Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

charity, and will not suffer those of the lower rank of people, to learn to use the pen of the writer.

Objection VI. But if we grant that the art of writing may be a convenience both to masters and servants, what necosity is there, that the poor should learn arithmetic, or be acquainted with accounts?' Their poor fathers managed their little affairs without figures, and why may not their children do so too?

Answer 1. All that is pleaded for of this kind, is, that they may be taught to add and subtract little parcels of money, such as may come within their possession, or inay be entrusted with them. Let it be considered, that it is the custom of the nation in our day, to run much deeper in debt, and deal more generally upon trust and credit, than was done in the days of our fathers; and even poor labourers are seldoin paid every night, nor perhaps every week now-a-days : And is it not a hard case, if they may not have leave to learn to help their memories by short accounts of the money that is due to them, that in their demands they may neither do injury to their masters nor themselves? I am well assured that for want of this many mistakes have arisen, sometimes to the prejudice of the poor, and sonetimes to the damage of those that employed them.

2. Or, suppose one of these poor unlearned children become a servant in a family, and the master entrust him with a small matter of money, to lay out for the common little necessaries of a week, how unable is he to account even for this little, without a pen and figures to help his memory? What lame and broken accounts must the master receive? Or, he inust take it upon content that his servant is honest, and accept of the general story, that so much is expended, without any notice of the particular detail of the things which are bought or paid for: Or else he must be troubled often in a day, for every little necessary expence of life, and perhaps sometimes bave his servant interrupt bim, in his great affairs, with the narrative how he hath disposed of pence and farthings; and all this, because his servant was never taught to add or subtract a few shillings.

Objection VII. But if it should be allowed that charityschools may teach the poor to write a little, and instruct them to make a few figures, and to add and substract little sums of money, a few months would be sufficient for this. There is no need of three or four years schooling; no need of their learning to handle the pen in a nice and artful manner, to write a fine hand and to excel in curious penmanship; no need of their entering into the learned languages, or the deeps of arithimetic, which are proper for divines and physicians, for merchants and their clerks, for accoinptants and mathematicians, and the children of gentlemen.

Answer. I perfectly agree to all this objection, and acknow

ledge the justice of it, except in this one particular, viz. That a few months is time enough for this learning. I am sure so scanty a space of time is not sufficient, to teach a youth of a common or low capacity, the art of writing and accompts enough to serve all the purposes even of the lower ranks of life. If children are not pretty thoroughly instructed in it by their masters and acquainted with it by much repetition and practice, it has been often found that they forget these things before they come to make any use of them for any valuable purpose. Surely a year or more inay be allowed for this part of their instruction, without any inconvenience: The generality of children are not blessed with so swift a genius. This one thing being allowed, I would prosecute and urge the rest of this objection myself; for I do not think it reasonable that schools of charity should breed up children to all that politeness in any science, which should belong only to young persons of higher rank, and in better circumstances, and whose parents can furnish out a better education for them.

And here it may be confessed, that it is possible these niceties of learning, these refinements beyond the true design of charity-schools, may perhaps have raised some aspiring conceits in the minds of those children, who are generally born for the lower offices of life. I cannot but take the liberty here to transcribe, and recommend part of the right reverend, the bishop of London's* directions for this purpose: “ If charity-schools should grow by degrees into a more polite art of education, if the boys should be taught fine writing, &c. the girls fine working, and both of them fine singing, he grants, they would be too ready to value themselves upon their attainments, and this would have a natural tendency to set them above the meaner and more laborious stations and offices of life: All these things therefore, says he, should be carefully kept out of our charity-schools : Which doubtless will stand more clear of objections, and best answer the end of their institution, when they pretend to no more than to prepare children to be good christians, and good servants.

This wise and sagacious prelate, who well knows the conduct and state of many of the charity-schools in the church of England, saw sufficient reason for these cautions : He found that there were too many of these schools of ancient, if not of later foundation, wherein children are taught Latin, Greek, mathematics, and many parts of learning, which are by no means necessary for the poorer sort of mankind: And therefore he gives prudent advice against it. But the schools among the protestant dissenters have no such supports and endowments : They are poor in the contributions that support them ; and as their poverty confines them to teach only a few plain and necessary things, so the very notion of charity-schools should forbid these refinements, lest too much of the younger life of children should be spent therein, and be withheld from more necessary business aod labour for their own maintenance.

* Dr. Edmund Gibson.

Three years of diligence and application under prudent teachers will furnish most of the children of the poor with reading, writing and arithmetic enough for their future stations of life, provided they are not taken into these schools too young : And indeed, it is my opinion, they ought seldom to be admitted under eight or pine years old ; and that when they have spent two or three years in learning, they may go forth to some of the harder labours, and lower businesses of life, that are suited to their rank. I confess if it could be contrived so that half the day should be spent in labour, and half in learning, then they might be indulged in a larger space of time, and this mixture of labour and learning, would render the charity-schools much more useful, and free from all exceptions : But of this I have spoken before.

