« ZurückWeiter »
as a cause, we might suspect there was something more than plausibility. But another mode, in which the objections above cited may be accounted for without any injury to the cause of popular education, deserves to be noticed. In reading over some parts of the evidence which exhibit the sentiments of the objectors to national or popular education, another argument presents itself as likely to hare no inconsiderable weight with the parties concerned. There is a large portion of our aristocracy, comprehending in its ranks not a few of the great unpaid, who, having gone through the forms of a general literary and scientific education, and not having found the fruit to consist in any very great accumulation either of knowledge or wisdom, are naturally inclined to have but little affection for the word education,' at least as far as it denotes what is termed "book-learning,' and consequently, perhaps, to underrate its advantages. It may be easily conceived that such a sentiment may co-exist with no hostility to the welfare of those, who, according to them, are-like those favourites of Fortune, the heirs of their wisdom, their acres, and their virtues— not to live by their learning. It would therefore be uncharitable to suppose that those bountiful individuals, when they evince a disinclination to make scholars' of the people, have anything more at heart than their best interests. Èntertaining a very proper disdain for the vulgar arts of orthography and syntax, and their idea of education' not extending farther, what can be more natural and more becoming than that they should be unwilling that the should lose their time and acquire the habits of idleness by being kept at school? Some such sentiments Sir Morris Ximenes, a magistrate for no less than three counties, and who is evidently a friend to the poor, expresses in the following passage, which, the reader is requested to observe, is copied verbatim from Sir Morris's return, a document abounding in sentences of similar elegance and equal accuracy of structure, and therefore richly meriting the attention and study of the curious.
• A boy of about fourteen years, and the woman, if in health, and not having a large family, together, may earn about 121. per annum. The other three children are generally kept at school, getting the habits of idleness for three years, and very seldom after that habit is got will they work at agricultural employment. A school of one day in the week, to teach reading and writing, and on the Sunday for religious and moral duty, and to attend places of worship, for the agricultural poor, would be far more desirable, as they would not lose the habits of labour. *—(Berks), Wargrave. Sir Morris Ximenes, J. P. for Berks, Wilts, and Devon.'
* App. (B), p. 27 a. quest. 13.
The more grateful task now remains of showing, from the most satisfactory evidence, that where the working of education is not disturbed or counteracted by the working of the poor-laws, that working is most decidedly for good and not for evil. The question is very well stated and the objections answered in the following evidence of the Rev. H. C. Curtis, Rector of Padworth, Berks, which was ordered to be printed last Session of Parliament.
Having considered what I shall term the spiritual advantages to be derived by the lower classes from the ability to read, let me state, in the next place, what may be termed the temporal benefits arising from the same qualification, to themselves and the community at large.
*Perhaps some may smile at this doctrine, and ask, how can this form a better ploughman ? Shall a man make a better hedge because he is able to read ? My answer is, most certainly; for if the mind make the man, a labourer whose intelligence is improved, by what means it may, will always be found to do his work with more expedition, neatness, and durability; and this I uphold, will be the case of the labouring man, abstractedly considered, without reference to any particular information to be acquired from books treating on agricultural subjects. But if the low-priced publications, the penny and half penny weekly magazines, are continued, what an ample supply of information will be offered to those who are capable of profiting by them! I have one before me, which contains a variety of instructive and entertaining matter, that a labouring man of common understanding might read with pleasure and advantage. One article treats on the management of fir plantations. They who are unacquainted with agricultural pursuits are apt to imagine that to hold the plough it is necessary only to look out for the greatest dunces in the country. But an intelligent ploughman is of the first consequence on the farm. In short, there is as much (if not more) intelligence required in the different employments of the agricultural classes as in those of mechanics or tradesmen. Intelligence is requisite in all, and the more this is increased and perfected throughout the kingdom, the greater will be the quantity of agricultural produce.
