HC Deb 13 July 1875 vol 225 cc1396-411

rose to move— That, in the opinion of this House, Science and Art Education in Ireland, especially as applied to manufactures and industry, and the diffusion of Technical Instruction amongst the working classes, is in an unsatisfactory and defective condition; and that it is expedient and just, and would be in accordance with promises heretofore made by Ministers of the Crown, as well as with the frequently declared desires of the Irish people, that there should be established in Dublin, under management calculated to command the confidence of the classes intended to be benefited, a National Institution of Science and Art, with a comprehensive Museum analogous in purpose to and in co-operative connection with that of South Kensington. The hon. Gentleman said, he was sorry that a subject so unexciting as that he was bringing on came before the House at such a period—so late in the evening, and after so much fatiguing work—but that the patience of hon. Members might not be tried he would be brief. Yet he did hope, that the importance of this subject would attract to it the attention not only of the House, but of Her Majesty's Ministry, irrespective of any impatience at the statement he might make. The importance of bringing technical education to the masses of the people was well understood now, and it was very much where the subject of general education was about a genera- tion ago. Some of them could remember the time when it was considered beyond the province of the State to concern itself with the education of the people. It was quite a modern idea that the State should take that cognizance of the education of the people which we had come to take in the present day. Certainly not very long ago the utmost the State felt called upon to do in the ordinary education of the people was to help in a trifling degree the benevolent efforts which private individuals were making to advance the education of the masses of the people. In our own time, however, society had wakened up to something like a true conception of the necessity of the duty on the part of the State to concern itself with the educational requirements of the masses of the people. Twenty or 30 years ago, when he was a boy, it seemed preposterous to expect the Government to do anything for the science and art education of the people beyond granting a small sum, rarely locally applied, for the establishment of schools of design, and in doing this he thought he should be able to show to the House that the Government began very much at the wrong end. They began with the idea that the aim in encouraging art should be to develop every now and then a Maclise or a Gibson; whereas their efforts should have been directed to the advancement of the education of the masses of the people, and the science and art imparted should have had an industrial application. And he did not intend to concern himself now with science and art in the higher branches, but merely to art and science as applied to the industrial occupations of the people; and, before he spoke of Ireland, he would assert generally that in England, as well as Ireland, too little had been spent on the matter as compared to that which had been expended in other countries. And the history of English manufactures would give a proof of this assertion. Many years ago articles of English manufacture were in great request in all the markets of the world, owing to their soundness and durability; but no sooner did the element of taste begin to hold sway than the British manufacturer began to be beaten in point of design by the manufacturers on the Continent, and the Government then, as a matter of direct financial interest, and not in the way of aspiration for the development of art—the Government then 40 or 50 years ago took art and science as applied to manufacturing industry by the hand. The result was the International Exhibition of 1851, which served to show that the British workman in point of ability in design was far behind the workman of any other country in Europe or the world, and the Reports of the Committee created something like a sensation when they, in effect, declared that such was the state of things. The present Minister for War emphatically stated that English workmen were far behind those of other countries in their scientific and artistic knowledge. There was a remarkable improvement noticeable at the Exhibition of 1862 in the education of the British artizan, and still greater improvement had taken place in 1867, and progress was still being made, but whilst in England the workmen had been advancing, although they were still behind those of Belgium, France, and Bavaria, those of Ireland had remained a long way behind the artizans of England. And the Irish, it would be admitted, were a quick-witted and intelligent race, and had, he believed, proved themselves to be especially adapted for the pursuit of art and science if they got the chance. His countrymen, he was sorry to say, in emigrating carried into other countries—to America and Canada for instance—only the rude raw material of physical labour; whilst the workmen from those countries where more attention was paid to technical education carried with them a developed ability which enabled them to take the superior posts. Irishmen were almost invariably found doing the heavy work with the pick and hod, whilst the gangers and overseers were foreigners. He did, therefore, impeach, although it might seem audacious, the efficacy, and completeness, and sufficiency of the present system of education here, even for English purposes. It would not do now-a-days to set the goddess on a high pedestal, and say to those who wished to be her votaries—"Go and worship her." They must bring art to the doors of the people. In proportion as the Government had succeeded in bringing art to the homes of the people, in that proportion had it flourished. He deprecated the system of centralizing scientific and artistic institutions, where the masses of the people could not get at them; and a very moderate idea of science and art made practically useful to the people would be more valuable than an institution like the South Kensington Museum, which was too distant from the working classes to be useful to them. He would prefer to have a large number of museums throughout the country than a concentrated and magnificent collection in the suburbs of London. The Queen's Institute in Ireland was an illustration of the advantages of the system he advocated, an institute which was carried on by ladies, and which was originally intended for the purpose of enabling certain young ladies to obtain a livelihood. Painting on porcelain and designing on