask myself whether or no I can assent to it. It is a Resolution of rather an extraordinary character, because it indirectly interferes with a distinct decision of this House; and if I am asked whether I can agree to it I am bound to consider how it is worded and how far it is consistent with the Address to which this House has agreed. If the present Resolution implied that the Address was founded upon principles which would interfere with the right of conscience, I would not, and could not, consent to it; but before I come to any conclusion I am bound to look to the terms of the Resolution itself, and to consider whether I must oppose it, or whether it is consistent with the Address. If the terms of this Resolution are such that I cannot agree to, I am bound to meet it by a direct negative, and I am equally bound to oppose it if it be inconsistent with the terms of the Address to which we have agreed. Now, this Resolution may be divided into three parts—the first of which is an expression of opinion. It begins by stating that this House has observed with satisfaction the progress made in the instruction of the poorer classes of Her Majesty's subjects under the direction of the Commissioners of National Education. Now, Sir, as I have already said, I have observed with as much satisfaction as any Gentleman in this House the progress made in the education of the poorer classes in Ireland under the national system, and therefore with that part of the Resolution I entirely concur. It then goes on to an expression of opinion, and says that this House is of opinion that in the administration of that system, or in any modification of its rules, there should be maintained a strict and undeviating adherence to its fundamental principles, securing parental authority and the rights of conscience to pupils of all denominations, by excluding all compulsory religious teaching. That sentence has reference to certain principles which are called fundamental, and which have been well explained by the hon. Gentleman who has brought forward the Resolution, and it also has a close connection with the words which immediately follow. It refers to a modification which all admit may be made according to the circumstances of the case, and by which the present system may be improved, but it insists upon the retention of the principle upon which that system is founded—namely, that in the first place parental authority shall be regarded; in the second place, that rights of conscience shall be respected; and, in the third place, that religious teaching which may be against the consciences of the parents of the children shall not be enforced. Now, Sir, I do not wish, I never did wish, and I hope I never shall wish, in any way to interfere with or to disregard parental authority; or to infringe upon the rights of conscience, or to force religious teaching upon any person whatever; and therefore to that part of the Resolution I am unable to assent. The third part of the Resolution is an expression of the conviction entertained by this House, and the words employed are not the words of the hon. Gentleman himself, but the words of the Commissioners of 1812 and 1814, among whom were many Irish prelates. They are as follows:— This House being convinced that no plan for the education of the Irish poor, however wisely or unexceptionably contrived in other respects, can be carried into effectual operation unless it be explicitly avowed and clearly understood as its leading principle that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or denomination of Christians. As I have already stated, those are the words of the Commissioners of 1812, comprehending many prelates of the Church of Ireland, and I am not inclined to disagree with them. I have now, I think, fairly gone through the terms of the Resolution, with the view of seeing whether or no I can agree to it. I have at the same time to consider that we are in a position of great embarrassment, because by agreeing to this Resolution we may appear to be altering by a subsequent Motion a decision at which we have arrived; but I think that I can show to the House that there is a mode by which we may do justice to one class and not con- vert the present discussion into a means of obtaining a party triumph. I myself in this matter have no wish but that of doing an act of justice, and admitting persons now excluded the advantages which I think they ought to enjoy; while, at the same time, I wish to retain to those persons who now enjoy the benefits the future enjoyment of them. As far, therefore, as the wording of this Resolution goes, I cannot say that I dissent from it,—nay, more, with every paragraph of it, taken by itself, I cordially concur. The next thing, then, that I have to consider is how far this Resolution is in accordance with the Address to which this House has agreed. This House has agreed— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct that such modifications may be made in the rules of the national system of education in Ireland as will extend the advantages now enjoyed by non-vested schools to any other than vested schools now existing, or hereafter to be established, whatever their regulations may be as to the mode of religious instruction; provided that no children shall be compelled to learn any catechism, creed, or formulary to which their parents or guardians may object; and provided that the patrons shall be willing to place such schools in connection with the Board, to permit the Board's control over books to be used in general instruction, and to receive officially the visits of the Government inspectors. The words in that address which the hon. Gentleman appears to think inconsistent with his Resolution are these, "whatever their regulations may be as to the mode of religious instruction." But these words, in reality, are not inconsistent with the present Resolution, but require to be combined with it; and what we have now to consider is whether, consistently with its principles the National Board can make such an alteration in its rules, on the one hand, and whether the Church and Wesleyan schools can make such an alteration in their rules, on the other, that the Board can give and they can receive the assistance of the State; and it is my belief that they can. That is the very reason why I said that the Address and the Resolution were not out of harmony the one with the other. It is not for this House, still less is it for me, to indicate the regulations which might be made with the view and the effect of remedying the injustice of which I complain; but it is for this House to lay down the principles on which the Board shall act, and it is for the Board to consider of the rule by means of which principles so manifestly just and equitable may be brought into operation. I beg of you to look at this question as if the Address and the Resolution were taken together. I entreat you to regard it as you would a clause in a Bill to which it was proposed to append a proviso. The clause taken by itself means one thing. The proviso may qualify its meaning and put a somewhat different interpretation upon it, without at all defeating the main object of the clause. If you will consent to view the question in this light, I doubt not that you will be of opinion with me that the Address and the Resolution, so far from involving you in any inconsistency, present for your consideration this simple proposition:—Seeing that there are schools which, in consequence of their regulations with respect to the mode of religious instruction, cannot enjoy any portion of the public grants; and seeing that this House, having at heart the interests of all classes and denominations of Christians, has an earnest desire to afford assistance to such schools—can you not contrive to frame rules and regulations which will enable them to receive some aid from the National Exchequer, at the same time that you take care to conduct your educational system in such a manner as to respect parental authority and to violate no dictate of religious liberty? True it is that if you could not carry this Address into effect otherwise than by subverting your entire system, sweeping away the Roman Catholic schools as at present constituted, and introducing a new set of rules moulded on the model of those used by the Church Education Society, it would not be possible to act on the Address—and for this very obvious reason, that the Roman Catholic children would have no schools to go to, or, what is virtually the same thing, none that would not be liable to what Roman Catholics would regard as the fatal objection of these rules. But you are not compelled to adopt any such course; on the contrary, you are free to take a line of action which, while it will preserve inviolate the rights of the Roman Catholics, will do an act of justice, not of favour, be it remembered, but of simple justice, to another and a not unimportant class of religionists. In the first place, it is reasonable that, following the suggestion of Lord Granville himself, you should so modify your regulations as to give books and school-requisites to all schools, of whatever denomination, in which the education of the pupils progresses satisfactorily. That is one relaxation the propriety of which is obvious. Another is, that in districts where there is a sufficient number of schools to educate Roman Catholic children under the exclusive superintendence of Roman Catholic superiors, it should be lawful to make grants to Church of England and even to Wesleyan schools also, it being distinctly understood that parents who permit their children to be educated therein do so with the full knowledge of the rules observed in the schools. A third relaxation, which might be introduced with advantage, is, that when it is clear that there are in any particular locality sufficient schools for the education of all other classes of Christians, it shall be lawful to give grants to the schools of the Church Education Society, provided always that if it should appear on a Government inspection that the principles of your system are violated, such grants shall be liable to withdrawal. Other modifications I might easily point out, but I forbear to do so, as these three would suffice to redress the wrongs and remedy the evils of which a large body of Christians complain. The question for us now to consider is, how far we can or ought to assent to this Resolution, or what we ought to do? For my part, I could by no means sanction the Resolution if it implied the rescinding of the Vote agreed to the other evening. But I have explained to you my reasons for thinking that it is not susceptible of any such interpretation. I agree with the hon. Member for Louth that it amounts to a revision of that decision; and I will even go the length of admitting that its effect is to put an interpretation on the Address which will preclude the possibility of working that Address in a manner subversive of the national system or injurious to the rights of conscience. I am of opinion that the Address and the Resolution can stand together, side by side, and that it is very proper and reasonable that they should do so. The result, then, is this—believing, as I do, that the Address was founded upon the clearest and most obvious principles of justice, I rejoice that it received the sanction of the House; believing, also, that it would be most impolitic to rescind a decision so recently pronounced, I am equally glad that the present Resolution does not contemplate any such attempt; but believing, likewise, that in any scheme of national education you ought not to interfere with parental authority, and that you should not seek to dis- turb or influence the religious opinions of any sect or denomination of Christians, I am willing to accept this Resolution, in order that it may remove—if any such thing did exist in the public mind—any apprehension or suspicion that there was an intention either to subvert the present system, or in any way to interfere with religious liberty and the rights of conscience. I look on the Address and the Resolution as embodying one proposition, and that proposition I regard as incorporating these indisputable truths—that as, on the one hand, it would be most unjust to deprive any portion of the community of their share in a grant intended for the purposes of national education, and to which they had themselves contributed, so, on the other, it is equally right and reasonable that in administering these grants you should not allow those who receive them to interfere with the conscientious convictions and religious freedom of others. The rules by which these two great objects are to be carried into effect must be made by the National Board. There may be difficulties in framing them, but they may be overcome, and, if so, they ought to be overcome. This question has now long agitated the country. I believe that it is at present in our power to settle it; but I am sure that it can be settled only by prudence and moderation on both sides. Whether my voice will have any weight when it crosses the Channel I know not, but if it should, I would say to those who, as I firmly believe, have justice in their favour, "Parliament has recognised by an Address to the Crown the equity of your claims, and they are willing to concede them, provided only you will give, as I have no doubt you will, an assurance that you will not seek to disturb the religious convictions of others, or to interfere with their rights of conscience. Be temperate, be moderate, and above all things be conciliatory." And if such is the appeal I would make to those whose cause I earnestly though inadequately advocate, I would make a similar one to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I am convinced that, if he too will act with moderation and in the same spirit of conciliation, it will be in his power to exercise an influence and authority over the National Board which will cause them to make such modifications in their system as will do justice to those whose claims are righteous, and can no longer be resisted. The noble Lord has achieved many triumphs in his day, and if he should succeed in bringing to a satisfactory settlement this long-agitated question, he will add yet another laurel, and that the brightest of all, to the wreath that encircles his brow. For my own part, I can declare, with perfect sincerity, that my only object has been to promote an amicable arrangement of this most important controversy. If I should attain that object, I shall have more than my reward; and I can assure the House that it is for no other reasons, and with no other views than those which I have endeavoured to explain, that I express my concurrence in the present Resolution.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House to believe that it never entered my mind to suspect that he had acted unfairly in the manner in which he obtained the majority on his Motion the other evening. Every one conversant with the forms of the House must be cognisant that if surprise there were, it was occasioned partly by the miscalculations of individual Members, and in some degree by the rival attractions of a more splendid scene—at all events, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that no blame can be justly imputed to him. It is quite impossible to exaggerate the importance of the question before us. Every question that relates to the education of Ireland is of the greatest importance; and everything that touches the religious feelings of the people of Ireland vibrates from one end of the country to the other, and may lead to consequences which the boldest would shrink from contemplating. The question before the House unites both characters. It is true that the Vote of the other night is limited in its primary and immediate effect to the present system of education in Ireland; but then that system is intimately connected with the moral and religious condition of her people; and no man who understands it—no man who has studied it even superficially, would venture to meddle with it otherwise than with a tender and reverent hand. I therefore considered the question raised the other night as one of the greatest importance; and I confess that I am one of those who heard the success of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion with a feeling nothing short of consternation. The right hon. Gentleman, indeed, tells us that he does not intend to subvert the existing system, and I am bound to believe him; but the question is not what he intended to do, but what he would have done; and no one who is sincerely attached to, or really acquainted with, that system, and has studied it in its effects, can doubt that the Resolution of the other night, left as it stands, would be the death-blow of the plan of united education. Nor is this a view taken by Members of the Liberal party only. The Earl of Eglinton, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland when the right hon. Gentleman was at the head of the Home Department, in a speech which will ever remain on record to his immortal honour, declared that he went to his vice-regency with strong prejudices on this subject; that he even thought there were some objections to the national system as now conducted: but after experience he wholly refused to assent to alterations precisely similar in principle to those now proposed, assigning as his reason that he could not consent to throw 400,000 Irish children upon the world uneducated. He thereby plainly showed his opinion to be, that the fatal principle which lies at the bottom of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme must, if once introduced, prove subversive and destructive of the existing system. The right hon. Gentleman designates his proposal as "the supplement and extension of that system:" forgetting that it is wholly incongruous with its essential elements. He commenced his address by warning the House of the danger attendant on an expression of its opinion regarding an Address before that Address has been duly considered and answered by the Crown. There may be inconvenience in that course. There are, doubtless, in existence precedents for the revision and reversal of previous declarations of opinion on the part of this House; but I do not hesitate to say, that such is the gravity of the occasion—such is the magnitude of the question—that if there were no precedent on record now would be the time for making one. The right hon. Gentleman refers to the calming effect of the speech he delivered in bringing forward his Motion; but did he not hear the frank avowal of his supporters, that the present system was one to be thoroughly condemned, that it did not deserve the name of "a united system," but ought to be wholly subverted, and then reconstructed on a new basis? And is there no danger that, unless we express a distinct and decided opinion to the contrary at the earliest pos- sible period, those who seek to overthrow the system may be regarded as the true exponents of the sentiments of the House of Commons? The people of Ireland will interpret the Motion by these declarations, its success would be taken there as a declaration of the House of Commons against the system; and it would excite hopes and fears in that country which boded the most serious evil; the House is bound, then, at the earliest possible moment, unless they concur in that opinion, to declare what their opinion really is. The right hon. Gentleman has stated his reasons why he is ready to support the present Motion. I am so much gratified with the prospect of a unanimous vote on the Resolution that I am hardly disposed to quarrel with the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman arrives at his determination to assist in the attainment of so useful an issue; yet I confess that I listened with no small astonishment to his reasoning; and I must say I think that some of his arguments go to prove that the Motion before the House, which distinctly supports all the essential principles of the existing system, is perfectly consistent with his own proposal, which, in the opinion of 99 out of every 100 persons, is completely subversive of that system. Some of his arguments savour rather of the school of Loyola than of the logic taught in the learned shades of Cambridge. However, the object we have in view will be accomplished by the unanimous adoption of the Resolution moved by my hon. Friend. Such a declaration of the opinion of this House will satisfy the public mind in Ireland that any attack upon the system of national education must fail; that, whatever may have been the result of a casual vote, taken when most of the Members of this Assembly were but imperfectly informed of what was being attempted, yet when the representatives of all parts of the kingdom come deliberately to consider the question, they are certain to decide that the best interests of Ireland are bound up with the unfaltering maintenance of a system which, during the last twenty-three years, has educated, in a manner that England might well envy and advantageously emulate, as many as 2,500,000 children, and which at this moment imparts instruction to 550,000 scholars. The opening of a door to anything approaching to proselytism, however concealed or disguised, must infallibly first vitiate, and then destroy, your whole sys- tem; and, therefore, the passing of a Resolution by this House, expressing its uncompromising opposition to any such attempts, will serve to allay any excitement on that score in the minds of the people of the sister country. I have already referred to the direct benefits of the Irish plan of national education; but its indirect advantages are equally important. Depend upon it, it operates quietly but powerfully in mitigating political and religious differences in Ireland. Half a million of children of all denominations cannot be educated together in the same schools, in which all topics savouring of sectarian bitterness are rigorously excluded, without a permanent amelioration being produced in the feeling and the character of the Irish people. Supposing the system, progressing thus favourably, were by any accident or misfortune broken down, what would be the immediate consequence? Why, that the education of the people of Ireland would be conducted in two hostile camps—the Protestant schools, supported by the wealth and influence of the landlords, being arrayed against the Roman Catholic schools, upheld by the influence of the priests. These would be the weapons with which they would fight. In the contest between the two parties no doubt the landlord would have the advantage, in virtue of the superior education which his greater means would enable him to provide; but I believe that the priest would wield weapons which would in the long run give him the victory over his antagonists. He would be compelled to agitate, and that in a manner that must prove mischievous to the civil and religious peace of the country, in order to cope with his opponent, and he would be sure to beat him in the end. And what would be the result? All the good we have been effecting would be undone, and a new race would arise with all those bitter sectarian feelings which formerly existed. I conceive that the national system of education ought not only to be valued and preserved for the good it has effected as an instrument of instruction, but because it is an effectual barrier against evils of the greatest magnitude which would infallibly arise if it were overthrown. I am much gratified that the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends have determined to support the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Louth; but I am certainly surprised that some of these hon. Gentlemen are able to join in the unqualified but well deserved eulogy which that Resolution pronounces upon the national system of education in Ireland. I heartily rejoice that they have done so, and if their determination be the result of changed opinions, and they lend their influence to reconcile all parties in Ireland to the national system, I believe it may become a still greater blessing to that country than it has hitherto been. I hope that may be so—consilia in mediis referens. If the members of the Church of England will frankly lend their aid, and will frankly throw aside all desire to render the system of instruction, directly or indirectly, a means of proselytism, and give to the national system such support as it has received from the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian persuasions, I have no doubt that the benefit to Ireland will be incalculable. I know not whether I may augur, from the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite to this Resolution, that such will be the case. I most devoutly pray that it may, for nothing of better omen to Ireland can occur. I will advert only for a moment to those general considerations which are, I think, inseparable from this question. It is most important, not only because the education of the people of Ireland is of the greatest consequence as such, but because it is connected with the whole religious condition of the country. I need not remind the House what that religious condition is, but I may remind them how it has been dealt with in the present Session. We have in Ireland, in the first place, the Established Church, supported by the great body of the landowners, and possessing rich endowments, though it comprises within its communion a comparatively small minority of the population. The great body of the Irish people profess the Roman Catholic religion, and the only assistance which they receive from the State is a grant for the education of their priests at the college of Maynooth. In the third place, there are the Presbyterians, who receive a Parliamentary grant, which is known as the Regium Donum. The system of national education is supported by public grants, but it is unconnected with any religious denominations, although it is more or less affected by them. In the course of the present Session questions relating to all these establishments have been brought under the consideration of the House, and the attacks which have been made upon them have been uniformly resisted by Her Majesty's Government. The Government refused to concur in an attack upon the Established Church in Ireland; they also refused their concurrence to an attack upon Maynooth; they defended the Regium Donum; and they have now resisted, I am happy to say successfully, the assault which has been made upon the national system of education in Ireland. I cannot, however, refrain from reminding the House, though I do not do so in any recriminating or taunting spirit, of the course which was pursued by others upon these questions. I see on the opposite benches hon. Gentlemen who hold a high position in this country, who were lately Ministers of the Crown, and who, for aught we know, may soon again occupy that important position. Those hon. Gentlemen supported us in resisting the attack upon the Established Church in Ireland; they supported us in resisting the spoliation of the Protestants and Presbyterians of Ulster; but what was their conduct when an attack was made upon the Roman Catholics? I wish that when we were dealing with the important question of Maynooth we had been favoured with their presence, for we might then have known what policy they would recommend the country to pursue with reference to that subject; but we had to lament their absence. On the present occasion those hon. Gentlemen appeared in the first instance—apparently, at least—as the assailants of the national system of educacation. ["No, no!"] I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that I wish to treat them with the utmost fairness, and I give my right hon. Friend full credit for the desire he has evinced to prevent the mischief which was likely to result from the course he recently adopted. I must tell the right hon. Gentleman, however, that, unless a disclaimer is made on behalf of those with whom he is politically connected, the Resolution which he proposed the other night will be regarded as a strong indication on their part of an inclination to alter the system of united education in Ireland in a manner which would cause great dissatisfaction among the Roman Catholics. I shall be very glad if some hon. Gentleman who is entitled to express the opinion of that party will embrace the present opportunity of informing us what is really the policy they would recommend the House and the country to adopt with regard to the religious establishments of Ireland. I conceive that every year of religious peace that is preserved in that country is of infinite importance. Ireland is now tranquil and prosperous. I last year revisited that country after an absence of some years—I had not been in that country since I was officially connected with it in the hour of Ireland's darkest gloom, when famine and disease were pressing so heavily on that unfortunate country. A more gratifying spectacle it was impossible to behold. Indications of prosperity and of successful industry were visible on every side, and the moral condition of the people was hardly less gratifying. I heard on all hands that the spirit of political and religious bitterness was fast subsiding—of political differences taking that form in which they exist in this country and which ought to exist in every free country, for it is a healthy and a natural form—the honest contention of parties for the principles they profess. Religious differences were still more passing away. I believe that state of things will endure, unless you evoke the fatal genius of civil and religious discord which has been the curse of Ireland. I conjure the House, then, as they value the peace of Ireland and the welfare of this empire, to give a firm and determined opposition to every proposal, from whatever quarter it may come, that would be the signal for the revival of that fatal spirit of civil and religious discord which has been the bane of Ireland and the difficulty and the danger of England. I am relieved from the necessity of defending the present system of united education in Ireland by the ample concessions which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. If he came to curse, at all events he has remained to bless. I believe the expression of the deep sense entertained by the House of Commons of the value of the system of Irish national education, and of the danger of lightly or rashly meddling with it, will produce the best effects in Ireland. I am bound in frankness, on the part of the Government, to state plainly that they will regard the assent of the House to this Resolution as an acknowledgment of the value of the system of national education in Ireland; and that in advising the Sovereign to reply to the Address, they will keep that admission in view. I trust the result of our discussion on this subject will be, that the system of national education, which has scattered the seeds of present and future improvement broadcast throughout Ireland, will be more firmly rooted than ever, and will long continue to be a blessing to that country, and to conduce to the unity and happiness of the empire.


