§ Order for Committee read.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ On Question "That the Preamble be postponed?"
§ MR. FAWCETT
, in moving that the Chairman report Progress, said, he had not ever given a factious opposition to the Bill, nor did he mean to do so then; but he was certain, after attentively listening to the last two debates, and the debates of last week, that it was absolutely impossible for the House to proceed with the Bill. What he contended was, that the objects of the Bill, as stated on its introduction by the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council, were entirely different from the objects as stated on the previous evening by the Prime Minister. He would refer first of all to the speech of the Vice President, who was responsible for the Bill, and who should have told the House distinctly what he intended. The first statement of principle by the Vice President was in moving the second reading—and no one who knew the noble Lord would imagine for a moment that he would resort to anything like subterfuge, there was not a more candid or straightforward man in the House—on that occasion the noble Lord said that no responsible Minister would pretend to assert that the endowed schools were national schools, belonging to the nation and not to the Church. It was therefore evidently the noble Lord's intention that they should be given to the Church, and taken away from the nation. Again, he distinctly stated that he wished by the Bill to reverse the policy of the previous Acts; but the Prime Minister told the House the night before, that the Bill was not 491 to be a reversal, but a continuance of that policy. The Vice President of the Council, among several others, gave as a reason why he desired it to be a reversal, that at the time of the passing of the Act of 1869 the Conservative party were stunned, and had lost their nerve. Now, there was no other conclusion to be drawn from those words, than that they, in a moment of panic, accepted principles which they would not have accepted had they not been dazed and frightened. But that was not all. The noble Lord wont on to say that he wished it to be understood that the great principle of the Bill was, that any school in which certain denominational emblems should be discovered, or denominational user within 100 years, should be treated as a denominational institution. It was evident, then, that there was in the mind of the Government, when they introduced the Bill, the distinction between denominational and undenominational schools, that the former should be brought under the operation of Clause 19 of the old Act, and that no one but a Churchman should be a Governor of those schools, and that children might be educated in them who would, nevertheless, be excluded from the scholarships and exhibitions. Such was the interpretation indeed, which had been put on the Bill by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for "War, as well as by the Vice President of the Council. The first-named right hon. Gentleman, he might add, speaking of the dismissal of the Commissioners, had explained what were the charges against those Gentlemen. He said—"The charge I bring against the Commissioners is this, not that they have failed in their duty, but that they have misunderstood and misinterpreted the Act, and have made endowments more undenominational than they ought to have done." The House knew what was the Home Secretary's own interpretation; it was, that the great fundamental principle of endowments which had been left to the Church was that they should be used by the Church. There was thus a remarkable discrepancy between the official avowals of the previous week, and the statements made by the Prime Minister on the previous evening. The Home Secretary said that the Commissioners had misinterpreted the Act; but when 492 the Prime Minister discovered the real feeling of the country, and of a good many of his own party, he entirely altered his tone, and being asked why the Commissioners were to be dismissed said—not a word about misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the Act—but that they were to be dismissed, because they had incurred unpopularity with the trustees. That was an entirely different issue, and seemed to make it impossible to proceed with the Bill, and he thought he was justified in asking how the discrepancies to which he had called attention were to be reconciled, and in asking from the Government some clear statement of their views. There was another important consideration, and that was, that many hon. Members might have voted for the previous stages of the Bill through misconception. The House should also remember that a deep impression had been made on the previous evening by the speeches of the hon. Member for East Devon (Sir John Kennaway), and the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot), who said they would not support the Bill, if it contained provisions which would deprive a single Nonconformist of the chance of getting a scholarship, or impose the necessity of taking Holy Orders on a single additional master. The Prime Minister, too, declared that it was not the intention of the Bill to deprive the children of Nonconformists of scholarships which they might win by competition, or to require that head masters should be in Holy Orders. That might not have been the intention of the Bill, but the Committee had to deal not with intentions, but with the clauses of the Bill. He did not believe that the clauses as they stood gave effect to the intention of the right hon. Gentleman. Under these circumstances, they had a right to ask the Government to take the Bill, and re-introduce it in a form which expressed their present and declared intentions. He accepted unreservedly the statement of the Prime Minister, that it was not intended to exclude Nonconformists from the Governing Bodies, or to impose the condition as to Holy Orders; but if these were the intentions of the Prime Minister, they would get into inextricable confusion if they proceeded to discuss a Bill on which such different interpretations had been placed. 493 Lawyers whose opinion he respected, had told him that the Bill, as at present framed, would inevitably exclude Nonconformists from scholarships and exhibitions, and that it would take some 300, 400, or 500 schools out of the operation of Clause 17 of the Act of 1869, and place them under Clause 19 of the Bill, whereby the necessity of the schoolmaster being in Holy Orders would be insisted on, notwithstanding the disclaimer of the Prime Minister. The Committee would see that he had good reason for making that observation, and that his opposition to the further progress of the measure was not factious.—["Oh, oh!"] Well, hon. Members who cried "Oh" did not, it was quite clear, understand the gravity of the situation. He felt convinced that if the Bill were passed, it would inflict great injustice upon the education of the country. It was a Bill, therefore, of the utmost importance, for the question raised was nothing less than this—should these schools be national or be appropriated by the Church. The Government had not put a single Amendment on the Paper to dispel existing doubts. They would permit Nonconformists to enter the Governing Body and the schools; but what was wanted was right, not permission—rights for the Governing Body, rights for education, rights for scholarships and endowments. He wished further to observe that he was sorry the right hon. Gentleman should have thought proper to give expression to the taunt which he had thrown out the evening before, against those who objected to the Bill in the interests of education, which he said had no more to do with the debate than the Comet, thus probably expressing his own feelings. The opponents of the measure did not, however, much mind such taunts coming from a perplexed Minister and a confused Government; but he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he would have said had a similar taunt been thrown out against himself and those who joined him in the great educational contest of last year? He would have said it was ungenerous and untrue, and it would not have been less so then than it was in the present instance. If he simply consulted the views of political partizans, he would not attept to amend the Bill; but there was something in dealing with the subject 494 of education infinitely higher than mere party considerations, and it was because he believed the Bill before the House would inflict great injury on the cause of education that he and those who acted with him felt they were justified in placing every obstacle in the way of its becoming law.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Fawcett.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 82: Majority 20.
§ Preamble postponed.
§ Clause 1 (Transfer of powers of Endowed Schools Commissioners to Charity Commissioners).
§ MR. A. H. BROWN
, in moving, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 25, to leave out from "passing of this Act," to end of clause, and insert "continue in force for a period of five years from the date of passing of the Act," said, the object of the Amendment was to continue the present Commissioners in office for that period, as they had done their work well, and each year they had published a larger number of schemes. They were appointed in 1869, and in 1870 they published 28 schemes; in 1871, 91 schemes; in 1872, 138; and in 1873,122. They had thus had great experience in the work, and if their services were retained would probably be able to do more in the future than they had done in the past. Moreover, there were many schemes at present in process of formation, which would probably fall to the ground if the change proposed by the Bill was carried out. So far as the amount of work done by the Commissioners was concerned, there seemed no ground for bringing any charge against them, and the opposition which their proceedings had aroused was entirely due to the novelty of the principles which it had been their duty to apply, which principles were embodied in the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission. But he ventured to say that as the country had gained more experience in the matter, the dread of the schemes of the Commissioners had greatly subsided, and generally speaking, the whole of the schools which had been touched by the Commissioners had been greatly improved. It should be remembered that the Commissioners had not only had a great deal of work to do, 495 but many difficulties to contend with, and the reason why they had not been able to proceed faster was the many interests involved or to be found in the novelty of the principles which they had to apply which in some cases—as, for instance, with regard to the Birmingham schools—had disturbed, various persons as it wore, in their enjoyment of certain rights and privileges which they had hitherto had, and which they naturally endeavoured to retain. Then a large number of schools claimed to be "the good schools," which, it had been said, had nothing to fear from the Act of 1869, and they wanted to be let alone, and for proof let him refer hon. Members to the evidence given by the witnesses before the Select Committee of last year which showed this point clearly. The Commissioners acted on the idea that the main object of the Endowed Schools Act was to improve the endowed schools and to make the endowments as conducive as possible to the education of all classes. Accordingly, as Lord Lyttelton stated, a great many classical schools, which did very little work and had very few boys, would be lowered and would receive a very large number of children of mechanics, and those very little above the working class, on whom no benefit was now conferred. On the other hand, some of a higher kind would possibly be attended by boys of a somewhat higher class than at present. The Commissioners further made it their business to deal with the endowments so as to provide a first-grade school where a first-grade school was wanted, and a second-grade school where a second-grade was wanted. He would not believe that the House would condemn these able gentlemen for endeavouring to extend education and for grading these endowed schools in order to increase their usefulness. Another cause of opposition was the difference of opinion which existed as to the share which girls ought to have in the benefits of the endowments, with regard to which, it had been found that there was a very general reluctance to diminish the amount of endowments available for boys in order to promote the interest of girls. On all these points to which he had referred—namely, giving a share of the endowment to girls, the grading of schools, and extending their usefulness, were points insisted on by the Schools In- 496 quiry Commission; and it was most unfair to blame the Endowed Schools Commissioners for acting upon the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission which was to these gentlemen their guide, and contained the principles they were to follow. He had now referred to the reason which caused the unpopularity of this Commission and now he would turn to the question of the fitness of the Charity Commissioners to do their work. He held in his hand a copy of a Petition to that House, in which it was pointed out that the Charity Commissioners were more accustomed to deal with the rights of Corporative property than with educational matters. That he believed to be the true state of the case, and from it he contended that the Charity Commissioners would not be able to do the work which was to be thrown upon them, or to promote education, and that therefore, for the reasons which he had stated, the present Commissioners should be continued in office for the period mentioned in his Amendment, which he begged to move. In doing so, he thought it would be well that the Endowed Schools Commissioners should know who were their friends and the feeling of the House.