§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. HARRISON
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time."
There are thousands of children to-day with happy memories of the holiday they obtained on 24th May last year who are looking forward to 24th May of this year, but, on the other hand, there are many thousands of children who will not perhaps get a holiday on 24th May next. There are many reasons which one could advance for impressing upon the rising generation the need for studying the interests, not only of this country, but of the Empire as a whole and of its citizens, but I only intend to-day to put some main considerations before the attention of the House. British interests are world-wide. We have people of our own flesh and blood living on every Continent in the world. That being so, the people of this country are vitally inter- 1253 ested in the relationships of the peoples in those countries, not only as between this country and them, but as between them and every other country in the world, and even as far as between hemispheres such as the East and West. There is nowhere on the globe where the importance of the maintenance of peace and the advancement of mankind in general can be influenced more than by the citizens of this country and, through them, to their own kith and kin in the Colonies and on to the rest of the world in general.
The importance of instructing the young to realise their obligations when they reach adult age and become citizens of this great Empire, and their responsibilities as such to the world in general, cannot be too greatly stressed. I know there is no better method for building up and influencing their character than by a study of the growth of the Empire, teeming, as it does, with examples of devotion, of sacrifice, and of service, which, after all, have made this great Empire, and developed and consolidated it for the peace of the world at the present moment. There is no finer foundation on which character building could be started, and I think we shall all agree that a proper understanding of each country's economic position and progress generally is essential if the young are going to be able to focus their responsibilities in their true perspective. I could go on elaborating many reasons why the rising generation should be given increasing education in their duties as citizens of the Empire, but there is just one thing to which I will invite the attention of the House, and that is the increasing menace due to anti-Imperialistic propaganda which is being diligently fostered by those who favour Communistic principles and hold very extreme Socialist views indeed.
I think everyone is agreed that these dangers of either Communistic propaganda or apathetic ignorance are alike obvious, and if the rising generation is brought up to be doing nothing or caring nothing about the Empire, the effect will be fatal, not only to this country, but to all the countries inhabited by our people, and to the peace of the world in general. It is a risk which we cannot contemplate and which we are not prepared to run. One of the remedies seems to be the simple one of educating the young more 1254 than we are doing at the present moment. I would offer some suggestions. One is that in our elementary schools to-day we should have courses of education in the growth of the Empire and instruction as to the means of livelihood and economic conditions generally of the peoples of our Colonies and Dominions. That might be extended when they get to the secondary schools with courses, shall we say, on Empire constitutional history. By these means they would be able later on, when they come to adult age and have to accept great responsibilities as citizens of the Empire to appreciate the problems more fully than possibly they are appreciated at present, not only by the young, but even by adults. I am often impressed in my conversations with those who come from the Dominions by how much more they know about us—
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Are we to understand that the hon. Member is entitled to discuss further teaching facilities in respect of Empire development in connection with this Bill?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is rather difficult at this early stage to understand what the argument is. The argument is that the children should have a holiday. There are various kinds of holidays. It may be a holiday class.
§ Mr. HARRISON
I think I call show the House exactly where my argument comes in. The object of a holiday is to enable the young to appreciate to the full the significance of Empire Day, because the whole purpose of the holiday is to celebrate a real joy, and not a pretended joy. I think it will be agreed that the celebration of Empire Day is a real joy, if they appreciate the whole significance of the holiday. I find myself mere on common ground now than, perhaps, I did in my earlier remarks. Whether we sit on the back Benches or the front Benches we all have been young once, and I am perfectly certain that the children throughout the country to-day are looking forward to their elder brethren in this House granting them this half-holiday.
At this moment, somewhere in this country, lies in the cradle the future Prime Minister of England. No doubt he is engaged in the fascinating problem of how to ease the pain in his gums in cutting his first tooth, or the less painful 1255 problem of how to put his big toe into his mouth. That is an achievement which we all, sometime in our lives, have accomplished successfully, and I say that when he comes to be Prime Minister of this country, if he is to achieve his object as successfully as he will this afternoon in the profound problem which he is at present working out, he can only do it if he has instruction and education to be able to grapple with the great problem of administration, which inevitably must come to one who occupies the position as the senior partner in this great commonwealth of nations. I do hope, therefore, that with the permission of this House the full significance of their responsibilities as citizens may be brought home to the young, and that, in furtherance of this onerous duty, they may be granted a half-holiday on which to celebrate Empire Day.
§ Sir THOMAS DAVIES
I beg to second the Motion.
May I speak, first of all, as an old schoolmaster. I served an apprenticeship as a teacher in an elementary school. I never had the privilege of going to a secondary school or to the University, but I have noticed, when I was Chairman of the education committee in my own county of Gloucester, that this question of Empire was so often mixed up with other things, that it really became almost a burden to the children instead of a pleasure. It seems to me that if you are going to talk about the Empire, you might do it in one of several ways. Possibly it may interest the House to know the way in which I have conducted some Empire tours even in this House and Westminster Abbey. We start off by going into Westminster Hall, and here I may say that there is no tablet put up to the first Empire-builder, Sir Walter Raleigh. As a matter of fact, that man was executed in Whitehall in the reign of James I. He was brought from the Tower the night before his execution, and confined in the precincts of Westminster Hall, and, while there, he composed one of the most wonderful short poems I think I have ever read.
We know that, in the course of his career, he tried to colonise Virginia in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and, to bring it home to the children, we can present to them, in picturesque language, 1256 the way in which this young Devonshire squire first, won the attention of the virgin Queen Elizabeth. The story has often been told how the Queen one day walking in the street came to a puddle, and did not know how to get across, whereupon this young squire took off his velvet cloak—practically all he possessed in the world, because he spent all his money on his attire—and threw it across the puddle so that the Queen might walk across. That was the beginning of his great ambition to become noted in the eyes of the Queen. Let us see what happened. About the same time Raleigh went across the seas to try to found Virginia. We can conceive the immense amount of pluck and endurance which the men of those days had to go through. We remember that he was a contemporary of Sir Francis Drake, and when we recollect that Drake took a journey round the world which lasted three years, and that the ship in which he went only weighed 120 tons, which is far less than that of many boats we see coming up the river Thames. I think it is a wonderful example to our children that our forefathers, whatever merits or demerits they may have had, they had the one merit of great pluck and perseverance.
Let us go another step. I can also take children into Westminster Abbey, which I have done, to the tomb of the Unknown Warrior. You may have here a lecture covering the whole of the Empire. Was he one of those men who volunteered in the Great War, a tea planter from India, or a coffee-grower from Ceylon, or did he come from East Africa? Was he a sugar-planter from Queensland, or a wheat-grower from New South Wales? Was he a silver mine-digger from Victoria, a wine-grower from South Australia, a gold digger from Western Australia or a farmer who produced butter, cheese, Canterbury mutton and lamb from New Zealand? Was he a man who came from British Columbia where they catch, can and send away salmon? Was he a man from British Columbia who goes in for fruit growing or a corn grower from Canada, a Canadian boatman or a Canadian lumberman; or a fisherman from the rockbound coast of Newfoundland? Or, going back again, the greatest miracle of all, was this man one of those Boers with whom we were fighting 12 years before the Great War began, our former 1257 enemies, who, because of our splendid statesmanship, we were able to make our friends? If Empire Day is devoted, in some shape or form, to bringing forward this kind of thing to-day, we might bring together the modern and antique so as to interest everyone, young as well as old. I have never once refused on Empire Day, whenever asked, to give a little address, and the next time the parents ask whether they may not come as well to hear these things.
I know perfectly well what is in the mind of some people even in this House. They have a great dread if Empire Day be celebrated through the Empire schools, that in some shape or form we shall bring into it something of braggadocio that we are the finest nation in the world, and that we want a very big Army or Navy. I think that nothing is further from the thoughts of those who propose this, and certainly from the thoughts of elementary teachers, and from that we should bring forward anything that would upset the ideas of anybody, whether a little Englander, a big Englander or anything of the kind. We want no religious differences, and certainly no political arguments brought into this subject.
I have been to a good many celebrations, and I have inspected a good many schools, both elementary and secondary, and I am proud of the profession of which I am a certificated member. I am afraid I have passed the age for a pension, but I still hold with great pride the certificate which I obtained in 1872. If we had this half-holiday, I would suggest that part of the forenoon should be spent in the giving of such instruction as I have alluded to, and in bringing together the various things connected with the Empire with a view to interesting the children, teachers, and parents in the potentialities of this great Empire.
It does not matter where you are, you can begin with your own locality. Here, for instance, we could begin in the House of Commons. I took the case of Raleigh, who was a prisoner here the day before his execution. In Westminster Hall, there is a brass plate in the floor recording Warren Hastings. He was buried in a tomb just outside my own division at Daylesford, and what an interesting picture Macaulay brings out, a picture of 1258 this boy attending the village school, this boy, who was the son of an agricultural labourer, and telling the children: "Two or three hundred years ago the Hastings held all this parish of Daylesford, and today, my father is an agricultural worker on the land; my uncle, who brings me up, is the clergyman of the parish, but mark you, let me grow up and be a man, and I will have the old estate back again." And he did get it back again; and to-day, if you go to Daylesford, you will find men and women who can tell you tales, that have been handed down from their grandfathers and grandmothers, of the times when Warren Hastings was there. The fact that an agricultural labourer's boy had such great ambitious that he ended up by becoming a great Viceroy of India, would be a great incentive to many other sons of agricultural labourers. We could tell how that wonderful man was put upon his trial for seven years, and that he did things in India for which we are ashamed, and when you tell these things, you want to be absolutely truthful in your statements about these people; there were things in the time of the conquest of India first under the John Company, and then under Clive and Warren Hastings, of which we are to-day very ashamed; but we should not judge them harshly. They must be judged by what was the general opinion of their own day. To-day, we are harsh in our judgment of people who lived two or three hundred years ago, but we forget that they had not the means of communication that we have, and had not the chances of instruction that we have, and we should make allowances for that.
My point is that; in the morning of the 24th May, I should like the teachers, both of the small and large schools, of the elementary schools and the secondary schools, to bring before the children what a great thing this British Empire is, not with a view to aggrandisement, but in order to make them realise the responsibilities into which they are born, that it is their duty to do their best to leave the world a little better than they found it, and that the poorest boy or girl, and the uneducated man and woman, have some influence upon their neighbours in some shape or form. You may not see that influence at the time, but it is there. Take another case. You can go down the River Thames to Deptford, where lived 1259 Peter the Great, the great Czar of Russia who put Muscovy on its feet. The house that was taken for him in the time of Charles II belonged to the Evelyns, and what was the way in which this wonderful Peter the Great amused himself, to the great annoyance of his landlord? His great ambition was to get a wheelbarrow, and to run it up and down the grass patches and make holes in the fences. Then you can point out the association with Deptford of the man who first sailed round the world, Sir Francis Drake, and bow he brought his ship up the Thames and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. I have been knighted, but I did not go through such hardships to get it as Drake did. These are the things that attract people's attention.
