HC Deb 27 February 1871 vol 204 cc946-89

Order for Second Reading read.


said, it was essential that time should be allowed the people of Scotland for the proper consideration of the provisions of this measure. On the first day of the meeting of Parliament his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate in the discharge of his duty gave Notice that he would, on the following Monday, move for leave to introduce this Bill. This prompt action was to have been expected, because the measure was one that had been anticipated for a considerable time, and had been mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech. On the following Monday the House had the satisfaction of hearing from the Lord Advocate an explanation of the general provisions of the Bill. It appeared from that statement that the measure about to be introduced was one of very great importance, affecting the interests of individuals, of Churches and denominations, of education and religion, and, therefore, he ventured to think that even had it not contained two provisions which had not been included in any previous Bill, a considerable interval should have been allowed before the second reading was moved. But in the statement with which his right hon. and learned Friend introduced the Bill he intimated that it would contain several provisions which were not only new, but quite inconsistent with the recommendations of the Commission which had reported on the subject, and also inconsistent with the opinions of Her Majesty's Government, and with the measure which had been proposed by them in 1869. It was, therefore, the duty of his right hon. and learned Friend, when asking leave to introduce the Bill, to fix such a day for the second reading as would admit of the Bill receiving due consideration. His right hon. and learned Friend, however, proposed that the second reading should be taken on the Monday fortnight. If the Bill had been printed in due time that interval might have been sufficient for a consideration of its provisions. But what was the actual state of affairs? They waited during the whole of the first week for the delivery of copies of the Bill. During that week he saw many hon. Gentlemen, Members of the House and others, interested in the subject, visiting the Bill Office like pilgrims to some popular shrine; but the answer to all their inquiries was that the Bill was being subjected to revision. But surely with the advantages which the Government had at command, and as their Bills were printed by the Queen's Printer, they ought to be in the hands of Members immediately, or, at all events, shortly after their introduction. But the first week elapsed and there was no Bill. Then, on the Monday following, a few copies reached some fortunate individuals who had been ardently hunting them; but it was not until Tuesday that the Bill was issued; the result being that, instead of 14, or at least 10 days for the consideration of a measure of such importance, they had not more than five. Moreover, it was necessary that they should get the views of their constituents on so important a subject; but with the very insufficient postal facilities in Scotland it was impossible that that could be done in so short a time. Now he asserted that five days was a very insufficient time for the consideration of such a Bill. The cause of delay he did not know. There might, perhaps, have been some material change in the provisions of the Bill; but these ought to have been settled before its introduction; or there might have been some contest with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the amount to be bestowed on the Scotch people for the promotion of their education; for his right hon. and learned Friend on bringing in the Bill gave the House a glowing description of the benefits to be bestowed upon Scotland by the measure: he stated, according to some reports, that "seven" times, and according to other reports that "several" times, as much would be expended on education in Scotland as was now the case; but on examining the Bill he found that no addition whatever was made to the contribution of the Government in support of the Scotch schools. Certainly Scotch Members could not expect that more would be granted to them than the 50 per cent granted to English schools; but then it should be noted that, while the Bill professed to give a grant of 50 per cent, there were such numerous deductions that the addition to an ordinary school would appear to be more like 15 per cent than 50. Now, as he had said, he much regretted that there had not been time to receive information from their constituents. No doubt many hon. Members might reply that they were complete masters of the subject; but he ventured to affirm that it was the duty of the Scotch Members—especially when a Bill containing new propositions was brought before the House—to wait for information as to the reception it would meet with in Scotland. What that reception would be it was difficult to say; but he had observed that there was a studied reserve in the expression of an opinion on the part of the newspapers in Scotland, particularly those connected with Members on the other side. There was an exception, however;—there was one newspaper which had spoken out, and that was one materially connected with the county which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary represented (Renfrewshire). That paper used some exceedingly strong expressions as to the manner in which the promoters of this Bill had proceeded—they said that their examination of the Bill had served to confirm their original impression both as to its merits and demerits, and especially as to the sweeping nature of the change it proposed: that the entire Scotch principle of education had been altered, and there remained a spick-and-span new system carefully divested of every national peculiarity. The question, however, was—What is the Bill we now have to consider. It contained many provisions which he (Mr. Gordon) highly approved. It provided for the establishment of a system of education in burghs where a great deficiency existed at present. It also provided for the establishment of evening schools and industrial schools; and that, too, he approved. He felt great difficulty, therefore, in taking any course which would have the appearance of a Motion for the rejection of the Bill on the ground of principle. At the same time, as the Bill contained some provisions which were novel as regarded Scotland, and opposed to the conduct of Government on former occasions, he thought it a question worthy the consideration of the House whether there should not be some delay with regard to the second reading. He held it to be of the greatest importance that there should be a discussion on the second reading of any such Bill as this, because, if the discussion was delayed until the House went into Committee, it would be quite impossible to get together a sufficient number of Members interested in its details, and it was only by ventilating questions which arose on the face of the Bill, that a fair attendance of Members, and consequently a fair consideration of Amendments, could be afterwards secured. He, therefore, respectfully submitted to the Government whether it would not be better that the debate upon this question should be adjourned. He saw, indeed, that at a meeting of the Edinburgh Free Presbytery this was expected. Moreover, the Free Church and Established Commissions of the General Assembly were to meet on Wednesday next, and it was of the utmost importance that the question with which the Bill dealt should be discussed by those Commissions. Nor did he see any reason why the Government should not be able to fix the measure for some future day. The Home Secretary told his constituents in Scotland that this would be a Scotch Session, and, therefore, he did not see why he should be unable to appropriate a day somewhat later for the consideration of this great Scotch measure. To show how important it was that further time should be granted, he would make a few remarks on those provisions of the Bill which were new. The House would remember that a Commission was issued in 1864 for the purpose of inquiring into the subject of Scotch education. It was composed of men of all political parties. It included, among others, a former Speaker of the House of Commons (Lord Dunfermline), the Duke of Argyll, Lord Polwarth, and other distinguished men, who fairly represented the educational and religious interests of Scotland. They recommended in their Report, which appeared in 1867, that a Central Board of Management for the superintendence of the schools in Scotland should be established, and that that Board should hold its meetings in that country. They also recommended that the parochial schools should be left untouched; and they reported that in Scotland what was known as the religious difficulty had no existence. They added, with reference to the state of education in the country districts apart from Glasgow, and some of the large towns, where there was great educational destitution, that there were 1 in 6.25 children attending schools—a larger percentage than in the case of Prussia. Now, Scotchmen were rather inclined to pride themselves on the state of education in their country; but they were scarcely prepared to find that the proportion of children attending school was even greater than in Prussia. As to the deficiency of education, the Commissioners reported that there were about 200 schools required. But when that recommendation came to be examined it would be found that they had set down every instance in which a clergyman had thought proper to say that an additional school was wanted, although on the face of the Report it was evident that so small was the number of the inhabitants in some of these districts that it was impossible that schools should be placed there solely for their benefit. The question which he wished, in the first place, to consider was that which it was proposed to do with respect to the superintendence of education in Scotland. On looking at Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill he found they contained provisions for the establishment of what was called a Scotch Education Department, which was to have all the rights and privileges conferred on the English Education Department, in addition to others conferred by the present measure. Then it was provided that the Scotch Education Department should be at liberty to employ the officers who might be from time to time employed by the Education Department in England. In other words, the permanent officials of the Scotch Education Department would be the same as those now attached to the English Board. Now, that provision would, he felt satisfied, be very unpopular in Scotland. He was confident that among Scotchmen there was but one opinion as to their ability to manage their own educational affairs, and that they did not wish to be mixed up in any way with the Privy Council. It was, moreover, provided that Scotland might be invaded occasionally by sending officers down there for the purpose of obtaining information on educational matters; but that, too, was a proposal which, he ventured to say, would be very distasteful to the people of that country. Now, those provisions with regard to the Board for superintending the schools in Scotland were entirely in opposition