§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he should not have asked the House to proceed further with it at so late a period of the Session had it not been that Lord Shaftesbury had introduced into the House of Lords a measure on the same subject, which had passed a second reading about a fortnight ago without any objection to it being offered on the part of the Government. He felt bound to assume, therefore, that the principles of that measure were sanctioned by them, and, as there were between it and his Bill some points of fundamental difference, he wished to invite the House to pronounce an opinion as to which of them it was desirable should be made the basis of legislation. The Bill of Lord Shaftesbury provided that children employed in agriculture should attend school a certain number of hours during the year—400 hours in winter and 200 in summer; while he proposed that their attention should be regulated on the half-time or alternate day system. Experience proved that the latter system had been eminently successful, and the House had but the day before agreed to extend it to almost every branch of industry in the country. It was, on the contrary, shown by experience that the system of attendance for a certain number of hours had worked badly, and the Committee which sat on the subject had stated in their Report that it was, in their opinion, desirable that the Print Works Act should be amended in that respect, inasmuch as it did not work as well as the Factory Acts. Again, there was the experience connected with agricultural pursuits which was entirely in favour of his views. A very eminent 488 agriculturist, Mr. Paget, had tried the alternate day system, and his testimony was to the effect that he had found it eminently successful. The going from work to school and from school to work on alternate days formed an agreeable change. But the consequence of the adoption of the certain number of hours' system was that the children were at one time overworked and at another over-schooled, and that being at school for two or three months and absent for two or three months more, they gradually forgot what they had previously learnt. He had, he might add, fully considered all the practical difficulties which stood in the way of applying the half-time system as he proposed, and they were not, he believed, greater than existed in the case of other branches of industry to which the House had determined to extend it. As a matter of detail he might mention that of course provision was made for harvest time, so that the Bill would not interfere merely with the hours of labour on such special occasions. He next came to the most difficult part of the subject—the necessity of providing suitable schools for the children—a subject with which Lord Shaftesbury had not dealt in the slightest degree. It might be said that education in the rural districts was spreading, and why, under those circumstances, it might be asked, did he invite the House to interfere in the matter instead of leaving time to do its work, as it was doing? In 1860 an exhaustive Report had been published on the educational condition of the poor, and no one who had read that Report could fail to see that the state of education in those districts was anything but satisfactory. It was, in fact, most disgraceful. They voted large sums of money year by year for the purposes of education, and there was an increasing zeal displayed on the part of private individuals in the promotion of education. The members of all religious denominations were exhibiting the most admirable and praiseworthy zeal in the matter. But though there were in many districts admirable schools, with excellent teachers at the head of them, they failed to remedy the evil of children being taken away from schools at too early an age, for the purpose of earning wages by their employment on farms and other occupations. According to recent returns it appeared that in latter years the proportion of children taken away for such purposes was gradually increasing. In 489 rural districts the curious fact was to be noticed that a greater proportion of the men at or above fifty years of age could read or write than of those between the ages of twenty and thirty. That might be accounted for from the circumstance that about forty years ago there was a great surplus of agricultural labour, and in consequence of the demand being so low, there were more children at that time sent to school. There was, however, now an active demand for such labour, Consequently it was no uncommon thing to find children as young as seven or eight years of age taken from school and placed in a position whereby they might be able to earn by their labour some weekly wages for their parents. They, therefore, soon forgot what they had previously learnt. There were three motives for the removal of children at an early age from school, avarice, ignorance, and the poverty of parents. If avarice were the motive which actuated parents in taking away their children from school, the State had an undoubted right to step in for the purpose of protecting the child from the avarice of its parents, by sending it to school. If in consequence of the ignorance of the parents the child was taken away at an early age from school, then there was an additional motive for educating the rising generation. When a man was educated himself, as a general rule he was better able to appreciate the advantages of education in others, and such men in their turn would not require any force or persuasion to send their children to school. So that legislation on this subject might be viewed as a temporary proceeding necessary in order to meet a temporary difficulty, and in a few years little legislation would be required on the subject. The third circumstance which caused the removal of young children from school was the most difficult to deal with—namely, the poverty of the parents. To a poor labourer earning only the scanty wages of 10s. a week, it would seem a hard thing to say that he should be deprived of the earnings of his child of eight or nine years old, whose earnings though perhaps only 1s. or 1s. 6d. a week, were, after all, of considerable use to the parents, enabling them to obtain some of the necessaries of life. But when it was considered that the effect of the withdrawal of those children from the labour market would be the reduction, of the supply, and cones- 490 quently, according to the axiom of economic science, the augmentation of the value of labour, the loss on behalf of the parents would not ultimately be so great as appeared at first sight. The case of the miserably paid labourers of Wiltshire and Dorsetshire might be considered an exceptional one, because those counties, as far as agricultural labour was concerned, might be looked upon as quite separate localities, and not to be affected by the labour markets of Yorkshire, or any other parts of England. The farmers of Wiltshire and Dorsetshire had some such system as this. They met together, and, having considered the price of wheat—the price of meat never once entered into their calculation—they asked themselves what it was possible for a labouring man with a family to live upon? They did not, however, leave out of their calculation the wages which, his children might earn for him. If, then, Parliament should insist upon those children spending a portion of their time in schools, the result would be that the earnings of the latter could not be taken into account; and that the farmers would be obliged to pay their labourers higher wages. If the labourers of Dorsetshire and Wiltshire were educated, and knew what was going on in other parts of the country, they would acquire a spirit of enterprize and energy. They would never be content with the miserable wages of 10s. a week, but would betake themselves to those localities where they would receive a higher amount of compensation. Agriculture had greatly improved of late years, and had become so much of a science that it was absolutely necessary for the farmers to avoid the loss which must accrue to them, from having labourers belonging to an ignorant class. As agriculture now required the use of expensive and complicated machinery, it was absolutely essential that the farmers should have competent labourers, to whom that machinery might be intrusted. Increased intelligence on the part of the labourers vastly increased their efficiency, so that more wealth would be produced to be distributed in wages to them and in profit to the farmers. He came now to the most complicated part of his measure. It was a serious thing for Parliament to say that the children in the agricultural districts should attend school, if there were no guarantee given