§ (Mr. William Edward Forster, Mr. Secretary Bruce.)
§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. RICHARD
, in rising to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, said—* He could say, with unaffected sincerity, that it was with extreme diffidence and reluctance he had consented, in deference to the wishes of others whose judgment he was bound to respect, to occupy the position in which he then stood. It was no pleasure to him, but very much the reverse, to appear to lead an opposition to so important a measure of the Government as that then before them. He had endeavoured to bring to the consideration of the Elementary Education Bill a mind perfectly impartial and dispassionate, except, indeed, so far as it was biased 496 by a strong disposition to regard with favour any measure proposed by a Government, in which it had been his happiness hitherto to feel almost unlimited confidence. He was one of those, indeed, who doubted the wisdom of attempting to pass a measure of national education in that Session. The country was discussing the subject with great animation and earnestness, and, as it appeared to him, with great moderation and temper, and he thought it would have been better to permit that discussion to go on, at least for a year, until public opinion, which was itself in a somewhat crude and unformed state, had subsided into something like clearness and consistency. But since the Vice President of the Council thought it his duty to deal with the subject at once, there was, he believed, a disposition on all hands to consider most calmly and candidly any proposals he might be prepared to make. He believed there was scarcely any person in that House whom the Nonconformists of this country had been more disposed to trust than the right hon. Gentleman. For himself he could say, that feeling the supreme importance of the question in its bearing upon the future well-being and prosperity of our country, and acknowledging, as every candid man must acknowledge, the manifold difficulties by which it was surrounded—difficulties not factitious and imaginary, as some would imply, but most real and formidable—he thought they all ought to approach the discussion in a spirit of mutual forbearance, candour, and conciliation, and especially that his right hon. Friend, was entitled to have a liberal and generous construction put on his intentions and motives. And such, he believed, was the temper in which the country generally had entertained and examined the Bill. And though, no doubt, there was among the Nonconformists a feeling of great disappointment and surprise when some of its provisions came to be known, they had shown no desire whatever to reject it. On the contrary, some of them, at least, were prepared to make concessions which appeared, to him to carry them to the verge of inconsistency with their own professed principles. But this was done under the influence of motives so pure and patriotic, that though he could not agree with them, he dared not censure them. But with every disposition 497 to concede, there were certain portions of the Bill which it was impossible for them to accept, and which had been rejected with almost absolute unanimity by all bodies of Nonconformists in this country. They were, however, still most anxious that something should be done to obviate their objections; and therefore it was that they listened with intense interest to the statement of the Prime Minister on Thursday last, in the hope that he might offer them such modifications of the measure as would absolve them from the necessity of further opposing it, and enable them to do, what he assured the right hon. Gentleman would be far more congenial to their feelings, give to him and the Bill their cordial support. He was obliged, however, to say that after listening to that statement he, for one, was wholly disappointed. The new scheme of the Government, instead of removing objections had added others, which were in some respects still more formidable. Under the Bill, as it originally stood, there was at least a possibility of its being so amended that the existing denominational schools might, without being subjected to any violence or injustice, become absorbed in, and incorporated with, a real system of national education. But the present scheme might be described as a measure for making the education of the people of England universally and for ever denominational. Or, to use the language of The Times newspaper in one of its articles last Saturday—We are landed in this wonderful conclusion—The agitation of the last two or three months has been one continued protest against the spread of denominational education, and the Bill as amended and re-amended promises to assist what the voice of the nation rejects.He was not going to indulge in any disparaging observations respecting denominational schools, which had rendered such valuable service to the cause of education in times past; and he entirely repudiated and repelled, as ungenerous and ungrateful, the imputations which had been made by some enthusiastic, but inconsiderate educationists to the effect that the religious denominations in this country had stood in the way of the education of the people. The reverse was the truth. Long before the State had awoke to the sense of its duty—if, indeed, it was the duty of the State to take charge of the education of 498 the people, which he, for one, gravely doubted—the religious bodies had been actively at work covering the face of the country with schools in which an education was given which, if not reaching to an ideal standard of perfection, was of great value to large masses of the people; and no feeling of sectarian narrowness should prevent him from acknowledging that the clergy of the Church of England were entitled to an honourable pre-eminence in this matter. Still it appeared to him that denominational schools should be voluntary schools. So long as they were established and supported by the spontaneous liberality of their promoters no one would have a right to interfere with their perfect freedom of teaching. He thought, however, that if there was to be a national system of education, it was undesirable that it should be denominational. But when it was proposed to make denominational education permanent and universal, and to saddle the support of it for ever upon the taxpayers of the country, it was not only undesirable, but absolutely inadmissible. If the scheme of the Government were carried out consistently, they must in all fairness and justice not only continue the grants already made, but make grants to every denomination that might think fit to claim them. And what would this scheme be then? It might be described in one sentence which he would borrow from Mr. Cobden, who, in reference to a project in all essential respects similar to that of the Government, started by some excellent people at Manchester, 20 years ago, said—It is, in fact, a proposal by which everybody shall be called upon to pay for the religious teaching of everybody else.As a Nonconformist, he had, in limine, an insurmountable objection of principle to such a scheme. If he knew anything of the principles of Nonconformity, one of the most fundamental and universally acknowledged of them was this—that it was not right to take money received from the general taxation of the country, and apply it to purposes of religious instruction and worship. He was not going then to discuss the soundness or unsoundness of that principle, though it appeared to him to lie at the very foundation of all religious liberty. For if they claimed the right to compel one 499 man to pay for the support of another man's religion, and to enforce that, as they must, by penalties of law, they passed at once into the region of religious persecution. He should like to fortify the statement he had made, as to this being one of the fundamental principles of Nonconformity, by very short extracts from, two distinguished Nonconformist Members of that House. The first was from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, whose absence on this as on so many other occasions during the Session they had so much reason to deplore. Speaking in that House in 1847, on an education debate, on the Minutes of Council introduced by Lord Russell's Government, and in reply to a speech of Lord Macaulay, who had characterized the expressed opinions of the Nonconformists as "the clamour out of doors," the right hon. Gentleman made use of these words—Recollect, when the whole of the Nonconformists are charged with clamour, what they mean by being Nonconformists. They object, as I understand—at least, I object—to the principle by which the Government seizes hold of public funds to give salaries and support to the teachers of all sects of religion, or of one sect of religion, for I think the one plan nearly as unjust as the other. Either the Nonconformists hold this opinion, or they are making a sham. They object to any portion of the public money going to teachers of religion belonging either to the Established Church or to Dissenting Bodies; they object to receive it for themselves."—[3 Hansard, xci. 1094.]The other opinion to which he would refer was expressed in a lecture delivered in London by the hon. Member for Leeds in 1847. Speaking of the New Testament sanction and authority, which vested the support of religion on voluntary liberality, the hon. Gentleman said—We must extend that principle to religious education, for if we once receive public money for religious instruction in our schools, we should very soon receive it for religious instruction in our chapels. On that point there can be no dispute, except with men whose ideas are exceedingly confused.He (Mr. Richard) had, he must repeat, an insurmountable objection to the principle which underlay the present scheme of the Government; it was, in fact, a principle of concurrent endowment. Of course, the Church of England would have the lion's share. The proposed system would place many districts wholly under the influence of the members of that Church. They had the land, they had 500 the wealth, they had the social influence, they had the ear of men in office. And at what time was that proposed? At a time when a large, increasing, and powerful section of the clergy of the Church were openly teaching doctrines, the distinction between which and the doctrines of the Church of Rome was growing small by degrees and beautfully less. He had some acquaintance with the literature of that class of persons, and he found them teaching the doctrines of the sacrifice of the Mass, auricular confession, and priestly absolution, the adoration of the Virgin, the invocation of saints, prayers for the dead; and, of course, that Dissenters were schismatics and heretics; that Dissenting clergymen were only laymen; and that the sacraments administered by Dissenters were "blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits." He was not going to say one word disrespectful of those views, for he would insult no man's religious opinions; but this he would say, that there was a large number of persons in this country, including the whole body of Nonconformists of every denomination, who held those views in utter abhorrence, and they thought it a hard thing that they should be called upon to give 50 per cent to the support of schools in which such doctrines were to be taught. He would now come to the second important change made in the Government measure. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government said on Friday last that he was prepared to adopt the Amendment of the right hon. Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple), to the effect that in schools hereafter established by local rates, no catechism or religious formulary which was distinctive of any particular denomination should be taught. He ventured to say that that would be no security whatever against the schools becoming purely sectarian. Could anyone imagine that a zealous sectarian, whether a Dissenter or a Churchman—for there were sects in the Church as well as out of it—would be deterred by such a regulation from teaching anything or everything that he might consider special to his own sect? There was no provision, let it be observed, against the teaching of distinctive doctrines, provided they were not taught in the shape of a catechism or formulary. They might be taught in any way the majority of the local Boards 501 would order, and any "ism," from Puseyism to Positivism, might be so taught. If, on the other hand, the matter was to be left to the discretion of the schoolmaster, who was to be at liberty to teach to the children any religious doctrines he chose, he quite agreed with the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire that they were about to create a new sacerdotal class, in whose hands they were going to entrust a very formidable power, which would influence the mind of the country for all time to come. If they said the school Boards were to have authority to control the teaching of the schoolmaster, then they introduced into those an element of religious discord and animosity. What was the way out of the difficulty? He agreed with the Prime Minister that a solution of the difficulty was not to be found in the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt)—namely, that there should be religious teaching, but of an unsectarian and undenominational character. These terms were far too vague. Those who advocated this plan had been misled by the success of partial experiments that had been made upon a limited area, and under circumstances entirely different from those under which the experiment must be made when they had to work a system of national, rate-supported, and compulsory education. A few Evangelical members of the Church, and of the Evangelical Nonconforming bodies, might find no difficulty in getting some common ground on which they could agree as to the religious doctrines that were to be taught in the schools. But they must consider the large number of members of the Church, and the 1,000,000 or more of Roman Catholics to whom the observation would not apply, and also take into account Unitarians, to whom all Trinitarian doctrine was sectarianism; the Jews, to whom the New Testament itself was a sectarian book; and unbelievers, because it was proposed to take the money of all to pay for the support of these schools. If they were to eliminate from the proposed system of religious instruction whatever was objectionable to all these sects and persons, what kind of religion would they have left? Besides, there was another difficulty. In case of any difference arising as to what was sectarian teaching, who was to decide? The Prime 502 Minister informed a deputation that waited on him not long since that they could not make the schoolmaster the ultimate judge of what he was to teach; and that if the appeal was to be to the local Board, it would be but the harbinger of a general warfare. Some one suggested a reference to the Privy Council. In his (Mr. Richard's) opinion, it was impossible that the Privy Council could adjudicate upon every case that might arise in 50,000 or 60,000 schools all over the country. The only way in which the Government for the time being, represented by the Committee of Council on Education, could deal with the matter, would be by preparing some general instructions as to what they considered to be sectarian or unsectarian religious teaching. And imagine any Government undertaking to discharge such a duty. For his part, he had the greatest confidence in the almost unbounded intellectual resources of the Prime Minister; his theological and ecclesiastical knowledge was, no doubt, very large; his ingenuity and constructive faculty they had had ample opportunities of admiring during that and the last Session of Parliament; but he should despair of even the right hon. Gentleman succeeding in constructing a new kind of eclectic religion, including everything that was acceptable, and excluding everything that was unacceptable to everybody. In this state of things he proposed the Amendment of which he had given Notice—namely, that, in any national system of elementary education the attendance should be everywhere compulsory, and the religious instruction should be supplied by voluntary effort and not out of Public Funds. He was happy to have received important and candid admissions in its favour. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister acknowledged it was the only logical position they could take in order to escape from the objections raised by the Nonconformists; and he added that he had no horror of that logical result, because he did not think that by itself it implied the slightest disrespect to religious teaching, or any wish to prevent or obstruct such teaching. For himself, he could say he agreed with many hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, that religion was beyond all comparison the most important element in the education of a human being, the 503 influence which, alone effectually could "what is dark in us illumine, what is low, raise and support." And if there was any class of the community more than another that required the hopes and consolations of religion, it was precisely that class for which a system of primary education was specially intended—namely, the toiling millions of our countrymen, in order to soften the asperity of their lot, and to irradiate the darkness of their present life with the light of a hope that is full of immortality. He could not however sympathize in the slightest degree with those who decried as worthless or dangerous every kind of education that was not directly religious. He was certain they were not enlightened friends of religion who endeavoured to brand as profane or godless every kind of knowledge but that which had some kind of theological tint about it. How could anything be godless that introduced us into more perfect acquaintance with the works and ways of the Supreme Creator? What, in fact, was this great universe which we inhabit but a magnificent school-room, built for us by the great Master, hung around with gorgeous pictures, designed to reveal to us his glorious and infinite perfections. He could claim in support of this view the opinions of a great authority on education—namely, the present Bishop of Manchester, who, in his recent able Report to the Committee of Council on the subject of the American system of education, said—I do not like to call the American system of education, or to hear it called, irreligious. It is, perhaps, even going too far to say that it is non-religious, or purely secular. If the cultivation of some of the choicest intellectual gifts bestowed by God on man—the perceptions, memory, taste, judgment, reason—if the exaction of habits of punctuality, attention, industry and good behaviour; if the respect which is required, and which is paid during the reading of a daily portion of God's holy word, and the daily saying of Christ's universal prayer, are all to be set down as only so many contrivances for producing 'clever devils,' it would be in vain to argue against such a prejudice. But if, as I believe, the cultivation of one of God's good gifts, and the attempt to develop any one right principle or worthy habit are, so far as they go, steps in the direction not only of morality, but of piety, materials with which both the moralist and the divine, the parent and the Sunday-school teacher, may hope to build the structure of a 'perfect man' which they desire, then it is manifestly ungenerous to turn round upon the system which does this, which supplies these materials of the building, and is prohibited by circumstances over which it has no control, and to which it is forced to adapt itself, from doing more, and stigmatize it with the brand of godlessness.504 In fact, the question was, not whether religious education was to be given, but how and by whom it was to be given? He wanted not only religious education to be given, but distinctive and positive religious teaching, for he had no faith in a neutral, colourless, and bloodless kind of religious teaching, out of which everything that was essential and vital had been eliminated. But who was to give it? The State could not, for doing so formed no part of its functions. What was the State? So far as our country was concerned, that House might almost say—L'Etat, c'est moi! That House had the most important place in the legislation of the country, but how was it composed? They had only to look at its constitution to become convinced that it was not a body which could undertake to direct the religious teaching of the country. It was composed of members of the Church of England of every possible shade of opinion, from the followers of Dr. Pusey to those of Dr. Colenso; of Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, Calvinistic Methodists, Plymouth Brethren, Unitarians, Jews, and, for aught he knew, "Turks, Infidels, and heretics." How then could they, constituted as they were, undertake to provide or direct a system of religious instruction for the people? He proposed that the State should give what it could give—namely, a literary and scientific education, and leave to the Churches and the religious denominations to supplement that education by teaching religion. He might be asked, had they any security that a religious education would be given in that case? He thought he could promise that there would be at least as good an education given them as at present. The fact was, that the religious education now given in the day-schools was little better than a sham. He needed no other proof of that statement than the annual Reports of the Inspectors of the Committee of Education of the Privy Council. He would cite a few extracts, going no further back than the very last series of Reports presented by the Inspectors. Rev. J. Rice Byrne, Inspector of Church of England Schools in Gloucestershire, says—I concur with such of my colleagues as have reported unfavourably of the religious instruction, as for the most part insufficient, mechanical, and unedifying. … May I be permitted to remark that the responsibility for an evil which Her Ma- 505 jesty's Inspector can at least only alleviate, would, at any rate, be transferred to those to whom it justly belongs, if the supervision of religious instruction were, in Church of England Schools, as in others, left altogether to ministers of religion and their superiors.The Rev. C. Du Port, Inspector of Church, of England Schools in the counties of Berks, Hants, Oxford, Surrey, and Wilts, says—The catechism is most probably learned me-moriter, but it is repeated generally quite without intelligence, and is droned out almost unintelligibly; and where Bible stories are taught, and not merely read, the style of answering is generally a mere simultaneous bawl in response to either leading or stereotyped questions, and implies now, and promises for the future, practical ignorance on the part of the children individually.Rev. Claud Parey, Inspector for Cumberland, Westmoreland, and parts of Lancashire, Northumberland, and Yorkshire, says—As a matter of fact it is rare, though not without exception, to find the religious knowledge really good where it has not received attention from the clergyman; and where the clergyman never takes any part at all, it is generally superficial in the extreme.The Rev. J. Pryce, Church of England Inspector in Mid-Wales, says—Even in very fair annual grant schools, where the character of the religious instruction reaches up to 'good' and 'fairly good,' I question much whether the children derive much spiritual profit from it, if it has been taught them by the acting teacher, an apprentice, or a monitor. Such teaching is necessarily given in such a dry, hard, and uninviting manner, that it does not reach the heart, and utterly fails, if such be its purpose, in making the children better Christians, or better Churchmen; while in inferior schools the children are simply crammed for the religious examinations a few days before the Inspector's visit. In the face of all this, the clergyman of the parish will perhaps consider that the children are taught their religious duties by the schoolmaster, and will be apt, therefore, to neglect the most important work himself.The Rev. G. Steele says of schools inspected by him in ancashire—But probably there is greater reason to be dissatisfied with the manner, than with the matter of religious instruction. Too often the examiner finds the children's minds almost blank of anything beyond mere facts of history, or formulas of doctrine. Sound principles for the regulation of daily life, and the great ideas of duty and responsibility, are not sufficiently grafted upon Scriptural facts and examples.He could multiply these quotations, but for fear of wearying the House. And was this a kind of religious education for which it was worth so vehemently to contend? Who, then, should take care of the religious education? There were 506 more than 50,000 ministers of religion in England who had no other reason to assign for their own existence, except that they existed to teach religion to the people. Some of them were paid largely out of State endowments, and if their function was to be given over to the schoolmaster, why not give the latter a portion of the religious endowments? But nearly all these ministers of religion had also working with them, and under their superintendence, lay organizations of various kinds, including a noble band of some 320,000 Sunday school teachers to aid them in the work of religious education. He was happy to fortify his own views by the authority of a distinguished minister and dignitary of the Church of England, the Rev. Dr. Hook, Dean of Chichester. It would be difficult to find a more competent authority. Dr. Hook was himself a most zealous, experienced, and successful educationalist. He was, moreover, as he says, a High Churchman, though he (Mr. Richard) must say a most generous and large-hearted High Churchman. In a pamphlet published by him 23 years ago, he advocates a plan precisely similar to his. He would quote his words—Let us, then, see what steps may be taken, without violation of religious principles, and, if so, what steps ought to be taken. In order to do this, let us ascertain why there has been so strong an objection on the part of religious men, whether Churchmen or Dissenters, against every proposal which has hitherto been made in favour of a State education. Statesmen, as well as others, will always find that it is the part of sound policy, as well as of honesty, 'to tell the truth and shame the devil.' When a suspicion exists that falsehood lurks at the bottom of a measure proposed for our acceptance, repugnance to it is straightway excited. If the State promises what it is quite clear the State is unable to give, then, because its promises are known to be false, a prejudice is excited against its proposals. It is abundantly clear that the State cannot give a religious education, as the word religion is understood by unsophisticated minds. The assertion that it is desirable that the State should educate, and that its education must be a religious one, which is, as I shall show, in one sense true, must greatly awaken suspicion when the assertion is made by those who are known to have no religion, properly speaking, themselves. It is suspected that an evasion is intended, and that it is meant to keep the word of promise to the ear, but break it to the hope. There is an instinct in the religious mind which excites a suspicion that the principle is enunciated merely to silence opposition; and the question at once occurs to the practical English mind—to which religion is not a sentiment, but a reality—when you speak of religion, what religion do you intend? The Churchman asks, is education to be based on my religion? 