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General Report on Roman Catholic Schools; for the Year 1849. By Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools, T. W. M. MARSHALL, Esq.
20 October 1849. The period during which I have been actually engaged in the discharge of my official duties, deducting the time absorbed by the examinations of candidates for certificates of merit, and by other interruptions which shall be specified in their proper place, comprises the months of February, March, June, and July, and portions of August, September, and October. The number of Roman Catholic schools, of all classes-boys, girls, infants, and mixed-visited by me since the 6th of February, either by direction of the Committee of Council or at the request of local managers, is 105; and the number of children actually present in such schools at the several periods of inspection, 8112.
The willingness of the managers of elementary Catholic schools to co-operate with the Committee of Council is not, however, adequately indicated by these figures. A considerable additional number have already completed the preliminary conditions, and are now awaiting inspection ; others are making arrangements with the same object. For this reason it has appeared to me expedient to reserve for a future occasion a general review of the statistics of primary education amongst the Catholics of England and Wales, and of the agencies and influences now in operation amongst them, either for the maintenance or extension of existing educational institutions. It would obviously be premature to attempt to deduce conclusions which might be modified by a more ample experience, and which can only be valuable or trustworthy when founded upon
full and accurate observation.
But there is another and a special reason for the postponement of statistical and general statements, upon which I am desirous to make some remarks.
No one who possesses even a superficial acquaintance with the actual state and progress of popular education in the different countries of Europe can be ignorant of the fact, that amongst those to whom the instruction of the children of the poor in the various Continental states has been confided, the body of teachers trained in the Institute of Christian Doctrine, and commonly designated Christian Brothers, occupy an honourable and a prominent place. It suffices to have seen any of the large and important schools conducted by these admirable
teachers, as at Rouen, Paris, Lyons, and elsewhere, to comprehend the value of the services which they render to society, and the vast amount of social and moral influence which they exert upon those indocile and formidable masses in whose prudent discipline, culture, and development the destinies of every state and community are ultimately involved. These services have been wisely appreciated by the different political Governments who have profited by them. Many interesting particulars might be adduced in illustration of this fact. It was during the administration of M. Guizot, whose careful observation of the great social phenomena of our epoch is well known, that many of the prisons and penitentiaries of France were committed to their skilful direction. During a prolonged residence in that country, an equally significant fact more than once fell under my own observation. At periods of confusion and disorder, and in several widely separated localities, I had occasion to notice, that while many of the Ecoles Communales furnished active agents to the party of movement and sedition, hardly an instance was known of their ranks being recruited from the pupils of the Frères de la Doctrine Chrétienne. But I am persuaded that the labours of these excellent men, and the obligations of modern society to them, are not unknown to any who watch with interest the progress of popular education ; and I will content myself with adding, that what they are in France and Belgium, such are they in England and Ireland, and that the same great moral and social work which they accomplish in other states they are performing in our own land also, within the comparatively limited sphere of their employment.
The purport of the above remarks will be understood, when I state that, up to the present moment, not a single school under the charge of this class of teachers in England, Scotland, or Wales has invited Government inspection, though some have expressed their sense of its advantages. Now it is certain that, whether we consider their general moral tone, the amount of religious and secular instruction diffused in them, or the technical and scientific methods upon which they are conducted, these schools are, with very few exceptions, both the largest and the most efficient of all those which are now in operation for the training and instruction of the poor children of the Roman Catholic population of this country. In London, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, and many other towns, thousands of Catholic children are receiving instruction in the schools of the Christian Brothers. It is evident, therefore, that no experience which does not include an intimate knowledge of such schools can be sufficiently extensive to justify general and positive statements as to the condition and prospects of elementary education amongst the class referred to.
Under these circumstances I propose to confine myself in the present Report to several points which have been recorded in my notes, from time to time, as worthy of special observation, and to some remarks upon certain distinctive features, whether pleasing or the reverse, of the schools which I have hitherto inspected.