You can go a little further. Not long ago, I motored through Kent and passed through Westerham. What do you see there? [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] I know what hon. Members are driving at, and the Gentleman they are cheering will have a monument Tint up to him there one day. The man who lived there was the man who won Quebec. What I would point out to the children is that that man was not only a great and successful soldier, but that, at an early age he was a great scholar. When he was leaving his ship of war to go in a small rowing boat down the River St. Lawrence to take Quebec, what was he reciting? He was reciting the words of the poet of Stoke Poges, and he said: "I would rather be the author of that poem than take Quebec." These are the little touches that bring the Empire home to our people. There is one thing at Westerham which I would like to see altered. The monument to Wolfe is very small, and I would like to see it replaced by a much larger one. In times to come, it may be that some of the agricultural workers who have been so pleased at having their rates taken off, will make a monument to the first Chancellor who did anything for agriculture.
I hope that the Board of Education will not attempt to put anything in the way of this Empire holiday taking place. I believe that if elementary schools are kept open 400 times in the year, they are entitled to their grant. That means that there are 12 weeks left, and I cannot but think that it would be 1260 a wise thing if a day out, of that 12 weeks were taken in order to bring children and their parents into contact with the things that make up the British Empire, pointing out where various things come from, their rights and their responsibilities and avoiding those things upon which there might be some discrepancies and ill-judgment. I would vote against this Bill if I thought that it would be the means of bragging about this great Empire. If there is rivalry, let it be like the rivalry in a flower show, where one parish tries to out-do another parish, but about which there is no bragging afterwards. It is in that spirit that I wish this holiday to be given.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now", and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
When I Came down to the House this morning and saw on the paper the Motion for the Second Beading of this Bill I had not made up my mind formally to oppose it, but having listened very carefully to the speech of the Mover I think there is no doubt that it ought to be opposed. The hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Sir T. Davies), for whom we have so much respect, and for whose educational record I have a very great regard, having been connected with a West Country education authority for many years whilst he was chairman of the education committee in Gloucester, said in his speech that he was very anxious that the granting of this facility for schoolchildren should not be used to promote aggrandisement or for political or religious purposes, but I am sorry to say that that is not the view of the Mover.
§ Mr. HARRISON
I am afraid that I did not make myself clear for which I must apologise. The only exception I took was to propaganda from Communist sources, which has been spreading the view up and down the country that we are the robbers and oppressors of other peoples in the world. My object has been to let the young people have a full appreciation of exactly what has been done in the Empire and of their obligations as citizens of the Empire, but without any political object in view.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The hon. Member is entitled to make that explanation, but I think he will have considerable difficulty in removing the impression which was left upon our minds. At first, certainly, he did not refer to Communists, for whom we hold no brief upon this side of the House, as he ought to know. The Communists were only referred to by him a little later. What he said at the outset was that he was very anxious to counteract general anti-Imperialistic propaganda. As a matter of fact, sonic of us hold the view that some Communist propaganda is as Imperialistic from one point of view as is the propaganda of some people in this country and other Imperial countries, but there are a large number of citizens in this country who, as a matter of faith, are against anything of the type which may be described as Imperialistic, and the fact that it was represented to us that this Bill was a Measure which would help us to withstand to some extent what he regarded as anti-Imperialist propaganda made it quite certain in my mind that it ought to be opposed. After he had referred to Communists he went on to refer to Socialists.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
Oh, yes, certainly, I think an examination of the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow will show that first of all the hon. Gentleman referred quite generally to anti-Imperialists, secondly to Communists, and, thirdly,, to Socialists.
§ Mr. HARRISON
If my hon. Friend will read the report he will see that I referred to Communists and to the most extreme Socialistic principles. "Extreme" was the word used.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
It is quite apparent now that I have not really misinterpreted the hon. Member. I took down the words as they fell from his lips—anti-Imperialists, Communists, Socialists. May I make my position perfectly plain, because I am sure it is the position of at any rate a large number of my hon. Friends upon these benches. We are as much concerned with the prosperity and the outlook of the British Dominions as any other party in this House. Every Monday night, within the precincts of this Palace of Westminster, we have sitting a group of Labour 1262 Members of Parliament who gather specifically for the discussion of British Dominions policy, and how it can best be directed, not to this or that phase of aggrandisement, but to the general uplifting and development of the people and, a much wider thing, the general peace and goodwill which ought to be secured in the world at large. We take no second place to any other Party in the House on that matter, but we have very grave doubts when we hear the kind of speech we had this afternoon whether the purpose we all have in view will he helped by such a Bill as is now before us.
The Hon. Member who introduced the Bill said, that if we are to have a national holiday in this country we should also have specific education in the schools of a character which would enable the children to appreciate, apparently, the purpose of this national holiday. The hon. Member is putting forward a rather dangerous precedent in that argument, even from his own point of view. There are a large number of schools in Europe which close upon another festive day than Empire Day. There is a day which is observed right throughout the world for quite another reason than the aggrandisement or appreciation of Empire, and that is the universal brotherhood of the workers of the world, and that is 1st May. If you are going to put forward a policy which would lead to specific education in Empire ideals and policy, surely you are throwing open the door for those who believe in the celebration of another day to ask for the inclusion in the curriculum of the school of specific education in the principles which are celebrated upon 1st May. I might go further and, speaking for the moment not only as a Labour Member of Parliament, but as a member of another great movement, the Co-operative Movement, which covers now 50,000,000 people throughout the world, remind the House that the first Saturday in July is set apart for the celebration of the principles of economic co-operation, and we might well ask that we should have specific education in the elementary schools to help children to appreciate the co-operative ideal. That would be a very dangerous precedent indeed.
1263 We have listened to a very entertaining account of certain historical events given by the Mover, and more especially by the Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. As I listened to those speeches, I had vivid recollections of my own education in history, limited as it was to the elementary schools. Like the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Sir T. Davies), I have not had any opportunity for a full-time education except at an elementary school. Next week, I am going to visit an elementary school in Bristol where I was educated, and consequently I have very much the same sort of feeling as the hon. Member for Tewkesbury in regard to this question.
I realise that from my school days all the education I got on this question was of the type which has been mentioned, consisting of anecdotes and stories about people in history. Of course, there was no reference in my historical education to the real facts of modern life with which the boy or girl leaving school at 14 would be immediately confronted. I remember going into an elementary school in Bristol to meet my old schoolmaster, under whom, I confess, I was very fortunate to sit, and who took me from the first standard to the ex-seventh standard. I went into the school of which he had become the headmaster, and I got his permission to ask the boys in the top standard one or two questions.
I asked them if they could tell me how many wives Henry the VIII had, and shat were their names? The majority of the boys in that class could answer that question straight away, but when I asked if they could tell me who was Robert Owen, and when he was born; at what date the British Co-operative Movement was founded; or on what date the British Trade Union Movement was founded, they could not give me any answer. Surely all those are features that boys who will come up against trade union organisations directly they leave school ought to know. If the hon. Member who introduced this Bill is going to plead here that there ought to be specific education in the elementary schools of the country in order to enable school children to appreciate the greatness and the responsibility of the British Empire, is it not equally open to us to 1264 plead that special instruction should be given to the children to enable them to appreciate the economic difficulties which they will have to face as members of the working-class. If the hon. Member wants to go on with that suggestion, he will find that we shall have some very specific propositions to make from this side of the House.
My last objection to the Bill is one of which I think the President of the Board of Education ought to be fully seized. I hope, when the right hon. Gentleman gets up to reply, he will indicate that, although he may sympathise politically with the object of this Bill, as the Minister responsible for the administration of education, he is going to advise the House not to give it a Second Heading. I believe this Measure would have a bad effect upon the relationship between the central administrative department and the local authorities. If you examine the Education Act, you will find that in administering questions relating to holidays these matters have always been left to the local education authority. Those authorities have been elected by the popular vote, and the wishes of the locality are met by the decisions of a competent representative body.
It seems to me to be futile to bring forward a Bill for the purpose indicated by the Mover of this Measure to check what he calls anti-Imperial, Communist, and Socialist propaganda. That would be interfering with the right of a popularly elected local authority. It will be a very serious thing indeed if you are going to deal with what are after all comparatively small administrative questions, such as the granting of holidays to school children, by taking out of the hands of the local authorities a power which has already been conferred upon them by Statute. We have seen enough of the tendency to interfere with the fundamental principles of local government which have been established so long in this country. Are you now going to lay down that the local authority is not to have the right to say when they may or may not have the school open for education?
§ Mr. MAXTON
I beg to second the Amendment.
I came down to the House in some doubt as to whether I should support or oppose this Bill, because, like the Hon. 1265 Member for Tewkesbury (Sir T. Davies), at one time I was a humble practitioner in the teaching profession, and I still retain my certificate. Perhaps it is as well that I gave up active practice before the Noble Lord took over the control of education. I am always strongly in favour of giving the youngsters an additional holiday. That is something which is always good in itself. Whether they are holidays given for skating, picnicking, or Empire holidays, they are all for the good of the youngsters and the teachers. I gather from those who have put forward this Bill that the object is not to give the youngsters an extra holiday, but to take away from the holidays they have now in some other part of the year and give that holiday back again on the particular day laid down in this Bill, and it is only a miserable half-day holiday at that. It seems to me to be a very miserable contribution coming from the Conservative party with a great Imperial idea, that from either the Christmas holidays, the Easter holidays, the Whitsun holidays or the summerholidays a day should betaken and given on this particular date. The hon. Member shakes his head. I would like him to explain the meaning of his head-shake.
§ Sir T. DAVIES
I am very pleased to accede to the hon. Member's request. If the school is opened 400 times, that is to say, for 40 weeks, the other 12 weeks are absolutely at the discretion of the managers, teachers and education committee as regards holidays. Therefore, additional days may be given as long as the school is kept open 400 times, and it does not make any difference to the holidays. If it did, I should not be supporting it, because, like the hon. Member, I am a believer in as many holidays as possible.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. Member is fully aware, as an expert practitioner in the profession, and he ought to inform the House, that practically every school authority throughout this country comes so close to the 400 openings that, if an extra holiday is going to be given on one day, it has to come off some holiday that is already established.
§ Sir T. DAVIES
I was a teacher in a factory district for nine years, and was also headmaster of a small school, and 1266 the utmost holiday that I had in the whole of the nine years was five weeks, out of the 12 that I might have had.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It must be a considerable time since the hon. Member left the active practice of the profession.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I can assure him that things have improved considerably in the interim, and I am aware that, so far as Scotland is concerned, when the year's attendances are totalled up, they range round about 402 or 403; there is not a day's break after the Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and summer holidays have come off, and an additional day has got to be obtained by taking a day from one place and putting it on to another. If the hon. Member had come forward with a proposal to the Noble Lord that, instead of insisting on 400 openings in the year, he would be satisfied with 398, that would have been a genuine addition to the total holiday supply of the youngsters of this country; but this is a fraudulent Measure in so far as it will presumably send a ray of hope into the hearts of the school-attending population of this country—who, although they have no votes, are of considerable importance—that they are going to get an extra-half-day, when the fact is quite otherwise.
