Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

15 erthygl ar y dudalen hon




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THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL AT EXETER. At a luncheon given by the members of the Exeter School Board, after the laying of the corner stonee of four new schools, Sir John Duke Coleridge, in reply to the toast of The House of Commons," spoke as follows Elsewhere I should say that I could wish the duty had been cast upon some worthier and more distinguished member of the great assembly to return thanks for its health. But, gentlemen, I will not make any such profession here ana to you, because Exeter sent me to Parliament. Three times the electors of this great city have sent me to the House of Commons to represent them; and it is for them, if at any time they should think fit—it certainly is not for me—to discredit their judgment and throw doubt on the wisdom of their choice. I am very far indeed from saying that the House of Commons never makes mistakes, but I do 8ay there is not another legislative assembly in the world with a histoiy of seven centuries which can more honestly appeal to the great and noble feelings of gratitude and respect on the part of a country than the English House of Commons. What particular claims this present House of Commons may have on the gratitude of the people it is hardly for me to say. I Buppose that is a question upon which opinions differ. But I observe that a great number of persons, includ- ing a good number even of its own members, seem to be uncommonly anxious that it should come to an end—misled, I suppose, by our having worked so hard and our having done so much; and it seems to be forgotten that unless it should please the Queen to cut it short, elected as we were so short a time ago aa November, 1868, we have two whole years of con- stitutional life left in us yet. I continually see such phrases as dyingj Parliament "-some public writers frefer to use a Latin word, and call it a "moribund 'arliament," an "expiring Parliament," a "worn- out Parliament," an "effete Parliament," and now and then an obvious and easy joke as to the resem- blance between a natural death and Parliamentary dissolution. Now an Attorney-General knowa no secrets; and if he did know them it would be hit eacred duty not to reveal them. But I will hazard a prophecy, which, if it should be fulfilled, will, I am sure, in the minds of most people aslUn: us. considerable span of protracted existence. I venture to assert that we shall survive the termination even of the Tichborne trial. Gentlemen, there is even In this mixed assemby one subject upon which I may claim the gratitude of the people of England for this present House of Commons; and that U. V n°^e friend has already said, for the passing of the Education Act which has brought us together here to-day. I am not going to say—no man in his senses would say—that tkis or any other Act of Par- liament is perfect and does not need amendment; but this I do say, that it has traced the outlines and laid the foundations of a great system of national educa- tion, that it has done something to allay the greatest danger and wipe away the greatest scandal of this age and of this country. But whatever there is of injustice in the Act, only let it be made out by fair argument, only let it be sustained with reason—I can answer for the House of Commons, and I believe my noble friend will answer for the House of Lords —neither House of Parliament will willingly let an in- justice remain. Before I sit down I wish to say that it would be impossible for anyJGovernment either to fut forward, or if it put forward, to carry an absolute 'arliamentary prohibition of the element of religion of some kind in the national schools of this country. I do not say that it is the best religion that is taught; I do not say that it is the best mode of teaching it —my own opinion on this subject is very well known to those who care to know it—but I do say that to at- tempt, by Act of Parliament, to prescribe religion in general ifpolitically impossible, as I believe it would be morally wrong. Next I wish to say this, that I conceive it to be out of the question, in any system of national education, to attempt to refuse to re- cognise those great efforts of voluntary education to which up to this point of time the whole coun- try has been so deeply indebted. Any system that attempted to cover the whole ground of national education, and disregarded and put aside all the efforts ef all the systems that are at* present made and administered by voluntary bodies, could not oven present the appearance of a really effective system; and if it did attempt to present the appearance of an effective system, it could do so only by such an enormoui burden being imposed on the rates as would make tho very name and cause of education distasteful and unpopular. Educational controversies and the great work of education itself can only be allayed and con- ducted by the exercise of sound common sense, a good deal of good temper, and a good deal of that mutual forbearance of which I hope it is not too much to say that in each case the most powerful, the most nume- rous, and most wealthy body ought to be the body that is to set the example. So only, I am convinced, can we make effective inroads upon that great and dark kingdom of vice and ignorance which, depend upon it, do what we may, will require all our efforts and all our untited efforts, too, thoroughly to en- lighten and completely to subdue.

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