to the Report of the Commissioners, who were unanimous in recommending that there should be an Educational Board established in Scotland; although they differed, and he thought very properly, as to what should be the constitution of that Board. It had been, for instance, proposed to place on the Board the Provosts of three or four of the towns, notwithstanding the general feeling that they would not, on the whole, be suitable representatives; for the reason, among others, apart from any question of personal fitness, that their time was already fully occupied with their own municipal affairs. But that there should be an Education Board in Scotland was not the opinion of the Commissioners only. In 1869, when the Scotch Education Bill was brought forward in the House of Lords, what took place? The most natural person to introduce the measure would have been the Lord President of the Council (Earl De Grey and Ripon); but instead of that nobleman—the head of the Educational Department in England — the duty was entrusted to the Duke of Argyll, the Secretary of State for India. What was the reason for this? Plainly because he was acquainted with the system of education which prevailed in Scotland, as well as with the habits, feelings, and prejudices of the Scotch people. For that reason the Duke of Argyll, and not the President of the Education Board, was selected to introduce the Bill into the House of Lords. [The LORD ADVOCATE: There was another reason; the Duke of Argyll had been Chairman of the Commission.] At all events, the matter must have been well considered by the Government; and, that being so, it was important to learn what the Duke of Argyll said in introducing the Bill into the House of Lords. His Grace said that there must be some properly constituted authority to go over Scotland and say where education was defective, and where more or new schools were required. His Grace went on to say— That being the case, we must have some authority instituted to which Parliament will commit that full power of investigation as to the localities in which new school accommodation is required. The only point which I have heard questioned as to the Report of the Commission is as to the constitution of the authority to be vested with these large and discretionary powers. I have heard differences of opinion as to whether it should be vested in a Department of the Government in London, or in some body more particularly connected with Scotland. Now, for my own part, I cannot conceive any doubt being entertained on the question by those who have really looked into the extent and nature of the power it is proposed to entrust to this body. I have great respect for my noble Friend the President of the Council (Earl de Grey). There are few persons in England to whom I would more completely defer as a discretionary authority in such matters. I know that to some extent he is acquainted with Scotland, and that, at all events, during those two months in which Englishmen betake themselves for health of body and mind to Scotland, he occasionally honours us with his presence. But still I confess that if an ukase came from his office to me, saying 'In your parish there is a great want of a school, and I desire it should be erected,' I am not quite sure how I should comport myself in deference to the authority delegated to my noble Friend. It seems to me apparent that where you give such large powers, independent of parochial and municipal authorities, you must vest them in some body which is in the main Scotch, which is acquainted with the feelings and habits of the Scotch people, with the principles of their educational system, and, above all, which is of a representative character. It was on these grounds, and with these feelings, that the Commissioners unanimously recommended that a discretionary power should be vested in the Board, which was sketched in their draft Bill."—[3 Hansard, cxciv. 287.] His Grace then alluded to the different bodies who were to be represented on the Board, and gave his clear and explicit opinion—and no one was better able to give an opinion on the subject of education than the Duke of Argyll—that there should be a superintending Board sitting in Scotland. Well, the question came before this House, and the late Lord Advocate, the present Lord Justice Clerk, referring to the proposal to make the Privy Council the Board of Education, said he had come already to the conclusion that there must be a Central Board in Scotland. Now, those were the answers of two men well entitled to express their opinion on the subject, both of whom had made the matter the subject of their earnest consideration. Opinions had also been expressed on the subject by the Home Secretary, and Vice President of the Council (Mr. W. E. Forster), and these were likewise in favour of the Scotch Board. The latter said there was no intention of interfering with the matter except as regarded the grants of the Privy Council, the control of which the Council desired to keep to themselves. Now, the disposal of the grant was a consideration that might very fairly be left to the Privy Council, though, at the same time, it was a question whether it would not be better that a sum of money should be voted to the Scotch Board for educational purposes. But it was never suggested that all supervision as regarded Scottish education on the part of a general Board in Scotland should be extinguished, and the present Lord Advocate supported Lord Moncreiff in the proposal then made. Why, then, had the Government changed their policy? In introducing the Bill the right hon. Gentleman said the Government were going to be so liberal that he was almost ashamed to state the extent of the grant, but the amount now given would be increased several times, or, as another report had it, seven times. I was astonished when I heard this, and had no great hopes of the promise being realized. In what way was the liberality of the Government to be extended to Scotland? This Bill did not indicate it. The right hon. Gentleman said, in effect—"Do you expect we would give the management of so large a sum to a Scotch Board?" Such a question was enough to rouse the ire of any Scotchman. What was done with respect to Ireland? Ireland received £400,000 for educational purposes, and there was an Irish Board, with paid officials. Why was Scotland to be differently treated? Ireland was a spoilt child, and, like other spoilt children, gave a great deal of trouble to its parents. Unfortunate Scotchmen—though, perhaps, he should not call them unfortunate—did not grumble or proceed to acts of violence; but that was no reason why they should be treated worse than Irishmen in the bestowal of favours by the Government. That was a mode of treatment of which Scotchmen had just reason to complain, and it was inconsistent alike with the recommendations of the Commissioners, and with the arguments and acts of the Government themselves in 1869. The only reason suggested by his right hon. Friend was that Scotchmen could not be trusted with the management of so large a sum. That Scotchmen could not look after money was a statement he had never heard before. His hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had shown that they contributed to the Exchequer a larger amount than Ireland did, and that there was a much smaller expenditure by the Government in Scotland than in Ireland. That proposition would, therefore, be distasteful to the people of Scotland—it would certainly make the English Board very unpopular—it was a new proposition, and he wished that time had been given to the country to consider the matter, instead of pressing forward the Bill with such undue haste. His argument against the proposal was not founded merely on sentiment, though such arguments had been used to carry great measures. A Scottish Board was necessary for good and substantial reasons. If, for example, the Board was in London, there would be great difficulty in communicating. Then it was no slight matter for schoolmasters to be put to the inconvenience and expense of travelling up to London. His principal reason, however, for pressing a Scotch Board sitting in Scotland was, that the people of Scotland desired it; and he could admit no doubt that it would properly discharge its duties. The Board in England would have the right of dismissing teachers; and here he must say the provisions of the Bill were exceedingly harsh towards that class of persons. Any of the new teachers might be dismissed without, apparently, any notice of the charges against them. There was a provision that schoolmasters who had a life interest in their offices should have a copy of the charges before dismissal; but, under Section 70, it was in the power of the Privy Council to withdraw their certificates of competency, the effect of which would be the destruction of the prospects of these men, who could not hold office without such certificates. These were cases of individual hardship, which the injured parties would have the greatest difficulty in bringing before Parliament. He maintained that a Scotch Board would act with a more direct sense of responsibility than any English Board possibly could, and that they were better fitted to administer the system of school education than the Board proposed by the Bill. He thought that all the arguments of his right hon. and learned Friend against a Scotch Board amounted in substance to this—that you could not entrust Scotchmen with the administration of the fund. His answer was, that a Scotch Board was quite as trustworthy as an Irish Board. In questioning the expediency of entrusting such powers to the Privy Council, he was making no charge against the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster), or against the Home Secretary, who was a Scotchman; but it was impossible that Englishmen could efficiently superintend the vast duties which now devolved upon them under the Education Act, along with similar duties as regarded Scotland. Many of these duties necessarily devolved upon subordinate officials, and when once an order issued from the Board, it was like the laws of the Medes and Persians—very difficult to alter. Another point worthy of consideration was, that in the Bill there was no limitation as regarded the amount of rate. The Bill gave power to the Privy Council to order, without restriction, such buildings as they might think proper; and, therefore, the ratepayers would have to consider whether that was a proper power to be vested in a Board discharging its duties in London. By the provision contained in the 4th section of the Bill, a school board was to elected in every parish and burgh. Now that section, taken in connection with the following clauses, involved the entire destruction of the parish schools as they now exist in Scotland. The Bill, he must say, was framed in a somewhat peculiar way. It was designated "a Bill to amend and extend the provisions of the law on the subject of Education in Scotland," and recited in the Preamble certain former Acts on the subject; and then goes on—"Whereas it is desirable," &c. Now, one would suppose that that would be followed up by leaving at least some remnant of the Acts recited in the Preamble—because the usual course was to begin by repealing the Acts; but it was not till they came to the last clause that these Acts were repealed, and that clause was an entire repeal