The Infant System
Samuel Wilderspin

Part 1 out of 7

Produced by Stan Goodman, Josephine Paolucci and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.







"Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me."
_Matt_. xviii. 5.

"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones." _Matt_.
xvii. 10.




In again presenting this volume to the world, I trust I feel thankful
to God for the favour with which the Infant System has been received,
and for all the aid I have enjoyed in my course of labour. Had the
measures I originated for the development of the infant mind, and the
improvement of the moral character, been sanctioned at first, as many
now think they should have been, their progress would, undoubtedly,
have been far greater; but when I consider what has been accomplished
under the divine benediction, and amid greater difficulties than ever
beset the path of an individual similarly occupied, I know not how to
express the gratitude of which I am conscious. It seems proper and
even necessary to remark, that the system explained in this volume, is
the result of many years of labour. Thousands of children have been
attentively observed, and for the necessities that arose in their
instruction, provision has been made. Others have doubtless reached
some of the conclusions at which I have arrived, but this is only
another instance of the coincidence in judgment and effort, often
discoverable in persons far apart, whose attention has been directed
to similiar subjects; but with the exception of the elliptical plan,
devised by Dr. Gilchrist, I am not aware that I owe an idea or
contrivance to any individual whatever. Upwards of twenty-five
thousand children have been now under my own care, in various parts of
the United Kingdom, whose age has not exceeded six years; myself, my
daughters, and my agents, have organized many score of schools, and
thus I have had opportunities of studying the infant mind and heart,
such as none of my contemporaries have ever possessed.

Still I am aware I have much to learn. I am far less satisfied with
the extent of my knowledge, and far less confident of its perfection
and completeness now than I was in the earlier part of my course.
The whole energies of my mind, however, having been thrown upon the
subject, and the whole of my time for the third of a century having
been zealously devoted to it, I trust the volume will contain
knowledge of a more plain, simple, and practical character than is
elsewhere to be found:--perhaps it may not be presumption to say than
_can_ elsewhere be found. Should I have the pleasure to labour for
years to come, I trust I shall have much more to communicate on the

Two editions of this work in its former state have been printed in
German; and it has also been reprinted in America. I have, however,
felt it due to the friends of education, to make this volume as
complete as possible, and though still occasionally engaged in
superintending and organizing schools, I have felt it necessary to
revise this eighth edition very carefully throughout, and commence it
with a new and additional chapter.

_Moor Cottage,
Westgate Common,
Nov. 1552_.


It is said that we are aiming at carrying education too far; that we
are drawing it out to an extravagant length, and that, not satisfied
with dispensing education to children also have attained what in
former times was thought a proper age, we are now anxious to educate
mere infants, incapable of receiving benefit from such instruction.
This objection may be answered in two ways. In the first place, it
should be observed, that the objection comes from those very persons
who object to education being given to children when they arrive at a
more advanced period, on the ground that their parents then begin to
find them useful in labour, and consequently cannot spare so much of
their time as might be requisite: surely, that, the education of the
children should commence at that time when their labour can be of
value to their parents. But the other answer, in my opinion, is still
more decisive: it is found even at the early age of seven or eight,
that children are not void of those propensities, which are the
forerunners of vice, and I can give no better illustration of this,
than the fact of a child only eight years old, being convicted of a
capital offence at our tribunals of justice; when, therefore, I find
that at this early period of life, these habits of vice are formed, it
seems to me that we ought to begin still earlier to store their minds
with such tastes, and to instruct them in such a manner as to exclude
the admission of those practises that lead to such early crime and
depravity. A Noble friend has most justly stated, that it is not with
the experiences of yesterday that we come armed to the contest: it is
not a speculation that we are bringing forward to your notice, but an
experiment.'--_The Lord Chancellor_.

"In leaving poor children to the care of their parents, neglect is the
least that happens; it too frequently occurs that they are turned over
to delegates, where they meet with the worst treatment; so that we do
not in fact come so much into contact with the parents themselves as
with those delegates, who are so utterly unfit for the office they
undertake. Infant Schools, however, have completely succeeded, not
only in the negative plan they had in view, of keeping the children
out of vice and mischief, but even to the extent of engrafting
in their minds at an early age those principles of virtue, which
capacitated them for receiving a further stage of instruction at a
more advanced school, and finally, as they approached manhood, to be
ripened into the noblest sentiments of probity and integrity."--_The
Marquis of Lansdowne_.

