HL Deb 06 July 1860 vol 159 cc1513-8

said, that a right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford) had given notice of his intention to call their Lordships' attention to the introduction of the Bible in the schools and colleges of India. The right rev. Prelate had heard the appeal that had been made to the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) a few nights ago to postpone his speech on this subject, and therefore it was not likely that anything he could say would alter the right rev. Prelate's intention. Still, it was only respectful to the noble Duke to make an appeal also to the right rev. Pre- late not to discuss the matter, and to assure him that it was not desirable that he should enter upon the discussion at present.


presented a Petition from Inhabitants of Ham, praying that the Holy Scriptures may not be excluded by Authority from the Government Schools in India. He said he did not intend to enter at length upon the great question to which the petition referred. Their Lordships had recently had an opportunity of hearing all that could be said upon the subject stated ably, completely, and temperately by the noble Duke on the cross-benches (the Duke of Marlborough), and he felt it would be improper for him to attempt to repeat the arguments and statements which had been already submitted to the House. He was, however, anxious, in the first place, to do away with an impression which might probably prevail in the public mind from the mode in which the discussion on a previous evening had terminated. It might appear to the country that the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) stood alone in that House in the opinions which he had expressed. Now, that was very far from being the case. He (the Bishop of Oxford) had been ready and desirous of stating how entirely he concurred in the sentiments expressed by the noble Duke, but the mode in which the discussion terminated prevented his doing so. He was also anxious to suggest two grave considerations to the Government in connection with the subject. He had laid upon the table fifty petitions from various parts of the country with the same prayer as that of the petition he now held in his hand, that the Bible might be introduced into the schools in India; but he was fully persuaded they were not a tithe of the petitions which would pour in upon both Houses of Parliament upon this grave subject, and he would venture to predict that in a matter like this, upon which the religious mind of the people of this country was to a remarkable degree unanimous—when those who differed upon many points of Church government were united in opinion that the Bible ought not to be excluded from the Government schools in India, but that it should be accessible in school hours to all those who desired to study it—that at no distant day that question would be brought to a practical and a successful issue. If there was any danger at all to be apprehended, it would arise from a belief being raised in India that the Government resisted the demand that was made because they thought it would be an infraction of the fair dealing which had been guaranteed to those who differed from us in religion, and that if the demand were carried it would be carried by the religious mind of this country in spite of the wishes of the Government. Such a belief would lead to an impression, untrue, indeed, that the admission of the Bible into schools was something at which they had ground to be alarmed, and which constituted a violation of religious liberty. For his own part he believed that sooner or later the Bible would have to be introduced into these schools, and he was of opinion that it would be much safer to introduce it now, than to postpone it to a later period. It would be a danger in its worst form if the question was left as a subject for agitation in this country. He thought, also, that the introduction of the Bible taking place after an interval would be an evil, because the Native mind would form an opinion that we feared to do so as long as the recollection of the late mutiny remained in our minds, but that only when the memory of that event had passed away did we venture to take the step. There was another consideration he would urge upon the Government. He did not undervalue the dangers of our Indian Empire, but he was convinced that those dangers did not rest upon our simply giving fair play to Christianity, while we cautiously abstained from attempting to inflict Christianity by force, and from entrapping the Natives into Christianity by fraud. Our security would he greater if the Native mind could be taught that we abstained from those courses, not from fear, but because our consciences forbade them. The great danger was that in turning our attention to a false danger, we might overlook the real source of danger. The mode in which the question of Native adoption had been treated was, he believed, full of danger, as also was the annexation policy, and he believed also the proposed change in our army system in India. He was therefore most anxious, without reopening this great subject, to urge as earnestly as he could upon the Government a reconsideration of the position they had taken upon this grave question.


