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A Dissenting protest against Anglican claims to control education

Congregational Magazine (N.S.), iv.263-5 (1840)

Taken from Norman Gash, The Age of Peel (London, Edward Arnold, 1973), with the kind permission of Professor Gash. Copyright of this document, of course, remains with him.


The intense Anglican public and parliamentary opposition to the 1839 scheme obliged the government to give way on several major points. The unpopular Normal School project was abandoned at an early stage and after prolonged negotiations the government agreed in 1840 to appoint inspectors only with the approval of the diocesan bishops and to revert to the old system of allotting educational grants in proportion to voluntary subscriptions. The concessions were felt by many Dissenters to be a defeat and began a stead movement of Dissenting opinion away from the idea of a state system and back to the old voluntary principle. At the same time the powers and pretensions of the Church demonstrated in 1839 further inflamed sectarian animosity. The hostility and defensiveness exhibited in the resolution printed below which marked the Dissenting attitude towards the Established Church in the early years of Victoria's reign were given further expression by various developments in the next few years: the Religious Freedom Society (1839), the Nonconformist Weekly founded (1841) to promote disestablishment, and the Anti-State Church Association (1844).

The Rev. John Hoppus was Congregational minister at Carter Street Chapel, London, and professor of philosophy and logic at University College, London University, since 1829.


RESOLUTIONS OF THE GENERAL BODY OF DISSENTING MINISTERS

At a special meeting, held at the Congregational Library, Finsbury, of the Three Denominations, in and about the Cities of London and Westminster, on the 6th of March, 1840, the Rev. Professor Hoppus, Doc. Philos. in the Chair, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted: –

National Education
  1. That the number of petitions presented of late to both Houses of Parliament, declaring the established clergy to be the persons in whom the superintendence of any system of national education should be mainly vested, exhibit an attempt to revive a long obsolete branch of priestly power, betraying a spirit as arrogant as it is unjust, and that should be resisted to the utmost, not only by the Protestant Dissenter, but by every friend to general liberty; that, as a matter of expediency, we should regard the placing of a system of that nature in such hands as tending rather to perpetuate than to remove the popular ignorance, discontent and irreligion, and as adapted to strengthen every prejudice unfavourable to our intelligence, virtue, and greatness, as a people: that, on the ground of justice, we are no less convinced that if any portion of the public money be granted for such purposes, it should be for the advancement of that secular education concerning which all are agreed, and not for education in religion, on which we are so much divided, and which, in such cases, will be best provided for in being left to the Judgment of persons locally interested in school management: that we accordingly hail with peculiar satisfaction the fixed resolution evinced by her Majesty's Ministers to proceed upon these principles in the application of the late grant for this object.

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