THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH
presented a petition from the ministers and elders of the Synod of Dumfries against any measure by which the control and superintendence of the presbytery are to be superseded. His Grace said, he had put a question to his noble Friend at the head of Her Majesty's Government, towards the end of last Session, with a view to learn the intentions of the Government in reference to the parochial system of schools in Scotland, as he had reason to fear that the efficiency of that system was imperilled. It was no doubt known to their Lordships that the system of which he spoke was one of great antiquity, there being Acts of the Scottish Parliament respecting parish schools and schoolmasters so early as the fifteenth century. The Act of 1690 fixed the salaries of parish schoolmasters at 11l. a year for the maximum, and 5l. for the minimum. A new graduation having become necessary, an Act was passed in 1803 which determined the salary by the conversion of a certain number of bolls of wheat into money, fixing the maximum at 22l., and the minimum at 16l. In 1828 the average was again struck, when the maximum was fixed at 34l., and the minimum at 25l.; that average expired in 1853. The question he had put was as to the mode in which the averages were to be struck for the future, and in reply to that his noble Friend said that at all events the 658 parish schoolmasters would he secured in their salaries up to June, 1854. He (the Duke of Buccleuch) had taken the opinion of counsel on this point, and was confirmed in the conclusion to which he had come, that the salaries under the averages of the last 25 years expired in November last; so that at the present averages the salaries of 34l. and 25l. would be reduced to 26l. and 19l. He was anxious in the last Session of Parliament that an Act should be passed for continuing the salaries at the same rate at which they then stood, if not for perpetuity, at all events for a limited period, so that this deserving body of men should not be placed in the miserable position in which they now found themselves. In many parishes the heritors had not yet met to decide as to the amount of the future stipends of the schoolmasters, having abstained from meeting under the hope that the Government would bring in a Bill to settle the point; in others they had met, and decided that they were to stand for the future at 25l. and 19l.; but many had adjourned the assessment for these two amounts until June. The schoolmasters no doubt had their remedy by legal proceedings against those heritors who had omitted to assess themselves, but in the meantime they were in the unfortunate predicament of being without any salaries whatever. They had before them the alternative of having the amount of their salaries reduced by one-third, or having to wait several months before they got any salaries at all. He wished to know what the intentions of the Government on this subject were, and the rather that their measure for the extension of education in Scotland had failed in the other House. It was not his intention at that moment to enter into the general question of education; but he knew that those who were opposed to that measure had been charged with wishing to impede the progress of education in Scotland. To that charge he gave as strong a denial as Parliamentary language would allow him. He appealed to every one who had any acquaintance with Scotland, whether, instead of impeding education, it had not rather been their wish to extend it. The connection of parochial schools with the Established Church in Scotland, was regarded as an object of the highest importance; and what was desired by the heritors and landed proprietors had been expressed in a memorial signed by 2,000 of them, namely, that the parochial schools should continue to be connected 659 with the Established Church of Scotland. Seeing the position in which the schoolmasters were now placed in consequence of their salaries being reduced under the new averages by nearly one-third, he wished to know what steps the Government intended to take to provide for their better remuneration—an object which the noble Earl at the head of the Government stated, last Session, he would bring in a Bill to carry out, if he were not able to proceed with the Bill on the general subject of education.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
I should just as soon think of accusing my noble Friend of being hostile to the extension of education in Scotland as, I am sure, he would be unwilling to accuse me of wishing to starve the schoolmasters. Last year, when my noble Friend asked me a question on this subject, I informed him that the schoolmasters were under a mistake in supposing that their stipends, at that time payable, would not be paid in the month of November. I found that they were secure in the month of last November, and I felt that, before bringing in any new Act to increase and extend the stipends of the schoolmasters, it was desirable to connect with it a general scheme of education, intended by the Government to be introduced early in the present Session. That was done; and, in the Bill so introduced, the salaries of the schoolmasters were largely augmented. The Bill, however, did not pass through the other House of Parliament; and, consequently, the schoolmasters, who up to the present time had been secured in the receipt of the rate established by the last average of twenty-five years, would now be reduced to the low averages of 27l. and 20l. Under these circumstances, I am at once ready to fulfil the pledge which I gave to my noble Friend last year, namely, that if no provision for augmenting the salaries of parochial schoolmasters as part of a general measure of education should be passed, I should be perfectly ready to introduce a temporary measure on the subject of the stipends of the Scotch schoolmasters, keeping them up to the amount enjoyed under the last averages. Therefore, in reply to my noble Friend, I have to state that the Lord Advocate will immediately introduce into the other House a Bill for the purpose of making temporary provision for the Scotch schoolmasters, keeping their salaries up to the amount they had hitherto enjoyed. The measure would only be of a 660 temporary nature, because it is still hoped that augmented provisions for the schoolmasters may be connected with a general system of education in Scotland, to be proposed to Parliament. Without such connection, I should certainly feel it to be impossible, and quite unreasonable, to call on Parliament largely to augment the stipends of the schoolmasters from the public funds. Consequently, what is intended to be done at present is merely to continue that assessment on the heritors of Scotland which has existed up to last November.
