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PRINCE ALBERT ON EDUCATION.
These are great results, although I hope that they may be received as instalments of what has yet to be done. But what must be your feelings when you reflect on the fact, the inquiry into which has brought us together, that this great boon thus obtained for the mass of the people, and which is freely offered to them, should have been only partially accepted, and, upon the whole, so insufficiently applied as to render it almost valueless? We are told that the total population in England and Wales of children between the ages of three and fifteen being estimated at 4,908,696, only 2,046,848 attend school at all, while 2,861,848 receive no instruction whatever. At the same time, an analysis of the scholars with reference to the length of time allowed for their school tuition shows that 45 per cent. of them have been at school less than one year; 22 per cent. during one year; 15 per cent. during two years; 9 per cent. during three years; 5 per cent. during four years; and 4 per cent. during five years. Therefore, out of the 2,046,848 of scholars alluded to, about 1,500,000 remain only two years at school. I leave it to you to judge what the results of such an education can be. I find farther, that of these 2,000,000 children who attend school, only about 600,000 are of the age of nine. Gentlemen, these are startling facts, which render it evident that no extension of the means of education will be of any avail unless this evil, which lies at the root of the whole question, be removed, and that it is high time that the country should become thoroughly awake to its existence, and prepared to meet it energetically. To impress this upon the public mind is the object of our conference. Public opinion is the powerful lever which in these days moves a people for good and for evil; and to public opinion we must therefore appeal, if we would achieve any lasting or beneficial result. You, gentlemen, will greatly add to the services which you have already rendered to this noble cause, if you will prepare public opinion by your inquiry into this state of things, and by your discussing in your sections the causes of it, as well as the remedies that may lie within our reach. This will be no easy matter; but even if your labours should not result in the adoption of any immediate practical steps, you will have done great good in preparing for them. It will probably happen that
in this instance, as in most others, the cause that produces the evil will be more easily detected than its remedy; and yet a just appreciation of the former must ever be the first and essential condition of the discovery of the latter. You will probably trace the cause of our social condition to a state of ignorance and lethargic indifference on the subject among the parents generally; but the root of the evil will, I suspect, also be found to extend into that field upon which the political economist exercises his activity,-I mean the labour-market, demand and supply. To dissipate that ignorance and rouse from that lethargy may be difficult; but with the united and earnest efforts of all who are the friends of the working classes, it ought, after all, to be only a question of time. What measures can be brought to bear on the other root of the evil is a more delicate question, and will require the nicest care in handling; for there you cut into the very quick of the working man's condition. His children are not only his offspring to be reared for a future independent position, but they constitute a part of his productive power, and work with him for the staff of life. The daughters especially are the handmaids of the house, the assistants of the mother, the nurses of the younger children, the aged, the sick. To deprive the labouring family of their help would be almost to paralyse its domestic existence. On the other hand, carefully-collected statistics reveal to us the fact, that while 600,000 children between the ages of three and fifteen are absent from school, but known to be employed, no less than 2,200,000 are not at school whose absence cannot be traced to any ascertained employment or other legitimate cause. You will have to work, then, on the minds and hearts of the parents; to place before them the irreparable mischief which they inflict on those who are intrusted to their care by keeping them from the light of knowledge; to bring home to their convictions that it is their duty to exert themselves for their children's educa tion; bearing in mind at the same time that it is not only their most sacred duty, but also their highest privilege. Unless they work with you, your work, our work, will be vain; but you will not fail, I feel sure, in obtaining their coöperation, if you remind them of their duty to their God and Creator.'
THE DIVORCE BILL.
The business of the meeting having been thus inaugurated was distributed amongst five sections, by which different departments of the general subject of education were discussed.
But it is now time that we should follow the proceedings of the parliament which had been so recently elected, and whose session was opened by commission on the 7th of May. Of course a parliament which met at so late a period of the year, and which could not proceed to business till the middle of that month, could not be expected to enter on the consideration of measures that were likely to require long discussions or to encounter serious opposition. The only subject of importance which was recommended to the attention of the legislature in the royal speech was the question of law reform-a question the urgency and importance of which it was impossible to overrate, but one that was not calculated to rouse strong feelings or cause prolonged debates. Lord Palmerston, however, announced that the government intended to bring forward a measure of parliamentary reform in the year 1858.