linen were there taught, and the manufacturers of Dublin and Belfast and elsewhere in Ireland accorded the liveliest praise to the institute for the beneficial effect it had had upon their industries. No doubt, if we could get rid of the dispute between Leinster Lawn and Kensington, there would be a solution of the difficulty so far as Ireland was concerned. Leinster Lawn was partly a private institution, and those who made use of it were not sure of their position, there being a want of clearness as to whether they obtained their admission on sufferance or as matter of right. There were a number of artistic and scientific institutions in Dublin receiving grants from Government, but they were not doing anything like the amount of good that one harmonized institution would do for science and art in the country. A number of private gentlemen in 1867 instituted the Exhibition Palace in the interests of science and art, but the affair was a failure. After that, a number of gentlemen associated themselves together for the purpose of pressing on the Government the desirability of taking that building and of establishing therein a large national museum. These gentlemen represented every shade of opinion in Ireland, and were drawn from all ranks. A deputation waited on the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Hunt) in March, 1868, and pressed their views on him, and, in reply, he said— My hon. and gallant Friend has said that he hoped the (Government would not be able to resist the pressure put on them, but they wanted no pressure, because he thought that Her Majesty's Ministers had taken the initiative in the matter. They had a Conservative Ministry then, and they had a better Conservative Ministry now, and he hoped that they would realize in 1875 the splendid promises held out in 1868. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded— The Government proposed to give to Dublin an institution analagous to that of South Kensington, which should not be subordinate to an English establishment, but should be under Irish direction. That reply of the right hon. Gentleman covered the whole ground; and it was impossible to exaggerate the rejoicing which it caused throughout the whole of Ireland. But soon afterwards it began to be whispered that jealousies had broken out amongst the existing bureaux as to who should be ruler, who suppressed, and who absorbed; and later on strong rumours were heard that after all nothing would be done. But hope revived when it became known that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to visit Ireland and see how matters stood for himself. He came over, and a deputation, including the late Sir Benjamin Guinness, waited on the right hon. Gentleman, and then found that the Government had wavered, and modified their promises to this extent, that they referred the matter to a Royal Commission. When this became known, he (Mr. Sullivan) said—" The bureaux will conquer, and we shall have no Museum of Science and Art in Dublin." A Commission was appointed, and if he were opposed to-night he could only be opposed by meeting him with the evidence taken before the Commission. Although the Commission was composed of men of high position in the country, yet he impeached their conduct as a grievous departure from the instructions they received from the Crown; for after perusing their instructions they say— Feeling that the creation of an entirely independent department of science and art would be detrimental to the study of science and art in the country, and believing that we should probably be unable to devise means to carry out your Lordship's opinions, we refer to your Lordship for instructions on the subject, and the Commissioners went on to ask that they might be allowed to report on some other scheme which they might devise, and not on the scheme promised to Ireland by the Government. This Commission took evidence in a spirit, if not hostile, yet adverse, to the intentions of the Government and adverse to the wishes of the Irish people; and this could be shown by the fact that the whole of the witnesses examined on the subject in Dublin, every manufacturer in Ireland, and every independent gentleman and officer gave evidence in favour of the Government proposal; and the only witnesses examined in accordance with the minds of the Commissioners were officials connected with the existing institution. All the independent witnesses said in effect—"South Kensington is a failure, so far as Ireland is concerned; you must have a comprehensive institution, federate the existing societies, place the whole under proper management, and then it will be a success." He would not weary the House by going through the evidence taken before the Commission; he contented himself with this summary, leaving to his opponents—should he have any—the task of refuting his statement. In conclusion, he implored the Government not to aggravate the present evil by delay. He led them to remember that the evil of delay was most grievous to the generation growing up, and that every seven years an apprentice's life was lost to the country. In 1868 they were promised a museum by the Government; the Report of the Commissioners advised that £40,000 or £50,000 should be spent in the erection of a new wing to the Royal Dublin Society's premises, for the purpose of a large gallery of industrial art, but up to the present nothing had been done. The hon. Baronet (Sir Arthur Guinness), complained in 1868 of the delay which had already taken place. He hoped there would be no further delay; the question of a site need not embarrass them. He did not care where the new institution was built, and until it was built the Exhibition Palace might be utilized for the purpose. The Government having broken faith with the Irish public upon this subject, the hon. Baronet the senior Member for the City of Dublin (Sir Arthur Guinness) stepped in and with his own purse he had maintained for two years the expenses of an exhibition of industrial art in that city, and he (Mr. Sullivan) had brought forward this subject out of justice to him, and for the purpose of saying what he thought ought to be said. Earl Spencer had on many occasions deplored the non-existence of such an institution in Dublin, and expressed his hope and belief that the Government to which he belonged would have established one, and he (Mr. Sullivan) hoped and trusted that Earl Spencer's farewell words in advocating its establishment would be realized by the present Government. He also expressed his belief that its accomplishment would not be more heartily welcomed by any one in Ireland than by the present popular nobleman who filled the office of Viceroy of that country.


