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House, in the Committee, and in the Country, I have never • heard a single whisper hostile to the universal diffusion of • knowledge. Every thing like opposition to the measure it
self, is anxiously disclaimed by all. The only question enter"tained is touching the best, that is, the surest and the most • economical, method of carrying it into effect.'
This, no doubt, is encouraging in the highest degree; and when so much has been so rapidly attained, we have good reason to conclude, that perseverance in the measures so happily begun, will, in no great time, be crowned with that success to which so many important consequences are indissolubly attached. It is necessary, however, for the security of this great object, that the eye of the public should be kept steadily on the whole progress of the measure—both that they may know by what steps it has been most effectually advanced, and by what lurking hostility its triumphs may still be retarded.
In the Session of Parliament 1816, Mr Brougham began to mature the subject, by moving for a Committee to inquire into the state of education among the lower orders in the metropolis. Already the progress of opinion was such, that the motion was not opposed : And Mr Brougham devoted to the inquiry so great a portion of his time and his thoughts, as called forth the applause even of ministers themselves, who, little as they might wish to strengthen the fame of a formidable antagonist, were yet compelled to honour exertions, of which they knew that the public estimation would be exceedingly high. Ïhe information obtained by the labours of this Committee, and printed by the House in a voluminous Report, is of the highest importance: and of this the public may judge, when they are told, that the great body of facts and experience which it displays, extends to the six following heads, on all of which they shed a strong and satisfactory light.-1. The number, or rather the proportion, of the children of the poor who remain uneducated, and destitute of the means of education : -2: The deplorable state in which the morals of these children are found, who are deprived of the means of education : ---3. The admirable effects which education is found by experience to produce :-4. The circumstances, in the actual state of the country, which are favourable to education :-5. The circumstances, in the actual state of the country, which are unfavourable to education :-6. The methods which ought to be pursued for promoting education :—7. The funds, mostly of a charitable kind, which are now applicable to the purposes of education.
In the last Session of Parliament, in 1818, the Education Committee was revived, and with more extensive powers, which enabled it to inquire into the education of the lower orders through the whole of England and Scotland. To this enlarged task it proceeded with its former zeal and industry; and a vast body of new and important information has been reported to the House, forming a volume, which those who have had access to it pronounce to be interesting and instructive in the very highest degree. As that information, however, is not yet printed, we are not enabled to lay an abstract of it before our readers; and, for that reason, reserve the account which we propose to give at considerable length, of both Reports, for a future occasion. In the mean time, we think it of importance to advert to the measure, with the
proposal of which Mr Brougham terminated the labours of the Session on the subject of Education, and to exhibit a brief view of the topics handled in the Speech now before us, in which he described the progress made by the Committee in its inquiries, and defended from objections the bill he had introduced into the House.
The object of the bill, and the steps of its progress through both Houses, have attracted too much of the public attention to require any thing more than a cursory mention here. If funds appeared to be wanting, in some parts of the country, it was only the more necessary that those which had been provided for the purposes of education in other places, should be strictly applied to their destination. These funds were discovered to be so very large in their amount, as in reality to constitute a great national object : But, before adopting any measures for turning them to the best account, it was absolutely necessary to have accurate information as to the circumstances of each endowment; and no other means appeared to Mr Brougham to be calculated for obtaining that knowledge, but a parliamentary commission; and the recommendation of this measure was the first, accordingly, of his practical steps. A bill, with this object, was introduced towards the close of the Session, and most favourably received by the lower House; and the facts which he stated as to the extent and misapplication of the funds, destined not only for education, but for charitable purposes in general, impressed the strongest conviction of the necessity and propriety of the measure which he proposed. In the further steps of its progress, the measure was not so fortunate. The objects of inquiry, as well as the power of the commission, were very unnecessarily limited—and their appointment was assumed by the ministry. By these means, no doubt, the measure has been crippled; but the vigilance of the public, we trust, will supply the defects in the machinery-and we are far, certainly, from blaming Mr Brougham for accepting what he could get; especially as, in the Speech before us, he has done so much to raise that public jealousy which no device or contrivance can either lull or elude.
He begins with pointing out two situations, the difference between which, he thinks, should be duly considered by the Legislature. In large towns, and places where the population is great, much has been accomplished already, or is likely to be accomplished, without the aid of the Legislature. In other places, where the population is thin, little or nothing has been, or can easily be so aceomplished. Now, whenever the object can be attained without the aid of the Legislature, Mr Brougham declares it to be his opinion, that no such aid should be required. It is only when, without the means which the Legislature alone can supply, the business seems incapable of being performed, that its interference should be desired. This opinion he seems to rest, in a great measure, upon the generally acknowledged impropriety of legislating too much; upon the experience that legislation, where it is not wanted, does harm more frequently than good; that the finest, as well as the most powerful spring in human affairs, is the impulse in private individuals to better themselves, and those with whom they are surrounded; and that, wben these principles are sufficient to the end, it is not merely useless, but hurtful, to supersede them by any others, In the case of instruction, too, there is a deep ground of suspicion with respect to the government, in the interest which, se long as it shall desire to possess undue powers, it has to give pernicious instruction; to manage the business of teaching, both secular and religious, in such a manner as to enslave the minds of men, and make them passive instruments in the hands of power: And though we see no impossibility in appropriating legislative funds to the purposes of education, without placing the business of education in the hands of the government, we confess that we see no probability that, in the present state of things, this could be avoided; and that the same reluctance to admit improvement which distinguishes these institutions for education, which in any way depend upon government, would not adhere to any which it would now be possible to create.
