On Neglected and Destitute Children:
Are They to Be Educated?
c. October 5-10, 1865 — National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, Sheffield, England
The importance of directing public attention to the various educational agencies which are in operation in our country, cannot be too highly estimated, and has engaged the warm and earnest consideration of this Section from the very commencement of this Association. Even those educational institutions which had obtained the highest prestige, and which were supposed to be the most securely fenced round — the most strongly guarded by universal good opinion — our great public schools, which have fostered the opening talents and stimulated the rising genius of our most celebrated men — even these have been closely scrutinised, and the revelations of the Public School Commission were discussed by this Section at our last meeting with an anxiety which showed a general opinion of the importance of the subject. The desire of the council of this Association to obtain a similar commission to inquire into the condition of smaller grammar schools and of middle-class education generally, as well as the attention which this last is exciting throughout the country, indicates not less clearly the growing attention which is paid to the education of those who will form the next generation. Descending to a lower grade of society, the distribution of the educational parliamentary grant to the British and National Schools has been the subject of warm and earnest discussion: and the applicability of the provision made under the present Code to the wants experienced by them, has been anxiously considered. The highest and most experienced minds in our country have been summoned to the discussion of these various subjects.
All the schools now adverted to have been intended for the children of persons who can more or less help themselves, and most of whom can take a share in the management of the schools. All these, from the legislator to the labouring man, have it in their power, more or less, to secure for their children, by their own personal effort, such education as they deem suitable for their position in life. It is true that several of these schools are endowed, and that a free education is thus granted to many children among these various classes; — this gratuitous character of the education is not considered to degrade the recipients, and all may be classed together in our present consideration. Now, we would ask, why does the enlightened portion of society so zealously occupy itself with the educational wants of these different classes? It is not that they cannot help themselves. We know that excellent schools are established by working men, and steadily supported by them, though they thankfully accept the pecuniary and intellectual aid afforded to them by those in a higher rank. The middle classes surely ought to be able to judge of their own wants, and pay their money solely for an ed cation which is really good. Without a doubt the educated gentry and nobility of our country are fully competent, without extraneous aid, to regulate the education of their sons and of their daughters, and none need interfere in their concerns. And yet all these commissions, these committees, these anxious discussions — why do we continually hear of them? Why is there a constant extension of our inquiries? Why does one commission lead on to another, and why do we never feel satisfied as long as gentlemen’s sons are only half educated, and their daughters are debarred from university distinctions? Why do we trouble ourselves so much because schools for the middle classes are extremely inefficient, and do not teach the rising generation what their parents ought to wish theru to acquire, but do not insist upon, through indifference or ignorance? Why do we make so much effort to give the rudiments of a sound and useful education to those who are to form our working population some ten years hence, though without it their fathers have built our houses, made our roads, and furnished nerve and sinew to our country wherever their services have been required? It is because we, as a country, are emerging from the narrow and selfish condition which made education a class privilege, which led even a prelate of the established Church, some half century ago, to inquire, when asked to subscribe to a public juvenile library, what good a library for lads could do? and which made employers of labour prefer to keep their workmen in ignorance. A sound and enlightened education is now acknowledged to be as important to the welfare of society in general as it is to that of the individual. As the world progresses, and class after class is moving on to take a share in the government of the country — as the masses become influential in united strength, and make themselves felt to be members of the community, and important members of it — so all enlightened persons feel it to be of‘ the highest importance that the intellectual and moral powers of those constituting the masses should be wisely developed, and that those who are blessed with superior advantages should lend them, for the public good, to this great work. It is a great work, and we honour those who are helping it forward. It is our own personal work as members of a community, and we devote ourselves to it with zeal.