of all Acts relating to education in Scotland. He must say that that was cutting off the parish schools as they previously existed, root and branch. He asked whether such a proceeding was not an unfortunate matter, after those schools had been held up by the Prime Minister, among others, during his election tour in Lancashire, as a pattern to all the rest of the world. He said the parish schools of Scotland were the foundations of the prosperity of Scotland, and of the success of Scotchmen in their own, and in other countries, and he spoke of the system as one of the best which existed in any part of the world—Prussia not excepted. These schools, then, were swept away root and branch by this Bill, and a spick-and-span new system substituted. He must ask, for what purpose was that? Why that change—that total destruction of the Scotch system of parish schools? The only reasons assigned by the right hon. the Lord Advocate was, because it appeared to him necessary to have the rate imposed on the real rent and not upon the valued rent; and because that change would bring the parish schools within the same sphere of management as the new national schools proposed to be established. They had had no Petitions praying that the assessment might be transferred to the real rent—the assessment was quite as certain at present as it would be if imposed on the real rent; and the only effect of his right hon. Friend's proposition was to change the incidence of taxation. Any person purchasing property in Scotland, on learning the valued rent, knew what proportion he would have to pay to the schoolmaster — it was an ascertained amount; but if the assessment were placed on the real rent, then, as the latter had become, in process of time, greater than the original valued rent, the purchaser would be subject to a larger impost than he thought he would have to pay when he made the purchase; while in those parishes where the real rent had fallen below the valued rent he would have to pay less than when he bought. Again, where manufactories had been established, and where there was a necessity for additional means of education—they were about to shift the burthen on the ratepayers and on the small proprietors. He ventured to say that many of those ratepayers would not thank them for subjecting them to the payment of rates which had been hitherto paid by the proprietors of land; at the same time the landowners were far from sure of getting ultimate relief—for a school board entailed a clerk and a treasurer; and he was inclined to think the new system would be found more expensive than the old. Another reason given by his right hon. Friend was, that the new system would bring with it great simplicity. But simplicity was not always the surest mode of arriving at the successful solution of questions with which the habits, customs, and feelings of the people were interwoven. No doubt there were many persons who would undertake to produce a much more simple plan of the British Constitution than the confused and complex arrangements on which it now rests. It was very possible to devise, as many French theorists had done, entirely new constitutions; but these inventions wholly wanted the elements of stability; and he ventured to say that a novel system, though possessing the deceptive attractions of an apparent adherence to logic, ought not in this case to be rashly adopted, because the existing system of the parish schools was one that was highly prized both by those who had attended the schools and also by the teachers. It was obviously of the greatest importance to the well-being of any school system that they should have good schoolmasters. The schoolmaster was the life of the school; and the Scotch system had had the effect of attracting the most valuable teachers, he ventured to say, who ever conducted the education of any nation—men who, by their devotion to the humbler classes, had not only trained them admirably for the sphere of life that was before them, but also educated many men who had filled distinguished positions in this county. Only that morning he had a letter from a gentleman who knew of two young men brought up in the parish schools in the immediate neighbourhood of his residence, who, if they had not had the advantage of the secondary education as obtained there, would probably now be following the plough-tail; whereas they were both Professors in the same University—the one teaching the classical languages, and the other some other branches of learning. Again, he had the pleasure the other day of meeting the Professor of Oriental Languages in the University of St. Andrews, who had been selected at the request of Dr. Pusey—one of the first scholars of the day—for the purpose of taking part in the revision of the Bible which was promoted by the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair. Well, that gentleman received his education in a school conducted entirely on the same principles as the parish schools—a sort of side-school—and his two brothers have also occupied distinguished positions. Surely, then, they should not rudely destroy a system like that in order to build up another, merely for the purpose of introducing what they called simplicity and uniformity. That was not the policy adopted in the measure of 1869; and when last year the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) brought in the English Bill he said, among other things, that the question was how they could cover the country with good schools; that they must take care, in establishing a new system, not to destroy the existing one; and that they should, consistently with the attainment of their object, entail on the taxpayers the least possible burden, and refrain to the utmost from injuring existing and efficient schools. Those sound principles of educational reform had not, however, he (Mr. Gordon) regretted to find, been observed in framing the present Bill. He was not speaking in the interests of any particular denomination. Though belonging to the Established Church of Scotland himself, he had a sincere desire for a union of the Churches of that country, which, he thought might easily be, as they did not differ in any substantial points of doctrine, and he should not object to see the ministers of other denominations in the parish associated in the management of the schools. No class of men had taken a greater interest in education than the clergy of Scotland, without whose assistance, indeed, the cause of education would have sunk very low; and he could not see why there should be such objection, and such terror, in respect to their sharing in the management of the schools. In 1869 the principle of the Bill introduced by the Government was, as described by them, to enlarge the system of management and to popularize it to some extent, and they proposed to adopt the principle that those who paid the rates should have a voice in the management. Why, then, were they now going to change the whole character of the parish schools, contrary alike to the opinion of the Commission, and also to the policy of the Government in 1869, and contrary even to the decision of that House at the end of the year? It was a question on which much interest was aroused. The universal desire among schoolmasters and managers was, that the established schools should be continued as they now existed—to serve as models to the new schools, and not only to form them but to stimulate them. Again, how was the matter of religion dealt with in the Bill? That was a subject in which Scotchmen took no small interest. How was it dealt with? Simply by ignoring it altogether. The measure of 1869 contained a provision that the Government Inspector should examine in religion, if requested to do so by the school authorities; but the present Bill provided that the Government Inspector should not examine in religion; the only mention of which in the Bill, therefore, being something like a warning-off from the subject. It was said there was no statutory provision for religion in the old Scotch system. But why was that? Because the schools were placed under the control of the Church in 1663. Episcopalianism prevailed then in Scotland, and the schools were placed under the Bishops; and when, in 1666, Presbyterianism was established, the schools were placed under the presbyteries; and they so continued down to the present day—so that really there was a communication between the ministers of religion and the schools, and there was no occasion to make provision for religious education. There was a strong feeling in Scotland in favour of teaching religion, accompanied with the utmost liberality as regards the conscience clause. But the Government dared not face the difficulty, and were shifting it over to the local boards. It had been already shown that what was called the religious difficulty existed only to a slight extent in Scotland. Here you had a Board representing almost as large a constituency as Scotland itself, and he could not but admire the skill and good management by which the religious difficulty had been avoided; but when they sent this Bill down to the small parishes in Scotland the effect would be to stir up sectarian animosities, and the vanquished party, he feared, would not settle down without a feeling of humiliation and anger. Those who were actuated by strong feeling would bring the matter again and again before the board, and its continual recurrence would greatly tend to the disturbance of peace and harmony. If, then, there was no religious difficulty, why not at once say that which, he believed, was the opinion of the great majority of the Members of the House, and which was the opinion, undoubtedly, of the great majority of the people in Scotland—why not say plainly that religious instruction should be given in the schools? That would be a proper way of dealing with the question, instead of imposing the burden upon those who were opposed to a system of religious education, because, though they still had the conscience clause to protect them, disturbing elements would always exist. This was a question upon which all the Churches in Scotland felt great interest, and it was now fairly recognized that the great majority of parents in the humble classes were incapable of giving instruction in religion. Ministers had duties enough to occupy their attention, and the best thing, in his opinion, was to keep to the system which had given much satisfaction, and had produced such good and able men in Scotland—namely, the recognition of religion. He felt that he had trespassed too long upon the attention of the House; but it was a question of great interest to Scotland, where a strong feeeling existed that this Bill was being pressed forward to a second reading with undue haste, seeing that it contained several new provisions never yet laid before the public—propositions at variance with the former proposals of the Government. He did not want to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, but he desired the question to be settled, and he did not think there had been time enough for it. A discussion upon the second reading of the Bill was of the utmost consequence, as directing the attention of the House to the value of the provisions afterwards to be considered in Committee. He would again press upon the Government to consider the desirability of not pressing the Bill forward at present.


