Evidence of Rev R.E. Bartlett
to the Select Committee on the Ecclesiastical Commission, 30 May 1862

[pages 175ff of the full report]

[See also the extensive evidence given by the Rev G.H.McGill, incumbent of Christ Church Watney Street, a few days earlier - he had been asked to represent local clergy on the specific issue of the Finsbury prebend, explained there. Bartlett's issues were somewhat different, though he shared the difficulty of raising income from local ratepayers, with the subdivision of properties and the fact that a growing proportion of householders were Jewish - though not at this time mainly impoverished, as was the case two generations later. Note his estimate of the number of Jews and Roman Catholics in his parish: both figures were to rise significantly in the following years. He had abolished pew rents, as inimical to the parochial character of a church serving an increasingly poor neighbourhood, but this had only been possible because of a temporary benefaction, and he was not sanguine about obtaining funding from the Commissioners when this expired. And he had a particular problem with the 'mother church', St Mary Whitechapel, which because of its long history attracted funds in preference to St Mark's, and also levied church rates over the whole district - illegally, in his view. He also refers to St Paul's Church for Seamen, which only became a parish church in 1864 - and to which on its closure in 1925 St Mark's was joined.]

Martis, 30 die Maii, 1862.
MEMBERS PRESENT: Mr. Edward Pleydell Bouverie, Mr. Deedes, Mr. Fenwick, Mr. Freeland,
Mr. Locke King, Mr. Kinnaird, Mr. Newdegate, Mr. Philipps, Mr. Selwyn, Mr. Henry Danby Seymour, Mr. Walpole.  

HENRY DANBY SEYMOUR, Esq., in the Chair.
The Rev ROBERT EDWARD BARTLETT, M.A., called in; and Examined.