Another reason why I should be glad to support a holiday would be that, in quite a number of schools, there has developed, particularly under the present administration, a most objectionable practice of celebrating Empire Day with various demonstrations, mostly militaristic in character—the hoisting of the Union Jack, marching past in formation, and saluting the Union Jack, while the boys of the schools who are attached to cadet corps, boy scouts and boys' brigades are told to turn out in uniform, and. teachers who are ex-Service men are told to wear their medals. There is something to be said for a holiday which takes the children away from that so far as the school is concerned. Even supposing that the community of which they are members celebrates Empire Day in that manner outside, to have an Empire Day celebrated by the general community is a different thing from having it under definite educational auspices, under their teachers and all the rest of it; and a 1267 holiday that took them quite clear of that would be something gained.
I, presumably, am one of the extreme Socialists referred to by the hon. Member for Tewkesbury. I take the view that the Imperialist idea cannot be propagated without the anti-foreign idea. If you start appreciating British Imperialism, you start depreciating all the ether nations of the world that are not British. I admit that, in the hands of a very practised orator, in the hands of a very skilled politician, a case can be made out to show that British Imperialism is not of the "Deutschland über Alles" variety; but, whenever we see another country propagating its Imperialism, whether it be "Deutschland über Alles" or "Russia über Alles," we see the objectionable side of Imperialism, and it does not take a tremendously clever man to put himself in the position of those people who see British Imperialism in exactly the same way.
I do not deny that there is a necessary Englishman's, or Britisher's, interest in the history of his own country, and in the things that his own countrymen have done in the past. The personal references of the hon. Member for Tewkesbury to Raleigh, Montcalm, Warren Hastings and others as Empire builders were very interesting, but he can readily appreciate that, if I, as a teacher, were dealing with these personalities in my class-room, my approach to the problem would probably be somewhat different from his. If I were giving an Empire Day lesson, for instance, on Sir Walter Raleigh, I could give, I think, a very interesting lesson on the progress that has taken place from Sir Walter Raleigh to the Imperial Tobacco Company. coupled with the names of W. D. and H. O. Wills, and some references to the windfalls that came to the Chancellor of the Exchequer through the demise of some members of the family of Wills during the past year. I understand that the real financial factor that enabled the Chancellor of the Exchequer to square his Budget was the fact that a number of members of the family of Wills died, and they could not have died in that position if it had not been for Sir Walter Raleigh bringing tobacco over to this country Then I could, I think, give an interesting lesson showing the progress from 1268 Warren Hastings to the conditions in the jute mills of Calcutta and Bombay today. It would be my duty as an honest teacher to tell my pupils just exactly what India is like to-day after these years of the blessings of British Imperialism. I might make the excuse that, of course, if Britain had not been there, they would have been much worse, but I should feel in my heart that that was a damnably hypocritical thing to say, because one could not imagine conditions being any worse, in certain aspects of Indian life, wider anyone than they are under British rule. Therefore, you are getting on to very dangerous ground, especially as it must be remembered that there are more teachers to-day growing up with my views than there are with the views of the hon. Member for Tewkesbury, and there are more parents growing up with my views than with his.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I think that both the remarks of the hon. Member and the interruption go far beyond the question of the closing of schools at 12.15 p.m. on the 24th day of May.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am trying, perhaps not with any great success, to prove the dangers attaching to the attempt of hon. Members opposite to use the publicly-owned schools of this country for the propagation of the national conceptions of the Tory party. Members on this side of the House are united, whether it is my hon. Friend who has just spoken or myself, who approach this problem from a very different angle, he, who believes that he and others in this party should work for the development of the British commonwealth of nations, making them leaders of liberty and high social life among the nations of the world, or myself, who takes the view that the right ideal is to conceive of a united human race composed of free nations quite freely associated and dominated by no one, or by no race—the complete international conception in which no race is dominant. That conception I prefer and, generally speaking, and certainly 1269 in the Tory mind, the Imperial conception is in direct antagonism to the international conception and is always associated with jingoism, militarism and conquest, and the conception of a superior people controlling and directing the destinies of other sections of the human race whom they regard as morally or intellectually inferior to themselves.
I dissent absolutely from that view. I object to it being propagated in our schools. To begin with, it is an untrue view of what is going to happen in the world. British Imperialism not going to dominate the world. American Imperialism is not going to dominate the world. We are going forward to a democracy of the nations, and what above all, we should teach to our youngsters in our public schools if we are an honest nation and if we are honest teachers, is the honest truth, the best thought that we can put before them, and not the partisan prejudice that we adults may develop for party or for some other reason. We should try to teach the youngsters the honest truth about the relationship of man to man and of man to the world that he inhabits, and we should try to indicate to them the true and ethical principles upon which the development of the world in the future should take place. If we do anything less than that, if we try to aggrandise ourselves, if we try to apologise for the blackguardisms of the past because they were committed by men of our own race, why we should excuse them —why we should condemn them if they were by men of another race—we are not doing the right thing for the rising generation. We are doing the wrong thing towards our own county and towards the world. This is a pettifogging Bill to begin with. It is an attempt on the part of the Tory party to use the public schools for the propagation of their conception of patriotism, which is a bad conception. It is an attempt to militarise the youngsters' minds before they have time to react to big political ideas and principles. It is giving them no additional happiness and pleasure in their lives, and for these reasons I have the greatest pleasure in seconding the rejection of the Bill.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
It appears to me hon. Members opposite are losing an excellent opportunity. It would have been a much better course for them to propose an Amendment to the effect that Empire Day should be a whole holiday. In opposing the Bill, they put into our power the opportunity of saying to the school children, "The Socialist party opposes your having a half-holiday." The hon. Member who has just spoken, feeling himself in an awkward position, began by trying to prove that the provisions of the Bill meant that a half-holiday was to be taken away from somewhere else and placed on Empire Day. Not at all. The intention is to give an additional half-holiday to the children to celebrate a great Day and celebrate the national flag of the country and of the British Empire, which is the Union Jack, which we are proud of because it represents peace, civilisation, the abolition of slavery and the advancement of everything that makes life good—the flag of the three crosses. The hon. Member speaks of the teaching of history in the elementary schools. I admit that in the past there has been too much stress laid upon dynasties, campaigns, and battles, and not enough upon the natural growth of the peoples and their great national interests, but that is now being to a large extent met. There are now circulating in the State schools history books written on a very different principle. The same mistake has been made, and we suffer from it to-day, in the schools of America. That also to some extent is now being remedied.
When the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) speaks of the celebration of Empire. Day being on the same footing as the celebration of Labour Day and of the birth of the Co-operative Movement, I quite agree with him that we should teach our children about Robert Owen and the great Co-operative Movement, but to say that the celebration of the British Empire is on a par with the celebration of Labour Day or of the Co-operative Movement is to say that the less is equal to the greater. The British Empire contains the Labour Movement if contains the Co-operative Movement, and it is the pioneer of everything that is good and valuable in the civilisation of humanity. We who support this Bill are no megalomaniacs. We do not support it because we want to glorify the 1271 greatness of the British Empire as a military power. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) spoke of the militaristic ceremonies of Empire Day. I have taken part in those ceremonies and I make no reference to militarism. I rejoice in seeing the Union Jack hoisted because of what that flag represents—the greatest flag that ever was or ever will be. I talk to the children about the mission of the British Empire and the British race. I tell them the greatest necessity of the British Empire is peace. When hon. Members talk about militarism they are talking nonsense.
What is it that we want most in the British Empire? Peace. What is the greatest factor, the central Power, in the League of Nations? The British Empire —this country surrounded by the great Dominions—and if we withdrew tomorrow the League of Nations would collapse. I ask the hon. Member opposite: Is he a supporter of the League of Nations? If he is, he rejoices in the fact that the British Empire exists and is the centre of it. Think of the enormous interests, the enormous resources in raw material waiting to be developed in the Empire, and then I ask any reasonable person: Is it sensible to talk about militarism? We welcome such organisations as the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides, because they teach discipline and self-respect, whereas the ideas the hon. Member propagates are subversive to a large extent of discipline and are had for the youth of the country. I remember in particular—I think it was last year or the year before—the celebration of Empire Day at a village school in my constituency—at Waltham St. Lawrence. They hoisted the Union Jack, and there was a little ceremony. There were four of the elder pupils representing England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, a number of smaller pupils representing the Dominions, and smaller pupils still representing parts of the Empire such as Trinidad, British Guiana, Nigeria, and so on. There were some very pretty Morris dances. It was a beautiful sunlit morning, and the final act at this little function was the holding of the Union Jack by the representatives of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales over the whole group—a picture of the British Empire.
1272 What we want to bring home to the mass of the children in the schools is the great work, the great mission, and the great history of the British Empire. We do not talk to them about the Army or the Navy, though we might well do so. The British Army has been the pioneer of civilisation. Look at its work in Africa. Look at Khartum, which was the home of barbarism and blood. Now there is a university, a centre of commerce and of civilisation. We might well talk to them about that. We also might tell them about the thousand years' work for civilisation of the British Navy. I would ask the hon. Gentleman opposite to tell me of a single war of aggression in the last 100 years in which the British Navy has been engaged. I would remind him that the British Navy took part with the Dutch Navy in protecting the democratic liberties of the people of this country and of Holland in the days of William of Orange. His speech is one more proof that Socialism is a back number.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I do not quite follow. Does the hon. Member suggest that the hon. Gentleman is always impeccable?
