§ Captain Alsager
presenting a petition from a meeting held at the Horns tavern, Kennington, against the proposed grant for National Education,
§ Captain Alsager
replied, that he presented the petition as the result of the resolutions which were passed at the meeting alluded to.
§ Mr. Hawes
then said he should object to the petition being brought up, because he held in his hand the petition of the gentleman who was put into the chair after his hon. Friend had been turned out by a majority of those present. This gentleman, who was himself of perfect respectability, and the son of a highly respecta- 228 ble county magistrate, stated, that the majority of the meeting was decidedly opposed to the views of his hon. Friend (Captain Alsager), and those who supported him on that occasion; that it was not a public meeting, the parties being only admitted by tickets, and he protested against the petition being received as that of the meeting, the great majority denying any acquiescence in it. The petitioner further stated, that very considerable confusion took place at the meeting, and that the members of the established church who were present were by no means peacemakers on the occasion. His hon. Friend having represented this as a petition founded on the resolutions passed at a public meeting, he trusted the House would consider, under the circumstances, that he was justified in objecting to the petition being received as the petition of the meeting.
§ Captain Alsager
could only repeat what he had stated before, that the petition was the result of the meeting over which he presided. No one was admitted to the meeting without a card similar to the one which he then held in his hand, and which bound all who used it to acquiesce in the decision of the chairman. Out of the 1,200 persons who were present there were about 200 Liberals, who made an incessant noise during the whole time. He endeavoured to make an explanation to them, and to point out to them that the meeting was expressly held to propose and second certain resolutions. Those resolutions were proposed and seconded; and he told the parties that they had not met there to discuss the question. So far from being turned out of the chair, he begged leave to observe, that the hon. Member was not present or he would not have said so. No person attempted to turn him out of the chair, so long as he chose to remain in it. No person inter- 229 fered with his sitting there; but after he found, that he was not able to obtain a heating for the speakers from the noise that was made, then he certainly did leave the room, accompanied by 500 or 600 persons around him. When he found, that he could not get a hearing he held Up the resolutions in large letters and put them as well as he was able, and he was informed by many gentlemen who were there, that they were passed by a majority of at least four to one. After he left the chair there was a rush by some of the friends of the Liberals to take possession of it, and one of them, who was more vigorous than the rest, coming on the platform, was immediately taken into the committee room by some of his (Captain Alsager's) friends, when he said, that he had come there only as a listener. When they had all left, and it was dark, and the lights were put out, Mr. Curling took the chair, and a scene of riot and confusion took place. Some thoughts were entertained of calling on the police to act, but the policemen said, that there was no actual mischief done, except breaking a few chairs and benches, therefore, said they, "let them go, if anything further takes place we will interfere." He was sorry to occupy the time of the House, but a charge having been made against him, he felt it due to himself to give it a thorough and distinct denial.
§ Mr. Kemble
was prevented attending the meeting, but as it had been stated by the hon. Member for Lambeth, that there was a majority in favour of Mr. Curling and his party, he (Mr. Kemble) begged to say, that all whom he had seen, who had attended the meeting concurred in saying, that the majority was most decidedly in favour of the resolutions proposed by his worthy colleague.
§ Petition laid on the Table.
rose in conformity with the notice which he had given, in conformity, as he believed, with the sentiments of a vast majority of those petitioners, who in almost unprecedented numbers had represented their feelings and their wishes to the House, in accordance he believed, too, with a large and overwhelming majority of the entire population of the country, not to meet the Government 230 proposition by any doubtful or ambiguous motion, not to get rid of it, by a side wind, or by availing himself of any Parliamentary forms or technicalities to secure an incidental defeat, but at once to grapple fairly and openly with the Ministerial proposition, at once to oppose the plan or plans, whichever it might be, which had been introduced by the Government for the purpose of establishing what they were pleased to call a national system of education. He rose for the purpose of objecting to the proposition for giving a direct control over the moral and religious education of the people of this country to any board or committee, or to any body, call it by what name they would, so composed, and so constituted as to be decidedly and exclusively political in its character, and necessarily fluctuating and uncertain in its composition, and in which there was no element of a defined or fixed principle of action, and into which from its constitution and composition it was impossible that it could so happen, that a single individual could be admitted of those who were by the laws of the country entitled to superintend the moral education and to direct the spiritual instruction of the people. He might have suffered the House to go into committee of supply, and in that committee he might have objected to the grant of 30,000l. which the Government proposed; but, if he had done so, he well knew to what misrepresentations he should have been subjected; he knew well the charges which would have been brought forward, the insinuations which would have been made, and the calumnies which would have been promulgated, if he had followed such a course. It would have been said, that he and those with whom he acted, had resisted an object which was of paramount importance to the well-being of the community, that they had stood in the way of the education of the people, and that they had prevented the Government from providing from the public funds for the instruction of the people. But another plan was open to him. He might have introduced a specific motion directly condemning the plan of national education which had been brought forward by the Government, and he might have taken the sense of the House on that motion. He had thought at one time that such a course of proceeding was desirable, and had intended to follow it, but 231 he now rejoiced that on further and more mature deliberation, he had abandoned it, because he saw, and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had afforded him ample proof of the fact, how easy it would have been to have slipped away from the plan of yesterday, whatever it might have been, and how little difficult it would have been, when the plan of yesterday had been condemned and scouted by every man of reason and understanding, and when it had been turned into ridicule and made an object for the laughter and derision of the whole country, to have brought forward a new plan, when the noble Lord would have consoled himself and those who shared his confidence and agreed with him in opinion with saying, "O, true, the plan of Yesterday is condemned; but look at the plan of to-day; there can be no objection to the new plan." He felt, that so long as the committee was irresponsible, so long as its object was undefined and uncertain, so long as its powers were unlimited, and while the exercise of those powers was not checked, not fettered, not restrained, not limited by Parliament, so long would it remain a fertile source of new plans—plans following each other in rapid succession, springing up as fast as they were destroyed, and each as objectionable as the first, each as absurd and dangerous as another, yet each evading some of those details which had insured the condemnation of its predecessor. So long as that board or committee was allowed to exist, so long he felt persuaded they would find scheme after scheme produced for abstracting money from the public funds in furtherance of a system of education which a majority of the country condemned, and which was completely at variance with the constitutional principles which he and those on his side of the House supported and maintained, and which it was impossible they could abandon without the grossest dereliction of their public duty. No sooner would one scheme be destroyed, than another would succeed: ——"Primo avulso non deficit alter:that "alter," too, was an "alter aureuset simili frondescit virga metallo.No, such was not the course to pursue with a body so constituted and so changeable, and he had resolved to take a more open and a more bold and decisive course. He distinctly objected to that board or 232 Committee, and to all those plans which had been laid before them for the establishment of a system of national education. He objected to the unlimited and irresponsible powers vested in the committee of the Privy Council, and from that irresponsible, unfettered, and consequently despotic committee, he appealed to the calm deliberation of the people, and to the constitutional authority of the British Parliament. If it had been proposed, that the proceedings of this board should have been limited, and restricted to purely Executive and Ministerial purposes—if the plan which had been brought forward had been merely to transfer to the committee the authority formerly vested in the Lords of the Treasury, an authority definite and restricted, and which was exercised for the purpose of facilitating the distribution of the grant of assistance made by the state towards the support of the plan of education pursued by the two societies to whom the grant was given, and which plan was subject to definite and known rules, he for one should not have objected to the transfer of that authority from the Treasury to a committee of the Privy Council. He should have thought it of little importance whether that grant was to be managed and controlled, and whether that authority was to be exercised, by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a Lord of the Treasury or as a Lord of the Privy Council. But that was not the object of the Government scheme. No such plan had been brought forward by the noble Lord. Nor was there any restriction in the proposition which had been submitted to their consideration. They were called upon by the proposition of the noble Lord to delegate by a resolution of only one branch of the Legislature powers undefined, unlimited, vague, uncertain, and irresponsible to an irresponsible body—to a committee of the Privy Council, which was to execute those powers totally independent of all control, and without being responsible to Parliament. The noble Lord in opening, he believed, his first scheme, but he was uncertain, for like other plans that scheme had been since abandoned; but in explaining one of his schemes the noble Lord had said, that, in his opinion, it was desirable to form the board of education not of persons of one party or of the other, and, of course, when the noble Lord had spoke of parties, he had spoken of parties with 233 reference to the Established Church. [Cries of "No, no!"] Yes, such was the statement which had been made. The noble Lord, after alluding to the National Society, and the British and Foreign School Society, had said,I know there has been a wish, and it was expressed in the last Session by the hon. Member for Waterford, that there should be a central board of education. Now, if that were to be formed by combining persons of different persuasions, I think it will appear, from what I have already stated, that it would not be a board having the general confidence of the Church. I think it better, therefore, that we should form that body, call them board, or committee, or what you will, not of persons who belong to one party or the other, but that we should form it entirely of the official servants of the Crown, and that it should depend on the confidence of this House whether or not that system should be supported.Such was the statement of the noble Lord, and from the opinions expressed in that statement he would take the liberty to dissent in the most direct and positive terms. He thought it most objectionable, that a matter so important and so little connected with party as a system of education was, should be made dependent as regarded its permanency on a change of Government, that it should be mixed up with party contests; that it should be made subject to change on every defeat of the party in power; that it should not depend upon the merits of the system adopted, but upon political considerations; and that it should depend for support, not upon Parliament, nor upon the country, but upon a bare majority in that House. He thought it highly objectionable that funds should be placed in the hands of a Government without any restrictions regarding its distribution, and independent of the control of Parliament, and which might, therefore, be applied to the support of the views of its own political Friends. He would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they would consent to repose such confidence in a Government composed of persons entertaining conscientiously the opinion that the National Church was the only fair and proper channel for the distribution and application of such grants as Parliament might think it right to make for purposes of national education? He would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they would not look upon a committee formed exclusively from the members of the National Church, 234 and having the sole power over the funds voted by Parliament for purposes of education with a natural jealousy—a jealousy founded upon the presumption, that being restrained by no Parliamentary control, the Government was entitled to apply funds voted for a specific purpose to the promotion of their own political views? And if there was danger in intrusting funds of this description to a Government powerfully supported by Parliament and strong in the confidence of the country, was it not doubly dangerous to intrust them without restraint to a Government powerless in itself—to a Government so weak and feeble as absolutely to be struggling for their political existence? Who were depending upon a small majority of that House, who were often opposed by those who called themselves the supporters of the Government, who were obliged to court the favour of every man, no matter what might be his political principles, and who, on the most important occasions, were forced to manifest the most extreme anxiety to gain even the votes of half-a-dozen Gentlemen on any terms or on any conditions? Was it not highly objectionable to intrust such funds to such a Government, when, even should that Government, in violation of the confidence reposed in them, apply a great portion of those funds for the purpose of acquiring the favour of their political supporters throughout the country, there was no body to whom they were responsible, no one who could call for an account of the way in which the grants made by Parliament had been expended? The noble Lord had said, that it was desirable that the board to be formed should have the confidence of that House, and it was proposed that on the opinion of that House it should depend whether the system of education to be established should be permanent or not. But did not that at once introduce the elements of change? Was such a system one on which the nation would depend, and was it possible for the people to place their confidence in a scheme liable to be altered or even entirely changed, according to the fluctuations of a majority, however small, of that House? But when the noble Lord spoke of the confidence of Parliament, he would refer him, on that point, to the opinions of a body to which the noble Lord looked up as an authority, and of which he (Lord Stanley) should be sorry 235 to speak in any other terms than those of respect. The mode in which the British and Foreign School Society spoke in their memorial of the formation of the Board of Education was as follows. They said,The committee are desirous of respectfully, but earnestly, urging upon the attention of the Government the paramount importance of establishing, as preliminary to every other measure, a board of education, enjoying the confidence of the various religious denominations of the country. The committee strongly feel that on the degree in which such confidence is reposed will mainly depend the efficiency of all efforts in favour of education.Now, he would ask the noble Lord in what religious denomination, or in what portion of any religious denomination, in this country, did he flatter himself that he could reckon upon confidence, either in this board of education, or in any of the schemes of education which he contemplated? He apprehended that the noble Lord would not say, that he enjoyed the confidence of the Established Church. He thought, too, that the noble Lord would admit, that the Church of England was not the least important of all the religious societies in the land. He believed that the noble Lord would not deny, that the vast majority of the laity of that Established Church, that the great majority of the clergy of that Church, and that, with hardly a single exception, if indeed there was an exception, the whole of the prelates of the Church had expressed, one and all, not their confidence, but their entire and absolute dissent from the principles embodied in the minutes of the committee for the formation of that board. To what quarter, then, would the noble Lord next turn for confidence amongst the religious denominations of the country? He would ask the noble Lord which, next to the Established Church, was the most important, which was the most numerous, which was the most zealous, which was the most active in the cause of education of all those sects into which the other Protestant portions of the community was divided? The noble Lord would answer him, or if not, the country would answer for him, beyond comparison the Wesleyan body. They would tell him, that from the days of John Wesley downward, that sect had been distinguished by their religious zeal, which afforded, he would not say a contrast, but an honourable object of emula- 236 tion to the Members of the Established Church themselves. They would tell him, that while of all others that sect was the one which differed the least from the Established Church, and which in matters of doctrine differed hardly at all from it, it was one which had put itself prominently forward on all occasions as the friend and promoter of enlightened education, properly so called, because combining religious instruction with secular knowledge. They would tell him, and the petitions which had been poured in upon the Table of that House would tell him, in terms not to be mistaken, that among the Wesleyan body of this country there was an universal feeling of absolute distrust and distaste towards the noble Lord's scheme of education. And to which of all the other denominations, let the noble Lord say, would he look for support? The most that he could affirm with regard to many of the Dissenters, Protestant or Catholic, was, that there was so much of confidence and so much of assent as was contained in an expressive silence, while from a great portion of the other dissenting bodies, petitions had come forward, of course widely differing from those of the members of the Established Church and the Wesleyan Methodists, but not less widely differing in sentiment from the plan propounded by the Government; and many petitions had been presented by hon. Members on the other side of the House, praying, that unless certain conditions were complied with, which he trusted the House never would comply with, no further grant may be made in aid of national education. Therefore, while the noble Lord was telling the House and the country, that the success of his scheme was to depend on having the sanction and approbation of all the religious denominations of this country, he could not point out one assenting party among them all. Would he go to the Established Church? The members and clergy of that Church were all united as one man against it. Would he call on the next important body, the Wesleyan Methodists? Among them there was no difficulty or hesitation in deciding as to whether they should make common cause with the Established Church or the Government. But if he objected to the constitution of this committee as a body to regulate and control the education of the country, upon the ground that it was fluctuating in its character and political in its 237 objects, and upon the ground, also, that it did not even carry with it the recommendation of having the support and confidence of the great body of the various denominations of this country, he objected to it as a Churchman still more strongly and decidedly, because he found that the constitution of that committee was such as to give the religious education of the people to a body exclusively lay, altogether excluding the clergy from having any control or authority over it. The propriety or impropriety of having such a body to deal with such subjects depended, in his judgment, altogether upon the principle which was involved in what they meant by education. He understood those Gentlemen who limited education to the mere cultivation of the intellect, and to the finding out the shortest and readiest modes of infusing into the mind a certain degree of worldly knowledge and temporal information; he could understand those Gentlemen who were endeavouring to fit the population of this country for an improvement in their moral character without reference to any religious feelings or motives. He said, that he understood those Gentlemen who so limited the term "education," and applied it solely to temporal instruction, apart from spiritual knowledge; and he perfectly concurred in their view, that with such a system of