§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clauses 58 to 60, inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clause 61 (Proceedings on default of authority to make Returns).
Amendment proposed, in Clause 61, page 23, line 2, after "Act" to leave out the words to the end of the Clause, for the purpose of inserting the words—
The Education Department may appoint any person or persons to make such Returns, and the person or persons so appointed shall for that purpose have the same power and authorities as the local authority,"—(Mr. W. E. Forster.)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 62 (Inquiry by Inspectors of Education Department).
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, the machinery of the Bill was to begin by calling for a certain number of Returns, which were to be forthcoming on the 1st of January, 1871. That hung up the whole matter until these Returns were made, and practically postponed the working of the Act till 1871, when the real business would begin by the sending down of Inspectors. Would it not be better to send down the Inspectors at once? He had very little confidence in Returns. The Returns of the existing schools would be all of a satisfactory character; and getting them would be a mere waste of time. It would be the "year's grace" under another name. The First Minister of the Crown said last night there could be no question of a school rate for two years. He heard the statement with dismay, and in order to hasten the operation of the Bill, he would propose, in Clause 62, line 9, to leave out all after "Inspectors" and insert—Who shall proceed forthwith after the passing of this Act to inquire into the sufficiency and efficiency of the schools in each school district, and shall, on or before the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one, report to the Educational Department thereupon.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, these clauses had been framed with the idea of giving the Committee of Council power to get the work done as quickly as possible, and his impression was that it would be very difficult for the Department to keep pace with the demands upon it that would arise under the clause, and that during the autumn they would have work almost equal to the work they had had during the progress of this Bill. How could they, without obtaining information, enter upon the most difficult task of supplying the existing deficiencies in education? By ignoring what existed, it might be possible, by means of a great waste of educational power, to get to work a few months earlier; but the time occupied in obtaining this information was not time wasted. He had made a slight alteration in Clause 34, in order that the Department might at once set to work to inquire what districts should be united. As to Birmingham, the information already obtained there would not enable the Committee of Council to dispense with the necessity of obtaining fresh Returns, though no doubt the information which existed would be of considerable assistance to the Department, and enable them to supply the Act much earlier there, and in other places where similar information was supplied, than in towns where there had been no inquiry.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, his right hon. Friend had not answered one question. Supposing he were determined that, more schools were necessary in Birmingham, would he establish them at once, or would he wait till the beginning of January next? That was the most material point; for, although they might know that a town required a school, yet, as the First Minister stated last night, they might not be able to obtain it for two years.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, this was a point on which the Government would have work to do. He did not think that time would be gained by endeavouring to do without Returns. His hon. and learned Friend was entirely mistaken when he said that the Bill would not get into operation for two years. In the metropolis they hoped to be able to get to work at once, and in willing towns, such as he believed Birmingham to be, the Act would be in operation much 1715 earlier than two years. He did not think there would be any advantage in sending an order to Birmingham at once to establish additional schools.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that the Reports of Inspectors were not necessarily infallible, and the right hon. Gentleman was right in adhering both to the Returns and the Reports.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
asked, whether it would be competent to the Committee of Council to employ female Inspectors for the inspection of girls' schools?
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he would suggest that the Inspectors should be married men, and should take their wives with them.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that the education of girls was not so completely useful as it might be, and it would be better if their school training was less ornamental and more fitted to enable them to discharge the duties of their station.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
replied, that the Education Department had power to appoint women as Inspectors; but the Inspectors under this clause would examine whether there was a sufficiency of education in a particular district, and that was not a case in which they would be very likely to employ women.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
asked, whether such infant schools as were often found in villages would be recognized by the Inspector?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the precise instructions to be drawn up for the guidance of the Inspectors would be a work of considerable difficulty. He could not do more now than state the general principle which would be adopted by the Department: on the one hand, they would take care that the schools they found in the district should be efficient enough to be included; and, on the other hand, they would not think it right for such a purpose to exact all the conditions which were required in order that the school might receive public money.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 63 agreed to.
§ Clause 64 (Public inquiry).
§ MR. COWPER-TEMPLE
said, he rose to move the insertion of words 1716 securing that due publicity should be given in the district to the Report of the Inspector who held the inquiry. As the clause stood, the Department was not obliged to let the world know what the Inspector had reported, and might even mulct the district in costs without disclosing the grounds for such a proceeding. He begged to move, in page 24, line 4, after "thereon" to insert the words—And the Education Department shall cause such Report to be published and deposited with the churchwardens or overseers of the parishes to which the inquiry relates.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 65 (Attendance of child at school).
§ SIR THOMAS BAZLEY
said, he would propose Amendments so as to make the first part of this clause read as follows:—The Education Department shall require every school Board exercising powers under this Act to put in force the regulations respecting attendance at school contained in the fifth Schedule to this Act, and for that purpose to appoint the necessary officers; and all costs incurred by such officers shall be defrayed by the school Board; any school Board failing to comply with this section shall be deemed to be a school Board in default.The object of his Amendment was to make the compulsory provisions simple and straightforward in their application. In accordance with the provisions of the Factory Acts there were 85,000 children under a course of instruction perfectly compulsory, and that compulsory education had been found to be exceedingly beneficial; for he knew that such was the case in reference to nearly 2,000 children in his employment when he was in business. Many of them, instead of continuing to be factory hands, had entered into competition with small traders, and in many instances had obtained no slight degree of eminence among the middle class. His schools were under the British and Foreign School system; and one of the pupils, though religious instruction was not enforced by the Factory Acts, had become, after going to College, a clergyman of the Church of England. As a proof of the necessity of compulsion, he might mention that in Manchester some benevolent persons determined six or seven years ago to make an effort to give education to about 22,000 children, many 1717 of whom were idling about the streets, and likely to end in prisons or poorhouses. About three-fourths attended pretty regularly at first, but gradually the number sank down until there were not more than 10,000 on the books of the Education Aid Society. If they looked to the course of proceeding among persons of the middle class and in high life, they saw that compulsion was the rule; and he durst say that even many Members of Parliament regretted that more compulsion had not been exercised over their education. He knew of the case of a tutor at one of the Universities taking forcible possession of a student within ten days of the final examination, and, by giving him all the cramming possible, saved him from being plucked. With respect to the children of the poor, it was quite clear that, unless they were properly trained and taught, they became completely useless members of society; and what he wished was that the Legislature, having sanctioned the principle of compulsion in the Factory Acts, should now extend that principle further. With regard to the children of the poor, there was no doubt that this great scheme of education would be unproductive of all the moral and educational results they desired to attain unless they had recourse to compulsion; and he hoped that his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) would accept his Amendment, which he (Sir Thomas Bazley) believed was indispensable to the success of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 24, line 19, at the beginning of the Clause, to insert the words "the Educational Department shall require."—(Sir Thomas Bazley.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he was unable to support the Amendment, though no one was a stronger friend than he was of the compulsory system. He thought that the time was very near at hand when the system of compulsory attendance at school would be accepted by the people. A feeling in favour of it was becoming stronger from day to day; but the plant must be allowed to grow spontaneously, and could not be forced, and he objected to the Amendment because he thought it would have the effect of preventing the spread of opinion 1718 favourable to compulsion, and would cause a reaction against it. In the United States they all knew that the cities and townships had the power by law, and almost in every instance had exercised it, of framing by-laws for compulsion; but Mr. Fraser, one of the ablest of educational inquirers, had stated that that law was a nullity, because it was not in accordance with the feelings of the people, and that gentleman also remarked that truantism and absenteeism from school were increasing in the United States. Then what reason was there to suppose that compulsion would be more in accordance with the feelings of the people of this country than it was in America? Under these circumstances, he preferred to forcible measures the tentative process wisely adopted by the Government in the present Bill. At the same time, he anticipated that all the objections to a compulsory system would lessen every year in proportion as educated parents supplanted uneducated parents from time to time; because the former, appreciating the advantages of education, would be anxious to secure those advantages for their children. He, therefore, hoped the Government scheme of permissive compulsion would be allowed a fair trial. If it failed in any district, it would merely be the failure of a locality; but if a general compulsory law was passed and that failed, its failure would be a discredit to the Legislature.
