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1. CHAPTER I

Another Battle For National Education—The Extreme Zealots and Their Mischievous Activity—Archbishop Vaughan and The Church of Rome—The New Measure Passed By Both Houses Triumphantly—The Successful Results of The Public School System.

EARLY in the life of my third Administration, the question of Public Instruction, after an experience of the working of the Act of 1866 extending over fourteen years, was again brought before Parliament. During those fourteen years several attempts had been made to alter the law, but all of them in the direction of making the education under it more secular and more directly a duty and function of the State. The course I pursued in Parliament in reference to these various motions exposed me to much misrepresentation, possibly to some honest misconception, as to my motives. I believed the compromise of 1866 was politic and wise, and was working with satisfactory results; and I contended that it could not be disturbed until it had had a


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fair trial, without the risk of injury to the many interests which must be affected by any change. In 1873 I defeated a resolution moved by Mr. William Forster, the object of which was to secularise the school system, by an amendment, approving of the operation of the Act, and declaring that any interference at the present time would be impolitic and prejudicial. Another motion of similar import was made in 1877 by Mr. David Buchanan. This I opposed by voice and vote, on the ground put forward on the former occasion, that it would be unwise to disturb the law as it stood. Other attempts of the same character were made, which I steadily resisted. The view I took of the state of the question, especially considered on grounds of policy, was that the mixed system was working well, and was withdrawn by the administration of the Council of Education from all political influence; that the larger denominational schools were doing good service in their kindred sphere in connection with the public schools, apart from and above their religious teaching; and that in any case it was premature to break in upon the system which was regarded with such widespread acceptance by the people.

One possible evil was never absent from my mind in contemplating the future growth of our school system—that those who were taught and religiously coerced by their spiritual guides to withhold their children from participating in its advantages, would gradually create for themselves a standing grievance, and by brooding over their self-imposed hardships, work themselves into a morbid belief that they were an oppressed


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class. True as it indisputably is, that the non-sectarian schools under the Act of 1866 were all, as they all are still under the law of to-day, open to the children of every creed alike, without the slightest ground for fear that the faith of any child would be tampered with, that acknowledged condition of equality and non-sectarianism does not diminish the lust of the priestly mind for authority over the parents through the training of the children. The religion of Christ suffers the little children to come to the schools, but the denominational fetich of the ecclesiastics forbids it.

In my speeches in opposition to the empirical efforts of extremists to amend the Act of 1866, I foretold that whenever they began to unsettle, others, with far different ends in view, would join in the work of unsettling. And it was evident, from many circumstances of the hour, that those who were most hostile to the Act on the ground of its non-sectarian character rejoiced in secret at the assaults made upon it by the extreme secularists. In the opposite direction, the fanatical secularists, while professing to condemn, could not conceal their delight at the flame kindled by the denominationalists, as tending to promote public dissatisfaction.

One of the spasmodic motions to which I have referred was made on June 18, 1875, by Mr. George Richard Dibbs, in the following words: ‘That in the opinion of this House, a Bill for the amendment of the Public Schools Act of 1866 should be introduced, and that such Bill, among other matters, should provide for the discontinuance, upon reasonable notice, after a


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certain period to be fixed by law, of assistance from public funds for denominational schools.’

I spoke in opposition to this motion, pointing out in some detail the eminent success which had attended the operation of the Act during the nine years up to that date, and dwelling upon the advisability and sound policy of avoiding serious conflicts of religious feeling or the aggravation of any sense of injustice, however misconceived we might deem it. The following are passages from my speech, which I give because they supply the principal text on which the charges of inconsistency and denominationalism have been made against me by the extreme secularists:—

I now come to a very difficult part of the subject, and a very delicate one—I mean the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church in relation to this subject of public instruction. My views upon this matter are well known, and I have no occasion in any way to modify those views. I am bound, however, to recognise the fact that a large body of men and women in this country, numbering one-third of the whole population, are members of the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever their views may be, they are subjects of Her Majesty in the same political sense as are the rest of the population; they live under the same laws as we live under; they pay their share of the same taxes; they bear their equal part of the public burdens; and they are bound by the same obligations as their fellow-citizens. Well, it is said that the Roman Catholic body, as a matter of conscience, will not send their children to schools where they will not be instructed as Roman Catholics. On the other hand, it is said that the State will provide public schools for them where denominational instruction is shut out, and that, if they do not like to send their children to those schools, it will be their own fault. That is a fair representation of what seems to be required by the Roman Catholics on the one hand,


