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• It is not proposed that the children of the poor be educated in an expensive manner, or even taught to write and to cypher. Parents will always be found to educate at their own expense, children enow to fill the stations which require higher qualifications, and there is a risk of elevating by an indiscriminate education the minds of those doomed to the drudgery of daily labour above their condition, and thereby rendering them discontented and unhappy in their lot.'
Thus far is given by the editor, who kindly does his best to deliver the Doctor out of the inconsistency into which he had fallen, and which had justly exposed him to the taunt of being an advocate for the universal limitation of knowledge. But Dr. Bell went further than this. He stooped to sneer at 'utopian schemes for the universal diffusion of general knowledge,' which, he said, 'would soon realize the fable of the belly and the other members of the body; and confound that distinction of ranks and classes in society on which the general welfare hinges, and the happiness of the lower orders, no less than that of the higher, depends. This was pitiful, from a man who at other times professed such zeal for education. What right had he afterwards to complain that the names of Mandeville and Bell were associated, when he had thus gravely argued that the children of the labouring classes were to have ignorance, which Shakspeare calls the curse of God,' rivetted upon them because their parents subsisted by daily labour? The following is from a letter to him by Mr. Coleridge, under date of the 15th of April, 1808, and apparently written with reference to the false position he had now assumed. It is worthy of that venerable man, and adds another proof to the many already extant, that those were right who always held him to be infinitely superior to the party with which he was associated.
'I confess that I seem to perceive some little of an effect produced by talking with objectors, with men who, to a man like you, are far, far more pernicious than avowed antagonists. Men who are actuated by fear and perpetual suspicion of human nature, and who regard their poor brethren as possible highwaymen, burglarists, or Parisian revolutionists, (which includes all evil in one,) and who, if God gave them grace to know their own hearts, would find that even the little good they are willing to assist proceeds from fear, from a momentary variation of the balance of probabilities, which happened to be in favour of letting their brethren know, just enough to keep them from the gallows. O, dear Dr. Bell, you are a great man ! Never, never permit minds so inferior to your own, however high their artificial rank may be, to induce you to pare away an atom of what you know to be right. The sin that besets a truly good man is, that, naturally desiring to see instantly done what he knows will be eminently useful to his fellow-beings, he sometimes will consent to sacrifice a part, in order to realize in a given spot, (to con.
struct, as the mathematicians say,) his idea in a given diagram. But yours is for the world-for all mankind; and all your opposers might, with as good chance of success, stop the half moon from becoming full; all they can do is, a little to retard it. Pardon, dear sir, a great liberty taken with you, but one which my heart and sincere reverence for you impelled. As the apostle said, Rejoice! so I say to you, hope! From hope,-faith, and love, all that is good, all that is great, all lovely and 'honourable things' proceed. From fear,—distrust, and the spirit of compromise—all that that is evil.'
During this year (1808) Dr. Bell succeeded in exchanging the living of Swanage for the mastership of Sherburn Hospital, valued at about £1200 a-year, and, as residence was not required, he took a house in London. Here he remained in tolerable quiet until the year 1811, when the formation of the Diocesan Societies, and soon after of the National Society, took place.
The immediate cause of this latter and more important movement was, a sermon preached in St. Pauls', at the yearly meeting of the children educated in the charity schools of London, by the Rev. Dr. Marsh ; in which, after maintaining that all national education ought to be conducted on the principle of the religion by law established,' he attacks Lancaster's method as a dissenting plan, and urges the association of churchmen with churchmen, in order to retain the faithful band' who are still disposed to 'rally' round the church.
On the 16th of October (1811), THE NATIONAL SOCIETY was constituted, and, after some opposition on the part of the Bishop of London, Dr. Bell was elected an honorary member of the general committee, and thus in fact installed as director general of the institution. Whether Dr. Bell's liberality of sentiment on some points was, or was not the cause of this opposition does not appear, but it is gratifying to find him in a letter to Mr. Southey saying, 'I am free to confess that I think we should draw the children to church by cords of love, and not drag them by chains of iron. But in this opinion I differ from many of the wisest and best men.' Southey, too, has some admirable observations on this subject. The children should be allowed,' he says, 'to accompany the master to church, not required to do it; and this not merely for the sake of the orthodox dissenters (to whom, however, it ought to be allowed,) but because it is better that they should go with their parents, than with their schoolfellows and their master. In the one case, example is as likely to be mischievous, as it is sure to be beneficial in the other. Everyone will understand this who recollects with what different feelings the church service impressed him, when he attended in his own parish church by his mother's side, and when he went among a drove of school-boys.' Intolerance, however, gained the day, and chains of iron' were judged to be more efficacious in promoting church going, than cords of love.'
From this time until his decease, a period of above twenty years, the life of Dr. Bell blends with the progress of the National Society and of its schools. To the service of that society he devoted himself with unwearied zeal and assiduity, travelling extensively on its behalf, and labouring for the diffusion of his system with untiring energy. The crowded meetings of the British and Foreign School Society appear occasionally to have carried both astonishment and dismay into the more orthodox camp, but on the whole, things went on quietly. In the month of January (1818) the Doctor was presented to a stall, of good value,' in Hereford Cathedral, which he subsequently exchanged forsone in Westminster abbey, valued at £1100 a year; the rich preferments,' he says, 'which all my brethren enjoy, being shut against me,' at Hereford. In soliciting this exchange through the interest of the Bishop of Durham, he modestly says,—If unexampled and disinterested services to the crown, to the church, and to the state, entitle a man to the notice and the favour of the minister, I shall not be afraid to put my claim in competition with that of any other man. If sacrifices made, odium incurred, and successful struggles encountered in their behalf, and without their support or protection, give pretensions, mine have not been wanting to a degree that few will believe.' This letter displeased the bishop, as well it might, and he returned no answer. But Dr. Bell was not to be so easily put aside. At no period of his life had he ever lost any thing for want of solicitation, nor did he now withdraw his claim because others might imagine that he took too high a view of his own merits. He steadily persevered, and his wishes were ultimately acceded to.