education the clergy had nothing to do; and that if it were superintended at all, it would be most fitly intrusted to a body of laymen. But let him have leave to say that was not the view in which education was regarded by the great body of the people of this country. The view which they took of it was that which had been taken of it as long as history went back; it was and it had been regarded as part and parcel of the constitution and laws of the land. It was not considered as a thing apart from religion; it was not thought to be a thing apart from the Church; it was a business which the constitution and law of this country considered as the peculiar province of the clergy of this country, and as a spiritual matter to be intrusted to the spiritual superintendence of the clergy. Why, in early times, before the Reformation, the education of the people was wholly and entirely in the hands of the clergy; it was almost, if not altogether, in the bands of the Catholic priesthood. He was not debating the question whether it ought to be in the 238 hands of the clergy or not; he was contending, that education was not now considered, and never had been considered, by the people of this land as a thing altogether apart from the spiritual superintendence of the clergy. He found it laid down by a Chief Justice in a case so early as the 11th of Henry 4th, in the old French of those times—"La doctrine et information des enfants est chose espirituel, "Twining, Chief Justice, 11th of Henry 4th; and, therefore, as une chose espirituelle, under the superintendence of the spiritual courts and ecclesiastical law, and the common-law courts recognized this authority, and declared education to be a matter for ecclesiastical cognizance, and that they would not interfere against a matter of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. It was a doctrine as old as the history of the country, and it was recognized even down to the present time; and the House did not require to be told by the noble Lord, as he had told the House the other day, that by the Act of Toleration and by other Acts which had been since passed, Dissenters were exempted from various restrictions to which they were before subjected. That was not the question. He was not contending for the absolute control of the Church over education, but that education, whether of the members of the Church or of Dissenters, was not a thing apart from religion. But it was a thing necessarily combined with religion, and necessarily dependent on religion—a thing of which religious doctrine and religious faith must be made the grounds and motives. He was contending, that education was not a thing apart and separate from religion; but that religion should be interwoven with all systems of education, controlling and regulating the whole minds, and habits, and principles of the persons receiving instruction. The noble Lord, at the commencement of the Session, when introducing his plan, after speaking of toleration, and of the exemption of Dissenters from the operation of certain provisions formerly affecting them, and of the freedom of all her Majesty's subjects, points which no human being now-a-days thought of disputing—things which he and his friends were charged with disputing, a charge which was most unfounded, for they had not the least idea of disputing or discussing any such matters—the noble Lord thought it necessary to tell the House, that from that time he 239 conceived it to have remained a generally recognized doctrine of the State, that education should be free not only to the members of the Church of England, but to every religious denomination.But (exclaimed the noble Lord) let us have it free from the Church also. Just permit us, as Churchmen, to have the Government interfering for the purpose of taking the education of the children of the Church out of the hands of the clergy of the Church.He hoped those hon. Gentlemen, who seemed to sneer at what he humbly conceived to have been a legal position, would be inclined to listen to an authority on this subject, who stated, in terms so clear and comprehensive, that it was impossible to improve them by any amplification, how far education was connected with religion, and how far, consequently, it should be connected with the Church. In giving judgment on a case in which reference had been made to the ecclesiastical tribunals of the country, Chief Justice Holt laid down this doctrine, and in these words:—Without doubt, schoolmasters are, in a great measure, intrusted with the instruction of youth in principles, and therefore it is necessary they should be of sound doctrine; and in order thereto subject to the regulation of the ordinary.—The King v. Hill, 1701.Now, the steps by which Lord Chief Justice Holt traced to conviction the principle he laid down were these,—schoolmasters were not for the purpose of giving mere literary instruction, mere technical education, or of conveying worldly learning and information to the children—not for the mere purpose of cultivating the intellect and the mind, and not at all applying instruction to the heart and conscience; but they are intrusted with their instruction in principles; and, therefore, because they are intrusted with their instruction in principles, they must be themselves of sound doctrine. And the further conclusion that he draws is, that for the purpose of insuring that they be of sound doctrine, schoolmasters should be connected with the Established Church, that they should be subject to the superintendence and spiritual control of the clergy of the Establishment. Further than that he did not push the doctrine. Further than that he did not desire to interfere. He doubted not that some hon. Gentlemen opposite thought this was going far enough, and that it was going too far for 240 some of them. But whether, in their judgment, it was going far enough, or a great deal too far, he repeated, that from the earliest times that doctrine was sanctioned by the law and practice of England; that it was sanctioned by the authority of the clergy, and sanctioned by a higher authority than any earthly judge, for it was a principle interwoven with and united most intimately with the affections, ay, and with the convictions, of the people of this country. He knew that it was very easy for hon. Gentlemen to say,We admit all this; we admit that education must involve religious instruction; we admit that it must be based on religious principle.The noble Lord himself said, he admitted distinctly that education was not a thing separate from or apart from religion, and that it was necessary in the scheme he proposed to give the youth who were to be educated under it instruction on those points of faith and doctrine which were essential as the foundation of their moral and religious principles. This was a very serious subject, and he was aware, that this was one which, perhaps, could hardly be properly treated and argued upon in a popular assembly; and yet the question so mainly depended on it—he meant the question, how far the Church was justified in the resistance she had given to the plan of her Majesty's Government for a combined system of education for all classes of persons in one common school, to receive one common course of instruction, that it was impossible not to ask the House and the country to consider whether or not those great points of doctrine and faith upon which the several sections of the Christian community conscientiously differed, and which yet were so interwoven with the great scheme of Christianity, and were so important in influencing Christian conduct and Christian motive, that they could not be overlooked by the Church, or blinked by the people, or be complimented away, for the purpose of conciliating persons of various denominations and opinions—it was impossible, he said, not to ask the House and the country to consider this question in its connexion with points of faith and doctrine. For instance, the great scheme of redemption, the doctrine of justification by faith, the efficacy of infant baptism, the solemn mystery of the holy eucharist; and yet one and all of these must be frittered away one and all 241 of these they must consent to cede at once, and to put aside, as matter not to be treated of in public education, if they insisted in adopting the Government scheme of instruction. For, according to that plan, Baptists, Unitarians, Socinians, Quakers, and Roman Catholics, all those who differed upon any of these points, and differed conscientiously, were to be educated together. Now, if these, or any of these points were mere points of abstract theory, if they were mere dogmas, the solution of which the one way or the other was of no great importance, he should say, in the name of Christian charity, and for the purpose of combining, as far as we could all good men, and of softening the animosities of conflicting sects, let us lay aside whatever is not important, let us lay aside whatever is not essential, let us give up all points of curious speculation, and let us be united. But when he saw that these were not such dogmas, when he saw that they were main points of Christian faith and doctrine, believing that by them mainly, motives must be produced in the hearts of our children, he could not from any fancied scheme of conciliation consent to put into the back ground, he could not consent to treat as matters of minor importance, he could not consent to treat as matters of indifference, or to put aside those principles which he held to be among the fundamental doctrines of that system of Christianity, which was the religion of the Established Church of the country. But when we are charged (continued the noble Lord) by hon. Gentlemen on the other side with claiming on the part of the Church, that there should be an exclusive right of educating the population of this country, I ask the noble Lord and the House this, and I mean to ask no more, for the purpose of proving how utterly unfounded is this charge against the Church of England, the clergy, or the lay members of her communion, while I point to the almost unanimous assent of this House, to the almost unanimous assent of the country, to the entire approbation of the great body of the community, to that system of education which, from the period of 1834 down to the present time, has been carried on under the auspices of her Majesty's Government; I ask the House, is that a scheme which vests in the clergy of the Establishment, an absolute control over the education of all the 242 people? Is it a scheme which interferes with the free right of all denominations to educate their own people? Nay, they have them educated and assisted in their education at the expense of the State; for it is perfectly well known, that according to that system the funds of the country are bestowed, not on the Church of England alone, or on the members of the Church of England only, but professedly and intentionally on two societies, one of which is understood to represent, and does represent, the Church of England, and the other represents, and I believe does represent, that system of education which is congenial with the wishes and opinions of those who dissent from the Established Church. I ask, has there been a murmur at that system? Has there been a complaint against the conditions laid down by Parliament? Has anything betrayed a wish, that there should be the slightest partiality in favour of the members of the Established Church, in the administration of the grants under that system? Has there been an undue distinction and preference shown to applications from members of the Establishment over those of Dissenters? He would take the liberty of referring the House to what was said of that scheme when it was first propounded by Lord Althorp, and which from that time to this had obtained the almost universal approbation of the country; and then he would endeavour to point out to the House in how many and in what important points the scheme of her Majesty's Government now under consideration, departed from the fundamental doctrines laid down by Lord Althorp, ay, and from the despatches of her Majesty's Government itself, down to the month of March last past. Lord Althorp said,I am well aware, that the circumstance of the Government advancing money and assisting an object of this kind, has a tendency to check private charity, and that such interference is in general mischievous rather than advantageous.He (Lord Stanley) concurred in that opinion; and he remembered, that he had heard it often expressed with great force by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose doctrine had always been, that if you give money from the Government funds you check local contributions, unless you give according to the exertions made in the localities 243 where you bestow the grant; but if you give your bounty in proportion to the amount of local contributions, you stimulate instead of checking local exertion. Upon that principle his right hon. Friend had always exhorted the House to proceed, and upon that principle the Government had proceeded from the time of Lord Althorp's first proposing a vote for education down to the present day. His Lordship also said,But there is one thing in which private subscriptions are frequently deficient, and that is in first setting a school on foot; and we have thought, that it would not be an improper expenditure of the public money to grant the sum of 20,000l., to be applied in the present year to assist in building school-houses. This money will be placed at the disposal of the Treasury, but it is the intention of the Treasury, in appropriating it, to take the recommendation of the two societies, established in this country, the National and the British or Lancasterian Society.And again, on the 17th of August in the same year, he laid down this further condition:—It is intended, first, that no advance shall be made out of this grant towards the building of any school-house, unless a subscription to a certain amount be first made; and, secondly, which is most important, it is intended, that even if the required amount be raised by subscription, no advance shall be made for the purpose of erecting a school-house in any place, unless the Treasury shall be satisfied, that there are funds sufficient to keep the school in action after the House has been built.To those conditions the House almost unanimously assented. Upon those conditions the Government acted in the year 1834, and had acted down to the present time; that is to say, they had acted upon them down to the present time with these exceptions, that the applications had been year after year so much more numerous than in the preceding year, that it became their imperative duty to impose stricter and still stricter conditions in responding to all applications for public grants; they had found it absolutely necessary to say, year after year, that larger contributions must be raised in proportion to the grants given by the Government; and they had had to complain, that they were not able to meet the applications that poured in upon them. Now, it was necessary, that the House and the country should see what was the effect of that system, because if they were going to deviate from a 244 Scheme to which the public assent was generally given, and against which no voice had been raised—if they were going to depart from such a system, to enter into a scheme against which there was raised a universal outcry of indignation and detestation, it became them to look at what had been the operation and effect of the old system. The object of that scheme was to promote and increase the amount of education given throughout the country; the extent of education then afforded, had been unanimously declared to be lamentably deficient; and, indeed, it was lamentably deficient up to the present time. Nobody denied that fact, no persons were more sensible of it, than were the members of the Established Church; and to a system of education founded on fair, impartial, and equitable principles, a system not interfering with the principles and doctrines of the Church, but affording every latitude to the education of the Dissenters, he told the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and those who surrounded him, that from no portion of the community would it more readily receive support, than from those Gentlemen who now sat opposite to them. If the noble Lord doubted it, he (Lord Stanley) wished he would try the experiment. If the noble Lord would persist in, instead of depart from, the present system, a system which had been carried on for four years successfully, and without complaint, and would propose to increase the amount of the public grant in furtherance of that system, probably all the opposition the noble Lord would meet with, would be, not from his (Lord Stanley's), but from the noble Lord's own side of the House. In the year 1834 the Treasury minute presented to Parliament on the 7th of March stated,There exists, throughout Great Britain, the utmost anxiety that the funds provided by Parliament, for the purpose of education, should be made generally useful; and that the private charity and liberality, so far from being checked, have been greatly stimulated and encouraged by reason of the public assistance afforded to the principle laid down in their minute of the 30th of August, 1833. The application now before my Lords, and recommended to their favourable consideration, amounts to the sum of 31,016l., whereas the sum at their disposal does not exceed 11,719l. Applications had been received from 236 new schools, calculated for 55,168 scholars, and local and charitable funds were tendered to the amount of 66,492l.245 Was there, then, any indication, in 1834, that the plan laid down by Lord Althorp had failed? Was there any question or complaint raised, that the funds voted by Parliament towards increasing the amount of education throughout the country had been unduly applied, or that those funds had passed unduly into the hands of one portion of the community, at the expense of the other? He believed that, in the first year, the distribution of the 20,000l. voted had been made in an equitable ratio between the two societies—the National School Society and the British and Foreign School Society, and upon the equitable ratio founded on the first of all the principles of the scheme, namely—that the members of each should bring forward the required amount of local contributions. And did that state of things cease with the year 1834? He held in his hand returns for the years 1834,1835, 1836, and 1837. The return for 1838 had been moved for by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Wyse), in a different form from the preceding returns, and did not show the amount of local contributions. But, from the other returns, it appeared that, in the year 1834, there was a grant of 20,484l. in aid of 48,111l., local contributions; in 1835, a grant of 19,368l.,in aid of 59,619l.,in 1836, a grant of 21,669l., in aid of 71,731l.; (the proportions, all this time, of the local contributions, becoming larger as the most stringent rules were laid down by the Treasury, in consequence of the funds at their disposal being so limited); and, in 1837, a grant of 17,277l. was given in aid of 54,486l., the amount of local contributions and private beneficence of that year. In the four years to which he had referred, this was the result of the contribution of 78,798l. made by Parliament: it had produced, from the private funds of individuals, a sum of 165,149l. towards the building and erection of schools; it had produced, from the same sources, 233,947 l.for the permanentand continued education of 153,600 more scholars than were previously in a course of education in England; it had not only drawn forth other great exertions for the building of schools, but the expense of the whole 153,600 children, and the continued support of the schools were charged, not on the public funds, but on the private munificence and benevolence of individuals. Now, he asked the noble 246 Lord, and he asked the House, with regard-to the extent of education, the amount of local interest excited, and of private beneficence thus displayed, what grounds existed for finding fault with, or abandoning, the system of the year 1834, which had worked prosperously up to the present time? He should be sorry to suppose it was possible that such a motive actuated her Majesty's Government, as that they should feel it expedient to withdraw from this system, because, under it, year after year, in consequence of the exertions of the Church, the greatest part of the amount of the Government aid had been employed in the education of the children of the Church. He desired freedom of education; but he could not consider it matter of indifference, either to the Government or to the country, still less that it could be an objection to the system, that, under it, without partiality or undue interference, a larger proportion of the population than heretofore, had been brought up, not in ignorance, infidelity, and perhaps vice, but gathered to that Church which had been, which was, and which he trusted would long continue, the national establishment of the country. He was confident that the noble Lord and her Majesty's Government would disclaim any such motive, and would adopt other and bolder grounds for the change. He concluded it would be argued, that it was not the mere building of schools—it was not the mere brick-and-mortar foundations— it was not the extent or quantity of the education afforded by these societies—it was not these matters that were of essential importance to the country—but that, not only was the quantity of education deficient, but that the quality of the education afforded, both by the National and British and Foreign School Societies, was far below what it ought to be, and that the qualification of their teachers was also below what it ought to be, when the slate of civilization and refinement to which this country had now arrived was taken into consideration. If that was the ground of objection, he was ready to meet the noble Lord upon it. He was ready to maintain, that nobody had put themselves go prominently forward, in endeavouring to improve the qualifications of those masters— nobody had been so anxious for the foundation and maintenance of normal schools for training teachers—nobody had taken so early