said, that the question might be divided into two issues—how far it was desirable that the Resolution should be entertained at the period at which it was now proposed; and secondly, what ought to be done by those who voted for the Address? Upon the first point he had listened with surprise and disappointment to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere), who stated that, although it might be inconvenient to rescind an Address to the Crown, yet that this inconvenience might give way to a paramount necessity; and that, if no precedent existed, the gravity and importance of this occasion were such that a precedent ought to be created for the purpose. The right hon. Gentleman thought that the resolution for the Address ought to be rescinded. Why, then, if the right hon. Gentleman thought the Address so injurious did he not create a precedent, and propose to rescind it? Was this wordy Resolution, that took one's breath away before one got to the end of it, what the right hon. Gentleman meant by rescinding an Address of which the Government disapproved? why it was a Resolution which many on his side of the House were ready to accept because they did not think it militated against the Address—clearly showing that it was uncertain and susceptible of different constructions. But if the Government thought the Address subversive of the national system of education in Ireland it ought to be rescinded in a manner that admitted of no dispute. He would assert that the Government had perilled the cause of education in Ireland, and given rise to doubts and controversies as to the action of that House by the course they had taken. The House had now before it a Resolution which, in the opinion of many Members who had voted for the Address, militated in no respect against the Address. The noble Lord at the head of the Government said, there were three reasons which led him to conclude that the House ought as soon as possible to reverse the Resolution of last week,—first, that the subject was one of the greatest importance; secondly, that the decision was most mischievous; and, thirdly, that the address would, in its consequences, subvert the whole national system of education in Ireland. Did th noble Viscount mean, in the first place, to say that every Resolution which was of importance ought to be reconsidered? With regard to the second reason, every Address that left the Government in a minority was no doubt considered by that Government to be most mischievous. The third reason, that the effect of the Address would be to subvert a system of long duration and of infinite importance, surely made it the duty of the Government to subvert the Address instead of which they proposed an ambiguous Resolution. Whatever taunts might be thrown out against the motives of those who voted for the Address they could not apply to him. He was no enemy to the national system of education in Ireland; he did not desire to see it subverted, and, although he perceived defects in the system, yet he must admit that on the whole the system had been productive of the greatest possible benefit to Ireland. He felt inclined, indeed, to assert that more real benefit had been derived by Ireland from the national system of education than from any other measure that had been given to that country. But this was an opinion irrespective of the question whether the system were not capable of amendment and improvement. He never would admit that, because you had something that had done some good, you were to be precluded from entering upon the question whether greater benefit might not be derived from it; or that because it had been productive of advantage it might not be made productive of greater advantage. He rejoiced that the question had been re-opened, because the opinions of those who advocated this change had been the subject of much misrepresentation and calumny; and the proof of this assertion was to be found in the terms of the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fortescue). It was evident that the Resolution had been framed in the belief and expectation that those who had voted for the Address would vote against the Resolution, and would affirm the negative of the hon. Gentleman's propositions. He rejoiced that those upon his (Mr. Cairns') side of the House now had the opportunity of undeceiving the hon. Member, if he ever entertained such an opinion. Neither he nor any of those who had voted for the Address would maintain the negative of the hon. Member's propositions, or maintain that a sys- tem of national education ought to violate the rights of conscience or parental authority, or to disturb the peculiar tenets of any sect or denomination of Christians. There was nothing in the Address that would have that effect if it were fairly carried out. By non-vested schools were meant those which were the property of private patrons, as distinguished from those belonging in the sense of property to the Board of National Education. The non-vested schools had one privilege so peculiar that he could not forbear mentioning it. By the existing rules it was possible that the patrons of a non-vested school might insist upon no religious teaching whatever being given in that school. Was not that a violation of the rights of parents? Suppose there was only one school in a district, and that the parents thought that their children ought to receive religious instruction at the school. It was most material to remember that there was no limit to the extent to which the non-vested schools might be endowed. The Board might permit these schools to be endowed wherever there were children who would go to them. Suppose a case where a patron was anxious to have a religious education for the children along with a good secular education, and were to say—"I do not wish the children to think the religious part of education a light and unimportant adjunct which they can dispense with if they please." Was that a view which the House could regard as unreasonable? He could conceive only one case in which they could refuse to sanction it; that was the case of there being only one school in a neighbourhood which children could attend—if there was no choice, no alternative, but to receive instruction at that school or to receive no instruction at all, that might be a case in which the Board, in administering the public funds, might fairly say that they did not think the patron ought to determine the kind of religious education which should be imparted. But there was not a single spot in Ireland where that state of things existed. Wherever they found a church education school, and children of different denominations, they would also find other schools in which the children of the district might receive instruction either with or without scriptural education. His right hon. Friend's proposition, as he understood it, was, that the House ought not to lay down the rule that the mere fact of the patron desiring religious training to be an essential ingredient in the education given in his school was to debar his school from receiving some portion of the Government grant. And, in voting for the Address of his right hon. Friend, he intended to leave entirely untouched the question of what was to be done in case only one school existed in any particular district. In considering his right hon. Friend's proposition he recolled that there were two circumstances which made a marked distinction between the present condition of the National Board and its condition at the time of its institution. When the present system was founded by Lord Stanley non-vested schools were not contemplated; the object was to establish schools of which the Board was to be the patron and proprietor, and as to which, therefore, they could take no course but to avoid any distinctive system of religious education. Now, however, they had the non-vested schools. One of the Commissioners (Mr. Murphy) was asked before the Committee— Do not you think the system of non-vested schools is, to a certain extent, a departure from the original programme, if it may be so termed, laid down by Lord Stanley?—I rather think it is; but, in the condition of Ireland, it would have been utterly impossible otherwise to obtain control over certain non-vested schools, or schools not likely to be vested, being schools attended by classes which it was most important to bring under the control of the system. Do not you think it is less likely that united education should exist in a non-vested school than in a vested school?—It is. The other circumstance was the failure of the united system as a system of mixed education. Much controversy had taken place as to whether it had failed or not; but, although there might be a question as to the extent of the failure, that the system had failed to a considerable extent was beyond a doubt. He would refer to the evidence of four witnesses on that point. The first was Mr. Buxton, who was asked— It is said that it is necessary to maintain this rule, in order to accomplish united education in Ireland, meaning thereby the union of children of different denominations in the same schools; do you think that the national system has attained that object?—I certainly do not. There was not united education; but the Roman Catholics were in one school, and the Protestants in another school. That was the result of your observations?—Yes. The next was Archdeacon Stopford, who gave the following evidence— Are you not of opinion that, while the principle of the vested schools was one of united education, the principle of the non-vested schools was as clearly one of separate education?—I think it was; and I think it was tacitly admitted by the Board themselves in their sixth report; for they said that such schools must be looked upon as bearing a peculiar religious aspect. So that, from the moment the Board consented to give aid to non-vested schools, they departed from the great principle of their system, which was united education?—Practically they did establish a system of separate schools, under the name of a system of united education. Then Mr. Cross, the Secretary of the Board, said— Perhaps I may be permitted by the Committee to state, as a conclusion to my examination, that I have frankly admitted, in the course of it, that the national system of education, as a united system, has failed to a considerable extent. The various causes of that failure I have stated with honesty and candour. I lament that such has been the result.'' And Mr. Macdonnell, the Resident Commissioner, had the following question put to him— To what extent do you think the national system has attained that great object—as it has been considered—of united education?—I do not think the national system has attained any great degree of success with regard to united education—that is, united education as understord in the literal sense of Protestant and Roman Catholic children being educated within the same walls. Thus the system of mixed education had clearly been a failure, not using that word in an invidious sense, but in the sense that the result of the system—account for it as they pleased, regret it as they might—had not been to enable Roman Catholic and Protestant children to be educated together within the same walls. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Fortescue) seemed to misapprehend the meaning of the term mixed education, for he read a statement of the number of Roman Catholic and Protestant children who were being educated in the schools aided by the Government grant. The question, however, was not how many were being educated, but were they educated together? The hon. Member for Newry (Mr. Kirk), too, referred to model schools, but model schools had nothing to do with the matter now before the House, for his right hon. Friend's address did not touch these schools which afforded a description of education superior to the common run of the schools, and in which the children of all religious denominations attended without distinction. Now, what was the paramount object with which the Board of Education was first founded? The object was to secure for Ireland a system of education under which, to quote the words of the Resolution, "no attempt should be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or denomination of Christians." But the mode of carrying out that object was a totally different thing from the object itself. The Board thought the best way to carry out that object was to establish vested schools of which they should be the patrons, and in which a separate religious education and a mixed secular education should be afforded. That plan, however, had not been successful, and separate proprietary schools, receiving support from the Board, had been established throughout the country. How, then, in that altered state of things, was the paramount object for which the Board had been appointed to be attained? He thought that the best way of attaining it was to give grants to those separate proprietary schools, albeit their patrons had made religious instruction and scriptural education an essential rule in them, provided always that all the children of any particular neighbourhood were not compelled from want of other schools to resort to them, but had the free choice of religious as well as secular education. He would refer, in passing, to what had been said as to the want of analogy between the case of Ireland and the case of England. The hon. Member for Louth said that England was a Protestant country and Ireland a Roman Catholic country. But were there not Roman Catholics in England to a very considerable amount, especially in large towns, and who stood relatively in the same position as the Protestants in Ireland, and did the difference in proportion make a difference in principle as to what should be done? The hon. Member said that, as long as there was one child in one school in Ireland of a different religious persuasion to that of the patron of the school, so long the rule of the National Board should be maintained. But could the hon. Member contend that there was not one child in a school in England of a different religious persuasion to that of the patron of the school? and, therefore, if the hon. Member would maintain the rule in Ireland to the extent he stated, he afforded a proof that the case of England was analogous to the case of Ireland. The hon. Member had referred to various propositions made for the purpose of altering the system of education in England, and observed that not one statesman who brought forward such propositions but adopted the system existing in Ireland. If the hon. Member had referred to the fate of those propositions, he would have found that the House had refused to adopt the different alterations suggested. Having explained the object and purpose of the Address, he would advert for a moment to the Resolution now before the House. As far as he was concerned he was anxious to give his adherence to every word of the Resolution. It consisted of two parts, the first of which affirmed that the fundamental principles of the national system, securing parental authority and the rights of conscience to pupils of all denominations, should be maintained by excluding all compulsory religious teaching. Those were the objects which he, at least, had in view, and there was nothing in what was proposed by the supporters of the Address inconsistent with those objects. Where there were two schools in a place, one of them giving scriptural instruction as part of the teaching, and the other not giving it, there was no compulsion on the child who went to the school in which scriptural instruction was given, and did not go to the school where that instruction was not given. If there were no choice there would be compulsion, but there was or ought to be in every part of Ireland a choice, and where the choice did not exist the Board had the means of providing it. The other part of the Resolution set forth that the House was convinced that no plan for the education of the Irish poor, however wisely and unexceptionably contrived in other respects, could ever be carried into effectual operation unless it were explicitly avowed and clearly understood as to its leading principle that no attempt should be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or denomination of Christians. That was taken word for word from the Report of the Commissioners in 1812, who were archbishops and bishops of Ireland, and others of the greatest eminence as politicians. At that time no Roman Catholic could have a school at all supported by a State grant; and a Roman Catholic child, to be educated at the expense of the State, must then have been educated in a school of the Kildare-place Society, where it was essential that there should be scriptural or Bible instruction. The Commissioners, therefore, finding this state of things, gave it as their opinion that a system of education based on such a principle never could be satisfactory to the people of Ireland. But did they recommend the present system of national education? Everything that they recommended would be attained if the Address carried by the House were acted upon concurrently with the national system. He had the highest possible authority for putting that construction upon the Report of 1812, because he had the authority of Mr. Macdonnell, the resident Commissioner of the Board of National Education in Ireland. Mr. Macdonnell seemed to have been under the same impression as the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and, the Report having been read, he was asked by the Committee of the House of Lords— Considering what has been read to you, are you not of opinion that, if the authority of the Commissioners of 1812 is to be quoted in support of the general scope of the national system it is also as decidedly in favour of such an extension of it as would embrace the Church education schools?—I think the spirit of what your Lordship read, while it shows clearly that the Commissioners approved, as a new system, of something very like what we have established, were also, on the whole, favourable to the endowment of schools like the parochial, or like the Church education schools. And an extension of them?—And even an extension of them. Therefore, if the hon. Member for Louth invoked the authority of the Commission of 1812, and used the words of their Report, as far as his vote went, he should cheerfully support the report of that Commission, with every word of which he cordially agreed. He found nothing in the Resolution of the hon. Member for Louth to which he could object, and he must decline entirely voting the negative to the terms that Resolution contained. He did not know whether it was the object of the hon. Member for Louth or of the Government, who declined proposing a negative to the Address, to induce those who differed from them to fall into the error of asking the negative to the Resolution. If that were the object, he could only say he would do nothing of the kind, because with every word of the Resolution he agreed, at the same time that he entirely concurred in the Address for which he voted the other evening. It was said that they were asking in that Address for something which had been refused for twenty years past, and that they were voting for that which would overthrow the entire system of national education in Ireland. That they were asking for that which had been refused for twenty years past, he begged to deny. He was glad to say that, whereas in years past members of the Established Church, and at one time the Presbyterian body, had made demands beyond what could fairly be maintained, now, for the first time, a definite and clear proposal had been made, which in justice could not be refused, and which, if conceded, would by no means be subversive of the present system of education in Ireland. This was the first time the proposition contained in the Address had been brought before the House of Commons; in previous years it had been proposed to give separate grants to different denominations, and early in the battle there had been those who contended for the system of having Scripture education compulsory in every school. Those were the previous views of the Protestants of Ireland. The proposition embodied in the Address was very different. It was much more definite and more moderate, and, what was of greater importance, it was just. Then it was said they were seeking by that Address to overturn the system of national education in Ireland. He asked what system? In the course of these discussions they had heard of the system of national education in Ireland as if it were something which never had been changed and was as well known as one of the statutes of the country—as if there could be no dispute as to what it meant, or how it was to be carried into practice. [Mr. HORSMAN: Hear!] He would take the liberty of asking the Chief Secretary which system was spoken of when it was said it would be overthrown by the Address? Was it the system which required, as an essential condition, that before any grant was made by the Board there should be local contributions in aid of the schools? Was it the system which prevailed before the rules were introduced, which enabled the Presbyterians to partake of the grant? Was it the system which enabled Bible extracts to be read in schools? Or was it the system, modified and altered in such a way as to oblige the Archbishop of Dublin and two other Members to secede from the Board? Which of these systems would be overturned? Lest it should be supposed he was overstating the changes, he would read the opinion of Mr. O'Regan, one of the officers of the Board, who said:— I think, moreover, that there ought to be some fixed principles laid down for the guidance of the Commissioners. At present there is a national system without any fixed principle; there is a central model school, which is a shifting model; there are district schools which differ from that central school, and differ from one another; there are vested schools and non-vested; and no matter how anxious a man may be to ascertain what the national education system really is, he finds in the complication of the system and its wants of fixity extreme difficulty in satisfying his mind as to its true character and merits. That was the opinion, not of an opponent, but of an officer of the Board. There was also the opinion of Mr. Irwin, the patron of a school, under the Board, who was asked— Do you conceive yourself to be called upon as the patron of the school to compel a child to go out of the school at the time of the Scriptures being read, that would be willing to remain? Mr. Irwin said— I must candidly confess that there has been so much of going backwards and forwards in the rules of the Board upon this subject, and as to the mode of interpreting their own rules respecting it, that I do not precisely know what would be the duty of the patron in that case. He, therefore, asked hon. Members who spoke of this system as so unchanging that if they but touched the hem of its garment virtue was supposed to go out of it—he asked them to remember what had been done in times past, and then consider whether it was not desirable something should be done with regard to the time to come? Not only had they a system which was shifting, but a system which it was utterly impossible to apply in practice, having regard to those matters which of late had become mere matters of controversy. There were in Ireland convent schools, belonging to a body of Christians with whom he did not agree; he believed that, as far as secular instruction was concerned, they were as good schools as ever existed, and nothing was further from his mind than to find fault with them. Those schools were numerous—upwards of 100 in number—and they received from the National Board between £4,000 and £5,000 a year; but it was impossible for Protestant parents to send their children to these schools, on account of the religious education given, as it was for Roman Catholics to send their children to the Church schools. The rule which the Irish Government and its representative maintained to be the rule of the Board, was, that in no school should matters be so arranged that the child obtaining secular instruction should be obliged to take religious instruction along with it. The anomaly of convent schools receiving grants from a Board guided by that rule was admitted before the Committee of the House of Lords. Mr. Cross said they were very peculiar cases and occasioned great trouble. The Board did not know what to do with them. Archdeacon Stopford was asked— Of course, you are of opinion that convent schools, or schools in connection with any of the Roman Catholic religious bodies, must, from their very nature, be schools of separate education? The Archdeacon said— I think they must, of course, from their very nature, be schools of separate education. I think it equally impossible that Protestants should send their children to such schools, as that Roman Catholics should send their children to schools where the education is scriptural."—"In point of fact, whatever pretended security the rules of the Board may give, convent schools, from their very nature, must be strongly tinged with Roman Catholic religious teaching?—I cannot imagine how any child in those schools could be secured from the influence which must exist there. From the Inspector's Report he found that in St. Mary Industrial School there was a regulation that the scholars should attend prayers night and morning. In the St. Vincent National School, for teaching girls lacemaking and plain needlework, the scholars were taught the catechism at intervals during the hours of working. How, he would ask, could it be otherwise than compulsory teaching if every child who went to that school to learn lacemaking was unable to do so without being obliged to learn the catechism? In the St. Munchin's lace school the catechism was taught in turn with lacework from nine until eleven in the morning. Was that one of the schools in which secular instruction was administered without the children being compelled to receive religious instruction? It was not a mere matter of speculation, for he found from the Inspector's Report that in the school at Youghal there were eight Protestant children subject to those rules. He had nothing to say against the convent schools, which were excellent, well-managed schools; but in them it was deemed right to make religion a part of the general instruction, in which he agreed; but he denied that the cardinal rule, as it was called, that no religious instruction should be imposed upon the children attending schools had been observed in those cases. Having shown what had occurred in convent schools he would state what had happened in other schools, and the way in which the Board had dealt with them. He spoke from a Parliamentary document—a return showing the correspondence that had taken place between the Board of Commissioners and the Committee of the Lancasterian National School of Belfast, in reference to charges made against the latter by Dr. Denvir. That was not a school at all connected with the Church Education Society, but was established in 1847 by some benevolent ladies of the Presbyterian denomination. It had the greatest success; but in 1855 a charge was made against the Committee by Dr. Denvir, himself a Commissioner of Education, of administering religious instruction, averring that Roman Catholic children were required to learn the catechism, to join in the singing of Protestant hymns, and to listen to the reading of Scripture extracts by Protestant teachers. An inquiry was immediately ordered, at which Dr. Denvir attended as a Commissioner, and examined the witnesses who were called to prove the charge. A number of witnesses were examined, and finally the Inspector made his Report that— The Testament and the Scripture Extracts of the Board were to be used on alternate mornings; and the Protestants were to have the authorised version and the Catholics the Douay version. Catholics and Protestants sit indiscriminately on the benches, and read verse about, aloud from their respective Testaments, in the chapter of the morning. The great idea of the Committee has been to give a religious instruction of a purely non-sectarian character; and the teachers have been accordingly instructed to make no interpretation of Scriptural passages favourable to one doctrine or another, or, in short, to enter into any doctrinal explanation at all. The evidence of the teachers shows that this has not only been the principle but the practice of the school. There was a rule of the school declaring that for half an hour each day scriptural lessons should be read from the authorised and the Douay versions by the children of either religion. That rule was sent with others to the Board on the establishment of the school, had been sanctioned by them, and in every Report of the inspector, up to 1854, the school had been held up as a model for others to copy. The inspector had reported that the charge of religious instruction being forced upon children was unfounded. But Dr. Denvir, being a Commissioner, brought the subject forward before the Board. The Chief Secretary for Ireland wished to know how that fact appeared. He (Mr. Cairns) thought it was shown by the circumstance that the school committee, in writing to the Board, expressed their surprise that Dr. Denvir had taken part in the subsequent proceeding, and the Board did not deny it. The decision of the Board was that, notwithstanding one single instance of compulsory attendance was proved, they were of opinion— After a careful examination of the evidence, that, in the management of the school, the committee were not influenced by any desire to convert the Roman Catholic pupils attending it to the Protestant faith, and were sincerely anxious to avoid even the suspicion of proselytism. It would have been far better to say the charges were disproved, but possibly the milder form of words was adopted, from consideration of the accuser being one of their own number. The Board went on to say:— The Commissioners, however, are equally convinced that the fundamental rule of the institution, as interpreted by the Committee themselves, and by them carried out in practice up to the 12th February last, was totally at variance with the spirit and rules of the national system of education, and calculated to create in the minds of Roman Catholics a suspicion of undue interference with the religious opinions of the children, and to afford, therefore, just ground of complaint. In that school only half an hour a day was devoted to reading Scripture extracts, while in the convent schools the children were required to learn and repeat the Roman Catholic catechism during the intervals of lace-making throughout the day. The rule of the convent schools remained untouched, while in the case of the Lancasterian school the charge against which had completely failed, the Commissioners turned round and said, "We object now to what we assented to and which we never objected to in the case of convent schools." The ladies of the committee, in their reply to the Board, expressed themselves as deeply hurt to find that the charges made against them had not been specifically stated to be disproved, and also protested against the action of the Commissioners in permitting one of their number, after bringing a charge against them, to form one of the inquiring body to conduct the prosecution, and finally to take part in the decision upon the whole case. He mentioned names not with the view of making any change, but only to show that the National Board of Education could not, on account of its very constitution, hold a perfectly fair hand in presiding over education in Ireland. He hoped that the House would not consider that the views which he had ventured to express emanated solely from the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland. For his own part, he could only say that he thought that the clergy of that Church had acted in a manner worthy of the highest praise, and it would be impossible to suggest that in the part which they had taken they had been actuated by anything but the purest and most conscientious motives. They had deprived themselves of the advantage of annexing their schools to the system of State education, and had consequently debarred themselves from all hope of preferment under the patronage of the Government, for it was well known that no one opposed to the National Board was ever advanced by the Government. The case, however, was not the case of the clergy of the Church of Ireland, so much as of the laity. The income of the Church Education Society, which was subscribed by the laity, amounted to £40,000 a year, so that it was clear that the society did not represent the clergy alone. It was said that the failure of the National system was attributable to the conduct of the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland. Now, did the hon. Member for Newry or the Secretary for Ireland maintain that if the clergy of Ireland had placed their schools under the control of the National Board, Roman Catholic children would have been more likely to attend them? [Mr. HORSMAN: Yes.] Well then, the right hon. Gentleman differed from high dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church. Mr. Cross said,— I regret to have to admit that the Roman Catholic clergy generally do not like their children to attend national schools of which the patrons or masters are not of their faith. And in reply to the question,— Are you aware that a great objection is entertained by the Roman Catholic priests in general to allowing the children of their flocks to attend schools where the teachers are Protestants, and where the patrons are Protestants? The Very Rev. Dean Meyler replied,— I think there is, because they cannot have a sufficient surveillance over the school to know whether there is any undue influence used with respect to the children; only in that respect, in many country places, the priests can take very little part in the schools, therefore, they require more especially to have effective protection given to the Catholic children. The same feelings also were entertained by the Methodists and other Protestant Dissenters. At a meeting of the Belfast Presbytery it had been agreed:— 1. That it is the mind of the Presbytery, as a portion of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, that the Church in its first receiving, or in its continuing to receive, Government aid to its schools, through the Board of Commissioners of Education, did not and does not thereby express its approval of, or concurrence in, the national system of education. 2. That it is the opinion of this Presbytery that the said national system of education, founded upon the principle of negation of the Holy Scriptures as the basis of national education, has not succeeded in the object professedly sought to be aimed at—a combined or united general school education, under national auspices. 3. That it appears to this Presbytery that present circumstances afford a favourable opportunity to the Legislature of effecting such changes in the present national system as may render it worthy of and acceptable to a Protestant nation, by the removal of all restrictions upon the Bible and the full recognition of civil rights and advantages to all classes of the population. He would next proceed to advert to the charge that the schools of the Church society were engines of proselytism. Now, that such was the case he utterly denied, nor was it probable that it should be the case. Every master or landowner, no doubt, possessed a certain amount of influence, but that influence could be much more effectively employed in inducing parents whose children were already at school to permit them to remain there during the hour of religious instruction than in persuading them to send them at first to a school at which a religious teaching which they did not approve was carried on. The fact was that, as regarded proselytism, there was no system under which it could be more easily carried on than the present, and if it were desired to have a really efficient protection against proselytism, a much better protection would be afforded by placing the schools under State inspection than by continuing them under the sole control of the Church Education Society. When he voted for the Address he had no desire to subvert the system of education; he agreed with the Resolution so far as it went, and did not consider it inconsistent with the Address. He would not follow the Chief Secretary for Ireland through the attack which, speaking as the representative of the Government, he had, upon a question referring to the education of the poorer classes, thought it relevant to make upon the clergy of the Church of Ireland for some supposed difference upon a point of discipline between themselves and the English clergy. He had been anxious not to say a word which could give offence to any one, but he had thought that after the lapse of twenty years, and looking at the variety of opinions entertained by the best and wisest men both in and out of that House, this question might be discussed without a feeling of partisanship or acrimony. In that spirit he had endeavoured to discuss it. He was anxious to maintain the system of education; but he thought that it might, by the introduction of some changes, be made more extensive and more useful.


