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TO THE SECRETARY OF THE SOCIETY OF ARTS.
Bury St. Edmund's,
19th December, 1857. I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 14th inst., communicating the reply of the Council to my application for the distribution of the Prize Fund.
You state that the Council awarded to the successful Candidates “such “ Prizes as the circumstances of the case required.” If the Council, in their Programme for the Examinations in 1857, had reserved to themselves the power of distributing either the whole of the Fund, or such part as the circumstances of the case required, I should at once admit the sufficiency of your answer to my requirement for the distribution of the whole, though in such case I must be allowed to say that I should never have ventured to embark in so expensive a contest; but as the Programme expressly states that the Prize Fund was “to “be distributed among the successful Candidates," and contains no reservation whatever, I cannot understand how the Examiners could be justified in recommending, or the Council in sanctioning, so manifest a departure from the statement contained in their own Programme. I have very high authority for believing that the Council are legally as well as morally bound to fulfil to the letter the promises by which alone many Candidates were induced to enter the contest, and that the Fund expressly subscribed to reward the successful Candidates at the Examination in 1857, ought to be distributed among the successful Candidates at the Examination in 1857.
I now come to a matter of far greater consequence. Your letter states that "it would be contrary to all rule, and would [tend] to bring “discredit on the Prizes if, whether the circumstances justified it or not, more “Prizes and larger ones were given than there were, in the opinions of the “Examiners, Candidates duly qualified to receive them.” I earnestly entreat the Council, in no unfriendly spirit, to consider the consequences which must ensue when it is generally known that the successful Candidates were considered by the Examiners as “ qualified to receive" less than one-third part of the Fund subscribed for the express purpose of rewarding them. What value, let me ask, could then be attached to the Certificates ?—what weight to the reports of the Examiners, in which the merits of the Candidates are spoken of in such high ierms ?-or what Candidate could feel pleasure in the possession of Certificates, when he learns that the best men so signally failed to reach the standard of proficiency which would have “qualified them to receive” the whole of the Fund.
I beg respectfully to submit to the Council that there is but one method of avoiding all difficulty and giving complete satisfaction to all the Candidates who took part in the late Examination, and that is, at once to distribute the whole of the Fund; but if, on the contrary, the Council should be of opinion that the merits of the successful Candidates were not sufficient to justify that step, I, for one, should feel far more satisfied that the real truth should be told rather than that the holders of Certificates should foster the delusion that their performances came up to a meritorious standard, when in reality the inferiority of their work necessitated the withholding of two-thirds of that money which was expressly subscribed for distribution among them.
May I beg of you to lay this letter before the Council at their next meeting
I have the honour to remain, dear Sir,
Society of Arts, Adelphi,
6th January, 1858. Your letter of the 19th ult. has been laid before the Council, and I am directed to reply that the Council adhere to the terms of my letter of the 14th ult.
I am, dear Sir, your’s faithfully,
P. LE NEVE FOSTER,
TO THE RIGHT HON. SIR J. S. PAKINGTON, BART., M.P., &c., &c.
Bury St. Edmund's,
Jan. 25th, 1858. I beg most respectfully to submit to your consideration the enclosed correspondence between myself, the Master of the Guildhall Commercial School, Bury St. Edmund's, and the Council of the Society of Arts, respecting the distribution of the Prize Fund last year.
Not being able to reconcile myself to the refusal of the Council to entertain my application for the distribution of the whole Fund, and being at the same time anxious to pursue my object in a friendly spirit, I have determined to appeal to yourself, as Chairman on the occasion when the Prizes were distributed, persuaded that you will use your influence in favour of the much disappointed Candidates if you should think that justice has not been done to them.
To shew that the Candidates had strong grounds for supposing that the whole Fund would be distributed in 1857, I need only state the fact that the entire sum subscribed for precisely the same objects in the previous year (1856) was, with a trifling exception, awarded in prizes of 10 Guineas each, and one Prize of 25 Guineas. Such being the case, is it not reasonable that the successful Candidates in 1857 should expect a similar fulfilment of a similar promise ? and if, as in 1856, with a Prize Fund of less than £100 and a comparatively easy Examination, the successful Candidates were considered as qualified to receive Prizes of 10 Guineas and 25 Guineas; can it be a matter of surprise that, with a Prize Fund of more than £600, and far higher subjects for examination, the successful Candidates in 1857, confessedly more meritorious, should feel grievously disappointed at the inferior award of £4 worth of books, and to find two-thirds of the Prize Fund withheld from them.
Although in my correspondence with the Society I have confined myself to the legal and moral aspects of the case, I think it my duty to state to yourself that as many as three of my Candidates who received Prizes were quite unable to pay the expenses of attending the Examinations in London, and though some aid has been received from other sources, a part of those expenses still remains unpaid. I beg respectfully to submit to you, Sir, that it is not right to allow these young men, after gaining the highest places in the Examinations, to be embarrassed with debt incurred in attaining that honourable position, when there remains undistributed a Fund subscribed for the special purpose of rewarding their exertions.
I cannot conclude without thankfully acknowledging the advantage my school has received from the Examinations of the Society, and more especially from the nomination of three of my pupils to situations in the Education Department of the Privy Council Office; and though I cannot consider that these benefits absolve the Society from their obligations towards the other Candidates, they do make me most anxious to arrange the misunderstanding that has arisen in an amicable manner.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Feb. 2nd, 1858.
I recognize your claim to a candid answer to the appeal you make to me
My opinion is that you are right in the strict and literal construction of the printed statement you have sent to me; but I think that it would be unreasonable and unwise to insist on the whole Fund subscribed being distributed in Prizes, without reference to the sum fairly required for that purpose.
