HC Deb 12 February 1872 vol 209 cc250-76

, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to amend and extend the provisions of the Law of Scotland on the subject of Education, said, that he did not anticipate any objection to his Motion, and should, therefore, have contented himself with formally moving it, leaving the details of the measure to be explained and defended when the Bill itself should be in the hands of hon. Members, but that, considering the interest which attached to the subject, he was persuaded he should disappoint the reasonable expectations of many hon. Members of the House, and of a much larger number of persons out-of-doors, if he omitted to avail himself of the present opportunity to explain the spirit in which the Government addressed themselves to the work of legislation on the subject, the principles on which they proceeded in framing the measure, and to give the general import of the provisions which the House was asked to assent to. By doing so he thought he should very greatly assist hon. Members in understanding the provisions of the measure. He would not detain the House by any mere generalities on the importance of the subject—for all were agreed that it was important—nor should he enlarge on the deficiencies, either in quantity or quality, of the existing provision for education in Scotland. On that point copious details had been furnished by the Report of the Education Commissioners, and he believed that there was a general concurrence of opinion to the effect that the general deficiency was such that some legislative remedy was necessary. He was aware that in the progress of the Bill he now asked leave to introduce he should be met with many difficulties, and some of them, he did not disguise from himself, of a serious character; but he did not anticipate that any objection would be made on the ground that any legislation on the subject was superfluous, and that the matter had better be left alone. Scotchmen had been accustomed to regard with pardonable pride—he trusted with pardonable pride—the fact of the existence in their country, for centuries past, of a legal provision for the education of the people. In every parish there had been at least one, and in many parishes more than one parish school, established by Act of Parliament, placed under public management, and supported by public rates. In every burgh there was, according to the customary law of the country, a burgh school, which the community of the burgh was bound to maintain as a public school. These public schools were all indeed elementary; but it would be an error to suppose that they were exclusively elementary, either as to their legal constitution, or, generally speaking, as a matter of fact. On the contrary, the burgh schools were not even chiefly elementary, but were rather grammar schools, in which elementary instruction was given along with education in higher branches. In the parish schools it was otherwise, not from any difference in the law, but from the necessity of the case. These were chiefly, and very many of them were altogether, elementary schools; but it was nevertheless true that, with respect to all or most of them, the teachers were competent to give instruction in the higher branches of education, and, in fact, most of them did so to such pupils as were able and willing to receive it. Whether at any time this system of public schools was sufficient to overtake the education of the people in past times was at least doubtful; but there could be no doubt that at the present period its insufficiency was very great indeed. The system had so failed to keep pace with the growth of the population, that when the Commissioners reported, its power was found by them to be limited to providing education for only one-fourth of the children actually attending school, the remaining three-fourths of the school-going children being provided for in schools furnished by voluntary effort or by private adventure, and 92,000 children were left without any means of education at all. This was a painful and startling revelation to Scotchmen, who were priding themselves in the notion that all was well, and that Scotland still retained her pre-eminence for her educational system. Yet the Commissioners had declared that of the children of Scotland attending schools only one-fourth were attending the public schools, and that of these schools 20 per cent, or one-fifth, were positively or relatively bad; that the other three-fourths were being educated at schools maintained by voluntary effort or in private adventure schools, of which the same proportion was bad; and that upwards of 90,000 children were not being educated at all. It was now five years since that revelation was made, and the question arose, why had they been so tardy in applying a remedy? The answer that they must give to themselves and to the world was that they had been fighting over the religious difficulty and the political principle, and had not been able to recognize that the education of the people was a matter of sufficient urgency and importance to induce them to leave off that struggle. If there be any case in which union for a common object might be obtained without concessions and compromises, this certainly was not one, for it related to a subject on which men differed widely and greatly. Unless, therefore, men could be induced to think that the battle over the religious difficulty and the political principle had been fought long enough, and that the children who were growing to be men and women were worthy of consideration, he thought the common object of driving ignorance from the land was of sufficient magnitude and urgency to induce them to make concessions, on one side and the other, necessary to that compromise which was the condition of union. If it were not so, and they had a renewal of those fierce discussions as to the best mode of teaching religion to those children, he feared they would leave the children a prey to that gross ignorance which was the direst enemy of all religion. "Godless education" was a favourite expression with many good and religious men; but he never heard that expression without feeling how inapplicable the epithet "godless" was to education, and how applicable it was to ignorance. The expression "godless education" sounded to him as harsh and incongruous as the phrases "godless honesty," "godless virtue," "godless truth;" and he had often wished that those who used the expression would realize the fact that ignorance, with its inseparable companions, irreligion, crime, and poverty, had thriven, grown, and multiplied under their denunciations of "godless education"—godless, they call it, because it is not permeated with religion. He would, with all humility, address a similar remonstrance to those who, with equal conscientiousness and zeal—he might almost say vehemence—maintained the opposite side in this struggle, by which the education of the people had been hindered and delayed for so many years. He believed in his conscience it would have been for the advantage, not only of the material and temporal interests of the people, but also for their religious interests, if either side—no matter which—in this struggle had long since yielded absolutely and entirely to the other, for in that case they would now have had for many years in operation a system of education infinitely more extended and efficient than the present. While those who took the one side asserted it as an important political principle that religious teaching in national schools should not to the slightest extent be paid for out of the Imperial funds or local rates, they hold that if children should be taught religion in these schools for even the shortest time, an objectionable principle is involved. But those who hold these principles should remember the comparative importance of the consequences involved. In the one case is involved the political principle referred to—in the other, the practical fact of providing actually, and, in