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kind of competition which tells, the competition of a well-conducted British School, enjoying the advantages of Goverment support and inspection. In this last point, schools in small country towns have been better situated than those among ibe larger populations. In the former, there will in all probability, be only a National school, devoted to the advance of High Church principles, in which Mr. Neale's medieval fancies are palmed off as the History of England, where the teaching of Catechism and Collects forms a large part of the school work, and where, on Ash Wednesdays and similar occasions, the children are released from their ordinary duties that they may help to swell the scanty congregation at the church. It would be
easy to poiut to numerous schools after this model, and to show that their existence has helped rather than hindered the voluntary school. Apart from the esprit de corps which is generally strong in these rural districts, where a man is hardly likely to be a Nonconformist except for some sufficient reason, which would lead the members of the Dissenting congregation, if they are at all equal to the work, to support their own school, there is quite enough in the strong Church tendencies of the State-aided school to prevent conscientious Nonconformist parents from allowing their children to come under its influence. No doubt, the pressure has often been very hard, and in not a few cases ministers, sometimes most unjustly blamed in this matter, have been seriously crippled in their resources in order that the school might be maintained; but it has been felt that it was an absolute necessity, and sacrifices have cheerfully been made for the purpose, both by managers and parents.
But in the large manufacturing towns a very different state of things obtains. Let us suppose a case (not altogether imaginary) which may serve as an illustration of what has taken place. În the town of are two Established Churches, and in the excitement of the voluntary education movement, two schools were established. For a time both flourished, though amid considerable difficulties, owing to frequent changes of masters, and to the evils resulting from the want of inspection from without, and the impossibility of the committee exercising the necessary control. În course of time, however, one of these schools was placed under the Privy Council, with the happiest result to itself, but to the serious injury of the other. It escaped from the weakness of the old mode of management; it was able not only to secure, but to retain, the services of superior teachers; it presented inducements to parents which could not fail to have their influence. How was it possible, under such circumstances, to keep up competition so unequal ? Parents naturally sent
their children where they could get the best teaching, and, at the same time, have the prospect of being made pupil teachers or monitors, and it was impossible to make them feel that it was a matter of conscience to make the sacrifice which would be necessary, if they resolved to support the voluntary school. They saw their fellow Dissenters profiting by the grant, and unless they had taken some very decided ground on this particular question, they could not understand why they should adopt a more rigid course. The objection has really always been too subtle to be grasped by a great number of minds, and wherever British schools of approved character and efficiency have taken the grant, they have generally soon distanced their rivals, so far as schools strictly for the working classes are concerned.
A careful review of these facts enables us to correct two or three very gross fallacies that have come out in the course of these discussions. Thus it has been said that Dissenting Ministers have themselves to thank for the failure of the voluntary system. Nothing is easier than to blame ministers. Their incomes are generally so ample that they can well afford to contribute largely to the maintenance of schools or any other institutions that may be thought necessary--their time is so much at their command, and their engagements so few, that to add to their labours the management of a day-school would, no doubt, be the simplest thing in the world. In the present case, however, their exertions would not have availed, for do what they would, they could not in the cases to which we have referred, have overcome the disadvantages to which the voluntary school was exposed. They would have found it very difficult to guard the Committee against the intrusion of those personal influences which we ourselves have known to be employed to retain a master after his inefficiency had been so thoroughly proved that an Inspector would have insisted on his inmediate dismissal. They would often have found it not very easy to raise the necessary funds from communities already giving so largely to religious objects as Independent and Baptist Churches in general do, and among whom are not a few who think the whole movement one of the greatest blunders which Noncouformists have made for many years. But especially would they have found it all but impossible to attract scholars when without any compromise of principle (such as would be involved if their only competitor was a National School), they could secure, probably at a lower cost, much superior advantages.
Equally unfounded is the imputation which has been thrown out two or three times in the course of the recent discussions, and generally in a somewhat coarse and vulgar style, that it is
a want of zeal and interest in the work of education which has led some to take the grants. We believe the very contrary to be the case. Those who were indifferent on the subject could quietly withdraw from a field on which they felt they had no chance, and leave others to do the work from which they were excluded by their conscientious convictions. But those who valued the work of education so much that they were willing to sacrifice for it anything but religious principle, who therefore attached very little weight to what they regarded as a merely speculative objection, and who were anxious only to make the best of such help as the Government was willing to give in carrying on a work esteemed by them of such importance, are those who have accepted the terms of the Privy Council. They may have been right or wrong, but if wrong, it is their zeal for education by which they have been misled.
