Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [14th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that no measure for the elementary education of the people will afford a satisfactory or permanent settlement which leaves the question of religious instruction in schools supported by public funds and rates to be determined by local authorities,"—(Mr. Dixon,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
Sir, on the last occasion when this subject was before the House the discussion was closed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who with that poignant and happy wit which always characterizes his speeches gave a very humorous, and, as far as he (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) was aware, a very accurate description of the present condition of the party which sits on this side of the House. He said that hon. Members resembled a fine herd of cattle, which had tumbled into a bed of nettles. ["No, no!"] I do not know whether I have quoted my right hon. Friend's words correctly; I cannot precisely say what the herd of cattle were doing with the nettles; but they had somehow or another got among them. There was only one thing wanting to complete the accuracy of the description, and that was that my right hon. Friend should have added that the bed of nettles among which the herd found itself was one which had been prepared for them by the herdsman. Persons in that position, sore and irritated, naturally turn 214 for consolation and sympathy to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose soothing and anodyne qualities are so well known to us all. He told us that we were pitiable objects, and I do not know that we are in a situation to deny that allegation. We accept the jests and gibes of my right hon. Friend with perfect good humour, because we know that at the bottom of his heart there is no one who more completely agrees with us than the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer laughed at us outright; but I am sure that in his sleeve he laughed still more at the proposition of the Government against which this Amendment is pointed. We find ourselves involved in what is called the religious difficulty. Now, the religious difficulty was not created by us. It existed a long time before this Bill, or this Amendment, or anybody in this House had their being. The great misfortune has been this, that the religious difficulty, instead of being acknowledged and dealt with by the Government, has been shirked and ignored. There have been two attempts made to dispose, of this religious difficulty. First, there is the attempt in the Bill itself, by which the religious difficulty is removed from the cognizance of Parliament and remitted to Parish Vestries. Secondly, there is the course which has been pursued with regard to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), the object and the result of which has been to bring back the consideration of the religious difficulty to the place where, in the opinion of my hon. Friend and those who support him, it always ought to have been kept—namely, the House of Commons. Since this Amendment has been moved, we have had two eminent Members of Her Majesty's Government who have addressed themselves to the religious difficulty. First of all we have had the speech of my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council, and secondly we have had the advantage of the views of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and each has dealt with the question in an entirely different manner; but neither, I venture to think, in a manner entirely satisfactory. The Vice President of the Council cares a great deal about the religious difficulty; but I do not think he has fairly appreciated it. Some weeks before the Ses- 215 sion commenced, to the astonishment of everybody, he announced that there was no religious difficulty, and he told us that he was going to canter over it. It was not to be expected that my right hon. Friend, who did not believe in the religious difficulty, would be likely to solve it satisfactorily. Then came the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer understands the religious difficulty perfectly. The Chancellor of the Exchequer understands everything. I have enjoyed the acquaintance of my right hon. Friend a great many years, and I never yet discovered the subject he did not understand. But in dealing with the religious difficulty he laboured under another disability—he does not care about it. If the religious difficulty is to be solved it must be by persons who at once admit its existence, and who care about its solution. What is the present position of things? We find in a Bill brought forward by the Government for the promotion of national education a very dangerous commodity, this—if I may so call it—religious nitro-glycerine, which they propose to export to every parish in the country, to be experimented upon and handled by anybody who might happen to have to deal with it. We, who are not without experience of its explosive and dangerous character, think this a rash and unwise experiment, and we deemed that, before being parties to the sending forth of such a commodity, it was desirable to bring a sample into this House and try by our experience of its qualities whether it was safe to send it about the country in its present condition. If we cannot manage here, how can we expect that it is to be dealt with advantageously by others of less knowledge and less skill? Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that the question raised in the Amendment is a small and trivial question, and ought never to have been interposed between the Bill and its second reading. If that allegation is true, I entirely admit that the course taken in proposing this Amendment is entirely indefensible and unjustifiable. But everything depends upon the question whether this Amendment does or does not put in issue a great principle which pervades the Bill, and which, if wrong, vitiates and corrupts its entire character. What is the character of the principle of this Bill struck 216 at by this Amendment? The principle of the Bill, with reference to religious education throughout the country, is neither more nor less than this, that the character of that education is to be absolutely and exclusively decided by a numerical majority in each locality. Of course that means an absolute and exclusive denominational religious education, determined by a sectarian majority in each locality. That is the principle—it may be a true principle, it may be a false principle; but I venture to say it is a very great principle. The Amendment which negatives that principle involves a positive principle, and a positive principle of very great consequence, for it is the assertion of the exact opposite of the principle contained in the Bill; the Amendment affirms the principle of religious equality in contradistinction to the principle of religious ascendancy. Now, if there be any principle to which the party on this side of the House is pledged more than another, and which is the corner-stone of the Liberal majority, it is the principle of religious equality which was proclaimed and decided on the hustings in 1868. Now what is the doctrine of religious equality? If I understand the doctrine, it is this—that the State in its relations with its citizens is absolutely indifferent to all forms of religious opinion and religious teaching, and as regards any funds raised, either directly by the State or indirectly under its authority, one form of religious opinion has as full a right to share in the appropriation of such funds as another. If that is an accurate statement, is the principle of this Bill struck at by this Amendment consistent with such a doctrine? Let us see. The majority in any locality elect the school Board, who will naturally adopt that form of religious education which is peculiar, and agreeable, and appropriate to themselves; and, so far as religious education goes, they levy the rates exclusively for their own purposes. Then, what becomes of the minority? They are offered a religious education which does not suit them. It must not be said that they can get a secular education. I presume that the minority require religious education as well as the majority, and you offer them a form of education, paid for out of the rates, which they cannot use; and will you tell me that that is po- 217 litical justice or religious equality? It is the old story of Thomas Moore, which he borrowed from Sydney Smith, which described the relations between the rice-eating Hindoo and the beef-eating Englishman. The rice-eating Hindoo paid for the butcher's shop and for the beef he could not eat, because the dominant Englishman preferred meat to rice. This Bill proposes to establish out of the rates a religious education which everybody is to pay for and only a portion to use. Is that what the Liberal party understand by religious equality. We are told that the minority need not use the religion paid for with their money, and that they receive complete and adequate protection by what is called the Conscience Clause. Nothing reveals a more complete and utter misapprehension of the whole conditions of the question than to suppose that so radical an injustice could be cured by a Conscience Clause. It is like saying to the minority—"We have made you pay for a dinner consisting of materials which you cannot consume, but if you wish it we will be so gracious and liberal as to allow you not to eat it." Of course, if you forced a man to eat what disagreed with him, an additional injustice would be perpetrated, but that does not cure the original injustice of making a man pay for what he did not want and could not use. I confess that this Conscience Clause has always seemed to me to be an imposture and a sham, and I believe that the day is tolerably near when it is about to be found out. The Conscience Clause is like the grant to Maynooth. It was a sort of illogical invention to justify an indefensible system. It was made necessary by a system of denominational education, and unless you are going to perpetuate and extend that system it will no longer be wanted. I confess it is to me a most astonishing thing that a Conscience Clause should be accepted and approved by those who arrogate to themselves the exclusive title to be considered religious men. What is a Conscience Clause? You tell us, on the one hand, that religion is the basis of all education, and we accept that statement, and establish religious schools. You say that it is the greatest and most important part of education; and then you give effect to your declaration by telling the children when they come to school—"You must not fail to attend to reading, 218 writing, arithmetic, and geography, but there is one subject which you may entirely neglect if you please. When religious instruction is about to be imparted, if you object to the teaching, you may go out and play at marbles in the gutter." That is the Conscience Clause, and it is enough to consider for a moment its illogical nature in order to understand its origin. It is now what it always has been—an irrational method of defending and propping up the indefensible system of denominational education. You choose to devote a certain portion of money raised from the public to the support of an educational system in which all cannot share, and you are consequently compelled, having begun by a political injustice, to cure it by a religious, or rather an irreligious absurdity. Of all methods of dealing with the religious difficulty that of the Conscience Clause seems to me the least religious. Now, there are three ways in which the religious difficulty may be dealt with consistently with political justice and religious equality. You are going to tax the community, and to apply the money for the purposes of instruction. First, if you intend to teach religion, you may teach all forms of it; you may apply the public fund separately to all classes of opinion. And that would no doubt be just, but I fear that it would be impracticable. A second plan—which is also just—is this—you may give a form of religious instruction which is accessible to and acceptable by all who pay towards it. The first plan is what was called last year "levelling up." The third course is to give religious instruction to none, which is the plan that was adopted last year by the Government in the case of the Irish Church; and it was known as "levelling down"—as you cannot give to all you give to none out of the proceeds of a tax which is raised from all. If the second course is practicable—and I confess that, after the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), I do not despair of it—it seems to me the best course. If you could settle some form of religious instruction, in which all those who contributed to the rate could equally share, I believe that would be the best form of religious equality. But if you fail in that attempt there is no resource left except applying the rate to no form of religious education—which means 219 secular education. The policy of the Bill, however, adopts none of these courses. The scheme of the Bill is not consistent with political justice or with religious equality. It does not distribute the taxes levied on the whole community among all classes of the community, but—so far as religious education is concerned—it provides that taxes levied on the whole community shall be applied for the benefit of the majority alone. Do not let us be told that this is a trivial question. It is a great question which lies at the very root of national education. It has stood in the way of education for years, and it will continue to do so until you find some reasonable and just solution of it. Now I know that the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) does not concur in the policy of the Amendment. He has stated, I know, both publicly and privately, that everything turns upon securing compulsory education; that if you get that, you get everything that you want. But I must be allowed to point out, what the hon. Member for Sheffield must see—that the very principle for which the Amendment contends is antecedent to the whole question of compulsion. I venture to say, that if you choose to adhere to the principle of denominational education—if you choose to place the disposal of the question of religious education in the hands of a majority of the dominant sect, you cannot, you must not, you shall not have either compulsion or the power of rating in a free country. Do not say that we had better go into Committee to discuss the questions of compulsion and rating. Until you have settled the question whether or not the education of the country is to be accessible to all who pay for it—until we get rid of the unjust and pernicious doctrine that the produce of taxes levied upon all is to be dealt with by the dominant majority, you cannot and shall not, as long as there is a resisting minority in the country, have compulsion. Well, Sir, but we are called sectarians. It is said that this is a sectarian opposition to the Bill. Now, we have heard very powerful speeches from Gentlemen belonging to every important sect in the country; but the grounds on which they have based their arguments were not only not sectarian, but were adverse to the doctrine of sectarianism. I object to the doctrine of a dominant sect. [_A laugh.] You may laugh, 220 but I repeat that I object altogether to the doctrine of one sect dealing with the funds levied from a whole community. I quite understand, however, the laugh of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is not their doctrine, but it is ours, who sit on this side, that a tax levied on the entire community is to be enjoyed by the whole community. I know that that is not the doctrine of this Bill; and that is why you (the Opposition) are so fond of it. You support it, because it proposes to raise money from the whole community, and to leave the disposal of the fund in the hands of the dominant sect, of which you are the representatives. It is for that reason that I and others oppose this part of the Bill. I will now turn to a matter of comparatively lesser importance; but I will ask not only whether this portion of the Bill, which is impeached by the Amendment is sound in principle, but also whether it is possible in practice? It proposes that the question of religious education is to be settled by the majorities of Town Councils and Parish Vestries; and I maintain that even if it were sound in principle, such a scheme is utterly impracticable. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council told us that, in holding that opinion, the Radicals were going against the principle of municipal government. Municipal government! I am as much attached to it as he is, but on this condition—that it shall be kept clear, as it always has been since the repeal of the Test and Corporations Act, from the intractable element of religious discord. It is you, and not we, who are going against that principle, by introducing into municipal government an element that will infallibly destroy it. Consider for a moment what is certain to happen if this part of the Bill should ever become law. Nothing but the wit of Sydney Smith could do justice to the prospect. Every November the question of the religious teaching in the national rate-paid schools will have to be decided by a contested election in all the boroughs and parishes of England. We all know something of municipal elections. We know that they are not very orderly at the best; but what will they be when the element of religious animosity is superadded? I suppose that there will be "religious" public-houses opened in every street; that blue and yellow placards will invite the voters to 221 support "Jones, and the Thirty-nine Articles," or "Smith, and No Creed," or "Robinson, and down with the Bishops;" and cabs will be flying about advertising the theological merits of the different denominations, and rival divines will take the chair nightly at meetings in public-houses and beer-taps. There will be a great deal of religious discussion, and a good deal more of religious beer. Towards the afternoon of the polling-day there will be miraculous conversions of all kinds—next morning many people will find out that in the course of twenty-four hours they have held every known form of religious faith; while close upon four o'clock on the polling-day men will accept as many articles of faith as you may supply them with pints of beer, and the least sober will be the most orthodox. That is your plan for spreading religious education among the people. Another circumstance ought also to be referred to. Since last year we have been given to understand that the ladies are to take part in municipal elections, and I suppose that we shall see them solicited by their favourite preachers to assist in determining what religious instruction shall be given to scholars. I have always observed that the female susceptibility, when exasperated by religious fervour, is a formidable element, and I look forward to such a proposal with dismay. It is really almost impossible to speak seriously of such a contingency; it is something of which you can only say solventur risu tabulæ I venture also to say that it is unworthy of an English Parliament to send this great and important question of religious education to be dealt with by Town Councils and Parish Vestries. The difficulty exists, we must deal with it, and I believe it can only be dealt with on the principle of religious equality. Now, great objection has been taken to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, and if it were not that I had already trespassed too long on the attention of the House I should be tempted to say a few words on the subject. As to the necessity of the Amendment little need be urged, because it has already produced almost all the results which those who support it desire. When we saw the Government laying on the table a gigantic scheme for a universal system of denominational education, subject to the will of the dominant sect in 222 every parish in England, the question for those who disapproved of such a plan as alien to the cherished faith of the Liberal party, was how it was to be encountered. Many persons said "We must go into Committee;" but I fail to see the force of that appeal. I have always understood that the time to discuss the great principles of a measure was on the Motion for the second reading, and the Committee was the place for the consideration of details; but, assuredly, the question whether the education of the people of this country is to be exclusively denominational—at the will of the majority, composed of the dominant sect—is one, not of detail, but of principle; and I do not know any form of detail which will not be vitally affected by the principle if we once accept it. I am aware that the denominational system now exists in the country, and it is tolerated, like many other things that are not good in themselves, because it exists; but in preparing for the reconstruction of our educational apparatus we may fairly consider whether that system is to be continued and extended. Where would be the wisdom of going into Committee if we want to challenge the principle of the Bill? We all know what becomes of questions of this kind in Committee. We should be told again—as we were told the other night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that it was a small question, one that did not signify—a mere matter of detail; and in some half-hour during dinner time we should be hustled out of the lobby, and the clause would be passed. That is not the way in which great principles like that of religious equality ought to be dealt with in this House. The Vice President of the Council said that this is a hostile Amendment. Well, so it is. It was meant to be a hostile Amendment. It is hostile—irreconcilably hostile—to the principle of denominational education at the will of the dominant sect. But it is not hostile to the Government, for we do not believe that the Government will adhere to that principle; and it is not hostile to the Vice President of the Council personally, for no one who knows the right hon. Gentleman can entertain a feeling of hostility towards him. No doubt it was a most audacious thing on the part of the hon. Member for Birmingham and those acting with him to venture on 223 such a proceeding; but if they are right in their anticipations of the danger of these provisions in the Bill, and are well founded in the truth of the principle they are sustaining, they are at least entitled to the credit that has sometimes been given in the English Army to those who have won a soldiers' battle. Everybody knows that the object of the Amendment was to give time to the country to pronounce its opinion upon the scheme of the Bill; and does not everybody know that it has accomplished that result? ["No, no!"] What! Has not the Amendment been the means of a week's delay? We may be a small band, but we have occupied the defile of the second reading, and we have rallied the country behind us. And in reference to the opinion of the country, I appeal to the Petitions that have been presented to this House on the subject. We have been advised by the Vice President of the Council not to anticipate dangers which never could occur, for that if once the Town Councils were set to work they would be delighted with the task. Now, it happens that on the last night of the debate on this question a deputation came up from the city which I and the Secretary of State for War jointly represent (Oxford), and on the part of 1,400 registered electors of Oxford they protested against this proposal. The Mayor, who headed the deputation, said to us—to put it in a few words—"If the Bill passes with that provision in it, in six weeks we shall be cutting each other's throats." The Amendment, then, has been of some use in affording time for the people to express their opinions on the subject; and as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War and myself have good friends at Oxford, it would be very painful to us when we next go down to the Druids' Dinner to find the members of the Town Council weltering in their blood, after a vain endeavour to give effect to the measures of a Liberal Government. It is, therefore, ridiculous to say that the country has not pronounced an opinion on this subject, for the very authorities on whom it is sought to impose this odious task are determined to resist the mischief you seek to inflict upon them. Well, Sir, the Amendment may be extremely irregular. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council has said that it 224 is such a one as is generally proposed by the opponents of a Ministry, and not by its supporters. But he must allow me to say, that the supporters of this part of the Bill mainly sit on the opposite side. That circumstance very materially affects the position of those who have brought forward the Amendment. When the supporters of the Government are chiefly found amongst their natural opponents, their friends are driven against their will to the ordinary resources of Opposition. Nothing could be more unfair, nothing is further from my thoughts than to insinuate for a moment that there have been any unusual or improper dealings between the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. That is not so; but when a Bill contains a principle—which is that of hon. Gentlemen opposite and not of the Liberal side of the House, it is natural that without any interchange of communications hon. Gentlemen opposite give it their support. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council said the other night that hon. Gentlemen opposite had excellent hearts and excellent heads. Of course, all of us—living as we do in daily social intercourse with them—know that their hearts are excellent, and as to their heads I can only say that if they did not support this Bill enthusiastically I should think that they could have no heads at all. What is the Bill, if not one for handing over to the Church of England in all the rural districts an absolute monopoly in the matter of education? The right hon. Gentleman also said that hon. Gentlemen opposite have made great concessions, and that last year they were opposed to the machinery of rates. Why? Because it had never entered into their heads to conceive that it could ever be proposed to levy rates except upon the condition of their being equally shared by all; but when the right hon. Gentleman now intends to allow them to be disposed of at the will of the dominant majority, of course hon. Gentlemen opposite gladly support the scheme so much more favourable to them than they had dared to anticipate. They are offered by a Liberal Government a monopoly which, in the wildest dreams of Conservative reaction, they never could have hoped even to propose. I think, therefore, that 225 they have earned rather cheaply the eulogies of the right hon. Gentleman. It has also been said that the Amendment is evasive. I do not think that is a fair charge. It is not the Amendment, but the Bill which is evasive. The Bill evades deciding the religious difficulty; the Amendment calls on the Government to undertake the decision. It is also said that the Amendment is a negative one, it may be so in language, but it is positive in intention. It involves these two positive assertions—first, that the duty of dealing with the religious question lies with Parliament; and next, that it must be dealt with, not, as in the Bill, on the principle of religious inequality—that is to say, by the decision of a dominant sect, but on the great principle of the Liberal party—namely, the principle of religious equality. I have ventured to point out that if any form of settling this question could be devised for England such as that which was arranged in Ireland by Archbishop Whately and Archbishop Murray, which would afford to all classes and all sects who contribute towards the expenditure a religious education accessible to, and acceptable to all, that undoubtedly would be quite consistent with the principles of those who support the Amendment. We have been told that we are delaying the Bill. Well, no doubt that is so; and we intend to delay it, because our conviction is that so far as the religious part of the Bill is concerned it is objectionable in theory and impossible in practice. But though we may have delayed the Bill, we do not desire, and we never have desired, to delay the cause of education. On the contrary, we believe that by challenging principles which we believe to be unsound we are advancing the cause of education, and that in staying for the moment the progress of this measure we are but making more sure the final victory of the cause we have at heart. I must say I agree with the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham), when, in the course of his admirable and consummate speech, he complained of what he considered to be the rather unfair way in which we have been assailed by the right hon. Gentleman with the Saxon Bible. I am sure that he did not mean to be unfair, or to impute to those who uphold the principle of religious equality that they were indifferent to religion itself. The 226 Chancellor of the Exchequer met us in a totally different way. He did not make a "No surrender" speech. He told us these colours were not nailed to the mast. I should hope not. The colours of religious inequality nailed to the masthead of the Liberal guardship! What would become of us if they were? We want to be told that colours, which are not our colours, are not only not nailed to the mast, but that they are hauled down. The object of this Amendment is that the Liberal fleet shall sail under Liberal colours—the Liberal colours which we have always known by the famous title of religious equality. This question will be settled tonight, I hope, by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. The hon. and learned Member for Stroud concluded his speech by an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, and I will venture to do the same. I saw it said in one of the newspapers the other day that this was a lovers' quarrel. I think that is a very accurate description of the state of affairs. Since we plighted our troth to the right hon. Gentleman I do not think he will say we have ever failed to love, honour, and obey him—[Laughter]—obeying not in the spirit of slavish adulation, with which you sometimes taunt us, but in the spirit of that service which becomes free and independent men—that service which is perfect freedom. We are not like you; we do not take "leaps in the dark" at the command of a Minister who beasts that he "educates his party." We follow a Chief who we believe to represent our principles. He must forgive us if in these matters we are somewhat jealous of him. We do not like to see him, or his Government on any occasion or any subject in the arms of the other side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman must interpret that jealousy in its proper and legitimate sense, and must recollect that jealousy in these matters is closely proportioned to the devotion out of which it springs. I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman will rise tonight, and tell us that we are mistaken in our apprehensions, that he will reassure us with reference to the doubts we have entertained, and that he will give us the pledge of his Government, which we have trusted, and which we trust, that the great principle of religious equality, which is the corner-stone of the Liberal faith, is safe in the hands of him who 227 has been its foremost champion and its most eloquent teacher.
