The EARL of DONOUGHMORE
rose, according to notice, to call the attention of the House to the present condition of the system of National education in Ireland, and to move for a copy of the Resolution lately adopted by the Board of National Education, excluding the use of certain books from the schools under their management; and to ask whether, in consequence of such resolution, any and what members have resigned their seats at the Board. The noble Earl said the present was a subject which had been already on several occasions brought under the consideration of the other House of Parliament; and, therefore, the circumstances attendant on it—as well as the matter which his question professed to set forth—was fully in the possession of their Lordships. And perhaps he ought also to premise that 358 in adopting his present course he was not acting in concert with either any noble Lord in that House, or any hon. Member in the other House of Parliament who had previously directed attention to the subject. He, therefore, held himself individually and entirely responsible for whatever should fall from him, as he did not pretend to enunciate the opinions of any body of men. In order, then, to make plain the nature of the question which he was about to put, be hoped he might be permitted by their Lordships to sketch the system of education which had been in operation in Ireland for some twenty years past. The system of national education in Ireland was originally founded by his noble Friend the noble Earl lately at the head of Her Majesty's Government (the Earl of Derby); and the principle on which it was to be carried out, as set forth by the noble Earl, was, that it should be a system of united secular, but separate religious, instruction. It was not, however, intended that the religious should be entirely separated from the secular instruction; and he thought that was made evident from a portion of the letter of his noble Friend, dated the 10th of October, 1831. Well, the Board of Commissioners, which was formed to carry out the plan set forth by the noble Earl, immediately afterwards commenced operations. They published a number of educational works, which certainly, as far as the purposes of secular instruction were concerned, could not be too much praised; and these books had since been used, not only in their own schools, but they had been likewise most extensively used in this country and throughout the colonies. Indeed, there was scarcely a department of primary instruction which was not most fully considered by the Commissioners. Such being the case, it would at once be apparent to their Lordships that whatever objection was taken against the system of education pursued, that objection was not against the secular instruction, than which nothing could be more admirable; but the objection entirely rested upon the nature and amount and circumstances of the religious instruction. Now, at the time those most successful books to which he had just alluded were published, some books on religious subjects were also sent forth. He believed the Commissioners published four books or volumes of Selections from the Holy Scriptures, a volume of Sacred Poetry, and a book upon the Truth of Chris- 359 tianity, which was admitted to be the work of a right rev. Prelate, a distinguished member of the Board (the Archbishop of Dublin). Not very long, however, after the system was put into operation in Ireland, there was an alteration introduced which did not meet the views of a very large section of the clergy of the Established Church. They objected that religious and secular education were made altogether separate; and that the use of the Holy Scriptures was prevented at all times except at the time of religious instruction, and that the use of the religious works were not enjoined, but recommended. In order to provide rules for the management of the schools, the Commissioners prescribed that all ministers of religion, whatever their denomination, whether they signed the original application for the establishment of a school or not, should have access to the school one day in the week to communicate religious instruction to the children whose parents belonged to their particular denomination of Christians. And the Commissioners stated in their preface to the Scripture Lessons that they thus marked out particular passages, because they were in the hope of leading to a more general and more profitable perusal of the word of God; not that they were more important than the rest of the Scriptures, but that they were more on a level with the childrens' understanding, and also most fitted to be read under the direction of teachers not necessarily qualified, and certainly not recognised, as teachers of religion; that no passage had either been introduced or omitted under the influence of any particular view of Christianity, doctrinal or practical. The rule to which he had before alluded was afterwards altered, more particularly to meet the objections of ministers of the Presbyterian persuasion. The alteration thus introduced consisted in allowing to patrons a right to prohibit any religious instruction except such as themselves should approve of; so that while the patron might permit religious instruction to the children of his own denomination, he was entitled to preclude all others from obtaining it. In the third or fourth Report of the Commissioners it was stated that some Presbyterian ministers had objected to the rule which permitted ministers of any religion, whether they had subscribed to the schools or not, to attend the school on a