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. MUNDELLA
said, that though the length at which the subject had been discussed was likely to have wearied the patience of the House, he hoped it would be productive of good results in facilitating the progress of the Bill through Committee, and assisting them to amend it in a manner that would make it a measure of a truly national character. The postponement of the measure to another Session would be a great calamity. In its present shape the Bill, in his opinion, was far more acceptable than when it was first introduced. In the first place, the Conscience Clause as it now stood was a real and effective one, and no hardship could take place under its operation in existing schools. The withdrawal of the building grants, he thought, would have a tendency to prevent that stimulus to the denominational system which it had hitherto had. He regretted that that system had been brought into existence; but as it did exist, it was their duty to make it as effective as possible. He was glad to see that the proposed year of grace had been abolished. He had great sympathy with the object of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple), because they had been told that unsectarian religion was illogical and impossible; he believed unsectarian education was possible and eminently practicable; and undoubtedly the exclusion of creeds, catechisms, and formularies tended in that direction. Before the Bill left the House he trusted it would be explicitly declared to the country that no sectarianism should be taught in our schools. His hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) complained of the proposed increased grants to denominational schools, of the absence of direct compulsion, and of religious teaching being given at the expense of the State. He should himself protest against a uniform increased grant of 50 per cent to denominational schools, and if a Vote for the money were asked for, he should oppose it unless he were satisfied it was necessary either for assisting certain schools in poor districts, or for rendering the education given in 897 the existing schools more efficient. Many of the denominational schools could absolutely dispense with an increased grant. He held in his hand the balance-sheet of five schools at Nottingham, giving an education to 1,200 scholars. It appeared that the total expenditure last year was£1,249 4s. 6½d. The private subscriptions amounted to only £360 18s. 3d.; the children's pence to £500 or £600; and the Privy Council Grant to £400 and odd pounds. It was clear, therefore, that if an increase of 50 per cent were given to these schools they would not know what to do with it. When a national system of education came into operation we should have compulsion, and we should find education could not be carried on without compulsion. However much hon. Gentlemen might set their faces against it, he must tell them that there never was and never could be a national system completed without direct compulsion. Under a system of compulsory education the denominational schools would be filled; whereas at present they were frequently unable to get the Government Grant in consequence of the attendance of children not being sufficiently large. He was no enemy to denominational schools; but he knew it was utterly impossible under a denominational system to obtain that high standard of education which was obtainable under a national system. The tendency of the denominational system was to multiply small schools, and small schools could never be good schools. For a system of education to be successful the schools must be established on a large scale, and the scholars divided into classes, as in Switzerland. Mr. Sandford, one of the Government Inspectors, in a letter written last year, stated that there was a great want of education among the young miners in South Staffordshire; while Reports and other documents showed in what an advanced state education was in Westphalia and other parts of Germany. In the mines there some of the guides were able to speak English. If we had a really national system of education there would be no longer any necessity for the extension of the denominational system. In our large towns, for instance, in which children were now attending the Church schools, it was but fair to suppose that, when increased accommodation was provided, a great many of them 898 would pass from the denominational to the national schools, thereby increasing the area of accommodation in the former. He hoped, therefore, the Government would, in Committee, consent to introduce such changes into the Bill as would prevent any largo extension of the denominational schools. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, he might add, had complained, that the system of compulsion provided for in the Bill was only permissive; and, for his part, he thought that was one of the greatest blots in the measure. He had every sympathy with the working classes; but he should be glad to see the compulsory system introduced, if tentatively, yet uniformly. If we could not do as was done in Prussia, the children might be taken at five and kept to school till ten, or even nine. If compulsion was resorted to in the case of children who were at work, why should it not be had recourse to in the case of those who were unemployed? But, happily, the system of permissive compulsion was so illogical that he was quite satisfied it could not possibly be maintained; and there was so much good in the Bill that it would crush out of it many of its defects. According to a recent estimate made by Mr. Barclay, the number of children growing up more or less in en-tire ignorance within one square mile in the East-end of London was 23,000. To provide schools for those would cost £75,000; but when schools, books, and schoolmasters were provided without compulsion, what would be the result? A beggarly extent of empty benches. And did hon. Members suppose that the ratepayers would long submit to be heavily taxed for schools which no children attended? In the district to which he had just referred there was already good school accommodation for 3,500 children; but what was the value of any such provision unless there was compulsion? He felt satisfied that when his hon. Friends opposite made provision for the education of one-sixth of the population they would not be content that only one-third of that one-sixth should go to school. In the square mile in the East of London, of which he was speaking, there were 165 public-houses and 163 beer-houses, and the estimated amount annually spent in them by the very poor people of the neighbourhood was not less than £450,000. If 1d. out of every 6d. now 899 spent in drink were put aside the amount raised in one year would be more than sufficient to build the schools required, while if 1d. out of every 23d. was set apart it would keep those schools up efficiently without any Government aid whatever. When 4s. 3d. a week was spent by each family in drink, and only 1½d. on schools, ought there, he would ask, to be any remorse felt at resorting to a system of compulsion? Ought we to allow those people to bring up their children in misery and filth and squalor? If they became paupers we supported them; if they died in our workhouses we buried them; in fact, we dealt with all the consequences which flowed from their wretched condition and their ignorance, but we never touched the cause. In the case of the Manchester Aid Society 12,000 tickets out of 21,000 issued were, according to Bishop Fraser, absolutely thrown away, although they were free tickets, because the parents were too ignorant and too indifferent to use them. His hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities (Dr. Lyon Playfair) had the other evening, in his eloquent speech, made some remarks which indicated, he thought, less faith than he once had in the compulsory principle. He seemed to be afraid lest we might be too rash in the use of it; but he (Mr. Mundella) held in his hand a statement to the effect that if compulsory education were objected to, because it was inconsistent with liberty,—which was denied by the writer—the retention in ignorance of the population was slavery. Such was the language used by his hon. Friend in a lecture which he had delivered on primary education. He knew it was quite true that Prussia had attempted to enforce education in the course of the last century, and how had the system been destroyed? By the Napoleonic wars. The moment, however, that she had re-constituted herself, the first words which were addressed by her King to his Parliament were—"What we have lost by physical we must regain by mental force," and Prussia, acting on that principle, had splendidly succeeded. Last year, he might add, the Report of the French Commission, which had been alluded to on the previous evening by his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham), had been presented to the House. That Commission had in- 900 quired into the state of primary and technical education in Switzerland and Prussia; but, taking France first, what did the Report say? That in France, after 29 years of the operation of the benevolent laws with respect to education, and notwithstanding the constantly increasing exertions of her Government, which had expended sums for the purpose rising from 100,000 to over 4,000,000 francs, there were still 274 men out of every 1,000 who could neither read nor write. It would affirm, the Report went on to say, that so long as no more efficient measures were adopted than the expenditure of money there was little likelihood of improvement. There was another objection to the permissive system. His hon. Friend the Member for East Derbyshire had told him that he, in common with other gentlemen who took a great interest in education in his neighbourhood, could not get the children to school, and the Bill would do nothing for them. He had received a letter from the Rev. Orlando Forester, brother of the Member for Wenlock (General Forester), expressing a hope that the House would make some net wide and tough enough to catch every child; for in his parish, out of 1,100 children, 700 did not go to school. The vicar of Nottingham made a visitation of seven wards of that town, and, after examining a certain number of young women, found that 30 per cent did not know the name of the Queen. One, venturing to guess, said it was Elizabeth. He now came to the third part of the Resolution, and here was his point of departure from his hon. Friend, who would entirely exclude religious education from the school. That was not the way to accomplish the work which had to be performed, for what was wanted was to infuse into the people a better moral tone, and to give them backbone and strength to resist temptation. That could only be done by supplying the highest motives. Mere reading, writing, and ciphering would not provide that power. He did not undervalue secular education; but he saw no necessity for cramping it in the way proposed by the Resolution. He knew it was said that the religious instruction desired by so many could not be given without trenching on religious liberty. He would always be found on the side of those who were ready to vindicate re- 901 ligious liberty, and he did not advocate religious instruction in the school for the advantage of any Church or sect, but for the purpose of making the population wiser, better, and happier. They all knew that education could be given with religion without trenching on religious liberty; and he ventured to say that if his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil had a number of refractory lads to deal with, he could not get through a single morning's lessons without infusing some religious instruction into them. There was at Nottingham a purely secular school, of which he had been a trustee for nearly 20 years. A Nottingham merchant died some years ago and loft a large sum for a secular school, and by the trust deed he prohibited the reading of the Bible in the school. The trustees—and he believed he was himself the only Churchman among the number—never attempted to break the trust, but appointed a good master and told him to do the best he could. A splendid school it had proved; but he (Mr. Mundella) had found that the children were well up in religious education. During the Whitsun holidays he went to the school, and having taken the books away and examined them, he found that 19 out of the 31 were decidedly religious books. He told the schoolmaster that he was breaking the provisions of the trust deed, for many of the books illustrated the history of the Bible, and all the books of poetry were religious. The schoolmaster replied that if the best histories and the works of the best poets were to be excluded, then a new language and a new literature must be invented. For his part he entirely agreed in that statement, and believed that to exclude religion from the school would be to prohibit the reading of Macaulay, Milton, Shakespeare, and other great authors. John Milton, who was as good a Nonconformist as the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), had said that the people should be taught faith, and to place their private happiness in the maintenance of the public peace and the public safety. The Pilgrim Fathers, too, when they wont to America, established Bible schools; and it was stated in the report on the Massachusetts schools of last year that the knowledge of the rudiments of grammar and arithmetic did not constitute education any more than a man's 902 tools constituted mechanics; and it went on to remark that if other nations could afford to neglect the moral training of the young the American nation could not, and that wisely did the law declare the design of the schools was to impress on the minds of the children the principles of justice, a sacred regard for truth, love of country, and universal benevolence; and while no text book except the Bible was allowed, and everything sectarian was avoided, instruction in those matters should be imparted by the teachers. The Society of Friends, in the able presentment they had made to the First Minister of the Crown, had exactly hit the right medium. They said that, as we were assured that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom, it was their conviction that moral and religious training could not be safely excluded from elementary education; and that, as the Holy Scriptures were the record of the will of God and of his purposes towards man, all moral and religious training