that a school would be brought within their reach. The hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) used that argu- 491 ment with great force on the previous day in reference to the provisions of the Factories Bill. But it applied with still greater force to a measure like that now before the House. The factories were generally to be found in towns, and there were few towns without schools. Not so in the rural districts. It was provided by this Bill, therefore, that no child should be compelled to attend school, unless that school was situated within three miles of his home. But the farmers and landholders, who were the chief support of the schools in rural districts, might render this legislation nugatory by simply withholding their further support to those schools, the result of which would be that the schools would be shut up. He therefore thought it necessary to insert a provision in this Bill whereby schools should be established in all such districts of a certain size within a reasonable distance of the residence of the children, and that to meet their expense the ratepayers should be required to come to its assistance. Though he had thrown the burden of maintaining these schools on the ratepayers, he was not enamoured of the principle of rating. The Bill gave every encouragement possible to the voluntary system; but if there was not sufficient zeal in a district to provide a school of the humblest kind, then under the Bill the principle of rating would be brought into operation. He did not propose in any way to interfere with the religious teaching in those schools, but left that question to be determined by the majority of the ratepayers. Religious teaching did not simply consist of the knowledge of the Church catechism and of certain doctrines. All kinds of information, such as geography, history, and, in fact, everything that tended to expand the mind, and to bring it more and more in contact with the wonders of nature, might be considered as having a fine moral and religious effect upon the minds of youth. Whilst throwing the burden of those schools upon the ratepayers, they, in their turn, would receive a great advantage from these schools, because, by educating the people they were introducing the most powerful agent to diminish the rates generally, because those rates were chiefly swelled from causes that were directly traceable to ignorance. Whilst providing for the establishment of schools in districts where they were wanted, he did not propose to interfere at all with those schools which were already established, 492 but would allow the principle of voluntaryism to have its full sway. A Commission, it might be said, had been appointed to investigate this subject, and that he ought to wait for its Report. But that Commission was rather directed to an inquiry into the agricultural gang system. They had already the fullest information upon this subject in the Report of the Commission which had been presided over by the Duke of Newcastle. Yesterday, when the Home Secretary urged the House to go into Committee upon the Factories Bill, he said that every week's delay in the matter would probably produce great mischief. He (Mr. Fawcett) believed that remark to be equally true when applied to the state of education in the rural districts. He thought that as far as possible legislation upon this subject should be uniform, otherwise it would probably cause discontent amongst the manufacturers and others, who would complain that the measure treated one district differently from another. He had confined his Bill entirely to children under thirteen. The object of legislating for young persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, engaged in manufacturing industry, was to prevent them from being overworked or kept too long in crowded and unhealthy rooms. Agricultural pursuits were, however, of a different character. The work was healthy; it was carried on in the open air, and the children could not be often overworked. He had also treated boys and girls alike in his Bill — differing in this respect from Lord Shaftesbury's — because light agricultural work was not unsuitable to young females: He had no hope of passing this Bill during the present Session, but he desired to have an expression of the House in favour of its merits, and an approval of the principle it contained. If the Bill were met by a direct negative he should divide upon it; if the objections were as to time or details he should not. This was a subject on which he had thought long and anxiously. It was melancholy to reflect that, when a measure for extending the franchise to every other class was before the House, the stoutest and staunchest Liberal — if a proposal had been made to confer it on agricultural labourers engaged, though they were, in the most important industry of the country — would, have deemed them to be in a condition which rendered them unfit to be intrusted with the duties of citizenship. He therefore appealed to the 493 Government to whom he felt grateful for the Factory Acts Extension Bill, to complete that legislation by applying similar provisions to the agricultural districts. The conduct of those who in past years assumed to represent agriculture, not so much by looking after the condition of the labourer as by maintaining a vicious monopoly, would be forgotten if they now showed they were anxious not to promote measures which would add to the rent of the landlords or promote the benefit of the farmers, but to support a measure which would raise the condition of agricultural labourers and make them worthy of the country and of the industry to which they belonged.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Fawcett.)
§ MR. ARTHUR PEEL
said, that he seconded the Motion. He regretted that the Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Bruce) had not been accepted by the House and referred to the Select Committee to which he should have wished this also to have been referred. The mixture of compulsion and voluntaryism, which was the principle of that Bill, would have done much to remedy the present state of educational destitution; and the School Commissioners proposed under that Bill would have brought before the country the full state of our educational destitution. With regard to the religious teaching, he thought Mr. Fraser had been misunderstood. It was said that Mr. Fraser was the strong advocate of the denominational system, but that, in consequence of what he saw and heard in America, against his predilections he felt himself bound to prefer the secular system. Mr. Fraser did no such thing. On the contrary, he warned the country of the dangers to which secular education would lead, by showing that in America the upper classes were looking forward to its result with apprehension and dismay, and he drew therefrom the favourable and just conclusion that morality without religion was a cold and lifeless substitute, and that to be a warm and living principle it must be based upon religious teaching. It was useless to say that children should be compelled to be educated if they did not provide the means for doing so. As a general rule they said these children must be educated; yet they proposed to give the magistrates such 494 large powers of granting dispensation that it would be difficult to know what was the rule and what was the exception. The Privy Council system, though it had presented a model of education throughout the country, was not expansive enough to meet the requirements of the age. It had failed to reach the most destitute districts, leaving those districts destitute of relief which were most destitute of funds. The only means of remedying that destitution seemed to be a compulsory rate and a compulsory attendance at school for children in rural districts. He did not mean to contend that there was no other method of replacing the deficiency except by making attendance at school compulsory; but he asserted that in places where the agricultural children were entirely destitute of the means of education, it was necessary to rescue them from ignorance by some contrivance or other, and to interpose in some way between parent and child, when the former sought to gain an addition to his earnings at the expense of the entirely neglected condition of the child. He should be willing to sanction even more decided measures than had been proposed, because he was convinced that if, by such means, they could once educate a whole generation of children, the benefits so gained would never be lost, for they would be so appreciated that they who had thus been educated would be most anxious that their children, in their turn, should participate in the blessings which they had themselves enjoyed.
