shine in the general polishing; for the possibility that some “mute inglorious Milton” may, perchance, be roused into deathless song; some Chatham awakened to stay the fate of empire; or another Newton, to raise the species itself in the scale of universal being. Fanciful, and even puerile, as the topick will, no doubt, seem to many of our readers, we cannot, by any means, abandon it, without admitting one of two positions, both of which are unquestionably absurd; either, that such minds are only to be found in families of a certain rank; or that, to give them a chance of displaying themselves, something more than education is required. But, to some readers, it will be a better defence, if we remind them, that the very argument which we have just stated, forms the chief of the reasons urged by Dr. Paley, in support of a national, religious establishment. It is, indeed, his answer to the main objection urged against a separate order of clergy. “We sow,” says he [Moral Philosofthy, II. 308.] “ many seeds to raise one flower. In order to produce a few capable,” &c. To other readers, it might be more satisfactory, were we to enter upon that beaten question, of the connexion between morals and education; but we must confine ourselves to a few facts, which, being of recent occurrence, may be viewed as additions to the ample evidence already produced on this part of the subject. Mr. Raikes (whose enlightened and active benevolence is too well known to need our feeble testimony) has stated, that, during a period of twenty years, that is, since the first establishment of Sunday schools at Gloucester, about 3000 children have received education there; and, though he has regularly visited the county and city jails, he only has met, during that period, with one instance of criminality, in any of those 3000 persons. In like manner,

Mr. Lancaster has never yet had occasion to learn, that any one of the four thousand children whom he has educated at the borough school (though taken from the lowest classes of society) has been charged, in a court of justice, with any offence; a piece of information, which, there is every reason to think, some of his enemies would have been too glad to communicate, had there existed such instance. We shall hereafter have occasion to consider, more particularly, some of the calumnies lately vented against particular plans of education, for the most base and unworthy purposes. “Revolutionary” is the word generally resorted to by the meek, discerning, and pious personages to whom we allude; but, at present, we have only to do with the similar charge brought against all attempts to diffuse knowledge among the lower orders; brought, too, not by such interested and contemptible intriguers, but by men of unimpeachable character and unquestionable talents. There is nothing in this unhappy errour more to be regretted, than that it lends a sort of countenance to the arts of those little souls. When a being like Mr. Windham was seen to question the advantages of knowledge, from his fear of revolution (a fear which all men knew to be in him serious and systematick) the world felt mortified and humiliated; not because his resistance was likely to retard the progress of education, when it had been found so unavailing to protect the slave trade; not because it was afflicting to be forced to differ from such a man on any great question; nor yet because all the sad vicissitudes of human affairs offer no more humbling spectacle than the “fears of the brave and follies of the wise;” but because a protection was afforded to timidity and weakness; a veil was thrown over low, selfish artifice, under which it might take shelter and escape detection, while it worked in secret the gain of the few, out of the publick loss; a sort of false lustre was shed by the high name, the unsullied honour, the fine genius, and exquisite accomplishments of so rare a personage, over the paltry things who were crawling, by accident, in the same path, but whom it would be a sort of sacrilege to name, in the same page with Mr. Windhan. His fame, indeed, could not be contaminated by the unnatural association, any more than it could suffer by the fellowship which all lovers of fractical corruption affected with the most illustrious enemy of reform. But it is the lot of extraordinary virtue, that, though it may pass unhurt through the darkness of errour, and sojourn undefiled in the tabernacles of the wicked, its eclipses more or less benight the age; and its evil communion lends strength to the arms of corruption. We come now to that system of education which forms the subject of the works before us. Its general advantages, which we briefly stated in the outset of this article, are so vast, and so happy is the facility with which it may be introduced into any community, that its successful diffusion was, from tile beginning, almost certain. This has been, however, retarded by some attempts, of which we are unwilling to speak harshly; because it is fossible that they may have had their origin only in mistaken zeal for establishments that were never in danger, or in a real blindness to what, we think, no man of understanding, who considers the subject, can fail to look upon as the right path. The system was first introduced, into this country at least, by Joseph Lancaster; a man so well known to all our readers, that it would be impertinent to detain them with any praise of his universally acknow

