§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Transfer of powers of Endowed Schools Commissioners to Charity Commissioners).
Amendment again proposed,
In page 1, line 25, to leave out from the word "Act" to the end of the Clause, in order to insert the words "continue in force for a period of five years from the date of the passing of this Act."—(Mr. Alexander Brown.)
said: Mr. Raikes—The first duty that I have to perform is one not essentially relevant to the discussion—the immediate subject of discussion—before the Committee, perhaps; but it is one which, I am sure, the Committee will feel it is incumbent on me to discharge, inasmuch as it has reference to a statement made with perfect propriety in the early part of the debate by the hon. Member for South-east Lancashire (Mr. Hardcastle). That hon. Gentleman endeavoured by means of the telegraph to test the accuracy of a statement I had made on a former evening. I wish now to state to the Committee the exact condition of the facts in regard to that statement. I had said that in the ease of Manchester a sum of £50,000 had been contributed from voluntary sources within the last five years, and I had founded on that statement various arguments to which I need not now refer. But the hon. Member for South-east Lancashire made a statement yesterday which was received with considerable emotion of a favourable kind on his own side of the House, and which I understood to be to the following effect:—He said that I was mistaken in stating that £50,000 had been 561 subscribed during the five years; that the subscription, in fact, was raised in the early part of the year 1868, and that, therefore, it was entirely unconnected with the Bill introduced in the Session of 1869. Well, to a very limited extent, the hon. Member has been correctly informed. The statement was true as regards about £10,000 out of the £50,000. This sum of £10,000 had been subscribed in the city of Manchester in the Spring of the year 1868, not, however, out of connection with the subject of this Bill, because it was subscribed principally from Nonconformist sources, and on the completion, or in connection with the completion, of arrangements under which the Governing Body of the school was to be a mixed Governing Body. However, I was incorrect. My informants had failed to draw the necessary distinction, or I had failed to observe it so far as the precise date of the subscription of £10,000 is concerned; but I have received in formation from Manchester, since my statement was made, that as regards the other £40,000 out of the £50,000, the money was subscribed in the year 1869, and consequently after the Bill had passed through this House. My statement, then, with regard to £40,000 remains unshaken, either in form or substance, according to the latest and best information it was in my power to obtain; and as to the arguments connected with it, they are arguments to which we can recur on a future occasion. Last evening, when we adjourned the Committee, we had arrived at a state of considerable liveliness of feeling in the House. I will not at all attempt to revive that condition of affairs. On the contrary, in what I have to say I will endeavour to make it clear that we are very serious in the matter which we have to urge; that we are justified in the course we are pursuing; and, in fact, we make a reasonable challenge to the Government to give us an explanation on the subject of the abolition of these Commissioners, such as they have not favoured us with yet. I found yesterday with surprise that no reply was to be made on the part of the Government to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). I thought I saw premonitory symptoms—such as are observed by those who reside in the neighbourhood of Vesuvius and Etna, when there is about to be an eruption—that I saw, on the part of a 562 very distinguished Member of the Government, some indications of an intention to give a reply, and, consequently, my regret was bitter when I saw that the statement of my right hon. Friend was not considered worthy of notice. It is unnecessary for me after that statement to enter at any length into the question of the dismissal of the Commissioners. But I will claim for my self liberty of speech, and, avoiding all violence and ill-temper, I will endeavour to state what we think the grave nature of the issue that is now before us. The noble Lord opposite with the greatest kindness—kindness becomes the noble Lord much better than an occasional harshness—complimented us on this side of the House for having made an excellent defence of "our friends." Now, it is part of our complaint that the noble Lord continues to look upon these gentlemen—the Endowed Schools Commissioners—as our friends. Our contention is, that these gentlemen, who are appointed under an Act of Parliament to discharge certain functions without fear or favour, against whom no accusation has been substantiated, are entitled to be considered as placed on far higher moral and political grounds than "friends" of any party whatever. We are, therefore, obliged to resent and repel what the noble Lord, no doubt, sincerely meant as a compliment to us. Let me endeavour to state plainly what we think the gravamen of the charge. The Commissioners are to be discharged not because they have done wrong, but because they are unpopular. They are slain, said the noble Lord, by public opinion; and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister still more distinctly pointed the nature of the charge—he complained not that the Commissioners had done wrong, but that there was a collision between the trustees and Commissioners—there was a block and stoppage in the way of business, and the only course was to remove the Commissioners. In the first place, the amount of collision between the Commissioners and the trustees has been enormously exaggerated. That has been stated as the rule which was strictly the exception. But, supposing there was a certain amount of unpopularity attending the operations of the Commissioners, to what portion of their operations was that unpopularity attached? I divide the functions of the Commissioners into what I 563 may call their secular duties on the one side, and those duties which bear on ecclesiastical differences on the other; and my contention is, that the unpopularity attaching to their proceedings did not grow out of the manner in which they adjusted differences between Churchmen and Nonconformists, but from the practical reforms they endeavoured to carry into effect—their efforts to put down monopoly, to bring in the elective principle, to displace old and imperfect systems, and possibly in some particular instances to shift the locale for education. It was through the performance of these duties that the Commissioners became unpopular? And, now, what is proposed by the Government? That the Commissioners are to be deposed for unpopularity in the discharge of certain duties, with respect to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us distinctly that matters are to go on hereafter as heretofore, and that the movements of the Commissioners are to be on the same lines and directed to the same purposes. Therefore, the state of the case is this—that those interested adversely in the Commissioners in respect to the questions depending between Churchmen and Nonconformists are about to take advantage of unpopularity not originating in questions between Churchmen and Nonconformists, but in endeavours of the Commissioners to give effect to practical reforms—unpopularity earned from one side of the case is to be a good reason why the Commissioners are to be displaced; the real reasons why they are to be dismissed being entirely different and distinct from those out of which their unpopularity grew. If you had said—"We think the Commissioners have dealt very violently with the endowed schools, and we are going to change the whole system," that would have been intelligible. But that system is not to be changed; it is to be affirmed by the Government, as it was by the last House of Commons; but the men are to be dismissed. That appears to us a case of very great injustice. Now, I come to another branch of this case—the treatment of the Commissioners by the present Government. The present Government came into office in February. They found there men of character, station, experience, integrity, and devotion to their work. Much of this is not in contest between us. It is admitted on all 564 hands. Was it not the duty of the Government to examine carefully into the relations between them and the Commissioners, and between the Commissioners and their work—to hear what the Commissioners had to say—to have conferences with them; to become acquainted with the difficulties they had to overcome; to reserve to themselves perfect liberty of judgment, and of dismissing or not dismissing them? Was it not a vital, elementary, inevitable part of their duty to give the Commissioners a hearing? I contend that it was an obligation in point of honour and in point of precedent, and upon every principle which regulates the relations between all those engaged in the public service in this country, to endeavour to arrange what is called in diplomacy a modus vivendi with the Commissioners, and to give them a fair chance and a fair trial, and only on arriving at the conclusion that they were impracticable to dismiss them. How different has been the course of the Government. You will see that it is utterly impossible to find a precedent for the course pursued by the Government. I will take an analogous case. Our contention is, that all these Commissioners, who are under particular Acts of Parliament, and are engaged in carrying into effect very unpopular duties for the public good, have the strongest moral title to the support of the Executive Government. What was the case of the Poor Law Commission? I will quote that because it is a case which may stand instead of a hundred cases. That Commission was appointed under the Act of 1834, for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the new Poor Law. No Commission ever discharged duties under any Act of Parliament that passed through such a prolonged tempest and hurricane of unpopularity as beset the Poor Law Commission. They were, however, supported by the Executive, notwithstanding the fact that political capital might have been made out of any action taken contrary to them between the years 1835 and 1841. When Sir Robert Peel came into office in 1841 what course did he take? He was supported by a larger majority than even the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but did he decline to have any communication with those Commissioners; did he take advantage of their unpopularity, 565 which was a hundred-fold greater than the unpopularity of the Endowed School Commissioners? Did he say, as the noble Lord said of these Commissioners, they are slain by public opinion? No; but the Government entered into free and confidential communications with the Commissioners, and, upon obtaining an affirmative result, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done in this instance, gave them a manful and a hearty support. I do not say it was the duty of the Government to give a manful and a hearty support to this Commission; but it was their duty to place themselves in confidential communication with them; to examine fairly and without prejudice the question whether the Commission ought or ought not to be continued, instead of allowing them to remain neglected for two or three months, and then at the close of the Session bringing in a Bill to put an end to them, without having given the Commission the slightest chance of making good their case in the hearing and view of the Government. This appears to us to be a very grave question indeed. It has not been discussed by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, nor by the noble Lord, nor by any right hon. Gentleman who has spoken on behalf of the Government. And now, Sir, I have to address a few remarks to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Greene), who stated last evening that, in his opinion, the occupants of this bench had been guilty of offering a factious opposition to the Bill. I decline entering upon the sort of contest which would place us in the condition we were in at a quarter to 0 yesterday. I will speak with calmness, and reserve my warmth for argument rather than reproach; but the hon. Member does not appear to me to be aware of the meaning of the words he uses, and does not appear to be aware that the forms of the House are supplied for the very purpose of granting a minority protection in a special case. I said yesterday we had one of these special provocations. The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford was in great part new, and it made it the duty of the Government to enter into full explanations. The Government refused to do so, and I believe it to be a regular Parliamentary proceeding, in the strongest sense, that, under these circumstances, Progress 566 should be moved. And however severe we may feel the censure of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, I am afraid we must put up with it as well as we can. We have considered the matter, and have endeavoured to make it plain that we had a substantial case, and, such being so, I contend that the proceeding was not a factious one. Now, it is proposed to abolish the Endowed Schools Commissioners, and transfer their duties to the Charity Commission, and two arguments have been used to justify that course. One was made by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. He produced a volume of about 500 closely-printed pages, and though he did not actually state that he had read through the whole of it, he conveyed as much to the House. [Mr. WHEELHOUSE: No, no.] I beg the hon. and learned Member for Leeds' pardon, because he spoke——[Mr. WHEELHOUSE: No, no.]