HC Deb 11 June 1863 vol 171 cc712-7

said: Sir, I would not ask the attention of the House to the subject of endowed charities upon this occasion, were it not that the point of view from which I wish it to look at them is totally different from that to which it has been of late accustomed. I wish it to look at a certain portion of the endowed charities of this country, not as a subject for taxation, but for reformation. I wish to point out the enormous and most melancholy waste of power which arises from our not making the best use of those vast revenues, which the piety, or the vanity, or the enlightenment of our forefathers has scattered broadcast over almost all those parts of England which were tolerably populous and prosperous in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This waste of power, Sir, is all the more to be deplored, because it reduces the funds at our command for educational purposes almost to a level with countries over which the storm of revolution swept at the end of last century. In these countries, the kind of endowments of which I speak have generally ceased to exist; with us they continue to exist, but have become well-nigh useless. My object, Sir, in putting, some months ago, my notice upon the order book, with a view of bringing it on before going into the Educational Estimates, was to press upon the House what seems to me the very wise and statesmanlike proposal of the Education Commissioners who reported in 1861. That proposal, if carried out, will, I feel, at once diminish the sum which we vote for elementary education upon the Estimates, and will very greatly improve alike our elementary and our middle class education. In order, Sir, that I may impart into the few remarks which I wish to make as few facts which may be gainsaid as possible, I will make use of no instances of abuse of charities except those which are to be found in the Report of the Commissioners themselves, or in the Report made to them by their very able and zealous assistant, Mr. Cumin, which has been published under their authority. There are some most flagrant cases of abuse of charitable foundations, which I had marked for especial notice; but the country has recently, I need not say how, become so well acquainted with them, that it will be unnecessary for me to say a word about the Coventry charities, or about Lovejoy's charity, or about that charity which has damned to everlasting fame the name and the folly of "Old Jarvis." It is more than probable that many hon. Members who have not given special attention to this subject have a very inadequate idea of the enormous amount of our endowed charities. The following sentences from the Report of the Commissioners of 1861 may, then, give them some idea of the magnitude of the interests which are being compromised by our pre sent system, or want of system, in our charity administration:— The aggregate income of all the charities of England and Wales, educational, 'for the poor,' and for specific objects of other kinds, was in 1818–1837, £1,209,395. To this is to be added about one-fifth for subsequent increase of value. The Charity Commissioners had also, up to 1856, ascertained and registered the particulars of more than 3,000 charities of all descriptions, which had either been founded since the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry, or had escaped their notice. Our endowed charities fall for the most part into six great classes:—(1.) Endowments now applicable to education; (2.) Loan Charities; (3.) Dole Charities; (4) Miscellaneous Charities, which have become impossible of execution; (5.) Apprenticeship Charities; and (6.) Alms Houses. I shall have a little to say of each of these in their order. The charities now applicable to educational purposes are of three kinds:—Classical schools, schools which are not classical, and endowments set apart for educating a certain number of children. In all these three classes great abuses prevail, and few indeed of them are doing as much for the public service as they ought to do. To make only a selection:—In the first place, for these vices, parents are aided by them in educating, clothing, and maintaining their children to a greater extent than is necessary. The leading case of abuse in this respect, is Christ's Hospital, where, amongst other things, £5,104 per annum is thrown away upon dressing the unfortunate boys in a mountebank costume; that is to say, the means of educating a thousand more hoys is squandered. Christ's Hospital, however, is merely one amongst many. A long list of similar schools—orange, blue, grey, and I do not know what, is given in Mr. Cumin's Report. One of the most ridiculous of these is Worrell's School, in the parish of St. Giles, Cripple gate, the boys of which are known, from their remarkable costume, as "yellow-hammers." Of this costume no one has a good word to say but the rector, who thinks that any objection to it is overweighed by its picturesque appearance in church, and by the fact that it is a visible commemoration of a great event in national history. I do not wish to detain the House, otherwise I could read cases of this, which I have called the first vice of our endowed schools, gathered together from all England. For Mr. Cumin has collected some twenty cases for the Commissioners, and for us; but his Report is or ought to be in all our hands, and so it may be enough to refer to it The second great vice of endowed schools is, that they very often do not supply the kind of education which is wanted. There are many cases in which these schools are quite, or almost empty, because they offer only a classical education, and there is no demand for a classical education in the places with which they are connected. This vice is profusely illustrated in Mr. Cumin's Report. A third vice in our educational charities is the small amount of the little rent-charges which are often devoted to the educating one or more children. They are so small as to be practically useless; whereas, if they could be combined, they might often be made very useful. Then the masters of our endowed schools are often very incompetent, and there is no proper inspection. The whole of them, in short, require to be overhauled. But this is not all; there are in the country many other charities, not originally intended for educational purposes, which might, with great advantage to the poor, be wholly or partially employed for their education. First, then, Sir, we have the loan charities, the amount of which is very large, though not accurately ascertained, and with regard to which the Assistant Commissioner says, that so far as he is able to ascertain, the loans do little, if any good. Some of them appear to be mismanaged, while others have large sums lying in bank, which they are unable to use, for want of applications. Then come dole charities, representing an income of £200,000 a year, which is frittered away for purposes almost always useless, and generally mischievous. To this class belongs the charity of the immortal Jarvis; and the Smith charity, which is devoted to panperizing the Smiths; and the Guy charity, which is devoted to pauperizing the Guys. On these I will not dwell longer; but surely, while still keeping them for the