In a certain sense only, too, is it fair to say that the voluntary system has been a failure. What it might have done had it been allowed free action, it is impossible now to say. It has certainly not been able to withstand the strong pressure of competition from schools enjoying the patronage of the State; but this does not settle it. Perhaps its advocates ought to have foreseen this, and not to have entered upon so Quixotic an enterprise; perhaps, instead of attempting to organize a distinct class of schools, they should have given themselves rather to efforts so to modify the Government system as to make it possible for them to co-operate in it. It is easy to be wise after the event, but we at all events are not disposed to indulge in such ungenerous criticisms. On the other hand we are not disposed to admit that anything has been proved as to the truth of the idea on which the voluntaries proceeded. They have been defeated, but not in a fair field. The Government has done its work much more wisely than was at first expected. It has, doubtless, wasted a great deal of money that might have been better expended, and would have run into much more extravagant courses but for the interference of Mr. Lowe. But it has been more liberal in its spirit, more equitable in its general administration, more willing to listen to suggestions and correct proved abuses, more firm in its maintenance of that “ Conscience clause” which stands so much in the way of the priestly class, who would use education to make proselytes, than could reasonably have been anticipated. The system of inspection which was so much dreaded has proved one of the best features of its plan, and though there are most serious defects, it must be admitted that some most valuable results have been realised. It is under these circumstances that Mr. Baines publicly admits that he cannot retain his old position any longer, and adyises
Congregationalists to give in their adhesion to the existing plan of education.
But while honouring him for the work he has done, and the manliness with which he has admitted an error, Dissenters must be careful that they are not now led into another; look well to their own position and be careful as to any movement. The idea has been put forth somewhat extensively that Congregationalists have changed their ground on the question of Education. So some Congregationalists have, but it is quite unfair to apply to the whole what is true only of a part. We fear, however, that this is the impression which will be given by the recent Conference, and we regret it was held. Why should an assembly of Congregationalists have been convened to cover the retreat of those who had hitherto upheld the purely voluntary principle ? The very summoning of such a meeting implies that Congregationalists found it necessary to avow some change of operation and consequent modification of policy, and so the world accepts it. But such is really not the case. From the first there has been a large body, including some of the ablest men in the denomination, who dissented in toto from Mr. Baines' policy, braved great unpopularity as the result. On no question in our time has there been a stronger display of feeling towards those who took a course in opposition to the popular views of the hour. Some of the most honoured and consistent men in the Nonconformist ranks were freely denounced as unsound, and regarded with jealousy and suspicion because of the independent stand they took on this question. Yet, in the face of all this, men like Dr. Vaughan, Professor Hoppus, Professor Henry Rogers, Mr. Binney, Mr. Stoughton, and others, distinguished for their intellectual power, avowed their dissent, and subsequent years have materially swelled their number. It is not to be assumed, therefore, that the conversion of Mr. Baines and Mr. Morley is the conversion of the Congregational body, which has always been divided, and which, had its opinions been fully tested, would not have shown, at any time during the last ten years at least, a majority in favour of the extreme voluntary position.
The whole story of this educational controversy is not a pleasant one to review, but it will not be without its uses if it serve as a warning for the future. It is not pleasant to think of the injustice which was done to many of the most eminent and thoughtful Nonconformist leaders, of the unintelligent way in which mere feeling was sometimes allowed to overbear calm and quiet reason, or the determination with which a particular view was enforced as an essential principle of Dissent, and of the real suffering which here and there some men had to endure because they could not accept the views of their
brethren. The emphatic and earnest way in which Dr. Unwin at the conference talked of the fidelity of his teachers to this voluntary principle in education as though it were some high and heroic Christian virtue, gave some idea of the animus which has frequently been thrown into the controversy, and may enable those who did not take any active part in its earlier stages to understand something of the odium which dissentients had to incur. The past cannot be undone, but it will be well if the mere fact that those who then took so decided a position have been led to change their ground should serve as a warning against any other attempts to cumber Nonconformity with the defence of principles which really do not belong to it, and especially to check the tendency to condemn men who may happen to disagree with the prevalent sentiment of the hour. It is now seen that men may be equally firm and decided Dissenters, whatever their opinions relative to the education question. It is a great pity that this was not seen long ago. It would have saved many a bitter feeling, many an ungenerous insinuation, many a hard word that bad better never have been spoken; but the experience will not have been in vain if it should lead to the exhibition of a broader and more charitable spirit in the future. There are innumerable questions on which Nonconformists must expect to differ. They are nurtured in the very atmosphere of freedom, they profess independence of all creeds and ecclesiastical bodies, and they cannot expect always to have perfect agreement of opinion, but above all things they should let it be understood that with them there is nothing to fetter that perfect liberty which has always been their boast.
Feeling this, we regret the anxiety which some appear to have shown to commit the Congregationalists to an approval of the Minutes of council so modified as to admit of Government help being given to merely secular schools; and we were, therefore, glad that the resolution which was ultimately adopted by the Conference does not compromise those who believe that there ought to be a radical change in the system. The party who were desirous to see the introduction of a national scheme which shall embrace those classes of the community who at present are most grievously neglected, which shall be independent of all clerical control, and which shall thoroughly respect the rights of conscience, is growing in numbers and importance. It has already the hearty sympathy of the most decided Liberals in the House of Commons, and is pretty sure to receive a large accession to its ranks in the Reform Parliament. Mr. Percival Bunting very shrewdly said at the last Methodist Conference that the Wesleyans had before them two battles, the first in union with the clergy against these Liberal supporters of a secular system ;