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, he did not at all complain of the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. Brown) wishing to test the feeling of the House with regard to this change. At the same time, considering the matter had been discussed for three nights, he felt that he would not be justified in dwelling at length upon it. He would only quote some figures, by way of correcting those of the hon. Member, with regard to the schemes of the Endowed Schools Commissioners. There had been 800 grammar schools in the country to be dealt with, and in regard to 74 of them schemes had been passed, while as to 66 others there were schemes now in the Education Department or published, but still open to objection. That left 660 actually undealt with. There were 90 schemes at present in course of preparation, and deducting these also, the number of schools which remained untouched was 570. With regard to other endowed schools, the total number was 370; 89 schemes had been passed; 42 were in the Education Department, or published, but still liable to change; and 239 of the schools, therefore, were still undealt with. The number 497 of schemes in this class now being prepared was 50, and this left 189 of the schools untouched. These figures he had received from the Endowed Schools Commissioners themselves. He would not enter into the general question of the suitability of the present Commissioners as compared with the Charity Commissioners, as he thought the House would agree with him that the matter had already been sufficiently discussed in previous debates.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he thought it curious that they should have been advised that the proper place to discuss this Bill was in Committee, and that they should then hear, directly on getting into Committee, a statement from the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council, that he would not intrude upon the time of the House by discussing the Bill. During the three nights' debate which had taken place upon the question, and which had been principally occupied by the explanations of hon. Members opposite, he had endeavoured, as quietly and silently as he could, to discover the reason why the Endowed Schools Commission was to be abolished. He was about to say that the Government had given no reasons. It would, however, be more true to state that it had given a great number of reasons, each of which, so flatly contradicted the other, that before the Bill passed into law, he believed the Government would have to give some much plainer and more satisfactory reason than had yet been advanced. The proposed change of personnel contained in the clause under notice was practically the root of the whole question connected with the Bill. Why were the present Commissioners to be dismissed? Prom speeches which had been made from the Treasury Bench, it appeared that it was not considered any part of the business of the Government to defend the Commissioners, the latter being the friends of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and not of the Government. That seemed to be one of the reasons why they were to be dismissed. Again, the Prime Minister had quoted a passage from the Report of the Endowed. Schools Inquiry Commission, pointing to the desirability of intrusting the work connected with the schools to the Charity Commission, which knew something about the business, instead of appointing a new Com- 498 mission. But the present proposal was practically to appoint a now Commission, in the place of one which was thoroughly acquainted with the work. In point of fact the Commission was to suffer not because it knew too little, but because it knew too much, and in connection with the point, he would venture to say that what the Government proposed to do was a very grave matter, and one far beyond the question of the endowed schools. The principles upon which a responsible Government were to discredit and dismiss persons conducting a Department of the public service were of very serious importance. The Government had said that the Commission would terminate this year; but that was through their Friends in "another place" determining that eventuality. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had practically said—"We have got a new policy on these matters, and the new policy is so different from the old one, in regard to the Nonconformists and their relations to the Church, that it is absolutely necessary we should have a new set of people to work it." Were they going to introduce the American system of getting rid of every man holding an important office in the public service, whenever a new Government came into power, on the ground, that a new policy was going to be adopted which the old men could not be expected to work in accordance with? Were they going to introduce the principle adopted in Franco, by which every new Administration sent new Prefects into the country? If so, why should that policy be confined to one Department only; why should it not apply to all? It would be said, perhaps, that the Endowed Schools Commissioners were going to be dismissed because they were unpopular. But was that same principle also to be applied to other Departments of the service which might happen to be unpopular? With many persons, for example, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue might be very unpopular; but were they on that account to be dismissed? The Vice President of the Council, in his first speech with regard to the Bill, asserted that the Endowed Schools Commissioners "had been slain by the force of public opinion," that "they had been condemned by the opinion of the country." If that was the reason for the dismissal of the Commissioners, 499 were the Government prepared to produce the evidence on which they founded the allegation? In common with many others, he had heard the speech of the noble Lord on the second reading with very deep regret. The noble Lord said that he had lost his nerves in the last Parliament; but he (Sir William Harcourt) very much preferred the tone of the noble Lord in the last Parliament to his tone in the present one. There was a story of a man who was very friendly with a former Prince of Wales, but on indifferent terms with the Sovereign, and who, when he was reproached with that inconsistency, replied that he preferred the lion before his claws were grown. With regard to the noble Lord their experience of him was certainly less pleasant now that he was in power than it had been before. He had spoken of the Protestant Dissenters of England as belligerents whoso interests it was his business to attack. [Viscount SANDON: I spoke of political Nonconformists.] He would ask whether the noble Lord himself was a political Churchman, and whether his speech the other night was the speech of a political or non-political Churchman? That speech squared very ill with the solemn warning of the Prime Minister the other day, that great events were before us, and that we ought to rally to the broad platform of the Reformation. Was the present attack on the Protestant Dissenters part of the plan for rallying to the broad platform of the Reformation? The language of the noble Lord seemed to show how subtle was the character of sectarian venom; for it was strange that it should have infected even his amiable and gentle character with the rancour with which his speech seemed to be filled. It was in that speech, rather than in the attempts which had been made to explain it, that they ought to read the true objects and motives of the present Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not say that the Commissioners acted contrary to the law which they had to carry out, but that they had acted in obedience to it. Then, why should they be dismissed? If the Commissioners had faithfully carried out the law which was in force, why should not credit be given to them that they would also faithfully carry out any law which might be passed on this subject with regard to the future? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had 500 further said that it was proposed the Commissioners should be removed, be-cause the Government proposed that there should be a change in the law. That was the next difficulty, about which he (Sir William Harcourt) himself had felt very much embarrassed, because it was difficult to understand what the declarations of the Government were on that subject. Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had spoken in favour of the Bill, and had given it as an additional reason, that the removal was done in order to comply as far as possible with the wishes of the "pious founder." It appeared to him (Sir William Harcourt), from that speech, that they were going upon a sort of crescendo of denominationalism. In 1869 they passed a Bill respecting the will of the founder; in 1873 they extended that principle; and now, in 1874, it was proposed to extend it still further. In 1869, the pious founder; in 1873, the more pious founder; in 1874, the most pious founder. He held in his hand a copy of the instrument of the foundation of a certain school. In that instrument it was provided that the head master should be neither Popish nor Puritan; and that in the event of his assuming Holy Orders, his place was immediately to become vacant, "as though he were dead," the word "dead" being printed in capitals, because he (Sir William Harcourt) supposed, it was a capital purnishment. The same "pious founder" also set forth that the master was not to be a smoker, a tippler, or a frequenter of public-houses, and that he was only to use Lillie's Grammar. He also provided that no poets should be read in the school but the ancient Greek and Latin poets, to the exclusion of "modern conceited authors." The House would see that, this school being founded in 1529, among the "conceited modern authors" whom it was proposed to exclude were William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon. Now, in a case like that, did they intend to respect the will of the pious founder? Of course not. What the Government meant by the pious founder was something that mirrored their own prejudices; something which enabled them to treat the endowed schools as fortresses and strong positions against the Nonconformists; something which gave effect to their own sectarian passions, 501 and therefore it was that they were going to appoint Commissioners who would disregard the will of the founder in every instance which did not touch denominationalism, while they would stick like leeches to every scheme which would enable them to give effect to their own sectarian views. The Prime Minister had dismissed the great question as to why the Commission was to be dismissed in a very gracefully easy way. He did not blame the trustees, he did not blame the Commissioners; but it was his duty to see who was to blame in the matter. It was the duty of the Commissioners to reform the trustees, and he (Sir William Harcourt) could not wonder that they did not get on well together. It was no part of the business of the Commissioners to get on well with the trustees. The question was as to whether their conduct had been right or wrong, and upon that the right hon. Gentleman had not expressed an opinion. It appeared that with regard to vested abuses, the Commissioners did not make any concession, and that they did not flatter the trustees, over whom the law had given them control. Was it right, then, that these Commissioners should be dismissed because they had disapproved the conduct of the trustees of these schools? Some of these trustees had shown by the management of the trusts confided to them, that they would prefer to see 12 boys in a school of which they had been appointed trustees, elected scholars of that school, than to see 300 or 400 scholars in it who were elected scholars thereof without the system of nomination. If, however, the Government were going to appoint men who were going to get on well with the trustees, the trustees would pay no attention to them, but would turn round and toll them that the Government had dismissed the Endowed Schools Commissioners for meddling with them. It was a Commission to act in terrorem under the possible displeasure of the trustees. There was little doubt that this new Commission and the trustees would get on together like a house on fire; but, practically, they might as well let the whole thing go for any work that could be done under such an arrangement. This Bill, combined with the substitution of the Charity Commissioners, had two objects. The first was to enable the noble Lord the Vice President of the 502 Council to carry on his war with political Dissenters—["Oh, oh!"]—well, if hon. Members liked the term better, he would say belligerents; and the second was, that the Commission should get on well with the trustees, who should not interfere too rudely with existing interests. This was Conservative re-action with a vengeance, but he might remind the Committee that it had also been admitted by the Prime Minister last evening that this was the commencement of a Liberal re-action. The Prime Minister had said that since the great Liberal party had been re-organized, the Conservative calculated majority had been exactly doubled. If that were so, judging from the division which immediately followed the statement, the exact Conservative calculated majority was thirty-four and a-half, and he had some curiosity to know who was the hon. Member of the Conservative party who was honoured by being reckoned as a half. The majority on that division was smaller than on the second reading, and if they could judge by the division of that morning, it was growing smaller still. In conclusion, he would contend that the dismissal of the Commissioners would not tend to advance the cause of education, and that the provisions of the Bill would simply extend the denominational system, and protect evident abuses on the part of the trustees of endowments.
said, that odd as it might appear after the speech to which they had just listened, he should confine himself to the question before the House. Personally he would rather trust the execution of the provisions of the Bill to the old Commissioners, if they had been continued, than to the new; but at the same time, he must express his opinion that even if the Commissioners had been free from blame with regard to the administration of these trusts, the Government would have been blamed if they had proposed that they should continue to carry on the work of Commissioners of Endowed Schools. His reason for thinking so was, that Nonconformist Members on the Opposition benches would have found fault with the manner in which they dealt with the schools, and even with the religious opinions of the Commissioners themselves. There were in England 146 denominations, and it was found that the 503 members of the Endowed Schools Commission belonged to only one of those denominations—a condition of things at which certain Nonconformists were dissatisfied. For that reason he thought the course which had been proposed by the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council should be adopted.
