Page images

observance of good laws and customs is necessary here; and this may be accomplished by well-directed zeal and benevolence, without any legislative interference. Let us suppose that the suggestion of the committee were adopted in some parish where the circumstances should be favourable to its adoption, and that instead of relieving poor families by an allowance for the maintenance of their children, it were determined that the children themselves, above the age of three years, should be taken, educated, and maintained. Whether every child so supported would, by the time it attained the age of fourteen, have indemnified the parish for the whole cost of its maintenance and instruction, is a subordinate consideration. Locke supposed that this would be the case, and so did Berkeley. That they might do so is certain, and the obstacles would arise not from the children themselves, but from the difficulty of finding fit persons to direct their industry. But however much the economical part of the scheme might fail

, the greater object would be accomplished, that every child would be instructed in its duty, trained up in orderly and decent habits, and taught some useful employment.

Mr. Courtenay has discussed this subject with that good feeling and good sense which distinguish bis Treatise upon the Poor Laws.

“The instruction and maintenance of the poor in charity schools, is not a speculative project for bettering the condition of society; there would perhaps be no question but that a residence at home, with affec. tionate and independent parents, would in that point of view be preferable; but the question now is, whether, where that independence has been destroyed, and the virtuous feeling greatly endangered, - where the parent is unable to feed his child and incapable of teaching him,-the state may not ensure a moral education to the being which it preserves. It is not proposed to compel the separation of the child from the parent, where the parent undertakes to maintain it; or, in all cases, to prohibit the public authorities, from assisting the parent without that condition. It is simply intended to enact, that when a parent declares himself (!)able to maintain those whom the laws of nature have made dependent upon him, bis neighbours should have a right to say to him,

we will not supply your deficiencies, but we will protect your child against the effect of your neglect.”

“The measure is assuredly one of the mildest which we can adopt if we retreat at all from the present system. It may, indeed, be deemed 100 little of a reform, and censured as “ a solecism against the simple " and powerful policies of nature;" inasmuch as it involves, equally with the present mode, the undertaking to feed all the children of the poor.

'It is much for the law to say, that no man's child shall starve; it is certainly too much, that it should also provide that the child shall be subsisted in the mode most agreeable to the parents, and so that no more inconvenience shall be sustained on its account, than if the parents had

fulblled knowledge


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

fulfilled their natural duties towards it. To enable them to do this, by an adequate addition to their income, is to put a pauper in a better situation than any other member of society, since some inconvenience, deprivation, or degradation follows in almost all but the very bighest ranks, the birth of a numerous family. Inconveniences, and afflictions indeed, of the very nature of the present suggestion, are felt by parents in the middling classes; many of the public establishments, of which persons of moderate incomes are desirous of availing themselves, require separation at a considerable distance, and submission to rules offensive and irksome. At an age somewhat later, a banishment to distant and unhealthy climes is often the only resource.

Few fathers can ensure to their children a continuance in the rank of society in which they were born. In the case of the very poorest, there would be no lower degree but actual starvation; that the law attempts to prevent, — not because this lowest class has a right to be exempted from the general inconvenience, but because in such a case, the evil would be more severe than humanity, allows us to contemplate. :. Yet I cannot but think it most probable, that much less of misery would be sustained by children in the proposed schools, than the most liberal administration of the Poor Laws would otherwise prevent by money payments. Large as are the sums allowed, there is still unquestionably much of squalid poverty, and much suffering from disease amongst numerous families in general. In the schools, attention would doubtless be paid to the health and personal cleanliness of the children, and much more of filth and misery withdrawn from the habitations of the

poor than the pecuniary allowance now averts. The inexpediency of the proposal might perhaps fairly be grounded, rather upon its mildness and consequent inefficiency, than upon the harshness of its pressure upon the people.'--pp. 54-56.

Even in an Utopian parish it would only be needful to suppose a regular inspection of the school by the salaried overseer, or the select vestry, and a little of that notice and that attention toward the children, on the part of the clergyman and the wealthier inhabitants, which kind hearts could find a pleasure in bestowing. A parish where this measure should be adopted and properly conducted, would not find itself burthened with too many children in the present generation, and in the next, the number of those who required its aid would begin sensibly to diminish, for the Saving Banks will then have a visible effect, and they who have been thus trained up will acquire a spirit of independence, a habit of industry, a sense of prudence, and a feeling of principle which will prevent them from marrying till they have some provision in store. Away then with all silly theorems concerning population,--the battology of statistics, with many words making nothing understood.' Population cannot be discouraged, and must not be interfered with by legislative regulations—you might as well attempt to regulate the seasons. The one thing needful is to give the lower classes that

knowledge and those principles which shall make them understand that moral restraint is a duty, and that their duty and their interest are the same; teach them this, and put within their power

the means of bettering their own condition, (which the Saving Banks will do,) and there may perhaps be more reason to apprehend, as in the educated ranks of life, that marriage will be thought of too late, than too early.