507 if it be, I am ready to sacrifice everything in order to work with the State. But no, this cannot be; for this would exclude a large and influential portion of the community, the Protestant Dissenters; and then comes the question from the Dissenters, will you base education upon Protestantism, or the admission of every species of doctrine and opinion except those which are peculiar to the Church of Rome? This cannot be; because it would lead to the rejection of Roman Catholics. Will you base religion then on the Bible, and the Bible only? The difficulty now occurs as to the version to be used, whether the authorized version, the Roman Catholic, or the 'Unitarian' version. What, then, is the religion the statesman will give us as the basis of education? Upon investigating the subject we find that a notion prevails among careless people that religion may be treated as either general or special; special religion is doctrinal, and general religion is some system of morals, which being divested of all doctrine, looks so like no religion at all that religious persons at once perceive that when people talk of an education based on such a religion, they seek to deceive themselves as well as us and utter a falsehood. I believe that all religious sects and parties will on this ground combine to resist any State education which is professedly religious; and I believe that it is because statesmen have supposed it necessary, in order to conciliate religious persons, which they have entirely failed to do, by talking of their education as based upon religion, that the strong feeling of opposition to State education has been excited. But their position will be changed, if they tell us that, while the State recognizes the necessity of a religious education, it can itself only give a literary and scientific education; and that it will obtain from others a blessing which it cannot confer itself. It makes an essential difference whether a part is put for the whole, which is the fact under the system hitherto proposed; or whether the literary education of the State be declared of itself insufficient, and only one department of a great work. If the State says that it will make provision for literary or secular instruction, calling in the joint aid of the Church and Dissenters to complete the education; if it divides education into two departments, assuming one to itself and offering every facility to those who labour in the other department, a great portion of the objections to which I have alluded will be annihilated.He was happy also to be able to cite in favour of his views the opinion of another very distinguished man, the late Mr. Cobden, to whom the Prime Minister had referred on Thursday in those terms of respect and admiration which he always delights to use in speaking of that illustrious patriot. But the right right hon. Gentleman, in speaking of Mr. Cobden's views on education, stopped short in the middle of a passage. He would continue the quotation. Mr. Cobden said—In joining the secular system of education, I have not taken up the plan from any original love for a system of education which either separates itself from religion, or which sets up some peculiar 508 and novel mode of a system which shall be different from anything which has preceded it in this country. I confess that for 15 years my efforts in education, and my hopes of success in establishing a system of national education, have always been associated with the idea of coupling the education of this country with the religious communities which exist. But I have found, after trying it, as I think, in every possible shape, such insufferable difficulties in consequence of the religious discordances of this country, that I have taken refuge in this, which has been called the remote haven of refuge for the educationists—the secular system—in sheer despair of carrying out any system in connection with religion. I should, therefore, be a hypocrite, if I were to say I have any particular repugnance to a system of education coupled with religious instruction. But there is no one in this room, or in the country, that can have a stronger conviction than I have of the utter hopelessness of ever attempting to unite the religious bodies of this country in any system of education; so that I can hardly bring myself even to give a serious consideration to the plan that has now been brought forward by gentlemen in this city, and who have brought it forward, no doubt, with the best possible intentions, and who have only to persevere in order to find what I have found, for the last 15 years—the hopelessness of the task. For what is it those gentlemen have now proposed to do? Is there any novelty in it? Why, it is precisely what Parliament, and the Government, and the Committee of Privy Council have been attempting to do now for a great number of years—that is, to give a system of education to the country which shall comprise religious instruction, and which shall call upon the people of this country to subscribe, through taxation or rates, for the general religious as well as secular education of the country. You will have High and Low Church contending for the appointment of masters; in one parish, High Church predominating, the masters will be dwelling on the necessity of the old forma of the Church, and enforcing the ritual and observances prescribed by the liturgy and canons; and in another you will have the Low Church, on the other hand, dwelling on what they regard as the more vital essence of religion, and discountenancing those forms which the High Church regard; and you will have the same discords pervading your schools; and the consequence will be decreased efficiency of the masters, and, in some cases, a divided school, a disruption of the school along with the congregation; and you will have to fight the battle again, to reconcile the different bodies; and, in the end, I believe in my conscience, it will come, as in America and Holland, to this, you will be obliged, after a great waste of time, to return to the secular system which they have adopted, and which we are met here to advocate.But he might be asked, if religious teaching were excluded from the schools, was there not the danger of our turning out a population of infidels? Well, in reply to that he would refer to the experience of two great nations, which had respectively tried the two opposite methods. In Prussia there had been for some years established a national 509 system of education based on religious instruction, and the religious teaching was of a most dogmatic and positive character; and what was the result? There was not in Europe a more irreligious nation than the Prussians. That was generally acknowledged to be true; and when he was in Berlin last autumn he was very much struck by the fact stated in one of the journals that of the people buried in that city, 80 per cent were buried without any kind of religious observance or ceremony whatever—a fact which, he thought, spoke volumes as to the religious indifference of the people. In the United States, on the other hand, they found substantially a secular system. It was true they read a chapter of the Bible in many of the schools every morning, but by no means in all. There was not a more religious people in the world than the Americans. In proof of that he would mention, that according to the United States' Census of 1860, there were in that country 54,000 church edifices erected by voluntary contributions, at an estimated value of 171,000,000 dollars. It was, moreover, found that the number of those churches had increased 50 per cent, and had doubled in value during the preceding ten years. The total church accommodation was one church for every 544 persons, there being in the aggregate 12,875,119 sittings, being one sitting for every two and a-half persons in the whole population. He wished he could say as much for their own country. At least three-fourths of the entire population in the States are under the dominant influence of the chief Protestant Churches—the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, the Methodists, the Baptists, the Episcopalians, the Lutheran, the German, the Dutch Reformers. That was a pretty conclusive proof that the secular system had not made the Americans a nation of infidels. Why not, therefore, try it here? What the day schools omitted, the ministers of religion and the Sunday schools would supply, and certainly he had no fear of the result. With regard to his own country (the Principality), he had no fear that the children would grow up godless, even though religion was not taught in the day schools. In their homes, by their parents, in churches, and in chapels, they could not fail to have their religious training carefully attended to. He, therefore, ven- 510 tured to commend his Resolution earnestly to the House. Let the State give what it could give—literary and scientific instruction. Let it develop the faculties and train the intelligence of the people, and then let the Christian ministers do that which they could do, ought to do, and he believed would do—lead that trained intelligence to the knowledge and love of God. By thus not attempting to join together two things that cannot coalesce—by entrusting to the State the work which alone it could do—by looking to those whose proper function and special duty it was, for the supply of the religious teaching of the people—they would best form, not only an educated but also a religious people, and would, at the same time, be paying heed to the injunction of Him whom most of them in that House called Master, by "leaving unto Cæsar's the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's." The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Mr. Speaker—My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) has reminded the House that, when this Bill was introduced, regret was expressed by many that the Government should have dealt this year with education. It was felt that, long as we had waited, it was better even to wait another year, and then deal with English and Irish education as a whole, and carry then a perfect measure for both countries, rather than an imperfect measure now for one. I was not one of those who held that opinion then; but I hold it now, because, although public opinion has ripened fast, and the country is ready for a better Bill, we still find ourselves in a position of unwilling hostility to a Minister with whom we cannot but sympathize—whom we cannot but admire and respect; and because it is still left to the great constituencies to force the hand of the Ministry, and to drive them into doing that which, I believe, many of them personally would be glad to do. My hon. Friend who has just addressed the House—as a Welsh Nonconformist, a Dissenter of the Dissenters—has dwelt chiefly upon the first and third clauses of his Resolution. He cares more about these clauses than about the second, though he cares for all. I trust that I also care for all; but, caring for all, I admit frankly to the House that I care 511 chiefly for the second. Only for this reason, however, do I care chiefly for compulsion—because, if permissive compulsion is carried, it will be years and years before we can make it general, even if we do not destroy the principle of compulsion altogether; whereas, if you carry permissive sectarianism this year, before nest year comes, or before a few years are passed, you will have refusals to pay the education rate, you will have to distrain for it, you will have dissatisfaction in the country and riots in your towns, and you will be glad to undo what you have done, and to have it forgotten as quickly as may be that you ever proposed so indefensible a scheme. My hon. Friend, too, is not a member of the Education League, while I speak to-day as a member of that body; which, while its members differ among themselves as to whether or not the schools should be free—as to whether the Bible should be read in them or whether they should be purely secular—has always been one upon the subject of compulsion. Every one of the donors of those large sums which have been contributed to its funds, every one of those thousands of members who have joined its ranks in all the boroughs and almost all the villages of the land—all, without exception, have subscribed to, and not one has dissented from the principle of compulsion. Before, Sir, I pass to the subject of compulsion, I should like to say a few words upon the other parts of the Resolution. In my humble opinion, the exclusion of catechisms is not much of an improvement in practice, and is no improvement at all in principle. Were I a Dissenter, I should look upon it as the reverse, too, of a compliment; for it seems to assume that the object of the Nonconformists is, not to assert a principle, but only to worry the Church of England and the Church of Rome. The Government have apparently given way, because they admit the force of the argument that it is wiser not to try and make of children controversial divines. But it is for the Churches, and not for the State, to recognize this truth. It is for the Churches to refrain from teaching their catechisms and formularies to children under 12, and not for the State to compel them to refrain. If you meddle with the character of the teaching you make yourselves responsible for it. I am not speaking under any 512 special feeling of disappointment. The Bill, as it stands, is equally unfavourable, in my opinion, to both sides of the House, and to both parties in the country. I am not a Nonconformist; but to the Dissenters I might point out—if they did not know it far better than it is possible for me to know—that the kind of teaching to which they object will be as rife as before in the rate-built schools, but that it will, at the same time, be far more invidious in its nature. For instance, the doctrine of priestly absolution can be more easily taught upon the Gospels than in any other way, and is more likely to be taught, now that you have excluded the Church catechism from the schools, than was ever the case before. On the other hand, Churchmen on both sides of the House, who may be favourable to the denominational system, must know very well that the grant is not in much immediate danger if let alone; but that, if this Bill passes as it is, next year the proposition to increase the grant will be met by a Proposal that it shall be given only on the same conditions on which you give the rates—that is, that in order to share in the grant, you should permit the exclusion of catechisms and formularies from your own Church schools. To attack the religious clauses of the Bill is, however, to attempt to kill again an already twice-slain foe; for there is no defence upon grounds of principle attempted to be made for them. You still propose to apply rates to schools in which sectarian teaching may be given—a proposal which the present Prime Minister condemned some 14 years ago. He then spoke thus—But what would be the discord if, instead of voting a church rate for the purpose of giving effect to the known ecclesiastical laws of the country, you vote a rate for the support of some religion, you had not quite determined what—a religion which would be settled after the rate was voted at the next meeting of the ratepayers? … If I am right in believing that such discords would arise, the evil would be so intolerable that it would bring its own cure, either in throwing over the whole matter into the hands of the Committee of Council, or else in Petitions loading the Table of this House, and calling on us, in a voice not to be mistaken, to repeal so odious a law."—[3 Hansard, cxli. 950–1.]It is not strange, I think, that the people should say that this is concurrent endowment, and should take the view they do of such a plan. Under an ap- 513 plication of rates to a denominational system you are paying for religious teaching; for, how can you separate your payments, and say that the grant goes to one part of the instruction and the subscriptions to another? you are doing more than paying for religious teaching—you are paying, at one and the same time, for all possible sorts of religious and irreligious teaching; you are paying the country clergy, and you are paying Mr. Bradlaugh; you are paying people who teach that children's souls are lost if they die unbaptized; and you are paying people who teach that to baptize children is an error. Why should you do it? A great deal was made here on Thursday last of the Catholic difficulty, and I would not underrate it; but I have to say that, so far as my leading Catholic constituents represent their co-religionists, they are favourable to the last clause of the Resolution of my hon. Friend. I have taken some pains to inform myself of their views; and I can state that, while they desire to preserve the denominational system so far as it exists, they feel that, as religious differences prevent its being extended to those extreme cases of educational destitution which we have now to meet, the State may properly declare that it will step in and teach neglected children how to read and write and cipher. To the Catholics, as they well know, the education in the rate-supported schools must be secular; for, as the Bill now stands, there is no town in England, unless it be Arundel, where the Catholics will elect a member of the school Board. We have to choose, they say, between secularism and persecution.
I come now at once to that portion of the Resolution of my hon. Friend which declares that any measure of education, in order to meet our present wants or to be called national, ought to provide for general compulsory attendance. The Bill that we have before us does not do this; yet, what are the arguments of principle that can be directed against compulsion? There is only one that I have ever heard, and that is little better than a play upon the word—it is, that compulsion interferes with liberty. Of course it does. What law that we pass does not? But, does it interfere without necessity? Does it interfere in such a way as to cause harm greater than the blessings 514 which it brings with it to the children and to the State? It interferes, remember, only with the liberty of one generation, for the first well-taught generation will need no interference. It interferes only with the wicked, who violate what are commonly called the first of the rights of the child, but what I would call the first of the duties to the State. In a despotic country, perhaps, its rules might, without any gross folly, treat education as a matter between the parent and the child. But here—where, whatever the theory of your Constitution, the honour of the country is as much in the hands of the people as in almost any Republic that as yet exists—here you cannot afford to have children brought up in ignorance. There is no such thing as a right to do harm to others; and you burlesque the name of liberty when you apply it to the forcible withholding of education by a father from a child to the degradation of the infant and the danger of the State. Such being the futility of the sole argument of principle which has been urged against compulsion, what have we to say for it? In entering upon the consideration of any proposed national system of education, we might urge that it is not fair to raise heavy taxes from the people without you can promise them that the object for which you tax them shall be secured. This you can only promise if you have compulsion. Again, you have, in my opinion, a sufficient ground for compulsion—unless you can discover strong reasons which tell the other way—in the mere fact that your statistics show that, owing to the criminal indifference of parents, thousands of children are growing up untaught, to their own misery, and to the misery, too, of all who are citizens of the same State. No one denies that this is so; and if you ask those who are best qualified to give an answer whether it would be cured by compulsion, they answer—Yes! All those who have had occasion to sound the depths of English ignorance, and, on the other hand, to look with wondering respect at the astonishing and admirable effects of universal education on the people of Central Europe, such men are aware that the wideness of the difference makes in itself a case which it is, of course, open to opponents to rebut, but which, at the least, they are bound to try to answer. But, where are our opponents? Where 515 are they to be found? Almost every Member of this House—indeed, I know but one exception—concedes the principle of compulsion. The Government concede it in their Bill. The President of the Manchester Education Union has declared himself in favour of general compulsion. Of his rank and file, some are for direct and some for indirect compulsion; but all equally concede our principle. The Manchester Bill Committee join with the League in demanding direct compulsion. The Nonconformist bodies all give it a leading place in their memorials and Petitions. Members who sit on that side are justly proud of having passed the Factory Acts, which first gave us a measure of compulsion; and we who sit on this side not unfrequently show our jealousy of hon. Gentlemen opposite by attempting to claim a portion of their fame. I repeat, then, that the principle is conceded, and, indeed, that we have come to this condition of affairs—that each of us upon both sides is in favour of compulsion himself, but thinks that everybody else is against it. At all events, however that may be, the principle is conceded, and the only open question is one of possibility or convenience. I asked, a little while ago, what were the arguments of principle against compulsion? Now, I ask, what are the arguments of practice? One only, again, and that, too, in my humble judgment, false. That you are depriving the parent of the wages of his child is not in itself an argument; it is only a fact; and to be made into an argument requires you to go on and add that the deprivation does more harm than good—which I think few will assert, and which I, at all events, deny. You have the children and the State to consider, as well as the parent; and, as the parents elect us, we are, perhaps, more likely to err on the side of considering the individual parents too much and the children and the State too little, than we are likely to make mistakes the other way. We have to secure the State against crime; to strengthen it against vice; to steady it against ignorance. We have to protect the children of the wicked, whose natural guardians we are, against evils which, whatever they may be in degree, are in kind at least, the evils which, under slavery, the bondsman is liable to suffer at his master's hands— 516 that by compulsion you are depriving the father of the wages of his child, I said just now, is not an argument but a fact. But, is it even a fact? Surely, if general compulsion were to become the law of the land, the wages of adult labour would undergo a rise—a rise just as sensible as that which would be caused by the emigration of several millions of people, and against a loss of wages you would be able to set off a general compensating gain. Again, it is too late for us to take the wages objection now. The Home Secretary has promised legislation during next Session, the effect of which will be that you will have compulsion applied in the case of all agricultural children who are at work, so that this Bill will apply only to those who may be said, as far as wages earning goes, to be at play. There seems, then, to be little in this argument of loss of wages, and yet it is the only argument of practice, for the cry that the country will not stand compulsion is only the same thing in other words. Either the asserted hostility of the country means a fear of loss of wages, or it must be an idle prejudice of which, in so great a matter, it does not behove the House to take account. We cannot fairly argue out this question of compulsion because the Government disarm hostility. They admit everything we say against the permissive principle in compulsion, almost before we say it. They admit the economical objections to which I have referred. They admit that, under their Bill, where the principle is most needed it will have no chance of being tried, and they admit that when it may be tried it will be tried under the most unfavourable conditions possible. What they say is—"We are for compulsion, but we are doubtful about the country." Well, but if you are favourable you ought to have put it in your Bill, and withdrawn it only when you were convinced that the country was hostile. As it is, what evidence have you that the country is hostile? If you have any I challenge you to produce it to the House. Every section of educational reformers is favourable to compulsion; every meeting, not only in the great towns, but in towns of all sizes, pronounces in favour of compulsion. The clergy report in favour of compulsion. Your Inspectors report in favour of compulsion. At a meeting of the clergy of one diocese in 517 the South of England, held in the Bishop's Palace, a resolution in favour of direct compulsion was carried by an immense majority, the Bishop voting for the resolution. Can you point to any single fact upon the other side? I know that I shall be told that if I believe that so large a portion of the people are favourable to compulsion I may trust them to apply it, as they have power to do under the Permissive Clauses of this Bill. I do trust them to apply it in the towns; but in the country, where the labourer is ignorant and the farmer interested, you will not obtain compulsion under the Permissive Clause; and yet it is the country districts, even more, if possible, than the towns, that need compulsion. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council has several times quoted American opinions in this House. Does he know what America thinks of the permissive character of his Bill? The Tribune says of it that it—Provides that one class of peasants shall pay for the public schooling of their children, while another shall receive free tickets; that education shall be voluntary in one district and compulsory in another; and that the majority in school Boards shall establish what denominational schools they please. The American judgment of this multiform Bill would be more sweeping, perhaps, than in all respects accurate. We should be inclined to say that a measure which compels one neighbour, and permits another, which maintains the old distinction between rich and poor in the matter of public education, and which invites to sectarian feud, is calculated to defeat itself.Let me ask of you, why did you insert compulsion in your Bill? Either because those who ask for it are right, or because they are strong. Good; but why then insert it in such a way as not to satisfy its friends, if your object was to conciliate the strong; and not to satisfy yourselves, if you meant your action as a concession to your own sense of what was expedient and right. If you are really for compulsion, you cannot be satisfied with what you have done. If this Bill passes with, permissive compulsion in it, it will pass only after a Division on this Resolution, and another Division on the third reading, in which every Member who is for compulsion, and who is free to vote as he thinks fit, will have delivered his vote against the Bill. It will, when passed, bring into discredit, and into an unpopularity from which it will never escape, the very principle which you profess to approve. I repeat—if you are favourable to com- 518 pulsion—you cannot be satisfied with what you have done. I will go further, and will say—if you are for national education; for common school education such as that which exists in America; for education even such as that you have in Germany—are you satisfied with your work? This Bill, is it a national measure such as the country demanded at your hands? You have not called it a national education measure in its title—is it one in fact?
