The EARL of CLANCARTY
My Lords, the subject of National Education was so prominently noticed by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Aberdeen) on his acceptance of his present high office, as well as in the opening address of the noble Earl, his predecessor, delivered in this House, upon a like occasion, this time last year—both these noble Earls treating it as a subject of paramount importance—that I trust your Lordships will indulge me with your attention while, in fulfilment of the notice I gave before Christmas, I endeavour to submit to you some facts and considerations with respect to the system of National Education that has been in operation in Ireland, as an experiment, for the last twenty-one years—an experiment from which much was expected, and for which much has been done. I regret that in calling your Lordships' attention to this subject, I am obliged to do so in the absence of a most reverend Prelate who has been from the commencement a Member of the Educational Board, and the most zealous upholder of the system (the Archbishop of Dublin). I felt it due to that most reverend Prelate, before fixing any day for the purpose, to inquire on what day he could attend; his arrangements, however, did not admit of his attending before Easter, a period too late for that consideration to be given to the subject by Her Majesty's Government, which I think is urgently 1163 required. I am, therefore, compelled to proceed in his absence, which I the more regret, as it will be my duty to make some remarks upon the Commissioners' last report, which call for explanation on the part of the Commissioners. The returns for which I am to move, and which, I understand, will not be opposed, are requisite to enable your Lordships fully to apprehend from official sources, what the real operation of the system has been with reference to its alleged great success in accomplishing the objects of its original institution, namely, making religion the basis of education—uniting Protestant and Roman Catholic children in the same schools—obtaining for those schools the joint patronage and management of the priests of the Church of Rome and of the parochial ministers of the Reformed Faith; and for the advancement of the whole system, the pecuniary aid and local cooperation of the upper classes. The returns relative to the presentation of the annual reports to Parliament I call for, as I consider that the object for which they were furnished, namely, to enable Parliament to exercise a wholesome check over a most important branch of public administration, is effectually defeated by the late and irregular periods at which these reports are distributed; for instance, the report for 1851, the latest in your Lordships' hands was not distributed until the 15th of February, 1853, a period obviously too late to afford to Parliament the necessary, information for their guidance in making a money grant in 1852. Be the, system of public instruction good, or be it bad, if Parliament is to be made responsible for it by receiving reports, those reports should be presented each year, before any new grant of money is voted, and before the interest of the periods to which they relate has passed away.
With respect to the working of the system in question, there is much difference of opinion. Within the walls of Parliament, it is rather the fashion to speak of it as most successful. It has had the cordial support of every successive Government, consequently the prejudices of the leading statesmen of every party, are in its favour. Lords Lieutenants are taught to regard the Model Schools in Dublin not only as the models upon which all the other schools are framed, but as samples of the successful working of the whole system; and even Royal approbation was expressed when those well-managed institutions were shown to 1164 the Queen, as exemplifying the perfect adaptation of the system to harmonize the feelings of children of different creeds, as well as to cultivate their intelligence. Hence a very favourable opinion is formed of it by many, which derives strength from the undisputed excellence of the books of elementary instruction that the Commissioners have edited for the use of their schools, and also from the fact, attested by every tourist, that the country is overspread with numerous well-built and commodious schoolhouses. Those, however, who have visited those rural schools and looked more closely into the general working of the system, are not so favourably impressed, and begin to think that if it had, been the sound and effective system it has been represented, its effect should be seen in the moral improvement and intellectual elevation of a large proportion of the now adult population, after above twenty-one years of uninterrupted action, aided by the utmost exertion of Government influence, and by Parliamentary grants of unexampled liberality. Others again, and I confess that I am myself among the number, see in the very principle of the system, namely, the restriction of the reading of God's Word, reason sufficient to account for its having totally failed of producing any such result. The Commissioners, however, boldly assert that it has been eminently successful. They write in their, last report, that for 1851, the following flourishing eulogy upon their labours:—Twenty years have elapsed since the introduction of the system of National Education into Ireland. After a careful review of its progress, and of the difficulties which it has had to encounter, we are convinced that it has taken a deep root in the affections of the people, and that no other plan for the instruction of the; poor could have been devised, in the peculiar circumstances of this country, which would have conferred such inestimable blessings on the great majority of the population. Every passing year strengthens our conviction that the intellectual and moral elevation of the humbler classes in Ireland will be effectually promoted by a firm adherence to the fundamental principles of the system, and by liberal grants of Parliament towards its support."—[Report for 1851, p. xlvii.]Whether this expresses the unanimous opinion of the Commissioners or only that of the majority, or whether, if the opinion only of a majority, it is that of the majority of the whole Board, or only of those present when the report was under consideration, your Lordships have no means of judging, as it is signed only by the secretaries, contrary to former practice, 1165 and to the usual rule of Royal Commissioners in reporting to the Crown. This report is not authenticated by the name of a single Commissioner. Regarding it, however, as their deliberate report, they do not put forward their boast of great success without a very striking array of figures in support of it. The report opens with a statement that at the close of 1851 the number of schools in operation was 4,704, and of pupils attending them 520,401—an increase of attendance, they observe, for 1851, as compared with 1850, of 9,162. They further add, that they had promised aid to other schools which Mould raise the number to 4,811, and attendance of children to 529,637, or in round numbers to 530,000. These are large figures, and primâ facie impress the reader with the notion that the progress of education in Ireland must be very great, and the system most popular. Upon examination, however, I think the House will see reason to question the accuracy of these figures. Your Lordships will please to remember that the late census gives about 6,500,000 as the population of Ireland, and that the rate of emigration for the two years that have since elapsed has been such that the number of the population is calculated to have fallen below 6,300,000. Now, the Commissioners, in their second report, estimated the number of children, from 7 to 13 years of age, at one-seventh of the population, and that about half that number would require the aid of the National Schools. Taking then the population at 6,300,000, we have the seventh part, 900,000, and half that number, or 450,000, the estimated number for whom the aid of the National Schools would be required; but the Commissioners report that the attendance at their schools is about 530,000; consequently, they have exceeded their original estimate by 80,000. This excess is the more remarkable, as, since the establishment of the National system, other educational institutions have sprung up, providing free instruction for those children of the poor that must otherwise have had to resort to National Schools. There are above 100,000 children attending the schools of the Church Education Society; and between the Irish Society, the Irish Church Missions, the Presbyterian Mission Schools, some Roman Catholic Schools not in connexion with the Board, and other minor institutions, the number of poor children attending 1166 free schools, not called "National," cannot be less in all than 150,000: adding, then, this number to the number reported by the Commisioners as attending the National Schools, viz., 530,000, there would he a total of poor children under education at free schools, amounting to 680,000, leaving but 220,000, the residue of the one-seventh of the population, to include all the children of the upper and middle classes, all the children who are inmates of the workhouses of thirty-five Poor Law Unions, whose schools are unconnected with the Board of Education, and for that very large number of poor children, who, to my certain knowledge, attend no school whatever. This affords some ground for at least doubting the accuracy of those returns of children in attendance at the several National Schools, for which the Board takes so much credit. Another reason for doubting is, that the Commissioners themselves do not vouch for their correctness, but cast the responsibility upon the patrons or managers of the schools with whoso signatures the returns are furnished. I would be far, my Lords, from imputing to the patrons of these schools—some of them noble Lords, Members of this House—the authentication of such returns, knowing, or even suspecting them to be exaggerated; but it is no unreasonable supposition to say, that they might themselves have been deceived, when these returns, of the correctness of which they cannot personally take cognisance, have to be transmitted to them from Ireland for signature. Patrons, in general, can have no interest or object in making exaggerated returns; but others upon whom they rely might possibly have such an interest, if the salaries or other allowances from the Board—which vary materially between different schools—are regulated with any reference to the numbers under instruction. I, therefore, am of opinion that, although the school patrons may authenticate the school-rolls in full confidence of their correctness, they might still be very inaccurate. I am further led to question the accuracy of their figures, as the Commissioners appear to deprecate inquiry—as if conscious that the returns on which they have relied are not very trustworthy evidences of the numbers actually educating at their schools; for we find in the seventh paragraph of their report a promise that in their future reports they will give the average daily attendance. Now, my Lords, as the 1167 average attendance is, in fact, registered in every National School by the teachers, over whom the Commissioners can exercise the most direct control by means of their district inspectors, it may fairly be asked, why have the public never been presented with returns that would have been so much more trustworthy and satisfactory, as showing the numbers actually under instruction? Why have they not been given in the present report? The Commissioners are the less excusable for having withheld those returns, as it is manifest they had been furnished to themselves, for they observe that the average daily attendance at their schools is rather more than one-half of the total number on the books—a low average, respecting which, however, they observe that "the annual reports of other Educational Institutions in this country exhibit about the same proportion between the average attendance and the number on the rolls. It is, hence, manifest that the Commissioners attach considerable importance to these averages, now for the first time noticed. The Educational Institutions they allude to are the schools of the Church Education Society, which alone publish in their reports the average daily attendance of the pupils. I hold in my hand the last report of that society, and find that the Commissioners, have correctly noticed the proportion between the attendance of pupils and the numbers on the school rolls; but if the Church Education Society's reports are thus studied by the Commissioners, and their schools taken as a standard of efficiency in the education of the poorer classes of the Irish people, why, it may be asked, are they debarred from public aid? The reason, I regret to say, is anything but creditable to the Christian character; it is most inconsistent with the professed Protestantism of the Queen's Government. It is because the poor children, who are educated in these schools, of whatever denomination of Christians they may be, are daily instructed in the Holy Scriptures. This is the duty of the clergy of our reformed national Church to see to—to disseminate the knowledge of God's Word is the special object of their mission; the Christian pastor cannot lend himself to promote education without it. He is, therefore, excluded from receiving aid from the Protestant Government of this country. What right have you, my Lords, to call a system of education national which thus practically excludes the national Church, and ignores the principles of the 1168 national religion? You call upon the Irish clergy to restrict the reading of the Bible in their schools in deference to the principle of the Church of Rome, and you exclude, as far as by your system of education you can do so, the poor people of Ireland from being ever brought to a knowledge of the Gospel. My Lords, it appears by the Votes of the other House of Parliament that an endeavour is to be made to extend the principle of this system of education to this country. Most emphatically do I say, God forbid that such a principle should ever become national in England! God forbid that it should ever become national in Scotland!—that country of the noble Earl opposite, which owes so much to the Scriptural education of its inhabitants—and God grant that it may quickly cease to be called national in Ireland! To return, however, to the practical working of the system, in respect to the attendance at the schools: The Commissioners, in comparing the average attendance at their schools with that at the schools of the Church Education Society, appear to overlook the disadvantages under which that society's schools labour, and which necessarily affect the regularity of attendance. In the first place, their schools being more scattered, are often too distant for young children to resort to with regularity; secondly, they are opposed by the Roman Catholic priests with all the power they can bring to bear against them—by means of which a temporary withdrawal of the children of Roman Catholic parents occasionally takes place; and, lastly, I regret to add, that through insufficiency of funds, and the absence of all public aid, there is sometimes a want of school requisites that is necessarily detrimental to the interests of the school. To such disadvantages the National Schools are not exposed. They are amply furnished at the public expense with books and school requisites of every kind. Their school-houses are numerous and convenient of access, and in place of being opposed by the Roman Catholic clergy, they have, or they ought to have, their most zealous support, besides that of the Presbyterian clergy, who, at first the opponents of the National System, eventually place their schools in connexion with the Board. Consequently in the National School should always be full and regular attendance.
But humble as is the standard of efficiency by which the Commissioners are content to justify the low average attend- 1169 ance of their school children, your Lordships will be perhaps surprised to find that so far as official documents in the appendix to this report afford an insight into the actual working of the system, they have greatly overstated the average attendance at their schools, when they say it exceeds half the number on the rolls. The appendix contains the reports of head inspectors Mr. M'Creedy and Dr. Patten, on 93 National Schools in the north of Ireland. Mr. M'Creedy reports the result, and with great minuteness, the particulars of his inspection of 49 schools in the county of Donegal, by which it appears that the aggregate number of children upon the school rolls, at the time of inspection, was 3,087, with an actual attendance of but 1,346, or very little more than three-sevenths of what the public are led to believe are receiving instruction. The report of Dr. Patten shows an aggregate upon the school rolls of 44 schools of 2,750, with an actual attendance of but 1,317, a larger proportion than in the 44 schools, but still below instead of above half the number on the books. The numbers present at these inspections may, I think, be taken as a very liberal representation of the ordinary attendance at these schools, for it is not on the occasion of an inspector's visit that the pupils in general would be allowed to absent themselves. Considering then, my Lords, in the first place, the magnitude of the number of National School children, for which the Commissioners take credit, in proportion to the population—secondly, the great probability of incorrect returns having been furnished to them by the school patrons; and, lastly, at the great disparity between those returns, and the actual attendance at the schools as reported by the head inspectors, I think your Lordships will see some reason for doubting the accuracy of those figures which are paraded at the opening of the report as indicating the successful working of the system.