And yet after all, I cannot but beg leave to put in one word of apology for here and there a lad of a bright genius, that may happen to be found in these schools of charity. If any one blessed with more sprightly talents of nature, should make a swifter progress in learning than bis fellows, and discover uncommon seeds of ingenuity and science, let him not be thrust out of the schools sooner than his neighbours, out of a mere caution lest he should learn too much. I would become an intercessor, that he might not be turned abroad into the wide world, before the common term of years in that school is fulfilled, merely because he happens to have better parts than his school-fellows, and hath improved his time better than they. This would be a most unreasonable and grievous discouragement of industry, and a hard penalty laid upon wit and virtue.

Objection VIII. But if these children of the poor, who are supported by the charity of others, be trained up in reading, writing and arithmetic, will not this render them qualified for clerkship, or book-keeping, or any better sort of place or employment, where learning is necessary?" And then they become titors for such places with others of equal talents, who have yet far better pretensions to them.” The sons of tradesmen and mechanics, who have paid public taxes and parish dues, and even have given bread and clothes to the poor, their sons have a right to be employed in all these stations, as clerks or servants to merchants and others, wherein there is a prospect of advancement in life : Aud there are a thousand such in England ; but if the charity-bred youth are preferred before them, it is taking the bread from those, whose fathers have fed, and clothed, and fosa tered them, to the prejudice of their own children.

Anstver. The foregoing account of the slender and low degrees of learning, which are bestowed on the children in our charity. schools, seems to anticipate and exclude this complaint. T'liere are none of these poor who are, or ought to be bred up to such an accomplished skill in writing and accompts, as to be qualified for any of these posts; except here and there a single lid, whose bright genius, and whose constant application and industry bave out-run all his fellows. And for such an one I have pleaded before, that he might not be thrust out of school the sooner, and be punished merely for his ingenuity and diligence. As for the children or orphans of those who have fed and clothed the poor, and have lived in good fashion in the world, but have fallen into decay and poverty, I presume it would not displease the persons who make this objection, to see here and there one of them qualified for a little better business : For this is perfectly agreeable to their own sentiments, viz. That the children of persons who have lived well, and paid taxes, should have the first and chief benefits and advantages of lower life offered them, since they have the best pretensions to them.

Objection IX. Suppose it be allowed, that the children of the poor, be indulged the favour of learning to read and write, to add and subtract a few figures, since you have shewn that these things are so useful to servants and labourers : then are they not all made servants either to gentlemen, to farmers or to house-keepers? Why are they not bred up all to the plough in the country, or to be mere labourers in the city, or confined to household services or menial offices of life?

Why must any of them be placed ont in a way of apprenticeship, to trades and manufactures ?” Even this is a discouragement to the children of those persons of a little higher rank who have paid taxes, and helped to maintain the poor in their parishes. And unless all these children of a little better rank were supplied with such trades, none of the poor bred up by charity should have the advantage of sach apprenticeships.

Apswer. In most of the schools of the country, and in some of those in London, both the boys and the girls, are bred up with a design for service and hard labour abroad, or for such mean works or businesses, as their own parents can employ them in at home. The girls, as I have binted before, are taught to read, spin, sew and knit, and to perform domestic labours, and been made fit for service in families, they are placed out in such services. The boys are called home perhaps, to assist their fathers in their poor labours of life, wherein they get their bread. But in some of ihe schools in and near London, and in some considerable towns, if there be a small provision made for their being put apprentices to the poorer trades, such as shoe-makers, taylors,

But wliy

[ocr errors]

watermen, gardeners, workmen in timber, iron, &c. there are several considerations, which I have learned by converse about these matters, which may be offered in favour of it.

Consideration I. Jf all the children of the poor both in city and country, were entirely cut off from trades and manufactures, there would not be families enough in England, to receive them all as menial servants, or as retainers to the plough. And besides, one may ask the question, why should menial servants be multiplied beyond all necessity, since too many of them in great families, are bred up rather in idleness thar labour? The business of common handicrafts, is much more laborious than the common domestic service in most families.

II. It is not menial servants, but mechanics and manufac. turers that increase the commodities, and thereby the riches of the nation. And if the wealth of the nation be more increased by the number of manufactures which the nation produces, why should the apprenticeships of some of the poor, to those low mechanical trades in great towns and cities, be a forbidden exercise of bounty and charity? At least this argument will hold as to those mechanical businesses of life, which are not already overstocked: And I have been assured, that the managers of charityschools have a just regard to this, in placing out the children of the poor."

III. The same assurances have also been given me, that there is great want of apprentices to several of these meaner trades : The master-workmen address themselves frequently to the managers of these schools, to help them to lads fit to be trained up in their trades and occupations. As the nation continually multiplies, so more of the necessaries of life are wanted, and increase the want of these mechanic arts. Let it be observed also, that the children of every common tradesman, are aspiring to better business : The working shops and stalls of these meanest mechanic artificers want more hands, and seek for apprentiees ; so that there is no detriment done to the children of these tradesmen, by supplying them with servants out of our charityschools.

IV. Many of the children of these lower tradesmen are taught to read and write in our schools, and have instructions in the things of religion given them there. Such tradesmen, I mean, who are honest and industrious, but by reason of a numerous family, by losses or sickness, or other events of providence, are kept still under poverty. : Their children are not only taught in our charity-schools, but also they enjoy the benefit of being placed out in apprenticeships proper to their character. And these very persons have thankfully accepted of the instruction of their children in these schools.

V. There is another reason that may encourage the mana

« ForrigeFortsæt »