§ LORD ASHLEY
* The House will, I am sure, excuse me, not only for bringing* From a corrected Report.430 under their deliberation the subject of which I have given notice, but also for in-treating their most patient attention. It has been my lot, on many occasions, to introduce questions very deeply affecting the condition of the working classes; but on no occasion have I ever introduced a subject more vitally interesting to the parties that I represented, or more intimately connected with the honour and welfare of the whole community.
Of the existence of the evil no one can doubt who perambulates the streets and thoroughfares of this vast city, and observes the groups of filthy, idle, tattered children either squatting at the entrances of the courts and alleys, or engaged in occupations neither useful to themselves, nor creditable to the locality. If he proceed to estimate their moral by their physical condition (and it will be a just estimate)—if he examine the statements before the police offices, or the records of the various tribunals—or, above all, if, by personal inspection, he seek to understand the whole mischief, he will come to the conclusion that these pressing and immediate evils must be met by the application of an immediate remedy. This state of things afflicts every sense of humanity; it appeals to every notion of justice; and I must say, in reference to the character of the age and the temper of the times in which we live, that it is matter for grave consideration to all who consult, not only the reputation, but even the safety, of this great metropolis.
I am happy to say that this is no controversial question; no interest is assailed—I cannot anticipate any opposition except from those who believe that they can suggest a better plan; and, indeed, it is less from any overweening confidence that I have hit the true method, than from a desire to excite discussion, and stimulate general effort, that I have propounded this matter for our present debate.
I may, perhaps, assume that the evil is acknowledged, but I do not think that it is fully estimated. I wish much to show the nature and extent of the mischief, to prove that it cannot be dealt with in any ordinary way, nor brought under the separate influence of any existing agencies—the evil is peculiar, and must be met by peculiar means, administered by a peculiar agency.
Till very recently, the few children that came under our notice in the streets and places of public traffic, were considered to be chance vagrants, beggars, or pilferers, who, by a little exertion of magisterial 431 authority, might be either extinguished or reformed. It has, only of late, been discovered that they constitute a numerous class, having habits, pursuits, feelings, manners, customs, and interests of their own; living as a class, though shifting as individuals, in the same resorts; perpetuating and multiplying their filthy numbers. For the knowledge of these details we are mainly indebted to the London City Mission; it is owing to their deep, anxious, and constant research; it is owing to the zeal with which their agents have fathomed the recesses of human misery, and penetrated into places repulsive to every sense, moral and physical; it is owing to such exertions, aided by the piety, self-denial, and devotion, of Sunday-school teachers, that we have advanced thus far. Certain excellent persons, who gave their energies to Sabbath-training, were the first to observe these miserable outcasts; and hoping, by the influence of the gospel, to effect some amendment, opened schools in destitute places, to which the children were invited, not coerced. Hence the clue to a vast amount of information, a part of which I shall now proceed to lay before the House.
Our first consideration must have reference to the numbers of this particular class. It is difficult to form an accurate estimate; but from all the inquiries that I have been able to make—and I can assure the House that no trouble has been spared—I should say that the naked, filthy, roaming, lawless, and deserted children, in and about the metropolis, exceeded, rather than fell short of, 30,000. There arc, doubtless, many more in this vast city who may be considered as distressed children, objects of charity and of the public care; but I speak now of that generation in particular, which is distinct from the ordinary poor, and beyond the observation of the daily perambulators of squares and thoroughfares.
The House will, perhaps, be curious to learn what are the habits and dispositions of this wild race; their pursuits, modes of livelihood, the character of their dwelling-places, and the natural history, as it were, of the species, so that some steps may be taken to extricate them from their sad condition, and place them in a situation where the exercise of virtue may at least be possible. Depend upon it, that while they are left in their present state, and exposed to all the detestable circumstances that surround them, the efforts of the clergyman and the missionary will be in vain; you undo with one hand the 432 work of the other; it is the Penelope's web, woven in the morning but unravelled at night.
Now look at the result of an examination of 15 schools in which these children are occasionally congregated; I find the number on the lists to amount to 2,345, ranging between five and seventeen years of age; but the average attendance may be taken at 1,600. Now of these 1,600, 162 confessed that they had been in prison, not once, nor twice, many of them several times; 116 had run away from their homes, the result, in many instances, of ill-treatment; 170 slept in lodging-houses, and on this head I shall say a few words presently. I may just observe, in passing, that these receptacles are the nests of every abomination that the mind of man can conceive; 253 confessed that they lived altogether by begging; 216 had neither shoes nor stockings; 280 had no hats, caps, bonnets, or head covering; 101 had no linen; 219 never slept in beds, many had no recollection of having ever tasted that luxury; 68 were the children of convicts; 125 had stepmothers, to whom may be traced much of the misery that drives the children of the poor to the commission of crime; 306 had lost either one or both parents, a large proportion having lost both. Now, taking the average attendance at the schools as 4,000, and applying to it the calculations applied to the number just stated, we shall have 400 who confess that they had been in prison; 660 who lived by begging; 178 the children of convicts; and 800 who had lost one or both parents!
So much for their domestic position. Their employments are in strict keeping; we may class them as street-sweepers, venders of lucifer-matches, oranges, cigars, tapes, and ballads; they hold horses, run on errands, job for "dealers in marine stores;" such is the euphonous term for "receivers of stolen goods," a body of large influence in this metropolis, without whose agency juvenile crime would be much embarrassed in its operations. See, too, where many of them retire for the night, if they retire at all; to all manner of places; under dry arches of bridges and viaducts; under porticoes, sheds, and carts; to outhouses in sawpits, on staircases, in the open air, and some in lodging-houses. Curious, indeed, is their mode of life. I recollect the case of a boy who, during the inclement season of last winter, passed the greater part of his night in the large iron roller of the Regent's Park. He climbed, every evening, over the railings, and crept 433 to his shelter, where he lay in comparative comfort. Human sympathy, however, prevails even in the poorest condition; he invited a companion less well provided than himself, promising to "let him into a good thing;" he did so, and it proved a more friendly act than many a similar undertaking in railway shares.
Let me proceed now to the lodging-houses. I attach no small importance to the review of this part of the subject, because I know how many of these unfortunate children are doomed to live in these sinks of wretchedness and vice; and how difficult, if not impossible, it is to deal with them by any ordinary means, so long as they are forced to resort to such haunts of pollution. I will trouble you to listen to the descriptions of a lodging-house. I have seen many of them myself, and they are abominable; but the statement I shall now read is given on the authority of a city missionary, who had been appointed to inspect these dens, and report upon them. It is not an exaggerated picture of several of those places, in which hundreds and thousands of the human race are nightly congregated. The "parlour"—you will observe the elegance of the terms—The parlour measures 18 feet by 10. Beds are arranged on each side of it, composed of straw, rags, and shavings. Here are twenty-seven male and female adults and thirty-one children, with several dogs; in all, fifty-eight human beings in a contracted den, from which light and air are systematically excluded. It is impossible to convey a just idea of their state—the quantities of vermin are amazing. I have entered a room, and in a few minutes I have felt them dropping on my hat from the ceiling like peas. 'They may be gathered by handfuls,' observed one of the inmates. 'I could fill a pail in a few minutes. I have been so tormented with the itch, that on two occasions I filled my pockets with stones, and waited till a policeman came up, and then broke a lamp that I might be sent to prison, and there he cleansed, as is required before new-comers are admitted.' 'Ah!' said another, standing by, 'you can get a comfortable snoose and scrub there.'But nowhere else it is manifest—the jail is a resource for these unfortunate people. Many boys of tender years frequent these houses; and not a few of them are for the promiscuous reception of boys and girls. I press on these matters, because I wish to show the variety of circumstances that stand in the way of their moral and physical improvement—here is a proof in the existence of such resorts! Inquire, and you will find it to be true, not only of the metropolis, but of the smaller as well as greater towns throughout the country, that seven-tenths of the crime perpetrated in 434 the various localities are concocted by the society that assemble in these caverns. The Warwick magistrates say, and it is equally applicable to London—Such houses are the general receptacle of offenders. Here the common vagrants assemble in great numbers at nightfall, and, making the lodging-houses the common centre, traverse their several beats. I have no hesitation (says a public officer), in declaring my belief that the principal robberies have been concocted in a vagrant lodging-house, and rendered effectual through the agency of the keepers.But this is not all. When a boy leaves the lodging-house, and emerges into the open air, he is exposed to influences quite as deleterious to his moral and physical well-being. I will read a description of a court which I have witnessed myself. Now observe, it is in such places that a large mass of the community are now dwelling. In one of those courts there are three privies to 300 people: in another two to 200 people. This is a statement made by a medical man:—In a place where these public privies existed, scenes of the most shocking character were of daily occurrence. It would scarcely be believed that those public privies often stood opposite the doors of the houses; modesty and decency were altogether impossible.But in a private house—what a strange misnomer!—is the boy exposed to better influences than in the lodging-house? Very often several families are found in one room. That is a fortunate family which has one room for itself. Everything is transacted in that room. Cleanliness is impossible; it is a scene of filth, misery, and vice. The House will now, I hope, permit me to pass to the description of a locality which affords a fair sample of this class of abodes; for those children are a peculiar race, to be found in almost all instances in the most filthy, destitute, unknown parts of the metropolis—places seldom trodden by persons of decent habits.These courts and alleys are in the immediate neighbourhood of uncovered sewers, of gutters full of putrified matter, nightmen's yards, and privies, the soil of which is openly exposed, and never or seldom removed. It is impossible to convey an idea of the poisonous condition in which those places remain during winter and summer, in dry weather and wet, from the masses of putrifying matter which are allowed to accumulate.Now these statements are by no means exaggerations. I would not make such assertions if I could not do so on my own personal knowledge. I have gone over many parts of those districts, and have devoted a considerable portion of my time to the prosecution of investigations on this 435 subject. When, in 1846, I lost my seat in Parliament, and finding myself studiis florentem ignobilis otî, I determined to explore the unknown parts of the metropolis. In company with a medical man and a city missionary, I have ventured to go over many of those places, and I am able to say that the description I have now given is below the truth. And sure I am, that if I could persuade any hon. Member to visit those disgusting localities, there would be no more need for argument or description; they would join, one and all, in a general effort to wipe away a state of things so disgraceful to the kingdom, and so injurious to the peace and welfare of the whole community.