§ Mr. MAXTON
For hon. Members opposite to say that Socialism- is a back number is necessarily always in order, because it is the important point in every speech.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Undoubtedly, outside this House it might have relevance, but, on a particular question as to whether schools should close at 12.15 on the 24th May, it does not seem to be specially apposite.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I apologise for calling the Socialists back numbers, but I cannot help remembering the travesty of the Tory mind depicted by the hon. Gentleman. I did not intend to intervene in the Debate, but the statements made by the hon. Member opposite seemed to me to be so exaggerated and so beside the real state of affairs that I 1273 could not resist the opportunity of saying a word in support of the Bill. It is a very simple Bill to give the children of the country an additional half-holiday in order that they may remember the greatness of their history, what they inherit, what the British Empire is doing at the present moment for peace and civilisation, that peace is its great aim, and that they themselvesare sprung of earth's first blood, Have titles manifold.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I want to support the Amendment before the House, and I trust that the President of the Board of Education will not agree to accept this Bill. Let him remember that deep down in the minds of a large number of the inhabitants of this country, Imperialism means Toryism. I claim that I love my England as well as any member on the opposite side of this House. I want to make England happy, but I fear that, through Imperialism as we know it, that very desirable object will not be attained. I know only too well that Imperialism has been the means of creating very bad conditions for my people. I realise that Russia was once our salvation as far as the coal trade of this country was concerned. If I asked members on the opposite side of the House to do what they could to get trade with Russia, how many of them would agree with me in that desirable object? Six million tons of coal from the northern ports used to go to Russia every year. To-day—
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
I apologise. I hope that the Bill will not be accepted. In our ranks, there is a desire for another holiday, and I claim that we have more right to that holiday than have hon. gentlemen opposite for the holiday which they are seeking to establish to-day. When all the toil was over, when the sowing had been done and when everything had been made ready for us to reap a rich harvest, we selected the 1st of May as a holiday. In my own area demands have been made and are still being made upon the County Council to appoint that day as one of the holidays. If we did that, we should be accused of bringing politics into our elementary schools, and we are not going to do that. In spite of 1274 all the pressure brought to bear from outside, they have so far stuck to their guns. You will have the labour people in Durham against the Government in regard to the present proposal. It will not end there. Those who have no national feeling will seek, through the schools, to have their propaganda disseminated among the children. I am afraid that it will revive that old saying of which we have heard so much in days gone by: "Give me the children for a short period, and in a very short time I will shape the politics and religion of the people of this country." I hope the President of the Board of Education and those at the head of the educational system of the country will not lend themselves to this sort of thing. It will not help education. The President of the Board of Education knows as well as I know that every break into the school curriculum or the school term will put education back. It means a break in the child's mind, and that accentuates the difficulties of the teacher in making progress with education.
I cannot vote for this Bill. I regard it as a deliberate attempt to bring politics inside our schools. It must be remembered by those who are supporting the Bill that they have not all the schools in the country behind them, and I can assure them that our people in Durham will try as best they can to counteract what the supporters of this Bill are trying to do. I plead with the President of the Board of Education that he should not allow outside people to interfere with the education of the children, but that he should leave the education committees of the local authorities to do what they consider to be most desirable in the interests not only of the children but of the parents and the country.
§ Sir JOHN MARRIOTT
Like the horn Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) I had no intention of intervening in this Debate. It is with very great regret that I realise that this Bill is not to receive the unanimous assent of all parties in the House. I regret that opposition should have occurred in the discussion of a Bill which seems to me to rise entirely above party feelings. I am not, however, entirely surprised, and I confess it with regret, at the opposition which has developed. I regard that opposition as one more proof of how the 1275 party opposite misinterpret the feelings of the great masses of the people of this country. It seems to me that they entirely misinterpret the public mind on this matter. I desire to urge one particular point in favour of the Bill. Those of us who are interested in the education of the children and in the education of the adults of this country are intensely anxious that our people should realise the splendid inheritance which is theirs to enjoy, and if there is one question which at the present time is of the utmost importance to the people of this country it is that we should think—I will not say imperially, because I know that would encourage opposition —of a conception of the British Commonwealth of nations not as separate entities but as parts of one great whole.
There is one question of paramount importance, and it is this, that we should so redistribute the white population of our Empire as to contribute to the well-being of all parts of it. This is not merely a question of the well-being of the Mother Country, of the well-being of the great Dominions or of the wellbeing of the dependent parts of the Empire: it is a question of the wellbeing of all, all sharing and contributing to the well-being of the whole. I shall not trench upon another Bill which is at present before the House, but I frankly confess that one of the reasons which makes me enthusiastic in support of this Bill is that it will contribute among our children and young people to a better knowledge of the Empire which is theirs. At the present time we are finding it very difficult to impress upon the minds of our people that there is awaiting them in other parts of the world a splendid opportunity, if they will only take advantage of it. Various public-spirited efforts are now being made in the interests of the Empire. A magnificent effort is being made by the Press of this country to bring home to the children and young people the opportunity which awaits them in our Dominions, in the Commonwealth beyond the seas. I support this Bill, and I regret that it is not receiving unanimous support from all sections of the House, because I see in it one more opportunity of bringing home to 1276 the rising generation not anything in the nature of jingoism, not anything in the nature of militarism, but a true conception of what the Empire means. I associate myself with every word which was said by the hon. Member for Windsor on this point. Our conception of the Empire is not a militarist conception but a conception of a world society charged with a great mission for the improvement of the lot of mankind. That is the conception which many of us have of the Empire and it is that conception which we want to inculcate in our rising generation. Apart from that conception there is the specific question of the redistribution of the population of the Empire and the problem of migration. I see in the annual setting part of a half holiday for our children an opportunity of bringing home to them the possibilities that await them in other parts of the Empire. For these reasons, I shall give the Bill my hearty support.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
In objecting to the Bill I should like to present the highest view in the nature of objection to the proposal. I appreciate the very fair utterances in support of the Bill from the other side of the House, I can well understand that their support arises from a conception of the flag of our country which in the views of large numbers of people not only in this country but in other countries has led very considerably in the way of civilisation. The last speaker has defined a conception largely and sincerely held about the mission of this country as being a specific mission for the interests of people at large. That is exactly the conception that other nations hold equally sincerely of their mission. The great nation that was subjugated in the War held that view most tenaciously. We criticised the idea of "Germany over all." The answer to that was: "What about Britannia rules the waves?" I am a wholehearted supporter of the League of Nations, but I do not agree that our country is doing its part.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
It would be difficult for the hon. Member to point to any country which has disarmed itself to the same extent as this country.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
Let me take another point. At this time the representative of Italy on the League of Nations Committee dealing with opium was engaged in condemning other countries for suppressing figures in connection with this drug, which is so harmful in its effects. I am anxious to see the League of Nations advance in prestige and power. The whole idea of the League of Nations is to wipe out the conception of Empire as outlined in this Bill, and completely obliterate the old-time idea of contending nationalities; to bring all nations together, not under the auspices of the British Empire or any other Empire, but in a unity of all nations. This mission can only he brought about by the attainment of the object for which the League of Nations has been created. The children of this country, undoubtedly are to be impregnated with the idea that Empire Day is one on which they must specially concentrate their minds on the Empire with which they are identified as the principal factor in the advancement of the interest of the peoples of the world.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I felt sure that I was quite correct. That is the definition of hon. Members opposite, but by that very admission they destroy at once the argument that they have no idea of instilling such thoughts into the minds of the children of this country. If you glorify a specific flag you intend the children to have the idea that it takes precedence over all other ensigns in the world.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
The hon. Member is contradicting himself. At the present moment the churches in every land are being linked up with the League of Nations. As a rule the churches have taken no part in political affairs, but they have become interested in the work of the League of Nations and desire to see it developed and extended, because they have a conception of a flag and standard compared with which the Union Jack and all other 1278 emblems are mere trivialities. It is the standard of the Cross of Christ. It is a conception of the day when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
It may be in the Union Jack, but it is not in the ballot box. The Cross is prostituted when it comes to the ballot box, because it is not the advancement of the kingdom of Christ which is considered; it is wordly standards and worldly values. We want the whole human race to be one great family; no matter their colour, race or nationality. They are all God's people, concerning whom He has made every provision. Man alone has departed from the ways which God Almighty intended him to follow, and, as a consequence, we have the devastation which is prevalent, not only in this country, but in other countries throughout the world. The League of Nations is the finest approach yet to that great conception which everyone who is a professing Christian sustains in his life, and, therefore, it would be unthinkable to countenance and support an Empire in the minds of the children. All countries, all nations, all races are intended to be united in one. There is no reason why they should be brought into conflict with each other, and, therefore, there is every reason why there should be inculcated in the minds of the children the one great and only conquering principle, not the dictatorship of man, but the one principle which Professor Drummond showed to be the greatest power in the world—love. The "love of Christ constraineth us"; not to love any special emblem of nationality under which we may happen to be born, but to love the one great standard which signifies the brotherhood of man. That is the only Empire with which professing Christian men and women should be identified. On the highest grounds I object to the principle of this Bill.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)
The Debate has lasted some time now. I am not sure that it has not generated more heat than light, and that it might be to the advantage of the schools and all concerned if we were to limit our discussion and come to a vote on the subject. I think, however, it is my duty to make 1279 some reply to one or two points which have been raised. First, may I say this: One speech has been made this afternoon which I greatly regret, and that is the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). We know the hon. Member for Bridgeton, and we know that when he speaks on a political subject he makes the very best, as he ought to do, of his case, but what he has said this afternoon as an ex-teacher is going to be taken by many people outside as representing what he thinks ought to be taught in schools. We know perfectly well that he did not really believe that when he was teaching children about Sir Walter Raleigh he would ruin his opportunity by dragging in any such utter nonsense as the tobacco monopoly. But for a man in the position of the hon. Member to make a speech like that for the purpose of scoring a debating point, a speech which may give rise to such appalling misapprehensions, is very regrettable.
Leaving that, let me say a few words about the main objection which has been raised to this Bill. That is the objection raised by the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) and the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. R. Richardson)—namely, that if you fix a holiday on Empire Day you will immediately get an irresistible demand for a holiday on 1st May and on other days which have certain political connections. I appreciate very much what the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring said about the action of the Durham County Council in connection with the giving of a holiday on May Day. I think that that action, or abstention from action, by the Durham County Council showed a very high conception of discretion and responsibility. The hon. Member for Hillsborough talked as though holidays were never giver on May Day, and as though it had never occurred to anyone to tell teachers to give special instruction in advance as to the significance of May Day. I wonder whether it would surprise the hon. Member to know that within my recollection since I have been in office, one local authority actually declared a whole holiday on that day for the purpose mainly of taking children to Hyde Park so that they might listen to speeches, and that the authority circularised all the headmasters of the schools asking them to give special lessons to the children 1280 on the significance of the day. That sort of action is taken by local authorities at the present time.
After all, surely there is same confusion of thought between a holiday such as is proposed in this Bill and a holiday like May Day. Of course if you merely say "It provides a precedent, and it would be discreet not to provide a precedent of that kind because it might be misused," that is an argument which one can consider; but when you try to draw an analogy between Empire Day and May Day, I think I am bound to draw what is, to my mind, a clear distinction between the two things. When the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring was speaking I felt how much I sympathised with him in what I thought was his feeling as to how May Day, an ancient and traditional holiday, had beenSicklied o'er with the pale cast of thoughtand given a new turn and deflected from its old traditional holiday feeling by all sorts of political implications. I am very anxious that the same thing should not happen to Empire Day. I am very anxious that Empire Day should be recognised for what it is.
I agree with an hon. Friend who said that one is very apt, that everyone is apt to talk over the children's heads and try to inculcate—I do not think teachers do this, but people are very often urged to ask teachers to do this—some particular attitude towards questions of the day. One is often inclined to use an opportunity like Empire Day for purposes which really tend to make young children into prigs and do them no good. That is a danger, I admit, but—here I join issue with the hon. Member for Bridgeton—so far from it being true that more and more teachers to-day do that kind of thing in one direction or another, so far from it being true that teachers cannot be trusted to deal with subjects like the subjects that come up on Empire Day, without being militarists on the one hand or declining into controversies about politics on the other—so far from that, being true, I am sure that the teaching of Empire history and history in general is improving steadily year by year throughout the country. I do not agree that teachers cannot be trusted to use well an opportunity like Empire Day.
