THE Act of 1846 provided that the Municipal Councils of Toronto and Kingston were to have the saine powers in school matters as the District Councils. Toronto had at this time twelve school sections, each with its own Trustee Board, and each fixing its own text-books and course of study. Such a system was cumbersome, wasteful, and inefficient, and the practical mind of Ryerson devised a remedy. In 1847, the Cities and Towns Act was passed. This Act required the Municipal Councils of cities and towns to appoint a School Board of six members. These six, together with the Mayor of the Corporation, had full control of all schools and school property. They could determine the number and kind of schools and the texts to be used, but they had no power either to levy an assessment upon property or to collect rate bills from parents. Any funds needed by the School Board in addition to the Legislative and Municipal grants were to be levied upon the taxable property of the city or town by the Municipal Council. But the Act did not say that the Municipal Council must grant the sums asked for by the Board of Trustees. In Toronto the Council of 1848 refused to levy the necessary assessment, and the School Trustees were compelled to close the schools from July to December.
The Toronto Globe declared that Ryerson was introducing a Prussian despotism into Canada. Ryerson said that he desired nothing Prussian in the Canadian schools except the method of schoolroom instruction, and claimed that his new School Bill was almost a literal transcript of that in force in the State of New York. Ryerson then set forth the chief advantage of the new Bill, viz. : that it gave to the poor man the right to have his children, however numerous, educated, whereas the rate bill system compelled him in many cases to claim free schooling only on the ground of his poverty. The new School Act was to enable a poor man to educate his children and still maintain his self-respect. The school tax was to be levied not upon the children of the section, but upon the real property. Ryerson concluded as follows: ” Wealthy selfishness and hatred of the education of the poor and labouring classes may exclaim against this provision of the law, but enlightened Christian philanthropy and true patriotism will rejoice at its application.”
Commenting on Ryerson’s letter, the following issue of the Globe said : ” The Doctor makes a great fuss about the cruel position of a man who cannot ` brook to say he was a pauper ‘ under the old system and the delightful and ` enlightened Christian philanthropy ‘ of his new system which places the poor man and his children upon equal footing with the rich man and his children.’ All bunkum, Dr. Ryerson. If it is hard to have ten or fifty or one hundred scholars as paupers at present, will it improve the matter to make the children of the common schools all paupers? If one class keep their children away now because the schools are above their means, and pride won’t let them submit to state the fact to a trustee, will there not hereafter be a much larger class whose pride will prevent them sending their children to what even Dr. Ryerson admits will be pauper schools? . . . Is it not melancholy that so crooked, so visionary a man as this should be at the head of the literary institutions of the country?”
But Ryerson was fighting for free schools. He knew that thousands of children were growing up ignorant, especially in the large towns. He was able to show that in the city of Toronto, out of 4,450 children of school age in 1846, only 1,221 Were on the common school registers and that the average attendance was scarcely one thousand. Even if it were granted that another thousand were in attendance at private and church schools, the fact remained that not more than half the children in Toronto were being educated.
In October, 1848, Ryerson submitted to the Government a draft School Bill, designed to remedy the defects in the legislation of 1846-‘848. In a report* which he submitted with his draft Bill he says : ” No law which con-templates the removal of grovelling or selfish ignorance and the elevation of society by means of efficient regulations and general taxation for schools ever has been, or ever will be, popular with the purely selfish or the listlessly ignorant. All such laws must be sustained for a time at least by the joint influence of the Government and the intelligent and enterprising portion of the community.”
The outcry against free schools and taxation of property to educate the children of the poor showed clearly that the time had not yet come for the realization of his plans, and Ryerson in his draft Bill restored to towns and cities the right to impose rate bills upon parents, at the same time declaring his faith in the ultimate triumph of free schools.
