HL Deb 30 April 1860 vol 158 cc311-32

My Lords, I do not apprehend that any objection will be offered to the Motion I have to submit to your Lordships for the production of the correspondence that has lately taken place between the Roman Catholic Bishops in Ireland and the Lord Lieutenant regarding the education of the poor. There is no question relating to that part of the United Kingdom upon which it is so important your Lordships should be fully informed—none in which the Irish people have so deep an interest, and upon the conduct of which so much depends the future well-being and progress of the country; but, I must also add, that there is no part of the policy pursued by the Irish Government that so much needs to be reconsidered and reformed as the Department of National Education. The munificence of Parliament in the pecuniary provision it annually makes for that object shows the importance it attaches to it, and imposes a corresponding responsibility upon those to whose direction it is confided. How that important trust has been discharged, and with what success, has been, as your Lordships are aware, a subject of much controversy. On the one hand, credit is taken by Her Majesty s Commissioners for educating very large and yearly increasing numbers of poor children, numbers exaggerated beyond the belief of persons who care to be accurately informed, but by the uninquiring friends of the national system of education readily accepted as evidence of the success of the principle upon which it is founded; on the other hand, dissatisfaction has been constantly felt and repeatedly expressed that the education given is not based upon religion, or in any degree combined with religious training, and that even in imparting literary instruction the system has not realized public expectation; that it is both unsound in principle, and in practice a failure. Such representations, embodied in petitions to Parliament, have more than once led in both Houses to the appointment of Committees of Inquiry; inquiries that have been searching; but I regret to say never productive of any practical result either in refuting charges made against the system or its administration, or in leading to the removal of any grounds of dissatisfaction, however clearly established by evidence. The supporters of the Government, always a majority upon such Committees, have upon every such occasion prevailed to have evidence reported to the House without comment or opinion, happy thereby to elude for the time any further Parliamentary action, it being impossible for Parliament, unaided by a Committee's Report, to give a full consideration to the subject without wading through blue-books of undigested evidence. By such adroit, but not very honest policy, has the Irish system of National Education been preserved through every ordeal of Parliamentary inquiry; and every objection to it, however well-founded, every endeavour to have it so modified as to render it conducive to the intellectual improvement and moral elevation of the Irish population, have been rendered alike unavailing. Even the secession from the Education Board of the Archbishop of Dublin, and those two eminent Irish Judges, Mr. Blackburne and Baron Greene —the causes of whose retirement were among the circumstances that led to the last Committee of Inquiry by your Lordships—Was unproductive of any change. The loss of these three, the most respectable of the Commissioners, was apparently considered by the Government as a lesser evil than the inconvenience they might be put to in attempting the correction of the abuses complained of. They probably felt that the education system had been originally framed in 1832 with the avowed object of obtaining the utmost support from the Roman Catholic Clergy; that the principle of the Church of Rome regarding the reading of the sacred volume had, in that view, been adopted as the fundamental rule of the system, and that the Protestant Clergy had thus been compelled to separate from the state in the work of education, and that it was, therefore of comparatively little importance whether the Commissioners I have referred to, respectable as they were, were also compelled to separate from the board, or whether the interpretation they objected to of a particular rule regarding books of general instruction were adhered to or not, after the authoritative exclusion of the Bible from every schoolroom open for united education. But the Government, having in the outset, in order to obtain the support of the Roman Catholic Clergy, thrown over the co-operation of the Clergy of the Established Church, and since forfeited the confidence of a section of the Protestant laity, represented by the seceding members of the Commission, your Lordships will learn with surprise, from the correspondence I am about to move for, that the principle of the National system is now declared to be not even acceptable to the Roman Catholic body; that it is, in fact, repudiated by the hierarchy of that very Church whose good-will and cooperation has been so eagerly courted and sought to be propitiated by the sacrifice of Protestant interests and Protestant principle; so that instead of support the Government are henceforth to look for opposition from the Church of Borne to their plan of united education. Surety, my Lords, the present is an occasion on which the whole subject ought to be carefully reconsidered; yet it is said that no change whatever is to be made. I trust that no such determination has been come to; for I would ask, where can you now look for support? Do you expect to receive it from the resident gentry and landowners of Ireland? The friends of the Board among them are either very few or very little disposed to give you any assistance. Judging of their zeal by the amount of their pecuniary subscriptions, it is very small indeed. Referring your Lordships to the latest Report, that for the year of 1858, of the Education Commissioners, you will find that even while the Roman Catholic. Church was supposed to be in cordial alliance with the Government on the Education Question, the whole amount of local subscription over the entire of Ireland was only between £10,000 and £11,000, not much more than 8d. in the pound, or one-thirtieth part of the expenditure on National education, and less than one-tenth part of the amount annually subscribed and applied through other agencies for the purposes of education upon religious principles without any aid or encouragement whatever from the Government. Do you look to a cordial and grateful