But, if the actual number of children under instruction falls far short of what the public is led to suppose, there is another circumstance regarding it of much more importance, and that is what these inspectors tell us regarding the ages of the children. By Inspector M'Creedy's report, it appears that of the 1,346 children present at his inspections of the 49 schools in Donegal, 615, or not much under one-half, were but seven years of age and under, and that there were only 319 boys and girls of 11 years of age and upwards, 1170 or little more than one-tenth of the whole number supposed to be under education, of an age to be likely to derive any permanent benefit from it. By Dr. Patten's report, it appears that of the children present at his inspections of 44 schools, chiefly in the county of Down, there were under seven years of age 388, and of eleven years of age and upwards, 378, or less than one-seventh of the whole number upon the roll. The following table will show the particulars, abstracted from these inspectors' reports, as to the attendance and ages of the children on the school rolls:—
The Commissioners are sensible that the withdrawal of children so early from school is a serious evil, but one for which they see no remedy; they endeavour to account for it by the poverty of the parents, and the facility of procuring profitable employment for the children; but in this, I think, they are mistaken; for if they were right, it would be from the schools in the county of Down, where there is employment for children, that they would be chiefly withdrawn to avail themselves of it; whereas, it appears that in the county of Down they remain longest at school, and are earliest withdrawn in the county of Donegal, where there is no profitable employment to be obtained. May not the difference, my Lords, arise from the fact, that in the county of Down the population is more Protestant, and, consequently, less subject to influences adverse to education; whereas in the county of Donegal the parents of the school children are in a much larger proportion Roman Catholic, and, consequently, under the direct influence of a Church which, as not long ago described in a celebrated letter of a noble Member of her Majesty's Government, who lately held the seals of the Foreign Office, is not favourable to intellectual development? This solution of the cause of the too early withdrawal of children from the National Schools is strengthened by my observation of what takes place 1171 with regard to my own schools; if the Roman Catholic parent cannot he induced to withhold his children altogether from those schools, he is too often prevailed upon to withdraw them before they are of an age to turn the rudiments of literature to account, or to reason upon what they have been taught out of the Holy Scriptures. But, my Lords, be the cause of it what it may, the fact so clearly established by the most unquestionable official testimony, of such early withdrawal of children from the advantages of education, suggests a reflection by no means favourable to the National School system. Taking the schools in Donegal as presenting a fair average sample of the schools in general in the Roman Catholic parts of Ireland, it appears that little more than one-tenth of the children of the poor, reported as under education, are attending those schools with any prospect of deriving benefit from them, while the great majority quit them, before the foundation can have been laid of any permanent moral improvement, and with the hare knowledge of reading and writing, which are soon forgotten in the dark cabin, where they are never called into exercise. Benefit cannot be looked for from education so prematurely ended; I therefore cannot but regard the large figures so prominently put forward at the opening of the report as a most fallacious criterion of the working of the education plan.
EXTRACT FROM HEAD-INSPECTOR M'CREEDT'S REPORT, 1–851: No. of schools in Donegal 49 No on Rolls 3,087 Present at Inspection 1,346 Seven Years and under 615 Eleven Years and upwards 319 EXTRACT FROM HEAD-INSPECTOR PATTEN'S REPORT, 1851: No. of schools chiefly in Co. Down 44 No on Rolls 2,750 Present at Inspection 1,317 Seven Years and under 388 Eleven Years and upwards 378
Let us now, my Lords, see how far the specific objects of the plan, as originally set forth by the Government in 1831, have been realised. Those objects were, as it appears by the State document then issued with the signature of the noble Earl then Chief Secretary for Ireland, the religious education of the lower orders without interference with religious tenets, the union of Protestant and Roman Catholic children in the same school-rooms, the union of Protestant and Roman Catholic clergymen as joint patrons and managers of the parochial schools, and the co-operation of the educated classes in promoting the success of the experiment. The document referred to states that—For the success of the undertaking much must depend upon the character of the individuals who compose the Board, and upon the security thereby afforded to the country, that while the interests of religion are not overlooked, the most scrupulous care should be taken not to interfere with the peculiar tenets of any description of Christian pupils. To attain the first object it appears essential that a portion of the Board should be composed of men of high personal character, and exalted siation in the Church—for the latter, 1172 that it should consist in part of persons professing different religious opinions.Such a Board was accordingly appointed, and it is due to them to say that the persons appointed to it were, in general, men not only of high station, but of eminent abilities, and they appear to have acted together, from the time of their appointment to the present day, with a degree of harmony that might fairly be pointed out as an example for the rest of the nation. They professed and held, no doubt, in perfect sincerity, their separate religious opinions; but, as with regard to truth in religion, the most conflicting doctrines cannot all be right, and the majority would probably be wrong, it was, to say the least of it, a very Utopian notion to delegate to a body so constituted the very grave and important duty of devising such a form and system of religious instruction for the rising generation of Ireland as should lay a sure and proper foundation of Christianity in the youthful mind. If they were really successful in the undertaking, why, I would ask, has it not been attempted to heal religious differences in this country by a like process? Why have not the Lord Primate, Cardinal Wiseman, Dr. Pusey, and other dissenting bodies, been joined in a commission to lay a like foundation of millennial harmony in England? My Lords, it is no offence to the Unitarian to say that, in his view of the Deity, he differs essentially from those who worship God in Trinity, and pray to God the Father, to God the Son, and to God the Holy Ghost: equally conflicting are the views of those who worship a Queen of Heaven, and invoke the intercession of Saints and Angels, with the Protestant tenet, founded upon Holy Scripture, that there is no intercessor between God and man but the man Christ Jesus. The proceedings of this and of the other House of Parliament are always opened with prayer for the Divine guidance and blessing upon our deliberations. These Commissioners of Education, to whom is confided the responsibility of providing for the moral and religious training of the youth of Ireland cannot unite in prayer, and as they cannot pray for, assuredly they will not obtain, God's blessing upon their work. The result of the deliberations of persons holding such conflicting views as they do upon the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, so far from advancing the cause of truth, must have a tendency rather to throw back the nation upon that worship of the "Unknown God," from which it required the 1173 preaching of an inspired Apostle to raise the Athenian people.
The Board, however, set gravely to work at the task they had undertaken. They compiled, and, I understand, very ably compiled, from the Sacred Writings a volume of Scripture extracts. They composed a volume of sacred poetry, and adopted from the able pen of the most rev. Prelate, their Colleague upon the Board, a small work on Christian evidences, all of which they agreed in offering as books of common instruction in their schools; they invited the clergy of different religious denominations to afford separate religious instruction to the children of their respective flocks, out of school hours; and a registry was ordered to be kept by the school teachers, of the attendance of the children at divine service on Sunday. Such was the provision at first made for the religious training of the National school children. The registry of attendance at divine service never has been and never could have been kept by teachers, who lose sight of their pupils from Friday to Monday. Neither Scripture extracts, Christian evidences, or sacred poetry are any longer in use as books of common instruction. What is taught in common, under the rules of the Board, is altogether secular; and the only part of the plan that is called a provision for religious instruction is, that free access to the children by the ministers of their respective communions is permitted out of school hours, which, in truth, simply means that by the authority of the Commissioners of National Education, the parochial minister is restricted from access, for religious purposes, to the children of the poor during school hours, and that should he, at such a time, present himself among them, whatever occasion there might be for a word of Christian exhortation—whatever opportunity there might be for enforcing some great doctrinal truth, or for reproving any grievous error, he must not open his lips as a minister of the Gospel. My Lords, as well might you say that the manager of the opera makes provision for the religious instruction of His singers and dancers—all are welcome and invited to witness and admire their performances, only no one is permitted to interfere with the performers; But there is free access allowed to them either before or after the opera for religious or any other purposes. But, my Lords, to treat the matter more seriously, allow me to read you the words of an eminent But now departed statesman, whoso opinions in reference to the separate reli- 1174 gious instruction of National school children, will, I trust, not be disregarded by those who were formerly and to the last his attached followers. Speaking of the duty of the clergy of the Established Church, in reference to such an arrangement, Sir Robert Peel said—But, with respect to the Established Church, I hope that rather than consent to any plan from which ecclesiastical authority is excluded, it would separate itself altogether from the State upon this point, that it would take the education of the people into its own hands, that it would not shrink from insisting upon the publication of its own peculiar doctrines, but that it would demand that the highest respect should be entertained for its power, by its being inculcated in the minds of children that religion formed the basis of education. I very much doubt whether, the principles of the Christian faith being thus inculcated among children, as good a chance of harmony would not be secured, as by telling them that religion was an open question, and that each of them was to be instructed by a minister of his own creed, on a certain day set apart for that purpose."—[3 Hansard, xlviii. 674.1Just in accordance with what is thus laid down, has been the course adopted by the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland. They could not ally themselves with a system which required them to compromise their duty as ministers of the reformed faith. The Church did not separate from the State, but the State separated from the Church in the matter of education. The education of the poof had been for several years carried on with the aid of the Kildare-place Society, whose object it was, by the daily reading of a portion of Scripture, to impart a knowledge of the Bible along with other and secular instruction. The system may not have been altogether free from objection; but it did not militate against, it rather tended to uphold, the religion of the State, for it pointed to the Word of God as the standard of truth; it, therefore, had the co-operation of the clergy of the National Church, and I believe it was progressing with considerable benefit to the country. But a bull having been issued by the Pope in 1821, prohibiting the reading of the Scriptures in the Irish schools, the clergy of the Church of Rome, of course, became opposed to it. Still, education went on under the Kildare-place Society; and, had it not been interrupted, Ireland would probably ere this hate been a very improved country. But, in an evil hour, and in express deference to the principles of the Roman Catholic Church, as enforced by the Pope's bull, the Government proposed the experiment of what was called the National system of Education. 1175 It called forth from the Irish Prelates a most able, temperate, and Christian remonstrance. Not one of them could he induced to connect himself with a scheme that appeared to strike at the very foundation of the Reformed faith. Opportunely, however, for the Government, the see of Dublin became vacant, and the distinguished Prelate who was then appointed to and still holds that see, was not unwilling to lend the aid of his great abilities, and the still more important sanction of his position, to assist in carrying the new system into operation. My Lords, it was not then for the first time that an Archbishop of Dublin was known to have taken a peculiar and a singular part upon occasions when the Pope exercised an usurped authority within this realm. In the nineteenth century, the occupant of that see separated himself from the rest of his brethren, to give practical effect to a Papal bull restricting the reading of God's Word by the Queen's subjects in Ireland. History informs us that, in the thirteenth century, when the wretched John consented to do homage for his Crown before the Pope's Legate, the only man who had the moral courage to protest against the humiliation of his Sovereign and the usurpation of the Pope, was an "Archbishop of Dublin."
Next in importance to a due provision for religious instruction, the arrangements for which I have pointed out, was the union of children of different religious denominations in the same school, as the means of afterwards uniting them in more kindly feelings. Although the Commissioners have often been called upon for some account of their success in this essential object of the institution, it has invariably been refused upon the ground that no registry of religious denominations was kept. Last year, however, my noble Friend the late Viceroy of Ireland was anxious to ascertain whether the Commissioners had really succeeded in this object or not; he accordingly called upon them for the necessary information; immediately all difficulty vanished—the Board, indeed, represented that they "had no official documents from which such a return could be made out, but that being desirous of complying with his Excellency's wishes in so important a matter," they had applied to the school managers. The returns they notice as having been furnished by the managers, and they proceed in their report to give the aggregate number of children of the Established Church, of Presbyterians, of other dissenters, and of Roman Catholics; but it does not appear 1176 that they ever furnished the Lord Lieutenant with the information for which he applied. He desired a return of the number and religious denominations of the children attending each of the National schools, in order to ascertain how far the principle of united education had obtained. The returns are in their hands; but in place of giving them, they call his Excellency's attention to a variety of statistical summaries of minor importance, and thus adroitly evade the question at issue, namely, to what extent Protestant and Roman Catholic children are united and under instruction in the same school-room? Those returns having been referred to in the body of the report, should have appeared in the appendix, and I have, therefore, to pray your Lordships to direct that they should be furnished. The withholding hitherto of all information upon this important object of the National system is the less excusable, because it will be seen that in their reports upon their district model schools, which are admittedly well-managed institutions, they parade the religious denominations of the children attending them as if they were true samples of the union of religious denominations in all their other schools. This may tend to mislead the public; but it, at all events, shows, that if these schools were really the models upon which other National schools were formed, they would each, in like manner, keep a regular registry of the religious denominations of their pupils. The general belief is, that very little of what is called united education exists in the ordinary National schools—that in schools under the patronage of Presbyterian ministers, the attendance is wholly Protestant—that in schools under Roman Catholic patronage the children are almost all Roman Catholics—that they are wholly without Protestant admixture wherever there is a Scripture school within reach; for there all the Protestants and many Roman Catholic children are drawn away—and if there is, in a few instances, a partial mixture of different creeds in the same schoolroom, it is because, for want of any other school, the parochial minister being unable to maintain one at his own expense, the Protestant children are obliged to resort to National schools, although under Roman Catholic, or, perhaps, monastic superintendence, and are thus withdrawn from the care and influence of their legitimate pastors.
