Front Page Titles (by Subject) 420.: THE EDUCATION BILL SPECTATOR, 9 APR., 1870, P. 465 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV
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420.: THE EDUCATION BILL SPECTATOR, 9 APR., 1870, P. 465 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE EDUCATION BILL
At a National Education League meeting, held Friday, 25 Mar., 1870, chaired by Sir Charles Dilke, Mill was the principal speaker (The Times, 26 Mar., p. 5). The meeting was called to protest the power given to School Boards to found denominational schools at public expense, in the Government’s “Bill to Provide for Public Elementary Education in England and Wales,” 33 Victoria (17 Feb., 1870), PP, 1870, I, 505-42. (In the event, when the Bill became law as 33 & 34 Victoria, c. 75, the powers of the denominations were much curtailed.) The Spectator commented on the issues and Mill’s views in “The Secularists in Full Cry,” 2 Apr., pp. 425-6, from which the quotations are taken. Mill’s letter, not listed in his bibliography, is in the “Letters to the Editor” column, headed “Mr. J.S. Mill and the Education Bill,” with the subhead, “To the Editor of the ‘Spectator.’ ”
Having full belief in your not intending to misrepresent, though (if you will allow me to say so) not equal confidence in the carefulness and accuracy of all your representations, I do not doubt that you will permit me to correct a serious misstatement which pervades the whole of your last Saturday’s comments on the Education meeting at St. James’s Hall. The writer affirms again and again, with sundry uncomplimentary remarks on the inconsistencies and other irrationalities therein implied, that in my speech at that meeting I advocated and asked for the system of the British Schools,1 which he describes as the merely formal reading of a portion of the Bible “as a kind of grace before meat to secular lessons.” I challenge your writer to point out a single word of my speech which either expresses or implies approval of the “British system,” or of the employment of the Bible in rate-supported schools at all. I referred to the British system only as a proof that the Dissenters do not desire their distinctive doctrines to be taught in schools, and would consequently derive no advantage from the fund which the Bill gives them, where they are the stronger party,2 of practising this injustice to the detriment of the Established Church.
For myself, though I regard the British system as greatly preferable to the merely denominational, yet, on any other footing than as the less of two evils, I decidedly object to it, as unjust to Catholics, Jews, and the Secularists, and for other reasons.
I am, Sir, &c.,
[1 ]In the schools of the British and Foreign School Society (founded by and often called by the name of Joseph Lancaster) the scriptural readings were not part of the lessons.
[2 ]See esp. Sect. 7.3 of the Bill.
[3 ]The letter is followed by a square-bracketed note: “We are exceedingly sorry to have misrepresented Mr. Mill, and of course absolutely withdraw the statement. We cannot, however, admit that our blunder was anyone’s fault but Mr. Mill’s, at least if the Times’ report of his speech is correct. In that he is stated to have said, ‘The system deliberately chosen by the Dissenters is that of the British Schools, where religious teaching is limited to reading the Bible without note or comment.’ Thereafter the whole tenor of the speech appeared to be supporting the demand of the Dissenters, and not a word was reported criticizing that demand as itself involving the very injustice of which Mr. Mill complained in the Government proposals, or stating, as we suppose he now states, that he would be satisfied with nothing but a purely secular system. We are not sorry to have drawn from him that avowal.—Ed. Spectator.” In fact The Times correctly reported the sentence quoted (it appears substantively thus in Mill’s autograph MS); the issue lies in its interpretation.