poor, they might be so employed as to aid the education of the poor. Next, there is a large class of charities, the objects of which have become impossible of execution. Thus a tobacconist left a field, with directions that the rental should be held in trust to supply six poor women with snuff at Barthelemy tide. The field became valuable building land. If all the revenue bad been devoted to buying snuff, the old women would have been buried in it. Should not this, which is only one absurd case taken out of many, be dealt with by the Legislature in a comprehensive measure, and the revenue no longer wanted for snuff applied, either to improve the quality and quantity of our education, or to diminish the Parliamentary grant, instead of being dealt with by Court of Chancery under the doctrine of ci-pres? Another flagrant case, to which the same remarks apply, is that of the Society for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors, where, under a very recent Act of Parliament, a few gentlemen have now the power to devote to any charitable purposes they please the income arising from a capital of more £100,000. Another thoroughly bad class of charities are the Apprenticeship Charities. Will the House believe that not less than £50,000 a year is devoted to this purpose? This kind of charity is not only useless, but positively detrimental, because good workmen are not tempted by the small premiums which are given, and bad workmen are tempted to take boys into their service. The whole might be devoted to the direct encouragement of education, and taken in aid of the Parliamentary grant for pupil teachers, without the slightest injustice to anybody; or might be used as prizes in the nature of exhibitions to be given to the best scholars in the districts to which the Apprenticeship Charities are now attached, prises in the nature of exhibitions, intended to enable clever and deserving children to remain longer at school than the necessities of their parents might otherwise permit them to do. Then there are Alms Houses, with which the Commissioners of 1861 do not propose to deal. Perhaps they are right, but many of them are so badly managed that they do nothing but harm, and I fear too often the only persons who profit by them are often people who, under the title of masters, laugh and grow fat upon comfortable sinecures. We have seen the gross annual income of these charities, and we can compare it with the amount of the educational Vote which lies before us. Let us look at them now in another way. Let us take the case of three counties, Bedford, Middlesex, and Lancashire, and see what large grants are made for their education by Parliament in spite of the numbers and wealth of their charitable foundations. The annual income of the Bedford charities in 1859 amounted to £13,720 15s. 6d. Yet the county of Bedford received from 1833 to 1859 a sum of £18,388 11s. 8d. in aid of its elementary education. The charities of Middlesex, including London and Westminster, amounted to £303,151 13s. 1d. per annum. Yet Middlesex, including London and Westminster, received from 1833 to 1859, £296,570 0s.d. from the lavish bounty of Parliament. The income of the Lancashire charities is £35,322 9s. 1d.; yet Lancashire received, during the same period, £386,539 7s.d. The annual amounts which I mention are those of all endowed charities taken together in Bedford, Middlesex, and Lancashire respectively. But these three counties possessed an annual revenue of £1,985 12s. 10d., £81,682 5s. 8d., and £19,459 13s. 11d. respectively, belonging exclusively to charities which are even now treated as educational charities. And yet, in spite of all these funds, which, if tolerably regulated, ought to be amply sufficient, enormous sums were yearly drawn from the public to fill the void which is caused by local mismanagement and want of central direction. In the words of Mr. Cumin— One year's income of the Middlesex Charities, including London and Westminster, exceeds all the grants towards education in the same county during the last twenty-six years. Eighteen months' income of the Bedford Charities would have supplied all the grants towards education made to the same county during twenty-six years. In the wealthy county of Lancashire, which has received most money from the Education Grant—a sum, in fact, of £386,539 within the last twenty-six years—it seems that, according to the digest, the charities amount to £35,222 per annum. But large as the Government grant is, it would have been covered by applying to education less than half the annual income of the charities. It is no part, Sir, of my object to go in detail into the question of the best remedy for the evils which I have pointed out. I have merely wished to call the attention of the House to the existence of great evils, and, above all, of great waste; to press upon it the recommendation of the Commission of 1861, to re-invigorate the Charity Commission by connecting it with a department of the Privy Council, and making the Committee of Council on Education the Committee on Education and Charities. Since I put my notice on the paper, Government has shown itself not unwilling to deal with the question, and I sincerely trust that it will ere long bring forward some comprehensive measure upon this most important subject. There will be much opposition from two quarters—from those whose interests or fancied interests will suffer, and from those whose bugbear is centralization. Against the first, a Government will be sure to prevail, if once the honest opinion of the country is certainly on its side. With regard to the second, I submit, that although too much centralization is a very bad thing, too little centralization is just as bad. Let those whose bugbear is centralization go and preach decentralization in Paris, where a single man controls, by touching the wire of the telegraph, all the public functionaries, and all the newspapers from the Pyrenees to the Belgian frontier; let them go and preach centralization in Vienna, where M. Schmerling is perilling the splendid constitutional experiment which Austria is now making by too much neglecting the traditions of local liberties; but let them not run away with the idea that centralization is necessarily an evil in a country where no step can be taken in that direction without encountering an opposition which it will be utterly unable to surmount unless the reason of the country is convinced, and where a long practice of constitutional Government has made each Minister wise enough to remember that his successor will probably be his enemy. On a former occasion, when I had the honour to propose the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into our public and endowed schools, the Government met me half-way, and appointed a Commission to inquire into our public schools. I cannot expect them to go so far in this case, because it may be doubted whether public opinion on the subject to which I have now called attention is altogether matured; but I trust the right hon. Gentleman who sits below me will say a little on the subject, in order that we may know that the en lightened opinions which we heard some weeks ago were not those of only one member of the Government, however eminent.