I am glad to assure the House that I shall only occupy a very few minutes in my remarks, as the previous debates in 1869 have exhausted, the subject, and there is little use in making speeches at the stage which this question has reached. The Bill before us is simple, logical, and homogeneous, and therefore generally calculated to fulfil its purposes. That purpose is to make education as national as formerly—when our Scotch ancestors established a system suitable for the requirements of the country as it then was. There is often a confusion, and sometimes an intentional commingling of the clerical and national aspects of Scotch education. Its first period, as in all countries, was purely clerical; then from 1696 it was purely national; and only from the time of the disruption of the Churches, about a quarter of a century since, did it assume a denominational aspect. The original idea of the Church was that every kirk throughout the land should have a school attached to it; but that was not the course adopted by the State, which imposed this duty on the nation by a tax upon property. The Bill proposes in all simplicity to restore this ancient idea of national duty, supplementing it by Imperial aid. My previous speeches on this subject will show that I have never underrated the efforts of the Churches and their various ministers to introduce vitality into the national scheme of education. The ministers of religion in Scotland are of the people in origin, sympathies, and education. They have gained their superior position by possessing higher natural attainments than the people around them, and these have been developed through the schools which are common to both. They have returned lovingly to those schools in their future career as parish ministers, and done their best to improve their character and enhance their resources. It will be a deep disappointment to me, and to all lovers of education, if the ratepayers, in their selection of school boards, forget what the country owes to her ministers of religion. But this voluntary recognition is one thing, and a statutory obligation is another. It was not till 1803 that the parish minister was added ex officio to the school managers, though it was a custom almost equal to law before, and I hope will be a custom again. It is a great error to try to force religion into the hearts of people by law. Vital religion does not penetrate men's hearts by such compulsory means. Yet the cry arising against this Bill in Scotland is that it is a godless Bill, because it does not legislate in this way. There is an outcry that the "use and wont" of religious instruction should be acknowledged and enforced in this Bill. Will my hon. Friend the Member for the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen, and the hon. Baronet the Member for the counties of Peebles and Selkirk, point out to me a single Act of Parliament in which religion in schools is enforced by statute in Scotland? No doubt religious instruction is the use and wont, and as long as it is left to use and wont, Scotland will be a God-loving country. It is because I desire to see this religious character of my countrymen preserved that I am anxious to leave religious education in their hands, and not to come between their consciences and their duties by arid provisions of an Act of Parliament. By all means let us have "use and wont," but it ceases to have its strength as use and wont the moment you make it statutory. That the Lord Advocate has not been indifferent to religious education may be judged of by the fact that he adopts exactly the course recommended by Dr. Chalmers, who is, perhaps, the most highly appreciated divine among our past worthies. What does Dr. Chalmers recommend? He first begins with the impossible hypothesis that there might be a theological Parliament sufficiently versed in dogma to legislate on true dogma, and then he goes on to say— But failing this, it seems to us the next best thing that, in any public measure for helping on the education of the people, Government were to abstain from introducing the element of religion at all into their part of the scheme, leaving this matter entirely to the parties who had to do with the erection and management of the schools which they had been called upon to assist. A grant by the State upon this footing might be regarded as being appropriately and exclusively an expression of their value for a good secular education. Well, this is simply and entirely what the Bill does. No one can doubt the Presbyterian orthodoxy or religious fervour of such an eminent divine as Dr. Chalmers, and we may feel confidence that we are not damaging the interests of religion in Scotland when we follow his advice. I have said enough about the religious question, and will delay till Committee my remarks on the small parasites of denominationalism which the Lord Advocate still allows to grow on the national educational tree. But I now turn to the framework of the Bill—the "Scotch Education Department"—which is to be entrusted with carrying its provisions into effect. The whole Bill gives to this Department a real administrative existence, with large and full powers for superintending education in Scotland, and for preserving its distinctive peculiarities. The fact that this appears in the Bill admits the necessity of a concession that there should be a national administrative Department of some kind. That is not the form which I would have preferred. I still entertain the opinion, which I expressed two years since in this House, that the simplest, cheapest, and most effective method of administration would be by a local Board sitting in Edinburgh. But the Board to which I look is, I am bound to admit, not that which receives most favour from the Scotch people. My desire is to have a small executive Board, paid, and, therefore, responsible for its work, and subject to the Committee of Council in matters of finance and general administration. That was the form which the Board ultimately took in the Bill of 1869; but it is not the form which the Commissioners recommended, and which the people of Scotland seem to prefer. They indicate a Board representative of different classes of the community, unpaid, and undominated by the Government. Such a Board is somewhat allied to the Irish Education Commission; and I am sure that this House will never again entrust the administration of large annual grants to an irresponsible body of this kind. The only advantage of a Scotch Board in Edinburgh would be to represent national interests and peculiarities of education. When the Commissioners recommended their scheme of a representative Board, there was a wide divergence of system between the education of England and Scotland. The former had only a contributory, and not a national system, and possessed no organization for its adequate extension. The aspirations of the Committee of Council were limited to teaching the three "R's" by a strict mechanical method. All this was so unlike the Scotch system that it was repulsive to Scotch teachers, who shuddered at the idea of being caught in the mechanical embraces of the Committee of Council. They looked upon that Committee much in the same way as the Lacedemonians looked on the wife of Nabis, their tyrant, who tempted them to approach her by the magnificence of her apparel. She then seized them in her embrace, for it proved to be a mere mechanical figure, constructed to torture them until their riches were squeezed out. So we thought if the Revised Code seized hold of Scotch schools, all our educational riches would be expressed in its mechanical grip. But we approach the question to-night in a very different position. England has now a more organized scheme of education than Scotland; but, above all, we have a new Revised Code just laid upon our Table, which does infinite credit to my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council. It is a vast improvement upon its predecessor, and encourages higher education in our elementary schools, and goes far to remove the sources of jealousy which have hitherto prevented Scotland from submitting to this Code. Under these changed conditions we no longer want a sort of Scotch Education Parliament to frighten the English Education Department from interfering with our national peculiarities. At least, for my own part, what I wish to see is not a debating society, but an active and responsible administrative Board. Nevertheless, I fully admit that the constitution of such a Board is looked upon with keen jealousy, both by the Church and by the teachers; and I have little hope of inducing this House, in the altered circumstances of the case, to accept a proposition which passed in 1869. Compelled, then, to look at the alternative presented by this Bill, my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate will not be surprised if I ask him to give us assurance that the Scotch Education Department, to which he gives such large powers, is not a myth, but a reality. The clauses of the Bill, indeed, make it a formidable and active reality, but the definition clause shakes our faith in its substantial character. It is there described as a Committee of the Privy Council for Education in Scotland. Now, we know that the corresponding Committee for England is a purely consultative, not an administrative, body. The exalted personages who compose it are rarely called together, and even the existence of "My Lords" is scarcely believed in by the persons who correspond with the Department, and are answered in the name of the Lords of the Committee. There is no doubt of the potential activity of the Vice President, and even of the Lord President; but the potentiality of the Committee as an administrative body is not believed by anyone. Now, what the people of Scotland would like to know is, whether this Scotch Education Department is to be as mythical as the English Committee, who we hear of only in our letters from the Department; or, whether it is to consist of real individuals, with sufficient knowledge, and, what is equally important, sufficient time to give active aid and advice to the Vice President of the Council in his immediate administration of his Department? I have no desire to diminish his responsibility as the real Minister of Education of this country, but the people of Scotland will not be satisfied unless the Scotch Education Department is a reality, capable of giving for the first year or two ample time to aid him not only in preserving, but also in extending the peculiarities of education which they cherish so dearly. If I felt confidence on this point, I would hail this Bill as a great boon to my country. The position of Scotland as a nation, in spite of its small area and contracted natural resources, has been gained by the universality and gradation of its education. Assure us that this Bill will in reality preserve to us the means by which the intellectual fund of the country will be sought out and developed as in past times, and the people will sink their minor differences, and co-operate with the Government in passing a Bill which, in its careful provisions, seems well calculated to give increased prosperity and contentment to the northern part of this kingdom.


said, he was sorry to have to say that he was not as completely satisfied with the provisions of the Bill as his hon. Friend (Dr. Playfair), for whose judgment on the question of education he had the highest respect. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (the Lord Advocate) when introducing the Bill to the House, had not invited suggestions or assistance from either side with a view of making his Bill more perfect or generally acceptable to the people of Scotland; yet he could tell the right hon. Gentleman that there were several Members who sat opposite to him who would willingly have given their aid. He hoped the Bill might not miscarry hereafter, from any obstinate resistance to Amendments which might be suggested—provided they were good and useful Amendments—from whichever side the House they might come. Though the secret had been well kept, he heard, before the introduction of the measure, that it would be "stronger and simpler than the English Bill." When he heard that it was to be stronger, he guessed, at once, that it would be more distasteful to himself, more upsetting, more sweeping, and more regardless of securities for religious instruction; and his anticipations had not been deceived. But he heard that it was to be simpler also—and he found it simpler indeed, for it made a clean sweep of the present parochial system, against which no charge had ever been made, except that it had broken down in the large towns. But even the voluntary system, with all its efforts, had broken down in large towns—and there was no charge against the parochial system, the value of the instruction given in which was universally recognized, and which, as a system, was admittedly free, in the religious instruction afforded, from all suspicion of sectarian taint. The measure appeared to have been framed rather with the intention of overriding all possible claims and privileges, than of recognizing the special wants of Scotch education. Those who had seen the working of the present system, and knew the value of its primary and secondary instruction, as well as of the stated religious instruction given under it, could not regard without apprehension the rash manner in which so much that was valuable was thrown into a common crucible — upon the chance, apparently, that whatever came out would be as good as what had hitherto existed. In the English Bill the Church schools were exempted from its operation. There was no analogy between them and the parochial schools in Scotland; but he heartily wished that it had been possible to make the change more gradually, and at present to reserve the parochial schools from the action of the Bill, with only such changes as to liberalizing the management, and as to inspection, as now-a-days were thought advisable. Passing to another matter, which had not been mentioned in the debate, he might notice that the present Bill would afford another instance of that most detestable thing called permissive legislation. He was aware that the subject of compulsion was supposed to be one of the perquisites of the Liberal party; but, in regard to education in Scotland, he believed some measure of compulsion to be absolutely necessary. He would read a brief extract from a letter written by one of the ministers of the Established Church of Scotland—a class of men whose connection with the parish schools was to