In February, 1849, Ryerson submitted additions to his draft Bill of the previous October. Among other changes he recommended additional Superintendents for Districts of more than 15o schools ; District Boards of Examiners who would replace the District Superintendent and school visitors* in issuing teachers’ certificates; Teachers’ Institutes for lectures and professional training of teachers; provision for separate schools for coloured children; school libraries for each section, and also township libraries: township School Boards; a School of Art and Design, connected with the Normal School: provincial certificates for Normal School graduates; making trustees personally responsible for a teacher’s salary ; the distribution of school funds on a basis of actual attendance, rather than on the number of children in the section ; better provision for fixing school sites; more equitable division of the $200,000 legislative grant between Upper and Lower Canada, and provision for the ad-mission into the common schools of pupils from sixteen to twenty-one years of age.
The Baldwin Government entrusted the handling in the Legislature of the School Bill of 1849 to the Honourable Malcolm Cameron. It should be borne in mind that the Legislature met in Montreal and that the Education Office for Upper Canada was in Toronto. Dr. Ryerson was, therefore, not in direct communication with the Government, nor was he officially informed from day to day as to the progress of the Bill. It should further be borne in mind that during this session the Buildings were burned, the Governor-General mobbed, and party feeling strongly aroused, thus creating conditions favourable for hasty and careless legislation.
It seems to have been taken for granted by the Legislature that the Bill as brought in was prepared by Ryerson. As a matter of fact, Ryerson’s Bill had, with Cameron’s assent, been so mutilated by an enemy of the Superintendent that its essential provisions were destroyed. As soon as Ryerson learned its real nature, he protested on several grounds, but especially because it aimed to destroy the usefulness of the Chief Superintendent ; excluded clergymen from being school visitors; destroyed the provincial nature of the school system; injured the prospects of a Normal School ; would subject teachers to serious loss in collecting their salaries; reestablished school sections in towns and cities; made no provision for uniform textbooks, and because it was cumbersome and unworkable. After an elaborate analysis of the Bill, Ryerson intimated that he would not attempt to administer the law as passed and that sooner than do so he would resign. The Government soon ascertained that the Bill was unsatisfactory to everybody and intimated to Ryerson that it would not he brought into operation. This course was followed, and in the meantime Ryerson perfected his plans for a new Bill to go before the Legislature in 1850.
As the Cameron Act of 1849 was never given effect, it has no interest for us, except in so far as it shows the evolution of the Act of 1850. During the Parliamentary recess, 1849-50, the Government issued circular letters to School Superintendents, ministers and other official persons, to secure suggestions as to school legislation. The replies were handed to Dr. Ryerson by the Hon. Francis Hincks, who had charge of the School legislation for 1850.
Ryerson’s draft of the Bill of 1850 is a tribute to his practical common sense and is sometimes called the Charter of the Ontario School System. Ryerson knew the people of Upper Canada as few knew them, and he was quick to see the dividing line between that which seemed highly desirable and that which was possible. He moved steadily toward a distant goal, hut was ever educating public opinion to move with him and seldom showed impatience over the slow pace of travel, so long as there was actual progress. He wished to see free schools, but in this Act contented him-self with securing permissive legislation, which he believed would soon lead to the adoption of a free system.
The outstanding feature of the Act was the strengthening of Trustee Boards by recognizing them as corporate bodies with full power to manage schools under Government regulations and full power to levy taxes or rates upon the District which they represented. In case the Municipal Council collected school money, they did it only as a matter of convenience. Provision was made for securing school sites, erecting and furnishing new buildings, electing trustees, holding board meetings, keeping schools accounts, appointing collectors for school moneys, providing books and apparatus, educating indigent children and forming school libraries. Teachers’ duties and responsibilities were not materially altered. They were, however, effectually secured against loss of the full amount of salary promised them by trustee boards. Adequate provision was made for school sections composed of adjoining parts of two or more townships. Provision was made for Township Boards of Trustees on the re-quest of a majority of the school supporters, to manage all the schools of a township. County Boards of Public Instruction were formed, consisting of the County Superintendent and the Trustees of the District Grammar School. These boards were to meet four times a year, to hold examinations and license teachers. They were to use their influence to establish school libraries and promote the cause of education. District superintendents were limited to one hundred schools each, and were to receive one pound per annum for each school, besides necessary travelling expenses. The Superintendent was no longer the custodian of school money, but gave orders to the Township Treasurer to pay to teachers their proper allowances. The Superintendent was to visit every school in his District once each quarter, and to deliver a public lecture in every school section once each year. Thus the way was open for the District Superintendent to become an expert, giving a minimum of time to clerical work and a maximum to the encouragement of pupils and teachers. He was to become a link between the Department of Education on the one hand and the District Council and Trustee Boards on the other. He was a local officer, but his duties were definitely prescribed by a central authority. Through him the Chief Superintendent and the Council of Public Instruction were able to keep in touch with pupils, teachers, school visitors, trustee boards, county boards, and district councils. School visitors were given the sanie privileges as by the Act of 1846, except the right to grant licenses to teachers. The General Board of Education was merged into the Council of Public Instruction, with duties substantially the same as those assigned the former body in 1846.