Such my Lords, I believe to be the result of your endeavour to coerce the 1177 country to the adoption of united education. For the accomplishment of this object the Government mainly looked to the union of parish minister and priest as joint patrons of the parochial schools. Could these have united, no doubt the schools would have been mixed schools; but with respect to the success of the system in this most important point, the Commissioners are again very reserved—tables are exhibited showing the number and religious denominations of the patrons, lay and clerical; but the report is silent as to any school being under the joint management of priest and parson. Are we, hence, to suppose that there are no schools so managed? If not, why is information upon so interesting a point relating to school management withheld? The reason, my Lords, may perhaps be found in the fact, discoverable from a little note upon some statistical tables buried in the Appendix to the Report for 1850, that only eight schools out of above 4,800 are under the joint government of Roman Catholic clergymen and clergymen of the Established Church. The system was, in fact, proposed under the very mistaken belief, that the minister of the Reformed Faith and the minister of the Church of Rome could so far forget their peculiar missions as to be able to conduct in concert the education of youth, and in doing so to treat religion as an open question. The result necessarily was, that not one in 600 of the National Schools is under the joint management of clergymen of those opposite communions. Differences of creed do not prevent them working together in works of mere charity; and they did so most creditably and efficiently, when their personal services were required in the administration of relief to the poor during the late famine; but their missions are otherwise quite opposed, and as conscientious men they cannot overlook their duty of doctrinally instructing those children who come within the sphere of their influence, and are to receive at their hands the early principles of moral rectitude. The existence of great doctrinal differences in religion is to be regretted; but much more would it be to be regretted if the ministers of religion were to be regarded as hollow and insincere in their profession of faith. Lastly, the acceptance of the experiment of united education was to have been tested by the amount of pecuniary support it received from the upper classes. Such, at least, is the inference to be drawn from the 1178 stringent rule laid down by the Government with respect to aid from the public purse. The rule laid down is as follows:—They (the Board) will invariably require, as a condition not to be departed from, that local funds shall be raised, upon which any aid from the public shall be dependent:They will refuse all applications in which the following objects are not locally provided for:1st. A fund sufficient for the annual repairs of the school-houses and furniture. 2nd. A permanent salary for the master, not less than—pounds. 3rd. A sum sufficient to purchase books and school requisites at half price, and books of separate religious instruction at prime cost. 4th. Where aid is required from the Commissioners for building a school-house, it is required that at least one-third of the estimated expense be subscribed, a site for the building—to be approved of by the Commissioners—be granted to them, and the school-house, when finished, be vested in them.From these invariable rules it would appear that the local expenses of the working of the National School System was to have been, for the most part locally provided for. It will be seen, however, that the originators of the scheme have, in this expectation, been also disappointed. The returns for which I shall move will probably show exactly how the case stands in respect of local contributions; but an estimate may probably be formed of it, by the particulars furnished respecting the local contributions in aid of 193 schools reported upon by Head-Inspector M'Creedy, and by assuming that the rest of the National Schools are locally aided in the same proportion:—
ESTIMATE OF LOCAL CONTRIBUTIONS. Amount of local aid given towards the support of schools, reported upon by Head-Inspector MacCreedy, exclusive of school fees £191 8 0 Add value of dwelling-houses, given to teachers of ditto, rent free 52 12 0 Gross total of local aid given to do. 244 0 0 Deduct amount of rent paid by teachers of ditto 50 18 0 Net amount of local aid given to do. 193 2 0 Rate of local aid per school, ascertained as above from Head-Inspector MacCreedy's report 1 0 0 Number of schools reported upon by Head-Inspector MacCreedy 193 Gross number of schools in operation in 1851 4704 Deduct workhouse schools 128 Number of schools in operation, in 1851, exclusive of workhouse schools 4576 Total amount of local aid, given towards the support of National Schools in the year 1851, exclusive of school fees, but inclusive of the value of dwelling-houses.
7,593l. 6s. 8d. being then taken as the total amount of money, exclusive of school fees locally contributed in 1851, let us see how it compares with the disbursements made by the Commissioners in the same year. The balance sheet is given at the end of the report, and it appears that the total of their payment for the year amounted to 158,564l., being above twenty times as much as was locally subscribed. Almost the whole burden, therefore, of the education scheme falls upon the public; the rules with respect to the granting of public aid, which were never to have been departed from, have been abandoned, and the popularity of the system, so far as it is to he judged of by the amount of local support, is very low.
estimated as above, at the rate of £1 per school 4576 0 0 Building, &c, as per general schedule of the Commissioners 3017 6 8 Total local aid, 1851 £7593 6 8
But let us compare the subscriptions for the National Schools with the amount of voluntary contributions in aid of the other Educational Institutions for the poor in Ireland. The amount of the Church Education Society's income for 1851, arising wholly from voluntary subscriptions, shows receipts to the amount of 40,718l.; if to this sum be added, on a rough estimate, rather less than half that amount, as the probable expense of the elementary schools of the Irish Society, of the Irish Church Missions, of the Wesleyan Methodists, and of schools, Roman Catholic and Protestant, not in connexion with the Board, it may fairly he assumed that the voluntary-support given to what may be called denominational schools, is as eight to one compared with what is given in aid of the National School System; and that so far as pecuniary contributions may be regarded as a test of public opinion regarding the principles of education, the feelings of the clergy and laity of all persuasions are decidedly in favour of allowing the clergy of whatever denomination freely to disseminate in the schools of which they are respectively the patrons or managers, those doctrines of religion which they believe may best tend to fix the principles of children under instruction, and accustom them early to consider religion as the first thing needful.
I have now, my Lords, shown, and chiefly from official documents, in the first place, that the number of children so prominently set forth as upon the rolls of the National Schools, is no proof that so many are really under instruction; secondly, that 1180 the system in operation does not provide a religious education for the children of the poor; thirdly, that there is no evidence, but rather much reason to doubt, that children of different creeds are united in the school-rooms; fourthly, that the clergy of the different communions do not unite as joint managers of the schools; and, lastly, that the system does not obtain that amount of pecuniary support from the gentry and landlords that was required as an indispensable condition for the issue of public aid, and which assuredly would be given, as the working of the Church Education Society shows, if the system were a sound one. Could I point to results in any degree contradictory of what I have represented respecting the operation of the National system of Education, I would gladly notice them; but I find none. On the contrary, everything indicates how fruitless it has been of any moral benefit to the country. It purports to be a system of education based upon religion. After twenty-one years' uninterrupted operation, its fruits should appear in the improved moral and religious character of the people, in a marked development of their intelligence, in their improved fitness for the enjoyment of free institutions, and in the exhibition of those habits of industry, order, and provident economy which distinguish civilised from uncivilised nations. My Lords, where such habits are found to exist in Ireland, as, for instance, in a large portion of the North, they were there before the National Board was called into being; and where particular localities elsewhere exhibit any marked improvement, it is plainly referable to other known agencies, altogether apart from the National School System. So far as statistical evidence can be referred to, it all shows how lamentably Ireland, with her great natural advantages, yet lags behind in the march of civilisation, and goes to show that the System of National Education has rather retarded than in any degree advanced the moral and intellectual improvement of the population.
I regret that that portion of the Report of the Census Commissioners for 1851, which relates to education, has not yet been published. I do not apprehend that it would show, when so many educational agencies are at work, in addition to the gigantic machinery of the National System, that positive ignorance should have increased. I should rather expect to find that the mere elementary acquirements of reading and writing were more generally 1181 diffused; but it is a remarkable circumstance, that by the statistics of education given in the census of 1841, at the end of the first decennial period of the operation of the National System, the tables showed a positive and large increase in the proportion of persons unable either to read or write, to the whole population; whereas, at the several decennial periods from 1741 to 1831 there had been a gradual diminution of the proportion of ignorant persons. [See Tables in the body of the Report of the Census Commissioners in 1841, pages 34, 35.] In order to form a judgment how far habits of thrift and industry have been promoted by the National System of Education, I would call your Lordships' attention, and especially that of the right rev. Prelate opposite (the Bishop of Limerick) to a comparison between the state of the inhabitants of two Poor Law Unions, circumstanced nearly alike in respect of population and natural advantages. There are no positive statistics of industry to refer to; but the statistics of destitution may be relied upon, as showing the absence of thrift and employment. The population of the Limerick Union is returned at 110,628—that of Belfast Union at 125,668; from the education report it appears that there are within the Union of Limerick 5,512 pupils at the National Schools, or nearly one in twenty to the population; from the same report it appears that in the Belfast Union there are 4,744 National School children, or less than one in twenty-six of the population; whereas, while in the latter union there were of cases relieved in the workhouse 6,671, or little more than one in nineteen to the population, there wore relieved in the Limerick workhouse not less than 17,550, or about one to seven of the population; and this notwithstanding numerous industrial schools at Limerick in connexion with the Board. To one of these I must particularly allude, as I think a part of its arrangements can hardly have the approbation of the right rev. Prelate who presides over that diocese: I allude to St. Munchin's Industrial Schools, conducted under the Sisters of the Order of Mercy. The District Inspector reports that on Sundays the pupils are taught writing and arithmetic from one till three o'clock; and he further observes, that he looks upon the whole plan as sound in principle, and its management as highly efficient. [See pages 766, 767 of the Appendix to the 18th Report of the Commissioners of National 1182 Education in Ireland, vol. i.] I do not find that the mode of keeping the Sabbath here, reported and approved of by the Board of Education, was noticed by the Commissioners, yet it cannot be denied that this report sets forth a systematic violation of the 4th Commandment. The state of crime may also he referred to as evidence respecting the effects of education, It is generally considered that crime lessens as education advances; but how does education appear to have operated in Ireland? In Ulster, where the proportion of National School children to population is shown to be about one to thirteen, there were in 1851, 3,462 committed for various offences, while in Munster, with about one in eleven of the population receiving education at National Schools, there were in the same year as many as 10,096, or nearly three times as many offenders as in Ulster. Again, we find from the report of the Inspector General of Prisons, that although the population had greatly diminished from 1841 to 1851, and the National School System rapidly progressed during the same period, that crime had greatly increased in 1851, as compared with 1841, instead of having been reduced by what should be the beneficial influences of education:—
EXTRACTS FROM REPORTS OF COMMISSIONERS OF NATIONAL EDUCATION, AND OF CENSUS COMMISSIONERS, 1851. Province. Children at National Schools. Population. Proportion to Population. Ulster 151,082 2,004,289 About 1 in 13 Minister 160,345 1,831,817 About 1 in 11 EXTRACT PROM REPORT OF INSPECTOR GENERAL OF PRISONS, 1851. Province. Committals. Convictions. Proportion of Committals to Population. Ulster 3,462 1,843 About 1 in 579 Minister. 10,096 6,217 About 1 in 172
I must advert to one more testimony to 1183 the failure of the National School System. I hold in my hand a volume, entitled Transactions during the Famine in Ireland, compiled by the Society of Friends. The liberality with which that truly charitable body administered to the wants of the starving poor is well known; but their charity was not more exemplary in the largeness of their bounty than in the unceasing labour and intelligence with which it was administered; they carefully acquainted themselves with the circumstances with which they had to deal, they studied the character and condition of the people, and their model farm at Colemanstown still attests that their labour of love is going forward. It is remarkable, that while, after adverting to the prevalence of ignorance, and manifestly interesting themselves for the future well-being of the country, they never once notice the existence of the National System of Education; they abstain from reflecting upon what it has failed of doing, and they cannot connect it with any hope of Ireland's regeneration. Their silence regarding it is, in my mind, the most eloquent testimony to its failure. This volume includes, also, a statement of the proceeding of the American people, who likewise came forward to Ireland's relief in her time of need. I trust that the generous spirit and unbounded liberality of our American brethren, at that very trying season, will never pass from the minds of my countrymen, or of the people of England, who also so cordially took part in the same good work. Their common sympathy, evinced in behalf of Ireland, should strengthen and perpetuate that friendly union which has so long subsisted between the two empires. In contributing to the relief of Ireland, the Americans, like the Society of Friends, were not inattentive to the condition of the people; they had their agents to report minutely upon the districts they visited; but no notice is taken in any of their reports of the existence of schools under the National Board, and so totally do they ignore them, that we find them, in their benevolent desire to improve the condition of the Irish people, proposing a plan for their education. Whether their plan was a judicious one or not, I will not now inquire. In one thing, however, you might beneficially copy the example of America. When Mr. Abbott Lawrence, lately the American Envoy at this Court, visited Ireland, he spoke strongly of what education might effect for her, and especially of the 1184 blessing it would be to her, were her children taught to read the Bible.
