THE rich possess ample means to realize any theory they may chuse to adopt in the education of their children, regardless of the cost; but it is not so with him whose Subsistence is derived from industry. Attention to this as a primary object, ignorance, and incapacity, often prevent his having proper views on the important subject of education, and when he has, slender resources as often prevent their being reduced to practice; yet, among this class of men, are found many who are not only useful members, but ornaments of society: and from the labours of these it is, that the public derive the conveniences, and many of the comforts of life: but while they are toiling for the production of those comforts, their children are left destitute of a suitable education. Therefore, it has long been acknowledged, that education, as it respects those who are unprovided with it, ought to become a national concern: and this has been so long the public opinion, that no doubt it would have become so, had not a mere pharasaical sectmaking spirit intervened to prevent it; and that in every party.

A system of education, which would not gratify this disposition in any party, is requisite, in order to obviate the difficulty, and the reader will find a something said to that purpose in perusing this tract. — When I view the desolating effects produced amongst the unprotected and unbefriended orders of society, what shall I say? Alas! my brethren and fellow Christians, of every denomination, you have been contending whose influence should be greatest in society, while a national benefit has been lost, and the poor objects of it become a prey to vice, to an extent, that all your praiseworthy, but partial benevolence, can never repair. — A national evil requires a national remedy; let not this any longer be delayed: let your minds expand, free from every narrow principle, and let the public good become the sole object of your united Christian efforts.

Above all things, education ought not be made subservient to the propagation of the peculiar tenets of any sect, beyond its own number; it then becomes undue influence, like the strong taking advantage of the weak; and yet, a reverence for the sacred name of God and the scriptures of Truth, a detestation of vice, a love of veracity, a due attention to duties to parents, relations, and to society: carefulness to avoid bad company, civility without flattery, and a peaceable demeanor, may be inculcated in every seminary for youth, without violating the sanctuary of private religious opinion in any mind.

When obedience to the Divine precepts keeps pace with knowledge, in the mind of any man, that man is a Christian; and when the fruits of Christianity are produced, that man is a disciple of our blessed Lord, let his profession of religion be what it may. The propagation of this knowledge, and the production of those fruits, increase the number of true Christians, which is far better than the increase of party to any extent; and, at the fame time, proves beneficial to society, in the improved principles and conduct of its members; and in private life, by the steadiness and amiable disposition of parents, masters, and children, who are influenced by its mild and benignant precepts.

Impressed with these sentiments, I feel a wish, as every friend to mankind must, that names may perish, but truth prosper.




An introductory Account of the State of those Schools in which the Children of Mechanics, &c. are generally educated.


THESE are a description of schools that abound in every poor neighbourhood about London: they are frequented by boys and girls, indiscriminately, few of them above seven years of age: the mistress is frequently the wife of some mechanic, induced to undertake this task, from a desire to increase a scanty income, or to add to her domestic comforts. The subjects of tuition are comprised in reading and needlework. The number of children that attend a School of this class is very fluctuating, and seldom exceeds thirty; their pay very uncertain. Disorder, noise, &c. seem more the characteristic of these schools, than the improvement of the little ones who attend them.

These unpleasant circumstances effectually prevent schools of this kind being opened by many females, who possess abilities and goodness of heart. While this is the cafe, the public will easily conceive the state they must consequently be in, and the small degree of advantage which can possibly result to the poor children who attend them.

From the information I possess, I could easily heighten the colouring of this view; but it would only exhibit the fame objects in different degrees of shade, which I deem needless, as the evil in each is nearly similar, bearing the fame features, if not a perfect likeness. Let us turn from the disgusting scene — from these graves of genius, even in its cradle; let us fee what they would be under proper regulations, which, modified, and carried into effect by prudent hands, would soon direct the public attention to them, as institutions pregnant with real usefulness. — It is very evident, that by the excellent modes of preparatory education, (frequent in the more respectable circles,) much invaluable time is saved, and the foundation of instruction so well laid, that when the pupil is removed to a superior school, much of the drudgery of education is over, and the pupil being ready formed to the master's hand, to good order and prompt obedience, his future progress is considerably accelerated.

Why not realize this idea among the poor? Why should not they partake of its benefits? — I am an advocate for this class of schools; (women generally manage them,) the female heart is so well qualified, by its tenderness, to feel for, to sympathise with, the innocent children who attend these schools, at so early an age, that they cannot be placed under better care. The infancy of their pupils requires a combination of the school and nursery, and these schools answer that description, when under proper management: for, to those who are just beginning to sip of learning's stream, its pleasant draughts should not be embittered by stern-browed severity.

But it is of peculiar importance to the poor, that these schools should be better regulated, as many children of that class have no education but what they obtain in them, and that at an early age, when totally unfit for other employ: to these, it is of consequence that they should acquire all the knowledge they can while there, for many poor children never obtain a second opportunity. — Frequently their parents are so circumstanced that they must place them out to work as soon as they are fit for it, — and then farewell to school, to which some would never have been sent, had they been fit for any thing else. It is of consequence to all children, that no time should be spent without improvement, whether they ever attend school afterwards or not. It is of advantage in another point of view: the sober, steady, poor man, cheerfully unites with the endeavours of the benevolent, for his childrens' welfare: but there are others, so insensible to all idea of gratitude, that they indignantly spurn the proffered benefit. This mostly happens when their children are able to assist them at work: but when they are too young for work, and are apt to be troublesome at home, their tender age requires a nurse; but nothing can be devised by their parents as a substitute for one, but fending them to an initiatory school, where they are taken care of at a small expence. This is, perhaps, the only opportunity that presents for their instruction during life. Their parents are of the lowest class, by conduct as well as poverty: and would sooner fend them to a packthread ground, or other nursery for vice, where their minds are in danger of ruin, for the fake of trifling present gain, than to school, where their morals might be formed aright, and they trained to future usefulness, to themselves, and to the community. Being thus destitute of principle, at another period of their children's age they would, most likely, spurn the offers of benevolence: but when so young, necessity dictates that they be sent to school. To those, therefore, who have no other opportunity of education, their proper management is of the greatest importance. At the early age at which such children are sent, their manners are particularly innocent and engaging, of course their parent's affection flows in copious streams, and a hope for the future good of their offspring, held out at such a seasonable time, might induce them to fix them at school, and thus preserve their morals and innocence. I think I am warranted in my conclusion, from the passions of the human heart: the expectation of Good, is denominated Hope; the expectation of Evil is called Fear; and the prospect of either, exceeds the possession of the object desired, or the probation dreaded. I believe this observation will apply to human nature universally, but in particular to objects whose only friend is Charity. It may easily double the good intended to be produced, without increasing the expence. I conceive, the improvement children make in these schools Would be greatly increased by their being placed under good regulations, supplied with proper mistresses, to whom encouragement might be extended according to merit, also to the scholars, by the fame rule. They might be animated to learn reading, writing on slates, and some small portion of arithmetic, at a very early age.