and so active a lead in seeking to 247 attain all those objects, as had the members of the Established Churches of England and of Scotland; and he would prove that, if there had been delay, if no normal or model schools had been founded in either country, the blame rested, not with those societies which had been entrusted by Parliament with public funds; but the blame rested with the Government themselves, who had delayed that assistance which those societies had required. The first grant taken for model or normal schools was in the year 1835; it was voted, without observation, at a late period of the session; but, having been taken, it had not been questioned, from that time down to the present; and it was with great surprise that, looking from the year 1835 down, he could find no trace of the manner in which that sum of 10,000l., with which the Government had been intrusted in 1835, had been applied. He had, accordingly, called for the correspondence which had taken place on the subject, and the paper he now held in his hand contained the result of that correspondence. In the first place, it stated, that no part of the 10,000l.voted in 1835 had been yet expended. Here, then, was the delay—here, then, was the fault; and whose fault was it? Was it the fault of the National Society, of the British and Foreign School Society, of the members of the Established Churches of England and Scotland, or of her Majesty's Government? He would proceed to show with whom the delay arose, and to whom the fault was to be attributed. In March, 1838, the Glasgow Educational Society, which had taken a most active and efficient part in the establishment of infant and model schools, and also of normal schools, and from whose regulations the noble Lord opposite had borrowed much of that which was valuable in the details of the scheme he had abandoned, reminded the Government thatA deputation from the society had waited on the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer about two years ago, to ascertain whether he would recommend a grant of 3,000l.for those purposes, provided a similar sum were raised by private contributions; the proposal was well received by him, but as he was not prepared to give a decided answer, no further steps were then taken, and no formal application was then made to their Lordships.Subsequently, however, a grant of 1,000l.was applied for by the society, and 248This request was ultimately complied with, as intimated by your Lordships to the Rev. Dr. Black and the Rev. Peter Napier, on certain conditions, with which the society are ready to comply, but delay applying for the money until they shall have laid before your Lordships all their wants.The society then stated that they had considerably extended their original plans, that they had gone to a very large outlay, and were anxious still further to extend their useful operations. They further statedThat the Glasgow Normal Seminary was connected with the Church of Scotland in the same way as the Scottish Parochial Schools, being intended chiefly to train masters for those schools, but all, of every denomination, are admitted to its benefits as students upon the same terms—viz., the payment of a small fee in aid of the funds.They then solicited a grant of 5,000l.to enable the society to complete the institution, and they stated their readiness to exhibit vouchers of the actual expenditure in such form as the Lords of the Treasury might require. This application was made in the month of March, 1838, and the paper from which he quoted it purported to be the correspondence which had taken place on the subject. It contained one side of the correspondence—namely, the application, but if there had been any answer sent it did not appear in this return. Some answer might have been sent, but—[Lord John Russell, no answer had been sent.] No answer had, it appeared, been sent; and then with regard to the normal school, at Glasgow, and to the exertions of the people of Glasgow, his Scotch friends would be glad to hear that there could be no charge of luke warmness against them for not endeavouring to forward the important branch of national education. He now came to the letter of the Secretary to the Treasury, written by direction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he called the attention of the National School Society, and of the British and Foreign School Society, to the plan proposed by her Majesty's Government, and inviting the cordial co-operation of those societies to carry it into effect. And what was that plan? In the first place, the letter invited the National and British Societies—To direct an inspection to be made for the purpose of the several schools which they have recommended to the Board, and for the 249 erection of which, grants have been appropriated out of the Parliamentary votes:And, secondly, the letter added—My Lords are of opinion that the erection of model schools, for the instruction of teachers, by both the National and British and Foreign School Societies, would greatly tend to add to the efficiency of their several establishments, and that they should be called upon, if the respective committees of those societies concur in that Opinion to take steps for such purpose, it appearing to my Lords that public aid might be advantageously directed towards this object, provided a suitable plan for carrying those intentions into effect were submitted to the board and approved of, and provided that the principle of private contribution already laid down and carried into effect by previous minutes of their Lordships, were strictly adhered to.The letter also contained fourteen questions, to be answered by both these societies, and, as he had already stated, was dated the 7th of July, 1838. Was there any delay on the part of these societies on the receipt of that letter? None, for on the 21st of July the following answer was sent by the National School Society. It was dated—Central School, Westminster, July 21, 1838.—I have laid your letter of the 7th inst. before the committee of the National Society, and with reference to the subject of model schools, I am directed to state in reply, that the committee are very desirous to profit by public aid in regard to these institutions, and will gladly avail themselves of any assistance which the Lords of the Treasury may offer for the purpose of promoting and assisting local exertions and contributions towards the maintenance, extension, and effectual improvement of the model schools which already exist in the metropolis, and in various parts of the kingdom; and in order to accomplish these objects, the board is particularly impressed with the importance of making such arrangements as will enable the teachers to remain for a longer period of time in training, and afford encouragement to a superior class of persons to offer themselves for the service of educating the working classes. Your letter invites the committee to call upon their Lordships for assistance in the undertaking referred to. With reference to this, and for the purpose of manifesting the earnestness of the committee on the subject, I am directed to add that the desire of the board was expressed according to the foregoing terms in July, 1835, in answer to an inquiry relative thereto made by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that a direct official communication embodying an expression of the same sentiments was again addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the early 250 part of the next year (1836), in reply to which it was stated 'that the subject of model schools was at present before him, and would receive his best attention.'So that in 1838, at least, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given his best attention to the subject of model schools, and had asked the co-operation of these societies. The letter went on to state, they had already answered the 14 questions bearing on the subject, and contained in the letter of the 7th of July, and then proceeded to inquire whether it was intended to limit the grant to the same proportion of contributions as formerly—viz., to 1l.sterling for every two children, according to the number of scholars accommodated in the schools for practice; and it was further asked—1st, whether the National Society may expect one half of the estimated cost of the buildings indispensably required for a model school, or what proportion of the cost it may be their Lordships' purpose to allow; and 2nd, whether they may be favoured with the assistance of their Lordships in providing them with a site at Westminster, or within a reasonable distance of their present Central School, by which arrangement a material diminution of the expense of the proposed undertaking would be effected.To this communication the Society received no reply until the 4th of September, 1838, when the following satisfactory answer reached them:—With reference to your secretary's letter of the 21st of July last, in answer to the letter from this Board (the Treasury) of the 7th of the same month, on the subject of model schools, I am commanded by the Lords Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury to inform you that, until they have before them the general views of the Society in respect to the scale of the proposed model school and the estimated expense, my Lords are unable to give precise replies to your inquiries further than by stating, that whilst they still adhere to the principles of private contributions in aid of this important object, my Lords do not mean to limit their aid by the proportions fixed in reference to ordinary schools.The House would perceive that no reply was given to the inquiry with regard to a site, and on the 20th of September the committee of the Central Society again wrote, requesting an answer in that respect to their letter of the 21st of July. On the 6th of October they received this answer: —With reference to that part of your letter of the 20th ult., requesting an answer to the 251 inquiry in your letter of the 31st of July last, relative to the providing of a site for a model school within a moderate distance of the present Central School, I am commanded by the Lords Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury to request that you will furnish their Lordships with some explanation of the application referred to.Upon this did the Central Society lose any time? On the contrary, they felt themselves called on by that document to proceed to minute investigations as to the details of the plan, and the estimated expense, with a view generally to furnish the fullest information upon which the Government could give an immediate answer, "ay, or no," whether they would adhere to the proposition; and accordingly on the 13th of February last, the Government was furnished with detailed plans and estimates by the committee of the Central Society. And what was the result? Why, that on the 18th of March following they received this very satisfactory answer:—In answer to your letter of the 9th instant"—(for, having received no reply, the committee had written again on that day) —" in answer to your letter of the 9th instant, calling the attention of this Board to your application of the 13th ultimo, for a grant in aid of establishing a large training institution in connexion with the Central School, I am commanded by the Lords Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury to acquaint you, that they have forwarded your application for the consideration of the Committee of the Lords of the Privy Council for Education.Now, it was a little singular that the application made on the part of the National Society connected with Liverpool was in the same condition, and met with a similar fate, for they also, on the 2nd of March, received information that their application had been sent to the committee of the Privy Council. That committee of the Privy Council to which these references were made on the 2nd, the 9th, and the 18th of March, had (as the House had been informed) no legal existence at that time—for it was not constituted except by an Order in Council dated on the 10th of April; and consequently for the purpose of avoiding to give a direct answer to a direct application made according to their own plan, the Government transmitted their applications to a Board not in existence, and the consequence was, that on the very day after that Board was constituted—viz., on the 11th of April, 252 the Board issued a minute negativing the possibility of the Government consenting to applications which they had invited, on their own conditions in the month of July preceding. He had stated these points at length for the purpose of appealing to the judgment of the House and of the country to determine, whether in this important matter the delay and default had been on the part of the associations of the Church Establishment, or whether it rested with her Majesty's Government, who, in July, 1838, thought so to apply the very grant obtained by them in 1835, and who on the 10th of April 1839, informed the applicants they had invited, that they had totally changed and departed from the conditions they had proposed, and therefore could give no aid. Having delayed the House so long with the objections on principle to the constitution of this board, and to the unrestricted and irresponsible powers conferred upon it of making perpetual changes in the whole system of the moral education of the Country, protesting tha the would not give to any Administration or to any Government powers so extensive and so arbitrary as those claimed by her Majesty's present advisers, he now turned to the spirit of the two plans which had been put forth by the Government under the authority of this board, and asked whether, even if the principle were not dangerous, and the powers were not unconstitutional and arbitrary, the scheme was so innocent, its rules so unobjectionable, clear, definite, and incapable of misconstruction, as to reconcile the people of this Country to its being conducted and carried on under the irresponsible authority of this board? It was laid down in the first instance that the grants were to be made (and the arrangement was entirely satisfactory to the country) upon the responsibility of the two societies, whose system of education was known, and which were composed, in one case, of clergymen of the Church of England—at least, such clergy-men constituted the great majority Of its members, and ex officio all the heads Of the Church of England were members— composed, in short, of individuals in whom the members of the Church of England reposed the highest confidence, and in the other cases including a great number of the best instructed and most pious of the dissenting ministers, while both comprised within their limits a very large amount of 253 clerical superintendence and clerical security for the communication of religious instruction according to the forms of the Established Church, or of the different dissenting congregations. The great complaint was, that the funds were insufficient, and the demands were so extensive that it was impossible within reasonable limits to meet them. What was the first step which it was proposed to take, in order to meet the pressure of the case? That to the National Society and to the British and Foreign Society, having from the one a demand for 25,000l., and from the other what he admitted to be no great encouragement, for they declared it inexpedient to expend money upon model schools, except on conditions to which the Government could not accede—not a minimum but a maximum should be given of 2,500l.for the cost of normal schools—2,500l., and no more. The next point, and a most important one it was, related to the appointment of the school inspectors. Let the House observe how carefully these new powers of control were introduced by her Majesty's Government into the last plan but one which they had submitted to their consideration. It would be very difficult to contend against the principle that, where public aid was administered, the public had a right to satisfy themselves by their own inspection and examination that that public aid had been judiciously applied. That was a principle against which he would never contend, and therefore he freely admitted the doctrine which was laid down, that as aid was to be given to certain schools to be considered as being under the auspices of certain recognized societies, they had a right first to satisfy themselves that it was properly applied, and next, that those societies should regularly report to them as to the state and progress of those schools which were built by a grant of public money, and were to be supported afterwards by voluntary contributions. But the Government did not propose to limit their grants to the purpose of erecting the schools, but in certain particular cases thought it expedient to aid in supporting the schools; to give to their inspectors, of whom there were at first to be but two, to their secretary and 1o their staff the power to communicate "useful hints," not only to public, but to private schools throughout the different parts of the country, and to apportion gratuities to such of the teachers as adopted 254 those improvements which were suggested by the Government. [Oh! Oh!] He should be happy to become assured that his suspicions were unjust: but when a plan was proposed one day, and half abandoned on the next, and when it was proposed to concede an authority founded upon mere Treasury minutes, and not upon acts of Parliament, it was the duty of that House to look with suspicion upon the progress of such transactions, and take care not to permit the existence of any loophole or dangerous ambiguity where there was a question of distributing the public money. The provision to which he here objected was, that the committee of the Privy Council should have the power of "granting gratuities to such teachers as may appear to deserve encouragement." How could they ascertain whether they were deserving of encouragement if they were not first to examine whether the schools were in conformity with the plan of the committee? The inspector was to have the power conceded to him of visiting those schools, and inquiry as to the introduction of all the improvements which he might suggest in the art of teaching, and Was this not to meddle with the internal regulations of the schools? When gratuities were thus to be distributed upon the report of their inspectors, he contended that he was not doing great injustice to the Government plan in saying that it was a most artful mode of intermeddling with the management of private schools. On the 11th of April it was determined, that it was not expedient to expend in grants for building schools more in any one year than 10,000l.This determination was greatly modified, for in a month after, it was decided that from 20,000l.to 30,000l.might be so expended. It was resolved in the first place, "not to adhere invariably to the rule which confines grants to the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society, and not to give the preference in all cases whatever to the school to which the largest proportion is subscribed." They, therefore, assumed the unlimited right to judge for themselves, with no accountability whatever. When there existed circumstances which rendered it difficult for a community to come up with their contributions to a certain point, the power of granting aid was assumed. Now, this proposition was directly at variance with the principle laid down by the Chancellor of 255 the Exchequer, because it was holding out encouragement to stimulate poverty and tended to paralyse local exertion by inducing the expectation of assistance upon the part of the Government, without any corresponding contributions from individuals. But the last passage in the minute was the most extraordinary portion of the whole—"that, subject to such alterations as experience may hereafter suggest, the foregoing scheme be approved: subject to such alterations as experience might suggest!" This might be all exceedingly right for those who placed unlimited confidence in the discretion of the Committee. But for those who entertained no such confidence, for the country at large, he thought there was no great security in the solidity of a plan, which, after they had granted them 30,000l., might afterwards be modified in accordance with the experience of four individuals. He would not now enter into the merits of that scheme, which, from one end of the country to the other, had produced an unqualified declaration from every religious body that such a scheme was utterly unsatisfactory for the inculcation of religious principles. He would leave it to others to point out the utter impracticability of such a scheme. How impossible it would have been for any class of religionists to assent to the principle of religious instruction being conveyed through a number of teachers, without reference to their religious creed, and carried on under the general direction of a Committee of the Privy Council! Only think of such a body being empowered to direct the religious instruction of the empire. Only think of such a task devolving upon four Lords of her Majesty's most honourable Privy Council. But there was also to be a rector appointed, who was to have the control of the religious instruction of all the pupils without exception. [Lord John Russell: No.] The noble Lord said "No," and perhaps he could explain away the text of this minute of the Privy Council. The noble Lord had promised, ten days since, to put forth some explanatory documents, and the documents with which he came forward afforded no explanation at all. It was nothing more than a nominal and sham abandonment, with power to return to the original scheme. The minute in question directed that "a portion of every day should be devoted to the reading of the Scriptures 256 in the school, under the general direction of the committee and superintendence of the rector." The Scriptures, then, were to be read as a portion of the "general education," under the superintendence of the rector, as specified in the minutes. Protestants of all denominations, Roman Catholics and Socinians, were all to read the Scriptures, and each in his own version. Really, this passage did require an explanatory statement. But the whole scheme had excited—and, unless Parliament interposed, would still continue to excite—general