The House will have anticipated, I think, the statement of their physical condition. The children are thus described by Dr. Aldis:—They are emaciated, pale, and thin, and in a low condition. They complain of sinking, depression of the strength, loss of spirits, loss of appetite accompanied by pains in different parts of the body, with disturbed sleep. The depressed and low condition of health in which these people are always found, induces habits of interperance, unfortunately so common among them. The children are diminutive, pale, squalid, sickly, irritable; I rarely saw a child in a really healthy state.One of the most pious, intelligent, and active clergymen of London, the Rev. Mr. Champneys, of Whitechapel, has told me of the singular aptitude of those children to learn. He could only attribute it to their nervous susceptibility, produced by the circumstances in which they were placed. But he added, that while it would enable them to learn what was good, the readiness with which they learned what was bad was most alarming. The condition of those children is very peculiar. Their nervous susceptibility is stimulated, so that they acquire instruction with a promptitude and activity beyond their years. Their energies are quick and lively; but they are speedily exhausted, and come to a premature grave. Many, from the condition in which they have been brought up, are greatly enfeebled; and though much may be done to restore their health and strength by giving them proper food, and allowing them to breathe a purer air, yet upon examination it is often found that these children have all some defect or other which is sufficient to exclude them from employment. A friend of mine, a Lord of the Admiralty, had arranged that if any of those children could 436 be selected who were fit for employment, they should be taken on hoard a ship in Her Majesty's service. Five were sent to be examined; but in the twinkling of an eye the examiner rejected them, though they were the picked boys of the school. But after those children had been for a few months at the school, where they were fed and brought under proper care, they appeared to be changed. They became strengthened, fit for work, and showed to what condition they may arrive, when recovered from the neglect to which they had been originally abandoned. If they are only placed where they may breathe fresh air and receive a moderate supply of food, they will become as efficient for the purposes of labour as any children to be found in any part of Her Majesty's dominions, for the disease from which those children in their original condition suffered is of that kind which arises from bad air and from the want of sufficient sustenance. There is a school for such children in the neighbourhood of the House where we are now sitting; there they get sufficient food; and they are, in consequence, fit for any labour to which children can be put; and if such an opportunity again offers itself as had been offered by my noble Friend the Lord of the Admiralty, I have no doubt that a number of them would be passed, because they would be found fully competent for the labour.
Of their moral condition I need say little beyond the report of one of the schools:—The boys had been sent out daily by drunken parents to beg and steal, being often cruelly treated if unsuccessful: others were employed in vending and assisting in the manufacture of base coin. … Another says, of 74 admitted this year between 8 and 14, known thieves, 16; beggars and hawkers, 27.But there is a most remarkable statement made on the authority of a city missionary in a district of the east of London. His house is the open resort of all who choose to come to pay him a visit, and ask his advice. From January to December he received from these children and young persons, 2,343 visits, averaging 334 per month. Of these, under ten years of age, there were 2 per cent; under twelve, 9 per cent; above twelve and under fifteen, 44 per cent; above fifteen and under eighteen, 37 per cent; above eighteen and under twenty-two, 8 per cent. Of these 39 per cent voluntarily acknowledged 437 they had been in prison; 11 per cent had been in once; 4 per cent, twice; 5 per cent, thrice; 2 per cent, four times; 1 per cent, six times; 3 per cent, seven times; 1 per cent, eight times; 2 per cent, ten times; and there were 10 per cent uncertain as to the number of times.
This is a curious picture of juvenile society in the great metropolis! And whence has it arisen? From various causes: it has arisen, in a great measure, either from the desertion or the bad example of parents. In many instances it is good for the children that they have been deserted; in many instances, no doubt, it is good that they have no parents in existence, for not unfrequently they are misled by their bad example—still more frequently are they tempted by necessity. There are hundreds and thousands in this great city who, from their earliest years, have never obtained a meal except by begging, or by stealing, or by some avocation of a questionable kind. Children, in truth, are encouraged by their parents to that course of life. Even in those instances where parents do not bring up their children to habits of theft, they take very good care when property is brought in of a suspicious character to ask no questions, and to bestow praise for adroitness in such transactions.
But whence are the parents affected? A vast proportion of the evils which surround them arises from the sanitary condition in which they are left. The same causes which operate on the children operated on the parents before them—an irresistible depression of health, a gradual, but certain, decline of the physical energies, followed by intemperate habits, and a hopeless pauperism, have rendered them utterly reckless of decency, of comfort, of regard for the spiritual and temporal welfare of their children, reckless almost even of life itself.
With these facts under its notice, the House will not be surprised to learn the figure that these children cut before the courts of the police, and the tribunals of justice. We may see, from the reports of the metropolitan police, reports drawn up with much skill and accuracy, that in the year 1847 there were taken into custody 62,181 persons, of all ages, and of both sexes. Of these 20,702 were females, and 41,479 were males; whereof there were, under twenty years of age, 15,698; between ten and fifteen, 3,682; under ton, 362. Of the whole 62,000, 22,075 could 438 neither read nor write; and 35,227 could read only, or read and write imperfectly. I do not quote this statement from any belief that mere literary attainments will have a very material influence in amending the conduct of the young; but I quote it to show the neglect in which they must have passed their early years; the want of all internal or external discipline, during the most impressible period of life, when moral instruction is most easily communicated. But mark another striking statement at the close of the tables; out of these 62,000 persons taken into custody, there were no less than 28,118 who had no trade, business, calling, or occupation whatsoever. They were merely vagabonds living by their wits, wandering from one place to another, and making the whole world a prey for their subsistence.
Now, when we bear in mind the condition of these children, is it surprising that there should be such a mass of persons without any employment? Thousands in tattered garments, unable to read or write, known only as wandering beggars, may offer themselves as applicants for work—is it not obvious that, untrained as they are, no one will engage them, more especially when such a pressure exists that oftentimes the best workmen are compelled to sustain a severe struggle? Few, however, make any application, because they are sure to be rejected. But it is a serious fact, that so many thousands should be habituated to idleness, or that diseased activity which is the result of it; because they think that they have a necessity for living as much as any other, and they take measures accordingly. Nor may we disregard the temper of the times: the condition of these persons renders the state of society more perilous than in any former day; be assured that the mischief does not admit of delay; the Legislature is called on to make an immediate effort for the mitigation, if not the total overthrow, of this portentous evil.
The statements that I have already made afford but a mode of approximating to the extent of the evil; the records of the tribunals and police courts show only the numbers of those whom the constable is quick enough to apprehend. But there is a vast amount of unseen and undetected crime; many breaches of the public order; many injuries to the peace, property, and safety of individuals; and a great prevalence of that training which forms these children to a character perilous to the 439 well-being of society. I believe that the majority of criminals, in and about London, arises out of this class; if we were to extinguish or greatly improve this strange tribe, we should not, I allow, extinguish crime altogether; crime is inseparable from our fallen nature; but I hold that it would be considerably abated, inasmuch as the large proportion of it is, manifestly, the work of the classes so neglected, and exposed, by their necessities, to an extraordinary force of temptation. A city missionary has written to me, "I look on several parts of my district as breeding places for prisons:" this is the concurrent testimony of all those who are best acquainted with the race before us; and how can it well be otherwise? Recollect the condition of these children; weigh their necessities, their moral state, the manner in which they have been brought up, the circumstances in which they are permitted to remain. Having no knowledge of right or wrong, except that which is begotten in some way or other by their fears; they believe that they have a right to prey on the whole world; "meum and tuum" depend not, in their estimation, on law or principle, but on the power to hold possession; their needs, so they conceive, giving them, not only a dexterity, but a claim, in appropriating the superfluities of others. Now, then, let me implore the House to consider the temptations to which poor children, thus morally provided, are exposed by the reprehensible carelessness of this commercial city; remember them living by their wits, hungry like ourselves, and not knowing, from one hour to another, whether they shall obtain anything for their sustenance during the day; look at the temptations which beset them on every side, temptations often commented on, and most justly, in the police courts, arising from the total want of care in the owners of property. I find, that of the felonies which were perpetrated last year within the jurisdiction of the metropolitan police, there were 814 cases of stealing tools, &c., from unfinished houses where they had been left by workmen without any care or supervision whatever; that the number of cases of stealing from carts and carriages which had been loft without any one to look after them was 298; that the number of cases of theft from houses in consequence of the doors being left open by the most wanton neglect on the part of servants and masters was 2,208; and that the number of cases of theft of goods exposed 440 for sale at shop-doors—and hon. Gentlemen will recollect how freely goods of all descriptions are so exposed, especially of all kinds of provisions, calculated to tempt the appetite of hungry children—of these cases the number was 2,299. Now, every one of these felonies has increased in number, with the exception—and this is a very curious fact—with the exception of felonies of linen exposed to dry. These have considerably abated; and I hardly hesitate to assert that this has arisen from the establishment of public baths and washhouses, which enable poor people to wash and dry their clothes by a cheap and speedy process, and keep them under proper care and supervision.
