Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [20th June], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair;" and which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Grants to existing denominational schools should not be increased; and that, in any national system of elementary education, the attendance should be everywhere compulsory, and the religious instruction should be supplied by voluntary effort and not out of Public Funds,"—(Mr. Henry Richard,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. DIXON
said, that on a former night the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) remarked that he thought he (Mr. Dixon) was an educationist, meaning, he supposed, thereby that the course of action he had taken in reference to this measure was inconsistent with such a position. His hon. Friend the Member for the Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities (Dr. Lyon Playfair), after giving on Monday night last a most vivid and striking description of the educational deficiencies in our large towns, observed that he wondered how he (Mr. Dixon) could let the Government delay for an hour the passing of an 789 Education Bill. His right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council also in his speech stated that it rested very much with the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) and himself (Mr. Dixon), whether the religious difficulty was to keep the children of England uneducated for another 10 years. He could not understand why such observations were addressed to them. They were, of all men, a portion of the most quiet and unobtrusive class. They seldom spoke; but he understood those observations to mean that it was acknowledged that they represented the opinions of many influential persons outside the House. Were they, then, doing wrong in expressing those opinions, and was there anything un-Parliamentary or factious, or anything that the Government had a right to complain of, in their conduct? It was not their fault that the House of Commons was engaged at that late period of the Session in debating this important question, any more than it was the fault of the Government or the House; but on so great a subject, no matter when it was brought forward, it was absolutely essential that the Government should know what were the opinions not only of hon. Members, but also the opinions of large sections of people out-of-doors in reference to it. All that they had done, and all that they intended to do, was to take every opportunity that was offered them of expressing their opinions fully and freely, in order that they might have their due weight in the House, and he did it because he was an educationist and should always be one. He was not a religionist as contradistinguished to an educationist. He had no objects to serve apart from those that were involved in the education of the children of the country; but what he wished was that a measure of such vast importance should be well considered and fully debated, and that they should not come to a decision upon it without rightly understanding what they were about, for a false step made now might be of the greatest importance—might be irretrievable, or, at all events, involve them in considerations which it would take years to remove. To consider now the whole matter well would not waste but save time. He approached its consideration with a sense of its importance which he could scarcely describe, and with the full conviction that all 790 personal considerations and all party ties ought to be put in the background, and the country might lavish well its wealth and influence, if need be, to remove every obstacle that existed in the way of the education of the people. He again thanked the Government for the spirit with which it had approached the question, and for the manner which it had introduced it—not but that there were great evils in the Bill; and knowing what the position of the Government had been, and was, with reference to it, he was not going to be hypercritical, or condemn the Government for not doing what they thought they were unable to do. He admitted that hon. Members on the other side of the House had made concessions to Nonconformity and the extreme section of the country, which were thankfully received by them; but, at the same time, he felt it to be his duty to point out what appeared to him to be the great defect of the Government Bill, and also to point out what would still have to be yielded by hon. Members opposite before they could arrive at a permanent settlement of this question. What was their position? They had one of the strongest Governments that had existed for many years, the most able Prime Minister the country had had since the time of Pitt, and at the Education Department they had a Minister who was not only deservedly popular, but who was supposed to possess special qualities for the settlement of this question; and, besides that, they were supported by a democracy whose power had not yet been fully developed, but whose power and influence had been fully and freely placed at their disposal, but yet they had a measure of education which, in the opinion of some of the supporters of the Government, indicated hesitation and even weakness. If this was to be a national measure, as stated the other night by the Vice President of the Council, it was essential that there should be school Boards to provide education for every child in the country; but yet it was proper to make them permissive, and the consequence would be that in most of the rural districts there would be none established for some years to come. Again, there was to be what was called compulsory attendance; but it was not to be everywhere enforced, and as that part of the Bill was to be permissive, he doubted if 791 its compulsory powers would be put into execution except in a few of the large towns. The religious difficulty had been so dealt with in the Bill as to bring all the Nonconformist bodies into antagonism with it. It was evident that where school Boards did not exist there State action must cease. It was true it was contemplated by the Bill that there should be school Boards where efficient schools did not exist; but, then, in these schools, although they might appear to be, in the estimation of the Government, efficient, that which was important to a system of education would be wanting, for they would lack the support that could be given to them by school Boards, which was essential for the full development of a national system. What they desired was that all the schools of the country should be incorporated in one National School system. It was desirable that all the advantages which could be derived from every part of the country should be communicated by means of the Educational Department, and through the school Boards. Without school Boards, how would it be possible to carry out compulsion? As the principle of indirect compulsion had been admitted in the Bill, surely it was a defect that there were not to be the means by which it was to be carried out. The effect of the Bill, as it stood, would be that compulsion might be adopted in some large towns; but it might be doubted whether it was intended that the compulsory clauses should be enforced in the rural districts; not that the agricultural labourers themselves were disinclined to adopt compulsion, but because they were so much scattered over an extent of country, and so immediately under the influence of the higher classes who resided around them. Under this influence the labouring classes in those districts would, not unnaturally, fancy that compulsory education meant a withdrawal of part of the family income; and it would become a difficult matter to get them to enforce the compulsory clauses of the Bill. The farmers, as everybody knew, would earnestly oppose this part of the measure; because, in their shortsightedness, they imagined that they would be acting contrary to their own interests, as employers of labour, if they did not oppose high-class education among their servants, or even any education at all, as in some cases he 792 had heard of. ["No, no!"] At any rate, he had been told so. What the farmers apprehended was that education was intended to be the means of raising wages. They were afraid that when children received a good education they would commence to migrate and emigrate, and that scarcity of labour would be the result. He thought the Government ought to endeavour to override these objections, instead of making any exceptional provision in the Bill for rural districts. The Government relied upon the success of the experiment in the large towns; but what guarantee was there that they would adopt it if it would place them, in regard to the employment of children, at a disadvantage as compared with neighbouring towns and districts in which compulsion was not carried out? Besides, men would not enforce a penal law in one town when they knew it was in abeyance in another; and that very fact would prevent the formation of a public opinion in favour of the law in places where compulsion was adopted. Why should Parliament, with all these objections to a partial and permissive law, hesitate to make compulsion universal, seeing that the proposal had been unanimously approved at hundreds of crowded meetings held in all parts of the country? With reference to educational destitution, one great cause of it was the poverty of the parents. The Government admitting this fact, which was proved by statistics, proposed to put in force a compulsory law which they said would remove the difficulty, inasmuch as it would allow the school Boards to admit into schools without any charge those children whose parents were unable to pay the school pence. The people throughout the country objected to that, on the ground that such parents would be in the position of paupers, and what they really preferred instead of it was that education should be made thoroughly national; that it should be under the charge of the State; that it should be paid out of the national Exchequer. They desired also that the middle-class schools, and even the Universities, should be opened free to all, without distinction of class, so that the poorest child might have the opportunity of obtaining advanced degrees in learning. It might be objected that by doing so they would be acting unjustly; that they would be taxing the people of 793 the country in order to obtain the education of children whose parents ought to pay for it, and that such a proceeding would tend to weaken the parental ties. There was, however, an endowed school in Birmingham where 1,800 pupils received a superior education; but he never heard that the parental ties had been weakened by the education of the children there. Considering the advantages to be gained, He thought the objection a small one that they ought not to use £500,000 of the money which had been subscribed by those persons who supported denominational schools. Such a consideration appeared very small when the House bore in mind that some £50 or £100 were annually spent in luxuries throughout the country by the poor themselves. Then the Government was rich, having an available surplus, which he suggested might be drawn upon for the assisting the education of the masses of the people. On the subject of the religious difficulty, he was of opinion that the Government had shown too much hesitation. Other hon. Members had already dwelt upon this question; and he hoped yet to hear his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Potter), who would, doubtless, be in a position to tell the House that they need not fear the religious difficulty. Denominational schools at present existing might hereafter be increased in number, and grants hitherto made to them might be augmented to the extent of one-half. Now, he should like it to be clearly understood that he had not the slightest objection to the transfer of the burdens of the cost of those schools from the rates to the Imperial Exchequer. He had always felt the difficulty to be a great one to increase the rates for the sake even of educational purposes. The Bill which the National Education League had drawn up, therefore, provided that the Government should be invited to contribute to the support of all schools to the extent of two-thirds of their entire cost. What he contended for was that, in every future extension of Government aid to education, it should be distinctly provided that in all schools which should be erected and receive grants, and in all existing schools which should receive additional grants, the religion of any particular sect should not be taught, but that the religious teaching, if any, 794 should be of an unsectarian character. Such was the opinion of the body he represented. They, therefore, considered the Amendment foreshadowed by the Prime Minister—giving increased grants to denominational schools—to be in direct violation of a most important principle, a principle which the Nonconformists and the Liberal party were not disposed to abandon. This last Amendment had entirely shattered their hope of one thoroughly national system of education, for it created two distinct classes of schools in the country. If, under these circumstances, the denominational schools were to have their grants increased from 10s. to 15s. a head, and if at the same time the children's pence might be collected, the result would be immense schools sustained at the cost of the Government and the children's pence, while the subscriptions of the managers would be no longer needed. At any rate, such would often be the result; but supposing it were not invariably so, the burden upon the subscribers would be comparatively insignificant. What would be the result, then? The Government would have permitted a large number of private bodies, of committees and managers throughout the country, to have control over the expenditure of public money, though these committees would be quite irresponsible as regarded a great part of the educational work. The results would be disastrous. He had no faith in the power of these irresponsible school committees to maintain the schools so well as the school Boards. If they possessed the power, why call the school Boards into existence? The answer was that the school Boards would be able to do that which the committees had failed to do. With reference to these increased grants several hon. Members had addressed the Government, and said that some guarantees ought to be given that the grants might be relied upon. It was noticed that the Vice President of the Privy Council made no reply to this suggestion. In fact, no reply that could be satisfactory was possible; and not only so, but the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), and the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt), alluded to a compact made between the Government and the existing schools with reference to the existing plans of the old schools. He ventured to say that no such compact existed in a 795 Parliamentary sense, or was recognized by the country. He thought he was justified in warning hon. Members on the other side of the House that there was a growing feeling in the country that such grants ought to be considered and varied from year to year, and that if there was to be any understanding that those grants should be increased, future Parliaments and future representatives of the large towns and the Nonconformist bodies would unceasingly agitate against those increased grants for denominational purposes, and that it would be difficult, if it were possible, to carry them. He was as tolerant of sects as any man. He had no prejudices against the Nonconformists, or in favour of them. He was not a Nonconformist himself. But he felt that if the other provisions of the Government should be carried into effect, and if they should find that throughout all the new schools that were to be built there should be a promise given to teach sectarian religion, they would also find that there would be religious controversies of a character that would be detrimental to religion itself, and would not serve the purposes of the parents of the children educated in them. What would be the effect of such a plan as the one that had been suggested by the right hon. Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) and accepted by the Government? The question would have to be debated in the local Board whether any religion at all should be taught in the schools, and if it were decided that religion was to be taught there would arise the further debate what the religion should be, the object being that the majority of the Board should have the appointment of the schoolmaster, who was to be taken from a normal College of their own persuasion. But if it were necessary that these masters should teach religion, and teach it from their heart and soul, clearly the religion which that man would teach would be the religion of the sect to which he belonged. Then, would there not be dissatisfaction to two classes of people? Would not the parents of the minority section object that their children did not get the advantage of the religious teaching for which they paid. And what would the ratepayers say? They were paying for the teaching of religion, and that he objected to. That meant that in the agricultural districts 796 of England the teachers would be of the religion of the Church of England. But in places where the Roman Catholics were in the majority the case would be reversed. And how could they admit this principle in England and refuse it in Ireland? We must look forward to the establishment of schools in Ireland where the teacher should be not only a Roman Catholic, but should teach the Roman Catholic religion, and be paid by the State for so doing. This was a state of things which ought not to exist, which was against the principles of a very large portion of the people, and which was a principle that had been abandoned by this House. When they disestablished and disendowed the Irish Church, the principle which they proclaimed was, that so far as the future was considered, so far as the present action could be brought to bear on the question, there was to be a severance of the action of the State from sectarian religious teaching. And these clauses would be in direct contravention of this great principle. The whole of the Nonconformists interpreted this clause in the sense he had just described, and he felt convinced that, apart from the evils of the discords and dissensions which would occur in special districts, they would find that the operation of the clauses would be such that the Nonconformists would be in perpetual antagonism to the principles from which they had always dissented. The Prime Minister had stated, and it had been echoed in all parts of the country, that the State in reality, in reference to these denominational schools, would only pay for secular instruction, and that already there was that complete separation between the State and religion which they advocated. They replied that if hon. Members would really consider the case of these denominational schools, it would be found that without these Government Grants the schools could not exist. The schools existed by virtue of these grants; and when the House of Commons made the grants, they made themselves responsible for what the schools taught. And whenever a denominational school was supported by the Government it was impossible for an undenominational school to be created and to compete with the other school, and therefore they not only made the denominational schools live by virtue of the grant, but they prevented 797 other schools from starting, excepting where the district was large