Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [20th June], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair;" and which Amendment was,
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 again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. MIALL
said, that however inadequately he might find himself able to express the views he entertained on this question, he still hoped he should not depart in the slightest degree from that temperate spirit that was exhibited during last night's debate from its commencement by his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) to its close by his right hon. Friend and Colleague the Vice President of the Council. He had never addressed an assembly when he attached more responsibility to the words which he might utter than on that occasion. Undoubtedly the educational question was 627 in a critical position, and from the manner in which it had been brought forward and submitted to the House, it required all the assistance that could be given to it in order to get it through this Session, supposing the House was determined it should be proceeded with. He would not lift his finger to prevent the passage of the Bill unless he was fully convinced it was not adapted to the necessities and wants of the country; but, at the same time, he protested most respectfully, but most firmly, against the position in which his right hon. Friend had placed those who had refused to accept, and who still refused to accept, the religious clauses of the Bill as finally settled by Government. He did not think it was quite fair to cast upon those Members the whole responsibility of defeating the measure, or of preventing a measure for the education of the people passing this Session. There might be something attributable, perhaps, to the measure having been prematurely submitted to the House, and its containing principles which the House and the country could not accept, that had caused this long delay. There had been, as he had said, long delay, and there had also been some mystery; and now when that delay had been got rid of, and that mystery had been cleared up, and the House was informed precisely what Amendments the Government would accept, and what they would reject, he thought it was a little hard that his right hon. Friend should come down to the House and tell them that the Government had at last reached the extreme limit of concession, and that if they refused to accept those concessions, upon them must be the responsibility of casting out this measure; but he did not think his right hon. Friend intended to produce the impression which he believed had been left on the minds of hon. Members on that side of the House, that something like moral coercion was to be placed upon them. He, however, believed that as every hon. Member appreciated the importance of the question, so he would insist upon coming to a consideration of the measure—a measure that touched some of the most vital and important interests of the Empire—with a mind perfectly free from prejudice and fear. At any rate, that was the spirit in which he wished to approach the question. He recognized at once the 628 immense difficulties attaching to the settlement of this question. He did not think it was wise on the part of those who were anxious to pass a measure of that kind to pretend it was not surrounded with difficulties, or that the difficulties were small; but they said on that matter that those difficulties should not in the slightest degree alter the character of the facts. He believed that the country had never been better disposed to reconcile their differences upon the subject of education than they were at the commencement of this Session. They anticipated, as certainly he anticipated, a measure from the Government that would go far towards reconciling the differences between the two sides of the House, and effect a compromise which would allow of a comparatively easy passage through the House of an Educational Bill. He could see in the Government measure the most studious and strenuous efforts made to adopt the Bill to the supposed wants and tastes of the public mind, and yet it was no sooner introduced than it raised almost a storm of excitement. During the last year or two they had had nothing like the contention that had been raised throughout the country on this Bill. This arose from the inherent difficulty of the question. The constitution of society in England made it most difficult to propose anything involving mental, intellectual, moral, or religious progress, without exciting on the one hand or the other deep feeling, and sometimes deep prejudices. He did not wish in the slightest degree to add to the difficulties naturally attending the solution of this question; but he regarded himself under something like a solemn obligation. When a measure of this kind had been brought forward he asked himself two questions which must be answered satisfactorily to his own conscience before he should be able to give it his support. In the first place, he asked, would the measure that had been introduced, and amended, and re-amended, even after it had passed through Committee, be likely to be a permanent settlement of the educational question? He did not think there were many hon. Members who could suppose for a moment that this measure could work longer than 20 years without disturbance, and if the Bill could be described in a few words, he should describe it in these words— 629 namely, that it was a system of denominational schools supplemented by rate-aided schools. But was denominationalism a basis upon which they were likely to build up a system that would last, and that would adapt itself to the wants and wishes of the country, not for the present moment, but for a-half or a-quarter of a century to come? Denominationalism did not offer a secure basis upon which to rest any enterprize of a moral or religious character. It appeared to him, and he thought the House would agree with him, that from the facts that were continually turning up, the current of religious, as distinguished from denominational thought, now ran in the direction of a broader, more liberal, and perhaps, in some respects, a more indistinct doctrinal creed. And it was quite impossible to expect if this system was to be permanent that it could be made so upon the basis of denominational schools. But there was also this other remarkable fact that ought to be taken into consideration in relation to denominational schools. They came before them after about 30 years' trial. They knew what they were and what they had done, and they knew very well that they had failed. They had failed to supply the whole wants of the country. ["No, no!"] If they had not, what necessity was there for that Bill? They had failed, perhaps, not so much in supplying local wants here, there, or elsewhere; but, taking the country through, the testimony was that both in rural districts and large populous towns the denominational system had failed to reach the evil which the House now wished to remedy. These schools had undoubtedly failed, but not so much in quantity as the quality of the education given in them. His right hon. Friend had spoken of the education given in them being poor.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he did not say they were poor from the quality of the education given in them; but that they were poor because the parents of the children were unable to contribute the school-pence.
§ MR. MIALL
said, that if they had failed from the non-attendance of children they had failed to create that interest which a school properly constituted and managed ought to create in this country. For could anyone deny that where schools were properly ma- 630 naged they obtained a larger acquisition of scholars than those that were badly managed? Its history had not been such as they ought to have expected, and they ought not now to have to complain that the system had failed from the quality of education given in the schools. But it was not simply in secular knowledge that they had failed; they had failed to give that for which they were originally mainly intended—namely, to communicate religious instruction to the poor. Look at the classes that came under the instruction of these denominational schools, and tell him whether the moral and religious feeling was anything like what it was before those schools were introduced. He made these observations not in reference to one party alone, but in reference to the schools of all parties. And it seemed to him a little odd that when this failure was confessed they should have a measure brought forward rather to extend the influence of denominational schools, and especially to stereotype the form of teaching the poor, so that there should be from this time a strong line of demarcation between the denominational and the rate-aided system, and that the two systems should never be made to converge. They, however, on that side of the House had never wished that the Government should interfere and destroy those schools which had been created. They had always regarded them as having peculiar claims upon all, because they undertook the work of education when it was most wanted by good and enterprizing men. They had supported those schools for the greater part of a century. They had worked hard in connection with them; and with regard to the clergy who had managed them, they had attended to them, and had endeavoured to make them successful with a self-denial and a perseverance that were a credit to human nature, even to human nature sanctified by Christianity. He did not think that that praise was at all too high. Nobody expected that those denominational schools would under any measure brought forward by this Government be utterly set aside, in order that rate-aided schools should be substituted for them; but what they did expect was that such vitality should be infused into them in order, if possible, to make them perpetual. But what they expected was that rate-aided schools 631 should be placed on such, a basis that if the voluntary principle failed, and the existing organization became a burden to those who conducted them, that they should gradually merge into a sounder and a better system; and it was because they did not see any proposition made in that direction, because they found that the tendency of the measure was rather in a retrograde direction in that respect, that they found it absolutely necessary, in the discharge of their own conscience and to make themselves at all intelligible to the country, to put forward such Amendments as were then before the House and the country. He might be asked—and very properly asked—Suppose these denominational and recognized schools done away with, what was the religious instruction that was to reach the poor, supposing that the rate-aided schools were forbidden to employ the schoolmaster to teach religion? He confessed he had listened with surprise to some of the assertions that had been put forward in reference to this subject by Members of that House, who, if they were distinguished by any one thing, were distinguished by their unbounded faith in the value of their own principles. If any Member, especially any Nonconformist Member, should express doubt whether religion could stand in this country 50 years unless it were taught by the State-paid schoolmaster, he confessed that such a revelation to him of the want of understanding or appreciation of those principles upon which they had usually acted as Nonconformists would astound him. For his own part, it was because he attached infinite value to religious education that he felt any objection whatever to the employment of a State-paid teacher in religious teaching at schools. A short time ago the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) addressed a large public meeting on the subject, and, in alluding to the Bible, the hon. Gentleman appealed to the audience whether there should be taken from it the Bible—that Bible, the first lessons of which they received at their mother's knee—and the appeal to an indiscriminate audience brought down a most enthusiastic response. It was not the lessons of the Bible that touched the hearts of those people, but the reminiscences of the mother, her tenderness, her care, her self-denial and womanly guidance through- 632 out the early part of life came fresh over their remembrance. What he (Mr. Miall) wanted was, that in regard, to their schools and their religious teaching they should have something of the tenderness of a mother's care; that love should be the teacher, for love was the lesson to be taught. He did not believe in teaching Christianity as one taught geography. He did not believe in bringing the influence of Christianity to bear upon the formation of the character and the moving of the hearts of young children, such as the gutter children that were put under teaching in State-paid schools. He did not believe in that being done by the mere formal teaching of lessons, whether through the Bible or otherwise. He did believe in a good man radiating influence, moral and spiritual, from himself, even without opening his lips on the subject of religion. He believed in the example of forbearance, of patience, of self-denial, of truthfulness, of reverence, and of all the Christian virtues, in the course of a teacher's carrying out the functions of his profession; he believed that such a man, even though he were forbidden by the State to open his mouth for the direct instruction of children in religion, would unquestionably exercise a far better, higher, more refining, and more transforming influence upon children, than could be exercised by any formal lessons, however good they might be. Unhappily this Bill could not secure—and indeed no Bill could secure—the teaching of such men. There were men who would doubtless be found active under any system in carrying out the first wishes of their hearts in that respect; but if the House wanted men to rise to the occasion, they should leave the matter to the sympathies and the energies of the Christian Church. Depend upon it that so long as they blinded the eyes of society, and led them to suppose that they were teaching religion by means of the schoolmaster to poor miserable little creatures who probably did not understand one word that was addressed to them, so long they would interpose between the religious bodies and that which constituted their proper mission. The religious bodies must organize themselves for that special purpose, and they would do so unless Parliament meddled with their affairs, and pretended to do that by the schoolmaster which could 633 never be done by any but those who had Christian love burning in their hearts. This was the one great mission which was open to women. Under the guidance and direction of the clergy of their respective denominations, ladies might undertake to instil into the minds of those children lessons which they would probably never forget, and exercise over them an influence which would prepare them, at all events, to receive with some degree of susceptibility the truths of divine revelation that might be addressed to them in their after career. He believed that if the State would only undertake to teach that which it could teach, and would leave the religious instruction to be given by those who alone, in his judgment, were competent to give it, the work would be tolerably well done between them. Nothing had ever come out of the House attempting to do that which was naturally beyond its power to accomplish. They had undertaken to teach religion to the great mass of the people, and the people were alienated from Christian institutions. They had undertaken to teach in schools the religious lesson, and they insisted upon that now. What was the consequence? Could they find any distinct traces of the good effects that had been produced by their interposition which would not have been produced supposing they had left the matter entirely to religious bodies? For his own part, he believed that those bodies, when they came to have a clear view of the want of society, would have sufficient of the energy and vitality of religion in them to rise to the occasion, as the right hon. Gentleman had said. If school Boards could be trusted why not the religious bodies? Whether it were in the day school or the Sunday school, the men and women who panted to be useful would feel it to be important to make their lessons interesting and attractive. He believed that in the course of a few years, supposing there were a clear division of duty now made between the State and the religious bodies, they would all recognize the great advantage of the separation, and look back with wonder and surprise to the present hesitation of society to consent to such a separation. Trusting, as he did thoroughly, in the vitality of religion in this country; thinking, as he did, that the spiritual communities in England and Wales would not only show them- 634 selves competent to accomplish the end for which they existed in reference to these poor little children; believing, as he did, that the attempt to mix things which could not properly be mixed would be followed by the same failure as had followed the attempt hitherto; looking forward, as he did, to the time when this country should educate by State instrumentality every one of its people, and when the Christian communities of this country would educate successfully the religious susceptibilities and aspirations of the masses, he gave his cordial assent to the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard).