Mr Brougham is further of opinion, that, with the ardour which now distinguishes every part of the community for rendering universal the benefits of education, all that would be necessary, even in places the most unfavourably situated, would be, to provide the expense of erecting schools ; that the rest, the annual expense of schoolmasters, and all other requisites, might, without difficulty, be found upon the spot, in the liberal and cheerful contribution of individuals; and this is an experiment, undoubtedly, which it would be highly desirable to
try. The poverty of the people in some places, and the torpidity which a pressing poverty necessarily creates, cannot be overlooked as grounds of distrust; but if the eye remains open to watch the effects of the experiment, and to supply all that may remain defective, no great evil can be done.
He anticipates the principal obstruction with which, in carrying it into execution, this beneficent scheme of his appears likely to meet :-and that arises from the feelings of the two religious parties into which the population of the country is most conspicuously divided—those who belong to the established church--and those who do not belong to it. A large proportion of both parties require, that religious instruction should not remain in the hands in which it has hitherto been placedthose of the pastors of the several flocks; but that it should be united with the teaching of reading and writing in ordinary schools; and they can agree upon no common method in which this should be done. Those who belong to the established church very generally insist upon it, that the catechism and the creed of that church should be taught in all schools,—while it cannot be denied, that the teaching of that catechism and creed would have the effect of excluding from such places of education all those children, the parents of whom cannot conscientiously permit their children to be taught this form of religion. To establish schools with the money of the people, and to subject them to rules which necessarily exclude from them a great proportion of the people, is such an incongruity as cannot, in the present age, be contemplated with complacency. On the other hand, the great body of those who dissent from the Established Church insist only upon the reading of the Scriptures; and as this would exclude no members of the Established Church, and scarcely any of the Dissenters, it would probably be the best compromise that could be made. It ought not, however, to be forgotten, that there are classes whom even this would exclude ; and that, where education is the good in view, to exclude from it, or any facilities for acquiring it, any portion of the population, cannot be regarded as an object of trifling importance. Besides, it so happens, that the children upon whom this exclusion would operate, are they in whose case a peculiar demand exists for the moralizing influence of education. They are the children chiefly of Catholic and Jewish parents, both of whom have insuperable objections to permit any part of their religious education to be given by any but their own religious instructors. It happens, also, that a great proportion of these two classes are exactly the poorest and most destitute part of our population; the children of whom are, by necessary consequence, brought up in circum.
stances the least consistent with any kind of mental culture, and where a moral feeling and moral principles can least of all be engendered. Instead of making rules to exclude these people from the benefits of education, the desirable thing would be to afford them additional inducements.
Mr Brougham speaks thus, from the knowledge which his inquiries have enabled him to obtain.
* Where the town is considerable, though the people may be of various religious denominations, no impediment to instructing the whole arises from that circumstance, because there is room for schools upon both principles. The Churchmen can found a seminary, from whence Dissenters may be excluded by the lessons taught, and the observances required ; while the sectaries, or those members of the Establishment who patronize the schools for all without distinction of creed, may support a school upon this universal principle, and teach those whom the rules of the Church Society exclude. But this is evidently impossible in smaller towns, where the utmost exertions of the wealthy inhabitants can only maintain a single school. There, if the bulk of the rich belong to the Church, no school will be afforded to the sectarian poor ; though, certainly, if the bulk of the rich be Dissenters, the poor connected with the Establishment may profit by the school which is likely to be founded. If, on the other hand, the wealthy inhabitants are more equally divided, and the members of the Church refuse to abandon the exclusive plan, no school at all can be formed. Accordingly it is in places of this moderate size that the difference between the two plans is the most felt, and where I can have no doubt, that the progress of education has been materially checked by an unbending adherence to the system of the National Society. The moderate size of the place renders the distinction of sects most injurious to education, even where there exist the means and the disposition to establish schools by subscription.' p.9, 10.
On the subject of the proposed inquiry into the state of the funds now existing, and applicable to the business of education, Mr Brougham informs us, that great progress has been made by the Committee itself.
• It has,' he says, ' received a prodigious mass of information from all parts of the country. We are now diligently employed in prosecuting these researches, and in digesting their results into Tables, which may exhibit at one view a general, but minute chart of the state of education throughout the empire ; so that the eye may readily perceive in each district what are the existing means of public instruction, and wherein those means are deficient ; how many children in any given place are taught, and after what manner ; how many are clothed or maintained ; how the funds for their instruction or support arise ; with much information of a miscellaneous nature, affording valuable suggestions to the commission which is about to issue, for the more rigorous investigation of all charitable abuses. When