3424. Chairman] You are, I believe, the Incumbent of St. Mark's, Whitechapel? — I am.
3425. What is your object in coming before the Committee? — My object is to state my strong belief that the present rules of the Ecclesiastical Commission do not allow an extremely poor parish like mine a fair chance of participating in its funds.
3426. Will you state what the population of your parish is? — 15,400.
3427. What is the proportion of the poor, and what is the general character of your parish? — The proportion of poor is certainly four-fifths who are very poor, and the rest are not able to do more than very little in helping me. The general character of the parish is rather peculiar, for the greater part of the better class of houses are in the hands of Jews, to whom, therefore, I can look for no assistance, leaving me a mass of poor who are unable to contribute,
3428. What is the present income of the living, and for how long is it secured? — When I entered upon the incumbency the income from endowment was £13 a year; from fees about the same; from pew rents £60; making a total of between £80 and £90. Since then a benefaction has come in, which has raised the income to £300 a year for five years, conditional on the abolition of pew rents, which was a thing that I was very anxious to accomplish, leaving me at the end of five years, of which a year and a half has already expired, with an income of £13 from endowment and about the same from fees. I am employed meanwhile in making efforts to raise what I can towards a permanent endowment; but I find on inquiry that the property is in the hands of very small owners, almost all non resident, many of them Jews; and I am informed by persons who have known the parish much longer than I have, that I shall be very fortunate if in the course of five years I scrape together as many hundred pounds.
3429. Are your schools supported by assistance from a distance? — Partly. I have to get what funds I can from my own friends and so forth. I have, of course, subscribers amongst the persons in the parish.
3430. Have you any drawbacks? — Yes; I have to make up a certain amount of deficiency in the repairs and necessary expenses of the church, and also of the schools, and a great many incidental expenses; so that I put the absolute necessary expense for carrying on the work of the parish at not less than £100 a year; and for carrying on as it ought to be; in the way of curates; and so forth I should say £150.
3431. You keep one curate? — At present, I have two; but that is from private funds. [These were the Revds Charles Voysey and Charles Anderson.]
3432. Have you made any efforts for raising a sum of money to meet a grant from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners? —  I have asked those who were formerly contributors to the pew rents to subscribe, which they have done. From that I shall not receive more than £60 or £70 a year for the five years. I have a list of the rate-payers, with their amount of rental, from which I find a very large proportion of them are Jews, and that an immense majority have but a very small holding; and from what I know at present of the character of the holders, I know that they are people who cannot afford to do anything substantial in the way of helping towards an endowment.
3433. What is your belief as to the possibility of raising a sufficient sum? — I am quite sure that it could not be done from local sources. The incumbency has been miserably poor for the last 15 or 20 years; and there is one peculiar circumstance about it, namely, that the mother church of Whitechapel is in an equal state of poverty, and that a considerable number of those who might perhaps be disposed to help me have pledged themselves, first of all, to help the mother parish.
3434. What is the amount of population in the mother parish? — Just precisely the same as mine, about 15,400.
3435. What is the character of the owners of property, as to the amount of rateable property held by each of them, and as to their ability or disposition to contribute to an endowment fund?  — The amount of rateable property held by each is very small; most of it is let off in small tenements, and therefore the landlords generally pay the rates. Out of 405 ratepayers, more than three-fourths have quite small holdings; and those who have large holdings are either non-residents, or, in some cases, railway companies and dock companies, and so forth, who do not contribute to those things.
3436. Are you aware of any instance of a benefaction having been raised in the east of London to meet a grant from the Commissioners? — I cannot say from my own knowledge.
3437. Do you think that the present rules of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would give you a fair chance of participating in the benefits of their fund? — No, I certainly do not. I have consulted with one or two of the persons who have shown the greatest disposition to help me, the sugar bakers, and others, and they tell me that that they are certain that nothing adequate can be done from local sources; they themselves will contribute as far as they can, but they cannot do so much as they would; and some of them, as I have said, are pledged to the mother church. The fact of its having been tried at the mother church, and failed there, where there is a far greater prestige, and where there are far more people able to help, convinces me that it would far more fail in my own case. Therefore, at the end of four years from this time, the income which I can look to will be about £30 with a population of 15,000. Next October three years is the date of the last payment of the present temporary benefaction.
3438. But the Ecclesiastical Commissioners give a large sum one year in unconditional parts; how was it that you did not participate in that, if your parish is so poor? — That was before I became incumbent, I have been there two years now.
3439. Have you seen a paper showing the different claims of those whom the Ecclesiastical Commissioners assist out of the Common Fund? — I have not.
3440. It has been stated that in such cases as yours, benefactions could be easily raised by an appeal to the country at large; do you think that an incumbent could be fairly expected to undertake this labour? —  I should say not, certainly it is with the greatest difficulty that I am able to raise sums for any present necessary purposes, and even then only with large additions from my own purse; and to get up a public appeal for a large sum for an endowment, and to undertake the labour of carrying it out, would be far more than I could do with my present work. In fact it is as much as I can do to work for the present and therefore I cannot undertake to work for the future.
3441. Have you a difficulty in supporting your schools? — Yes, some difficulty.
3442. Do you get assistance out of the parish for the support of the schools?  — Yes.
