§ MR. O'REILLY
, in moving for a Select Committee to inquire into the subject of National Education in Ireland, said, that he had on several occasions ventured to trespass on the attention of the House in reference to this subject; he trusted that the discussions on these occasions had not been altogether without effect, and that the question was better understood in this country and in the House than it had been formerly; so that there might be some chance of an amicable understanding being arrived at, which would be for the good not 991 only of Ireland but of the Empire generally. The Committee he moved for would have to take into consideration certain distinct changes proposed to be made in the system of primary education in Ireland—he did not propose that it should inquire into the general subject—they had had enough of inquiry, and the object of his Committee was to consider how the changes proposed should be carried out, not what were the changes that should be made. It was not necessary for him to show that discontent existed in that country in reference to this question, and that complaints with regard to it had been made by Protestants and Roman Catholics, and by members of every party in the country. The object of his Motion was to show the necessity to guard against proselytism, and to protect the faith of the children attending the schools supported by the State. In former times it had been the admitted desire of the Government to enforce upon Ireland the religion of the Church of England, and accordingly every child attending a school supported by the State was compelled to receive instruction in that religion. The attempt thus to Protestantize Ireland failed, and the system was gradually modified, first so that children should only be compelled to read the Scriptures and to learn the Catechism, and then that they should be compelled only to read the Douay version of the Scriptures. But that, too, failed like every other attempt to interfere with their religion. A wiser race of statesmen then arose who determined that education should be imparted without any interference with the religion of the scholars. The charter of the present system was Lord Stanley's letter, declaring that the schools should be such as that even the suspicion of proselytism should be excluded. In order to carry out that principle the original rule was that certain specified times should be set apart for religious instruction, and that no child of a different religion should be permitted to be present when such instruction was given. That was the rule which he wanted to see in its spirit and essence restored. But time rolled on, pressure was brought to bear upon those in authority, and the character of the rule was changed. In 1855, a rule was issued that the patrons, managers, and teachers of schools should not direct a child to withdraw from the hours of religious instruction, but that all children should have power to absent themselves or to withdraw. The House would under- 992 stand what was the power of a little child of five or six years of age. Then it was stated in the rule that if a parent objected to his child attending religious instruction, it devolved on him to remove the child—that was to say, that it devolved on a parent to leave his work, it might be miles away, and remove his child during the hours of religious instruction. Complaints were made of this alteration, but no redress could be obtained. An order was, however made that a notice was to be sent in writing to all parents whose children were attending religious instruction. Now, mark the snare of this. The House would imagine that the notice was to be sent to those parents whose children were attending religious instruction different from that of the parent, but it was not so; the notice was to be sent to the parent of every child attending religious instruction given by a person of a different religion from that of the parent; so that if Protestant instruction was given to Catholic children by a nominal Catholic the notice would not be sent. The rule was vague and unsatisfactory. When the parent received such a notice he might suppose from it that the religious instruction given to his child was not different from that professed by himself; whereas, as it often turned out, the religious instruction was of a very opposite character indeed. Well, that notice, such as it was, would not be served personally on the parent, but it was to be handed over to the little child at the school—a child, perhaps, of only seven or eight years old, who was supposed to give it to the parent at home. That was the full and efficient guarantee which the wisdom of the Commissioners had devised. It would be universally admitted that the plain object of the institution originally was that the child should be educated in the religion of the parent. That principle, however, had been departed from in the operation of the new rules, which indirectly allowed proselytism to be practised in those schools. He was sorry to say that those Commissioners who professed the Roman Catholic religion were just as much accountable for this change as any other members of the Board of Education. They had not only not opposed those changes in the rules to which he had adverted, but they had actually concurred in them. It might be asked, had the change been objected to? He answered it had, and from the very hour it had been introduced it had been brought to the notice of the Commissioners and of succes- 993 sive Governments. The matter had been brought before the Secretary to the Colonies (Mr. Cardwell), when Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the most formal manner by the Catholic Bishops. About the same time a change was made in the constitution of the Board, and the Roman Catholic Commissioners were increased to ten. He then urged upon Mr. O'Hagan, one of the proposed new Commissioners, the necessity of having the rule changed, and entreated him not to accept the office of Commissioner unless that concession was made. The right hon. Gentleman a short time ago stated, in reply to him, that not a single case of proselytism had taken place in consequence of the alteration of the original rule. He (Mr. O'Reilly) was silent upon that occasion because be had no evidence to bring forward; but having moved for certain Returns on this subject, he was now in a position to state the result. In one of the Returns from a Presbyterian school he found it stated that the "Roman Catholic pupils attend the religious instruction, but they do not take part in it"—a distinction which he confessed himself totally unable to comprehend. In another school the teacher, who was of the Established Church, "instructs in religion pupils of all creeds," and be did not find that any Roman Catholic books were used in the school. In another instance it was stated that "the Roman Catholic children receive Presbyterian instruction." In another that "Roman Catholic pupils receive religious instruction from a Presbyterian mistress in a Protestant course of instruction." In another, that the "Catholic pupils receive instruction in the Presbyterian catechism;" and in another that they receive instruction in the catechism of the Church of England—and here it was stated, and it was the only instance in which it was—that it was with the sanction of their parents. These few instances were sufficient to prove that the present rule was not without its fruits. He would only add on this subject that he had heard a rumour from Ireland that it was under the consideration of the Commissioners whether they would not introduce some change in the rule. All he could say was, that even a tardy repentance on their part would be, if not graceful, at least just, and the public would attribute it not to the Commissioners, but to the influence of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was accountable only 994 for the last few months. The principle which ought to be carried into effect had been well stated in the letter of Lord Stanley, in which he said that—It should be a system of education from which should be banished all suspicion of proselytism, and which, while admitting children of all religions, should not interfere with the peculiar tenets of any,That principle had been recently admitted by Lord Russell, when he stated that it was the duty of the Government not to interfere with the religious belief of any. Now, there were two assumptions not altogether correct which were usually made in discussing this question. The one was that the population of Ireland was of mixed religions. That was quite true of the population generally, but it was not true that the population of each school district—which was the only thing that ought to be taken into account in this case—was generally mixed. There were school districts in the North of Ireland which were purely Presbyterian, and there were school districts in the South and West which were purely Roman Catholic, as regarded the religion of the inhabitants. The second erroneous assumption was this, that there should necessarily be in each school district only one State-supported school. Now if there was to be but one State school in those districts where the population was mixed, the school must be a neutral one, and in these places he freely admitted the necessity of the present system. But, on the other hand, there were two other cases which ought to be considered—one was the case of a district with only one religion, and for that there ought to be one school; the other was the case of a district inhabited by a population of two or more religions, and in which there were two or more schools. There could be no difficulty in each religion having its own schools in districts where there were two schools and two religions, and in many parts of Ireland that was practically the system adopted at the present moment. In the school country parish of Louth, in the county of the same name, there were two National Schools: of one the parish priest was the patron, and the teachers were Catholics, and it was attended exclusively by Roman Catholics; of the other, the rector was the patron, the teacher a Protestant, and all the pupils of the same religion. What, however, was the fact in regard to Dublin? He knew that in one street of that capital there were two National Schools established. Upon 995 one side of the street was a school in which the patron, the teachers, and the pupils, were all of the Protestant faith; whilst on the other side was a school in which the patron, teachers, and pupils all belonged to the Roman Catholic religion. He knew of schools in the South in which there had not been a Protestant pupil for the last thirty years. In the North of Ireland there were Presbyterian schools which no Roman Catholic child ever entered, and yet the teachers were supposed not to utter a word relating to the Scriptures except at a particular hour, because, forsooth, they might offend the Roman Catholics who were never to be found there! The same principle was required to be observed in convent schools, where numerous children were being taught by the nuns, in which there were none but Roman Catholics. And yet if the rule were rigidly applied the nuns themselves should be excluded from them. What he proposed was that in a district where the Commissioners knew that there was no religion but one the children of the school might, under proper restrictions, provided, of course, that it were not attended by pupils of other religions, be instructed in the principles of their own religion; and that in districts of mixed religion, where there were two or more schools, the same rule might be applied; but this proposal was, of course, subject to the understanding that the minority should not be left without a school which they could attend. To show that this denominational system was very prevalent, he might instance the case of Belfast, where there were twenty-two Roman Catholic schools, in nine of which there was not a single pupil of any other religion; and in the others minorities, varying from one to sixteen. The Presbyterians enjoyed the almost exclusive possession of eighty-eight schools, and the Church of England four, while the Dissenters also had their own schools, the patrons of which and the teachers belonged to the Protestant religion. Now what objection would there be to say to them that they might teach their children as they pleased, and to the members of the other denominations that there was a school across the street for them. The Presbyterians, if they chose, might have a mixed system, and so might other sects who preferred it. Belfast supplied an instance of the third case he had mentioned—namely, a district with a mixed population and only one school; and there the principle of neutrality on joint secular 996 and separate religious teaching must be adopted, and that was in the workhouse. He might, perhaps, be asked where the practical grievance of the present system lay. Their grievance was that an ingenious string of rules, framed to prevent any allusion to religion except at a stated time in the day, intended to he applied to the mixed schools, was enforced most rigidly in schools that were not and never had been at all mixed. They were intended to be most rigidly enforced in the mixed schools, but they never were intended to be so enforced in Roman Catholic schools in districts where there were no Protestants. In one of these the inspector found a Roman Catholic catechism-book lying on a window during the time devoted to secular instruction, and the consequence was an inquiry and investigation and a correspondence, similar to that in the military department respecting a pair of bellows. Many Roman Catholics were in the habit of making the sign of the cross before they commenced prayers or work, and he had a bundle of correspondence that had passed with the Commissioners on that point. By the rules no religious exercise or instruction should be given, except at the proper time, and the question was whether if a child chose to bless itself it was a religious instruction or an exercise, or was it not an individual act? The result was that Roman Catholics were worried and harassed in every way. Now, he had the high authorities of two Churches in Ireland in favour of his