HC Deb 22 July 1870 vol 203 cc736-62

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a third time."—(Mr. W. E. Forster.)


said, that he had never offered any factious opposition to the measure, or delayed its progress, nor should he now oppose the third reading; but it must not, therefore, be concluded that he was satisfied with it as it now stood. On the contrary, it was his intention, as soon as the Bill became law, to give Notice that early next Session he should move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Elementary Education Act of 1870. The objectionable portion of the Bill, which he had pointed out when it was first introduced, had either not been removed at all, or at the best had been very imperfectly remedied. The establishment of school Boards, where-ever they were necessary for the purpose of securing to every child in the kingdom the elements of education, was the leading object of the Bill; but he feared that the Bill in its present form would not realize the good intentions of the Government in this respect, and that school Boards would not be found in many districts that stood greatly in need of them. This, especially, would be the case in the rural districts: where school Boards were established they would have to confront the religious question; and he feared that discussion and dissensions would follow which would be inimical to the efficient working of the Act. He regretted that universal compulsion had not been enforced by the Bill, for in many parts of the country—and, again, especially in the agricultural districts—the objections to the compulsory principle were strong, and it would be found that children would still grow up uneducated, owing to the apathy, the indifference, or the selfishness of their parents. He also regretted that more ample provision had not been made for that class of persons who would be unable to send their children to school, on account of their inability to pay the school fees. He was not so unreasonable, however, as to expect that the Government measure should in all respects have harmonized with his views; he was prepared for shortcomings. But there was one clause introduced by the Government, which was of a totally different character to the others — the clause which provided for an increase in the grants to voluntary schools. He believed that this was a retrograde movement—it was one to which the Nonconformists had strong objections—it continued, and might possibly render permanent a system which they had over and over again expressed their objections to, and it was one which he believed would be condemned by Liberals in all parts of the country. He admired, in common with the whole House, the admirable temper and the great ability with which the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had carried this Bill through the House, but he would remind the Government that, notwithstanding the merits of the right hon. Gentleman, the Bill owed its great success in the House mainly to two causes, which would not be forgotten in the country. The first was the almost constant and earnest support which was given to it by the Opposition; and the other was the statement made over and over again by the Government — a statement amounting almost to a threat—that unless their usual supporters went into the same Lobby with them on this Bill, they would run the risk of losing the Bill, and incur the condemnation of the country. He regretted that the success of the Bill had been purchased at such a heavy price, for he could not hide from himself that it had roused the suspicion, the distrust, and the antagonism of some of the most earnest supporters of the Government. He thought it was a great disadvantage, if not a positive evil, that those who had done so much to place the Government in the position which they now occupied should be accustomed to an attitude of opposition, and to make appeals which would be repeated to the great Liberal party outside the House against the action of a Government which had hitherto received from them the most unvarying, loyal, and enthusiastic support.


said, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dixon) had charged the Government with having acted inconsistently with their Liberal principles, in the manner in which they had framed and conducted this Bill. After the solemn warning which the hon. Member had given, that he and his Friends meant to fight the battle over again next Session, he (Mr. Cowper-Temple) would take the liberty of saying that, so far as he understood the question, the failure of the hon. Member and his Friends had not arisen from any inconsistency with Liberal principles on the part of the Government or of those who supported the Government, but from the very inconsistent and contradictory position which the hon. Member and his Friends had taken up upon this question. They professed to speak the sentiments of the Nonconformists. Now, the Nonconformists took their stand and had always done so on freedom of opinion on matters of religion—on the principle that the Bible was the great standard of religious truth, and that it ought to be open to everyone in the country to read and to teach it. But the hon. Member and his Friends, professing to act in the name of the Nonconformists, had urged the House that measures should be taken to deprive the teachers in the schools created under the Bill, of the right, which everybody else in this country enjoyed, to explain the Bible according to their own views and opinions. While they spoke in the name of persons who had the greatest reverence for the Bible, they had pressed either that the Bible should be excluded from the schools altogether, or that it should be received with a stigma which was placed on no other book—that of being a dangerous and pernicious book, not to be freely handled and interpreted without risk. ["No, no!"] Well, he would recall those expressions; but he said this—that they wished to surround the Bible with restrictions, and to prevent it from being freely explained by the teacher in accordance with his own views and opinions upon it. He did not think that that was a consistent position to take up, or that it would be agreed to by the large body of persons who maintained, as a principle they had always fought for, a free and open Bible. That was an inconsistency which was sufficient to prevent the hon. Member and his Friends from carrying their point. Again, when they urged that something should be put in the Bill for the purpose of making the teaching unsectarian, they could not agree among themselves as to the words, and they at last put forward words so vague and ambiguous that they were not capable of legal interpretation. In the same way, those Gentlemen who had so pertinaciously opposed the Bill were great advocates of economy, and yet they advocated gratuitous school instruction and the suppression of all the existing schools, which would have thrown a heavy additional burden upon the ratepayers and taxpayers of this country. So, again, those Gentlemen who opposed the Bill were members of the great Liberal party, who professed to be anxious for individual freedom, and yet they were driven, by the necessities of their position, to offer more despotic power to the Government and the local Boards, though the Bill already conferred more despotic powers upon the Education Department than were ever conferred on a Department of the State by an Act of Parliament, in order to enforce opinions and views which they confessed were not in accordance with the wishes and feelings of large districts of the country. Their failure did not arise from a want of willingness on the part of the Government to meet their objections, for he must say he had been struck by the extreme willingness of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Department and his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government to listen candidly and fairly to every objection, and to admit any fair Amendment that was founded upon consistency, and that ran upon all-fours with the scheme of the Bill. He had no fear, therefore, that when Parliament met again, after the Prorogation, it would take a different view of the question from that which it did now. There was one body that deserved more credit in these discussions than it had yet received—he meant the Church of England. The Church of England, as far as she had been spoken for by those who represented her views, had shown no desire to press unduly her own particular views or personal objects, but had shown herself willing and anxious to pass this great measure of