§ MR. MELLY
, as a Nonconformist, said, Dissenters had found fault with the existing Commissioners because they believed them to be too partial to the Church of England. How much more would they object to the new men who were to be less impartial and more in favour of the Church than the former? He believed the reason why it was proposed to dismiss the existing Commissioners was that they could not be trusted to job sufficiently for the Church party. They were to be dismissed because they had shown by their decisions in questions connected with the administration of these schools that they would admit Nonconformists as well as members of the Church of England to enjoy the benefits which the founders of these institutions had conferred upon the nation. The Act of 1869 was also to be altered because, unjust, unfair, and exclusive as it already appeared to the Nonconformists, it was not sufficiently so to please the Church party.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, there could be no doubt that a feeling existed in the country that the Endowed Schools Commissioners had not been acting in accordance with the spirit of the Act of Parliament, and that in consequence they had come very much into collision with the trustees, and so caused the schools to be less efficient than they otherwise would be. In taking as their principle the carrying out the wishes of the pious founders, the Government were only doing that which they were bound to do. He thought the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford was totally inappropriate to the clause under consideration, relating, as it did, to the appointment of Commissioners. It was necessary either that the old ones should be continued or new ones appointed, and the question was, whether the old Commissioners had given such satisfaction as would justify the Government in continuing them in their present position. He approved of the course proposed of appointing a Commission already existing, 504 which not only enjoyed the confidence of the country, but of some of those hon. Gentlemen who were Members of the Endowed Schools Inquiry Commission. The right hon. Member for Greenwich, in speaking of the new Commission said, that if he could only understand that the Charity Commissioners were willing to undertake the duty, his objections would be almost entirely removed. But when the Chancellor of the Exchequer read a letter showing their willingness to accept the authority, he was assailed by the remark that the Government were carrying on a secret correspondence with the Charity Commissioners with the view of overthrowing the Endowed Schools Commissioners. As to what had been said of the trustees of these foundations, he wished to express his belief, founded on his experience of the way in which the trustees of a school in his own neighbourhood executed the task imposed on them, that there was no foundation for the imputation cast upon them by the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford—that some trustees would prefer to see 12 scholars instead of 300 or 400 in a school whose trusts they had to administer, where an altered state of things would now justify the teaching of 300 or 400, instead of 12 children, the number named in the will of the founder. He believed that in such matters, the great majority of trustees were as honourable as the Commissioners whom Parliament had appointed to see to the faithful carrying out of the intentions of "pious founders." Nothing would induce him to support the Bill, if he believed that its object was to shut out Nonconformists from the advantages which in justice they were entitled to derive from foundations of that nature, or to restrict the masterships in these schools to gentlemen in Holy Orders.
said, it seemed that the clause was to be supported by the Government, because of the alleged unpopularity of the Commissioners, but he thought that had been disposed of by the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford. It was considered that the trustees were generally people who were very anxious to promote education; and that it was very desirable the Commissioners entrusted with the execution of these reforms 505 should get on well with them. In answer to that, it was not likely that the Endowed Schools Commissioners could get on well with the trustees of endowed schools where the intentions of the founder were being violated. He thought, however, that they ought to be chary of losing the services of men who had acquired valuable information and performed great services, and he very much questioned whether the new Commissioners would be able to get through the work in five years. The Committee of last year recognized that there was some cause of complaint against the Endowed Schools Commissioners, but they traced the complaint to the right source—the expressed and published opinions of some of the Commissioners; and as a Member of the Committee in question, he could say that in the published opinions of Mr. Hobhouse were to be found the source of very much of the complaint that had been made. That gentleman was no longer a member of the Commission, and it was not right to visit upon these three gentlemen the consequences of what had been written by their colleague years ago. "Was that House to respect nothing except vested interests? He thought it would have been perfectly possible for the Government to have exercised a very considerable control over the old Commissioners within the limits of the Act of 1869. He appealed to them whether it would not be the best policy, on educational grounds, to continue the Endowed Schools Commissioners in office, and endeavour to make the best of them, an addition being made to their present number. The Endowment Commissioners had been called the friends of hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal benches by hon. Members opposite, though why he could not tell, because by none had they been so abused as by the Nonconformists and members of the Birmingham League. He had opposed the Bill with great pain, because he was grieved to see this question become the battlefield of party. To remove that danger, he could see only one remedy, and that was for the Government to say that if the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. Brown) would withdraw his Amendment they would withdraw the Bill. The Amendment would give rise to much discussion, and unless the course 506 he suggested were adopted, the Bill would probably prove the means of saving the lives of many grouse on the Scotch and Yorkshire moors.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, that the last sentence of the speech of the hon. Member showed that his object was simply to delay the passing of the Bill.
desired to explain. He had risen not to delay the Bill, but to suggest its withdrawal to the Government; and in his reference to the delay that might otherwise ensue, he had indicated no intention of his own, but had referred to the course which might possibly be taken by other hon. Members.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, that as he had understood, the hon. Gentleman had intimated that unless the Bill were withdrawn the House might continue sitting until the 12th of August. The tendency of the hon. Gentleman's remarks was to disparage the Charity Commissioners and to laud the Endowed School Commissioners, who had rendered themselves unpopular throughout the country, and had caused alarm to trustees in every direction by declaring their inability to understand Clauses 19 and 24 of the Act of 1869. The Bill was introduced in a conciliatory spirit, and in accordance with the general views and principles of the Government, and for the purpose laid down in a former Session by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, for that right hon. Gentleman did not, when he legislated upon this question, in any way disparage the Charity Commissioners; it was to them he looked for the ultimate working of the scheme. The Bill of 1869 was brought in as a temporary measure; and, in the interval, it was expected that by the adoption of a system of elementary education for the country, there would be more means of considering whether it would be necessary at the expiration of three or four years to make any change in the Endowed Schools Commission. The Commissioners commenced their work in a spirit of hostility very different from what was expected, and it was admitted in the Committee that the Commissioners had taken a different view of the Act and their duties than the House of Commons had expressed in words. If it were true that the Endowment Commissioners had given universal satisfaction, how was it 507 that the Select Committee of 1873 came to be appointed? The proposal of the Government was not to take any new Body, but to hand the matter over to Commissioners who had already under the existing Act great power and control over many of those schools; and he believed that after the explanations given by the Government with respect to the unsectarian character of the Governing Bodies, in which it was quite clear that there was no intention of giving any preeminence to the Church of England over the Nonconformists, and the clause which was to be moved by the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council, it was impossible to urge with any show of reason that the Charity Commissioners would not do their work efficiently and well. He regretted that the Bill had been opposed in a party spirit, in the hope of obtaining political capital, instead of being accepted as a measure of necessity for the more beneficial object of improving the endowed schools.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he could not support the Amendment, because he felt convinced that it was in the interest of the public service that these duties should be transferred to the Charity Commissioners. Having been a Charity Commissioner himself, he could confirm the statements in the letter of Sir John Hill, which he thought was conclusive on the point. As a Churchman desirous of maintaining the Established Church, however, he earnestly appealed to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to remove from Churchmen the disgrace of attempting to carry their doctrines into the schoolroom, whilst they had their pulpits for such purposes. The reason he did so was, that it was clear to all who chose to look, that some of the clergy of the Church of England had followed the example of their great prototype at Rome, by seizing upon educational endowments for the purpose of impressing upon the young their creed and dogmas.
rose to Order, and asked whether the remarks of the hon. Member were relevant to the question before the Committee.
said, he failed to see any connection between the subject upon which the hon. Member for Peterborough was entering and the question before the House, which was as to the advisability of transferring the powers 508 of the Endowed Schools Commissioners to another body.
§ MR. WHALLEY
declared that Churchmen were ashamed of their Church because of these squabbles about education.
