§ (Viscount Sandon, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Assheton Cross.)
§ [BILL 277.] THIRD READING.
§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a third time."—(Viscount Sandon.)
§ MR. RICHARD
I wish, before the third reading of this Bill is put from the Chair, to record my last protest against it, and to declare my conviction that it is the worst Bill, the most unjust, the most reactionary, the most tyrannical in spirit, that has been brought before Parliament since Lord Bolingbroke proposed his Schism Bill in the reign of Queen Anne. The object of that measure was the same as this—to put the education of the people of this country in the hands of the Church of England by discouraging and suppressing all other kinds of education. That failed utterly and ignominiously, as it deserved to fail, and as I hope this also will fail. I believe the Party opposite have taken an unwise as well as an unfair advantage of their position as being temporarily in possession of a great majority. They seem to me to have tried to do every thing that was most obnoxious and offensive to this side of the House. They know that a large number of hon. Gentlemen who sit here, as well as a powerful party out-of-doors, attach the greatest importance and value to school boards, because they call in the people themselves to take part in the work of educating their own children. But the Party opposite have been aiming at the very existence of school boards. If all the Amendments they put on the Paper had been carried, it would have brought that existence into imminent jeopardy—and I must say that the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) himself has done not a little by his speeches to throw discredit on those bodies. Then with regard to denominational schools, there are many of us here, and tens of thousands out-of-doors, 567 who maintain that the attempt to make national education sectarian is an absurdity and a contradiction in terms, and that it is impossible to have a denominational system imposed upon the people with adequate securities for the rights of conscience. And yet, in the face of this, you are, by this Bill, strengthening, and extending, and intensifying the denominational system. Then comes the 25th clause, which, as it existed even under the Act of 1870, was utterly repugnant to large bodies of persons in the country, because it involved the principle of concurrent endowment, making everybody to pay for teaching everybody else's religion, and because it is practically an acknowledgment on the part of the Government of utter indifference as respects religion, since by paying all sects alike it proclaims aloud its belief that all religions are equally true, or equally false, or equally worthless. But by this Bill you make that clause harder than ever by making it compulsory instead of optional. And all this is done on the plea of zeal for religious education. Now, I do not wish to call in question the perfect sincerity of the loud professions which hon. Gentlemen opposite have made of their own religiousness. But I do not think the best way of showing our regard for religion is to put it into an Act of Parliament, and to force it upon others. I must say that when I listened to the vociferous cheers with which hon. Gentlemen opposite have greeted any allusion to the Bible, or the Church, or religious education, I could not help being reminded of Tom Hood's lines—A man may cry Church! Church! at every word,With no more piety than other people:The daw's not reckoned a religious birdBecause he keeps caw, cawing from the steeple.It is curious to observe the effect which the word "secular" produces upon hon. Gentlemen opposite. It seems to have the same effect upon them as it is said a red rag has upon a bull, rousing them into fury. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), whose sound judgment and generous feelings always keep him, in spite of his fervid Celtic temperament, within the bounds of good taste, indulged yesterday in declamations on this subject which filled me with astonishment and some pain, as coming from him. He told the House that secular education would produce only skilful or clever infidels. But do 568 hon. Gentlemen who say such things really mean gravely to aver that all knowledge that is not directly religious or theological is profane and unholy, and has a tendency to produce infidelity? Does my hon. Friend maintain that to teach a child writing, and arithmetic, and grammar, and geography, and geology, and botany, and other natural sciences, will make him an infidel? Now, I venture to say this—that any Church which fears knowledge, though it be but natural knowledge, which wishes to exclude light unless it passes through an ecclesiastical spectrum, through its ownStoried windows, richly dight,Shedding a dim religious light—often a very dim religious light—stands self-condemned, because it fears the truth. Now, if all secular knowledge and all secular pursuits are perilous to the welfare of the soul, what a plight we must be in who sit in this House, for we are generally dealing here with purely secular matters; and I cordially wish we never dealt with any other than secular matters, for I believe that our discussions of religious questions do very Little to promote the interests or to foster the spirit of religion. I wish to explain once more to hon. Gentlemen opposite what our views are on this subject. No one wishes the children of our people to be left without religious instruction. I protest against the persistent misrepresentations made on this point. There are many hon. Gentlemen who sit on these Benches who are as deeply and earnestly anxious that the children should be brought up under religious influence as any hon. Gentleman opposite. But what we contend for is, that in a country like ours, where there is so great a diversity of religious opinion, you cannot, in rate-supported or State-supported schools, give religious instruction without trenching on the rights of conscience; that, therefore, the religious instruction must be given at other times and by other persons—in a word, that there must be united secular and separate religious instruction. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who declaim against this principle do not seem to be aware that it was first introduced into the educational system of this country by two great Conservative statesmen, Sir Robert Peel and the late Lord Derby. In 1845 Sir Robert Peel brought forward his scheme for 569 establishing the Queen's Colleges in Ireland. Sir James Graham, in introducing the measure in this House, stated very explicitly that if the projected institutions were to be, as they were intended to be, for the use of men of all creeds in Ireland, it would be impossible to give any theological or religious instruction whatever. Then Sir Robert Harry Inglis—a most admirable man in many respects, though somewhat narrow ecclesiastically—immediately followed Sir James Graham, and inquired whether he was to understand that there was to be no religious instruction given in the Colleges? Sir James Graham assented, and forthwith Sir Robert Inglis denounced the scheme as "a gigantic system of Godless education."And yet that was the system introduced by the Conservative Government of that day, and supported, I believe, by the whole strength of the Conservative Party. Then, in 1832, the late Lord Derby, then Lord Stanley, and Chief Secretary for Ireland under Lord Grey's administration, introduced the Irish system of national education. That was originally intended to be founded on precisely the same principle as that adopted by the Birmingham League, and practised by the Birmingham School Board, of united secular and separate religious instruction. There can be no doubt on this point, because the original draft of Lord Stanley's letter to the Duke of Leinster, in which he expounded his scheme, is still extant. The Royal Commissioners on Irish Education, who reported in 1870, say—In that draft the plan projected by the Government was described as one of combined literary and separate religious instruction, each department altogether to exclude the other.And Mr. Carlyle, the resident Commissioner of the Irish system of Education, in whose hands really the whole administration of it rested, said in a letter to The Times in 1854—The system proposed in Lord Stanley's letter was certainly a system of united secular and separate religious instruction.But there is another incidental evidence of a curious character to confirm this. Some hon. Gentlemen here may be aware that before the system of national education was introduced in Ireland, the Government used to help education in that country by giving grants to a society known as the Kildare Street Society, something like the British and 570 Foreign School Society. Now all the religious instruction given in the Kildare Street Society's schools, consisted of reading a portion of Scripture at the opening of the school, either from the received version, or the Douay version. And yet Lord Stanley, in his speech in this House, declared that even this minimum of religious instruction was too much for Ireland, because the Roman Catholics objected to the reading of the Scriptures without note or comment. Furthermore, the resident Commissioner, Mr. Carlyle, gave evidence, in 1837, before a Committee of this House, that—It was strictly correct to say that if the term 'school hours'is understood to apply to those hours for which the board supplies tuition, and not merely permits it, the Scriptures cannot be read during school hours in the schools of the board.He said further, it was considered—That the board does not take cognizance of the religious instruction at all, but that they allow every denomination to take care of itself, through the clergyman." That—"with the separate religious instruction the Commissioners have nothing to do; they have no power of enforcing separate religious instruction at all. If it be not given, the fault is not with the system, but with those who neglect their duty." The Commissioners "employ no one to give the separate instruction beyond the school-house, neither school books, nor other means.And, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) said yesterday, in 1866 there was a very remarkable declaration made in favour of this system, signed by 2,754 members of the United Churches of England and Ireland. The signatures comprised the Lord Primate of all Ireland; the Lord Justice of Appeal; Noblemen, 45; Bishops, 5; deputy-lieutenants, 146; justices of the peace (not deputy-lieutenants), 146; clergymen, 733; professional men, country gentlemen, and merchants, 800; miscellaneous signatures, about 387; total, 2,754. The declaration says—We, the undersigned members of the United Church of England and Ireland, desire to express our earnest hope that the principle of united secular education, as opposed to the denominational system, may be maintained in Ireland.And thus hon. Gentlemen will see that the scheme they have been denouncing as some terrible innovation introduced by the Birmingham League, or started by Dissenters to sub serve some sinister sectarian purpose, owes its birth. 571 to Conservative statesmanship, and has Primates and Bishops for its sponsors. But I can call in a more recent witness, whose testimony will, I am sure, be received with respect by hon. Gentlemen opposite—no other than the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope). In the discussions that took place on the Bill of 1870, the hon. Gentleman suggested a plan identical with that of the Birmingham League. These are his words—A solution of the religious difficulty might, perhaps, be found in encouraging the different denominations to send voluntary—and, it might be, unpaid—teachers into the rate-created schools to teach religion, these teachers being either laymen or ministers. They would give instruction according to their own formularies to those only who pleased to attend. There is sufficient religious zeal amongst the various denominations to incite them to provide voluntary teachers for day-schools as they now did for Sunday schools."—[3 Hansard, ccii. 552.]Now that is absolutely the plan now in operation in the Birmingham School Board schools, and I really must suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham whether he ought not to propose the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge as honorary Vice President of the Birmingham League. Now, in regard to this Bill, I find it hard to believe that the people of this country will long submit to have the education of their children placed in priestly hands—especially at a time when priestly pretensions are becoming every day more exorbitant and audacious. That this is so I can prove by the authority of a very distinguished Member of this House. The speech from which I am about to quote was delivered at a Church Congress held at Wolverhampton in 1867. The speaker is referring to the hindrance to Church extension, and says—One great hindrance to Church extension is the impression that widely prevails, and I think not without cause, that not only among the High Church clergy, but also among the clergy generally, there is a strong growth of what I may broadly call a priestly feeling….During the last few years every one must have observed more and more, even among clergymen of the Evangelical and moderate party, a steady, quiet, stealthy growth—though without the least guile or sinister intention—of the feeling that the clergy are a priestly order….We believe that that feeling is the parent of great and serious evils….We believe it leads to inordinate multiplication and the bur- 572 den some infliction of rites and ceremonies. We believe that when the temporal power will assist, it leads to the extermination of all who differ from the priestly body. We believe that the priestly idea leads to the establishment of another master in every household, by every hearth, in the place of the husband and the father. We believe, and history shows us, in all creeds, in all times, and in all countries, the same thing—that this priestly feeling ends in raising up and establishing a human, artificial barrier between man and his God.Then comes a remark in which I very cordially concur—Let me remind you that ever since the art of printing resulted in the distribution of books throughout the country—ever since knowledge ceased to be the exclusive possession of the clergy, there has been no faltering in the determination of the people not to have a priestly rule in England.Now at the head of that speech I find the name of the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon). And I confess I find it hard to understand how the noble Lord, who, with so much apparent sincerity, deplores the growth of the priestly feeling among all classes of the clergy of the Church of England, and has described in such graphic language the terrible fruits of that feeling, can have allowed himself to be made the instrument of pressing through this House a Bill the tendency and object of which is to consign the education of the people of this country, to a large extent, at least, into the hands of those very clergy. Now, Sir, in conclusion, I wish distinctly to give notice that I, for one, do not accept this Bill as a settlement of the education question. I hope we may consider, after the Motion proposed by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) on the Report, that that is the conclusion of the whole Liberal Party—that we feel ourselves at liberty, whenever we have the opportunity, to reverse the unjust and tyrannical policy embodied in this Bill.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he regretted that he could not vote for the third reading of the Bill. He was not one of those who voted against the second reading, because he thought that it was a distinct educational advance, and because he relied upon the statement of the noble Lord that it was no way intended to reverse the principles of the Act of 1870, or to aggravate the religious difficulty; but, unfortunately, the noble Lord at a later period gave way to the reactionary views of some who sat behind him, and introduced 573 clauses utterly subversive of the Act of 1870, which would greatly aggravate the religious difficulty. In his opinion, therefore, faith had not been kept with the House of Commons. He was convinced that if the Bill had been introduced in its present shape it never would have passed the House of Commons. He entered his protest, therefore, not only against the action of the Government, but also against the spirit of aggressive sectarianism which had been introduced into the Bill, and which, he believed, would give rise to great agitation, and would ultimately end in the destruction of the denominational system.