education without unnecessary delay. Her representatives had not unduly pressed forward in the House any extreme views; they were willing to sacrifice their own special desires in order to facilitate the passing of this measure. And he would say, as far as he could gather the opinions of the Liberal party throughout the country—though the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) might and did represent a large portion who were urgent, ardent, and anxious to carry out his views — yet, generally, throughout the country this Bill was felt by men of all parties to be a measure wisely framed, and a successful attempt to build a new system upon old foundations. The measure would be more acceptable because it rested on what was already in existence instead of starting afresh upon some particular theory. It seemed to hon. Gentlemen that nothing was so easy as to create schools; whereas those who had examined into the subject knew that nothing was more difficult. They would be acting in a rash and reckless manner if they were to drive from the field of education those who had filled it for so many years, and who had borne the burden by their voluntary labours. He had no doubt that when the measure had been tried in the country for some time it would be found admirably adapted to accomplish its purpose; that under it education in primary schools would be widely extended; and that the large majority of the House who had supported the Bill would receive the approbation of the nation.


said, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) challenged, and he thought not very wisely, those, especially of the Nonconformist Body, who had taken part in opposition to this Bill, for their inconsistency and consequent want of success. They laughed who won. The right hon. Gentleman had had all his desires accomplished, and he might say all the desires of the Church which he represented—["No, no!"]—perhaps not all, but at least all the desires that it was thought could be conveniently put forward by the Church; and he did not, therefore, wonder that the right hon. Gentleman took up rather a jubilant tone on this occasion, and turning round to those who had to pass through the Valley of Humiliation gave them the most discreet advice with regard to the future, and told them that all their misfortunes had proceeded from want of consideration and union as respected the past. Now, it used to be said that those were fortunate people who had friends at Court. He did not know whether Court in that sense could be interpreted as Government; but he did not think it could be said that those were fortunate people who had been allied to the Government on this occasion. He might say, without boasting, that the present Administration occupied the position it did very mainly in consequence of the warm, hearty, en- thusiastic support by the Nonconformist body of the policy announced by the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown two years ago at the last General Election. He did not say that they were the sole agents in putting the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends where they were; but he did say this, that they were the heart, and, he might say, the hands of the liberal cause in this country. He might say that they imparted to it all the enthusiasm it exhibited—that they gave whatever new impulse was given to the Liberal cause for the present time and for years to come; and that the spirit which was exhibited by the Nonconformist electors of the country at the last General Election was the main force that carried the right hon. Gentleman and his policy triumphantly through the obstacles—and they were not slight obstacles—that were opposed to them by the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They did not, when this question was first brought forward, expect anything that was immoderate or demand anything that he thought was selfish. They knew that this was a question which touched very closely many of their principles; and they did think, perhaps somewhat presumptuously, looking back on the past, that they were entitled to be consulted, in some respects, as to the general principles and drift of legislation which grated harshly on their sympathies. They did think that some consideration would have been paid to their objections; and, certainly, they had no expectation, when their objections had been urged, that remedies would have been applied that rather increased and aggravated those objections than otherwise. But they were very unfortunate. It seemed they were inconsistent too. He admitted to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cowper-Temple) that they had been divided and they had been beaten. That was the moral they had to learn from the lesson of this Session. There had been a separation he would not say in feeling, but of thought and sympathy with regard to this Bill among the Dissenting bodies, especially as represented in that House—far more separation in the House than out of it; for he could aver, of his own personal knowledge that there was scarcely a Dissenting organization in the country that had not pronounced condemnation of this Bill. He thought they had good reason to complain. Considering that they were at all events a fair moiety of the party now in power—considering that they never made any excessive demands even for their own principles of those who held others, and considering the general temper and feeling of the country in regard to questions like this, he did not think that they had been dealt with considerately, and with a fair view to meet the objections that they had candidly urged against the provisions of this Bill. He would not urge this further than was necessary on the Treasury Bench, but "once bit, twice shy." They had almost all the measures in which they were most interested cast out with something like contumoly—not in this House only, but in the other House during the present Session. Their Burials Bill was referred to a Select Committee, which bestowed the utmost care and consideration on its provisions, in order to divest it of anything that could possibly hurt the feelings of Churchmen. He appealed to the hon. Member for Southwest Lancashire (Mr. Cross) whether the general spirit manifested in that Committee was not a spirit of concession on both sides? But the Bill no sooner came down here than a small and compact party determined that it should be "talked" out. It was then they bestowed with the Government great pains upon the University Tests Bill. They sent it up imperfect as it was in character—advisedly imperfect—that it might pass in "another place;" but their Lordships, smitten with excessive caution with regard to religious teaching, had put it in such a position that he believed one Peer had declared within the last 24 hours his opinion that the Bill was done for for the present Session. He might mention one or two other measures which were in the same category. He must say, looking to all these things, if they, representing the Dissenting community, could stand by and see themselves elbowed out of their principles and rights they would deserve such treatment. With regard to the Education Bill, he would say that he hoped its working in this country would be better than its effect on parties in that House. It had produced a very painful impression on Dissenters generally, and on the greater number of Dissenting representatives in that House. It might be said, and had been said, that the Bill, after all, was far more liberal than it looked. He believed it would be found probably to work more smoothly than could be anticipated, for it was an educational measure. But they might be pardoned, he thought, as Nonconformists, for having mistaken—if they had mistaken—the real character and position of that measure. It was the first time that a measure brought in and advocated on the express ground that it embodied the principles of political equality had failed to recommend itself to the sympathies of the Dissenting body. What they might say, with even more distinctness, was that it was the very first time that a measure had gone up to "another place" at that late period of the Session, with regard to which they had the assurance that not a single alteration would be made in it of any importance except that which took away the Ballot. It might be a very liberal measure indeed; it might contain in its provisions all that was necessary to illustrate and carry into effect the doctrines of religious equality; all that he could say was that not such honour had all the measures proceeding from the Liberal party.


