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great and magnanimous idea of rousing by his own exertions a sufficient number of individuals in the nation to contribute the expense which the education of the whole body of the people would require. This, be it observed, is what Joseph Lancaster did alone. In this merit no one dares venture to claim a share with him. While the Dr. Bells and the Dr. Marshes, the Bishop As and the Bishop Bs, enjoyed their tranquillity and their ease, without an effort for the education of the poor, without a single school to which their exertions gave birth, Mr. Lancaster proved, by experiment on a large scale, that education for the poor might be rendered incredibly cheap; that thus the means of carrying it on to the requisite extent might with comparative ease be procured; and he conceived the noble resolution of rousing the nation at large to afford those means. Aware how often attempts had been made, and by men much more powerful than himself, and made in vain, to obtain a share of the public funds for the maintenance of a system, co-extensive with the nation, of education for the poor, he conceived the new idea of rendering private funds equal to the great national work. He demonstrated by his grand experiment the practicability of the scheme; and he called upon the nation to join him in giving it execution and reality. To the honour of the nation be it spoken, to the honour of Him who has so long stood at its head, and of many of those who are the nearest to him in dignity and influence, the call was heard with an attention and sensibility greater almost than could have been expected, Universal interest seemed to be excited. Schools were multiplied. Men seemed to be astonished at the facility with which the elements of learning might be universally imparted. To the zeal and enthusiasm of a Philanthropist, Mr. Lancaster happily added the greatest activity, fearlessness, and perseverance. New schools seemed ready to spring up in every part of the country. But when things were in this situation, the cry that "the Church was in danger" became suddenly loud.
The leading facts are shortly these; and they are speaking facts; men will not fail to attend to them: During upwards of fifty years that ignorance reigned triumphant, save for the slight and disproportionate resistance afforded by the charity and Sunday schools, who ever cried that there was any danger to the church? During the century or centuries which preceded, and in which the reign of ignorance was complete, who ever cried that there was any danger to the church?
time arrives, when it appears that education is to become general; and then comes the cry that the church is in danger!"
What appears from this at first sight seems to be ;-1. That in the opinion of the authors of the cry, Ignorance is not dangerous to the church;-2. That Knowledge is dangerous to
What appears with indubitable certainty is;-that ignorance in their opinion is neither dangerous to the church nor disagreeable to the clergy; because, were it dangerous to the church, the hierarchy would certainly during the long period of its reign have set up the cry of danger; and had it been disagreeable to themselves, they would most certainly have exerted themselves, as Lancaster has exerted himself, and with ten thousand times his effect, (for what is the influence of ten thousand Lancasters to the influence of the clergy?) to extirpate the ignorance by the force of education, and to plant knowledge in its stead.
If the authors, however, of the cry say that they do not hold knowledge to be dangerous to the church, that they do not hold it dangerous in one of its modes, viz. when communicated by themselves, though they do hold it dangerous in all other possible modes, be it so: they shall have the advantage of every thing they choose to assume, as far as they and their assumptions can bear one another out. The assumption too, in the present case, is a pretty remarkable one; we leave the import of it to be weighed by others. It is, however, certain, that if they do not think knowledge dangerous to the church, they at least think it useless; because, did they not think so, they would infallibly have done what was in their power (and every thing to this purpose was in their power) to render education universal from one end of the kingdom to the other. Having not done what was in their power, they must confess that they either looked upon education as useless; or that, knowing it to be useful, it was not suitable to their interest or inclination to do what depended upon them for its establishment; that though they knew it to be useful, and had it in their power to render it universal, they did no such thing.
But it is high time to demand of those who cry "churchdanger!" what it is they would be at? They must cease talking in the air. Let them speak specifically and pointedly. What is it they wish?
The children of the poor are observed to be in general brought up without education, abandoned to themselves, in the streets and in the fields, learning all the idle and disorderly habits which render men bad members of society. A Dissenter, be it observed, is the man who steps forward, and says, "It is possible to dry up this flood of evil by applying a remedy to the source. show how it may call upon the nation to second me. And if they second me with but very trifling efforts, we shall infallibly accomplish the purpose.
Now what happened? The children going without education were the children of churchmen and dissenters mixed; but the children of churchmen in by far the greatest proportion; for it is a notorious fact that the dissenters are in general solicitous about the education of their children; and of the totally uneducated part of the people, almost the whole belongs to the church. This is a fact which ought not to be lost sight of in this question. It is so notoriously true, that we should not suppose any one would venture to contradict it. What then was Mr. Lancaster, when he conceived a scheme for educating by voluntary contribution the whole of the uneducated poor, to do? Was he to limit the advantages of his plan to the children of dissenters, and shut his doors upon the children of churchmen? In that case, a different clamour would have been raised against him. What illiberality, it would have been said, what malignity is this! What have the children of churchmen done that they should be excluded from any of the benefits of the improvements of education? This would have been an accusation of weight, because it would have been just and founded on utility.
