HC Deb 17 June 1863 vol 171 cc1004-8

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he was sorry to learn that a great many Petitions had been presented against the Bill, but he was of opinion that much of the opposition entertained to it arose from unfounded statements which had been made with respect to his motives in introducing the Bill, and also from misapprehensions of what would be the working of the measure itself. He felt that the Bill was one of great importance, and that the misapprehensions he alluded to could only be dispelled by a full and fair discussion in that House. He was not aware when he fixed the second reading for that day that it was the day appointed for the celebration of the Oxford Commemoration, at which many Members of the House, including the representatives of the University, were naturally anxious to be present. He had, in consequence, been asked by several hon. Gentlemen to postpone the discussion on the measure to another day; but he did not deem it consistent with his public duty to do so, inasmuch as he knew that at that period of the Session it would be difficult to find another opportunity of bringing it on. He therefore suggested that the second reading should be taken pro formâ, and the discussion raised at the next stage of the Bill. That course did not meet the views of the hon. Members to whom he alluded. On re-considering the matter, however, and being strongly of opinion that the question was one which it was desirable should be fully discussed, being the last man, moreover, who would wish to take advantage of the absence of his opponents in dealing with a subject of such large national interest, and there being but little chance of his being able to carry the Bill this Session, he thought he should be pursuing the best course if he were not to ask the House to proceed with it any further. In taking that step, however, it was fully his intention again to re-open the question. Meantime he might be permitted to observe, as he had been made the object of censure for the part which he had taken in the matter, and as the character of the Bill seemed to have been much misapprehended, that it was by no means meant to be an assault upon the Established Church, but rather a resistance to an attack which had emanated from that quarter based on the decision in the Ilminster case. It was in promotion of the principle of civil and re ligious liberty that he had framed the Bill, and he did not, he might add, attach any very great weight to the numerous Petitions which he admitted had been presented against it, because he believed them to be, for the most part, the result of a well-disciplined organization. The hon. Gentleman, in conclusion, moved that the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill be discharged.


said, he rose to express his satisfaction at the course taken by the hon. Gentleman in withdrawing the Bill. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that there was no intention on the part of any of the opponents of the Bill to make a personal attack upon him, or throw any aspersions upon him for the course he had taken. On the contrary, they were ready to acknowledge the temperate manner in which the hon. Gentleman generally dealt with these subjects. The hon. Gentleman had always advocated the views which he entertained on the subject of those endowed schools in the most fair and candid manner. The present measure was, however, he thought, even more objectionable than any of those which he had previously introduced on the subject, and he would further say that he (Mr. Selwyn) must protest against the Ilminster case, which they had all hoped was dead and buried, being again dragged forward. The Judges on the Ilminster case' did not lay down any general rule; but, on the contrary, simply recognising the existing rule, which had been fairly and impartially acted upon for many years, they applied it to the circumstances of the case before them. He trusted that the Bill would not be re-introduced. The House had been engaged in these religious discussions with very little profit or useful result, and he hoped that in future the labours of the hon. Gentleman and the dissenting body would be directed to questions more likely to prove beneficial to the masses of the population. He hoped, judging from the course the hon. Gentleman had taken in withdrawing this Bill, that it was not enthusiastic or visionary to anticipate that they were really approaching the end of these controversies. At any rate, he trusted that if any measure was to be introduced upon the subject hereafter, it would be introduced in a very different spirit from that which characterized the present Bill. So far as the remark that the Petitions against the present Bill were the result of a systematic organization' was concerned, he would say that Petitions had been presented against it from the two Universities and other bodies which were not open to the insinuation which that remark would convey. With no party feeling then, but with every desire to act justly, he begged to second the Motion for the discharge of the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill.


explained that he had not alluded to any discourteous attack upon him in the House, but to what had taken place out of doors.


said, that he regretted very much that the Bill had ever been introduced, and was therefore glad that it was about to be withdrawn. The hon. Member said that the object of the Bill was to promote civil and religious liberty, He would just point out that under the provisions of this Bill a Dissenter might found a school for the benefit of Dissenters, and it might be preserved for their benefit; but if a king founded a school for the benefit of the Church of England, it could not be preserved for the benefit of the Church. Speaking from experience, he would say, that if the end which the hon. Gentleman who brought forward the measure sought to attain was the promotion of tolerant views between Churchmen and Dissenters, he had taken a course in proposing such a measure eminently calculated to defeat that object. In his official capacity he was every day dealing with parties who were drawing up regulations for the management of schools connected with the Church of England. These parties wished to establish regulations which would virtually exclude Dissenters, and the great difficulty with which the Committee of Council had to contend in the case of those endowments, in order to secure a spirit of reasonable toleration towards Dissenters was, that those who were opposed to action in that direction were able to point to proposals which went so far as that of the hon. Gentleman. If, therefore, the hon. Gentleman would duly consider how much damage he did to a cause which he believed him to have really at heart, by making such proposals, he felt assured he would deem it to be his duty not to continue to press them upon the attention of the House.


said, he rose to express a hope, that notwithstanding what had fallen from the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education, the hon. Member for Swansea would introduce the Bill in the next Session. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had misrepresented the object of the Bill, which was not to create ill-feeling between Churchmen and Dissenters, but to place the law with reference to endowed schools on a fair and reasonable footing. As an instance of the way in which the law now operated, he might mention the case of a grammar school in Northampton which had been founded many years ago, nothing having been said in the foundation deed as to the religion which should be taught in it. Subsequently the income of the school had been augmented by the diversion of other charities, and upon none of the occasions of such diversion was there anything said on the subject. Now, it seemed that the Attorney General had the power of framing rules for the management of the schools, and in accordance with a rule lately made, it was laid down that both the head and second master should be members of the Church of England. That rule, it would at once be seen, operated harshly in the case of Dissenters, with reference to whose exclusion from those situations nothing whatever was said in the deed of foundation. He hoped that in a future year the hon. Member for Swansea would bring on a bill to set the law right in that respect.


said, he should not have made any remark, had it not been for the parting kick which the right hon. Gentleman had given the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said that measures of the kind tended to prevent the settlement of religious disputes between Churchmen and Dissenters; but he (Mr. W. E. Forster) could conceive nothing more likely to prevent the settlement of such questions than the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman. The people of the country generally would look with great suspicion upon that course, when they found a right hon. Gentleman who had obtained his present position in the House by advocating the claims of the Dissenters to civil and religious liberty, so far forsaking that position as to talk of toleration as the only object the Dissenters had in view.


said, it was a mere personal objection that was raised to the Bill. It was a moderate measure, and was only intended to abolish an insult; no interest of the Church was affected by it. It was by moving ecclesiastical and spiritual hatred that the Bill had been defeated.

Order discharged:—Bill withdrawn.