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Grants to existing denominational schools should not be increased; and that, in any national system of elementary education, the attendance should be everywhere compulsory, and the religious instruction should be supplied by voluntary effort and not out of Public Funds,"—(Mr. Henry Richard,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Sir, the speech addressed to the House by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard) was one in which there was so much that I agree with that I shall have to explain why I do not arrive at the same conclusion with the hon. Gentleman. He spoke, as I understood, with great praise of the voluntary efforts made in the country hitherto, but his object is by degrees to get rid of that system that now exists; for his whole argument was addressed not against an increase of denominational grants, but for grants simply to secular schools, leaving religious teaching to voluntary efforts. He wished to exclude from schools supported by the State in any way all religious instruction whatever, and he presumes better religious instruction will be given under such a system than exists at present. Now, in that argument I think he entirely fails. It seems to me that whether you take the religious or other instruction, it is by no means such as we should wish to see, but it is an approach to it, and the remedy seems to me, not to destroy what exists, but to improve it. Now, it is somewhat remarkable that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil is not, indeed, addressed to the Bill before the House, because, in fact, it is addressed to something stated by 519 the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government the other night, and which we think ought to be in the Bill. The hon. Member says he moves at the end of the Question to insert the words "the Grants to existing denominational schools should not be increased;" but that is not proposed in the Bill, and, therefore, the Amendment as an Amendment to this Bill seems out of place. But the hon. Member goes on to say—That, in any national system of elementary education, the attendance should be everywhere compulsory, and the religious instruction should be supplied by voluntary effort.What religious instruction? He assumes there must be religious instruction; he admits that no school would be worth anything without religious instruction; but he assumes where there has been religious instruction day by day—where any school existed in any part of the country where the clergy attended, it might not be brought to perfection, but if it were attended to only on Sundays it would be brought to perfection. There are three parties to be considered. There is the parent, the State, and the Church. I think the first duty of the State is to instruct in religion as well as in secular knowledge. But having to address a House composed of men of every religious faith, and no longer of that unity which once existed within it, it would be useless to insist that they should as a State teach religion, for if they decided to teach such a religion as they could agree to impose, nothing would be more hostile to my view. Nay, I go further, and say that nothing can be more absurd and monstrous than that which the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) told us the other night might so easily be done. No doubt the hon. Member is a man of great talent, but I think I could give him a few texts of which he would find it difficult to give an unsectarian interpretation. As I understood, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government the other night, the object of the State aid proposed to be granted to the voluntary schools, whether by rate or by Parliamentary Grant, was not to cover the religious instruction in these schools, but only to cover the secular instruction—the State was not to meddle with religion at all, and the funds of the Exchequer would be dispensed solely for secular results. If that be so, then the 520 hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil has already obtained all that he desires, because, so far as the State is concerned, nothing will be paid for the purposes of religious instruction. If we look to the history of this question of education we shall find how much the friends of religious education have conceded by way of compromise, and what claim they have to the Government protection. In the establishment of the present system a compact was entered into between the State and the religious bodies in regard to the denominational instruction they gave. You are about, for the first time, to start new schools, and those schools will, in many cases, be rivals to the old ones that were set up on the faith of continued Government aid, and it is your duty to secure a fair and equal contest between the existing schools and those which are about to be called into existence. Originally, the work of education was carried on mainly—no doubt there were also parochial schools—by two great societies—the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society. When the Government began to appreciate its great duty in the matter it treated the matter as a religious duty, and it addressed itself to those two societies to be the almoners of the bounty of the State, for through them and them only were the first grants made. In the Minutes of 1839 it was declared that the Committee of Council would not, except under special circumstances, entertain the cases of schools not connected with either of those societies. The Government treated those two societies as the representatives of Church and Dissent, and it is a remarkable fact that though the British and Foreign School Society sets itself up, and is held by its supporters and by the noble Earl (Earl Russell), who is its president, to be an unsectarian institution, yet I find that at a meeting in Birmingham it was bitterly denounced as a sectarian institution and as refusing to alter its regulations when its sectarianism was pointed out. I think, therefore, that these two bodies may be treated as having been adopted, the one by the Church and the other by the Dissenters. Lord Russell himself, in 1846, in bringing forward the Minute of Education, stated that it was the desire of Her Majesty that the youth of the country should be religiously educated, and that the rights 521 of conscience should be respected. That was the foundation of the Bill as originally announced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. And what has been the effect of this statement? In 1847 a pamphlet was published called The School in its Relations to the State, the Church, and the Congregation, the author of which, I understand, is Sir James Kay Shuttleworth, to whose exertions is due much of the progress we have made in education. The whole argument of that pamphlet was that an inseparable element of the organization of a congregation was a school. I know that no active, energetic, and high-minded clergyman would deem his parish to be in a satisfactory state if he had not a school in connection with his congregation, and if he did not teach the same truths to the children on week days as he did to the adults on Sundays. The hon. Member for Merthyr spoke as if some efficient method existed of getting hold of the children on Sundays in order to instruct them in religion. But that is not the case. Mr. Tremenheere shows in his Report on American Schools, that not one-half of the children who attend the secular day-schools attend the Sunday-schools or receive any religious instruction at all. Why, I would ask, is this scheme now brought forward? Is it because the parents are so anxious to educate their children, or because the children are so ready to seek instruction? No; it is because the parents are neglectful of their duty. That is the reason we are now talking of compulsory education, and do you suppose they will seek specially for that instruction which is, perhaps, the most distasteful to them? While you hold meetings in order to ascertain why the working men will not attend church or chapel, you think they will all send their children to the Sunday schools. On the faith of the statements to which I have referred efforts have been made by the clergy, who supposed they had obtained a moral right to the assistance and countenance of the State, and if the grant were to be increased to others it ought also to be increased to them. I take, by way of illustration, a letter I have received from a clergyman who has been in Orders for a long time. He says—Thirty years ago I completed two schoolrooms for 300 children; 25 years back I erected three rooms for boys, girls, and infants—300— 522 with teacher's residence; in 1850, two others, with master's house, for 400; in 1867, three others, with teacher's house, for 500. I have no hesitation in saying that none of these would have been erected without my exertions. I have have contributed to the whole more than £2,000. I have done this in good faith, trusting that the school deeds would never be violated.In these cases religious instruction was given under the clergyman, and the managers were communicants. That gentleman has shown his zeal in the cause of education wherever he has gone. It would not be agreeable to him that I should mention his name, but he is an example of thousands of clergymen who take the deepest interest in those schools. Now, it is most important, not only that these schools should be maintained on the principle on which they were founded, and receive assistance from the State, but that they should not be sapped and put down by the establishment of rival schools. There ought to be a distinct understanding that the great efforts which have been made should be respected by the State, and that the State should do all it could to maintain the edifice it has helped to rear. There is nowhere more distinctive religious teaching given than in the schools of the Wesleyans, and it is to be remarked that the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), after having read his recantation of the sentiments quoted by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, has stated that he is now prepared to accept educational grants from the State, but not on the condition of giving up religious instruction in the schools. And what was it that we wanted? It was full freedom of religious instruction. We demanded that every Church which had founded schools should be at liberty to teach their catechisms and creeds without anybody saying—"You are teaching more than you have a right to teach." For a long time, I must confess—for I, too, have a confession to make as well as the hon. Member for Leeds—I objected to the Conscience Clause. I objected, and I still object, to insisting upon Conscience Clauses being introduced into deeds which bind the schools for ever. In many instances the founders of these would find a sufficient number of their co-religionists to support them, in which event it would, of course, be unnecssary to bring in a Conscience Clause. In addition to that, although I do not mean to say there may not have been excep- 523 tional cases, I say there was no real religious oppression, as has been stated. Even in Wales, in places where there are both Church schools and British and Foreign schools, the preference is given to the former by large numbers of Dissenters. Indeed, in some instances, Baptist and Independent ministers have given the preference to the Church schools. It is obvious that they would not do so if they believed their children would be improperly interfered with, but in point of fact the people made no complaints of any such interference. I venture to assert, with great respect to those who are agitating the religious difficulty, that the difficulty is one which has not sprung from the people themselves. It is a grievance which has gone down from London into the country, and which would never have struck the minds of the people, unless they had been told by those having authority over them that they ought to raise the question. When this Bill was brought in there was a Conscience Clause of a kind to which I could take no exception because I was willing that children of all denominations should be taken into schools which had room for them, and that the parents should have the same freedom of withdrawal from religious instruction as the teacher had to give that instruction. When the compact was made between Earl Russell and the Bishops of the Church in 1847, there was one point they held out for as being of the utmost importance—namely, denominational inspection. That was the point in regard to which the negotiations were most protracted. Everybody can perceive the advantage of an Inspector inquiring into the whole instruction given in a school, and as to the question of additional expense it is hardly worth while putting forward. But as the State is now desirous only to produce secular results, we said we could not now ask that the Inspectors should inquire into the religious education given in the schools. This is in itself a considerable concession, and our readiness to yield on this point is a proof of the sincerity of those who sit on this side of the House. The first alteration of the Conscience Clause by the Government was made rather hurriedly, upon the suggestion of a single Member. The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) threw out a hint that a Time Table Conscience Clause was capable of adoption. If, however, we 524 are to have a Conscience Clause with a time table, to which I do not myself assent, that is not a thing to be fixed by the Government or severed from the other rules of the schools, but it must be published by the managers and made manifest to everybody in each school. Then there are classes as well as schools, and you must not leave the teaching of religion to monitors and young pupil-teachers. Such teaching must be going on at different times on different days in order to suit the different classes. Then, on all those occasions there ought to be other classes going on in order that there might be no escape from the school on the ground of religious objection, for that would be the very way to create a large number of unsectarian boys. There is another very important alteration of which I have to complain. There was originally given a very short time, as I deemed it, which was called the year of grace, but now the Government have left this out, and inserted, instead, the word "forthwith." Schools are now to be erected on the authority of the Vice President, not a year after they are said to be needed, but forthwith, thus arming the Government authority with an enormous power, and it is to be exercised without appeal. I confess I hardly know what "forthwith" means in this instance. We ought to know how long we have. But why is it necessary to be so expeditious? And I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman this question, a difficult one with school managers,—Where is it proposed to get teachers? We have at present many schools which would be more efficient if more efficient teachers could be paid and obtained. I know what excessive difficulty many managers have in finding fitting persons to take charge of their schools. The right hon. Gentleman says—"Forthwith." Take the case of a poor school, in a place where there is no resident squire, and nobody but the clergyman keeps it up; he hears with delight that there is to be an increase of the grant, and he thinks he shall be able to provide a certificated master, and so earn the grant; but he must do it forthwith; there is to be no time given him to go among his friends. You drive the supporters of the schools at once to the rates, and whatever the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) may think, rates are not extremely popular either in town or in the country. Under the right 525 hon. Gentleman at the head of the Poor Law Board, and also under myself, they have grown so as to alarm not only shopkeepers and the poor, but also the occupiers of the largest houses. Therefore do not let it be supposed that everybody wishes to rush into rates. Believing as I do that voluntary schools are better than rate-aided schools, and will answer all your purposes, I am anxious that you should give full time to allow these schools to be set up. I believe that would be in conformity with the real wishes of the people, and that it would effect the object you have in view. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) spoke of public opinion; public opinion is not always indicated by noise; it is shown by acts as well as by words. A foreigner coming to England might infer that the League was a great educational institution; but he would find that its fund of £50,000 is subscribed to put down existing systems of education, by what was described at the meeting the other day at Birmingham, as a "process of slow and painless extinction." It is the object of the League to get rid of denominational schools altogether and to get rid of all religious teaching in schools. This was avowed in the debate on the second reading of the Bill; and hon. Members may say what they please about non-sectarian education, this will be the result of adopting the Amendment. They graciously say they will allow you to have the Bible read, if you really wish it; but you must read it without a word of explanation. Valuable as the Bible is to a man who is instructed—valuable as many parts of it may be even to a child of 10 or 11 without instruction—you cannot go far without coming to points which require and demand explanation, and which lead to misconception if not explained. To talk of merely reading the Bible is religiously a sham. The reading of the Bible alone as a process of education has never in any country answered its purpose. The hon. Member for Oxford speaks of this as a non-sectarian system. To-day I happened to take up a pamphlet written by a very intelligent man, the Rev. William Fraser, who was employed by the Presbyterian Churches of Glasgow to examine into the three systems of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and who also made some inquiries with reference to America. I 526 am far from agreeing with the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil as to Prussia and America; and what he said about services in graveyards in Prussia would apply to Scotland, for it used to be the practice with the Presbyterians, and even with Nonconformists generally, to have the service performed away from the church; and, therefore, the test which the hon. Member applied is not a fair one. Listen to what Mr. Fraser says of the operation in New York of the enlightened system which hon. Members would introduce into England—Every book, even the Bible, was banished; every sentiment to which the Romanist objected was expunged whenever demanded. Religious instruction and prayer were in many cases altogether forbidden; teachers were threatened with dismissal, and actually dismissed, for the crime of using the Lord's Prayer, and nothing remained save the narrowest Deism.That was in a place in which the rule was that education should be religious without being sectarian, the first book banished as a sectarian book is the Bible itself. With respect to the year of grace I feel strongly. I do not believe it is of the least use to adopt the expression "forthwith." What is wanted is that the deficiencies of education should be supplied. It is admitted that denominational schools have done a good work; it is admitted that, by better support and inspection, they may be improved; and yet it is proposed to say that no more shall be founded, and that nothing more shall be given to them than is given to rate-aided schools—that is to say, one-half of the cost of instruction instead of one-third. I want to know what guarantee do I get, in giving my assent to the Bill, that what the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government promises will be carried out? I rely with implicit confidence on the statement of his intention, and also on the intention of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Education Department. But how can I tell what future Vice, Presidents of the Council of Education may do? The grants must be embodied in the Estimates, which it is in the power of the Ministry to cut down; and although it is true you may vote Want of Confidence by Resolutions, every rate-aided school is in the meantime protected by legislation. Why should we, who have founded 15,530 voluntary schools, and who want to 527 make them more efficient, be deprived, as if we had done something wrong, of this legislative sanction which you give to schools that are not yet in existence? Surely it would not be more difficult in the Bill than in a Revised Code to lay down the principle of a grant, or of charges on the Consolidated Fund. The Revised Code affords no security for the grant next year, because it is subject to re-revision; and it is in the power of the Department to make it disagreeable to those who have not found it over agreeable hitherto. I want to know how the additional grant to voluntary schools is to be paid—whether by an increased capitation grant or by addition to the payments for secular results. At present we get 4s. for each scholar, and for those who have attended 200 times 8s., subject to examination—that is, 2s. 8d. for each of the three branches of reading, writing, and arithmetic. On what terms are we to get the additional grant? Is there to be any condition that the grant must not equal the school-pence and the subscriptions? The fact is the grant scarcely ever comes up to the other sources of income now. A Committee of Convocation, who went very fully into the matter, ascertained that about 18s. 6d. is raised by school-pence and subscriptions, for 8s. 6d. received from the State. What we want to secure is an increased attendance at the schools; that alone would tend to produce better results on examination; and I cannot but think it would be better to give the increase for attendance rather than for results. It is said the effects of what the Government propose will be to create a race for the schools among the sects. That is exactly what I want to see. I want to see this race among the religious bodies for the schools; and if it had not been for the step taken some time back by the right hon. Gentleman then in the position of Vice President of the Council, I believe that this Bill would have been unnecessary, or nearly so. The promotion of schools by voluntary effort was progressing at six times the rate of the increase in the population. But what has been the result of the Revised Code? Sir James Kay Shuttleworth said—The Revised Code has constructed nothing; it has only pulled down. It has not simplified the administration. It does not pretend to accelerate the building of schools or to improve their structure. It has not promoted the more 528 rapid diffusion of annual grants and inspection to the apathetic parts of cities or the founding of chools in small parishes and for the sparse pospulation of rural districts. It has generally discouraged all instruction above the elements and failed in teaching them. It has disorganized and threatens to destroy the whole system of training teachers and providing an efficient machinery of instruction for schools. These ruins are its only monuments. It has not succeeded in being efficient, but it is not even cheap, for it wastes the public money without producing the results which were declared to be its main object.That is what has been done by the Revised Code. I say, then, do something to start again into effectual action that vigorous and almost spontaneous effort which was going on until it was checked by the Revised Code. Give us a supply of teachers, for there is nothing in the Bill to provide a supply of teachers adequate for the occasion within five or six years. With respect to the rate-aided schools, I must say that I am astonished, after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government with respect to what he called unsectarian education, that he could adopt the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple), which is not the Amendment of the National Union, but simply a personal Amendment proposed by himself. You are now about to do away with the whole protection of creeds and formularies, and you are going to give to the schoolmaster unlimited power of teaching whatever he pleases. Of all people the schoolmaster is the last who ought to be intrusted with such power. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil has talked about extreme doctrines rising up in the Church; but at all events the Church of England has a creed and formulary, to which appeal can be made, if anyone is teaching contrary to them. Nevertheless, you are going to give the schoolmaster power to teach any religion without checks, except the check of dismissal by the school Board; and, by allowing this intervention on the part of the school Board, you are giving rise to the very controversy which you say you are anxious to avoid. The only way out of this difficulty is, I quite admit, freedom of religious teaching or no religious teaching at all. Religious teaching in some form is what you say you desire. I think you should have freedom of religious teaching in a form that is acceptable to those who have to do with the schools; and 529 the only way of having that is that the managers should appoint a schoolmaster, knowing what he is, and that he should teach what he believes. If he were told to qualify and limit the statements he makes by the doctrine of some one else, it would end by his teaching nothing at all. The teaching would degenerate into unsectarian teaching, as it is called, which is practically sectarian to some one or other, and then some would object, and so it comes to secular teaching. Let me observe that it has been tried and failed. Mr. Fraser, whom I have already quoted, says—Limited and well-guarded compromise has invariably become unlimited concession. Never were the results of experiment distincter or more decisive. In Ireland, Upper Canada, Prince Edward's Island, in the State of New York—wherever, in short, the theory has been tested it has broken up. There does not appear to be any resting place between a system purely secular and a system soundly Scriptural. The public school must be pervaded by a coldly negative Deism or have a recognized doctrinal standard.The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil says that such a plan affronts the conscience of Nonconformists. Now, I should be a Nonconformist in Scotland, but it would not affront my conscience to know that the schools there taught the Presbyterian religion in all its strength. When objection is taken to voting public money for strictly denominational teaching, I ask you whether you are going to leave prisons, workhouses, and reformatories without religious instruction? Have you ever tried to reform criminals by means of secular schools. Could you deal at all effectually with crime in any way except by means of religious influence? Then why not, by the same means, attempt to prevent vice? You also vote money to provide Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Church of England chaplains for the Army and Navy; and you do so in order to assist the officers in maintaining discipline, and to secure good morals as far as you can; and then, when it is proposed to prevent by religious teaching children falling into vice and crime, you say your conscience is offended unless the instruction is given in your own schools. If you do prohibit the special teaching of religion in the schools, you discredit religion, you practically put it in the background; and the children knew that very well. The children in Rhode Island and in New York are not 530 so well instructed as many persons suppose, for crime is increasing, and there is scarcely a schoolmaster who teaches manners and morals. Religion ought to be taught, and if taught, it must be taught in a definite form. There are various systems of medicine—there is allopathy, homœopathy, and hydropathy; but, before establishing hospitals, you do not set yourselves to reconcile these systems. On the contrary, you allow each to proceed on its own definite and separate method. Dr. Chalmers has been referred to as being in favour of secular instruction, but what did he say with respect to religious teaching? He said—'Knowledge,' it is said, 'is power;' and if knowledge is associated with religion, it becomes a power for the virtuous and the good, and tells, with the best and most beneficent influence, on the well-being of society. But if knowledge be dissociated from religion this destroys, not the truth of the maxim that 'knowledge is power," but that if is power emancipated from the restraints of principle; and such a power let loose on society, like the deep policy of an artful tyrant, or the military science of a reckless conqueror, would have only the effect to enslave and destroy. Yes, gentlemen, we mean to have our schools; but we mean in the economy of these schools to abide by the good old ways of our forefathers. We mean to have the Bible the regular and daily school book; we mean to have the Catechism for a regular and daily school exercise; and these shall be taught openly and fearlessly, not dealt with as contraband articles; not smuggled into a mere hole or corner of our establishment; not mended or mutilated by human minds, that the message of the Eternal may be shaped to the taste and prejudices of men; not confined to the odd days of the week, or made to skulk from observation into a by-room, lest the priests of an intolerant faith should be offended. No, gentlemen, we will place the Word of God in the fore-front of our system of education, and we will render it the unequivocal, the public, the conspicuous object that is becoming a Christian and Protestant nation.I complain of what the right hon. Gentleman has done with regard to the new schools in another way. He told us, and in this he has been confirmed by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, that the nation has distinctly pronounced in favour of religious education. Why, then, are you going to leave it to anybody to say whether the great State-aided schools shall have any conflict upon that matter at all? Why are you not to say that the Bible shall go into those schools in all cases, and that it shall be taught according as the school Boards may think proper. That would be an intelligible principle upon which. 531 you might fairly act. It would be giving to the public a voice to which I should not object, although I may object to the mode in which the school Boards are to be elected. I hold that neither Town Councils nor Vestries are proper authorities to elect school Boards. If school Boards are to be elected at all, they should be elected directly by those who have to pay for the schools, or who are to be benefited by them—namely, the ratepayers. I think that the ratepayers may very fairly vote in the way they have voted under the Poor Law system. Let the ratepayers vote freely, and all of them. The lower classes, no doubt, would be the great majority; but they would not be the great ratepayers. It seems to me that there should be a means of obtaining a mixed constituency, and that may be done by following the old mode of Poor Law voting. That, however, is not a question upon which I need now dwell. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea tells us that it is necessary for his purpose that there should be absolute compulsion with respect to these schools; and he dwelt upon that point as one which had been omitted by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. With respect to the principle of compulsion, as I understand it, it is absolutely to cease as to the consciences of men and as to the consciences of children. If there is to be no compulsion in the schools to be put upon the consciences of the children, then, what the right hon. Gentleman said with respect to what he called "sectarian schools" falls to the ground. I might think it hard to have my child sent to a secular school, as other persons think it hard that their children should be compelled to attend religious schools. I do not see any difference between the two classes of objectors. With respect to the principle of compulsion itself, it is only to be adopted, at present, when school Boards think proper to do so. One thing is perfectly clear—namely, that the ground for this Bill is, that there is a deficiency in the quality and the quantity of education. Well, it is obvious that you cannot compel children with any reason or justice to go to schools which are non-efficient or to schools where there is no room for them. Therefore, compulsion is a thing which remains some distance from us at present. But, if there is to be compulsion at all, I must say that to make it apply 532 to one part of the country only and not to another seems to me to be unreasonable. When any controversy arose, one party would say—"Look at our attendance, see how many children we have in our schools," and the excuse of the other party would be that they had not the same power given to them as was given to rate-aided schools; because, not having the same number of children, they did not receive the same amount of assistance as was given to the other schools. Then, again, what is meant by direct compulsion? Take the case of the Roman Catholic child, ordered to a secular school, who says that the priest has told his father that he must not attend such a school. What are you to say in such a case? You know perfectly well that the priests of the Roman Catholic Church have taken such a course, and that they will do so again. Can you fine the father? If not, what are you to do? What is to be your punishment? Are you to exclude the child altogether from every instruction? It is, therefore, impossible that you can apply the principle of compulsion generally. You say they must attend at certain times of the year, but at what period of the year are they to attend? If you select any particular period, the child may be prevented from attending by illness or by other unavoidable causes. Without saying that it is altogether un-English, I may say that direct compulsion is certainly novel, while in its indirect form compulsion is not new. I believe that in the latter form it may be rendered more efficient and general than it is at present. I have occupied the House upon this subject much longer than I had intended, but I have been anxious to do what in my conscience I could fairly do to assist the Government in passing this Bill, and even now my course is so perfectly clear upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, that I shall be ready to do anything I can to defeat a proposal of the kind and to get into Committee upon the Bill. Still, I am not satisfied with the measure as it now stands. Concession has been altogether on one side. Those who are already in possession of the education of the country have been ready to give up two great points, and what has been the result of this readiness on their part to meet the wishes of those opposed to them? Why, advantage has been taken of their disposition to accept 533 the Conscience Clause first proposed by the Government to possess a new one which interferes not only with religious education, but also with the secular management of the schools by the Government fixing a time table of their own. I also object strongly to curtailing the year of grace—indeed, I think it necessary and only fair that the year of grace should be enlarged. I object altogether to taking steps too hastily in relation to a great measure like this. [Ironical cheers.] I quite understand the cheer of those hon. Members opposite who wish to decry all agitation in school Boards and elsewhere. They seem to think that it is a pity they should not spend £50,000 in the course of the autumn. I can suggest a mode by which they may spend their money and test their principles at the same time. Let them do that which they have never yet done—let them found some secular schools of their own; nobody interferes with them; and the only stop that was in their way has been taken away by this Bill, because under it they will be enabled to receive the Government grant, which, not being religious schools, they could not formerly have done. That is a fair offer, and we are ready to fight that battle. We say we want a complete education and that you only offer us a portion. You point to no past, we point to a great past. We point to the beginning of the present century, when there were very few schools—since 1855 they have increased greatly, and they now number 15,500 altogether—and I ask—"What do you show with all your agitation but words and theories?" We show you facts, and we tell you not on the authority of the Bishop of Manchester only, high as it unquestionably is, but on the authority of Dissenting ministers and of every school teacher in the country, that this religious difficulty, which you have magnified, in the denominational schools ceases to exist. That there is no such difficulty in the teaching—the children are young, and their minds are impressed by simple truths, but they must be taught what the people consider truths. [Cheers.] But I am not prepared to take those unsectarian truths which I suppose the hon. Gentleman opposite is cheering. We demand justice from the State; we say—"You have entered into a compact with us—a moral and religious compact—which you are bound to fulfil." We 534 ask you to maintain our schools in their integrity, and not to undermine them by taking away what is only due to us—the time necessary to fill up gaps. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Bill was intended to supplement gaps in the existing educational system, and that it was not intended that it should inaugurate a great scheme of national education. The right hon. Gentleman admits, therefore, that the existing system has filled up all but gaps. Well, then, take what steps you think fit for the purpose of filling up those gaps, but in doing so do not destroy the hearty, the religious, the energetic earnestness of those who have given you what you now possess—that which has risen to such a height that there are many who want to seize it, and which will, by improved inspection and by growing intelligence, in time fill up of itself all gaps, and which will make all your people, as far as any human power can make them, subject to the Divine power which they invoke to assist them, to become not merely scholars in the three R's, but Christian men and women.