I wish I could participate in the satisfaction which has been expressed, both by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) and the hon. Member who has just sat down, and which has been echoed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Labouchere), but I own I cannot quite agree in this wonderful unanimity which prevails. It appears to me that the position of this House is one, at all events, of some embarrassment. Having on Tuesday evening heard the able and temperate speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, supposing either that there would be the usual majority against a proposition to disturb the Irish system of education, or that the debate would be adjourned, and having found an hon. Member who was of the same opinion as the right hon. Gentleman, I thought we might safely pass the evening elsewhere; and I am very sorry that my prediction has been accomplished, and there has been found great inconvenience in the rule of this House which allows Addresses to the Crown to go out of our hands upon only one deliberation. If we pass a Resolution upon any matter entirely among ourselves, we may, if we please, rescind it on the following day, and a Bill we reconsider at its various stages before it goes out of our hands to the other House of Parliament; but, with regard to our communications with the Crown, if it so happen that from a division not being expected, or taking place early in the evening, a question is, without any fault on the part of the Member who brings it forward, disposed of contrary to what would be the opinion of the majority in a full House, we are placed in a position of considerable embarrassment: and that is the position in which the House is now placed. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) seems to think that, because I felt the inconvenience of reversing a decision of this sort on one occasion, I should object to do so on the present. Now, I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that I consider this matter one of so great importance, I consider the proposition which he has made and has carried, in all fairness and in all sincerity, so injurious to the prospects of education, and even to the peace of Ireland, that, if it were possible, I should be ready to come to a distinct reversal of the Vote of Tuesday; and the only fault I have to find with the Motion of my hon. Friend behind me is, that it is not of a more direct and specific character. My hon. Friend's proposition is explained by him as amounting to a complete reversal of the decision which was come to the other night. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) takes it in his hands, and, with something like ingenious Chancery pleading, makes it quite consistent with the Address to which my hon. Friend (Mr. Fortescue) was entirely opposed. Remembering the quotation which was made by my noble Friend below me (Viscount Palmerston) of the famous oracle—Aio te Romanos vincere posse—he assumes that this Resolution is somewhat of the same kind. While the present Government remain in power they can say, this Resolution being passed, that the present plan is to be adhered to, no material alteration is to be made in the system of the National Board, and, above all, none of its vital principles are to be touched. But, if there should be a change of Government, the right hon. Gentleman who in that event would, no doubt, fill the office of Home Secretary, would revert both to the Address and the Resolution, and maintain that he was justified by the solemn decision of this House in declaring that there was nothing inconsistent in them, but that, on the contrary, they were confirmatory and explanatory one of the other. That seems to me a rather awkward position in which to place the House. But, as there is no more decisive course open to me, I shall cheerfully vote for the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Louth. Now, Sir, let me advert to the proposition itself, and to the substance of the Address, which was carried in this House by the right hon. Gentleman. The Address proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University appears to me to go very far beyond, not only what he has explained, but what he could ever have intended. It appears to me that, the rule being equality, he proposes to substitute inequality; the rule being religious liberty, he proposes to introduce religious exclusion; and the present state of things being harmony, his Address menaces us with discord. Such, in a few words, is the nature of my objections to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member who last addressed the House has mentioned one or two instances in which, as he maintains, the Board did not follow their own rules. The cases did not appear to me to be very important ones, and of their details I know nothing; but no doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland will inquire into the matter, and call the attention of the Board to any material deviations—if any such have occurred—from their own regulations. The hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Cairns), and others who sit on the same side of the House, affect a cordial friendship for the national system; but they must allow me to say that they are the most candid friends I have ever seen. They begin with enthusiastic declarations of their regard for that system, and then immediately proceed to point out one fault after another, and that too, with a precision and minuteness which nothing but the utmost candour could excuse. But what is the plan as laid down originally by Lord Derby, and as it has been generally acted on since? It is this—that religions instruction should not be given during the school hours, and that if there are hours at which religious instruction is given in the school, that at such hours all the children whose parents may object to their attendance should be at liberty to absent themselves. The right hon. Gentleman opposite would have a modification of that system; and the modification he proposes is, that in certain non-vested schools—meaning thereby certain proprietary schools of which the patrons are for the most part members of the Established Church—there shall be an invariable rule that the sacred Scriptures shall be read by all the children attending them—it matters not of what religion they may be. Such a regulation would manifestly tend to produce inequality, and it is worthy of remark that no application for it has emanated either from the Roman Catholics or the Presbyterians. It is suggested, indeed, that equality would be restored by allowing the Roman Catholics also to teach the catechism of their Church to all children without distinction in schools where Catholics have a numerical predomi- nance. But what would be the feeling throughout this country if it were known that £150,000 or £200,000 a year was granted by Parliament to schools in which the Roman Catholic catechism was taught, and that Protestant children were compelled to remain to hear it? There would be no bounds to the indignation of the public. It would be said that we were endeavouring to proselytise Protestant children, and it would be said beside, if all the Protestant children were away, that we were voting an enormous sum for the propagation of error. What! refuse £30,000 for the endowment of Maynooth, yet lavish £200,000 a year on such purposes as these! The idea is preposterous! But then it is said that we should adopt something like the system that prevails in England, and declare that if there are Roman Catholic children they shall attend Roman Catholic schools in the neighbourhood. Well, but that is at once to subvert the whole plan of national education in Ireland. You put an end to the mixed system of education—not mixed with regard to religion, but mixed with regard to persons—and, instead of giving these poor children an impartial rule, you give them a topographical consolation. But let us consider the extent of that infringement on religious liberty which will be the infallible consequence of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. It was one of the earliest declarations of Lord Derby, when he constructed the present system, that religious teaching should be imparted only when the children of those who objected to it should be absent. In answer to certain representations made to him on the subject by the Synod of Ulster, very soon after the establishment of the National Board, the noble Lord wrote a letter, in which the following passage occurs:— Those hours (namely, the ordinary school hours) will be allotted to other studies, and in them, of course, neither the Bible nor any other book could be employed to which the parents or guardians of any of the children would object on the grounds of religious scruples. To introduce the reading or hearing of any such book during the ordinary school-hours—namely, those during which all the children, of all denominations are required to attend, would be a palpable violation of religious liberty of conscience. It is clear, then, that I have the authority of Lord Derby himself for the assertion that, according to the opinion which he entertained in 1833, the proposal now made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite involves "a palpable violation of religious liberty of conscience." I may be told that the noble Lord is not of the same opinion now. If so, I am very sorry for it; but I cannot follow him in his changes. I know what his opinion was when he was the colleague of Lord Grey and Lord Brougham. It was a sound opinion; it has proved a successful one; it has produced noble results in Ireland; and, for his own sake, not less than for that of the country, I should regret if he were now to contribute to the undoing a work which does him so much credit. Well, then, we can hardly say that the abolition of the rule by which religious instruction is not to be given at certain hours, is in any way necessary for the purposes of national education. The hon. Member for Belfast, repudiating the idea of proselytism, will have it that facilities for conversion—if such were the object—are more abundant under the present system than they would be under the new one, inasmuch as it was now possible to solicit, though you may not compel, the children to attend during the hours of religious instruction. Well, but if that is so, what is the reason that they ask for change? Because, be it observed, what the Presbyterians have done. The Presbyterians, in 1840, after various representations, got this proffer, that all the children, after certain hours, should have the Bible read to them, except such as, having conscientious objections, wished to be absent. Now I cannot agree that the Presbyterians in Ireland are not as good Protestants as any to be found in that country, and I ask why it is that this whole system is to be disturbed? why it is that this House and that Ireland itself are to be put into dread and commotion, in order to adopt a plan which the experience of the Presbyterians has shown to be unnecessary? Sir, I cannot give to this proposal even the credit of a scruple of conscience. In vain do you seek to disguise it. It is that pretension to pride and supremacy which still clings to those who in former days shouted so loudly for Protestant ascendancy. This is a question of no mean importance. It affects no fewer than 2,700 schools, and what you propose to introduce involves a principle which will prove most oppressive to the minority of children in those schools, and, in a word, deprive them of their religious liberty. I say, lastly, that by this alteration, instead of harmony, we shall have confusion and discord. Consider, for a moment, what it is that, through the agency of the national system, we have been able to do for Ireland. Half a century ago, in 1806, the Duke of Bedford, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, had much correspondence with the Primate of Ireland with respect to the issuing of a Commission of inquiry into the subject of national education in Ireland. That Commission was appointed; it was continued or renewed by the Duke of Richmond; and in 1812 that Commission issued a report, laying down the just principle, the only principle upon which we ought to act—namely, that "no plan of education, however wisely and unexceptionably contrived in other respects, can be carried into effectual operation, unless it be explicitly avowed and clearly understood as its leading principle, that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or denomination of Christians." I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, that the practical proposal of these Commissioners did not carry into effect that wise and sound principle. But inquiries went on; the subject was still discussed; and in 1828 the present Lord Monteagle presided over a Select Committee of this House, in which he gave an outline of the very plan which has been since adopted. In 1831, the plan was adopted by the executive Government of Ireland, and the letter of Lord Stanley gave the outline of that plan. It has been said that non-vested schools formed no part of the scheme; but I believe that of the first eight schools established four were non-vested schools, and therefore, in fact, the very principle since acted on was acted on then. That there have been great variations in the details—that from time to time different propositions have been adopted, in order to make the system work more effectively, I fully agree; and what plan is there, upon a subject of this vast importance and adapted to a country like Ireland, where there are various religious sects entertaining much suspicion and jealousy of each other—what plan of this kind, I say, is there, which from time to time would not have required some alteration? None of the modifications made in it, however, have touched the essential principles of the system, as laid down in 1831. Thus, for a quarter of a century you have been employed in investigations, with a view to obtain a plan for establishing national education in Ireland; another quarter of a century has elapsed during which this plan has been in opera- tion, and has extended the blessings of education throughout the country; you have found the system as it pervaded different parts of the country appeasing religious animosities, giving improved habits to the people, teaching them improved principles of morals, which in their own ill-regulated schools never reached the lower classes of that country; you hope that you may extinguish all that tendency to social disorder and violence which has long been the misfortune of that beautiful country; and at this time when, by half a century's labour, you have attained so much, then comes forward a Gentleman of this House and says, "I will break in upon all this; I will put an end to all this unanimity; I will revive those animosities; I will make Catholics jealous of Protestants; I will induce Protestants once more to try and gain a supremacy over Catholics; and in that way I will deface and destroy the fair edifice which it has been your object to construct." Sir, I have no doubt of the sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole). I have no doubt whatever that he thinks he is only stating fairly the conscientious scruples of members of the Church of England and other Protestants, and is only adding a supplement to the scheme of national education. I entreat him to dismiss that thought from his mind. So far from being a supplement to the plan of national education, his alteration would not be introduced a year before the members of the National Board—both the eminent Roman Catholics who belong to it, and the liberal Protestants who have acted with them—would find that it was impossible for them to lend their hands to this plan of compulsory education: they would then retire from that Board, and you would have none take their places but men who are exposed to all the jealousies, to all the hostility, of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland, as men who are their enemies, and who are seeking to gain an unfair advantage in influencing their religious education. Believing the matter is of this importance, I trust, at least, that so long as the present Government remain in power, they will make no essential modification of this system of national education, that they will adhere manfully to its principles—and that if it is to be altered, let right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they are next in office, carry those alterations into effect and reap the bitter fruits that will ensue.


