« ForrigeFortsett »
The bad Effect of Lotteries
Observations on Charity Schools, Female Friendly Societies,
and other Subjects connected with the views of the Ladies'
and on the best Mode of conducting them. To which is sub-
WE account it one of the useful objects of this our periodical
The perusal of them has this other good effect; that it
Of the two works of Mrs. Cappe, which lie before us, the more recent, as she herself informs the reader, may be considered as a new edition of the former, omitting the parts which had inost of a local and temporary application; and adding such observations as further reflection and new occurrences have suggested,
The general nature of the work may be gathered pretty correctly even from the title-page. Of the mode, too, in which the subjects are treated, too much in praise cannot easily be said. Mrs. Cappe is not only a good writer, but a woman of inge
nuity and judgement. And her works not only describe with accuracy, and even elegance, the good and the evil of that which exists, but she is fruitful in expedients for the improvement of good and the removal of evil. It is the lower orders, to the amelioration of whose condition her thoughts are chiefly directed. This is the class to whose condition it is on many (though not all) accounts of most importance that the hand of amelioration should be applied. In the first place, it is the most numerous elass; the quantities of happiness or misery at stake are therefore the greatest. In the next place, the condition of this class has been the most neglected, and the amelioration of it therefore the most urgently required. In one respect, and in one respect only, the condition of the superior, that is, of the less numerous class, is an object of more importance than that of the lower. When the superior class is made to receive improvement of mind, improvement in intellect, and improvement in virtue, it acts for the improvement of the condition of the inferior class. The improvement of mind, therefore, of the less numerous class is of great importance, for the sake of its influence on the condition of the most numerous. It is always the greatest happiness of the greatest number which is the standard of reference.
Schools, and the education of the children of the industrious classes, are the first subjects presented to us in the book. The authoress begins by presenting to us a view of the poor-house, as a seminary for children. And, assuredly, the thoughts which it presents are not the most agreeable. T'he poor-houses are assemblages of persons of all descriptions ; almost always consisting, partly at least, of the most vicious and profligate characters of both sexes. It is well known what is the contagion of evil example; especially upon the susceptible mind of the young. The general rule is, that in an assemblage of persons living together, all become by instruction as bad as the worst. shall find,” says Mrs. Cappe, “that the inmates of these wretched abodes (wretched, because the seminaries as well as the receptacles of vice,) are frequently the most abandoned characters, women of the town and others, who, although they may not have committed any crime for which they have forfeited their liberty or life, may be quite as unprincipled and profane, as indecent in their language and behaviour, and therefore as dangerous companions for infancy and youth, as if they had already been guilty of robbery or murder.” It is not of little importance to have taken this book in hand. Few topics can be suggested of a more interesting nature than this.
Let us only reflect for a moment. The proportion of the whole population placed in the condition of parish paupers, is a sixth or a seventh. Of these a very considerable proportion, and that a growing proportion, are maintained in poor-houses. Of the children of the labouring classes, therefore, a large proportion are brought up in poor-houses. The result which
pre sents itself to the imagination is dreadful. It forces the mind to shudder. A large proportion, and that a growing proportion, of the whole population of the country, are taken by their superiors, and placed in a situation in which they become familiarized with every thing that is depraved in character and in conduct; and by a sort of necessity are formed to depravity in character, and to a readiness for depravity of conduct, as often as opportunity and temptation present themselves. Can it be a matter of surprise that profligacy, and even crime, should abound among the people, when we know that a great proportion of them are trained in seminaries like these? In thinking of the means of lessening the evils of prostitution, is it not wonderful that the Common Council of London should overlook a cause like this; and only puzzle themselves about an impossibility, that of preventing women, whose unfortunate character the poor house in so many instances has formed, from making their appearance in the streets ? On this subject we offer them a suggestion to which we hope they will pardon us for requesting and imploring their attention. London contains many poorhouses, and numerous are the unfortunate children the elements of whose characters are acquired in them.
These children most urgently deserve, and demand their care. There is nothing in which the interest of the nation is more deeply concerned. To the peculiar state of the case in that part of London to which their authority extends, we cannot at the moment minutely speak. But neither is it necessary. We have never heard that it was better than the average of other cases ; and we shall be agreeably surprised if we find it not to be worse. It is the duty of the magistracy of London, not only to take care that the children of paupers, under public management within their jurisdiction, are brought up, not in contact with aged vice,-not only to take care that they are brought up under such a discipline as shall appear the best calculated for rendering them useful members of society; but it is also their duty to make known that they act in this virtuous manner, for the sake of an example and incitement to others. If powers in any case are wanting; namely, powers of compulsion with regard to parishes, parliament for such a purpose would
never withhold them. The very statement in parliament of the reasons for requiring such powers would have an important effect. It would call the attention of the nation to an evil, to which, though of the first magnitude, they have, as to so many others, remained to this time insensible. If powers are wanted (which we hardly suppose) in the case of the city magistracy, the introduction of the subject under auspices of so much dig. nity would be in a peculiar manner impressive; and they might introduce it without expense, by introducing it into one of their bills on some other subject.
It is not merely with regard to that peculiar species of offence to which their minds were lately directed, but with regard to all offences, that so beneficent a case as this would have a powerful effect. Under the deplorable education which must in general be received in a workhouse, it is not merely wonderful, it is more than wonderful, that the character of our population is so good; that their profligacy is so mitigated; their crimes so rare; their virtues both so general and so high. It affords the most cheering prospect with regard to the future, when all the causes of bad character which, without necessity, are still permitted to operate, are entirely or even partially taken away.
Having entered upon a subject involving so deeply the interests of humanity, we know not how to leave it. There are few things which we should value more than the being able to call to it a sufficient degree of the public attention. “An opponent of Dr. Lettsom, in the Gentleman's Magazine for October 1804, who styles himself Conservator,” says Mrs. Cappe, “ apologizing for the lamentable instances of depravity ainong the children in many of our manufactories, ascribes it in some measure to the introduction of other children among them from the gleunings of workhouses in the capital. The controversy between these gentlemen I have not seen; nor does it relate to my present subject, any further than as exhibiting a proof that our poorhouses are well known and acknowledged to be such as I have described them, Dr. Lettsom blames the remissness of the clergy in not visiting them. There may be blame. But, as far as the infant inhabitants are concerned, the natural inference is, that they ought never to have been placed in such a situation.' In some of the poor-houses about the metropolis, something is done towards the separation of the children from the adults, probably in most of them. But in no case that we know of, nor in any (we have reason to believe) is the separation any thing like complete, or such as to afford security against contamina,