seconded the Motion, and said that, in the main, he agreed with what had been stated by the hon. Member for Louth. There could be no doubt that the necessity for this art museum and the improvement of art existed in Ireland, for it had been proved over and over again, and admitted by successive Governments and every great authority on that subject. It was no doubt much easier to admit the necessity than to carry out a scheme to place Irish art education in the position in which it should be placed. In 1867 a deputation, of which he was a member, waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the hon. Member for Louth had described, and the result was the appointment of a Royal Commission, which reported in 1869. In 1870, 1871, and 1872, the matter was brought before the Government in Dublin and elsewhere by various societies, and by himself, but nothing was done. In 1870 Lord Spencer admitted the want of a museum of ornamental art for Ireland, and expressed his wish to see one built; and in 1873 Lord Spencer spoke as conveying to his successor the task of carrying it out. In 1874 he (Sir Arthur Guinness), brought the question before the present Government by a Question in the House of Commons. It was received in the kindest way by the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, who promised that the attention of the Government should be directed to it during the Recess. This year he placed a Notice on the Paper to again call attention to the subject, but he postponed it at the request of the Chief Secretary, who, on the part of the Government, stated that it was under the consideration of the Government, and promised that a favourable answer would be given later in the Session. The hon. Member for Louth had taken up the question on independent grounds, and this would show the House that the desire for a museum of industrial art and science existed on both sides of the House, amongst every class and every shade of political opinion. It was quite true that a direction was given to the Commission to report on the founding of a department of science and art in Ireland independent of South Kensington; but he could hardly think, considering the character of the Gentlemen who formed the Commission, and among whom were the Marquess of Kildare (Chairman), Mr. George Alexander Hamilton, Professor Huxley, and Dr. Russell, President of Maynooth, that they deserved the strictures which had been passed upon them by the hon. Member for Louth, because they were obliged, from the evidence, to report against an independent department. He thought that the Commissioners were capable of forming the clearest judgment. But the Report of the Commission clearly showed that the Commissioners considered the Commission would be useless unless the scope of their inquiry was widened. With respect to the subject of the Royal Dublin Society, which had been alluded to, he had the honour of being a member of the Council of that society, and he could not agree with the view which the hon. Member for Louth had taken with regard to it. The hon. Member for Louth had called it a private public society. That, perhaps, was true in fact: but he believed it would be more true to say, with respect to the practice of the society, that it was a public more than a private society because the public interest always came first. The Royal Dublin Society was an old, noble, and useful institution, but he was not there to give the society all it asked for. However, he thought the Report of the Commission was clear enough to solve part of the difficulty, and the rest of the matter might safely be left in the hands of the Government.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, Science and Art Education in Ireland, especially as applied to manufactures and industry, and the diffusion of Technical Instruction amongst the working classes, is in an unsatisfactory and defective condition; and that it is expedient and just, and would be in accordance with promises heretofore made by Ministers of the Crown, as well as with the frequently declared desires of the Irish people, that there should he established in Dublin, Under management calculated to command the confidence of the classes intended to he benefited, a National Institution of Science and Art, with a comprehensive Museum analogous in purpose to and in co-operative connection with, that of South Kensington."—(Mr. Sullivan.)