fact, the means of education for a multitude of children who are now left without any education secular or religious. He had endeavoured humbly, but earnestly and laboriously, to devise a measure such as would provide for this matter as far as Scotland was concerned; and with the approbation of the Government he now submitted it to the House. In his humble judgment a general measure of education did not afford a proper opportunity for coming to a decision on the question of religious endowments or establishments; but, on the contrary, he thought that for the all-important purpose of such a measure it was becoming to make those concessions, on the one side and on the other, which might be necessary to give the people a sufficient system of education in such a manner as they might desire to have it or be willing to receive it. He had accordingly directed his efforts to avoid raising any of those religious or political questions which might form the ground for a trial of strength, either here or "elsewhere," and had regard only to the interests of the people of Scotland in this matter. As he had already explained, the existing system operated chiefly in country districts, where alone the parish schools existed, for they did not extend to towns; the legal provision for education in towns was, indeed, very slender and unsatisfactory. He had also stated that the legal character of the parish schools in Scotland was that of being established by Act of Parliament, conducted under public management, and supported by public money. But it was also true that parish schools had been popularly though erroneously regarded as denominational schools of the Established Church—an error which was probably attributable to this, that for a long period after their institution their connection with the Established Church—then the only Church in the country—was very intimate indeed. The clergymen of the district had of necessity great power; it was a necessary qualification of the teacher that he should be a member of the Established Church, and his possession of that qualification was ascertained by a religious test. The parish minister was, indeed, the only official manager and head of the schools, and he still continued to have practically the chief power in the management. But, in 1861, these schools were formally thrown open to the teachers of other denominations by the qualified abolition of the religious test. This, however, was more in appearance than reality, for the parochial clergyman continued to have the chief voice in the management. So that the Established Church did in point of fact continue to regard all public or rate-supported schools as schools belonging to the Church, practically under the management of her clergy, and taught only by teachers of her communion. The denominational party were naturally unwilling that the Church should lose the hold over the schools that she now possessed, or that any change should be made which would have the effect of making them in fact what they really were, and had always been in their legal character—national as distinct from denominational schools. They were so averse to a national system that they objected strongly even to the void which at present existed being filled up with national schools. They would prefer that the present system should be left alone, and that a period of grace should be allowed for the void to be filled up by voluntary denominational effort, duly stimulated by the promise of a largely increased Parliamentary grant, to be accompanied by a school board and a school rate in the event of failure. Their argument was, of course, the superiority of a denominational over a national system. But there were two particular arguments or positions on which they relied, the one being that parish schools were so admirable that it would be unwise to interfere with them—the other, that under the English Education Act there was no interference with the denominational schools of the Church of England and of the other religious bodies, and that justice required that the same abstinence should be observed with respect to the denominational schools of Scotland. The Government were not prepared to adopt that course, for their opinion was that the great majority of the people of Scotland desired the national, as distinguished from the denominational system of education. What the Government desired was that the existing national schools, established by Act of Parliament, and supported by rates imposed and levied by the authority of the Government, should not only be made thoroughly and in effect national, but should be improved and made useful in every possible respect. What, under these circumstances, was proposed in the Bill was, that there should be established in every parish and in every burgh in Scotland a school board, to be elected by the people themselves, and which would represent their feelings and interests on the subject of education. In order to extend the system of education proposed, and to supply the deficiencies admitted to exist, it would be necessary to increase the present educational rate, and that it was proposed to do by rendering liable to it the owners and occupiers of all the real property, according to the existing value. The constituents of the school boards, which he desired to make as far as possible representative of the true wishes of the people, would be all those by whom the rate was paid. Under their management it was proposed to place, to begin with, the public schools now in existence—for in that light both the parish and the burgh schools were regarded. It would be the duty of the boards to extend the system of public schools, which would be thus put under their management, so far as it might be deemed necessary to do so, in order to meet the educational requirements of the various districts. But no distinction with respect to management or otherwise would be made between the existing public schools to be immediately placed under the control of the school boards, and those schools which they might provide after their establishment in order to supply a deficiency. The Government could not consent to look upon the existing parish schools in the same light, and as of the same character, as the denominational schools of the Church of England. They were, in point of fact, quite different; for the Church of England schools were not established by Act of Parliament, but by voluntary effort, and were not maintained by statutory rates levied on the owners and occupiers of land, but by means of voluntary contributions. The parish schools of Scotland were, on the contrary, public legal institutions. There were, it was true, in Scotland schools occupying a position analogous to the schools of the Church of England—such as the schools of the Church—sometimes called General Assembly schools, or Church of Scotland schools. They were established by the proceeds of voluntary contributions, and no proposal was therefore made to legislate with respect to them, further than was necessary to enable them to put themselves under the operation of the national system proposed to be established should they be so disposed. The schools of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian schools were placed in the same category. It became, in the next place, requisite to consider what the powers of the school boards should be with reference to the schools which would be placed under their management, or which they might hereafter establish or otherwise acquire. Upon that point he might, without entering into details, state that it was proposed to give the school boards all the powers necessary for the efficient management of the schools. They would have the appointment of the teachers, and generally the same authority now possessed by the existing managers of public schools. A good deal had been said in Scotland as to the necessity that the members of the boards should be elected by persons having pecuniary or educational interests in their