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Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 13, 2008

Susan E. Hanssen
Pages 47-76

“English in Spirit”: G. K. Chesterton, Church and State, and the 1906 Education Act Debate

The efforts of Liberals to complete the project of a universal non-sectarian public education system launched in 1870 came to a head with their victory in the election of 1906. Liberals identified two popular Liberal essayists, Augustine Birrell and G. K. Chesterton, as leaders who could shepherd through a new religious education compromise as Secretary of Education and vox populi respectively. The failure of the bill, which has had repercussions lasting to today—can be attributed to the resistance of Conservatives in the House of Lords, to the political mishandling of Augustine Birrell, and to G. K. Chesterton’s unexpected opposition.