be severed, and who, by that irony of circumstances which attends reckless legislation, would be disqualified from sitting on school boards because they were not ratepayers. The writer said— Personally, I approve compulsory education, having long thought it necessary in Scotland; but I think it should be enacted, and not permissive. Now, in the Bill, the power of making education compulsory was to be left to the school boards. It had been said that we were not ready for compulsion, but he was sure that the school boards which it was proposed to appoint were not ready to be entrusted with the power of giving, or withholding, compulsion. In a large city like Glasgow, where, no doubt, the school board would be composed, like that appointed for the metropolis, of some of the best men of the city, he did not doubt that compulsory education would be started soon after the passing of the Bill; but there were many small towns where compulsion was needed, and where it would be a very invidious task to introduce it. He doubted whether the school boards elected in such places would venture to initiate compulsion. Parliament was, in fact, shirking the difficulty when it left it to be dealt with by the school boards. That was something like what the House of Commons did when afraid to give a decision on a troublesome subject: it referred it to a Select Committee, to whose judgment the House often paid very little attention. He hoped other hon. Members would join him in urging on the right hon. Gentleman the desirability of enacting compulsion, at least in the large towns—and, indeed, he should be glad to see the principle extended to the whole country. There was another point to which he must refer. There were some clauses towards the close of the Bill where religious instruction was, he would not say recognized, but honoured by being mentioned, but chiefly in the way of prohibition and limitation. It had been said, again and again, that there was no religious difficulty in Scotland; but the Lord Advocate had said that there was an ecclesiastical difficulty. And he wished to learn whether he was to thank the ecclesiastical difficulty for the slight mention, or rather for the omission, of the subject of religious instruction from the Bill? He admitted that the first business was to supply ordinary secular education—and if he said a few words in defence of religious instruction, it was certainly not with a view to disparage secular learning; for he agreed with what had been said by a distinguished living teacher of youth, that "the spectacle of a nation very ignorant and very devout is a fancy, and not a fact." But he thought the right hon. Gentleman might have introduced into the Bill language which would have offended no one in Scotland, and which the great majority of the people of that country would have heartily welcomed. They were told that they must trust to the religious sentiment of the people of Scotland. He desired to throw no doubt on the existence of the religious sentiment, for it rested on a basis of well-known and long-established credibility; but he would say that it was to be put to a very severe test. Nor was it really trusted; for though the religious instruction be left to the discretion of the school boards—and of tha the made no complaint, yet inspection in religious subjects was forbidden, and it was doing dishonour to religious instruction to enact that such instruction should not be inquired into by the Inspectors, as it could hardly be supposed that the same care would be given to it as was bestowed on those subjects which would come under the Inspector's cognizance. He would trouble the House with a few lines from a letter of a Free Church minister, and which specially bore on that point— Even were every board in the kingdom to make provision for religious instruction in the schools, that would not relieve the State from the discharge of the duty proper to itself in this matter; which is, in the way competent only to it to do—to give legislative expression to its own views in order that they may afterwards be carried out by the subordinate executive and administrative departments. After all, he must say he had great misgivings that anything that might be said on that side the House would not meet with the same attention as if it came from the other side. Even if it were so he felt that he had discharged his duty in that matter. His saltem accumulem donis, et fungar inani munere. He did not speak as an absolute opponent of the Bill altogether; but he confessed he had noticed many omissions in the Bill, and looked with considerable distrust and misgiving at some of the intentions which he thought he could discern between the lines. He thought, however, it might be made a good Bill if there were not too obstinate a resistance to Amendments; and he looked forward with some confidence to the action of the Committee. If he did not entertain that confidence he should not have been able to assent, without protest, to the second reading.


said, he thanked the Government for having introduced the Bill at so early a period of the Session, and thus offered the opportunity of settling the question this year; but, at the same time, he agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gordon) that it was to be regretted that more time was not allowed for the consideration of the Bill, and obtaining the opinions of their constituents upon it. It would, he thought, have been better if the second reading had been fixed for next Monday, instead of that evening; but as the question had been already gone into very fully, and as they had learned from former experience the dangers of delay in this House, he thought it would be a great pity to lose a stage to-night. Therefore, he was prepared to enter into the discussion, though upon the distinct understanding that hon. Members were not to be thereby committed to any of the details of the Bill, or to any approval of the three new principles which it contained—those principles being the entire abolition of the parochial school system of Scotland, the denominationalism of the Bill, and, notably, the committal of the management of Scotch education to some shadowy and undefined body called an Education Department in London. He desired to offer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman his acknowledgment of the simplicity and comprehensiveness of his new Bill, which he believed to a very large extent would meet the wishes of the people of Scotland. Much as he regretted the rejection of the Bill of 1869, in the interests of the large number of children who had drifted away past help through the interval, he believed the Government would have great assistance in the discussion of an Education Bill this Session from the progress of public opinion and feeling which had taken place since that period—and he believed they now entered upon the question with a better prospect of unanimity and of a permanent settlement than had been possible at any previous time. They all knew that the people of Scotland were deeply attached to their parochial school system, and that they would be very jealous of any interference with it. Nor was that to be wondered at. For 300 years it had been intimately connected with the whole intellectual material and social progress of Scotland. It was the education of the parish schools which was the foundation of that cosmopolitanism which had sent Scotchmen into every part of the world, wherever there was good work to be done, and which had enabled them to achieve independence, and to distinguish themselves in every branch of enterprize. At any previous time the system which the Government now proposed for doing away with the parish schools, would have met with universal resistance; but he was not prepared to say now that it would be condemned, or that it would not commend itself to the people of Scotland. It simplified the task to be done; and under the new Code it need not necessarily imperil any of the interests the people of Scotland had so much at heart—but still the proposal of the Government was one that was so unforeseen that the representatives of Scotland had no right to commit themselves to it without the fullest discussion and the approval by their constituents. He observed that, in abolishing the present system, the Bill proposed to make an important concession to the owners of land by relieving them of their liability for the maintenance of the parish schools. If that charge were to be considered, as maintained by many authorities, the property of the nation, he doubted whether the proposed concession would be just or expedient. No doubt, the landowners would be liable to be rated as citizens; but that liability involved no right to their being relieved by the State surrendering its share of property of which it might to that extent be supposed to be a joint owner. The second new principle involved in the Bill respected denominationalism and religious teaching. It could not be too clearly understood that in Scotland there was no religious difficulty. Its schools, excepting a few belonging to Episcopalians, had maintained perfect freedom of conscience at all times; and even Roman Catholics had had no hesitation in sending their children with confidence to the parochial and borough schools. The people did not need nor desire any change; at the same time they were willing to give any proper guarantees that might be required. The doctrine of responsibility for belief, and of the rights of religious toleration, lay at the very foundation of Scotch Protestantism, of whatever denomination it might be; and the Scotch did not need either a secularist propaganda nor the Draconian strictness of Privy Council regulations to teach them their duty in that respect. The differences between the chief denominations in Scotland related almost entirely to matters which had no bearing upon the education of children, and not to those antagonisms of doctrine and belief which produced so much bitterness in England. The idea of a religious difficulty was not properly Scotch at all; it was introduced into Scotland from across the border; and in Scotland it arose mainly from sympathy with those in England who were fighting the battle of religious toleration and equality. In all the discussions in Scotland there had been a claim for undenominational and un-sectarian teaching; and a candidate who had announced himself in favour of denominational education would have had very little chance of being elected; yet the Government proposed for Scotland a system which was intended to be, and could be, worked out only as a denominational system. The cry for undenominational education had had, however, much more to do with undenominationalism in England, and more especially in Ireland, than with the circumstances and wants of Scotland. Where toleration was perfectly understood and faithfully carried out the question of denominationalism had very little practical importance. In a country where there was a dominant, or aggressive sect, the question became a vital one. Any Scotch claim for undenominationalism was, in fact, part of the contention for religious toleration as against the supremacy of the Established Church in England, and still more extravagant claims to supremacy elsewhere. So far as England was concerned that battle was fought and lost last year, mainly because the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) and his Friends chose to argue the question upon the ground of a rationalistic secularism, with which the people—of Scotland especially—had very little sympathy, instead of arguing it in the interests of religious opinions and beliefs, too sacred in themselves, and too important to the welfare of children to be taught in any mere formal routine of common-school education, or within the narrow limits of any Privy Council Code. Now, it was all very well to talk of religious education, and yet to exclude dogmatic religious teaching in our schools. But exclude creeds and catechisms as they would, the simple question of a little child would frequently open up the most profound points of religious belief, and compel the teacher, if he were at all conscientious, either to overstep his assigned limits, or to stand silent and rebuked in the presence of the infant he was professing to instruct. As regarded the proposed Department sitting in London, he thought the control of Scotch education by a body sitting at such a distance would give anything but satisfaction. For anything that appeared it might be that the proposed Scotch Education Department would consist of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the English Department, and the Lord Advocate, sitting with or without appropriate national costume. He fully appreciated the high character of those right hon. Gentlemen, but, nevertheless, he thought that the powers entrusted to them would be regarded with jealousy in Scotland; for, if there was one feeling stronger than another in Scotland, it was one of dislike and distrust of the Privy Council, and the desire to keep in their own hands the management of their own education. The Scotch were not content with the English standards, although these were improved under the new Code; and they hesitated to trust the Privy Council to fix the standard of competency for teachers. In addition, the Scotch were naturally jealous of the coolness and indifference with which Scotch matters were treated by the Government and by Parliament. They would wish to commit their education to men practically acquainted with Scotch, education, who would elevate, rather than lower, the standard of it. He trusted nothing would be done by the Bill opposed to the great value placed in Scotland upon higher education, and the importance of affording to children who exhibited great capacity the opportunity of entering the higher class schools. He would like to have seen stronger compulsory clauses, because public opinion in Scotland was far in advance of what it was in England; but, no doubt, wherever boards were created in Scotland they would have no hesitation or difficulty in enforcing compulsory clauses. He should also like to see the system of the Ballot introduced into the school boards. But these were details which might be considered in Committee. He had no objection to offer to the second reading; but he assented to it only on the understanding that a full opportunity should be afforded of discussing the subject on the Motion for going into Committee, by which time, probably, they would have had the opportunity of obtaining the opinions of their constituents on the Bill.