But the most important parts of our educational efforts are as yet left unaccomplished. We have been helping those who can help themselves, and who are willing to help themselves in this great matter of education of their children. They do so even at the cost of personal privation, because they perceive its inestimable value. We now turn to those who have neither the will nor the power to do so. Are we, on account of the apathy or misconduct of parents, to remain inactive, to stand by unconcerned and see innumerable evils prepared for the next generation as well as for this, through neglect of the children? Shall we, to our own shame, prove by our actions that we are willing to help the strong and give to those from whom we hope to receive; but that the weak, whom we deem not worthy of our notice, we will leave to perish morally and spiritually? Physically, we dare not let them perish, for it is contrary to the law of the land. But shall we act as if we ignored their higher natures — as if we regarded them as not of us — only fit to be cut out from among us? May this never be said of our country!
Our Government listens, however, to the claims of many of these wretched ones. Some of them are the children of paupers, who, by this very circumstance, are unable to provide themselves with education. The poor-rates are intended to provide this as well as food, and the guardians ought to see that this duty is fulfilled well. But the country regards it as so important that these children of paupers should be educated, and not grow up stultified in mind, prepared to perpetuate a pauper race, that Parliament grants a large annual sum, say 30,0001. per annum, to secure for these children of paupers a good education. Special inspectors are appointed to examine these schools, and to make the grant depend on the excellence of the instruction given. Parliament is right in its estimate of the importance of education to these poor children, who have not sinned themselves in being ignorant; — it is right in taking upon itself the duty, so important to society, of providing for them that education which they will probably not receive from those who stand in loco parentis to them, — the guardians of the poor. Again, the country said, and enlightened legislators saw, not many years ago, that a cruel wrong was being done to the rising generation by employing their undeveloped powers in close labour, thus crippling their intellectual faculties, and preventing the possibility of their obtaining even the rudiments of knowledge. The injustice thus inflicted on the factory children was acknowledged by the Government, and the Factory Act appointed for them a half-time system — probably the most valuable kind of education that can be given — with enactments which effectually secured to them good and sufficient instruction. But this Act does not reach numbers of children in our country whose parents wickedly allow their immature minds and bodies to be cruelly sacrificed, almost in infancy, to the desire for lucre;-— they think that the children are their own, and that they may do what they will with their own. The country looked with horror on this wicked assumption, and asserted the right of the young child to grow up in freedom from bondage, even that of parents. A Royal Commission was ‘appointed to investigate these abuses; its report revealed horrors little imagined in these days of civilisation and Christianity, and the public is preparing to secure, by legislation, for every working child in the kingdom, immunity from such bondage, and the same rights in all other factories as are recognised in the cotton factories.
The country does not stop here in its care for the rising generation, — the children of this age, who are to be the men of the next. Some have become transgressors of the law even in early years. Parental authority has not been found suffcient to restrain them from evil. Perhaps no true parental influence existed for these unfortunate young persons; and, left to the guidance of their own unregulated wills, checked by no voice of reason or of religion, they have committed acts, which in technical language would be termed burglary, arson and felony, and other crimes, which within the memory of the older among us were capital offences. Are these children to be left without education, because not only they but their parents have sinned? Do we, human beings, take upon our selves the right to visit the sins of the fathers on the children? Not so our Government. For the good of society, and for the benefit of the child, the parents forfeit the privilege, which they had abused, of controlling their children, while they are still compelled to pay towards their maintenance. The children are cared for, the parental authority is transferred by legal sentence to persons who will under take their moral, religious, and intellectual training, and an inspector has the special duty of ascertaining, on the partof the Government, not only that care is taken of those children, and that they are taught to earn their bread by the sweat of their brows, but that their intellectual powers are developed, and that they receive proper teaching. The State does not begrudge spending from 13l. to 16l. per annum for each of these children, considering it a wise economy to enable them to grow up honest, self-supporting citizens, instead of being maintained in a convict prison, at an expense of from 30l. to 40l. per annum, or spreading moral contagion through the country if at large — a still greater evil to society.