certain day in the week to impart religious instruction; and the alteration made in the rule 360 consisted in this, that the minister might go to a school where the majority of the scholars were of his own denomination, and give religious instruction to them, and, at the same time, should have the right of preventing any other minister from giving any religious instruction in that school. Now he believed that was the most fatal mistake possible to make in carrying out what purported to be a united system of education. For what were the effects which followed? Why, that the Roman Catholic priest who might have obtained the aid of the Board had the power of prohibiting all religious instruction in the school except that in his own tenets; and so it was also with the Presbyterian minister, who also had his school, where those professing his own faith were exclusively instructed in religion, and some few of the clergy of the Established Church followed their example; so that, generally speaking, with the exception of the schools under the immediate management of the Board itself, the religious instruction was always of a distinct kind, only one religious system being inculcated in each school; so that about the year 1836, as many of their Lordships would remember, a right rev. Prelate was obliged to complain in writing that no religious education was imparted under the system, and that the Scripture Extracts were not generally introduced. The answer given by the Commissioners in their Report of 1836 was, that they were persuaded that the fact was otherwise; they stated that they had sent round their inspectors, and that out of 400 schools visited, in 380 they found the children reading the Extracts. Those schools were not particularly selected for visitation; it might therefore be expected that the extracts were read in an equal proportion of the schools which remained to be inspected, and therefore that they were used in more than four-fifths of the whole number. It was, therefore, plain that about that time the intention and wish of those who had the management of the system was, that a certain amount of religious instruction should be mixed up with the secular instruction. And that a feeling still prevailed amongst persons of high authority in this country that some religious instruction should be imparted, was evident from the language held by a Member of the present Government, at a meeting of one of the largest and best-known educational societies of England—the British and Foreign School Society. Lord John Rus- 361 sell was reported to have spoken thus on that occasion:—There are those who say that half a day or two days of the week, and the whole of the day on Sunday, may be given to religious teaching and instruction. They thus, as it were, give up two days for religious instruction, which is, in fact, the education of the soul, while they leave four days of the week for that which is secular education only. I say this is a most unhappy and most unwise division; that, neither in respect of time nor in respect of the subject, is that an education which the future nation of England ought to receive. I say that secular and religious education ought to be mixed together—that the instruction should be imparted to educate the body, the mind, and the soul together; and when this task is accomplished, then indeed you may be proud of your work.Now he (the Earl of Donoughmore) would ask their Lordships seriously to consider whether the system of education now prevailing in Ireland was such a one as ought to meet support from any one holding the views which had been reported as held by the noble Lord in another place. He found from the Commissioners' Report of 1850 that there were 4,704 schools established, and that the children on the rolls of these amounted to 520,401; and if there were that number of children actually receiving instruction, undoubtedly it would represent a very large proportion of the population, it being equal to one in every thirteen of the population. But it had recently appeared that the attendance was only about forty-seven per cent of those upon the rolls. It further appeared that there were 147 of these schools under the management of clergymen in connexion with the Established Church; 2,778 under Roman Catholic clergymen; 479 under the Presbyterian, and 1,124 under lay proprietors. Of these 4,000 schools, 3,500 were under the management of the Roman Catholic clergy. Now, he believed that there was nothing which the people of England disliked so much as a sham, and he thought that a sham which showed that in these 3,500 schools the Roman Catholic religion, and that only, was taught—that it was not a mixed but an exclusively Roman Catholic education, accompanied by all the prejudice, bigotry, narrowness, and hatred of other creeds which unhappy distinguished religious difference in Ireland. He believed this country was prepared to make sacrifices in order to promote education in Ireland—everybody felt that nothing could be done for Ireland unless the people were taught, but let not that be done by pretending to do one thing and really doing 362 another. Let the people of England know that they were giving large sums to the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland to teach the people of that country in the Roman Catholic faith. He did not object to that. On the contrary, he thought the thing should be done, and that aid should be given to the Roman Catholic clergy to instruct the people. But let not the people of England be told that they had gone to such an extent in teaching the