I recommend these three objects to be pursued in conjunction: nothing conduces so much to good order, or so effectually prevents the natural vivacity of children from becoming troublesome in school, as the active employment of every boy in it. This liveliness, combined with the usual waste of time, makes these schools disgusting scenes of noise and riot. When the attention of children is occupied, quietness unavoidably follows, and that without the aid of rigour to enforce it.

The proposed plan of reformation will fill its proper place in a succeeding page; this is only a brief account of the nature of these schools, which I conceive to be so numerous about London, as to contain an aggregate of several thousand children: but I cannot close this introduction, without calling the public attention to a distinct, and almost friendless part of the community. I mean the poor children who are in parish workhouses, who are often friendless, and immured in those receptacles of poverty, depression, and vice; without education and without hope; children, for whom it may be said, the fun never shines: to whom curses and ill treatment are too often substitutes for parental smiles, or maternal care. How often have I viewed you, ye poor oppressed children, when pacing, with solemn steps and downcast eye, along the streets to a place of public worship! — How has the fettled gloom of unhappiness, visible on some of your countenances, attracted my sorrowful attention, and forced from my eyes the unavailing tears of pity? — And you, ye guardians of the poor, who have families of your own, how is it you do not feel for these? From whom had they their spirits? Whose workmanship are they? — How will you appear before the Judge of quick and dead, under a sense of your neglect? — And, how is it possible, if you possess common sense, that you can lull your consciences so quietly to sleep, while you feast and riot on the portion of the poor? How can you dare to appear before those who know your misconduct? But it cannot be helped: some men have frontlets of brass!

Is it not a horrid thing, that the enormous sum of millions sterling, should swell the amount of our poor's rate and chanties, and yet the poor children be deprived (with some few exceptions) of even an initiatory share of education, and of almost any attention to their morals whatever.

As a citizen of the world, and a friend of mankind, actuated by no sectarian motives in my conduct, but animated by the love of my country, I see, with regret, her noble hearted sons, madly pursuing wealth, and grasping at gain, almost to perdition's door. Are not virtue, integrity, and offices of brotherly kindness, the source of all the comforts we derive from social intercourse? — Are not religion, knowledge, and good morals, the very bands of society? — Why then so eager in the pursuit of riches? and why not rather pay that attention to the infant poor, which their wants requires? I wish the enormous wealth of our country may neither prove a scourge to mankind, nor a canker-worm to destroy her own bowels.

Was the one thousandth part of that care, which is daily bestowed in attaining the fine gold, which may "become dim," or the garment that is liable to be moth-eaten, only given to improve the welfare of the rising generation! by giving them a guarded education, that would early form their minds to virtue, how should we flourish? how would the true ancient spirit of hospitality and mutual good will revive amongst us, and our nation become as a nation of virtuous brethren!

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene, The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear; Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air."


THE masters of these are often the refuse of superior schools, and too often of society at large. The pay and number of scholars are alike low and fluctuating; of course there is little encouragement for steady men, either to engage, or continue in this line: it being impossible to keep school, defray its expences, and do the children regular justice, without a regular income. Eventually, many schools, respectable in better times, are abandoned to men of any character, who use as much chicane to fill their pockets as the most despicable pettifogger. Writing books, &c. scribbled through; whole pages filled with scrawls, to hasten the demand for fresh books. These schools are chiefly attended by the children of artificers, &c. whose pay fluctuates with their employ: and is too often withheld by bad principle. Debts are often contracted that do not exceed a shilling, then the parents remove their children from school, and never pay it: the smallness of the sum proving an effectual bar to its rerecovery: the trouble and loss of time being worse than the loss of money in the first instance. It is to be regretted, that some especial act of the legislature has not effectually secured the pay of the teachers of youth, that they might be secure of having that bread, for which they have laboured with almost unceasing toil.

The complaint of bad pay, and difficulty in obtaining it, is almost generally reiterated through every department of education. It operates powerfully to depress and discourage the energy of the teacher's mind: in particular, when (as is commonly the case,) much of that part of the business of school, which is merely mechanical, falls on the master's shoulders: it becomes indeed, laborious, with the addition of a poor consolation, that, it is worse paid for than any other employ in London.

When a man settles himself to this line as an employ, his prospects are often bounded for life. A merchant may extend his dealings, a tradesman may increase his customers, but the teacher's income depends solely upon the number of his scholars. If he is a just man, he ought not to exceed a certain number, without assistance in tuition of some kind. Here then is the ne plus ultra of his expectations, which prove as remote from what they ought to be, as the pillars of Hercules are from the Pacific Ocean. It is not much to be wondered at, if these discouraging circumstances often produce deviations from strict rectitude, where principle is not deeply rooted in the mind, which prove very oppressive to parents and scholars; as, in some instances, permitting the boys to write five or six copies in an afternoon, obviously, that more books may be bought of the master, to his profit, &c. In some schools the pens are scarcely ever mended, and, in general, the poor children are much stinted in this article. It is very essential to their improvement, that their pens should be good: and it operates on their minds in a very discouraging manner when otherwise. I am credibly informed, that some masters use pinions in their rough state, neither dutched nor clarified; of course they split up, with teeth like a saw, and write just as well. Such conduct deserves severe reprehension, and admits of no excuse, except the poverty that sometimes occasions it. I have seen writing books, in which it was plain the poor boy had not had one good pen in twenty copies. The reader, who is sensible of the advantage which arises to learners from a plentiful supply of good pens, will easily conceive how discouraging this must be. But encouragement of any kind is seldom adopted from principle, or any other motive, in this class of schools.

