- Russian War. I. House of Commons, December 22, 1854.
- Russian War. II. House of Commons, June 5, 1855.
- Russian War. III. Manchester, March 18, 1857.
- American War. I. House of Commons, April 24, 1863.
- American War. II. Rochdale, November 24, 1863.
- China War. House of Commons, February 26, 1857.
- Foreign Policy. I. House of Commons, June 12, 1849.
- Foreign Policy. II. London, October 8, 1849.
- Foreign Policy. III. London, January 18, 1850.
- Foreign Policy. IV. House of Commons, June 28, 1850.
- Foreign Policy. V. Rochdale, June 26, 1861.
- Foreign Policy. VI. House of Commons, August 1, 1862.
- Foreign Policy. VII. Manchester, October 25, 1862.
- Foreign Policy. VIII. Rochdale, October 29, 1862
- Foreign Policy. IX. Rochdale, November 23, 1864.
- India. House of Commons, June 27, 1853.
- Peace. I. Wrexham, November 14, 1850.
- Peace. II. Manchester, January 27, 1853.
- Policy of the Whig Government. Manchester, January 23, 1851.
- Parliamentary Reform. I. House of Commons, July 6, 1848.
- Parliamentary Reform. II. London, November 26, 1849.
- Parliamentary Reform. III. Manchester, December 4,1851.
- Parliamentary Reform. IV. Rochdale, August 17, 1859.
- Parliamentary Reform. V. Rochdale, August 18, 1859.
- Education. I. Manchester, January 22, 1851
- Education. II. House of Commons, May 22, 1851.
- Education. III. Manchester, December 1, 1851.
- Education. IV. Barnsley, October 25, 1853.
MANCHESTER, JANUARY 22, 1851
[The National Public School Association, the objects of which were nearly the same as those advocated at present by the Education League, held an annual meeting at Manchester, at which Mr. Cobden moved the following resolution:—'That the present aspect of the Educational Question gives high testimony to the value of the efforts of this association, and promises a complete and speedy triumph.']
The aspect of this room certainly affords encouragement to the friends of Education. The very numerous and influential body of gentlemen that I see before me is a proof of the growing interest taken in this important question; and I see around me many gentlemen,—I see many of the old familiar faces with whom I was associated in a former struggle; and if continuous courage and perseverance, and an undeviating adherence to principle under trying circumstances can warrant success, then, I think, the past experience which those gentlemen have given to the world, augurs a triumph for the cause we have now in hand. But, gentlemen, I don't disguise from myself,—and you will not for a moment conceal from your minds, that we are indebted for this meeting, in some degree, to a recent movement that has taken place in this city by gentlemen who have hitherto not taken a prominent part in the cause of national education.
Now I join most unfeignedly in the expression of congratulation upon the fact, that those gentlemen have come forward to avow, to a great extent, their adhesion to the principles of this association. They have given the sanction of their approval to the main features of this association, as has been well observed,—they have adopted the principles of local rating; and I will further say, they have, by one of the provisions of that scheme which has been published to the world, given in their adhesion to the principle of secular education, inasmuch as they leave to the parents of children the power of demanding for their children an exemption from that doctrinal instruction, which has been hitherto held by every party an indispensable requisite of education. Now, I must confess, I have always been so impressed with the difficulties of this question, that if a proposal had been made by which it was intended to give an improved education to the people, coupled with conditions ten times as objectionable as those we have lately had proposed to us, I do not think I could have found it in my heart to have offered any very strong opposition. I have really passed beyond the time in which I can offer any opposition to any scheme whatever, come from whatever party it may, which proposes to give the mass of the people of this country a better education than they now receive. I will say more,—that in joining the secular system of education, I have not taken up the plan from any original love for a system of education which either separates itself from religion, or which sets up some peculiar and novel model of a system which shall be different from anything which has preceded it in this country. I confess that for fifteen years my efforts in education, and my hopes of success in establishing a system of national education, have always been associated with the idea of coupling the education of this country with the religious communities which exist. But I have found, after trying it, as I think, in every possible shape, such insuperable difficulties in consequence of the religious discordances of this country,—that I have taken refuge in this, which has been called the remote haven of refuge for the Educationists,—the secular system,—in sheer despair of carrying out any system in connection with religion. I should, therefore, be a hypocrite, if I were to say I have any particular repugnance to a system of education coupled with religious instruction. But there is no one in this room, or in the country, that can have a stronger conviction than I have of the utter hopelessness of ever attempting to unite the religious bodies of this country in any system of education; so that I can hardly bring myself even to give a serious consideration to the plan that has been now brought forward by gentlemen in this city, and who have brought it forward, no doubt, with the best possible intentions, and who have only to persevere in order to find what I have found, for the last fifteen years,—the hopelessness of the task. For what is it those gentlemen have now proposed to do? Is there any novelty in it? Why, it is precisely what Parliament, and the Government, and the Committee of Privy Council, have been attempting to do now for a great number of years,—that is, to give a system of education to the country which shall comprise religious instruction, and which shall call upon the people of this country to subscribe, through taxation or rates, for the general religious as well as secular education of the country.
There is no novelty in the plan now brought forward; it is merely a proposal to transfer to Manchester, as the theatre of contest, what has been hitherto just going on in the House of Commons and the Government. It is, in fact, a proposal by which everybody shall be called upon to pay for the religious teaching of everybody else. Now, this is precisely what has been objected to by a great portion of this community, and what has prevented the present system, administered through the Minutes of Council, from being successful. There is this novelty, certainly,—that for the first time a body of Churchmen have themselves come forward, and recommended that all religious denominations should be allowed to receive public money for the teaching of their catechisms and creeds. Now, that is a novelty, because hitherto, although the Church body have themselves been in favour of endowment for one particular sect,—if I may be allowed to call it so,—yet the Church has not hitherto been an active promoter of any system which shall recognise the right of other religious sects to receive public money to teach their catechisms. So far, then, we have a difference in the quarter from which this proposal has come; but does this alter the character of the opposition we may expect from those who have hitherto opposed the Minutes of Council and the parliamentary grants for education? It is precisely the same thing over again,—the same thing, whether you ask the religious voluntaries of this country to receive and pay public money for religious teaching through a local rate in Manchester, or through the Minutes in Council voted by Parliament in the annual grants. There is no difference in the two proposals, except that one is done by rates levied in Manchester, and the other by a vote in the House of Commons. How then are we to escape those difficulties in the religious question which we have hitherto encountered? If the members of the dissenting bodies have been sincere in their opposition hitherto to the national system of education, as administered through the Minutes of the Committee of Privy Council, there is not the slightest hope of that proposal, which has now emanated from the Church party in Manchester, being acceptable to this city. But I am not sure we are dealing with any well-considered or matured proposition from any particular religious body. We probably have the plan of an individual rather than the manifesto of a party. I am not sure that any party in this city, any religious body as a body, or any committee as a committee, has yet endorsed the proposal submitted to us; and I do not think the gentlemen who have so far given in their adhesion to this proposal, as to assemble together and discuss it, have considered the ultimate bearing and scope of the proposal that has been put forward. It is based upon the principle of voting public money for the teaching of the religious creeds of every religious denomination in the country. If it does not recognise that principle, it is an unjust proposal. There are but two principles on which you can carry on an education system in this country, or in any other, with the slightest approximation to justice. The one is, if you will have a religion, to form your plan so as to pay for the teaching of all religions; the other is, to adopt the secular system, and leave religion to voluntary effort.
Now, I must say, I doubt if the gentlemen who have so far joined this new association as to attend in person to hear it mooted,—I question if they fully understand the ultimate scope of what must be their proposal, if carried out with fairness; for it amounts to this, that you should pay from the public rates of this city the money for educating children in the Church schools, where, independent of the secular education which they shall have secured to them, they shall be taught the Church Catechism; and to the Independents, the Baptists, and the Unitarians and Wesleyans, the same system would be applied, in which, besides the secular instruction which should be enforced, they must be allowed to teach their various creeds or catechisms. But there is a large body in Manchester and Salford lying at the very lowest stratum of society, whose education must be embraced in any plan, or that plan must be worse than a mere pretence, fraught with downright injustice and negligence, and negligence of the most necessitous portion of the people. I speak of the Roman Catholics,—that portion of the people which was described by Dr. Kay, now Sir James Shuttleworth, in his pamphlet written here, some fourteen years ago,—that portion of the population which he has described, comprising 60,000 or 80,000 of the Irish, or immediate descendants of the Irish, being all Roman Catholics, and who import into this city a great deal of that barbarism which has, unfortunately, characterised the country from which they came. Any system which does not embrace that part of the population, cannot be entertained for a moment as a system.
