HL Deb 11 June 1861 vol 163 cc916-29

rose pursuant to Notice to move That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Return of the Names of all the Witnesses who, either orally or by Document, gave Evidence in respect of Ragged Schools in the Metropolis to the Central and Assistant Commissioners; and the Names also of the Schools therein visited by any of them. The same also for the Towns of Manchester and Liverpool. The noble Earl said: My Lords, if the Commissioners had contented themselves with simply saying, that after a due examination of the ragged school system they could not recommend Government to lend their assistance, neither I nor those with whom I act would have said a single word on the subject. They, however, instead of pursuing that course, brought such heavy charges against the system, and condemned it in terms so strong, that if their statements be true, we ought, I do not hesitate to say, to break up the system altogether, as unworthy even of that benevolent aid which it has hitherto received. But then the question arises, are those allegations well founded? and in order to furnish an answer to that question it is necessary that we should have the names of the witnesses who gave the evidence upon which these allegations are based. In the first volume of their Report (vol. i. page 394) the Commissioners say— The bulk of these scholars appear to be children either of out-door paupers or of persons who can send their children to paying schools, and who would do so if there were no ragged schools. Now, here we have at once a statement that we are carrying out this system in a manner the most injudicious, and, if the Report be correct in this respect, we are, no doubt, open to animadversion. Again, in the following page I find this passage— It is indispensable that they (i.e., any class of schools claiming Government aid) should be shown to be likely to produce permanent valuable results, but this is not the case with the ragged schools. The Commissioners, adopting the language of one of the Assistant Commissioners, Mr. Cumin, and thus making it their own, further say— There may be one or two cases in which, under such unpromising circumstances, a boy or girl has derived benefit from a ragged school, though I admit that I have been unable to discover any. Now, I have searched through the Report to see whether the Commissioners, in making this statement, have referred to any evidence with a view to support it; but I cannot find that such is the case. I have, I may add, been informed that a good deal of evidence was given by word of mouth, both to the Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners, which does not appear in the Report; there being no reference even to the names of the persons by whom it was given. It is then, your Lordships will at once perceive, a matter of great importance that we should have those names, in order that we may be able to form a judgment as to whether the witnesses were persons conversant with the ragged school system, and whether their testimony is of a character on which reliance can be placed. There is one very important point, with a view to the elucidation of which I am anxious to have those names. In page 388 of the Report the following statement is made:— There are in England and Wales 14 evening ragged schools, containing 707 scholars. But I find that, according to the Returns for the same year which were given in to the Commissioners by the Secretary of the London Ragged Schools Union, that the number of those schools in London alone was 187, while the number of scholars was 9,465. It was, however, stated some time ago that when the Commissioners had looked into these returns they found that a large proportion of those who attended these schools were adults, whom they did not take into account in making their calculations. It is nevertheless the fact, that although there may be in the evening schools in London a very few pupils who are sixteen years of age, the vast majority were only thirteen years and under. I should, under these circumstances, very much like to know the evidence on which the statement in the Report of the Commissioners is founded. It is further stated, in page 603 of the Appendix to the Report, that the number of ragged schools in the whole of Lancashire was in 1858 only six, and the number of scholars 927; whereas, the fact is, that in Liverpool alone there were in last year 46 schools, the average attendance at which amounted to 5,822. I may add that Mr. Gillespie, of the Ragged School Union of Liverpool, with whom I communicated upon the subject, wrote to me to say that he had himself sent to the Commissioners a copy of a Report containing a statement to that effect. There is no notice, however, in the Report of Mr. Gilles-pie's figures. They are altogether omitted, his name is not even mentioned, and the number of schools throughout Lancashire is stated to be six, and the number of scholars 927. Now, I shall be very glad to have the evidence upon which these figures rest. The Ragged School Union, I may say, is in no way responsible for the provincial returns, and is responsible only for its own. The returns which I have mentioned were their returns in 1858, and they are utterly contradicted by those for the same year given by the Commissioners. Again, the Report of the Commissioners is not sustained by the reports of their assistants. In some parts it may be, but in others it is not so sustained. In the reports of the Assistant Commissioners I find what never would have been gathered from any part of the general report or from the statement of the noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle). I mean a great many passages strongly laudatory of ragged schools and of the ragged school system. Mr. Hedley says— In provincial towns (his observations are confined to Newark and Doncaster) there does not seem to be any necessity at all parallel to that which suggested ragged schools in London and other large towns. Mr. Winder says— In Bradford the permanent pauper children are fairly cared for by the guardians. There is abundant room for the children of the criminal and degraded classes in the ragged schools. Mr. Foster mentions ragged schools in Durham and Penrith, but gives no opinion on them. These two gentlemen speak disparagingly of ragged schools as a permanent system, while they admit that good is done. The Commissioners, having quoted so largely from Mr. Cumin in disparagement of ragged schools, ought in fairness to have quoted from him passages which are in a great measure laudatory of those schools. So far as you can gather from the Commissioners' Report you would suppose that Mr. Cumin condemned ragged schools from beginning to end. Now, let me quote this passage— But, making every allowance, I cannot doubt that a very considerable influence for good is exerted by these Ragged Evening Schools, conducted by voluntary teachers.


