Page images

Upon the face of these regulations, it is evident that the point in controversy was conceded by the State. They are all, with the exception of the fourth, of a purely financial character; framed with a view to make the most of the money, to limit its application to cases of real necessity, and to guard against its misappropriation. The only regulation which bears upon the principle of the education to be imparted in the schools aided by the grants recognises the two Societies, representing the one the Church, the other the Dissenters, and both insisting on a religious and scriptural education, as the exclusive channels for the appropriation of the grant. That this settlement of the question was generally agreeable to the country, appears from the eagerness with which applications for a share of the grant were made by parties willing to contribute from their own resources the sums required by the Treasury Minute. A Report from the Lords of the Treasury, laid before Parliament on the 7th of March, 1834, contains the following statement :

"There exists throughout Great Britain the utmost anxiety that the funds provided by Parliament, for the purpose of education, should be made generally useful; and private charity and liberality, so far from being checked, have been greatly stimulated and encouraged by reason of the public assistance afforded to the principle laid down in their Minute of August 10, 1833. The applications now before My Lords, and recommended to their favourable consideration, amount to the sum of 31,016., whereas the sum at their disposal does not exceed 11,7197. Applications have been received for 236 new schools, calculated for 55,168 scholars, and local and charitable funds were tendered to the amount of 66,4921."

The extent to which the Church of England participated in those grants, appears from the following return :

1833, 64 applications, grants to the amount of £11,081.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

According to these data, the educational efforts of the Established Church amounted to considerably more than two-thirds of those made throughout the country; and in reality, the preponderance was much greater, as there is throughout a marked difference between the grants made through the National Society, and those made through the British and Foreign School Society;

the latter being invariably larger in proportion. Thus, for example, in the year 1833, the National Society obtained upon 64 applications grants to the amount of 11,0817., or on an average 1737. for each application; whilst the British and Foreign School Society obtained upon 34 applications 99767., or an average of 2937.; again, in 1836, the National Society, obtained upon 135 applications, grants to the amount of 11,355., or an average of 847., the British and Foreign School Society, upon 41 applications, 58107., or an average of 1417. It is hardly possible to avoid the conclusion, that the greater favour which the latter Society enjoyed in the eyes of "My Lords," is attributable to the fact that its system of religious instruction approximated more nearly to the negative principle in matters of religion, which was, and still is, the beau idéal of the party in power; the Church of England in her schools teaching the entire Bible, and the Catechism, while the British and Foreign School Society confines itself to extracts from the Bible, and teaches these "without note or comment," in careful avoidance of the distinctive religious tenets of the different sects by whom the Society is recognised as their educational organ. Still, as the return above quoted proves, all the favouritism shown to the Dissenters by the Government could not prevent more than two-thirds of the money voted by Parliament from being applied in aid of the liberal exertions made by Churchmen for promoting the cause of popular education.

Such a state of things could not but be extremely distasteful to the parties who viewed distinctive religious tenets of any kind as an obstacle to "national" education, and necessarily considered the religious teaching of the Church as the more objectionable, because the more positive and dogmatic. Accordingly, we find Lord Brougham, as early as the year 1835, attempting to carry the appointment of a Board of Commissioners, in whom should be vested the entire and absolute control of all educational charities, and of all public grants for education throughout the country. Resolutions and Bills to this effect were repeatedly introduced into the Upper House by the Noble Lord, but meeting with little encouragement from the House generally, and being left unsupported even by the Government, he made, practically, little or no way with his projects.

Yet, although unsuccessful, these attempts of Lord Brougham are important in the history of the controversy, because they serve to identify the sweeping educational measures contemplated by Mr. Henry Brougham in 1816 with the appointment of the Committee of Council in the year 1839. A Bill introduced by Lord Brougham, in 1835, proposed to establish a Board of Edu

cation consisting of the Lord President of the Council, the Lord Privy Seal, the Secretary for the Home Department, and, if it were desired, the Speaker of the House of Commons. A similar Bill was introduced by the Noble Lord in the session of 1837, and again in the following session. On the former occasion, his Lordship described his measure, in reply to a question from Lord Lyndhurst, on the order for the second reading, in the following terms:

"He ought, perhaps, to state distinctly to their Lordships, that the Bill consisted of two branches-first, the creation of a new department in the State, a department which, he believed it was admitted on all hands, was greatly wanted. He meant a department of public instruction, as it was denominated in France, and which in Ireland was called a Board of Education. That department it was proposed to invest with such powers as would enable it to extend education throughout the country, to plant schools, to bestow properly those funds which might from time to time be afforded by Parliament in aid of this most important object, and to superintend the distribution of such other funds as might be raised by local taxation for this purpose."-Hansard, 3rd Series. Vol. xxxviii. col. 1619.

Again, three days after, when, on account of the advanced period of the session, he withdrew the Bill, he said :


"The plan of this Bill was, that there should be a board of paid commissioners holding their places for life, and only removable, like the Judges, for misconduct, with a minister of the Crown at the head of the department."-Hansard, ibid. col. 1684.