*I have heard some exclaim, Ah! thanks to this march of intellect, we shall be soon without ploughmen ! &c. My answer to this foolish unmeaning cavil is this: It is not taught in the Scriptures, nor is it to be inferred by any reasoning from analogy, that there is a certain line of improvement beyond which the human race cannot advance. On the contrary, it might be shown by sound argument, and the most clear illustrations from the past history of man, that the human intellect is capable of making continual advances, and thereby inducing proportionate improvements in civilization and social happiness. Let not those, then, who are in the higher classes stand still, and be merely the fruges consumere nati. Rather let them march onward, and lead the way to the highest point of improvement which in the present dispensation is possible for man. For the natural (and in
every state whose constitution is framed on sacred and liberal principles, the necessary) distinction of the higher from the lower classes consists in their intellectual attainments; and these must ever have the superiority over skill in handicraft work or manual labour of any kind; hence, as in the human so in the political body, the head must ever have the direction, and the hands the actual labour of cultivating the earth, whose productions are necessary to the support of both.
“ Again, I have heard some object to the instruction of the lower classes in reading, that they will neglect their work, and puzzle their heads needlessly about politics, eagerly catching at any of the seditious publications which may be thrown in their way. But this is merely arguing against the use of a thing from the abuse of it. Now, from what I have before said, the ability to read will enable them to search the Scriptures. These, from the zeal manifested by different societies in supplying them, may be obtained by every one at a cheap cost, and will serve as an antidote to any poison which may be offered to their minds through seditious or immoral publications.
“Strange as it may seem, I have heard some object to teaching the lower classes to write, though they will allow them the privilege of learning to read : that common but unsound argument before mentioned is here made use of, but it is not worthy of a particular refutation. I shall merely state, that the same argument in favour of giving them this acquirement may be urged with the same force as in the case of that of reading, which is, that it will increase their intelligence, refine their manners, and improve their habits, as might be clearly shown by a regular train of consequences. And here, let us ask, have not the labouring classes the same wants and the same feelings as the higher ? Why should they be debarred the facility of making notes, &c., and in general by the art of writing of assisting themselves in the business of life? Why should they not be enabled to communicate to one another at a distance their circumstances, desires, and affections? In fine, let us remember that the lower classes are no longer slaves, but freemen, and that the more refined their manners and habits are, and the more improved their intelligence is, the more useful members of society they will become.
‘From what I have before said it must be very evident, that in the event of the law of settlement being entirely abolished, the influence of education in the circulation of labour will be most advantageous. A man who can read and write is able to give and receive information from a distance; he takes up a newspaper, for instance, and finds an offer for work at some distant part of the country; he writes to the advertiser, and obtains it. On being settled in his situation, he writes to his relatives to tell them that he is doing well, and offers to obtain the same work for those who may be inclined to follow him. The condition of the labourer, as it is at present, is similar to the state of the ancients before any advancement was made in the sciences of astronomy and navigation. As the sailor was afraid to lose sight of the land, and crept timidly along the shore, so the poor labourer, not knowing where to look for work, except in his own parish or the outskirts, or, if he knows of work at a distance, not
being able to ask for it, is afraid to leave home lest he should not find his way back again without being nearly starved.
George White, a young labourer in this parish, if the law of settlement had not existed, being able to read and write, would have obtained, I have no doubt, some situation in London as carman or porter ; but now he is unwilling to leave his parish. His acquirements have much improved his intelligence, as was shown in the following instance. I wished to introduce the use of a new fashioned plough into this parish; he was the only one among the labourers whom I asked to handle it that took any real interest in the plough, and endeavoured to ascertain its real advantages. The other labourers could not read or write.