3443. Would you rather apply for assistance for schools rather than for assistance for the increase of the endowment? — Yes; of course, if you ask for money for endowment it is more like begging for yourself, although it is not perhaps really so, and also it it easier as far as my experience goes, to get money for schools than for an endowment; people say "Here is a thing going on, therefore it can go on"; but schools they know must be shut up if they are not supported.
3444. What did your pew rents bring you in? — The last pew rents brought me in £60 at the utmost.
3445. Why did you wish so much to get rid of them? — Because there are very few persons who can afford to pay them; even of those who did pay them some were non-residents, and as long as the church is subject to pew-rents you cannot go to the poor, and say, "Here is a free church for you to come and worship in"; it is the greatest difficulty that I have to persuade the poor that the church belongs to them, and that they have as much right there as the rich, and as long as there are pew rents you cannot say that.
3446. Are pew rents completely got rid of in your church now? — Yes, completely.
3447. When this temporary endowment fails can you not again have recourse to pew rents? — I believe that there is no legal impediment, but I feel myself bound in honour not to do so, and I certainly should not as long as I stayed there. I am sure that it would be the worst thing possible for the place to do it.
3448. Had you to apply to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, or to any other body, to get permission to dispense with the pew rents?  — No. I had the advice of the Bishop's legal adviser, and he said that it would be sufficient if I simply refused to receive them, with an understanding with the person through whom the benefaction came, that that was to be during my incumbency for certain
3449. After your incumbency there would be a power to levy them again? — Yes.
3450. Then I understand you that these sittings are not free? — They are now.
3451. Only during your incumbency?  — Only during my incumbency, for certain; but I am sure that the attempt to re impose pew rents would fail in both ways; it would fail in providing anything like an adequate income (my predecessors must have spent far more than they received); and it would also fail in this way, that it would destroy the parochial character of the church. The better houses are most of them in the hands of Jews, and there are very few people who can afford to take sittings; and if you make the place subject to pew rents, you run a great risk of driving out the poor.
3452. Did you make this arrangement with the consent of the Bishop? Yes.
3453. You received this benefaction with the consent of the Bishop? Yes, it was in fact, partly through him; he was one of the two trustees through whom it came.
3454. You feel certain that something must be done at the end of the three years, or else the interests of the church will very materially suffer?  Most seriously, certainly.
3455. And I understand that you see no prospect of raising a benefaction to meet a grant from the Commissioners? I see none. I shall be very fortunate if I get within the space of those years £600 or £700.
3456. Are you opposed to the system generally of requiring a benefaction before making a grant? No. I think that it is a good system to help those who help themselves; but I also think there are some who are unable to help themselves.
3457. You would therefore put yours forward as a special case for the consideration of the Commissioners? Yes, with those of a similar character. I know that it is the opinion of those who are acquainted with the state of London parishes, that mine is one of the very strongest cases.
3458. You have not had any dealings at all with the Commissioners? None whatever.
3459. In fact you never applied to them? No. This benefaction came in almost immediately after my undertaking the incumbency.
3460. How long have you been incumbent? Rather more than two years.
3461. Mr. Philipps] Do you know what the rateable value of the parish is? That I am afraid I cannot state.
3462. Do you know whether the Small Tenement Act prevails in your parish under which the landlord pays the rates? Yes, very generally.
3463. Chairman] Your evidence has been independently of all attention to the Finsbury prebend, has it not? Yes, entirely.
3464. You think that supposing there was no such large ecclesiastical property as will fall in in from the Finsbury prebend [see here for an explanation], you would still have a claim on the Common Fund? Yes, I wish to put forward the general fact that we are too poor to be expected to help ourselves.
3465. But you think that the falling in of the Finsbury prebend would give you a strong additional claim? Yes, I think so, certainly.
3466. Mr. Deedes]  I did not quite gather from you what was the nature of this benefaction? It was a legacy for the support of some poor incumbency in London, left in the hands of two trustees, of whom the Bishop of London was one. It was determined by the Bishop and the other trustee, that it should be invested in such a way that at the end of the five years the interest and capital should be exhausted so as to raise the incumbency for five years to the value of £300 a year, with some considerable addition from the other trustee. The object of that was, hoping that at the end of that time the place might be made in some way self-supporting either by weekly collections, or by something of that sort.
3467. This benefaction was not in any way secured to your parish, previously to its being offered in the way in which it was by the trustees? No, it was left in their hands.
3468. Are you aware or not, that it might have been offered to the Commissioners as a benefaction, and that a grant might have been made to meet it? Yes, I suppose that it might, but I am not quite aware of the terms on which it was left.
3469. You have spoken of the difficulty of raising any money in a parish of such a description as yours from local sources? Yes.
3470. Are you aware that the Commissioners in London do receive benefactions offered from any sources, provided that they are not previously secured to the Church, and that it is not necessary that they should be from any local sources? I apprehend that that is not necessary.
3471. For instance, you could get a grant from a Diocesan Society, or from any body of that sort, so that the fact of the poverty of the district need not of itself be an absolute bar to a sum being forthcoming from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners? No, but the diocesan Societies only make very small grants, so far as I know, nothing at all adequate to the requirements of such parishes; and I could not myself undertake to send the hat round to the public generally to invite contributions.
