HC Deb 22 July 1859 vol 155 cc284-313

said, before the House goes into Committee, I am desirous of calling attention to the principle on which the grant for promoting public education in Ireland is administered, and of pointing out circumstances which I think justify me in expressing an opinion that the principle in question has not been practically successful. I shall confine my remarks to a statement of simple facts. I shall be contented with showing that the system of Mixed Education in Ireland has failed, and with indicating the natural causes of that failure. In the presence of some Members of this House who have had the experience of a quarter of a century of educational progress, and who worked at this very subject before I was born, it would approach presumption to do more. The delicate and difficult task of initiating a course of action, and of sketching the details of a new system, I shall not venture to undertake. Even if I possessed the experience and the administrative skill which such a task would demand, there are ample reasons to be found in the present state of Irish politics, and, above all, in the fact that the Bishops will shortly consider the whole question, why I should shrink from doing so. The Estimate for public education amounts this year to £1,328,000, of which £836,920 will be appropriated to England, and about £250,000 to Ireland. The principles upon which the money is distributed in the two countries are not only different but contradictory. In England the Vote is administered upon the denominational, religious, and separate system; whereas in Ireland it is granted on the principle of a Mixed Education. So distinct—or, indeed, it may be said so antagonistic—are these two systems, that what would constitute a natural and ordinary claim for aid towards a school in England would be a total disqualification in Ireland; and what constitutes a qualification in Ireland would be a disqualification in England. Public education in Ireland is divided into two great branches—first, the academical instruction given in the Queen's Colleges, and, secondly, the ordinary elementary instruction of the people in the National Schools. The Queen's Colleges have been in practical operation for ten years, and since their establishment they have received, in the shape of endowments and annual Votes, the sum of £266,516. To this must be added £100,000 as the cost of building the colleges, and £13,041 for ordinary repairs. That is, they have cost altogether £379,557. It is difficult to ascertain with perfect accuracy from the Commissioners' Report the number of individuals who have completed their education in these institutions and taken out degrees. It appears, however, that this number, up to the year 1858, docs not much exceed 200. So that each graduate most have cost the country something over £1,500; or, if we exclude the original cost of building the colleges, something over £1,000 a-head. That is a fact unparalleled in the history of public instruction. The machinery employed in those colleges was not only the best for its purpose, but it was on the most extensive scale. The number of officers was 260, while the average number of students under their care since the commencement had been 135 every year, or 45 for each college. The total number of scholarships appropriated in each year from the public money was 165, or 55 for each college. In some of the faculties the number of scholarships in the three colleges occasionally exceeded the number of students, but it more generally happened that the number of scholarships and of students was nearly equal. In the Faculty of Law at the Queen's College, Cork, in the Session of 1850–1, there was one scholarship and no student; in 1852–3, one scholarship and one student; in 1853–4, one scholarship and one student; in 1854–5, one scholarship but no student; in 1856–7, one scholarship and one student. In his evidence before the late Commission the Dean of the Faculty of Law in that college recommended the abolition of his own faculty, on the ground that he had found no students. The principal faculty in those colleges, and the one on which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, when introducing the system, laid the greatest stress, is the Faculty of Arts. Now, at the Queen's College, Galway, in 1850–1 there were 26 students to compete for 24 scholarships; in 1851–2, 10 students and 15 scholarships; and in every year since that period the number of scholarships had been greater than the number of students. The history of the colleges is simply an index to the history of the University. In the Queen's University several exhibitions and medals are open to the competition of the graduates. To gain a gold medal is to obtain, it is generally supposed, a very high honour. A gold medallist is always regarded as a man of note. In speaking of some of our most eminent public men, people refer to the gold medal as a distinction that even subsequent honours, however great, cannot overshadow. Of course the small number of medals compared with the very large number of competitors is an essential element in giving this conventional value to such honours. In 1855 four gentlemen proceeded to Dublin to be examined for the degree of Master of Arts. They all passed in a highly satisfactory manner, and obtained a degree. They then competed for honours, being examined for two days; and the result was that each of the four received a gold medal and a money exhibition. No doubt they deserved the honours they gained; but it was usual, in distributing gold medals, to confine the distribution within certain distinct limits. In the University of Dublin, for example, four gold medals could not be awarded unless there wore 160 candidates, one never being awarded unless there were forty competitors for it. In this particular case of the Queen's University, the examiners, no doubt, found that there were four gold medals to be given away to a certain class of graduates, and, accordingly, they disposed of them fairly. No fault can be found either with the candidates or with the examiners. That there were only four of the former, instead of one or two hundred, simply indicates that the system has not been as successful in procuring graduates as the graduates have been in securing gold medals. This is a fair sample of what has taken place year after year in the faculty of arts. Even the Vice Chancellor of the University who, it may be presumed, is inclined to take a sanguine view of the subject, made the admission in 1856 that he found the number of candidates for degrees was four times less than it ought to be. The Vice President of Queen's College, Belfast, in his evidence before the Commissioners, noticed this also. He said: —"We observe this remarkable fact, that the number of graduates proceeding from these colleges has been diminishing for the last three years, and it is much below what it ought to be; and, therefore, it shows that the stimulus afforded by these honours is not sufficiently great to induce young men to go forward." The number of matriculated students entering the colleges has, with slight exceptions, steadily decreased since their establishment. In the first year there were 223 matriculated students in the three colleges; in 1851 the number entering fell to 152; in 1852 to 136; in 1855–6 it stood at 138; in 1857 at 119; and in 1858, the date of the last return, 109. I quote these numbers from the Commissioner's last Report. But that was not the whole evidence of the failure of the system. In the several Professors' classes the symptoms of failure were also to be found. In the class of English language at Queen's College, Cork, there were fifty students in 1849, thirty in 1850, twenty-one in 1851, and only twenty in 1858. The Professor of Greek opened his class in 1849 with fifty-six students, next year it fell to forty-eight, and now it was only twenty-seven. In the class of the Professor of Latin, the same steady decline in the attendance is to be seen. The Professor of History and English Literature at the college at Gal-way has only five students in his class; the Professor of Medicine has only five; and the Professor of Jurisprudence has only two. Some of the Professors have been actually left without a single student. With