——I beg the hon. and learned Member for Leeds' pardon, again then, because he spoke with the warmest eulogy of the whole contents of the volume, and recommended them to the careful study of the rest of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, however, showed that the informant of the right hon. Gentleman had misled him in the quotation he had furnished him with from the volume in question, because the right hon. Gentleman said that the Endowed Schools Inquiry Commission had recommended the transfer to the Charity Commission, instead of which, as my right hon. Friend showed, there was no foundation for the statement. "Well, then, Sir, we are told that the Charity Commissioners were themselves agreeable to the transfer being made; but the Charity Commissioners have never stated that the functions of the Endowed Schools Commissioners could be satisfactorily performed by themselves. It was quite evident that no reference had been made to the Charity Commissioners, for no opinion of theirs was forthcoming; but after a certain time, a letter was produced which it was said expressed their readiness to undertake the duties. I have read that letter carefully, and I can only say it does not fill up the gap which previously existed. It only points out that certain executive difficulties of detail have affected individuals out-of-doors in consequence of their inability 567 to understand to which Department to apply; but I cannot find that the Charity Commissioners have said that their body was a better body for the discharge of these duties than the Endowed Schools Commission, and therefore both the arguments of the Government in favour of the change have been cut from under their feet. The Charity Commissioners have not recommended this change, and the Schools Inquiry Commission did not recommend it. The experience which has been gained is entirely in the hands of the Endowed Schools Commissioners. If the noble Lord insists upon describing the Endowed Schools Commissioners as the friends of a particular party in this House, he will weaken the authority of his own Commissioners; because the obvious inference will be that they are the friends of some other party, and, instead of acting with the moral authority which they ought to carry with them as the representatives of the Crown and Legislature, they will only have the authority of pea-sons who hold certain views and opinions. I am very sorry to think of the effect this change is likely to have upon the performance of the duties of the Commission. The reproach which more than any other attaches to the working of our institutions is that they give far too much scope for the action of local prejudice and selfish interest as against the public welfare. It is the duty of Parliament and of the Government to labour to raise to the uttermost both the energy and the authority of those bodies that are called upon to defend the public interests against the selfish interests of classes and localities. You are now to transfer this duty to a Commission, most respectable for its purpose, and acting most properly and beneficially, but appointed for a purpose perfectly distinct. No one would draw an invidious distinction between the two Commissions; but the gentlemen who are to be appointed to discharge these difficult duties, without the higher experience accumulated by the Endowed Schools Commissioners, will find themselves weakened and almost intimidated by the knowledge that they are appointed to succeed others, not because they went wrong or failed, but because they met with opposition in the country; and consequently the lesson too likely to be drawn will be that what they have to do is not to act fearlessly and boldly in the public interest, but to avoid 568 that opposition which is stated by the Prime Minister, as the main reason why the Endowed Schools Commissioners should be displaced. Sir, I think the House will feel that we have made out a fair claim for asking the Government for a full explanation of their policy, and I hope that some such explanation will be given by one of Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ MR. GREENE
wished to say a few words in explanation, after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. "When he yesterday stated that hon. Members on the front benches opposite had joined in a factious opposition to the Bill, he stated what he believed to be perfectly true. He did not complain of the opposition of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett)—it was nothing more than was to be expected from the views he was known to hold; but when the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) repeated over and over again arguments they had all heard, they had a right to believe his intention was to delay the Bill. As to his statement that right hon. Gentlemen on the front bench on that side did not join some of them when they were actuated by a deep interest in the welfare of the country, he well recollected one particular occasion, when they protested against the Ballot being introduced into the Education Act, and his friends on the front bench, as soon as they saw the opposition was becoming warm, left the House. The right hon. Gentleman had on that occasion called him to task for continuing his opposition after his Leaders had left the House, but as an independent Member, he thought he was justified in pursuing the course which he then took. After that the right hon. Gentleman made a conciliatory speech, and matters ended very pleasantly. As to what he had said before, he would merely observe that he felt it to be true, and he was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's denial. It would be difficult for him and those who supported him on the other side to say anything more on the subject; but whether it was or not, he could tell them that he and those with whom he acted were nothing willing that Parliament should be prorogued before passing a measure which they entirely approved. He did hope that the Bill might now be allowed to proceed.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I hope that nothing which I may say will give cause for any of that excitement which was yesterday so prevalent. When the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) referred to me as being prepared to reply to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) he spoke quite correctly. I did intend to reply to the speech, until I perceived what an extraordinary course he was taking. The right hon. Gentleman after going into the subject at great length addressed to the Government a series of interrogations of a most minute character, not only with respect to the question before us, but with regard to our conduct generally in reference to this Bill. He accompanied these interrogations with those looks at the clock which are not unfrequent as the hour of 6 is approaching on Wednesdays. It was then left to me to reply at a moment when I might be the means of talking out the Bill when we wished for a Division, and I was determined not to fall into the snare. It was not, therefore, from any disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman nor because I shrank from the responsibility of the view we take with respect to the Endowed Schools Commission that I declined to prolong the discussion. As to myself, I think as was shown by the hon. Member for Fins-bury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) yesterday, I have been entirely consistent in my opposition to the Commission. It is said that the Government have been wanting in courtesy to the members of it—a remark which is, of course, meant for the Department with which they are brought into contact. I am not aware, however, that the Commissioners have sought any conferences with that Department. I believe that although on many occasions the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford said he had conferences with them, that, as a general rule, their schemes were prepared in their own office. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: I was in constant communication with them.] I am not aware, so far as my noble Friend near me can inform me, that on any occasion any personal conference on any one of the schemes of the Commissioners has been demanded. I would further remind the House that this Commission is not a permanent body. It was appointed only for a limited time, and the late Government last year evidently felt 570 that its proceedings needed careful inquiry, for they themselves suggested a Committee. And why? Partly because the Act did not work well, and partly because it was desirable to ascertain not only what were its proceedings, but what had been the motive for those proceedings. That Committee held a long investigation, and in my opinion some of the language which has been used with regard to their inquiry is not altogether Parliamentary. The hon. Member for Hackney has spoken of the Committee as having pursued a line of conduct which was absolutely dishonourable. [Mr. FAWCETT: I beg to deny having made use of such language.] The hon. Gentleman spoke with great warmth, and he said that the questions which had been put to some of the Commissioners with the view of discovering their opinions—which, he contended, had no bearing on the subject—were absolutely dishonourable. If, however, any one looks at the proceedings of that Committee they will see that they were conducted amicably, notwithstanding any differences of opinion; and there was no such charge made against any one of us in pursuing those inquiries. But it was most material that those opinions should be elicited for many reasons, and for one in particular—namely, that the Commissioners had given the Governing Bodies powers which were above all preceding law. They threw into the hands of the new Governing Bodies the power to make any changes they thought fit—either to purely secularize, or to adopt any kind of religious instruction. Mr. Roby was asked, in order not to bring Christian denominations into conflict, a question to test the principle—"Then, in your opinion, if there were a majority of Mahommedans on the Board, you would give them power to appoint a Mahommedan teacher? "And Mr. Roby said, "Yes, he would." It therefore became very material. The right hon. Member for Bradford, being in the Chair, was not called upon to vote; but the following passage of the Report was unanimously agreed to:—The published opinions of some of the Commissioners on the subject of endowment have caused alarm, and have in some cases seriously impeded the harmonious action which might otherwise have been secured between them and the Governing Bodies of the charities with which they have had to deal.The next part of it was voted for by the 571 right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Playfair) and by a large majority of the Committee, and is as follows:—Their own experience, as they state, in attempting to work the Act has convinced them that the country was hardly prepared for its reception, and it is to he regretted that some of the changes proposed by them, especially in the cases of certain good schools, should have been such as to hinder the hearty co-operation of those who had heretofore worked to render them efficient.The charge to which the Committee gave its sanction is this—that the Commission did not work in harmony with the trustees who were making a school good, on account of the views which they held as to the necessity of interfering with every Governing Body, however excellent it might be in itself. When, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich says we had displaced a Commission which was doing its duty, my answer is, that the Commissioners displaced over and over again Governing Bodies who were doing their duty, because they wanted to establish the theory that there should be an elective principle, thus in many cases disturbing excellent arrangements. The Commissioners introduced a new element which might do good, but which at all events did this harm—that however well a Governing Body might have conducted their business, there was no security against their being deposed. The part of the Report to which I have referred was put as mildly as it could be, because we did not wish to speak too harshly of the Commission, and who, I would now ask, is asking us to continue it? Is it the Commissioners themselves? Are we to suppose that they wish to force themselves on a reluctant Government? Is it hon. Gentlemen opposite who think thereby to advance the position of the Commissioners? Is it not, I would ask, far better that we should take a body which is independent, which is comparatively permanent—of which we have had experience, and which is perfectly willing to undertake the duties we desire to impose upon it? Nay, more, it is the body under the Endowed Schools Act itself which has visitorial powers and which is to take the future charge of these schools. If such a body be qualified to take charge of the future, it is qualified to take charge of the present, and to bring those schools into a 572 perfect condition. I remember a time when the Charity Commissioners were spoken of as having done much to improve these schools, and of having in many cases brought them up to a higher standard, and they are prepared to do it now. My reasons for supporting the Bill, therefore, are clear and distinct. The published opinions and the action of the Endowed Schools Commissioners have not only set the trustees of the country against them—they have given rise to suspicion, which creates a reluctance to act with them; and why, under these circumstances, should we prolong their existence? The schemes prepared will have at last to be submitted to the Government, and Government will have an opportunity of revising or putting a stop to them. But suppose Government accepts them, they will still have to be laid on the Table of the House, and therefore no purpose could be served by appointing Commissioners who would act as corrupt tools of the Government. It seems to me, therefore, that the charge of harbouring such a design is most unfair. We want an independent tribunal, and we think we have got it in the Charity Commissioners. It is not as if the Charity Commissioners had asked to be appointed, because they could do the work better—as the right hon. Gentleman said, they have too much good taste—but we went to them as an independent body, and asked them to undertake a duty which they are willing to undertake, and in a condition to undertake with effect. I must decline to follow hon. Members into topics which relate to subsequent parts of the Bill. There is no part of it on which we are not prepared to afford the fullest information—no part on which we wish for any concealment—but we are at present dealing with only one part. When we come to deal with the other clauses we shall be perfectly frank in our explanations. We say it has been proved to our satisfaction that the Endowed Schools Commissioners during their tenure of office—it might be through no blame of theirs—have alienated many large bodies of the friends of education throughout the country; and on that account we consider that their duties will be much more fitly executed by the independent Charity Commission.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
denied that he had had any desire on the previous 573 day to "talk out" the measure. It was true he had looked at the clock, but this he had done in order to allow time to the right hon. Gentleman for a reply, and there had been time enough after he sat down for both the reply and a division. He had felt it incumbent on him to go over the arguments which had been used, and to show that there was no foundation for the reasons given for the dismissal of the Commission, and, moreover, that the reasons were in themselves contradictory. The right hon. Gentleman, in the speech he had just delivered, asserted that the Commissioners had appointed too many elective Governors, and that appeared to be the sole ground of his opposition to them. [Mr. GATHORNE HARDY: What I complained of was the unnecessary interference with good working bodies.] The Vice President of the Council had relied mainly upon the opposition of some Dissenting Members to the Commissioners; and if he (Mr. Forster) had been at all warm in his remarks on the previous day, it was the recollection of the words of the noble Lord on this point that had made him so. It seemed to him that the noble Lord must have been very hard driven indeed for a reason for getting rid of the Commissioners when he felt obliged to give that one. They had now got from the Government the statement, however, that the great ground for their condemnation of the Commissioners was their want of cooperation with trustees. In that case, he would repeat the question asked by his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich—namely, why the Education Department themselves had not sought to ascertain by communication with the Commissioners, as well as by other moans, whether it was true that they had disagreed with many bodies of trustees; and, if so, whether it was the trustees or the Commissioners who were to blame for the disagreement?