Some teachers plead for the lash, the only proper governing medium of well regulated seminaries, in their estimation , and that with as much zeal as the partizans of Robespierre did for the guilotine. Indeed, I am sometimes inclined to doubt whether some men consider youth as rational and intelligent beings, with minds capable of expansion, and talents formed for usefulness. It is a natural inference, from their obvious conduct, that this must be the case; or, at least, if by strange mischance, such a thought did steal into their heads, it was looked at as carefully as an artful lawyer looks at an old musty title deed, with a jealous eye, and then replaces it carelessly on the same shelf, to gather dust for succeeding generations. But to return to the subject — The desks children write at are often badly suited for that purpose, the school rooms close and confined, and almost all the accommodations unfit for the purpose. Independent of the bad effects such places produce on the children's health, many having to date the ruin of their constitutions from confinement therein, the drunkenness of a school-master is almost proverbial. Those who mean well, are not able to do so: poverty prevents it; and the number of teachers, who are men of liberal minds, are few; yet, not being sensible of the incalculable advantages arising from system and order, it is no wonder if it is at a very low ebb among them. The poor parent often becomes sensible that something is amiss, but knows not what; and, induced by this motive, hurries his child from one school to another frequently, and thereby makes bad worse: and is eventually disappointed as much as ever. The want of system and order is almost uniform in every class of schools within the reach of the poor, whose indifferent attainments at school, often arise as much from equal impatience and unsettled disposition in their parents, as deficiency of care in the masters, or want of order in their schools. In fact, there is little encouragement for masters, parents, or scholars: and, while this is the case, it is no wonder that ignorance prevails among the poor. Is it strange, that the chariot wheels move heavily, when clogged with mire and dirt? — I am aware, that a schoolmaster must be a very drudge, who seriously endeavours to discharge his duty, and has the chief burthen of a large school resting on himself solely; and hence that disgust which arises in the minds of many against this employ, and that unwillingness the upright man feels to enter into a profession which bears an unpleasant prospect of toilsome labour, above his strength to support, however useful. — But why should it be so? Why the education of youth a more unpleasant employ than one, in which the individual is connected and surrounded with dull inanimate objects? What can be more agreeable, more amiable, or pleasing, than a large school of orderly and docile youth, whose minds are daily expanding by their own efforts, under a master's paternal care. The disgust that has arisen in some minds against school-keeping, as a toilsome employ, applies not to a school conducted by a regular system, but is the consequence of that disorder which is so very prevalent in schools; and the natural effect of the whole responsibility and care resting on the master; who, without method and order in the daily management of his school, is perplexed and harassed like a bull baited by dogs.

The mental powers of boys are similiar to those of men; but in embryo. — The same stimulus that animates men to action, will have a proportionate effect on juvenile minds. — "The hope of reward sweetens labour," and the prospect of something to be attained in future, is very pleasant to the human mind: no man, or class of men are more useful to society, or rendered more happy by their labours, than those whose hopes depend solely on their own exertions. In proportion as this expectation increases, so does exertion keep pace with it, almost beyond conception. The very nature of expectation, is to operate as a wire-drawing machine to human industry. In proportion as this sweetener of human toil is intermingled in our cup, so do we remit, or increase, our activity. Would the merchant trade, the mariner toil, or the husbandman plough, without the hope of profit, port, or harvest? — Every man has a stimulus to action, which varies with his prospects of retribution; and it is not in the power of our minds to conceive a more unhappy being, than he who has no wants; whose wishes are completely gratified, or evidently incapable of gratification — such a being desponds from mere listlessness. To be destitute of hope, either from repletion or want, is to tread the threshold of despair. — To conclude, as the schoolmaster and scholars we have been treating of, are mostly destitute of proper incitements to industry, the state they are consequently in may be easily conceived.

In these schools, the number of scholars which attend them increases so much in summer, that it is impossible for the master to do them justice; therefore, an assistant becomes necessary, but he cannot retain one long; for, as the scholars decrease in the winter, his income, of course, shrinks by their non-attendance; and perhaps poverty and misery stare him in the face. With these dreary prospects, who would be a schoolmaster? What man of feeling for a beloved wife, and, perhaps, equally beloved children, would make such a sacrifice? — And, if men whose feelings do honour to human nature, decline this task from prudential or commendable motives, in whose hands then is the education of the poor entrusted? — In the hands of those who would not do their duty if they had power; and of those who could not do it if they would, from inability; besides, system and order, the harbingers of success, are almost unknown among them. At a moderate calculation, among a million of persons inhabiting the metropolis, there are, at least, twenty-five thousand children who attend these schools, and cost their parents as many pounds sterling, per annum. What a noble fund for education would this be, if properly employed. And how lamentable a thing it is, that a very large portion of it should be wasted, from irregularity in the parents, or want of judgment in the master: when the virtuous poor man toils, and stints himself, perhaps, in food, that his children may obtain useful learning, and they yet remain ignorant; their invaluable time lost beyond retrieve, and the fond parent cruelly disappointed.

May this plain statement of facts prevail on the friends of the rising generation to interpose for their welfare; that the education of children may no longer be to parent and master a lottery, in which the prizes bear no proportion to the enormous number of blanks.


Hints respecting the Formation of a Society for improving the State, and facilitating the Means of Education among the industrious Classes of the Community.

IT appears, from the preceeding accounts, that reformation in these schools is absolutely necessary: it remains to consider the means best suited to that end. As a friend of youth, I presume to suggest such as I have long thought adapted to the purpose, in hope that, at least, it may pave the way for some better observations on the subject, from persons of more information and discernment than myself.

A spirit, breathing the language of independence, is natural to Englishmen, few of whom are disposed to brook compulsion, or submit to the dictates of others, when not softened by reason, or tempered with kindness.

I am sometimes sorry to hear sensible, intelligent men, talk of reformation in this respect by a compulsive law. Coercion of any kind, which grates upon our very hearing it, is the most disgusting, uncouth word in the British vocabulary, I wish always to submit with deference to the opinions of those I respect; but I am likely to continue decided in the opinion, that teachers of any spirit will not bear attempts to cudgel them into reformation, however respectably sanctioned.

