20 APRIL 1850, Page 1


-Trim week opened with another Ministerial defeat in the House of Commons. The House was in Committee on the Stamp-duties Till, and the actual defeat was preceded by discussions that did not tend to alleviate its effect. In the interval since its first ap-

- pearance the bill had undergone several alterations; a practical

admission of bad workmanship, which of itself invited reproach. On a hasty glance when it was first issued, we were struck with some anomalies that looked like incompatibilities in the different schedules ; but it appears that the very officials have detected other unworkable points in their production. Sir Charles Wood pro- fessed to introduce the bill as a remission of taxes, to the extent of 300,0001.; but it appears probable that although there has been a remission of taxes on the smallest class of transactions -ander the operation of the act, the greatly enhanced duties caused by adopting a sliding scale proportionate to the value of the property is calculated to yield a much larger revenue ; so that, however de-

-sirable as a readjustment—which it may be—the measure is really

an increase of taxation. And it had been trumpeted as a boon to -the landed interest ! Of course Ministers had their full share of -reproach for duplicity; but we doubt whether fraud was intended:

they had taken up the measure partially, and want of the technical

knowledge betrayed them into error. Yet again, when Sir Charles Wood denied that effect of the bill, and he was called upon for proofs of his position, he was unprepared: he had accounts ready-made to prove the loss by the remitting part of the bill, but none to determine the gain by the augmentative part. Even Ministerial Mr. Bright was so provoked that he de- clared the measure unintelligible. Sir Henry Willoughby -took the matter out of Sir Charles Wood's hands, and moved to .substitute a shilling as the starting-point of the sliding scale, which Ministers had fixed at half-a-crown ; and the amendment was carried, by 164 votes to 135. This defeat was evidently felt to be -more serious than any that had yet befallen the Government, as it was virtually superseding the Chancellor of the Exchequer ; .and Sir Charles asked a week to consider it,—a request the more ,humiliating since Ministers had previously refused to defer the measure. The indulgence was charitably granted.

In a minor degree, the rebuff on the Security for Advances (Ire- land) Bill operated as a defeat. Ministers tried to press the bill forward on Tuesday evening; it was resisted, and Viscount Naas,

who had an amendment, demanded delay : with some sneers—not• rightly deserved—against Ministers for leaving Irish bills in the hands of the English Solicitor-General, Mr. Stuart supported the amendment ; so did Mr. Disraeli, who was peremptory—and Minis-

_ters yielded. Mr. Milner Gibson's motion to abolish divers duties affecting journals and books was to be discussed on its merits. Mr. Gibson -proposed to repeal the mischievous excise-tax on paper ; the stamp- tax on newspapers, except as a post-office tax ; the advertisement tax ; and the foreign book tax. Sir Charles Wood said that he could not spare these taxes ; an argument which Mr. Disraeli an-

swered with the two-edged reply, that as the vote of Monday had negatived the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan for dealing with his surplus, that margin was still available. Lord John Russell was not content with the fiscal plea : he poohpoohed the motion, sneered at the idea that there is anything in newspapers which can be " dignified " by the title of "knowledge," and apropos to some mention of Lord Grey, affected to confound "Jacob Ommum " and "other writers in the daily press" with the writers for unstamped publications of the Holywell Street class. Lord John defeated the quondam colleague—who had found that his reputation was wast- ing away while he remained in the official Whig connexion—by 190 to 89; but the impression left by his speech will do him scarcely, less damage than a defeat.

The debate on the second reading of Mr. Fox's Education Bill [LArEsr EDITION.]

was perhaps as remarkable as any that has occurred this session. The bill met with resistance from the Members who profess to be the special defenders of orthodoxy—taking diverse views among themselves of the said orthodoxy. Thus, Mr. Stafford took the common High Church and gentlemanly notion of it, and opposed the bill on good old Tory grounds ; Lord Ashley was more earnest in -his fear that religion is menaced, and that to permit mere secu- lar education would destroy the authority of the Bible. Lord Arundel and Surrey took a very singular ground of opposi- tion: he referred to the Iteformation as an attack on Christianity, and treated this education movement as a further step in the same direction—a new Reformation—the enterprise of a new Luther. Probably Mr. Fox did not feel either frightened or offended at the resemblance. To eke out his case, Lord Arundel and Surrey quoted copious extracts from writers who have no more to do with the Lancashire Public School agitation than the rest of the public has ; as Lord John Russell must have learned on his visit to Manches- ter. Mr. John Chapman, however, will not be displeased that there has thus been, however irrelevantly, lugged into the Education debate the most magnificent of advertisements for his "Catholic Series." The noble Romanist was not incorrect in predicating that there is a new movement ; but it had nothing to do with the education scheme that originated in TA es shire—except that both come under the boundless term " Liberal " : and he made the sin- gular mistake of citing against the proposed plan facts which are incidents of the existing system.

Lord John Russell professed a deference for public opinion, which would not suffer him to tax unconsenting Wesleyans and Church- men for secular education ; as if Ifinistersure not everyday bound to administer taxes for unpopular or unapproved objects. The bill is not compulsory, but permissive—leaving it for each dis- trict to adopt the tax or not, by a very wholesome revival of local action. Lord John will not allow secular tuition and religious in- struction to be divorced—but they are divorced. As the attempt to unite them, on a comprehensive scale, has hitherto been im- practicable, it is found merely to impede secular education, and then dense ignorance prevents even the feeble attempts to impart religious knowledge; so that after all the children of the people are not taught religion. On the other hand, it was shown at the Leeds meeting last week, that where district education exists—as it has done in Scotland—special efforts are not prevented, but rather the reverse ; and the experience of the Williams Secular School at Edinburgh proves that secular education does the very reverse of preventing religious instruction : under the present system in Eng- land, there are multitudes of lads who cannot answer the simplest question concerning Christ or God ; not a boy in the Williams Se- cular School but might teach the heathen the essentials of Chris- tianity. But although Mr. Fox's bill is impeded by the trimming opposition of the Ministers, the debate elicited one avowal which marks a great advance of public opinion : Lord John Russell con- fessed that secular education is not necessarily adverse to religion. Indeed, what would the Church he about if it were ?

The voting and counter-voting on the Summary Juzisdiction Bill, on Thursday, did not take an Anti-Ministerial direction, but it illustrated the lack of any command in the House, by degene- rating into sheer indiscipline. The question Whether men of sixteen ought to be flogged or not, was the principal subject of dis- cussion, and it was decided both ways. The deference paid to Sir Robert Peel, whose tardy arrival seemed to endow the debate with some kind of sobriety, is another illustration a converse.