"I am a zealous friend, upon conviction, to Infant Schools for the
children of the poor. No person who has not himself watched them, can
form an adequate action of what these institutions, when judiciously
conducted, may effect in forming the tempers and habits of young
children; in giving them, not so much actual knowledge, as that which
at their age is more important, the habit and faculty of acquiring it;
and it correcting those moral defects which neglect or injudicious
treatment would soon confirm and render incurable. The early age at
which children are taken out of our National Schools, is an additional
reason for commencing a regular and systematic discipline of their
minds and wills, as soon as they are capable of profiting by it; and
that is at the very earliest opening of the understanding, and at the
first manifestation of a corrupt nature in the shape of a childish
petulance and waywardness."--_The Bishop of London_.

"The claims of this Institution were of such a nature, that they
required no recommendation but a full statement of them. The
foundation of its happy results had been pointed out to exist in the
principles of policy, and of religion paramount to all policy--a
religion that appealed to every feeling of human nature. He would
recommend this charity, as one less attended with perplexity in its
operations or doubt as to its utility, than many, which, though
established with the best possible motives, frequently failed in
effecting the good proposed; but in this the most acute opponent could
not discover any mischief that would arise from its success."--_Sir
James Mackintosh_.

"I have always thought that that man that would be the greatest
benefactor to his country who did most for the suppression of crime;
this I am sorry to say, our legislature have neglected in a great
degree, while they have readily employed themselves in providing for
its punishment. Those acquainted with our prisons must know that those
found to have sunk deepest into vice and crime were persons who had
never received any education, moral or religious. In the Refuge for
the Destitute, an exact account was kept, and it was found that of the
great mass of culprits sent there by the magistrates on account of
their youth, two-thirds were the children of parents who had no
opportunity of educating them. By this institution they would at once
promote virtue and prevent vice."--_Dr. Lushington_.

"The real fact is, that the character of all mankind is formed very
early--much earlier than might be supposed: at the age of two or three
years, dispositions were found in children of a description the most
objectionable. In these schools the principles of mutual kindness and
assistance were carried as far as could well be conceived, and it was
most delightful to regard the conduct of the children towards each
other. Instead of opposition, they displayed mutual good-will,
inculcated to the greatest degree, so as to destroy in the minds of
the children that selfishness which was the bane of our nature. Such
effects appeared almost to realize the golden age, for the children
appeared always happy, and never so happy as when attending the
schools."--_W. Smith, Esq. M.P_.

"I feel, having witnessed the happy effects produced by these schools,
a warm zeal in support of such institutions. We cannot begin too soon
to impress religions principles on the minds of the young; it is an
affecting consideration, that while great statesmen have been busied
in their closets on some fine scheme or speculation, they have
neglected these salutary principles which the Almighty has given to
mankind. It is remarkable how eagerly the young mind receives the
histories of the Bible, and how well they are fitted to work on their
dispositions; and when I consider the miserable state of the poor, I
cannot but feel that the rich are in some degree, the authors of it,
in having neglected to afford them the means of education."--_W.
Wilberforce, Esq_.

"I am much delighted with what I have seen and heard. I confess I
entertained doubts of the practicability of the Infant School System,
but these doubts have this day been removed. If in _one month_ so much
can be done, what might not be expected from further training? I now
doubt no longer, and anticipate from the extension of such schools a
vast improvement in the morals and religion of the humble classes. I
conclude with moving a vote of thanks to Mr. Wilderspin."--_Lord Chief
Justice Clerk_.

"Sir John Sinclair, rose, and in addressing Mr. Wilderspin, said, that
he was astonished with the results of five weeks training in these
perfect infants. He had never seen a greater prodigy. He too had had
his prejudices--his doubts of the possibility of infant education;
but these doubts had now vanished, and for ever. The arrangements
for bodily exercise, connected with mental and moral improvement,
especially delighted him. He was amused as well as instructed by the
well-applied admixture of diverting expedients to keep the children
alive and alert. It was 'seria mixta jocis,' but there was practical
sense in the seemingly most frivolous part of the plan. He trusted
that the time was not far distant when there should be many such
institutions. He called on all present to join him in returning
cordial thanks to Mr. Wilderspin."--_Scotsman_.