I introduce these remarks, from a fear that rich men sometimes presume too much upon their riches; holding out the dictatorial language of lordlings, when doing the poor an act of kindness, instead of performing it as a duty, incumbent on them as men and Christians, let their stations in society be what they may. I am persuaded, that if any attempt is made to improve the education of the poor, and such an unmanly spirit should guide the resolution of a society or committee for that purpose, it would render the design abortive. Success would depend upon the leading persons concerned in promoting such an undertaking. It is not to be supposed, a design of its magnitude could be carried far into effect without public aid and concurrence. In such a case, it would be almost sure of success, if the active members of a society established for that purpose, were inclined to meet the poor as men, as brethren, and as Christians.

The sincere teachers of their youth should be met, not with an intention to dictate to them, but to give additional force to their well-meant endeavours, and raise them to public esteem.

Let me add, that a society for this purpose should be established on general Christian principles, and on them only. Mankind are divided into sects, and individuals think very differently on religious subjects, from the purest motives; and that gracious common Parent, who loves all his children alike, beholds with approbation every one who worships him in sincerity. Yet it cannot be reasonably expected that conscientious men should promote a religious opinion directly contrary to their own; a Presbyterian, Baptist, Quaker, or any other, cannot, with sincerity, sacrifice their opinions to those of their amiable and Christian brethren in the establishment. Neither can the last, conscientiously, unite entirely in opinion with those of other denominations: but the grand basis of Christianity alone, is broad enough for the whole bulk of mankind to stand on, and join hands as children of one family. This basis is "Glory to God, and the increase of peace and good-will amongst men." — It is the duty of every man to imitate the conduct of the good Samaritan. Where is the sincere Churchman or Dissenter that would not readily unite to pour the oil and wine into the poor man's wounds. Ah, then! let the friends of youth, among every denomination of Christians, exalt the standard of Education, and rally round it for their preservation; laying aside all religious differences in opinion, and pursue two grand objects: — The promotion of good morals: and the instruction of youth in useful learning, adapted to their respective situations.

This metropolis abounds with many charitable institutions, which nobly display that grand characteristic of the British Nation, Humanity. — We have many societies, whose benevolent exertions contribute much to the public good: but among them, I know of none, except the Sunday School establishment, which operates, in a general way, to instruct the poor, and improve their morals: and that, from the short time the children attend school, is but limited in its effects. — Indeed, it is not to be wondered at, that no general plan of this kind has been adopted: there are few things in which it would appear, at first sight, that the different religious interests of sectarians would clash more: and so they must, if a plan of this kind is eagerly pursued by one or more parties, with a view to increase proselytes, or make it a vehicle to convey their favourite tenets. It has been generally conceived, that if any particular sect obtained the principal care in a national system of education, that party would soon be likely to possess the greatest power and influence in the state. Fear that the clergy should aggrandize themselves too much, has produced opposition from Dissenters to any proposal of the kind; on the other hand, the Clergy have opposed any thing of this nature which might originate with Dissenters, locally or generally, fearing an increase of the dissenting influence might prove likely to prejudice the interests of the establishment. — This difference has frequently produced bitterness and rancour, not consistent with the religious professions of either party; whose conduct ought to adorn the doctrines of their Lord and Master. When we view the consequences, they appear very mortifying to the benevolent mind, completely degrading to human nature, and unworthy of any place in the breasts of Englishmen.

Many thousands of youth have been deprived of the benefit of education thereby, their morals ruined, and talents irretrievably lost to society, for want of cultivation: while two parties have been idly contending who should bestow it. — However, there is hope yet left; the common ground of humanity is adapted to all, none can conscientiously scruple to meet there. All are agreed, that the increase of learning and good morals are great blessings to society. If they cannot unite to do good in every particular instance, let them be fellow helpers as far as they can, and cordially assist to do it with one mind; that society at large may no longer suffer loss, by a set of the most valuable and useful men our nation can boast, employing themselves to little better purpose, than to declaim, or make wry faces at one another.

The principal evils attendant on the usual mode of education among the poor, are, first, Improper and immoral persons having youth under their care: secondly, The poverty often distinguishing many teachers of this class, and the consequent want of that respect from parents, which contributes materially to support the master's authority: thirdly, What is of equal magnitude, the uncertainty, not only the poor, but persons in circumstances rather superior, are under, as to the character of the teacher they send their children to; which generally proves like a lottery, in which a solid good, in possession, is staked against one entirely speculative: fourthly, The bad accommodations common school rooms afford to the poor children who attend them; many of whom suffer materially in health, by the confinement in places, that, in summer, may be compared to a baker's oven*; in winter, to the peak of Derby: fifthly, The almost total want of system, and a proper stimulus to action in the minds of teachers and scholars: sixthly, The diversity of methods of teaching used in different schools, which very much retards the improvement of the scholars; and when it is found needful to remove them from one school to another, they are obliged to lose a portion of their invaluable time, in retracing their former steps to little purpose. The object of the society proposed, should be to remedy these, and other attendant evils.

* This will be easily understood as a figurative expression.

What is proposed as conducive to this end, is applicable to initiatory, charity, and most other day schools, with some trifling variations, adapted to the occasion. Female schools might be comprised in the list of those worthy the public patronage, with great propriety. It is conceived, that if female education was better regulated, amongst the lower orders of the people, the lives and happiness of many of those poor abandoned females, who now infest and disgrace the streets of this metropolis, would be preserved. Female schools, therefore, call for attention and reformation in a particular manner.

The first object of the proposed society, should be to provide suitable masters and mistresses for any schools they might chuse to establish, and to encourage such persons who have schools of their own, to do their duty by the societies (respectable) patronage, which properly bestowed, and avowed publicly, would (with its attendant benefits,) be very valuable, and conduce much to the credit of the teachers possessing it: so, on the other hand, it would tend to expel immoral and wicked teachers from the profession, as such must ever remain destitute of its protection.

Here, at once, a solid benefit would, in a considerable degree, be insured to masters, parents, and scholars. To the first, a degree of credit in his neighbourhood: to the second, a tolerable certainty of finding a good teacher for his child, and but little chance, that the pittance he is able to spare from his hard earned wages, will be lost (as it often is,) in a commendable endeavour to give his child an education. Also to the scholar, a certainty that his invaluable time will not be wasted under an ignorant and unqualified teacher. I feel diffident in laying these things before the public, but, to me, they appear important objects.