Incorporated towns and cities were no longer to have school sections, but instead a Board of Trustees to manage school affairs. Town and City School Boards were allowed three ways of securing the money necessary, in addition to the school fund, for common school purposes. he Board might ask the Municipal Council to levy an assessment for the required sum, in which case the said Council were bound to comply with its wishes; the Board might levy rate bill upon the parents of pupils attending school ; or they might raise the required funds partly by a rate bill and partly by an assessment levied by the Municipal Council.
The only real difference between the methods of raising money in towns and cities on the one hand and rural sections on the other, lay in the plan of deciding how the money was to be raised. In rural sections the ratepayers assembled at the annual meeting, made the decision, and the trustees carried out their wishes; in towns and cities the trustees had full power to decide upon the method of taxation without consulting the ratepayers. School trustees in incorporated villages were governed by the same rules as trustees of towns and cities, except in the manner of the annual election.
One very important feature of the new Act was the setting apart of L3000 a year for the establishment and support of school libraries, and £25 a year for each District Teachers’ Institute. A sum was also set apart for procuring plans and publications for the improvement of school architecture. The Chief Superintendent was authorized to issue provincial certificates to Normal School graduates.
The Act of 185o also made some important changes relating to Separate Schools, which will be noted in another chapter.
Dr. Ryerson always felt that he owed much to the Governor-General, Lord Elgin, for helping him to form a public opinion which made possible the legislation of 1850. That distinguished nobleman was a graduate of Oxford, and he never lost an opportunity of helping forward any movement designed to raise the intellectual status of the people. But it was largely Ryerson’s unaided efforts that gave Upper Canada in 185o such a splendid educational machinery. It was no factory-made plan, but a system developed step by step out of partial failures into something better. It was, like all English law, the result of applying a common-sense remedy to a clearly- proved weakness.
During the passage through the Legislature of the Bill of 1850, a debate arose about Ryerson’s salary, and the value of his services to the country. The following condensed account of a speech delivered in Parliament in July, by Hon. Francis Hincks, makes clear the attitude finally adopted by the Liberal Government to-ward Ryerson, and for that reason has some historical interest :
” The member for Toronto, Mr. Boulton, had charged the Administration with buying the support of the Superintendent of Education with an increased salary. He had desired, in bringing forward this question, to make it as little a political question as possible. He thought that the great question of education might be treated without reference to party differences. He thought it his duty, considering the position which the Reverend Superintendent of Education occupied towards the party with whom he acted, to state his whole course of conduct towards that gentleman since he had taken office. It was well known to the House that the reverend gentleman was engaged, before accepting the office which he now held, in very keen controversy with the members of the present ministry; he had taken a course decidedly hostile to them. As writer for the public press at that time, he had himself engaged in that contest, though without personal feeling, as he trusted he had engaged in every contest of the kind. But there was undoubtedly on his own part, and on that of his colleagues, a strong political feeling of dislike to the reverend gentleman, on account of the formidable opposition with which they were met by him. He was appointed to the office of Superintendent by the late Government, and he did not blame that Government for so appointing him ; for, if anyone ever established strong claims upon a party, it was the reverend gentleman by his defence of that administration. The present ministry again assumed the duties of the Government, and undoubtedly there was a general feeling among their supporters that one of the first measures