HC Deb 10 June 1874 vol 219 cc1304-58

Order for Second Beading, read.


, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said: In doing so, I should like in a few sentences to state the history of this matter, so far, at least, as it is known to myself. When the first version of the Bill of 1870 was submitted to this House, it was found to contain a provision which empowered the school boards to make grants out of the local rates to denominational schools. Against that proposal there was a loud and earnest protest from all parts of the country. By Petitions, Memorials, and large and numerous deputations, the Government was made aware that that was one part of their measure which was most strongly and strenuously objected to, especially by the Nonconformists, who foresaw that it would revive in a still more odious form, the old and extinct church-rate controversy, and become a prolific source of bitterness and strife. In deference, as it was understood, to these representations, the Government took back their Bill, promising to introduce into it such modifications as might render it less obnoxious to a large body of their own supporters. Accordingly, when the new edition of the Bill was brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman who was then Prime Minister, he dwelt at considerable length on this particular point. He admitted that there was great force in the objection to subsidize denominational schools out of the rates, because—to use his own words— The voluntary schools contain every variety of full denominational teaching; they raise in the broadest form whatever controversy may be connected with the subject."—[3 Hansard, ccii. 277.] The right hon. Gentleman examined one or two alternatives under which it might be possible to retain some relation in a modified form between the school boards and the denominational schools. But the conclusion he reached was, that it was inexpedient to do so in any form whatever, as he was convinced it could not be done without giving rise to discontent and exasperation. He therefore announced the determination of the Government, in language singularly explicit and emphatic, which was, that school boards should cease to have any connection with, or relation to, denominational schools, and that those schools, so far as they depended on public aid, should only stand in relation to the Privy Council. And as compensation to the denominational schools for the withdrawal of the power given to the school boards to aid them from the rates, he proposed that they should have an addition of 50 per cent to the grants they were already receiving out of the Exchequer. This modification was made avowedly and professedly out of respect to the objection of principle raised by the Nonconformists. For saying this I have the authority of the right hon. Gentleman who was then the Vice President of the Council, for in defending the additional grant of 50 per cent to the denominational schools, he said— The Government had introduced this change into the Bill in consequence of another change they had made. The Government had thought it advisable to strike out from the Bill the principle of voluntary schools receiving aid out of the rates, and thereby to take from those schools that possible and probable great assistance, because hon. Members on their own side of the House objected to that principle."—[3 Hansard, cciii. 84–5.] No one can question the perfect sincerity and good faith with which the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister made the declarations I have cited. Beyond all doubt, at the time he spoke, he fully believed that there was to be an absolute severance between the school boards and the denominational schools. How it happened that in spite of, and in the face of, those express and reiterated assurances, the 25th clause remained in the Bill I am unable to explain. It has been said that the clause passed through this House without opposition. I believe that is true. The fact is, that the Nonconformist Members, as well as Nonconformists outside, had been completely put off their guard by what was said on this subject by the Representatives of the Government. There were amongst them no very experienced politicians, no practised lawyers, skilled with keen microscopic eye to analyze Bills and Acts of Parliament, so as to detect the dangers lurking under outwardly innocent-looking appearances; and so, being of a very trusting disposition, and reposing implicit faith in the words of their Leaders, they allowed the clause to pass without observation or challenge. But when the Act began to come into practical operation, the insidious and dangerous character of the clause was discovered and denounced, and various attempts were made to induce the Government to withdraw it, and to bring the Act into harmony with their own declarations. It will be remembered that in the last Session the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford made an attempt to meet the difficulty by proposing to transfer the payment of the fees of indigent children from school boards to boards of guardians. But that was rejected by the unanimous voice of the country, and it fell still-born. So the 25th clause remains a blot on the Bill, and an apple of discord throughout the country. Now, I will endeavour to state briefly to the House the grounds of the objection felt to this clause by a very large number of our countrymen. They object to it first, because it involves a violation of the rights of conscience, and is at variance with the first principles of religious liberty. I believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite maintain that in this controversy they are the friends of religious liberty, and we are its opponents and assailants. Well, I am so delighted to find them proclaiming themselves on the side of religious liberty on any ground and for any reason, that I am willing to make large allowances for the crude and imperfect conception of a doctrine which it is natural to expect from those who are recent converts. Nor must we, in charity, forget that those who have lived all their lives within the pale and under the shadow of a great ecclesiastical domination, have not been placed in circumstances very favourable to the formation of just views on the question of religious liberty, and, certainly, large and liberal allowance is necessary for the views of these novices. For what is their notion of religious liberty in connection with education? Not that every man should have absolute liberty to teach his child, or to have him taught what he thinks is religious truth, but that he should also have the right and power to compel everybody else to pay for that teaching, even though there may be among those so compelled many who regard his religious truth as deadly religious error. Why, Sir, this, so far from being religious liberty, as it seems to me, leads directly to religious persecution. For if you oblige one man to pay for the support and the teaching of another man's religion, and enforce that, as you must, against recalcitrant consciences by fines, distraints, and imprisonments, you enter at once into the region of religious persecution—the only form of religious persecution that is possible in these days. I really cannot understand how even hon. Gentlemen opposite can regard this system as doing no violence to the rights of conscience. I might illustrate the matter by reference to hon. Members of this House. Would there be no wrong done to con- science to compel the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), to pay for teaching the blessedness, freedom, and purity of a monastic and conventual life?—to compel my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) to pay for teaching the inestimable service rendered to the cause of religion and morality by the Order of the Jesuits?—to compel the Roman Catholic Members, by whom I am surrounded on these benches, to pay for teaching the glory of the Protestant Reformation, and the horrors of Mariolatry, and the Mass, and the supremacy of the Pope?—to compel us Protestants to pay for teaching—what is taught in every Roman Catholic school in England—that "of the many horrors that have desolated the Church, the most disastrous is that which arose in the 16th century, the followers of which are known by the name of Protestants?"—to compel my hon. Friend the junior Member for Lambeth (Mr. M'Arthur) to pay for teaching that, "the Methodist chapel is the way to perdition? "—to compel me, and other Nonconformists, Members of this House, to pay for teaching that, "the sacraments, as administered by Dissenters, are blasphemous follies and dangerous deceits?" Of course, if people have no conscience on such subjects, or if their conscience is so easy and elastic, that they feel no strain when compelled to support what they profess so earnestly to disapprove, I have nothing more to say to them. But not thus have Ave, the Nonconformists, learnt the doctrine of religious liberty. From past experience of bitter suffering, of prolonged persecution, of centuries of pains and penalties, and disabilities, and humiliations, we have been driven to the adoption of a distinct and definite principle which we feel ourselves bound consistently to maintain and jealously to guard. The principle is this—that the hand of law should never enter into the province of religion; that in whatever concerns man's relation to his Maker, the secular authority had better stand aloof, as it cannot interfere without doing violence to the rights of conscience, and what is still more important, without doing violence to the spirit and genius of Christianity itself, which is essentially and emphatically a voluntary service—so much so, that whenever coercion is brought in, it ceases to be Christian ser- vice at all. To the neglect and violation of this principle, we believe must be ascribed some of the most terrible scenes in history, when the religion of mercy and charity and brotherly love was converted into an instrument of terror and torture which inflicted sufferings upon mankind, surpassing those they have endured from the worst excesses of secular despotism. I am quite aware that many hon. Gentlemen in this House have been educated under the influence of ideas so widely different from these that they cannot accept or appreciate them. I find no fault with that. Indeed I believe—and it is only candid to make the admission—that sometimes wrong has been done to Dissenters by Governments representing both the great parties in this country, not from malice prepense, not from any conscious intention to do them injustice, but from ignorance of their principles, from mere incapacity to understand or to sympathize with the position they assume. But there is one man of whom this cannot be alleged, and that is my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). He knows—and I have no doubt will cheerfully bear witness to the fact—that the principles I have endeavoured to explain have not been taken up by the Dissenters of this country for the occasion; that they are not the offspring of sectarian jealousy; that they have been long since learnt in the school of suffering, and are held with all the force of deep, earnest, religious conviction. He himself has breathed an atmosphere impregnated with these principles from his childhood, for they are pre-eminently the principles of the body among whom he was educated. That most estimable body has many titles to honour, but none, in my opinion, greater than this—that they were first to discern as they have been the most steadfast to proclaim and defend these principles, and that for the sake of them they were content for generations to submit to fines and imprisonments, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods. It was on these grounds that they so long resisted the payment of tithes, church rates, and other ecclesiastical imposts. In one of the many Petitions they presented to this House against church rates, they expressed their principle in these words— They regard the compulsory maintenance of any system of teaching the Christian religion as a proceeding at variance with, and contrary to, the freedom and purity of the Gospel dispensation. We are sometimes charged with inconsistency because we object on grounds of conscience to the payment of denominational schools from the rates, while we do not object, but on the contrary sanction, the application of money derived from the general taxation of the country to the same purpose. I might answer this charge in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). On the second reading of the Education Bill of 1870, he said— With regard to existing schools, the new principle was laid down that rates could he levied for aiding denominational schools. Now, it was no justification of this proposal to say that denominational schools were already assisted out of public funds raised out of the general taxation of the country; for sanctioning an old injustice was a very different thing from establishing a new one … … That system had grown up at a time when many things were flourishing which would not now be tolerated—when church rates were upheld in that House by an overwhelming majority, and when the Irish Church had at least one eloquent and zealous defender among those who now occupied the Treasury Bench, and its disestablishment was looked upon as a dream of enthusiasts."—[3 Hansard, cc. 280.] But we, the Nonconformists, have no need to have recourse to this excuse. We never have sanctioned the application of public money from the Consolidated Fund to denominational teaching in day schools. I could give the House a succession of resolutions passed by Representative Bodies of the Nonconformists for 30 or 40 years, protesting against this application. When the system was first introduced we had no representation in this House. But when, in 1847, a proposal was made to give a great extension to the system under some new Minutes of Council, there was at least one eloquent voice raised in this House on behalf of the Nonconformists, against taking public money to pay for teaching the doctrine of one sect, or of all sects, in the day schools. That was the voice of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. And when, in 1870, it was proposed to increase the grants to denominational schools, I moved an Amendment against those increased grants. As the best proof of the strength and sincerity of our convictions on this matter, I may point to the fact, that we steadfastly refused to accept money from the public funds for our own schools, and so placed ourselves at an enormous disadvantage as compared with other schools who did receive them. I was myself for many years honorary secretary to a society, the object of which was to train young men and women to become teachers in voluntary schools, and by grants of money, and books, and school materials, to assist ni the establishment and maintenance fo schools on the same principle in destitute districts. We found that our schools had a very hard struggle for existence against the competition of other schools who received subsidies from Government. Still, we always recommended them to decline accepting grants from public funds because there was—not denominational teaching, for that was never allowed in our schools—but some amount of religious teaching. Surely, this is evidence enough that we are acting from principle in this matter, and not, as alleged, from sectarian jealousy and pique. But we have another objection to this clause, and that is—that it tends to obstruct the development of a really national system of education. I have always thought it a great calamity that when the education question was taken in hand in 1870, some attempt was not made—without doing any wrong or injustice to existing schools—to lay, at least, the foundations for what might ultimately become a national system of education. I am not going to indulge in any denunciations of denominational schools. I have, on several occasions in this House, paid my sincere tribute of respect to the valuable services they have rendered in times past to the cause of popular education. I am not going to recant one word of what I said on those occasions. But, purely, it must be admitted that a denominational system cannot be a national system. It is only necessary to announce the proposition to see its absurdity. To say that a sectarian system can become national, is a contradiction in terms. There are only three conditions on which it is conceivable that such a state of things would be possible, and none of them exist in this country. First, we may conceive of it under an absolute depotism, when the Government imposes its own creed, or the creed it patronizes, on the people. This was tried long enough in this country as respects adults, and we know with what results. The time for that, at any rate, is passed away for ever from this country. The second condition is, where there is uniformity of creed among the people, when they are all of one religion. But, owing to the unbounded liberty of thought and utterance, which we happily exercise in this country on religious as on all other subjects, there is a great variety of opinion amongst us. The third condition is, when utter indifference reigns on religious questions; when the people regard all religions as equally true and equally false, or as a thing in which they take no interest. I am thankful to say this is not the case in this country. Sometimes the opposition to denominational education at the public expense is ascribed to hostility or indifference to religion itself. But it arises, in fact, from an exactly opposite source. It is just because we have an earnest, religious life in this country, because the various Christian denominations hold their faith with the tenacity of real conviction, that it is impracticable without doing violence to the consciences of multitudes, to teach religion with money taken out of the taxation of the country. And this is becoming less and less possible everywhere. Last autumn and winter I visited several of the countries of Europe. I tried to take advantage of the occasion to make inquiries on the subject of education. I found the religious difficulty embarrassing them everywhere, as it embarrasses us in this country, and I found, moreover, opinion everywhere gravitating to the conviction that the only escape from the difficulty consists in making the schools, so far as they are dependent on public funds, entirely unsectarian. In Holland the State system of education is substantially secular. There are some dissatisfied with this, and denominational, or, as they are called on the Continent, confessional schools have been established by extreme Protestants and by extreme Catholics. But the Government steadfastly refuses to grant them any aid from the national Exchequer, on the ground that it is not just to apply public money to the teaching of sectarian doctrines. The same state of things exists in Hungary. When I was in Pesth in October, I had the honour of an interview with Mr. Trefort, the Minister of Education. He said there were many, both among Protestants and Ca- tholics, who preferred to have schools of their own to sending their children to those provided by the State. "But do you make them any grants from the public Treasury?" I said. "No, we never do that; if they have schools in which they insist on teaching their own tenets, they must support them with their own means." The same is the case in Italy, where they are making heroic efforts to overtake their educational deficiencies. The schools established by the Government are generally unsectarian, sometimes purely secular. I visited several schools in Rome where this was the case. In one of the communal schools I asked the lady at the head of it—"Do you give any religious instruction here?" Her answer was—"The children who come to this school are Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, and what religion can we teach without affronting somebody's conscience, or giving rise to the suspicion that we are trying to proselytize? "There is one other objection that we have to this clause, and that is that it violates the sound principle that taxation and representation should go hand in hand. Under this clause the ratepayers are compelled to contribute to the support of institutions over which they have not the smallest control. This was one of the reasons assigned by the late Prime Minister for rejecting any kind of relation between school boards and denominational schools, because he said— If a payment were made out of the rates as to which the ratepayers as such were not consulted, and over which they had no control, it might become a cause of discontent and exasperation. But let us now inquire what are the arguments in favour of the 25th clause? There is but one, at least—only one avowed. No doubt it is supported by some because it favours denominational schools. But that is not the reason assigned. The reason assigned is, that it is necessary to maintain it out of respect to the parent's conscience. I must say that this reverence for the conscience of parents is a new-born feeling among many of those who now most loudly proclaim it. We cannot forget that for a whole generation they resisted with might and main every species of Conscience Clause. I can give the House a crucial example of this. In 1846 the National School Society turned its atten- tion to the Principality of Wales. It issued a special appeal for funds to enable it to establish schools in that part of the country. Now, in Wales the overwhelming majority of the people are Nonconformists. According to the estimate of one of the most intelligent and experienced of the Government School Inspectors, nine-tenths of the common people of Wales, those for whom such schools had to be provided, are Nonconformists. That being the case, a suggestion was made that it would be desirable in such a population to relax somewhat the rules of the National Society and have a freer system of education. This was peremptorily refused, and the fundamental regulations of the Society rigidly adhered to—that the children were to be instructed in the Liturgy and Catechism of the Church of England, such instruction to be subject to the superintendence of the parochial clergyman, the children to attend service in the parish church, and the masters and mistresses to be members of the Church of England. These rules were in many places ruthlessly enforced, without the smallest regard to the convenience of the parent. But then it must be admitted that those parents were only Methodists and Dissenters. Now, we are told that parents desire not only religious instruction, but distinctive religious instruction in the day schools. But conjointly with this there is another assertion made which seems to me utterly inconsistent with it—namely, that so absolute is their indifference as to what shall be taught their children in the form of religious instruction, that children of all sorts and of all sects are allowed to learn the Church Catechism without the slightest objection or remonstrance on the part of their parents. This is constantly made a matter of boast. I have heard it boasted of in this House and out of it. We are told that there is no religious difficulty—that the children of Roman Catholics, of Jews, of Unitarians, of Baptists, of Methodists, and Independents are permitted without scruple to learn and recite the Church Catechism in national schools. Now I want to call attention to the extraordinary laxity of principle and conscience that is involved in such a boast as this. Either the Church Catechism is an utterly unmeaning and insignificant formulary, or it is as I have no doubt it is regarded by those who adopt and use it, an important summary of doctrine bearing relation to some of the most solemn and momentous truths of religion. But if it be so, what can we think of those who boast that they teach this Catechism to little children on whose lips it cannot be any other than a deliberate falsehood—teaching the children of Baptists that they have been regenerated in baptism when they have never been baptized at all, and the children of all Nonconformists that their godfathers and godmothers have promised and vowed to do certain things for them, when they have never had any godfathers or godmothers at all? This is not a question of doctrine, but of simple morality, and of teaching little children to lie in the name of religion. I am happy to be able to fortify my own views on this subject by the authority of the most distinguished Prelate now on the bench, the Bishop of St. David's. The Bishop is a high-minded and conscientious man, and he was revolted with this practice of which so many boast. In one of his Charges to his clergy he spoke of it thus—referring to a poor man, who, in the absence of any other means of education for his child but what is afforded by a national school, where the teaching of the Church Catechism is enforced, sends it there. He says— Few, I think, will be disposed to condemn him very severely if he yields to such a temptation. But in the eyes of a clergyman who attaches supreme value to a 'definite, objective, and dogmatic faith,' he must appear to be guilty of a breach of the most sacred duty; to be bartering his child's eternal welfare for temporal benefits; to be acting a double part, allowing his child to be taught that which he intends it to unlearn, and to profess that which he hopes it will never believe. Can it be right for a clergyman holding such views, to take advantage of the poor man's necessity and weakness, for the sake of making a proselyte of the child? Is he not really bribing the father to do wrong, and holding out a strong temptation to duplicity and hypocrisy, when he admits the child into his school on such terms? And when he enforces them by instruction which is intended to alienate the child from the father in their religious belief, is he not oppressing the poor and needy? I can understand, though I cannot sympathize with it, the rigidity of conscience which closes the school against Dissenters, but I cannot reconcile it with the laxity of conscience which admits them on such terms. I confess I fail to see the violence done to the conscience of a parent by sending his child to a school where his own religion is not taught, I can perfectly understand a man's conscience being outraged if his child is taught some form of religion of which he disapproves. I can understand how a parent might prefer to have his own religion taught along with secular instruction. But how his conscience can be wronged by having the elements of sound secular knowledge given to his child by themselves I am at a loss to conceive. Can any man's conscience be hurt by your training his child to read, write, and cipher? Can any conscientious objection exist to the multiplication table? But then we are told you cannot separate religious from secular education. My answer is that you do separate them. Your whole system of education under the Act of 1870 itself, is founded on the assumption that you not only may, but that you must absolutely separate the two, for that surely is the meaning of your Time-Table Conscience Clause. On this point of the poor man's conscience I should like to cite a few sentences from an article which appeared not long ago in The Times. I do so for this reason. That powerful journal feels little favour for, and does scant justice to the Nonconformists. When, therefore, it says anything on our side of the question, it must be regarded as having all the more force. These are the words— What violence is done to the conscience of a parent who is ex confesso unable to give a child any secular education, in requiring that the child be sent to a school where so much knowledge at least can be obtained, and leaving it open to the parent to secure religious education from any one of the numberless voluntary agencies ready to give it gratuitously? We have heard of a conscientious convict who objected to picking oakum without having a, crucifix before him to steady his thoughts, but his scruples were disregarded by the governor of the prison where he was confined. A child taught in a mixed school is not prevented from being taught elsewhere the faith of the strictest of sects, and the worst that can be said of its education is that it is imperfect. Now, will hon. Gentlemen reflect for a moment on the principle that really underlies the argument in favour of this clause? You say it is a wrong to the poor man to send his child to a school where his own religion is not taught. In that case, the principle involved is that a man has a right to demand that the community should find money to educate his child in sectarian dogmas. Have you considered where that would lead you? If the conscience of the parent is to be the standard of religious education, then we are clearly driven to the conclusion that the State must provide separate schools for every denomination, where their peculiar tenets, so far at least as parents may think them of essential importance, must be taught. For that appears to me a most extraordinary conscientious right which comes into play only where there is more than one school, but has no existence at all where there is only one. To enable the parent to exercise this right of choice, which you say is the Palladium of religious liberty, you must provide him with his own school, in order that he may choose it. This is concurrent endowment with a vengeance. On this principle, why do you refuse the Roman Catholics their denominational University endowed by the State? Why do you not yield to the Roman Catholic priests in Ireland the right they claim to have the whole system of primary education delivered over to their absolute control? I dare say they could make out a plausible case that the conscience of the Irish Roman Catholic parent requires this. Nay, you cannot stop there. I understand that the Chinese, who have settled in large numbers in Australia, have actually applied for a grant from the public funds for the support of their religious observances. And when they come to establish schools, may they not say that the consciences of their parents require that you should pay for teaching the tenets of Confucius in those schools? Sir, there is no man to whom I should have appealed with more hope in regard to this matter than to the noble Lord the present Vice President of the Council. I believe him to be a man of a liberal spirit, and of generous sympathies. But, unhappily, he has received this as a baleful inheritance from his predecessor; and, unhappily, also, his own Leader, in an evil moment, has chosen to adopt "this miserable twopenny-halfpenny clause," as it was once called by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. I certainly think that the present Government might have dealt with the question in such a way as would have done honour to themselves, and given satisfaction to the country. I must therefore leave the question to the decision of the House, with the full conviction that if they consent to accept my Bill they will remove from the Education Act a provision which can do little good to anybody, but which is a stumbling-block and a rock of offence to many, infusing an element of bitterness and discord into school boards over the whole country—leading to miserable scenes of distraint, such as we had hoped had passed away for ever with the abolition of church rates, and placing a serious obstacle in the way of the satisfactory and harmonious working of the Act for promoting the education of the people. The hon. Member concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Richard.)