§ Mr. TINKER
I think the Noble Lord misunderstood my hon. Friend. I understood my hon. Friend to say that the teachers had a different conception as to what history meant.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I dare say the hon. Member for Bridgeton meant to say that, but I am afraid that the impression he will give outside the House is that he thinks that the right conception of the teaching of history is a controversial matter, and that is where I disagree with him. What is the purpose for which we want to use Empire Day? Why is it different from May Day? Why is it different from any other holiday? The answer surely is that children in this country are members of a society to which they owe absolute obligations—obligations which, as a matter of fact, they do not and cannot owe to any wider or looser aggregation. It is, of course, a political entity; the nation is a political entity. But the nation, or in our case our Empire, our commonwealth of nations, is the society in which the child has to live, to which it owes obligations, to the Government of which it owes loyalty and obedience. To enable children to know about that society and that Government, without going into the questions of the constitution which are very often over the heads of young people, to enable people to appreciate what these obligations are, is an important and essential part of education. It is not propaganda; the teaching of loyalty, of obligation to a Government is not propaganda. Like many other things in education it must not be taught to young children in the abstract. It has to be taught by concrete examples and by general training, perhaps less by teaching than by the actual work of the school, by the team work of games and so on, and by the proper conduct of school life. But it is one of the main objects of education to train children in the discipline of the common membership of a political society to which they owe allegiance.
It is for that purpose that we wish to use Empire day. I think the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring put his finger on the point of Empire Day as an educational opportunity. He said that he loved. England and wanted the best for England. It is easy enough in school to acquire that conception. We 1282 all very early get that kind of affection for the country we know, even if we know only a little bit of it. But to realise that your citizenship is wider is something more. Why the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour), who wants universal citizenship, should oppose the realisation or the teaching of a wide citizenship of a great Empire comprising about a quarter of the human race, why he should think that it is a step towards universal brotherhood to keep back from children the knowledge of how wide the actual citizenship to which they owe obligation now is, I cannot understand. But the educational purpose of Empire Day is to give knowledge and some idea of what that wider society is like because the child is a member of it. The hon. Member for Bridgeton said it was a duty to teach the truth to children, and he defined truth as the giving of our best thoughts. We have to teach children the truth in the sense of facts and not the conclusions and deductions from those facts, even though they may be the best conclusions and deductions. That is the way in which we want to use Empire Day.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
Take the point of difficulty which arose between General Smuts and General Hertzog over the flag question. That was in South Africa, which is part of the Empire.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Yes, but the whole point of our Empire as of any political society is that it enables those differences to be solved. What better example of internationalism can there be than an Empire which has reconciled the French culture of Quebec and the Dutch culture of the Transvaal, not to speak of many others, in one community, notwithstanding the most tremendous divergence of ideals and very often continual conflict in the past and even to-day? There was continual jealousy between the French and English provinces in Canada in the past, but they have been brought into a society which enables those differences to be solved without actual conflict. That is the whole conception which we want to get into the child's mind and that, I suppose, would be the greatest contribution we could bring to the cause of peace. I wanted to try to explain what I am sure my hon. Friends behind me mean by this Bill. Let us remember that Empire Day is very well 1283 used in our schools to-day and is well used, I am sure, in many schools in Durham and is encouraged by the Durham County Council.
Now I come to the only real question about this Bill, the only solid ground of doubt, and that is the question of the discretion of the local authorities. I think it is important that I should point out that we are not here giving a general public holiday. This proposal only applies to elementary schools—indeed it is meant only to apply to public elementary schools, which is not quite the same thing. The promoters of the Bill are not, in any sense, giving a general public half holiday, even to children. What they are doing is to say that certain types of schools must be closed on this day. These schools are provided by local education authorities or are provided by voluntary bodies and maintained by the local education authorities. In a sense they are not your schools to close. On the other hand, it is already provided in the Education Act, that by-laws on school attendance shall not enforce the attendance of a child at school on certain days which are defined under certain conditions. You are really extending those conditions to the afternoon of 24th May and saying that the by-law shall not apply in that respect. That is a thing on which we ought to get the consent of the local education authorities before the House finally deals with a Bill of this nature. I think it is a matter on which consultation with the local authorities is desirable but I do not think that is any reason, especially after some of the speeches which have been delivered here to-day, why we should refuse to give the Bill a Second Reading as an indication of the importance which we attach to the proper observance—the educational observance—of Empire Day.
§ Mr. TINKER
I rise for the purpose of asking my hon. Friends not to press their Amendment and I think that probably had the speech of the President of the Board of Education been made at an earlier stage, the Amendment would not have been moved. There was no need for those who promoted the Bill to bring in such expressions as "Communism" or "Socialism" and had the Mover 1284 of the Motion for the Second Reading dealt with the higher ideals of Empire Day as the President of the Board of Education did I feel sure no one here would have opposed the Bill. I think all of us have some national pride and Empire pride and the only doubt that we have in our minds is as to whether what has happened in the past will be repeated in this connection. It has been the practice of some people, to treat Empire Day as if only one party in this country, namely the Conservative party, stood for the Empire. That has been the conception of certain people for a long time past, but I believe it is now being realised that the Labour party as well as the Liberals or the Conservatives, believe in the greatness of the Empire as something which is good for the world in general. If the teaching to be given in connection with Empire Day follows upon those lines, namely that the Empire is for the general good of humanity, I do not see that there can be any objection. A minor point has been raised as to whether the holiday should be a whole day or not, but these are matters that can be dealt with in Committee. My own view is that a whole day ought to be given and that the instruction to be given on Imperial subjects could be arranged for some time prior to the actual holiday. I think my hon. Friends would be well advised not to press the Amendment to a Division. I think this matter is too big to be treated as a party question and I only rise at this juncture to tell the members on these benches how I feel on the subject.
§ Major OWEN
Until I heard some of the speeches which have been made in opposition to this Bill I had no intention of intervening. There is an old Welsh proverb which says:Cas gwr na charo'r wlad a'i macco.[Interruption.] If that is the sort of Imperial feeling which is exhibited in this House, I think it is high time we had a little more Imperial history taught in our schools. It is quite uncalled for that a gibe should be made at a language spoken by a nation which has played a very considerable part in building up this Empire. [HON. MEMBERS: "What was it?"] The gibe came from this side of the House, and it is not an unusual gibe. I do not understand why a language 1285 which is spoken by a considerable number of people forming part of this Kingdom and this Empire should be always received in this House with laughter and scorn—[How. MEMBERS: "No!"]—whereas if a quotation is made in the French or Latin language, the Member who does so is regarded with a great deal of respect and admiration. I am a Welsh Nationalist, in the first instance. I love my own language, and I love my own people, and as a student of history I realise the very important part they have played in the development of an Empire which is, after all, the finest Empire this world has ever seen. You can take your minds back to the days when the first foundations of the British Empire were laid. They were laid by Kings of this country who were Welsh in origin and who were Welsh in speech at the same time. The point I wanted to develop was this. I was referring to that old proverb in Welsh which says:Despicable is the man who does not love his mother country.I think that applies to every nation. I have no respect for any man, to whatever nation he belongs, who does not, in the first place, love his own country. I speak, like the hon. Member who seconded the Motion, as an old schoolmaster—not as an elementary schoolmaster, but as a secondary schoolmaster—whose work it was to try to inculcate knowledge into the youth of this country. I am not one of those who believe in an exclusive patriotism. I believe that the best way of building up a proper patriotism and a proper outlook on life is to get the children of our country, first of all, to know everything that it is possible to know about their own country. If they, first of all, learn to respect their own traditions, their own achievements, the best that is in their own people, then they will be better able to appreciate what is good and worth appreciating in other nations. I have no sympathy at all with the people who preach internationalism as such. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] I mean internationalism purely as internationalism. The basis of a proper internationalism is a good nationalism first, and that is why I have risen in my place to support the Second Reading of this Bill.
I think it is better that the Bill should be passed in its present form, and that 1286 that half day in particular, from 9 o'clock in the morning until 12.15, should be devoted to teaching the children in our elementary schools to have a proper idea, a proper outlook, on the history of their own country. I do not mean that the time should be spent in teaching the children about the great victories, the great successes, of this country. It would be equally to their benefit to learn of some of the defeats of our country, because in the past the Empire has learned as much from defeat as it has learned from success. The great thing is that the children of our country generally should have a proper conception of the task in front of this country, of the work it has accomplished in the past, and of the possibilities of this aggregation of various nations to bring about and to establish that peace which is sought by the League of Nations, but not, as my hon. Friend the member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) said, by destroying nationalism. The League of Nations does not seek to do such a thing at all. What the League of Nations desires to see are the best characteristics of every nation coming to the top and in that way bringing about a better understanding, a better co-operation, and a better mutual admiration among the nations of the world.
§ Major OWEN
Exactly, but once you get the people to admire one another, you destroy that spirit of domination over others. All that I say is that here we have, if you like, a type which it would be well for the rest of the nations of the world to establish among themselves. We have got people of different nationalities on an equality with one another. We have learned to live with one another, to regard the susceptibilities of one another, and to do the best to eliminate all difficulties and all means of discord and misunderstanding. If we can, by means of the establishment of a separate half-day of this kind, teach our children a real and true understanding, not only of what we have been capable of doing in the past, but that we have at the same time a mission to perform in the world in the future, by setting an example to 1287 them of peace and co-operation as we have been able to establish them within our own Empire, we shall do well.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
In July of last year I took part in a Socialist procession in the ancient city of Prague, in Czechoslovakia, which consisted of something like 120,000 Socialists of all nationalities, and every section, from every country, marched under the respective flag of their country. As a member of the British nationality, I marched under the Union Jack, in a Socialist procession. The Socialists of the world, when they are assembled in functions and processions of that character, when they get together upon international lines, do, I find, recognise the significance and importance of the flag that represents their country. I have not the slightest objection to the Union Jack as a national emblem. I believe in nationality, because I do not think you can get a true internationalism unless it is a federation, of some kind or another, of nations, any more than you can get inter-club sports without clubs. I believe that nationality is a very important factor in the development of life.
At the same time, I would like to make just this remark upon the Bill before us and the issue raised by that Bill. If it were not for the fact that one particular party in this country endeavours to monopolise the national emblem, invariably uses it as a party banner, and endeavours to use it with the suggestion of partisanship in electoral matters and in political organisations, I think you would find a very different spirit with regard to that emblem from those who stand for the party for which I stand. So far as the Empire is concerned, I hold the ideals of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour). I believe in internationalism as an ultimate ideal that is more than nationalism, more even than the kind of nationalism which makes up the international movement to-day. I cannot conceive, for instance, of Jesus Christ at any time being proud and boastful about being a Nazarene, and if, after all, there is anything in the Christian ideal, ultimately that ideal must mean a complete unity of the human race, or it means nothing at all. Therefore, from the point of view of idealism, I believe in a complete internationalism, and I take 1288 the idealistic view about nationality from that standpoint, but, at the same time, we are not living under ideal conditions.