§ MR. PEASE
said, he had an Amendment, the object of which was to turn the word "shall" in the proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester (Sir Thomas Bazley) into "may." That alteration would place more power in the hands of the Education Department than the Bill as it stood at present gave; and, at the same time, it would prevent the Department from being forced of necessity, as the hon. Baronet's proposition would force it, to make attendance at school compulsory in every school district having a school Board. In all cases the Education Department might not deem the compulsory powers applicable; but, in extreme cases, when it was found that the children were still running about the streets in a wild or neglected state, the Department would have the discretion allowed them by his proposal of compelling attendance. He thought that there was great difficulty in the way of adopting 1719 the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester, and some persons preferred indirect compulsion; but that appeared to him a most clumsy expedient. He knew that at the coalpits, where there was a great demand for labour, the schoolmaster's certificates, without which the young persons could not be put to work, were easily obtainable, and it had been alleged could be bought at the rate of 1s. a piece. They had already decided that in the boroughs the school Boards should be elected by the Town Councils, and he was anxious to avoid the danger which he now anticipated—that in the election of Town Councillors those who were in favour of educational compulsion might often be the least popular with ratepayers, on account of the expense involved in an educational rate. In the district in which he resided the Highway Act worked well, the roads had been improved, the rates kept down, and the farmers all liked it. But when the hon. Baronet the Member for Scarborough (Sir Harcourt Johnstone) endeavoured to introduce the Act into his own district, from being the most popular man there, he became the most unpopular. If, however, the power of introducing that Act had rested not with individuals, but with the Government, much of the feeling of irritation thus occasioned might have been avoided. The Health of Towns Act, again, was one which it was optional with the ratepayers to adopt, and, in many cases, they put it off as long as possible, the result being evident in the non-drainage and the neglect of sanitary arrangements within the district. If the enforcing of that Act were placed in the hands of a central authority, many of the evils now complained of would not be suffered to go unchecked. This Bill was intended to diminish the rates by diminishing the ignorance and consequent poverty and vice which pressed so heavily upon the ratepayer; and if the House did not believe that they were about to diminish poverty and crime, it was no use touching the education question at all. Drinking, which wrought so much mischief to the population was attributable mainly to the want of education; and strikes, that had so greatly harmed the mercantile interests of the country, had been vastly aggravated in their effects by the ignorance of the men who engaged in these proceedings. If, for 1720 the last 15 years, there had been in this country an educated class of working men, many of these struggles might have been avoided. Another important point to which he would allude related to the stream of emigration that was constantly flowing out from this country. These emigrants ought to be educated if they were to be of any use to the countries to which they went. His objection to the Bill as it stood was that it did not go far enough, and he wished to place more power in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster), and his successors at the Education Board. He therefore proposed to replace the word "shall" in the Motion before the House by the word "may."
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out the word "shall," in order to insert the word "may."—(Mr. Pease.)
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, they were all anxious to promote the education of the people; but the question was as to the manner—how they were to get at the children in order to educate them, and what were the proper means for their education. The hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) said the day was not far distant when the school Boards would compel the attendance of the children in the schools—that meant that the employers of labour would compel the children of the working classes, although no compulsion was to be exercised upon their own children. Now, did the House think that such a compulsion would be acceptable to the working men themselves? Did he think that such compulsion would, in any sense, be popular? The hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester (Sir Thomas Bazley) had proved the contrary. Several years ago, when a great stir was made about education in Manchester, the promoters of the movement persuaded the parents of 20,000 poor children to accept free tickets for the school; but now the hon. Baronet said there were not 10,000, and ha believed he might say 5,000 such children in attendance. This showed that even a free education was not acceptable to the working men. Still less would it be acceptable if made compulsory. Such a proposition involved a contradiction in terms. For what was compulsion? Making a man do what he disliked. Compul- 1721 sory education was, therefore, necessarily unacceptable or unpopular. The hon. Baronet was therefore for putting the power of compulsion into the hands of the Education Board. He (Lord Robert Montagu) thought, however, that the argument in favour of that proposition would not hold good more than the other. What kind of education was to be forced on the children? Would the Board compel children to attend denominational schools? To that hon. Members on the other side of the House had already decidedly objected. But then he (Lord Robert Montagu) as decidedly objected—and there were thousands of persons in the country who just as decidedly objected—to the children being compelled to attend secular schools. But if the Education Board were not to compel children to attend either denominational or undenominational schools, it meant that there must be no compulsion at all. Now, as to the practical possibility of this compulsion. The hon. Member for Manchester afforded them by his Amendment a glimpse into the difficulties that would have to be encountered. What an immense amount of extra police the proper working of the measure would require. Take the town of Liverpool alone. It was calculated that there were in Liverpool 80,000 children, of whom 20,000 never attended school, while the attendance of 10,000 others was too irregular to be of any use. How were they to find the means of looking after these 30,000 children? There would be, of course, a great army of police with power, as they had heard, to enter houses to see whether the children were at school. But still compulsion would be impossible. In Liverpool it was said there were 20,000 removals in the course of the year; how were the police to follow up these families through their removals, and see that all their children were continued at school? How were the police even to know what children there were? There must evidently be an authoritative list; there must be a compulsory registration of births—a thing which the people of England would never stand, nor the House of Commons sanction. Then there must be another registration of daily attendances at school; and an army of police clerks must compare these lists daily, and schedule the discrepancies. There was a more grievous impossibility still. A poor man, barely 1722 able to keep himself out of the workhouse, was often dependent on the labour of his children for 30 per cent of his weekly income. Suppose a parent under such circumstances was taken up and brought before a magistrate for not sending his child to school, he would no doubt have a most piteous tale to tell. He would allege that the effect of a fine, or even of compulsory attendance at school, would be to condemn his children to starvation and himself to the poor-house, and the magistrate would have no choice but to let him off. By-and-by another case would come, not so heart-rending as the first, but still very hard. The magistrate would let that parent off, too. Then another would occur; till, in short, the system of compulsion would break down, just as it had done in America, where the law was a dead letter. He maintained that, in the first place, it was wrong in principle for the State to compel children to go to school; and, in the next place, that it was impossible. In some localities, it was true, the difficulties might be slight; but one general law could not be made for the whole country; such a law was impossible. The utmost that could be done was to leave the question in the hands of school Boards as the Government proposed; and he would therefore give that proposition his support.