Sir, I am very sorry to interfere in the debate at this moment, but I do not think it would be becoming in me, after the speech just delivered by my hon. Friend, if I were to remain altogether silent. My hon. Friend has not been content with discussing the merits of the Bill, but has thought fit to use language concerning the relations between himself and the Government to which it is absolutely necessary I should refer. Speeches somewhat similar we have heard on former nights from my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard) and from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham); but my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) appears to think that the Government labours under the infirmity of deafness, and that we have failed to receive in our organs of hearing those expressions used by my hon. Friend. The speech of my hon. Friend amounts to a reproach on the Government for not having fulfilled the expectations under which they were brought into power. To this I say, fearlessly, in the face of my hon. Friend and of those who have made use of similar language, that if in 1868 we made bold professions to the country, professions involving, as we well knew then, and as we know now, the greatest responsibility, we have laboured to the utmost of our power to fulfil them, and the whole of our energies and the whole of our influence have, in no spirit of common calculation, been devoted to the purpose of redeeming those pledges. I am not here, therefore, to be told, with nice analysis, of what elements was made up that large degree of national support to which we owe the position we hold. I am not prepared to admit that my hon. Friend, great as is the weight of his character and the respect to which he is justly entitled, speaks in this matter the sentiments of all those with whom he is connected by religious opinions, because there are others in this House who have sat on these Benches for many years, and who have earned the respect of all who know them, who have not participated in the severe judgment passed upon us by my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend thinks it worthy of him to resort to a proverb, and to say that the time has come when he is entitled to use the significant language—"Once bit, twice shy." But if my hon. Friend has been bitten, by whom is it? If he has been bitten, it is only in consequence of expectations which he has himself chosen to entertain, and which were not justified by the facts. We have been thankful to have the independent and honourable support of my hon. Friend, but that support ceases to be of value when accompanied by reproaches such as these. I hope my hon. Friend will not continue that support to the Government one moment longer than he deems it consistent with his sense of duty and right. For God's sake, Sir, let him withdraw it the moment he thinks it better for the cause which he has at heart that he should do so. So long as my hon. Friend thinks fit to give us his support we will co-operate with my hon. Friend for every purpose we have in common; but when we think his opinions and demands exacting, when we think he looks too much to the section of the community he adorns, and too little to the interests of the people at large, we must then recollect that we are the Government of the Queen, and that those who have assumed the high responsibility of administering the affairs of this Empire, must endeavour to forget the parts in the whole, and must, in the great measures they introduce into the House, propose to themselves no meaner or narrower object—no other object than the welfare of the Empire at large. I hope my hon. Friend will excuse me if I have spoken with feeling on this subject. I have, I trust, employed no language disrespectful to him, but I own I could not help feeling wounded at hearing the language he employed coming from a man for whom I entertain the greatest respect, and whom I have always admired as remarkable for combining strong feelings with a candid and considerate manner of giving them expression. And now, Sir, with regard to the Bill itself, I was very sorry to hear the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) issue a proclamation of war against it the moment it is about to pass. We shall be compelled to put our trust in the good sense of the country. I must own I do not think the threatened blast of the trumpet will really rouse the land in opposition to the imperfections which mar such a measure as this. Far be it from me to say that this is a perfect measure. My right hon. Friend near me (Mr. W. E. Forster) to whom I myself especially—to whom the whole Government—to whom the House and the country owe a debt of gratitude, is the last man who would describe this as a perfect measure. We have had to steer our course amid competing bodies and conflicting difficulties. It was with us an absolute necessity—a necessity of honour and a necessity of policy—to respect and to favour the educational establishments and machinery we found existing in the country. It was impossible for us to join in the language or to adopt the tone which was conscientiously and consistently taken by some Members of the House who look upon these voluntary schools, having generally a denominational character, as admirable passing expedients, fit indeed to be tolerated for a time, deserving all credit on account of the motives which led to their foundation, but wholly unsatisfactory as to their main purpose, and, therefore, to be supplanted by something they think better. That is a perfectly fair and intelligible theory for any Gentleman to entertain, but I am quite sure it will be felt that it has never been the theory of the Government. My right hon. Friend and many others who have taken part in this question hold that when we are approaching this great work, which we desire to make complete, we ought to have a sentiment of thankfulness that so much has been done for us. I am one of those who hold that in the production of material objects it is desirable never to multiply the Establishments of the Government beyond what is necessary, but where it is possible to avail ourselves of private energy and zeal. So, in this matter of education, it is a great mistake and error, in our view, to think that secular education given by a State machinery is per se better and more valuable than the same education given by machinery voluntary in its character. Setting aside that which is abstractedly desirable, I think we are justified in feeling that this enormous power which exists in the country ought to be turned to account. It may be viewed, theoretically