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GLADSTONE ON THE EDUCATION OF NEGLECTED CHILDREN.
class between the ages of 10 and 14 who did | continually going on, not only contemporanenot attend any school whatever, addressed a ously with, but directly referable to and springletter to Lord John Russell, then president of ing from the wealth of the population of the the council, calling his attention to their wild west, and all the numerous demands which condition and the unmixed poverty of the that wealth created, fostered, and multiplied. district. The result was that the Committee They had sung, during the ceremony of that of Council on Education voted a grant of two- day, a psalm, in which it was said that "chilthirds of the expenses of erecting a new school dren and the fruit of the womb are an herifor the special benefit of the poorest children tage and gift that cometh of the Lord." They in the district. In reliance upon this support knew those words were founded deep in the a freehold site in Golden Lane was procured, truths of the Divine Word. But there was and plans were prepared for a building con- no man who walked through the streets of taining three school-rooms, and capable of London, and especially the more wretched accommodating 1000 children. To obtain the parts of it, who did not feel that those words remaining third part of the expense, viz. were a trial of his faith. When they con£2817, an appeal was made to the various sidered what human nature was, and at what public bodies and the friends of education in cost it had been redeemed-when they reflected general. The stone of the building was laid what destinies were open to it-how many and by Mr. Gladstone in May, 1856, and his ad- great were its vicissitudes-and how severe dress on the occasion was significant, as show- were its temptations and its trials, it was tering how the subject should be regarded. Ad-rible to think of the amount of labour that reverting to an observation made in the course of the proceedings by the Rev. Mr. Rogers, in reference to the relations between the west and east of London, he said he heartily wished that the great mine which that topic opened up was now, or ever had been, thoroughly worked, and that those who inhabited the western portion of the metropolis were alive to the immense responsibility which attached to them in reference to vast masses of the population of this city, who were as completely unknown to the inhabitants of the magnificent squares and streets of London as if they were not fellow-countrymen, or even fellow-Christians, and who might be better known if they inhabited the remotest quarters of the globe. He did not think it was recollected, but he took it to be undeniably true, that he who built a square or a street of palaces at the west end of London, not only virtually brought a class into existence, and adjacent streets filled with the dwellings of tradesmen, and other streets, more remote and more humble, filled with the dwellings of labourers, who waited upon those tradesmen, but likewise that the quarter of Belgravia filled the quarter of Bethnal Green; and that in the east of London the constant growth and progress of the population were
mained undischarged. And yet "children and the fruit of the womb are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord;" and, difficult though it might be, yet it was not impossible to carry home to the hearts and minds of men, and into the houses of every class of the community, the blessed and comforting consciousness of that truth, so that, instead of a trial of faith, it should, on the contrary, become the daily food and support of fathers and mothers, who, though it might be their lot to earn their bread-and perhaps scanty bread—by the labour of their hands and the sweat of their brows, might see their offspring growing up in the faith, fear, and love of God. He believed those who, with him, adhered to the principle that it was wise to draw payment from the labouring classes, so called, for the education of their children, were yet prepared to go along with the founders of this school when they were dealing with a class who were not called the labouring class, by whom he meant, independent of their vocation, persons who had fixed abodes,—but with a floating sea of human life, in which were tossed up and down a huge mass of less fortunate beings, not inaptly termed "the Arabs of modern civilization"-great masses of energy and animal and mental life, but untamed and unreclaimed;
and he did not for a moment question the wisdom of the principle with which they threw open the doors of their school to that class of the population, and bade them come and receive freely the knowledge which they offered them. Mr. Rogers had in a jocular way observed that among other inducements to his undertaking this work, was the belief that he was to some extent laying the foundation of Christian eloquence in London, seeing that, dealing, as he would do, chiefly with the children of costermongers, he might go far to put an end to that coarse clamour which in this metropolis distracted the minds of those who had sermons to prepare, and prevented them producing efforts worthy of their theme. He (Mr. Gladstone) ventured to go one step beyond that, and say that he knew not why those schools should not lay the foundation of a great deal of other eloquence. He knew not why those ragged boys whom they caught in the street and sought to educate, should not