§ MR. LEATHAM
Sir, the object of my hon. Friend's Amendment is to make education everywhere compulsory, and so to carry out to its fullest limits a principle which I understand the Government only to entertain experimentally. Although I am not by any means convinced that the principle of direct compulsion is applicable to English elementary schools at all, if we except those classes which may be considered to have forfeited their independence, and to have become for the time wards of the State—and although the plan of permissive compulsion is open, as my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Pease) has shown, to grave objections—yet, on the whole, I prefer the proposition of the Government to that of my hon. Friend. Of course it may be said, if you oppose direct compulsion altogether, you are bound to oppose it under any limitations; but I think that the cry for direct compulsion, has become so strong in some quarters, that perhaps the best method of meeting it is to show 1723 by actual experiment, and that under the most favourable conditions, what I am about to attempt to show by argument, that the principle is foreign to our tastes, habits, and sentiments, and that it will be found impracticable to apply it to the country at large. I must even demur to the theory upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), who will doubtless take part in this debate, founds his whole argument—namely, that the State is just as much bound to punish the man who neglects to provide his children with daily schooling, as it is bound to punish him if he neglects to provide them with their daily food. For there is no true analogy between the two cases. The mind does not necessarily perish because a child is not sent to a day school. The mind has a thousand sources of nourishment and development besides the alphabet. The exercise of the affections, the use of common observation, intercourse with those who are better informed than ourselves—all these nourish and enrich the mind; and over and above all these there is that education which, as Mr. Arnold has well said—Governments neither give nor take away. In the air of England, in the commerce of his countrymen, in the long tradition and practice of liberty, there is for every Englishman an education without a parallel in the world.So that it no doubt very often happens that we find a child well-informed for his special position in life who never darkened the doors of a day school. There are 1,000,000 of persons in this country who are engaged in a daily struggle with pauperism. Will you punish the father because he staves off pauperism by the labour of his children, and throw the whole family on the parish in order that they may be taught? Now, there are many things which it is desirable to promote—many things which a good parent ought to do for his children, and which, under a paternal form of Government, the State, standing everywhere in loco parentis, insists upon his doing, but which under a free Government—a Government interfering as little as possible with the domestic affairs of the subject, trusting as much as possible to the force of good example and the existence of right feeling among the people, and as little as possible to an elaborate code of rules enforced by the omnipresence and omniscience of the 1724 police—the State refrains from insisting upon, wisely, as those of us who place faith in the conditions under which our country has grown great, believe—unwisely according to my hon. Friend, who is for ever casting a longing glance at the ways and institutions of the Continent, Continental notions of government, and Continental notions of liberty. No doubt there are advantages in the Continental system which we who pursue an opposite system must be content to forego. It is a great thing, no doubt always to be able to find a policeman when you want him, although he may be engaged in peeping through your own keyhole. It is a great thing to find your life mapped out for you by authority and fenced about with a thousand penalties; but the country to which we belong has grown so great in defiance of this system—in defiance of these principles—and we are still blind and old-fashioned and bigoted enough to rejoice that we are not a drilled nation, that we are not registered and inspected and certified from the cradle to the grave, that every Englishman's house is still his castle; we are still foolish and prejudiced enough to rejoice that we are free. Yes, free to do a great many things which may not be for our good, and to neglect a great many things which might be for our good; for in that freedom there is life, and it is this free life which, with all our presumed inferiority, makes it a prouder thing to be an Englishman than to be a Bavarian, or, for anything that I have heard to the contrary, to be a Wurtemberger. This exceeding difference of character, and sentiment, and condition, therefore, the difference between a nation like the Germans, with reference to whom Mr. Horace Mann says, that—The State steps in to take care of the subject almost as much as the subject takes care of his cattle "—between a nation which is on that account one of the least self-reliant, the least energetic, the most reverent for authority, used for centuries to lean upon its rulers, and a nation like our own, one of the most self-reliant, and the least tolerant of either ecclesiastical or police interference in the world; I say that this enormous contrariety must be taken into full account before we jump with my hon. Friend to the conclusion that institutions which embrace the very essence of the paternal system are admissible 1725 here. But there is another cause for the success of compulsory education in Germany, partial though it be, which remains to be stated—The compulsory school attendance," says Mr. Pattison, in his admirable Report to the Newcastle Commission, "dates from the earliest period of the Reformation, and was a recognized religious duty long before it became a law of the State. From the time of Luther's address to the municipal corporations of Germany, 1524, this has been so recognized, whether it was enforced by enactment or not. It was the distinction of the Protestant child that it should be taught to understand and practise the doctrines and duties of its religion; it was the business of the Church to see that all its youth did so. The edict of 1716, which is popularly regarded as the source of the Prussian compulsory system, does really nothing more than give the sanction of a Royal ordinance to an existing practice.The schooling," he says elsewhere, "is compulsory only in name; the school has taken so deep a root in the social habit of the German people, that were the law repealed to-morrow no one doubts that the schools would continue as full as they are now. In the free city of Frankfort, there is no compulsory law, and I was assured, by persons most likely to be informed, that all the children of school age are as regularly sent to school there as in any other town of Germany.I need not waste the time of the Committee in proving how opposite is all this to the sentiment in this country. In Germany all precedent is in favour of compulsory education—in England all precedent is against it; and the amount of police interference which would be required in order to carry into operation a law flagrantly at variance with the tastes and habits of the people no one in this country can say, for no one in this country has tried. But, Sir, I am prepared to contend that, even in Germany, my hon. Friend exaggerates the success of this system. Mr. Pattison gives the usual Table of attendance at schools, and remarks—The above Table only represents the number of children entered on the school books, and conveys no idea of the regularity with which they attend. All who have to do with the elementary schools agree that here is their great difficulty. Where there is neither resistance to the law nor desire to evade it, there is a want of resolution to make the attendance uniform and punctual Districts vary very greatly in this respect. I have seen schools in which the absence book disclosed a most lax state of attendance, where the absences had increased to such a head that the master had ceased to register them.And this irregularity is increasing—not in the outlying provinces merely, but under the very eyes of the Bureaucracy in Berlin itself. Former arrangements for 1726 securing attendance having been found insufficient; a new and severe system was organized in 1845.These measures," says Mr. Pattison, "were at first attended by a steady diminution of the irregularities they were intended to subdue… Since 1850, a turn has taken place in the opposite direction, Factory labour and pauperism are both gaining ground, and irregularity in the attendance at the common schools is on the increase.Now, let us see this system in contact with the demands of labour. I have no doubt my hon. Friend will refer to Saxony—In Chemnitz," the centre of the cotton manufactures, "the Inspector assured me," says Mr. Pattison, "that he could take upon himself to say that there were no children, within the school age, who were not attending school in some form or other.Now, for what is meant by being at school—In Chemnitz, child labour is employed in two kinds of manufacture—in the cotton mills and in the print works. In the former, the children, who have mostly been on foot since 3 in the morning (work begins at 6), go into school from 10 to 12. They then have one hour for dinner, and go to work again from I to 6, but are often kept later, there being in Saxony no limitation of the hours of labour. This arrangement of school hours is an improvement which has been obtained by the personal exertions of the local Inspector, working upon the humanity of the millowners. Before, the children worked from 6 to 6, and had to take their schooling in their dinner hour. All that the teacher could do, under the circumstances, was to read out something to them while they rested and ate their bread; often all they had to eat. In the print-works, where work can only be done by daylight, and, consequently, the employers insist on having the whole day, the children must go to school in the evening, in the regular school, and to the regular school teacher. Both teacher and class are too fagged for a successful lesson.But let us turn to a country much more nearly resembling our own in its notions of freedom. Let us turn to Switzerland. Bear in mind that there is no compulsion in the Canton of Geneva, and yet education is just as prosperous there as in any one of the French Cantons. This is due to the existence of that popular sentiment which is not created by law in a free country, but which creates it, and without which the law is powerless—But I take," says Mr. Arnold, "the largest and richest of the French Cantons—the Canton of Vaud. In the Canton of Vaud, the law makes attendance at school compulsory on all young persons between the ages of 7 and 16. At Geneva, the best informed persons did not hesitate to assure me that the obligation of school attendance in the Canton of Vaud was perfectly illusory.1727When I mentioned this at Lausanne, it was indignantly denied. I was told that the schools of Vaud were excellently attended, and its population almost universally instructed. But of this I had no doubt. So they are everywhere in the prosperous Swiss Cantons; so they are in Geneva, where education is not compulsory. What I wanted to find out was whether the legal obligation was actually put in force to constrain the attendance of children who, without such constraint, would not have attended; whether in Vaud, where education is compulsory, children went to school, who, in Geneva, where it is not compulsory, would have been at work or at home. I could not find that