26 JANUARY 1878, Page 7


SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH has judged wisely in promising a measure on Irish Intermediate Education for the present Session. This is well not only because to pass by needful reforms for Ireland lends an artificial strength to the Home-rule movement which it would not otherwise have, but also because the particular reform which he thus promises is one which, if it could be got into steady -operation, would probably do more in ten or fifteen years to undermine the Home-rule movement than all the efforts of Mr. Butt and his colleagues would do to promote it. We are well aware, of course, that Mr. Butt and his party will take just the opposite view, and will sup- port a good system of intermediate education in Ireland, on the very ground that nothing could tend more directly to help the movement which they have set on foot. And only time of coulee can show whether he is right, or we. But that, again, is one great advantage of the proposal of the Government, that both the Irishmen and the Englishmen will heartily support it,— if it is a large and liberal measure—from opposite motives, -the Irishmen because they will believe it fatal to the United Parliament, and the Englishmen because they will believe it fatal to the system of federation. In the meantime, both Irish and English Members will for once be able to co-operate in their work, and to emulate each other in their efforts to prove that each has at heart the good of Ireland, and not the mere success of the Irish or the English party.

Lord Emly, in a recent speech at Limerick, has demon- strated the necessity for a considerable measure, adapted to create a fair equality between the Protestants and Roman Catholics of Ireland in relation to the opportunities of intermediate education held out to them. He shows us that in 1870, while to every 100,000 of the population there were, in Scotland, 375 children attending endowed intermediate schools, in Prussia 858 such children, among the Protestants of Ireland 199, and in England 144, among the Roman Catholics of Ireland there were in that year but 2 attending such schools. And he shows us the reason of this tremendous gap in the educational system of the Irish Catholics in the penal laws which, till a not very distant period, ;elide it penal for a Roman Catholic teacher to teach in Ireland, and even secured a handsome sum to the informer who made it known to the authorities that he was thus teaching,—one immediate effect of such penal laws of course being that all the endowments for intermediate education were appropriated by the Protestants, and that the Roman Catholics re- mained, even after the penal laws were repealed, without the slightest share in the endowments which form the natural link between the secondary schools of the kingdom and the Universities, and also the natural stepping-stones by which the ablest among the children of the, peasantry rise into positions of influence and dignity. As Lord Emly justly said at Limerick in the striking speech which certainly ought to have been, though it never was, reproduced in this country, after quoting a violent exhortation to put the penal laws against Catholic teachers in force, delivered in the middle of the last century by the Chairman of the county of Cork (Sir Richard (lox),—(4 Was there ever a stronger or more constraining case for compensation ? Stop for one week the• water that irrigates your neighbour's field or propels your neighbour's mill, and the excellent chairman of our county surely will salt you with very substantial damages. Those who, not for a week, or a month, or a year, but for the lives of many generations, have cursed with barrenness the intellect of a nation, are bound in conscience to make such reparation as they can for a wrong which, in its full extent, is irreparable." And we hold that Lord Emly was also quite right in asserting that the reparation should be made in the way in which it is most likely to recommend itself to the people who are to profit by it. The late Government, he says, appointed a Catholic master in 'one -of these endowed schools which had hitherto been taught by a Protestant. What difference did this change make ? Why this,—that whereas previously the school had had ten Protestant boarders and no Catholic boarder, it now has under its Catholic master, nine Catholic boarders and no Protestant boarder,—which simply means that the Irish Protestants will not send their children to a boarding-school superintended by Catholics, any more than Irish Catholics will send them to a school superintended by Protestants. Nor would either one or the other send them to schools in which religious teaching was altogether omitted. If, then, good intermediate teaching is to be so supplied to all classes in Ire- land as -to produce its full effect on the education of the country, it must be supplied to Protestants by Protestant masters, and to Catholics by Catholic masters, and the endow- ments available for the middle-class, — or for the poor who have raised themselves by their industry and ability into the culture of the middle-classy—should be propor- tioned fairly between the two religions. Nothing less will really supply what Protestants and Catholics in Ireland alike demand, but what only the Protestants hitherto have been allowed to enjoy. Lord Emly quotes in support of the reform so long delayed, very striking extracts from an unpub- lished letter of Edmund Burke's, written now more than a century ago.

