§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I rise to move that a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to issue a Commission to inquire into the present state 1185 of popular education in England, and whether the present system is, or is not, sufficient for its object; and to consider and report what changes, if any, are required for the extension of sound and cheap elementary instruction to all classes of the people. If I were to consult my own personal feelings only, I should yield to the reluctance I feel again to invite the attention of the House to the subject of national education. But I hope the House will kindly and indulgently oblige me in this matter. I am only actuated by a paramount sense of public duty. I know how unwilling the House always is to hear the same subject repeatedly pressed on your attention by the same Member. But I trust you will bear in mind, that although this is a subject which has no political bearing in a party sense, it is one which directly affects the highest interests of a most numerous and most helpless class of our fellow-subjects. I hope you will consider that after the part I have taken on this question, I may fairly think it my duty to make an appeal to the newly elected House of Commons on this very interesting subject. In bringing it again under the notice of the House, I have at least this claim to your attention, that I intend to conclude my observations with a proposal totally different from any of those which I previously submitted to your consideration. I beg also to say that I shall compress within as narrow a compass as possible my statement of the grounds on which I am about to ask the House and the Government to consent to what is undoubtedly a very important step in this matter. I do not think it necessary to go into any of those details, which upon former occasions I have thought it necessary to address to the House with a view of establishing the educational deficiencies now existing. In the year 1856, when my noble Friend the Member for London brought forward his Resolutions on this subject—and in referring to the part taken by my noble Friend I cannot refrain from expressing my grateful sense of the frankness, the courtesy, and the kindness which I have uniformly received from him in this matter—in the year 1856 my noble Friend did me the honour of referring to the statements which I made in the previous year with respect to the deficiencies in our system of national education, and which had then, I believe, been very generally regarded as great exaggerations. My noble Friend declared 1186 that he had verified those statements, and that he had found them fully supported by authentic documents. He added, that he should not deem it necessary to repeat those statements, but that he should assume their correctness; and I repeat it is my intention to adopt the same course upon the present occasion. I will now only remind the House of the nature of the evidence on which I before relied. I referred to the reports of gaol chaplains for the purpose of showing the appalling ignorance of the class, not exclusively the criminal class, which came under their special observation; I quoted the statement of Mr. Clay, the chaplain of Preston Gaol, from which it appeared that 40 per cent. of those with whom he had been brought into communication were ignorant of the name of the Saviour, and that 60 or 70 per cent. of their number were ignorant of the name of Queen Victoria. I referred to evidence showing the state of the children which are brought into our workhouses. I referred to other evidence for the purpose of showing that a vast amount of gross ignorance prevailed among a very considerable portion of the inhabitants of London, and of Man- Chester, and our other great manufacturing towns. I also substantiated my position as to the rural districts by the evidence of the Inspectors of Education and of the Diocesan Inspectors. I quoted the statement of the Dean of Hereford—a man whose name is well known and highly respected by every one conversant with the educational question—as to the state of his county; and I also read from persons of unexceptionable authority accounts of the amount of ignorance to be found in the diocese of Bath and Wells, the county of Wiltshire, and in other parts of the country. Those statements, which were taken from official sources, were not contradicted, and I believe I may now take them as incontestable. I have, therefore, a right to assume, first, that there are large masses of our population in a deplorable state of ignorance; and, secondly, that there are considerable portions of this country, both in the rural districts and in the towns, where there are either no schools at all, or where the schools are so inefficient as not to be adequate to the purpose for which they are intended. I pass, therefore, briefly over the evidence with regard to the actual state of education; but if there is one portion of that question to which I 1187 hope I may be allowed to refer, I wish to direct the attention of the House for a few moments to some of the last reports of the educational Inspectors which were laid before us last summer by the Committee of Council on Education. One reason why I now allude to them is that they afford what I believe to be a satisfactory answer to an assertion which may be urged against this Motion. It may be said that we have no need of any further information upon this subject, as the reports of the Inspectors convey to us all the knowledge which we can reasonably desire. ["Hear!"] I am glad to hear that cheer, as I believe I could not produce better or stronger evidence in favour of the necessity of such an inquiry as that for which I now move, than what these reports contain. Another reason why I quote this evidence is, that it is the most recent and the most reliable which it would be possible to produce. The first report to which I will refer is that of Mr. Stewart, the Inspector for Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Hertfordshire, and Buckinghamshire. That gentleman says:—The few facts thus brought together force into prominence the difficulty already mentioned of maintaining in remote agricultural places the means of good education. Yet it may be said, without fear of contradiction, that these are the very spots where schools of the highest order ought to he maintained at any cost.This return (alluding to a return of the attendance of children) proves too clearly what has been said already, that very few elementary schools in rural districts even pretend to any great efficiency, and that the children attend them with such irregularity that very little progress can be made in their mental development. If any well-matured system of education were operating in this country the whole grant would be insufficient for the demands of the one district to which this report refers.But how is education to be provided for the thousands of poor parishes which are found in England? The poor and ignorant are the very people who require, more than others, the help that a simple though sound education furnishes, but their poverty prevents them from providing schools even if they wished for them, and their ignorance of the value of instruction makes them content to sink lower and lower in the scale of social life, and to grudge to pay for what they cannot appreciate.Mr. Warburton, the Inspector for Berkshire, bears similar testimony with respect to the state of the schools in his district. I will next quote the evidence of Mr. Mitchell in reference to the state of the schools in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. Mr. Mitchell says that out of 205 schools which he had inspected, 1188Forty-one, or about one-fifth per cent, were excellent; thirty-five, or about one-sixth per cent, were as bad as they could be, and it would be a great advantage if they were put an end to; and the remaining 129 were more or less deficient, some being progressive and others retrograding.I will now pass to the report of Mr. Bellairs, of whose perfect competency to pronounce an opinion upon this subject I can speak with confidence, because he is the Inspector in that part of the country with which I am myself specially connected. I believe there is none of the Inspectors more cautious than he is in his statements, or less disposed to advocate any extensive change in the present system.I have again to express my regret at the partial extent of your Lordships' operations. There are, at all events, very many places in which there are inefficient schools. This is the case quite as much in the towns as in the rural districts. How far the extension of the capitation grants to towns will meet the difficulty remains to be seen. I have few statistics to produce on this head. It is much to be wished that a trustworthy inquiry into the educational deficiencies of the country could be made. At present the statements on this subject are so vague and contradictory that it is almost impossible to arrive at anything like an approximation to the truth.Now, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not contradict what I allege, that Mr. Bellairs, one of Her Majesty's Government Inspectors, is such person as I have described; and he himself states how desirable it is that we should have some further inquiry into the matter. Will the House permit me to read a letter which I have received this morning on the subject? I have no acquaintance with the person from whom this letter proceeds, but he is a clergyman holding a cure in the populous district of Bethnal-green, in this city. It has only been in my hands two hours; but I think the House will say that it bears strongly on the proposal which I am about to make. It is as follows:—
§ "St. James's Parsonage, Bethnal Green, Feb. 10.
§ "Sir, I beg you will pardon the liberty which I take in communicating to you the fact that the boys' school of this new parish, containing nearly 200 boys, was obliged to be closed for want of means nearly two years since, and that there appears no prospect of its being re-opened under the present financial system. Having been an anxious promoter of education for fifteen years I am deeply pained, and should hail the prospect of a sifting inquiry into this and such cases as a happy omen. Those schools which are kept open in this neighbourhood, are for the most part deeply in debt, and the clergy groan under the burden. The use of this statement is entirely at your discretion, if it can be of the least service in the cause.
§ "I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
§ "EDW. F. COKE, M.A., Incumbent of St, James's, Bethnal Green."1189
§ Now, Sir, I can hardly offer to your consideration a more touching statement of the state of educational destitution at present existing even in the metropolis than that which I have just read to the House; and it is fully confirmed when I mention that in the report of the able Inspector of the great county of York, Mr. Watkins, it is stated that out of the twenty-two educational districts in England there are only two in which the expenditure for the support of the schools does not considerably exceed the income. I am quoting from memory, but I believe quite accurately. Mr. Watkins's statement is, that in the last year but one the general average of the excess of expenditure over income in these twenty districts was not less than 6 per cent., and that in the last year, 1856–57, it had increased to 7½ per cent. If that is a correct statement, and I think few will be disposed to doubt the authority, coupled with the able remarks of the Inspector, surely it would alone amount to a proof that some additional means are necessary to correct such an unpromising state of affairs. Another most serious matter of consideration, and which has excited the greatest attention lately among the promoters of education is the extremely early ages at which children leave school, and the impossibility of continuing any satisfactory system of education after they have so left. Mr. Watkins tells us that this is the great evil felt in the district of York at the present moment, and his figures go to show that an overwhelming proportion of the children at school are under ten years of age, and, what is worse, that for some reason or other, this evil is increasing. It is increasing from year to year, and I beg to press on my right hon. Friend that a stringent inquiry into the subject would alone be sufficient to enable us to afford the remedy. For some reason or other, what it is I don't profess myself to he aware, the proportion of children at school over the age of ten years has for a considerable time, and year by year, become less. I hold in my hand, if the House will allow me to refer to it, a paper containing some statistics on education furnished by Mr. Lingen, the able Secretary of the Educational Board, which has been furnished to me by the courtesy of my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Cowper), and which contains the most valuable information with respect to the early age at which children leave school in this country. I 1190 found some remarkable facts which surprised me, and I think will surprise most of the hon. Members of this House. This paper gives a statement of the per centage of children above ten years of age who were at school in each year from 1850 to 1857 inclusive, and I find that in 1850 that per centage was thirty-seven and a fraction; but that, with one exception, this per centage has from that year down to 1857 been becoming gradually less each year. The only exception was in 1852, when the per centage was thirty-nine and a fraction. With the exception alone, the per centage has got gradually less, until I find that in 1857 it has sunk down to twenty-seven and a fraction. I think, Sir, that the fact that such a reduction having taken place in the per centage affords a strong proof that a most serious inquiry into the matter should be made. I cannot help referring for a moment to a paper which has been placed in my hands this morning, not founded upon official authority, but giving some most valuable information, which, I have every reason to believe, is accurate. It is a paper by Mr. Keith Johnson, the Geographer to the Queen in Scotland; and in this document I find a diagram giving a comparative statement of the per centage of the population of various countries in Europe between the ages of seven and fourteen, who are receiving instruction at school. The paper specifies seventeen countries; and I am sorry to see that England stands as low as tenth in the list. Saxony is the first; for I find by this document that in Saxony, within a minute fraction, the whole of the children at that age are at school. Next comes New England, in the United States, where the per centage is ninety-five; then Holland, ninety-four; next follow in their order Prussia, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, Belgium, Austria, Scotland, and then England, in which the per centage of the population at school at the age I have mentioned is, I am sorry to say, only forty-five. Is not that a startling statement? And yet, though not official, I fully believe it to be as near an approximation to the actual fact as it is possible to obtain, without having access to official documents. I think I am justified in saying that this is most unsatisfactory to the friends of education in England. Well, Sir, on that state of facts, I think I am justified in asking, in the first place, whether Parliament ought to allow it to continue without 1191 an attempt to remedy it. Are we, as representatives of the people, to fold our arms in this great matter, or is it not, on the contrary, our bounden duty to address ourselves seriously to remedy a state of things so little to the credit of England? Ought we not to endeavour to put England on a par with other civilized countries in respect to education? I go further—I say on a par with other portions of our own country, for it appears that Scotland stands above England in this respect. Again, quoting from memory, I remember the noble Lord, whose speech I adverted to, in 1856 saying that in one parish in Scotland he had asked the minister how many young children were uneducated, and the reply was, that there was not one in that parish above the age of seven years hut could read. In Holland there was an admirable system; in Canada there was an admirable system; and with respect to Australia, it was only a few days ago that he was informed by a gentleman who knew the colony well that they were most anxious to establish a good system of education, which should reach all parts of the population. I ask, then, whether it is not becoming in us to address ourselves seriously to the question whether this state of things is to continue so?