Well, then, the proposal of the Church party must mean, that the schooling of all of those Roman Catholic children shall be paid out of the public rates, and that, besides the secular instruction they may receive, they shall be taught their catechism, and be permitted to observe their other religious ceremonies, precisely in the same way that the Church of England and the dissenting schools are allowed to do. Have those gentlemen made up their minds that they will pay rates for the purpose of the religious training of the Roman Catholic children? Now, I say, I should be a hypocrite if I expressed any great repugnance myself to that which would give these poor children an education, coupled with that sort of instruction which I am here to advocate. But have the gentlemen who put forward this proposal fully considered the scope of their own plan? Have they made up their minds that the whole of the Roman Catholic children in Manchester shall be taught their religion at the expense of the ratepayers of Manchester? Have they made up their minds, when they talk of enforcing the reading of the Bible—have they made up their minds what version of the Bible they mean in all this? Has that subject been discussed among them,—has it been settled? Do they mean that the Douay version of the Bible shall be taught in these Roman Catholic schools? Because if they do not mean that, when they make the Bible the condition of receiving any schooling, it is at once shutting the door most effectually to the instruction of the great mass of the Roman Catholic children in this town. Do not let any one suppose I am interposing these objections as my objections. They are what I have encountered here for the last fifteen years. I remember so long ago as 1836, when Mr. Wyse, himself a Roman Catholic, and Mr. Simpson, of Edinburgh, and others, came down here to enlighten us on the subject of education—I remember having in my counting-house in Mosley Street, the ministers of religion of every denomination, and trying to bring them to some sort of agreement on the system of education we were then anxious to advocate. I believe the insuperable difficulties that then existed have even increased now, and have not been in the slightest degree modified; and I believe those gentlemen who, with the best intentions, have brought forward this plan now, will find, before they have pursued it to one-twentieth part of the time and trouble gentlemen here have given to the Education question, that they have attempted an impossibility, and will be compelled to turn aside from what they are attempting to do. And if they view education at all as of that paramount importance I trust they do, the effect of this well-meant effort will be to bring many of those gentlemen to our ranks, if, as I sincerely hope and trust will be the case, we do nothing in the mean time to repel them from joining us.
The difficulties I spoke of have been encountered in two other countries, the most resembling us in the state of their civilisation and religion—the United States and Holland. They have both gone through the very same ordeal. In the United States, the education was once religious. When the Pilgrim Fathers landed in New England, the system of education then commenced embraced religious teaching; everybody was taught the Catechism, and there was no objection made to it. But when the number of sects multiplied, this religious education became a bone of contention; a great struggle ensued, and the Americans have had to go through the same difficulty that we have now; and it has ended, as it will end in this case, in the fundamental principle laid down in the Massachusetts statute for erecting common schools, which says that no book shall be admitted in the schools, and nothing taught, which favours the peculiar doctrines of any particular religious sect. In Holland, they have come to precisely the same conclusion. There they have adopted a system of secular education, because they have found it impracticable to unite the religious bodies in any system of combined religious instruction.
Well, now, if ever there was a time when it was desirable, more than another, to try and separate religious from secular instruction, it is the present time. And why? Because we have arrived at that period when all the world is agreed that secular instruction is a good thing for society. There are no dissentients now, or, if there be, they dare not avow themselves. We are agreed that it is good that English boys and girls shall be taught to read, and write, and spell, and should get as much grammar and geography as they can possibly imbibe There is no difference of opinion about putting the elements of knowledge into the minds of every child in the land, if it can be done. But while we are all united on that, can any one who moves in society conceal from himself that we are also arrived at a time when we have probably more religious discord impending over us than at any period of our history? I do not allude to the dissensions between Roman Catholics and Protestants; I do not allude to them, excepting so far as they may lead to schisms and controversies in the internal state of other religious bodies. But I think there is at the present moment looming in the distance, and not in the very remote distance, a schism of the Church of England itself. I think you have two parties, one probably more strong than the other in numbers, but the other far more strong in intellect and logic, which are going to divide the Church. I see the Wesleyan body torn asunder by a schism, which, I think, the most sanguine can hardly hope to see healed; and I think there are several other religious bodies, not perfectly tranquil in their religious organization.
Now, while we have the prospect of these great internal dissensions in religious bodies,—while we are all agreed that secular education is a good thing,—is it desirable, if it can be avoided—would it be desirable, if it were practicable, which it is not, I think,—that our national education should be one which is united and bound up with the religious organisations, when schisms may prevail in the churches, and must be necessarily transferred with increased virulence to the schools? For bear in mind that what you see now pervading the churches in Scotland, where you have an irreconcilable dispute with regard to the appointment of the masters of the parochial schools—a dispute between the Old Kirk and the Free Church—recollect, if what I say be correct, that you have an impending schism in the Anglican Church, that then you will have precisely the same difficulty in the appointment of masters in the national schools. You will have High and Low Church contending for the appointment of masters; in one parish, High Church predominating, the masters will be dwelling on the necessity of the old forms of the Church, and enforcing the ritual and observances prescribed by the Liturgy and Canons; and in another you will have the Low Church, on the other hand, dwelling on what they regard as the more vital essence of religion, and discountenancing those forms which the High Church regard; and you will have the same discords pervading your schools; and the consequence will be, decreased efficiency of the masters, and, in some cases, a divided school, a disruption of the school along with the congregation; and you will have to fight the battle again, to reconcile the different bodies; and in the end, I believe in my conscience, it will come as in America and Holland to this,—you will be obliged, after a great waste of time, to return to the secular system which they have adopted, and which we are met here to advocate.
Since I addressed you here last, I have been visiting many places—Birmingham, Leeds, Huddersfield, Bolton, and elsewhere,—and I have sought private interviews with numerous bodies of gentlemen interested in the question. I have especially sought private interviews with those who have been supposed to differ from us, but have been thought usually as ardent advocates of education as ourselves,—those connected with the dissenting bodies in different parts of the kingdom. I have endeavoured to meet them privately, and to have a full and free discussion of the question, because I thought that such a cause would be more likely to put them in possession of the real objects of this association, which have been so much misunderstood. I thought it better to do so in a private conference, rather than to enter on an antagonistic discussion with them in the public arena, where they might be committed to views which I hope and trust, when they have fully considered our plan, they may be induced to modify and even to change. One of the objections made to our plan has been alluded to by my friend Mr. Schwabe; and it is that we propose by our plan to supersede all existing schools, and render all existing school-rooms valueless. Now, it seems to me, that the plan put forward by the Church party here, seems rather to insinuate that they have caught us tripping, when they offer to avail themselves of school-rooms already in existence, and assume that we contemplate doing nothing of the kind. I have mentioned a dozen times, it is my firm belief, if a system of education such as we propose were adopted, you would have no difficulty in getting an Act of Parliament for a local rate in Manchester, and in doing what your Corporation does with the water-works, taking power to use, either by purchase or renting, existing school-rooms. I do not conceal the fact from our friends, that I believe, if we have a system of rating for free schools, the effect will be to supersede all other schools, which are now partly supported upon the eleemosynary principle, that is, by charitable contributions. I do not conceal from others,—I cannot conceal from myself,—that if you establish free schools in every parish, you will ultimately close all those schools that now call upon the poor children to pay 3d. or 4d. a week, and in which the difference of expense is now made up by the contributions of the congregations. If they did not have this effect, they would be unworthy of the name of national schools. But I have never considered that the school-rooms in connection with existing places of worship, or otherwise, would be rendered useless, for I have always considered they might be rented or purchased in precisely the same way as Mr. Schwabe has suggested; they might be rented for the week-time, and left on the Sunday in the hands of the congregations. This is merely a matter of detail; but we should be taking a rash leap if we had contemplated closing all existing schools, and wasting the vast capital invested in bricks and mortar for the erection of them.
Another strong objection which I have heard from our dissenting friends has been, that the secular system of education is adverse to religious teaching. I cannot tell how to account for it, but there seems to be a pertinacious resolution to maintain that the teaching the people reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, grammar, and the rest, is inimical to religion. Now, I have found the most curious refutation of this doctrine, where I have been, in the practice of the very parties who have objected to us. I remember at Birmingham, I found there a preparatory school built by a joint-stock association, by men of every religious denomination—I heard of a clergyman sending his son to that school. No religion is taught there—the building would never have been erected, unless by a compromise, which agreed that no religion should be taught in that school; and yet, the very parties that object to us for not proposing to give religion with secular education, send their sons to schools where secular education is separated, avowedly, from religious teaching. Again, in Yorkshire, I was present at a meeting where a gentleman stoutly maintained it was impossible to separate religious from secular instruction. It was in Huddersfield. And another gentleman said, ‘How can you possibly maintain that doctrine? You know the Huddersfield College here could not exist a day, unless we consented altogether and totally to separate religious from secular teaching; and you know you send your son to the college, and that he never received any religious instruction there!’ I must say that gentleman was silent for the rest of the evening. But I also found that at Huddersfield they have, in connection with their Mechanics' Institution, a very excellent school for young children (not for adults), where they may go and enjoy the benefits of this institution for a week, by subscribing 3½d. They give the smallest doses of instruction, because they see the ginshops and such places offer to their customers a twopenny or threepenny taste; and so they let the children come in for a week for 3½d., in hopes that they will be tempted to repeat the dose,—I think a very wise regulation. I find there are hundreds of the children in this admirable school; but that excludes all religious teaching. I do not know whether the Bible exists in the institution library; but they never touch it in the schools, and never use it as a school-book for teaching religion. And this applies to the schools generally connected with the mechanics' institutions in Yorkshire, of the union of which my friend, Mr. Baines, is president; in those schools there is no religion taught or professed to be taught. And, therefore, in my travels, I have found that gentlemen offered in their own practice the best example of the success of our principle, and the best refutation of their own theories.
I have heard it said, the voluntary principle is succeeding very well, and that has been said by men for whose judgment in other matters I have great respect; but I am glad, among the other advantages afforded by our friends, the Church Society in this town, that we have got a corroboration of the doctrine with which we started, that the existing system of schooling is very defective. The Church party tell us, what we were aware of before, that we have a multitude of school-houses, but they are badly attended, and the instruction is not sufficiently good to attract children. The great fallacy we have hitherto had in the statistics of education is this,—we have taken school-houses for schooling, and mistaken bricks and mortar for good masters. I never doubted we have had vast efforts made in building schools; nothing is so easy as to galvanise an effort in a congregation or a district for raising a school, or to persuade men that when they have done that they have provided for education. What do bricks and mortar do for education? The gentlemen of this Church system have told us—these schools are in many cases standing idle, and the children do not come to them. I have heard mentioned, wherever I have been, that you have plenty of schools, and the people will not attend the schools until you adopt some system of compulsion, some coercive system, and compel people to send their children to school; it is of no use building schools, for the children will not attend them. I have heard this compulsory system of attendance at schools advocated in private meetings, in friends' houses, wherever I have been—where gentlemen have spoken, probably, with less reserve than they would in public; and I have found, to my astonishment, everywhere a strong opinion in favour of a compulsory attendance in schools.