All these things tend to show the necessity of adopting a course that shall extricate these children from their present position, and save them from a return to it. I, therefore, seek to prove that they are of such a singular description as to be beyond any ordinary appliances, requiring a system of their own, unlike all other children in most respects, and in none more than in their habits of insubordination. Take, for instance, the scenes that invariably occur on the opening of a school in some new locality. I have heard teachers, who have undertaken to open such schools on speculation—I do not mean a money speculation, but by way of experiment—I have heard them describe the roaring and whistling, the drumming at the doors the rattling at the windows, which signalise the commencement of the academical course. The boys, when admitted, oftentimes break everything, forms, slates, tables, intermixing their sport with occasional fighting. There is a school over the water well known, I believe, to the hon. Member for Kinsale—when it was first opened, in 1846, there came four and twenty boys, all furnished with tobacco-pipes, who would neither learn nor dislodge, but kept possession of the room for several nights. The teachers waited with patience, trusting that they would soon be tired of their "lark," and go away, having left the school to those who desired better things. Their hope was fulfilled; others soon supplied their places; and now the school is in active operation, and is producing, thank God, most beneficial results. In another, the onslaught was of a sterner character; the teachers were compelled to barricade the doors, and escape through the windows over the roof. Such is the character of most inaugural meetings of these schools; 441 a fortnight or more elapses, in general, before order can be maintained; nor can it ever be introduced without the highest exercise of patience in encountering obstacles so unpleasant, and risks so peculiar. I heard from a gentleman, not long ago, who had himself officiated as a teacher, that he was once in charge of a class where a single boy was especially provoking. He bore it for a while, but at last could bear it no longer, and, seizing the boy by the neck, gave him a thorough good shaking. This passed off, and little was said; but in three minutes thereafter the teacher found himself prostrate at full length on the ground. The boy, it seems, determined to be avenged for the insult which he considered he had received, got upon the floor, and, passing between the legs of the teacher, suddenly expanded them, with a shout of joy; and then, having thrown the gentleman on his back, he returned to his seat. Now, had the gentleman given way to his anger, and punished the boy for this offence, the result would probably have been that the school would have been broken up; but, exercising a more correct judgment, he took no notice of what had occurred. He saved his dignity by assuming that he had fallen down, and the boy, having obtained his redress, was fully satisfied—the school is now in effective operation, and I believe the boy is become a diligent and obedient pupil.
Sometimes it has been necessary to call in the aid of the police to preserve a semblance of order. This necessity gave rise, in one instance, to a remarkable event. One of the policemen called in was himself a philanthropist, and also a bit of a scholar; and he thought that he should most effectually attain his end by taking a class; he did so, and then the whole school became like "the happy family," which may be seen any day in Trafalgar-square. So great was the enthusiasm of the boys for the constable that they gave him the title, which I believe he still retains, of "King of the Peelers." Now, you must bear in mind that these descriptions are applicable to the entire class; and that all who institute ragged schools must be prepared for similar events and situations—but if they are so resolved, and exhibit forbearance, sympathy, and real love for these pariahs of society, I hesitate not to say that they will reap a larger harvest than may be won from many schools, where the children have been trained to easier lives and in habits of constant indulgence.
442 Now look to another peculiarity which forms an obstacle in the way of those who would proceed by established methods. See their comparative attendance at different seasons. These children are not accustomed to ordinary rules; they have never been subjected to domestic discipline, and they have no notion of being forced. They may be invited, they may be soothed, they may be gained by attention; but in general they will have their own way. I find that summer is peculiarly attractive to them, and that it is difficult during that season to obtain an adequate attendance. They are drawn away to prowl about the country. Many of them go great distances in pursuit of something which they call pleasure, or they may call profit—their views and projects are best known to themselves—but, whatever are their motives, certain it is they are often drawn away in summer to great distances. I perceive, from a report of the comparative attendance at the school in the Broadway, Westminster, that the number of children who attend in winter is 200, while at the present season, June, the average attendance is not more than forty. This comparatively thin attendance arises also from the circumstance of the fine weather tempting them to remain in the streets to a later hour, begging or stealing, or selling the little articles they have to dispose of.
If such be their habits, the House will see that it is next to impossible to bind them down by ordinary rules, and make them conform to regulations which are salutary, and even palatable, to children accustomed to something of domestic discipline; the class has been newly discovered, and must be grappled with on a new system.
In confirmation of what I say, observe their migratory habits; how they shift from one part of London to another, and from the town to the country. In the report of the school at Broadwall it is stated, that out of 507 boys admitted, very few who attended at the beginning of the year remained to the end of it. One of the city missionaries, stationed in Westminster, has assured me that one-fourth of the population in his district migrate every month. Why, what can you do, with your ordinary rules and traditional methods, in the management of such people? Nothing—you must hold out to them some inducement to break their habits. Government, I must think, knowing the nature of this 443 class, and knowing also that it has sprung from our neglect, and the neglect of our fathers, is in duty bound either to remove the temptations to which these children are exposed, or render them less attractive, or enable the youngsters, by the hope of recompense, to resist the temptations so freely thrown in their path. Their whole mode of life is perplexing, and defies all existing agency. Observe, they can come to the schools only in the evening. It is to no purpose to open a day-school, unless we also provide the food; and this addition inflicts a vast augmentation of expense. During the morning they are engaged in various avocations to obtain the sustenance necessary for the day; but this obligation alone is sufficient to take them out of the category of those children, who can submit to regularity of attendance, and conform to canonical hours.
Now, Sir, to meet the exigencies of this case, the case of these many thousands of children, I have heard a variety of propositions; but I cannot concur in any one of them. I have heard it said, in the first place, that schools should be erected, and some system introduced of national education. Now, this cannot be undertaken, because the very instant any one proposes such a measure, the vexata questio is raised, as to how children should be trained—whether by a secular or a religious education—and, if by a religious education, what sort of religion, whether that of the Church of England or of a mixed character—and while we are discussing what we shall do on these questions, hundreds and thousands of the children are rising up into the ranks of thieves, and perhaps murderers.
Nor can we at once undertake to establish schools of this description. We must first consider a new element; we must consider the expediency and the practicability of not only teaching but feeding the pupils. It is a novel matter, and one of great importance.
I must again repeat, in reference to the proposition of erecting such schools, that we have no existing agencies by which they may be superintended and controlled. The Church has none; she is far too feeble amid the larger populations. The British and Foreign Society have none; the National Society is alike powerless. It is clear that they cannot be admitted into the schools already established; if they were so, their admission would be followed by the withdrawal of the "respectable" 444 children—such is the term. The parents of a better class would shrink, and not reprehensibly, from the moral and physical contamination of these wretched outcasts.
It is next proposed, that grants may be made by the Privy Council, and schools established, subject to an inspection. Now, no doubt, if such schools were established, they would do a certain degree of good; but it would be altogether inadequate to the evil which prevails. In the first place, I do not hesitate to say, that it would be next to impossible for Her Majesty's Government to appoint an inspector capable of estimating the character and value of all the difficulties and dilemmas to which these schools would be exposed; they could never be conformed to his notions of discipline. And neither of these plans would meet the difficulty of determining how these children were to be disposed of after they are educated. We should still have the same mass of unemployed poor, still the same temptations, and still the same impossibility of resisting them. Now, the third plan which I have heard proposed is, the erection of a large barrack at some distance from London, at which the great mass of these children should receive their education. This is designated the hospital system. Now, this has been tried to a great extent in Scotland, and has been found most injurious, bringing up the children, as it does, in a mode of life which is in no respect their mode of life in after years; abstracting them for three or four years from all connexion with home, and from all domestic relations, and training them exclusively within four walls. It has been found in all instances—in the workhouse schools and elsewhere—very far from answering the purposes for which such institutions are established.
