Sharing something of a similar political tradition to Robert Owen – but coming a different social position – William Lovett – has a significant place in the development of ideas around schooling and lifelong learning. Here we reproduce extracts from Chartism – A New Organization of the People (1840) – written with John Collins
William Lovett (1800-1877) and Henry Hetherington formed the National Union of Working Classes in 1831. The key objectives of the movement included five which were later included in the People’s Charter of 1838: universal suffrage, vote by ballot, equal representation, annual Parliaments and no property qualification for
William Lovett and John Collins called for the creation of ‘Public Halls or Schools for the People’. In the daytime these would be used for infant, primary and secondary education, and in the evenings by adults, ‘for public lectures on physical, moral and political science; for readings, discussions, musical entertainments, dancing’ and other forms of recreation. Each hall was to include baths, a small museum, and a laboratory or workshop. The plan also involved the establishment of district circulating libraries of 100-200 volumes. Here we reproduce extracts from Chartism that outline the proposal for public halls, and explore ‘the Importance of General Education’. We have omitted some of the detailed discussion, the rules and regulations, and the explorations of the infant school, preparatory school, the Lancastrian method, and the high school.
The extracts are from the 1840 edition (see below). The full text of the book can be found on Ian Petticrew’s wonderful site [http://gerald-massey.org.uk/] celebrating the life and work of the Chartist, poet, author, and free thinker, Gerald Massey (and other key writers and activists of his period): http://gerald-massey.org.uk/lovett/b_chartism.htm.
See, also: William Lovett and education.
Benefits of Organisation
Fellow-countrymen, we have now laid before you, for your consideration, a PLAN which, if carried into effect, would, in our opinion, speedily secure our political and social rights; and, by training up our children in knowledge and virtue, place the liberties of our country on a basis corruption could not undermine, nor tyranny destroy… It now remains for us to point out to you the abundant means you have to carry such a plan into operation, and consequently to realize greater social and political advantages than have ever been attained by the working classes of any country—the advantages of effective union, efficient political power, with knowledge and virtue to use it for your children’s welfare, so that freedom and happiness may be perpetuated among them….
[L]et us form our estimate for carrying this plan into effect from the numbers and professions of those Radical Reformers who from their position were free to sign the NATIONAL PETITION… The numbers… who did sign it were ONE MILLION TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-THREE THOUSAND; these at a penny per week from each person would realize the sum of five thousand three hundred and forty-five pounds and upwards weekly. But we have estimated the payment of members for the National Association at less even than a penny per week, at only a shilling a quarter; and we may reasonably conclude that those persons who, at the risk of losing their employment and connection, and in despite of all opposition, so far interested themselves in preparing and signing that petition, and in contributing to the support of their delegates, have the same earnest desire to follow up the great cause of their political and social salvation by enrolling themselves members of an association such as we have described. And when we further take into account the great personal advantages to be derived from belonging to such an association, apart from the great political and social objects of our pursuit—when the benefits of the halls, schools, and libraries are considered, they will supply additional reasons for forming our estimate from the numbers who signed that petition. Supposing, then, that such a number of members as signed it belonged to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, their payments at a shilling a quarter would produce AN ANNUAL SUM OF TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED POUNDS ! ! ! This amount would enable the association to effect every year the following important objects:?
|To erect eighty district halls, or normal or industrial
schools, at £3000 each
|To establish seven hundred and ten circulating libraries,
at £20 for each
|To employ four missionaries, (travelling expenses
included) at £200 per annum
|To circulate twenty thousand tracts per week at 15s. per
|For printing, postages, salaries, &c.
|Leaving for incidental expenses
…. The best test of every man’s political principles is not what he will profess, but what he will do for the cause. No man should excuse himself for lacking intellectual attainments, or great pecuniary resources; every man, however poor or humble, has means to forward it, if he be honestly and zealously disposed towards it. Isolated and divided, we are poor and powerless; but, banded together, our aggregate pence will enable us, as we have shown, to perform prodigies in the cause of liberty… Need we particularize the numerous advantages that would result from such an association, if the millions of the working classes alone performed their duty towards it? In the first place, the great benefits of the district halls must be apparent to Radicals above all others, as they experience greater difficulties than others to obtain places of meeting. Their political opinions generally render them so obnoxious to those in authority, that it is seldom they can obtain the use of public buildings; and the proprietors of public houses and private rooms are so completely in the power of the great men of the town, that they dare not, in many instances, let their rooms for radical purposes. And no later than last year the police of the metropolis were employed to go from one public house to another, to threaten the proprietors with the loss of their licenses, if they let their rooms to the Chartists; and doubtlessly the same system is practised in other places. But even if these difficulties did not exist, the great expense of private rooms forms no trifling obstacle to the frequent meetings of the working classes. If they turn their attention to the green fields, or to the common heritage their forefathers possessed for their “folkmotes,” their “tithemotes,” and other public purposes, they are there met by the law of trespass, the power of exclusion, and the opposition of all the squirarchy of the town. The right, therefore, of public meeting and free discussion being subject to and controlled by such despotic influences, form additional reasons for the people having their own district halls to meet in. It is true the working classes in some towns do not labour under these disadvantages; some have sufficient control over their authorities, and others have places of meeting which already serve their purposes. But we are satisfied that these are the exceptions to the evil; and it should be remembered, that the little good that can be effected with those advantages is neutralized by the obstacles our brethren experience in other places. There are towns, too, where the working classes are powerfully assisted by the middle classes, and where they have abundant means to erect their own hall, independently of any association; but still no such exclusive advantage ought to prevent them from assisting their brethren who are differently situated. THERE IS NO POLITICAL GOOD TO BE ACHIEVED BY A SPIRIT OF EXCLUSIVENESS. We must therefore diffuse our means of knowledge; we must feel an equal interest in the political enlightenment of the most distant and indifferent inhabitant of our island as in that of our nearest and best disposed neighbour, as the political ignorance or corruption of the one is as fatal to freedom as is that of the other. We have too long been playing the game of political selfishness; and hence it is we have been contending in vain for our rights. One town boasts of its public spirit and political knowledge; the people of one district esteem themselves politically superior to another; one part of the country prides itself on its preparedness for freedom, and speaks with contempt of the apathy of another: and the result of this contracted spirit is exhibited in one part of the country counteracting the good effected by another. The well-populated and enlightened town, where two Liberals are triumphantly elected, has its votes neutralised by the petty borough where the light of political knowledge has never dawned, where votes are bought and freedom sold.
Let us in future, then, look beyond this useless system of setting up a Liberal here and there to be knocked down by Whigs or Tories; let us seek to carry our principles into the camp of our opponents—to instruct the dupes of those corrupt and plundering factions;—and ere long the ignorant supporters of oppression and misrule will become zealous advocates of freedom. To effect this object, we must cast aside all those local and foolish prejudices which render nugatory most of our exertions: our aim is the emancipation of all, and political enlightenment one of our principal means to effect it. In assisting to erect halls in Ireland or in Wales, we are as effectually promoting our own and our children’s freedom as if we erected them in our own district. Wherever they may be situated, all will be politically benefited, though it will depend on the chances of the ballot, whether we or our distant brethren will first enjoy the social advantages to be derived from them. But if, as we have shown, a trifling portion of the working classes can effect so much in one year, we may reasonably conclude that by union and perseverance they would soon be established throughout the kingdom. And there is little doubt but that other classes would contribute to such laudable object, if the working classes were to show a disposition to begin the good work.