I cannot reconcile it with myself to say one word on the subject of the Motion of which I have given Notice without disclaiming the slightest distrust of the unfaltering zeal and sincerity of those who have hitherto been regarded as the champions of religious education in this House. I cannot look around without being gladdened by the presence of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have never wavered in their loyalty to the 25th clause, and who have lost no, opportunity of vindicating its usefulness. It might be asked, Sir, why, under these circumstances, I who have to contend with an unpopular faith, and being unfamiliar with the customs of this House, should be so presumptuous as to take this step; but it seemed to me peculiarly fitting that one whose return to Parliament was largely due to his advocacy of the 25th clause should move the rejection of this Bill. With this view, Sir, I ventured to place my Notice on the Paper. I desire to have the question discussed apart from all party feeling—it is not a question for either this or the other side of the House; it matters not whether on the one side we find the Birmingham League, or on the other side the Manchester Union; the question is one of national importance, and was so considered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, when he introduced his Education Bill in 1870. With your permission, Sir, I will read from Mansard two short extracts from the right hon. Gentleman's speech on that occasion, He said— I need not detain the House with any reasons for bringing an Education Bill forward, nor need I ask hon. Members opposite to divest themselves of all party considerations in regard to this measure. I will not ask them to do so, because I feel confident they will do so. There never, I believe, was any question presented by any Government to this House which more demanded to be considered apart from any party consideration; nor do I believe there ever was a House of Commons more disposed so to consider it than the House I am now addressing. Before I enter into details, I will make one remark with regard to the spirit in which the Government has framed this measure. I rejoice that of late the country has manifested so much interest in the subject. A great many meetings have been held, and, as was naturally to be expected, those who take part in them have divided themselves, more or less, into two camps. Those engaged at present in educational efforts endeavour to take care that they should not be unduly interfered with, while, on the other hand, those who say there ought to be a great improvement advocate systems more or less new. I have seen it stated that the Government measure will be a compromise between these two principles; but I may at once say that the Government has not brought forward this measure with any notion of a compromise. It is a measure too important to be dealt with in such a manner. It is our duty to look at the question on all sides, and without professing that we, and much less I, know more about this question than those gentlemen who have been doing their duty in pressing their particular views on the attention of the country, yet it is our duty to look around the question on both sides of it, and to consider the lessons of the past as well as the wants of the present."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 439.] The first problem, then, is, 'How can we cover the country with good schools?' Now, in trying to solve that problem there are certain conditions which I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will acknowledge we must abide by. First of all, we must not forget the duty of the parents. Then we must not forget our duty to our constituencies, our duty to the taxpayers. Though our constituncies almost, I believe, to a man would spend money, and large sums of money, rather than not do the work, still we must remember that it is upon them that the burden will fall And, thirdly, we must take care not to destroy in building up—not to destroy the existing system in introducing a new one. In solving this problem there must be, consistently with the attainment of our object, the least possible expenditure of public money, the utmost endeavour not to injure existing and efficient schools, and the most careful absence of all encouragement to parents to neglect their children. I trust I have taken the House thus far with me. Our object is to complete the present voluntary system, to fill up gaps, sparing the public money where it can be done without, procuring as much as we can the assistance of the parents, and welcoming as much as we rightly can the co-operation and aid of those benevolent men who desire to assist their neighbours."—[Ibid. 443–4.] At the late General Election in very many places this was made a test question, and the evidence of opinion in favour of the 25th clause was indeed overwhelming to an extent, to my mind, to satisfy the adherents of the Birmingham League. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, in a speech made at Hawarden, spoke in favour of the voluntary system, and though his remarks only applied to that parish directly, yet as the same circumstances are to be found in most places, his speech acquired the widest significance. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), in a recent letter said— The people of this country are generally in favour of some religious instruction, and that a national system of education ought to be based on religious instruction. If I am correct in my ideas, the very men who are now agitating for the repeal of the 25th clause formerly supported the very same principle—the payment of the fees of indigent children—and did not oppose this clause when the right hon. Gentleman opposite introduced his Bill in 1870. What is this clause? It provides for the education of the children of the poor; it enables the parent to select the school to which the child shall go; it provides for the payment of the school pence in cases where the parents are too poor to pay them, and it also provides that such payment shall not pauperize the family. Surely the abolition of this clause would be an infringement of the rights of the people, and notwithstanding the arguments that may be used in support of the Bill, I contend would be the first step to eliminate religious education from this great Empire. I am most anxious that every child shall be educated, and that proper accommodation shall be provided for them; but, Sir, I am also for maintaining in their entirety all the existing schools, supplementing them as is intended by the Act of 1870, with school board schools when required; but I strongly deprecate the desire that exists with those who support the Bill before the House, to build schools in competition with, and for the purpose of the ultimate destruction of existing schools. It would be a distinct violation of conscience to compel a Roman Catholic to send his children to a board school, simply because of his poverty. That would be treating him worse than a criminal or a pauper. What an outcry would be raised if a Nonconformist child were compelled to attend a Roman Catholic school. The same principle would apply in the case of attending British, Wesleyan, or National schools. An incident which occurred at the Nottingham School Board will serve to illustrate many others in the working of the 25th clause of the Education Act. A poor woman appeared before the Board with her three children, all in mourning. They were recognized by a member of the Board, who had visited the father in his sickness, the children attending the National and Sunday School with which he was connected. The woman stated her case with tears in her eyes, the poor fatherless children evidently anxious at the mother's grief. She had recently lost her husband, the bread-winner. All their little savings had been expended during his sickness; she was struggling to maintain her four fatherless children; she did not want to apply for parish relief, she hoped to be able to do without that; but she wanted to give her children an education. Could the board assist her by paying the fees for a time for three of her children? The request was of course granted, without the children being removed from the school to which they were attached, and without being branded as paupers. What would have been the feelings of a member of a school board who must have said "No! you must apply to the parish;" or, "Yes! but upon one condition only—the children must be taken from their present school and sent to a board school!" All previous school attachments must be snapped asunder, just at the time when the widow and orphans needed additional sympathy. I am sure that nothing but a sense of duty from his point of view would have prompted the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) to undertake an enterprise so hopeless as this must be. We have been told that this clause is a violation of religious equality, and that religious instruction of the poor ought to be provided for, unconnected with the schools. Sir, I yield to no Member of this House in my watchful jealousy of the principles of religious equality. To it I am indebted for my seat here, and great privileges elsewhere; but I wholly fail to discover in the operation of this clause the slightest infringement of that principle whatever, nor has the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil in any way helped to disclose it. If religious instruction is to be given unconnected with the schools, I would ask, who is to give it? If the parents, what time have they to devote to this purpose, admitting they are capable of imparting religious instruction? The conditions of industrial life would prevent its accomplishment, because the hours of labour are such as to interfere most seriously with domestic intercourse. In a recent debate, this House was horrified and pained to learn to what a fearful extent the dwellings of the poor in the metropolis and large cities were overcrowded; how several families were compelled to live in one apartment. Let me ask, Sir, what kind of religious education could be given under such circumstances? If the clergy are to impart religious education unconnected with the schools, I would ask, Sir, if they are not in all large cities and parishes already very much over-worked? Those who know anything of parochial work, well know that it leaves no time for functions such as these. What with the services of the Church, and the visitation of the sick and aged, the clergy have but scant leisure for necessary study. Would it be possible for Sunday school teachers or Scripture readers to undertake the task? I would ask where this religious instruction could be imparted other than in the schools? I am quite certain it could never be given in the separate homes of the children. The Bill is based on the non-recognition of voluntary schools, and aims at the general prevalence of the school board system. This will entail an enormous annual increase upon our already over-burdened local taxpayers for—(1.) School Buildings. (2.) Maintenance. (3.) Efficiency—As to School Buildings. The average cost to the State for the education of each child in a denominational school is only about 10s. per annum—maintenance of buildings, teachers, and everything else included; but many school boards have more than doubled this charge on the rates for the mere erection of buildings without any item for maintenance, which is exceedingly more costly when done by the school board—with all its red-tape and officialism—than by voluntary managers. For instance, in Bradford, Yorkshire, £26 10s. per scholar is being expended in buildings; this, at 5 per cent. would give an annual charge of nearly 30s., equal to three times the present cost to the State for both building and maintenance of voluntary schools. £15 per head is a common estimate with many boards, and only in rare instances has it come down to £10, or little less. Taking £15 as the average building cost for each child, it would require the sum of £36,000,000 to provide the same amount of school accommodation as is now in possession of voluntary school managers. On the other hand, the total sum granted by Government during the 34 years from 1839—the year in which Building Grants were first made by Government—to 1873, was less than £2,000,000. Divided amongst the various denominations, the Return of accommodation is—