§ MR. MELLY
said, he was anxious to state the reasons which led him to believe that the Bill of Her Majesty's Government would not solve the question before the country, and which, at the same time, would prevent him from going into the Lobby with the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard). It was with feelings of the deepest grief and mortification that he found himself compelled to condemn the Bill of the Government. He confessed that he believed in the religious difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman had said did not exist in the country, and he felt that the Bill of Her Majesty's Government had failed to solve the question. They had waited year after year for a great scheme of national education, and they objected when the Bill was explained on the second reading to that matter being left to the discretion of school Boards. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government fully justified the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) in the step he took. They were now told, when they asked for the general scheme of education which the right hon. Gentleman was pledged to give to the country, that there was to be a competition between the two sets of schools. 535 The First Minister of the Crown came down the other night with a perfectly new Bill. Five points were included in that change—first, that there was to be no special creed in the new schools; secondly, that the tie was to be severed between the existing schools and the school Board; thirdly, that there was to be an increased grant from the Privy Council; fourthly, that there were to be no more building grants; and fifthly, that the year of grace was to be abolished. Of all these propositions he thought the abolition of the year of grace was the brightest spot on the dark cloud of speech uttered on Thursday by the right hon. Gentleman; the only streak of light in the darkness. There were two parties to the compact—namely, the Church of England and undenominationalists of all denominations. But in the Church of England herself, there were two parties, one of which wished to join the other denominations in this matter of elementary education even at the price of dropping some of its denominationalism. Their measure in its new form was a premium on sectarian divisions, a new incentive to denominational differences. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) spoke of waves of thought; he (Mr. Melly) thought the tide was running strongly towards greater liberality and freedom in religious matters. He would review the changes. The first concession of the Government was no concession at all; there was hardly a place where a school would be built out of rates in which a distinct creed or formulary would be taught. He was glad an increased grant was to be given for education. Not giving any more building grants was rather an injury to the undenominational party—because, whereas the denominationalists had received grants in aid of building all the schools they had far so far required, all the rate - founded schools had yet to be erected. With regard to the second point—the severance of the tie between existing schools and the local Boards—he regretted it, because he believed the Amendments to which he had referred would have proved the means of bringing many of the existing denominational schools into the national system. That was the object of the Bill in the first instance, and he deeply regretted that Her Majesty's Government should in so 536 rash and ill-considered a manner have given up the one point of all others which year by year would have helped to bring the whole of England under one system. They had "severed the tie." Little children were reproved when they cut the string instead of untying the knot, and informed that their conduct was wasteful and impetuous. He admitted that the Government were in considerable difficulty, but at the same time he doubted the policy of severing the existing schools from the school Board. He had had much correspondence with clergymen on the point, and he knew how much they sacrificed when they consented, for the sake of forming a great system of elementary education, to sacrifice the peculiar teaching of the Church, but hundreds were, he believed, ready to do it. He must censure the rash and inconsiderate proceeding, and would quote the evidence of Mr. Lingen, Mr. Fitch, and the last Report of the National Society just published. Mr. Lingen says they are, in the proportion of 15.49 to l.25, the proprietary schools of the religious denominations. Mr. Fitch, in his inquiry into the educational condition of Birmingham and Leeds, instituted in consequence of his (Mr. Melly's) Motion of the 12th of March, 1869, says—With the single exception of the Unitarians, every religious body which maintains a school does so with the obvious purpose of strengthening its sectarian influence, and regards the school as an instrument for bringing children to the church and chapel.The National Society, which was ever ready to oppose every scheme which it had not originated, hoisted this flag—The duty of the National Society now, as in preceding crises, is to adhere to its charter and to be true to its principles. The society was formed to promote definite education based on the doctrines of the Church. At this moment it has a further special call, to protect the 13,000 schools which it has been the instrument of calling into existence, most of which it has helped to build, and the 1,500,000 of scholars, whom through those schools, it has incorporated with itself.Bitter sectarianism was thus to be forced by that society at a cost of £15,000 a year upon these 13,000 schools. No such separations are for the good of any children. The Bill should offer inducements to shake off these trammels rather than aid in riveting the chains. Under the old Bill he had hoped the local Boards would have been given power to go to 537 voluntary schools and offer them 7s. 6d. per annum per child on condition that they would give up any peculiar theological teaching. He had strong hope that if this were done the result would be satisfactory, for there were thousands of members of the Church of England, as well as of many other denominations, who were willing to give up their distinctive formularies, and join in carrying out a great system of national education founded on the Bible. To him this had always appeared the crucial point of the Bill. There were now 13,000 schools, educating 1,163,368 scholars; and there were vacancies for 759,072. He wished to point out the fact that the mode in which the Bill dealt with existing schools was more important than the mode in which it dealt with schools not yet brought into existence. He proposed that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) should be accepted on Clause 14; that there should be a re-insertion of Clause 22, with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester, similar to that on Clause 14. He should, to-night, place a Notice on the Paper of the House to re-insert those provisions. There were now 194,000 persons managing or subscribing to these schools. They were the persons who cared most for education—had the largest experience in their management, which would have been invaluable in starting the new schools. They were the best landlords; and the rectors and curates and ministers of all denominations who attached the greatest value to the compulsory clauses, the agents who could best have enforced it. To these persons in every parish the Government had said—"Stick to your own school; snap your fingers at your neighbours; stand clear from the local Board, and here is 15s. a child for the continuance of your denominational school. Tell your tenants or congregations no one will feel the pressure of £250,000 on the national Exchequer, and we save you 3d. in the pound in your parish rates, so we will keep our strictly denominational character." What did the Bill say to the ratepayers—"You had better not elect any existing school manager on your local Board. True, he would be the best man, but he cannot co-operate; he shall be your rival, and we have handicapped him to win in the race to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) 538 looks forward with so warm an interest." He quoted a protest against the Government Bill signed by many clergymen in Nottingham and Leicester who stated it as the result of their experience that it was quite possible to give undenominational religious instruction to children in school, more particularly out of the historical books of the Old Testament and the Gospel narratives of the New, which was just such religious instruction as parents among the wealthier classes were in the habit of giving to their children. There could be no compulsion where there was no school Board; and the whole effect of the change in the Bill would be to render school Boards less numerous and less influential. He altogether failed to see the advantage of the change. But there were higher interests at stake even than these. There were two parties in the Church of England, and by this change the Government was playing into the hands of that extreme section with whom creeds and formularies appeared to be the beginning and end of all religion. There was a section who believed that all who disagreed with them were irretrievably wrong; but there was a large and ever increasing party anxious to break down walls of separation, to make the Church of England really national; above all, to join the Nonconformists in the great work of elementary education. He wished to co-operate with this vast section of the Christian Church. He was no secularist. In educational matters he had not yet come to Mr. Cobden's position—I confess," said Mr. Cobden, "that for 15 years my efforts in education, and my hopes of success in establishing a system of national education, have always been associated with the idea of coupling the education of this country with the religious communities which exist. But I have found, after trying it, as I think, in every possible shape, such insuperable difficulties in consequence of the religious discordances of this country, that I have taken refuge in this, which is called the remote haven of refuge for the educationists—the secular system—in sheer despair of carrying out any system in connection with religion.He (Mr. Melly) did not yet despair. They were there to carry a Bill in accordance with the wishes of the people. The secular system was, he believed, repugnant to a very large majority of the people of this country. But he might be asked what was undenominational elementary school teaching? He believed 539 the prevailing tone of the public mind was an impatience of the creeds and formularies of man, and very great love and affection for the words, and a determination that children should be educated in the teaching, of Holy Writ. Unsectarian religious teaching he would describe in three sentences, and he did not forget he was speaking of the weekday religious instruction of children under 12 years of age. He would say—"Be honest, industrious, and true. Little children, love one another. Do unto others as you would they should do unto you; and all this as following the commands of your Lord and Master, and in the love and fear of an all-seeing, an omnipresent Creator." As his hon. and learned Friend near him (Sir Roundell Palmer) said, he did not want to make these infants into controversial divines. Applied to such children, denominational teaching was but the hard assertion of a dogma. Such babes could not understand arguments which puzzled the wisest men. The form in which it was taught was too often more simple and forcible. "This was the only form of truth." Too often adding the, to him, impious assertion, when made by fallible man, or even by an infallible Pontiff—"this was the Catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved;" or to put it more practically, "everyone who went to Church would be saved, and everyone who went to chapel must be lost." But the Prime Minister said their proposition of unsectarian and undenominational education was illogical. Many things were illogical which were eminently practicable and useful. Where there was a will there was a way. He knew many schools of a strictly religious character which were in every sense undenominational. He had been many years manager, and was once teacher in one of the largest schools in Liverpool. It was attended by 301 children belonging to the Church of England, 30 Roman Catholics, 192 Methodists, 51 Independents, and four Unitarians. There was one Roman Catholic mistress, one Independent mistress, two Church of England masters, six Church pupil-teachers, two Methodist pupil-teachers, and one Independent pupil-teacher. The masters and mistresses took the children to the Sunday schools connected with the denomination to which they belonged. 540 That school might be illogical, but it was perfectly successful, and its scholars made their way in the world to the complete satisfaction of him and his colleagues, and were on Sundays religiously instructed in accordance with the wishes of their parents. The day of creeds and formularies was passing away even with grown men, and the Bill offered, he had shown, a new encouragement to their continued teaching to little children. The Liberal party had asked and been promised a national system; the Government gave them two systems, and the right hon. Member (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) complained that the terms were not sufficiently equal to secure a fair and equal contest—he (Mr. Melly) would say a prolonged and bitter rivalry, in which education would greatly suffer and the cause of true religion be endangered. This could be no settlement. It could, of course, be carried by the aid of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. But the truce as regarded existing grants would come to an end. The right hon. Gentleman asked—"I want to know what guarantee do I get in giving my assent to the Bill, that what the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government promises will be carried out?" He (Mr. Melly) would give no guarantee and would be bound by no "moral contract." They were content to be illogical; they never attacked the grant of 10s. to existing schools; but henceforward this battle of denominationalism against unsectarianism should be, and would be, fought on the Educational Estimates year after year. There were, he believed, terms on which an equitable measure might be proposed—terms which would unite the Liberal party, and place the Government in a similar position to that which it occupied on the Irish land question. He would suggest that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham on Clause 14 should be accepted; that school Boards should be formed everywhere; that there should be a re-insertion of Clause 22 with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester, similar to the Amendment on Clause 14; that no more building grants should be made; and that 10s. per head should be given to all schools. Those were five points of a charter, by which he believed an advantageous settlement might be arrived at on that side of the House. Some Members of 541 an extreme party on that side of the House might object, but he believed the end would be secured. And where would they be if the extreme party did not guide and instruct the leaders of the Liberal party, and ever point out higher and fairer aims to the nation at large? That proposition would, he believed, place the Government in regard to the education question in the position in which they stood in dealing with the Irish difficulty. The party opposite might object to it; but they had objected to the Irish Church Bill, now the law of the land. The nation would accept it, and the question would be solved. It might be said it would not be accepted in "another place;" but it was the duty of the Government to carry the Bill through that House, and to enable their supporters to redeem the pledges they had given to the country under their guidance and leadership. If he might make an appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, he would ask them to weigh well the pregnant words uttered a few days ago on that subject by the Archbishop of York. The Archbishop said—He could not help saying that the measure now before Parliament must be dealt with seriously during the present Session. It was plain that in the heat of discussion upon platforms Church of England education would fare worse than it was likely to do from any Bill that might be passed this Session.Hon. Gentlemen opposite would, therefore, do well to settle that matter now, and take what terms they could, for they would fare worse if they went farther. By such concessions as he had indicated, he believed the Government could solve that question, and give the country the inestimable blessing of a grand, comprehensive, and truly national system of elementary education. With the adoption of such a settlement as he suggested, elementary education would cease to be the appanage of the rectory, the manor house, or of the richer denominations. The national schoolrooms ceasing to be supported by the eleemosynary aid of the benevolent, would, like our Universities, become the institutions of the nation, and the object of the Bill of a Liberal Government, backed by a Liberal party, would be effected in accordance with the declaration of Her Majesty at the London University—that it was formed for the purpose of en- 542 couraging sound education amongst all classes without restriction as to creed or sect.