and abstractedly, in very different lights. Some may think that this existing machinery is no better than a beast of burden; but even as a beast of burden there is no reason why we should not make it do the work of the State as far as it can be rendered serviceable. Some may think it worse than a beast of burden, having its origin from below; but even if its origin were from below, you may use its energies if you can strain them to the public benefit. Some may regard it as an angel from Heaven, as the spirit of Christianity working in the minds of men and producing a profound and deep desire not only to give religious knowledge, but every element of education of essential value. I own I think that is the truest light in which to view it. I think it is the greatest mistake to suppose that those who have founded these voluntary schools have been exclusively or narrowly actuated by a spirit of attachment to those points on which they differ from their fellow-Christians. I believe that having received Christian conviction in its largeness and fulness, a largeness and fulness with which I hope this House will never attempt to interfere, they have thereby been animated with a spirit of expansive benevolence which has not stopped short of the principle to which it owed its origin, but has spread itself into a general feeling of philanthropy. And as Christianity, since it came into the world, has given a new character to secular philanthropy, so religious zeal has created, in this country especially, an amount of anxiety never before exhibited for the promotion of a sound secular education. Then, with regard to the other great question, my hon. Friend is very much dissatisfied with the plan we have adopted by which catechisms are excluded from the schools, and by which the Scriptures are only to be used as a religious text-book, without any Parliamentary declaration or statutory limitations as to their exposition. I will not say a word as to that plan, but I really cannot see how my hon. Friend can for a moment conceive that we who have adopted and recommended it are liable to the reproach of having thereby done less than justice to the Nonconformists of this country, or of having, as my hon. Friend put it, marched them through the Valley of Humiliation. If that charge had proceeded from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), who has a kind of official representation of a large portion of the Church, or from Gentlemen accustomed to treat public questions from a point of view at all peculiar to the Church of England —if, for instance, the hon. Member for North Devonshire (Sir Stafford Northcote) had complained of having to march through the Valley of Humiliation—the Government, though not in the slightest degree prepared to admit the truth or the justice of that charge, would have received it with less surprise, because, whatever the opinions of my hon. Friend may be, he cannot deny that we have excluded something from the schools, and that what has been so excluded is something particularly characteristic of the Church of England, and objected to by Dissenters. For myself, I believe that it will answer every useful purpose that there should be a free exposition of the Scriptures open to every schoolmaster who may be conscientiously attached to the Nonconformist community, subject, of course, as I hope he will be, to the restraints of common sense, but to no other restraints of a legal kind. Under these circumstances I do hope and very confidently believe that a more kindly and genial view will be taken of this matter than my hon. Friend has for once in his life been content to take. I must own that, though he seemed to make the Government responsible for the failure of the Burials Bill and the anticipated failure of the University Tests Bill, I find that, at least negatively in his speech, he admits that with this we had nothing to do whatever. The only object of that portion of his speech seems to have been to show that my hon. Friend was disappointed, and ought not to have been disappointed. But does he think that the Government ought to have resigned or to have dissolved Parliament?—for I do not know any other point of view from which it is possible to make a charge against them. Sir, we have had great difficulties to contend with, but I do not think we can claim from hon. Gentlemen opposite—we do not claim from my hon. Friend—I do not know that we can claim from any section of the House any other credit than this, which I believe the bulk of the House is dispose to give us, reserving their own judgment of particulars—that we have striven, and, above all, my right hon. Friend near me has striven, to deal for the best with all the circumstances, to smoothe difficulties, to allay passions, to avoid everything that would excite or stimulate, to endeavour to bring men to work together, to eschew all extremes, and not to make our own narrow choice the model of the measure that we were presenting to Parliament, but to admit freely and liberally, as was our duty, into its composition those great influences which we found swaying the community in which we live. That has been the general principle upon which we have acted. We might have taken a more sectional view, but what would have been the result? That this great subject of national education, instead of now being launched with some partial expressions, it is true, of disapproval, yet, upon the whole, with prospects full of hope, would have been launched indeed, but where? Not launched into the country with extended and beneficial operation, but launched into this House amid excitement and angry feelings—set down here on this floor as another standing barrier between those who sit in different portions of the House, full, indeed, of hope and promise, but of what hope and promise? That for years to come it would furnish the materials of bitter controversies in this House, and that when we cast our eyes beyond the walls of Parliament they would fall everywhere upon district after district where we should have to admit with shame the educational destitution of the people. Sir, I admit I have replied with some warmth to the imputations which have touched me nearly from my hon. Friend; but I hope the House will think that in the remarks I have made on the Bill we are now about to read a third time I have endeavoured to make a fair and equitable statement, and I think that any impartial man, whatever may be his judgment on particulars, will acknowledge that the principles upon which we have acted are the true principles upon which this great and difficult question could alone be settled.