themselves, under the hands of skilful workmen, become contributors to that Christian eloquence the extension of which they all desired. Mr. Rogers, in a pamphlet he had written, had referred to a day when it might fairly be proposed to connect this school with the hierarchy of schools above it, and had well remarked that "a child of this district would have an opportunity of acquiring a good sound practical education, without being a burden to his parents; and, if found worthy to be draughted off to Dulwich College, in accordance with the will and intentions of Alleyn, the universities would be open to him; and who knows whether, at some future time, a denizen of this poor, despised, and degraded district of St. Thomas Charterhouse might not mount the woolsack or fill the see of Canterbury?" Such things had happened before now, and might occur again. In this free country the paths of preferment were open to all. It might be said that every man had " clear stage and no favour." Many of those who had filled the see of Canterbury had been enabled to point to the lowliness of their origin. The church, even in the worst possible times, had been ever ready to befriend the virtuous and the learned. There was no period when
it had not been the privilege and the hope of the poor to rise to eminence by meritorious labours in her service. He hoped that it would never be otherwise, and that the path of the priesthood, adorned at that moment by so many conspicuous examples of piety and learning, would ever be the path in which man might gratify his natural tendency to expand his energies and bestow benefits on his fellow-creatures.
It may be mentioned here that the Rev. William Rogers, who afterwards became, and while these words are being written is still, the rector of Bishopsgate, made no mere fanciful allusion when he spoke of the connection of such schools with the higher educational institutions of the country. He has lived not only to see scholarships for the higher institutions become a recognized distinction for the poorest class of children who receive primary instruction in board schools, but has assisted, by his personal influence and indefatigable exertions, in the cause of popular education, both to extend the advantages of Dulwich College, and to establish several schools of a high character for the value of their teaching, perhaps the most important being that of the Middle Class Schools Corporation, occupying a large building in Cowper Street, City Road (near his old district), where from 1000 to 1200 boys receive a sound and complete education under the direction of competent masters.
In all the efforts which were made for the improvement of the condition of the people Prince Albert took an earnest and active part. Not only was he occupied in the endeavour to establish schools and museums of science and art, that the mechanic and the labourer might acquire a knowledge both of things outside their daily occupation and of the principles and construction of the machinery amidst which so much of their time was passed; but he took a genuine interest in the humble efforts of his Windsor labourers to master the art of writing, and himself examined their copy-books. He early saw that the rapid overgrowth of our great cities, where the want of home comforts and of wholesome recreation for the labouring classes was rapidly developing vice, disease,
PRINCE ALBERT ON RECREATION AND EDUCATION.
and discontent to an alarming extent, was a problem which, if not effectively dealt with, must in the end become fatal to the habits and physical development of the people, and even dangerous to the state. The magnitude of the difficulties which surrounded this subject was not with him, as it is with many, a reason for doing nothing. He was among the first to show what could be effected in the way of improving the dwellings of the working-classes, not only by the cottages built upon the royal estates at Osborne and Balmoral, but by model lodging-houses erected in the metropolis itself. It was his conviction that, under a proper system, these would pay, and indeed that they must be made to pay, otherwise no permanent improvement could be established anywhere, and still less could any wide measure of progressive amelioration be hoped for. On mere philanthropy the prince was not disposed to lean; but he believed that a mighty change would be initiated if men of kind hearts and sound business heads could be persuaded to invest their capital in providing on reasonable terms homes for the sons of labour, in which the decencies, at least, and the main comforts of domestic life might be within their reach. His views on this subject, regarded at first as somewhat Utopian, have since become accepted truisms. Many of the great employers of labour throughout the country have proved to their own satisfaction the prince's favourite axiom, that the capital sunk in good houses for those who work for them would prove an excellent investment in itself, while at the same time it secured them better workmen and better work. And the success which has attended the building of some of the "model dwellings" and houses for the working-classes in London and other large cities has at all events kept the subject alive, and still calls attention to the necessity for finding remedies for the want of sanitary arrangements in overcrowded neighbourhoods, and the necessity for providing for tenants evicted in order to carry on what are called metropolitan improvements.