The advantages of the CIRCULATING LIBRARIES would exist independently of the halls; and what man or woman, with a taste for reading, or the hearing of books read by their children, would think the pleasure dearly purchased with less even than a penny a week? We have seen sufficient of country places to know the great difficulties of procuring books of any useful description, and that the expense is often beyond the means of working people; but by belonging to the National Association, (independently of other important benefits,) they would have the choice of hundreds of volumes in a year for the merest trifle. What lover, then, of his species can reflect without pleasurable sensations on the great political and social advantages that must eventually arise from the circulation of good and useful works throughout every district in the country? For, by combining the instructive with the entertaining—by bringing within the reach of the isolated cottager and country mechanic works they would never otherwise hear of, regarding the improvements in art, the discoveries in nature, the beauties of ancient writers, productions of modern literature, and the most useful and instructive of our political writers, habits of reading and reflection would be generated among them, their rights and duties appreciated, their tastes improved, their superstitions and prejudices eradicated; and they would become wiser, better, and happier members of the community.
The LECTURES on physical, moral, and political science would be a never-failing source of instruction: the great volume of nature presents such variety, beauty, utility, and perfection, that the instructed mind sees new objects for daily admiration and nightly reflection. For the want of that mental culture, how much of nature appears barren and cheerless, which otherwise would teem with fruitful and never-ending sources of delight! But, unhappily, the deficiency of this mental pleasure, this intellectual stimulus, is not the only loss, for the void is too often filled up with sensual and vicious gratifications, hurtful to the individual and prejudicial to society. To illumine such minds—to interest the young, and stimulate the mental energies of the adult, should be the especial object of the lectures; plain truths, clearly demonstrated and aptly applied—facts well attested, authentic evidence, and close reasoning—useful and interesting experiments, with their practical application—and, as far as possible, made clear by diagrams and pictorial representations, would bring conviction home to the most obtuse, and be found at all times the readiest mode of imparting information. After a hard day’s toil it often happens that, when the mind has lost its energies for useful reading, it is stimulated and improved by oral discourses, lectures, and experiments.
The public READINGS might vary according to the tastes of the members, either for conveying political or moral information, or for improving them in the useful art of correct reading. For the latter purpose, one of the best modes we have seen adopted is the following:?A chairman having been appointed, the names of all those who are desirous of reading are written on slips of paper, folded up, and thrown into a hat or box opposite the chair. A list of select pieces in prose and verse (which are generally selected on the previous evening,) is then read over; and the chairman, having drawn out one of the slips, reads over the name, and calls upon the person to read any piece he chooses from the list. After the person has read, the chairman invites the criticisms of the company: those who feel their competency give their opinions, as brief as possible, and in a spirit to encourage improvement, regarding the person’s manner, pronunciation, emphasis, &c. After which, another is called on in the same manner; though it is sometimes advisable to call on one person to prepare himself while another is reading. Independent of the improvements in reading which we have seen effected in a short period by this method, we believe it to be an excellent means for giving confidence to young persons, and preparing for public speaking.
The utility of public DISCUSSIONS on useful subjects, when properly conducted, is beyond estimation; for, independent of the facilities they afford for instructing men in the art of publicly imparting knowledge, instructing their fellows, and defending their rights, discussion is the best touchstone of truth. A man may spend a lifetime in reading and storing his mind with knowledge; but without subjecting his intellectual stores to the test of discussion, by which the sterling ore may be separated from the dross, he will continue to carry about with him as of equal value, false theories, romantic speculations, crudities, and conceits of every description. A man may possess great intellectual riches—he may comprehend all the mysteries of art and nature; but unless he cultivate the art of imparting his knowledge to fellow-men, he lives, with all his knowledge, but for himself: he is in the intellectual world what the miser is in the social. He may plead his defects and his inability in vain; for if he employed but a small portion of his time in cultivating the art of public speaking or writing, he would soon become useful in proportion to his knowledge. In every country, especially where its institutions are founded on popular power or subject to its control, it becomes the duty of every man to cultivate the abilities God has given him, so that by speaking and writing he may preserve its liberties, by exposing private peculations and public wrong.
We are aware that strong feelings exist in many parts of the country against DANCING and MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENTS and it will be well to inquire whether those feelings are founded on reason or prejudice: if on reason, we should obey their dictates; but if on prejudice, we should pursue an onward course, regardless of the contracted notions of those whose views have no foundation in reason. First, as regards MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENTS, the great objection to them seems to be against a particular description of music, which the religious world has designated “profane;” and it would seem that the profanity is not in the cheerfulness or peculiarity of tune—for they often adapt those of the most lively description to their own hymns and psalms: from which it would appear that the primary objection is in the sentiment, and not in the tune. Now, though it is admitted that many of our songs abound in foolish, ridiculous, unmeaning, and objectionable sentiments, which all men of sense will readily unite to condemn, and expel from all rational society, yet this should form no valid argument against the introduction of songs of an opposite description into our entertainments. We have in our language songs conveying sentiments of the most exalted description, inculcating the love of freedom, social and domestic happiness, giving great praise to good deeds, exalting virtue and condemning vice, and depicting in glowing language the beauties of earth and skies. Sentiments of such description generally excite the admiration of the most fastidious; and surely their excellence cannot be depreciated by being conveyed in verse, and expressed in all the melodious witchery of the human voice. As music has an irresistible influence on all, and as the burst of joyous feeling generally gives forth its expression in song, the sentiments of which greatly influence individual and national character, it is not for man to war with nature, by attempting to stifle her expressions, but to change and purify the sentiments in which they are expressed.
Among the social recreations in which both sexes can participate, the exercise of DANCING seems pre-eminent: its lively and graceful evolutions, and healthful, spirit-stirring tendency, have ever rendered it a favourite amusement in all countries. Whence, then, have originated the objections against it? Surely there can be none against a description of exercise which most medical men agree is, of all others, the best for enlivening the spirits, and strengthening the muscles of the body! Nor is there any reasonable ground for supposing it more prejudicial to morality for both sexes to meet in the dance, than in any other public assembly. The virtue of either sex is not a whit secured by any fastidious exclusion from each other’s society; nor is the moral character of youth any way preserved by denying them those cheerful and agreeable recreations congenial to their dispositions. The objections to badly ventilated rooms, late hours, bad characters, or improper conduct, should lie against those particulars, but not against dancing; for it by no means follows that these should be associated with the amusements and entertainments of our respective districts. The generality of people are so constituted as to seek, at times, cheerful society and lively enjoyments; and it should be the great object of all reformers to prepare legitimate means for the gratification of these feelings, without allowing them to be exposed to vicious associations. Many of those who frequent public-houses in their hours of relaxation, are not so much induced by the love of drink, as to spend their hours in cheerful society; and if places were provided (unassociated with the means of intoxication) where they could spend a pleasant and agreeable evening, we should have little cause for lamenting the prevalence of intemperance, and its demoralizing consequences.