INCREASE OF CRIME IN IRELAND, PROM 1841 TO 1851, AS SHOWN BY REPORTS OF INSPECTOR GENERAL OF PRISONS. Year. Committed. Convicted. Increase of Committals in 1851. Increase of Convictions in 1851. 1841 20,796 9,287 1851 24,684 14,377 388 5,090
My Lords, I have surely said enough to show that your experiment of united education has failed, and ought not to be longer persevered in. Let me entreat your Lordships to consider the question with reference to what is due by a people, too long the victim of this ill-imagined scheme—to consider it with reference to their future interests, and to the interests and character of the Government of this country. We are reproached with our religious divisions—that they operate as a bar to all improvement. So they have done, but it is by your endeavouring to force them into an unnatural union, just where they cannot unite. Do not ask the priest and the parson to act as religious teachers in the same schools? They cannot do so: you might as well attempt to mix oil and water as to make clergymen of such opposite persuasions joint instructors in the same schools. Oil and water is a mixture that will neither cleanse nor give light. Separate them, and they may do both. What has hitherto been an obstacle to the progress of education may greatly further its ends, if, by allowing the non-vested schools to be conducted under the separate control of their patrons with respect to the religious instruction of the children attending them, you do not attempt to coerce clergymen to compromise the duties of their respective missions. Let each in his own school teach and uphold what he believes to be truth in religion. Let the schools of all be brought under the same inspection, and payments be made to the school teachers only in proportion to the number of pupils found at the half-yearly inspection fitted to be advanced to a higher class in secular knowledge. By this means a principle of emulation will be created among the different schools, and the cause of education will prosper. Retain, if you like, the principle of united education in your vested schools, but let them be placed in a condition to reflect somewhat of the efficiency of the model schools.
My Lords, the plan I have just sketched for the modification of your system of education would be much more in accordance with that which you profess to have followed, namely, what was recommended by the Commission of 1812. I do not pretend to suggest anything original; the subject has occupied the thoughts of many, and the changes I have pointed out would 1185 be hailed by many even of the friends of the present system with gladness. The Roman Catholic priest desires the power of more freely teaching what he believes to be truth, to those who, by coming to his school, declare their willingness to be instructed by him. The minister of the Reformed faith desires, in like manner, freedom to teach all over whom he is placed in pastoral authority, who come to his schools, the great truths of Christianity established by God's Word. Let them, as in a free country, freely uphold the faith they respectively profess, and let them in the schools they may respectively superintend, bring, as they may see fit, the aid of religion to the inculcation of principles of moral conduct. Thus would Ireland be placed upon a footing of equality with England in the education of her youth; and thus would she, at no distant period, be enabled to attain that position in the scale of civilised nations for which her natural resources and the intelligence of her population fit her. It only remains for me to pray your Lordships to pardon the undue length to which my address has run, and to move for the Papers of which I gave notice.
That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty for—I. Copy of Returns furnished by the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland to his Excellency the Earl of Eglintoun, when Lord Lieutenant, of the number of children attending each of the National Schools in Ireland, and of the religious denominations to which they belong, as referred to in the 14th page of the Eighteenth Report of the Commissioners on National Education in Ireland. II. List of the vested schools, stating: 1, Parish in which situated; 2, date of connexion with the Board; 3, name and religion of teacher; 4, amount of salary from Board; 5, amount of local aid given towards teacher's salary, in the way of subscriptions, during the year referred to in the eighteenth report; 6, amount of school fees paid during the same period; 7, whether there is a residence provided for the teacher; 8, name and religion of patron; 9, number of children on the roll of each such schools, distinguishing the number of the Established Church, of Presbyterians, of Protestant Dissenters, and of Roman Catholics; 10, whether the 'Scripture Lessons' were habitually used during the hours of united instruction for the same period. III. Similar returns respecting the non-vested schools. IV. Return from the Clerk of this House of the respective dates at which each of the annual reports of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland have been laid upon the table of this House, and of the dates at which they have been respectively distributed to the Members of this House.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
said, he wished to make a few observations in reply to the statements of the noble Earl. The 1186 noble Earl had said that the system of national education in Ireland had failed—that it was vicious in its conception, and that it had entirely failed in its operation. Now, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) was ready to admit that the system had not succeeded to the extent which its originators had at first expected. But to what was that result to be attributed? Was it not owing to the noble Earl and his friends? He (the Earl of Aberdeen) lamented that a large portion of the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland should, from the first, have opposed the operation of that system; but wherever it had been supported by the clergy it had been successful; and if others had followed the example of that most learned, zealous, and enlightened Prelate who had so long been at the bead of the National Board (the Archbishop of Dublin), he believed they would have had the success of the system commensurate with the expectation that had been formed of its success. But it had been the misfortune of Ireland that every attempt made for the improvement of the country had been almost always converted to purposes of sectarian differences, whether religious or political. He admitted that it was the duty of every public man to view with forbearance the opinions of those who differed from him. But he must confess that when he saw this whole system of national education obstinately opposed, and the chance—the best chance—perhaps the only chance—for the permanent improvement of Ireland, rejected and wantonly thrown away—he confessed that it was with some difficulty he suppressed his feelings of indignation. Although, however, the system had not succeeded to the extent it would have succeeded, if it had been supported as it ought to have been, he denied that it had failed in the manner described by the noble Earl. The noble Earl had very cavalierly set aside the reports of the Commissioners. He said that he had no confidence in their accuracy; he told their Lordships even that he could not trust them, because they had been signed by the secretaries, and not by the Commissioners themselves. Now, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) confessed that he was prepared to place confidence in the returns of the Commissioners; that he was perfectly ready to believe that they had endeavoured to do their duty honestly; and that the mere numbers which they stated showed that they bad done their duty, and that the system was progressing. Looking merely 1187 at the numbers of the schools and of the scholars, he found that, from the very commencement down to the year 1851, the success of the system had been constantly and steadily progressive. During the last twenty years, with the exception of the years 1847 and 1849—and the reasons for those exceptions were explained in the reports of the Commissioners for those years—the progress had been uninterrupted and increasing. Last year the schools had increased by 157, and the scholars had increased by upwards of 9,000. The whole number of the schools at the end of the year 1851 was 4,811, and the whole number of the pupils was 529,637. With such a result, the system could not he said to hare failed. It might have been more extended, and it would have been, no doubt, but for the reason to which he had already adverted; but the facts he had just mentioned showed that it had to a very considerable extent succeeded. The schools had increased by 157 in the year 1851, and last year a still greater number of applications for the establishment of schools had been addressed to the Board, and especially from the province of Ulster—a fact which showed that the system of education was increasing in that province instead of diminishing. The original object and main principle of the system, as he apprehended, was non-interference with the religious tenets of the children. It was a system of joint secular education and of separate religious education. That principle had been perfectly maintained. He believed that since the very commencement of the system there had not been one single instance of proselytism in any of these schools. But the noble Earl appeared to object to the omission of the Scripture extracts, and complained that they were not read in the schools. Now, this was a strange objection in the mouth of the noble Earl—for he (the Earl of Aberdeen) believed that the introduction of those Scripture extracts had been most strenuously objected to by the noble Earl and his supporters—that they He always maintained that, those extracts were but a mutilation of the Word of Life—that a free access to the whole of the Holy Scriptures was a fundamental principle of Protestantism. And yet the noble Earl at present complained that those extracts were proscribed. But they were not proscribed. The use of them was encouraged in the vested schools, and was recommended in all the schools. Practically, what did the noble Earl propose? He 1188 proposed that separate grants should be made to the schools of the Church Education Society, and to all schools without restriction, and that the Roman Catholics and Protestants should each be allowed to teach their respective religion in their own schools. But was he prepared to admit that the Roman Catholic population should receive their full portion of the public money for their schools? If so, he spoke the language of the most violent of the Roman Catholic party. They would cordially support the noble Earl in that proposal; and he (the Earl of Aberdeen) believed that some of their most distinguished Prelates advocated the very course which the noble Earl ecommended. Now, what in effect wast not proposal? It was a proposal to make national grants to the Church Education Society; and if the proposal were adopted now, they could not refuse to vote grants, the Roman Catholic body in the same proportion. Now, with a Roman Catholic population of five to one, or whatever the proportion might be—with an immense majority of Roman Catholics in Ireland—the noble Earl must be prepared to make proportionate grants to that body, and then they would, through Parliament and through the Government, recognise that system of separation which, as he had already said, led to the encouragement of that sectarian spirit which had been the bane of Ireland. He did not profess to possess an accurate acquaintance with the working details of that system. It might present subjects for improvement. It was quite possible that the rules might be modified, or made more clear, or that additional regulations might be introduced with advantage. It was possible that that might be the case—the system might admit of improvement; but he did think it would be a great misfortune for Ireland if it were changed in any essential point. He would venture to say that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), who had first introduced that system into Ireland, had never in his life conferred a greater benefit on his country, or done anything of which he might more reasonably be proud, than this. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) understood that the noble Earl the late Lord Lieutenant for Ireland (the Earl of Eglinton) had made inquiries into the working of the system, and had been so satisfied of its advantages that he had not found it advisable materially to alter it; and if he recollected rightly, the noble Earl lately at the head of the Government (the Earl of 1189 Derby) had declared that he also had looked into the system, and that he had contemplated the introduction into it of some alterations and improvements, but that he had come to the resolution that he ought not to make any suggession to Parliament upon the subject. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) thought that was a testimony that ought to weigh with their Lordships in considering that question. For himself, he did not deny that the system might be improved, and he was sure that the Commissioners would be the last persons to reject any practical proposal for its amendment. All that he said was, preserve the principle of the system entire; and if they did so, he did hope that, notwithstanding the opposition of a large portion of the clergy of the Established Church—an opposition which he was happy to say was diminishing—he did hope that by a steady adherence to the essential principles of the system, they would find that it would ultimately be productive of the amount of good which was originally anticipated from it.