1. Connexion of Roman Catholic Schools with the Committee of Council.— The extension of your Lordships' administration to Roman Catholic schools, and the invitation now offered to the managers of such schools to co-operate with the Committee of Council in the education of one class of Her Majesty's subjects, is the first topic which calls for remark. It was to be expected that some hesitation should be manifested in accepting that invitation, and that misconceptions should prevail, for a time, and in some quarters, with respect to the conditions with which it was accompanied. No one, however, who recognises the office of the ministers of religion as the natural guardians and instructors of the children of the poor can blame the jealous solicitude with which they acquit themselves of their special responsibilities. “The clergy prove that they are animated by the true spirit of their mission,” said M. de Salvandy, himself Minister of Public Instruction in a neighbouring country, "whenever they evince their susceptibility in matters relating to education.” And it was a recent observation of the Duc de Broglie, a not less eminent authority, that “wherever liberty of conscience isincluded in the catalogue of constitutional principles, there liberty of instruction must exist together with it, both by strict justice and wise policy.” It is, therefore, both the duty and the constitutional privilege of the clergy to scrutinize with peculiar vigilance whatsoever affects the education of the poor, or is capable of modifying its scope and character.
But the promoters of educational institutions for the Roman Catholic poor of this country have already proved, by the attitude which they have assumed in relation to the Committee of Council, that, whilst they know how to guard the sacred trust committed to them, they entertain no ungenerous suspicions or jealousies of the intentions of Government; and also, that the invitation to unite their efforts with those of the civil power did not take them by surprise. When that invitation was made, it was frankly and thankfully accepted, because all that it involved had been carefully weighed and considered by anticipation. The principles which ought to regulate the relations between the State and the various religious communities which exist under its protection had, for them, been fully defined. They did not need to be investigated when the moment arrived for their practical application. The legitimate influence of the civil authorities, in the direction and control of primary education, was not only not called in question by the class referred to, but was even asserted as a constitutional
principle. “We ask for no unlimited nor unconditional liberty," said one who was for many years the well-known superior of an important educational institute in Paris, and who is now Bishop of Orleans. “In proclaiming the liberty of instruction, la liberté d'enseignement,” he added, “the State ought to preserve its action, its tutelary surveillance, its temporal providence, over all establishments of education, over the morality and capacity of those who direct them, over their discipline, and their sanitary arrangements. This is its duty. God forbid that the State should ever lose sight of it!” The same sentiments have been authoritatively reiterated, on various occasions, by the whole Episcopate of France, Belgium, and Holland.
Far from complaining, then, of the “ interference” of the State in the extension and diffusion of popular education, there are few countries in Europe in which Catholics have not been forward to stimulate and invoke it; and in this country they not only see with pleasure that the Government has resume functions which it had too long abdicated, but are accustomed to remark, as a singular anomaly, that of all the great European States, England is the only one in which interests so deeply affecting the welfare of the population are not confided to the charge of a recognized and responsible minister.
But while these are the sentiments of all who have spoken authoritatively, and who apprehend nothing from the prudent and limited intervention of the State, because they know how to use good laws and do not fear bad ones, and because they are too much accustomed to survive real calamities to dread such as are visionary and chimerical, it cannot be denied that a certain amount of prejudice, which operates unfavourably for the welfare of Roman Catholic schools, remains to be overcome. In one class this is to be attributed to a total misconception of the real intentions of the Committee of Council; in another, to feelings and views which it is not necessary to analyse. When a great social and religious work, such as the education of the poor of this empire, is in progress of accomplishment, the agents to whom a portion of that work is entrusted may well be pardoned, if they have no leisure to appease the prejudices, or to detect the misrepresentations, which may safely be left to the correction of time and experience. But it is to be regretted that any of those, whether amongst the clergy or the laity, whose cordial co-operation is really indispensable to the full success of plans now in operation, should attribute to the “Government scheme of education,” as it is erroneously styled, a character of which all the repulsiveness is due to their own misconceptions. It was truly observed, in a Report presented to your Lordships during the past year, that the Government plan is, to enforce no plan whatever." It is of the utmost importance that the inanagers and teachers of Roman Catholic schools