§ SIR CHARLES ADDERLEY
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has remarked that this Bill has disappointed the country, which he says desires a more "indistinct doctrinal creed." That is a noble object for the country to have in view. I should have thought it rather a compromise than an object. The hon. Gentleman said the present system has failed; but he was corrected in that by the Vice President of the Council, who remarked that, wherever there were good schools children would come to them. If that is the case, how much must the present schools have achieved already, and where is the necessity for compulsion? If all that is wanted is additional schoolroom, I beg leave to say the existing system has been signally prosperous, and instead of failing it has arrived at a point that no other country has reached. The hon. Gentleman wishes the old system to be merged in a national system; but the probable effect would be to sacrifice the old system, and deprive the country of its ascertained advantages for the sake of other advantages which are problematical, and are moreover hampered by what is called the religious difficulty. The hon. Member for Edinburgh University (Dr. Lyon Playfair), in his able speech last night, expressed his surprise and sorrow that whenever this subject was started for discussion, it immediately ran off on to the religious siding. I do not know how the hon. Gentleman could be surprised at that, as the religious difficulty is, after all, the only topic of discussion in the whole matter. I confess I have never heard the difficulty described as it has been by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, 635 for he has given to it a new, and most mystical and visionary character. Whatever the difficulty may be, at any rate it is the only one. When the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Pim) brought Scotland forward as a model for us to follow, he must have known that among Scotch denominations there are no differences of creeds or catechisms, and that reference to that country shows us no more than the narrowness of polemics, and on what little sustenance they can be fed. This we ought to bear in mind, that the religious difficulty attaches solely to the new schools in this country, and that it has disappeared entirely from the old ones. Yet the proposition of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), as supported by the hon. Member who has just sat down, is to sweep away the existing system, and to substitute what has been so grandiloquently described as a "truly national system to cover the whole land." The proposition we have to dispose of is to complete what is deficient by sweeping away all that is done. If the system which has done everything hitherto is incomplete, the natural process would be to stimulate the system. I can only account for so absurd a proposition as that of sweeping away what we want to increase, by the belief that jealousy embitters the reformers towards those who have accomplished so much. To a certain extent, the proposition may be attributed to the natural inclination, whenever men propose a new scheme, to make a tabula rasa of all gone by. No one here who proposes a new Bill or inquiry goes to the Library first to see and read what has passed already. Finding that we have only one difficulty in our way, and that the difficulty lies only in one direction, is it not clearly wise to avoid that particular direction as much as possible, and to consider what can be done in other directions? As soon as we begin to start new schools upon a new system this religious difficulty will stare us in the face. Therefore, I should say, increase the old schools as much as possible, and have the least necessary recourse to new. There is that insoluble problem, mentioned by the Mover of the Amendment—how can we get everybody fairly to pay for everybody's religion? And it is quite clear no satisfactory solution has been offered to that problem. The Amendment proposes that religion 636 should be shunted on some imaginary siding until parents, who are supposed to be under compulsion to educate their children, and ministers of all denominations, shall meet together and happily dispose of the difficulty among themselves. But what operates decisively against such a proposal is that the country has openly expressed its opinion in direct opposition to it; and although it is the most logical conclusion of the question, yet the country will not accept the conclusion—they will not consent to be logical. That being the case, what is the use of discussing this solution of the difficulty any longer? Then the Bill, as it originally stood, proposed to solve the difficulty in another way—namely, by leaving it to be solved by the ratepayers in each of the localities; and it now appears that the localities decline to undertake this sort of indefinite controversy, which is rendered the more unattractive to them, because it appears as a needless proclamation of controversy which unproclaimed does not trouble them at all. Lastly, it is said that by the sacrifice of creeds and formularies we may possibly appease the spirit of religious discord. I ask the House to bear in mind that the solution of the difficulty thus offered is the best of the device before them, and though it is but a rough and unsatisfactory one, which should not be attached to more schools than necessary, yet it avoids the sacrifice of religious teaching in them altogether by the smaller sacrifice of formularies only. It may be necessary to apply such a Concordat to new schools; but do not let us inflict this sacrifice upon existing schools. I hope that Members of this House, who are eager to introduce novelties on the faith of Government Reports, have seen a letter which has been published by the Rev. Mr. Nunn, of Manchester, showing that the gentlemen commissioned to make out a deficiency in the schools of Manchester and Birmingham have made their Reports upon assumptions, which would not be recognized or admitted by all. They have fully made out a deficiency upon their own large postulates, and done what they were asked to do. I base a very different opinion upon the reports which I have received from persons who are locally acquainted with the subject, and I myself know, in Birmingham, of a great number of schools which are at 637 present but half filled, and that there are means of compelling attendance by existing laws which are not made use of. This keeps up in me a deep regret that when, 16 years ago, I had the honour of introducing as a private Bill the Manchester Education Bill, the measure was not passed; for I felt strongly convinced at the time, as I have been ever since, that the best way of arriving at what will suit the country is to let some great city try the experiment for itself. But the deficiency of education which we have to supply is of a two-fold kind. It is a deficiency of quantity and a deficiency of quality. But the latter deficiency is very much exaggerated. The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), in speaking upon the second reading of the Bill, had endeavoured to shame this country and to excite their rivalry by describing a state of education as existing in other countries which we could hardly hope to attain. The hon. Member stated that the sixth standard of English examination was below the lowest Prussian standard, and that working men in foreign countries were fit to be clerks in our banking-houses, that they could play and sing, read Schiller, and knew the history of their fatherland. But I ask whether men in this country can expect the cultivation of a class which can command longer time for education to be given to them who must remain daily labourers; or whether we should hope to see our housemaids pass their leisure hours with Shakespeare, and the boys sing as well as whistle, and know history whom poverty places early in life at the plough's tail? Such high-coloured statements as these were not calculated to lead the House of Commons to adopt a higher standard of education than they have yet found practicable, or to bring about any practical reform. Nobody disputes that, making all allowances for exaggeration and sanguine views, there are deficiencies of elementary education throughout England both in quantity and in quality. But if we see any important deficiency in our present education, at least do not let us sacrifice what we have already in order to arrive at what, it may be, we cannot reach. Unfortunately it seems to me that the Government have shown that inclination to sweep away the existing system, and to substitute for it what they call a truly 638 national system of education. They have made this inclination to supersede rather than stimulate clear in various ways. They will hardly give the existing system a fair chance of filling up its own deficiency before beginning the substitution of the new. They take away the "year of grace" which they had themselves declared necessary to give the old system a fair start in its race with the new. But, further than this, the Prime Minister said it was not fair to weight the old schools in their race with the new, the supporters of the former having also to pay their share of rates to the support of the latter. My own proposition, as contained in the Amendment of which I have given Notice, is that ratepayers voluntarily subscribing to public elementary schools, approved by the Educational Department within any district, shall be entitled to deduct such subscription from any contribution to the local rates made for a school Board, to which they would otherwise be liable. If this principle be adopted, the old and the new schools will be placed upon something like an equal footing in the race which they have to run. If without my Amendment the law is passed the result will be this—In the country schools throughout the kingdom there will probably be no difference whatsoever. I believe, with Mr. Cobden, that the Church of England will always have the country schools in their hands, and the farmers will not be eager to incur a rate to relieve their landlords and parsons who have undertaken their schools. But in the town schools the effect will be gradually to extinguish denominational schools, and to turn them into rated schools. There will be a local Board in every town, and there will be a school rate in every town. Where rates and subscriptions are pitted against each other the latter always give way; and in this case the choice to everyone will be between paying rates alone, or rates and subscriptions. I, therefore, entreat the House to consider whether it will not be wise to restrain the effect of this Bill as much as we can, and if we must have a religious difficulty to diminish the area over which it must extend. Let us do everything, first, to stimulate what we have taken 30 years to set going, and which has worked out the religious difficulty and got rid of it. Let us fill existing schoolrooms now 639 empty, and use the Industrial Schools Act, which gives compulsory powers now little used, and then supply what deficiency may still remain with new though inferior means.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, he would not attempt by any argument of his own to refute the argument of the last speaker. He would rather meet him on the records of Hansard. Some years ago there was a Motion before the House not very dissimilar from that of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard)—that it was expedient to promote education by the establishment of free schools for secular instruction, to be supported by local rates, and managed by committees elected by the ratepayers. There were speeches made by Mr. Cobden and others, and there was a speech which, when the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil was addressing the House, struck him, and he was induced to go into the Library and get the book. In that volume there was a speech under the name of Mr. Adderley. The hon. Member alleged that religious and secular instruction were both wanted; that one should be based on the other, and that they could not be carried out without a national rate. But all agreed that while that secular education could not be carried out without a national rate, religious education could not be carried out by a national rate. An objection was raised by the right hon. Gentleman that it was impossible to separate secular and religious education; but that, said his right hon. Friend, was a mere play upon words. They acted upon the principle every day of their lives in the education of their children. No man asked his dancing master to fiddle and at the same time teach religion. The two things could be separated with advantage. The advantages of the hon. Gentleman's proposition would be plain and obvious. The necessities of the case were also obvious, and the plan would compel the people to take care of their own schools. That was the only answer he should give to his right hon. Friend. He entirely agreed with what the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) had said, that they were placed in a most embarrassing situation with regard to the Bill. What was their original position? Her Majesty's Government introduced a Bill. Diversities 640 of opinion were felt in the House and in the country with regard to its provisions. The whole was founded on the principle of the State endowment of secular education, and a State endowment of religious education; for the endowment was a State endowment, whether it came from a grant of the Privy Council or from a parochial rate. The poor rate was as much a State fact as the income tax. What was the nature of the objection to that scheme? Her Majesty's Government made the religious rate endowment depend absolutely and exclusively on the will of the majority; and the objection was that this would be unfair to the minority. But England had never admitted the principle of the majority in reference to religious endowments. Otherwise the history of the last two centuries might be wiped out. His right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council returned to the old story, that there was no religious difficulty. It was a little late in the day to assert this. The fact was that there was a great religious difficulty which had stood in the way of education for the last 30 years. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: That is just what I said.] Some one in the House said that a difficulty had been got up in London and that it had spread over the country. He did not think this was a fair statement of the case. There was a religious difficulty in the question which it was their object to meet. They had been told by the highest authority that the only logical solution was a secular education. He had never been in favour of a secular system of education; and to be told that this was the only logical conclusion of the religious difficulty was not a convincing argument. He had never yet known any great difficulty solved by the principles of logic. They had spent many months in solving the Irish land question; was that solved in accordance with principles of logic? Surely the House had not forgotten the touching farewell of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the principles of political economy during the consideration of that Bill, which was unquestionably the most illogical measure the House had ever passed? Still, that was no objection to the measure, considering the circumstances it was designed to meet, and the House would have to solve the education question very much in the same way; it would have to frame, not 641 a logical measure, but one suited to the interests of the people. His hon. Friend had taken far more time than was necessary to demonstrate that the sentiments of the English people were in favour of a religious education. He had never doubted it, and agreed with the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), that if religion be necessary for all classes of society, above all it was essential to that class of whom it might be truly said that—"If in this life only they have hope, then they are of all men the most miserable." They had been told by his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) that the Birmingham League was in favour of secular education. He knew no such thing. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil was not a member of the League. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), who presided over that powerful and useful association, did not appeal for or receive support on the principle of secular education. The words on their banner, and in the promise of which they received the confidence of the country, so far as it had been accorded to them—[Laughter]—if hon. Members thought that a large extent of confidence had not been granted to that association, they were mistaken—the words inscribed on their banner were "unsectarian education." Unsectarian education, as he understood it, meant something which was not non-religious education—unsectarian education which was not denominational education. It meant something which was opposed on the one hand to secular education, and on the other to sectarian education. And it was because he believed that this was—to use an Americanism—the platform of the Birmingham Association, that he had himself joined the association. If the association took any other ground he would say to his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham non hœe in fœdera veni. The principles put forth in the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil were not the sentiments of that wide and extensive body which collected the interests of all these classes of opinion who were in favour of unsectarian education. The question for hon. Members had now assumed this shape—either undiluted denominationalism from the Government, or secular education from the 642 hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. He had resolved to accept neither, and asked whether there was no middle course; whether it was not possible to bring about a system of unsectarian education, a cause which was dear to many, and which he held sacred. He knew that Gentlemen opposite believed in nothing but catechisms and formularies, which they did not understand; but he assured them that the people would have the question argued out, despite the assumption that the question was not debatable. He regretted the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. Had the House had the advantage of the presence of that right hon. Gentleman the religious difficulty might have been solved. He might have joined in the deliberations of the Cabinet on the point; and in the House he might have given a solution of the question which might have been accepted. But, fortunately, there was a Motion on the Paper in the name of the right hon. Gentleman in favour of non-sectarian education, and though he and his supporters might be beaten by believers in denominational education on the Opposition side of the House, joined with the Catholic vote, they had the satisfaction of knowing that they were supported by a majority in the country. They were told that nobody could understand what was meant by unsectarian and undenominational education. But these words came from somewhere, they were used by some people, and people who used them imagined that some sense attached to them. They used the word "Christendom" without using it in a theological or a polemical sense, and they did not thereby refer only to Catholic Spain or Italy, only to Lutheran Germany, or only to Episcopal England, but they expressed by the term something which was common to all. Sects had persecuted one another, and had still held a faith which was common to all. He would ask leave to describe what he meant by unsectarian religion, in the words of a man whose opinion would be received with respect in the House and everywhere by the English people, whose change of views was a great loss to one Church and a great gain to another. In his Grammar of Assent, published this year, speaking of sects, John Henry Newman said— 643These are only denominations, parties, schools, compared with the national religion of England in its length and breadth. 'Bible religion' is both the recognized title and the best description of English religion. It consists not in rites or creeds, but mainly in having the Bible read in church, in the family, and in private. Now, I am far indeed from undervaluing that mere knowledge of Scripture which is imparted to the population thus promiscuously. At least in England it has to a certain point made up for great and grievous losses in its Christianity. The reiteration again and again in fixed course, in the public service, of the words of inspired teachers under both covenants, and that in grave, majestic English, has, in matter of fact, been to our people a vast benefit. It has attuned their minds to religious thoughts; it has given them a high moral standard; it has served them in associating religion with compositions which, even humanly considered, are among the most sublime and beautiful ever written; especially it has impressed upon them the series of Divine Providences in behalf of man from his creation to his end; and, above all, the words, deeds, and sacred sufferings of Him in whom all the Providences of God centre. It has been comparatively careless of creed and catechism, and has in consequence shown little sense of the need of consistency. What Scripture especially illustrates, from its first page to its last, is God's Providence, and that is nearly the only doctrine held with a real assent by the mass of religious Englishmen. Hence, the Bible is so great a solace and refuge to them in trouble. I repeat, I am not speaking of particular schools and parties in England, whether of the High Church or the Low, but of the mass of piously-minded and well-living people in all ranks of the community.That was a description of what, from a long and accurate observation of the English people, the writer believed to be the unsectarian religion of the English people, though he was himself dissatisfied with it. The great mass of the English people were, he believed, satisfied with it; and it was upon this religion, if upon any religion at all, they could, found a national system of education. The hon. Member for Bradford had truly said that the present tendency of education was in an unsectarian direction. And it ought to be so. The undoubted tendency of all modern civilization was to obliterate the line of distinction which differences of place, climate, and race had created. They had learnt that, financially, the least likely method to become rich themselves was to rob their neighbours or artificially to impede their commerce. Their foreign policy was no longer based upon hostility to other nations, and should it be said, that religion was to be the only question which should not be subservient to the law and the progress of civilization? If the House could found a scheme of national educa- 644 tion on the great principle of unsectarian education, it would confer upon the country one of the greatest blessings it had ever received from the House. The entire speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council was in favour of undenominational Bible religion. It was easy to say that those who advocated it were not school managers; but the Nottingham and Leicester declaration, signed by pages of schoolmasters and managers, showed that the Government scheme was unworkable, and asked for a scheme of national education founded upon the principle of undenominational and unsectarian religion. The Vice President said that was impossible; but the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) said the reverse. Whatever might be the logical objections to such a scheme, it was that which most people desired. They did not want secular and they did not want denominational teaching, but they wanted something that was neither the one nor the other; and they did not want to be placed in the position the Government were forcing them into, between denominationalism and secularism. They were told that this scheme could not be put into an Act of Parliament, but the Amendment of the right hon. Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) could be; but the right hon. Member said that, in his opinion, his Amendment would not exclude the creeds of the Church of England, because they were equally held by the Church of Rome and were not distinctive of any sect. What a protection for Nonconformists! The question was, whether a declaration in an Act of Parliament would be of any use. If the right hon. Baronet opposite were engaging a master for a school on his estate, he would say to him—"I wish you to teach religion, but not in a manner which shall be offensive to any." The right hon. Baronet would not write down the dogmas he wished to have taught, but his verbal instructions, without any definition, would be carried out; and if they were not, the parishioners would soon come to him to have the matter set right. Why could not the State, as the great patron of all National Schools, act in a similar manner? They did not require a definition or a Pope, for without setting himself up as a Pope the right hon. Baronet could see that the con- 645 sciences of his Dissenting tenants were not outraged. He would exercise common sense in a responsible position, and he could not see why Parliament and the English nation were not to do so. Was it in the least necessary to have nothing that could not be interpreted by a Court of Law? If a parish complained that a master was violating his obligations, an Inspector would be sent down, and if he found there was a good ground of complaint he would say to the master—"It won't do, and if you persist the Government Grant will be withdrawn from the school." They did not want to talk logically on this subject. He was adverting to an illogical solution that would satisfy the country; but the Government had adopted an illogical solution that would satisfy nobody. They declined to make a declaration that would be observed in 99 cases out of 100, and in the hundredth could be easily set right. Instead of doing that they adopted what he would call a "Whig" Amendment, by which he meant an Amendment which pretended to be liberal, but was not liberal at all; and which pretended to do something, but always ended in accomplishing nothing. Its authors were conscious that it would not work, so they wanted to see it in the Bill. The security it offered was not worth twopence. It really sanctioned denominationalism, and yet it was offered as a settlement of the question to those who disliked denominationalism. It could only have one result—to revive the religious difficulty in all its bitterness, and to make the school Boards the centres of strife and bitterness. There was something further. As a compensation to the other side of the House for their having to give up creeds, catechisms, and formularies, they were to receive a larger sum of money for their denominational schools; and the offer of the Government had been attended with the happiest effects, although he should have thought it strange that Gentlemen on the other side of the House should have been so willing to give up their religious convictions on the subject in return for a pecuniary compensation—that they should say, in effect—"We will let the rate-aided schools go where they like, on the condition that we have the sum of between £300,000 and £400,000 to spend as we like upon the existing schools." 