proposition. One was all the Prelates of the Roman Catholic Church, who had memorialized the Government for an alteration of the rules, and the other was Dr. Trench, the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, who had expressed himself strongly on the subject, and had in great detail advocated the plan he (Mr. O'Reilly) proposed, and pointed out that it would be of advantage to the Protestants in that country. The present system was not practically a mixed system of education, and the plan he advocated, if universally adopted, so far from increasing the present divisions and quarrels, would tend materially to diminish them. An incident had occurred in his presence in the Secretary's Office which he would relate. The clerk was remarking that in his (Mr. O'Reilly's) district there were very few mixed schools, when he observed that he knew a school which had one Protestant in it. The clerk immediately declared that 997 be was delighted at having discovered another mixed school, and had the return altered accordingly. The only objections he had heard raised to what was called the principles of the proposed system were, first that it would destroy competition. His answer to that was, that no such competition existed; the Roman Catholics naturally went to the one school and the Protestants to the other. The second was that it would diminish the control of the Board, and prevent efficiency being insured. That, however, was not found to be the case in England. Again, it was said the Presbyterians had petitioned against the change; but he desired to point out that no one wished to enforce his plan upon others; all he asked was that whilst the Presbyterians retained their wishes in the matter of education, and carried them out, they should not force it on the members of other religions, or on the other three Provinces of Ireland which did not hold the same religious opinions. It was also asserted that the proposed change would lead to quarrelling; he contended that the present system gave rise to far more serious heart burnings than the proposed change would ever result in. The greater portion of the people of Ireland were Roman Catholics; the Government of England was essentially and necessarily Protestant; and the practical effect of these rules—he did not say the logical effect—was to lead the people to believe that the Government interfered harshly and offensively with their religious feelings, leading to a feeling of discontent which it was not to the interest of England to foster. The greatest and most serious complaint was the manner in which these rules and regulations affected the training schools; but he had refrained from saying anything upon that point because he had fully explained his views on that point before, and because he understood it was under the consideration of the Government. On former occasions when he had brought it forward the Government had given a decided refusal to consider it; but as he understood the Government were disposed now to consider, it in deference to a memorial that had been presented to them, he thought it would be more respectful and courteous of him to remove it from the immediate consideration of the House, in the hope that Her Majesty's Government would step forward with some proposition which, if not such a one as he would have brought forward, would be one that might conciliate the opposition 998 on both sides. On a former occasion he postponed his Motion because the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed him that a correspondence was then going on between the Government and the heads of the Roman Catholic Church on that subject. He was bound to say that the answer to the memorial gave little hope that the Government was disposed to meet the wishes of the Roman Catholics. The House would understand that the question of training schools, where the whole of the education took place, was quite different to that of the day schools, where only part of the education was given. The training schools took these young men and women from their homes, and from such religious training as they might receive there, and undertook the formation of their characters. It was impossible to leave out religion as an element in a complete education. The Roman Catholic Bishops had on many occasions formally resolved that none but a Catholic preceptor should give instruction in their training schools upon moral, religious, or historical subjects. And what were these training schools? The young men and women educated in them were instructed by professors and attended lectures on scientific subjects, but they were left at a most critical time in their life without any religious supervision; and this remark applied much more strongly to schoolmistresses. Such a system could not be satisfactory—not to mention particular scandals to which it had given rise, he would state its effect in respect of Fenianism. He did not say these training schools were hotbeds of Fenianism; but many of those superficially educated young men were connected with Fenianism, while several of the informers as to the movements of the conspirators had been teachers who had been carefully trained in the model schools. On the other hand the schools of the Christian Brothers contained about 30,000 pupils, but there was no evidence to show that any educated by them, with the exception of one very young lad who had left their schools at the age of eleven, had been implicated in the Fenian movement. In the central training school there was actually established a lodge of female Fenians, and one young woman sent out a large box of offerings from that school to the Chicago fair which was held in the interests of the Fenians. The result of the course now pursued was, that the Commissioners dared not enforce training in their central schools upon any but the high- 999 est class of teachers. A person might teach in the National Schools as long as he liked, and rise through the various gradations; but then the Commissioners stepped in and said, "You shall not qualify as a teacher of the first class unless you come up and spend so many months in the year in the Central Training School in Dublin." Now this the Roman Catholic teacher would not do; and hence first-rate teachers, who were of that religion, were deprived of their own promotion, and many in consequence left the country. The number of pupils in the model schools was gradually diminishing, and distrust in regard to them wa3 generally entertained by Roman Catholics throughout the land. In this way the best teachers were gradually diminishing; indeed, many were being draughted over to England, because there they could rise to a higher rank than they could in their own country. He asked the House to return to the original rules for the prevention of proselytism, and to examine and test the pupils in whatever way was deemed necessary; but not to force upon the country schools which the people would not enter. This was a question which touched the whole Roman Catholic population of Ireland to the heart's core, for they were much more concerned with it than with a Bill for the extension of the franchise or re-distribution of seats. If justice and fair treatment were extended to Ireland in this matter it would do much to bind the people of the two countries together, and remove the bickerings and heartburnings which had so extensively prevailed. The hon. Member concluded by moving the appointment of a Select Committee.
THE O'CONOR DON
, in seconding the Motion, said, it was proposed that a Committee should be appointed, not to inquire whether certain principles should be adopted with regard to education in Ireland, but, admitting those principles, that a Committee should be appointed to inquire in what way they might best be carried out. The Motion divided itself into two parts. The object of the first was to give greater freedom of education in schools which were practically denominational; the second referred to the restoration of those rules of the National Board which were adopted as guarantees against anything like proselytism. His hon. Friend (Mr. O'Reilly) had laid down that the essential basis of the system in Ire- 1000 land did not differ from that in England, but that difference in detail had arisen because the more mixed character of the population of Ireland rendered the establishment of the exact English system impracticable and inexpedient in that country. The system adopted in Ireland by no means excluded the idea of religious education; but, on account of the mixed population, it kept religious separate from secular instruction. It would therefore be no departure from the principle on which the system was founded to allow greater freedom of religious instruction in schools which were essentially denominational. As to the abrogation of the rule which was considered as a protection against proselytism, his hon. Friend had shown the effect of that abrogation in the fact that a number of children were receiving religious instruction under the National Board inconsistent with the faith of their parents, and he called on Government to restore the original rule, on the faith of which the system in Ireland was accepted. The abrogation of that rule was a direct breach of faith, and since its abrogation public confidence had gradually given way until the system had fallen into the greatest disrepute in Ireland. The alteration to which he alluded was not accidental, nor was it of a trifling character; it was of the whole root of the discontent; and if confidence were wished for the original rule must be restored. He wished also to make a few observations with regard to the model and training schools established in different parts of the country, which, he maintained, were not consistent with the original system established in Ireland by Lord Stanley, but were excrescences upon it. He would remind hon. Gentlemen who complained of the lavish expenditure of public money, that they annually voted over £35,000 for these training and model schools, and the expenditure for each pupil attending the model schools (excluding what were called infants from the calculation) amounted to £5 a head, while the amount per head in England was only about 16s. Another objection to these schools was, that they resulted in an assumption on the part of the State of the whole education of the people. Their teaching was not confined to the mere lower classes, but extended to persons whose parents could afford to pay for their education, and they therefore had a tendency to prevent the establishment of private educational institutions conducted on the voluntary 1001 principle; for it was impossible that a voluntary school could compete with a State-supported school, inasmuch as those who supported the voluntary schools would as ratepayers, in fact, be supporting both systems. He believed it would be a good thing if these schools were placed more under local influence, and were made to a certain extent more self-supporting. Several Motions on the subject under discussion had from time to time been submitted to the notice of the House, but those by whom they had been brought forward were informed that all their complaints against the National system of education in Ireland were answered by facts. No attempt was made to reply in detail to the objections raised, the sole argument of those who upheld the existing system as it stood being that its results were satisfactory. But in what, he would ask, had the schools in question been successful? A generation had grown up under their influence, and was that generation, he should like to know, more prosperous, more contented, or more loyal than those by which it was immediately preceded? If the answer was in the negative, then he must maintain that a system of education which had not produced better fruits could not fairly be set up as having completely secured the objects which it was intended to accomplish. When hon. Members talked of the enormous attendance of scholars at those schools, they seemed entirely to forget that that fact alone did not constitute an irrefutable argument in their favour. Under the existing state of things the people of Ireland were offered the alternative of no education at all, or the acceptance of that which they could get in the National Schools; and the fact that they chose the later alternative was simply a proof, not that they were satisfied with the present system, but that they preferred availing themselves of it to allowing their children to grow up in perfect ignorance. Neither his hon. Friend nor himself wished to overturn the National system of education in Ireland. What they desired was to make it more popular, and that result they believed would be best secured by a strict adherence to the original rules laid down by Lord Stanley, and by providing that in districts in which a population belonging exclusively to one denomination existed, harassing or religious instruction restrictions should be done away with. He had heard it stated that the people of Ireland were really in favour of the mixed system, and that 1002 the agitation against it was got up by interested persons; but that statement was fully disposed of by the piles of petitions which were year after year presented to that House, praying for an alteration in the state of things, as well as by the fact that not a single representative of any Irish constituency in which the popular element prevailed would say that he was a supporter, in its integrity, of that National system of education which some persons maintained was imbedded in the affections of the Irish people. In conclusion, he begged to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland the necessity of distinctly stating what it was the Government proposed to do in reference to the subject, especially what they proposed to do in reference to the question of the training schools.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire what changes may, with advantage, he made in the system of National Education in Ireland, in order to allow greater freedom and fulness of religious teaching in schools attended by pupils of one religious denomination only, and to guard effectually against proselytism and protect the faith of the minority in mixed schools."—(Mr. O'Reilly.)
