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Compels them to acknowledge these deviations, they have been of a very limited extent. I could find but one lady who had heard an oath, and there had not been above half a dozen instances of intoxication; and the ladies feel justified in stating, that the rules have generally been observed. The ladies themselves have been treated with uniform respect and gratitude.' p. 132, 133.
At the close of a Session, many of the reformed prisoners were dismissed, and many new ones were received—and, under their auspices, cardplaying was again introduced. One of the ladies went among them alone, and earnestly and affectionately explained to them the pernicious consequences of this practice; and represented to them how much she would be gratified, if, even from regard to her, they would agree to renounce it.
'Soon after she retired to the ladies' room, one of the prisoners came to her, and expressed, in a manner which indicated real feeling, her sorrow for having broken the rules of so kind a friend, and gave her a pack of cards: four others did the same. Having burnt the cards in their presence, she felt bound to renumerate them for their value, and to mark her sense of their ready obedience by some small present. A few days afterwards she called the first to her, and telling her intention, produced a neat muslin handkerchief. To her surprise, the girl looked disappointed; and, on being asked the reason, confessed she had hoped that Mrs —— would have given her a Bible, with her own name written in it, which she should value beyond any thing else, and always keep and read. Such a request, made in such a manner, could not be refused; and the lady assures me, that she never gave a Bible in her life, which was received with so much interest and satisfaction, or one, which she thinks more likely to do good. It is remarkable, that this girl, from her conduct in her preceding prison, and in court, came to Newgate with the worst of characters.' p. 134.
The change, indeed, pervaded every department of the female division. Those who were marched off for transportation, instead of breaking the windows and furniture, and going off, according to immemorial usage, with drunken songs and intolerable disorder, took a serious and tender leave of their companions, and expressed the utmost gratitude to their benefactors, from whom they parted with tears. Stealing has also been entirely suppressed; and, while upwards of twenty thousand articles of dress have been manufactured, not one has been lost or purloined within the precincts of the prison.
We have nothing more to say; and would not willingly weaken the effect of this impressive statement by any observations of ours. Let us hear no more of the difficulty of regulating provincial prisons, when the prostitute felons of London have been thus easily reformed and converted. Let us never again be told of the impossibility of repressing drunkenness and profligacy, or introducing habits of industry in small establishments, when this great crater of vice and corruption has been thus stilled and purified. And, above all, let there be an end of the pitiful apology of the want of funds, or means, or agents, to effect those easier improvements, when women from the middle ranks of life—when quiet unassuming matrons, unaccustomed to business, or to any but domestic exertion, have, without funds, without agents, without aid or encouragement of any description, trusted themselves within the very centre of infection and despair, and, by opening their hearts only, and not their purses, have effected, by the mere force of kindness, gentleness and compassion, a labour, the like to which does not remain to be performed, and which has smoothed the way and ensured success to all similar labours. We cannot envy the happiness which Mrs Fry must enjoy from the consciousness of her own great achievements ;—but there is no happiness or honour of which we should be so proud to be partakers: And we seem to relieve our own hearts of their share of national gratitude, in thus placing on her simple and modest brow that truly Civic Crown, which far outshines the laurels of conquest, or the coronals of power—and can only be outshone itself by those wreaths of imperishable glory which await the champions of Faith and Charity in a higher state of existence.
Art. X. The Speech of Henry Brougham Esq., M. P. in the House of Commons, May 8th, 1818, on the Education of the Poor, and Charitable Abuses. Ridgeway, 1818.
"vtobody can have forgotten the murmurs and dissonant clamours with which the first proposal for communicating the blessings of Education to the great body of the people was lately received. Already, however, that disgraceful opposition is extinct; and in no instance, perhaps, could a more remarkable proof be produced, of the present rapid progress of the public mind, than the short space of time which has sufficed to discredit the objections to which we have alluded;—and that so completely, that Mr Brougham could say, with perfect truth, in the opening of the Speech before us, 'that the prejudices and 'fancies by which we were assured, that if we taught plough'men and mechanics to read, they would disdain to work, have 'now entirely died away. During this and - the- two last ses'sions, in all the discussions that have taken place, both in the
* House, in the Committee, and in the Country, I have never
* heard a single whisper hostile to the universal diffusion of 'knowledge. Every thing like opposition to the measure it
* self, is anxiously disclaimed by all. The only question enter'tained is touching the best, that is, the surest and the most
* economical, method of carrying it into effect.'
This, no doubt, is encouraging in the highest degree; and when so much has been so rapidly attained, we have good reason to conclude, that perseverance in the measures so happily begun, will, in no great time, be crowned with that success to which so many important consequences are indissolubly attached. It is necessary, however, for the security of this great object, that the eye of the public should be kept steadily on the whole progress of the measure—both that they may know by what steps it has been most effectually advanced, and by what lurking hostility its triumphs may still be retarded.