acceptance of your schools by the poor? This I admit, would be a very justifiable course. If popular the schools would probably be efficient, but are they either one or the other? Your Lordships, glancing at the first pages of the Report of the Commissioners that I have already referred to, would probably be impressed with the belief that the National system was extremely popular, for you would find that the number of the National school pupils had from the beginning been constantly increasing, until in 1858 it reached to as many as 803,610; but those figures, which abstractedly considered would make Ireland appear in a fair way of becoming the most educated of nations, I am sorry to say can in no degree be relied on. Let me refer your Lordships to impartial and, therefore, more trustworthy evidence. Tour Lordships will find by the Census Report on ages and education, presented to Parliament in 1856, that the total of the Irish population of all classes, between the ages of five and sixteen, was 1,870,988, and that of these the whole number that attended schools was less than 25 per cent, or 460,595, a number not much more than half of what the Commissioners Report as National school pupils, but from which should be deducted not only the children of the upper and middle classes, but also such of the children of the poor as are educated by the Church Education Society, the Christian Brothers, and other charitable institutions; so that the whole number of those that attend the National schools would, probably, be considerably under one-third of that reported to your Lordships as National school pupils. Where, then, did the Commissioners find data for reporting their number as amounting to 803,610? Two-thirds of them at least must have been of the same substance as Falstaff's men-in-buckram. The Census Commissioners are very particular in their enumeration, and give an exact Return not only of those that attend schools, but of those that attend no schools, which they set down as 1,410,397, or more than 75 per cent. Now, contrast this with the Education Return for England of the same year, and we find that of 4,005,716 children from five to fifteen years of age, 2,144,378, or considerably more than half, are school pupils. Hence it ap- years that in Ireland the proportion of children that attend schools is less than half what it is in England. Which, then, my Lords is the more popular system of education? That which, as in Ireland, attempts to enforce a united education, or that which, as in England, aids and encourages denominational schools, leaving it at the option of parents to choose where they will have their children instructed? I think it cannot with any truth be affirmed, that the present system of education in Ireland is generally acceptable to the poor. For do its results afford any more encouraging view of its merits, for, although very much has been done by private effort and by charitable associations, apart from the National Board, for the furtherance of education among the poorer classes, there appears by the last census to have been a very small advance in the course of the previous ten years—and in the county of Londonderry, and in several large towns, an actual increase in the proportion of illiterate persons in 1851, as compared with 1841. Why is this? The obvious inference is, that the system of education is not suited to the requirements of the country. Her Majesty's Government are now, from the correspondence in their possession, fully aware that the Roman Catholic clergy, the patrons, I believe, of four-fifths of the schools upon whose co-operation they mainly relied, do not approve, and consequently cannot be expected to use their influence in giving effect to a system of education that they only accepted as a lesser evil in their eyes than the Scriptural system of education previously in operation. There is, therefore, a necessity, and the opportunity is favourable, for reconsidering the whole subject. The production of the correspondence I have referred to, I trust, may bring attention to it, and that steps may at length be taken to place the education of the poor in Ireland upon a footing of efficiency, deriving from the clergy of different religious denominations the utmost co-operation in the work upon principles that they can conscientiously approve of. The answer said to have been returned by Mr. Secretary Cardwell to the first letter of the Roman Catholic bishops I have not seen, but a portion of it referred to in the reply of the bishops is very important. They say,— Examining your letter we are happy to find that you lay down, and fully admit, on the part of Government, principles of great importance, in which we cheerfully concur. You distinctly admit—1st, The paramount importance of religious education. 2ndly, The necessity of granting in the circumstances of this country, separate religious training to the children of each religious denomination; and 3rdly, The right of the heads of each Church in regard to the religious education of those of their own communion. Now, these principles, although the third is somewhat ambiguously worded, would not, I think, be generally disapproved of. They are, however, very ably commented upon by the Roman Catholic bishops, who show conclusively how much they are at variance with the regulations and practice of the National Board. I am very far from desiring to see carried out all the requirements of those bishops, or from admitting the amount of ecclesiastical authority they claim in the conduct and management of the education of the people, their right to which they consider Mr. Cardwell's letter fully to recognize; but the example of England abundantly proves how much more successful for every purpose of intellectual advancement, and for the training up of children in the principles of the religion in which their parents desire to have them educated, is a system that admits of the establishment of denominational schools, than the idle attempt, involving waste of public money, to coerce the people into the adoption of united education, upon a principle so much objected to and so difficult of application as that upon which the system of National education is founded. I beg my Lords, to move That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for,

  1. "1. Copy of any Address in 1859 from the Irish Roman Catholic Bishops to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland regarding the System of National Education in that Part of the United Kingdom, with the Names thereto subscribed.