should be founded on the great truths therein set forth. The difficulty in this case arose, he believed, from a confusion between ethical teaching in schools and religious worship. There was the utmost difference between a State Church and elementary schools. Would the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil carry out his Motion to its logical conclusion in all cases? If he did, what would happen in respect of the pauper children in England and Wales, of whom he found there were 392,000 at the beginning of the present year, and the 100,000 in industrial schools and reformatories, all of whom were receiving a distinctly religious education? When the State stood in loco parentis to these children, would his hon. Friend deprive them of the only teaching that would give them strength and power to resist temptation? If not, was it to be only pauper children who were to receive religious instruction? He trusted that the children of those wretched people who had no power to communicate it would also receive it. The hon. Member for Bradford had referred to a speech of his in which he spoke of religious instruction being received at the mother's knee. He (Mr. Mundella) admitted that it should begin there; but the question was, who were to train the mothers? When we knew that there were thousands of parents utterly inca- 903 pable of communicating religious instruction, to their children, how could we say that we would leave their training wholly to the parents? It was said—"Leave it to the Churches;" but had it not been left to the Churches long enough? And would the Bill alter the relations of parents to their children, or of either to the Churches? Not in the least. All that it would do would be to prepare the child's mind to receive religious instruction, to make it receptive, so that in the Sunday school it might receive direct religious truth, instead of the teachers there being subject to the drudgery of teaching boys and girls their letters. While trusting that the Bill would be improved in Committee, he asked hon. Members to remember how much would be gained by the Bill. The provision of schools must precede compulsory attendance. If the decision of the question were put off, the denominational system would increase by a sort of automatic process, for its promoters would accelerate its expansion, knowing what was to come. Was it not better that the building grants should be stopped at once? When he heard the hon. Member for Stroud say that but for our religious differences we might have had an educated population, hs blushed to think that his countrymen could not agree on these minor points. He maintained that they could agree; and, although the Prime Minister said that unsectarian teaching was illogical, it must be admitted that it was English and practical. If the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had been present he would have done something to remove the cobwebs that surrounded the question; for, as he said at Birmingham—"We want schools to bring up our children in the love of virtue, the love of truth, and the love of God." He (Mr. Mundella) had thus been reminded of the words—Oh, for a touch of the vanished hand,And the sound of the voice that is still!He implored hon. Members not to lose this opportunity of securing a grand and national system of education; for, whatever its defects might be, they would be corrected in time by its merits, and with freedom and household suffrage it was impossible now to impose religious inequality. If there were too much or too little of religious teaching in the schools they could correct that year by year. 904 He would be the last to countenance proselytism for the benefit of Church or sect; but for the sake of obtaining the schools, he implored hon. Members to go into Committee and pass the Bill.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he had listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He could not refrain from expressing his regret that the hon. Gentleman had in some measure spoken against the existing denominational system; but he felt sure the hon. Gentleman would, at any rate, acknowledge, with that House generally, that a great work had been accomplished by the operation of the denominational system, which, while denominational, was not sectarian. He had received a letter from the clergyman who was the manager of the school at Nottingham to which the hon. Gentleman had referred, and the writer, who had shown far greater zeal in the cause of education than in that of sectarianism, said that in 19 years' experience of schools attended by a large proportion of Dissenters, and subject to a Conscience Clause, he had not met with the case of a parent who had objected to Biblical instruction, while only 1 per cent had objected to the use of the Liturgy. The interest of the managers of schools in the little children led them to endeavour to make them good Christians rather than good Church people. Dr. Eraser the Bishop of Manchester, who had long been an educationalist, said that his idea of a religious education was as far removed as possible from sectarianism, which, in the miserable sense of the word, was not the atmosphere breathed in our elementary schools. This was an accurate and just statement of the spirit which animated those who were responsible for the education of the poor. He had lately availed himself of many opportunities of conferring with the class for whose children they were seeking to make provision, and he found that the point upon which all were agreed was that religious instruction should not be banished from the school, although some of them did say, most frankly, that when they were young they had too much of it. The feeling of the working men of his constituency was that education, unless conducted in a religious spirit, would be unworthy of the name. There was another point upon which, they had ex- 905 pressed themselves most warmly—they did not coincide in the views of some hon. Gentlemen from the North of England with regard to the enforcement of the principle of compulsion. They were not prepared to accept that principle. They felt it an insult to themselves that because there were little ragamuffin children running about the streets, they should be compelled to send their children to school whether they liked it or not. For his own part, he doubted the practicability of compulsion, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had acted rightly in not enforcing the adoption of that principle upon the school Boards. If that system were to be adopted at all, it must be by degrees, and certainly not before the people of this country, and especially the working class, had admitted the necessity for it. The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) had referred to the fact that compulsion was enforced in Prussia with very satisfactory results. He admitted that the Germans owed a great deal to education; but it must be recollected that for many centuries they had enjoyed the inestimable benefit of a paternal Government such as we should not be disposed to accept, and it was very doubtful whether, under the freedom they at present enjoyed, the Germans themselves would be inclined to submit to the enforcement of the principle of compulsion if the question were now to come before them for the first time. But if the principle had answered in Prussia it had failed in America, where, notwithstanding its enforcement, the average attendance at the schools was not so great in proportion to the population as in England. In the New England States there existed free schools, and the testimony received from America was not altogether in favour of the operation of that system. On the contrary, it was told that there was as much ignorance in some parts of the States as there existed in England. Mr. Fraser, in his Report upon the Common Schools of America in 1866, said that in spite of legal enactments absenteeism and truancy continued to be greatly increasing evils in that country, and that the percentage of attendance was not better than among ourselves, notwithstanding that there was a regular police system under which children were followed to their homes and their parents punished if they had 906 not sent their children to school. This view was confirmed by the American people themselves, and was supported by the reports of the district inspectors of schools. According to a statement taken from the school report of Pennsylvania, out of a population of 150,000 there were 20,000 children who attended no school at all. In Massachusetts, with a population of 192,000, the attendance at school amounted to only 1 in 7½. In Boston there existed the law of compulsion, and officers were appointed to enforce attendance. But in England the attendance was something better than 1 in 7. He did not argue against the duty or the necessity of sending children to school, nor against framing our legislative measures with the view and hope that success should attend our efforts to educate them; but if we were to look upon America as an example, we should hesitate before we rushed into the extreme of enforcing attendance by compulsion, with the possibility that our legislation might be open to the charge of inefficiency. The proposition contained in the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil was one which it was impossible that House and the country could receive with satisfaction. The hon. Member had asked that House to affirm the principle that grants were not to be increased, that attendance should be compulsory, and that there should be no religious teaching. Now, if that proposition were adopted, what would be the cost to the ratepayers of the metropolis of carrying it into effect? What would be the cost of establishing free schools? The metropolis contained a population of 3,000,000, and the number of children for whom school accommodation would have to be provided would be about 500,000. The managers of existing schools would not concur in the new system, and would, therefore, refuse to place their schools at the disposal of the school Boards, who would have to provide for the erection of new school buildings, the cost of which would not be less than £10 per child, making a total of £5,000,000. To meet this expenditure, and to provide school requisites, a sum, including interest, of at least £8,000,000 would be required, in addition to the annual charge for providing instruction. The total annual charge for the school rate for the metro- 907 polis would amount to something like 1s. or 1s. 6d. in the pound. Having had some considerable experience on the subject, he could state that there was a strong feeling in London at the present time against any increase in the rates; and no measure involving an increase in them of 25 per cent would stand a chance of being carried into effect. The scheme of the League might be regarded as being utterly impracticable in the present temper and resources of the ratepayers of the country. It might be taken that the annual cost of providing school buildings and education for each child would be 16s. Altogether the cost of the school under the rates must be something between 35s. and £2 per head per annum, and the cost under the present system must be taken at 28s., the cost of building the schools being left out of the calculation. The hon. Member for Sheffield referred to the increase of the grants; there was one for which, for his own part, he (Mr. Smith) begged to thank the Vice President of the Council most heartily on behalf of the ratepayers. The Bill, as it stood before the change was made, threatened to impose a heavy burden on the ratepayers of large towns; but there was a clause which provided that when the rate of 3d. in the pound did not realize 10s. per child, the Exchequer should make up the deficiency. The increased payment for results would be a great boon to the ratepayers as well as those who preferred to maintain voluntary schools. As regarded the school Boards, he preferred the liberty of action allowed to them in the original Bill; but, dealing with the Bill as it stood, he thought that much would be gained by extending the area of the school Boards so as to relieve them from sectarian and local influences as much as possible. He regretted that the sectarian spirit had been excited in regard to this question by the starting of difficulties and the exaggeration of differences which before had no existence in the minds of the people. But for the raising of this sectarian spirit he believed there need have been no fear that the school Boards would not work harmoniously, as school managers had hitherto done. As far as the country was concerned he would recommend that the school Boards should have a largo area; and he thought it might be contrived that they should be 908 conterminous with the divisions of the county, or even with the county itself. If that were so, they would take a much broader view of the necessities of each case than if they were confined, as proposed, to a parish. At the same time, the rates should be levied so as to fall only on the district the school benefited, just as local improvement rates were sometimes restricted to the district benefited by the improvement. The arrangements for the metropolis were by no means satisfactory; he was glad to see on the Paper the Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens), suggesting one school Board for the whole metropolis, instead of the complicated and unsystematized plan of the Bill, which placed the metropolis in some cases under the superintendents of the pauper schools, and in others under the Vestries; the metropolis would be placed under 25 Boards, each consisting of from 36 to 130 members, while Liverpool and Leeds would be under a special school Board of 12 men, who would naturally be more fully impressed with the responsibility of their position than a Board appointed for another purpose. He trusted that the Government would consider the advisability of appointing one school Board for the whole metropolis, which should be directly responsible to the ratepayers. But, upon all these moot points, he was sure those on his side of the House were ready to make any concession not involving vital principles, in order to ensure the passing of this great measure. They felt that it was their duty to do the best for these poor children, who could not be said to have parents to care for them. He would urge the House to sink all minor differences of opinion in the attainment of the one great and grand object which Members on both sides had in view.