§ MR. WHITWELL
, who rose amid loud cries of "Divide," said, that if hon. Members below the gangway insisted upon a division before the question had been fully discussed, the only course open for him to take would be to move to report Progress. With regard to the Endowed Schools Commissioners, he held that that Body showed that they still possessed great vitality. It was, therefore, undesirable to appoint other Commissioners in the place of those who were now discharging the duties of the Endowed Schools Commission, thereby condemning their past conduct. They had hitherto acted in harmony with the Educational Department of the Government; and it was an unfortunate thing that they were about to be superseded on a point that affected the interests and feelings of the people on a most vital question. He trusted that the noble Lord opposite would feel that common justice was due to the gentlemen who composed the Commission, and the country would certainly demand a greater cause of accusation against them than had been alleged. It was not a matter of endowment, but of education, and he deprecated the introduction of religious prejudice into it. It was a matter of which a Minister of Education should have the control, and he hoped that for another year, at least, the present Commission would be continued. He suggested that if a change was made, it should be one which would place the Commissioners more immediately under the control of the Education Department, which was directly represented in that House, and not transfer their powers to the Charity Commissioners.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, that the proposal of the Bill was, that those Endowed Schools Commissioners should be put an end to. He thought they should have been put an end to last year. He considered that they ought not to have laid clown one inflexible rule, when a new scheme for a school was settled, that all the existing Governing Body of the school should be put on one side. For instance, supposing a Governing Body 509 had for centuries done their duty, and they were 30 in number, the Commissioners would not he satisfied without reducing them to seven, and appointing six more themselves. He had no confidence in those Commissioners, nor had the House, else why should there have been a Select Committee sitting week after week, and the Commissioners giving evidence before them? He had heard from a Member of that Committee that there could not have been men less fitted to discharge the duty with which they were entrusted. [Mr. KAY-SHUTTLE-WORTH: Name.] It was not necessary to tell who he was; he was not now a Member of the House, but was one who sat on that (the Opposition) side. He (Mr. Locke) believed in consequence of the speech which fell last year from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for a place near the waterside, who was then Premier, his party lost three seats in the City of London. They lost three seats and they kept one, and the hon. Gentleman who filled that one was, he believed, going to make a speech in favour of the Commissioners. But one of the then Members for the City of London (Mr. Crawford), who had retired, was not in their favour; he said at the time that the Liberal party would rue the course they had taken with respect to them; that they would lose three seats in the City of London, and so they had. Why should the House be anxious to retain the Commissioners, as if they were the only three men in the world fitted to carry on that business? They had given no satisfaction during their term of power. He proposed a clause to set the matter right—it was the mildest clause ever put into a Bill—to the effect that the Commissioners should be directed not to do away with the Governing Body, unless it could be shown that they conducted themselves improperly, and yet the right hon. Member for Bradford opposed him, and obtained a majority, 100 voting for his (Mr. Locke's) proposal, and 146 against it. That showed that even last year there was a strong feeling against the Commissioners. In fact, nobody admired them except those who had created them; and a more unpopular sot of men had never been sent out for the performance of a public duty by that House. By sweeping them away, the House would confer a great benefit upon the 510 country, and would give satisfaction to all those who were brought in contact with them. His hon. and learned Friend (Sir William Harcourt) who was now coming in with a huge book, had said all that could be said in favour of those three Commissioners; but what had he stated that would lead the House to suppose that there was anything so wonderful in them? They had made everybody discontented, and therefore, though he said nothing about the other clauses of the Bill, he hoped the Committee would decidedly reject the Amendment.
§ MR. HARDCASTLE
said, he would not have interposed in the discussion were it not that he was one of the trustees of a school for which a scheme had been prepared or rather suggested by the Commissioners. Those gentlemen proposed to make some alteration, such as that which had been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down—an alteration which he believed to be wholly unnecessary, and injurious to the trust, by infusing what they called "new blood" into the existing body of trustees. This school—the Manchester Grammar School—had attained a remarkable degree of importance from the fact that the right hon. Member for Greenwich devoted nearly half his speech last night to it. Evidently there had been some little anxiety on the part of the Nonconformist trustees as to the effect of the Bill upon them; but that anxiety appeared to have been suggested rather by political interests than by denominational alarm. In proof of that, he might mention that one of those gentlemen was stated to have said at a public meeting at the Westminster Palace Hotel, that he hoped this Bill might pass in its most objectionable form. The right hon. Member for Greenwich roused himself to the highest pitch of eloquence in describing the trustees of the Manchester Grammar School, one half of them Nonconformists and the other half Churchmen, to whose liberality the school was so much indebted. But in one respect the right hon. Gentleman was incorrect. The right hon. Gentleman stated, towards the end of his speech, that a largo amount of money recently subscribed, mainly by the board of trustees themselves, was subscribed under the protection of the Act of 1869. These were 511 the words which the right hon. Gentleman used—Upon the faith of the legislation of 1869 these £50,000 were subscribed, partly by Churchmen, but yet more by Nonconformists.… I want to know how it is reconcilable with good faith, that we should pass an Act in 1869 which went forth like sunshine over the City of Manchester, and induced the people of that City to bring forth from their own treasures those large sums of money … and then to interfere by means of a Bill which would destroy the legislative sanction under which these funds were given.Now, the fact was, the money was subscribed, in the main, prior to 1869. He (Mr. Hardcastle) telegraphed early this morning to the solicitor for the charity, and he had received the following reply:—Langworthy's and the trustees' subscriptions announced April 8, 1868. Public appeal made April, 1869. Contract signed July following. Act nothing to do with raising the money for building.As the right hon. Gentleman had made so much of that particular school, he felt bound to show that that ground was entirely cut from beneath the right hon. Gentleman's feet. The existing body of trustees consisted of an equal number of Nonconformists and Churchmen, and the trust had been worked with perfect harmony and the greatest possible benefit to the school. But how did the Commissioners propose to deal with the body? They felt it necessary that the popular element should be introduced, and suggested that certain members of the town council should be made ex officio members of the trust—a plan which would have a most depressing and deadening effect upon its welfare. One of the trustees had given £10,000 for the benefit of the trust, another had made large and liberal contributions; but did anyone ever hear of a town councillor putting his hand in his pocket, and doing a similar act of munificence for the town with which he was connected?
§ SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
said, he wished to say a few words in vindication of Canon Robinson. He had had an opportunity in many ways of witnessing the manner in which Canon Robinson had conducted very difficult functions, and he could say that as a clergyman of the Church of England and a schoolmaster, that gentleman was specially fitted for the work of the Endowed Schools Commission. While a Committee, 512 of which the Archbishop of York, many eminent Churchmen, members of the Society of Friends, and hon. Gentlemen from both sides of the House and both Houses of Parliament were members, was sitting on the endowed schools of Yorkshire, they had great experience of Canon Robinson's services, and during all the time they were acting with that gentleman, he had shown the utmost respect for the feelings both of Churchmen and Nonconformists. If there was a man in the highest degree fitted for the work it was Canon Robinson, and he regretted that that gentleman was to be extinguished in the manner proposed by the Bill.
said, the Amendment now before the Committee, in reality, raised the whole question. He deemed it right to say so much at the outset, to anticipate the possibility of misapprehension as to some of the observations he meant to make. They were called upon in the clause before the Chair to sweep away the existing Endowed Schools Commission, and in the Amendment, they were called upon to extend their period of office for five years. In order to judge between these two proposals, it would be quite necessary to review the whole system which hinged upon each alternative. Some few hon. Members of the House amongst whom he sat seemed to think that was a question of the denominational system and the secular system of education. Certainly, if it were so, he (Mr. Sullivan) and the large number of Irish Members who voted last night would at all hazards vote for the Bill. He and they were advocates of the denominational system in education. In the application of public funds for education, they contended that each denomination should share the State aid, and on the same principle, they contended that in the education of youth, religion should not be excluded; but he found no such issue raised in that conflict. It was not a struggle between a denominational system proposed in the Bill against a secular system now in force. If it were, he repeated, his vote would be given against the old and in favour of the new scheme. But the authors of the new propositions themselves had again and again declared that it did not assert any such new principle, or propose any change in the system of education from the existing 513 scheme. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had been at particular pains to make that clear. He said that, so far from changing, the Bill only proposed to "extend and develop" the existing system, and he even said the new Board were to proceed on "the old lines," only better defined. That effectually disposed of the pretence that there was a conflict between a secular Bill and a denominational Bill; but if he (Mr. Sullivan) had any need for further proof on that head, it would be found in the fact that although the secular education party in that House opposed the present Bill, they very nearly as strongly resisted, or, at all events, very strongly complained of, the existing Act when it was proposed, on the ground that it was denominational. If, then, the Bill was not meant as a change—if it was barely intended to "extend and develop" the present system—why was it proposed to abolish the present Board and set up a new one? The real reason for the proceeding was to be sought in the present attitude of the Church of England and the other sub-denominations of Protestants known as Nonconformists. The present Bill was meant to inaugurate—to borrow a phrase from the French Assembly—"a policy of combat." The Church party saw in that House some men who meant to press for disestablishment, and now, having the opportunity in having the power at their back, they had resolved to sally forth into the neutral zone and seize upon and occupy as vantage points certain positions which, by solemn treaty a few years since, it was settled should not be so held. That was the real secret of the whole proceeding. And, indeed, the matter was frankly and candidly avowed in the first speech of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council, although in a speech later on he, alarmed at some manifestations of public opinion out-of-doors, endeavoured to modify his declarations very considerably. The proceeding was a strategic move—a bold and aggressive move—in anticipation of a future conflict on the question of disestablishment. Denominational education had nothing to say to it, except in so far as it was a proposal to wrong every other denomination for the aggrandizement of one. But what was the ground, what was the pretext upon which that belligerent step 514 was taken? "Respect for the will of the founder" was the sum and substance of it all. "Respect for the will and wish of the founder!" Why, it had already been shown that——
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
rose to Order, and intimated that the hon. Member was discussing matters which were not now before the Committee.
said, he understood the hon. Member, in his remarks, merely to refer to those clauses, in illustration of his argument.
said, he was most ready to bow to any decision of the Chairman; but he would emphatically assert that he was entitled, in discussing a clause which proposed to abolish the existing Board and set up another, to review the propositions made as to the powers the new Board should exercise. It was not his desire or purpose to anticipate the discussion which must arise on Clauses 4 and 5, especially as affected Catholics, but this much was fairly necessary to his argument. It was to carry out Clauses 4 and 5 the old Board was to be abolished, and why? Because the framers of the Bill wanted men whom they could thoroughly trust, to work out their own exclusive ends in exercising their option in respect to these clauses. The whole motive power and force of the change was attributed to "complete and scrupulous respect for the will of the founder." If that was not genuine, away went the whole foundation from the Bill. Was it genuine? Why, the Prime Minister himself had to admit that it was not, and that the language of the Bill was utterly delusive towards Catholics. It was to be respect for the will of the founder as long as such a plea availed to exclude Nonconformist Protestants—it was to be disregard of, defiance of, outrage of, the will of the founder whenever the founder was a Catholic. The Catholic was to be plundered and the Nonconformist thrust out; but the doctrine of "continuity," they were told, was to justify this—the continuity of the Established Church.