  2. "2. Copy of the Answer returned by the Lord Lieutenant.
  3. "3. Copy of any Reply thereto from the said Roman Catholic Bishops."


said, that the noble Earl had introduced what might be called his annual Motion on the subject of National Education in Ireland, although he had introduced it at an earlier period than usual this year. The noble Earl contended that great responsibility rested upon those who supported the present system; but he was inclined to think the great responsibility rested on those who, like the noble Earl, had for many years opposed the system. He had listened in vain for any new arguments in support of the noble Earl's views. He indeed asserted that it had not answered the objects of its founders; but before he asked the Government to abolish the existing system he ought to have been prepared with some policy as a substitute. Although the noble Earl had frequently brought the subject before their Lordships, and had made a plentiful appeal to statistics, yet he had never been able to prove that the system of National education had not been generally supported by the laity of Ireland. On the contrary, on the late election for the county to which he (the Earl of Cork) belonged, the clergy appealed to the feelings of the people on the question of National education, and the people bravely responded to that appeal by coming forward to support the Government system. There had been a steady increase in the number of children attending the schools from the very foundation of the system, and he might state that out of 85,250 children in the schools in the county of Cork, 82,000 were Roman Catholics. He admitted that the system had materially altered since its first establishment, and he could fairly say that he wished the rules originally laid down had been more strictly adhered to; but circumstances might have induced the Commissioners to make changes in the system. What was the present opinion of Archbishop Whately? In a recent charge to his clergy the Archbishop said perhaps it might be thought that, having retired from the Commission, his views had changed, and that he could not conscientiously support the present system of National education. Such however, was not the case, for if the system had always been administered as it was now conducted he should still have been a Commissioner. The noble Earl had referred to the pastoral of the Roman Catholic Bishops; but their opposition was based on an entirely different principle from that of the noble Earl; they did not pretend to say that the system had not done good, or that it had not conferred benefits on the people of that country; but their objections were made to the mode in which the system was carried out, as they alleged that it was unfairly used for the purpose of making proselytes. Whether the system had worked as well as had been expected was a question for Her Majesty's Government; but since the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) in introducing the National system had largely calculated on the support of the landed proprietors and gentry of Ireland, he (the Earl of Cork) as one of those—he was sorry to say, few—landowners who had supported the system from the commencement, was unable to remain silent when the subject was brought under the notice of their Lordships.


said, that as regarded the memorial of the Roman Catholic Bishops, he, on behalf of the great mass of the clergy of Ireland with whom he had been associated in opposition, on conscientious grounds, to the National Board, rose to express their heartfelt thanks to Her Majesty's Government that they were not disposed in the slightest degree to accept the proposition made by the Roman Catholic Archbishop and Bishops; for they put forward their claim or demand in the matter as though they had a right divine to take into their hands the education of the people, and argued as though no one had a right to oppose them in the matter. They put an interpretation on the words, "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Holy Ghost, and teaching them all that I have commanded you," that was unjustifiable and wrong; and taking this text for their motto, the Roman Catholic clergy contended that they had a sort of prescriptive or divine right to superintend and control the education of the people. But the Church of England, on the contrary, utterly denied that that text of Scripture gave the Roman Catholic or any other Church, or any body of ecclesiastics, any special control over the education of the laity. While they contended, however, that they had no power of this kind, they held that it was, on the other hand, the bounden duty of every Christian minister to put into the hands of every one, and especially the children of their flock, that Word of God in which was written all that He had commanded. The principle of the Church Education Society is that they are bound to teach all committed to their care on Scriptural principles. They considered that the present Government had every right to object to the proposal of the Roman Catholic system, and more particularly so if it was shown that they were not well qualified to exercise the right to which they laid claim. The experience we already possessed of the educational system of the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland did not tend to show that they were the persons best qualified to take up the question of education as a matter of right; and the present state of education in Ireland went to show that the Roman Catholic clergy were not the best persons in whose hands to place the education of the people. In Ireland there were 4,994 schools under individual patronage and management, and of that number 3,385 were under the management of Roman Catholic priests; so that they had a great field of operation, and great opportunity of showing how far they were qualified to be the teachers of the people. The evidence, however, contained in Returns and