§ SIR CHARLES ADDERLEY
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had supported the proposed Resolution by a Petition from the only Town Council in England which had nothing whatever to do with this Bill.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
begged to correct the right hon. Gentleman. The Town Council formed a principal part of the local Board of Oxford.
§ SIR CHARLES ADDERLEY
said, that the Town Council of Oxford was, at all events, the only one which would not itself elect the school Board. He had some difficulty in comprehending the object of the supporters of the Resolution. It was abstract in its character; it only raised an issue upon one clause in the Bill; and it was an issue that might have been dealt with equally well in Committee. Did the proposal of such a Resolution upon the second reading mean that the principles of the Bill were to be indirectly evaded? Did it mean to say that they were all so perfectly agreed upon every other portion of the Bill that no other part of it required any discussion; or did it mean that the issue raised on that particular clause was so vital to the Bill that it was the point upon which it should stand or fall? The principle of the Resolution was, that in popularly-supported schools throughout the kingdom what was called the religious difficulty should not be left to be settled by the people who supported those schools. It seemed that that was the meaning of the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Resolution (Mr. Dixon). The hon. Member had appealed to a newly-enfranchised people to confess that they were incompetent to deal, even locally, with this question. Not that the supporters of the Resolution agreed among themselves in putting any specific interpretation upon it. The hon. Member who moved it did not seem to be backed by any unanimity, nor even to agree with himself during the course of his speech. The supporters of the Resolution appeared to go further than the hon. Member, and expressed their opinion that, as it was impossible satisfactorily to leave this question of religious instruction to the people who were to manage the schools, it would be better to exclude the point of difficulty altogether by 228 adopting all over the kingdom a simple secular system. That was to say that, however differently circumstanced or inclined places might be—whether large towns like Manchester, where the secular system might be adopted; or Preston, where one-third of the population were Roman Catholics, which was certain to reject it—the purely secular system ought everywhere to be thrust upon the people by Parliament. That was what the right hon. Member who spoke last called religious equality; he was not the first person, however, who had mistaken equality for equal submission under tyranny. It would be tyrannical for Parliament to rough-ride the will of all the localities of England by imposing upon them such a system as that proposed by the Resolution. Fortunately it had been made more clear by the hon. and learned Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham) that the animus of the Resolution was an intense jealousy of the position of the Church of the nation. It was from a sensitive irritability on his part about everything connected with the Church that he sought to induce the House to sweep away the whole existing system of elementary education among the people, in order to substitute for it a system emancipated from Church association. The Bill took a much more rational course, and one that was far more likely to be accepted by the whole nation. It proposed to make use of the existing system, which had been established with great trouble and expense during the last thirty years, and to supply its deficiencies where any existed. That, it appeared to him, was the principle of the Bill. It would be well for them to ask themselves what was the ground upon which they were called upon to legislate at all upon this subject at that moment. The reason was simply because the existing system, with all it had done during thirty years, was found to be incomplete in its action, and a certain number of children, chiefly in the larger towns of the kingdom, were still found wandering uncared for about the streets. In order to gather that class of children into schools it was necessary that they should legislate further; but surely in legislating, with a view to completion, the most reasonable course was to extend the system which had already done the greater part of the work, rather than, 229 for some external motive—a mere phrensy of jealousy against the Church—to sweep it away altogether, and substitute for it an entirely new system, which might be, and apparently is, less acceptable to the great body of the nation. If the House had accepted the voluntary principle as the basis of their past legislation upon this subject, they must consider in what respects it had failed, in order to supplement it rationally. The deficiencies of the principle in the existing system were two—it was deficient in obtaining support and in obtaining attendance. The hon. Member for Birmingham himself must admit that it would be absurd to increase school accommodation in the town he represented, when their principal Industrial School was at the present moment not used for want of attendance, or to ask Parliament for further powers to compel attendance as long as existing powers for that purpose were not made use of. How did the Bill propose to meet these two deficiencies? In the first place, the Bill sought to make a last appeal to the voluntary principle, in the way of obtaining sufficient voluntary support for all the requirements of elementary education. He regarded that as the most valuable part of the Bill, and hoped that last appeal to the voluntary principle would cover any deficiency which might exist. If he took the view which the Vice President seemed to entertain—namely, that school Boards would, in effect, become established all over the kingdom, he would not vote for the Bill; but he hoped much from the "year of grace." He was sure that the Roman Catholics of this country would during that year supply any deficiency which might exist in the schools of their denomination, and he hoped that an adequate effort would also be made by the Church of England—which had already supplied most of the school provision in the kingdom, and had therefore, and not from any partiality of Parliament, obtained that large share of the subsidy which had caused so much jealousy to be felt. When he was at the Council Office he formed the opinion that they might have more effectually stimulated the voluntary principle, and he had suggested that the Office, when applied to for a grant, should ask not only for returns of the population and the amount of school provision in the applying district, but that they should 230 also require information as to the rateable value of every holding in order that it might appear how much would be contributed from each. Many large owners and occupiers who were loud declaimers about the want of school accommodation ought to contribute much larger proportions of the support of schools. The requirement in the Bill that all deficiencies must be covered within a year would offer a still stronger stimulus in the anxiety to prevent the introduction of a system which the country would consider to be very inferior to the present. Should the last appeal to the voluntary principle fail to make up existing deficiencies something must be found to take the place of local subscriptions, and what was there so natural as a rate? The provision ought to be local, because it was intended to take the place of local contributions and to meet a local want. He also liked the proposition of a local rate, because it recognized the fact that every place had resources enough in itself for its own requirements. There was no parish in the country which could not meet its requirements if its powers were fully drawn out. Hitherto, any such want had been one of spirit and not of means. In discussions on education in this House it had been frequently said that there were poor parishes which ought to receive a larger Treasury subsidy; but the Bill proposed that every parish should provide for its wants up to a charge of 3d. in the pound, which would be ample to cover the local charges of every country district properly arranged for the education of its poor. He did not mean to say, however, that he saw no objection to local rates being applied to education. Several objections had been made to such an application; but most of them could be met. The most obvious objection arose from the partial incidence of local taxation, and that had been so fully admitted by the Vice President of the Council as to encourage hon. Members to hope that Parliament might in the next Session be asked to remedy that inequality, and to pass a measure which should, spread rates more equally over all kinds of property, But that objection was not so great as the second—namely, that there was great danger that a rating system would lead to the withdrawal of voluntary subscriptions. The two modes of contribution seldom throve together.
231 There was considerable injustice involved in the proposed system, as he could show by a case in his own county (Staffordshire). He wished the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Stroud, who seemed to think that the Bill would act favourably towards the Church, to consider how it would affect the Potteries. That was a large district containing a population of 100,000. The property of Stoke-upon-Trent was chiefly in the hands of Churchmen; but the majority of the inhabitants were Dissenters. Every existing day school in that district had been established by Churchmen and maintained by them. It was quite possible that when the Inspector went to Stoke-upon-Trent he would find that the existing schools did not meet all the requirements of the place. A school Board would be elected by the Vestry, and as nine-tenths of the members of the Vestry were Dissenters, the school Board would probably be the same, and the schools which they created would, in all probability, partake of that character. The result would be that Churchmen having first paid for all the existing schools out of their own pockets would then have to pay the chief part of a rate which would fall mainly on their property, and would be principally applied to the provision of Dissenting schools. Notwithstanding that injustice, the principal clergymen and Churchmen in the district had petitioned in favour of the Bill, which, much to their credit, they were willing to support. Surely that was a better spirit than had been shown on the opposite side? Some injustice might probably be felt in other places in the opposite direction; and, while admitting that one might, in a rough sort of way, balance the other, he wished to make two suggestions, which he would put upon the list of Amendments, if they were not there already, and which he thought might mitigate the objections he had pointed out. The House ought to take two hints from the Canadian Education Act, the first of which was a clause introduced by the Roman Catholics of Canada, to the effect that where any denomination proved to the satisfaction of the central school authority that it provided sufficient schools for its requirements, that denomination should be free from the education rates. The other suggestion was that the subscriptions of individuals towards the 232 support of approved schools should so far count in lieu of rates. Such Amendments would check the withdrawal of voluntary subscriptions, which might then co-exist with rates and supplement equally with them the public funds. The third and main objection to education rates, and that which had kept the proposal so long in abeyance, was the fear of their leading to the adoption of the secular principle, the very thing the Resolution aimed at. A plan of school rating inevitably raised the religious difficulty, because it required the employment of a representative body to deal with subjects on which the members of that body were not agreed. Such subjects would, therefore, be either omitted or mutilated, and to that extent the plan would lead to some neutral or secular system. The proposition of the Government was that each locality should be left to solve the difficulty for itself—a mode of dealing with the question which the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) had stigmatized as tyranny over the minority. He (Sir Charles Adderley) admitted the possibility of oppressed minorities by this Bill, and he thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council might find it a valuable addition to the clause if he were to give the minority in certain circumstances an appeal to the Privy Council. It should, however, be remembered that such a case could not occur except where the denominational and voluntary system had failed. Parliament had then only the alternative of taking the matter into its own hands, and tyrannically dictating to every locality in the country, or of allowing each locality to settle the question for itself in the way we were accustomed to settle all public questions, by the vote of the majority. He wished now to say two or three words upon the other deficiency in our voluntary system of elemetary education of the poor—deficiency of attendance. It was perfectly futile to multiply schools if the children who ought to be in them were still allowed to run about the streets. The question was, how they were to get these children into the schools. The first proposition that had been made for compelling attendance was one that was not in the Bill, though it was supported by the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill. It was what was called indirect compul- 233 sion by the operation of the Factory Acts; and he (Sir Charles Adderley) hoped that, in another year, these Factory Acts would be extended and consolidated so as to embrace all trades in one uniform system. He thought, indeed, that extension was essential, apart altogether from the question of education; for their present partial action was grossly unfair, operating to the injury of the included trades, and the advantage of others still exempt. He was sorry to find that the Mines Regulation Bill added another variety to this system, which must be reduced to absolute uniformity in common justice when the system was completed. But he passed to the question of direct compulsion which this Bill recognized, and which it left to be carried out by the local authorities by by-laws. This was evidently a sop to the Birmingham League. He had not himself much faith in the operation of this clause, nor had the Vice President, as he allowed. The compulsion was to be effected by fines on the parents; but the fine would not be paid. He believed that there were many parents who would rather go to prison than take the trouble to see that their children went to school. Magistrates would not long attempt the contest on such terms. He was the more anxious to call the attention of the House to this matter, because he intended to move an Amendment upon this clause also when the Bill was in Committee. It appeared to him that those who called for the compulsory attendance of children wholly forgot the powers of compulsion already given by Act of Parliament. He referred to the Industrial Schools Act. The schools everywhere forming under that Act not only took in children for boarding, lodging, and training, but day scholars also, whom the police found wandering idle about the streets. Whether it was intended by that Act or not he could not say; but it was a fact in practice that day scholars were sent to Industrial Schools by the police under its provisions already, and he believed that if the Act were extended to some limited extent all further legislation, in respect of compulsion would be unnecessary. And in connection with this point, he desired to call the attention of the House to the absolute necessity that various classes of public lower-class schools, Reformatory Schools, Industrial Schools, 234 and pauper schools now treated as non-educational institutions should be brought under the Educational Department, instead of being, as at present, under the Poor Law Board, or the Home Office. The present system was calculated to frustrate the whole object of national education. Our public grants for education are meant to rescue the poor and neglected children of incompetent parents from becoming nuisances to the country. The children of these exceptional schools were ticketed off, some as criminals, some as vagrants, some as paupers. The primary object of the Bill before the House was to help those very classes to get education; and, in doing this, care should be taken not to destroy their self-respect, nor to fix them in early life in a degraded category, obstructing their getting the honest livelihood which the system proposed to open to them. The present reformatory system too often defeated its own object. A child convicted of a theft, having been whipped and imprisoned, was sent to a school, the previous want of which had led to his theft. But if the Reformatory was regarded as a penal institution, after five years of penal treatment, when he should have become fit for employment, merchants, public officers, and others, declined to take him because he came from a Reformatory. Having regard to these points, he proposed to move in Committee such Amendments as would place Industrial Schools under the Educational Department instead of under the Home Office; that this House might see in its Estimates all school grants under one head, and still more that children whose schooling is undertaken by the State may not be schooled as a matter of police, but of education, after whatever police treatment may be required is over. He trusted, at all events, there would be no more compulsion than was absolutely necessary. Compulsion must rather damage education than improve it, because the education under its effects would be artificial. The great defect of the present national education, so much in advance of the demand of its subjects, was that it was an artificial system. Gentlemen in that House, who had been trained up in a higher system of education, undertook to provide education according to their own notions for persons of a lower class, to whom their own education was not 235 suitable. They first had to create an artificial supply for which there was no demand. Gradually the forced supply raised some demand; and he hoped that the progress would be a rapidly increasing one. But though it was necessary so to start a demand for education, all care should be taken to make the anticipatory supply suited to the ultimate demand when raised. The proper object to aim at was the creation of a natural demand for education, and this would come as soon as employers sought for skilled labourers. Education would then go ahead independent of school Boards or Orders in Council. Even in agriculture, where least skill was required, a great demand for education was springing up in the neighbourhood of such agricultural schools as Cirencester College, where farmers using scientific implements looked out for skilled labourers to work them. It was patent, then, to all who had to support or to attend school that an educated boy was worth the cost of his education. If a labourer's child had his mind cultivated so as to clip a hedge or follow the plough with skill and industry, and his conscience and intelligence were awakened to the right performance of his part in life, he was as well educated as the Vice President himself. Their object ought to be rather to encourage and stimulate the demand than to overlay it by artificial supply. He thought compulsion was the worst way of promoting education. But they were too impatient in all their patronage of the poorer classes. They were so impatient to cure intemperance amongst the poor, as to forget how short a time it was since the upper classes themselves were habitually intemperate; so it was with regard to education. The demand for education would more surely come if by impatient measures they did not crush the rising demand. He therefore hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Education Department, who carried with him, more than any other man who had undertaken this difficult Department, the confidence of both sides of the House, would take care to keep the system of education adapted to the wants of the poorer classes. Education was not so much the imparting of knowledge as the training that would fit a child for the work to which his station would probably call him. Many years at school were not 236 possible or required for the labouring class. School ought to be preparatory to the apprenticeship of life. He therefore deprecated all unnecessary compulsion. No class of children ought to be compelled to attend school except the neglected and vagrant children, who had no guardians responsible for them. On the other hand, educational means, to the fullest extent that a demand could be got for, should be provided throughout the country, and the natural demand for it should be stimulated in every possible way. He looked with the greatest confidence and hope to that clause of the Bill making a last appeal to the voluntary principle; because religion would be at the basis of such schooling, as it should be in schools which must undertake the entire education of a child; and feeling that no better means of supplying the deficiency left by the voluntary system could be found than that devised by the Bill, he would give a cordial vote for its second reading.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had expressed a wish to confine compulsion to the criminal and vagrant classes; but he would ask him what made the criminal and the vagrant class but the fact that the means of education were insufficient, and that when it was provided nothing was done to get the child to attend the school? He welcomed the introduction of the measure with the greatest satisfaction; and, as he had become better acquainted with it, though he discovered in it some serious defects, his confidence in it and his gratitude to his right hon. Friend for introducing it had not diminished. He believed it to be a noble measure, capable of expansion so as to meet the wants of the whole country, and he hoped it would be so expanded and strengthened before it left the House. He had listened with attention to the last speaker, and he was compelled to say that, although the right hon. Gentleman had been for many years an earnest friend of education, he had the lowest possible idea of what education ought to be. Considering, then, the difficulties, the apathy, and the low standard we had set up for ourselves with regard to education, he could not be surprised at finding that there were some blots in the present Bill. It had, however, been subjected to some very unfair criticism at the hands of hon.