§ The EARL of EGLINTON
said, that although he did not agree with the noble Earl (the Earl of Clanearty) in the remarks with which he had wound up his speech, and though he did not see his way to the plan which he had sketched as a substitute for the present system—nevertheless he thought their Lordships owed a debt of gratitude to the noble Earl for having brought that subject so fully under their notice; and he almost regretted that the noble Earl had not brought the question under their consideration in a more decided manner by moving for a Select Committee to inquire into the system. For he thought that a subject on which depended the education of several hundreds of thousands of children was well deserving of their Lordships' consideration. There could, certainly, be but one opinion among their Lordships as to the desirability of the Irish people receiving a liberal education. When he went to Ireland last year in the capacity of Lord Lieutenant, knowing, as he did, that a very large portion of the clergymen of the Established Church in Ireland—more than three-fourths of the members of that body—were opposed to the system, and that among them were such men as the Primate, the Bishop of Ossory, the Bishop of Meath, and many others, eminent alike for their piety and their charity; knowing, too, as he did, that it was opposed, also by his noble Friend (the Earl of Clanearty)—one of the best resident 1190 landlords in Ireland—he confessed that he had gone to that country with an impression that there must be much in the system which was wrong and which required to he reformed. He could not, therefore, agree with his noble Friend that every Lord Lieutenant went over to Ireland with a prejudice in favour of the system; for, so far as he was concerned, if he went with a prejudice at all, it was a prejudice against it, and with a desire to meet the wishes of its opponents, if possible. But, after paying the most unremitting attention to the subject, he had come to the conclusion that, although he thought there was much which might with advantage be altered, he could see no plan by which the wishes of the party represented by the noble Earl could be satisfied without running the risk—he might say without almost incurring the certainty—of driving all the Roman Catholics from the schools. Feeling, therefore, that he could not recommend any change which would not have that most dangerous tendency, he had not had the nerve to propose, on his own responsibility, any measure that had been suggested to him or that had occurred to his own mind, and therefore he had recommended no change at all. But he had felt that, although the Government ought not to take the initiative in proposing any change upon that subject, they might be disposed to accede to a proposal for a Committee of Inquiry if asked for; and he had written to that effect to his noble Friend before the meeting of Parliament in November last. He quite agreed with the noble Earl at the head of the Government (the Earl of Aberdeen) in thinking that the failure—if failure there were—of that system was very much owing to a refusal on the part of a large portion of the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland, and of the laity too, to join in carrying it into effect. He thought it most unfortunate that a largo body among the best portion of Irish society should refuse to join in what he agreed with the noble Earl at the head of the Government in thinking the best chance for the regeneration of Ireland; but he must do justice to the sentiments by which they were actuated, and he felt convinced that they were prevented by conscientious motives from agreeing to a system by which the reading of the Bible was excluded from the schools; and he confessed that that did seem at first a startling proposition to a Protestant Christian. He thought it, however, unfortunate that they 1191 should have decided upon taking such a course. The circumstance of the Protestant clergy and laity taking no part in encouraging the present system of education in Ireland, tended in some measure to give to the Roman Catholic clergymen possession of the grants set apart for the building of the National schools, and thus conferring upon them greater power over those schools than they would otherwise enjoy. He thought that to that fact was owing, in a great measure, the partial failure of the present system of education in Ireland. But at the same time he should observe—and his noble Friend the noble Earl who preceded him in the government of that country (the Earl of Clarendon) would, he trusted, forgive him for what he was about to say—that in his (the Earl of Eglinton's) opinion the refusal of the noble Earl to extend Government patronage to any but those who were favourable to the National system of education, was a proceeding ill-judged and unfair. Unfair, because it deprived very much the greater proportion of the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland of any chance of rising in their profession, or at any rate of receiving advancement at the hands of Government; and ill-judged, because it prevented men of high feeling and principle from coming into a system which they were told they must acquiesce in, or receive no preferment. The noble Earl at the head of the Government had said that he understood that the feeling in favour of the system was gaining ground among the Protestant clergy; but if so, he (the Earl of Eglinton) could not hut think the change was owing, in a great measure, to the fact that the line of policy to which he had just referred had been abandoned. He could not go so far as the noble Earl who introduced the subject went, in denouncing the abuses of the system of education in Ireland. He was of opinion that that system, as it had originally been projected, was perhaps the best that could be devised for a country situated as Ireland was. He thought it a great pity that that system, as projected by his noble Friend who sat behind him (the Earl of Derby), had not been properly carried out; and he must say that the books which were used in the National schools, and upon which the noble Earl (the Earl of Clancarty) had animadverted, were the very best that could be put into the hands of the children who received instruction in any schools. [The Earl of CLANCARTY explained that he had not said anything 1192 against the books sanctioned by the Board; on the contrary he thought they reflected great credit on the Board.] Much, however, as he approved of the system of National education in Ireland, he could not altogether approve of the manner in which it was carried out. The only religious books which were authorised by the Board were, he believed, almost universally disused in those schools over which Roman Catholic clergymen presided. But there was still more to be said in condemnation of the working of the system, for in some model schools, of which the Commissioners themselves were the patrons, those books were not read. Thus their disuse was not only permitted upon the part of the Commissioners, but as it were enjoined; inasmuch as in cases where they were the patrons, they, in not ordering them to he read, in effect prohibited their use. He thought, therefore, that, looking to the working of the system, their Lordships would agree with him in thinking that there was a great opening for reform with regard to the manner in which the system was carried out; and in his opinion there was hardly a subject better deserving—he would go further and say which more imperatively called for, consideration. He should be very sorry indeed that the result of a Parliamentary inquiry should be to break up such a system; but he should most joyfully concur in any proposal which would give to it greater effect, and which would tend to soothe the feelings of those parties whom he believed to have justly felt irritated and annoyed. He sincerely hoped that their Lordships would enter into an inquiry, or that the inquiry which might be instituted in another place might have the effect of bringing about a better state of things, and which would tend to strengthen a system which he believed to be for the good of Ireland, and which he should be sorry to see overthrown.
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
said, he had not intended to take any part in the present discussion; but the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Eglinton) having so directly alluded to him in the course of his remarks, he hoped their Lordships would permit him to say a few words in reply. The noble Earl had said that he considered it to have been ill-judged and unfair to select only those clergymen for preferment on the part of the Crown who were friendly to the National system of education. The noble Earl in saying that, had only repeated 1193 what had been constantly said in Ireland, and for which he (the Earl of Clarendon) had been greatly abused. It had even been said in Dublin that clergymen had been tortured with regard to their opinions on this subject; that they had been asked their opinions, and refused preferment if they proved unfavourable. Now, he was very much obliged to the noble Earl for having made allusion to him in connexion with this point, because it afforded him an opportunity of giving those statements a distinct and unequivocal denial. He begged to assure their Lordships that he had never in his life asked any clergyman what his opinions on this subject were—for the best of all reasons, that it was quite unnecessary; but he admitted that, in fulfilment of to him the most anxious, because most sacred, duty which devolved on him in the office which he had had the honour to hold, of selecting fit persons for the preferment of the Crown, he had invariably instituted every inquiry in his power as to the piety, the learning, the habits, and, in fact, all the antecedents of the persons who requested to be promoted; and that among those antecedents he need hardly add he included, not the course they were likely to take, but the course they had taken during the period they had been in the ministry, on this momentous question. He frankly admitted, too, that, cœteris paribus, he had always given the appointment to the individual who agreed with the views he himself entertained with respect to this important system: and he must say that he should have failed in his duty, and would justly have called in question the sincerity of his own opinions, if he had appointed men who would have felt it their duty to thwart the working of the system to situations which would have enabled them to oppose a policy which he conceived was advantageous to Ireland. To have listened to the language which had been held on this subject in Ireland—of which their Lordships could only form a faint idea—one would have thought that the whole patronage of the Church rested in the hands of the Crown: whereas the patronage of the Crown, as his noble Friend know, consisted of the bishoprics and deaneries, with some few church livings of no great value. Where one clergyman, therefore, looked to the Crown for preferment, ten looked elsewhere. The same system as that which he felt 1194 it his duty to follow with regard to the patronage of the Crown, was also followed under the Government of Sir Robert Peel, with few exceptions. Two eminent persons who were known to be hostile to the National system were appointed to bishoprics by Sir Robert Peel's Government, with the view of ascertaining whether they would be equally liberal in the exercise of their patronage to persons who were in favour of the system; but he appealed to the candour of a right rev. Prelate from Ireland then present to say whether they had ever in any case exercised their patronage in favour of a supporter of the system. He had never called in question the purity of the motives of those who had opposed the system, but he must say he impugned their judgment. He thought that the clergy of the Established Church who had opposed the system, had not merely foregone a great opportunity of doing good, but had omitted what he considered to be a sacred duty on this question. They would attend no school, nor give any religious instruction in any school, unless the doctrines taught were entirely in accordance with their own religious belief. But in declaring that they would lend their sanction to no scheme unless it included religious instruction according to their views, they in effect declared that the Roman Catholic poor should have no education at all—they left the poor in ignorance, and to its concomitant, vice. On this principle one might as well refuse a morsel of bread to a starving man, or medical assistance to one dying of the cholera, because they had not adopted the same regimen, as leave the most destitute of human beings thus to become the victims of ignorance and the pests of society. These had been his opinions from the first; and he was glad to hear them confirmed some time ago by one now, alas! no more, the late Bishop of Meath, whose pious zeal and Christian character would long be remembered by those who had had the privilege of his acquaintance. That right rev. Prelate said, that the parish clergyman was the minister by law established, and that it was his duty to administer the schools as constituted by the law as he found it. He might not like the law; but as long as it was the law it was his duty to administer the word of God to all who were ready to receive it; and those who did not do so not 1195 only neglected their duty bat incurred a grave responsibility. There were various other topics which he had heard with great regret, though not with any surprise, from the noble Earl opposite; but he had long known his conscientious hostility to the present system. He would, in conclusion, only join in the request made by the noble Earl at the head of the Government, that their Lordships would not, by holding out expectations of any change, impair the efficiency of a system which he conscientiously believed, though it might have defects, as all human institutions must have, was better calculated than any other to promote the great cause of education among the poorer classes of our fellow-countrymen in Ireland.
The BISHOP of LIMERICK
said, he felt that he should be guilty of a dereliction of his duty if he did not stand up in that House to defend and vindicate the National system of education in Ireland—a system which had been grossly misrepresented; yes, calumniated and misunderstood. He had been resident in Ireland for thirty-two years, and had during that period occupied many responsible positions. He had lived for nine years in Dublin, and had been for nineteen years rector of the large and populous parish of Roscrea, in the county of Tipperary. He had, at the expiration of those nineteen years, been promoted to the deanery and was now in occupation of the see of Limerick; and therefore he thought he should not be guilty of arrogance if he should state that he had had time and opportunity both to observe and to reflect upon the peculiarities of the country; and it would not be deemed presumptuous in one who had had so good an opportunity of viewing the working of the National system of education in Ireland to offer some observations to their Lordships upon the subject. From his experience of that system, he felt justified in saying—and he did so with the utmost integrity of purpose and of feeling—that there was no system of education so well adapted to the people of Ireland as the National system. He did not mean to say that as a Protestant minister he would, had a choice been in his power, have selected that system for his own people in preference to some other; but he did mean to state that, taking into consideration the circumstances of Ireland—the divisions that prevailed among its inhabitants upon 1196 the subject of religion—the various religious sections into which they separated—no system could have been devised which would have answered the exigencies of that country so well. It was needless for him to enter into the various topics connected with the question of education in Ireland. Their Lordships had heard of the Kildare-street Society, which for some time appeared to be in a flourishing condition, but which had never taken root among the Roman Catholic portion of the population. Why was it that that society had not answered the purposes for which it had been established? Simply, because it was a system which carried with it the element of compulsion—an element contrary to the first principles of human nature, and one which therefore could never have flourished for any lengthened period. The National system of education was no novel system. In 1812 the Commissioners had been appointed upon the subject of education in Ireland. The Members of that Commission were the Archbishop of Armagh, the Archbishop of Cashel, the Bishop of Killala, and Dr. Elrington, the Provost of Dublin University. What had been the result of the inquiry instituted by that Commission? In the report which had been made by those gentlemen whose names he had just mentioned, they had expressed their unanimous opinion, that no plan of education could be carried into execution unless it was explicitly avowed and clearly understood that no attempt should be made to exercise an influence over the peculiar religious tenets of any sect. He (the Bishop of Limerick) did not mean to assert that any institution the work of fallible beings could be infallible; but he might be permitted to inquire at whose door the suposed inefficacy of the National system in Ireland was to be laid? He believed it lay at the door of those influential individuals, both lay and clerical, who had refused to adopt it, and who had in the most unmeasured terms denounced all those who were disposed to aid the Government in fully developing that sys-tem. He would not quarrel with the conscientious opinions of any man. He did not stand in that House to bring vague accusations against his dissenting brethren; but, knowing that numbers were led away by party feelings, he was anxious that those persons should be induced to adopt the course which he had himself adopted at an early stage of the proceedings, and to inquire and judge and act for 1197 themselves. Their Lordships were well aware that when the system of National education began to develop itself in Ireland, that controversy had become ripe, and such a dispute had been raised about it that it was scarcely possible to weigh the arguments coolly or dispassionately upon one side or upon the other. He had, however, determined to take the matter into his own hands, and to act for himself. He looked narrowly into the principle involved in the question, and had been guided in coming to a decision upon it by that excellent rule, "Do unto others as you would be done by." He desired to see his brethren in Ireland follow up that rule, and he was sure that there would be little of sectarian rancour prevailing among its inhabitants. With respect to the books which were used in the National schools, he believed that they were admitted upon all hands to be incomparable. They were works which enjoyed a European reputation. They had found their way to every quarter of the globe—they had excited the jealousy even of the booksellers of London, and had stamped upon them indelibly their character for excellence. With regard to the working of the National system, he was desirous of offering a few observations to their Lordships before he concluded. He had visited a school in the south of Ireland, to which some of the children came from a distance of two or three miles, and in that school the greatest harmony and order prevailed among the pupils, and a degree of proficiency had been manifested by them, which he felt assured could hardly be attained under any other system than that which at present excited. There was also another school which was under the management of a friend of his own, and he (the Bishop of Limerick) had been requested to attend the examination which had been held at that school. He had attended, and had examined some of the children in the presence of their teacher, the subject of examination having been the fall of our first parents, and the consequences which had flowed from it. Having heard the answers of those children to the questions which he had put to them, he had immediately inquired whether their teacher was a Roman Catholic or a Protestant. He had found that he was a Roman Catholic; and he did not hesitate to say that in that school there had been questions put and answers given which did credit alike to master and pupil. He had 1198 also visited another school which was attached to a convent, and was entirely directed by nuns. The lady superior had asked him to examine the children, and he had done so, and had received as clear and distinct answers from them upon the several points upon which he had questioned them as he could possibly have expected. It had been represented that the system was a failure. He would not weary their Lordships with details upon ibis point; but he would ask them if that was likely that a system had failed which upon its rolls numbered the names of half a million of children? From the inquiry which had been instituted by the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland it would be found that the admixture of Roman Catholic and Protestant children in those schools was in relative proportion to the difference of the Roman Catholic and Protestant population. He felt strongly upon the subject of national education in Ireland, and from year to year had made the most minute inquiries with respect to its progress, and he found that the prejudices which had existed against the National system were fast wearing away, and that the Protestant children who visited those National schools received no injury whatever in their religious feelings or faith. One word as to any change in the system, as it now existed. It could not be expected that in any institution of this kind abuses and perversions would not take place. It appertained to human nature that it should be so. It was incidental to all human institutions; but he ventured to say, as far as care could obtain, that the system was guarded in every possible way, and that abuse was not inherent in it. He could conceive nothing more detrimental to Ireland than any attempt to invalidate the fundamental principles of the National system. He could conceive nothing more disastrous to the Protestant community itself, because it was quite clear that, failing it, grants would have to be made in proportion to the Roman Catholic and Protestant population. Nor could he conceive anything more morally injurious to the people of Ireland than to attempt to draw a line of demarcation between them, and to make them stand eternally in antagonism. But there was something more than that, and he did not hesitate to say it. The most disastrous effects might be expected from any alteration whatever in the system. There would be an attempt made to introduce into those schools Ultramontanism. 1199 As it was, the Christian education of the children was promoted to a very great extent; but if we once deviated from the line that had been marked out, the education of the people would be sought to be placed in the hands of those who were known to be persons of extreme views. He yielded to no man in his veneration for the Scriptures. He took them to be the enlivening ray of his reason as well as the purifying principle of his will, and he could say in sincerity and truth that they were dearer to him than thousands of gold or of silver; but he had yet to learn, because he believed all Scripture to have been written by inspiration, and to be eminently calculated to bless the human race; he had yet to learn, because he venerated the sacred volume as he did, that therefore he was at liberty to compel the reading of it, or, what was the same thing, that he was to debar thousands upon thousands of his fellow-creatures from the blessings of education because they were restricted from the liberty which he himself enjoyed. So had not taught, so had acted not, the great Head of our religion, and his Apostles. They had offered freely the word of life to those who would receive it, but in no instance had they attempted to coerce men to its perusal. Under all the circumstances of the case, he believed that there was no system so suited to the wants of the country and the exigencies of the people of Ireland, as the National system of education.