§ MR. WALTER
said, that during the few moments he proposed to address the House he would carefully refrain from entering upon any of those wide fields of discussion which had been ranged over by some hon. Members. A great portion of the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down, however important in itself, was scarcely relevant to the question immediately under consideration—the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard). That was, he apprehended, a very nar- 909 row question, and despite the gloomy forebodings of his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), he believed the several parties in the House would very soon find the difference between them and their opponents was narrowed to a very small point indeed. The question he ventured to submit to the House was which of the two systems was preferable—the greatest number of mixed schools with a religious element pervading them to which the great majority of Protestant Christians in this country assented, or a number of purely secular schools with a strong denominational element outside them. He had no hesitation in giving his preference to the former of these solutions of the difficulty. He admitted it was a difficulty, but it was one which must be encountered; for neither the House nor the Government could renounce its duty or shirk the obligation they were under to furnish a solution of the problem which would be just to the country at large and as far as possible in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the parents. There was no doubt whatever that a Census of the poorer part of the population would show that a school without religion would not be acceptable to them, for he would rather trust the homely, unvarnished, and evidently true account of the feelings of the poor given in the little book from which the Vice President of the Committee had quoted than all the statements made upon the same point in election speeches. Here was presented a picture of the feelings of mothers of children, who might be taken as a fair sample of the class for which it was proposed to legislate, and no one who perused the book could doubt that the feelings of those mothers were much more in favour of a scheme such as was proposed by the Bill than of the scheme proposed by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. Indeed, the feeling in favour of religious teaching was sometimes of an almost ludicrous character, and it appeared that parents who had no preference for religious schools entertained no objection to them. Even the Jews, so far front objecting to their children being taught religious doctrines, complained if they were not taught them. One member of that community said—"Teach my child all the Christianity you can; I will make him a Jew 910 just the same at home." And other parents had made statements to a similar effect. The book he was alluding to was full of cases where mothers, on being consulted as to whether they preferred religious education, uniformly declared that they would rather not send their children to school at all than to a school in which no religion was taught. If the Resolution of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil had been confined to the first paragraph, it would have placed him somewhat in a difficulty, because he agreed with the hon. Gentleman that it was undesirable to increase the grants to denominational schools. In the first place, there was, he believed, no demand for such an increase. Nobody had, as far as he was aware, over asked for an increase of the grant. He was an old supporter of denominational schools, and he had always thought the grant was quite sufficient if it were distributed on fair and reasonable principles, instead of being limited by the somewhat stringent conditions imposed upon managers by the rules of the Education Department. He knew a very good school, receiving no grant whatever, where the annual cost of the education did not exceed £1 per head; and if the Education Department would leave the schools alone, and be content to pay for results, he was convinced that the schools would be conducted quite as efficiently and more cheaply than at present. He was heartily glad to find that the Government proposed to discontinue building grants, as he believed the money thus saved would be well saved. Looking to the object of the measure, which was not merely to supplement the present system, but to provide a new system that would tend to supplant it—and he acknowledged that to be the legitimate object to be aimed at by the Government in laying the foundation of a national system—looking to this he could not but consider that the Government had committed an error in proposing the additional grant to denominational schools, for it would be obvious that a scheme of an additional grant would have the effect of checking the growth of a national system and of perpetuating that which a national system was intended to supersede. Therefore, had the hon. Member's Amendment been confined to that point he could not have voted against it. The hon. Member was not content with this, 911 however, but went the whole length of insisting on universal, absolute, uniform and inevitable compulsion. For his own part, he was not prepared to go that length. In the first place, he wished to know precisely the kind of schools to which the children were to be compelled to go, because until he knew that he could not accede to an abstract Resolution which declared that compulsion should be in all cases and everywhere the rule. Compulsion was a very good doctrine in the abstract, but a very different thing in the concrete, and before adopting any absolute universal system of compulsion the House ought to have some idea of the machinery by which it was to be carried out. How could we deal with the miserable children who were to be seen swarming in our streets, lanes, and alleys, only half-clad, and covered with filth and vermin? Was it intended to compel them to go to school and sit among the tidy, orderly, and cleanly children of respectable working men? The least that could be done would be either to establish a compulsory ward, or to provide separate schools for children of this class. The House ought to be thoroughly informed on these subjects before assenting to a Resolution of so stringent and sweeping a character as that proposed by the hon. Member. He did not know how far the Resolution would tally with the definition of that education, which, according to the Bill, was to exempt a child from the compulsory clause. How could they ascertain, that every child was adequately educated? Was some one to be sent to the children's houses in order to examine them? The machinery for doing that would necessarily be of a very complicated character, and there would be great difficulties in the way of enforcing such examinations. The people would set their faces against education. That was the very thing which it was important to avoid. He believed that the passing a moderate measure in the first instance would be more likely than compulsion to make education universal. In the rural districts a good school was pretty sure to fill, and frequently the attendance was in excess of the accommodation. He knew of an instance where several children walked nine miles every day in order to attend school. He believed that, in the rural districts, there was no difficulty whatever in getting the chil- 912 dren to attend, and that it was a libel on the population in general to say they required a compulsory measure, which, if applied to respectable and well-conducted people, bore an offensive appearance. The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, of course, opened the whole question between secularism and sectarianism. Now, he was bound to say that his hon. Friends who advocated the secular system had somewhat shifted their ground since the subject was first mooted. It was once doubtful, according to them, whether even the Bible ought to be read in the schools; but now an hon. Friend of his, who was a warm advocate of the secular system, had stated that after much serious deliberation he had come to the conclusion that the exclusion of the Bible was not consistent with liberal principles, and that he could not see how, in a free country like this, the Bible should be the only English book which was prohibited in the schools. That was a great concession as far as it went, and some members of the League, who spoke at a late meeting, said that after all the Bible would not do much harm, because the children might learn something from its lessons in favour of democracy and the division of property. He would freely make them a present of that on account of the good the children would derive from the Bible. The difference between the secularists and the advocates of religious unsectarian education was really a question of machinery and detail rather than of principle. He did not accuse the secularist party of wishing to introduce irreligion; but he did accuse them of going out of their way in order to create difficulties which, in the ordinary nature of things, would not exist. Their conduct reminded him of those amiable persons whom he remembered at school, who, for their own amusement, liked to get up a fight between two boys who wanted to be good friends with each other. The moderate Churchmen and Nonconformists were agreed as to what they meant by unsectarian education, and would work harmoniously together if the Irreconcilables on either side of the House would allow them. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham) might be taken as a leader of that warlike party on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, and he did not know whether the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge 913 (Mr. Beresford Hope) and the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) might not be regarded as leaders of the party on the other side. The latter would have the Catechism or nothing, and the former would have no religion, taught in the schools at all. He thought, however, that the majority of the House, faithfully reflecting the feelings of the great majority of the nation, would be disposed to take a middle course, although it was very difficult to define in an Act of Parliament what unsectarianism meant. If an angel from Heaven—one of that higher order of beings to whose care children were supposed to be specially confided—could look down and see the House quarrelling over the kind of religious instruction to be imparted to children between six and twelve years of age, would he not shame hon. Gentlemen by saying that they were discussing this subject not in the interest of the children, but in consequence of the petty and narrow jealousies of hon. Members themselves? All this discussion had been going on in this year of grace 1870, when deputations from all the leading Protestant bodies in England—Churchmen and Dissenters—were about to proceed to Now York, braving the perils of the ocean and the horrors of sea sickness, in order to prove to the Pope that there was no difference among Protestants with regard to their religious opinions. Surely, if they could not agree on the kind of religious education which was fit for their children they had better stay at home and spare their pockets and their health. He believed the proposal of the Government to exclude distinctive formularies was far better than that of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt), for inserting words to the effect that the religious teaching should be of an un-sectarian character, because it was extremely difficult to define in Parliamentary language what unsectarian meant. It was difficult to define common sense, and yet everybody knew what it meant. He might mention the instance of another term. In former trust deeds it was sometimes provided that the schoolmaster should be a "godly" man. The members of the Church of England said that that term belonged peculiarly to themselves, and they retained the privilege of having the control of those schools 914 for many years, because they declared that a "godly" man meant a member of their Church. The Dissenters, however, thought that was not an accurate definition, and they succeeded in getting a footing in many of the endowed schools, and claiming for themselves a share of this godliness. He thought it was in the same way impossible to define by Act of Parliament what sectarianism or unsectarianism meant; but he could, at the same time, assure his Nonconformist Friends that, so far as he was concerned, he was willing to make any compromise or to accept any terms which they might propose to secure them against proselytism, of which they were afraid, provided they gave him security that the education provided in these schools should be of as religious a character as any pious mother, whether Churchwoman or Dissenter, would give her own children. Did they not use common hymns? Were not there common elementary books from which children were taught at their mother's knees, whether they happened to be Nonconformists or Churchmen? Was not one book in particular put into the hands of almost every child as soon as he was able to understand it—he meant the Pilgrim's Progress? Would any body of Christians contend that when a work of that kind, written by a Dissenter and containing, in a beautiful allegorical form, the sublimest truths of religion, was so universally read, it was impossible to agree about the kind of religious instruction proper to be imparted to children? For the reasons which he had stated he would give a hearty support to the Government measure. He should be breaking faith with the House if he were to detain it any longer. He would simply express a hope, in conclusion, that when the Bill got into Committee the present excitement would give place to a more practical tone of mind, and that Parliament would be able to present the Bill to the country before the close of the Session in a workable, useful, and satisfactory shape.