237 Members on that side of the House. It was all very well to criticize; but the French had a proverb that criticism was easy and art difficult; and, as we had hitherto left education to be promoted by a number of voluntary associations, it could hardly be a matter of astonishment that his right hon. Friend should have brought in a Bill which did not come up to the ideal of some persons, nor establish a system so perfect as some which existed elsewhere. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham) had remarked, in the course of a speech more distinguished by culture than by charity, that the public faith was not pledged to the maintenance of the existing schools. Well, he did not say that the public faith was absolutely pledged to maintain them, still less to maintain them in their present state; but, at all events, they had done a noble work which Parliament had neglected to do. He should, indeed, be one of the most ungrateful of men if he did not acknowledge that he owed to one of these schools what little education he received in his early youth. If public faith was not pledged to the maintenance of these schools public policy and public gratitude were, although some hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that we ought to commence a new system of national education by destroying the only stock-in-trade we had to begin business with. We had not a training college or a normal school which the existing societies had not given us. How, then, could we afford to disregard what had been done by the existing system, and to set it entirely aside? He did not for a moment complain of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stroud's demand for perfect religious equality and freedom, for he believed no Member of that House was more zealous than himself for the maintenance of religious liberty, in support of which he was even prepared to go further than many Nonconformists. He must confess, however, that he never felt so deeply the necessity for a complete separation of Church and State as he did after hearing the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stroud. He believed that the Church herself would be the better for being relieved from State trammels, and that when she was his Nonconformist Friends would have to look to their laurels. But what he chiefly complained 238 of in the speech of his hon. Friend was that he pleaded for delay, and wished the Government had postponed the question till next year, by which time he asserted public opinion, which was slowly forming, would have declared itself. Now, he (Mr. Mundella) felt bound to state that public opinion had never been so strongly brought to bear as it had in this country upon any Government in the world in favour of the adoption of a system of national education. The establishment of national systems of education had always been due in other countries to the action, not of the people, but of a few enlightened and thoughtful men. Why did his hon. Friend ask for delay? Was it in order to get compulsory education. He had addressed audiences of from 5,000 to 20,000 people, chiefly working men, on this subject, and he had never yet known a working man to hold up his hand against compulsory education. The country, he believed, was entirely with them upon this point. They saw how the system worked in Germany. At the commencement of the present century, when North Germany lay dismembered and prostrate at the feet of Napoleon, a few philosophers in Berlin raised the standard of compulsory education, and Fichte, in words which now read like prophecy, described its probable results. Compulsory education would not, he said, extend beyond the existing generation, for it was sure to become voluntary in the next. Its influence would be felt for good in every way; by national education the expenses of the State would be diminished, and the cost of maintaining standing armies would be done away with, because education would produce a nation of patriots, and an army of intelligent men better fitted to defend the country than the ignorant boors who were usually drawn in the conscription; the principles of political economy would come to be understood by the working population, and industry would flourish and wealth increase. His maxim was, that the discipline of the child was the discipline of the man, and in a well-educated State abject poverty would be a thing unknown. Looking at recent events, and at the present condition of North Germany, these opinions of the German philosopher became doubly interesting. If his hon. Friend's plea for a year's delay, in order to settle the so-called religious dif- 239 ficulty, were admitted, would the House be in a better position to settle the question after a twelvemonth's agitation and rancour? In his opinion, a year's delay would practically lead to as many years' delay as would leave another generation of English children uneducated. He hoped the Government would not accept delay, for the mission of a Government was to lead opinion, not to lag behind. Again, if the delay were granted and the religious difficulty fought out, it would lead, in the end, to an irreligious difficulty. He believed the ulterior question which his hon. Friend below him wished to have settled was the extrusion of all religion whatever from the schools. Now, he was about to make a statement which might, perhaps, be regarded as an indication of weakness on his part; but he would rather be accused of weakness than of cowardice. Having received his education in a national school, he thanked God for the Biblical instruction he received in it, and he would rather never enter the doors of that House again than vote for the exclusion of the Bible from our schools. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) had said that all Conscience Clauses provided, at the expense of all, a dinner which some objected to eat. Now that, though a taking simile, was utterly false, for what a Conscience Clause really did was to provide a dinner which some people might eat with salt and some without if they liked. For his own part, he was in favour of a Conscience Clause which should separate the religious from the secular teaching; but why was this Amendment brought forward to compel him either to agree to what was against his conscientious opinion, or else to say "No" to the second reading of a Bill which he desired, above all things, to see passed into law? If the Amendment were pressed to a division he should vote against it, whatever the consequences might be. He had hoped that on the second reading of the Bill they would have discussed the whole question of education; but instead of this, there had merely been a miserable religious squabble. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down showed that it was necessary to compare the educational condition of England with that of other countries, and on this point there were two broad facts which he wished to state to the House. Circum- 240 stances had forced this subject upon his attention. He had made it for five years his constant study; but he had never hitherto dared to tell the truth as to the deplorable condition of education among the lower classes in this country. It was something which could hardly be understood or realized. It had been so mystified by fallacious calculations and figures that we could hardly grasp it. We were always talking about the great number of children on our schoolbooks. During the Recess he had had a passage of arms with the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners); for, on speaking of the wretched state of education in Loughborough, he happened to mention that more than 40 per cent of the children who ought to be at school did not attend school. The noble Lord, in referring afterwards to that statement, spoke of it as exaggerated, adding that there were 1,500 children attending school in Loughborough, or one in seven of the population, whereas in Germany the attendance was only one in six. The noble Lord had, however, made his calculation on an entirely wrong basis, because he took every child in that town from three to fifteen years of age, 300 of whom were at infant schools, and 160 at dames schools, besides a large number at the grammar school. The fact was that every child who was placed by its mother in a crib or cradle to be kept out of the way was put down as receiving education. Taking the children over six years of age, less than 700 out of a population of 11,000 or 12,000 attended school; whereas in a town of the same population in Germany or Switzerland there would have been 2,000 children from six to fourteen years of age regularly attending school for a period of eight years. For five years he had carried on an examination in connection with the question of education in our factories, villages, and towns. He had an examination made at Loughborough, and he wished he could place before the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire the specimens of writing and arithmetic of the children at work there, and those of children of the same age at work in Saxony, Switzerland, or Prussia. The contrast was something which was enough to make an Englishman blush for his country. But if his statements on the point were 241 strong, those which were contained in the Reports of Messrs. Fitch and Fearon painted the picture in blacker colours still. When the future historian wrote the history of his country, some of its blackest pages would be found to be based on those Reports. According to them the estimated population of Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester, was 1,500,000; the average attendance in all the schools 124,000, or, allowing for the children of the middleclasses, for whom 1s. a week and upwards was paid, 150,000. And what a class of schools some of these were! Cellar schools, garret schools, and all sorts of miserable and pestiferous places. Now, if the four towns which he had just mentioned had been four towns in Germany, there would be found to be at least 250,000 children attending the schools daily for eight years. There was another fact worthy of notice. The number of children above ten years of age on the roll of all the schools was 38,645; and adding the children of the middle classes, the total number would be about 60,000–65,000 less than those above ten years of age, who would be in attendance if these towns were in Germany. But when numbers were passed over the worst part of the subject had not been disposed of. There was a worse thing in the background than quantify, and that was quality. To call the instruction given in this country education was, so far as the quality was concerned, the greatest farce. Mr. Fitch, in his Report, referred to "the 6th standard"—the meaning of which was that a pupil could read an ordinary paragraph with fluency, could write the same from dictation, and could do sums in bills and parcels—and stated that last year in Birmingham and Leeds, with a population of 600,000, only 530 pupils came up to that standard; but it was calculated that of the 35,000 now on the roll of inspected schools, 1,590 would some day attain to it. Now, during the Recess he (Mr. Mundella) had sent some printed copies of our 6th standard to friends of his in North Germany, Switzerland, Prussia, and Saxony, with the inquiry how many children left school in those countries without acquiring that amount of education. The answer was that the English 6th standard was below the lowest Saxon, Prussian, or Swiss standard, even for country schools. He could, he might add, pro- 242 duce writing from foreign workmen who could correspond on matters relating to their daily work as well as if they had happened to be clerks in a banking-house. Arithmetic was taught in the schools in Germany to an extent far beyond that which was deemed necessary here. In Saxony the pupils, before leaving school, were not only called upon to read fluently, and write a good readable hand, but they were also required to write from memory, in their own words, a short story which had been previously read to them; and the children were besides instructed in geography, singing, and the history of their Fatherland, as well as in religion. With the exception of children mentally deficient, or suffering from ill-health, no child failed to pass the examination. We had never yet passed 20,000 children in a population of 20,000,000 to the 6th standard in one year; whereas old Prussia, without her recent aggrandizement, passed nearly 380,000 every year. Such, then, was the relative measure of English and foreign education, yet some hon. Gentlemen were asking for delay, and the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down objected to compulsion. If there was one feature more painful than another in our educational system, it was the education of women, which was so neglected that many of them were but fair savages. He had, he might add, examined hundreds of women, and they almost one and all had been obliged to admit to him that they scarcely ever read a book, and that they had never heard of such works as the Pilgrim's Progress or Robinson Crusoe. How could such women make our workmen happy, or keep them from the public-house? What else could be expected from such a state of things except that social misery and degradation which so widely prevailed? Then, again, there was the question of pauperism. What were we to do with the multitude of our paupers? The question would soon come up—"What will they do with us?" State emigration had been recommended—as false a piece of political economy as he had ever heard of; but we were really manufacturing paupers by our present system. Hundreds and thousands of people were growing up helpless and in a state of willing dependence, without thrift, energy, or any power of helping themselves, and in their present state with no desire to help 243 themselves. These evils were attributable to the lack of education more than to anything else. In 1867 a remarkable report had been issued by the hon. Member for the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews (Dr. Lyon Playfair) on technical education, showing that we were losing ground in many respects, and should have to bestir ourselves, or fail in the industrial contest of the nations. Could we wonder if we failed in such a contest? An Austrian Inspector, two years ago, had said—"We were vanquished not by the needle-gun, but by the higher education of the Prussians." And if England were vanquished in the industrial contest it would be not through want of capital, of natural resources, or of energy or industry on the part of the people, but through the higher intelligence of their opponents. Perhaps this was taking low ground; but our industrial supremacy was a question of great importance, for it involved the further question, how to feed our people? There were two or three points in the Bill which he should be glad to see amended. He hoped the First Minister of the Crown would rise tonight, and say he was willing and anxious to settle the religious difficulty. It was a difficulty which existed more in this House than out of it. He had that morning received a letter from a clergyman, a friend of his, who wrote that he had more than 1,260 children in his schools, and that for eighteen or nineteen years he had what he called a Conscience Clause, with separate religious teaching. There were over 400 children of Nonconformists in the schools, and how many availed themselves of the protection thus offered them? Just four. He believed the clergy were most ready to meet the wishes of the country on this question; and he hoped his hon. Friends would not object to the plan of separating religious from secular education, which was the true solution of this question. The clergy preferred it, for if the Conscience Clause was to be effectual, and no such separation was provided, any litigious person might complain of them to the Committee of Council. If, however, secular were separated from religious teaching, and the day were begun or ended with the latter, those who did not like to be present might withdraw, the religious difficulty was got rid of, and the practical result would be 244 that no one would avail himself of it. In the new schools the Catechism would not, he hoped, be used. When he was in a national school the Bible was to him a delight; but Creeds and Catechisms were his special abomination, and even the beautiful Collects of the Church of England were imposed upon him so often as tasks that they at the time became distasteful to him. Another point in the Bill was the proposed plan of permissive compulsion. Where was there an educated nation without compulsion? In Lowell, in the State of Massachusetts, 97 per cent of the children attended school, because the school Commissioners enforced attendance, while in the city of Fall River, in the same State, only 50 per cent of the children attended, because the school Board neglected their duty. In Germany every child attended school. He had gone the length and breadth of the country and had tried in vain to find an ignorant man or child. During his visits—and he spoke especially of Saxony—he never found a child over ten years old who could not read and write well. What would be the state of education in England if the question of compulsory attendance were left to the discretion of local Boards? Would the squire and the farmer favour compulsion when they knew it would raise the rate of wages? Look at the result of the educational clauses in the Factories and Workshops Acts. In Liverpool only four children attended school under the Workshops Act, and in the great towns these Acts were a farce; nobody regarded them. He hoped the Bill would be read a second time tonight, and that when it got into Committee his right hon. Friend would do what was necessary to make it one of the most magnificent modern examples of beneficent legislation—that where it was partial he would make it universal, and where it was permissive he would make it compulsory, and that he would also make the religious question clear and explicit. The Bill would then confer upon his right hon. Friend and upon the Government honour to the end of English history, and would be the charter of the intellectual freedom of the English people.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, it had been stated that this measure was a compromise. This he denied; but it appeared to have been framed to please 245 the other side of the House. His constituents objected strongly to schools supported by rates in which religious education was given. They demanded that the money of the taxpayer should not be spent upon religious education, and that whatever religious instruction was given should be given either before or after school hours. The effect of the Bill would be to secure the ascendancy of the Church of England, for the Conscience Clause would be inoperative in the rural parishes, where the clergyman said to the squire—"Help me to support the predominance of my Church, and I will help you to support your party." The spirit of persecution always existed among members of an Established Church. There were many self-convicted fanatics among laymen as well as among clergymen; even in that House he believed there were men who, as a matter of abstract principle, held that those who did not pay church rates ought to be burnt at the stake; and the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope), as a matter of abstract principle, would probably light the fire. It was instructive to compare the excitement there was in the debates on the Irish Church Bill of last Session with the absence of excitement concerning the Irish Land Bill, which, however, affected the property and interests of many hon. Members. He knew something of Vestries in the rural parishes. They consisted principally of the clergyman, the squire, and two or three occupiers of land holding under the squire, and thinking that in all parish matters they were bound to support him. The population of his own parish contained 15 per cent of Roman Catholics, and how would they be affected by this Bill? As an advanced Liberal he would do all he could in their favour; but while he held the clergyman in great esteem, he knew what the rev. gentleman's views would be as to freeing children from religious instruction. It was proposed that the children should absent themselves on the dissent of the parents being given in writing; but many parents in rural parishes could not write; and if they could they and their families were under obligations to the clergyman and his wife, and would hardly dare to send in a written dissent, because their doing so would militate against their own interests. His views upon this subject 246 were well stated in a remarkable letter which appeared in The Times the other day, and which was addressed by a Nonconformist minister to the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter). One thing was clear, and it was that if the principle of absence from religious teaching were to be carried out, it ought not to be the dissent of the parent in writing that should be required, but the law ought to require his written assent to the religious instruction of a child; the instruction ought to be given either before or after the ordinary school hours; a time table ought to be hung up in the school, and no child ought to be expected to attend religious instruction except at the express desire of the parent. It was said the religious instruction imparted would be that of the majority; but it would not be so in many cases, because of lodgers in towns not one in twenty had got their names placed on the Parliamentary register, and lodgers were not admitted to the municipal franchise. On these grounds it was desired that the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Stroud should be accepted by the Government; they ought to state clearly that they would accept the sense of it, and that in Government schools the system of Bible reading should correspond with that adopted in the National Schools of Ireland. He agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Stroud that it would be better to wait a year than to allow the Bill to pass in its present shape, settling the religious question on so unfair a basis. He was sorry to oppose the best Ministry England ever possessed; but in accordance with the conscientious conviction and earnest wishes of those who sent him to Parliament, he must take that course on this question if the religious clauses were not either altered or struck out of the Bill.