—whether it is not incumbent upon us to provide some method which will place us in a creditable position. Does the House suppose that this is a question in which little public interest is manifested? Never was a greater mistake, although I am sorry to say that—and I say it without intending offence to any one—I believe that if less interest is felt on this subject by one portion of the country than another it is that portion which is comprised within the four walls of this House. The candid student of history must admit that it is one of the defects of our Parliamentary system that we are too prone to devote our time and attention to party struggles in this House. And, on the other hand, that we are not prone enough to direct our attention to those matters which, without touching on party struggles, affect only the welfare and the interest of the people. But, Sir, I can show to the House very strong proofs of the interest which is felt on this question out of doors. I can show that it is by no means diminishing. The men who support the cause of education are not noisy politicians; they are not a class striving to obtain political advantages for the interest of political parties; bat they comprise a 1192 most important portion of the people—a class who help, in a great measure, to form that public opinion to which we all defer; and to show you that the subject has not lost any of its interest with them, I need only to refer to that great conference which, under the patronage of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, was held in this metropolis last summer. I am not aware whether there is any hon. Gentleman here who assisted at that conference. It was held especially to consider the question on which I have touched, namely, the early age at which children leave school, and the remedies which could be devised; and I never saw during the three days that the meetings lasted, a greater display of interest by persons of influence and intelligence from all parts of the Kingdom, than was shown on that occasion. People took the trouble to come from all parts of the Kingdom to London to read papers and give every information in their power on this vital question of education. One important question raised before that conference was whether the half-time system might not be beneficially extended with a view to the promotion of education. We all know what a difficult question that half-time question is. It has been broadly asserted that although it had been extended to some, it could not be extended to other branches of manufacture, and still less could it be extended to agricultural districts. I must confess that upon the subject I speak as a prejudiced person, but still I am very sanguine that to some extent at least the half-time system may be extended with regard to the agricultural districts. The hon. Member for Nottingham has set an admirable example in that respect, and introduced a practical alteration with great success. My noble Friend Lord Hatherton has also introduced and nobly supported a system of half-time on his estates in Staffordshire. Still, there can be no doubt that the early age at which children leave school still remains one of the most difficult questions of the present age, and also that although we all desire to see the extension of the half-time system, it is full of practical difficulties. Whether or not we can extend that system, few will doubt that the whole question is one that demands the gravest inquiry; and indeed I know no mode in which we can arrive at a solution of the difficulty but by such investigation. It is, indeed, one on which it will be exceedingly difficult to attempt legislation without previous in- 1193 quiry. But, Sir, there is a still more recent proof of the interest felt in education by the people in the recent proceedings which took place at Birmingham, on the establishment, under the presidency of Lord Brougham, of an Association for the Promotion of Social Science. I had the honour on that occasion of presiding over one of the sections of education, another was presided over by my noble Friend the Member for Lynn (Lord Stanley), and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell), presided over a third. Every one who was present on that most interesting occasion must testify to the deep interest felt by the masses of that important district in the cause of education. My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Akroyd), than whom no one had made more noble efforts for the promotion of education in his district and at his own extensive works, was present at that conference, and he can bear ample testimony of the accuracy of what I am now saying. No delusion can be greater, therefore, than to believe that because the table of the House was not loaded with petitions, or because educational questions did not fill the benches, the people do not feel a deep and sustained interest in the subject. Well, Sir, having established, as I hope I have done, the principle, first of all, that the educational state of England is not satisfactory, and having established the fact that the people, out of doors at least, feel the greatest interest in the subject, I say that I am justified in asking this newly-elected House of Commons whether it is not incumbent to make some effort for the solution of the difficulty. Then, if I am right so far, the question arises in what mode can we best and most effectually legislate? The House will not for a moment suppose that because I am now moving for an inquiry I am at all departing from any opinions which I have previously expressed—that we are not competent at once to proceed to legislate. As far as I am concerned I should have no hesitation in doing so. But the question is whether, looking at the experience of the last two years, such an attempt at legislation is likely to be successful. I think it is perfectly clear that Her Majesty's Government is not disposed to legislate on this question. I think they ought to do so; but I speak in no spirit of censure, for I do not believe that if they were to be succeeded by any other Government, that other Government, as the question stands at present, would be dis- 1194 posed to legislate upon it. Well, Sir, although I ventured to introduce a Bill on this subject in 1855, and another in 1857, yet, from accidental causes, no decision of the House was ever obtained on either of those Bills. The Bill I introduced in 1855 led to very lengthened debates. I was, however, in the position of an independent Member, and the discussion went on through Wednesday after Wednesday until, from want of time, I was unable to take the sense of the House upon it. With regard to the Bill of 1857, I did not ask the House to express its opinion, but the dissolution took place, and I was prevented from obtaining it. But in the interval between those two years, in 1856, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who—although I say so without any offence whatever intended to others—it has always appeared to me was defeated rather by feelings, passion, and prejudice, than in consequence of sound argument and judgment—[Lord J. RUSSELL: "Hear!"]—brought the subject forward; still, I do say, and I believe that my noble Friend will agree with me, that whatever may be the feeling of the present House of Commons, the proposals brought forward in the last Parliament, either by myself or by the noble Lord, would, had any decision been taken upon then, have been rejected. I say that without shrinking from the avowal of any opinions I have expressed. I merely brought them forward as embodying my own views, but I was always conscious of the difficulties of the question, and never supposed that hon. Members would pass those Bills into a law. My object was to obtain a declaration of Parliament on certain principles, and to put into shape the views which I myself entertained upon the question. I am justified on the whole, therefore, in saying that as the question at present stands there is no immediate prospect of legislation. Then I address myself to the question of whether we can reasonably expect that the present system, under the Committee of Council, and under the grants from Parliament, can be so advanced as to meet the educational requirements throughout the country, and I have no hesitation in giving my distinct opinion that we cannot. I speak with great reserve and great caution on this subject. I am as conscious as any man in England of the great advantages this country has derived from the Committee of Council and the annual grants. I have traced with satisfaction the gradual growth of those grants, 1195 and the notion of the Committee of Council, for whether their administration has been satisfactory or not, beyond all doubt they have done much to advance and sustain the cause of education in this country. We have now a responsible Minister of Education in this House, and therefore we have reason to expect those grants will be prolonged, and that action extended and increased. But if I remember right, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, in his speech in 1856, told the House that, having taken a prominent part in the establishment of the Committee in 1839, it was not the object of those who founded the system to supersede all voluntary efforts, and every other description of aid throughout the country, but to establish a nucleus for the promotion of education, and not that it was to be the sole means of promoting it. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: "Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord assents to the correctness of that opinion, but as I pressed strongly on the House last summer, so I now press upon them whether the grant of the Committee of Council has not grown to an extent far beyond what was originally intended; and, useful and valuable as it is, whether it can be extended further with safety to the public interests. The amount is voted annually. Last year it was between £500,000 and £600,000, and in the present Session, if I am accurately informed, it will be £100,000 more than the estimate of last year. Well, to carry out that system you have an army of Inspectors, the number of which has increased from nineteen in 1840 to forty-six in 1857. If, therefore, a corresponding amount of increase is made to carry out the increased grant, I ask you whether, in process of time, this will not amount to a degree of centralization as will be most undesirable, and never contemplated by those who established the system—whether it would not be such an amount of centralization as it would be impossible to sustain with regard to economy, to the public interest generally, and with that jealous watchfulness over the expenditure which we are bound to keep up. Indeed, I very much doubt whether the expenditure is not even now greater than it ought to be. I speak with some reserve on the subject, as I should be sorry indeed to check the generosity of Parliament, but it would be most irrational to suppose that so large an expenditure of money, the administration of which is spread over so large an area of country, and made in such minute fractions, 1196 can be watched with a vigilance which is absolutely necessary to secure its proper expenditure. In order to secure the proper expenditure of the annual grants under the present system a multitude of minute conditions and complicated arrangements would have to be made, the operation of which would prove injurious and inconvenient. If such conditions and arrangements were not made, you may run the risk of not receiving an equivalent for your expenditure. I have stated upon previous occasions that I wish to retain the present system as a nucleus of a more extended one and the centre of our educational action. But I believe that the present is only a half system. You have a central board, a Minister of Education, grants by that House, and Inspectors. All that is good, and I desire to retain it, but I do not think that it is sufficient. It ought to be aided by local agency and superintendence, by the jealous watchfulness of the local authorities who take a deep interest in the question of education, as it comes home to their hearts. I wish to supplement the present system, and, as the question whether that is expedient could not be solved without further-inquiry, I am compelled to suggest that a Committee or a Commission should be appointed to inquire into the present state of education in this country. I beg to remind the House that it is a very long time since we have had an extensive and searching investigation into the state of education in England. In 1818 Lord Brougham, whose long and zealous services in this cause all must honour, obtained a Committee which was the foundation of the Commission which he afterwards proposed, and which was then of great service—a commission upon the educational charities of the Kingdom. There was in 1834 or 1835 also a Committee upon the question of education, and the next occasion on which there was an inquiry, in 1838, it was moved for by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Slaney.) That was the last; because, although it was true that a Committee was appointed to inquire into the state of the education of the labouring classes in large towns, that inquiry had reference only to the towns of Manchester and Salford, and although great principles, religious and otherwise, were discussed in it, yet it did not include the general education of the Kingdom. It added nothing to the information which I hold to be essential to the solution of the great difficulties with which the question is sur- 1197 rounded, and therefore I think it is obvious, since the existence of those difficulties is admitted by all, that we should now have a full inquiry. Then comes the consideration of the question in what form should such an inquiry be made. A Committee of the House, perhaps, offers this advantage. If a Committee were appointed I should probably, according to the usual custom, as the mover of it, be elected chairman, and should thereby be enabled to direct the inquiry to those objects which I have in view. On the other hand, considering that many hon. Members would examine witnesses with a view to support their own opinions, it seems to me that the appointment of a Committee would probably be to delay the settlement of this question this, if not next Session. On the other hand, if the Government should consent to this Commission of Inquiry, I think that we shall have it conducted in a much more calm and dispassionate manner than by a Committee. We shall have a Report that will carry greater weight in the country. I am fortified in this view by the close analogy between the present condition of the great question of education and the condition in which the poor laws stood in 1833, when the Government of that day issued a Commission of Inquiry. The circumstances of the two cases are as parallel as possible. At that period the physical wants of the poor were relieved by the medium of a law which had fallen into great confusion and difficulty: so much so, indeed, that it had become almost impossible to carry on its administration. Many attempts were made by different Members and different parties to remedy the evil, until at last the Government of the day felt that the best mode of solving the admitted difficulty which existed, and of leading to practical legislation, was to have a full and careful inquiry into the whole subject. I referred to the Report of the Commission only yesterday, and was astonished to perceive that in substance the order of reference then made was as nearly as possible in the terms of the Motion I have now the honour to submit to the House. I say, then, that the precedent is most encouraging. The Government of 1833 appointed seven of the most able and distinguished men, at the head of whom was the late lamented Bishop of London, to carry out that inquiry. They sent Deputy Commissioners throughout the country to collect facts, they put those facts together and stated their own views, and the result was, that in 1198 the following year the Government came down to this House and carried that great measure, the benefit of which England wag enjoying from that day to this. The cases are, I repeat, as closely paralell as it is possible to conceive; indeed there is only one important difference between the Commission on the subject of the poor laws and that for which I am now asking. The former Commission was issued by the Government at their own accord. In the present case the Commission is proposed by a humble Member of this House, who has not even a party support to look to on this proposal; a Member who is not usually a supporter of Ministers, but on the contrary, one who has found it to be his duty to question the propriety of their policy on frequent occasions. I hope, however, that the noble Lord is too just and too magnanimous to allow those circumstances to have any weight. I hope that the Members generally will consider alone the merits of the proposal, and not those of the humble individual who can urge no claim for himself—that they will feel that I make it with the utmost sincerity, and that I have no other object at heart but that of the public good. My hope is, if the Government will concede this inquiry, that we shall have, in the cause of education, as in that of the poor laws, a most valuable Report as to the actual condition and requirements of this subject—a Report which will point out to Parliament and the Ministers of the Queen the principle on which this great question may at last be fairly and safely settled. I believe, Sir, it will be an advantage to the country, to Parliament, and to the Government, to find themselves armed with an authority—with that authority with which they now so much want. And being armed with that authority and fortified by public opinion, and bearing in mind the public interests, I hope that the Ministers, under the circumstances, will at last legislate on this subject in such a manner as to effect that object which I have sincerely at heart, and which I hope I may live to see accomplished, solely because I believe it to be essential to the true character and the welfare of the people.