§ Mr. BIRLEY
said, that he very much agreed with what the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) had said with regard to priestly influence. While he (Mr. Birley) would be the last person to abolish that influence entirely, it should be kept under proper control; and if this was not the case it was the fault of the laity of the country. They had an ample opportunity of taking their proper share in the management even of denominational schools, for their co-operation was generally invited and welcomed by the clergy. Indeed, the fact was, the Department required that there should be more than one manager, so that a layman must in almost every case be associated with a clergyman. It was a curious fact that the allegations made about violations of the rights of conscience were always confined to the case of Church and Roman Catholic schools, and never were applied to the various Nonconformist schools. There was no such feeling in the localities themselves, for children freely attended the day schools of the Church of England where there were no others, and yet went to the Nonconformist Sunday schools. He distinctly challenged the assertion that faith had not been kept with the House. All the clauses which were objected to had been carried by the whole body of the Ministerial side of the House, and had been accepted by many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. He hoped that when the Bill became law the acrimonious views which now prevailed would disappear, and as in his own neighbourhood the principles of this Bill were already acted upon with very great success he did not see why the same results should not be achieved elsewhere.
MR. J. COWEN
said, that so many speeches had been delivered on this Bill in that House during the last two months that it was all but impossible for any one now to give utterance to a new idea respecting it, or detect a new point in it. He, however, thought strongly and felt keenly on the subject, and before the Bill passed its final stage he wished to record his opinion on the measure. He might ask permission to do that more confidently, as he had not opposed the Bill in any of its stages by unnecessary talking, or by promoting uncalled-for divisions. He knew the views he held were unpopular in that Assembly, but he held them sincerely, had striven over many years to promote them, and, although only entertained by a small minority there, they had the adherence of an intelligent body amongst their countrymen outside. The noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) had on more than one occasion accused hon. Members who sat in that part of the House of inconsistency in their opposition to his measure. One section of them, he said, objected to it because it was feeble and incomplete; another censured it because it was too stringent and severe. The difference in these two charges was more apparent than real. As an educational project the Bill was weak, but as a piece of legislative mechanism for strengthening denominational schools, increasing the influence and adding to the authority of the clergy of the Church of England, it was in no sense deficient in power. The Government admitted that it was impossible to secure universality of primary instruction except by compulsion. This, coming as it did from the other side of the House, was a distinct gain. A few years ago, hon. Gentlemen opposite would not have made such a confession. But instead of putting that principle in force by the easiest, simplest, and fairest process—namely, direct compulsion, by the instrumentality of boards specially appointed for the purpose, they had devised an indirect system at once cumbersome, complicated, and complex. He certainly did not share the sentiments of hon. Gentlemen opposite as to school boards, but he was bound to say that he was not altogether surprised at their hostility to these boards. School boards had really been established in a most unhappy manner. They had been, by the action of the late Government, forced 575 upon the country as a species of punishment. The framers of the Act of 1870 said, in effect, this—"We have no objection to sectarian schools; on the contrary we approve of them, and if the supporters of these establishments will cover the country with them, we will aid them in their work by substantial subsidies from the national Exchequer; but if the supporters of denominational schools will not do this, then we will compel them to form school boards." It was to be regretted that such opposition had been shown to these institutions, but called into existence in this way, and as a threat and a punishment, he repeated he was not astonished at the hostility they had engendered, and at hon. Gentlemen opposite attempting, now they had the power, to get quit of them. Yet he thought if their opponents would quietly and calmly review the origin and the history of school boards, they would see grounds to modify their dislike to them. These bodies came into being at a period of some political excitement, when sectarian passions were aroused and Party feeling ran high. The mode of electing their members was the worst—perhaps the very worst—that could have been devised. He did not know the motive for fixing on such a mode for electing members of school boards, but he was quite certain that the effect had been to emasculate these institutions. Through its instrumentality persons hostile to the boards had in hundreds of instances been elected members, and they had ostentatiously proclaimed it to be their intention to make the work of education by their means a failure. They had striven—sometimes, he feared, with success—to weaken the influence of the boards, and to curtail their power. They had, too, persistently exaggerated their cost, and thus attempted to rouse popular prejudice against them. The working of these boards had also been judged most unfairly. Everyone knew that no school could fairly get into good working order till it had been in existence six or seven years. It required that time to get its educational machinery adjusted. School boards had scarcely been formed six years, and few school-board schools had been fully at work three. Yet they had had repeated comparisons in that House, of the work of newly-formed board schools, with the work of sectarian schools which had been 576 labouring from 10 to 12 or 20 years. That was scarcely just. But, notwithstanding these drawbacks, in spite of their unfortunate origin, their more unfortunate mode of election, and the steady hostility and injustice that had been shown to them, school boards, wherever they had had a moderately fair trial, had produced the most gratifying results. In some places they had increased the school attendance by 60, in some by 80, and in others by 100 per cent. This, however, was not all. School boards had given in many places a new and healthy impulse to the cause of education. The formation of school boards had stimulated the managers of other schools to greater exertion; and the result had been that in some districts the whole scope of the educational machinery had been broadened and bettered. This indirect influence for good had scarcely been second to the direct benefit that the institutions had conferred. He was best acquainted with the North of England, and he believed he could say of that part of the country school boards had almost universally been attended with the most encouraging results. Wherever they had been honestly tried, they had succeeded. He, too, was willing to bear his testimony to the fact that in the locality to which he had referred, much of the hostility felt by many members to school boards had disappeared when they had got rightly into action. When the strongest opponents met round the board table to discuss the practical details of the work of education, they gradually rubbed down the corners of each other's prejudices; and in the process of contact they all became fairer and more tolerant. He regretted deeply that the Government had consented to allow any of these useful and much-maligned institutions, even under such stringent conditions as had been agreed to, to be superseded. He was even more sorry to hear the tone and spirit in which the noble Lord and other hon. Gentlemen near him had spoken of them. Such speeches could not fail to generate and sustain a spirit of distrust towards institutions which were calculated to work a great social betterance, and which, if fostered and encouraged, would in time elevate and re-cast the whole character of English national life. Instead of forming school boards, the Government were going to use Councils in 577 boroughs for applying compulsion. He could not say that he had any strong objection to that proposal. Town Councils were elected by, and responsible to, the ratepayers. They were popularly elected institutions. His only objection to throwing upon them educational duties was that they already had as much work to do as they could do well. They had already committed to them great sanitary and municipal responsibilities; and to impose upon them other labours would, he thought, be unwise. But if any other body except such as was specially elected for the purpose had to control our educational agencies, he would prefer Town Councils to any existing organizations. As the borough councils had to apply compulsion, he was sorry the Government had not gone further, and committed to them all the powers of school boards. If, as well as making compulsory bye-laws, the councils could also have had authority to build schools where and when required, and to superintend the work of education in their boroughs, his (Mr. Cowen's) objection to the Bill would have been considerably modified. But while he had no objection to municipal corporation undertaking the supervision of schools in their respective boroughs, he had the strongest objection to Boards of Guardians doing the same work. Poor Law Guardians stood on a different footing from members of Town Councils. Apart from the fact that the votes of popularly elected Guardians were often neutralized by the number of elective, or ex-officio Guardians, the application of Sturges Bourne's Act to the Poor Law systems gave large owners of property a preponderating influence in their deliberations. To state the question roughly, he might say that the Guardians in too many instances represented property and not the people. Indeed, this was what was intended by the Poor Law Amendment Act. It was openly contended at the time that measure became law that the relief of the poor was only an organized and legalized system of charity—the contribution of the rich to the support of the needy and destitute; it was only fair that the men who contributed the largest portion of this charity ought to have the greatest amount of control over its distribution; and he (Mr. Cowen) did not very well see what answer could be made to that contention. 578 But while the system of electing Guardians might be equitable enough when the administration of the Poor Law was only to be considered, it failed entirely to meet national requirements when popular education was to be considered. Dispensing parochial relief was one thing, and regulating the education of a district was another and very different thing. The qualifications for the offices differed, and men fitted for one task might be, and often would be, altogether unfitted for the other. He was opposed on other grounds to the working people being brought too closely in contact with the administration of the Poor Law. It had a tendency to familiarize them with proceedings and practices which could not fail to depreciate their spirit of independence, and, possibly, in the end, degrade them. The less contact the mass of the people had with pauperizing agencies the better. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side spoke on this question as though the whole of England consisted of Lancashire and the agricultural districts. Indeed, nothing surprised him more in the discussions on this Bill than the ignorance which hon. Gentlemen from one part of the country had displayed concerning the habits and thoughts of the people in other parts. He could assure his hon. Friends opposite that there were other districts in Britain than those to which they were so strongly connected by material and public ties. There were "hills beyond Pent land and lands beyond Forth;" and he could say for the North-east part of England that the mass of the independent and intelligent working people there shrank from all possible contact with workhouses. Labouring men would suffer the cravings of hunger, amounting almost to starvation, rather than they would subject themselves to the humiliation, and what they not unnaturally thought the disgrace, of being compelled to seek subsistence from a parish dole. He felt that that spirit of independence ought to be sustained, and not weakened; it might seem a hard thing to say, but it was not at all clear to him that the plan followed in France of the people supporting them selve entirely and having no Poor Law to fall back upon, would not, if tried, have a tendency to increase the sense of manhood in the British agricultural labourer. Nothing to him appeared more 579 indicative of a low state of intelligence and independence than the unblushing manner in which labourers in the agricultural districts of the Midland and Western counties would, for months together, throw themselves upon the support of the poor rate. He could assure hon. Gentlemen that such was not the practice of workmen in the part of the country from which he came; and he could not but regret that the tendency of the Bill would be to diminish that spirit of self-help. As indicating the correctness of what he said, he referred to the fact that although in the North of England they had had a prolonged period of commercial depression, the number of persons supported by the poor rate, and the amount paid for parochial relief, did not increase. If the educational machinery of the country, however, was mixed up with pauperism, the sentiment of dislike that now attached to all contact with the business of Guardians would be weakened and possibly destroyed. A further objection he had to the Guardians taking these educational duties was that the main point they considered was rates. How