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work. Full of learning, and replete with passages of moral beauty, there is much in the volume to attract. Yet are we bound to say, that in our humble judgment, this learning is not seldom misapplied, and that the whole subject is viewed from a false position. The Church of the Future' is, doubtless, a
· beautiful vision to the author's fancy, but is, after all
, a mere expedient for the reconciliation of ecclesiastical and civil interests, on the principle of nationality in both.
Art. XI.--A Letter on the Present Position of the Education Ques
tion. By EDWARD EDWARDS, Esq. 8vo. Pp. 34. London :
1847. Of the vexed question we again approach in this paper, the public tell us, in more than one significant mode, that they have heard enough-more than enough. Not a few turn away in disgust from any invitation to bestow the slightest further thought on the subject. Nevertheless, the topic is one which will force itself on the attention of such parties, once and again, during some space to come; while as regards English Dissenters, should the ground which many of them have taken be retained, there is room to fear that what they have seen in connexion with this discussion will prove to be only the beginning of the end. Before we proceed to point out what this controversy bas already done in reference to Dissenters, there are a few words of a personal nature, which we wish to submit, in the way of explanation and defence, to the candid attention of our readers.
I. Grave impeachment has been brought against the editor of this journal, on the ground of his having joined in opposing the recent Minutes of the Privy Council of Education, and in praying that the government would leave the education of the people in future wholly to themselves; and of his having since expressed his willingness to accept of some new arrangement in favour of Nonconformist schools, securing them exemption, wherever such exemption is desired, from all state interference with regard to the religious instruction which may be given in such schools. That the party accused has so done is not denied; but to a sound and honest judgment in respect to his so doing, there is a short series of facts that must be distinctly borne in mind.
Dr. Vaughan's objection to the Minutes of Council had respect, from first to last, almost exclusively to the one point above mentioned—to the place assigned in those Minutes to the civil power as a religious teacher, and that even in respect to the instruction given in Nonconformist schools. That there was really danger of our seeing this great nation become the slave of cabinets through the agency of schoolmasters, while each of the said schoolmasters would be made to depend for two-thirds of his bread on the voluntary contributions raised for his support by the school-managers of his district-the power of appointing or dismissing the master being all the while solely with those functionaries—this notion, and some others kindred to it, never presented themselves to Dr. Vaughan as they seemed to present themselves to some of his brethren. Indeed, he wondered often, as he read what was written, and listened to what was said, on such topics. Not that he did not see many things in this government scheme needing correction and improvement; but its faults in other respects never appeared to him
such as to be necessarily fatal to it, had not its politico-ecclesiastical character been of a complexion to constitute in itself an insuperable objection.
It will be remembered, that before the Minutes in question were brought out, some of the public prints which affected to be better informed than their neighbours, stated that the provisions of the forthcoming education scheme had been submitted to the heads of the Church of England, and had been approved. When the Minutes were laid on the table of the Upper House by Lord Lansdowne, the prompt and thorough approval of them expressed by the Bishop of London and others, was such as to warrant the conclusion that the newspaper reports which preceded this remarkable exhibition of agreement were by no means mere rumour. Appearances certainly seemed to justify the impression, that while no sort of conference on this subject had taken place with parties who are not of the Church of England, the scruples and wishes of churchmen had been studiously consulted. In addition to this, the terms employed by Lord Lansdowne on the subject generally, and particularly in reference to the great inexpediency of any attempt on the part of the government in favour of a scheme of purely secular education, all seemed to place it beyond doubt, that these Minutes expressed the fixed purpose of the government on the question, and that to dissenters the overture virtually made was-- this or nothing.
We may be understood as speaking advisedly when we say, that the first feeling of Dr. Vaughan, at this juncture, was to abstain from taking further part in a discussion which seemed fated to come to no desirable issue. But he saw the condition in which his brethren were placed. He saw that if this project were acted upon, very few dissenters could be parties to it, and that its operation accordingly would be, that of an enormous grievance to the dissenter, and of a most exclusive and unjust bounty to the established church. He felt, however, that there was not a little to
overcome, as he entertained the thought of uniting with some of these aggrieved parties in an effort to free themselves from this difficulty. He could not conceal from himself that it was a difficulty very much of the sort that the course from which he had endeavoured in vain to dissuade these persons could hardly fail to lead_terms of a bad description being the natural result of a determination not to seek terms of any description. He thought, also, that he had some right to complain of a want of generosity, and even of justice, on the part of that portion of the dissenting press with which he regretted to find himself at issue. These opponents, in his view, never seemed to treat the subject as being at all a question--a matter having really two sides—but might rather be viewed, judging from their manner, as having ruled among themselves that infallibility should be presumed for the one side, and blunders for the other, and that this distribution of wisdom and folly should not be supposed liable to disturbance in any instance-no, not even by chance. Instances, indeed, were not wanting, apart from such organs of criticism, in which Dr. Vaughan, as one of the parties to whom the side of the foolish was thus awarded, was assailed with low invective and the basest imputations. Then, certain of the said organs, whose pretensions in matters of taste and morality should have prompted them to meet the scurrilous calumniator with the stern rebuke which, upon occasions, they so well know how to assume, in place of so doing, patted the gentleman on the back, and issued a virtual proclamation offering bounty for further assistance even in that shape! All this, too, came upon a man whose life during the last thirty years has been an unceasing labour to advance the interests of evangelical religion in the most openly-avowed connexion with the principles of congregational nonconformity, and came from the hands of parties once numbered among his personal friends. Nor was the feeling excited by this sort of proceeding the only feeling requiring to be subdued. The construction to which this contemplated change of ground would be liable, on the part of those to whom it would be exceedingly displeasing, remained to be considered; the probable charges of unsteadiness, or of something more; and the no less probable loss of friendships, to which it would have been unnatural not to attach considerable value.