Another subject of the greatest interest to the prince was the everyday amusements of the people. That in this country these are
too often of a debasing kind is obviously less the fault of the people themselves than of the fact that they are driven to seek in the publichouse and the tavern the light, the warmth, the companionship, and the recreation which are not readily to be found elsewhere. How to enable the labourer to dispose of his leisure pleasantly and rationally is a problem of which even now people generally are little more than beginning to seek the solution. Mechanics' institutes, reading-rooms, and public libraries go but a small way to meet the exigencies of the case, and these indeed are only possible in the great centres of population. Something of a much simpler kind the prince felt to be required; some place where the cheerfulness of the public-house could be provided without its drawbacks. The idea has recently been developed into those working-men's clubs and coffee palaces which have been established in many quarters with excellent effect. But so far back as 1857 the idea had been started, and advocated by several philanthropicallyminded men, and it was then designed to provide places in which the labouring classes might spend their leisure, men and women meeting together for sober social enjoyment. In discussing the possible establishment of such a place the prince said it should be a reformed public-house. He quite agreed that there should be smoking, but did not agree that it need be in a separate room. He said that it was most important that the wife and family should come there, as well as the labourer himself. The women of England were excellent wives and mothers. Now they had to do their best to keep their husbands from the public-houses; with such an institution they might encourage them to go there and go with them. As to the mingling of class with class, he doubted whether it could be carried out. The lower classes would always feel a restraint in the presence of the higher classes.
The part taken by Prince Albert in the opening ceremony of the Manchester Exhibition in 1857 was another opportunity for expressing his deep interest in everything calculated to raise and elevate the nation, and the same desire was manifested by the part he took in an educational conference held
at Willis' Rooms, over the deliberations of which he presided, and by doing so obtained for the important subject which the conference assembled to discuss, a degree of attention that it would not otherwise have secured.
"We find," said the prince, "on the one hand the wish to see secular and religious instruction separated, and the former recognized as an intimate and inherent right to which each member of society has a claim, and which ought not to be denied to him if he refuses to take along with it the inculcation of a particular dogma, to which he objects as unsound; while we see on the other hand the doctrine asserted that no education can be sound which does not rest on religious instruction, and that religious truth is too sacred to be modified and tampered with, even in its minutest deductions, for the sake of procuring a general agreement."
A burst of loud assenting cheers here showed that the latter part of this statement expressed the views and opinions of the great majority of those present.
'Gentlemen," proceeded the prince, "if these differences were to have been discussed here to-day I should not have been able to respond to your invitation to take the chair, as I should have thought it inconsistent with the position which I occupy, and with the duty I owe to the queen and the country at large. I see those here before me who have taken a leading part in these important discussions; and I am happy to meet them on a neutral ground, happy to find that there is a neutral ground on which their varied talents and abilities can be brought to bear in communion upon the common object, and proud and grateful to them that they should have allowed me to preside over them, for the purpose of working together in the common vineyard. I feel that the greatest benefit must arise to the cause we have all so much at heart by the mere free exchange of your thoughts and various experience. You may well be proud, gentlemen, of the results achieved by your rival efforts, and may point to the fact that since the beginning of the century, while the population has doubled itself, the number of schools, both public and private, has been