But I entertain another very strong objection to a wholesale removal of the children from home, carrying them far away, and shutting them up in some large receptacle. No doubt, in many instances, it would be better if the children were removed from their parents—it would often be better if they had no parents at all; but I must lay it down as a general rule that home discipline, however imperfect, is of a beneficial character, and cannot be supplied by any other system employed elsewhere. We must also recollect, that one great object of instituting these schools is to produce a proportionate effect upon the parents of the children, their relatives, 445 friends, and associates. In most instances, it has been found almost vain to attempt the reformation of adults by direct efforts. It has been tried in various ways. In our prison discipline ingenuity is at a standstill to discover by what means we can effect the permanent reformation of delinquents of riper years. They have been found, in most instances, altogether inaccessible to the labours of the clergyman and the missionary. But very frequently an approach to them is open through the medium of the children. I could mention hundreds of instances where the example of children has brought the parents, by shame or precept, to habits of decency and order; and I feel confident that if we had the means of extending this system, and holding out the prospect of benefit to such parties from the reformation of their lives) we should be able to produce the most striking and permanent effects upon many abandoned localities within this vast metropolis.
Now, to meet the many difficulties I have referred to, there has been set up, at various intervals, the system of ragged schools. Many, I dare say, may take exception to the name. I will not detain the House by attempting to prove the value and efficacy of the title. It is sufficient to say, that I know many instances where the name, so far from being repulsive, has been attractive to that very peculiar class; and, though it designates those whom we receive, it does not always designate those whom we turn out. They are received ragged, but they are turned out clothed—they are received as heathens, and in many instances, I thank God, they go out Christians. Many such schools have been established, not only in London but in other parts of England. They have proved themselves, thereby, to be adapted to the necessities of the times; for the principles upon which they are founded recommend themselves to the judgment of those who are most conversant with the class. But to proceed; the number of ragged schools in London and neighbourhood is now about sixty. The number of children who pass through them—including those who attend on Sunday—is estimated at 10,000. This is not the average attendance, because the greater number attend only on the Sabbath.
The position of these schools, and their mode of government, should next be stated to the House. They are generally planted in some miserable locality; we are fortunate 446 enough, in a few instances, to obtain a good room; in one or two a room has been erected at the expense of some charitable person; in others we are obliged to rest content with converted stables, and such like inconvenient places. They are opened, generally, every evening at six o'clock; the teachers are in some cases voluntary, in others they are paid. The children are taught to read, write, and cast accounts; and are carefully trained in the great precepts and doctrines of Christianity. The promoters of these schools have been beset by a variety of difficulties; they have been discouraged by want of funds, and all those manifold and divers failures that wait on every novel and infant institution; but they have, nevertheless, had greater success than they had at first presumed to anticipate. They have obtained situations for many of their pupils, and in no instance have any been dismissed for bad conduct in service. These schools are conducted altogether on a very wide basis: the teachers consist of various denominations of Dissenters, as well as of the Church of England; and upon the committees Dissenting ministers and clergymen of the Established Church unite in the most hearty co-operation. Nothing can be more gratifying than to attend the periodical meetings, where all ecclesiastical differences are sunk; and all are pleased at seeing the plant thrive under their care.
An hon. Member asks me "What is the religious teaching?" I reply, that all these schools are under local committees. There is a central committee, of which I am chairman, and which holds its meetings in Exeter Hall, but it imposes no conditions upon those schools that are in union with it. We require no more, but in this we are positive, than that the Bible should be used in all its integrity. These meetings are held once a quarter, for the purpose, amongst others, of collecting funds, as far as we are able, and distributing them amongst the schools; but we leave it to the clergymen of the Church of England and the Dissenting ministers and other teachers to attend to the religious instruction.
We must take good care, in whatever we do for the advancement of this system, to do nothing that shall damp or discourage the voluntary principle; but though it may not be damped, it must be stimulated, as, unaided and by itself, it is quite inadequate to the purpose. We must rely on the local agency of the various districts, and the 447 hearty and effective co-operation of the small tradesmen in the vicinity; the office is at first so physically offensive, and, for a long time, so morally disheartening, that ordinary service is unequal to the task.
The system, however, must, as I have said, he stimulated—and the proposition which I make to the Government is this—That the Government should agree to take every year from these schools a number of children, say 1,000–500 boys and the same number of girls—and transplant them at the public expense to Her Majesty's colonies in South Australia. When I make this proposition, of course I do not do so in a dictatorial manner; and if the Government only accede to it, they may vary it in detail precisely as they please. I mention South Australia, because in that colony there is at this moment the greatest demand for labour. I propose too that the removal of the children to that colony shall be the reward of good conduct, and that they shall have a certain amount of education; the test of that amount may be left to the Government, but of course with children of that class or condition the destiny for which they are intended must be looked to. It will not he necessary that the test should he of very high literary attainments; our object is rather to produce moral habits by moral inducements. Nor do I wish to assign any particular period for them to be at the school—so that they can fulfil the test imposed, I desire that their removal should be the reward of good conduct; this is all that can be required. The advantages of such a scheme will be indescribable. I am quite convinced, from all the inquiry I have been able to make, that it will produce a serious and permanent benefit upon the whole population of the country. When people see that their money will issue in something practicable, should these schools be instituted, and that the children will be decently trained, and afterwards removed from vice and temptation to some place where they may conduct themselves like honest citizens, they will contribute largely to establish many over the length and breadth of the metropolis—let us look then to the effect it will have upon the children themselves; miserable, ignorant, and forgotten as they are, those children, nevertheless, before they have passed three months at these schools, begin to aspire to better things. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary was good enough to accompany me some time ago to one of these schools. It was 448 during working time; but had it not been so, and had the children been at liberty to run about, I doubt not, that, knowing the dignity of my right hon. Friend's station and the goodness of his heart, they would have beset him with applications to be sent to sea or to some one of the colonies. If therefore you will hold out to those children as the reward of good conduct that which they desire—a removal from scenes which it is painful to contemplate, to others where they can enjoy their existence—you will make the children eager by good conduct to obtain such a boon. There are, he assured, amongst the children, guilty and disgusting as they are, many thousands who if opportunites are given them, will walk in all the dignity of honest men and Christian citizens.
But at present they are like tribes of lawless freebooters, bound by no obligations, and utterly ignorant or utterly regardless of social duties. They trust to their skill, not to their honesty; gain their livelihood by theft, and consider the whole world as their legitimate prey. With them there is no sense of shame; nor is imprisonment viewed as a disgrace. In many instances it has occurred that after a boy has been a short time at one of these schools he suddenly disappears. At the end of a few weeks he comes back to the very spot in the school where he sat when he was last there. The master, going up to him says, "My boy, where have you been?" The boy answers, "Very sorry Sir, I could not come before, but I have had three weeks at Bridewell." Now this has happened repeatedly. Going to prison is with those children the ordinary lot of humanity—they look upon it as a grievous act of oppression, and when they come to school they speak of it as one gentleman would tell his wrongs to another. But, in the course of time, their hearts become alive to better things; knowing how low they have fallen in the scale of humanity, they desire to be removed to other scenes; and then it is that, if inducements are held out to them to hope—and God knows what is the condition of a human creature without hope—they would rise into the dignity of man, and acknowledge the opportunity afforded to them by the great goodness of Providence. I consider also that much beneficial effect will be derived from the parents seeing that something will be gained by the good conduct of their children. Their motives must not be scanned too narrowly. 449 Hon. Members should not judge them altogether by their own; these parents, no doubt, think more of the temporal than the moral welfare of their children, and will thus be influenced by temporal considerations; it is, nevertheless, a step towards amendment, and will, unquestionably, produce an extensive and healing effect.
But it may urged, is your plan feasible? I reply, that it is a practical proposition, and beneficial alike to the condition of the colonies. Hear the evidence of Mr. Cuninghame, of Port Philip, before the Lords' Committee on Emigration:—The want of labour is by far the greatest impediment to the progress of the colony, either social or pecuniary. …. Four years have now elapsed, during which there has been scarcely any emigration. In the year 1844 there were about 1,400 people sent out; but, with that exception, emigration has been at a stand-still. The result is, that not only is labour extremely dear, but it is almost impossible to be got at all. The wool is worse got up, and everything but wool-growing is at a perfect stand-still from want of labour. I have no doubt that from Port Philip alone the value of the wool has been deteriorated to the value of 40,000l. in consequence of the deficiency of hands upon the last wool-clip alone.Further on the same witness said—The colony will absorb many more than we could count upon for future years. At present there is not merely a want of the regular annual supply which is demanded by the annual increase of both sheep and cattle, but there is a deficient supply of three years to make up, Many colonists have not built houses, nor fenced paddocks, nor made any improvements, owing to the want of labour. I think that, if 8,000 statute adults were introduced into Port Philip just now, the whole of them would be absorbed at good wages, and with abundant rations; … and that for three or four years to come 4,000 or 5,000 might be received each year.I should be very glad if the Government would take these poor children and transplant some of them every year. I will not quarrel about the colony, for I am quite sure that under the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord they will be fully protected. Mr. Cuninghame continued—We can employ any species of labour, because shepherding is not an exhausting or fatiguing operation.Exactly the labour for these children, and it is to this kind of work that I propose to send the lads who shall have exceeded their fourteenth year. As to the condition of the settled emigrants, the same gentleman also said—Many instances have occurred of the change of labourers into proprietors. I believe that, amongst steady and intelligent men to set up for themselves after from five to eight years of labour 450 is the rule; and to fail in doing so the exception.In the Times of the 20th of May, 1848, I find the following extract from a letter dated Sydney, January 8:—You must strain every nerve to send us relief, for fully three-fourths of the 5,000 emigrants now coming out will be instantly absorbed on landing, for domestic servants in Sydney, Melbourne, &c.Observe, I do not propose to send them out under fourteen years of age. I have a statement which has been made to me by a gentleman who is well acquainted with the colonies. He says, that for every 1,000 sheep three persons at least are required, with wages of 20l. a year and weekly rations of 10 lb. beef, 12 lb. of flour, 2 lb. of sugar, quarter of a lb. of tea, and a house; thus at a station of 5,000 sheep, fifteen men and boys would be required. Taking the number of farms and stations at 4,000, and the number of servants in the bush at 12,000, this would make at each station but three, not one-half of what is necessary. Three, then, to each station would take at once 12,000; if, then, 1,000 were sent annually, it would be to each station only one every four years.