Denominations, and total number of children to which these Returns refer:—

Schools connected with National Society or Church of England 1,451,606
British, Wesleyan, and other Schools not connected with Church of England 433,426
Roman Catholic Schools 125,697
School Board Schools 111,286
Total 2,122,015
Next, as to Maintenance. It appears from the Return presented by the Education Department to this House on the 5th of May this year, that 2,010,729 children were last year receiving education in voluntary schools at a cost to the State—that is, a charge upon the rates or taxes—of under £850,000—that is, 8s. 5d. per head. On the other hand, 111,286 children were last year receiving education in board schools at a cost to the State—that is, a charge upon the rates and taxes—of over £400,000, being over £380,000 from rates, and £14,287 Government Grant—that is, £3 12s. per head, as against 8s. 5d. in voluntary schools, or nearly nine times the expense to the State. This alarming cost under the board system, as compared with the voluntary, arises from the fact that in the latter the buildings have been given and do not figure in the estimate, and the services of costly school board officials are voluntarily rendered. That this latter is a heavy item may be inferred from the fact that, by the Return presented to this House on the 23rd of April last year, out of a total expenditure of over £325,000 by school boards, only one-sixth of this sum was expended in maintaining schools—that is, out of every £1 from rates, 16s. 8d. was leakage; whereas, under the voluntary system, out of every £1 given, over 19s. is expended in the actual work of education, and the leakage only a few pence. It appears that from rates, taxes, and loans, the school boards have had over £2,000,000, whilst the number of children under instruction is only a trifle over 111,000. Lastly, as to Efficiency. By the Return before referred to, the voluntary schools appear to be in a much higher state of efficiency, the grants upon examination being higher—namely, school board schools, 9s. 10¾d., while the average for the voluntary schools is over 12s. The passes in board schools were only 57 per cent. while the passes in the voluntary schools averaged over 61 per cent; and a Return of this House—ordered on the Motion of Mr. G. Hardy, issued April, 1873, showing gross costs and net results in round numbers, covering the two years of the Act, shows these results—
1. Cost of first elections £ 25,000
2. Expenses of filling vacancies 3,800
3. Establishment expenses 64,000
4. Erection of schools 124,700
5. Maintenance of schools 57,500
6. General expenses 62,000
7. Outlay under 25th Clause 5,500
This Return, therefore, shows that the expenditure under the 25th clause is less than 2 per cent on the gross outlay. Gross sum spent on and by boards, £350,000—of this sum, in education, only one-sixth has been spent. Under the 25th clause, cost of children in denominational schools, is 8s. or 9s. each; cost of children in board schools, £5 per head! Sir, the arguments with which I have attempted to commend my Motion to the House, are conceived in a practical spirit; but I am not unmindful of the graver aspects which this question must wear to many minds—larger issues are involved than appear on the surface—it is not merely a controversy as to whether the 25th clause does or does not outrage the scruples of a faction, it is a struggle in which the existence of religious education, as a national system, is involved, and the settlement of which must determine the moral future of this great Empire. These may appear strange words from a Jew; but, though I am a Jew, I am none the less an Englishman. I can perceive that a blow at the 25th clause would be a national calamity. I have been content to adduce a few business-like considerations, to show that the opposition to the 25th clause is ignoble and selfish, that it is inconsistent with the civil and religious rights of the people. I cannot sit down without entreating the House not to dispose of this question without reference to the larger considerations with which it is bound up, without having in distinct view the probable and certain consequences of the elimination of religious knowledge from a national system of education—to say nothing of the monstrous breach of faith with those who have accepted the Act in all loyalty as the basis of generous and public exertions—which would be precipitated by the adoption of a Bill, I shall ever regard it as the chief honour of my life to have opposed the first time I ventured to claim your attention in this House. I beg to move the Amendment that stands in my name, that the Bill be read a second time on this day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Isaac.)