I read the passage.


I certainly did not hear it, nor do I find any reference made to this question, which was put to Mr. Jago, master of the Free School, Plymouth— Q. What is your opinion of ragged schools? A. The establishment of ragged schools has, no doubt, conferred a very important benefit on the ordinary day schools, by separating the vicious and incorrigible from the mass of the more respectable and working men's children. Mr. Hare speaks with disapproval of the ragged schools in Ipswich; he adds, however, The three ragged schools in my district are, most undoubtedly, confined to their declared purpose. Miss Elizabeth Twining speaks highly in favour of Evening Ragged Schools— They (the ragged scholars) often gain good characters in their first place, for diligence and willingness to work. Why was no allusion made to the strong evidence given by Mr. Tuffnell? He says— There are a great number of children about London who do not go into either the National Schools or pauper schools; and I believe that ragged schools are of great utility in getting hold of these children. Then this important question was put to him— Is your experience strong with regard to the number of children who have been permanently improved from their attendance on a ragged school? His answer is emphatically, "Yes." There was no reference to this in the general Report, and you must take the trouble of wading through several portentous volumes in order to arrive at it. Again, it was said to me— You ask why we did not apply for the evidence of the police. But we did apply, and the testimony of a policeman was given, Now, what is that evidence? Here are are the words of Policeman Handcock, as quoted by the noble Duke— I do not know any facts which should induce me to say that ragged schools have diminished juvenile crime, and there the quotation ended. When I heard it I was a good deal surprised, but I was not at the time prepared to make any reply. On referring to the original, however, I find that the quotation ended, not at a full stop, but at a comma or semi-colon; and Mr. Handcock went on to say— But I believe that they must have diminished crime. I ask, why a passage was suppressed which completely reverses the whole effect of the sentence as quoted? Again, the noble Duke quoted this passage from Mr. Hand-cock's evidence— From my experience in London I have no doubt that the parents, if they chose, could afford to pay one penny per week for each child capable of going to school. That was quoted to show that the parents were in a position to pay for the education of their children. My argument is, that many can pay, but are so profligate that they will not pay; and it is remarkable that this opinion expressed by Mr. Handcock was also omitted— I think that those children who now pay nothing to the ragged school would not go if they had to pay a penny. Why was this suppressed? Then we come to Dr. Hodgson, to whom was assigned a part of the metropolitan district. The noble Duke quoted Dr. Hodgson as speaking doubtfully of the quality of children admitted. He certainly does. But why was no reference made to his high praise of the schools? Dr. Hodgson For those really unable from destitution, culpable or not, to pay even the present rates, special provision must be made in the ragged schools or otherwise. Again he says— That these schools provide a useful, kind, and a respectable amount of teaching for many children who would otherwise be utterly neglected is beyond doubt. [The Duke of NEWCASTLE: "Hear, hear!"] No doubt there was a laudatory passage in the Report of the Commissioners. At the end of the Report there is a compliment to all those who have laboured at this work; but it is a compliment to their benevolence at the expense of their judgment, and that compliment excited more pain than anything else on the part of those to whom it was addressed. Moreover, if the compliment be true the Report must be false, and if the Report be true the compliment must be false. I say again that the assistant-commissioners by no means bear out the general Report. Dr. Hodgson says in another part of the volume— The value of such schools is not to be judged of by the amount of knowledge imparted, or even of power given to write and cipher, but by their effect in taming, and softening, and cleansing, through sympathy and kindness, those young victims of others' wrongdoing, and making them feel that they are cared for and that even for them an honest and creditable, if laborious, future may be in store. Here is a strong objection taken by Mr. Wilkinson, to whom another part of London was assigned. He says—and this passage was quoted by the noble Duke— The short result of my inquiry upon this branch of my instructions is that in my district ragged schools do not sufficiently retain the distinctive features with which they were originally instituted; and that thus, while they give instruction to those who desire to receive, and often use it for a bad purpose, they do not supply a moral and mental education to those who most want it. Now nothing could be more condemnatory than this statement:—but only one page before the same Commissioner says, while hoping for the substitution of industrial for ragged schools— I freely admit, upon a balance of good and evil, the good effected by these schools largely predominates. Yet this was never mentioned in the general Report or in the debate in this House. I merely require the names of those who have given testimony, that it may be known from what evidence the facts and figures are derived; and, if the names are refused, it will appear as if the Commission has been pretty nearly a secret one. The noble Earl concluded by moving the Address for the Returns.


