Page images

cent. of our sovereigns, and 40 per cent. of our half-sovereigns, were not of the legal weight. This evil was a practical one of some importance, because it would shortly be necessary to repair this waste in our coinage, which would cost the country no less than 400,0001. The remedy for this prodigality was to charge a “seignorage” for coinage, for which Mr. Lowe quoted the authority of Sir Dudley North, Adam Smith, and M'Culloch, as well as of the present Master of the Mint and Colonel Smith. This, to cover the expense of coinage and recoinage and wear and tear, he calculated at a trifle over 1 per cent. The great argument against it was that if the Mint charged more for the sovereign its value would be increased, and the general transactions of the country would be disturbed. After discussing the various modes of meeting the difficulty, Mr. Lowe's opinion inclined in favour of reducing the value of the sovereign by 1 per cent., as a return for the trouble and expense of coinage. As to the question of international coinage, Mr. Lowe said that the French Government had recently written to him, but at present he had gone no farther than to point out to them that it would be impossible as long as France retained both a gold and silver standard ; and he believed the French Government was favourable to adhering to a gold standard. There must also be an identity of weight, fineness, and alloy. Mr. Lowe did not agree with those who saw great difficulties in the establishment of an international coinage. For instance, the French Mint was about to coin a 25f. gold piece, which would be about 22c. less in value than our sovereign, and if we were to take 1 per cent. out of the value of our sovereign for mintage, the value of the two would about correspond. France now charged per cent. for mintage, but it would be necessary for her to charge at the same rate as we did ; and, considering that the Spanish doubloon, the American eagle, and the Prussian Frederick would be nearly identical with this 25f. piece, the way would be cleared for a general European coinage. Mr. Lowe concluded by remarking that he had nothing now to propose, but wished the subject to be ventilated in the country during the recess.

The challenge thus offered to public discussion was speedily taken up, but the correspondence which took place in various public channels brought to light a great diversity of opinion among eminent and well-informed persons on the much-controverted doctrines of the currency.


EDUCATION—The Endowed Schools Bill, brought in by Mr. W. E. Forster on behalf

of the Government–Objects and character of the Measure-Discussed in the House of Commons, and modified in a Select Committee-Debates on the Measure in the House of Lords—The Bill passed - University Tests Abolition Bill introduced by the Solicitor-General, Sir J. D. Coleridge-It is opposed by Conservative Members—Sir Roundell Palmer moves Amendments, which are afterwards withdrawn - The Third Reading is carried by 116 to 65— In the Lords it is unfavourably received, and rejected by 91 to 54, the previous Question being moved by Lord Carnarvon—Trinity College Dublin-Mr. Fawcett moves a Resolution condemnatory of Restrictions on Fellowships and Scholarships—Dr. Ball announces that the authorities of the College will not oppose the change-Remarks of Mr. Chichester Fortescue and other Members - The Annual Education Vote for Great Britain—The Vote is moved and Statement made by Mr. W. E. Forster-Debates in both Houses of Parliament on the subject of National Education - Earl Russell introduces the subject in the House of Lords, and Mr. Melly moves for a Select Com mittee in the House of Commons-Debates on these Motions, which are withdrawn - The Scotch Education Bill, brought in by the Duke of Argyll, and passed by the House of Lords with important Amendments—Taken up by the House of Commons late in the Session-Again much discussed and amended – Returned, with Amendments, to the Lords, who decline to entertain the Bill at that period, and it is lostState of the Episcopal Bench in England-Large Proportion of Bishops disabled by age and infirmity-Lord Lyttelton's Bill for Increase of the Episcopate-It meets with much objection in the House of Lords, and is rejected by a large majority – The Archbishop of Canterbury's Bill for providing for the retirement of incapacitated holders of Sees-Discussions on the Measure in both Houses-It is passed, but limited to two years- Resignation of two English Bishops, and removal