suspicion throughout the country; and more especially that part of it which announced that, under the direction of the same individual, should be read the Roman Catholic version, the authorised version, and, as a matter of course, the Socinian version, of the sacred Scriptures. All was to be under the superintendence of the same individual; and what, he would ask, should the religion of this individual be? Was he to be a man of all religions? Or was he to be a man of no religion? Here was the mischief of jumbling together plans which were perfectly applicable to one system but perfectly inapplicable to another. They had borrowed their idea of a rector and a general director of studies, with a view to qualify the respective teachers, from the Glasgow normal school, in which the duties of the rector were plain and simple, because the whole arrangements were carried on under the sanction of the Established Church of Scotland, of which Church the rector himself was a Member. But the noble Lord had said, in answer to various petitions condemnatory of this monstrous scheme of the 11th of April, "This is not our scheme now. We have quite a new plan at present; and how do you know that they have not petitioned solely against our old scheme, and are quite satisfied with our new one?" In so far, he (Lord Stanley) believed, that the petitioners, as a body, had strictly instructed their Representatives to announce that their objection was against the principle, and that the new scheme was, therefore, as objectionable as the old. Some of the petitioners (and he was disposed to concur with them) had declared the new scheme to be still more objectionable than the former, because more ambiguous. The whole tone and temper of these parties were directed not against little trifling details of the scheme, but 257 against the pervading spirit and principle which actuated her Majesty's Privy Council in bringing forward that scheme of the 11th of April. But the noble Lord said, that they had abandoned that scheme. Had they? He did not believe, that it was abandoned. It was convenient to abandon the defence of it. It was convenient to bow before the storm and let it pass over their heads, but retain that degree of elasticity which would enable them, when the storm was passed, to rise again and resume their former position. Abandoned! Very far from it; for in the last edition, the passage still remained which decreed, that the funds should not be merely supplied to the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society, but that in particular cases, the Lords of the Treasury might give a portion of their funds not only for the erection but for the support of the schools connected with those societies; and it was distinctly laid down, that no assistance should be given to any school, normal or Otherwise, unless the direction of it were retained, in order to see whether it conformed to the regulations of the several schools, with such improvements as might from time to time suggest themselves. If this scheme were to meet with the sanction of Parliament, they would be putting the whole education of the country into the hands of a committee of the Privy Council—delivering it over, bound hand and foot, into the absolute power of four Lords of the Treasury, and the secretary and inspectors whom they might choose to appoint, to carry into effect certain regulations which they might hereafter think fit to lay down, but of which Parliament was to have no cognizance. Had any part of the scheme been abandoned? Against the normal schools, which were to be placed under the superintendence of the individual called "rector," the outcry through the country had been so great that the Government found it impossible to defend that portion of their scheme. But let it not be supposed that, because they came out with a new scheme, they had abandoned that portion of the former one. No such thing.The committee are of opinion (says the Minute) that the most useful application of any sums voted by Parliament would consist in the employment of those monies in the establishment of a normal school, under the direction of the State, and not placed under the management of a voluntary society. The 258 committee, however, experience so much difficulty in reconciling conflicting views respecting the provisions which they are desirous to make in furtherance of your Majesty's wish that the children and teachers instructed in this school should be duly trained in the principles of the Christian religion, while the rights of conscience should be respected, that it is not in the power of the committee to mature a plan for the accomplishment of this design without further consideration; and they, therefore, postpone taking any steps for this purpose until greater concurrence of opinion is found to prevail.Who was to be the judge as to when this increased concurrence of opinion was to take place? It was quite manifest that, while Parliament continued to sit, the concurrence of opinion would be against the committee. But it was equally manifest, that the committee of the Privy Council still clung to this portion of their scheme, and still meant to introduce it, unless the plan was strongly negatived, and meant to do that when Parliament was not sitting which they could not attempt to do while it continued to sit. When, in some two months, hon. Members should have returned to their homes, and when the Government would have obtained this grant of money, not upon the abandonment, but upon the postponement, of their scheme—then, indeed, it would be an easy matter for the Government to declare, that there was a change in the opinion of the country upon the subject. "When you, the House of Commons," concluded the noble Lord, "shall have consented to yield into the hands of the Ministers these large discretionary powers, it is very possible, that the return for yielding them will be to use those very powers for the introduction of a scheme which to your face they would not attempt to defend, but to which they still tenaciously cling. I feel that I have trespassed on your attention too long. I feel that I have very inadequately discharged the duty which I have thought it requisite to impose upon myself. But I feel confident in the good feeling which animates the majority of the inhabitants of this country. I feel confident that the majority—that the vast majority of the religious public of all denominations have already condemned this scheme and the Council in which it originated; that the bulk of the constituencies in this country have condemned and will continue to condemn it; and I am not without hope, that, yielding to the manifestation of public 259 opinion, the majority of this House will not be found this night to sanction a scheme which has already been condemned—unequivocally condemned—by the religious public, and denounced by the bulk of the constituencies, which lakes away from the legitimate authority of Parliament that control which it ought to exercise over the education of the people, and vests it in an irresponsible jurisdiction—which separates the religious education of the Established Church from the supervision of her authorised ministers, for which, if improperly delegated to laymen, of whatever persuasion, you will have no ground for reproaching them (as they have already altered their scheme once) with changing its entire form and sub-stance, if it so should please them, hereafter; and which, if you do not repudiate at once, you will have lent your hands to the establishment, as I firmly believe, of a system which has a direct tendency to unsettle the minds of the young people of this country; which will, however unjustly, induce a general belief that, in the mind of the Legislature, an equal degree of authority is due to all versions of the Scriptures whatever, and that it is a matter of perfect indifference in what creed the population of this country shall be brought up; and, finally, which by presenting before the eyes of our youth as of equal weight and equal authority matters which should be so carefully distinguished as distinct versions of the sacred writings, and essential differences in point of faith, would speedily sap the foundations of all faith, and, what constitutes in my estimation the strongest ground of objection to the measure, would gradually lead to general scepticism, and from general scepticism to national infidelity."
§ Viscount Morpeth
had been almost inclined to flatter himself that all essential differences between the noble Lord who had just sat down and himself were confined to questions relating to Ireland, but he certainly had indulged in this expectation, that if there was one topic, English or Irish, upon which he might have hoped for the happiness of agreeing with the noble Lord, that topic would have been the subject of general education. However, the speech to which he had just listened had dissolved this pleasing expectation, for he conceived that the speech of the noble Lord, and the amendment with which he concluded it, went to this 260 extent—to separate and divide, by a specific vote of the House, the executive government of the country, the responsible Ministers of the Crown, from all care, all superintendence, and all control over the general education of the people. Now, that decidedly was an object wholly at variance with that which he should seek to attain by his vote upon the present motion. For, so far was he from agreeing with the noble Lord in such a design, that he owned it was his wish that the control and superintendence which the Government was to exercise over the education of the people should be exercised more largely and fully than it could be under any circumstances that could result from the vote which his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Home Department, that night intended to submit to the House. There were, however, many reasons, sufficiently strong in their practical effect, if not in abstract reason and theory, for not pressing the interference of Government any further than was at present proposed. Those reasons were to be found in the difference of opinion in that House and in the country upon the subject; they were to be found in the great variety of religious denominations and doctrines which existed in the nation, and in the fact that those who professed these doctrines were more eager to maintain their own tenets than to tolerate different opinions in others. But, under all those circumstances, he thought the Government had exercised a sound discretion in forbearing to press any further the scheme originally proposed, not because, in spite of all the taunts of the noble Lord, he had any doubt whatever as to the beneficial tendency of that scheme, or that such would have appeared to be its nature, if the matter had been fully sifted, but because he thought it better not to press on a proposition of the highest importance in the teeth of objections which, however groundless or mistaken they might be, did certainly proceed from quarters quite opposite to each other, and from persons who differed in essential principles. He, therefore, thought a sound discretion had been exercised, and whether it might give a triumph or not to any party, he did not feel called upon at present to enter into the merits of the scheme which had been abandoned. He knew too well his own deficiencies, to encounter the gladiatorial talents of the noble Lord. When the 261 noble Lord had been so liberal of not the most graceful taunts and imputations against his noble and right hon. Friends, and had not felt himself restrained from using them by the remembrance of his former intimacy and long acquaintance with those noble and right hon. Friends, felt that he had no right to quarrel with the expressions which the noble Lord had thought proper to use. But what was the chief point of his speech and amendment? Why, whether the responsible Ministers of the country should have any share whatever, however small, or however curtailed or inadequate, in superintending the general education of the people. The noble Lord had laid great stress upon the Board being irresponsible and wholly unauthorized by Parliament. Now, he thought that if any Board could be considered responsible to the country, one composed of removable ministers was eminently so, and in a much greater degree than any permanent body could possibly be, certainly far more responsible than the Board which originated with the noble Lord himself for controlling education in the sister country of Ireland. Why, the very circumstance that the noble Lord had chosen for the subject of his taunts was a proof of the responsibility of the board, and showed that the proceedings of the Privy Council must be swayed by the opinion of Parliament and the country, for it was nothing else than the hostile feeling which he had already admitted to exist with respect to the former plan which had caused the Government to withdraw that plan, and to substitute in its stead one more adapted to obtain the sanction of the country in general. The noble Lord had complained, that, according to this plan, public education would depend upon the discretion and control of a board which was subject to the control of one House of Parliament only, and not of the Legislature; but the present would not be the first grant to which that observation applied. The proposed grant of 30,000l., in this respect, differed not at all from the grant of 20,000l. He did not say that the two grants did not differ in other respects, but they both resembled each other in this, that they were subject to the control of one branch of the Legislature alone. A single vote had been given in that House on each proposition, and it was clear that the other House of Parliament had had 262 no voice in the matter. The noble Lord had expressed his repugnance to rest the whole public education of the country upon a Treasury Minute, while, in fact, it had rested as much upon a Treasury minute for the last four years, as it was now proposed that it should. With his feelings upon the subject of national education, he should be glad to see the establishment of a permanent board, which should command the respect and confidence of the country, and should distribute the funds placed at its disposal in a proper and authorized manner. But he asked what were the means, where were the materials, to be employed in constructing such a board? He believed that the noble Lord himself had tried to bring together the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society for the purpose of forming such a body. What was the very first difficulty that had presented itself?—Why, this—that the National Society insisted upon the Church catechism being made an essential part of the course of instruction to be given in the schools, while the British and Foreign School Society could not be prevailed upon to sanction any system of education in which the Church catechism formed an indispensable article. Now, he called the attention of the House to the nature of the scheme now submitted to them, for he could easily understand the dexterity of the noble Lord in trying to rivet the attention of the House to another scheme which was not now under consideration. What were the component parts of the present scheme? What was to be the destination of the moderate grant which it was now sought to obtain at the hands of the House? The Ministers had, as he had already observed, been prohibited from establishing a training-school for masters, a normal school, as it was commonly called, formed upon the best method that modern experience and knowledge could furnish. Now, he should not deny, if the question were now to be argued, that it was his opinion that such a system should be established in a school of this description as should make it capable of training masters of every description for which an adequate demand might exist in the country. From this intention, however, which he still maintained would have been a most beneficial one, the Government had been diverted, and they now proposed to grant one-third 263 of the whole amount voted to the training schools of each of those two great educational societies, the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society. As he held both these societies in great honour,—the one as possessing the confidence of almost all the members of the Church of England, and the other as possessing the confidence of the greater part of the Dissenting bodies in this country, as well as that of very many members of the Established Church, he rejoiced that an equal portion of the grant was to be given to each of those societies; he should have been unwilling to draw any invidious distinction between them. Notwithstanding the clearness which was usually to be found in the noble Lord's speeches, he felt a little at a loss to understand upon what footing the noble Lord wished to rest the public aid to be granted for the purposes of education. When the noble Lord stated that there could be no education without religion, but that religion ought to be interwoven with every part of the system, there was no one who was ready to give a more unmixed concurrence to that proposition than he was, But when the noble Lord quoted from old French statutes, and cited Lord Chief Justice Holt besides other quotations, carrying the mind back to feudal times, he wished to ascertain if the noble Lord meant that a system of education to be founded now, was to be regulated upon the model of the dark ages. And when the noble Lord said, that it was not expedient to take the education of the children of members of the Church of England out of the hands of that Church, he could not help asking, who had ever made any such proposition? He quite assented to the proposition of the noble Lord, when he said that education could not be separated from religion, but he felt some difficulty in laying it down as broadly as he understood the noble Lord to do, that education might not exist apart from the Church. He admitted the correctness of the noble Lord's statement, when he said, that in the present plan, there was a departure from two rules which had been previously observed, one of them being that the public aid should be proportionate to the amount of private subscriptions in the district, and the other being to extend that aid to no schools except such as were connected with the two societies to which he had referred. Now, as to the 264 first of these points, the dependence of the amount of public aid, or that of private contribution, the course now proposed to be taken was, so far from being a plan suggested for the first time by the Government, that he found in the report of the select committee upon the education of the poorer classes, a resolution that the amount of assistance afforded by Government should be regulated as heretofore, subject to modification of their rules in cases where the poverty of the district was proved to require it the specific ground being reported in each case. From the spirit of that recommendation he had no wish to depart. If the rule were not subject to such a modification, it might exclude from all participation in the bounty of the state districts where there existed the largest population and the greatest destitution, but which were prevented, by their comparative poverty from entering successfully in the race of competition with their more opulent neighbours, who might stand less in need of public assistance. With regard to the other point— that of extending the benefit of the grant in some cases to schools unconnected with either of the two societies, he felt no wish to disguise his opinion, that the first duty of the committee of the Privy Council, or of any board in which it might be considered proper to vest the functions now discharged by that committee, was to extend by far the greatest proportion of assistance to the most numerous body of persons in this country—namely, those who had confidence in these two societies; yet he thought it would be fair, and just, and proper, when any application was made for a grant of the money of the nation for the general purpose of education, no considerable body of persons whatever ought to be excluded formally and irrevocably from the intended benefit, it being always understood that, to entitle themselves to it, they must, in point of numbers and destitution, make out a fair and reasonable claim. He was, he repeated, unable to understand the grounds of the present objection. In opposition to the former scheme of the Government, it had been objected that it was impracticable, and that it was a wretched compromise, because it attempted to unite the education of children whose parents held different religious opinions. Now, whether those objections' were well founded or not, they were certainly intelligible. He might 265 consider it inconsistent in the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) to make such objections, while he lauded the system adopted by the British and Foreign School Society which was in fact the same as that which the noble Lord inveighed against so vehemently. But still the objections themselves could be understood. But no such union was proposed now. The noble Lord appeared to hare shifted his ground, and to oppose the present scheme with equal vehemence, although the ground of objection was removed. What was the principle, then, on which the noble Lord himself meant to go? Was he prepared to say, that it would be right and proper to exclude certain proscribed classes in this country from the benefits of the public grant? He had no high opinion of many of the doctrines of the Roman Catholics; he had his own notions respecting Unitarian tenets, and he thought, that the state of opinion prevailing in this country, being Protestant and Trinitarian, those who held such opinions were entitled to have the greatest proportion of all public grants applied for their benefit; but, nevertheless, as long as the State thought proper to employ Roman Catholic sinews and to finger Unitarian gold, it could not refuse to extend to those by whom it so profited the blessings of education. The noble Lord had made great objection to the appointment of inspectors, and to the power which was reserved to the committee of introducing such improvements as experience might suggest. Now, he thought that the spirit which prevailed throughout the report of the