supported the Motion. He apologized, being an Englishman, for venturing to take part in a discussion which so many Irishmen present must necessarily understand far better than himself. He thought that in this case injustice had been done to art and science in Ireland. He was exceedingly pleased at the moderate way in which the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had brought the subject before the House; but, at the same time, he could not quite agree with the view which the hon. Member took of the Commission. He had carefully read the evidence taken before that Commission, and its Report, with which he cordially agreed, and it was clearly to the effect that it was not advisable to have a separate department of science and art for Ireland. He trusted, however, that Her Majesty's Government would give their favourable consideration to the proposal to establish a school of decorative art in Dublin on a far more extensive scale than at present. One of the recommendations of the Commission was that the School of Art which had been so well conducted by the Royal Dublin Society should be turned into a State school and supported by Imperial funds; and he agreed with the hen. Member for Louth in thinking that the people of Ireland had reason to complain that nothing had yet been done towards carrying out that recommendation. With regard to the grants and payments made to Ireland, there was no doubt, comparing them with the grants made to England and Scotland, that they were infinitesimal. What was wanted with respect to Ireland was to encourage a love of art and science amongst the humbler classes, and that could only be done by establishing a science and art institution in that country; because the humbler classes could not afford to come over to England to study from the beautiful models which were exhibited at South Kensington. It might be asked why he took an interest in this matter; but they must always feel an interest in a country which they felt was behind them in civilization; and as Ireland in the past had suffered wrong at their hands, this presented a favourable opportunity for conciliating the Irish people. They were a people who possessed many virtues and great capacities, and he would say on this occasion— Be to their faults a little blind, Be to their virtues very kind.


expressed his most earnest hope that Her Majesty's Government would give a favourable consideration to the very moderate, reasonable, and wise demand which had been made from the other side of the House. Whenever reasonable and moderate demands came from Ireland, English Members on that side of the House always felt the greatest pleasure in supporting it. He would not enter into the disputed question of the utility of South Kensington Museum; but he would say this—that if a little South Kensington in Dublin would be the means of bringing to industrious and' clever people in Ireland an opportunity of studying art and manufacture, its establishment ought not to be resisted. It was well-known how remarkably successful the Irish were in competitive examinations in England, and it might be of great service to their industries to afford them in their own country, in the manner proposed, an opportunity of entering into competition among themselves. He hoped the Government would be able to see their way to accede to the Motion which had been made.


said, that being neither an Irishman nor an Englishman, he might be excused if he said a few words. He had a considerable number of Irish people in his employment during the last 20 years, and they always seemed to him to be suitable for something better than what they were doing. They were very witty, ready, and faithful; and he felt that if they had a little more assistance to enable them to study art and science they would become a very happy and useful people. It always seemed to him that Ireland was like a child which they were responsible for, and ought to educate in every possible way. If this Motion came to a vote he should certainly support it, and, if necessary, he should give the Irish people some of his money. With the greatest respect, he said, if the Irish people were better educated, of course they would be better satisfied than they now were. A good many of those in his employ could neither read nor write, but the best workman he ever had was an Irishman, who on one occasion had broken down a strike, and ever since he had had a great respect for the Irish people. No doubt the Irish people were a peculiar people for accumulating, and they were therefore obliged to emigrate. He hoped the Government, feeling their responsibility, would do something to educate them.