The BISHOP of LONDON
observed, that whatever affected the efficiency and usefulness of the Protestant Church in Ireland, must necessarily affect in some degree, and perhaps in consequences remote, the Church of England. And were the connexion between the two less intimate than it was, yet, as the special mission and office of both were alike—to uphold the honour and to diffuse a knowledge of the word of God—it resulted that whatever tended to cripple and restrain one branch of the Reformed Church in the performance of its duty, must, of necessity, discourage and perhaps weaken the other. He was anxious to testify for his brethren of the Irish Church the deep sympathy with which he viewed their continued efforts for the cause of Scriptural truth. Whatever might have been the case some years ago, the clergy of the Church were now discharging their duties most zealously and faithfully under circumstances of great difficulty and discouragement, and 1200 were doing all in their power to recover from the reproach which formerly, whether truly or not, had been cast upon them, of apathy and indifference. It was because he considered the National system of education not only not favourable to the diffusion of Scriptural knowledge, hut an insuperable bar to it, that he had from the first declared himself one of its opponents. He was most anxious to refrain from everything of a merely polemical character. He desired to say not a single word that could be construed to reflect even by implication upon those who had devised that great scheme, or who were charged with its execution, or of those who felt bound to support it. He was well aware that it had the approval and countenance of many men eminent for piety, attached to the principle of religious liberty, and faithful to what they believed to be the interests of the Protestant Church; but in his conscience he believed they were in error. Their Lordships had been told what was the history of this system of National education in Ireland. It had been stated that the reports of Commissioners appointed to inquire into the subject of education in Ireland, the first dating as far back as 1812, that had led to the establishment of the present system; but the result, as embodied in the system, was very different from that which might be anticipated from the reports themselves. The parochial schools were found by those Commissioners to be, at that time, in a very defective state, though many were in progress of improvement. The reports of the parochial schools, year by year, became more favourable, and though confessedly inadequate to the wants of the people, it was stated that they were every year getting more and more adequate for the purposes for which they were established. That being the case, what was the recommendation of the Commissioners? Did they recommend that the parochial schools should be extinguished, starved, or discouraged? By no means. They recommended that they should be preserved, extended, and improved, and that other schools of a more comprehensive character should also be established. That was a most important feature in the question, and he believed that if only moderate aid had been extended to the parochial schools, in the course of a few years they would have presented a spectacle of sound, intellectual, and also religious education. He could not help thinking the Government of this country 1201 had dealt with Ireland for many years past with respect to education much as if a large proprietor of land, which was periodically parched up, and who had the sole command of the waters of the district, should require his tenants to alter their system of cultivation from pasture to arable, or from arable to pasture, according to some preconceived theory in his own mind, before he would allow them to take water from his reservoir to irrigate their fields according to their respective wants, and their own judgment of what their interests required. As he had alluded to the report of the Commissioners, he trusted their Lordships would hear with him whilst he read the actual words, because they were really important. The Commissioners recommended "that the schools should be left undisturbed, that the spirit of improvement already manifested might be further developed under the influence of that emulation which the now establishments would naturally excite." Could it be said that the present Board of Commissioners, acting under the direction of higher authority—and therefore he did not blame them personally—but could it be said they had in any way aided the parochial schools, or carried out the recommendation of the Commissioners? They could not, because uniformly, and without exception, they had refused every application from parochial schools for extension and improvement. He thought he could show that the principle of the National Society was vicious. However true and sound it might be in appearance—and he would admit it was true and sound in appearance, and he would admit the objects it aimed at were valuable in themselves—he was prepared to show, if time allowed, that in principle it was not of that character, and that it-objects could not be attained. It was utterly impossible to carry out a system of combined education in such a country as Ireland. Looking at the antagonism of the two great parties, it was impossible to unite Catholics and Protestants, and give them a combined system of education, however elementary, in the same schools which should satisfy the religious instructors of one or the other, where the instructions of the Protestant minister would be strenuously opposed by the Roman Catholic priest, and the Roman Catholic priest by the Protestant minister. And if they were to banish religious education from the schools, and leave it to the respective pastors to inculcate it at such 1202 times as they might think fit, they would make religion appear a matter of little or no importance—they would seem to treat it as the most indifferent part of education, which children might be left to acquire or not to acquire, according to the caprice of parents, or the inclination of their spiritual instructors. No doubt the Board of Education in Ireland had made some good selections from the word of God, though not wholly free from errors; but his objection was, that the poor and ignorant children were not made acquainted with these extracts as part of the authoritative word of God. As an illustration, he met a poor boy, when travelling last year in Ireland, and he asked him some very elementary questions; and the boy answered those questions on the whole as well as a boy could be expected to do. He asked what was the first Commandment, and the boy told him. He asked where he learnt that, and the boy said in the second book of the school readings. "But where did the second book learn it from?" "Indeed I don't know," said the boy. "Does it come from the Bible?" "I don't know?" "Do you ever read the Bible?" "I cannot say that I do." "Did you ever hear of it?" "No; never did." Such was the result of the conversation: the lad had no notion that what he had repeated was a portion of the word of God—passages from the Bible. When he said the united system of education was not likely to answer in such a country as Ireland, he did not speak at random. He recollected stating the same thing, in nearly the same words, fourteen or fifteen years ago, when their Lordships sanctioned the assertion by carrying an Address to Her Majesty in which that principle was condemned. The right hon. Baronet now at the head of the Admiralty (Sir James Graham), on a certain occasion in the House of Commons, said he had serious doubts whether even in a country like England a combined system of education would work. And if there could be no such system in England, still less, he (the Bishop of London) thought, could it be carried out in Ireland, because the exclusion of the Bible from education was much more strongly insisted on by one party, and necessarily more demanded by the other. When he looked abroad, he found the same grave doubt subsisting. Thiersch, a Prussian professor, in his report on normal schools, said—Many arguments recommended the division 1203 of the seminary for teaching (at Kaiserlautern) according to the professions of faith. I know and respect the motives which dictated that in the Circle of the Rhine both confessions (Protestant and Roman Catholic) should be united in a single seminary. But it is conceivable, and the experience of other countries shows that it is found to be so, that when seminaries are separate, toleration may be secured both among teachers and communities; indeed, that this is more effectually attained the more each confession is secured in its real wants.Again, the Minister of Education in France, in his circular addressed to the prefects in 1833, though admitting the advantage of children, by frequenting the same schools, contracting habits of mutual goodwill, was of opinion that it was desirable to have separate schools, according to each communion. He (the right rev. Prelate) believed, therefore, that he could not be justly accused of an exclusive spirit, if, looking to the real interests of the children of this kingdom, where such marked distinction in religion existed, he considered the children of the different creeds could be best educated in separate schools, where they would acquire what their parents believed to be the word of God in its integrity and truth. He confessed he doubted whether the system of combined education was very fully carried out in Ireland—at all events in many cases it was opposed by the Roman Catholic priests, and it was futile to speak of the system as conciliating them. Some time ago a petition was sent to the Board of Education, to establish one of their model schools at Waterford; the Board agreed; but when it was found that the model school would be conducted on the same principles as the model school in Dublin (which must not be supposed to be at all like the schools in other parts), the Roman Catholic bishop immediately denounced it, because it was not to be under the complete control of the Catholic priests. Another illustration of his position was afforded by Dr. Cullen, who for some time called himself Primate of Ireland, and now Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. That individual, in a letter to Alderman Boylan, in August, 1851, thus wrote in relation to the Drogheda model school:—The object of such establishments appears to be the development of mixed education. Protestant, Presbyterian, and Catholic teachers are to be united in them, and children of every denomination are invited to attend them, and thus a mixture is compounded that is anything rather than Catholic. The whole system tends to inspire children with the absurd idea that all religions are equally good; and it is thus hostile to truth, which is one and exclusive in its nature. The 1204 system also is directed to throw the education of a Catholic people into the hands of a Protestant Government, or at least of a commission appointed by the Protestant Ministers of the day. Ought Catholics, or can they conscientiously, take an active part in establishing such schools?So, again, the Tablet newspaper thus wrote:—There is nothing in the constitution of the common schools to impede them from being purely Catholic. But the model schools are intended to be all mixed, and must' be so from their constitution. Now, is this mixture good for Catholics? Is the mixed system good for children whose minds are yet untrained, who cannot sufficiently distinguish truth from falsehood? Every one who has been in a purely Catholic school knows what exertions are made to preserve purity of morals, which are sadly neglected in Protestant schools, and especially in those which are under Government control.Nothing was more unfair or untrue than that charge, but these extracts would show their Lordships what was felt by the leading Roman Catholics of Ireland with regard to the system. The Roman Catholic priests would not have anything to do with the National schools, generally speaking, unless they were under their own control. That such was their spirit might be judged from their acts, of which he would give a practical example. An industrial school, of the most effective and useful character, had been established in the immediate vicinity of the noble Earl who had brought forward this subject, by whose liberality it was mainly supported, and by whose close personal superintendence its utility promised largely to develop itself. But some words of Scripture reading were used in the school, and, this coming to the ears of the Roman Catholic priests in the neighbourhood, they immediately got up a requisition to the Inspector of Education for the establishment of another school close by that already in operation. It was to no purpose shown that a second school was not at all required, for, by the exertions of the requisitionists, the Board of Education were induced to establish a second school, and the public money was expended in a purpose worse than useless. Again, in Wicklow, some Sisters of Mercy, entering one of the National schools by chance, heard a scriptural question put to some of the children, and immediately every Roman Catholic child was withdrawn. There was another instance in which, if he was wrong, the noble Earl, who had just returned from the Government of Ireland, would set him right. In the immediate vicinity of the Phœnix-park a very good school was estab- 1205 lished, where Protestant and Catholic children were instructed without any attempt at proselytising. The noble Earl attended an examination, and certain questions were put to the children on the Holy Scriptures.