In the Session of Parliament 1816, Mr Brougham began to mature the subject, by moving for a Committee to inquire into the state of education among the lower orders in the metropolis. Already the progress of opinion was such, that the motion was not opposed: And Mr Brougham devoted to the inquiry so great a portion of his time and his thoughts, as called forth the applause even of ministers themselves, who, little as they might wish to strengthen the fame of a formidable antagonist, were yet compelled to honour exertions, of which they knew that the public estimation would be exceedingly high. The information obtained by the labours of this Committee, and printed by the House in a voluminous Report, is of the highest importance: and of this the public may judge, when they are told, that the great body of facts and experience which it displays, extends to the six following heads, on all of which they shed a strong and satisfactory light.—1. The number, or rather the proportion, of the children of the poor who remain uneducated, and destitute of the means of education: —2. The deplorable state in which the morals of these children are found, who are deprived of the means of education: —3. The admirable effects which education is found by experience to produce:—4. The circumstances, in the actual state of the country, which are favourable to education:—5. The circumstances, in the actual state of the country, which are unfavourable to education:—6. The methods which ought to be pursued for promoting education:—7. The funds, mostly of a charitable kind, which are now applicable to the purposes of education.
In the last Session of Parliament, in 1818, the Education Committee was revived, and with more extensive powers, which enabled it to inquire into the education of the lower orders through the whole of England and Scotland. To this enlarged task it proceeded with its former zeal and industry; and a vast body of new and important information has been reported to the House, forming a volume, which those who have had access to it pronounce to be interesting and instructive in the very highest degree. As that information, however, is not yet printed, we are not enabled to lay an abstract of it before our readers; and, for that reason, reserve the account which we propose to give at considerable length, of both Reports, for a future occasion. In the mean time, we think it of importance to advert to the measure, with the proposal of which Mr Brougham terminated the labours of the Session on the subject of Education, and to exhibit a brief view of the topics handled in the Speech now before us, in which he described the progress made by the Committee in its inquiries, and defended from objections the bill he had introduced into the House.
The object of the bill, and the steps of its progress through both Houses, have attracted too much of the public attention to require any thing more than a cursory mention here. If funds appeared to be wanting, in some parts of the country, it was only the more necessary that those which had been provided for the purposes of education in other places, should be strictly applied to their destination. These funds were discovered to be so very large in their amount, as in reality to constitute a great national object: But, before adopting any measures for turning them to the best account, it was absolutely necessary to have accurate information as to the circumstances of each endowment; and no other means appeared to Mr Brougham to be calculated for obtaining that knowledge, but a parliamentary commission; and the recommendation of this measure was the first, accordingly, of his practical steps. A bill, with this object, was introduced towards the close of the Session, and most favourably received by the lower House; and the facts which he stated as to the extent and misapplication of the funds, destined not only for education, but for charitable purposes in general, impressed the strongest conviction of the necessity and propriety of the mear sure which he proposed. In the further steps ot its progress, the measure was not so fortunate. The objects of inquiry, as well as the power of the commission, were very unnecessarily limited—and their appointment was assumed by the ministry. By these means, no doubt, the measure has been crippled j but the vigilance of the public, we trust, will supply the defects in fhe machmerv-r-and wc are far, certainly, from blaming Mr Brougham for accepting what he could get; especially as, in the Speech before us, he has done so much to raise that public jealousy which no device or contrivance can either lull or elude. He begins with pointing out two situations, the difference between which, he thinks, should be duly considered by the Legislature. In large towns, and places where the population is great, much has been accomplished already, or is likely to be accomplished, without the aid of the Legislature. In other places, where the population is thin, little or nothing has been, or can easily be so accomplished. Now, whenever the object can be attained without the aid of the Legislature, Mr -Brougham declares it to be his opinion, that no such aid should be required. It is only when, without the means which the Legislature alone can supply, the business seems incapable of being performed, that its interference should be desired. This opinion he seems to rest, in a great measure, upon the generally acknowledged impropriety of legislating too much; upon the experience that legislation, where it is not wanted, does harm more frequently than good; that the finest, as well as the most powerful spring in human affairs, is the impulse in private individuals to better themselves, and those with whom they are surrounded; and that, when these principles are sufficient to the end, it is not merely useless, but hurtful, to supersede them by any others. In the case of instruction, too, there is a deep ground of suspicion with respect to the government, in the interest which, so long as it shall desire to possess undue powers, it has to give pernicious instruction; to manage the business of teaching, both secular and religious, in such a manner as to enslave the minds of men, and make them passive instruments in the hands of power: And though we see no impossibility in appropriating legislative funds to the purposes of education, without placing the business of education in the hands of the government, we confess that we see no probability that, in the present state of things, this could be avoided; and that the same reluctance to admit improvement which distinguishes these institutions for education, which in any way depend upon government, would not adhere to any which it would now be possible to create.
Mr Brougham is further of opinion, that, with the ardour which now distinguishes every part of the community for rendering universal the benefits of education, all that would be necessary, even in places the most unfavourably situated, would be, to provide the expense of erecting schools; that the rest, the annual expense of schoolmasters, and all other requisites, might, without difficulty, be found upon the spot, in the liberal and cheerful contribution of individuals; and this is an experiment, undoubtedly, which it would be highly desirable to