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and of the arguments of the Secularists on the other. But these purely secular schools will be paid for out of the public revenue, and the Roman Catholics will be required to contribute as much to the revenue as those who make use of the schools. Most persons in this country are sufficiently well off to make sacrifices when their consciences are inflamed with zeal for the maintenance of their principles, and the Roman Catholics here will do as the Roman Catholics in Victoria are doing—turn their backs upon your newly-organised public schools, and provide separate schools for themselves. While the Roman Catholics support their own schools, they will at the same time be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools you set up for the other classes of the population, and to which they refuse to send their children. Call it what you will, this will be felt as nothing short of oppression. I believe that the persons who are united in this crusade, if it may be dignified by that name, form two broad sections—those who are opposed to religion altogether, and those whose sectarian views have been heated to such a degree that they want to force all others to their own standards of belief. I will take the Orange point of view, which supposes that Roman Catholics are a kind of creatures who ought to be swallowed up, having been first grilled by a sufficient heat of public agitation. The Orange-man looks upon the Roman Catholic religion as a great evil in the world; but, by the course you propose, you will bring up in these separate schools the very extreme types of the Roman Catholic. You will have the Catholics of the next generation learning to hate all other classes, and cherishing a spirit of hostility against society, springing from a keenly-felt, though, perhaps, a magnified, grievance, having to pay for the education of other people's children at the same time that they bear the entire burden of paying for their own. Instead of the spread of enlightenment and the reconciliation of classes, bringing all into one bond of union, we shall be erecting an iron wall to keep classes apart, and we shall have Catholics of that extreme political and party type which has never yet been seen in this colony. The grievance, once rooted in the minds of the Roman


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Catholic body, will find advocates for redress in quarters least expected. Men of education and of large sympathy in all parties will side with those who suffer injury; and in the course of time we shall have a reform of this state of things which will be a violent rebound, working out results entirely opposite to those which in your blindness you are aiming at. The thing itself is essentially unjust. So long as we appropriate the revenues of the country for the purposes of education, we have no right to apply them in a way that will exclude a large proportion of the population from the benefits of the expenditure. I admit that if a case of necessity could be proved, then we might be justified. But the necessity cannot be proved. The system of education in this country is so sound, so comprehensive, that it includes all classes, and in consequence there is no necessity for creating these serious heart-burnings in one portion of the population.

In this language I endeavoured to put myself in the place of the objectors, and at the same time I had in view the hard secular character of the schools sought to be created by the fierce advocates of the ‘secular, compulsory, and free.’ I put myself right in this respect in the following brief sentence: ‘I certainly do not go the length of anything like unqualified sympathy with the special objects of the body represented by the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr. Dibbs), and I certainly have no sympathy with the maintenance in this country of purely denominational schools.’ I urged that it was the wisest course in the interest of all classes and sects to continue the system which embodied the compromise of 1866, and concluded as follows:—

I believe that on this question especially we ought, as far as we can, to respect the convictions and associations, and even the prejudices, and what we may regard as the unsound opinions of


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all persons; and unless the necessity for a contrary course can be proved beyond doubt, we shall be acting most wisely and safely by maintaining a system which all, more or less cordially, can accept and support. It would be a wiser policy and a higher patriotism on the part of honourable gentlemen to endeavour to improve the administration of the law instead of tinkering with its machinery—to try to extend the blessings which are practically in our hands to a wider area, instead of seeking new and untried means for their dispensation. This might be done in many ways. It might be done by introducing improved books; by instituting adult schools and night schools; by establishing school libraries, and various means by which instruction could be imparted more generally, and instruction of a higher class given without any detriment to anyone, or any objection from any quarter. It would be infinitely wiser to use the machinery already in existence, and extend the advantages of education more generally, than, for the sake of some theoretical aim, to agitate for changes which will involve great cost and produce no higher educational results. In addressing these observations to the House I have done so in the sincere belief that the wise course is to go on in the more active administration of the present law—improving the means of instruction as much as possible, extending the schools to every part of the country where they are required, raising the character of the teachers by every means in our power; and by taking this course we may hope to attain results which will be equal to those of any country, and we may fairly expect to carry with us the confidence and support of nearly all classes of the population.

Mr. Dibbs's motion, after several attempts at adjournment, was negatived by twenty-four to ten, inclusive of three pairs. The system was destined to be changed in consequence of assaults from a very different quarter. Mr. Dibbs himself lost his seat at the General Election which soon followed his motion, and he did not return


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to the House until 1883, when the work of educational reform had been accomplished.

My speech was published in separate form by some persons who approved of it, and widely circulated. A copy of it was sent to the Governor of Queensland (Mr. Cairns), which led to the following correspondence. My letter to Governor Cairns still further explains my views on the subject of primary education under the control of Government.

Government House, Brisbane, August 16, 1875.

My dear Sir,—I have read with very great interest, and with profit, your speech on the Education question, of which you were kind enough to send me a copy.

This very question is exercising the public mind here, at the moment of my writing, yet I doubt if it can be satisfactorily settled at the present time. Some of us are not quite in earnest, and some others appear not to know their own minds, are wanting in what the French call idées arrêtées on the subject.

Believe me, yours sincerely,

W. W. CAIRNS.

Henry Parkes, Esq., &c. &c.

Ashfield, near Sydney, August 23, 1875.

My dear Sir,—I thank you for your note of the 16th, and am gratified by the evidence it affords of the interest you take in the question of education as now agitated in these colonies.