such facts as these before us, I think I am justified in asserting that the mixed system of academical education has failed in Ireland. There was another point deserving of attention. These colleges had been founded on a distinct educational principle—secular education, and religious control. When Mr. Wise, in the first instance, brought forward his Motion on the subject he declared his conviction that some religious instruction should be given in the colleges, and when Sir Robert Peel's Bill was before the House in 1845, Mr. Wise again advocated an Amendment to the same effect. Sir Robert Peel objected to the Amendment; but, though he would not allow religious instruction, he acknowledged the necessity of religious supervision, and stated that it would form an important portion of the Collegiate scheme. Now, the anticipations in which Sir Robert Peel had indulged in reference to those colleges had not, even in this respect, been fulfilled. In the first place, the Deans of Residence, who had been appointed when the colleges had been first established, found that they had almost nothing to do. The Deans of Residence who belonged to the Catholic Church had, indeed, long since ceased to be connected with the colleges; while, with reference to the licensed boarding-houses which were attached to these institutions, it might be seen from the last report of the Dean of Residence of the Established Church, that not a single student lodged in them whose name had been brought officially under his knowledge. So far, therefore, as the Deans of Residence and the boarding-houses were concerned—and they constituted the sole machinery for moral and religious supervision—the colleges presented an example of failure as great as that in which it was instanced by the small number of their students. This failure was not due to a want of ability on the part of the Professors. I take the liberty of bearing my humble testimony to the great talents, learning and industry which these gentlemen and the other officers have at all times displayed. I believe it is to be attributed to the fact that an attempt had been made to force mixed education on a Catholic people, in spite of the remonstrances and opposition of the authorities of the Catholic Church. But I go further, and assert that the national system of education in Ireland also has failed, though in a different manner. The nature of that failure the House will be able to appreciate when I mention the fact that in the county of Cork alone, where the number of children who attend the national schools amount to 65,000, all, except 471, belong to one religion. The national system of education in Ireland has been promoted, among other reasons, upon the ground that it would tend to unite the people of that country together; but if ever there was a system of public instruction which led to disunion and discord it was that system, and it would be overthrown by agitation in Ireland if not by a previous vote of the House. I am happy to say, that the Protestant Bishops and Clergy also take a decided view in reference to the subject, and maintain that no system of education should be conducted without a fair admixture of religious instruction. Secular education for the children of the labouring classes was a very serious experiment to try. You have been trying it for many years in Ireland and it has failed. But although the mixed system has broken down, the denominational or religious system has not taken its place in that satisfactory manner in which it is to be seen in England. The rules of the Board are still operative for evil. They check religious teaching, they prevent the most simple and ordinary Catholic practices usual in Catholic schools, they enforce the use of books highly objectionable, and they preclude the employment of works in every respect deserving of confidence. A most admirable list of books, published by the Christian Brothers of Ireland, are permitted by the Privy Council to be used in the Catholic schools in England, while their use is prohibited by the Board in Ireland. The denationalizing tendency of the system has never been noticed in this House. Next to its secular and latitudinarian spirit, I regard this as one of its most disgraceful characteristics. I beg to call the attention of Irish Members to it. The school books published by the Board, and used as reading books by the children, are not written by Irishmen. These reading books are compiled by a Scotch Presbyterian clergyman, and they carefully avoid any reference to Ireland. The effect of the mixed system in this respect has been well described by one of the late chief inspectors, a gentleman of great zeal and ability, Mr. Kavanagh, who says, and says very truly, "It has banished history, it has banned Catholic literature, it has enfeebled or excluded morals, it has emasculated poetry, and it declares patriotism and religion contraband." Yet this system is called National. It should, in truth, be called Anti-national. Now, I would wish to have it distinctly understood that the whole of this anomalous legislation has failed, and, as it seems to me, inevitably failed. I frankly confess that I attribute this double failure of the mixed system in the colleges and in the schools to the great fact that it was an attempt to overrule the decision of the Catholic Church. I am one of those who recognize the right of the Church to teach. It is a sacred right which She received from the Greatest of all Lawgivers, and which She never will relinquish. Those who know anything about the history or spirit of my countrymen will understand me when I say, that the failure in Ireland of any educational system which the Church has opposed is very easy to explain. You may vote your quarter of a million to prop up a tottering system; but believe mo you will do so in vain; the failure of the past, however great and unequivocal, will seem almost a success compared with the failure that awaits you in the future. Whilst, for reasons already stated, I avoid entering into the details o a new system, I am most anxious to impress upon the House the utter useless-ness of any compromises whatever. Mixe education has fallen to pieces, and what remains of it must be swept away. No remodelling, no restoration, no return t the original stringency of Lord Stanley's scheme will suffice. Nothing short of the admirable system which exists in England, in Scotland, and in the Colonies, should be proposed by the Chief Secretary, or sanctioned by Parliament. I hope the House will not be misled by the fact that such views as these have never before been expressed by an Irish Catholic Member. Many reasons hitherto conspired to prevent Catholic representatives from giving expression to these opinions, but it should not on that account be assumed that they are new or that they have been hastily formed. They are in fact the steady growth of an irresistible public feeling. Without presuming to use the language of warning, I take the liberty of recommending Her Majesty's Government to be very cautious about keeping up anomalous legislation for Ireland. When the Irish people see that you give them one system and your own people another system, and when they dis- cover the great difference between the two; when they find that their Bishops approve of what you keep here, and disapprove of what you send across the Channel, they will naturally inquire whether your administration is conducted on equitable principles. For centuries the Parliament and Executive of England was charged—and I think very fairly charged—with misgoverning Ireland. The main element in that charge was the undoubted partiality exhibited by giving bad laws to Ireland and good laws to England. It has become the fashion to assert that this charge can no longer be made, and that the two countries are now governed with equal and impartial justice. I venture to deny that assertion; and, as long as this anomalous legislation is maintained, I shall continue to deny it. I trust my object in calling attention to this subject will not be misunderstood. I have done so because it is one in which Catholic interests are deeply concerned. I have called attention to it also because it is one on which the national spirit and the social happiness of the Irish people greatly depend.