"The grand secret of the improvement found to be derived from these
establishments, is their constant tendency to remove evil example and
misery from the little creatures during almost the whole of their
waking hours. Consider how a child belonging to one of these passes
his day. As soon as he is up, the indispensable condition, and the
only one of his admission to the school, that of clean face and hands,
is enforced, and the mother, in order to be relieved of the care of
him during the, day, is obliged to have him washed. He then leaves the
abode of filth and intemperance, and squalid poverty, and ill-temper,
for a clean, airy place, pleasant in summer, warm and dry in winter;
and where he sees not a face that is not lighted up with the smile of
kindness towards him. His whole day is passed in amusing exercises, or
interesting instruction; and he returns at evening-tide fatigued and
ready for his bed, so that the scenes passing at his comfortless home
make a slight impression on his mind or on his spirits."--_Edinburgh




_Days and scenes of childhood--Parental care--Power of early
impressions--School experience--Commencements in business--Sunday
school teaching and its results--Experiment on a large
scale--Development of means and invention of implements--Heavy
bereavement--Propagation of the system of education in the
neighbourhood of London, and ultimately in most of the principal
places in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland--Misapprehension
and perversion of the principles of infant education--Signs of
advancement--Hope for the future_



_Teachers of theft--Children the dupes of the profligate--An effort at
detection--Afflicting cases of early depravity--Progress of a young
delinquent--Children employed in theft by their parents--Ingenuity of
juvenile thieves--Results of an early tuition in crime--The juvenile
thief incorrigible--Facility of disposing of stolen property--A
hardened child--Parents robbed by their children--A youthful
suicide--A youthful murderer_



_Degraded condition of parents--Dreadful effects of
drunkenness--Neglect of children inevitable and wilful--The tutorship
of wicked companions--Tricks of pantomines injurious--Mischiefs
arising from sending children to pawnbrokers--Fairs demoralizing--All
kinds of begging to be repressed_



_Means long in operation important--Prisons awfully
corrupting--Deplorable condition of those released from
jail--Education of the infant poor--Its beneficial results--Cases
of inviolable honesty--Appeal of Mr. Serjeant Bosanquet--The
infant school an asylum from accident and a prevention of
various evils--Obstacles in the way of married persons obtaining
employment--Arguments for the plan of infant training--Prevalence of
profane swearing--The example often shewn by parents--Anecdote in
illustration--Parents ill used by their young children--Christian-like
wish of George III.--Education for poor children still objected
to--Folly of such objection illustrated--Lectures on the subject of
infant training_



_Moral treatment--Importance of exercise--Play-ground
indispensable--The education of nature and human education should
be joined--Mental development--Children should think for
themselves--Intellectual food adapted for children--A spirit
of enquiry should be excited--Gradual development of the young
mind--Neglect of moral treatment--Inefficacy of maxims learned
by rote--Influence of love--The play-ground a field of
observation--Respect of private property inculcated--Force of
conscience on the alert--Anecdote--Advantages of a strict regard for
truth--The simple truths of the Bible fit for children_



_The master and mistress should reside on the premises--Interior
arrangements--A school and its furniture--Lesson-posts and
lessons--The younger children should not be separated from the
older--Play-ground arrangements--Rotary swing--Its management and



_Teachers should practice what they teach--Necessity of patience--Mere
automatons will not do for infant teachers--Disadvantage of using
excessive restraint--A master and mistress more efficient than two
mistresses--Objections to the sole government of females--Too frequent
use of the divine names should be avoided--General observations_



_Classification--Getting the children into order--Language--Lessons
on objects--Rules to be observed by parents--Daily routine of
instruction--Opening prayer and hymn--Object or developing
lessons--Synopsis of a week's instruction--Cleanliness--Never frighten
children--Guard against forgetfulness--Observe punctuality--Be
strictly accurate in your expressions--Guard against the entrance of
disease--Maxims for teachers--Resolutions_



_Original intention of the gallery--What lessons are adapted for
it--Its misapplication--Selection of teachers--Observations--Gallery
lessons--on a feather--a spider--a piece of bog turf--a piece of
coal--Observations on the preceding lessons--Scripture lessons in
the gallery--The finding of Moses--Christ with the doctors--Moral
training--Its neglect in most schools--Should be commenced in
infancy--Beneficial effects of real moral culture--Ignorance of
teachers--The gallery most useful in moral training--Specimen of a
moral lesson--Illustrations of moral culture--Anecdotes--Simpson on
moral education--Observations--Hints to teachers_