646 Hon. Gentlemen opposite, however, appeared to be very well satisfied with their bargain. The great difficulty they had to understand was why the offer was ever made. Nobody asked for it, and no one, he felt convinced, was more surprised at the offer being made at all than were hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were evidently contented with what, without intending any offence, he might call a species of political simony. He would, however, warn hon. Gentlemen opposite that they on that (the Liberal) side of the House were no parties to the arrangement. The Government might offer them this aggrandized grant out of the public funds for the denominational schools; but the Liberal party did not endorse the offer. The Government were not the authorized agents of the party in or out of that House to insure the perpetuity of such a grant. There was no clause in the Bill which referred to such an increased grant. It would, therefore, be the subject of an annual Vote; and he felt convinced, moreover, that it would be the subject of an annual wrangle. They had never concurred in the Privy Council Grants in favour of denominational education; but as they were in existence they had abstained from attacking them. If, however, the friends of those grants endeavoured to get another 50 per cent, that truce was at an end, and he would venture to say that no Government could be sufficiently powerful in this country—even adding the whole force of the Opposition—to carry year after year this aggrandized grant for denominational education out of the public funds. The question would be re-opened annually, for the contest would not be allowed to subside. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had stated that the Government proposed to transfer to the Educational Vote the grants to Roman Catholic schools in order to make them more certain. But did the Government think that certainty was attainable when the opinions of Members in that House on the subject of Catholic endowments was remembered? How could hon. Gentlemen go to the country and their constituents, and say that while they had abolished the Protestant Church in Ireland, they had also increased the endowments of Catholic schools by 50 per cent? He objected to the Government scheme, because it was founded upon de- 647 nominationalism, the tendency of which in religious matters was to separate Christians and to foster doctrines inimical to the welfare of Christian society and the interests of religious truth, while in educational matters its tendency was to multiply small schools instead of consolidating them into large ones, which were always better adapted for educational purposes than small ones. What, for instance, would be the effect if they had one set of schools established for red-haired boys and another for black-haired boys? Another objection he had to denominational schools was that they were apt to become the appanage of the rich, the dependencies of the great house and the parsonage, instead of becoming public property, in which all classes would unite to take an interest and a share in the management. On that ground he deplored the change which had taken place in the Government Bill; he had hoped to see these schools not the eleemosynary dependencies of some great house in the neighbourhood, but an institution in which the farmer, the grocer, the village apothecary, and men of all classes might take their part in the work of national education. And the last ground on which he objected to denominationalism was that it was incompatible with compulsion. They were to be separated from the local Boards; they were to be put as a charge upon the English Exchequer, with an additional 50 per cent for their maintenance; and, after all this extravagant preparation, if the guests did not come to the invitation, the Government refused to go into the highways and hedgeways and compel the outcasts there to come to the feast that was provided for them at the public expense. They were about to spend the public money extravagantly, and yet they would not take the proper measures for putting the schools so provided to their proper use, by compelling children to attend them. He confessed that he stood, with regard to this question, in a most embarrassing position. He could not vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), for it offended all his convictions; it was both secular and sectarian—it was secular as regarded the school itself, because it excluded all religious teaching; it was sectarian outside the school, because it left education exclusively to those whose 648 interest it was to convey religious instruction in the most dogmatic form. But he could not vote for the Bill, because he believed that it was impossible to build upon it any sound or satisfactory fabric of national education because it was founded upon the principle of pure and undiluted denominationalism.
§ MR. COWPER-TEMPLE
said, that the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down was based upon shadowy and theoretical notions of that which was unsectarian. The hon. and learned Gentleman made much of the differences in religious opinion and the difficulty they would produce in the work of teaching; but, in fact, these were unsubstantial fears. He, and those who acted with him, had never been able to find these difficulties. They had sought high and low; they had inquired of all the schoolmasters they could get at; they had sent inquiries to various schools on the subject—they had asked them how they managed to get over the religious difficulty; and the answer they invariably received was that there was nothing to get over—that they had never found any difficulty in the matter. The teaching that was suitable to elementary schools did not touch the disputed points of sectarian controversy, and the minds of the children were not capable of grasping them. The difficulty was theoretical and not real. But though the principle embodied in his hon. and learned Friend's Amendment was generally adopted by Liberals, he had not surmounted the difficulty of language. It was not that the word "sectarian" was unintelligible—they all knew what it meant; the difficulty arose from its having too many meanings, and hence it was incapable of being defined in legal language. Supposing it were enacted that a party man should not be a manager of the schools. Everybody would know what a party man meant; but no legal definition would exist of the breach of the enactment. With regard to his own Amendment, which had been accepted by the Government, he wished to say that it did not emanate from the Educational Union, nor was that Union composed entirely of Church people; on the contrary, it included men of all parties and denominations. But he did not propose his Amendment as the organ of the Union. He had had communications both with Churchmen and Noncon- 649 formists on the subject, and it appeared to him that it was an Amendment which would secure the object they all had in view—of excluding sectarianism, while it would not interfere with the freedom of the schoolmaster. It combined an important principle of the Union with an important principle of the League. The important principle of the Union was freedom of religious teaching. The important principle of the League was that the teaching should not be sectarian. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) had an Amendment on the Paper which proposed that the schoolmaster should not inculcate the tenets of any religious sect. But unless the schoolmaster was a secularist, and had no religion, he must hold the tenets of some sect, and the adoption of this Amendment would fetter him in his giving explanations of a passage of Scripture which he might think unsectarian, but on which other people might be of a different opinion. If these words of the hon. Member were to be inserted in an Act of Parliament, they would prove a trap for the schoolmaster and a restriction on his freedom. But he did not apprehend any difficulty in construing the words of his Amendment, because it did not apply to a matter of opinion, but to a matter of fact. It would hardly ever become a matter of controversy whether a particular document had or had not a tendency to lead men more to one Church than to another. So far as he knew there were only three religious bodies that used catechisms in schools—the Church of England, the Roman Catholics, and the Wesleyans. The Apostles' Creed was not the property of any particular denomination, but belonged to all Christendom. Then it was said that there were people who would be coerced in their consciences if there was any teaching of religion. That implied that there was a sort of neutral condition, something which was neither secular nor religious. The question was whether or not there should be moral training in the schools founded by the State, or whether those schools were to be different and inferior in that respect to all existing schools. It would be impossible to enact that the children should not be instructed in the duty of obedience to the moral law, and in a sense of responsibility to their Maker. If there were to be no moral training 650 in the schools, how could they be justified in passing the compulsory provisions of the Bill, obliging parents to send their children to the schools, though they might want the earnings of those children for the purpose of clothing and feeding them, and forcing the ratepayers to contribute towards the expense of the schools out of their scanty incomes? If there was to be moral training, it must either be based upon the sanctions of the Divine law, or upon the dictates of self-interest. The latter was irreligious, for it rested conduct on a motive which Christianity was promulgated in the world to restrain. If no religious instruction were to be given, the parents who wanted it would be as much entitled to complain of violation of their conscience as the secularists, and they were entitled to the preference as being the majority. Besides, those who objected to have their children taught religion had the protection of the Conscience Clause; but if they reversed their proceedings and taught no religion, there would be no Conscience Clause for those who wished it. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil said that all religious teaching ought to be given by Dissenting ministers and clergymen, and not by schoolmasters. He naturally quoted, in support of his views, that High Churchman, Dean Hook, for these two extremes met in a common repudiation of religious instruction by laymen. That was not the view of the Liberal party. It would be a very heavy blow to good education if it were to be held that the trained masters, educated in denominational training colleges, were not fit to be intrusted with the education of children under the Bill. No system of national education could be carried out unless the minority agreed to yield to the majority. National education must be complete. It must include moral training. Morality must be based on Christian motives, or on motives antagonistic to Christianity. Between these two the State must choose. There was no third alternative. If the rights of individual consciences were to be pushed forward to an exaggerated and illogical extent, there could be no common action, and it would not be possible for all parties to unite to establish a system of national education which should be accepted by persons of different religious opinions. He thought 651 the Leader of the House was quite justified in his assertion that payments from the public would be applied by the Bill only to secular instruction, and thus he had cut away the foundation for the most serious and important opposition which had been made to the Bill.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
retorted upon the hon. and learned Member for Oxford the charge he had made that hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House "used formularies which they did not understand," saying that the speech of the hon. and learned Member, and especially the negative terms which he had so frequently used, were not understood by the House, and that the hon. and learned Member probably had himself no clear conception of their meaning. He desired, he said, a religious instruction which should be "undenominational" and "unsectarian." The hon. and learned Member's ardent desire for such a vague and foggy religion, reminded him of the German Rationalist, who confessed that he was a wild worshipper of dark negations. The hon. and learned Member also quoted, with approval, a passage from the recent work of Dr. Newman. He, too, had read, with the greatest interest, Dr. Newman's Grammar of Assent; and if he remembered rightly the context of the passage, Dr. Newman was trying to show that there was nothing positive in the religion of Englishmen; that, beyond a belief in "God's Providence," there was nothing in the Protestant religion but mist and negation. He did not desire to sit under such an imputation; he trusted that he might truly profess a better faith than that. The objection made to the Bill by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford was that it was a State endowment of religion; for, said he, any payment out of the public funds which is wholly or in part appropriated to the teaching of religion, is a State endowment of religion. Well, then, the Poor Law was a State endowment of religion, for there were paid chaplains for workhouses. There were also paid ministers for prisons, so that the Vote for Law and Justice was a State endowment of religion. The Votes for the Army and those for the Navy were no better; for Episcopalian, Wesleyan, and Roman Catholic chaplains were thus paid by the State. It might be said, also, that the Civil List was a State endowment of religion; 652 for although the Crown voluntarily surrendered the management of the Crown Lands in exchange for a Civil List, yet the money was granted only on the condition that the Sovereign should profess and maintain the Protestant religion as by law established. If the hon. and learned Member was right in his definition of a State endowment of religion, and if his principle was that every such endowment should be abolished, he was prepared to run a tilt, in very Quixotic fashion, against both the religion and the Constitution of the country. The hon. Member for Bradford had charged the Government with having exercised a moral coercion over their followers below the Gangway. The truth was that those followers below the Gangway were attempting to coerce the Government. When the original measure was introduced on the 17th of February