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NEW SYSTEM OF NATIONAL EDUCATION.
THE EXPERIMENT, VIZ. Destruction of the Kildare-Place Society-Erection of Des
potism over Schools and School-Books—Expulsion of the Bible--Introduction of ARIAN or SOCINIAN influence over Education-Deceptive recognition of PRESBYTERIANISM, and real Establishment of POPERY by GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY: the whole uttering a loud call to every honest, consistent, and determined Protestant to examine his danger, and stand upon his post for the defence of religion.
Just as we anticipated, our review of the new system of education has exposed us to a variety of attacks. We have been accused of “confounding the Report of 1828 with the Bill of 1831,” though at p. 65 we gave them separately and distinctly; and a sweeping charge of “incorrect representations" has been unceremoniously hurled against us. In the midst of this smoke and fire we needed an auxiliary, and we have found him where we least expected him, in the person of the Rt. Hon: E. G. Stanley. His letter to the Duke of Leinster, dated "Irish Office, Oct. 1831," has confirmed the correctness of all our statements. Full well we knew that the unclean spirit of the Report was intended to transmigrate into the dead carcase of the Bill. Mr. Stanley has but waved his pen, and the monster stands before us in all its native deformities.
There are three ways of treating a subject. 1. Hold your tongue. 2. Shuffle. 3. Speak out.-We choose the last.
We begin, then, with a few plain questions to whom it may concern. Is it usual in official documents to date by the month, and not by the day? Upon what day in October was this document issued ? Why has it been pocketed till this date? (We quote from a Dublin Paper of 10th December, 1831.) Why have the Protestants been kept in ignorance of the design of Government to establish Popery, and to secure that establishment by Protestant superintendence? These are questions we should be glad to hear answered. We know the profound secrecy in which the Bill was preserved. We know how the Moderator of the Synod of Ulster has not even yet been favoured with a copy of a document in which he is personally and deeply interested. We see, in the whole transaction, such an air of mystification, that we sus. pect it must be a consciousness of something wrong, which produces such a sensitive avoidance of the light.
The document however has at last seen the light; and it becomes our painsul duty to record its contents, and to offer a few comments upon its several details. The Let. ter commences with stating, that
“His Majesty's - Government have come to the determination of empowering the Lord Lieutenant to constitute a Board for the superintendence of a system of national education in Ireland, and Parliament having so far sanctioned the arrangement, as to appropriate a sum of money in the present year, as an experiment of the probable success of the proposed system, I am directed by his Excellency to acquaint your Grace, that it is his intention, with your consent, to constitute you the President of the New Board : and I have it further in command to lay before your Grace the motives of the Government in constituting this Board, the powers which it is intended to confer upon it, and the objects which it is expected that it will bear in view, and carry into effect."
The Letter, after some matters of detail, proceeds to speak of the Kildare-Place Society :
“ They cannot but be sensible that one of its leading principles was calculated to defeat its avowed objects, as experience has subsequently proved that it has. The determination to enforce in all their schools the reading of the Holy Scriptur es, without note or comment, was undoubtedly taken with thc purest motives, with the wish at once to connect religious with moral and literary education, and, at the same time, not to run the risk of wounding the peculiar feelings of any sect by catechetical instruc. tion, or comments which might tend to subjects of polemical controversy. But it seems to have been overlooked, that the principles of the Roman Catholic Church (to which, in any system intended for general diffusion throughout Ireland, the bulk of the pupils must necessarily belong) were totally at variance with this principle ; and that the indiscriminate reading of the Holy Scriptures, without note or comment, by children, must be peculiarly obnoxious to a church, which denies, even to adults, the right of unaided private interpretatation of the sacred volume, with l'espect to articles of religious belief.
Shortly after its institution, although the society prospered and extended its operations under the fostering care of the legislature, this vital defect (vital defect!!) began to be noticed, and the Roman Catholic
clergy began to exert themselves with energy and success, against a system to which they were on a principle opposed, and which they feared might lead in its results to proselytism, even although no such object were contemplated by its promoters. When this opposition arose, founded on such grounds, it soon become manifest that the system could not become one of national education,
“ In 1828, a Committee of the House of Commons, to which were referred the various reports of the Commissioners of Education, recommended a system to be adopted, which should afford, if possible, a combined literary, and separate religious education, and should be capable of being so far adapted to the views of the religious persuasions which prevailed in Ireland, as to render it, in truth, a system of national education for the poorer classes of the community.
“For the success of the undertaking, much must depend upon the character of the individuals who compose the Board; and upon the security thereby afforded to the country, that while the interests of religion are not overlooked, the most scrupulous care should be taken not to interfere with the peculiar tenets of any description of Christian pupils.
“ It is the intention of the Government, that the Board should exercise a complete control over the various schools which may be erected under its auspices, or which, having been already established, may hereafter place themselves under its management, and submit to its regulations. Subject to these, applications for aid will be admissible from Christians of all denominations; but as one of the main objects must be to unite in one system, children of different creeds, and as much must depend upon the co-operation of the resident clergy, the Board will probably look with peculiar faror upon applications proceeding either from
* Ist. The Protestant and Roman Catholic Clergy of the parish; or
“ 21. One of the Clergymen, and a certain number of parishioners professing the opposite creed; or
“3d. Parishioners of both denominations.
