HL Deb 19 May 1846 vol 86 cc859-62

presented a petition from the borough of Cardigan, the prayer of which he supported. It was in favour of the education of the children of the poor in Wales in the English language, and also praying for their mental, moral, religious, and industrial training. The right rev. Prelate added, that at present there existed in Wales a pressing want of education with a most scanty means of obtaining it; and he suggested that the whole question, as far as the Government was concerned, was, what power they had to supply that deficiency. He (the Bishop of St. David's) was happy to hear that an inquiry had been set on foot by the Government at the instance of an hon. Gentleman in another place; but in his opinion inquiry was superfluous, because there could be no doubt of the facts. The only question, as he had said, was, what power existed in the Government to supply the defect which all acknowledged to exist in that Principality. He believed they had had sufficient experience to know there was no hope whatever of accomplishing what they all so anxiously desired—namely, the founding of some good and extensive measure for the education of the people of Wales; but, nevertheless, he hoped the inquiry might terminate in some substantial benefit. He believed that if the Government had it not in their power to do all these petitioners desired, they yet had it in their power to do a great deal that would be highly beneficial to that country; but he did not wish them, under present circumstances, to attempt to do everything. He thought it advisable that they should at present confine themselves to the attempt to draw forth the energies and resources of the country with reference to education; and that they should act on the principle of eliciting and meeting the advances of the people. In those places, however, where there was such an utter deficiency of means that nothing could be done without the assistance of the Government, he thought they ought to furnish some immediate and pecuniary assistance. He did not believe that it was in the power of any Government, however strong it might be, to do all that the petitioners appeared to suppose it possible for them to accomplish. He did not think it would be possible at once to produce a change in the language generally spoken in Wales. He was aware a strong opinion had been expressed elsewhere that all that was required in Wales was English schoolmasters to root out the language of the country; but his experience in Wales convinced him that this was an incorrect representation. In many districts of Wales English schoolmasters had been established for a considerable time; but the Welch language continued the ordinary language of the people, and the knowledge of the English language among the children of the poor was extremely scanty; and their use of it out of school next to nothing. He did feel, however, that this was a subject which called for the active interposition of the Government. It was quite notorious in that part of the country with which he was more particularly connected, that if the means of education had been more extensively employed some time ago, and pains taken to improve the moral and intellectual condition of the country, there would have been no need whatever for the imposition of that burden under which they were at present labouring; namely, the soldiers and the police which had been found necessary to maintain the tranquillity of the country. He must observe, also; that although these soldiers and police were extremely useful in their way, and served to protect the country from a variety of evils, there were yet some evils from which they afforded no protection whatever. They might protect the public tranquillity, but he was sure they proved no safeguard of public morality. On the contrary, the presence of these people only made the work of education more needful and more difficult, while they were consuming and absorbing the sources which might be applied to that desirable end; and he would, therefore, ask their Lordships whether they would prefer that Wales should be protected by soldiers and policemen rather than by the less expensive and more efficient means of a body of schoolmasters.


expressed his entire concurrence in the important suggestions thrown out by the right rev. Prelate. He considered, however, that they had upon the Table of Parliament, at that moment, the most ample means of arriving at a correct judgment on this subject. It appeared from the Report of the Commissioners appointed two years ago to inquire into the lawless proceedings in Wales connected with the Rebecca riots, that in the districts where those excesses prevailed there was an entire want of anything like a good system of education. He believed that, since the Parliamentary grant for educational purposes, there had been a regularly increasing demand upon the Government for assistance towards the establishment of schools; and although the number of school inspectors had been recently increased by Government, there was not now a sufficient number to exercise an efficient inspection over the schools already established. He thought that some increased efforts ought to be made by Parliament, for the extension of education; but he was not prepared to say that a different principle from that adopted in England ought to be applied to Wales. He hoped that, whatever Parliamentary grants might be made for educational purposes, the principle of local exertion would never be abandoned.


was glad that the attention of the Government had been called to this important subject; for that portion of the United Kingdom to which the right rev. Prelate had referred, peculiarly required assistance on a liberal scale from the funds at the disposal of the Government for the promotion of education. He was happy to find that there was a universal concurrence in the principle—a general principle only to be relaxed as occasion, or necessity, or local circumstances might require—that no grant ought to be made towards any local scheme without requiring that a certain proportion of the necessary funds should be contributed in the locality. He was glad to find this recommendation of the Educational Commissioners sanctioned by such high authority.


, with reference to the observations of the noble Marquess (Marquess of Lansdowne), said he was happy to say the number of the schools in the country were increasing so rapidly, that it was quite true it was not at present in the power of the Government inspectors to visit them as frequently as was desirable; but the subject was under the consideration of the Educational Committee of the Privy Council, and he hoped that measures for increasing their number and efficiency would be speedily adopted.

Petition to lie on the Table.

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