to keep the rates down was the "be all and end all" of the official labours of a large proportion of the members of rural Boards. This might be all well enough if viewed from a parochial or pauper point of view, but from an educational standpoint such a narrow estimate of public duties was to be deprecated. It might be quite necessary to be stringently economical in the administration of the Poor Law; but the work of national education, if it was to be pursued with advantage, ought to be administered in a spirit of generous and wise liberality such as he feared the Guardians, both by their training, and instincts, and experience, were scarcely qualified to perform. As another illustration of the curious way in which Guardians sometimes measured the duties and responsibilities of their officials, he would refer to a statement recently made at an agricultural meeting in one of the Midland counties. It would appear that several members of a Board in that district had, not in their capacity as Guardians, but as ratepayers, to appoint a schoolmaster. The man they selected for the office was postmaster, farmer, butcher, assistant-overseer, road surveyor, and organist. The 580 object in appointing the man to all these offices was simply to save the rates by giving him many duties to perform, and thereby getting him at a lower salary. The efficiency of the teacher was not taken into account. The smallness of the salary was the only point that weighed with the Guardians in question. To show the different way in which in a large town such matters were managed, he might state that recently in Newcastle they had erected a large unsectarian school; that they had in it 1,200 scholars; and although it was simply an elementary school, they gave the head teacher £400 a-year, and paid the assistant-masters in proportion. This school, even with that liberal remuneration, was made to sustain itself without other support than was afforded by the children's pence and Government grants. Another objection he had to the Guardians was that, as a rule, the farmers and the country gentleman generally were not very warm supporters of education. He did not wish to do any class of his fellow-countrymen an injustice; but he had a strong impression that the section of the community to which he referred were in no sense enthusiastic admirers of the educational policy that was now generally approved. He could recollect the time when it was openly stated at agricultural meetings that the best workmen were the least educated. Again and again, they had heard landlords and farmers declare that when the men got too well-informed, they became dissatisfied and discontented. They sought to better their condition by either asking for additional wages, migrating to the large towns, or emigrating to America or the colonies. Though these anti-educational principles, it was true, were not openly advocated now, they had still a lingering attraction for many. They had bubbled up in all directions from hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side during these debates. Again and again, they had had undisguised expressions of disapproval at the unnecessary time that was spent on educational matters. The direct advocacy of ignorance was not now popular. It was fashionable to support education; and in this country when anything became fashionable it always became despotic and Imperial. Persons, however, who did not openly object to education, did not hesitate to say that the smallest 581 amount of elementary instruction was sufficient for the working man. He had been astonished, and pained to hear some Gentlemen on that side of the House uphold that doctrine. He entirely and emphatically repudiated it. If there was one body of men in the country more than another that required a good education it was the working man. A rich man could afford to be both ignorant and stupid. He could pay an educated man to manage his affairs and conduct his correspondence; but a poor man had no other capital save his intelligence. His stock-in-trade was his knowledge; and instead of attempting to reduce the standard of education, he (Mr. Cowen) thought it was their duty and interest to largely raise it. It was a disgrace to the country, educationally considered, that the standard was so much below what it was in Saxony, Switzerland, America, and in other nations. For the grounds that he had stated, he was opposed, then, to the committing of any educational duties to the members of Poor Law Unions—first, because these gentlemen, as he had said, represented property and not the people; second, the main consideration with them was the "rates," and not efficiency; and third, that, as a body, the section of the community to which he referred was not distinguished for their attachment to, or admiration for, popular instruction. He admitted, however, that in many places the education would practically be handed over, through the instrumentality of school committees and their influences, to the hands of the parish parson, the squire, and a few of their immediate friends. But even that change would scarcely be beneficial. The clergy and the squirearchy had little, if any, more Liberal views on educational matters than the farmers. As a specimen of the sort of teaching given in sectarian schools, he would quote some remarks made at a meeting of Church of England educationists recently, at Cheetwood, near Manchester. On the occasion referred to, Mr. Leresche, the school treasurer, made this significant remark, which he (Mr. Cowen) commended to the consideration of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council. In the course of his speech Mr. Leresche said it was their intention to get from the Committee of Council on Education as 582 much as they could, and afterwards carry out their own way as far as possible. But it was to the singular speech of another, and more influential man, that he wished to draw the attention of the House. The gentleman in question was a man of ability, energy, and high personal character—he was a near relative of the late Speaker of the House of Commons, and Vicar of East Brent. His remarks at the meeting alluded to were thus reported—Archdeacon Denison, in proposing cheers for the Chairman, referred to the school question, and said when the School Inspectors were inspecting the schools in Somerset some years ago, and had done all their other parishes, they said—'Now, let's toss up who goes to East Brent.' [Laughter.] They knew it was not a safe business. [Renewed laughter.] When the Inspector whose lot it was to go to East Brent arrived, he waited upon him(the Archdeacon) and told him his business. He (Archdeacon Denison) said to him—'Well, you are a big man, and not very easy to manage; but I'll tell you fairly that if you come here again, I shall lock the school door, and tell the boys to put you into the pond.' [Great laughter.] He went away and never came again. [Laughter.] Eleven years after that another Inspector went to him, and said—'Perhaps you will allow me to inspect your school.' He (Archdeacon Denison) replied that he did not like Inspectors, that he hated them—he did not wish to hate anybody, and he loved them as Christians and as men, but he hated and detested them as officials, but he told the man that he could go and inspect the school if he liked. The Inspector said he would go, and after he had been there, he (Archdeacon Denison) said to his wife—'Let's go and see what that man's doing. He's been there two hours now, and has had time to spoil the whole of the children in the school.' [Laughter.] They got into the school just as he was finishing, and were informed by the Inspector that he had nearly done, to which he (Archdeacon Denison) replied that he was glad to hear it. [Laughter.] 'Did the children ever sing?' the Inspector asked. 'Oh, yes,' Archdeacon Denison replied, and turning to his wife asked her to start them. His wife had been teaching the children to sing 'Goosey, Goosey Gander,' and after getting their voices into tune, the children struck up—'Goosey, Goosey Gander,Whither do you wander,Upstairs and downstairs,And in the ladies' chamber.'Old Father LonglegsDidn't say his prayers,So they took him by the left legAnd threw him down the stairs.'[Laughter.] When the Inspector heard about 'Daddy Longlegs' not saying his prayers, it had such an effect upon him that he thought it was a personal reflection on himself, and went away; and he (the Archdeacon) had never seen 583 an Inspector, either diocesan, or any other, since, and he hoped he never would. [Great laughter."]This was the sort of education given, and the manner in which, he feared, children of the Church schools too often spent their time. They long complained of the low standard of education amongst large sections of the people; but he did not see how they could expect any higher scale of instruction, if the children's time were spent in singing such silly doggerel as this typical Church clergyman boasted he taught to the scholars in his schools. He had heard it affirmed repeatedly in that House during the last few weeks that Churchof England clergymen were the most disinterested and energetic supporters of education in the country. They had been commended and complimented for their activity in this work without stint. He, however, could not assent to the unqualified praise that had been bestowed upon the parsons. He had had no in considerable experience in the work of popular education. Some of the pleasantest, and certainly, in a public sense, the most useful days of his life had been spent in promoting educational projects. He had been treasurer, teacher, secretary, and president of more than one Mechanics' Institution for the last 20 years, and for nearly the whole of that period he had been secretary of the Northern Union of Mechanics' Institutes; and all he could say from that rather extended experience was, that he had never found the Church of England clergy at all enthusiastic in the support of such societies, or in such education as they conferred. He had oftener found them opponents than friends, and rather antagonists than helpers. It was quite true that the Church of England clergy supported Church schools, but no other kind of schools. In the general work of education, apart from the Church, they took little interest, and in not a few instances the clergy were opposed to it. They were concerned upon no educational matter unless they were the directors, and it was under the guidance and influence of the Establishment. They used these schools too frequently, he feared, as proselytizing arenas for the Church. Of course there were exceptions, but that was his general experience. He was opposed entirely to the idea that the education of the masses was 584 a clerical question. On the other hand, it was, or ought to be, a national work, and one in which the people themselves, and not the parsons, should have the main direction. They were told that it was absolutely essential to give religious along with secular instruction, but he maintained that they could not teach religion in schools. They might teach dogmatic theology. Nay, they could not even teach that. Teaching pre-supposed that the person who learned understood what he was taught; and it was ridiculous to suppose that children could understand their abstruse creeds, collects, and catechisms. All they could do was to compel the scholars to get these formularies off by rote, but that was not teaching. He asked hon. Gentlemen if they seriously thought it was possible to drive religion into a child of from 10 to 12 years of age by three feet of cane, a birch-rod, or a strap of leather? Religion was not a system of manners, or a mere form of praise, or prayer, which evaporated with the repetition of a number of unfelt words. Religion was heart-worship, and its abiding principles gentleness and love; and he was satisfied that the harsh treatment and noisy surroundings of many of our schools were not calculated to encourage the growth of these kindly and generous sympathies. In our system of education, he thought many hon. Gentlemen were pursuing an entirely wrong course. Instead of teaching children what to think, they should teach them how to think: they should try to improve their minds, so that they could think for themselves, rather than load their memories with the thoughts and ideas of other men. They were told that the Conscience Clause was a protection to children of Nonconformists. It might be meant to be such by the Legislature, but he was perfectly satisfied that in practice it was not so in hundreds, or rather thousands, of instances. Dissenting children were made to feel a sense of social disgrace and deprivation in consequence of refusing to receive the instruction that the Church parson vouchsafed for them. To realize the force of this position, he would ask hon. Members who were such ardent believers in the efficacy of the Conscience Clause how they would like to be compelled to send their children to Unitarian schools under the protection of a Time Table Conscience Clause? If they would 585 not be prepared to send their children to schools where Unitarian doctrines were taught and Unitarian hymns were sung, how could they, with consistency or fairness, compel Unitarians to send their children where the doctrines and formularies of the Church of England were so persistently and offensively proclaimed? He believed in time that this handing over of the education of the people to clerical control, and mixing it up with theological instruction, would be abandoned, and that the work of education would be taken in hand by the people themselves. He would have been glad if the measure under consideration had contributed more towards that end. But while he dissented so strongly from some parts of the measure of the noble Lord, he was willing to admit that some portions of it would be of service; and he trusted that, in practice, the fears he entertained of other parts would not be realized. He could not conclude without expressing his sense of respectful admiration for the noble Lord for the ability with which he had piloted the signally difficult Bill through the House, and for the good temper and spirit that he had preserved under much discussion that could not fail to be both exciting and irritating.