Protestant religion; whereas, in point of fact, they had been defeated in their object, and that the effect of the system, in reality, was to give complete freedom to the Roman Catholic clergy, while the only persons oppressed were the clergy of the Established Church. If their Lordships wished to improve the system of education in Ireland—if, in their opinion, it was desirable to give all parties an equal share of the public money for the purposes of education—let all restrictions be removed, let no rules be established: but let every party give whatever instruction they pleased. It was absolutely necessary that the people should have instruction, and he would make any sacrifice to attain that end; but don't hold up a system which professed to give a certain guarantee, while it gave no guarantee whatever as regarded the spiritual education of the Roman Catholic population. The question, then, he wished to ask was, whether these religious books, the Scripture Lessons, and Lessons on the Truths of Christianity, which were evidently part of the original system of the National course of education, had been prohibited by the late resolution of the Board? If so, the whole foundation of the system was altered—in point of fact, the system no longer existed—and it would be much better that, as far as Government was concerned, the future course of education should be simply permissive. He also wished to ask whether a right rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Dublin) and two other distinguished gentlemen, members of the Board, had resigned their seats in consequence of the determination to which the Board had come? He wished to speak with no disrespect of this right rev. Prelate, nor did he wish to lessen that influence which he derived from his high position in the Church, and his exertions in the maintenance and extension of this system of education; if it turned out, however, that the right rev. Prelate found it impossible to remain, and that ultramontane opinions 363 had broken in upon the Board, he could not but think that the Government would find it necessary to revise the whole system, and endeavour to devise some other system of education in Ireland which should be free from the objections to which the present plan was open, and obviate objections for the future. The noble Earl concluded by moving—That there be laid before this House a copy of the Resolution lately adopted by the Board of National Education in Ireland, excluding the use of certain books for the schools under their management.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
The noble Earl had professed to describe the origin and progress of the National system of education in Ireland; but his description was by no means correct. The system of education was first established distinctly as a system of separate religious education, and of united secular education. It was established by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), in consequence of a recommendation of the House of Commons made in the year 1828, precisely to that effect. Shortly afterwards, it is true, a certain amount of religious instruction was engrafted upon the system as a joint education, and instead of all religious instruction being separated, there was an amount of religious instruction united with secular instruction. That change was introduced, I believe, in consequence of the opinion and counsel of two such enlightened men on the Board as the Most Reverend Prelate who was its President, and the late Archbishop Murray, whose liberal views were well known. But it must be apparent that a system of united religious instruction for Protestants and Roman Catholics must always be of a very limited character. Shortly after the establishment of the system, these two Prelates—who I may say were the cause of the introduction of the element of united religious and secular instruction, agreed upon certain Scripture Extracts, upon a volume of Sacred Poetry, and finally upon a work which I have no doubt is very valuable, namely, Lessons on the Truth of Christianity—a work which I should say might be studied with just as much advantage by persons of maturer years as by children in the public schools. But this work on the Truth of Christianity was always very much objected to by the Roman Catholics who managed these schools. A rule was consequently laid down, that if any parent objected to 364 the use of this book, it was then to be transferred to and used at a separate time, for religious instruction, and was no longer to be used in the system of joint religious instruction. Now, the noble Earl is quite mistaken in supposing that there is no joint religious education at this moment in the schools. The Scripture Extracts are used—there can be no question of rejecting that book from the schools. The volume of Sacred Poetry, also, is now used, as it always has been. The only question that has arisen concerns the work of the most rev. Prelate, namely, the Lessons upon the Truth of Christianity. That is, as it always has been, objected to very generally by the Roman Catholics who are interested in the schools and in their management; and that is the work which the Board have now determined not any longer to use as a part of the joint religious education; but it is used now in the schools in the separate religious instruction. This unfortunate difference, which I am sure every one must lament, originated in this circumstance—that in one of the district schools, under the management of the Board, the Roman Catholics interested in the school objected to the work