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living who are competent to pass a judgment upon Lord Sherbrooke as a constructive statesman are the one or two experts and trained officials who co-operated with him in his work. Unfortunately, the events connected with his régime at the Education Department are of such comparatively recent date, and the issues still affect so many living persons, that a biographer desirous simply of recording the actual history of that time is compelled to rely upon his own discernment in dealing with the conflicting testimonies and embittered controversies that surround the subject.

It should be borne in mind that so far as the Government was concerned, the whole question resolved itself into the amount and distribution of the grant voted for educational purposes. There was no centralised bureau of education supported out of the rates, but the existing voluntary schools. received a capitation grant from the State; and thence arose infinite strugglings between the Church and Nonconformity (both Roman and Protestant), disputes between certificated and non-certificated schoolmasters, and dissension concerning the system, or want of system, in the matter of school inspection.

The Duke of Newcastle's Commission had been appointed, and their labours, whatever we may think of them in these days of rate-supported Board Schools, were very thorough, and their Report, which was presented to Parliament in 1861 in six bulky volumes, is probably the most complete history of State education that the world is ever likely to see. This fact alone will show how puerile it is to imagine that the question of public education in this country arose with the Nonconformists or with that able man, Mr. W. E. Forster, whose chief work it was to disabuse his early Nonconformist friends of their gross and misleading errors.

In 1856 Lord Granville brought in a Bill for the appointment of a Vice-President of the Council of Education, who should be the Minister responsible for the distribution of the

public grant to the existing schools in the kingdom. It was on the discussions thereupon arising that Lord John Russell, who, with many deficiencies as a statesman, was yet a man of boundless activity, first took up his position as an advanced educational reformer. The question was very hotly debated in Parliament, and men of opposite parties were hopelessly mixed in their votes and views. Thus, Sir John Pakington, an old-fashioned Tory, supported Lord John Russell as an educational reformer, while three such absolutely diverse statesmen as Mr. Disraeli, Mr. Gladstone, and the present Marquis of Salisbury, were found in the same division lobby. In 1859, as already stated, Robert Lowe became Vice-President of the Council, and one may well imagine what the appointment of such a man meant as the virtual head of a department having the distribution of a vast public grant of money, for which there was such severe contention among the expectant recipients, while on the very subject of education there was such divergence of views among leading public men. In a work entitled the History of the Elementary School Contest in England, the author, Mr. Francis Adams, observes:

The appointment of Mr. Lowe as Vice-President of the Council in 1859, as a member of the Ministry over which Lord Palmerston presided until his death, and the acceptance of an inspectorship by Mr. Fraser,' the present Bishop of Manchester, were guarantees, at any rate, for an intelligent investigation of the existing system. Their accession to office, marks, not so much a new era in national education as a revolution in the Government methods of management. In the many fierce conflicts which have raged round this question, there have been none more bitter than those which are associated with the name of Mr. Lowe. Of all our Ministers of Education he has left the deepest impress of individuality upon the system, in its official character, and provoked a hostility more unmeasured than any other politician. For four years he was the object of the most implacable and envenomed attacks from all persons who had the smallest interest in the details of the Government administration; including those who were anxious to extend and

'Dr. James Fraser, the late Bishop of Manchester, was Assistant Commissioner on Education, 1858-60.

reform the powers of the Department, and those who wished to abolish it altogether.