§ SIR HENEY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he trusted that the small band opposite, whom the hon. Member for Oxford called the Irreconcilables, would not be allowed to defeat this measure. He must, however, compliment the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) on the excellent speech he had delivered. He declined to deal with the imaginative pictures drawn by the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Henry Hoare), who had favoured the House with such a terrible sketch of the ruthless destruction which 247 his innocent and hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) would wreak upon all who did not pay their church rates. The question had been argued by hon. Members below the Gangway as if they were the only men who were required to make sacrifices in settling this great question; but the House should bear in mind the position of some hon. Gentlemen who represented rural districts. Not long ago the Conscience Clause was looked upon with the greatest dread in the rural districts, while an educational rate was even more ardently opposed. Yet so convinced were the Members representing rural constituencies of the necessity for some great scheme for national education, and of the necessity which such a scheme would involve of great sacrifices being made by all for its attainment, that they were perfectly willing to support the measure of the Government, however much they might object to some of its details. The extreme men on the opposite side of the House seemed to have set their minds on having no religious education at all, and avowed a remarkable hostility to the Bill, seeing that they were generally among the supporters of the Government; but he trusted that the Government would feel that every objection which had been raised could be fairly met when the House was in Committee upon the Bill. He should have some objections to raise upon certain clauses when the Bill was in Committee, as he had long felt that if a Conscience Clause were adopted it must be one which fairly protected those who differed from him in religious opinions, and that it must also be a time Conscience Clause, devoting the first hour to religious instruction. With regard to compulsion, he was glad to hear that the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley) intended to suggest some Amendment for carrying out indirect compulsion, and he should like to see an education test made the condition for employment. But these were matters which he believed might be fairly discussed and ascertained in Committee, and he should, therefore, give his hearty assent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
said, there were only two conditions necessary to secure the complete elementary instruc- 248 tion of any people—in the first place there should be a good school within the reach of every child; and, in the second place, there should be some kind of security that the children should attend with tolerable regularity, and for a sufficient number of years. The first of these conditions the Bill met courageously and comprehensively, for England and Wales would now be divided into school districts, so that no part of the country would be outside one or other of them; and instead of the fluctuating and uncertain support of voluntary subscriptions, the schools would henceforth be adequately sustained from public sources. The second condition was undoubtedly met by the Bill in an imperfect way. For this, however, he did not blame the authors of the Bill, because he agreed with the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham) that it was impossible to legislate successfully, except with the intelligent co-operation of the people, and he was not sure, after the discussion which had taken place, that the country was ready for a fixed and uniform law of compulsory attendance extending to all children. He wished he might be mistaken on the point, and that in the Committee he might find that the House was ready for the adoption of general compulsory education. He had learned that great objection was felt out-of-doors to what was called permissive compulsion; but it had always been his doctrine that half a loaf was better than no bread; and in manufacturing towns and among the industrial populations of counties, where the men earned good wages, and where there was much independence, public sentiment would require the exercise of this power by the Boards, and the good results which would flow from its exercise would soon lead Parliament to adopt a general law. But it was a great pity that school Boards were not to exist everywhere, as without Boards there could not be compulsion; and in some places, although there was excellent school accommodation, the children would not take advantage of the schools. The real defect of the Bill was, that the Education Department was required not to inquire into the facts of the education of the district, but only to know whether there was sufficient school provision in the district; and for some time they would continue to have many districts 249 where there was ample educational provision; but where the children were only half educated, or not educated at all. He had never wavered in his intention to vote for the second reading of this Bill, which he considered was one well worthy to be considered in Committee. It had been said that Bills were not improved in Committee, but, on the contrary, frequently became worse. That might be true as regarded past Parliaments, but he thought it untrue as regarded the present one. His right hon. Friend (the Vice President of the Council) referred to the Manchester School Committee, and said that in 1867 and 1868 educational measures were introduced into that House, in both of which the religious question was dealt with in the same way as in the present Bill. But those Bills were confined to giving aid to existing schools. The Manchester Bill would have been again introduced this Session had it not been for the Government Bill; but it would not have contained the clause giving unlimited power to a school Board to determine the religious teaching. The Manchester Committee had changed their views, for they recognized the change which had taken place in the opinion of the country; and he could not help thinking that as that Committee, composed, as it was, of the most experienced and earnest friends of education, had, after the fullest inquiry, thought proper to expunge that part of their scheme, it would have been wise of the Government to have followed their example, because he did not think that they would wish to force an obnoxious clause upon a reluctant people. Although agreeing largely with the objectors to the Government Bill, he, from the beginning, had felt anxious to vote for the second reading. He had great confidence in the Government, which had been loyal to the principles which had placed them in power, and kept them there. It would, indeed, be an extraordinary thing if the Government, which had settled the Irish Church question, and vanquished three-fourths of the difficulties of the Irish land question, should make shipwreck of this important measure. So long as it was expedient to legislate separately for separate parts of the kingdom, he should be content to consider the questions affecting them separately. At present the House was legislating for Eng- 250 land and Wales; and he believed that a large majority of the people of England and Wales were determined, if possible, that no public money raised by taxation should be used for the support of any school in which the teaching of Catechisms and Creeds was mixed up with the ordinary school instruction. The Nonconformists were unanimous on that point. The working classes, for whose support both sides of the House had often competed, were not denominational. For good or for evil they stood to a large extent outside the limits of religious bodies altogether. The majority of the people of England and Wales would not permit of a mixture of secular and religious teaching in the rate-supported schools. It seemed to him to be impolitic to take a division on this question. He did not agree with the censures that had been heaped upon the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon). No man had done more during the last twelve months for education than that hon. Member; and, in point of fact, he had mainly assisted in producing such a state of public feeling as rendered it possible for the Vice President of the Council to introduce this measure, and had evoked an opinion which would, probably, assist the right hon. Gentleman still further in the subsequent stages of the measure. He hoped this measure might soon become law, and that the day was not far distant when the greatness of this country might be measured, not by its power only, not alone by the breadth and freedom of its political institutions, but by the moral and intellectual condition of that vast class which was lowest in the scale, and without which the country would have no existence.
§ MR. J. HOWARD
said, that, at this late period of the debate, one could scarcely hope to throw much new light upon the question before the House. Nevertheless, as a loyal supporter of the present Government, he wished to say a few words as to the reason why he could not, at present, see his way clear to support the second reading of the Bill, and why he was inclined to vote for the Amendment. He had hoped, and he still hoped, that a statement would be made from the Treasury Bench, which would relieve the minds of hon. Members on that side of the House, and prevent their being driven to oppose a Government for which they entertained so high 251 a regard. Notwithstanding the great variety of opinions which existed upon the subject of education, he thought that they might all be ranged under two general divisions. One class believed that the great object of education was to fit man for the world which is to come; another equally sincere and earnest class maintained that the object of education was to fit man for the work and duties of the present life. Whilst admitting the force of the former view of the subject, he held that so far as the State was concerned its duty ceased when it had provided an education which would fit the rising generation for the work and duties of the present life. Such an education or training, although not its direct intention, would place the children of the country in a position, in after-life, to be able to appreciate and to reap to the fullest extent the advantages flowing from a knowledge of revealed truth. The principle of the Bill was stated by his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council to be contained in Clause 14; if so, he objected to the principle of the Bill, or rather to a principle which it involved—the perpetuation and extension of denominational schools. He would not repeat what had been so clearly set forth by previous speakers, as to the local squabbles, which would be engendered; but he endorsed what had been said by his hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) and Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham). A right hon. Baronet opposite, the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley), who had just spoken, intimated that the opposition to the Bill arose out of antipathy to the Church of England. He repudiated that assertion; for his own part he wished well to the Church. He (Mr. Howard) believed that the opposition sprung from much broader considerations and far deeper reasons. He regarded the foundation or recognition of denominational schools as one of the gravest errors ever committed by a Government. From the commencement of its adoption, it had blocked the way to a comprehensive system of national education. His objections to these denominational schools were not the growth of yesterday; long before he was a Member of that House, or thought of being a Member, he had both written and spoken against the principle. Now that it was proposed to start afresh, now that Parlia- 252 ment was desirous of inaugurating a new course—one fraught with consequences of the utmost importance to the country,—he regretted that Government proposed to start again on the denominational system. He for one was quite prepared to postpone legislation for a year until this objectionable principle could be eliminated from the national system. He thought his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) had greatly exaggerated the evil of postponement, and that the evils he had depicted existed only in his own imagination. He hoped that the advocates of unsectarian education would remain firm and be determined to clear the decks of this denominationalism. He thought that they had enough already of denominationalism; yea, far too much, without extending and perpetuating it in the national schools in every parish throughout the length and breadth of the land. Christianity, he held, was calculated to expand, to deepen, to intensify human sympathies. Denominationalism, on the other hand, was calculated to narrow, to diminish them. He believed that it was desirable for the wellbeing of the country, that the broadest sympathy should exist between the various classes; and as he believed that the denominational element in our day schools tended to narrow the mind and to lay the foundation of prejudices, which might never be eradicated in after-life, he objected altogether to the principle involved. He could not but think that the Bill before the House fell short in not having made absolute provision for the absorption of existing denominational schools into the national system, and this within a given time. It was true that Clause 21 had made such a course possible; but, like many other parts of the Bill, it was of too permissive a character. He would not put a sudden stop to State aid to existing schools; he would give them time to put their houses in order; but he maintained that as the country was about making a fresh start some definite time should be fixed when State aid should cease. Again, he could see no substantial difference between assistance to schools from the Consolidated Fund, or money raised by rates. The principle of State aid was involved in the one and the other. He believed that so strong a feeling existed in the country against State aid to denominations, whether for Church or school purposes, 253 that both the one and the other must ere long inevitably fall. He held it to be the duty of the State to provide a system of education for the whole country, and this not only without subsidizing one Church to a greater extent than another, but without subsidizing any Church at all. Having said thus much against denominational schools for England, he would remind the House that his observations applied with four-fold force to Ireland, in which country sectarian hatred was far more bitter than in England. He had been told in that House that there was some intention on the part of the Government to extend the denominational system to Ireland. He hoped there was no foundation for the rumour for the system would undoubtedly be attended with greater evils in that country than in England, and the attempt would raise a violent storm of opposition. He might be asked, as he had often been told when opposing denominational schools—Then you would banish all religious teaching from our schools? Certainly not; the two things are as separate and distinct as two such cognate questions, like denominational teaching and religious teaching, can well be. But he confessed that if the question of denominational teaching could not be adjusted, then he would join his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud and others in demanding a purely secular education. He, however, accepted it only as a dernier ressort: he believed, however, the difficulty might be overcome, if the present Government would fairly grapple with it. The other evening the right hon. Member who introduced the Bill read a letter from Birmingham; he (Mr Howard), with the permission of the House, would read a brief letter on the same subject from the head master of one of the great public schools at Bedford—Bedford, Feb. 13, 1870.My dear Sir,—All religious teaching in our school is based upon the Bible. Our attention on this head is confined to the moral teachings of the book and its historical associations. Doctrinal matters we studiously avoid. Each day's work (Saturday excepted) is begun with a reading of a portion of one of the Gospels and a short prayer. The classes are then catechized by the masters on the passage that has been read, with a view to explaining peculiarities of phraseology, historical allusions, &c. Jews, Catholics, and, generally speaking, all those having conscientious scruples are excused attending prayers and religious teaching at the request of their friends. 254 Two only out of 320 pupils claim this exemption. These are sons of a Jew. Selections from the Book of Proverbs are read on Saturday mornings. The school is closed with prayer and readings from the Psalms. I have never experienced the slightest difficulty in carrying out my arrangements for religious teaching; and I have no hesitation in attributing this circumstance to the rule I have always observed of making the study of the Bible an optional work. Special prizes are given for proficiency in Biblical literature; and the monitors frequently extend their theological studies to Trench on the Parables, Paley's Evidences and Horœ Paulinœ, &c.—I am, yours very truly,WILKINSON FINLINSON.He (Mr. Howard) would call the attention of the House to the fact that into these Bedford schools no clergyman or minister is permitted to enter to control, or to interfere, in any way, with the religious teaching. Doctrinal instruction being avoided, no difficulty had been experienced—having been a scholar, and subsequently a trustee for twenty years, he was in a position to say the results had been highly satisfactory, notwithstanding the fact that the masters had belonged to various denominations. What the country feared, and what he believed the country was determined to resist, was that the parochial clergy would, to advance their own influence, seek to monopolize the management of the schools of the people. If this were provided against, he believed there would be few objectors to the Bible and religious teaching. He had received a great number of communications from different parts of the country on what had been termed the "religious difficulty." One from a market town in his own county was so temperately worded and so much to the purpose that, with the permission of the House, he would read it—Leighton Buzzard, Beds., March, 1870.
- "1. We very earnestly deprecate all denominational and sectarian teaching, and though we should prefer the use of the Bible in these elementary schools we would rather forego that advantage than have such a heritage of strife and ill-will bequeathed to us as will inevitably result from the passing of the Bill as it now stands. We look upon a Conscience Clause, however well meant, as utterly futile, and in more ways than one highly objectionable; and we think that for the better securing of this unsectarian teaching all the existing public elementary schools should be brought under the control of the school Boards."
- "2. We think that these Boards should consist of not less than six; that they should be formed in every district immediately on the passing of this Bill; that the election thereof should vest in all householders, and that the election itself should be by ballot or voting papers.
- "3. That the employment of the compulsory powers vested in the Board should be imperative and not merely permissive.
- "4. That where a rate is levied by the school Board it should in all fairness be applied in equal proportions in aid of all the public elementary schools in the district.In submitting these views to your consideration, we have only one very simple purpose to serve. We are not anxious to hinder the progress of the Bill, but we are desirous to see every element of strife and dissatisfaction eliminated from it.It had been with very great reluctance and much deference that he, a young Member, had presumed to differ so widely with the Government upon the principle of the Bill before the House. It appeared to him, however, that on entering upon the question there were four courses open—Government might have adopted the secular theory; it might have defined what religious teaching should be imparted, or, what was perhaps far easier, it might have put the matter negatively, and prescribed what should not be taught; and, lastly, there was the course which had been adopted in leaving the question to local authorities—a course he could not but think the most objectionable of all. A few nights ago his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council (Mr. Forster) made use of the following words:—"There should be no dogmatic teaching in State-supported schools." If that were the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, if he held so sound a principle, why had he not introduced a clause into the Bill to give effect to it? If the religious teaching were left, as the Bill proposed, to the absolute control of local authorities, it would be liable to constant and sudden changes as the Ritualists or Evangelicals, the Nonconformists or Churchmen, the Papists or Protestants gained the ascendancy on the school Boards; and these changes in the teaching would result in the confusion of the scholars, the vexation of the parents, and the engendering of local strife. With respect to the compulsory principle, he would confess that for years he was opposed to direct compulsion; he had regarded it as an undue interference with the liberty of the subject; but his observation of the system, as adopted in America and in Prussia, had made him a convert to the principle of compulsory education. It had been said that it was contrary to the principle of our law and constitution. He believed that it was in 256 keeping with them; he did not profess to be greatly learned in law, but he had always understood that a fundamental principle of law was the protection of the weak against the undue exercise of power on the part of the strong; he would ask the House with confidence what portion of society was so weak, so helpless, as the youngest? Our neglected children must be rescued from the ignorance in which so many parents now brought them up. He would point out one feature that had not been recognized—if direct compulsion were passed, it would not remain practically in force beyond the present generation; for parents who had experienced the advantages of education themselves would not trouble the State to enforce education upon their children, but would readily avail themselves of the means provided. He confessed that at first sight direct compulsion appeared a strong measure; but in Prussia he had inquired of landowners, farmers, and peasants, and in no case had he found it to be irksome or burdensome. He would not leave the adoption of compulsion to local authorities; a farmer in Prussia, whom he (Mr. Howard) asked if school attendance there was always enforced, slily replied—"No; when the burgomaster is a large farmer, in busy times he sleeps." In other words, the children were sent to work in defiance of the law of Prussia. It was alleged that the agricultural labourers would suffer most from the compulsory system. He (Mr. Howard) was a large employer of labour in agriculture, as well as in manufactures, and he entirely dissented from that opinion. When Dr. Fraser, the present Bishop of Manchester, came into Bedfordshire to inquire into the subject of education in rural districts, he held a conference with his (Mr. Howard's) farm labourers, who expressed an opinion that if their children went to work before they were eleven years old, their earnings would be of no advantage to them, because their extra clothing and food would cost as much money. Moreover, if the supply of juvenile labour be cut off or reduced, the rate of adult wages would rise in a corresponding ratio. His right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council had said that the principle of the Bill was contained in Clause 14. He believed he had discovered another in 257 Clause 42; this appeared to him to introduce a novel and objectionable principle of legislation, because under it the Education Department would have power, and this without any limits as to time, place, or amount, to tax one district for the support of education in another. Should the Bill go into Committee, he should move that this objectionable clause be struck out. In conclusion, he would express an opinion that the potential mood was far too freely used, in the Bill, and he hoped that before the measure came out of Committee much which was now in the potential would be changed into the imperative mood.