Sir, I regret the tone and temper of the noble Lord's speech. The noble Lord says that we seek to change the present system: that is not the proposition brought before the House by my right hon. Friend in his able and conciliatory speech; and if we had all treated the subject in the same spirit, we should have been in a position to treat it with greater calmness than the noble Lord has done. I feel the importance of the subject fully as much as the noble Lord. There is no subject of such vital interest to my constituents; none upon which I feel personally a deeper interest. I have changed no opinion I have ever had upon it; and the opinions I hold are those which the noble Lord has himself elsewhere, even within the past year, expressed. These opinions have been embodied in a Report of the British and Foreign School Society, and repeated by the noble Lord at a meeting of the Society this year. The noble Lord alluded to the omission of the Bible from education, and quoted Dr. Arnold to prove that if we exclude the Bible that amounted to a denial of Christianity. Yet now the noble Lord accuses the Irish Protestants of a desire of "ascendancy," because we enunciate the very same principle that religion should not be separated from secular education, and that in instructing from the Bible, there need be nothing sectarian. Why, that is the very rule of the Church Education Society; it is the same, as regards the use of the Scriptures, as the rule of the British and Foreign School Society; and I challenge the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Sir G. Grey), who is also a Member of that Society, to enunciate at the meetings of it the sentiments upon this subject which the noble Lord has expressed here. And what do I find published on Saturday, in an answer given by the Committee of Privy Council on Education to an application from an English school in this country, founded upon the national (Irish) system of education? That school applied for a grant, setting forth the advantages that system offered, and it was refused; and upon what ground? Their Lordships say that they could not in this country give the money of the State to support the school, because it did not provide for the teaching of the Holy Scriptures; because it did not make the reading of the Scriptures an essential part of the general system of instruction. That is to say, the Privy Council refuse a grant to an English school founded upon the principle of the Irish National School system. Why, what does the noble Lord suppose the Protestants of Ireland are made of? Are they such serfs as to submit to a system under which they are refused that which is granted in England? And are they to be deprived of the benefit of the national grants because they adhere to the principle of the British and Foreign School Society, sanctioned by the Government—the principles of the Privy Council Committee of Education in England? Does he suppose that that which is not good enough for the British and Foreign School Society in this country—which is not good enough for the Wesleyans in either country—and which the Lords of the Council do not approve and will not recognise in England, is good enough for the Protestants of Ireland? Sir, it is not true that we desire to subvert the system of national education. For myself, I have always thought that it was founded on a fallacy, and that it followed a phantom—that it sought to do what was impossible. Is education to be based upon religion? Then how can you have a united system of education, when you have different Churches differing upon the fundamental principle? Is there any one principle upon which the Protestants differ more from the Roman Catholics than upon this—as to the authority of the Scriptures, and the position which is occupied by the Word of God in education? And how can you get the two Churches to join together in a system of education? You might as well expect to reconcile light and darkness. You can only found religious education upon the principle either of religious truth or religious liberty. You, in your system, are afraid of religious liberty, and ashamed of religious truth; and your system, being based upon neither principle, violates both. It is not necessary to enter into the merits of the system. I think its advantages have been egregiously exaggerated. But if it be a good system, extend it; if it be not, improve it; and our suggestion is both to extend and to improve it. You have to consult three parties in every system of education—the State, the patron, and the parent. Now, as to the State, its conscience is expansive, and it has sanctioned the principle of liberty. Then, as to the conscience of the parent; you profess to respect it, but do you provide for it in the present system? Suppose a school under a Roman Catholic patron, and a Roman Catholic parent anxious that his child should be taught the Scrip- tures, how is he to get that teaching? Or, suppose a district in which the Roman Catholic priest presides, how is the Protestant parent to get his children taught the Scriptures? You enable the patron, by empowering him to decide whether any and what religious instruction shall be given, to exclude the Scriptures, or to exclude religious instruction altogether, but you do not enable him when he pleases to introduce and use the Scriptures? Now, I heartily adhere to that part of the Resolution referred to by the noble Lord, that there ought to be no interference with the religious opinions of any "sect" or "denomination;" but I hope that the noble Lord will admit that the Protestants are, at all events, a "sect" or "denomination." And what is their distinguishing principle? That the Word of God should be the basis of education; and if you have a system which gives the patrons the compulsory power of excluding the Word of God from education, how do you adhere to the spirit of the Resolution? The terms would be violated by refusing to allow the Protestants to act on this principle. What is the principle of the national system as introduced by Lord Derby? Was it to exclude the Scriptures from all schools which took a share of the national grant? That was not his intention. He found the system was to read the Scriptures in all schools. That gave no freedom to Roman Catholics. The Report of the Commission of 1812 was not of the nature represented by the noble Lord, otherwise it would not have been extension but retaliation. The Report of that Commission proposed to provide 2,400 schools on the parochial system, and to supplement them with the neutral schools, and in these extracts from the Scriptures were to be read; the Report distinctly laid down that no education could be useful which was not based upon the Scriptures. You had the system of Lord Derby, to give freedom with the expectation of a united system, and the rules were framed upon that expectation, but it has proved a failure; the non-vested system may meet the case of the Roman Catholic or the Dissenter, but not the case of the Church or Wesleyan Protestant. The hon. Member (Mr. C. Fortescue) says that under the national education system you have had a religious education complete. But put the case of a Protestant patron, who desires that the Scriptures should be the basis of religious education during the hours appointed for such teaching. There is a rule as to the conduct of the school during the hours of general instruction; but if there be a single Roman Catholic child in that school he may be made use of by the priest to object to the use of the Scriptures during those hours, and they are excluded. Thus all religious education is excluded, and the instruction given is only secular, the religious element being quite cut out of it. It is said the parent, and not the patron, is responsible for the religious education of the children; but what right have either to exclude the Word of God? It appears that there are instances of parents confessing that they did not themselves object to the use of the Scriptures, but that the priests made them do so. Why should the patron be obliged to co-operate with the priest in such a case in withholding the Word of God? The patron absolutely had no power whatever except that of excluding religious education. Why enable the patron to do violence to the conscience of the parent? Nay, under your system the conscience both of patron and of parent may be violated. And is that the principle of your Resolution? How are you to carry it out? You talk of compulsion. Allusion has been made to the opinions of the Bishop of Ossory. Let me read a few words from his clear and lucid exposition of the question:— We do not claim or desire the power of enforcing religious instruction on any one; but do not force us to carry out that which is wrong, or to deprive other children during the hours of general instruction of that which is the right basis of religious education. Sir, I feel that the question of education is in a most critical position. My belief is, however, that there never was a more favourable opportunity for an amicable settlement of this most important question. Do not deal with the Resolution for the Address as if it had been a mere party manœuvre. Let us look at it conscientiously and honestly. There is a large portion of the Protestant clergy and laity of Ireland ready to make any concession for the sake of education, so that it does not sacrifice the vital principle of the use of the Holy Scriptures, and who feel that, when it comes to the question of the use of the Word of God in its Divine simplicity, there is a point at which sacred principle is involved and concession must stop; believing, as they do, that if religion is to pervade education, the Word of God must be taught. They are intelligent and earnest men, anxious for edu- cation, and they declare, and I on their behalf declare, that it is not their desire to subvert your system of education, but to make it one which can be so worked as to be really national in its operation. If you leave out the third part of the schools of the country and one-fifth part of the pupils, how can you call your system national? It is a system to which they object upon grounds common to the Protestants of this country—grounds of which the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) himself has declared that he approves, when he has spoken at meetings elsewhere than in this House. Is it worth nothing to obtain their co-operation? Let the question be settled by securing it. The proposition of the President of the Council was a step in the right direction, and the speech of the right hon. Member for Cambridge was another. I believe the noble Lord himself, if he were not fettered by the dictates of policy and party, would concede the justice of our claims. The noble Lord cannot think that statesmen should never change their opinions. Lord Derby, he says, established the system. Well, but we have now the authority of Lord Derby against the system as it now stands. He is now a wiser and an older man. He had an idea of a united system of education. The experience of a quarter of a century has shown him that it is a delusion. It has proved a failure. If we cannot make it a united system, let us at least try to make it national. If we will not make it national, do not let us call it national. If you can modify the system so as to include the Protestants of Ireland, you will have them as allies; if not, then how can you call a system national which excludes them, and converts them into enemies? If the Protestants of Ireland were told that they must remain permanently excluded unless they abandoned their principle that instruction in the Holy Scriptures formed an essential part of education, I hope they will prefer relinquishing all hopes of State aid to yielding up the sacred ground on which they took their stand. I trust, however, that by adopting my right hon. Friend's proposition the Protestant community of Ireland may be converted into allies instead of being forced into the rank of enemies of the existing system.