well-doing; and the Government Bill made, he thought, proper provision for securing that object. A good deal had also been said as to the necessity of putting the school boards under the control of a Government Board, to be established in Edinburgh. That was a step, however, which it was not, in his opinion, desirable to take. Let him suppose, for example, that the people of Glasgow elected a school board and selected the best men, in their opinion, to discharge its duties; those men would be thoroughly conversant with the wishes and feelings of their constituents on the subject. It would, in his opinion, be no advantage to subject a board so composed to the supervision and control in all matters of management of a Government Board sitting in Edinburgh. Nor was it likely that such a board would submit to have its opinions over-ruled in that way. The same remark applied to the school boards representing other districts in Scotland. Considerable misconception, he might add, existed with regard to the powers which it was proposed to give by the Bill to what was known as the Scotch Department of the Privy Council for Education. It was not proposed to give to that department any control over the school boards in the management of the schools, except so far as the money supplied by the State was concerned. The funds by means of which education was to be provided in the various districts were to be derived chiefly from three sources—in the first place—and that was in Scotland a large source—from the fees as paid in the schools; secondly, from contributions from the money granted by Parliament; and, thirdly, from the local rates. Now, it was obvious that the amount of the rate must depend on the deficiency which was left after the other two sources had been taken into account. It would, under this Bill, be for each board to regulate its own expenditure, and to impose on their several constituencies a rate necessary to meet any deficiency which might exist. The Education Department of the Privy Council dealt with the administration of the money immediately voted by Parliament, which was distributed in England according to rules contained in Minutes or Codes which the Committee of Council prepared. Now, it appeared to the Government that it would be advisable, and that it could not be otherwise than acceptable to the people of Scotland, that a distinct Committee should be appointed for Scotland, whose special duty it should be to deal with education questions arising in Scotland, in compliance with the wishes of the great masses of the people, and in compliance with the rules laid down for the application of the educational grants from the State. It was therefore proposed by this Bill—as was proposed by the Bill of last Session—that a special Committee should be appointed for Scotland, who should discharge the same duties in respect of Scotland as were now discharged by the Committee of Council in respect of England. That proposal, however, had reference to the administration of the Imperial grant only, and it was not meant that the Committee should in any way interfere with the boards elected in the various districts in the management of the schools. It was urged, he might add, by way of objection to intrusting the administration of the Imperial grants to a Committee of the Privy Council, that they would be likely to make the qualifications required in order to obtain a certificate of competency in the case of the teachers too low. All he could say in answer to that objection was, that the people of Scotland might make the standard of qualification for their teachers as high as they pleased. All that the Education Department would have to do in that respect would simply extend to the fixing of a minimum standard, without which they would not recognize a school as being entitled to participate in the grant. But if any school board should desire to have a teacher with higher qualifications, there would be in the Bill no provision which would preclude them from carrying their wishes in that respect into effect. He was, indeed, of opinion that the Scotch Department of the Privy Council, having regard to the wishes of the Scotch people on the subject, would be willing to raise the standard to any point that might be deemed desirable, although it was probable that the people themselves would not be anxious to ask them to raise the conditions on which they were to receive the Imperial money. Now, there was another matter to which he wished very briefly to advert. He had already spoken of the parish schools not as being legally elementary schools, though they were so in point of fact; but in the case of the burgh schools they were chiefly devoted to the higher class of teaching, with an admixture of the elementary. It was not, he might add, generally in accordance with the views of the House to grant Imperial money or to authorize local taxation in order to provide for the higher class of education, and it could therefore be provided for only otherwise than pecuniarily in the Bill. Of course, so far as parish schools were concerned, there would be no difference made in their legal character. The schoolmasters in them would, if the people chose—and he had no doubt they would choose if left to themselves—continue to give instruction in the higher branches of knowledge—in Greek and Latin, for instance—to those who might be willing to receive it. He hoped, however, for this improvement in the future—that whereas in the past that advantage had been purchased at the sacrifice of the interests of those whose education was confined to the elementary subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic, such would not be the case in the future. A schoolmaster, teaching the higher branches of knowledge to some of his scholars, must necessarily pay so much the less attention to the elementary instruction given in his school. It was not in contemplation, and he had no apprehension that it would be the fact, that in the future, as in the past, the education in the parish schools would be otherwise than this:—elementary instruction would be given to the overwhelming majority; but there would be teachers to give instruction in the higher branches to those who were willing to receive it. Each division would be so arranged that one would not interfere with the other. The one thing, in short, might be done under the Bill, while the other need not be left undone, and he had no apprehension that the people of Scotland, having the matter entirely in their own hands, would fail to deal with it in the manner they approved. He was, he might add, very anxious to make some provision for fostering the higher class of education in the burgh schools as well as in some of the parish schools where the education was at present exceptionally high. He, therefore, proposed that such burgh school as should be found to give instruction in the higher branches of education to such an extent that it could not be reasonably looked upon as an elementary school might be dealt with as a higher class school, to be managed with a view to promote higher education. There were provisions in the Bill on this subject, which he need not now enter upon in detail. Another subject which had been very much discussed was that relating to religion. He did not ignore the religious difficulty by any means. He quite admitted its existence as a matter of fact, and that it must be dealt with. Now, there were only three modes of dealing with it so far as he was aware. The first was to prohibit the teaching of all religion within the national schools; the second to enjoin the teaching of it; and the third to leave it alone so far as the Legislature was concerned. As matters stood at present, so far as the Legislature was concerned, it was left alone in the public schools in Scotland—that was to say, there was no legislative provision on the subject. Religion might be taught in a school or not, according to the disposition of the several masters and managers. No religious teaching