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he confessed he had heard with considerable surprise his hon. Friend who had just spoken (The O'Conor Don) throw doubt on the good results of the system of National Education in Ireland. He seemed to treat it as a commonplace, scarcely worthy of being mentioned in debate, that the House had before it, in dealing with the present subject, a great existing scheme of popular education. For his own part, he must admit that he never listened to able and ingenious criticisms such as those which he had heard that evening—and he was far from saying that there was not considerable force in some of the observations which had been made—without having before his mind that which he regarded as one of the most important facts which could, under the circumstances, be kept in view, and that was that the House was not asked to deal with the problematical case of a system of education to be established, but with a system of primary popular education which flourished at the present moment, and which embraced within the schools connected with it in Ireland—he spoke of the ordinary primary schools as distinct from the model and all other schools—a number of children on the rolls not far 1003 short of 900,000. The system with which they had now to deal was—with many faults, no doubt, but as a matter of fact—carrying on the education of the great mass of the people of Ireland. If he thought the Motion of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) did not trench upon the fundamental principles on which the ordinary National Schools of Ireland rested, he should certainly have no objection to make to it. He was glad to hear from both the Mover and Seconder of the Motion that their intention was not to destroy but to improve the system. He accepted and hailed that declaration from his hon. Friends, which he conceived to be most valuable, and to hold out, as he hoped, some fair prospect of their being able at some not far-distant day to remove all well-founded objections that could be urged against the system. But could it be said that the Motion in none of its parts trenched upon the essence and foundation of that system, or upon the principles on which its stability and success might be deemed to depend? By the terms of the Motion his hon. Friend asked for greater fulness and freedom of religious teaching in certain schools which, as a matter of fact, contained children of one denomination only. These were attractive words, no doubt; but let them see what they meant. In the first place, they meant that in a large portion of the National Schools of Ireland all those restrictions and conditions which the State had imposed with respect to religious instruction should he totally withdrawn. That total withdrawal might, of course, come into play in either one of two ways. Every child attending the school might be required to submit itself to the religious instruction of that school, irrespective of its own religious creed; and that, he must say, was not the demand made by his hon. Friend. The other mode was that such schools should be rendered practically exclusive. His hon. Friend might say that that was not his intention; and that if one of those schools which to-day was purely denominational, containing children of only one denomination, should become to-morrow in any degree a mixed school, it might at once fail within the category of mixed schools, and be subject as such to the rules which were now and always had been provided for every National School in Ireland. But it was impossible to conceive such a state of things in practice. For his own part, at least, he felt the greatest difficulty when he attempted to conceive a hybrid 1004 condition of things such as that. He was at a loss to imagine how the course recommended by his hon. Friend would work. Practically, it seemed to him that it would he impossible every time that, in the strict definition of the term—and in these matters they were bound in common justice, even to the smallest minorities, to interpret "mixed school" in the strictest and narrowest sense of the term—it would, he said, be impossible to alter the rules of a National School every time that a Protestant or a Roman Catholic family, as the case might be, found its way into the neighbourhood of a school which was denominational yesterday, and might be mixed to-day; or again, when a family, as constantly happened, chose to transfer its children from some particular school, the instruction of which it did not approve, in order to send them—as, to the honour of Irish parents of the poorest class, they often would do—to the best schoolmaster they could find in the neighbourhood. But, more than that, without imputing blame to patrons, managers, or any one else connected with these schools, it was impossible not to see practically that, having once got rid of all restrictions upon the religious instruction of a school—restrictions which he considered to be of a very light and harmless character, but from which, as they knew from the Motion made that night, many persons desired to be relieved—care would undoubtedly be taken that the school, having once become denominational, should continue to be denominational. It would be impossible for the patrons and managers to resist the temptation they would be under to discourage the attendance at their school of children of a different creed when they knew that the entrance of perhaps one such child would alter its rules, and subject them at once to restrictions which they disapproved. The result, then, would be that, either avowedly or virtually, by rule or by practice, these schools would acquire the right of excluding children belonging to a religious denomination different from that of the patrons—of excluding them, that was to say, from the benefits of that secular education which that House had intended should be open to all comers in Ireland. He did not mean to deal at any length with the other point which he had just touched.—namely, the imposition of one form of religious instruction upon all children applying for the secular advantages of the school. His hon. Friend did not make that claim. It was a claim which 1005 he was sorry to see still made by many members of his own Church, and he freely admitted it was one which was far more utterly opposed to the principles of the National system than the claim put forward by the Mover and Seconder of the present Motion. Those two hon. Gentlemen claimed greater freedom of religious teaching for children of their own creed; while those persons who made the other claim to which he had referred asked for greater freedom to impart religious instruction to the children of a different creed from their own. But in practice, under the system which his hon. Friends advised the House to adopt, either children of another persuasion would find their way, in their pursuit of knowledge and education, into these schools, and would therefore require the protection of those safeguards which the present rules threw around them, or else the schools would be rendered exclusively denominational, and the minorities in the districts where they existed would thus be deprived of the benefits which Parliament meant they should enjoy. Now he held that, under the circumstances of Ireland, the Government and Parliament would not be justified in providing schools, maintained almost entirely at the expense of the State, the doors of which should be shut in that way against any children offering themselves for education. And he need not remind the House or his hon. Friend that if there was one rule of the Board which was more fundamentally essential than another, it was this—that the religious instruction in every National School should be so arranged that each school should be open to children of all persuasions. Undoubtedly the rule suggested by his hon. Friend would be a direct infringement of that fundamental principle of the present system. But then let them look at the manner in which Protestants were scattered in small minorities—sometimes in mere handfuls—in almost every parish in the larger portion of Ireland, and also remember how many Roman Catholics were scattered over the greater part of the Protestant North. He would not dwell upon the facts which had been so often stated, as to the degree in which the system of National education in Ireland was mixed or not. On the one hand, he did not overrate the importance of those facts; nor, on the other, was he prepared to treat them in the spirit which some had exhibited. He would only allude to the case of Ulster, where it was well known that 1006 some 86 per cent of all the children were actually in mixed schools; and to the fact that in Ulster there were between 900 and 1,000 National Schools, in every one of which the minority, whether it was Protestant or Roman Catholic, was not less than 10 per cent, and ranged from that point up to 49 per cent. But the truth was, that all over Ireland these mixed schools, in the strict sense of the term, did exist to a very great extent. They were more than 50 per cent—he thought they were 54 per cent—of the whole number of National Schools in Ireland. Of course, the returns were shifting in their character from week to week and month to month, according to the entrance or departure of small minorities of the other creed. Another fact was, that the number of these mixed schools was increasing in Ireland. He would just mention the figures to the House. He found that in 1859 there were within the walls of mixed schools, in round numbers, 80,000 Protestants and 215,000 Roman Catholic children. In 1865 there were in mixed schools 103,000 Protestant and 240,000 Roman Catholic children. These were, he thought, significant facts; but he only used them for the purpose of showing that throughout a great part of Ireland there existed minorities so small as either to be totally incapable of providing schools for themselves, or only capable of providing small and bad schools. Then came the further question as to the restrictions of which his hon. Friend complained. If those conditions were of a very serious, onerous, and pressing character, he should refuse to defend them; but seeing what they were, he could not bring himself to believe that they were of so onerous a character, or in any degree so detrimental to the religious education of the children, as to demand the sacrifice of what he conceived to be the fundamental principle of the National system. It was in the power of the patron to give religious instruction before and after the secular instruction, and also at intermediate times. He had seen a good deal of the working of the National Schools, which were, in fact, the parish schools of the parish priest in his own part of Ireland, and they were, to a large extent, denominational schools. The hon. Member (Mr. (O'Reilly) smiled at that, but no one had any reason to be ashamed of the fact. In his view the non-vested schools were, in fact, denominational schools, but with an Irish conscience clause—a conscience clause that was practically adapted to the wants and 1007 necessities of Ireland. The patron was, in the majority of schools, the Roman Catholic priest or the Presbyterian minister, who looked to the religious instruction of the children, and he had a right to exclude every other form of religious instruction but his own, if he gave the minority freedom to obtain instruction from their pastor elsewhere. He appointed or dismissed the teachers to these semi-denominational schools, which were, as he had said, under the operation of an Irish conscience clause, such as was fit to deal with the jealousies, the fears, and the religious passions that unfortunately prevailed between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. Had these schools with their restrictions inflicted injury upon the faith and morals of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland? The present generation of Irishmen had for the most part passed through those schools. He spoke of Ireland as a whole, and no hon. Gentleman would stand up in that House and say that the present generation of the Irish peasantry, who had been brought up in the National Schools, would yield to the peasantry of any Roman Catholic country in the world for devotion to their Church or for purity of morals. Unless he could give stronger reasons than he had offered, he hoped that his hon. Friend would not ask the Government to give up these restrictions, and so to endanger the system of education in Ireland, or to surrender the conscience clause, and thus cover Ireland with schools that would either peril the faith of the children or exclude them altogether. He now came to the second part of the Motion, and which he admitted to be very important. It was directed against the state of facts known to exist in some parts of the North, where the school children of one religious communion were sometimes receiving religious instruction from the teachers of another religious communion. The facts, indeed, were greatly exaggerated. He had seen figures of a preposterous amount quoted. No doubt, however, there was a considerable number of children—mainly, but not exclusively, Roman Catholics—in the North of Ireland who were receiving religious instruction from teachers of another faith. That, he admitted, was not in accordance with the fundamental principles of the National system. That principle was united secular and separate religious instruction. In the case in question it was a system of united secular and religious instruction. 