§ MR. HORSMAN
Sir, it appears to me that the speeches we have heard this afternoon, able and argumentative as they have been, all tend to confirm the growing conviction of my mind that we must address ourselves in this discussion not only to the actual provisions of the Bill, but also to the peculiar position in 915 which we now find ourselves, and to the best means of escape from it. The speeches which have been made, the Amendments introduced by the Government, and the manifestation of opinion out-of-doors, all have surrounded the question with difficulties. I never remember—and in saying this I am sure I only express the opinion of the oldest Members of the House—on a question of equal magnitude, a position of greater perplexity. We are all desirous of passing the Bill, yet we are almost unanimous in finding some fault with its provisions. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side accept the Bill, without liking it. When I say they do not like it, I am not accurately describing their feelings—all their speeches have been one long unbroken chorus of lamentation, and condemnation, and reproach. But they accept the Bill; they are wise in their generation. They know the tendency of public opinion. They know that the system of denominational education is shaken to the roots, and that it depends for its further existence upon the breath of one man. They know that agitation in favour of the opposite system has grown up and is becoming formidable, and they also know that when the present Prime Minister believes it to be his mission to give effect to a great popular demand, he has a way of his own of doing it thoroughly and rapidly—a way that it makes their blood creep to think of. They know that they have been mercifully dealt with in the Bill—["No, no!"]—and they are wise to support it. The hon. Gentleman who says "No" is anxious, I believe, like many others on the Benches opposite, to hurry on the Bill, because he cannot tell what a year or a day may bring forth. Then the Bill is supported by a great many Members on this side of the House. But my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), whom I may take as a fair representative of others, dislikes the Bill while he accepts it. Dislikes it did I say? Why, there is not a speaker who has torn the Bill more to pieces than he has. He protested against the scheme. He denounced the denominational system; but he told the House it was impossible to exaggerate the magnitude of the evils which might be caused by delaying the passing of the measure for another year. The hon. Gentleman puts no faith in those strong 916 declarations of my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council, that the Government have got to the limit of the concessions which they are prepared to make. He hopes for further Amendments in Committee, and he supported the sectarian Bill in a strong unsectarian speech. The Vice President of the Council and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government do not regard the Bill as all that is to be desired. They aimed, and very properly, at a practicable rather than a perfect measure. They were surprised, like other people, by an unexpected exhibition of popular feeling. There are difficulties which they did not foresee. Those difficulties they have endeavoured to meet in a conciliatory spirit, and I cannot speak too highly of the conciliatory spirit which they have exhibited, or of the judicious manner in which they have met the objections made to the Bill. They have endeavoured to introduce Amendments in good faith and all with the best intentions. But then, unfortunately, it cannot be denied, though it is to be deplored, the unhappy and unforeseen result of those Amendments has been to dissatisfy one side of the House without conciliating the other, so that the last prospects of the Bill are not much better than the first. As the Government have proceeded the difficulties have grown on them, although the Vice President of the Council stated at the outset that the religious difficulty was one which the nearer it was approached the more it disappeared. Now, my right hon. Friend has been very uncomfortably near it for some weeks past; but instead of disappearing it becomes magnified like a figure in a mist. Still the Government, of whose sincerity and earnestness in dealing with the question it is impossible to speak too highly, feel that they must proceed with the Bill, because, as was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, their honour and character are concerned in its passing. But then they must be conscious that they are in the unfortunate dilemma which, I will venture to say, is peculiarly distasteful to the present head of the Government, more than of any Liberal Government which ever occupied the Treasury Bench, that, on going into Committee, their honour and character will both be placed in the hands of their habitual opponents. They will be compelled to pass the religious clauses, which 917 are the most important, and to which there are the strongest objections, by the support of those opponents, against the wishes of their Friends. Now, as to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. Richard), whatever may be its merits, it seems to me that there is about it no ambiguity and no compromise. By it the issue is fairly raised between the denominational and the unsectarian and national principle. "Take," said the hon. Member, "as you please, one principle or the other. You cannot take both; they are hostile, antagonistic, and irreconcilable." Then he made an appeal not in words, but in substance, to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, which, I must confess, appears to me to be irresistible. "Your concessions," argued the hon. Gentleman, "have brought you to a point at which you cannot stand still. I appeal not to your official antecedents, but to your most recent declarations. Only on the Thursday of last week it was impossible to mistake either your language or your thoughts, and the logical consequence from your honest convictions must, ere long, bring you to my side." Now, naturally with their views, both the Government and their supporters opposite object to the Amendment of my hon. Friend. But on what ground do they do so? "Here," says my hon. Friend, "at any rate is my principle, tell me what is yours who support the Bill?" Where is it? Echo answers, "Where?" I have listened for it in vain in the speeches which have been made on the other side of the House. I look for it in vain in the speeches which have been made in favour of the Bill on this side of the House, and I seek for it in vain in the Bill of the Government. I understand the denominational principle, as advocated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, which means that the State shall pay all religions. I understand the unsectarian and national principle advocated by my hon. Friend near me, which moans that the State shall pay no religion. But I cannot understand the combination in the Bill of two opposite, irreconcilable, antagonistic principles, which are brought together to construct a large well-intentioned educational project, undeniably, but, as I think I can show, unworkable, owing to the combination 918 of opposite and contradictory provisions which are absolutely irreconcilable, except by the abandonment of everything which has even the appearance of a consistent principle. How does the Bill propose to get over the religious difficulty? I take the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, of whom I may say that no one can listen to him without being strongly impressed with a sense of his honesty as well as his ability. The right hon. Gentleman says that there is a political difficulty—a Parliamentary difficulty; and that if we can get over the Parliamentary difficulty, the religious difficulty will be found to be less formidable. But what is the Parliamentary difficulty? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) recognized it, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) pressed it home when he asked the Government—"What pledge do you give—what guarantee do you give—that this increased Government Grant will be kept up to the same standard in future years?" The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) followed up the question. He made the suggestion that there might come a day when some one loss worthy, less trusted than the right hon. Gentleman might occupy his place at the Council Board, and he said—"What security have we that under such a man these increased grants will be continued?" Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, while he grappled with every other point submitted to him, and in many cases I must admit grappled successfully with the objections against his Bill, studiously avoided answering that question. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department also avoided the question; and when the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government rises to speak I venture to predict that he also will be careful to avoid giving the required pledge, because no Minister who has any regard for his own character will commit himself to a pledge which no Minister has power to redeem. For myself, I look forward with anything but satisfaction to the annual discussions which we are likely to have upon the question whether these increased annual grants shall be discontinued. The difficulty of the Government has arisen from this—that 919 they did not know how to deal with the schools established under the denominational system. They felt that they could not refuse to yield to the claims—I admit the claims—those schools have to consideration by the great services they have rendered to the cause of education—and I, for one, while I have the strongest objection to the denominational system would join with the Government in resisting every attempt to violate the engagements into which the State has already come with them. But I do not see the same reason for the increased grant, and I anticipate that it will become the subject of an annual debate, as we remember was the case with Maynooth; and I, for one, look forward with no satisfaction to the part which we shall have to take in that discussion. Objecting as I do to the enlargement of the denominational system, I cannot be a party to any vote for an increased grant; and, at the same time, I honestly confess that if it would not be a breach of faith, it would at least be an act of cruelty and unfairness to withdraw the grant at present made from those who on the faith of the Government have invested their money and undertaken to maintain the schools for the benefit of the uneducated poor. I now come to the educational difficulty. What is the educational difficulty? It arises from the rivalry of sects, from the conflict of creeds. It is a legacy from the old bitter wars that in bad times were prosecuted between the Dissenters and the State Church—which, handed down from those days to the present, impels the representatives of those proscribed bodies now to watch with jealousy and to resent as an injustice anything which has the appearance of imagination of an advantage to the Church. That, they say, is inconsistent with those principles of equality which they proclaim as the representatives of one-half of the population. That equality they claim as a right, and they say they have the power to exact. Now, how does the Bill deal with the religious difficulty? Its authors affirm two propositions—first, that every poor man's child shall be religiously educated; and, next, that there shall be no compulsory teaching of religion; and they take security for this latter provision by a Conscience Clause. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House take great credit to themselves 920 for having conceded a Conscience Clause; hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House take equal credit to themselves for having carried a Conscience Clause. I stand between the two. I am about to express an opinion which at present may sound heretical in the ears of many hon. Gentlemen on both sides, but which I am convinced in a short time both sides will accept as orthodox. This I say—that as applied to a national system designed to educate every poor child religiously not only is the Conscience Clause a delusion, but I defy the wit and ingenuity of man to devise a scheme which shall be more mischievous, pernicious, and fatal to religion than the Conscience Clause. I accept, what is assumed by the Bill, that the Conscience Clause will be brought largely into operation. That is the basis of the Bill. I know that there is another opinion, perhaps more generally held, that the Conscience Clause will be little used. But I have heard it stated, and I gathered from some of the speeches delivered last night, that the Conscience Clause will be so largely brought into operation that it will lead to the absence from school, during the hours of religious education, of every child that is not of the teacher's own creed. If that be so, your Conscience Clause will come into operation on three occasions—first, when the Bible is read, but not explained before or after school hours; secondly, when the Bible is read and explained before or after school hours; and, thirdly, when the Bible is read and explained, along with other methods of religious instruction, by the teacher in school hours. The teaching of the Bible in school hours, however, is not in the Bill; but it may be inserted by Amendments. We know that it is advocated by a large and influential party, and I wish to show what is the opinion of a large portion of the clergy and laity of the Church of England. There was an important meeting held on this subject a few weeks ago in St. James's Hall, which was presided over by the Earl of Shaftesbury, who contended that Bible teaching ought to be considered an essential and not an extra of education, and to be taught in school hours. But now, how would the Conscience Clause operate on these three occasions to which I have referred? Let us take the first—The Bible read but not explained. 921 Is that religious teaching? and if it is, is it sufficient? Does it not assume that there must be some religious teaching given elsewhere? and, if so, what becomes of the argument of which we have heard so much, that it is only in these schools that the children can receive religious education? You assume that they must have religious teaching elsewhere, for your own system is admittedly insufficient; and I think it may be proved that it is not only a negative good, but a positive evil. I may state an illustration which I met with the other day in the newspapers. A reverend speaker at a meeting said—Suppose a scholar in class comes to a particular passage in the Bible—suppose it be that passage "To must be born again." No intelligent and attentive child would hear that passage road without desiring to know what it means. He goes up after the lesson to his teacher, and he says—"Please, Sir, what is the meaning of that passage?" His master replies to him—"My dear boy, I am not allowed to tell you." Day after day passages such as these occur; but the child's attention is crushed, his interest is discouraged. The reading of the Bible becomes a mere form, his interest in it is chilled, and he grows up apathetic, callous, and indifferent to all religious questions. On every other subject his curiosity is stimulated, his intellect sharpened and encouraged. The Bible alone is the book which he is taught will not stand explanation. That, then, is my objection to the first operation of the Conscience Clause; I maintain that, if the teacher reads the Bible, he must be allowed to explain and expound the passages he reads in order that the children may understand them, and that their early knowledge of the Scriptures may be made a blessing to them for time and eternity. I come now to the second mode of working of the clause—where the Bible is read and explained before or after school hours. I suppose the attendance at such a lesson will be very scanty. I say this on the authority of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who told us yesterday that 50 per cent of the children would not willingly attend religious instruction. The Vice President of the Council, indeed, said that he spoke in the interests of the children, and that his Bill insured that every poor man's child should have the benefit of religious instruction.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I never said that. The Bill insures that elementary instruction should be given to the whole community.
§ MR. HORSMAN
The right hon. Gentleman said that religious instruction would be brought home to every poor man's child.
§ MR. HORSMAN
Then the Home Secretary said so yesterday. I put it to the House—have not the promoters of the Bill said, in effect, that the principle of this Bill was to put religion in the way of being brought home to every poor man's child? ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad I have got that admission. But how is religious teaching to be brought home to those who absent themselves from religious teaching? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary asked where these poor children were to get religious teaching? I repeat his question—where are they to get it?