So much for the boys; now it is perfectly clear we could dispose of females far more easily; the demand, indeed, for them as domestic servants is so great, that a gentleman told me that when he quitted the colony, as he came down to the shore to embark, he found a young girl who had just landed; and so eager were five gentlemen to engage her as lady's maid to their wives, that she, knowing how valuable her services were, refused to take less than 50l. a year. Now these poor girls, above fourteen years of age, whom we see standing at the corners of the streets, filthy and wretched, selling oranges, matches, and ten thousand other things, many of whom come every evening to the ragged schools, would be rejoiced at the opportunity of being sent to another country. When the House considers that the males in Port Philip are to the females in a frightfully large proportion, how can they hesitate to believe that, if 20,000 of these miserable and distressed girls were transplanted to that settlement, they would at once be disposed of to advantage? And what does the House think is the excess in England of females over males, according to the last census? No less than 358,159. With such a disproportion, then, at Port Philip, 451 can you doubt, if you will thus undertake the proposition I suggest, that no difficulty will be found in disposing of all those young women whom you will thus transplant from a life of misery to one of happiness and honour?
The Emigration Commissioners see no difficulty in the plan; they seem to think, so far as I am at liberty to quote them, that the scheme is perfectly practicable, and requires nothing to carry it out but a hearty determination. I trust that I shall not be met by an answer, that my proposition for those schools must be made for every other school where the poor may be educated, and so a system be begun of almost indefinite expense. In the first place, I have proved that these schools, and the children in them, are most peculiar—peculiar in their quality, and requiring a peculiar remedy. If you take, for instance, the whole average attendance of the children, which is about 4,000, and try it by the scale of crime and destitution I have mentioned before, you will conclude that of that number nearly 1,700 will have passed through the prisons, and 1,800 will have lost one or both parents.
In the next place, I doubt not that, in a financial point of view, it is a real economy. I have here a letter from a most intelligent gentleman, Mr. Smith, the governor of the prison at Edinburgh; now, attend to his words:—"In compliance with the request of the Committee of the Industrial School;"—and here the word "industrial" recalls to my mind a part of our system to which I must allude. We have established in some of these schools, industrial classes; and with the happiest effect. I am strongly of opinion that in every school where children are educated, who are hereafter to earn a livelihood by the sweat of their brow, some portion of the day or the week should be devoted to occupations of industry. Now, if it be desirable for ordinary children, it is doubly so for those to whom new notions must be imparted—notions that, when reclaimed from a lawless and wandering life, they will find industry to be both beneficial and honourable. These industrial classes have, in fact, obtained the greatest success; and labour, which, in other situations is regarded as a penalty, is here considered as a recompence. In the school at Westminster we inculcate this both by precept and by practice; the children are received naked—naked certainly, unless the beastly rags about them can be dignified by the name 452 of clothing—and they are told, when furnished with the raw material, "you shall learn to make your own things, and whatever you can make for yourselves shall be your own;" industry is thereby greatly stimulated—they are divided into tailors and shoemakers; the tailors make clothes for themselves and then for their companions, and the shoemakers return the compliment. But this is Mr. Smith's letler:—In compliance with the request of the Committee of the Industrial Ragged School, that I would inform them what had been the effect of the schools on juvenile crime, it affords me very great pleasure to say, that the number of commitments to prison, of boys of 13 years old and under, was about 50 per cent less in three months ended March last than in the corresponding three months of the last year; and that I think this most gratifying circumstance is mainly to be attributed to the influence of the ragged schools. It may be well for the public to know, that if 5l. a year be not paid for the education and maintenance of a little boy at the ragged school, 11l. a year will probably have to be paid for him at the prison in Edinburgh, or 17l. a year in the general prison in Perth.Is the House aware of the costliness of crime to the country? Suppose, now, you vote 20,000l. a year for the ragged schools of the metropolis, or 100,000l. a year for the same throughout the whole kingdom; and this sum, remember, will elicit 200,000l. at least in addition, from private persons, public bodies, and benevolent societies—compare that grant of 100,000l. a year with the expenses of preventing and punishing crime; and see at once the true economy of the proposed plan. The expense of Parkhurst prison in the year 1847 was 14,349l.; of Pentonville, 18,307l. The total expense of prosecutions, removal, and subsistence of convicts, formerly paid out of county rates, is 348,000l. a year. I hear some one observe, "that item is for the punishment of adults;" why, to be sure it is; but is it not in infancy that the seed is sown? is not the child the prototype of the man? But I anticipated such a objection, and I put, therefore, this question to some of the most experienced missionaries; "Does it frequently occur that a man, having reached the age of 20 years untainted by crime, afterwards becomes an established delinquent?" The answer was, "Rarely; in very few instances, except under the pressure of peculiar circumstances, do persons of that age betake themselves, for the first time, to evil courses." It is principally in childhood, no doubt, that vicious 453 habits are formed, and take root; and it is in childhood that we must hope for successful prevention. But to return to the expense. The expenditure of county gaols for 1846 was 147,145l.; of county houses of correction, 160,841l. The rural police cost, in 1846, in those counties which had adopted it, 180,000l. The metropolitan police, in 1845, cost 363,1642.; these, with other items, making a total of more than a million a year for the repression of crime. I do not ask for that sum towards the object I have in view; but I am sure, that if you vigorously attack the whole mass of juvenile delinquency, the mass of adult crime will speedily be reduced in a very striking proportion. There is one item of expenditure of 9,600l. in prosecutions for coining, which is worthy of attention; for in these cases of coining and uttering bad money, children are almost exclusively employed. I am informed that there are more children engaged in fabricating and uttering base coin in the large towns of Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool, as well as London, than in almost any other way in which the revenue is cheated, and society injured; and this sum of 9,600l. is nearly one half of all that I require for the removal of two-thirds of the entire mischief.
Sir, I have not in the statement that I have just made to the House, enumerated the various cities and towns where a similar condition prevails of the labouring population. Suffice it to say, that in almost every densely inhabited district, you may discover similar evils and similar consequences: the details and arguments applicable to London, are, in a great measure, applicable to Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bath, and other large cities. In many of these towns ragged schools have been set up, and attended with the happiest results. One only I must specify, because no one, in handling the subject of these schools, may pass over the one established in Aberdeen, and the admirable exertions of Mr. Sheriff Watson. Here is a singular proof of full and unqualified success. The report for 1847 concludes:—The Committee congratulate themselves and the community on the lightness of their labours. It is a remarkable fact that juvenile vagrancy has been entirely prevented, and juvenile delinquency greatly diminished, by the sole instrumentality of the schools of industry; and the Committee earnestly recommend the support of those crime-preventing institutions to the benevolence of the public. In every point of view, social, 454 moral, and religious, they are deserving of countenance; they free the town and country of an intolerable nuisance—they increase the security of property by diminishing the number of depredators—they relieve the wants of the children of destitution—and, above all, they train these destitute ones to habits of decency and order, and inculcate that knowledge which, with the blessing of God, maketh wise unto salvation.I do not assert that such a result is practicable in the metropolis; the surface is too large, and the population too various in its character, and shifting in its habits, to admit of equal success; but in proportion and degree the same issue will be ours, I doubt not that, if the House will take upon itself at first the moderate experiments I now recommend, it will find that, in a short time, the example will be followed by parishes, by societies, by individuals, and by private and public combinations, for the purpose of carrying into effect the same remedial measures on an extended scale. The whole that we seek may lie beyond our reach, but something at least will be speedily attained.
It will be something to have rolled back the reproach from London, that, in the midst of almost countless wealth, abundant professions and appliances of religion, with every facility, and lacking nothing but the will to benefit her children, she should have so long endured an exhibition of juvenile depravity and suffering, unexampled in the history of any State of equal importance and power. Should we fail to attain the summit of our hopes, we shall at least have wiped out the charge of indifference to such mighty duties.