3472. Whitechapel Church is the mother church? It is.
3473. Do you know of your own knowledge whether any benefactions have been offered on the part of the mother church, and any grants made by the Commissioners? I do not; I know that the plan pursued there, has been to make a general collection all over the parish of Whitechapel for a rector's fund year by year; but I know that that is considerably falling short of what it used to be, and that those who have taken the chief part in collecting it, are now most fully persuaded that nothing can be done without some kind of permanent endowment; and I may add that that has been to some extent a difficulty with me, because many of the largest owners and employers in my parish, have already pledged themselves to the support of the mother church, in preference to mine, from old family connections and so forth, so that that is so much out of my prospects.
3474. How long has this separate parish of which you speak been formed? About 22 years.
3475. Are you aware, whether during that period the value of the incumbency has decreased or not? The value of the incumbency has decreased very much. since it was first founded, it was the only district church in that neighbourhood; there were a large number of well-to-do persons living in the neighbourhood who held sittings; and probably the income then may have been something like £250 a year; but I contend that that was entirely overlooking the parochial character of the church; it was not then a church for the poor people living in the district, and since that time those persons have mainly left London, and their houses are now held in small tenements, room by room by poor families.
3476. This attempt at raising money for the mother Church, in the way that you have spoken of, and which you have said is rather failing, would not in any way benefit you? Not in any way; it would rather injure me.
3477. No proportion of the sum so raised is to be applied to your parish? None whatever.
3478. And you consider that it is quite out of your power with any exertions which can be made, to get a sum of money to offer as a benefaction? I am quite certain that it is; I shall be very fortunate if I scrape together a few hundred pounds.
3479. Chairman] How many churches are there in your district? Only one.
3480. And how many clergy? Myself and two curates.
3481. What is the accommodation of the church? It is called 1,500, but it would not seat more than 1,200 comfortably.
3482. Do you not think that your district is too large for one cure? — It is, certainly.
3483. Have you ever taken any steps towards getting it divided? I spoke to the City Commissioners on the subject of the city churches, and they told me that they had a proposal for taking off about 2,000 or 3,000 perhaps from the south of my district, and making them into a new district with part of Wapping; but that of course is contingent on their arrangements, and may never happen, or certainly not for a good while.
3484. Nothing has been done yet? No; I have said that there is only one church; I should state that there is a Sailor's Church, which is locally situated in my district for sailors in the Port of London, which is a non parochial church altogether; but which of course does provide a certain amount of general accommodation.
3485. How many does that Sailor's Church hold? About 500; but that is chiefly for sailors living in the Sailor's Home, and in the docks.
3486. How is it supported? I believe by the Committee of the Sailor's Home, but it is a distinct matter altogether.
3487. Does the clergyman of that Church visit in your district? He visits about two streets by my permission.
3488. What do you think that the size of your district ought to be; how large a district do you think that you could satisfactorily manage? I should put it rather larger than you find in many parts; because so many of the houses especially immediately round my Church, are inhabited by Jews, whom one considers as out of one's own spiritual charge.
3489. How many of the 15,000 are Jews? I should  I should say 3,000 or 4,000; but they are the better class, and therefore they occupy houses from which one would naturally look for assistance.
3490. That would reduce the number 12,000? Yes.
3491. Are there any Roman Catholics? A large number of very poor Irish Catholics.
3492. How many Roman Catholics would say that there are? I dare say as many as 1,500.
3493. That would reduce your of the Church of England to about 11,000? Yes.
3494. Of that number it is proposed by new arrangement to take off 3,000 or 4,000? No, those who are to be taken off are almost the Irish who live in one particular locality.
3495. In the new district? Yes.
3496. There would be nobody to go to the New Church to make a new ecclesiastical district? That is what I represented.
3497. There are no persons in that who profess the Church of England doctrines? Very few; I represented that to the Commissioners at the time.
3498. But nothing was settled? Nothing whatever; it was a mere proposal.
3499. Who are the Commissioners who have to make those divisions? Those whom I saw were the Lord Mayor, Mr. Rowsell, and Mr. Gibbs; I think that they are the leading ones amongst them.
3500. Have the Ecclesiastical Commissioners anything to do with the re-arrangement of the city parishes? I am not aware.
3501. Mr. Newdegate] According to your statement if this division were made as now proposed, it would leave you with 11,000? I should say about 11,000 or 12,000.
3502. What provision is there for the income of the clergyman of those 11,000? Simply what I have stated; after this temporary benefaction ceases, the certain income which I can look to is something like £30 a year.
3503. Are there any church rates levied in this parish? There is a church rate which is levied as I contend illegally by the mother Church over the whole parish.
3504. Is that applied to your church? No.
3505. Are there any burial fees? I receive burial fees now from the Tower Hamlets Cemetery, which I believe is compensation.
3506. To what extent? I have only begun to receive them since the rectory was vacated, so that I cannot say for certain, but I should think at the outside £10 a year.
3507. Would that be in addition to the £30? Yes.
3508. Then you would have £40 a year? Yes.
3509. Mr. Deedes] Is the population of your parish on the increase or the decrease? It is slightly on the decrease in this way, that a great many houses have been pulled down within the last 15 years by the railway company.
3510. It is not from the population being migratory? No; I do not see any tendency to decrease in that way.
3511. Chairman] Do you find the poor people stationary, while the rich leave your parish? The poor are very migratory; there is a constant influx and efflux, but still there is large stationary element.