§ MR. BEACH
said, he moved as an Amendment that the Bill should be read a second time that day three months. He did not deny that it was a crying evil that the agricultural population should be suffered to grow up in a state of ignorance; but he considered that the means proposed in this Bill to remedy that state of things were utterly impracticable. The children of agricultural labourers generally were most imperfectly educated, and it was most desirable that something should be done to improve their condition in this respect. It was a question of grave importance how they should attain the object they all had in view. The non-attendance of children at school in the agricultural districts was to be attributed chiefly to the desire of the parents to supplement their small weekly earnings by the addition of the pay received for their children's labour. He did not, however, attribute it to avarice on their part; but 495 from a natural desire to eke out their means of living. Parents were not sufficiently alive to the advantages of education, and it was of the greatest importance that they should be convinced that those who had the benefits of education in early life generally attained a better pecuniary position from their becoming skilled labourers than those who did not possess that advantage. Much of the present evils was due to the deficiencies of the opportunities of education. The grants made by the Privy Council were more for the benefit of large town parishes than for the agricultural districts. The disproportion was far greater than many supposed. He found from a Return that had been published that in parishes of 5,000 inhabitants and upwards, 587 schools were aided and 31 unaided; in parishes of from 1,000 to 5,000 inhabitants, there were 1,787 aided and 837 unaided schools; in parishes of 500 to 1,000 inhabitants, there were 1,118 aided and 1,756 unaided schools; in those which might be especially called agricultural parishes, where the population did not exceed 500, there were 981 aided and 7,780 unaided schools. It might be said it was the fault of the smaller parishes that they did not avail themselves of the conditions prescribed by the Committee of Council; but the conditions very properly made indispensable for aid in large parishes were inapplicable in small parishes. For instance, a certificated schoolmaster or schoolmistress was insisted upon; and that might be a very valuable security for the efficient conduct of a school; but in small parishes it could hardly be expected that a certificated teacher could be employed. If some scheme could be devised under which national aid might be extended to small parishes, a great step would be taken to encourage the spread of education in agricultural parishes. As the Commissioners said in their Report, aid was not obtained by the very schools which most needed it. It was said that this, to a certain extent, was a labour question; that the parents were obliged to put their children to work at an early age to increase their earnings, and allusion had been made to Dorset and Wilts. That was not the case. In many parts of Dorset wages had been raised 2s. per week without having the effect of inducing the labourers to work more efficiently than formerly. The small amount of weekly wages paid to agricultural labourers in many parts of those counties 496 arose from a circumstance peculiar to those districts. In many parts they did not work as other labourers did; and there were some districts where they insisted on having two hours for dinner time in the middle of the day. What was required was something that would practically produce a change for the better. In 1850 the percentage of children under ten years of age who were at school throughout the country was 62 per cent; in 1866 it was 71. It appeared from the Reports of the Inspectors that the children were taken from school at an earlier ago in mining districts than they were in agricultural districts. This Bill only proposed to deal with, parishes strictly agricultural; but it thus appeared that there were other parts of the country not agricultural where there was a deficiency in the means of education. When, therefore, they proposed to apply compulsory legislation to only one section of the community, they ought to bear in mind what was the state of things existing in that part of the community which was to be exempted from this compulsory legislation. The attendance of children after a certain period of life decreased, which arose from the fact that they were sent to school earlier now than formerly, in order to be out of the way. The hon. Member for Brighton proposed to deal with this question by the application of the alternate day system—namely, that children should be at work and at school every other day. This might be a very good plan if applied to manufactures, but in agriculture it could not be carried out. The farmer's operations depended on the weather; but if on any day — no matter what the weather might have been—a farmer wished to send a boy with a team, he would not be able to do so unless the boy had been to school the day before. He did not see how the alternate system could be carried out without the employment of a double number of children. Then, according to the Bill, the magistrates in Petty Sessions were to decide on the necessity of making a rate for school buildings. This would convert the magistrates into a local Committee of Council on education, who would have, moreover, to decide on the education to be received in their districts—an onerous and oppressive duty. This duty would also tend to embroil the magistrates with their neighbours. The neighbours would ask who were the magistrates; and the answer would be that they were not appointed by 497 the ratepayers, but by the Lord Lieutenant. This, again, would give rise to the question, whether the magistrates ought not to be appointed in another manner? Then, as to religious instruction. On the religious education of the child in early life depended very much his future life. The Bill provided that the time given to religious instruction should not exceed half an hour; and that the ratepayers should determine the kind of religious instruction to be given, and that the parent might withdraw his child from such instruction. This would be equivalent to saying that there should be no religious instruction, for the children not withdrawn from it would not like the performance of what they would regard as a task, while their withdrawn companions went out to play. It was not likely that sectarian or doctrinal instruction would be given in the schools, and therefore there was no reason for permitting any of the children to absent themselves at the time that it was communicated. He thought he had said enough to show that this Bill could not be carried out in a practical and efficient way. Some legislative measure was, no doubt, very desirable; but the subject required more consideration than it could receive at this period of the Session. If the matter were referred to a Select Committee next Session certain principles might be arrived at which would form the foundation of a satisfactory legislative measure. The provisions of this Bill, however, were wholly impracticable. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that every man had his opportunity, and if a legislative measure could be brought forward to give the House that opportunity, he thought the House would rejoice. Believing that the present Bill could not be carried out, he moved that the second reading be deferred for three months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Beach.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Mr. BANKS STANHOPE
said, that the reason why he opposed the Bill was that he believed it was thoroughly and entirely impracticable, and would rather prevent than promote the education of the classes for whom it was intended. It was impossible that children, employed in 498 agricultural operations could attend school all the year round. In the summer they must at all favourable opportunities be employed in the fields; in winter they might go pretty regularly to school. The young men who succeeded best as labourers were those who went early into the field. Therefore it was both natural and proper that with a view to their children's own advantage the parents should send the lads out as soon as they could rather than keep them at school. He always thought the gang system a very bad one, and was glad a Bill had been introduced to regulate it. He was glad to say there were only two parishes in North Lincolnshire, the county he had the honour to represent, in which, the gang system, existed at all, and that only to the extent of 400 children. The alternate day system was altogether inapplicable to agriculture. He admitted that the education of agricultural children had become a necessity, more especially as agriculture was becoming more and more a skilled employment. At a meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture held in London the other day all the speakers admitted the importance of educating agricultural children, but all opposed the Bill of the hon. Member for Brighton, on the ground that its provisions were impracticable. All especially objected to the permissive powers which it would confer on the magistrates. The Bill threw the whole onus of levying an education rate on the magistrates. This was not a fair position for either magistrates or ratepayers to be placed in; besides which the operation of the enactment would be unequal, varying, in fact, with the circumstances of the localities. Another objection to the Bill was that it enacted that the religious instruction to be given in the schools was to be determined by a majority of two-thirds of the inhabitants. But according to this scheme the religious instruction might vary from year to year as the majorities varied; and this would bring religious teaching into disrepute with the rising generation. It was most undesirable that every vestry should be divided by theological disputes. Even if he approved of all the provisions of the Bill, this was not the time at which they ought to legislate upon this subject. A Royal Commission had been appointed to inquire into the employment of children, young persons, and women in agriculture, to ascertain to what extent, and with what modification, the Factories Act could be 499 adapted to the purposes of agriculture with a view to giving the best education that could be devised. The Reports of that Commission must be in the hands of the House before any legislation on the subject could be advantageously adopted. Those counties with wages at 9s. a week, were very different from counties in the east of England, where the agricultural labourer received from 12s. to 15s. The Commission was collecting information from all parts of England. It was only on such complete information that satisfactory and sound legislation could be founded. The hon. Member for Brighton had framed his measure to meet the circumstances of Wilts and Dorset, the two counties with which probably he was best acquainted. What was good for those counties might be bad for the rest of the country. They wanted to know what was the state of things in the other counties of England, and until they had that information they were not in a condition to pass any measure of this kind. He should be perfectly willing to assist in the promotion of any scheme which might be considered best fitted to extend and improve the education of the labouring classes, without having the effect of destroying agriculture throughout England. He hoped that the hon. Member for Brighton would not press for a division, as its result might create a false impression as to the feelings of the House upon this subject. If he did he should be compelled to vote against him.