said, he wished to offer a few observations to the House on the subject under discussion on behalf of the Church to which he belonged, and of the University which he had the honour to represent. Adverting for a moment to the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken with reference to the Queen's Colleges in Ireland, he would beg to say that the College of Belfast, with which he was more particularly acquainted, was unquestionably a success, not merely so far as the learning of its professors was concerned, but also with respect to the great judgment with which it was conducted, and the number of students which it contained. There was a Presbyterian College near it, the conductors of which allowed their students to avail themselves of the advantage which the Queen's College afforded for secular education. He would not further enter into the merits of the Queen's Colleges in Ireland, for the object which he had especially in view in addressing the House on the present occasion was to invite the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the position in which the question of national education in that country stood. In doing so he should above all things, advise that right hon. Gentleman not to pin his faith to blue-books, for if he hoped to obtain complete information from that source he would find that he laboured under a great mistake. For his own part, he was of opinion that the Earl of Derby had never applied his intellect to a nobler purpose than when he had endeavoured to establish a good system of national education in Ireland, but, unhappily, the principles upon which that noble Lord was desirous that his views should be carried out had not been fully acted upon. One of the first objects which the Earl of Derby had sought to attain was the establishment of a certain amount of religious and moral education in Ireland. But how had the wishes of the noble Lord in that respect been complied with. Three books of a most useful character—one the Evidences of Christianity, which had been written by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Whately; another, a book of hymns, which had been quoted in that House by Sir John Young as a proof of the amount of Scriptural knowledge which was administered in the schools in Ireland, and a third, also, a book containing Scriptural lessons, and which had been recommended by the Board, had been introduced, but after being in use for some time they were expelled from those schools. Therefore the first fact they had to look at was, that in these schools under the National Board there was no teaching of that religious character originally desired by the Earl of Derby. The Archbishop of Dublin visited one of the model schools, and found that the books, on the faith of the use of which he and many of the Protestant clergy joined the Board, were not in use in those schools; and accordingly, not obtaining any satisfaction, and considering that a breach of trust with the public had been committed, he left the Board, as also did the Lord Justice of Appeal and Baron Green. It ended in a Board being now in existence which, though unquestionably composed of highly respectable individuals, had not much weight or influence over the minds of any of the great classes of the Irish people. As to the question of joint management, what took place? The idea of the Earl of Derby was, that whenever a grant was applied for, it should be applied for by the clergy of a parish of opposite persuasions. Of 5,000 schools, something less than fifty—perhaps forty-six would be nearer the number—were under joint management, and those forty-six gave greater trouble to the Board than the whole remaining number. The joint management had, in fact, signally failed. As to the schools being conducted on one common principle, the arrangement was that the schools and the property connected with them were to be vested in the Board, so that its members might conduct the education as they thought fit. But out of 5,000 schools there were only 1,600 vested in the Board, and 3,159 were under the exclusive management of the Roman Catholic clergy. The next question which had arisen was, what was to be done with the Presbyterians? Because to suppose that they would consent to a system of education which excluded the Scriptures was useless. Well the Presbyterians were accommodated in this way. Their 700 schools were vested not in the Board, but in the Synod of Ulster, and so they read the Scriptures in the schools as they pleased and when they pleased, and in that they did what was right. It was found necessary to conciliate those sturdy Presbyterians, and the result was that some respect had been paid to their conscientious convictions. But as to the Church of England and the Wesleyan Methodists, what was the case? The Church of England had charge of what were called the parish schools. In those parish schools from time immemorial the labours of each day had been commenced by some reference to the existence of a God; but as by the rules of the Board every line of Scripture was excluded, those schools, in number about 2,000, were all excluded from the receipt of any aid. What was the case as to the Wesleyan Methodists? In this country they were all fairly provided for in the matter of education; but when a Wesleyan Methodist crossed the water and set his foot in Ireland, his status was altogether changed in this respect. In that country no Wesleyan Methodist, however peaceable and loyal, could ever obtain for the schools of his persuasion a book, or school requisite, or any assistance what-- ever under the national system, though he paid heavy taxes in aid of it. John Wesley, who was a good, wise, and pious man, made it a condition of the education to be given among the body of which he was the founder, that it was to be a Scriptural education, and that being in direct conflict with the national system his disciples were excluded. That was the state of affairs in Ireland at the present moment, but a very active movement had been set on foot by the party whose claims the hon. Gentleman was advocating against the whole system of education as it stood, and he (Mr. Whiteside) believed that at a meeting presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Fermoy), the noble Lord, surrounded by eminent scholars, was nearly swept from his place as chairman by a body opposed to his plans, who, he (Mr. Whiteside) believed, carried a resolution embodying their own views. The Irish Solicitor General (Mr. Serjeant Deasy) had also taken an active part, he believed, against the system of mixed education in Ireland. For his (Mr. Whiteside's) part, he ventured to state a simple truth. The attempt was originally made to convert the clergy of the Church of England to prefer those new schools. The parties to that proceeding had tried it for twenty years and had failed; and he would tell them that if they lived for 220 years and tried the same scheme they would fail. They—men of expediency —forgot that there were men of principle in the world. They said, "Lay aside all allusions to Christianity in the schools; let the children meet in the schools and receive secular education; catch the pupils when they leave the school as best you can, and teach them separately your religious principles." Excellent advice if practicable, but the system had failed, and would continue to fail, for this plain reason—that the Established Church, the Wesleyans, and the Presbyterians all held that some religious teaching was a necessary and essential part of education. When a man walked into the old parish Church of England schools he saw written on the walls a number