The advantages of HOT AND COLD BATHS being attached to such an establishment must be obvious. The difficulties our labouring population meet with in large towns and inland districts, in getting access to convenient bathing-places, are productive of more serious consequences than many persons imagine. We are told by medical men that the perspiration of the body, which is continually going on, causes a species of incrustation on the skin, which materially interferes with its functions, which, if not removed by frequent ablutions, occasions a weakness of body and depression of mind; and, further, that the evil is greatly increased when persons have to work at dusty employments and in unhealthy atmospheres. Hot or cold bathing, then, according to the state of the person’s health or constitution, will be found a great preservative of health, independently of the habit of cleanliness it would serve to generate. And when the great benefit of the hot bath, in many kinds of disorder, is considered, its importance will be still further appreciated.
The small MUSEUM we have referred to could be furnished in a short time by the collections and contributions of the members; and in proportion as they progressed in a knowledge of the productions of nature or art, so would it engage their attention, and be a source of great pleasure to themselves and their children.
The LABORATORY would serve for scientific experiments by the members in their leisure hours, as well as for the instruction of the children; and the GENERAL WORKSHOPS would possess similar advantages in other respects.
How far the exertions of a few intelligent and active MISSIONARIES, constantly engaged in propagating the principles of the association, are likely to be effective, may be estimated, in some respects, by the good that has already been effected by such means. Four or six persons, thoroughly acquainted with all its objects, political and social, inspired with sufficient zeal for the cause, possessing business habits, and having a capacity for lecturing on most of the important points we have referred to, would soon effect a complete organization of the country, and would do more in twelve months to create an enlightened public opinion in favour of our views, than could be effected by any other means in thrice the time; more especially so if we provided each of them with tracts, to be distributed, (at the rate of twenty thousand weekly,) containing explanations of our principles, as well as facts, statements, and expositions, regarding our objects generally.
We have referred to the necessity of offering premiums, from time to time, for the best essays on the instruction of children, for the best description of school-books, and for any other object likely to promote the social and political welfare of the people. Though much has been written on the subject of education, we think that very little of it has been to the purpose: most of the writers have founded their systems on erroneous notions, and it is only within the last few years that anything approximating to truth or utility has been written. Believing the science of education (for as such we consider it) to be but in its infancy, we think that every means should be devised to induce men of intellect to devote their attention to a subject of such vital importance, and that for similar reasons they should be encouraged to prepare a better description of school-books than those in present use. The social and political welfare of the millions is paramount to all other questions, and we think that an annual premium, given by the National Association for the best plan or essay in furtherance of that great object, would call forth much valuable information on the subject.
While proposing these various means for the political and social amelioration of the people, let it not for a moment be supposed that we agree with those “educationists” who consider the working classes “too ignorant for the franchise.” So far from giving countenance to such unjust and liberty-destroying notions, we think the most effectual means to enlighten and improve them is to place them on a footing of political equality with other classes. We have seen one contracted scheme of improvement after another prove abortive; and we feel certain that theory on theory will continue to be promulgated in vain, till the millions can be interested to carry them into effective operation. But what faith can the people have in the professions of men who, while they talk of instructing them, are devising and executing the most infamous of laws for restricting the freedom of opinion, the right of public meeting, and the free circulation of knowledge? How can they expect any portion of intelligent workmen to join in any plan of education which excludes one of the most important branches of knowledge—a knowledge of their political rights and obligations? and how can this be taught to and appreciated by men, without the possession of the rights and privileges of freemen? How can they trust the sincerity of those persons who would mould them into more tractable and ingenious machines for the production of wealth, but would deny them any political power to determine how that wealth should be distributed? And how can they who make a profession of liberality suppose the working classes are so blind and ignorant as not to see through their speciousness and hypocrisy, when their speeches, votes, and conduct on all questions affecting the rights and interests of labour, prove them either staunch supporters of the present oppressive and fraudulent system, or humanity-mongers, who would make the millions comfortable slaves, ignorant of the rights and privileges of freemen, and content at all times to obey the desires of their political and spiritual masters?
Those men who talk of the franchise of the millions as a boon, and insist on its being given for particular talents or conduct, seem to forget that in doing so they assume the position of despots; nor can they defend it by any other argument than the usual one of despots—that of force. For it stands as evident to reason as the existence of the sun, that all “NATURAL RIGHTS” must justly appertain to all in common. That as the injustice and force of tyrants led men to congregate in society to protect themselves against aggression, and to secure their natural rights by CONVENTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS, every man in society must stand upon a footing of perfect equality, to determine the nature and extent of those arrangements. In other words, all men are politically equal to decide what the Constitution of their country shall be, and what laws shall be enacted to carry that Constitution into effect. And whatever power stands opposed to this just principle being carried into operation is a despotic power; worse in character, if possible, than the first savage tyrants who interfered with the natural rights of their fellows, and first caused them to have recourse to conventional security. For men in their primitive state stand on nearly an equality to contend with their fellows for the subsistence nature affords them; but in an unjust state of society despots plunder and murder in the name of the laws, and bribe one part of the community to keep the other part in subjection. It forms no argument against this clear principle of political equality, to say that the origin of society is involved in mystery—that principles cannot be recognized in old countries which might suit a new colony or infant state of society—that this being a conquered country, the terms prescribed by the conqueror and his descendants led to a state of political thraldom from which we are being gradually emancipated. To all this we reply, that neither antiquity, custom, nor force can be made to usurp and supersede human rights, without a violation of justice. We are therefore justified in designating as despots all those who, under any plea whatever, withhold or oppose our political rights, and in maintaining that they cannot defend their conduct upon any principles of justice. By usurpation and injustice have the few obtained power and ascendancy, and fraud and force are their only title-deeds; and it would be far more honest for them to assume the frank and open daring of other despots, than to be continually cheating us with unmeaning sounds of freedom. Let men and things be properly designated: England with all her professions is but a despotism, and her industrious millions slaves. For men possessing the same natural capabilities, cast upon the same kindred spot, with the same wants and mutual obligations, who are constrained by the mandates and force of their fellows to labour to support them in idleness and extravagance, are social slaves; and all who oppose their emancipation from such a state are political despots.