§ MR. INGHAM
said, the last speaker was not justified in assuming that the proposed measure was impracticable. The division of the day into portions—one devoted to labour, the other to school—had certainly failed on account of the necessity and difficulty of a change of clothes. But the system of employing double the number of children at the same rate of wages had been well received and had operated most successfully.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, the half-time system was adapted for children working in numbers, but would not work well with regard to children whose employments were dispersed. He quite agreed in the opinion that the half-time system had proved successful in some respects, and especially as a protective measure in shortening the hours of labour of persons of tender age. But the hon. Gentleman had made no reference to its unquestionable failure in an educational point of view. The framers of the system had thought only of quantity, not 500 of quality. He had presented a Petition against this Bill from the Chamber of Agriculture of Northumberland. The members of that chamber fully recognized the importance of educating agricultural children, and only objected to the measure because they believed that it could not be worked in the shape proposed. The hon. Member for Brighton had stated that the state of agricultural education was disgraceful; an assertion the accuracy of which he must entirely deny, so far as it affected the North of England, where the education given to the agricultural population was highly creditable. In the rural districts the hon. Member for Brighton had stated that the education of the children was in a disgraceful state, the schools being bad and the teaching far below par; and yet he wished to force the children into the places of education he had so much condemned. But, even assuming with the hon. Member that the teaching in the agricultural schools was below the mark, did not that result from the poverty of the schools, and was it not a proof that the Privy Council system had failed to reach them? The defective part of the present system of education was that, while the rich districts were assisted, the poor districts that were unable to help themselves got nothing. The hon. Member said he apprehended hostility to the Bill on the part of landlords and farmers, and he was far from saying that those anticipations were ill founded; but therefore he proposed to give the magistrates in Petty Sessions power to levy a rate to carry out its objects. In his opinion that was the most objectionable feature in the Bill. It was most unadvisable that two magistrates should have power to levy a rate in Petty Sessions where the ratepayers were not represented, the opinion of the neighbourhood as to its propriety not known. The hon. Gentleman had compared this Bill to the one which had been introduced into the other House by a noble Lord who was peculiarly conversant with this question; but while the Bill of the noble Lord was practicable that of the hon. Member was impracticable. While it was quite practicable that agricultural children, should attend school a certain number of days in the year, and such a proposition would be generally acceptable to all concerned, it was impracticable to require them to attend school during a certain number of hours each day, or a certain 501 number of days in each week. The vicissitudes of our climate rendered it absolutely necessary that the whole labour on a farm should be available on certain occasions, when the weather was favourable, while at other times it might be partly withdrawn without injury to the farming interests. "Make hay while the sun shines" was the golden rule of agriculture. He hoped that under these circumstances the hon. Member would not press this Bill, especially at a time when there was a general feeling in the country that the existing educational system had broken down. Public feeling was ripening upon the subject of education generally, which it was felt must be dealt with in a large spirit, and this great question would probably be one of the first that the Reformed Parliament would turn their attention to with the view of establishing a "National system" worthy of the country, and commensurate with the requirements of its people.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he did not think that more information on this subject need be laid before the House before they legislated upon it. His impression was that a great deal more information had been laid before the House than Members had time to read, or at all events to digest. He thought the time had arrived for taking some step in advance. He could not say that he approved of everything in the Bill, but he was very much in favour of taking some step forwards. A Paper with a rather odd title, namely—Mortality and Marriages, was laid before the House last week. One would scarcely expect to find in that Paper information on the subject of education; but it showed how many persons of each sex were able to sign their names in the marriage register. He thought that no man or woman would like to register themselves to endure for all time, as so ignorant that they could not write their names unless it was really fact that they could not. And those who could not sign their names would be found in most instances unable to read. He found from the Return referred to, that in all England, in 1865, 20 out of every 100 men, and 31 out of every 100 women could not sign their names. It was quite true, as the hon. Gentleman opposite had stated, that the Northern counties of England were not badly educated when compared with the rest of England. Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland were by far the best educated 502 counties in England. The northern division of Yorkshire was also very good. In Northumberland and Cumberland only 9 out of every 100 men were unable to sign their names. In Westmoreland—marvellous to say—only 3 out of every 100 men were unable to sign their names. But, in the case of the women, the proportions were 14, 18, and 11, respectively out of every 100 in the three Northern counties. In nearly all cases the women were behind the men. In dealing with the question of the education of the very poor, it was more important to see whether the mothers were educated than whether the fathers were, because the moral and religious education of the children of the poor depended more upon the instruction they received from their mothers than their fathers, or upon any moral or religious instruction imparted by schoolmasters or ministers of religion. So far from the statement that the agricultural districts were badly educated being an unfounded allegation, as had been said in the course of the debate, the fact was confirmed by the Return laid before the House. By that Return in seven counties upwards of 40 out of every 100 women could not sign their names, and there were three counties in winch upwards of 50 out of every 100 women could not sign their names. The proportions as to women were as follows:—In Monmouthshire 52 out of every 100, and in South Wales 54 out of every 100 could not sign their names. In the Northwestern counties, 45 out of every 100, in Bedfordshire 34 out of every 100, in Cornwall 42 out of every 100, in Worcestershire 43 out of every 100, in Nottinghamshire 40, and in Lancashire 49 out of every 100 could not sign their names. There was an extraordinary difference between those divisions of counties that contained boroughs and those that did not. In boroughs there was generally a much higher education than in the agricultural districts. Without going minutely into the information supplied by the Returns before the House, he would observe that those Returns showed very clearly that there was an enormous amount of ignorance in the agricultural districts; and he thought it was the duty of the House to attempt to remove that ignorance. The Privy Council system of supporting education was a failure. The State ought to give aid to a school which enabled the children of the poor in rural districts to pass a satisfactory examination, whether 503 that school was conducted by a certificated teacher or not. If such children could read a chapter in the Bible tolerably well, write a verse from dictation without blunders, and do a sum in simple proportion, the inspectors ought to class the school in which those children were educated as being one deserving of State support, even if it were a dame school. A great deal of money was at the present moment, in effect, wasted in educating to a high standard, children whose parents were quite capable of giving them a good education without the interference of the State. He should prefer to see more attention than was at present given to this branch of education. It was the paramount duty of the House to attend to the interests of the very poor. He knew of no plan of furthering the education of such children equal to that of judging by the results, and allowing a certain fixed sum for their education, when duly tested, without inquiring minutely where they got their education. He did not look forward to any material improvement as regards the poorer classes until a system was introduced of paying for the education of every child in proportion to the quality of that education, without respect to the place where, or the person by whom, it was given; or until an entirely free system was substituted, without any school fees being chargeable.
