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THE CHILDREN'S FRIEND SOCIETY, AND BRENTON'S
THE distinction of ranks, and the difference in the intellectual qualities of men, were given for the purpose of establishing a mutual relation between each: the dependence of the weak upon the strong, and the influence of the strong over the weak, is a part of that system of wisdom which binds together the harmony of the whole universe. The primary motive of all virtue is love; and the nearest akin to it is gratitude: but it has been said, that it is more blessed to give than to receive; and certain it is that those who would really enjoy existence must learn to interest themselves for their fellow-man. This, when entered into in the true spirit of the Christian faith, throws into shade all the "rapturous revelry of fashion's midnight glare," and imparts a consolation when the golden bowl is broken, and when the silver cord is loosened, and the strong men bow themselves, and the almondtree shall flourish. These reflections are suggested to us from our attention, during the month, being directed to an institution, perhaps the most important of any which has appeared in England:-we allude to what is called "The Children's Friend Society." Important, not more in what it purposes, than in the means it would adopt for carrying its objects into effect. It was said by the wise Socrates, that "Youth alone was the time to mould the character with any prospect of success;" this maxim is corroborated by much higher authority, and it has been a principle generally recognized but the world has yet to learn the true principles upon which Education has to proceed towards the formation of correct habits. It has been hitherto thought, that precept would effect the work ;-that teaching the instruments or means of further acquirements, would produce the result so" devoutly to be wished;"-that a few hours drilling per day through the mechanical elements of knowledge, would counteract the sad circumstances of depravity by which poor children are surrounded from day to day, the drunkenness, the quarrels, the profane and indecent language, and degrading habits of their parents and associates. We are continually hearing of the improvement of society by these means; but we do not see them to the extent we could wish. We see the spirit of immorality is not at all on the decline; we are forced to legislate against this evil from its highest to its lowest grade-from the iniquity of "buying up lives," to the beating of a donkey. But the deep-seated evil is not to be rooted out by penal statutes any more than it is by public executions. It is not to be prevented from taking root by teaching children to read, write, and cast accounts. Education must have a more general, and at the same time, a more particular aim it must be brought into practice; it must be brought to consist in the active duties and affairs of life-the entire subjugation of the will and the passions-the cultivation of virtue, through the medium of effort the teaching of it by practice, and that on principles no less philosophic than Christian. And this kind of instruction must be imparted not only to the lower, but also to the higher classes, for in both a defect of this kind is equally felt. Our teachers, rulers, statesVOL. I.-March, 1835.
men, and legislative divines, must be moulded in a different model for the next generation, as well as our tradesmen, mechanics, and labourers; so as to establish reciprocity for security; or the whole political machine will experience a moral earthquake greater than any that has yet desolated a state, or laid in ruin the dearest hopes and prospects of a country.
The views and opinions of Captain Brenton on these matters, so entirely correspond with those upon which we launched the Educational Magazine, that we cannot resist the opportunity of making our pages the medium of bringing them before our readers. We have heen highly interested with the volume published last year by the same gentleman, entitled "Observations on the Training and Education of Children in Great Britain ;"- a work which every one concerned for the poor ought to read. Speaking of the duty of the Legislature, Captain Brenton observes :
"The first duty of the British Government is to look to the character and circumstances of its Working Population, the basis of the social pyramid : if that is crumbling under our feet, what shall save the superstructure? What shall become of the King, Lords, and Commons, when virtuous industry is succeeded by vice, crime, brutal violence, and drunkenness? such is the case at this moment, and the plague is rapidly spreading: the Beer Act has nearly undone the Country; the Gin Shops are completing its ruin. Our agricultural labourers are demoralized; our sailors are sots; the youth in our islands are not trained to labour; and the mental cultivation they receive only brings forth poisonous fruits or bitter ashes. Look at your prisons in the Metropolis: Newgate, Coldbath-fields, Clerkenwell, Bridewell, Millbank Penitentiary, -what reformation is there produced in these colleges of which the Devil is the head? I blame not the keepers of them-they do their duty; it is the system with which I quarrel. I blame not men, but the measures which have been ruinously and obstinately pursued for a series of years.
"In Clerkenwell, 1200 prisoners cost us £20. a year each, or about £24,000 per annum; in the Millbank Penitentiary, 556 prisoners cost each £30 (a much larger sum is stated, but I wish not to exaggerate.) Warwick Gaol costs about £19 for each boy annually; but I suspect that the whole outlay is not given in these calculations, as I have had reason to know has been the case in the Metropolis. Yet, with all this, we find crime increasing. Whereas, did we but take the child in early life from the path of vice, and place him in the right road, we should save all the outlay of the prisons,-the horrors of the hulks, the floggings, hangings, and transportations, the tears of mothers and the despair of fathers, the disgrace of the country,-the growing infamy of the people,--and the dissolution of society.