We see, then, that in all these cases — in that of the factory children, of the children of paupers and the orphans, of children who, generally through parental neglect, show proclivity to crime, or who have actually fallen into it — in all these cases, the Government has acted on the principle that the fault of parents is rather a claim for public help for the child, than a reason why it should be passed by in neglect; and that it is the duty of the Government to enable every child to receive a free development of its powers with a good education. The public has not lagged behind the Government in its appreciation of this principle, as, step by step, it has advanced; but, on the contrary, has urged it on. The children in our pauper schools, formerly an object of contempt and scorn, are beginning to receive public sympathy, and more enlightened eiforts are being made in many places to secure for them a better practical education, and to enable them to take their fit place in society. The children who had been under a sentence of the law, used to be regarded as beyond the pale of even social sympathy; but now the public show their true appreciation of what is being done for them by the combined efforts of Government, and of Christian labourers, by receiving them wil lingly into their workshops, and even into their homes.
But the work is not yet done. A large and increasing part of the population consists of families whose children are miserably poor, ignorant, and wretched, though they themselves are not paupers; they are struggling to provide for the physical wants of their children without parish help, but they cannot give education to them; it may be that they are themselves so totally degraded that they do not care to do so, and thence their children grow up as ignorant and corrupt as they are themselves. Had they been paupers, or had their children been transgressors of the law, they would have been cared for; but now they are left in their low and untaught condition, pre paring to furnish to the country an ever-increasing supply of paupers and criminals for our workhouses and gaols.
These are the children for whom, destitute and neglected and ignorant as they are, swarming in our large cities, and there to be numbered, not by hundreds nor by thousands, but by tens of thou sands, and perhaps even by millions, that I now earnestly entreat the help of this Association. These are the children who have hitherto been practically ignored by the Educational Council of the nation, and whose welfare is never considered by them, while they largely bestow their funds in training highly-educated teachers, and in paying for the knowledge instilled into the respectable children of the higher or wage class. These are the children for whom, passed by on the world’s highway, as they have so long been, none raised a voice, when so loud a cry of complaint and indignation went up from those who had been large recipients of the public money, when the new regulations of the Revised Code made them tremble for future supplies. The educated classes look with scorn on these children of ignorance, as unworthy to receive the privilege of learning, which they themselves have now learned to value.
We shall be told, however, that the class of children for whom we plead cannot be defined, and, consequently, does not exist; that the Royal Commission on Education did not consider them deserving of attention; and that a Committee of the House of Commons, sitting expressly to investigate this very subject, reported, without advising any provision to be made for them. But we are well aware that the advance of the session led that committee to close its labours without calling important witnesses, who were ready to attend, from all the large towns of England; consequently, that its report was greatly founded on the condition of London, where the peculiar advantages possessed by schools under the patronage of Lord Shaftesbury, prevented the need being felt for increased pecuniary help. We know, too, that the agents of education commissioners do not always penetrate the back slums of cities to which they arestrangers; and that the inspection only of school registers, even although it be a ragged school, by no means gives a true idea of the real condition of the families mentioned in them. We know, in fine, that it is quite impossible for council officers, inspectors, or commissioners, to comprehend the moral destitution of the country, as those do whose duties lead them into those haunts of vice — those back slums, of the wretchedness of which, the favoured portion of thepopulation have no conception, and which they would gladly believe have no existence. Hence the apathy which generally exists respecting them; hence the hope and supposition among some of our legislators, that the class has no existence; hence the advice which has repeatedly been given to us, that if the children are criminal, they can be sent to reformatories or industrial schools; if paupers, to the workhouse; and if neither, to the British and national schools, which are helped largely by the Government. If, however, we ask the inspectors or chaplains of these workhouse schools, we shall learn from them that the workhouse children in general spring from an underlying stratum of miserable families, untouched by any educational or Christian influence. If we ask the governors or chaplains of gaols, who have examined into the causes of crime, we shall learn the same thing, and wonder, from the revelations they make us, not that crime abounds, but that any can escape from the contaminating influences with which they are surrounded. Some of these revelations I laid before the section at its last meeting. If we appeal to missionaries, they tell us of whole districts in large cities where the light of knowledge, or even of civilisation, has scarcely penetrated. Such witnesses as these, and persons whom Christian philanthropy has led to go out to the highways and byways, to seek and to save the lost — such as these, if asked, can always bear testimony that there are multitudes of children whose clothing, habits, and manners, totally unfit them for the ordinary schools for the working classes, even if free admittance were given them. Such as these, gentlemen of influence and experience in the criminal classes, magistrates, and others, met in Birmingham, early in 1861, and in that large and influential conference sustained the principle, that “the welfare of society requires that all its members should be educated. Therefore, it is the duty of the state, both as regards society in gencral,: and each individual composing to provide education for those who cannot provide for themselves.” This conference fully demonstrated the large number of children who cannot now obtain and do not obtain not only from the actual poverty of their parents, but from their low and degraded condition, which prevents them from appreciating the value of education, and from making efforts to send their children to school. The consequence of this not only that their children grow up without education, but that they are in such a state of barbarism, so devoid of all habits of civilised life, that were the pence paid for their schooling, or were they even provided with suitable clothing, they would be inadmissible to the ordinary schools for the labouring classes, and if there, they would not receive the kind of education they require — an education not only in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but in cleanliness, order, and obedience; in the very elements of morals and religion; and, in fact, in everything which needed to form a respectable man or woman.
