Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ment. From another he had learned, that “a working-man's hall is opened on Sundays, and in this three hundred poor children are initiated into infidel and seditious principles. A wild and Satanic spirit is infused into the hearers.” Nothing can be more degraded than the condition of the people in the great iron fields. From Yorkshire, Durham, Lancashire, North Staffordshire, and Cumberland, the following accounts of the replies of children who had been examined had been received—“I never heard of France.” “I never heard of Scotland or Ireland.” “I do not know what America is.” James Taylor, eleven years old, “has never heard of God: but has heard men in the pit say, “God d-n them.’” A girl of eighteen years of age said, “I never heard of Christ at all.” This was very common among children and young persons. “I never go to church or chapel:” and again, “I do not know who God is.” From Halifax there was this evidence; “You have expressed surprise,” says an employer, “at Thomas Mitchell not having heard of God ; I judge that there are very few colliers hereabouts that have.” Although the habit of drinking had somewhat abated, drunkenness was one great source of evil; and its prevalence might be judged from the fact that the outlay in ardent spirits was estimated at 25,000,000l. The chaplain of a county gaol had told Lord Ashley that three-fourths of the crime committed was the result of intemperance. Dr. Corcelles, the superintendant of the Wakefield Lunatic Asylum, estimated that intemperance was the exciting

cause of one-third of the cases of insanity at that institution. Dr. Rensselaer, of the United States, attributed one-half of the cases of insanity to that cause. Lord Ashley compared the sums expended in punishment and in education. In the year 1841, the expense of gaols was 137,4491, the expense of houses of correction was 129,163l.; making a total of 266,6121. The expense of prosecutions in 1841, 170,521 l., of the conveyance of prisoners, 23,242l. ; of the removal of transports, 8, 195l.; of vagrants, 7,1671. The cost of the Rural Police, only in a few counties, was 139,228l. ; thus giving a total expenditure for the punishment of crime of 604,965l. In the county of Lancashire alone, in 1842, 25,656l. was expended in prosecutions. The annual vote for education for all England was 30,000l. He urged the expediency of gradually retrenching the criminal expenditure, and appropriating the funds so derived to education. Amongst many injurious influences Lord Ashley ascribed much to the truck-system, to the payment of wages in public houses, and to the bad state of dwelling houses; for they made it impossible for the adult to practise that morality of which he should be an example to his children. He did not presume to present to the House any formed scheme, because it demanded all the collective wisdom of the Legislature. Punishment failed to repress crime. Even the criminal statistics furnished no measure of the extent of crime; the females were becoming daily more demoralised ; an eye-witness had described them as “becoming similar to the fols lowers of an army, wearing the garb of women, but actuated by the worst passions of men.” If this state of things were allowed to continue, before twenty years should have elapsed, there would

be a general convulsion and dis

persion of the whole system of society. Lord Ashley concluded thus: “We call the working po. pulation improvident and immoral, and so they often are; but that improvidence and immorality are the results in a great measure of our neglect, and in not a little of our example. We owe them, too, the debt of kindlier language and more frequent intercourse. This is no fanciful obligation. The people of this country are more alive than any other to an honest zeal for their welfare and sympathy for their condition; and, though that sympathy may often fall on unimpressible hearts, it never fails to find some that it comforts and many that it softens. Only let us now declare that we will enter on a better course— that we will seek their temporal through their eternal interests— and half our task will be accomplished. There are many hearts to be softened—many minds to be instructed — many souls to be saved. O patria t O Divism domus! If we engage in such a task the blessing of God will rest on our labours, and the oldest among us perhaps may live to rejoice for himself and children at the opening dawn of the immortal because the moral glory of the British empire.” He concluded his speech amidst general cheering. Sir J. Graham touched briefly on the points alluded to towards the close of Lord Ashley's speech. The Legislature had, in the Mines and Collieries Act, expressed its