of most striking and appropriate texts of Scripture, such as "Fear God and honour the King," "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," "Thou shalt not steal," and many more of like kind; but in schools conducted on the mixed system these texts had to be taken down as against the rules, and instead of passages of Scripture, there were affixed to the walls pictures of vertebrated and unvertebrated animals, and things of that sort. That would give the House a perfect idea of the difference between the two systems. The truth was that at least five-sixths of the parish clergy—certainly nine-tenths of the curates—would hold fast by this principle —namely, that no education would meet with their support if they were required to lay aside the Scriptures. They believed that; and to suppose that by making here and there one of them a Bishop or a Dean they could get them to change their opinions was ridiculous. But still, in some things the national system had not failed. They had produced some excellent school books; they had set aside schools which wore nurseries of disloyalty and ignorance; they had got a system of training and inspection; but they had no more a united system than if they had endeavoured to unite Mahomedans and Christians in the same scheme of education. Let them look at the returns of the Roman Catholics in Minister—of the Roman Catholics in Con-naught. In Ulster the state of things was different, for there Protestants were in the majority. For his part, he (Mr. Whiteside) always thought it was a calumny upon Roman Catholics to say that reading the Scriptures in the schools would convert them. He had subscribed to a school for many years where the Scriptures were read, and where Roman Catholics attended, and he had inquired, but could not find that any individual had changed his religion on this account. And the most singular circumstance was that many Roman Catholic parents sent their children, possibly out of convenience, to the Church school where the Scriptures were read, rather than to the national school. He advised the Government to strengthen their Board if they could, and make it acceptable to the people, which at present it was not. Why, then, were Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Wesleyan Methodists taxed to support such a system? Every hon. Member of that House returned by the Presbyterian body must desire to see Parliament come to some rational settlement of this question. The secular schools were by no means so successful as was generally thought. The Census Commissioners had brought out the fact that in several counties of Ireland ignorance prevailed just in proportion to the number of national schools that were established. An hon. Gentleman opposite shook his head; but it might, perhaps, be remembered that on the Motion of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge on this subject, Mr. G. A. Hamilton quoted the testimony of the Census Commissioners, cold unimpassioned men, on this subject, to prove that there was an increase of ignorance between the ages of 15 and 21 in various counties in which national schools were established. And how would they cure that? By having opposition schools —schools that would excite emulation, stimulate industry, and improve the system of education. He had no wish to disturb a single school that existed now, for he admitted that the supporters of the present system had a full right to their share of education; but he disbelieved in the ability of the masters as a body. When he had occasion, as Attorney General, to go down to the south of Ireland to prosecute for treason against the Crown, the first person he had to prosecute was a national schoolmaster. That man was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. This man was proved to have taught the youth in the school, and to have administered to the youth of the country an oath which would not have been unsuitable in a Jacobin club at the time of the French Revolution. He (Mr. Whiteside) asked a gentleman in Kerry whether this was a common state of things, and was answered "There are a score of them as bad." This instructor of youth did not stand alone, for the schoolmaster of the workhouse was equally guilty, and it was a significant fact that when one who had been a national schoolmaster hesitated about taking the unlawful oath he was appealed to in language like this, "By our old acquaintance as national schoolmasters together, will you not join us?" These things should be inquired into, and he was not surprised that the Roman Catholic clergy should express disfavour in reference to some of the persons employed as masters. The Christian Brothers were reported to have the best schools in Ireland for peasant children, but they gave religious instruction, and, therefore, were excluded from Parliamentary assistance under the present system. He believed the Board would scarcely be able to hold their place in the country as matters stood, but why should they not extend to the Church schools some of the benefits which they gave to their own? Why not supply them with books and school requisites, proficiency rewards, and training for their masters? Earl Granville proposed nearly as much in the House of Lords, and the Earl of Derby proposed something to the same effect. If this was done—if they could induce those who were the patrons of these 2,000 Church schools to join the Board, by simply doing them an act of justice, then they would make the national system that which it had never hitherto been. In that way they might obtain a national if they could not have a united system of education. But, at all events, it was utterly vain to expect to control the religious belief of men. As they could not control the Roman Catholics, so they could never control the clergy of the Established Church. They believed in the truth of the Holy Scriptures, and would they be parties to any system which disallowed their use in education? To show the stringency with which the rule for the exclusion of the Scriptures was enforced, he would repeat a ludicrous anecdote mentioned by the Bishop of Ossory in one of his charges. A boy in one of the national schools had stolen a book, and the curate of the parish went to the school to admonish him before his fellow scholars. In doing so be quoted the command, "Thou shalt not steal," when he was stopped by the schoolmaster, who said it was contrary to the rules to refer to Scripture. The schoolmaster was no doubt right. To such things those with whom he was connected objected; but they did not therefore desire to overthrow a system which bad been in some respects beneficial. What he asked was that the Government should consider their claim fairly and dispassionately. If the Government gave to the Church Education Society and to the Wesleyans and others those school requisites and other advantages to which he had referred they might establish a great, a permanent, and a national system of education, which would be acceptable to all classes in Ireland. And if it so happened that the Christian Brothers obtained any portion of the same advantages he should not complain. Of this he was certain that the present system could not continue; it had been tried fairly and fully, and his recommendation to the Government was to look into the matter carefully as one of the most interesting questions of the day. Those with whom he was connected would give them every assistance in extending that which had done so much good, so as to include Church, Protestants, Wesleyans and Presbyterians, without, however, doing anything to deprive Parliament of its just jurisdiction over the public money.


