|From a printed booklet
RUSHDEN SCHOOLS' CONTROVERSY,
AND THE "MANAGERS" MANAGED
By Christopher Clumpem
Some time ago I got tired of pulling the "cords of misery," and so took to the knife, and since then, as a clicker, have cut up many a skin; but I now purpose trying my hand at cutting up something more flimsy than the poorest "Split" I have ever cut, viz., the document put forth as a reply to the one issued by "The Rushden General School Society."
Like most of my craft, I have given some attention to public matters, and, amongst others, to the Education question; and it is no secret that my sympathies have been with the Birmingham League. When, therefore, I read the General School Society's circular, I said, "This will do; I will invest my shilling, and have a share in the concern." But before I had done so, I received this document, signed by the managers of the Rushden Church Schools; and the first two signatures I find here are those of gentlemen against whom I will utter no unkind word, for I always respect real gentlemen. The next two persons signing this document I regard as mere machines in this matter (I won't say "tools," because it would be vulgar), and I shall not take the edge off my knife in cutting up these. The next signature I take to be that of the "wire-Puller " who set the machines in motion, and dragged the gentlemen into the mire. That is, I regard him as the author of this strange piece of writing. When I had read it, and found that it was not a fair discussion of principles, but in part a misrepresentation of facts, and imputed an ignorance of their own principles to the persons who signed the General School Society's circular, and depreciated our new Hall, in which I have a money interest, I at once sharpened my knife, and vowed by St. Crispin to have a cut at it. For convenience sake, I will number the ten paragraphs, or sections, I find in this paper, and take them seriatim.
Sec. 1. In this section I note four things. (1) "The managers of the existing schools are glad of any movement which kindles in the Parish an interest in the question of Education!" I fear, however, that with some of them this feeling is but very newly born. (2) They recognise "the rights of parents to send their children to whatever schools they please." I assume they mean where the parents pay the school fees, and, if so, I am delighted with the liberality of this. For although people have always had this right, it has not always been recognised by clergymen. (3) The committee of the Rushden General School Society is here spoken of as an "unnamed" one. But if it be unnamed is an evil, then I say there are unnamed committees, and there are self-named committees, but the evil of the unnamed is one, and the evil of the self-named is another. I don't say these managers are self-named, but that I don't know who proposed them. I remember seeing some of their names on a notice sent down here by the Charity Commissioners, and although that document proposed the demolition of our public meeting place, we never knew who proposed that these gentlemen should do it. (4) The next thing we have here is the "danger signal." How strange it is, that clergymen should always be hanging this out. But I suppose they have found the cry of "Church in danger" so successful a hit, that they meet every thing they disapprove of with the word "danger;" no matter whether it be an extension of the Franchise, a cheap loaf, or the separation of secular teaching from that which is religious,leaving the latter to be given by other teachers at other times.
Sec. 2.This is a very verdant paragraph. So much greenness so early as the 13th of March is refreshing to one's eyes living so far north as we are. But I fear it is only artificial. Can its author really have forgotten the Vestry Meeting at which he proposed to pull down the old room and build a National School (or rather that the Parish should do it), and that an amendment was proposed, on the ground that a Government measure was promised, and that it was possible it would be liberal enough to enable us all to work together without hurt to consciences or sacrifice of principles(that of course was before we knew that the fees of office were producing a "fatty" degeneracy of the political heart of Mr. Forster)and the amendment was carried by about ten to one? (2) The next thing here is an assumed ignorance of the meaning of the term "Denominationalism." Well, Shopmates, when you see a man opposing things however good in themselves misrepresenting the principles of those who do not think as he does, or soliciting persons to leave one place of worship to go to another, &c., and all this for the purpose of building up his own religious party,that is Denominationalism; and, although the word is not found in every Dictionary, it is very expressive and appropriate.
Sec. 3.Here we have an allusion to the break-down of the attempt to secure a School Board; and it is said that the failure was the result of the votes of some and the neutrality of others: but the writer fails to say that the neutrality, or the not going to the poll, was the result of disgust, occasioned by certain "Wire-pullers" setting a lot of "Puppets" in motion to frighten people with the notion of higher rents, lower wages, discharge from employment, &c., &c., if they voted for the School Board.