§ MR. CLARE READ
said, he believed he was in a more miserable minority than the hon. Member who had last spoken (Mr. Cowen), representing, as he did, what had been called "the residuum of the stupid Party"—namely, the tenant-farmers. Like the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard), he had one or two slight protests to make against the Bill. He contended not that it did not go far enough, but that in one or two instances it went too far. He considered that it imposed serious restrictions on the employment of juvenile labour—greater restrictions than the educational requirements of the Bill demanded. And when hon. Members went down to their districts in the autumn and began to talk of the good which had been accomplished, some farmers would very probably ask—"What about educating our boys up to 14?"By keeping the age of 14 in the Bill, he feared a feeling of hostility would be created against it in the rural districts which it would be difficult to allay. He deeply regretted, therefore, that the Government had not accepted the Amend- 586 ment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rodwell). The noble Lord the Vice President of the Council was compelled to go for a precedent to the Factory Act of 1874. But the subject under consideration was not a Factory Act, but the question of education. To carry out indirect compulsion, it was necessary that every inducement should be held out to secure the proper number of attendances; but the Bill would not have that effect. The noble Lord had intimated that several relaxations in favour of agriculture had been placed in the Bill at his (Mr. Read's) suggestion. But all that he (Mr. Read) had done was to strike out one of the most objectionable clauses and provide that the relaxation should come from some local authority, and not depend on the caprice of individual farmers. He had always endeavoured in the district with which he was connected to secure for the children a sound and thoroughly religious education. As a manager of voluntary schools, as a member of a Board of Guardians, and as a ratepayer he was satisfied with the Bill and grateful for it; and as a lover of justice, was glad that it secured religious freedom for the children of the poor.
§ MR. BURT
also wished to say a few words by way of protest before the final passing of the Bill. He regretted that so much had been said in favour of giving education to the working man to make him a mere valuable money-making machine, rather than as a means of developing what was best and noblest in his nature and character, and promoting his intellectual and moral advancement. He also regretted that a considerable amount of excitement and bitterness had been imported into the discussions upon the measure, but thought that, with the exception of one or two unfortunate slips, the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) had conducted the Bill not only with great ability, but with great good temper, good sense, and good feeling. There were certain provisions of the Bill of which he most entirely approved. The provision with regard to the age at which children should be allowed to commence work was a most valuable one, as it would allow an opportunity for the foundation of a strong physical constitution for the children to be established. There might be differences of opinion as to the suitable age 587 at which children should be employed, but after that age had been attained it was very undesirable to prevent them from being employed in a useful way, as want of employment would probably add to their ignorance the greater evils of idleness and improvidence. There was a danger to be guarded against, as had been pointed out by the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Read). He could not agree with the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) that even town councils were suitable bodies for educational administration. Compulsion in itself was necessarily distasteful and unpopular; but if it had to be applied, it should be applied in the least objectionable way, in a direct manner, and by those in whom the people most concerned had the greatest possible confidence. He objected to the Boards of Guardians, because they were the most unpopular Bodies in this country among the classes who would be most affected by this Bill, and were regarded as the Guardians not of the Poor, but of the ratepayers; and besides, he thought it most undesirable to connect education with the administration of the Poor Law. The feeling of independence was very strong among the working classes in the North of England, and they desired most strongly to avoid coming into contact with the Boards of Guardians. Although for two years past there had been great depression in the trade of the North of England, it was a remarkable fact that there had been no appreciable increase, either in pauperism, or in the poor rates. That showed that many of the calumnies levelled against the working classes were entirely untrue, and that they were desirous of maintaining their independence. He thought that independent feeling should be encouraged and strengthened by the House, but this Bill would, he feared, have one of two effects, both of which were greatly to be deprecated—either it would weaken that feeling and familiarize the working classes with the machinery of pauperism, or it would put a stigma and a degradation upon education itself, which would make it distasteful. In reference to the alliance between the Roman Catholic Members and the Conservative Party in endeavouring to secure denominational education, he would point out to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), that if a similar Bill for Ire- 588 land were introduced and supported by the Conservative Party, they would then prove their consistency. It had been said that the working classes desired religious education. He had attended many meetings on this subject, and they had always declared in favour of a national system of education, founded upon a compulsory, free, and unsectarian, or in other words, secular basis. The direct representatives of the working classes on the school boards in every case with which he was acquainted were instructed to support only secular or unsectarian education; and he ventured to say that if we were to have a thoroughly national system of education it would have to be based upon the principle of being free, compulsory, and entirely unsectarian.