said, that having brought forward this question last year he would be glad to make a few remarks, for he felt convinced in common with many who had formerly been opposed to such a course that the time had come when it would be well for the Government to modify the rules of the Irish Board, so far as that no school should be excluded simply because the Bible was taught in it. He could not assent to the proposition, however, that the national system had proved a failure. On the contrary it had been a splendid success, it had done incalculable good in Ireland. But there could be no doubt that many of the schools were in bad hands, faille was aware, from personal inspection, that many of the masters were wretchedly poor creatures, and that the schools were in consequence very ill managed. On the general question, however, be believed no person would dispute that the system had been productive of very great benefit. As to the complaint that the books had not been written by Irishmen, he could only say so much the worse for them, for a better set of works for the purpose for which they were intended he had never seen. But the more advantageous the system was shown to be, and the more one admired it, the more one was led to regret that these advantages should not be extended to all the peasant children of Ireland. There was no use in blaming the clergy for not placing themselves in connection with the Board; they bad acted on their conscientious objections for thirty years, and they would continue to do so, and it was too late to look on it as a question regarding the clergy, or as a Protestant question. The true way to look on it was a question touching the interests of the peasant children of Ireland. The question was whether some 100,000 of them in the clerical schools should be very much worse taught than they would be if those schools had the pecuniary assistance, and the trained masters, and the apparatus and books, and, above all, the inspection of the National Board. At present about 100,000 Irish peasant children were excluded from those great educational advantages, simply because their instructors deemed it their duty to read the Bible to them. On that account this system, professing to be a national one, repudiated all those children from participating in the advantages it offered. That scruple on the part of the patrons of the Scriptural schools might be a sensible, or it might be a silly one. He did not ask the House to endorse it. He merely mentioned the fact, that such a vast multitude of peasant children were wholly passed by and neglected by the national system of education merely because their instructors thought it right to read the Bible in the school, whereas the Board would not keep any school where specific religious instruction was given as part of the schooling. The sole question then was this—since that regulation cuts off so great a body of children from a first-rate education, was it of essential value? Was it worth keeping up? They all knew why it had been laid down. The idea of those who founded the national system was that by forbidding any specific religious teaching during school hours, they would induce Roman Catholics and Protestants to send their children to the same school, and that this would blend them together in after life. That has a noble object to aim at. If the system had received that object he, for one, should pray the House not to touch the regulation which had produced so excellent an effect. But the plain fact was that no such effect was produced. There was no such thing as mixed education in the national schools. The Protestant parents would not send their children to the national schools where the patron and master were Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholics would not send theirs to schools where the patron and master were Protestants. The regulation was a total failure. Why, then, should we keep it up? It was utterly useless for any good result, but it was very effective for the bad result of cutting off a great multitude of children from important educational advantages. It was impotent for good; it was potent for evil. If that regulation were modified or suspended, the national schools would go on exactly as they did now. It would not affect them at all. The only consequence would be, that the clerical schools would connect themselves with the Board, and the children would derive great benefit in a much improved education. Experience, in fact, had clearly shown that the principle adopted in England was the sound and true principle, namely, that the Government should help all those who were endeavouring to educate their poorer neighbours, whatever their religious views or scruples might be, making no stipulation except that a good secular education should be given. That principle seemed to be a perfectly sound one, but it altogether condemned the regulation of which he had been speaking. That regulation introduced an interference, a meddling, improper interference, with the religious teaching in the school. To say to those who were making great sacrifices in order to educate the poor around them, "We will not help you unless you will pledge yourself not to teach this, that, and the other doctrine," was, in reality a piece of intolerance. It was, in reality, an undue interference by the State with individual freedom. It would be far more just and far more wise for the State to say, "You are striving to give your poor neighbours a good educa- tion. Well, then, we will give you an educational apparatus, a trained teacher and annual inspection, in order that you may educate them more thoroughly, without exacting from you any pledge that will hurt your religious feelings." He could not but hope that the Government would see its way to repealing a regulation which was not at all an essential part of the national system, which was unsound in principle, which excited bitter and chronic discontent among the Protestents of Ireland, which had not accomplished the only good purpose expected from it, of creating a mixed education, and which debarred 100,000 peasant children from sharing in the great benefits conferred by the National Board.


said, he thought that the Queen's Colleges had been reasonably successful. At the same time it should be recollected that the collegiate system in Ireland had been overdone. A college had been established in each of the four provinces in Ireland, whereas one college in Belfast, in addition to the University at Dublin, would have served all useful purposes, but still it could not be said with truth that considering the number of the colleges and the area of the country, they had failed. He believed, however, that the system of National education, as a system of mixed education, had been a failure. It had conferred great benefits upon the Roman Catholic population, but there could be no doubt of the fact that it did not possess the confidence of the Protestant community. For some of the Commissioners he entertained the highest respect, but not one of them was a man whose presence at the National Board would suffice of itself to command the confidence of Irish Protestants. The case was different formerly, but the secession of the Archbishop of Dublin had been a great misfortune to the National system of education. He might state by way of illustration, that in the county of Cork there were 470 national schools, of which no fewer than 450 were Roman Catholic—a fact which, while highly creditable to the zeal of the priesthood, showed that the system was of comparatively little value to the Protestants, who could not be expected to send their children to schools of which the patrons and managers were Roman Catholic clergymen. The system, in short, was not a united system at all. He had heard with surprise that ignorance in some parts of Ireland was proportioned to the number of Na- tional schools. Readmitted that the schools were rude enough in many districts; but in those parts they could not expect anything else, when many of the children went to school more for shelter than instruction. What a school required to keep the interest in it alive was, that it should be visited and inspected by the gentry of the locality; and he would ask why not make the system in theory what it was in practice —a separate system? Were that course adopted, the benefits afforded by the National system of education would be enormously increased.


said, that it appeared to be admitted by every speaker that this system of National education had broken down as a combined system in Ireland; at all events, it had not realized the original programme; and he therefore would suggest to the Chief Secretary that the best course to adopt would be to recognize the fact that the Irish system was like those of England and Scotland, a denominational one. The proposed system had failed in every stage of its experiment. The introduction of the Bible, then its exclusion, and after that the compromise of Scripture lessons, had all failed; the vesting system had failed, for not one-fourth of the 5,000 schools in Ireland were vested in the Board, and all the rest were distinctly denominational schools. The joint management system had failed, for only forty-eight schools could be said to be conducted upon that principle; and owing to the break up occasioned by the system itself, it had been shown in this debate that now the Central Board itself did not command the respect which alone could give it authority enough to conduct a national system. The question therefore arose whether the system could he patched up. This could not be done either by giving peculiar rights and privileges to one religious sect, or by making the education secular. The Church could not ask for the Bible unless she consented to the Roman Catholics using their books. Nor would the country consent to exclude religion altogether; and he was, therefore, driven to the conclusion that the only course which could be adopted was to recognize the fact that this was a denominational system, that no other could be fully carried out, and to amalgamate and make it one with the English and Scotch systems, with which it practically agreed, and from which it was only needlessly distinguished, and most mischievously placed under a separate administration.