disapprobation of the Truck system; and in the debate on that measure, the sense of the Legislature had been pronounced on the payment of wages in public houses. He concurred in what Lord Ashley had said respecting the dwelling houses of the poor; and a most useful servant of the public, Mr. Chadwick, had been employed in framing a measure on the subject; which would be referred together with the whole subject of the drainage of large cities, to a Commission about to be appointed by the Crown. Turning to the main subject of education, he contrasted the conduct of England with that of other countries. All the material powers of this nation had been developed and improved in the most remarkable manner; but the nation, individually and collectively, appeared to have been absorbed in this grand object; and the moral condition of the people had, as it appeared to him, been all the time most lamentably neglected. And it was with peculiar grief and mortification that he said this ; for he at the same time could not but bear in mind, that while all the other governments of Europe, warned by the melancholy events which darkened the latter years of the last century with scenes which it would be too painful to dwell on-warned by those badlessons, had directed their earnest, their unceasing attention to the moral training and religious education of their people, England alone, Protestant Christian England, had neglected this all-important duty of giving her people that training, that education, which so intimately concerned, not only their temporal, but their eternal welfare.

The police and soldiers had done

their duty; it was now time that moral and religious instruction should go forth among the people; and if the House would throw aside party feeling, and merge their religious differences, as they seemed at that moment disposed to do, some neutral ground might be found on which to build something approaching to a scheme of National Education, with a due regard to the just wishes of the Established Church on the one hand, and a due attention to the honest scruples of Dissenters on the other. He then briefly recapitulated what had recently been done. He alluded to the grants made to the Normal Schools at Glasgow and Edinburgh, 10,000l. in all, which he believed would provide Scotland with schoolmasters; to the grants of 5,000l. each to the National and British and Foreign School Societies, and 1,000l. to the training-school at Battersea. Between the years 1833 and 1839 the Treasury had directly granted 160,000l. towards the building of schools; and 793 schools had been built, giving accommodation to 160,000 scholars. Since 1839, the grants of the Privy Council for the same purpose amounted to 112,000l.; and these sums being granted under limitations which proportioned the amount granted by the Privy Council to the amount subscribed by private persons, it would be seen that the total outlay for these purposes had been 348,000l. He praised highly the simultaneous system of education, as the best that had been devised; and he proceeded to state what Government proposed to do for the further cause of education; intending for the present only to deal with those classes of children who

could be brought within control, and to whom what he would call compulsory education could be applied —pauper children and factory children. District schools were proposed to be established for the education of pauperchildren, and those whose parents and guardians might consent to their education, in the metropolis and large towns, under the superintendence of the clergy of the Established Church, with provision for the instruction of the children of Dissenters by ministers of their own persuasions. These schools were to include an area having a diameter not exceeding fifteen miles, or ten miles in the metropolis, and to be erected by a rate not exceeding one-fifth of the annual assessment for the previous three years. Factory children had been already legislated for, but the intentions of the Government and the Legislature were rendered inoperative by various causes. He proposed to prohibit the employment of factory children between the ages of eight and thirteen, for more than six hours and a half in any one day; certificates of their attendance at school to be granted by the National and the British and Foreign Schools, and by the Roman Catholic Schools in the case of Roman Catholic children; the schools to be open to the Inspectors appointed by the Committee of Privy Council on education; grants by the Government to be made in aid of local exertions for the erection of such schools; and a sum not exceeding 3d. per week, or one-twelfth of the earnings of each child, to be retained by the employer in aid of a fund for education. In these schools, religious instruction to be administered, through the medium of the authorized version of the Scriptures, together with portions of the Liturgy, under the superintendence of the clergy of the Established Church, but with careful provisions in favour of the children of Dissenters and to prevent proselytism. He proposed that these schools should be managed each by seven trustees—the clergyman of the district, two churchwardens, and four elective trustees, two at least to be freeholders. Two bills were already prepared for carrying out the objects he had stated : he hoped that they would not be viewed in a party light; and if they were passed during the present session, a large advance would be made in favour of the moral and religious improvement of the rising generation. Lord John Russell expressed in general terms his cordial approbation of the plan; but objected to its being confined to the manufacturing districts, while the agricultural districts were not better off with respect to education than the towns, and he reserved his opinion as to the details. If the plan at all answered to Sir J. Graham's view, it would be not only folly, but wickedness to oppose it; the jealousies of opposing parties in the question could only be overcome by an executive supported without distinction of party. It would be desirable to provide as good an education as possible for the Roman Catholic Irish children in themanufacturing districts. Lord John Russell pointed to the numerous instances of boys who had been to school, and yet had no real knowledge, to show the importance of qualifying schoolmasters; if the country could

