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On this feature of the plan Mr. Steven indignantly exclaims,
Who could blame a Catholic parent for revolting at the thought of entrusting his infant into the hands of strangers ? This measure left him the only sad alternative, of either sacrificing parental affection or sealing up his offspring in ignorance and superstition. And do we bring the present state of the Catholic population as a charge against them? In truth, we are principals in the offence. O! it is full time to change our measures. Let the Country, let Parliament, act liberally, Justice compromises no right, and sacrifices no principle.' p. 10,
We shall extract two or three passages more, and we are convinced that these passages will be more satisfactory to our readers, than any speculations of our own on the subjects disa cussed in it.
I have endeavoured to give a concise history of the origin of the Society; the objects which it embraced, the powers with which it was armed, the sources and amount of its income, and its progressive in. .crease, with its disbursements ; the mismanagement and abuse of the public funds intrusted to its care, and its failure in the accomplishment of the objects for which it was incorporated, and for which the large grants I have stated, were made ; viz. the increase of Protestantism, and the extension of education. I have exhibited, in the Report of 1788, such a complication of misery in the treatment of the poor children, and such gross mismanagement and improper conduct on the part of most of the masters and inistresses, as has seldom, if ever, been exceeded in any similar national establishment. And I now respectfully call on the Committee of Fifteen to state to Parliaa ment and to the British Empire, whether the masters are not still al, lowed to trade on the labour of the children for their own profit ? as well as how far all or any of those evils which that Report details are, yet continued. I have shewn, that after an expenditure of more than a million and a half sterling, Ireland, as far as the Chartered Schools are concerned, has been left, nearly as they found her. More than half a century, the most important era of Ireland's history, has been lost to her, as it regards a national system of education ; by which she has been prevented from holding on her march, in national improve. ment, with the other kingdoms of the British Empire. After seventy years' experience, what impression have the Chartered Schools made on the moral condition of Ireland ? What portion of the moral wildera, ness has she enclosed and cultivated by means of this large expenditure? Where has the vine and the myrtle taken place of the brams ble and the thorn? Who, acquainted with Ireland, and the state of society there, does not deplore the want of education, by which generation after generation has been suffered to grow up and die in the grossest ignorance? And whilst the poor, in all the provinces of Ire. land, have been sighing for the education of their children, this Society, whose funds have been sufficiently ample for the instruction of two hundred thousand children annually, on a plan of daily schools, have been expending all on thirty-three schools, and little more than two thousand children ! pp. 140.-142.
• It will be scarcely credited, (except by a reference to the yearly grants,) that in the course of seventeen years, the Imperial Parliament, as a matter of course, without any public inquiry, that I am aware of, and without any increase of schools, have expended the enora mous sum of £554,000 and upwards ; a sum larger, by £200,000, than was granted by the Irish Parliament during a space of forty-six years, when very considerable sums were expended on buildings and furniture, and a greater number of schools supported by the Institution. If the present waste of the public money, on a scale of education small and unproductive, be persisted in, no wonder if the finances of the country be embarrassed. Here is a sum granted by Parliament, to the amount of £41,539 annually, for thirty-three Chartered Schools ; and all this, independent of the large income enjoyed by the Society from estates, public government funds, &c. &c. &c. which may be safely estimated at a sum not less than from £10,000 up to 320,000, making an aggregate of 661,000 per annum.
• And I would ask, What correspondent good has been done by this vast sum, for the improvement of Ireland? Let the Committee of Fifteen answer this question, if they can. I ask, What great moral or political benefit has accrued to Ireland, or to the British Empire, which now contributes to this vast expenditure, from these Chartered Schools, as an apology for a national system of education for the poor of Ireland ?