said, he could not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman who had said that in Ireland Collegiate education was overdone. His own belief was that, with the exception of Spain, there was no country in Europe in which a smaller portion of the population received a University education. There was no doubt, however, that the system at present pursued had not been successful. Since 1850, £252,000 had been spent upon the Queen's Colleges, and the number of persons who had graduated during that period was 252. They had therefore cost just £1,000 apiece. The wish of every hon. Member of that House must be that, without religious distinction, the highest intellectual education should be given to the Irish people; and his opinion was, that the best means of accomplishing this would be to assimilate the whole system to that of Trinity College. Let Belfast College occupy, with regard to the Presbyterian Church, and Cork and Galway with regard to the Roman Catholic Church, the same position which Trinity College occupied with regard to the Established Church, none of them excluding students of other denominations who might come there, and you would have ten times the number of students, and produce a tenfold benefit to the country. With regard to the National Board the case was not so simple. The system could hardly be said to be a failure, because there had been established under it schools in which 550,000 children were taught, and which, whatever might be the fault of some of them, were, compared with primary schools in other parts of the world, of a high order. There was no doubt that the system was at present in great danger; but there were two alternatives which might be adopted to avoid it. They might either upset the Irish system and adopt that of England in its place, or they might recur to its original principle of united secular and separate religious education. That principle had been so completely departed from, that there were now in Ulster 30,000 or 40,000 Roman Catholic children who were in Protestant schools, taught the Protestant Bible by Protestant teachers. With regard to the 100 model schools which had been established on the principle of excluding religious teaching, the case of those schools must be reconsidered, and they must be put on some other footing, or else there would be continual objections, and the system would not receive that hearty support which was necessary if they wished to confer real benefits upon the country. To leave the system as it stood at present was impossible. Roman Catholics and Protestants would unite against it equally unless it were changed. There were two alternatives, and only two. Either the system must be made what it was originally, in which case he thought the greater number of Roman Catholics would be satisfied; or, if that were impossible, then he said with regret—although he had been a strenuous supporter of the National system—it would be necessary to change it altogether. It was not desirable now to enter into the subject at any great length, but he hoped his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) would take the whole question into his serious consideration.


, as Member for the University of Dublin, felt bound to say a few words on the subject before them. For the first time they had beard the subject of separate education approached in a becoming temper by the hon. Member for the King's County, and heard it temperately discussed by the House. He (Mr. Lefroy) had often attempted to prove that the National system of education in Ireland was a failure. That was now admitted. When the National Board was proposed he certainly refrained from offering any opposition to it, because he believed that upon certain classes in Ireland it conferred great advantages. The books used by the Board were certainly of the most valuable and excellent character, and such as he should desire to see used by the Church Education Society. He did not attribute the failure of the system to the observance of the principle of a united education; because in their University of Dublin they had a united education, which progressed most favourably. They had recently added in that University fourteen scholarships of £100 a year each, which were equally open to Roman Catholics as to Protestants. He was of opinion that a separate system of instruction would have the effect of separating those classes in after years. He could not understand why the Bible should be the only book to be especially excluded. He had no wish to deprive the Roman Catholics of any of the advantages of those schools; at the same time he should deprecate the principle of making the sacred Scriptures a sealed book to the whole school. The greatest authorities upon the subject of education were unanimous as to the character of the education that ought to be given. The noble Lord the Member for London, Lord Brougham, and several other eminent men, had emphatically declared that education without religion was a curse to the country. Would it not, he asked, he fair and wise to give to about 2,000 of the ministers of the Gospel the advantages of this grant without prejudice to others or the sacrifice of any one principle? He would express a hope that the Chief Secretary would turn his attention to this question, and that another year would not pass without some attempt to remedy the defects of the present system of education in Ireland.


said, he augured great good for the cause of education in Ireland from the manner in which the subject under discussion had been debated that evening. The absence of that angry tone and party feeling which generally marked their discussions on this subject showed that all parties were willing to approach the question in a dispassionate spirit. He had always thought that the National system had conferred inestimable benefit on the people of Ireland, and be thought that it ought to be touched, if it was to be touched at all, with the greatest care; but it was impossible not to see that the principle upon which it had been originally founded had been in a great degree departed from, and that the system had, for all practical purposes, ceased to be a united one. He knew that in Ireland very influential, very able, and very intelligent men adhered to the principle of a united education; and he himself was most anxious to see such a system carried out. He never could understand why children of different religious denominations could not meet together for the purpose of receiving their ordinary education; but the experience of twenty-five years had proved otherwise. It had proved that the feeling of the people in Ireland was against such a system. There was no use in denying that fact; and the sooner the attention of Government was turned to it the better. The great majority of the clergy of the Church of England maintained that they could not sanction any principle of education under which the Bible was not read by every child coming into the school; they held that Scriptural instruction ought to be received by every child attending the school. On the other hand, it had been advanced by the Roman Catholic clergy, and laid down in a most authoritative way, that instruction could not be given to Roman Catholic children from any but Roman Catholic lips. That doctrine had been laid down openly, and had received the sanction of the highest authorities in the Roman Catholic Church. The House would see how completely irreconcilable those two positions were, and how they were both opposed to the principle of a united system. Under these circumstances, he thought that the duty of the Government and of Parliament was to consider how, with the materials which they had in their hands, they could make the present system a truly National one—make it general for all. That matter was very fully considered by the late Government; and had they remained in office they would have brought before Parliament a scheme, the object of which would be to very much enlarge the usefulness of the system of National education in Ireland. It would be impossible for him to go into the details of that scheme on the present occasion; but it was one submitted by the late Lord Lieutenant to the Government, and which was under the consideration of the Cabinet when the Earl of Derby went out of office. It resembled very much in its main features a scheme proposed to a Committee of the House of Lords by Earl Granville, and the late Government had every reason to expect that it would have been received with favour by the majority of those who represented the opinion of the Clergy of the Established Church in Ireland. He believed that if it was proposed it would lay the basis of a future system that would be productive of vast advantages to the people. He could not agree with his right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley), as to the expediency of extending the English system to Ireland. There was at present in Ireland a large and extensive organization, and a system which to a great extent had gained the feelings and affections of the Irish people. It would be dangerous to import any new system which might give rise to disputes, the effect of which might be to upset all attempts at establishing a permanent scheme of National education. His conviction was that any change which it might be thought desirable to make in the existing system ought to be made gradually. From what he had heard last night he thought there was no great number of those who represented the Irish people who would not be found willing to come to a calm consideration of the question. There had never been a greater demand amongst the Irish people for the benefits of a good education than that which existed at present. They had tested the benefits of education through the medium of the National schools and those of the Church Education Society, and he could not bring himself to believe that party spirit and party differences would be found to defeat any attempt that might be sincerely made to extend the benefits of education to the entire of the Irish people. He felt confident that this question would occupy the attention of the Government, for they had come to a point at which something must be done. If that something was done effectually great positive benefit would thereby be conferred on the people, and there would be a removal of matters that had for five-and-twenty years been more or less a cause of difference amongst large sections of the Irish nation.