On that occasion, the principle of Lord Brougham's scheme for a "Department of Education," was adopted totidem verbis, by one who plays so conspicuous a part in the proceedings of the Committee of Council subsequently appointed. Lord Lansdowne is reported to have said, that,

"He should feel extremely sorry if it was supposed that his noble and learned friend's measure was deferred from any hesitation on the part of their Lordships in affirming its principle, so far as the measure related to education, and so far as it recognised the necessity of there being some State authority for perfecting and advancing the system of education which existed in this country."-Hansard, l. C.

Still more remarkable are the observations which fell from Lord Brougham, on the 14th of August, in the following year, 1838, on the occasion of his withdrawing the same Bill again, having re-introduced it on the 1st of December, 1837. The powerful exposure by the Bishop of London,-to whom the Church is greatly indebted for his vigilant defence of her interests

throughout these discussions,-of the irreligious tendencies of the party in concert with whom Lord Brougham was understood to be acting, compelled his Lordship to make particular mention of the subject of religion, and of the manner in which he meant to deal with it in his educational system. After asserting that there was no difference of opinion,” but “ a general agreement as to the great principle of the measure," viz. the creation of a new department in the State-an assertion strangely contravened by the events of the ensuing session-Lord Brougham went on to say :


"There was one point, however, on which considerable disagreement prevailed; that point related to religious instruction. His feeling was, that every plan of national education should embrace religious instruction; and that, as a part of the system, the reading of the authorized version of the Scriptures should be introduced. On that point, he found some scruples were entertained by conscientious Roman Catholics. Their objection, however, could be met by the insertion of a clause, declaring that Roman Catholics and Jews should not be compelled to be present when the Scriptures were read. . . . . Another point of objection rested on the same principle. It related to teaching the Church Catechism and the Thirty-nine Articles. Now he meant that, to meet this objection, it should be distinctly provided, that Jews and Roman Catholics should not be compelled to be present when the Catechism and the Thirty-nine Articles were expounded."-Hansard, 3rd Ser. Vol. xliv. col. 1174, 5.

These, however, were only the skirmishes, before the decisive action. The first intimation that a crisis was at hand was given in the House of Lords by the Marquis of Lansdowne, in terms so characteristic of the progressive encroachment policy pursued afterwards by the Committee of Council, that we cannot forbear quoting them. On the 14th of February, 1839, his Lordship

announced the intention of Government to introduce an education measure of their own, and then said:

[ocr errors]

"The measure which would be introduced might not perhaps be so extensive as the members of the Government thought it ought to be; but it went as far as they thought practicable Their object at present, was, rather to make a beginning, than to introduce a complete plan; and, of course, with that object in view, their measure would be of such a nature as would be least objectionable to all parties, and which should meet all their feelings; and it would be for the House to consider, either in that or future sessions, when they had the experience of a beginning, whether it would be proper to extend it."-Hansard, 3rd Ser. Vol. xlv. col. 351.

And what then was this "beginning" of a more "complete

plan" hereafter to be introduced, this small end of the wedge that was to be driven in, and to rive asunder religion and "national" education, hitherto so closely united? It was neither more nor less than the appointment of the Committee of Council on Education, and the establishment of a normal school under its auspices, on a plan which, while professing to pay all possible deference to religion, and more particularly to the faith of the Church of England, involved, in fact, a complete nullifying of all religion by the introduction into one and the same school of an endless diversity of creeds. The first disclosure of the plan was a correspondence laid before the House of Commons, between Lord John Russell, then Secretary for the Home Department, and the Marquis of Lansdowne, President of the Council. In that correspondence, the Noble Lord informed his colleague that it was Her Majesty's desire, with a view to remedy the great and lamentable deficiency in the matter of education, that he and four other persons, viz. the Lord Privy Seal, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary for the Home Department, and the Master of the Mint,' should form a Board, who should be entrusted with the application of all grants. After adverting to the two systems then existing, that of the National Society, and that of the British and Foreign School Society, the former of which he characterizes as the "exclusive," and the latter as the non-exclusive system, his Lordship proceeds to extol, as infinitely superior to both, the system proposed by himself and his colleagues, a system which made secular instruction the leading, and religion a subordinate feature in the work of education; yet with the salvo that "it is Her Majesty's wish that the youth of this kingdom should be religiously brought up, and that the rights of conscience should be respected." The manner in which this was to be accomplished is more fully explained in the reply of Lord Lansdowne, who, with a simple desire to inform his colleague, as it appears, of his opinions, acquaints him that he considers a normal school for "literary and industrial" instruction as the first object, and suggests that it should be a positive condition that the teachers trained in it should be "enabled to acquire and to give such religious instruction as may be required at all ordinary schools, in the principles of the Church of England, without any exclusion of those who may be connected with such other religious persuasions as are known to prevail amongst a considerable portion of the population of the country, who may be desirous of, and should be enabled to receive, similar instruction from their own ministers."

This latter functionary was subsequently omitted from the Committee.

« PreviousContinue »