they did. I was told that it was necessary to execute the law with the greatest tact, with the greatest forbearance; but, in plain truth, I could not discern that it was really executed at all.And if we pass on to America, we shall find precisely the same state of things. They have a truant law in New York City; but, Mr. Randall, the city superintendent, tells us that there are—100,000 children within the city who either attend no school, or whose means of instruction are restricted to the very briefest period.And if my hon. Friend should say—"New York is not America," let him turn to the New England States. Commenting upon the severe law of Connecticut, the State superintendent says—The provisions of this section have sometimes been enforced; but facts are too abundant to admit of a doubt that there are many children in this State whose education has been neglected in open violation of the laws.And the Rev. B. G. Northrop, agent of the Massachusetts' Board of Instruction, remarks—No fact connected with our schools has impressed me so sadly as the extent of truancy and non-attendance, and the strange apathy of the public as to this fruitful form of juvenile crime.No wonder, then, that Bishop Fraser sums up his Report upon the compulsory law in the States in the emphatic words quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell)—and no wonder that with this evidence before him he should have expressed himself the other day as follows:—If any system could be discovered by which the children of apathetic parents could be got into our schools, whether directly or indirectly compulsory—which would not be merely nominal, but real and effective—no one would rejoice more than he would at the result. But he wished it to be remembered that compulsion represented a power which, to an Englishman, was the most hateful of all powers. It was said the workmen desired compulsion; and, if so, the problem was solved; but he confessed that he received the statement with considerable doubts. He should like to have it proved by more direct evidence than he had yet seen. A law, and particularly a compulsory and prohibitory law, which was not obeyed,1728and which was systematically trampled under foot, was about the most demoralizing and anarchical thing in the great interests of the stability of the social structure that any nation could have upon its statute books.For why is the law respected in England? Because it never goes beyond its own province; because it follows, and does not precede public opinion; because it bears with equal weight upon the rich and upon the poor. Reverse these conditions. Carry your laws beyond the limits marked out for them by the usage of centuries, precede public opinion instead of following it, and you will make law in England what it sometimes is abroad—a thing of prefects and gendarmes; a thing to be evaded whenever it is safe, and to be trampled under foot in the midst of tumult and bloodshed at the first opportunity. Now, Sir, before I sit down, I should like to quote a few words upon this subject, from a speech delivered in 1868 at Birmingham by a right hon. Friend of mine, who is still a Member of this House and of the Government, although, for the moment, he has withdrawn from our debates; and I am sure that any speech of his will have weight with my hon. Friend, because the other day he referred in terms which were very grateful to many of us, almost as though it were a national calamity, to the continued silence of that voice—I should recommend," said my right hon. Friend, "rather what I may call a steady progress than a great rush—because in making a great rush upon this question, and introducing measures based upon what I look at with great doubt—a compulsory and forced attendance at schools, I am not sure that you will not produce among the people a reactionary feeling, which would defeat the very object which you have at heart… And if you bring too much weight to hear upon the people before they are sufficiently enlightened to approve your efforts, you may find that there is a great reaction, and your difficulties become almost, if not altogether, insuperable.Sir, if this were the proper occasion, I should have pointed out where I think the existing system has missed it, and how great and numerous have been its defects—defects, but for the existence of which, we should never have heard this cry for compulsion. Some of these defects have been removed by this Bill. Others remain, and it will be the labour, as it will be the triumph, of those who aspire to make education really national to remove them. When they are removed, trusting, as I do, to the common 1729 sense and right feeling of the working classes, and to their notorious desire for education, I am convinced—and convinced with a persuasion which no clamour of leagues or unions can ever shake—that we may spare them the humiliation of a compulsory law. Sir, it may The that my views upon this subject disentitle me to be considered a sound Liberal; but I never yet heard that sound Liberalism consisted in a profound disbelief in the great body of my fellow-countrymen, in a studied disregard for the inviolability of their homes, in a contempt for that personal and individual liberty which is a grander, because it is a rarer thing than public freedom.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, it was quite evident his hon. Friend (Mr. Leatham) had undertaken to answer his speech before he had made it. But there was a short way of removing many of his prejudices with reference to the Continental system, and that was to take a return-ticket to Germany at an expense of about £20. If his hon. Friend did that he would, he felt satisfied, come back a very much altered man in his opinions. ["Oh, oh!"] If any hon. Member doubted what he said, let him read the Blue Books which were furnished to the Committee of 1867, or the Reports of Mr. Arnold. His hon. Friend contended that the system of compulsory education in Germany merely followed a custom which was already in existence; but he immediately afterwards turned round and talked about police, and the people being dragooned by them into education in that country. Was there not, he would ask, some discrepancy between those two statements? Now, no one could have a greater love or admiration than he had for his country. [An hon. MEMBER: Which country?] The country in which he was born, and of which he was proud to be a native. He thanked God that although of foreign descent and the son of an exile, he was born among the working classes of England, and had fought his way to his present position. Having made those remarks, he must express his regret that this the most vital portion of the Bill had never previously been adequately discussed. The question of compulsory attendance was a most serious question, and one that ought not to be met by sneers. They had thrown the whole burden of the supply of school accommoda- 1730 tion on the Consolidated Fund and on the rates, but it had not been decided how the children were to be got into the schools. His hon. Friend near him (Sir Thomas Bazley) proposed direct compulsion, and he believed his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council took much the same view. His hon. Friend who spoke last, however, seemed to think that all that was necessary to be done was to rely on public opinion. But what, he would ask, had public opinion as yet done for the promotion of education in this country? He was sure the time was not far distant when they would be astonished to think that they had not long had direct compulsion. It was said that compulsion was un-English; but many of the things which were un-English to-day became English to-morrow. Slavery was at one time English, but it had ceased to be so, and he hoped to see the time when pauperism and ignorance would cease to be so too. The cry for compulsion, he might add, came directly from the people—it came from below and not from above. No despotic Government had ever insisted on education. What had Italy, what had France, what had Spain, what had Russia, in which there was no such system, done for education? Education in Prussia and in Scotland came out of the Protestant Reformation. It owed its birth in those countries to Luther and John Knox. It was social pressure, the influence of the Church, and the appreciation of religious freedom which had promoted education both in Germany and in Scotland; and 30 years ago, when Germany found her towns were outgrowing these forces, she resorted to compulsion; but Scotland had not done so, and the result was that although no country turned out better men, still it was fast declining. In Glasgow, out of a total of 98,767 children of school age, 35,565 were attending school, and 63,202 were not; and an Assistant Commissioner of Education reported that in the whole country there was a considerable surplus of accommodation as compared with the attendance, that the majority of schoolmasters were of opinion that direct compulsion was an absolute necessity, and that many ministers and laymen held the same view. A quotation which had been made with reference to Saxony was not a fair one, because the passage was followed by another, which stated that the 1731 success of its system was complete, and that a temporary interruption to that success was due to a sudden rise in the value of labour in various districts. Besides, the French Commissioners who visited Saxony reported that an uneducated child was not to be found. He regretted that, although they were to have compulsion, it was not to be direct, and what they were to have was not to be universal. It was to be within the province of the school Board only, and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) having been rejected, the school Boards were not to be universal either. But he rejoiced that the principle was conceded. They were, however, about to try compulsion under the most disadvantageous circumstances, and he wanted to know how the system of permissive compulsion was to work; for, in the cases of many large towns, which he was glad to know would adopt compulsion, thousands of men who worked in them lived outside the municipal boundary, and the consequence would be that those who were within it would be subject to compulsion, and those who were outside would escape it, and the former would be weighted in their competition with the latter. The object of the Bill was to provide education for every child; but what reason was there to believe that the provision would be used unless the children were brought to the school? Were they not told on authority that there was room for 300,000 or 400,000 children in existing schools which were not filled; that in the East-end of London, in one square mile, there were 28,000 children not attending school, although many schools were not filled; and that there were families spending 4s. 3½d. a week in beer, and 2d. a week in the education of their children. Nothing but compulsion would operate there, and he should like any person to point out an educated country in which compulsory education had not been enforced. As to America, where it was said the law had not been carried out, the compulsory law, like their Workshops Acts, had provided no machinery, neither had it been necessary until recently; but all American school reports were now unanimous in complaining of absenteeism, due largely to the country being deluged with emigrants; and they insisted that compulsion must be carried out. In some of the larger towns 1732 of the New England States there had recently been appointed "truancy commissioners." Lowell had three, who last year summoned 770 persons; and the result was that 97 per cent of the children were attending school. He was continually receiving American reports, and they all showed that the Americans