Now, I beg my friends will understand that I did not bring that principle with me to Manchester. We have stopped short of that yet; and we say, before you call on us to do that you must show us first that people will not send their children to school. You have two things to do: firstly, to establish free schools in Manchester, to receive all the children of those who may choose to send them there; and, in the next place, to have good schoolmasters. I am firmly convinced, as I have told my friends everywhere, that if you set up good schools, and have good school-masters, you will have no difficulty in filling your schools. I have never yet found a good schoolmaster that did not fill his school, even when the children had to pay 2d. or 3d. a week for the schooling. And if, after you had established a free school, and given every one the opportunity of attending gratis, and given them good masters, you find the people will not send their children to the schools, but bring them up in idleness and ignorance, I don't know that, under such circumstances, I should see that it would be any great infringement of the liberty of the subject, if you did adopt some plan; first, perhaps, to seduce or bribe them to send their children to school, and, if that would not do, to try a little compulsion. I don't see any objection in principle to that; but I say to our friends, before you do that, try every inducement to make them come; and I should not be squeamish about any outcry there might be of the liberty of the subject, and so on;—there is just as much liberty in Switzerland as in England, and in Switzerland they do punish parents who do not send their children to the free school, unless they can show they are giving them an education elsewhere.
These are some of the objections I have heard our friends of the dissenting bodies urge to this plan in the last few weeks. They have objected, on the ground of principle, that they cannot separate the secular from the religious education. Well, I must say we have endeavoured to be very accommodating to these gentlemen, and have found it very difficult to please them. When the attempt was for many years to have an education combined with religion, then these same gentlemen told us it was contrary to their consciences, either to receive or pay money raised by taxation, for teaching religion. When we offer to separate it, we are told by these same gentlemen, that it is contrary to their conscientious convictions to separate religious from secular teaching. I do think such a course, if persevered in, will go very far to alienate the feelings of the great mass of the working community, who, I am very much afraid (speaking of the surrounding district), are not in communion with either Dissent or Church; it will do very much, I fear, to alienate the great mass of the people from those who take an impracticable course, which stops the avenues of education to the working classes, by setting up obstacles which it is impossible for any rational man either to obviate or remove.
Now, have those gentlemen a due appreciation of the value of the education which they are opposing, apart from religious instruction? I believe they must have an adequate idea of the value of secular knowledge. I put it to them, do they not value it in their own cases and in their own families? I put it to a gentleman I met with, one of my strongest opponents,—a minister of religion,—and he told me, in a party of religious men, that ‘he valued secular knowledge so much, he would not give his secular knowledge, apart from all religion, in exchange for all the world.’ Well, and if he would not put himself on a par with the unenlightened peasant for the whole world, is he carrying out the Christian principle of doing to others as he would be done by, if he lightly interposes obstacles to the acquisition of some portion of that knowledge which he values so highly, by the great mass of his poorer fellow-countrymen? I want to ask the gentlemen, who interpose at all times the question of religion as an obstacle to secular teaching, do they or do they not consider that knowledge is in itself a good? I will say, apart from religion altogether, do they consider that Seneca or Cicero were better for their knowledge than the common gladiator or peasant of their day? But even as a matter of religious import, I would ask those gentlemen, do they not think they will have a better chance of gaining over the mass of the people of this country to some kind of religious influence, if they begin by offering to their children, and tempting their children to acquire, some kind of secular knowledge? It seems to me, that to argue otherwise would contend for this,—that ignorance and barbarism, and vice, drunkenness, and misery, are conducive to Christianity, and the opposite qualities contrary to it. I feel we are in danger of alienating the great mass of the people in these manufacturing districts from every religious communion, and even estranging their minds from every principle of Christianity, if we allow this unseemly exhibition to go on—of men squabbling for their distinctive tenets of religion, and making that a bone of contention, and a means of depriving the great mass of the people of the knowledge that is necessary for them to gain their daily bread, or to preserve themselves in respectability. Why, what a spectacle do we present to the world? Where is our boasted common sense, which we think enables us to steer our way through social and political difficulties, when we vaunt ourselves with our superiority to Frenchmen, Germans, Danes, and Italians? Where is our boasted superiority, when the American Minister can come to our Town Hall here, and taunt us with the ignorance of our people, and when nobody dares to rise up and say, we have done as much for education as they have in America? Is it not true (as Mr. Lawrence properly said), that we can show a great accumulation of wealth, that we are exporting more largely than any other nation, but there is something more wanted; and I agree with him, there is danger so long as it is wanted; and that there is no time to be lost—not a day, not an hour to be lost. I do not boast of the country we live in, so long as the mass of the people are uneducated and ignorant. Our friend, our worthy president (Mr. A. Henry, M.P.), whom I met at Leeds—and who, allow me to say, most manfully maintains your principles wherever he goes—told them at the Mechanics' Institution meeting at Leeds:—'They say we are a great nation—that is true, we are a great nation, if paying an enormous taxation, and keeping up an enormous navy, and exporting a large amount of goods, constitute greatness, we are a mighty nation; but so long as we have an ignorant people, we have not much reason to boast of our greatness.'
I have nothing more to say than to exhort you, now you have encouraging symptoms of progress, to continue and agitate in the same way you have hitherto done. I have seen nothing since I joined your ranks to make me doubt you have got hold of the right principle. I don't think any other can possibly succeed in this country, that is, provided what I have heard from religious bodies for the last fifteen years be truth,—if they have been shamming, and telling us they have qualms of conscience while they have none at all,—if they have been telling us they are voluntaries, when they are looking and sighing for endowment,—then, I say, the parties who have taken up another principle may succeed, and we may fail, and I can only say I am sorry they allowed me to lose time in trying to make them take up with this. But I do not think it possible that any plan of this kind can succeed. I want you to base it on the American experience; they have gone through this ordeal, and adopted the very plan we want. I call for the American system. I do not want to have my Bible read in the schools; because, if so, the children of 60,000 people here must go uneducated. I am neither an advocate for the Bible as a school-book, nor for its exclusion as a school-book; I am for the American system precisely as it stands. And I say, now is the time for you to continue the agitation of this question, and more actively than ever. The very fact of the attention paid to what is going on in Manchester by the press of the whole kingdom shows to what a degree the whole kingdom looks to Manchester to solve this great and difficult question. You have had the honour of commencing this agitation; you are now met with another agitation, which is far from being an enemy or a rival, and will ultimately be an assistant. I will say,—go on—quarrel with nobody—invite their concurrence. If you will appoint me to the Conference, I shall be happy and proud to be one of a deputation to their body, to seek an interview, and ask a private and confidential conversation with the gentlemen taking the lead in this scheme. I say, don't go in opposition to anybody, but keep your own course. I believe you have got the right principle, and, if you have—I know you of old—I believe you are the right men to succeed in it.
HOUSE OF COMMONS, MAY 22, 1851.
[On May 22, 1851, Mr. Fox, M.P. for Oldham, brought forward the following motion,—'That it is expedient to promote the Education of the People of England and Wales, by the establishment of Free Schools for secular instruction, to be supported by local rates, and managed by Committees, elected specially for that purpose by the rate-payers.' The motion was supported by Mr. Adderley. It was rejected by 90: 139 to 49.]
If some stranger had entered the House during the speech of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir D. Dundas), he would suppose that the motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Fox) is not a proposition for voting an additional sum of money to remedy a defect in education, the existence of which we are all ready to admit, but he would rather imagine it to be a proposal to withdraw the funds already applied to the instruction of the people in general, or that my hon. Friend intends to abolish the National Church, and to withdraw the 5,000,000l. or 6,000,000l., which is its present endowment; and that the moment he should succeed in carrying his motion, all the present voluntary contributions of the dissenting bodies would entirely cease. That would be the conviction of any one who entered the House during the speech of my hon. and learned Friend. When my hon. and learned Friend charged the hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) with fallacy, I thought that his (the Solicitor-General's) speech had been founded on fallacy from beginning to end. And I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has misunderstood and misapplied the argument of the hon. Member for North Staffordshire; for he went upon the assumption that the hon. Gentleman supported two kinds of education—an education of a secular, and an education of a religious kind, both out of the public funds. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say, that there is an ample provision for religious, but that there is no sufficient provision for secular education, and that he would agree to a system of secular education, rather than have none at all. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor. General said this question was impracticable; but the hon. and learned Gentleman forgets that his own plan has been tried for fifteen years in this country, and has been brought to a dead-lock; and the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department (Sir G. Grey) has informed us that a deputation has come from Manchester, and informed him that the scheme which has originated and has been attempted to be carried out by the men of Manchester has failed; and that, he contended, was an argument against the proposition of the hon. Member for Oldham.