said, while they were passing a general measure of education they ought not to forget the claims of the teachers, who had devoted their lives to the work of instruction. He was not in favour of granting them pensions, but he would, suggest the propriety of encouraging them to form some prudential plan of mutual assurance, assisted by the Privy Council, with a view to establishing some provision for themselves in old age and in times of adversity.


said, he wished to endorse everything that had been said, in the House and out of it, as to the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had carried the Bill through the House. He believed the Bill had passed scarcely so much upon its own merits as because it had been brought in and conducted by the right hon. Gentleman. When the Bill was introduced there was on all sides a great chorus of congratulation; but the measure had passed through three editions. They had had the original Bill, the Easter edition, and the Whitsuntide edition—in point of fact, they had practically had three separate Bills presented to them, each of them having distinctly marked features of its own, which differed from the leading features of the two others. The measure as it now stood represented the compromise which all parties had agreed to make in order to secure a fairly good educational scheme. At the same time, though there had been such large changes in the form of the Bill, there had been few or no concessions made to the party which had given the most consistent and unvarying support to it. Concessions of a most serious character had been made to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple); and he (Mr. Raikes) only hoped that those concessions would not be so unfortunate in their results as he was afraid they would prove to be. He could not help feeling some misgivings on the part of the Church of England. Although the Education League had not carried all their Amendments, they had a good deal with which to console themselves. It was was very unfortunate that the Government would not allow the school districts formed under the Bill to be subdivided even at the discretion of the Education Department. The refusal of the Government to accept that proposal had, he believed, taken away the most valuable and beneficial results of the Bill, and would strike a severe blow at the denominational system of this country, for it could not fail in course of time to weed out something like half the denominational schools which at present existed in different parts of the agricultural districts. A parish which was supplied with schools, but not to an extent sufficient to meet its educational requirements, would be called upon to build a school and support it by rates, and it was contrary to human nature to expect that poor parents would support denominational schools while at the same time they were called upon to pay rates for the new schools. Belonging to a family which had taken a great interest in education, he rejoiced that we had made a great step towards securing to the people the greatest blessing they could enjoy. He felt, however, that the House had not taken sufficient care to provide for the people the blessing of definite religious teaching, which the Church of England considered it her first duty and her highest privilege to impart.


said, he reprepresented a constituency (Berwick-on-Tweed) in which Nonconformity was very powerful, two-thirds at least of the Liberal party there being Nonconformists; and he admitted that, having given an unvarying support to the Government upon this Bill, he had received some complaints from constituents who were favourable to the view of his hon. Friend below the Gangway. Still those gentlemen were moderate and open to argument; they used no threats as to withdrawing their support either from their Member or from the Government, nor did he believe that such a result was likely to follow from the course he had conscientiously pursued. His feeling was that, while perhaps many Liberal Members would have liked a measure more conformable with their views if the subject had presented a tabula rasa, they could not deny that something was due to those who had been the pioneers in this matter, and of whose exertions in the cause of education they had availed themselves. Even now they were calculating on the continuance of these exertions, without which the financial difficulty would be vastly increased; therefore, the Government had done no more than they might reasonably have been expected to do in giving additional grants to denominational schools. He believed, however, that the Bill would result in the establishment of large numbers of secular schools; but he could not share in the apprehension of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), that religion would suffer if, little by little, those schools should supersede all others until they covered the country. Under a system of secular education, properly administered, religion instead of being attacked, would be strengthened. It was a very common idea, and it had been expressed in that House by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard), that secular education meant instruction in literature and science, and that religious instruction, on the other hand, meant instruction in religion and morality. And then it was contended that one day in the week was not enough for religious instruction. But instruction in morality was a part of secular education, and it had this advantage, that it was a mode of education in which all were agreed. All persons, whether Christians or Jews, Roman Catholics or Protestants, Unitarians or Trinitarians, were agreed upon the great principles of morality, all of them condemning murder and adultery, and all of them extolling charity and virtue. If the elements of morality were taught in the week, Sunday would suffice for teaching dogmatic religion. He contended that the fact that the children were receiving secular instruction in the national schools would in no degree de- tract from the beneficial influence which the respective denominational ministers would be able to exercise over them in the Sunday schools. But the Sunday schools would have to be improved to meet the increased intelligence of the pupils. All the new schools ought to be carefully watched, and care should be taken that in every school sound moral instruction was given.


