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In fact, the normal school was to be a species of Christian Pantheon on a small scale; a design which became yet more evident when the Minute of the newly-appointed Committee of Council dated April 11th-13th, 1839, ordering the establishment, and regulating the constitution, of the normal school, came to be laid before Parliament. That document which, having subsequently been withdrawn, is only to be met with among the Parliamentary records of the period, is much too important, in a historical point of view, to be passed over in the present sketch of the rise and progress of that "new department in the State," known by the name of "the Committee of Council on Education." That portion of it which relates to the subject in hand runs as follows:
"To found a school in which candidates for the office of teacher in schools for the poorer classes may acquire the knowledge necessary to the exercise of their future profession, and may be practised in the most approved methods of religious and moral training and instruction.
"This school to include a model school, in which children of all ages, from three to fourteen, may be taught and trained in sufficient numbers to form an infant school, as well as schools for children above seven.
Religious instruction to be considered as general and special.
Religion to be combined with the whole matter of instruction, and to regulate the entire system of discipline.
"Periods to be set apart for such peculiar doctrinal instruction as may be required for the religious training of the children.
"To appoint a chaplain to conduct the religious instruction of children whose parents or guardians belong to the Established Church.
"The parent or natural guardian of every other child to be permitted to secure the attendance of the licensed minister of his own persuasion at the period appointed for special religious instruction, in order to give such instruction apart.
"To appoint a licensed minister to give such special religious instruction WHEREVER the number of children in attendance on the model school belonging to any religious body dissenting from the Established Church, is such as to appear to this Committee to require such special provision.
"A portion of every day to be devoted to the reading of the Scriptures in the school, under the general direction of the Committee, and the superintendence of the rector. Roman Catholics, if their parents or guardians require it, to read their own version of the Scriptures, either at the time fixed for reading the Scriptures, or at the hour of special instruction."
From the above regulations it is evident that the scheme thus adopted upon the simple warrant of a correspondence between two Ministers of the Crown, and an Order in Council, is identically the
same which Lord Brougham had, for several successive sessions, attempted, but in vain, to pass through the House of Lords. It is true that the Jew is not mentioned by name; but neither is the limitation "Christian" introduced in the clause which gives to "the parent or natural guardian of every other child" the power of securing the attendance of the licensed minister of his own persuasion;" which not only opens the door to the Rabbi, but leaves it very doubtful whether the Imaum and the Brahmin could, with any show of reason, be excluded. And, although, in the first instance, nothing seems to be contemplated but one normal school and a model school attached to it, yet, from the general tenor of the regulations, and especially from the expression "wherever the number of children in attendance on the Model School, &c.," it appears that the establishment of similar schools all over the country was in the minds of the framers of the Minute. For the dissemination of this system the following provision was made:
"To appoint inspectors, not exceeding at first two in number, to carry on an inspection of schools which have been, or may be hereafter, aided by grants of public money, and to convey to conductors and teachers of private schools in different parts of the country, a knowledge of all improvements in the art of teaching, and likewise to report to this Committee the progress made in education from year to year.
"To grant gratuities to such teachers as may appear to deserve encouragement."
The drift of the last-named provision is self-evident. Every encouragement was to have been held out to those who would consent to carry out the theories of the Committee of Council, the inspectors acting as the disseminators of the system all over the country. And in order to give themselves every latitude in this substitution of their own theory for the existing systems of education, the Committee of Council came to this further determination :
"Not to adhere invariably to the rule which confines grants to the National Society, and the British and Foreign School Society,—nor to give the preference in all cases whatever to the school to which the largest proportion is subscribed."
The storm of opposition which the publication of this Minute raised in Parliament sufficiently indicated how obnoxious the proposed scheme was to the religious feeling of the people, and how clearly the legerdemain was seen through, by which it was attempted to overreach Parliament and the country. After years of conflict, in which the advocates of an essentially secular system of education had been invariably unsuccessful, the object
which Mr. Brougham, and after him, Mr. Roebuck and others, had vainly endeavoured to carry in the Commons, and Lord Brougham in the House of Lords, was presented to the two Houses as a fait accompli, established on a mere dictum of the Government of the day, by means of an Order in Council appointing a Committee, and that Committee drawing up a Minute. A constitutional question of the most vital importance, on which the legislature could not be induced to fall in with the views of the party in power, was disposed of behind the back of the legislature, under the form and pretence of a mere administrative regulation. There is scarcely an instance on record, of a government suffering as complete, and, we must add, as justly merited a defeat, as that which the Government of that day, substantially the same as the present Administration, suffered in both Houses. At the very sound of the approaching battle, the ministers beat a first retreat. In the House of Lords, the Bishop of London took occasion, on a motion for some papers, to expose the latitudinarian character of the scheme; and in the Commons, Lord Ashley gave notice of a call of the House. Seeing that their position was wholly untenable, the Government cancelled the Minute of the Committee of Council of the 11th-13th of April, and substituted in its place the following Order in Council:
"At the Court at Buckingham Palace, the 3rd of June, 1839.