expected of them was to get rid of the reverend gentleman in some way or other, and in that feeling most certainly he sympathized. He had found, however, bye-the-bye, that those who were most eager to recommend the Government to dismiss officials, when they were put into similar situations, into the municipal councils for instance, that they did not carry out those views, that they did not turn out their opponents without a reason for it. There were two or three ways of removing the Chief Superintendent; one was to make the office a political one; but after the best consideration being given to the question, it was not considered advisable to do that, and the proposition to abolish the office altogether, he was satisfied would have had the worst possible consequences on the educational interests of the country, after observing the benefits of active superintendents in New York, and our own Province. The only other mode then, if these two were resisted, was to remove the incumbent altogether, and then the question caille, whether he had acted in such a manner as to justify his dismissal. He had often asked this question of the persons who urged his dismissal, and they had never given one good reason to support the affirmative. He was not one of those who thought that because a person supported one Government that he was therefore incapable of serving faithfully those who succeeded them, whom he had formerly opposed, always supposing, of course, that his office was not a political one. He could not find that the reverend gentleman had entered in the slightest degree into the field of politics, and as he had discharged his duties with great zeal and ability, they had no reason to interfere with him. Then the point was, how they were to act towards him in his position, and his (Mr. H.’s) determination was to give him the most cordial support ; as a member of the Government he considered it his duty to do so. He felt it his duty to give the same support to officers who came oftener into contact with him, the officials of the Custom House, and he defied anyone to say that any political opponent of his had received less cordial support in the discharge of the duties of his office than his friends had; the efficiency of the service absolutely required that he should do so. He put himself in communication with the reverend gentleman in reference to this Bill, and as he (Mr. H.) believed that Doctor Ryerson possessed a more complete knowledge of the school system than any other person, he thought that any Governruent would have done very wrong not to have availed themselves of that knowledge. He deeply regretted the course which some gentlemen with whom he generally acted had taken on this matter.
“Tie would only say now, that he considered he should be paid the highest salary given to any officer, for the duties of none were more onerous or more important. He might remark that he had not found lawyers in the House very anxious to reduce the salaries of the judges, but when it came to civilians, to superintendents of schools, then five hundred pounds a year was far too much. Now he considered the duties of that office as quite equal in importance, and requiring equal talents to those of a Collector of Customs, and thought that he should not be placed in an inferior position to them.”*
The Toronto Globe, of July 16th, 1850, speaking on the debate in the Assembly, said :
” The debate on Egerton Ryerson’s salary was, we think, just another instance of pandering to the cry of the moment. His salary was sought to be ruade the same as the Lower Canada Superintendent’s. Well, the Lower Canada Superintendent’s salary is five hundred pounds, but it would not do to name that sum for Upper Canada until the retrenchment committee had operated upon Lower Canada. Now, why not say at once that five hundred pounds is the proper salary for the Superintendent of Education of nearly a million people, and stick to it? We are no admirers of Egerton Ryerson, and we have always thought, and we think still, that the present ministry should have turned him out neck and crop the moment they got into power; but we are free to admit that he is a man of very great talent, who, at any mercantile or professional business he might engage in, would readily make five hundred pounds a year, and we do think that this sum is as little as could be assigned to an office of such high public importance.”