declared that, opposed as he was to some of the subsequent provisions of the Bill, he, for one, would vote for that clause, as it would be voting for the disestablishment and disendowment of the present Commission. He had no personal motive in doing so, for he was not acquainted with either of the three Commissioners. Whether the Commission had acted fortiter in re or not, it had certainly not 574 acted suaviter in modo; and that was, at all events, one, if not the main reason of its unpopularity. Above all, that remark applied to the President of the Commission (Lord Lyttelton). He was ready to admit the great learning and knowledge of the noble Lord; but he believed the noble Lord himself, with that truthfulness which was said to be one of the most remarkable points in his character, would himself acknowledge that he did not possess the qualities which were described by the words suaviter in modo. It would be said that that was merely prejudice; but he had been led to the conclusion that the public feeling on this subject had foundation by various circumstances, and inter alia by a most remarkable correspondence which he had seen. He was not a "Skinner," but living close by, he knew something about Tunbridge School. That school was at present regulated in a way which he, for one, could not entirely approve, and the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and the Skinners' Company were most anxious that a reform should be carried out. Two years ago, a scheme was submitted by that Company, and a readiness was expressed to bow to the decision of the Commission. An Assistant Commissioner was sent down to make inquiries, but from that day to this nothing further had been done with the exception that a correspondence had passed which proved conclusively that the noble Lord did not possess the qualities to which he had just referred. If any other proof was wanted, it could be found in the words of the noble Lord himself, where he said in his published opinions that "All those who have opposed me on these schemes are shallow sciolists"—what ever he might thereby mean. For his part, he (Mr. Goldsmid) would go far beyond the noble Lord the Vice President in his desire to liberalize the schools. He did not think that they were yet liberalized half enough. But the Commissioners, in their attempts in this direction did not pay sufficient heed to public opinion, and the result had been pecularly unfortunate. They had set people against them, who had been and would have remained their warm supporters. Nay, more than that, he did not think the Commissioners had done what work they had accomplished in a sufficiently short space of time. They had passed only 74 schemes in five years, and if that were 575 to continue to be their rate of progress, at least 50 years would be needed to get through the whole of the endowed schools. He desired to see more rapid progress made. He thought one of the great reasons why the progress had not been rapid was the opposition that had been raised to the Commissioners, because they were men to whom the phrase suaviter in modo could not be applied as far as concerned their proceedings under the Endowed Schools Act. He knew that Mr. Roby and Canon Robinson had worked very hard; but that was not a reason for continuing them permanently on a Commission whose rate of progress had been so slow. He was of opinion, therefore, that the work might be conducted much more liberally, and that it ought to have been done much more quickly. He believed, also, that the Government would be able to find men who were capable of doing the work much more rapidly than the present Commissioners. He did not say that he entirely approved the body to whom it was proposed to transfer the work. He would rather see men fresh to the work appointed. But still, it was impossible for him to vote to keep the present Commissioners in office; and he must say he did not see why Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House should object to the employment of the Charity Commissioners, because, if he was correctly informed, most of those gentlemen were appointed by the right hon. Gentlemen who sat on that side. In conclusion, he would throw out a suggestion to the Government. Would not the difficulty in connection with the Bill be got over if the Government were to content themselves with passing the first three clauses, and were to abandon the 4th, 5th, and 6th, to which he (Mr. Goldsmid), in common with a largo number of hon. Members, would offer his most determined opposition? He thought that this plan would facilitate the course of Public Business, and would meet with the acceptance of both sides of the House.
§ MR. HARDCASTLE
said, the question between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich and himself was this—that he (Mr. Gladstone) argued that the list of subscriptions for the rebuilding of the Manchester Grammar School was the result of the legislation of 1869, whereas he (Mr. Hardcastle) 576 ventured to say that the list was not influenced in any degree by that Act. The position of the Manchester Grammar School was this—In 1849 a decree was made by the Court of Chancery for the re-organization of that school. By that decree, the masters, who were allowed to take boarders into their houses, were prohibited from so doing; and the Board of Trustees, who had previously consisted of seven gentlemen, most of them noblemen and large landed proprietors of the county, were ordered for the future to consist of 12 gentlemen taken from Manchester and the immediate vicinity. The first 12 trustees were named in the decree. Some of them were Nonconformists. The decree did not contain any directions on the subject; but the practice had been to appoint an equal number of Churchmen and Nonconformists. The result of the prohibition against the masters taking boarders had been to materially reduce their income. In 1866 a scheme was proposed for taking into the school boys in addition to the free boys upon payment of 12 guineas a-year. The number of free boys was fixed at 250, and it was supposed, as the result had proved, that a very large addition would be made to the income of the masters by the permission to take in boys on the payment of 12 guineas a-year. That scheme was sanctioned by the Lords Justices in 1867, and it was in consequence of the large increase of scholars that thereby resulted, that subscriptions were opened in 1868 for the purpose of extending the buildings so as to provide adequate accommodation. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman had stated upon information which had reached him that £10,000 only of the large sum of £50,000 which had been subscribed was subscribed in 1868 prior to the passing of the Act, and the right hon. Gentleman inferred that the subscription of £40,000 was the result of the passing of the Act. The subscription was begun in 1868, and he (Mr. Hardcastle) did not think that because the subscription was continued in 1869, the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to say that the subscription was influenced by the Act of 1869. Mr. Langworthy, whose name had been mentioned, and always with great honour, commenced the subscription by giving £5,000 in 1868; and he subsequently gave, including legacies, 577 no less than £15,000 out of the remaining £40,000. If that gentleman gave £5,000 in 1868, before the passing of the Act of 1869, it was only fair to say that he was uninfluenced as to the subscriptions which he subsequently gave by the Act of 1869. Moreover, in a letter written on the subject the solicitor to the schools said that the subscriptions were not pushed in 1868, because a subscription list was before the public that same year from Owens College; and that the authorities did not regard the Act of 1869 as beneficial, but the reverse. He appealed therefore to the House whether the right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that the Act referred to had been the chief cause of the subscriptions being raised. He believed the Manchester Grammar School would not be influenced by the Bill now before the House; and if the right hon. Gentleman would only use his legitimate influence with the party which he led, so as to allow the Commiteee to reach Clause 4, he (Mr. Hardcastle) believed he should be able to show that that was the case.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War was mistaken in supposing him to have said that the Committee appointed on the subject had acted dishonourably. He would not presume to speak so disrespectfully of a Committee of that House. The Commissioner to whom he alluded was asked two distinct sets of questions, one relating to his own opinion of the Act he was called upon to administer, and another set of questions which had nothing whatever to do with him as a Commissioner or administrator, but related to his opinions as a private individual. This Commissioner expressly stated to the Committee that he thought he was bound to apply these opinions as a Commissioner, yet when he was asked his private opinions, he with great frankness gave expression to his opinions. Now, what had been done was, that these private opinions of this Commissioner had been industriously circulated in order to prejudice the public against him, and in order to make that House and the public believe that these were the opinions that actuated him in carrying out the Act. That conduct he characterized, as he did still, as dishonourable. The Committee were not in the least responsible for it, but he thought the Secretary of State for 578 War knew who was. Now, with regard to the question they were called upon again to discuss, they were placed in a great difficulty, because they never got from the Government from day to day the same opinions. What was the final decision of the Government on this subject? The Vice President of the Council distinctly stated in his first speech, that no responsible Minister would maintain that these endowed schools were national schools, but that they ought to be given to the Church; and his charge against the Commissioners was, that they did not administer those endowments in the interest of the Church, but in the interest of the nation. Then the Home Secretary said the Commissioners had administered the Act in an undenominational spirit. They had hoard nothing of denominationalism or undenominationalism that evening, and on Tuesday the Prime Minister did not say the Commissioners had interfered with schools they ought not to have interfered with, but that they had incurred unpopularity with the trustees; and now the Secretary of State for War came forward with a new charge—that they had interfered with schools they ought not to have interfered with. He entreated the House to consider whether the Commissioners were not bound to do what they had done by the Act of Parliament? Were they, then, going to dismiss them for doing what they were compelled to do? They were bound to administer the Act, and they had done nothing but what they were bound to do. If any charge could be preferred against them, it was that they had not carried out the Act so stringently as they ought to have done, and had, in fact, left too much power in the hands of the trustees. If the Commissioners were to be so dismissed, all he could say was, that should that be the future policy of the Government, they would cease to be considered the Constitutional party, for they would strike one of the most deadly blows at the continuance of constitutional government. The Vice President of the Council had been injudicious enough to insinuate that the opponents of the Bill were not influenced by regard for the education of the people, but from regard for the Commissioners. The fact was, the opponents of the Bill held it to be absolutely fatal to the permanence of 579 constitutional government in this country that a Commission should be dismissed because they had faithfully carried out an Act of Parliament. The Secretary of State for War had said the Commissioners had not asked that their powers should be continued.