it was received with acclamation by hon. Members sitting below the Gangway on the Government side of the House; or, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh University expressed it—"it was hailed as an important measure; but, somehow, it got on a political siding." For as soon as it was found out that the Conservatives, with the view of arriving at a settlement of the matter, had determined to lay aside their own opinions on the subject, and accept the measure as a compromise, then an agitation was commenced by the Radicals, meetings were called, and articles appeared in the newspapers denouncing the Bill and demanding concessions. Well, then the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council laid his Amendments upon the Table just before Whitsuntide; these contained great concessions to the Radicals, such as the Time Table Conscience Clause, the Ballot, and the abolition of the scale of voting in the Vestries. These concessions were, at first, deemed satisfactory by the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. But again, directly it became known that the Conservative party would not oppose them, the same tactics were repeated, agitation again arose, more meetings were held, violent speeches were made, violent articles were written, and the Government were forced to introduce what was practically a new measure. Again the Conservative party determined not to oppose the compromise, but to accept it, much against their desire, so as to effect 653 a final settlement of the question. They made no difficulty, but determined to help the Government to pass their Bill; and that was why hon. Members below the Gangway now raised a storm of opposition against it. That was a simple history of what had occurred; the coercion had come, not from the Government, but from those sitting below the Gangway. The position of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government reminded him of the famous engraving by Retsch, the German artist, of a good man playing at chess with the Devil for his soul; and he trusted that in the present case the latter would not win the game. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford had further stated that the Government had offered a bribe to the Conservative party to induce them to accept the measure. By such an expression the hon. and learned Member betrayed great contempt for the character of Members of Parliament. A bribe? How could that be a bribe which was given to both the parties? The 50 per cent which they were to receive would also be received by the other side; and, in fact, the income of the latter party would be more certain than that of the Conservative party, or rather the managers of the denominational schools. He would make this clear in a few words. According to the original Bill, there were to have been three kinds of schools:—rate-provided schools, rate - aided schools, and schools in connection, as at present, with the various religious bodies. According to the present Bill, the second class of schools would not be created, and there would be only two contending bodies—the system of rate-provided schools, and the system of denominational schools. Now, the Prime Minister had stated that it was a principle of "vital importance," that they should frankly accept on equal terms the system of denominational schools. He said, and the Vice President said the same at Bradford, that the Bill was to supplement, not to supersede the existing system; it was to fill up deficiencies, but not destroy. Now, were the two contending bodies equally weighted under the proposed arrangement? In one case the rates, and in the other case the subscriptions were to cover one-sixth of the school expenses; but the rates were secure, and were levied by law; the subscriptions were doubtful, had to 654 be begged for, and were hard to obtain. Again, the subscribers to existing schools were also to be rated for the support of the new schools; thus imposing a double burden on those who consented to subscribe; moreover it was well known that rates always killed off voluntary gifts. Thirdly, the rates were borne equitably by all the inhabitants in a parish; while the subscriptions were shared by very few. The subscribers to denominational schools would, therefore, be much more heavily weighted. Again, the promised increase of 50 per cent in Parliamentary Grants—which was to be given to both classes of schools—was to depend on the passing of a new Code. This must, as was well known, be laid upon the Table of the House for 40 days, before it could become law; and it had been intimated that it was not to come into force until the beginning of the next financial year. But this Bill, which gave all the advantages to rate-provided schools, would come into force as soon as it was passed. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford had intimated what would happen before the beginning of the next financial year; he had promised a great and long-continued agitation throughout the country against any increase of grants; the whole question would, therefore, be re-opened, in the next Session of Parliament, the opinion of the House might be changed by means of a pressure from without, the new Code might be modified or rejected, and thus the so-called bribe might not be obtained at all. The present denominational schools would in that case receive nothing but injury, while the new secular schools would obtain from the rates all that they wanted to cover their expenses. Again: the Code was at all times subject to change by the Privy Council; so that even if the promised advantages were obtained, they might be soon taken away. Moreover, the money payments made under the Code had to be voted year by year in Committee of Supply; so that a yearly contest would be invited, in Parliament, and the necessary supplies might, in any year, be curtailed or stopped. There would, therefore, be a double chance of starving out the denominational schools, while the new secular schools would always be secure of supplies from the rates. This was hardly the "kind of permanence" which, the Prime Minister had said that they had 655 the right to expect. Again, all building grants were to be stopped by the Bill; the building of new denominational schools would, therefore, be seriously discouraged; while the expenses of building secular schools would be covered by the rates. The two contending systems of schools were, therefore, by no means equally weighted; and the bribe was offered not to the Conservative party, but to the ultra-Liberals below the Gangway, who were now opposing the Government measure. He would now turn to the vital question on which the debate turned—he meant the religious difficulty. It was very clear that the country would not have a purely secular education. Could it have an undenominational education? Now, he asked, could there be an "unsectarian religion," a "neutral religion," a "common Christianity?" These terms sounded very well, but the thing did not exist. He did not believe in the existence of that mystical "common Christianity" which was so lovingly dwelt upon by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford. The phrase "undenominational religion" described an impossibility. As the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil had said—"An eclectic religion, which excludes what is unacceptable, is impossible." If every religion were partly true and partly false, and if it were possible to separate the false from the true, then such a thing might be; but then it became an imperative duty on those who had this power of sifting, to perform that operation at once; so that they might have one religion for the whole land, which should be wholly true and authoritative, and so that they might all worship together in the same churches on Sunday. Then also would there be an end to the many questions which disturbed the political atmosphere and divided opinions in the House; the Irish Church question, and the English Church question, and the Free Church question; the Prison Ministers Bill, the Tests Bill, the Burials Bill, and other kindred measures would never more be heard of if there were but one religion in the land. But it was sheer nonsense to talk of a "common Christianity." His opinion was, that if religion was worth anything, it was a positive and precise assertion of truths—a dogmatic assertion of truths, if hon. Members preferred the term—more positive than the assertion 656 of truths by any science, and far more important. It became, therefore, a matter of the highest importance for every man to inquire anxiously, studiously, honestly, and unflinchingly, and to decide which religion could be accepted as such. But whether there could be an unsectarian religion or not, yet, as the Prime Minister had said, it was impossible to prescribe such a religion by Act of Parliament. To do so, Parliament must either lay down a complete system of Canons and Articles of Faith, it must guarantee this neutral religion and embody it with authority in State school-books—which would be the proper work of an Œcumenical Council—or else Parliament must set up a living authority—an infallible Pope—to decide in each case which tenet was unsectarian and which was not. Yet this latter was the very thing which the Prime Minister proposed to do, although he had told them just before that it was impossible. By excluding formulas and catechisms, he, in fact, set up the school teachers as "living authorities" in matters of faith; and this was what his right hon. Friend next him (Mr. Disraeli) had meant by saying that the Prime Minister proposed to make of the teachers "a new sacerdotal class." He would explain his meaning by an example:—The Apostles' Creed would be excluded because it was a formula, and because it was not accepted by Deists, Jews, Unitarians, Baptists, and others. But the teacher would not be precluded from teaching the truths which were contained in the Creed, although he was forbidden to use the words of the Creed. Not only the truths of the Creed, but any other truths or falsehoods might then be slipped into the doctrinal teaching of the master. He would be forbidden to say "Born of the Virgin Mary;" but he might teach this truth while adding to it the words "who was immaculately conceived," or "who was born without original sin." For a formula is a check upon doctrinal teaching; it is a restraint upon individual caprice and theological opinion. The hon. Member for Cambridge University had yesterday asked, What is a formulary? But, like Pilate, when he asked, What is Truth? he turned away and did not wait for an answer. A formulary was a form of sound words which wise men, acquainted with the 657 subject, had considered the best means for conveying certain truths; and a catechism was a formulary adapted especially for instilling certain truths into the minds of the young. Now, if truths were to be taught, they must be conveyed either in a formulary, or else in a form of expression which was not so well adapted to the purpose. There could, therefore, be no objection to a formulary in itself, but only to the truths which it conveyed. Moreover, by forbidding the use of religious formularies, the teaching would not be rendered undenominational; the only result would be to render the teaching less effective for conveying religious truths to the mind. If any religious teaching was given, it must necessarily be denominational. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford had expressed such contempt for logic, that he, perhaps, would attach no weight to the old rule—posito genere, ponitur species—that if a thing belonged to agenus, it belonged to someone species, and was an individual of that species; and if a teaching was religious, it belonged to some one denomination of religion. The only question, therefore, was, whether religious truth should be taught at all. But if the master had religious feelings, it was impossible to prevent him from instilling his religious principles into the minds of his pupils. He might do so insensibly and unobserved, or openly and obtrusively; but he was sure to do it. If a boy told a lie, for instance, was it to be supposed that the master would not mention the high and true ground for abhorring falsehood, and would seek for some low and base motive for telling the truth? But if he appealed to religious motives, he must mention the Redemption and the Divinity of Christ and other doctrines. As long as masters received a religious education—as long as your present training Colleges existed—as long as the masters were not professed Atheists, so long would you have religious teaching in the schools. Was it not better then that this teaching should be given with the check and restraint of a formulary, than with the caprice and whim of individual opinion? Was it not better that it should be open and above-board, and that all should know what denomination of religion was being inculcated by the master? The following conclusion had therefore been arrived at:—If religious truth was to be taught at all, the teaching 658 must be denominational; and it was better that it should be conveyed by formularies than without them. Those who desired that no religious instruction should be given—that is to say, the secularists—were very few in number, and might be put out of consideration; at least, not one of those who had spoken as yet had dared to avow as much. What, then, was the principle which lay at the foundation of the opposition which was now offered to the Bill? There was, indeed, a principle which he was prepared to grant, not because he thought it absolutely true, but because it was what lawyers called "very arguable," and he would grant it for argument's sake. The principle was, that it was unjust to take a man's money to teach that to which he conscientiously objected. This, according to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, was "the principle at the very foundation of religious liberty." It must be observed that it applied to any taxation for promoting secular teaching, as much as to