I do not think it a commendable thing for any body of men to infringe the rights of individuals; therefore, it would not be proper for a society to dictate to teachers having schools of their own, how, or what they should teach. I conceive any person, whose moral character and abilities were likely to make him serviceable to the rising generation, should be an object of the society's protection, let his denomination of religion be what it may; and let him pursue whatever methods, of religious or other instruction, his sincere and best intentions may dictate. I am an advocate for kind treatment on the part of the proposed society, and flatter myself, that the good sense of perrons engaged in the education of youth, would induce them to try, or adopt, such measures as the society might recommend, if the advantage was obvious, and practice easy: and this too, without being cudgelled into obedience.

The patronage of such a society would stimulate to exertion many worthy men, who now linger and despond, being without hope. How often is it seen, not only in the various pursuits of life, but in the revolutions of empires, that particular prospects of success not only present the opportunity of action and advantage, but often animate the mind to embrace it? — So would teachers of youth, well fitted for their employ, be daily formed, if the cheering hope of reward animated their labours. But it is very poor encouragement for a man, having a family, to pass laboriously away the prime of his days with the cheerless expectation of ending them in a workhouse or prison. To remedy this, a friendly society might be formed, composed of perrons who were teachers, under the patronage of the society proposed for the reformation of schools, and its funds might be formed into a very respectable stock by the addition of public donations. I conceive, some perrons better skilled in this matter than myself, would easily point out a method whereby a moderate capital would accumulate, till the stock was sufficient to defray the expence of sickness and funerals; and, perhaps, a liberal and honourable support for old age.

In addition to this, a fund might be established for the occasional relief of deserving teachers in distress, or it might be done by private benefactions, if deemed more eligible; but, at any rate, it is a duty the public owe to those concerned in the education of youth: a duty that by no means ought to remain undischarged. This would be very serviceable in cases of sudden and pressing necessity, but should only be used as a dernier resort, and without wounding the feelings of the party relieved.

We daily witness the beneficial effect produced to the community by the institution of premiums, held out to encourage the inventions of ingenious mechanics. As the human mind is nearly the fame in every class, allowing for the partial influence of habit on men of particular professions, it is rational to suppose, that similar encouragement would produce a similar, if not superior effect among the teachers of youth, many of whom are, naturally, men of amiable and liberal minds, but discouraged by the depressing circumstances of their employment.

If a society, for encouraging the commendable exertions of teachers, and bettering the state of schools, was established, and gold or silver medals, &c. given, as rewards for merit, it would be requisite that the distribution should be made as public as possible. It might be proper that the society should publish in the newspapers, the list of prizes, &c. with the names and dwellings of the parties who obtain them: for the same reason, handbills should be printed at the society's expence, and distributed about the neighbourhood wherein the teachers resided. These should contain a statement of the delivery of the gold or silver medal, and for what given, at the same time, stating the satisfaction the society possessed, in having the opportunity of rewarding such distinguished merit; and to conclude by recommending him and his school to the respect and patronage of the public in his neighbourhood.

This outline would admit of qualification, according to different degrees of merit; but, it is conceived, it would so effectually establish the reputation of the schoolmaster in his neighbourhood, as to increase the number of his scholars, and also his income, in a considerable degree. Thus, perhaps, a medal, of a value not exceeding five guineas, would prove more valuable to a master, from the honourable circumstances attending its delivery, than a donation of fifty guineas given in privacy and silence.

The whole body of teachers might derive considerable benefit from the benevolent exertions of the society proposed, in another respect. Schoolmasters are at continual expence for Bibles, Testaments, slates, spelling, writing, and other books, quills, &c.: it is conceived, that large impressions of particular books might be printed off, and considerable purchases made of other articles, which should be retailed without profit, at the society's expence, for ready money, in aid of those teachers only, whose connection with the society, and attention to their duty, should entitle them to such a privilege; it is thought, if such bargains were made with prudence, that many masters might save ten guineas per annum by it, on a very moderate calculation *: a sum that is of great consequence to persons having families to maintain. Now, if ten guineas were offered as a donation to some men, their independent spirit would make them decline the offer; but few would object to purchase a bargain whereby so much would be saved. If it should happily prove the public disposition to encourage the worthy teachers of youth, I presume it would be thought best to do it in a manner that would not hurt the feelings of any individual. If this idea should be judged expedient for adoption, I conceive, the funds appropriated to this purpose would remain undiminished, except a trifling annual expence for the person employed in vending them, while one thousand or fifteen hundred pounds might be saved to teachers under the society's patronage; and this piece of service would be more grateful to them, from the conviction that it was the consequence of their own industry and merit. I flatter myself, that, if found needful, a wise and benevolent government would readily concur in encouraging a society of this kind, and, perhaps, readily allow a drawback of the total duties on writing paper, for the use of teachers under the society's protection. This would make a material addition to their fund, and the degree of their usefulness to those they might chuse to protect.

* In large schools much more might be saved.

To facilitate the means of rewarding pupils for good behaviour, attention to their studies, &c. by having medals struck (of silver, and inferior metal) in variety, and adapted to the occasion, a diversity of means might be suggested whereby teachers should be enabled to encourage and reward their pupils, without burthening themselves and their families with an imprudent expence.

The institution of a public library, containing books on education, would be well adapted for the information of teachers, many of whom are not able to purchase expensive publications on those subjects.

To endeavour to gain all the information on the subject of tuition, which the peculiar situation of the society, as patrons of education, would most likely afford, in an extensive manner, the publication of which would be attended with great usefulness, and prove a desirable object. It most probably would not be thought proper to insist upon, or enforce, any particular modes of tuition, religious systems, or creeds. If a teacher was honest, assiduous, and careful, it is as much as any society ought to expect from him. It may be remembered, that this proposal goes not to establish a new order of schools*, which would be attended with great expence, but to reform those we already have, by enabling and encouraging the masters to do their duty. — Therefore, every master must be left at liberty to pursue the path of his own choice, and yet partake of the expected reward at the end of his toils. — But there remain one or two things which the public opinion will sanction a right to enforce: viz. A due attention to health, cleanliness, and morality.

* Though, if some schools were established under the society's immediate care, where they are most wanted, I conceive it would not be foreign to their plan of facilitating the means of education to the poor.

The object is not, by more than Herculean labour, to produce either a new establishment, or assume an improper power in the old one, but to cause the schools of which it consists to approximate nearer to public utility; and that only by mild, manly, and Christian conduct, on the part of the society.