The danger to a wise settlement of the matter in any case seems to me to consist in the off-hand treatment which it receives from persons who have thought little on the subject and whose vision is too often limited by the political exigencies of the moment. A system of popular education is not like a steam-engine, which, if well constructed and well tended, will necessarily do its work well. Its action on the mind is rather


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like that of the atmosphere on human life, which acts very differently on different organisations and may be easily vitiated by latent and undetected influences. That system will prove to be the best which supplies instruction of the highest quality, and is most freely accepted by the whole people.

Strictly, it would be difficult to prove that it belongs to Government to take charge of the education of the people. The argument of Lord Macaulay for the interference of Government is perhaps the soundest, that the power which has the right to hang has the right to educate, but it is by no means conclusive, because education does not of itself remove the necessity for hanging. If Government is justified in interfering on the ground that it is expedient to supply in the best manner the means of education of the best quality, it is bound to keep those objects steadily in view, and they can be best effected by conforming as nearly as possible to the circumstances and conditions of family life.

The system most perfect to the theorist may not be the most healthful in developing the human faculties. It will be the less so the more it dispenses with parental authority or weakens the sense of parental responsibility. What ought to be aimed at is rearing the best type of men and women for the duties of a well-ordered State.

I hope you will pardon these general observations on what is a work of much greater difficulty, even under the free constitutions of Australian life, than some of my contemporary legislators appear to think. In this colony we have, in my judgment, hitherto been fortunate, both in hitting upon a system of education which is attended by sound results and is generally acceptable, and in securing the services of able men for its administration.

I take the liberty of sending you the Act and Regulations, and also a copy of the last report of the Council of Education.

I remain, my dear Sir,

Yours very truly,

HENRY PARKES.

His Excellency Governor Cairns, &c. &c.




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Four years later, in June, 1879, the Archbishop and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, without provocation and in the face of the support which had been given to their state-aided schools, published a joint pastoral letter in which they furiously attacked the public schools of the colony as sources of a ‘godless education’ and as ‘seedplots of future immorality, infidelity, and lawlessness.’ The clergy were urged to stir up their people to the deadliest hostility against the schools. They were to ‘bring before the minds of parents the terrible calamity to their children in exposing them to loss of faith and morals, and endeavour to make them feel that they could not do a greater service to religion or to the State than to upset, by constitutional means, a system which, whilst it is a crying injustice to themselves, promises to be a source of incalculable evil to the colony.’ The pastoral embodied a sweeping condemnation of State education from Pope Pius IX., and concluded with this appeal: ‘Let Catholics rouse themselves up to a sense of their responsibilities; let them bring legitimate pressure to bear in the right quarter; and never cease in their persevering—their organised importunity, until they have obtained those rights which no man can refuse them without self-evident injustice.’

There can be little doubt that Archbishop Vaughan had by his overwrought zeal so brought home to his mind the evil consequences of our public school teaching, that he calculated upon awakening the sleepy thousands of discontented parents all around him. His people were enjoined to use ‘constitutional’ means, and


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to bring ‘legitimate’ pressure to bear in the right quarter, but these words of restraint were scarcely consistent with his stormy call to arms. And, unfortunately for his impassioned argument in favour of denominational teaching, we had the results of the two systems side by side in the records of those institutions which are the ugly outgrowths of the vicious dispositions in all communities. I had myself a few years earlier accompanied the Governor of the time, the Earl of Belmore, on a visit to Merrima Gaol—a prison about eighty miles from Sydney — where long-sentenced prisoners are chiefly confined, and the severest treatment carried out. The Roman Catholic chaplain came to me in the presence of the Governor to complain that his salary was not equal to that of the Church of England chaplain. If my recollection serves me aright, there was a difference of about one-third in amount. I told Father Lynch that the matter had never been considered by me; that the salaries stood as I found them on entering upon office; but that I supposed the difference arose from the Anglican chaplain being the representative of the more numerous body. ‘How can that be?’ was the reply; ‘I have a much larger number of my people here than he has.’ I do not care to disfigure these pages with the official returns, but they fully substantiate the truth of the answer to me so unwillingly made by Father Lynch. If anybody complains of this reference, let it be remembered that the Roman Catholic prelates plunged into the conflict in 1879 by denouncing our public schools as ‘seedplots of future immorality, infidelity, and lawlessness.’




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The Archbishop followed up the Joint Pastoral with a series of letters of his own, commencing August 10, and concluding October 12, 1879. The first ended with the following appeal to Catholics to act with unity of purpose, zeal, and self-sacrifice.

Whilst the world becomes infidel around her, the Church will remain firm. Left to herself, to her own resources, the deep faith, the devoted generosity of her people, become the instruments of her power, and the secret, as in America, of her success. If her prelates fearlessly preach the Gospel in all its fulness; if they warn and direct their children, unbiassed by what the world may say, she cannot but succeed, she must advance, and will subdue her enemies by her courage, her truthfulness, and, above all, by her gentleness and charity towards them. With Archbishop, Bishops, Priests, and People united on the great question of Education, she will, though it may take some years, finally obtain what she asks for, and her children will not be kept under a disability for being Catholics.