“Where the application proceeds exclusively from Protestants, or exclusively from Roman Catholics, it will be proper for the Board to make inquiry, as to the circumstances which lead to the absence of any names of the persuasion which does not appear.
“The Board will note all applications for aid, whether granted or refused, with the grounds of the decision, and annually submit to Parliament a report of their proceedings.
“They will require that the schools be kept open for a certain number of hours, on four or five days of the week, at the discretion of the commissioners, for moral and literary education only; and that the remaining one or two days in the week be set apart for giving, separately, such religious education to the children, as may be approved of by the clergy of their respective persuasions.
"They will also permit and ENCOURAGE the clergy to give religious instruction to the children of their respective persuasions, either before or after the ordinary school hours, on the other days of the week.
They will exercise the most entire control over ALL BOOKS to be used in the schools, whether in the combined moral and literary, or separate religious iustruction : none to be employed in the first, except under the sanction of the Board, nor is the latter, but with the approbation of those members of the Board who are of the same religious persuasion with those for whose use they are intended. Although it is not designed to exclude
from the list of books for the combined instruction such portions of sacred history, or of religious and moral teaching as may be APPROVED OF BY THE BOARD, it is to be understood, that this is by no means intended to convey a perfect and sufficient religious education, or to supersede the necessity of separate religious instruction on the days set apart for that purpose.
“They will require that a register shall be kept in the schools, in which shall be entered the attendance or non-attendance of each child on divine worship on Sundays.
“They will, at various times, either by themselves, or by their inspectors, visit and examine into the state of each school, and report their observations to the Board.
“They will allow to the individuals or bodies applying for aid, the ap. pointment of their teacher, subject to the following restrictions or regulations :
“He (or she) shall be liable to be fined, suspended, or removed altogether, by the authority of the commissioners, who shall, however, record their reasons.
“He shall have received testimonials of good conduct, and of general fitness for the situation, from the Board.
“A full power will of course be given to the Board, to make such regulations upon matters of detail, not consistent (inconsistent?) with the spirit of these instructions, as they may judge best qualified to carry into effect the intentions of the Government, and of the legislature. Parliament has already placed at his Excellency's disposal a sum which may be available even in the course of the present year; and as soon as the Board can be formed, it will be highly desirable that no time should be lost, with a view to the estimates of the ensuing year, in enabling such schools, already established, as are willing to subscribe to the conditions IMPOSED, to put in their claims for protection and assistance ; and in receiving applications from parties desirous to avail themselves of the munificence of the legislature, in founding new schools under your regulations. (“Sigocd,)
“E. G. STANLEY." In our last we did not venture to charge His Majesty's Government with the design of expurgating the Bible or expelling it from schools, or of establishing Popery by Act of Parliament—we merely attributed the design to indivi. dual members of the House of Commons. We had, indeed, our fears, our suspicions, and private opinions, but we did not think it right to produce them, until we could support them by 'some public and authentic document. Such a document has been furnished in the letter of Mr. Stanley; and every word of it is pregnant with matter of solemn reflection. In the first place it is remarkable, that Mr. Stanley views the Board not in the light of principle, not in the light of experience, but as a mere 'experiment. An experiment of what? An experiment of how much Protestantism is to yield, and how much Rome is to get. An experiment of how far the love of money will bribe
Protestants to yield the Bible that contains their religion. An experiment in which Government establish Popery a little, to find out how soon it may be established in ihe plenitude of supremacy. An experiment!!! Adam proposed an experiment that was to change bim into a godthe experiment was made; and he found himself a slave. Our Government propose an experiment that promises to educate the nation; and in making the experiment, the nation is delivered over to the perpetuated bondage of Rome. An experiment!! Not an experiment in which truth is permitted to go forth unfettered in the march of renovation; but an experiment in which she is weighed down, and impeded at every step, by the influence of the antagonists with whom she is united. Not an experiment of the influence of truth upon the nation, but an experi. ment of the influence of falsehood
the nation. When we examine this matter of the experiment, we confess our perplexity—the perplexity not of doubt, but of fear. Protestantism is a noble plant. It has the deep root, and the lofty trunk, and the goodly boughs; but, alas! for the soil in which it grows.
It grows in the soil of weak and uncertain human nature. Now Solomon who Knew well both the strength and the weakness of our nå. ture, tells us how “a gift destroys the heart.” We doubt not the Government, during the period of the experiment, will bid high for golden opinions. They will grant libe. rally to all who will barter freedom for chains; they will interest schoolmasters, by the offer of additions to their shamefully scanty salaries; they will, for a time, innovate as little as possible upon the education and management of schools; and they will thus, as far as possible, win over or entrap the patrons, committees, and teachers. This point once gained, they will come before Parliament with the avowal of a successful experiment, and proceed with legislative solemnity to inaugurate Radicalism, Unitarian. ism, and Popery to preside over our national education, and exercise, their baleful and overwhelming influence against the truth. We do therefore at once speak out, and, in the language of Scripture, proclaim to the Protestants, patrons, and friends of education, "touch not, taste not, handle not." Do not put a finger to the experiment. Leave the state alchemists to all the smoke and fire of their great laboratory for the grand national experiment-let them "kindle the fire, and compass theinselves with sparks; and