This article clearly shows that the Globe recognized Ryerson’s talents and his professional ability, while objecting to him on political grounds. Mr. George Brown, the Globe Editor, was too shrewd a man, and had too strong an interest in popular education, not to see that Ryerson was working a reformation in school affairs. The following from a Globe editorial of September 14th, 1850, is really a tribute grudgingly paid to Ryerson’s efforts:
” While other professions, the clergy, the lawyers, the physicians, have long gained a certain position and influence in society, and have assumed the management of their own affairs, teachers, as a class, have, until lately, stood alone, disregarded by the community, and in many instances treated as beneath the notice of men infinitely their inferiors in mental acquirements, and engaged in pursuits certainly not more important to the well-being of the community. While others were improving their circumstances and acquiring wealth and power. the schoolmaster alone appeared stationary, doomed to drag on a life of poverty and contempt, and looked upon by parents as a sort of nurse for their naughty children. who received their wages for their services, and not to meddle with the affairs of the world. We but repeat what we wrote some years ago, prior to any of Egerton Ryerson’s schemes, when we say that it is a reproach to the Christian world, that those who prepare the rising generation for entry into business life, should have been left so long to poverty, and to have occupied so low a place in society. Only conceive a schoolmasterprofoundly versed in the vast variety of knowledge which the human mind can master, a man who can solve the most difficult problem in mathematics, and take the highest flights in astronomy rarely reaching beyond the mark of a person to be patronized. To such a man, the constant toil and drudgery of a school, the annoyance of unruly children and unreasonable parents, and above all the pinching poverty to which he is too often subject, present a life of hardship which it is difficult to conceive. The smith, or the carpenter of the village, may by industry realize some-thing for the wants of a surviving family, and the shopkeeper, or the baker, may perhaps become wealthy; but the idea of a schoolmaster having any other position than poverty, would be thought the height of absurdity.”
Ryerson believed that if school trustees were given the option of free schools and power to enforce taxation for their support, they would soon abolish rate-bills upon parents. Public sentiment was rapidly changing. This was fairly shown by the city of Toronto, where there were many wealthy men who objected to free schools, and where private and denominational schools were more popular than in any other part of Upper Canada. In March, 1851, a committee of the Toronto Board submitted to the Chairman a special report showing that 3,403 children who should be in the schools of that city were roaming the streets and growing up without educational advantages of any kind. The report ascribed this condition of affairs mainly to two causes, rate-bills and lack of school accommodation, and concluded by making a strong stand for free schools.
The Toronto Globe had scoffed at free schools in 1848. The rapid change that took place in the views of this journal is a fair index of the change that was taking place among the people of Upper Canada in regard to free schools. I shall, therefore, quote from the Globe to show the trend of public opinion on free schools during the early fifties. As early as January 30th, 1851, the Globe said editorially:
” We are glad to observe that the plan of free common schools has been adopted at the recent annual meetings in very many school sections throughout Upper Canada. The best gift the people of Canada can confer on their children is education, sound, practical education available to all. Public money employed in educating the masses is a most profitable in-vestment, and we hope the day will soon be when a good education is open to every child in the country.”
On January 5th, 1852, the Globe expressed itself as follows:
The most important change proposed in our present system of common schools, is the abolition of all direct charges against the parents of the children attending, and the support of these institutes by direct tax on the whole body of the people. We trust the day is not far distant when the Reserve and Rectory lands will be devoted to the support of the common schools of Upper Canada, the school tax abolished, and the unspeakable advantages of a sound education placed without any charge within the reach of every child in the Province. Every effort should be put forth to effect this, but meantime let us seek to obtain the best system which our position admits of, and that, we believe, is an entirely free system supported by a direct tax. There are many reasons urged against this proposed change by sincere friends of education, which are not without weight. It is said to be unjust and tyrannical to make people who are childless pay for those who are blessed with a numerous progeny; it is urged that parents will value the blessing of education more, when they are compelled to pay for it; it is alleged to be a weakening of the parental tie, to take the expense of the education of the child from the shoulders of the parent. These arguments will have more or less influence according to the position and character of the individual who considers them, but we assert without fear of contradiction that all the evils which our warmest opponents anticipate from the introduction of free schools sink into insignificance beside the frightful consequences of our children growing up in the blindness of ignorance, the result which a free system is designed to avert. No reasonable disinterested man would place the one class of evils in comparison with the other.
