Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

perhaps excuse some want of strictness, it is said that they will not admit into the market any one who has the name of treating the children he hires with harshness. It is quite clear that no general impression of the bad consequences of overstocking the market of labour, and no mere arguments against it, can check this as an inevitable result, among a population in the situation and with the habits here described. Some of their children they would willingly get into trades; and with that view they are more anxious than formerly to procure for them a little elementary instruction. They limit, however, their ideas of learning to mere reading and writing, and indeed in most of the schools accessible to their children they could learn little else. The valuable opportunities afforded by the numerous Sunday-schools are also open to them, and upon the whole they appear to be taken advantage of as much as under the depressed circumstances of the population could be expected. But something more is required than can be furnished by the Sunday-school, or than is now furnished by the day-school. That amount of religious and general instruction which might by degrees pervade and stir the sedimentary mass of corruption and ignorance, and make it take new and clear forms, cannot yet be obtained in these schools. Facilities and encouragements for learning several of the common trades would also be valuable, as tending to turn the current of industry into various channels. The industrial school, especially if comprising garden culture, would, in enabling the children to participate in the profits of their labour, be attended with the further advantage of meeting to a certain extent the pecuniary difficulties which prevent the parent from sending a child to school, or induce him to withdraw it the moment there is a chance of its adding the smallest sum to the weekly earnings of the family. This might be effected under proper management, even with town schools, in cases where they are situated near the outskirts. But neither the one nor the other can be expected to flourish without the liberal aid and directing supervision of persons who have the greatest and most immediate interest in the good principles, the intelligence, and the well-being of the population around them.

A useful impulse would be added to those already acting in favour of the educational and moral improvement of the labouring classes, were regulations such as those adopted by Mr. Geary in his factory more general. Two of the most important are these : first, that no one is admitted to work for him who cannot read decently, that is, in such a manner as to show that the art of reading is accompanied with a certain degree of understanding in proportion to the age; secondly, that no female of suspected moral character is admitted into or continued in his employ. Mr. Geary is of opinion that the operation of the first-named rule has been the means of leading to some useful inferences. At a recent period, when many hundred children of weavers were out of employ, Mr. Geary was during several months in want of hands, and although the fact was well known, yet no children of the age required (between 11 and 15) who were able to satisfy the test, applied to him for work. This fact may perhaps be taken as a proof that among the class of children in question the qualifications required were comparatively rare; and also, that the child. ren who were best instructed were able to find work, or to retain their places, while those of lower degrees of cultivation were the first to be thrown out of employ. The operation of the second rule Mr. Geary states to have been, in conjunction with the other, the means of supplying his factory with a class of operatives whom he considers of superior value, both as to skill, attention to his work, regularity, and carefulness. If the congregation of large numbers of young persons in factories, at an early and immature age, has a tendency to obstruct the formation of steady and correct babits, by withdrawing children from the eye of their parents, weakening the domestic vies, and subjecting them to the contaminating example of vicious habits, coarse language, and rude manners, Mr. Geary endeavours, as far as circumstances admit, by careful superintendence, direction, and admonition, to stand to those in his employ" in loco parentis.”. Each person is paid individually once a week, either by himself or his partner; by which he is able to gain some acquaintance with their general capacity, tone of mind, and demeanour; to understand their wants, to hear their wishes, or to throw out a few words of friendly advice, reproof, or encouragement. To set some antagonist influences to work against the attractions of the beer-house or the tea-garden, he has encouraged the formation of a madrigal society, and also a band, which he permits to practice once a week in his garden. Many other useful plans and regulations, existing “ more in intention than execution,” were referred to by Mr. Geary, in which he had had to encounter the ignorant prejudices of those whose good was contemplated; among the rest the transference of a small sum out of their weekly earnings to the savings' bank, each payment being entered in a small book kept for every individual for that purpose. The earnings in the branch of manufacture in question was sufficient to admit of this without inconvenience; yet either the love of immediate indulgence, or unfounded fears as to the safety of their deposits, or some equally vain prejudice, caused the plan to be abandoned.

The better instructed and more intelligent and well-conducted workmen, of which class I am happy to say I met with many in the course of my inquiry, observed and lamented these and the numerous other obstructions to the improvement of the mind, morals, and physical condition of their fellow-workmen, and of the generation that is to succeed them : nevertheless it is satisfactory to witness the various efforts now in progress with that view, emanating from societies and from individuals, in conjunction with or in addition to the ordinary ecclesiastical and other institutions of the town, inadequate though they may be' as compared with

66

are, in

the magnitude of the work before them, and the strength of the elements which they have to oppose, yet affording a justifiable hope that they are far from being made in vain. The opportunities I sought for of observing the labouring part of the population, laid open many favourable characteristics, which, in the midst of much that could not be contemplated without pain, gave an assurance that whatever was most distorted and

wrong

in their condition, might yet, by well-directed management, be brought back again towards the right. One marked and favourable peculiarity, even among the poorest, is their strict attention to cleanliness and decency in their dwellings, a token of self-respect, and a proof of ideas and habits of comfort, of which the severest privations in food and dress did not seem to be able to deprive them. Their rooms might be destitute of all the necessary articles of furniture, but the few that remained were clean, the walls and staircases whitewashed, the floors carefully swept and washed, the court or alley cleared of everything offensive, the children wearing shoes and stockings, however sorry in kind, and the clothes not ragged, however incongruously patched and darned. “ Cleanliness and propriety,” said one man, spite of our poverty, the pride of Norwich people, who would have nothing to say to dirty neighbours.” These are salutary tendencies enough, even in those who seem to present the least promising materials, to afford encouragement to all who would contribute their aid towards working out the problem of the social and moral amendment of the lower portions of the labouring population. If higher views were taken of what constitutes the efficiency of a school, and corresponding pecuniary and personal exertions were made to raise the very low standard now prevailing; if masters of proper acquirements were alone to be sought for, and of ability to impress both parent and child with a consciousness of the value of his teaching and guidance much might be effected which now, with the present inadequate machinery, rests imperfect, or is not done at all.