A paper given at the Social Science Congress in Bristol, September 1869

[The Congress, chaired by Canon Charles Kingsley, had as its special theme 'Is an unsectarian scheme of education inconsistent with religious teaching?' This came in the run-up to the 1870 Education Act, with nonconformists and others objecting to 'Anglicanism on the rates', and religious instruction based on the Catechism. Many Anglican clergy were fearful of the loss of influence, but Bartlett and other liberals argued robustly that non-denominational teaching in Board schools was the only sensible way forward. This came to pass, through the 'Cowper-Temple clause' - though it remained a live issue for some time to come.]

Among the questions destined to occupy the space in the public mind which till lately has been filled by the Irish Church, one of the most prominent is likely to be the demand for a national system of education; which, I suppose, may be defined as a system in which it shall be the recognised duty of the State to provide directly for the education of every child, whose parents are unable or unwilling to provide for it themselves. The growth of public opinion in this direction has of late been somewhat rapid. It is but thirty years since the first step was taken towards education under the control of the State, by the appointment of the Committee of Council on Education; a step for which, at that time, men's minds were so little prepared, that it produced a protest in the form of an address from the House of Lords to the Crown, and it seemed likely for some time that the clergy would oppose the acceptance of State aid and inspection with all their influence. It is only lately that one important religious body, the Independents, has withdrawn its uncompromising opposition to all State interference with education; and till quite within the last few years the idea of the State doing more than assisting voluntary efforts was relegated to the class of unpractical ideas only voluntary relegated unpractical ideas, only fit for discussion at Social Science Congresses. And if this rapid ripening of public opinion betokens in this case, as it certainly did in the case of the Irish Church, an equally rapid and decisive solution of the question, it becomes important for us to consider it under all aspects, especially under that of its bearing on the present system, and on the question of religious education.