were determined to carry out compulsion. As to interference with personal liberties and parental rights, was there any country in Europe so thoroughly paternal in its legislation—in many respects in the wrong direction—as this was? One in 20 was in receipt of Poor Law relief; 60,000 children of paupers were dependent upon the State; one death in six in the metropolis occurred in a public institution, either in a prison, a workhouse, or a hospital; and in the face of these facts could it be said that they had not a paternal Government? They were cruel parents after all, for they neglected children; they allowed, them to grow up to be criminals and paupers, and then they kept them in hospitals, workhouses, or prisons. Why could they not begin their paternal attentions a little earlier? Why should all the wrong be done to the children? Had they no rights? Under the protection of the police he had recently explored some of the crowded parts of London, and the sights which he had seen were of the most horrible character. He saw courts in which children, poor, miserable, squalid, and neglected, were as thick as flies in a sugar cask. In one court the children were so thick that he could hardly help putting foot upon them, and their parents were in the gin shops. Within a few yards of that House there were thousands of children who never came in contact with human love, who never heard a virtuous sentiment, who never had any teaching but that of the streets, whose parents were to be found in the gin palaces and the public-houses; and yet the State neglected these children because, forsooth, it respected the "liberty of the parents!" Yes, this was tolerated in the name of civil liberty, of paternal liberty, and of paternal rights; and the results were such, in 20 districts of London, that no language could describe them, and that no one could see them except under the protection of the police. These were the fruits of leaving education to popular sentiment, to the parents, and their religious teach- 1733 ing to the Churches. He tested dozens of these neglected children, and he did not find one in 20 who could say the Lord's prayer, or make out words of one syllable. Colonel Henderson and the Commissioners of Police would tell them that the only way of dealing with the condition of things he described was by beginning with the children, but they begrudged a few shillings a year; they debated about a 1d. rate for remedial purposes, while they did not mind paying poor rates of 3s. 3d. in the pound, spent £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 upon pauperism, and maintained prisons for the criminal fruits of ignorance. A meeting held in Manchester, presided over alternately by the Vice President of the Council and the Secretary of State for the Home Department voted unanimously in favour of compulsory education, and he was satisfied the working classes would, before long, demand it from that House. Soon after that meeting he received a letter strongly in favour of compulsory education, as necessary for dealing with ignorant and indifferent parents, and as producing indirect results in the elevation of parents equally valuable with the education of their children, from a German gentleman, Mr. Charles Ecker, one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of Chemnitz, that gentleman, who had seen the rise of compulsion in Saxony, prognosticated that the work of education would never be successful in England until the same principle was adopted, and testified to the vast improvement which had taken place in the habits of the Saxons as a consequence of this compulsory education. They had neglected their duty so long that they hardly knew how to set about doing it. There was more money spent every year in London in false charity than would educate the whole of the children of the country. Here, as in Switzerland and Germany, the first thing to be done was to clothe the children and make them decent to attend school; and this presented a large field of work for useful associations of women; but it was work that would soon be done by voluntary effort if the ulterior benefit of education were to follow. Compulsory education was necessary for the protection of the children of the honest, hardworking man in large towns; but the necessities of the working man confined him to localities like those he had de- 1734 scribed, and at present it was absolutely impossible to prevent his children associating with those of thieves and prostitutes, and becoming subject to the most horrible contamination. By their neglect they were fostering around them a mass of corruption; the great wonder was that it did not force itself upon public attention, and if it did not they might depend upon it that they would some day reap the bitter fruits of their neglect when famine, war, or some other great calamity occurred. If the Committee had not courage to give compulsion for the ages proposed, let them do so for children between the ages of 5 and 10, or 9. Where was the hardship in respect of the children of these ages? Other countries adopted it for children between the ages of 5 and 14. No country was so dependent as this upon the intelligence of its people. The Swiss, in a country without natural advantages favourable to commerce, were becoming, to the alarm of the French, the chief merchants and manufacturers of Europe; Austria had adopted compulsory education, it prevented children working under the age of 12, and it was to be feared that it would become an educated country long before England; and yet England possessed in her workmen a raw material which, if educated up to the point of intelligence, temperance, and thrift, would make it not only the freest, but the greatest and happiest nation in the world.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, if time had not pressed, he should have been unwilling to interpose at this stage of the debate, conducted, as it had been, with such marked ability; but he thought the Committee would consider he ought to give the reasons why the Government had taken the particular line they had done. He also wished to ask the Committee to keep before them what he conceived to be the exact question. Although the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) had supported the Government plan, and the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) had opposed it, in respect of general principles he agreed more with the latter than with the former. He did not believe for a moment it would be considered un-English to face this difficulty; on the contrary, he believed the English people, though slow to acknowledge it, would take a practical view of it independent of 1735 preconceived prejudices. He agreed that before long the principle of compulsion would probably be acknowledged; and, indeed, it was already acknowledged in the adoption of indirect compulsion. They were now adopting for the first time a law which said that there should be full provision for education. They must remember how much they were behind foreign countries, which, in advance of them, had acknowledged the principle that there should be provision for schools. They had not done so yet, and that was one reason why he was so anxious not to lose a year or even a month in doing so. Until the schools were provided it would be impossible to have compulsion general throughout the country. Even if they were to insert in this Bill the principle of universal compulsion, it would probably be at least two years with the utmost energy of the Education Department, and the utmost co-operation generally, before they could have all the schools provided throughout the country which would be necessary; and the real question was, whether, with the knowledge of the fact that they could not, for that length of time, have full provision made, it would be better to put compulsory provisions in this Bill, and, if so, what compulsory provisions. There were several courses, any one of which might be adopted, They might say nothing at all about compulsion; they might make compulsion universal, or, as the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease) had suggested, they might throw the whole responsibility on the Education Department and say they should decide when and where should be compulsion, or they might take the plan which had been adopted by the Government and give power to the school Boards to say when and where compulsion should be enforced. He would state the reasons why the Government had adopted the last alternative. First, should they make compulsion universal? He did not believe they were in as good a position now to pass an enactment making compulsion general as they would be two or three years hence. They had not the requisite information as to the machinery that would be required. They did not know the circumstances of the different districts or the general rules that should be applied to this exceedingly difficult case; and that informa- 1736 tion they would obtain in the course of the inquiries they would have to make. If they legislated prematurely without being aware of all the difficulties with which they had to contend, they might legislate to great disadvantage. He agreed that they could not rely on public sentiment alone; but no doubt there would be an infinitely better chance of compulsion being carried out in a manner acceptable to the country, and really enforced, if there was a strong expression of public opinion in favour of the system when the time came for that law to be passed. Well, attention being now strongly directed to the subject of education, it was his opinion that next year public feeling would be stimulated in favour of compulsory attendance to an extent it never had been before. Parents might be expected to see the great value of voluntary attendance, but he did not rely upon that. He believed compulsory attendance would be necessary. But there would be a much stronger public feeling in favour of compulsory attendance by the time it would be necessary to pass a universal Act upon the subject than there was at this moment. That was a reason why they should not attempt to insert prematurely clauses for universal compulsion in this Bill. He did not doubt but that there were many cases in which the putting a child to school compulsorily, and depriving the parents in the agricultural districts of the advantage of its labour, would be felt as a serious hardship. When they were framing a measure of this character, they must consider the circumstances not of one or two particular towns, but of the whole country. It was said that the working classes who attended public meetings on this question were in favour of compulsion, but a line must be drawn between that opinion which helped them in suggesting laws and that opinion which insured that those laws could be administered. Those working men were most earnest, and, generally speaking, among the most intelligent and upright of their class, but they formed only a small minority of the working men in the country; and in administration they had to deal with the whole population. Besides, after all, the principle of compulsion was acknowledged.