—My Lords, I cannot help thinking that, if the noble Earl desires to ascertain the truth in this matter, he has taken a very inconvenient mode of obtaining it. He has not only not contented himself with impugning the justice and accuracy of the Report, but at least half the speech he has made this evening has been a reply to the speech I made on a former occasion, and he has attempted to prove that I then read garbled extracts from the Report, with the view of establishing my case against his. If the noble Earl intended to take this mode of elucidating the truth, it would have been more conducive to his object as well as more courteous had he given me some intimation of his intention, instead of putting a plausible notice on the paper for a mere return of names. I so completely anticipated that the noble Earl would have moved for these returns in a speech of a single sentence, or without making a speech at all, that I did not think it necessary to bring down with me my own copy of the Report with the passages marked that I read in the last discussion. But, seeing a few minutes ago the noble Earl armed with a mass of papers, I sent to the library for a copy of the Report, that I might be able to answer any statement of the noble Earl. Now, first, as to the charge of garbling extracts—that is no light charge to bring against any man; and, therefore, I must call your Lordships' attention to the circumstances from which the last debate arose. The noble Earl brought an accusation against the Commissioners that they had founded "foul charges" against the system of ragged schools solely on the evidence of Mr. Cumin on the only two towns he had visited. The noble Earl having been before that debate engaged in a newspaper controversy with Mr. Cumin, I knew what to expect. Now the Report, as far as it refers to the ragged schools, is not based on the evidence of Mr. Cumin alone, but on the testimony of forty or fifty other witnesses, whose statements fully justified the conclusions of the Report; and I read extracts from that testimony to show that there was much evidence adverse to the views of the noble Earl, and that there was none of that malignity which the noble Earl charges against the Assistant Commissioners. I read the whole evidence of policeman Handcock, who, I understood, was in the confidence of one of the most zealous promoters of ragged schools—Miss Carpenter. I remember distinctly saying, "I will draw out of the mouth of one witness most likely to be favourable to ragged schools a statement that, from his experience in London, he could not say that any facts he had observed justified the opinion that ragged schools have diminished juvenile crime." I did not profess to quote all the evidence I could find on both sides of the question. The Commissioners impartially examined the question; they gave credit to the promoters of ragged schools for having done much good but they adhered to the opinion that the ragged schools were not such establishments as ought to receive grants of money from the Committee of the Privy Council. That is the whole gist of the Report, and of the Reports of the Assistant Commissioners. The noble Earl says that nothing can be so unfair—that these passages from the evidence are not given in the body of the Report. But, my Lords, why do we print evidence separately from Reports? I am sure we all feel that, if the Report had a special fault, it was that it contained too many passages from the evidence. Had we encumbered it with more, We should have made it unreadable; and if we had quoted every passage for or against a particular system, we should have reprinted in the Report nearly all the evidence in the five volumes. The noble Earl has made one charge of an extraordinary nature, and has repeated a marvellous error. He says we paid great attention to the evidence of Mr. Cumin, but that he could not find any quotation from any witness favourable to ragged schools. Accustomed, as I have been, to strange inaccuracies on the part of the noble Earl, I confess I was amazed for the moment, and could hardly conceive that he had made such a statement—because I perfectly recollected that we had quoted the great supporter of ragged schools, Miss Carpenter. I turned immediately to the Report and I find that, so far from it be- ing true that we quoted nobody but Mr. Cumin, the evidence of Miss Carpenter is quoted more fully. There are nearly three pages of Miss Carpenter's evidence given. Perhaps the noble Earl has done it more politely than he did on a former occasion, but, indirectly, he has made as strong, as unfair, and as unjustifiable charges against the Commissioners as he did more directly, and most violently, in the former debate. I little anticipated the noble Earl would go over the same ground this evening; but, with the advantage of having had time to examine it, he has attempted to answer the speech I made in the first discussion. He says, as before, that we have used language with regard to the ragged schools that is unjust and unfair. He says he should have been perfectly satisfied had we merely stated we did not consider them such institutions as ought to be patronized by the State; but that we had gone a great deal further, and condemn them as useless. I read various passages to show this is not the case; all we did Was—what has been done over and over again by the Privy Council—to state our opinion that, without an entire change in the system of grants of the £800,000 given to the sup' port of schools, ragged schools cannot be included in the number. I will not read any of the passages I read on the former evening, but there is one passage I did not read then. The noble Earl says it is an insulting Report, as it compliments the benevolence of the promoters of ragged schools at the expense of their judgment, and that if the compliment is true the Report must be false; while, if the Report is true, the compliment must be false. But, whether that be so or not, I feel bound to read one extract from our Report which will enable the House to ascertain whether we have laid ourselves open to the imputation of the noble Earl— In order to avoid the appearance of ingratitude for service of the most valuable, disinterested, and self-denying character, we conclude our observations on this head by recording our strong opinion that no class of persons interested in popular education have conferred greater services upon the public, or services involving greater sacrifices of personal convenience and inclination than the managers of ragged and industrial schools, and similar establishments. We think that the time may come when these generous and charitable efforts may advantageously be replaced by a general system; but the fact that they first directed public attention to the subject, and that their labours showed the extent and urgency of the evil to be met, and the proper means of meeting it, ought never to be forgotten. I will ask your Lordships whether that is a mere compliment to an individual? If the noble Earl thinks so, his mind must be so perverted upon this subject that it would be impossible to convince him. There is, no doubt, a compliment conveyed to individuals, but we go further, and say, "that they have conferred greater services upon, the