§ Sir GEORGE BOWYER
asserted that the fundamental principle of the Bill was indirect compulsion. He thought the restrictions placed upon the employment of children were a mistake which would have to be remedied at some future time. The Bill would interfere very greatly, especially in agricultural districts, with free labour, and also with the most important portion of education—namely, the habit which ought at the earliest period to be inculcated on children of making themselves useful. He deprecated the raising of the Standard of education for the poorer classes as tending to render them too proud to work. Every one had felt the results of the spread of education in the difficulty of procuring domestic servants; and a friend of his who wanted to engage a housemaid, was told by one of the applicants that she could not think of taking an engagement where she could not have a room for her piano, as she must keep up her music. An hon. Member had said that in the schools religion should be taught without dogma. How was it possible, he asked, that there could be religion without dogma? No science could exist without it. Mathematics was a series of dogmas, and he pointed out that the first sentence in the "Book of Genesis" and the first sentence in the "Lord's Prayer" were both dogmas. They could not move a step in religion without dogma, and if they did away with dogma they would deprive religion of all its efficacy and all its force. There was dogma in Atheism and dogma in Deism. He contended that the most 589 valuable part of the Bill was that which encouraged the teaching of religion. Viscount SANDON: There seems to be a general desire that the House should now come to a decision upon this question, which has occupied their attention for a considerable time. I wish to express generally my appreciation of the spirit in which the House has received the Bill during its long and protracted discussions. It would be a foolish affectation on my part not to acknowledge that from some quarters there has been a keen opposition to the measure, more than I had hoped from a recollection of the conduct which hon. Gentlemen showed on this side during the progress of the Bill of 1870; but still this is perhaps after all only what is to be expected with regard to a Bill which touches on a variety of difficult and disputed points in connection with this all-important subject, which affects almost every interest and feeling of every class and community in the land. I have always, however, tried to remember, and have often said that, as a matter of course, hon. Members in Opposition have as good a right to their opinions as the Government and its Supporters have to theirs; and, in a great representative popular Assembly like this, it would be absurd and ridiculous to expect that large measures affecting, as this one does, such a vast number of people, opinions, and interests, could go through without considerable friction and occasional, though, happily, not very frequent, outbursts of animosity on both sides. But even allowing all this, and even after all that has passed, I still adhere to what I have said on several occasions—namely, that there is, and has been throughout, a strong and growing under-current of satisfaction and approval of the Government measure widely spread on both sides of the House. I cannot think I am wrong in this opinion, and I have a full hope, and I might almost say confidence, that this will increase into a stronger feeling, both in Parliament and in the country, when the Bill as a whole becomes more understood, and the misapprehensions and exaggerations of the hour have passed away. I cannot forget the many nights we have discussed the Bill in Committee, and the valuable suggestions received from hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House; but, at the same time, I 590 do not pretend to shut my eyes to the keen opposition in some quarters, ever watching and endeavouring to defeat the measure by attack, or alteration, or delay, at the beginning, and going on to the end of the affair; nor can I forget the persevering and cordial support both in Parliament and throughout the country, which has enabled us, even when time began to fail, to carry the Bill through to what, I believe will be, a happy and successful conclusion. This is all past now, however, and has dropped into the historical records of Hansard. I will now rapidly run over the points raised in the speeches which have been made to-day, some of which have been, I venture to say, the most remarkable and interesting of the whole of these long debates. First amongst them, it is impossible not to notice the very interesting speech delivered by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen). Looking at the opinions which we know the hon. Gentleman holds in the matter—and most properly and justly holds, just as much as we on this side are free to hold ours—it is a matter of great satisfaction to the Government to acknowledge—and the Committee will endorse what I say—that he has behaved most handsomely throughout the progress of this Bill. It is, of course, known that he is in favour of purely secular education in State-aided schools—a perfect tenable position—though one which the Government, and I believe the country, entirely disapprove of; but when once the hon. Member saw that the House and the country were clearly not with him in his views, but were generallyin favour of the Government's proposals, he has never, by unduly using his influence, or by trying, as was done in some other quarters avowedly, to create delay and obstruction, to stop the progress of the Bill. But the hon. Member has to-day contributed a very interesting speech to the consideration of the whole of the subject—in fact, whenever we listen to his speeches we must feel they are worthy of all attention, as they show much real individual thought. There are two or three points in the hon. Gentleman's speech to-day which I ought to allude to. He raised the question of the cumulative vote, and said it was one of the obstacles to the success of education at the present moment; but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that 591 the cumulative vote was added to the Bill of 1870 by a Liberal Member who now sits on the front Opposition Bench (Lord Frederick Cavendish), and was accepted by the Liberal Government of Mr. Gladstone, when the right hon. Members for Bradford and Birmingham were Members of the Cabinet; and I must add that I never heard that the Liberal Party as a body was against it, and from what passed in 1870 it appeared that many hon. Gentlemen now on the Opposition side of the House thought the introduction of that system of voting very valuable. The hon. Member has referred to the Boards of Guardians, and had raised, not unnaturally, some opposition to their being made the authority in the Bill for seeing that the children in rural districts were instructed, but he has overlooked the fact that the duties of the Boards of Guardians are very different now from what they were formerly. The Boards of Guardians are becoming very much, as I have said before, the rural municipality, and the duty of looking after pauperism is now only one part of their duty. They have become the great sanitary authority, and have jurisdiction perhaps, as a matter of fact, as far as sanitary questions are concerned, rather more over the rich, being landowners, and therefore owning many houses, than over the poor. If, at the present moment, a rich man neglects the sanitary condition of his property, he is prosecuted by the Guardians, just as is the poor man who owns and lives in a filthy hovel, and allows it to get into a state dangerous to health. I would also remind the hon. Member that this Bill largely alters the position of the Boards of Guardians, who, be it remembered, will not act directly as to these education matters from their Body, but by means of a special school attendance committee, which—just like the assessment committees chosen by the Guardians in the same way—would thus be quite separated both in name and in fact from the Poor Law administration, and would be responsible directly to the Education Department; in fact, one of the great changes introduced by Government has been to prosecute in the first instance the employer who tempts the child from his education, instead of the parent who yields to the temptation of getting the child's wages: so that, as I have said, 592 under this Bill the position of the Guardians is again much altered, as the first duty put upon their school attendance committee under this measure is that of prosecuting the employer who breaks the law. They have therefore primarily to deal with what must be called the rich and not the poor man. They will also, of course, have to look after the negligent parent; but it can no longer be held to be a slur upon the poor parent to be thus touched by the school attendance committee of the Boards of Guardians, inasmuch as this same committee has vested in them the duty of prosecuting the rich employer if he is in fault. The hon. Gentleman says he is averse to putting education in the hands of the Boards of Guardians; and most rightly is he averse to such a scheme: but I must just ask him to recall to his recollection that this is exactly what the Government has persistently refused to do during the debates, and that we have over and over again ourselves refused to make the Guardians an educational authority like the school boards, having control over schools, and being able to build or maintain them. We showed our fixed determination specially by absolutely refusing to accept the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who proposed to give Town Councils and Boards of Guardians all the powers of school boards, when we insisted—and were well supported by the Committee—upon keeping the Guardians to what might be called, for convenience sake, their educational police duties. I am therefore pleased to think that the Government and the hon. Member for Newcastle are really very much at one on this question of the Boards of Guardians. Then the hon. Member has thrown out some doubts as to the clergy, or the country gentlemen, or the wealthy classes of the country being, as a body, really favourable to the education of the labouring classes. If that was the case, how is it that before 1870, when it first became a legal obligation upon every locality throughout the land, under the Education Act, to build schools for the whole of its population, if voluntary effort had not already supplied them, that I find that £8,000,000 had been spent for this purpose? Who, I want to know, spent this enormous sum? Did 593 the labouring class? Certainly not. Enquire in every place, and you will find that the clergy gave and procured a large proportion. If the clergy and the wealthy classes had been averse to education they would surely not have dipped their hands so largely into their pockets when there was no necessity for them to do so, and when there was no fear of a school board being placed over them if they did not. The hon. Gentleman says he wants to see a high standard of education in the country. I hail him gladly as a fellow-worker in the cause—as by general consent we are known to have been working zealously since we have been in office in that direction—and I remember that the hon. Member gave his cordial adhesion to what have been acknowledged to be the very large and comprehensive changes Her Majesty's Government made in the Education Code last year—changes the whole aim and effect of which was to put within the reach of the poorer classes not merely a mechanical knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but, while it took greater security for the conduct, training, and morals of the children, and for the needlework and domestic knowledge of the girls, put within reach of all a higher education in subjects, such as history, geography, physical geography, botany, and mechanics, to suit the wants of different parts of our population, if they choose to require such instruction, and laid down special rules by which all the teaching was particularly to be directed to developing the intelligence of the children. I think I have shown that we have already actually done a great deal in the direction to which the hon. Member pointed, and therefore, on this matter too, it appears that he and the Government are to a large extent agreed. The hon. Member raises certain questions as to the supposed religious difficulty, and refers to Archdeacon Denison, who is an admirable man, but is generally acknowleged to have peculiar and extreme views, and would never be considered to represent the clergy generally: and he told an amusing anecdote to show the little respect the clergy had for the Inspectors of schools. I cannot say whether the story is correct or not, but it is rather hard to quote one special case against the whole of the clergy, who have always been anxious, independently of trying 594 to get any special advantage to their own creeds, to open widely the Book of Knowledge to the people of the country. If the clergy generally were to treat the Inspectors of schools as Archdeacon Denison was reported to have done—and he did not at present admit that the story was correct—the Education Department would certainly have to take care and see that these gentlemen were properly respected when they went into the schools. I certainly should regret if foolish songs were taught in the schools, but we must not forget that children from 5 to 10 years of age may prefer nursery ballads to sonnets of Moore or Byron. The hon. Member spoke strongly as to the impossibility of teaching religious doctrines in the schools, and I quite agree, as I have often said, that it is not at all likely that by your religious teaching to children of the ages of 5 to 12, you will attach them to this Church or that; but a much more important object is gained: I believe, from all I know and hear, that the simple Christian teaching common to almost all Churches, as happily now given in the great mass of schools, has had a great effect on the minds and morals and future lives of the children. There was a meeting of the best teachers in the country held not long ago in London, representing various Churches, and they had prayed the Government, whatever they did, not to abolish that great instrument of religious teaching in the schools, because if that was done, they said, they would not be able to do the necessary work in the schools, and did not know how they could carry them on. I cannot leave this all-important part of the education subject without saying how much I rejoice to think, and I am sure the country and hon. Members generally will join in my feeling, that the effect of this Bill will not, in all probability, simply be to secure a sound elementary secular education for all the children of England, but that, as most of our schools are now conducted, it will secure for them the advantage of an elevating moral training, and the inestimable boon of early acquaintance with the Bible, and early Christian teaching, for those whose parents desire it. Many other interesting and valuable speeches have been made by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Birley), the hon. 595 Baronet opposite (Sir George Bowyer), and others, and I appreciate very much the support which