These ideals are something perhaps very far removed from our present generation, and we have to face facts, one of which is the British Empire. That Empire has a responsibility, and it has also a possibility, from an economic and political point of view, that are very great for us as a nation and very great from a Socialist point of view. I have sometimes been described as an Imperialist. I am not an Imperialist, at any rate in the sense in which Imperialism is usually regarded, but I think that the British Empire could be developed upon lines of economic federation in relation to the rest of the world which would bring us nearer to the economic ideals that I possess, and that is one of the reasons why I do not agree with that school of thought which, resting upon these ultimate ideals, talks about scuttling out of this, that, or the other country which to-day forms part of the British Empire. But when you come to talk about teaching children Imperialism, or using one day in the year as Empire Day, I can only think of my own experience. As representing a constituency, I usually go down to schools on Empire Day, and although I take part in that celebration to the extent, possibly, of saying a word or two at this school or that school, I am not satisfied with the way in which Empire Day is invariably used by one political section of thought in endeavouring to instil, not any genuine Imperialism, not the idea of citizenship that has been expressed here by the Minister of Education, but the kind of idea stereotyped by W. S. Gilbert long ago in the opera of "Pinafore "—He is an EnglishmanFor he himself has said it,And it's greatly to his credit,That he is an Englishman.For he might have been a Roosian,A French, or Turk, or Proosian,Or an Italian.But in spite of all temptations,To belong to other nations,He remains an Englishman.That is the attitude of mind to which we object. I agree entirely with the Minister's statements with regard to citizenship, and I accept, with him, the idea that your citizenship must begin with your own country. But I would prefer 1289 the idea of citizenship being the predominant idea, rather than that which is usually associated with the British Empire, namely, the idea of domination. Members have spoken about teaching children the facts about the British Empire. I would dare anyone to teach the ordinary elementary school class the real facts about the British Empire. You talk about Drake, Raleigh, Clive, Hastings and the rest of them, but you would not teach the children of our elementary schools the facts about their work in building up the British Empire. I am not saying the British were any worse than any other type of Empire builders. I am not suggesting that you can apply to history or historical periods in the past precisely the same standard that you would wish to apply at the present time. I want to face facts quite plainly as I see them. I have no objection to teaching the story of the British Empire as far as that is concerned, but I would much rather prefer that the children were really appropriately instructed in universal history. There is always the danger that if you attempt to glorify your own country in teaching children, you give them an entirely wrong perspective
The history of the building up of the British Empire has not been a history of building civilisation and of glory from the point of view of what is right, just and beautiful. It is nothing of the kind. The history of the British Empire is a history of blood and murder, just like the history of other Empires. I am not saying that that is an argument for traducing the British Empire to-day, or depriving ourselves of the responsibility we owe to the world under the present circumstances of the world and the relationship of the British Empire to the world; but if you are talking about telling the truth, do not do so with the tongue in the cheek, because if you tell the truth about this Empire and other Empires you will tell the story of domination and of tyranny just as with regard to the question of war and battles. If you taught children universal history, you would give them a far better perspective. What I feel is, that if you pass a Measure of this kind, you are simply going to give people, whose idea is to instil wrong thoughts into the minds of the children for partisan and party purposes, further opportunities of doing so. I want as a Socialist to see 1290 proper and efficient administration of the British Empire. I do not want to traduce this country and the Empire for which this country is responsible. As the ultimate ideal I want the federation of the world and the Socialist world, but I think the federation of the British Empire, upon really great and fine human lines, would be a very big step towards the realisation of the ultimate ideal.
I do not know whether I feel inclined—I am uncertain as to whether I desire —to support this Bill or oppose this Bill if it goes to a vote. I would rather it did not go to a vote, because, in voting against it, one might create an impression that there was a desire to speak for everyone's country but one's own. That idea has been fostered by the Conservative party in the monopoly of the national emblem, and all those phases of nationality which they use for party purposes. I do not want to create, even among my own constituents, a false idea of what II believe upon the matter. I do not want to scuttle out of the British Empire, I want it to be efficiently managed, with the ultimate idea of international fusion with the units of the British Empire, and I believe, upon the basis of that nationality, we shall have the ultimate federation of the world, which will abolish war, and realise the ideals of Christianity for which the hon. Gentleman has spoken here this afternoon.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I want to make my own position, for which no one but myself is responsible, as clear as I can to the House. I should vote against this Bill if I were the only person to shout "No" when the Question was put to the House, and I shall do so because I object altogether to the idea of teaching children that the British Empire is something which ought to be preserved in its present form, and that the British Empire is something which, through the mercy and help of God, has been brought into being. One speaker who, I am sorry, is not here now, the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) challenged any of us to say that the British Navy and the British armed forces generally had been used for purposes of domination or for unworthy purposes. I think the hon. Gentleman must have forgotten the opium wars, the Boer wars and almost every war in which this country has been 1291 engaged, and to challenge on an issue like that was, I think, very extraordinary for an hon. Member who has been one of the heads of a very honourable profession, and on whom has fallen the great task of teaching history. If history is taught in that sort of way, I do not wonder that children grow up quite ignorant of the true history of the word. My hon. Friend who has just spoken said quite truthfully that no one would dare to teach the naked truth in regard to the development and the bringing into being of all this thing that is called the British Empire.
I do not think I agree entirely with my hon. Friend who has just spoken on the question of the attitude that we ought to take up towards the various parts of the Empire. Whenever any nation at present under the British flag, whether the Egyptians, the Sudanese, or the Indians, or any other, feel that they want to leave the protection of the British flag, they have an inalienable right to do so, and it is not our business to think that we know better what is good for them than they know themselves. There is an idea abroad that we in Britain know better what is good for the people, who are described as the subject races, and that we can do better by them, than they can do by themselves The hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Liberal Benches glorified nationalism, and most of us cheered him, but, if I believe in an expression of nationalism, I must of necessity believe that other nations have exactly the same right. It is because I hold that view very strongly, and because I believe that while it is quite true—even a man like Trotsky has written that—that the British Empire, the Dutch, the Portuguese and the Spaniards, by opening up the waterways of the world in a very buccaneering way, did a great service to mankind, the time has come when we should teach a fuller idea of nationalism and internationalism.
The right hon. Gentleman said there was some confusion of thought in the mind of the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. R. Richardson) as between nationalism and internationalism. I hope that there is no confusion in mind either on the part of my hon. Friend or myself. My conception of life, 1292 as I see it, is that it is all a question of growth and development. We came from the family into the village, then into the commune, the city and the nation, and we have arrived at the time when we must take a bigger view, a larger sweep as it were, than our own nation. We must see the world from an altogether different angle from that which is involved in our own interests, or what we suppose to be our own interests as against the interests of other nations. It may sound an extraordinary thing for anyone to say in this House to hon. Members opposite, but I do not believe that empire has really benefited the masses of the people which have lived within any empire. I do not believe that it is to the advantage of the ordinary British people that we should be holding India, Egypt and other countries.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is proving the truth of what we said, that history is taught in a topsy-turvy fashion. He wants us to believe that Egypt has perfect freedom to do what it wants with its own country, and he knows it is not true. I have just come to the House from a part of our country where poverty and destitution is very bad indeed, and where I do not think the people are advantaged because they live under the flag that rules the Seven Seas. They are living in poverty, destitution, and misery, and the Empire does not advantage them one bit. The British people have to realise that all the empires of the world have been built as ours have been, on cupidity.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Does the hon. Member really think that he can tell that to children of 13 and 14? We are talking about the education of children of 13 and 14, and does he think that that kind of remark is a suitable one to be made to children of that age?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The noble Lord had the advantage of a different sort of education from mine. I was brought up, not 1293 in an elementary day-school under the Government, but in an elementary day-school of the Church of England, and we used, once a week, to have a big map unrolled, and the parts of the British Empire were marked red and the others were in other colours. India was a great part of it, and we were taught, what was not true, that God had ordained that [Laughter.] You may laugh. The Noble Lord challenged me about something, and I am telling him the truth about it. I was brought up to believe that Britain was the chosen race of God to carry the message of the Cross to India, and so on. When, a little later, I read Macaulay and other historians, I read the story of Clive and Hastings, and I knew then that, if there were a devil in the world, it was the devil that inspired people to do the wicked and atrocious things that were done in the name of God and Christianity. My education, such as it is, has grown since then, and I am supported in what I am saying by the fact that no empire has persisted. Every empire has gone down, and it has gone down because it was built on something that never can last, that is, injustice and domination, violence and slaughter. Our Empire has been built up in exactly the same way. What I hope and long for is that the new electorate in this country, the new democracy that is being created in Britain, will have the intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom to transform what is an Empire of domination into a commonwealth of free nations, of free peoples living together of their own free will. If that sort of thing were taught in the schools, and it can be taught to quite little children—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I attend Empire Day demonstrations, but that is not the sort of thing that is taught to the children. They are marched and counter-marched, and are told epic stories, wonderful stories of what our men have done in war time and at sea, and so on. The time has come when there should be a different conception altogether, a conception which involves the recognition of the equal right to nationhood of coloured and other races with ourselves. I believe that until we get that conception "Empire" and all the word "Empire" means is quite worthless. I wish the people who are at present connected with Britain to remain 1294 connected with Britain, but I want it to be of their own free will and choice. The only true way to teach history is to start with the history of mankind, and to bring our own nation and our own race in with the rest of the other nations.
The last thing I want to say, and I will say it at the risk of being misunderstood —if my constituents do not know by now what I believe on this matter I do not think they ever will, so it will not matter how what I say is represented or misrepresented—the last thing I want to say is that there is no one in this House, not even those with the longest hereditary lineage behind them, who have a right to be proud or to boast of their own personality, because where we are born or who are our parents is quite an accident. None of us were consulted about it, and we could not help ourselves if we had been born Hottentots, and we might be equally proud of that. I want to sit down with what I started with, that the foundation thing with us over here, with the bulk of us anyhow, is that we do not want to separate up the British Empire, but that we want to transform it into something other than an Empire held together by force, and we want a recognition of the right of other peoples to determine its own future. Peoples in every part of the world have equal rights with us, and those who think that other peoples are not as advanced as we are, and not as capable as we are, must remember that our forefathers threw off the yoke of people who imagined that they knew better what to do with Englishmen than Englishmen knew for themselves. I recognise that other people have an equal right with ourselves, and that is the difference between myself, at least, and most of the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. HARDIE
My objection against this Bill is that I cannot understand what is meant by giving a half-holiday to school children. In my own school days if anyone suggested half a holiday I looked upon them as being mean. The hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Sir T. Davies), who spoke as an ex-schoolmaster, gave us some interesting reminiscences about certain events in history associated with certain parts of the country. But he did not seem to understand the child mind, although he had been so long a head master. My mind went back to my 1295 own school days, when he was going over what he did with the children when they were on holidays. His conception of a holiday was that the children should be taken round uninteresting places—un-interesting to the youthful mind, that is. All the places he pictured to us to-day may be interesting to adults, but did he think that would be a holiday to the children?
