HL Deb 15 April 1847 vol 91 cc811-4

said, that he held in his hand a great number of petitions, all on the same subject, and all strongly urging upon their Lordships not to give any countenance to what was called the Government system of education. He was fully prepared to take a share of the responsibility of the Government measure. He regretted that so much objection should be taken to so safe and harmless a measure. Money for the purposes of education had been granted for years, and the grant was not to be increased. In the Government plan, which had been reduced to writing, there was no change of principle. No new power was given to the Church Establishment, nor no power taken away from the Dissenters. He did not expect to live to see the Protestant Establishment overthrown, and the Roman Catholic religion established in its stead. He would rather perish than live to see that. The Protestant Dissenters, he thought, above all others, ought not to object to this plan. It was said that his (Lord Brougham's) Bill of 1820 gave no control in matters of education to the Church. It did give a certain control, and that was the ground on which it was opposed by the Dissenters. He wished to ask the noble Marquess whether the statement which he had seen was correct, viz., that the authorized version of the Scriptures would be required to be exclusively used in all these schools?


was understood to say, that he had had many petitions on both sides of the question forwarded to him, and that there was much misapprehension and a good deal of misconception abroad respecting the Minutes of Council. He was understood to say, that the Minutes of Council directed the use of the authorized version of the Scriptures in the schools, and it was quite untrue to say that there had been anything like a compact entered into by the Government and any class of Dissenters. The use of the authorized version of the Scriptures in the schools was not new, nor was it the first time that it had been directed by the Orders of the Council. The Government had acted on the same principles as those adopted in former Minutes of Council.


lamented that the measure had not been brought forward in the shape of a Bill, so that it might have received the sanction of Parliament in the usual way. If the use of the authorized version of the Scriptures were to be ordered in the Government schools, there were parties whose faith did not allow them to use it. He therefore felt compelled to agree so far with the petitioners against the measure.


concurred in the sentiments expressed by the noble and learned Lord. He regretted that such a resolution as that stated by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) should have been adopted. The result would be to exclude from any benefit under this Act all persons who professed the Roman Catholic religion. There could be no doubt, that if the authorized version of the Scriptures was enforced in the schools, the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church would not allow the children of that communion to attend those schools; and, as the money by which they were to be supported would be paid out of the public purse, he held that some measure should be adopted which would extend the benefit to Roman Catholics, as well as to other denominations, for he believed the Roman Catholic population in the great manufacturing towns of the north of England, had fewer opportunities of obtaining secular education than any other portion of the community. He little expected, he must own, when his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne) rose, that he was going to make the explanation he did; for, though he had seen something of the kind announced in the public journals, he was unwilling to believe it, as a thing quite inconsistent with the public principles of the noble Lord—those principles of education which he had ever held, and which professed to afford a sound secular education to persons of all persuasions, while they left to each denomination the full opportunity to inculcate without the aid or control of the State, its peculiar tenets—principles which avoided controversy, and refused to interfere with men's free thoughts. While he was on his legs, he would take the opportunity of saying, that he thought the noble Lord (Lord Brougham) need not be alarmed at any means being taken to carry out a wish, which he said had been expressed somewhere, to upset the Established Church, and put the Roman Catholic in its place. He thought he could assure him that any such expectations were not commonly entertained. We had, besides, arrived at that period of history when diversity of opinion on religious questions was unavoidable; for while there was freedom of thought, he did not see any probability of introducing uniformity of religion. Knowing this, the Legislature should make universal toleration the basis of its measures for the mental improvement of the people.


presented several petitions, from dissenting congregations in the north against the Government scheme of education. In the prayer of the petitions, he must, however, state, that he could not by any means concur. He believed that the proceedings of the Government on the subject were in perfect accordance with the course which had been pursued since first an annual grant was established. He did not agree with the petitioners, that the voluntary system was adequate to the wants of the country, or that no funds should be voted by the State for the purpose of education. He thought, however, that it was clear from the statement of the noble Marquess opposite, that the Council—with or without communication to Parliament—would be enabled to alter, not only the details, but the principle upon which the grant of public money was to be applied. He conceived that these were very large powers to give to the Council; and, though he was aware that the assent of Parliament was necessary, he regretted, nevertheless, that a matter so important, and so extensive in its nature, was to be left to the discretion of the Government of the day. He had understood the noble Marquess to say, that it would be in the power of the Government, by issuing a second or third Minute, to alter the principle, even so far as it regarded the use in the schools of the authorized version of the Scriptures. Such a power was too extensive to be left to the discretion of the Council of Education, or to the Government; but, in other respects, he must say, that, as far as they went, he approved of the Minutes.


was understood to say, that receiving grants from Parliament from year to year, as the Government did for the purposes of education, they were obliged to lay down rules for the guidance of the schools; but, inasmuch as they had to ask Parliament from year to year for the votes of money, those rules became subjects for debate and consideration. The issuing of those Minutes of Council was not, therefore, on their parts, any assumption of irresponsible power, because they were subject to the control of Parliament. Formerly money used to be voted by Parliament, and the mode of outlay was afterwards arranged; but the Minutes of Council were now laid before Parliament, showing what was about to be done, and the grant was then to be asked for. In the former case it was not known by what authority, or under what regulations, rules were laid down; but now the authority was manifest and the mode known.

House adjourned.