It would be impossible here to attempt to estimate the numbers of children who are growing up in this condition. In my own adopted city of Bristol their name legion. Any person acquainted with the locality, or who, if a stranger, will accept the guidance of one who knows the dreadful facts, may spend whole days in exploring the courts and alleys of even one district — that of Lewin’s Mead, St. James’s, and the vicinity—and will find degradation and wretchedness,the bare graphic description of which would harrow the heart of any Christian. We may hope that this is the very sink of Bristol, the acme of misery, and wonder how a zealous clergyman, with Scripture readers and numerous agencies at his command, can allow such barbarism to exist in the very midst of his parish. But let the stranger traverse a few streets, and, passing the large and excellent Redcross Street British School, visit the many courts which turn out of that ancient street. He will there find a new phase of misery and squalor, and will not wonder that a large and well-conducted British school does not produce the slightest influence on the educational condition of the neighbourhood. Let the stranger pass on, and, crossing a. bridge of ominous name, “the Traitors’ Bridge,” he will come to the large and neglected district of St. Jude’s, which last winter was devastated by an infectious fever — no unusual event; but, on this occasion, it happily was of such a nature as to attract public attention, and to compel, in self-defence, unusual efiorts not only for the mitigation of the disease, but for the adoption of sanitary preventive measures. No one who visits St. Jude’s, examining its condition from house to house, and street to street, will for a moment suppose that the national school of the parish can supply the wants of the district, and it does not. The stranger may visit St. Philips, Bedminster, the Pithay, Jacob’s Well, and other districts, and find everywhere, in different degrees, ignorance and barbarism which are quite untouched by the many excel lent schools of the city, whether they be pay schools or endowed free schools, which were in many cases originally intended by their founders to grapple with such poverty and ignorance.