1008 That was a state of things never contemplated by the National system, and it was condemned alike by the authors of the system and by the Government. Such cases were exceptional, and could only be justified upon one understanding—that the children received this religious instruction by the wish and positive consent of their parents. He by no means asserted that in these cases proselytism was intended; but neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic children ought to be expected to receive religious instruction from the teachers of another creed, except by the express consent of the parent. That was an opinion he had long and strongly held; and the system described to-night, under which the teacher put a printed notice in the hand of a child the first time he came to the school, and it was supposed the parents consented to his receiving religious instruction, unless measures were taken by the parents to prevent it—that system was to his mind an illusory one, and one well deserving the consideration of the House. He was happy to state that the National Commissioners were propria motÛ considering the present rule, and would endeavour to devise some means by which the professed objects of the rule might be more faithfully carried out; so that children might not attend religious instruction from a teacher of another faith, unless with the positive instead of the presumed consent of the parents. There was thus a fair prospect that the blot of the system to which the Motion of the hon. Gentleman pointed might be rectified and removed. He now came to the third point treated by his hon. Friend, which was of great importance; but a point of which no notice had been given by the terms of the Resolution. He referred to the model and training schools. His hon. Friend made some allusion to the fact that the answer of the Home Secretary to the letter of Archbishop Cullen and the Roman Catholic prelates was not satisfactory on that point. But his hon. Friend should recollect that the only suggestion made in the letter of the Roman Catholic prelates was that these model and training schools should be swept off the face of the earth altogether. It was therefore neither the time nor the opportunity for the Secretary of State to make suggestions for the amendment or the improvement of those institutions. He was far from saying that the Government were of opinion that the model and training schools, especially the model schools, of Ireland 1009 were in a satisfactory condition. It was impossible to shut their eyes to the fact that these schools were not performing all that had been hoped from them when they were first introduced, or to deny that the number of Roman Catholics in them had largely and steadily decreased. He defied any one to read the last Report of the Commissioners of National Education with- out being painfully struck by the opinion of the inspectors as to the deterioration of the teachers in some parts of Ireland, ! which had begun, and must be expected to increase. In many Roman Catholic schools that might he accounted for by the fact that they had not obtained the advantages of training in the central or training schools. He was not going into the causes. He took the facts as he found them, and he fully admitted that they constituted a very grave state of things, and one deserving to obtain, and which would obtain, the anxious consideration of the Government. He lamented the course taken by the heads of the Catholic Church in Ireland upon this subject; the Government could not entertain the proposal that the model schools should be swept away; but, for the reasons he had stated, they felt that these schools were not performing those functions, especially with regard to the Catholic body, which they were established to discharge. Many modifications, he had no doubt, might be made in them, in accordance with the principles of the National Board, and with advantage to the country. He had not treated this Motion so far as if it were one for a Committee, and his hon. Friend (Mr. O'Reilly) himself was very much the cause of that, for he very frankly told the House that he wanted no information, and he certainly showed that his stores of information were as ample as they were accurate. His object, then, was to raise a discussion and to discover the best mode of applying the information to the facts of the case. With respect to discussion, his hon. Friend had succeeded in raising it, and he had no doubt it would be continued in a satisfactory manner. With respect to the application of the information, he ventured to submit that that was rather a matter for Her Majesty's Government than for anybody else. He hoped, then, his hon. Friend would not insist upon a Committee to deal with so narrow a part of the subject. As to the second part of the Motion, he had said enough to show that it was at this moment under the consideration of the National 1010 Board, and he had no doubt before long the Government would receive the result of their deliberations. On the subject of the third part—not of the Motion, but the speech of his hon. Friend—he (Mr. Fortescue) had frankly admitted that there were circumstances connected with the model schools which deserved to receive the anxious consideration of the Government. Under these circumstances, he hoped his hon. Friend would not force the House to a division, which he would probably see would be both inopportune and premature.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, the Motion which had been made by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) had been brought forward with great temper and ability; but the defect of his speech and Motion was that he left wholly untouched an important part of the inquiry—namely, the secular part of the system. That question the hon. Gentleman had judiciously and wisely for the present left wholly in the back ground. The subject of education had received the attention of all good and wise men in this country some time back. The hon. Gentleman had professed to give a short account of the mode in which education was conducted in Ireland, Nothing could be worse, and in that all were agreed, than the hedge schools which prevailed in Ireland at the end of the last century. Shortly after the rebellion of 1798 an attempt was made, and very successfully, by the Church to which he belonged to remedy this state of things by establishing a system of Sunday-school teaching. Subsequently a better and larger experiment was made by a body which was known as "the Kildare Place Society," and which the hon. and gallant Gentleman might have stated met at first with the entire approval of his Church. The hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to have recollected that Mr. O'Connell attended at the Society and approved its principles—principles upon which it still rested, for he stated—and his speech was preserved by the Society, and hon. Gentlemen would do well to read it—that the system was a tolerant one, and that it would enable Christians of all denominations, particularly Roman Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, to meet in the same school upon the common ground of reading the Scriptures. The Douay version—and a very good version it was—was that which the Roman Catholic pupils were permitted to read. Well, 200,000 children attended 1011 the schools of the Society, and if any one would read the reports of Sir Frankland Lewis, he would find a great number of letters from Bishops of the Church of Rome approving the system. It was, however, in due time attacked. Everything in Ireland at one time or other was attacked. A thing grows up and becomes popular; but after a little time it is found to have some vice which had escaped the notice of wise and good men for a long time, and then it is overthrown, and another thing established which in due season will be pronounced more vicious than the system which preceded it. They were all agreed that National education ought to be encouraged, but the principle upon which it was to be conducted had been the subject in dispute. Was it to be secular education exclusively, or religious mixed with secular education. And which was to be preferred? The Church of England had fallen into the blunder—if blunder it was—of saying that the Book of Revelations was to be taken first, and afterwards the Book of Nature. The case which he had to bring forward was that of a real grievance, and though the hon. and gallant Gentleman was very clever and very plausible, his grievances were not very deep; at the same time, the hon. Gentleman had a right to submit those grievances to the House; and, as far as he could collect any meaning from the peculiar official phrases they had heard from the Treasury Bench, the Chief Secretary was willing in some way or other to consider at least two of them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that we must revert to the system of Lord Stanley. Now, he ventured to say that Lord Derby would be the very first man to deny the application of that system to the present state of things in Ireland. He heard Archbishop Whately say that he would never have been a party to that system in Ireland only that there was to be a certain amount of religious education connected with it; and, accordingly, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knew very well, there were Scripture lessons, and the evidences of Christianity, and a hymn-book which Sir John Young used to read to the House—but that had gone out of date now—all under the sanction of the Board for use in the schools. Archbishop Murray and other eminent ecclesiastics of the Catholic Church approved these things. Everyone who objected to the system now attacked the model schools, the fact being that they were the only schools which pre- 1012 served the plan of Lord Stanley, and which were frequented by a large number of Protestants. For a long time these schools had been popular in Ireland. They were"vested"schools—vested in the Board. The great blunder which had led to all the confusion was in allowing non-vested schools under individual patrons, for then the happy state of things referred to by the hon. Gentleman arose—namely, the patron might give any religious instruction he chose, or none at all. That system had been described by Mr. Warren, a gentleman of the Bar in Ireland, in a pamphlet, in which he said that the rules of the National Board were negative, permissive, prohibitory, and that the system did not provide any religious instruction in any school. He added that the rules required freedom of religious instruction before and after school hours, but did not oblige the school to provide it; and that the system of non-vested schools excluded any and all kinds of religious instruction, and that without reference to the wishes of the parents or of the clergy. Notwithstanding the absurdity of the idea for a politician, the hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to think he was about to convert the clergy of Christian Churches to approval of schools from which the patron might exclude "any and all kinds of religious instruction." The allowance of non-vested schools established a principle opposed to that on which Lord Stanley rested the National system, and led to certain consequences. It was originally contemplated that the clergyman and the priest might co-operate in the management of the same school. He had read of a case in which this arrangement gave the Board more trouble in composing the differences of the two than the management of a thousand schools. On this ground joint management had ceased entirely, and the truth was accurately stated when it was said that the 3,000 schools were presided over by as many priests. He did not complain of this, but it was right that the House should know the fact. It would be difficult, under these circumstances, to find out the grievances of the parish priests, who nominated the master and mistresses and superintended the religious instruction. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that practically those schools were exclusive, or, as he called them, denominational schools, and to the extent that they existed they had changed the system. The monastic or convent schools were intro- 1013 duced into the National system as a tribute of respect to the religious principle that that might be done which it was pretended was not done; and there was nothing more offensive to a lover of truth than to do that indirectly which you were forbidden to do directly. As to the ex-elusion of symbols, the nun was the most complete symbol and the proof of the exclusion of the school. Protestants were not deceived in the least; they did not enter such a school. Roman Catholics stated that they preferred such schools, because they got there religious instruction, and they liked the instruction of the ladies. Although he did not approve monasteries and convents, he could understand and respect the principle. The reason, then, why the model schools were not so popular as they had been was that the Board, with an incomprehensible fatuity, had established in each district where there was a model school a convent school. The priest said, "That is what I want; I am for religious education;" and the people went with him; and at his behest, as soon as the convent school was ready, the model school was emptied of scholars. And then it was said, "How is it possible for these model schools to exist? they have become unpopular in the country." The Board had established inconsistent schools side by side, and then they affected great surprise that the people acted according to their judgment. The Reports of the Inspectors showed that the model schools were everywhere suffering from the opposition of the Catholic clergy and rivalry of the model schools. Every Member of the Ministry ought to read the Report of Mr. Sheridan, one of the inspectors, which was not published for some time, but was at length produced on the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast. In speaking of these convent schools, Mr. Sheridan said, that the teachers very seldom had any opportunity of obtaining a technical training, either before or after they made a religious profession; and hence, although they were well educated generally, he apprehended that many of them had but a limited acquaintance with improved methods of teaching and school organization. With candour and fairness he added that these teachers were impatient of the competition of a rival school; that in many of the smaller towns no female schools except those connected with convents were to be found, and that in some towns in which 1014 there were monks' school as well as nuns' schools, the ordinary male National School had been proscribed. Mr. Sheridan observed that the teachers were actuated by good motives—they had faith in themselves, believed their own schools the best adapted for the training of youth, and therefore thought they were justified in using their influence to remove all other schools out of their way. Mr. Sheridan denounced such a policy as intolerant, and said that like every intolerant policy, the evils it gave rise to were more than sufficient to counter-balance the good it was expected to effect. Mr. Sheridan summed up by saying that the schools in most cases were crowded to excess, and that as the inevitable result, the rate of progress was extremely slow, a child very rarely reaching the upper class before completing his school course. He stated that there were ample funds for all persons in the country to receive a share, but that the most curious and remarkable feature was that only 18 or 19 per cent of all the pupils attending the National Schools ever reached the higher classes, and he hoped that the Commissioners would take such steps as would lead to a radical change in the course and system of instruction at present adopted. Some of the Reports of the sub-inspectors were of an equally unsatisfactory character. The Board having established convent schools, the next thing that happened was an application for a large body of monitors of their own selection, which would have got rid of the training schools at once; and though the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth (Sir Robert Peel) reminded the Commissioners that they had no power to alter fundamental rules of the system of National education without the consent of the Lord Lieutenant, he was answered in a long letter, and apparently put down. Hosts of protests were sent up against the convent schools as directly contrary to the system on which National education rested, and as likely, if persevered in, to be the death-blow to that system, and he believed it was admitted that the object of these schools had been fully realized. The present Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Card-well), when Chief Secretary for Ireland, in writing to the late Primate, laid down, as the only principle applicable to Ireland, that the education given in schools deriving assistance from the State must be of so comprehensive a character as not to exclude pupils belonging to any religious commu- 1015 nion; but surely no one could pretend that the convent and monastic schools described by Mr. Sheridan, and founded in deference to the religious principle prevailing in the Roman Catholic Church, were of this character. Roman Catholics, indeed, were too candid to make any such representation. He was not authorized to express the views of any particular body in this matter, but he conscientiously believed that the attempt to maintain the system as it now stood was most unwise, and he would state his reasons for that opinion. Much had been made of the alleged grievances of the Roman Catholics, but the substantial grievances of the Church of England in respect to education were passed by unnoticed, and he believed would never be redressed unless through the intervention of Parliament. The principle with which they started was that the Scriptures should be used in the parish schools, though not with any intention of proselytizing. The Douay version was allowed for Roman Catholic pupils, and it could hardly be alleged that the reading of this was likely to make them less attached to their religion. It being held, however, that the use of the Scriptures was altogether forbidden, some of the clergy were willing to assent to a modification of their original principle, and inquired whether they would be allowed to make an incidental reference to Christianity in the course of the day. That was certainly a very modest request, and Lord Carlisle, then Lord Lieutenant, acknowledged the receipt of their communication very courteously. The Commissioners, however, decided that it was impossible to allow even an incidental reference to the Word of God. Then it was asked whether, if a question arose which required to be solved by reference to the rule of faith contained in the Scriptures, a master might correct a pupil by reference to that standard; and the answer was that it was impossible—that such a practice would be a departure from the rules. Zoroaster, or anything else might be alluded to during the day, but the New Testament was a forbidden book. In the ragged schools they began by teaching the children, "Thou shalt not steal," but the National Board would not tolerate such a thing, because it involved a reference to Christianity. ["No, no!"] He maintained that such was the case, and would tell the gentlemen who entertained the notion, that they could convert the Church of England to such views that it would be as reasonable to 1016 suppose that the Chief Secretary for Ireland could take St. Paul's in his hand and drop it in Pimlico. In reality no such thing existed in Ireland as mixed education. About three years ago a Return was made to Parliament showing that there were 5,496 schools in Ireland, 2,598 of which did not even make a pretence of imparting mixed education. Of the2,898 which remained, there were 478 in which the minimum attendance of Protestants was one in each. But the House should remember that according to Mr. Ferguson's report, of 105 children on the rolls only 49 attended the schools, and he asked them how much of Protestanism had they with the chance of the 49th part of one Protestant attending them. Then there were 385 schools in which the minority of Catholics or Protestants, as the case might be, consisted of two; 281 schools in which there were three Protestants; 210 in which there were four Protestants; and 164 in which there were five Protestants. In a very large number of these schools, therefore, it was obvious that there could be no mixed education at all. Did his right hon. Friend think there was any such thing as mixed education in Dublin? Why, in one street in that city there were two schools—one Church of England and the other Roman Catholic. In the Church of England school the Scriptures were read. He did not know what was done in the Roman Catholic school, but he supposed they did what they liked. He thought it quite right that the State should insist on getting value for the money it voted, and should see that a good secular education was imparted, the religious element being left free. At one time he had intended to submit to the House a Resolution to the effect that the Board for the management of National Education in Ireland, consisting of twenty Commissioners, was inconveniently large for the despatch of business, and calculated to cause disputes and delays; that the said Board should consist of a limited number of paid Commissioners, with administrative functions only, to conduct the secular system of National education in Ireland in conformity with the prescribed rules, and to impart its advantages to all denominations without distinction, and that the said Commissioners should not interfere with the religious instruction to be given in the schools. He saw no way of getting out of the difficulty, unless the secular system were brought up to the 1017 highest degree of pefection. It might be asked how Churchmen got on with their schools. He would quote the last report of the Church Education Society. Their grievance was that they were taxed for the National system of education while none of their schools received the slightest assistance from the Board. While the convent schools were paid for their exclusive system of instruction the Church of England schools derived no assistance whatever—not even books or school requisites—from the National Board, and were not even under inspection, because they read the Scriptures in them. Well the report in question stated that none of the teachers or persons connected with the society had been mixed up in the Fenian conspiracy, they having acted upon the principle of "Fear God, honour the King." If those words were inscribed in any National School it would not be entitled to a farthing. The schools of the Society had diminished, but still they were 1,498 in number. The number of children was 68,856, of whom 47,397 belonged to the Established Church, 12,773 Dissenters, and 8,686 Roman Catholics. A decrease had taken place in the number of Roman Catholic children, while the children of Dissenters had increased in number. The funds during the year amounted to £45,155 12s. 6d. Upon what ground, he asked, could Christian men refuse to assist those who were really working in the cause of education? Earl Granville had once proposed in the other House of Parliament to give to the Church of England schools, not money, but school requisites, books, and inspection. Afterwards, however, the noble Lord repented of his liberality, and excluded the Church schools from State assistance. Looking at the manner in which the system of National education established by Mr. Stanley had been departed from, he submitted to the wisdom of the House that the real question before it was not the narrow subject touched on by the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, but the subject of National education in Ireland generally; and although the present system had conferred some benefits as a secular system, these might have been rendered far more effectual for the promotion of the great ends of true education if its administration had been more wisely and beneficially directed.