enough for two schools, which often was not the case. The Vice President had stated that their position was illogical, that they had no right to a conscientious objection to the teaching of a Church from which they dissented unless they would also grant to those who wished for this religious teaching that they should have a conscientious objection against the religious teaching in these schools. The Vice President also said that there were hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who had those conscientious objections and who did not wish that religion should be severed from education. But he (Mr. Dixon) could not accept that position. What was meant by the religion which the people wished to be mixed up with secular education? When the Vice President talked of religion did he not mean that kind of unsectarian teaching which was meant by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) when he placed on the Paper his Amendment to Clause 14, and by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) by his Amendment on going into Committee? Did they not mean unsectarian Bible teaching? that the Bible should not be excluded from the schools, and that the master should be permitted to give just so much of explanation as was necessary to enable the children to comprehend it? Such was the idea of religious teaching which they had in their minds. In reference to the Amendments of his right hon. Friend, he would venture to say this—that notwithstanding they had been rejected by the Prime Minister as impossible and untenable, if the Government had seen the way to these Amendments they would have been received by the House, approved by the country, and however subtle legal minds might be overwhelmed with the difficulty of the position, the practical difficulty would have vanished and the question would have been settled for a long time to come. He shared the opinion of the Prime Minister. He felt the logical difficulty; he was opposed to these Amendments; he never sanctioned them. Yet he would have submitted to them with remarkable cordiality. He could not, however, have ventured on the responsibility of proposing them himself, because they did not adequately deal 798 with the difficulty. They now had to choose between non-religious teaching in the schools, or sectarian teaching in the schools by the schoolmaster. When the alternative was put before the people, and they could understand the question, it would be found that they would decide in a very different way from the way in which they had hitherto decided, and he doubted whether the hundreds of thousands would ask for the sectarian teaching which they now asked for. They had been told of the zeal which the clergy and the ministers of religion had shown for religious teaching; but when it was proposed that those very gentlemen should give their teaching voluntarily, outside of school hours, it was said they were unreasonable in expecting that the clergy would give it. There was an inconsistency here. We were also told that the parents were desirous: of giving their children a religious education; but when it was proposed to give their education outside school hours, it was said the children would not attend. But the parents could not be anxious for religious education for their children, if they refused to give it. His right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council had referred to certain meetings in which strong resolutions had been passed in favour of religious instruction. In reference to the meeting at Bradford his right hon. Friend had misinterpreted the language, and he was grateful for small mercies. In London there had been meetings, and his right hon. Friend seemed to have understood a remark of Mr. Spurgeon in a different way from the manner in which he (Mr. Dixon) understood it. Mr. Spurgeon said he would not be a party to the exclusion of the Bible from education. But who had ever talked about the exclusion of the Bible from education? The party with whom he (Mr. Dixon) acted had invariably said that the Bible was to be introduced by the school Boards. He did not see that Mr. Spurgeon had ever uttered anything indicating a want of harmony with those with whom he (Mr. Dixon) acted. But, with regard to the meeting at Exeter Hall, the resolutions, which were unanimously and enthusiastically carried, were in favour of Bible reading. A remark was made by one of the speakers that, if the Government Bill were to pass in its present form, there would be throughout the country 799 a wide-spread feeling of opposition and antagonism to the Government arising therefrom in the minds of some of the firmest and foremost and longest-continued supporters of the present Government. He thought the feeling was shared by nearly the whole of the Nonconformist Body, and that if the Bill were to be passed in its present form there would arise wide-spread dissatisfaction. As to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. Richard) he would remark that it was not an Amendment of the National Education League. The hon. Gentleman was not even a member of the League, and consequently he (Mr. Dixon) did not consider himself in any way responsible for it. But it was his intention to support it, and he hoped that nothing would occur to induce him to hesitate for a moment in dividing in favour of his Amendment. There might be some Members who would decline to go into the Lobby with his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil; but they would also probably object to go into the same Lobby with the Government. The Amendment was not intended to catch the votes of the House; but to give an opportunity of expressing an opinion that the country might understand. If this measure was to be a satisfactory measure it must be based on the opinions of the House, and those opinions sanctioned by the country, else the basis would be insecure, and could not be firm. And how was the Government to know the opinions of the House unless they were expressed by a Division? He believed that they were doing a great service to the Government, to which they had always been so loyal, in acting in the manner in which he was now acting. When they went into Committee he hoped they would go with minds much clearer than they were at present, and that the Government would not be inclined to take that fixed and firm and invariable position which was indicated in the course of the debate, but that it might be seen whether it was not possible to make admissions and modify clauses affecting various points which would meet the wishes of the Nonconformists. He could assure the House that he and other hon. Gentlemen who supported the Amendment did so from no wish to delay the Bill, and from no feeling of opposition to re- 800 ligious instruction; but because they believed that if the Amendment were agreed to the children would receive an education that would be really sounder and more truly religious than that which would be given to them under the Bill in its present form. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would take note of those who went into the Lobby in support of the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, for he would find that they represented, important sections out of Parliament, whose views on the subject ought not to be lightly disregarded.
assured his hon. Friend who had just sat down that he was one of the last persons to whom he should think of ascribing a desire to delay the progress of national education. He had long been a fellow-labourer with him in the same cause, and he cheerfully admitted the earnestness of his efforts in that direction. As to the Bill under discussion, he would observe that, although it would not establish one uniform system, it furnished the means of spreading education over the whole breadth of the land. The principle of compulsion, although only partially adopted, was also contained in the measure, and, finding that to be so, he could well conceive that his hon. Friend would with great reluctance pursue any course which might delay even for a moment the progress of the Bill; and that which he said with respect to his hon. Friend, he was prepared to say with regard to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), who had expressed in the strongest terms his sense of the difficulties of the question, and who, with that honesty which was natural to him, had declared it to be his earnest desire that the Bill might pass. But when he came to consider the recommendations which had been made by those two hon. Gentlemen, he must confess that if the Government were so unwise as to accede to them the result must, in his opinion, be not only to arrest the progress of the present Bill, but also to endanger the success of any measure that might be brought forward hereafter. The main principle involved in the Amendment was that the schools of this country should be secular; and he quite admitted that, if we were to have but one system of national education, he saw no 801 other refuge than the secular system. Much had been said in praise of the secular system; but the Government were convinced—quite irrespectively of their own individual opinions—that neither the country nor the House was prepared to adopt that system, and that it would consequently have been mischievous and useless to propose it. Before proceeding further, he desired to point out some of the fallacies underlying the arguments which had been used by some of the opponents of the Bill. His hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil described it as a measure to make the education of the country universally and for ever denominational. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt) spoke of it as pure and undiluted denominationalism. He should wish, therefore, to state what was the real principle of the measure. It was essentially a supplementary measure. The Government had consistently maintained that this was its character. They did not propose to deal with the existing system. They thought that system ought to be respected for many reasons. They could not forget that when, in years past, the country had had recourse to the voluntary system, the efforts of generous and patriotic individuals had been energetically directed to supplying a great national want; and they were, therefore, of opinion that it would be ungracious as well as ungrateful, and would have the effect of giving an immediate and perhaps lasting wound; to the cause of education if they were suddenly to displace the old system, and introduce a new and uniform system.
In bringing in the Bill the Government were impressed with the belief that, the future state of national education must be left to time, and that the country was not as yet ripe for any one system. They were persuaded that any Bill embodying one particular system would be distasteful to a large part of the nation. They had, therefore, no secret intention of overthrowing the present system, to which they wished to give a fair field and no favour. But, while anxious to supply its deficiencies, they also desired to test the national feeling on the subject. But with what justice, he would ask, could the principle of the Bill be characterized as one of pure and undiluted denominationalism? Was it not proposed, in the first place, to get 802 rid of one distinctive feature of the present educational system—denonominational inspection? Even in the existing schools every child would be able, under the Bill, to receive a purely secular education. It seemed, he might add, to be forgotten by many hon. Members that the present system was not universally denominational. No inconsiderable number of children were educated in schools aided by the State which were not of that character. Surely, if any system was undenominational it was that of the British and Foreign School Society. The schools of that society were managed by committees composed of men of various sects, and the masters were appointed without any reference to their religious denomination. Speaking from personal experience, he could state that the system pursued in those schools was thoroughly undenominational. But how was it that this system, which appeared to be admirably adapted to the wishes of the Protestant part of the community, and which was not unlikely to be the system of the future—unless the national mind should ultimately become favourable to secular education—how was it that this system had not taken deeper root? It was undoubtedly due, in the first place, to the fact that it was not supported by earnest denominational zeal; and, in the second place, to the circumstance that it suffered from the opposition manifested by many leading Nonconformists to the receipt of aid from the State. The Nonconformists complained that Church of England schools received the largest proportion of such grants; but he remembered that the first time he ever met his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil was at a meeting of the Congregational Union, at which the hon. Gentleman exerted all the powers of his eloquence to induce the meeting to oppose any scheme of State aid for education. Now, he had no objections to such doctrines. They were very generous, and had much to recommend them. He even hoped that all fathers of families in this country might at length be animated by so strong a sense of the importance of education as to be willing by their own voluntary efforts to provide for their children the means of education. But, unfortunately, the time had not yet arrived when parents were so ready to furnish the means of education for their children 803 that the State could properly withdraw its assistance. Now, however, that those who had so long been the opponents of State aid to education were willing to accept it, it was hardly fair for them to turn round and say the system was a partial one. He had ascertained what had been the effect of the change in the policy of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), and those who acted with him; and he found that while in 1866 there were 115,000 children in the British schools of this country, in 1869 the number had only increased to 150,000.
It was said that, whatever might have been the probable results of the Bill as it was introduced by the Government, yet the changes which had been made would have the effect of strengthening the denominational system; but he could assure the House that such was not the object of any Member of the Government when those changes were determined on, the only idea of the Government being to meet the objections that had been raised against the proposed distribution of local rates by the local authority. But would the changes in the Bill have the effect of establishing denominational schools everywhere? At present the grant to a school was limited by the condition that in no case should it exceed the joint amount of the voluntary subscriptions and the school fees, and as that condition, would still remain it was plain that the increased grant could only be obtained either by increased efforts on the part of the friends of the school or by an increase in the school fees. Moreover, the change that had been introduced in reference to building would produce an effect decidedly adverse to denominational education. He had sometime ago formed the opinion, which he still entertained, that the denominational system had already occupied nearly all the ground which, from its nature, it was fitted to supply, and could not in future extend itself as rapidly as it had done up to the present time. The districts which remained to be provided with schools were principally two; there were, firstly, the country parishes, which were mainly owned by non-resident proprietors, who took but little interest in the welfare of the inhabitants; and, secondly, there were the portions of large towns mainly inhabited by a poor population, incapable of making the efforts necessary to provide schools. In all large towns there 804 were found districts which were amply, and even excessively, provided with school accommodation; but in all of them, he believed, without exception, there were considerable portions inadequately supplied, and some, as in the eastern portions of London, in which no school whatever could be found. As regarded the country districts, this Bill would compel contributions by those proprietors who had hitherto escaped taxation for educational purposes, while, as to the towns, immediately after the passing of this Bill an educational Census would be taken, and it would be in the power of the Privy Council to order the necessary schools to be provided; and this must be done by means of local Boards. Then came the question whether those local Boards would be likely to foster the denominational system? Local Boards would be the representatives of the majority of the ratepayers, and there was every reason to believe that every variety of opinion would be fairly represented. The voting would be by ballot, and did hon. Members who had so long advocated the Ballot now, for the first time, express a doubt as to its efficacy? Each voter would only be able to give one vote; so that when an opinion was entertained by any considerable section of the population it was certain to find a representative on the Board. In order to reconcile divergent opinions the local Board would find itself obliged to adopt a system which all could agree in supporting, and that must necessarily be different from the present denominational system. There would also, in every case, be a broad distinction between schools as they at present existed and those which would be established by the local Boards. For instance, at present all Church of England schools which were in connection with the National Society necessarily had the clergyman of the parish as a member of the managing committee; but no such restriction would apply to the schools which were established by local Boards, who would be free to elect or reject whom they pleased. They might accept the clergyman; but if his views happened to be different from those of the majority of his parishioners, it would be in their power to exclude him from the management of the school in order to elect some one with whose opinions they agreed. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member 805 for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) use that epigrammatic sentence in which he said that the exclusion of catechisms and formularies would result in converting teachers into "a sacerdotal class," and he wished to be shown in what respect they would be more of "a sacerdotal class" under one system than under the other. The opposite was, and must be, the fact. There could be no doubt that lessons of every kind might be drawn from the pages of the Bible; but was there on the part of the schoolmasters of this country such a love of dealing with abstruse doctrines as to render it likely that of their own accord they would plunge into difficult and mysterious subjects when they were instructing poor little children? He could not deny that such an occurrence was possible; but it could only be one instance in a thousand. Speaking from some experience of the subject, he alleged that the arguments used by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford were extravagant, for everyone who knew what was the course of instruction in the elementary schools of this country would see that there was no real danger, but only a fictitious one which was raised for the purposes of argument. The greater the difficulty experienced in levying the funds necessary to meet the Government Grant, the greater would be the probability that a large number of these schools would become undenominational.