Motion made and Question proposed,—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Commission to inquire into the present state of Popular Education in England, and whether the present system is, or is not, sufficient for its object; and to consider and report
what changes, if any, are required for the extension of sound and cheap Elementary Instruction to all classes of the People.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HARDY
said, that it was impossible for any one who had heard the speech of his right hon. Friend to doubt the sincerity with which he advocated the cause which he had in view, and no one could find fault with the moderation with which he had treated the subject; but at the same time he must claim from the candour of the House equal credit for sincerity for those Gentlemen who differed in opinion from his right hon. Friend. He must protest against the idea, which appeared to be sometimes taken for granted, that those were not the friends of education who thought it could be better promoted by efforts each made in his own neighbourhood, than by speeches in that House. His right hon. Friend had told the House that he retained the opinions embodied in those Resolutions and Bills which he had before brought before the House, so that it was clear that his mind was made up, and that any measure which he would support now he would support at the close of the inquiry. It was impossible to have heard the speech of his right hon. Friend without perceiving that he at least had nothing new to learn upon the subject; for he had pronounced, with all the authority which belonged to him, that the facts of the case were already before the House—that there was gross ignorance in many localities; that in many cases children were taken from school too early; and that in some places there was no education at all, because the districts in question were too poor to meet the grants of Parliament. There was no doubt that many evils did at present exist, but the real question to be considered was, did the system now in operation gradually improve the condition of the people? It was not fair to single out particular passages from the reports of Inspectors to prove a particular case, but the system must be looked to as a whole, and the question asked whether, during the short time—some nine or ten years—in which the present system had been in operation, the advance which had been made in the condition of the people had not been sufficient to satisfy those who had kept their expectation within the bounds of moderation. What their endeavours should be directed to was the training of the people's minds to a desire for educa- 1200 tion, without resorting to anything like compulsion. In many counties there was a strong disinclination to the introduction of any new system, the people being perfectly satisfied with that which their forefathers had before them; and, although no doubt in certain districts, more particularly in Cumberland and Westmoreland, from the fact of the clergy themselves not having formerly received a very high education, the education in their parishes had been neglected, still, as the clergy became better educated, and were brought more into communication with the rest of the country, their zeal in the cause would increase, and the education in their parishes would increase also. In this manner a general feeling in favour of education would be secured in those districts as well as in more favoured localities. His right hon. Friend had said that the reports of the Inspectors did not contain sufficient information for them to be taken as a guide; but that was not the question. What the House ought to consider was whether the Inspectors were not growing more conversant with the subject, and whether they were not gradually in their reports coming to the point of giving more information than would be afforded by a Commission. He found from the general tenor of the reports that the number of pupils, of good schools, of certificated teachers, and of pupil teachers, contented to continue in the path they had chosen, and to follow the profession of teachers, had greatly increased, and that in a comparatively short time. If they already found such results, and that the Inspectors reported that they were gradually increasing, he could not but think that better times were coming, and that the system already in operation was gradually producing the desired improvements. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the report of the Rev. Mr. Mitchell, as to the badness of some schools, but he had omitted to notice the remarkable statement of the same gentleman, that there were districts in which the people actually preferred bad schools. Mr. Mitchell's words were these—Hadleigh, population, 3,000; Boxford; Bil-deratone.—Excellent schools in every respect, but scholars are not attracted to them. The population seem not to appreciate a good education. It is disheartening to hear that schools, conducted by untrained and almost uneducated teachers, are established in the neighbourhood, which are well attended, and yet which cannot pretend to offer the advantages possessed by these.1201 So also Mr. Moncrieff says, "A good schoolmaster in Cumberland has a hard task. The people deliberately prefer the old system." What remedy had they for such a state of things? It was for that House to decide for themselves upon the facts before them, and not look to a Commission. If, as the right hon. Gentleman said, things were ripe for legislation on this subject, that House was the place where opinons ought to be expressed, irrespective of any Commission, however eminent might be the Members upon it. With regard to the early age at which the children left the schools, some of the Inspectors gave the reasons for that circumstance. The Rev. Mr. Cook, the Inspector for Middlesex, explained that the children were taken from school by their parents for the sake of the wages they could earn. How was that to be met, except by putting force upon the parents? In Mr. Watkins's report there was an interesting table setting out the amount of wages earned by children at various ages; and it was impossible not to see that those wages formed a very important element in the income of the families to which they belonged. A curious question arose whether the home comforts of the family ought to a great extent to be interfered with in order to educate the children in the sense intended by the right hon. Baronet—namely, by school instruction, which was a very different thing from real education. It was important to consider whether, by leaving to parents the paramount power in the education of their children, they should not be securing to those children a better moral tone than they could receive from any school to which they were sent. Having himself heard of cases in which education as well as profitable employment were carried on together in the homes of poor families—the elder children instructing the younger at intervals—or while one child was earning wages for the general support of the family, his brothers were reaping the benefit of the increased income by being sent to school—he owned he was not disposed to regard their early unmitigated withdrawal from the school as such an evil, in all cases, as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to think it. It was the moral tone, and not so much the intellectual acquirements, which the State should seek to educate and promote. He believed that a home education—the training of all the moral faculties—wa3 a far better thing than high 1202 intellectual acquirements obtained in a school in which the master himself did not seek to impart a high moral tone to his pupils. Indeed, it was perfectly conceivable that parents might withdraw their children because of the low moral tone of some of the schools. Moreover, the failure of the elementary schools was often attributable not to any deficiency either in the number or in the accommodation of the schools, but to the fact that the education imparted was not adapted to the wants of the children. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted from the report of the Rev. Mr. Stewart; and that gentleman had contributed a valuable criticism upon the sort of instruction which was popular at the present time—If a variety of subjects is day by day pressed on a child's attention, he may get a superficial acquaintance with all of them, but he will get a knowledge of none. The lessons will be to the child mere collections of facts, which will he upon the memory as a heavy indigestible mass. His mind will be overloaded with raw material, which he has no power to turn to account, and his memory will be taxed to no purpose. Both in selecting and in giving lessons, teachers are too apt to measure children's capacity by their own, to speak to them of matters totally beyond their grasp, and to bewilder them with addresses on semi-scientific fragments of which too many of our modern reading books are composed. I do not deny the value of facts in their proper place, but I do not think that a daily accumulation of them is a means of training a child's mind. No lesson is a good one which does not cultivate a child's understanding without straining it. This is a slow and gradual process. It is just as impossible to steal a march on the slow development of a child's mind, as it is to hasten the growth of the bones and muscles. Every school system which tends to cram children is as unphilosophical and injurious as it is to require infants to perform the manual labour of adults. On this ground alone I feel sure that more real progress would be made in elementary schools if everything showy and superficial were struck off the time tables, and more time, more care, and far more skill bestowed on those elementary subjects which are the foundation of all future progress.Mr. Bellairs was the only inspector who expressed a desire for an inquiry, and even he did not ask for a Commission. Any investigation that was made into this matter should be conducted by those who were directly responsible to Parliament. Under the system of education which had gradually grown up in this country a Department of Education had been established, with a Vice President who sat in that House to answer all questions that might be put to him, while the same duty devolved upon the President of the Council in the House of Lords. That Depart- 1203 ment had a large staff of District Inspectors, and as it had every facility and every opportunity for the execution of its functions, what was there to prevent it from collecting, by degrees, all the necessary information as to the educational condition and necessities of every part of the country? The right hon. Gentleman did not say that his Commission was to inquire into a single fact, but only into matters of opinion. That House did not want to be dictated to by a Commission. His right hon. Friend did not really want an inquiry at all, for he took all the facts for granted. Be it so. He (Mr. Hardy) would admit the facts regarding the ignorance that prevailed amongst the inmates of gaols. Upon this point they learned by statistical facts that the crimes committed were not in proportion to the want of education, but rather to the density of population. But, admitting all that his right hon. Friend said, he would remind him of the remark of Mr. Bellairs, namely, that his right hon. Friend's proposed system would not touch the criminal class at all. He (Mr. Hardy) hoped that the Board of Education would turn its attention to this class, and to the case of those destitute districts to which the present arrangements were inapplicable. Let them do that, and let them propose some alteration in their minutes to meet those special cases. Such a step would be sure to meet with the approval of Parliament. But what did they want with a Commission? They already had plenty of reports from Inspectors, from reformatories, and from ragged schools; and there was a strong objection in limine to a Commission roving through the country. What would be the nature of its inquiry, and into what class of schools was it to enter? What class of private schools would it include in its investigations? Would it extend its inquiries to the schools frequented by the children of the middle classes, or would it even inspect those attended by the children of hon. Gentlemen. Again, why should they put those persons who were managing schools without state assistance in the invidious position either of having to submit to an interference they did not desire, or of refusing to admit a Royal Commission? The benefits of the present system were partaken of by two classes of persons—by those who assisted in the work of education not less than those who were the recipients of instruction; and parents being, moreover, taught the value of edu- 1204 cation by having to pay for it, learned to see that their children received the value of their money. Was it to interfere with those people who had established voluntary schools free from Government inspection? State aid for the support of education was an excellent principle when combined with voluntary effort; but the problem of education ought to be worked out by the free energies of the people. In bureaux-ridden Prussia great difficulty was experienced, according to the statement of Mr. Watkins, in enforcing regular attendance at the public schools. In one town of about 40,000 inhabitants, Elberfeld, it appeared there were 12,000 convictions for non-attendance at schools in the course of one year. Was it likely that the stubborn independence of Englishmen would be more yielding on such a matter? Compulsion would produce a strong revulsion against education in this country, and throw back the cause indefinitely. Mr. Watkins, whose experience in a manufacturing district was immense, gave it as his opinion that a compulsory law would be perfectly useless in England, but that a great deal might be done by persuasion, and by acting on the employers of labour. The right hon. Gentleman had imputed to that House a want of interest in the question. A want of interest! when the grants for education had since the year 1839 increased from a comparatively insignificant amount to between £600,000 and £700,000 a year. Remembering that fact, could it be said that because hon. Members did not go down to the conference at Birmingham, therefore the interest in this subject was languishing here, while it was flourishing there? He believed that the persons who took part in that and other conferences did a great deal of good by collecting facts and by endeavouring to influence, instead of forcing public opinion, and he hoped the day was not far distant when the result of their labours would be perceptible. It was not by their speeches in that House that their interest in the question was to be tested, but rather by their efforts in their respective localities to forward the good work. It was, no doubt, most valuable to obtain the opinions of such distinguished men as his right hon. Friend Lord Brougham, the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord Stanley), the noble Lord the Member for London, and others; but, as he had before observed, it was much more important to cultivate and improve the high moral tone of the people 1205 than to promote their intellectual progression. Since the last century the squirearchy of this country had made a great advance, both intellectually and morally, and if the movement were allowed to go on extending its influence through the means of such establishments as the Kensington Museum, mechanics' institutes, and other voluntary institutions, it would, in a period which was not long in the history of a nation, include also the labouring classes of the country. Even if our grandchildren became a well-educated people we might be well content. Before condemning the present system the House ought to consider what was to be substituted for it. The right hon. Gentleman had unequivocally condemned the present system as "precarious, unequal, and insufficient." [Sir J. PAKINGTON indicated dissent.] He judged of the right hon. Gentleman's sentiments by a former proposition, which he had placed on the table of the House, but which he did not move, because he could not secure a day for doing so. Did the right hon. Gentleman say that, because his notice of Motion was only laid on the table, he should not be held responsible for the language of it?
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I did not mean to deny the expressions referred to. I had merely forgotten the fact. I knew I did not move any Resolution in the terms referred to by the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. HARDY
He rejoiced to see the great coal and mill owners giving very valuable prizes of different kinds, and certificates of merit, to induce their people to keep their children longer at school than perhaps they would otherwise be inclined to do. He submitted that if they did not adopt the plans at present in force, they had only one course left, and that was a compulsory system. Such a system had been mentioned by some of the Inspectors. The Dean of Carlisle had spoken of a system of enforced attendance. He (Mr. Hardy) was the more surprised at that, because the Dean had at the same time declared that a rate provision was destructive to any Bill, and upon such a ground solely would he oppose a Bill. Surely, the forced attendance of children at school would be much more distasteful to the people than even the payment of rates. But either operation, he submitted, would be fatal to the cause of education, and he trusted, like the Dean of Carlisle, that any Bill containing rating clauses would be rejected, as one likely to retard and not to advance the cause of 1206 education. His right hon. Friend had instituted a parallel between this subject and that of the relief of the poor; but would any man who was acquainted with boards of guardians generally throughout the country say that members of those bodies were the persons to whom ought to be entrusted the dealing with so intricate and delicate a question as that of the education of the people? His right hon. Friend had said that he was ready for education, but the country was not. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: I said that this House was not.] He always thought that that House represented the public feeling of the country; and if his right hon. Friend went lower than the classes which returned Members to that House he would find still more objection to legislation on this subject, for he would come to that class, of which he complained, which refused to send their children to school, or took them away early. But why was not that House ready for legislation? Because the constituencies were satisfied with the progressive increase of education under a system which had respect for religious convictions, and did not wish to see it interfered with. It might be said that the State now supported all religions; but that had for some time ceased to be a practical objection to the existing system. There was at present no occasion to discuss the secular plan, and all he would say about it was to ask, with Vice Chancellor Sir William Page Wood, why those who had faith in it did not establish large schools upon that system, and try whether or not they would answer. He thought we ought to rest satisfied at present with the Committee of Council. The grants to that Committee were yearly increased and the Committee was yearly extending its operations. Let it be watched with the utmost vigilance, but do not let the system itself be condemned without a fair trial, extending over a considerable number of years. The reports of the Inspectors, for the last year, would shortly be laid on the table, and these would give valuable information. Again, in three years from the present time there would be another census taken of the population, when, if proper means be used to obtain correct results, we should be able to arrive at a clear view as to the state of education throughout the country. Why, then, incur the expense and difficulty which would inevitably follow a Commission? Why not wait till that time before taking measures for the establishment of 1207 an entirely new and antagonistic system? The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich said, he knew not on what ground, that a Commission was preferable to a Committee. What was a Commission? It was in general a body of gentlemen with preconceived notions on the subject which they were appointed to investigate. Their names once known, nobody could doubt what the result of their inquiries would be. Again, in the present case, what was the investigation to embrace, and how was it to be conducted? It was manifest from the face of the existing facts that in districts the most nearly connected with each other the greatest distinctions of classes were found, as well as the greatest differences of feeling and of the means and results of education. Was the proposed Commission to visit every parish in the country with the view of prosecuting its inquiries? If it failed to do so it could not obtain any useful information which we had not at present in the reports of the Inspectors; while, if it did so, see to what an inquisition the patrons and managers of schools were to be exposed. Was it to furnish the House with evidence, or was it only to report? The bare report of the Commissioners without the evidence would be, to persons who had formed their opinions previously, perfectly worthless. On the other hand, if it furnished the evidence, were they to have brought before them matters which might imply the apathy of this clergyman or the indifference of that schoolmaster? It would be most unfair if this were allowed without an opportunity of contradiction, without which there could be no proper inquiry. The present system, like every other, must for success depend upon individual energy and wisdom. He wished, in particular, to speak of the efforts made by the clergy. If they looked at the reports, they would find that the Inspectors said that the advancement which had been made in education was owing mainly to the clergy, not of the Established Church only, but also of the Dissenting clergy. And to show how children may be drawn to and kept at school under the most unfavourable circumstances, he might be allowed to mention one most praiseworthy instance—that of Mr. Rogers, who, in the Charterhouse district, had done in the way of education perhaps more than any other clergyman had ever done. It was impossible to lay down a line-and-rule system supported by rates to which all schools 1208 were to conform. Were they to try to do this, they might succeed in having State schoolmasters, but they would not have State scholars; and the voluntary efforts which were now doing so much would be chilled. He would apologise for having so long trespassed on the House. He would not yield to his right hon. Friend, or to any one, in his zeal for education; but it was not by any effort of legislation, by thwarting the existing system under the pretence of extending it, or by speeches delivered either in that House or on the hustings, that they could vindicate their position as friends of education, but by endeavouring in their own localities to select proper schoolmasters, by assisting the managers of schools, by giving pecuniary aid to the clergymen who were so ready to devote their time and their labour to the work of education, and, above all, by striving as far as lay in their power to give that moral tone to the schools in their respective districts which was far more important than mere intellectual excellence. He trusted that the Government might rely upon the support of the House to a system which had already worked great results, and which was progressing with the advancing spirit of the age. He agreed with the Dean of Carlisle, whose labours in the cause of education at Cheltenham were well known, that few had any adequate idea of the number of worthless schools which the existing system had revived and rendered thoroughly efficient. The principal of Homerton College, in his pamphlet entitled Prussian Primary Education, had exposed the defects of the German system, and pointed out the danger attending any interference with the plan at present pursued by the Committee of Council, dwelling particularly on the objections to State superintendence. And Dr. Ludwig Wiese, comparing ours with the Prussian system, says:—If the whole problem of education may be summed up in this—to implant in the heart the love of truth, to train up the will to strength of character, to a clinging adherence to truth, then, to my mind, the German youth, in spite of their more correct moral conduct, are farther from this goal than the English.And again—The theory, or rather the instinctive consciousness, that the education of the child is one of the Divine rights and duties inherent in a parent, and only subordinately to this, a matter for Church interference, is widely spread in England, so that the State is obliged to abstain from all direct interference, or rather, I should say, is happily able to abstain, and to confine itself to 1209 auxiliary support and encouragement. The corporate instinct of English citizens would make them unwilling to abandon this duty, from the fear lest State interference should involve State superintendence.Let the House, then, beware how it gave encouragement to sweeping changes in our system of education. A Commission would only throw matters into confusion, and would interfere with an existing system, which satisfied every religious method of education in the country, and which, if fostered by the House in no niggardly spirit, would speedily cause the feeling in favour of education to spread, and would ultimately present the spectacle of a moral and an instructed people.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he was opposed to the Commission as proposed; he would, however, move an Amendment, or rather an addition to it, to the effect that, if any inquiry should be instituted, it ought to ascertain whether it was desirable that the education should be religious or secular; and, if religious, what, without violation of the rights of conscience, that religious instruction ought to be, and that all classes and denominations be entitled to be heard in the inquiry. It appeared to him that the object of the Motion and speech of the right hon. Member to-night was to establish a case for a system of education under the control of the State. They heard more dolorous accounts of the present state of education in the country from the right hon. Baronet than from any other quarter; and he seemed entirely to forget the advances made under the present system. He went into the workhouses and gaols, and from them he drew inferences which he sought to apply to the country at large. Last year no less than 564 millions of letters, including Post Office orders and book parcels, had passed through the Post Office, the revenue of which, in the last year, had increased £150,000; and in seven years he (Mr. Hadfield) had no doubt that the number of letters would have increased to 1,000,000. In three years a new census would be taken, and would show the great progress that had been made during the last ton years in the education of the people. According to the last census the numbers attending day, Sunday, and night schools, were as follows:—
1210 Deducting one million for those attending both Sunday and day schools, there remained 3,591,813 actually receiving instruction, or close upon one in six of the population, and the number was continually increasing. The Sunday-school teachers had the confidence of the lower classes; and hence the children attended willingly. But the case would be very different if Government interfered. Much service had been done to the cause of education by the abolition of the newspaper stamp duty, and in all the large towns thousands of penny newspapers were circulated daily, chiefly amongst the working classes—a pregnant proof of the extent to which education had progressed among them. If the right hon. Baronet opposite desired still further to extend the education of the people, let him support his right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. M. Gibson) in his Motion to reduce the paper duty. It was a monstrous thing that in a country like this the duty should be 30 per cent on school-books. At present the working classes had no confidence whatsover in anything done by the Government; they felt that they were not represented; and by-and-by the House would hear of this in a way they little dreamed of. The time was, and he recollected it well, when the education of the people was scouted by the aristocracy as something dangerous. It had, however, gone on not only without the Government, but almost against it; and his own opinion was, that they had better let well alone. If the right hon. Baronet persisted in his Motion, he should move the Amendment which he had read.