If such a society should be formed, great care will be needful in admitting members, but abundantly so in chusing the committee.

Such a society, from its great usefulness, would soon become the most beneficial, reflected, and popular of any in the kingdom. Its objects, by a proper definition and limitation, might be circumscribed, so as to avoid giving offence, even to narrow-minds, while all its benevolent objects would be accomplished, in some hundreds of schools, amongst many thousands of children, at an expence, that, probably, would not exceed fifteen hundred pounds per annum.

An additional object would be worthy the society's notice: to enforce, as much as possible, the regular attendance of the children at school, and that as near the time appointed as can be. It might be worth while to take a select number of scholars, who were fit to be apprenticed, from every school under the society's patronage: the qualification on the pupil's part should be a regular attendance at school, at the proper hour, for a great length of time; these to draw lots for apprentice fees. Five hundred pounds would suffice to apprentice near one hundred boys, which should be done, not as an act of charity, but a duty, to deserving youth, which it would be an happiness to the society to fulfil.

Premiums might be instituted, at the public expence, for boys whose improvement in learning should merit it. — We frequently witness a considerable abuse of those rejoicing times in schools, called breaking-up; disorder, and even accidents often occur, merely from the boys not being previously trained to walk in order; by training them to this practice, I have taken one hundred and forty, a walk of five miles and back, while they travelled as regular as I could wish, although they reached so far, that on turns or windings of the road, more than one half the number were out of sight. A discipline of this sort might be easily introduced into every school in London, without loss of time; and an exercise of this sort is so agreeable to boys, that they would come into it with cheerfulness.

It is probable, such a society would be productive of much good, at a comparatively small expence, and the influence of all parties concerned remain nearly the fame in society as at present. Having done my part, I commit it to the disposal of a wise and gracious Providence: and to its own merits, with a discerning and benevolent public.


Some Account of the Rise and Progress of an Institution for improving the Plan, and facilitating the Means, of attaining primary Education amongst the industrious Classes of the Community, established in the Borough Road, Southwark: wherein near Three Hundred Children are educated, and trained to habits conducive to the Welfare of Society.

IT is difficult to speak or write with becoming moderation or propriety, on topics to which we are biased by prejudice, interest, or even principle. Vanity seems insensibly entwined about our nature, and, mingling with our best performances, often debases their sterling value. A degree of confidence in our own powers is a useful and necessary incentive to action; but that confidence, heightened by unusual success, frequently degenerates into self-conceit, as unperceivedly, as sweet sleep steals on the weary traveller. If an unusual and unexpected degree of success should have tinctured my sentiments with proofs of these unamiable and unmanly qualities, I trust to my reader's candour and benevolence for an excuse; as I wish to write with becoming diffidence, and not intentionally to express myself more positively than facts warrant me in doing.

The institution, which a benevolent Providence has been pleased to make me the happy instrument of bringing into usefulness, was begun in the year 1798. The intention was, to afford children of mechanics, &c. instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic, at about half the usual price. As soon as the institution became known it was well attended by scholars, whose number soon exceeded eighty. In this situation, as master of the school, I have continued to this time.

During several years, the number of scholars continued to vary with the circumstances of their parents, who severely felt the exigencies of the times. The season of the year, and consequent inclemency of the weather, often contributed to reduce them. In summer, one hundred and twenty was common: in winter, they would sink to fifty or sixty. In a trying season of recent scarcity, many of them were provided with dinners gratis, chiefly at the expence of a noble and generous minded body of friends. From forty to sixty children at a time were supplied to general satisfaction.

To return from this digression. — During several years I had essayed to introduce a better system of tuition into the school, and every attempt had failed. — The non-attendance of many in winter, I had reason to fear, originated in poverty. As an individual, it would not have been proper for me to alleviate the evil to a large extent at that time: I did a little, and happily knew who were able and willing to do much: and, of course, did not remain long without their liberal co-operation.

From this time the internal organization of the school was gradually and materially altered for the better. The public reputation of it also increased, to such a degree, that more than two hundred scholars were admitted in about eight months.

As one of the chief deficiencies, in this class of schools, is a defective stimulus to emulation, it became my duty, (having the power) to remedy it in my own.

Commendation, joined to a consciousness of merit, has a powerful effect; of this I was aware, I therefore engaged the bookbinder to make some leather tickets, gilt and lettered differently, expressive of the various degrees of merit they were intended to distinguish; these were suspended, by a small piece of ribbon, from the button of the wearer's coat, as a badge of peculiar approbation. So far of commendatory tickets; but, as they are only a link in the chain, it became necessary to combine "solid pudding with empty praise;" for boys, (any more than authors,) cannot subsist entirely on air. I endeavoured to combine commendation and reward together; and, as good in expectation, is often more desirable than good in possession, expectation being a powerful motive to action, was, with some propriety, united with them. We have near two hundred of these tickets. As to the method of distributing them, I inspect the writing, arithmetic, &c. and distribute paper tickets, No. 1, 2, 3, &c. according to merit.

This number, one, two, three, &c. is a small, square piece of paper, numbered, corresponding with a similar number of the (leather) gilt commendatory ticket the bearer is to receive: he carries this to the monitor appointed for that purpose, who gives him the ticket he is entitled to, and registers it in a book. When a scholar has, by merit, obtained a fixed quota of those numbers and commendatory tickets, he is entitled to a prize of an appropriate value. These tickets vary, from No. 1, to be obtained six times before the bearer obtains a halfpenny prize; to No. 6, forty times, entitled to a shilling prize. The numbers are a valuable paper currency, and the boys who obtain them go to present them to the monitor, with as much avidity as a miser converts his paper into hard cash. — The prizes consist of bats, balls, and kites, &c. &c. in great variety; — thus they are kept on the tip-toe of expectation. One says, "I wonder what number I shall get to day?" — Another rejoins, "I have had No. 3 twelve times: only four times more, and I shall have a four-penny prize."

I was induced to establish several orders of merit, from conviction that emulation, well directed, becomes a useful servant; and, that the latent genius of some youth is more easily brought into action this way, than by the more sordid gratification of self-interest.