said, he did not at all agree with the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, and who had advised them to hesitate in giving an opinion on the Bill; for he thought the short time the Bill had been before them had been quite sufficient to convince most Scotch Members, at any rate, that it was the most statesmanlike measure of education which had been presented to Parliament for many years. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gordon) had referred with approval to the measure of 1869; but no one, he thought, could recall the history of that Bill without something like pity; certainly very few regarded it with any feeling of regret. It was founded upon the recommendation of the Royal Commissioners, who proposed an elaborate scheme for removing the parochial schools from their present management; and he was quite satisfied that compared with it the present scheme of the learned Lord Advocate was a very great improvement. With regard to the machinery proposed to be set up for establishing a new system of education in Scotland, no doubt men's minds were divided, as to the central authority, between the fear of tyranny in London and of jobbery in Edinburgh—it was difficult to say which feeling was the stronger—but he thought if the Board were strong enough to resist the Anglicizing tendencies of the Privy Council it would give satisfaction. With regard to that part of the Bill which allowed compulsory powers, he thought Scotland perfectly ripe for universal compulsion. What was wanted in Scotland was not so much additional schools as a uniform system and the power of enforcing attendance; and this was true not only of large cities, but of many small localities, such as fishing villages, where the children began to earn something at an early age. It was not advisable that Scotland should in this follow the example of England in the Bill of last year. Compulsion should be made universal. With regard to the religious difficulty, the learned Lord Advocate had certainly said very little. He appeared to think he might solve the difficulty by ignoring it. But as the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gordon) had pointed out, they were relegating knotty and delicate points, which ought to be settled by the authority of Parliament, to what sanguine people called the good sense of local boards. No doubt, local boards would have their own share of good sense; but if there was one subject on which they were certain to take a narrow view it was the religious question. Last year, when this point was raised by some of his hon. Friends, they were told that the difficulty was of their own making, and that when the country was consulted it would vanish into thin air. But what was the actual experience? The election of school boards all over England had turned on this very question of the religious difficulty, and the school boards had to commence their labours separated into two hostile camps on this very delicate subject. They were told, indeed, that there was no religious difficulty in Scotland; no doubt, up to the present time, there had been a most laudable amount of toleration in Scotch schools; but circumstances would be changed under this Bill, because there would be compulsory taxation, and in some places, if not in all, compulsory attendance; and he was very much mistaken if, when men found themselves saddled with new taxes, perhaps, for giving religious instruction of which they did not conscientiously approve, the religious difficulty did not crop up. There would be, in fact, in Scotland, when this Bill received its full development, a purely and entirely denominational system of education. There was only one solution of the difficulty, and that was this — the State should cease to undertake the religious education of children. The Scottish people were, perhaps, more than any other imbued with the spirit of religion; there was no country where religious and moral training was more highly prized; and none in which there was a body of clergy more qualified by learning and piety to undertake that duty. In that country it would, therefore, be perfectly safe to leave religious instruction to voluntary effort. He hoped that Amendments would be brought forward which the House might accept with a view to meet these points; and if, in debating those Amendments, there should be any renewal of the bitter contests of last year, the blame would rest with the Government, and especially with the Vice President of the Council. If they had, instead of adopting a course of compromise, adhered to their own principles, and thrown themselves on the loyal support of their own party, they would not only have carried their Bill, but—what was of far more importance—they would have laid down sound lines upon which, by common consent, might have been built a national system of education for each of the three divisions of the kingdom. They had not done so, and they now reaped the somewhat bitter fruits of that conduct; but he hoped there would be as little asperity as possible in the discussion, and that the Government would be found willing to make what concessions were necessary.


said, he joined in the remark that it was to be regretted that more time had not been given to Members from Scotland to consult their constituencies regarding this Bill. For himself he could say that he had received only one letter on the subject, and that was confined to matters of technical detail. No man, however, was more anxious to see this question of Scotch education settled on a broad and firm basis, and he thought this measure offered such a basis. While disapproving many points there were others which he highly approved, and, on the whole, he thought it an honest and fair attempt to settle the question. He only wished to refer to two points in the Bill in its present stage. With regard to Clause 67, which touched upon the higher education to be given in the parochial schools, it was within the knowledge of every Member of the House that the parochial schools in Scotland did not limit themselves to giving merely elementary education, but rendered themselves valuable feeders to the Universities. Clause 67, as he understood it, in dealing with the higher class of education given by those schools, seemed to provide that the public examiners should take notice of it only in cases where at least 50 scholars received such instruction. The effect of that clause, therefore, seemed to him calculated to wipe out all the higher instruction at present given in those schools, and thus to be at variance with the acknowledged principle of the Bill, which was to extend and improve education throughout Scotland. He thought the provision would give very great dissatisfaction in Scotland. He agreed with those hon. Members who were of opinion that practically the religious difficulty did not exist in Scotland. There would be but very little change in the religious education in Scotland brought about by this Bill. In the rural schools in Scotland religious instruction would continue to be given as now; but the 73rd clause of the Bill would bring about this objectionable state of things—that, whereas, under the existing system the religious instruction now given was superintended, at least, theoretically, by the presbytery, and thus a sort of guarantee was obtained that that instruction was sound and satisfactory, the clause to which he referred took the matter out of the hands of the presbytery without appointing anybody to superintend religious instruction in their place. Take the case where a local board had agreed that religious instruction should be given, what means would that board have for seeing that the schoolmaster was properly qualified for giving such instruction, or that, possessing the necessary qualification, he properly instructed the scholars. The practical result of Clause 73 would be that where religious instruction was given at all it would be given as an extra, in the same manner that modern languages and mathematics used to be given in our own public schools some years since. That would, most assuredly, not be a very satisfactory system, and was not one which the people of Scotland were likely to tolerate, and he hoped that a provision calculated to produce so mischievous and melancholy a result would be struck out. There were many other parts of the Bill open to objection; but, as they were mostly capable of alteration in Committee, he should not now touch upon them.


said, that while many hon. Members had talked much about a Scotch Board no one had attempted to point out how the Scotch Board should be composed. He wanted to know what difference it would make whether the Board sat in London or in Scotland? Their power would be equally absolute, perhaps more absolute in Edinburgh, because a Committee of the Privy Council would be amenable to the censure of this House, while a Board sitting in Edinburgh would not be represented here at all. Those who expressed a decided preference for a Scotch Board should explain themselves clearly, and give an exact definition of the kind of Board they required. To talk about the Board was absurd, before you know what it is to be. Then with regard to the parochial schools. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Glasgow University (Mr. Gordon) had said a great deal about the "swamping and extinction" of the parochial schools. Now, he (Mr. M'Laren) denied that any parochial school in Scotland would be extinguished by this Bill. It did not interfere with the parish schools in the way of extinction; it only improved their management. No doubt by the Bill of 1869 a Scotch Board sitting in Edinburgh was proposed; but hon. Members seemed to have forgotten that since 1869 the Education Act for England had been passed, and that under the present Bill many things which before were to be done by the Central Board, were now to be done by the local boards. He thought this Bill immeasureably superior to any Education Bill for Scotland previously introduced, and he should greatly regret if anything occurred to retard its progress. The fourth rule in the Schedule with regard to the money to be raised in certain parishes, seemed a very extraordinary one. It provided that when in certain insular parishes, where the assessment at 3d. in the pound yielded less than £30 for each school, or less than 18s. per head on one-sixth part of the population, the Education Department may pay a sum not exceeding twice the ordinary grant, the total grant not exceeding 16s. per head. The peculiarity of this provision was that it assumed that 18s. per head on one-sixth of the population for educational purposes was a rather small sum to raise in Scotland in reference to the number of children to be educated. There must be some extraordinary blunder here. The calculation that such a sum would be necessary was to be based on the population of the country at the last Census; but before the Bill became law the Census of 1871 would have been taken. That Census would probably show a population of 3,300,000, and an assessment of 18s. a head on a sixth of that number of people would produce £500,000. But did the right hon. Gentleman really believe that such a sum would be necessary to supply the educational requirements of the country? In a great proportion of the small burghs in Scotland it would require not 3d., but 2s. in the pound to realize the 18s. a-head. Were the Government serious in wishing to impose such a tax on these small burghs? The thing was out of the question. The working of the Bill as now framed would be to relieve taxation to the richer classes in the country, and to make it a heavy burden upon the poorer populations. With regard to the religious difficulty, he thought the proposal of the Bill would meet the case in a satisfactory manner. It contained the principle which had been contended for for years past in Scotland. The people of Scotland simply wished to be left alone in this respect. The Bill assumed that religion would be taught; but one of its clauses provided that no child should either be compelled to attend religious instruction, or to suffer injury for being absent therefrom. The great blot in the Bill was the retention of the cumulative vote in the election of the school board. He had always thought that a most extravagant and absurd proposition. England had made a blunder in this respect; but Scotland ought not to be compelled to blunder for the mere sake of preserving uniformity. Nothing could be more unjust than the proposal of the Bill to relieve the heritors from the payments they now had to contribute. The Act of 1696 provided that the heritors and the minister should supply school accommodation in every parish; but by the present Bill, if passed, the heritors, whose property had been enormously enhanced in value since the valued rent was fixed in 1674, would pay the merest fraction of the whole cost, while poor people, down to rentals of £4, would have to contribute in the same ratio as the richest landed proprietors. It was out of the question to suppose that this would be so trifling an assessment that nobody would feel it. It would raise an outcry against the Government, of which the end would not be heard for many years. The principle of the Bill in that respect was altogether indefensible.