said, he regretted that the hon. Member had not brought forward this Bill at an earlier period of the Session, when it might have been considered under, perhaps, somewhat different circumstances. The hon. Member had placed the House in a somewhat difficult position by saying that, if the Bill were to be met by a direct negative, he should divide upon it; but that, if it were merely said to be out of time, or the objections were to details, he should not divide upon it. The hon. Member had said he wished the principle of the Bill to be affirmed; but it unfortunately happened that the Bill was curiously framed, having no Preamble. The only affirmative principle it contained was that which declared that no child under thirteen years of age should work unless it went to school on alternate days—a principle which he had declared, in reference to another Bill, to be an impossible one to curry out. Under such circumstances, the hon. Member asked them to affirm some vague and undefined principle which he did not lay before them in a definite form. 504 This he thought it would be unwise for them to do. Few persons were to be found who would not admit that the education given both in town and agricultural districts was defective. But was the Bill before the House calculated to remedy that defect? The hon. Member who had just sat down had read some extracts from an interesting document, which gave the number of persons who could sign their names to the marriage register; but the inferences to be drawn from the figures given in that Return were open to some qualification. In some districts, for example, where work was not abundant, the younger and better educated part of the population might leave in search of more remunerative employment in other districts, where they would settle and marry. Thus the amount of their education would not appear in the statistics of the county in which they were reared, but in those of the town to which they had probably removed. That Return had, however, shown a considerable improvement of late years in the number of people who could sign their names. He did not think that the chief reason that children did not attend schools was the apathy of their parents. He had been told by many parents that they could not afford to allow their children to attend school, because they earned from 3s. to 3s. 6d. a week, being 25 per cent, or, in the case of two boys, 50 per cent, of the father's earnings. The hon. Member endeavoured to meet that fact by a rather curious argument. He said if the children's labour were kept out of the market, that of the parents would rise in value. This, however, was a complete fallacy, for the labour of the child and of the man did not compete with each other, and therefore by withdrawing the labour of the one that of the other would not be increased in value. The hon. Member said that in some of the agricultural districts the farmers met together, and, having calculated the price of the food which the labourer and his family would consume, fixed the amount of the wages accordingly. He had lived among farmers all his life, but had never heard of such an occurrence. Perhaps the hon. Member had mixed up two or three things together, and, having read in some of the blue books he had dug up that formerly relief to the poor was regulated by the cost of their food, he had confounded that system with the principle upon which the amount of wages was regulated. Everybody knew that the 505 amount of wages was regulated by the quantity of labour which happened to be in the market, and not by any fixed rules which the farmers might lay down. The hon. Member urged the House to legislate upon the subject of the Bill at once, on the ground that it was a matter that could not wait. He forgot that there was not the same cause for haste in legislating with regard to agricultural labour as there was with reference to factory labour. The health of the children was not injured in the former as in the latter case by confinement, bad air, gas, and late hours. The work being performed in the open air, and Providence shortening the hours of labour during certain seasons of the year, the urgency was much less pressing. Then the hon. Gentleman told them that another cause why they should legislate without delay upon the subject was that the agricultural labourers were so ignorant. He denied that there was any foundation for such a charge being brought against the agricultural labourers. He would admit that a certain proportion of them—but not a larger proportion than was to be found among all other classes of labourers—could not read or write; but he entirely denied that they were ignorant of the knowledge necessary for their particular occupations, or in knowledge of their duty to God and man. As a further inducement to the House to deal with this question, the hon. Member said that if the children were better educated they would do their work better, and so would add to the general wealth of the community. Could a lower or more sordid argument possibly have been used than this in favour of educating the agricultural children? Was there a man in that House that believed that the efforts that had been made by the right-minded people of this country for the education of these poor children had no higher motive than to get a greater amount of profit out of them? If this were true, those persons must be the very impersonation of Mammon. To educate children merely that they might be more profitable was an abominable motive, and if it were acted on by employers would cut their own throats. Thirty-four years ago the House had been asked and prayed to check the seething mass of corruption among the lower classes by establishing a system of religious education, a system that he thought some hon. Members might not object to see abolished.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, that he never, 506 in the least degree, intended to confine the advantages of education to material advantages; but he thought it necessary to show that, for any temporary pecuniary loss which might follow from the proposed legislation, the farmers and landowners would be compensated by the material advantage which would result from it. He deemed the moral advantages resulting from education to be of far higher importance than any material advantage which could result from it.
