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100 Years Ago

December 21st, 1906.

THE [EDUCATION] BILL is dead — we will not add, long live the Bill. It is dead, unwept, unhonoured, and unsung, and, indeed, nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail and beat the breast. No one has ever really cared for it. Begotten in party bitterness, it deserved to die as soon as born. If it had lived, it would have been futile; for what we need is not a law at which otherwise good citizens would chafe, but a just and equitable settlement of a controversy that has lasted too long. By the removal of the Bill, the way is cleared towards such a settlement. In the first outburst of passion in which the supporters of the Government will feel it necessary to indulge, we shall hear threats of administrative harshness in the immediate future and a secular system to follow later. But we need fear neither, if only we are resolute. . . The Government, if it is not satisfied with the treatment of this measure by the Lords, should test the opinion of the country. The electorates now know, as they did not at the General Election, the nature of the Government’s educational legislation, and it might be useful to ascertain what they think of it. Our own impression is that they would not approve of the spirit of the Bill, which Mr Birrell revealed in his cynical dictum, “Minorities must suffer.” That caustic tone was maintained through all the proceedings, and aroused even in the most apathetic the British instinct of resistance to oppression, with the result which Mr Birrell, no doubt, is deploring.

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