No. of Schools. No. of Scholars. Day schools 46,072 2,144,278 Sunday schools 23,514 2,408,252 Night schools 1,595 39,283 Total 4,591,813
At the end of the Question to add the words, "and particularly whether it is desirable that the course of Education should, in deference to the principles of religious liberty, be restricted to Secular Instruction; or whether Religious Instruction should be added, and what course of Religious Instruction can be supplied, without violation of the rights of conscience of Her Majesty's subjects; and that all classes and denominations be entitled to be heard in this inquiry.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. AKROYD
said, he preferred a Commission to a Committee, because a commission might conduct its inquiries on the spot. As an employer of factory labour he was entitled to speak on this subject, and he was most anxious that there should be an inquiry into this system of factory education. Having oppose that 1211 system to the best of his ability when it was introduced, but after several years' experience of its operation he was bound to confess that he had then been in the wrong, and that he should be glad to see it extended. The question of education had now assumed a very important position. Hitherto our education had been directed to raising the substratum of society. Parliament had provided for the education of pauper children and criminal children, and it must now turn its attention to the children of the honest labourer, unless it wished to be reproached with holding out a premium in favour of vagrancy and crime, and casting a slur upon honesty and independence. Now that a system of admission to the public offices by competitive examination was being adopted, it was but fair that the working classes should be placed in possession of the means of gaining an entrance into the public service; for if they were deprived of all chance of rising in society, they would remain a sudra class throughout all time. In Ireland a national system of education was established, and the people were satisfied with it. In Scotland there was a parochial system which had long been the boast of that country, and which had done much to give superiority to Scotchmen in all positions in life. A Reform Bill, too, was on the eve of being proposed, and if political power was to be placed in the hands of large bodies of the labouring classes, it was for the public interest that their education should be such as to fit them for the proper exercise of it. England stood in a worse position than the sister kingdoms in this respect. He hoped the Members from those portions of the Kingdom would lend a hand to give to England equal advantages. No doubt there were many difficulties in approaching this question, but they were not so great as was generally supposed. The differences between the advocates of religious education and those of secular education were more imaginary than real. If children were taught the elements of a secular education during the week, there would be a better basis for the religious education on the Sunday; and he held it to be an abuse of the Sunday-school to teach the children there merely the mechanical arts of reading and writing. On the other hand, there were none of the advocates of secular education who, to his knowledge, objected to the communication of the principles of sound morality, and he was satisfied that it was impossible to teach 1212 any morality that was not based upon Christianity. In the schools with which he was connected, there were children of all denominations, and there never were any complaints against the system of education pursued there. Although himself a member of the Church, he did not teach the Catechism; but he had always endeavoured to give a plain religious teaching, and he had always found the best basis for moral teaching to be some simple passage from the life of our Saviour. Neither were the differences between the advocates of the voluntary principle and of State aid so great as seemed to be imagined. The present system of State grants was not opposed to the voluntary principle, but rather encouraged it, because, but for it, the efforts of individuals in some parts of the country would have sank in despair at the mass of wretchedness and ignorance that surrounded them. In his own district it had given a great stimulus to voluntary efforts. The working classes were now quite as anxious to obtain the benefits of education for their children as any other portion of it. Some years ago this was not the case, and hence the necessity of a compulsory system to make a beginning. The last reports of the factory Inspectors contained many encouraging statements with regard to the Yorkshire districts. Messrs. Crossley, of Halifax, one member of which firm was in that House, employed a number of children in the bleaching department, and though they were not strictly factory children, and did not come under the compulsory provisions as to education, the firm had extended the same system to them, though Messrs. Crossley themselves were advocates of the voluntary system—a proof that they were satisfied with the operation of the system as enforced by law. The time was now come to give a fresh impulse to this great question. It could not, however, be properly discussed in Parliament until it was ripe for legislation, and without some such comprehensive inquiry as that suggested in this Motion, it never would be ripe.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
could not make up his mind that the proposal of the right hon. Member for Droitwich, if acceded to, would be attended with any other result upon the education of the country than to multiply those innumerable volumes of blue books under which the shelves of the library already groaned. The proposition broke down, he thought, upon several ambiguous issues. No one could deny 1213 that accurate statistics as to the progress of education were most desirable; but many persons might, and did, deny that the best method of obtaining those statistics was by the expensive and cumbrous process of a royal commission. When a complete Tower of Babel of educational literature was growing up before our eyes he firmly believed that the proposition of the hon. Gentleman would only have the effect of adding one larger coping-stone to the already overgrown structure. The right hon. Gentleman had very fairly acknowledged that he came forward completely wedded to a particular educational system; and as he hoped that a Royal Com-mission would endorse that opinion of his own, he was anxious for a Royal Commission. He (Mr. Hope) was equally convinced that it would endorse the less ambitious but more practical system of which he was an advocate, of leaving our education, which had gone on improving year after year, to itself, without having a coroner's inquest to sit upon it. He fully believed that; hut he did not ask the House to agree to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, because it would only be encouraging the vicious principle which led the Government to shelve inconvenient questions by referring them to Royal Commissions. What was the Commission to do? Where was it to begin; where to end? Was it to report statistics? We had them already. Was it to report opinions? If so, they would only be the opinions of Lord A, Mr. B, the Right Rev. C, and the other gentlemen, who composed the Commission; but those gentlemen had just the same power now of advocating these opinions as they would have if they were invested with a little brief authority, and it was not to be tolerated in a great question like this, which was viewed with interest by thousands of persons, and which was canvassed in every quarter from the palace to the cottage, that they were to be bound by the opinion of a very small body of men, whose means of gaining in-formation wore circumscribed by the small number of witnesses they might examine, and the limited area of ground that they might traverse. The question for the House to consider was, whether the education of the country was deteriorating or progressing. At the commencement of this century national education was in a most unsatisfactory state. There were few country parishes which could boast of parochial schools with proper buildings for 1214 the accommodation of scholars. Educational societies were established—the National Society on the one hand, and the British and Foreign School Society on the other, and now any parish which did not possess a school was a marked and rare exception. In 1818 the number of day scholars in England was 1 in 17; in 1833 it was 1 in 11; in 1851 it was 1 in 8; and it appeared, therefore, that since 1818 the number of day scholars in this country had doubled. His right hon. Friend had sought a precedent for his proposed Commission in that which was issued to consider the operation of the old poor law, and upon the report of which the present poor law of 1834 was founded. But how stood the case? The system into which the poor law Commission had to inquire was an effete and injurious one, a system under which the nation was rapidly sinking into social and moral degradation, and which loudly called for redress. And this is the precedent which is evoked for an inquiry into that system of education of which confessedly the benefits had within about forty years been doubled. So far from its being a precedent, the two cases differed in every possible respect—otherwise he must characterize the proposed Commission as equally compounded of a coroner's inquest and a criminal trial. Mr. Stewart was the cheval de bataille of the right hon. Gentleman, who referred to his evidence to show that in certain rural districts the schools were as efficient as they were in large towns, where so many facilities for promoting education were available. Mr. Stewart said:—Admitting the justice of this view (as to special rates of aid), however, it does not follow that an increase of the grants in aid of annual costs of schools would leave no room for voluntary exertions. Moreover, the State must make her own voluntary efforts before she can ask for those of her subjects.Mr. Stewart appeared, therefore, to be the advocate of the Communist principle, which required the State to come forward as the Lady Bountiful of the realm; and this was the inspector upon whose testimony Parliament was called upon to admit the cogency and necessity for the appointment of a Commission. Mr. Bellairs, another authority appealed to by the right hon. Gentleman, admitted it might be true that no school would succeed perfectly unless compulsory attendance was enforced. Mr. Cook, the Inspector for Middlesex and other neighbouring counties, said:— 1215On the one hand it is obvious that a small proportion of the population of the metropolis within the age of two and fifteen years are enjoying the advantages of such an education as is now provided in schools receiving annual grants from your Lordships; on the other hand, they prove a steady increase in the number of schools under inspection, and a progressive improvement in the character of the instruction.Yet, the House was called upon to ask for a Royal commission to consider the character of an education the main features of which in the most populous district of this realm were steady increase and progressive improvement. Mr. Cook continued:—It may, moreover, be confidently anticipated that the extension of the capitation grant to towns and cities will in a few years bring nearly all schools of ordinary efficiency under the operation of the same system, and have also a material effect in encouraging regular attendance, as well as in supplying deficiencies either in their organization or management. I have ascertained in several schools that a considerable effect has already been produced upon managers and parents, and that there is every reason to expect that a larger proportion will be annually entitled to these payments.It must he remembered that the system of capitation grants was only an experiment, and yet it had already produced most satisfactory results. It appeared from Mr. Cook's report that the number of certificated teachers had increased in his district from sixty one in 1850 to 223 in 1855, and that although the counties of Buckingham, Bedford, and Herts had since been detached from his district, he still found no less than 248 employed in the single county that remained under his inspection. So much, then, for the Church schools; but he would now ask the House to look at the condition of Dissenting schools. Mr. Morrell, the Inspector of British schools and of Wesleyan and other denominational schools in the northwestern division of England and in North Wales, said he thought it was impossible not to look back with deep satisfaction at the progress which had been made towards the education of the country during the last ten years; and he proceeded to say:—Perhaps the first and most certain effect of an extended system of education, whether based upon rates or otherwise supported from public resources, would be to paralyze the effect of the voluntary principle altogether. This has not been in any degree the effect of the Government grants hitherto, because they have beer applied only to such an extent and in such a manner as to stimulate rather than to swam] private efforts.His right hon. Friend, appealing to educational statistics, and in particular to a 1216 certain physical atlas, had said that, out of seventeen countries, England held only the tenth place. Saxony occupied the first position, and then came New England, which was represented as educating ninety-five per cent of its population. There were, however, some pregnant facts with reference to New England to which he wished to call the attention of the House. They were disclosed in a pamphlet published by the Archdeacon of Middlesex, the Treasurer of the National Society, who had visited the United States in a semi-official character, and had given to the world certain official documents with reference to the common schools in those States. From these only would he quote and not rely on the references of the Archdeacon, de-serving of credit as he was from his position. The first reference he would have to make would be not strictly to New England, but it was from an American "blue book." The common school report of Pennsylvania of 1849, in which a similar system prevailed and where we learn that the practical effects of the plan are truly deplorable. Scarcely a mail arrives that is not loaded with complaints of the mobility of the teacher, of his immoral habits, and of the bad condition of the schools. To come to New England properly so called, ex-Governor Clifford, of Massachussets, uses the following remarkable expressions:—I have a general impression derived from a long familiarity with the prosecution of crime, both as District Attorney and Attorney General, that the merely intellectual education of our schools, in the absence of that moral culture and discipline, which, in my judgment, ought to be an essential part of every system of school education, furnishes but a feeble barrier to the assaults of temptation and the prevalence of crime; indeed without this sanctifying element, I am by no means certain that the mere cultivation of the intellect does not increase the temptation to crime by enlarging the sphere of man's capacity, to minister through its agency to his sensual and corrupt desires. I in reply say, as a general inference drawn from my own somewhat extensive observation of crime and criminals, that as flagrant evils and as depraved characters have been exhibited among a class of persons who have enjoyed the ordinary elementary instruction of our New England schools, and in some instances of that higher instructions of learning, as could be found by the most diligent investigation among the convicts of Norfolk Island or of Botany Bay.Let the House observe how much is involved in this reference to Norfolk Island and Botany Bay.