§ MR. FAWCETT
expressed his regret at having in the least degree misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman; but his words certainly conveyed that meaning to his ears, and to those, he believed, of several hon. Members near him.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
What I did say was—Are we to suppose that the Endowed Schools Commission would wish to force themselves on a reluctant Government?
§ MR. FAWCETT
contended that that was his point. By observing that policy the Government might get rid of any Commission. It was only necessary for the Government to express its reluctance—to make a few intemperate speeches, and then one of its Members could say—"Are we to suppose that the Commission would like to serve under a reluctant Government? The Vice President said the Act of 1869 was allowed to pass because the Conservative party were dazed and confused; but he wished to point out that although about 200 schemes were subsequently proposed by the Commissioners, only one was challenged in that House. Not one Member of the present Government spoke against, and two Members of the Government supported, the conduct of the Commissioners. Could the Government give a stronger proof of their inconsistency than this—that this Commission against whom they now brought so many distinct and varied charges, and 42 of whoso schemes they had passed since coming into office, had not had one of its schemes objected to by the Government? The Government had utterly failed to prove that this Commission had neglected its duty or failed to carry out the Act which they were appointed to administer; and, in his opinion, the Commissioners had faithfully done their duty. They might depend upon it that if these Commissioners were dismissed, the country would come to the conclusion that the Government had done an unwise and unjust act.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
The clause which is now before us is the foundation of the whole Bill, and requires exhaustive discussion. The opposite side think that we are talking against time, but we are really fighting the preliminary and fundamental clause of the whole Bill. It proposes to extinguish the existing Endowed School Commission, and to substitute it by the Charity Commission. Surely we have a right to examine this proposal in all its bearings. Now, what is the first effect of the proposed change? To transfer the administration from a body of large experience to a new body with no experience at all. The present Commission has a wealth of experience. Take the case of one of its members—Mr. Roby. That gentleman acted as Secretary to the Schools Inquiry Commission for three years, and so obtained a knowledge of the defects and the merits of all the endowed schools of the country. After years of toil in this inquiry, after again acting as Secretary of the Endowed Schools Commission, he was placed upon it as a Commissioner. Subjected for days to the severest examination upstairs as to the objects, nature, and position of endowed schools, he left the Select Committee, of which I was a Member, with surprise and admiration of his inexhaustible knowledge of the subject. This man, with his abundant wealth of knowledge and experience, you are about to dismiss, so far at least as we know, and may replace him by an absolutely new man without experience of any kind. And this is true also, in a less degree, with the other Commissioners. The first point, then, to which I take exception is this—that you transfer the administration of the Acts to a Commission having no equivalent of knowledge or experience, and having no skill or aptitude in administering Acts already difficult and complex, but which will be rendered of infinitely greater difficulty and complexity by the obscure clauses which you heap upon these Acts by the Bill before us. I say that this is a pernicious error in the principles of administration. The Bill admits that the Charity Commission is unfit for the new duties which you propose to give to it, because it provides that even after new Commissioners are appointed, technical knowledge shall be given to them by the 581 appointment of Assistant Commissioners and others, so as to remedy their deficiencies in administrative knowledge. Now, it is the first principle of administration that it should be transparent and true, real and ostensible. This is violated by the Bill, for the Charity Commission knows nothing of its work, and must be propped up by persons that do. So that the real working men are not the responsible men, and the people of knowledge are not the administrators. But I go further, and I assert that the Charity Commission ought not to be the administrative body. It possesses by the Acts of 1869 and 1873, separate and distinct judicial functions in regard to endowments, and these will be absurdly confused with administrative duties by this Bill. Owing to these judicial functions, it ought to be kept entirely separate from the Endowed Schools Commission. Clause 24 of the Act of 1869, and Clause 3 of that of 1873 make the Charity Commission the final judge and arbiter of the doings of the Endowed Schools Commissioners. If the latter lay their hands on charities which ought not to be appropriated to education; if they declare that certain schools should belong to them, or should be transferred to the Education Department, the Charity Commission is the judge in the last resort between these bodies—the trustees and the public—and its judgment is final. But now, by this Bill, the Charity Commission is both defendant and judge in the same suit. Does this not show what inextricable confusion this Bill will produce in the administration of the Acts? Again, why should you add to the confusion by keeping all endowments below £100 under the Education Department? If that body, which in fact is responsible for this Bill, believes in the competency of the Charity Commission, ought it not to transfer all educational endowments to it? But here again you establish utter confusion between administrators and judicial functions. The Vice President of the Council is a Member of the Charity Commission, which is to administer the Acts. But the Vice President is also the judge against the schemes framed by that body. So that here again you constitute the same person defendant and judge in the same cause. Was there ever a Bill brought in containing such extraordinary 582 confusion in administrative and judicial functions? I do not again repeat the arguments which I adduced on the second reading of this Bill—that the Education Department ought to have been made the sole responsible administrative body, if changes were to be made. For the one great object of the Endowed Schools Act, is to connect the secondary with the elementary schools of the country, and to make them both subserve the purposes of promoting education among the great body of the people. But even if the Government disapprove of a single responsible Minister of Education, the arguments are very strong for at least keeping separate the endowed schools and the Charity Commission. The original construction of the Acts was based upon the separation, and denned their separate judicial and administrative duties, and I have shown that the Bill has failed to reconcile them. But further, as the Endowed Schools Acts deal with mixed educational and charitable uses of endowments, there was a clear advantage in carrying out the policy of Parliament in converting pernicious and pauperizing charities into productive educational uses, through the agency of a Commission which had education as its main object in view. But now you are to mix it up with the objects of the Charity Commission, which deals with these purposes in a purely legal and not economical sense. So that pernicious charities are likely to be perpetuated, and may not be converted into profitable educational use. What then is the argument of the Government for the change of administration from the old Commission to the Charity Commission? Only one answer has been given to this question, either by the Vice President or by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—namely, that there is to be a change of policy in the administration. That, then, is the fundamental subject under contention. What is this changed policy to be? We quite well know the policy of the Acts of 1869 and 1873. It is given in the Preamble of the Acts "to bring a liberal education within reach of the children of all classes." But this policy is to be changed. ["No! No!"] Hon. Gentlemen cry ["No! No!"]—is it then to be preserved? If it is, what reason is there for changing the Commissioners? No one has alleged that 583 they have failed to carry out that policy. What then is to be the new policy? If it be not the policy of the Acts, it must be the policy of the Bill. You, Mr. Raikes have told us that we ought not to discuss the policy of the subsequent clauses at this stage, and I bow to your decision. But it is difficult to discuss this clause, when we are told by the Government that the necessity for it is their change of policy, without trying to extract this policy from the clauses of the Bill, as Government does not explain it in debate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made early in the debate two irreconcilable statements—first, that a new and changed policy was to be inaugurated; and second, that it was to be the old policy proceeding on the lines of the existing Acts. Speakers from this side have asked for an explanation of this contradictory statement; but Ministers remain silent, and leave the debate to be carried on by us. If we can find out no explanation in speech, we certainly cannot extract it out of silence. But after your decision I shall not attempt to discuss the policy of the Bill as betrayed in its subsequent clauses, but try to extract it from the early and scant Ministerial speeches with which we have been favoured. If it were true that the policy is in future to be upon the same fines as the Acts, why change the Commissioners? If it be new policy, unfitted for the old Commissioners, who have carried out the Acts in a fair and honest spirit, surely we ought clearly to understand what this policy is before we entrust it to a new and untried Commission. Now the Vice President has told us more than once that his Department are keeping back 32 schemes of the Endowed School Commissioners, in order to modify them by the future new policy of the Government. Perhaps, by taking two of these cases, and considering what these now are, and how they may be altered, it will be possible to understand the changed policy, which as yet is the only alleged justification given to us for destroying a Commission of experience and passing over its duties to a Commission of inexperience. The two cases which I select are Portsmouth and Exeter. In Portsmouth there is a Church of England endowed school managed by an absent body—the Dean and Senior Scholars of Christ Church. These managers have paid small attention to 584 the school. In fact, for some years there have been no scholars at all in the school, though the master has enjoyed the salary. It was clearly an unfit managing body, for the result of its management was a school without scholars, and a teacher without anybody to teach. The Commissioners have prepared a scheme for its reform, and Christ Church consented to the introduction of the 17th clause, which popularizes the management of the school. In fact, in a burgh like Portsmouth, where political parties are keen and nearly balanced, this was essential. Well, everything appeared to be arranged, and Portsmouth had the prospect of an efficient school, when this Bill upsets everything. Lawyers on this side tell us that, even under the Vice President's Amendment, the 17th clause could not be applied to this markedly Church school, and lawyers on the other side are conspicuous—as, indeed, on these occasions Ministers generally are—by their silence. In all this debate, with the most obscure and complex clauses before us, the Attorney General has not spoken once, and the Solicitor General did not enlighten