§ MR. MORLEY
said, he wished to explain the reasons which would compel him to vote against the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard). He was quite conscious of the gravity of the crisis at which they had arrived; and he knew there was great danger that, unless they moderated their views of each other's opinions, and were willing to make concession without undue compromise, they might not only be landed in great difficulty, but be prevented from accomplishing what he believed was the wish of a large majority in that House—namely, the securing of a system of instruction which would greatly extend the blessings of education amongst the people. He would press hon. Members on the other side of the House to make concessions with a view to the adoption of some common system. The earnestness with which Englishmen generally held not only their religious but also their denominational preferences was so great that, without concession, it would be impossible to reach a common ground of action. He had very great misgivings as to their arriving at any stereotyped system that would suit the whole of England. They were dealing with an old country, full of expedients and compromises, the result of ages of conflict; and therefore he was quite prepared to believe that it would be found that in some parts of the country there would be needed secular schools. But, then, he thought this should spring out of a decided call from the people. His contention was that the people generally were opposed to a secular system of teaching. He had had upwards of 25 years' experience as treasurer of one of the training Colleges, and having been brought largely into contact with labouring men, he had never met with a parent among the working classes who objected to the use of the Bible in the hands of an honest teacher. What parents did object to was having their children made use of to swell the numbers of this or that denomination—Established or Dissenting. They wanted them to be dealt with fairly and honestly. He (Mr. Morley) was anxious to avoid reflections upon those who were advocates for the secular 543 system, because he happened to know a large number of men, earnestly bent on promoting the religious education of the people, who believed that the secular system afforded the only solution of the difficulty that lay before them. But he was himself quite opposed to any attempt to mould the character of the people by the enforcement of a system whose influence, he believed, would wither up all that was fresh and vital in our religious communities. At the same time he would oppose any attempt to enforce religious teaching upon those whose parents were unwilling that they should receive it. Up to the present time their system had been denominational. A body of gentlemen connected with this or that denomination had met together to establish a school; they had offered to the people in the neighbourhood the teaching in that school, and such teaching was, in fact, received as the parents of the children preferred. The Government were now proposing to introduce two new elements, that of compulsion and that of rating. He looked with a great deal of hesitation on the introduction of compulsion. He knew it was necessary that the neglected masses of the people should be educated, and he looked to compulsion as an ulterior resort; but he thought that a great deal might be done by depriving employers of the right to employ little children, for then hundreds of thousands of children would be set free for education. If that attempt were not successful, he would resort to compulsion; but he looked with dismay to their at once setting the police to drive children into school. As to the principle of rating, he confessed that he had no great fondness for it, and he should have been better pleased if the whole system of education could have been carried on by means of grants from the Committee of Council, under regulations as strict and stringent as those which would be applied under a system of rating. But he confessed that he should have great dread of that alternative, unless they could see their way to common ground as between denominational and secular education. He was not disposed to withhold his testimony to the value of the religious teaching hitherto given in schools. He would go further. Drive forth religion from the schools and where, he should like to ask, would education or religion be 50 544 years hence? because he was persuaded that they would detach from the work of education that which he regarded as of inestimable value to it—the religious earnestness of those engaged in it. He believed he was correct in saying that out of some 15,000 or 20,000 schools in England they could not find 500 secular schools; in fact, he doubted whether they could find 50. He held that to be a proof that at least the direct secular system of schools had not been called for by those who ought to be the best judges of what they wanted—namely, the parents of the children. The middle course to which he was anxious to advert was one which had been suggested by the Rev. John Percival, the Principal of Clifton College, Bristol, who, in a recent letter to The Times, had stated that "he was sanguine enough to hope that the battle would be won if the Government could be persuaded to lend their authority to a clause ordaining that no catechism or religious formulary should be taught in any school receiving State aid as part of the regular routine, but that religious instruction should be confined to the reading of the Bible, with unsectarian comments, the religious instruction to be given at fixed times. Such an arrangement would be accepted by the country as a very tolerable compromise, it being a condition that the Biblical instruction should be given by the schoolmaster only." The Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, that was on the Paper prior to Thursday last, suggested that ministers of all denominations should be brought into the school at other than the school hours. His own conviction was that that would work most disastrously. While he was no believer in putting upon the teacher of the school any large amount of what they understood by religious instruction, he must protest on Nonconformist grounds against the exclusion by legislative enactment of religion from the school. They had heard a great deal of late of Nonconformist principles. His own conviction was that those principles would be as much outraged by the exclusion as by the enforcement of religion. Take the case of a Baptist teacher, one who knew nothing of catechisms or formularies. What he wanted to see was a statutory declaration by which such a teacher of a school should be told that the principle upon which 545 the school was to be conducted was, that the best secular instruction should be imparted, while at the same time it should be pervaded by a religious spirit. The Holy Scriptures should be read, and a fair and honest interpretation given; but there should be an absence of any attempt by means of the school to spread merely denominational or sectarian teaching. He regretted that the terms of the Amendment of the right hon. Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) were not somewhat more comprehensive. He (Mr. Morley) really did feel that they had a right to demand that in addition to the exclusion of the catechism and formulary some words should be added which, while not unfairly pressing upon the liberty of the teacher—for which he was prepared to contend—should convey the idea that there was to be a check put upon the tendency to promote denominational teaching. He had had the honour of being treasurer for many years of the Homerton College, a Congregational institution, in connection with which there existed schools; and he was proud to say that in a Report made to that House on the 17th of March, 1869, Mr. Matthew Arnold, who was the Inspector who examined those schools, expressed the highest opinion concerning them, and seemed to consider them better adapted to the practical wants of the country than the National and Wesleyan schools, on the one hand, or the British and secular schools, on the other. Mr. Arnold stated that these schools had elements of utility eminently calculated to be of use in the future. He (Mr. Morley) could say for the numerous schools which had sprung from the movement, that the shrewdest Member of that House might spend hours in examining the course of instruction given in them, and in no single instance would he be able to tell the denomination to which the school belonged. He had only, in conclusion, to assure his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council that he had sympathized very much with him during the last few weeks. He had read and listened to the many attacks to which the right hon. Gentleman had been subjected, as if he were not true to the principles he had so often enunciated. No one could understand the difficulties with which this question was surrounded 546 so well as his right hon. Friend, who was at the centre of action, and who was aware of the many interests which had to be dealt with, and the undoubted right which the Church had to be considered as having done so large a work in this great undertaking of education. He hoped his right hon. Friend would be encouraged to persevere. His earnest desire was, in order to prevent the country being divided during the autumn into two hostile camps, that they should endeavour by mutual concessions to pass a measure this Session; and he promised his right hon. Friend that any humble assistance which he could render him would be most cheerfully given.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
I venture to begin with the assertion that all who have heard the debate this evening must acknowledge the extreme inconvenience and anomaly of the course which this Education Bill has taken. The Government has for its own reasons recast and reprinted its Bill, so that for all practical purposes this is the second reading of a new Bill, and of one second in point of importance to no measure which has ever been before the Imperial Parliament. The Education Reform Bill has long been the most ardently expected and, at the same time, the most bitterly feared measure which has ever been promised or expected. When the Bill, however, had to be debated on its merits we have had the red-herring Motion of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil trailed under our noses: a Motion of which the beginning contradicts the end, while both portions are at variance with the speech which the hon. Member has made in its support. The speech itself, however, was couched in a Christian and conciliatory spirit, and, in point of ability and intrinsic merit, would stand high in the debates of the Session. If, however, as the hon. Member contended, religious education should be supplied by voluntary effort and not out of the public funds, the voluntary, or, in other words, the denominational, schools are the ones which should be encouraged, and the hon. Member's Motion ought to have been expressive of that principle, or, in other words, ought to be simply and absolutely reversed. But, as might have been supposed, the expression of one Member's private ideas has not distracted the House, and the debate has drifted 547 into one upon the main question, as has been shown by the speeches of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) and of the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley). The speech of the hon. Member for Stoke was neither more nor less than an attempt to rally the united Liberal party to support the Government and to save them from the pollution of support from the Conservative side of the House—the support which some hon. Members appeared to regard in the same light as the shake of the hand from a man with the small-pox. There are always some Members who are inclined to think that there must be something wrong with every Bill which the Government brings in unless it is hooted down by our side of the House. I must, however, ask the hon. Member whether it is not pursuing a factious course to try to make a measure like this a party one, and to grudge the support of both sides of the House, instead of inviting all Members and all Englishmen alike to consider calmly and impartially a proposal of national importance? That is the spirit in which I seek to deal with this measure. Being, perhaps, the most independent Member on this side of the House, my own feeling—and I believe that of the Conservative party—is to enter upon the consideration of the matter in a fair and conciliatory spirit, and to support the Prime Minister in any liberal and reasonable, and, above all, religious solution of the difficulty. The Government measure has gone through the crucible and reappeared in a not less complex form than before, with many of its old provisions untouched, with some which I recognize as improvements, but with others that do not fall within that category. But taking it as a whole, those upon the same side of the House as myself would be sorry to see the Bill shipwrecked at its present stage upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, or on any other Motion. We wish the Bill to go into Committee, there to be discussed fairly and fully, and without party feeling, and sent up to the other House to be discussed there also fairly and fully, so that upon some day, late in August perhaps, and when the grouse are very old and strong upon the wing, Her Majesty's Government may be able to release us, an Educational Bill applicable to the whole country having by that time been carried. The 548 most conspicuous changes made in the Bill are—first, the removal of existing denominational schools out of the category of schools supported by local rates and their transference to the Parliamentary grant; second, the abolition of the year of grace; third, the adoption of the clause proposed by the right hon. Member for South Hampshire; and, fourth, the Time Table Conscience Clause. The first of these changes has been denounced by the hon. Member for Stoke as a return to priestcraft and tyranny; as a backsliding on the part of the Government to which he has fondly looked as its pupil and disciple, which he loves as the model which he has himself created and worshipped, and as the molten image before which he has bent down. I am sorry for the bitter disappointment of the hon. Member for Stoke, who was a young and ardent politician; but I am not a bit taken in by his speech. He was made the most of a trick which at public meetings or on the hustings is often invaluable; he rang the changes on denominationalism and priestcraft and all other loud-sounding words in what he assumes to be the same category, and he fancies that those against whom his observations are levelled will be so overwhelmed by his eloquence that they will feel themselves degraded and ashamed to acknowledge their belief in creeds and formularies, in a fixed faith, in dogmatic teaching, and in the truth of revelation given from on high. The hon. Member believes that this torrent of weak vituperation will keep people from openly professing their belief; but he is mistaken. He has set himself above the faith and belief of 19 centuries, and from the apex of the pyramid to which he has raised himself he has assumed to tell us what is and what is not truth. I answer him that in spite of such vain philosophy there are, and ever will be, numberless men who believe that Christianity is nothing unless it is a body of belief, a rule of action, and a law of life as complete as any code which Parliament may embody in any Act; and I tell him further that the men who hold this opinion are foremost in waging the great educational battle. No doubt the temptation in their case would be towards exclusiveness; but my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council will bear witness that those who are most strongly in favour of dog- 549 matic teaching have this year come forward and accepted without reservation the principle of a Conscience Clause making a signal sacrifice of their own earnest convictions in furtherance of the great cause of education. They are willing to accept both a Conscience Clause and secular schools—where the will of the people declares in favour of them—as well as denominational schools of all sorts and kinds; but one thing they will not consent to, and that is the denouncing of fixed creeds and of the teaching of dogmatic forms of Christianity. The Vice President of the Privy Council must have heard the ardent threat in which the hon. Member for Stoke indulged, that if these schools are put under the Privy Council "we shall oppose the Education Grant whenever it comes up." Who the "we" may be the hon. Member did not very clearly explain; but this threat, it is worth noticing, comes, not from below the Gangway, but from the Bench identically behind the Treasury Bench, and within a few inches of the Prime Minister. Looking to this declaration, Members on the Opposition side of the House are not unreasonable in asking for something like guarantees that the good intentions expressed by Her Majesty's Government shall be carried out. Next, the year of grace has been withdrawn. In the hands of my right hon. Friend opposite I have no fear that the additional power thus conferred on the Department will be harshly used; but what we must look to is the possible working of the Department in other hands, and to the fact that there may be a Vice President of a different stamp—some Member, for instance, for a metropolitan constituency, in whom equal confidence will not be felt. The hardship of this proposal is easily shown. Suppose the case of a parish where the denominational school nearly, or, under ordinary circumstances, quite, comes up to the required standard, but where, from some local and temporary circumstance, such as a schoolmaster or mistress having gone away "in a tiff," the school happens at the moment of the inquiry to have fallen just below the required mark of excellence, for this case, if only a short time were allowed it, the effort could be made and the usually high character of the school redeemed; whereas, under the "forthwith" now proposed, the 550 managers of the school may be cast out of the running for ever, and saddled with a really unnecessary rate-created school. In the name of the chapter of human accidents, I plead for something less tyrannical and less peremptory than this "forthwith" which it is proposed to substitute for the year of grace. The third and most important change is the new clause of the right hon. Member for South Hampshire. I should like very much to know what it means. I must plead guilty to an entire, profound, and almost growing ignorance upon it. It proposes to provide that no religious catechism or formulary distinctive of any denomination shall be taught in any school. Now, I know what a catechism is. It begins with "Q.," after which follows "A.;" then comes "Q." again, and then "A.," and so on to the end. But I defy all the Treasury Bench together to give an explanation of the word "formulary" which would be acceptable to both sides of the House and intelligible to the country. Does it mean a form of words authoritatively enacted by the governing power of a particular denomination, or a form of words which, without such enactment, has come into common vogue within that body? Must it be authoritative language enunciated like a creed, or may it be of a descriptive or poetic nature? Is the Nicene Creed a formulary? Is the Apostles' Creed or the Te Deum a formulary? Finally, is the Lord's Prayer a formulary or not? [An hon. MEMBER: No.] At all events, that prayer is formalized. Formulary meant a thing which had been cast into a form, and if anything has ever been cast into a form in the Christian Church it is assuredly its most ancient body of set words, the Lord's Prayer. I was astonished to hear the right hon. Member for South Hampshire say that the Apostles' Creed would not come within his Amendment, because it is the formulary, not exclusively of the Church of England, but also used by more than one religious body. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal ought, then, to run in these terms:—"No religious formulary or catechism distinctive of any particular denomination shall be taught in the schools, but any formulary or catechism which is distinctive of any two particular denominations may be taught." In point of fact, the whole thing is a trap for morbid and scrupulous con- 551 sciences, and will only be favourable to those who desire to breed discord and create a parochial, a diocesan, or a national row. As a Churchman, I have no particular love for the Westminster Confession of Faith; but I should say the Presbyterians would be inconsistent if they did not teach their children in that formulary. Again, if John Wesley has left any document like a catechism embodying his views of Christianity, the Wesleyans would have a right to demand that that document should be taught in their schools. I am not, therefore, claiming a monopoly for the Church of England. I think the excision of the Church Catechism, provided it be guarded by an ample Conscience Clause, would be a tyranny and an oppression. I most solemnly, seriously, and strongly protest against it. And now I will treat the question as one of historical fact. The Church Catechism is pre-eminently a moderate document. The first portion of it was composed by Dr. Nowell, Dean of St. Paul's, an Elizabethan divine, who was a leader of what would now be termed the Low Church party. He was likewise the inventor of bottled beer. The second portion of the Catechism was edited and placed where it is—having been rough-cast by Nowell—in the reign of James I., by Bishop Overall, a High Churchman. Altogether this document shows in a remarkable degree the moderate and wide frame of mind of the Church of England, and if its use were prohibited in schools schoolmasters would have waistcoat-pocket catechisms of their own, expressing exaggerated views of different doctrines to which they happen to attach individually, and thus the Church of England would risk being split up into extreme and hostile sects. I have left myself but little time to speak of the general Time Table Conscience Clause. Its mechanical rigidity is so galling and so unnecessary that I cannot doubt that the Government will act upon an Amendment allowing each school to appoint its own time table according to local circumstances. In all the discussions on the question a vital point has been avoided—namely, what manner of men will the new schoolmasters be? The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford is the only person who has had the courage to ask where they are to come from; but it is still more important to ask what kind of 552 men they will be when obtained in a hurry, as they must be if the word "forthwith" remains in the Bill. There are no training Colleges to mould so many. They will, probably, be only half-educated, and to leave such men cut from their moorings to teach religion without the aid of some recognized formulary, must inevitably lead to serious, dangerous, and unexpected results. A solution of the religious difficulty might, perhaps, be found in encouraging the different denominations to send voluntary—and, it might be, unpaid—teachers into the rate-created schools to teach religion, these teachers being either laymen or ministers. They would give instruction according to their own formularies to those only who pleased to attend. There is sufficient religious zeal amongst the various denominations to incite them to provide voluntary teachers for day-schools as they now did for Sunday-schools. If they did so, an additional reason would be found for a relaxation of the rigid time table proposed by the Government, and the absurd clause containing the vague word "formulary" might be dispensed with.
§ DR. LYON PLAYFAIR
Sir, when this Bill was first introduced by the Vice President of the Council, it was hailed, both by this House and by the country, as a great measure for the education of the people. The reason for this doubtless was that it was considered an honest and able attempt to spread education among the neglected masses of the population. As long as this paramount consideration was upon our minds, the Bill ran smoothly upon the educational rails. But, somehow, it has been shunted off into a political and ecclesiastical siding, from which it is exceedingly difficult to get it back. I had hoped, when the Bill reached its present stage, that we might have had it discussed in its bearings on the education of the people; but I have abandoned this hope, and so I am obliged to follow it into the siding from which I would fain see it escape. The Bill allows a school Board to determine whether a school shall be secular or religious. In the present state of public feeling, it would be impossible to go further, for even the secularists must admit that the large majority of the country desire religion to be taught in schools. Well, this being granted, I am not surprised at the form which, 553 the Bill originally took; for, if parents can be trusted with the decision of the important question whether a school is to exclude or include religion, it seems logical enough that the parents should be enabled to state what form the religious instruction should take. And if the political and ecclesiastical difficulty had not swelled to such formidable proportions, those who are guided by the educational experience of the past would have had no difficulty in leaving this question to the decision of parents. In Scotland we have had, for a century and three-quarters, a parochial system of schools supported by rates on land, such as you are now about to establish by this Bill; and, for a quarter of a century, we have had Dissenting denominational schools running alongside of them, partly to compete with and partly to supplement them. All of them have been conducted with full religious toleration, which the Churches themselves, to their great credit, imposed upon all their schools. What has been the result? The Church schools have 40 per cent of Dissenting children, and the Dissenting Free Church schools have 39½ per cent of children of other denominations. Nor is this owing to similarity of doctrine; for out of all the Roman Catholics and Episcopalians attending schools in rural districts, 57 per cent attend Presbyterian schools, and only 43 per cent schools of their own persuasions. The conclusion to be drawn from these remarkable figures is obvious. Wherever good schools exist, the parents take possession of them for their children, and care nothing for the ecclesiastical differences of their managers. When, then, my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council, in his celebrated speech at Bradford before the opening of the Session, said he saw no difficulty in the religious question, he was perfectly right as an educationalist in saying so. As an educational question, there is no difficulty; but as an ecclesiastical and political question, we have seen that it is bristling with difficulties. In approaching the ecclesiastical difficulty and the Resolution offered for our acceptance, allow me to state in what manner I look upon the question. I, by no means, share the profound conviction of many hon. Members opposite, that the separation of religion from secular instruction in the school will injure 554 the religious tone, or what in Scotland we call the religious up-bringing, of our children. It simply transfers the duty from the schoolmaster to the parent and to the minister of religion. The time may come, and perhaps is not very distant, when we may all agree that it would be bettor, both for the interests of religion and of secular instruction, that the separation should be made. Either the combined or separate system may claim equal reverence for religion. The latter is the view hold by a large and influential body of Christians—the United Presbyterians. But, to my mind, the time for this separation has not arrived, and I have no desire to see religion excluded from the school. My reason, as an educationalist, is this—Unhappily, State-assisted education in elementary schools has been lowered to a mere mechanical drudgery of teaching the three R.'s. There is nothing left in our schools as an antidote to this but religious instruction. The Bible forms now the only classic of the school, the only means of culture, the only channel by which ennobling sentiments can be instilled into the minds of children, the only way of giving poetry to their existence. Of course, it has a far higher purpose than even this; but I am simply looking at religious teaching in the light of an educational agency, and I am not prepared to part with it from our schools until the national idea of education is much expanded. The Resolution of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard) does not ask us to dispense with religion from schools—and to that extent I am in accord with him; but he wishes it to be separated, in some not well defined way, from the secular instruction, and to be provided by voluntary agencies. That part of his Resolution does not satisfy me at all. I have frankly confessed that it is as an educationalist that I cannot part with religion from schools as they are at present constituted. But this implies that it must be as effectively taught as any other branch of education. With a trained and certificated master, I know that he can bring religion in powerful aid of his secular instruction. But with chance, voluntary, and disconnected agencies, there is no security for this whatever. If you are to have religion in school, it must be the religion of the master. Well, but we are told by the 555 right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), that this is equivalent to founding a new sacerdotal class. We have had 30 years' experience of the teaching of such a class, and what does it amount to? It is not probable, indeed, that many hon. Members ride their school hobby so hard as I do, and perpetually visit schools of all kinds and denominations. But when they do enter them, I am sure that they find this teaching of dogma, of which so much horror is expressed, is a myth of our own creation, and has little practical existence in the every-day working of the school. I do not say that there are no exceptional schools, in which doctrines may not be taught; but the religious teaching in our schools mainly consists of such narratives as Joseph and his brethren, or David and Goliath, or the more simple parables; and my chief fault with it is that there is far, too little taught of the beautiful morality of the New Testament. And what will be the effect of our new Conscience Clause? Clearly, that there will be an incessant endeavour to make the religious teaching so general and acceptable that all children will avail themselves of it. Your English denominational schools will soon reach the position of Scotch Presbyterian schools, in which even the Roman Catholics participate in the religious teaching except the Catechism. Then, if the spread of education be our paramount consideration in passing this measure, there is nothing in its provisions which should deter us from letting religion be taught by the schoolmaster, and not by chance voluntary agencies, which, in all likelihood, will be infinitely more dogmatical than the secular teacher, whose interest it is to keep all his scholars together on the broadest basis. The first part of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil is intended to negative the recent proposal of the Government, that increased aid should be given to denominational schools. If it be right under the first Government proposal to aid such schools, when they require aid from local taxation, it must be right to continue that increased aid from Imperial taxation. There is no difference in the principle involved. In the one case, taxation is levied from a contracted area of £86,000,000, and in the other case, from a larger area of assessment 556 of £550,000,000; but, in both cases, taxation is the source of aid. I can, however, quite understand the principle of refusing increased aid from either source, but not of supporting it under the old proposal and refusing it to the new one. Of the two proposals, that of the Government in the amended Bill is certainly the least clumsy and wasteful. There might have been under the former proposal five schools in a district, three of which were flourishing and requiring no aid from the rates, and two of which were languishing and requiring aid. The old proposal did not permit the local Board to aid these two, but compelled it to aid the whole five. In this respect it was clumsy and wasteful. The new proposal takes each school on its own merits, and secures that all grants produce adequate results. But this does not dispose of the more general issue raised in the Resolution. Should denominational schools receive increased grants of any kind? To this I reply, in the first place, that they form the whole educational stock of trade in the country, and that it is our duty, as well as our interest, to improve them and make them fit for aiding the great national undertaking on which we are embarked. You cannot afford to dispense with them, and therefore you ought to make them as efficient as possible. I need not remind the House that the State did not interest itself directly with the education of the people till 1839, and not very effectually till 1846. You then found, as you still do, that, while the State had been neglectful of its duties, religious bodies were trying by voluntary efforts to lessen the ignorance of the people. Well, we did not dispense with these efforts, but held out a helping hand, timidly at first, more boldly afterwards. Since 1846, upwards of £20,000,000 have been spent in these joint efforts, and we have a network of schools, which really form our whole educational stock-in-trade. In all this the State has hitherto played a most subordinate part. It never initiated anything—it only helped the efforts of religious bodies. So that even now education in this country rests much more upon the traditions and habits of the people than on State help. The State is now awakened to a new sense of its duties; but is it either possible or wise to ignore the existing educational posi- 557 tion of the country? You may, by an Act of Parliament, create a telegraph system or a prison system; but I defy you by an Act of Parliament to change suddenly the habits and sentiments of a people in the up-bringing of their children either in godliness, virtue, or knowledge. Your new systems may be more simple and philosophical; but if they ignore the existing conditions of things they will unquestionably fail. And it is notorious that existing denominational schools are at their heaviest strain, and that the local burdens on the ministers of religion, to whom these schools are mainly due, are greater than they ought to be called upon to bear. In relieving them of some of these, we are justified in saying that the State will insist that the secular part of the instruction should be open to all, and the religious instruction be made compulsory on none. And this is what we are doing, and what the Churches, to their credit, are willing to accept. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil says, aiding these schools is equivalent to concurrent endowment. But the State is only to give 50 per cent, or say, at the most, 15s. per child to the expenses. Why, the League itself proposed that 20s. per head should be paid for secular instruction from State funds. Hence 15s. cannot be more than represents the cost of that instruction, and, in this sense, the State cannot be said to pay anything for religious teaching. I recollect the educational conflicts between 1839 and 1846, the defeats of Ministry after Ministry on educational questions, when, as now, the ignorance of the people was made the battle-ground of religious sects, and the people perished for want of knowledge. And the present state of our large towns is worse than then—far worse, as the recent inquiries have shown, than even the men of the greatest educational experience could have believed. I will take the town which is the head-quarters of the Education League, that opposes this Bill so fiercely. It is no worse, and no better, than the other large towns which have been examined—Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow—but it is in a state of educational destitution that is perfectly appalling. Birmingham has 65,000 children between five and 13 years of age. Of these, only 21,500 are under daily instruction in schools of all kinds, or only one in three; and there are 15,500 under what, out of pure courtesy, 558 is called efficient instruction, or one in four. Of the 15,500 said to be under efficient instruction, only about one-fifth reach Standard IV.—the only one sufficiently advanced to stand the wear and tear of a working life. This is almost incredible; but I have not yet seen any contradiction to the statements of the Government reporter. How the representatives of the large cities can rest for an hour without hurrying the Government to pass a Bill that will, at least, mitigate these evils, I cannot comprehend. Any step forward is better than standing still. I, for one, at least, will not be responsible for refusing any measure that will advance the educational position of the country, because I cannot get all that I wish. I have tried to convince the House that the religious difficulty is an ecclesiastical and political, not an educational, difficulty. But are my Friends on this side of the House right in the belief that we are handicapping the rate-schools in the race with the denominational schools? There is a general concession that we must not deal illiberally with existing denominational schools, though we ought not to accord undue favour to new ones. Now, I contend that, so far from rate-schools being at a disadvantage, all now denominational schools are very heavily handicapped, and cannot keep up in a race with rate-supported schools. The former must build their own schools without aid from the State; while rate-schools have their buildings erected by local taxation. Denominational schools must find, at least, a sixth of the expenditure by subscription; the rate schools have no such obligations. Even as regards school-pence, there is not an equality, for rate schools are under a Board having compulsory powers, and enabled to send in all neglected children. The educational appliances of the rate-schools will necessarily be the best of this kind. So that in each point of view, everything in the race is in their favour. And I have said nothing as to the great gain by prohibiting catechisms and formularies from rate-schools. Under the Bill, the parson and squire might, if they had been so minded, have thrown the school on the rates. Now, if they do so, the school must cease to be a Church school. Why, then, should there be any ecclesiastical or political terror? Only educate the people well, and our political and religious liberties will be safe in 559 their keeping. I now very gladly pass from the religious aspects of the Bill to its compulsory provisions. The Resolution before us invites us to affirm that "the attendance should be everywhere compulsory." I suppose that it does not exactly mean what it says; but that, in reality, it is intended to indicate that measures of compulsion should be provided for children who do not go to school voluntarily. Before discussing this universal and rigid compulsion, allow me to remind the House of what are the three great principles of this Bill. The first is, that education shall be placed within the reach of every child in England; the second, that every child ought to be educated, and may, in case of necessity, be compelled; the third, and most important, that the State charges itself with the duty of seeing these weighty ends accomplished. Now, these three principles are of such vast importance that, if the Bill had done nothing but ask our affirmation of them, it would have been a great gain to education. Their attainment ought to dwarf our objections to special clauses, for true principles infused into legislation rapidly develop themselves into efficient action. But I admit that the entirely permissive and sectional character of the compulsory clause is out of joint with the general spirit of the measure. That spirit I take to be that the work of education must be done; and if the locality refuse to do it, the State will compel it. At the same time, it would have been impolitic for the State to push direct compulsion too severely at first. We have had Prussia held up as an example of its possibility; but the first compulsory law there was in 1763, during the reign of Frederick the Great, a very strong-willed King, and it has taken more than a century to bring the law into full effect, for it had to be propped up by successive Acts, especially by those of 1819 and 1845. Direct compulsion is most easily applied when there is no necessity for it—that is, when the state of public opinion in favour of universal education is so advanced that there is a general acquiescence in the desire of the State, and no need to inflict penalties. I have no objection whatever to the principle of direct compulsion, and think, as an ultimate resort, that it is a power well to possess; but I do not believe that it mil be by direct compulsion that 560 we will succeed in attaining our object. Indirect compulsion, which makes education the only tool with which labour can be begun, enlists all motives, whether they be good or bad, on the side of the State. The sordid, selfish parent, who wishes to live on the wages of his children, would find the need of educating them; while the prudent, loving parent would be equally an ally of the State. But though I have little faith in the form of the compulsion adopted in this Bill, I think that it is a very great thing to have the principle admitted by the nation that every parent must be responsible to the State for the education of his child, and I am content to wait for the healthy development of that principle. Its adoption by the country is a logical consequence of the imposition of educational rates, for, if it be right to compel a community to educate its children, it must be equally right to compel these children to receive the education thus provided. While not desiring to force the Government to the exercise of a rigorous compulsion, which might break by its rigidity and produce a reaction, I think they are bound to assume the power of enforcing the application of the principle which they believe to be possible. This is the object of the Amendments which I have put on the clause; and I venture to think they are safer than the rigid terms of the Resolution. As those who are chiefly interested in the ecclesiastical and political bearings of the Bill had very long innings at the second reading, I had hoped that at this state those who are interested in its educational provisions might have had an opportunity of discussing them. Especially was I desirous to show in what manner this Bill is likely to act on the position and qualifications of the teachers. But I am too anxious to see the Bill pass to venture on any general criticism on this head. But before I sit down, I must ask permission to make a few observations on the efficiency and organization of the Education Department, which now for the first time receives large initiatory and controlling powers, in addition to its duties of inspection and supervision. Has this Department so succeeded in the past as to justify us in intrusting these powers to it on its old organization? What is the sum total of its educational achievements with the large annual grants 561 which we have placed at its disposal? I will answer in the very words of the last Report of the Committee of Council, lest you should deem me guilty of great exaggeration. This is the answer—Of four-fifths of the scholars about to leave school, either no account or an unsatisfactory one is given by an examination of the most strictly elementary kind.This means that with all our payments to insure results, only a fifth of the children above 10 years of age—even of those in inspected schools—have been got to pass above Standard III. And what is their pons asinorum, the Standard IV., which turns back four-fifths of school children under our present system? Its definition in the same Report is thus given by the Rev. H. W. Bellairs, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools—Standard IV. is the very lowest that will enable a child to read the Bible with satisfaction to itself, to pen a simple letter to parent or friend, or to transact any money matters with safety.Further, it is the universal opinion of competent masters that no lower standard is strong enough to stand the wear and tear of life; for a smaller amount of knowledge is found to vanish in two years of a working life; and so far as this Bill gives us any surety, this is what we are to rest content with as State education. If we expect to abate, by means of such tuition, the existing mass of pauperism, crime, vice, misery, and disease, and if we expect, by such instruction, to enable our working classes to maintain an equal competition with the more highly-educated working classes of other countries, we must possess a faith that would remove mountains. I regret to be so singular; but I must express my conviction that the annual expenditure of the State for such purposes alone is a wasteful and unproductive expenditure. The efforts of the Education Department are unable to prevent the real education of the youth of the country from continually slipping back. This is a serious charge, so let me substantiate what I say. I used the expression youth as distinguished from children. It is to me a most lamentable feature of our educational efforts that the age of school children is continually decreasing. In foreign schools children continue their attendance till 14 years of age, and about 1,200 out of 10,000 school children ought to be of that age. Twenty years ago we were bad enough, for only 424, or about 562 a third of the proper number, were of this advanced school age; now only 280 are so. Twenty years since 1,000 out of 10,000 school children were between 11 and 12 years of age; now only 785 are so. This continued lowering of age of school children is but a poor outcome of State interference with education since 1839, and should make us gravely consider whether we are proceeding on right principles. I am not attacking the men who have administered the affairs of the Committee of Council, or the permanent officers connected with it. The latter especially have been men of singular ability, devotion, and conscientiousness. I am attacking a system which confines a Department to mere elementary education, and cuts it completely off from all connection with the administration of the grants which we make for secondary and higher education in the country. When we were called upon to reorganize such an important section of the education of the country, I think the whole State machinery of education should have been overhauled at the same time. I do not object to the large initiatory and controlling powers given to the Education Department by this Bill, as they are necessary for the correction of any inaptitude or ignorance on the part of Vestries or Town Councils. Yet they would have been more freely conceded by this House, and accepted by the nation, if the Government had boldly established a Minister of Education, sharply responsible for the action of his Department. At present the Vice President of the Council, instead of attending to education, may be looking after diseased cows or sheep, may be organizing cattle markets or abattoirs, may be busying himself with questions of quarantine or vaccination, or be consulting with the Medical Officer of Health how to resist an invasion of famine-fever, or cholera, all which duties are clearly incompatible with the energy and devotedness required to carry out a great scheme of national education, of which this measure is not the end but only the beginning. The bright examples of other countries were brought before the House, at the second reading of this Bill, by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). But, then, he was speaking of countries in which there are efficient Ministers of Education, responsible for primary, secondary, and higher instruc- 563 tion worked in correlation. It is by this combined system that foreign countries obtain their high results. They leave to the localities the mere elementary teaching, while the State, by its inspection and Government grants, draws out intellectual life and interest in education, and these are the main humanizing and civilizing parts of it. The only stimulus which we give, under our present system, is for the crudest raw materials of education, no inducements being offered to work them up to any sort of utility. What we call "education," in the inspected schools of England, is the mere seed used in other countries; but with us that seed, as soon as it has sprouted, withers and dries up, and never grows up into a crop for the feeding of the nation. What any child of a Member of this House acquires at eight years of age is the total amount which four-fifths of the children of the working classes acquire in their whole school career, and in the bulk of cases for their entire life after. Is this the equipment which our artizans ought to have in the advancing competition of the world, when the easy transference of the raw materials of industry is depreciating their value as factors in production, and forcing us to depend on the intellect and intelligence which we can add to the practical aptitudes of the people? In our class of life, reading, writing, and ciphering are taught as the beginning; but in the schools for the working classes they are taught as the end. Yet, here we are still dealing with a Bill in which the quantity of education is alone considered, without one security being given for its quality. There are two parts of the kingdom, both containing a large infusion of the Celtic race—but the one is a source of strength and prosperity, the other of weakness and disquietude. The first, Ireland, possesses more diffused elementary teaching than Scotland, and we spend upon it annually £300,000 for its schools, while we give to the latter only about £100,000. And yet, with all this Imperial expenditure on Ireland, that sort of education has not brought you one step nearer to tranquillity and strength. The Prime Minister, and various speakers on the Irish land question, even alluded to it as having for the time, led to dissatisfaction and discontent. In Scotland, we vehemently deny the wisdom of your low standards 564 and on that account have, as yet, successfully resisted the payment by the Revised Code. Scotland had its John Knox, as Germany had its Luther, and both these Reformers taught their countrymen that their lowest schools should have high aims, and should be intimately connected with the secondary schools and the Universities. Every peasant in Scotland knows that it is his own fault if he does not acquire such knowledge in his school as will enable him to aspire to the University. Out of 3,500 students at the Scotch Universities, about 500 are the sons of wage-making artizans or peasants. The student who won our highest honour last year supported himself by working as a herring-fisher during the summers, and paid his own way at the University in the winters. England, in the time of Bishop Latimer, connected her Universities with the country schools in this manner, and had many yeomen in attendance. These Universities have now passed beyond the reach of the wage-making class; but last Session my right hon. Friend passed his great Act for the endowed schools, and Parliament joyfully agreed to open them to the poor, from whom they had been taken away by the rich. But if we retain our present low views of the quality of education in our elementary schools, there is not the slightest chance of the inheritance which we have prepared passing to the working classes. How are they to travel from the elementary schools to those secondary schools by an open competition such as the Vice President of the Council promised to them? Standard III. is the only bridge for four-fifths of them, and a miserably narrow and rotten bridge it is. Hence, the middle classes will again usurp all these schools by carrying away the open scholarships. In Scotland, the teachers of our elementary schools are University bred men, and they bridge over the chasm between the lower and upper schools by their learning and zeal. It is wholly to this connection that we owe the position which Scotch artizans and the middle classes take in occupations where intelligence is a condition for success. I fear that I have wearied the House with my treatment of a branch of the subject, which you may excuse as being natural that a Professor should discuss. Fop I think it is important, when we are passing a 565 great national measure, that we should know exactly what we are doing, and also what we are not doing. We are now dealing with the quantity and doing nothing for the quality of the education of the people. But as the land requires to be ploughed before the seed is sown, I heartily support this Bill, because I think it is an effective implement for the preliminary preparation of the soil. Yet, when my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council, in the eloquent peroration of his speech, at the first reading, warned us that this kingdom could not hope to hold her position among the nations of the world, unless we made up for our lack of numbers by our intellectual force, he could not contemplate the evolution of that force from our present low standards of elementary education. The days are past when the masses of the people were looked upon as aggregations of human beings useful for their brute labour, but in whom the State had little interest as regarded their intelligence, inventiveness, and morality. We now earnestly desire to raise the level of the whole class, so that they may fulfil their functions as freemen and citizens. But, if the sons of toil are to receive the invigorating stimulus and refreshment of hope, you must single out the individuals capable of further development, and who are fitted to add to the intellectual fund of the country, never equal to the demand for it. I do not say that elementary schools should teach higher subjects to all; but I do say all should feel that it is within their power to pass over a bridge between ignorance and knowledge. It is by laying this extended foundation in general intelligence, from which a superior intelligence can be evolved, that you will secure the continued prosperity of this nation, because, in addition to the practical aptitudes of our working classes, you will have the security of a loyal, and contented, because hopeful and enlightened, population, who will support law and order from conviction, and not through fear.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I desire only to trespass for a short time upon the House while I make a few observations with respect to this Bill. I am one of those who are deeply sensible of the importance of the measure, and I am very anxious to approach, the question in the most calm and dispassionate 566 manner. I do not desire to occupy any of the short time that I intend to speak, with any reply to the observations of the hon. Member for Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities (Dr. Lyon Play-fair). I listened to his speech with a great deal of pleasure, and heartily concurred in much that he said; and with no part of his speech did I agree more than with the part in which he insisted upon the necessity of our improving our educational machinery, and especially of appointing a Minister of Education to be the head of that Department. So strong, indeed, is my opinion upon that subject that it was my intention at this stage of the Bill to move an Instruction to the Committee empowering it to insert a clause for the appointment of a regular Minister of Education; but I abstained from doing so because I was unwilling to do anything that might have the effect of embarrassing or impeding my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Privy Council, in his efforts to settle this question. As I have said, I am unwilling to occupy an unnecessary portion of the time of the House, because I am one of those who are anxious to see this Bill passed into law. Without, then, entering into any close comparison between the shape of this Bill as it was first introduced and the shape in which it now stands, allow me to say that in its leading features I believe it is a great and important measure, calculated to solve a long-standing, a long-agitated, and a most difficult problem; I hope, therefore, that it may pass into law. That is the spirit in which I commence the few observations I desire to make, and in speaking in that spirit I cannot refrain from expressing the satisfaction I feel at the tone which has pervaded this discussion. I must not only acknowledge the ability of the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard), but what is, in my opinion, at this moment of far more importance than the ability of any speech—I mean the conciliatory and tolerant spirit in which he approached the consideration of the subject. Indeed, the discussion on the altered measure was opened on Thursday evening by the First Minister of the Crown in a tone of charity and Christian feeling, which I hope may pervade the entire debate. I hope that we shall approach this subject remembering what is the real object we 567 have in view. The object we have in view is the education of the children of the masses of this country. Let us bear in mind that it is not our object to give a triumph to one particular denomination or to inflict any injury or mortification upon another. I shall not detain the House by entering into the whole of this subject; my object is to appeal to the Government to give some further consideration to two of the most important changes which have been made in the Bill. I doubt, however, whether the Government have sufficiently realized that which was one of the points put by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gathorne Hardy)—the importance of making some better provision than now exists for the supply of teachers. Then there are the provisions with respect to religious teaching; if the Bill is to be maintained in its present shape in respect of religious instruction it will become more than ever important, that the supply not only of teachers should be considered, but of well-trained and qualified teachers. I have a right also to ask the Government for an explanation on another point. The Government proposes to make a large increase to the annual grant for the support of existing schools, and my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford touched upon a point of great importance when he asked what guarantee we had for the permanence of the annual grant under the new arrangement. The year of grace is another point. I say, with every wish to support the Bill, that I very much agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford—I cannot understand why the year of grace has been withdrawn. I am desirous of receiving an explanation upon that point, and I hope the Government will show that they are about to enter upon such an extended series of inquiries that by the mere lapse of time we shall secure the year of grace, though it is not renewed in the Bill. Well, Sir, time is precious, and I hope this debate will not be unnecessarily prolonged. I hope that the spirit of concession which the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister recommended will be manifested on all sides, and that among other concessions will be that of not too long occupying the attention of the House. I therefore rise to make an appeal to the Govern- 568 ment on two points, and on two points alone. The first is with regard to the alterations that have been made with regard to the time table. We have not yet got any explanation of that change. The clause in the Bill when it was first introduced gave general satisfaction, and was cordially accepted on this side the House. It has been altered, and there has now been substituted for it what is called a Time Table Conscience Clause. I believe that clause is now objectionable to many, and, before it be too late, I ask the Government to reconsider it. I do not say this of my own opinion; but I find that this objection is supported by persons of all classes throughout the country. I hold in my hand a Memorial on this subject, which has been addressed to the First Minister of the Crown by ministers and laymen in the borough of Leicester. It is signed by 150 persons, comprising clergymen and curates of the Established Church, and ministers of five or six denominations of Nonconformists, Baptist, Independent, Wesleyan, and Unitarian. It proposes that all existing schools shall continue to receive aid from the Parliamentary Grant, with a Government Inspector and a Time Table Conscience Clause. They propose, further, that all schools supported out of local rates shall be strictly undenominational, that religious instruction shall be given wholly out of the Bible, and by the regular school teacher, and that a Time Table Conscience Clause shall be affixed to the walls of the school. Now, on this subject I speak for myself alone, and not for others; but I must say that, to the extent of these two paragraphs, I thoroughly concur with the memorialists. Another paragraph is—that by the Time Table Conscience Clause they mean that a definite period for religious instruction shall be fixed by the school managers, and that the children whose parents object to their receiving religious instruction shall receive other instruction at that time. Here I thoroughly concur with the memorialists, and I cannot understand why the Government does not. I have here also another Paper—a copy of a Petition presented by the hon. Member for Kendall (Mr. Whitwell)—signed by about 2,000 school teachers, one-half of whom are connected with this metropolis. They say that the Time Table Conscience Clause proposed by the Government is 569 open to great objection—that it is very undesirable for Parliament to fix the time for religious instruction, to be given in all cases at the beginning or the end of the school hours. The Petitioners respectfully submit that the time table for religious instruction should be left to the managers, subject to the approval of the Educational Department, and should be published and placed in a prominent position on the walls of the school. Now, I am glad I have an opportunity of speaking before the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council has explained his views, and I appeal to him, what is there in the suggestion of these 2,000 teachers to which he can take the slightest objection. Why should he insist on the time table being fixed at the beginning or the end of the school hours? But I have before me another paper which is well worthy the attention of my right hon. Friend. It proceeds from the National Education Union, and is a very interesting and important document. The National Education Union has made a reference to all the school