§ MR. GREGORY
rose to Order, and said the clause they were on referred to a proposed power to transfer the authority to deal with the endowments from the present Commissioners to another tribunal.
said, as he understood the hon. Gentleman he was referring 515 to the matter in illustration of his argument, although the illustration seemed not very happy, and not to apply to the question at issue.
said, he would resume his seat, if he was to be interrupted or fettered in so palpably necessary a portion of his argument. He was demonstrating by reference to those clauses why Clause I should be amended as proposed. The disregard of the will of the founder, where he happened to be Catholic, was excused by the plea of continuity, of pro-Reformation, and ante-Reformation. "What kind of continuity—was it legal or doctrinal? The plea was that the Established Protestant Church was a continuance of, was the heir-at-law of, the Catholic Church, and was thus entitled to all educational endowments originally given for Catholic schools; that the two Churches were to be regarded as one and the same. The family likeness certainly was not strong; but surely the kinship between the Catholic Church before the Reformation and the Establishment of to-day was not half so strong as that between the latter Church and those other sub-divisions of the Protestant Body, whose claims, as co-heirs, were now utterly denied. The continuity and identity plea surely could not avail as between those, and, consequently, that attempt in the same Act to despoil the Catholics and defraud the Dissenters was a glaring inconsistency, to say the least. Now, here exactly was the pith of the whole case—here exactly arose the consideration which had led the authors of the Bill to propose to abolish the existing administrative body or tribunal, and set up a new one. The present tribunal might, according to the option given it, administer endowments for Protestant education in a way to give all the subdivisions a share, according to the equities of each case and all the surrounding circumstances—nay, they might extend like justice, in part, at all events, to the Catholics. So they were to be swept away, and a new tribunal set up, who would construe everything into the lap of the Establishment. What was bequeathed to the Establishment expressly was to be all theirs. What was bequeathed for Protestantism generally was to be all theirs. What was bequeathed for Roman Catholics expressly was to be theirs. In fact, everything 516 was to be theirs. They were to have the benefit of every doubt; they were to take what was certain and what was doubtful; they were to have their own and ours and everybody's. Against such a proposition, he (Mr. Sullivan), speaking for himself and some of his fellow-Catholic Members, would protest with all vehemence. He and they, at all events, were free from selfish considerations. They had the cold consolation of knowing that neither side ventured to be just towards them in respect to those Catholic endowments; but they would not, because they were the victims of a dire injustice themselves, abet an injustice on Protestant Dissenters. Some of these Dissenters were denominational educationists, others of them were secular educationalists. Each and all complained of the present proposal, as he (Mr. Sullivan) did, because it was combative in character, aggressive in policy, rapacious in its object, hypocritical and dishonest in its phraseology, and because, while it sought to wrong the Nonconforming Protestants, it perpetuated in terms of insult the spoliation of the dead, whereby the will of Catholic founders was to be outraged and defied.
§ MR. FORSYTH
said, he felt bound to retort upon the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) the charge of introducing sectarian bitterness and rancour into the debate; and in support of the charges made against the Endowed Schools Commissioners he would refer to a speech made last year in that House, founded upon the evidence taken by its Select Committee, which evidence, it was said, would convince any one that the Commissioners had been guilty of great indiscretion. That speech was made by a Member of the present Opposition, and if it gave a correct description of the work of the Commissioners, was not the Government justified in seeking to supersede them by others against whom no such charges could be brought? The name at the commencement of the speech he had referred to was that of Mr. W. M. Torrens.
§ MR. DIXON
It is my intention, Sir, to confine myself strictly to the Amendment before the Committee, with one exception, and that is, in order that I may correct an error which has been made by an hon. Gentleman opposite. He informed the House—and the statement 517 was cheered—that, under the schemes of the Commissioners, town councillors were to become ex officio members of the new Governing Bodies. If it has been contemplated that town councillors shall have the power of nominating some of the members of a new Governing Body, it does not follow that they would nominate themselves, and I could cite cases where, under analogous circumstances, town councillors have appointed, not members of their own body, but those inhabitants of the town whom they considered were better fitted for the purpose. I have risen to give one reason why the Charity Commissioners are not the best body for having the duties of the Endowed School Commissioners conferred upon them. The Charity Commissioners, by habit and tradition, have been almost compelled to defer to the opinions and wishes of existing trustees. I had, on one occasion, the necessity for consulting the Charity Commissioners upon an important transfer of property in Birmingham, and I explained to the Commissioners what it was that the town wished to have this property applied to, and the Charity Commissioners said that they were entirely in accord with the feelings of the town; they thought it desirable that this transfer should be made, and they thought the purpose to which it was proposed to devote it an admirable one; but they said—We cannot interfere in a matter of this kind, except with the consent of all parties. You must obtain the consent of the trustees before you can move in this matter.It was not possible to obtain that consent. There were some half-dozen men who did not share the opinion of the rest of the town, and that small body of trustees were able to prevent the Charity Commissioners from moving. A body whose custom it is not to consult alone the wishes of the parties most interested, but to be swayed by the trustees, is not the best calculated for acting—I will not say against the trustees, but in a manner that will, in all probability, not be entirely in accordance with their wishes. The Commissioners should be even prepared to over-ride those trustees, and make schemes that may have very little reference to their views or opinions. The Amendment has been debated upon this issue—that these Commissioners are everywhere unpopular. It has been 518 asserted over and over again that they are unpopular in this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) has repeated that assertion; but I do not accept the statement of my hon. Friend as being a statement that ought to have much weight, because we know that he and others represent certain corporations in the City of London, which corporations have very much more power in this House than they ought to have—
§ MR. DIXON
We know that he has spoken on every occasion on behalf of these Bodies. He has spoken on behalf of the Corporation of the City of London, and particularly in the case of the Emanuel Hospital, which was a matter brought forward, as was generally understood at the time—to a great extent, at least—at the instigation of the Corporation of London.
§ MR. DIXON
It was said at the time that the Corporation of London and other City corporations had an enormous power in this House. What I wish to say is, that I desire to place upon record that there are people who do not share that feeling of antagonism to the Commissioners which has been alleged so frequently in this House. It is not the case of the town that I represent, which contains between 350,000 and 400,000 inhabitants. The pith of the whole discussion turns on the question, whether the Commissioners are or are not entitled to the confidence of the country; and whether it is true or not that they are so unpopular as the other side have been constantly telling us. I can speak in behalf of Birmingham for this reason—that I have for many years past taken a very great interest in endowed schools. We have in Birmingham one of the largest of these endowed schools, and it is an institution of the greatest possible value to Birmingham. We have had an association for the reform of the Grammar School, and I am the Chairman of that association, and therefore know the feeling of Birmingham in this matter. That association is by no means composed of extreme men. My predecessor in office as Chairman of that Body was a gentleman who was opposed to me on every point in reference to elementary education; 519 in fact, he was the Chairman of the late school board in Birmingham. He has written more against the League and myself than anyone else. Therefore, I think, you will be convinced that this body is not composed merely of extreme men. They are men noted for their intelligence, and, generally speaking, for their moderation. The Commissioners' scheme was laid before us, and the Grammar School Association was called upon to weigh every point of the scheme. The town council was of opinion that it would be advisable that the whole power of electing Governors should be thrown into the hands of the town council. That was an opinion held by an extreme party; and the Governors on the other hand thought it would be wisest to continue the old plan of self-election; whilst the Association proposed a middle course, suggesting that the majority of the board should be representative men—and that they should elect the remainder. I do not say that the Commissioners adopted the recommendations of the Association, for they did not adopt the recommendations of any body of men in the precise form that they were made, but the scheme of the Commissioners was an extremely moderate one. After full consideration of every suggestion that had been made, the Commissioners adopted something of them all, and the scheme consisted mainly in this—that the Governing Body was to be partly representative, and partly co-optative. A large minority of the Governors were to be co-optative, and the other portion were to be selected by the town council and the school board—the school board at that time being a Conservative and Church Body. Besides that, the scheme declared that the existing Governors should form a part of the new board; but it was felt by the extreme sections that that would not meet their view, be-cause it would be a long time before they would obtain power in that body. The Committee must bear in mind this case of Birmingham, where certainly the Nonconformists have some influence, and where the League has its head-quarters, and where, nevertheless, the general body of the inhabitants have come forward to say that they were satisfied with this scheme of the Commissioners. When the scheme was attacked by the Governors, a deputation, headed by the 520 Mayor of the town, had an interview with the Duke of Richmond. On that occasion, the Mayor, on behalf of the town council—composed of Churchmen and Nonconformists—expressed an opinion in favour of the scheme, and said that they thought, upon the whole, although it did not go so far as they had expected, still, that it was a fair and reasonable compromise, and one that should be accepted to put an end to a long and protracted struggle; and if that scheme were passed, they would be satisfied. Who were the opponents of the town council and Grammar School Association? The opponents were the Governing Body; but then the Governing Body were self-elected men, and cannot be said to represent the feeling of Birmingham in any way. They composed the Body that we had to reform—the Body that this House had undertaken to reform, and for which the Act of 1869 was passed; and therefore I think that when the moderate party in Birmingham and the extreme party—in fact, all Birmingham, excepting the Body who were to be reformed—came forward to express satisfaction with a scheme intended to be a compromise with all parties, then I say that the Commissioners are not unpopular. Judging from the feelings of Birmingham, I say that they are by no means so unpopular a Body as to be superseded by another Body, of whom it may be said that three out of five have no sort of acquaintance or experience with the matter in hand. If we were to leave matters to those gentlemen, who by habit lean to the side of the trustees, we should defeat the object we had in view in passing the Endowed Schools Act; if we continue these existing Bodies we shall do that which is prejudicial to the cause of education. In Birmingham there are certain questions of very great importance with reference to endowments that have been dealt with by the Commissioners, and they have treated them in a popular manner, and have given satisfaction to the town. There are other matters yet to be dealt with, and when you come to treat them by the Charity Commissioners, who will lean unduly to the Governors, you will very likely indeed cause mischief. It is very important indeed that the Governing Body should have in future what it has not had before—the entire support of 521 the whole body of the inhabitants of the town; and if that Governing Body should not have that support, then I think they will be very much crippled; and it is not to be expected that they will carry out reforms, probably not any at all, but certainly not those reforms which are in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people. But surely this is a question for the consideration of the Committee—whether an end is to be put to Commissioners who have considered a scheme, and proposed something which will restore harmony to the town on this great question, or whether the matter is to be placed in the hands of another Body, who, for the reasons I have mentioned, will very probably not be able to secure that entire co-operation and harmony which is so essential to the good government of those schools. As the cry has been so often raised about the unpopularity of these Commissioners, I will repeat my strong conviction, that that unpopularity exists rather in the minds of the Governing Bodies than in the minds of the masses of the people. These Governing Bodies exist everywhere throughout the country. They form a very important part of the interests which the Prime Minister said were "harassed interests." I will frankly admit that this side of the House has suffered in consequence of the attempt to harass these Governors and Governing Bodies, and so far from feeling ashamed to say that we have suffered severely in consequence of that interference, I think it is a matter to be proud of. Let it be clearly understood that the unpopularity rests with these Governing Bodies and their friends, for it does not rest in the minds of the great body of the people of England. I think I have shown that in one of the largest of our towns, where there is the greatest possible freedom for the expression of opinion, where we have the largest and most valuable of those institutions, the work of the Commissioners has been approved of, and I will venture to say that if you were now proposing to the inhabitants of Birmingham the question of the popularity or unpopularity of the Commissioners, you would find, probably, 9 out of every 10, or 99 out of every 100, saying that the unpopularity of the Commissioners does not exist in Birmingham, whatever it may do elsewhere.