The second letter opened with the following paragraph:—

Though the Catholic Church is by far the most formidable opponent of the great apostasy, still she is not its sole opponent. Her foes themselves, if they possess any sound heart of Christianity, are compelled, in self-preservation, to set themselves against it. Nor does it follow from their being at one in this, that they are mutual friends; because two men, for their own private reasons, hate a third man, that does not even tend to prove that they love each other. Those who profess the Catholic Faith, and those who protest against that faith, can, for causes known to themselves, and those causes may be radically different, strike out against one and the same antagonist. Thus, the Catholic Church and the English nation, whilst conflicting with each other, are compelled, by force of principle, to resist the advances of the great apostasy.




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And it thus concluded:—

Dearly Beloved, we have the strongest faith in the sense of fair play in the minds of our fellow-colonists. We are convinced that, when they really grasp our case, they will be ready to give us all we ask. We merely beseech those concerned so to arrange that a large section of the community, the Roman Catholics, some say one-third of the population, may give their children a thorough, honest Catholic education, and receive for secular instruction, tested by Government inspectors, equal assistance with those who are satisfied with public schools.

In his third and fourth letters, the Archbishop expended much ingenuity in employing statistical arguments to prove, that in America, and in those countries of Europe where National Education had advanced with most rapid strides, the principle had in reality most lamentably failed in producing good results. In his fifth and final letter, he consoled himself with the following expression of his belief, that the merits of his cause would bring over to him good and patriotic men from all other churches, who would enthusiastically join him in securing to him and his fellow-religionists a full share of the public revenue on their own terms.

True, the nation by its representatives has for the moment adopted the present system; but a system is not necessarily national because the nation has adopted it. Otherwise, even the most sectarian system, provided one nation had adopted it, would be equally national with one eminently the reverse, which had been adopted by another nation. No! National means embracing fairly and equitably all the units of which the nation is composed, and punishing none, making ‘political slaves’ of none on account of their conscientious religious principles.

Things may be worse before they are better; but the day will come when justice and fair play will triumph in this land:


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when great bodies of Christians, who now seem half asleep, will bestir themselves, and when the nation will reject this wretched Sectionalism and give happiness and peace to every honest man by adopting in its place a genuine system of National Education.

Of course others followed the Archbishop's lead; some of the more pronounced zealots in the Church of England enlisted under his banner, and newspaper scribes were not wanting with their belligerent trumpetings.

Mr. A. Stuart, afterwards Sir Alexander Stuart, K.C.M.G., in the Synod of the Church of England declared: ‘I am not ashamed to be at one with the Church of Rome in this matter; we have the same civil rights, and we cannot help being side by side with our Roman Catholic fellow-citizens in demanding a continuance of those rights.’ But Mr. Stuart, soon afterwards, was ‘not ashamed’ to suppress his fierce denominationalism when it was found to stand in the way of his political purposes.

But the most signal effect of the Archbishop's bravery was the springing up of armed men in his path. In answer to his trumpet-call came the uplifted arm and the impending blow. ‘What does it all mean?’ was on men's lips; ‘what does the Archbishop want more than his Denominational Schools under the present system?’ Public gatherings, crammed to the door long before the hour of meeting, with many hundreds outside, orators with their strokes of eloquence at white heat, the indignation of journalism contagious throughout the land. What the Secularists had failed to do by their many motions, the Archbishop and his associate bishops contrived to do by one blind move.




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I had not long returned to office, and my hands were full in many ways; but I felt that the time was come when the field, in which I had laboured and patiently watched for fourteen years, must be re-surveyed. I felt in common with tens of thousands of my fellow-colonists that a wanton and libellous attack had been made upon our schools. The situation under these new circumstances was brought before my colleagues in cabinet, and after much consultation it was decided to introduce a Bill to repeal the Act of 1866, to establish a Department of Public Instruction in place of the Council of Education, to withdraw all Government aid from schools not under the absolute control of the Government, and to carry out reforms and improvements in the School system which had been proved to be advisable and necessary.

The new Bill was brought in on November 5, 1879, and, on account of its great importance, I copy my explanation of its principal provisions when moving in Committee of the whole House for leave to introduce it:—

‘Sir Henry Parkes moved that the committee agree to the following resolution:

That it is expedient to bring in a Bill to make more adequate provision for public education.