Bristol is not singular in this condition. The same state of things will be found, in n greater or less degree, in all old large cities. In the city of Manchester, one which is perhaps not surpassed in riches by any in the kingdom, which abounds with persons who have an intelligent interest in the welfare of the labouring classes, and is among the foremost in promoting educational establishments — in Manchester, even, n recent inquiry into the condition of one of the lowest districts, leads to the following conclusions, as drawn by a recent writer in a London journal:—
“Our statistics showed that only one child in three received the elements of instruction ; that no less than nearly 600 children, de i ducting all under three years, were neither at day school nor at work — in other words, growing up in ignorance and idleness; that out of a total weekly income for the 1,000 families of upwards of £780 (£781 14s. 7d.), not much more than £4 (£4 3s. 6d.), i.e. less than one one hundred and eighty-seventh of the earnings, was spent in instruction; that to supply the wants of a population of little over 4,300 (4,349), of whom 1,200 (1,203), were children under I2 years of age, there existed 44 houses for the sale of intoxicating liquors — i.e. 1 liquor shop to every 71 persons above 12; that 1 house out of every 19 was of a disreputable character, known or suspected to be the resort of thieves and abandoned women; and we may form some faint notion of the condition in which we fear to think how large a portion of the lower classes are living. As a result of a carefully conducted statistical investigation, it is plainly shown that in the midst of one of the very wealthiest cities in the world, a city distinguished above almost every other for the number and excellence of its educational institutions for the people, there exist many thousands of children—said to be no less than 50,000, out of a population under halt‘ a million — growing up in the lowest state of degradation; and this, be it observed, not generally from the poverty of the parents, numbers of whom are earning, we have said, a rate of Wages amply sufficient to maintain and educate their families. Here we have — and that too at a season of peculiar destitution, for the inquiry was conducted during the height of the cotton famine — a number of families whose means of living is at least equal in proportion to their legitimate expenditure, to that of the shopkeeper and even professional class — in many instances far above — yet who are sunk in filthy ignorance and misery of the most appalling kind, and rearing up a generation of children, said to be increasing in Manchester at the rate of two thousand a year, under every possible condition calculated to swell the numbers of our criminals and paupers. In face of the enormously increasing population of our large towns, such facts as are disclosed in these inquiries may well make the sanguine despair.” —(Lancashire Jottings, Inquirer, Aug. 1865, III.)
The neighbouring town of Liverpool, opulent, intelligent, benevolent as it extending its influence through its commercial relations over the whole world, presents results not less appalling — in fact more so, because their oflicial character gives them a painful definite ness and certainty. Major Greig, the chief of police, in his last annual report, gives the following brief but appalling statements respecting the cases apprehended:—
In addition to these, Major Greig gives above 15,000 in the last and above 16,000 in the preceding one, able “to read and write imperfectly,” which an educational condition of little practical value, making in each of the last two years above 25,000 apprehensions of persons without any available education, “This,” he remarks, the lowest degree of education compared with any preceding year, and quite in keeping with the figures contained in the foregoing tables — a painfully significant remark; for these tables give the nature of the crimes committed, the number of persons apprehended, the arrests for drunkenness, the thousands of juvenile offenders, “painfully on the increase,” under the age of sixteen. If such is the amount of ignorance existing among those only who have come within the grasp of the law, what is the condition of the whole population that has furnished them?
These are some of our neglected and destitute children.
The multitudes of them that exist in our country have never yet been numbered; no attempt has yet been made by the Government to ascertain how manyhundreds of thousands, or even millions, of them may exist among us. Were inquiries made from the authorities of every workhouse in the kingdom, information might be obtained of the multitudes who come there without any education, to be a burden on the country. Were the gaol officials interrogated throughout the kingdom, we might learn how many of the untaught ones had taken their first degree in crime.
These children are ours; they cannot help themselves; they form a part of our society; they will become the people of our land; it is not their fault that they exist in this state of degradation ; ignorance cannot heal itself. For our own sakes, as well as theirs, we ought to take measures to prevent their growing up thus uncared for. If we neglect the duty imposed upon us by our greater privileges and talents, they will unconsciously inflict upon us a dreadful revenge — a constantly increasing supply of pauperism and crime. They even now doing so. Mackay’s powerful poem, “The Souls of the Children,” is no exaggeration, no fiction. Hitherto no national effort has been made to rescue the children.
“All refused to listen; —
Quoth they — ‘We bide our time:’
And the bidders seized the children
Beggary, Filth, and Crime:
And the prisons teemed with victims,
And the gallows rocked on high,
And the thick abomination
Spread reeking to the sky.”
Are then our neglected and destitute children to be educated? It is a great national question, and we doubt not that, if fairly and clearly put to the people, they would with one voice decide that in no manner could the public money be better employed; that if any portion of it is to be devoted to the education of the population, to this portion of above all, should be liberally given.
Hitherto, however, no attempt has been made by the Educational Council to stimulate, or even to aid, efforts made in this direction. Until 1856 there was steady refusal on the part of the Council even to recognise the existence of the class.