I think, at the same time, that as the Prize Fund was ample, successful Candidates had a right to expect that the Prizes in 1857 should be equal in value to the Prizes in 1856; and that their having been so much reduced in value, without public notice to that effect, constitutes a reasonable ground of complaint.
I have little doubt that the form of the printed statement is to be accounted for by its having been written at a time when it was not expected that the contributions to the Prize Fund would be so large—but I must beg you to understand that although, as President of the day, I distributed the Prizes, I had nothing to do, otherwise, with the arrangements.
If my advice were now asked, I should recommend that the Prizes of 1857 should be raised to the same amount, respectively, as those given in 1856, and that care be taken for the future so to word the Advertisements as to leave no room for misunderstanding.
I will only further observe that these opinions are founded upon the statements in your letters to the Council and to me, and have been formed without knowing what explanation the Council might offer, beyond that contained in their answers to your letters.
You are at liberty to make use of this letter in any manner you please.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your faithful servant,
JOHN S. PAKINGTON.
Robert Craske, Esq.
Sir John Pakington's communication was forwarded for the consideration of the Council, who returned the following reply :
Society of Arts, Adelphi,
25th Feb., 1858. Your letter, enclosing one from Sir John Pakington, was laid before the Council last evening, and I am directed to inform you that the Council cannot re-open the subject. I am, dear Sir,
P. LE NEVE FOSTER,
MEMORIAL OF THE CANDIDATES.
The following Memorial was also addressed to His Royal Highness the Prince Consort by the three Candidates who were most successful in obtaining Certificates, both as regards number and grade, at the Society's Examinations in 1857.
TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE CONSORT, PRESIDENT OF THE
SOCIETY OF ARTS, MANUFACTURES, AND COMMERCE.
The humble Memorial of Charles Aspull Wells, William Dawson, and Robert
John Pearce, Prizemen at the Examination of the Society of Arts, in
Most respectfully sheweth-
Memorialists are young men possessed of very limited means, who were induced by the annexed printed statement,* issued by the Society of Arts, to incur considerable expense in preparing for and attending the Examinations of the said Society, in London, in June, 1857, in the full belief that success on their parts would ensure a return of their outlay in the form of Prize-money, even if they should fail to obtain Prizes of greater value.
That your Memorialists succeeded far beyond their expectations, being fortunate enough to obtain the highest positions in the said Examinations, and were further gratified by the official statement of the Secretary of the Society : That the Examiners report generally a very marked improvement " in the character of the knowledge displayed by the Candidates in 1857, as " contrasted with the Candidates in 1856."— (Journal of the Society, pp. 456-7.)
That in 1856, when the Prize Fund was less than £100 and the Examination comparatively easy, the Council awarded Prizes of 10 Guineas and 25 Guineas in money; but in 1857, when the Prize Fund amounted to more than £500 and the Examination was far more difficult, the Prizes were, without any previous notice to that effect, reduced to £4 worth of Books, though in the latter year the Candidates shewed “a very marked improvement in the “character of their knowledge as compared with the former." And further, that the Council, instead of distributing the whole of the Prize Fund in accordance with their own printed statement annexed, as the “very marked
improvement » in the character of the Examination would seem to require, have withheld the greater part of that Fund. Of the whole amount subscribed (£534) not more than £130 has been awarded in Prizes, and your Memorialists consequently believe that at least £400 of the money given for the special purpose of rewarding the most deserving Candidates in 1857, remains undistributed in the Society's hands.
That your Memorialists beg most respectfully to submit to your Royal Highness that this diminution in the amount as well as alteration in the character of the Prizes, and the withholding of the greater portion of the Prize Fund under the circumstances above mentioned, furnish à just cause of complaint to the Prizemen in 1857; more particularly as the great expenses of attending the Examination in London are thereby thrown on their own slender resources. And further, that as all efforts to obtain redress from the Council have failed, your Memorialists most humbly appeal to your Royal Highness as the President of the Society of Arts, in the anxious hope that your Royal Highness will be pleased to extend your powerful aid in favour of the Prizemen at the Examination of 1857, to obtain from the Council such a distribution of the remainder of the Prize Fund as will be suitable to the acknowledged merits of the several Candidates, and in accordance with the
* A copy of the extract from the Society's Programme (sce back of the title-page) was appended to the Memorial.-R. C.
annexed statement, in the absence of which many of them could never have ventured to engage in a competition involving so great an expense.
And your Memorialists, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Mechanics’ Institution, Lewes.
Guildhall Commercial School, Bury St. Edmund's.
+ Obtained 7 Certificates-6 of Excellence and 1 of Proficiency. | Obtained 7 Certificates - 5 of Excellence, and 2 of Proficiency. $ Obtained 8 Certificates—4 of Excellence, 3 of Proficiency, and 1 of Competency.
April 14th, 1858.
I have had the honour of receiving and submitting to H.R.H. the Prince Consort the Petition addressed to him, as President of the Society of Arts, on the subject of the diminished amount of the Prizes awarded by the Society to the successful Candidates at the Examinations of 1857; and to inform you that, by the command of his Royal Highness, I have forwarded the Petition to Mr. Dilke, the Chairman of the Committee, with a request that he will be good enough to furnish H.R.H. with any information in his power on the subject to which it relates.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
April 17, 1858. Sir,
I have now the honour to enclose Mr. Dilke's letter on the subject of the complaint of the Prizemen, forwarding a copy of the letter already addressed by the Secretary of the Society of Arts to Mr. Johnson on the same subject. When you have read these letters, which will shew you that the matter has already been thoroughly considered on more than one occasion, and a decision come to (with which it is impossible for His Royal IIighness to interfere) by those best qualified to form an opinion upon the subject, I shall be obliged by your having the goodness to return them.
I have the honour to be,