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he was surprised at the first objection raised by so good a Liberal as Mr. Fortescue, to the proposal of Mr. O'Reilly. The right hon. Gen- 1018 tleman said that the present system of National education was not a new thing, that it had been in operation for many years, and that there would be difficulties in altering it. The right hon. Gentleman might perhaps have remembered that National education was a contemporary of the Reform Bill, that their early days were passed together; when, therefore, he was prepared to swallow changes in the Constitution, no doubt very salutary, it was strange that he should strain at changes in the present system of National education, which would be salutary also. He (Mr. Gregory) would take no account of the first objection, but he came to another far more formidable, and that was the difficulty of dealing with schools in localities where one or two children might be of a faith differing from the majority, and yet who on that account should not be deprived of education. The right hon. Gentleman instanced the case of the few Protestants who were scattered about in the different counties of the South and West and middle of Ireland. But while the Chief Secretary was using these words, he (Mr. Gregory) was handed by the Member for Roscommon (The O'Conor Don) the charge of the Archbishop of Dublin, in which the Primate particularly alludes to and meets that difficulty. He says, as the Protestants in Ireland have hitherto supported their own schools by private liberality, so would they provide for any such cases as those referred to, because then they would be enjoying State assistance while giving religious education. He (Mr. Gregory) would venture to say that in similar cases in the North of Ireland the Roman Catholics would equally be able to provide for the instruction of their children in those rare cases where there was not room for two schools of different denominations. While referring to the Archbishop of Dublin's charge, he might remark that during the last seven or eight years a considerable change has taken place in the position which the subject of National education occupied in Ireland. Up to a recent period the great bulk of the Irish Protestant clergy were adverse to the system. The petitions against it were originally from the clergy and those who were influenced by them; the attacks on the system emanated from the Protestant press, and the Members of the Dublin University, who may be called par excellence the representatives of the Established Protestant Church, denounced it in the House. Now, 1019 however, a great change has taken place. The late Primate of Ireland signified his adhesion to it, and a great body of the clergy of the Established Church have followed his example. On the other hand, a vigorous agitation against it and in favour of the denominational system had sprung up on the part of those who originally adopted and upheld the National system, as based upon the celebrated letter of Mr. Stanley. He referred to the Roman Catholic episcopacy and clergy. Now, as those who originally accepted the system have become its antagonists, and as many of those who before opposed it have abandoned their resistance, he thought it by far the most proper and statesmanlike course not to impute improper motives to either party, but to see if anything had occurred which had created this somewhat strange shifting of opinion. It was his intention to have referred at some little length to the changes that had sprung up in the system since Mr. Stanley's letter—changes by-the-bye strongly condemned by Lord Derby himself, whom he should personally call as a witness into court. He was happy, however, to say that his hon. and gallant Friend (Mr. O'Reilly) had so clearly and forcibly put these points before then, that he was spared the necessity of inflicting more than a few remarks upon the House. He (Mr. Gregory) begged so far to go over the ground again as to trace succinctly, and in a few sentences, the changes which have occurred since Mr. Stanley's letter of 1831. Mr. Stanley's letter was to this effect—That the school should be kept open for a certain number of hours on four or five days of the week for moral and literary instruction only, and that the remaining one or two days in the week be set apart for giving separately such religious instruction to the children as may be approved of by the clergy of their respective persuasions.The system was thus started by a distinct pledge that religious instruction should be given, and given separately, to the children of different creeds. Now, let them mark the gradual departures from that pledge:—In 1833, no child was allowed to continue in the school except such as was directed by his parent to remain. In 1835, the Board acceded to the request of the Pres byterians, and permitted religious instruction to be given every day "either before or after the ordinary school hours." In 1838, a course of religious instruction was allowed during school hours, but no child 1020 was to be present whose parent objected. In 1840, children were to remain unless directed by their parents not to remain. In 1855, the principle of non-exclusion became thoroughly recognized. Not only that, but religious teaching is no longer an essential part of the system; a school devoid of any religious instruction may receive aid from the Board. The patron is not bound any longer to provide for the religious education of all the pupils of his school. He may select one form for his exclusive patronage. He may prohibit any religious teaching not in accordance with his own views. No wonder Lord Derby was indignant at the changes effected in his great work, in its main features being so altered, and he thus expressed himself in March, 1858—I regret that in so large a portion of the schools support has been given to the arguments of those opposed to them,"(namely, Protestants,)"and that, in fact, in the great bulk of the schools, contrary to the intention of those who originally proposed the system, there is not only no religious instruction given, but no facilities even for separate religious instruction by the ministers of different persuasions out of school hours.In fact, the system was burdened with complaints on all sides. It might be assailed on the most conflicting grounds. As a system in which the religion of the pupil may be tampered with—as a system in which children may be brought up without the slightest fear of God, or knowledge of his law. Let him (Mr. Gregory) deal for one moment with the first case. Children may now remain during religious instruction unless directed by their parents to absent themselves. But religious instruction may now be given every day and at any hour, and what were these poor children to do during that time—were they to sit down by the roadside in snow, and rain, and cold? Certainly not. They would remain in school—in a warm room—and listen to instruction in a faith which was not theirs. The Commissioners are now satisfied if on the child's first attendance a notice is handed to him by the manager to apprize the parent that his child is attending religious instruction in a creed differing from his own. Possibly the parent is indifferent to the notice, and the child continues to attend this religious instruction; possibly the parent desires him to absent himself, but cold and wet are present to him, and are stronger than the injunction of the parent who is absent. Thence comes disobedience and evasion. In 1862, 1021 16,000 children of Ulster were served with this notice. Now, is it wonderful that Roman Catholics are suspicious of this system when they remark these various changes arising out of it—all of them, as they believe, essentially insidious and leading to the subversion of the religion of the pupils—when they see temptations offered to children to induce them to acquiesce in a teaching differing from, nay, even hostile to their own? He had shown the number of cases of Roman Catholic children attending Notional Schools of Presbyterian or Church of England patrons in Ulster. He had now to speak of inducements and temptations held out to children. There was an investigation held on the proceedings of a National School, Belfast. The Report stated that from 1849 to 1855Clothing was supplied, but breakfast, dinner, and supper was denied to those who absented themselves from religious instruction, illness alone being considered a sufficient apology for absence.This instruction, be it remembered, was given exclusively by Presbyterian teachers. Formerly the objections of a parent, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, was sufficient to remove from the hours of combined instruction any religious book which he deemed pernicious to the faith of his child, but in 1853 the rule was altered, and now extracts and sacred poetry cannot be removed as a portion of combined instruction so long as a solitary pupil does not object to read them. Let the House now see what some of the most influential clergymen of the Church of England think of all this. Archdeacon Stopford thus expressed himself—The Board has ever since their establishment laboured under the difficulty entailed on them by Lord Stanley's letter. Public opinion and experience have led them to a gradual though un-avowed and incomplete correction of the original letter for which they have not obtained due credit.In referring to the change of the rule whereby non-compulsion instead of exclusion was sanctioned, Archdeacon Stopford advised the Protestant clergy of Moate to adopt the National system. He says—I counsel you to connect your schools with a system which has achieved its present form through a course of silent changes.And now the House should hear the fruits of these silent changes, as described by two Protestant clergymen, whose opinions are entitled to much weight from the 1022 prominent part they have taken in this controversy. Dean Kennedy says—In my schools there are Roman Catholics receiving a greater amount of Scriptural education through the means of the secular books of the National Board and the Scripture lessons, than in any Church Education School that I know. This is my deliberate conviction. I think the principles of the National Board are the principles of the Reformation.He (Mr. Gregory) might say that however excellent these principles of the Reformation might be, they were not exactly the principles in which four-fifths of the Irish people, if they had their own way, would wish to be