taxation for inculcating religious knowledge. There was also a principle on the other side—namely, that religious education per se was good; religious education, apart from all accidental considerations, was to be desired. This opposing principle, which lay at the foundation of the policy of the Conservative party, had also been acknowledged by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, for he said—"Religion is by far the most important element of all, in education;" and he said that he desired "the most positive and distinctive religious teaching." The question before the House was, therefore, whether these two opposing principles could be reconciled. Now, the present system of Privy Council Grants, together with a Conscience Clause, seemed fully to reconcile these principles; it retained a religious education, while it did not infringe the principle of making no man pay for teaching that of which he disapproved. Every man subscribed his money to a school of that denomination which he liked best; and the State paid only for secular results, and neither taught nor examined in religion. It was true that the Archbishop had requested that when an Inspector examined a Church school in secular matters for the State, he might at the same time examine in religious matters for the Bishop of the diocese; and this request was granted; 659 but there was no teaching of religion or examination into it on the part of the State. The State, however, took a security for the inculcation of religion, by requiring that every school, by means of its trust deed, should be irrevocably in connection with some religious body. The present system seemed, therefore, to reconcile the two principles. Why, then, was it not maintained? Because the Prime Minister had said that there was a destitution of the means of education in some places; that there were gaps, here and there, in the system. The present system, it was well known, left the initiative to the energy and goodwill of the locality, on the old principle of local self-government; while the educationalists of the present day desired to place all the power and the initiative in the hands of the central Government, so as to override local varieties and force a crop of schools in every place. In the first place, he denied that the educational destitution was very great. Moreover, it was yearly decreasing very rapidly. Nearly 1,000 new school departments were annually brought under the system, and 136,000 more scholars every year. The present yearly supply of masters was scarcely enough to meet this ever increasing demand; and if schools were to be rapidly forced in every place, they would have to be carried on without trained masters. Nevertheless he would, for argument's sake, grant this position also; and yet he asserted that it was possible to maintain the two opposing principles, even in a system for providing schools out of the rates. Let it be remembered that the fundamental principle of religious liberty required two things; if a man's money might not be made instrumental in teaching that to which he conscientiously objected, then, in the first place, the schools in which various persons had invested their money, might not be made instruments in teaching that to which they objected; and secondly, individuals might not be rated for the support of an education to which they objected. The former proposition forbad them to starve the present schools, and to force them to transfer themselves to the school Boards; and the latter allowed every person to determine the appropriation of the money which he gave for the support of a school, so that he should not feel aggrieved by paying to the support of error; or so that, if he were a Congre- 660 gationalist, he would be at liberty to give voluntarily, instead of being rated to the support of education. He would make these principles more clear by examples. With regard to the former, it might be supposed that in some district, a Roman Catholic school Board was elected; the schools provided by them would, therefore, be Catholic, although the use of formularies was forbidden. Would it, then, be just to starve out all the Protestant schools in the district, until they were driven into transferring themselves to the school Board, and becoming Roman Catholic schools? In the rural districts there would be school Boards composed of members of the Established Church, and their schools would be Church schools, although no formularies would be used. Would it be fair to allow them to starve out all the Baptist, and Catholic, and Dissenting schools in the district? In many towns the school Boards would be composed of Dissenters, who, because of the varieties of their religious views, would agree to establish secular schools. Would it be just to allow all the religious schools in the district to be starved out? With regard to the second proposition, he would take the example of a parish where all the schools had been provided by the school Board, or had been transferred to the school Board, and were, therefore, all of one character—whether secular, or Roman Catholic, or Church. But suppose that a few parents conscientiously objected to that character of school, should they not be at liberty to pay to the support of a master of the character which they preferred? These propositions seemed but reasonable. For if a minority were to be free to withdraw their children from the religious teaching in a religious school, the majority should be free to give a religious teaching in a religious school. If the consciences of some were wounded by teaching the religion of one sect to the children of another sect, then the consciences of others were wounded by teaching the unreligion of one sect to the children of the rest of the nation. If some persons said that it was unjust to take their money to teach a religion of which they disapproved, others said it was unjust to take their money to teach the unreligion to which they objected. He might mention, in passing, that he had put on the Paper an Amendment 661 to the 47th clause, to carry out these views. It was taken from the Canadian School Act, which had been passed in 1848. That Amendment would unfortunately not suit the measure as it now stood after committal. He came now to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. The effect of that Amendment would be to starve out all religious schools, thus violating the fundamental principle of religious liberty, on which it was supposed that the Amendment had been framed. But, he would say, why might they not starve out the denominational schools? In the first place, he answered, because it was directly contrary to their fundamental principle; and, in the second place, because it would be a gross injustice to do so. Those schools were all private schools. They had been built by the activity and liberality of the religious denominations, who had borne the burden and heat of the day, and had fought the battle of the State against ignorance and obstructions, for more than 35 years. They surely had a tenant-right more than all those misguided persons of Ulster whom the Prime Minister had taken under his special protection. Moreover, these religious bodies had received a guarantee from Government; they rested on trust deeds which were framed on the Government draft, and under the eye of the State; the Government were, in all honour, parties to a contract with these religious bodies, for the permanence and support of their schools. Were these religious bodies to be asked to give up all their rights, and do that which they conscientiously abhorred, under penalty of a gradual but sure starvation? And this was to be done under the sacred name of religious liberty! If these guarantees were broken, if these trust deeds were swept away by Parliamentary enactment, if these contracts were ignored, if the plighted faith and honour of the State were set at nought, then would all those persons who despised authority, and plotted to overturn all government, have a warrant and excuse for their nefarious conduct. That he had not been overstating the case would appear from the following quotation from the Report of the Duke of Newcastle's Commission (p. 309):—During the last 20 years several thousand schools have been established in connection with the system in different parts of the country. These schools are private property, and the founders of 662 many of them are still living. They are connected with particular religious denominations, and the tact of that connection formed the chief inducement of the subscribers to contribute towards their foundation. The foundation-deeds were drawn up, in a great measure, under the direction of the Government. The managers would, in our opinion, be very harshly treated if the assistance at present given to them were transferred to schools founded on a different principle without any proof that they had failed to render the services for which the grants were paid, or if they were refused further contributions, except upon the terms of altering the constitution which they were so lately compelled by public authority to accept, and upon the faith of which such contributions were made.Let the House, in the next place, consider the effect of this injustice on the cause of education. An immense force had been required to plant these 15,000 denominational schools. It was religious zeal, so hard to quench, which had covered the country with the means of education; it was the flywheel of our educational machine. All this would be enlisted against them; those injured religious bodies would struggle against them and against their secular system. What had they to oppose to this great power? Secularism could not supply such force, nor awaken such zeal and fervour. Secularism was cold, and had no enthusiasm. Then why should they turn an old ally against them, who had fought their battle till now? The religious bodies would still seek to exert a spiritual influence over the young in spite of your secular system; they would still have schools as nurseries of their congregations, to strengthen a sect, or to aggrandize a Church. In America the secular system was now crumbling away and denominational schools were springing up on every side. In New York large sums were voted every year for the support of Roman Catholic schools. In that country, when the secular system was established by law, the religious bodies were weak because they were widely scattered; yet the denominational schools were gradually conquering the territory from the secular schools, and seeking to remedy the evil moral influence of secularism, and to redeem the degradation of the populace. ["No!"] If hon. Members doubted his assertion let them consult a book published in Philadelphia, called The Common School System in the United States. It used language far stronger than any which, he had ventured to employ. That was the result in. America where the reli- 663 gious bodies were scattered and weak. What would be the result in England, where the religious bodies were strong and united, and had been in possession of the territory long before our school system had been established? Or let them consider the example of every other free country of the world. In no country of Europe were children compelled to go to secular schools. Mr. Matthew Arnold said, in his Schools and Universities of the Continent—Preface. 1868—Most English Liberals seem persuaded that our elementary schools should be undenominational, and their teaching secular, and that with a public elementary school it cannot well be otherwise. Let them clearly understand, however, that on the Continent generally, everywhere except in Holland, the public elementary school is denominational, and its teaching religious as well as secular.With regard to Prussia, the Bishop of Manchester (Dr. Fraser) in a recent address, called it "intensely denominational;" and the Report of the Duke of Newcastle's Commission contained these words—The clergyman of the parish is ex officio local inspector, and, as such, has the management of the school as well as the duty of visiting it. He is also personally charged with the religious instruction, which is minute and laborious. … Almost all the schools in Prussia are denominational. Mr. Pattison says, 'In poor and remote villages a few mixed schools may still remain in the Rhine Province, but they are only kept so by the poverty of the people, and are yearly disappearing before the advance of wealth and population.'With regard to Canada, the Bishop of Manchester said, speaking of the Canadian School Act (12 Vict. c. 50, s. 18)—Whenever in any municipality the regulations and arrangements made by the Commissioners of any school are not agreeable to any number whatever of the inhabitants professing a religious faith different from that of the majority of the inhabitants of such municipality, the inhabitants so dissentient may collectively signify, in writing, such dissent to the Chairman of the Commissioners and give in the names of three trustees chosen by them—for three years, one retiring each year—which trustees shall have all the powers and be subject to all the duties of School Commissioners, for the purpose of establishing and managing dissentient schools. They become a corporation, may constitute their own school districts, have the sole right of fixing and collecting the assessments to be levied on the dissentient inhabitants, are entitled to receive out of the general school fund appropriated to the municipality a share bearing the same proportion to the whole sum allotted that the number of children attending such dissentient schools bears to the entire number of children attending school at the same time in the 664 municipality, and a similar share of the building fund.With the example of these great free countries before their eyes, he asked them not to repress religious liberty while pretending to unfetter consciences.