said, that it appeared to be admitted by all parties that the present system of national education in Ireland had not worked well in many respects, and the great majority on either side of the House were in favour of its revision. But whilst they all agreed that it had many faults he did not think it fair to deny that it had also produced great advantages to the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin had stated in his speech that, during the period which had elapsed between 1841 and 1851, a decrease had taken place in the proportion of educated persons in Ireland, and he laid this at the door of the system of national education. Now he (Captain Esmonde) had expressed his dissent from this proposition in the only way in which at that period of the debate it was possible for him to do, and the right hon. Gentleman had said to him, "the hon. Gentleman may shake his head. We shall see if there is anything in it." [A laugh.] He was sure the House would listen to a man who was pleading for his head, and he would therefore trespass on their time by reading the following extract from the Report of the Census Commissioners for 1851:— In concluding our report on the subject of ages and education, we beg to take the opportunity of congratulating your Excellency on the progress which the returns show has been made in the education of the people during the eventful period since 1841; and although it is evident that much remains to be done to overcome the ignorance still prevailing, especially in some of the less improved parts of the country, yet it is encouraging to find that even in remote districts ignorance has diminished during a period which, for affliction and calamity, is unparalleled in the annals of Ireland, and which resulted in diminish- ing the population during the course of little more than six years to such an extent that in 1851 it was actually less than 1821—thirty years previously.


said, he bad listened with the greatest attention to this discussion, and if he had not risen till the close of it it was that he wished to hear all that hon. Gentlemen from Ireland had to say on the subject. While he stated as plainly as he could his own views, he should also state them as briefly as possible, leaving more lengthened observations until time and attention had made him more familiar with the subject. He certainly did feel a sentiment of surprise at hearing the hon. Gentleman who introduced the discussion say that the Queen's Colleges had proved a failure; because, when they considered the circumstances under which these colleges were founded, the unparalleled difficulties with which Ireland had had to contend the very year after the Act for founding them passed; when they remembered that these colleges were situated, not in the metropolis of Ireland, but were intended for the education of the provincial towns; that they had affiliated with them no schools for preparation of the pupils; and that they were without any of those endowments or that connection with the Church which the older institutions possessed —he thought they would be of opinion that the result which they had attained to might not, indeed, be an example of complete success, but was an encouragement and a reason for hope. That was the opinion of the Commissioners in their Report. He could not understand some of the statistics of the hon. Gentleman as he had made use of them, but the authentic statistics before him gave them reason for anything but discouragement and despair. The attendance of pupils last year amounted in the three colleges to 493, the largest number in any one year. The attendance of such a number to obtain an education such as was given them in these colleges was an immense advantage to a country situated as Ireland was. Moreover, it appeared that the pupils had been drawn pretty equally from the various religious bodies into which the population was divided. It appeared that of the number of pupils who had matriculated, there were, Roman Catholics, 445; of the Established Church, 426; and of the Presbyterian Church, 343. That surely gave great cause for encouragement, for the cause not only of advanced, but of mixed education in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman said that it ought to be borne in mind how great was the number of scholarships, and argued that those students ought to be excluded who did not contribute to their own support. It was right to explain what the scholarships were. They were not of the permanent character which was generally involved in the term, but were like exhibitions in the English Universities, affording means of assistance to their holders to bear the expenses of their college life. The numbers quoted by the hon. Gentleman did not give an accurate notion of the number of scholarships, which were not held for the whole time the pupils were in college, but were competed for every year. They were forty-eight in number for the three colleges in the entering year, and they must be compared with the whole number of pupils for each year, which last year amounted to between 190 and 200; so that it would be fairer to say that there were four pupils to one exhibition than one scholarship to each pupil. In his entering year it was a great object with a pupil to obtain an exhibition to assist in his maintenance at college, and for the retention of which he must be examined in each succeeding year, or consent to lose it. The scholarships were small in point of value, and only aided in the maintenance of the pupil for a single year of his college life. But what had been the result of the education afforded? He believed that one cause of the diminution of the number of pupils in years subsequent to that of entering, that so great were the advantages derived from the education there, and such the class of life of those who had availed themselves of it, that they were desirous at the earliest period of passing out into the world to obtain that livelihood for themselves, which the education they had received enabled them to do. The Indian competition afforded a good test of the education received. He had before him a list of a large competition for the Indian civil services, and of seventy-three successful candidates returned the Queen's Colleges claimed six, being more than those returned for the University of London or for all Scotland. Considering the great endowments of Oxford and Cambridge, the number was such as to bear no mean comparison with those Universities. Was not this creditable to the Irish people, and did it show that these colleges were a failure? And was it not rather a subject of congratulation and hope that at so early a period of their institution so gratifying a result had been attained? The hon. Gentleman said that every graduate of these colleges cost the country £1,500, though that sum had been reduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick to £1,000. But what had the number of graduates to do with the number of pupils who received education in the colleges? If to obtain a degree was the object for which a pupil entered he could account for the comparison, but if they entered only for purposes of education he denied its fairness; and if few only attained degrees, it still showed that the value of the education was so great that many persons availed themselves of it without that object. A comparison with the number of degrees granted by the University of Edinburgh, which he did not think would be called a failure, would show that, looking to the number of pupils as compared with the number of degrees conferred, the comparison was in favour of the Queen's Colleges. He hoped that in future years these colleges would more largely extend the advantages of academical education, yet considering that there had graduated in them in the first seven years of their existence as many persons as had graduated in the University of London during the same time, it would not be just to assert that this system of education could properly be designated a failure. He would next turn to the other and larger question which had been under discussion—the national system of education in Ireland. Had that been a failure? His right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire said that every one admitted it had been a failure. To establish the assertion that a system had been a failure you must compare it with something. Reference had been made to the large sum which the Committee was in a few minutes about to vote for education in England. Comparing the system of education in England with that of Ireland, and considering the physical and moral difficulties which the latter had to encounter, it could not be said that the latter had been a failure? If they compared the present system of education in Ireland before the Earl