Reports of the Government Inspectors on National education in Ireland went to show that, although they had this extensive control over the National schools, they had allowed ignorance to prevail in a way that was hardly justifiable with so much power in their hands. Speaking of a visit to some of these schools, Mr. M'Creedy, one of the Inspectors, not hostile to the Roman Catholic system, said that in a large number of schools under his inspection the rudiments of education, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, were neglected; that the teaching of grammar and geography was mainly in appearance only; that of forty schools in one district returned as inculcating grammar, there were eleven in which, upon examination, there was not a child present that was able to tell the parts of speech; and that in one-third of thirty-six schools whore it was a professed part of the teaching not a single child possessed any elementary geographical knowledge. The Inspector also spoke of the generally inferior character of the education in other schools in other districts. This was the report of an Inspector speaking four or five years ago; but there was more recent information in the two last reports; and Mr. Keenan, another Inspector, said that some of the pupils were utterly ignorant of the simplest details; that though their reading was pretty fair, their knowledge of the matter read was very slight, and that the masters were deficient in firmness, skill, talent, and ability. In one instance he found in a large district only one child acquainted with the parts of speech; in another he reported the proficiency as low as possible: and so on with regard to a number of particular schools. In the last Report that came out in 1858, Mr. Sheridan, one of the Inspectors, stated that in the schools which he had inspected, containing 3,000 children, 63 per cent of the children were in the junior division, reading words of one or two syllables, while the proper proportion of children in that division ought not to have been more than 25 per cent. Mr. Sheridan said that a great deal of this was to be attributed to want of method and judgment on the part of the teacher, and the absence of good method in instructing the junior children. In one instance, 1,400 were returned as capable of writing; but he found that only 9 out of every 1,000 were capable of writing really well and with ease and freedom—a small proportion only being able to write fairly. These were the statements not of persons hostile to the system, but of official inspectors. Another important authority on the subject was the Report of the Commissioners of the Census, from the statistics contained in whose Reports and Returns it appeared that in the principal counties there had been a falling-off in the scale of education since 1841, as regarded male education. Out of 32 counties only 11 showed no diminution as regarded males who could not read nor write. Yet the number of national schools in those counties had increased from 1,505 to 2,971 in the 10 years between 1841 and 1851. The Commissioners say that as regarded the number of the illiterate, they were not to be found so largely among those who had attained to the older terms of life as among the younger and earlier, that is, those who were under the care of the National Board; as regarded the superintendence given by the managers of these schools, it was purely nominal, and could not be characterized as efficient: occupied with other duties, the clergy exercised only a nominal superintendence, the great bulk of them being Roman Catholic clergy. One of the head Inspectors reported that with due vigilance on the part of the managers a better class of men might be found as teachers, but the required vigilance was not exercised. It was evident, therefore, that, looking at the immense expenditure that had taken place, there had been a great failure in the national system of education in Ireland. He regretted that the Government should insist on a rule which prevented a larger number of the clergy of the Established Church from taking part in the work of education. It had been stated that the Archbishop of Armagh had issued a letter upon this subject, and he was an authority to whom the whole Church was disposed to pay great respect and attention, when the advice given was not against the dictates of their consciences. The Attorney General for Ireland had attended a great meeting of Roman Catholics in Cork, at which there were twenty-five Archbishops and Bishops, and 500 priests of the Roman Catholic Church and that meeting was opposed to mixed education; but the right hon. Gentleman, when he became connected with the Government, took the other side of the question of education, because the Government did not like the Ultramontane system. The consequence was that an opposition was got up by the priests to his return to Parliament, but a great number of Protestant electors supported him. He, on that occasion, read a lecture to the Ultramontanists, saying that it would be better for them to retire from the field, and follow the example of the clergy of the Established Church, who had, he said, honourably surrendered their arms and retired from the contest in consequence of the letter of the Protestant Primate. That, however, was not the fact, for they had not surrendered their arms, but were ready rather to cry, "No surrender;" and he hoped and trusted that Protestants would rally round them, and give their support even to a greater extent than they had done before. Indeed, they had never got such large contributions as since the last annual meeting of the Church Education Society. The question at issue was one of principle, and the Established clergy, while far from being willing to join in a confederacy with the Roman Catholic Church to upset the National Board, would never lay down their arms until the system of National education in Ireland was placed upon a sound footing.