Mr. Adams, who has a remarkable knowledge of his subject, seems to deplore the fact that Lord Sherbrooke, whom he ranks altogether higher than any other Minister of Education, did not undertake the larger achievement of laying down the lines of a complete system. To begin with, this was no part of his business as Vice-President of the Council, and furthermore, Mr. Adams should see that, as a subordinate Minister (not even a member of the Cabinet), he had nothing whatever to do with the educational policy of the Government. His work was simply to make the system as he found it as thoroughgoing and efficient as possible. He had further to face the difficulty of an uncertain and fluctuating public grant, with a Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Gladstone, whose one aim was to cut down expenses and who was really hostile to any development of the educational policy on broad national lines. In making this assertion concerning Mr. Gladstone, it is only just to observe that Lowe himself, until Disraeli and Lord Derby made household suffrage the law of the land, was in no sense an advocate of a complete bureaucratic system of national education in an old country like England, where the Church and voluntary institutions did so much excellent work. On this question of public education he was much more statesmanlike than either his friends or his foes could be brought to see. Writing in the Quarterly Review (July 1867) after the passing of the Derby-Disraeli Reform Bill, Lowe himself made this pregnant observation: If we are to have, as we assuredly shall have, universal and compulsory education, the first effect of the change will be the destruction in great measure of our present system. The invaluable superintendence of the gentry and the clergy, the zeal of religious conviction, the harmony with the present state of society, the standard already reached, and which is in daily course of improvement, must all be sacrificed in

order to place the instruction of the poor in the hands of indifferent and incompetent local bodies, or of a central department which shall henceforth take charge of what used to be the work of free and spontaneous growth, the formation of English character and habits of thought.'

There is little enough, one would think, in these sentiments to alarm such robust natures as the late Lord Derby and the present Marquis of Salisbury; but at the time that their author became Minister of Education there was a kind of vague fear that the Church and Constitution were about to be undermined. It was like a duel in the dark, or a game of blindman's buff; those who should have been partners set to work to belabour one another without remorse.

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Probably no Minister ever worked harder than Robert Lowe over this educational problem. After six months' constant labour and thought he produced a scheme, the foundation of which was what is called the Revised Code' and the system of payment by results.' He stated to Parliament that there was no desire to interfere with the religious basis and the denominational character of the educational system; but, inasmuch as he was responsible for the distribution of vast public subsidies on behalf of these denominational schools, he had decided that the capitation grant should be based on 'results.' As it was a matter of public elementary education, he instituted the famous test of the three R's. This historic notification has led to much elevated newspaper criticism, which repeats itself even to the present hour. Such able persons as Mr. Joseph Cowen of Newcastle and the Editor of the St. James's Gazette have recently referred to the narrowing and materialistic tendency of Lord Sherbrooke's educational policy. They seem altogether to forget that he in no sense promulgated an educational policy at all; but simply devised a system whereby grants of public money could be distributed to the elementary schools of the kingdom on a just and equitable basis. One would think, to read an eloquent address

delivered the other day in Newcastle-on-Tyne by Mr. Cowen, that Lord Sherbrooke, who was one of the great scholars of England, considered reading, writing, and arithmetic to be the sum total of education.

So recently as 1882, Lord Sherbrooke, who had been gravely reconsidering the whole question of public education, wrote a remarkable letter in review of his past plan to Lord Lingen, who, as Secretary of the Education Department, had borne with him the heat and burden of the day, in which he puts the matter in the clearest light.

Lord Sherbrooke to Lord Lingen.

March, 17, 1882.

My dear Lingen, Many thanks for your letter, in order to understand which I have read a speech of ninety pages which I made, and which was enough to swamp any question from its mere length.1

As I understand the case, you and I viewed the three R's not only or primarily as the exact amount of instruction which ought to be given, but as an amount of knowledge which could be ascertained thoroughly by examination, and upon which we could safely base the Parliamentary grant. It was more a financial than a literary preference. Had there been any other branch of useful knowledge, the possession of which could have been ascertained with equal precision, there was nothing to prevent its admission. But there was not. The mistake was, I think, that these people content themselves with saying that other knowledge is useful without adverting to the fact that it is not so useful, and does not admit, like the three R's, of precise and accurate ascertainment.

One great merit of the plan, as it seems to me, was that it fixed a clear and definite limit; the mischief is that that limit is transgressed, and no other can supply its place.

In one sense the three R's stand alone as something which can be tested as foundation for a grant. Leave out that quality and they are undistinguishable from any other branch of useful or elegant knowledge.

1 Speech of the Right Hon. Robert Lowe, M.P., on the Revised Code of the Regulations of the Committee of the Privy Council on Education in the House of Commons.' February 13, 1862. (James Ridgway, 1862.)

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