Bill considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
Clause 9 (Notice by Education Department of deficiency of public school accommodation).
said, he rose to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice. The question had been to a certain degree forestalled by the discussion on Tuesday; they might be said indeed to have stopped in the middle of it. In that discussion the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) interposed to protect the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill from the present Motion—a protection of which the right hon. Gentleman refused to avail himself. Why was the hon. and learned Gentleman so anxious to interpose. Perhaps he had some ulterior object—perhaps he thought that such a safeguard as he (Mr. Corrance) proposed would be dangerous to the development of his plan. He thought the hon. and learned Gentleman's design would be shown in the course of the debate. In the previous discussion, he (Mr. Corrance) had ventured to remind the House that, in all their agreements or disagreements as to this or that system, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) seemed to forget that what he proposed to do was with other people's money; and that unless they were very cautious they would find that in dealing with local funds, subject to local discretion, they were exceeding—not, perhaps, the powers of Parliament—but the powers confided to Parliament. No doubt Parliament had power to deal with Imperial taxation; but these were local taxes, raised for local wants, and guarded by local privileges. What, then, were the relations of the ratepayers with the ratepayers' Parliament in the present case? For he maintained that they were bound to look at the case through ratepayers' spectacles. How did the matter stand thus considered? Why, that the powers taken by the Department were enormous—not in one clause alone; not in an isolated instance; but, as he had shown, extending through, the whole Bill, and governing and overriding all rights whatever of the ratepayers to decide such questions for themselves. In no less than 23 clauses were such powers confided over the ratepayers' purse, administration, and even appointment of officers. Such provisions as these made the Education Department practically the controlling power. The Inspectors were to report their own estimate of school deficiencies in quantity as well as quality in their own districts. Now, what did that mean? It meant that the Inspector was to fix his own standard of the intellectual requirements of his district. But Inspectors were frequently young men—their varieties were very great and their qualification for the task different—some were enthusiasts, and their fancies would tinge their Reports. Were they prepared to hand the ratepayers over bodily to such a class? Again, the Inspectors would be political appointments, and it was impossible not to see that their views would generally coincide with the views of the party that appointed them. But it might be said that the matter did not end with the Inspectors' Reports—that it depended on the Education Department. Now, if the administration of these affairs always rested in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, in whose judgment and discretion he could gladly repose, then, indeed, they might dispense with some fears and anticipations; but who could guarantee them that? It was one of the main objections to personal and irresponsible government that it left them exposed to contingencies of that sort, and the chief reason they sought in constitutional forms protection against such unforeseen change in their administrative system as a change of rulers might produce. It was impossible for him to foresee what might take place in such respects, and a few years might see one of the Gentlemen now seated below the Gangway in the right hon. Gentleman's place. Assuming such a casuality to befall, what would take place? Of course, nothing but secular schools would satisfy the Department; and, no doubt, a school Board, as constituted under this Act, would be a convenient means of bringing this about. It would, at least, crush out the greatest enemies the secular system had; and it could not fairly be said that under such circumstances, the appre- hensions he had expressed were out of place. Against this they wanted security in this Act, and what security was afforded them? The ratepayers, or the person aggrieved, might indeed protest, but to whom? To the Department itself. An inquiry was vouchsafed to them, but conducted by whom? In Clause 64, under sec. 1, they were told—namely, "The Educational Department shall." And the person so deputed shall report; the expenses of the inquiry should be paid as the Department should suggest and order, and before such an inquiry the Department might demand security, or refuse that the inquiry should take place. With this the machinery for coercion—he might say for tyranny—was complete. Now, what was claimed in this case? Not the right of taxing the Commons of England through their representatives in that House; to that there was a check: but, through the edict of a Department, to force a particular class of taxpayers to burden themselves for an object which they did not approve, and deprive them of the right even to bring such a question to the vote. In a former Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman that right was conceded, and due means provided for its exercise under constitutional forms—and even after that there was a more effectual appeal provided than was to be found in this Bill. Why was that thrown aside in this case? In the Scotch Bill of last year the same precautions were observed. Nor was this all; for, as we were told the other night, under a new clause brought up fresh exactions might be made upon the ratepayers' purse without even a notice. Another consideration strengthened his case. In this Bill, as it stood at the second reading, a sufficient time was given to the ratepayers to consider their position in that respect, and to the managers of existing schools to supply defects. That year of grace had been withdrawn, and the requisition might come upon the ratepayers suddenly, and without notice sufficient to enable them to take measures for defence. But did they suppose that the ratepayers, to whom they were willing to commit the management of their schools, were so stupid as to submit to be coerced and plundered without even constitutional form? Even were it possible, it was entirely against the interest of his mea- sure that it should be so. In addressing the House the other day the right hon. Gentleman showed that he was aware of this. He said—
Now, it was upon that principle that he asked the Committee to act. It was true the right hon. Gentleman told them that it was necessary that the Government should be armed with extensive power to carry the Bill out. But he (Mr. Corrance) must ask him this—Was there, then, really a strong feeling in the country in favour of this rating system? If not, then did that feeling require the immediate application of the means taken to coerce? Surely, the local feeling of the persons most concerned was the surest test. He would frankly state that he accepted this system under avowed reservation, and with increasing doubt, and his doubt and distrust did not lead him to the very logical conclusion of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Serjeant Simon), that it must, therefore, be passed at once. On the contrary, he accepted it as he had always accepted it, as a measure supplementing an existing system; not superseding it, or taking its place. He entertained the gravest doubts upon this point, for he saw in the machinery of this Bill a means sufficiently effectual by which the existing system could be stamped out. He wished to make no secret of his feelings upon this. He believed that the utmost pressure would be brought to bear upon the Government to use the power so rashly and unadvisedly granted, and that such pressure would lead to abuse. Against that what guarantee had they got? The person who ruled the Department, or the Administration itself? But they knew too well the contingencies that might arise to trust themselves to the accident of an Administration or the frail tenure of a life. Least of all could they do so in this case. And what was the nature of the Amendment he proposed in this case? Was it excessive or unjust? It was not unjust, because it was founded upon an admitted principle of our system, that taxation should be at least accompanied by representation and effectual checks. It was not excessive, because it simply interposed time between the local body and the energetic action of the State, and to more they could not consent. They could not consent, as the representatives of ratepayers to whom they must give account. They could not consent, as a question of a larger policy, involving future consequences of a most serious class. And so considering, and believing that upon the just settlement of the question vast interests depended, he placed this Amendment before the Committee, with, if not the strong assurance that it would receive their sanction, at least the firm conviction that it deserved their support."If the prevailing opinion among the communities who are to elect these Boards prognosticates animosity and contention as the result of a measure entitling them to discuss and settle many questions bearing on religion, and if then you still proceed to force such Boards, with such constitutions and such powers, upon these districts, we may be pretty sure that we are going the way to defeat the beneficial action of our own measure; because it will be felt that the action of this measure cannot be efficacious, nor, in a larger sense, widely beneficial, unless it also be pacific and satisfactory to the public sense and opinion of local communities."
Amendment proposed, in line 20, after "Act," to insert—
"And if the result of such public inquiry should fail to satisfy such aggrieved persons, and the person deputed by the Education Department shall in the execution of his duty report adversely in their case, it shall be lawful for such person or persons to demand a poll of all ratepayers liable to such a rate within such parish or district; and if upon scrutiny of such votes taken in the manner hereafter prescribed in this Act it shall be found that the number of such votes in favour of the requisition to form a school Board shall not exceed one-third of the total number of votes so recorded, no such requisition shall be issued within any time not exceeding twelve calendar months from the date of such proceedings."—(Mr. Corrance.)
said, he was sorry he could not accept the Amendment of the hon. Member. It ran against the principle of the Bill, which was a provision for education throughout the kingdom, compulsory if necessary. It was true the hon. Gentleman did not altogether prevent the application of that principle, yet he (Mr. W. E. Forster) could not see any advantage in enabling it to be postponed for a year. The result would be, either the real object of the Bill—a provision for education everywhere—would be defeated by the successful opposition of the ratepayers, or they would be encouraged to make an opposition which would give them hopes which would not be justified afterwards.
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) would give this matter further consideration. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that there was a strong feeling entertained out-of-doors with respect to the arbitrary powers which the Bill proposed to confer upon the Education Department.
Amendment proposed, in line 21, to leave out the words "is held," in order to insert the words "be applied for,"—( Mr. Cawley,)—instead thereof.
said, that the Amendment would give power to any person to stop the process under the Bill by simply applying for inquiry; however frivolous the application might be, they would be obliged to stay proceedings.
said, he would suggest that the object of the Amendment might be attained by the substitution of the word "directed" for "held."
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made, in line 23, before "publish," insert—
"If they think that the amount of public school accommodation for the district is insufficient."—(Mr. W. E. Forster.)
said, that the principle of the measure, as stated by the Government, was to supplement, not supplant, voluntary schools; but he feared the operation of the Act would tend to discourage those who might wish to put up new voluntary schools. In order that it should be distinctly understood it was the intention of the Legislature that voluntary schools should be established in the future as in the past, he proposed to move two Amendments. The hon. Member concluded by moving the first of the Amendments, in line 26, to leave out "that," and insert "also the locality of such district within which."
said, he thought the matter should be left to the discretion of the Privy Council.
said, he would suggest that the Committee should now discuss only the first Amendment of the hon. Gentleman. He intended to propose an alternative Amendment in lieu of the second.
said, he thought it would be more convenient to have the discussion on the second Amendment.
said, it appeared to him that the second Amendment was of far greater importance than the first. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley) might be placed at a disadvantage if he proceeded to a Division on the first, as it might be regarded as an indication of the opinion of the Committee as to the second. The hon. Gentleman had better put his best leg forward and take the sense of the Committee as to the second Amendment, as, if successful, he could bring up the first on the Report.
concurred in this suggestion.
intimated his readiness to adopt the course which had been proposed.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
then moved his second Amendment, in line 26, to leave out "to," and insert "required, and that if within six months from the date of such notice it." Six months' notice seemed to him fair and reasonable, although he could not but regret that the year of grace, as originally proposed, had been since given up.
said, the effect of the Amendment was to establish a rigid period of six months' grace, and he was certainly glad his hon. Friend (Mr. Cawley) had abandoned the original period of 12 months. In great cities, voluntary agency was unable to supply the great educational deficiencies which at present existed. From the Reports of Messrs. Fitch and Fearon, it appeared that only about one-fourth of the children between five and 13 years of age were being properly instructed, as voluntary agency entirely failed to reach the remaining three-fourths. Therefore, it was not desirable to apply periods of grace to large towns like Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham. On the other hand, there were districts in which periods of grace were necessary. Suppose the school managers anticipated with confidence that the result of the Return made to the Education Department under Clauses 8 and 9 of the Bill would be a declaration that the school accommodation in those districts was efficient, sufficient, and suitable; if it turned out that the accommodation was insufficient in some small particular, it would be unfair not to allow a period of grace to the managers. He did not exactly understand the meaning of the word "forthwith" which had been introduced into the Bill; but he imagined the intention of the Government was that a certain elastic period of grace less than 12 months was to be allowed. To make this point quite clear he should propose in substitution of the Amendment now under consideration that the period of grace should be stated in a notice to be issued by the Education Department. His Amendment would be, in line 27, to leave out "forthwith," and insert "within a period therein stated which shall not exceed six months after the date of such final notice."
said, he hoped the Government would, at least, allow a minimum of six months, and he regretted that the original period of a year had not been retained.
said, that if this were a penal statute he should agree with his hon. Friend (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth). No doubt there was a great deal to be done which could not be done "forthwith;" but the result of passing the Amendment of the hon. Member for Salford would be to allow everybody six months of inertia and apathy.
asked, whether the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council would have any objection, when the Committee came to Clause 10, to replace the word "may" by "shall?"
said, he had no objection to do so, because the intention was that the Department should interfere where the want had not been supplied within the time referred to. As to the word "forthwith," he would say that if a district were found altogether declining to make any provision for the education of its children until compelled to do it, there was no good reason why there should be in a case like that a delay of a year or even of six months. On the other hand, the Privy Council might have good grounds for believing that another district had every intention of doing all that was necessary to make the required provision, and it might be desirable that it should be allowed a month or two for the purpose. He would therefore suggest the substitution, instead of "forthwith," of the words "within such reasonable time as may be limited by such notice."
said, he would point out that the present supply of teachers was barely equal to the demand, and that a good teacher could not be turned out under two years. He thought a large discretion ought, under the circumstances, to be vested in the Educational Department.
said, he could not understand the anxiety which was expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite for a "year of grace." What did that phrase mean? It meant that the education of the country was to be delayed for 6 or 12 months or more, in order that the system which particularly suited those hon. Gentlemen might be carried out. A greater misnomer than to call it "a year of grace" he could not conceive; it ought rather to be called a year of disgrace. ["Oh, oh!] Yes, it was a disgrace to ask for a concession which would have the effect of producing 12 months more of ignorance throughout the country, while those who asked for it accused him and those who sat beside him of wishing for delay. He, for one, was quite satisfied to let the question as between them be decided by the public. What he desired was that the requisite educational provision should be made "forthwith," while hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to put it off for six months. His right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council suggested that the words, "a reasonable time," should be substituted for "forthwith;" but the alteration was, he thought, open to the objection that it would lead to disputes as to what was a reasonable time, and give rise to a degree of agitation and uncertainty which the use of the word "forthwith," or even of the words "six months," would obviate.
said, he did not believe there was any wish for delay in the matter of education on either side of the House. On both sides he was sure the desire was so to frame the clause that the wanting school accommodation could be supplied within the shortest possible period. Believing the concluding sentences of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) involved a practical suggestion, he should propose to substitute for the words "reasonable time," "within such time, not exceeding six months, as may be limited by such notice."
said, he hoped the Amendment of his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Cawley), as well as that of his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth), would be withdrawn, in order that the Committee might proceed with the Bill as speedily as possible.
having signified their readiness to withdraw their Amendments,
Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment altered, as suggested by Mr. W. E. Forster, and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 (Formation of school Board and requisition to provide school).
said, he would propose the omission of the words "at any time" in the sentence giving power to the Education Department to cause a school Board to be formed after final notice.
said, that all who had been engaged in the work of school building knew that there were such things as strikes. He would suggest that the sentence providing that if the Education Department were satisfied that all the public school accommodation required had not been supplied, the words "nor is in course of being supplied with due despatch" should be inserted.
said, the Education Department ought not to issue a final declaration that a school Board should be formed if there was a building in course of erection. If, however, those who voluntarily undertook to provide a school were not proceeding with, due expedition the order should be issued.
said, it would be well to accept both the suggestions that had been offered, because the Education Department should not be liable to appeals ad misericordiam. It should be clearly understood that in a certain time the work must be done.
said, the discussion was proceeding on the assumption that the House of Commons was desirous of multiplying denominational schools. It was inconvenient that such an important question should be raised incidentally in this manner. He would bring it forward in a specific form on a later clause.