us in his speech by any legal knowledge, but only extolled the intentions of pious founders. Well, then, the case of Portsmouth would seem to indicate that the new policy of the Government is simply to go back to the original Church management, which having no sympathy in the town, has allowed the school to decay so completely that it had not a single scholar. Now let us turn to Exeter, which I select because my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford Northcote) knows the case well, and is, I believe, one of the existing trustees. In Exeter there are various endowments, notably a grammar school, a blue-coat school, and an endowment by Elias Heele, who, I rather think, was a Commonwealth man. The new scheme appropriates £600 a-year for the education of orphans and poor persons, then it establishes a grammar school for boys, a high school for girls, a middle-class boys' school, and an elementary school. This scheme was likely to prove of incalculable benefit to the city of Exeter, and was on the point of being accepted when this Bill comes in the way. The extreme Church party are now encouraged 585 by it to persist in their exclusive claims, and the new policy of the Government will probably encourage them in it. The high school for girls will, no doubt, drop, for it is one of the crimes of the old Commission that they have the trick of converting superfluous schools for boys into much required schools for girls. But as pious founders forgot girls in their schemes, or custom has excluded them, so the new policy of veneration for the Church, and veneration for the founders, is likely to break up altogether this well-considered scheme for Exeter. At all events, I give the Government an opportunity of illustrating to us by these examples what their new policy is. Until they do so they have no right to expect that we will give up our opposition to the transference of the powers of the Endowed Schools Commission to the Charity Commission, because we have heard no other intelligible argument for the transfer, except that it is necessary to carry out a changed policy in administration. This is surely not fair treatment to the House. You think us obstinate in our opposition to this clause, but you refuse to tell us why it is necessary. If we are to believe one-half of your speeches, when they tell us that the Government is not to make violent changes, but that they will proceed on the old lines, then we are right in contending that there is no justification for the violent change which you do propose to make in transforming an experienced into an inexperienced body of Commissioners. If, on the other hand, we are to believe the other half of the speeches, which portend a great change in policy, then surely it is not obstinacy on our part, but a just regard for the privileges of the House, that we should not grant you the clause till you fully explain the policy which necessitates it. But you take refuge in silence, conscious of the force of a great voting power, which surely in its exercise ought to be governed by the intelligence which you refuse to give either to your own side or to ours. If the changed policy which requires the destruction of an existing Commission be concentration of school property in the Church, recollect that your claims for the Church and our claims for the nation are both based on a broadening basis of religious thought. You claim the pre-Reformation schools 586 for the National Church because the nation in the 16th century accepted the broader basis of the Reformed religion. We, on this side, claim them for the nation, because, since the 16th century, religious thought has widened itself still more, and is expressed not by one, but by many Churches. The origin of our contention is the same, and you ought not to be surprised at the persistence of our opposition.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
admitted that the Endowed Schools Commissioners had, in some cases, acted with a high hand, and in a sledge-hammer manner; looking upon themselves, to use a vulgar phrase, as "cocks of the walk." In a certain sense they were unpopular; but then it should be borne in mind that the work they had to do—namely, the correction of abuses—was unpopular work. The question was this—could the Government put their finger upon a single case in which the Commissioners had acted ultra vires, or deviated from their duties? He contended that the Government could not have picked out a more unfit tribunal for this purpose than the Charity Commissioners, who were a judicial body. The duties of the Commissioners might as well have been transferred to the Court of Chancery itself. The result would be that the whole matter would come to a deadlock. If this work was—as he maintained it would be—brought to a standstill, there would be, when the Conservative re-action was superseded by the Liberal resurrection—when that time came, if it ever came at all—there would be such an outcry at what the Government had done that the country would not be satisfied until the "pious founders" and endowments were consigned to—he would not say where.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he had already stated his opinion that it was absolutely essential, before coming to a decision on the Amendment, that certain questions should be answered by the Government. He should repeat those questions, and if they were not answered at once, he should move that the Chairman report Progress. In the first place, did the Government repeat the charge made against the Commissioners, that they had administered these Acts of Parliament in a too undenominational spirit, and had devoted endowments to the nation which the Government wished to be, and intended, for the Church? Secondly, 587 were the Commissioners going to be dismissed, because they had carried out the Act in too undenominational a spirit; and did the Government wish or not that the future Commissioners, if any were appointed, should act in more undenominational a spirit? Thirdly, did the Government bring against the Commissioners, the charge that they had exceeded their powers by introducing the elective principle into schools whore that principle ought not to be introduced; and, if so, in what instances? Fourthly, was there any foundation whatever for any one of these charges which had been brought by the Government against these Commissioners; and did the Government intend to justify their dismissal simply on personal grounds, such as those mentioned by his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid)? Fifthly, did the Government wish the House to conclude that, in any single respect, these Commissioners failed to administer the Act which they were appointed to carry out?
§ MR. DISRAELI
said: Mr. Raikes, it seems to me that the hon. Member for Hackney rather misconceives the genius of Parliamentary debate. Our habit is to have discussion, ample and even adjourned discussion; and during those discussions we avail ourselves of every opportunity to elicit and obtain the opinions of our opponents on either side of the House. But it has not yet been a feature in Parliamentary debate that, when the discussion has closed and the division is about to be taken, either the Government or the Opposition should be catechised. Such a practice would rather remind us of that inconvenient rubric which has been referred to recently in our debates, in which the Catechism is insisted upon after the Second Lesson. I trust that neither side of the House will sanction the introduction of such a Parliamentary rubric; therefore I hope that we shall at once proceed to the division which has been called for.
§ MR. FAWCETT
was understood to say that he appreciated as much as any one the jokes of the Prime Minister. ["Divide, divide."] As the House refused to listen to him, he begged to move that the Chairman report Progress.
§ Motion negatived.588
§ MR. A. BROWN
said, he thought that, after the long discussion that had taken place, the division should be taken at once. He would only say that, as it appeared to be admitted that the Endowed Schools Commissioners had done good service to the country, their services should be retained in some form or other.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, his sole object in rising was to make a personal explanation. Yesterday, in the heat and confusion of the last few minutes of the debate, he had used an observation with regard to an hon. Member which, upon reflection, he regretted having uttered. He thought it his duty spontaneously to withdraw that observation; because he should indeed be sorry if the debates of that House were not conducted with dignity and good-humour. He trusted, therefore, that, even if they should have to sit in that House until October, the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Greene) would find some turnips for his recreation and for the sake of his health. As the Prime Minister had referred to him in the course of the debate, he begged to suggest, as a means of putting an end to the battle on this subject, that, if the right hon. Gentleman had not sufficient confidence in the present Commission, the Endowed Schools Commission and the Charity Commission should be amalgamated. If the right hon. Gentleman would assent to that proposition, as he might with a good grace, the educational interests of the community would not suffer, as they undoubtedly would if this clause were passed.
§ Question put, "That the words 'be transferred to and imposed on the Charity Commissioners' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 218; Noes 133: Majority 85.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Power to add to Charity Commissioners).
§ MR. WHITWELL
moved, in page 2, line 11, to leave out from "appoint" to "salaries," in line 16, and insert—a person to be a district Educational Commissioner, in pursuance of this Act, for each of the Registrar General's districts of England and 589 Wales, who shall hold office during Her Majesty's pleasure, and who shall prepare schemes for educational endowments, and submit them for the approval or rejection of the Charity Commissioners.He contended that it was desirable to appoint local officers, in order to enlist the interest and sympathies of the different localities in the operation of the Act. The appointment, for each district, of a special Commissioner who would be associated with the central authority, would be much more advantageous in the way of enlisting local feeling in favour of the measure, than it would be to add to the central authority itself. The words of the Amendment he had taken from the recommendations of the Endowed Schools Inquiry Commission.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, the object which the hon. Member had in view commended itself very much to the attention of the Government. It was, no doubt, a very important thing that local feeling should be enlisted in favour of the public schools; but the Government was of opinion that that object would practically be met by the appointment of additional assistant Commissioners, which would probably be found necessary, who would not be always resident in London, and who would put themselves into communication with the leading people in the districts with which they were connected. He trusted that the hon. Member would not press his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment agreed to; Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 (Salaries of Charity Commissioners and their Officers) agreed to.
§ Amendment of Law.
§ Clause 4 (Construction of "express terms" and "original instrument").
§ MR. A. BROWN
moved to amend the first part of the clause, which says—In this Act and the Endowed Schools Acts the expression 'express terms of the original instrument of foundation,' shall he held to include any provision in the original instrument of foundation which enjoins the attendance of the scholars at the religious worship of any particular church, sect, or denomination.590 He proposed to omit the words, "the attendance of the scholars at the religious worship of any particular church."