said, he had listened attentively to the remarks which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had just made, but he candidly confessed that he had been unable to discover what were the opinions which the right hon. Gentleman held on the question at issue. It had been remarked, that language was given to man to conceal his thoughts; and, certainly, it was impossible to collect whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman approved the Resolution before the House, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole), who had expressed his concurrence in every word of that Resolution, or whether he adhered to the condemnation of the principle and the working of the system, and to the denial of its success, which he pronounced the other evening. With regard, however, to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, he could not but think the course he had taken gave occasion for complaint. When it was alleged that this was a timid and evasive Resolution, it might be asked, what was the character of the Address carried on Tuesday by the right hon. Gentleman? The right hon. Gentleman came forward with a Motion which disturbed and unsettled a system which had endured for so many years, and declared that his Motion did not contain a single syllable hostile to the established system of education in Ireland. The real ground of complaint against the right hon. Gentleman was that, coming forward as the representative and champion of the Church Education Society, which had for years been waging open war against the national system, he yet separated himself from all the allies and colleagues on whose behalf he spoke the other evening, and now asked the House to confine its attention to his own speech, and shut its eyes to the views and aspirations of those who fought on his side. It was the vainest sophistry to attempt to reconcile the plan of the Bishop of Ossory and of the Church Education Society, which was embodied in the right hon. Gentleman's Address to the Crown, with a Motion like the present, affirming the Resolutions of the National Board. The Bishop of Ossory had distinctly declared that the Government system and that of the Church Education Society were not only different, but diametrically opposed to each other, and utterly incompatible. The abovenamed society was a proselytising body, insisting on the reading of the Bible being made compulsory on all the scholars; while the National Board, on the other hand, allowed perfect freedom of conscience to every child. The right hon. Gentleman said he would not subvert the existing system; but if every patron of a non-vested school could prescribe whatever religious instruction he pleased, he might require every child indiscriminately to be taught his own peculiar tenets, the inevitable effect of which must be to drive from the school every pupil that dissented from those tenets. If Protestant schools were separately endowed by the State, the superior advantages which their greater wealth would enable them to hold out would tend to draw into them the children of other denominations; and the result would be, that the Roman Catholics would have, in self-defence, to establish rival schools in the same localities, and to resort to agitation in order to compete successfully with opponents possessed of ample pecuniary resources. The right hon. Gentleman said, he spoke the other night with the authority of Lord Derby; but that noble Lord, when Premier, frankly acknowledged, that if separate grants were given to schools exclusively Protestant, the same advantage must be extended to schools exclusively Roman Catholic. [Mr. WALPOLE: Hear, hear!] He was glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's admission of this equitable principle; but if that rule were followed in the case of all the Roman Catholic schools, as well as universities and colleges, they would have not one Maynooth, but 3,000 Maynooths yearly, undergoing discussions in that House. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad to see that the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) was startled from his slumbers by this. It was clear the hon. Gentleman had not been taken into Lord Derby's counsels; for he, doubtless, fancied that his labours were at an end, when he demolished one Maynooth the other day; but he now found 3,000 Maynooths suddenly start into his astonished view, every one of which would be open to attack when the educational grants came annually before the House. It was evident the hon. Member was but little aware of the logical results of the victory which he cheered so lustily a few nights ago. The hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Cairns) asked why the English system should not be introduced into Ireland? The reason was, that the plan of denominational grants had been adopted in England to protect the minority from what they regarded as the predominance of the Established Church; while the extension of that practice to Ireland, owing to the different circumstances of that country, would give to the party in power the means of strengthening their ascendancy. Separate grants in England defended the rights of conscience—in Ireland they were asked, in order to assail those rights. All parties were agreed that religion ought to be the basis of education, but the question was, should the religion taught be that of the patron of the school, or that of the child? The National Board answered that it should be the latter. Their opponents, however, would not be satisfied with anything short of a system of proselytism; and it was for the House to choose between the two principles. Those who thought that such a course was the one to be followed by the State, would of course adopt the Church Educational Society's view of the subject; all who believed in the sacred rights of religious liberty would support the Resolution before the House. The next point was, were they to have the English or the Irish system in Ireland? But the established system was unanimously supported by the clergy and laity of the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic bodies; and there was not a tittle of evidence to show that the Protestant population, and, especially the poor of that denomination, were not generally equally favourable to it. Its only enemies were a section of the clergy of the Established Church. His argument in favour of the present system was based upon its undoubted success. The question was, had it been accepted by the great majority of the population of Ireland, had it now come to them as a blessing, and would its discontinuance be looked upon as a great misfortune? There could be no doubt upon that point. It was admitted on all hands. There was now before the House the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for the county of Louth, in which he plainly, unequivocally, and unmistakeably asserted that the system had been successful, and ought to be supported. The House on all sides was prepared to affirm that Resolution, and to say that the system had succeeded. In fact, it was admitted to be a blessing to the Irish people, and the Legislature, after twenty-five years' experience, was ready to stand by it, and even the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin had not one word to say against it. He remembered the words of an English Prelate, which ought to be remembered and to be acted upon wherever they were known. That right rev. Prelate said, in the last discussion upon this subject in the House of Lords— If we cannot compel the Roman Catholics to read the Bible, let us show by our conduct that we have read the Bible; let us show it by our charity; let us show it by our spirit of conciliation; let us show it by our Protestant Christianity; let us show that we practise its precepts, and let us hold out the right hand of brotherhood to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, and be sure that they will accept it. He (Mr. Horsman) agreed with the right rev. Prelate that that was the spirit in which they ought to extend the right hand of brotherhood to the Roman Catholics, and he was satisfied that if they did act in that spirit, a great benefit to the cause of education would result from their operations.