§ MR. TORRENS
said: Sir—I am sure my hon. Friend who has just sat down, believes sincerely that on educational matters England is a mere curtilage of Birmingham. [Mr. DIXON: I did not say so.] My hon. Friend did not think it necessary to say so; but all his arguments, and those of the school he so fitly represents in this House, imply the strange delusion that what suits the humour of his constituency, may be, and ought to be, imposed as a rule on the rest of the nation. I shall not be tempted to try a wager of wealth, wisdom, or worth, with my hon. Friend; though I might, were it needful, cap voters with him, and show that in the more numerous, opulent, and cultivated community with the care of whose interests I am charged, convictions the most opposite prevail to those which he tells us predominate in Birmingham. In 10 years' experience, I do not remember any theme of discussion on which there has been so near an approach to unanimity among all classes and creeds in Finsbury, as the local appropriation of school estates which we claim as our own. From public bodies and from public meetings I have presented numerous Petitions praying the House to frustrate, by its interposition, the confiscating designs of the Endowed Schools Commissioners. Men who agree in little else—clergymen and dissenting ministers, employers and employed, Liberals and Conservatives—concur in a feeling of detestation of the policy of the Commission, and resentment at the manner in which their expostulations have been disregarded. I am happy to say that with us religious jealousy has in no wise discoloured the truth in controversy; and I cannot refrain from expressing my regret that it should have so deeply tinged the matter of this debate. For my part, I never hear the substitution of sectarian for social, and polemical for political considerations in our disputes, without that sense of sorrow and disgust which filled the mind of Robert Hall, and to which he has given such eloquent utterance. I do not gather, indeed, from the last speaker that all the good people of Birmingham are content with the way in which their old foundations have been treated by the Commissioners; and even if they were so, their satisfaction can only be set off against the dissatisfaction of Southwark, 523 or London, or Finsbury; and cannot be reckoned as a make-weight against them all. But let us return to the broader question. What is the constituent judgment and what is the representative will of England? Does the country at large, or does it not, desire to prolong the official existence of the separate and exceptional body, which the late Parliament was induced to create for a temporary purpose, and which one of its last Acts sentenced to extinction? The Bill before us proposes to execute that sentence. Has anything happened since it was passed which can fairly be said to overrule or suspend it? There has been in the interval a general appeal to the country. Will anyone say that on this point there has been a reversal, or the semblance of a reversal of the judgment of the last Parliament? I heard with amazement the right hon. Member for Bradford state that the notice to quit served on the Commission by the Act of last year originated in the House of Lords; and that the protecting hand of the late Government had been forced by the vote of that Assembly. As a matter of fact, I give that statement the most unqualified contradiction. [An hon. MEMBER: Oh, oh!] Inconsiderate ejaculations of wonder or doubt will not settle the question; but I undertake to convince even you, before I sit down, that neither technically or substantially is there a shadow of justification for saying that the Lords are solely or specially responsible for the clause in the Act of last Session, which declared that the Endowed School Commission shall come to an end on the 31st of December next. I say, unequivocally, that the House of Commons, and the late Ministers advising the Crown, are quite as responsible, and, by their acquiescence, are as completely bound. While the Bill was in Committee last year, which proposed to enlarge and prolong the powers of the Commission, Notice was given simultaneously, but without any concert, by two hon. Members sitting on opposite sides of this House, of the clause now in dispute. That Notice was given on the Conservative side by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University. [An hon. MEMBER: What University?] I hope there are still some here who do not forget the old fashion that used to pay Oxford the compliment of calling it the University. On 524 the Liberal side, the notice to quit was entered in the name of the senior Member for Finsbury. As a matter of courtesy, I yielded precedence to one who has occupied a much higher position in public life; but I acted as one of the Tellers on the occasion. Need I observe upon the significance of the indication afforded by the circumstances I have just mentioned, that there existed in this House a strong feeling of indisposition to give the Commissioners a lease of office renewable for ever? A discussion arose on the 17th of July, and it was clear that many on both sides hold one opinion. On a Division, no fewer than 88 voted for the Amendment; but the Government, which still boasted the working majority, outnumbered us by 41. Well, who did the nation, last January, say was right? Here is the list of the 41 faithful Friends of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster); and what do I find? Why, that no fewer than 27 out of the 41 lost their seats at the General Election. When the Bill was sent up to the Lords, our defeated Amendment was put in, the Bill came back to us thus altered, and, as I think, improved. What did the right hon. Gentleman do? Did he refuse to adopt the change? Did he stick to the principle which now, we are told, is essential? Did he make even a show of fight for his throe friends? Did he offer a compromise on the question of time? Did he propose to go into the Painted Chamber, and there discuss the point with the Peers? Not a bit of it; but murmuring moodily something about his regret at the change, he advised the Commons to assent to the alteration made by the Lords. We took his advice, and so resolved nemine contradicente. Yet now he has the courage to say that his hand was forced, and that the notice to quit was altogether the act of the Peers. I know not whom this strange misrepresentation is meant to beguile. We have, I believe, 200 Gentlemen here who were not of the last Parliament; and it is possible that the ex-Minister of Education may count on their want of experience in forms of procedure, and may hope to persuade them that mute acquiescence by one branch of the Legislature in what is proposed by the other implies and involves no joint and several responsibility. But the 400 Members whom I am happy to recognize as Colleagues 525 of old standing will give no heed to the dangerous doctrine that when we think fit, as a House, to waive our privilege of dissent, we thereby renounce or escape from our share—or any part of our share—moral or legal accountability. Such a doctrine is wholly subversive of sound constitutional practice and principle; and to tell a new House of Commons that, on such a pretext as this, it is not bound by the acts of a former House of Commons, is to chuck the lynch-pin out of the wheel of Parliamentary rule, to break all unity, and to sever all continuity of legislative obligation. I contend, on the contrary, that no sanction can be more emphatic, weighty, or clear than that which is given, upon due notice and after deliberation, without a division. The late Ministers must be held to have agreed when they might have disagreed, because they said "Aye" when they might have said "No," to the adoption of the notice to quit first proposed in this House and then sent down from the other; and because, by advising this House to assent when they might have advised it to dissent from the clause embodying that Amendment, they lent all the weight of administrative authority to its statutable adoption. They had still their faithful and trusty majority of 41 ready to follow their leading. Was it leading or mis-leading? Did they believe that they were acting a justifiable part towards the three Commissioners? If they did, where is now the wrong of executing what they led us to decree? Did they, on the other hand, believe that the provision was unjustifiable, although, without debate or parley with the other House, they recommended its enactment? I leave the late Vice President of the Council to explain the point at his leisure. His consistency is his own affair, but the consistency of Parliament is our affair; and I maintain that, the circumstances of the case remaining unchanged, there would be no consistency, reason, or propriety in our undoing now the work of our predecessors last year, upon the plea that they were consciously misled into an act of wrong, with the esoteric intent of reparation at a more convenient season. This is not the way in which the business of legislation was wont to be done in the best times; and this is not the way, I hope, in which we shall ever agree to have it done. Will 526 anyone say, in extenuation of the course thus taken and which it is now sought to repudiate, that in the last days of July it was neck or nought with the Commission, and that, if the clause had been struck out and the Peers had proved obdurate, the measure would have been lost, and the Commission, unrenewed for a second term, would thereby have come to an end? What was there, in such a case, to prevent the expiring Act being put into the Continuance Bill? Will the right hon. Member for Bradford gravely try to persuade us that, had it been so put in, for the sake of keeping alive an active and working Commission for twelve months more, the majority of the House of Lords would have refused its acquiescence? For one, I do not believe a word of it, and I should not think much of the judgment of any man who said he did. Let me remind the House that we are now discussing a particular clause in Committee, and not the general principle of the present Bill. To this clause I give my hearty assent, while to the other clauses, if they are pressed, I shall certainly record an equally strenuous opposition. Many of us on this side of the House refused to vote for the second reading. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Southwark, Rochester, and Peterborough, we would transfer the jurisdiction to graver and trustier hands, but we would give no sanction to the retrograde policy denoted by other portions of the measure. We do not deny that the Commission has done good work; and undoubtedly it had abundant work to do. Abuses manifold and varied had crept like weeds all over our educational endowments, and it was quite right that these should be cut down or uprooted with a vigorous hand. No one blames the vigour—or I will even say the rigour—shown by the Commissioners in extirpating jobs and scandals—I do not admit it for argument sake—I say it frankly and cheerfully, that I believe they were indefatigable in their work, and that much of their work was useful and good. But is that a reason why they should be permitted to usurp a plenary jurisdiction over trust property which they were never given by the original vote of this House? That vote constituted them a temporary council, auxiliary to a great Department. Standing at that table, the right hon. Member for Bradford asked certain 527 powers and pay for them; and he did so upon a pledge which has not been forgotten—that it was only bad schools that had anything to apprehend, but that good schools had nothing to fear. Of course we all understood this pledge to mean that only the bad part or parts of existing schools would be dealt with destructively by the Commissioners; and it was because Parliament and the country had come to the conviction that this pledge had not been kept, and that the discretion given had been exceeded, that it was decided by the Act of last Session that the Commission should come to an end. I do not say, and I will not insinuate, that the deviation from the path originally traced by Parliament was dishonest or disingenuous. Quite the contrary; it was undisguised, and, no doubt, it was meant well. Granville Sharpe has said—"That a man to be thoroughly mischievous must be thoroughly honest." Our objection to these Commissioners is, that though they may be indefatigable and honest, they are