"True, we have National Schools, and we have our boarding-schools; but in the first the education is worth very little without training to labour; and in the second, the mode of teaching and neglect of training, any thing but what it should be; these, however, I must leave to some other hand; my business at present is with the workhouse, and "the houseless child of want," whose only refuge is a prison.
"It would be a waste of the reader's time and patience, to describe all the numerous instances of moral depravity, emanating from the workhouse and the prison. The neglect of the youthful poor, by their parents, their guardians, and their superiors, the facility with which they can acquire money by begging, and the difficulty they experience in obtaining it by honest labour, unhappily combine to produce that catalogue of crime which we so much de
given, and the money paid; but after this, I fear, the conduct of the master plore, and prove the soundness of my often-repeated axiom, that the felons of 1834 are the neglected children of 1814. Thus, even-handed justice treads quickly on the heels of our guilty omission. The cost of our police, the spread of crime, the increase of drunkenness, the numerous burglaries, the midnight conflagrations, the loss of our ships by fire and by wreck, the desertions in war and the piracies in peace, the squalid poverty and emaciated frames of our sailors, the increase of county rates and poor's rates, and the disordered state of society, confirm the dreadful tale.”
Alluding to that culpable indifference which characterises the falsely educated sons of fashion and life, he says—
“Ladies and gentlemen may pack up their travelling carriages and set off for the continent, to feed, with the produce of British labour, the peasantry of foreign countries, while their own are starving at home. Distillers and gin sellers may erect their palaces, and emblazon their houses with gas lamps of royal pattern, while they, like Circe, turn men into beasts. The New Beer Act may fill our highways with riot, consign the peasantry to destruction ;all these things may exist for a time, but the day of reckoning must come, and if they are not amended, the fate of Britain is as certain, and will be as terrible and as exemplary, as was that of Nineveh, of Palmyra, of Babylon, of Jerusalem."
The attention of Captain Brenton was simultaneously turned to the state of the poor out-cast children of the metropolis. From his official connection with the parish of Marylebone, he was led to investigate the enormities of the workhouse system, and of the manner in which apprentices are pushed off; and being more particularly directed by the account of a woman named Hibner, a tambour worker, who had murdered two out of six of her little female parish apprentices, which exposed to the public a scene of great cruelty and tyranny. He immediately made himself acquainted with the process of binding parish apprentices-the motives of the guardians of the poor in getting rid of them, as well as those of the generality of tradesmen who apply for them: he remarks—
"These poor children are generally orphans, or worse than orphans, having corrupt and drunken parents, whose pernicious example, and neglect of duty, destroy the morals, while their bodily frame is emaciated, and their constitutions ruined, by want of proper food and clothing. The workhouse doors are usually thrown open to such objects as these, provided they can prove their settlement, which is too frequently very difficult, and in this case the child is left to its own resources, either to beg, or to starve, or to steal. We will, however, suppose that the wretched orphan gains its settlement, and is admitted to the workhouse school. Its prospects in life are little, if any thing, improved; a defective, and often inhuman, system has never yet produced any good fruits; and the child, excepting only relief from cold and hunger, has nothing to boast of, in point of education and moral training, above the street beggar. It has rarely fallen to my lot to witness the application of a respectable tradesman for an apprentice out of the workhouse; they are usually needy people, greedy only for the premium of four or five pounds, and this sum is often given to them to take the child away from the parish books; as soon as the little victim has gone through a probation of five or six weeks, and a pro forma enquiry has been made into the character of the applicant. The probationary weeks are a sort of honey-moon, during which the children are kindly treated, in order that they may express the same before the guardians, when the indentures are
or mistress too often undergoes a very material change. I have known many instances of the child having been starved, beaten, or driven from the house by cruel treatment, and, on enquiry, we have learned that the receiver of the premium has gone into the Gazette. My opinion has always been, that we do wrong in giving any apprentice fee at all; we should content ourselves with finding the child in good clothing during the first three years of its servitude. The sort of education given in the workhouse, together with the association of ideas, and the contact with paupers, prevents the application of the really disinterested and generous for any of our children, so that they usually fall to the lot of gin-shop keepers, and people of the lowest description who can afford to keep servants. That such people should have servants cannot be denied, but they should not have the workhouse or parish orphan, whose welfare in life should be the peculiar care of those gentlemen who have taken an oath to do their duty as guardians of the poor."