§ MR. HORSMAN
Ah; but you tell us that the Conscience Clause is to be very largely used. ["No, no!"] No? What is the use, then, of a Conscience Clause? Have we not been told that the Conscience Clause was an important concession; and how is it important unless it be largely used? Where are the large percentage who absent themselves to get religious teaching? They will not get it at the day school. It is the condemnation of the Conscience Clause that a great portion of the children will absent themselves from school during the religious lesson, and they will be given up to ignorance and vice, and will ultimately increase the criminal population of the country. I come now to the third occasion on which the Conscience Clause will be brought into operation—the compromise—where there is religious teaching in school hours. What, according to the arguments we have heard in this debate, will be the operation of that system? At the end of some secular exercise the schoolmaster will say—"Now, boys, I am going to read a chapter in the Bible," and immediately we must infer there will be a rush to the door. According to the assumption of the supporters of the Bill and its Conscience Clause, a large pro- 923 portion of the scholars will at once vanish. What will be the feelings of those who remain? Will not they follow with envious eyes their emancipated playfellows who have the privilege—do I use too strong an expression when I say the happy privilege—of turning their backs on the Bible? And what will be the kind of teaching given to those who remain? The very least you could do would be to secure that those who are to teach them religion should be religious men; but what security are you to have for that? What security will you have that your schoolmaster will ever open his Bible except when he reads to the children, or that the schoolmasters may not have creeds of their own containing not Thirty-nine Articles only, but 139? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire said the other day that we were about to establish a new sacerdotal class. I think we may, under the Bill, also establish new sacerdotal creeds, with a separate creed for every school. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council said it was a monstrous thing that in this Christian country the Bible should be excluded from the schools. I say it is a still more monstrous thing that the Bible should operate as a scarecrow to the scholars; that its appearance should be the signal of flight; that its reading should be associated in the minds of one-half of the scholars with longer tasks and less play; that, in the minds of the other half, it should be regarded as a dangerous and forbidden book—separating those whom it ought to unite, and, instead of teaching the children a common reverence, inspiring them with a common dread of the Book of Life. But most monstrous of all is it that, when you agree the Bible is to be taught, you do not intrust its teaching to those who have devoted their lives to the study of holy Scriptures, and who having the confidence of the parents, and from their cradle taking an interest in the children, are best able to bring the teachings of the Bible home to the hearts and affections of the children; but you prefer, on the other hand, to intrust the work to lay teachers, who may be good and pious men, but who may be the very reverse—who may be everything that you abominate and dread. These are the reasons why I believe that the Conscience 924 Clause, as applied to national education, is a delusion. But I do not apply that phrase to it when it is used in the denominational system. I hold that it is essential to a denominational system, and it shows that the denominational system is necessarily partial and imperfect. That is the reason why I believe that the religious difficulty has not been met in this Bill. The question of national education also fails to be met in this Bill. The House, as well as the Government, has fallen into the mistake of ignoring the past history of education; and how gradual, but how sure and how irresistible, has been the growth of public opinion upon it? We are apt to make false assumptions—first, that national education is practically a new question, and that Parliament must therefore deal with it by its own lights, and by the appliances of modern ideas, because practically there are no antecedents on which we can fall back. We also are apt to assume that the issue is between the question of religion or no religion. It has been too much assumed that the country is divided in two parties; the one of which considers that religious education is all-important, while the other attaches an exaggerated importance to secular education, and leaves religion, as a subordinate affair, to take care of itself. Now, in the first place, the question of national education is not new. Its principle was established, and triumphantly established, after many long and hard fights against great odds, in 1839. A foundation was then laid; and a pledge was given that the beginning, at that time made, should be gradually developed. The great men who were the champions and pioneers of national education in that day never made the mistake of confounding denominational and national education. They accepted the first in the days of their weakness, and with the foresight of statesmen and the zeal of philanthropists. They accepted it as the only system then possible in a country torn by the distractions and differences of religious factions; while they indicated, by their speeches, that the system of united secular and separate religious instruction was the only practical, safe, and desirable solution of the question. There is no difference of opinion amongst us on the question of religion. Everyone admits that religious education is even 925 more essential than secular education. We are all of opinion that religion, combined with, ignorance, is nothing better than superstition; and that knowledge severed from religion is nothing but cultivated heathenism. We are all anxious to combine and co-operate in giving religious education, as essential. The only difference is that which was well stated by the hon. Member for Merthyr—it is the question of how, when, where, and by whom that religious education is to be given. I do not believe that we can come to a full understanding of the subject, unless we recur to what happened in 1839, when the present system was established. Previous to that date, all education paid for by the State was claimed as a monopoly by the clergy of the Established Church. The clergy of that day, less tolerant, less pious, and less exemplary in the discharge of their duty, insisted that there should be no education assisted by the public funds that was not that of the Established Church. People will be surprised, on looking at the discussions of those days, to see how the cry was got up. It was not supported by clergymen alone, but by the most eminent statesmen of the Conservative party. Sir Robert Peel, Lord Stanley, and Sir James Graham, to the fullest extent, endorsed and supported this absolute and unlimited power claimed for the Established Church. But there was something else that occurred in 1839, to which I will call the attention of the House. Those who established the system of 1839 had not only to break down the old system, but to build up a now one; and the denominational system was accepted as a stopping-stone. Now, what was the opinion of the clergy and the Conservative laity of 1839, with respect to the denominational system, of which they are now such enamoured supporters? Why, Sir, the hostility now shown to the League was friendship, was admiration, compared with the denunciations poured upon the heads of the infidel Whigs who sought to establish the denominational system in 1839. That statement may seem so incredible that I will adduce evidence of it to the House. I will quote the opinion of two great representative men—one the representative of the clergy, the other the representative of the religious laity—of that denominational system which you are now so anx- 926 ious to support. I have already alluded to the meeting the other day at St. James's Hall, which was presided over by Lord Shaftesbury, and in which he expressed his opinion of the movement in favour of national education. The great loader of the religious opinions of the country on that system was the then Bishop of London—the most moderate, able, and influential of the Prelates of the Episcopal body. Bishop Blomfield said there was no necessity for such a scheme as that educational system; the result of it must be to spread throughout the land latitudinarian principles. The system, if it could be carried into practice, would not be a system of religious instruction. It would lead to indifference; and, at last, to irreligion. The result would be that the children would be brought up in principles of the worst latitudinarianism. That was the character given to the present educational system by the great leader of the Conservative clergy in that day. But what was the opinion of that system expressed by the loader of the religious laity in those days? It is curious to remark the different view that is taken now from what was taken then by one who has taken part in both discussions. The Earl of Shaftesbury, ones of the most active, energetic, popular, and eloquent men of the day, of whom no one could speak without feelings of admiration and respect, said the other day—It could not be questioned that under the present movement there lies a great struggle between truth and falsehood, between belief and infidelity; we had a proof of this in the Amendments which had been laid on the Table of the House of Commons. The people of England would not endure to send their children to schools from which the Bible was excluded, a course that would lead the children to regard it as being of secondary importance. There was only one exclusion—and that was the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.Now, what was Lord Shaftesbury's opinion of the denominational system in 1839? He said the scheme propounded to the House was hostile to the Constitution, to the Church, and to revealed religion itself, and his firm conviction was that whenever a sufficient opportunity was afforded the country would repudiate still more strongly the strange phenomenon. His firm and strong conviction was that the plan of national education was hostile to revealed religion itself. I have shown you 927 these strong expressions of opinion by the most powerful leader of the Church, and by the mouthpiece of the laity against the denominational system. What does the present state of things prove? That the opponents of change cling to the old state of things with a superstitious blindness—that they are still true to their traditions, and when they cannot meet their opponents in argument they attempt to discredit and overwhelm them by a cry. We have had frequent experience of this. When it was proposed to repeal the Test and Corporation Acts the cry was that "The Church would be in danger." We resisted that cry, and the Church still survives. The cry has always been raised to suit the exigencies of the hour. When it was proposed to admit the Roman Catholics into Parliament there was a new cry—"Protestantism will be in danger." And well did that cry do its work. For a whole generation that cry gave a monopoly of power to those by whom it was raised. But the cry was overcome, and Protestantism still survives. When it was proposed to admit the Jews into Parliament the cry was—"Christianity will be in danger." Well, Christianity was stronger than its friends believed, and survived that cry. But the old spirit still survives—the old voice is still heard—and now when an educational change is proposed as necessary, as just, as wise, as inevitable as any that preceded it, the new cry is that "The Bible is in danger." That cry has not been without its effect; but courageous men have been able to face it. What does that cry at this moment mean? These cries always meant the same thing—that something was in danger. They meant that the power of ignorance was in danger—that the reign of intolerance was in danger—that State-made creeds and law-bound consciences were in danger—that everything was in danger that was opposed to the spirit of the age and to those principles of political freedom and intellectual advancement and of religious liberty and equality which strengthened the mind and fortified the heart against all degradation of superstition and disbelief and became the highest and holiest instrument for the elevation and happiness of man. I have made these historical references to show that the system of national education has had three distinct stages. The first 928 period was the ecclesiastical period, in which the State taught only one religion. The second period was the denominational period from 1839 to 1870. That also, I believe, has had its day. We are now approaching the third period, when the State, abstaining from teaching any particular religion, will lend its influence to the teaching of all—when it will intrust lay teaching to lay teachers, and allow religious teaching to be intrusted to those who have made it a labour of love and the work of their lives. Thus the two systems going hand in hand may assist one another in conferring the blessings of religious and secular education on the whole country. That I accept as the logical, irresistible, and inevitable result of the growth of opinion between the years 1839 and 1870. But, unfortunately, I see no provision for the admission of that system into this Bill; and the Government have stated in substance that they will agree to no further Amendments. I think they have acted properly in stating that; it is undignified and almost humiliating for a strong Government to be continually shifting its position. But the result is that this Bill, if passed, must be passed with its objectionable clauses by the aid of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I cannot incur the responsibility of aiding such a step, and I am driven, as the only alternative, to vote for the Amendment, as a protest and declaration in favour of an unsectarian and national education in preference to the perpetuation and extension of the denominational system. I shall, however, give my vote with reluctance; I acknowledge the great public services of the present Government, and I am anxious that they should maintain an influence which may be exercised for good. I admit that the worst that can be said of them in connection with this subject is that, in common with all the world, they have miscalculated opinion. They have been embarrassed by the growth of public opinion on the subject. It has grown since they introduced the Bill, and they have shown their recognition of that by the changes which, in a conciliatory spirit, they have introduced into the measure. The feeling on the subject of education is different from what it was when the Government introduced the Bill; it is different from what it was 12 months ago, and from what it may be 12 months hence; and I cannot but hope 929 that the Cabinet, knowing and acknowledging this fact, may, on the fullest consideration, take that course which they believe will best serve the public interest, and at the same time redound to their own true dignity and honour.