Amendments agreed to.
Words struck out.
Amendment proposed, in line 31, after "supplied" to insert "nor is in course of being supplied with due despatch."—( Mr. Gathorne Hardy.)
said, he objected to the Amendment, the effect of which would probably be to add three months to the six months. "Due despatch" might mean anything or nothing, and a maximum time ought to be fixed.
said, he did not know whether his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) had ever had any experience of school building; but he (Mr. Walter) never heard of a school being built in six months, and he did not believe it possible that a building could be erected and put into a suitable condition for occupation by children in less than a year. He appealed to his hon. and learned Friend, as a man of common sense, whether, if persons began at once to build, and had got halfway through their work, they were to have the Privy Council Office brought down on them, and a local Board established for the purpose of upsetting all that had been done. Credit should be given to those who intended to build for good faith and honesty of purpose in what they proposed to do. He was as anxious as anyone that schools should be built as speedily as possible; but all the Committee had a right to do was to take care that immediate steps should be taken for providing school accomodation. If the supporters of the voluntary schools would do it we had no right to prevent them: if they did not give a guarantee that it would, be done, then let a local Board be formed for the purpose of carrying out the Act.
said, the reason why he accepted the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment was that he could not accept the change from "may" to "shall" without it. He was not thinking of either the voluntary system or of the rate system; he was simply thinking of getting the provision made as quickly as possible. Surely, if persons, on receiving six months' notice, set about making it, and if circumstances prevented their completing it, it would be defeating the object in view and delaying the education of the children if the Department were to order the immediate formation of a school Board. It would stop the supply of education which was in process of being provided.
Amendment agreed to.
Then, on the Motion of Mr. HIBBERT, the word "shall" substituted for "may."
, to give effect to what he said on the first night of the Committee, with respect to giving rate payers power to say that a school Board should be formed, would move an Amendment to that effect.
At the end of the Clause, to add the words "in the following cases: (that is to say,)
1. Where application is made to the Education Department with respect to any school district by the body of persons which, if there were a school Board in that district, would elect the school Board; and 2. Where the Education Department are satisfied that the managers of any elementary school in any school district are unable or unwilling any longer to maintain such school, and that, if the school is discontinued, the amount of public school accommodation for such district will be insufficient:
The Education Department may, if they think fit, without making the inquiry or publishing the notices required by this Act, before the formation of a school Board but after such inquiry, public or other, and such notice as the Education Department think sufficient, cause a school Board to be formed for such district, and send a requisition to such school Board in the same manner in all respects as if they had published a final notice:
An application for the purposes of this section may be made by a resolution passed at a meeting of the said elective body summoned for the purpose, and the provisions of the second part of the Second Schedule to this Act with respect to such meeting, and the proceedings thereat, shall be observed."—(Mr. William Edward Forster.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
said, he rose to move, as an Amendment to the first subsection of the proposed Amendment, that the application should be made by "not less than twenty inhabitant householders within such district." He was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) for his Amendment, which would remove a blot upon the Bill; but, still, there were many cases which the Amendment would not meet of places in which it was extremely desirable that school Boards should be formed. There were several districts in which there was sufficient school accommodation, and in which the children did not attend; in these it was hardly to be supposed that a sufficient number of ratepayers would take the initiative in asking for a Board to be formed, and yet it was extremely desirable that a Board should be formed. Our experience in regard to sanitary matters had shown that, while in many cases there was the greatest difficulty in setting a locality in motion, yet when a local Board was formed those composing it did their duty manfully; and in the case of school Boards something of this kind would happen in many instances. He did not think anything should be excluded from the Bill which would enable the Committee, if they thought fit, to insist on the resort to compulsion; and, without this Amendment, it might be objected at a future stage that there were districts in which school Boards could not be formed through any machinery provided by the Bill. He trusted the Committee would consent to provide the machinery by which a sufficient number of persons might demand the formation of a Board, and he therefore moved his Amendment.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, by leaving out from the word "by," in line 3, to the second word "Board," inclusive, in line 4, in order to insert the words "not less than twenty inhabitant householders within such district."—( Mr. Samuelson.)
said, he was sorry he could not accept the Amendment, which entirely departed from the principle of leaving the formation of a school Board to the action of a majority of the ratepayers where there was no educational deficiency. His hon. Friend (Mr. B. Samuelson) would give a minority the power of forming one, and the Government were not prepared to go so far. They said there must be a school Board wherever there was a deficiency, and they were prepared to say that where a majority liked to form one, irrespective of deficiency, they might do so; but they could not say that a minority might do this; and the Department could not take the responsibility of having to decide whether there should be a Board or not in every place in which a minority wished for one and the majority did not
said, he thought there would be great danger in giving a bare majority of the ratepayers power to ask for a school Board. In most country parishes a majority of the ratepayers, who did not pay one-fourth or one-tenth of the total amount of the rates, might, and in some instances would, combine to obtain a rate-aided school, in order to spite the parson, although there might be a good elementary school in the district.
said, he regretted very much that they had not school Boards universally. In case of deficiency of supply there was to be a school Board; but supposing that in certain districts there was a deficiency of demand, and that only one-half of the children attended the school, would it not be necessary in such a case to have a school Board to compel attendance?
said, he conceived that the Committee could not put it in the power of 20 of the ratepayers to override the decision of the majority.
said, he objected to giving power to the majority of the Town Council to make an application to the Education Department for a school Board without obtaining the consent of the ratepayers at large.
said, the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. W. E. Forster's) Amendment would empower the Education Department to call into existence school Boards in places where, so far from there being a deficiency of school accommodation, the existing system had covered the whole ground, and these school Boards might establish another set of schools where education was already perfect.
said, he thought that the noble Lord (Lord John Manners)had misapprehended the observations of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), whose wish was to introduce the principle of compulsion. The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read) spoke of this question as one of rating; but that was entirely a secondary point. These persons were to be looked on not merely as ratepayers, but as the parents of children who had to be educated.
said, he had no intention of suggesting that a district should be forced to rate itself for a school when it was already sufficiently supplied; but the question was raised on Monday evening by the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) whether it was not desirable to have the country divided into districts, with school Boards not for the purpose of making schools where they were not wanted, but for two or three other purposes. The first of those purposes—and it appeared to be the most important in the opinion of the hon. Member, and of other hon. Members—was that there should be some authority able to receive voluntary schools desirous of transferring themselves from the existing to the new system. Another purpose was, that there might be in existence a body with power to pay the school fees for poor children, and a third purpose was to create Boards to initiate by-laws for compulsion. The Government could not consent to compelling the establishment of school Boards throughout the country; but they agreed to allow the majority of a district, acting through its representative body, to apply for a school Board, even when it was not wanted on account of educational deficiency. The Government were not prepared to go further and accept the principle of allowing the minority to decide against the majority, or of giving to the Education Department the discretion to decide between the majority and the minority.
said, he thought the Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster)would carry out the object he had in view; but if the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson) pressed his Amendment to a Division, he should feel bound in consistency to support it.
said, he would oppose the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, as contrary to the principle of the Bill, and likely to put a weapon into the hands of those who wished to destroy existing schools by rating districts for new schools although sufficient school accommodation existed.
said, he wished to know whether the school Board, when called into action by this clause, would have the same power to impose a rate as any other school Board; if not, how would its powers be defined?
replied, that the school Board under this section would no doubt have the power to levy a rate; but he did not think the love of rates was so strong in the minds of the people that they would insist on a rate being levied for providing a school where such school was not wanted. If there should be such a Board with that extraordinary lust for expenditure—and it was objected to—the Privy Council would have the right to refuse the application.
said, he thought that many parishes would not elect such a school Board, because they would be afraid that they might impose a rate.
said, he considered the explanation of his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) perfectly satisfactory. If they had school Boards they must be invested with full powers, and it would be impossible to compel parents to send their children to school if they had to pay for it.
said, from Clause 19, he thought the school Board under this section would not have power to levy a rate.
said, that by the first part of the section school Boards might be called into existence with rating powers, where there was no school accommodation.
said, that his Amendment in Clauses 13 and 18 would give due protection to the ratepayer against the building of schools which were not required.
said, he would suggest that, in the Amendment to the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, for "twenty" "one-fourth" should be substituted.
said, he must admit, on reference to Clause 19, that the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdon (Lord Robert Montagu) was right.
doubted very much whether the Amendment would attain its object.
said, he was prepared to adopt "one-fourth," instead of "twenty." Nothing could be more inconsistent than that provision should be made for schools while no provision was made for compulsory attendance. He was most anxious for the passing of this Bill; but, at the same time, machinery should be adopted for the establishment of school Boards throughout the country.
said, he wished to know if a school Board was formed in order to put the compulsory clause of the Bill into operation with reference to existing schools, whether the managers were to give up the teaching the catechism, creeds, &c.?
said, that if a school Board was formed solely for the purpose of initiating compulsion, and not for the purpose of providing new schools, no new school would be provided by the school Board; and it was only to schools provided by the school Board that the 14th clause applied.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the said proposed Amendment."
The Committee divided:—Ayes 249; Noes 63: Majority 186.
said, he would suggest that in the 2nd paragraph it would be well to substitute the word "informed" for "satisfied," so as to make it more general, for the reason, that at present no information had been afforded to the Committee as to what would "satisfy" the Department in regard to the inability or unwillingness of managers any longer to maintain schools in their districts.
said, he did not think mere information would justify the Education Department in taking action. The Department would have to be "satisfied" not only of the inability or unwillingness of the managers to continue the school, but also that the discontinuance of the school would cause a deficiency in the education of the district. He could not, therefore, adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member.
said, he thought it would be well to adopt a suggestion made the other day by the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter), and leave the Department to take action when satisfied "by the managers," instead of when satisfied "that the managers," &c.
said, the circumstance which led to the necessity of this Amendment was raised by the 22nd clause, which distinctly provided for the transference of voluntary schools to local Boards; and, unless local Boards were called into existence by some such proposition as that of the Vice President of the Council, the Department could not take action until for 12 months the children in parishes had been left without education.
said, he would propose, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in the 3rd paragraph, to leave out the word "may," and insert the word "shall," so as to render it compulsory upon the Department to cause the formation of school Boards in cases where they have received such application from the district, and where they are satisfied that all the public school accommodation required by the final notice to be supplied has not been supplied. He moved this in order that the desire of a district might not be frustrated by the disinclination to act of any Educational Department in the future.
could not accept the Amendment, because he thought it very important the Department should be invested with a certain amount of discretionary power, and the whole clause was based on that supposition.
said, before the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment was finally agreed to, he wished again to say he did not think the right hon. Gentleman could be aware of the extraordinary powers which the Amendment placed in the hands of a bare majority of the ratepayers. It was quite possible in the rural districts for men who did not pay 6d. out of every pound of rating to inflict upon the other and substantial ratepayers the necessity for a rate-aided school, even where a good school now existed. And he saw no provision whatever admitting of an appeal from this decision of a bare majority.
said, the necessity for a rate-aided school would not immediately follow, for the Education Department was to exercise its discretion in the matter. But his hon. Friend (Mr. C. S. Read) was hardly exhibiting his usual clearness of view if he imagined that a majority of ratepayers, who were only worth 6d. in the pound, would be able, in agricultural districts, to force a resolution on the influential minority.
said, they would have the power to do so.
said, he hoped that the Government would adhere to their proposal. It would be a grievous thing if school arrangements, however excellent, but yet which were distasteful to a majority of the ratepayers, were forced upon them.