said, that as in many of the opinions expressed by the hon. Members who had already spoken he could not concur, he trusted he would be permitted to express his own. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Isaac) seemed to associate with the result of the Motion, the continued existence of our voluntary schools; but a slight investigation would show that however important in other respects the clause might be, as regarded the maintenance of those schools, it was absolutely unimportant. Nor could he concur in the view of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, that the clause violated and was contrary to every principle of religious equality and the rights of conscience. To that doctrine he could not subscribe. The hon. Member had lost sight of the fact that with the exception of Birmingham and one or two other places, the school boards all over the Empire had adopted the principle of religious instruction. Neither could he agree with the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who, in one of his election speeches, said that those who were in favour of the 25th clause were in favour of religious education, and those who were opposed to it were in favour of mere secular education. He would take what he thought to be a more practical view, and ask what had been the effect of the working of the clause. From a Return laid on the Table of the House last year, it appeared that a sum slightly exceeding £5,000 had been handed over from the rates to the various voluntary schools, and of that sum about 70 per cent had been paid by the two school boards of Manchester and Salford. Comparatively few of the school boards had at that time adopted the principle of compulsion, and it was naturally to be expected that when they would, as they had since done, that sum would be largely increased. Instead of that, however, it appeared from Tables furnished to the House that the £5,000 had fallen to £4,000, a considerable portion of which was doubtless paid for the children of out-door paupers, a charge which, under the Act of last year, would not in future have to be borne by school boards. Next year, therefore, he believed the sum to be given under the clause to voluntary schools would not exceed £1,000 or £2,000. On the other hand, the sums voted by Parliament for those schools had risen from £700,000 in 1872 to over £1,000,000 sterling in 1874, and that, in his opinion, was a pretty good proof of the success of the present system of education. How, then, in any aspect of the question, could that trifling sum of £1,000 or £2,000 be considered important as affecting the future existence of the schools? It was objected that the clause was opposed to the conscientious scruples of a large section of the community; but in matters of conscience they must act on the principle of doing as they would be done by, and on that, he for one should always be prepared to act. The question, then, was, whether the object in view could not be effected in some manner which would not have that effect. An Amendment had been proposed by his right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister, when the Education Bill was before the House, with a view to protect voluntary schools from the interference of school boards, and in practice it had been found that there was no such interference. One effect of the clause, however, was to produce exciting contests at school board elections; and this, he thought, it was very desirable to avoid in order that the best men might be elected, irrespective of what their opinion as to the 25th clause might be. For these reasons he was anxious to see the clause removed; but fair weight ought, on the other hand, to be given to the arguments of those who supported the clause, the principle of which was that parents ought to be allowed freely to select the schools to which they desired to send their children. Well, but could not that object be attained without incurring all the inconvenience attending the working of this clause. Could not for that purpose that miserable sum of from £1,000 to £2,000 be privately subscribed by those who already contributed over £500,000 out of their own pockets for the maintenance of the voluntary schools? The sum was insignificant, the advantage to be gained was immense. The voluntary schools were now educating freely no fewer than 66,000 children, and there were but 13,000 being paid for out of the rates. He thought, therefore, it would not be at all an unfair thing to say to the managers of the voluntary schools before the next Parliamentary Grant was made, or an unfair condition to impose on them, that they should take and educate those 13,000 children free of fees. If the House received an assurance from the noble Lord the Vice President of the Committee of Council that this suggestion would be considered with a view to a solution of the existing difficulty, he hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw his Motion; if not, he should feel bound to support the second reading of the Bill.


protested against the assumption by the Birmingham League of the custody of the national conscience in the matter of religion. Brass, it was well known, was the staple commodity of Birmingham; but that scarcely accounted for the pertinacity and boldness with which the League had tried to force their views down the throat of the nation. They did not even represent the views of the Nonconformists on the question. A Barrister had just told him in Westminster Hall that—though he was a Liberal and a Dissenter—the League had, in his opinion, gone mad on this question, swallowing the camel of State aid to denominational schools, yet straining at the gnat of local rates for the same purpose. This was essentially a poor man's question. The Bill would place the poor man in a worse position than that of a criminal. The latter was entitled to the services of a minister of his own communion; but the poor man, perhaps rendered poor by the school board rate—the last feather which had broken his financial back—would be debarred from the choice of a school for his children. National was not, as the author of the Bill appeared to think, synonymous with secular education, but was the system approved and accepted by the nation—not that advocated by a small minority. Though pecuniarily of small importance, the 25th clause involved a principle dear to the immense majority of the people, and the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had been returned—not only in spite—but because of the factious opposition offered by the League to his re-election. The Bill might prove a step towards the introduction of Atheism and Republicanism, which had proved so disastrous in a neighbouring country, and if its supporters desired to enjoy the continental system, they had better become domiciled in Holland or Switzerland.


said, that while left free on every other subject, he was desired by the deputation which invited him to enter Parliament to oppose the 25th clause. That clause had vexed millions of the best men in the country, and a paltry £2,000 a-year was not worth all this contention. Hon. Members might subscribe the whole sum without being hurt. He believed the clause had not been put in operation in a single case in Wales. As a member of the first school board in England, though it was in Wales, he could testify to its being inoperative in his own neighbourhood.


said, their object should be to ascertain the best method of carrying on the elementary education of the country. He opposed the absolute and unconditional repeal of the clause, though he admitted there were difficulties in working it. There were two reasons why he could not give his vote for a Bill which proposed, without any conditions or modifications, to repeal the 25th clause. The clause contained the very valuable principle that it should be the right of any man, however poor, to choose the education and the school for his children; and he believed that principle was in accordance with the views of at least nineteen-twentieths of the people of this country. Another reason why he held by this clause was that, if they proposed a system of compulsion, they arrived at a point where they compelled people to send their children to school who manifestly had not the means of paying for them, and at the same time did not provide the means of paying for that education. He could not see why Dissenters should think this small contribution from the rates to denominational schools a grievance, while they offered no objection to Parliamentary Grants, payments by Boards of Guardians, and the rent paid for chapels and other buildings hired by school boards. Though the grievance, however, might be a sentimental one, it was to be regretted that school board elections should excite ill-feeling among neighbours which it might take years to heal, and should involve the waste of much energy, time, and money. Local subscriptions could not be expected universally to provide the amount, but it might be paid through Boards of Guardians, or—which he should prefer—school boards might certify to school managers that certain children were unable to pay, and the Education Department might then pay the fees, or a portion of them. The plan had suggested itself independently to himself and others, and he was anxious in some way to remove the existing irritation, the inconvenience of which as a member of a school board he had personally experienced.


said, he rose to support the Bill, relying on the generous consideration which the House never denied to new Members. He said it was a melancholy fact that while in the work of education all creeds and classes should be united, the 25th clause, trifling as was the money value involved, had divided the nation into two great hostile camps—the Church on the one side, and the Nonconformists on the other. Yet, although there were few subjects which had been brought before the public so prominently as this, which had been made a rallying cry during the last election, probably there was no subject to which public attention had been directed which had been so entirely misrepresented, and in regard to which the point at issue, as had been seen in the debate that day, had been so completely lost sight of. He could give no stronger illustration in support of that assertion than a quotation from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, who, in addressing the electors of Buckingham on the 10th of February last, was reported to have said— This 25th clause may be considered a symbol of the whole question of secular education; those who are in favour of this clause are in favour of religious education, and those who on the other side are against it—in favour of secular education. He would undertake to say that no greater fallacy had ever been uttered by a great statesman. This clause had nothing whatever to do with either the abolition or the maintenance of religious education. If this clause was swept away to-morrow, his contention was that religious education would not only not be hindered, but would be very much improved and strengthened; and it was because he held that view he now addressed the House. Nonconformists had been charged, and the charge was distinctly implied, if not stated in so many words, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, with a desire to banish religious education from schools. Speaking on behalf of his Nonconformist brethren throughout the Kingdom, he said there was no assertion to which he could give a more distinct or emphatic denial. They had no desire to banish religion from the schools. On the contrary, they desired that religious education should be strengthened and improved by being placed entirely in the charge of those who were acknowledged throughout the country as the persons who were most fitted to undertake it—namely, the religious teachers and clergymen of the va- rious denominations, and the members of their congregations specially appointed for the purpose, and by being taken out of the hands of the schoolmasters, who were not equally competent to undertake the task. He believed that the principle of the sub-division of labour so universally acknowledged in other matters, could be most beneficially applied in this, and that much would be gained by separating religious and secular education. Their proposition, therefore, was that on each day of the week, at hours so arranged as to prevent inconvenience, religious teachers of each denomination, or other persons appointed by each denomination, should have access to the children of their congregations in separate rooms, for the purpose of religious instruction. This would be the best means, and, in fact, the only means by which perfect religious equality could be obtained in matters of education; and the only way in which children of all creeds could be educated side by side in harmony and peace. It was futile to expect religious teaching free from denominational bias. If the Bible was explained in schools, the exposition would inevitably take a colour from the religious views of the expounder. Therefore, Nonconformists said let the Bible be read, but let it be done only by the religious teachers of each denomination. What objection could there be to this proposition? It could not be said to be a merely theoretical proposition, for it had successfully stood the test of long trial in several directions. In the Army this was the plan which had been in use for many years past, and by which the children of our Roman Catholic and Protestant soldiers had been taught side by side in harmony and peace. The proposal had had a fair trial on a small scale at Birmingham, and there it had been completely successful. He said without hesitation, this was the only means by which they could ever solve satisfactorily this growing religious difficulty, and any other scheme must fail, for it would be a shallow subterfuge. And when so moderate a proposition was resisted, what could they possibly think? One suggestion might be made, but he would only submit it for the purpose of withdrawing it almost immediately. Was it possible that the clergymen of the Established Church were not equal to the additional labour which such a scheme would impose upon them? Was it possible that while desiring to maintain the whole religious education of the country in their schools under their own supervision, they also desired to cast the burden of giving religious instruction upon the schoolmasters, instead of giving it themselves, thus placing schoolmasters in the subordinate and anomalous position of their servants, instead of being the trusted and honoured servants of the State? He would not entertain such an idea for a moment. He recognized too much and honoured too fully the disinterested labour of the clergy of the Church of England to give this supposition more than a passing notice. But he was certain that Nonconformists were perfectly prepared to be put to the test, and to undertake the whole of the religious education of the children of their several denominations in school, and to relieve the State and State schoolmasters of the work. He threw out this challenge in a spirit of honourable and generous rivalry. Here was a field of labour where the Church and Nonconformists might enter into honest competition, which could harm no one, and must undoubtedly result in great benefit both to religion and the State. This was their answer to the absurd and mendacious cry, that the Nonconformists desired to exclude religion from their schools. He had not so far touched upon their objections to the 25th clause, but he ought now to point out that when they took their money, levied under the first section of the clause, and applied it to the education of pauper or indigent children in religious directions opposed to those of the Nonconformists, they revived in the worst and most exaggerated form the religious grievances of which church rates, now happily abolished, had once been the symbol. With regard to the second part of the clause, which merely provided that these fees should not be paid or withheld on consideration of a child attending any school other than that which the parents selected, all necessity for it could be done away with by the abolition of the first part of the clause. It had been said that by abolishing this part of the clause, they would prevent the parents from having free choice of school. That was as preposterous a fallacy as the one he had already disposed of. As to the allegation that Nonconformists desired to ex- clued religion from their schools, was it possible that they whose constant contention for years past had been for liberty of conscience, should now desire to fetter the consciences of their indigent fellow-countrymen, by restricting the choice of the school to which they could send their children? By all means let parents have full liberty to choose the school which their children should attend; but, if the parent selected a denominational school, a school of the Church of England or of the Church of Borne, do not burden the consciences of Nonconformists by compelling them to pay for the teaching of religious doctrines of which they disapproved. The difficulty would be removed by getting rid of the payment of the fees of children at denominational schools, and a proposition on that point had already been made by the noble Lord the Member for the North West Riding, in which he entirely agreed. This, then, was all that would happen if the second part of this clause was repealed, while the parent's liberty of choice would remain as great as at present. This was all that the repeal of the 25th clause involved. Was it too much to ask for the removal of a grievance imposed by law, and bearing so hardly upon them, when its removal would inflict no inconvenience upon others? Next, he came to the cost of the abolition of the clause, and it was so trifling that it seemed ludicrous to put it forward as a reason for maintaining the clause. The whole sum involved did not amount to £5,000 annually, and what an insignificant amount this was when compared to the £56,000 which Church of England schools annually received in educational grants from taxes raised equally from Dissenters and Churchmen. These schools, moreover, enjoyed an income from other sources, as shown by the Minister of the Council on Education. According to the Report of 1872–3, they received about £380,000 from voluntary contributions, and the school pence amounted to £405,000; giving them a total income of £1,216,000. Could it be supposed that these Church schools, or the schools of any other denomination, would for one moment be losers by the withdrawal of this small and insignificant sum, which did not amount to one 250th part of their annual income? He was sure that when all right-minded persons, who were inte- rested equally with them, fully understood the bearings of this question, they would rather raise this trifling sum by voluntary contributions than allow such a miserable amount to continue as the cause of heart-burnings, dissensions, and bitterness between two great bodies of Christian men, who ought to be united hand in hand in one cause. But it was said—"You Dissenters are inconsistent—if you resist the application of your money raised by rates to these denominational schools—when you make no objection to the application of sums raised by taxes to education grants for the same purpose." His answer was that this afforded the strongest proof that could be adduced of the desire of the Nonconformists to act honourably and reasonably in this matter. They did not wish to impede the education of the country, and were ready to let bygones be bygones, although they must resist new burdens of this kind. And, in the opinion of Nonconformists, this question involved matters of religious grievance closely connected in their character with those in opposition to which their forefathers were ready to take up arms or suffer cheerfully at the scaffold or the stake. These things had happily passed away, and their difficulties were settled by the more peaceful agencies of the ballot box and the polling booth. Turning from the pecuniary aspect of this question, he would allude to the part played by this question at the recent elections; and here he would by anticipation ask pardon of hon. Gentlemen if he recalled any unpleasant reminiscences. He supposed it was lukewarmness of the late Prime Minister on this question that caused his return only second on the poll at Greenwich. Then, again, at Bradford, the right hon. Gentleman who had till then been gratefully acknowledged to be a leader in the great work of education was deserted by those who had been his stoutest followers, and only brought in by those who had been his political opponents on all other questions. He trusted that the day was not long distant when the right hon. Gentleman would rally his old friends round him, but it would not be until he came to understand what heart-burnings this question caused, and until he took broader views upon the subject. The Liberal party could never again speak with the autho- rity of a united voice until this religious difficulty had assumed its proper proportions in their counsels, or until they took measures to conciliate their friends and secure the support of the vital force of Liberal Nonconformists. He called upon hon. Gentlemen opposite to avail themselves of this opportunity of doing an act of justice. Nonconformists asked in this matter only for their rights, and they asked it as addressing men whom they believed to be as anxious to do justice to others as to themselves. Therefore, he urged them to remove this painful and invidious distinction, and to unite all classes and creeds once more in the great work of National Education. This was a question above all party consideration, for rich and poor, Churchmen and Dissenters, were alike interested in securing harmony and peace in matters of education. Having endeavoured to remove misunderstanding, he would own he was perfectly confident that when the matter should receive a calm and dispassionate hearing from hon. Gentlemen on the other side, they would be actuated by a desire to deal impartial and evenhanded justice, and that like the Nonconformists they wished to promote the cause of harmony and peace in education in this country.