The most important legislative achievement effected during the session was the passing of a divorce bill, which was at length carried, in spite of the tenacious and persistent opposition offered to it by Mr. Gladstone. The question had occupied the attention of the legislature for many years, and it would probably have continued to occupy it for some time longer, if the measure brought in by the government in the course of this session had not been zealously pressed forward by the premier, to whose firmness and determination it was due that the bill was at last carried.
But notwithstanding all the efforts made by Lord Palmerston to carry the measure, it was at one time in great jeopardy. It was ready to go back to the Lords with the amendments of the Commons on Friday, the 21st of August, and Lord Redesdale had given notice of a motion that it should be considered that day three months, which would have the effect of throwing it out altogether. At that late period most of the peers had left London, and it was thought that the members of the government and their adherents who remained in town would form a sufficiently large body to carry the bill through. But a great effort
had been made by its opponents to defeat it; and a large number of conservative peers were brought back to town on the day on which Lord Redesdale's motion was to be considered. The opposition benches were filled; while the ministerial side of the house presented a very denuded appearance. There could be no doubt which side would have the majority. Ministers therefore moved an adjournment without mentioning the bill. Lord Redesdale, who saw that he had the game in his own hands, and did not wish to let slip the favourable opportunity, vehemently protested against this course being adopted. Lord Chancellor Cranworth, generally the mildest and most placid of men, flamed up with vehement indignation when he saw that the one ministerial achievement of the session was about to be lost. After a somewhat heated discussion, an adjournment to the following Monday was agreed to by both sides, when ministers managed to muster a sufficient number of followers to enable them to reject Lord Redesdale's motion by a majority of two only.
There were two other important measures passed in this session, the honour of which belongs, however, not to the government, but to Lord Chief Justice Campbell; one suggested by the trial of Palmer, and regulating the sale of poisons; the other for the prevention of the diffusion of the moral poison of obscene publications. Another attempt made to obtain the admission of Jews into the House of Commons was once again frustrated by the peers. On the 28th of August the legislature was prorogued by commission.
But before the conclusion of the session, intelligence of a very alarming character had from time to time been arriving from India. The government had determined to supply the Sepoy regiments of that country with rifles of an improved description, in the place of the old musket which had hitherto been in use. The new rifle was loaded with a greased cartridge, the end of which was bitten off by the soldier making use of it. The sepoys suspected that the grease was made of the fat of cows and pigs, animals held in abomination by the Mahometans and Hindoos, the latter of whom would lose caste if they swallowed the smallest particle of the alleged mixture. The feeling thus roused had been farther exasperated by some indiscreet
THE GREASED CARTRIDGES.
attempts at conversion made, or supposed to be made, under the sanction of the government. It was, indeed, strenuously asserted that these suspicions were not really entertained by the sepoys; but that they were mere pretexts employed to excuse a revolt, which was in fact the result of a deep-laid and wide-spread combination against the British authority; and there is good reason to believe, as we shall presently see, that a strong spirit of disaffection prevailed very widely among the native troops, which was encouraged by the removal of a large portion of the English force from India to take a part in the war which was being carried on in China. The first open manifestation of the feeling that prevailed was made at Barrackpore. As early as the 23rd of January, Major-General Hearsay, who commanded there, informed the government of the feeling that existed with regard to the cartridges among the sepoys at Dumdum, near Calcutta. A fortnight later a sepoy soldier informed the officers at Barrackpore that the men of four of the regiments stationed there had been made to believe that there was a design to compel them to give up their caste and to become Christians, and that in consequence they had determined to mutiny. On the 25th of February the soldiers, on receiving the usual order to bite-off the ends of their cartridges, refused to comply with it. General Hearsay harangued his troops in their own language, which he spoke fluently, assuring them that the government had no wish to shock their religious convictions, but, on the contrary, desired to treat them with respect and allow them full freedom of belief. His explanations appeared, at the time, to have produced their intended effect. But on the day following the sepoys broke into the huts in which their arms were kept, and took possession of them. The only troops at the station when this occurred were some cavalry and a battery of artillery. These were sent out at night against the mutineers. It was doubtful whether they could be depended on, and even more doubtful whether, if they acted with all possible vigour and fidelity, they could subdue the revolters. Under these circumstances the commanding officer deemed it best to submit to a somewhat ignominious compromise. However, the Indian government acted with a promptitude which, for the present, stopped the farther spread of the revolt. British troops and artillery were