§ COLONEL BERESFORD
said, * Sir, I should not obtrude myself on the notice of the House, whilst yet so imperfectly acquainted with the intricacies and forms which exist, but for the deep interest I take in the important subject of the education of the people; but I am sure that the House will on this occasion extend to me that indulgence which it is in the habit of showing to new Members, whilst I endeavour to explain my views about the Bill. I will briefly state some of my principal objections to the Bill. I object that the Holy Scriptures are not ordered to be read in the schools; that there is no attempt whatever to limit the right to send children to the elementary school; that there is no separate school provided for the education of the children who must be washed, clothed, and fed before they can learn; that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to save £660,000 by the operation of the Bill, and at the expense of the ratepayers:that compulsory school rates are to be collected with the poor rate; and that no assurance is given that the present Parliamentary grants will be continued to the existing denominational schools. Before offering any remarks in support of these objections, I must refer back for a moment to the day on which I had the honour and gratification of taking my seat in this House. It was on the same day that the right hon Gentleman the Vice President of the Council introduced his Bill, and I listened with great attention to the right hon. Gentleman, whilst he unfolded his scheme to the House; for there was pressing on my memory the announcement made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in his manifesto, in December 258 last, at Birmingham, on which occasion the right hon. Gentleman not only signified his own approval of the Education League scheme, but declared that it had been endorsed by the Government. The two main features of that scheme are—(1) entire secular teaching, and (2) compulsory rates. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President a few days later addressed a meeting in the North of England on education; but he was quite silent on the subject of the Education League. It was, therefore, with much satisfaction that I heard the Vice President, on coming to what he described in his speech, as the "religious question," use the following language:—We make the school Boards the managers and leave them in the same position as that of managers of the voluntary schools.… Ought we to restrict the school Boards, in regard to religion, more than we do the managers of the voluntary schools? We have come to the conclusion that we ought not. We restrict them, of course, to the extent of a most stringent Conscience Clause.But the Vice President went further. He said—If we are to prevent religious teaching altogether, we must say that the Bible shall not be used in schools at all. But would it not be a monstrous thing that the Book which, after all, is the foundation of the religion we profess, should be the only book that was not allowed to be used in our schools. But then it may be said that we ought to have no dogmatic teaching. But how are we to prevent it? Are we to step in and say the Bible may be read, but may not be explained?Sir, having a strong impression that where the present denominational religious voluntary principle, involving the reading of the Scriptures daily, is working well—and it is decidedly doing so in a large number of parishes throughout the country—it should not be lightly interfered with, nor prejudiced, I cordially joined in the cheers which greeted the right hon. Gentleman from both sides of the House on that announcement, and I entirely agree with a remark which fell from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) shortly after, that "for every possible reason, domestic and foreign, it is most necessary to have a real system of national education." Sir, I heard the Vice President of the Council say also—That no one could occupy his office without being fully aware of what the country owes to the managers of schools at present in receipt of Government grants. … … We must take care 259 not to destroy in building up—not to destroy the existing system in introducing a new one.… Our object is to complete the present voluntary system, to fill up gaps, sparing the public money.I was thankful to hear this, but having provided myself with a copy of the Bill, I perused it carefully, and I believe, as a result of that perusal, that the burdens will indeed be laid upon our constituents in the shape of local rates and in relief of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; that the effect of it will be to do away with voluntary zeal, to do away with voluntary subscriptions, and speedily to annihilate the voluntary system. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I sympathize with those schools which have adopted the Conscience Clause, and in which the Bible is read in the authorized version. The Vice President speaking of his Bill described it as "constructive legislation." It is indeed so, for you can only find out what is to be, or what is not to be, by dragging a clause out of its place, and putting it alongside another, and comparing them together. I altogether miss that full, open, manly, English declaration in the Revised Code—That where there is in any parish a public elementary school, supported by voluntary contributions, by Parliamentary grants, and by school fees, with the Conscience Clause sufficient and efficient, nothing in this Act shall be allowed to prejudice or affect that school, and throw any portion of the expense upon the ratepayers.Also—That every school aided by a grant must be either a school in connection with some recognized religious denomination, or a school in which, besides secular instruction, the Scriptures are read daily from the authorized version.The Vice President also stated—That the Government would do what the great body of the parents wish—namely, to have religious training and the Bible in the schools, guarding the rights of the minority.Now, I ask, how is all this carried out by the Bill? In Section 83 it is enacted that—The conditions required to be fulfilled by an elementary school, in order to obtain an annual Parliamentary grant, shall be those contained in the Minutes of the Education Department for the time being.Two of those conditions are unlimited inspection and the Conscience Clause, but many others may be inflicted to the destruction of the voluntary system. Voluntary subscriptions may have to be more, school fees by parents to be increased, Parliamentary grants decreased, 260 religious training by masters objected to, the clergymen excluded; anything, in short, you please, depending entirely upon the temper of the Education Department for the time being; and what is that temper likely to be? No doubt the right hon. Gentlemen opposite think they have taken a long lease of the Bench they occupy; and what is to be expected from the Vice President of the Council, with two such Colleagues as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and disciple of the National Education League, at one elbow, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose hostility to the denominational system is well known at the other, pushing him to the front to carry out their views. I find it frequently enacted what may not be done by this Bill. In short, it is an Act of Parliament of negatives. In this very section (83rd) it restricts the conditions to be imposed—They shall not require that the school shall be in connection with a religious denomination, nor that religious instruction be given in the school.I want a plain declaration that in all schools the Bible shall be read in the authorized version. Well, Sir, I naturally turn to see what is an elementary school, within the meaning of the 83rd section, entitled to a Parliamentary grant. I find it defined to mean—A school where elementary education is given, but is not to include any school where the children are clothed and fed, or where the children's payments exceed 9d. per week.I then go to Section 7, to see how this elementary school is to be conducted in order to be entitled to a grant, and I find the word "public" added to elementary school, without any explanation of the term. I suppose it means "open to all comers." This at once appears to me fatal to the present voluntary system, in which the school fees are required to be equal to the voluntary subscriptions and the Parliamentary grants. The "gutter" children, as they are called, are excluded; therefore, the voluntary system is not "public," and this condition is not fulfilled. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would at once stop the grant. In the same section (No. 7) two of the heads are of the same negative character I have complained of—(1.)"No Inspector shall, except with the consent of the Education Department, and on request of the managers, inquire into religious instruction or 261 examine any scholar thereon; (2.) no child shall be required to attend or to abstain from attending any Sunday school.I object to this on the ground that the now religious examinations should be clogged with such difficulties. The managers must request, the Education Department must on every occasion consent, and a special Inspector must then be provided for the duty. These difficulties are intended, or at all events will operate, as a blow to the religious denominational system, and will shortly prove fatal to it. Who will volunteer money for a school supported by a compulsory rate not exceeding 3d. in the pound? I say, therefore, that the birth and parentage of this Bill is the National Education League, and that the child has been dressed up in the clothes of the National Union simply to beg the sympathies of the House. Any hon. Member who will take the trouble to handle and fondle the child will find out the sham. I will now turn for a moment to one of the main objects of the Bill, which is to relieve the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by reducing the Parliamentary grant paid out of public taxes, and to throw the amount on the local taxation—that is, on the poor rates. The Parliamentary grant to schools for 1,500,000 children last year, was £415,000; school fees, £420,000; voluntary subscriptions, £420,000; total expenditure for 1869, £1,255,000. The Vice President calculates that under the present Bill the children to be helped will be 3,000,000. If the cost should not exceed the present cost per child on the voluntary principle, the total cost for the 3,000,000 will be just double that of last year—namely, £2,510,000. The voluntary system has produced 10s. per child, and the rates are to furnish the same sum, which you will see from the 84th section: 3,000,000 at 10s. amounts to £1,500,000 from, local rates. Deducting the £1,500,000 from £2,510,000 required, the sum of £1,010,000 will be left. Doubling the school fees (£420,000lastyear), £840,000 will be derived from this source; and deducting this sum from the £1,010,000 the amount left for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pay will be £170,000 only, whereas on the present principle, the amount of Parliamentary grant would be £830,000. So Imperial taxation is taxed £660,000 at the cost of the ratepayers. The right hon. Gentleman the 262 Vice President says that his system will cover the country. No doubt; and I am of opinion that, as all voluntary subscriptions will cease, the Government should provide four-sixths of the total cost of educating the 3,000,000 of children, and the school fees the remainder, any deficiency in the latter to be paid by local taxation. I will very briefly make one or two comments upon those of my objections not yet touched upon, three in number. I am entirely opposed to throwing open the schools to all classes, because there are plenty of persons able to pay for the education of their children who will selfishly avail themselves of the compulsory schools, and consequently the poorer ratepayers will be taxed for the education of those better off. I object to the compulsory school rates being collected with the poor rate, because that rate is already encumbered with the county rate, the highway rate, the police rate, and expense of preparing registers of voters. The rate should be collected quite distinct from any other. Again, no provision is made for the children who must be washed, clothed, and fed before they can learn. They should be sent to the present Union schools. I will not detain the House for more than two or three minutes to offer some general remarks on the Bill. The Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was originally the National Education League, pure and simple. To secure support—to satisfy those who do not take the trouble to look closely into the matter, the National Education Union has been grafted on to it. The branch will die, and the tree will remain. The whole tendency of the Bill is in that direction. The idea of being suffered to teach religion, instead of its being made an integral portion of every child's education! The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and no education can impart moral principle which is worth the having in time of temptation except a religious one. I hope that I have helped to expose the defects and emasculate the child of the right hon. Gentleman, and to put in a truer though darker aspect the Bill which dawned upon us with such a roseate hue. In conclusion, I thank the House for its kindness, and, mindful of the impassioned tones of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, last Friday, when appealing for justice to Ire- 263 land, I appeal to him now for justice to the 3,000,000 of little children we have now to educate. I appeal to him that the good seed may be sown in our schools, that the knowledge and love of God may be implanted in their hearts, and that the Book of Life may be ever open to them; and if the right hon. Gentleman refuse to listen to me, I shall nevertheless have the comfort of knowing that I have lifted up my humble voice against a scheme I believe to be irreligious, and still more of trusting to that Power above—which no Government, no Minister, can control—to render the Bill of the Vice President abortive in its present shape.
§ MR. H. RICHARD
* I should not have attempted to take part in this discussion, amid the hot competition which prevails here tonight, but for this—that I believe a large number of my Nonconformist countrymen in Wales are looking to me to give some expression to their views and feelings in reference to this Bill, which they think will, in various ways, affect them seriously, and some of the provisions in which they regard with deep anxiety, indeed, I may say, with great apprehension and alarm. The House may have observed that a large number of Petitions has been presented from that part of the country, against certain portions of the measure; and, I dare say, most of the Liberal Members for Wales have, like myself, received private letters in which the objections embodied in the Petitions, are expressed in language yet more energetic and decisive. And I must be permitted to say, with all due respect to my hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council, who thinks that these apprehensions are groundless, or greatly exaggerated, that those among whom such a measure as this is to come into operation, and who know intimately the conditions of society under which it is to operate, may be taken as pretty competent judges of what the practical working of the measure is likely to be. The circumstances of Wales in this, as in other respects, are very peculiar, owing to the fact that the great bulk of the people—I will not attempt to state the precise proportion, as that may be open to difference of opinion, but by universal consent an overwhelming majority of the people, and especially of the people likely to be affected by this 264 Bill—belong to the various Dissenting bodies, to whose zeal and activity it is owing that the Principality is not at this moment a moral and spiritual wilderness. This has been frequently and frankly acknowledged by candid Churchmen themselves. The present excellent Bishop of Llandaff, in one of the Charges he delivered to his clergy some years ago, made use of this expression—Had it not been for the exertions of Dissenting bodies, our people must have been consigned to a practical heathenism, and left in ignorance of the name of Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world.But until lately the Dissenters of Wales have not displayed the same activity in establishing day schools as they have in the erection of places of worship, and in the organization of Sunday schools. There were various reasons for this. In the first place, they trusted very much to the Sunday schools, which, in Wales, are far more important institutions than they are in England, as not children only, but a large proportion of the adult population habitually attend them. Nor did they trust altogether in vain, so far as religious education was concerned, as I believe that, even before day schools were established, the great body of the people had, by their means, been taught, at least, to read their Welsh Bibles fluently and intelligently. Besides which the Nonconformists had a great work on their hands in building their own chapels and supporting their own ministers and religious institutions, much of which is done for the Church of England out of the national endowments. But there has been another obstacle in the way of Dissenters building day schools, and that is the difficulty of finding land on which to erect, for many landlords in Wales have set themselves resolutely to refuse sites on which to build unsectarian schools. In spite of all this, however, they have, within the last few years, erected between 200 and 300 British Schools. Still the large majority of day schools belong to what is called the national system, so-called in Wales certainly on the principle of lucus a non lucendo, seeing that they are not in any sense national. I am willing to give every credit to the members of the Church of England for their zeal and liberality in the establishment of day schools. I only wish that their zeal had not been so subordinated to purposes of 265 proselytism. ["Oh, oh!"] Such certainly has been the case. Before the imposition of the Conscience Clause by the Government as the condition of receiving public grants, the teaching of the Church Catechism, and attendance at Church Sunday schools, were rigidly enforced on the children of Nonconformists. And since the introduction of the Conscience Clause the grievance has not ceased, for the Conscience Clause is no protection to the poor man. And in Wales the grievance is attended with this peculiar aggravation, that, whereas the Conscience Clause was originally intended I presume to protect a minority against the ecclesiastical intolerance of the majority; in Wales, on the contrary, it is the overwhelming majority who have to seek the protection of the Conscience Clause, against the ascendancy and intolerance of a very small minority. My conviction is, that my right hon. Friend, in preparing this Bill, has underrated the gravity and extent of the religious difficulty. This is a kind of error into which statesmen are very apt to fall; that they do not make sufficient allowance for the reality and force of the religious convictions—or, as they perhaps may consider them, the religious prejudices—that exist among large bodies of their countrymen. How to account for this I do not know, unless it be that statesmen themselves might often be, perhaps, persons of easy religious belief, inclined to think with the poet that for—Forms of faith none but graceless bigots fight.And so, not being able to understand or sympathize with such things, they refuse to believe that what appear to them matters of very trivial significance, may be regarded by others as questions of grave and vital importance. It has frequently been the case that these gentlemen have introduced measures in which they have overlooked the religious feelings of their countrymen, and then found that they had been calculating without their host; and, upon meeting with difficulties, by them totally unexpected, they express the most innocent surprise, just as my hon. Friend has done in this case, at the opposition raised against his Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the religious difficulty was one that did not originate with parents, but was merely fostered and stimulated by ministers of religion.
266 Well, certainly, so far as Wales is concerned, it is not true. That question was brought to a kind of crucial test about ten years ago. Mr. Bowstead, the very able Inspector of British Schools in South Wales, in one of the Reports he presented to the Committee of Council, inserted a paragraph to this effect—that National Schools were unsuitable to Wales, and that the people felt great reluctance in sending their children to them; because—such are his words—They ran the risk of being imbued with Catechisms and formularies which they themselves held in a sort of abhorrence.In his next Charge the Bishop of St. David's—I wish to refer to that distinguished Prelate with profound respect—animadverted on this passage, and indeed contradicted it, and declared that Mr. Bowstead was mistaken in saying the Welsh people disliked the religious teaching given in National Schools. The Bishop of St. David's said this in perfect good faith. Mr. Bowstead, when he found his statement challenged from so high a quarter, felt it his duty to take means to make good his allegations. He prepared, accordingly, a circular letter stating the matter in dispute between the Bishop and himself, and. sent it to about 300 persons in all parts of South Wales—men of all religious denominations, laymen as well as ministers, persons whose position was humble and obscure, as well as those of a higher grade in life—asking them if he had misrepresented the sentiments of the Welsh people in the matter in question. The result was, as anyone acquainted with the state of opinion in the Principality might have anticipated, that there was a perfect consensus among all these 300 witnesses in support of Mr. Bowstead, many of them repeating, in stronger language than he had used, their conviction of the universal antipathy which the Dissenters of Wales felt to the teaching of the Catechism to their children. But we have evidence on this point of a much later date. In the very last Report presented by Mr. Bowstead to the Committee of Council, he makes the following emphatic declaration:—In every part of England with which I am acquainted—and I have inspected schools in some twenty English counties—I have found numerous instances of sacrifices made by working men, and by others in almost equally humble positions, for the sole purpose of securing for their children an education which would be consonant with their 267 own views of religious polity or principle. But in Wales the feeling upon this subject pervades the whole mass of the common people, and its development may almost be said to constitute the history of educational progress in the Principality during the last few years. Education on the principles of the Established Church has been freely and extensively offered to the Welsh people, both in their week-day National Schools and in Sunday schools; but nine-tenths of them are Nonconformists, and instead of accepting these offers they have everywhere struggled, or are still struggling, at whatever cost, to establish un-sectarian schools of their own, and to free themselves of what they regard as the trammels of Church Catechism, Church formularies, and Church influence. The exertions that are put forth, and the sacrifices that are made, with this view, by persons from whom such exertions and such sacrifices are least expected, are really remarkable.He then goes on to say that it is the practice in the large works of South Wales for the masters to impound a part of their workmen's wages for the purpose of paying for the education of their children. Of this no complaint is made, as it is found to work very well when the masters respect the religious convictions of the men by establishing schools that are unsectarian. Then he proceeds—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, nine to one. 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 so, 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—once, in the works by a deduction from their wages, in return for which they get nothing that they can conscientiously accept; and, a second time, in providing weekly school pence for the instruction which is in accordance with their views. Nay, in many instances, they have done more than this—they have built schools at their own expense.It is said that the questions at issue in connection with this religious difficulty are of no importance except as they are magnified by sectarian jealousy. I entirely deny that, and I honour my countrymen because they are not indifferent to the kind of religious doctrine taught to their children. Take, for instance, what is involved in teaching the Church Catchism to the children of Nonconformists. It is not a question of dogma merely, but of simple morality. You take the child of a Baptist, and re- 268 quire him to say that he has been regenerated in baptism, when he has never been baptized at all. You require the children of other Nonconformists to say that their godfathers and godmothers have promised and vowed certain things on their behalf, when they have never had godfathers or godmothers. And is it not a most singular notion to begin the religious education of a child by—I will not say obliging him—but by even permitting him, to repeat that which on his lips at least is nothing else than a simple and deliberate falsehood? But there is another point to which I must allude, though it is one of some delicacy, as it will throw considerable light upon the strong feeling which exists among my countrymen on this subject. I allude to the fact that the teaching of the Church of England—the teaching that is founded on the Catechism and other formularies—has within the last twenty years undergone a marvellous development, and that in a direction that is singularly obnoxious to us as Protestant Dissenters. Will the House permit me to give an illustration of what I mean? In North Wales there is a normal school at Carnarvon for training young persons to become teachers in National Schools. At the head of that institution is a clergyman of the name of the Rev. J. Sydney Boucher. I will give the House a few extracts from the divinity examination papers which this gentleman has prepared for his pupils, the young persons, remember, who are to go forth and become the teachers of little Nonconformist children in North Wales. I take them from a pamphlet published by Mr. Boucher, in which he defends and develops at great length the sentiments they contain.Show that the Sacraments, as administered by Dissenters, must be mere blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.