• But had it been otherwise ; had it appeared in the course of this inquiry, that the plan was good as far as it went ; that the funds, private and parliamentary, had been honestly, discreetly, and economically expended; that the children were well fed, well clothed, well lodged, not over-worked, and their education good; that a stranger could not visit any of the schools, without seeing peace, plenty, health, and comfort written in legible characters on their chubby cheeks ; that all the boys and girls turned out Protestants, and had grown up good, virtuous, and useful men and women : if all this and much more had been the result of the Chartered School scheme, my objections to the system would, in the late and present state of education in Ireland, have been still insurmountable.. : Were there at this time a general dearth of the necessaries of life in Irelard, and, through the private liberality of individuals and the bounty of Parliament, a fund of £60,000 was annually collected, expressly for the maintenance of poor starving children throughout the kingdom, during the time of famine, what would be thought of those to whom the funds were intrusted, when it was understood, that instead of extending relief generally, they had selected two thousand children, and built houses for their reception at a great expense; that they gave large salaries to officers, and to masters for superintending the children; and that they spent more money on buildings, officers, and others connected with the establishment, than would feed the two thousand children ? pp. 145–147. • It remains therefore to be accounted for, how, in the
year 1816, with a reduction of more than twenty schools, and consequently of masters salaries, land, and board for themselves and families, &c., with but a small increase of children, and without the heavy expense of building school houses, the Society has been receiving annually, from Parliament,
£41,539, independent of perhaps not less than £20,000 of fixed annual income. No change in the value of money, prices of provisions, or clothing, can fairly account for this. p. 19.
• Let this charter school system be farther investigated 'on the fair Matement of Dr. and Cr. as between the Committee of Fifteen and the Public. Deriving so large a sum as £40,000 a year from Parliament, let us see how the account stands.
• By the Society's own shewing, there is a vast sum to account for, annually, over their expenditure.
• They state the charge of board, education, clothing, masters, servants, &c. for each child to be £13 annually; and I shall state the account as it will stand on their own authority. Thc Chartered School Society in account with the Public. Dr.
To amount of parlia
By 2500 children, at mentary grants in Irish
£13 per ann. each, for 227,500 money from 1811 to
seven years.......... 1817, for seven years Permanent income, at £15,000 per ann, for 105,000 By balance due to the
187,500 seven years...........
public from 1811 to 1817
In the first edition of this work, we read statements absolutely revolting to every feeling of humanity and honesty, in relation to the perversion of private bequests, by the shameless dishonesty of trustees. Most generous endowments have been left by benevolent noblemen and others, for the purposes of free education in Ireland ; but the number of instances in which these have been made the mere instruwents of base gain, with an open dereliction of the object contemplated by the Founders, are amazing and disgusting. But we see that these passages are expunged from the Second Edition ; from a regard to prudence, no doubt, and the hope that the delinquents would rather be constrained to some kind of reluctant reformation, than be exhibited as they deserve, before the tribunal of the public.
It is, however, a beginning of consolation to the friends of Ireland, that, notwithstanding these atrocious iniquities, something has been done, and is still doing, with faithfulness and efficiency, for the education of its swarming population. The Hibernian Society, instituted in London in 1806, now educates in day-schools above 27,000 children, chiefly catholics.
• I now proceed to describe the kind of Schools which I would recommend, instead of the boarding and clothing plan. In doing this, I am happy in being able to refer my readers to an extensive and continued experiment, which has been carrying on for years in the west of Ireland, under the care and at the expense, of the London Hibernian Society, for Schools, and for the circulation of the Scap tures. This Society has now three hundred and forty-seven Schools, in which are above twenty-seven thousand Catholic and Protestant children, receiving daily instruction, and exhibiting such proofs of the excellency and success of the plan, as must convince all who are ac. quainted with it. A plan which must recommend itself by its great simplicity, united with efficiency. In the plan of these Schools, there is nothing calculated in the slightest degree to clash with the religious peculiarities of the Catholics. They are open to all religious persuasions. The only books used in them are Spelling-books, with Scripture lessons, and the New Testament.
• The children, as they advance in reading, are expected to commit to memory a certain portion of the Scriptures, which they cheerfully do, and in many cases greatly exceed the requisite task. You may meet with many little ragged boys and girls, who can repeat thirty, and even forty chapters, with great correctness.
