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Leges legum, ex quibus informatio peti possit quid in singulis
BACON. De Fontibus Juris.
"Smith. We took him setting of boys' copies.
SHAKSPEARE. Henry IV. Act iv. Sc. 2
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED AT THE "ARGUS" OFFICE,
THE HONORABLE J. H. PLUNKETT,
HER MAJESTY'S ATTORNEY-GENERAL,
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF NATIONAL EDUCATION, NEW SOUTH WALES.
MY DEAR SIR,-The cordial manner in which you have met my desire to dedicate the following pages to you, renders it easy to explain, in few words, my reasons for enunciating opinions on so important a subject as education.
When the Board of which you are Chairman did me the honor to appoint me as their Agent and Inspector, I sought, unsuccessfully, for some popular exposition of facts connected with the progress and prospects of education in other countries; and on being assured that no comprehensive treatise of the kind was extant, I could not but reflect that the mere statistics embodied in such a work would be highly useful; and I determined, therefore, to avail myself of the first opportunity afforded by a fixed abode, to arrange those facts which I would gladly have found compiled by another.
Convinced that undue credence was during many years attached to exparte and interested allegations of claimants of irrevocable right to control education, I have sought to test their value by historical proofs; and to avoid an appearance of want of continuity. I thought it advisable to begin at the beginning, and try by the Scriptures themselves the value of those claims which experience has long condemned. By this means I have availed myself of Sir Edward Coke's well known maxim, that the way to expose an error was to trace
it to its source, and ascertain from what springs the impure current found access to the stream which it claimed to represent.
In my retrospect I found clear proof that in the barbarous ages, and from dissolute and truculent tyrants, Churchmen first received those secular privileges and condiments which were disowned by the spirit of their faith, but were unhappily permitted to contaminate the pure waters of religion, and to divert wholesome energies into channels stained with cruelty and corruption.
The Bible repudiates, history exposes, and humanity is weary of that uncharitable bigotry which, under the mask of religious earnestness, would deny a repast to a brother unless he will prepare it according to a fashion of which his conscience disapproves.
The Tenth Chapter has been kindly furnished to me by a friend (H. C. E. Childers, Esq.), who was some time Inspector of Denominational Schools in this Colony, and to whom I was glad to be able to confide the description of the present prospects of education in England.*
You will perceive that though, for obvious reasons, he has dealt tenderly in terms with what he admits to be in effect unreasonable prejudice of party, the implication of the chapter is throughout national.
*To show how feebly the experiment conducted by the Privy Council, and resisted or perverted by the Bishop of Exeter and others, has been able to operate on the public mind, one fact will suffice. In 1851 there were in England 4,207,104 children of age to attend school, yet only 256,888 were examined by Her Majesty's Inspectors. There were 40,557 children in the workhouses, and 21,038 of these were entirely helpless except by State support. Yet, in the face of such facts, there are those who strive to render the State grant more and more exclusive, or less and less available for the people at large.
The absurd fallacy (which is ignorantly or designedly put forth by many who ought to shun such a subterfuge), that National Schools cannot but degenerate into Denominational ones in effect, and become exclusively devoted to one or other Denomination, is admirably refuted by your last report, showing that out of 854 children admitted to your Model School in one year, 401 were of the Church of England, 313 were Roman Catholics, 77 were Presbyterians, and the remainder were principally Wesleyans.
Those who are intimately or chiefly acquainted with the tone of party and the social aspect of England, may have reason, and have certainly an excuse for temporizing in the midst of complex relations and vested interests;—but the cycle of Colonial events, whether for weal or woe, is being rapidly accomplished, and in matters of great moment here, to hesitate is to be undone.
Having, therefore, no drag upon my candour, I have spoken freely, as I think the occasion deserves, and for the entire work, excepting the text of the Tenth Chapter, I confess myself answerable; the only person cognisant of my labors throughout their progress being my kind friend the Chief Justice, whose friendly encouragement I cannot too thankfully acknowledge.
It is very possible that some of the opinions enunciated are such as I should not have been justified in expressing while I acted as Inspector of Schools. Some passages indeed may be displeasing to yourself or to your colleagues, and may be irreconcilable with my premises. For all such passages (and I dare not presume that many such have not crept into a work composed by that rescue of leisure from the night, which official duties prevented me from bestowing in the day,) I would solicit the forgiveness of yourself and others; but wherever the inferences drawn are strictly accordant with historical data, you will doubtless agree with me that it is the duty of the compiler or essayist to speak boldly and conscientiously. This I have endeavoured to do, not as a partisan of my own sect, nor as the servant of an institution, but as a member of the community, who having enjoyed excellent opportunities of observation, would be culpable in neglecting to apply the results of his labours to the public service, and, if possible, for the public good.
On the main body of the facts submitted, I can firmly rely; and where they do not confirm my deductions, I resign the latter to contempt.