HL Deb 30 March 1852 vol 120 cc368-9

presented a Petition from Robert Owen, Esq., to which he begged the attention of their Lordships. This gentleman had often before petitioned the House, and last Session he (Lord Brougham) had presented his statement, and it had received the attention of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne), then representing the Government in that House, although he had not consented to the proposition of appointing a Committee to examine Mr. Owen's plans. Whatever differences of opinion might prevail as to Mr. Owen's peculiar views on some most important subjects, and although neither their Lordships nor himself might agree with him, all must consider with respect a man who has devoted a long life and an ample fortune to promoting the views which he conscientiously holds touching the best means of improving the condition of his fellow-creatures. He is convinced that he is possessed of information, and that he has drawn from his long experience and extensive observation, conclusions of essential importance to the well-being of society; and he is desirous of communicating these before he departs from this scene—having now reached the age of above fourscore. He prays that your Lordships may examine him before a Committee, or otherwise aid him in promulgating and recommending his plans. Personal interest in this matter he can have none—save the satisfaction of reflecting that he has contributed to the good of mankind, and especially to inculcating the principles and the feelings of universal benevolence, of true charity, and of peace and good will to all. He (Lord Brougham) had said, that on some important questions there no doubt prevailed great difference of opinion with Mr. Owen; but no man being more tolerant towards others than he was, and none being more patient of contradiction, might fairly expect the like measure of forbearance towards his own peculiar views. There was one subject, however, on which no man could differ with Mr. Owen— he meant education. In that most important matter, he was a great and an undisputed benefactor of his country. He was the founder of infant schools, at least as far as the United Kingdom was concerned. Into the question whether or not —unknown to him it was, if at all—he had been anticipated by the venerable pastor Oberlin, in Ban de la Roche, in Alsace— he (Lord Brougham) would not enter. That Mr. Owen, near half a century ago, had first founded these institutions, of inestimable value, in Scotland, from whence they were transplanted into England and Ireland, was past all doubt, and a greater service never had been rendered to society. He moved that the petition be read.

House adjourned to Thursday next.