” Many opponents of free schools, however, are willing that the children of the poor should be educated without charge, as they are at present. Most parents, however, would be, and are, prevented by their pride from taking advantage of this favour, and we think it highly desirable that the idea of begging education, or anything else, should be set as far as possible from the mind of every Canadian. The children of the poor should look to the common schools as a place to which they have a right to go, having paid a quota of the expense in proportion to their means, in the saine way that they claim the right to walk the pavement, and on the same grounds. It is indeed a noble thought to place the education of the people in the same position as the protection of the people and the government of the people, to make it one of the necessaries of the existence of a state in peace and security, and to provide it at the expense of all, for the benefit of all. With a Government formed as ours is by the people, and entirely under its control, our only safeguard against anarchy and confusion is the intelligence and right of the people. A thorough system of common school education is the only means which can ensure these high advantages. Education ought to be universal, and to be so, it must be entirely free from all expense ; there must be inducements held out to the short-sighted, unwilling parent.”
As I have already shown, free schools had stronger opposition in Toronto than at any other point, yet at a large public meeting held in January, 1852, in St. Lawrence Hall, there were only twelve people who opposed a motion for free schools. Later in the sanie month Doctor Ryerson himself attended a public meeting in Toronto and discussed the free school issue. I shall quote from his speech t to show how skilfully he could use a concrete illustration to influence public opinion. ” Speaking of free schools he said he well remembered how he went to visit one of the public schools of Boston, the High School, where boys were prepared for College, yet as free of expense to all classes as the lowest, and the Mayor of the city, who accompanied him, wishing to give a lesson in aristocracy, probably, pointed out two lads who occupied the sanie seat. He told him that one of these was the son of Abbot Lawrence, the great manufacturer, and now American minister in England, and the other was the son of the doorkeeper of the City Hall, which they had just left. They were enjoying the same advantages, the son of the millionaire and the son of the doorkeeper; that was what he wished to see in Canada, the sons of our poor have the same opportunity of educational advancement as those of the rich. Did it appear from this that the rich did not attend the common schools of Massachusetts? The Governor of that State, in a speech which he made lately at Newbury Port, said that if he had as many sons as old Priam, and was as rich as Astor, that he would send them to the free school. There were rich and proud men in Massachusetts, undoubtedly, who would not send their children among the poor, and rich stingy men who objected to be taxed for other people’s children, but they were the exceptions to the rule. There was one fact that he wished to mention in connection with the free schools of Massachusetts. A body of European clergy belonging to the Catholic Church had gone to their Bishop in Boston to request him to use his influence against the free school system. He returned for answer that he knew the character of the schools, having been educated in them, and having owed to them his position in the Church and the world, and would do nothing to impair their usefulness.”
It would be a mistake to suppose that there were not valiant champions against the free school principle, and it would be a worse mistake to suppose that all the sound arguments were on the side of free schools. The following letters from the Reverend John Roaf, a Toronto clergyman (Congregationalist), will give a fair idea of the stand taken by those who favoured rate bills upon parents. The first letter, published in the Globe, January 3 I st, 1852, is as follows:
” I am happy to inform you that school section No. 1, Township of York, including the village of Yorkville, have this day negatived a proposal to have a free school, preferring to give the teacher £6o from the Public funds, and a right to charge Is. 3d. per month for every child attending the school. The mechanics and labourers here have thus discharged the power, for there cannot be any such right. so wrongfully given them by the School Act. to educate their own children at the expense of their more wealthy neighbours. All praise to their honesty. Thus they will escape from the pauperizing tendencies of the free school system. They encourage their schoolmaster with the hope of being rewarded for making a good school. They suffer the proprietors of private schools to maintain a useful competition with the common school teacher : they keep up valuable select schools, and yet in return for the public fund, they will get free education for the children whose parents need exemption from the school fees.
” May we not hope that the city of Toronto will next year follow this honourable example, and spurn the unrighteous counsel which is introducing communism in education to the undermining of property and society? The French people and the Normans ought to serve as warnings of the abyss to which this plausible socialism is enticing us.”
The second letter was published in the Toronto Globe, February 5th, 1852 :
” The idea of the outlay for education being profitable for the holders of property, and thus justifying the impost, is much like a joke; for surely no one thinks it necessary to force upon men of property so great a gain, as they seldom need he convinced by their poor neighbours where their true interests lie. Gain indeed; why, probably three-fourths of the children now in the Toronto common schools will carry their education away to the Vest, and here he succeeded by others who will similarly want to use our property for their own benefit. Besides we might give free education to those who otherwise would be destitute of it, hut make those purchase it who have the means.