The liberal provision then made for them was speedily withdrawn, and another minute was substituted, which gave small fraction of what was granted to pay the school for industrial work only. The Revised Code, while nominally open to schools of all kinds, virtually is unavailable for schools adapted to the wants of these children. It must be at once evident to persons possessing even ordinary acquaintance with the condition and habits of the portion of society from which our destitute and neglected children spring, that an educational test, compliance with which requires the greatest effort in children of the wage class, whose parents endeavour to send them regularly to school and appreciate instruction, cannot be complied with by those miserable little ones, whose condition causes them to be irregular, and makes application most difficult. Besides, the necessity of having a staff of certificated teachers alone prevents the applicability of the Revised Code to the neglected class. I will not trouble the Section with a repetition of what I have repeatedly endeavoured to lay clearly before it — viz., why regulations intended for schools for the wage class are utterly unsuitable to these; how the reiterated applications for help have received constant refusals; and what are the real requirements of schools for our neglected and destitute children. I may only briefly state that in schools intended for them, intellectual culture, and good instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic, are essential, with a sufficient and able teaching power; but it is also necessary that there should be industrial training, such as will develop their physical powers, and prepare their muscles for work; that there should be moral and religious instruction; and that every appliance should be employed, by playgrounds, baths, washing apparatus, and such other agencies as experience may suggest, tocivilise as well as educate. At all times and in all places I shall be ready, when called upon, to enter fully on the subject. On the present occasion shall confine myself to answering some of the objections, which have at different times been made, against giving pecuniary educational help from the parliamentary grant to the destitute and neglected children.
The first arises from the difliculty of absolutely defining the class. If they cannot be defined in words which will convey a distinct idea to the official mind, it is necessary only, as I have endeavoured to show, for one who wishes to arrive at the truth, himself to visit the locali ties where they abound, and the schools which contain them when partially civilised. Enough has already been said, it is hoped, on this subject. There can be no doubt of the existence of this mass of ignorance in our country.
Secondly. —- The Ragged Schools are the only ones which have at tempted to act on this part of the population, and a strong prejudice unfortunately exists against them in official quarters. They have been called “bad schools,” calculated to “degrade” instead of elevating the children, likely to interfere with the sound education of the higher or wage class, and to drag them down to the lower, instead of elevating the inferior class to theirs. The validity of this last reason we utterly deny. When ragged schools are conducted as they should be they elevate 8. neighbourhood, instead of degrading and thus render benefit to the better class, who, they have proper feelings, never send their children to an inferior school to save the weekly payment. With respect to the neglected children themselves, who can attend no other school, they have been greatly elevated in the social scale, as we who have long worked in these schools can testify; for we have seen our ragged children grow into respectable sailors, labourers, soldiers, and even tradesmen, themselves being now the parents of children whom they take care to have well educated. These schools elevate, instead of degrading.
With respect to the other accusation, that they are “bad schools,” we sorrowfully admit their inefficiency, both in number and in con dition; for there never have existed funds (except when they are under the immediate patronage of so distinguished a personage as Lord Shaftesbury), to conduct them as they should be conducted; these schools are necessarily very expensive, if they are good. This is not a reason for refusing help, which has been acted on by the Government in other cases. Some thirty years ago, when the educational condition of the labouring population was very low, the schools inefficient and the teachers uneducated, the Government did not on that account leave the labouring population to suffer an evil which they could not themselves remedy, but applied the public money to stimulate and aid voluntary effort in such ways as then appeared most judicious, in order to raise the educational status of the country. Great success attended their efforts then. We only ask that a similar course should be pursued new towards schools which are needed, but which they now consider inefficient. Such a plea that Ragged Schools are bad or inefficient, by no means affects the general argument. I do not here plead for Ragged Schools as now generally conducted — indeed I should prefer dropping that name and adopting another; I would only urge that the neglected and destitute children ought to be educated; that the education given them should be adapted to their wants; and that effective pecuniary aid should be given from Government funds, with suitable inspection, to enable voluntary benevolent effort to cope with the gigantic ignorance which now exists.