ledged merits. Thus much is admit

ted on all hands. Whether he in

vented the plan himself, or only im


ported it from Madras, or took a hint from that scheme, and improved upon it, is an after question. But there is no one who has ever denied, that he was the first who established in England (we may say in Europe) a system of education, whereby one master can teach a thousand, or even a greater number of children, not only as well, but a great deal better, than they can possibly be taught by the old methods, and at an expense of less than five shillings a year for each. While he was gradually bringing this plan to perfection, and struggling with the various difficulties which the novelty of his subject, and the slender amount of his pecuniary resources, almost daily opposed to his progress, his undertaking succeeded sufficiently to attract the notice of some distinguished patrons among the nobility and gentry of the metropolis; and, what was of infinitely greater moment, on every account, he obtained the countenance and support of the royal family; the king himself, to his immortal honour, standing forward to set the example. Had it not been for this most auspicious circumstance, there is no sort of doubt, that an outcry would have been speedily raised, by intrigue or bigotry, sufficient to have overwhelmed, in an instant, this meritorious person and his system together. For some of those persons, who, being on the look out after comfortable temporalities, have a peculiarly nice sense of the approach of danger to the spiritual concerns of the community, soon discovered that this plan of education was fraught with the worst dangers, both to the church and to religion itself. Mr. Lancaster was a sectary; a respected and cherished member of that peaceful body of Christians, who alone never either persecuted, nor fought, nor in

trigued, nor ruled; and who, having

no establishment, nor, indeed, any order of priests, are not much in favour with such as delight to min

[blocks in formation]

possessing the kind of talents which

render Mrs. Hannah More and IMiss Edgeworth the envy of their sex, and the ornaments of their country, has unquestionably written as many volumes as both put together. Mrs. Trimmer, however, though extremely well disposed, was not very successful; and the cry which she set up was not much echoed, and soon died away. No doubt, she exhibited many charges against the system; scarcely a leaf of Lancaster's books was there, that did not teem with the principles of infidelity; or one of his practical methods, that did not aim some blow at the , church, or the state, or the morals of England. Nor were the blows struck feebly, or at random. What more deadly attack upon religion, than teaching children to read the bible, without prescribing also the gloss and commentary which episcopacy has sanction ed? What greater injury to the establishment, than to instil the Christian religion, pure as it flows from the inspired penmen, without conveying along with it the thirty nine articles of the church of England 3 What more palpable satire against hereditary rank and the British constitution, than the practice

of giving the children of paupers medals to wear about their necks, as rewards for spelling or reading : Nay, what lesson more hurtful to the morals, than teaching habits of ridicule, by allowing the boys to point or laugh at a slovenly or idle companion, instead of laying on, with “truly British vigour,” the good,"old birch of our ancestors : Will it be believed, that such alluring topicks almost wholly failed Will it be credited, by those who read the history of Ireland during the last four years, that, during the same period, a cry, raised by persons both orthodox and feeble, upon such admirable grounds, was scarcely repeated at the moment, and is now almost quite forgotten ? This phenomenon we owe to the honest and intrepid support which the monarch, the head of the church, gave to the oppressed sectary; and we really do, in our conscience, think it the brightest passage in the history of his long and eventful reign.

To some persons, however, the allurements held out by Mrs. Trimmer and her brethren, proved irresistible; and, among the first to be overpowered, was Mr. Archdeacon Daubeny. Indeed, like other great steps in the progress of society, it is not quite well ascertained which had the glory of converting the other; and the future historian will probably inquire, with anxiety, whether the reverend dignitary, or the voluminous female, first sounded that alarm, which had so much less success than its merits deserved; that only cry of danger to the church which ever failed. Certain it is, that the archdeacon was the first who sounded it from the pulpit. This is what not even the reverend lady can contest with him. In a visitation charge to the clergy of his diocese,” he denounced Joseph Lancaster as an infidel and a deist; or, if not so himself, as the tool of deists; and

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

his system of education as “deism, under the imposing guise of philanthropy, making a covert approach to the fortress of Christianity, with a view to be admitted within her walls " . Still the "cry did not spread. Somehow or other it did not answer. There was “more cry than wool;” and the practitioners in this line seemed shy of touching the subject. Lancaster published a confession of faith, sufficiently ample and earnest to satisfy the most orthodox Christian. The archdeacon was silent for a season; and there was no offence in Mrs. Trimmer’s mouth. The new system flourished more and more. The subscription increased daily. The steady patronage of the royal family continued to defend and to promote it. By the assistance of his friends, the financial concerns of the able and zealous projector were reduced to order and regularity. Schools were established in different parts of the country; and tens of thousands of poor children were receiving the inestimable blessings of education, and acquiring regular habits of industry, who would otherwise have languished in ignorance and vice. The friends of ignorance and persecution began to suspect, that they had mistaken their age or country; or, at any rate, that they had not hit upon the right mode of attack; and, as it was obvious that the new system of education must succeed, and spread over the world, the only thing that remained was, to try and get the management of it into their own hands, whereby they might hope both to alter the course, and moderate the vehemence of its operation; at once to Jole out to the lower orders that lower degree of knowledge which best fits their station, and that peculiar kind of instruction which most exactly suited their own interests and opinions. The cry, therefore, now became prevalent among the same persons, that it was the