upon the Lessons on the Truth of Christianity, and two of the Commissioners visiting the school removed the book from the joint instruction: This took place in the year 1849, while Archbishop Murray was living, and not, by the bye, since the eruption of that ultramontanism of which the noble Earl speaks. The step was taken in accordance with one of the rules upon which the system was founded—namely, that where a Roman Catholic parent objected to the use of those books, they should then be transferred to the separate religious instruction, instead of being used in the general religious education. This occurred in the district school of Clonmel. The Secretary to the Board, I believe, called the attention of the Committee to the fact, and I think it was in last September that the most rev. Prelate was made aware that one of the books that had been used jointly, was now, by the two Commissioners to whom I have alluded, transferred to the separate religious instruction. The most rev. Prelate objected to that change, and insisted upon the practice of reading the book in question being continued—a book, I must say, which, however admirable in itself, still was not such as was received by the Roman Catholic part of the community in the same manner as the other books I have named, 365 namely, the Scripture Extracts and the volume of Sacred Poetry. The most rev. Prelate, however, insisted that this book should be retained as a part of the united education. Many meetings took place, and there was much discussion on the subject. Now, however much I may approve of the book, and however much I may regret the separation of this work from the other school books which have been used with such good results, I must say that the ground upon which the most rev. Prelate founds his objection scarcely appears to me to be tenable. He denies that the Board have the power to reject any book which they have once authorised to be in the schools. That opinion, I think, will hardly tally with the letter of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) to the Duke of Leinster, which says that the Commissioners "shall exercise the most entire control over all the books to be used in the school." Well, I consider it is impossible to maintain that, while they have the power to introduce a book, they have not an equal power to withdraw it, when they deem such a step necessary. Therefore, I think the power of the Board can scarcely be disputed; and yet, as far as I can learn, the most reverend Prelate rests his sole objection upon that ground. Having stated that the noble Earl is entirely mistaken in supposing that there is no joint religious education retained in these schools, I will now refer to the liberal speech of my noble Friend which has been referred to, in which my noble Friend stated his opinion that it was impossible that any satisfactory system of education could be adopted in this country which had not a religious basis. Now, that is very true; but if there was a Roman Catholic population in England to the same extent as there is in Ireland, undoubtedly a different system of education would become indispensable. But I am sure the noble Earl who introduced this system must admit that it was entirely owing to the peculiar character of the population in Ireland, and not to any preference of this particular system, that he introduced the plan to which has name is attached, and which has conferred such immense advantages upon the people of Ireland. I say, my Lords, that I do not know anything which has proved so great a blessing to the people of Ireland as the National system of education; and, not-withstanding the differences which have occurred, I still trust that nothing will take place that will diminish the usefulness, or prevent even the extension of 366 system which has already achieved so much good, and from which we may hope to derive so much additional advantage. I admit that great differences of opinion have taken place, and I am sorry to say that I do not perceive any great probability of a better understanding being speedily arrived at. But although I cannot anticipate that such an understanding will be soon effected, yet I must say that the most reverend Prelate has not ceased to be a member of the Board. I have had no communication with any other member of the Board, and therefore I do not know the intention of any of the Commissioners. At present I am unable to say more. I admit that great differences of opinion exist; but I cannot go so far as to say that the most rev. Prelate does not at this moment remain a member of the Board. With regard to the Motion of the noble Earl for the production of the Resolution, there can be no objection to acceding to it, seeing that the document will, as a matter of course, have shortly to be laid before Parliament. I have only to add that, sincerely regretting, as I do, the difference which has taken place, and of which I have stated the grounds, and the only grounds, namely, the removal of a single book written by the most reverend Prelate from the joint education to the separate education—and much as I appreciate the consequences to which it may lead, I still see nothing in this difference which makes me to augur at all unfavourably of the successful progress and ultimate results of the system which has been so happily introduced into Ireland.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
asked whether it was the fact that the objection of any single parent to the reading of any religious schoolbook by his child would justify the withdrawal of any book from the whole school?