said, he fully concurred in the complaint of the right hon. and learned Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities (Mr. Gordon) that the constituencies in Scotland had not been afforded a sufficient opportunity to consider the provisions of the Bill. If, therefore, it were read a second time that evening, it must be on the understanding that Scotch Members would be perfectly at liberty to object to any part of it in Committee. The 2nd clause declared that "the Scotch Education Department" of the Privy Council "shall," and so on. Now, what was the Scotch Education Department? He turned to the definition clause, and he found that it was to consist of "the Lords of the Privy Council appointed by Her Majesty for Education in Scotland." Now, his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council (Mr. W. E. Forster) would, he should have thought, have quite enough to do in the management of educational questions in England without undertaking to deal also with the Scotch system. If, moreover, the clause to which he was referring were to pass in its present shape, it would, he felt assured, be contrary to the feelings and opinion of the great majority of the people of Scotland. What he would suggest was, that there should be a popular element in the Board to be called the Scottish Board and resident in Scotland. It should be what he might call a peripatetic Board—that is to say, the members in the intervals of their quarterly meetings should visit different parts of the country, as was the practice with the Lunacy Commissioners in Scotland, and report their observations to the Board, as was also the practice with the Lunacy Commissioners in England. There might be two paid officials named by Government, and with them there might be five or six elected members. He was sure there was patriotism sufficient in that country to secure competent men to discharge the necessary duties, and the elective principle would give great satisfaction. The late Lord Advocate had stated in the course of his speech that the Bill aimed at the destruction of the parochial schools of Scotland. It was well hon. Members should know what these schools really were. They did very much more than teach what was commonly called "the three R's." In Aberdeenshire an estate, now of the value of £3,000 a-year, had been left by Dr. John Milne of Bombay, formerly of his (Colonel Sykes') regiment, from which augmentations were made to the salaries of the masters of certain parochial schools. There were 89 participating schools in Aberdeenshire. What were the schoolmasters competent to teach? 88 schoolmasters taught geography, 74 mathematics, 74 Latin, 42 taught Greek, and 18 taught French. In non-participating schools which have the same headings of teaching, and 27 in number, the whole 27 schoolmasters taught geography, 10 mathematics, 21 Latin, 4 Greek, and 2 French. How was it that the scholars or pupils were capable of being taught those higher branches of education? Simply because the parish schoolmaster was a man who had gone through a University course. And how had he been able to do that? First in the parochial schools he got the elements of an educational system, which enabled him to go to Aberdeen and compete for a bursary of £15 or £20 per annum, which, with the frugal habits of a Scotch lad, sufficed for his support, at the University he got a degree of Arts, and then went back again as a schoolmaster, the increased salary rendering it worth his while, and with a degree of competence that few in England were able to obtain. No parochial school in England, indeed, few second-class schools, could teach the subjects accessible to a farmer's or shopkeeper's son in Scotland, and this was entirely owing to the cheapness and facilities for acquiring an University education in Scotland. In Clause 48 of this Bill there was no limit placed to the power of the school boards to tax the ratepayers. All those who were assessable to the poor rates were assessable to the school board. Surely there ought to be some limit placed upon this power. For the rest, he did not object to the measure as a whole, and should vote for the second reading, on the understanding that its provisions should be made more palatable to the people of Scotland in Committee.


said, that while anxious that the Bill should be read a second time, he must enter a strong protest against the way in which Scotch business was beginning to be dealt with this Session. The Home Secretary had honestly admitted to his constituents in his public address during last autumn that Scotland had been badly treated last Session. Scotch business was postponed in the interest of Ireland for the last two Sessions, and of that he made no complaint. He had been willing to stand aside, in the hope that, when pressing legislation for Ireland had been settled, Scotland would have her turn; but that evening a most important Scotch measure—a measure which had been mentioned in Her Majesty's gracious Speech—had discussion upon it limited to three or four hours, one-third of which time had been occupied by his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gordon) who spoke first. That was a mode of proceeding to which he, for one, was entirely opposed, seeing that Scotch Members were this evening almost completely tongue-tied on an occasions affecting very materially the interests of their country. The Bill itself in its general principle should receive his most cordial support; but there were some details to which he wished to invite the attention of the Lord Advocate, in order that the objections which he entertained to them might, as far as possible, be obviated. He referred to the constitution of the school boards—the mode of election in which the system of nomination was retained, though it was about to be abolished in all Parliamentary and municipal elections, the cumulative vote, the absence of the Ballot, as well as of any qualification for those who might sit on the boards. He hoped his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate would adopt a more stringent conscience clause, and remove the small remnant of denominationalism which was tacked to the end of the 74th clause, and would adopt the principle that the school boards, which would be possessed of unlimited powers of taxation, should contain no member who was not himself a ratepayer.


said, there was this difference between the present Bill and the Bill introduced in 1869—that whereas the Bill of 1869 proposed the establishment of a Scotch Board for the purpose of deciding where national schools should be set up in Scotland, no such Board was now proposed. But there was a very good reason why such a Board should not be established, in as much as his right hon. Friend found—and he was exceedingly glad he did find—that a national school could be established in every parish in Scotland. Consequently, there was no want of a Board in Edinburgh or anywhere else to decide where they should be established. He could assure hon. Gentlemen that his own experience in educational matters had shown there would be no advantage in having a Board between the Department which had to distribute the Parliamentary grant and the school board; and that, if they attempted to establish any such intermediary Board, it would prove to be a hindrance rather than an advantage. The Scotch Education Department proposed in this Bill was precisely the same as that established for England, but with the necessary exception—that, whereas there had heretofore been but one Educational Committee for both countries, there would now be a special one for each, and the Government proposed that that Member of the Government who was especially responsible for Scotch business should be added to the Scotch Education Department—namely, the Lord Advocate. That Scotch Department would be consulted whenever any change was proposed with regard to principles in the administration of the Committee of Privy Council in Scotland, or in the working of this Bill. He thought it would be a very bad thing for England, or for Scotland, if the daily administration of the Education Department were put into the hands of a Board rather than of the Minister at the head of this Department. The Government looked forward to there being a special permanent Scotch officer responsible for Scotch business in the office of the Scotch Education Department; so that in the daily working of the administration, Scotch feelings, Scotch views, and Scotch ideas would be consulted, and also with reference to any change of principle with regard to the distribution of the grant. He looked upon the Education Department as being an Imperial Department, and as being just as much Scotch as English. At that moment he was glad to say it was a good deal more Scotch than English. The Secretary of the Committee of Council on Education, a gentleman of whom he could not speak too highly, was a Scotchman; and the newly-appointed Assistant Secretary of the Committee, a gentleman of whom also he could not speak too highly, was a Scotchman, and in their new Code the Department had adopted many Scotch ideas. In reply to the observation of the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell) that he had last year abandoned the principles he had previously announced with regard to educational matters, he would simply state to the House that he had never made, either there or out-of-doors, any statement which could be considered inconsistent in the slightest degree with the position he took last year in reference to the education question.