public," and "that they recognized the evil and the means to meet it." That, I submit, is a distinct recognition of the good which ragged schools have done. It goes on to say that a time may soon come when the system of ragged schools may be dispensed with, and the public money should not be granted to those schools—at least, not to a greater extent than at present. I do not know whether the noble Earl really cares about the returns for which he has asked, or whether he merely uses them as a means of renewing his attack upon the Commissioners and myself. As to the return of the names of the witnesses and schools, it will be impossible for us to give any considerable portion. How far the Assistant Commissioners may be able or willing to give the information I cannot say, but certainly they would be justified in refusing to give it. We appointed the Assistant Commissioners, and we told them how to make a complete inquiry and report to us. We have not seem their note books of evidence; our Report is founded upon their reports. As I said before, our inquiry was twofold—first, to obtain the statistics of education and schools; and next, to ascertain the progress of education. Upon the first branch the Assistant Commissioners obtained returns from every school in their district, and, no doubt, they have the names of those schools in their note books, if they have not destroyed them. I am not at all endeavouring to prevent the noble Earl from obtaining the information he seeks, and if he wishes it I will make a private representation to the Assistant Commissioners to ask if they are willing to furnish information; but I do not think it would be fair for us to call upon the Assistant Commissioners to give up their note books to be scrutinized not only by Parliament, but by persons who had been unfavourably, and perhaps invidiously affected by their inquiries. The noble Earl will perceive from our instructions to the Assistant Commissioners that our object was not to reflect discredit or blame on any school, that we did not wish that the names of parties or schools should be sent to us, and that if they were sent to us, we should not publish them in our Report. Therefore, I am not certain that, as regards the first part of the noble Earl's Motion, it will be possible to give it; but I repeat, that if he wishes it, I will appeal privately to the Assistant Commissioners to give such information as they can with propriety towards others and with justice to themselves, and allow it to be placed upon the Table. When the noble Earl goes on to ask for some returns from Liverpool and Manchester, I am equally as surprised as I was by his statement that we had omitted all reference to the evidence of the friends of ragged schools; because he must have seen from the Report, and gathered from my former statement, that Liverpool and Manchester were not included in the specimen districts to which the Assistant Commissioners were appointed. The reason for that was, that in respect of Liverpool we had a valuable report from a reverend gentleman named Howson as to the whole state of education in that town, and we thought it best to send the Assistant Commissioners to districts which had not been so carefully inquired into. I may here remark as a singular fact, that Mr. Howson, who was totally unconnected with us, and was acting solely with a view to ascertain facts in order to lay them before a body established for the promotion of Social Science, he, I believe, never mentions the ragged schools in the Report. Therefore, as far as Liverpool and Manchester are concerned, it will be impossible to give the returns, I may, however, take this opportunity of referring to a charge made by the noble Earl, that a Mr. Gillespie, who is connected with the ragged schools of Liverpool, had sent as certain documents and statistics, and that we had declined to insert them. I have had no opportunity of making further inquiries, but I am confident, from the information I have, that Mr. Gillespie did not make those returns, and that all that were received from Liverpool were inserted in the Report. I must leave it to Mr. Gillespie to explain the statement that the noble Lord has made. It is possible that there are some slight inaccuracies. I know, indeed, of one in the case of the independent schools; but an admission of the error, which arose from the accidental omission of a vote, has been: given under the seal of the Commissioners. The greatest possible pains were taken to insure accuracy, and in the case of the independent schools, we corrected a numerical error in the returns which had been sent in to us. I really do not know that I need make any further observations upon the speech of the noble Earl. My answer has unavoidably been somewhat rambling, owing to my having had so little reason to anticipate this renewal of attack; but I may mention that, so anxious were the Commissioners to be just to the ragged schools, that on receiving Mr. Cumin's Report, which certainly in its general character was more unfavourable to the ragged schools than any other, we thought that before we came to a decision on that subject we would obtain as much evidence as we could on the other side. We, therefore, sent out a series of questions to no less than twenty-eight individuals of both sexes in different parts of the country who were most friendly to this class of schools, and from the largest portion of them we received answers. Mr. Cumin's Report was also submitted to Miss Carpenter, who had thus an opportunity of making any remark upon it. "With respect to the Returns now moved for, I shall endeavour to get as much of the information asked for as I can, and to place it before the noble Earl and those who act with him; and if he should then desire it to be laid on the table it will be competent for him to make a proposal to that effect. But, with regard to ragged schools, we have no wish to conceal or keep back anything. I find that it has been stated in discussion in "another place" that this Commission has been extremely costly. I hope your Lordships will not think it improper if I attempt to disabuse the public mind on that point, believe that this Commission, considering the extent of its task and the wide field over which its inquiry was conducted, was one of the cheapest as well as most laborious that ever sat. It was stated in the House of Commons that it must at least have cost the country £40,000. Now, I have ascertained that, so far from that being the case, including the salaries of secretary, assistant secretary, and clerks, the salaries of the ten Assistant Commissioners, and the cost of what was, in fact, an Educational Census, the whole charge to the public for the Commission—the printing Bill alone excepted—did not exceed £12,500. I can only say if the object is not to prejudice the case, or to bring unfair accusations against individuals who have performed a public duty but to elucidate the truth, then I do hope whenever this Report is again called in question, be it by the noble Earl or anybody else, that notice of an intelligible Motion shall be given beforehand, so that as Chairman of the Commission I may have an opportunity of coming prepared answer any allegations that may be made against it.