I think I do not misunderstand the general opinion of the House when I say I believe it to be that this debate should close to-day, and undoubtedly if it is to dose to-day it would not be convenient that we should divide this day's debate into two portions, and postpone bringing this very long and interesting discussion to a conclusion until after the Motions on going into Supply this evening. And although my two right hon. Friends near me (Mr. W. E. Forster and Mr. Bruce) have both, with great force and with knowledge far superior to mine, explained and defended the provisions of this Bill, the House will perhaps expect that, at the conclusion of the debate, I should state the impression it has made upon our minds, and endeavour to convey to the House our general view of the position in which we stand. It has been said by some of those who have criticized the Bill that it has ceased to be worthy of being regarded as a Bill for national education. But these critics give by far too limited an interpretation of that phrase if they are unwilling to admit that any education can be worthy of the name of national unless the whole machinery by which it is carried on be in the main either immediately, or ultimately intended to be, machinery created by the State and worked through the medium of Imperial or local taxes. We are not able to admit that the signification of the term "national education" ought to be so restricted. The object of our measure is to bring home the blessings of elementary education to every child in the country; and to do so with all the freedom and favour that can properly be bestowed by the action of the State upon religious training, and to do it at the same time with the fullest protection in every case to the rights of conscience; but with a conviction on our part that there is one thing which is indispensable, and which we must not allow to be excluded in any case from our view, and that is that even if we be compelled to limit elementary education to the secular, at least a good secular training shall be 930 secured. And we contend that if a measure can be passed which, in spite of, or, perhaps, we may say, because of its making use of existing and voluntary machinery, attains these objects, it will be well entitled to the honour of the designation "national system." We have found on approaching this question a vast machinery in action; and it is, in our opinion, almost required by justice and by the implied pledges of the State, which have been conveyed in every form, both of declaration and practice, and absolutely required by the dictates of good sense, that we should make use of this machinery. If it be true that the foundation of voluntary schools is in the main due to religious zeal, what is the signification and meaning of that declaration? It is that religious zeal is a mighty engine, which animates the hearts and minds of men, and which impels men, for the sake of communicating the blessings of religious instruction—of securing special guarantees as to the mode in which that instruction is given—to undertake the labour and responsibility of the secular instruction which, you wish to convey, subject ever to the best and most satisfactory guarantees; first, as to efficiency, to be tested by yourselves upon your own rules and regulations; and secondly, as to its constant moral influence operating upon the country. The error of those who have in former times dealt with this subject has been that they have stopped short with turning this machinery to account; but I am not ashamed to say that we think it would be a short-sighted policy if we turned from the immense machinery which is now in existence, to inquire narrowly into the motives by which that machinery has been brought into action. With this general explanation as to the idea of national education, let me look to the two great classes of schools which come within its purview. First of all come the rate-schools which will be created by the local Boards, and will remain absolutely under their control. As the Bill was first introduced we thought we might ask Parliament to give to these local Boards unlimited powers with regard to the great question of religious instruction—a discretion ranging from a system purely secular to any form of religious instruction which the Board might deem best adapted to the wants of the district and of those 931 connected with the schools. We have made an important alteration in this, and limited the discretion to be exercised by these Boards. If my hon. Friend who made the Motion (Mr. H. Richard), and my right hon. Friend who has just sat down are disposed to go further than we in a secular direction, they will at least admit the candour of the statement I am about to make. This Bill has been framed in no narrow or grudging spirit in regard to secular education. We have not been afraid to depart from the tradition and practice that has existed—perhaps, too long—under which assistance has been denied to all schools when a specific religion did not form part of the school system. If it be true, as my hon. Friend, my right hon. Friend, and other very eminent Members of this House contend, that the difficulties connected with the choice and administration of a religious system in a country so divided as this ought to recommend us in Parliament at once to arrive at the conclusion that secular knowledge, and secular knowledge alone, shall be under the control of the local Boards, at least this must be admitted, that should that opinion be sustained in each district by experience, and should it be found impossible to face this religious difficulty in detail, it is left entirely open by the Bill, without any impediment or discredit, for each local Board to fall back on the secular system, and to confine the public elementary education to that description of instruction which the State and the civil authority are by the admission of all men competent to give. As regards those whom I will not call secularists, because there is something invidious in the name—as regards those who think it is no longer possible beneficially to maintain the direct teaching of religion in a system founded by public authority, and supported out of the public funds, they have not been excluded from finding vent for their views in the actual operation and administration of the Bill. The Bill is, without doubt, entitled or liable to bear the name of a compromise; but it is a compromise which is not illiberal towards the class of whom I have just spoken. Then, is it illiberal towards the Nonconformists of this country? We have considered the position in which those who would confine themselves to secular instruction are concerned; but how will 932 the Nonconformists of this country stand? We propose to provide that in schools supported from the public rates catechisms or formularies which are distinctive of particular denominations shall not be employed. I have departed from the precise letter of the Bill, and I may remark that there has been criticism on the use of the singular number in the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple). It was not, however, intended by the Government to give any special force by the use of the singular number in the phrase they have adopted; but "catechisms or formularies distinctive of particular denominations" will, I think, be a phrase which more exactly conveys the intention of the Government, and is more in accordance with the intention of the House. Now, is that an illiberal arrangement as far as regards the great Nonconformist Bodies? I have called the Bill a compromise, but it is a compromise in which, undoubtedly, the Church of England considered as an institution, with the free assent, I grant, of many of her members, with the grudging, or at least the reluctant, assent of many, and with the positive disapproval, possibly, of a large portion, is asked by the Government and by Parliament to make a surrender of the distinctive formulary of instruction which it has been her universal practice to employ. Can it be truly said that any corresponding concession is asked from the Nonconformists? And what I say of the Church of England applies yet more strongly to another class who have been little noticed in this debate—I mean the Roman Catholics. On the one hand, bodies accustomed to use formularies as an authoritative means of religious instruction are asked by us to consent to their exclusion from all schools supported by public crates. On the other hand, the same request is undoubtedly made to other religious bodies; but a large proportion of the Nonconformists have no formularies to use, and, consequently, have none to abandon. I am quite sensible that this is a very considerable demand to make upon members of the Church of England. There has been a great disposition on the part of hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite, and whose conduct here we may take as being partially significant of the conduct pursued by a body relatively more powerful in "an- 933 other place," to make concessions with a view to union of sentiment on this occasion. They have agreed to abandon the system of denominational inspection, on which they set great store. They have agreed to a Conscience Clause which they long contested, and although they may have something to say as to the precise terms of the proposal of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster), they have agreed, if I understand their general expressions aright, to give additional vigour and efficacy to the Conscience Clause by binding it up with certain conditions of time. They have substantially agreed, too, as I gather from running over the abundant declarations of opinion made in the course of the debate, to the last and most considerable demand made of them by the plan of the Government, which involves the exclusion of formularies from public instruction in the rate-supported schools. What I venture to say—and I must express my hope that it involves no derogation to that sentiment of loyalty which ought to unite members of a party—is that I hope we shall not pursue this mode of argument and this mode of conduct—namely, the assumption that whatever is agreed to on the opposite side thereby loses ipso facto its significance and importance, is not to be regarded as a concession for which some value may be equitably asked from us, but simply as a starting-point on which we are to found further demands. I say this not because I am desirous to place myself in conflict with the arguments that I have heard in one or two speeches on this side of the House, but because I feel that in the position in which we stand, with practical objects of vast moment in our view, and with this issue before us, upon not only our uprightness of intention but our prudence, judgment, honour, moderation, and self-restraint depend the attainment of those objects, or the loss of them for perhaps an indefinite time. On that account I trust we shall be able to widen and elevate our views for the purpose of dealing with this great question, and endeavouring to arrive at an arrangement which may not only suit the balance of sentiment among a narrow combination, but which may produce a general equilibrium of moral force and be consistent with social instincts spread throughout the wide extent of the nation. With regard to 934 my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hampshire and his Amendment, of which we have made ourselves the organs, it has been objected that it does not exclude by any absolute rule what is termed denominational teaching. Nay, Sir, it has even been said by a speaker of much ability—my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt)—that that Amendment to the Bill exhibits pure and undiluted denominationalism. I am at a loss to conceive with what kind of fairness any person who has examined the matter can contrive to force even his organs of speech to utter such a statement. It is undiluted and pure denominationalism, and yet it is avowedly repugnant to the sentiments of those who would most covet the title of denominationalists, and as far as any man covets that title for himself in that very same proportion is he reluctant to accept this Amendment. It is pure and undiluted denominationalism, and yet its essence is this—that it forgoes, nay, it overthrows, as far as rate-schools are concerned, the use of that which is the note and the characteristic of denominational teaching. I do not think it necessary to discuss at length the question whether a provision of which these assertions can be truly made can deserve a description such as that given to it by the hon. Gentleman to whom I have referred. The other allegation, that it does not exclude all denominational teaching, is of a different character, and let us examine the degree of truth which may be said to attach to it. If we look at the adoption of this Amendment in a speculative way, and without reference to practical consequences, I am sure that all those who are accustomed to appreciate religious systems as such, will be of one mind in stating that this concession is of very great, and, I might almost say, of enormous moment. But, looking at it from a practical point of view, let us consider how we now stand. We now have various systems of schools throughout the country, the great bulk of which are denominational schools. Can it be said that the prevalence of denominationalism in those schools at the present moment is generally felt by the people to be a grievance? On the contrary, is it not the case that everybody and every section are telling us continually that the religious difficulty di- 935 rectly you come to practice becomes insignificant, and that it is a difficulty made for Parliament and for debate rather than one which would be felt within the walls of the schools? Do not let me be supposed to overstate the case and say there is no religious difficulty at the present time. There has been one fault from time to time found by the parents of children, and by the ministers or prominent members of the religious bodies with which these parents are connected. In most cases children attending a school were compelled to attend the place of worship with which it was connected. It has been felt also that it was a hardship that children not belonging to a particular Church should be compulsorily instructed in the catechism of that Church. To a great extent that difficulty is met by the Conscience Clause, and in the present Bill it is not to be met by the Conscience Clause only; it is to be met by an absolute, rigid, and unbending provision which will positively prevent the use of the catechism. However great may be the majority of children in a rate-aided school to whose parents the catechism would be acceptable, these children are to be excluded from instruction in it because it might interfere with the convictions of the minority. At present, then, an extremely small minority experience difficulty from the use of the catechism; hereafter such difficulty will be impossible; and you have nothing to alarm you but this—in certain instances there may be teachers who may so expound the Bible as to give offence. If this evil were likely to exist surely we should know something of it now; but we have not heard of a single case in which this difficulty has arisen from abuse of his position by the teacher. We use the word "denominationalism," which is rather a barbarous word, in two senses. In one it means the full and free teaching of the Christian religion according to conscience and conviction; and in this sense it is worthy of all honour. In the other sense, in which objection is taken to the use of it, it signifies the prevalence of a narrow spirit of proselytism and the development and application of that spirit by turning children aside from the practical lessons of Christianity and intruding dogmatic teaching upon them, when experience shows that the practical lessons 936 of Christianity can be conveyed without such intrusion. Of such denominationalism there is no fear which