said, that if the Department had been limited to the distribution of the Privy Council grants, he should be satisfied with its constitution; but he found that in many places the local boards were entirely under the control of the Education Department, and he should, therefore, like to see a much more responsible Board sitting in Scotland. Indeed, the difficulty seemed to have occurred to the Government themselves, for in the 3rd clause they proposed that the Education Department should have it in their power, with the consent of the Treasury, to employ such officers in Scotland as they may adjudge necessary to perform the duties connected with the said Department. Now, if the duties were to distribute the fund, why not appoint a Central Board in Scotland, and let the local boards be subject to them, the Privy Council having the distribution of the funds as at the present time? He looked with suspicion on this proposal to have the same officers for England and Scotland. In the 2nd clause it was said— The said Scotch Education Department shall be at liberty to employ the same officers who may from time to time be employed by the Education Department for England. He believed the result would be that the Education Department for Scotland would be merged in the Department for England, and that they would be subjected to the same rules and regulations as for England. He was sure that the Scottish people would not consent without a struggle to have that system of education done away with to which they had been so much indebted for the success of their sons in the battle of life, both at home and abroad. Regarding the local boards, he should like some qualification to be given to the members. With regard to the payments made by the heritors, this £40,000 or £50,000 was a simple educational rate put on 200 years ago, and trebled 10 years ago. He thought, therefore, the Lord Advocate, in proposing the change, had properly substituted one educational rate for another, and had properly relieved the heritors in this respect. He was glad to see that the Lord Advocate had put into the Bill the sums to be given for infant, evening, and industrial schools; but he was sorry that in respect to evening schools, he had limited the grants to places where there were at least 1,000 inhabitants. He (Mr. M'Lagan) would suggest that a limit should be made, not in reference to the population, but to the attendance at the schools. He had great hopes of the advantages to be derived from these evening schools, which should be encouraged as much as possible, especially in small villages.


said, that as no English Member had yet spoken, he wished to express his regret that more time had not been allowed for the discussion of this very important matter. He trusted that the Government would not suppose that everything in this Bill was assented to because English Members were silent. It must be understood that in Committee hon. Members should have full opportunity of discussing the principles of this Bill.


said, he had certainly no reason to complain of the debate of that night. He assumed that the second reading of the Bill would be taken without a Division. He would refer for a moment to the adverse criticisms of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Glasgow (Mr. Gordon). These criticisms were in entire accordance with the observations he made on the occasion when this measure was introduced. His hon. and learned Friend characterized it as a destruction of the system of parochial schools, and he made observations of the same character in criticizing the proposal of the Bill with respect to central authority. As to the parochial schools, it certainly was not the purpose of the Bill to destroy the parochial system of education. On the contrary, the purpose—the leading object — of the Bill was to strengthen and extend it. The system had become insufficient. Even in country districts the parish schools supplied education to a very small proportion of the children who required it, and the system had never been extended into the burghs at all. The purpose of the Bill was to enlarge the system in country districts, and to extend it into the towns, where heretofore it had no existence at all. His hon. and learned Friend seemed to regard as tantamount to destruction the change which the Bill proposed in the school boards. No doubt that change was considerable. The management at present was vested in a limited number of a limited class of heritors, with the minister of the parish. With the extension of the parochial system, which he hoped would follow upon the Bill, it would be necessary to provide more extensive funds than had hitherto been provided; it would therefore be necessary to extend the area of rating. Accordingly, it seemed impossible to him, with an extended school system and an enlarged area of rating, to leave the management in the confined condition in which it was at present. He proposed to do only what the law establishing the system, which had been so much lauded, originally did—namely, to make the management commensurate with the rating—to vest the management in those who paid. To say that there was any destruction of the Scotch school system because the management was to be in an elective body was a novel proposition to maintain in the House of Commons at the present day. The excellence of the Scotch parish schools was attributable to the excellence of the schoolmasters; and the influence of the parish schools had been owing in great measure to the mere fact of their existence. It early became a custom for parents to send their children there, and that custom had continued to the present day; so that some education was furnished to the children in every parish. But with regard to the extent to which the people of Scotland were indebted to those schools, he could not use such unmeasured language of laudation as his hon. and learned Friend had done. The Royal Commissioners reported that 75 per cent of these schools were good, leaving 25 per cent either indifferent or bad. And with regard to the Free Church schools, his recollection was that they said they were very much on a par with the schools under the parochial system. They were not first-rate any of them; but they had been assisted by a very efficient board, and were supplemental to the parochial schools, and were much of the same character. The Free Church schools have undoubtedly been a blessing to the country. He did not exactly understand what was meant by an expression which had been very frequently used by his hon. and learned Friend, "the peculiarities of the Scotch system of education." No doubt the parochial schools had furnished very excellent schoolmasters, which was attributable probably to this—that the clergy of the Established Church of Scotland were very moderately provided for; none of the great prizes which were so attractive in other Established Churches fell to their lot; they therefore came chiefly from the humbler classes — commonly from those boys who had shown an aptitude for learning in the parish schools, had been encouraged and sent to the University, and had found an intermediate resting-place between the school and the ministry in the office of the schoolmaster, and accordingly they had in most of the country schools in Scotland a schoolmaster with a University education, and he was able to take up boys who showed an aptitude for learning, and send them in the same course he proceeded himself; and so the Church was supplied with ministers and the schools with masters. That was not a peculiarity in the system of education. In England, he presumed, reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught in the same way as in Scotland. The Educational Department of the Privy Council — jealousy of which had been so freely expressed in the course of that debate—recognized the advantage of instruction in more than mere elementary knowledge. Geography, grammar, mathematics, Latin, Greek, and modern languages, were all provided for in the Revised Code. That was not a peculiarity of the Scotch system. They had schools in which Latin to a certain extent, and Greek to an infinitesimal extent, were taught; but there was no feeling, as far as he was aware, adverse to this among those who were charged with education in England. Now, a few words with regard to the central authority. His hon. and learned Friend asked—"Why depart from the provisions of the Bill which appeared good to the Government and to Parliament in 1869?" The Bill which he had now had the honour of laying upon the Table was in many important respects, with reference to the question he was now adverting to, at variance with the Bill of 1869. The Bill of 1869 proposed to establish a Scotch Board undoubtedly, but only one, which was to be at Edinburgh—it was not proposed to establish one in every parish and every burgh in the country. That Board was to have the exclusive power of determining when and where national schools were to be established. When that Central Board had determined that a national school was to be established in any locality, then a school committee was to be called into existence in that locality. But the one Board established by that Bill was the Central Board at Edinburgh. But by this Bill he would establish within six months after its passing a school board in every parish and district in Scotland. There would be plenty of school boards, and every one of them would be charged, with the duty within its own district which was proposed to be conferred on the Central Board at Edinburgh by the Bill of 1869 with respect to the whole of Scotland. Then the question arose, which did not arise in 1869—whether an intermediate Board was required between the parish or burgh boards and the central authority: which must, of necessity, be in London — not because there was any apprehension that the people of Scotland were not able to manage their own affairs, but because when Imperial money was to be given for any purpose it was considered desirable, if not essential, that the administration should be in a Government Department immediately answerable and amenable to the House of Commons. There was, as his hon. and learned Friend had pointed out, an exception in the case of the Irish Education Department; but from information which had reached him as the true lesson of experience that was not an example which it would be well to imitate. Even his hon. and learned Friend had referred to Ireland as a spoilt child, and that spoilt children are very troublesome to their parents. This conferring of a Board of Education on Ireland was one of those acts of over-kindness which induced a troublesome disposition on the part of the children. He therefore thought that they ought to avoid that exceptional instance; and, therefore, a central authority must exist in London for most important purposes. As the central authority was to administer Imperial money, it was interested to see that the local boards were not extravagant in the expenditure of the money raised by the rates that they imposed; for any extravagance in that direction would, according to the provisions of the Bill, lead to a corresponding increase in the expenditure of the Imperial money paid in grants. Therefore, it appeared to him that this provision was a natural one, and likely in its operation to be a useful and efficient check in every direction in which a check was required. His right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council had stated that the Department would be made a Scotch Department. Now, the very name "Scotch Department" had a power of virtue in it, for it was an intimation by Parliament that the administration in this matter was to be a Scotch administration. It was wrong to suppose that Scottish views and interests had been in any way overlooked in the framing of the Bill. An Education Department for Scotland would be created under the Bill, which would be empowered to take full cognizance of the wishes of the people of Scotland with regard to the education which they desired their children to get, and that Department would be able to act in all matters relating to local affairs. As he knew that the House was desirous to get to the next Question on the Paper, he should reserve any further observations he had to make on the details of the Bill for another occasion. He should now content himself with saying that the several suggestions thrown out by the various speakers who had taken part in the debate would receive his fullest consideration before the Bill passed into Committee, and that he should endeavour to make the Bill as agreeable to the House, and as valuable and useful to Scotland, as possible.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday 20th March.