He had now to deal with the plan put forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil in lieu of that proposed by the Government. The hon. Member had proposed a scheme which, in regard to its main outlines, had been characterized as being at once secular and sectarian. It was secular inasmuch as it excluded all religious teaching during the hours of ordinary instruction, and it was sectarian inasmuch as after those hours it permitted any amount of sectarian teaching. He could not doubt that in this country the effect of such a system would be to exclude religious teaching altogether from the schools. His hon. Friend had said—"Do you doubt the zeal of the 50,000 ministers in England?" and his hon. Friend could have supplied a satisfactory answer to that question. If the 50,000 ministers could be equally distributed over the whole country, and if our 20,000,000 inhabitants could be equally apportioned 806 among them, they might, perhaps, be able to look after the religious education of the people. But they all knew that where, at present, the schools were open to the ministers of religion, those ministers did not, in many cases, take part in the teaching of religion. He believed that the interference of ministers of religion in the teaching of schools had been very greatly exaggerated. Even among the clergy of the Church of England the number of those who taught in schools was very small as compared with the number of those who did not, and that not from any lack of zeal, but because those who were conscious of not possessing the teaching power were unwilling to interfere. He need not say that applied to the Dissenters also. It was one thing to stand up in the pulpit and preach a sermon, and it was another thing to have to stand face to face with a class of small boys, and attempt to teach them. Moreover, they heard on all sides that the clergy were already too severely tested, and how was it possible that they should undertake now duties? When so many sick people were unattended, and when so many wicked people remained unchecked, the clergy were obliged to abandon the care of the schools. He was not prepared, however, to accept the character given by his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil of the religious teaching in our schools, and to say that such teaching was a sham. That it was imperfect, and that much of what was called religious teaching was not so, might, be true. He did not know that some of the special narratives used in the Church schools and the British and Foreign schools—such, for example, as the march of Moses and the Jews to the Promised Land, and the journeys of St. Paul—added much to the religious feelings of the scholars; but there was a great deal in the teaching which must produce a lasting impression on the children's minds. Let hon. Gentlemen test this by their own experience. It was not from the Catechism and the formularies that they received their deep religious impressions, but by reading impressive parts of the Bible. Whenever he had visited British and Foreign schools, he had always been much struck with the impressive way in which the religious instruction was imparted. The business of the day began and concluded with prayer, and beauti- 807 ful chapters from the Bible were read which, would come forcibly back to the remembrance of the children in afterlife. He was sure that many simple, and therefore lasting and deep impressions would be carried away from such lessons which would enable those who received them to resist many temptations. While upon this subject, let him ask the House what was to become of the children if no religious instruction was to be given in the schools? To talk of the vast efforts to be made by the ministers of religion was a mockery. They knew that there were hundreds and thousands of children who lived in irreligious homes, where the name of God was never heard but in blasphemy; and most of whom never entered a church or a Sunday school; and if these children were not taught religion in schools, where would they ever be taught it? He would ask his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard), who was a religious man—and he quite agreed with the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), that those who supported the Amendment had quite as high and true a sense of religion as those who opposed it—he would ask them, could they believe that by those children to whom he alluded the simple and touching lessons would ever be learned except in the schools? The names had been mentioned of Dr. Hook, and other eminent men who supported the secular system of education. It should, however, be borne in mind that it was a part of Dr. Hook's system that every child should give a certificate of having attended some course of religious instruction. The name of Mr. Cobden had also been quoted; but as his case had been dealt with by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, the House might allow him to introduce another name—not so great as that of Mr. Cobden—but the name of one who had done much for the cause of education. Dr. John Watts, of Manchester, told him (Mr. Bruce) that he had held 150 large public meetings in different towns and counties in England, and at every one of these he had proposed and carried a unanimous vote in favour of secular education; yet now, after 20 years' labour, he had come to the conclusion that secular education was opposed to the most deeply-rooted convictions of his countrymen, and he was, therefore, ready to co-operate with any- 808 one who would bring forward a measure of religious education. That gentleman, he might remark, had a large share in the Bill which he had the honour of introducing into the House, and which enacted that assistance should be given to every school, whether it were Church of England, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan, or British and Foreign.
He was anxious now to meet an objection which had been made over and over again to the Government plan, both in the debate and in pamphlets. His hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham had referred in his speech to the Irish system. [Mr. DIXON: I did not allude to the Irish system.] He was under the impression his hon. Friend had done so. At all events, a pamphlet, recently published by the League, pointed with approbation to the system pursued in Ireland. Now, there could be no greater mistake than to suppose that the Irish system was undenominational. In its origin it was so, no doubt, for it was founded on the principle of united secular and separate religious instruction. But if the changes which had taken place in that system were to be considered indicative of the changes in public opinion, then the course of Irish opinion had gone strongly in favour of denominational teaching. The Irish system had now become almost a strictly denominational one; it was far more denominational than anything which existed in this country. There were vested and non-vested schools. The latter were founded by any patron; the children were instructed in the principles of his religion; the schools were, in fact, strictly denominational, with a very strict Conscience Clause. The priest might be, and often was, the sole patron, having power, with the consent of the Board, to nominate or to remove the schoolmaster. In these strictly denominational schools three-fourths of the children in Ireland were now being educated. Compare these schools with the English voluntary schools as they would be under this Bill if it passed. Both would be subject to a Time Table Conscience Clause, and to undenominational inspection; excluding the British Schools of England, both would be subject to denominational patronage; and in both only the teacher would be permitted to give dogmatic religious instruction from the Catechism or otherwise, restricted 809 only by a Conscience Clause. In the Irish non-vested schools the voluntary contributions might be set down at nothing, and the school fees were so low that fully 80 per cent of the cost of education was borne by the national Exchequer; but in England the national Exchequer bore only one-third, and under the amended Bill it would bear only one-half of the cost of education. In Ireland the management generally was in the hands of the priest; in England three persons must sign a receipt for money, and were associated with a clergyman in the management of a school. In what respect would the existing schools of England, as modified by this Bill, be less liberal than the non-vested schools of Ireland, which were the admiration of the League? Then there was another class, the vested schools, which he would compare with the schools in England that were to be aided by the rates. Both would be subject to a Time Table Conscience Clause, and both to undenominational inspection; but in the vested schools facilities were given to each denomination to impart distinctive teaching, by catechism or otherwise, during school hours, and in the rate-aided schools such distinctive teaching would be forbidden. In the vested schools the patronage was exercised by the Commissioners of National Education and by the patron they selected; and in the rate-aided schools the patronage would be exercised by the local Board, constituted by popular election. Another great point of contrast was, that the vested schools in Ireland were entirely maintained out of the national Exchequer; but in the case of rate-aided schools one-half the cost would come from fees and from the rates. In the case of the vested schools, the patron, in the majority of instances, was nominated by the Commissioners for the purpose of managing the school according to his own religious persuasion; but he was bound to allow teachers of other denominations access to the children. The system established by the late Earl of Derby existed only in the model schools, about 50 in number, and it was about these there was so much contention. This satisfactorily disposed of the reference to the Irish system; and it must be admitted that the Government proposed to establish a more liberal and popular system in this country.
810 He wished to say a few words on the subject of compulsion. He was no enemy to compulsion. If he were, he believed the most deadly blow he could inflict upon it would be to make it at once universal. In a country where a general system of education had long prevailed, where the people were in favour of it, and the children were trained to go to school, compulsion would be very well to deal with the small residue that might yet remain. But at this moment the children of school age who did not attend school were estimated at 50 per cent of the whole. How could they apply compulsion to such an enormous number? But then it was said that Government had made compulsion impossible because they countenanced denominationalism. What proof was there that the children of this country objected to be compelled to go to denominational schools? He would remind the House that they had compulsion already. There were the Factory Acts, and the child of a Dissenting parent must go to a Church school if there were no British school in his neighbourhood. Now, from the day of the passing of these Acts till now, where was there a single instance of a child complaining because he was compelled to go to a denominational school? He knew no bettor or more conclusive proof of the unreality of the religious objection than this that he had adduced.
Then he might be asked, why did he object to the system of undonominationalism? He hesitated to adopt the plan of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt), because he did not think the time was ripe for imposing on the country any one special form of school, and another reason was that he agreed with his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, and was unable to see how an undenominational system could be described in an Act of Parliament. The definitions of the hon. Gentleman were too vague for legal use; they reminded him of the famous difficulty of St. Augustine, who said—"When nobody asks me what God is, I know: but if anybody asks me, I cannot tell." But he denied that any attempt had been made on the part of the Government to cast derision on an undenominational system, which was appreciated by many who could not see their way to making it part of a legislative enactment.
811 Then there was an objection taken by his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), who said this Bill had so many fatal defects that it would not last 25 years. He (Mr. Bruce) would be well satisfied if it lasted five. By that time they would have covered the land with schools; and if by that time a better system could be devised he would gladly see the scheme of this Bill superseded. He wished that in dealing with this great subject certain topics had been avoided. It had been said of his own countrymen that they were too apt to look at political questions through the spectacles of sectarianism, and He thought that on this question the House had shown itself inclined to look at it through the spectacles, he would not say of religion, but of narrow theological controversy. The hon. Member for the Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities (Dr. Lyon Playfair) had ineffectually attempted to rescue the subject from the region of theological controversy, and to bring it into a more serene atmosphere. He had shown what a national system of education had done for Scotland, and that it was only in the large towns that any system of compulsion was now necessary; and he had pointed out how the scope and object of the existing system of education might be satisfactorily enlarged, so as to make the people of this country greater, wiser, more powerful than anyone had ever dared to imagine. He (Mr. Bruce) confessed that it was with infinite mortification that this long discussion had degenerated into one of theological dispute, which, however interesting to different sects, was of no interest to the parents of the children who required education. He hoped that these discussions would now end. He could not say, considering how strong and deep the feeling of the country was on the subject, that time had been lost on them; but he trusted that the House would now consent to go into Committee, when the Government would give their consideration to every Amendment, and would endeavour to perfect the measure and render it worthy of the adoption of the House.