said, he wished to show what would be the practical operation of the repeal of the 25th clause of the Education Act in Manchester and Salford. In Salford, when the Act was passed, there was not only no necessity for board schools, but a positive excess of school accommodation existed beyond the amount contemplated by the Government—namely, sufficient for one-sixth of the population. In Manchester there was a deficiency, but it was very small. The school boards of those two places both came to the conclusion—a conclusion in which he perfectly concurred—that it would be better to pay fees to various existing schools than to erect new schools for which there was no present necessity. The amount so paid in fees by the school boards of those towns was about £3,600 a year; the argument in favour of that arrangement being that it was the cheapest mode of educating the children of that neighbourhood. Some credit might fairly be claimed for the progress made there in promoting education under the Act. During the last three years the average attendance of the children in Salford had increased 44 per cent. having now reached about 70 per cent; and they had the full number on the books, or about one-sixth of the population. That result had been obtained by means of a rate of about one penny in the pound; and in both towns at the last school board election, the advocates of the denominational system were returned by large majorities. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Frederick Cavendish) had remarked that the numbers of children for whom fees were paid were diminishing, but he (Mr. Hardcastle) ventured to say that such was not the case. If the 25th clause were repealed, how, he asked, was education to be carried on in those boroughs which had thus given effect to the Act? Their area was extensive, and it would be a great hardship to compel children to go past a good and convenient school, which their parents wished them to attend, in order that they might go to a board school. On the other hand, it would be absurd and extravagant to incur the great expense of building new board schools where they were not wanted. At Salford, the Inspector's Returns for 1873 showed that the schools were so placed that every child had easy access to them. Moreover, those fees were really paid to the poorest schools, which were already put at great disadvantage by the rule making the Government Grants conditional on the amount of voluntary contributions raised in the parish, and it would, therefore, be an additional hardship to require the schools in poor parishes to waive all claims to those fees, without which it was impossible they could be supported. By transferring those payments, as had been suggested, from the school boards to the Poor Law Guardians, but little or no advantage would be gained, or saving effected, because at present the Inspectors under the school board inquired very carefully into the poverty of parents for whose children the school fees were provided, and the expense would be borne by the ratepayers alike in both cases.


said, he had listened with some pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt), because although an opponent of his on that occasion, the hon. Member approached the question in a spirit of great moderation, with a desire to afford the true solution of it. That solution—and it was the only one presented that day—was that the fees now paid out of the rates for the children of indigent parents should in future be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. That solution had been offered before, but it rested upon an entire misconception of the difficulty felt by the Nonconformists. Their principle had always been that no kind of public money should be devoted to religious teaching, and it was not true to suppose that in their minds there was any difference of opinion whatever with reference to the source from which the public money might come. It was perfectly true that for some years past the Nonconformists had been resisting the attempt to take the money of the ratepayers for religious teaching; but they had not the less invariably made as strong a protest as it was in their power to make, against any public funds being taken—even out of the Consolidated Fund—for the purpose. They had done what wise men would always do, simply made a strong protest against what they could not resist; and when they thought they had the power to offer some sensible amount of resistance, they had attempted to do so. But if the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council should offer to them, as had had been suggested by the noble Lord the Member for the North West Riding (Lord Frederick Cavendish), some other solution of the vexed question, he was quite sure that the Opposition side of the House would be willing to give it a respectful hearing. Was the question really a great one or was it not? If they were to believe the Prime Minister, it was a great one, because the whole question of the religious contest between the Nonconformists and the Church was involved in it. It was a question of the continuance or non-continuance of religious teaching by the State, and in fact almost of the continuance of religion or the cessation of religion. But if it were true that the whole question was to be fought upon this narrow ground, then he would suggest to their opponents, whether they had chosen wisely the the ground upon which this great question was to be fought out. If it were true that it was to be fought out upon this ground, then of course all hope of a solution of the educational difficulty for the present must be abandoned. But he, as an educationist, did hope that such would not be the case, and that the Conservative party would be willing, as he found his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) was willing, to approach the question with a view to seeking a solution which would tend to promote a sound and universal education in this country. But, was it a great question with reference to financial considerations? They had just been told that it was so considered in Manchester and Salford. If these were the views entertained by the country at large, he admitted that it would be an important financial question. He had always thought that it might easily be made a large financial question; but they knew as a matter of fact, that the rest of the country had not adopted their views, and there was no appearance of any intention on the part of school boards to do so, and the reason was not far to seek. It was because other school boards were aware that there would be a great amount of resistance to paying out of the rates such large contributions to denominational schools, and therefore they declined to undertake so grave a task. This sum, which the noble Lord the Member for the North West Riding had estimated at £2,000, per annum, it must be remembered would probably be still further diminished by the fact that they were going hereafter to take away from the school board the power of paying for pauper children, and it was very likely indeed that the sum would then be reduced, till it became almost infinitesimal. Then, why should this small payment out of the rates be continued? The Nonconformists, a very large and influential section of this country, felt it to be a grievance. It was with them a matter of conscience, and no one, on whatever side he might sit, could doubt that this question had stood in the way of increased and higher education for the poor. If that were a fact, and it had been acknowledged to be so by almost every speaker, then, what were the reasons why they should hesitate to remove an obstacle of this character? Did the religious difficulty, which was really the one involved, exist to any appreciable extent? The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Essex (Colonel Makins), had stated that it was a poor man's question, and that they had received a very sig- nificant hint at the late Election as to which way public opinion went, upon the matter. He was quite willing to concede that it was a poor man's question, and what did the poor men of the country say against it? Were they really so anxious about it? Did they really think that the whole question of religious education was involved in it? He would call attention for a moment to an extract from a letter he received a short time ago from a friend of his who was once a schoolmaster, and who was investigating the educational condition of the town of Blackburn. The writer said that one of the most successful schools there was a secular school, and its advantages were so much appreciated by parents that it was always full to overflowing. In order to learn from the parents themselves what they considered the special merits of the school, that gentleman visited some of the homes, and was told that the chief inducement to send their children was the superiority of the teaching staff. The majority of the parents were strong Church people, and Conservatives; but they were influenced neither by theological nor pecuniary considerations. But he would give another illustration of the extent to which the religious difficulty existed on the part of the parents. It was well known that in Birmingham the compulsory clauses had been applied, and had been successful in increasing the average attendance by 50 per cent. Nevertheless the Board was desirous lately of ascertaining what obstacles existed to the further increase of the attendance of children, because notwithstanding the great increase that had taken place, there was still a large number of children absent from school. A committee was appointed for the purpose, and all the school officers were summoned before the committee to give their experience of the work which they had in hand, and their view of the reason why children were not sent to school in larger numbers. Every reason given by them was discussed, and reported to the Board, and their reasons were carefully considered. The chief opponent of the Birmingham League, a clergyman of a clear and candid mind, and a member of the Board in attending to these reasons, admitted that the religious difficulty was not one of them, and that it did not exist; the only ex- ception being the case of a few Roman Catholic children. If the religious difficulty did not exist with parents, where did it exist? He believed it was entirely imaginary. As had been truly said, there was a strong conviction on the part of parents, that what they had to look for from public elementary education was the best secular education which it was possible for them to obtain; and as to religious teaching, they were perfectly satisfied that it would be obtained by other means which they were willing to avail themselves of. They had had experience in Birmingham to show that such was the case. The hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Isaac), who moved that the Bill should be rejected, had said that he was particularly anxious about the religious education of the children, and that it was on that ground he objected to the passing of the Bill, being afraid that it would lead to the religious education of children being neglected. But the hon. Member answered himself. The hon. Member asked, where, after the passing of the Bill, religious education would be found?—and then candidly enough stated that he belonged to a persuasion which gave religious instruction out of voluntary sources to all the children of that denomination. If the hon. Member was perfectly satisfied with reference to the children belonging to his religion, why should he doubt for a moment that other denominations would be able to provide for the religious instruction of their children? It had been repeatedly stated in that debate that there were grave reasons why denominations should undertake religious education, and how easy it would be for them to do it, and at how little cost. As had been shown, they had received grants of public money so large that the amount required from voluntary sources for giving religious teaching to their indigent children might fairly be required from them. He undertook to say, not merely for the Jews but for every other sect, that they were not only able but willing to give religious instruction, and that the religious instruction so given would be of a very much better, purer, and higher character. Therefore, he conld not for a moment admit that the religious difficulty on the part of parents existed. But whatever their views might be with regard to the nature and extent of the difficulty, they were all agreed that it was a difficulty of no mean order, and would be in the way of all those who were really anxious for the spread of education in the country. He was one of those who were willing to make great sacrifices in order that education should be improved in quality and increased in amount; and he hoped the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council would be able to submit to the House that day, some proposition which would get rid of this great difficulty, and enable them all hereafter to unite, at any rate, upon one thing—namely, that it was for the interest of the State that the education of the people should progress, and that it should progress rapidly.