expressed his regret that these discussions had been raised, because they originated in the most unaccountable delusions existing in the mind of the noble Earl who had brought forward the subject. At the same time he must say he thought the noble Duke had thoroughly exculpated the Commission, and refuted in a wholly satisfactory and honourable manner the imputations which had been cast upon it. Having looked carefully over the Report himself he was entirely unable to discover any ground for the charge of violent hostility to ragged schools which had been preferred against the Commissioners. The terms in which it referred to those schools were mild and reasonable. He had had some personal experience upon Royal Commissions, and knew something of the labours and anxieties connected with them, as well as of the misapprehensions and misrepresentations to which they must be exposed. He could, therefore, sympathize deeply with the Educational Commissioners in the attacks which had been made upon them for the manner in which they had contributed to the elucidation of a difficult subject, and rendered most valuable and important services to the public gratuitously. He had to thank them cordially for the satisfactory manner in which they had performed a laborious and invidious task, surrounded as they were by great and various difficulties, and liable to misconstruction through religious and other prejudices. When the aspersions which had been cast upon them were all forgotten, the service which they had rendered by the well digested collection of so vast a mass of evidence, and the useful suggestions accompanying it would, he believed, live in the grateful recollection of the country.


in reply, said he had never complained that the whole body of the evidence was not incorporated in the general Report. What he complained of was, that the condemnation of ragged schools rested, so far as that Report was concerned, upon the testimony of one Assistant Commissioner. He was most anxious to obtain the names of the parties who had given evidence. The noble Duke said the Motion was informal; if it were so he should certainly remodel it. If the Government felt they could consistently with propriety give him the information he wanted he should be exceedingly obliged.