of a third by Death before the end of the year–Serious illness of the Primate. Although the Government found itself unable to deal with the large subject of National Education during the present year, in consequence of the pre-engagement of the time of Parliament by the Irish Church Bill, yet the Session was not wholly barren of educational legislation; nor were the great interests involved in the subject lost sight of, but formed the topic of many discussions in both Houses. The principal step taken, and by no means an unimportant one in this direction, was the passing of an Act for turning to advantageous account the funds of the numerous endowed schools scattered throughout the country, whose revenues, either in consequence of the restrictions with which they were fettered, or the apathy and negligence of trustees, had long been wasted or misused. An inquiry into the administration of these schools had recently taken place, by means of a Royal Commission, whose Report threw much light on the mismanagement and neglect into which those institutions had fallen, and showed the urgent need that there was of remodelling the schools, and making more profitable use of their large revenues. On the basis of this Report the Government now resolved to legislate, and Mr. W. E. Forster, as the Vice-President of the Committee of Council on Education, was commissioned to bring in a Bill for the reconstruction and regulation of the endowed schools. This measure he introduced to the House of Commons on the 18th of February in an able speech, which he commenced by referring to the labours of the School Inquiry Commission, of which he had been himself a member, and wished to be considered responsible for the whole of its Report. It was a Commission composed of gentlemen of different politics and different religious persuasions, and they had the satisfaction of presenting an entirely unanimous Report. The object of the Commission was to inquire into the condition of all endowed schools in England and Wales that had not been in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

quired into by two previous Commissions,—the one, presided over by the Duke of Newcastle, to consider elementary schools assisted by votes of Parliament,—and the other, presided over by Lord Clarendon, which was appointed to inquire into public schools, respecting which a Bill was passed last year by the member for the University of Cambridge, Mr. Walpole. Not only was the present Bill brought forward in consequence of the Report of the Commission, but to a very great extent the Bill carried out its recommendations. Its principal object was the reform and reorganization of the Endowed Schools of England and Wales. But there was one important difference between the Bill and the Report of the Commission. The Report recommended not merely that the Endowed Schools should be put on an improved footing, but that a power should be taken of inspecting, and, he might say, of managing, them; not merely that there should be power given to make fresh trusts, but that there should be power given to see that the trustees did their duty. For this purpose the Commission recommended the appointment of provincial boards throughout the country, under the control of the central authority. He was still of the opinion that very much might be said in favour of this machinery, but on full consideration the Government had come to the conclusion of not recommending the House to adopt it at present, but to confine the scope of their Bill to the reform and reorganization of Endowed Schools, not taking any power for their inspection and management beyond the power which was at present in the hands of the Charity Commissioners. Therefore they proposed that the Bill should be a temporary Bill. They asked for power for three or four years, to make fresh trust-deeds for Endowed Schools, which should after approval by Government be laid before Parliament, but should not become law if objected to by either House of Parliament. They had, however, seen no difficulty in providing a plan for the examination of schools and for giving certificates of competence to schoolmasters, and in this they had followed the recommendations of the Commissioners. The Commissioners recommended an examining council, which would consist of twelve members, and as it was thought there would be more confidence in this body if it were not nominated entirely by Government, six of the members would be appointed by the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and London, and six by the Crown. This Educational Council would have power to examine the scholars of all endowed schools, and to give certificates. There was no wish to interfere with schoolmasters who carried on schools of their own, but he believed it would not be considered any interference, but a boon, by private schoolmasters, if the examination, which was compulsory on the endowed schools, might be taken advantage of by the private schoolmasters on their fulfilling the same conditions that were fulfilled by the endowed schools. The Bill also made provision for offering to some extent exhibitions to scholars of private schools. It was desirable that the Bill should pass this Session, and, as impor


tant business of another character would come on soon, he would ask the House to allow him to take the second reading on an early day; but as there might be some difference of opinion with regard to the special provisions of the Bill, full time would be given for consideration of them before going into Committee. The Bill

provided for the appointment of a small Commission, which would prepare the schemes and give notice to all the parties interested, and, after the schemes were settled, would submit them to the Educational Department of the Privy Council, and that department would, on its own responsibility, after approval, lay them before Parliament.