It will be something to have conferred a benefit both on the colonies and the mother country, by the transplantation of thousands of children untainted by crime, nay, more, trained in the habits of industry and virtue, from places where they seemed doomed to inevitable idleness, and consequently to misery and sin—the transplantation, I say, to regions in rivalry for their labour, and abundant in assurances of reward. Thus they will bless alike the land of their birth and the land of their adoption—the boys, rescued from pernicious vagrancy, will rejoice in the fruits of honest labour; and the girls, not recovered, thank God, but saved altogether from prostitution, will walk in the happy and holy dignity of wives and mothers.
It will be something to have established a new principle of colonisation; and no longer regarding it merely as the drainage of our jails, or the outlet for the offscour- 455 ing of the feeble, the mischievous, or the distressed, to hold it up as an object of ambition, the recompense of moral exertion. Governments bear the sword; they may also bear the olive branch; they are sent "for the punishment of evil-doers;" but henceforward they may obey the apostolical precept, and be "for the praise of them that do well."
It will be something that the State, violating no principle, trenching on no right, yielding to no compromise, and incurring no unseen responsibility, will appear as resolute to prevent as to chastise the commission of crime. She will anticipate the jailer and the hangman; and we, of the third and fourth generation, who are suffering justly the sins of our fathers, for we have made them our own, will, under God's blessing, take good care not to transmit them to our own posterity.
Lastly, it will be something that, leaving the higher and more ambitious speculations of commerce and politics, we have lent an open ear and a willing heart to the precepts of our common Saviour—gone into the highways and hedges, and dived into the foulest recesses of vice and misery, to rescue a host of naked, dirty, starving, and ignorant children, and drag them, in mercy, to the upper world, there, by God's grace, to thrive in the light and warmth of the everlasting gospel. This will have been your work; and God grant that you may have your reward, in the contemplation of enlarged happiness, and in the harvest of a wise, united, and understanding people! The noble Lord concluded by moving—That it is expedient that means be annually provided for the voluntary Emigration, to some one of Her Majesty's Colonies, of a certain number of young persons of both sexes, who have been educated in the schools ordinarily called 'Ragged Schools,' in and about the Metropolis.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
seconded the Motion. He felt it unnecessary to trespass on the time of the House, after the admirable speech which they had heard from his noble Friend. Had it not been for the views expressed by the noble Lord, and to the respect which the noble Lord, and any opinions emanating from him were entitled to receive from the House, he would have preferred that the proposed remedy should not be confined to the metropolis alone, but that it should be extended at once to all the large boroughs, as well as to the rural districts.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that it was 456 impossible to have listened without deep interest to the statement of his noble Friend—an interest arising partly from the nature of the subject itself, and partly from the fact that his noble Friend had been enabled to lay before the House that detailed information which his indefatigable perseverance in the paths of Christian benevolence had given him so abundant an opportunity of acquiring, He had followed the statements of his noble Friend with deep attention; and he regretted to say that he was unable to controvert the statements which his noble Friend had made as to the condition of a large portion of the population in the metropolis and the other principal towns of the United Kingdom, and the state in which children were suffered to grow up belonging to parents who were removed from those ordinary influences—moral, social, and religious—which tended to humanise and Christianise the heart, and who, though living in a Christian country, were, he feared, in a state very far from approaching a position which could justly be denominated Christian. He felt how much was due to those, including some of the highest as well as the lowest—who from Christian motives and philanthropy applied their energies to investigating this state of things, and who visited the abodes of poverty and immorality with a view of rescuing the youthful population from a career of crime and misery, by the establishment, amongst other means, of ragged schools. And he agreed with his noble Friend also, that it was not merely moral and religious feelings—it was not merely the interests of the children themselves—great as these inducements were, but also the desire of promoting peace and order, and of advancing the interests of society at large, that should induce them, as far as Parliament could interfere, to endeavour to advance the objects which his noble Friend had in view. He would not weaken the force of the description of his noble Friend, by entering into any statement with regard to details that had come within his own knowledge; but he could say that they tended to confirm what his noble Friend had said. They tended to show that, however debased these youthful offenders might be, they were at that time of life peculiarly susceptible of wholesome influences; and that if those wholesome influences were exerted in their favour, there was reason to hope that, with the blessing of God, they would be attended with the best results. His noble 457 Friend had alluded to a visit which he had the pleasure of paying in company with him to a ragged school, not far from where they were sitting; and nothing could have been more striking than the appearance of intelligence, order, and regularity which prevailed among those attending the school. Though it was not necessarily connected with the subject now brought before the notice of the House by his noble Friend, he might allude to an institution, with the merits of which his noble Friend was, he believed, well acquainted—he meant the Philanthropic Institution, which received children that had been committed to prison for crimes. His noble Friend was familiar with the results which attended the efforts of that institution, under the direction of Mr. Turner, the excellent and energetic chaplain of it. Boys having there undergone a careful training, and having been placed in honest and industrious callings, came again to visit that institution at subsequent periods; and he did not know a more interesting object than to see these young men on these occasions listening to Mr. Turner, and showing that they still retained in their minds the good advice that had been impressed upon them some years before. He might revert to many other instances, in order to show that any care bestowed on this class of persons was not thrown away, but that it was on the contrary attended with the most satisfactory results. He believed that the ragged schools already established in this country and in Scotland were among the most valuable institutions that could be encouraged, and that they were directed to a most important object, which he hoped they were destined to achieve. His noble Friend had justly spoken of the school at Aberdeen, which owed its origin to the benevolent exertions of Mr. Sheriff Watson, as one of the first schools of this description; and its effects had been very remarkable. There were, however, peculiar facilities in Aberdeen which contributed to that success. Owing to the efficient police which they possessed under a local Act, they were enabled to put an effectual stop to vagrancy and mendicity in the streets, and one of their arrangements was, that every child found begging in the streets was taken at once by the police direct to the ragged school, instead of being brought before a magistrate. Through the exertions of the police and the assistance of the school, there was certainly a stop put to juvenile vagrancy in that town. A very 458 interesting article in connection with this subject had appeared in one of the periodicals, which he believed had been not wrongly attributed to the pen of his noble Friend himself; and one of the most popular writers of the day—Mr. Dickens—had also published a valuable pamphlet on the subject. He need not remind his noble Friend also of the labours of Dr. Guthrie, in Edinburgh, in the same cause. But, however gratifying might be the results already attained, he thought some caution was necessary in forming expectations as to the future. He was afraid that they should not be very sanguine as to getting rid of crime by such means. Those who took an active part in these details should be content to labour on, with the feeling that good results would gradually follow from their exertions. He thought that by such means there was ground for anticipating a diminution of crime; but at the same time he feared that a greater change than any they had as yet reason to anticipate, must take place in the mass of the population, before they could prevent juvenile offenders being made the instruments of others in the accomplishment of crime. His noble Friend wished to obtain aid for the emigration of some of the children educated in these schools. To the principle he could have no objection. It had been to a certain degree acted on with regard to boys sentenced to transportation, who, after a period of confinement in Parkhurst prison, and after it was ascertained that they bad profited by that discipline, and that they were likely to become good colonists, were sent abroad with conditional pardons to some of the colonies, where they would be enabled to earn a livelihood by honest industry. He could not object in principle to having them taken at a period antecedent to that when they commit crime; and that they should be assisted by the Government in being sent to the colonies, where they would be enabled to become useful members of society to their own great advantage. He had no objection to such a course being taken in cases that were selected on account of the good conduct of the children, and when it was ascertained that they had really profited by the instructions they had received, and that they were anxious to lead honest and industrious lives. Having said this much, he hoped that his noble Friend would not persist in pressing for the adoption of the resolution, as he thought it would he an unusual course to pledge the House to a grant 459 of money to be annually provided for the purpose to which he referred, until some more detailed plan was in the first instance provided, by which they would be enabled the more clearly to see their way. He had communicated with his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies on this subject, and he found him strongly impressed with the opinion that this plan might be carried out with great advantage to the colonies themselves. He would only add, that every facility would be given by the Government to carry out the plan to the extent of whatever sums might be in the hands of Government applicable to such a purpose, either from voluntary or other sources. There might, however, be other objects to which a portion of such funds should be applied, and it would, therefore, be inconvenient to be bound by a distinct pledge on the subject. He would add, that if such an object were carried out, he did not think that it should be confined to children educated in ragged schools in the metropolis. He thought that the benefit ought to be extended to the ragged schools of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and other places; but he understood his noble Friend to embrace all in the general principle. He believed that the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Conolly) was aware of the attention that the Government had lately bestowed in sending out young females from Ireland to Australia, and which he believed would be attended with great advantage. In conclusion, he had only to say that he should be happy to communicate with the noble Lord on this subject, and, in conjunction with his noble Friend at the head of the Colonial Department, to carry out his views so far as it should appear practicable.
§ COLONEL CONOLLY
said, it was only just towards the Government to state that their regulations for sending young females to the colonies had been received in Ireland with the greatest satisfaction.