Sec. 4. This section puts me in mind of some of the shoes I used to make. They were got up to look at, and I was almost afraid they would "drop out of sewing" before I got to shop with them. So here we have some rather fine looking work, but it all hangs on three very loose stitches, and you will see that when these are cut it will drop to pieces, as if touched by the wand of a magician. First stitchIt is here implied that a "conscience clause" is in force, and that parents may withdraw their children from the religious instruction. But surely we have to thank Nonconformists for this; the Church fought against it like mad, the clergy cried "Church in danger" till they were hoarse. Second stitchIt is here attempted to shew that because parents may so withdraw their children that the school is not sectarian in its character. But the real question isWhat is the nature of the religious instruction given to those children who are not so withdrawn? If that is sectarianof which there is no doubtthen the school is sectarian. Third stitchThis refers to the responsibility of the management. It is said that, because open to Government inspection, "the management cannot justly be called irresponsible." Let the two branches of the Legislature decide this. Those sitting in the House of Lords are not allowed to do just as they please; there are certain laws and usages to which they have to attend: but, because they are not elected by the people and have no constituencies to whom they must give account, they are spoken of as the irresponsible branch of the Legislature, and the Commons the responsible branch, because elected by the people, and to them supposed to be accountable; and there is about the same difference between the management of the Rushden Church School and the system of management proposed by the Rushden General School Society. Shopmates, do not let so small a handful of "March dust" blind you to facts.
Sec. 5.Here we have a little of Mr. Foster's legerdemain, viz., "That public money is not paid for the religious instruction." But it is by such money that the School is kept open, and the master, in part, paid; and the clergy do not fail to use the open School, and the master, too, to build up the creed of the establishment. In some of their own papers they assert that in their Schools the great aim must be to prepare the young for "communion." As to the consciences of persons being hurt by compulsory payments to schools from which religious instruction is excluded, this is a farce. For instance,Brown is a churchman, and as a tax and ratepayer is compelled to pay to a secular School. Now, while his religion is not taught there, nothing that is taught is contrary thereto. But when Jones, who is a Dissenter, is in the same way compelled to pay to a Church School, not only his distinctive views of God's truth are not taught there, but much of that which is taught is contrary thereto; consequently Jones's conscience is hurtBrowns's is not.
Sec. 6.Here the Author forgot the commandment, which says, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour," for I can nowhere find it said in the General School Society's circular that the "Schools best suited for Rushden are those in which secular instruction only is provided;" that circular says that "In things spiritual we differ" (and what but this has originated this controversy?) "and that the Society seeks to meet this state of things by providing only secular instruction," but it is left to the parents to say which is best suited for Rushden, and I have no doubt that it was a fear of their verdict that drew forth the remarks signed by the managers of the Church Schools. As to the "adaptation" of the New Hall, I deem that (as a shareholder) an unjustifiable interference with my property which (through the Directors) I am now about letting to the School Committee. Its adaptation, however, is a matter to be decided upon by a Government Inspector, and not by the manager of another School. But it is astonishing how low a man will sometimes stoop to pick up dirt wherewith to blacken a rival tradesman.
Sec. 7.In this section we have another recognition of rights: this time it is the right of the Committee of the General School Society to their own opinions that is recognised. I hope they will express their gratitude for this, and that we shall all see that things are advancing. For the Church was first intolerant, then it tolerated, and now the right of others to live and even to think is recognised!! Then there is expressed some anxiety about the hard earned money of the Parents. Now, if people will shut their own eyes, and be led entirely by others, they ought not to object to consequences, and I regret that this sentence should have been signed by some of the five, because there are places belonging to them where Parents spend their hard-earned money to the injury of themselves and children, and where more mischief is done than all their schools and open Bibles, of which those managers speak, are doing good. We are next reminded of the money, experience, and knowledge required to manage a school. I feel grateful, however, that the managers of the existing schools have not all the money in their possession. See, mates, there is not a man of leather amongst them, and where money is required there is "nothing like leather." I always feel proud of being one of the trade. As to experience, some of them have not had much of this; and so again with regard to knowledge, they have not all the Brains any more than they have all the Brass.
Sec. 8.Hero we have the simple statement of a fact, viz., that in the General School Society's plan of action, the great principle of "Religious Equality" is maintained. This is a truth, and needs no comment. So I pass on to the next section, which I see is intended as an extinguisher to the appeal made in this.