pleaded, as his excuse for rising to address the House at that late hour, the vital importance of the question to his countrymen, and more especially to the poorer classes in the county which he had the honour to represent; where, from the absence of large numbers of Catholic proprietors, the people would be the more readily affected by the proselytising spirit conveyed in the Address moved for by the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge. He conceived there were two questions to be considered in this debate—a question of conscience and a question of expediency. He could not comprehend the tone of the argument founded on conscientious objections; for, leaving out of consideration those vested schools, to the regulations of which a person entertaining strong Scriptural views might, perhaps, be fairly allowed to demur, he yet could not find out, upon any principle with which he was conversant, any possible justification of the course taken by Protestant clergymen and laymen in relation to non-vested schools. For, how did the case stand? There was nothing at this moment to prevent a Protestant becoming patron of a non-vested school; being so, he might, if he pleased, have Scriptural education during every hour of the day—the very arrangement at present carried out in the Church education schools—but then, in case of Scriptural education being offered to the pupils in a national school, it was a preliminary not to be neglected that Catholics should be allowed to leave the school. This was the main question at issue. At present the Catholic population was receiving a capital education, fitting them for progress in this life, inculcating a sound morality, and permitting their parents and spiritual directors, at proper times and places, to afford to them that spiritual instruction which they believed to be necessary to their eternal salvation. Again, the Presbyterians—religionists whose Scriptural tendencies could not be doubted, many of whom were the descendants of those Scottish Covenanters who, with the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other, took to the hill-side in defence of religious opinion. These men, too, were satisfied with the existing system. What, then, was the motive actuating those recusant churchmen in the course they were pursuing? They boasted that at present their system was a more combined one than the national; they asserted that they had within the walls of the Church Education Society some 30,000 Catholic children; they knew that, if content with teaching them formularies, and instructing in the Scriptures their own flocks solely, they could well carry out that view; but they likewise knew that they should allow the Catholic children to leave the school before such instruction. It was otherwise in their own schools, and they were therefore anxious to get a rule relaxed, whose relaxation would admit of their expending the money—nominally advanced to the school—for the purpose of a missionary and proselytising character elsewhere. Hon. Members were not so desirous to carry out those strong views, and he was, he must confess, astonished to find the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), and his colleague (Mr. Hamilton) declaring against the system, and insisting that their conscientious scruples should be regarded, when he was aware that in the very University which they represented—the cradle of the Protestant Church—they disregarded those rules which hon. Members were desirous to force upon the poorer classes. When the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Napier) spoke of a "Godless system" of education, and mourned over the absence of the Scriptures in most national schools, he should, in the first instance, have turned upon the system introduced into the University which he (Mr. Napier) represented. He (Mr. O'Brien) had graduated in arts at that University, and he could safely affirm, that during the five years he was within its walls, he had never been obliged nor solicited to attend any dog- matic teaching, nor ever been forced to read his Bible. The heads of the University never enforced upon members of a different communion the reading of the Bible; they knew that if they subjected him, and Roman Catholics in his position, to pressure upon that subject, they would not attend the University; and yet the right hon. Gentlemen who represented the University were desirous to enforce upon the unprotected poor a system which they did not venture to propose in a rich University. The hon. Member for Belfast had stated that where there were two schools together—one Church education and the other national—there could be no question that compulsion did not exist, there being free choice to the children to enter either school; but any one who knew anything of Ireland must know how incorrect was such an observation. Gifts, in money and kind were given to the children, and if such persuasive measures were found insufficient, the attendance of the child at the school was the sole mode of saving the father from eviction from his holding. Again, the hon. Gentleman remarked that he was accused of attempting to upset the national system of education, and he asked what system? Is it the system of 1833, of vested schools, or is it the system of vested and non-vested granted to the Presbyterians? He would tell the hon. Gentleman what system the Address moved for by Mr. Walpole was calculated to upset—that system which, in the words of the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Louth, has "for its leading principle that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or denomination of Christians." That was an intelligible definition of a system, and that system he was there to support. But, again, the Protestant clergy argued that, parochially, they were charged with the spiritual care of the souls of their parishioners, and were in duty bound to instruct them according to the rubric; but, if that were so, it was the catechism and formularies of their Church that they were bound to teach them, and not the Scriptures; but their practice was directly the contrary, because they in that House, through the mouths of their advocates, offered to give up their catechism and formularies provided they were permitted to teach the Scriptures? In common with the majority of the Members of that House, he was astonished at the course adopted to-night by hon. Members who took ad- vantage of an accident to snatch a division upon the preceding Tuesday, and in a manner (to borrow a phrase from hon. Members who used it, often opprobriously, against Members of his faith), most Jesuitical, to explain away the effect of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Louth, and to state that it quite coincided with the Address. Lawyers might get up in that House, as they had done to-night, to special plead and endeavour to persuade country Gentlemen and other non-professional Gentlemen in that House that it was so; but he was certain that the large mass of persons who would read the Address and the Resolution would consider them to be irreconcilable, and he believed that the majority in their souls thought they were so, and that in supporting the Resolution they were doing so most unwillingly, and were, indeed, eating a bitter apple. He (Mr. O'Brien) was there to declare that they met there that night to affirm in its entirety the principle of national education; and in challenging the hon. Members for Dublin and Cambridge Universities to divide, he was removing the slightest shadow of a pretence from any platform orator, either at Exeter Hall or in the Rotundo, saying at any future time that the House of Commons was hostile to the great question of national education.