The same year that brought Dr. Bell “the stall of good value,' saw his less favoured rival an exile, never to return, on the shores of America.
Lancaster's affairs were indeed transferred to trustees, but the man remained unchanged. He was still the victim of his impulses. The excitement of his mind never subsided. The repression of his extravagance was to him an intolerable interference. One by one he quarrelled with his friends; then separated himself from the institution he had founded; commenced a private boarding school at Tooting ; became still more deeply involved; went through the Gazette; and finally, wearied with strife and sorrow, sailed in the year 1818 for the new world.
For the few subsequent notices of his life and character we are indebted to a manuscript communication from himself which has been kindly placed in our hands in order to enable us to complete the sketch we have undertaken. On his arrival in the States he was everywhere welcomed and honoured as the friend of learning and of man. His lectures were numerously attended, and, for a time, all appeared to go well with him. But his popularity rapidly decayed. Rumours of debt and of discreditable pecuniary transactions in England, soon followed him; sickness, severe and long continued, wasted his family; and poverty, with her long train of ills, overtook him. Under these circumstances he was advised to try a warmer climate, and an opening having presented itself in Caraccas, he was assisted by his friends to proceed thither. He went with his son-in-law and daughter (who afterwards settled in Mexico), and, to use his own words, “was kindly received,— promised great things, honoured with the performance of little ones,’ and—after expressing, in no measured terms, his indignation at the breach of all the promises made to him, was glad to leave his family, and escape with his life. This was accomplished by a hasty flight into the interior, from whence he subsequently reached the sea shore, and embarked in a British vessel bound for St. Thomas. During his stay in Caraccas he had entered a second time into the marriage state, and his account of the performance of the ceremony is curious, as being probably the only instance yet on record, of a quaker wedding in South America. The party met in Lancaster's school-room. At the time appointed General Bolivar with his leading officers and a large party of gentry and merchants assembled. ‘Bolivar's suite,’ he says, “were extremely puzzled at the large maps, some busying themselves with looking for Caraccas in Asia and in Africa. The ceremony commenced by the whole party being requested to sit in silence. After a time this was broken by a notary, reciting the names and connexions of the parties, and proclaiming that each had promised, in the fear of God, to take the other “for better or worse, for richer or poorer,’ and so on. The witnesses set their hands and seals to the contract, Bolivar signified his approval, and the marriage was regarded by all parties as binding. After a short stay at Santa Cruz and St. Thomas, where again his lectures were attended by the governor and the gentry of the island, he returned to Philadelphia. Again sickness overtook him, and poverty, and much sorrow. In miserable lodgings, with an apparently dying wife, pinched by want, and pressed hard by difficulties of every kind, he appealed to the benevolent, and in addition to other aid, obtained a vote of 500 dollars from the corporation of New York. This enabled him to take a small house, and to recover strength.
He now determined to return to England, and all but agreed for his passage, when circumstances induced him to return through Canada. On his arrival at Montreal he commenced his lectures, and again for a time floated along the stream of popular favour. His worldly circumstances improved, and he determined to give up the thought of returning to England, and to settle in Canada. After a time, and probably through his own folly, he again sank, and then opened a private school for subsistence. In this school room he held 'silent meetings' on 'first days,' sitting alone, while his wife and family were gone to church. Here,' he touchingly says, 'I sometimes found the chief things of the ancient mountains, and the precious things of the everlasting hills resting indeed on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separated from his brethren,' by distance,-by faults, by circumstances --and by the just but iron hand* of discipline. I longed again and again to come more and more under the purifying and baptizing power of the truth which had been the dew of my youth, and the hope of all my life in its best moments, whether of sorrow or of joy.'
The last letter received from him was addressed to Mr. Corston, from New York, and dated 21st of 9th month, 1838. He was then in the enjoyment of an annuity which had been raised for him in England, chiefly by the exertions of the friend to whom we have already referred. His mind at this time was evidently as wild as ever, and his energies unbroken. He is still ready to undertake to teach ten thousand children in different schools, not knowing their letters, all to read fluently in three weeks to three months. The 'fire that kindled Elijah's sacrifice,' has kindled his, and ' all true Israelites' will, in time, see it. And so he runs on.
But his career was rapidly drawing to a close. He had fully resolved on a voyage to England; but about a week before the affecting accident occurred which occasioned his death, he expressed some doubts on the subject, saying, He knew not the reason, but he could not see his way clear in leaving America.'
On the 23rd of October, 1838, he was run over in the streets of New York; bis ribs were broken, and his head very much lacerated. He was immediately taken to the house of a friend, where he died 'without a struggle, in the fifty-first year of his age.'
• He had been disowned by the Friends' chiefly on account of his irregularities in money matters.
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