'Though, through the zeal of the established clergy, with the aid of the National Society, parochial schools may become very general, still I conceive that there must be some stimulus to induce the labour. ers to send their boys to school up to a certain age, and the boys themselves to profit by the instruction offered them; for I remember from my own experience, when 'I supported, nearly at my own experise, a day-school in the parish of which I was curate some years ago, that it was very difficult to make the boys attend the school regularly. The parents, not properly valuing the importance of education, sent them to work as soon as they could earn the smallest trifle towards their maintenance.'*
The statements of Mr. Curtis are fully borne out by the following evidence from other quarters. It will be observed that none of these answers are from the counties most distinguished for poor-law mal-administration.
• The labourers are industrious, and are good workmen; better taught, and therefore better workmen; good husbands, kind fathers, and loyal subjects, except when goaded by poverty into discontent.t -(Worcester.) King's Norton. P. M. James, late Overseer.'
‘My labourers are better informed, more to be depended on, more regular and industrious in their habits, than formerly, and I think such is the character of labourers in this parish, with exceptions. I'-(Salop). Selattyn. George N. K. Lloyd, Rector and J. P.'
• The labourers, in general, more intelligent and consequently better workmen. I would instance particularly the workmen in the slate-quarries, of whom there are 1600 in one quarry:8-(Carnarvon.) Bangor. James Henry Cotton, Vicar.'
The first of the above quotations comprehends all that education, even the best, could be desired by its warmest advocate to produce; it makes the labourers 'good husbands, kind fathers, and loyal subjects. The converse of this is shown to be the result of a bad education by Mr. Mill in his Essay on
* Parliamentary Paper, (190) p. 9. + App. (B), quest. 37, p. 586 c. * App. (B), quest. 37, p. 393 C.
§ App. (B), quest. 37, p. 641 c.
Education. When a command over the wills of other men,' he says, “is pursued by the instrumentality of pain, it leads to all the several degrees of vexation, injustice, cruelty, oppression, and tyranny. It is in truth the grand source of all wickedness, of all the evil which man brings upon man. When the education is so deplorably bad as to allow an association to be formed in the mind of the child, between the grand object of desire, the command over the will of other men, and the fear and pain of these men, as the means; the foundation is laid of the bad character, the bad son, the bad brother, the bad husband, the bad father, the bad neighbour, the bad magistrate, the bad citizen,—to sum up all in one word, the bad man.'
A striking exemplification of this effect of education on the character for evil or for good is afforded in the two following pieces of evidence.
“The witnesses, whose testimony I received with relation to the agricultural riots, concurred in stating that the most dangerous of the mobs were formed from the most ignorant and ill-educated of the labouring classes. The evidence of the best-informed persons, with reference to the state of education and the habits of the people chiefly concerned in those riots, was similar to that given by Mr. Russell, the magistrate of Swallowfield, who states, that "the instigation was neither propagated by the press, nor travelled on horseback or in gigs. I am satisfied that there were no unseen agents, that there was no mysterious conspiracy, no premeditated suggestion. In this, and I apprehend in all agricultural districts, there is very little reading of tracts or newspapers among the poor; they take no concern in any politics beyond those of their village, or, at the utmost, of their county; and if a handbill or a passage of a newspaper is ever read by one of them to his companions at the beer-house on a Saturday evening, it is because it relates to some parties whom they know, or to some incident of their neighbourhood."
• In short all the information received by me in the course of this inquiry, with reference to the adult labourers, confirms the dicta of an eminent authority, who has observed that, “On this subject, as on most others, strange notions have been entertained in the world, that nothing in a mind is better than any thing; or, that if something must be there, that something is better supplied by chance than by design, as if furtune were wisdom's surest guide. But ‘nothing' will not keep its hold on any mind. Be it as it may with space, nature endures ro vacuum in minds. The mind is a field in which so sure as man sows not wheat, so sure will the devil be to sow tares. Another strange notion, if another it may be termed, which has been entertained, -as if there were a repugnancy between morality and letters, -as if the health of the affections and moral faculties depended in this rank of life more than any other upon a morbid state of the intellectual,-letters, it has been said, may be an instru