agreed with his hon. and learned Friend who had just spoken that the House was placed in an extraordinary and anomalous position with reference to the question under discussion, and he thought this arose from the Jesuitical form in which the Resolution of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Fortescue) was drawn, for many hon. Gentlemen had declared their inability to detect any difference or contradiction between the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman and the address of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge. He felt the awkwardness of the position in which the House was placed, and he regretted that some of his hon. Friends had not boldly endeavoured to ascertain what were the real intentions of Her Majesty's Government on this subject. He thought it most important that it should be clearly and distinctly known whether the English Parliament and Her Majesty's Government considered that the Protestants of Ireland ought not to receive for the education of their children that assistance which was afforded indiscriminately to all classes and creeds in this country. In order therefore to bring this point to an issue, he would propose the following addition to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Louth:—

Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words— But that, consistently with these principles, it is the opinion of this House that no School should be disentitled to receive aid from the funds of the Board because the rules of such School require a portion of Scripture to be read each day by every child as a part of the general instruction of the School.


seconded the Amendment.

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


said, he had indulged the expectation that it would have been possible to adopt the Resolution of the hon. Member for Louth without Amendment or division, for he had thought the interpretation put upon that Resolution by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) might have been admitted by the Government as a basis for the consideration of this difficult and long-vexed question. If any Member of Her Majesty's Government had held out the hope that during the ensuing recess the subject would be considered by them with a view to some modification which, without interfering with the principles of the national system, might remove the injustice of which Irish Protestants complained, he would have felt the utmost gratification. The noble Lord (Viscount palmerston) had had an opportunity—and, indeed, he had even yet an opportunity—of settling this question without compromising the great principles of the national system. In the course of the debate, he (Mr. Hamilton) and his hon. Friends who entertained similar opinions upon this subject had been taunted for having remained silent when a Resolution approving, to a certain extent, the national system was under discussion; but their silence had arisen merely from an earnest, anxious, and heartfelt desire to promote the settlement of the question. For his own part, he could sincerely say that he was not an advocate for a system of proselytising, and he might make a similar assertion with regard to those whom he represented. [Mr. HORSMAN: The Church Education Society.] He denied that the Church Education Society was a proselytising institution. Let the right hon. Gentleman point out, if he could, a single instance of a child educated by that Society having been made a proselyte. Its object was, to inculcate upon the pupils who attended its schools the great fundamental truths of Christianity, but not to make them converts to any particular creed. Nor had that society any desire to violate the rights of conscience, or to interfere with parental authority. Since the Government had held out no hope that they would consider the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University during the recess, he should consider it his duty to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dublin.

VISCOUNT BERNARD moved the adjournment of the debate.


should certainly oppose the adjournment of the debate. The question had been fully discussed, every person had made up his mind upon it, and he thought the House was ready to come to a decision.


said, that if the general feeling of the House was against the adjournment of the debate, his noble Friend would not of course press his Motion. At the same time, he hoped that hon. Members would see the very peculiar position in which those who felt with him were now placed. Up to that moment he had taken little interest in the debate. Perhaps he was wrong, but from the first time he read the notice of the hon. Member for Louth, he could not shut his eyes to the fact that it pledged the House to an unequivocal approval of the existing system of national education in Ireland. To put a different construction upon that Resolution was simply to take the words in a non-natural sense, and if the House should agree to it in its present shape, the country would justly conclude that they had expressed satisfaction with the principles and proceedings of the National Board. He did not wish to disturb the existing system, but the Protestants of Ireland felt that great injustice was done to them, inasmuch as the rules of the Board denied to them the same advantages which were given to every other persuasion. Feeling that he would not act honestly if he assented to a Resolution which he interpreted as expressing unequivocal satisfaction with the proceedings of the National Board, he would have risen earlier in the evening to move the Amendment which had just been submitted by the hon. Member for Dublin if he had not received a most distinct assurance that it would be proposed to the House by a Gentleman of more weight and influence than himself. It was too late now to discuss it as it deserved, and therefore he trusted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would withdraw his opposition to the adjournment of the debate.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 50; Noes 331: Majority 281.

Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."


, considering that great difference in opinion existed in the interpretation of the words of the Resolution, and that many hon. Members were anxious to state their opinions upon the main question, whether the Holy Scriptures were to be read in the schools of Ireland supported by the State, moved the adjournment of the House.


knew that many hon. Members wished to state their opinions upon this question. He, therefore, hoped that the House would consent to an adjournment, or, if not, that the hon. Member for Dublin would take another opportunity of bringing his Motion before the House. He was afraid that by no fault of the hon. Member he would not be doing justice to himself or his subject by taking a division upon it at present.


appealed to the noble Lord at the head of the Government to allow the debate to be adjourned, in order that many Gentlemen who felt strongly upon this subject, and had not yet addressed the House, might have an opportunity of expressing their opinions.


said, he had seconded the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, because the Resolution of the hon. Member for Louth was so ambiguously framed that he had found it impossible to understand its meaning. And, with regard to the intentions of the Government, he would ask whether any hon. Gentleman was one whit wiser now than he had been at the commencement of the debate with regard to the interpretation which the Government would put upon the Resolution, supposing that it were carried? He would now—although it was after the eleventh hour—ask the noble Lord to state the sense in which they interpreted the Motion?


The adjournment of the House does not seem exactly the proper mode of accomplishing the purpose of those hon. Members who wish the debate to be prolonged, because I apprehend the effect of that adjournment would be that the Motion would be dropped. My hon. Friend says he is not much the wiser for the speeches he has heard. I do not know whether we could any of us hope to be made much wiser by the speeches still held in reserve. Perhaps we are as wise without as we should be with them. But I really hope that the House will come to an immediate decision upon this question. I am asked in what sense Her Majesty's Government understand the Resolution which has been moved to-night. Why, Sir, the sense in which we understand it is, that if the Resolution be passed it would be the opinion of the House, upon which the Government would act, that no change should be made in the regulations and practice now existing in regard to the administration of public grants for the purpose of education in Ireland. And, considering the importance of this matter—considering the deep interest which is felt upon it in Ireland—considering the great mischiefs that would arise from re-opening those religious differences which now seem happily in a great degree brought to a close, I think a unanimous vote of this House upon the Resolution, in conformity with the very honourable suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, would be a wiser termination of the debate than any at which we could arrive, even after hearing those speeches in order to listen to which we are called upon to adjourn. I should really hope that every hon. Gentleman had made up his mind upon this question. The question is not a new one; I venture to say that there is no man in the House whose opinions would be influenced by any speeches to which he might hereafter listen. All men who knew anything of the subject have reflected upon it deeply and often, and have by this time made up their minds. I therefore call upon the House now, this night, to decide whether the national mixed system of education in Ireland, which has conferred such great benefits, and which, if persevered in, will confer still greater benefits upon the people of Ireland—whether that system is to be continued or be put an end to,—whether religious peace is to be established in Ireland, or religious war declared? That is the important question upon which the House has to vote, and I think the House is just as competent to come to a decision upon it to-night as it could he to-morrow, or any other night to which the debate might be adjourned.