of Derby wrote his celebrated letter, or with the system which prevailed before 1830, when Parliament refused a vote of money for its support on the ground that it was a failure, they would find that instead of being scarcely any schools or scholars at all there were at present 500 or 600 schools, and 500,000 or 600,000 pupils? They were told that the number of Protestants in the schools was insignificant, and that nothing that could be done would cause them to increase. But they had at least witnessed one thing with satisfaction. It was for the benefit of the Roman Catholic population that this bounty of Parliament was chiefly sought, and when they referred to the number of schools which existed in the county of Cork and saw how large a number of the pupils were Roman Catholics, did they think that the Earl of Derby in 1831, when the letter was written, ever expected that in thirty years there would have been between 400 and 500 national schools in the county of Cork. Such a result was far beyond anything he could have anticipated as the result of the system. The number of Protestants in the schools did not diminish, but on the contrary had largely increased, the number having risen since 1853 from 65,000 to 88,000. Had this system of education then produced no practical results? Was not the temper of the very discussion in which he was taking a part a most striking evidence of the beneficial results which had flowed from uniting the people of Ireland under one system of education provided by the State. He had before him a statement of a large number of facts which would show that the system, as a system of mixed education, had not failed so entirely as many hon. Gentlemen in the course of that discussion had asserted. But he did not hold that the only principle of national education should be that of mixed education, but he held that the main principle was that which had been laid down by the Commission on this subject of 1812, composed of some of the most eminent men in Ireland, including the Primate and Bishops of the Established Church. That body knowing the deplorable condition of the country, owing to the want of a system of education, asserted "that no plan of education, however wise in other respects, could be carried into execution unless it was understood that its first principle was, that no attempt should be made to disturb or interfere with the religious tenets of any sect." That was the principle on which it was founded, and in that sense the system of national education could not be said to be a failure. It might not be considered as absolutely successful as a system of mixed education. He did not say that it was. But they found that it was spread over the country, and that there was no great discrepancy as regarded the number of pu- pils in the four provinces. Where the proportion of intermixture in the population was large the mixed schools were many, and where the mixed schools were few it was in places where the population was composed of persons for the most part of one denomination or belief. There was a remarkable proportion among the Roman Catholic pupils, and those of the Established Church and the Presbyterian Church. Then, if they looked at the result of the model schools—what had been the result of the system practically and numerically? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin said that they had excellent books, loyal schools, admirable instruction, and fair inspection. If that was the case with between 500 and 600 schools was it possible to say that the system was a failure? It might be possible to raise it in the estimation of that House, and in the affection of the Irish people, but looking at it as it stood, it was impossible to say that it was a failure. Then he was told that religious education was excluded, but into that question he did not propose to enter; for having so recently acceded to his present office, he thought it would be better if he carefully examined into that question on the spot. Therefore he would pass lightly over that, which after all was the most critical part of the question. But he might say that if you had an excellent system of secular education, you greatly facilitated the progress in Ireland of sound religious teaching. It was impossible to have excellent books, loyal schools, admirable instruction, and fair inspection without preparing the ground for sowing that seed, the fruit of which he must acknowledge was alone of real importance. He believed that different shades of feeling would day by day and year by year come over the opinions of those who had to deal with this subject. He held in his hand a short address to his parishioners by one who was once a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. This gentleman stated that he was once an opponent of the National system, but he was not so now; that he was going to have under his care five schools, of which two should be under the system of the Church Education Society, and three under the National school system, but he would maintain in them the principles he had always held, which were quite compatible with an adherence to the system of the National Board. In his opinion, then, the practical result of the system had been invaluable to Ireland. He was talking last night to one of the most distinguished of those persons who had taken a part in the system, who knew Ireland well, and he went over with him all the causes which in the last three or four years had produced so much improvement in Ireland both as respected social change and national prosperity. It was not possible to eliminate from other causes the education which, by the wisdom of Parliament, had spread over Ireland; but when he appealed to this gentleman he said that the education afforded to the people of Ire-land demanded the highest place amongst those causes. If that was the case let it not be said that the system was a failure. He felt bound to acknowledge the kind manner in which the noble Lord (Lord Naas) and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) had appealed to him. They both stated that the late Government had in contemplation a scheme which 'would cause the system of national education to approach nearer to the Protestant view of the question in Ireland without breaking down the principle on which it was founded, and they appealed to him to give the subject a fair and dispassionate consideration. During the short time which he had as yet been able to spend in Ireland since he had entered on his present office he had made inquiry of the heads of the education department, and endeavoured to obtain some knowledge on the subject. He mentioned this to show that he had every disposition to give the matter a fair consideration. But he felt bound to speak with great caution with regard to any change in a system which had been founded by the Earl of Derby and favoured by the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who said that having gone to Ireland with a strong prejudice against the system, he had come back with a strong feeling in its favour. His noble Friend had called on him to deal with a question of so much delicacy that although it had been considered by the late Government, yet no decision had been arrived at with regard to it by the Cabinet. It would be presumption in him now to say one word which would imply more than a sincere desire to give the fullest, fairest, and completest consideration to any proposal, from whatever quarter it came, which was likely to increase the efficiency of the system of national education in Ireland. But he would not allow himself to convey to the Committee any impression that the Government was indifferent as to the principles that were to govern the system of national education in Ireland. His right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) proposed to abolish the National Board altogether, and place its schools wider the Privy Council. His right hon. Friend was far more sanguine than he was, if he saw his way to an identity of system between the two countries. He had, as far as he could, given his attention to a subject interesting to Ireland, and he rejoiced to be able to hold sanguine views of the future results of a system of education which had done much honour to the Earl of Derby as its founder, and which Sir Robert Peel and the Right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had taken a part in promoting. He would endeavour to receive all suggestions made to him in a spirit of candour and conciliation towards all sides, and, as far as he could, increase the efficiency of the National Board while retaining a principle the adherence to which he believed had conferred most important benefits on the country.

Motion agreed to.

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