I hope, Sir, the House will allow me, before the close of the last discussion on this great subject, to say a very few words, especially after what has fallen from the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) and the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall). I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham with very great regret, and I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Bradford with still greater regret, for the speech was misleading. The tones of anger in that speech, and the reproach which was levelled against the Government, I, an opponent of the Government, must say were in this instance unjust and undeserved, and they justly called down that rebuke which we have heard from the lips of the First Minister of the Crown. But I have no desire on this occasion to refer to what has passed—let bygones be bygones. My feeling and my hope is, that men of all parties may concur in regarding it as the first duty of the country to give this great measure a fair trial. I cannot now help hoping that the hon. Members for Birmingham and Bradford, and other hon. Gentlemen who have consistently and honourably acted with them in the debates on the question, will, now that this Bill has virtually become the law of the land, combine with those who have been friendly to the Bill and endeavour to insure that it shall answer the great purpose for which it is intended. Having said these few words with reference to the speeches which I have heard with so much regret, I turn with pleasure to the subject of the Bill itself, and I cannot do that without offering my sincere congratulations to Her Majesty's Government, and especially to my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster), for having conducted to a successful issue this most difficult measure—a measure which, whatever may be its defects and shortcomings, will, I believe, in a very large degree meet those urgent and pressing educational requirements—from year to year and from day to day becoming more pressing and more urgent—which it was intended to meet. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) has said, and I think with truth, that this Bill is not a perfect measure, and that even the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, who has conducted it through all its stages, will not contest that statement. I am quite of that opinion, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will bear in mind that, if they think they have their cause of complaint, so do we on this side of the House think that we have ours. There is one subject upon which I have more than once expressed a strong opinion, and that opinion is not altered. I think it will grate upon many people's minds that in this Bill there is no mention made of religion except in a restrictive sense. I do think that that is a great blot in the Bill. I agree with what the right hon. Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) has said to-day, and I think that, after all the Liberal concessions which have been made, it is unfortunate that the Holy Scriptures should not be required to be taught in the schools. It is owing, I think, to a little want of courage on the part of the Government that we have not got that enactment, which is desired by a large proportion of the Nonconformists as much as by Churchmen. It is desired not for the sake of this denomination or of that denomination, but for the sake of religion generally. I regret the condition of the Bill in regard to this point, and I also regret very much the course which the Government have taken in most unnecessarily introducing the Ballot into this Bill. If, as I suppose, they took that course to conciliate hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on their own side of the House, I can only say that it seems to have been very unsuccessful. In my opinion it was an unfortunate step. It was offensive to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who had given the Government their fair and honourable support throughout the measure. I regret that the Government thought it right to adopt that course; but notwitstanding all these defects, and notwithstanding other defects, which might be found in the Bill if it were worth while to pause and point them out—notwithstanding all these defects, I, for one, accept this Bill with cordial and heartfelt thankfulness. I should be ungrateful and inconsistent if I did not accept it with pleasure, for my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council, with whom it has been my fortune to confer on many occasions on the subject, knows that the Bill contains almost every one of those provisions for which, humbly but earnestly, I have laboured for the last 15 or 20 years. Those are provisions which, in my opinion, after long thought, are indispensable to anything like a successful measure of national education. I, therefore, say, whatever may be the defects and shortcomings of the Bill—and I do hope that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will remember that those defects and shortcomings exist in the opinion of both sides of the House—that I accept the measure with thankfulness and with joy. As time passes, in all probability this measure, like all great ones, will need amendment, and correction, and adaptation to altered circumstances; but I believe it will supply a want which has long been a scandal in English legislation; it will tend in a very large degree to promote the welfare of the country; and I cordially agree with the words which have just been spoken by the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown, that the gratitude of the country and of all parties is due to my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council for that happy combination of great ability with fine temper which has enabled my right hon. Friend to bring this measure to a successful conclusion.


said, he had looked forward for years, ever since indeed he had taken any part in politics, to the day when a measure for the primary education of the people would be read a third time in that House, but he could not regard this Bill now before them for the last time with any but mixed feelings. He fully concurred with the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington), who throughout these discussions had shown the most conciliatory disposition, and he wished that the same feeling of conciliation and kindly appreciation of motives had been shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, whose speech, in reply to the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), he deeply regretted. He fully sympathized with his hon. Friend, and it could not but be painful to hear the brilliant invective, the matchless eloquence of the Premier more often used, as had been the case throughout this Bill, in answer to the arguments of his Friends and his party, rather than against his opponents. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite might laugh, as they could not appreciate the affection and trust which they—the Liberals—felt for the Prime Minister, so neither could they measure the pain his speech had caused a portion of his followers. With that passing remark he would say with the right hon. Baronet—"let by-gones be by-gones." He would rather look forward than look backward in regard to this great measure of popular education. He valued the object above the means of attaining; it the education of their children above a "religious difficulty" or party ties. It became the duty of all to accept the Bill, and endeavour to work it with success; especially the duty of those who, living in the great cities, or representing popular constituencies, had necessarily much influence, which, forgetting all the history of the Bill, they were bound to use towards the fulfilment of its object—the education of every child in the land. While he regretted that the clauses of the Bill had in so great a degree been worded to meet the wishes of the opponents, rather than of the friends, of the Government, still he found a bright gleam of hope in those clauses. Hon. Members opposite had continually said that "monstrous and unconstitutional" powers were given to his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster). If the Liberal party had accepted that Bill, it was because they believed this power would be used in conformity with the speeches of his right hon. Friend, who had often told them that they misinterpreted the scope of the measure, that it would carry out their views in bringing education to the door of every house in the country. That House had granted him all the powers he asked; upon him rests therefore the responsibility. As to him all credit for carrying the measure through the House, so to him they looked for its fulfilment as law in the country. They said the object could not be attained by voluntary effort, or by the denominational method; his right hon. Friend said it could; upon him lay the responsibility to make good his words. The Bill might be epitomised in two clauses; one providing that education should be brought home to every child in the country, the other that the requisite powers for that purpose should be placed in the hands of Government. He (Mr. Melly) wished it were in the power of the House of Commons to pass a third clause—that the right hon. Gentleman might for long years be spared to bring the same energy, earnestness, tact, temper, and perseverance with which he had defeated the dearest wishes of his best friends, to bear upon recalcitrant Town Councils, apathetic Vestries, hostile school Boards, and parsimonious ratepayers, in furtherance of the great end of elementary national education.