province of the establishment to educate the poor; that a sectary could only teach sectarian, or, at any rate, latitudinarian principles; and that, if the regular clergy did not take up the subject, the church, perhaps the religion itself, was gone. But the difficulty remained nearly as before. The royal family patronized Lancaster’s plan; therefore, it must be attacked with infinite caution, out of delicacy to the royal feelings; always amiable and worthy; and never more so than when excited by the state of the poor; but, unhappily, by some misfortune, upon this occasion, taking a course, upon the whole, not quite satisfactory. Moreover, the plan itself, or something like it, would alone answer the universal demand of all ranks for a better system of popular education. Therefore, in order to supplant the sectary, there must be found a churchman; and the irregular, empirical scheme, already spreading with the rapidity of errour, and the steadiness of truth, must be succeeded by some more correct, orderly, clerical system, which should at once resemble it, and coincide with the establishment. By this means, the progress of the successful plan might be stopt; its misguided adherents reclaimed from their errours; and the royal patronage itself (the grand difficulty through the whole business) be either withdrawn and transferred to the regular establishment; or, at any rate, divided and weakened. It happened, most fortunately for this design, that, about the period alluded to, the archbishop of Canterbury should have extended his patronage to Dr. Bell, whom he had called from his retirement at Swanage, to superintend a charity school; and that the bishop of Durham still more munificently bestowed upon that gentleman a valuable preferment in his diocese, with the superintendance of a similar establishment for education. The resemblance originally perceived between Dr. Beli’s mode of teaching, and Mr. Lancaster's, would have been sufficient foundation for the attempt which we are considering; but that resemblance had been greatly increased during the time which had elapsed since the first publication of the method. It becomes necessary, then, that we should here take up

the history of Dr. Bell’s method,

from the beginning, to the period when it was so fortunate as to attract the notice of the distinguished prelates, who are now, to their great honour, its avowed protectors. In the year 1789, Dr. Bell, then a chaplain in the East India company, undertook the management of a charity school, established at Madras, under the name of the Male Asylum. Beside himself, there were three, and afterwards four masters; but it appears that one of these was employed in superintending the boys when out of school. In their address of thanks to him, however, presented at his departure, they all call themselves both masters and teachers. The number of boys first admitted was smaller; but they amounted to two hundred, when Dr. Bell quitted the situation, in 1796. Previous to the commencement of his superintendance, Dr. Bell had frequently observed the great advantages attending the mode of teaching by writing in sand, practised, from time immemorial, in all the native schools of Malabar. He was, therefore, resolved to adopt this practice in the asylum; but he met with many difficulties from the confirmed habits of his teachers, who were grown up men. He, therefore, had recourse to the plan of teaching the elder boys, whose habits and prejudices were easier overcome, and whom he could thus qualify to act as instructors to the rest. In adopting this expedient, he only did, systematically, what is more or less done in almost all

[blocks in formation]

only combined together two me

thods quite well known before, in their separate state, for the purpose of gaining a new object, he would have been fully entitled to the praise of invention. He did more; he improved one of those methods, and made it regular and systematick, for the sake of applying the other to his object; nor is it of any importance, that the consequences of this improvement have been far greater and more extensive than he appears to have had any notion of, and that the mere possibility of introducing sandwriting is now the smallest part of the benefit derived from the mode of teaching by means of the boys themselves. Were such objections as this admitted to weigh against the claims of an inventor, we should soon cease to use the word; unless the human faculties were, indeed, incalculably augmented. Nor was the ingenious and worthy author unaware of the real uses of this method. The title of his first publication upon the subject, in 1797, is: “An Experiment in Education, made at the Male Asylum of Madras, suggesting a system by which a school or family may teach itself, under the superintendance of the master or parent. This being the foundation of the plan, whereof the sandwriting may now be said merely to constitute one of the additional details, or partial

« 前へ次へ »