council completely refuted the insinuation that any offensive regulations would be introduced under this power. What were the words of the report already quoted by the noble Lord? Why these—"That the right of inspection be retained in order to secure a conformity to the regulations and discipline established in several schools, with such improvements as might be suggested by the committee," thereby implying, that the original design of the schools was to be kept closely in view. It was clear that it was not intended to introduce any improvement that was not entirely consistent with the original designs of the several schools; and he thought it too much to say, that no improvement of such a nature should be introduced, if, on inquiry and examination, it seemed necessary. For these reasons he thought that the right of 266 inspection ought to be retained. The noble Lord had himself acknowledged that where the State did endow any public body or institution they should be able to say that a proper power of inspection was guaranteed. He thought that that could not be satisfactorily done by the exertions of private societies. Much as he admired and approved of the general system of operation of the two societies to which allusion had been so often made, he did not think that any one would be found to assert, that all the schools connected with those societies were carried on with a proper degree of efficiency and regularity. It was for the purpose of introducing a better method, but, at the same time, in strict consistency with the original design of those societies, that the State was desirous of retaining the power of inspection; and if it were desirous that that power should be kept in view, and systematically acted upon, he knew none upon whom it could more properly devolve than the responsible Ministers of the Crown, who were the servants of the public, to whom complaints of every description were naturally carried, and who, if any misappropriation of the public funds should prevail, or be suspected to prevail, would be at hand to give the necessary explanations. The noble Lord had thrown out sundry objections against the constitution of the committee. Of course, if the persons composing that committee failed to enjoy the noble Lord's confidence, that was a point upon which he should make up his own mind, and upon which he could not be expected to go along with him. The noble Lord seemed to think, that it would be more fit and proper to have ecclesiastical authorities placed upon the board. In his opinion, that would immeasurably increase the jealousies and soreness which were unhappily too rife in the country, if ecclesiastical authorities were actually constituted members of the board. If the Bishop of London, of whom the Church was so justly proud, were placed upon the board, Protestant Dissenters might think themselves entitled to the same advantage, and ask to have Dr. Pye Smith, or some other distinguished dissenting divine, placed upon it also; and after the debate of the previous night on the subject of a petition purporting to come from the Archbishop of Tuam, it would not be very surprising if a demand were likewise made to place upon that board of national education a holder 267 of episcopal jurisdiction in partibus infidelium. Let the prelates and pastors of every denomination tender, as the organs of the several bodies with which they were associated, such suggestions and advice as they might think best calculated to carry out the common munificent end which all had in view. By adopting that course, instead of the course suggested by the noble Lord, they would avoid giving rise to those impressions of favouritism and exclusiveness which would necessarily rise, if these persons were to be constituted the authorized dispensers of the public funds. He would not attempt to follow the noble Lord into the more general view which he had taken of the subject. If hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House were of opinion, that they could propose a scheme more likely to reconcile conflicting objections, he should be very glad to hear what it was. He would be content with any beginning, however humble, which would extend the blessings of education, without infringing in any respect upon the religious rights and liberties of the people. He confessed he was comparatively indifferent to any abuse that might be heaped upon them in the prosecution of such an object. Neither was he so anxious as some hon. Members seemed to be about the particular and specific form in which a vote upon the subject should be brought before the House. What he wanted was a system of general education. He wanted to have Churchmen better educated, Dissenters better educated, those whose belief was called orthodox, and those whose belief was called heterodox, in short, the great mass of the people he wanted to have educated in a better and more efficient manner. The more any one was convinced of the truth, the justice, and the trustworthiness of his own opinion, the less would he be afraid of any examination or competition; and he must say, if the opinions which he held to be true were destined to fall, he would rather infinitely that they should fall, not prostrate under the mass of undiscerning and brutal ignorance, but under the weapons of enlightened and well-informed opponents. He thought that hitherto all parties had been deficient in their duty upon the subject of national education. He did not wish to excite any angry recrimination by reference to what was passed; but he could not avoid saying, that the Church, that the State, and that Dissenters gene- 268 rally had been deficient in their duty upon this subject. He was rejoiced to see a prospect of better things before him, he was rejoiced to see the competing energies of every party revived, and be was willing to lend his aid on this, as he should be on every future occasion, to the further developement of what he conceived to be a great work of national improvement.
§ Lord Ashley
said, that the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down was calculated to create in his mind certain misgivings in reference to the intentions of the Government on this subject, even if he had not previously had reason to entertain them. The noble Lord had plainly told them, that not only did he think that the Government of this country ought to possess themselves of the control and guardianship at present exercised over the education of the people, but that control and guardianship ought to be extended. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had withdrawn his first plan of education, and proposed another, which, in his opinion, was equally objectionable; for, although he did not see in these two plans an identity of language, he did of purpose. They were animated by the same spirit, they tended lo the same end, and if they were not controlled by a vote of that House, they would unquestionably work out the same results. What powers, he should like to know, were conferred by the first minute that were not reserved in the second? The first declared what powers were to be exercised, and the second reserved the optional exercise of those powers. The second certainly did not state that a normal school, or that a model school should be erected; but was there any thing in that second minute to preclude it? Were they not even told in plain terms that the first plan, that favoured scheme of Government, and against which the country had made so bold a stand, was not suppressed, but only postponed? Were they not told, that the Government were only reserving it for further consideration? Had not the noble Lord expressed a hope that that postponement would not be of long duration? Had they not heard him, a Minister of the Crown, say that he still entertained the same opinions on the subject? That being the case, the noble Lord, as a man of principle, would no doubt avail himself of the very first oppor- 269 tunity of carrying out that which he considered to be essential for the well-being of the community. But it was not the party to which he belonged alone, that was of the opinion that the powers stated in the first minute, and supposed to be abandoned, were still reserved by the committee of the Privy Council, to be exercised, in all probability, on the first opportunity. Had the noble Lord read the resolutions which had been agreed to at a meeting of the united committees of the Wesleyan Methodists held on Monday and Wednesday last, and other Wesleyan meetings of the day? If he had, he would have found that his party entertained no scruples, not entertained by that class of the community. At the meeting to which he had just alluded, the following resolution was one of a series that had been passed:—That the regrets of this meeting are necessarily associated with feelings of continued apprehension and alarm, when they further learn from the recent 'report' that the committee of council have not by any means explicitly and frankly abandoned the plan in question, but have simply withdrawn it for the present on account of the 'difficulties' which they experienced ' in reconciling conflicting views;' reserving their original design 'for further consideration,' and stating that 'they therefore postpone taking any steps' 'until greater concurrence of opinion is found to prevail.'He would also quote the opinions of other parties—of persons not supposed to entertain the same apprehensions as they (the Conservatives) did. Speaking of what be called the "modified proposition for an educational grant," the writer he was about to quote said,By the proposition as it now stands the committee of the Privy. Council will have the tight of suggesting improvements in the schools connected with either the National or the British and Foreign Society, which may receive portions of the grant.Let the House remark what followed:Nor will the grants be restricted to schools in connexion with the two great societies. An unfettered discretion is proposed for the committee. They would even be at liberty to make advances to a normal school, should there be one instituted by Mr. Wyse and the Central Society of Education.Undoubtedly they would. But were these the words of a Tory writer? On the contrary, they were the words of a chief supporter of her Majesty's Government, the words of a leading article in the Morn- 270 ing Chronicle of two days ago. What then was to guard them against a revival of the first plan? Who was to be the judge of a greater concurrence of opinion? Was there anything in the language of the document itself, or anything in the conduct of her Majesty's ministers, that they could with confidence rely upon? He apprehended not. If the noble Lord was not disposed to carry out all the objectionable principles of his first plan, why did he not tie up the hands of the committee by a bill which would leave no doubt upon the subject, and under which no mischief could arise? He felt, that this was a painful discussion, a discussion which called for the most open avowal of opinions—one which he must say was forced upon them by the solemn nature of the propositions submitted by her Majesty's Government, and on which he felt that he must either say what might be unpleasant to some in a House of mixed opinions, or be silent altogether. He could, however, assure the House, that while he should speak with all the liberty which he was ready to concede to others on matters of belief, he would do so with the strongest feeling of personal respect towards every Member in it. The importance of the subject was too sacred to admit of suppression or compromise. It involved the control over and possession of the youthful mind of the country, and consequently the temporal and eternal destinies of countless millions. The scheme propounded to the House he believed to be hostile to the Constitution, to the Church, and to revealed religion itself. He did not mean to assert, that it was unconstitutional. A measure might not be unconstitutional, and yet be very averse to the Constitution under which we lived, by giving an exaggerated and undue stretch of prerogative. Her Majesty, for instance, might proclaim war, when war would be very injurious to the country, and had also the power to create an unlimited number of Peers. He merely said this to illustrate his argument, that though a measure might not be unconstitutional, it might nevertheless be very adverse to the Constitution. In that light did he view this committee of Privy Council. The preamble of the document before the House was by no means in keeping with the rest of it. That committee was not only to distribute the funds intrusted to its charge, but to insert and enforce a new scheme of education.
271 They were to determine not only in what form were the people to be instructed, but what the instruction was to be. They were to say, what was the form of belief to be propagated, and what was to be common to all, and what was to be considered special to the few. They were also to enact rules by which they were to afford assistance. What enormous powers to confer upon any body of men, and what a precedent to establish for future Governments to follow! They were only called upon to vote 30,000l. this year; but there was no obstacle to their being called upon next year for 1,000,000l., and that for the purpose of acquiring a dominion over the whole mind of the country. The noble Lord had not stated why he submitted the question in its present shape instead of a bill. Did he mean to say, that it did not demand the attention of the whole Legislature, or that the opinion of the other House was of no consequence upon such a subject? Surely a bill would have been more consistent with the sacred importance of the subject, inasmuch as it could be sent to the House of Lords, the only place where the Church was represented, and there receive the benefit of their Lordships' deliberation. The noble Lord, failing to do that, was at least bound to lay down some public grounds for the course which he was pursuing. When he converted such a measure into a single money vote, to be agreed to by one branch of the Legislature, he was at least called upon to state some public grounds for doing so. The House must feel, as he himself very strongly felt, that it would be impossible for him to enter in detail into all, or anything like all, the evils with which the proposed change was fraught; indeed, it was the less necessary, that he should dwell upon those topics, for they had been exposed, not once, but twice or three times. He should rather confine himself to the more prominent features of the subject, amongst which were the great, the inordinate, the indefinite powers proposed to be conferred upon the committee of the Privy Council. The measure was one which must of necessity be regarded by future times as a precedent which other governments would feel themselves warranted in following, a precedent which he did not hesitate to foretell would ultimately prove injurious to the principles upon which the constitution of England was founded. Believing 272 the measure, as he did, to be pregnant with mischief, he could not refrain from saying, that he thought it in all respects hostile to the constitution, and hostile to the Church. Its first and most remarkable effect would be to deprive the Church of all control over its own members, by depriving the Church of all influence over the schools at which they were educated; it was, moreover, placing the Church in this disadvantageous situation—that if they accepted the grant, half the old and probably all the new schools would be taken from under the direction of the Church by law established. If joint inspectors were appointed, the effect still would be the exclusion of the Church from all proper influence and control. What had the Church found to be the case? That the funds of the Church were used for the purpose of assailing her rights. If they denied the Church those fair and just rights to which she was entitled, they at least ought not to use her own property to her disadvantage. It was proposed to establish normal schools, but it was at the same time certain, that many persons would be found in those normal schools professing opinions and acting upon principles adverse to the interests of the Established Church. It could not perhaps justly be said of those individuals, that they hated the Church, because in fact they did not know the Church; but it was proposed at those normal schools to impart to the pupils knowledge, and subject them to discipline, and so direct both the knowledge and the discipline as to make them hate the Church towards which, if not now hostile, they were at least indifferent. It was evident, then, that the plan which her Majesty's Government proposed, was in effect an adoption of the voluntary system. By accepting a grant, the Church substantially gave up all control over the schools at which the people of this country were to be educated; and if the Church refused the grant, this would ensue, that the only religious body in the country recognized by the State, would be, that which received no pecuniary aid from the constituted authorities. He wished to inquire why the bench of bishops were excluded from and set aside by this committee of the Privy Council. They had been already apprised, that if the Church accepted the grant, the schools attended by children born in the Church of England, would be subjected 273 to inspectors appointed by the board. It would seem also, that several conditions were to be annexed to the acceptance of the grant by the Church. If those conditions were well known beforehand, to be conditions of a nature such as the Church could not accede to, nothing would be more unjust than the offer of them. If they were already admitted and acted upon by the Church, there was clearly no necessity for connecting them with the proposed grant. Was there, he would ask, any limit to the powers with which it was proposed to invest the committee of the Privy Council? What guarantee had the country, that the vast powers conferred on this board would not be abused? The noble Lord opposite, the Member for the West riding of Yorkshire, had told them, that these powers would not be abused; with every possible respect for the declarations of that noble Lord, he must be allowed to say, that the speeches of a Member of that House; did not afford the species of a guarantee to which the country was fairly entitled; it was for this reason, as well as on many other grounds, that he must say they were bound to guard themselves against giving to any body of men a power so unlimited, and so indefinite. He was told, that the present vote might be made annual; true, it might; but he begged to remind the House, that the present Session was drawing to a close, that many months might elapse before Parliament again assembled, and that within that period an incalculable amount of mischief might be perpetrated, seeing how completely without control the operations of the board were left. But he objected in principle to such extensive powers being imparted, as by this proposition would be imparted, to men whose position did not qualify them to use it advantageously to the public; it was setting them to deal with principles which were beyond their grasp, and beyond their comprehension, which were out of their station and their class. The members of the Church of England and the Wesleyan Methodists, formed so very large a portion of the people of England, that their opinions and feelings became matters of paramount consideration in a question of this nature. Now, suppose the Churchmen and the Wesleyans were unable to accede to the proposed conditions, the whole 30,000l. would be at the disposal of the Privy 274 Council, and might to the uttermost shilling, be used for promoting dissent, and bringing up children in hostility to the Church which by law was established in this country. The committee of the Privy Council might establish whatever schools they thought proper, whether they were Roman Catholic, or whether they were Socinian, or of no faith, or of that party-coloured, piebald religion which a certain school society patronized and sanctioned. The spirit in which the measure had been brought forward, was seriously reprehensible; it was presented to the country in such vague terms, that it must be rejected by four-fifths of the population. The Church included within it the vast mass of the people of England. What guarantee had been given to Parliament, that the members of the board would belong to the Church of England? They had been told, that there were to be model schools, and that the members of the Board were to superintend the reading of the Scriptures there; but no Bishop was to have anything to do with the matter; there was to be no representative of the Church on the Board; all was to be left to the judgment of persons who almost inevitably possessed very little knowledge of the subject—very little experience of matters of the sort. What were those model schools? Of course they were establishments which would be imitated in the great towns—in Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool. It was evident that the intention of the Government was to have these model schools imitated, for the Report gave that to be understood: what were its words?