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, that before he referred to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. A. Brown), it might be convenient that he should state what Amendments in this clause Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to assent to. In the first speech he made on this subject he used these words—Her Majesty's Government did not propose any more than the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Forster) that members of the Governing Body should necessarily be of a particular creed, or that the masters of schools should be in Holy Orders.He thought those words would have put the matter beyond the possibility of doubt, and would have served as a sufficient indication of the way in which the Government would administer the Act. But a misapprehension having arisen on the subject, they had carefully considered what Amendments might be made, so as to remove all possibility of misapprehension. The first fruits of their consideration was the Amendment of which he gave Notice a few days ago; but they were informed that an Amendment, which had been put on the Paper by the hon. Baronet the Member for East Devon (Sir John Kennaway) was much more acceptable to the leading members of the Nonconformist Churches. As he had already stated, his object was not only to let Nonconformists in, but to get them in, where suitable, as members of the Governing Bodies, and the Government were quite prepared to accept the Amendment of the hon. Baronet. That Amendment was in those words:—In Clause 4, line 18, at the end, to add—Provided always, That in every scheme within the provisions of section nineteen of the Endowed Schools Act, 1869, as amended by this Act for an endowed school under this Act and the Endowed Schools Acts, or any of them, the provisions contained in section seventeen of the Endowed Schools Act, 1869, shall be inserted and made applicable to one-third at the least of the members of the Governing Body, unless there he in the original instrument of foundation, any provision directing that the whole of the Governing Body shall he members of a particular Church or denomination.
The question that masters of schools should not necessarily be in Holy Orders would arise under a later clause. There
was another Amendment of an important nature of which Notice had been given by his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Spencer Walpole). An Amendment coming from so high an authority must, of course, receive the best attention of the Government; and, after full consideration, he was prepared to accept the Amendment of his right hon. Friend. That Amendment would, in Clause 4, page 3, line 10, leave out from
or requires" to "denomination" in line 13 inclusive—"requires or subjects the regulations of a, school to he made or approved by any person or authority holding office many church, sect, or denomination.
§ These were the two Amendments which the Government would be very glad to adopt. With regard to a provision in the instrument of foundation requiring the attendance of the scholars at the religious worship of any particular Church, sect, or denomination, he could not imagine a more distinct mark or indication of the intention of the founder. He was afraid he could not accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wenlock.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that to his mind there could hardly be worse evidence in favour of denominational schools than the direction to attend a particular church, as the proposal was made by the Government. They all knew very well that in some cases this evidence would amount to this—that the children were told to attend mass before the period of the Reformation; but that was no evidence that they were told to attend the present Church of England. He objected to the direction to attend church previous to the Toleration Act being made evidence in favour of retaining a school as a denominational or Church school. He was grateful to the noble Lord for consenting to strike out the submission to the ecclesiastical authority, which would have brought in a large number of important foundations; but he could not say that he was inclined to admire the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for East Devon (Sir John Kennaway). That meant that none of the Governing Bodies should be disqualified for their religious faith. Now, what they on that (the Liberal) side of the House contended for, was that as regarded schools founded before the Toleration Act, which 592 numbered some 580 out of 780 largo grammar schools, there should be no attempt to make them specially Church of England schools; and unless where there was the most unmistakeable evidence of the fact, such, for instance, as that of a cathedral or collegiate school, to say that they would allow Dissenters to come in as one-third seemed to him to be a most extraordinary way of meeting the difficulty, and it did not meet the spirit of the objection in any way whatever.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
agreed with his noble Friend that nothing could be better evidence of the intention of the founder with regard to the application of the foundation, than the direction in the will that the children should attend a particular church. The Government had been taunted during these debates with refusing to allow any Dissenters to be on the Governing Body. He thought that rather a hard charge; but as there had been much heat throughout these discussions, and though there was much misrepresentation, he had remained silent. But now that the Government had shown that they were willing to throw open one-third of the Governing Body to Dissenters, it was rather hard that they should be charged with wishing to exclude them. The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) thought this was going but a little way. But the Amendment of his noble Friend went the whole way, because it enabled the Commissioners to throw the whole open if they thought fit. It would enable them, in short, to adapt their rules to the circumstances of the different localities. The Amendment would show more conclusively than anything else what was in the minds of the founders, and it would settle the matter of religious teaching, which was better than leaving it open to be scrambled for by the different parties.
regretted very much that the Government—seeing the very strong feeling which existed in the House on this question—had not made a larger concession. The feeling of a large minority, if not a majority, of the House was that it would be wiser to entrust the Charity Commissioners with the administration of the Acts of 1869 and 1873 unaltered than to pass a new Act, making, as the right 593 hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) said the other day, what in the old Acts were rules the exceptions, and what were exceptions the rules. He admitted that the Amendments to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred were concessions as far as they went; but it would have been wiser if the Government had decided to withdraw Clauses 4, 5, and especially 6, and tried to get on as well as they could with the Acts of 1869 and 1873. It would be dangerous to enter into arguments on the pre-Reformation endowments in regard to the Church of England. It would be better to adopt the Amendment than to enter on such a controversy.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
said, as he understood, it was the intention of those who passed the Act of 1869 that the Commissioners should frame rules for all the schools, with special reservations for schools coming under Clause 19. But he believed there was a power given to the Commissioners to assent to modifications, so that the Governing Body of a cathedral school might admit laymen without taking a test. He would like to have the opinion of the Attorney General whether this power could be retained under the present Bill.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
was inclined to think that the power reserved to existing Governing Bodies under the Act of 1869, as modified by the Act of 1873, would not be interfered with by the present Bill; but if, on maturer consideration, he found it was otherwise, he should be prepared to secure that power by the insertion of some such words as these—"Without prejudice, nevertheless, to the exercise of any power which the Commissioners may be otherwise authorized to exercise with the assent of the Governing Body."
§ MR. RATHBONE
adopted the view of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttle worth). The further they went with that Bill the more fresh difficulties would arise, and the more they would be brought to that which would be offensive to Nonconformists without doing the Church any good. Now that the Government had 594 gained the victory in regard to appointing the Commission, they should rely on their own power, and let them get rid of all those clauses which were sure to involve them in further difficulties.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought it was a very dangerous assumption for the friends of the Church to make, that because a founder who cared about education in the reign of Edward VI. or Elizabeth, or before the Reformation, simply stated, as was very natural for him, that he wished the children to go to church, therefore the school was to be claimed especially for the Church of England as against other denominations. He himself was in favour of religious education in both elementary and secondary schools; but it was impossible to adopt a worse way of securing that, in the present temper of the country, than by fixing by law that that education must be the education of a certain denomination, even though it was the Church of England, unless it was certain that the school belonged to that body.
§ MR. WATKIN WILLIAMS
said, the answer of the Attorney General to the question put to him by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland) was perfectly satisfactory. He (Mr. Watkin Williams) hoped if no other good came from that measure, it would, by thoroughly exposing the present vicious mode of drawing Bills, tend to put a stop to it. He had read Clauses 4, 5, and 6 several times over, and had endeavoured to incorporate them into the Acts which the present Bill was proposed to amend; but owing to the faulty way in which the Bill had been drawn, the more he had sought to find out its meaning, the more difficult had the task become. Nothing would satisfy him short of the excision of the clauses just mentioned, for he certainly could not see that they would have the effect of admitting Nonconformists to the Governing Bodies of endowed schools.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he had some doubts whether the clause under consideration was an improvement upon the provision contained in the Act of 1869, which protected all institutions under the statutes of which the scholars were to be instructed in accordance with the principles of any particular denomination. He would suggest that in view of the Amendments of which the Government 595 had given Notice, it would be better to re-construct Clauses 4, 5, and 6.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he thought that some of the questions of principle which had been raised could be more conveniently discussed when the Committee were made aware how, if at all, the clause was to be amended, and on the question whether the clause, as ultimately amended, would stand part of the Bill. For his part, he objected to the clause altogether, because it further extended what he regarded as a dangerous exemption which was created by the Act of 1869, and received further development in the Act of 1873. The general enactment stated that all those endowed schools were not to be denominational, but national; that the nation would respect the founder's will as far as education was concerned, but would disregard it so far as he directed the particular manner in which his bounty should be applied. That principle was departed from in 1869 and again in 1873, and, inasmuch as he objected to the exceptions made by the Acts of those years, he also objected, and strongly, to their further extension by the present Bill.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that the earlier part of the clause was really an interpretation of the meaning to be given to the words, "express terms of the original instrument of foundation." It was intended that Clause 19 of the Act of 1869, which referred to any educational endowment which required the scholars to be instructed in any particular formularies, should have a larger interpretation than had been given to it by the Endowed Schools Commissioners. In 1873 a step was made in that direction, and now the question was, whether the interpretation sought to be given by Clause 4 was such as the Committee could accept. If it were found that by the original deed of foundation the children were required to attend church, and that since that time they had done so and been instructed in Church principles, could it be said that the words of the proposed clause gave a more extended interpretation than was contemplated by the Act of 1869? When it was found that there had been a uniform observance of the original foundation it was not asking too much that the interpretation adopted should be that given by the present Bill.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
pointed out that the Schools Inquiry Commission recommended that the policy now before the House should not be adopted. It was clearly intended by this Bill that a number of schools should be treated as Church schools which were not to be so regarded by the Act of 1869. Many of these, too, were pre-Reformation foundations. Now, he begged hon. Gentlemen to observe that formerly it was the law of the land that all children should be compelled to go to church, and it was not necessary for a founder to insert a clause in his will enjoining children to attend church in order to make it a Church school. All that founders really did was, not to declare that the children should attend church, but that they should attend church in a particular way, such as altogether, or upon particular days, such as saints' days. If the clause as it stood passed into law, the effect would be to convert many schools into purely Church schools, which would otherwise have been denominational schools.