The members of these honorary orders of merit are also distinguished by a badge, worn daily, until forfeited by bad behaviour. And the effect these marks of distinction have upon the youthful mind, is very powerful: so far beyond my expectation, that I think I should scarcely have believed it, unless convinced, as I am, by experience. This system of encouragement proves serviceable as a preventive of punishment, the attainment of the tickets being a reward, the forfeiture of them the reverse; and, as such, boys seem often more affected by their loss than by coercion. The influence a master has over his scholars is very great; the veneration wherewith they regard him is almost equal to idolatry, and that simply by his conduct in his station; so much so, that they are all his willing servants, and doubly proud to be his ambassadors on trivial occasions: his smiles are precious, and even bitter things are sweet, when bestowed by his hand.

The following quotation may be worthy the reader's attention: — "By way of sport, or to try the dexterity of the pupils, the master leads them to a clump of trees, and, while he is counting fifteen, every one must climb up some tree, so high, as to be out of the reach of his cane: all exert themselves, with much laughter, to escape the stick, as if some wild beast were at their heels; if any one be defective in agility, he will be reached, and receive the penance of a few playful strokes." — Salzmann's Gymnastics for Youth, page 225.

These playful strokes, from a companion, or an equal, would most likely produce a tough battle, and black eyes; but from a master, a beating, we read, is taken very pleasantly. The effects of approbation, or the contrary, expressed by the senior boys to lesser, seem to carry a degree of weight, almost similar to that of their master. Whenever a neat, ingenious trick, of a mischievous nature, has been played, we may be sure some arch wag, who officiates as captain of the gang, perhaps a Franklin *, was the original and life of the conspiracy. The predominant feature in the youthful disposition is an almost irresistible propensity to action; this, if properly controlled by suitable employment, will become a valuable auxiliary to the master, but, if neglected, will be apt to degenerate into rebellion. Active youths, when treated as cyphers, will generally shew their consequence by exercising themselves in mischief; this is often the cause of that unpleasant riotous disposition evinced at our public schools, where the pupils brave every thing but the censures of their friends, or the disgrace of expulsion.

* "When embarked with other children, the helm was commonly deputed to me, particularly on difficult occasions; and in every other project, I was almost always the leader of the troop, whom I sometimes involved in embarrassments. — I shall give an instance of this, which demonstrates an early disposition of mind for public enterprizes, though the one in question was not conducted by justice. The mill pond was terminated on one side by a marsh, upon which we were accustomed to take our stand, at high water, to angle for small fish. By dint of walking, we had converted the place into a perfect quagmire. My proposal was to erect a wharf, that should afford us firm footing, and I pointed out to my companions a large heap of stones, intended for the building a new house near the marsh, and which were well adapted to the purpose. Accordingly, when the workmen retired in the evening, I assembled a number of my play-fellows, and by labouring diligently, like ants, sometimes four of us uniting to carry a single stone, we removed them all, and constructed our little quay. The workmen were surprized next morning at not finding their stones, which had been conveyed to our wharf. Enquiries were made respecting the authors of this conveyance: we were discovered; complaints were exhibited against us; many of us underwent correction on the part of our parents; and though I strenuously defended the utility of the work, my parents at length convinced me, that nothing but what was strictly honest could be useful." See Life and Works of Dr. Franklin, Vol. i.

Aware of these things, I have endeavoured to render the degree of knowledge I possess subservient to the interest of the institution, by reducing theory into practice. My school is attended by near three hundred scholars. The whole system of tuition is almost entirely conducted by boys; the writing books are ruled with exactness, and all the writers supplied with good pens by the same means. In the first instance, the school is divided into classes, to each of these a lad is appointed as monitor: he is responsible for the morals, improvement, good order, and cleanliness of the whole class. It is his duty to make a daily, weekly, and monthly report of progress, specifying the number of lessons performed, boys present, absent, &c. &c*. — As we naturally expect the boys who teach others to read, to leave school when their education is complete, and do not wish that they should neglect their own improvement in other studies, they are instructed to train other lads as assistants, who, in future, may supply their place: and, in the mean time, leave them to improve in other branches of learning. To be a monitor is coveted by the whole school, it being an office at once honourable and productive of emolument: "Solid pudding, as well as empty, praise."


FIRST CLASS, December 3, 1802.


Began at Preceptor, Sub. master, Universal Spelling Book.

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SECOND CLASS, December 3, 1802.


Began at Throb, New Guide Spelling Book.

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We have, beside, other lucrative offices of trust. A monitor delivers out the leather commendatory tickets; a second, the tickets of the order of merit; another has a general charge as to cleanliness, &c. and a fourth has the care of near three hundred slates. Thus, every duty has its respective officer, and the fidelity and assiduity displayed in its discharge, by these younglings, is surprizing. This system of tuition is mutually for the advantage of the lads who teach, and those who are taught; by it the path of learning is strewed with flowers: for the monitors have rewards attached to the proper discharge of their respective duties. Thus, if a lad in one class is qualified, by improvement, for removal to a higher, he receives an appropriate reward, and his monitor also a similar one. The same regulation takes place in arithmetic, on going into a new rule. The advantage, derived from the daily reports of progress made by each class being regularly booked, is great; it obliges the monitors to go straight forward, and not wander from one lesson to another; it affords, by inspection, a true account of the lessons, &c. performed by every boy; and also a retrospective view of the general progress of the whole school. — But it is now time to give some account of our improved methods of tuition: they may, possibly, prove a public benefit. The method of spelling seems to be the most excellent, it being entirely an addition to the regular course of studies, without interfering with, or deranging them in the least. It commands attention, gratifies the active disposition of youth, and is an excellent introduction and auxiliary to writing. It supersedes, in a great measure, the use of books in tuition, while (to speak moderately) it doubles the actual improvement of the children. It is as simple an operation as can well be conceived. — Thus, supply twenty boys with slates and pencil, and pronounce any word for them to write, suppose it is the word "ab-so-lu-ti-on;" they are obliged to listen with attention, to catch the sound of every letter as it falls from their teacher's lips; again, they have to retrace the idea of every letter, and the pronunciation of the word, as they write it on the slates. If we examine ourselves, when we write letters, we shall find that writing is so much affociated and connected with orthography, that we cannot write a word without spelling as we write, and involuntarily correcting any inaccuracy that may occur.