not educate the whole people, it might do much to elevate those who were to teach. And he thought that inducements might be devised to make working people willing to send their children to school. Viscount Sandon heartily agreed with Lord John Russell, that when a fearful mass of ignorance existed in this country, it did not become men on either side of the House to stick too closely to their peculiar opinions. Mr. Ewart expressed his concurrence. Mr. Shaw hoped the measure would be eventually extended to Ireland. Mr. Charles Buller gave to the measure his entire concurrence, and pointed out a large sum available for education in existing charities; the gross amount of these charities was 1,200,000l. ; but by proper management it might be made 2,000,000l.; of that sum 312,000l was devoted to purposes of education ; and much of the remainder, especially that now expended in the mischievous shape of small money gifts, might be devoted to the same purpose. Sir Robert Inglis objected to the tendency of some of Sir James Graham's views, and to Mr. Buller's proposal to divert charities from their original purposes. Sir Robert Peel trusted more to the moral effect of the demonstration made that night, in encouraging individual exertion, than he did to the direct interference of the Legislature. He expressed a strong sense of Lord Ashley's character and discretion, which had produced the unanimity which had marked the debate. To Sir R. Inglis he answered that if they said they would appoint no schools their duty; it was now time that moral and religious instruction should go forth among the people; and if the House would throw aside party feeling, and merge their religious differences, as they seemed at that moment disposed to do, some neutral ground might be found on which to build something approaching to a scheme of National Education, with a due regard to the just wishes of the Established Church on the one hand, and a due attention to the honest scruples of Dissenters on the other. He then briefly recapitulated what had recently been done. He alluded to the grants made to the Normal Schools at Glasgow and Edinburgh, 10,000l. in all, which he believed would provide Scotland with schoolmasters; to the grants of 5,000l. each to the National and British and Foreign School Societies, and 1,000l. to the training-school at Battersea. Between the years 1833 and 1839 the Treasury had directly granted 160,000l. towards the building of schools; and 793 schools had been built, giving accommodation to 160,000 seholars. Since 1839, the grants of the Privy Council for the same purpose amounted to 112,000l. ; and these sums being granted under limitations which proportioned the amount granted by the Privy Council to the amount subscribed by private persons, it would be seen that the total outlay for these purposes had been 348,000l. He praised highly the simultaneous system of education, as the best that had been devised; and he proceeded to state what Government proposed to do for the further cause of education ; intending for the present only to deal with those classes of children who

could be brought within control, and to whom what he would call compulsory education could be applied —pauper children and factory children. District schools were proposed to be established for the education of pauperchildren, and those whose parents and guardians might consent to their education, in the metropolis and large towns, under the superintendence of the clergy of the Established Church, with provision for the instruction of the children of Dissenters by ministers of their own persuasions. These schools were to include an area having a diameter not exceeding fifteen miles, or ten miles in the metropolis, and to be erected by a rate not exceeding one-fifth of the annual assessment for the previous three years. Factory children had been already legislated for, but the intentions of the Government and the Legislature were rendered inoperative by various causes. He proposed to prohibit the employment of factory children between the ages of eight and thirteen, for more than six hours and a half in any one day; certificates of their attendance at school to be granted by the National and the British and Foreign Schools, and by the Roman Ca. tholic Schools in the case of Roman Catholic children; the schools to be open to the Inspectors appointed by the Committee of Privy Council on education; grants by the Government to be made in aid of local exertions for the erection of such schools; and a sum not exceeding 3d. per week, or one-twelfth of the earnings of each child, to be retained by the employer in aid of a fund for education. In these schools, religious instruction to be adminis"

« ForrigeFortsett »