HC Deb 20 July 1864 vol 176 cc1774-80

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he rose to move the second reading of the Bill, which had come down from the House of Lords. The object of it was to legalise what now took place without law—namely, the holding of divine worship in collegiate schools. Eton, Winchester, and other large schools had their own private chapels, to which the students resorted; and it was considered advisable to give the boys of other schools the advantage of Divine worship in the same way, as there was not really proper accommodation for them in many of the churches belonging to the particular parishes in which those schools were situated. It might be said that it would materially interfere with the parochial system, but surely that was absurd. Take the cases, for example, of Rugby or of Harrow. Surely it could not be considered that the boys in those schools were parishioners of either Rugby or Harrow, when it was well known they came from all parts of the kingdom? If the Bill were passed those schools would become to a certain extent separate parishes, and the cure of souls would be assigned to the schoolmaster of each school, with, of course, the assent of the Bishop. Any apprehensions lest an objectionable form of worship should be introduced into those collegiate chapels, would be found untenable when it was recollected that no school could thrive in which the religious teaching was not to a certain extent in accordance with the views of the parents of the pupils. The parents of the boys would therefore, he considered, have a greater control over the character of the Divine service in those schools than they had at present over the services performed in the parish churches. Such sermons as Dr. Arnold delivered at Rugby and Dr. Vaughan at Harrow were surely more appropriate and beneficial for an audience of boys than those which were usually addressed to mixed congregations, and it was desirable that every facility should be afforded for such services. The Bill was carefully worded, and only applied to schools incorporated by Act of Parliament or by charter, where the religious service was required to be in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England. By a clause in the Bill it was provided that no persons except residents or persons connected with the college should have power to enter those chapels. If the words were not stringent enough he would be ready in Committee to make any Amendment which would provide that the parochial system should not be interfered with, except so far as those who were legitimately connected with the college were concerned. After all, the parochial system was not the essence of religion, and he was at a loss to know how any objections could be raised against the Bill upon that score. He trusted that the House would assent to the principle of the measure by agreeing to the second reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Collins.)


said, he should move that the Bill be read a second time that day month. He looked upon the Bill as one introducing an innovation in respect to religious service in collegiate schools all over the country, which was highly objectionable. The hon. Member had spoken of the Bill being applicable to Harrow and Rugby, but if he looked to the interpretation clause he would find that neither Harrow nor Rugby would be affected by the Bill, inasmuch as neither of these schools was incorporated by charter or Act of Parliament—they were private foundations. He believed the real object of the Bill was to enable the masters of the schools known as King Edward Schools to conduct service morning and evening without the presence of the parents, and to administer the Communion without the control of the clergyman of the parish, and so that the parents of the children should have no control over the religious instruction imparted to them. Now, these schools were really established for towns, and not for scholars who were drawn from a distance by the reputation of the head master. At present the children of Dissenters attending these schools were only required to attend church once a day, and the parents might attend, and if any improper instruction were given them they could have it rectified; but if the Bill passed the parents could no longer be present at the service, as one of the provisions was that none but the boys should be present, and thus Dissenters would be practically excluded from the schools. He did not mean to say that under certain circumstances there should not be private chapels in connection with some of the largo schools, but a measure to provide such chapels required great consideration, and ought not to be introduced at the close of the Session, when there was not time to fully discuss it.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day month."—(Mr. Hardcastle.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that the real object of the Bill was very artfully concealed, so as to give it quite a plausible appearance. It would extend to all the grammar schools throughout the country, and would have the effect of compelling pupils to attend the services of the Church of England, even though they were not boarders, but lived with their parents. A new principle was thus introduced into education, and the rights, duties, and responsibility of parents were invaded. Wherever it was possible children ought to attend worship with their parents, and the domestic relations ought to be especially preserved in these sacred matters. Another objection to the Bill was, that it limited the choice of the managers of a school in the appointment of a master, as he must be a man in priest's orders; and, on the other hand, it imposed a new duty on the master which might prevent him from accepting clerical engagements elsewhere. That was an exceedingly inopportune time for bringing forward such a measure, for a Commission was talked of in regard to these schools, and this would naturally form one of the subjects of inquiry. The measure was quite uncalled for, and would do a great deal of harm. It would shut out Dissenters from the schools, give those institutions a narrow sectarian character, and create unhappy associations in the minds of boys between the school where perhaps they had been flogged, and the church in which they worshipped. The Bishops did not want the control that was to be given them by the Bill, and he considered the Bill, if carried, would have an injurious effect upon the schools by excluding large numbers who would not submit to it.