Now, before the House decides upon the subject, it is, in my opinion, right that we should examine the statistics which are before us. Let us, in particular, look to the amount of money which we have granted for educational purposes. For the last five years we have had a grant of 125,000l. a year, while there has been but a very trifling increase on the population, and scarcely any to the persons who have received education in consequence of the State grant. And why? Because it is a subject that the Government dare not touch in this House; because the present system is so unsatisfactory, that, in spite of two large blue-books of correspondence and minutes, and an expenditure of 125,000l. per annum, the little education we do get in this country is owing to the efforts of the Committee of Privy Council; and I do not blame them for those efforts; but I honour them for trying to do that which cannot be done in this House. No one knows better than Government does that it dares not stir the question with a view of getting a grant commensurate with the wants of the country, in order to carry out the system which at present exists. And now what is it that Government is falling back upon? A local scheme in Manchester, which has already failed in precisely the same way as the Government plan has failed on these religious difficulties. The gentlemen who came to town from Manchester did me also the honour of calling upon me; and I rejoiced to see them endeavouring to overcome the difficulties of realising a system of education. They told me, as they told the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, that they had the concurrence of all the religious sects—that the Roman Catholics had joined them as well as the Dissenters; but I received a letter from them, after their return to Manchester, that, to their surprise and regret, they had to tell me that not two of the Roman Catholic clergy, as the hon. and learned Gentleman had stated, but eighteen, virtually the whole body of the Roman Catholic clergy in that town, had seceded from that plan of education. And why? Simply because the Committee that met in Manchester made it a fundamental principle of their scheme, that in all schools erected at the public expense in Manchester the authorised version of the Bible should be read; and that being a condition which the Roman Catholics could not comply with, that, of course, separated them altogether from this plan of education.
Now, I ask any one in this House, if any plan of public education can be satisfactory in the boroughs of Manchester and Salford combined, which excludes the poorest of the poor classes? There are in Manchester and Salford at least 100,000 Roman Catholics. They are the poorest of the population; and, if ignorance be an evil, they are the most dangerous part of the population to be left in ignorance. And yet this is a plan on which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary relies, in order to relieve him from the difficulty he was in. They are in precisely the same difficulty in Manchester that we are in this House; for I maintain that the little good that is done was done surreptitiously by the Educational Committee of the Privy Council, and not by a vote in this House. What are the Minutes of the Privy Council? Do you suppose they represent the debates in this House any more than they do the motion of my hon. Friend (Mr. W. J. Fox)? Bring forward a vote for the maintenance of Roman Catholic colleges, in which they will be allowed to carry on in their own peculiar way their own doctrines and worship, and do you think that such a vote will pass this House? There is a fundamental evasion and fallacy about the whole of this educational vote. I ask you, when you talk so much of religious education, if this 125,000l. is for religious teaching?—because I understood, when we were passing an educational vote, it was not for religious education. When the vote was first agreed to, in 1834, it was called school-money; it was 10,000l. or 20,000l. to begin with. Afterwards it was changed to a vote for education; but you did not vote the money for religious education. Could you vote any sum in this House, if it were asked fairly for religious instruction? No, it could not be done; and it could not be done for many years past, and never more shall we vote any money in this House as an endowment for religion; and, therefore, when you talk to me about voting for religious education, I say it is not an accurate description of what we vote it for.
The hon. and learned. Gentleman the Solicitor-General has talked as if there were some great conspiracy in the country,—as if there were some parties aiming to deprive the country of its religious faith; and he seems to assume that, if we allow schools to be established without religious teaching, they would practically be establishing schools to teach infidelity; and he also says, that by establishing schools for secular education without religion, we are, in fact, divorcing morality and religion from education. Now, when the hon. and learned Gentleman rung the changes about advancing the attributes of our nature, and of promoting the intellectual qualities at the expense of the religious and moral, he might surely give us credit for knowing that it was practically impossible to do anything of the kind. We know that religion is a part of moral training as well as the hon. and learned Gentleman does; but what we say is, that there is ample provision in this country already for religious training. There is twice as much spent in this country for religious training as there is in any other country in the world. Then how can it be said that we should exclude religion from education? I want to do nothing of the kind.
Again; we have been taunted with the use of the word ‘secular.’ Well, I do not know any other word we could use. I say once for all, I consider there is provision made for religious training, but not for secular training, and therefore I wish to provide for secular education. I want people to be able to read and write—to be able to write their names when they sign a contract, or register the birth of their children; I want people to be trained in habits of thought and forethought; and I do not know any other term than ‘secular’ for this kind of education. But why ring the changes upon secular education? I say, once for all, that I am not opposed to the Bible, or any other religious book, being read in schools.
What I want is, to have the same system of education in England that they have in Massachusetts, in the United States of America. I will not go to Louisiana or Georgia, but my system is that of Massachusetts; and I challenge hon. Gentlemen to test that system by the experience of that State, and the good it has effected there. That State is not open to the argument that it was a thinly-peopled country: it is an old country, and one which sends forth vast numbers of emigrants; the people are of our own race, and have our own habits; and I want to know why we cannot adopt the same plan in England that they have adopted with success in Massachusetts? We have just now a competition with all the world in the production of that which ministers to the comforts of mankind. If we see the result of ingenuity in any part of the world, we plume ourselves that we can imitate it. If we go to the Great Exhibition, and find a machine there, however cunningly it may be contrived, we shall find men say that what is done in Boston, in America, we can do in England. But if we adopt the Massachusetts system of education, you say it will make the people an irreligious people. I will meet you on that ground. I have been in Massachusetts, and, testing them by any test you may wish—by the number of their churches, by the number of attendants at their churches, by the amount paid for the teaching of religion, by the attendance at Sunday-schools, by the observance of the Sabbath, by the respect paid to religious teachers, by any one test with regard to religion,—I can challenge a comparison between Massachusetts and any part of England.
Well, then, the system of education adopted in Massachusetts is a secular system; and do they prevent the children from reading the Bible? Why, I venture to say, that in the report which I hold in my hand of the Board of Education in Massachusetts, there is not a single word about religion from beginning to end; and yet, probably, there is not one in a hundred of these schools where the Bible is not read. I have no objection to a parish having local management having the Bible in its schools as well as any other book; but what they do in Massachusetts we should do here, by saying, as a fundamental principle, no book shall be admitted into the common school which favours the peculiar doctrines of any Christian sect. Well, now, with a people so jealous of their religious independence as the people of Massachusetts are, what they had been able to do surely we can do in England. They had the same battle to go through there that we have. In Massachusetts, originally, they taught the Catechism in their schools, which had been taken there by the Pilgrim Fathers when they left England, and who carried with them as much intolerance almost as they left behind; but another system now prevails, and with the greatest possible advantage.
Practically, I believe that system will work as well in this country as it does in Massachusetts; and if the system proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham were carried out, I am persuaded that in ninety-nine out of a hundred of the parishes of England, nobody would object to the Bible being read in the schools, provided it were read without note or comment. In a vast proportion of these parishes there are no Roman Catholics; but I have that opinion of the good sense and rational conduct of men, that, if there were a very small minority—if there were a few families of Roman Catholics who objected to the reading of the Bible—the reading of it could be so adapted to particular times as not to interfere with any one's religious conviction, and in a way that would exclude nobody.
I believe that when the system of free schools is adopted, such will be the estimation in which education will be held by the mass of the people, that it will not be easy to keep children from the schools. Where is the difficulty of our doing what has been done in Massachusetts? I will not be driven from that ground. Give me the Massachusetts plan. I declare my belief, that the mass of the people in Massachusetts are as superior in intelligence to the population of Kent, as the latter are to the people of Naples. I say this advisedly. I ask, then, why we cannot have this system in England? Will you tell me it is on account of the Established Church? Why, surely, having an Established Church with a very rich endowment, which supplies a clergyman to every parish, and the means of religious instruction to the mass of the people—for the mass of the people has religious instruction without paying a farthing for it in the rural parishes—will you tell me, having this advantage, you could not maintain your ground against another people, who have left religion to voluntary effort, and who have endowed their secular schools?
Now, there has been an objection made that this scheme is intended to supersede existing school-rooms; it has been assumed that the plan of my hon. Friend (Mr. W. J. Fox) must necessarily throw to waste all existing schools belonging to places of worship. I see no necessity for that at all. I consider that we may make use of the existing school-rooms, as well for this system as for any other, and I never contemplated such a waste as to render useless existing school-rooms. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General has told us, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Home Affairs is of the same opinion, that if we adopt this plan of secular education we shall shut up all the other schools. That is an admission, by the way, that we are going to establish something better than the old system. But they went further, and said, when we shut up the schools we shall deprive the people of religious education, because the great bulk of the people get no religious instruction now, except what they get in their schools.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Trelawny) ejaculated, ‘What are the clergy doing?’ I thought that was a natural exclamation. We pay 5,000,000l. or 6,000,000l. a year to the clergy, and it is rather a bold thing for a devotee of the Church to say, if the children do not get religious training in the schools, they will get no religious training at all. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General, when he answered that ejaculation of the hon. Member for Tavistock, turned immediately to the manufacturing hives, where, from increase of population, he says, there is much ignorance. I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon; but the great mass of ignorance is not in the manufacturing towns but in the rural districts. I admit, indeed, that there is much ignorance in the manufacturing districts, but it is because the surplus population of the agricultural districts go to the manufacturing districts. I do not blame the clergy for being the cause of that ignorance in secular matters, although I think there is a great deal to be said as to the duty of the clergy to see that all persons in their parishes can read, inasmuch as I cannot see how a person can be a Protestant at all, who cannot read; yet I do not attempt to fasten upon the clergy all the responsibility for the ignorance that exists in the country parishes. I know that in many districts they have undertaken more than any one else for the cause of education, and I know that they find great difficulty in maintaining their schools by voluntary efforts in some places. In many rural parishes, three-fourths of the land is owned by absentees, and the clergy have very little chance of getting support from absentee landed proprietors.
