« EelmineJätka »
us with a just appreciation of the peculiar characteristics of the different periods and countries the works of which are here exhibited to us, and of the influence which they have exercised upon each other.
In comparing these works with those of our own age and country, while we may well be proud of the immense development of knowledge and power of production which we possess, we have reason also for humility in contemplating the refinement of feeling and intensity of thought manifested in the works of the older schools.
I trust that you may reap, in the approbation of the public at large, and in the remunerative concourse of the people, the immediate reward of your labours; and that, like the Exhibition of 1851, to which you so flatteringly allude, you may thus also find the means of closing your operations without having recourse to the Guarantee Fund which this district has so generously put at your disposal.
Beyond this, however, I trust that the beneficial effects upon the progress of art and taste in our country, which we may confidently look to, may be a lasting memorial of your vast enterprise.
AT THE OPENING OF THE
CONFERENCE ON NATIONAL EDUCATION.
[JUNE 22ND, 1857. ]
GENTLEMEN,— WE have met to-day in the sacred cause of
Education of National Education. This word, which means no less than the moral and intellectual development of the rising generation, and, therefore, the national welfare, is well calculated to engross our minds, and opens a question worthy of a nation's deepest interest and most anxious consideration. Gentlemen, the nation is alive to its importance, and our presence here to-day gives further evidence (if such evidence were needed) of its anxiety to give it that consideration. Looking to former times, we find that our forefathers, with their wonted piety and paternal care, had established a system of national education, based upon the parish organization, and forming part of parish life, which met the wants of their day, and had
in it a certain unity and completeness which we may well envy at the present moment. But in the progress of time our wants have outstripped that system, and the condition of the country has so completely changed, even within these last fifty years, that the old parochial division is no longer adequate for the present population. This has increased during that period in England and Wales from, in round numbers, 9,000,000 to 18,000,000, and, where there formerly existed comparatively small towns and villages, we now see mighty cities, like Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, Leeds, Birmingham, and others, with their hundreds of thousands, springing up almost, as it were, by enchantment; London having increased to nearly two and a half million of souls, and the factory district of Lancashire alone having aggregated a population of nearly 3,000,000 within a radius of thirty miles. This change could not escape the watchful eye of a patriotic public; but how to provide the means of satisfying the new wants could not be a matter of easy solution. While zeal for the public good, a fervent religious spirit, and true philanthropy are qualities eminently distinguishing our countrymen, the love of liberty, and an aversion from being controlled by the power of the State in matters nearest to their hearts, are feelings which will always most powerfully influence them in action. Thus the common object has been contemplated from the most different points of view, and pursued often upon antagonistic principles. Some have sought the aid of Government, others that of the Church to which they belong ; some have declared it to be the duty of the State to provide elementary instruction for the people at large, others have seen in the State interference a check to the spontaneous exertions of the people themselves, and an interference with self-government; some, again, have advocated a plan of compulsory education based upon local self-government, and others the voluntary system in its widest development. While these have been some of the political subjects of difference, those in the religious field have not been less marked and potent. We find, on the one hand, the wish to see secular and religious instruction separated, and the former recognized as an innate and inherent right, to which each member of society has a claim, and which ought not to be denied to him if he refuses to take along with it the inculcation of a particular dogma to which he objects as unsound; while we see, on the other hand, the doctrine asserted, that no education can be sound which does not rest on religious instruction, and that religious truth is too sacred to be modified and tampered with, even in its minutest deductions, for the sake of procuring a general agreement.
Gentlemen, if these differences were to have been discussed here to-day, I should not have been able to respond to your invitation to take the chair, as I should have thought it inconsistent with the position which I occupy, and with the duty which I owe to the Queen and the country at large. I see those here before me who have taken a leading part in these important discussions, and I am happy to meet them upon a neutral ground; happy to find that there is a neutral ground upon which their varied talents and abilities can be brought to bear in communion upon the common object; and proud and grateful to them that they should have allowed me to preside over them for the purpose of working together in the common vineyard. I feel certain that the greatest benefit must arise to the cause we have all so much at heart by the mere free exchange of your thoughts and various experience. You may well be proud, gentlemen, of the results hitherto achieved by your rival efforts, and may point to the fact that, since the beginning of the