said, he thought that the hon. Member who had brought forward this Motion must be very well satisfied with the general expression of opinion which had been manifested throughout the House in favour of his proposition, and he could assure him that the feeling which had been so well expressed by both English and Welsh Members was cordially reciprocated by Her Majesty's Government. They, however, looked upon the question not exactly in the light of the hon. Member who had last spoken. They did not consider they ought to look upon Ireland in the relation with which a father regarded his child, but that they ought rather to treat Ireland as an important integral part of the United Kingdom. He could not help feeling that what was good for Ireland must be good for the rest of the Empire; and he ventured to hope that they might be permitted to look upon the question in a broad and liberal spirit, not treating it as an Irish, but as a national, question. Some indication had been given that because this demand was made it ought to be granted, simply because the Irish people asked for it, and without considering whether it was the best thing they could do for them or not. He however, ventured to say that this was scarcely a respectful way of treating the Irish people in this matter. They ought rather to look upon it in the spirit in which they would regard a similar demand put forward by any other part of the United Kingdom. He believed that if the House would look at it in that way they would be brought to a conclusion which would tally with the conclusion of the hon. Member for Louth, but in a still greater degree with the views of the hon. Member for Dublin (Sir Arthur Guinness), although somewhat differing from either. He did not like to say much about himself; but he must observe that he took a peculiar interest in this question. The hon. Member for Louth had reminded the House that this question of art education was attracting more and more interest in the United Kingdom. That was perfectly true, and he might venture to remark that for a very long time he had in some way or other taken an active part in the matter. In the early part of his official life he took an interest in the School of Design, about which the hon. Member had spoken; he was also interested in the Great Exhibition which had been alluded to, and it was also his privilege, during the period of his administration at the Board of Trade, to have assisted in establishing the Science and Art Department which was afterwards formed. He had also had some experience of schools of art in the country, and he was altogether confirmed in his views of the importance and advantages of the question. The hon. Member, in speaking of South Kensington, had treated it too much as an English institution, and as one which was not of very great utility to Ireland. In commenting on the Report of the Committee of which Lord Kildare was Chairman, the hon. Member had spoken in depreciatory language of the official evidence that had been taken before it. But the officials in question had been very zealous and patient in the matter, and had done their best not to magnify the merits of this or that institution, but to do all they could for the general interests of the country. He was, however, quite prepared to say that he did not think they had yet attained to a really proper system. He believed there was room for a great deal more exertion and assistance on the part of the State for the promotion of education in science and art; and, more than that, he believed that a great deal of the assistance which was given might be given more satisfactorily. There was a waste of power and a waste of money; but, notwithstanding this, great advances had been made, and he believed the system was one which had real life in it, and which might be easily developed until it met the educational wants of the country. He would draw the attention of the hon. Member for Louth to this fact—that they had to distinguish between two functions at South Kensington—namely, the functions of a museum and those of a great art school, and they ought to consider how far the good it did was capable of being broken up into separate South Kensingtons in different parts of the country. With regard to the system of teaching, he thought it would be a great misfortune if we were to break up the general principles on which the system of teaching was founded. A great deal would be sacrificed if we threw up the advantages of the school of art at South Kensington as the centre and mother of all other art schools in the country. There was one great advantage which took place from what occurred in 1851. Before that time there were schools of art in the different seats of manufacture—in Manchester, Birmingham, Dublin, Belfast, and Cork—but it was not until we were able to bring them under one system, of which South Kensington was made the focus, that we gave the impulse the right direction. He thought it would be a great pity to sacrifice the advantages arising from the centre of South Kensington; but he believed that a great deal more might be done to improve the various branch schools throughout the country, and that that object ought to be kept in view. He did not know much of the practical working of the system, but the President and Vice President of the Council were thoroughly impressed with the importance of making South Kensington collect into a focus for diffusing throughout the country art education. Beyond the question of education there was another, and that was what was to be done with the art museum? We had a magnificent collection, unparelleled in the world, but the mere accumulation of these treasures at South Kensington was far short of what the country required, and it was desirable that not alone in Ireland, but in various other parts of Great Britain, different neighbourhoods and localities should have collections of their own. It was a great object that we should have efficient and adequate museums in some of our principal seats of industry in this country, and also in Ireland, and that South Kensington should be brought into relation with these museums with the view of assisting them by a proper system of loans of the articles which were possessed in London. He thought the Imperial Government and Treasury might assist these local museums, especially if they were met with that munificence which characterized many of our great seats of industry, as well as Dublin and other parts of Ireland. It would be one of the objects of the Government to endeavour to meet in a liberal spirit exertions of that kind. He entirely agreed with the sentiments expressed by many speakers that there was amongst the Irish people an aptitude for art, which it was the duty and interest of the Government to encourage. He remembered that in the school in Cork there were casts by Foley which were distinguished almost above those of any school of design established in any part of the Kingdom; and; from what he had heard of the students who came from Ireland, he was convinced that they were able to hold their own in competition with those from any other part of the Kingdom. The artistic genius of Irishmen was not a thing of the past, but of the present also; and this natural genius ought to be developed and encouraged. He did not think the hon. Member for South "Warwickshire (Sir Eardley Wilmot) was quite correct when he spoke of the amount given to Ireland being so infinitesimally small as compared with that given to other parts of the United Kingdom. A Return moved for by the hon. Member for Durham showed the sums derived from Parliamentary grants expended in each year since 1852 for science and art in England, Scotland, and Ireland respectively; and, taken according to the population, the apportionment seemed to be very fair for each part of the Kingdom. At the same time, he thought the money spent in Ireland might be somewhat augmented, and that its administration might be improved. There was a good deal of waste in the way in which these funds were distributed amongst the different institutions in Dublin, and he thought it would be an object to endeavour to bring about something in the nature of a more central museum, and perhaps the lines which were laid down in the Report of Lord Kildare's Commission were those which it might be well to follow. This was a subject which was now engaging the attention of the Government, and which they were most anxious to entertain, and he could promise the hon. Member for Louth, and the House generally, that it should not be for want of examination on the part of the Government during the approaching Recess if they did not arrive at some satisfactory step in regard to this matter. He thought they might be able to devise some plan by which they might be able to meet what he admitted was a very legitimate desire. In saying this, he wished to guard himself from indicating that they would in any sense break up the great central institution at South Kensington, or ignore the advantages to be gained by having a properly centralized system. The great problem was to harmonize, as far as possible, central assistance with local agency and local administration. He hoped the hon. Member would be satisfied with the assurance which he could give him on the part of the Government. He was speaking quite in earnest in saying that they would take this matter up seriously and deal with it without unnecessary delay; but he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not pledge them to any particular scheme such as that embodied in his Motion.