It is, no doubt, the religious difficulty that has so long made any general system of education impossible. If we could for a moment entertain the wild supposition that all England were of one mind on religious questions, I think there can be no doubt that long before this there would have been an efficient school in every parish requiring one. But it has been universally assumed - first that an education without religion is worthless, or worse; and secondly, that a religious education consists in, or at least necessarily involves, the teaching of definite and minute dogma; and from these premises it followed of necessity that no system of education could be devised which should meet the case of a country divided in religious opinion, except the present system of stimulating and aiding the efforts of the different religious bodies. This is not the place to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this system. The disadvantages are obvious, and the advantages have, as it seems to me, been overrated. But at any rate it has had the effect of magnifying any the effect of magnifying to the utmost the importance not only of the religious but of the dogmatic element in education. When it was proclaimed that in every little town in England there must be two schools at least, because one class of people thought it of the utmost importance that all the children should learn the Church Catechism, and another class of people thought it of the utmost importance that they should not; it became pretty clear that the religious element was at any rate an important one in education.

But it is not likely that this condition of things will last much longer. If, in the districts already sufficiently supplied with schools, the State does not enforce a conscience clause all round as a condition of Government aid, at least in the districts still unaided, the question will be forced upon us as soon as the State takes them in hand  - Which do you prefer?  A purely secular school, in which the children shall be taught secular knowledge only in school hours, and then be thrown out for the ministers of all denominations to scramble for outside, or a system of elementary religious teaching, clear of all dogmatic specialties? In other words, supposing that the nation determines on establishing a system of education in which all can take part, shall it be by ignoring religion, or only by ignoring religions differences?

Now, I confess that, supposing no other alternative open to us, I, for one, speaking as a parochial clergyman, should be ready heartily to welcome a thoroughly good system of secular education. I know quite well that in so saying I lay myself open to be told that the highest possible product of a purely secular education is, the Devil; but to this I reply, that at least the mind even of the Devil is not, like that of the average British farm labourer, absolutely incapable of receiving any intelligent religious impression. Prejudice you may overcome; sophistry you may expose; error you may convince;  but Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens. Stupidity is proof against the gods [a quotation from Schiller]. You have a fine field lying fallow, in which you wish to raise a good crop; the Government, wishing to encourage agriculture, says, As you can t make up your minds what sort of seed it is best to sow, I must leave you to settle that amongst yourselves; but as the ground must first be prepared, I will set a patent steam plough to work, which will do the necessary preliminary work, and then you can do the sowing in the way and at the time that suits you best. What infatuated folly it would be to reply, "No; the ploughing and sowing must be done by the same machine or not at all. I have an orthodox contrivance which will perform the two operations simultaneously. I admit it does not do its work very thoroughly; it has a trick of skipping the most hardened part of the field altogether, and then of course the seed never gets a chance; but still I am not going to sow after any of your new-fangled steam ploughs; let me do it in my own way, or I won't sow at all." Surely, your intelligent infidel is a more hopeful subject than your utterly besotted and ignorant rustic. Nay, may I not go a step further, and say that a really good system of secular education, one which should teach not only reading and writing, but discipline, obedience, self-respect, and self-control, is, in a very real though not in the highest sense, religious?

I admit, however, that in such a system there would be a very considerable danger of directly religious instruction being altogether lost. I believe it has been found so in Canada. At any rate, it would depend on the energy of the ministers of religion in each district, and on their power of getting hold of the children out of school hours  - a difficult thing, as most of us can testify. Is there then no other alternative? I think we may find one, in a system in which the Bible and the main truths of Christianity should be taught undogmatically. After all, we must approach a practical question of this kind by a consideration of the elements with which we have to deal. The present denominational system has, as it appears to me, been the result of a consideration not of what the condition of the working classes demands, but of the religious feelings and partisanship of the upper classes. The great majority of founders and supporters of schools are Church people; therefore they wished to have distinctively Church schools. But there was a considerable and active minority who were not Church people; therefore they wished to have distinctively non-Church schools. But if you investigate a lower stratum of society, that for which and not by which the schools are founded, you will find quite other phenomena. The working class, even the religious part of them, for the most part care very little about differences of doctrine.They are Church people or Dissenters, because they were brought up to church or chapel, or because they have taken to it from some personal preference; but they have scarcely an idea of any distinctive peculiarities of doctrine: and as regards the education of their children, they are wise enough to ask not where they will get this or that form of religious teaching, but where they will get the best education for their money. As Mr. Cumin says in his evidence to the Commissioners, The truth is, that the religious difficulty, as it is called, does not exist. So long as children are allowed to go to the Sunday-school connected with the religious denomination to which their parents belong, they make no objection either to the National or the British system. Not, however, that parents are indifferent altogether to a religious education for their children. I often think that there is a vague idea of some kind of vicarious religion in the minds of working people, and that being conscious of not having much of their own they think it all the more necessary for their children. Indeed, I strongly suspect that a secular system of education would stand a great chance of splitting on this rock, that the parents would object to a school without the Bible. To quote Mr. Cumin again, The religious element, I found, was considered essential, and that element was the Bible. The mass of the poor have no notion as to any distinction beyond that between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