—The Committee of the Privy Council were to have the power of appointing a licensed minister, to give separate religious instruction wherever the number in attendance on the model school, &c.The word was not "whenever," but "wherever" —a distinction which he thought most material. It was obviously intended, that in whatever place a model school was set up, the Board should have the power to appoint a licensed minister. Again and again he would urge his objection to this fostering of dissent at the expense of the State. He objected, also, to the whole education of the country being placed in the hands of men of strong political bias and connexions. That upon which their power was to be erected proved a subject of the very gravest im- 275 portance—it was nothing less than an alteration in the whole mind of the country; and why, he would ask, were the Committee of the Privy Council to have the power of aiding dissent by establishing schools for the use of Dissenters, wherever they were themselves unable or unwilling to do so, and that, too, at the expense of the State? Was it fitting that political men should be intrusted with such power in relation to matters affecting in the very highest degree the temporal and even the everlasting condition of the people committed to their charge? He could not help looking with horror on the hydra which the plan would call into existence. He would not, of course, apply that remark to any system of vital education, knowing well that it was the duty of every man who had the means to contribute as well to the temporal welfare of his fellow-men as to that which was everlasting. In discussing a subject such as the motion then under the consideration of the House, it was not unimportant to bear in mind that the parochial clergy could exercise no beneficial influence upon the schools; but it was even more important to observe, that if the resolution were affirmed, it would amount to a declaration that every child in the country was entitled to be trained at the expense of the State, in the faith in which he was born. He was glad to ascertain the fact that such was the interpretation put upon the vote by her Majesty's Government. If the State were to pay for the training of children in every variety of dissent, why was not that avowed on the face of the minutes? Why wait to have such a fact extracted in debate? It was of the utmost importance that Parliament should know that the Ministers of the Crown were of opinion that the State ought to look with an equal eye upon every religious denomination, making no distinction between that Church to which they professed to belong and those sects which they professed to abhor. The noble Lord cheered. [Lord John Russell had not cheered.] Far be it from him to show up any dissension which existed between Ministers sitting in the Committee of the Privy Council. But this at least was clear, that a more crude, and. he must say, ignorant proposition, never was submitted to any assembly than that they were now discussing; in proof of which he had only to refer to the fact, that the two Ministers of the Crown who 276 were to form one half of the whole Board of Privy Council, sitting side by side in that House, gave each other the most flat contradiction. He had no doubt the dexterity of his noble and right hon. Friends would enable them to reconcile the difference between them, but certainly they now appeared to him "wide as the poles asunder." This afforded another proof, however, that a scheme of this sort, affecting the temporal government of the Church and the spiritual interests of a large body of the people, should not be discussed and disposed of on a single vote. The subject ought to have been submitted in the shape of a bill to the deliberate and serious consideration of Parliament, after an opportunity had been afforded for fairly canvassing its merits throughout the country at large. It was true, that the country had already, up to the present moment, expressed its opinion openly and most vigorously upon this subject; but Government having in the mean time propounded a modified scheme, they assumed that the hostility which had been manifested was directed against the former, not against the present measure. The fact was, the people of this country understood the two schemes to be identical, and his firm conviction was, whenever a sufficient opportunity was afforded, the country would repudiate still more strongly this strange phenomenon—this hideous chimera of an educational Committee of the Privy Council. His firm and solemn belief was, he would avow it before the country, under all circumstances, and in all places, that this plan of national education was hostile to revealed religion itself. He did not charge the members of the Privy Council with the unlawful intention; but speaking of the plan as it came before him, he repeated such was his conviction, and the conviction he would add, of nine-tenths of those of all ranks and sects with whom he had conversed. What was the meaning, he would ask, of dividing religion into general and special? Was ever such a disjunction of the most sacred truths put before as the frontispiece of a national system of education? What God had joined together let no man put asunder. ["Hear," and a laugh on the Ministerial benches.] He was not to be put down by clamour. He would only say, with all deference, that those who laughed when he touched upon such a subject did not represent the people of England.
277 Where was the distinction founded, he asked, between general and special religion? What authority had they for it? Where did they find it? Did they find it in the primitive fathers, in the founders of the Reformed Church, or in the Bible itself? Such a distinction was not to be found in any writer with whom he was acquainted; it was nowhere to be found in the Holy Scriptures, nor did he believe it existed in the nature of things. The discovery was reserved for the crude, and he must say, presumptuous, analysis of the committee of the Privy Council. It was said, that religion was to be combined with the whole matter of instruction. Was it the general or special religion that was to be so combined? Could they answer that question? Did they mean, when they used the term religion, a part or the whole of religion? What right had they to withhold any part of the word of revelation? By this division of general and special they might include every or exclude any religion. They might include the Deist, who takes the religion of nature. They might exclude every single form of faith by rejecting their specialities. They separated doctrine from precept, and destroyed the sanctions of the precept by suppressing the doctrine. They would teach children that moral precepts were of great value, because they were of universal application; and they would likewise teach them that doctrine was of inferior value, because it was necessary only for a few— that was the principle laid down. They could not escape from the conclusion that what was necessary for all must be of more value than what was only necessary for a few. They declared that general religion, by which he supposed they meant moral principles, was superior to special religion, by which they meant the special doctrines and peculiar truths of the Gospel. In a letter which had appeared in the papers from Dr. Kaye—and which he supposed, from the situation held by that gentleman, must be supposed to be official, there was a most infelicitous example of what was meant by general religion. The writer quoted the sermon on the Mount as an illustration of what was meant by general religion; was there ever a more unhappy instance? What was the value of the sermon on the Mount? Whence did it derive its sanction and authority but from the person by whom it 278 was spoken? If, in teaching the children, they suppressed the character of the person by whom it was spoken, or undertook to teach children, as they were about to do, by special ministers appointed for that purpose—that the character which that person assumed, and which nine-tenths of the people of England attributed to him was not the true character— how could they, in such a case, put forth the sermon on the Mount as an instance of general religion? It was the privilege and peculiarity of Christianity that it was not delivered by a secondary person nor by a prophet, but from the very mouth of the Son of God himself. The instance which Dr. Kaye gave of general religion was, of all others, calculated to show the inevitable necessity, if they would have children grounded in their faith and in the truth of the Gospel, of pointing out to them the specific, unmistakeable character of the person who, in delivering the sermon on the Mount, gave validity, and the only validity, to the precepts it contained. In the model school which was to form part of the proposed normal school, this distinction of religion into general and special was to take place; and when it was objected, that religion was not to be taught in this school, the objection was met by a reference to the clause in the minute, which slated, that religion was to be combined with the whole matter of instruction. But he asked again, what kind of religion could they teach if they abstained from teaching and enforcing special doctrines? If the children were to be taught this general religion together and in open school, and then taken asunder for special instruction in the tenets of each, could that have a beneficial effect upon the children? Could it be beneficial to them to be told so early in life, that religious opinions were so shifting and varying—that some might be taught one thing and some another—that there was no certainty whatever—and that the instruction given in one place was the reverse of the instruction in another? He would imagine a case which might easily occur. He would imagine three children sitting side by side—one a member of the Church of England, another a child of Socinian parents, and the third a child born of Jewish parents. Let those three children read together in school, during the time of general instruction, some particular portions of the Bible 279 suppose the 53d chapter of Isaiah. Let those children be taken away immediately after for the purpose of special instruction from his own minister. What would be the effect on the minds of those three children? The child of the Church of England would learn the great, necessary, and saving truths in which nine-tenths of the community agree. The Socinian child would be taught that what the Church of England child believed, was most gross error, and that the person to whom the prophecy referred was, in fact, no better than a mere man. But the Jewish child was taught to believe, that the whole thing from first to last was an absolute imposition. It was impossible, that these children could think any belief established or certain. The result would be universal scepticism, or a universal belief that there was nothing necessary—nothing certain. It was a new thing for the State to undertake to teach contradictions. If the State refused to teach the true doctrine, it certainly was not at liberty to teach what it believed to be false. A noble Friend of his in that House, once asked him, what was truth? That question might be asked in any country but this, or by a man who professed to belong to no creed; but how a man professing to belong to the Established Church of England could ask what was truth, was to him a wonder. Perhaps it was rhetorical, but even as rhetorical, it was a question that no member of the Church of England had a right to put. The State adopted the Church of England as the true Church, and if it did not enforce her tenets in education, it had no right to countenance others. He had no authority to speak but for himself. But he knew the sentiments of a great many, and he was perfectly satisfied that he expressed their opinion in saying, that if the State did not teach truth, it was far better that it should not teach any thing at all. He could not understand on what principles the State should undertake to teach what it knew and declared to be false. It was far better that nothing should be taught than that the Church of England established should be called upon to preach from her pulpits the great, saving, and necessary doctrines of Christianity, while the State should at the same moment establish ministers in her schools to controvert, and, to the utmost of their power, to overthrow those same great, ne- 280 cessary, and saving truths. Another difficulty connected with this system would arise from the various versions of the Scriptures which must be admitted; because, if permission were given to use the Popish version, it could not well be refused to the Unitarian version. It had been said by Dr. Kaye, that no harm would accrue from this part of the system, as the Romish version of the Bible would only be given to the children when they were placed in separate apartments, according to their creed. Now the minute said, "that a portion of every day was to be devoted to the reading of the Scriptures in the school, under the general direction of the committee and superintendence of the rector;" and further, that "Roman Catholics, if their parents or guardians required it, were to read their own version of the Scriptures, either at the time fixed for reading the Scriptures, or at the hours of special instruction." How, then, could it be asserted, after the alternative so expressly laid down in this paragraph, that the reading of the Roman Catholic version of the Bible was only to be permitted at the hours of special instruction? There were a great many objections to the reading of the Roman Catholic version of the Bible which he deemed it unnecessary to mention on the present occasion; but the very circumstance of having conflicting versions of the Bible in the schools—as, for instance, the Unitarian version, where parts were struck out as apocryphal which we deemed authentic, and the Roman Catholic version, where parts were introduced as authentic, which we deemed apocryphal, must, of necessity, lead to the most injurious consequences. Again, it appeared from the minute, that the normal school, to the establishment of which he had many objections, was only to be postponed for a time. The noble Lord, the Member for the West Riding, had stated most distinctly, that he considered the normal school of the greatest importance, and that, in his opinion, an appropriation of the public funds to its support was highly advisable. Now the model schools naturally followed the establishment of the normal school, and were so connected with each other as to be inseparable. Let the House, then, look to the qualification of the teachers. It was stated in the minute, that "the religious instruction of the candidate teachers was 281 to form an essential and prominent element in their studies." That immediately raised the question, "What is that religious instruction to be?" Were they to understand that persons of all religious denominations were to be taught alike at the expense of the state? Were they to understand that Roman Catholics and Socinians were to be trained and fostered at the expense of the State to enter hereafter as teachers of their respective doctrines into schools licensed and supported by the state? It appeared from the minute that "no certificate was to be granted, unless the authorised religious teacher previously attested his confidence in the character, religious knowledge and zeal of the candidate whose religious instruction he had superintended." Hence it was evident that unless such a certificate was granted, every candidate must be rejected. What would this lead to? That all conflicting opinions would be so entirely impressed on each sect, that any one teacher who might exhibit a possibility of deviating into truth would be rejected by the committee. The day schools must necessarily be constructed of all sects, to afford the teachers an opportunity of practising their skill; and when that skill was exercised, what a picture would be presented to the country, what a pantheon would be erected in the midst of it! But why was all this necessary? Why should they think of changing a system that was already working well? The Church of England was charged with bigotry, exclusiveness, and monopoly, because she resisted the scheme proposed by Ministers. Why was she to be charged with bigotry, when, if she accepted that scheme she must surrender her own principles? Why was she to be charged with monopoly, when she had asked for no grant— when she had made no demand for assistance? Had she desired any scheme of national education? No, all that she had asked for, and all that she now asked for, was, that if you were determined to establish a system of national education, it should not be one that was conflicting with her doctrines. Why was she to be charged with exclusiveness? Had she protested against the distribution of the 20,000l. annually granted for the purposes of education? Was that sum given to her friends exclusively? No, she had assented that other sects should receive some of the contributions of the state, and, 282 in so doing, she had abated some other principles. But was she herself averse to the promotion of education? Quite the reverse, as the last report of the National Society of London proved most satisfactorily. In that report was the following statement:—The society has, by grants from its own funds, to the amount of 120,659l. directly aided, in the erection of schools, in 1,553 places, to the extent of two or three schools each in most of the parishes so assisted, and trained at its central school in London 2,695 teachers. The number of schools actually united to the society is at this time 6,778, which contain 597,911 children; whilst the total number, supported wholly or in part by benevolent individuals for the instruction of the poor in the same principles, amounts, (as ascertained by the last inquiry made by the National Society in 1837), to schools, 17,341; scholars, 1,003,087.It must be borne in mind, that the sums granted by the National Society from its own funds were exclusive of the Government grants; so that the whole amount of grants, which have been distributed through the National Society for building school houses alone in 28 years, since its establishment, amounts to 190,781l. He thought that from this statement it was quite evident that the Church of England had made great efforts to impart to her members improvements on subjects of vital importance both in this world and the next. You might find fault with her pride, but you could not deny that she had given her members a sound, moral, and religious education. What, then, was the time which her Majesty's Ministers had selected for bringing forward their plan? Just at the time when the Church had made the most unprecedented efforts and had introduced large reforms in the mode and matter of her instruction—just al the time when she had made an appeal that was unprecedented in the history of the country—just at the time when she was carrying its action over all the length and breadth of the country. He would not enter further into the description of what she had done in this respect, for he trusted that that task would be undertaken by his hon. Friend the member for Somersetshire (Mr. Acland), who was most competent to discharge it. He would not detain the House much longer. He would only ask the noble Lord why he persisted in urging this motion against the feeling 283 of nine-tenths of the people of England? What was his end in so doing? Success was hopeless. The noble Lord might carry his vote in that House, but he could not execute his plan elsewhere. He might obtain a triumph, a mere insulting triumph, over the feelings of the people of this country. But what said the resolutions of the Wesleyan Methodists? Were not those resolutions as strong as any of the language which he had himself used in addressing the House that evening? Would the noble Lord set aside the feelings of those excellent and exemplary men, who, though they differed little in faith from the Church, yet in ordinary times stood aloof from her, but who, nevertheless, had manfully come forward in her defence in this crisis of her danger? Yes, they had come forward on this occasion with a generosity which reflected on them the highest honour. By the first minute the Wesleyan Methodists could have had no share in this educational grant; by the last minute they were brought within its conditions. They had, however, generously discarded all views of private interest; for they saw that if they did not shut the door at once against abuses, they would be opening a path to error, which they might, perhaps, never have the opportunity of closing hereafter. This ought to be known for their credit, for it showed that they were acting, not from party or from political motives, but with the most perfect sincerity and disinterestedness, from the most exalted motives which could adorn and dignify human nature. He, therefore, now gave notice, that if it should be deemed advisable by her Majesty's Ministers to revert to their first minute, he should move an address to the Crown praying that the Wesleyan Methodists should be admitted within the terms of the grant as a third society. Could the noble Lord doubt whether the Church of England were the true Church? If he could why was the noble Lord a member of it? The noble Lord might call its conduct bigotry and fanaticism, but he maintained, that it was the solemn sentiment of a nation, and, as such, entitled to respect. Would the noble Lord force his plan upon the country? That would be persecution, and the more ridiculous as it would be undertaken to carry out principles which as members of the Established Church, the Ministers must deny. He recollected well the time when the Dis- 284 senters petitioned for the abolition of church-rates, on the ground that they ought not to be called on to support a church in the doctrines of which they did not believe. The Dissenters on that occasion pleaded conscience, Ministers allowed their plea, and proposed a remedy for what was called a grievance. They were, however, left in a minority, but their proceeding, though unsuccessful, ought not to be forgotten. They proposed to do away with an impost which had existed for 800 years, and under which all the property of the country had been taken. Now, they proposed to force on a large majority of the country a novel tax for the purpose of giving instruction in creeds which they consider to be unscriptural and false, and which they declare to be repugnant not only to their feelings, but also to their faith and religion. He knew that in making these remarks, he exposed himself to the charge of illiberality and bigotry. He regretted it, but he could not for any consideration consent to abate the expression of any of the sentiments which he had avowed that evening. He had no objection, but the reverse, to receive any plan which should tend to the moral advancement of the people of England, but he never would consent to any plan that would sever religious from secular education. No, he would risk any obloquy, he would dare any contempt, he would incur any hazard, he would put in jeopardy any one thing in this country rather than, by departing from the true and simple faith of the gospel, assent to a system of religious education, which would inculcate the worship of saints, or teach the denial of the trinity.