But while we contend that the suffrage should not be dependent on any amount of education, we are far from being satisfied with the education or knowledge possessed by the working classes, or, indeed, by any other class in society. The rich and the middle classes are said to be better educated than the poorer classes; but if by “education” is understood the just development of all the faculties, to the end that men may be morally as well as intellectually endowed, we think the fruits of that great superiority would be more strikingly exhibited than they are. If, for instance, our titled and wealthy aristocracy were “properly educated,” we should perceive its effects in a diminution of their luxury and extravagance—in their abhorrence of war, duelling, seduction, and adultery—in their renunciation of gambling, demoralizing sports, and brutal pastimes—in their giving up the dishonourable practices of bribery and political corruption—in their anxiety to abolish the game laws, corn laws, poor laws, and all the cruel and atrocious enactments they have called into existence for their own exclusive and selfish purposes; and, in lieu thereof, we should see them devoting a large portion of their extensive revenues to such works and means as are best calculated to upraise the toiling millions, and employing the power and talents they possess in promoting knowledge and happiness at home, peace and civilization throughout the world. If our clergy received “a proper education,” they would be more disposed to practise the precepts of their “lowly master”—they would think less of splendid endowments, and more of their toiling curates—they would abjure fox-hunting, gluttony, and excess—they would leave tithes to their rightful owners, and would honestly and fearlessly denounce “the oppressor, and him who grindeth the faces of the poor.” If our commercial, manufacturing, and middle classes of society were “well educated,” they would abjure the fraud and gambling transactions of the stock-exchange; there would be less commercial swindling—less lying, cheating, and over-reaching in trade; and bankruptcies and insolvencies would be seldom heard of. And if our own brethren were properly educated, the despots and tyrants of the earth would soon become rational members of society, for want of tools to work with; but as long as they can engage knaves and fools to carry their dishonest purposes into execution, they will continue to maintain their pernicious authority over all the rest of society. If men were morally educated, they would shrink with abhorrence from the mercenary occupation of a soldier, and spurn the livery and brutal instruments of his profession. They would greatly question the honour of being enlisted in a service in which they would be compelled to fight against liberty abroad and the rights of their brethren at home. The thirst for glory, by which despots and tyrants induce their ignorant and brutal slaves to rush like blood-hounds to the slaughter of their fellow-men, carrying rapine, famine, and desolation in their train, would, if men were morally instructed, be properly designated a thirst for blood. Glory and honour would change their character with the enlightenment of opinion. While the trade of human butchery would be execrated, men would win the glory and approbation of their fellows by just deeds and benevolent actions; and him whose exertions were the most useful would be esteemed as the most honourable. Nor would true courage be wanting when necessity required it; for while intellectual men, in possession of their rights, would always be inspired with bravery to defend them, they would scorn to be used as instruments of aggression or defenders of injustice. If our countrymen were properly instructed, all attempts to establish a new standing army of policemen would have been fruitless. They would have inquired the necessity for those blue-coated auxiliaries of oppression—this new amalgamation of watch, spy, and bludgeon-men—this new concentration of force in the hands of an exclusively-elected and irresponsible power; and finding them intended to check the advancement of liberty, and perpetuate the reign of wrong, they would indignantly refuse to become such degrading instruments of injustice, and the fingers of scorn and derision would be pointed against their badge, livery, and calling.
Were all men educated in a knowledge of their rights and duties, we should not find any so base as to sell their votes for money, place, or influence; nor so self-degraded as to fight the election battles of the aristocracy for a modicum of drink. Those who would buy their seats to sell their country would find an empty market; their “open houses” would be opened in vain, their false professions would be disregarded, their threats and intimidations would be treated with contempt. Men politically wise would be strong in principle and united in justice against all such conspirators against their liberties. They would weigh against each proffered bribe the political and social evils it would be certain to entail on themselves and their neighbours, and all selfish considerations would yield to conscientious duty. They would carefully scrutinize the professions and principles of their candidates, and would prefer political honesty to shining talents. They would consider their representatives as worthy servants, to be rewarded for their irksome duties; and not political masters, to scorn and oppress those they have purchased.
If men, too, were generally imbued with that independent feeling which springs from the cultivation of intellect, they would never permit their children to wear the badge and livery of charity. Wealth and pride might then devise their ridiculous dresses, their foolish decorations, and servile rules in vain; men would have more regard for their children than to suffer them to be exposed to the taunts and ridicule of their fellows, and would fear that the feelings of inferiority and dependence which the circumstances of a charity-school engender in the youthful mind would tend to destroy the independent spirit and dignity of manhood. Though poverty might prevent them from educating their children to the extent of their wishes, they would never allow it to plead an excuse for their degradation; but love and duty would prompt them to employ their leisure hours in instructing their families, or they would abridge their own necessaries to pay others for doing it.
While we rejoice at the progress of knowledge and the improvement that is being effected among our brethren, we cannot fail to perceive the obstacles to their liberty and impediments to their happiness which ignorance still presents, and the glorious change which a wise system of education would produce. Were men mentally and morally educated, most of those social dissensions which now mar the peace and happiness of society would cease to exist. That contentious, jealous, and undermining spirit, which is still too prevalent amongst them, would give place to unity, honesty, and plain dealing; and an interchange of kind feelings and benevolent actions would serve to lighten their toil, and cheer their hours of leisure. Intellectual men, too, would regard their homes and their families with far different sensations than are felt by those superficial and thoughtless members of society who seek for pleasure and gratification anywhere rather than at home; by which conduct habits of dissipation are generated on the one hand, carelessness and bickerings on the other; and domestic happiness, being thus undermined, tends to the destruction of their peace and the ruin of their families. Rightly constituted minds, on the contrary, would feel that, of all other pleasures, those that spring from domestic happiness are the most enduring and substantial. Esteeming their wives as their equal companions, and not the mere slaves of their passions, they would labour to cultivate their mental powers, to the end that they should participate in their views and feelings, and be the better prepared to train up their children in knowledge, virtue, and the love of freedom.
A deep conviction, therefore, of the necessity of some practical scheme of education being adopted for the working and middle classes in particular, has induced us to submit for their consideration the plan described, so that whilst they are labouring to obtain “the Charter” they shall be instructing themselves, so as to realize all its advantages when obtained; and not for them to be engaged, as reformers have heretofore, in periodically arousing the public mind to the highest state of excitement, suddenly to sink into apathy with or without the attainment of their object, as their unity of action, strength or sternness of purpose, may chance to have been exhibited. Those fits of political excitement, however necessary under existing circumstances, betoken an unhealthy state of public feeling; for were men generally acquainted with their rights and duties, they would be ever on the watch to prevent political evils, and be continually perfecting their laws and institutions, coolly, deliberately, and determinedly. Sound views and just principles, as soon as promulgated, would be caught up, and the resolution to carry them into practice would be recorded with their votes, and expressed by a unity of sentiment and action no government could resist. But while we would urge on our brethren to contend for the principles of the PEOPLE’S CHARTER, and think the plan of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION the best means to effect it, we feel satisfied that they will still have to acquire the knowledge and cultivate the feelings we have described, before they can enjoy the full fruits and blessings of freedom. Let us remember that the power each individual may possess to effect good of any description is of little value, unless the necessity for effecting it is made evident to his understanding, and his feelings sufficiently interested to prompt him to action; and as society is a congregation of individuals, the political power they may possess to promote their social or political welfare will be alike fruitless, unless they possess the knowledge and virtuous disposition to use it to the public advantage. Hence it must be evident to every reflecting observer, that true liberty cannot be conferred by acts of parliament or decrees of princes, but must spring up with public enlightenment and public virtue. The power of the people may subdue tyranny, remove corruption, and establish just and free institutions, but the fruits of their victory and noble purposes will principally depend on the amount of the public patriotism and private virtue which exists among them.