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, he quite agreed with his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Privy Council that a grave responsibility rested upon those who interposed needless obstacles to the passing of the Bill. But he could not help thinking that a still graver responsibility attached to those who, in their anxiety—their laudable anxiety—to pass an Education Bill at any price, were endeavouring to force the Bill through Committee in the delusive hope that if the Bill were passed the religious difficulty would settle itself. Now, the right hon. Gentleman told them pretty plainly that, in his opinion, the religious difficulty was an imaginary difficulty—a difficulty of their own creating. If that be so, all he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) could say was that the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues had shown a wonderful disposition to run away from shadows, for they had twice remodelled their Bill in deference to what they now called an imaginary difficulty. But, be that as it might, he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) would at once own that like every other speaker who had addressed the House—except the right hon. Gentleman himself—he believed that there was a religious difficulty, and what was more, he believed that that difficulty would be aggravated instead of being removed if the Bill were allowed to pass. And believing that—and believing too with his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall)—that they were now at a critical turning-point in that question, and that if they took the wrong turn, if they got into the wrong groove, they would have to retrace their steps with infinite labour and at infinite cost, he did entreat the House to pause before it irrevocably committed itself to what he believed to be a step in a wrong—nay, in a retrograde direction. Let him go back for a moment or two. They embarked upon this discussion with three distinct proposals before them for remedying what he presumed the Government itself now admitted to have been a defect in their original Bill—namely, the unlimited power vested in the school Boards of prescribing the religious in- 665 struction to be given in the rate-created schools—a question upon which, as far as those schools were concerned, the religious difficulty really hinged. One of those propositions had been absorbed into the Government Bill. The second had disappeared nobody knew where; and the third was that which was embodied in the last part of the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), which was really no more than the proposal enunciated 25 years ago by that excellent man and orthodox Churchman Dr. Hook, that the State should confine itself to the teaching of secular knowledge, leaving religious instruction to the free unfettered action of the different religious denominations. He (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had always held—and he was fortified in his opinion by the high authority of the Prime Minister—that this was the only logical solution of the difficulty; but what he had heard in the course of that debate convinced him that it was not only the only logical, but the only possible solution of that difficulty. Let him say a word about the other two proposals. First, there was that of his right hon. Friend the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple)—which was now the Government Amendment—to exclude religious catechisms and formularies from rate-created schools. Well, unfortunately, that proposal satisfied nobody, except his right hon. Friend himself, who felt a very natural regard for his own offspring. The noble Lord who spoke last (Lord Robert Montagu) would not have it at any price. The hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Hope) regarded it as an abomination, and certainty it did not satisfy them. And why not? Because it promised a great deal and did nothing. It cavilled at the form, but accepted the substance. It strained, at the gnat, but swallowed the camel. Why, without bringing himself under the ban of the Amendment, he would undertake to teach the most sectarian dogma in the world. Without trenching upon it, a Roman Catholic schoolmaster might teach the doctrine of transubstantiation; a High Churchman might teach the doctrine of Baptismal regeneration; a Calvinist might teach the doctrine of election and predestination; a Mahomedan might teach "that there was but one God, and Mahomet was his prophet." As 666 had been already remarked, the provisions would only apply to three Churches—the Church of England, the Wesleyans, and the Church of Rome; and so far as it had any application to those bodies, its operation would be limited to transferring the religious teaching from the Church to the individual teacher—a result which he should have thought nobody could have approved. Then it would incidentally weaken the operation of the Conscience Clause, for if the religious teaching be less explicit, it was obvious that the protection of that clause would be more uncertain. And now he came to the second proposal, to confine religious teaching in the rate-created schools to what was called "unsectarian" teaching. Now, he admitted that for a long time he cherished the hope that some compromise of that kind might be arrived at. But there was this difficulty in the way of such a solution. No human being had, as yet, been able to give anything like a satisfactory definition of what he meant by "unsectarian" teaching. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt), whose courage and ingenuity were equal to most things, had attempted it. He said—"The words come from somewhere, therefore they must mean something." And when he was pressed for a definition, he said—"By unsectarian teaching I mean undenominational teaching." Well, he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) supposed if he asked him what he meant by "undenominational" teaching, he would answer "unsectarian teaching;" and so they would go round in a circle and never get any further. Well now, to take the simplest form of religious teaching—Biblical instruction. Was it not obvious that the moment they entrusted that duty to the teacher they really put a margin by the side of the sacred page on which the teacher wrote his own gloss, and what the child learnt was not the Bible only, but the teacher's gloss; in other words, he got his religious instruction coloured by the mind of the teacher. Then they had the other alternative, which he could not help thinking was seized upon as a last resource, that the Bible should be read "without note or comment." Why, did anyone really believe that a child of six or eight, or even ten years old, reading the Bible for the first time, without any sort of explanation whatsoever, would really 667 understand it? But even were it otherwise, they had yet to define what they meant by the Bible; for, remember that, without speaking of the Jews, who, of course, would not admit the New Testament as part of the Bible, they had to deal with Roman Catholics, who consired what they regarded as the sacred version to be a class book of heresy. Now, if, as he thought, he had shown the Government proposal to be valueless; if the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford was so indefinite that nobody would even undertake to define it; if the reading of the Bible without note or comment be really no religious teaching at all, he asked what remained but the proposal of his hon. Friend? And he rejoiced to see that in dealing with that proposal every speaker as yet had done justice to the spirit which actuated his hon. Friend in bringing it forward. Nobody who knew his hon. Friend—himself a minister of religion, reflecting as he did, as faithfully as any man in that House, the convictions of the deeply-religious community which he represented—would suspect him of underrating the value of religious teaching. Speaking for himself, he could truly say that he regarded religious teaching as the backbone of a people, and that he hoped to see the day when every little child in this country would be taught the Bible as soon as he was able to understand it. But the question still remained how and by whom would this instruction best be given? Would the plant flourish best when it was left to grow up on its own soil, or when it was taken up and forced in a State hothouse? Now, he could not help thinking that there was nothing so unreasonable as the panic which came over Englishmen when it was proposed, as they called it, to "divorce" religious instruction from State teaching; for his own experience told him that the strength and the depth of the religious convictions of people were just in inverse proportion to the pains which the State took to enforce religious teaching. He would not cross the Atlantic and cite the United States as an example, for he observed that when any hon. Member of that House referred to anything which took place in that Republic, somebody else rose up and asserted exactly the contrary, and it frequently ended in both being right, and still more frequently in 668 both being wrong. He would take the case of a country which he knew well—the Principality of Wales. The British Schools in Wales—which were really national schools, for what were called the National Schools were so only in name—were, if not secular, at least undenominational. ["No, no!"] Well, he would not quarrel about words. Of this he was sure, that the Welsh children, speaking generally, learnt their religion not in the British Schools or the National Schools, but in the Sunday schools and in the chapels. And what was the result? Did the Welsh boys and girls grow up "young heathens," "little intellectual devils," as he thought one hon. Member predicted it would be the fate of children who were not taught religion by the State to become? So far from that being the case, there was no part of the kingdom where the Bible was so much taught and so intelligently read—in which the Sabbath day was so strictly observed, in which places of religious worship were so much attended as in that same Principality of Wales. And now let him show them another picture. In Prussia, and generally in North Germany, religious teaching was enforced as a matter of State discipline. The Prussian boy was drilled in religion as he was in soldiering—he was literally "dragooned" into it. As a condition of entering upon any trade, of being apprenticed to any trade, he was obliged to produce a certificate that he had been "confirmed"—and "confirmation" in Protestant Germany implied something very like a degree in divinity. It necessitated a course of doctrinal instruction over two years, and a public examination at the end of it, after which the successful candidate for confirmation was often as good a divine as many a clergyman of the Church of England. But did all this examining and drilling make the Prussian people religious? The answer to that question was given in a very interesting letter to The Times last autumn, in which it was stated that in Berlin, out of a population of 500,000, only 30,000 ever went to church, and five-sixths of those were women and children. In Dresden, where the same system prevailed, out of a population of 150,000, only 7,000 ever went to any place of worship. If they asked a Prussian for an explanation, he would tell them—"Oh, we had enough of that 669 when we were at school." And the reason was obvious enough. In religion men, and children too, must be led and not driven, and the business of the schoolmaster was to drive, as the business of the minister was to lead. They said they had no machinery adequate for the purpose; but they had in this country 50,000 ministers of religion, and an army of 300,000 Sunday school teachers devoted to this labour of love. They paid many millions annually for the support of a State clergy. He did not underrate the great efforts they had made, and the great sacrifices to which they had submitted in the cause of religious education. But was it not a very poor acknowledgment of those efforts and those sacrifices to take away from them that which ought to be their highest duty and their greatest glory, and to hand it over to those whom the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), with as much truth as wit, termed a now "sacerdotal caste;" and that, too, at a time when they were told that the supply of that very class was about to fail them altogether? Before he quitted that branch of the subject, let him quote a passage which bore upon it from that very speech of Mr. Cobden to which the Prime Minister referred last Thursday. Speaking of a proposal that in all schools religious education should be given at the expense of the community, he said—That involves one or two difficulties and objections which I think are insuperable. In the first place, what a reflection it is upon the office of religious teachers! They (the clergy) say he will make schoolmasters the teachers of religion.Did they propose that schoolmasters should graduate in a course of divinity in order to be qualified for that instruction? Why, how they discounted and degraded their own profession in making a schoolmaster, who never taught divinity at all, on an equality with clergymen, and calling upon him to give religious instruction! And, he must add, that nothing had surprised him more in that debate than to have the great name of Cobden appealed to in support of the principles of that Bill. It was Mr. Cobden who, in 1851, supported Mr. Fox's Motion, which was in substance identical with that of his hon. Friend. It was Mr. Cobden who pointed out the absurdity of making "everybody pay for the teaching of everybody else's religion." But was not that just what they did by that Bill? It was 670 the old story of church rates over again, with the difference that the church rate was levied for the benefit of one denomination, and the school rate might be levied for the benefit of 20—a system of concurrent endowment with a vengeance. Now, he did say that it was a little disheartening to those who had spent the best part of their lives in trying to get rid of that obnoxious impost, to have the same yoke fastened on their necks in a