He said: I shall not trespass beyond my duty in simply stating the main provisions of this Bill, and I shall scrupulously avoid any matter of argument, for it appears to me undesirable that any discussion should take place at this stage. The Bill I ask leave to bring


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in will repeal the Public Schools Act of 1866. It will not create any council or board in place of the existing Council of Education, but it will transfer the whole of the powers connected with the administration of the grants voted by Parliament for public education to the Responsible Minister. So far as the Bill will make new provisions to supply the wants of education, it will provide for the immediate establishment of grammar schools in three of the principal towns, with provision for the extension of this higher means of education to other districts on proclamation. It will also provide for the establishment of one or more higher schools for girls, to be extended as the circumstances of the population may warrant. It will also provide for the establishment of night schools—in such places as circumstances seem to point out as requiring them—to be conducted entirely under the same provisions as are now applied to public schools. These are the principal directions in which I ask the House to assent to new legislation for creating new means of education. With regard to public schools, the Bill proposes to reduce the minimum from twenty-five to twenty, so that wherever twenty children are found in regular attendance a fully organised public school may be established. The Bill proposes in connection with all school buildings where there is a regular attendance of fifty children, to erect a class-room suitable for the clergy or other persons to give separate religious instruction; and it proposes to provide that in every district the arrangements for this religious instruction, separate from the school, shall be left to private agreement between the teacher and the


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clergyman, or other duly appointed religious teacher in the district. Much inconvenience has been found from the circumstance that the law fixes one particular hour in the day for religious instruction; and to obviate that difficulty it is proposed that, subject to such agreement as may be entered into between the person in charge of the school and the clergyman of the district, any hour of the school day may be selected for that purpose. Provision will be made for the children of one denomination being separated from another denomination, and for their being taught by their own religious teacher for one hour at such time as may be arranged between the teacher and the clergyman. But the Bill will provide that parents may restrict their children from attending this religious teaching whenever they think proper to do so. The Bill itself will enact that a History of England and a History of Australia shall form part of the course of secular instruction in every school. There will be a provision giving to the Government the power to compel the attendance of children, but this provision will only be applied to proclaimed districts, so that it may be applied to one district where it is found necessary, and not to another, where it may be inapplicable. In other words, it may be gradually applied, as circumstances warrant, to the whole colony, and thus the machinery which would be necessary for the sudden application of the principle throughout the whole colony will not be required, but much more workable and economical machinery will be employed for the purpose. It is not intended to make education free, but it is proposed to take a step which will, it is


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believed, fully satisfy every person in the country. It is proposed to reduce the fee to a uniform rate of 3d. for each child up to four children, and for four or any larger number not to require a higher amount than 1s. from the same parent. It is thought that this very low rate can be paid by everybody, and, while it will enlist the sympathy and interest of the parents of the country with the school system, it will at the same time produce a considerable amount of revenue—calculated at not less than 30,000l. The Bill will provide that from and after a date fixed by law all aid from the Consolidated Revenue shall be withdrawn from denominational schools. It will also propose to enact that any denomination may surrender its school before that date, and that, if the building be suitable for the purpose, the Government shall take it over and convert it into a public school. These are the main provisions of the Bill which I ask leave to introduce.’

A debate ensued on the motion for leave to introduce the Bill, and some strong sentiments in opposition were expressed, but no division was called for. I moved that the Bill be read the second time on November 20. After recapitulating the leading facts of my own course of action in relation to the cause from the year 1854, when I entered the Legislature, I referred to the motions which had been made time after time in the Legislative Assembly by the advocates of a more exclusively secular system, and I thus spoke of the latest of these motions:—

Another motion was made as late as last year by the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr. Greenwood), than whom, I


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admit, no member has a greater right to propose any motion on this subject of public instruction. Again I stepped in to defend the existing compromise, and moved then as an amendment that a committee be appointed to enquire into the working of the law. That motion was got rid of by some means which I do not now exactly remember. Throughout all these years, whenever any attack was made from a secular point of view by those who based their arguments upon their objections to denominational schools, I have defended those schools—that is, as they were recognised by the Public Schools Act. Well, it cannot be denied, and the facts I have adduced from the records of Parliament are sufficient to prove, that attempts have been repeatedly made for an amendment of this law; but they have, as far as my recollection serves, been made in nearly every instance in the direction of more secular modes of instruction. Whenever, up to the present time, these attacks have been made, I have felt it my duty to defend the existing law.

I then gave the following explanation of the results up to that date, and dwelt briefly on the causes which had led to so decided a change in the policy of the Government:—

I find that on January 1, 1867, when the Act came into operation, the number of National Schools which were taken over from the old Board, and which then became Public Schools as a commencement of our present system, was 159. The number of Public Schools to-day is 671, showing an increase of 512. Many of these are schools of considerable dimensions, carried on in well-erected and well-ventilated buildings, and all, I believe, are conducted by trained teachers. What has been the result of the operation of this Act in regard to denominational schools? The denominational schools to which certificates were issued by the new Council in 1867 numbered 310; the denominational schools to-day, holding certificates from the Council of Education, are 156, showing a reduction of 154 during that period. Besides these results, there are in existence


