§ Several noble Lords presented Petitions; some in favour of the Bill, others against it, or praying for amendment of its provisions.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
presented a Petition from a large number of iron masters and coal owners in the West of Scotland against the Bill. The petitioners pointed out their objections to the Bill. They also stated that the Bill would destroy the voluntary prin- 568 ciple in Scotland, and a system of education that had hitherto admirably supplied the educational wants of the people. They asked amongst other things that religious teaching in the schools might be secured by the Bill. The noble Duke said that, under the circumstances, he would appeal to the noble Duke who had charge of the Bill (the Duke of Argyll), to postpone for some short time the Committee on the Bill which stood for that day, in order that the Amendments, of which notice had been given, might be well and amply considered. The noble Duke, when he introduced the measure, represented that it was in conformity with the wishes of the people of Scotland; but he thought the noble Duke could not fail to see, from the number of Petitions that had been presented against it, that a strong feeling of hostility had been elicited against it in its present form, and that various views had been put forward by a number of bodies in Scotland, all desiring the introduction of Amendments. It was clear that the acceptance of the Bill in Scotland had not been so general or universal as the noble Duke at first supposed. He understood that the noble Duke had also a number of Amendments to propose on the part of the Government, which were not in their Lordships' hands, and that, he urged, was another reason for delay. And, as a further reason for postponement, he was informed that at the county meetings to be held in Scotland at the end of the month the subject would be generally brought forward and discussed, when there would be a further opportunity of ascertaining the feeling of the people upon the subject, and by which many valuable suggestions might be offered. He thought the noble Duke would see how desirable it was to postpone the Committee for a short time.
THE EARL OF DALHOUSIE
said, the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) had anticipated him in an appeal to his noble Friend to postpone the Committee on the Bill. A more important Bill with reference to Scotland had not been introduced into Parliament for many years; and, considering the immense number of Amendments that had already been given notice of, and the other Amendments referred to, but which had not yet been placed on their Lordships' table, it would be quite impossible for their 569 Lordships, if they desired to maintain their reputation for the careful and thorough manner in which they transacted their business, to proceed with the consideration of the measure until they had seen them all, and comprehended their bearings. He did not ask to have the Committee postponed from feelings of hostility to the principle of the measure—that having been approved by a great majority of the people of Scotland—but in hopes that the question might be properly and well considered. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Marlborough) was right in stating that they were on the point of holding their county meetings in Scotland, at which the various Committees to whom Bills relating to Scotland were referred would report, and thereby the feeling of the counties would be ascertained upon this measure. He hoped the noble Duke who had charge of the Bill would postpone the Committee until after Whitsuntide, and in the meantime that he would inform their Lordships which Amendments he would adopt and which he would resist.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
also joined in the appeal for postponement, wishing it, however, to be understood that he hoped the principle of the Bill—a national system of education based on rating—would be sanctioned by Parliament. He could see no great force in the objection that rating tended to dry up voluntary subscriptions; and the necessity of education being admitted, there was no more reason for leaving the burden to be borne by individuals, than for throwing on them the cost of lighting or of repairing the roads.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he had great regret in postponing the Bill, but felt it impossible to resist the appeals of the noble Duke opposite, and his two noble Friends, all of whom he believed to be friendly to the main objects of the Bill. He had no wish to take any course other than that which was best for the cause of national education in Scotland. He had to apologize for not having presented to their Lordships the Amendments he proposed to make in the Bill in Committee, but the fact was that up to Friday last Amendments were showered upon him by Members of their Lordships' House so fast, that he had not had time to consider how many he would adopt and how many he would 570 reject. There were some which he should be compelled to resist; but a very large number of them, especially some proposed by his noble Friend opposite (Lord Colonsay), he should gladly accept as decided improvements. Before their Lordships went into Committee he should propose to re-print the Bill, with the Amendments proposed by the Government. Considering that it had been introduced in their Lordships' House with the view of furnishing them with occupation during the early part of the Session, their honour and reputation required that it should be sent down to the House of Commons in sufficient time to give them an ample opportunity of discussing it; but that House was at present fully occupied, and he believed no injury would arise from a postponement till after the 30th instant, the date of the county meetings. He would bog their Lordships not to request a postponement till after Whitsuntide, and hoped they would go into Committee on the 3rd or the 10th of May.
§ LORD CAIRNS
presumed it was the intention of the noble Duke to move to go into Committee on the Bill pro formâ, for the purpose of re-committing the Bill and having it re-printed.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he had no such intention. He simply proposed to have the Amendments printed before their Lordships went into Committee upon it.
§ LORD REDESDALE
thought it would be much more convenient to have the Bill re-printed with the Amendments in the form in which the noble Duke intended it to be actually proposed. It was impossible otherwise for those unacquainted with the forms of the House to understand what the Government intended to propose.