My Lords, I do not propose to enter into the general question of the duty of supporting the system of National Education in Ireland, because that question, which is as important and momentous as any that could be raised, should be brought forward, if at all, in some more distinct and specific shape. The opinions of Her Majesty's Government upon that subject, and upon the present position of the question in Ireland, are clearly and fully stated in one of the papers which have been moved for by the noble Earl opposite—a paper written by a right hon. Gentleman in the other House, with whom I have the pleasure of acting as a colleague, as a reply to the first letter of the Roman Catholic prelates. The noble Earl who introduced the question to-night has asked whether it is really true that the Government mean to introduce no change into the system of National education in Ireland. My reply is that it is the firm intention of Her Majesty's Government, whether in England or in Ireland, to adhere to the principles upon which they have uniformly acted with re-respect to the system of National education in Ireland. For myself, I may say that, by reason of my long—though not unbroken—connection with Ireland, I have always felt a warm interest in this important subject. Those principles, as I understand and entertain them, are to give the advantages of as good a secular education as can be procured to all who are willing to receive it—to give to all opportunities and facilities for specific religious instruction, without making religious instruction compulsory on any. We feel that instruction in religion—instruction upon those duties which should regulate the conduct of persons in life, and inspire hopes for hereafter—is of too high, important, and paramount a nature to be imparted except by the full consent and authority of the parent. The noble Earl has himself stated—and it is patent to all—that in upholding these principles we have often found ourselves with great regret bound to oppose the views entertained by excellent and eminent prelates of the Established Church; and of late it is equally notorious that we have felt ourselves equally called upon to act in opposition to the unanimously expressed opinions of the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church. Our adherence to the leading principles of the National system of education in Ireland we hope to continue unimpaired; but if at any time, from any quarter, from one side or another, there should be laid before us any propositions for practical improvements or any objections to existing practices, we should, so far as they might not be inconsistent with the principles I have stated, be always willing to give them a fair and candid consideration. If we found them trench upon the principles vital to the present system we should decline to entertain them. At all events no such change would be introduced without it being first communicated to Parliament. The noble Earl who made this Motion stated that the system of the National Board, which he has consistently opposed, has survived every inquiry and every attack. Surely that fact raises some presumption that it is founded upon principles which have inherent truth and authority in them. The right rev. Prelate who has just sat down has quoted several extracts from the Reports of Inspectors under the National Board, which certainly were not nattering to the schools to which they referred. I think it is, at all events, satisfactory to see that the servants and officers of the Board used the most perfect frankness, candour, and plain speaking, in representing the state of things exactly as they find it, and do not flinch from pointing out defects which have met their observation. But defects in education are not confined to the children of the poor; there have of late been brought to light under the working of the competitive system mistakes in grammar, in writing, and in various branches of knowledge, which show that those defects are not confined to the poorer class, but are found in classes in which we should be less justified in expecting them. I have no doubt that a great number of these schools stand very much in need of improvement; but the friends of the National system feel very confident that the average condition and quality of their schools is not inferior to those of schools managed under different systems. The right rev. Prelate has always manifested a consistent and devoted attachment to the schools belonging to the Church Education Society. Now, certainly, the Friends of the National system are pretty confident that upon any fair comparison of the average merits of the two classes of schools theirs would not be found inferior. The right rev. Prelate quoted some unfavourable notices from the Report of the Commissioners of the Census of 1851. We are now approaching another Census in 1861, and I hope that the state of things will then be found to have very much improved. I know that in the interval which has elapsed since 1851 great pains have been taken, especially with the training of teachers, which must have a vital influence upon the condition of the schools which are placed under their care and direction. I entirely agree with the right rev. Prelate that it is much to be lamented that the great portion of the National schools in Ireland have not received the co-operation and assistance of the clergy of the Established Church. No one laments the alienation of the clergy from the National system more than myself; and I trust, notwithstanding that a contrary expectation seems to be entertained by the right rev. Prelate, that their opposition is about to be greatly modified. I know that the Board are constantly receiving important adhesions from among the clergy of the Established Church. I have little more to say upon the present position of the question, except that I wish the noble Earl could have included in the papers for which he has moved—although I do not say that he could have done so—the letter which was written by the Lord Primate of Ireland to the clergy of his diocese. I do not know that I am justified in bringing it directly under the notice of your Lordships, but, as the question of National education has been mooted, I cannot refrain from expressing my deep satisfaction that that excellent Prelate, before he closes—and distant be the day when he shall do so—before he finally closes his career amidst the respect and love of all who have watched its long continuance, has been enabled to bequeath to the Church which he has upheld and adorned such a legacy of peace, wisdom, and charity.