….Dissenting ministers being merely laymen, there is no promise or warrant for supposing that what they do on earth Christ will do in heaven, or that he will be present to bless their ministrations. What inference do you draw? ‖.No Bishop, no Church. Explain this, and show that what the world calls mere questions of Church government are really matters of vital importance.….Men do not emigrate for what they can, but for what they cannot obtain at home. Show that there is perfect safety in the English Church, and that to leave her for any other Church, or any mere sect, must be a most fatal error.….Puritan doctrine is popular because it is convenient and comfortable. Church principles are not conformed to this world, and therefore the world hates them. 269 Give illustrations.….Show from Scripture that a real Presence is essential to both sacraments.….Show that the phrase 'Protestant faith' indicates a ridiculous impossibility.Now I do not cite these extracts in order to censure them, much less to controvert them. Any man has a perfect right to teach things, if he thinks fit. Any Church, has a right to teach them if such are really its doctrine. But you can understand, at least, why the Nonconformists of Wales should not wish to be compelled to send their children to schools where such doctrines are taught. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will say to me—"You have the protection of the Conscience Clause." I shall have a word to say about that directly. But, in the meantime, observe that there is no Conscience Clause for ratepayers, and even if we could protect our own children perfectly from such teaching, we object to pay for supporting schools to teach such doctrines to anybody's children. Now, as to the Conscience Clause. That is, at best, a bungling and unsatisfactory expedient. It might have done very well for a time of transition, while the Churches were unlearning the notion of which they had become possessed, that they had a sort of divine or prescriptive right to control the education of all the children of the country. The Conscience Clause was useful in letting them down gently from that high pretension. But I should be sorry that it should become a permanent part of our educational legislation. For what is it but a kind of educational Toleration Act? I had hoped that we had got beyond that—I had hoped that we had all seen and felt the utter presumption of any man, or any body of men, saying to another body of their fellow-men and fellow-subjects—"We will tolerate you in professing the faith you believe to be true, and in worshipping God according to your conscience." But that is what a Conscience Clause distinctly says. It says—"If you pay towards supporting a school in which our creed is taught, we will tolerate you so far as to permit you to withdraw your children when that creed is taught." But I may be told that in Wales the Dissenters, being in such a majority, can have everything their own way in choosing the Town Councils and Vestries who are to appoint the educational Board. Yes, but there is no freedom of election in Wales; and though we might, 270 no doubt, if we could induce the people everywhere to resist the influences, and to make the sacrifices necessary for the purpose, carry the election by force of our numerical majority, we think we have no right to call upon the people to submit to all that as a condition of obtaining an unfettered education for their children. My right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council said the other day that we are not agreed among ourselves as to what we want. He excited a good-humoured laugh at my expense by repeating a remark that I made while accompanying a deputation from Wales—which had the honour of waiting upon the Prime Minister and himself. Being asked as to the meaning of the two words "secular" and "unsectarian," inserted in the Memorial presented on that occasion, I said that perhaps they intended to meet the views of two sections of the community, some of whom were in favour of excluding the Bible altogether, and others were anxious to retain the Bible and exclude the Catechisms. I am happy, however, of having this opportunity of saying that the gentlemen who prepared that document disallow my interpretation, and adhere to their own, which is—that by the collocation of the two words they meant that the instruction should be secular, and the management unsectarian. I admit, however, that there is considerable diversity of opinion among my countrymen. There are some who feel a strong repugnance to the total exclusion of the Bible from the day schools. But there is another class, who, seeing the inextricable difficulties that surround the question of religious instruction in rate-aided schools, especially in the thickly-peopled parts of South Wales, where there are not only Churchmen and Dissenters, but a considerable Roman Catholic element, are forced to the conculsion that the only partial solution of the difficulty is to make the school instruction secular, and to leave the religious instruction to the parents and Churches. And among those who hold this view there are many who are most earnestly concerned for the religious character of their countrymen, and who hold in as profound reverence as my right hon. Friend, or Dr. Newman, the old English Bible, or rather the old Welsh Bible, which is a still finer version than yours, in proportion as the 271 Welsh is a much finer language than the English. Mr. Bowstead, in his last Report, says that—Looking at the difficulties caused between Church and Dissent, and between Protestant and Roman Catholic, many eminent educationists in his district had arrived at the conclusion that the work of the elementary schoolmaster should be limited to reading, writing, arithmetic, and other purely secular elements of knowledge.And the Inspector of Church of England Schools in Mid-Wales makes a similar recommendation. For my part, I should be satisfied, for the present, by the adoption of the Amendment placed on the Paper by my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham). But I am anxious to impress upon the House that if any of my countrymen are coming to the conclusion that even the Bible should be omitted from the day school, that does not arise from indifference to the Bible. There is no people in the world who entertain a more profound reverence for it than the Welsh; and no people, I venture to say, into whose daily life the spirit and substance of that book have more fully entered. No better proof of this can be afforded than in the immense number of copies of the Scriptures that are in circulation in the country. The Bible Society alone, from its establishment in 1806, has sent more than 1,500,000 copies to Wales, and it sends still, on an average, 60,000 copies a year. No part of the kingdom contributes so large a sum, in proportion to the population, to the work of providing Bibles for others. Last year the people of Wales sent up £7,000 in free contributions to the Bible Society, and all England only £42,000, whereas, if English contributions had been proportionate to those from Wales, they would have amounted to some £120,000. There is another striking fact, mentioned to me lately by a correspondent, who said—You need not fear if the Bible were excluded from the day schools, that the Welsh people would neglect that book.In eighty-one Sunday schools of one body—the Calvinistic Methodists—in one part of Carnarvonshire, nearly 100,000 chapters and more than 1,000,000 verses of the Bible were committed to memory. There is one other observation I wish to make. We must not forget, while fighting the battle of the Churches—and I do not for an instant admit that the 272 matters in this conflict are of trivial moment—that there lies the great body of the working men, who unhappily in England, though I rejoice to say not in Wales, lie outside the pale of all our Churches, and they have something to say on this subject. And there may be a danger, that, by forcing religion upon them, in connection with the education of their children, we may provoke a dangerous prejudice against, and a recoil from, religion altogether. Much has been said about Germany in the course of this discussion, which has been held up to us as an object of admiration and of emulation. But there may be something in Germany that may prove a warning as well as an example. In Prussia there is thorough religious instruction given in all schools, which is also strictly enforced. First, the school is opened and concluded with prayer, consisting of the Lord's Prayer, the morning and evening benediction; and, for the elder children, other prayers from the liturgy in use in the churches. Then the Bible is taught as a whole, or in selected lessons. All the children are obliged to learn Luther's Catechism, which, as some hon. Gentlemen may know, contains a good deal of direct and positive dogmatic teaching. There is a book of hymns, which treat of fundamental points of Christian faith and practice; and every child must learn thirty, and in some schools fifty, of these by heart before leaving the school. In addition to all of which, the pastor of the parish is ex-officio local inspector; and inspection means something very different from what it does among ourselves—involving constant active superintendence and direct religious teaching on the part on the minister. Well, and what is the result of all this? Does all this elaborate instruction in day schools make the Prussians a religious people? So far from it, there is probably no people in Europe so utterly indifferent to the doctrines and observances of Christianity as the Prussians. Some hon. Gentlemen may remember a remarkable correspondence on this subject which appeared in The Times of last August, principally in letters from the Berlin correspondent of that paper, himself a German and a Protestant, and writing apparently in a tone of deep regret for what he was obliged to say of his countrymen. In one of his letters 273 he says that three-fourths of all educated men in Germany are estranged from the dogmatic teaching of the Christian creed—estranged from it to the extent of disbelieving the sincerity of many of the clergy. Only a small fraction of the nation attend divine service. Another correspondent of the same paper—the Rev. John Anketell, rector of the American Church at Dresden, confirms all that the other had said—The condition of religion here is, in the view of every Evangelical Christian, simply deplorable. Leading ministers of Saxony have admitted to me that if the hand of the State were withdrawn, the majority of the people would renounce even the outward form of Christianity, as they have already renounced its truth..In a subsequent letter, the same gentleman writes—Out of a Protestant population of over 150,000 only 6,000 or 7,000 attend public worship on the Lord's Day.In the life of the celebrated preacher and writer, Dr. Krummacher, lately published, "I find," he says—That of the population of Berlin, approaching 500,000, not more, after deducting the number of the military attending the garrison churches, than 30,000 persons, and those mostly women, attend the public worship of God.In connection with all this, there is one other extract from the Berlin correspondent of The Times, to which I ask the attention of the House—To crown all, the Government forces the children of all parties alike to learn the Catechism by heart; and in proportion to the spread of infidelity, so are they intent upon cramming the youthful minds with texts and hymns. Yet the scriptural antidote is so unavailing to stem the progress of the tide, that people do not think it worth their while to remonstrate against it.Sir, it would become me less than almost any Gentleman in this House, if I may presume to indulge in so personal an allusion, to say anything that would seem to imply indifference to, or a low estimate of the necessity and value of religion as an element in the education of a human being. God forbid that I should say or imply anything of the kind. On the contrary, no language I can employ would adequately convey my sense of its supreme and inexpressible importance. But the question is not whether we shall give religious instruction to the children of our people, but which is the best way of giving it—whether by so engrafting it on the secu- 274 lar education, that the one cannot be obtained without the other, or by giving it apart? I am not now arguing for a secular education. But I say that there may be a danger that, if we force religion upon the working classes of this country, by making their acceptance of it a condition of their receiving the simple elements of secular knowledge, we may produce a revulsion of feeling similar to that which we witness in Germany. I acknowledge that to allow an un-Christian population to grow up amongst us would be an infinite calamity. But there is something still worse, and that is an anti-Christian population, disgusted and driven off in violent repulsion from Christianity by our injudicious attempts to force it upon them. The best way, in my judgment, to teach religion is, not by any mechanical appliances supplied by the State, but by the power of Christian faith and love. And I do not believe that, if religion were excluded from the school, the thousands of earnest clergymen of all denominations, who have devoted themselves with so much admirable energy and self-sacrifice to the education of the poor, would neglect the work of supplementing the school instruction by religious teaching and influence. I thank the House for the patience with which it has listened to me. I earnestly hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister will give us such assurances as to render it unnecessary for us to divide. No one on this side of the House has any wish or any interest in embarrassing the Government—but there are some principles we are bound to guard, I yield to no Gentleman in this House in my anxiety for the education of the people. It has been one of the hobbies of my life. According to the small measure of my ability and influence, I have been labouring for it for thirty-five years. But I cannot accept even education at the cost of imperilling the rights of conscience, and sacrificing that religious equality to which we stand pledged before the face of the country.
§ MR. BIRLEY
said, he intended to vote for the second reading of the Bill, and he hoped it would come out of Committee so amended that he would be able to vote for the third reading with equal satisfaction. He looked upon it as a fair, masterly, and comprehensive scheme, calculated to satisfy a great national want, 275 and to solve a question which had long and urgently demanded solution. He did not ignore the religious difficulty, raised by the other side, but he considered the irreligious difficulty to be much greater. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) was justified in claiming the rights of conscience as against denominational education for his fellow-countrymen, and he had mentioned some instances of interference with those rights which had no doubt met with condemnation from both sides of the House. But he (Mr. Birley) also claimed the rights of conscience for his fellow-countrymen, who objected to secular education for their children. In the same way when the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Herbert), speaking in the name of the working men, objected to sectarian schools; he (Mr. Birley) claimed an equal right to speak for them, based upon long experience of their ways; and he knew how willingly they sent their children to denominational schools, and how little demand there was from them for secular or undenominational schools. He firmly believed that the difficulties of the situation were overrated, and that if they all co-operated to carry this great measure through Parliament, and used their influence in their respective parishes to promote unity instead of strife they would find many of the apparent difficulties remarkably easy of solution, and the application of the measure would cause little disturbance. A Report had recently been issued as to the school accommodation and the quality of the education in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham. He did not impugn, the facts given by the Commissioner who prepared the Report; but he thought his inferences should, in many respects, have been very different, especially as to the quality of education. The only figures that could be relied on were those relating to estimates of population, and of the number of children up to a certain age on the rolls of the schools. It appeared that out of 66,000 children of from five to thirteen years of age in Manchester, 40,000 were on the school books, without reference to schools of middle classes, requiring payment of more than 1s. per week. The Commissioner's estimate was that at least 12,000 more should be at school. He calculated that each child who attended was at school for eight 276 years, but that was much above the average, and therefore it was unfair to suppose that the 12,000 had no education at all. As regarded the quality of education, the Commissioner classified about 1,750 "unfit" out of 40,000, as educated in schools; and, probably, there might be added to the number a great many which were only nominally fit, and gave no efficient education. But he had seen one of the schools described by the Commissioner as unfit. It was intended for girls from five to eight years of age of the class just above pauperism, and though the education in some branches was imperfect, the reading was very good, and the mistress was retained by the managers because she maintained excellent discipline and gave the children a moral training. The Commissioner commented on the small number of children who passed the 3rd standard; but it must be remembered that he referred to the ordinary examinations. What school would not show a low standard in an examination of all the scholars? A gentleman who knew something of the subject had told him that many Eton boys would not pass the 3rd standard in writing, and he believed that to be true. He supposed that if the religious difficulty was solved by getting rid of the religious element altogether, it was not intended to stop short at primary schools, but that such an excellent principle would be extended to our grammar schools, our public schools, and the Universities themselves. [Cheers.] He thought so. What would the late Dr. Arnold have said if he had been told that religion was to be compulsorily dissevered from education? He believed that those who had imbibed some of the high spirit and finer qualities of Dr. Arnold, felt, as did many schoolmasters in the humbler schools, that they could not satisfactorily educate young children unless they might train them to a sense of religion as well as ground them in the rudiments of education. Were they to bring the street Arabs into their schools, and not teach them the Ten Commandments, because they were to be found in the Church Catechism? Were they to proscribe all those lessons of morality which were to be learned from the Bible? He could perceive that the admission of the Scriptures into the schools was only assented to by hon. Members on the other side of the House as a concession to the weak- 277 ness of some of their party, or as a temporary expedient. He hoped that the Government, having regard not only to what was for the highest interests of the people, but to the dearest wish of the mass of the population of this country, would adhere substantially to their Bill as regarded the religious clauses.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, that he and those who intended to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) had been charged with want of frankness and candour. He wished to dear himself from such a charge. He unhesitatingly declared that after considering this Bill in all its aspects, and after hearing the vague and unsatisfactory statements from the Treasury Bench, he intended to give a cordial vote in favour of the Motion of his hon. Friend, whatever might be the effect of pressing that Motion to a division. He said this in no narrow sectarian spirit, nor as a member of the League, from whose programme he had on some points from the first dissented; but because he believed the Amendment embodied a just principle, and pointed out a grave and fundamental defect running through almost every clause of the Bill. With the exception of the provisions for securing adequate school accommodation, the Bill was based upon a fatal mistake—permissive legislation, The Vice President of the Council said Radicals ought to support him in handing over questions which should be decided in that House to local authorities. If that was Radicalism, the sooner they changed their name the better. At any rate, the Bill of the Government was Radical enough. There was reason to hope that a Government unprecedentedly strong would not have asked them to abrogate their functions as Members of Parliament, and would not have adopted the policy of permissive laws, which was generally the expedient of those who desired to shirk the responsibility of deciding great issues. Examples were not wanting of the results of permissive legislation. Had the House forgotten the fearful disclosures made some five years ago by the Children's Employment Commission? As hon. Members read those disclosures all the customary pæeans about the increase of our exports and imports appeared like a sad satire, for it was made manifest that 278 no inconsiderable portion of the increased trade of the country was built upon the wrecked bodies and ruined minds of tender children. It was seen how year by year tens of thousands of children had been slain, and hundreds of thousands ruined in body and mind by premature employment. Those disclosures made for a time a great impression on this House, and the Conservative Government, then in Office, dealt with the subject—and he thanked them for it—in a way which they deemed complete and comprehensive. The noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) introduced two measures—the Hours of Labour Regulation Bill and the Workshops Regulation Bill—from which great results were anticipated. Those measures were in some respects admirably conceived, and if the intentions of the Legislature had been carried a social revolution would have been brought about which would have saved hundreds of thousands of children from ruin and disaster. But in those measures there was the same fatal blot which disfigured this Education Bill. Local authorities were left to carry out their provisions, and, consequently, according to the admission made by the Government this Session, they turned out complete failures, and were useful only as as a warning against the fatal policy of permissive legislation. If hon. Members desired to ascertain what would be the effect of adopting a permissive policy in regard to education, he would ask them to consider what would have been the result if the permissive University Tests Abolition Bill had been passed last Session. Why, the almost unanimous opinion at Cambridge and Oxford now, both among Conservatives and Liberals, was that it would have been a great mistake—that it would have unsettled everything and settled nothing; and could a more happy result be expected if grave educational difficulties, which for years past have baffled the statesmanship of the House of Commons, were left to be settled by the nominees of Town Councils and country Vestries? In his opening speech the Vice President of the Council had admitted that there was no country where the state of education was satisfactory in which general compulsion did not exist; but he gave effect to his conviction by saying that compulsion might be exercised 279 where there happened to be school Boards, and where it might also happen that those school Boards wished to exercise the power vested in them. If the Members of the Government did not misrepresent the Liberal party, in the country, they must be in favour of undenominational education; and yet they proposed to send down permissive sectarianism to every town and every country parish. The Vice President of the Council had spoken very strongly in favour of the principle of direct compulsion, and his eloquent and vigorous remarks on that subject were only equalled by those he made against gratuitous education. Strangely enough, what the right hon. Gentleman liked and what he disliked were by the present Bill placed in very analogous positions. The right hon. Gentleman approved direct compulsion, but gave the local authorities the option of not exercising it; he disapproved gratuitous education, but gave the local authorities an opportunity of establishing free schools. It would not be difficult to show that this permissive compulsion would be nugatory, and that these permissive free schools would be pauper institutions. He had never been in favour of free education, believing that it would dangerously weaken parental authority, and in this respect he differed from many of his Friends; but a system of general gratuitous instruction would, at any rate, have the effect of bringing the children of the poor and of those who were not so poor into one common school, and would thus tend to bring classes more together. But he was at a loss to conceive what argument could be urged in favour of the proposed permissive free schools, in which no one would be found but pauper children. Looking at all the permissive clauses in the Bill, it might be fairly inferred that, instead of emanating from a powerful Liberal Government, it was brought forward by a Goverment which was compelled to beg indulgence from their opponents, and which was hoisting signals of distress for Tory support. The earnest friends of national education desired to see England become as well educated as Prussia and Saxony, and would not rest satisfied with simply bringing schools within the reach of every child in the kingdom. They would not be content until national education had been secured by guarantee- 280 ing elementary education to every child. Reverting to the Amendment of his hon. Friend, he believed that the House would be of opinion that there was nothing to which it would be so unfortunate to apply the principle of permissive legislation as the religious difficulty. The Vice President of the Council had assumed that he had solved that difficulty, but, in point of fact, the Bill merely ignored it, and handed it over to every town and country parish, where it would become a perennial source of religious strife and sectarian rancour, and would create discord where there ought to be a glorious union of effort for the education, of the nation. With regard to existing schools, the new principle was laid down that rates could be levied for aiding denominational schools. Now, it was no justification