said, he wished before the Amendment passed to protest against the vicious principle it involved. He had been of opinion that permissive compulsion was bad enough; but permissive school Boards he regarded as infinitely worse. This was exactly one of those timid, feeble compromises which rendered it more difficult to carry out ultimate reforms, and one of these concessions which conceded nothing but what was bad. The Government assumed that the great advantages which they were to confer on the country by this Bill could not be carried out without the establishment of school Boards; and yet, by a curious kind of weakness and semi-paralysis, they decided nothing on this point, but handed over the matter to the conflicting caprice of the local authorities. The experience of the last 30 years showed that permissive legislation of this kind never led to useful results. It would be far better for the Government to say, if they really thought so, that the country was not yet prepared for the general establishment of school Boards, and to wait for two or three years to see what good was done by the experience gained in that time.
said, he looked upon the Amendment of the Government to this clause with considerable suspicion. It would enable a bare majority of the ratepayers at any moment, if animated by petty spite against the clergyman of the parish, or of the persons who had up to that time supported the school, to invoke the interference of the Privy Council, and to change the whole system of education in the particular district. His experience of what occasionally happened in agricultural districts led him to believe that a bare majority of ratepayers might very inadequately represent the feeling and property of the district.
said, he also regarded this as one of the worst Amendments yet proposed. If any chance existed of sectarian disputes being aroused, this was the clause effectually to accomplish that object. He did not, indeed, assert that, in the majority of cases, schools which were now working well were likely to be upset by the vote of a majority, whether of Churchmen or Dissenters; but he knew several cases where such an occurrence would be possible, and, indeed, probable, under the provisions of this clause. The object of the House of Commons, in such a Bill as the present, should be to smooth away difficulties as far as possible, not to place in the hands of a minority of property opportunities for destroying the good which for many years had been done by the owners of property.
said, he took an entirely different position from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had last spoken. His constituency (South Durham) embraced almost every variety of town and country parish; and hence he was exceedingly anxious that nothing should be done to make these educational Boards at present compulsorily universal, for many of the country parishes were well supplied already as to their educational needs. But in the large towns, where there was sufficient school accommodation but not attendance, compulsory powers of education were imperatively required, and unless there were school Boards those compulsory powers could not be put in operation. In the majority of country parishes, as long as a good school existed, and the necessary funds for education were forthcoming, the ratepayers would not be very anxious to upset the arrangements and take the burden on themselves; but in large towns, where men were earning good wages—from 26s. to 30s. a week—and all the time were allowing their families to run ragged about the streets, it was time for the House to step in and lay down rules which, if they increased the rates at first, would ultimately, it was to be hoped, diminish poor rates, and pauperism, and gaol expenditure, from the combined effects of which the country, at present, was suffering so heavily. Even if the little men did swamp the big men for a time, in the long run the big men would reap the benefit. In a town in his county, where the lower classes were mostly earning large wages, only 1,800 children attended school, though there was accommodation for 2,600.
said, the proposal could not be so guarded as to prevent parochial agitation. The schoolmaster in a parish might be a very pleasant man, who made himself free and easy and sang a comic song, and the managers of his school, thinking his teaching was doing no good, might dismiss him. He would at once get up a cabal, and call a meeting of the ratepayers in order to memorialize the Education Department in favour of a school Board; no doubt the result would be that when the Educa- tion Inspector went down he would snub the memorialists; but, in the meantime, the parish would have had a twelvemonth's discontent and quarrelling. In honest hands the clause might be an engine of improvement; but in the hands of jobbers, pettifoggers, and parochial factions, it might be the cause of much mischief.
said, he objected to the clause, because it was likely to be inoperative, as other legislation on country matters had been. The Bill was a thoroughly bad one from beginning to end, and its framers either did not know their own minds, or, if they did, endeavoured to trim and to box the compass in order to conciliate, while if they had principles they dared not avow them. It was said that the time would come when the number of paupers would be less and crime diminished; but he asked hon. Members to state what was the result of their 30 years' experience and the expenditure of several millions of money. The answer to his inquiries was that no benefit had been derived from the education that had been given at such cost and with such pretence. He disapproved the scheme of this Bill, which would, by planting parish schools, prevent parents from employing the teachers for whom they had a preference.
said, the apprehensions of the hon. Members for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) and West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) were not without some foundation, for it was quite possible that ill-feeling might arise between the parishioners on the one side and the squire or the clergyman on the other, which might lead to some practical difficulty under this clause. Two arguments might be used in answer; there was, first, the disinclination of parishioners to increased rates; and, secondly, the effect of any applications would be to give to the Education Department authority to say whether the prayer of the memorialists should be conceded. He had not yet heard any sufficient explanation as to the reason for the change, nor what it was expected to produce.
was obliged to the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) for bringing the Committee back to a practical matter. Hon. Members who had taken part in the discussion looked rather to rural districts, and forgot that the Bill would also affect towns. One object of the Amendment was to save time, for he anticipated that in many cases towns would wish that school Boards should be formed at once, and in such case he would permit them to come within the operation of the Bill. Again, many clergymen had written to him, saying—"We have been undergoing a labour which we cannot perform any longer; out of a scanty purse we have supplied education to the neighbourhood, while those around us did not do their duty—you provide that we shall be relieved, but in order to get that relief we must create destitution, and that we do not want to do;" and in such cases he would prevent the school being stopped. He could only tell the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) that he never knew his own mind more completely than at this time, his single object being to provide education for every child in the kingdom, and to do that he would use existing agencies, but where there was none he would have recourse to compulsion. That principle they must apply sooner or later; but he thought it would not be safe to use it at present in every district throughout the country, this being one of the cases in which it was desirable to allow persons to try an experiment, in the belief that the experience gained would lead to such an expression of public opinion that the plan could be extended throughout the country. These were some of the reasons, in addition to that which had been given by the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter), which had induced him to propose this Amendment, and he was glad that this opportunity had been afforded him for clearly stating his views upon the point.
said, he objected strongly to the principle of compulsion being introduced into the measure.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 11 (Provision of schools by school Board).
said, he would propose to omit this clause. After the acceptance of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert), it was unnecessary.
Clause struck out.
Clauses 12 and 13 amended, and agreed to.
Clause 14 (Management of school by school Board).
, in rising to move the Amendment which stood upon the Paper in his name, said, that the effect of it, if adopted, would be to strike out the 2nd sub-section of the clause and to restore the Bill, as far as related to legislative interference with religious teaching in rate-provided schools, to the state in which it was when it was first introduced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Forster). Since the measure had been introduced a very important change had been effected in this part of the Bill. He was aware, of course, that in a measure of this kind hon. Members must be prepared for changes being effected in it as the discussion upon it proceeded, and when the necessity for them was shown; but he contended that in this case no necessity whatever had been shown for the large and important alteration that had been made by the Government. The principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman on introducing the Bill was one of considerable importance. He had then referred to some resolutions that had been passed at a meeting presided over by the Bishop of Ely, adopting the principle of the Conscience Clause on the part of many who had previously objected to it, with the understanding that there should be perfect freedom of religious teaching on the one hand, and perfect freedom of withdrawal on the other; and that, the right hon. Gentleman had then said, was the principle of this measure. He need not remind hon. Members that the Conscience Clause had long been a difficulty to himself and to other Churchmen. They had not objected to the imposition of a Conscience Clause; but their feeling was, that a Conscience Clause having been imposed the State should not interfere to prescribe how much or how little religion should be taught in a school when those children on whose part objection was taken had withdrawn. When the Government came and announced that their proposal for a settlement of the question was, that there should be perfect freedom of religious teaching on the one hand, with perfect freedom of withdrawal on the other, that was accepted by the Church party as a fair settlement. But suddenly, and at a very late stage of the proceedings, a very great change had taken place. The Government, while adhering to one-half of their original proposition—namely, that there should be perfect liberty of withdrawal—departed from the other half by introducing in the case of rate - supported schools an absolute prohibition of anything in the way of denominational education. In principle, though not in words, the prohibition went to that extent. That was an enormous change. The Prime Minister himself had admitted it to be so, because a few nights ago he said the Government were calling on the Church party to make a great sacrifice, in asking them to give up the power of teaching the Catechism even where the majority of the ratepayers would be in favour of having it taught. Even when those children who objected had withdrawn there was a prohibition against the teaching of any formularies to those who remained and did not object. This was undoubtedly a very strong demand to make, though it did not follow that it was not one that ought to be conceded. If any real necessity for such a demand were shown to exist, of course those who were staggered by it were bound to consider what that demand amounted to. But was there any real necessity for it? He did not introduce this as a party question, or with a wish to thwart the Bill. He merely wished to put it forward as a matter of argument. If there was any necessity, what was it? They were told it was demanded by the rights of conscience. Whose conscience? Was it the conscience of the children? He thought he might assume it was not. Had not the hon. and learned Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham), in his able speech on the second reading, admitted that a well-drawn Conscience Clause would be sufficient to protect the children? True, the hon. and learned Member was not satisfied with the Conscience Clause then. [Mr. WINTERBOTHAM: Nor am I now.] Well, if the Conscience Clause, as it now stood, was defective, perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman would show in what respect it was so. It was as stringent as the Committee thought they could make it; but if it were not sufficiently stringent the hon. and learned Member for Stroud, or any other hon. Gentleman who thought with him, could bring forward a proposal for making it still more stringent. The testimony of the Government and of the Committee was that the Conscience Clause, as now framed, did adequately protect the consciences of the children; but if it did not, how did the Government and the Committee justify themselves in leaving the children in the voluntary schools with no other protection than that Conscience Clause? If they were left depending on that clause the children in the rate-supported schools would not be in a worse position than the children in the voluntary schools. To ask that the former should have additional protection over and above that provided for the children in the latter appeared to him out of the question. This reminded him of what was said by Charles Lamb of Achilles—that he had not only an invulnerable skin but invulnerable armour placed upon it. If the Conscience Clause was a sufficient protection in the voluntary schools, let not the Government say there ought to be a further protection in the rate-supported schools by the prohibition of the teaching of formularies. It was said, however, that it was not for the sake of the children, but for that of the ratepayers, that this additional protection was required. It was asked—"Why should any ratepayer be obliged to contribute towards religious teaching which he did not approve?" His reply was—"If it is so necessary to protect the conscience of the ratepayer, why should there not be equal consideration for the conscience of the taxpayer?" ["Hear, hear!"] He understood the cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who held that there should be no religious teaching in any school to which either the ratepayers or the taxpayers contributed. He recognized the logical position of those Gentlemen so far as to admit that their conclusion followed from their premises; but he might dissent from their premises. He was not, however, arguing with them, but with those who supported the proposition in the Bill, and conceded to the ratepayers a right which they did not concede to the taxpayers. He confessed that he could not see any good ground for the distinction. The position of the ratepayers, if treated by the Bill in the same manner as the taxpayers with respect to the Conscience Clause, would be even more favourable. They would be affected in a smaller area and, besides, they would be able to give effect to their views in the appointment of managers and, consequently, in the management of the schools. He would leave to the managing bodies the decision whether or not formularies were to be taught in their schools. The different Conscience Clauses proposed from time to time had been under discussion for 10 or 15 years; but he did not think that this question of the prohibition of formularies in schools in which there was to be a Conscience Clause had ever been discussed by the country at large. He said, in the first place, that the consciences of the ratepayers did not deserve to be respected more than those of the taxpayers; and, next, if they claimed the same right for the taxpayers as for the ratepayers, he asked whether it was really meant that nobody ought to pay rates or taxes for the support of anything which in his conscience he disapproved? Because, if they meant to say that, they would have to carry their principle very far. He took it that the taxes paid by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) were applied to many purposes which that hon. Gentleman conscientiously disapproved; and he suspected also that the advocates of the prohibition of the liquor traffic would be sorely put to it if asked whether in their consciences they approved all the purposes to which the taxes towards which they contributed were devoted. Again, it was said they desired to respect the consciences of those who objected to the teaching of religious formularies; but were they paying equal respect to the consciences of those who desired the teaching of those formularies? He feared they were leaving the consciences of those people out of view altogether. The provision they sought to enforce might operate cruelly on people whose consciences were as much entitled to be respected as those of the persons they were considering. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had told them he had received many communications from the clergy in the country saying that they found the burden of supporting their schools too great, and that they desired to transfer those schools to the rates; and, for himself, he had no doubt that in many cases that was so And what would be the consequence? Why, that in those schools, however much the ratepayers might be of one mind—however much they might wish the religious instruction still to be carried on as it hitherto had been, they would be prohibited from the use of those catechisms and formularies in which their children had been for years instructed. And what was the ground on which that prohibition rested? Because it hurt the imaginary conscience of some one else that some of the money which he paid went for the support of religious teaching that he did not approve. The ground was not that the teaching was forced on some of the objector's co-religionists—that one might understand—but that it was offered to some other persons who desired to have it, and his complaint was that his money was taken for the purpose of giving their children that teaching. His complaint was that his money being taken by the State for the general promotion of education—for that was the main object—it so happened that collaterally a portion of it went for education in a way that many other people desired; and for that reason, forsooth, such religious instruction was not to be given! He put it to the Vice President of the Council himself whether, in his conscience, he thought that was dealing out equal measure to those who wished for instruction in religious formularies and to those who did not? Because, it let be remembered those who did not wish for such instruction would have it always in their power to withdraw their children from it, while those who did wish for it would be put in a position of considerable disadvantage. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, no doubt expressed his own deliberate conviction when he enunciated the principle which they on that side all heard with pleasure, but which had since been rudely departed from—namely, the principle that there should be perfect freedom of religious teaching on the one hand, counterbalanced by perfect freedom of withdrawal on the other. But it had been urged that it was desirable to pass a measure of that sort for the sake of peace, and that religious squabbles in the local Boards were to be deprecated. Now, he did not undervalue the importance of peace; but he asked whether the clause, as it stood, would really conduce to it? It seemed to him that if any clause could have been framed more likely than another to lead to heart-burnings and litigious quarrels, it was this one. It was most difficult to understand and construe it. It was not merely a question of the disputes that might arise at particular times, such as at the election of the school Board, when there might be a struggle as to which party should have the predominance; but he said that throughout the whole working of the school, at every turn and corner, they might have questions raised that would cause very serious embarrassment. He looked upon the insertion of those words as a regular trap, because what did they do? They absolutely prohibited the use of any catechisms or formularies that were distinctive of any particular religious denomination. What were religious catechisms they might understand; but what was a "religious formulary?" And what, again, was a religious formulary that was "distinctive of any particular denomination?" When acute and litigious minds set to work to construe those terms, they might depend upon it that all sorts of questions and disputes would spring up. What was a formulary? Was a prayer a formulary? Was a creed or was a hymn a formulary? These were all questions that might be argued; and if it was admitted that these were formularies—as, indeed, could hardly be denied—all kinds of difficulties would arise. Take the case of a hymn. It had been stated that, although Dissenting communities might have no creeds or catechisms like those of the Established Church, yet a great deal of their theology was conveyed in the form of hymns, some of which were of a highly doctrinal character indeed. Well, suppose some person, objecting to the strong Calvinistic tone of the hymns taught to the children, raised the question whether those hymns were not religious formularies, according to that clause, and formularies, moreover, distinctive of a particular denomination. That was only a sample of the number of questions that might arise. How were they to settle what was a formulary distinctive of any particular religious denomination? They were told that the Apostles' Creed did not come within that definition, because it was not distinctive of any particular denomination, being accepted by so many different denominations. Take the Athanasian Creed. Was that, or was it not, a formulary dis- tinctive of any particular denomination? It was distinctive of more than one denomination. He did not know that anybody proposed to teach the children the Athanasian Creed; but in answering an argument it was necessary to keep to the same line as the argument followed. In very many cases the same question would arise. Was a formulary to be prohibited that was common to two or three religious denominations but not held by others? Or was it necessary to take those which were adopted by all? If so, they would have to come to something like Pope's Universal Prayer, because they must have regard not only to Christians, but to other denominations besides, and they would find many of their formularies objected to not only by various Protestant denominations, but by the Roman Catholics, by the Unitarians, by the Jews, and possibly also by persons of even a wider range of religious difference than that. The clause, therefore, did not lead to peace, and there was no necessity on that ground for adopting it. But it was said that it was necessary for the sake of conciliating the Nonconformists generally, or some sections of them, whose aid was requisite to pass that Bill. Now, he asked the Government whether they held the one main object to be simply to pass the Bill, or whether it was not rather to work the Bill when it had passed; and whether they were not sacrificing a great deal of future for the sake of a comparatively small present advantage? Certainly, hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House had shown every disposition to co-operate with the Government as far as possible, not only in passing the Bill, but in an honest desire to work it afterwards. And one great reason for that had been the conviction which had spread among those persons in the country, whom hon. Gentlemen on his side usually represented, that the Government were honest and sincere in the professions with which they introduced that Bill. He appealed, then, to the Government whether it was not worth making some little sacrifice of goodwill on the part even of some of their own supporters to preserve that feeling intact! What was the character and essence of the religious difficulty? He believed it was want of confidence—that was to say, want of confidence on the part of one denomination in the honest intentions of another. The Nonconformists would admit freely enough in argument that the teaching of the Church in the schools might be so conducted as in no way to violate the consciences of the Dissenters; but they were afraid it would be so worked as to produce proselytism and antagonism to Dissent. On the other hand, there was a confession on the part of Churchmen that the claim of the Dissenters that their children should not be compelled to learn what their parents did not believe was itself a reasonable claim; but they had a suspicion as to that proposed interference on the part of the State to prevent such compulsion, because they had no confidence that the State would stop at what it professed was its main object, but feared that it would carry matters further. Now, there could be nothing more calculated to increase that want of confidence, or to nip in the bud the confidence that was beginning to grow up than the sudden change of policy of the Government, without any apparent necessity, on such an important matter as religious teaching. Those on his side had been led to believe that the Government would grant in the largest sense of the word perfect freedom of religious teaching; but now they suddenly found, when they were far advanced in the controversy, and when they had given up much, only on the understanding and conviction that the Government were sincere, that a great change was made in their policy. They saw little or nothing to account for that change on the part of the Government except the pressure of their supporters, and he feared that those who had got so much were not likely to be content with that, but would wish to go further. What the Government had given up was only an indication of what they would surrender in future years, and he was afraid such speeches as that made the other night by the Secretary of State for the Home Department were not calculated to restore confidence. People would say there was something more behind, and that this was only the beginning of a great change. Anything more calculated to shake the confidence which had before prevailed, and to destroy the good work that had been done than the change which had been made he could not conceive. He would earnestly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in his capacity of Chief Minister of Education, which he practically was, and as one who had the interests of education at heart, to re-establish that confidence which he did so much to create, but which recently he had done much to shake, by restoring the clause to its original shape. He begged to move, in line 19, after "conducted," to insert "as a public elementary school within the meaning of this Act," with the view, if the Amendment were carried, to move another Amendment subsequently, the object of which would be to get rid of the new portions of the clause inserted by the Vice President of the Committee of Council, to which he had expressed his objections.
In line 19, after the word "conducted," to insert the words "as a public elementary school within the meaning of this Act."—(Sir Stafford Northcote.)
said, that he had listened with great attention to the argument of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), and if he understood it correctly, it led to almost exactly the same point as that of the hon. and learned Member for Stroud (Mr. Winterbotham), that there were only two courses open to them—that they should either give denominational education or no religious education at all. That might be a logical argument and conclusion; but he believed the practical conclusion they would arrive at was that there was a medium course. The question really was, whether the Government had not three methods open to them? The Bill, as it originally stood, could never have been accepted, because it would have left the majority in any school district to force their particular religious tenets on the minority. Then there was the plan of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) of having merely a plan of secular education; and, lastly, there was the plan of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple), which he called a medium course, that of having religious education, but from which creeds, catechisms, and formularies should be left out. The latter was the course which commended itself to the people of this country. It might not be the logical conclusion; but he believed it was the practical conclusion. He knew it was the conclusion arrived at by the great majority of his own constituents, especially in the country, who said to him—"Avoid by all means the extreme secularism of the hon. Member for Stroud; but we are perfectly willing to give up formularies and catechisms in our schools." He might mention that he attended a meeting lately at the Westminster Palace Hotel, where there were assembled 20 schoolmasters of the National schools, 20 of the Wesleyan schools, and 20 of the British and Foreign schools; and it was found that, apart from the teaching of their catechisms, their teaching from the Bible was identical. If this principle were not adopted what would be the position of the Church of England children in Wales, where only one-ninth of the population belonged to the Church of England? The Dissenters would there form a majority of the Boards; and, Dissenter as he was, he was struck with the strong feeling against the Church that animated the Dissenters in Wales, and yet it was to them that the teaching of the children of the Church of England in Wales would be handed over by the right hon. Baronet's Amendment. So in the Eastern counties—where the Church of England occupied a very prominent position—the children of Dissenters would be handed over to the teaching of the Church, without any check. As a Dissenter, he felt an objection to hand over the children of Dissenters to the teaching of the Church of England; but, at the same time, he felt that the great Scripture truths of religion were the birthright of every English child, and that they could be taught without creeds or formularies. The only fault he had to find with the plan was, that it did not go far enough—that it did not prohibit a master from teaching the doctrines of a particular creed out of the Bible, though not written in any catechism. But he knew the difficulty of doing this, and he had every confidence in the good sense of the country, and in the sagacity and discretion of the schoolmaster. He was much struck on reading in the newspapers an extract from the will of that great man who was buried the other day in Westminster Abbey, and whose open grave was visited from morning to night by crowds of all creeds and classes, who testified their respect for his memory by taking flowers, the gentlemen from their button holes and the ladies from their bosoms, and throwing them into the grave. The words of Ms will were—
What Dickens believed to be sufficient for the guidance of his children was also sufficient for the teaching of the children of the whole country."I exhort my children to guide their lives by the teachings of the New Testament in its broad spirit, and to put no faith in any man's narrow construction of its letter."
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down gave as his reason for supporting the proposal of the Government, that it was equally opposed to both extremes. But in this he was mistaken, for though it excluded denominational it did not exclude secular teaching. It permitted secular teaching if the school Board were inclined towards it; what it prevented was denominational teaching, however much the school Board might be in its favour. Now, was that fair, was that just? The hon. Member said that he reposed confidence in the good sense and good feeling of the people of this country: so also did he, and for that reason he supported the Amendment of his right hon. Friend. Two essential principles were at stake in this proposal—the principle of religious freedom and the principle of local self-government, both of which were violated by the clause as it now stood. If those to whom the duty of providing for the educational wants of a district were intrusted were of opinion that a Roman Catholic school, a Congregational school—one of that newly-favoured class of British and Foreign schools, or a Church of England school were needed, why, in the name of religious freedom, he asked, should they not have the power of establishing such a school? The right of every person to withdraw his child from a school of which he did not approve was secured by a Conscience Clause, and a further power lay in the hands of the Government of supplementing any deficiency or remedying any injustice that might be occasioned by the action of the local authority. But the proposal of the Government struck at the freedom of religious education; and it was a mistake to suppose that the Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) involved any compulsion upon the school Boards to establish religious teaching. As to the second head—the freedom of local self-government, a principle upon which he supposed they were all agreed—could there be a more direct infringement of that principle than was contained in the present proposals of Her Majesty's Government? So little confidence did they exhibit in the wisdom, discretion, and fairness of the school Boards to be created under the Bill, that they actually tied up and fettered their discretion beforehand on the points where their local knowledge could act with most effect. The school Boards were virtually told that they might make their choice between establishing schools as nearly as possible on the basis of the British and Foreign schools, or establishing purely secular schools, which latter at the same time they were told by the mouth of the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education nobody wanted and nobody would stand. If the Amendment of his right hon. Friend were carried, there was no reason to believe that there would be any more dissension or difficulty in the election of these school Boards than there would be under the clause proposed by Her Majesty's Government. That clause had been originally commended as a proposal of peace to prevent those unpleasant discussions and difficulties which the Government foresaw. How had that proposal been received? He had not counted the Amendments standing on the Notice Book; but he did not exaggerate when he stated that there were at least half-a-dozen proposals to restrict still further the licence which the Bill gave to the local Boards. The strong probability was, that even the present proposals of the Government would not give that peace and insure that absence of polemical strife which the Government anticipated. Gentlemen below the Gangway did not even profess to be satisfied with the clause as it stood; and if such was the feeling within the House, where, after all, Gentlemen spoke with a certain moderation and regard for the views of others with whom they might not agree, they could conceive the state of feeling out-of-doors, where, in reality, the fight was going forward. Every Gentleman daily received communications from the central committee, sitting in Birmingham and speaking the voice of 5,000 or 6,000 Nonconformist ministers, which declared that they were no more satisfied with this proposal of the Government than with the clause in the original Bill. What, then, was gained by concession? Nothing whatever. The gentlemen out-of-doors and the Gentlemen in the House who represented them were both dissatisfied, and the question was left over to what some feared—but he did not—the agitation of the autumn. By actively interfering in favour of the establishment of a particular class of schools, a Parliamentary imprimatur was given to them, while a Parliamentary ban was placed upon schools conducted on any other basis. Was this a duty which Parliament wished to take upon itself, or should not its motto rather be "a fair field and no favour?" The present Bill would undoubtedly give great additional facilities to rate-established schools, enabling them to take land compulsorily and to borrow money from the Public Works Loan Commissioners. The rate-established schools, in fact, were set up on a sort of pinnacle, and held out as a sort of model for the country to follow. But this was clearly a departure from the original intentions both of the Government and of the Bill; and he gave his cordial support to the Amendment of his right hon. Friend as an attempt in one important particular to revert to them.