not to be tolerated in their attempt to traverse the determination of this House. Parliament did not intend to forego any of the great fundamental principles of trust property. Judged by their acts, the Commissioners did; and when a Select Committee of this House asked them what they meant, and called on them to state the principles and opinions by which they were guided, they frankly avowed sentiments which, if they had been disclosed when the original Bill was brought in, it never would have passed. Lord Lyttelton is a man of rare acquirements as a scholar, high character as a proprietor, and large experience as a Peer of Parliament. Canon Robinson is a man whom every one esteems in professional and private life. Of Mr. Roby, I will only say that when I have had some passages of controversial arms with him upon this subject, I thought he showed good skill of fence, and proved himself well qualified to defend the position in which, for his merit, and, I believe, for his merit alone, he had been placed. But the question is—Was that position tenable? We think not, and consequently we wish it changed. The good repute borne by these three individuals is no reason whatever for re-appointing them to do work in their way, which we insist ought to have been done in a different way; or to do work which 528 we think ought to be left undone. It reminds one of the youths who, it was clearly proved, were in the habit of breaking church windows. For the defence, the parson and the doctor were called to character; and according to them it appeared that their connections were respectable, their education sound, and their general demeanour exemplary. Turning to the jury, the Judge summed up thus—"It has been distinctly proved that these young men are given to breaking church windows; but it is clearly proved that they bear an excellent character; now, if, in your opinion, having a good character entitles young men to break church windows, you may acquit them; if not, I think the law must take its course." With reference to the rules on which ancient gifts and endowments ought to be administered I am as little disposed as any one to stickle for a literal or superstitious observance of the behests of founders. The language of ancient charters or donors' wills ought to be taken quantum valeat, but not against the reasonable interpretation of the benefactor's meaning, as far as it can be gleaned or gathered from other sources. I would not walk blindly in the shadow of an ancient founder. The rule of our Courts of Equity has ever been to vary the conditions as the donors themselves would presumably have done had they lived in our day. And it is because I believe the Charity Commissioners are men of trained judicial minds, who will hold the balance fairly between a mere technical interpretation of ancient deeds of gift, and philanthropic but unwarrantable schemes for appropriating old endowments to new uses, that I would rather confide this important task to them than leave it to the communistic vagaries of the Endowed Schools Commissioners. Lord Lyttelton and Mr. Roby, adopting the subversive doctrines of Mr. Hobhouse, had left no doubt upon the minds of the Select Committee that they would not hesitate, if opportunity served, to treat as legitimate objects of administrative confiscation, and as legitimate resources for educational experiments evolved out of their inner consciousness, the best part of the school endowments of the Realm. If wanted for the fitting out and equipment of their schemes, no trust property need be held sacred 50 years after the death of the donor. Now, we call this 529 Communism, and we contend that it goes to the root of all the trust property in the Kingdom. Men, therefore, who honestly and openly avow such doctrines are not, in my opinion, eligible instruments for carrying into effect what I believe to be the wish of the country and the will of the Legislature. They may be well fitted for the discharge of other functions, and to such I have no objection that they should be remitted; but I do object to any set of individuals, after we have had warning of their confiscating tendencies, being let loose in the region where confiscation is easy, and temptation is likely to prove irresistible. The condition on which they were first appointed was that good schools had nothing to fear from them. Without that condition they would not have been appointed by an unanimous Parliament; but that condition has not been fulfilled. We lent them a pruning-hook, and they have turned it into a sword wherewith to sweep over the land. This was not what we meant, and the vote to-day will show this is not what we mean. An unlimited licence to overturn, break up, partition, transfer, or make away with venerated institutions, regardless of the purpose and intent of the founders, was never asked for in 1868, and never given; and oven if it were, the levity and caprice betrayed in the use of it would justify its recall. In its pecuniary aspect, the case of the Dulwich estate was one of the most important to be dealt with. Here there was no controversy about religion, no question of a sectarian kind. The contention was about matters far more generally intelligible, and upon which, accordingly, men of all sects and grades were more naturally agreed. Property which in the lapse of time has increased in value from a moderate estate to upwards of £1,000,000 sterling, was bequeathed by Edward Alleyne in equal portions to four metropolitan parishes, two at each side of the Thames. One of them, which has long been deprived of its apportion-ate share, demanded, not restitution for the past, but simply to have its own in future. We said—"Apply our £250,000 to the erection and maintenance of a great secondary high school of science and art in Finsbury." Strictly and technically the money belongs to St. Luke's; but the people of that parish are willing and ready to share with all their neighbours 530 round the benefit and the blessing of a first-class education for their diligent and ambitious sons; thus a vast and dense community in North-east London will be gainers by the rightful application of the fund. Make any rules or regulations that are requisite to prevent perversion or misuse; but the youth of our industrious classes stand in great need of such an institution. We do not want grants from Parliament; we do not want local rates; we simply want our own. But the Commissioners said—"You shall not have your own; we have new Colleges and schools to build and endow elsewhere; we wholly deny your right to the portion assigned you in Alleyne's will. If your sons want secondary teaching, let them take the railway and cross the river, and keep on south until they come to the pleasant places of Surrey, which, in our doctrinaire discretion, we prefer as the site of Collegiate establishments. And if you don't like that, you may do without it." In vain we argued that this was against right, equity, and precedent. The utmost the Commissioners would condescend to yield last year was a sum of £10,000 as hush-money, which we, of course, declined. But mark! After the notice to quit of last Session, when the Commission was in articulo mortis, its members began to temporize; they suddenly raised their bidding; and in their new scheme which I hold in my hand, and which now awaits the judgment of the Committee of Council, they raised the amount to £50,000. What are we to think of the judicial fitness of men to deal with great estates and institutions, who, under the threat of official extinction, suddenly offer to quintuple many thousands of pounds in this fashion. I am willing to take the issue on these simple but significant figures. Put everything else aside, and tell me if, upon this method of dealing with trust property and educational wants, you can seriously hope to settle men's minds or to quiet any sort of possession. I recollect but one parallel for the reckless and supercilious impropriety of this proceeding. A barony long in abeyance was claimed by a gentleman whose pedigree had been traced through many descents up to the younger of two sisters, another barony being actually enjoyed by the posterity of the elder. The late Peer was asked by Ulster King-at-Arms to admit in 531 writing that his ancestress was, in fact, the younger sister; and that the ancestress of the petitioner was the elder. This would supply the sole link wanting, and secure the ennobling of an amiable and wealthy family. Being far advanced in years, the old gentleman yielded; but his eldest son refused to acquiesce in the renunciation of his honours in expectancy. If the dormant barony could be revived it should come to him and he would have both; so the letter of acknowledgment was next day withdrawn. "Now," said the heraldic antiquary as he told the story, "did you ever hear of anything so unprincipled and good-for-nothing? But I was determined to checkmate him; and I made out another pedigree from which I left him out altogether."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that if the Dulwich College scheme were before the House, it would be his duty to state the other side of the case. There were two town parishes which were to receive £2,000 per annum and £50,000 capital, and with regard to the Governing Body of Dulwich College he knew that they were favourable to the continuance of the Commissioners. He repeated as positively as possible that the late Government were not responsible for the powers of the Commissioners expiring this year. His hon. Friend (Mr. W. M. Torrens) said that, of the 41 majority in favour of the Government last year, 27 had lost their seats. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Knatchbull - Hugessen), however, informed him that about the same proportion of the minority of 88 had also lost their seats. His hon. Friend said he might have brought the House of Lords to terms; but the Government were obliged to choose between having no Bill at all, and allowing the Amendment of the other House to remain. It was also said that the Bill might have been put into the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, but it was no breach of confidence to say that the Marquess of Salisbury who took great interest in the subject, told the Marquess of Ripon that he would not assent to that course, and he was perfectly able to keep his word. Passing, however, from that, he would come to the question before the Committee. Looking at the subject matter of the clause from an educational point of view, it would be impossible to over-rate the importance 532 of the Committee coming to a decision upon the question of changing the machinery of administration in respect of these endowed schools. The clause opened up two questions of great importance. The first was, why were these Commissioners to be dismissed; and the second was, what were the results that were likely to follow from their dismissal? Those questions deserved the gravest consideration; but he was sorry to say that they were not receiving that consideration from the Government which they had a right to expect. Speaking last night, the Prime Minister had said "Bring forward your Amendments when we get into Committee, and we shall debate them, and if we find that we can meet your wishes we shall do so." That was the attitude of the Government last night, but what was their attitude to-day? Why, as soon as the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. Brown) moved his Amendment the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council got up and said—"I am not going to enter into this question. It has already been fully debated, and I have, therefore, nothing further to say in respect to it." That was certainly not fair treatment. But he would not dwell upon that point. He preferred to pass on to the consideration of the dismissal of the Commissioners. The noble Viscount naturally attempted to give some reasons for the dismissal of the Commissioners, and one was that he (Mr. Forster) did not last year praise the Commissioners. He was, however, in Yorkshire phrase, "set" to get his Bill through in the face of a powerful majority in the Lords. The chief ground, however, upon which the noble Viscount had rested his dismissal of the Commissioners was, because the hon. Members for Huddersfield and Swansea, and other Representatives of the Nonconformists, found fault with the Commissioners last year. But did the noble Viscount agree with those hon. Gentlemen in thus disagreeing with