§ MR. HORSMAN
did not think that the noble Lord had any reason to feel the slightest disappointment from the manner in which Her Majesty's Government seemed disposed to meet his proposition. The only difference, indeed, between the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet was, that the resolution did not go so far as the Government themselves seemed inclined to go. He felt bound to tender his obligations to the noble Lord for making the House acquainted with a portion of our own population, of whose condition the greater portion 460 of the House were before perfectly ignorant. He should indeed have been extremely sorry to have missed the able, earnest, and becoming speech with which the subject had been introduced. Even those who were perfectly acquainted with the extensive efforts of various benevolent societies and institutions in reclaiming our juvenile population, could scarcely have expected details showing such misery, filth, and wretchedness; such a loss of every sense of decency, morality, and hope, as appeared in so large a portion of that class of the population. Such statements ought to make us feel it a reproach that such a state of things could have existed without our being conscious of it. The noble Lord had completely established his case with regard to the condition of these schools, and the beneficial results that had attended the attempts made to reclaim this class of the population. It was something to have merely pointed out the evil; it was a great deal more to have suggested a great practical remedy for it. The noble Lord appeared to him to have begun at the right end; for whilst showing the evil to be great, he had pointed a remedy that was perfectly obvious. The advantages of it were great in a domestic point of view; in a colonial point of view the benefits of it were still greater. Having reclaimed a large population here, elevated them into a sense of their duties, and Christianised them, we were asked to send them into our own colonies, where labour was needed. Here they might, by the force of circumstances, produce misfortune and danger; but there they would become most useful members of society. In an economical point of view he agreed with the noble Lord that nothing was so expensive as crime. In this sense the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have been the first to second the Motion. Why, the yearly expense of prosecutions for uttering base coin—a crime most frequently committed by juveniles—was actually equal to the sum which the noble Lord asked to carry out the scheme he was about to propound. It was a great recommendation of the noble Lord's suggestion, that the first labour and expense were undertaken by societies which established schools, collected the children, and then instructed them. It was only after they had been reclaimed that the State was asked to take them to our own colonies, where they would prove an inestimable blessing. And if the State once began this system, 461 in conjunction with these institutions, he could really see no limit to the benefactions that would he received from private individuals. A few societies in connexion with the Church of England, of which he was a member, had collected sums considerably above half a million; and he was sure that if it were once felt that a scheme like this, favoured by the Government, was successful in its results, there would, in like manner, be no limit to the extent of private contributions. The greatest advantage, however, of a system of this kind was in the sympathy it exhibited towards the poorest, the most friendless, and the most neglected part of our population. Once let them feel they were not friendless nor neglected, a feeling would be established in their hearts which would be a better guarantee for the security of property and the preservation of peace, than any system of policy or legislation that could be devised. The advantages, indeed, could not be overrated; and he trusted that very speedily we should avail ourselves of them.
§ MR. SCOTT
presumed that before long some measure would be introduced by the Government upon this important subject. A Government grant for emigration, instead of checking private enterprise, would call forth large exertions on the part of private individuals. He (Mr. Scott) had that morning waited upon the First Lord of the Treasury, by appointment, to submit to him a project for more extended emigration, with a view to relieve the great mass of suffering in this country; that project briefly was, that as of late Government had sanctioned a grant of public money for the drainage of superfluous water from land, so they should sanction a grant for draining the superfluous population off the land; the money would only be required, as in the other case, by instalments. At the opposite extremity of the world the demand for labour was exceeding the supply; and here in another part of the same empire we were suffering from just the opposite evil. The noble Lord (Lord Ashley), in referring to the Australian colonies, had understated the facts; he might have told the House that the food which would supply the thousands hero suffering from want of food was wasting for want of mouths; food which would meet the destitution of this empire was boiled down for the sake of a few pounds of tallow, for want of that labour which would render it available. Our emigration had proceeded mainly to the United States rather than to 462 those colonies where it was required; it should be assisted and directed, that it might not go to enrich foreigners, but be turned to our own colonies, where it was so greatly needed, and where our manufactures were taken to such an extent that the emigrants contributed to the support of those whom they had left behind. He had found among a number of young persons such as were to be met with in ragged schools that three-fourths of them were willing to emigrate. At the same time, the colonies could absorb all we could send; and the danger of emigration being checked was from distress and convulsion there, through panic, originating in the apprehension that by reason of the scarcity of labourers the expenses of a colonist would exceed his profits. As to this country, it would surely be better to anticipate crime; let it not be said that a person must matriculate as a felon in order to graduate as a colonist. It was to be hoped that before the Session closed a vote would be proposed to Parliament for carrying out systematic colonisation.
§ MR. SLANEY
had heard with great pleasure the address of the noble Lord and the statement of the Home Secretary, and hoped the noble Lord would take counsel of those who were desirous to carry out the object he had in view, and not press the Motion to a division. The same evils existed in other large towns as in the metropolis, and from the same causes. In regard, for instance, to the miserable lodging-houses that he had been referred to, he (Mr. Slaney) could state, that on going with a police officer into a court in one of our large towns, the officer said, of a lodging-house in it, that he had transported all its inhabitants twice over. Yet these were samples of the practical schools in which vast numbers of children were brought up. Our labouring population, from being two to one in the rural districts, as compared with the towns, had changed to the reverse proportion during this century, and these changed circumstances required altered regulations. We had begun sanitary regulations, which ought long since to have been carried out; and he trusted this Motion would lay the foundation of other measures of improvement. The humbler classes in our large towns required social regulations for their benefit, which would not trench upon property, but make it more secure—measures for education, measures for giving them facilities for investing as as well as gaining money, so as to insure 463 themselves by the high wages of one period against a time when they might he out of work. We had too long been playing the game of party, and occupying ourselves with schemes for increasing wealth and power, neglecting subjects of this nature, which were more important than any to the welfare, the happiness, ay, and to the safety of the country.
MR. VERNON SMITH
had observed sometimes, that there was good in the collision of contending parties, and that when, as in this instance, a House of some forty-one Members sat listening to that in which all agreed, the result was the expression of acquiescence, and nothing else. Not that he doubted that the Government would pay all the attention they possibly could to the subject. But the noble Lord had made to a certain extent, a specific proposal; he (Mr. V. Smith) only wished it had been more specific. The manner in which all these proposals for emigration failed was through large systems being brought forward in great speeches, and nobody attending to the details; the noble Lord had avoided that, and proposed a most excellent measure, selecting a very fit class of objects. Although the persons sent out from Parkhurst, after being subjected to discipline there, had been received with gladness by the colonists as the most acceptable parties that had arrived, it was objectionable that we should deal with persons who had committed crime in a manner for their benefit, which we refused to the virtuous population; the noble Lord had hit upon an excellent medium, for he would take persons who might almost be called undetected criminals—persons at least with all the elements of vice about them, but happily, in many instances, not having actually committed crime, and at any rate to be sent out, when educated and improved, untainted with the reproach of those who went direct from prison and under sentence. Whilst regretting that the noble Lord did not propose a specific address for a certain sum of money, he (Mr. V. Smith) considered that there was great advantage in such Motions as this, because, if they led to nothing at the moment, they influenced eventually the minds of men in authority. Let not the noble Lord despair, for though he might not at first achieve all the success his sanguine spirit might desire, he would ultimately attain his object. The circumstance which chiefly recommended the noble Lord's proposition was the absence of any magnificent schemes 464 for the outlay of large sums of money. His Lordship merely proposed to proceed step by step, to take what he could get this year, and as much more in the next. It was to be hoped, however, that the noble Lord would not be content with the speech of the Secretary for the Home Department, but would insist on something being done before the close of the present Session. If he might venture upon a suggestion, he would say that there should be a tripartite division of the expense, part being defrayed by the districts from which the children were taken, part by the colonies to which they might be sent, and part out of the public purse. It was essentially necessary to make provision for the superintendence of the children after their arrival in the colonies, for they would then be exposed to the severest trials.
§ SIR T. D. ACLAND
begged to express his share of the public gratitude for the part the noble Lord had taken with reference to this question, and his confidence in the assurance of the Secretary for the Home Department that he would give his best attention to the subject.