advised the noble Earl to withdraw the Motion. He did not say it was informal, but if complied with it would form a very bad precedent.


was entirely in the hands of the noble Duke. If he could not consistently with his duty give the information desired, he would submit; if he could give it he would, perhaps, be kind enough to do so.


said, he had just had the opportunity of speaking to a gentleman who had made up the statistical Returns, and tabulated them for the Commission, having bestowed on them much laborious and valuable attention. That gentleman confirmed every word he had uttered in his address to their Lordships-and made this further statement with regard to Mr. Gillespie:—No fewer than thirty-six forms of returns had been sent down to him with a view to a return of the Lancashire schools, but not one of these forms had been sent back to the office. Mr. Gillespie, so far as the office was concerned, had taken no notice of these communications whatever. The Commissioners were anxious to make the best statement they could for everybody, even where the parties had neglected their own interests; having no returns from Lancashire, they were, therefore, obliged to avail themselves of any knowledge they could obtain, and all they did take was the Census of 1851. But these returns were, of course, incomplete. The blame entirely rested on the promoters of ragged schools themselves, who were the best parties to furnish the required information.


begged to say that he had been informed by Mr. Gillespie that he had sent to the Commissioners a copy of their Report for 1858, relating to forty-six schools, with an average attendance of nearly 6,000 children, which ought to have been included in the Report of the Commissioners.

Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.

House adjourned at Eight, o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Four o'clock.