said, he believed that the system of national education, as originally introduced into Ireland by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) was as good a system, both as regarded secular and religious education, as could possibly be devised; and he knew that where that system had had fair play it had proved eminently successful. This fair play, however, had been very seldom obtained. The continual concessions made had induced the priests and prelates of the Roman Catholic Church to think that they might obtain still more. First, the "Scripture Extracts" had been withdrawn in a great measure from the schools, and, in the next place, the "Evidences of Christianity," by the Archbishop of Dublin, had been omitted. Since then, national schools, which had been established adjoining nunneries and Roman Catholic chapels were allowed to have the distinctive services or portions of the Roman Catholic service read in them; whilst a Protestant proprietor was not allowed—as had happened in his own case—to have the Protestant service in a National school-house on a Sunday, although on that day it was used for no educational purposes. There were many other causes of complaint. A continual effort had been made to remove the schools from under Protestant proprietors, and to remove Protestant schoolmasters, and replace them with Roman Catholics. A certain schoolmaster was charged with writing threatening notices for the Ribbon Society, but was released on bail for six months, and during those six months he continued to hold the office of national schoolmaster. There was a noble Earl (the Earl of Arran) who took a deep interest in the prosperity of Ireland, and he had one of the most excellent National schools under his management. He was, however, continually tormented with reports of the district Inspector. He (Viscount Lifford) visited the school, and found it one of the best that he had seen; and almost all the neighbouring clergy, though opposed to the National system, reported in its favour, and one of them said that this school was of so high a character as to be considered as a kind of university, for any young man who passed through that school took a higher standing than he could procure from any other. The same Inspector, who continued in his office the schoolmaster charged, and justly charged, with Ribbonism, brought a most unfounded charge against Lord Arran's schoolmaster, and unless the parties had been threatened with indictment for conspiracy, he would have been removed. Twenty-two years ago he himself established a national school in a very wild part of Ireland, and for sixteen years that school was very successful, having a good attendance:—more than nine-tenths of the children being Roman Catholics, but no Roman Catholic parent made any objection. After sixteen years, however, the National Board set up an opposition school adjoining a Roman Catholic chapel, and managed by Roman Catholic priests, and of course all the Roman Catholic children were withdrawn from his school. He had received a letter from the Board, stating that the school about which he inquired was not a Roman Catholic one. This was a quibble. By a rule of the Board no school was taken under its charge for six months after it was built. The six months had not expired in the case to which he referred, but it did expire in a very short time after the correspondence, and the school was opened as a National school. He then asked leave to remove his school into another district, but the Commissioners refused him permission to do so on the ground that the proposed school would be too near two other National schools, the priest's school being a full quarter of a mile nearer to both. In a conversation he had had with a Roman Catholic Inspector of National schools, that gentleman expressed his pleasure at the success of the system, because it was depriving the priest of his influence. He (Viscount Lifford) said that, although a Protestant, he was sorry for it, because, though it was destroying the influence of the priest, it was supplying an influence that was no better, Their Lordships had, perhaps, read accounts stating that no less than a million of Roman Catholics in America had abandoned that religion. He feared there was not much cause for satisfaction in the circumstance, because he believed that most of them had either joined some of the objectionable sects that existed in that country or become infidels. There could he no doubt that the present state of things as regarded the working of the system of National education in Ireland was unsatisfactory. He wished to know who was responsible for disallowing the reading of the little book on the Evidences of Christianity, written by the Archbishop of Dublin. He could not sympathize with those who opposed the National system on religious grounds. He did not think it was a Christian duty to refuse secular education to children whose parents dissented from the religious instruction given in a school. He rejoiced to hear the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland say that the Government had no intention to change the system-He believed the position of the Government on this subject was a strong one. Although there were undoubted defects in many of the schools, still the people of Ireland had tasted the benefits of education, and would look for those benefits where they could be best obtained. But he begged the Government to consider on the one hand whether the repugnance of the party represented by the noble Earl near him to the National system, and, on the other, whether the unreasonable demands of the Prelates of Ireland had not been caused by the unjust concessions which the Commissioners had continually made to the Roman Catholic body.


