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Endowed Schools Reform.
measure was passed for the reform of the Universities. In the same year Commissioners were sent to Oxford, and two years later to Cambridge, in pursuance of the Act, and in order to give effect to its provisions. By this Act, conjointly with the University Tests Act of 1871, the Universities and Colleges, with all the offices appertaining to them, excepting a very few, such as some of the headships of Colleges and professorships of Divinity, were thrown open to all persons, irrespective of religious belief; the government of the Universities was transferred to a new and effective body elected by resident graduates; and steps were taken which have not yet been completed, to ascertain minutely, and to apply in the most beneficial directions for the promotion of popular education of the highest class, the revenues of the Universities and Colleges.
In the course of reconstructing educational endowments, Parliament has encountered almost more pertinacious resistance when endeavouring to scour and invigorate the vast number of endowed schools scattered throughout the country than even when grappling with the opposition presented in the great seats of learning. In the case of these schools personal and local interests had been found very strong for the purpose of preventing inquiry, impeding and delaying proposed changes, and at length curtailing and dwarfing the schemes for change in such a way as to reduce the benefits of parliamentary interference to the smallest possible point. At the same time, it was not possible to arouse the interest of the public and affect its imagination in the case of innumerable institutions of somewhat insignificant dimensions, in the same way in which it was possible to generate a public concern for University reform. Nevertheless, Parliament neither shrank from the task nor has had any contemptible degree of success in accomplishing it, so far as it has yet advanced. The same method was in principle followed as had been pursued in the instance of previous comprehensive reforms of a similar sort. A Schools Inquiry Commission was first appointed, upon an elaborate Report of which Commission the Endowed Schools Act of 1869 was based. Fresh Commissioners were appointed under this Act for the purpose of applying the reforms contemplated by it to the circumstances of all the schools which were comprised in the original Commission. Schemes for the reconstruction of these schools were to be prepared, and to become law on their having lain for a definite period on the tables of both Houses of Parliament without being objected to by either House. The main difficulty experienced in the preparation and enforcement of these schemes has been due to a competition between the alleged claims—for which the language of the trust afforded sufficient colour—of a narrow body of local residents on the one hand, and those of the general population of the country on the other; and also between claims asserted on behalf of the poor on the sole ground of their poverty, and those of all children, whether technically “poor' or not, whose proved industry or ability might best qualify them to draw advantage from the superior education which the schemes, for the first time after long years of apathetic depression, introduced. When the opponents of the schemes have been influential in Parliament,—as when the Corporation of London used all their forces in both Houses of Parliament to maintain their patronage and to uphold obsolete institutions menaced by schemes for
Reform of Charitable Institutions.
the reconstruction of endowed schools in the metropolis,
-the opposition has been found irresistible, and the reform has been proportionately incomplete. Nevertheless, considering how large a number of such schemes have been actually prepared and carried, and that one fixed principle maintained by the Act is that nothing but the express language of the trust can raise a presumption in favour of the Church of England as against all other religious bodies,—and that the utmost provision is made in fact by the Commissioners for securing an ever-renewed governing body, elected by unimpeachable processes,—the reformation effected, though too scattered to be other than silent and obscure, is perhaps one of the greatest and most beneficent which Parliament has recently achieved. In no other case is there more unmistakably manifested the constitutional assumption that Parliament has a supreme right of abolishing what is noxious, re-creating what is perishable, and directing to novel ends what time has rendered obsolete in its older shape, in the very face of customs, however tenacious, and of the express language of founders, however emphatic.
(3) The reform of so-called charitable institutions,' though not met at any point by organised opposition, has perhaps tested more severely than that of religious endowments the constitutional principle that Parliament is the supreme guardian, administrator, and judge in the case of property entrusted to the good faith of the State for carrying out from generation to generation certain specific ends pointed out, in accordance with law, by testators and donors. Where religion or education was the avowed object, the general ends were sufficiently conspicuous to supersede all controversy on
this point. But the word • charity' not only meant in the intention of grantors, but was interpreted by Courts of Justice to mean, almost every sort of object, however eccentric and even extravagant, which could not be readily classed under a more definite term. The superstitious terrors, and piety as recognised by the orthodox standard of the day, no less than a genuine benevolence acting in accordance with fallacious economic theories, all co-operated to put in trust a vast amount of property which was thereby withdrawn from general circulation, managed by persons mostly obscure and practically irresponsible, and often not only wasted but employed for ends which sound economic theories condemned as fostering pauperism, impairing the national energy, and in fact conflicting with all the latest enterprises for social improvement. The Court of Chancery, acting not only in the name of the King as parens patriæ, but in accordance with the statute of the 43rd of Elizabeth, chapter 4, bas from time immemorial assumed and exercised a valuable jurisdiction in inquiring into abuses of charitable donations, and in applying such remedies as a Court of Justice could apply. Additional facilities for inviting the interference of Courts of Equity, especially with respect to the management of estates belonging to charities, were afforded by later statutes. The chief legislative effort, however, of modern times, concerning charities, is the Charitable Trusts Act of 1853. Under this Act a permanent board of Commissioners were appointed (called the Charity Commissioners for England and Wales), who were empowered to inquire into the condition and
Reform of Municipal Corporations. 119
management of all charities whatever, with two or three exceptions, and for that purpose to require accounts, and to appoint inspectors who should have power to examine witnesses on oath. The Board were empowered to assist with their opinion or advice persons concerned in the management of charities, and no legal proceedings could be taken except upon a certificate of the Board. An annual Report of the proceedings of the Board was to be laid before Parliament. The operation of this Statute, and of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869,-a clause of which empowered the Commissioners to convert small doles and insignificant local charities to educational uses,-bas undoubtedly gone far to arrest existing abuses and to prevent their further spread. Nevertheless, it is to be remembered that, while Parliament has in this legislation assumed the constitutional right to intervene, the success of the intervention must depend on the effective working of the machinery employed. The function of appointing the Charity Commissioners,—on whom bas lately been also cast the work at first entrusted to the Endowed Schools Commissioners,—is an executive one, and like all other executive functions, must depend, for its honest discharge, on the sedulous attention of Parliament. When the appointment is completed, it must still rest largely with Parliament to secure diligence and impartiality on the part of the Commissioners. There is no part of the mechanism of the State in which indolence and oversights are likely to grow with greater ease, nor any part in which the result of such ipdolence and oversights is likely to be more replete with moral and economical injury to the population.
(4) The history of the reform of municipal corpora