said, it was strange that the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), who said the present Government were specially adapted for dealing with this question, should have quarrelled with almost every provision of the Bill; and he thought it would 812 have been convenient if some hon. Member had explained what was meant by the words "unsectarian" and "undenominational," because, having regard to the whole tenour of these discussions, everyone must come to the conclusion that by the use of those words it was meant to imply that persons who believed in the doctrines of the Church of England should have nothing to do with the question of education. That was as clear to him as the sun at noon-day, and the Government must now be aware that all the concessions they had made must be futile, because they were warned that certain parties would never rest until their own views were carried out. With respect to the Bill itself as it was originally framed, he should willingly have given it all the support he could; but, in its present shape, he was unable so to act without offering some observations in explanation. He deeply regretted that the Government had come to the conclusion to abandon the old standing point with respect to the religious matter, and should have placed themselves in loco parentis towards the uneducated children of the country without attempting to instruct them in religion. In the Bill, as it originally stood, a free discretion in respect to religious instruction was left to the local Boards; but that provision had received a great and serious qualification by the adoption of the Amendment of the right hon. Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple), the terms of which shut out the Church of England. It might be said that they might teach the doctrines of the Church, of England in a manner which the Church had not appointed; but that would not be honest either to the Church or to the Nonconformists. He was himself unable to discover what the teaching in the schools was to be. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) had given a rough-and-ready explanation, for he said that the whole matter might be comprehended in three sentences. The first was—"Be honest, industrious, and true." Nobody could object to that; but it was as good heathen teaching as Christian teaching. The next sentence was—"Little children, love one another." That was Christian teaching. The third was—"Do unto others as you would they should do unto you." That was also Christian teaching. But dare they venture to teach the precept and not say 813 who had given it—and not tell the children that the command was given by the Saviour? If children asked who was the Saviour, then the whole mystery of the Christian faith would come out. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had told the House that there might be many things in the Catechism that young children could not comprehend; but could every child comprehend the great mystery of the Atonement of our Saviour? When the seed was once sown, however, another power gave it life, and it was impossible for the mother teaching her child at her knee to tell when, how, or in what manner the seed she was sowing would come to light. It might be resolved that only short sentences should be taught; but it should be remembered what wonderful questions children often asked—questions which the most learned were sometimes unable to answer. It was short sentences that set the children's minds to work. The present Bishop of Manchester, a very high authority, in a speech that he had recently delivered at Manchester on the subject of denominational and sectarian teaching, said—So far as I have known, the religion taught in our schools is positive religion, and not controversial or polemical religion, and the simple aim of the teachers and clergy is to make the children grow up dutiful to their parents, loyal to their Queen, obedient to the law of the land, penetrated by the spirit of the Gospel. Loud and vehement, again, is the cry against the Church Catechism. I do not much care what formulary you put into my hands to teach religion with to children so long as it is simple, exact, and comprehensive; but religion must be taught, as everything else must be taught, out of some formulary, and if people can only give me a better or simpler formulary to teach religion out of than that good old Church Catechism, I am quite ready to exchange it for a better tool.Let nobody think that that was a vain statement on the part of the Bishop, for he went on to say—Uttering, then, merely my own individual opinion, I should not be at all sorry if we got rid of that time-honoured though somewhat obsolete institution of godfathers and godmothers—a difficulty that has often crossed my path as a country parson—and, if we did, a little difficulty that sometimes meets us at the beginning of the Catechism might be got rid of too.And then he proceeded to teach them somewhat in the language of the Secretary of State—Postponing the doctrine of the Sacraments to a later age for the further stage of instruction in confirmation classes, I do not believe that either 814 the Baptists, the Wesleyans, the Congregationalists, or the Church people would object to have their children say what was the vow by which they were bound at their baptism, or rehearse the fundamental articles of the Christian faith as contained in the Apostles' Creed, or learn their duty to God and to their neighbour, or be taught that admirable exposition of the Prayer of our Blessed Lord.Had the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council been present he would have asked him whether such a view as that taken by the Bishop of Manchester would be admissible under the words of the Amendment that the Government proposed to introduce into the Bill? He should like to know to what the Church of England teaching was to be narrowed down. The hon. Member for Bristol in the course of the debate, said that he much feared that we were coming to the point where no middle course would be open to us, and where we must choose between purely secular and altogether denominational education. In that opinion he entirely concurred. The Prime Minister was quite right when he stated that the vast majority of the people of this country were in favour of religious and against secular education. He also believed, with the Bishop of Manchester, that religion could not be taught without some sort of formulary. If the matter were left to the schoolmaster we should have distinctive teaching, with less security than if that teaching were guided by the actual words of an authoritative formulary. He could not regard the pecuniary offer made by the Government as being just. For nearly 30 years the poorer districts had contributed to the general taxes of the country, out of which the richer districts had been aided with funds which had enabled them, to build their schools; whereas, now that the poorer districts might have been enabled to take advantage of it, the building grant was about to be withdrawn. The rating difficulty would prove almost insuperable in the present heavily-taxed state of the country, and he thought it would have eventually to be abandoned. He doubted whether the rate-supported schools and voluntary schools could long continue to co-exist, and whether it would be possible to prevent the rate-supported schools from becoming secular schools. He feared that the disputes that would arise with respect to what denomination of religion was to be taught would result in this country, as it 815 had resulted in America, in nothing at all being taught. He could not help noticing a breach of the faith which the Bill committed with respect to many schools. Between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 had been expended from private sources to meet £1,500,000 or £2,000,000 from public sources to provide for the building of schools. A large portion of these schools had been built under two express conditions; one being the quality of the education to be given, and the other—almost a Parliamentary condition—that the school should continue to be effective not only in secular, but in religious matters. Where such large sums of money had been expended by benevolent people for the sake of benefiting those around them, Parliament ought not to break faith, and the change would be grievously felt; while the intention to enforce a Conscience Clause on all schools was another serious matter, remembering what large sums had been expended on school buildings. The opinion might be unfavourably received by many in that House; but he could not help saying that this Bill had begun at the wrong end. All who had any knowledge of the subject were aware how large an amount of school accommodation was at present unused; and he, therefore, asked why that could not have been made available before proceeding further? Such a plan of operations would have given to the Government an intimate knowledge of the kind of children who were now out of the schools, so that, to use the phrase of the hon. Member for the Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities (Dr. Lyon Playfair), they would have been able to make better use of their stock-in-trade. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), who had placed before the House a Motion relating to education in the rural districts, knew that what was wanted was not schools, but scholars to fill them. There would have been, on his side of the House, no difficulty in accepting this Bill; but it was painful to him to witness the opposition that was absolutely threatened by more than one hon. Member if the Government did not concede everything that was required. That was a course of policy which made it difficult for one to understand whether such Gentlemen really wished for the establishment of a system of education 816 notwithstanding they had so strongly asserted it. They meant to assert that the minority was to be equal to the majority. He was grieved to hear the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) say that religious education in schools was no better than a sham, because the whole tenour of his speech showed such a strong religious feeling. The best proof that religious teaching in schools was not a sham was the change in the condition of the population during the last 30 years. The Home Secretary knew that, relatively to the population, crime had decreased, and the Registrar General's Returns showed that unchastity on the part of women was also lessening; and, although it was impossible to say to what causes these changes were attributable, yet as education in their schools had been given on a Christian basis, they might reasonably hope that that had done its fair share towards effecting those happy results. He did not suppose the House would divide on the Motion of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), which he thought was only brought forward in order to elicit an expression of opinion.
§ MR. REED
said, that the right hon. Gentleman spoke as an attached member of the Church of England; but there was another view of the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Spencer Walpole) had charged his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) with taking advantage of a religious difficulty to raise an issue not naturally before the House. He denied that his hon. Friend had exposed himself to this charge. It must be recollected that, up to the present time, the Nonconformists had declined any participation in State aid, because they could not allow an inquiry by the State into their religious teaching. Every school they had was religious—they did not know what secularism was—all instruction was based upon the Bible, and while no catechism was taught, unsectarian Scripture teaching was everywhere given. But Mr. Brougham's Bill of 1814 claimed for the clergy the entire control of popular education, giving to them the regulation of hours, fees, and books, with power to do as they pleased, subject only to a right on the part of Dissenters of exercising a Conscience Clause, of which unsatisfactory contrivance Mr. Brougham 817 was, in fact, the inventor. That Bill was not carried; but so desirous were Dissenters that the education of the people should be secured that, when it was felt necessary in 1846 to resist another measure, brought in by Sir James Graham, and framed in a less tolerant spirit, he (Mr. Reed) was a party to a proposal for the formation of a school Board, the foundation of which was almost identical with that now before the House. The proposal stated that—The instruction of the working classes was not sufficient, nor worthy of this great country.It asked the Government to—Render aid, compatible with parental obligation, and the due preservation of funds now raised by voluntary contributions.Proceeding upon the assumption that "the relative position of various ecclesiastical bodies" forbade the possibility of an acceptable national system, it urged—That a Board of Education should be formed to receive and dispense the Grant of Parliament on principles of equality;and claimed—That no Board could possess the confidence of the people which did not fairly represent those who dissent from, as well as those who are attached to, the Church of England.And it provided that—Such Board should not be permitted to interfere in any way with the religious instruction imparted in any school, or impose any terms or restrictions except such as are obviously necessary in order to secure efficient secular instruction,it being provided that teachers might use the Bible in their schools for undenominational teaching. That plan was not accepted, and unfortunately under the Privy Council religious teaching was enforced, Inspectors were charged to report upon it, and thus the Nonconformists had to act apart, since they could not participate in the public grants. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) said the other night that an undue interference on the part of the clergy was a thing of the past. All he could say was, that the very existence of the League might be traced to a jealousy of the clergy, and to a resolution on the part of a large class of the people to manage the schools for the poor apart from their control. The right hon. Baronet was that very night, he believed, presiding at the annual fes- 818 tival of the Infant Orphan Asylum, the history of which institution furnished a signal instance of the action complained of. The asylum was founded by a Dissenter, and reared mainly by Nonconformists and Liberal Churchmen. It was designed for infants of all creeds. After some years the clergy obtained influence enough to pass a law requiring every child to learn the Church Catechism; the result was that the founders were thrust out, violence was done to the feelings of many parents, and the Dissenters were obliged to found the Reedham Asylum, while their original charity was appropriated as a Church of England institution. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that too much was made of the religious difficulty. The real religious difficulty was the fact that there was in this country a dominant Church, and the clergy felt bound to look at her interests as of primary and paramount importance, and many of them did not evince even a fair spirit of toleration, far less of equality—the spirit in which he conceived this Bill to be founded. He might mention one case—one out of many—the facts of which he had then in his hand. In the neighbourhood of Seaford, in Sussex, a clergyman farmed his own land. He found out that three labourers, his tenants, sent their children to what they thought the best school; but as that did not happen to be the Church school, he gave them notice that unless they sent their children to his school, they would be discharged, and they were discharged accordingly. Rather than lose his situation, one of these men sent one of his children; but because he would not withdraw the other from a mistress to whom she had become attached, he was discharged. His (Mr. Reed's) informant said—I met the Rev.