Give us an educated population,-fed from their childhood with the milk of sound doctrine, not dry-nursed in dissent,--taught to fear God and honour the king, to know their duty toward their fellow-creatures and their Creator,-the more there are of such a people, the greater will be the wealth and power and prosperity of a state: for such a people constitute the strength of states,

Ου λίθοι, έδε ξύλα, έδε

Τεχνη τεκτονων. . To suppose that we can have too many such inhabitants while tracts of improvable land are lying waste at home, or while any portion of the habitable globe is in possession of wild beasts, or wilder men, is te suppose that statesmen will always be incapable of deriving lessons from the past, and of making provision for the future. As if there were no ineans whereby human policy could provide for the most inevitable and most obvious consequence of improved civilization! As if we were living without God in the world, and that Providence, which regulates inscrutably, and yet with perfect fitness the proportion of the sexes, (that single and universal fact being a perpetual manifestation of its presence,) tad not made the earth capacious enough for all the creatures whom it was intended to support! And let no man be deluded into an approbation of this plerophobia, by the mistaken notion that it affords an unanswerable objection to the theories of equality, and all visionary schemes of revolution founded upon the perfectibility of

It is not by a treatise upon statistics that this spirit is to be laid,—though you were to read the book backward instead of forward,—according to an approved form of exorcisin. He who should trust to this argument would do worse than if he leant upon a broken reed: he would find the weapon turned against him; an Agrarian of three hours standing in the school, would beat (and brain him too if that were possible) with his own staff.

But such families as would require the proposed support for their children are happily as yet by far the sinaller part of the population, and their proportion will diminish as the condition of the people is improved by better education, better morals, and the temporal benefits which these will produce. There is a much more numerous class of children upon the next step in society, who are supported by their parents in the proper course of things, but whose YOL. XIX. NO. XXXVII.



instruction is not less an object of public concern. The rudiments of religion are best learnt at our mother's knees :-it is in the order of nature that where we receive our natural life, there we should receive our spiritual being also; that the same affectionate solicitude by which our bodily frames are nurtured should first develope in us those finer faculties whereby we are made heirs of immortality. Were the children catechised in the church at stated seasons, according to the good old custom, a few trifling rewards to the children themselves, and a few marks of encouragement and approbation to those parents who deserved it, would produce greater and better effects upon both, than those persons may believe who have yet to learn how easily the human heart is affected by kindness, especially when it bears the character of condescension.

The neglect of this important duty has been long complained of. • Considering, says one of our old prelates, “how this necessary work of catechising hath been neglected for many years past, it is much to be feared that the aged need it as much as the youth. But would parents and masters well consider the great advantages that would accrue to them even in their worldly concerns, they would be very zealous to come themselves, and both see and hear their youth catechised and bred up in piety and godliness; the want whereof hath bred that great undutifulness in children, that sloth and falseness of servants which we sadly behold in this degenerated age. The example of some would be followed by others, and so by degrees the number would increase; and when catechising by this means begins to grow in fashion, it would quickly be taken up by all. God be merciful to us,'--pursues this pious writer, that religion in many is chiefly for fashion sake! yet, I hope, by God's assisting grace, religion, beginning though but in fashion, would end at last in true devotion, at least in many, if not in all. It was Dr. Hammond's custom, during the warmer season of the year, to spend an hour before evening prayer in catechising; the parents and elder persons were wont to be present, and he used to say they reaped more benefit from this than from his sermons. Upon this subject his biographer has a remark most applicable to existing circumstances : If,' he says, 'in those times catechetical institutions were very seasonable, it will now be much more; when principles have been exchanged for dreams of words and notions, if not for a worse season of profane contempt of Christian truth.' • For my part,' says Bishop Hall, ' I have spent the greater half of my life in this station of our holy service; I thank God, not unpainfully nor unprofitably. But there is no one thing of which I repent so much, as not to bave bestowed more hours in this public exercise of Catechism, in regard whereof I would quarrel with my very ser


mons, and wish that a great part of them had been exchanged for this preaching conference. Those other Divine Discourses enrich the brain and the tongue; this settles the heart. Those other are but the descants to this plain song. Contemn it not, my brethren, for the easy and noted homeliness: the most excellent and most beneficial things are most familiar.'

It is not presumed here that men may be made good Christians, in the higher meaning of that holy appellation, by those ordinary cares which it is in the power of an establishment to take, and which it is the duty of the state and of the rulers of the church to see taken. But the foundation may certainly be laid by those ordinary cares ; such knowledge may and ought to be given as that no man perish for ignorance, and the state will find those men good subjects whom it makes only decent Christians; thus far their neighbours and the community are concerned ; all beyond this is between themselves and their God. Let us suppose a country parish, containing from two to three thousand inhabitants, where the simple and easy measures of which we have spoken should be adopted :---the children of the paupers, instead of being suffered to grow up in filth and pauperism, would receive a wholesome education both for body and mind, and be trained up, from their earliest childhood, to habits of industry, decency, and good order. The children of the other inhabitants would be examined in the elements of religion on stated days in the church, and receive from the clergyman, after the final examination, some little reward proportioned to their deserts, with especial reference to the general good conduct of the individual; some remuneration of that kind, which is acceptable to all, being, however, distributed to all who had attended regularly, without distinction, as the means of rendering attendance a thing desired by the children themselves. Suppose that a prayer-book or a Bible were given to such as had merited some especial mark of approbation; he must know little of the human heart and of its finer workings, who should hesitate to believe, that a Bible or a prayer-book, thus obtained, with the salutary lessons and recollections that it would bring to the mind, might not sometimes save one that was tottering, and sometimes contribute to recover one that had fallen. Such rewards would be to the rising generation what medals and stars are to men engaged in a military life-objects of proper ambition, proofs of good desert, and motives for further exertion in well-doing. Nor would the beneficial effect of these things upon the parents be too inconsiderable to be taken into the account of good. The commendation bestowed upon their children would become to them a source of laudable and useful pride, and they would thenselves be in no slight degree benefited by the performance of a



« PreviousContinue »