But the great political expediency—as distinguished from the moral justice—of providing the endowments by which the middle-class in Ireland might be properly educated, and —for this is, if possible, even more important—by which the most capable of the Irish peasantry would be enabled to win their way up into the middle-class by virtue of their own abilities and efforts, is this,—that by this means, and this alone, can you secure for the Irish people that gradual shading-off of one class into the next, on which so much of the political sagacity of a nation and the unity of its national life really depends. We do not hesitate to say that half the difficulty which Great Britain has had in understand- ing Ireland, has been due to the virtual absence of any power- ful middle-class among the Roman Catholics competent to act as the natural exponents of the wishes of the Irish peasantry and artisans. Indeed the reason why Prussia, short as has been her term of true political life, has managed to make that brief term so useful, and so excellent a representation of the wishes of the nation, may be, in great measure, found, we believe, in the figures which Lord Emly quoted,—the figures, we mean, showing that so considerable a number as 358 Prussian children in every 100,000 of the population attain to the teachingof the intermediate schools, whence of course they are drafted off into an intelligent and educated middle-class highly competent at once to understand the wants of the masses beneath them, and to make those wants intelligible to the legislature and the administration. In the case of Scotland, where even a larger proportion of the population attain to the benefits of a true high-school education, this is even truer. Notoriously in Scotland there is no broad gulf between the peasantry or the artisans and the educated, for many of the most intelligent of the latter come from the heart of the peasantry or the artisans, and are the first to warn the latter against mistaken political enterprises, and to warn Parliament against ).egisla- tion which would materially compromise the interests of the masses or abridge the number of their legitimate hopes. In England the gulf is greater, and as a natural consequence there is much more reason to suppose that, unless under special instruction, Members of Parliament are very 'apt to mistake the wishes of their constituents, and those consti- tuents themselves to choose men in whom they have no real confidence. Such elections as that of Dr. Kenealy for Stoke-upon- Trent, such popular movements as that on behalf of the Claimant, certainly show how suspicious the larger constituencies are liable to become of the opinions of the educated classes, and how ,very little way the influence of the latter goes in removing the prejudices of the masses when these are once definitely formed. But the gulf between the educated middle-class and the working-clam in England is nothing to that in Catholic Ireland, and this for the obvious reason that Catholic Ireland can hardly have been said till within the last few years to have the germ of -any educated middle-class, except, indeed, the priests. The priestsolo doubt, are real links between the peasantry and the statesmen of Catholic Ireland, but then the priests, who are almost till derived from the peasantry, are almost all dependent on the peasantry for their support. And though we do not hesitate to say that but for the priests the popular opinion of Ireland would be far more of a pure chaos than it actually is, and though we do not doubt for a moment that the priests have kept the peasantry out of the worst of their political mistakes, or that without them Ireland would have been far wilder and less governable than she actually is, yet the priests, both because they form a single class with 'very defined and somewhat narrow interests, and because they are necessarily more or less dependent on the peasantry withavhom they live, and can hardly by any possibility fail to share their strongest political prepossessions, cannot properly supply the place of a miscellaneous middle-class of various pursuitsvpartly drawn from the peasantry, but quite independent of its imme- diate sympathy, for the purpose of moulding the pOlitical mind of the nation. We do not doubt that the party which is now apparently again about to imperil the usefulness of the Legislature, and eager to break up the unity of the Empire, would hardly exist at all, or would only exist as a crotchetty faction, derided by all practical Irish- men, if there were in Ireland the same large intermediate class, recruited in a great degree from the peasantry, and yet moulded by its own knowledge and experience into wider conceptions, which there is in such great force in Scotland, and in consider- able force even in England.

It would indeed be well worth the while of the Govern- ment to devote a considerable sum out of the surplus of the Irish Disestablished Church to this great object of supplying the fit educational links between the Catholic peasantry and the Catholic statesmen. We should not have seen almost all the real Catholic statesmen of Ireland rejected at the election of 1874 in favour of men hardly known at all to the constituencies except by the extravagance of their pledges, if there had been leaders for the masses such as a well-educated middle-class of some standing and sub- stance supplies. To 1111 up this great social void, to graduate Irish society so that no section of it shall be out of living rela- tions and sympathy with the class below, is the greatest of all needs. And no doubt the supply of a thoroughly good system of intermediate education, acceptable to the people for whom it is provided, and offering to the ablest candidates from the primary schools scholarships which, if gained, would secure them a gratuitous higher education, is by far the most obvious means by which this end can be attained. Nor can it be denied, without any relation to the policy of the step, that in bare justice to a society defrauded for generations of the legal right to found schools, good or bad, for its children, this poor and tardy reparation is due—that we should now, out of the means at the disposal of the State, put the Catholic middle-class as nearly as possible on an equal footing with the Protestants, who were allowed to inherit, and have inherited, all the valuable educational endowments.