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A Deputation from the Society of Arts had an interview with Lord Palmerston on Wednesday, March 11, 1857, at Cambridge House, to present the subjoined Memorial.
To the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Palmerston, First
Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury.
The Memorial of the Society for the encouragement of Arts,
Manufactures, and Commerce.
The Council of the Society of Arts have learned that a memorial has been presented to your Lordship by the President and Council of the Royal Society, embodying several suggestions as to the most effectual means to promote the study of science, and to advance the general intelligence of the people.
Among the recommendations contained in this memorial, will be found the following:
1. The establishment of classes in Metropolitan and Provincial Schools, in which the elements of science may be taught on a systematic plan, and that such classes be promoted by government grants in aid of local funds.
2. The establishment of Provincial Lectures, in aid of the above classes. 3. The establishment of Examinations, 4. The formation of Provincial Museums.
5. The distribution and circulation of duplicate specimens from the British Museum and other similar Institutions.
6. The formation of Public Libraries.
7. The more extensive distribution of National Publications, bearing upon the cultivation and advancement of science.
8. The augmentation of the Parliamentary grant for the reward of useful discoveries in Science and attainments in Literature and the Arts, so as to admit of good Service Pensions to men of eminent scientific inerit.
9. The augmentation of the annual grant of 10001. to the Royal Society, whenever special reasons may be assigned for this increase.
10. The formal recognition of the President and Council of the Royal Society as a body authorised to advise the Government, inter alia, on the measures necessary to be adopted for the more general diffusion of a knowledge of physical science among the nation at large.
11. The alternative proposed of substituting a Government Board for the President and Council of the Royal Society.
12. And lastly, that such of the above recommendations as involve an expenditure of public money, might eventually be carried out by appropriating a certain portion of the fees received from Patents; and the meinorial concludes with the expression of the opinion of the President and Council of the Royal Society, that no application of these fees could be desired more appropriate than the devotion of a portion of them to the encouragement of abstract science, to which practical art is under so many and such important obligations.
The foregoing recommendations of a body of such high scientific eminence and historical celebrity as the Royal Society of London, formally submitted to your Lordship, receive, with but one or two exceptions, the concurrence of the Society of Arts. Those measures for the improvement of national instruction and the advancement of science which the Royal Society now presses on the notice of her Majesty's Government, with the full weight of its high authority, the Society of Arts has for some time past been engaged in submitting to the practical tests of a varied experience. Four years ago (Jan. 19, 1853), a Committee of this Society was appointed by the Council “ to inquire and report how far and in what manner the Society of Arts may aid in the promotion of such an education of the people as shall lead to a more general and systematic cultivation of arts, manufactures, and commerce-the chartered objects of the Society.”
This Committee, in its report on Industrial Instruction (presented April 26, 1853), strongly urged on the attention of the Council the value of class teaching, and the importance of its correlative, periodical examination.
“We have received,” say the Committee, “a very large amount of decisive testimony in favour of some system of examination for provincial schools in connexion with a central body, which should be empowered to grant certificates of proficiency. On this subject the evidence is unanimous and decisive. Several of our correspondents, whose opinions are entitled to the gravest consideration, attach the utmost importance to a practical testing of results by means of examination. Some would go so far as to say, that without some conservative provision of this kind, no organisation, how
ever perfect it may be at first, can long be secured 'from inefficiency and decay. Amongst others, we would direct attention to the important testi. mony of Baron Liebig, given at page 46 of this Report.” *
To carry into effect the recommendations of this Committee, the Society of Arts did not wait until funds should be placed at its disposal, but, drawing from its own limited resources, had already undertaken to submit to trial measures nearly identical with those which the Royal Society has now deliberately pronounced to be the most judicious that could be adopted. The Society of Arts is now engaged in promoting nearly all the objects commended to the attention of the Government in the Memorial of the President and Council of the Royal Society.
The Society of Arts has associated with it no fewer than 400 of the Mechanics' Institutions of the United Kingdom, and with all it carries on a mutually beneficial correspondence. In these associated Institutions, which will probably become the provincial schools of science, it has laboured to establish class teaching and systematic instruction; and the Council have much satisfaction in stating that although the Society's scheme of examinations is practically before the public for little more than twelve months, a marked improvement has already taken place in the character of the class instruction, and in the attendance on the classes at many of the Institutions in Union; while in others, for the first time, class teaching has been established expressly with reference to the Society of Arts Examinations. Stimulated by the hope of obtaining distinction at these examinations, young men are found to attend the classes with remarkable diligence and zeal. This system of periodical examination was successfully inaugurated last June, at the Society's House in the Adelphi, when prizes and certificates were awarded to candidates, some of whom have since obtained official appointments. The Council propose to have the examinations conducted on a more extensive scale this year in London and at Huddersfield. Again, this year a special prize fund, upwards of 5001., has been subscribed by the promoters of the scheme, and this independently of local contributions. Considerably more than 500 of the most eminent manufacturing and commercial firms, and great employers of labour, whether material or mental, throughout the country, have signed a formal declaration of confidence in the Examinations and Certificates of the Society of Arts, while of the forty-five examiners who give their unpaid services, and who constitute the Society of Arts Board of Examiners, nineteen are Fellows of the Royal Society. The Examinations are not restricted to physical science—they include as well mathematics, physical geography, English history, English literature, modern languages, and drawing. The Society of Arts so far as
* Report on Industrial Instruction, p. 69.