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to-day 300 provisional schools and 102 half-time schools. I have a return from the secretary to the Council of Education showing what these various schools are doing at the present time. The 671 Public Schools have on their rolls 62,546 children, with an average daily attendance of 40,370. The provisional schools, 300 in number, have on their rolls 7,629 children, and have an average attendance of 5,195. The half-time schools, 102 in number, have on their rolls 1,672 children, with an average attendance of 1,159. The 156 denominational schools have on their rolls 22,487 children, with an average attendance of 14,258. The entire schools under the Council of Education number 1,229; they have on their rolls 94,334 children, with an average attendance of 61,002. I may repeat what I have said at different times, that the progress made is a fair evidence of the success of the system, and of the magnificent work it is doing in all parts of the country. We have trained teachers; and let honourable members recollect that before the year 1866 there were in the country no trained teachers deserving the name; that certainly in the denominational schools prior to 1867, when the Act came into operation, in the schools where the money was absolutely expended under the supervision of the clergymen, so far from trained teachers being employed, the selection of a teacher was in numerous instances made for no better purpose than to serve some most unqualified person who wanted assistance. Although there was a kind of training under the old Board of Education, still it was not anything like so good as that we have at the present time. The Council of Education has created in this country an army—for I may well call it an army—of 1,879 trained teachers. This certainly represents an instrumentality for good which defies calculation, and which it is altogether beyond our power to imagine in its far-reaching, beneficent results. What new causes have come into operation to disturb this satisfactory state of things? Up to a given point, only a few months ago, the only persons who made any attack upon this school system were the persons who on theoretical grounds wanted schools which were more secular. But the most unqualified assault has now been made by the


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very men for whom this compromise was made. Whatever I may have done up to the time which I have pointed out, it is impossible for me now—utterly impossible for anyone holding my views, and with my deep convictions on the general question—to stand still and see this wise, beneficent, and freely-accepted system of public education attacked as being a nursery of criminality and iniquity in the land.

I drew the attention of Parliament to the continued course of hostility pursued by Archbishop Vaughan, as Head of the Roman Catholic community, and concluded by recommending the Bill to the acceptance of the House and the country, as a measure carefully framed to meet the demands of the time.

I have submitted this Bill in the full belief that it is a measure carefully framed and calculated to meet the wants of the community; that it is sufficiently secular in its practical operation to meet the demands of the strongest advocate for secular education at the hands of the State; that, while it is of that character, it has the additional advantage of not raising or provoking any hostility between the State system of schools and the churches of the country, but rather invites and offers facilities for the clergy and other religious teachers to assist in the full education of our youth. It is a measure, we think, which embodies in the fullest and most unimpeded way the principles of freedom and equality which are embodied in the institutions of this country. It proposes to establish a splendid system of instruction for the young; splendid in its provisions for securing men and women as teachers who shall be instructed how to teach; splendid in its provisions for securing the soundest primary education obtainable; splendid in throwing open the doors of our schools to all children of all sects, making no distinction of faith, asking no question where the child has been born, what may be his condition of life, or what the position of his parents, but inviting all to sit side by side in receiving that primary instruction which must be the foundation of all education


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whatever. We think this Bill may be fairly accepted by all—by every class, by every sect. It does not matter whether the child belongs to an Irish, a Scotch, an English, or an Australian family. What is aimed at is that he should be considered as belonging to a family forming part of the population of this free and fair country;—that we should secure to him the means of instruction upon the basis from which his friends, according to their opportunities and circumstances, may carry out any degree of education they think proper. We think another advantage in this Bill is that it is not a Bill for the poor alone. It is not a Bill conceived in any sense of helping only those who cannot help themselves; but it is a Bill framed and intended to bring into existence a system of education for all the children of all classes; so that the child of the poor and the child of the rich may sit side by side in their tender years, when they receive the first rudiments of instruction, and when there is no occasion for any sectarian distinction. We think this Bill may be received, and ought to be received, by our Roman Catholic fellow-citizens. Surely the Catholic religion, with all its sacraments, does not depend upon some particular form being taught; and surely it cannot be a thing, the teaching of which renders it necessary to separate the Catholic children from the other children of the country. They must mix in after years, and be associated with each other in all the duties of everyday life. Let them be workers, traders, men of competent means; let them go wherever they may, into whatever groove of society circumstances may direct them—they must mix with persons entertaining other opinions. And I venture to say that they ought so to mix; that they ought to unite in promoting the general interests of their own country in preference to any other consideration whatever. Let us be of whatever faith we may, born on whatever soil we may, reared under whatever associations we may, let us still remember that we are above everything else free citizens of a free commonwealth.

The debate was extended over several nights, and, though strongly opposed by some, the Bill received


  ― 23 ―
warm support from a large majority. The House divided on December 4, when the second reading was carried by forty-nine to nine. Eight of the nine members who voted against the second reading were Roman Catholics. In the meantime the Archbishop and his clerical friends were carrying on a violent crusade against the Bill out of doors. To a public meeting in Balmain Dr. Vaughan delivered an inflammatory speech from which the following are extracts. The Christian spirit exhibited in these bursts of eloquence needs no comment:—

What did we suffer as slaves and helots for at home? Because we preferred torture and death to acting against our conscience, and to be butchered and disembowelled rather than allow those for whom we were responsible to be tampered with in their faith. We hoped that we had escaped from all forms of tyranny and persecution by coming so far away—where we were told that all were equal and all were free. But all this seems to be a vain illusion, a dream, from which we are to be aroused by about the most ingeniously devised piece of scientific persecution that has been invented in modern times. The end of the more brutal form of persecution, and of the more cultivated, is one—it is to destroy our holy religion. I believe the scientific method is more effective, and, I believe, more odious than the more expeditious way of tearing out the heart and bowels of a living and grown man.