If the statement of the noble Lord had been made in reply to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole), I certainly should have moved an Amendment, which, as the Government know, I was prepared to move. In consequence of the Government having accepted, as I understood, the interpretation put upon the Resolution by my right hon. Friend, I did not move my Amendment, and I believe that many Gentlemen who would have supported it have now left the House.


I must say a few words after the observation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is true that when I spoke I addressed a much thinner audience than I am now addressing; but I confidently appeal to every hon. Gentleman who heard me to say whether I did not explicitly state that the Government accepted the Resolution of the hon. Member for Louth as a distinct reversal of the vote of the other night. I felt that the Government would be guilty of misconduct if there was any ambiguity in the course they took upon this question. I should attach no value to the Resolution if I thought it could be regarded in Ireland in any other light than as the expression of the determination of Parliament to affirm and maintain the system of national education unaltered and unimpugned in all its main principles, although perhaps improved in some of its details.


It was, and it is, my intention to vote for the Resolution of the hon. Member for Louth. I wish to maintain the system of national education now existing in Ireland in all its fundamental principles; but I must protest against being bound, when I vote for a Motion, to any particular interpretation that may be put upon it by any gentleman or body of gentlemen in the House. I am master of the meaning that I place upon any Motion for which I may vote, and this is the intrepretation I attach to the present Motion—By voting for it I shall signify my wish to support in its fundamental principles the system of national education that at present exists in Ireland; but it will be perfectly open to me to support any modification in that system consistent with those fundamental principles. If I had supposed that, by voting for the Address moved the other night by my right hon. Friend, I had voted for any object inconsistent with the policy I have indicated, I should not have supported it. I do not wish now to enter into any discussion on the subject, but as the Secretary for the Colonies seemed to suppose that the interpretation put upon the Resolution by himself and his colleagues would bind every gentleman who might vote for it, I felt it my duty to guard against that inference, and to vindicate the feelings and sentiments by which my vote will be guided.


said, that the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge had shown by his speech that he accepted the Resolution in a directly contrary meaning to that avowed by the Government. He had been a little puzzled all the evening perfectly to understand what was the real point in dispute. It was all very well to talk about "fundamental principles," but the essential difference between two parties in the House was, that those who thought with him believed that by giving aid to schools in which all the children were required to read the Scriptures the fundamental principles of the national system were not departed from; whereas hon. Members on the other side believed that the fundamental principles were departed from by such a practice. Well, that issue was not to be settled by any abstract Resolution about "fundamental principles," but it was distinctly raised by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dublin. The hon. Member for Warwickshire had stated that several of his friends had left the House, expecting no division, and, therefore, he was entitled to say that if a division should now be pressed, the House would be taken by surprise, and the decision would go to the country without weight.

Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."

The House divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 328: Majority 289.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes 95; Noes 279: Majority 184.

List of theAYES,
Alexander, J. Bond, J. W. M.
Archdall, Capt. M. Bramley-Moore, J.
Baldock, E. H. Bruce, Major C.
Bennet, P. Buller, Sir J. Y.
Bernard, Visct. Burghley, Lord
Blackburn, P. Burroughes, H. N.
Burrowes, R. Langton, W. G.
Cabbell, B. B. Langton, H. G.
Cairns, H. M. Leslie, C. P.
Campbell, Sir A. I. Lovaine, Lord
Child, S. Lowther, hon. Col.
Cholmondeley, Lord H. Macartney, G.
Clinton, Lord C. P. Malins, R.
Cobbold, J. C. Maxwell, hon. Col.
Cole, hon. H. A. Michell, W.
Coles, H. B. Montgomery, Sir G.
Compton, H. C. Naas, Lord
Davison, R. Napier, rt. hon. J.
Dod, J. W. Newdegate, C. N.
Drax, J. S. W. S. E. Pakenham, T. H.
Duckworth, Sir J. T. B. Palmer, R.
Duncombe, hon. O. Parker, R.
Dundas, G. Peel, Gen.
Du Pre, C. G. Percy, hon. J. W.
East, Sir J. B. Seymer, H. K.
Farnham, E. B. Shirley, E. P.
Fellowes, E. Sibthorp, Major
Forster, Sir G. Smijth, Sir W.
Frewen, C. H. Smollett, A.
Galway, Visct. Spooner, R.
George, J. Stafford, A.
Gladstone, Capt. Stanhope, J. B.
Gooch, Sir E. S. Stewart, Sir M. R. S.
Greenall, G. Stuart, Capt.
Guinness, R. S. Taylor, Col.
Gwyn, H. Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.
Hamilton, G. A. Vance, J.
Hanbury, hon. C. S. B. Vansittart, G. H.
Handcock, hon. Capt. H. Warner, E.
Hardy, G. Warren, S.
Hayes, Sir E. Whitmore, H.
Herbert, Sir T. Williams, T. P.
Hildyard, R. C. Woodd, B. T.
Hume, W. F. Wyndham, Gen.
Jones, D. Wynn, Lieut. Col.
Kendall, N. Wynne, rt. hon. J.
King, J. K. TELLERS.
Knatchbull, W. F. Butt, I.
Knox, Col. Grogan, E.
List of the NOES.
Acton, J. Boldero, Col.
Adair, Col. Bonham-Carter, J.
Adderley, C. B. Booth, Sir R. G.
Agnew, Sir A. Bouverie, rt. hn. E. P.
Alcock, T. Bowyer, G.
Anderson, Sir J. Brady, J.
Annesley, Earl of Bramston, T. W.
Antrobus, E. Brand, hon. H.
Atherton, W. Brocklehurst, J.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Brotherton, J.
Baird, J. Bruce, Lord E.
Ball, J. Bruce, H. A.
Baring, H. B. Buckley, Gen.
Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T. Burke, Sir T. J.
Barnes, T. Butt, G. M.
Bass, M. T. Byng, hon. G. H. C.
Baxter, W. E. Cardwell, rt. hon. E.
Beamish, F. B. Castlerossc, Visct.
Beaumont, W. B. Caulfield, Col. J. M.
Bell, J. Cavendish, hon. C. C.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Cavendish, hon. G.
Berkeley, F. W. F. Chaplin, W. J.
Bethell, Sir R. Cheetham, J.
Biddulph, R. M. Chelsea, Visct.
Biggs, J. Clifford, H. M.
Biggs, W. Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.
Bland, L. H. Cocks, T. S.
Collier, R. P. Heneage, G. H. W.
Colvile, C. R. Heneage, G. F.
Corbally, M. E. Herbert, H. A.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Hervey, Lord A.
Cowper, rt. hon. W. F. Heywood, J.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Higgins, Col. O.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Hindley, C.
Davies, D. A. S. Holland, E.
Deasy, R. Horsman, rt. hon. E.
Denison, J. E. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Dering, Sir E. Howard, Lord E.
De Vere, S. E. Hughes, W. B.
Devereux, J. T. Hughes, H. G.
Dillwyn, L. L. Hutching, E. J.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Hutt, W.
Duff, G. S. Ingham, R.
Duff, J. Ingram, H.
Duke, Sir J. Jackson, W.
Duncan, Visct. Johnstone, Sir J.
Duncan, G. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Dundas, F. Jones, Admiral
Dungarvan, Visct. Keating, R.
Dunne, M. Kennedy, T.
Egerton, E. C. Kershaw, J.
Ellice, E. Kingscote, R. N. F.
Emlyn, Visct. Kirk, W.
Esmonde, J. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Euston, Earl of Lewis, rt. hn. Sir G. C.
Ewart, W. Lindsay, W. S.
Ewart, J. C. Littleton, hn. E. R.
Fagan, W. Locke, J.
Feilden, M. J. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Fenwick, H. Luce, T.
Fergus, J. MacEvoy, E.
Ferguson, Col. M'Cann, J.
Ferguson, Sir R. MacGregor, John
FitzGerald, Sir J. Magan, W. H.
FitzGerald, J. D. Maguire, J. F.
FitzRoy, rt. hon. H. Mangles, R. D.
Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W. Marjoribanks, D.
Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W. Marshall, W.
Forster, C. Martin, P. W.
Forster, J. Massey, W. N.
Fortescue, C. S. Matheson, Sir J.
Fox, W. J. Meagher, T.
Freestun, Col. Milligan, R.
French, Col. Mills, T.
Gallwey, Sir W. P. Milner, Sir W. M. E.
Gaskell, J. M. Milnes, R. M.
Gifford, Earl of Milton, Visct.
Goddard, A. L. Moffatt, G.
Goderich, Visct. Monck, Visct.
Gordon, hon. A. Montsell, rt. hon. W.
Gower, hon. F. L. Montgomery, H. L.
Grace, O. D. J. Morgan, O.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Morris, D.
Greene, J. Mowatt, F.
Gregson, S. Mowbray, J. R.
Grenfell, C. W. Murrough, J. P.
Greville, Col. F. Napier, Sir C.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Noel, hon. G. J.
Grey, R. W. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Grosvenor, Earl North, F.
Gurney, J. H. O'Brien, P.
Hadfield, G. O'Brien, Sir T.
Hall, rt. hon. Sir B. O'Brien, J.
Hamilton, Lord C. O'Connell, Capt. D.
Hankey, T. O'Connell, Capt. J.
Hanmer, Sir J. O'Flaherty, A.
Hastie, Alex. Oliveira, B.
Hastie, Arch. Osborne, R.
Headlam, T. E. Paget, Lord A.
Heard, J. I. Pakington, rt, hn. Sir J
Palmerston, Visot. Stanley, Lord
Pechell, Sir G. B. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Peel, Sir E. Steel, J.
Peel, F. Stracey, Sir H. J.
Phillimore, J. G. Strickland, Sir G.
Pigott, F. Strutt, rt. hon. E.
Pilkington, J. Sutton, J. H. M.
Pinney, Col. Swift, R.
Pollard-Urquhart, W. Talbot, C. R. M.
Ponsonby, hon. A. G. J. Tancred, H. W.
Portal, M. Thompson, G.
Portman, hon. W. H. B. Thornely, T.
Powlett, Lord W. Thornhill, W. P.
Price, Sir R. Tite, W.
Price, W. P. Tomline, G.
Pritchard, J. Traill, G.
Ramsden, Sir J. W. Vane, Lord H.
Repton, G. W. J. Verner, Sir W.
Ricardo, O. Vernon, G. E. H.
Ricardo, S. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Rice, E. R. Vivian, H. H.
Richardson, J. J. Walmsley, Sir J.
Ridley, G. Walter, J.
Robartes, T. J. A. Watkins, Col. L.
Roebuck, J. A. Wells, W.
Russell, F. C. H. Whatman, J.
Russell, F. W. Whitbread, S.
Rust, J. Wickham, H. W.
Sawle, C. B. G. Wilkinson, W. A.
Scholefield, W. Willcox, B. M'G.
Scobell, Capt. Williams, W.
Seymour, H. D. Wilson, J.
Shee, W. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Shelburne, Earl of Wortley, rt. hn. J. S.
Shelly, Sir J. V. Wrightson, W. B.
Smith, J. B. Wyndham, W.
Smith, M. T. Wyvill, M.
Smith, rt. hon. R. V. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Smyth, Col. TELLERS.
Somerset, Col. Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.
Somerville. rt. hn. Sir W. Mulgrave, Earl of

Main Question put, and agreed to. Resolved—"That this House has observed with satisfaction the progress made in the instruction of the poorer classes of Her Majesty's Irish Subjects, under the direction of the Commissioners of National Education; and is of opinion that, in the administration of that system, or in any modification of its rules, there should be maintained a strict and undeviating adherence to its fundamental principles, securing parental authority and the rights of conscience to pupils of all denominations, by excluding all compulsory religious teaching, this House being convinced that no plan for the Education of the Irish Poor, however wisely and unexceptionably contrived in other respects, can be carried into effectual operation, unless it be explicitly avowed and clearly understood, as its leading principle, that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or denomination of Christians.

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