Sec. 9.I have always been surprised to hear Clergymen laying such stress upon an "open Bible," because Nonconformity has done much more to open it to the People than they have; and, moreover, the Clergy insist on keeping open another Book, which not only teaches things that are not found in the Bible, but things contrary to some that are found there. I mean the Prayer Book. Some of the managers should not have signed this paragraph until they had, at least, spent as much time and money in religiously instructing the children of this Parish as some of those who signed the General School Document. I refer especially to Messrs. Tailby and Colson, who have been labouring hard in this work years and years, before some of the managers of the Church School had inhaled the salubrious leather-scented air, for which our Parish is noted. But after all "would the managers of the Church Schools be surprised to hear" that it has never been proposed to exclude the Bible from the General School? That while the creed of no party will be taught, the Bible will be read. Such, then, was the statement made by Mr. Tailby at the public meeting held nearly a fortnight before this insinuating document met the public gaze. But see, mates, the talk of these five managers does not hang together; for in this 9th section they lay great stress on the name of God, an open Bible, and the example of Our Blessed Redeemer; yet you will see in the 4th section that for the sake of the Government grant they are prepared to sacrifice all these, and impart "secular" instruction only. Surely, this is a long way from the example of Our Blessed Redeemer, who never violated His conscience for a Government grant. It is useless for them to say the Law compels them, for the Law has no power over those who do not take its pay. Give up this, and they will be no longer under the Law, even if they are not under grace.
Sec. 10.This last section tells us that the "Principle of Religious Equality is just and holy." Good gracious, Mates! what an unjust and unholy thing the Church of England must have been, for it has opposed, persecuted, imprisoned and slaughtered those who differed from her on religious matters, or questioned her supremacy; and has monopolized all good things by making membership with herself a qualification for Office, from the Throne to the Parish Constable.
Religious Equality moan?, in part, that if a person has the other qualifications which fit him for any office in the state, Ms religious views should be no hindrance to his having it. But the Church has often made them a hindrance, and is now only slowly being driven from this arrogant and unjust position. The history of the Puritan, or Nonconformist struggle for freedom, is next spoken of as an interesting one, and it certainly is; but to say that it cannot be brought to give evidence in favour of schools which exclude religious teaching, and do so on the ground that they receive (or expect to receive) state pay, is either an ignorant, or a wilful perversion of facts that is unaccountable. Do the persons signing the General School Document say that religious instruction is wrong? No! That it is secondary in importance? No! but that it should be given by the Churches and not by the State. I will now call a witness or two in support of these views, and so shew on which side the ignorance lies.John Smyth. Here.You were once a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, I believe? I was.Did you identify yourself with the Nonconformist struggle for freedom? I did.Did you organise a voluntary church at Gainsboro' in the year 1602? I did. Were you the pastor of it? I was.Did you receive, for the instruction you gave, money from the state? No.Would you have thought it wrong to do so? Certainly, I should.Was that opinion becoming general at that time among the Puritans or "Separatists" (as I believe you were then called)? It was.Serjeant B., you may cross-examine the witness.
Henry Jacob. Here.Were you once a clergyman in Kent, and had a discussion with Francis Johnson? Yes.And your views became considerably changed in consequence? Yes.Did you petition James I. for some ecclesiastical reform? I did.Were you confined in the Clink Prison in consequence? I was.Did you form a Church in Southwark in the year 1616? I did.Were you the Pastor of it? I was.How were you supported, Mr. Jacob? By the Voluntary weekly offerings of the members.How was that? Because Our Lord had told us that His Kingdom was not of this world, and we saw that to accept State-pay was to bring the spiritual into bondage to the secular, and that the higher was degraded and crippled by the lower.Then in your opinion the "Rushden General School Society" (which expects to receive State-aid) carries out your principles by separating the spiritual from the secular and employing State-money for the teaching of the latter, but leaving the former to the voluntary effort of the Churches? Oh, certainly.
There are, I believe, other witnesses of that century whom I might call in support of these views? Oh, yes, and the witnesses in the Tichborne case, in point of numbers, would be but as the small dust of the balance compared with these.
Then, by St. Crispin, I'll call no more of you, for the Blessed Redeemer said that two or three witnesses would suffice for the second visit to the man who has trespassed against us.
So now, Shopmates, three cheers for the "Rushden General School Society." Hip, hip, hip, hurrah!
"Last" House, Dubbing Row. Working clicker.
P.S.If after this the Author of the Church School Document should still refuse to act upon the principle of "Live and let live," our machinist has vowed to take him in hand the next time, and he assures me that the last man he put through his machine has never been heard of since.
If you should find a copy of the other document we'd be pleased to take a copy.