He next would quote from the tenth report of the Prison Association of New York 1217 and other documents, in which it was stated that mere intellectual education, in the absence of moral training and discipline, furnished but a feeble barrier to temptation. According to that report, one speaker at an educational meeting in New York stated that many teachers were morally unfit for their work, and that society must be shaken to ruins by the present training of American youths. Another speaker said he must change his system of instruction and give a little more moral instruction, for already two of his scholars have been hung for murder. So much for this American system. It should be recollected, too, that in America there were no public schools, such as Eton, Harrow, and Winchester; but that in consequence of the republican equality of manners the richest persons and poorest must send their sons to the same schools. Therefore, the school committees in America were composed of persons having time on their hands and refinement in their minds, for such people would be interested in the moral training of their own children. But in England nothing of the same sort could happen. In this country the upper classes never could be compelled to send their children to such schools, and consequently the same class would not be found here, as in the United States, to look after the schools. Another country, often referred to in reference to this subject, was Prussia, which he supposed stood high on his right hon. Friend's atlas; but let the House consider what was the education in Prussia. That intelligent novelist, Mr. Laing, justly observes:Reading and writing are requirements very widely diffused in Paris, in Italy, in Austria, in Prussia, in Sweden; but the people are not moral, nor religious, nor enlightened, nor free, because they possess the means. They are not of educated mind in any true sense.But he would quote official Prussian documents—Prussian "blue books."—With regard, however, to the Prussian system as a whole it must be recollected that the compulsory education, prevalent in that country, fitted into other portions of the administrative system of that, till lately, absolute monarchy, and that in consistence the House, if it accepted one part of it, ought not to reject the other. In Prussia, by an arbitrary edict of the State, two Protestant communities, widely differing in their belief, had been by the late King forcibly united into one State "Evangelical" Church. In Prussia, likewise, every 1218 adult male was bound to yield military service for so many years. Would the House endorse that? The events of 1848 showed the hollowness of the system, and the authorities then began to bestir themselves in a different spirit accordingly. Herr Golzch, the author of a plan of a village school, published in 1850, under the sanction of the Minister of Public Instruction, said:—The elementary schools followed the intellectual impulses of that century in which they were remodelled and received their widest extension. Inasmuch, however, as we have reached a point in our time at which a decided change has become necessary, and, indeed, an actual fact, our schools, if they are not to remain inefficacious and perish by cleaving to exploded principles, must enter into these new and legitimate movements of the age, receiving vitality from them, and, in turn, contributing to their vitality. The idea of a universal humanistic culture, by means of a formal development of the powers of the mind, in connexion with undeterminded subjects of instruction, has been proved to be inefficacious and injurious.The result was that, according to this official report, the system of elementary education in that highly educated country had proved ineffectual and injurious. In illustration he might refer to the anecdote given by Mr. Rendu, of the schoolmaster in Hanover, where a similar system prevailed, who told him, "I believe in Christ, but I put him in his proper place." He went on to say that he went to church, but it was only because he was sexton. A "pietist" inspector was, he understood, about to be appointed, and then he and the other masters would know what sort of answers to frame for him. In another Prussian official document it is said:—It is very sad to think that among teachers—contrary to their duty and to the principal end of their mission, which is to train the young to piety—some never frequent divine service; others only attend irregularly; that they never partake of the Holy Communion; and that, instead of being—as they ought to be—salutary exemplars in their several parishes, they give the pernicious example of contempt for sacred practices and Christian customs.In 1854 the Prussian Government boldly reformed the system of primary instruction by issuing a code as elaborate as any that could be framed by a roving commission, and one of the laws in that new code was, that universal history should no longer be allowed to form part of the private studies of the masters at the normal schools, where they are to be trained as instructors for the national schools, as it was, no doubt, a food too strong for their intellectual digestion. Thenceforward, the history 1219 of Prussia only would be permitted, and that history which, as we were told, was to inculcate devotion to the "reigning house." That means, no doubt, only such a history would he tolerated as favoured the views of the administration of the day. That was one of the results of a compulsory system of education in a great and flourishing European country, and he had shown the effects of such a system in a great Transatlantic country. We, then, must fall back upon that system which was begun in England at the commencement of this century, and had within forty years doubled the number of the children of the poor receiving elementary instruction. That system was constantly improving—improving by the very effect of that spirit of polemical disputation, which was so rife in this land, for in this way, out of evil grew good—the very spirit of antagonism so created produced the competition which denomination would most forward education—and the result was the promotion of it in the only way in which it could be promoted in this free and also earnest land. There was indeed one subject in which education was still defective, the education of the lower-middle, and the middle-middle classes. Unfortunately, owing to our national pride, small tradesmen, clerks, and others in a similar condition of life, refused to send their children to the schools already referred to. In that respect the system was certainly defective. The middle classes imagined that these schools were only intended for the children of the poorer portion of the population, and no amount of force could compel them to send their sons and daughters to them. But how could a Commission mend that, considering what is the national character; it would be the very way to check improvement—and render those we meant to benefit obstinate and unreasonable. They would resist more than any class what looked like coercion from the Government. Any attempt to compel would only throw back the cause of education. But still, even in these classes, had the improvement commenced. Every traveller in England could not help observing the schools that were being raised in every direction by means of voluntary contributions. No one could travel twenty miles from London, in any direction by a railroad, without his attention being attracted by the various educational institutions, partly belonging to corporations and partly to voluntary associations, which were rising near every 1220 station. These were all contributions to middle-class education. So, too, the grammar schools existing in various towns were in course of being revived out of their torpor and devoted to their legitimate objects. Such was the legitimate growth of educational progress in a free land like ours—not the arbitrary interference of the State. He trusted, therefore, that that good work would not be marred by the interference of a compulsory system of education, which would be found to be a Papacy as tyrannical as that of the Vatican.
§ MR. RICHARDSON
said, that a very large number of persons in Ireland received no benefit from the Irish system, which could not, therefore, be proposed as a model for England to follow. The Motion of the right hon. Baronet did not extend to Ireland, and it was not, therefore, his duty to interfere with it, but if it had applied to Ireland he should have given it his strenuous opposition.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said, it had been assumed that, if the proposed Commission were appointed, it would make certain recommendations, and those recommendations were by anticipation vigorously assailed. One hon. Member had assumed that the Commission would recommend the establishment of a general system of education under the direction of the Government—a most unlikely and absurd thing for a Government to undertake. It was the business of the Government to help the nation to educate itself, and not to prescribe a system. Another hon. Member had assumed that the Commission would recommend a compulsory system of education; and then they had heard, in the course of the debate, some indignant declamation against compelling persons to send their children to schools. It had also been supposed that the Commission would recommend the American system; and, thereupon, that system had been minutely dissected, its shortcomings pointed out, and its evil tendency sternly reprobated. Now he, for one, saw no reason to anticipate the results that the Commission would arrive at. It was to be a Commission of Inquiry, and he was content to await the result, and bring his best judgment to bear upon their recommendations when they were before the world. It had been assumed that education in this country was in a very progressive and satisfactory state. In that opinion he could not agree. The facts were, indeed, very strong the other way. It was said that one child in nine 1221 was being educated, while, forty years ago, the proportion was one in seventeen. But, in this calculation, the growth of the population, and the proportion of the educated to the non-educated of the school age, were entirely left out. These elements ought to have been attended to in the calculation, which was one very easy to be made. The question was—how many persons there were of the school age, how many were receiving education, and how many were uneducated? He found, upon examination of the latest statistical returns, that there was a larger number of children of the school age, who were neither at school nor at work, than in any previous returns. In fact, it was progressively increasing, notwithstanding the advance which was said to have been made in the extension of education. That one fact was sufficient to suggest an inquiry into the working of the system which had been in operation. Another fact was, that if hon. Members looked at the criminal returns, they would find that crime was at the very minimum among the well-educated, but on the increase amongst those not wholly uneducated. The gaols were filled by criminals who had been at school. The class of persons who were described as "able to read and write imperfectly," formed the great proportion of prisoners, showing that the education given in our schools was miserably defective. There was nothing more reasonable than an inquiry into such subjects; and an inquiry by a Commission possessed great advantages over that conducted by a Select Committee, which had been often tried without any clear or satisfactory results. There were many obvious things to which a Commission might direct its attention. For instance, a great many schools had been built all over the country. But how were they filled? It was a subject of inquiry as to what was the cause of the comparative emptiness of these schools, and also into statements of attendance in the school-books. We had school room for an immensely larger number of children than were found to attend the schools. A Commission would also inquire into the practicability of raising the proportion of children actually attending school to the number upon the school-books. In many schools the average attendance was not more than sixty-five per cent, of those on the school-books. Yet he knew of a school in Essex, which was attended by the children of a mixed population, where, by assiduity and judicious management, the 1222 attendance was ninety-four per cent.; this defect was, therefore, remediable. The question of wages, too, pressed on the lower classes; and in many districts parents could not afford to send their children to school. Yet he knew of an evening school established in Dorsetshire by a well-known Metropolitan artist, who had opened a room to which parents might send those children who had been employed during the day. The result was such as could not be contemplated without satisfaction. Here, then, was another remediable defect in the present system. The shortness of the time during which children attended school was another evil, which was quite remediable. The prize system was doing a great deal to check that evil; and the hon. Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) could, no doubt, give a good account of that system, which, in the county he represented, had met with much success. A Commission might consider these subjects with some prospect of advantage, while hon. Members of that House would go into a Committee-room with their preconceived opinions, and would engage in conflicts between secular and religious teaching, which would leave the matter in as much uncertainty as they found it. As his name had been alluded to in connection with the secular system of education, he begged to say that he was an advocate for leaving schools as free as possible, either in regard to religious discussion or secular teaching. It was taken for granted that the secular system precluded the religious training of the pupils; but he challenged any hon. Member to name any secular school of which this assertion could truly be made. There were, for example, the Birkbeck Schools, started in this Metropolis by Mr. Ellis, in which many thousand children were now receiving education, and where no inquiry was ever instituted into the religion of the parents. But the great majority of these children were under religious instruction either on Sundays or at other times. Such schools had, at least, this good mark of religion about them—that they taught the children charity and forbearance to those of different religious denominations to their own. The present educational machinery was a mongrel system of State interference and voluntary subscription; and he could not see how it would ever remedy the evils connected with the subject in this country. They were told they must not be in a hurry; but he thought that the friends of education had shown considerable patience. 1223 In the colony of Canada, schools of recent establishment had been scattered over the country, in which the use of Scripture was voluntary; and it was now the boast of the Canadians that education in that country was more extensive than in some of the American States, that were foremost in the possession of a system of education. He knew of no one to whom the friends of education were more indebted than to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington) who had brought this subject forward tonight—whose Bill, introduced two or three years ago, was one of the most acceptable ever produced, and who had distinguished himself by his attendance at various societies, with the view of enlightening the public on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman had proposed this Commission, not to recommend his own theories or to endorse his own opinions, but to investigate the whole subject with calmness, to say what was being done, what was wanting, and what means would be best adapted to supply those wants.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, he believed that the House was rather impatient to hear what were the opinions of the Government with respect to this question; however, as they appeared more anxious to listen to the opinions of hon. Gentlemen than to express their own, he would proceed to make a few observations on the subject before them. He thought they owed a debt of gratitude to the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) for his exertions in the cause of education, but felt constrained to differ from him in the proposal which be now made for a Commission of Inquiry. What the Commission would have to inquire into the right hon. Baronet had not in his Motion told them, but in the roving debate which had taken place some hon. Members said that they did not care what conclusion they arrived at so long as they inquired. The only legitimate inquiry he could think of would be an inquiry into facts; but that was a duty which ought to be performed by the inspectors, and not by a highly-paid Commission. There had been a great waste of money in the case of the inspectors, for they were needlessly multiplied by the rule that every class of school and every creed must have its own inspectors, so that there were often duplicates and triplicates of them in the same locality. Their reports, too, instead of being collections of facts, were essays propounding new theories and startling systems of 1224 their own, and in these respects he thought there ought to be an alteration. He was not himself, however, very much in love with statistics, for he looked upon them as a sort of will-o-the-wisp, which gave a very uncertain and treacherous light, and shows as much on one side as the other of every question; still, if they were to have them, let them be procured by the organized body which they had ready to collect them, and let them not seek a roaming Commission, which would cost a large sum of public money with a very impossible object; or else one possible with existing means. The right hon. Baronet not only moved for a Commission of Inquiry, but let out his intention of bringing about a change of system, for the Commission was to inquire what changes, if any, should be introduced into the existing system. Now, he believed that the House and the country did not desire a change, but an extension of the present system. In proof of this, he might remind them that the House had repeatedly refused to give its sanction to any other plan that had been proposed, and if there was one scheme more than another to which the House and the country had insuperable objection it was that which every proposed change had an evident tendency to, namely, the secular system. The scheme now in operation had made very considerable advances. It had introduced a great improvement, namely, the class of pupil teachers—a class much more valuable than the monitors of the Bell and Lancastrian systems—and a new set of institutions—namely, those for the training of teachers; and in both respects it worked satisfactorily to the country. It might have attempted at first too high a flight in general education for the labouring classes. This was to be expected, considering the high intellectual character of those who were engaged in the promotion of the system; but the evil would be cured by public opinion, especially as they now had a Minister of Education in that House to whom appeals could be made, and who was always ready to answer questions on the subject. The difficulty of getting the children of the rural population to attend long enough at school was not sufficiently considered by those who laid down the standard of education to be followed; and when they wished to make scholars they forgot that they were to make plough-boys. The right hon. Baronet spoke of the inequality of the present system, and 1225 said it did not furnish the poorest districts with schools; but it should be borne in mind that to meet such cases the Committee of Council had relaxed their rules to a very considerable extent. Let it also be borne in mind, that poor districts often mean districts of resident poor tenants, and absentee wealth which ought not to be relieved of its proper liabilities. If the Commission were appointed—and he feared that the Government were about to concede it, although he hoped that the sense of the House would be taken upon the subject—there was one class of schools about which the Commissioners might usefully occupy themselves. He meant the middle class schools. He believed that there were a great number of endowments absolutely wasted, and that in many incomes of from £100 to £200 a year were pocketed by persons calling themselves schoolmasters, who had no duty whatever to discharge. But even to inquire into these endowments the proper persons were the Charity Commissioners, and if they had not the means of doing so at their command, they ought to be provided with those means. The real state of the case was, that the lower classes had a high-pressure system applied to them which rendered them better educated than the men who employed them. What, then, was it which hindered the spread of education among the poorer classes? Why, it was that their employers did not appreciate education. If the same pressure had been applied to the employers—if bribes of public money, or any other stimulus, had equally urged on them to encourage education—then all that the right hon. Gentleman desired would have followed, and among other things the half-time system, to which he had referred. If employers could be got to demand educated labourers, then the grave difficulty in the way of the spread of education would be got rid of. Another point to be considered was, what would the Commission cost? There were hon. Gentlemen who would perhaps not dislike to be appointed Commissioners, and no doubt the Government would not object to the patronage thrust upon them. The right hon. Baronet had referred to the Commission on the Poor Law, and had taken it as his model, and the expense of that Commission had been about £50,000, and in fact the Commission now proposed, if made to do anything more effectual than the inspectors now could do, would probably cost a great deal more. He hoped 1226 that the right hon. Gentleman, to whom the House looked for all information upon the subject of education, would get the information required by the means in his hands, and not needlessly consent to the measure which it was proposed to thrust upon him, but that he would refuse his consent to the Motion for a Crown Commission.
