The Lancasterian Enthusiasm in South America
James Thomson

November 19, 1824

Dear sir,

I left Lima in the beginning of September, with the intention of not returning to it for some time; the immediate cause was the impossibility of moving forwards in our work under the pressure of existing circumstances: the very utmost that could be done was to keep hold of what we had obtained, and even that was done with great difficulty. Our Model School in Lima, at the time I came away, contained about 200 children, — a number somewhat less than what it contained some months previous to that time. This decrease is owing to the great poverty that existed there on the one hand; and on the other hand it arose from a natural fear in the parents lest their children should be picked up on their way to the School by the recruiting parties, — a fear not altogether groundless. I may mention here, that there is another School on our plan, containing about 80 children. ...

Before I speak of the state and progress of education in Quito, I shall mention two circumstances which have occurred to me since I left Lima. I notice these because they are encouraging as it respects the progress of education, and because they tend to prove what I have so often stated to you, — that there is a very general desire throughout this country for extending the benefits of education to all, and with all possible speed. The circumstances referred to occurred in Truxillo and in Guayaquil. In both these places I received proposals from the magistrates to remain among them, in order to establish Schools on our plan, and to promote the object of education in general. In both cases I had a struggle with my feelings, though not with my judgment, in declining the honour offered me. Though my duty bade me pursue my journey, yet in consequence of these proposals I cannot help taking an additional interest in the progress of education in the places mentioned; and through the intercourse that took place upon this subject during my short stay in these tours, I expect some good will result. I come now to speak of the state and progress of Education in this city. The state of Elementary Education here is at present very low, but its prospects are more encouraging. Perhaps you are aware that the Colombian Government is taking active measures to extend education over all their share of South America. Some time ago a Central School on the Lancasterian plan was established in Bogota, the capital. This School was set a-going by a friar who had been banished from his native country on account of his then-called revolutionary principles, and who had learned the system during his exile. Upon his return to America he established this School in the capital, which has now existed two or three years. It is the wish of the Government to put a principal School in the capital of each department, and from these Schools to send out Masters to all the towns and villages the department contains. For this purpose the friar I before mentioned, has lately arrived here, and is getting his School-room prepared. I have had several conversations with this individual, and have been greatly pleased in observing the very lively interest he takes in the education of youth, as well as in the general progress of knowledge throughout his native country. It is delightful to shake hands with such persons, and to unite one's heart with them wherever they are found ...

I remain, my dear sir,
Very sincerely yours,
J. Thomson.

Source: BFSS, Report ... May, 1825 (London, 1825), pp. 123-124.