§ THE MARQUESS OF BREADALBANE
said, he much regretted that a measure so well adapted to meet the wants of Scotland and the great changes which had taken place of late years in that country as the Education Bill of the Government should have been thrown out in the House of Commons; but he would remind their Lordships that, according to the division which took place on the second reading, the representatives of Scotland were almost entirely in its favour. All the Scotch representatives voted on the question, and while the names of no less than thirty-six of them appeared in the minority, only thirteen went with the majority. Allusion had been made to the declaration, or rather advertisement, of the heritors or proprietors in Scotland with regard to the Bill; but he looked upon that as a very extraordinary way of prejudicing the legislation of the country, and he, for one, hoped it would not be successful. He was sorry to say there was a great want of sympathy between the heritors and the people of Scotland. He dared say the noble Duke would inform the House that only two or three counties were in favour of the Bill; but he (the Marquess of Breadalbane) would remind their Lordships that if the decisions of the county meetings had been taken and acted upon as faithful representations of the feelings and opinions of Scotland, none of those salutary reforms which had benefited the country would have been carried into effect. There would have been no constitutional reform, with its extinction of monstrous abuses—no municipal reform—and the restrictive Corn Laws would still have been pressing on the industry of the nation. This want of sympathy between the heritors and the people had existed not only upon the present subject, but upon all other important questions in Scotland. He was sure that the noble Duke (the Duke of Buccleuch) did not 661 wish to impede the progress of education in Scotland; but if he still adhered to the principle that the parochial school system must be upheld as exclusively connected with the Established Church, he (the noble Marquess) could only say that the adoption of such a course would only tend to the defeat of any sound system of national education for Scotland.
§ THE EARL OF EGLINTON
said, he wished to add his testimony to the fact that the opposition to the Government Bill on the part of the Scotch Members of both Houses of Parliament, and of the numerous body of Scotch proprietors who had signed the memorial which had been referred to, did not arise from any wish to impede the progress of education in Scotland. The desire expressed by them in that document was, that the parochial system should remain in the hands of the Established Church much in the same way as at present. They were not only willing but most anxious that popular education should be improved, and they would have been most happy to have carried out some parts of the Government measure if they could have done so without infringing on the present parochial system. The Government, however, refused to divide their Bill, and those who supported the connection of the educational system with the Established Church were, therefore, compelled to vote against it. The noble Marquess had said that the great majority of the Scotch Members of the other House of Parliament voted in favour of the Government Bill. But the fact was that politics had something to do with the votes of hon. Members on educational as well as on other matters; and he was sorry to say that the great majority of the Scotch representatives were supporters of the present Government. But it must be recollected that the Bill was thrown out, not only by a part of the Scotch, but also by a large body of the English Members voting against it, because they were informed by the noble Lord the Leader of the House (Lord John Russell) that it was the precursor of a similar Bill with reference to England. He flattered himself that that proved that the system proposed by that Bill had not only failed to find favour with the Scotch proprietors, but that it was not likely to receive a great amount of support in England.