instructed. The next witness, the Rev. F. F. Trench, exhorts the Protestant clergy to join the Board on these grounds, and pretty strong grounds they were—I say that in the compact to have those points taught in schools upon which Protestants and Romanists agree, the Protestant has decidedly the advantage, and the patron can teach Protestantism to every child in the schools. I am of opinion that the patron might even pledge himself underhand, and state that he will let Romanism alone during certain hours of the day, so far as refraining from controversial teaching can be considered as letting Romanism alone; but, in my judgment, if a Christian Minister educates Roman Catholic children on the points upon which Protestants and Catholics are agreed, which he may I do, at all hours, he is very far from letting Romanism alone.He (Mr. Gregory) wondered if these were the incidental allusions to Christianity, the deprivation of using which seemed to have wrung so deeply the bosom of the right hon. and learned Member (Mr. Whiteside) who had just spoken. Such extracts as these were alone sufficient to condemn the system in the eyes of every man of common fairness. Could they then wonder that men's feelings in Ireland were outraged, their consciences shocked, and the old soreness and suspicion against English legislation was fostered and maintained by the insistance on a system so handled, a system which, by the enormous grant of public money, beat down all before it, and became a weapon of such power in the hands of those who wielded it? Let the House now see the way a Roman Catholic Prelate had dealt with this system when it was introduced, and he (Mr. Gregory) thought that was the true spirit in which any combined education should be managed. Dr. Doyle, the Catholic Bishop of Kildare, had issued instructions to his clergy on this point, in which he says— 1023Whenever Protestant children attend let them not share in the duties of prayer or religious instruction unless at their own desire, sanctioned expressly by their parents; and when the number of such children shall be at all considerable the committee, if required, shall afford time and place for religious instruction being imparted to them by a person of their own communion, and in the manner prescribed by their own pastors.He (Mr. Gregory) had now said enough to show briefly some of the points which grated on the feelings of and offended those who spoke with authority on the subject of that education which was offered by the State to the children of the mass of the Irish people. He would now address himself to the great objections which were entertained alike by the majority and the minority, by the Protestant as well as by the Catholic, and that was the total absence of all religious teaching, which might be and was in many instances the characteristic of the system. The real charge against it was not that of proselytism, it was that of absolute indifference to all doctrinal teaching and distinctions; nay more, and far more, of absolute indifference to all religious teaching whatsoever. Hence came not conversions to the Church of England, or to the Church of Rome, but hence came a gradual, insensible, but certain drifting into practical infidelity. The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) said rightly enough that the fruit of all this was Fenianism. That was what the clergy of both creeds dreaded and deplored-—that was the blot on the system. It was perfectly useless to throw to him as an unanswerable reply, the success of the system. He did not accept the argument. The fact of there being hundreds of thousands of children in the schools proved nothing. He (Mr. Gregory) did not even assert that there would be one child more instructed in Ireland under the Board if the system was altered. Education in Ireland was a State monopoly; it was like the railways, one must travel by it or not at all. Now, no power on earth can at present restrain the Irish people from education. The days had passed when they were content to be a nation of Gibeonites, hewers of wood and drawers of water; they had now entered the arena—they had contended with the same arms as Englishmen, and those who competed with them had no great cause for triumph. Now he (Mr. Gregory) said they had no right to use this immense monopoly in a way that offended the convictions and 1024 which ran counter to the authority of those who had of all men a right to be heard on this subject. He meant the Ministers of both creeds. It may be said we deny the right of any clergy to arrogate to themselves any species of interference or superintendence in the education of the country. That was another question. He was not going to argue on that point now. It was quite sufficient to show that that claim had been recognized and acted on in England and proclaimed aloud by the heads of the two great parties. He would quote the words of the leader of the Tory party, Mr. Disraeli, at Oxford, in October, 1860, He says—If I am to consider what are the means by which the nationality of a church is to be asserted, I say, in the first place, it is hardly necessary to affirm that the church should educate the people.Mr. Henley, in a debate last year, laid down distinctly that dogmatic teaching was an essential in all education; the present Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) followed, and asserted that no education would be right without doctrinal teaching, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer insisted that denominational instruction was the principle on which the whole fabric of English education rested. The claims, then, of the clergy in England are recognized—in Ireland they are ignored. That mode of teaching which is thought essential for the young hearts and minds of England, is thought non-essential for the young hearts and minds of Ireland. Those impressions of reverence, faith, obedience, and religious duty, which are deemed necessary for a comparatively sober, calm, matter-of-fact race, are deemed unnecessary for a race quick, susceptible, ardent, imaginative, ready for good, but ready also for evil impulse. He would ask, did they think early religious teaching and restraint to be nothing in the training of such a race as this? Professor Butt, in his able pamphlet on freedom of education, makes this most pertinent remark—It seems an anomaly that a man who desires to found a school in which the children should be educated in the principles of their religious faith, should from that very fact be denied all State assistance. In England it is different—religious instruction is interwoven with the whole system of education. That which in England is made an indispensable condition of assistance, is treated in Ireland as a disqualification. The system which England has deliberately chosen as the best for her own people is denied to Ireland, or rather in Ireland is reversed. In a united kingdom religious freedom in education is regarded as a privi- 1025 lege which only one part of that kingdom is to enjoy.And all this is done to keep up what was the merest myth of united education. He called it the myth, because it was notorious that in not more than a few counties in all Ireland was there to be found the semblance of this united education. In Ulster, no doubt, there were mixed schools, but with what result? Why that 16,000 notices were served on parents in Ulster, warning them that their children were attending the teaching of doctrines not their own. It might be said that the clergyman could teach them at certain hours, but that was not enough. He (Mr. Gregory) claimed for the Irish that constant and distinct teaching which Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Hardy, and Mr. Disraeli claimed for Englishmen. He contended that education in Ireland was carried on under the most vexatious supervision of a moral excise, a constant and harassing vigilance against contraband religious teaching. He would again appeal to them in the admirable words of Mr. Butt—Such a system is just as destructive of all hearty earnestness. What nun can really feel her interest in her school not abated when she dares not speak at all times to her favourite pupil of the subjects that are most to her heart? What Protestant clergyman will be as zealous in his visits to a school in which if a boy asked him a question outside the house of religious instruction he must take care that his answer is one which will not appeal to any Protestant feeling in his heart.Now he (Mr. Gregory) would ask the House to bear with him for five minutes, and to hear what was going on in two Protestant States, where education was more widely spread than in any other countries in the world; he referred to Prussia and Holland. He was almost using the words of a gentleman who devoted last autumn to inquire into the religious and educational systems prevalent in Germany and Holland—the accuracy of all facts stated as regards Prussia may be relied on, as they were derived from Doctor Engel, Director of the Statistical Department of the Ministry for Public Worship and Instruction at Berlin. The State in Prussia insists that every child shall be educated, leaving the mode at the option of the parent. If the parent cannot and does not educate properly at home, he is obliged, at the completion of their fifth year, to send his children to an elementary school. They remain there till they have completed their fourteenth year, but if sufficiently advanced 1026 in reading, writing, and knowledge of religion, the clergyman and teacher are permitted, after his fourteenth year, to dispense with the future attendance of the pupil. Neglect to have children duly educated is punished by fine and imprisonment. The poorest children are paid for entirely out of the parish rates, and those better off subscribe. Every manufacturer employing children is bound to maintain a school for them, and in factories children attend school in the evening, but then there are also Sunday schools, and inspectors are appointed to see that there is no evasion, which is punished by fine and imprisonment. Every parish must have its school and schoolmaster, and is left to manage the details. If a new school is to be established the parish authorities, elected by the householders, decide as to what description it is to be. According to the religious denomination of the parishioners it is Evangelical, Roman Catholic, or mixed. If there be a sufficient number of both sects then two schools are established, If the district be too poor to support two schools all children attend secular instruction, but the master imparts religious instruction solely to those of his own faith, and the other children absent themselves while this is going on, and their clergyman undertakes the duty of instructing them. In no case does a Protestant child attend the instruction given to the Roman Catholic, or vice versd. The question whether the school is to be mixed or separate is left entirely to the parishioners. That is decided by the majority. Should the minority be dissatisfied they have only to contribute for the support of a school house and teacher, and they are not called on to subscribe to the other school. These efforts to obtain complete religious freedom have been crowned with success. The system at first met with opposition. Now it is the subject of universal pride and satisfaction. The Roman Catholic clergy of Prussia are stricter even than in Ireland. Those books which Archbishop Murray approved of would not be tolerated there. The greatest jealousy is evinced at any attempt being made to entrust the teaching of a child on any subject connected with religion to any but a minister or a member of it. No religious instruction, however small and unimportant, would be permitted to be imparted by a minister or teacher of a different faith, and this feeling animates both Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. Now, 1027 as to teachers, it will be seen that in Prussia the normal schools which have caused such deep dissatisfaction in Ireland are of a very different character. There are