said, his right hon. Friend opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) had asked him two questions—first, why he had made this change? and, secondly, did he believe that it would work? In his remarks prefatory to the first question, his right hon. Friend had done him the honour of alluding to his remarks made at the time the Bill was brought forward, to the effect that the Government adopted the principle of perfect liberty of teaching in schools, combined with perfect liberty of withdrawal. His right hon. Friend, he felt sure, would bear witness that in making those remarks he was treating in that part of his address of the Conscience Clause, and of all the schools which were established on the voluntary system. To that principle the Government had adhered; they had not attempted to impose on schools established by individuals or by members of any religious denominations restrictions upon the liberty of teaching. But his right hon. Friend would remember that, in the remarks with which he then troubled the House, he drew a great distinction between the schools set up by voluntary action and those compulsorily established by the ratepayers. In answer to the questions put by his right hon. Friend, he would say that the reason for the alteration now proposed was that the Government believed the Bill would work more easily with these provisions than without them. The noble Lord (Lord John Manners) had referred to two great principles—impartiality of treatment of different religious bodies and freedom of local municipal action. He would not deny that, apparently and in theory, the first of these principles had been somewhat departed from, though he believed not in fact; and, to a certain extent, the other principle had been limited. He believed that it would have been wise to have trusted to these two principles, particularly the second one; and that if the Bill had been passed in its original form the anticipated dissensions would have disappeared, as they generally did when Englishmen had practical work to do. However, it was the duty of the Government not merely to see what would eventually work, but what would be the immediate result of imposing a very difficult task on the country. No one could doubt that the discussions in that House, and the expressions of opinion in the country, had greatly increased the probability of religious disputes in the Boards. What weighed most with the Government was the evident reluctance of those bodies who would have constituted the school Boards to take upon themselves the unfettered discretion of dealing with the religious question. One remarkable illustration of this was afforded by the deputation which waited upon him from the Town Council of Manchester, a city which was pre-eminent for the interest it took in the education question. That deputation was composed of gentlemen belonging to all parties, and it was their unanimous desire that absolute discretion should not be left to them. Deputations from metropolitan Vestries expressed a similar desire, and it was evident that that was the feeling prevalent throughout the country. In his belief, if we had left unlimited discretion to those parties their patriotism would have proved equal to the occasion, and they would have dispelled their own fears; but the Government had to consider whether it would be right to impose upon them a responsibility they were unwilling to bear. This was the chief reason why the Government thought it necessary to make some change, and the next question was, as to what change should be made. In the first place, they might have taken the course advocated by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, and have fettered the discretion of the Boards more than was now proposed by declaring positively that there should be some religious teaching in the schools. The Government felt, however, that by doing so they would, in all probability, greatly injure the cause of religion. The forcing of religious teaching on the local Boards would have given strength and power to the small minority who now disapproved it, and an opposition to religious teaching would have been created in quarters where no such feeling at present existed. On the other hand, the Government might have established purely secular schools, but they felt such a course would be contrary to the sense and feeling of the country; and he must express his delight that such was the case. Again, the Government had to take into consideration the clearly expressed desire of the country for what was called unsectarian education. Then came the question as to how far they ought to attempt to realize that desire? Some of his hon. Friends thought the Government had not gone far enough; but the Government did not know what scheme to propose that would really go further. On examining the reasons why there was so strong a feeling in favour of unsectarian education, these two facts appeared. First of all, there was a general belief that theological dogmatic teaching was unsuitable for children; and here he could not help expressing his opinion that throughout these debates they had been thinking that they were legislating for themselves rather than for little children. A man in the full possession of his faculties could not have religious sentiments, feelings, or opinions without their being expressed in some kind of dogmatic form; but this was not the case with regard to children. Even in schools where the teachers professed to give strong catechetical instruction, it would be found that they dwelt chiefly on moral and spiritual lessons and historical facts, and not on theogical teaching. He now came to what he thought was the great justification of the change introduced by the Government. Why was there an objection in the country to catechisms and special formularies? It was not so much on account of the actual words of the catechisms and formularies, but because the putting of them into the hands of children appeared to be like claiming those children as belonging to a particular Church. This circumstance induced the Government to propose the exclusion of catechisms and special formularies in cases where the aid of the ratepayers was called in. Deputation after deputation, composed of clergymen of the Church of England and Dissenting ministers, had come to him and said they thought it would be better for religion and in the interest of their particular forms of religion if Bible teaching were allowed in the schools, but not catechisms and formularies. These were the grounds on which the Government had proposed the change. He felt bound to admit, however, that he still thought the original principle was the sound one.
said, he must confess he was much disappointed with the explanation of his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster), which seemed to amount to this—"The course we propose will work easier, and it will pass the Bill better." When the Bill was introduced its principle was to allow the utmost liberty of action to all. There was no liberty or licence given to anyone by this variation from the original Bill; all that it did was to cut off a privilege. He must take issue on what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) said in respect to the difference between the education to be given to grown persons and to children. He certainly agreed with him that the depths of dogmatic teaching which were good for adults were not fitted for children. But a child from the commencement of its education to its completion was the same human being, and that to say that at a certain age dogmatic teaching was wholesome and necessary, but before that time unnecessary, was to create a difference which could not properly be maintained. This clause he (Mr. Beresford Hope) considered to be a violation of that religious liberty which ought to be the principle of the Bill. It fettered the hands of the school Boards upon a matter in which they ought to be allowed the most perfect freedom. Dilemma and deadlock were stamped upon the face of this amended clause, for it implied that the local Boards could not be relied upon to organize, when they pleased, a system of dogmatic education. If school Boards were not absolutely to be trusted, they were not the proper organization for carrying on education throughout the country. His advice was that we should trust to local action and local inspection, and not tie up their hands. Amongst the proposed objects of the Bill was that of absorbing the existing voluntary schools into the general system; but if the clause, as now framed, were adopted, the effect would be to prevent that object being carried out.
said, it was not his intention to take part in the discussion they were now engaged in. He only wished to refer to one observation made by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, as to the reasons of the Government for the concession they had made on this question. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that those concessions had not been made in consequence of what had fallen from himself or from those with whom he acted on the question of education. Now that might be quite true, and it was a matter of complete indifference to him what the motives of the Government might be, provided they arrived at the conclusion which he wished them to adopt. His right hon. Friend had intimated that he had given way to the representations of the Manchester Town Council; but he wished his right hon. Friend to observe that one thing which he (Mr. Dixon) had stated from the commencement of these discussions was that the Government did not properly understand what the feeling of the country was on the subject. He and those with, whom he acted pointed out that the course which the Government were taking was directly at variance with what they believed to be the feeling of the country, and it now appeared that the Government after all discovered that they were right, and accordingly yielded to the views which had been expressed by the Town Council of Manchester. Having found out that he and those who shared his opinions were right upon one point, he wished the Government would take into their consideration the question whether they might not be right upon other points also—whether the Government might not still in reality be wrong, and whether they might not have missed the true sentiments of the country, which were growing in the direction the Government did not seem inclined to take. At any rate, he, speaking on his own behalf, and feeling that he represented the views of many in that House as well as of a large number of persons out-of-doors, would not assume the responsibility of supporting the clause as it now stood.
Sir, before I say a word on the subject of the Motion before the Committee, I should wish to refer to the observations of my hon. Friend who has just sat down. My hon. Friend has entirely misapprehended what fell from my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. W. E. Forster). It appears to the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend spoke with some disrespect of the arguments which he advanced on the second reading of the Bill; but all that he said was, that the manifestations of feeling in the country upon this question have had more weight in convincing the Government than the arguments of my hon. Friend or those immediately around him, and undoubtedly that was the case. It is obvious that this is a question in which the Government have been influenced not so much by considerations of logical consistency, as by a regard to the wants and sentiments of the people at large, and I am sure there was nothing in the observations of my right hon. Friend which can fairly be construed as disrespectful to the hon. Gentleman. With regard to the immediate question before the Committee, I feel I have no reason whatever to complain of the Motion of my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), nor of the time that has been occupied, or may be occupied in the discussion of it, because this is, in fact, the first occasion upon which the right hon. Baronet's views on this question have been distinctly developed. We have had almost every other possible view elaborated, but this is the first time the right hon. Baronet has had a fair opportunity of expressing the views which he recommends the Committee to adopt. My right hon. Friend opposite has certainly stated those views with great force and clearness. At the same time I hope I may be permitted to remind the Com- mittee that this is the ninth night of the discussion of the religious difficulty, that we are within one hour and three-quarters of the time when one moiety of the year 1870 will have passed away, that the Session is rapidly drawing to its close, and that the lapse of time at this period of the Session necessarily of itself tends to endanger the passing of a measure of this magnitude. Well, that being so, I shall endeavour to direct my remarks towards abbreviating the general discussion. It is not possible for me to look at the Motion of my right hon. Friend opposite without considering also the many other Motions that are to come. All these Motions are attempts to alter vitally in one sense or another the proposal of the Government. I say vitally not because I think there is either in the speech or the Motion of my right hon. Friend anything in principle that is to be condemned, on the contrary, I hold, in unison with my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council, that the principle which the right hon. Baronet advocates is sound and defensible. But the Government have to look to other considerations besides those of theoretical preference. After much delay and inquiry we have arrived at a certain conclusion, which, on our responsibility, we recommend as being practicable and for the advantage of the country, and it is in that sense only that I say the proposal of my right hon. Friend opposite expresses what is vitally different from the proposal of the Government—that is to say, with respect to the practical issues now pending. But his is not the only proposal we have to consider. It is impossible for us to consider the proposal of my right hon. Friend without reference to the others, and our position in resisting his can hardly be appreciated unless it is considered with reference to the similar position we must take in regard to the others. The right hon. Baronet says—"Go back to the Bill as it originally stood;" he says it gave a larger liberty to the teaching of religion than the measure now proposes to give. Now, that statement does not admit of being controverted. The change which the Government has made in deference to the state of circumstances in which we find ourselves, produced by the manifestation of the feeling of the country, is undoubtedly a change in abridgment and not one in extension of liberty. And that abridgment is, I admit, not so much on the side of secular as of religious teaching. These are facts which cannot be disputed. But this Motion, as I have said, must be considered in connection with the others of which Notice has been given. Looking at them all, I am almost induced to exclaim, in the language of Caligula or Nero—I really forget which—"Oh, that they had but one head that I might cut it off at one stroke!" However different in their individualities, these Motions are all alike inadmissible by the Government in reference to the position in which we stand. They all involve the abandonment of ground which we have taken up, and to which we have committed ourselves in the face of the country; which we adopted after full consideration, and after fully weighing all the opinions laid before us, when we were in possession of all the circumstances of the case, and with respect to which, consequently, we have cut off from ourselves all liberty of further essential change. This is understood not only by us, but by the House at large, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) this evening founded an argument upon the fact that the Government had announced in substance its final proposals—remarking—
We have before us the proposal of my right hon. Friend. Another is to be recommended in the shape of a compulsory use of the Bible in all schools; another in the form of the permissive use of the Bible to the extent of reading only; and another in the form of a permissive use of the Bible, with a limited faculty of exposition. That limited faculty of exposition has been described by some as the system of the British and Foreign School Society, and it has been said—I think inaccurately—by the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners), that the system of that society is the one which Parliament is going to establish in the rate schools. If that be so, let us consider what it is. We are about to be invited to provide by Act of Parliament that the exposition of the Bible in the schools shall be undenominational and unsecta- rian; or if these epithets are not to be revived, others still more stringent and trenchant are to be used in their place, and it is to be asked of us that in an Act of Parliament we shall impose these fetters upon the exposition of the Bible in schools. My right hon. Friend near me (Mr. W. E. Forster) has said that the Government sympathized with the desire for unsectarian teaching in schools, and I am prepared to support that statement in what I conceive to be its true sense—namely, it is our wish that the exposition of the Bible in schools should take its natural course; that it should be confined to the simple and devout method of handling which is adapted to the understanding and characters of children; but we do not admit that that simple and devout character of teaching can be secured by an attempt to exclude all reference to tenets and doctrines. That is an exclusion which cannot be effected, and, if it could, it ought not to be; it is an invasion of the freedom of religious teaching such as ought not to be tolerated in this country; and those who attempt to sustain it in argument, whether as between party and party in this House, or whether as between one branch of the Legislature and another, will find themselves shattered and discomfited the moment they attempt to bring to the tribunal of reason a proposition to establish by law a system so forced and unnatural as a definition of that kind would make it. I draw the strongest and broadest possible distinction between such an attempt to define what is undefinable—such an attempt to settle by words in an Act of Parliament what no words in an Act of Parliament can reach—and the practical object we have in view of giving to the course of instruction in schools that natural tendency, that natural flow, which my right hon. Friend has described, and which, we think, will be in a great degree—and almost as an universal rule—attained by the provision which now stands in the Bill. When I said just now that it was a mistake to say that Parliament was about to legislate in the sense of the British and Foreign School Society, I meant with reference to the manner in which the authority of that society has been cited for the purpose of warranting this legal interference with the freedom of teaching. Has the British and Foreign School Society itself found it practicable to provide that there shall be no exposition of Scripture in its schools, or, to use the remarkable words of an Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), that such exposition or teaching—"The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council has informed us there were to be no substantial Amendments after those which he offered to us."
That may be practicable, or it may not; but do not let the authority of the society be quoted in its favour, because here is the principle which the British and Foreign School Society regards as fundamental with regard to Scriptural teaching—"Shall not be used or directed in favour of or against the distinctive tenets of any religious denomination?"
