Front Page Titles (by Subject) 145.: The Education Bill  25 MARCH, 1870 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873
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145.: The Education Bill  25 MARCH, 1870 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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The Education Bill 
Speech by John Stuart Mill, Esq., at the National Education League Meeting, at St. James’s Hall, London, March 25, 1870 (Birmingham: printed Hudson, 1870). Collation indicates that Mill was following closely his holograph manuscript (Houghton Library, Harvard University, printed in full in Appendix D below), which is headed in his hand: “Speech at the meeting of the Education League at St James’s Hall, March 25, 1870.” Reported in full on 26 March in The Times, and in the Daily Telegraph. The Daily News has a summary in the third person. The audience’s responses are taken from the Daily Telegraph. Writing on 28 February about the issue to Charles Dilke (who was President of the London branch of the National Education League, and was to chair the meeting at which Mill spoke), Mill says that if he were in Parliament he should oppose the Government’s measure because of its denominational bias, adding: “Ever since I saw that the League was going to make a stand on this point I have been desirous of helping it by some expression of opinion, but I have not yet made up my mind how I can best do so. I rather dislike writing private letters to be published in the newspapers, of which there has been a great deal in my case already without my consent” (CW, Vol. XVII, p. 1703). The evening public meeting was held to support the objections of the National Education League to the Government’s “Bill to Provide for Public Elementary Education in England and Wales,” 33 Victoria (17 Feb., 1870), PP, 1870, I, 505-42 (enacted as 33 & 34 Victoria, c. 75). The objections were (1) that school boards were not provided for every part of the country, (2) that education was made compulsory in a partial and uncertain manner, and (3) that the bill extended the denominational system. After the Chair’s introductory remarks, it was moved and seconded “That this meeting condemns the power given to school boards to found denominational schools at the public expense; and therefore receives with pleasure the assurances of Mr. Gladstone that this portion of the Bill shall be redrawn,” and Mill was called upon, “to receive whom the entire audience rose cheering”
the resolution which has been moved relates to a defect which, as the Bill was originally adrawna , was its greatest blot: and even after the great concessions—for they are great concessions—which we may now consider to have been made by the Government, enough of evil remains to demand a strong protest. Though there are many other things in the Bill that we wish altered, those other defects are chiefly of the nature of shortcomings: what is done we approve, but we wish that it were done more thoroughly: the difference between what the Bill gives and what we desire is the difference between good and better, but in the present case it is the difference between good and bad. (Applause.) The Bill does not simply halt and hang back in the path of good, it does positive evil; it introduces a new religious inequality.1 Even the battenuations that are promisedb leave untouched a great part of the evil, for they leave the whole of its principle. Teachers are still to be employed and paid by the entire community to teach the religion of a part. True, this is now to be done out of school hours,2 and I would by no means depreciate the value of this concession. I should be glad to forget as soon as possible what the Bill would have been without it. Though brought in by a Government which has cearnedc such high distinction as the destroyer of religious inequality in Ireland,3 a more effectual plan could scarcely have been devised by the strongest champion of ecclesiastical ascendancy for enabling the clergy of the Church of England to deducate the children of the greater part of England and Wales in their own religion at the expensed of the public. Hitherto instruction has only been given to those who asked for it, but we are now going (at least we hope so) to teach every child; and the Bill gave up to the local bodies, which in the rural districts means the squire and the parson, all the neglected children—the children of all who care little about religion, of all who are dependent, of all who are under obligations for charitable offices, of all who are too timid to risk displeasing their superiors by sending in a solemn refusal in writing to do what they are wanted to do.4 (Loud cheers.) And because the Nonconformists would not stand this they were told (but I must do the Government the justice to say, not by them) that their motive could not be religious or political principle, but could only be eunworthye sectarian jealousy. By the promised concessions this blot is in great part—I wish I could even now say entirely—taken out of the Bill. But the principle remains of teaching the religion of a part with funds raised by taxation from the whole; and a measure infected by this bad principle cannot be satisfactory to any but persons of the dominant creed, nor to impartial persons of any creed. (Cheers.)