” While I thus dwell on the injustice of the arrangement, I do so because what is unjust cannot be wise, and not because the futility of the system is not otherwise apparent. The free system divests the teacher of all proprietary and personal interest in his school, and will speedily render him sycophantic and servile to his trustees, but haughty and negligent to-wards his pupils and friends. It will throw education into the hands of an electioneering party, and what kind of party that will be in such places as Toronto, need not be said. It will destroy all the confidence and love felt towards the teacher as the employee and friend of the child’s parents, and substitute for them a cold respect due to the public official. It will render school attendance desultory and variable, because unpaid for, and always to be had for asking. Instead of the soft, familiar, and refined circle in which wise parents like to place their children, it will drive gentle youths and sensitive girls into the large herds of children with all the regimental strictness and coldness and coarseness by which such bodies must be marked, and thus, while the child asks bread you will give him a stone.”
The opposition to free schools did not all come from wealthy property-owners who objected to educating the children of the poor. Voluntary schools, wholly independent of Government control and closely allied with some church, were already in operation in populous centres in Upper Canada. The managers of these schools had to depend wholly upon subscriptions and fees. So long as all schools were supported mainly from rate bills upon parents the purely voluntary schools were not at a serious disadvantage. But if free common schools were established, then all patrons of voluntary schools must submit to be taxed twice for the education of their children. The following from a Globe editorial of February 14th, 1852, shows that the effects of free schools upon voluntary schools were fully appreciated :
” The Patriot of Tuesday gives us the real reason for his opposition to free schools. Formerly he talked of pauperizing the whole people, of socializing them, of a number of other direful evils to he dreaded as consequences of all free schools. In his last article, however, he admits that his main objection is, that denominational schools can never be supported beside those entirely free. We commend this fact to our friends who are sincerely opposed to sectarian education, and yet are not prepared to accept the principles of entire freedom. It is undoubtedly true what the Patriot says, denominational schools cannot exist beside free schools. So long as we continue to exact payment from parents, so long will efforts be made by the sects to obtain aid from the public funds and private support in order to weaken the common schools, draw away scholars from them, and destroy their efficiency. When the schools are supported entirely by taxation, no such attempts can be met with success. No sectarian school only partially supported by the State can compete with the free institution, and no one would be foolish enough to propose to endow more than one entirely free school. The people would not stand the taxation. The free principle is a deathblow to the attempts of the priests to get the education of the people into their own hands, to train up the children in classes and denominations, to shut them out from free knowledge, and to give them just what pleases their prejudiced views. The Patriot thinks it would be tyrannical to prevent the establishment of sectarian schools by means of a free system. We cannot see it in that light. The denominational plan has been tried in England, but it has failed. The schools were never established in sufficient numbers to educate the people. It is not reasonable to expect that sects managed by cliques of clergymen in the large towns should be able to manage a complete system of education for the people. The very idea is absurd. Arc we then to give up our efforts for the education of the people, because these efforts would interfere with the small, ineffectual endeavours these denominations might make to secure proselytes to their churches through secular schools ? Certainly not; the greatest friend to sectarian education could not admit that : and we who oppose that system rejoice that free schools, which are spreading so fast, will effectually put down the endeavours of the sects after educational influence which has produced both in Ireland and England such a scarcity of knowledge, and which have not been without their ill-effects in Canada.”
These quotations will for us serve two purposes. They give a fair picture of the free school movement, and they sum up the arguments for and against State education. No thoughtful person in this age can observe the apathy of thousands of people in regard to the education of their children without at times feeling that these people would appreciate schools much more if they had to make some personal sacrifice to secure their advantages. But further thought is almost certain to convince us that free schools are the natural sup-port of a democratic government, and that without their socializing influence a self-governing people would always be more or less at the mercy of demagogues.