said, he could assure the hon. Gentleman that though he had endeavoured to give his utmost attention to the consideration of the subject, he had felt very considerable difficulty as to the course which he ought to adopt. He was unwilling, on the one hand, to join in opposing an inquiry which might throw some light upon the obscurities and perplexities of national education; while, on the other hand, there was something in the terms of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman to which he found it very difficult to accede. He felt, in the first place, that the right hon. Gentleman had paid great attention to the subject, and had displayed so much ability and superiority to party spirit in dealing with the question, that his opinion was entitled to very great weight; and when, therefore, he declared that in his opinion such an inquiry, as he proposed, was necessary for the cause of education, most hon. Gentlemen would approach the subject with a strong desire to agree with him. As regarded some of the subjects referred to in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, an inquiry of the nature proposed would be quite unexceptionable. An inquiry into the possibility of extending the half-time system which had been found so successful in cotton and woollen factories might be very useful, as also might be one into the means by which the schools might obtain more scholars. The great hindrance to the spread of education appeared to lie, not in the deficiency of educational supply, but in the unwillingness of persons to make use of it; and he thought, therefore, that an inquiry into the habits, the circumstances, and the characters of the children of the working classes, and into the causes which prevented them from using to the full those advantages which were provided for them, would be most useful. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had stated that the inquiry would more properly be conducted by the Government Inspectors. Now, he could only say that those Inspectors had already employment enough to overtask their energies; and even if it were not so, how could 1227 their services be rendered available in the case of those schools which were unwilling to submit to Government inspection,—and the condition of those schools would form a very important element in the inquiry. In the particular case of inspected schools, he believed that they already possessed all the information which was necessary from those reports which the hon. Gentleman criticised, but which gave faithful pictures of what was going on in different parts of the country, and of the effect which was produced upon the minds of intelligent men by what they saw. He did not think that any machinery of the Committee of Council could be usefully employed for obtaining further information with regard to any but inspected schools, and even if Parliament were willing to confer upon the Inspectors additional powers, he did not know what advantage could be derived by employing the labours of the Inspectors rather than that of Commissioners. If the right hon. Baronet would confine his Motion to an inquiry into the present state of popular education in England he did not think that any of the objections which had been taken in the present discussion could fairly attach to the Motion. The words of the Motion which followed were, however, open to objection, inasmuch as they would refer to the decision of a Commission a question of national policy which could only be decided by that House. It was exceedingly doubtful, too, whether the Commissioners, when appointed, would put the same construction as the right hon. Baronet upon his proposed order of reference. What was the present system of education? It was the spontaneous result of English feelings and opinions; it had been founded by the wisdom and piety of our forefathers, and, in the successive stages of its growth, had been moulded by circumstances and fashioned according to the varying wants and needs of the times; it had received a vigorous impulse at the beginning of the present century from our various religious denominations, and had enlarged with the growth of our educational societies; and it had attained its most important development from the Minutes of Council commenced by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London—a system based on the long-established principle that an elementary school for the children of the poorer classes was a necessary part of the machinery of a parish or of a religious congregation, and had a claim on the religious sympathy and on the 1228 property of the neighbourhood, combined with the further principle which had more recently been affirmed—that it was the duty of the State to take care that means are provided for those children to be educated in that which would be useful to them in ordinary life, and in the knowledge of their duty to God and man. That system, however excellent in itself, had, no doubt, defects. In some respects it was inferior to the continental systems. But it was better suited to the English people than the German system; it was the best for the English people as the German system was the best for the German people. England would not agree to supersede the rights and responsibilities of parents, which were so scrupulously respected that they were allowed not only to choose the school to which they would send their children, but to refuse, if they pleased, to send them anywhere. He did not believe that there would be any utility in the Commissioners inquiring whether there should be a power given, as in Germany, to compel parents to send their children to school. Some persons ascribed the insufficiency of the existing system to its insisting on the teaching of doctrinal religion, and they recommended as a remedy the adoption of the secular plan. Under the terms of the proposed order of reference the Commissioners would be asked to inquire into that question. The real point to be investigated with respect to the present system was, why it was not more appreciated, and its benefits more extensively applied; and, if restricted to that question, the objections to the Motion which he had previously noticed would be wholly obviated. They would then only have to consider the general question of appointing a Commission. No doubt Commissions were expensive; but if, on a subject of such magnitude and importance, it were clearly established that the inquiry would be directed to the practical points on which information was most required, that House would hardly grudge an application of the public money in taking steps to clear away the obstacles to the spread of general education throughout England. They might be usefully employed in collecting general statistical information, and ascertaining the nature of the ordinary teaching. The National Society was at present making up its decennial tables, and the British and Foreign School Society and the Wesleyan Educational Society had frequent reports from schools in connection with them. 1229 The proposed Commission might, with great advantage, arrange in a clear and compendious form all those floating and isolated fragments of useful information. Complete statistics could only be obtained by the agency of the census; and, within three years of the general census, it would not be worth while to incur the immense expense of a complete enumeration of schools. There was another view of the matter. The terms of the inquiry were directed to the question whether the present system was sufficient for its object. That might be construed to mean, whether the Parliamentary grants distributed under the Minutes of Council had attained their object. Now, the object professed was to improve the education given and to stimulate the exertions of its promoters: by increasing and improving the buildings; by raising the qualifications of the masters; by the employment of pupil teachers; by the cheap dissemination of good books; and by the establishment of normal training colleges. Investigation into those points could hardly now be required. Government aid and superintendence had not superseded, but has increased voluntary efforts; for every shilling given from the public purse, two shillings were subscribed from other sources. Those who complained of the rigidness with which the grants were distributed, should remember, that a relaxation of the conditions would weaken the stimulus now afforded to private exertions. If grants were regulated by the deficiencies instead of the success of a district, they would lose half their efficiency. The two great hindrances to the general spread of education were, the early age at which the children now left the schools, and the irregularity of their attendance—evils attributable to the indifference of their parents. These impediments existed not in this country only, but in France, where, the attendance not being compulsory, there were 850,000 children who did not go to school at all, and a vast number who went only two or three days a week, or for only half the year. So urgent and permanent were the demands for children's labour, that he despaired of seeing any measure adopted that would induce the working classes to keep their children at school long enough to acquire a complete education. Attention ought not to be too exclusively concentrated on the primary schools. It would be sad to think that the beginning and end of the education of the children of the working 1230 classes must take place in those schools. A foundation only could be laid there. The children of the poor would never be properly instructed until the schools were adapted to their circumstances. It was while these young persons were earning their daily bread that they could hope to enable them to follow up the commencement they had made in the elementary schools. Happily, in various parts of the country, great efforts were being made to establish evening schools, and the Privy Council had not neglected that important subject. They now gave gratuities to teachers employed only in the evening, and who did not adopt education generally as a profession. They had also been extending grants for aid to schoolmasters who devoted themselves to the visiting of night schools, and evening classes connected with mechanics' institutions and similar organizations. There was not, in his opinion, a nobler field for the exertions of benevolent and philanthropic individuals at the present time than that in which they could render services as volunteers in evening schools for adult persons. They had had in the Metropolis some remarkable instances of the success of schools of that kind, and in those schools in which the success had been greatest, it had depended on two conditions—first, a careful classification of the students, so that the old should not be discouraged by competition with the young, or the more ignorant with the more advanced: and, secondly, a proper selection of the topics of instruction, which were those that the class of persons frequenting the schools were the most desirous of being instructed in. In connection with King's College, London, there were some evening schools, and there the professors followed the plan of leaving it to the students to select the subjects of instruction for themselves. Each student put down his name for any particular branch of study, and whenever a sufficient number of names had been obtained a class was formed. That system had answered admirably; and it was curious to see the subjects which had been selected. The subjects most in request had been French, Latin, and others which the House would scarcely at first have supposed the class of persons in attendance would have preferred. The Working Men's College, in London, had also met with great success. That, indeed, was a moans of instruction from which he hoped great things. The Privy Council bad not 1231 neglected another point—namely, industrial training both for boys and girls,—and had given it every encouragement. A complaint which was frequently made, that girls in schools were not sufficiently taught needlework and domestic economy, the Privy Council had endeavoured to remedy by requiring that every girl, before becoming a pupil teacher or a Queen's scholar, should be examined in those branches. He could concur with what had been said by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. W, J. Fox) as to the relative number of children in attendance in schools compared with the amount of school accommodation provided. He (Mr. Cowper) found the returns for last year showed that in schools in which there was accommodation for 875,000 children, the average attendance did not exceed 570,000. He believed, indeed, that the development of the existing means of education was all that was at present necessary. The progress of education was as rapid as was consistent with sound growth and permanence; it was rare to find any retrograde movement; the reports both of the Inspectors and of the National Society showed that there was a continual progress, and that dame schools were rapidly giving way to a higher class of inspected schools. He could not think that the charge of indifference against that House was altogether just. At least, if there were any indifference on the subject of education he would say it was not greater on the part of that House than among the bulk of the people whom they represented. He believed education owed almost all its force and support to the religious bodies and to the Government of the country. The great bulk of the owners of property and of the middle classes, he feared, did not appreciate education to the extent that those persons did who were actively employed in carrying it on; and that would be one of the causes which would inspire him with alarm if we were suddenly to give up our existing plan, and throw much more of the duty of education on those who represented the ratepayers. He heard with some anxiety the allusion made by the right hon. Baronet to the Poor Laws. He (Mr. Cowper) should be sorry to see the day when an education rate was placed in the same category as a poor rate or a gas rate, because he thought that would be putting education in an unfair position, and awakening an opposition to it which at present Mr. Cowper 1232 did not exist. The middle classes in such a case would ask why they were to be called on to pay a rate for an education to be given to the poorer classes, which was actually better than the one they were giving their own children? If that comparison was likely to result in an improvement in middle-class education he would not object; but his experience told him that the more probable course which that class would take would be to cut down the expense and reduce the elementary schools below the level of their own. He did not think it would be desirable, therefore, to depart from the existing system. The wisest course, as it appeared to him, was to hold by what we had and advance steadily in the path in which we found ourselves. He should be sorry to see education removed from the hands in which it was now placed—from persons who valued it, believed in it, and accepted it as a duty, and from those who acknowledged that the children of the poor had a claim on their property for instruction. By imposing it as a burden on those who would not receive it willingly, we should not well discharge the trust we had inherited; and we had better not be discontented with the amount of success which, by the blessing of Divine Providence, had been vouchsafed to us. He would only say, in conclusion, if the right hon. Baronet would so word his Motion as not to involve an examination into the present system, he (Mr. Cowper) might entertain some hope that the House would come to an agreement on the subject and he saved the necessity of opposing the Motion then before it.