§ Mr. Hawes
observed, that of all the great questions which had been debated since he was in the House, he did not consider that there was one of them which involved a principle of higher importance than that which was then before them. He rejoiced that it had come to this issue—for the vital principle of religious liberty was now at stake—and now it was, that all who were determined to abide by the principle of the equality and impartiality of religious liberty throughout the country should give a hearty and steady support to the proposition of the Government. That great principle had been recognised by the Toleration Act; it had more recently been enforced in the repeal of the Test and Corporation 285 Acts, and still more recently by the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill. If anything more than another could give him pain, it was to find such a subject introduced to the notice of the House with so much bitterness of feeling—with so much intensity of uncharitableness, as marked the speech of the noble Lord who had introduced this subject. He owned, that from that noble Lord he expected— and he had a right to expect—a far different course; for, short as had been his experience in that House, yet it was sufficiently long for him to remember, with what satisfaction he had listened to the noble Lord when speaking upon this very subject, and when the noble Lord had, as he conceived, adopted principles which, in common with himself, and which the noble Lord seemed to have forgotten in the debate of that evening. When the noble Lord began taunting the noble Secretary for the Home Department with having slipped away from a plan which he had proposed. The noble Lord might permit him, with all humility to say, that he should much prefer the accusation being made against him of slipping away from a plan, than slipping away from all the great principles which he had once professed. He well remembered, when the noble Lord opposite had made a most eloquent speech on this subject—one that was so fresh in his mind, that he could instantly turn to the page in which it was recorded, and which contained the first great principle which ought to be adopted with respect to education. The noble Lord might be assured, he was not going to Ireland—he was coming nearer home —and the speech he referred to was made by the noble Lord with respect to the universities in England. The noble Lord then shewed the manner in which effect should be given to the principle to be enforced in education. That which he was now about to read he was ready to abide by. They were the words of the noble Lord, who then spoke of the effects of one common system of education, and thus described them:By bringing into one common system of education, and that not an irreligious system, all the various classes of Churchmen and Dissenters in this country, you will sink religious rancour and animosity, and establish in the minds of the youth of all sects and persuasions a bond of harmony and friendship which the struggles and vicissitudes of after life will not be sufficient to break, and which to the com- 286 munity at large will be communicative of the greatest benefits and advantages.Now, having read that extract, he should much like to know how all classes of churchmen and dissenters were to be thus united, by any system of education which stood exclusively upon a creed or a catechism. But the noble Lord continued by saying,I am most anxious to afford the Established Church every protection and support which can and ought to be given to it consistent with justice to all classes of the subjects of this kingdom; but of this I am confident, that it will not be best maintained by keeping up a system of injustice and exclusion; and if I may be allowed to express an opinion on the subject, I will frankly say, that in my mind the main cause of the spread of dissent has been occasioned amongst the lower classes by the insufficiency of the education and religious instruction with respect to the tenets of the Established Church, and amongst the higher classes by that strict line of exclusion which those who are desirous to protect the Church have drawn around it. I am satisfied that if you intend to attach particularly the higher classes of Dissenters to the Established Church, you can take no more effectual course to attain that object than by giving them a full participation in the same civil privileges, and admitting them to the fullest, freest, and most unreserved intercourse with the members of the Church of England in our general and national institutions.Now, he should wish to know if anything could be more strictly consistent with the noble Lord's views than that which marked the plan proposed by the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, a scheme by which Churchmen and Dissenters would be educated together, and taught to forget the points of difference between them, and to prize those in which they agreed. The noble Lord had professed to admire very much that plan, by which the Treasury heretofore had allotted sums to different societies in proportion to the sums which they had subscribed. He now asked, was it just that the wealthiest societies, and the largest societies, should receive the largest sums of money? If all contributed to a common fund, ought not all to participate in its common advantages? No, said the noble Lord. There might be some districts marked by poverty and dissent, and in that district, where a large sum ought, in fact, to be expended, it was, according to the plan praised so highly by the noble Lord, regulated that such a district should be especially excluded from the advan- 287 tages of education. They then came to consider the plan proposed by the Government; but he must first allude to the gross misrepresentations which had gone abroad with respect to that plan. There had been the grossest misrepresentations adopted with respect to that plan—so gross and so false, that he could not believe that they were perfectly free from wilful deception. [Cheers.] He saw two hon. Members opposite who seemed to be exceedingly amused at this; to them it had certainly been of singular advantage, and it was in proportion to the amount of misrepresentation that had been employed that they received support. Discussion, however, had now taken place on the subject, and the longer it prevailed, and the more general it became, the better; so that at last this question, he believed, would be one which hon. Gentlemen opposite would not like to face in that House. In the borough which he had the honour to represent, several petitions had been got up against the plan, and sent to that House, and he would just give the House a specimen of the manner in which persons were induced to sign petitions against the plan. This was a handbill, most authentic and most official; for it was signed by the churchwardens, and it was put forth as authority and as information which were intended to be conveyed to the people, and to guide them. The bill was to this effect:—We, the undersigned several churchwardens, take the liberty of directing the attention of the parishioners to a scheme which has for its ultimate object the introduction of mutilated bibles and Romish and Socinian catechisms into every national school in the kingdom.Now, if it had been said that it was intended to turn the British and Foreign schools into Socinian and Romish schools, it would be something to be believed— but was it of the national schools that such a statement could be made? As to the British and Foreign School Society, he might say, that hon. Gentlemen opposite stigmatized the dissenting body with an indifference to religion; and he now asked, were they less careful in matters of faith, or less firm in their Protestantism than Members of the Established Church? He rather thought that, amongst Protestant Dissenters were to be found the true principles of religious liberty, and the readiness to vindicate the rights of Pro- 288 testantism, when members of the Church of England slumbered at their post. The Government plan was marked with the genuine features of religious liberty, and embodied the just principle that the public money should be impartially applied for the benefit of all the Queen's subjects. He had never read with so much satisfaction any public document as that which was laid before them by the Secretary of the Home Department, and on the authority of which were conveyed to them the sentiments of her Majesty to the people:—On this subject I need only say, that it is her Majesty's wish that the youth of this kingdom should be religiously brought up, and that the right of conscience should be respected.Now, he asked hon. Gentlemen opposite, did the National Society schools respect the rights of conscience? Were not the conditions insisted upon, that the creed and catechism should be learned, and that there should be attendance at the Church? Fortunately, they had now come to a period when the Crown and the people were on the side of the just principle—the rights of conscience. But he did not fear the result, if they only gave time for further discussion. But he found that, upon all sides, education was regarded as a subject of the first importance. To him, then, it was rather melancholy to reflect, when he looked at the table of crime in this country, to find that education and instruction were as little forwarded as the diminution of crime was little remarkable. Much responsibility, then, was incurred by those who shut the door of the school-house against a large population, while they were quite ready to pass stringent laws to punish crimes, which, in a great degree, had their origin in ignorance. When he turned to the criminal returns made to the Home Office, he found, that in the degrees of instruction or ages of persons proceeded against last year, there was but little change, as compared with the preceding years. When they came to an analysis, he found that the number of convictions for crimes of those who were so imperfectly instructed that they might be fairly called ignorant—of those who were not able to write or read, formed the three-fourths of all the criminals—of those unable to read or write, or to do so imperfectly, were eighty-seven per cent, in the amount of criminals. The following were the 289
"CENTESIMAL PROPORTIONS OF PERSONS OF THE DIFFERENT DEGREES OF INSTRUCTION. 1838. 1837. 1836. Unable to read and write 34.40 35.85 33.52 Able to read and write imperfectly 53.41 52.08 52.33 Able to read and write well 9.77 9.46 10.56 Instruction superior to reading and writing well 0.34 0.43 0.91 Instruction could not be ascertained 2.08 2.18 2.68
He must say, then, that it was a most melancholy thing, that they should be discussing about systems and plans, while crime continued so prevalent in the country. He hoped to have heard in the course of the evening, from Gentlemen opposite, the value of education apart from peculiar tenets. He had, however, heard nothing from the other side of the House but this cry, "Let us take care of the Establishment, and let crime continue just as it was." He said this distinctly. If Gentlemen opposite meant to shut the doors of their schools upon all who differed from them in religion, what a fearful increase would it not give rise to in the amount of crime, on the part of those excluded? The noble Lord who last spoke, took great pains to show, that this plan was unconstitutional.
"CENTESIMAL PROPORTION OF PERSONS OF THE DIFFERENT AGES. 1838. 1837. 1836. Aged 12 years and under 1.58 1.52 1.84 — 16 years and above 12 9.92 9.72 9.71 — 21 years and above 16 29.13 29.23 29.03 — 30 years and above 21 31.24 31.74 31.42 — 40 years and above 30 14.75 14.56 14.43 — 50 years and above 40 7.02 6.65 6.76 — 60 years and above 50 3.00 3.24 3.33 — above 60 years 1.58 1.55 1.40 — unknown 1.78 17.9 2.08
§ Lord Ashley
begged to be allowed to explain. He had drawn a distinction. He said, that it was hostile to the constitution, and not that it was unconstitutional.
§ Mr. Hawes
would take the noble Lord's own words. The noble Lord then did say, that the present plan was hostile to the constitution. At all events let them understand this, that the placing of education under the control of the executive, for the equal and impartial diffusion of knowledge amongst the people, was by Gentlemen opposite considered hostile to the constitution. He admitted, that it was indeed hostile to the old Tory constitution. Aye, and he believed, that there was a feeling of hostility on the part of the people towards that old Tory constitution. When the people had a little more knowledge, knowledge of which the noble Lord and his Friends could not now deprive the people, they would very soon replace that old constitution by something much better 290 and more substantial. The noble Lord (Ashley) also said, that rather than the State should not teach the truth, it should teach nothing at all. He should like to know by what high authority the noble Lord was to ascertain the truth. He should like to know how it became any member of a Protestant Church to say, "I alone am in possession of the truth." He could quite understand such language proceeding from the Pope. He could quite understand such language coming from the Vatican. He meant no offence—he should be ashamed, either in word or thought, to offend any human being; and although this sentiment might be met with a jeer and a laugh from Gentlemen opposite, he was not ashamed to avow it. He said, then, that he quite understood, that this sort of language might proceed from the Vatican; but how it could proceed from an English Protestant, whose faith was founded on the bible, and connected with the right of private judgment, he could not understand. How this language could be reconciled with the good old doctrine of Protestantism, as he had read it in the old divines of the English Church, he was utterly at a loss to conceive. He felt sure, that the noble Lord must have dipped into a system of theology which had been started of late, that partook more of Romish doctrines, than the Protestant faith of their forefathers. The noble Lord was understood to say, that the present plan worked well. He wanted to know the difference between the plan that was now acted upon, and that which was really before the House. The noble Lord who last addressed the House, and the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, in some of the more effective and biting portions of his speech, took especial care to confound both plans; and indeed he could not believe, that those noble Lords were anxious to draw a clear distinction between them. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department had undoubtedly been driven from his first scheme. He was sorry for it. He regretted, that the present plan was not more acceptable, and still more divested of everything like a sectarian character, because under this plan a Jew must be refused education; and he knew no reason, under a national system of education, why they should exclude any one of her Majesty's subjects on grounds of faith. He should be glad to know from any one 291 of the great advocates of national education upon what grounds and principles he would exclude a member of any Church. Great efforts had been made to show, that the system of education proposed was altogether divested of religious instruction; but how any person could candidly and fairly read the minutes of the Privy Council, and the papers that had been laid before the House, and come to the conclusion, that the Government plan was deficient in that respect, he could not imagine. No doubt it was a matter of extreme difficulty to take any line that should reconcile the great and contending opinions of religious parties. The effort, had, however, been made, and it had failed. It had failed, certainly, from the union of the high Church party and its new alloy, the Wesleyan Methodists; but it remained to be seen, when the question was more discussed and better understood, whether the great body of the Wesleyan Methodists would be disposed to be dragged at the wheels of the Church. What was the difference, then, between the present plan and that which had been acted upon? The present plan was nothing more than a continuance of the plan upon which the Government had acted for some time past. He spoke the sentiments of a very large body; he believed he spoke the sentiments of the great majority of those whom he represented, when he said, that he was thankful to the Government, and rejoiced to find, that upon the question of education they had come to an issue upon these grounds, and he believed, that by standing up manfully in support of a sound system of national education, the noble Lord below him (Lord J. Russell) would do more to attach the Liberal party to him, than any other measure that he could propose. If that noble Lord would but manfully adhere to that principle, he, as a very humble member of that body, would tell the noble Lord, that he need not fear the contest, whenever the contest came, because he would be supported by the opinions and the good sense of the country.