In the plan of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, we have provided for the admission of female members on the same conditions as males; and as some prejudices exist on the subject of female education, and especially against their obtaining any knowledge of politics, it may be necessary to give a few reasons in support of our proposition. As regards politics, the law does not exempt women from punishment any more than men, should they trespass on the rights or injure the person or property of their neighbour; and therefore, by all just constitutional arrangements, all should share in the enactment of laws to which they are amenable. If a woman be a householder, she must contribute her share of direct taxes, and if not, on all her eating, drinking, and wearing, she contributes her portion of indirect taxes equally with men: and according to the unperverted spirit of our Constitution, there should be no taxation without representation. Again, if a woman is married, her influence, for good or evil, is still exercised in all the political affairs of her husband; and if single, her political knowledge or ignorant prejudices are equally powerful in society. Therefore, their rights and influence being manifest, the necessity for their political instruction must be equally obvious. But, what is still far more important, women are the chief instructors of our children, whose virtues or vices will depend more on the education given them by their mothers than on that off any other teacher we can employ to instruct them. If a mother is deficient in knowledge and depraved in morals, the effects will be seen in all her domestic arrangements; and her prejudices, habits, and conduct will make the most lasting impression on her children, and often render nugatory all the efforts of the schoolmaster. If, on the contrary, she is so well informed as to appreciate and second his exertions, and strives to fix in the minds of her children habits of cleanliness, order, refinement of conduct, and purity of morals, the results will be evident in her wise and well-regulated household. But if, in addition to these qualities, she be richly stored with intellectual and moral treasures, and makes it her chief delight to impart them to her offspring, they will, by their lives and conduct, reflect her intelligence and virtues, throughout society; for there has seldom been a great or noble character who had not a wise or virtuous mother. Our first ideas are received from a mother’s eye, and much of our temper and disposition depend on the characters we trace there; her kindness and benevolence give us peace and joy, but her angry frowns and capricious temper terrify us, and injure our whole infantile system. As our perceptions are awakened and faculties matured, her wise or foolish conduct towards us leaves lasting impressions of good or evil; her habits, conversation, and example are readily imitated, and form the foundation of our future character. Seeing, then, that so much of our early education depends on the mental and moral qualities of women, should we not labour, by every means in our power, to qualify them for these important duties? And when, in addition to these considerations, we take into account how much of men’s happiness depends upon the minds and dispositions of women—how much of comfort, cheerfulness, and affection their intelligence can spread in the most humble home—how many cares their prudence can prevent, and their sympathy and kindness alleviate, it ought to redouble our anxiety to promote the education and contend for the social and political rights of women.
While treating of the advantages to be derived from the establishment of district halls, we have, in a great measure, confined our observations to the improvement of adults; and now we think it essential to point out to our brethren the importance, necessity, and advantages of properly educating our children, the faculties such places would afford for that purpose, and to add our meed of information as to the best means of effecting it….
On the Importance of General Education and the Modes to be pursued in the Different Schools
In endeavouring to point out the social and political importance of education, and the necessity for establishing a better and more general system than has hitherto been adopted in this country, it will be advisable to begin by giving a clear definition of what we mean by the term “education.”
As it applies to children, we understand it to imply all those means which are used to develop the various faculties of mind and body, and so to train them, that the child shall become a healthy, intelligent, moral, and useful member of society.
But in its more extended sense, as it applies to men and nations, it means all those varied circumstances that exercise their influence on human beings from the cradle to the grave. Hence a man’s parental or scholastic training, his trade or occupation, his social companions, his pleasures and pursuits, his religion, the institutions, laws, and government of his country, all operate in various ways to train or educate his physical, mental, and moral powers; and as all these influences are perfect or defective in character, so will he be well or badly educated. Differences of character will be found in the same class, according to the modified circumstances that have operated on each individual; but the general character of each class, community, or nation stands prominently forward, affording a forcible illustration of the effects of individual, social, and political education. According to the mental or moral instruction each INDIVIDUALS may receive, will he be the better able to withstand social taint and political corruption, and will, by his laudable example and energy, be advancing the welfare of society, while he is promoting his own. According to the intellectual and moral spirit which pervades SOCIETY, will its individual members be improved; and in proportion as it is ignorant or demoralized, will they be deteriorated by its contact: and as despotism or freedom prevail in a NATION, will its subjects be imbued with feelings of liberty, or be drilled into passive slaves.
Our present object is with INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION, beginning with childhood; and if we can so far succeed as to interest and induce others to assist in promoting this department of education, the social and political education we have referred to will be comparatively an easy task;—for if the rising generation can be properly educated, in a few years they will give such a healthy tone to society, and such an improving spirit to government, that old prejudices, vices, and corruptions, must speedily give way before them.
We have said, that education means the developing and training of all the faculties of mind and body. By the faculties of the body we mean the whole physical structure. By the faculties of the mind we mean those powers we possess for perceiving, acquiring, and treasuring up various kinds of knowledge; for using that knowledge in comparing and judging of the properties of things, and weighing the consequences of actions; for giving us a love of justice, rectitude, and truth; for prompting us to acts of benevolence, and delighting us with the happiness of others; for appreciating the beauties of earth and heaven, and inspiring with wonderment, awe, and veneration: in short, all those mental powers which perceive, reflect, and prompt us to action.
By training or educating a bodily faculty is meant the means used for accelerating its growth, and adding to its strength and activity. For instance, a proper quantity of nutritious food, pure air, warm clothing, and sufficient exercise are necessary to the proper development or growth of a child; and if these essentials are denied him in infancy, he will be stunted in growth, and debilitated bodily and mentally; nor can any subsequent treatment effectually remedy the evil. Nay, not only in infancy, but at every period of our existence, are these conditions necessary to health and strength. We might here adduce a great number of facts, to prove the great physical injury sustained by infants and adults among the poorer classes from bad or scanty food, impure atmospheres, over exertion, and the evils attendant on ignorance and poverty; but let one or two suffice. M. Villermé, an eminent statician of France, has proved that there are one hundred deaths in a poor arrondissment while there are only fifty in a rich one; that, taking the whole population of France, the rich live twelve and half years longer than the poor; that the children of the rich have the probability of living forty-two years and half, while the children of the poor have only the probability of living thirty years. And the late Mr. Sadler has shown that as many persons die in manufacturing districts before their twentieth year, as in agricultural districts before their fortieth. These alarming facts should awaken the attention of the working classes in particular, and should lead them to investigate the more immediate cause of this lamentable sacrifice of life, and to devise some means by which the evil may be remedied.
But we have talked of training as well as developing the physical faculties. What we mean by training a faculty is this: we mean the subjecting it to a course of discipline, so as to strengthen and habituate it to perform certain operations with ease and effect. Thus the muscles of the body may be enlarged and strengthened by proper training; the hand may be trained to peculiar performances; the eye to perceive the nicest distinctions of art, and the ear, of various sounds. Indeed, there is this wonderful peculiarity in our organization, which points out to us our duty, in the proper use and exercise of every part of the mind and body, that the vital current may flow in that direction, not only to repair the waste consequent on that exercise, but to enlarge and strengthen it to perform its operations with greater ease; and the reverse of this is manifest when any part of the body or mind is not exercised or disciplined, as it then loses its energy and power of performance.
We have said that the mental powers have various and distinct properties; and though it is not necessary to our object to go into the particulars of these, nor the various metaphysical opinions respecting them, it will greatly assist us in our explanations, to describe them as intellectual and moral faculties;—all of which faculties may be well or badly trained, according to the knowledge and discipline bestowed; in other words, as the individual may have been subjected to a PROPER or IMPROPER COURSE OF EDUCATION.