By a superior discipline, emanating more directly from the principles of duty, and aided by the inclinations of the parent, many of the present irregularities, and the lower principles now resorted to to check them, would disappear. If the instructor were to widen the scope of his subjects, and make his teaching bear a more practical reference to the occupations of life, he would draw within his influence many of the children of the class above the daylabourer, who would pay more, and would therefore tend to lessen the pecuniary obstacles. That the small tradesman and shopkeeper has no objection to such a union, when it is advantageous to him, is shown by the endowed schools of Norwich, where, for the sake of the benefits derived from those establishments, the children of various grades of society receive instruction together. Still more would this be promoted if, in addition to scriptural and more general information, they were enabled to

acquire the elements of, and to practice for a part of the day, various common trades, the children receiving a due portion of the value of the work done. These trades might without much difficulty be taught and superintended by individuals whose age, or other circumstances, would cause them readily to undertake the office for a moderate remuneration. It must however be clearly borne in mind by whoever, whether a stranger or one more immediately interested, may look into the state of that town with a view to the educational and moral amelioration of its labouring classes, that much more is required than attention to the wants of the rising generation only. Feelings of bitter and ill-repressed hostility, such as are there fermenting, causes of dissociation which seem to strain the bonds of society, poverty and physical suffering illimagined but by those who experience or witness it, wide spreading circles of vice and corruption, demand other instrumentality. To meet the entire state of circumstances, more active, and I must add more harmonious, efforts are seen by the commonest observation to be requisite. Undoubtedly much is now at work which is highly valuable; the faithful discharge of parochial duties, the supplementary efforts of Dissent, the right hand of charity and the sympathy of neighbourhood, the labours of visiting societies, those of the City Missionary Society, inadequately supported, though pursued, according to their rules, and apparently as the condition of their success, without sectarian objects. As far as these agencies reach,—and it will not be questioned that they are capable of great extension,--they may keep in check if they do not gain upon

the encroachments of moral and social evil. But to their aid it would seem must be brought some such measures as those already referred to, before the great mass of the manufacturing labourers of that town could be raised from a condition which cannot be contemplated from any point of view, whether with reference to their own welfare or to that of the society around them, without feelings of anxious foreboding and unaffected pain. The interest called forth by the near contemplation of that state of things, and by much intercourse with and much unreserved information very readily and obligingly afforded by persons of every station, degree, and occupation in that large and important city, would cause the anticipation to be pleasing and satisfactory, if a well-founded hope could be indulged that as the evils to be encountered are more clearly seen, so that portion at least of their remedies which may be found in rightly directing the hearts and minds of the young in unfolding their faculties and informing their understandings, by processes and agencies capable of effecting what may justly be called education, would be earnestly taken in hand and prosecuted faithfully, even at the cost of some temporary sacrifices.

I was requested by some of the leading inhabitants of Great Yarmouth, who are trustees and promoters of the charity and

the young;

other schools of the town, to give my opinion as to the state of those schools, and as to how far I thought them calculated to meet the educational wants of the humbler classes of society. The occupations of those classes are derived chiefly from the large maritime trade of that ancient port, from its fisheries, from shipbuilding, and from the various branches of manual labour connected with it, from retail trade, and more recently from the erection of a large factory. In a town affording such a variety of employment it would, à priori, seem reasonable to offer in the elementary schools such varied general instruction as would be applicable to the diversified wants of persons engaged in those respective occupations. It would also seem to be of the first importance to endeavour to counteract by the aid of such schools as should be able to exercise a decided influence on the minds of

the
many

tendencies to demoralization incident to a locality uniting within itself both a maritime and manufacturing population. It would appear the more easy to attempt this in a town possessing two munificent endowments for the education of the children of parishioners, and where other schools exist, supported chiefly by the benevolence of individuals. The latter class of schools, both day and infant, were far from being full; and neither the former nor the latter appeared to me adapted, under their present arrangements, to answer the end above supposed.

The most important of these schools, and the only one on which I think it necessary to offer any detailed comments, is the richly-endowed school called the Children's Hospital. At this establishment for the children of parishioners of Yarmouth, 30 boys and 20 girls, between the ages of eight and fourteen, are boarded, clothed, and taught, and afterwards apprenticed to trades, receiving at the time of apprenticeship 21. 2s. for an ouifit of clothes, and a guinea for good conduct at the expiration of half their period of service. În addition to these, the free probationary scholars are 150 boys and 70 girls, who supply by seniority the vacancies among the boarders. An examination of the most advanced boys showed that some pains had been taken to impress upon them the rudiments of scriptural instruction, that they were tolerably skilful in mental arithmetic, and could write decently; but in all other respects their acquirements were very limited. The master had no assistant, and the boys examined acted as monitors. They read incorrectly, and were unable to explain common words. They received occasional lessons in grammar and geography, but knew very little of either; they were unacquainted with the geography of Scripture. Boys of thirteen and fourteen, who had been many years at the school and were soon to leave it, were unable to say where the river Thames was, or what counties they would have to pass between Yarmouth and London. Coal vessels are constantly before their eyes, yet they did not know the direction of Newcastle or of North and South Shields. No general information appeared to have been given

« ElőzőTovább »