the Bill has received from such Gentlemen of experience. My hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Read) has said one or two things against the Bill which I could, perhaps, have wished unsaid; but I think that, on further consideration, my hon. Friend will feel somewhat doubtful as to whether he has been correct in his views of the Bill. My hon. Friend seems to suppose that under the Bill a child might reach10 years of age without having had any instruction, saying that it was hard under such circumstances that a parent should not have the advantage of its labour. But the Bill provides that the local authorities, which will now exist everywhere for these purposes, should be bound to see that no parent habitually neglects his child. This is really one of the charters of the measure. My hon. Friend said he was afraid that no magistrates would convict. I would, however, remind my hon. Friend of the tremendous powers which, under a certain clause of this Bill, are provided to the Education Department in Whitehall. I think I can assure him that, whatever Government is in office, if the Department finds that the school attendance committees show any disposition, not to enforce the law, steps will be taken very soon by the Education Department to send down their own officers to see that it is strictly carried out. [Mr. Clare Read: They are not to supersede the magistrates.] Of course, they are not to supersede the magistrates; but I do not think if a Government officer brought these cases before the magistrates, that the magistrates would be so rash as to neglect a real bonâ fide complaint. And before leaving this point I would just beg my hon. Friend to remember that as our Inspectors constantly visit every part of the country, we shall soon know in Whitehall if the school attendance committees do their duty, and I have no doubt that managers of schools, who are largely interested in the attendance of the children, will also quickly let us know of any cases of neglect. I know, of course, and regret, that the Government and my hon. Friend are at issue in regard to 14 years being fixed as the first age of employment in extreme cases, and as the age up to 596 which a child is liable to be seized and sent to school if an habitual idler—that is to say, "if wandering, &c," to use the language of the Bill—being neither at work nor under instruction—even when it does possess a labour pass; but I would remind my hon. Friend that certain conditions have been attached to the age clause, at his own suggestion, respecting harvest and the necessary operations of husbandry, which are more favourable than those which previously existed. I consider it, however, of the greatest importance, as enabling the Bill to deal with the wastrel class, and as putting a greater pressure on the parents to send their children of their own accord early and regularly to school, and to give them other suitable instruction, to retain the age of 14 years. I acknowledge, however, with the greatest satisfaction the general approval which my hon. Friend gave to the Bill, and which far outweighed his not unnatural criticisms on one or two points. No hon. Member has a more thorough acquaintance with the rural districts and the feelings of the people, and the Government accepts gladly, and as high testimony, his assurance that it will be a thoroughly workable measure, a result to which he has been no slight contributor. The House has also had a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt). It is impossible not to feel that the speeches made by the hon. Member on these questions are a great addition to the discussions in the House. They have, if he will allow me to say so, an unusual freshness about them, a thorough knowledge of the subject,. and they are delivered in a tone and temper which always renders them acceptable to the House. Of course, I need not say the Government does not agree with the hon. Member on many important points. There is no question about that; but we do cordially appreciate and concur in his feeling as to the desirability of securing for the working classes not only the means of rising in life, but of elevating them in the scale of mankind, so that they may be enabled to take a higher position in the general intelligence of the country, and have the advantage and pleasure of having more intellectual resources. The hon. Member spoke of the desirability of considering intellectual pursuits as a good thing 597 in themselves, and of valuing them for their own sakes, and not looking at them merely from their money point of view, as tending to raise one's worldly position: this is, indeed, a noble sentiment, such as we should expect from the hon. Member, and one with which I cordially agree, and I hail it as representing what I hope may be a growing feeling amongst the working classes, with whom the hon. Member is specially associated. Sound sense characterizes generally the speeches of the hon. Member, and in many of the sentiments uttered by him the Government fully agree. The hon. Member is afraid that the contact in which the Bill placed a portion of the people with the Boards of Guardians might tend to diminish the independence and self-reliance of the English people. Such a result we should particularly regret, and to avoid such loss of reliance we have refused, amongst other reasons, to propose universal direct compulsion. I am confident, however, that when once the law becomes known that children are to be educated, and that they cannot go to work under a certain age if they are not educated, the great mass of the people, both in the towns and in the country, will not need any futher interference in the matter. It is not, then, as a rule, the ordinary respectable artizan, mechanic, or farm labourer who will be brought in contact with the school attendance committees of Town Councils or Boards of Guardians. Important deputations, representing large organizations of working men in town and country, have assured me that these men are full of anxiety for the instruction of their children. With the employers, firstly, these committees will have to do, and then with the negligent, the improvident, and the vicious parent. I should have been prepared to concur with the views of the hon. Member if I had entertained the slightest fear that the independence of the people, one of the most precious possessions of a nation, was likely to be affected by the measure; but I am thoroughly convinced that the Bill will only affect that class, except in special cases of vice or neglect or gross ignorance, which is now touched by the Poor Law. The hon. Member wishes that the constituencies of Town Councils and Board of Guardians should be altered, so as to admit working men 598 on their school attendance committees; but, however desirable this may be in itself, I must, of course, pronounce no opinion upon it. I would remind him that it would have been a serious, and I may say unwarrantable, addition to the Government Bill, had they proposed also to re-model these municipal bodies. I can only say that if working men became members of the school attendance committees, I am sure they will be welcomed there by all men of sense, as they have been in the Great Council of the Nation. I have now alluded, I think, to the most important of the speeches which have been made. I do not think it would be wise nor is it necessary to enter upon the topic of religious differences which has been opened up by the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard). I regret the tone which has been adopted by the hon. Member; but it is a matter for congratulation that Government are not alone in having bitter attacks made upon them by the hon. Gentleman. If the hon. Member has said hard things of the present Government, he said still harder things in the Education Debates in 1870, as they would see on reference to Hansard. He then stated, I quote his words, that the Bill of 1870—of the right hon. Member for Bradford—was a measure for making the education of the people universally and for ever denominational: and he also described it as founded on the principle of concurrent endowment. As to our Bill now, he lays great stress upon the Amendments proposed to it, which he says, if all had been accepted, would have made the Bill horrible; but I must really beg him to remember that we accepted principally Amendments, and important ones too, from his own side, and refused whole sheets of Amendments from hon. Members sitting near us. As to his saying that the present Bill was the worst and most tyrannical measure since the reign of Queen Anne, I will leave the justice of that statement to the sense of Parliament and the community outside. I have had communication with many leading members of the Nonconformist Churches, and am assured by many of them that that is not at all the way in which they look upon the measure. As to the expressions of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), that the Government has broken faith in this. 599 matter, by accepting Amendments which reversed the policy of the Act of 1870. I confess I am astonished at such a statement, but it appears to be merely an assertion, and based upon no facts, so I confidently leave it to the judgment of Parliament. I must, however, recall to the hon. Member's recollection—though, perhaps, as till the struggles of the last few days he took little apparent interest in our discussions, he may therefore be unaware of what passed—that in introducing the measure I particularly invited suggestions from both sides of the House, which I intimated we should gladly accept if we considered them improvements, and not inconsistent with the principle of the Bill; and when, on going into Committee, I mentioned some leading changes in the early clauses, resulting from the previous discussions, I closed my remarks by stating in so many words that I must not thereby be held to be precluded from proposing or from accepting from any quarter any other Amendments, and this reservation was specially cheered, in token of assent as I understood, by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the Paper was at that time crowded by Amendments. As a matter of fact, we have only accepted two Amendments at all affecting the Bill of 1870, and surely after six years' experience we may well be allowed to remedy proved defects—the first, to allow localities to get rid of unnecessary school boards, now that another existing authority is entrstued with full powers to do their work; and the second, to do for England what the Scotch Education Bill of 1872, which was passed by the last Liberal Government, did for Scotland—namely, to confide the payment of fees for poor children to the Poor Law authorities instead of to the school board. I do not allude to the repeal of the famous 25th clause, as that repeal we accepted from the Liberal Party, on the Motion of the right hon. Member for Bradford. The whole school-board system is, in fact, kept intact, and the country has the free choice of which it prefers, unless it neglects to supply schools, when it must have school boards. It is really a perfectly untenable position to call these changes a reversal of the Act of 1870. So much, then, for the speeches which have been delivered to-day. The real opposition to the Bill has been based, the Com- 600 mittee will see, on considerations upon leading points which were fully discussed in 1870, and which were pressed by the extreme section of the Liberal Party upon their Government—namely, universal school boards, universal compulsion, and the extinction of voluntary schools. General free education was also discussed in 1870, and pressed from the same quarter; but all these schemes were steadily opposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone), and by the bulk of the Liberal Party, and were rejected by the decisive feeling of the House, even when the Conservatives were only a small minority, so that to press these matters now, which are the special points of the Birmingham Education League, after the country, both at the General Election and at the mass of school-board elections, has decided against that League, had been surely a waste of time. The truth is that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite are always forgetting that by the announcements of the right hon. Member Bradford, and of the then Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone), the Education Bill of 1870 was intended to fill up gaps in the voluntary education system of the country, and to do the best to keep those schools alive. They, it is true, seemed to hope that, by what they called a process of painless extinction, the great body of voluntary schools would be destroyed; but this, they must remember, was always denied by the Liberal Government, the authors of the Bill. Upon these assurances of theirs the Bill was accepted by the country and assisted by the Conservative Party in Parliament. I cannot allow them to forget, if they have any further doubts as to my being right, what in one of the leading debates was said by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone), when he proposed to substitute an increased Government grant for the local aid from rates to the voluntary schools, that that increased grant would, he believed, enable the voluntary schools to stand in competition with the schools for which rates were to be levied by the new school boards under the Bill. This is the very provision which we say, owing to the increased cost of schools under the Act, has not been carried out, and which we seek to set right by our increased Government grant, which has also many 601 other educational advantages. Surely this speech of the late Prime Minister's, and the Amendment which he then introduced, confirms decisively what I have said, and puts beyond the reach of dispute that the Liberal Government, representing an overwhelming Liberal majority, intended and assured the country by word and act in 1870 to maintain the voluntary schools. After the endless discussions in Committee, it is, perhaps, difficult to recollect how the Bill now stands. I will, therefore, so to speak, take stock of what has passed, and will give a rapid sketch of the measure as it leaves this House. The Bill was introduced by the Government on the assumption, which the debates have completely confirmed, that the country wished that there should be universal education for the people. We have, therefore, headed the Bill by a declaration that it should be considered henceforward the legal duty of the parent to provide elementary instruction for his child. We have not, however, adopted the scheme of universal direct compulsion, with its array of rules, attendance officers, and expenditure; but we have gone upon the supposition that, with respect to the great majority of parents, if you remove the great temptation of his child's earnings by punishing the employer who employs the child under the legal age, and without the certificate of sufficient schooling, they will, both from the usual wish to comply with a law when it is once passed, and from real regard for the child's welfare, get their children properly instructed. We consider it a matter of the highest importance for the people, as affecting the national character, its independence, its self-reliance, and the sacred principles of freedom, that