A second rule is—"That in all schools established in connection with, or assisted by the society, the Holy Scriptures, in the authorized version, or extracts there-from shall be read and taught daily"
Whatever its desire may be, the British and Foreign School Society has found it impossible, in its general rules, to go beyond that very point—beyond the language in which the Committee is invited to legislate—namely, to provide for the reading of the Scriptures, and to exclude the use of catechisms and distinctive formularies, but not beyond that to impose limitations upon the freedom of teaching. If we are to have teachers who are really to teach religion, that religion must spring out of their own hearts and consciences, and it will not submit to be confined by definitions so artificial and unreal as these. How is a conscientious man to determine what are the motives by which he may support the precepts of Scripture when he is dealing with a child. He must, when he finds occasion, refer to the motive of fear, to the motive of hope, and, above all, to the motive of love, and it is impossible that he can speak of any one of these motives without exposing himself to a doubt which, as an honourable man, he will deeply feel, and cannot submit to—whether the manner in which he finds it necessary to appeal to one or other of these motives is, or is not, involving him in the distinctive tenets of any religious denomination. The commonest justice requires—if these men are not meant to be mere serfs, but honourable and Christian men—that if they are to work under such a system, you shall undertake beforehand to define for their guidance what are those tenets which they are to avoid, and what are the limits of those pastures within which they are to be permitted to expatiate. I will not speak of the proposal to make Bible reading compulsory, because my right hon. Friend, and many hon. Gentlemen, especially the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), have stated most conclusively the reasons why it cannot be adopted. Now, I am perfectly well aware that my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) has a great deal of logic on his side, and I am perfectly well aware that some of the proposals which may be made from other quarters of this House, have a great deal of feeling on their side. I do not at all deny that the proposal that we make is open to much comment and much criticism; but what I wish to point out is this—It gives practically full security for conscience; it does not impose upon religious teaching that kind of restriction which would reduce it to a formality, which would deprive it of all its life, and which the British and Foreign School Society, although aiming at unsectarianism, has found it impracticable to adopt. It falls in with the view of those members of local communities throughout the county who will constitute the local Boards, and who have declined to undertake the wide responsibility which the original Bill aimed at casting upon them. Such being the case, I think my right hon. Friend is perfectly justified in saying that it holds out the best promise not only of passing through Parliament, and receiving a far greater amount of general assent and acquiescence than any other plan, but likewise of meeting with that concurrence and that acquiescence in the country, and, therefore, of working more satisfactorily than any other plan which could be proposed. There is no other scheme which we could adopt, without at once issuing a proclamation of educational war between parties in this House—between this House, perhaps, and the other branch of the Legislature, and between parties in the country. We have, we think, a fair prospect—aye, a good prospect—of leading to a conclusion which, on the whole, will be satisfactory to the great bulk of reasonable men, this great question which has been opened by this Bill. We have a conviction derived from our reflection and observation that to depart from the position which we now hold, so far as its substantial and essential conditions are concerned, would be not merely to involve ourselves in difficulties of argument, far less to involve ourselves in difficulties of politics, but to compromise the interests of this great question, forfeiting the hope which is set before us of an early and satisfactory conclusion, and substituting for it a barren and unprofitable, and, for aught we know, an interminable controversy. That is a responsibility too great for us to undertake. We have found it a duty to acknowledge the concessions which have been made to us from the opposite side of the House, and I must again say that I think my right hon. Friend who has made this Motion is perfectly justified in stating that the concession is a very large one which allows of the exclusion of all those formularies and the catechism—that instrument by which the Reformed Church of England has worked for 300 years in the instruction of youth. Surely, the giving up of that document for the sake of harmony and general co-operation is an immense concession. I cannot join in making further demands. I think that a sense of equity forbids it; and, certainly, if the sense of equity forbids it, considerations of expediency and policy are equally imperative. I do not speak of expediency and policy in any mean sense, but of the expediency and policy which constitute the highest duty, and which require that we should endeavour to cast a measure of this kind in such a shape as that it shall pass into law with the greatest amount of concurrence and approval that can be obtained from Parliament, and that when it has passed into law, it shall hold out the greatest promise of future blessing in the general consent and acceptance of the country."No catechism or other formulary peculiar to any religious denomination shall be introduced or taught during the usual hours of school instruction."
Sir, the Committee will observe that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), though he opposed the Amendment of my right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote), has not spoken in opposition to it. Now, Sir, the Amendment of my right hon. Friend is in favour of free religious teaching; and, if carried, it would virtually bring us into the same position which the Government measure proposed when it was first brought under our consideration. And, therefore, it would be impossible for the right hon. Gentleman or his Colleague (Mr. W. E. Forster) to speak of the proposition of my right hon. Friend in any other tone than that which has just distinguished the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. I have not yet heard from the right hon. Gentleman any satisfactory reason why the Government departed from their original policy, and why they have placed themselves in a position which renders it necessary for them to oppose the Amendment of my right hon. Friend. I hear vague rumours that the policy if pursued must have led to local animosity and religious discord. I should have thought that in such a grave contingency, such possible results must have been well weighed by the Cabinet before they brought their measure under the consideration of Parliament. But if it be an unfortunate consequence of the strong convictions and lively feelings which exist with regard to religion, at all times and in all countries, that there should be, from the infirmity of human nature, this animosity and discord occasionally produced, I have yet to learn that under the new scheme there will be less chance of that discord and that animosity. I understand from the right hon. Gentleman—and after his exposition there can be no doubt about it—that we are to leave the schoolmasters to the almost unrestricted development of their religious feelings and views. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is quite impossible, and most impolitic, to attempt by legislation to restrict the action of schoolmasters in that respect; but I want to know why should the result of the unrestricted influence of schoolmasters with regard to subjects of religious instruction be less productive of religious animosity and discord than the original plan of the Government, which left to the school Boards the determination of the general denominational course which should be adopted? It is impossible to believe but that these schoolmasters—men of ability and cultivation, animated by all the convictions and passions of human nature—must produce a great local influence, and an influence which will be not only great but varied. You will have formularies, but they will be different formularies in different places. You will have the formulary of Bradford, the articles of Manchester; you will have the creed of Leeds or of Liverpool. How, then, are you by this new scheme to avoid these disastrous consequences, the contemplation of which has induced the Government to change their policy, expressed in their matured scheme, and to make the proposition which now appears before us, and to which my right hon. Friend objects? I ask, what is the reason of this change? Why is there to be this restriction of the freedom of religious teaching? The right hon. Gentleman says it is in consequence of the representation of the Town Council of Manchester. At least, I inferred that from what the right hon. Gentleman said and from the declaration made; and unquestionably the Committee is under that impression. But I am not prepared—and we have not yet passed that part of the Bill—to agree that these school Boards should be appointed by Town Councils. I am rather prepared to support the proposition that they shall be appointed by the votes of the ratepayers. And, therefore, it appears to me most unsatisfactory that the Government should have deviated, in consequence of a declaration on the part of the Town Council of Manchester, from their original plan, which unquestionably satisfied a largo majority of this House. I hope the Committee will well consider this point. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to two principal reasons for opposing the Amendment of my right hon. Friend—the lateness of the season and the variety of other and contradictory propositions which will have to come before us bearing on the same point. I am perfectly aware that the season is late, and I am most anxious that time should not be unnecessarily lost. So far as I have been concerned, I have not set any example to those who are disposed to waste time. But I cannot agree that because the season is late we should forego a principle which we think of inestimable importance, and I think it a still less satisfactory argument that we should cease to advocate that principle, because other cognate propositions are to be brought forward, with which, probably, we on this side of the House should not agree. And, therefore, it appears to me that the two arguments of the right hon. Gentleman are inconclusive and unsatisfactory. The great prin- ciple which my right hon. Friend has brought forward in his Amendment is one which in the stillness and calmness of their councils Her Majesty's Government had considered, proposed, and adopted, and that was that there should be freedom of religious teaching, and that it should be obtained by appealing to the feeling and voice of the majority of the locality. That is all that my right hon. Friend asserts. He does not ask the Committee to pledge themselves to the advocacy of creeds or formularies of any kind. Whatever may be his own convictions or the convictions of his Friends, all that he asks by his Amendment is that there shall be freedom of religious teaching—the principle which the Government adopted, and which the House sanctioned by a large majority, and which is to be given up in deference to the protest of a local body to which I think ought not to be entrusted the formation of these school Boards. So far as I am concerned, I am far from agreeing with some hon. Gentlemen in their objection and suspicions as to what are called religious formularies. I believe that religious formularies have been of great advantage to man—that they have been securities for religious freedom, and the greatest bulwark we have against religious fanaticism; and I hardly know what would have been the condition of this country if the Church of England had not been fortified and guarded and to a certain degree restricted by religious formularies. Therefore, I cannot enter into that ground of objection, as to the possible consequences of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend. But I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that formularies are not confined to the Church of England, and that this question of giving to the managers of a school the right, if the majority decide in favour of it, to use a religious formulary, is not an attempt to obtain a privilege merely for the enjoyment of the Church of England. I know a case myself—it happened in my own experience. A lady of high degree—a sound Churchwoman, distinguished for the schools which she had established and admirably managed, has met the religious difficulty in her school by introducing Dr. Watts's catechism, which was adverted to in the debate a few nights ago. Dr. Watts was a man of learning, intelligence, religion, and morality. What would he have said— what would have been the consternation of "the little busy bee" if he could have understood that the House of Commons, in the year 1870, was proving its spirit of progress and philosophy by absolutely passing a law that his catechism should not be used in schools? That, I think, is a position in which we ought not to place ourselves. I believe that the line which the Government originally took was the right one. I do not think that under any circumstances it would have led to more dissension than must be the necessary consequence of the course we are now called upon to follow, because the attempt to restrict the action of the schoolmaster would be vain, idle, and impolitic; and, that being the case, I trust the Committee will believe that in supporting the Amendment of my right hon. Friend—if he should ask the opinion of the Committee upon it—we are supporting the cause of religious teaching, and are not acting in a manner inconsistent with the spirit of religious liberty.
Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
The Committee divided:—Ayes 95; Noes 252: Majority 157.
said, he would beg to move, in page 5, line 20, after "of" to insert "and subject to the regulations relating thereto to be made from time to time by." These words were intended to give effect to the declaration of the Vice President of the Council, that the solution of the education question was to trust the locality with the religious instruction given in the schools; and he proposed them, because he thought the Committee were entitled to have the intentions of the Government clearly embodied in this clause.
said, the Amendment did not appear to make any substantial difference in the Bill; and, unless it did so, it would be unadvisable to add words to the clause. The only difference it seemed to make was to oblige a school Board to make regulattions when they might not think it necessary to do so.
said, that unless these words were inserted, a school Board would not have power to provide any religious instruction, and the education in every school established by a Board would inevitably become secular.
said, he believed the noble Lord was mistaken; but, should his view turn out to be correct, the matter should be set right on the Report.
said, he would, on that assurance, withdraw his Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he had placed on the Paper an Amendment to add a regulation to the clause; but as the time of the Committee was valuable, there ought not to be discussions upon different Amendments to the same effect. It seemed to him more advisable that the question which he had intended to raise should be discussed on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), and he would, therefore, only reserve to himself the right to propose the latter part of his regulation.
said, he thought it would be desirable to limit to the working classes the power of sending children to the elementary schools to be established under the Bill, for otherwise they might be made to pay for the education of the children of people in a higher rank. The best way of effecting that object would be to fix in the Bill a limit as to the net income of parents. A thousand boys, the sons of shopkeepers, were being educated at a school in Cowper Street, City Road, at an expense of £4 per annum. The education given at these schools was of a practical character, and this system of middle-class education, which fitted boys for commercial pursuits in after-life, was spreading largely throughout the country. The education to be given in the schools to be established under this Bill would accomplish all that was required from middle-class schools; and, therefore, it was necessary, in his opinion, to place some bar that should prevent persons having a certain income from sending their sons to the public rate-aided schools, and therefore he begged to move the following Amendment:—Clause 14, page 5, after "management of such Board," insert—
"Provided always, That no parent shall be entitled to send his or her child or children to be educated at such public elementary school whose net income shall amount to £150 per annum."
said, he could not consent to the Amendment being inserted. If it were to be applied to all public elementary schools, it should have been proposed on Clause 7. He did not, however, see that people whose income amounted to £150 should not be allowed to send their children to a public elementary school; and in many cases there might be considerable advantage in having children of all classes attending the same school.