said, he hoped that the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) would act more patriotically than to carry out his threat of agitation, which must necessarily interfere with industry. If he did, he hoped he would pass by Lancashire which, by its own example, might be regarded as suggesting such a course, for though there was no part of the country where the disendowment and disestablishment of the Irish Church was more generally and emphatically condemned, yet, when that measure became law, no steps were taken by politicians in that great county which would lead to anything like animosity or contention.


said, he must deny the right of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) to speak against the Bill in the name of the Dissenters of England. He did not believe the hon. Member represented one tenth part of them. A few evenings ago when he (Colonel Beresford) had an opportunity of congratulating the First Minister of the Crown on having so well interpreted the feelings of the country, he held in his pocket Petitions in favour of the course the Government had taken on the point in question signed by 23,000 Primitive Methodists. He also had a letter from Mr. Spurgeon, who could gather under his banner more Nonconformists than any man in that House, urging him to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cowper-Temple).


Sir, I should ill repay the kindness—very great and most undeserved—with which the House has borne with me and treated me throughout the long discussions on this measure, if I delayed the House beyond a few minutes before, Sir, you put the Question for the Third Reading from the Chair. But I think, perhaps, it is due to the House that having had charge of this Bill, I should take leave of it in a few remarks. My hon. Colleague in the representation of Bradford (Mr. Miall) will, I know, not expect me, if he is in this House, to dwell upon his speech. But I think it right to say this—that it has been a great grief to the Government, and a very great grief to myself, to find, in doing what we conceived to be our duty in promoting a great national system of education by which we shall, as we believe bring education home to every child in the country, that we could not do it without differing in opinion from, and even hurting the feelings of, many persons like my hon. Colleague, with whom we have been in the habit of working, and who are anxious for the same objects. I know his sincerity and the high motives on which he acts in regard to anything in which he thinks principle is involved. I only hope he will allow me to have the same jealousy respecting what I may consider right. But however much we may regret this, it was not an obstacle which we thought should stand in the way of a great national measure of education. And I am confident, notwithstanding what he has said to-day, that the time will come when he will do with regard to this measure of education what he has done in the case of other educational measures—that is, as he now would acknowledge with great candour, that he is glad the opposition which he offered in times past to all national aid to education did not succeed, so I believe the time will come when he will likewise rejoice that his opposition to this measure was unattended by success. But, Sir, I chiefly rose to express my thanks to the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington) and to hon. Members on both sides of the House, and in every quarter of the House, for the assistance which has been given to us in getting this Bill through its various stages. When I had the honour of bringing it forward, I stated that I was sure it would be regarded in no party spirit. I did not ask this, for I felt it would be an insult to the House to suppose for a moment that it would be so regarded. My expectation on that point has been entirely justified, and the measure has never been treated or discussed on party grounds by hon. Members on either side. There was, indeed, another question which, unfortunately, we felt compelled—or rather I should say, which we felt bound to introduce into it—and I do not think we could complain that some hon. Members opposite should have objected to the introduction of the Ballot. But with regard to the pure education question, all distinctions such as Tory, Whig, and Radical have been entirety lost in the desire to see a great national measure of education passed. I also expected help. I told the House we were well aware that what we proposed was not perfect; that we did not suppose it could be made perfect at once, and that we expected very great improvements would result from suggestions coming from different sides of the House. I acknowledge the help we have received from all quarters. And now I must state, although I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) and the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington) that a constructive and complicated measure of this kind cannot be made perfect at once—that I cannot assent to a proposition laid down by my hon. Colleague (Mr. Miall) some weeks ago that no measure ought to be passed which would not do for, at least, 20 years. I am, I confess, much more modest in my desires, and am content that we should commence to perform a great national duty, and even though we should have to mend or modify the mode by which this is done within two or three years, I think our time and labour will not have been lost. I think the long and anxious consideration which has been given to the Bill, and the wearying efforts which have been made have not been fruitless. The principle of the Bill has been adhered to, and I think the mode in which it has been decided to carry out that principle is not unworthy of it. The principle was this—a legal enactment that there shall be efficient schools throughout the kingdom, and compulsory provision for the schools where needed, but not unless such need were proved. It was in those words that I described the Bill when I introduced it, and when we send the Bill up to the other House, this principle will still be in it; and I have a sanguine hope that in that Assembly it will receive as patient a consideration as it has received here, and that, with this principle still intact, it will become law. During the passage of the Bill through Committee the machinery was altered, and I think mainly for the better; nor do I know of any change in this respect which I regret. On the contrary, I believe we have simplified the machinery and secured that it shall more freely work, and I am bound to say