—(it was not any part of his (Mr. Reed's) purpose to expose his name before the House)—and I said I thought it was a great shame such compulsion should be used, and he told me he considered he had a right to do it, and he would not have a man work on his farm who sent his children to the chapel school.Now, that was a parish where the population was 1,500, and the Dissenters had a school of 251. What was to be said of those things? That they did exist, especially in the rural districts, no one knew better than the right hon. Gentleman, because he had been bold enough to rebuke such bigotry; but let 819 him (Mr. Reed) tell the right hon. Gentleman that it was such acts as those that led many Dissenters to say, rather than run the risk of the licence to "read the Bible" being made the vehicle for the clergy forcing their views upon the children in the new State schools, they would unite with the League in demanding that no reference to religion should be allowed, and no Bible be permitted in the schools. That was the object and that the meaning of the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil; and it was only because he (Mr. Reed) thought he saw in the Bill a provision against those abuses that he did not vote with his hon. Friend, but, on the contrary, gave a frank support to the Government. He trusted that no antipathy to such conduct on the part of certain of the clergy of the Church of England would force the Dissenters to support a scheme which would tend to train up a nation of infidels. Bad as the conduct of some clergymen might be, he, for one, was not prepared to subordinate his Christianity to his ecclesiastical opinions; and, largely as the Education League was supported by Dissenters, their support, it ought to be understood, was not generally given to the proposal to discard the Bible. The Dissenters must not be considered as wishing to obstruct the measure; but they did desire to take a guarantee from the Government that sufficient securities should be given and taken against such persecution. While, therefore, he was prepared to accept the clause that, in rate-aided schools, no catechism or religious formulary should be used, he had given Notice of an Amendment, not differing greatly from that of his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), to add these words—Nor stall any teaching having reference to the doctrinal peculiarities of any religious denomination be permitted.That, it seemed to him, would be a safeguard, and the Government had admitted that there was need of some binding clause to prevent the teaching of the doctrines contained in the Catechism even where the Book was prohibited. It was a mistake to suppose that even the Sunday schools of the Dissenters were used for sectarian teaching. For 30 years he had devoted himself to both day and Sunday schools, constantly visiting them, and he knew 820 that, as a rule, catechisms were not taught in Sunday schools. The religious teaching in the day schools was precisely that which Dr. Mortimer used in the City of London School, where the Bible was used every day for practical teaching, and yet during 16 years, as a member of the Committee, he (Mr. Reed) never heard a complaint from anyone of the abuse of the privilege. He agreed with the Vice President of the Council that it would be a monstrous thing in this country to exclude and discard the Bible, and as Mr. Cobden had been quoted, he took leave to say that both he and Mr. Fox (the late Member for Oldham) had advocated the retention of the Bible even, in secular schools. The fact was, a new party had appeared in the country, and they advocated a system void of religion, which was "pure secularism," and they dignified it by the name of "education." If he (Mr. Reed) knew the meaning of words, this was a misapplication of terms. Children were compound beings; they were gifted with a moral and an intellectual nature, and if we desired to reclaim and to rescue we must deal with the heart as well as with the head, and that was true education. Mere knowledge would never keep boys out of crime, though it might make them clever enough to keep out of prison; and it would serve no good end to the State to make children a mere herd of reading and writing machines. The neglected children of the country were most in need of the kindly influences by which conscience was touched, virtue implanted, and character moulded and fashioned; and the power of the teacher rested mainly in such forces as had their ultimate appeal in God's Holy Word. The secular system separated knowledge from wisdom; but "the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom," and this "fear of the Lord" was true religion. Parents could not always teach it, for they did not know it. They were willing that we should teach it, witness 3,000,000 of children entrusted voluntarily to the Sunday schools, and no one objected. He would ask those who feared the abuse of the privilege of Bible reading, who would teach poor children of tender years controverted doctrines? It was urged that the clergy and ministers would attend to it after school hours, and his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) had said "that it was their 821 proper duty." He was surprised to find his hon. Friend willing after all to admit that the parties responsible for the religious education of the people were the order of the ministry. The fact was, no permission to the ministers of all denominations to come at the end of the school to teach religion would avail. The attendance would, of course, be voluntary; the result would be that as soon as the volunteer religious teachers—tie they clergy or not—walked in, the liberated children would walk out, and thus there would be no religious instruction at all. He held that he teacher was the proper person next to the parent for unsectarian religious teaching; and no high-minded teacher would consent in his moral training and the discipline of his school to be prohibited from referring to God's authority as above his own. The Bill was not all he desired, but it was a fair and practical measure. It contemplated the education of every child in the realm. It did not break up the existing machinery of the country, nor did it break down the self-reliance of the people. It recognized the parental duty, and it required the parents to pay. It did not burden the country with needless taxation; it proceeded upon the wholesome maxim that a man valued what he paid for. Those who could not pay it helped—those who could, it obliged. It gave time for the nation to do the work by their own schools; it would do it for them, and at their charges, if they neglected the warning. It did not enforce religion, neither did it proscribe it. It secured liberty to teach it or not—and to hear Bible reading or not. Its only test of merit was secular, and its aid was given on such results alone. The management of the rate-schools was popular, the inspection alone was governmental; and this Bill was a part of a great whole, which, when perfected, would give to this country what it had never yet had—a national system. It commenced with the elementary schools, advancing to the middle class, proceeding to the public schools, and ended with the Universities; a plan by which, he trusted, it might be easy for any clever child to ascend the ladder of merit, helped where he needed it, and hindered by no test, or unequal conditions, from the English village school to the honourable places of the Universities of the land.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he was prepared to accept the proposals of the Government in the spirit of compromise suggested by his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council; but he was sorry to hear the Government were going to take their stand upon the words they had placed on the Table, and were not willing to discuss the clauses of the Bill in Committee. He had listened to the whole of the debate, and while he had heard much said about the imperfections of the Bill, he had heard very little about its merits, which, in his opinion, were very great. In the first place, the Bill sought to provide education for those who had hitherto been unable to provide it for themselves. It enabled the people to provide it by their own voice and their own vote. It placed secular schools upon the same footing as denominational schools. It also proposed to separate religious teaching from secular teaching in the schools. It further proposed that inspection in future should only be for secular teaching. The Bill also gave a Time Table Conscience Clause. These were great steps in advance, and the House ought gladly to accept the measure, trusting that further Amendments would be made in the future. The Education Question could only be dealt with in a spirit of compromise, and he looked upon the Bill as based upon that principle. The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard), and others acting with him, were in favour of having the Bill postponed for another year; but he maintained that they would be no nearer a settlement next year than they were at present. There were difficulties connected with the proposed increased grants to denominational schools, and he hoped they would receive serious consideration when the Bill went into Committee, with a view to the insertion, of a clause providing that if an additional grant was to be given to denominational schools, each denomination should raise a certain amount of voluntary contributions. He found, from the last Report which had been issued by the Privy Council, that the money expended on aided schools in England, and Wales, leaving out the expenses of the Government Office in London, was £1 5s. 8d. per child. Of that sum the Government grant amounted to 8s. 2d., school fees to 8s. 3d., 7s. 7d. being derived from voluntary contributions, and 823 1s. 8d. from, the collections at churches and endowments. Now, under the proposal of the Government their grant would jump from 8s. 2d. to 12s. 3d., so that, other sources of income remaining as they were, the amount required to be raised by means of voluntary contributions would be only 5s. 2d. Now, in the country districts voluntary contributions were much larger than was generally supposed, while in the great towns they were very small indeed. The proposal of the Government, therefore, to give additional aid was not bad when applied to schools in the rural districts; whereas the reverse was the case when it was made applicable to large schools in populous towns. The result would be that such schools would be carried on entirely by means of Government aid and school-pence, and that there would be no necessity for voluntary contributions. Now, if denominational schools could be carried on by Government grants and school-pence, the principle laid down the other evening by the Prime Minister would be completely broken through—he alluded to the principle that the Government did not pay for the religious teaching of children in denominational schools. He was of opinion, therefore, that the Government should require that a certain proportion of the money for these schools should be raised by means of voluntary contributions. The amount might be fixed at one-sixth of the total expense, or at an amount equal to one-third of the Government Grant. With the proposal to increase the grant in rural districts he did not at all find fault, for under the present system schools could not be carried on in those districts. As regarded the question of secular instruction he had met with very few persons, and had seen but few documents favourable to a purely secular system. All of them proposed some way of meeting the difficulty, and even the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil himself made some concession by allowing religious instruction to be given through voluntary agencies. He held a letter written by the Rev. Thomas Binney in reply to a request to join the Birmingham League; while approving of the exclusion of the Church Catechism from the schools, the rev. gentleman advocated the daily reading of the Bible, and remarked that to exclude the Bible from the schools would be the tyranny of 824 the minority against the great mass of the English people. The Bishop of Exeter, in giving his opinion on the subject, said he did not think that the teaching of formularies to children made any deep impression taken by themselves, nor did he think that the mere teaching of the Catechism would make a child grow up a Churchman in after years. The Rev. William Rogers, Canon of St. Paul's, had expressed a similar view. In a Report presented to the House from four large towns, he found that there were in Birmingham, 80 schools supported by religious bodies, and 255 which belonged to no religious bodies; in Leeds there were 83 supported by religious bodies, and 95 which belonged to no religious, bodies; in Liverpool there were 111 schools supported by religious bodies, and 158 which were unconnected with religious bodies; and in Manchester there were 89 schools supported by religious bodies, and 56 which were not connected with religious bodies; and in most of the schools not connected with any religious body there was Bible teaching, without dogmatism or formulary. Speaking of the private schools held in chapel buildings in Birmingham, and attended by 2,000 children, Mr. Fitch said the teachers described the teaching as undenominational, and that some gave Bible lessons. There was a similar Report with respect to Leeds; and surely we might in legislation safely follow what had been done by the very class of people who would elect the school Boards. The British and Foreign schools were not conducted according to sectarian teaching. The Scriptures were read from the desk at the opening of school; later in the day they were read in the classes, and explanations were given of the meaning of words and the connection of events, and moral lessons were deduced. This had been done for 62 years. Could there be anything very difficult in applying this system to rate-aided and rate-provided schools? The Calvinistic Methodists of North Wales approved and adopted this system, the carrying out of which in a large number of schools in England and Wales involved no difficulty whatever. He held in his hand a letter which he received the other day from the minister of a college of Independents in Lancashire, in which he stated that he had three schools embracing 600 pupils, and over 825 these he had placed five teachers—one a member of the Church of England, one a Wesleyan, one a Swedenborgian, one an Independent, and one a Baptist, and the schools were attended by the children of Churchmen, Wesleyans, Baptists, and other Protestant bodies, many of whom went to denominational schools on the Sunday. There could, then, be no difficulty with regard to the national teaching of the Bible now before the House. The difficulty was only in theory; and if the people who had children to educate were left to themselves in the matter, they would soon discover how to establish the necessary schools on the system of Bible teaching. He could not support an Amendment in favour of secular instruction for the children of the poorest classes; and if volunteers were ready to give them religious instruction out of school hours, he could not understand why they did not attempt it now. Secular schools would not meet the necessities of children subject to no religious influence at home. With regard to the Amendment of the right hon. Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple), which had been adopted by the Government, he did not think it satisfactory; he would omit the words relative to distinctive teaching, and add words in the spirit of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright). He could not understand why so much ridicule should be thrown on the proposal to establish undenominational schools. From 1839 the Committee of Council had aided schools which were called "undenominational," in which Bible reading should be given. The Wesleyans had a form of trust deed for undenominational schools, and it said—The instruction shall comprise reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and Scriptural history, and it shall be a fundamental regulation and practice of the school that the Bible be daily read therein, and that no child shall be required to learn any catechism.In these cases the difficulty was actually met, and if it were done by the Committee of Council, and in trust deeds, why could it not be done in Act of Parliament? Again, the Education Commission of 1861 recognized such schools, of which it said—There are some schools in which the Bible is daily read, and from which all religious formularies are excluded, while they are not connected 826 with any denomination nor with any established society.As to attendance, the efforts of the Manchester Education Aid Society, which paid school fees for the children of poor parents, and could not get them to school, showed conclusively that nothing but compulsion would meet the necessities of the case. It had been suggested that the indirect compulsion under the Factory Acts would almost effect what was wanted; but he held in his hands a Return showing that in the four large towns of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, the operation of those Acts had been almost a failure in procuring the attendance of the children at school. Therefore, nothing but direct compulsion would effect the object, and he thought they had better have nothing to do with compulsion than attempt to carry it out on the plan proposed in the Government Bill. Before concluding, he would appeal to the supporters of the Amendment, and ask them whether they were determined to put off this great question until they got exactly all that which they wanted? He did not think that they would gain their object by delay, for people on both sides of the question felt strongly, and, considering that the present denominational system had been carried on for 30 years, and that the persons connected with it had been labouring in the cause of education all that time, he, for one, was not prepared to knock down that system. He did not see why it might not exist side by side with the other. Under the Bill the greatest liberty of conscience was provided for. Schools could be appointed for secular instruction; schools could be appointed for secular and religious instruction. He trusted the measure would not be put off till next Session, knowing as they did that in Birmingham there were 21,000 children between the ages of 5 and 13 not under instruction at all; that the number in Leeds was 17,000; in Manchester 24,000; and in Liverpool 47,000. In 1851, Mr. Cobden declared that, being aware of the enormous difficulty of dealing with the subject of education arising out of the religious element, he would feel grateful for any aid, from whatever quarter it might come, having for its object to secure a better education for the people; and, in like manner, he (Mr. Hibbert) appealed to hon. Members to abandon their 827 peculiar views, and let the present Bill pass, with the intention to improve it, if necessary, in future years. With such feelings, he should vote for going into Committee.