said, he did not intend to propose his Amendment, to the effect that "no religious instruction shall be given or religious observances practised other than the reading of the Scriptures." He deeply deplored the decision to which the House had already come upon this matter; and he looked forward with an anxiety he did not care to conceal to the application of the same principle next year to Ireland. But the House having already decided the question, he did not think he ought now to re-open it, though he felt that a system of national education could only be accessible to persons of all creeds by the entire separation of secular from religious instruction. The Amendment to be proposed by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) would enable the point to be more fully discussed.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he rose to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, in page 5, line 24, to leave out sub-section 2, and insert—
[Cries of "Withdraw!"] He had not, during the discussion that had taken place, unreasonably occupied the time of the Committee, and therefore he trusted he might receive its indulgence whilst he proceeded to move his Amendment. And whatever might be the opinion entertained of it, all, he thought, must admit that it involved a question of very high principles. He would be brief in moving the Amendment; but, at the same time, he must say that the brevity with which he should move it was not to be taken as any measure of the feeling of anxiety with which he brought it before the Committee; and his anxiety had not been diminished by the fact that the First Minister of the Crown had, by anticipation, announced his intention to resist it. The question whether or not the Holy Scriptures should be read in the schools was one of high principle and of great importance. He had a strong opinion upon the subject, and however small the support he might receive, he should test the principle he advocated by pressing it to a Division. The First Minister of the Crown had that night done justice to Members who sat on those (the Opposition) Benches by acknowledging the spirit of concession in which they had met the Government on this Bill; and he need scarcely add that there was no point on which concession had been more painful to those who, like himself, had been willing to make the concession, than that in no rate-aided school should the catechism or formularies of the Church of England be used. However reluctantly, he had come to the conclusion that in rate-supported schools catechisms and formularies of any particular denomination should not be insisted on. But he could not agree with some of the Nonconformists that this was not a great concession on the part of members of the Church of England. What concession did he ask in return? He did not ask for a concession in favour of any party. All he required was that they should, by recognizing the necessity of teaching the Holy Scriptures in their schools, show a due deference to that desire which had been expressed by, he might say, the whole country. The desire expressed by the country had been that the teaching in our schools should be religious, and in deference to that desire he felt it to be his duty to move this Amendment. He would remind the House of the nature of the duty on which they were engaged—namely, enacting for the first time a system of general national education in this country, and he would appeal to the House and public feeling whether it was consistent with their duty that they should pass an Act in which, from one end to the other, there was no provision that there should be religious teaching in our schools. Not only was this so, but there was a direct enactment in the opposite direction, for it was provided that religious formularies and religious catechisms should not be taught in those schools. Even under the Revised Code it was distinctly laid down that every school aided from the grant must be either a school connected with some religious denomination, or a school in which the Scriptures were read daily. Now, for what class were these schools to be established? For the poorest and humblest; and he thought that while, on the one hand, there was a negative clause requiring that formularies and catechisms should not be taught, there should, on the other hand, be some positive provision demanding that the children should be instructed in the Holy Scriptures. The question was a clear one—whether it was a matter of national interest that they should provide for religious teaching, provided they did it with a due regard to liberty of conscience. He maintained that their duty was plainly not to allow this question to be answered by individuals, but to lay down the rule that the Bible should be taught in these schools. He demanded nothing sectarian, and only required that the Word of God should be taught to the children of the poor. However small the minority which he might carry with him into the Lobby, he would record his protest against not enacting that the Bible should be taught; nor did he believe the Committee could refuse to accede to his proposition without leaving a stain on what was otherwise a great and beneficent measure."2. The Holy Scriptures shall form part of the daily reading and teaching in such school, but no religious catechism or religious formulary which is distinctive of any particular denomination shall be taught therein."
In page 5, at the beginning of line 24, to insert the words "2. The Holy Scriptures shall form part of the daily reading and teaching in such school; but."—(Sir John Pakington.)
said, he was opposed to the system of secular schools. He hoped they might not become popular in the country. He believed the people of England were in favour not only of religious but of denominational education; but the same reason that induced him to support the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devonshire (Sir Stafford Northcote) prompted him to oppose that of his right hon. Friend the Member for Droit-wich. He was for allowing liberty to the managers of schools. To adopt the Amendment would be to proscribe secular education.
said, he was sure his right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) would give him full credit for sincerity when he said that it was with a good deal of pain the Government felt compelled to oppose an Amendment in which so deep an interest was felt by one who had extended such consistent, disinterested, and useful support to this Bill. He did not underrate the force of either the convictions or the arguments of his right hon. Friend; but the arguments against his Amendment might be wrapped up in a very small compass. He believed that by attempting to force their way of thinking on a municipality, whether it liked it or not, they would not be helping the cause of religious teaching. His earnest desire throughout the Bill had been, while obtaining the blessings of secular education for all children, to do nothing which could disparage religious education; but he could not think that the cause of religious education would be served by attempting to force municipalities in the matter.
said, that having voted for freedom of religious teaching when the Committee divided on the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devonshire (Sir Stafford Northcote), he would feel great difficulty in supporting the proposition now before the Committee, because the same freedom that he asked for members of the Church of England he was willing to extend to Dissenters and Roman Catholics. He presumed that by reading and teaching the Holy Scriptures was meant much the same teaching as that adopted in the British and Foreign schools, and in some Nonconformist schools, as well as in those of the Church of England. The Roman Catholics, he believed, would not adopt that system. He had voted in favour of every school Board having perfect freedom of religious teaching according to its own tenets—that was to say, that if a school Board were established for a particular district, instead of its being necessary to establish either secular or what were called unsectarian schools, they should have the privilege of establishing schools that were suitable to the whole population; that, for instance, in Moorfields, where he understood the Roman Catholics abounded, they should not bring the schools into the difficulty of having to admit all sects, and thus frittering the religious teaching down to the lowest point, but that they should support a Roman Catholic school in Moorfields with a Church of England school in the immediate neighbourhood, and also, if necessary, an unsectarian or secular school. That, he understood, was now allowed by the Bill, except that liberty of sectarian teaching was not given in the full sense of the term; for, as the Committee had just decided, the teaching of catechisms and distinctive formularies was to be prohibited. Still, they had left free religious teaching to a certain extent; and as he thought the present Amendment would fetter freedom of education to a certain degree, while he did not like, even in appearance, to vote against religious teaching, yet, on the other hand, as he did not wish to vote against the freedom of other denominations than his own, he was unable to support his right hon. Friend's proposal.
Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
The Committee divided:— Ayes 81; Noes 250: Majority 169.
Amendment proposed, line 24, to leave out the words "which is distinctive of any particular denomination.—( Mr. Hibbert.)
said, he would consent to change the word "denomination" into "denominations."
said, as it had just been decided that the religion which was to be taught in the schools was not the religion of the Bible, it was only natural that he should ask this simple question—what was the kind of religion which was to constitute religious teaching in those schools?
said, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Newdegate) had entirely misinterpreted the action of the Government and the meaning of the late Division, which was not one in which the majority had voted for the exclusion of the Bible. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that the debates had all gone on the understanding that the Government accepted the introduction of the Bible if the school Boards were in favour of it.
said, that what he had considered in declining to vote for the Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) was this—that the rate-supported schools were meant for everyone, and therefore they ought to treat everyone justly. It would be very unjust, for instance, to oblige Roman Catholics to teach the Bible, which would be very different from the teaching of their own religion.
said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster), in endeavouring to avoid Scylla had fallen into Charybdis. By making the word "denominations" instead of "denomination," the effect might be that the catechism or formulary of any particular denomination would not be excluded. He would suggest that the words should run "denomination or denominations."
said, he was of opinion there was no occasion for the change, as it was a well-known rule in interpreting Acts of Parliament that, unless otherwise expressed, the singular should include the plural and the plural should always include the singular.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he rose to move an Amendment which stood in his name, and in order to present a simple issue he would move the first three lines—
After the speech which had been made by the First Minister of the Crown he scarcely thought the House would accept the Amendment; but, while it was quite clear, from the discussions in that House and in the country, that there was a strong feeling against excluding the Bible from the schools, and also against refusing some reasonable degree of latitude in the way of explanation of the Bible, he believed the wish was quite as strong that the Bible should not be made in the schools a text-book for theological and sectarian teaching. In the interest of all the young children attending those schools, and in justice to the taxpayer, the Government ought, if possible, to prevent the Bible from being used in that way. As the Bill stood, unlimited power was given of religious teaching in the rate-supported and the rate-provided schools; there was no provision to prevent any religion or any creed from being expounded and taught. He had been told there was not a middle path, and that everything must be admitted, or everything must be excluded; but he entirely dissented from that statement. If there was not a middle path, then there was a great hallucination on that side of the House; for he believed that, but for the Government pressure brought to bear on the House, some nine-tenths of the Members belonging to the Liberal party would vote for the Amendment he proposed, or for some similar proposition. If they were to ex-elude from the teaching everything of a sectarian character there would still remain all that was necessary to impress the minds of children with reverence for sacred things, and to give them a broad and simple faith on which to rest. To pass his or some similar Amendment would be to enact an equal law, which was all the country demanded, and which neither school Boards nor schoolmasters, in whom he had confidence, would wish or dare to evade. Had the words he moved to insert in the Bill been introduced by the Government, the measure would have been rendered more acceptable to a large portion of the people of the country. It would have been acceptable to the Nonconformists, and to that class which supported the great organization presided over by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon); and he might add his belief that the proposition would not have been opposed by hon. Members on the other side of the House. The opinion prevailed among the Conservatives in Lancashire that there was such a thing as Bible teaching of an unsectarian character, and resolutions embodying that opinion had lately been adopted by an influential meeting of the Manchester and Salford District School Association. To adopt a phrase used earlier in the evening by the First Minister of the Crown, he admitted that his proposition was based not so much upon considerations of logical consistency as upon a desire to meet the wants and feelings of the country."In any such school in which the Holy Scriptures shall be read and taught the teaching shall not be used or directed in favour of or against the distinctive tenets of any religious denomination."
At the end of the Clause, to add the words "In any such school in which the Holy Scriptures shall be read and taught, the teaching shall not be used or directed in favour of or against the distinctive tenets of any religious denomination."—(Mr. Jacob Bright.)
said, that in stating his reasons for opposing the Amendment, he wished to point out the necessity of considering, in the first place, the effect of what the House had already done; and, secondly, what would be the effect if this Amendment were adopted. The House had already determined, as a safeguard for peace, that distinctive catechisms and formularies should not be authoritatively taught in schools supported out of rates. He voted in favour of that proposition, although he strongly felt that they ought to endeavour to secure the greatest practicable degree of freedom of religious teaching in schools, and that, without preserving substantially the integrity of religious teaching, they could have no real religious teaching at all. But it did not appear to him that, by accepting the Government proposition, he was compromising that principle. That proposition seemed only to prevent rate-created schools from having a formal denominational character. He thought that schools having a formal denominational character would be best established, alike in the interests of religion generally and in the interest of the specific tenets of the denominations themselves, by means mainly of voluntary efforts, and that their true interest was not to seek to establish a public ascendancy in the arena of meetings of ratepayers. When the Bill was first introduced he saw clearly that it would be necessary for the Government to make that concession, and that if the concession were not made it would be scarcely possible to avoid perpetual pressure and perpetual disturbances of peace, tending in the end to promote the views of the secularist party, and not to promote the views of those who desired to see a religious education spread over the face of the country. If so, it was in the true interest of religious teaching, and of the Church, that that concession should be made; for distinctive catechisms and formularies were necessarily symbolical of the predominance of particular denominations, and, although convenient and useful, they were not necessary for the integrity and freedom of religious truth and teaching. But the proposition of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) was an entirely different matter. It would be wholly impossible for real, honest, and serious religious teaching to take place consistently with keeping good faith towards the law on the one hand, and maintaining the peace of the community on the other, if the hon. Member's Amendment was adopted. It was, in fact, a short, rapid, and inevitable road to mere secularism, because it aimed at the impossible and unreal—at that which the religious convictions of every individual teacher must compel him to believe he could not accomplish. What meaning was really attached to the phrases, so often used in debate, "unsectarian religion," and "our common Christianity?" God forbid he should deny that such things existed! for there was nothing that he valued more than what he believed in common with the generality of Christians. But every man who held that common faith, held it in the particular way in which he had received it, and in connection with the whole system of belief which he himself had personally received. And if a man wished to teach religion he must speak of it and teach it as he himself had received it, and as he himself believed it. He could not teach it in fetters, or in a strait-waistcoat. He must be permitted to speak like an honest man of the truths which he believed, and if a law were laid down on the subject, which told him he must confine his teaching so as to avoid all special tenets, he would always, if he acted in good faith, be under the apprehension that he was overstepping some imaginary line, which no man yet had defined, or could define. Either he must be conscientiously endeavouring to neutralize the force of that mode of teaching religion which his own conviction suggested to him, or he must be running the risk of overstepping the line. In either case the irritation and disturbance produced by such a frame of mind, and the knowledge of the constant suspicion to which the teacher with all his care might be exposed, would be adverse to the efficient working of the system. The hon. Member who had just sat down did not propose to invest any authority with the power of receiving complaints as to whether the conditions had been overstepped or not. But this omission would be supplied by the Amendment of which another hon. Member had given Notice, which, if adopted, would make the religious teaching of the school the perpetual battle-field of the jealous, suspicious, angry, hostile interference of one religious body with another. Was there any necessity for this? He ven- tured to say none whatever. Religious teaching must be specific; but it need not be sectarian or denominational. The schools would be, for every proper purpose, under public observation, superintendence, and control, and the exclusion of denominational formularies would tend to remind the teacher that he was not to constitute himself the organ of any particular denomination, though at liberty to teach freely and without fetters. This knowledge on his part constituted as efficient a security as could well be required; but there was the further safeguard that, the children being of a very tender age, all attempts to indoctrinate them with polemical tenets must necessarily fail. All, therefore, who desired the reality and substance of religious teaching would do well to avoid making themselves parties to a proposition like that before the House, which, promising what it could not perform, would only lead in the long run to the ascendancy of secularism; or, if the denominational principle was too powerful in the country for that, then to a decided reaction, which might be fatal to the successful operation of the present measure.