ought to operate upon the mind of a reasonable man; and if there are those who can see such a difficulty as likely to arise, I would again remind them that it is asserted by teachers, and established by general experience, that the exposition of the Scriptures, as it is now carried on, though under a system far more denominational than can exist in rate-aided schools, has not produced any painful feelings due to the violation of conscience, through unwise, injudicious, bigoted, or prejudiced inculcation of religious views. It appears to me that these are matters which deserve to be considered by us, if we are of opinion that, with the feelings that prevail in this country, with the immense power that can be brought into action upon the side of a great religious controversy, it is now our duty to anticipate that controversy which has hardly yet begun, and, if we can, passing by the point at which it would be likely to arise and intercept us on our way, at once to go forward to seize and secure in the permanent form of legislation an efficient, universal, and liberal system of national education. In the rate-aided schools, while securing the vital principle of leaving to the teacher the exercise of his discretion, upon which his power must to a great extent depend, we have taken effectual guarantees against the violation of conscience through the acts of a narrow or sectarian spirit. Now I come to denominational, or as I shall call them, voluntary schools, and if I am told that an overwhelming majority of voluntary schools are denominational, I think I can draw a lesson from that fact, which is that it shows what a powerful agency we have ready to do our bidding, to perform much of our work for us, if only we will not obstruct it. Another reason for calling them voluntary rather than denominational schools is that under the Bill a great impulse will be given to the public mind in the matter of elementary education; and it is probable that under voluntary action there may spring up schools, founded strictly upon the educating principle, dissociated from objects distinctly religious, and still entitled to claim the aid of the State as instruments of culture devised and employed by the working classes. By the Bill as it ori- 937 ginally stood almost unbounded discretion was given to the local Boards as regarded voluntary schools, and that discretion was open to possible abuse in either of two opposite directions. It would have been an abuse of that discretion if, in a district where there were a number of schools imparting a perfectly secular education, the local Board, in lieu of making use of these voluntary schools, had chosen to burden the community with rates for the purpose of creating a number of rival schools to crowd the ground already occupied. Another possible abuse, of which, to my surprise, no note has been taken, was that, under the Bill as it stood, a Board animated with strong prejudice in favour of voluntary schools, might have aided those schools not only to that moderate extent which might have enabled them to continue in a career of honourable competition, but to such an extent as to have extinguished altogether the necessity for voluntary subscriptions, while maintaining voluntary management. The first of these abuses we obviated by asking the House to secure to voluntary schools a moderate degree of assistance; and the second we effectually removed by providing that the assistance to be given shall not go beyond what is necessary for supplying secular instruction, and shall not remove the necessity for voluntary effort and subscription. I, for one, heard the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) with much satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) has said, as to the increase of grants to voluntary schools, our intentions are all very well, but there ought to be a pledge for the future fulfilment of them. Now, with regard to an annual grant, the administration of which must depend upon the application of the Vote of Parliament to particular cases, under fixed rules, it cannot be provided for in the way of a positive pledge by such a Bill as this. I may be told that no such pledge was intended to be asked for; but such a declaration as should suffice to show that a liberal assistance to voluntary schools was not merely in the mind of Government, but was likewise in the mind of Parliament at the time when the Bill was adopted. The proposal of the hon. Member for Oldham appears to coincide 938 very much with that view, because he asks that we should, in the Bill itself, take absolute securities for certain purposes. One of them clearly is this—that whatever is given by the Privy Council to the voluntary schools shall be given only for secular results. It is no concession to my hon. Friend if I state—without committing ourselves at this moment to any particular terms, that we are ready to go along with him, and to insert words with that object, because we are as much convinced as he is that, with respect to these voluntary schools, the duty of the State is to make use of them for the purposes of the secular instruction which they give, but to hold itself entirely and absolutely detached from all responsibility with regard to their religious teaching. That being so, of course we entirely agree with my hon. Friend in the object he has in view. But he has another object in view, which is not less important, and is not less in conformity with the intentions of the Government. If, therefore, we do well in holding ourselves detached from the responsibility for the giving of religious instruction in voluntary schools, we shall likewise take care that, under no circumstances, shall the public grants be allowed so to operate as entirely to supply, together with school-pence, the sum necessary to support those schools, and that there shall always remain a void which must be filled up by free private contributions, and without which, failing other sources of assistance, those schools would no longer deserve the character of voluntary. If we observe these two conditions: if we, first of all, leave in force the necessity for competent provision from voluntary sources; and, secondly, keep the public contributions carefully below the mark which is the lowest at which a secular education can be afforded by the State, I own I cannot understand how what is called the religious difficulty can apply. If a different opinion has arisen in this House, it is undoubtedly very recently, and would serve to illustrate the doctrine of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, that the sentiments of the country are growing so fast that it is impossible for the proceedings of Government or of Parliament to keep pace with them. It is in no invidious spirit that I refer to a speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham 939 (Mr. Dixon), distinguished as he is by the most intelligent and philanthropic exertions in connection with the subject of education. But at a meeting of the National Education League, which was held at Birmingham no later than last autumn, my hon. Friend laid down this most liberal—this over liberal—doctrine with respect to voluntary, or, as he calls them, "existing denominational" I schools, which are, I suppose, somewhere about 20,000 in number. "I would recommend," said my hon. Friend, "that the Government Grants to all existing denominational schools which accept a Conscience Clause should be the same as those to the national rate-schools"—that is the arrangement which we have adopted—"that is to say, they should be increased from the present amount of one-third of the total cost," not to one half, but "to two-thirds, thus relieving the managers of half their present responsibilities. The remaining half would not be too much to pay for the assured advantages of religious instruction and the supposed superiority of voluntary management." If my hon. Friend holds that opinion he does not hold it merely as an individual, but holds it in common—I do not mean as to the larger amount which he would give, but as to the principle of it—with the great bulk of those who have ever attempted practical legislation on this subject. I may, perhaps, be permitted to read a few words in which this important question was discussed by the late Mr. Cobden; for it is a question of which I feel the importance as much as any hon. Member who sits on either side of the House. Does the present system of educational grants from the Privy Council involve the Government in any responsibility with regard to religious instruction? I grant that in one point it does, and that is with regard to denominational inspection. That inspection establishes a relation between the Government and the instruction given; but the point disappears with the abolition of denominational inspection. Now, what I wish to put before the House is—does this concession from the grants of the Privy Council to the managers of voluntary schools, who include in their system specific religious teaching, but who likewise give good secular instruction—subject as to its efficiency to the tests laid down by Parliament or the Government, 940 and separated from the religious instruction—involve the State in the responsibility for anything beyond that secular instruction until the grants of the State reach a point higher than or as high as that at which secular instruction becomes alone capable of being provided? I contend that it does not—that it is a principle beyond all question that, with the sole exception of educational inspection, the aid given at this moment by the State to voluntary schools is aid given for the purpose of secular instruction, and not to strengthen or aid a particular form of religion. In making that statement I shall support myself by the authority to which I have just referred, which I think the House will admit to be a fair and high authority on the subject. Mr. Cobden, in meeting the objections which were taken almost 20 years ago, that it was not desirable that religious instruction in schools should be supplied out of the public funds, used these words—When the Vote was first agreed to, in 1834, it was called school money; it was £10,000 or £20,000 to begin with. Afterwards it was changed to a Vote for education; but you did not vote the money for religious education. Could you vote any sum in this House, if it were asked, for religious instruction? No; it could not be done, and it could not be done for many years past, and never more shall we vote any money in this House as an endowment for religion; and, therefore, when you talk to me about voting for religious education, I say it is not an accurate description of what we vote it for.Let us consider that we are going to part with the building grants; and my right hon. Friend also proposes to ask another concession from hon. Gentlemen opposite to which I ought to have referred before—in the surrender of what is termed the year of grace. It seems to the Government that nothing would warrant us in proposing such a provision, except the very special necessity incumbent at the moment on those voluntary schools and their promoters, that when a provision is made for their maintenance, they should no longer be placed in the position of having a right to make a demand on us that, for their sake, we should postpone that which we desire above all things to bring into early operation—namely, the activity of the provisions of this Bill, with respect to rate-schools, which are supplying the existing deficiency in education. That is our plan as it stands with respect to volun- 941 tary schools. Now, we were asked the other day by the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdonshire (Lord Robert Montagu), whether when any person made a contribution to voluntary schools he would be allowed to make that contribution a set-off against the school rate? We answered, as might have been expected, that we could make no such proposal. What we propose is that those who subscribe to voluntary schools out of their own private resources shall be liable equally with others to rates levied in support of the rate-schools. They may not like it; they most probably will not; but we cannot relieve them from the obligation. The rate-schools will be schools receiving from the Exchequer the same contribution as the voluntary schools; but while the promoters of the latter draw the residue of their necessary expenditure from their own pockets, the local Boards in charge of the rate-schools will draw for that residue on the public rates, and will take the money equally out of the pockets of the promoters of voluntary schools as out of those of the rest of the community. I think that fair, under the circumstances of the case; but, if it be charged with unfairness at all, I do not see by what mental process anyone can arrive at the conclusion that it is against the rate-schools and in favour of the voluntary. Now, as regards the existing denominational schools, it is a very grave and important question which we have to ask ourselves—whether we are frankly, ungrudgingly, willingly, and systematically to make use of that powerful agency for the purpose of good secular instruction, which is placed at our command in a great degree, if not exclusively, through the vigorous action of religious zeal and love? Let us not disguise from ourselves that this is a question of the greatest moment. The answer to it, I own, appears to me to be perfectly clear. That answer is, that nothing but folly could induce us to refuse to avail ourselves of an opportunity so valuable. If we do not avail ourselves of it, if we treat those voluntary schools as institutions either to be proscribed, or, at the best, only to be tolerated, limited, hemmed in, permitted to exist merely because they do exist—as things which it is not worth our while to recognize, or honour, or encourage, on what principle can we justify such a policy? On none that I 942 know of; but that secular instruction becomes tainted by being brought into the neighbourhood of specific religious teaching. Under the provisions of the Bill the secular instruction given in the voluntary schools will be severely tested, and care will be taken that it shall be of as high a quality as that given in the rate-supported schools. It will be cheaper to the public, though it be dearer to the individual. On what principle, then, can we refuse to avail ourselves of the advantages which it is calculated to confer? No one will contend that the moral effect of secular instruction—a moral effect which I esteem very highly—no one will say that this moral effect can be damaged or deteriorated by the fact that in the same building, or as part of the same system, specific religious instruction is given. I may be very blind in the matter; but I have never been able to discover any reason for repudiating the aid which is offered to us by the voluntary zeal of the community, unless it be that the teaching of religion in the form accepted by the promoters of these schools, be it what it may, has an absolutely deleterious effect from the mere fact of its vicinity, upon the instruction which is given in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and that it is, therefore, desirable to rescue those useful branches of knowledge from the taint which they might receive from being taught within the same walls, and place them where they will no longer be subject to that atmospheric influence. These are the principal points on which the discussion has proceeded. I will now say a few words on the Bill as a whole. It is not necessary to refer to those Amendments which have been introduced into that part of it which is not connected with the religious difficulty. There are, no doubt, many of the clauses of the Bill on which a number of points will be raised for discussion, and there is one to which I will refer, because there are some persons who think it very closely connected with the mode of dealing with the religious difficulty. There are others who believe that a special provision for the representation of all classes and sections of opinion on the local Boards would have considerable effect in disarming jealousy, and would enable us to go more freely forward with this measure. I refer to the introduction of what is called "the minority vote" of the 943 Bill. I do not think it is necessary that the Government should absolutely pledge itself upon that subject at the present moment; but I will admit, in the most distinct manner, that, in our opinion, the objections which apply to the introduction of the minority vote into the Parliamentary system have no application whatever to the election of a local Board. Those who are opposed to the minority vote argue that it is not the business of Parliament simply to represent a majority of certain classes of individuals, but that it is their business to represent certain communities fixed by the Constitution—namely, the various constituencies. We think that, in those constituencies, the majority should be represented; but plainly, the business of a local Board will simply be to gather into itself all the elements of opinion and feeling in the community. You cannot say with respect to the local Board as you can say with respect to Parliament—that the difference of constituencies will secure variety at the Board; and, therefore, it is a perfectly open and fair question for consideration whether this plan might not be adopted for attaining that which is, undoubtedly, the object of the greater number—namely, to secure impartiality as far as possible in the action of the local Boards, and to attract to them the greatest possible amount of public confidence. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) made an appeal to the Government as a supporter, and certainly there has been no Administration in this country within my knowledge that has had greater reason to entertain a lively, cordial, and grateful sense of the efficient support which it has received from the party on its own side of the House than the Government that is now in power; but I am quite sure that my hon. Friend will, as a man of great candour, be the first to see that this is a question so national—national in so high a sense—that no Government would be justified in determining to exclude from its view the sentiments, the opinions, and, above all, the large-hearted toleration of those with whom it may not be ordinarily agreed in political opinion. But there is another consideration which is still more obvious. I am sure my hon. Friend does not conceal from himself the wide difference of opinion that exists on this side of the House, and in that portion of the House where he sits. I believe 944 he supports the Amendment which has been submitted to the House by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil; but, in so doing, if I understand his speech, he does not support it in the sense of the Mover; for he is ready to allow the religious element to enter into schools in a sense in which the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil finds it necessary to exclude it. And in adverting to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, I wish to say that, though I do not believe his opinion to be that of the people of England at large, yet I am quite satisfied that his Amendment is compatible with the most earnest and zealous respect for religion, and that it is that earnestness which has prompted him to the course he has pursued. In that quarter of the House where the Mover of the Amendment sits, we see many hon. Members who have supported this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman who has last addressed the House, the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), and the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham), strongly supported it in its strictest sense. But other distinguished members of that party have recommended a different course. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford objects vehemently to the Amendment, which he rejects on the ground that it is both secular and sectarian; and, although the Motion of which my hon. and learned Friend gave Notice has not been submitted to the House, yet it represents an amount of feeling which is not inconsiderable, and which cannot be overlooked in gauging the state of opinion on this question. If, therefore, the Government have not found themselves able to come into exact conformity with the views of my hon. Friend—whose claims upon us I fully admit—or with those of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, or with those of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford, yet I trust they have some apology in the divisions which prevail among those whom it is their desire and their ambition generally to meet. Something may be said with regard to the character of the support that the plan of the Government has received, and I admit that that support is not unqualified. Their plan has received some valuable and very able support that may be called unqualified; but it has also received a great 945 deal that is qualified, much that is positive, and more that is negative. If, however, this plan is not precisely agreeable to the views of all, or nearly all, the Members of this House, yet I am entitled to ask this question—"What other plan is there that is agreeable to the views of all, or nearly all, the Members of this House, or even of a large number,"—I will be bold enough to go further, and add, "or of a number nearly so largo as those who are disposed to acquiesce in the plan of the Government?" This plan has, at least, been tested in free discussion by able men in all quarters of the House; and I am sure I run no risk of contradiction in saying that, while I admit the qualification with which it has been supported—nay, while I admit the energy and ability with which by certain Members it has been opposed and objected to—it is still the only plan which can be said to be in the field for acceptance or rejection by the House. If it had been possible for some keener wits or happier judgments than those of the Government to devise another scheme, I think that we should not have failed to become acquainted with the nature of that scheme, either during this discussion or at an earlier period. Then, if this is the only plan that can be said to be in the field, there arises this important question—"What are we to do with it?" It has been pressed upon us that great changes should be made in our plan, and we are not only willing but desirous that such changes should be introduced as may intend to finish and improve it; but as to the general outline or substance, I cannot think there is any large section of Gentlemen in this House who can believe that it will be advantageous for the interests of the country, or for the interests of this great question, that the Government should materially deviate from the proposal they have now made. It is very difficult for an Administration to determine what are the limits of its own liberty of revision in regard to a plan of its own; it is also difficult to determine at what period of time that liberty of revision should be exercised, and when it can be said to terminate. But it must be borne in mind that we claimed for ourselves the benefit of time with a view to bettor counsels, and that we have modified this Bill repeatedly and in no inconsiderable de- 946 gree. No Government can perform its functions usefully to the House of Commons if, when, it has a great measure in hand, it shows itself to be so devoid of purpose, so incapable of fixed conviction, that at every step of the Bill it is led to endeavour to impress upon it a new colour, and to invest it with a new shape; for the effect of such conduct is not by any means so much to favour the particular opinion to which the Government would ultimately lean as to destroy public confidence in the usefulness of the Administration, whose business it is to afford aid and, in some degree, guidance to the mind of Parliament. Such a loss of confidence involves loss of character, and it is upon the character of the Government that, happily, all its authority must be founded. I, therefore, hope that the House will not think it wonderful if I say that I am not able to join in the rigour with which the speech of my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council has been criticized, as being too decided in its tone; for I think we have passed the point at which we can introduce largo changes. We have laboured hard and honestly, without any undue adhesion to our own propositions, but with a sincere desire to ascertain the condition of the country, its social wants, and its fixed convictions. That was the purpose for which we laboured in the original production of the Bill; we have held the same views in making the modifications that have subsequently been introduced, and I hope, from the state of opinion and feeling in the House, those labours have not been wholly unsuccessful. If that be so, there then arises this question—"What is our duty with regard to it in the state of business during the present Session?" Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that, with the single exception of those measures which relate to the maintenance of public order, and have in the immediateness of the demand that they make upon the Legislature and the Cabinet a preference above all others, there probably has never been a measure submitted to Parliament with regard to which the responsibility of unnecessary postponement would be greater, heavier, or more intolerable. We propose, therefore, to use every effort consistent with respect to the House and with the demands of absolutely necessary business to conduct 947 this Bill through this House, and to send it to the other House at such a period as to give time for fairly and justly dealing with it in the hope of its becoming law in the present Session. In announcing these views of the Government I feel that I am not liable to the charge of contumaciously or ostentatiously opposing myself and my Colleagues to the judgment of the House or of any large number of hon. Members. We have been encouraged in our resolution to use every effort to pass this Bill by the manifestations of this debate. We have heard Gentlemen arguing manfully their objections to particular portions of the Bill, and yet expressing their paramount and overwhelming sense of the necessity of the measure, and it was impossible not to feel that it was our duty to meet those manifestations as far as we could. I believe the latent conviction of this House to be that the public advantages contemplated by the Bill, and likely to be attained by it, are such that they ought not to be foregone and sacrificed on account of a blemish here and there, or of something which may not really be a blemish, but which is conscientiously supposed to be such, and which may prevent its receiving the entire and undivided adhesion of every single mind. That, I believe, Sir, is the general conviction of the House. That is the view we take of our duty. I do not say that there may not be occasions when it may be justifiable for particular bodies or sections of the community to oppose themselves even to a measure of education. The hon. Member for Stroud referred last night to the opposition offered by the Nonconformists to the plan of Sir Robert Peel and Sir James Graham in 1843. No doubt it was that vigorous opposition, growing stronger from day to day, which deterred that Ministry from proceeding with the measure which they had much at heart. But what was the nature of that plan? It constituted schools over the whole country, and school Boards, on every one of which the Church was to be represented by a special trustee, who was to be not only a member but a minister of the Church. So distinct and emphatic was the recognition of the title on the part of the Church to have her special interests cared for that the Nonconformists were doubtless warranted in their then opposition. But there is no 948 such reason now. May it not rather be said that the tables are turned? There is no special recognition of the Church in the present plan. If it be said that there is a recognition of the Church in the liberal terms we propose for the voluntary schools, such an assertion would only mean that the palm is given to those who win. What is the position of the Church with regard to voluntary schools? It is the same as that of the Nonconformists with respect to their own religious endowments and institutions—that is to say, like men and Christians in the exercise of their freedom they have given effect to their own convictions, and have achieved a position which they are entitled to assert and maintain. That is the position of the Nonconformists with regard to religion, and that, I fearlessly assert, is precisely the position of the Church with regard to education. It would be invidious, and less than just, to say that because the clergy of the Church of England have exhibited great activity in the cause of popular education, they shall be defrauded of the fruits of their activity, or that they shall be considered as receiving some special exceptional favour if we acknowledge what they have achieved and do not exclude them from the benefits which we offer to others. Let it be borne in mind that under our scheme there is no clergyman trustee to be placed upon the school Boards. Every member of every religious Communion will stand in fair and open competition with his fellow-citizens in regard to election. But one distinction which there will be in these schools, is a distinction, not in favour of the Church, but bearing rather upon her—I will not say with hardness, because I trust and believe it will not be so, but with something like an inequality. Something less than equality on this occasion she has been contented to accept; and I think it would be deplorable if opposition arising from any quarter, imitating the example set in former times, but without the justification and warrant which the circumstances and proposals of those times afforded, should have the effect of defeating a measure which, every man in this House acknowledges, contemplates objects of the highest public importance. With respect to the provisions of the Bill, every one admits that the main portion of them have been well and wisely 949 devised to accomplish, their great purpose; and, under these circumstances, it is our duty, with all the earnestness, and I may say, with all the solemnity, we can command, to commend this measure to the impartial judgment, the self-denying moderation, the favourable consideration, and final acceptance of the House.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 421; Noes 60: Majority 361.
|Adair, H. E.||Lush, Dr.|
|Armitstead, G.||Lusk, A.|
|Beaumont, H. F.||Miall, E.|
|Bentall, E. H.||Miller, J.|
|Brogden, A.||Milton, Viscount|
|Brown, A. H.||Morgan, G. O.|
|Campbell, H.||Morrison, W.|
|Candlish, J.||Muntz, P. H.|
|Cholmeley, Captain||Parry, L. Jones-|
|Cowen, J.||Philips, R.N.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Potter, E.|
|Dalglish, R.||Price, W. E.|
|Dalrymple, D.||Richards, E. M.|
|Dixon, G.||Samuelson, H. B.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Sartoris, E. J.|
|Edwardes, hon. Col. W.||Seymour, A.|
|Ewing, H. E. C.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|Fawcett, H.||Smith, E.|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord E.||Stuart, Colonel|
|Fordyce, W. D.||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|Fothergill, R.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Gourley, E. T.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Hadfield, G.||Tomline, G.|
|Herbert, hon. A. E. W.||Wedderburn, Sir D.|
|Hoare, Sir H. A.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Horsman, rt. hon. E.||White, J.|
|Illingworth, A.||Williams, W.|
|Johnston, A.||Winterbotham, H. S. P,|
|Lawrence, Sir J. C.|
|Lawson, Sir W.||TELLERS.|
|Leatham, E. A.||Dilke, Sir C. W.|
|Lewis, J. D.||Richard, H.|
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.