THE MARQUESS OF BATH
said, that seeing a noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton), one of the Governing Body of Eton College, in his place, he wished to ask him a Question, of which he had given him private Notice. This Question had reference to the proposal to hold what was called a "revival meeting" at Eton, close to the College grounds, for the benefit of the Eton Boys. He was not going to give any opinion as to meetings of that character, nor to enter into any discussion how far such "revivals" might have a good or bad effect in that place; but, speaking on the spur of the moment, he did venture to say that nothing could be more fatal to the discipline of the school, nothing more calculated to interfere with good regulation in the management of the boys, than the permitting their attendance at such a meeting as that which they were invited to attend. The Question he desired to ask his noble Friend (Lord Lyttelton) was, Whether, so far as he was aware, the Provost and Head Master of Eton have given any sanction to the holding of these revivals or religious meetings; whether the Governing Body have been communicated with on the subject; and, whether, if the Head Master has not refused to sanction it, the Governing Body are prepared to take any steps to prevent the. attendance of the boys at the meetings? Their Lord-ships had, no doubt, seen the correspondence on the subject which was published in The Times of that day. For himself, 226 he must say that he could not make out from that correspondence whether the Head Master had sanctioned the meeting, or whether he intended to prohibit the attendance of the boys at it. The matter was one of great importance, and one in which the parents of boys at Eton must feel much interested, and he thought that if his noble Friend could give some assurance on the subject he would confer a great favour on a number of people.
§ LORD LYTTELTON
said, he need not remind their Lordships that the Governing Bodies of the Public Schools were not in the position of the Governing Bodies of many other institutions. The Governing Body of a Public School was a body of widely-scattered persons—they did not sit en permanence, and it was impossible for them to meet and act at a short notice or a sudden emergency. On such an emergency, therefore, if the action of the Governing Body was requisite, it must be undertaken, as far as possible, by such members as might happen to be on the spot. The Head Master was the authority who controlled the daily work of the school. As for the proposed proceedings at Eton, he believed that nothing was known of them until Saturday evening—it was only on Sunday that he (Lord Lyttelton) heard of them, and at the present moment he did not know how many of these services were intended to be given. All he knew was that the first of them was to be held at 3 o'clock Tuesday afternoon on the South Meadow, near the College. Now, if notices had been sent out immediately after the announcement of that meeting it would have been impossible to get the Governing Body together before that time; but, as it happened, the Governing Body were to meet to-morrow at 12 o'clock, and though the question would not be regularly before them by notice, no doubt it would be considered as soon as they came together; and the meeting which was the subject of the noble Marquess's Question would not be held till 3 o'clock. All he could say on be-half of the Governing Body was that they would give the subject their best consideration. The only member of the Governing Body with whom he had had an opportunity of speaking on the subject was his noble Friend who had represented the Home Office in their Lordships' 227 House during the Administration of the late Government (the Earl of Morley). His noble Friend would speak for himself, as a member of the Governing Body of Eton, if he thought right to do so. There had been handed to him two or three letters, which were in continuation of the correspondence already published, and as these also would appear in the newspapers of tomorrow morning he did not think there could be any harm in reading them to their Lordships. As the matter had been made public, the more publicity that could be given to it now the better. The writer of some of these letters was Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen; and he must beg to remark that, as far as the Governing Body were concerned, the responsibility of which that right hon. Gentleman and others had spoken did not exist as he believed. They had a responsibility within their proper functions; but such a permission as that referred to by the noble Marquess was within the sphere of his authority, and not theirs. Subject to the ultimate authority of the Governing Body, which was of a character to which he need not further allude—it had been brought into prominence by what occurred at another Public School (Rugby) a year or two ago—the Head Master was not bound by the the opinion of the Governing Body in respect of any question respecting the daily regulation of the school. Of course the Governing Body could give an opinion on such a question, or on any other, but they had no means of enforcing compliance with it on the part of the Head Master. "With those explanatory observations he would read the letters which he had mentioned to their Lordships, [which his Lordship accordingly did].
THE EARL OF MORLEY
, having been appealed to by his noble Friend (Lord Lyttelton) as one of the Governing Body, wished to corroborate the statement of his noble Friend in relation to the religious services in question—the matter had come upon the Governing Body quite suddenly. It was impossible, even if it were desirable, within the short interval at their disposal, to call together the Governing Body of the College with the view of considering the subject, and it would be unbecoming in him to offer an opinion as to the desirability or un-desirability of the proposed meeting 228 until he had the opportunity of consultation with his Colleagues. Moreover, he had no notion that a Question relating to the subject would be asked by the noble Marquess that evening. There was some doubt, however, whether the Governing Body had any power in the matter at all, inasmuch as all matters relating to the discipline of the school, the daily arrangement of the work, and the liberty given to the boys, rested with the Head Master. But whether the Governing Body had or had not authority in a case like the present was a question open to doubt, and one, therefore, which he should not like to pronounce an opinion on until he had had the opportunity of conversing with his Colleagues.
§ LORD OVERSTONE
was understood to say that he regarded the question before their Lordships as one of very great importance. It had reference to the regulations of a great Public School, in which were educated youths who would hereafter fill high positions in this country, and some of whom would be Members of their Lordships' House. As he understood the proposal to which the question of the noble Marquess had reference, it was to hold what were called—whether truly or not he did not know—religious services in a tent to be erected within the very grounds of the College. Those services were to be of a sensational character, to be specially addressed to the boys of the school, but not under the control of the authorities of the school, the Provost, or the Head Master. In his opinion, the case was one eminently calling for promptitude and decision. The religious teaching of their greatest public school ought not to pass into other hands than those of the constituted authorities, and he hoped that if the Head Master did not refuse his sanction to the proposal, the Governing Body would not hesitate to express their judgment.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
wished to point out to the noble Lord who had just spoken that it was not proposed to erect the tent within the College grounds, but in the South Meadows, just outside those grounds.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
thought that there ought to have been Notice of a Question on a subject which was certain to give rise to discussion. This discussion had been commenced 229 just after 5 o'clock, which was before the time of Public Business, and yet letters had been read and language had been used in which there was strong condemnation of Messrs. Moody and Sankey. He did not wish to pass an opinion one way or the other upon the matter to which it related; but he did think that in a matter of such high importance, and one in which the feelings of the country were excited, the House ought to have had full Notice before being called upon to consider it.
§ LORD LYTTELTON
said, that the fault which the noble Earl had found with him and the noble Marquess who had asked the Question was chargeable, not on them, but on the gentlemen who had commenced proceedings at Eton without notice. The suddenness of their proceedings had made it impossible that any Notice of this discussion could have been given to the noble Earl and his friends Messrs. Moody and Sankey.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
said, he thought it was a Standing Order of their Lordships' House that no Question which was likely to lead to a discussion should be asked without Notice.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
said, that as he understood the Rule of the House to which the noble Earl had just referred, it was that no Question likely to lead to a discussion should be asked without regular Notice in cases in which it was possible to give such Notice; but there were cases in which it was not. As, however, he thought this question had been sufficiently discussed, he ventured to suggest that they ought to proceed to the Orders of the Day.