So far with regard to the parents. Now let us look at our materials in the children. I sometimes wonder whether the worthy people who read and interest themselves in the discussions on these subjectsm can realise themselves what manner of children these are whose religious instruction we are so solicitous about, They must think that they are of about the age and intelligence of the sixth form boys in our public schools, or at any rate that they have arrived at the age usually considered by the Bishops as years of discretion suitable for confirmation. I think they would be surprised if they could see what the first class of an average national school is, and what very small chance there is of any definite dogmatic teaching getting into the children's minds at all, except in the form of undigested formulas, which it is quite certain they will never assimilate. I would ask any clergyman who has had classes of young people of the labouring class to prepare for confirmation, whether his experience does not bear me out in saying that even the most carefully instructed national school children do not retain from their school teaching any definite dogmatic impression. Indeed, just as nature indicates in the case of infants what sort of food is suited to their age, by causing them to reject whatever is unsuitable, so she does also with regard to mental and spiritual nourishment. They will take in facts; you may teach them the main points of the Old and New Testament history, and if you do it sensibly they will take a considerable interest in it:  you may make them understand and remember the Sermon on the Mount, and the parables and discourses of our Saviour; but unless I am greatly in error, their minds are absolutely unreceptive of dogma. Indeed, it would not be too much to say that the whole habit of mind of the labouring and lower middle classes makes them proof against very distinctive teaching. Take a girl in the upper class of a national school. You may teach her the Catechism with scripture proofs; you may follow this up with confirmation classes, with careful instruction in the Liturgy; you may get her a situation in a clergyman's family; but let a good-looking young Dissenter cross her path, and ask her to walk with him,
Ibi omnis / Effusus labor:
without the shadow of a scruple, without an idea that she is doing anything inconsistent with her bringing up, she will go with him of a Sunday evening to the chapel, and if the youth proves faithful at once to his love and to his creed, she will in process of time subside into a quiet nonconformity, and rear a little brood of young Dissenters as naturally as if she had never learnt the Catechism, or seen the inside of the parish church.

This then is the state of things we have to do with;  parents who want the best education they can obtain for their children, who wish religious instruction to be imparted, but who for the most part are unconcerned with doctrinal specialties, though they will resent any attempt made to force their children into a denomination which is not their own, and children who are not capable of receiving any definite peculiarities of dogma, but who are capable of learning and being interested in the Bible. Does not this seem to point to the natural solution, that of schools which shall supply such religious instruction as the parents require and the children can receive, leaving it to be supplemented on Sundays and in later years by the special teaching of the denomination to which the child belongs?