§ MR. GORDON
said, this question could only be settled by concessions being made by all who were really anxious for the establishment of a national system of education, such as the Bill before the House would tend to secure, either by means of existing denominational schools, or by the rate-supported schools which it would call into existence. The views he entertained on this subject were in exact accordance with those expressed by the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington). In Scotland they had never experienced any difficulty with respect to a Conscience Clause, even when the Church of Scotland enjoyed the monopoly of education, and the struggle that had taken place in England over that question was wholly foreign to them. He saw no objection to the system of rate-supported schools, and he adopted the principle of compulsion; indeed, if necessary, he was prepared to carry out that principle to its fullest extent—although he admitted that great caution must be exercised in its application, for it had been truly remarked that the teacher was the soul of the school. A difficulty would probably arise at first in procuring a sufficient number of efficient teachers, and until that was overcome it would be dangerous to enforce compulsion in all its severity. He was glad to find that the question of denominational schools had been for the most part discussed in so tolerant a spirit, and it seemed to him only just that the existing ones should continue to receive help from the State, seeing they were established on the faith of the promise that such support would be afforded. He observed, in regard to the Amendment, that the issue it really raised—the separation of religious from secular education—had not been recognized by the hon. Member who represented the Birmingham League (Mr. Dixon); and, speaking from his own experience of educational institutions in Scotland, he ventured to say that "the religious difficulty" was neither a practical nor an educational, but a theoretical or political one. There was, unfortunately, considerable diversity of opinion in Scotland in rela- 828 tion to ecclesiastical matters, and the schools of the Established Church and those of the Free Church were in apparent opposition to one another; but, notwithstanding this religious difficulty, the children of the Free Church denomination attended the Established Church schools, and vice versâ, while more Roman Catholic children attended the Episcopalian schools than attended the Roman Catholic schools. This was a proof that the question involved a theoretical and political rather than a practical difficulty. With regard to the abstract right of the State to vote money for denominational schools, the point was this—whether, education being necessary to make good citizens, the State was not fully justified in calling upon members of all religious denominations to contribute to the support of so useful a work even in calling upon a Presbyterian (for example) to contribute to the religious instruction of those children whom it was intended to bring up in the Episcopal Communion. He should be sorry to introduce anything like religious acrimony into the debate. He rejoiced at the calm and dispassionate tone in which the subject had hitherto been considered; but what was the principle on which the voluntaries objected to this Bill? They had originally laid down the proposition that there could be no proper and sound education from which religion was excluded, and upon that ground they had denied the right of the Government to interfere on educational matters, and had, consequently, declined to accept any school grant from the State. When, however, it became self-evident that voluntary efforts were not sufficient to overtake the educational destitution of the country, they had relaxed the rigour of their principles, and had consented to accept State aid. The result was that the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) had acted a more consistent part than those hon. Members who, having maintained that religion was an essential element in education, now asked that secular education should be supported, but that no support should be given to that which they maintained was a most essential element of education. Therefore, in stating that, he should prefer that his children should be brought up in a Church of England school rather than in a school in which no religion at all was taught. He was 829 happy to find his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) say that, though a member of the Church of England, he would not hesitate, if he were in Scotland, to support a Presbyterian school; and, in like manner, he (Mr. Gordon) though a Nonconformist in England, would not hesitate to give money for the support of an education based on a religion which was not his. Even the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil maintained that religion was an important part of education. How, then, was that important part of education to be given at the new schools? It was proposed to be left to the parents of the children or to the clergy. Now, to leave it to the parents was an altogether hopeless matter. The rate-supported schools were intended for the poorest classes of society, and though he did not doubt that there were individuals in those classes who were animated by more profound principles of religion than they were in their more comfortable circumstances, yet the great mass of them were negligent not only of religion but even of education. In addition to this there were the difficulties of time and place, so that, upon the whole, if they were to leave religious education to the parents he feared it would be altogether neglected. As to the clergy, they had work enough already arising out of their clerical duties; and the country had no experience of clergymen, whether belonging to the Established Church or to Dissent, taking any active part in the work of instruction. They took the office of managers, and carefully fulfilled the duties; but it was too much to expect that they would undertake the work of instruction. They had experience of the inability of clergymen to attend to these duties, both in Canada and in Ireland, where, though they were expected to attend the schools, it was found in practice that not above two or three ever did so. It was a maxim in Prussia—that great country from whence they drew so many of their educational maxims—that what you put into the life of the nation you must first put into the child, and, therefore, every care should be taken to give the child a religious education. With reference to the very stringent Conscience Clause in the Bill, he submitted that great care would have to be taken that its wording did not force 830 religion into a corner, and that it did not create a feeling in the minds of the children that religion was a matter of no importance. He was inclined to regard the denominational management, subject to State inspection, as the best system to adopt; for if Parliament insured that general education was good by organizing State inspection there was no need to quarrel over other matters. He had a fear in considering the original Bill that discord would arise in the local Boards over the religious question; and this appeared to be the feeling of the First Minister of the Crown when he introduced the recent changes to the notice of the House. The Bill, as it at present stood, excluded formularies, and thus tied up the free religious action of the majority and prevented discord. The denominational system, with a stringent Conscience Clause, was the only way in which all persons had a free choice; an Atheist might withdraw his child from a denominational school and have his will, but a Churchman could not get his child taught religion if the system adopted were purely secular. Yet even Mr. Spurgeon declared that he would object in the strongest manner to a Government setting up schools which did not teach religion. The fear of instilling dogmas into the minds of children was groundless; dogmas could not be made sufficiently clear to a child's comprehension; and the only advantage gained by teaching formularies and catechisms was that they assisted children in after-life to interpret doctrines from the pulpit. If, then, the House was agreed in the expediency of discarding formularies and catechisms for fear of discord in the local Boards—if it was agreed that religion was essential and that such instruction as he had described would be sufficient, why should not the matter be settled on that basis, and the difficulty be removed for ever? At first the vote that there should be a religious education would probably be carried; but the advocates of secularism would return to the charge again and again, and they would in time carry their point. All this might be removed if the Government were to say in their Bill that there should be religious education in the new schools. He commended the Amendment of which his right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) had given Notice to the attention of the House, as providing the proper solu- 831 tion of the difficulty. He ventured to think this was still a Christian country; the Sovereign went through a religious ceremony on ascending the Throne, the proceedings of that House were commenced by the reading of prayers, and laws were instituted against un-Christian acts. Why, then, should Parliament hesitate, in a matter which related to the religious education of the young, in making some provision which would remove a source of discord from the local Board, and give expression to the almost unanimous opinion of the House? If it did so it would truly place itself in harmony with the view of Her Majesty, when she said—"The Holy Scriptures are the true source of England's greatness and of England's glory."
§ MR. BAINES
said, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in saying that the very ground of the position originally taken up by the voluntaries of England in opposition to Government interference and aid was that they considered religion to be an essential part of school teaching. What he now maintained was that the Government should take no part pro or con in religious education. It was undoubtedly the fact that the Government had dissociated themselves from either enforcing or prohibiting religion in the schools of the country. This was the great merit of the Government measure, of which he cordially approved. Still the working of the measure would, he believed, be altogether in favour of religion. We might safely trust the religious feeling of the country both among Churchmen and Nonconformists, and he was confident that in almost every considerable town the ratepayers would elect to the school Board men who would insist upon a Bible education being given. It was his sincere conviction that the interests of religion would be better settled by leaving the people to their free action, than by the Government attempting to dictate to them the course they should adopt. He had always been of opinion that there were two impracticable courses with regard to the religious difficulty. The first of these was the exclusion of the Bible. It would be impossible to exclude the Bible in consequence of the great reverence of the people for it, and of the immense advantage of connecting religion with the education of the young. It was equally impracticable, consider- 832 ing the way in which sects were divided, and the great power of the Nonconformists, to work a measure which insisted on distinctive doctrinal teaching being given in rate-supported schools. Therefore he differed on the one hand from his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard), and, on the other, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), both of whom seemed to maintain that what they called a colourless religion was impracticable, and that, therefore, distinctive theological teaching must be given in the rate-supported schools. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil proposed to dissociate from elementary education that religion which was one of its primary and best elements, and then to send the children haphazard anywhere or nowhere in the hope that they would receive religious instruction; but his hon. Friend had not given the House the faintest idea as to how the thing was to be worked. He never heard of a more impracticable scheme. His hon. Friend said that the work should be left to the ministers of religion. The Nonconformists, however, did not desire the work to be left to them. [Mr. RICHARD explained that he had never said anything of the kind.] In that case he had misunderstood his hon. Friend. Ministers of religion had not the time to give religious instruction in the schools, and who, then, was to impart it? The Sunday school teachers certainly could not, because it would be impossible for them to attend on week-days. He knew thousands of them, and knew that they generally belonged, to the industrial classes. They found it impossible to get any large and regular attendance of voluntary teachers to teach the evening classes at their Mechanic's Institute. To a great extent he agreed with the hon. Member for the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow as to the freedom, harmony, and efficiency often found in denominational schools; they worked harmoniously because the committee, officers, and all the parties concerned were accustomed to work together in matters of religion and charity, and they agreed very completely in their principles. He, therefore, entirely differed from his hon. Friends who so strongly and bitterly opposed denominational 833 education. He, for one, was not afraid of it, as it appeared to Mm that denominational education was the natural fruit of religious liberty. He had been told by clergymen that the children of Nonconformists who attended the Church schools remained in after-life as staunch Dissenters as if they had never studied there. There was very great value in denominational teaching, and he should be one of the very last to seek to frown it down. He was shocked to find it precluded in the schools in Holland, because he looked upon its prohibition as an interference with religious liberty. But while he was not unfavourable to denominational teaching, he was most favourable to undenominational teaching in the new schools. He had the pleasure of visiting the other day, with his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), the annual meeting of the British and Foreign School Society, and he was sure his hon. Friend would bear him out when he said that a lesson more illustrative of good Scripture teaching could not be given than they had heard on that occasion. So good was it that his hon. Friend said that he could ask for nothing better. He did not understand the course taken by his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham when he said that he would support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr, for his hon. Friend, as Chairman of the League at Birmingham, had taken up the express ground of unsectarian teaching. He did not know whether his hon. Friend was secular or un-sectarian in his views; he seemed to be pulled both ways in turn by the conflicting parties within the League. As to hon. Gentlemen opposite, of whose religious and educational zeal he was well aware, they would, he could not help thinking, make a great mistake if they insisted on the teaching of denominational religion in the rate-supported schools. They had a great concession made to them when their own schools were given up to them. A Conscience Clause was, it was true, required; but it was now admitted on all hands that that was a good thing, and it was the only restriction which was imposed. Consequently, they had got, and very properly, possession of those schools which by their own zeal and liberality they had created. Why, then, should they not allow the rate-supported schools to be 834 established on the undenominational principle? The schools of the British and Foreign Education Society were all conducted on that principle, and with the greatest success. Why should not members of every persuasion combine together in the performance of a great Christian duty? A Petition had been presented that evening by his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, signed by nearly 400 clergymen of the Church of England, as well as nearly 900 Nonconformist ministers, in which they stated that they could and would agree together in teaching the elements of religious instruction; and he had been told by many Nonconformist ministers who had signed the documents of the Education League, that they never intended to prohibit the teaching of the Bible in the schools. The Prime Minister had received a deputation from dignitaries of the Church of England, from some of the most eminent masters of public schools, as well as from Nonconformist ministers from many towns in England, and they all concurred in saying that they could teach the elements of religion if allowed to do so in harmony together. When our missionaries went to foreign lands they met together, whether Churchmen or Dissenters, and held together their religious services. In the autumn of this year a great conference was to be held in New York, of members of all Protestant Churches in Europe and America, who found they could heartily agree in fundamentals of the Christian faith. He mentioned these facts to thow that it was perfectly possible to have the teaching not of a colourless and soulless religion, but of the full-hearted Christian doctrine of mutual love and duty. It was practicable, therefore, to have education conducted in that way. In conclusion, he would point out to his Nonconformist Friends that great progress had been made within the last few years in the direction of concession to their views. Religion was, in the first instance, no longer made a condition of the Government Grants; secondly, religious inspection had been abolished; thirdly, grants were to be made to secular as to religious schools; and, fourthly, the Conscience Clause had been granted; while in the case of the new schools, in accordance with the recent Amendments of the Prime Minister, religion was to 835 be left to the ratepayers and the parents of children, in perfect reliance on the religious sentiment of the English people. The whole body of the ratepayers were to elect the school Boards, and every facility was to be given for the expression of independent opinion. He gave a hearty, but not an undiscriminating, support to the Bill, wishing that, upon some of the points mentioned by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert), the Ministry would reconsider the decision they had come to, for they had unnecessarily alarmed those who were opposed to sectarian teaching. He believed that the Bill was calculated to do more than any other measure of his time to raise the character, the intelligence, the morals, and the prosperity of the people at large.