was, he believed, given in several burgh schools; while in all the parish schools it was taught, he understood, in point of fact, though not because of any legal requirement. It was left to the managers of schools, and it was taught. He had been at the pains to ascertain how the present system worked in respect of time, and he gathered, as the result of the Report of the Education Commission, that the time during which religious teaching was given ranged from half-an-hour to three-quarters of an hour at a time; while the result of his own inquiries would lead him to put it at from ten minutes to half-an-hour. Instruction was given from the Bible or the Shorter Catechism, which was much the same as the Catechism of all the Presbyterian Churches, during about half-an-hour in the day. When it was said that there had been no religious difficulty in Scotland, what was meant was that the parents of all the children attending these public schools were quite content with the present system, and that no heartburnings existed upon this point. So much was this the case, that even in parishes where there were Roman Catholic children attending the schools they were by no means invariably withdrawn during the half-hour in which there was religious teaching; the parents were quite satisfied that they should partake of the religious teaching. Eighty-six per cent of those sending their children to school were Presbyterians—Presbyterians, no doubt, of many varieties—and it was hard for strangers to detect some of the points of difference, which were, in fact, invisible; but they were all Protestant Presbyterians, and they were all agreed on this point—that there should be religious teaching in the schools, and with the remaining 14 per cent, comprising Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, who attended these schools, there was no religious difficulty whatever. But because it was expected from some of his utterances that the Government would decline to enjoin by a statutory requirement the teaching of religion in the national schools, there was a great outcry, and it was said that the religious feelings of the people would be violated. His answer was, first, that no such requirement existed now; and, secondly, that it was somewhat strange to be accused of violating the religious feelings of the people in the matter of religious instruction in the schools if you proposed to leave that matter to the people themselves. That was the actual proposal in the Bill. The matter would be left to the people themselves by the simple expedient of saying nothing about it. To be sure, there was in the present Bill, as in the Bill of last year, a Time Table Conscience Clause. Such a clause might be superfluous; but it was only, after all, a statutory provision that that should be done in the future which had invariably been done in the past, and for doing which the existing school managers most justly claimed credit; for if it had not been so in the past, there would have been what he had just stated there had not been—the religious difficulty. The religious difficulty had been avoided by having the religious teaching in 99 out of 100 cases before the secular teaching of the day began, the first half hour of the school-day being devoted to the Scriptures and the Shorter Catechism; and the Time Table Conscience Clause merely enjoined that religious teaching should hereafter be given, as now, either at the beginning or at the end of the school-time. With that single exception, which merely expressed in the Act that which was now in point of fact done without any expression at all, the matter would be left to the people themselves. He did not suppose that Parliament would propose to prohibit the teaching of religion in the national schools, for he believed that such a prohibition would do violence to the wishes of a large majority of the people of Scotland. He quite saw that by an arithmetical process you might detect in such a system a violation of political principle. You might find out the proportion of the teacher's salary which belonged to the ten minutes or half hour occupied by the religious teaching, and which would come out of the rates; and to this extent there might be a sacrifice of principle. But the object was to give to the vast majority of the Scotch people a system of education which they would accept and approve; and was not this object worth the sacrifice he had mentioned? Were you to say—"Let the children grow up in ignorance; we must settle the matter on sound political principles, and until we so settle it the people shall have no education whatever?" He did not know what changes might come hereafter. Parties were being "educated," and might improve in political knowledge and wisdom; but at present he was persuaded that any system prohibiting the teaching of religion in the national schools would be so distasteful to the people of Scotland that it would be difficult to get it received and acted upon. Rejecting, then, alike the proposal to exclude and the proposal to enforce the teaching of religion, he would leave the matter to the people themselves, not doubting that they would exercise this liberty through the popularly elected school board exactly as they had exercised it heretofore. He had now only one word to say with respect to the schoolmasters. He had already stated that the school boards would have the election of them, and therefore the determination of the qualifications which were required. It had been urged very strongly that a minimum salary should be fixed by Act of Parliament, because, it was said, the people did not desire to deal liberally to the schoolmasters, and therefore a liberal minimum salary ought to be fixed by Act of Parliament. But a minimum suitable to one district would appear ludicrously small to another; and why should not the question of salary also be left to the school boards, who were elected by the people? They desired schoolmasters with excellent qualifications. Well, they could get such men by paying for them, and they might give them any salaries they might think proper suited to their attainments. They were now going to have men of very high attainments—higher than were required by the Education Department for England; the demand for the fixing of a minimum salary seemed to mean that the people distrusted their own liberality; if not—there was no reason why they should not give liberal salaries. Therefore he proposed that the question of fixing the remuneration of the teachers should be left to be settled between the teachers and the representatives of the people. He believed the teachers were quite able to look after themselves, and that the people, through their representative body—namely, the school boards—were able to look after themselves. They were interested in keeping down the rates, on the one hand; but they were interested more nearly and more strongly in the promotion of good education in their several districts, on the other hand; and they were told, and again he said they were truly told, that that was the desire of the people. One word more upon one other subject, and he had done; the subject of compulsory attendance. In the present Bill he had introduced clauses on that subject which he hoped would meet with the approbation of the House. In the Bill of last year the clauses of the English Bill were substantially transferred to the Scotch Bill. In the Bill which he now asked leave to lay upon the Table of the House there were several clauses as strong and stringent, with a view to compel the education of all the children of the country, as he thought would be practically workable. Such, then, was the character and general scope of the provisions of the education measure for Scotland which he now asked leave to introduce, and he could only, in conclusion, express the hope that it would be more fortunate than its predecessors, and pass into law in the course of the present Session. The right hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.