of this proposal to say that denominational schools were already assisted out of public funds raised out of the general taxation of the country; for sanctioning an old injustice was a very different thing from establishing a new one. No one, of course, would be unjust enough to argue in favour of doing away immediately, or at any time, with the existing schools, or of withholding from them the Privy Council grants. The faith of the country was to a certain degree pledged to continue those grants, but if we were about to start de novo, could it be supposed that any Government, and especially a Liberal Government, would be able to obtain the consent of the House to devoting any part of the taxation of the country for the purpose of promoting denominational education? That system had grown up at a time when many things were flourishing which would not now be tolerated—when church rates were upheld in that House by an overwhelming majority, and when the Irish Church had at least one eloquent and zealous defender among those who now occupied the Treasury Bench, and its disestablishment was looked upon as a dream of enthusiasts. Unfortunate, however, as were the provisions as to the existing schools, they were better than those relating to the new schools. The Vice President of the Council seemed to think that the rights of the minority might be protected by a Conscience Clause, but the opinion was rapidly gaining ground that such a clause must at best be a flimsy and worthless protection. Then it was impossible to 281 conceive a Conscience Clause more awkwardly devised than that provided by the Bill. It required that every rural labourer who wished to take advantage of the clause must make a request in writing to that effect. Now there was not on the face of the earth a more dependent creature than the agricultural labourer; he knew, from past experience, that it was probably a dangerous thing to do anything in opposition to the wishes of one who was superior in position to himself. He lived in a cottage from which he might be turned out at a week's notice, and in all probability did not possess a shilling to enable him to emigrate to another locality. The chances were ten to one that he could not write, and yet he was to be asked to send in a protest in writing against a form of religious instruction supported by his superiors. The whole traditions of country life led the labourer to believe that to go to church was a virtue and to stop away from it an offence. Many hon. Gentlemen were aware how coal and bread and money were given away to those who attended church. Again, there was no time fixed when the religious instruction should be given, and by giving it in the middle of school hours the school might be rendered almost worthless to parents who had conscientious objections against religious instruction. He would pass over the religious difficulty as rapidly as possible; but nothing less, he ventured to think, would satisfy the Liberal party than the absolute separation of religious from secular teaching. They knew, and the Government would know, that a stronger feeling was every day growing up in favour of the logical solution of the question—that the ministers of religion should chiefly give dogmatic teaching, and that the schoolmaster who was supported out of the public funds should confine his attention as far as possible to the inculcation of secular knowledge. Before he passed from that subject he wished to notice one great danger in the present Bill. The Conservative party, as the name implied, were bound to support the existing institutions of the country. Was there any institution, he would ask, which they were more bound to support than the national system of education in Ireland? Now, if the Bill under discussion were to pass in its present form, it would undoubtedly destroy what re- 282 mained of undenominationalism in the Irish national system. The principle of the Bill was to leave it to the local authorities to decide what the religious instruction given should be, and if that principle were adopted in England, could it with any consistency be refused to Ireland? If it were extended to Ireland, the religious teaching of the Irish people would, in too many instances, be placed in the hands of the Ultramontane priesthood. The Vice President of the Council had stated that the Irish system was not purely undenominational; but was not that the better reason to preserve what remained of the undenominational system? If it was denominational, how could they account for the repeated attacks made upon it in Ireland? Had the House forgotten the manifesto which had been issued by Cardinal Cullen last August? That right rev. Prelate, descending from his exalted position, and feeling that the national system of education was antagonistic to priestly influence, had made use of all the weapons of bitter invective against it. He compared the Model Schools to lions' dens, and declared that he would refuse the sacraments of their Church to parents who should persist in sending their children to those schools, asking how they could expect to receive the sacraments if they allowed their children thus to be offered up to Moloch. He actually went on to brand the Protestant children who attended the schools by a gross epithet, he called them "Swaddlers"—an offensive word which was, he believed, generally employed only by the lowest of the low. He was afraid the House would not find very resolute defenders of the Irish national system of education on the Treasury Bench. Had hon. Members forgotten what had occurred during the last few years? He, for one, should never forget the attempt which was made by granting a supplemental charter to the Queen's University to destroy united education in the Colleges of Ireland. That was done when the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was Leader of the House, and while the Chief Secretary for Ireland occupied the same position as at present. How had the proposal been met? It had been described as "a mischievous interference with the work of a great statesman." Those were the words of a great master of adjectives, 283 the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. Again, he would ask, had the House forgotten what occurred at the end of last Session, how the liberal proposal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) to establish united education within the walls of Trinity College, had been met from the Treasury Bench by the Chief Secretary for Ireland? It might be said that in making those remarks he was unfurling the flag of Protestant intolerance. But neither he nor those who acted with him had any such intention. They would do all in their power to remove all disabilities from their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, as well as from others, so that no man in the kingdom should, in consequence of his religious opinions, be placed under any social or educational disadvantage. They had striven and would continue to strive to admit Catholics to the full enjoyment of educational equality, though their efforts hitherto had been baffled. If last Session they had met with more encouragement from the Treasury Bench, a measure effecting this object—the University Tests Bill—would have been passed. This year, also, there was a hesitancy displayed by the Government which he could not explain, but the only result of which would be to postpone for another year a great act of justice to the people. But to pass from the religious difficulty, he must briefly allude to what seemed to him to be the most unsatisfactory and extraordinary provision in the Bill—he meant the clause relating to permissive compulsion. He could understand the arguments of those who opposed all direct compulsion; who maintained that the country was not yet prepared for it, and that it would impose too great a hardship on parents. In saying this they were in all probability not aware how strongly those who would be most affected by it were in favour of compulsion, and showed moreover that they did not keep their eyes open to what was passing around them, for, in towns like Manchester and Liverpool, as well as in smaller towns throughout the country, large meetings composed of the working classes had declared themselves to be in favour of compulsory education. But, be that as it might, he could not understand the middle position which the Government had taken up. On what logical 284 basis did it rest? If the Vice President of the Council was of opinion that we could not have a satisfactory system of education without compulsion, why not apply it to the whole country? Why not ask Parliament to express its feeling on the subject? Why allow that most important principle of State policy to be carried out by the nominees of Town Councils and country Vestries? Nobody could conceal from himself that to interfere between parent and child was an assumption of grave responsibility; nothing could justify it but the doctrine that if the child was permitted to grow up in ignorance an irreparable wrong was done to him against which he had no power to protect himself, and that being thus helpless he was entitled to look to the State as his natural protector. But if that doctrine were accepted for one place it ought to be accepted for the whole country. If the child in Manchester could claim State protection, had not the child in Liverpool or in a Yorkshire village an equal claim? What would be our feelings twenty years hence if we observed wide-spread ignorance, with its attendant pauperism and crime, existing because we left Town Councils and Vestries to carry out a work which ought to have been prescribed for them by Parliament? If it was necessary to discover a conclusive argument against the principle of permissive compulsion, the House would not have to look beyond the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council himself. Never was he more eloquent or forcible than when he was pointing out the anomaly of the present system, which enforced school attendance only upon children who were at work. Permissive compulsion would not destroy this anomaly; it would only aggravate it. Again, let them consider how this permissive compulsion bore upon the financial part of the Bill. The measure entailed upon the community the responsibility of providing an adequate and sufficient number of schools. But how was the calculation as to the sufficiency of the schools to be made, unless there was to be general and direct compulsion? Where compulsion existed there would be 30 or 40 per cent more children in attendance at the schools than there would be if there were no compulsion. When, therefore, the schools were built, and direct compulsion was 285 not brought into operation, there would probably be accommodation to the extent of 30 or 40 per cent more than was needed, so that the rates would be expended on that which was not required. But a still stronger financial argument could be urged against this permissive compulsion. No one could deny that in the present state of commercial depression the slightest increase in the rates was a serious thing, and no such increase ought to be sanctioned unless it was absolutely certain to insure a future diminution of rates. Now, if the ratepayers could be told—"The schools will educate neglected children who are now running by thousands to ruin in your streets, and the temporary increase in your rates will bring with it a reduction of crime and pauperism, and, ultimately, therefore, a reduction of rates," there would be no legitimate ground for opposing the school rate. But unless the attendance at school were made compulsory, there would be no security that schools would be attended by neglected children, or would not be used by those whose parents could well afford to pay for their education. Upon this question Parliament was bound to express a decided opinion. In providing schools Parliament was only dealing with one part of the educational difficulty. If there were ten times the present number of schools, we had no guarantee that the state of education would be satisfactory. There were towns and districts in which the existing schools were only half attended. In Leeds, for instance, there was accommodation for 20,000 children, whilst the average attendance was only 12,000. And he believed that the chief reason why so much ignorance prevailed in the country districts was not so much because of a deficiency of schools as because there was now no power to compel the attendance of children. The Mines Regulation Bill forbad the employment of children till they were twelve years old; but unless education was compulsory, nothing would be done to insure the instruction of these children. The truth was we could not legislate on the question satisfactorily in a piecemeal way, and it would be far better to defer legislation to another Session, when Parliament could pass an Elementary Education Bill for Scotland and Ireland as well as for England, and could also regulate the employment and education 286 of children in various branches of industry, and consolidate the Factories Acts, the Workshops Act, and the Printworks Regulation Bill. It had been said that the supporters of the Amendment were not behaving generously to the Vice President of the Council. But the old adage was—"Be just before you are generous!" While they respected the right hon. Gentleman as much as any man in the House, they were pursuing this course because they believed the Bill would not lead to a complete and satisfactory settlement of the question, and the right hon. Gentleman was manly enough to see that, entertaining this opinion, they would not be acting in accordance with their duty in pursuing a different course. One of the consequences of discussing matters like these in Committee instead of on the second reading was, that there was not time for the public out-of-doors to inform themselves of what was going on until it was too late for them to make any effective representations. They were asked to read this Bill a second time as a matter of form. Those who opposed it were told that they were adopting a pitiable course, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer compared them to a herd of cattle, which had been turned out to grass on a fine pasture, and which did nothing but fight over a bed of nettles. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would allow him to reciprocate the compliment and extend the comparison. Night after night they had seen Members of the Government enthusiastically cheered by hon. Members opposite, while at the same time they were alienating some of their warmest supporters; and they could not help thinking of another herd they had read about which was seized with an unwonted infatuation, and which rushed violently down a steep place into the sea and perished in the waters. The other day the hon. Member for North-Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), with the courage which distinguished him, objected to read a second time, as a matter of form, a Bill to the principle of which he strongly objected. It. seemed to him (Mr. Fawcett) that it was impossible for the Government to serve two masters on this subject; what pleased hon. Members opposite must displease their own supporters. Hon. Members opposite were in favour of permissive sectarianism, and many of them were 287 opposed to direct compulsion. The supporters of the Amendment were told—"Let us go into Committee, and you can alter, transform, and revolutionize the Bill as much as you like." But had a Bill no principle? If the Bill were fundamentally changed in Committee a tortuous course would have been pursued, and the support of the hon. Members opposite would have been secured by holding out to them false expectations. We—said the hon. Member—oppose this Bill, and they support it for like reasons; they support it because it embodies the principle of permissive sectarianism, and that is the reason why we oppose it; they support it because it does not embody the principle of general direct compulsion, and that is one of the reasons why we oppose it. If the Prime Minister will alter the Bill in the direction in which we desire, it is impossible for him any longer to obtain the enthusiastic cheers from the other side with which every speaker from the Treasury Bench has been received. Do not accuse us of wishing to pursue a policy of delay. We are as anxious as any people can be to see this question settled. We know the price of delay; and, heavy as may be the price of a year's delay, it is far better to pay that price than to have the question dealt with on an incomplete and unsatisfactory basis. In conclusion, he expressed a hope that the Government would have the courage to show that they were worthy of their reputation, and would not, on the greatest of all questions, adopt a policy of permissive legislation.
§ MR. COWPER-TEMPLE
said, the Amendment implied that religious instruction was a matter that ought not to be left to the discretion of local Boards. That meant either that local Boards were not fit to exercise such discretion, or that the matter was one in which it ought not to be left to the majority to overrule a minority, or that religious instruction was so unimportant that it was not worth consideration. He was not prepared to overrate the fitness of local Boards; but it must be remembered that it was proposed to assign to them the important duties of endeavouring to provide good schools and of securing a good attendance at them, objects which were not attained by the managers of existing schools. If the local Boards would discharge these duties, surely they could 288 ascertain the wishes of localities as to the character of the religious instruction to be given; for, on this matter, they wished to enable each district to get that which it wanted. One district would want a Church of England School, another would want one conducted on the plan of the British and Foreign School Society, a third a merely secular school. This choice was the affair of the parents who sent their children to school, and of the ratepayers who found the money. As it was impossible that the religious instruction given in a school could be equally satisfactory to all persons, we were landed by the logic of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt), into the adoption of a secular system; but if the House were to agree to a secular system and were to impose it upon the parishes in the country in which schools are now established, they would excite feelings of indignation, and would be told that this was a specimen of that democratic despotism which was coming into fashion. Holding to the doctrine of democratic freedom, he believed that if ever there was a matter on which the inhabitants of a district might be left to decide for themselves it was that of the character of the teaching which should be given in their schools. As to tyrant majorities he knew many Nonconformists, and did not think they were the sort of people who would consent to be trampled upon. He was quite sure that they would obtain that influence to which their earnestness and energy entitled them. It must be remembered that the principle of the church rate law was contrary to the principle of this Bill, for a vestry was never told it might choose the religious teaching it paid for; if it had been at liberty to do so there might have been no anti-church rate agitation. The supporters of the Amendment said they did not object to religious teaching except in the school; but where was such teaching to be obtained by children who were to be compelled to go to school? They could not be compelled to attend a Sunday school. Besides, one of the chief duties of a teacher was to instil good motives, to form a child's character, and to treat it as a responsible being. They ought not to allow their arrangements to be made so as to shut out religious teaching from the great work of education. The national systems of education 289 in Prussia, Holland, and Scotland had owed their origin to religious feeling. He thought that the Conscience Clause, or whatever arrangement was made for the protection of the rights of conscience, ought to be easily available to all; and an improvement might be made in the Bill by inserting a provision requiring the distinctive religious instruction to be given at the beginning or end of the lessons, so that the parents would thereby have every opportunity to withdraw their children from the religious instruction if they thought proper. The limitations to be put on the local Boards should not only be negative, but also positive. The State in this matter of education ought to be unsectarian, but it must be Christian. It had been ruled by high authority that Christianity was part and parcel of the law of the land; and before a witness could give evidence he must take an oath; and when a child was put into the witness-box it was the duty of the Judge to ascertain whether that child had been taught religious truth so as to be aware of the sin of telling a falsehood. The State ought to take care that in the non-denominational schools established under the Bill some religious instruction be given. The Bible should be read and explained, and the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer should be taught. To allow the Bible to be read without explanation would be unfair and cruel to the children.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he desired to refer to some statements made in the course of the debate, and to state the position in which he and some hon. Members near him felt themselves. He would, first of all, allude to what fell from the hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley), who stated that in Birmingham, the headquarters of the education movement, the existing machinery was not fully utilized, and that a great Industrial School was partly empty. The fact was, as he had been informed, that that school was a strictly denominational one—a Church school. It was largely in debt, and some Dissenters who had been placed on the Board of the school last year resigned because they could get no change of one of the rules requiring the master, matron, and all the officials of the school to be members of the Church of England. It had been stated by the 290 hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) that in a certain large school containing 1,500 children, only four availed themselves of the Conscience Clause. That statement was loudly cheered by hon. Gentlemen opposite; but the fact was, that the school was strictly an unsectarian school. The Vice President of the Council had also said that certain eminent Nonconformists in Birmingham had no difficulty on the religious point, and did not shrink from sending their sons to a Church school—namely, King Edward's School. That school, however though by foundation a Church school, was, practically, an undenominational school. He wished to remark, too, that men might be tempted to send their children to any school if they could obtain for them there the advantage of an excellent education free; and he knew at his own College in Cambridge that a man who was a Roman Catholic officiated as chapel clerk and read the responses in the Church service, because by so doing he obtained a free education of the highest order. The hon. Member for Sheffield had spoken of the love of the Bible as being implanted in the minds and hearts of Englishmen, and as being the foundation of our poetry and philosophy. If that meant anything it meant that it should be read in all schools as it was in Prussia. It was said that as morality was based on religion, therefore religion must be taught in the schools. But, what religion was it based upon? Was one religion to be picked out and made supreme, or were all religions to be taught? The strongest argument against the Amendment was that urged by the hon. Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), who said that the opinion of the country was pronounced in favour of denominationalism, because all the schools were denominational; and the supporters of the Amendment were afraid to leave the religious difficulty to the localities. But the fact was that at the present time the law put its ban on the secular schools. He should not be afraid to leave the question to local decision in towns; but he would not do so in country districts where Nonconformists were in a minority. Recently in a village on the borders of Surrey and Sussex, he saw a notice in the window of the shop kept by the parish clerk. That notice, which was signed by the in- 291 cumbent of the parish, stated—"Those parents who object to religious instruction being excluded from the parish school will please sign the Petition in the shop." A similar Petition was taken round to parents, and he maintained that those who signed it were not free agents. Coming to the consideration of the Amendment, he protested against the struggle which the Bill would cause in every parish. The Vice President himself admitted that a struggle would occur, and if it were the election of a teacher which provoked one, what would become of the Conscience Clause? As to teaching the Bible in schools, he thought that if the right hon. Gentleman had his way it would happen that the majority of the people would have the power to exclude the Bible from schools. He concurred in the protest which had been made against the permissive character of the Bill. Those who supported the Amendment had been asked by the great bulk of their supporters not to disregard the secular system, and not to allow the Bill to be read a second time without entering their protest against the principle which it contained. He could not omit to mention that the present Bishop of Manchester, in his Report on the condition of the Schools of the United States, had expressed an opinion highly favourable to the secular system, and said that he should despair neither of Christianity nor of morality under a system in which religious truth would not be compromised, trimmed, or pared down, but left to be dealt with by every religious teacher on his own principles and at his own time. Had the measure proposed to secure the education of every child by direct compulsion those who supported the Amendment would have paused before they voted against it; but as it was only a tentative measure they felt bound not to give way. They did not ask for a mere permissive compulsion, but they required a direct compulsion of attendance at school, and on that point they could not compromise their principles. He would appeal to the Vice President of the Council, or to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, not to deal in generalities, but to give them some direct assurance that they would not persist in this measure as it stood, as it was his wish not to be obliged to vote against the second read- 292 ing of the Bill. They all wished for a plain answer, which the whole of the country would understand, and he trusted that that would be given by the Government tonight.