How, then, are we to raise the funds to maintain the schools? I want a plan by which, for the purposes of secular education, a parish would be able to rate property. Let property be rated, and each proprietor, whether he were an absentee or resident, would contribute towards the education of the people. I am firmly convinced that money cannot be better applied in any of the small rural parishes than in providing good secular education. By such an education, the people will gain self-reliance and self-respect. Let them be taught a little geography; let them learn what is going on in other parts of the world—what, for example, is the rate of wages in the Colonies—and they will not then rot in parishes where they are a burden on the poor-rates. 80l. or 100l. a year laid out on education in a rural parish will do more to keep down the poor-rates, and to prevent crime, than the same amount expended in any other way.
I cannot help expressing the great gratification which I feel at the difference between the tone of the discussion this evening, and the tone of the debate last year. For my own part, I must say that there is no other subject on which I feel so tolerant towards everybody as I do on this subject of education. If I see the Government doing something—I care not how—I am grateful for it. If I see hon. Gentlemen opposite—whether High Church or Low Church—trying to secure for the people a better education, I thank them. I see the enormous difficulty of taking any combined step, owing to the religious element, which always stands in the way. If ever there be a time, however, when it is necessary for parties to combine in a system of secular education, apart from religious sects, the present is such a time; for no one can deny that never before was there so much strife and disunion amongst different religious bodies. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Heald) belongs to a religious community which is torn in twain. Is there to be one set of schools for the reformed, and another for the old Wesleyans? As a matter of economy—as a matter of charity, good-will, and kindness—let us all try to get on neutral ground; let us try to do so, not only on account of the good which will thus be done to the mass of the people of this country, who will never be educated under any other system, but in order that we may have an opportunity of meeting, as it were, out of the pale of those religious strifes which are now more threatening than ever.
MANCHESTER, DECEMBER 1, 1851.
[In 1851, two schemes, called respectively the National Public School Association, and the Manchester and Salford Scheme of Education, were recommended to the public, the latter being antagonistic to the former, and projected in rivalry of it. Mr. Cobden gave in his adhesion to the former plan, under which, in the face of religious differences, it was advised that rate-supported schools should not be denominational.]
We are hardly arrived at that point in this great struggle in which we can venture to say that we will define what the particular kind of secular education shall be which shall be enjoyed in the schools which are to be erected or to be maintained out of the public rates. But when that time shall come, I am quite sure that a great deal of that knowledge appertaining to our own nature, and to our own design and object in this world, as described by our friend Mr. Combe, will undoubtedly form a part of the secular education of this country—as a part, and only a part of that education—combined, as it will be, with the religious instruction. But, gentlemen, we have yet to settle this question,—'Shall we have any education at all in this country, such as is enjoyed in almost every other civilised country,—I mean an education supported by all, and free to all?' Now, that is the question. I hold anything else but that to be short of the real end and object of this controversy. Shall there be a system of education supported by all, and common to all? Well, you are going to settle that question, as you have settled so many other important topics, in Manchester. For I don't conceal from myself, that upon the local contest in which you are now engaged, will depend the kind of education which is likely to be adopted in this country.
The application which is about to be made to Parliament for a private bill embodying a scheme for giving to Manchester and Salford a local system of education, a system confined to those two boroughs, will, if it be adopted, I have no doubt in the world, be made a model for the adoption of all other localities similarly circumstanced—I mean, manufacturing districts and our great commercial centres; and whatever may be adopted as the Act of Parliament for Manchester, will, as in the Municipal Corporations Act, become a general Act, under which other places may put themselves, just as they now apply for the benefit of a charter under the Municipal Corporations Act. I have no doubt of that; and therefore you are engaged in a struggle of vast importance, not only to yourselves, but to the whole community. Scotland, as Mr. Combe says, has its eyes upon you. The rest of the country is equally interested in what you are now doing.
I do not want the National Public School Association to think that at present their important duties lie elsewhere. Their duties lie here at home; and my opinion is, that if their exertions are not centred here, in Manchester and Salford, we shall fail to do our duty in this crisis of this controversy. Now, what is the question at issue between the National Public School Association, which would apply their scheme to Manchester and Salford, and the Manchester and Salford Association, which applies merely for a local bill? Why, I think the whole difference between you may be traced to that long-standing and almost sole difficulty in the way of a national system of education in this country—I mean the religious difficulty. The real question which you are now disputing is this—shall the education be one in which the secular shall be separate from the religious element, or shall it be one where the teacher in your schools shall be paid out of a public rate to teach all kinds of religion, at the expense of all sorts of people? That is the sole difference—I mean, that is the source of all your differences; because, if you removed the religious difficulty, I do not think that people in Manchester would be at all disputing as to whether there should be more or less of self-government in your scheme. I believe that the members of the Manchester and Salford Scheme Association would be just as much inclined to preserve the municipal self-government of Manchester as you would be; but they remove a part of the administration, and control, and discretion, in their school business to London, simply and solely because they think by that they are going to escape the religious difficulty which lies in their way. And it is not a question of whether the school-rooms that are now in existence shall be used for giving both secular and religious instruction, because by the plan which has been adopted by this society at a Conference which met this morning, it is now the rule of this society,—it is a plan which we propose to adopt as a part of our bill for Parliament, that all schools belonging to separate churches or chapels which may be disposed to give education, subject to inspection, insuring that the secular instruction shall be good in quality, may receive payment per head for all the scholars educated in those schools, just in the same way as it is proposed in the Manchester and Salford plan, only there is a stipulation, there is a safeguard, that there shall be no payment made to those teachers for religious instruction; that the religious instruction shall be given apart, and at separate times; and that it be distinctly understood, that out of the public rates there shall be no payment made for instruction in religion.
Well, then, let it no longer be said that, by the plan which we propose, we are going to sacrifice the existing schools. We propose to take authority for buying existing schools, or for renting existing schools; and we now propose, in addition, by the resolution of this morning, to do precisely what the Manchester and Salford Society proposes to do,—that is, to pay for the instruction of children in secular knowledge, in all schools belonging to the churches or chapels where they may be disposed to give us the guarantee by inspection that they are giving a proper secular education. The question between this association and the rival association is simply reduced to this:—they insist that in all schools religious education shall be given at the expense of the whole community. That involves one or two difficulties and objections, which I think are insuperable. In the first place, what a reflection it is upon the office of religious teacher;—they say, ‘We will make schoolmasters the teachers of religion.’ Do they propose that schoolmasters shall graduate in a course of divinity in order to be qualified for that instruction? Why, how they discount and degrade their own profession, in making a schoolmaster, who is never taught divinity at all, on equality with clergymen, and calling upon him to give religious instruction! But it involves a greater difficulty than that; and here is my objection to the principle which requires absolutely and without exception that religious instruction is to be given in the school. It involves this grand and insuperable difficulty and injustice,—that by these means you exclude from those schools many of those whose parents have been rated to the maintenance of those schools.
Now, in the first place, I find in the local bill, as drawn up here, that in all schools which are to be built out of the rate levied upon all the property of this borough, the reading of the Holy Scriptures in the authorised version shall be a part of the daily instruction of the scholars. Everybody will remember that I took my stand against the exclusion of the Bible from any schools, when we were settling our points of faith as a secular association. I said, ‘I never will be a party to any scheme that attempts to lay down in an Act of Parliament this monstrous, arrogant, and dictatorial doctrine—that a parish or community shall not, if it please, introduce the Bible into its schools.’ I made my stand against that, and said I never would put my hand to any such doctrine; but at the same time, I am just as prepared to take my stand against any system which levies taxes upon Jews and Roman Catholics, which sends the tax-gatherer round to their houses, and calls upon them to contribute to the school-rate, and then insert a clause like that which says they and their children shall enjoy no advantage from those schools.
Now, I ask those gentlemen, have they any scheme by which they propose to exempt these parties from paying the taxes, whom they exclude by this clause in their bill? Well, then, I ask them if they are prepared to carry us back, not only into a worse state of intolerance and bigotry than any that exists on the Continent of Europe at the present time in any Protestant country, but actually to the times when, in towns like Frankfort in olden times, Jews were shut up and set apart in the town, and made to live in certain streets, and be locked up at home at night long before Christians were required to be in their domiciles! Why, it is a worse treatment to the Jews than they received in those countries where they were thus persecuted. You educate Christians out of Jewish money, and you deny them the right of having education themselves for their own children. What would be said,—now just put a parallel case,—if, after levying a rate for lighting the town and supplying it with water, you compelled the Jews to live in some street by themselves, where there was neither a gas-lamp nor yet a water-pipe carried? And I won't say merely the Jews, but the Roman Catholics; because you absolutely prohibit the Roman Catholic from entering those schools, if you mean what you say in the clause of this bill. You say, ‘the authorised version of the Bible,’ nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand parts of which are verbatim the same as in the Roman Catholic version; but it contains two or three passages, in which I never yet could perceive any very material difference of meaning, and by retaining those passages, by making that the test, and thereby striking at a point of conscience in those who object to that version of the Bible, you prohibit them as much as though you put a policeman at the door, and said, ‘No Roman Catholic shall enter here.’ Well, I say it is impossible that such a thing as that can continue permanently to be a recognised state of things in a country that asserts in the slightest degree that it is under the government of just principles.