fIt is true we may be toldf that the Dissenters can teach their own doctrines if they please and in the school-buildings too.5 They can, if, after deducting the school hours and the gextra hours set apartg for Church teaching, sufficient time remains; but they must pay the whole expense and their share of the cost of the Church-teaching besides. (Laughter.) We may be told too that in places where the Dissenters are the strongest, it will be they and not the Church that will be enabled to teach their own doctrines at other people’s expense.6 As if an injustice in one place were cured by an injustice in another. (Cheers.) But this permission to hbe unjusth in their turn, wherever they are strong enough, the Dissenters are so extremely unreasonable as not to value. It is well known that they do not desire their distinctive doctrines to be taught in schools; and, indeed, there are probably few places in which any one denomination is sufficiently numerous to make this ieasilyi practicable. 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. Besides, we j know that the practical strength of the Dissenters is in the large towns, or districts equivalent to towns; where they happen to be in a majority anywhere else, we see by the example of Wales how little it avails them. But in large towns, even where the Dissenters are the strongest, the Church party is sure to be strong enough to reduce them to a compromise, and make the Boards either subsidize existing Church schools, or, if they make use of the power the Bill gives them of founding others,7 to found a Church school by the side of every unsectarian one. So that the Church party will kprobably, in notk a single instance, be in that position of victims, which it is supposed ought to be so great a consolation to the Dissenters for being victims in three-fourths of the Kingdom.
Another thing that is said is that what we complain of as a new grievance exists already: by the national grants in aid of denominational schools we are all of us taxed for teaching religions not our own.8 Well, perhaps there are some of us who might have a good deal to say against this too as a permanent institution, and who live in hope of its ultimate absorption into something of which they can more thoroughly approve. But we are not going now to begin this system; it exists. When it was first introduced nothing better could have been obtained; and it still does good, though we may learn—if we do not already know it—from Mr. Mundella’s speech, how sadly the result falls short of the claims made for it.9
But we do not desire to destroy what we have got until we have replaced it by something better. The worst feature of the system, the bigotted refusal of laidl to secular schools, is to be abandoned; and the Bill provides that if the Boards, instead of founding new schools, elect to subsidize the old, they must subsidize all denominations impartially,10 secular schools, I hope, included. For this the framers of the Bill are entitled to our cordial thanks. But it is puzzling to find such opposite principles acted on in m different parts of the same Bill, and such different measure meted out to the old schools and to the new. It looks like the result of a compromise between two parties in the Government, on the plan of giving something to each: the sort of thing, in short, which makes our legislation the jumble of inconsistencies that it is. (Loud cheers.)
Some have the face to tell us that the ratepayer after all is not taxed for the religious instruction, for the rate is so limited by the Bill that he in reality only pays for the secular teaching. Indeed! Then who does pay for the religious teaching? Do the Church party intend to raise the money by voluntary subscription? The Times of last Monday throws out a suggestion of the kind:11 if one could hope that it would be adopted I should not have another word to say; except indeed, that since, after Mr. Gladstone’s concessions, the religious is no longer to be mixed up with the secular teaching, it may as well be given by a different person altogether, when the impartiality would be complete. But if the expense is not paid by subscription it must be paid by the Privy Council, that is by the taxpayer. And do not Dissenters pay taxes? Is there a conscience clause nagainstn the tax gatherer? (Cheers.)