The BISHOP of LONDON
Well, as soon as it was known such questions had been put, every Roman Catholic scholar was withdrawn. It was not only the deep interest he felt in the welfare of the branch of the United Church established in Ireland that induced him to put forward his opinions on the practical inexpediency of the combined system of education, in connexion with religious instruction; he feared that before long an attempt might be made to introduce that system into England. He did not say it would be successful. God be praised, he had the fullest confidence it would fail; but the attempt would be made. People sometimes became weary of opposing the same tiling when repeatedly brought forward, and the most mischievous system might be established by a failure of patience and perseverance in those who were opposed to it. The introduction of such a system of education would inflict deep injury on the best interests of the country. Already had a Member of the other House placed on its notice-paper this notice:—Mr. W Fox.—Amendment on Mr. Hamilton's Motion for Select Committee on the National System of Education in Ireland, to omit all the words after 'how far' and to substitute the following, 'it is practicable and expedient to extend the benefits of that system to the population of England and Wales.'—(After Easter.)It was the duty of all who took an interest in education and concurred in his views, to throw themselves into the breach, and to endeavour to stem the tide which, if not stopped at first, might inundate the fair face of the land, and undermine the true principles of religious education.
The BISHOP of NORWICH
said, that having resided for some time in Ireland he was reluctant to allow the discussion to close without saying a few words, lest it should be supposed that he agreed in the statements that had been made by some of the speakers who had preceded him. 1206 There could be no doubt that the religious element was, of all, the most important in education, whether public or private, and that unless that element were included, any system of education, however perfect in other respects, must be not only ineffective but a positive evil. But when you came to apply this religious element to the education of a people composed of differing denominations and persuasions, great difficulties presented themselves. The noble Earl who introduced the Motion (the Earl of Clancarty) proposed to meet this difficulty by separate grants. His right rev. Brother who spoke last appeared to concur in that view. He thought that what had fallen from the noble Earl at the head of the Government, and from his right rev. Friend near him, respecting the disproportion between the Roman Catholic population and the Protestant, and the disadvantageous position in which the Protestant minority would be placed by separate grants, was a sufficient reason why they should not adopt that course. But the objection was really stronger than had been stated; for the disproportion was not uniform, but varied. In the north of Ireland the separate grant system would not be so injurious to the Protestant interests, because there Protestants were not in so great a minority; but the disproportion in the south and west was so large that, in many parishes, it would be impossible to collect Protestant children enough to constitute a claim for any separate grant. What must, then, be the result? Why, the schools would become Roman Catholic schools, and the Protestant children must receive Roman Catholic instruction. Assuming, then, that the National system of education in Ireland, combining the education of children of various denominations, must be the system adopted, the question was, how to apply the religious element? If, on the one hand, they attempted to make the religious teaching sufficient and what it ought to be, they were obliged to invade the rights of conscience. If, on the other baud, they wished to respect the rights of conscience, they were obliged to pare down the religious teaching, so that it necessarily became meagre and defective. When they came to judge of the National education system in Ireland with respect to the religious element, it could not justly be compared with what they considered religious instruction for children ought to be. If he were asked, whether he should be 1207 satisfied with the National system and its religious element in a school composed of children over whose education he had entire control, he would say "No;" but their Lordships must judge of that system by a due consideration of the difficulties inherent in the very nature of a national system. Their Lordships must also refer to the efforts which had been previously made to effect the same object, and compare the working of the present system with the results of those efforts. When first a national system of education was undertaken for Ireland by the Kildare Street Society, the difficulty in regard to the religious element was felt and carefully considered. The experiment made at that time was very much that which the noble Earl now proposed to renew. It was presumed that as all denominations of Christians were agreed in the divine authority of the Bible, although they differed in their interpretation of it, that the Bible, without interpretation might be made a common school book for the children of all creeds. No questions were to be asked. The children were to read the Bible, and were allowed to put what construction they pleased, or no construction at all, on it. He did not mean to offer any remarks upon that system; but, from whatever cause, it proved a complete and utter failure. The next attempt made was to divide the religious teaching, and to have two teachers in each school, one of the Roman Catholic and one of the Protestant religion. That system was quite as great a failure as the first. The National system of education in Ireland was in that state when the noble Earl late at the head of the Government (the Earl of Derby) entered on the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, and undertook to grapple with the question. The noble Earl addressed a letter to the Duke of Leinster, propounding his views, and that letter was the basis of the present system. That letter he (the Bishop of Norwich) considered not more remarkable for its statesmanlike wisdom than for its religious regard to the interests of religion. The Board of Commissioners received their instructions from that letter. It laid down the broad principle upon which national education could alone be successfully carried on—that of combined instruction in secular matters, and separate instruction in religious matters. That was the only principle which could ever work in Ireland. The letter contained various' instructions by which 1208 the Commissioners were to carry out the principle thus laid down; and especially for securing that religious teaching which was acknowledged by all to be necessarily connected with a proper system of national education. As it could not he given in combined lessons to the Roman Catholic children and Protestant children, the Commissioners took care that every facility should be afforded for giving it in separate lessons. But the letter of the noble Earl did not stop there. It recommended to the Commissioners to consider whether any religious books could be agreed on for the joint use of the children of both denominations. The result of that recommendation was the compilation of a book containing Scriptural extracts—a book regarding which, he was happy to find, many had changed their opinions. Many who used to point to it as the great blot of the system, now considered it as its redeeming feature. But that was not all. The Commissioners agreed upon another work on the evidences of Christianity, which, little and simple as it was, contained instruction which few of their Lordships could turn to without rising from the perusal not only edified but perhaps informed. These books, however, were never intended to represent the religious education of the schools. Nobody pretended that. These books were supplemental; and if no other result had followed, that a body of Commissioners, representing such widely-opposed Christian communities, should have found so much common ground as was testified by these books, brought out under their joint authority, that alone would be something for ever to be remembered, in connexion with this great movement. The late head of the Government in Ireland had said that these books were only used in schools under Protestant patronage. But whose fault was it that the number of those schools was not greater? Must all that be attributed to the opposition which was arrayed against these schools? His belief was, that the result of that discussion would be to lead many of their Lordships not only to read the documents and returns, but, having read them, to see that the system which was at work in Ireland, was producing manifest effects in that country, and that it was a great and useful institution. The conclusion to which he had come was, that of all the legislative boons conferred upon Ireland since her Legislature had been one with that of Great Britain, there had been no boon so great, or capable of producing 1209 such great results, as that of the establishment of the present system of National education.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
concurred in the opinion expressed by the noble Earl who had commenced this discussion, that the time had come when they ought to be able to produce some proof of the practical benefit that had resulted from the system of national education. It had been in operation twenty years, and it was certainly time to ascertain whether it had produced the results that had been anticipated—whether it had made the Protestants and Roman Catholics better acquainted, whether it had mitigated religious animosities, and had raised the moral feeling of the people. It ought no longer to be considered an experiment. Surely, after twenty years, something ought to be known on these points. It was extremely difficult to arrive at any certain result from the Reports of the Commissioners. They were all aware that, whatever the Commissioners wished to happen, there was a tendency on their part to press it as a fact upon the community. He thought that nothing but a strict examination into the working of the system would enable Parliament to come to a conclusion as to its successful operation. Some reflections had been cast upon the Protestant clergy of Ireland for not cordially co-operating with the Commissioners in carrying the National system of education into effect. He did not consider that those reflections were merited. They were a body of conscientious men, who had but one object in view, that of discharging their duty in the way deemed best—they could have no other motive. It was not, therefore, just or generous to hurl against them all sorts of accusations for opposing the present system. They ought to receive credit for conscientiously discharging what they believed to be their duty; and while we respected the scruples of the Roman Catholic clergy against the reading of the Scriptures, although we believed they were wrong, surely we should respect the scruples of the Protestant clergy who insisted upon the use of the Scriptures. Was it quite so clear that the National system of education in Ireland was calculated to work well in every part of that country? Was it so clear that there must be only one system? There was not one system for England: we adapted our system to the circumstances; and therefore although the mixed system might do for 1210 some parts of Ireland, it did not follow that the separate system would not do better for other parts. These things at all events required investigation; and the complaints of those who had complaints to make ought to be heard. He believed that nothing would more tend to quiet the public mind, and put an end to the irritation and sense of injustice felt in certain quarters, than an inquiry upon which all sides should be heard, and which should be undertaken for no purpose of controversy, but simply and solely with the view of ascertaining the effects of the system so far as it had already gone.
§ The EARL of DERBY
said, that although he had always taken a deep interest in this question, he should not have thought it necessary to have said a single word on the present occasion if he had not been desirous of expressing his concurrence in what had fallen from his noble Friend on the cross benches (the Earl of Harrowby), In the first place, he entirely concurred with him that it was a most unjust and ungenerous charge against the Protestant clergy of Ireland—that large body who, he regretted to say, were opposed to the system of National education in that country—that they were desirous of abridging the means of education, when, in fact, they were only acting from conscientious motives, and with a desire to promote what they conceived to be pure religious instruction. If, however, he thought it a lamentable error on the part of a large portion of the Irish clergy that they did not lend their assistance in aiding the National system of education in Ireland—and if they had rendered their assistance, he was satisfied they would have exercised an important and beneficial control over it—he must say that though in the course of that discussion they had heard two speakers express their regret at the course they had pursued, and the consequences which had followed from that course, they had not hoard any of those opprobrious epithets or imputations heaped upon them to which the noble Earl had alluded. He also agreed with his noble Friend, that after the lapse of twenty or twenty-one years from the time the system was established, and after a great many of the misrepresentations and misapprehensions which had existed with respect to it had passed away, the period had now arrived when an inquiry might be usefully and beneficially instituted, both in that and the other House of Parliament, as to the 1211 practical working of, and the effects which had arisen from, the system of National education in Ireland. He thought, with his noble Friend, that the inquiry ought to be directed particularly to the effects of the system in those cases where it had been worked with the concurrence of parties of different denominations. He thought they could not expect the same advantage to result from the working of the system where all the different parties whose concurrence might be necessary to its success, had not given it their support. It was known that in many places—he regretted to say a great many—the system had not been fairly and properly worked out, and that those fruits had not prevailed which ought to have prevailed, and where abuses existed which ought to be exposed. But, on the other hand, notwithstanding the system might have received the condemnation of the Protestant clergy, there had been improved morality, improved character, and improved habits among the population of those places where the schools had had fair play, and had been cordially supported by all parties. It would be impossible for their Lordships to look fairly into the practical working of the system, unless they were prepared to carry their views somewhat further back than the present time, and see what had been the state of education previously in Ireland. His noble Friend who introduced this subject, and who entertained very strong and, he was sure, conscientious opinions upon it, doubted the amount and extent of the education given at the schools, and threw considerable suspicion upon the figures which were furnished in the returns of the Commissioners, and which, though he (the Earl of Derby) owned they were not in all cases strictly correct, he believed gave a fair approximation of the actual numbers attending those schools. His noble Friend would forgive him for saying that one of the arguments on which he founded the inaccuracy of the returns, in point of fact, showed one of the fallacies on which he proceeded. In the first instance, he took the calculation of the Commissioners of the total number of children between the ages of seven and eleven attending those schools, and argued that the number was greater than the actual number of children in the whole population; but he committed the mistake of supposing that the returns of the Commissioners referred only to children between seven and eleven years of age, whereas there were included those between 1212 the ages of seven and thirteen; and he (the Earl of Derby) knew from his own practical experience that a very considerable number of boys, and a much more considerable number of girls, far beyond the age of thirteen, attended a large portion of the schools, more especially girls between fourteen and fifteen, and even in some cases between eighteen and nineteen years of age. And all these, his noble Friend had failed to observe, were not taken into account by the Commissioners in their calculation. Did this not show that the calculation of the Commissioners might be quite correct as to children between seven and thirteen, and yet that the total number receiving education in the schools might exceed the number of the population between those ages. But he would refer to a case which his noble Friend himself had produced, which showed that in many instances there were children at the schools who did not come within the view of the Commissioners. His noble Friend had said that he knew of schools where children below the age of seven attended and received instruction. Those children consequently could not be taken into consideration by the Commissioners. But, not to confine themselves to mere numbers, his noble Friend would not deny that there were scattered throughout the country many excellent-built schools, clean and in good working order, some of them erected at a cost of above 4,000l.; nor would he deny that within those schools a very large number, at all events, of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland were receiving education. It would appear from what had been said in the course of the debate, that the late Lord Lieutenant had been misapprehended, as if he had intended to cast some reflection upon the books which had been introduced into the schools. But that noble Earl must rejoice to find that the compilation of Scriptural extracts, for which, when the system was first introduced, they who brought it forward had the bitterest vials of wrath poured out upon their heads in having so mutilated