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
One of the fundamental rules of the Board—Rule 8, I think it is—provides that where the parent of any child objects to the joint study of any one of these books, the book shall be transferred to the separate instruction; but that rule has been modified recently. A member of the Board has moved and carried an alteration of that rule, and the matter is now under a different regulation.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
could state from his own knowledge that the Scripture Lessons had been uniformly read in the model schools in Dublin, as well as in many of the best National schools in Ireland, during the hours for imparting united instruction. Of course, the reading of these books ought 367 not to be forced upon any child in opposition to the conscientious objections of a parent; but to allow a single negative on behalf of a solitary child to alter the whole course of instruction of a school, was a proposition too monstrous to be capable of being defended; and certainly, whatever might have been the formal rule of the Board, such had never hitherto been the practice in any National schools that he had inspected. To give a liberum veto in mixed schools to single members of the religionists of each side, must end in encouraging each party to blackball the books of their opponents, until the whole system of instruction would be reduced to an absolute Caput mortuum.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
explained. The veto given to a single parent was not new, but was the old system, and had always existed until last week;—for it was only last week that the alteration was made which prohibited the parent of a single child from causing a book to be transferred from the united to the separate instruction. The alteration was this: instead of that arbitrary rejection of a book from the united education, it was now laid down, not that the book shall be rejected, but that the child shall be transferred to a separate class.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that if that were so, it was a practice to which he, for one, had no objection, and he was very glad that the fears he had expressed were unnecessary. He could not but agree with the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) that the power of the Board to introduce a school book implied an equal power to withdraw the book, if the step were called for. The present debate was in one respect curious if not instructive. He could not help noticing the sudden love of the Scripture Lessons which had been evinced by those high Protestant authorities who used to denounce them as something like a sacrilegious mutilation of the Bible. He, on the contrary, had always regarded those extracts as a happy selection, which pupils of all denominations might unite in reading; they had received the sanction of the most eminent Roman Catholic authorities, for the late Bishop Doyle gave his assent to them, as well as Archbishop Murray. He had heard with the greatest satisfaction the explanation of the noble Earl at the head of the Government; and be thought that nobody had a right to quarrel with the change which had taken place if it merely amounted to this—that books to which objections were raised might be transferred from one part of the school 368 instruction to another, and that in the case of an objection raised by a single parent, the book objected to should still continue to be read by the school at large, but the one child objecting should be allowed to withdraw during this portion of the school teaching.
§ The EARL of DERBY
said, that if the question were as had been stated by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Aberdeen), and as had been repeated by his noble Friend on the cross-benches (Lord Monteagle), he should have dissented from the grounds on which it was said that the most rev. Prelate had thought fit to object; but, although he spoke under the correction of the noble Earl, who was so much better acquainted with the particular circumstances of the case than he possibly could be, he was very much afraid that the noble Earl had wholly mistaken the effect which had been attributed to the resolution alluded to, and that, so far from that resolution being of the character which the noble Earl had ascribed to it, it affirmed precisely the opposite principle. In the first place, the noble Earl, at the commencement of his observations, stated that in the first instance it was intended that the system of education should be one of combined secular and separate religious instruction. To a certain extent, undoubtedly, that was the case; but the noble Earl had fallen into a slight error when he stated that the introduction of the Scripture Lessons and of other religious works in the hours of combined instruction, was an after-thought, and not included in the original plan. If the noble Earl would refer to the paragraph which had been quoted, he would then see that it was intended from the very first that religious instruction should to a certain extent be imparted during the hours of combined education. The passage in the paragraph was as follows:—Although it is not designed to exclude from the list of books for the combined instruction such portions of sacred history or religions and moral books which have been approved of by the Board, it is to be understood that it is by no means intended to convey a perfect or sufficient religious instruction, or to supersede the necessity of separate religious instruction on the days set apart for that purpose.Therefore, in the first instance, there was intended to be separate books in every case for separate religious instruction, and, in addition to that, the Board reserved to themselves the discretion of introducing, as shortly afterwards they did introduce, books which had been compiled so that they could not be objected to either by 369 Roman Catholics or Protestants, which did contain, and which afforded so long as they were in use, a very considerable amount of Scriptural knowledge to Roman Catholic and to Protestant children sitting in the same room, and receiving instruction together. That course was pursued until the year 