§ Lord F. Egerton
said, that if, consistently with the due discussion of the important question and the usual practice of the House, they could have come to a division after the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, and the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, he should have 292 been quite content not to have attempted any interference in the debate, and he interfered now with great reluctance, because he felt that anything which he could say would only weaken the effect which he was sure his noble Friend's speech must have produced upon the House, and would produce, when it had gone forth, upon the public. He did not wonder that a certain degree of irritation had been displayed, both during and after the delivery of that speech, by the Gentlemen on the opposite side. He did not wonder that the noble Lord had been charged with having used harsh epithets, that his speech had been styled intensely uncharitable— intensely inconvenient he believed it would be to the Government which had proposed this measure, and intensely effective on the intelligence and religious feeling of the country. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had endeavoured to reply to it by a quotation from a former speech of his noble Friend. God knew, if his noble Friend's defence rested on him, he should feel perfectly inadequate to the task; but as he believed that by the forms of the House his noble Friend, on that night at least, would have no opportunity of replying, he would just state, although he had not been present at the discussion of which the speech in question formed part, and he spoke not from authority, that he considered the hon. Member for Lambeth to have misunderstood and misrepresented his noble Friend's observations. In those observations, as he had heard the hon. Member read them, he should have no difficulty in expressing his full acquiescence, however much he might differ from the hon. Member on the present question. He understood the observations to have been delivered during a discussion on the question whether Dissenters should be excluded from the universities by being required to subscribe the thirty-nine articles. The scope of his noble Friend's argument, couched as it was in eloquent, forcible, and just expressions, he apprehended to have been that the previous exclusion ought no longer to exist, and that Dissenters should be admitted, subject to the regulations that now exist, but he did not apprehend that his noble Friend intended to admit conflicting or imperfect versions of the scriptures. His noble Friend had been accused by the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding, of arguing that the Members of the Go- 293 vernment, the depositaries of official power, should not be allowed to interfere with the support of education in this country. He understood his noble Friend to argue no such thing, but rather that it would be inexpedient to give by a vote of that House power to four members of the Privy Council to direct this great system free from all control on the part of the House, and to solve, without reference to the House, all those important and, as he believed the Government had found them, insoluble questions, attached to the subject of, as it was styled by the Government, national education. It had been said, that there was no difference between the system now proposed, and that which had been for some years acted upon by the Lords of the Treasury. He certainly perceived some difference between the plan contained in the vague minute which had been laid on the Table, and a power in the Treasury to supply a portion of the public funds to two societies, whose rules, principles, and modes of action were understood, and printed, and published to the country. He found no likeness in this to the power given by the minute to certain members of the Privy Council, who were irresponsible, and the method of those societies which were managed by persons who were responsible to the public. As he had said, he interfered in this discussion with reluctance, but he owned that he felt it necessary to occupy the House, if it were but a moment, from the circumstance of his having had upwards of fifty petitions against the scheme intrusted to him, the bulk of which were from Wesleyan Methodists, and which as he was unable himself to present them, had fallen, he was glad to say, into the more able hands of his noble Friend the Member for Dorsetshire. Now, with reference to this and other proofs of the unanimity of the great body of Wesleyan Methodists, he must say, that be was almost inclined to attribute more weight and authority on this question to the expression of opinion of that great body than even to that of the leaders of that establishment to which it was his happiness to belong. He thought the former expression of opinion would carry with it more weight and authority to the country, because he thought that it perhaps might be said, that the establishment was at present exhibiting some degree of hostility to the existing Government—of not un- 294 merited hostility, owing to the degree of experience, which they had of the course of general policy which the Government pursued towards them. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Hawes) had intimated doubts of the permanence of this feeling among the Wesleyan Methodists; but for himself he saw no reason to doubt that it would be permanent, because it was based on a deeply-fixed religious principle. However, he was willing to believe—he might say he was certain— that whatever might be the real qualities of these propositions, they were dictated by a deep feeling of the general want of education throughout the country; and he was quite ready to admit that the intention of her Majesty's Government was to set on foot a better system of education; but in seeking to effect this they had risked greater interests even than those of education; they had incurred the danger of substituting poison for that meagre diet, if meagre it were, on which the people at present subsisted. For himself, however, he must say it surpassed his comprehension to find any material difference between the former and the subsequent plan of the Government. The noble Lord (Morpeth) apparently laboured to draw a strong distinction between them; but it seemed to him that in the second minute were substantially contained all the powers necessary for resuscitating, at the proper season, every thing in the first minute to which he and those who thought with him objected. He saw no reason why the committee of Privy Council, whenever it should please them to form for themselves the assumption that there existed in the country a greater concurrence of opinion in their views than was at present conceded to them, should not seize a fitting opportunity, such as that of a recess of Parliament, for the revival and re-construction of that edifice of education which was planned out in the first minute. The noble Lord opposite seemed to disclaim such intentions; all he (Lord F. Egerton) could say was, that with no more information than that on the table, he found it impossible to penetrate the designs of Government. Another objection which he felt to the scheme related to a part of the subject to which the noble Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire had referred in speaking, as he regretted to hear him do, of the impossibility of put- 295 ting on this Board any of the leading members of the Established Church. He regretted this, because he thought it looked like an insult or slight put upon the Church, though he fully believed, that the Church would willingly overlook any slight which it might be thought proper to put upon her, if to do so, would at all serve the advancement of a sound and religious education of the humbler classes. But he objected, not so much that no leading member of the Church had been placed on the board, as that the scheme had been adopted without consulting with, or anticipating objections which might be expected to be urged by, the leading members of the Establishment. Several of the more eminent members of the hierarchy had loudly objected to the scheme; there were sitting among the most earnest opponents of it Bishops of Ministers' own creation. It was not opposed only by prelates created by former Governments, but by prelates who were created yesterday, as it were, and he thought, that the noble Lord had no grounds to hope for success to his scheme, opposed as it was by the most distinguished men in the Church, as well as by so great a mass of the Dissenters. He was afraid the noble Lord would look long for that general concurrence which the minute spoke of. He was afraid that was an event which would be postponed even beyond that happy period, the year 1842, which was to settle the difficulties of the Canadian question. It had seemed to give great offence to the noble Lord opposite, that his noble Friend near him had not chosen to dwell on the subject of the appointment of chaplain under the plan; but he would beg leave to suggest, that where prelates of their own creation were so much opposed to it that, if he might say so, it would be difficult to find a good education Bishop on the bench; they were most likely to find it impossible to get any one from the lower ranks of the Church to desert those ranks, and become chaplain on the terms laid down; and, therefore, he thought his noble Friend was not guilty of any great disrespect to the noble Lord in not referring to the subject. The question having undergone a degree of discussion which had very nearly exhausted the subject between the noble Lord opposite, and his noble Friend who followed, he should not trouble the House further than to say, that he felt that he 296 should not do his duty to his constituents, nor to the large body of persons who had done him the honour to confide their petitions to him, if he did not express his determination to give the strongest support which he could to the motion of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire.
§ Mr. Slaney
said, that he felt very deeply the importance of this subject, and lamented to witness the tone of party spirit which the debate upon it had taken. He deeply regretted that this should be considered a question upon which the two great opponent parties in this House might try their strength, when by the exercise of a little spirit of moderation and conciliation, a good understanding might be effected upon many points on which he was certain a great majority of the House cordially concurred. He was convinced that there were a great number of Members on the opposite side of the House who, however they might disapprove of the Government plan, were as anxious as he was himself for the promotion of the blessings of education amongst the people. The hon. Member, amidst great confusion, then made reference to the report of the committee of which he was chairman, and in which the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, had moved a resolution which went far to neutralize the grounds of opposition which were now assumed to the proposition of her Majesty's Ministers. This resolution was to the effect, that the assistance at present afforded by the Treasury should be extended so as to meet the extraordinary difficulties and the varying demands of the case. Now, this, he thought, was in spirit tantamount to the resolution proposed by her Majesty's Government. He objected to the former plan proposed by Government, that before any assistance was given to any particular place a certain amount should be subscribed towards the required funds; as this would necessarily altogether exclude the poorest places from all assistance, which were the very places he was sure Gentlemen on both sides of the House would agree were those which most required and were best entitled to that assistance. He thought it wise, therefore, on the part of her Majesty's Government to have reviewed and modified this regulation so as to meet the circumstances in various cases of this kind, He should be glad also that the 297 benefits of the grant should not be restricted to schools under the British and National Societies; for, to mention one instance, there was another society, the Infant School Society, whose labours, he was sure, would be acknowledged on all hands as being well entitled to support and assistance. He believed certainly that the great body of Protestant Dissenters would find their interests included under the schools of the British and Foreign Society, and that those of the Church of England would come under the National School Society; but he would say, that there was another large body of people, namely, the Roman Catholics, who were entitled to some consideration. In the town of Manchester there were no less than 30,000 Roman Catholics, and two or three times that number in London; and he would ask Irish Members opposite candidly to reflect, and consider whether they would refuse all the advantages of education to their poor fellow-countrymen whom the unfortunate position of their country had driven over in such numbers to our manufacturing towns, would entreat the attention of the House to a few facts, which would convince them of the crying necessity which existed for something being done for the improvement of the minds and morals of the people. The hon. Member then read an extract from the report of the Education Committee, which stated that in our manufacturing and seaport townsThe kind of education bestowed upon the working classes was as lamentably deficient in amount as it was bad in quality;And thatThe subject was one which demanded some immediate efforts on the part of the Government to remedy it.[Considerable interruption.]
He would really appeal to hon. Gentlemen for their attention for a few minutes. He spoke on behalf of the heartfelt desires and interests of hundreds of thousands of his fellow countrymen, whose affection for their children was as great and as sincere as that of any Gentleman who heard him, for theirs, and who were compelled to witness them going on in a career of danger, leading to ruin, shame, and misery, for the want of the commonest means of education. The following facts were strictly proof of what he said. And again the hon. Member quoted the report— 298In reading the proportion of persons who had received any kind of education was but one in seventeen, in the eastern parts of London, one in twenty-one in the south-west of London, one in twenty-seven in Manchester, one in thirty-five in Birmingham, one in thirty-eight, and in Leeds one in forty-one.In short, two-thirds of the children of the humbler classes were entirely without education. The consequence of this neglect was, that the criminal calendar was yearly increasing, and it appeared that out of 22,000 committals in the present year 20,000 were of persons who were wholly destitute of education. Therefore, by allowing things to go on as they were at present, this House would not only be casting a great additional burden upon the public purse in the shape of prosecutions, but also acting most unjustly towards the unfortunate people who were amenable to the laws of the country. He had never said anything to excite discontent in the humbler classes of the people; his opinions were not those which would be called extreme, but be did say this, that if the Government of this country did not afford the great bulk of the people those means of education by which they might be taught how to live and how to die, discontent would arise in the popular mind, and mischievous persons would get up and ferment that discontent, declaring that that Government was unjust and tyrannical which proscribed those who did wrong, but neglected to afford the opportunity to its subjects of discovering and doing what was right. He would say this also, that if they did not give the humbler classes of society the means of obtaining a good practical education, in a short time it would be found that those people were not to be ruled by any Government which could be found either on this or the other side of the House.
Sir W. James,
was very glad that the public attention had been called, in the way it had been, to this subject—because it would serve as a fresh stimulant to exertion on the part of the clergymen of that Established Church which they professed, and which the people of this country used to have pride in sustaining, and also on the part of the dissenting bodies of the country, which had been so highly spoken of by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire. It was a strange and striking anomaly, that hon. Gentlemen opposite, the constant advocates of a voluntary system in religion, should, at the same 299 time, advocate a compulsory national system of education. He wished to call the attention of the House to the position in which the clergy of the Established Church were placed by this question. After what had been stated by the noble Lord, it could scarcely be necessary to say, that when Lord Althorp, six years ago, announced that all public money to be applied by the State for the purposes of education, should be given to the British and Foreign School and the National School Societies, no objection was made by the Church to that proposition. On the contrary, the clergy of the Established Church had fully acquiesced in that proposal, and when it was wished afterwards to ascertain which stood highest in public opinion, in order to guide the Government in the distribution of the public money, it was found that 120,000l. was given to the National School Society, and only 80,000l. to the Foreign and British. Such was the ratio of public opinion. But no sooner was it known that such a strong predominance of public feeling and support had been afforded to the National School Society, and the principles of instruction inculcated by the Established Church and the Protestant religion, than the Government came forward with a newfangled scheme of education, and denounced the old plan, as objectionable and illiberal. They declared that the education of the people must be taken out of the hands of the clergy, and vested in a committee of the Privy Council, wholly consisting of official laymen, possessing neither the confidence of that House, nor of the people. All that the Church asked was, that there should be no favouritism; that no plan of education should be patronized which would interfere with the rights and privileges of the established clergy, as guardians of public instruction; and, in asking that much, the Church sought for nothing that was not reasonable, and most entirely just. He was the more urgent on Government to consider the objectionable and dangerous nature of their scheme, because he was convinced that no system of education could succeed in this country, which had not the support and approbation of the parochial clergy. Still he did not wish to push his objections to any extreme extent; and if he saw the parochial clergy endeavouring to monopolise the rights of other sects, in regard to the education of their children, he would be the first to oppose such tyranny. Cut, as re- 300 garded their opposition to this scheme of her Majesty's Government, the Church stood in a position from which her enemies would endeavour in vain to move her it was founded upon a firm rock—the rock of truth and justice, and of public approbation and esteem. He must say, that the Church, in that respect, stood in proud and striking contrast to her Majesty's Government, whose measures he had always regarded with suspicion, and more particularly since the time when the President of the Council published his plan to the country, as described in the printed papers laid on the Table of that House. For himself, he had been brought up in that old-fashioned plan which taught him to think, that morals and religion were so intimately connected and blended together, that it was impossible to teach the one without inculcating the other. If he wished, in the present day, to teach morality, he did not know where he should go, except to the Church, for teachers. Her Majesty's Government had been compelled to abandon their secular system, because it had met with the strenuous opposition of all classes throughout the country. There were one or two questions, in respect to the late plan, which he wished much to put to her Majesty's Government. He wished, first of all, to know whether it was still intended to found any normal or model schools, and to give away any part of the public money to such purposes? He wished, also, to know if it was intended to bestow any part of the public money to the Roman Catholic sect? He wished to speak with all due respect of Roman Catholics, but he must say, that if the Government applied any portion of the funds of the State to such purposes, and on this plan, they would adopt a course most hostile and unjust to the rights and interests of the Established Church. He did not, however, look for an answer to these questions, because he had long ceased to expect any thing like straightforward conduct from her Majesty's Government; but, it certainly appeared to him, that it would be quite impracticable to carry on education in this country by public grants, unless they adhered to the line laid down by Lord Al-thorp, to which he had already alluded. That was the only course which could be attempted with just claims to success, with anything like due regard to the rights of the Established Church, and it was the 301 only plan which could have a chance to allay and satisfy the well-grounded fears entertained by the Conservative party in the country.
§ Debate adjourned till the following Wednesday.