_Necessity of some punishment--Rewards to monitors--Trial by
jury--Illustrative case--Necessity of firmness--Anecdotes--Playing
the truant--Its evils--Means for prevention--Devices for
punishment--Sympathy encouraged--Evil of expelling children--Case of
Hartley--Difficulty of legislating for rewards and punishments--Badges
of distinction not necessary_



_Means for conveying instruction--Method of teaching the alphabet
in connection with objects--Spelling--Reading--Developing
lessons--Reading lessons in natural history--The arithmeticon--Brass
letters--Their uses_



_The arithmeticon--How applied--Numeration--Addition--Subtraction
tables--Arithmetical songs--Observations_



_Method of instruction--Geometrical song--Anecdotes--Size--Long



_Its attraction for children--Sacred geography--Geographical
song--Lessons on geography_



_Pictures--Religious instruction--Specimens of picture lessons
on Scripture and natural history--Other means of religious
instruction--Effects of religious instruction--Observations_



_Object boards--Utility of this method_



_Exercise--Various positions--Exercise blended with instruction
Arithmetical and geometrical amusements_



_Infant ditties--Songs on natural history--Moral lessons in
verse--Influence of music in softening the feelings--Illustrative



_Method of instruction--Grammatical rhymes_



_Method Explained--Its success_



_National schools--British and foreign societies--Sunday



_Introduction to botany--First lessons in natural history--First
truths of astronomy--Geographical instruction--Conclusion_


* * * * *



_Days and scenes of childhood--Parental care--Power of
early impressions--School experience--Commencement in
business--Sunday-school teaching and its results--Experiment on a
large scale--Development of plans and invention of implements--Heavy
bereavement--Propagation of the system of education, in the
neighborhood of London, and ultimately in most of the principal
places in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland--Misapprehension
and perversion of the principles of infant education--Signs of
advancement--Hope for the future_.

* * * * *

Be it a weakness, it deserves some praise,
We love the play-place of our early days;
The scene is touching."--_Cowper_

"What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under
the sun?"--_Ecclesiastes i. 3_.

* * * * *

How came you to think of the Infant School system of teaching?--is
a question that I have often been asked; and my friends think it
advisable that it should, in part at least, be answered. I proceed
therefore, in compliance with their wishes, to give some little of
the required information in this place, as perhaps it may throw light
upon, or explain more clearly, the fundamental principles laid down
and advocated throughout this volume. In few words, then, I would
reply,--_circumstances_ forced me to it. Born an only child, under
peculiar circumstances, and living in an isolated neighbourhood, I had
no childish companions from infancy; I was, consequently, thrown much
on my own resources, and early became a _thinker_, and in some measure
a contriver too. I beheld a beautiful world around me, full of
everything to admire and to win attention. As soon as I could think at
all, I saw that there must be a Maker, Governor, and Protector of this
world. Such things as had life won my admiration, and thus I became
very fond of animals. Flowers and fruits, stones and minerals, I also
soon learned to observe and to mark their differences. This led to
enquiries as to how they came--where from--who made them? My mother
told me they came from God, that he made them and all things that I
saw; and also that he made herself and me. From that moment I never
doubted His wonderful existence. I could not, nor did I have, at that
age, any correct idea of God; but I soon learned to have elevated
notions of His works, and through them I was led to adore something
invisible--something I was convinced of within, but could not see. My
mother, to my knowledge, never deceived me, or told me an untruth:
therefore, I believed her implicitly; and to this day I never doubted.
So much for the implanting an early _faith_ in the Unseen. But the
beautiful world and the things in it which I saw, and with which I
came in contact, Oh! how wonderful they appeared to me! They were my
companions! Other children were strange to me, and they were not nigh
either to help or to thwart me.