begged to confirm the statement of the noble Earl, that, so far from the 2,000 heritors who signed the 662 declaration against separating the parochial system from the Established Church, being opposed to the extension of education, they were prepared to have additional burdens placed upon themselves for the purpose of introducing improvements wherever they were necessary. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Breadalbane) had laid some stress on the circumstance that a majority of the Scotch representatives had voted in favour of the Bill; but he must remember that they were, for the most part, Members for burghs to which the parochial system did not so much apply, and many voted for the second reading who were opposed to much of the details of the measure. He (Lord Kinnaird) rejoiced that the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) intended to redeem the pledge he gave last year, that, at all events, the parochial schoolmasters should not suffer in consequence of a difference of opinion in Parliament as to the maintenance of the existing system. He (Lord Kinnaird) had a notice on the paper for a future evening, for the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the subject of education in Scotland—which notice he would now withdraw in the hope that the Government would themselves institute an inquiry before any new measure should be introduced. His reasons for placing such a Motion on the paper was, that he believed the Bill of the Government contained two assertions which were, in his opinion, unfounded—first, that the means of education in Scotland fell short of what was required for the increased population; and next, that the present superintendence and management of education were greatly defective; and he trusted that, before any attempt was again made to introduce a general system, some inquiry would be made into the real wants of the country in those respects, as he did not believe they would be found to exist to anything like the extent which had been stated. The Scotch proprietors were willing to place the schools in a state of the fullest efficiency, and to increase the salaries of schoolmasters, but they hoped to arrest any measure which went to the destruction of a system which had worked so well in Scotland, and obtained for her the high renown which she had acquired with regard to education. He believed that the measure of the Government was concocted and drawn up by Free Churchmen, and that it was mainly with the object of getting their schools placed on the assessment it had been introduced. He could state, 663 further, that a most unholy alliance was formed between that party and those in Scotland who were for secular education; but luckily it was broken up, as they could not agree amongst themselves. They were only united upon one point, and that was to destroy the parochial schools. He hoped that any measure which the Government might hereafter introduce would be carefully considered, and that they would resolve not to be guided by the views of one party only.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
would impress on the minds of all his noble Friends connected with Scotland, he would not say the impossibility of treating this question adequately, upon an incidental discussion such as this, but the impossibility of dealing with it with even tolerable fairness. It was a very large subject, the question of education, whether in England, Scotland, or Ireland—connected with very large principles of public policy, and requiring very careful examination. He almost regretted that his noble Friend who had just sat down had withdrawn the notice he had placed on the table; because, though he (the Duke of Argyll) should have been compelled to vote against it, he should have thought it a fit occasion for bringing under the notice of their Lordships' House the views under which Her Majesty's Government had introduced the recent measure on the subject of education in the other House of Parliament. He should now look forward to the occasion when the Bill which had just been announced by the noble Earl at the head of the Government should reach their Lordships' House for an opportunity of stating his views. Till that time he hoped their Lordships would preserve an impartial judgment on the question.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
said, he was certain there was no want of sympathy on this subject in their Lordships' House. He could assure their Lordships that the benefit of the schools of the Established Church of Scotland was not confined to the members of that communion. Free Church children and Dissenters flocked to those schools; and he knew that in the West Highlands, a great many Roman Catholic children had attended them constantly till they were prevented by their priests. A noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) had stated the other day, in presenting a petition on this subject, that Lord Dunfermline, and those who concurred with him, had not been actuated by the least opposition to plans for the education 664 of the people, nor influenced by any such motive. He heartily rejoiced to hear the announcement that had been made by the noble Earl at the head of the Government. He would suggest to that noble Earl that, regard being had to the peculiar circumstances of the case, he should introduce two measures on this great and important subject. In Scotland there was great diversity between town and country. Although what his noble Friend who spoke last said might be perfectly true, and although the want of the means of education had been a little exaggerated in the accounts that had reached their Lordships, still he believed it wholly impossible to exaggerate the want of the means of education that existed in the towns. The parish school system, which had for centuries been of the greatest benefit to Scotland, had unhappily been found inapplicable to towns, which, consequently, were left without adequate means of education, except what were given by voluntary exertion. He believed the Church of Scotland to be anxious for the education of the people; he also believed the Free Church to be anxious for the education of the people; and he trusted that they would show it, and not lead it to be believed that they only aimed at victory the one over the other.