And now, where is the difficulty of our opponents agreeing to our own terms? Where's the difficulty of the friends of the other society joining in the principle which is now enunciated by this society? They insist upon making the schools doctrinal and denominational, but at the same time they have so far receded from the stand which the Church formerly made, that they will allow a scholar to enter other schools and be exempted from the doctrinal teaching of those schools, provided he carries a written request from his parents to be so exempt. So far, they go a great way towards recognising our principle, that secular education may be given apart from religious instruction, inasmuch as those children who are allowed to carry in their pockets a pass by which they are exempt from this religious teaching, at all events are placed very nearly in the position in which we would place all our schools; and therefore, in point of fact, they recognise the principle which we advocate, with this exception, that they require absolutely that the Bible—the authorised version of the Bible—shall be read daily in all their schools. Now, I do hope that the authors of the Manchester and Salford School Society will address themselves to-morrow to that question, and see whether they cannot move one step farther, and abstain from the attempt to inflict injustice and wrong upon a large section, and that the most necessitous part of the community, by attempting to make them read that which, if they did read, they could only do it with hypocrisy; and, therefore, by practising that hypocrisy for the sake of getting education, certainly could not, in the eyes of any rational being in the world, become more just or more moral by the process.
Well, gentlemen, there's the position in which we stand, or, rather, you stand, in Manchester. I have stated the amount of difference between your two schemes, which will next session come before Parliament. Were I now living in Manchester, I should address myself solely to the question, for the present, at least, as it affects these localities; because, I repeat to you, whatever is done in Parliament the next session will, in my opinion, act very much as a model for a great part of the kingdom; and, therefore, it is your business. We shall have only that strength in Parliament to deal with these two topics which you give us by your support out of doors. It is for you to decide which of these two plans shall be adopted; but sorry I am to see that a great portion of those who I thought were, above all others, vitally concerned in this question,—I mean the dissenting bodies,—have stood aloof from this controversy under the most vain and delusive ideas that ever possessed human beings,—that this was not a question solely as to one or another scheme, but because they are under the impression that there is a possibility in this country of going back to no scheme at all. How men moving in society can be at all under the delusion that there is a doubt about such a subject, I cannot imagine. If there is one point upon which this great community, I think, has more made up its mind than another, it is in adopting some system of combined action for public education, under the sanction of Government, through local rates and local management, as far as possible. There's no doubt but that is determined on by the great mass of the community: and however any body in sincerity, which is so involved in this question as the dissenting body is, can be moving about the country and trying to advocate or plead for that impossible cause—no public education at all—passes my comprehension. I believe them to be sincere, I cannot doubt they are sincere; but if they were really aiming at playing the game of that party which they have always considered inimical to their religious interests and their religious freedom, they could not have taken a more effectual course than they have been during the last twelvemonth, by ignoring the existence, almost, of this National School Society, and detaching themselves from that side of the question in which I should have thought, at all events, looking upon their principles as they avow them themselves, they were more interested than any part of the community.
Now, I speak with some degree of feeling on this subject, because I have taken to this secular school association simply and purely, as I have avowed again and again, because I thought there was a great act of injustice perpetrated upon Dissenters. I thought they were going to be wronged by another system which they regarded as a system of endowments. I have again and again said, that as one who every Sunday take my children to a parish church, and therefore am living, as it were, upon endowments, I could not plead for myself that I had those conscientious scruples which I was told and believed the Dissenters had. I took up this secular system, because I thought, while it did no injustice to the Church, that it did justice to Dissenters. I find the great body of Dissenters not only holding aloof, but some of them,—Dr. Halley, for instance, and his friends, and the great organ of their party, the Banner,—stating that if driven to take one or the other, they will take the Church system. Do they understand their own principles? Have I done right in believing what they have told me of their principles,—that they shun the system of endowments? I was advocating the American system of education, because I knew there, in America, it was applied to the satisfaction of those descendants of the Nonconformists who have not forgotten their principles, and where we know the system works without injury to the rights of conscience of any individual in the country. I speak thus emphatically upon this subject, because I don't hesitate to say, I am for the education of the people. I believe the great mass of the people take less interest in this sectarian squabbling than many others of us are apt to imagine. The great mass of the people want education for their children; they are sick to death of these obstacles you throw in their way. I believe that when our extended franchise throws more power into the hands of the multitude, you will see that what I say is true,—that there's a feeling for national education which will sweep away all these cobwebs with which you attempt to blind the great mass of the people; and feeling this, and having done my best to do justice to all parties in the matter, I say now, emphatically, ‘I vote for education; I’ll support education; I'll do the best I can for Dissenters;' but I'll never oppose a system of education, which promises to give to the mass of the people an opportunity of raising themselves in life, and benefiting their children, by having a share in its advantages, which, as Mr. Combe says, those alone above them have hitherto enjoyed. I don't, therefore, profess to come here to oppose the local plan. I believe, if that plan be adopted, it won't remain where it is.
I believe, if we once get a system of free schools, the spirit of a free-school system will very soon possess itself of the minds of the people; that it will be found here, what it has been found in Ireland, under a far severer pressure and test than it ever can have in this country; it is superior in its strength to almost all other influences; and I believe, if we once establish a system of free schools supported by rates in this country, it won't be long that you who pay rates here in Manchester will allow either Roman Catholics or Jews to be excluded from the benefits of those rates.
I won't go into the question of how far the people of this country want education. Go and inquire amongst the people themselves. Go and ask the agricultural labourer at his plough; test the amount of thought and capacity that that man has had by instruction imparted to him; ask him where the guano he's dealing with as a manure, day after day, comes from: he has no idea. He never heard such a subject suggested. Ask him whose land it is he's working upon. He can tell you the farmer's name, because the farmer pays his wages; but ask him who his landlord is;—ten to one he has never thought of it; because in England, from want of education, and training the mind to thought and reflection, such men don't learn to note cause of any kind. Ask him the geography of the next parish. As for the geography of the world, he can't tell you whether America is in France or in Spain. It is unquestionably true, and cannot be denied by any one that has travelled, that we are the worst educated people of any Protestant country in any part of the earth. Mr. Combe has borne witness to this; Mr. Baines has borne witness; and I challenge denial on personal investigation. Is that a safe state of things to be left in? They tell us that voluntaryism has worked well. I say we are the only people that have had voluntaryism, and we are behind all the world. What do they say in America? Hear what Mr. Daniel Webster said, in a speech delivered at an open-air meeting the other day, in Washington:—
'The population of the United States is 23,000,000. Now take the map of the Continent of Europe, and spread it out before you. Take your scale and your dividers, and lay off any one area in any shape you please, a triangle, a circle, a parallelogram, or a trapezoid, and of an extent that shall contain 150,000,000 of people, and there will be found within the United States more persons who do habitually read and write than can be embraced within the lines of your demarcation.'
But in the United States they don't trust to voluntaryism. They make use of their parochial and their municipal organisation to secure a system of schools free to all, paid for by all, and not a system of schools merely for that class of destitute people to whom Mr. Baines has alluded. The New England schools have so grown and improved, that they have taken in by degrees from one class to another, from one grade to another, till now, in many parts of New England, you find no private schools at all. All classes are educated at the common public schools.
It is my firm belief that, in this country, a system of schools once established, paid for by all, would very soon here—as, in fact, we have seen in the case of the King's Sombourn school, conducted so admirably by the Rev. Mr. Dawes—be found to go on so, that, by degrees, the small farmer's son would be sitting by the labourer's son; and as you improved still more in your system of education, the small farmer's son would be coming and taking his seat by the side of the rich farmer's son. I have no doubt in the world that would be the case, because by combination—by cooperation—you would have a better system of schools than you could have anywhere else; and therefore I don't look to a system of free schools as one of charity for the great mass of the people,—I mean for the poorest people. One of the benefits we should derive from common schools would be, that it would cause that greater intermixture and blending of society that would arise from the middle and working classes sending their children to one common school, where they would become more familiarised in their common views, and tastes, and habits, and the boys would be brought up in genial sympathies and more intercourse than that which prevails at present in this country. I do not argue with those gentlemen who tell us that the voluntary system has answered; I don't argue with them. I say, ‘Go into the highways, and byways, and inquire for yourselves if it answers.’
I don't think it is safe for us as a nation to be the most ignorant Protestant people on the face of the earth. This is a period in the world's history when the very security, the trade, and the progress of a nation, depend, not so much on the contest of arms, as on the rivalry in science and the arts, which must spring from education. Even lately, we have been inviting all the world to a great competition. Did any reflecting man walk through the Great Exhibition without feeling that we were apt to be a little under a delusion as to the quality of men in other parts of the world, and their capacity to create those articles of utility of which we are apt to think sometimes we possess a monopoly of production in this country? Did nobody feel somewhat struck at the vast superiority of the French in articles of taste and delicate manipulation; and were we not equally struck to find ourselves so closely trod on the heels in everything that relates to the more rude utilities of life, in American productions, where we found ourselves beaten in shipbuilding, in locks, pistols, and many other things we had to show? Did it not make Englishmen feel that they had to look about them? And how will you be able to rally, how will you attain to further improvement in arts and manufactures but by improving the education of your people? I don't think we can wait. And this is a reason why I am tired to death of this sectarian quarrel, which is preventing the people from being educated: year after year is passing away, and the time we are losing is not to be recalled. Why, it has been stated in public, it has been stated in our public records, that the poor people don't send their children to school, upon an average, more than two or three years, and in some cases not more than ten months.