§ MR. HENLEY
Sir, I am thankful to my right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) for affording the House, by the Motion he has brought forward, the opportunity of hearing so sound and excellent an exposition of educational principles as has just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed Us. I agree with almost every word that has been said by the right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat. I asked my right hon. Friend privately if he would consent to limit the inquiry to those two great matters that most press on the House, and about which all must desire to get information, while, directly we go further, differences of opinion arise, and apprehensions as to the object of the inquiry prevent its taking place. One of these subjects has been described very fairly by the apposite name of the 1233 half-time system. The larger view of it was to ascertain the reason why children leave school at so early an age that it is impossible for them to receive a sufficient j education. I am quite ready to agree to an inquiry into that. The other point is still of greater consequence. Take this town, for example—one of immense population. A vast number of children neither go to school nor to work. These are the most destitute part of the juvenile children, and are those to whom I think we should direct our attention in the first instance. Now, what is the likeliest mode by which these children can be assisted? I believe you could only get at that class by applying yourselves by humbler means to the poor themselves. I do not believe that a Commission of Inquiry would do them any good. It is not very easy for persons in different ranks of life to get behind the scenes and curtains to those parties. Those earnest men who are wholly engaged in home missionary work are the most likely persons to secure those children. Whether my right hon. Friend means to alter the words of his proposition so as to meet the suggestion of the Government, I know not. I sincerely hope he may. But there is another reason why this Commission should not be appointed in the general terms proposed. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cowper) had used terms of great eulogy in speaking of those persons who have undertaken the great task of education. It would, therefore, be impertinent in me to say a word more upon that point. But the right hon. Gentleman has not stated that which is an important fact—namely, that probably out of the 2,200,000 children who are receiving education throughout the country there are about 1,500,000 who are being educated without a farthing cost to the State. Now, I think that that is a point which ought not to be lost sight of. The schools in which those children are educated are maintained by religious bodies, by societies, and by individuals, and I ask what right have you to go with your Commission and question them as to their proceedings? Many of them, most probably, would shut the door in your face. Is it fair to put those parties, who you admit have laid the foundation of so much good before the State had interfered—is it, I say, fair or right to place them in the invidious position of either defying the Queen's Commission, or of subjecting 1234 themselves to an inquiry which they utterly and entirely dislike? I doubt whether it is just or politic. You have an increase in the Privy Council grant, but you know that from other resources a vast number of schools have been set up, with which you have nothing whatever to do. Think you that this measure of a Commission will not suspend their operations? Is the man who is doing his best to give the poor children of his neighbourhood an education in those schools to be dragged out from his modest retirement for the purpose of being put into a blue book? If the Commission is to do this, it will indeed be a poor return for what these people are doing without asking one shilling of your money. I am not surprised at hearing the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. W. J. Fox), the consistent advocate of secular education, express a wish for this sort of inquiry, because, shut your eyes at it as you may, the right hon. Baronet who moved the proposition has told you, as plainly as possible, that he wants no further knowledge on the subject—that his mind was made up on the question two years ago. My right hon. Friend has had his knowledge so complete on the subject as to induce him to propose a large measure of education. It was not only a centralized system, but it would have cost the country £2,000,000 of money out of the Exchequer, besides £2,000,000 more to be otherwise obtained. He urges us to accept this Commission, because, he says, the Poor Law had been beneficially amended in the same way. But there is no analogy between the two cases. Your Commission of Inquiry into the Poor Laws was one which dealt altogether with rate money. Here the larger portion of the money required is not public but private money. Therefore, my right hon. Friend's analogy was wholly fallacious. I hope that my right hon. Friend will assent to the suggestion, and limit his inquiry to the points mentioned by the Vice President of the Committee of Education, because I think it is a great point that we should be as unanimous as possible upon this question. We are all agreed upon the point that it would be beneficial to diffuse the blessings of education as largely as possible amongst the population. Can we not, then, content ourselves with doing that which must result in a practical good, and not commit ourselves to a general inquiry, which no doubt is meant to lead to a general system? We must consider what the 1235 former proposition of my right hon. Friend was. We should recollect the proposition, too, of the noble Lord the Member for London—how the noble Lord wanted, not only the rating principle, but that of compulsion. The noble Lord shakes his head, but I think that his Resolution went very near that description. I am afraid I have not the noble Lord's Resolution with me; but, if I do not forget, it is to this effect, that no persons should employ any one who had not received a certain amount of education, and who had not been at school for a certain time. I will not dispute with the noble Lord what amount of compulsion such a Resolution involved. My right hon. Friend near me made reference to Austria as a country being in a preferable condition to ourselves as regarded education. All I can say on this point is, that the official statements do not bear out this assertion. I took the trouble of inquiring into the matter, and I find that if we refer to the whole Austrian dominions and not solely to Austria proper that statement is not correct. My right hon. Friend intimates now that he referred only to Austria proper, but that is not quite a fair test. As well might any particular county of England showing a favourable result be taken to represent the whole country. But if the province of Austria is to be taken as a guide on education, perhaps my right hon. Friend will add, as an appendant to his remarks, the number of illegitimate children annually born there, of which he is as well aware as I am, and we shall be then better able to judge of the high moral tone of education that is diffused there. It certainly happens that the number of children educated there is enormously high, but the number of bastards is quite in proportion. I did not intend to allude to this point, but as my right hon. Friend insists upon it, I cannot help mentioning these facts. Another serious objection which stands in the face of my right hon. Friend's Resolution is, that there is not the least allusion to religious education throughout. I feel this the more, for this reason. The noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) whose services in the cause of education I shall be always willing to acknowledge, in all his propositions has affirmed the principle of the necessity of the reading of the Bible; I regret, however, to say, that in none of my right hon. Friend's propositions has he ever affirmed anything of the kind. He has certainly stated that if the House wished it he would be ready 1236 to do so, but he allied himself last year completely with the secular party. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: No, no!] My right hon. Friend dissents, but in the Resolution passed by the secular education party in Manchester, there was an understanding that the Bill was not to pass unless the secular principle was introduced into it. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: I had nothing to do with that.] My right hon. Friend says he had nothing to do with that, but he nevertheless espoused the principle. In consequence of the state of things, I have looked at my right hon. Friend's Resolution with considerable jealousy. When I see at the end of it a suggestion of means for a sound and cheap elementary instruction, I say that it might or might not include religious teaching. I believe, according to the ordinary acceptation of those words, they would include religious teaching. I cannot forget in the University Bills how careful we were to introduce religion in the preamble as well as the clauses of the Bills. I am glad to hear that the Government propose to strike out the latter part of the proposition, and I should be most happy if my right hon. Friend should agree to this suggestion. If the Resolution is limited to the points indicated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cowper) there will be no heart-burning, no jealousy; but if it should be adopted in its general terms, there would naturally be created an apprehension that parties would be appointed on the Commission who would get up a report of a particular character for the purpose of having enacted a general scheme of education. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not think so. I believe he feels with me that the moment we have established among us any general scheme of national education, the result will be simple secular teaching. I believe that—in all free countries, at least—that will be the invariable result. It has been so in America, and it must be so here too. I see many things going on just now which ought to put the friends of religious education on their guard. There are parties—not professed enemies to religious teaching—who would yet confine religious education strictly to doctrinal teaching in particular forms and at particular hours. If the friends of religious education suffered themselves to be driven into that corner, depend upon it they were in danger of giving up the whole case. It was very necessary and very right to teach doctrinal religion and theology, or whatever they might 1237 call it. The Church did so in set forms; other parties did it as the occasion arose, or out of the Scriptures. But religious education must go further than that, or it would be useless. The master ought to be an earnest man, who would omit no opportunity of enforcing or illustrating his doctrines. If a child lied, and children would lie—if he stole, and children would steal—if they were crabbed and ill-tempered one towards another, the master would tell him that he ought not to do these things, because the first two were contrary to the commandments of God; and the third, because to be kindly affectioned one to another was the commandment of their Saviour. These things must be occurring in the school every hour and almost every minute, and the master could not enforce his own teaching without bringing out those great truths to the children, which, according to the scheme he was commenting on, were only to be taught by a particular form. It is of no use to say that matters would not be driven to this extreme. The people of England are far from being a Jesuitical people, and if an Englishman undertakes not to teach religion, why, he will not. He will toll the child that steals to be afraid of the great policeman and nothing more. I quite agree with the noble Lord opposite that no morality can be taught which is not based on religion, and I believe the people of this country are of the same opinion; so much so, that I do not believe any class in the community, rich or poor, will send their children to a school where religion is avowedly not taught. For these reasons I am opposed to anything being done which would lead even indirectly to a general scheme of education. Let us develope as far as we can what we have got which is doing good, but let us not suspend its operations by keeping something dangling before the eyes of people, and lead them to do nothing, but gaze with their mouths wide open to see what this great Commission will drop into them. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will agree to the suggestion of the Government.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I was in hopes that the Motion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich was so reasonable in itself, and that the remarks with which he introduced it were so judicious and temperate, that the House would have at once acceded to his proposal. I have, however, been so often disappointed in expectations that this House, and 1238 people generally, would agree to proposals for the promotion of education that, although disappointed, I am not surprised at the opposition which has been raised. Let me, however, remark that the opposition to the present proposition is but a renewal of the opposition which has been made to every proposal that has tended to further education. When a proposal was made by Lord Brougham, who has always been active and zealous in the cause of education, to inquire into the state of charitable trusts, there was an immense quantity of political opposition, and every sort of imputation was cast upon him as if he was going to rob those trusts of their property. Again, when, in 1839, I, in consort with my noble Friend the Marquess of Lansdowne, proposed the scheme of the Committee of Council, we were met with the greatest opposition in this House, and the first grant for the purpose of education was only carried, after a long debate, by a majority of two. I now find the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hardy), who spoke with much ability at the commencement of this discussion, founding himself upon the Minutes of Council, declaring how excellent that system is, and begging us not to disturb its progress, but to rely upon its efficacy. It is, I must own, a consolation to those who make advances in the face of much opposition to find many years afterwards that what was at first denounced as perilous and injurious becomes very soon an established part of our system, which it is reckoned the duty of every true Conservative to support and maintain. Again, the Minutes of 1846, when first promulgated, met with great opposition throughout the country, and petitions in great numbers were presented against them. The last change which I had the pleasure of making in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone), then Chancellor of the Exchequer, namely, that which established capitation grants, was not so much opposed; but, on the other hand, it has not hitherto been carried to the extent that is necessary in order to promote generally the cause of education. Let me remark, as the foundation of the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, that some hon. Gentlemen have entirely mistaken the present system. They seem to suppose that the Inspectors are persons who inspect the whole education of the country, that we have but to tell them to report and they can at once inform us of 1239 the state of that education. Why, they are debarred from making any such inquiry. It is but incidentally that they can give information as to the rate of education in any particular district. The Committee of Council was appointed to see to the application of grants previously made by the Treasury to assist in the erection, and afterwards in the maintenance of schools where persons were willing to contribute; but in the case of districts from which no application is made, and where no persons offer to contribute, the Inspectors must remain in entire ignorance of the particular details of such parts of the country, and therefore they are quite unable for that reason, if not for others, to give us any detailed or true report of the state of education there. Add to this, that their whole time is employed in visiting the schools which they are specially desired to examine. Now, what is the amount of education over which they have any superintendence? The Vice President of the Committee of Council has told you that there are about 570,000 children receiving education in these schools, while, according to the report of Mr. Horace Mann, which is the latest we have on the subject, but which is at the same time very general, there are 2,000,000 of persons between five and fifteen receiving education at school. It will be seen, therefore, that the reports of the Inspectors refer to only a small fraction of the children undergoing instruction throughout the country. But, besides that, Mr. Mann states that there are about 1,000,000 who are at work, and who do not go to school. He makes another allowance for a certain number of children who are out picking pockets and thieving in the streets, and who, he says, cannot be expected to attend school while thus engaged. Again, he reckons a number—whether 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 I do not exactly recollect—who are neither at work nor at school; making altogether somewhere about 4,000,000 children, of whom, as far as the reports of the Inspectors are concerned, we know nothing. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last objects, as it seems to me somewhat inconsistently, to the proposed inquiry. He said in the latter part of his speech that children are apt to he and steal, and that they should be taught not to he or steal, because it is contrary to the commands of God. I quite agree with him; but why? If that is to be taught to the children who attend school, is it not to be taught to 1240 those who are running about the streets, and who do not go to school? Is it an advantage or is it not, that the children of this country should receive a religious, a moral, and a secular education? I believe it is an advantage. Some Gentlemen deny that it is an advantage. With regard to them there is an end of the question, and I cannot dispute it. But I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) and the great majority of the House who think it an advantage, to see how that advantage is to be extended. There are 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 children in want of education. The present system extends to only 570,000. Why is it restricted to that number? The answer is easy. It was proposed to assist by grants the means of those who were willing to build schools and carry them on, but who could not themselves provide all the resources necessary for that purpose. The hope was that the establishment of these schools would lead by example to the establishment of others, and that thus the system might spread. It was very much in the nature of an experiment, and it remained to be seen whether that extension of education took place rapidly and generally, or whether it was a slow and partial process. The system has been now in operation for about eighteen years, and I must say that, though with regard to those children who are under education it has been very successful, it has not spread so rapidly or so extensively as could have been wished. Let me ask, then, what is to be done? You are not making any very great progress at present, because, I believe, if any one will look at the amount and increase of the grants, and then look at the increase of the number of children, he will find that at least the 70,000, who have been added recently to the list of scholars, are receiving grants from the State to a much larger proportionate amount in money than the 500,000 who first received the benefits of the system. If that is the case, I think it is deserving of inquiry how the system can be beneficially extended. I can conceive many ways in which it might be beneficially extended. For example, I believe that in many cases the clergy of the Established Church, as well as the ministers of Dissenting denominations, would be willing with their congregations to contribute to a certain amount, not, perhaps, complying with all the conditions of the Committee of Privy Council, but 1241 yet making better schools than now exist. Would not that be a desirable object? I believe we have greatly improved the quality of education, but we ought not to lose sight of quantity, and if we find in certain districts education making no progress, is it not desirable to examine whether, by restricted grants and less stringent conditions, we may not be able to extend the present system? A Bishop of the Established Church has told me that he thinks much might be done, and he pointed out to me that there were whole districts in his diocese in which there were no schools of any value whatever. I have heard others, who have great practical experience say, that while in their own places there were schools very well conducted, that the grants of the Privy Council were not only sufficient but were munificent, you might go for ten or twelve miles from their parishes and not find a single locality in which a valuable school existed. You cannot at present inquire into these facts; your Inspectors cannot tell you anything about them. Is it not worth while, then, to have an investigation which shall inform you as to the actual state of things? I do not say what system should be adopted. The right hon. Baronet has been taunted with a desire to carry his previous propositions into effect. I do not think this is very handsome or liberal towards him, but I have no doubt that when he has got all the facts before him, and when he sees the disposition of the country and of Parliament, he will not consider himself bound by those particular propositions; he will endeavour to modify and suit them to the results of the inquiry and what the general disposition of Parliament may sanction. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) spoke of middle-class education, and said there ought to he an inquiry into that subject, because persons of the middle class were not receiving so good an education as those of the poorer classes. I quite admit that it is desirable this education should be improved. I do not suppose, however, the hon. Member means that there should be grants of Parliament in order to enable those who have ample resources of their own to educate their children, but he does mean—I think with great sense and judgment—that they should be able to send their sons to grammar schools conducted according to the original foundations of such institutions, and which, as they at present exist, are capable of great improvement. If, how- 1242 ever, the hon. Member will inquire into that subject, he will find it only requires a few alterations of the law to enable the Commissioners of Charitable Trusts to effect that object. I had great satisfaction in carrying the Charitable Trusts Bill through this House. I believe that the present Commissioners are entirely worthy of the confidence of Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Baines) is a member of that Commission; he, of course, has the confidence of the Government; and if he were intrusted with a Bill to alter and amend the present Act, all that the hon. Member for Staffordshire requires would be accomplished. I know the Chief Commissioner himself is most anxious to have powers by which great benefits may be conferred upon the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) has truly said that in any plan of education which I have proposed I have always insisted upon at least a knowledge of the Bible being communicated to the children. I think it would be a very great misfortune if, in order to smooth over difficulties and put an end to jarring among different sectaries, any system of secular education were established by which religion should not be made the foundation of the instruction to be imparted in the schools. I cannot but think that a system of mere, secular education, independent of the Bible, would he regarded in this country in no other light than as being adverse to the Bible. The people of England may however, in my opinion, without adopting any such scheme, or indeed any very general scheme, be induced to extend that system of education which is already in force. Too much of an exclusive spirit—I am happy to say that spirit is gradually disappearing—has hitherto prevailed among the members of the different branches of the Christian Church in not admitting their children to attend certain schools because they could not in those schools receive instruction in the particular religious doctrines which their parents happened to. profess. The Marquess of Lansdowne endeavoured to meet that difficulty in a way which was, perhaps, wise under all the circumstances with which he had to deal. He proposed that, in the case of those parishes in which the Church of England Catechism was invariably taught in the existing schools, a grant should be made to Dissenters to enable them to set up schools in the same locality. But 1243 while I admit that a remedy for the evil might, by the adoption of that course, to some extent be afforded, I cannot help thinking that it is open to objection, inasmuch as a spirit of rivalry is likely to be excited between those two classes of schools which may lead to many disagreeable results. Now, as to the particular Motion that has been submitted to us by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, I own I do not well understand the view with respect to it which seems to be taken by my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education, I am of opinion that to issue a Commission merely to inquire into half-time and to take into consideration the case of the children in our populous towns, to the exclusion of those residing in the country, would be to appoint a Commission without any adequate object. I trust that the right hon. Baronet will not assent to such a mutilation of his scheme as his concurrence in a proposition of that character would involve. Whether certain words embraced in his Motion might not with advantage be omitted is a matter entirely for his own consideration; but I do trust that the powers of the Commission, if it should be granted, will not be unnecessarily limited. It is said that the appointment of a Commission would be productive of considerable expense. I may, however, remark that, as we have been told this evening, £600,000 are annually spent for educational purposes, we may very legitimately endeavour, by means of the labour of the proposed Commission, to ascertain whether that sum might not be so managed as to go further than it now does in the extension of education in this country. Any sum, in my opinion, which might be laid out on this Commission would be amply repaid. In the case of the Poor-law Commission an expenditure of £50,000 was incurred; but, inasmuch as within a period of two or three years its labours resulted in a saving of £2,000,000, the country had, I think, no right to complain. That, my right hon. Friend below me (Mr. Cowper) may say, is not a fair precedent to take, because the Poor-law Commission was issued to inquire into the expenditure of rates levied upon the public at large, and encountered little or no difficulty in obtaining the information which it sought. Now, for my own part, I do not imagine that either landowners or clergymen would be found in the slightest degree unwilling to answer any question which might be put to them 1244 as to the state of education in their respective parishes. I believe, on the contrary, that the wish to promote education prevails very generally throughout the country, and that any assistance which the Commissioners may require they would receive at the House of the squire or the clergyman, who would be only too happy to point out any schools with which he might be connected, and to offer suggestions—not being, of course, under any compulsion to do so—upon which the Commissioners might afterwards find it desirable to act. I am then, of opinion, that if this Motion be carried a very considerable object will be effected. It appears to me to be a very moderate and reasonable Motion. It binds us to no particular system, or even any alteration of the present system of education, while it lays the groundwork of future improvement. We have been told that Austria furnishes us with no precedent in connection with this question. In that proposition I entirely concur. We possess in this country the inestimable advantage which the people enjoy in being at liberty to read at their schools the great works of our English authors. They are brought up in habits of liberty suitable to our constitution. No compulsory action could produce anything like the advantages which result from that freedom, and I for one cannot give my assent to any compulsory scheme, which, by approximating to those in vogue on the Continent, would tend to deprive them of its happy influence.
§ MR. BRISCOE
said, he would express his hope that the right hon. Member would not consent to the Amendment proposed, as it would have the effect of entirely depriving his Resolution of its value, and he entirely agreed with the noble Lord that any system of secular education would be repulsive to the feelings of the House, and opposed to the wishes of the country at large.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, that the hon. Member for Leominster (Air. Hardy) had made an able speech, but it was not so much in answer to the Motion as a most successful destruction of objections raised by himself, and demolished as he went along. A great part of the speech was directed against compulsory objections, to which he (Sir John Pakington) had never adverted. He differed from the hon. Member when he said that the country was satisfied with the progress made. If that had been the case, why all the conferences and discussions on the subject? One case would illustrate the necessity for inquiry. 1245 Visiting a friend in the Midland Counties, he found a parish of about G000 acres, with a perfect system of schools. The adjacent parish embraced an area of 13,000 acres, containing 1,100 inhabitants, but with no clergyman, with a curate frequently changed, possessed no school, and was totally unprovided with any means of educating the poorer classes. The present system did not meet such a case as that, and did not reach the poorer districts either in town or country. That was the state of things, to which he was desirous a remedy should be applied; and in wishing to effect that object he by no means sought to overturn, but rather to aid and supplement the present system. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) said, they paid Inspectors to give them information, and therefore no inquiry was necessary. They certainly did pay them for information with regard to schools which they did inspect, but he did not think any Irishman would have argued on that account that they should be asked to give information with regard to schools which they did not inspect. Then his right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley) could not forget the old story about Austria, and said it was not true that "in the Austrian dominions" the percentage of schools was higher than in England. Now he (Sir John Pakington) had only spoken of Austria,—not of the Austrian dominions. Then his right hon. Friend had referred to the immorality prevalent in that country, hut he suspected it would be easy to show that this immorality had nothing whatever to do with the system of education adopted there. Why was it, however, that his right hon. Friend always confined his remarks to Austria, and never grappled with the cases of Holland, Saxony, Switzerland, and other places where the percentage was far more satisfactory than here? Again, he thought he was hardly used with fairness when he was charged with being an advocate of the secular system. That he begged to deny in the most emphatic manner. His right hon. Friend had quoted a Resolution which had been passed by a society of which he (Sir John Pakington) was not a member, at whose meeting he did not attend, and after that held him responsible for what took place at that meeting. He (Sir John Pakington) declared now, as he had before over and over again declared, that no education could be satisfactory which did not embrace religious teaching. At the same time he deeply lamented the unhappy divisions 1246 which prevailed on this subject. Let him say this, moreover, that not very long ago he inspected an avowedly secular school in Manchester. It was the only secular school he had ever entered for the purpose of inspection, and he was bound to say that he never heard better religious teaching, founded completely on the Bible and the authority of Holy Scripture, than he heard in that secular school. He remarked to the promoters of that school, how is it, that allowing and encouraging instruction founded upon Holy Scriptures, you exclude the Holy Scriptures from your schools? To him it seemed an error and a complete mistake. The answer he received was, that by excluding the Holy Scriptures, Roman Catholic children were brought into the school. He did not, however, think that a sufficient answer, and his firm belief was that if they could only get rid of the religious jealousies which existed the secular system would vanish altogether. Nothing, in his mind, was more to be lamented than those religious difficulties; and while he avowed himself an advocate of religiou3 teaching, he heartily wished that some compromise could be devised by which they would be put an end to; for he could not close his eyes to the fact, that while they were disputing how religious teaching should be given, the practical result was that a vast amount of irreligion was being created in the country. With regard to the observations of his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Board of Education, he (Sir John Pakington) felt painfully the onerousness of the position he occupied on this question. He had addressed the House under difficult circumstances. The House was aware that he differed from many hon. Friends, with whom he usually acted, in his desire to spread education and religious teaching upon liberal principles. Any efforts, therefore, that he might make upon this subject were unconnected with party. He must complain of his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Board of Education, that he had hardly dealt fairly by him. It had been held out to him, that Her Majesty's Government intended to support his Motion as it stood upon the paper. His right hon. Friend had to-night stated the views of the Government upon the subject; and he must say that he agreed with his noble Friend (Lord John Russell), that he could not clearly understand what was the middle course which his right hon. Friend seemed to point out. His right hon. Friend proposed that he 1247 should stop at the words "popular education in England" in the Resolution. His j (Sir John Pakington's) answer to that proposal was, that he entirely agreed with his noble Friend (Lord John Russell), when he said that he had better at once withdraw the Motion and abandon it, than consent, for the sake of a nominal success, to any compromise which would prevent the inquiry from being a bonâ fide useful inquiry. On the other hand, he repeated that he had no desire to attack the present system, but clung to the hope of the permanence of that system, as a valuable portion of education. What he did desire was, that he should have a useful and an effective inquiry, partly as to the circumstances under which children generally left school at an early age, and, above all, into the state of those districts in England where the action of the Privy Council did not meet the requirements of the case; for it was a grave and important subject for inquiry how best to extend the present system, and aid the action of the Privy Council, so as to make the system more complete and uniform than it was. These were objects with respect to which he was desirous of inquiry; and having thus stated them, he thought it would be useless for him to divide against the Government. His right hon. Friend did, he admitted, purpose to meet his views to a considerable extent; but they must not only look to inquiry, but to the result of that inquiry in a report. Was this to be an inquiry from which they might hope any practical valuable result? If that was to be the bona fide scope of it, then he had no objection to leave it in the hands of the Government; but in concluding, there was one suggestion which he would offer. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Cowper) seemed to apprehend that a portion of his Resolution would have the effect of destroying the existing system of the Privy Council. He (Sir John Pakington) therefore should have no objection to clear the ground by leaving out the words, "whether the present system is, or is not, sufficient for its objects."
said, that the altered form of the Motion suggested by the right hon. Baronet would perfectly meet his views. An inquiry into the causes which prevented the children of the poor from getting the education provided for them would no doubt be most useful. But if the inquiry was extended further into the operation of the present system, it must 1248 prove mischievous in its results. To the Resolution as proposed to be altered he would give his consent.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. Hadfield) would not now persist in his Amendment. It appeared to him that the Motion of the right hon. Baronet, in its altered form, would meet the views of the House generally, and he trusted that his hon. Friend would be satisfied with having put his views upon record.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that in his opinion the Resolution, even in its altered shape, went far beyond the views of the right hon. Gentleman. Under these circumstances he should feel it his duty to divide the House against the Resolution.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he would now withdraw his original Motion, and submit it in its amendment form to the House.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Commission to inquire into the present state of popular education in England, and to consider and report what measures, if any, are required for the extension of sound and cheap elementary instruction to all classes of the people.
§ The House divided; Ayes 110; Noes 49; Majority 61.