different shape by a Liberal Government, supported by a Conservative Opposition. He did not blame hon. Gentlemen opposite for their support of that Bill. They knew well enough that its effect in the rural districts of England, about which they were most concerned, would be to place the education of the country in the hands of those in whose hands they naturally wished to place it, in the hands of the squire and the parson. But what would be its effect in the large towns, where parties were more evenly balanced? He did not hesitate to say that in those places every election of school Boards under it would be a sort of borough election on a small scale. There would be the same passions created and the same party cries. He did not know whether they would take the form of "Robinson and the Thirty-nine Articles," and "Jones and down with everything." It was useless to say that those explosions did not occur now. The fallacy which run through such reasoning was this—that they were now, for the first time, introducing an entirely new system, under which education was to be not only common to all, but supported by all. They had, therefore, not to consider only the children, or even the parents. They had to think of a third party, who was likely to prove a very troublesome and cantankerous element in the case, and who would have a voice in the application of the money which they took out of his pocket—the British ratepayer. Therefore, an entirely difficult set of considerations arose; but, even under the present system, there were not wanting symptoms that things did not work quite so harmoniously as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford would have them to think, when he told them that nothing was more common, even in Wales, than for Dissenting parents, and even Dissenting Ministers, to send their children to Church schools. Mr. Bow- 671 stead, in Ms Report to the Privy Council last year, p. 280, gives a very different picture. He speaks of the sacrifices made by working men—especially in Wales—to secure for their children an education consonant to their own views of religion, and says that though education on the principles of the Established Church have been freely offered, nine-tenths of them are Nonconformists, and, instead of accepting those offers, they struggle at whatever cost to establish unsectarian schools of their own. He says—It is a common practice in South Wales for masters of works to form a school fund by deducting a small poundage from every workman's wages, whether the workmen have children or not, and by means of this fund to give a free education to all the children of the people employed. It is much to the credit of a great majority of the employers that they consult the wishes of the working population in the class of schools which they establish, and whenever this is the case the system produces admirable results. … But there is another class of works in which the employers use the fund collected by a deduction from the men's wages to establish Church schools, and to bring up in Church principles a set of children whose parents are generally Dissenters in the proportion of at least 9 to 1. In some cases of this kind, which have come under my notice, I find great discontent prevailing among the people employed. In several of them the workmen submit, as they are obliged to do, to the deduction of the poundage, but send their children to other schools, and pay the usual school fees for them there; thus they pay twice over for the education of their families.He thought that the House would agree that those were not very promising materials out of which to construct a "school Board." Human nature was pretty much the same at bottom everywhere, and if they in that House who lived in what was supposed to be, metaphorically at least, a cooler atmosphere, found themselves engaged in interminable squabbles the moment a theological question was mooted—if they wrangled 10 times as long over a Bill relating to religion as they did over a Bill relating to anything else, what result might they report when the same explosive element, that "religious nitro-glycerine," as an hon. Member called it, came to be handled by excited and half-educated men, by small farmers and small tradesmen, led on by the parson on the one side and by the deputy minister on the other? Before he sat down he would wish to say one word about the other part of his hon. Friend's Resolution, that which related 672 to the proffered increase of the grant to existing denominational schools—the Bill, be it observed, recognized two distinct systems of schools. The existing schools, which were, of course, voluntary, and for the most part purely denominational, and the new schools, which were to be founded on the rates. When they had two opposite systems of education, or, indeed, of anything else running side by side with each other, the probability, nay, the certainty, was, that in the long run the one would outrun and in time destroy the other. He freely admitted that when he first saw the Bill he cherished the hope that the rate-created schools, with the assistance of the clauses of the Bill now struck at, would gradually absorb the denominational ones. But what would be the effect of these last Amendments? By the increase of the grant to 50 per cent they would be giving a new lease of life to the old denominational schools, and strengthened as they would be by that grant, and possessing the advantage which they would have in the innate dislike of every Englishman to pay rates, they would gradually swallow up and absorb the rate-supported schools; so that instead of the lean kine eating up the fat kine, it would be the fat kine which would eat up the lean! Now, he asked, was that the sort of Education Bill, charged as it was with denominationalism, which they had a right to expect from a Liberal Government? But, before he answered that question, let him ask another; what would be said if he were to propose what would be in words, at least, a very small alteration in the Bill? If he were to move in the 2nd clause to omit the words—"This Act shall not apply to Ireland." But the turn of Ireland must come next year, and they could not, in a matter of Imperial importance like this, legislate on one principle for England and on another for Ireland. And yet they knew very well that the same system which, when applied to England, would hand over the education of the country to the squire and the parson, would, when applied to Ireland, hand over the education of the country to Cardinal Cullen. Let hon. Gentlemen opposite bear that in mind; and let them take warning by the fate of M. Guillotin, the French physician, who invented a most ingenious machine for cutting off other people's heads, but ended by having Ms own head 673 cut off by his own machine. But they told him, and it was really the only answer to their arguments—The country had pronounced against the severance of religious and secular teaching, and, therefore, it was useless to urge it. Nothing was easier than to say that the country had pronounced against a thing; but he could not help thinking that the feeling of the country had undergone some change on that subject even in the last six months, and he believed it would undergo a still greater change in the course of the next six months, for time was always on the side of logic and reason. But be that as it might—be the opinion of the country what they would—their duty, the duty that was of those who, like his hon. Friend and himself, held it radically wrong to tax one man to pay for the teaching of another man's religion—was perfectly clear; and, while they held themselves ready hereafter to accept the best compromise they could get, they would be guilty of something more than inconsistency—they would be guilty of sheer cowardice, if they did not at that stage of the Bill protest, feebly it might be, ineffectually he feared it would be, but still protest, honestly and earnestly protest, against the extension and perpetuation of principles which, in their hearts and consciences, they condemned.
§ MR. M'ARTHUR
said, he was unwilling to give a silent vote on this question. He could not support the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard), which he was sorry had been so drawn up as to embrace three questions, each of which was distinct, but all of which no doubt bore on the main issue. It would have been better if the Amendment had been confined to one, or at most two, of those subjects. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend in his opposition to the increase which the Government proposed to make in the grant to denominational schools; nor could he think otherwise than that the Government had made a mistake in adopting this policy. As the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) very properly said, nobody called for it from either side of the House, and it was most unfortunate that the Government should have introduced the subject. He hoped when this Bill was introduced that the great question of national education would be settled this Session, both 674 sides of the House desiring a settlement and manifesting a spirit of compromise. The general feeling among all classes was that denominational schools proper should not be disturbed, and this compromise was entered into by Gentlemen on that (the Liberal) side of the House. There was another class of schools called rate-aided schools, which the Government proposed to assist by grants from local rates. That was also accepted. But the Government had completely altered its first plan, and proposed to incorporate the second class of schools with the first, and had increased the grant to 50 per cent. Now, this would be objected to by the Nonconformists to a man; and there was another class who were also Nonconformists, though not known by that name, the Wesleyan Methodists, who would not support such a proposal. They had appointed three large committees to take this question into consideration, and these committees having met yesterday passed unanimously a resolution which he held in his hand, and which ran as follows:—That the compromise by which the Government has proposed to settle the existing differences by the exclusion of voluntary schools from local rates, and the provision of increased aid to them from Parliamentary Grants is strongly condemned by this committee, and that in the judgment of the committee Clauses 22 and 23 should S be restored to the Bill, with the addition of the Amendment already accepted by the Government, that in all rate-aided schools denominational formularies should be excluded.He agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard) on the question of compulsion, for he was convinced that it was impossible to meet the requirements of the country and get at the lower depths of I crime and poverty unless the compulsory system were adopted. But with the latter part of the Amendment he could not agree, and he was convinced it was opposed to the almost unanimous feeling of the country. The hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House had expressed an opposite opinion; but had he visited the manufacturing districts, or had he been present at a meeting which was held last week in Exeter Hall, of the working classes, he would have found that the almost unanimous feeling of that class of the population was opposed to a mere secular system. What they said at that meeting was—"We want increased facilities for education, we want compulsion, but on no ac- 675 count do we wish, to have the Bible excluded from the schools." He listened with great interest to the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt), and was under the strong impression that he made out a very good case. He (Mr. M'Arthur) could not understand how persons could fight about mere sects and parties, and contend that there could be no common Christianity about which we could all agree. Now, he believed there was a Christianity apart from creeds and sects, one wide enough to embrace all, in which Christians of all denominations might agree, and a common ground on which all differences might disappear. They had a meeting in Westminster Hotel, at which they had all the masters of the different schools in the metropolis, and they were, as well as the committees, opposed to the Government proposals, which he had condemned. No one could go into a school and interest the children by examining them on dogmas; but, if he explained to them the simple facts of Bible history, he would attract their attention. The last report of the British and Foreign Bible Society testified to the success of the system of undenominational instruction. He would ask the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil what influence would be exercised over the minds of the children if they banished the Bible from the school, and how would it be possible to impress them with the ideas of right and wrong? He defied them to teach morality without the Bible, and contended that, if the House did not allow the Bible to be taught, teachers would be deprived of an immense power for good. As a teacher of long experience had remarked, without the Bible they would be weakened and disarmed. He believed the feeling of the country generally was, that to banish the Bible from schools would not only be a great mistake, but would also be a national sin; and he reminded hon. Members that there were many subjects that could be taught from the Bible on which all denominations were agreed. The Bible had done more than anything else for the common school system of America, while with regard to Ireland nothing could be more perfect than the national system which was established by the late Lord Derby. It was said that next year a Bill would be introduced to deal with 676 education in Ireland; but no greater injury could be done to that country than to interfere with the present system, and he hoped the Government would not attempt to do anything of the kind.
§ MR. DIXON moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Debate further adjourned till Thursday.