"Present,-THE QUEEN'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY IN COUNCIL. "WHEREAS there was this day read at the Board a Report from the Committee of Council appointed to superintend the application of any sums voted by Parliament for the purpose of promoting public education; which Report, dated the 1st of June, was in the words following; viz.:
"Your Majesty having been pleased, by your Order in Council of the 10th April, 1839, to appoint us a Committee of Council to superintend the application of any sums voted by Parliament for the purpose of promoting public education; We, the Lords of the said Committee, have this day met, and agreed humbly to present to your Majesty the following Report :
"The Lords of the Committee recommend that the sum of ten thousand pounds, granted by Parliament in 1835 towards the erection of normal or model schools, be given in equal proportions to the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society. That the remainder of the subsequent grants of the years 1837 and 1838, yet unappropriated, and any grant that may be voted in the present year, be chiefly applied in aid of subscriptions for building, and, in particular cases, for the support of schools connected with those Societies; but that the rule hitherto adopted of making a grant to those places where
the largest proportion is subscribed be not invariably adhered to, should application be made from very poor and populous districts, where subscriptions to a sufficient amount cannot be obtained.
"The Committee do not feel themselves precluded from making grants in particular cases which shall appear to them to call for the aid of Government, although the applications may not come from either of the two mentioned Societies.
"The Committee are of opinion that the most useful application of any sums voted by Parliament would consist in the employment of those monies in the establishment of a normal school, under the direction of the State, and not placed under the management of a voluntary Society. The Committee, however, experience so much difficulty in reconciling conflicting views respecting the provisions which they are desirous to make in furtherance of your Majesty's wish that the children and teachers instructed in this school should be duly trained in the principles of the Christian religion, while the rights of conscience should be respected, that it is not in the power of the Committee to mature a plan for the accomplishment of this design without further consideration; and they therefore postpone taking any steps for this purpose until greater concurrence of opinion is found to prevail.
"The Committee recommend that no further grant be made, now or hereafter, for the establishment or support of normal schools, or of any other schools, unless the right of inspection be retained, in order to secure a conformity to the regulations and discipline established in the several schools, with such improvements as may from time to time be suggested by the Committee.
66 A part of any grant voted in the present year may be usefully applied to the purposes of inspection, and to the means of acquiring a complete knowledge of the present state of education in England and Wales.
"Her Majesty, having taken the said Report into consideration, was pleased, by and with the advice of her Privy Council, to approve
"(Signed) C. C. GREVILLE."
When on the following day Lord Ashley's motion came on, Lord John Russell, who had intimated his intention of seconding it, surprised the House-a surprise, of which Sir E. Knatchbull loudly complained,-by the announcement that the Minute of the Committee of Council of April 11th-13th, was withdrawn. The terms in which he did so are too remarkable to be passed over without notice. He commenced by declaiming against the "misunderstanding, he would not call it misrepresentation," to which the Minute had given rise, and then proceeded to say :—
"After the effect which it had produced, he had arrived at the conclusion, that it would be unadvisable to pursue the proposed plan further AT PRESENT...... It was not the intention of the Government to
persist in the proposal to found the normal school. He should be prepared when the proper time arrived, to go into a statement on the report of the Committee of the Privy Council, and he should then propose the vote of which he had given notice, and he should also propose that it be divided, as at present, between the National School Society and the British and Foreign School Society; but in agreeing to this plan for the present, he felt bound to observe, that he was by no means satisfied in leaving the matter as it was, and giving the control of the education to two voluntary societies, which might have very imperfeet and defective plans of education, which might be open to the most serious objections."-Hansard, 3rd Series. Vol. xlvii. col. 1380, 1381.
The ill-grace and ill-temper with which the Government gave way on that occasion before the religious feeling of the country, showed itself in a striking manner in the speech of Lord Morpeth, who so far forgot his accustomed mildness and courtesy, as to characterize the objections made to the Government plan as "offensive and mendacious misrepresentations ;" an expression which Lord Ashley called on him to explain, when, so far from mollifying the asperity of his language, his Lordship said that he meant it to apply to "at least three-fourths of the statements which had appeared in opposition to the plan." At the same time he, like Lord John Russell before him, intimated that ministers had not abandoned, but only postponed their plan. He expressed a hope "that there might be adopted, at some future time, a plan of universal education; for he trusted this question was only delayed FOR THE PRESENT. His noble friend would still call upon the House for a grant of 30,000l. for the purposes of national education, which should be distributed by the two Societies named by his noble friend; but possibly under some better and different modifications of the manner in which those Societies acted at present."—Hansard. ibid. col. 1385.
But this withdrawal of the most objectionable part of the Government scheme did not pacify either Parliament or the country. Though the latitudinarian normal and model school project was cashiered, the body which had set the project on foot, the Educational Committee of the Privy Council, still remained; and not only so, but it was plainly intimated by the Government, that their project was not relinquished, but only adjourned "for the present." Accordingly, when the annual grant came before the House of Commons, the opposition was renewed, and directed against the very existence of the Committee of Council. Lord Stanley, who led the attack, pointed out, in the most forcible manner, the unconstitutional character of the Committee itself, and actually predicted the evil effects which would follow from its appointment, in the speech from which we have already given an ex