Little discussion took place on the first stage of the Bill. The members who spoke on it desired to have further time to consider its details. In answer to various inquiries, Mr. Forster said he did not propose inspection, but only examination of schools and masters; and it was not intended that the Bill should apply to any school which already received a Government grant. As to the representations which had been made, that it would be better to allow more time before taking the second reading, he thought it right to yield to the wishes that had been expressed. To be sure, if the effect of the Bill should be to improve the character of the people, it would be desirable to pass it as soon as possible. There was, however, no desire to press the Bill with undue haste.

After the lapse of a month, Mr. Forster moved the second reading of the Bill,and then fully explained its provisions. The Commissioners had reported that the worst education in this country was that provided in the schools between the upper and middle class, the elementary schools inspected by Government. The Bill dealt with 3000 schools, viz. 782 grammar schools and 2175 foundations, mostly elementary, with a gross income of 592,0001., and a net income for education of 340,0001., a sum which, if well applied, would have done much; but these sums were to a great extent wasted. Mr. Forster gave startling instances of this fact. His object was now chiefly to open the benefits of these endowments, not only to the lower middle classes, on whose claims Mr. Forster strongly insisted, but also to the working classes, carrying out in this, he contended, the intentions of the founders; and he explained how he would do this, by making the admissions to the endowed schools depend, not on favour, but on competitive examination. He also shadowed out a scheme by which the clever child of a working man might rise step by step from the lowest elementary school to the highest education in the country. To prevent the rich seizing on the fruits of these reforms, the Bill would give power to classify these schools, and to fix the age at which the boys should leave. Among other objects of the Bill he mentioned the promotion of girls' education, and the multiplication of day schools. The powers of the Court of Chancery and the Charity Commissioners would not suffice for these objects, and a special Commission would be necessary. The Commissioners would have



no power of themselves to alter the foundation of a school; they would prepare schemes, and after due inquiry and consultation with the school authorities they would submit them to the Committee of Council. The Government of the day would then become responsible for the schemes thus framed, and if they approved them would lay them before Parliament, when they would become law, if not objected to by either House within forty days. The establishment of a system of inspection would be postponed until the reorganization of the schools was complete, but a Council of Education would be appointed at once, half nominated by the Universities and half by the Government, which would examine both scholars and all masters appointed hereafter. The same privilege would be given to private schools and schoolmasters on putting themselves under similar conditions. He would consent to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, and he concluded with a vigorous defence of his principle as virtually carrying out the ideas of the founders, and making the ideas of the past minister to the ideas of the future.

Mr. B. Hope said the Bill should be fully considered by the Select Committee. The absolute power of the "Anonymous Triumvirate" would excite strong opposition. They should be named. He objected to the want of securities against Church schools drifting into Nonconformist, and vice versá. An opportunity ought to be given to the schools to prepare schemes for themselves. A University degree ought to be sufficient qualification for a master, and he pointed out that by examining all the schools there was a risk of fostering “ cram.”

Mr. Gathorne Hardy, who offered his assistance to make the Bill efficient and satisfactory, urged that the Commissioners ought to be named in the Bill, and Mr. Goldney thought that the principles on which they were to act in reconstructing the schools ought to be prescribed by it. Mr. Locke and Mr. Whitbread recommended that an opportunity should be given to schools with which no fault could be found, to frame schemes of their own.

Mr. Walter objected to the short interval of forty days allowed for the consideration of the schemes by Parliament, and suggested, as a point for the Select Committee, whether such schools as Repton, Tunbridge, and Uppingham might not be excepted from the Bill. He mentioned, too, that the head masters of some most important schools objected to being limited in their choice of assistants to certificated masters, and he held examination to be a delusive test.

The Bill, after some further discussion, was read a second time, and was then referred to a Select Committee. It there underwent considerable alteration, the clauses which proposed to constitute an Examining Council being, with some others, struck out of the Bill. In Committee various questions were raised, though not affecting the principle of the measure, the most important of which were: First, an amendment, moved by Mr. Winterbotham, proposing that the Commissioners in their schemes should make provision for girls' education equally with boys'. Much sympathy was expressed with


« PreviousContinue »