teachers in South Wales, and this paper consists of their replies in different columns, as to the religious difficulty, the practical working of the Time Table Conscience Clause, &c. Upwards of 100 answers were received. Here and there is a solitary answer in favour of the Government proposition; but the great majority declare that the plan proposed by the Government is almost impracticable. I hope the testimony of these competent witnesses will have due weight with the Government. The other point to which I desire to call the attention of the Government and the House is one of still greater importance, connected as it is with the question of religious instruction. The Government at first proposed to give the local Board power to decide what system of religious instruction should be adopted in the schools, and I was prepared to give that proposal my support; but from the first I felt that there was very great force in the objection that it was likely to prove a fruitful source of discord. I, therefore, do not complain, on the contrary, I am glad, that the Government have altered that part of the Bill. I must also admit that when proceeding to establish a system of rate-supported schools we are bound so to regulate all their arrangements as not to give reasonable offence 570 to that portion of the public who contribute in aid of the system. I, therefore, do not complain that the Government have adopted the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple), to exclude religious catechisms and formularies from the teaching in the schools. But I do wish to submit to the Government whether it is not desirable to go somewhat further than this. I do not object to the exclusion of the catechism and formularies; but I do object on the ground that religious teaching is left naked and unsupported, and I do not think that the clause, as it stands, is enough. We have had the broadest admission that the spirit of the people at this moment is in favour of religious instruction; if we have to thank the League for nothing else, we have to thank them for making abundantly clear that fact, which is being loudly proclaimed—that it is the feeling of the people that religion must be the very basis of education. I heard with greater pain and disappointment than I can express the general tone of the debate on the second reading. I was sorry that those put in the fore and front of the opposition were less anxious to produce a good and working measure than to make an attack upon the Church of England. I hope there will be an end to this, and that we shall now devote ourselves to the real question of a proper education for the neglected children who are now swarming in the streets around us. For myself, I have long contended that the education of the people should be founded on broad and liberal principles; I have always contended, under obloquy and opposition, for a Conscience Clause; but never for a moment have I contended for secular education, if by secular education it is meant that religious education should be banished from the schools of the country. To that I could never give my consent. I agree entirely with those who say—as has been said by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Richard) in this debate—that "religion is the most important element in the education of a human being." But how is this education to be given? There is the practical difficulty, and the answer of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil is that you must not entrust the schoolmaster with this task, that you must have nothing denominational, but that you must trust to 571 the charitable exertions of the various religious ministers outside the school. All I have to say is that I have no confidence in it if that is to be the system. If there are hon. Gentlemen in this House who wish to make that the system, let them lay before us a distinct plan and let them tell us how it is to be carried out. But, Sir, we all know that the time, and the strength, and the exertions of ministers of religion in this country—whether in connection with the Church of England or otherwise—are already strongly tasked. We know that every minister of religion has his time fully engrossed, and his duty chalked out for him, and I am doubtful whether we could teach children religion by means of the ministers of religion alone. I wish that I saw the junior Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) in his place; he is a high authority amongst Nonconformists, and I should like to read to the House a passage written by the hon. Member, which I think is one of great interest. The hon. Member for Bradford is a member of the League, and having been invited to attend the first great meeting held at Birmingham, and being from some cause or other prevented from attending, he wrote a letter accounting for his absence, and in that letter occurs the following passage:—Whilst I attach high importance to unsectarian education, I am bound to say that I do not feel obliged to exclude the religious element from rate-supported schools. This much, I think, may be safely left to the decision of the local authorities, who might be authorized to open or close their schools if they pleased with some form of devotion, and to adopt the Bible as one of the books to be read—of course, protecting every parent from being compelled to send his children at that time. My reason is this—I feel that if on unsectarian schools an interpretation is to be placed which will be the rigid exclusion of all religion, the nation will lose the very best teachers for, cœteris paribus, they are the best teachers who bring the religious spirit and motive to their work. I am sure the working classes, as a body, would not be prepared to shut out Christianity altogether from the schools to which they send their children. It would be a mistake to tie up the hands of the teachers and make Christianity a forbidden thing to them.Sir, I thank the hon. Member for his admission. I have a still further extract from another high authority whom I regret not to see opposite me, Mr. Bright—for it is so long since we have seen him that I suppose it is now no breach of Order to mention his name. He made a speech to his constituency last autumn, 572 which was one of the most eloquent and powerful, perhaps, he ever delivered; and, on that occasion, he said—What I think can be taught in every school to every child is love of truth, love of virtue, love of God, and the fear of offending Him. And I think that every right-minded, and every rightly-appointed teacher in any school in England will undertake, so far as is in his power, to teach that to any children under his control.I entirely agree with that: and I ask, how can that which the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) desires be accomplished, how can those things so happily expressed by the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) be attained, except by reading and teaching the Bible? That seems to me the most obvious mode. In fact, the hon. Member for Bradford has said as much, and the point which I wish to press on Her Majesty's Government is this—I do not object to adopt the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) and to say that from schools supported by rates you shall exclude those formularies which may give offence to the feelings of some. But I do submit that if you adopt the negative proposition to reject the formularies and the catechisms you ought to adopt the positive proposition that the Bible should be read. I believe that is the wish not only of Churchmen, but also of most, if not all, Protestant Nonconformists in this country. How are those infants, at whose education we are now aiming, to be grounded in their knowledge of the sacred volume, unless by allowing the teaching of the Bible to remain in these schools? I cannot accept the answer of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Richard), that it should be done by the minister of religion coming into those schools. It is not enough to teach it in the Sunday-school alone; and to suppose that it will be taught in the homes of these children is an idle dream. No man who knows what the cottage dwellings of England are like in the rural districts, or what is the character of the lodgings of the artizans in our great towns, will ever contend that the elements of religion can be taught in such homes, or that the children, in this regard, can be entrusted to their parents. Such are the practical points to which I desire to call the attention of the Government. I wish to ask them to re-consider the arrangement with regard to religious education under 573 the Conscience Clause, for if the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council does not hold out any hope of concession after the weight of authority I have brought forward, I shall feel it my duty to move an Amendment to alter the arrangement of the Government as to religious education being given before or after other instruction, although I have the most sincere wish to support the Bill. I have no objection to the time table, provided it is adopted under proper restrictions, and that the managers of the schools are left free to give religious instruction at such time as they think fit. Trusting that the Government will give their attention to these two points, I will conclude by expressing a hope that before the close of the Session this Bill may receive the Royal Assent.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, I am loth to interrupt thus early this most useful debate; but as I am the Member in charge of the Bill, I think the time has come when the House will expect me to state, on behalf of the Government, the reasons why we cannot accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard), and to make some remarks with regard to the changes which we have made in the Bill since it was brought in. I cannot hope to equal the hon. Member for the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews (Dr. Lyon Play-fair) in the eloquence and. lucidity of his speech; but I wish to follow his example in taking each of the three clauses of which this Amendment is composed. In the first place, I will touch on that part of it which has been least referred to in the debate of this evening—namely, that part in which it is stated that "in any national system of elementary education the attendance should be everywhere compulsory." I have been rather disposed to regret that now, as in the debate on the second reading, our attention has been almost wholly directed to those clauses of the Bill that relate to what is called "the religious difficulty," and that the general scope and provisions of the measure have not been so much regarded. I am afraid that this "religious difficulty" will occupy our minds until we get into Committee. But when we do that, other clauses of great importance will demand attention, and among them will be, I do not doubt, 574 that affecting compulsory education. I wish, however, to remind hon. Members that in voting against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil they will not be precluded hereafter from voting in favour of compulsion if they wish to do so; and here I desire to point out that the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) is wrong in saying that the alterations we have made in the Bill really affect the principle of compulsion. As originally brought in, the Bill permitted all school Boards to initiate compulsion. So it is now. Some hon. Members seem to think that we shall have fewer school Boards in consequence of the change; but I think there are influences at work which will both increase and lessen the number. One reason for the increase will be that we shall issue orders for the formation of school Boards as soon as we have ascertained the deficiency, and another is that the larger sum granted by Parliament will give them facilities for working. The school Boards will come into operation more speedily, and they will work more cheaply, and these are two reasons why their number should be increased rather than diminished. As regards compulsion, the only alteration we have made is in the Amendment of which I gave Notice a few days ago, but which now appears in the reprint of the Bill, to the effect that no by-law enforcing compulsory attendance is to apply to the religious teaching in any school. Without anticipating what I shall have to say hereafter as to the Time Table Conscience Clause, I wish to tell my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir John Pakington)—who has shown so great a desire to promote the cause of education—that his remarks and arguments will be thoroughly considered by the Government before we get into Committee on that clause, and to explain to him that one reason why we fixed the time for instruction in religious subjects at the beginning and the end of each school meeting was because we thought it would then be far easier to enforce the principle of compulsion in denominational schools than it would be without such an arrangement. It may be to the convenience of the managers and masters of schools to be able to give religious instruction when they please; but hon. Members will see that the attendance of children at school could be much more easily enforced if the parents 575 know that religious instruction is to be given only at the beginning and end of each school meeting, while I wish to remind them that the instruction is not to be given out at the beginning and end of each school day, but at the commencement and close of each school meeting. I believe that many schoolmasters are in error on this point, and do not know that each day they will be able to have four classes for religious instruction. My hon. Friend the Member for the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews, towards the close of his speech, brought forward some strong arguments in favour of a Ministry of Education; but although there are, no doubt, strong arguments for constituting a separate Department of Education, yet I cannot but think he is mistaken in supposing that the deficiency in the quality of education is owing to the organization of the Department. It is perfectly true that the deficiency in the quality of education throughout the country is almost worse—indeed, I think it is a more glaring evil—than the deficiency in its quantity, and what he says about the regret, the shame, the mortification we may feel in having so long voted millions of money, and, after all, obtained so slight a result, is also perfectly just. But it is not in the power of any Educational Department, however devised, to overcome this difficulty, unless you can get the children to attend the schools. If my noble Friend (Earl De Grey and Ripon) and myself, or if more able men, could give the whole of their time and attention to educational matters, it would not be possible for them to get the children to attend; and I want hon. Gentlemen to bear in mind that either now or before long we must face this question of attendance at school boldly. I am quite aware that our proposition for compulsion is illogical. Do not let it be supposed that we are so foolish as not to be aware that it is open to that complaint. But we doubted—and I confess I still doubt, true as I believe the principle to be—whether it is not so novel that it would be impossible to get this House to assent to its direct application universally over the country; and, even if this House did so assent, whether, in the present temper of the people, such a law could be easily enforced. I am well aware that it is easy to say that permissive compulsion is a contradiction in 576 terms, and you may ask what we mean by saying that in a district where there is no school Board, because it has supplied its deficiencies, the managers are not to have the same power of getting the child to attend the schools as the manager of a district which has a school Board. Our proposition would be indefensible if it were a final one; but we have made it simply as an experiment. Permissive legislation, contemplated as a final result, has generally been a failure; but when adopted as paving the way to something further it has not seldom succeeded. The House will judge whether it is better to try this experiment under favourable auspices in the large towns, and see whether we may or may not advance further with the principle hereafter. At any rate, illogical though it may seem, I do not regret that this species of compulsion has been included in the Bill—first, because by our bringing it forward, and by the manner in which it has been received by the House and the country, one of our chief objects will have been attained—namely, that no district will be able to allege, as an excuse for not providing school accommodation, that it does not possess the means of forcing the children to attend school. But I think it is generally acknowledged that, either by direct or indirect compulsion, we shall have to meet that question. And, secondly, I believe it is one of those principles which, having been stated, will find its way. But passing to the other two clauses of the Amendment—which, after all, have occupied most of our time and our thoughts—I take the last first. It states that in any national system of elementary education the religious instruction should be supplied by voluntary effort, and not out of public funds. My first objection to these words is that they are very vague; it is hard to know precisely what they mean; and, if we are to have an abstract Resolution binding our policy on this important matter, it is, I think, not an unfair request that we should be told precisely what the words mean, that there may be no mistake about them, Already two or three interpretations have been put on them this evening. Some hon. Members have supposed that the words mean that in any national or public school religious instruction may be supplied, provided it be so supplied by voluntary effort 577 and not out of public funds. Again, some hon. Members have seemed to suppose the Resolution might be met in this way—that in one school the secular instruction should be supplied, and in another school the religious instruction should be given. That is a point on which we ought to have definite information one way or the other. Again, does my hon. Friend, or does he not, mean, when he says that religious instruction ought not to be supplied from public funds, that he thinks the principle of national education should be that no school should be aided out of public funds in which there is religious teaching? I do not really know whether he means that or not. I can understand his Amendment being interpreted to mean that, and also its being interpreted not to mean it. It may be said that out of the public funds you only pay for the secular instruction in the schools; but if there be religious instruction in a school, and if you subscribe out of the public funds towards the school fund—towards the fund which the managers have for keeping up the school—inasmuch as out of their funds they pay for both the religious and the secular teaching, in aiding the school for the sake of its secular teaching you are paying for the religious teaching. It is quite possible to put that interpretation upon the Resolution, and before we are asked to decide upon it we ought to know exactly whether that is or is not what is intended. I rather gathered from a remark of my hon. Friend's that he did not wish that construction to be put upon it; because I understood him to say it was not right to take money derived from the general taxation of the country and apply it to the support of the religious instruction of any denomination. That would look as if he meant it to apply to the direct support of religious instruction; but I hope he or some of his friends will let us know exactly what he does mean, because upon that depends this important question—Does he mean to strike a blow not only against increased aid, but against all aid out of Parliamentary Grants to schools in which religious instruction is given? Some of my hon. Friend's arguments made me think he contemplated the more stringent construction of the Resolution; because he seemed to suppose that the principle of 578 concurrent endowment was involved in all assistance to schools in which there was religious teaching. I have been told, during the last few weeks, that I perfectly misunderstand the difficulties of my Nonconformist Friends. I am sorry if that be so, for I have done my best to understand them, and I have watched their course for years past on all educational subjects with interest. But I have found this line not seldom taken—and my hon. Friend alluded to it—I mean that of specially contrasting the legislation which the Government are attempting on education this year with the legislation of last year. And I have often heard it asked—Can the same Government ask the same House of Commons which last year came to the conclusion to refuse to endow different forms of religious worship in Ireland to pass a Bill to endow different forms of religious teaching in every parish in England and Wales? I think I am not unfairly putting the argument. Now, in the first place, I think there is a great difference between the religious worship of adults and the religious teaching of young children. But I do not dwell on that. I think the difference is much greater than that. I hope I shall not be deemed disrespectful in saying that I think my hon. Friend, and some of those who agree with him, have not fully realized their new position in supporting or being willing to accede to any system of State education at all. For years, from most conscientious motives, my hon. Friend, and also the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines)—who, if I am not mistaken, does not agree with my hon Friend in this matter—for a long time those hon. Gentlemen took a decided stand against the State interfering in any way with primary education. Well, but now they have given up that position, and, greatly to their honour, have come forward and candidly stated their reasons for doing so. My hon. Friend says he has still some doubt whether he ought to have given it up. But will he allow me to say that I think he has not exactly realized where he is, because he must remember this in contrasting education with religious worship —the State lets religious worship alone. That is what we decided to do in Ireland last year, thinking that it would do harm for the State to interfere. But the State does not let educa- 579 tion alone. That makes the great difference. The State comes forward and proposes to declare that education shall be compulsorily provided, and already by indirect compulsion it says that the school shall be compulsorily attended, and it looks forward to still further compulsion. But then we have to consider the feelings of all the inhabitants of the State, and we find that there is a conscientious objection on the part of many to religion being combined with education, or rather to their being obliged to pay for a religious teaching with which they do not agree. But, on the other hand, there are hundreds of thousands, who have a conscientious objection to religion being separated from education. They are taxpayers, they are ratepayers, they have rights, and my hon. Friend is not in a position to say—"I have nothing to do with your religious education and the State should have nothing to do with it," because he has already assented to the interference of the State. All these people object to religion being separated from education, and this objection I think my hon. Friend would find to be very strong if he carried his Resolution, and had to frame a Bill accordingly. But probably my hon. Friend would be willing to admit that the public funds may be given to a school in which there is religious teaching, provided the money be given for secular instruction, and that care be taken that it is not larger in amount than the secular education of the school would justify. Well, if that be my hon. Friend's meaning, the difference between him and me is narrowed to a small point. I am not now talking of an increase of the grant to voluntary schools; but we have narrowed our difference to this—that he does not object to our present grants to denominational schools for secular education, nor upon the same principle could he object with regard to future grants, but he does object to them for rate-provided schools. Now, let us look into the case with regard to these schools. And here the House will allow me to say a word in defence of our Bill as it originally stood, and as with its modifications it still stands, with respect to rate-provided schools. We have been told that in leaving discretion to the school Boards we shirk the religious difficulty. No charge has been more frequently made against us. Perhaps I may 580 give to that charge a very sufficient answer, at least what appears to my mind to be such. We left that power to the school Boards, because we thought it a matter for the parents much more than for the House of Commons. We thought the question involved would be much easier to decide according to the wishes of the parents, if it was left to each locality to determine as the varying circumstances might require, than if we were to attempt to lay down one rigid rule, when we did not know all the circumstances, and could not know the exact wishes of the parents. Then, it is also said that in remitting the matter to the school Boards, we absolutely underrated the difficulty of the task which we had to perform. I have been often told how mistaken I was in underrating the religious difficulty. Well, I must repeat that in one respect I do not believe I did underrate it. I never for a moment supposed that there was not a difficulty in passing the law; but I thought then, and I think still, that there would be no difficulty in working the law. It is a difficulty which we make for ourselves. I do not mean that it is not a real difficulty in the minds of my hon. Friend, and of conscientious men who think with him. It is a very great political, Parliamentary, and polemical difficulty; but it is not an educational difficulty. It would have been inexcusable in me if I underrated it, for, as a Parliamentary difficulty, I have worked long enough in the cause of education to know that this religious difficulty has kept our children in ignorance at least for the last 10 years, and it rests very much with my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) whether this difficulty is to keep the children of England uneducated for another year. This difficulty has to do with controversies among sincere men of different persuasions, among ministers of different denominations. It has to do with social but not so much with school arrangements. It is a most formidable difficulty in Parliament, but a very small one as between the parent of the child and the schoolmaster, and still smaller between the schoolmaster and the child. Now, may I ask the House for a moment to try to rise above this difficulty, or to get below it, and to look at the matter from the purely educational point of view, from which it is my duty to look 581 at it? I should be unfit for my place if I did not consider this question as regards the interests of the children, and I want the House to look at it in that way. I am inclined to ask the question, how many Members of the House are practical managers of schools? because I have found that just in proportion as men have to do with the practical management of schools, they think less of the religious difficulty. Here is an argument that is very often used—"Oh," it is said, "you can get over the whole difficulty very easily. Let the secular teaching be given during school hours, and then let the building be accessible to the schoolmaster or the ministers of the different denominations out of school hours. In that way you can get your secular instruction, on which all agree, provided out of the public funds, and you will get your religious instruction at proper times, and so everybody will be satisfied." Now, it has been my fate to receive many deputations and many letters on this subject. I have had a vast number of suggestions offered which I sometimes think would make a volume that might amuse, and, in many respects, inform the public. But just allow me to read a portion of a letter from a lady who has devoted a great part of her life to education—and I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) that in future, as in the past, we shall get no greater help in matters of education than from ladies. After contradicting the assumption that the chief hostility to secular schools springs from denominational ardour, the writer says—But the heart and soul of this hostility is found in a very different motive, in the ardent desire that the little children of our land should not be deprived of the blessing of such simple Christian instruction as suits their tender age—that the thousands and tens of thousands of them to whom the common school will be their sole point of contact with any humanizing and civilizing influences should not find the value of that contact reduced to its lowest degree by the abstraction from it of all the knowledge, all the warmth, and all the love which religion brings with it, both for teacher and taught. This is their one desire, and for the sake of this they are ready to sacrifice much that they feel they might justly claim—special avenues of influence, special forms and modes of teaching which many of them hold dear. Is it possible that those who talk so easily of religious lessons to be given 'out of school hours' by the various denominational clergy have ever considered what this means? What the chances are of accomplishing it? How it ac- 582 cords with their cry for universal compulsion as the only possible means of getting children even into the day-schools, though these day-schools, with their gift of secular knowledge, represent, as the poor well know, bread and butter and advancement in life? In the day-schools the children are at work, with an interval for dinner, from 9 to 4 or 5 o'clock. Has any Nonconformist minister ever tried to gather the tired little ones of his flock for a Bible lesson before or after those school hours, or to persuade the busy mother to spare the elder ones for another hour's schooling? Has he found it a more hopeful task to collect a volunteer class on their Saturday holiday? How many of the children of the upper classes would he collect of their own goodwill for a Bible lesson on their one holiday? Is it not obvious that out of the 100 or 200 children who attend a school only the few exceptional children will come in time, or those whose parents take such an exceptional interest in their children's religious training that if all were like them the whole vexed 'religious difficulty' would fall to the ground to-morrow, because the children's Christian training would be—where it ought to be—in the hands of their parents. But surely it needs no proof that these weekly lessons out of school hours are for the mass chimerical. There remain the Sunday-schools, whose influence is indeed moat valuable; but probably those who know them best would be least willing to lay upon the weekly hour or two in the Sunday-school the whole burden of a child's religious education, the whole stress of counteracting a neglectful home and a vicious and degraded neighbourhood. And, as before, the children who most needed it would not be found there.Now, these are practical words, and I wish to try and find out how the work is done throughout the country, and how we can help to carry it on. Let it not be supposed that I do not think there are a number of poor parents who look after their children as much as we look after ours; but it is not so much for the children of these parents as for the children of parents who neglect their duty that we should be anxious. I never made a remark which more thoroughly met with the approval of an audience of working men than when I said—Each of you has a pauper or a criminal upon his back, and it is for those paupers or criminals that we work this educational system much more than for you.The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham) says the religious teaching he would have is the reading of the Bible, without note or comment. Is my hon. Friend a practical manager of a school? A rather curious fact in connection with this point came under my observation. A deputation came to me from two vestries—those of Newington and Camberwell. One of the gentlemen said to me that, with my hon. Friend, he thought the Bible should be read 583 in the schools without note or comment; but several of the gentlemen who came with him differed from him in that view. I asked the gentleman who was for the reading of the Bible in that way, whether there were any schoolmasters on his Vestry Board? He replied in the affirmative, and it appeared one of those schoolmasters, the very efficient master of a British school, said he could not understand how any man who had ever been inside a school could say that the way to meet the difficulty was by having the Bible read without note or comment. If this debate had occurred before Whitsuntide, I should have asked every hon. Member to go within a school and inquire of the schoolmaster how he thought he could get on with the Bible without note or comment. We are thinking of ourselves—we are supposing the case of men who have received a University education when we say—"You cannot give children a religious education without mixing up some particular form of theology with it. They would not tolerate religious instruction in which there was not doctrinal teaching." Really, it is not of poor little children we can be thinking when we imagine such things. For children—most of whom are under ten years of age—what does reading the Bible without note or comment mean? It means treating the Bible as you treat no other book, because no other book would the schoolmaster venture to make a class of children read without explaining the long words. Meeting a gentleman who said that to read the Bible to children without note or comment would be to treat it as you would treat any other book, I said to him—"You never can have been within a school." The only way to fix a lesson on the attention of children is to examine them and find what sort of an interpretation they have put on it themselves. Therefore, being practical men, we need not trouble ourselves much about the Bible without note or comment. Nor need the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) have much fear that we shall turn the schoolmasters into a sacerdotal class. I was going to ask the impertinent question whether the right hon. Gentleman is a school manager? [Mr. DISRAELI: I am a manager, and I attend to the duties.] As the right hon. Gentleman is a manager, I 584 am quite sure he attends to the duties with great interest; but if he has seen anything that makes him apprehend the teachers will become a sacerdotal class—if he finds that they think it their duty, or make it their practice, to give theological education, his experience has been different from mine. They know too well the capacities of the children. What manager has found a schoolmaster so foolish as to attempt to drive theological doctrine into their poor little heads? It would be useless labour. What it is found the children can appreciate and apply are the great moral and spiritual lessons of the Bible. Children cannot be expected to understand the mystery of the Trinity; but what they can understand is—"Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you." And these are the lessons which parents generally wish should be enforced on their chidren. You might as well say that all the parents in the country will become a sacerdotal class. While the child is in school the schoolmaster holds the place of a parent, and he cannot become a sacerdotal character except we are to regard every head of a family as a priest. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) seems to think that the teacher might feel it necessary to explain the Athanasian Creed, and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil quoted the opinion of a Bishop. I can refer him to the opinion of another Bishop, Dr. Temple, who has himself been a schoolmaster, and who, on Saturday last, said he believed the religious difficulty was immensely exaggerated, and that once we were inside the school it vanished. We are afraid not that the schoolmasters will teach theology, but that one system of theology will gain some advantage over another. We do not say it will have done so; but we are afraid that it will be said to have done so. The organization with which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) is connected, and which I still think has been useful, though I differ from those who manage it, has been driven into a more secular position. I think my hon. Friend himself will acknowledge that. That organization has been holding meetings of what may be called the élite of the working classes. Let us therefore see what has been the result of these meet- 585 ings. At one, held a few days ago, with Mr. Spurgeon in the chair, there was an animated discussion as to whether Bible reading should not form part of the instruction in the schools. A resolution declared that the meeting had no wish to prevent the reading of the Bible; but one of the speakers went further, because he spoke of the Bible as the grandest of school books. Then there was a meeting in the borough which I represent (Bradford). It was quite right that the gentlemen who organized the meeting should have given my constituents an opportunity of saying what they thought of me. At that meeting "reading and instruction from the Bible" were approved; but it was resolved to oppose the use of all creeds, catechisms, or formularies. I may also refer to an interesting little book, entitled One Square Mile in the East End of London, which has lately been published by Mr. Bartlett. In that district of one square mile in the East-end of London, containing about 150,000 persons, he made a house-to-house visitation for the purpose of investigating the actual extent of educational destitution, and of ascertaining the wants and wishes of the people themselves. As the result of the investigation and visitation so conducted, he found that the educational destitution was terrible—quite as bad as at Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, or Birmingham. Taking the population at 150,000, the children between the ages of three and 14 might be assumed at 40,000 in number, and of those 29,000 within the space of one square mile were growing up in almost, if not complete, ignorance. This gentleman also tried to ascertain what views were held by the parents as to the religious difficulty, and the information which he obtained is set forth in the appendix. I must say, from all I can learn, that he appears to have gone into this question entirely and absolutely unprejudiced. The feeling of those whom he consulted was strongly in favour of some religious teaching, though as to the precise nature of this teaching very different views were ascertained. One said it should be founded "on the Bible and Dr. Watts's catechism;" but there were only two cases in which religious teaching of some kind was not regarded with favour. Will the House allow me to read some of the remarks 586 which were made to this gentleman by the parents, which are more important for our purpose than any remarks of his own? Here is a very dirty, almost a filthy nook, serving for children and parents and all, for the father cannot afford a second room—evidently not the élite of the working classes, but still the very class for which we are legislating. And what said the poor mother? The mother said she would strongly object to no religion being taught; she would rather send the children to the schools of another Dissenting sect to which she did not herself belong than send them where no religion was taught. Here, again, is a man, a shoemaker, who has evidently had a hard struggle; he has 11 grown-up children, and the youngest go to school. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, will pay attention, I have no doubt, to this case. The father was strongly in favour of compelling parents to send their children to some school; but he was also strongly against schools where no religion was taught. He also would rather send his children to the school of a different sect than to one where no religion was taught. Then comes a nice tidy family, with three or four children, one of whom was at school; the parents strongly objected to compulsion—Would not allow children to go to a school where religion was not taught, but would not mind their going to a school teaching a different doctrine to their own." "In another house there were two widows, one with five young children and very poor, the other with a large family, all of whom were grown up and had been to school; neither, on any conditions, would send her children to a school where there was no religious teaching, but did not object to schools managed by a sect to which she did not herself belong.These widows, though poor, were probably ratepayers, or, at any rate, taxpayers. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) drew a distinction between ratepayers and those who prefer denominational schools. I exclaimed against that distinction, for you cannot put on one side ratepayers, and on the other those who like denominational schools, because a vast number of ratepayers do like denominational schools. There is one other case—and it is the last I will read—which shows that when you get down lower in the scale you will still find existing deep down in the minds of 587 these poor people that feeling of religion which I protest against our endeavouring to undermine by Act of Parliament—A very poor place, the whole family living entirely in one small room, which was dreadfully dirty. The parents approved of the children being taught, but found the fee prevented their being sent to school sometimes; one was at school now. They strongly objected to no religion being taught; but did not know the difference between one sect and another.These ignorant creatures did not know anything about this grand national system which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke complains of me for not raising up for the education of children; but they had a vague notion that by religion some sort of hope and guidance and comfort would come to them. Let us leave the parents and try and ascertain the feeling of the country in other ways. We have had several deputations from religious bodies. Perhaps the House will allow me to make one or two allusions to the religious body among whom I was brought up—the Society of Friends. Though not a large body, no one can deny that they have attended very much to education, and though objecting, more than any other body of Christians, to a State Church, and having shown their objection and suffered for it at a time when opposition was not so much avowed or suffering so much endured by others, what is the conclusion they have come to? "We believe," they say, "that the great body of the people of this country would unite with us in objecting to education in which all reference to the Bible is prohibited by Act of Parliament." They go on to say, what I am sure the hon. Member for Merthyr will feel to be a fact, that he ought to take home with him to consider—And there is ground for apprehension that many of the most valuable teachers would retire if the Bible were excluded from their schools, and also that a class of teachers might grow up whose moral influence on the children would be questionable, if not actually dangerous. Believing, then, that all elementary education should include moral teaching, and that no moral teaching is to be relied on which is not based on the authority of Holy Scripture, believing also that experience has amply proved that Bible lessons can be given without sectarian bias, we are of the judgment that the Bible and Scriptural instruction ought not to be excluded by Parliamentary enactment from public elementary schools.The Wesleyans, after very considerable difference of opinion, after debating the matter, and being doubtful for some time which way they would decide, came 588 at last to a similar conclusion. They resolved—That in schools created under a school Board, which may be called school Board schools proper, no denominational formularies—such as creed or catechism, for example—ought to be permitted by law to be taught or used; but that no by-law of the school Board should prohibit reading out of the Scriptures, or instruction out of the Scriptures by the teacher.I may almost quote my hon. Friend himself as in favour of the principle, for at a meeting of the Nonconformist body two resolutions were passed, one, no doubt, in favour of my hon. Friend's Amendment, but the other, as it seems to me, pointing in quite a different direction. The Rev. J. G. Rogers moved the third resolution, which condemned very strongly the use of religious catechisms or formularies, but declared that "this prohibition did not apply to the use of the Holy Scriptures." At the same meeting the Rev. Mr. Spurgeon made use of an expression which may have arisen in a misunderstanding. He said—He had never expected to have heard the Scriptures spoken of as some of the speakers had spoken that night, and he trusted that he should never allow his Nonconformity, or his anti-State Church principles, to permit him to stand by and hear the Word of God lightly spoken of.I must tell my hon. Friend that I think it would be a most unfair remark to apply this reproach to him and those who think with him; I fully believe that, in advocating this mode of primary education, he cares for religion—at all events, his past life proves the sincerity of his desire to advance religion. Mr. Spurgeon goes on to say—They knew that he was as earnest as any one as an opponent to the doctrines of the Prayer Book of the Church of England, which he believed to be clear Popery, and he was prepared to fight as well as any man; but he was not prepared to make that fight the one business of his life, his whole aim and object.And he added—Education must be religious in the very nature of things. He would not send his child to a school where the Bible was not read. What was more, if the Government established such schools, and tried to compel him to send his child there, he would defy the Government, and would preach up and down the land that it was the duty of all men to defy the Government on that point.And here, let me ask, are we not, as a Government, in a rather unfortunate po- 589 sition? We have been told by two excellent gentlemen, Dissenting ministers, that if we do not support the hon. Member for Merthyr's Motion all party ties will be dissolved. On the other hand, we have Mr. Spurgeon plainly telling us that if we do accept the hon. Member's Amendment, and carry it to its practical results, he will preach through the country against us, rousing the people to defy our authority. I think my hon. Friend himself will admit that, even if we were indifferent upon the subject, this would be a difficult position for a Government to find itself in; but believing, as I do, that Mr. Spurgeon is right, I do not hesitate to say that I should be loth to encounter his threatened opposition. Well, then, let us look our position in the face. We, the Government, left the discretion entirely to the school Boards. The great difficulty that has come plainly before us is that there is an objection in the country, and especially among those persons who, in all probability, would be the members, or, at any rate, the electors, of the school Board, to this course being adopted. Important bodies, such as the Town Council of Manchester, have avowed their reluctance to undertake these duties. We have said—"You are practical men; you have done good practical work in other things, and you will do in this as you have done before." But they are unwilling to undertake the duties; and it is a fact we cannot help acknowledging that it would be necessary for the easy working of the Bill to limit, in some respect, the discretion given to the local Boards. The question is—in what direction? My right hon. Friend opposite (Sir John Pakington) would say—"Leave them no discretion at all; order them at once"—that I understood to be his last suggestion—"to establish Bible schools." My right hon. Friend assents to this. But, by doing so, I do not believe I should be advancing the cause of education; on the contrary, it would give rise to a great deal of opposition that would not otherwise occur. My full belief is that, although it makes a great difference in the passing of the Bill, yet, in working the Bill, it matters very little how we word this clause, provided we do not prescribe a purely secular education; because, in the majority of cases, the local Boards would establish schools very much upon the system of the British and Foreign School Society. 590 It is upon this principle that schools are established by Englishmen when they meet together as Englishmen, and not as members of a particular sect. Now, my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke (Mr. Melly) and Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) will ask, why not take their Amendments? My answer is that, although we believe their aim is identical with what we believe will be the result from schools established on our plan, yet we do not think it is in the power of language to define the precise thing required. To carry out their plan it would be necessary to appoint a Court to define what is or is not sectarian, and that would be a very dangerous and inconvenient power to give to any body, local or Imperial. Then comes the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple). Objections have been made to that upon two different grounds. In the first place, we are asked by what right we carry out the principle embodied in this Amendment. I do not justify it on the ground of abstract right; I say it accords with the general view of the country, and its meaning is clear. The hon. Member for the Unisity of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) expresses some difficulty in understanding it; but it will not be difficult to show in Committee that a lawyer could easily interpret the clause, which is more than can be said for the proposal of the hon. Member for Oxford. It is quite true that you may have sectarian teaching without sectarian formularies and catechisms; but I believe it is a rare exception for a schoolmaster to try to give a sectarian education. The main point, however, is the instinctive feeling which exists against catechisms and formularies: it is not so much that the people are afraid of the teaching as that they do not like the idea of a form of teaching being used in a common school which appears to take it for granted that all the children belong to one particular Church. Beautiful as is the general tenor of the Church Catechism, it starts with the supposition that the children are members of the Church of England, a presumption which is regarded with jealousy by many. I have still to make some remarks upon the first clause of my hon. Friend's Amendment, which asks the House to forbid the increase of grants to existing 591 denominational schools. Now, we have good reasons for increasing these grants. In establishing these rate - provided schools without catechisms, we do so because we believe the majority of the country wants us to give a hint to the school Boards that they shall have nothing to do with religious controversy; but, although this is the desire of the majority of the country, there are important minorities who very much prefer catechisms and formularies; and these the hon. Member for Stoke thinks should not be encouraged, because he says if the national plan he advocates be adopted they will soon see the error of their ways, and fall in with the national system; but we think they should be considered, and when we take their money to support schools they do not approve we should give them some equivalent; in fact, when we take their money we are bound to give them back that education for which we make them pay. There is a class who wish for catechism schools, and there is another class who though they might object to a school which was not denominational, yet would prefer one that was, and of their own connection. We have always felt we have to meet these two classes, and in the first Bill we proposed to meet them by Clause 22, in which we gave to the school Board the option to assist denominational schools. Hon. Members will remember the Bill introduced by myself and the Secretary of State for the Home Department in 1867. The principle of that Bill was to make good the deficiency in educational means by rates to be applied to the assistance of all denominational schools; and although my hon. Friends look with perfect horror upon such a proposal now, I must remind them that when that scheme was discussed at Manchester for a day or two, what is called the Nonconformist objection to it was never so much as started. I do not complain; but I must express my surprise that we were not informed of this difficulty before. The name of Mr. Cobden has been mentioned in this debate, and his remarks have been quoted in favour of a secular system, not because he preferred it, but because he thought it was his only hope. That was Mr. Cobden's opinion 20 years ago; but would he commit us in that way now? He put his name to the Bill of the right hon. Member for Droitwich 592 (Sir John Pakington), a Bill which was the parent of the measure introduced by myself and the Home Secretary. That Bill gave rate aid to every denominational school willing to accept the Conscience Clause; we adopted that principle, but did not make it compulsory. But many Amendments to that clause were placed on the Paper, and finding there was so strong an objection we have replaced it by a Parliamentary Grant in the manner proposed by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government. The hon. Member for Stoke has treated that clause as if it were likely to pass from the House amended by the hon. Member for Birmingham, who would make denominational teaching impossible in a rate-aided school as in a rate-provided school; but to that Amendment, of course, the Government could not have consented. We could not resist the conclusion that it was our duty to assist those ratepayers who preferred denominational teaching, and we have to assist them all the more now that we have assented to the principle of the Amendment of the right hon. Member for South Hampshire. At the same time, while we make it clear that we shall only give aid for secular results, we undoubtedly secure that religious teaching shall be paid for, as my hon. Friend wishes, by voluntary aid. There is another recommendation of this change; by taking away the option from Boards, whether they shall or shall not help denominational schools, we take away one of the greatest grounds on which they can dispute about religious teaching. Further, the rate that will have to be levied will be less. There is justice in the feeling that a rate is not the fairest way of collecting money for education, though I think it the best means of filling a gap; and in reducing the rate we shall so far meet the views of those who object to rates. On studying the practical operation of the Bill I saw more practical objections than I at first anticipated to the year of grace, and that it would be a cause of delay. In some rural parishes I doubt not it would be a considerable stimulus; but in towns, especially in large towns, where it was certain the rate would be levied, it appeared probable that it would cause a stoppage of effort; for subscribers, knowing they would be rated, would be un- 593 willing to increase their payments voluntarily. I think the argument in favour of the year of grace is taken away by the large additional grant we offer; because it will be easier for a voluntary school to carry on its operations, and, therefore, the special stimulus of this year of grace will be the less required. This alteration makes it clear that during the progress of inquiry we shall take into account not merely the actual supply of deficiency, but any beginning of such supply which we have reason to suppose will be completed. Words are introduced which show that that is clearly our object; and the remark is true that, although we have given power to the Privy Council to insist on the deficiency being supplied immediately it is proved to exist, yet, with all possible labour on the part of the Department, it must be many months before inquiry can be completed, and that time will practically be a year of grace. I cannot but think that the educational advantages of a larger Parliamentary Grant will be great. We shall still give our money for value received; but many of the educational difficulties now pressing upon us will disappear with somewhat more money given. The small rural school difficulty, for instance, will largely disappear. I must honestly state I do believe that, although our Bill, as originally framed, was, perhaps, more consistent in theory, yet that as now changed it will come more quickly into operation, and work with less friction. Undoubtedly the best place in which to have made these changes would have been in Committee; but with the feelings of the country and the House before us, we thought it our duty to make them at this stage. On behalf of the Government I must state that as regards the substance of these clauses, and as regards the matters of which they treat, the House must expect no further changes from us. I do not mean to say we shall be pledged to exact words, they are matters which must be discussed and decided in Committee; but I must state, on behalf of the Government, that we have considered the whole of the religious question, and we present the Bill to the House in the form in which we think we must adhere to it. I do not wish to be presumptuous, or to dictate to the House; but it is only fair to the House to state that upon those who reject 594 these clauses in their substance must rest the responsibility of defeating the Bill and preventing the settlement of the education question this year. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) says we have not the face to call this a national measure. Well, I have not called it so in the Title; I have said nothing about it in the Preamble; but I do believe it to be a measure of national education, because it will provide for the education of every child in the nation. It offers school provision for every child; it strives, as regards religion, to give such education to children as their parents wish them to have; and therefore I think I am not presumptuous in stating that it may be called a national measure. It makes possible the compulsory attendance which the hon. Members for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) and Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) are so anxious for; it lays the stone on which that edifice may be built; and it must be admitted that you cannot compel attendance until there are proper schools to attend. It protects the consciences and respects the feelings of every parent. When the Bill paves the way for compulsion, protects the consciences of parents, provides the means of education, and brings them home to every hearth in the kingdom, hon. Members should seriously consider, if they take upon themselves the responsibility of its refusal, what they will do. They will put off the education question for another year, and that is no trifling matter in our present state. But it is not education merely that they will be putting off. If education be made the work of next Session, other questions, such as the licensing laws, sanitary legislation, the revision of the factory laws, incidence of rating, financial arrangements of counties, and the difficulties attending the government of this great metropolis must be put off. What will hon. Gentlemen gain by the delay? If we have a year's delay, we shall have an autumn of agitation; and will the problem be solved under more favourable conditions next year? I believe not. I believe a Bill very much like this would be carried; but after hot and embittered discussion it would not, when passed, be likely to work so well. Perhaps hon. Members believe they would gain a secular system; but I believe they would not; for great forces, which are slow in showing themselves, would 595 be opposed to them. I believe 10 years would have to be added to the time that has been lost before these hon. Members could carry the principle of a secular system. Resting upon that one argument which, from his great love of education, will be all powerful with the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), I think he will be content to carry out part of his principle rather than keep children untaught until he can carry out the whole. And suppose that by these years of delay you can gain your object and establish a secular system; what even then will you have gained? You will have destroyed before you have built up. You will have disbanded the army which is now fighting against ignorance before you have drilled another. [An hon. MEMBER: NO, no!) My hon. Friend says "No, no;" but does he suppose that these men, who are possessed of educational ardour from religious motives, will then be in the field against ignorance? Why, he will drive them out, or, at all events, they will be subjected to painless extinction. Even if my hon. Friend be right in his object, let him reflect that Rome was not built in a day, and that it is not wise for a general to disband his army, even though he may think it is not altogether a good one, before he has formed another. The mass of ignorance, destitution, misery and crime which we have to contend with my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, and also the hon. Member for Birmingham, have been fighting against all their lives, and will they not consider whether we ought not to welcome all allies, and make use of all forces we can bring to bear against those evils—not only the demand of working men for the education of their children, but even the force of religious and denominational zeal, which still supplies us with many most active combatants? I hope they will consider this in the interests of the cause they have at heart, and will come to the conclusion that we must pass a measure this year. It is not for me to say what will be the issue of this debate. I do not wish to check it if hon. Members are anxious to express their opinions; but if it is desirable to do this work in the present Session, we ought to set about it as quickly as we can. Even the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil will have a full opportunity of discussing all these matters in Committee, and I think it would be 596 better that we should go into Committee at once. Indeed, I am quite sure that if he does not succeed—and I think he will not—in carrying this Amendment he will be content with the protest he has raised, and will not attempt to obstruct the Bill merely because it does not carry out precisely his own views. In conclusion, I hope the House will support us in the line we are obliged to take of opposing the Amendment.
§ MR. MIALL moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow, at Two of the clock.