in Prussia normal or training colleges, no less than five or six in each province, established expressly for the training of teachers. The young men purporting to become schoolmasters, after passing through the primary and upper public schools, enter the normal colleges at eighteen, and remain there two or three years. Having gone through several examinations by the masters of the school and the Public Board of Examiners, they get their diploma, which enables them to accept the situation of teacher. This education is all but gratuitous, the cost being defrayed by the State. Some of the normal colleges are for Protestants, some for Roman Catholics—but while all are under civil surveillance so far as testing proficiency goes, the heads are generally ecclesiastic, it having been found that these institutions should have a religious character. The result of this system is this—an admirable education pervading the whole community, only two out of 100 not being able to read, write, and cipher, and a thorough and cordial acceptance of it by every religious denomination. Now, if he turned to Holland, he found that the changes that have taken place in the educational system of that country are very remarkable, and illustrate our present position in Ireland. Education in Holland is not compulsory—it is mixed and purely secular—no religious instruction whatever is imparted. This exclusion of religious instruction dates only from 1857. Before that it was attempted to give combined secular and religious instruction, it having been imparted on those points on which both Churches, Roman Catholic and Protestant, were supposed to agree, terminating only when their respective doctrines oppose. "This failed," as well it might, "to give satisfaction to either sect." Those who favoured the present system think that bringing together children of all creeds establishes a friendly feeling and diminishes religious differences. The same arguments which are used in Ireland—namely, the large number of attendants at the schools—is instanced as a proof of the popularity of the system. These are the opinions of the few. On the other hand, the great majority and the almost unanimous feeling of the ministers of both religions is opposed to the present system, and the great number of children 1028 attending private, or, as they are called, "Christian schools," is instanced as a proof of their dislike to "Godless education." A large and constantly increasing body of malcontents are endeavouring to procure the overthrow of the present system; and Protestant and Catholic, so seldom united, join heartily in this. A very different state of things is thus prevalent in Holland from that thorough unanimity which prevails in Prussia. His (Mr. Gregory's) informant says—It would appear as if Holland and Ireland were on a par as regards the system of National education. Intended to reconcile both religions to a common system, that introduced may be said to have obtained their united disapprobation; and while we behold in Prussia a success almost incredible, after witnessing the results of other efforts for a like purpose, it is impossible not to be forced to the conclusion that any purely secular system would infallibly excite the hostility of those who wish their children to be brought up and instructed in the tenets of the faith which they themselves profess.Now, the Chief Secretary had said that this subject was full of difficulties, but the object of this Motion was to investigate these very difficulties, and to pave the way to their solution. He (Mr. Gregory) felt convinced that a system which was only a few years ago repudiated by the mass of the clergy of the Church of England, which was now objected to by the great body of the clergy of the Church of Rome, at least deserved inquiry. But he confessed that he could not conceive why, with the path clear before our feet, we could not walk in it. Why, with the example of Prussia to point the way, we might not strive to attain that blessed unanimity and concord which Prussia has attained. He took the concessions offered by the Chief Secretary with satisfaction, but he wished he had had the courage to go further, and to take the one course which alone could raise this great question of a nation's education from animosity, or, at best, distrust, and place it in such a position which would enable every member of the community cordially to endeavour to extend the blessings of instruction, untainted by suspicion,' and hallowed by religion to every poor man's home in Ireland.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, that the great grievance of which the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) seemed to complain of was, that the National Board would not accept the terms of the Kildare Street Society, or, in other words, would not help that body to 1029 proselytize Roman Catholic children. The object of his hon. and gallant Friend (Mr. O'Reilly's) Motion was to adapt the National system to the people of Ireland, instead of compelling them to conform themselves to the system. Out of 6,263 National Schools in Ireland there were only 1,400 mixed schools; go that in point of fact one-fifth of the schools were mixed, and four-fifths were denominational. The fact was, that the National system was not received with favour in any part of Ireland, and consequently was making very little progress. He hoped that the step in the right direction which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland said the Government were prepared to take would be followed up by them, and he trusted they would go further in that direction when they had started. He desired to call attention to the small number of Roman Catholics in the model schools. For the instruction of 300 Roman Catholics in those schools the country had to pay £30,000 for their erection, and £8,000 a year for their support. It might be said that the hostility manifested against these schools arose from prejudice or a sentimental feeling; but it was founded upon the most sacred feeling of human nature—namely, religious feeling. He asked the House to grant what was indispensably necessary to the welfare of the country, which was freedom of education,
§ MR. O'REILLY
said, he would not, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, press his Motion to a division. In the first place, he understood that the rules for the prevention of proselytism were under the consideration of the Commissioners With regard to the second part of his Motion, opposition was brought against it on the belief that the proposals could not be practically carried out. With respect to the third point on which he had spoken, but which was not embodied in his Resolution for the reasons he had stated—namely, the consideration of the present position of training schools in Ireland—the Government were far from holding that it was satisfactory, and they promised that it should receive their earnest consideration. He was quite ready to leave the responsibility of dealing with this subject with the Government, and he hoped the result would be the production of such a measure as would be satisfactory to the people of Ireland.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
said, he under- 1030 stood from the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland that they were en the eve of great changes in the National system of education in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had shadowed forth two of them, one having regard to the rules for religious instruction in the National Schools, and the other affecting the model schools. As to the first, he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the subject was under the consideration of the Commissioners, and that it was expected that they would propose some alterations in the rules with regard to religious education. The question of the model schools was one deeply interesting to the people of Ireland, and the Government, it seemed, were considering the changes which ought to be introduced, and what the character of those changes should be. He, however, rose for the purpose of asking whether the changes in the model schools to be proposed—should any be determined on—would be submitted to the House before the Vote was taken this year for Irish education?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that although the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Hugh Cairns) bad stated that great changes were about to be introduced into the National system of education in Ireland, his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland had not so described them in the earlier part of the evening. Of course, it was quite competent to the hon. and learned Gentleman to describe those changes in any terms he pleased; but he wished it to be understood that his right hon. Friend had not announced anything which in their opinion justified that description. But, whether the changes be great or not the subjects were of great interest, especially that part of the subject relating to the model schools. With respect to the question which the hon. and learned Gentleman had put, it was a very fair one. From the course of public business it wa3 probable they would not be able to propose the Vote for Irish Education for some time. They were now in the middle of May, and several weeks must certainly elapse—perhaps six or seven—before that Vote could be proposed. The interval would allow his right hon. Friend and the Irish Government time for considering any matters connected with this interesting subject, which was now under the examination of the Government; and he quite agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman that 1031 it would be very desirable that whatever changes were proposed by Government should be before the House when that Vote was taken. It was difficult to give any absolute pledge, but care would be taken, if possible, to put the House in possession of the views of the Government on the changes proposed before the Education Vote was proposed.
§ MR. WHALLEY
felt it would be impossible for him at that late hour to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice. He should, therefore, postpone it till Friday next on going into Committee of Supply.
said, he had heard with some satisfaction the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was not the intention of the Government to propose any very serious changes in the system of National education in Ireland ["No, no"]; although, certainly, from the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Fortescue) at an earlier period in the evening, it did seem that some such changes were in contemplation. He wished to know in what form these changes would be brought under the consideration of the House. On former occasions of this kind a letter had been addressed to the Commissioners, indicating the changes proposed to be made, and that letter was laid before Parliament. Would that course be adopted in the present instance? He also wished to know whether, if the Government had not time to mature their plan sufficiently during the present Session, they would distinctly pledge themselves not to introduce the changes during the recess or until Parliament had an opportunity of considering them?
observed, that it was quite competent to the Commissioners of National education in Ireland to make the alterations themselves. On a former occasion changes had been introduced, not by Parliament, but by the Commissioners.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAWSON)
said, it was a matter entirely within the province of the Commissioners to alter or modify their rules. That required no action on the part of the Government. Any changes necessarily affecting the system would be brought before the House before they were carried into effect.
§ SIR FREDERICK HEYGATE
said, he hoped they would receive from the Government a distinct intimation of the mode in which the question was to be dealt with, 1032 and of the opportunity that was to he afforded for its consideration.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.