sincerely hoped the Government would give their earnest attention to the appeal of the right rev. Prelate. It was highly inconsistent with our promise to elevate and improve the condition of the Natives of India if we excluded from our schools in that country the Bible, which was the only standard of right and wrong. It was said that the fear of exciting distrust among the Natives and of weakening our hold upon. India was a necessity for excluding the Bible; but that would imply that we valued the material welfare of England more than we cared for the moral condition of India. In a speech lately delivered by Sir Herbert Edwardes on the propagation of Christianity among the Natives that distinguished officer had expressed opinions which he commended to the consideration of the Government, and which he earnestly hoped would have their due influence.


thought that the spectacle which their Lordships presented the other evening when he had the fortitude, or perhaps the hardihood, to bring this question before them was one of the most extraordinary ever witnessed in this House. A subject of the highest importance as affecting the material and the moral interests of the people of India was submitted to their consideration. He was appealed to at a time when he was unable to accede to the request not to proceed with the Motion; he felt the greatest regret that he could not comply with the appeal; but until the last moment he had not supposed that any impediment existed to the consideration of the question, and he was taken by surprise by the remonstrances addressed to him. He rose now for the purpose of vindicating their Lordships' House. [A laugh.] He was willing to accept any derision with which he might be met; but he repeated that he rose to vindicate their Lordships' House, for when a subject of such sacredness and importance was brought forward, it might be expected to receive some attention and some expression of opinion—especially from Her Majesty's Government. He was, however, convinced that the silence observed on that occasion did not indicate any want of interest in their Lordships' minds in regard to the subject. In this House and in the country strong convictions prevailed, which would, he believed, make themselves felt; and so deeply was he impressed with the injurious effects and the dangerous consequences of the present system of education in India, by which the Bible was utterly excluded from the knowledge of the Natives, that he should lose no opportunity of bringing the matter under the notice of their Lordships.


said, it must have been by inadvertence that the noble Duke had declared that he was taken by surprise at the objection raised to his bringing on the Motion. On that occasion the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) appealed to him, though, as he remarked, without much hopes of success, because he had already privately urged the noble Duke not to proceed with the Motion. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) made a similarly ineffectual appeal; and he himself wrote to the noble Duke urging postponement, on the ground that the health of the Lord Privy Seal made it unadvisable that his noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll) should attend. The noble Duke declined compliance, though in general an appeal made on such grounds was at once acceded to. Afterwards, in privately discussing the subject with the noble Duke, he represented, what was the almost universal feeling of the House, that it would be most desirable on public grounds altogether to withdraw for the present a Motion relating to this most delicate question. The noble Duke was therefore not justified in stating that he was taken so complelely by surprise.


admitted that his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) expressed an opinion that it was unadvisable to bring on the Motion; but his noble Friend certainly made no strong remonstrance. He had also received a private communication from the Earl of Shaftesbury to the same effect. But the noble Earl had for months past held peculiar views on this subject, views not shared in by many with whom he was in the habit of acting. The letter from the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) stated that the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) could not attend in his place, and requested, on that ground alone, that the Motion should be postponed. But he (the Duke of Marlborough) did not conceive that that was a sufficient ground for postponing a Motion on a subject of such importance. In the absence of any reason of a public nature which would have justified such postponement, he was, on coming down to the House, taken by surprise by a proposal for the postponement of the Motion on public grounds proceeding from an official quarter.


said, that when he found the noble Duke declined to postpone the Motion on account of the illness of the Lord Privy Seal, he added another reason in conversation for postponement—namely, that he found it was the general opinion of their Lordships that it would be inconvenient to bring the matter forward.


said, that the noble Duke would be entirely mistaken if he supposed that the House was disposed in the slightest degree to treat this important question with levity; and it should be remembered that a noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), in appealing to the noble Duke to postpone the Motion, stated that he did so because he entirely agreed with the noble Duke on the subject. The effect of the decision on the Previous Question was only to prevent the Motion being put at that particular time, and in proposing it he believed he gave vent to the almost unanimous feeling of the House.

Petition to lie on the table.