Such narrow plans suited not the views of those who wished to see the whole of the people educated. Mr. Lancaster opened his doors to all denominations of Christians equally. It is evident that this he could do upon one condition only; viz. his not teaching Christianity to the children upon a plan different from that of which their parents, or those on whom they depended, approved. There were two ways by which this obstacle to the general education of the poor could be avoided, and only two. The one was to abstain from teaching Christianity altogether; teaching reading and writing separately from it, just in the same way as painting, or music, or mathematics, are taught separately from Christianity, without any supposed injury to it. The other mode of avoiding
this obstacle was,-to teach so much of Christianity, and so much only, as all Christians were agreed about. This fortunately was the principal part; for it was the Holy Scriptures; held to be the full and sufficient rule of faith and practice by all denominations of protestant Christians; a rule too, which by all protestants, as distinguished from catholics, is held to be so plain and clear, that every ordinary Christian who can read it may see its meaning, and is in no danger of risking his salvation by mistaking its meaning. This latter mode of avoiding the obstacle to the dissemination of education was what Mr. Lancaster adopted; and he hoped that thereby he might obviate every objection. Without such a plan he must have contented himself with teaching a few children, while the streets around him swarmed with others presenting the most urgent demand for instruction, which there was no one who appeared disposed to afford them. By adopting this seemingly unobjectionable plan, he was enabled to give the most important instruction to all.
But Mr. Lancaster was very much mistaken when he imagined that his plan would not be objected to. It has been railed against, as a scheme, if not intended, at any rate calculated, to extirpate Christianity. It has even been broadly and unblushingly asserted in a high church quarter*, that Mr. Lancaster, as being a Quaker, is no Christian; Quakers being not Christians, by reason they do not celebrate with outward symbols Baptism and the Lord's Supper. But even by more moderate antagonists it has been asserted, that to teach children to read, and even to train them in habits of reading the Bible, unless adherence to a particular creed be inculcated upon them along with it, is to train them to renounce Christianity. This opinion, however, the most intelligent and discerning part of the Lancasterian opponents have dropt. Dr. Herbert Marsh was knowing enough to stand clear of it.
Dr. Marsh, and those who are as knowing as Dr. Marsh, take a different ground. They do not say that teaching the children to read, and accustoming them to read the Bible, (leaving out the teaching of any particular creed,) is the way to extirpate Christianity. But they say, that teaching chil dren to read, and accustoming them to read the Bible, without inculcating the particular creed of the Church of England, is the way to extirpate the Church of England.
*See Antijacobin Review.
There are two accusations, then, against which the Lan casterian scheme of educating the poor is called upon to find an answer. The first is, that it is inimical to Christianity. The second is, that it is inimical to the Church of England. We shall state what appear to us to be the facts relative to both points.
1. First, then, we are to notice the accusation, that teaching the poor to read, and habituating them to read the Bible, without inculcating any particular creed, is the way to make them renounce Christianity.
"The not inculcating some particular creed," is the main spring of the objection. But it is to be remembered, that by the supposition, the children educated in Lancaster's schools would otherwise not have been at school at all; they would have had neither creed nor any thing else inculcated upon them*. The two cases to be compared are the cases of noneducation entirely, and the case of education in one of the Lancasterian schools. In the non-inculcation of any particular creed, it is observable that both are upon a level; both are equal. The question then is, Whether the non-inculcation of a creed accompanied with total ignorance, or the noninculcation of a creed, accompanied with the talent of reading and the knowledge of the Bible, be the most likely to lead to the renunciation of Christianity? More concisely, the question is, Whether knowledge or ignorance be most favourable to the belief of Christianity? Those who really disbelieve Christianity may hold to the latter, and with consistency; those who really believe Christianity must, without the grossest inconsistency, resolutely maintain the former. All those who believe in Christianity must therefore allow that Lancaster's schools are favourable to Christianity, as much as knowledge is favourable to it, and ignorance unfavourable.
This argument we regard as perfectly conclusive and unanswerable. However, the grand object of teaching to read and write deserves to be examined a little more closely by itself. We cannot-viewing the matter on all its sides, and examining it with the most anxious attention-we cannot see that it would be any detriment to Christianity, if teaching to read and write should be deemed one part of education, and teaching Christianity another. Reading and writing are one thing; Christianity is another thing. Christianity is just as different from reading and writing, as it is from chemistry or
* The supposed case of education in supposed schools of the Church of England will immediately be considered by itself.