regretted that no Member on the front Opposition bench had risen to state why Lord Kildare's Report of 1868 had remained so long in abeyance. He thought the plan which the right hon. Gentleman had shadowed forth was much more likely to meet the approbation of the people of Ireland generally than the plan submitted by the hen. Member for Louth. He thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his full and encouraging statement.


observed that the late Government had been anxious to do something in the direction which had been pointed out, but the large measures in which they had been engaged had prevented them from carrying their wishes into effect. They had left the ground clear for the present Government to deal with museums and matters of art.


observed, that centralization in art had the same effect as centralization in education, and he was convinced that it was destructive to all excellence. The houses in Dublin, the residences of noblemen and gentlemen before the Union, which were now appropriated to Government and educational institutions exhibited, both externally and internally, a style and character of architecture which contrasted favourably with buildings of the same class in this country. There was a distinct school of plastic art, and the decorated ceilings were far superior to similar works in England. What was wanted in Ireland was a system of federation of the schools of art in Dublin, and he believed that the removal from them of the shackles which existed would do more good for them than any other process. He urged the House not to dwarf art education in Ireland by centralizing everything at South Kensington. For his part, he should like to see a national school of art established in Scotland and a national school in Ireland, and would allow them to compete with each other.


said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had misconceived his object. He had never contemplated that South Kensington should be broken up, or that a kindred institution should be established at Dublin having no connection with South Kensington. But while he accepted the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as being satisfactory on the whole, he warned him not to attempt to go too far in the direction of centralization. He would withdraw his Motion on the understanding that the Government would, as they had promised, take up the whole subject at the earliest possible period.


said, he was not able to join in the feeling of satisfaction which had been expressed in reference to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the same time, he could not help hoping that the wishes of the supporters of the views entertained by the hon. Member for Louth would be realized.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.