1844, when the practice was introduced to which the noble Earl had just adverted. He alluded to the practice introduced by Rule 8. In the report which was issued by the Commissioners in that year, they stated that they had established a number of schools, which were attended by thousands of children, and they had succeeded in compiling several works, containing a series of lessons grounded on Holy Writ, which were used in the general instruction afforded in all the schools. But in that year, also, and in order to meet objections which had been raised by several members of the Roman Catholic community, these books were not insisted on, but only strongly recommended, and the rule was adopted to which his noble Friend had referred. That rule was, most unfortunately worded very ambiguously. It said—The Commissioners do not insist on the Scripture Lessons, Lessons on the Truth of Christianity, or book of Sacred Poetry, being read in any of the National schools, nor do they allow them to be read during the time of secular or literary instruction"—This was a departure from the original plan—in any school attended by children whose parents or guardians object to their being so read. In such case the Commissioners prohibit the use of them, excepting at the times of religious instruction, when the persons giving it may use these books or not, as they think proper.That resolution was, as their Lordships would see, unfortunately worded most ambiguously. It did not allow the books in question to be used in those schools attended by children whose parents or guardians objected to their use. Under that rule it must appear doubtful whether these books were to be excluded on the objection of the parent of any single child, or whether that child was to be protected from the risk of being compelled to read them, by receiving permission to leave the room. From 1844 downwards there had always been, to a certain extent, a difference of opinion with regard to the construction of that rule; and the general practice, he believed, had been that protection had been afforded to the child, by its being permitted to withdraw when these books were being read. At the same time 370 he must say that, although the Scripture Lessons were read, and were in fact a most essential part of the system pursued in the model school at Dublin, and which ought therefore to be the model according to which all the other schools under the control of the Board should be framed and conducted, he had good reason to know it had been discovered that in the model school at Clonmel, which was entirely under the control of the Commissioners themselves, these Scripture Lessons had been excluded from the hours of ordinary combined education. Now he though that, whatever might he the case with regard to schools under the management of private individuals, it was most unfortunate that upon a point of such importance, any deviation from the ordinary practice should be allowed in schools under the direct control and management of the Board, and especially in those schools which were to be regarded as models fur the rest of the country. Unless he was greatly mistaken—and he received his information from one of the Commissioners—the decision at which the Commissioners arrived the other day was entirely opposed to the sense attached to this rule by the noble Earl opposite. A Motion was made at the board by Mr. Baron Greene, one of the three dissenting Commissioners, to the effect that protection should be given to the children of parents objecting to the use of the book, and not to the exclusion of the books themselves; but a majority of the Commissioners decided against Mr. Baron Greene, the late Lord Chancellor Blackburne, and another Commissioner—the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Dublin) not being present—that the rule should be interpreted according to its strict literal sense, and consequently that the objection of any one Roman Catholic child would be held sufficient to exclude a book. The noble Earl might be correct in the view he took of the matter, and he (the Earl of Derby) might be wrong. He could only say that he had this statement from Mr. Blackburne himself, and that the object of Mr. Baron Greene's resolution was to give to the rule the sense which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Aberdeen), the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle), and he thought the great majority of their Lordships, would consider the sound and rational construction. Mr. Baron Greene's resolution was, however, negatived by a very considerable majority. He (the Earl of Derby) considered, then, that there had been a very important deviation, in a very essential particular, from the original rule; 371 and it appeared as if there was an influence at work for the purpose of excluding from the National schools, in deference to the opinions of the Roman Catholic priesthood, all books which gave to the system of education anything of a religious character. If this were the case, it would be impossible to resist the force of an argument which had hitherto been met by the statement that although the religious instruction given, might in itself be insufficient, yet that a considerable amount of religious knowledge was imparted in all the schools to Roman Catholics and Protestants alike, and that for the purpose of obtaining the great benefit of the union of children of different persuasions for the purpose of education, it was necessary to abate something of what would otherwise be considered desirable with regard to the amount of religious instruction given to Protestant children alone. If the system was to be so altered as altogether to exclude all religious instruction with regard to Roman Catholic children frequenting the National schools, then he must say that one of the great and paramount objects contemplated by the original system would be defeated, and the system would be open to the objection which he thought could not hitherto be justly urged against it, that it was entirely and completely a system of secular education, disregarding religious instruction altogether. He would be very glad to find that the opinion of the noble Earl opposite was correct, and