The gifted prelate then proceeded to draw a terrifying picture of the ‘Scavenger's Daughter,’ who was called forth from the lurid past to do duty as a type of the Public Schools. Regardless of the memory of the Smithfield fires, and the fact

That saints have burnt each other, quite persuaded

That all the Apostles would have done as they did,




  ― 24 ―

thus he spoke:—

Do you know that in the days of trial they had a special instrument for squeezing the life and blood out of those Catholics who declined to deny their God? It was a kind of press, with a screw at the top. The Catholic man or woman was shoved into the press, just large enough to hold one; the top was forced down with the screw until it touched the head and back of the victim. Then the real operation began. By a slow, almost imperceptible process, the top was continually pushed further and further down, till the victim first lost breath, then the frame gradually gave way, and the whole body collapsed into a mangled bleeding mass.

And the great Christian leader added:—

I call those schools ‘Scavenger's Daughters’ because they are the most effective instruments invented by man for squeezing very gradually and almost imperceptibly the Catholic faith out of a Catholic people.

That was the spirit in which the Bill was opposed by powerful and accomplished dignitaries of the Church. But the attempt to manufacture public indignation utterly failed; the bluster only assisted to swell the triumph of the cause with both Parliament and people.

The Bill was debated at great length in committee and hostile amendments were moved, some under the guise of improving its provisions; but it was reported to the House without any material alteration. On February 25, 1880, it was read a third time by 42 to 6, the minority being all Roman Catholics. We have now to follow its fortunes in the Legislative Council.

Sir John Robertson, who held the position of Vice-President of the Executive Council, moved the second


  ― 25 ―
reading of the Bill in the Upper Chamber on March 10, in a lengthy speech, which took a retrospctivee view of the various stages by which the colony had arrived at the present epoch in education, and gave forcible reasons in support of the measure and in vindication of the action of the Government. An animated debate followed, and again in committee the Bill was fully discussed, and several amendments were made not inconsistent with its objects. But both the second and third readings were carried without a dissentient voice. On the return of the Bill to the Assembly, the Council's amendments were agreed to, and the Royal assent to the Bill was reported on April 21.

The reader unacquainted with New South Wales will observe that there have been two principal Education Statutes in the colony during the last twenty-six years, the Act of 1866 and the Act of 1880, and that it so happened that I was the Minister in each case, with whom the measure originated, and who conducted it through the Legislative Assembly. As I have had to sustain my full share of public labour, and have had to face something more than my share of rancorous abuse in this cause, I may be pardoned in the expression of my gratification and pride in the result of the school-work of this last quarter of a century. At the beginning of 1892 I obtained from the Department of Public Instruction in Sydney a statement of the progress of the Public School system with special reference to this period. I give this statement in full as an Appendix to this volume; but I copy from it here such figures as will exhibit the magnitude of the work accomplished and the


  ― 26 ―
munificence of the Legislature in the ample provision which has been made year by year for that work.

In the year 1867, when the Council of Education under the Public Schools Act of the previous year took over the schools of the colony, the population was 444,709, the number of State-aided schools was 642, the number of teachers 971, the enrolment of pupils 57,000, the public expenditure 100,610l. for that year. In 1880, when the Public Instruction Act was passed (to which this chapter is specially devoted), the population was 747,950, the number of schools 1,265, the number of teachers 2,300, the enrolment of pupils 101,534, the public expenditure 381,797l., for the current year. At the close of the next decade, in 1890, the population was 1,121,860, the number of schools 2,630, the number of teachers 4,181, the enrolment of pupils 195,241, the public expenditure for the year 704,260l. There are now in existence sixty-four Superior Public Schools and five High Schools for the promotion of Secondary Education in connection with the scheme of primary instruction, and arrangements are made to assist children of poor parents to reach the University. The training schools for teachers are in a highly organised condition, and are connected with the University; 6,000 of the pupils are enrolled as cadets in the Volunteer force.

Much might be said, but it does not appear to me to come within the scope of these chapters to say it, on the work which has been done by the Department of Public Instruction in promoting the application of science to industrial pursuits, and the spread of technical


  ― 27 ―
education. At the present time a Technical College with extensive, well-arranged, and well-appointed workshops is in the course of completion at a cost of nearly 100,000l. But I feel that I am confined to the progress of the primary schools.