said, that, on a previous occasion, when he had presented a petition on the subject of the Bill then before the other House of Parliament, and which they had unfortunately rejected, he had taken the opportunity of stating that not only his noble and learned Friend Lord Dunfermline, but those who concurred with him in opposing the measure, were not actuated by any decided opposition to the plan for the education of the people of Scotland, nor were they influenced by any coldness in that great and important cause. He heartily rejoiced that the noble Earl at the head of the Government had made the announcement which their Lordships had heard of the intentions of the Government in respect of the stipends of the schoolmasters, and, if he might be permitted, he should wish to suggest, in reference to any measure that might be hereafter introduced in respect of education, that regard be had to the peculiar circumstances of Scotland, and that two measures should be introduced instead of one. There was the greatest diversity between the towns and the country parts; and, although what had been stated by his noble Friend about 665 the want of the means of education in the country parts might be true, still there had been a considerable amount of exaggeration as regarded the educational wants of those districts. With regard, however, to the towns, the case was very different, and it was impossible to exaggerate the want of the means of instruction in the towns of Scotland to which the parochial system was not applicable. The only means for the advancement of education in the towns were derived from the voluntary exertions of individuals, and it was quite clear that we could not leave so important a subject as the education of the people to mere individual exertion. He trusted that the Government would justify the opinion he ventured to entertain, and that in dealing with this question they would show themselves anxious for the education of the people, and prove that there was one thing which they valued more than even a victory of the Established Church over the Free Church, or of the Free Church over the Establishment.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
said, he was afraid that his noble and learned Friend had a little misapprehended what he had stated. What he said was, that a Bill would be shortly introduced to make a temporary provision for the schoolmasters in Scotland, but he did not give any assurance of a measure for education in Scotland being introduced during the present Session.
THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH
said, he hoped the operation of this temporary measure would not be so limited in duration as that the schoolmasters would find themselves a twelvemonth hence in the same situation that they were now. He wished it to be clearly understood that the schools in Scotland were not exclusive. There was no system of education so open in the whole world as that of the parochial schools in Scotland; for there was not the slightest impediment to children of any religious denomination attending them. Unless, therefore, difficulties were interposed by other parties, the children of Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Dissenters could and did attend the parochial schools with the utmost freedom. It was, therefore, not liable to cause misapprehension to state that there was anything in the slightest degree exclusive in the Scotch system of parochial schools. He trusted that the 666 suggestion thrown out by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) would meet with consideration, and that two Bills would be introduced. It was necessary to bestow the utmost care upon any measure of education which was intended only as the precursor to a more general change, and he hoped that when another measure was introduced it might not be left to the management of one person, but that it would be supported by the united weight of the Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF BREADALBANE
had spoken of the Scotch parochial schools as being "exclusive" because the masters were compelled to be members of the Established Church of Scotland, and to subscribe to the tenets and doctrines of that Church, and no man, however well qualified, could become a schoolmaster unless he was a member of the Established Church, which did not now comprise more than a third of the people.
THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH
said, that these remarks came very ill from a member of a sect, the trust deeds of whose schools were drawn with the utmost care, so as by the most rigorous tests to prevent any but one of their own body becoming a master therein.
§ THE MARQUESS OF BREADALBANE
said, he was against all religious tests; he thought that the more we got rid of them the better. There must, no doubt, be some declaration of principle in cases like those under discussion; but he heard with great satisfaction that the noble Duke was opposed to religious tests generally.
said, that he only hoped that, amidst the differences of the contending parties, the scheme for the education of the people would not fall to the ground.
Petition ordered to lie on the table.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.