A man’s intellectual faculties may be highly cultivated, and yet he may be a very worthless and immoral member of society, for want of that moral education necessary to control his animal feelings, and to direct his intellect to the performance of his social and political duties.
Another man may have his moral faculties disciplined to perform continuous acts of kindness and benevolence, and may possess the strongest feelings of awe and veneration; and yet, for the want of intellectual cultivation, may have his goodness of disposition daily imposed upon by knaves and impostors, and his credulity diverted to superstition and fanaticism.
The animal faculties being in common with the brute creation, he who is without intellect to guide and morality to direct them, will differ little from the brutes in the gratification of them.
Examples of great intellectual attainments without morality are to be found among all classes of society; from the university-taught gentleman who uses his talent to gratify his interest or ambition at the expense of justice, to the experienced swindler or learned impostor, who lives by defrauding and imposing on his fellow-men. And no men are fitter or more likely to become the dupes of such persons than those whose moral faculties are matured and intellectual ones neglected. Examples of strong animal propensities, without the reins of intellect and morality to govern them, are seen in those mothers who spoil their children by their ignorant indulgence of their inclinations in those unions founded on mere animal love or instinctive attachment, which occasion much social misery; in gluttony, drunkenness, profligacy, debauchery, and extreme vice of every description. Hence it will be seen that “EDUCATION,” to be useful, such as will tend to make wise and worthy members of the community, must comprise the judicious development and training of ALL the human faculties, and not, as is generally supposed, the mere teaching of “reading, writing, and arithmetic,” or even the superior attainments of our colleges, Greek, Latin, and polite literature.”
We have said that good education embraces the cultivation of all the mental and bodily faculties; for be it remembered, that all individuals (unless they are malformed or diseased) possess the same kind of faculties, though they may materially differ in size and power, just as men and women differ in size and strength from each other. All men are not gifted with great strength of body or powers of intellect, but all are so wisely and wonderfully endowed, that all have capacities for becoming intelligent, moral, and happy members of society; and if they are not, it is for want of their capacities being so properly cultivated, as to cause them to live in accordance with the physical laws of their nature, the social institutions of man, and the moral laws of God. Education will cause every latent seed of the mind to germinate and spring up into useful life, which otherwise might have lain buried in ignorance, and died in the corruptions of its own nature; thousands of our countrymen, endowed with all the capabilities for becoming the guides and lights of society, from want of this glorious blessing, are doomed to grovel in vice and ignorance, to pine in obscurity and want. Give to a man knowledge, and you give him a light to perceive and enjoy beauty, variety, surpassing ingenuity, and majestic grandeur which his mental darkness previously concealed from him—enrich his mind and strengthen his understanding, and you give him powers to render all art and nature subservient to his purposes—call forth his moral excellence in union with his intellect, and he will apply every power of thought and force of action to enlighten ignorance, alleviate misfortune, remove misery, and banish vice; and, as far as his abilities permit, to prepare a highway to the world’s happiness.
There is every reason, however, for supposing that many persons have been led to doubt the great benefits of education, from what they have witnessed of the dissipated and improper conduct of those who have had great wealth expended on their education; and that others, observing the jealousies, contentions, and ambition of men professedly learned, have been led to inquire “whether educated men are happier than those who are ignorant.” But from want of moral training in unison with intellectual acquirements, such characters cannot be said to be “educated,” in the proper sense of the term; they have knowledge without wisdom, and power without the motive to goodness. But as regards “happiness,” (which may be defined to mean the highest degree of pleasurable sensations,) we think we may safely aver that the ignorant many can never be truly happy. He cannot even enjoy the same animal happiness in eating, drinking, and sleeping as the brute; for the demands society requires from him in return for these enjoyments give him anxieties, cares, and toil which the brute does not experience. The instinct, too, which nature has bestowed on the lower animals to guide their appetites, seems to give them superior advantages over a man destitute of knowledge. For, ignorant of his own nature, and needing the control of reason, he is continually marring his own happiness by his follies or his vices. Wanting moral perceptions, the temptations that surround him frequently seduce him to evil, and the penalties society inflict on him punish him without reclamation. Ignorant of the phenomena of nature, he becomes credulous, superstitious, and bigoted—an easy prey to the cunning and deceitful; and, bewildered by the phantoms of his own ignorant imaginings, he is miserable while living, and afraid of dying.
But, it may be asked, what proofs can be adduced to show that the truly educated man is the happier for being so? We will anticipate such a question, and endeavour to afford such proofs as, to us, appear clear and conclusive. In the first place, nature has given to most of her children a faculty for acquiring knowledge, which, once quickened and directed by education, is continually gratified with its acquisitions, and ever deriving fresh pleasures in new pursuits and accumulation of knowledge. To give the greatest delight to those who wisely exercise this faculty, nature has provided a multitudinous variety to be investigated and enjoyed; she has spread out her wonders around them, and unfolded her beauties to their gaze. By giving them the power to transmit their acquirements to posterity, she has opened to their mental view the whole arcane of science and range of art, to afford them unlimited sources of enjoyment.—In the next place, nature has in her bounty conferred on them all the powers of moral superiority and social gratification, which, if wisely cultivated, afford them pleasures inexhaustible. Those noble attributes of man’s nature, ever stimulating him to great deeds and good actions, cast a continual sunshine over the mind of him who obeys their dictates; they render his life useful, and give him peace and hope in the hour of death. Nor can any cultivated man for a moment doubt these positions; he has the proof and evidence in his own feelings, and his righteous actions will afford the best testimony to the rest of mankind.
From what we have said on the nature and intention of education, we think its importance must begin to be evident; for what man is there who, in inquiring into the laws of his nature, finds that his own individual happiness is a condition dependent on the cultivation of his mental and moral powers, but will readily admit the importance and necessity of proper education?
But let us proceed from individual to social considerations, (for individual happiness seems to be dependent on social arrangements,) and inquire how far a man’s happiness is marred or retarded by the ignorance, and the consequent vices, that prevail in society. If his acquirements enable him to perceive the necessity for improving the social institutions of his country, in order to advance the prosperity, knowledge, and happiness of his neighbours, their prejudices, selfishness, and cupidity are formidable obstacles to deter him from the attempt. If he be engaged in any trade or profession, and desire to exercise his calling with honesty and conscientiousness, he is exposed to the united rivalry of all those who find their gains promoted, and rank upheld by dishonesty and injustice, or the fraudulent system they have established is such as speedily to drive him from his business or consign him to poverty. If he be the father of a family, and desirous of promoting the happiness of his children by rendering them intelligent, moral, and useful, he cannot with all his anxiety guard them from the contaminating effects of social vice. The ears of his children are assailed by brutal and disgusting language in the midst of his dwelling, their eyes meet with corruption and evil in every street, and seductions and temptations await them in every corner. Should their youthful years be happily preserved from those influences, they are no sooner ushered into society, than they are beset with all its selfish, lying, defrauding, and mind-debasing vices; and they must be strong indeed in mind and steadfast in morality, to Withstand these tests without pollution;—and many a fond parent who has reared up his children with tender solicitude, whose most cherished hopes have been centred in their welfare, has seen them all gradually engulfed in the vices and corruptions of social life. If a man be poor, he is subjected to all the evils of social injustice; and if he be wealthy, his life and possessions are continually jeopardised by the vicious and criminal victims of ignorance: in fact, in no situation in society can a man be so circumstanced, as to escape the evils inflicted or occasioned by the ignorance of others.