that for this we have to thank the useful and enlightened suggestions which the practical knowledge of Members on both sides of the House has supplied. The changes in the machinery have, I believe, been advantageous. They are changes which I could hardly have ventured to suggest myself, although several of them I should have been glad to have embodied originally in the Bill had I believed it would have been feasible to carry them. The greatest difficulty we experienced in framing the Bill was that of dealing with the immense part of the kingdom which is within the metropolis—a difficulty which almost filled me with despair when I considered how it was to be met. The difficulty arose from the present position of all governmental and municipal arrangements in the metropolis, and I felt that if on the first introducing the Bill we had fastened on the difficulty, Members on both sides of the House would say we had undertaken too much. Well, Sir, the House took the matter up, and I now look forward not with despair, but with the greatest possible hope—with a well-grounded, sanguine expectation, that London will afford the first example of the success of this measure. I am glad to have an opportunity of stating to the Members of this House connected with London, and through them to the people of the metropolis, that, inasmuch as it has been settled by this Bill that as soon as it becomes law the Metropolitan Board by whom the arrangements will have to be conducted shall be elected, London itself will be in the proud position, befitting its place in the kingdom, of first setting to work to apply and carry out this Education Bill. I believe it will successfully accomplish the work. If it does not the example will be one most dangerous. [Mr. MORLEY: Hear, hear!] I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol evidently taking that remark to himself, because few persons have more influence and can do more to accomplish the great object we have in view in the City of London than he can himself. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly), who spoke in words very far too kind about myself, alluded to the great powers which will be possessed by the Education Department and the responsibility which will rest on it. They are indeed, Sir, very great. And nothing but the magnitude of the task and the arduous character of the duty we have to perform would have warranted us in asking the House to intrust us with such powers. My noble Friend the President of the Council and myself, and the Government generally, are perfectly aware of the magnitude of the powers that are intrusted to us and the consequent onerous responsibility that devolves upon us. And, perhaps, here I may be allowed to make one remark, which I feel is due from me in common fairness and justice. I am very glad, and I believe the House has reason to be glad, that, whatever may be the ultimate decision as to whether there shall be a special Educational Minister or not, considering the immense difficulty of the task we have to perform—I say the House has reason to rejoice that two Educational Ministers will be intrusted with the carrying out of this Bill. I have happened to stand before the country rather prominently in this matter, because I had charge of the Bill. But I feel bound to acknowledge the assistance given me by my noble Friend, and I should be very hopeless indeed of being able to get the Bill in work throughout the country if I did not feel I should have his able assistance and superintendence in putting it into operation. But we shall, notwithstanding, want assistance outside the House, as we have had within it. Nor do I fear much those statements that we are to have an agitation—and my reason is this—I know my hon. Friends who make those statements have as earnest desires as ourselves for the advancement of education, and if they find that we are really trying to meet the difficulties of our task, they would be the last to try to frustrate our efforts before we have had a fair opportunity of showing whether we were justified in the hopes we entertained. I will not detain the House any longer except simply to say this. When we brought forward our measure circumstances generally were very different from what they are now, and I am sure even those who desired that the Bill should be postponed for another year will on this ground be glad that they did not obtain their wish; for, looking to the terrible events transpiring around us in Europe, we must all feel how much more difficult it would be to carry through a complicated measure of this kind next Session than it has been this. This terrible war may suggest to us one other thought. We may consider ourselves fortunate that we are preserved from this contest, and we hope and trust we may continue to be so. But we must remember we have enemies around us from which we have not been preserved, and against which even peace and prosperity give us little security. Our very prosperity creates such foes. We have before us the great task of putting down the invading armies of ignorance, misery, and destitution, which swarm in upon us like insects and feed on the trees of our commercial prosperity. It is vain for us to suppose that peace will secure us from great national evils if we do not conquer the swarming hosts of ignorance. Efforts have indeed been made to face this dangerous foe, but this is the first time national machinery has been devised for grappling with those great evils, and that the State has set itself to work and organized itself to put down ignorance. It is the first attempt in favour of national education; and I am confident that the country generally and our constituents will not think we have wasted our time in taking this first step. Some of my hon. Friends who have paid great attention to this measure, and who care as much for religion as any of us—for I am sure I have no right to place myself above or even on an equality in this respect with some of them—have differed from us in their care for religious interests. Yet I believe that they themselves, when they come to reflect, will not regret that we have not by Act of Parliament built a wall around the schools which are to receive the outcast and the destitute, through which a ray of Christian light could not penetrate, and that, in the interests of freedom, we did not get Parliament to declare that parents who desire for their children religious combined with secular instruction should not be allowed to have their wishes gratified.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.