that would be ascertained when the resolution of the Board was laid upon the table, and when they found who proposed the resolution, and who composed respectively the majority and the minority. He admitted that the exclusion of the book upon the Evidences of Christianity was not a reason which he would think sufficient for breaking up the Board; but, on the other hand, if the resolution was to be regarded in the sense he had been led to believe, and if a prevailing intention was gaining ground of excluding more and more religious instruction, of which even now too little was given, he would say that was a fatal impediment to the working of a system; that it must be fatal to its beneficial effects; and that in such a case those Protestant members of the Board who could not conscientiously assent to a diminution of the amount of religious instruction given would not only be justified, but bound to withdraw from further connexion with a system which, from the first, depended upon the mutual and harmonious 372 working of members of different religious persuasions, upon the sound sense exercised by both parties, and upon the balance being impartially held between Protestants and Roman Catholics. If, however, Protestants were to be outvoted on questions of this kind at the meetings of the Board, he could not but come to the conclusion that a system intended to work for the benefit of all classes and all creeds had been most injuriously departed from.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
said, that the resolution of the Board bore the interpretation which he had affixed to it, and that the noble Earl had been misinformed as to its effect. He had the resolution proposed by Mr. Baron Greene in his hands, and it had been carried with the exception of the words which involved the compulsory continuance of the book on the Evidences of Christianity. The Eighth Resolution admitted of two interpretations, one of which was supported on the one side, and an opposite one on the other. And the recent resolution ran thus:—The Commissioners do not insist on the Scripture Lessons, or the book of Sacred Poetry, being read in any of the National schools; nor do they allow them to be read as part of the ordinary school business (during which all children, of whatever denomination they may be, are required to attend), in any school attended by children whose parents or guardians object to their being read by their children. In such eases, the Commissioners prohibit the use of these books, except at times set apart for the purpose, either before or after the ordinary school business, and under the following conditions. Firstly, that no child whose parent or guardian objects shall be required, directly or indirectly, to be present at such reading. Secondly, that in order that no child whose parent or guardian objects may be present at the reading of the books above specified, public notification of the time set apart for such reading shall be inserted in large letters in the time table of the school; that there shall be a sufficient interval between the conclusion of the ordinary school business and the commencement of such reading; and that the teacher shall immediately, before its commencement, announce distinctly to the pupils that any child whose parents or guardians so desire may then retire. Thirdly, that in every such case there shall be, exclusive of the time set apart for such reading, sufficient time being devoted each day to the ordinary school business, in order that those children who do not join in the reading of the books may have ample time for literary instruction in the schools.
§ The EARL of DERBY
said, it appeared to him that this resolution retained the ambiguous language of the eighth resolution; that at the hours of combined instruction the Scripture Extracts are not to be read in schools attended by children whose parents object; and that, conse- 373 quently, under that resolution, it would be competent to a single child to object to these lessons being read during the hours of combined instruction, and demand their removal to the period before or after those hours of combined instruction: so that, practically, any single child had the power of putting a veto upon the book during the hours of combined instruction.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
said, that after the turn the discussion had taken, it was unfair to taunt those who had contended for the reading of the Bible with now contending for the reading of the Scripture Extracts, when they saw the opponents of Scriptural instruction succeed in the entire exclusion of them; because it had formerly been the great argument against the advocates of Scripture reading that the Scripture lessons were admitted.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, he had never heard any suggestion before now of the right of a parent or a guardian to object to a book in such a manner as to alter the discipline in practice at a school, and he did not think such an interpretation of the rule could be allowed to prevail.
The EARL of DONOUGHMORE
said, admitting that the Established Church of Ireland did not represent the great body of the people of that country, he thought it should be treated fairly. He had received a letter from Ireland, which stated that, a few days ago, in one of the National schools in that country all the Roman Catholic children came forward, and objected to the reading of the Scripture Extracts, which had heretofore been used in the school. It appeared to him very plain that if the resolution was to be understood as it was explained by the noble Earl opposite, the Roman Catholics would succeed in carrying their point, for the resolution invited the opposition of persons who objected to the use of the Scripture Extracts. Taking the case of a school composed almost entirely of Protestants—of the children of members of the Established Church, and of Presbyterians—if there was one Roman Catholic child in that school he might prevent the use of the Scripture Extracts during the hours appointed for combined instruction. He could only repeat his opinion that this regulation struck at the root of the whole system.
§ On Question, agreed to.