said, that on the previous occasion he had offered some remarks upon the course adopted with regard to education in Scotland, and he now wished to offer to the House some explanations on the subject of the proposed Bill—not so much with the view of enlightening the people of Scotland—because he believed them to be fully enlightened upon, and to take a most intelligent interest in, the subject—as of laying before hon. Members from other parts of the United Kingdom what was, in his opinion, the position of the question, and endeavouring to satisfy them that it was proposed to introduce, by means of this Bill, principles which would considerably affect the application of similar principles in other parts of the country. The people of Scotland had been in the enjoyment for about 300 years of a system of national education—that was to say, provision had been made by legislative enactment that there should be schools in every village for the education of the young, and that in those schools, both by legislative enactment and by invariable custom, the Christian religion had invariably been taught. They were, therefore, dealing with a system which was peculiar and unrivalled—one which had obtained the admiration of men the best qualified to form opinions on the subject. Lord Macaulay and Lord Brougham had passed high eulogiums upon the system, and MM. Guizot and Cousin agreed in the opinion that the system of national education which prevailed in the parish schools of Scotland was the best that had come under their notice. The system was, in short, one which had lasted long, had worked well, had enjoyed the respect of all Scotchmen, and he would venture to say had been to a great extent the envy of those who reside south of the Tweed. It had, in fact, always been held forth that what we should seek to establish for England was what had been established in Scotland for centuries. He would not trouble the House at any length with proofs that the schools were intended to be, and were, in fact, religious schools, further than to mention that they were first suggested by John Knox, who declared that— It was most necessary that the State should be careful for the virtuous education and godly upbringing of the youth of this realm, and further that in 1567, the first Act relating to the schools declared— Forasmuch as for all laws and circumstances, it is provided that youth be brought up and instructed in the fear of God and to God's honour, and as it would be injurious to their bodies and souls if they be not taught God's Word, therefore provision is made that there shall be a school established in every burgh and land (that is county parish) throughout the kingdom, and those schools, therefore, were placed under the supervision of the Church. At that there was considerable dissent in Scotland, for it was immediately after the Roman Catholic religion had been disestablished. In 1633, a definite provision was made on the subject of the pecuniary amount to be paid to the schoolmasters;—at that time the Established Church was Episcopal. In 1646 it was Presbyterian, and then again provision was made for masters. Further enactments of a similar character were made in 1662 and 1696, the minimum salary of schoolmasters being fixed at £100 merks, and the maximum at £200 merks. These schools provided sufficient instruction for the people for a long time; up to the present day, in fact, they provided sufficiently for the educational requirements of the great majority of country parishes, the want being found to exist mainly in parishes where mining operations and the establishment of manufactures had caused the population to increase so rapidly as to exceed the means provided by the old Scotch Act of 1696. In 1803, accordingly, it became necessary to increase the amount of provision for the schoolmasters, and a larger minimum and also a larger maximum was fixed; and again it was expressly recognized that the schoolmaster should be examined in religious subjects—showing that to impart religious instruction was a necessary part of his duty. There were other statutes with which he need not trouble the House; but in 1861 another statute was passed increasing the maximum and minimum allowance of the schoolmasters, and while it was no longer required that the schoolmaster should be a member of the Established Church he was expressly bound to conform to the religious teaching existing in the Church—which was to say that he was prohibited emphatically from teaching anything inconsistent with the doctrines of the Bible or the Shorter Catechism. He therefore again asserted that it was according to the custom which had prevailed in Scotland for 300 years, and which had received the greatest weight of Scottish law, that religious instruction should be a necessary part of the schoolmaster's duty. They were now, therefore, landed in 1872; and now that they were about to legislate on this subject, these two circumstances must steadily be borne in mind—in the first place, it had been the custom, confirmed by repeated legislative enactments, that religious instruction should invariably be given in those schools; and, secondly, that it was in accordance with the feelings of the people of Scotland. He was also justified in adding here that there never had been a single grievance arising from the practice. There had been a most searching examination instituted by a Royal Commission, and the Commissioners reported that no single charge of proselytizing had ever been brought home to a schoolmaster at any of the schools, although they were attended indifferently by children belonging to all denominations. Free Church schools were attended by children belonging to the Established Church and vice versâ, while, as a matter of fact, there were more Roman Catholic children attending the parish schools than were to be found in all the Roman Catholic schools in Scotland. It was clear, therefore, that there was no religious difficulty in Scotland with regard to this question of education—let that fact be carefully borne in mind. So much for the history of the question. As his right hon. and learned Friend had stated, the Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the subject, and they reported in 1868. It would be well for the House to remember that among the gentlemen composing that Commission were his Grace the Duke of Argyll, Lord Belhaven, Lord Polwarth, and Lord Dunfermline, who were all well acquainted with Scottish wants and feelings:—there were also three gentlemen who had held the office of Lord Advocate of Scotland, Mr. Murray Dunlop, well-known for the interest he always took in all matters connected with the Church and education in Scotland, and other distinguished men, to the number of 18 in all, who had taken the deepest interest in the Church and educational matters in the country. His right hon. and learned Friend said it was melancholy that no measure had been passed founded upon the recommendations of the Commission, and that the House had allowed four years to be consumed in squabbling about religious questions. This might or might not represent the facts of the case quite accurately; but he ventured at any rate to say that the hon. Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House were not responsible for the delay. In 1868, when the Commissioners made their Report, he (Mr. Gordon) submitted to the Cabinet a measure founded upon it. That measure would have been brought before the House; but, unfortunately for the people of Scotland, the question of the Irish Church was raised, and, with the Scotch Reform Bill, occupied the whole time of the Session. In 1869 the present Government, speaking through the Duke of Argyll, introduced into the House of Lords a Bill which was altogether founded upon the Report of the Commissioners. That Bill passed the Upper House, and was sent down to the House of Commons certainly not later than the beginning of June. But what became of that important measure at a time when, as they had been told that night, 92,000 children were perishing in Scotland for lack of knowledge? The Bill was not proceeded with until the month of August, and then after occupying the attention of the House by fits and starts at Morning Sittings, it was sent back to the House of Lords practically a new Bill as far as details were concerned, on the day when Parliament was prorogued, and their Lordships were asked to pass it in that form at an hour's notice. The House of Lords thought this an unreasonable demand to make, and declined to comply with it—a resolution which had his approval, and was, he believed, generally approved by the country at large. In 1870 there was no Bill. In 1871 a Bill was brought in in February, and he (Mr. Gordon) really began to think that they saw land on this question of Scotch Education; but what took place? Instead of the Government taking up and proceeding with their measure of Scotch Education, they introduced, late in the Session, a Ballot Bill, and that measure absorbed the whole time of Parliament for the remainder of the Session. They were, however, told by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that a Scotch Education Bill could be passed if they—the Scotch Members—were only unanimous. If that were so, he did not at all wonder at the Bill not being taken up. Great interest was taken in the Bill in Scotland, many Amendments were given Notice of, and a great many Petitions were presented. Some were in favour of it, some against it, and some prayed that certain alterations might be made in it; but all agreed that religious instruction should be given as hitherto, and that there should be a Scottish Board of Management, and that the interests of the schoolmasters should be attended to. Under these circumstances he certainly had expected the Bill of this evening would represent the feeling of the people of Scotland. If, however, he understood his right hon. and learned Friend correctly, this Bill was little better than a repetition of the Bill of 1871. He was glad to hear his right hon. and learned Friend intended to do something for borough schools; but he disapproved the proposal as regards parochial schools. The Commissioners proposed to continue the arrangement by which these schools were supported because the heritors, upon whom the burden fell, did not object to it, and because the land had always hitherto been bought and sold with this burden resting upon it. The Bill now submitted to the House took the management out of the hands of the heritors and gave it to the ratepayers, and divided the duty of supporting the schools between the owners, proprietors, and occupiers of property. The heritors had never grudged the schools their contributions; they had been very liberal to the schoolmasters of the Free Church, as well as the Established Church. Not only did the Commissioners deprecate any change calculated to lower the character of the parish schools, but the Professors endorsed their views—Professors who were not wedded to the system from national feelings, but Professors from English Universities. It was not, therefore, the Church party only which asked that the parish schools might be maintained, but everyone who was most competent to form an opinion on the matter. As regards religious instruction, the Bill of 1871 proposed the repeal of all former laws and usages; he feared that the present Bill would do the same; but he assured the House that if matters were left as at present in regard to religious instruction, there would be no religious difficulty at all in connection with Scotch education. With regard to the superior control of the system, the people of Scotland had thought very carefully on the subject, and saw no reason whatever why they should depart from their almost unanimous resolution expressed last year, that the education of Scotland should be placed under the management of a Board in Scotland. He doubted whether his right hon. and learned Friend would be able to obtain the support even of his own side of the House upon this part of the Bill. The House was told that there would be a Committee of the Privy Council to manage the Scotch system. He thought the duties of the Scotch Education Department, which he regarded as very serious and onerous, ought to be separated from the English Education office, because they had a different system of education in Scotland from that which prevailed in England. In England the system was strictly elementary; whereas in Scotland they had to a certain extent secondary education for the advantage of clever boys. Again, by centralizing the systems of the two countries in one department, if an error was committed they would go on in the same groove, and it would be difficult to get out of it. Let them have an opportunity of trying their hand in Scotland with their own system, and see if they could not suggest improvements. Ireland was intrusted with the management of her own education, and he thought Scotland ought not to receive worse treatment in that respect. With regard to religious education, the people of Scotland were determined that the system of religious instruction which had hitherto existed there should not be taken away from them if they could help it. They thought that they ought to have—and he hoped they would have—religious instruction in their schools, and given by their schoolmasters. He knew that some persons said religious instruction should be left to parents and clergymen. First as to the parents. Now, it was represented that the parents of 92,000 children—though that was rather an extravagant estimate—neglected their duty to provide secular education for their offspring; and he thought it was quite in accordance with what John Knox said, that people should be compelled to send their children to school. But did they expect that those parents, many of whom belonged to no Church, could give their children religious instruction? Then as to the clergy, they had already too many calls upon their time to be able to attend to the religious education of the children; and the result would be that if they did not get religious instruction in the schools those children would be brought up without any religious instruction whatever. There was no religious difficulty in Scotland, unless they chose to create it by their legislation. His right hon. and learned Friend said that while he did not prescribe, neither did he proscribe religious instruction. But why should they send a question which they did not think proper to determine to be fought over in the local Boards? Let Parliament itself manfully declare what it thought was necessary for the religious instruction of the children, and then the local Boards would be relieved from distressing conflicts. How many schools were there in operation as rate-aided schools in England under the Act of 1870? He might be wrong, but he doubted whether there were any. They did not know how the system would work, although it might do so better in London than in smaller places. In small parishes differences of opinion and bitterness would be engendered, and defeat would not be borne so readily in them as it might be by those who opposed the decision of the London School Board. Therefore what ought to be done was to preserve that system which they were told was in accordance with the opinions of the great majority of the Scotch people. Then they would have a system in the working of which he believed there would be no heartburning, and which would offer a satisfactory solution of what was called the religious difficulty—a difficulty which in Scotland was entirely of a theoretical and political character.