But it will be said the thing is impossible - you cannot have religious teaching without definite dogma. To this I reply, you not only can, but you actually have it;  and that in a class of schools in which above all others you would look for the most sharply defined Church teaching. Where are the sons of Church people in the upper class for the most part educated? At our public schools and I will venture to say, speaking from some experience of more than one of our public schools, and from intimate acquaintance with men of all schools, that in most of them there is absolutely no definite Church teaching except what is received in the chapel on Sundays. I was at Rugby under our present excellent Archbishop; I went through all the upper forms of the school; and I do not think that I am paying a bad compliment to the school when I say that I am sure no reasonable parent, either Churchman or Dissenter, could have objected to his son taking part in the whole of the religious instruction in the school. And yet when this is notoriously the case in the best of the highest schools in the country,  we are told that without dogmatic teaching there can be no religious education in our primary schools. Of course it is quite easy to raise formidable-looking difficulties; it is easy to ask, what is a conscientious teacher to do if he knows, for example, that he has Unitarian children in his school? but to all this I answer, that if you have a teacher with common sense no difficulties will arise; and no system will work unless you have people with common sense to administer it. English people, no doubt, dislike having their convictions attacked, but I believe very few parents of the working class would object to having their children taught by a person of a different denomination from their own, if they knew that he was honest and candid, and would respect their convictions. Nor do I believe that they would object to the clergyman of the parish having the chief part in the management and even in the religious teaching of the school, if they knew that the rights of conscience were guarded. Many clergymen, no doubt, will say that they will have nothing to do with a school where they cannot teach with authority the whole dogmatic system of the Church. I can only say that, give me a school with thoroughly good secular teaching, good discipline, and permission to teach the Bible and the elements of Christian morality, and I will be content without asking for more. And will you say that this is meagre and indefinite? Let me quote on this point the words of Mr. Matthew Arnold. in his report for 1868. Speaking of German schools, he says -
Even in the lowest classes, the children in a German Protestant school begin learning verses of the Psalms by heart, and by the time a scholar reaches the top of the school, he knows by heart a number of the finest passages from the Psalms, and from the prophetical and historical books of the Old Testament, and nearly all the principal Gospel discourses and parables of the New. These have become a part of the stock of his mind, and he has them for life. What a course of eloquence and poetry to call it by that name alone is this in a school which has and can hare but little eloquence and poetry (to call it by that name alone) is this in a school which has and can have but little eloquence and poetry, and how much do our elementary schools lose by not having such a course as part of their school programme?  This, at least, one would think, might be effected without any 'religious difficulty'. and all who value the Bible may rest convinced that thus to know and possess the Bible is a most sure way to extend the power and efficacy of the Bible.

Let me in conclusion explain that I do not wish to be understood as advocating the overthrow of the present denominational system.Where it exists it has worked fairly well, though with considerable waste of power, in having two indifferent schools where one good one would have sufficed, and in multiplying inspectors. I suspect, indeed, that if a universal conscience clause were introduced, very many indifferent schools, now kept alive by the religious difficulty, would speedily expire, greatly to the gain of education. But in the still unaided districts, and also in the towns where the increase of population requires fresh schools, I cannot but think that religious teaching without dogmatic specialties is the thing to be aimed at. And I cannot see that we of the Church of England should be sacrificing any principle in assenting to it. Surely it is a mere anachronism to endeavour to keep up the theory that the whole population of England are in agreement with the doctrines of the Established Church. It is not, as I trust and believe, too late to open our eyes thankfully to the fact that the mass of the working classes are willing to accept the Bible as the basis of religious teaching for their children. Where the great proportion of the people are members of, or friendly to, the National Church a Church school with a conscience clause seems to meet the case; but if it should seem good to Parliament to establish for the future a national system of education on the basis of Christianity, but without reference to religious denominations, I am sure that we should be acting rashly and unwisely in refusing to work with it. After all, the working classes must decide in the last resort what manner of system they will have; I do not think they will demand a secular system, and I doubt whether they will care to maintain the denominational system; but whatever the decision is, let us not refuse the half because we cannot have the whole, let it not appear that religion is in antagonism to enlightenment, let us not refuse in the interests of the Church or of Christianity to aid in breaking up the dense mass of ignorance and mental torpor in which, in spite of what has been already accomplished, the labouring class in our country districts are still hopelessly and contentedly sunk.

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