"There are no catechisms allowed in the Schools. The children whr, can read the Testament, are permitted to carry it home every evening to read to their parents and neighbours. And it is no uncommon sight to see the cabin full, and persons standing round the door listening with attention and wonder to the word of God, which is read by the child, to the no small delight of his parents. In this simple and inoffensive way have thousands of Testaments found their. admission into the cabins of the Catholics ; and by the silent, but efficacivus operations of the truth on the heart, under the divine blessing, many, very many have not only been brought over from the errors of Popery, but have become sincere Christians.
I can refer to the testimony of a most respectable clergyman of the Church of Ireland, who attributes the great increase in the number of hearers in his church, to the beneficial effects of these schools in his parish and neighbourhood. This will invariably be the case as knowJedge increases ; and the churches, which have been almost without hearers hitherto, will be well attended. pp. 149–151,
Another proof of the high approbation of these Schools by the Catholics is, that in a variety of instances they are held, by permis. sion of the priests, in their chapels ; I have even known the priest attending to hear the children repeat the portions of Scripture which they had committed to memory : and I must speak it to the praise of one Catholic prelate, and of many of the priests, who have counte. panced and commended these Free Schools. And I take this oppor. tunity of expressing my conviction of the growing liberality of the Roman clergy of Ireland. This may be expected in the present state of society in the British Empire. The spirit and principles of the Church of Rome are the same as in the days of Queen Mary ; but public opinion is against her in many things, and particularly in segard to the circulation of the Scriptures and education of the poor ; and notwithstanding the bulls of Popes, they must either yield in some measure, or risk their influence over the people, with the loss of the good opinion of the liberal and humane.
• Some years since, [ago], the Society was at a loss for Irish
teachers. When they commenced Irish classes in those districts where the English language is but little known, they were under the necessity of employing Catholic masters. When the idea was first suggested to the Committee, it excited a little aların. They felt a hesitation in committing the instruction of the children to a Catholic. But, on farther consideration of the subject, they saw no objections, as no books were allowed in the Schools except the Spelling-book and New Testament.
* The Society has employed such as were competent; and I am
happy in being able to declare, that, after many years' experience, | there has nothing arisen to make them regret their decision. I am
also able to state, that not a few of them, who came into the service of the Society bigoted Catholics, have, through the reading of the Scriptures, renounced the errors of Popery, and become consistent and decided Protestants.
The poor Catholic population had for years, before this Society began its operations, been preparing for it, by an universal anxiety for the education of their children. They had discovered that the want of this was one great cause of their degraded condition. This gave rise to a great increase of Schools throughout the kingdom. But alas ! it was 'any thing but education. The whole plan of what they dig. nified with that name, had a direct tendency to debase, instead of enlarging and elevating the mind ; to bind more securely the infant conscience in the chains of priestly domination ; to corrupt the hearts of the children, by the reading of such books as histories of the Irish Rapparees and Rogues, the Adventures of Captain Frene, Impartial History of Ireland, and the Treatise of the Scapular ; to raise in them an admiration of lawless, profligate, and successful adventure ; to cherish superstition, and become the nurseries of disloyalty and rebellion. In these Schools, the Holy Scriptures were never suf. fered to enter. That Sacred Word, the entrance of which giveth light, whose heavenly doctrines elevate and purify the soul, whose holy precepts inculcate every relative and social duty; that holy book, which ought invariably to form the basis of useful instruction for the poor, was proscribed !
And it was no extraordinary thing to see a large number of children collected together in what they called a School, and not a book used nor any taught to read. The children were employed in committing to memory portions of the Summary of Christian Doctrine and the Catechism, as they were given out by the priest, or master, that they might be early versed in all the peculiarities of the Romish faith and worship. The good sense of the poor parents, a large portion of which is generally found among the common people of Ireland, soon perceived that this was not education. Happily for them, at this time the London Hibernian Society commenced her operations; and as her schools increased, those hot beds of disaffection, superstition, and vice, were demolished.' pp. 152-155.
These Schools have also achieved much, in removing that antiBritish feeling which has been so fruitful of misery to Ireland. That which has been the chief engine in the hands of the leaders of rebellion, and has more than once shaken the English Government there to its very foundation, is now happily dying away in those districts