One more thing is said which might well amaze any one who is not past being astonished at any of the tricks that are played with words. We are told that in our care for the conscience of the minority, we violate that of the majority who conscientiously disapprove of schools in which religion is not taught. Now, if what their conscience objects to is sending their own children to such schools, there is no compulsion; they are free to found schools of their own. It is necessary to say this, for the oprincipal supporters of the Bill12 in the House of Commonso did not seem to be aware of it; they seemed never to have heard of such an idea; they charged us with expelling religion from the schools, as if there were no schools to be had but those supported by rates; as if we were proposing to prohibit all schools except secular ones, or to throw some great obstacle in their way; while all we demand is, that those who make use of the religious teaching shall pay for it themselves instead of taxing others to do it. So that the conscientious scruple which we are accused of violating is a scruple not against going without the religious instruction but against paying for it, and their conscience requires them to get it paid for by other people. (Cheers.) Is not pthisp a singular spectacle of the richest and most powerful part of the nation, who with two thirds of their expenses sure to be paid by the Privy Council qorq the School Rate, cannot bear to do what the smallest denomination of Dissenters cheerfully does—pay for their own religious teaching? But is not this precisely because they are the rich and powerful? rThe poor and the weak neverr dream of throwing their personal pecuniary obligations upon the public. It is a privilege only ssoughts by those who do not need it, but who think they have a right to it because they have always had the power to exact it. (Cheers.) tBut it seemst some of these people have a conscience so extremely delicate that it is wounded, not uif their own children, but if any other people’s children, attend schools in which religion is not taughtu . The vbarev existence of a secular school within the country, at least with aid from the State, is a burden on their consciences, as the w existence of heretics was on the conscience of the Grand Inquisitor. And we, because we decline to defer to this remarkable conscientious scruple, disregard the rights of conscience! But the rights of conscience do not extend to imposing our own conscience as a rule upon somebody else. I dare say we should be told, if it were anyone’s interest to affirm it, that we are no lovers of liberty because we do not permit kings to take the liberty of hanging or guillotining people at their pleasure. But the liberty we stand up for is the equal liberty of all, and not the greatest possible liberty of one, and slavery of all the rest. (Cheers.) There ought to be room in the world for more than one man’s liberty; and there ought to be room in the world for more than one xman’sx conscience. Let all parties have what religious teaching their conscience approves and they are willing to pay for. But when a man tells me his conscience requires that other people shall have religious teaching whether they like it or not, and shall have it in schools though they would prefer having it elsewhere, and shall not be helped like other people with their secular teaching unless they consent to accept religious teaching along with it, I tell him that he is not asserting his own freedom of conscience but trampling on that of other people. (Cheers.) If this is a right of conscience it was bigotry and prejudice to complain of the persecutions of the Vaudois and of the Protestants. The case is less flagrant but the principle is the same. (Loud cheers.)
[After several speeches, the resolution was passed unanimously. Anotherresolution was moved against Clause 66, which gave school boards discretion over compulsory education, and in favour of guaranteed education for every child; it too was approved unanimously, and then it was moved that elected school boards be established in every district; this passed, a petition to Parliament embodying the resolutions was endorsed, and the meeting ended with the customary vote of thanks to the Chair.]
[1 ]By Clauses 7 and 14, it allowed denominational instruction by teachers paid out of State funds.
[b-b]TT] P,DT alterations that are promised] Manuscript promised attenuations
[2 ]A suggestion made on 18 March by William Francis Cowper-Temple (1811-88), M.P. for Hampshire South (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 200, col. 289) that religious instruction be given at the beginning or end of the school day was incorporated into a successful amendment; see Sect. 7 of 33 & 34 Victoria, c. 75. Gladstone, in his Speech on the Elementary Education Bill (18 Mar.), col. 301, indicated that concessions would be made.
[3 ]By 32 & 33 Victoria, c. 42 (1869).
[d-d]DT dictate to the larger part of England and Wales their religion at the risk
[4 ]By Clause 7, the “conscience clause.”
[e-e]DT a mean
[f-f]DT It is true, we are told,] Manuscript We may be told, indeed,
[5 ]Gladstone, speech of 18 March, col. 302.
[g-g]DT hour set apart] Manuscript extra hours
[6 ]Adderley, Speech on the Elementary Education Bill (18 Mar., 1870), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 200, cols. 227-36.
[i-i]DT liberty] -Manuscript
[7 ]By Clause 6.
[k-k]Manuscript not probably, in
[8 ]William Edward Forster, Speech on the Elementary Education Bill (14 Mar., 1870), ibid., Vol. 199, col. 1946.
[9 ]Anthony John Mundella (1825-97), M.P. for Sheffield, Speech on the Elementary Education Bill (18 Mar., 1870), ibid., Vol. 200, cols. 240-2.
[10 ]By Clause 22.
[11 ]Leading article on the Education Bill, The Times, 21 Mar., 1870, p. 9.
[n-n]DT,Manuscript] P,TT for
[o-o]DT House of Commons] Manuscript principal speakers in support of the Bill
[12 ]In addition to Forster and Adderley, cited above, Alexander Beresford-Hope (1820-87), then M.P. for Cambridge University, Speech on the Elementary Education Bill (15 Mar., 1870), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 199, cols. 2021-6.
[p-p]Manuscript] P,DT,TT [not in italics]
[r-r]Manuscript It is not the poor and weak who
[t-t]Manuscript [paragraph] It appears however that
[u-u]Manuscript as P . . . attend a school . . . as P] DT when their own opinions, but when other people’s opinions are taught in schools
[v-v]DT very idea of the] Manuscript very