said, he was indifferent as to which horn of the dilemma the hon. Member and learned Professor chose to place himself on. If he did not defend education on the ground that it would result in material advantage, why did he hold out such an inducement to the farmers and landowners? But it was not true that farm labourers were uneducated. Whether they looked to ploughmen or carters, to the men who attended to the cattle, or to any other class, he contended that they would be found to be better educated for the fulfilment of their duties than the lower classes of any other country in the world. With the exception of Belgium, perhaps, where agriculturists were employed in almost garden farming, no country could produce more highly-skilled farmers. No country produced as much per acre as England, or stock which could compete with ours; and the skill of the farmer was well aided by the efforts of the labourer. Yet the hon. Member spoke of the ignorance of the labourers, and urged that on that account it would be for our interest to pass his Bill. With respect to the provisions of the Bill itself; no child was to be allowed to go to work until he was thirteen years of age, and without a certificate of his attending school. The immediate effect of the Bill would be this—that all boys under thirteen years of age would be discharged; the younger children would not be sent to school as they were at present, and the amount of education, instead of being increased, would be lessened. But that was not all. Few people who knew anything of agricultural work, spoke of the practicability of attendance at school on alternate days, and for this reason, that most of the boys were employed about cattle, and they could not be one day at work and another day off. Unless hon. Members were certain they could do good, it behoved them in a matter of this kind to pause, lest they did evil. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to 507 imply that in some cases persons were unwilling to send their children to school. He asked them whether they thought those people would be made willing by inflicting such injuries upon them as would result from depriving them by law of their children's earnings, and so preventing them from contributing to the support of the family. But did a prejudice exist against education? He believed that people were becoming more and more desirous every day of procuring education for their children, because they were becoming more sensible of its value. It would be true wisdom, therefore, to take care that no mischief was done by rudely stopping this natural growth which he believed had set in, and would gradually permeate throughout the land with most favourable results. Let the endeavour be to make the growth as smooth as possible by the removal of obstacles. Let measures be adopted to enable poor people to send their children to school as much and as long as possible. Let every allowance be made for the parents, but let them on no account be coerced. It had fallen to his lot more than once to distribute prizes to agricultural labourers, and among them on one occasion was a boy, of whom he asked, as he often did of others, how long he had been at school, and the answer was "Father died and mother was hard up and could not afford to put me to school long, and I've had very little of it." Yet this boy had come from a class whom the hon. Member described as ignorant. The appearance of that boy's countenance when he said he had helped his mother showed he possessed something of more value to him than reading and writing; something which had enabled him to strive hard and draw himself out from the crowd, so that by his superior skill he was probably earning men's wages in order to support his brothers and sisters, whereas, under the Bill of the hon. Member, he would have been prevented from doing anything of the kind. He had heard it said that agricultural labourers seldom attained excellence if they did not begin their work early. He could not give a positive opinion on that point; but he knew for a fact that those children who were kept in the workhouse rarely commenced work on the farm until thirteen years of age, because there was no one who could take care of them. The consequence was, as he had often heard, that those boys never turned out as skilled as those who had 508 gone to the field earlier. For these reasons among others he asked the House not to agree to the second reading of this Bill, which contained no principle, had no Preamble, and commenced with a provision which the hon. Member knew had been condemned already by the Upper House. It would be better if the Bill were withdrawn so that hon. Members on his (Mr. Henley's) side of the House might not be falsely represented as having no wish to improve the condition of the people, as it was probable they would be if they rejected the Bill from conscientious motives. The hon. Member had chosen to charge upon Gentlemen, who, he said, were intimately connected with the lauded interest, that they had had no care for their people beyond what would enable them to increase their own rents.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he was sorry to be obliged again to correct the right hon. Member, but he had misrepresented him in almost every sentence he had spoken. Just now he had accused him of having charged the people with being brutally ignorant, whereas he had made use of no such expression. Now, with similar injustice, he charged him with having accused landowners of doing nothing for their labourers unless they would thereby increase their rents.
Had not the hon. Member charged the landowners with maintaining a monopoly in order to add to their rents? He used those very words; how then could he have misrepresented the hon. Member? He repudiated as utterly false the charge that landowners had not now and always done all in their power in behalf of those over whom it had pleased God to place them. Moreover this question had never been argued in relation to the question of rent, but simply with regard to the advisability of depriving the poor of the profits of their labour, in order that their condition might be improved in the future. He repudiated the charge the more earnestly, because the hon. Member did not choose to make it in a direct manner; but thrust it out by means of an insinuation which, of course, from the manner in which it was put, fell with more deadly effect. He (Mr. Henley) again urged the withdrawal of the measure, which, if carried, would certainly fail in its object, and would tend rather to check education than further it, by creating a bad feeling among the people.
§ MR. READ
said, the measure appeared 509 to him to be based upon two propositions—one that the employment of children in agriculture should be restricted, the other that education should be compulsory—and there was no doubt the Bill acted on these propositions in the most arbitrary manner. As a practical farmer, he maintained that it was impossible to carry out a provision ordering that children under thirteen should be employed in agriculture on alternate days. The only instance in which it was known to have answered was that of Mr. Paget, who lived near a manufacturing town, and could therefore get as many boys as he wanted on special occasions. He would not object to a Bill preventing boys who could not read from working continually; but by nine a boy had generally obtained a fair elementary education, which he could easily supplement and improve by attending night schools. He confirmed the opinion of the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire, that if boys were not employed in agriculture young they would not prosper. He contended that compulsory education was unnecessary; and he especially objected to an educational rate because it had become the fashion of late to put all such burdens on real property. It was also a most extraordinary proposition, in his opinion, that two magistrates sitting in petty sessions should be invested with the power of buying land and building a school, and of enforcing from the ratepayers the money to maintain the school, while, perhaps, they did not themselves pay rates in that parish. Farmers, as a class, did not object to education; they were, on the contrary, very much in favour of it. He had been present at a discussion on this Bill in the Central Chamber of Agriculture, where a resolution was passed sympathizing with the desire to increase the education of the labourers, but declaring that the Bill would not accomplish that object. What farmers objected to was the style of education that was sometimes imparted to labourers' children. He admitted that in order to work the improved agricultural machinery well it was almost necessary to have a thoroughly well-educated labourer; but a superficially educated man, who knew nothing of his business, was the very worst labourer one could have. He had been in workhouses where he had seen children intended for the farm going through a course of geography, when they should properly have been learning the use of the spade. Education, to be useful, should be suited 510 to the future position of the child. This principle was followed to a great extent among the middle classes; their children could not be indulged in the higher branches of education, and this example should be followed in the education of agricultural labourers. They had been told that the education in agricultural districts was disgraceful, and especial reference had been made in this spirit on a previous occasion to the state of education in Norfolk. Out of the 737 parishes in Norfolk, only 147 were aided by Government in the matter of education. Eighty-three of the parishes had a population of upwards of 1,000, and forty-six of them got some portion of the grant. Of the 498 parishes under 500 population, thirty-nine only were aided, and 459 received nothing from the grant. There were 212 parishes in which there were no schools, but 143 were consolidated for educational purposes leaving sixty-nine without schools. Of these, however, only twenty-two had a population of 150; several had less than twenty, and one contained only six. In 525 parishes that had schools 35,588 children were upon the books, or about one-tenth of the population. There were also more than 6,000 night scholars in the schools; and, as to quality of education, the inspectors reported to the bishop that both in secular and religious education seven-eighths of the schools were in a satisfactory state. There was one point on which he especially desired to offer a remark, and that was with reference to the early age at which children were taken from school, greatly to their detriment. Upon this subject the Rev. R. C. Burton, hon. secretary of the Norwich Diocesan Society, after speaking hopefully of the progress of education in a letter to him, suggested a remedy. He thought it would be a very good thing if employers of labour and managers of schools were to arrange that children should continue at school continuously during certain seasons of the year; to anything in the shape of pains and penalties on employers, and of coercion or interference with the rights of parents, he was altogether opposed. That suggestion was worthy of consideration. On the general question he agreed with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, that Government should pay for results, whether the education was imparted by a duly qualified teacher or not. A certificated master was undoubtedly the cheapest teacher in the end; but it was impossible to have one in small villages. The supply of night schools 511 was increasing, with, of course, a different class of teachers, whose labours, however, were followed by the most satisfactory results. The country owed much gratitude to the clergymen and volunteers who conducted these night schools, and as the villages where they were found contributed in the shape of taxes much more than large towns in proportion to their population, it was the duty of the Government to give to these villages some portion of the educational grant.