§ Mr. HARDIE
If they said so it was because they knew that if they said No "righteous indignation would be expressed through a cane or through a strap. I have had as much association with children as even an ex-schoolmaster.
§ Mr. HARDIE
If all the children of the world were to be gauged by the Scottish standard they would be very fine children. This brings me to some observations about divine right, and I look at the examples of divine right on the benches in front of me—the Port-lands, the Atholls and the Percies. If I wanted to get out of order, as the hon. Member for Tewkesbury did, I should now put myself in his position of taking round a group of school children and telling them the history of the Portlands, the Atholls, and the Percies, and that would be a blood-curdling tale. The idea of the hon. Member for Tewkesbury seems to be that a holiday for children is hard work. When anybody has an idea of celebrating something, what do they mean? What is a holiday? Is it not a complete change from what they are doing every day? You now propose to drag the children round to places associated with Henry VIII in order to remind children of a thing like that. I remember a story told about Henry VIII. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are several!"] I remember in one of the places associated with the life of that gentleman a certain dignitary of the Church was sitting, and someone asked him: "What would you do if Henry VIII came in at that door?" 1296 The reply was, "I should ask the ladies to retire." Hon. Members opposite have spoken about the necessity of telling the children the truth. Are you going to tell them the truth about Henry VIII? Are you going to tell the children the truth about that Monarch?
We were told that there was nothing contentious in this attempt to establish a half-day holiday to celebrate the great British Empire. The founder of the British Empire had a much bigger idea. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) took up the usual hypocritical role that the party opposite stand for absolute peace, and he began by saying,The Union Jack is the greatest flag that ever was.That may be our opinion as individuals, but to flaunt it in the face of other nations who are looking on is simply throwing down the gauntlet. The hon. Member for Windsor asked us: Why do you picture to the children incidents connected with William, Prince of Orange? What does that mean to the Catholic people. Are we to have no respect for the development of the human mind, although those people differ from us in their political and religious views? Are we always going to flaunt in the face of everybody something about the flag? It is like the story of the Irishman trailing his coat.
When the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) rose, I expected that we were going to hear something of educational value, and that it would be on the highest intellectual plane. I thought that, from his great intellectual height, there would percolate down to these lower strata in the House of Commons something which we might find of value; and what came from this great intellectual poise? Just that, not having been able to run our own country, we should send our people away somewhere else. After they had fought, as he claimed, for the British Isles and the British nation, his one idea was to get them away from here and to send them somewhere else. The hon. Member for Tewkesbury referred to Raleigh. Why should we always, even on Empire day, associate with it the names of those engaged in bloodshed? I would say, even to ex-schoolmasters, that they have become detached from the real, living history of 1297 the period. What is the use of going into the romance of Raleigh, unless for fairy stories?
Has the hon. Member at any time thought of asking his school class who was James Watt, or about Faraday? A claim is made that to-day we are living in the great electrical age, and to-day the whole electrical industry of the world has its basis in the findings of one gentleman, named Faraday. As a member of an education authority for seven years, I can remember the fights that we had about this kind of day, because in Scotland we claim the right to say, as authorities, what the holidays shall be. I always wanted the child's mind to he associated with people who were worthy of remembrance. Are the people who grew the food, who built the ships to take these men across the sea, never to be mentioned by gentlemen like the hon. Member for Tewkesbury when they are taking a handful of children round here and there? No; it is a, picture of something on the wall with fur round its hat called Henry VIII, or some other insignificant thing like that in the history of our great Empire.
We were told by the hon. Member for Windsor that the great thing was to tell the truth. I believe in that; but the hon. Member contradicted himself two sentences afterwards. He said: "Tell the truth to the children." I agree; but will he tell us why the real history of the War is being closed up for 60 years? Will he tell us why the late Earl Haig's diary is closed for 40 years? Is the truth something bad? Is it so damnable that we cannot even allow a child to understand what took place in this part of the Empire's work, as it is called? When it comes to a question of telling the truth, we must vote against this Bill. You cut, down the time to a half day in case the truth might creep out in the other half. We have always challenged the Conservative party on telling the truth, and they never fight, because they know that to tell the truth means their sudden demise so far as political power is concerned. It is a hypocritical claim to talk of telling the truth when you keep back the real truth about, the last war, and that is supposed to he something connected with history. Is it that if you told the children the horrors of that war you might not be able to re- 1298 peat, on behalf of capitalism, another great murder scheme such as that was? Is that the idea? If it is not, why do you hide the truth? That is our challenge.
If we are to have a holiday, let it be a holiday for the recognition of the greatest thing in this world, the greatest thing that human intelligence knows, and that is telling the truth to the citizens. No greater day could be given in the building up of any nation or Empire than the day upon which the truth would be told to the children, and yet here you have this puny Measure—puny is not the word. The men who conceived this Bill do not seem to have minds capable of comprehending the size of the Empire. A half-day to celebrate thousands of years! When we get the hon. Member for Tewkesbury telling us how he would take a class, he is losing the real meaning of the word "Empire." To conceive the greatness of an. Empire, you must not confine the youthful mind to certain individualities. If you want the young mind to conceive of the general aspect of a thing so great as Empire, you cannot concentrate upon one individual or one individual detail. You have to take, in giving expression to the youthful mind on a question like that, that which gives a real and a true measure of the whole. When you take your class round these smoky little places, only a mere speck in measurement, a less size of speck when it comes to its relation to actual things done, you lose in the child's mind all that should be established there as to the work of the people that made it possible. That is where you come in with the truth.
Would it not be more interesting, when you tell them how our men went abroad to some place, to tell them the difference between the method of building ships in those days and the method to-day, how many months it took so many men at that period and how much more quickly and substantially ships can be built to-day? That would be giving them the work of the people, and it would live in the memory of the young mind as a reality. When you go round telling them about musty Kings and people who do not matter, see what happens. The average Member of Parliament, asked about a date in history, is up the pole. If we are going to have this Empire Day, do not let it be based on this idea of great mili- 1299 tary achievements. Every time the little flag is waved by the schoolboy with the singing of "Drummer boys, drummer boys, where are we going?" do not forget that that is implanting the military spirit. If we are going to revere the flag, do not let us do it by flaunting it in the face of other nations. Let us be proud of our men like Faraday, who made the electrical industry possible, and let us be proud of all our achievements that have never meant death to anyone, but life. In this way, we shall teach the real truth in regard to Empire.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
When the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) sat down, I really thought that we had certain clear issues on which this Debate could proceed, but I am bound to say that the last speaker has, at any rate, succeeded in confusing me. [Interruption.] It is not difficult for the hon. Member. I do not quite know now whether he objects to this Bill because it gives a half-holiday or because it does not give a week. Also, I am not certain as to whether he has not told us, or at any rate told an hon. Member opposite, that Scottish children, as compared with English children, are too intelligent to take an interest in a tour round the House of Commons.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. Gentleman must excuse my interrupting. I do not think that it is any use for an hon. Member making a speech out of misrepresenting an hon. Member who has already spoken. I did not say that. What I did say, in reply to an interjection, was that the Scottish child would have a higher standard of intelligence than the English child.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
I was only trying to summarise the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I think he began by referring to another hon. Member who had described his tours with children and pointed out that children did not really enjoy going round the House of Commons or Westminster Abbey. I think that was the substance of what he said. Later, he said that if all children were like Scottish children they would be children indeed. Probably his ideal children were Scottish children who did not enjoy going round the House of Commons. I want to deal, for a few minutes, with what was said by the hon. 1300 Member for Bow and Bromley. Both the hon. Member and the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), during the course of their remarks, said a great deal about telling the truth, particularly with regard to the truth about the Empire. I wonder if the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley always sticks entirely to the truth when he deals with these subjects. I want to put this to him. The contention of the hon. Member, as far as I understand it, was, that the British Empire had been built up on brutality, on greed, on aggression, and presumably was carried on from the same motives. Does the hon. Member agree with my rendering of that? Is that the truth? There were several remarks made about Egypt. Does he really believe that the conditions of the fellaheen in Egypt became worse after Britain became dominant in Egypt?
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
I am not attempting to catechise the hon. Member. I only want to put the other side of the case. It is not true that the working out of the business of the British Empire has led to the things which the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley suggests. If we consider for one moment the enormous amount of painstaking and humanitarian work that has been done by those who are concerned with the British Empire, in civilian posts, we shall have to agree that it has not been wholly evil. I remember that some years ago I had a conversation with the late Mr. A. L. Smith, who was Master of Balliol, and had recently concluded a tour through Egypt. He told me of one occasion when he had been talking to some prominent Egyptians, who were of Arab origin. At the end of a long and frank conversation about the British position in Egypt, they said to him that they would very much like to ask him a question and they hoped that he would not be offended by the question, to which they wanted a plain answer. He said: "Ask your question." They said: "What are you British doing in Egypt?" Mr. Smith replied: "We were asked to come here by the Egyptians." They said: "Yes, that is true enough." One of them said: "If 1301 when I get home I find a burglar in my house and I ask the first passer-by to come in and help me to eject him, I do not expect that passer-by to stay 30 years." Mr. Smith said: "That is perfectly just, but, by the way, you people are of Arab extraction." "Yes, we are really Arabs," they said. "Then, what are you doing in Egypt?" asked Mr. Smith. They said: "That is a very old story." "Yes," said Mr. Smith," give us time, and we will make it an old story."
The moral of that conversation is that we are not the only people who are in countries unasked by the inhabitants. The hon. Member and other hon. Members must compare the results of British domination with the results of the domination of other races, and if they do that I do not think that we have a great deal to be ashamed of. In all these discussions the question is raised between nationalism and internationalism. I do not think you advance the causes for which internationalism stands if you attempt to run down what is called nationalism. Internationalism, that is to say, the sense of fellowship of the whole world, is a very difficult thing for the ordinary man, woman or child to grasp. If hon. Members below the Gangway tell an ordinary workman of some instance where a member of his trade union has been oppressed or victimised he will get very angry and be prepared to take some action about it, but if you tell him of some horrible action which has taken place in some other part of the world, his mental appreciation will agree that it is a terrible thing, but he will not be impelled to action to the same extent.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
That is not the same point. The ideas of the ordinary man are to a large extent confined to that which goes on in his immediate neighbourhood. That is why internationalism will be a very difficult thing to drive into the minds of large masses of people, but nationalism or, to give it its other name, patriotism, is a real thing, and the history of the world is the history of the power which patriotism has and the call which it can make upon people. I suggest that you can teach exactly the same lessons by a proper and 1302 due development of patriotism as you can by this mysterious thing which you call internationalism, and with a much greater chance of success. I agree with the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Montague) when he objects to the Conservative party monopolising national emblems for electioneering purposes; but I equally object to hon. Members above the Gangway on this side of the House monopolising all the virtues of the race for their electioneering.