said, that as one of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, he wished to offer a few observations to their Lordships. Not having expected that the noble Earl who had brought this subject forward would make the remarks he had done upon the statistics of the Board, he was not now prepared, as he otherwise would have been, to meet him on that ground. He had been given to understand that the noble Earl merely wished to obtain the documents mentioned in his Motion. As a member of the Board, however, who had had the greatest experience of the working of the system and of the operations of the Board, he desired to bear his testimony both to the progress and the utility of the National system. He could assure the noble Earl who represented that a fair statement had not been given of the condition and operation of the establishment, that, having attended the meetings of the Board and taken part in its proceedings with his colleagues, he had never seen anything done that was justly open to objection. He had never seen anything like an attempt at collusion. When cases were brought before the Board they were always decided by persons of the greatest respectability and integrity. When it was said that the rules of the National Board prevented the putting of the Scriptures into the hands of the young, he entirely repudiated such a statement. He would refer to the rules and regulations of the Board to bear him out in his statement. No candid man could read the rules and regulations of the Board, especially those connected with the secular and religious instruction imparted to the children, without being impressed with the conviction that if he honestly carried out the National system as it was there propounded, he would have perfect liberty to place the Scriptures in all their integrity in the hands of his own children. Whether the schools were vested or non-vested, there was an opportunity of giving religious instruction in them. In the case of the vested schools, whose fault was it that the Protestant portion of the community had not the Scriptures put into their hands? He was sorry to say so, but it must rest with the clergyman of the parish. In the ease of a non-vested school, the patron might be a Roman Catholic, and he might prescribe a particular time for religious instruction; but, if the clergyman of the parish did his duty, the child had an opportunity at that time of receiving religious instruction from his own pastor. Certainly it was not permitted to the clergyman—and God forbid that it ever should be! —to violate the sacred rights of conscience. It was not permitted to him to trample on parental rights or parental authority; but the system gave to all the power of carrying into full and free effect the Divine maxim of doing to others as they would have others do to them. One might imagine from the statements that had been made by some of the opponents of the system that it was an institution rather for deteriorating than promoting the education of the young; but had the reports been fairly quoted it would have been seen that the good greatly preponderated over the evil, while the defects indicated were only those that must, more or less, attach to every system of National education. As an evidence of the progress made by the system in public estimation, he would only appeal to the number of right rev. Prelates who were now its friends and advocates. When he became a bishop of the Established Church only three of the Irish Prelates were found to support the National system; now the tables wore happily turned, and it had enlisted on its side a preponderance of the episcopal body. But he did not rest there. He had the satisfaction of informing their Lordships that there had lately been instituted an inquiry in the dioceses of Derry and Raphoe as to the number of the clergy who had subscribed the fundamental rules of the National Board. It was conducted by his own archdeacon, and the subject was fairly canvassed among them. The result was that two-thirds of his clergy had given in their adherence to the principle on which the system was founded. He could not sit down without paying a tribute of respect to the Metropolitan under whom it was his honour and happiness to act. If there was anything in his public life that afforded him greater satisfaction than another it was the noble Letter which had lately emanated entirely and solely from the mind of that distinguished Prelate, recommending that course of candour, tolerance, and forbearance upon this subject which he hoped the clergy generally would follow. Though he did not advocate the National system of education merely on the ground of its success as a mixed system of education, he was happy to say that he held in his hand a document which proved that, wherever the clergy were disposed to act according to the rules of the institution they might have schools quietly and harmoniously carried on with a due mixture of the three denominations of Christians—Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and persons belonging to the Established Church. Within a comparatively small district in the diocese of Derry there were schools containing 623 Protestants of the Established Church, 1,569 Presbyterians, and 4,497 Roman Catholics, who were all receiving, he trusted, a salutary education, and living in love and peace one with another.


said, he would not long detain their Lordships although he had the misfortune of differing from almost every right rev. Prelate and noble Lord who had preceded him. He differed with all of them in some respect, though there was much of what had been said to their Lordships in which he fully concurred. The present position of the National system was not a happy one. The system was in theory one under which there should be an united education given to children of all religious persuasions, and in which the influence of no religious sect should preponderate over another; but what was it in practice? 3,000 out of the 5,000 National schools in Ireland were under the patronage of the Roman Catholic priests, and the great body of the clergy of the Established Church stood aloof from the system. The amount of really united education communicated to the people was almost entirely restricted to the schools under the management of the Commissioners themselves. Any man who knew Ireland knew that the people of that country, no matter what the faith they professed, professed it warmly, ardently, and there wore not to be found in Ireland those cold-hearted men who were devoid of all spirit of proselytism. If Ireland was searched throughout there would not be found in it a sufficient number of men of that stamp to carry out the National system; yet it had been expected that the system would be worked by such men; and they were looked for even in the ranks of the clergy. He thought the Government was quite right in refusing the demands of the Roman Catholic prelates; but he was of that opinion for a different reason than that which had influenced the Government. His opinion was that the Government ought to require of these prelates a test of the sincerity of the opinions which they had put forward in their document. These prelates