Sir, it will not, I hope, be necessary for me to detain the House long at this late hour of the evening, but I must begin by making admissions to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon). I freely grant that the Motion he has made has had the effect of producing a most animated and interesting debate, and, I think, of pretty nearly exhausting all that is to be said on that very important part, as I do not at all deny it to be, of this question, which goes popularly by the name of "the religious difficulty." Nor, although the scope of the Amendment naturally tended to narrow the discussion, is he chargeable with having prevented our hearing some most interesting and valuable arguments on the general subject of the Bill, among which I cannot fail to name as pre-eminent the admirable speech delivered tonight by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield. (Mr. Mundella). Making these admissions to my hon. Friend, I must also say, that if, unhappily, he should be disposed to carry his Motion to a division, I should not look with any immediate apprehension to the result. But, Sir, I hope that, from other motives far higher than the mere fear of standing in a small minority, he will not find it necessary to take that step, or to exhibit to the country without need a division among persons sitting in this Assembly the general tendency of whose minds presents at present so much of absolute concurrence and so much more of a desire to concur. My hon. Friend, I think, will find that there are ample reasons why he should pursue that course; but there is one prominent difficulty placed in our way which has been made to take the shape of a charge against Her Majesty's Government, and upon which I must venture to say a few words. Prejudice has been attempted to be excited against this Bill, because it has found considerable favour with Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side of the House, and the disposition to raise that prejudice reached its climax in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), when, rising to the sublimest heights of dogma, he laid down the principle— 293 "Whatever pleases you must displease us." Now, Sir, I must say that, putting quite out of the view the fact that the support we are receiving, if we are, as I hope we are, receiving support from any Gentlemen opposite, is not a party support, it is undoubted and certain that a large number of those who sit on the opposite side of the House are evidently favourable to the main provisions of the Bill. I should hope it will be taken as no sign of disloyalty to the party whose confidence it is my first desire to enjoy, if I say that we push matters to an extreme not in conformity with the principles of a free country if we advance to anything near the position occupied by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton. It is really like reviving the dictum—the happily-forgotten dictum—of Mr. Fox. When Mr. Pitt proposed to make a commercial treaty with France, Mr. Fox unfortunately said it was monstrous to propose a commercial treaty with that country, because the French ought to be regarded as our natural enemies. Sir, we surely do not think it necessary in order to be orthodox, in the old sense—and I know my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton is one of those who sets the highest value on orthodoxy—that we should regard hon. Gentlemen opposite as our natural enemies. We need not adopt that terrible sentiment of the Carthaginian Queen——nullus amor populis, nec fœedera sunto,Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor,Qui face Dardanios ferroque sequare colonos.Nunc, olim, quocunque dabunt se tempore vires,Litora litoribus contraria, fluctibus undasImprecor, arma armis; pugnent ipsique nepotes.We are here, no doubt, for the purpose of arguing manfully and stoutly our own particular principles; but if, without compromising those principles, we find occasions arise when, whatever the circumstances, we are in harmony with Gentlemen who sit on the opposite side of the House, and there is an approximation to oneness of mind, that I think is no subject for regret, but a matter for satisfaction. And, Sir, what is the kind of support—the conscientious and reasonable support—that my right hon. Friend near me—whose character I had hoped, and I do hope and believe, will be no small security against the imputation of any unworthy trafficking with anyone—what is the kind of support undisguisedly and freely given him 294 by hon. Gentlemen opposite? Do they, as one or two hon. Gentlemen seem to think, rush with open arms to seize this Bill, and declare that in it they have the fulfilment of all their cherished opinions and fondest anticipations? On the contrary, acting like men—I speak of those whom I have heard—acting like men of prudence and sense, they have said that this is a grave and practical issue; that the weightiest national interests are involved in it; and that it is their duty to sacrifice much—and much they are prepared to sacrifice of that which they cherish for the sake, if possible, of arriving at a direct concurrence on this question. It would be a most unworthy return for sentiments of this kind if, from any idle prejudice or fear of appearances presented to the country, we were to pass by one of those golden opportunities—rare enough, Heaven knows, in the exigencies of political life—and from idle and cowardly apprehensions like those, we were to lose the power which may be, and seems to be, in our hands of conferring a great blessing on the country. Now, Sir, with regard to the Amendment. I would appeal to my hon. Friend, and I would beg him to withdraw it on other grounds, because I cannot help saying, setting a great value as I do on the established modes and rules of procedure in this House, that I am quite sure he will find that to push an Amendment of this kind to a division on the second reading, accompanying that proposition, as he does quite sincerely, with strong expressions of the value which in the main he sets on the Bill, would really be a proceeding wholly and absolutely without precedent. There are plenty of precedents, no doubt, for Motions offered upon the second reading of a Bill as substitutes for that second reading. Sometimes they are substantive plans, positively proposed and offered to be set in place of the Bill of which the second reading is asked. That is a perfectly allowable mode of opposition. Sometimes they are Motions of a more entangling character, avowedly intended to create difficulties in the way of the Bill, and to impede its progress. But almost uniformly down to the present day, the acceptance of those Motions has been that they are hostile Motions, and never made in conjunction with a friendship for the general substance of the measure to which they relate. I 295 hope my hon. Friend, among other things, will not allow it to be said of him that he set the first example of a method of proceeding which if pursued generally in this House by persons who attach a great value to the measure proposed, but who set a still greater value on some sentiment they happen to entertain with regard to a particular and comparatively narrow portion of that measure, would lead to great inconvenience. I was surprised to hear it from the mouth of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) that he was prepared to hold by this Amendment now moved as a declaration of principle. Certainly, the description he gave of it made it a declaration of principle. His description of it was two-fold. He said it contained these two declarations—first, that the question of religious instruction is to be dealt with by Parliament; and, secondly, that it is to be dealt with on the principle of religious equality. Having heard that description from the mouth of my hon. and learned Friend, I put on my spectacles—as is commonly said—and read the Amendment to see if I could discover anything of the kind, or any word which I had not seen before; but on the most rigid scrutiny that I could apply I found that the second and vital portion of his description was wholly wanting. There is no enunciation of principle whatever in the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend, except that one which is simple negative—that the religious instruction shall not be decided by the local authorities. Do not let it be supposed, if there is to be a division—which I hope there will not be—that there is an assertion of religious liberty or religious equality in the terms of that Amendment which is refused by those who will vote against the Amendment and for the second reading of the Bill. I will venture to say, for the sake of argument—do not let it be supposed that I impute anything to my hon. Friend or to any of those who think with him—that a person might, with perfect consistency, support the Amendment and hold by it who thought that religious instruction ought to be provided by Parliament, and that such religious instruction ought to consist uniformly of the Catechism of the Church of England without a Conscience Clause. There is not the slightest indication in the 296 terms of the Amendment of a declaration such as that referred to by my hon. and learned Friend. Well, Sir, much blame has been bestowed on the Bill and on my right hon. Friend near me for having produced a measure which is tainted with the fatal blot of what is called permissive legislation. He is charged with having offered some criticism on the question of permissive legislation, in connection with what was called the Permissive Liquor Bill of last year, and with having then laid down the principle that it was the business of this House to make laws for the country, and not to leave local majorities to make laws to oppress the minorities. But look at the difference. In the Permissive Liquor Bill there was no Conscience Clause, and those who might happen to differ from the temperate majority would have had not only to learn the whole catechism of temperance, but also to put it in rigid practice. But in adopting the principle of permissive legislation with regard to this Bill, I lay down this proposition—we have no disposition to extend the application of the principle beyond what, on fair and reasonable discussion in Committee, should seem to be required by the circumstances of the case. But there is nothing unreasonable in the assertion of that principle, although there is something eminently unreasonable in the assertion of it on this occasion. And why? Because you choose to found, and I think wisely, your educational legislation in part upon the basis of local rating, and if you found it upon that, it is absolutely impossible to exclude altogether from your Bill some portion of discretion, which must be left to those who are to levy the rate. It is, after all, no very far-fetched or unnatural suggestion, that when provision is made by rates for the education of children, the parents who are ratepayers of parishes in which the rates are paid should have some such voice as we propose to give them in this matter. Sir, having spoken as I have done of the disposition evinced by hon. Gentlemen to accept the principle of rating, the principle of local Boards, and the principle of the Conscience Clause in any form—for I do believe that they are ready for any form of it which may be requisite for the purpose of securing its full effect—I cannot pass from the consideration of the speeches made in support of this Amend- 297 ment, without tendering my thanks to those who have made them, not only for the great ability by which many of them were characterized, but for the extremely kind terms which the speakers were pleased to use respecting the Administration, and the disposition they have shown to give us credit for those motives of public spirit, which, I venture to assure the House, are the governing springs of our conduct in this matter. Now, for my own part, the objection that weighs most on my mind to the Amendment of my hon. Friend is this—The discussion of this Amendment, the fastening of our minds on this Amendment, and the perpetual passage of arms on the subject of the religious difficulty, tends—as was powerfully argued by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—to keep out of sight the great—I might almost say the enormous—provisions which are contained in this Bill with reference to the subject of education. Let us detach our minds for one moment from the religious difficulty, and let us ask ourselves whether any epithets except the largest and strongest are sufficient to describe the scope and purpose of a measure which contemplates universal education in a country which, even according to our present statistics, already presents a very large—I will not say an unmeasurable—void, along with the latent and too sure conviction that those statistics, although far from being dishonest, yet for practical purposes to a great extent are untrustworthy—and, in truth, we cannot fairly describe the popular education of this country by anything weaker than this, that down to the present moment—quantity and quality taken together—it remains miserably deficient. Well, the Government have endeavoured to construct a machinery, in entire good faith, that shall be equal to the gigantic task—as I may venture to call it—of bringing, within the course, perhaps, of two or three years, or a period extremely short, the means of popular education up to such a point as that they shall be able to grapple effectually with the entire necessities of the country. We have heard much of an undue disposition to favour the national Church, so called, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) says, even in Wales, where undoubtedly its claim to that title might perhaps by fastidious critics be rather seriously contested. But 298 it is worth observing, and worth observing in honour and credit to hon. Gentlemen opposite, much more than to my right hon. Friend and the Government, that we have now arrived at a point when it is rather hard to make a charge of an intentional or a general violation of the principles of religious equality against a measure which, attempting to legislate for education all over the country, and for education in a spirit of studied respect for religion, notwithstanding does not contain from one end of it to the other one single word which takes special notice anywhere of the Established Church of the country, or grants to that Church in any form any privilege whatever, except those that are conceded to every other body, great and small, of professors of religion, be it what it may. Well, Sir, there is another principle, and undoubtedly one of the gravest character, which I can even now hardly hope—though I do hope after all that we have seen—is accepted on the other side of the House—I mean the principle that compulsion must be applied in some effective manner to the promotion of education. I freely and frankly own that it was not without an effort that I myself accepted it. I deeply regret the necessity. I think it is a scandal and a shame to the country that in the midst of our, as we think, advanced civilization, and undoubtedly of our enormous wealth, we should at this time of day be obliged to entertain this principle of compulsion. Nevertheless, we have arrived deliberately at the conclusion that it must be entertained, and I do not hesitate to say that, being entertained, it ought to be entertained with every consideration, with the desire of avoiding haste and precipitancy, but in a manner that shall render it effectual; and the mode in which it shall be made effectual for its objects is undoubtedly one of those questions which it is not possible for us to consider satisfactorily except in Committee on the Bill. Then, again, there is that other principle—is education to be gratuitous? That, again, is a matter of vast importance. Even if that were the only provision in the Bill—if the group of provisions connected with that subject constituted the entire Bill—it still would deserve to be described as a Bill of immense importance. But with regard to the mode in which that question has been dealt with, 299 although it has been most carefully considered—and I frankly own I am not, at the present moment, aware of how it is susceptible of any material improvement—yet here again we have a matter open to consideration, and which can only be satisfactorily considered by being watched in that careful, and I might almost say, microscopic manner which the House adopts when it has a great measure of legislation to scrutinize, and I may say, ransack, in a Committee of the Whole House. In speaking thus of the flexibility and elasticity of the provisions of a Bill such as we have introduced, I must entirely decline to adopt the description which was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, as if it had been a quotation from the speeches of the Members of the Government—because, as I think, it is one that is quite inaccurate and not warranted by the contents of those speeches. My hon. Friend said—I know not whether he was speaking with a view to hon. Gentlemen opposite—and I may observe that if it is very wrong to accept the votes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, it cannot be very right to speak with a view to their cheers—he said—"You are told from the Treasury Bench 'Go into Committee and you may alter, you may transform, you may revolutionize, you may do what you please with the Bill.'" But who ever heard from my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Vice President of the Council any such words? What I venture to say is this, that while, in my opinion, the provisions of such a Bill must necessarily be subject in detail to the most careful examination and to manipulation following on that scrutiny, its principles are perfectly fixed—the bases of the Bill are perfectly fixed, and, in my opinion, they are bases entirely beyond question, I may almost say by any party in the House. This Bill will, I hope, do nothing in disparagement of religion; but whatever be the particular provision adopted, it will be adopted in the bonâ fide hope and intention that it may be conducive to the most effectual propagation of religion by means whether more or less direct. We all, I think, entertain a strong conviction that it is desirable to keep the Government of the country free from the animosities that are engendered by religious disputes and controversy; and, on the other 300 hand, I apprehend we are all firmly united in the determination to do everything that may be required, even by a scrupulous delicacy, for the purpose of affording effectual protection to conscience. When we deviate from those principles, if we deviate in the Bill, let us be brought back to them, and let us take them as our guide and light in the whole discussion on the details. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, and various Gentlemen who have spoken tonight in the sense of the Amendment, have desired to know—and I do not find, fault with them for it—whether, in our opinion, there can be any modifications of the Bill at all which, after this discussion, would appear to be in our minds desirable or necessary. As far as I can understand the Motion made by my hon. Friend, it has been made not so much in support of any view to the establishment of an extreme theory as with a view to the attainment of that object to which I have referred, and which we all admit to be essential—namely, the establishment of entire freedom of conscience under the provisions of this Bill. I can only say that there are suggestions which have been made during this debate which I own I think well deserving the favourable consideration of the House when we get into Committee. Do not let it be thought, when I refer to the Committee, that I make an unreasonable demand. I quite grant that, when two parties are pitted against each other in obstinate encounter to contest point by point the provisions of a measure, it is often idle for those who think, or apprehend they may be in a minority, to look to the Committee with hope either of re-construction or serious alteration of a Bill. But when, on the other hand, there is on the part of the House a general desire that the great purposes of legislation shall be attained, and along with this a knowledge that the subject-matter is necessarily difficult and complicated, and that the parts of it may be considered each in relation to the rest, then I venture to say it ought not only not to be regarded with suspicion, but is the only reasonable and practical way of going to work to contend in perfect good faith, and in reliance on the good faith of one another, for the purpose of settling a measure of adjustment by which the most satisfactory results may be attained. I think I 301 have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil refer to the condition of the people of Wales; and in some places there are apprehensions that the modes of election of the local Boards are not such as will give due scope to the action of popular, which, in this case, for the most part, would be parental feeling. But I will only say that the modes of election are matters most proper for the House to entertain, with a view that in a case like this the principle of property shall not too much dominate over the principle of personal representation, which has so direct a bearing on the subject of education. Well, then again, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield was in this matter, I was glad to find, in entire accord with the hon. Member for Brighton, and, as would appear from their cheers, with hon. Gentlemen opposite—my hon. Friend laid down the doctrine that, in order to adjust aright the religious part of the Bill, we ought to give up the machinery of the Conscience Clause, historically so called, and to substitute for it a complete separation in time, and in time alone, of the religious from what is called the secular instruction. Now, in drawing up the Conscience Clause I think my right hon. Friend near me and the Government proceeded with all possible care; but I cannot but admit that it appears to me, for many reasons, that great advantage will attend the adoption of such a change in the Bill, and substituting a clear and definite line, which will be intelligible to everybody, and practical and available for everybody, without putting them under the necessity of taking any step which may be difficult or invidious; for, looking back for the last thirty years, we cannot say that in our experience the Conscience Clause has been perfectly effectual, however well intended for the purpose. With regard to the minority, I will not at present assume what the ultimate decision of the House may be as to the precise degree of that permissive discretion to be accorded to local bodies in the matter of religious instruction. I think it cannot be altogether abrogated. But this I may venture to say, I cannot see any unreasonableness whatever in providing by the Bill, in the interests of the minority, that in cases in which religious instruction shall be given by the schoolmaster to those who represent the majority, we shall do 302 this justice to the rights of the minority—that it shall be made compulsory on the local authorities to grant the use of the school buildings to the representatives of the other opinions, so that they may not be without the means of securing that instruction which the others may receive. I hope it will be understood that this arrangement is not reduced to the precise and absolute form which will be necessary in Committee; but it is given in good faith as to the spirit with which the Government desire to approach, this Bill. We do not anticipate any serious effort to transform the Bill. If such effort were made, we should not be parties to it. But we freely admit that some alterations may be made, and that, from the nature of the case, much must be left to discretion upon a careful scrutiny in the course of our discussion, which I hope my hon. Friend will allow us to proceed with. I have endeavoured to indicate that which I hope may give some satisfaction to my hon. Friend. I have done this at the greater length for the purpose of showing that no advantage is to be taken of him by any majority that may vote against his Amendment for the purpose of shutting him up to the precise acceptance of the Bill as it stands when it gets into Committee. And I have only to say further that I feel it due to my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council on Education to state my conviction that in thus speaking I give expression to his sentiments as fully as those of any other Member of the Government. I own I was not able to understand the adverse criticisms which were bestowed on one portion of his able speech. It did not appear to me that his declarations were in any way open to those criticisms; but, be that as it may, I can venture to say that the sentiments I have expressed are his sentiments. We look for a general adoption of the principles of the Bill, founding our expectation on the favourable indications already given by the House. Of course it will be our duty, where there are so many provisions relating to a subject of such a novel and complicated character, to do our best with a view to such an adjustment of them in detail as may best conduce to the attainment of the general result we all have in view, and thereby to render effectual one of the greatest benefits and blessings that, perhaps, the Legislature 303 has ever had the opportunity of bestowing upon the country.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I am not going, Sir, to detain the House more than a moment; but as the right hon. Gentleman has hinted that there may be some alterations, especially as to the Conscience Clause, I can only say that I understand that the consideration of these matters will be entirely open to us. I say this, because I do not fully understand what he meant with respect to the time question. Is it that there is to be an entire re-adjustment of it—that it is proposed to give up the buildings to others to teach religious doctrines? However, I wish it to be understood that in supporting the Bill as it stands we do not at all pledge ourselves to the new version.
§ MR. DIXON
Sir, as I understand the observations of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government they are to be taken as an indication that the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) will be received with favour by the Government in Committee. I do not know if his expressions went so far as to authorize the expectation that the religious clause of the Bill would be remodelled in that sense before we enter Committee. I hope that that may be the case; but after the expressions of the right hon. Gentleman, and with the idea that there is a favourable disposition on the part of the Government to consider the views of those who have been co-operating with me in this matter, I feel it to be my duty to withdraw the Amendment. I do not think it will be supposed that in proposing it I have been doing anything that can be considered hostile to the Government; and I desire to add that, in my opinion, the result of the debate has fully vindicated me in the course I have taken.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday 1st April.