said, he had listened with surprise to the two speeches which he had heard since entering the House—namely, that of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Havelock), and that of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon)—and had he not read the Bill which was now before the House, he should have supposed that the question was, whether there should be any religious instruction given in the Board schools, or whether it should be left entirely to Sunday schools. He (Mr. Grantham) held, however, that the real question was, not whether the 25th clause should be abolished, but whether the word "shall" ought not to be substituted for "may" in that clause. If it had been enacted in the first instance that school boards should pay the fees for the children of indigent parents attending the schools which the parents had chosen, there would have been no difficulty at all in that matter, and the extreme ill-feeling which had been stirred up in many places on that question would have been avoided. He, like the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt), had, unfortunately, had experience of the bitterness of feeling that had arisen in the minds of some parties in reference to this question; but he did not see that he and those with whose views he coincided, should be expected to do away with a difficulty, the real existence of which they did not believe in, and for which, at any rate, there was no foundation but which those who differed from them were attempting to create, instead of attempting to remove. Let them, however, look a little closer at the character and conduct of the men who were asking them to alter that law. Were they not the very men who broke the laws which they themselves had assisted in this House to make? Why did the hon. Member for Birmingham, and others who acted with him, refuse and resist the payment of the rates properly applied for to enable the school boards to carry out the objects of this Act? They had heard not only of Birmingham, but of other large towns, where the local authorities, stirred up by this rebellious feeling, had refused to pay over the amounts required. He (Mr. Grantham) thought it was the duty of every person who had assisted in passing an Act of Parliament to do all in his power to aid in carrying out that Act; but in many towns this disposition to refuse compliance with the Act was shown. Now, to judge correctly the conduct of those gentlemen who professed to have such refined consciences, it was necessary to go back to the time when that Act was passed. Let him remind the House that, at the time that law was passed, the Church of England had in its hands the education of 80 per cent of the children of the country, in schools, erected almost entirely at the expense of its members, throughout the length and breadth of the land. The Nonconformists said that everything they now did was done in conformity with their consciences. But before that Act was passed almost all the children in every part of the country received education in the schools of the Church of England. Nonconformists, and parents of all other denominations, sent their children to the Church of England schools, and there was no instance of violation of conscience, or of the religious difficulty of which they had since heard so much. They paid for them themselves then. Why, therefore, should the hon. Member for Birmingham, and those who acted with him, say now—"We will resist sending our children to those schools, and will not allow the poor to send theirs, even if they prefer it?" Why? How was it, he would ask, that they, who for so long a time allowed their children to be so educated, now tried to do their utmost to prevent the poor child from receiving the education of which he stood so much in need? It might be a question of sentiment on their part; but, let them remember, it was a sentiment opposed to the Church of England, which was at the bottom of their conduct and their consciences, and that was the reason for their desire to do away with all denominational schools in this country. He should, of course, be as glad as any one that a solution of the question should be arrived at which would be satisfactory to all parties; but there was the practical view of it to be taken that it would be extremely hard to compel poor, half-starved, half-clad, half-fed children to go in the cold and rain of the winter months two or three miles to a board school, instead of giving the parents the option of sending them to a school close at hand which they might prefer, and he should, therefore, oppose most earnestly the second reading of this measure.


said, that having had to make so many speeches upon the question, both in and out of the House, he should have been very glad if he could have given a silent vote on it; but he could not forget that he proposed the Act and the clause under consideration on behalf of the late Government, and had to withstand in the last Parliament one or two proposals similar to the present one. Recollecting that fact, he could not refrain from stating very shortly his view of the present position of the question; and at the same time he wished it to be clearly understood that, though he was an organ of the late Government in the last Parliament, he was now speaking for himself alone. At the outset he felt bound to demur to the version of the history of the passing of that Act which had been given by his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil. That hon. Gentleman had stated that the real reason why the 25th clause of the Act had been retained in it, was to give aid to denominational schools, while the apparent reason was, to allow parents to exercise a right of choice as to the school to which they should send their children. Now, he, who had brought the clause in, must be permitted to state that the reason alleged to be the real reason was not that which had influenced him, or the Government of which he was a Member, in proposing the clause in the slightest degree, nor did he believe it was at the time in the mind of any hon. Member of the late Parliament. It was not in order to secure the small sum of £4,000 or £5,000 last year and £2,000 this year for denominational schools that they had taken the course which they had deemed it right to adopt. It would, indeed, have been a very unwise policy for the friends of those schools to pursue, to encounter for the sake of so trifling an object all the bitterness and heart-burnings which had been created in connection with the subject. The fact was, that the clause was proposed because it was thought that it would serve two objects—first, to get the children to school when otherwise they would not have gone there; and in the second place, to take away from the parents any reasonable excuse for not sending them. Those were the grounds on which it was proposed, and he thought that upon consideration his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr would be inclined to admit that.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood what he had said. He did not state that the clause had been introduced with the objects which his right hon. Friend had mentioned.


said, he was glad to find that he had misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, who probably had failed to express himself with his usual clearness. As regarded aid to the schools, the Government Bill, as originally prepared, did contain a proposition of aid from the rates for denominational schools; but that proposition was afterwards withdrawn, and it was somewhat straining at the logic and facts of the matter to call the payment of this small fee an aid to the denominational schools. The fee, taken simply as a matter of fee, was, in truth, nothing like payment for the education of a child, and what was it, he would ask, which under those circumstances the Bill under discussion proposed to do? It proposed to take from the school boards all power to pay to schools not connected with those boards fees for the education of the children of a parent who was too poor to pay them himself—and was yet not an out-door pauper—while at the same time authority was given to the school boards to compel the parent to send his children to school. In other words, his hon. Friend would take away from the parent who was too poor to pay the school fees, the right to choose among the elementary schools in his neighbourhood that to which he would would wish his children to go. Now, to his mind, to pass a measure of that kind, pure and simple, would be neither just nor fair. His hon. Friend proposed that a man must send his children to the school which he and his friends approved rather than to a school which the man himself liked and which might be close to his door, while the school board school might be at a distance of two or three miles. Indeed, his hon. Friend, he feared, was, in dealing with the matter, hardly quite fair even so far as the question of the religious equality was concerned. Surely the mere fact of a parent being too poor to pay for the education of his children could not be even in his hon. Friend's own eyes a reason why they should not have the benefit of the religious instruction the parent preferred? Taking the case, for example, adverted to by the hon. Gentleman of the poor Irish Roman Catholic who, under the advice of his priest, refused to send his child to a school where the education was mixed, was he prepared to maintain, mistaken though he might think that deference to the opinions of the priest might be, that that man had not a right to entertain his honest conscientious objections in this land of religious liberty? His strong impression was, he might add, and he had very high legal authority for what he said, that so long as the 25th clause remained in force, whether the school boards did or did not pass bye-laws for the payment of fees, yet that inasmuch as the clause gave them the power to make such payment, if a case were sent up to the higher Courts of Law, the fact of their not making use of the power given by the clause would be supposed to furnish the parent with a reasonable excuse for not complying with the provisions of the Act. He would also remind his hon. Friend that the Act which was passed last year transferred from the school boards to the guardians the care of all out-door paupers; and that, although his hon. Friend felt so strongly as to what was done by school boards under the 25th clause, precisely the same provision had been inserted in the Act of last year without any Amendment having been proposed by his hon. Friend or anyone else in Committee, thus leaving untouched a part of the case in which a far larger number of chil- dren were concerned. Taking advantage of the Act of last year, the parent who refused to obey the law might legally throw himself on the rates; but that was an alternative to which he should not like to see him reduced, and he could not conceive how his hon. Friend could think that there could be any advantage to the cause of religious liberty that there should be the difference between a pauper and a struggling parent, that the one should keep the power to choose a school for his children, while the other should lose it. Practically, he believed, notwithstanding what had been said by the hon. Gentleman who spoke upon the subject (Mr. Grantham), the word "may" in the Act meant "shall;" but his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard) proposed that a child should not only be sent to a school board school rather than to one which the parent preferred, but that that should be done notwithstanding that the majority of the ratepayers of the borough in which he lived wished the contrary. Now, the power of choice which was good for the out-door pauper parent was, in his opinion, good for the struggling parent whose sense of self-respect prevented him from throwing himself upon the rates, and if he (Mr. Forster) was regarded as being obstinate in his adherence to this principle of choice, it was simply and solely because he believed it to be the only just and practical way of carrying out compulsion. Allusion had been made in the course of the discussion to the speech which had been made by the Prime Minister during the progress of the General Election, but that speech had been made, he had no doubt, before the right hon. Gentleman had applied his powerful mind to the study of the 25th clause which it would be his duty to give in its present position. The question of religious education was not, he believed, involved in the clause, but that could not be said of the principle of compulsion. He would mention to the House a practical instance of the difficulty of working the latter principle, if the present Bill were to pass. A statement had been put into his hands by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Lloyd), who had taken a very active part in the proceedings of the Birmingham School Board, and who would himself have laid the facts before the House had he had an opportunity. They were to the effect that a poor woman, who had three children attending a denominational school near her house in Birmingham, had had the fees paid by the former school board, but that when the new board was elected, payment of the fees was refused. The Board officer appeared, and told her she must send her children to a school which was nearly a mile distant, but, finding the distance inconvenient, and disliking the new school, she was summoned on the ground of non-attendance by the school board and fined 5s., which, to avoid imprisonment, she borrowed and paid.