Can any man of reflection fail in perceiving that most of these social evils have their origin in ignorance? What but the want of information to perceive their true interest, and the want of moral motives to pursue it, can induce the wealthier classes of society to perpetuate a system of oppression and injustice which in its reaction fills our gaols with criminals, our land with paupers, and our streets with prostitution and intemperance? What but the want of intellectual and moral culture occasion our middle-class population to spend their careworn lives in pursuing wealth or rank through all the soul-debasing avenues of wrong; and, after all their anxiety to secure the objects of their ambition, find they have neglected the substantial realities of happiness in the pursuit of its phantom? And what shall we say of that large portion of our population who have been born in evil and trained in vice?—nay, whose very organization, in many instances, has been physically and mentally injured by the criminality of their parents?  Their perceptions continually directed to evil, their notions of right and wrong perverted by pernicious example, and thereby taught that the gratification of their animal appetites is the end and object of their existence, can we wonder that they become the hardened pests of society, or, rather, the victims of social and political neglect—beings whom punishments fail to deter from evil, and for whom prisons, penitentiaries, laws, precepts, and sermons are made in vain? What man, then, perceiving these lamentable results of ignorance, and possessing the least spark of benevolence, is not prepared at once to admit the necessity for beginning our social reformation at the root of the evil, by establishing a wise and just system of education?
But if we want further proofs to convince us of its necessity, let us turn from our social to our political arrangements. The fact of an insignificant portion of the people arrogating to themselves the political rights and powers of the whole, and persisting in making and enforcing such laws as are favourable to their own “order,” and inimical to the interests of the many, afford a strong argument in proof of the ignorance of those who submit to such injustice. And when we find that vast numbers of those who are thus excluded readily consent to be drilled and disciplined, and used as instruments to keep all the rest in subjection, the proofs of their ignorance appear conclusive. And even those who possess the franchise, (or nominal power of the state,) if we may judge from their actions, are not more distinguished for their wisdom than those mercenaries; for, after selecting their representatives in the most whimsical manner—some for their titles of nobility or honour; others for their lands, interest, or party; and some for having bought them with money or promises—they support them in every extravagance and folly, and submit to be plundered and oppressed in a thousand forms, to uphold what they pompously designate “the dignity of this great nation.” And surely the annual catalogue of crimes in this country of itself affords lamentable proofs of the ignorance or wickedness of public men, and their great neglect of their public duties. Those will stand in the records of the past as black memorials against the boasted civilization and enlightened philanthropy of England, whose legislators are famed for devising modes of punishing, and in numerous instances for fostering crime, exhibiting, year after year, presumptive proofs in their omission to prevent it. It will be said of them, that they allowed the children of misery to be instructed in vice, and for minor delinquencies subjected them to severity of punishment which matured and hardened them in crime; that, callous to consequences, they had gone through all the gradations of wretchedness, from the common prison to the murderer’s cell, that their judges gravely doomed them to die, gave them wholesome advice and the hopes of repentance; and, when the fruits of their neglect and folly were exhibited on the gallows, they gave the public an opportunity of feasting their brutal appetites with the quivering pangs of maddened and injured humanity. Whether, then, we view man individually, socially, or politically—whether as parent, husband, or brother, there is no situation he can be placed in, in which his happiness will not be marred by ignorance, and in which it would not be promoted by the spread of knowledge and wisdom.
Convinced of the importance of an improved system of education, we think there needs little to convince any one of the necessity of its being made as general as possible; for, if the effects of ignorance are so generally detrimental to happiness, the remedy must be sought for in the general dissemination of knowledge;—we see and feel enough of the effects of partial knowledge, to warn us against the evil of instructing one portion of society, and suffering the other to remain in ignorance. What, but the superior cunning and ingenuity of the few, and the ignorance of the many, have led to the establishment of our landed monopoly in its present state—our trading and commercial monopolies—our legislative and municipal monopolies—our church and college monopolies—and, in short, all the extremes of wealth and wretchedness which characterize our fraudulent system? In fact, the cunning and trickery which uphold this system have become so evident, that all those who seek to profit by it, are not so much induced to send their children to schools and universities to acquire knowledge for its own sake, or to make them better or more useful members of society, as they are to qualify them to rise in it; in other words, to enable them to live in idleness and extravagance on the industry of other people. This state-pauperizing disposition, this aristocratic contempt for all useful labour, is to be traced to our defective education; and knowledge will be found to be the only remedy for this, as well as for the vices, follies, and extravagances of the few. If the blessings of education were generally diffused—if honesty and justice were daily inculcated among all classes of society, it would, ere long, lead to a more just and general diffusion of the blessings of industry. But as long as one part of the community feel it to be their interest to cultivate mere power-and-wealth-acquiring knowledge, and, as far as they can, to prevent or retard the enlightenment of all but themselves, so long will despotism, inequality, and injustice, flourish among the few; and poverty, vice, and crime, be the lot of the many.
But, while we are anxious to see a general system of education adopted, we have considerable doubts of the propriety of yielding such an important duty as the education of our children to any government, and the strongest abhorrence of giving any such power to an irresponsible one. While we are desirous of seeing a uniform and just system of education established, we must guard against the influenced of irresponsible power and public corruption; and, therefore, we are opposed to all concentration of power beyond that which is absolutely necessary to make and execute the laws; for, independent of its liability to become corrupt, it destroys local energies, and prevents experiments and improvements, which it is most desirable should be fostered, for the advancement of knowledge, and prostrates the whole nation before one uniform, and, it may be, despotic power. We perceive the results of this concentration of irresponsible power and uniformity of system lamentably exemplified in Prussia, and other parts of the continent, where the lynx-eyed satellites of power carefully watch over the first indications of intelligence, to turn it to their advantage, and to crush in embryo the buddings of freedom; and, judging from the disposition our own government evince to adopt the liberty-crushing policy of their continental neighbours, we have every reason to fear that, were they once entrusted with the education of our children, they would pursue the same course to mould them to their purpose. Those who seek to establish in England the continental schemes of instruction, tell us of the intelligence, the good behaviour, and politeness of their working-class population but they forget to tell us that, to talk of right or justice, in many of those countries—to read a liberal newspaper or book, inculcating principles of liberty, is to incur the penalty of banishment or the dungeon. They forget to tell us that, with all the instruction of the people, they submit to the worst principles of despotism; that life and property, as well as all the powers and offices of the state, are mostly vested in one man or his minions, and that the vilest system of espionage is everywhere established to secure his domination. They omit to inform us, that parents are compelled, under heavy penalties, to send their children to the public schools, where the blessings of despotism, and reverence for the reigning despot, are inculcated and enforced by all the arts and ingenuity submissive teachers can invent and that all those who brave the penalties, and teach their children themselves, are subject to infamous surveillance, and their children declared incapacitated to hold any office in the state. Bowed down and oppressed as we already are, we manage to keep alive the principles and spirit of liberty; but, if ever knavery and hypocrisy succeed in establishing this centralizing, state-moulding, knowledge-forcing scheme in England, so assuredly will the people degenerate into passive submission to injustice, and their spirit sink into the pestilential calm of despotism.