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, the several nights' debate which had taken place on this Amendment had not been wasted or thrown away, for it was observable, as speech after speech was delivered, that the two sides of the House were coming more and more into accord. Liberal Members were beginning to see that those on the Conservative Benches had made large concessions, and that the clergy of the Church had shown great self-command in the way in which they had received proposals with regard to the Conscience Clause, the banishment of formularies from the rate-founded schools, and the giving up of denominational inspection. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) in the early part of the evening, he was bound to say that, much as he differed from the Birmingham League, he thought they all owed a great debt to that body for stirring up the country to its very depths on the subject. The hon. Member for Birmingham, whom he respected as a neighbour and a friend, gave them too much of the opinions of other people rather than his own; and it struck him that he treated hon. Members as if they were the uneducated class for whom the House was legislating, and as if they did not read the newspapers. He (Viscount Sandon) was glad to say that the whole tone of the Liberal Press of the town which he partly represented was in favour of the Government scheme of education, and of the changes made by the Government in that scheme within the last few days, and was opposed to 836 the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham. His hon. Friend seemed to treat this question as one between town and country—between squire and parson. Did the hon. Gentleman recollect who many of the squires were now? Some of the leading squires in his (Viscount Sandon's) district were gentlemen whom, to their honour, had acquired large fortunes in trade, and now took the lead in the politics of their neighbourhoods. Those gentlemen were generally acting zealously with the parson. The reason why hon. Members had come to much greater agreement was that they had faced more and more the class for whom they had to provide education; they had seen that the children of the best artizans and agricultural labourers were already in our schools, and that the population with which the House had to deal was that floating one which was destitute of good home influence. He read with care a supplement to The Nonconformist, published four or five years ago, which gave a survey of the condition of the metropolis and arrived at the conclusion that there was 1,000,000 of the population of London beyond the reach of ministers of religion of any religious body, and for whom there was no provision in the way of church or chapel, however much the people might wish to go into them. Now, it was the children of that population for whom they were now endeavouring to provide education. Was it not a dream to suppose that these children would be supplied with moral and religious teaching when there were no ministers to teach them, and when in their homes no moral influence was to be found? In the face of these dreadful realities sectarian difficulties appeared miserably small and petty. The debate was clearing the way for Committee, and he thought he might be doing some service if he called attention to two or three dangers which stood in the way. It was all important, in order to bring this measure into successful operation, that they should enlist the sympathies of the classes that were to be affected by it. But was there not something like a snare in their way in the shape of the rates which it would involve? They were all aware of the great increase lately of our local rates. If they largely augmented those rates they would incur the danger of turning the feeling of the town populations against 837 those schools which had occasioned such increase. A recently-issued Return showed that the amount of the poor rate per head was as follows in the years named:—1863, 8s. 4d.; 1864, 9s.; 1867, 9s. 8d.; 1868, 10s. 0¾d.; and 1869, 10s. 5d. With the great increase in local taxation exhibited by these figures the House must be careful how it imposed additional local burdens. In our large towns great wealth escaped these local burdens, which fell in a great degree upon those least able to bear them, for the domestic establishments of wealthy men were generally far outside the town boundaries, as was well explained last year by his hon. Colleague (Mr. Rathbone). It was quite clear that the remedy for this was in the direction chosen by the Government. Again, it was essential that in the large towns they should carry the parents with them, and here was another danger to be encountered, and that was in regard to the principle of compulsion which, in his opinion, was the pith of the whole difficulty. People talked of compulsion as if it affected only the children not now in the schools; but it was notorious that perhaps the greatest evil in existing schools was the irregularity of attendance of the children: therefore, a complete system of compulsion would be felt by almost every parent of the class in question throughout the country—surely this showed at once that the question of compulsion was no trifling matter. It was undoubtedly safer in this matter to make compulsion permissive as in the Government Bill; but he ventured to suggest that it would be desirable to give this permissive compulsion not only to the school Boards but to Town Councils and local authorities all through the country. There was a large class with respect to whom the State stood almost in the position of parent or guardian—namely, the children of those receiving out-door relief. The number of those children amounted to 150,000. The great proportion of them were, according to the Report of the Duke of Newcastle's Commission, miserably educated, and many of them received no education at all. The last Return obtained this year by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Somerset (Major Allen) showed that 64,000 went to some schools; 17,000 were educated at the cost of the rates; 30,000 went to no school nor to work; and 10,000 went to work, 838 but did not go to any school at all. He did not mean to say that the payment for the schooling of all these children should be borne necessarily by the rates, as was now allowed by Denison's Act; but a certificate might be required from the parents, or from those who were responsible for the children, that they regularly attended some school, for this was the very class from which almost the whole of the criminal population came, as would be gathered from the evidence of Sir Joshua Jebb—no mean authority—and one always to be mentioned with honour and respect. He could not help pointing out that by hampering too much the rate-founded schools with conditions, the valuable ties which existed between the various classes connected with the schools for the poorer population might be destroyed. The teachers for the poor free schools were not obtained by money. They had in London 30,000 children in the free ragged schools, and 15,000 in the evening schools. There were 400 paid teachers, and, in addition—a noble army—3,300 unpaid teachers. What were the ties created in these schools? The unpaid teachers comprised in their ranks young men and women from shops, ladies, lawyers, doctors, tradesmen, and merchants—men also from that more gorgeous gilded chamber across their own Lobby, and others in various positions in life, who worked together year after year in that gallant host. What he mentioned of the metropolis was only an example of what they all knew was going on in the other large populations of the land; and, surely, every care was needed, lest by their legislation they should discourage the zeal of that noble array of volunteer teachers who were the very salt of our population. He rejoiced to see that, according to the Bill as it now stood, in the provisions for the rate-founded schools they had carefully avoided anything like a disrespect for religion. Great as might be their political differences, their debates had shown that the House and the country were determined, at all events, that religion should be honoured in every school. If he had his own way he confessed he should have been most reluctant to have given up the use of a religious formulary. He could not help thinking that the heads of the leading Protestant Churches in the country might be got together, 839 and that a decision might be come to by them as to the adoption of a certain formulary, which should not be distinctive of any particular denomination, and which would be a guide for the teachers in the schools in explaining the simple principles of their common Christianity. There was a serious difficulty in each teacher teaching Christianity in his own fashion, without the guide of any formulary, and there was a danger that in despair the school Boards might forbid them to teach religion at all. He had just been looking over an interesting Parliamentary Paper, which gave the number of all Nonconformist places of worship, and showed that 17,500, the very large proportion of the whole—belonged to the Wesleyan Methodists, the Congregationalists, and the Baptists; and he doubted not that these bodies could agree with the Church of England in framing such a formulary as he proposed. While wrapped up in the consideration of this great question of the religious difficulty, they must not forget another danger awaiting them in the enormous power with which the Education Board was being endowed. They were creating a central authority, with undefined and almost unlimited powers. He would be quite content to leave the power in the hands of the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education; but occasionally great and sudden changes took place in the autumn months, and he should not be surprised if in February next, for instance, they found his that right hon. Friend the Vice President had been sent on a mission to Japan, and his place had been taken by the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Ayrton). There ought to be some statement in the Bill as to what was to be considered the school age of the children, as to the standard of efficiency and as to certificated teachers; otherwise too great power would be left in the hands of the central authority. Some conditions ought also to be stated as to school buildings, their size and position and tenure. His Nonconformist friends, for example, would possess large power if they were permitted to have their schoolrooms under their chapels. There ought also to be a provision with regard to normal schools. He hoped the House would rise to the height of this great question; for not only were the more intelligent classes of the people watching their proceedings, but the great masses who 840 belonged to no particular denomination were watching them as well, and would have a poor opinion of their forms of Christianity if they found that they prevented them from giving them that religious education, which, every inquiry showed, they desired for their children. Considering, then, the condition and the wishes of these members of the community, he sincerely trusted hon. Members would not allow any miserable sectarian feelings to prevent the establishment of a great national system which should give to the children of those masses the long-needed blessing of a thoroughly Christian and solid education.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM
said, that as all were earnest in deploring the burden and misery of popular ignorance they must feel the responsibility that would attach to them in rejecting the measure now before the House. The Dissenters were responsible for the opposition to this Bill, and it was they who, 27 years ago, prevented the passing of the educational clauses in Sir James Graham's Factory Act—a measure which, if they had cordially, or even patiently, acquiesced in its proposals, would long before this time have filled the land with schools. Since then education had spread in all directions, and the darkness was now, perhaps, rendered more visible by the light which surrounded it, while a contrast with other countries showed our condition to be critical and serious. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley), who had questioned the statements of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), had read the Reports made to the French Commission on Education by their Commissioners in Germany, he would have seen the enormous progress which that country had made not only in spreading education, but also in raising its standard. The Dissenters had now to ask themselves whether they were justified in opposing this Bill, because the Vice President had told them that the Government would not allow of any Amendment to the Bill, and threw the responsibility upon those who refused to pass its clauses as they stood. How unfair that was he left the world to judge. Hon. Members opposite might well join in supporting this measure, for it was framed wholly with a regard to their opinions and interests, although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had spoken 841 of the concession, of cherished principles. At first sight there seemed to be something in favour of their argument when they said—"This is not our Bill, but a Bill brought in by a Liberal Government, proposed by a Minister long recognized as a Leader of the Radical party, and enjoying the confidence of an overwhelming majority both in the House and in the country." ["No, no!"] It was hardly worth while to deny that statement, when the right hon. Gentleman had a majority of 100, which might have rendered his Government independent of support from the opposite Benches if there had been produced a measure which would have insured the support of all the Liberal party. The real concession that had been made was a Conscience Clause, and hon. Members opposite thought themselves entitled to say, "This is enough; surely it is your turn now to be moderate." The Dissenters were now charged with a want of moderation, and told that they were allowing the darkness of sectarian prejudice to stand in the way, and were robbing the nation of a noble gift; but when the Conscience Clause was pointed out to him, he asked hon. Members opposite whether they would take it themselves? Would the clergy of the Established Church be content to allow their children to go to Roman Catholic schools under the protection of a Conscience Clause? That was a difficult matter to test in England, because in towns there was ample opportunity for separate schools, while in the country they had it all their own way; but he would ask the Protestants of Ireland whether they would allow their children to go to Roman Catholic schools under a Conscience Clause, and he would also ask Welsh Churchmen whether they would suffer their children to be educated in British schools? ["Yes!"] An hon. Member opposite said—"Yes;" but the Reports of the Inspectors showed that the Church of England population were not so content, for by the side of the British schools they erected Church ones—nay, the clergy were not willing to allow the children of one parish to go to school in an adjoining one if the clergyman there held different views. He asked hon. Members to do the Dissenters some justice, and to remember that there was some ground for their not being altogether content with such a scant measure of religious liberty. The right 842 hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) paraded the concession of a Conscience Clause, and spoke of it as something that was brought out as a solemn sacrifice to the peace of the country, like the man described by De Quincey in his essay on Murder as one of the Fine Arts, who, boasting of his exploits, said he tried to preserve a judicious mean between too much murder and too little. He believed the House would give him credit for saying that, if the question before it were merely one of sectarian jealousy, and if it were necessary, in order to secure a national system of education, that the Nonconformists should waive their just and equal rights, he, for one, would patiently submit. There was patriotism enough among Nonconformists to make them ready to do that. They, however, alleged denominational education to be unjust and wasteful; they said it would poison national life, would create division where there should be union, and cause differences which would extend from the cradle to the tomb. He wished to point out that if the system of denominationalism were adopted with regard to this country we should be, as a natural sequence, obliged to pass a Bill that would hand over the education of Ireland to the Ultramontane party in that country. The principle of education in Ireland, as laid down in the famous letter of the late Lord Derby, was that of a united literary education and a separate religious education. That was the foundation of the present system of Irish education, and every departure from it must be regretted as an evil. That principle had been opposed by bigots of every denomination, and had been approved by large-hearted men of every religion. The system was yet in force in theory, and in some degree in practice, but so long as the Acts authorizing it remained upon the statute book it would be opposed by those who desired to obtain the entire control over religious education in that country. The truth was, they were