A great deal can be done to forward the ideals which are centred in the organisation of the League of Nations by teaching a proper and moral form of patriotism, but I would suggest to hon. Members above the Gangway that you do not help this by running down and misrepresenting that which has happened in the history of your own country, and my complaint against the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, and many other speeches by him to which I have listened, is that while he talks all the time about telling the truth that which he puts forward is at any rate a very weighty reversion of the truth, and he always lays a great deal too much emphasis on those portions which he does not like. With regard to the hon. Member for Springburn, if he is a member of a local education authority he, in common with everybody else, can take this opportunity and teach the lessons on Empire Day of nationalism and patriotism in the way that seems best to him in order to bring about the results he desires to see. It is through a. proper development of the feeling of patriotism and nationalism that we shall get the best results.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Duchess of Atholl)
I had no intention, when I came to the House this afternoon, of taking part in this Debate, and I feel that a great deal which I wish to say, in reply to some of the speeches from hon. Members opposite, has been admirably said by the last speaker. But there are some things which I feel should be emphasised. I should not like it to be supposed that hon. Members on this side of the House can listen unmoved to some of the things which have been said by hon. Members opposite in regard to the history of the Empire and the teaching of Empire history. It cannot be sup- 1303 posed that we are blind to some of the things which we all regret in the past, the rather obscure past of the Empire, but when hon. Members opposite go so far as to say, as the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Montague) did, that the growth of the British Empire has done nothing for civilisation and that its history is only one of blood and murder, I feel it is quite impossible to keep silence. We all admit that the early history of the Empire was one of fighting. The history of all countries in their early days is one of fighting.
We started as a very uncivilised country, and it was only through a gradual and rough process, almost a barbaric process, that anything approaching law and order was established here. Again, in the course of building up the Empire, the representatives of this country came into contact with people living in such a state of barbarism that fighting was the natural order of things. I am ready to admit that during the past the teaching of Empire history may seem to have been concentrated too exclusively on stories connected with the fighting or adventure which constituted the early beginnings of Empire settlement. But there is a very simple reason for it. The approach to history in childish days must be through stories of personalities. The child to whom the story of our history is first told is child who is in a state of constant hero worship, and the teaching of history must he built up largely on stories of personalities, and we all admit that it is stories of adventure which mainly appeal to small children, anyhow, to small boys. Therefore, we must not he surprised that the story of these great adventurers and the hardships that they endured are told. Nor should we forget the hardships undergone by men like Drake. Anyone who crosses the Atlantic in a comfortable modern steamer may well reflect on the amazing endurance, courage and enterprise that were necessary to take Drake on his three years' voyage round the world. It is a marvel how men were equal to such a strain.
At the beginning stories of adventure necessarily loom large in the teaching of history to the young. But do not let the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) 1304 or anyone else think that anyone in these days wants to keep from the children a knowledge of the share that the workers have had in building up Empire industries. Everyone recognises the wonderful services to industry of a man like James Watt. But industrial machinery, of which he was so great a founder, continues to cause accidents in a way that no achievement of Raleigh could do. There is that to be remembered. Great inventions like those of Watt may be the cause of situations in which men are in danger and suffer loss of life. Nor must we allow ourselves to forget that the Empire today, and increasingly during the last 100 and 150 years, has been a tremendous instrument—it is not too much to say the greatest instrument—in the spreading of peace and civilisation.
The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) mentioned the Sudan as a country which was "dominated" by the United Kingdom. As he was speaking, I could not but conjure up two pictures of that country. I remember a picture of the Sudan of 1898, just 30 years ago, in the year of Lord Kitchener's campaign, which finally destroyed the tyranny of the Khalifa. I remember a picture sent to me from the Sudan, of a village visited by a young officer of Lord Kitchener's Army, a village that was absolutely derelict as the result of a raid made on it by the Khalifa's followers. When this young officer visited it, the village was one pile of dead men's bones. In the whole of that village only one living human being was to be found—a small boy, who did not greet that young officer as an enemy, but attached himself to him in order to get his personal protection. That is one picture. That is the picture of the Sudan as it was before Kitchener's Army entered it in 1898 and destroyed the tyranny which had previously existed there. Take the other picture. Last year at the Imperial Education Conference a discussion was proceeding in reference to rural schools and a very interesting description was being given of the efficiency of those schools in Australia when suddenly from a distant corner of the room the representative of the schools in the Sudan spoke up, to tell us that. they in the Sudan were also proud of their rural schools and of their efficiency even in remote areas. I felt that it was indeed a marvellous contrast. In less than 30 years, 1305 that country which formerly groaned under a tyranny of bloodshed and horror such as it is quite impossible for me to describe has, under British rule, been brought to such a position that its representative can meet on equal terms the representatives of the educational departments of other parts of the Empire, and show that the people there are proud of their schools, even in the remotest rural districts.
I have another picture in mind. I have lately been in the West Indies, formerly the scene, as we know, of slavery, one of the gravest blots on the history of the Empire. There may be much for which we have been blamed in the past in regard to those countries, but who will say that since emancipation we have not been doing all we can to improve the lot of the people there, to educate them, to give them better conditions of health, and to lead them along the path of civilisation. While I was there, a murder trial was going on in one of the Courts of Jamaica. The accused person was a Jamaican Negro. I did not attend the trial, but a citizen of another great country who, along with many others of his fellow citizens was there at the time, did attend, and he spoke to me in the warmest possible terms of what we were doing for the people of Jamaica through our administration of justice alone. He said that the patience which the judge had been displaying in explaining to the accused everything that was being said against him, and the exact meaning and import of what he had admitted, was marvellous, and that a tremendous work was being done in this way for the people of Jamaica. I also assisted at a meeting to inaugurate a Society for the prevention of tuberculosis. How can it be said that the rule under which such associations are being established by private initiative, is a rule which is not bringing the blessings of civilisation to the people it governs? Then the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley seemed to deny that British rule had done anything for the people of India. He surely cannot deny, though it has been impossible for the Government to associate itself with missionary effort in India, that the fact that there has been British rule in India has opened up a path for British citizens to go to India and has enabled a great and ever increasing volume of missionary effort to take place.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I said I wanted all the nations at present under the British flag to remain here, but that I wanted them to remain of their own free will, of their own volition, and that I wanted them to be the judges whether or not we had improved their conditions.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I remember that part of the hon. Member's speech very well, and I welcomed his declaration that he did not wish to see the Empire broken up, but he has not answered my question. I asked, if he threw doubt on whether British rule in India has helped towards the Christianisation of the people of India.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Can the hon. Member deny that before British rule came to India there were no missionaries there, and that now there are thousands? I think I will leave the hon. Member to think carefully over what he has said, because the facts are obvious to anyone who knows anything at all about India or about the magnificent work that is being done there and that has been done there by generations past of British missionaries and missionaries from other Christian nations. Then the hon. Member referred to the question of self-government and said—and I welcomed his declaration—that he did not wish to see the Empire broken up, but that he wished to see it an Empire of free nations remaining in the Empire of their own volition. Has he forgotten the Resolution of the last Imperial Conference, in which it was clearly stated that the great self-governing Dominions of the Empire are free, self-governing nations within that Empire? Can he deny that one of the great principles on which the Empire has been built up is this very principle of self-government? It is not yet fully applied, but it has been one of the basic Principles, and it is a principle which has been fully established in the great Dominions.
Duchess of ATHOLL
That seems a very strange statement when we reflect that the present Government was in power during the sittings of the last Imperial Conference.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Self-government is a very big principle and it is a principle which it, is only possible very gradually to work out, but it is one of the basic principles on which the British Empire has been founded, and in regard to the self-governing Dominions it reached its full expression during the sittings of the last Imperial Conference. I am quite sure that there are many hon. Members opposite who would have been intensely interested, as I was, to hear the question of the teaching of Empire history summed up during the Imperial Education Conference by a great expert on the subject, as a question ofteaching the history of the greatest experiment in constitutional development which the world has ever seen.I should like to say how heartily I agree with the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. Crawfurd) that the wisest and most effective approach to the teaching of internationalism is through a sane, a wise and a generous nationalism. There is no one who would expect the man who is a good husband and father to be a bad neighbour. We say, on the contrary, that if he shows himself to be a really good husband and father, which means, among other things, an unselfish husband and father, then he is likely to be the very best and friendliest of neighbours.
The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley spoke about the great social developments that have gone on, and asked where we should stop. We have moved on from a small, local conception to a national conception, and on from a national to an international conception, and he thought there was no need to regard nationalism as anything which should be retained. I can only say, to use my simile again, that because the man becomes a good citizen in his village, town or country, that does not do away with his domestic responsibilities. The new set of responsibilities does not wipe out the other. It is only a case of adding new responsibilities to the old; and so I believe with the hon. Member for West Walthamstow, that it is by a sane teach- 1308 ing of patriotism and a thorough teaching about the British Commonwealth of Nations, that we shall best arrive at a really international spirit—the spirit that will make us work in the closest and warmest co-operation with the people of all other countries, and work in every way to promote the peace of the world.
I do not really feel that there is any necessary conflict between the outlook of many hon. Members on the benches opposite and hon. Members on these benches, if we really get down to facts. We want to teach the facts, and the teaching is a great deal broader than the hon. Member for Springburn has said. All the same, I do not think I can vote for this Bill, because although I am most anxious to see Empire Day observed in the widest possible sense, and I believe that the teaching of Empire history on these occasions is growing broader and broader, having moved far from the narrowness it may have shown sometimes in the past, still I think the responsibility for observing that day is best left to the local education committee, and, therefore, I propose to follow my right hon. Friend in abstaining from voting.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I do not propose to follow the Noble Lady in the general eulogy she has made of British Imperialism, but I would like to question a point she made about the Christianising of India. She argued that the British occupation of India had led to the spread of Christianity in that country, and, apparently, she sought to make out that the Christianising of the Indian people was of itself something of which to be proud. I do not know whether she is aware that the prevalent opinion in British India is that the Christianised Indian is a good deal worse than the Indian who has not been Christianised. It is accepted amongst English residents in India that if an Indian has become Christianised he is less moral, less honest and less ethical generally than he was before the process of Christianising took place.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I am not at all saying I am opposed to all forms of missionary 1309 effort. I am merely stating what is the accepted fact in India among the English residents with regard to the effect of Christianising upon the average Indian. There is hardly time at my disposal to deal with the speeches which have been made by hen. Members below the Gangway, but I could not help thinking, as I heard those two speeches promoting the idea of British Imperialism, what a marked degeneracy had taken hold of the old Radical party. I recall the names of Dilke, Labouchere and Bradlaugh—
§ Mr. DUNNICO rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. DUNNICO rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question he now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.1310
§ It being Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.