In judging of the moral results of the Public Schools, the racial elements of the population must be kept in view. Of course a very large body of young men and women trained in these schools are now occupying the various avenues of social activity. In 1881 no fewer than 61·95 per cent. were born in the colony, while only 5·95 were born in the other colonies. While this was the case in respect to Australasia, there were only 14·32 of British birth, only 9·21 of Irish, and only 3·34 of Scotch. The criminal statistics do not afford a very satisfactory criterion, but at least they do not confirm Archbishop Vaughan's terrible prophecies of immorality and crime. In 1880 the arrests by the police were 4·8 per cent. of the total population; in 1890 they were 3·4 per cent. It is more satisfactory to note the positions in which men are found who have been educated in the Public Schools. We find them at the head of large business firms, in the management of important joint-stock companies, in charge of cattle and sheep stations, in confidential posts in the public service, honourably engaged in the administration of justice, at the head of large schools, in the pulpit, in the legislature, and in happy thousands at the head of families.

It is a matter of deep regret in the true interests of society, that the ecclesiastics of the Roman Catholic Church have used all their influence to compel parents


  ― 28 ―
to withhold their children from the Public Schools, and to tax themselves to support Separate schools under the control of the Church. But even here the Public School system has had a healthy power in compelling the schools of the Church to keep alive a vigorous rivalry with the schools of the State. They would utterly fail in getting pupils, if they still adhered to the old irresponsible denominational system, or no-system, when the priest appointed his worn-out servant to the office of teacher. The cultured ladies of religious sisterhoods and the enthusiasts of religious brotherhoods have been enlisted into the service of the Separate schools, and it may be acknowledged with pleasure that in many cases they are excellent teachers.

By the Act of 1880, which is still the law of the colony, all persons—inspectors, teachers, and others—employed in the Public School service are made civil servants of the Crown, and all properties are held by the Crown in trust for the maintenance of the several classes of schools existing under the law's provisions. The Act provides for the establishment and maintenance of several classes of schools, thus defined:—

  • (1) Public Schools in which the main object shall be to afford the best primary education to all children without sectarian or class distinction.
  • (2) Superior Public Schools in towns and populous districts, in which additional lessons in the higher branches of education may be given under such regulations for the purpose as may be approved by the Governor.
  • (3) Evening Public Schools, in which the object shall be to instruct persons who may not have received the advantages of primary education.



  •   ― 29 ―
  • (4) High Schools for boys in which the course of instruction shall be of such a character as to complete the Public School curriculum or to prepare students for the University.
  • (5) High Schools for girls.

It is provided that the teaching shall be strictly non-sectarian, and the words ‘secular instruction’ are defined to include general religious teaching as distinguished from dogmatical or polemical theology; and lessons in English and Australian history are included in the school course. As a matter of principle, small weekly fees are prescribed, it having been contended on the passing of the Act that this slight payment would serve to keep up the parents' responsibility in the instruction of the child; but the fees ‘shall not exceed threepence for each child up to four children of one family, and for four or any larger number of the same family the total amount of fees shall not exceed one shilling.’ The total amount of school fees for the year 1890, collected and paid into the Treasury, was 71,826l. The thirteenth clause provides that parents or guardians may be relieved of these payments where inability to pay is clearly shown.

In order to preserve the health of the pupils the apportionment of space inside the school buildings must not be less than one hundred cubic feet for each child, and in the allotment of time for teaching, ‘a portion of each day, not more than one hour, is set apart when the children of any one religious persuasion may be instructed by the clergyman or other religious teacher of such persuasion.’ But all pupils receiving such religious teaching must be separated from the other


  ― 30 ―
pupils during that time. Though the Church of Rome contemptuously sets its face against this provision, the Church of England largely takes advantage of it. In the years 1890–91 this great denomination had thirteen salaried teachers with 187 classes, attended by 10,000 children; and throughout the colony Protestant clergymen very generally visit the schools. It is obligatory upon parents or guardians to send their children to school; but the following are prescribed as reasons for exemption:—

  • (1) That the child is being regularly and efficiently instructed in some other manner.
  • (2) That the child has been unable to attend school from sickness or infirmity, or from fear of infection or other unavoidable cause.
  • (3) That there is no school maintained under this Act within two miles by the nearest road of the residence of the child.
  • (4) That the child has been educated up to the standard of education required.

It is provided that in thinly-populated districts, where the number of children is not sufficient for the establishment of a Public School, a Provisional School may be opened subject to the same course of instruction and the same control and inspection. Where the district is of a settled character, most of these pioneer schools naturally develop into regular Public Schools. In other districts, where the population is scattered, itinerant teachers are appointed who visit and instruct small groups of children, two or three days in the week.




  ― 31 ―

The Scripture lesson-books which were adopted in the Irish National Schools are used as class-books, subject to the objection of any parent; a parent of the Hebrew faith, for example. It will be observed that the Public School system of New South Wales endeavours to carry with its teaching the inculcation of the cardinal principles of our common Christianity, and avoid touching upon any point of polemical doctrine. The Sunday School is in many instances, and ought to be in all, the auxiliary to the Public School, and family influence and parental teaching, as a matter of course, must still be enlisted in doing their full share of service in preparing generation after generation for the battle of life.

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