—at any rate, its direct application was novel. To say to a parent he was not the master of his child, 1737 and must not have the entire disposal of that child's time, was new to the mind of the people of England. It did not at once come home to them. A great many parents would revolt at it. There would be reluctance in some quarters and indifference in others. There must be a strong public feeling in favour of the principle before they attempted to legislate, otherwise they might defeat the object they had in view. He did not believe they could rely on indirect compulsion; it must be supported by direct legislation. They had pressed that principle as far as they possibly could. The state of their law with regard to indirect compulsion was in great confusion, and required to be considered whenever Parliament could attend to the subject. These were the grounds on which the Government had not thought they could put into this Bill the principle of universal compulsion. The hon. Member for South Durham recommended as another alternative that the discretion should be vested not in the school Board of the locality, but in the Education Department. Now the Education Department had not been slow to accept power or to ask for power; but he believed the Department would be slow to seek such a power. He should certainly hesitate a good deal before he accepted it. With all the other difficulties which they would have of deciding where there was a deficiency and how it could best be supplied, to make them the judges of the particular circumstances of each district in the kingdom—of how far direct compulsion might be applied in a district, or whether public opinion had reached such a point that it would be safe to apply it—would be imposing on the Education Department a duty which he feared they could but ill discharge; they had neither the time nor the information necessary to enable them to perform the task. The only other plan open to them was that proposed in the Bill, which gave to every school district in the kingdom the power of adopting compulsion, by first obtaining a school Board, and then making and enforcing by-laws. If the Government looked upon that as a final settlement they would deserve all the criticism and reproach which had been bestowed upon them, and he hoped the Committee would not suppose that he was not aware of the objections that applied to that scheme, as for instance, that it would be adopted 1738 in districts where it would be least needed, and not adopted where it was most required. But avowedly they regarded this as merely experimental and tentative, and as a means of obtaining information and guidance, and of stimulating public opinion and increasing pressure for compulsion as applied to all, if it should, as he believed it would, turn out a success. It seemed to some Members like his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), that it would be disadvantageous to the principle of compulsion to try it in that way. He (Mr. W. E. Forster) was not blind to the disadvantages, for he knew that the district in which compulsion obtained would be put into competition with the surrounding districts, and the object of the Board might be defeated by compulsion not prevailing around them. On the other hand, if tried universally it would have to endure the ordeal of being tried in districts where there was great opposition to it; whereas now they were about to try it in districts where there was no apathy, but rather a feeling in its favour. Therefore it was his belief that, not as a final measure, but as an experimental measure, it would be advantageous to the principle of compulsion to try it first in the manner proposed by this Bill. However, it was for the Committee to determine the question. At any rate, he could not regret that the clause had been inserted in the Bill. Two great objects had thereby been attained. The first was that the principle of compulsion had been brought before the public in such a way that it would not soon be forgotten. Like household suffrage, having been once admitted, it would carry itself out to its final development. Another advantage was that all excuse had been taken away from districts not providing school accommodation. If they had not given that power it might be said—Why rate us to make fresh school buildings and employ fresh schoolmasters when the present buildings are not filled, and when the present schoolmasters could do more work? There was now an unanswerable reply to that—namely, that they could themselves meet that difficulty by obtaining compulsory powers to secure the attendance of the children. Being himself convinced that upon this principle they must eventually more or less rely, he was very anxious that the Committee should not reject these clauses.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, an Amendment stood in his name on the Paper proposing to omit the clause from the Bill. As the matter had been brought before the House in the able speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), he might be allowed to say that he entirely concurred with him in regard to this matter. The principle was not sound as he would show when the proper time arrived. He begged to inform the Vice President of the Council that he had frequently heard the subject discussed at meetings composed largely of working men, and he had not found the uniform sympathy with compulsion which was attributed to them. On the contrary, he ventured to say there was a strong feeling prevailing throughout the country that this was in every sense of the word a species of class legislation, specially directed against the working classes. Did the right hon. Gentleman suppose that the infliction of fines with imprisonment to enforce payment would produce the result he had in view—an enthusiastic feeling in favour of the principle of compulsion? He (Mr. Lowther) believed the moment the clause was put into operation there would be an agitation of a very serious character. The people of this country would never allow the alphabet to be forced down the throats of their children with the policeman's staff. He maintained that the principle of the clause was one which the House ought not to encourage, as this was nothing more nor less than the substitution of the State for the parental authority, and thus removing from the parents the responsibility which they ought to bear. On these grounds he ventured to hope that the Committee would reject the clause when the time arrived.
§ MR. PLATT
said, he wished before the debate closed, to say a few words. Being a large employer of labour, he had some years ago erected a school, and having appointed a certificated master, he gave him instructions how he should proceed. Matters were so arranged that there was accommodation for about 300 children. The school was on the premises; every young person in his employment under 14 years of age, attended the school for two hours daily, and no deduction was made from their wages. On the other hand, no charge was made for school attendance; so that 1740 the permissive principle could not have been tried under more favourable circumstances. The attendance at first was good, but after some months the attendance gradually fell off, so that the master was obliged to report the circumstance. Efforts were then made to persuade the children to attend; the address which he delivered to them was successful for the time, but before many weeks were over the attendance dropped back again. The master then declared that, unless he could report the truants to the foreman over each department of the works who should have power to discharge children who did not attend school, it would be hopeless to go on. Having tried the permissive system some months ineffectually, he gave the schoolmaster the required permission, and in the first week afterwards about 50 boys under 14 years of age were discharged. The following week the parents of the boys, discovering what had occurred, asked permission for the children to return, promising that if their children were reinstated at work they would become responsible for their attendance in school; and from the moment that plan was adopted the school prospered, and there were no more reports of irregular attendance. It had been put before the House in many speeches that the working classes were in favour of compulsion; that he believed to be a great question, and he was by no means certain that, if the matter were put to them at a public meeting, working people generally would be in favour of compulsion. Parents knew very well that the labour of their children represented a certain amount weekly, and being themselves ignorant of the value of education, they preferred the money to the advancement of their children at school. Children themselves were not very anxious for education, though in time, no doubt, they might become so. In a generation or two compulsion might be no longer necessary in England, any more than in Germany and Switzerland, where, though compulsory laws existed, both parents and children were so well aware of the value of education that appeal to the laws became unnecessary. Looking, however, to the present, he feared that, unless some means were taken of enforcing the attendance of children, very many years must elapse before any great results from this Bill could be 1741 looked for. There were schools enough; the lack lay in the attendance of the children, springing, as he had already said, from the fact that the parents attached greater value to money than to education.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, the Vice President of the Council had declared that there was scarcely anyone in the House who would not prefer permissive compulsion to no compulsion at all. But though he (Mr. Fawcett) had been one of the first to advocate compulsory education, and nobody, he believed, felt more strongly on the subject than he did, he ventured to think that if the House would listen to him for a few minutes on Monday he would be able to show that one of the most fatal things to the cause of compulsory education would be the adoption of the proposal of permissive compulsion contained in the Government Bill. It was true that it was only an experiment; but he believed it was an experiment which would be tried under such unfair, such unreasonable, such unfortunate conditions as to form a precedent that would inevitably tell against the principle of compulsory education. It was difficult accurately to define the position of the Government. He could understand them if they said—"This year we will provide schools, and next Session we will secure the attendance of children at these schools." But what was the policy of the Government? They introduced a Bill for providing schools, and with reference to the second and infinitely greater question they had absolutely no policy. They turned round to their supporters and said—"Agitate, agitate, agitate! Fish for a policy out-of-doors, make a great clamour; we have no definite opinions and no policy, but we will wait to see what you can do by clamour and agitation." It seemed to him that it would be more appropriate for a strong Government to tell the nation what they thought was right to be done, and if they really had a feeling in favour of compulsory education they ought to have spoken out strongly, boldly, and unhesitatingly. No persons were so powerful in instructing the country as the Government themselves; and if, after stating their own opinions, they discovered that they were unable to convince the nation of their truth and justice, they might then very fairly come to the House and 1742 say—"We have done all we could in favour of the principle of compulsory education, and we are now obliged to relinquish it." How were individual Members to bring round the feeling of the country to compulsory education if the Government shrank from the attempt? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) admitted that at great public meetings even now the intelligent working classes, the élite of the population, could be gathered, and that they declared unanimously and enthusiastically in favour of compulsory education. But he said, "There is a stratum below them, and we want to know their opinions." Did the right hon. Gentleman suppose that it was possible to ascertain the feelings of the class of persons forming the substratum of society, who would not attend meetings, who could not read newspapers, and who spent their lives in dissipation? Did he suppose that in one year or in 20 years a feeling among them in favour of compulsory education could be created? Agitation would be renewed again this autumn, but what could it prove more than they already knew? They could again fill the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, and St. James's Hall in London, with the élite of the working classes; but what would be the use of this as long as they were unable to bring the right hon. Gentleman the opinions of those who lived in dens and alleys? The debate had proceeded upon the assumption that those who advocated compulsory education were introducing a novel principle. The arguments against compulsory education had been stated with great force and ability by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Robert Montagu); but, if he carried out those opinions consistently, he would be obliged to use the influence which he possessed with his party to induce them to repeal the very best Acts they had ever passed. For what were the Factory Acts but compulsory education? He was not old enough to remember the debates upon these Acts, but he had read them again and again, and the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) that evening reminded him very much of the speeches then made by the Manchester school of politicians. But, eloquent as his speech was, he must have known he was not expressing the opinions of those whom compulsory education would most affect, be- 1743 cause, much as the Manchester school of politicians had done for the working classes, those classes had never forgotten and could never forgive the opposition of the Manchester school to the Factory-Acts. The advocates of direct compulsion were constantly charged with a desire to diminish the earnings of the working man, but this charge seemed to him to be based on a most extraordinary fallacy. Just let them consider the exact position of the question. More than 20 years ago Parliament passed the Factory Acts, which, if anything at all, were compulsory educational Acts, because they laid down the principle that in certain branches of industry no child should be employed unless he attended school so many hours a week. Since 1848 the same principle had been applied with almost the unanimous approval of the country to every important branch of industry except agriculture, to which, however, the Government had promised to apply it next year. When that was done the Legislature would have recognized universally the principle that no child should be continued at work unless he attended school so many hours a week. He should like to ask the Vice President of the Council, whether the Factory Acts would have been worth the paper on which they were printed if they had been permissive measures, and if the local authorities had been allowed discretion in enforcing them. The Government said to the working men who sent their children to work—"We will not permit your children to work unless you send them to school," and the best class of working men, who were most in favour of the Factory Acts, said—"It is just the obligation of educating our children whom we send to work should be imposed on us; but it is not just that the same obligation should not be imposed on those who send their children neither to school nor to work." He believed those working men would not submit much longer to such exceptional and one-sided treatment. This Bill would put the country to an enormous expense, both by local and Imperial taxation. He did not object to that, but thought the country would object to building a large number of schools and to setting in motion a vast amount of complicated machinery if it were not certain that much good would be thereby effected. The Duke 1744 of Newcastle's Commission showed that there was 50 per cent more school accommodation than was used. Therefore, what was required was not school accommodation, but the power of securing the attendance of the children. He himself was acquainted with an admirable school, where the accommodation exceeded by 30 per cent the number of the children who attended it. Now, when the Inspector went down he could discover no fault with the school; but he would find that it was only about half sufficient for the number of children of school age in the parish. Yet, when this Bill was brought into operation a local rate would be levied and money drawn from the Imperial Exchequer to build a new school, although, as the master of the present school remarked—"There is no more chance of permissive compulsion being carried out in this parish than there is of my flying to the moon." When the subject came to be discussed, he felt certain he should be able to prove that permissive compulsion, like every other attempt at permissive legislation, would prove a melancholy and disastrous failure. As regarded the speech of the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Liddell), he would remark that his hon. Friend came from a county which almost deserved to be described as an educational Paradise. It was rare in the rural districts of Northumberland for children to be sent to work till they were 14 years of age; and, indeed, the farmers could not get them even if they desired to do so. He could easily understand, therefore, why his hon. Friend thought that in each succeeding year compulsion would be less and less needed. Now, if he could discover any general facts to justify such a conclusion, so great was his dislike of Government interference that rather than introduce it he would be content to wait three, five, or even ten years. Unfortunately, however, the facts did not warrant such a supposition, for it could be proved from official documents that the evil was not curing itself, and that while districts continued to be better supplied with schools, and while school machinery and management were improving, the demand for juvenile labour increased, and the state of education retrograded. He felt certain that the mere multiplication of schools would not correct the evil. What they 1745 required, and what sooner or later they must have, was the power to compel the attendance of children at school. It had been argued that the Government had no right to interfere between parents and children, but that theory was once and for ever destroyed by the passing of the Factory Acts, and those who prompted it ought, to endeavour to be consistent, to endeavour at once to repeal the compulsory educational clauses in those Acts. His own opinion was that while the State ought to interfere as little as possible with grown-up people, it was the natural protector of helpless and dependent children. The hon. Member for Huddersfield said that there was so great an enthusiasm for education in many parts of Germany that if to-morrow the law enforcing compulsory attendance was repealed, that attendance would not be in the slightest degree diminished. Now, no better argument could be advanced in favour of a compulsory system, for it would be unnecessary always to fetter the country with Government interference if they came to dislike ignorance after having experienced the advantages which education was calculated to confer.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
said, he could not approve the course which was proposed by the Government. He was altogether opposed to a system of compulsory education. It was in his opinion most unjust and tyrannical to prevent a poor man in the receipt of only 10s. or 15s. a week from supplementing that small sum by means of the earnings of his children. As it was forcibly put by poor people themselves—"Who, if all the children were sent to school, was to sit at home to help the mother to mind the baby?" In the views which he entertained on the subject he was borne out by the authority of the late Prince Consort, who in 1857, speaking of the position of the working man, said that his children constituted part of his productive power, and that the daughters especially were of great use to the mother in nursing the younger children. And how, he would ask, was a compulsory system to be enforced? It was all very well to say that a poor man who did not send his children to school should be fined, but he would probably have no money to pay the fine. How under these circumstances would the moral condition of the country be elevated by send- 1746 ing the father to gaol to associate with convicts and the mother to the workhouse. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) had referred to the case of Germany, stating that there the compulsory system had been found to work very satisfactorily. The Rev. James Fraser, however, was of opinion that a person before arriving at that conclusion ought to read very carefully the Reports of Mr. Pattison and Mr. Matthew Arnold, who were both great authorities on the subject, and the former of whom stated that in many parts of Germany the attendance at school was compulsory only in name, while in the New England States compulsion was notoriously a failure. He was as anxious as anyone could be to see the people educated and to have schools provided for the children, but to compel them to attend would be to take a course which, he believed, would excite a strong feeling of hostility throughout the country. It would give rise to the impression that there was one law for the rich and another for the poor, and would lead to an inquisitorial inspection of the poor man's family, which would be extremely distasteful.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he had listened with very great interest to the debate which had taken place upon this important subject. What he could not help noticing, however, was the fact that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had not received sufficient attention. That speech, if it proved anything at all, proved this—that the part of the Bill which they were then discussing was altogether premature. The right hon. Gentleman told them that he was not prepared at present to carry out his own principles with respect to compulsion, because he was not sufficiently acquainted with the different parts of the country and the different circumstances which it would be necessary to provide for. The right hon. Gentleman had also spoken of the question of indirect compulsion in a manner which led him (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) to suppose that it was going to be considered by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and was to be made an educational process. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), who, in the course of his speech, attempted to frighten them with the prospect of an agitation in the autumn, spoke of the right hon. Gentleman the 1747 Vice President of the Council as if he had no ardour in the cause of education; but in his (Mr. Gathorne Hardy's) opinion that right hon. Gentleman had displayed his ardour sufficiently and to the satisfaction of both sides of the House not only by the way in which he had conducted that Bill, but also by his previous identification with the interests of education. The remarks of the hon. Member for Brighton upon this point were most uncalled for. There was no doubt that the system of education under the Factory Acts was one of indirect compulsion. But what was that system of compulsion? Was it a system of education? No; it was not. It was merely a system of sending children to school, with no inspection, and with no guarantee for efficiency. If anybody would look back upon the history of that process he would find that the Legislature had stopped short at the point of rendering schools efficient, and requiring that children should be properly educated. He had not looked very closely into the recent Reports on the subject; but he remembered that it was clearly proved in many cases that worn-out factory men were made to take charge of children, who had, it was true, books set before them, but who received no education in the proper sense of the term where the system he was adverting to was carried out. The hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester (Sir Thomas Bazley) had, however, spoken of a school with, which he was connected as a specimen of indirect compulsion. But in that case it was to be borne in mind that he not only provided the school, but provided an efficient school. The hon. Baronet had therefore shown that if the indirect mode of compulsion were adopted, they might secure for the children a good education, while interference with the parent or sending him to prison with all its consequences, together with the other evils connected with a system of direct compulsion might be avoided. It was true that if direct compulsion, as advocated by the hon. Member for Brighton, were adopted, the children might be forced on in the matter of what was usually called education at a greater rate than would otherwise be the case; but there were other things which constituted education. In his opinion it was not more important that lads of 10 years of age in the agricultural districts should learn reading, 1748 writing, and arithmetic, than that they should become familiar with the habits of different animals on a farm, with the management of a team, and other things connected with their future occupation in life. They owed that knowledge to their families. He should prefer to a system of fines and imprisonment one in which not the fears but the interests of parents would be appealed to, by their being told that unless their children were educated they would not obtain work. If the principle of reward and not of punishment were adopted, parents would be brought to understand the value of education in a way in which they would not understand it by being proceeded against before a magistrate and placed on the footing of criminals. He fully and frankly admitted that it was a crime and cruelty on the part of the State to leave children to grow up in the condition described by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). In his opinion it was not only the right but the duty of the State to step in and say to the parents that those children ought to be educated, and that it would not allow them to grow up and encumber the streets as vagrants or perhaps something worse. That was the principle upon which they had acted in regard to industrial schools, which, as far as they went, were intended to meet these very cases. But he would like to put it to the hon. Member for Sheffield to say what he would gain by telling the parents that if they did not send their children to school they must go to prison. He believed that many parents would sooner go to prison than take any trouble in the matter. Admitting, therefore, the right of the State to the extent he had described, the matter then became with him a simple question of policy as to the best mode of proceeding. He himself, for the reasons he had adduced, was an advocate for trying the indirect mode of compulsion—which the section of the Bill under discussion precluded from being tried—as a first experiment. What did the Vice President of the Council say in regard to that matter? Why, he declared that until he got Returns from the various districts he would not be in a position to deal fully with this question, adding that possibly he would not be able to do so till the year after next. But what was he going to do meanwhile? He was going to give school Boards the power of compulsion, 1749 a power which the right hon. Gentleman admitted could not properly be brought into operation for one or two years. For how were these school Boards to be brought into existence? They were to be called into existence upon a Report made as to the deficiency in the quantity or the quality of the education in a district, and this result would be attained in about two years. When the deficiency in quality and quantity was supplied, the question arose whether the State had a right to compel children to go to these schools. It would not be right to force them to attend schools which were inefficient, as had been done under the Factory Acts, in consequence of the schools provided not being looked after; and even when the schools were complete, the parents had, at least, some right to select the school in which their children should be taught. That being so, were they not proceeding somewhat prematurely? Was their experience of permissive legislation so favourable that they thought it due to the credit of the House to delegate their functions to others upon a point so important, and to call upon school Boards to enact something which they were not prepared to enact themselves—not to pass by-laws to carry out in detail that which the Legislature had indicated, but to perform the work of legislation itself? Was that a power to place in the hands of school Boards? What would happen? If it were true that the great mass of intelligent working men, who would have votes, were in favour of compulsion, then, where they were in the majority, school Boards would be elected to put in force the compulsory powers of the Bill; but, on the other hand, in places where compulsion was most needed, and where there was less enlightenment among the working classes, the school Boards would be elected upon a solemn pledge not to exercise their compulsory powers. He held that it was not becoming the dignity of the Legislature to delegate its authority upon a question of such importance. If the Committee meant to have direct compulsion, let them enact it; or if they intended to have indirect compulsion, let them enact that clearly, and call upon the local authorities to carry their legislation into effect. His belief was that when the right hon. Gentleman had improved his system of indirect compulsion, and put 1750 it upon an intelligible basis, all the old deficiencies would be supplied. Supposing, however, that that system failed after trial, then the Government would have good grounds for asking the House to provide compulsion more direct. He felt very strongly in favour of the one system, principally because of the effect which it would have upon the families whose children would be educated in these schools. According to the Revised Code children were entitled to earn a Parliamentary Grant who had attended school 200 times altogether in the year, mornings and afternoons included. He was speaking of districts to which the Factory Acts did not apply. Such an arrangement left to children in the agricultural districts a selection of periods of the year, giving them plenty of time for that special kind of light labour to which they were adapted. Thus they could get a certain amount of education at school, and have a large portion of the year for another process of education—on which he laid as great a stress—not only the physical development and improvement which they gained by out-door labour, but the moral benefit which they derived, from helping their families with their earnings. He did not believe that there was any greater moral training for a child than that which accrued from his taking home his half-crown or three shillings a week, knowing that he was thereby adding to the comforts of home. The practice tended to unite a family together in bonds that never were broken; and of all the beautiful things which were to be seen in the habits and conditions of the poor, perhaps the most beautiful was the care and love they had for each, other, which was greatly fostered by this plan of allowing the early earnings of the child to contribute to the comfort and happiness of his family. He hoped he had not occupied the Committee too long upon this subject; but he must earnestly press upon them not to delegate their functions on this point to the school Boards, nor, in short, at present to legislate on the subject. He felt the force of the observations made by the hon. Member for Sheffield, and admitted that when the country was compelled to erect schools and find quantity as well as quality of education, they had a right, in some shape or other, to tell parents that their children must be educated; 1751 but they were not entitled to do so at present. The proposal of the Government was an imperfect one, and it had been condemned in one of its fundamental principles by the hon. Member for Sheffield, who pointed out that the boundaries of boroughs by no means included all the inhabitants—he meant the people who worked there. Many hon. Members knew that as rates rose in boroughs emigration from them increased, in consequence of the great desire of people to get outside the boundaries and thus escape the high taxation. A similar plan could be followed in this case, and persons who worked in the borough would obtain exemption from the conditions imposed by the Bill. Considering that the right hon. Gentleman expected to obtain those Returns, and complete in two years those arrangements which would enable the Government to bring forward their final Resolutions, and that even by next year the indirect system might be made perfect, he implored hon. Members not to commit themselves to this imperfect scheme, when by waiting they might obtain one which would meet the wants and wishes of the country, and which, while providing the masses with the means of education, would also provide the means of directly or indirectly bringing the children to be educated.
§ Question put, "That the word 'shall' stand part of the said proposed Amendment."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 92; Noes 259: Majority 167.
§ On Question, "That the word 'may' be inserted,"
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought it would be more to the convenience of the House that the word "may" should be inserted, in order that the proposed Amendment "the Education Department may require" should come before the House; which Amendment, he need hardly say, after the explanation he had given, he should oppose.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment to insert the words "the Education Department may require," negatived.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he should have been well content with, the discussion which had arisen if it had raised a distinct issue; but many hon. Members 1752 voted against direct compulsion with the intention of supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease). He felt that he should be remiss in his duty to the country if he did not afford the Committee an opportunity of voting on the express question of direct compulsion. He wished to remove an impression that the police or the magistrates were the agents of direct compulsion where it was carried out. This was a mistake; the school Board was the agent. It was not until a man had been twice warned that he could be fined; and it was usually found that the moral and social pressure of the preliminary proceedings was sufficient without imposing a penalty. He proposed, in page 24, line 19, to leave out the word "may," in order to insert the word "shall."
§ Amendment proposed, in same page and line, to leave out the word "may," in order to insert the word "shall."—(Mr. Mundella.)
§ Question put, "That the word 'may' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 230; Noes 92: Majority 138.
§ MR. FAWCETT moved that the Chairman report Progress.
said, he would suggest that, considering the time which had been spent upon the Bill, the extreme desire of the House to get through it, and the advanced period of the Session, the House should on Monday continue to sit in Committee on the Bill without paying any accurate regard to the precise time of night to which the sitting might extend.
§ And it being now Ten Minutes to Seven of the clock,
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.