But all the repugnant feeling experienced, as these circumstances were reviewed or anticipated, was controlled and placed in abeyance at that time by Dr. Vaughan, and everything personal forgotten, from a feeling of sympathy with his brethren, and from an enlightened regard, as he thought, to public principle, when he joined in the proposed opposition to the Minutes. In
so doing, however, the ground of his proceeding was distinctly stated. It was not, he said, that his views relative to the educational wants of the country were changed—not that he had ceased to think it a legitimate province of government to aid in removing popular ignorance—but simply, that looking to the men-honourable men and liberal statesmen- from whom this scheme had proceeded, and to the circumstances in which it had been brought forth, and seeing at the same time the formidable aspect with which it crossed our path as dissenters, he confessed that it did appear to him that the time had come in which to relinquish all hope of available assistance to the dissenter in this matter, so long as the principle and feeling of an opulent and powerful established church remained to be consulted.* In coming to this conclusion, there was also room at that time to hope that nonconformists generally would be found opposed to the measure, and that their moral weight, as thus united, would suffice to turn the government from its purpose; nor did it appear unreasonable to expect that those dissenters who had taken an extreme position on the subject, would see the propriety of limiting this jointaction in reference to it, to the general--the nonconformist basis, proper to us as religious men, and in respect to which men of some difference of judgment might be largely united.
Such, then, were the grounds of Dr. Vaughan's decision when he avowed himself an opponent of the Minutes of Council. All these grounds have since failed.
In the first place, party after party have been assured, by such men as Lord Lansdowne, that the alleged secret compact between the church and the government in the preparation of these obnoxious Minutes, had no existence ;-that, in fact, as it would not have been expedient to consult any of the parties concerned without consulting all, it was deemed best, upon the whole, to consult none. This statement, moreover, is corroborated by facts within the knowledge of the parties connected with our different Educational Institutions, all of which were left in total ignorance of what was forthcoming, until the publication took place.
In the meeting at the Congregational Library, in February last, when Dr. Vaughan joined the opposition to the Minutes, he stated expressly to those who urged his concurrence in the extreme view of the question taken by many parties present, that he could not so do-that present circumstances had compelled him to despair of any government aid that would be honourably open to dissenters, but that he could not pledge himself. that in no case whatever would he reconsider his opinion.'—(Patriot, March 1.) Indeed, he drew up a resolution, which he read to the meeting, and which rested the proposed opposition to the Minutes on the more restricted ground stated above; and when the ultra-resolution was put, he abstained from dividing the meeting upon it, only on the expressed condition that it should not be recorded as passed unanimously. Great regret was expressed by several speakers, that he should have gone so far and refuse to go further—but further he did not go.
In the second place, it comes after a little while to be known, that though the plea of dissenters, so long as they demand that the government should do absolutely nothing in this business, is not to be listened to, the government does not by any means hold itself bound to the Minutes in their present form, especially as regards schools not of the Church of England, but would gladly introduce such practicable modifications as might tend to remove the conscientious difficulty of parties who profess themselves aggrieved. By common usage, we are bound to respect such language as sincere, until tested and found to be otherwise. Men who must denounce it, untried, as the profession of hypocrites, are persons not only beyond the influence of reason, but strangers to the conventional proprieties which hold decent society together. Subsequent events have shown, as we shall presently see, that this language embraced a removal of the great religious difficulty as respects schools not of the Church of England.
Then, as regards the expected unanimity of nonconformists in opposition to the government, we know how little of that has been realized. The opposition was left ere long almost exclusively to the Congregational and Baptist denominations, even these bodies being much divided; while the manner in which the struggle was conducted by this comparatively small minority in the general community was such, that men, not of extreme views, were committed, at every step, to opinions far from being their own, and on presuming to give any free expression to their own thoughts, experienced in some instances, the sort of reception to which no man of correct feeling would be readily tempted to expose himself a second time. In the wake
In the wake of all this followed the decision of the House of Commons.
Here, then, were the new cireumstances of the question. So far as the decision of parliament, and, through that medium, of the nation, is concerned, the die is cast—the point is settled, that in future popular education in Britain is to be in the main the work of joint action between the governing and the governed -between the state and the people. Men who have committed themselves thoroughly against all government agency in this work, may not be at liberty to look anew at the question even in these new circumstances; but this is not the condition of Dr. Vaughan, nor of the many who think with him. The objection felt by him and others, as to the power left to the managers of Church of England schools to make their religious teaching compulsory, is felt as strongly as ever; but in this new state of things, the question not unnaturally arises—whether it would not be the wisest—the most humane and patriotic course, to