and their clergy were in receipt of a very comfortable sum of public money for the payment of the expenses of the 3,300 schools under their control; but on looking over the list of contributors he found that the amount of local support given to these schools was very trifling indeed. For the whole county of Clare only £27 was subscribed, of which £10 was subscribed by a Protestant lady. Though the Roman Catholic bishops had so great an objection to the system, the Government acted very liberally towards them, and they seemed to take advantage of its generosity. Now, he should like to sec them give a proof of the sincerity of those objections by refusing money for the main- tenance of schools; but until they did that, he should certainly refuse to yield to those objections. He did not know whether the clergy of the Established Church had it in contemplation to accept the invitation of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and suggest to him plans for the improvement of the system which should not attack its principles, which he (the Earl of Carlisle) wished to be carried out; but he (the Earl of Donoughmore); though he was and always had been an opponent of the National system, would venture to make a suggestion on the subject. By a rule of the Board no aid was given to any school in which the number of scholars was less than twenty-five. He would suggest that this rule might be advantageously relaxed. The Protestants were not numerous in the rural districts of some parts of Ireland; and in some of the schools the Protestant clergyman had less than twenty-five scholars. If he applied to the Commissioners of National Education for aid he was refused it, and he would no doubt be reminded of the rule with regard to the minimum of scholars, and would probably be told that in the neighbouring chapel-yard there was a National school to which he was recommended to send the children under his care, whom he might take home with him at certain times, in order to give them religious instruction. This school was probably taught by a Roman Catholic, and was under the patronage of a Roman Catholic Prelate. Now, although there might be some few clergymen of the Established Church who would accept aid from the Commissioners, there was not one of them who would recommend his parishioners to send their children to a school held in a chapel-yard, under the patronage of a Roman Catholic priest, and taught by a Roman Catholic schoolmaster. One other point he wished briefly to advert to, though with some degree of pain. He had the greatest possible respect for the character of the venerable Primate who presided over the Irish Church, and no one could entertain a higher opinion of his long and valuable services; but he must say he could not understand why such stress and such importance should be placed upon the letter to which the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the right rev. Prelate had alluded. What did that letter say? Why, it merely said that if a clergyman or proprietor was not placed in a position to obtain a good secular education for the children under his charge, if he could not obtain the necessary funds for the support of his school, in that case, if he had no conscientious objections to such a course, he would advise him to place his schools under the National Board. Did the venerable Primate state any grounds of objection to the system itself? Nothing of the sort. On the contrary, as it was stated in the course of this debate by the right rev. Prelate, the venerable Dignitary, at a meeting of the Church Education Society, declared himself a sincere and cordial supporter of the system established. The letter of the venerable Primate struck him as if it said to a rich man who had the means of supporting a school and of paying a good salary to the master, "Oh, you are rich, and can afford to maintain your own principles; it is not therefore necessary that you should go to the National Board;" but to the poor man, who possessed not those advantages, the language of the letter was, "You have not the money to support your school, and to maintain your principles therein. You had better surrender your independence of action. Take my advice, then; connect your school with the National system, and obtain a share of the grant." He (the Earl of Donoughmore) should, however, act upon his own convictions. He had the means of maintaining his own schools without troubling the Commissioners. He was in the midst of a large Roman Catholic population, and the schools there were under the system of the Church Education Society. If he were to join the National Board to-morrow, he might save £30 or £40 a year; but he should be sacrificing his convictions without gaining one scholar or improving the means of education. Therefore, as far as he was concerned, the recommendation of the right rev. Prelate was without any force. Nothing had occurred to alter the grounds upon which he had always maintained those schools, and he should still continue to maintain the principles of the Church Education Society. If the right rev. Prelate thought he could conscientiously join the National Society, and could render himself more useful in doing so, he was quite right in adopting such a course; but whilst giving to others the most perfect liberty of conscience, he should claim the same for himself in being allowed to act according to his sincere convictions.


said, the noble Earl who followed his noble Friend, who moved for those Returns, taunted him with wishing to overthrow the National system without proposing any better system in its place; for his own part, however, he had no wish to see the system overthrown, but he did wish to see some slight modifications made in some of the rules, which operated against the teaching of the Bible in the schools throughout the country. It was a question upon which the clergy of Ireland were much divided in opinion. Some time ago he took the opportunity of conferring with certain clergymen as to what modifications of the rules could be made, which would have the effect of removing these objections and of inducing them to join the National Board. He was informed that if the rule regarding the time for communicating religious instruction in those schools was so far modified as to leave it optional to the patrons of schools to determine when and where the Scriptures should be read, or whether they should not be read at all, their objections to the system would be very much diminished. As to the letter of the Lord Primate which had been alluded to, he concurred in the observations which had fallen from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In the diocese of Armagh there were many Dissenters, Presbyterians and Methodists, who were wealthy, and able to give their children the best education that could be procured. There was no doubt if the clergy could produce first-rate schools those children would be sent to them; but if the clergy could not do so, why in that case they ought to obtain the assistance of the National Board, and wait patiently until they could obtain those modifications which they so much desired.


said a few words in reply.

Motion agreed to. Returns ordered.