LORD BANDON'S COUNTER-REVOLITTION.
T ORD SANDON has brought forward the Bill on which we JLI commented last week, for effecting a counter-revolution in our Education system, with a flourish of trumpets that suf- ficiently indicates his purpose to push to its full limits the reaction he initiates. Indeed, both he and Mr. Gathome. Hardy made a great point of not mincing matters. Lord Bandon said, in effect, that the Dissenters must reap what they had sown. They had displayed their enmity to the Church, and Churchmen could not avoid any longer treating them as open foes. Mr. Gathorne Hardy likened the retrograde step the Government were taking to the restoration of a Monarchy abolished by a revolutionary power. If bad steps were never retraced, he said, how could one Government rectify the errors of its predecessor? That is, the Tory Government accepts the position of intending to retrace the steps taken by the Liberal Government, wherever it thinks that course advisable. A more momentous decision could hardly have been arrived at. Hitherto, however profoundly the Tories have con- demned Liberal policy, such as Reform, Free Trade, the Abolition of Tests, the redress • of Irish grievances, we have never heard a word of counter-revolution. Now, for the first time, we have the appearance of that ominous feature in the Tory programme. It is, no doubt, a com- paratively small and tentative step at first. Mr. Hardy denies that the Cabinet are playing with the question of the reim- position of University tests, though they have practically reimposed creeds, and something more than creeds, on a large proportion of the Endowed Schools of the country. But, says Mr. Hardy, the Endowed Schools' policy, though sketched out, had not been carried out. It had been offered to and accepted by the country, under an Act of Parliament, but it had not been embodied in the schemes of so many as a third of the schools to be reformed. In the case of the remaining two- thirds, the ground was clear. The Tories had to deal with them on their own principles, and those principles were that the Established Church of to-day is the only legitimate heir of the Established Church of Elizabeth and the Stuarts,—that the Anglican Church whose clergy are so eager to burn in- cense, to use chasubles, and to hear auricular confession, that even their Conservative friends are compelled to put the bit into their mouths, is the only admissible representative of the enemies of Laud, the puritanic Churchmen of the revolution- ary period ! Such is the thesis on which Lord Bandon, him- self, as he takes every opportunity of observing, a Low Churchman, who wishes to extend the Church in the direction of the Dissenters, takes his stand, and which he is embodying in his legislative counter-revolution. And what is his excuse Why, that Mr. Forster in his original Endowed Schools Act had admitted the principle that a school, even where founded before Dissent was legal, by one who showed his express wish to make it a religious school, must be regarded as a Denomina- tional school, just as one founded in modern times with express Denominational trusts is so regarded. We are not sure that this concession was ever a legitimate one ; but the excuse for it is that the number of such old foundations con- taining an express direction that the children should be regularly instructed in religion, is small, and that unless we could devise some unsectarian religious teaching which would cover all sects, the only specific religion which it would be at all reasonable to teach, would be that which the founder knew as the religion of the Church of England. But the difference between the Act of 1869 and the Bill of this year is this :— Mr. Forster assumed that where the religious trusts were not very specific indeed, education was the chief intention of the founder, and education intended for all alike. Lord Bandon constructs an express religious intention of a kind calculated to exclude all who are not members of the National Church, out of so slight an indication as a stipulation that the Bishop of the diocese,—probably the only official within reach of whom it was then certain that he would value education,—should revise the regulations of the school ; and ignores the general educational intention of the founder to improve the opportunities of all the children within reach of the spot, altogether. The preamble of the Bill entirely drops the main intention of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869,—" the expediency of putting a liberal education within the reach of children of all classes "— and in fact assumes in cases in any degree doubtful, classes,"- denominational education must have been more the intention of the founder than liberal education itself. Even so the fair thing to do on that theory would be to provide various kinds of sectarian teaching in that school for the children of parents of different sects, rather than absorb the whole endowment for a single sect. But that is not Lord Sandon's drift. He wishes to make the Dissenters feel that as they have acted as enemies, as enemies they shall be treated. The Endowed Schools as yet unreformed are not to be applied to national purposes, so far, at least, as they are boarding-schools ; they are to be the spoil and prey of the Church party. Such is Lord Sandon's challenge to the Dissenters, who having turned on their familiar friends, are now made to feel the unstatesmanlike scorn of their hereditary foes. Does Lord Sandon think that this is the policy to foster the divisions in -the Liberal party ? Or has he acquired the conviction of his chief that the Dis- senters were " dished " when the residuum was enfranchised ?
Anyhow, we can hardly imagine a more formidable pro- spect than that which would be before us, if every tempo- rary success of the Tories for the future is to mean something quite different from what it has meant for the last forty years. One of the great landmarks of modern politics is the late Sir Robert Peel's address to the electors of Tamworth,• in December, 1834, declaring his in- tention to regard the Reform Act as a "final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question," and even to review, in a moderate spirit, the various institutions of the nation in the light of popular desire, proved by that Act, for progressive legislation. It was that declaration of Sir Robert Peel's which made the accession of the Tory party to office once more possible, and we do not doubt at all that if the Tories now are really prepared to reverse the spirit of that declaration, and enter on the sterile task of undoing, where they dare the policy initiated by their prede- cessors, they will soon dare, themselves again banished from power, with far more signs of permanent alienation from the people than ever. If Mr. Hardy and Lord Sandon plead that what they are doing in this Bill is not of this nature, that it is merely the repairing of a hasty error of the last Government, they should not use, as they have used, the language of counter-revolution, and talk of the necessity of restoring institutions the foundations of which the Liberals have im- paired. What has hitherto distinguished English Conservatives from Continental Conservatives has been the willingness to accept heartily the position bequeathed to them by their predecessors, and to remember that the nation has no fancy for Conservative Penelopes, who unpick during the hours of darkness the work achieved during hours of light. And if ever they cease to deserve that praise, and to make of British policy a barren pendulum, swinging from side to side, as one party succeeds the other in the State, either they will be the permanent sufferers, or the British Empire will have passed its highest point. It has been the measure of sympathy between the two parties which has hitherto secured the continuity of the British Government. The English people, Whig and Tory, have always regarded the present as their proper starting-point, and the past as a land whither,—(even though it might have been well to linger longer there),—there is no return. Lord Sandon's thoroughly bad Bill is the first striking exception to this rule and we trust, it may be the last. It is not a proposal of good augury, either for the future of party government, or for the fame of the men now in power.