the Scriptures—the noble Earl must now rejoice to find that that compilation had met with almost universal acceptance. He said that the schoolbooks introduced by the Board of National Education were most valuable, that they were admirable in point of selection, that they contained a vast amount of useful information, and that they were models of elementary books. If the noble Earl who had brought forward 1213 the Motion would look back to see what was the uniform character which marked the elementary schoolbooks of Ireland previous to 1836, he would find that they were productions of the most corrupt description, and leading to the greatest demoralisation. The lives of highwaymen—works calculated to impress the minds of the young with anything but right feelings and right motives—such were the books which, with a few exceptions, were used in the great majority of the hedge schools of Ireland. Therefore, according to the statement of his noble Friend himself, they had here a testimony to the effect produced by the National System of Education in Ireland during the last twenty years. For the schools which were previously accessible to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, there had, by the confession of his noble Friend, been substituted, under the control of the National Board of Education, plain well-built schools, and books well adapted for the purposes of instruction, which had taken the place of that vicious literature. If their Lordships went no further, here were effects produced by the system of National Education within the last twenty years. It could not be said of it that it was a system which had borne no fruit, if it had gone no further; and, if they did away with that system to-morrow, they would not be able to do away with the moral effect produced by the working of that system—they would not be able to do away with the requirement it had produced in the minds of the people of Ireland for a better, a superior, a more moral education than that which they formerly received. A right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London), who had always been an opponent of this system of education, quoted to-night (perhaps not quite correctly) an anecdote which it was surprising he did not see afforded an illustration, to a considerable extent, of the very opposite doctrine to that doctrine which he had maintained. Referring to the case of a school at Castleknock, the right rev. Prelate said that there was an examination in the Scriptures, in consequence of which the Roman Catholic priest had desired that the Roman Catholic scholars should withdraw from the school. The facts, he (the Earl of Derby) believed, were these:—There was a school at Castleknock, which was attended by the Roman Catholic and the Protestant clergymen. That was unfortunately a rare case; but the right rev. Prelate had paid an 1214 unconscious tribute to the working of the system, as he said the examination took place by the Protestant clergyman, before the late Lord Lieutenant, and the result was, that the examination being on Scriptural questions, the answers of the children exhibited a very considerable degree of proficiency in Scriptural knowledge. His noble Friend on the cross-benches asked for proof of the working of this system, He (the Earl of Derby) would take that case cited by the right rev. Prelate. The right rev. Prelate should be a witness that in that school, where the Roman Catholic and Protestant clergymen, without interfering with each other, were at different hours giving religious instruction to the children of their different religions, it appeared on the testimony of the Protestant clergyman, examining Roman Catholic children in Scriptural knowledge, that the Roman Catholic children had acquired a large amount of Scriptural knowledge. That case afforded an illustration of what was hoped and intended when the system was established. The original object was, as had been truly stated, that a combined system of religious and secular instruction should be given to the people of Ireland. It was not intended that the books introduced by the Board should be a substitute for religious knowledge, but that ample opportunity should be given to clergymen of different denominations for conveying that instruction which he (the Earl of Derby) thought an essential element of an education which was worthy of the name of education at all. He had stated what the system of National education in Ireland was intended to be; and he must say that one alteration had been made which had struck him as being of very doubtful propriety; neither had he heard any argument to satisfy him that such an alteration should be made, namely, an alteration which involved not only the exclusion of the Scriptures, but the exclusion of those Scriptural lessons which had entered into the combined education of Roman Catholics and Protestants. Those lessons had been agreed to by the most eminent men of different persuasions, and were introduced as conveying a large amount of Scriptural truth on which there was no difference between the two denominations; and he thought it an unfortunate circumstance that, whatever differences might exist on religious matters, whatever scruples might be felt by individuals, these lessons, agreed upon by men so eminent, should be exclu- 1215 ded from the schools; for, though there were many points of Scripture on which it was impossible to give combined instruction without jarring on this one or the other, yet he thought it of importance that, as far as religious education could be given, the young should not be instructed on the points upon which they differed only, but that they should learn how much larger was the ground on which they had to cherish a common belief, common hopes, and a common religion. And therefore he was surprised that not only had the exclusion of the Scriptural extracts been winked at, but that, by the authority of the Commissioners, or of the Secretary of the Board, a positive prohibition bad been issued against the use of those Scriptural extracts during the hours of combined instruction, thus taking away from the combined education every thing that gave it the impress of a religious character. He was more inclined to lament that this course should have been followed by the Commissioners, because it established a strange inconsistency, which clearly ought not to exist between the model and the ordinary schools. That the model school of Dublin was an admirably conducted institution, every one who visited it acknowledged, for every one left it with feelings of admiration; but it was not fair that the Board should take credit for the model school in Dublin as a model, unless the other schools of Ireland were practically founded upon it as a model; and he had heard with great regret the other day, that, not only from local schools, hut from some local schools actually under the control of the Commissioners, the extracts were excluded. That was a point which certainly ought to be inquired into—which certainly ought to he explained; it was a departure from the original plan; and it was one which, being calculated to add to the religious objections stated to the system of education, ought to be vindicated by those who thought that they were able to assign good reasons for what he thought an important deviation from the original plan. He thought it also desirable to take into consideration how far the Scriptural extracts were unused in a large portion of the schools under the control of Roman Catholic patrons. He was afraid lest in that and in some other respects the system, as it had been worked out, would be found to have fallen short of what was intended when it was established. It was not enough to say that so many pupils of the established Protestant Church, 1216 so many of the Presbyterian body, so many Roman Catholics, attended the schools. To show the operation of the combined system, the admixture ought to be shown in the different schools. There were schools almost entirely Presbyterian; there were schools exclusively Roman Catholic; and, in fact, the combined character of the education would be found in many cases existing to a much smaller extent than the degree indicated by the total numbers. Much must he left to the discretion of individual patrons. Where a person had put himself at the head of a school, whether he was lay or clerical, determined to work out the system as it was originally contemplated that it should be worked out, there he (the Earl of Derby) was confident in the hope and belief that on inquiry it would be found that a full moral and literary education was given, in accordance with the plan of the combined schools, to Protestant and Roman Catholic; there, also, it would practically be found that a sound religious education was given to both of them separately—that they both of them attained considerable knowledge of religious truth; and there, also, he hoped it would be found that a practical improvement had been effected in the social condition, in the morals and habits of the community. The circumstance to which he had referred tended to aggravate the objections of those who were most opposed to the system. The serious difficulty which he urged his noble Friend deliberately to consider was—he did not say whether the existing rules might not he modified, or acted up to more in accordance with the original intention—but whether they should depart from the original intention with which the system was introduced, not by the Government, of which he was the organ alone, but on the previous recommendations of a Commission composed of most eminent and pious persons. If they did away with the fundamental principle of the system so introduced and established, they ran the greatest risk of sacrificing all the advantages which even his noble Friend could not deny had been gained by the twenty years' practice of this system. They ran the risk of introducing a much more formidable difficulty, not only the risk of diminishing the amount of education given actually in Ireland, but the serious risk of separating altogether the feelings and habits of the population of both denominations, and throwing that which they were most desirous to leave out of those hands 1217 —namely, the education of the large bulk of the Roman Catholic population—into the Bands of the most violent and most bigoted of the Roman Catholic clergy. If the education of all denominations of Christians were separated, and they were left to their own schools and their own principles, no control on the part of the Government being-exercised, and the way being opened for a most complete spiritual despotism on the part of the Roman Catholic priests, the integrity of the principles on which the system had been founded would be infringed, and reliance must be placed on the zealous exertions of ministers of religion to supply a portion of that which was possible under the auspices of a Government Board—the combined education of children of different denominations—without trenching on the principles of civil and religions liberty. The position and circumstances of Ireland were so different from those of England, that one could not draw any conclusion from what would work advantageously in the one country with respect to what would work advantageously in the other. He deprecated, as far as any man could, an attempt to introduce into England the Irish system of education; and he felt convinced that the Motion of which notice had been given in the other House, had for its object not to introduce that system into England, hut to prevent a stringent impartial inquiry into the practical working of the system as it stood in Ireland. Their Lordships might depend upon it that the attempt to introduce the Irish system into England would be a signal failure. He felt confident, however desirable it might be to consult the views of the Protestant clergy, to meet their just wishes and even their religious prejudices, if he might use the word, that the introduction of a separate system for instruction according to the principles of each separate denomination in Ireland, would produce infinitely more disadvantage than the country could derive benefit; and, in endeavouring to avoid a partial evil, there would be inflicted on Ireland a great calamity, by the sacrifice of that system which, he hoped and believed, was working for the good of the people.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that after what had been stated at an earlier stage of the discussion, and after the subject had been debated with so much ability the preponderance of argument being in favour of the National system as it now existed, it was not necessary for him to add one word. When the noble Earl op- 1218 posite and the noble Earl who preceded him suggested the propriety of entering into a large inquiry on the subject, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) could not but beseech their Lordships to pause and consider the probable consequences of entering into an inquiry of so large and so indefinite a description—large and indefinite indeed as it must appear to be from the description of his noble Friend and the noble Earl opposite, when he said it was desirable to go into that Committee of Inquiry with the view of ascertaining what, were the effects which the system had produced on the morals, passions, and political feelings of the population of Ireland. If they entered into an inquiry with that view, they would rouse at once in Ireland all those passions and political feelings which it had been their object to control and regulate; and they could not prevent such a Committee from opening sources of angry discussion in conflicting evidence. Their Lordships would, he believed, best do their duty to Ireland by firmly adhering to a system of which they bad the advantage of knowing, on experiment, that it was the system which had educated Ireland when every other system had failed to educate Ireland. When it was remarked that all Governments had dealt somewhat hardly with Ireland in entering upon this system without instituting a comparison with other means and modes of education, it was forgotten that it was not till every other mode had been tried and failed, and grants had been made for education in different forms, in all cases with an unsatisfactory result, that, at last, on the conviction first of one Government and then of another, the system now established was adopted, and adopted from the conviction hat there were no other means of uniting all classes in anything like a common education. He agreed with the noble Lord opposite in adjuring their Lordships not hastily to interfere with a system which had, for the first time, united children of different religious denominations in one education, and had been the means of introducing a better class of books for instruction, and a better mode of education than any known previously, and which, up to the present moment, had been promoting progressive improvement and amendment in the Roman Catholic as well as the Protestant mind and feelings of the country, for their Lordships could not get rid of the fact that during late years, and especially the past year, as this system had advanced 1219 more and more, the Protestant parishes and clergy had come forward to be included in it; and the number of propositions was at the present moment larger from Protestants and from Protestant schools than had been seen at any other period. That of itself was an indication that the system was working in a way in which no system ever worked before; and, considering the ground which had been passed, considering that this system had prevailed over all disadvantages—over a state approaching to rebellion at one time, over famine and pestilence at another—which had, notwithstanding all these disadvantages, been the means of communicating the greatest blessings to 500,000 persons, he trusted their Lordships would, at all events, pause and consider well how by any unlimited inquiry they ran the risk of letting in fresh elements of contention at a moment when those elements which had hitherto existed were repressed, if not dead. With reference to a statement respecting the Archbishop of Dublin, he repelled the imputation that he had been appointed by the Government of the day for the purpose of carrying out the National system of education.
The EARL of CLANCARTY
replied. It was a mistake to suppose that he had said that the most rev. Prelate had been selected to fill the office of Archbishop in order to carry out the National system of education in Ireland. He had never thought of imputing anything so discreditable to the then Government of the day. He (the Earl of Clancarty) felt greatly relieved by what had fallen from the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Derby), who had saved him from the necessity of saying much in reply to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Aberdeen), and had vindicated in great measure the course which had been taken by the Protestant clergy of Ireland on this question. The noble Earl had expressed his belief—and his opinion was a very important one—that the Protestant clergy were not to be charged with obstinacy in their refusal to support the National system of education. As far as regarded the reflections which the noble Earl opposite had cast upon himself (the Earl of Clancarty), and the indignation with which he had said that he was filled at his (the Earl of Clancarty's) remarks, he confessed that they were matters of indifference to him, seeing that the noble Earl had rested his observations upon an implicit reliance on all that was stated 1220 in the report; whereas, although he (the Earl of Clancarty) had taken the report to pieces, yet he had done so from materials which were furnished by the report itself. The noble Earl seemed to think that the present national system of education had superseded a very objectionable system. The noble Earl, in this observation, no doubt, referred to the hedge schools; but the truth was that the National system had superseded a scriptural system under which 300,000 children had received education. A noble Lord had expressed regret that he (the Earl of Clancarty) had not followed up his speech with a Motion for a Commission of Inquiry; but he thought that such a Motion would come more appropriately from the originator of the experiment rather than from himself, who might be supposed to be a partial judge.
§ On Question, agreed to.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.