Well, we have passed over two or three years in this sectarian strife, in which we prevent the people from having education as they have in America, by a system of common schools, and whilst we are doing so a generation, a section of the community, passes into mature life without any education at all. One great wave of humanity passes on, and we never get a reflux of the tide, we never have a chance of giving these people an education. We cannot wait! I hope the people of Manchester will rouse themselves to a consideration of the danger and difficulty of this matter. I hope you, who have gained so many victories in other things, will find yourselves called upon to exert yourselves, not only for your own benefit, but for the benefit of the people at large. I augur well from the large meeting I see here to-night; I augur from it that you take an interest in this question. I am told that a still larger meeting is to take place to-morrow, on this subject. All this augurs well of the interest you take in this question. If Manchester men will direct their minds to this question perseveringly and energetically, and if you consider that in this case, as in a former struggle, you are fighting the battle, not only for England, but, in some degree, for the whole civilised world, I have no doubt you will present such a case to the House of Commons next session, that we shall be relieved from any doubt or difficulty as to the course we shall have to pursue. Send up your petitions for what you conceive to be the right measure for Manchester and Salford; give us your support, and your Members, I have no doubt, will do their duty in this matter, and most happy I shall be to be found alongside of them in that which is found to be necessary.
BARNSLEY, OCTOBER 25, 1853.
[Mr. Cobden made the following Speech in the Hall of the Mechanics Institute at Barnsley. During the time that he sat for the West Riding, it was his custom to deliver addresses at the principal towns within that division of the county.]
The details we have heard of the early difficulties and infant struggles of this association are only just those trials which we are all liable to encounter in every good and great work which we undertake; and I should not consider a good worth possessing, unless it were deserving of those efforts which are required to make such an institution as this prosper. I remember the time when the first mechanics' institutions were launched under the auspices of Dr. Birkbeck—a man whose name can never be held in too high reverence for disinterestedness and truly Christian patriotism, and his honoured colleagues, Lord Brougham and others. I remember when they launched the first mechanics' institutions. They were intended not so much as schools in themselves, but as something to supply the defects of early education to that class which in former times had not had an opportunity of receiving such education; for you must remember that Dr. Birkbeck and others were the strenuous advocates of a better system of education for the young, and the mechanics' institutions were, to a large extent, something devised as a resource for those who had not had any opportunities for early education. Such being the case, in order to carry out the object of the founders of these institutions, it is not enough for you to draw together a large number of members in your lecture-room or your library, or to collect books in your library; these things could have been obtained, probably, in a less convenient way before mechanics' institutions were created; but one of the primary objects of mechanics' institutions was to enable young men, feeling themselves deficient in some particular branch of knowledge, to join a society where they could have the opportunity of repairing such a deficiency. For this purpose it has been customary, in all good mechanics' institutions, to establish classes—classes for different branches of study, which young men, or men of middle age, or even old men, could join, and find that particular knowledge they were in quest of. Now, I believe your institution has not such classes. I don't mean to mention it as a reproach, because you have had so many difficulties to fight against, that I did not expect you could get over all these things at once; but, having surmounted so many difficulties, and placed your institution, as I cannot but hope, on a firm basis,—for an institution which has grown under so many difficulties must have a firm basis,—you must determine that it shall be—what all mechanics' institutions were intended to be—a means of instruction to the neglected adult population. I think, too, you must have classes—classes for teaching arithmetic, geography, drawing; and even chemistry is not too much to aspire to. You must have also—and I hope you will—a class for French.
Now, there has been an allusion to one branch of study which particularly interests the manufacturers of this district—I mean drawing and designing. I think I have heard the gentleman who last spoke say that there was no drawing-master in Barnsley; that you must have an itinerant drawing-master, who, located at Sheffield, must have his circuit, radiating from that town, and who must pay occasional visits to Barnsley. If I were a Barnsley manufacturer, and dealt in figured damask linens, I should beg and entreat the reporter not to let that fact get out; don't let the world know that Dunfermline has got all the designs. I am told, for I am very curious in inquiring anything about the art of design, inasmuch as my own business was very much connected with that art,—I have been told, I say, in consequence of inquiries I have made since I arrived here, that your damask linens—the patterns of those damask linens which we all so much admire, are made by the weavers themselves; that the patterns are designed by the labourer who weaves the cloth; and that he, so far from having had any instruction in the art of designing, has been living in a town where there is no drawing-master. Now, I take it as a proof that you have a talent for drawing among you; that you have had a body of men brought up as weavers, who have been able to make patterns for you; but I say to the capitalists, ‘You are not doing justice to that mechanic, if you are only going to give him a ninth or a tenth part of a drawing-master. You must let it go forth from this moment—and I hope my friend on the left (Mr. Harvey), who is interested in the matter, will rise before the conclusion of these proceedings and declare it—that another month shall not elapse before steps are taken to insure the presence of a drawing-master in Barnsley; and that all those ingenious young weavers who are able to put together a damask pattern shall be so circumstanced as to be able to learn something of the art of design from a practical teacher before we meet here again.
I say, then, that one of your classes must be a drawing-class; and in this respect you will be aided by the Government in a way which I think it is perfectly legitimate for a Government to aid—I mean this, you will be supplied by the Board of Trade with the best possible models, both of sculpture and drawing. I am an advocate so far for centralisation, that I will at all times sanction and applaud a Government which draws to one centre the best designs and models for drawing and sculpture, and then multiplies those designs and models in the cheapest possible way, with a view to their diffusion among the general public. I rather think you have already been to the Board of Trade, and got something in the way of models, or something of that kind; and, if you have, I suppose you are going to make some use of them; but you can’t make any use of them unless you have got classes; and I will undertake, on behalf of this meeting and the intelligent manufacturers of Barnsley, to say, that it is intended to connect with this institution a drawing-class, and that a drawing-master shall be appointed who will be capable of giving efficient instruction.
With regard to other branches—take, for instance, a class for arithmetic—I would ask, how many young men are there who may be sitting at their looms with the best of heads upon their shoulders—phrenologically speaking—but who, from some circumstances not under their control, had no opportunity of cultivating those heads when children? And yet such young men feel within them a capacity to fill any station of life, if they had only had the necessary education to enable them to rise in society. The first thing such young men require, if they are to do anything in the way of business, is to learn something of arithmetic; but in your institution how is a young man to learn the rule of three, or obtain any knowledge of arithmetic? It is necessary, therefore, that you should have a master. I don't mean a stipendiary master, for I hope you will find independent, public-spirited men enough in Barnsley who will begin and initiate the necessary classes in connection with your institutions; and that you will not only have drawing and arithmetic classes, but also a French class; for, now that French is very generally spoken, a knowledge of it is necessary to enable you to enter into communication with a large portion of the public, and there is no reason why you in Barnsley should not be able to do this as well as others. It is the object of mechanics' institutions to bring those branches of knowledge within the reach of adult mechanics and labouring men in all the towns of the kingdom. Now, Barnsley is of such a size, that it ought to be able to maintain a mechanics' institution of such a magnitude as to support all these classes. I am aware it is difficult in a small town to do this; but here you have a population of from 14,000 to 15,000 in Barnsley and the neighbourhood, and I must say that 250 members are not enough for a population of such magnitude. You must double that before we have another anniversary. Let every member try to find another member, and then the thing is done. Your terms are 10s. a year. How in the world can anybody buy amusement, or gratification, or enlightenment, cheaper than at 10s. a year? And I would say to the members who already belong to the institution, you have a particular motive in trying to add to your numbers. You have a large lecture theatre, a reading-room, and library; and I venture to say, if you double your numbers, you may still comfortably accommodate yourselves in your lecture-hall, reading-room, and library, while your fixed expenses remain the same. If your income at the present is 130l. a year, your fixed charges will be from 70l. to 80l., leaving you not more than 50l. for the purposes of lectures, purchasing newspapers, and such-like things. Your current expenses must be going on, whether you have few or many members; and, therefore, by increasing your numbers, the additional subscriptions you get will be so much gain in the way of providing education, and increased attraction in your institution.
I think you ought also to try to establish a school in connection with this institution. That is one of the most useful of the adjuncts of the Huddersfield and other mechanics' institutions. I would recommend you to endeavour to connect a school with this institution, as a feeder to it, for it is by means of schools that you are to get members. If, in consequence of the advice given by our friend, Mr. Wilderspin, twenty years ago, there had been an infant-school established in every village, you would not have wanted customers for your mechanics' institutions; they would have grown up around you. And this brings me to the question—leaving for a moment this institution—what were these institutions established for? Not as a system of education, but to supplement the want of education, and we want the education still which we wanted when these institutions were founded. I know that it is made a vexed question, and to some extent a party question. I never regarded it as a party question. I don't care through what it comes. Give me voluntary education, or State education—but education I want. I cannot accept statistics to prove the number of people who attend schools—to prove that the people are educated, because I cannot shut my eyes to what is evident to my senses,—that the people are not educated,—that they are not being educated. I was talking only yesterday with a merchant in Manchester, who told me that he had attended at the swearing-in of the militia in one of the largest manufacturing towns of England, and that not one-half of those sworn in could read, and not one-third could sign their names. Now, without wishing to utter any fanatical opinion with regard to the Peace question, I must say, with all sincerity, I think it would have been much better to hand these young men over to the schoolmaster rather than to the drill-sergeant; for I think the safety of this country would be more promoted by teaching them to read and write than by teaching them to face-about-right rightly.