With such testimony of the art of manufacturing criminals, Capt. Brenton determined to found an asylum, not for the punishment, but the prevention of delinquency. Accordingly an institution was opened at Hackney-Wick for boys, and a female asylum at Chiswick, where a number of poor children have been received, have undergone wholesome and moral training, and have been instructed in labour, in economy, and in religion: how much may be done by gently training a child to labour and knowledge, is indicated by the excellent state of the institution, and the appearance and behaviour of the children. The children thus trained to virtuous and industrious habits, are afterwards sent to the colonies, where they are apprenticed to trades; and a committee of gentlemen for the boys, and of ladies for the girls, of the highest respectability, is formed at the Cape of Good Hope, who take charge of the children on their arrival, and who keep a watchful authority over them during the time of their apprenticeship. From three to four hundred children have already been thus snatched from vice and misery. It is unnecessary to enlarge upon the advantages that must follow, in removing from the contaminating atmosphere of cellar vice, and workhouse immorality, such a number of young beings; nor on the benefits it would confer upon society if generally adopted.
The generous enthusiasm of Captain Brenton makes him wish the extension of his system in other quarters; and he declares, in the pamphlet already referred to
"When I can see 15,000 boys in training for navy and merchant service, on these principles; as many for the army-when I can see in every large town its agricultural school for boys, every sea-port with its training ship for sailors, female asylums set up in the same proportion, and when I can see similar establishments in Ireland, no matter whether Catholic or Protestant, so long as they follow the golden rule of our Saviour, then I shall be contented, but not till then."
Speaking of the school at Hackney Wick, where there is accommodation for nearly 200 boys, a capital house for the master, and ten acres of land, the whole of which is cultivated and kept in order by the pupils, who vary from 20 to 70, he observes,—
"The first year of our occupation, the produce of the land was not much above thirty pounds, the second year this sum was more than doubled. The produce of this land in former years was, probably, not a twentieth part of
this, as to human subsistence ; it is very poor land, and the improving fertility has arisen from the well-managed appropriation of that redundant labour which had hitherto been either unemployed, or bent on the destruction of property. Whatever, then, the pecuniary advantage may appear, it is nothing when compared to the moral effect produced on the minds and habits of the children, who coming, as it were, wild from the hot-beds of vice and lawless indulgence, are rapidly brought into the habits of order, regularity, and obedience, and this without the agency of any other means than kindness and firmness. We have no bolts or bars, or whips or rods, although we have had many very unruly spirits to deal with. Each boy freely gives his own personal labour and individual exertion to the well-being of the general hive."
The girls' asylum at Chiswick, called the Victoria Asylum, is conducted exactly on the same principles, and is, if possible, more deserving of public patronage, inasmuch as the sex is more defenceless, and more dependent on exertion. The colony where the girls are sent, as soon as they are sufficiently qualified, has been chiefly to the Cape, where female servants are much wanted, and the accounts received of them after their arrival, are most satisfactory. Letters from the children, from their masters and mistresses, and from the committee, afford abundant evidence of the important benefits conferred, not only on the children, but upon the colony.
There are some important remarks in the pamphlet to which we have more than once referred, on the subject of education, both public and private, aristocratic and plebeian, and they so completely accord with our views, that we cannot refrain from quoting them.
"The teaching of a poor child to read and write is nothing compared to what we aspire to; knowledge, however great, is not good unless it is placed in good hands: I have heard of little boys going into the woods in Westphalia and making gunpowder, and the knowledge acquired in many of our schools may be applied to no better purpose,—but whose fault is it? Surely of those only who, having the power to direct, give a wrong impulse,—leave the momentum inert, or allow it to take a false direction; the ship is either run on shore by unskilful officers, or is drawn by the currents among rocks and shoals, because no one was found qualified to take the helm.
"I have before quoted Mr. James Simpson, of Edinburgh, and I cannot help flattering myself that there is a very singular coincidence in some of our thoughts and writings, without either being previously conscious of the other's existence. In page 32, I find the following passage:- But what is the nature of the education of the humbler classes which is extending in England, and has been so long established in Scotland? Is it of a kind to impart useful practical knowledge for resource in life? does it communicate to the pupil any light on the important subject of his own nature and place in creation, on the condition of his physical welfare, and his intellectual and moral happiness? does it, above all, make an attempt to regulate his passions, and to train and exercise his moral feelings, to prevent his prejudice, suspicions, envyings, self-conceit, vanity, impracticability, destructiveness, cruelty, sensuality? Alas! no;-it teaches him to read, write, and cypher, and to pick up all the rest as he may.'
"There is too much truth in the above, its justice must be acknowledged by every impartial person. I shall be told by the unthinking and unreasoning class, that, as it was always so, it ought to continue; their fathers did the same, and why should not they. I saw a young gentleman, the son of a man of large fortune, cleaning knives on the stairs at Winchester College; 'why