§ MR. SAMUELSON
said, there was no reason why the scholars should not be instructed in spade husbandry as well as in other classes of education. The same measure should be meted out to children engaged in agriculture as was meted out to the children in factories. The education should be continuous, because education merely imparted in winter, with long intervals between the periods of instruction, would be comparatively worthless. One of the principles of the Bill was that where there were no schools in parishes they should be provided. How they should be provided—whether in the manner proposed by the Bill or in any other—was a matter which might very fairly be discussed. The only other principle of importance which the Bill sought to establish was that the religious education imparted to the children should not be such as their parents conscientiously objected to. No person desired that religion should be entirely eliminated from the children's education. It was only desired that the children should not be compulsorily instructed in religious principles opposed to those professed by their parents. He approved the arguments offered by the hon. Member for Brighton in support of the Motion, and could not understand why hon. Gentlemen should object to those arguments simply because they were based on economical principles. Instead of the Bill being utterly useless, it contained, in his opinion principles which the House ought to adopt. He gave his support to the Bill.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that before the discussion closed he wished to express, as briefly as he could, the view which he took of the Bill. The supporters of the Motion for the second reading said they were anxious that the House should affirm the principle of the measure, but they were by no means unanimous in their approval of its provisions. In the first place, the Bill was a novelty in every respect, and, as had been pointed out by his 512 right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), there was no Preamble to explain its object. It had been said that the House possessed sufficient information with regard to the system of alternate days, whereas every hon. Member must be aware that the character of juvenile labour was different in different counties. In woodland districts for example, children were employed in occupations perfectly suited to them, such as tying up hops, or peeling hop poles, and it would be extremely inconvenient if their education were confined to alternate days; because many of them now attended schools continuously during a considerable portion of the year. Then there was a clause providing that schools should be supplied by the parishes on a principle absolutely new and contrary to anything which had been hitherto accepted in this country. It was proposed that the magistrates in Petty Sessions should levy a rate on the parish for the support of the school, and practically the ratepayers would have no voice whatever unless two-thirds of them objected to the imposition of the rate. Thus a power would be vested in the magistrates which they never possessed before. The Bill would further provide that the majority of the ratepayers should determine the nature of the religious instruction to be given in each school. That was a question surrounded with difficulties, and which could not be decided without the most careful consideration. These points were of considerable importance, and every clause in the Bill relating to them must be amended before it could be made generally acceptable. The principles of the Bill were open to grave objections, and it was not likely that at so late a period of the Session its provisions could be altered so as to make it acceptable to the House. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) who always spoke with great statistical knowledge, had quoted a Parliamentary Return to show the wide-spread ignorance which prevailed in regard to writing. These statistics showed that there prevailed great ignorance throughout the country, but they also showed that there had of late years been a considerable and rapid increase of education. It was remarkable that that improvement had taken place in those districts in which it was most wanted. In London the educational rate was stationary, if it had not actually retrograded. The results which had been 513 attained were by no means unsatisfactory or discouraging, considering that our present educational system could not be said to have commenced until the year 1848 or the year 1849. The hon. Member for Edinburgh said that he was anxious to take some stop for the removal of the great ignorance which at present existed among our population. But the hon. Member must be careful in what direction that step was taken. Many persons said that something must be done in the matter; but there might be great danger in acting upon such an impulse. It would be very difficult to retrace a wrong step; and there were at least three proposals in the Bill which, if adopted, might be productive of enormous inconvenience. The passing of the Bill would involve the House in a very grave difficulty, as it would introduce into the agricultural districts a system which had not been introduced into any other districts. Under these circumstances he trusted that the hon. Member for Brighton would be satisfied with the discussion which had taken place, and that he would not press a measure which could lead to no useful result.