the funds at its disposal will allow, proposes to develop its scheme of Examinations until, taking advantage of railway facilities, the local centres of examination shall be so far multiplied as to bring the advantages of the system easily within the reach of all.
With regard to the distribution of Duplicates from the British Museum and other like Institutions, the Society of Arts is now in communication with all the Mechanics' Institutions throughout the United Kingdom, with a view to ascertain their opinions, and to consult their wishes on the subject. It is here proper to state that, at the present time, and for three years past, the Society of Arts has been engaged in circulating works of Art among the Institutions associated with the Society.
As to the establishment of Provincial Lectures, it is one of those educational questions with which the Society of Arts has had to deal for several years past; and it is one on which it has acquired a large amount of accumulated experience. The Society has afforded aid to Institutions and to lecturers alike, by publishing copious lists of lecturers and by giving other facilities. The Council are, however, of opinion that much success is not to be looked for from metropolitan centralisation in this matter.
As regards the establishment of Public Libraries, the Council believe that Mr. Ewart's Act, slightly amended, so as to give power of appeal to a poll, and its provisions made more generally known, would afford all necessary and just facilities for the purpose.
With respect to the suggestion of the President and Council of the Royal Society, to constitute the President and Council of that body “the recognised advisers of the Government as to the measures to be adopted for the general diffusion of a knowledge of science among the nation at large," and the proposal not only “to augment occasionally their annual parliamentary grant of 10001.,” but “to place a further sum at their disposal from the patent fees," the Council would observe, that a Committee of the Society of Arts (with Sir Joseph Paxton, its chairman), investigated, during the past year, the subject of the surplus received from patent fees, and came to the conclusion that it ought to be devoted to encourage and aid the progress of invention, on which so intimately depends the advancement of the arts, manufactures, and commerce of the country. The precise mode of its application the Committee did not consider it their duty to point out.
Finally, the Council of the Society of Arts beg, with much deference, to place before your Lordship and her Majesty's Government the following facts: That the society, incorporated as “The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce," has been established for more than a century; that it has, on public objects alone, expended upwards of 150,0001. in that time; that it has been the originator of several societies of great
and acknowledged usefulness ;* that the germ of the Great Exhibition was developed within its walls ; that, for nearly a century past, it has occupied its own hired house in the Adelphi ; that it has never been accommodated with apartments provided by the State ; that, during the whole long period of the Society's existence, it has neither asked nor received a single shilling of public money for any purpose whatever; and that it has secured, continues to retain, and will labour to deserve, the confidence frankly and freely reposed in it by the Mechanics' Institutions, as also by the commercial and manufacturing classes of the country. They therefore respectfully submit to your Lordship, that the Society of Arts, whether tested by its antecedent or estimated by its present labours, is the proper body in whose hands it should be left to carry out the work in which it is now actually engaged, embracing those measures so ably indicated by the Royal Society, for the promotion of the scientific and industrial instruction of the country; and they earnestly pray, should it be in the contemplation of her Majesty's Government to make any grant in aid of this desirable object, that assistance may be afforded, commensurate with local contributions, to the classes for systematic instruction in Mechanics' Institutions, but so as not in any way to fetter the free action, or to compromise the independence of those bodies. As the sphere of the Society's operations is now rapidly expanding, since applications to hold periodical examinations, and to award certificates, have already been received from York, Birmingham, Huddersfield, Leeds, Nottingham, Salisbury, and other provincial centres, they further pray that the Society of Arts may so far be recognised by the Government, and placed in such a position as will enable its Council to make satisfactory arrangements to develop its plan for the advancement of systematic instruction, by the help of periodical examination, so as to realise the expressed hope of a large majority of the Institutions of the kingdom, that the Society of Arts shall be authorised and empowered to carry out, for their benefit, to a national success, the great work of industrial instruction it has deliberately undertaken.
W. H. SYKES, Chairman.
" That many of the Scientific and Literary Institutions of our kingdom in various sub-divisions of art and science, have emanated from the said society.”—Charter of Incorporation of the Society of Arts.
Bradbury & Evans, Printers, Whitefriars.