§ MR. WATKIN WILLIAMS
said, he thought that the explanation given by the Attorney General presented this clause in a still more objectionable form, and it would be a real disgrace to their legislation to pass such a Bill. It appeared to him that it was desired by the Government to do violence in an unprecedented way to the words "express terms of the original instrument of foundation." Of course, it was possible by legislation to make "yes" mean "no;" but he thought it was extremely inadvisable to introduce language of so strange a nature into an Act of Parliament.
§ MR. ALFRED MARTEN
said, the clause did no more than give a definite meaning to the words "express terms" in their relation to the original instrument of foundation. The proposed interpretation proceeded on a principle which had already been recognized by the Court of Chancery and the Legislature. In his opinion the Committee might therefore fairly adopt the words.
§ DR. LUSH
said, he denied that founders, however estimable may have been the spirit in which they acted in their own time, had any right to stereotype their views on succeeding generations. The late Earl of Bridgwater left a large sum of money to be applied for the purpose of inducing men of science and 597 learning to write essays showing the power, wisdom, and goodness of God in the several acts of creation and providence. That was a most proper and admirable act at the time, and resulted in producing some very excellent treatises which fairly reflected the state of science at the time. Since then, however, science had made immense progress, and those books were left far in the background and were virtually obsolete. But if the Earl of Bridgwater had founded a professorship or endowed a college and provided that only certain theories should be taught, he would have been the means of perpetuating an immense deal of harm instead of doing good. For founders to claim a right to stamp their ideas on future generations was to assume a right to which they were not entitled; and holding those views and believing that founders' rights ought not to be respected to the extent to which the Bill recognized them, he should support the Amendment.
§ MR. LAW
said, he desired to raise the broad and distinct issue which this clause challenged. He denied that a direction that a child should attend a particular church was equivalent to a direction that it should be instructed according to the doctrines and formularies of that church. The whole history of the Church of England was entirely opposed to the contrary supposition; and the fact alone that 2,000 clergymen were expelled from the Church at the time of the passing of the Act of Uniformity was sufficient in itself to establish the ac-curacy of the ground he took. He should be glad to have an explanation as to what was meant by the proposal to admit fresh evidence with reference to these foundations.
§ MR. HERMON
said, he could have wished that the clauses had not been inserted in the Bill, and should be glad if the Government could come to the conclusion to withdraw them. Their passing would give to the Church of England something which she was not entitled to claim, and might be the means of her losing something which she was fairly justified in possessing. The Government, with a large majority at its back, could afford to be generous; and therefore he hoped they would give up those clauses, and so enable the House to proceed with really important business.
§ MR. DILLWYN
commented on the drafting of the Bill, which he considered exceedingly imperfect, and remarked that the House was being detained at that late period of the year to pass an ill-drawn and obscure measure, merely to suit the convenience of the Government. With regard to the question immediately at issue, he pointed out that in regard to the majority of foundations the intentions of the founders were not shown by express terms with regard to religious instruction, their primary object being to give education. The great objection in former years was to the attempt to give effect to the express terms of the will of the founder to the exclusion of Dissenters, and that was the objectionable object aimed at in this Bill. He was opposed to the clause.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
trusted the noble Lord who had charge of the Bill would not listen to the appeal that had just been made to him. The clause on which the Committee was now engaged was the substance of this Bill. He admitted that the wording of the clause might be improved; but he contended for a clear recognition of the express intention of the founder in substitution for the entangling technicalities of the existing Acts. The Members of the Select Committee of 1869 were surprised at the narrow and technical interpretation given to the words which they had agreed to, because they thought that these sufficiently defined the founders' intentions. Since then a thick haze seemed to have gathered round the matter. The question as to the intention of the founder was a question of right and of law, and which had to be ascertained by history and evidence. The object of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) seemed to be to apply funds which had been bequeathed for the purpose of promoting religion and education to simply secular objects. Hon. Members on the other side of the House had argued as if there was no such thing as a Conscience Clause, and as if the provisions of this Bill would drive Nonconformists to schools whore a kind of religious education might be given that was repulsive to their convictions. So long as there was a Conscience Clause he did not think that any injustice would be done to any child, whatever his religion might be, by adhering to the religious formularies, whether of the Church or 599 of Dissent, which embodied the historical origin of the school. Either there must he religion in some form or else secularism, and he knew no better way of reaching that form than to follow the one with which the school was identified. If the Government gave way on this clause they would cause discontent among many of their warmest supporters, and all over the country.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
remarked that the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) had said that in the Committee to which he had referred a considerable degree of haziness had prevailed, and he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) thought that those who had listened with attention to the observations of the hon. Member, would be of opinion that the mist had not yet entirely cleared away. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid.) trusted that the Government, when they finally decided on their course respecting this Bill, would listen to the clear and sensible advice of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon) rather than to the cloudy counsels of the hon. Member for Cambridge University. On the wording of the clause under discussion he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) had but a few words to say, because it was difficult for any observations to make plainer its intrinsic absurdity. It was proposed to declare by Act of Parliament that "express terms" should moan what was not express, but consisted of a number of inferences, more or less weak, one of them so feeble that it had already been very properly abandoned by the Government in deference to the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the other Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Spencer Walpole). But the proposal became more amusing still when it was remembered that the reason given for it was the difficulty felt by the Commissioners in discovering the meaning of the phrase "express terms." He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) would mention a course of proceeding which would be strictly analogous to this. Let them suppose that two owners of adjoining estates or fields had been for some time puzzled to ascertain their exact boundaries, and had been painfully endeavouring to trace the line of some old wall or hedge. In the middle of the operation one of the proprietors might say to the other—"This is a very troublesome business, and I am not sure that after all it will 600 not leave me without some nice little bits of land for which I have a particular fancy. I have a proposal to make to you. Give me your field. The arrangement will be quite satisfactory to me, and you will be saved the trouble of completing this wearisome tracing out of boundaries, and also that of managing your land in future." Before sitting down he would suggest what might perhaps be the answer to the question put by the right hon. Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland as to the utility of the concluding direction of the clause—that "admissible" evidence should be "receivable." This sounded certainly like an enactment that white should be white; but probably the framers of the clause meant that although for the future "express" was to mean "inferential," yet there were still some words in the English language which were to have the privilege of retaining their ordinary meaning, even when applied to endowed schools.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
looked upon the clause as a perfectly reasonable one. Undoubtedly the intention of these founders when they directed the children to go to church was that they should be educated in the religion of the Church of England. The real value of this clause was, that it would enable the Commissioners to interpret the meaning of the founders with regard to religion. If hon. Gentlemen who were Nonconformists could only agree among themselves as to the definition of the term religion the difficulty in their case might be met; but as that agreement did not exist, he thought at least the majority of Nonconformists might be induced to accept the religion of the Church of England, properly understood, as a basis, since the Church of England was the Church of the majority of the nation. There should be established the principle of a Conscience Clause in such a sense that it would be impossible for any violence to be done to parental rights.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he was glad that the Prime Minister was now present, and he was sorry he was not present when the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon) said that as they had now decided the substance of the Bill, they should not fight over the shadow. He very much agreed with the hon. Gentleman, although not upon the same grounds. He thought that the principles 601 contended for by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House were not to be described as a "shadow," but they were very substantial principles indeed. This clause was to extend the 19th section of the present Act. He understood that the Government had given way with regard to the schools before the Toleration Act. Were the Nonconformists to admit that they were not so much the heirs of Protestantism before the time of Queen Elizabeth as the Church of England was? They were bringing up the whole question of the Catholic schools before the Reformation, and several hon. Members had very strong feelings in the matter. It seemed to him, the noble Lord (Viscount San-don) in bringing forward this Bill could hardly be aware that he was bringing up these important questions. The Liberal Party could not accept the principle that, the Church of England was necessarily the heir of the Protestantism which existed previous to the origin of Dissent; and they would certainly be doing so, if they admitted that the mere accident of the founder having said that the children were to go to church was to be interpreted as meaning that they should attend the Church of England as it existed at the present day. He trusted the proposal of the hon. Member for Preston would be adopted by the Committee.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
maintained that there was no new principle laid down by this clause, and that this was a mere change of words for the purpose of giving clearness to what the Commissioners wished to convey. The sole effect of the clause was, that instead of leaving the matter simply to the opinion of the Commissioners, they were to receive evidence. There was no religious principle involved beyond what was contained in Clause 19 in the original Act, and therefore all the alarm excited by this clause ought to have been excited when the Act of 1869 was before the House.
§ MR. MORLEY
said, he was anxious to urge on the Government, in common with the hon. Member for Preston, to save the House from the humiliating position in which they were placed at that moment. He had endeavoured to ascertain what was the real meaning of this clause, and he was unable to arrive at any other conclusion than that its object was to give power to the Commissioners 602 to rescue certain schools for the Church of England. That had not been avowed, but it was as clear as daylight. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire seemed to forget that many of these schools were founded when it was illegal to be a Dissenter, and when it was impossible to create endowments for the establishment of a school which should include Dissenters who did not exist. The working men had a great interest in putting a liberal construction upon the existing state of things, and there was not a workmen's club in the country which would not be the scene of agitation on this question. He believed that if two or three hon. Members from both sides of the House were to go into an adjoining room they would have no difficulty in settling this question in a way which would satisfy all but extreme parties on either side. Though a Nonconformist, he had been indisposed to enter into the ordinary conflicts on the subject of disestablishment; but if the clauses were pressed he and many others would be driven to take a more decisive course.