the Endowed Schools Commissioners? He (Mr. Forster) felt not, and therefore it was absurd to pretend that the change was to be effected out of deference to the opinions of the Nonconformists, with whose sentiments the Government had no sympathy whatever. Neither was it quite generous to make use of that expression of opinion on the part of Dissenting Members. Certain he was, that if they were now to be consulted, 533 they would prefer that the Commission should be continued. Another argument was, that they had not got through their work with sufficient promptitude. But did the noble Viscount think the Charity Commissioners would get through the work more quickly? It reminded him of the advice given to President Lincoln to change his generals in the middle of a campaign. He replied that he had crossed a good many strong rivers, and the very worst time for "swopping" horses was when you were in the middle of the stream. That was an aphorism well worthy of being borne in mind, for they were at the present moment in the middle of the stream with these endowments, and that was the moment chosen by the Government for getting rid of the extensive knowledge and experience acquired by the Commissioners. They knew the whole working of the system in connection with the schools. What was best to be done and how best to do it they knew, and it stood to reason that, bearing all that in view, these Commissioners should be able to do the work more quickly and satisfactorily than any new Commissioners who might be appointed. The noble Viscount had also said that the Commissioners had, in almost every instance, quarrelled with the trustees of the schools; but he (Mr. Forster) doubted whether that had been the case, because, in many instances, the schemes had been carried out with the hearty co-operation of the trustees. The Secretary of State for War said the Commission had not brought about union between the Commissioners and the trustees. It was possible that in some cases it had not, but he disputed the assertion as a general rule, and he challenged the right hon. Gentleman to prove it from any evidence given before the Committee. His own personal experience went directly to the contrary. ["Divide!"] He had worked with the Commissioners for four years, and if it was anyone's right and duty to defend them it was his. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) had found fault with the action of the Commissioners in regard to certain Yorkshire schools. Well, Bradford was an example of flagrant abuse, and not a man in the neighbourhood of Settle dreamed of anything else than that the Commissioners should interfere, while Giggleswick 534 had also been improved by the action of the Commissioners. In fact, he believed that there were not throe more popular officials in the country than the Commissioners would be if they went down to Bradford. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the Government would not get rid of their responsibility; that they had found out other machinery which was better than the Commission; and that it was necessary that the Gentlemen who carried on the work should be on cordial relations with the Government. But what had the Commissioners done with regard to Church schools which the Government disapproved? Had they broken or strained the Act where Church schools were concerned? He denied it. The Act provided that if any persons thought that the Act had been infringed an appeal should lie to the Privy Council. There had been two or three appeals, but only two cases in which the Commissioners had been overruled. In one their decision had been positively, and in the other it was only inferentially, overruled. The one was the case of the Huysh Charity—a difficult case; and the other was a case in which the Commissioners had leaned to the side of the Church. It was upon the question whether clergymen should be ex officio trustees. Mr. Hobhouse thought they might, and he (Mr. Forster) was the only culprit. He thought that the law was against it. The Marquess of Ripon did not take the same view, but the Law Officers agreed with him, and the case wont up to the Privy Council, which decided, after hearing argument, that he (Mr. Forster) was right. The Prime Minister felt that some ground had to be given for getting rid of the Commissioners, and said, but without imputing any fault to them, that they never agreed with the trustees. Now, he had got into a habit of not taking the right hon. Gentleman's statement strictly to the letter, and therefore he would not hold him to this assertion. He should, however, be disposed to assert, on the contrary, that the Commissioners had oftener agreed with the trustees than the reverse. But be that as it might, if it was to be decided that Commissioners were to be appointed who should always agree with trustees, the sooner the Act was dropped altogether, the better it would be for education. The right hon. Gentleman read an extract 535 from the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission to show that they had recommended that the Charity Commissioners should execute the duties now discharged by the Endowed Schools Commission. The right hon. Gentleman quoted his (Mr. Forster's) name as having signed that Report; but the plan they proposed was, that certain provincial bodies throughout the country should prepare and submit schemes to a central authority. Glad as the late Government would have been to constitute such bodies, they could not see how to elect them, and they had accordingly nominated the Endowed Schools Commission instead of these provincial bodies. The Schools Inquiry Commissioners expressly said, that the Charity Commissioners neither had the powers nor the officers, nor were they in a situation to form the comprehensive views necessary for the work before them. What was the reason that the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) opposed the Commission? His hon. Friend was a skinner, and he was so successful a skinner that he seemed to have skinned himself. At all events, he had become very thin-skinned. His hon. Friend was connected with a Tunbridge school, the advantages of which might, in the opinion of the Commissioners, be extended. They had, therefore, drawn up a plan; but, as nothing had been done with it, his hon. Friend was, after all, more frightened than hurt. Summing up all the arguments in favour of getting rid of the Commission, there appeared to be four. First, that the Schools Inquiry Commission recommended the Charity Commission, which he thought the House would admit they did not; secondly, that the Commissioners were blamed last year by some of the Dissenting Members, but they were not told who those Members were; thirdly, that the Government did not agree with them upon Church matters—a reason which was sufficient answer to its predecessor; and, lastly, that they did not agree with some of the trustees. It was very likely that they did not agree with some of the trustees; but he believed, nevertheless, that if the Commissioners had received the loyal support of the Government they would have been able to do great and effective work this year. There were many cases of great difficulty in which powerful trustees differed from the Commissioners, 536 and in which a settlement would have been arrived at, if the Government had only been loyal to the Commissioners. But it was of course impossible for them to do anything if the President of the Council held them at arm's length, and proclaimed to the country that the Commissioners had failed to perform their duty. What result was to follow when these Commissioners were disposed of; and who were the new Commissioners who would be appointed by the Government? It was most important before consenting to the dismissal of these gentlemen that the House should know what class of men the Government proposed to choose, and he hoped the names would be announced before the measure passed through Committee. They also had a right to ask the Government how far they considered the unpopularity of the Commissioners a merited unpopularity or not. He ventured to think that his hon. Friend ought to be supported by the Committee, first, because the Commissioners had done their duty well; and, secondly, because no sufficient reason had been given by the Government why they should be dismissed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Mundella.)
said, he was sorry that the course of the debate should be interrupted, and more sorry still for the cause. The Government had entirely declined to discuss the merits or the conduct of the Commission, and after the statements which had been made that day by hon. Members, and especially by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, he should certainly support the Motion for reporting Progress.
§ MR. GREENE
said, that he himself had in times past joined in factious opposition; but he had never known the front Opposition bench to take part in such a proceeding before. They had had three nights' discussion upon the question that had occupied the whole of the day, and it was rather too much to say now that the Government declined to join in the criticism that had been passed upon the Commissioners' conduct. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might 537 display their factious conduct to the fullest, but they would be met by a spirit of calm and steady determination on the Ministerial side. As there were no turnips that year, there would be no shooting till October, and he and his Friends were accordingly quite willing to sit till then, if it were necessary, in order to pass the Bill. If hon. Gentlemen opposite continued to display their factious temper, he and his Friends by him, who he supposed had some small share in the government of the country, would take care that it should not be successful.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he rose to a point of Order. He wished to ask, whether any hon. Member connected with the Ministry was warranted in skulking behind the Chair, and there lending his voice and aid to the noise and confusion which prevailed. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) had been doing that for some time past.
said, that however reprehensible might be the practice to which the hon. Gentleman referred, the language in which the hon. Gentleman described it was equally to be condemned.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds has accused those who sit on this front bench with having, for the first time, set an example of factious opposition. Why, Sir, we have only to go back to 1871 for such an example, and displayed, too, by those who sit on the side of the hon. Member for Bury. The Ballot Bill question had been for years before the country. Perhaps the Leaders of the front bench did not make themselves personally conspicuous in this conduct; but they had hon. Gentlemen acting for them below the gangway, and everything was done to delay that Bill, so that it could not be sent up to the other House in time to be passed. We, on this side, are simply asking for discussion upon the conduct of the Commissioners who are to be dismissed. The Government have not the courtesy to grant us that discussion, and for that reason it appears to me that we are perfectly justified in taking the course which we are doing.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
I beg to warn the Opposition that if they persist 538 in delaying the Bill the result will be that the Regulation of Worship Bill, which the whole House approves of, will be imperilled, if not defeated.
§ MR. DILLWYN
Sir, we are perfectly justified in the course we are pursuing. Government are taking a step which I never saw taken in this House before. They are endeavouring, during the very last days of the Session, to foist through the House—I repeat, to foist through the House, by means of a tyrannical majority, a Bill which is to have the most disastrous consequences. I say, Sir, that such a course of conduct is a gross outrage of the exercise of Parliamentary power. ["Oh, oh!"] It is, I say, a gross exercise of such power to attempt to pass a Bill which I cannot characterize otherwise than as re-actionary, and even revolutionary. It is a righteous exercise of power on our part to try and defeat such a Bill, even though we should sit here till October.
§ MR. MORGAN LLOYD
said, that it would be a very easy matter for the Government to pass the Regulation of Worship Bill provided it dropped the present Bill.