Now these twenty boys, if they were at a common school, would each have a book, and, one at a time, would read or spell to their teacher, while the other nineteen were looking at their books, or about them, as they pleased: or, if their eyes are rivetted on their books, by terror and coercion, can we be sure that the attention of their minds is engaged as appearance seems to speak it is. On the contrary, when they have slates, the twentieth boy may read to the teacher, while the other nineteen are spelling words on the slate, instead of sitting idle. The class, by this means, will spell, write, and read at the same instant of time. In addition to this, the same trouble which teaches twenty will suffice to teach sixty or a hundred, by employing some of the senior boys to inspect the slates of the others, they not omitting to spell the word themselves, and on a signal given by them to the principal teacher, that the word is finished by all the boys they overlook, he is informed when to dictate another to the class. This experiment has been repeatedly practised by 112 and 128 boys at once; and judicious persons, good judges on the subject of education, who were present, were convinced that the same trouble was sufficient to teach 200 boys, or more, on the same plan.

But if the individual advantage derived from this method in tuition is great, what must the aggregate be? If 20 boys spell 200 words each, the same number spelt by 60 boys must produce a great increase of total.

Each boy can spell 100 words in a morning: if 100 scholars do this 200 mornings yearly, the following will be the total of their efforts towards improvment:

100 words

200 mornings

20,000 words each boy per ann. 100 boys

2,000,000 Total words spelt by 100 boys, per ann.

The repetition of the same word many times serves to rivet it firmly in the memory, and thus produces the total; for the intelligent reader will readily perceive, that the same trouble will occur in teaching 1,000 words distinctly, twenty times over, as would happen in teaching 2,000 distinct words, containing an equal number of syllables, only once over.

I have avoided exaggeration in the above statement, for, if applied to my school, with more than double the number of boys and lessons, it would produce an increase of total to the amount of some millions.

When we consider that this is entirely an addition to their other studies, without the least additional trouble on the part of the teacher, in tuition: without any extra time of attendance being requisite from the scholar; without deranging or impeding his attention to other studies; at least doubling his efforts towards proficiency, and possessing these advantages, that it effectually commands quietness, by commanding attention: and as certainly prevents idleness, by actively employing every boy in the class at the same instant of time. That so simple a thing should abound with so many advantages is scarcely to be supposed at a first glance, but that it does I am well convinced, by daily experience of its usefulness.

In education nothing can be more important than economy of time, even when we have a reasonable prospect of a good portion of it at our disposal; but it is most peculiarly necessary in primary schools, and in the instruction of the poor: — cases wherein the pupil seldom has too much on his hands; and very often a sine genius or noble talents are lost to the state, and to mankind, from the want of it. If we wish to do the best for the welfare of youth, and to promote their interest through life, it will be well for us to study economy of their precious time. "Be careful of time," says the philosopher, "for time is the stuff life is made of." In this respect, I would recommend the teachers of youth, for example, to the industry of the Chinese waterman, who plies one oar with his right foot, another with his left hand, dexterously guiding the fail, in the mean time, with his right hand, while he enjoys his whiff of tobacco seemingly quite at his ease. To return from this digression to the method of tuition I have been describing. — I believe it will be found useful in any school, and equally so with any number of scholars, many or few: but I cannot speak from experience of its advantage in connection with any other system of tuition, &c. but my own, which, I flatter myself, has given a degree of life to the exertions of my boys, not frequently witnessed, and yet I have no doubt but the same means will uniformly produce the same effect.

The system of rewards, and the new method of teaching to spell are, I believe, original. Some attempts have been made to introduce a more easy and better mode of teaching the first rules of arithmetic, which has been very successful, but is not yet sufficiently mature to meet the public eye; When it is, if of apparent utility, it will be cheerfully at their service. A method of teaching to write has also been invented, and carried into effect at considerable pains and expence; it proves very useful in general, but beginners in writing derive the greatest benefit from it. Youth of this description frequently have a good idea of the formation of letters, but not of the distance at which they ought to be joined together. Sometimes they are very apt to make them too upright, or the reverse, having no conception of the angle letters should incline upon. This invention prevents both, by regulating the distances with almost mathematical nicety; and, at the same time, describes the angle of inclination so plainly, that they cannot deviate unless wilfully. Thus much for the outlines of this method: but it is attended with so much trouble in the execution, that I consider it to be more local, and not of that importance to the public, with the method of spelling which has been detailed, independent of the difficulty of conveying clear ideas of the minutiæ of the thing, arising from the nature of the instruments wherewith it is done.

The books made use of in this school, as reading lessons, are the Bible, Testament, Turner's Introduction to the Arts and Sciences, Trimmer's Introduction to the Knowledge of Nature and Reading the Scriptures, Martinet's Catechism of Nature, and Watts's Hymns for Children.

I ought not to close my account, without acknowledging the obligation I lie under to Dr. Bell, of the Male Asylum at Madras, who so nobly gave up his time and liberal salary, that he might perfect that institution, which flourished greatly under his fostering care. He published a tract, in 1798, entitled, "An Experiment on Education, made at the Male Asylum at Madras, suggesting a System whereby a School or Family may teach itself, under the Superintendence of the Master, or Parent." Cadell and Dames, Strand, price is. — From this publication I have adopted several useful hints; I beg leave to recommend it to the attentive perusal of the friends of education and of youth. I am persuaded, nothing is more conducive to the promotion of a system than actual experiment. Dr. Bell had two hundred boys, who instructed themselves, made their own pens, ruled their books, and did all that labour in school, which, among a great number, is light; but resting on the shoulders of the well-meaning and honest, though unwise teacher, often proves too much for his health, and embitters, or perhaps costs him his life. I much regret that I was not acquainted with the beauty of his system, till somewhat advanced in my plan; if I had known it, it would have saved me much trouble, and some retrograde movements. As a confirmation of the goodness of Dr. Bell's plan, I have succeeded with one nearly similar, in a school attended by almost three hundred children.

I have yet another duty to discharge before I close this essay: to return my public thanks to those amiable and deserving boys, who, by seconding my exertions in a proper manner, have materially contributed to the welfare and success of the institution. I have no doubt, that if they continue to be actuated through life by the same love of rectitude, diligence in business, and propriety of behaviour, they will become useful members, and distinguished ornaments of society, as well as a peculiar source of felicity to their relatives and connections.