The late school board of Birmingham never paid any school fees under the clause.


said, it was quite true that the hon. Member for Birmingham and his Colleagues, with one or two exceptions, did not pay those fees. But they had been paid by private subsciption, and in the name of the majority of the Board then in authority.


said, he had merely given the statement as it was placed in his hands by the hon. Member for Plymouth, and his object in reading it was to show that if many such cases arose, and unless the right of the parent to choose were maintained by Parliament, compulsion was a thing which it would be impossible to carry out. In what position had his hon. Friend placed himself by assenting to compulsion? He would not say his hon. Friend had deprived himself of his locus standi, but had he not placed himself in a position of considerable difficulty? He believed that if teachers were prohibited from teaching religion many excellent people would object to take the appointments under such conditions, and he very much doubted whether the parents would care to send their children to school where there were teachers who had accepted the prohibition, and he thought it would be very difficult to work out the system of compulsion in the case of such schools. It was so in Holland at this moment. There was no Government more desirous than that of Holland to act upon the principle of compulsion, but owing to the Government schools being secular, it found that compulsion could not be enforced. It was, indeed, difficult for him thoroughly to understand the grounds on which his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr and his Friends based their objections to the 25th clause. The hon. Gentleman might urge him to take the course which had been taken by his parents and his Quaker ancestors, and they, it was true, had their objections to Church rates and tithes; but he could hardly imagine them seeking to carry out their views by admitting that money might be paid out of the rates for a certain purpose if it were paid by the Guardians, but adding that it was altogether against their conscientious convictions that money for the same purpose should be paid by school boards. With regard to rural parishes which did not admit of a choice of school, he would there also have compulsion. Some persons might point to rural parishes where perhaps only one school existed, and might argue upon the injustice or supposed injustice inflicted. Parliament must, however, consider as their great object the education of the children, while at the same time they must by a stringent Conscience Clause protect the children of Dissenters. With reference to the schools in the rural parishes, he believed that a great many more liked them than disliked them, and that more persons liked them than would like those which might otherwise be established. If there was only one school, then the child must go to that school, but the Act provided for the protection of conscience. He would add, that in accordance with his proposition of last year, he would confine the possibility of payment by the school boards to the case of those who, being too poor to pay for themselves, were unable, without relief, to obey the compulsory law. He could not, therefore, vote for the repeal of the clause, until he saw what was proposed to be put in its place, because he desired to see the principle of compulsion carried out.


pointed out that the question now before them was not the general policy of the Education Act of 1870. It seemed to him that they ought to argue as if they were convinced of the soundness of the principle on which that Act was founded. What he wanted to impress upon the House was mainly this—that the question now before them was eminently a practical and not a theoretical or logical question. It did not depend on deductions from carefully culled premises, but on con- siderations relating to the actual state of education in this country and the position which parties had taken up on the subject. Rightly or wrongly this question of the 25th clause had become something more than a mere question as to a particular' enactment. It had become a flag, a symbol, a battle-cry, and they had the authority of the Prime Minister, that the whole subject was summed up in this particular clause. It had given rise to a great amount of ill-feeling and bad blood; it had made the working of the Education Act exceedingly difficult, and every friend of education must be anxious if possible to get rid of the clause altogether. The great point to be settled was, whether they could get rid of a great, increasing, and pervading mischief which threatened to impede the whole progress of education. ["No, no!"] He thought it was possible, and he said that in no party sense whatever, but solely in the interests of education. It seemed to him that the arguments which had been adduced on both sides had a great deal of weight. But the question was rather one as to the dimensions of the matter they were discussing, than as to the justice of the arguments, and really the actual operation of the clause was ludicrously small as compared with the effect that its continuance had upon education, and in the keeping apart friends of education who might but for it, act cordially together. The effect of the clause however was immeasurably great in the mischief it did, although the sum expended under it would, he believed, be diminished to almost nothing. A great deal of the money had hitherto been wasted by persons who never took the trouble to ascertain whether those on whose account it was given were really unable to pay, and it had been partly used in the worst possible way, as a bribe to get people to send their children to certain schools. But it could not be doubted that an end would be put to all that. The amount had, moreover, been considerably diminished under the operation of the Act of last Session with regard to the children of paupers. On the whole, there could be no doubt that the sum to be paid would be extremely small—absolutely contemptible in amount. Not only so, but let the House look at the class to which the clause would apply. It would not apply to those who were able and willing to pay their own fees, or to paupers in receipt of relief. Those to whom it would apply were persons who, without being in receipt of relief, were yet so near the edge of pauperism as to be unable to pay the required 1d. or 2d. a week. It was a very small and peculiar class, and to none beyond it would the clause apply. It was obvious that the clause would affect only an infinitesimal portion of the population; and how unimportant would it be if it were repealed, and if the whole of the children of this class went without education altogether, compared with the mischief which the present agitation inflicted upon the cause of education generally. A great deal was said about attending to the wishes of the parent, and certainly so far as those wishes could be attended to without injuring the cause of education he would desire to see it done. It seemed to him that in the present case they might very easily be attended to. If—supposing the clause to be repealed—a parent who desired his child to be educated at a denominational school made a reasonable excuse that he could not pay, and that excuse was admitted, the child would not come under the compulsory clauses of the Act, and if it got education would get it under a voluntary and not under a compulsory system. But could it be supposed that because the school board and the ratepayers did not provide for the school fees of that child, the necessary funds would not be forthcoming? Considering the long period of time during which the education of the poor in this country had been carried on mainly by means of private funds, it might be taken as certain that as soon as an outlet for charity was pointed out, in the direction to which he had referred, it would be found that even a thousand times more money than was required would be obtainable. That being the result, the parent would be deprived of his legal excuse. He was no advocate of throwing additional burdens on the Consolidated Fund; but it would be far better even to do that than to shipwreck the cause of education on such a miserable shoal as the 25th clause. He had shown that it was most important this clause should be done away with for the sake of peace and quietness. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen who cried "No, no," might despise peace and quietness; but he did not. The only question was one of pride. Parties had been worked up to a great heat, and one or other must give way; and in a matter so exceedingly small in its practical importance, it seemed to him that the honour would belong to the side that was most willing to yield. He trusted that Her Majesty's Government would be persuaded to lend their aid towards repealing this clause and restoring peace, in order that the country might be enabled to carry on without interruption the most important work of the present day.


demurred to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that the great cause of education in this country was suffering grievously on account of the 25th clause. Any one who had watched the course of the school boards in England and Wales must, on the contrary, have been startled by the amount of work they had done—the schools they had built, the children they had gathered in them, and the general addition they had been making to the educational prosperity of the country. He doubted whether the most sanguine Gentleman opposite—whether the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) himself—had ever expected that in the short space of three years so satisfactory a result would be obtained. He would most gladly rest the position of the Government, to a very large extent, upon the very exhaustive and admirable speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, and, in fact, all the first part of that speech might have been delivered from the bench which he (Lord Sandon) occupied. [Ironical cheers.] It could be no offence to the right hon. Gentleman that that should be said, and no shame to him to accept it; for it must be remembered that the last Parliament had taken a pride in removing this great question of education from the arena of party politics. Now, the noble Lord the Member for the North "West Riding, and one or two other hon. Members, had made a series of appeals to Her Majesty's Government to settle this delicate matter, as they called it, in what they termed a simple and easy way. On the part of the Government to which he belonged, he accepted with gratitude the compliment implied— namely, that they were able to settle in a simple and easy way a question which had so long puzzled those able Gentlemen who sat opposite; but he remembered that the right hon. Member for Bradford, at a public meeting in Liverpool last October, said he was not sanguine of success in any effort of the kind, as he had passed days and weeks in considering schemes by which the difficulty might be got over. If the right hon. Gentleman could not solve the question with the advantages which he possessed whilst in office, was it likely that Her Majesty's present Government could do so? Then the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) said in one of his election speeches that he did not believe Government could have counted at any time last year on a sufficient number of votes to repeal the 25th clause, and he added that if the constituents wished it to be repealed they would let their desire be known in the elections. What did the late Parliament do in regard to the matter? It twice refused by large Liberal majorities, to repeal the clause. Moreover, in the Scotch Education Act passed two years ago the principle of the clause was embodied. Then almost the whole feeling of the country had been shown by the late General Election to be in favour of maintaining intact the great principle that the parent, however poor, should have the choice of the school to which his child should be sent. How, then, were they to view the opinions which had been expressed on the other side? The noble Lord the Member for the North West Riding had spoken with great moderation on the subject, but there were hon. Gentlemen connected with the League whose zeal and activity in the cause they espoused he would always speak of with respect—such, for example as the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Have-lock)—and who had shown by their speeches that they regarded the repeal of the 25th clause as merely a step in a scheme for a great alteration of the whole system of education in the country. [Sir Henry HAVELOCK was not aware that he had any connection with the League.] He willingly apologized for any mistake he might have made; but he looked upon the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member as indicating the views held by members of the League. The hon. Baronet had said, for example, that religious teaching ought to be entirely undertaken by ministers of religion. This showed that the proposed change was looked upon by leading Members as a part of a great scheme—the regular scheme of the League, in fact—by which we were to have free schools, universal school boards, and universal compulsion. It was surely wise to bear in mind the company in which this Bill had been prepared, instead of treating it as an isolated attempt to remove a grievance, however praiseworthy it might be. While thanking the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) for the obliging way in which he had referred to him (Viscount Sandon) personally, he could not refrain from saying that it would tend more to the harmony which ought to prevail on both sides of the House if the hon. Member would not attack other hon. Gentlemen as Churchmen. The hon. Member had alluded to their "living under the shadow of a great ecclesiastical corporation," and so on. For his own part, he (Viscount Sandon) looked upon the question entirely apart from both Church and Nonconformity, from both Liberal and Conservative politics; and he believed that if they all did so, the gallant ship of education would safely pass the rocks. With regard to the point involved in the Bill before the House, it must be clearly understood that Government would, under no circumstances, give way. They would not take away or diminish the right of the parent to choose the school to which his child should go, because they felt it to be absolutely impossible that the work of education could go on if they meddled with that great principle. Why he felt so strongly upon the subject was, that they saw all around them in great school board districts that the principle of compulsion was working with extraordinary success in bringing tens of thousands of children under school board influence, and he held that it would be fatal to the working of compulsion if they were to take away the option of the parent. The poor had their fancies in that matter as well as the rich, and he believed the attempt to interfere with it would be hopeless. As regarded the ratepayers, they were not introducing any new principle in calling upon them to contribute to the cost of teaching religious views in which they did not concur. On the contrary, they had long been accustomed to ratepayers contributing for the support of schools which were not in accordance with their religious views. The principle was to be found in the Industrial Schools Acts and Reformatory Acts, and in these enactments the right of the parent to choose the school was very carefully guarded. In the contributions made for the support of workhouse and gaol chaplains the principle to which he referred was again recognized. Surely, therefore, it was a mistake to speak of it as a new and untried principle? Government were determined to do what they could to preserve intact the freedom of the parent to choose the school, and he believed they could safely base their opposition to the principle of the Motion on that fact. There were many calamities inseparable from poverty—calamities which legislation did not create, and could not remove—and it was to be hoped another would not be added by taking away from the poor their undeniable right as parents to control the teaching of their children. This was a matter affecting the poorer classes of the country, and he was sure the Government would have the support of all right-minded men in not consenting to read the Bill a second time, and in supporting the proposal of the hon. Member for Nottingham.


complained that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford had taken advantage of his position to speak at a time when the House was full, whereas he (Mr. Richard) had been obliged to address it when it was very empty. The right hon. Gentleman had evaded all his arguments, and had endeavoured to fasten upon him a charge of inconsistency for not voting for a principle similar to this last Session.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 373: Majority 245.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for three months.