the people should not be told by the State that so many hours a day, for so many weeks in the year, they should send their children to school. The case is of course quite different when a locality by popular vote, and under the guidance of a school board of its own electing, chooses to have the rules, &c, of direct compulsion. This, under this Bill, they can do just as before. But now comes the second stage of the measure, if the parents do not, in their own interests and those of their children, send the latter to school, or get them properly instructed, the Government has held that these parents come into a 602 different category: they have shown themselves unfit for the precious charge of their child; so then, in the interests of the child's future life, and in the interests of the country of which he must become a citizen, we say that the State has a full right to intervene, and we then have no hesitation to apply direct compulsion, and we charge the local authority to lay down compulsory rules for the child's education, which the parent has shown himself unfit to manage. I have thus given in short the principle upon which we have built up our measure. I do not expect to see any sudden educational revolution created within the next 12 months by this measure, and should feel some alarm if such was the result. We are dealing, by the hypothesis, with a class of people who are unwilling to send their children to school, and if a sudden revolution in their family habits were brought about amongst this class, it would set them against the Bill, and do more to set them against education than any legislation could do in the other direction. I think, therefore, a very important provision of the Bill is that by which it only comes into operation very gradually by a sliding scale of five years. This will greatly relieve the strain of the new law upon the parents, the children, and the employers of labour. The Bill, then, after the declaration of the parent's duty, goes on to say that no children should be employed under 10 years of age, and by so doing we put on an equality all trades and occupations throughout the country, and I am confident that this will be a great gain to the parents and the employers. The next step is to fine employers who break the law; and then we provide that at 10 years of age a child to be employed shall have a certificate, either that he has passed a certain Standard of knowledge, or that he has completed five years' previous attendance at an efficient school, or, which is the "honour certificate," that he has passed a higher Standard than the necessary one, having also regularly attended an efficient school. Those certificates are thus of three kinds, and form a most important part of the Bill. You have the dunce's pass, the ordinary pass and the honour pass, and the last-named will, I hope and believe, give a keen stimulus to the work of education in many dis- 603 tricts. This is, I know, a new plan, but it is surely worth a trial. It is like a prize in the school for the children most remarkable for attainments and character—however poor they may be—and is, in fact, an exhibition founded by the State; but the trifling money advantage is its least important part. So far our legislation by compulsion, &c, has been all confined to driving the children to school: on this, in my opinion, we ought not in fairness only to base our legislation. I have a good confidence that the honour certificate will not only do much more to secure regular attendance at school, but that it will do a still more valuable work—it will awaken a keen sense of honour and ambition, and the invigorating feeling of distinction, in many an out-of-the-way place in the country, as well as in many a back court in our towns, and will lay the foundation for the honourable success of many a child in after life. The next point is that which has reference to children between the ages of 10 and 14. The Bill here deals with "wandering" children, and provides that where a child is habitually not at work and is found wandering, even if he has got a labour pass, he is bound to be sent to school by the local authority, unless there is a reasonable excuse. This is a most important principle in the Bill—that a child up to 14 years of age shall not be idle even after he has got the "labour pass." All wastrel children, so to speak, will be looked after by this Bill. Then the important clause having reference to day industrial schools comes in as a supplement to the action of the Government respecting wastrel children in our towns. This provision is now surely shorn of all possible danger of abuse, and I entreat the House to give their cordial support to that which is after all avowedly only an experiment. It is forced upon us by the existence of an enormous evil never yet dealt with—that is to say, the particular class of children who haunt our big towns: the wretched children who throng the worst parts of our cities. These are the children who, if they are girls, grow up to be the miserable women whom we pass with loathing in our back streets, and who are the depair of our workhouses, and, if boys, they became that peculiar, stunted, degraded class which prowls about our worst alleys, which emerge 604 into light only at moments of popular disturbance, and which make a constant home of our gaols. These poor children become the disgrace of our Christianity and civilization, and grow up to prey upon society. Ask the school boards in the big cities: they will tell you they elude their grasp, and, unfortunately, the ragged schools, which alone effectively dealt with them, have been much diminished, unintentionally, by the Act of 1870, and thus these are the very children for whose education the intervention of law is most needed. I earnestly hope, therefore, that Parliament will help the Government in the attempt—I confess it a difficult one—to cope with one of the most terrible evils of our civilization. The Bill then proceeds to provide for the payment of school fees by Boards of Guardians, when necessary in cases of great poverty, as in Scotland under the Act of 1872; and then it removes that great bone of contention, the 25th clause of the Act of 1870. The removal of this clause was not owing to one side of the House, nor to either political Party, but was owing to the spirit of conciliation which happily influenced many hon. Members on both sides of Parliament, who felt primarily and very strongly for the cause of education. The measure provides that existing local authorities everywhere in boroughs and towns in the country shall appoint school attendance committees; at the beginning of next year, therefore, they will have, in every part of the country, a new authority to look after the education of all the children. The erection of the existing local authorities into school education authorities, as far as seeing that all children get due instruction is concerned, is a most important point, it not only will effect a great saving of expense and prevent the Party bitterness which must follow from frequent elections, in opposition to the scheme of creating new boards everywhere for this purpose, but it has the immense advantage, as all must feel who look at it broadly, and not from a Party platform, in a political point of view, as it tends to concentrate duties in the hands of the existing local authorities, to increase its dignity and weight, and by giving it fresh duties of interest to attract the best people to enter its ranks. Beyond this, these school attendance committees may appoint little local committees out- 605 side their own bodies, in every village, to aid them in their work. As there has been some misapprehension as to school boards, I must add that school boards will be appointed as heretofore by the Department where a place does not make a sufficient supply of schools, and it is also left optional to every part of the country to have school boards if they desire them; further, where there is a school board, but no school, if two-thirds of the people desire to get rid of it, and the board is not required in the opinion of the Education Department for the purpose of education, a majority of the ratepayers can do so. I should be truly sorry to have it thought, for one moment, that by having accepted this provision, that the Government meant to weaken the authority of the school boards. On the contrary, as long as the present Lord President and myself are at the office, I can assure the Committee they will have the firm support of the Department—as they have had hitherto—as long as they do their duty. This very Bill itself ought to show the country that the Government wishes rather to increase the efficiency of school boards in their difficult education labours. These changes have been little noticed on this head, but look at its provisions; independently of the great assistance given to school boards as to school attendance by the new general indirect compulsion of the Bill, there are many other special provisions for their benefit. All the heavy expense and inconvenience of bye-elections is done away with—a great boon to large towns—and they are enabled to fill up, as in Scotland, their own bye-vacancies. Then, it is now provided that they can build offices for themselves: a matter the large places were very anxious for on the ground of expense and convenience. Further, they are to be allowed to raise money by loan for this purpose and for building industrial schools; and last, though not least, we have removed from them that great source of bitterness, the 25th section of the Act of 1870. All this surely shows a desire to facilitate the work of school boards. I hope from this survey of the Bill, the House will feel with me that a great advance has been made—a great advance, I mean, towards securing the sound education of the whole of our people; but when I use the word advance I must 606 guard myself against being supposed, in accordance with expressions I have heard used, to mean that it would be an advance in our course to adopt general direct compulsion. If we are driven to this at last, it would be an acknowledgment of national weakness, by the failure of this or other schemes, which I, for one, do not at all expect. I should hold that to be obliged to confess that parents were not able to do their duty to their children without the daily intervention of the State, and that to be driven thus to direct compulsion would be anything but an advance: and I trust, and cannot but believe, that hon. Members on both sides will agree with me that if they can do without direct compulsion it will be a subject for rejoicing. I claim then for the Government and for myself that we have kept steadily in view in this matter the real advantage of the children. We have throughout taken this as our guiding star. This being once secured, we have endeavoured to interfere as little as possible with the industry of the country, and to avoid the fatal mistake of throwing discredit upon the labour of the hand or of discouraging the habits of work, and we have also kept constantly in mind that it was all-important in the interests of education itself and of the national character to interfere as little as possible with the personal freedom of the people, to incur as little unnecessary expense as possible in carrying out the operations of the law, and to utilize every existing institution. So far as I am concerned, now that the Bill is about to pass through this House to "another place, "I can only say that I shall endeavour to forget all the opposition the measure has received, and I shall try only to bear in mind the unexpected support which it has received from all quarters of the House. I desire now to express my warm acknowledgments of that support, most kind and cordial, which I have received in my difficult task. The recollection of the attacks made upon us will soon pass away, but not so the remembrance of the kind and valuable assistance we have obtained. In conclusion, then, I will venture to express the honest hope and expectation, in which I believe most hon. Members will join me, that, whatever have been their opinions in the past, whatever may be their political or ecclesiastical opinions, they will do their 607 best, each, in his own district, to make the measure work as efficiently as possible, so as to give effect to the earnest desire of the Government, of Parliament, and of the nation, so as to place our social system on broad and deep foundations, by securing the general sound instruction of the whole of our people, and thereby fitting them to be worthy subjects and useful citizens of the great State of England.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that when the Speaker put the Question from the Chair, and proposed that the Bill should be read a third time, and challenged hon. Members to a division, a great many of them would have to consider what course they would have to take under the circumstances. Hon. Members would agree that it was a grave question for many of them to say whether, after these protracted debates, they found themselves in a position to vote for the third reading of this Bill, or whether they would be compelled to vote against it. The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) had placed before them the condition in which the Bill would leave the House if it were passed. In two sentences he (Mr. Goschen) would state two of the results which would occur to many Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House. School boards had suffered in reputation and power. The 25th clause of the Act of 1870 had been repealed, but a worse clause had been substituted. School boards had suffered in consequence of the position which the noble Lord and the Party opposite had taken up. The authority of the boards would be weakened in the country, and the legislation of 1870 had been represented in a different light from that in which it was conceived and executed. They would further find themselves in this position—that while the noble Lord said the 25th clause was a bone of contention and had been removed, an arrangement had been substituted in its place which would cause as much contention and as much heart-burning, and would be universal, extending over a wider area than the clause of which it took the place. Under these circumstances, what course ought those of them who felt strongly on this point to pursue? He would only speak for himself, but he believed he should be speaking the sentiments of a great many on that side of the House when he said 608 that throughout the whole of the discussions on the Bill their opinions, and their political consciences, he might almost say, had been stretched to the utmost. Many of them felt that the 25th clause had left a grievance in the minds of a large portion of the community. Many thought that any Bill that did not, to a certain extent, remedy the grievance under which the Dissenters thought they were labouring would not be a satisfactory measure. But so anxious were they to support the Government, in the interests of the people, that through many stages of the Bill they did not oppose it, but voted in favour of it. On the second reading, and in Committee, even at last, when the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) had proposed his clause, which was received with so much dissatisfaction