said, he would not take up much of the time of the House, but he wished to say a few words in reference to the religious difficulty. He agreed in the remark of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gordon), who said he disapproved of relegating the question of the religious difficulty to the decision of the local school boards. Everyone in the House must agree that whatever was done on the subject should be done by that House. That which was done in England ought to be done in Scotland. They distinctly forbad all religious formularies and catechisms being taught in the national schools in England. He admitted at once that it had been customary to teach the Assembly Catechism in all the parish schools in Scotland, and it was an admirable compendium of Christian knowledge; but he denied the statement of the Lord Advocate, that there was a great preponderance in favour of teaching catechisms and formularies in these schools—opinion he thought was growing in the opposite direction. He had only that day received a letter from a minister of the Free Church—a body supposed by many to be all in favour of teaching the catechisms—containing a resolution of the Free Church Presbytery of Dumbarton. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had said that we ought to keep up the parish schools, and not sweep them away. There was no intention of sweeping them away by this Bill. They would exist after this Bill passed as they existed before; but they would be placed under better management. He denied that these schools were to be regarded as an appendage of the Church of Scotland, or that it was intended that the parish minister should have a preponderating interest in the management, that the Scriptures alone should be taught, and taught by the schoolmaster, or by any other person in the schools who was duly qualified. No doubt, the ministers of the Church of Scotland possessed great influence with the heritors who sat at the board, and who managed the schools; but so far from there being any preponderating influence on the part of the parish clergyman, the Act of 1803, which was a compendium of all the Acts referred to, especially enacted that although the minister of the parish should sit at the board with the heritors, he should never take the chair as president of the meeting, and therefore could not have the casting vote; and therefore could not have a preponderating influence:—but he granted, from the large number of proprietors being absentees, that he in some cases practically managed the school. That was a great abuse. Then, again, as to the heritors; this small body of men managed those schools. It was by the Act of 1803 that the management was limited to the small body of men who were the owners of land which in the reign of Charles II. was rated at £100 Scots. He was rejoiced to hear that that body was to be opened: it was a sign of the times. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman knew that the tenant was liable to half the rate. Well, the Bill would give to persons really interested in education a voice, because it would give a vote to everyone resident in the parish who was rated. Now, with reference to the religious difficulty and the assumption that all parties were satisfied with the present system, he would like to call the attention of the Lord Advocate to the fact that the United Presbyterians, who had about 500 congregations in Scotland, had passed resolutions in their synod meetings declaring that they were against all denominational distinctions. Whether that was right or wrong, it was a fact, and the Lord Advocate had no right to assume that all parties were satisfied. The Independents, Baptists, and other bodies did not agree with the denominational system. Then the Free Church was, practically speaking, against it, and he believed that of late the idea was making rapid progress, that it was not necessary to require the teaching of the Catechism—the obligatory reading of the Bible being thought sufficient in the new national schools. Under those circumstances, it was assuming too much to say that there was no difference in Scotland on that subject. With reference to the Government Board, he thought that the people of Scotland would like to have a Scotch Educational Board; but he was bound to say that for himself he was not in favour of it. He did not understand what the local board could do except put its finger in the public purse, and that it had certainly no right to do. If the parish board wanted to have a new school erected, or to enlarge an old one, it could do it; but once establish a General Board in Edinburgh, and everything would have to be reported to that Board. It would he a buffer between the parish and the Privy Council, and it would be a source of delay, and annoyance, and irritation. He would have every parish to manage its own affairs, and they would manage them best without such a Board. With regard to a Conscience Clause, he knew there existed a general minute of the Church of Scotland, made more than 50 years ago, in which a Conscience Clause was referred to, not as a thing enacted, but as a thing in use. A Time Table Clause seemed to him to be necessary, because everything must be done in order. They must inevitably appoint some time for teaching religion, as they did for the teaching of everything else. As to the 90,000 children alleged to be without education in Scotland, he did not believe a word of it. The report was contradictory. There were four different sets of figures given, beginning with 90,000 and coming down to less than 50,000; and they got at those figures in this way—they assumed that a certain number of children ought to be at school—say 1 in 6 of the population. They divided the population, and they deducted from the product the number of children actually at school, and thus they arrived at the number of children who they said were not receiving any education. Now if there were any common rule as to the age at which all the children should leave school, that would be a very good way; but there was no such rule. The Commissioners assumed that every child should be 10 years at school—that was from 3 to 14 years of age. It might well happen that a child had been only five years at school; but they were all set down by this mode of calculation as if they had not been to school at all. With regard to the heritors, they had been required since 1692 to pay for the proper support of the school in each parish. They had from time to time advanced the salaries of schoolmasters; but those advances had been far from proportionate to the times. The Act of Parliament limited the salary to £5 12s. 6d. The masters got £50 or £60 now; but the rent of the land had risen enormously beyond that proportion. Since the time of Charles II. rents had increased forty-fourfold; but the salary of the schoolmaster had been increased only tenfold. The burden on the landowner had been constantly diminishing, and they had not done nearly enough for the parish schools. The parish schools were originally free from all charges—there were no school fees charged—he could not find a trace of school fees for more than a century after the schools were established—but in consequence of the heritors not finding the funds to pay for a good teacher, fees came to be charged, and by the Act of 1803 the fees were made regularly chargeable. Mr. Milne Home of Wedderburn was reported to have said, and afterwards confirmed, that as an heritor he now paid £184 for the support of schools, and by the Bill of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate would have to pay only £40, and the result of the Bill would be that the difference would have to be paid by the poorer classes, who were at present exempted, in that and all similar cases. That he held to be a great injustice, and for his part he should offer the most strenuous opposition to such an enactment.