Acland, Sir T. D. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Adam, rt. hon. W. P. Laing, S.
Allen, W. S. Lambert, N. G.
Anderson, G. Laverton, A.
Balfour, Sir G. Lawrence, Sir J. C.
Barclay, A. C. Lawson, Sir W.
Barclay, J. W. Leatham, E. A.
Bass, A. Lefevre, G. J. S.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Leith, J. F.
Bazley, Sir T. Lewis, C. E.
Beaumont, Major F. Lloyd, M.
Beaumont, W. B. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Bristowe, S. B. Lush, Dr.
Brogden, A. Macdonald, A.
Brown, A. H. Macgregor, D.
Burt, T. Mackintosh, C. F.
Cameron, C. M'Arthur, A.
Campbell-Bannerman, H. M'Arthur, W.
M'Combie, W.
Carter, R. M. M'Laren, D.
Cartwright, W. C. Marjoribanks, Sir D. C.
Cave, T. Martin, P. W.
Cavendish, Lord P. C. Massey, rt. hon. W. N.
Cholmeley, Sir H. Melly, G.
Clifford, C. C. Mitchell, T. A.
Cole, H. T. Monk, C. J.
Colman, J. J. Morgan, G. O.
Cowan, J. Morley, S.
Cowen, J. Mundella, A. J.
Cowper, hon. H. F. Muntz, P. H.
Crawford, J. S. Norwood, C. M.
Crossley, J. Pease, J. W.
Dalway, M. R. Peel, A. W.
Davies, P. Pender, J.
Davies, R. Perkins, Sir F.
Dickson, T. A. Playfair, rt. hn. Dr. L.
Dilke, Sir C. W. Plimsoll, S.
Dillwyn, L. L. Potter, T. B.
Dixon, G. Price, W. E.
Duff, M. E. G. Reid, R.
Earp, T. St. Aubyn, Sir J.
Eyton, P. E. Shaw, R.
Fawcett, H. Sherriff, A. C.
Fitzmaurice, Lord E. Simon, Mr. Serjeant
Fletcher, I. Smith, E.
Fordyce, W. D. Stafford, Marquis of
Forster, Sir C. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
Goldsmid, Sir F. Stevenson, J. C.
Goldsmid, J. Stuart, Colonel
Goschen, rt. hon. G. J. Talbot, C. R. M.
Gourley, E. T. Taylor, D.
Gower, hon. E. F. L. Taylor, P. A.
Harrison, C. Trevelyan, G. O.
Harrison, J. F. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Hartington, Marq. of Vivian, A. P.
Hill, T. R. Vivian, H. H.
Holland, S. Waddy, S. D.
Holms, J. Weguelin, T. M.
Holms, W. Whitwell, J.
Hopwood, C. H. Williams, W.
Horsman, rt. hon. E. Wilson, Sir M.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Young, A. W.
Hughes, W. B.
Ingram, W. J.
James, W. H. TELLERS.
Jenkins, D. J. Havelock, Sir H.
Kay-Shuttleworth, U. J Richard, H.
Adderley, rt. hn. Sir C. Allen, Major
Alexander, Colonel Allsopp, S. C.
Anstruther, Sir W. Conyngham, Lord F.
Antrobus, Sir E. Coope, O. E.
Archdale, W. H. Corbett, Colonel
Arkwright, A. P. Cordes, T.
Arkwright, F. Corry, hon. H. W. L.
Arkwright, R. Cotton, Alderman
Ashbury, J. L. Crichton, Viscount
Assheton, R. Cross, rt. hon. R. A.
Baggallay, Sir R. Cubitt, G.
Bagge, Sir W. Cuninghame, Sir W.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Oust, H. C.
Balfour, A. J. Dalkeith, Earl of
Ball, rt. hon. J. T. Dalrymple, C.
Baring, T. C. Davenport, W. B.
Barrington, Viscount Dease, E.
Barttelot, Colonel Denison, C. B.
Bass, M. T. Denison, W. E.
Bates, E. Douglas, Sir G.
Bateson, Sir T. Dowdeswell, W. E.
Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H. Downing, M'C.
Beach, W. W. B. Duff, R. W.
Bentinck, G. C. Dunbar, J.
Benyon, R. Dundas, J. C.
Beresford, Colonel M. Dyke, W. H.
Biddulph, M. Eaton, H. W.
Biggar, J. G. Edmonstone, Adm. Sir W.
Birley, H.
Bolckow, H. W. F. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Boord, T. W. Egerton, Adm. hon. F.
Booth, Sir R. G. Egerton, hon. W.
Bourke, hon. R. Elliot, Admiral
Bourne, Colonel Emlyn, Viscount
Bousfield, Major Ennis, N.
Bowyer, Sir G. Errington, G.
Brady, J. Eslington, Lord
Brassey, H. A. Estcourt, G. B.
Brise, Colonel R. Evans, T. W.
Broadley, W. H. H. Ewing, A. O.
Brooks, rt. hon. M. Feilden, H. M.
Brooks, W. C. Fellowes, E.
Bruce, hon. T. Ferguson, R.
Bruen, H. Finch, G. H.
Brymer, W. E. FitzGerald, rt. hn. Sir S.
Buckley, Sir E. Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. W.
Bulwer, J. R.
Burrell, Sir P. Floyer, J.
Butt, I. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Buxton, Sir R. J. Folkestone, Viscount
Callender, W. R. Forester, rt. hon. Gen.
Cameron, D. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Campbell, C. Forsyth, W.
Cartwright, F. Foster, W. H.
Cave, rt. hon. S. French, hon. C.
Cawley, C. E. Gallwey, Sir W. P.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Galway, Viscount
Chaine, J. Gardner, J. T. Agg-
Chaplin, Colonel E. Garnier, J. C.
Chaplin, H. Gilpin, Colonel
Chapman, J. Goddard, A. L.
Charley, W. T. Goldney, G.
Christie, W. L. Gordon, rt. hon. E. S.
Churchill, Lord R. Gordon, W.
Clifton, T. H. Gore, J. R. O.
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Gore, W. R. O.
Clive, G. Grantham, W.
Close, M. C. Gray, Sir J.
Clowes, S. W. Greenall, G.
Cobbett, J. M. Greene, E.
Cobbold, J. P. Gregory, G. B.
Cole, hon. Col. H. A. Grey, Earl de
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Grieve, J. J.
Collins, E. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Conolly, T. Guinness, Sir A.
Hall, A. W. Lowther, J.
Hamilton, Lord C. J. M'Carthy, J. G.
Hamilton, I. T. M'Lagan, P.
Hamilton, Lord G. Majendie, L. A.
Hamilton, Marquis of Makins, Colonel
Hamilton, hon. R. B. Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Hamond, C. F. March, Earl of
Hanbury, R. W. Marten, A. G.
Hankey, T. Matheson, A.
Hardcastle, E. Maxwell, Sir W. S.
Hardy, rt. hon. Gr. Mellor, T. W.
Hardy, J. S. Milles, hon. G. W.
Harvey, Sir R. B. Mills, A.
Hay, rt. hn. Sir J. C. D. Mills, Sir C. H.
Hayter, A. D. Monckton, F.
Heath, B. Monckton, hon. G.
Helmsley, Viscount Montgomerie, R.
Honley, rt. hon. J. W. Montgomery, Sir G. G.
Herbert, H. A. Moore, A.
Hermon, E. Morgan, hon. F.
Hervey, Lord A. H. Morris, G.
Hervey, Lord F. Mowbray, rt. hn. J. R.
Heygate, W. U. Muncaster, Lord
Hick, J. Mure, Colonel
Hildyard, T. B. T. Naghten, A. R.
Hodgson, W. N. Nevill, C. W.
Hogg, Sir J. M. Newport, Viscount
Holford, J. P. G. Noel, rt. hon. G. J.
Holker, J. Nolan, Captain
Holmesdale, Viscount North, Colonel
Holt, J. M. Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Home, Captain
Hood, Captain hon. A. W. A. N. O'Brien, Sir P.
O'Clery, K.
Hope, A. J. B. B. O'Conor, D. M.
Hubbard, E. O'Conor Don, The
Hubbard, J. G. O'Donoghue, The
Huddleston, J. W. O'Gorman, P.
Hunt, rt. hon. G. W. O'Keeffe, J.
Isaac, S. O'Neill, hon. E.
Jenkinson, Sir G. S. Onslow, D.
Jervis, Colonel O'Reilly, M.
Johnson, J. G. O'Sullivan, W. H.
Johnstone, H. Parker, Lt, Col. W.
Johnstone, Sir F. Pateshall, E.
Johnstone, Sir H. Peek, Sir H. W.
Jolliffe, hon. Captain Pell, A.
Karslake, Sir J. Pelly, Sir H. C.
Kavanagh, A. MacM. Pemberton, E. L.
Kennard, Colonel Peploe, Major
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Perceval, C. G.
Kingscote, Colonel Percy, Earl
Kirk, G. H. Phipps, P.
Knatchbull-Hugessen, rt. hon. E. Pim, Captain B.
Plunket, hon. D. R.
Knight, F. W. Plunkett, hon. R.
Knightley, Sir B. Portman, hn. W. H. B.
Knowles, T. Powell, W.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Power, J. O'C.
Learmonth, A. Power, R.
Lee, Major V. Praed, H. B.
Legard, Sir C. Price, Captain
Leigh, Lt.-Col. E. Puleston, J. H.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Raikes, H. C.
Leslie, J. Ramsay, J.
Lewis, O. Rashleigh, Sir G
Lindsay, Col. B. L. Rathbone, W.
Lloyd, S. Read, C. S.
Lloyd, T. E. Rendlesham, Lord
Locke, J. Repton, G. W.
Lopes, H. C Richardson, T.
Lorne, Marquis of Ridley, M. W.
Lowther, hon. W. Ripley, H W.
Ritchie, C. T. Synan, E. J.
Ronayne, J. P. Talbot, J. G.
Round, J. Taylor, rt. hon. Col.
Russell, Lord A. Temple, rt. hon. W. Cowper-
Russell, Sir C.
Ryder, G. R. Tennant, R.
Sackville, S. G. S. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Salt, T. Tollemache, W. F.
Samuda, J. D'A. Torr, J.
Sanderson, T. K. Tremayne, J.
Sandon, Viscount Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill-
Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G. Turner, C.
Scott, Lord H. Tumor, E.
Scott, M. D. Twells, P.
Scourfield, J. H. Avance, J.
Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J. Verner, E. W.
Walker, T. E.
Shaw, W. Wallace, Sir R.
Sheil, E. Walpole, hon. F.
Sherlock, Serjeant Walpole, rt. hon. S.
Shirley, S. E. Walter, J.
Shute, General Waterhouse, S.
Sidebottom, T. H. Watney, J.
Simonds, W. B. Welby, W. E.
Sinclair, Sir J. G. T. Wellesley, Captain
Smith, A. Wells, E.
Smith, F. C. Wethered, T. O.
Smith, W. H. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Smollett, P. B. Whitelaw, A.
Somerset, Lord H. R. C. Williams, Sir F. M.
Spinks, Mr. Serjeant Wilmot, Sir H.
Stacpoole, W. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Stanford, V. F. Benett- Wolff, Sir H. D.
Stanhope, hon. E. Woodd, B. T.
Stanhope, W. T. W. S. Wyndham, hon. F.
Stanley, hon. F. Wynn Sir W. W.
Stanton, A. J. Wynn, C. W. W.
Starkey, L. R. Yarmouth, Earl of
Starkie, J. P. C. Yeaman, J.
Steere, L. Yorke, J. R.
Storer, G.
Sturt, H. G. TELLERS.
Sullivan, A. M. Mahon, Viscount
Swanston, A. Winn, R.