settling the question of Irish national education at the present moment, because if they agreed to establish denominational education permanently in this country, they would be unable to prevent the same principle being applied to Ireland. If a system of denominational education were once adopted in this country, it would have to be extended to Ire- 843 land, not merely as it now was as the infringement of a noble principle, but as the principle of Irish education, while every vestige of the existing system would be swept away. The Report of the Irish Education Commission, recently published, recommended the abolition of the system of mixed education, and the Protestants of Ireland would soon learn that the mixed system was the only one under which the freedom of education could be preserved. He would refer the House to a letter published in The Standard of Tuesday from Dr. Lee, curate of All Saints, Lambeth. He said—An Irish Roman Catholic of position and influence has just written to me as follows:—'So we are to squeeze out of the Whigs denominational education for this country. In truth the Cabinet is pledged to this, and though the scheme will not be unfolded very probably just yet, yet we shall have it, and on our own terms. Here you see, my dear Dr. Lee, what union and unity can procure even from an inimical State, or rather from a Government inimical to Catholics,' If this be so, and I have every reason to believe that the information is perfectly accurate, I can only recommend the united action of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland to the disunited clergy of our own National Church. If denominational education is to be provided in Ireland, why may not an attempt be made to get the same fair play and fair dealing for ourselves? If the English Bishops and clergy, instead of stifling, or proposing to stifle, Mr. Forster by their affectionate and overacted embraces, would as one man ask for the same liberty here, and for the application of the same principle as is to be adopted in Ireland the dark designs of the Education League might be successfully resisted.A Roman Catholic Bishop (Bishop Keown) had replied to questions put to him by the Commissioners that it would be as fatal to separate religious from secular education as it would be to separate the soul from the body. The right rev. Prelate claimed for the Bishops of his Church the right of controlling education in Ireland in its entirety. The Bishop was asked was there a country where the Bishops possessed this power? His reply was, that it was so in England. Was there, he was then asked, any other country in which this was done? And the reply was, that he was not aware that it was done in any other country. And then he would read the concluding sentence of a Report by a Member of the Commission (Sir R. Kane), himself a Roman Catholic—I have to report my dissent from all the recommendations, having for their object the abandonment of the system of united education. Its overthrow is demanded at the instance of a power unfavourable to civil and religious liberty,844 It was, therefore, chiefly on account of the injurious manner in which it would affect Ireland that he objected to the establishment of a denominational system in this country under the Bill. The present proposals of the Government were, in his opinion, worse than those of the Bill as it originally stood. No person objected to the continuance of the grant to the existing schools or desired that they should be extinguished, although he did not doubt that in the course of time a large number of the private schools would become merged in the public schools which would be established throughout the country under this Bill. The increase of the grants by 50 per cent to denominational schools was entirely novel and gratuitous, and the annual rate for the grant would be certain to meet with great opposition, and it was no wonder that such a proposition should have excited the astonishment, surprise, and suspicion of hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University had not unreasonably asked why this proposal was not embodied in a Bill; but it was evident that the Government was unwilling to face the country with such a measure in their hand, imposing an annual charge of £250,000 upon the Consolidated Fund. He believed that the effect of the Bill would be to spread the denominational system through the length and breadth of the land, with all its injustice and inequalities. The Home Secretary had said that the Government did not wish to commit the country to any definite scheme; but he complained that, in point of fact, they did commit it to denominationalism, and that it would be practicably impossible hereafter to supply its place by any other system. Upon that ground he opposed the Bill, and upon that ground also he asked hon. Members—whether they agreed with the precise terms of the Amendment or not—to refuse their votes to the Government. But, besides this, the Bill itself was not good. The objections to the original measure were well understood; they were founded upon the general objection to denominational schools, and the Amendment of the right hon. Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) did not meet it by merely forbidding the teaching of one or two well-known and recognized formularies. The only proper alterna- 845 tive proposal to the Bill was the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard); this also was the only logical conclusion, and the conclusion to which the opinion of the country was gradually tending. Upon this point he agreed with the First Minister of the Crown, and disagreed from the Home Secretary. If, as the Home Secretary had argued, the country had not pronounced a definite opinion on the subject, that was because the course of the Government had been so uncertain—their Amendments so various—that the country had been puzzled, and had waited to see whether the Government would, as they hoped, satisfy their reasonable expectations. As to undenominational education, he believed that to be impossible. The country was promised the British school system by the Government; but who worked the British school system? The orthodox Dissenters, which included the Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, and Presbyterians; and these sects agreed in working the British school system, because there was no difference whatever in their theological opinions; the only difference between them consisted in Church organization. The model schools in Ireland were a success, and Dr. Temple's Report showed that the pupils who had been taught by the clergyman under this system were better versed in the Catechism than those taught by the schoolmaster. Did the Government wish to assert that the Christian people of England were not equal to their duty, and would not rise to it? The tone of the Home Secretary's speech seemed much more worthy of a statesman of the school of Adam Smith than of what he knew him to be—a Christian man. Where was the Government's faith in the power of Christianity? Ministers had faith in Vestries and Town Councils that they would rise to their work; did they think that Christian Churches would not rise to theirs? Why, there never was a time in the history of this land when Christianity had such power over the hearts and lives of men! The duty to educate the young in Christian truth was the duty of Christian men—a duty which they could not shirk or delegate to the State. This duty would not be performed by State Churches, nor by State endowments, nor by sectarian schools, but by the zeal of Christian men and women would Christian light and love be car- 846 ried into the hearts and homes of the people.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
I must say that, as far as I am concerned, I have no complaint to make of the manner in which the hon. Gentleman and his Friends have conducted their opposition to this Bill, and if the Bill should eventually fail to pass into a law I would be disposed to attribute that more to the efforts of the Government to conciliate the hon. Gentleman and his Friends than to any direct opposition which they have hitherto offered. With respect to another question which the hon. Gentleman put—how can we on this side of the House be expected to do other than receive with gratitude the provisions of a measure which is conceived so much in favour of the existing system?—I would ask in my turn of the hon. Gentleman if he heard the speech delivered in the course of the evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary? I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I listened to that speech, as a supporter of the existing system, with feelings very far removed from either gratification or gratitude. The right hon. Gentleman made what was no doubt an able and argumentative appeal to the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. But what were the grounds of that appeal? Why, that all the details of their scheme were unfavourable to the existing system, and that if their scheme were carried into a law it would in the end prove fatal to that system. It is true the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to tell us that this was not the object of his measure, but that in all probability such would be the result. That being the case, though I shall not be deterred from voting for going into Committee upon this Bill even by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, yet I cannot agree to go into Committee without making a few observations upon what the right hon. Gentleman told us were the most important and cardinal features of the scheme, and first let me say that the alteration in the Conscience Clause is in itself an alteration to which I, for one, take the gravest exception. I listened with the utmost attention to the speech of the Vice President of the Council, expecting to hear from him some reason for making this great change. But what was the only reason that was assigned by the right hon. Gentleman? Because it was found that 847 in working it would more clearly facilitate the application of the compulsory system all over the country. Now to those who wish to see that compulsory system established that argument may be one of great weight; but to those who, like me, do not believe in the expediency or possibility of applying compulsory education to all parts of the country, that argument is of no weight whatever. I wholly object to disturbing the internal economy of the denominational schools in the hope of ultimately extending direct compulsory education to all the schools in the land. I pass from that to the second great change which is made in the 14th clause, and which consists in the introduction to the Bill of the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple). Now, the first draft of the clause was far more liberal, far more in accordance with the views expressed by the Home Secretary than the clause as it now stands in the Bill. The Home Secretary tells us that the Government intend to leave free the choice of schools. If that were so, why did the Government change the frame of the clause? In the first draft of the clause, the discretion of the managers was clearly allowed; now it is done away with altogether, and the school Board must take their choice between the secular system on the one hand and what is virtually the British and Foreign system on the other. I say that the choice thus offered us is one to which I, for one, cannot consent. The Vice President of the Council spent a large portion of his speech in reading documents to prove that secular schools would never be popular, would never be tolerated in this country. Why, then, did the Government compel school Boards to make their choice between these secular schools and the British and Foreign schools? On what special ground were these schools to be so favoured? The Home Secretary admitted that the British and Foreign schools had not been very popular; but the reason, he said, was that some years ago the Nonconformist bodies objected to State aid; and, therefore, these schools, which were chiefly supported by those bodies, had not achieved the popularity they otherwise would have done; but that now that difficulty was removed their numbers had increased. Well, Sir, I bring this sub- 848 ject to the simple test of figures. What do we find in the last Return that has been supplied us by the Education Department for 1868? It appears that upon Church of England, Roman Catholic, and Wesleyan schools, the Government had expended within a fraction of £450,000. On these popular British and Foreign schools the Government for the same period expended only £63,000. But test the subject in another way. During the same year the number of schools belonging to the Church of England, Roman Catholics, and Wesleyans assisted by the Government amounted to 4,190, against 244 British and Foreign schools. Yet the 14th clause as it stands in the Bill prohibits local Boards from establishing any of those denominational schools the popularity of which is proved by their number, and compels the Board to choose between secular schools, on the one hand, and British and Foreign schools on the other. In the name of freedom, of religion, and of that local discretion of which we have heard so much, I protest against this system. But then we are told—"Oh, we do not mean to exclude religion, but we will not allow the use of a Catechism or other formulary." The meaning of this is that the teachers may teach the Catechism out of the Bible, but they are not to teach the Bible out of the Catechism. It is as if in one of the superior schools it was said—"Oh, yes, we teach languages, but we do not allow the aid of a grammar, dictionary, or lexicon." Now let me pass on to another portion of the Bill. We are told that by the new framework of the Bill the election of school Boards is to be by ballot. Why is the ballot to be in this way intruded into our parochial and municipal elections? What has happened between the first introduction of the Bill and now to bring the ballot into favour? The only thing I have heard of it is the test ballot that recently took place at Bristol. That seems to have been a very joyous and festive affair, and perhaps may have induced the Government to suppose that the ballot would soften the acerbities of the local contests. Otherwise I cannot think why the people should be deprived of the common and accustomed mode of electing their office bearers which they now enjoy. The Bill will be a measure of danger if great alterations are not made in Committee, and the promises of the Government as to 849 the increased grants to denominational schools are not introduced into it.
§ MR. WALTER moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
observed, that if the debate was to be continued indefinitely the whole business of the country would be stopped. He believed that a large majority of the House was prepared to support the measure, and that it gave general satisfaction to the public.
said, he was afraid that, taking into account the not very crowded state of the Benches, and the importance of the question, it would not be desirable to proceed to a Division that evening. Neither would much be gained, he thought, by prosecuting the discussion at that hour. In assenting to the adjournment of the debate, however, he hoped it would be understood that it was to close the next day.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
said, he was of opinion that there had been quite sufficient discussion on the Bill on the preliminary question that the Speaker leave the Chair. He must also observe that the patience of the majority of hon. Members had been sorely tried by the more garrulous portion of the House. Three mortal nights had been consumed in the debate on the second reading of the Bill, while the supporters of the Amendment moved on that occasion had not ventured to test the opinion of the House, but had run away from their own Amendment. Three more nights had already been expended on the Question that the Speaker leave the Chair, and it was the general rumour that a similar course was going to be adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite on the present occasion. Now, so far as independent Members like himself were concerned, it was of course open to them during those discussions, when they found they were becoming too tedious, to take up their hats and walk out of the House. Those, however, who occupied the Treasury Bench were not equally privileged in that respect. The Prime Minister was tied to his seat like a galley slave to his oar. Indeed, the labour which the right hon. Gentleman had to go through for the last few months was more than the human frame could well bear, and he sincerely trusted he would have stamina enough to enable him to hold on till the end of the Session. If, unfortunately, he was obliged to succumb, he might very fairly 850 say that, like Actæon, he had been torn to pieces by his own dogs.
§ MR. WALTER
said, he hoped he might be allowed to interpose a few words as one who occupied that geographical position known in the House as below the Gangway. He had been down in the House during the three nights of the debate; but he had in vain endeavoured on four or five occasions to catch the Speaker's eye. Now, every hon. Member, however seldom he might speak—and he, for one, could not plead guilty to the charge of garrulity made by the hon. Baronet—was perfectly aware of the extreme depression of spirits which was consequent upon an unsuccessful attempt to catch the Speaker's eye. He had experienced that unpleasant sensation three times in the course of that evening, and having come down to the House at 2 o'clock in order to secure a seat, he scarcely felt equal to addressing the House at that late hour, especially after the reception which had been accorded to the last two speakers, who were both very able and distinguished men. He hoped, therefore, hon. Members would see the propriety of not continuing the discussion without allowing those who, like himself, had been so many hours in the House, the benefit of a night's rest.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow at Two of the clock.