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
said, he hoped that the Bill would be withdrawn, though, if it were pressed to a division, he should vote for the second reading, with a view to affirm the principle that the Legislature should make some provision for the education of children in agricultural districts, as they had already done for the education of factory children; but there were many details in the measure of which he could not approve. The great obstacle to education in the agricultural districts was the shortsightedness of the labourers in preferring the 6d. a week or so which could be earned by their children to sending them to school. If boys below a certain age were compelled to go to school, there would be a greater demand for the labour of boys above that age. The North and South of England were differently situated as regarded education. In Northumberland and Cumberland the rate of education was much higher than in the Southern counties. The rate of education was high; the wage rate was also high; good training and high wages went together. He did not think that the circumstance was to be attributed to any greater wealth among our northern than among our southern farmers. He believed that it was entirely owing to the greater value of an educated as compared with an 514 uneducated labourer. That was a conclusion which ought to lead Parliament to adopt every possible means for the promotion of education throughout the country generally. No doubt there were great difficulties connected with the proposed scheme; but, on the other hand, it was recommended by some advantages which the principle of the Factory Acts in towns did not involve.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he thought there was a great deal still to be learned, respecting the education of the children of agricultural labourers. He thanked the hon. Member for Brighton for having introduced this Bill, which related to a subject of great importance at the present time, when the franchise was about to be conferred on a great number of agricultural labourers. It was not easy to form a precise and definite opinion as to the increase of education; but he might mention that, from his personal experience, he could speak with some confidence upon the subject. In the year 1827 a school had been established near his home in the country. There was no other one at the time within a distance of four miles. It was attended by about eighty or ninety children; and, although several schools had since been founded in the surrounding parishes, the attendance still continued at the same amount. That fact clearly showed that education had become more general in the district, which was a purely agricultural one, during the period to which he had referred. He would appeal to the hon. Member for Brighton to withdraw the Bill, although, if a division took place, he should not like to vote against it. The proposed system of alternate days was altogether a mistake, and he would suggest the advisability of substituting for it a proviso that no child should be employed in agriculture unless he had received a certain amount of education. The present clause would be impracticable, inasmuch as farmers in thinly peopled parishes would find it impossible to dispense with the services of children on every second day. The provision to set apart one half-hour for religious education appeared to him injudicious, as in that matter everything depended upon the fact of the teacher being himself religious or otherwise. He objected to the clause exempting from the operation of the Bill children who resided more than three miles from a school. Many used formerly to come to his school from a greater dis- 515 tance. He particularly recollected one little girl who used to walk several miles every day, even through the snow, in order to attend the school. Her perseverance had attended her through life, and she now kept a large hotel in a continental capital. He appealed to the hon. Member to withdraw his Bill and re-introduce it with alterations next year.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, he wished to say a few words in vindication of the county of Wilts. It had been stated that the hon. Member for Brighton had obtained his knowledge from the counties of Wilts and Dorset. If that were the case, the hon. Gentleman must have been very incorrectly informed; in North Wilts there was hardly a parish without a school, and the clergymen and the farmers were most anxious that the children should be educated. He denied that high wages followed education. The Return quoted by the Member for Edinburgh could not be relied on as testing accurately the amount of education, because a great number of people who were able to write felt a timidity at signing their names in the presence of others, and therefore made use of a mark. In considering this question, it should be remembered that in a large family it was often necessary that the children should by their labour contribute to the weekly income, as otherwise they could not be fed. The boys felt a pride in going out to work and earning money. He knew a poor man whose five boys earned between them 22s., and, to use his own expression, they "eat every bit of it." How could that man, without such assistance, rear his family, having but 12s. a week to live on? Children were proud of doing a little work and being somewhat independent. If they forcibly compelled the children of the agricultural population to go to school they would both destroy their capabilities for work and lessen the probability of their educational improvement. As the law at present stood, these children received a fair amount of education, and made themselves useful in the occupations in which their after-life was to be passed. The Bill, however, while it would not effect that improvement in point of education which was expected, would prevent the children being taught the very things which were to be useful to them in their vocations. The children were as anxious to go to school as was the hon. Member for Brighton to send them. The farmers, 516 too, were generally anxious that they should be properly educated; but the grave question remained, whether it was not as necessary to instruct the children in the duties of the form as to imbue them with the learning of the schools. At the present day the children of labourers were taught reading and writing, and could enter into ordinary newspaper literature. No practical result would be attained if their education were extended and they were taught botany, mineralogy, and other subjects of that kind unconnected with their calling. He thought the Bill was perfectly useless, and he should therefore vote against it.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, he hoped the hon. Member for Brighton would withdraw the Bill and bring forward an amended measure on the subject next Session. He had examined the Bill and tried to discover its principles, and had also expected to hear them explained by the hon. Member who introduced the measure; but he had received no explanation. Under such circumstances, he could not support the Bill. He trusted the hon. Member for Brighton would withdraw it, and not place those who were in favour of improving education among the agricultural classes in the false position of having to oppose the measure. He was well acquainted with agriculture, and from his knowledge on the subject he did not see how the provisions of the Bill could be carried out. He himself would be in favour of a scheme somewhat similar to that which was adopted in Scotland—the education of the children at alternate seasons. In the summer time they were employed in the work of the farm, and during the winter months they were sent to school. This system had been found to work well in that country, and might advantageously be extended to England. In the last Report of the Education Commissioners it was stated that in Glasgow the best teachers would not receive factory children as scholars, because by doing so they would unsettle all their arrangements, and a similar result would no doubt take place in a far greater degree in the agricultural districts if the alternate day system were introduced. To mix up in the same class children who attended on this system with others who attended every day, would interfere with the progress of the latter, and entirely disturb the arrangements of the school. He should have preferred to make a cer- 517 tain amount of education the qualification for employment, instead of a certain length of attendance at school, for the mere sending a child to school was not education.
§ GENERAL DUNNE
said, that this Bill was certainly not required in Ireland, where, if children were kept away from school, it was due solely to the poverty of their parents. That country was amply provided with schools under the national educational system, and great zeal for education existed amongst young men and others in the rural districts. It was found that recruits coming from the rural districts of Ireland could all read and write. Children in the agricultural districts were frequently in the habit of working during the day and attending school in the evening; and it was generally found that there was no unwillingness on the part of the children to go to school. He greatly objected to the clause empowering a magistrate to impose a fine of £10 on any person who employed in any agricultural pursuit a child under thirteen years of age. There was hardly anything which the son or daughter of a labourer could do which did not amount to agricultural employment. Under this clause, if a boy drove a donkey for his father, or if a girl fed her father's pigs or chickens—all of which was agricultural employment—the parent might be taken before a magistrate and fined. This was one of the most absurd Acts ever introduced into the House of Commons.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he had too many acquaintances among the classes of which he was accused of speaking disrespectfully, and felt towards them too much respect, to have made use at their expense of the language attributed to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley). He had not intended to attribute any want of zeal in the cause of education to the clergy or landowners; on the contrary, he admitted that they had given good aid in building and supporting schools. Many of the remarks of those who opposed the Bill were not so much against its provisions as in opposition to the system of administering the education grants in this country. By a vote of the House yesterday it had been determined that the half-time system should be applied to an industry such as brickmaking, and if children under thirteen years of age were not to be employed in brickmaking which was an outdoor employment, 518 he was at a loss to understand upon what principle such children were to be allowed to be employed in agriculture. Parliament had affirmed the principle that in every industry in the country, except agriculture, children under thirteen should not be allowed to be employed unless they had had a certain amount of schooling. All he wanted was to get the same principle extended to agriculture. The provisions of the measure itself and the arguments which he had advanced in support of it had been freely criticized in the course of the debate; but of that he had no complaint to make. As, however, Gentlemen at both sides of the House, for whose opinions he entertained respect, had pressed him to withdraw the Bill, he was quite prepared to do so, provided the hon. Member for Hampshire (Mr. Beach), would also withdraw his Amendment, thereby leaving the House in the same position with regard to this question of agricultural education as it occupied at the commencement of the Session.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.