said, the answer sent back by the country to the question put before it by the secularists was both grand and deep, and was returned with an unanimity which few could have expected or foreseen. In that answer lay rare power and wealth, if the Government had only known how to incorporate it in this Bill, and put it into practical working shape. The answer of the country was, that it desired religious instruction in the schools; but it would be quite possible to abuse that answer, if instruction were given of a kind distasteful to any large body of the people. It would be a mistake to imagine that the country desired any particular form of religious education. The people might very naturally turn round and say—"If you cannot agree upon what religious education ought to be given, we will take the secular education first, and agree as to religion afterwards." He had watched carefully the results of the meetings held all over the country, and he believed the character of the teaching which was desired was very simple. In the words of the First Minister of the Crown—"The teacher in instructing the child should be able to appeal to the motives of hope and fear and love." What denominationalist would quarrel with that? His hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down in a breath said that it was impossible for the teacher to teach honestly unless, at the same time, he imparted his own doctrines; in the next breath he insisted that there was no real practical difficulty, because the instruction conveyed to the children could not be doctrinal. He first insisted that the teacher must run the risk of violating this law, if passed, and then maintained that the teacher would never instil points of doctrine, but would content himself with inculcating elementary truths. He agreed with his hon. and learned Friend. The difficulty was not one which had yet penetrated into the schoolroom; it was a Parliamentary difficulty. But he feared it would soon reach the schoolroom, if the Bill of the Government were passed in its present form. Unsectarian religious education in this debate had been branded with some hard epithets; it was called bloodless and colourless; but at least it was wanting in gall and bitterness, and in that fact, probably, lay its greatest recommendation to the young children for whom it was intended. What was it, he asked, that the Government were afraid of? Some of them seemed to have conjured up a spectre which had frightened them. The question had been argued as if the body of teachers all over the country would set to work to evade the law. His estimate of the schoolmaster was very different; he believed that, like honest men having the welfare of their schools at heart, they would strive to obey the law as closely as they could, if only the House would openly declare that education was to be simple and unsectarian in its character. He must say, that after the speech of the First Minister of the Crown that evening, he read the Bill in a different light from what he had done before. He now saw that the teaching in these schools was intended to be denominational. The First Minister had declared it to be impossible for the schoolmaster to teach unless he inculcated the doctrines in which he himself had been brought up. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I did not say so.] He would be sorry to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but did not think he had done so. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Yes; distinctly.] The im- pression left upon his mind by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman had certainly been that it would be impossible for the teacher, if he were an honest man, to avoid from time to time violating a rule of this sort if it were laid down. What must be the effect of that? Why, that the teaching would practically shut out the children from the advantages of the school. He desired as much as anyone to see the Amendment carried; but outside the House he knew that suggestions had been tendered to Members, to the effect that if they were unable to carry some Motion of the kind now submitted, it would be better to throw out the Bill altogether. That was violent and reckless advice. It would be quite easy for a small number of Members, by misusing the forms of the House, to bring about the loss of the Bill for this year; but that would be contrary to the desire of the majority of the House, who wished, above all things, to make a start for the benefit of the uneducated children this year. The building of the schools and setting the machinery in motion would take a long time, and it would be quite easy to make alterations in the scheme in future years. So strong was the appeal of the many thousands of children to him that, whether the vote was with him or against him—and he thought that if there were no threats held out with respect to the fate of the Bill, it was quite possible that they would find themselves in a slight majority—he would do his utmost, by perfect abstinence from speaking, to secure the speedy passage of the Bill. He intended voting on that side which seemed to give the most hope of settling this difficult question in the way most consonant with the principles of religious equality.
said, the hon. Member (Mr. Whitbread) had made a most earnest appeal in favour of unsectarian religious education; but he had not justified his preference for the Amendment of me hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) to the proviso already in the Bill. He (Mr. Cowper-Temple), however, objected to the Amendment, because it would protract and increase the controversy between sects, by directing the attention of local Boards, parents, and the public to those points which constitute the difference between denominations. The ex- clusion of catechisms and formularies left the opinions and faith of the teacher untouched, and dealt only with lesson books which bore upon their title page plain indications of their origin. The test was clear in this case; but in the case proposed by the hon. Member for Manchester no definite test could be applied; everybody concerned would be incited to dispute on the subject. The Amendment would be a delusion; it would also be a snare to the teachers; and it would cause such disappointment as would soon necessitate a change.
said, he agreed with every word which had fallen from the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread). He had hitherto refrained from taking part in the debate for fear of delaying the passage of the Bill, which he humbly supported, though it might in some points be imperfect; but he would not now shrink from avowing his entire sympathy with those who desired to secure that the religious instruction given in rate-supported schools should be unsectarian. The House, in accordance with the opinion of the country, had decided that religion should not be separated from secular instruction. In voluntary schools this object was amply attained. The Government had taken care not to interfere with existing denominational schools, except so far as was necessary to secure religious freedom to those children who were not members of the Church with which the school was connected. The case of rate-aided schools was, however, wholly different. It was a defect in the original Bill that it did not provide any adequate security against their becoming as denominational as the voluntary schools. The Government had admitted the necessity for some such security in accepting the Amendment which prohibited the use of creeds or catechisms, but the narrowest sectarianism might still be taught. He knew it was difficult to define matters of this kind in an Act of Parliament; but he did not agree with his right hon. Friend below him (Mr. Gladstone) that a religious schoolmaster could not teach religion without instructing children in the difference between various denominations. If the intention of Parliament were made clear, as would be the case if this Amendment were adopted, it would be easy for a schoolmaster to conform to it, and teach religion in an unsectarian spirit; nor did he think, if the intention of Parliament were made clear, that either schoolmasters or managers would exercise a perverse ingenuity in order to defeat that intention, although it would be impossible to frame an indictment against them if they did so.
I quite understand and sympathize with the spirit which animates the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) in his desire to prevent dogmatic teaching in schools; but I do not at all understand how he is to give to his desires the force of law. Who is to determine whether the teaching is directed in favour of, or against the distinctive tenets of any religious denomination? There must be some authority to do this. If that authority be the Education Department, you are mixing up again the Government with the religious education of the people. One of our greatest triumphs in this educational reform is the abolition of denominational inspection. My hon. Friend is inventing a new form of religious inspection of the most inquisitorial and peculiar form—an inquisition into distinctive tenets, which are extremely difficult at all times to define. I can understand the terms of the 2nd subsection of the 14th clause. Catechisms and formularies are things you can label and define, and the proof of their use is comparatively easy; but I defy any man to expound the Scriptures without stumbling against some man's religious views or some Church's tenets. You are laying a trap for every teacher in the country. My hon. Friend attaches no penalty to his Amendment, and gives no means of appeal, and therefore he may only mean that his addition to the clause should be a moral warning to the schoolmaster, without power of enforcement by the secular Inspectors; then, I say, it has no business in the Bill. Anything that appears to have the force of law, and yet cannot be enforced in law, greatly weakens the dignity of law. It is far safer to trust to the moral sense of the school Boards and the teachers, who will find it to their interest to teach religion in a way that will be acceptable to all. Children of tender age are not very good receptors of dogma, and, when catechisms and formularies are excluded, are not likely to be more receptive in the future than they have been in the past. I intend to vote against the Amendment, because I do not believe that it can be enforced in law; because it connects the State with religious teaching in a far too intimate and impolitic form; because it will impose upon the teacher restrictions and dangers which are opposed to the efficiency of his teaching; and, lastly, because it is a new way of imposing religious tests.
said, the force of the appeal made to him by his hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) would be felt on both sides of the House when they came to vote on the important Motion now under discussion. His hon. Friend expressed a hope that the Government would use no threats with regard to the Division. Well, he intended to utter no threats; but the position of the Government must be carefully considered. They had made a considerable departure from the original Bill, and had in consequence called for great concessions from many persons who entertained strong convictions on the subject of education. Therefore, the Government could hardly be expected to go much further. The Member for Bedford had very truly stated that this question did not much affect the children. Indeed, he did not believe that if the Member for Manchester's Amendment were carried it would make any perceptible difference in the teaching. Unless a system of secular education were established by Parliament, it mattered little how the clause were worded, because, whatever its precise terms might be, undenominational religious teaching would be given to the children. Such was the kind of religious instruction given generally at the present moment, even in denominational schools; but if this question did not affect the children, it certainly affected the masters. The more conscientious a master was, the more difficult would be his position in the event of the words proposed being adopted. If he were let alone he would not be inclined to impart sectarian instruction to the children; but if he were ordered not to do so, he would feel himself to be in chains from morning to night, and would be constantly asking himself whether he was not directing his teaching against the distinctive tenets of some creed. The Government had already given the strongest indications in a general way that the religious instruction was not to be sect- arian or dogmatic; but they could not consent to this Amendment, which would hamper the consciences of some teachers, and he put it to his hon. Friend whether he would risk the success of the Bill by insisting on an Amendment which would be unproductive of practical results.
Sir, the Committee will probably think that, after the pointed allusions which have been made to my speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), I ought not to allow a Division to be taken without saying a few words. I am sorry my hon. Friend found it necessary to impute to me sentiments which are the reverse of those I uttered. He stated my opinion to be that it was impossible for a conscientious schoolmaster to teach a school without expressing his own religious belief. On the contrary, what I really said was, that the natural course of instruction in school, when rightly understood, was freed in a great degree from anything which could be called by men of sense denominational peculiarities, but that that which is perfectly easy for us to understand in conversation may be a matter totally unfit to be introduced into and defined by an Act of Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) illustrated this argument in a happy manner when he said—
Yet now it is deliberately proposed, in consequence of fears which are wholly chimerical, to induce Parliament to found a most important part of a great measure on language of which no one can define the meaning. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) admits that if a schoolmaster were to disregard the injunction an indictment could not be framed against him. Such was to be the slipperiness and ambiguity of the language that an indictment could not be framed against those who broke the law. If an indictment were preferred against a schoolmaster every Judge would say that Parliament had used language which was unintelligible, and that those who made unintelligible laws must expect to see them disobeyed. Of the intention of the hon. Member for Man- chester (Mr. Jacob Bright) I make no complaint, but the effect of his Amendment would be to introduce a new kind of State religion. It would make the State responsible for the doctrines taught in the schools. We cannot play with edge tools such as would be introduced by this Amendment. If you insert in the Bill language of this kind, which is admitted to be incapable of legal construction, you must either recede with discredit from the principle laid down, or else go on and give it a practical application by further definition. You cannot choose the latter course without descending into the thorny paths of theological controversy and creating some new-fangled scheme of religion for which I must entirely decline to be responsible. Neither my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester nor my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford has thought fit to notice a significant circumstance to which I referred. We have in this country a society which aims at undenominational and unsectarian education. We have the British and Foreign School Society, who have for 65 years sought this object, and which has chosen the very path which the Government are now proposing to the Committee, without the slightest attempt at adopting the course advocated by my hon. Friend, which for a voluntary society would be comparatively easy, because a voluntary society is elastic and can adopt any measure which it may deem requisite for the purpose of giving effect to the principles which it desires to carry out. We have succeeded by the proposal which we have made in disarming much hostility. I see hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have admitted, in terms more or less correct, that our concessions were well adapted to secure the general settlement of this question. On that ground we have chosen to take our stand, because, although it may not be conformable to the precise predilections of some Gentlemen on this side of the House, yet it is our firm conviction that it is the only plan which, under the present circumstances of the country, promises to lead this undertaking to a happy conclusion. Let me reason with my hon. Friend for a moment, in whose every word I cordially agree, so far as his reference to threats on the part of the Government is concerned. Does my hon. Friend think the language which he used on that point is entirely worthy of him? Has there in reality been anything imperious, hasty, or dictatorial in the conduct of the Government? Have we shown an obstinate disposition in this matter? Have we used any threats?"We all understand perfectly well what is meant by a party man and by a no-party man, but who would wish to enact that such and such offices should be given to party men or to no-party men?"
said, he had not stated that there would be any, and he hoped that there would be none.
I accept that declaration with gratitude, because it proves that up to the present moment the conduct of the Government has not been open to censure. But is it, after all, the duty of a Government to have an opinion?—although I am far from contending that it is its duty to adhere inflexibly to all its proposals and to insist on carrying them through in the shape in which they were first introduced. A Government is not deprived of opportunities of reconsideration. It is bound to pay attention to the opinions of all the Members of this House, especially to the opinions of those whose confidence it has the honour to possess. It is, however, the duty of a Government when it is fully supplied with information, and has had the advantage of time for reflection, to arrive at convictions deliberately, and, when it has arrived at them, to abide by them. Nor would my hon. Friend, I am sure, think it was compatible with our duty, when we had arrived at certain convictions on a question of this kind, to have concealed them from the House. We have endeavoured to frame our plan fairly and equitably, having regard to the circumstances for which we were called on to provide. I am sure the Committee will not be of opinion that, having come to a deliberate conclusion, we should from day to day have wavered from point to point, the creatures of every passing impression. Let us, then, banish from our minds all idea of threats or menaces, and I for one feel the utmost confidence that the verdict of Parliament will ratify our conclusions, and the strongest hope that when that ratification shall have been given this measure will receive the sanction of the country.
Question put, "That those words be there added."
The Committee divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 251: Majority 121.
Clause as amended, agreed to.
Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.