I was talking this subject over to an old friend of mine at Preston, and he said, ‘I attended the coroner one day last week at an inquest. There were thirteen jurymen; five signed their names, and eight made their mark.’ Can I shut my eyes to what is going on around us? I cannot; and, therefore, I say, we are not an educated people; and I say it is our duty, and our safety calls upon us, to see that the people are educated; and I know of no place more fitting to discuss this subject than in such a meeting as this, because I take it for granted you are all interested in it. You all admit the deficiency of juvenile instruction, or you would not have attended to the defective adult education. We are not an educated people, and I have no hesitation in asserting that, in point of school learning, the mass of the English people are the least instructed of any Protestant community in the world. I say that deliberately. I remember quite well, at the time of the Hungarian emigration into this country after the revolution, a very distinguished minister or religious teacher of Hungary was talking to me on the subject of our education, and I told him a large portion of our people could neither read nor write. He could not believe it, and said, ‘If it is true a large proportion of your people can neither read nor write, how do you maintain your constitutional franchises and your political liberties? Why, it is evident to me that your institutions are rather ahead of your people, and that this self-government is only a habit with you.’ It is a habit, and we will cling to it and hold it; but I want a safer foundation. I want to have our self-government a habit of appreciation—something our people will be proud of, not simply a habit; and there is no security unless it is based upon a wider intelligence of the people than we meet with at the present moment. It meets us at every turn—you can't do anything in social reform but you are met with the question of education. Take the question of sanitary reform. Why do people live in bad cellars, surrounded by filth and disease? You may say it is their poverty, but their poverty comes as much from their ignorance as their vices; and their vices often spring from their ignorance. The great mass of the people don't know what the sanitary laws are; they don't know that ventilation is good for health; they don't know that the miasma of an unscavenged street or impure alley is productive of cholera and disease. If they did know these things, people would take care they inhabited better houses; and if people were only more careful in their habits than they are, and husbanded their means, they might get into better houses. And when I hear persons advocate temperance, which I, as one of the most temperate men in the world, always like to hear advocated, I say the best way is to afford them some other occupation or recreation than that which is derived only through their senses—the best way is to give them education. If the working man is deprived of those recreations which consist of the intellectual and moral enjoyments that education and good training give, he naturally falls into the excitement of sensual indulgence, because excitement all human beings must have. Therefore, when you wish to make them more temperate, and secure moral and sanitary and social improvements among the working-classes, education, depend upon it, must be at the bottom of it all.
Gentlemen, I see in different parts of the country a great social quarrel going on between different classes of the community. For instance, in the town of Preston, you have 20,000 to 30,000 persons out of work; and there is in that place not a chimney but is cold and cheerless—neither smoke nor steam cheering your eyes. Look at the destitution and misery caused by laying a town in this state for a month or six weeks. Why is this? I answer, it springs from ignorance. Not ignorance confined to one party in the dispute. It is ignorance on both sides, and deplorable is its result. But do you suppose that when the world becomes more enlightened, you will have such a scene as this,—of a whole community stopping its labours for a month or six weeks, and creating misery, immorality, and destitution, that may not be removed for five or six years to come? When masters and men understand the principles upon which the rate of wages and profits depend, they will settle their matters and arrange their differences in a less bungling way than that which now brings so much misery upon all parties to the quarrel. Even now, however, we see great progress in this respect. I remember the time when the cessation of labour by 25,000 persons would have led to riot and disturbance, and the calling out of the military. This is not to be seen now. We see passive resistance and firmness to an extent which, if they had policy and propriety at their back, would be highly desirable and most commendable. But we shall probably live to see the time when another step will be taken onward. You will live to see the time when men will settle these matters, not by resorting to blind passion, by vituperation, and counter-vituperation—when the question of wages will be left to the master and man to arrange according to their own interest—when the whole question of wages and the rate of wages will be settled just as quietly as you now see the price of any article fixed in the public market. I am not saying one word of the merits of either side upon this question. Both parties think themselves right, and both are, no doubt, right in attempting to get the best price they can, the one for his labour, and the other for his capital; but if there were more intelligence upon this question—if the laws were better understood which decide finally and inexorably the relative value of labour as well as everything else, these matters would be settled without that hideous amount of suffering which I deplore to see accompanying these strikes and troubles in the manufacturing districts. And when I say, gentlemen, that intelligence will put an end to these things, I am only saying that will be done here which has already been done in America. You cannot point to an instance in America, where people have more education than they have here, of the total cessation from labour of a whole community, of an entire town given over as a prey to destitution. You cannot point out such an instance in America; neither will you see it in England, when that intelligence and enlightenment which these institutions are intended to promote shall be spread throughout our country.
Well, this brings me back again to the point that we want schools—schools to teach people these principles—schools to teach people from their youth to take a calm and reasoning view of the things which affect their interest, and so to educate them, that they shall not allow others to lead them away by appeals to their passions. We shall never be safe as a manufacturing and mining community until a school invariably grows up along with every manufactory and at the mouth of every pit and mine in the kingdom. Now, I must here again allude to America. When I came through Manchester the other day, I found many of the most influential manufacturing capitalists talking very gravely upon a report which had reached them from a gentleman who was selected by the Government to go out to America, to make a report upon the Great Exhibition in New York. That gentleman was one of the most eminent of the mechanicians and machine-makers of Manchester, employing a very large number of work-people, renowned for the quality of his productions, and known in the scientific world, and whose scientific attainments were appreciated from the astronomer-royal downwards. He has been over to New York to report upon the progress of mechanics and mechanical arts in the United States. Well, he has returned. No report from him to the Government has, as yet, been published, and what he has to say specifically upon the subject will not be known until that report has been so made and published to the country. But it has oozed out in Manchester among his neighbours, that he has found in America a degree of intelligence among the manufacturing operatives, and a state of things in the mechanical arts, which have convinced him that, if we are to hold our own—if we are not to fall back in the rear in the race of nations—we must educate our people, so as to put them upon a level with the more educated artisans of the United States. We shall all have an opportunity of judging of this matter when that report is issued; but sufficient has already oozed out among his neighbours to excite a great interest, and, I may say, some alarm. Well, I am delighted to find an intelligent man has been selected for this duty, for all the world will approve of the selection made, because the gentleman alluded to was fully competent to the task; and he has come back to tell us it is necessary to educate the people.
I went to that country twenty years ago, and I published a record of my opinions. That was written in 1835, and I stated that England would be brought to the consciousness that it was to that country she would have to look with apprehension as to manufacturing rivalry; and now I am delighted that it should turn out as I have stated, that it has come from a quarter—from a person so well qualified to procure correct information, that no one will question the truth of his report when it comes out. I say I am delighted, because I want England to know her danger, if there is one. Napoleon used to say to those in communication with him, ‘If you have any bad news to tell me, awake me at any hour of the night, for good news will keep, but bad news I cannot know too soon.’ I say, then, I am delighted with this, for let but Englishmen know of a danger to face, and of a difficulty to surmount, and there is nothing within the compass of human capacity which they will not accomplish; but the great misfortune is, that Englishmen are too much given up to and incrusted with their insular pride and prejudice,—a sort of Chinese notion of superiority, that they will not awaken up and use their eyes as to what is going on in other countries until it is too late. I am glad, therefore, that this question is to be brought forward; but why should America be better educated than England? Do you think that a new country, which has the wilderness to cultivate, primeval forests to level, roads to make, and every bridge and church to erect,—do you think that such a country is in a position to rival an old country, if that country will only do its duty to its people? No; an old country has greater advantages and facilities at command than a new one; and if you find a new country beating an old one in this matter, depend upon it, it is because of some fault in the old one. We don't read in ancient Greece, when she sent forth her colonies, that they became the teachers of the mother country. No; Athens always remained the teacher of the whole world. And it is a shame if a new people, sent out from us only yesterday, is to be held up for our admiration and example, and this, too, in the matter of education.
Now, I hope that it won't be said that there is anything in these remarks which is out of place in an assembly such as this. We are all here, at all events, presumed to feel an interest in the subject of education, and therefore anxious to promote it. And I don't despair even now. I should not despair of this country, if the people of this country would only resolve to do it, surpassing all the world in education in a generation or two. But we must not refuse to adopt the improved machinery of other countries. We must not be like the Chinese with their junks, who refuse to build their ships after our improved model; we must not refuse to adopt what we see in other countries if better than our own. If we see the Americans beating us in their spinning-jennies and in their sailing-boats, we adopt their improvements; if they send over a yacht which beats ours, we send over and build one which will beat them; if a man comes over and picks our locks, we may wonder how it is he makes better locks than we do, but we buy them; and so it is in other matters of this kind. But, on the question of education, they have in the United States adopted a system which we in this country have not adopted, except in Scotland to some extent; and what is so natural as that we should follow the same rule in this matter as we do in the manufacture of our machines for spinning cotton, and in the construction of our ships? I take it that, the result being in favour of American education, it proves that they have adopted better means than we have; and, if we would rival them, we must not be ashamed to adopt their plan, if better than our own. There is not any party, I believe, now opposed to education; none who do not think that there is more danger from ignorance in our present artificial state than in education. Whatever our political predilections, there is not one who will not say—whatever we are doomed to undergo, whether proceeding from a straitening of circumstances, from a decline of our commerce, or from difficulties of a strictly political character—whatever there may be in store for us of troubles and distresses—there is nobody but will say we had better have an educated people to meet them than have to encounter them with masses of ignorance and untrained passion; for, after all, the masses of the people do govern in this country—they are called on in the last resort. Everyone must admit it is better to have an arbitrator who is trained to discuss reasons and to deduce facts from evidence—it is better to have minds of this sort to settle great national questions, than to refer such mighty interests to the arbitrament of ignorance and passion.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, if I have said too much on this subject to you, and to those elsewhere who may read what we are now saying, I must tell you that I feel so strongly upon it, that, when among a body of men met together in favour of education, I will not be responsible for withholding my opinions in reference to the want of juvenile education, for it is not possible to compensate for the want of juvenile education by means of such institutions as this. We may by such means improve the education of the people, but we cannot have a really educated and safe community, unless we begin at the beginning by training the young. I can only say, whether you look at this question of education in the interest of morality or religion, as affecting the happiness, interest, or the welfare of society—in whatever way you regard this question, you may depend upon it the very highest interests, the dignity, honour, and happiness of the people, are bound up with it.