on that side of the House, they supported the Government. On the Report they only made a protest, and throughout they had shown an interest in the educational part of the measure, and were most reluctant to take any step hostile to the Bill. But, subsequent to that protest, and notwithstanding the proof of conciliation on the part of the Leader of the Opposition, on the Report a blow was struck at the Nonconformists, strengthening denominational schools, and against, he would not say the prejudices of some hon. Gentlemen, or their wishes, but their just claims. He asked, whether it was a fair mode of dealing with the House that on the Report, at the end of the Session, when it was impossible to communicate with all classes of the country and give the country an opportunity of pronouncing on such a thing as this, that a radical change should be made in the character of the Bill? The noble Lord minimized the effect of the Bill, but hon. Members knew it would have a great effect. With regard to the repeal of the 25th clause, the Government were putting an end to the dispute by the force of its large majority. It could not be said that it was a removal of the bone of contention. If it was removed from the area of the school board, it was not removed from the area of the ratepayers or the public or those interested in education. That being their position, what was it their duty to do in the present crisis? He saw no other course open to them than this—that if there should be 609 a division, they should record their votes against the third reading. He knew that that vote would be misinterpreted, but he thought he might appeal to the action of the Party, and to what the noble Lord opposite himself had said—namely, that they had been most anxious to promote the cause of education, to show that, unless under great provocation, they would not have opposed the measure. He did not want to vote against the Bill as a matter of form, but he thought that it would be better in the interests of education that the Bill should not pass at all than that it should become law containing those provisions which had been recently introduced into it. Moreover, if the result should be to throw out this Bill, another might be introduced next Session, and then the question of the denominational system could be more fully canvassed. The noble Lord had said that the Bill should not aggravate the religious difficulty, but that pledge had been broken, because the measure aggravated the difficulty in a manner that would set a large portion of the people of the country against the scheme. He thought it a misfortune that the question should have produced so much acrimony, and he did not think the cause of education would lose if the Bill was not read a third time. No hon. Member had ventured to answer the question which was put to the Government the other day—namely, if they had Unitarian schools, with a Conscience Clause, would they compel children of the Church of England to go into them? That was a challenge which had never been taken up. He believed that in the long run popular feeling would declare itself against the compulsory attendance of children at denominational schools, and the support of such schools by public money. Personally, if a division were challenged, he had no option but to vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. W. E. FORSTER
said, that as he differed somewhat from his right hon. Friend who had just sat down (Mr. Goschen), and as probably there would be a division, he thought it absolutely necessary that he should explain what course he intended to take. It would be very kind of the House to listen to him, as he was now speaking his own personal views in the matter, and giving what was almost approaching a personal 610 explanation. Now, he naturally looked very much to educational results; but he did not agree with some hon. Gentlemen that if the opponents of the measure had succeeded in preventing its passing that it would be absolutely necessary to re-introduce it next year. Indeed, he thought it would have been possible for the Government to have gone on for some time without any fresh measure. He agreed with the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) in much that he had said as to the educational results of the Bill. Those results were to him of the greatest importance. First of all, they had got this result, that work was stopped under 10 years of age. That was a very great result. Then they had the principle established that after 10 and up to the age of 14 the children must attain a certain Standard, or work and school went on together. He considered that another great result. [An hon. Member: Not in agricultural districts.] He thought his hon. Friend was mistaken there. By the Amendment of his noble Friend the Member for the West Riding (Lord Frederick Cavendish), on the second reading, the principle was established that no child could work fulltime after 10, and before the age of 14, unless it had attained a certain Standard of efficiency, or had made a certain number of attendances, failing which it would be put upon half time, or work and school together. His hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) thought they had gone too far in enlarging the half-time age from 13 to 14. He, however, regarded that as a great advantage; and there was another—an advantage the effects of which it was not very easy to overlook—that workshops had been placed under the same educational provisions as factories. But these were not the only good educational results obtained by the Bill. These results referred to indirect compulsion; but the Bill had been so improved that it was now, in his opinion, a measure of direct compulsion. Upon this point he thought there had been some misconception. The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Sandon) had always interpreted direct compulsion in a way that he (Mr. Forster) did not. He seemed to think that in order to establish direct compulsion, it should be ordered that every parent should be made to send his child to school for certain hours every day. 611 That was not, as he understood it, what they were aiming at. What they were aiming at was, that by the law of the land a parent should be bound to provide for the education of his child, and that if he neglected to do so, some authority should cause it to be done for him, and the parent should be subjected to a penalty. That was what he considered to be direct universal compulsion, and that was what was enacted by this Bill. Parliament was bound, first of all, to declare by Act of Parliament what was the duty of a parent, and accordingly it said, by the 4th clause, that it was the legal duty of a parent to see that his child was taught, as well as fed and clothed; and in the 8th clause—originally the 7th, as now amended—it told the local authorities throughout the country that if any parent habitually neglected to perform his duty in regard to the education of his child he was to be made to do it. To his mind the educational results of these provisions were very important, and he should be sorry to learn that the country disapproved of them. The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) was really to be congratulated, for almost every one of the recommendations which he urged in his Motion upon the second reading had been adopted, or rather complied with, inasmuch as the Bill had been made to accord almost entirely with the suggestions of the Factory Commission. Leaving the educational results for a moment, he came to the other features of the Bill. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen) considered himself compelled by the alteration which had been made in respect to the 25th clause to vote against the third reading. It was, however, possible to overrate the change which had been made. Still, he exceedingly regretted that the Government had allowed the subject to be mooted, and he entirely agreed with his right hon. Friend as to the mode in which the change had been made—a change which had been brought forward with so little Notice, and to which the Government themselves had become reconciled in so brief a time. But that was merely the way in. which the result had been arrived at. And what was the result? Those who were opposed to the change evidently thought that in the transfer of duties the Boards of Guardians would inherit the whole of the difficulties of the 612 school boards, and would be put in a new position. That would not be the case; for at the present moment the Boards of Guardians experienced and were meeting those difficulties, and they heard nothing about any particular inconvenience arising. At that moment every Board of Guardians throughout the country was required by the Act of 1873 to perform the same duty as the parochial boards of Scotland—that was, to pay the school fees of out-door paupers, under regulations similar to those of the 25th clause. The enormous majority of the children who were neglected and for whom payments would have to be made were the children of the out-door paupers; and what was proposed now was merely that the children of the comparatively few parents who were too poor to pay fees, but who were not paupers, and with regard to whom the school boards had at present the option of paying or not paying the fees, should be put, as in Scotland, under the same superintendence as those who were paupers. They were, in his opinion, doing a great thing in relieving the school boards of this difficulty. The school boards themselves, in his opinion, would think it no slur that it had been taken away from them. The London School Board, he was informed a little while ago, had petitioned the Department to get rid of it. He was sure of this—that under the change there would be an immense diminution in the amount of school fees that would be paid; for this reason—the Boards of Guardians had both more knowledge of the inability of payment on the part of the parents and more will to take care of the rates than a school board—they were more economical, and better knew who were too poor to pay, and who were not. He did not know whether Boards of Guardians were denominational or not; but he did know that a large number of school boards were not secular. He was perfectly sure that in those places in which the school boards had made the most payments under the 25th clause—in Manchester, Salford, and Liverpool—the practical effect would be that the denominational schools would receive far less help out of the rates than they hitherto had received. He could not, therefore, make this change a ground for voting against the third reading of the Bill, much as 613 he regretted the mode by which this result had been arrived at. Having always held that the parent had a right to choose the school to which, he would send his children, the change did not, of course, weigh much with him. He was perfectly well aware that he might be charged now, as indeed he had been charged before, with inconsistency to this extent—that in places where there was only one school the parents would have no option. In such a case, he would have to choose between the child and the parent, and it being so necessary that the child should be educated, he should decide that the child should be sent to the school that did exist. It had been asked of the supporters of the Bill how they would like to be compelled to send their children to school if only Unitarian schools existed. Well, there were many situations in which inconveniences and difficulties arose, but they might depend upon it the establishment of mere unsectarian or secular schools would not get rid of this particular difficulty. For instance, they would have to deal with the Roman Catholic parents, and with other parents of strong religious views, who certainly would not like to have their children compelled to attend secular schools. They might say that was a most unreasonable prejudice; but they would nevertheless find that the same difficulties and inconveniences would arise much as at present. Considering, therefore, the educational results of the Bill, especially as amended in Committee, he could not, on account of the change with regard to the 25th clause, vote against it. But he had now to consider the two clauses which had been introduced into the Bill, and to which, as the House was aware, he was strongly opposed. He had very little doubt that the clause for the dissolution of school boards would not have much practical effect. Never was the House of Commons occupied so long a time upon so small a matter. ["Hear, hear!" from the Ministerial Benches.] Hon. Members on the other side cheered that statement; but if they felt the reason of it they should not have pressed so small a matter so strongly. Some of them on that side of the House did their best to minimize the effects of the clause, and they did so fritter it down that it came now to very little. It was wonder- 614 ful how quickly the animus that cropped up in the heat of debate passed away, and was forgotten; and coming to the third reading, it was not sufficient for them to say that they disliked the hard speeches made and the animus displayed; but they must consider the actual measure itself. The other clause was a very important one, and one which obliged him not to record his vote at all—he referred to the relaxation of the restrictions with regard to the Parliamentary grants. He could not put himself in the position of being supposed, by voting for the third reading of the Bill, to assent to this alteration. He regarded it as a most important change of principle, and although its immediate effects might be slight its ultimate effects would be great. He believed further that those ultimate effects would be exactly opposite to those intended by the promoters; for denominational schools, supported without subscriptions, if they did not become State schools, would become much subjected to State control. Now, as to the effect which this Bill might be supposed to have upon the condition of things as they were left by the Act of 1870, he thought the Government had acted most unwisely in disturbing the settlement of 1870, and he must be allowed to say that, in consequence of these changes, the alteration in the Parliamentary grant, and the dissolution of school boards, he did not consider himself any longer bound by any engagement he might have been supposed to enter into at the passing of the Act of 1870. He hoped, however, that his Friends on this side of the House would not misunderstand him. In regard to the Act of 1870 he had been in this pleasant position—that he had never felt himself compelled by expediency or for the purpose of getting the Bill passed to do anything that he did not consider fair and just, and in the true interests of education. What, therefore, he wished to state was simply this—that he should now consider himself perfectly free to adopt in this important matter of education, under any changed circumstances of the country, whatever course he thought most conducive to the interests of the children and of the country generally, though he must be allowed to say that he was still of opinion that 615 the Act of 1870 had been framed upon fair and just principles.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 119; Noes 46: Majority 73.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.