§ MR. HAWES
said, that the speech of the noble Member for Bath was characterised by enlarged benevolence and practical design. If the right hon. Member for Northampton had heard the speech of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, he could hardly have been so unjust as to cast a degree of suspicion on his motives, and on the declarations which he had made. He could assure the noble Lord that the subject had been a good deal considered since he put his notice on the Paper, and he and the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department, had held more than one meeting with the Emigration Commissioners with reference to it. It appeared to him that the proposition of the noble Lord was of a practical character, and capable of being carried into effect. It was undoubtedly true, that with respect to any scheme of emigration, the one thing needful was money. Give the money, and means would soon be found for spending it. He had stated on a former evening, that the Government intended to propose a vote of 10,000l. in the estimates this year for the purpose of promoting free emigration chiefly to the Australian colonies. He was fully impressed with the sense of the importance of sending out a well-selected and well-trained class of female emigrants. It gave him pleasure to be able to state that 465 emigration was now going on to a great extent, and very successfully. In the course of last year nearly 270,000 persons went out from the United Kingdom as emigrants to various parts. He could not state whether the emigration this year would equal in amount that of the preceding year: but under the direction of the Emigration Commissioners ships were going out at the rate of nearly eight a month. The emigration to the Australian colonies had been singularly successful, owing to the rules laid down for its management. In consequence of the watchful superintendence exercised over the emigrants during the voyage, the mortality was reduced to the lowest amount, namely, one per cent among English emigrants. In con-elusion, he recommended the noble Lord to consider and mature his plan, which already had an incipient existence, and he was not without hope that before the end of the Session Government would be able to announce that there was some prospect of sending out a small number of children.
rose for the purpose of noticing a remark made by the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies, which was not only at variance with official records, but even with a statement made by himself a few nights ago. In a despatch, written by Earl Grey to the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land, dated the 27th of May, his Lordship stated that the Government intended to apply to Parliament for a grant for the purpose of promoting free emigration to that colony. Upon reading that despatch, he (Viscount Mahon) asked the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hawes) what would be the amount of the grant to be proposed for the purpose alluded to in Earl Grey's despatch; and the hon. Gentleman answered 10,000l. Now, however, the hon. Gentleman said that the 10,000l. were to be expended in promoting emigration to the Australian colonies. [Mr. HAWES—: I said chiefly to the Australian colonies.] But Earl Grey's despatch limited the application of the money exclusively to emigration to Van Diemen's Land. Not only so, but Earl Grey gave the reasons for such limitation. He stated that he could not approve of sending once more so many convicts to that colony, unless, at the same time, he took measures for promoting a large amount of free emigration to it. That, as Earl Grey explained at great length in the course of his despatch, was his reason—his sole reason—for proposing the intended vote of public money; 466 and that reason would apply to no other Australian colony besides Van Diemen's Land. The same sum which would be useful if applied to one colony would become useless if frittered away among many. At least it was desirable that the Government should state distinctly what their intention was.
§ SIR E. N. BUXTON
, after complimenting the noble Lord the Member for Bath for the able statement he had made, said it was impossible for any man to hold the situation he (Sir E. N. Buxton) had done for many years as treasurer to the London City Mission Society without being well aware of the truth of the statement of his noble Friend, and of the great necessity that existed for the attention of Parliament and the country being diligently and immediately devoted to the condition of that large portion of the population on whose behalf his noble Friend had so long and so meritoriously exerted his best energies. In stating the number of children at 30,000, he thought his noble Friend had rather under estimated their numbers. But his object in rising was to point out to the notice of the House a portion of the population of a different character to that to which his noble Friend's Motion more immediately applied. He had long been acquainted with the condition of the children of persons who were perhaps as poor as the parents of those that were sent to ragged schools, but who were of a more respectable character, and who, notwithstanding their poverty, strived to give their children some degree of education—he alluded more particularly to the neighbourhood of Spitalfields, where there existed schools, towards the expense of which the parents of the children themselves contributed. At one of those schools, with which he was himself connected, the amount received in 1843 from the parents of the children was 347l.; and in the years 1846 and 1847 the amount received was 370l. A large proportion of the pupils were the children of persons as poor as those whose children were educated at the ragged schools. The total number of the pupils was 392, 132 of whom were the children of weavers, 186 the children of other artisans, and the remainder were the children of persons of 467 sundry occupations. This showed that there were parents who, though struggling with poverty as great as that of any class of Her Majesty's subjects, nevertheless were earnestly desirous, in the midst of their privations, to give their children a good education. Therefore, while cordially approving of the plan of his noble Friend, he considered it was desirable that they should not give a premium to that class of the population who wholly neglected their children, but that they should extend the benefit of any scheme of emigration that might be adopted to those more meritorious parents who were striving in the midst of difficulties to assist themselves.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
expressed his earnest opinion that a more solemn and important question than the one now under discussion had never been brought before the House. From the thin attendance of hon. Members, it was obvious how small was the consideration brought to bear upon the subject. Highly as he valued the exertions of the noble Lord, yet there was evidently somewhere or other an apathy that must be surmounted, and difficulties that must be overcome, which nothing but a zeal and an enthusiasm equal to that which animated the noble Lord's own breast could achieve. It was impossible to hear the speech of his noble Friend without arriving at the conviction that the facts he had described constituted the main evils that lay at the very bottom of society. To that statement no effective answer had been given. It was not sufficient for the Government to state that they were ready to do their best by the ordinary means and processes that were at their command. The noble Lord had shown that there lay at the bottom of society evils which not only tainted every class of the community, but which entailed, both locally and generally, an enormous expense upon the country. Even in a financial point of view some peculiar effort was necessary to remedy those evils; but much more was required. Unless some extraordinary effort was made, he was apprehensive that the crowded population which was now growing up would be fraught with vast mischief to the country. The education which they were now in a certain degree compelled to impart to the people, would only increase the evil, if by their exertions they did not make it an instrument of good. They could not prevent those classes deriving something from the 468 education which was given to them; and he warned the House that that very education would be the means of creating a most dangerous element in the great spirit of democracy which was growing up in England, and which would join its sympathies with the democracies of Europe. It was, therefore, of vital importance that the Legislature should endeavour to infuse a patriotic spirit into the minds of the people, so that they might feel a generous interest in the future affairs and destiny of this country. He could not but look with the greatest terror at the dreary prospect that society at present afforded to those poor children for whose behoof these ragged schools were established. When he considered that, educated as now they were, without any moral or religious elements operating upon their minds or hearts—when he contemplated them growing up in the midst of a Christian land as mere heathens without heathen gods—he could not look forward without terror and apprehension at the vast injury they might inflict upon the English community. He therefore implored Her Majesty's Government to take this question not only into their peculiar consideration, but to view and pursue it in all its magnitude and importance. Let them not be content to treat it with civil words and complimentary phrases, but let them feel that they have a right to demand from the people of this country great and important sacrifices. If they treated it with earnestness, he doubted not that the people would cheerfully second their exertions; but if they treated it only in a merely formal and official manner, they would not meet with public support. Hitherto what had the Government done towards ameliorating the condition of the poor? There was a Board of Commissioners, at the head of which was the noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests. Under the auspices of that board grand streets had been formed, and pompous buildings erected for wealthy shops, but no provision was made to improve the dwellings or bring comfort to the hearths of the wretched beings who haunted the cellars and garrets of the close-pent courts and alleys of this metropolis. There had been no initiation by the Government for any one of the great charitable schemes that existed in this country. The public baths and washhouses were the result of mere accident, as was also the finding of one Member of the aristocracy devoting his energies to the promo- 469 tion of such schemes. It was only a chance that they now had two or three model lodging-houses erected in this city—a work which ought long ago to have occupied the mind of a paternal Government. He foresaw great dangers coming upon this country, and which could only he averted by the earnest and hearty efforts of the Government in effecting great moral and social reforms amongst the vast population that was rising up around them. They could not always expect to find such men as the noble Lord. They had a right, therefore, to call upon the Government to look upon this question in its totality and in its extreme importance, and to be ready to demand of the country those sacrifices which the magnitude and gravity of the case required.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
could assure the House that a strong feeling was entertained in the country with regard to the importance of such measures as had been recommended by the noble Lord the Member for Bath. The workmen themselves, on whose behalf the noble Lord had appealed to the Government, felt the importance of instituting, by some means, a system of emigration. In the county in which he (Mr. Adderley) resided, Staffordshire, associations with this object had been formed by the potter workmen. Some time since associations were established for the purpose of organising strikes for wages; but the objects of these associations had been changed, and a system had been adopted by the workmen for assisting one another to emigrate to other countries. At present, however, this system of emigration was conducted in a very unsatisfactory manner; the persons who emigrated were exposed to every species of fraud; and unless the Government came forward to afford them aid and information in carrying out their views, he feared that these people would be thrown back upon the Chartist agitation to which they had in the first instance resorted. He believed, if this question was not immediately taken up by the Government, it would be taken up, though in a less efficient manner, by the very paupers.
§ MR. WESTHEAD
had a few days back received a letter, dated December, 1847, from Adelaide, South Australia, the writer of which stated that there was a great want of labourers in the colony, and that the farmers were paying 13s. or 14s. an acre for reaping, finding the labourers board and lodging, the very best food, and 470 a bottle of wine a day worth 1s. He had received another letter, which stated that the constant complaint in the colony was want of labour; that ship after ship arrived with emigrants, and an idler was never seen after the first week of their arrival; and that if the Government put a stop to emigration the settlers had better come home at once.
§ LORD ASHLEY
, in reply, observed that the House seemed to think that he had acted exclusively when he proposed only to include the metropolis—it was through extreme caution. His object was to make an experiment, and supposing that experiment had succeeded, no doubt it would be extended. His object was to get in the thin edge of the wedge, and then it was his intention to drive it well up to the head. The Government and many hon. Gentlemen had come forward in so generous a manner to support the proposition, that he thought that if he attempted to divide the House, he should only take a hostile course, and convert into enemies many who would otherwise be coadjutors; he would, therefore, with the permission of the House, withdraw his Motion; but, at the same time, he would watch the Government with jealous care, and take the liberty, both in and out of the House, to jog their memories.
§ Motion withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.