said, during the time he had been a Member of the House he had been present at the birth and obsequies of a great many Bills for the improvement of education in Scotland. The Royal Commission which had inquired into the subject seemed to have found a way out of the difficulties that beset it; and he should have thought that the Lord Advocate, taught by the experience of the Bill of last year, which had received the general disapproval of Scotland, would have brought in a Bill more in consonance with the Report of the Commissioners, and likely to give more satisfaction. He was sorry especially that it was not proposed to place the parish schools in the same position as that in which the schools belonging to the Established Church of England were placed by the Act of 1870. He felt sure that the establishment of local hoards would give rise to local bickerings in very many parts of Scotland.


said, he believed that the Bill, as it had been sketched out by the Lord Advocate, would meet with the acceptance of the great majority of the people of Scotland. He thought the mode he had adopted of getting over the difficulties which stood in the way of education was the best which the circumstances of the case would admit of. There was only one way of getting over the stumbling-block of an Education Bill without violating political principles—that was, by having a purely secular system. If they had a rate-aided education, they must have boards throughout the country; but he did not think many persons would desire to see such agitation in Scotland as had arisen from the absence of local boards in certain parts of England. He, personally, on religious grounds, preferred a secular system, because he believed it to be the only one consistent with the principles of our religion. If those who held the opposite opinion persisted in throwing this obstacle in the way, it would not be possible to pass any measure which would be acceptable to the people of Scotland. It was only the rate that created the difficulty. The moment a man paid rates he had a right to have his religious principles consulted. As regarded the religious difficulty in other aspects, the Lord Advocate had done the only thing possible to escape the difficulty. He knew that the children of the people of Scotland would be religiously educated without any Act of Parliament to enforce it, and so did not think it necessary to provide that the parish schoolmaster should teach religion; nor did he hold that the clergyman was necessarily the fittest person to teach it. Did any man suppose that the people of Scotland were going to neglect the religious education of their children because the schoolmaster or the clergyman was permitted to undertake it. Was it not the duty of every Christian man to see to the religious teaching of their children and the children of their neighbours? Therefore, to provide for the religious education of children by the State was wholly unnecessary. In making such provision they were putting a stumbling-block in the way of their Nonconformist brethren, who, on the other hand, should not insist that their own views as to secular education should be inserted in the Bill. The Lord Advocate had adopted the only way out of the dilemma. He had elected to leave the religious teaching to the people of Scotland themselves, and he had provided a Time Table Conscience Clause. He had no doubt that in Committee they should be able to induce, or, if not, to compel, the Lord Advocate to provide for the exclusion from the schools of those catechisms which, whatever their excellence, contained nothing that might not equally be taught from the Bible. "With these general remarks, he would give his unhesitating and hearty support to the measure.


would ask, if the Government, the Scotch Members, and the Opposition were in favour of the Bill as it stood, what chance was there that a small body of men in England who were in favour of secular education could place any great obstacles in the way of the settlement of the question? He congratulated the people of Scotland on their having a chance of getting school boards established in every district, and getting the parish schools placed under the management of those school boards. He was glad also to know that in Scotland a stronger measure of compulsion was to be adopted than in England. At the same time, he demurred to the principle laid down by the Lord Advocate that, while he was himself in favour of secular education, he still thought it advisable that complete power should be conferred upon the school boards to provide whatever religious instruction they might choose, even to the introduction of the Shorter Catechism, on the ground that it was the wish of the people of Scotland. His (Mr. Dixon's) reason for objecting to that principle was, that he felt the religious difficulty was one of those questions which ought to be considered rather as an Imperial than a merely local or Scotch question. It appeared that Scotland was to have a little more latitude than England. If, however, they were to give the people of Scotland the right to impose a larger amount of sectarian instruction than was done in England, how could they refuse any demand from Ireland to give the people of that country a still more complete control over religious instruction there? On such a question they ought to seek to legislate for the country as a whole, and if they deviated from that clear and admirable rule, they would get into a great variety of difficulties.

Motion agreed to. Bill to amend and extend the provisions of the Law of Scotland on the subject of Education, Ordered to be brought in by The LORD ADVOCATE, Mr. Secretary BRUCE, and Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 31.]