multiplied fourteen times. In 1801 there were in England and Wales of public schools, 2876; of private schools, 487; total, 3363. In 1851, the year of the census, there were in England and Wales of public schools, 15,518; of private schools, 30,524; total, 46,042. Giving instruction in all to 2,144,378 scholars, of whom 1,422,982 belong to public schools. The rate of progress is farther illustrated by statistics, which show that in 1818 the proportion of day-scholars to the population was one in seventeen, in 1833 one in eleven, and in 1851 one in eight. although I hope that they may be received as instalments of what has yet to be done. But what must be your feelings when you reflect on the fact, the inquiry into which has brought us together, that this great boon thus obtained for the mass of the people, and which is freely offered to them, should have been only partially accepted, and upon the whole so insufficiently applied as to render it almost valueless? We are told that the total population in England and Wales of children between the ages of three and fifteen being estimated at 4,908,696, only 2,046,848 attend school at all, while 2,861,848 receive no instruction whatever. At the same time, an analysis of the scholars with reference to the length of time allowed for their school tuition shows that 45 per cent of them have been at school less than one year, 22 per cent during one year, 15 per cent during two years, 9 per cent during three years, 5 per cent during four years, and 4 per cent during five years. Therefore out of the 2,046,848 scholars alluded to, about 1,500,000 remain only two years at school. I leave it to you to judge what the results of such an education can be. I find farther, that of these 2,000,000 children who attend school, only about 600,000 are of the age of nine. Gentlemen, these are startling facts, which render it evident that no extension of the means of education will be of any avail unless this evil, which lies at the root of the whole question, be removed, and that it is high time that the country should become thoroughly awake to its existence, and prepared to meet it energetically. To impress this upon the public mind is the object of our conference. Public
These are great results,
REMISSION OF TAXATION.
opinion is the powerful lever which in these days moves a people for good and for evil; and to public opinion we must therefore appeal if we would achieve any lasting or beneficial result. You, gentlemen, will greatly add to the services which you have already rendered to this noble cause if you will prepare public opinion by your inquiry into this state of things, and by your discussing in your sections the causes of it as well as the remedies that may lie within your reach. This will be no easy matter; but even if your labours should not result in the adoption of any immediate practical steps, you will have done great good in preparing for them. It will probably happen that in this instance, as in most others, the cause that produces the evil will be more easily detected than its remedy; and yet a just appreciation of the former must ever be the first and essential condition of the discovery of the latter. You will probably trace the cause of our social condition to a state of ignorance and lethargic indifference on the subject among the parents generally;
absent from school, but known to be employed,
The business of the meeting having been thus inaugurated was distributed amongst five sections, by which different departments of the general subject of education were discussed.
Cobden's warnings were not altogether real
but the root of the evil will, I suspect, also beized, for peace was proclaimed before the disfound to extend into that field upon which the political economist exercises his activity I mean the labour market, demand and supply. To dissipate that ignorance and rouse from that lethargy may be difficult; but with the united and earnest efforts of all who are the friends of the working-classes it ought, after all, to be only a question of time. What measures can be brought to bear on the other root of the evil is a more delicate question, and will require the nicest care in handling; for there you cut into the very quick of the working-man's condition. His children are not only his offspring, to be reared for a future independent position, but they constitute a part of his productive power, and work with him for the staff of life. The daughters especially are the handmaids of the house, the assistants of the mother, the nurses of the younger children, the aged, the sick. To deprive the labouring family of their help would be almost to paralyse its domestic existence. On the other hand, carefully collected statistics reveal to us the fact, that while 600,000 children between the ages of three and fifteen are
tress which had begun to spread through the country had become unendurable; but at the same time there was much want, and trade in general was in a very depressed condition. The budget had, it is true, made immediate provision for the reduction of the income-tax from 16d. to 7d., the amount at which it had first been placed by Sir Robert Peel, and at which it was now intended that it should remain for only three years, in an effort to carry out Mr. Gladstone's policy, when he was chancellor of the exchequer and had decreed its abolition by the end of 1860. The total revenue was estimated at £66,365,000, leaving a surplus over expenditure of £891,000; the total amount of remission of taxation was £11,971,000, and it was calculated that the entire debt of £40,000,000, arising out of the Crimean war, would be extinguished in twenty years. This was the budget which had been brought forward by Sir G. C. Lewis before the dissolution on the Chinese question, and on the whole it was a proof of the increasing prosperity of the country in spite of periods of depression and the distress and gnawing