said, he should also support the Amendment. He protested against the practice of bringing in measures of such importance as the present at the close of the Session, when there was no time to consider them properly, and hurrying them through without proper explanation. He held that the Government ought to protect independent Members against such proceedings. He deprecated exceedingly the multiplication of religious services in schools. He could say from his own experience that the compulsory attendance of boys at frequent services had a tendency to create a distaste for religious matters. Boys were hurried to church every saint's day and holiday, and were thus led to regard attendance at service as an infliction from which they ware glad to escape. At present the masters and tutors had sufficient means of instructing those under their charge in strict religious principles. The Bill would interfere not with the large schools so much as with the grammar schools throughout the country, and would create a prejudice against the Established Church. He thought it was a wholesome and proper custom that children should accompany their parents to church. A notice had been put on the paper on behalf of the Government, which showed that they deemed it necessary that some protection should be given to the Nonconformists; but the Amendment proposed was not sufficient for the purpose. He trusted the House would not agree to so mischievous a measure.


said, he objected to the Bill. It would have the effect of fastening on many of the schools a more exclusive connection with the Established Church than they now possessed. Great difficulty would arise in working the act in the giving a definition to what schools it was to apply, the schools described being those "incorporated by Her Majesty for the purpose of instruction in religious and useful learning in accordance with the Church of England." He concurred that the multiplication of these chapels would tend to abuse the religious feeling of the people. He would give an instance of the evil effect of the present system on boys, and that evil effect would no doubt increase if the Bill passed. A boy on leaving one of the public schools, took off his hat, and addressing the chapel, said—"Good bye. I have been in you often enough. I'll take care I don't attend another." He thought the daily prayers should be shortened, rather than increased.


said, that a sort of phantom fear possessed hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to this measure. The spirit of the hon. Member for Peterborough seemed to pervade them, and to inspire them with a vague fear of the "Pope being at the bottom of it." The initiative in regard to the services contemplated by the Bill was to be taken not by the masters but by the governing bodies of the schools. He was not aware of any intention to hold morning and evening services in the school chapels, and believed that the apprehensions on that score were groundless. It would not be an injury to the head-masters to call on them to preach to the boys. On the contrary, it would be a benefit to them to be able to combine the ordinary work of tuition with the discharge of clerical functions. It would also be an advantage to the boys and would improve the general tone of the schools. He deprecated as much as any one the separation of boys from their families in religious worship, but he did not see that it was necessarily involved in the working of the Bill. At any rate, he was sure that if any strong feeling on the subject were expressed by the parents, it would be respected. It had already been sufficiently provided by the Act which was passed some time since, that the children of Nonconformist parents should be exempt from religious instruction in grammar schools, and therefore the argument that the Bill would exclude Dissenters from these schools failed. He had no doubt that in Committee there would be a disposition to include the large schools as well as the others. To the third and fourth clauses he objected, as they were an unjustifiable interference with the authority of the rector and churchwardens.


said, he concurred in a great deal that had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) as to the inconvenience of Bills of such importance coming down from the other House so late in the Session. The measure had created considerable, although he believed exaggerated alarm among the Nonconformist members of the community, and more time should be allowed for its consideration. Looking to the importance of the principle, to the nature of some of the details, and to the strong objections urged even by the supporters of the Bill to part of it, he thought that it should be sent to a Select Committee, and, on that understanding, would have been willing to vote for the second reading. It was not at all clear from the second clause what schools were included in the Bill; and alarm was caused by the supposition that it would comprehend all the smaller as well as the great grammar schools throughout the country. By the foundation of most of these schools they were intended to afford religious instruction according to the Church of England; but as day pupils, if not as boarders, the children of Nonconformists attended. Now, if the effect of the Bill would be to compel the attendance of all pupils at the services of the Church of England, that was a measure which the House, he was sure, would not be prepared to sanction. It would be right in any case to limit the operation of the Bill to boarders and perhaps also to schools with not less than a certain number of scholars. It would be very inconvenient to have every small grammar school setting up a chapel of its own. Nothing was said in the Bill about daily services, but they might be established under it, and the service could not be abridged. Under these circumstances, and considering the period of the Session, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press the Bill that year.


said, he felt that, under the circumstances, he had no resource but to withdraw the Bill for the Session.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Second Reading put off till this day fortnight.