§ MR. EDWARD STANHOPE
said, though the precise wording of the clause might be somewhat obscure, there was really no difficulty in arriving at the intention of the Government in regard to this clause. Its object was to introduce a more precise definition of the express terms of the original instrument. He was quite ready to admit that in a certain number of schools, with regard to which there was at present considerable doubt, the religious teaching would in future be according to the principles of the Church of England. He did not see in what way that would injure Dissenters. They were going to put Nonconformists upon the management of a vast number of these schools, and the Boards of Management would very often be turned into battle fields of religious sects, and, perhaps, no religious education at all would be given. Their object was that there should be a religious education, and seeing that the children of Nonconformists would be admitted to all the benefits of these endowments, and protected by a liberal Conscience Clause, he hoped they would accept the compromise now offered by the Government.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
expressed a hope that the Government 603 would not accede to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Preston.
§ MR. GOLDSMID
said, everybody had agreed that the terms as they stood hero would not do. That being so, and as, according to hon. Gentlemen opposite, there was no principle involved, why should the Government insist upon the clause? He hoped the wise and conciliatory policy advocated by the hon. Member for Preston would be adopted.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
said, he had all along hitherto voted with the Government for this Bill, but he could not do so on this occasion. It must not be supposed that in voting for the omission of these words he was voting against religious education. He was not going to discuss the question as a lawyer, because it seemed to him not to be a question for a lawyer. They were asked by the particular words of the clause to strain the intentions of the founders of those institutions; and looking at the Amendment, he was forced to say he should feel bound to vote for it. There were to his knowledge many Members on the Ministerial side of the House who would feel great relief if some arrangement were made by which they would not be called upon to vote.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
said, he had no doubt that if the Government withdrew the Bill, and entered into friendly communication with the Commissioners, they might next year submit to the House another measure which would give satisfaction to the country. He thought it was unwise to go on with this entangling legislation, which could not possibly be understood by country gentlemen or farmers, and urged the Prime Minister, if he were not controlled by some Members of the Cabinet, to give way to the suggestions which had come from his own side.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
observed that the 19th clause of the Act of 1869 caused considerable discussion in the original Committee, and also in the Committee of last year, and an Amendment was proposed by the Secretary of State for War, which was negatived by the casting vote of the Chairman the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster)—the numbers being 9 for and 9 against it. It was not at all unreasonable, seeing that the present Government had such a large majority, 604 that they should attempt to modify that clause in the sense in which the minority of the Committee last year had sought to modify it. The hon. Member then quoted the opinion of Canon Robinson, one of the Endowed Schools Commissioners, in favour of a modification of Section 19 of the existing Act, which the Commissioners had been for five years trying to construe to their own satisfaction, but without success, and urged that the words of the present clause which it was proposed to omit—namely, "which enjoins the attendance of the scholars at the religious worship of any particular Church, sect, or denomination," were words which, if anything could do so, stamped on any foundation a particular religious character. Hon. Gentlemen opposite did not like the idea that the Church of England should be the gainer by that change of the law; but he would remind Nonconformists that they could not leave that Church and at the same time enjoy all the advantages of belonging to it. They could not eat their cake and have it too. Having gone out of the Church for conscience' sake, they now wanted to be precisely on the same footing in all respects as its members, and they would not even allow her clergy to teach her own doctrines to her own children.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
remarked that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Talbot) had brought them back to the common-sense reading of the passage which they were discussing. If they took this clause in a broad, catholic manner, it would include particular sections, Churches, and denominations. Lot them take the case of the Rochester school—a post-Reformation school of 1541. The statutes of that school, which were not repealed, provided that "on holydays the grammar boys be present in the church …. every day when the holy mysteries are celebrated, and at the elevation of the host at High Mass," and that the boys "by twos and twos" were to say the psalm Miserere Mei. What right, then, had the Church of England to say that those words, which were the words of the founder, were to mean afterwards that the boys were not to take any part in the liturgy of the Church of Rome? It would be taking the words in a non-natural sense to say that the Church of England was always the Church intended. It would be a 605 mockery to the founders to put such a meaning on the Church of England as the National Church, to identify it with the National Church of that period. The localities should severally have the benefit of the intention of the founders. The Church of England of the present day was totally different from the Church of England of that period.
remarked that similar squabbles took place 30 years ago amongst Dissenting-Bodies as to what were the desires of their founders. From those squabbles, opening many most vexatious law suits, the Tory Lord Chancellor of the day brought in the Dissenters' Charities Act, which allowed continuity to religious congregations, and which provided that congregations which had worshipped for 25 years in the same chapel, should enjoy the rights and privileges of those chapels. Could not a similar principle be adopted now? It would save a great many speeches and heart-burnings if that common-sense view of the matter were taken.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said that, not approving of the conduct of the Commissioners, he had voted with the Government to replace them by the Charity Commissioners; but when he came to this 4th and following clauses, he confessed he did not understand them. He was not devoid of forensic capacity, and he had read the clauses over and over again, and just when his doubts were partially removed, they were renewed by the speeches which he heard from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Did they mean anything, or did they mean nothing? If they meant nothing, what, he would ask, was the use of pressing them on? If they had any meaning, he wished to know what that meaning was. If the Bill were intended as a reactionary measure, nothing could be more dangerous, as it was sure to give rise to reprisals. It would be an attempt to repeal recent enactments, in defiance of a large minority in this House and a larger majority outside, and when the tables were turned there would be reprisals, and he need not remind the House that the result of future elections would be very uncertain. He considered that the 4th, 5th, and 6th clauses ought never to have been inserted in the Bill, and therefore he appealed to the Government not to press them.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, that with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lyon Playfair), no hon. Member north of the Tweed had addressed the Committee on this clause, and he claimed to be allowed to say a few words on this question. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon) had very manfully told the Government what his opinion was, and he (Mr. Stewart) must say that that opinion was shared by the people north of the Tweed. There was a very strong feeling in Scotland upon questions affecting Nonconformists, and he ventured to say that the opinion there was, that it would be most advisable if the Government, after the decisive victory which they achieved earlier in the evening, could see their way to yield to the suggestion made to them to withdraw this clause from the Bill. The argument advanced by the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley) was entitled to great weight, and if the Government would look fairly and dispassionately into this matter, they could not avoid seeing that it was not an unreasonable request that was being made to them. The great difficulty which he had in giving a vote on this occasion was that he could see that if the founders' wills were not to be respected they would be in great danger of drifting into a system of secular education, and there was no Gentleman in that House who deprecated more strongly than he did the establishment of any such system. This was not a question which he had approached for the first time, and he should use all his efforts, if necessary, to avert such a catastrophe happening. If they were to disregard the wills of founders who years ago left private property to private institutions, they would strike a most fatal blow at the security of property in this country; but the 19th clause of the Act of 1869 had met with a very fair response amongst all classes in the country and if they attempted to enlarge its scope he believed that it would give rise to bitter agitation which the Government would find it most difficult to allay. At the late period of the Session at which they had arrived, it was not too much to ask the Government to reconsider their decision in regard to this question.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
was delighted to hear the speech of the hon. Gentleman 607 who had just sat down, and he thought it represented the feeling of Scotland on the question. The hon. Member was the latest Representative sent to the House from Scotland, and he hoped that the Prime Minister, who earlier in the evening had carried a very important clause, would listen to the energetic remarks which had fallen from him (Mr. Stewart). No man was more aware of the feeling of Scotland on the subject than the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister; and the sound principles which he had enunciated, and to which he (Mr. Kinnaird) had listened with so much pleasure on another Church Bill, had earned for him an amount of support from Scotland which he (Mr. Kinnaird) could tell him would render him good service. He trusted, therefore, that he would accede to the request which had been made.
§ MR. WATKIN WILLIAMS
said, the House had a right to an answer to the question put to the Attorney General, as to the meaning of certain words in this clause—namely—Any evidence admissible by law shall be receivable as evidence of the contents of the original instrument of foundation, and of statutes and regulations made by the founder or under his authority.The effect of the clause seemed to be this—that where the deed of foundation required that the scholars should go to church, it should be held to mean that certain particular tenets of religion should be taught. But what he wanted to know was, what was the meaning of the provision that where the original deed of foundation was not forthcoming, evidence might be receivable to show its contents?
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
observed, that the words referred to had been introduced into the clause "out of abundant caution." The Commissioners, if directed to observe the will of the founder, might have been in some difficulty if the deed of foundation were not forthcoming; and it was to meet this difficulty that the words had been introduced, that they might proceed according to the ordinary law of evidence to receive proof of the contents of that document.
§ MR. WHITWELL
objected to the clause as endangering some of the most sacred principles which they wished to recognize in this Bill. They were dealing 608 by an ex post facto interpretation clause with the will of the founders.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
admitted that there was considerable difficulty in coming to a clear understanding as to the meaning of a negative clause like Clause 19, which had been so much referred to. The words of Clause 4, providing that—It shall be held to include any provision in the original instrument of foundation which enjoins the attendance of the scholars at the religious worship of any particular church, sect, or denomination.were exceedingly reasonable, supposing they applied only to times when there were different Churches; but that was already provided by the Act of 1873. In the case of schools founded before the Toleration Act, when there was but one Church, the requirement to go to church simply meant that the children should attend public worship, and it could not be necessarily inferred that it was intended that all future scholars should be taught the doctrines of the only Church then existing. Unless that difficulty was removed, he did not see how he could vote against the Amendment. The clause was by no means an easy one, and he, for one, could not see what was to be gained by passing it. He therefore thought it would be a much more advisable course that this clause should be omitted.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that several Members on the other side of the House had asked the Government not to proceed with this clause. It was usual when there were appeals from the supporters of the Government—and especially from important and influential supporters—for the Government to inform the House whether they considered these appeals had any weight. ["Divide."] He thought they could hardly come to a division without that information.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said: I think that at this time of the night, and under all the circumstances of the case, the Motion is not an unreasonable one.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.