Other objections which have been urged against giving Government educational aid in the education of neglected and destitute children, spring from misapprehensions, which it is hoped have been removed by the facts which have been advanced in this paper. But it is necessary to notice one other, which involves an important principle. When failing to impress on the Educational Council the claim of this portion of the population to a fair share of the parliamentary grant, and the great evil of leaving the most ignorant in utter degradation, while abundant aid is given to those who can help themselves, we have frequently been told that those of our children who are destitute, can go to workhonse schools, and that if we require schools for the others, we can certify the schools under the Industrial Schools’ Act, and thus obtain sufficient aid to carry on both a ragged school and a school for children sentenced by the magistrate. Now, were such a course as the last proposed expedient or practicable, it would not produce the effect suggested, of raising funds for the ragged schools; because the Government allowance for each child sentenced under the Industrial Schools’ Act is 5s. a week, which is now found insuflicient for the expenses of educating, maintaining, and clothing each child, and requires to be supplemented from other sources. A Ragged School could not, therefore, be properly supported by help derived from the Government allowance for some sentenced children received into without withdrawing from them what ought in justice to be devoted to them. But the Ragged Schools, or free schools for neglected and destitute children, are for those who come voluntarily, and wish to be improved: and such children ought not to be associated with those who are placed under legal sentence. Besides this, the two schools are of totally different character — the one being simple day-school, and the other a boarding-school. The system adopted in each unfit for the other, and even the localities and premises adapted to each differ in toto. The proposal to apply the Certified Industrial Schools’ Act to the tens of thousands of children who exist in dense ignorance in our country, simply impossible, because the children do not necessarily commit acts which would bring them under the provisions of that law; and if they did it is absurd to suppose that the magistrates of Bristol, Manchester, or any large town, could or would sentence thousands of children annually to such schools, or that the Government would allow the continuance of an Act which clothed and fed children from the public treasury, at an expense of £13 per annum, simply because they required education which might be provided them at a cost of £1 per annum. Equally untenable the suggestion that destitute children should be sent to a workhouse school. If they are not actually paupers they cannot be relieved, even in the matter of education, by the parish funds, and surely we ought not to desire that they should be pauperised. But even their parents are actually receiving out-door relief, by no means follows that their children will receive education on the contrary, as the law now stands, it is most probable that they will not. Providing education for children whose parents receive out-door relief, or who, being orphans, receive It themselves, not compulsory on guardians, and therefore seldom given by them. This proposal therefore untenable. The tens of thousands of our neglected and destitute children remain untaught and ignorant. Voluntary Christian effort has done its utmost, but cannot unaided grapple with the enormous evil. Let the Government efficiently help this as has done other departments of education, and abundance of voluntary effort will support it. One pound given annually for the education of each of these children, in a school where they would receive true and useful education, adapted to their requirements, would save the country £13 per annum for education in a certified industrial school £16 in a reformatory; and from £30 to £40 per annum in a convict prison.
I earnestly entreat the Educational Section to solicit the attention of the Government to this most important subject, and to request that full investigation of the extent and nature of the ignorance which pervades our land may be made in the Educational Committee, which has not yet completed its sittings, and a proper provision made for these children.
We have “bided our time” in this matter ot the neglected and destitute children. The consequence has been, what has often been predicted, “beggary, filth, and crime” have seized the children, and established themselves in our midst. Let us all strive to rescue from them these children, and have them educated! Each one of these has powers within him, given him by the Creator, and he is cruelly injured in Christian and civilised country, he left to grow up to maturity without the power of unfolding his higher nature. Let us all feel the sacred duty of helping those neglected ones. All have immortal souls, and are the children of the same Heavenly Father! All are born free and equal in our land all may become useful members of the community if properly educated! Let the State no longer leave untouched the plague-spot in our midst, or neglect the thousands who cannot rise unaided, they would, from the slough of despondency and ignorance which pollutes our country.
Source: Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, Sheffield Meeting, ed. George W. Hastings (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1866), pp. 313-325.