With every respectful feeling towards those philanthropists whose eloquence first awakened us to the importance of education, and whose zeal to advance it will ever live in our remembrance, we have seen sufficient to convince us that many of those who stand in the list of education-promoters, are but state-tricksters, seeking to make it an instrument of party or faction. We perceive that one is for moulding the infant mind upon the principles of church and state, another is for basing its morals on their own sectarianism, and another is for an harmonious amalgamation of both; in fact, the great principles of human nature, social morality, and political justice, are disregarded, in the desire of promoting their own selfish views and party interests. From the experiments already made, at home and abroad, they see sufficient to convince them of the importance of early impressions; and hence their eager desire to mould the plastic mind to their own notions of propriety. They also see that the flood-gates of knowledge are opened, and that its purifying stream is rolling onward with rapidity; and fearing their own corrupt interests may be endangered, they seek to turn it from its course by every means and stratagem their ingenuity can invent.
If our government were based upon Universal Suffrage to-morrow, we should be equally opposed to the giving it any such powers in education, as some persons propose to invest it; its power should be of an assisting and not an enforcing character. Public education ought to be a right—a right derivable from society itself, as society implies a union for mutual benefit, and, consequently, to provide publicly for the security and proper training off all its members. The public should also endeavour to instruct the country, through a board of instructors, (popularly chosen,) on the best plans of education or modes of training; and should induce, by prizes or otherwise, men of genius and intelligence to aid them in devising the best. After their plans have been matured, and the greatest publicity given to them, the people should be called upon to choose (by universal suffrage,) two members from each county, to form a special body, to consider such plans, and to amend, adopt, or reject them, as they may think proper; leaving those in the minority to till adopt such plans as their constituents may approve of, the merits of the plans selected by the majority became obvious to all. Such a mode as this would be more in accordance with liberty and justice than the legal enforcement of any particular plans of education, as of all other subjects it involves greater consequences of good or evil. Government, then, should provide the means for erecting schools of every description, wherever they may be deemed necessary; and empower the inhabitants of the respective districts to elect their own superintendents and teachers, (if qualified in normal schools,) and to raise a district rate for the support of the school and remuneration of the teachers. If we had a liberal government to do this for the education—if the whole people were to be interested in the subject, through popular election, instead of a select clique, we might safely trust to the progress of knowledge and power of truth to render it popular, as well as to cause the best plans, ere long, to be universally adopted. But from our government no such liberality is to be expected—we have every thing to fear from it, but nothing to hope for; hence, we have addressed ourselves to you, working men of Britain, and you of the middle classes who feel yourselves identified with them, as you are the most interested in the establishment of a wise and just system of education. And we think we have said sufficient to convince you of the necessity of guarding against those state and party schemes some persons are intent on establishing, as well as to induce you to commence the great work of education yourselves, on the most liberal and just plan you can devise, and by every exertion to render it as general as possible; hoping that the day is not distant when your political franchise will give you the power to extend it with rapidity throughout the whole empire.
Having briefly given our views of the nature, intention, and importance of education, the next part of our subject necessarily embraces the particular description of education to be pursued in the different schools, and the best mode of imparting it.
The first difficulty we shall have to surmount in our progress will be the teaching of the teachers; and the particular instruction, or mode of training, which they will require, necessarily appertain to the NORMAL OR TEACHERS’ SCHOOLS. The establishment of one (at least,) of those schools should therefore be one of the first objects of the association. Whatever may be its particular plan, we think it should be so constructed as to contain an infant, preparatory, and high school, into which children of all ages should be admitted, and in which the persons learning to be teachers shall be taught a practical knowledge of the system of education. It should also contain a library, museum, laboratory, sitting-rooms, and sleeping-rooms for the teachers and directors. There should be two general teachers, or DIRECTORS, possessing an intimate knowledge of the best plans and modes of education, and well qualified in the art of imparting it with effect and kindness of disposition. While every encouragement should be given for the gratuitous instruction of all those desirous of being qualified as teachers, great care and discrimination would be necessary in guarding against the admission of persons who possess neither the disposition, aptitude, nor capabilities for efficient teachers. The educational students should commence with the infant school, and, when proficient in that department, should proceed to the preparatory school; and so on, till they become conversant with every part of the system.  Their time should be so divided, that it should be spent in the schools, and in studying the best works on the subject; in attending to the lectures or discourses of the directors, and in discussions and conversations among themselves. The time necessary properly to qualify a teacher must (in our first arrangements,) be made to depend on the judgment of the directors; but after our plans are matured, it may be found necessary to fix the time each person shall study in a normal school to qualify him or her for a teacher; and eventually no persons should be employed in the schools of the association but those who could produce a certificate, signed by the directors, testifying their competency. But one important duty must not be neglected by the people themselves— that of rewarding and honouring the teachers of their children, as this will be the best means of perfecting the science of education, by an accession of men of genius and intelligence, who otherwise will seek rewards and honours in other pursuits….
In describing the numerous advantages likely to result from forming an association upon the plan suggested, we have deemed it a portion of our duty thus to direct the attention of our working-class brethren, in particular, to the great importance and necessity of education. But in putting forth our views on this branch of the subject in a plain and, as we conceive, a practical form, we do not imagine we have given birth to any new plans or originality of method. Seriously impressed with the evil to be apprehended from any state-moulding system of instruction, conducted by and for the interest of party,—and, moreover, perceiving the great and beneficial advantages likely to result from a just system of education, under the control of the whole people, we have been influenced to devise and promulgate what we conceive to be a means by which the evil may be avoided and the good gradually achieved. Being in a prison, we have found some difficulty in proceeding as far as we have, for the want of such books and facilities as our liberty would have enabled us to obtain; but, in all probability, if we were in the enjoyment of that inestimable blessing, the pressing demands of our families, and the active pursuits of life, would have so far engaged our attention, as to have prevented us from ever writing anything on the subject. In what we have written we may not have expressed ourselves as correctly and guardedly as the subject merits, but we trust that the liberality of our countrymen will lead them to excuse these defects in persons who have not had the advantages of a literary education, but who are nevertheless desirous of arresting the attention of working men who, like themselves, are desirous of obtaining better governors, wiser measures, and happier times than the present….
Acknowledgements: The illustration – A design for a district hall – is taken from Lovett and Collins (1840) Chartism; a new organization of the people – and is believed to be in the public domain.
The picture of William Lovet was sourced from Wikimedia Commons and said to be in the public domain.
How to cite this piece: Lovett, William and John Collins Chartism: A new organization of the people : embracing a plan for the education and improvement of the people, politically and socially … written in Warwick gaol. London: J. Watson. Reproduced in the informal education archives. [www.infed.org/archives/e-texts/william_lovett_on_education.htm].
This piece has been reproduced here on the understanding that it is not subject to any copyright restrictions, and that it is, and will remain, in the public domain.
First placed in the archives: September 2009.
Last Updated on June 20, 2019 by infed.org