My mother was my oracle during the first six years of childhood,
resolving my difficulties and answering my questions. I was
happy--very happy! and still look back to those days with
indescribable pleasure and satisfaction. I had no tasks. I was not
pestered with _A.B. C_., nor _ab. eb. ib_. From _things_ my parents
chiefly taught me my first lessons, and they have been as durable as
life. For days and weeks did I study such lessons. My parents waited
till I asked for information, and when it was required it was never
denied. The world and the wonders in it formed as it were a heaven to
me. I am told I gave but little trouble at this age. In the beautiful
fields and wild coppices about Hornsey, as yet unencroached upon by
suburban extension; and by the side of the then solitary banks of the
New River, I was always to be found. In cold and wet weather I had
a stock of similar lessons in my home. Small live animals were my
constant companions; they taught me that love begets love. I did love
and delight in them, and when they died I mourned their loss. Every
day brought me new information, which my parents perfected. At length
the alphabet was mastered, and afterwards spelling, reading, and
so forth. My mind _being thus previously filled with ideas_, the
acquirement of words and abstract terms became less irksome, and I
cannot remember that thus far it cost me any trouble, much less pain.
Information of every kind fit for childhood then really gave me
pleasure. No doubt I am greatly indebted to my parents for their
judicious management. My father always in the evening, took great
pains to explain things to me; he nurtured but never crammed; he knew
when to teach and when to let alone. Unfortunately, through very
peculiar circumstances, I was removed from the immediate care and
superintendence of both parents rather early in life; and, at an age
the most dangerous, was left to grapple nearly alone with the wide
world and the beings in it, with little of either parental guidance.
It was then I saw the immense importance and advantage of early
impressions. To me they were of incalculable benefit, and no doubt
led, when I became a man, to the thoughts which ended in the
development and practical working of the Infant System and method of

Schools for infants then existed, but what were they? Simply
dame-schools, with the hornbook for boys and girls, and perhaps a
little sewing for the latter. Their sign was--"Children taught to read
and work here," and their furniture the cap and bells, the rod in
pickle, and a corner for dunces. The finishing stroke was seen in the
parlour of the inn, or the farm-house, in the shape of needlework as a
samplar;--"Lydia Languish, her work, done at ---- school, in the year
of our Lord, 1809." Such were the schools in country places then in
existence, the little ones doing nothing. In after-life, I thought
a remedy was required and might be found, and therefore set about
working it out. How it was done shall be hereafter explained.

I knew my own infant state had been a happy one, and I wondered to see
children crying to go to school, when learning had been such a delight
to me. But I soon ceased to wonder when I was sent there myself. At my
first school I can truly say I learnt nothing, except it be that I had
especially the sense of feeling. I often had raps with the cane on the
head, across the shoulders, and on the hand, and I found it was mainly
for not learning what the teacher had _forgotten to teach me_. The
terms used were "master" and "mistress," and they were tolerably
appropriate as far as I was concerned, for to me both became objects
of terror, so much so, that for the first time in my life, I really
fretted when the hour of teaching came. My parents were not long in
perceiving this although I did not complain. They told me it was for
my good that I should go to school, and I thoroughly believed them.
Yet I could not understand why it should be associated with so much
dislike and pain on my part, when my first school,--the beautiful
world of nature, had been so lovely, and my first teachers had always
increased the delight by removing my difficulties, and this so much
so that I now longed for evening to come to have fresh light and
instruction given. My father now decided that I should not go to
school, and he became my teacher as before, the world being my great
book. I was delighted with Robinson Crusoe, and this work became my
companion, and to which was added the Pilgrim's Progress. After these,
my great favourite was Buffon's Natural History. I used to go alone,
taking a volume at a time, to read amidst the pleasant country around,
but most frequently in the quiet nooks and retreats of Hornsey Wood.
It seems, however, that I was always watched and superintended by my
mother during these readings and rural rambles, for whenever danger
was near she generally appeared, but seldom otherwise, so that I had
perfect freedom in these matters. I have every reason to believe that
the first seven years of my life laid the basis of all I know that is
worth knowing, and led to the formation of my character and future
career in life. Of my schooling afterwards it is unnecessary to say
much, as it was the usual routine such as others had, but it never
satisfied me, and I even then saw errors throughout the whole, and
this strengthened my first impressions, and tended to mature the
after-thought in me, that something wanted doing and _must be done_.
It is not my intention in this introductory chapter to write an
auto-biography; but my object is simply to show, how one impression
followed another in my case, and what led to it; to point out briefly
the various plans and inventions I had recourse to in carrying out my
views and intentions; and, finally, to allude to their propagation
through the country personally by myself, on purpose to show, in
conclusion, that although infant education has been extensively
adopted, and many of its principles, being based on nature, have been
applied with great success to older children, yet especially in the
case of infants, that strict adherence to nature and simplicity which
is so fundamental and so requisite, has been often overlooked, and in
some cases totally discarded.

It will, I trust, appear from what has been already said, that even
from early childhood I both saw and felt that there was a period in
human life, and that the most important period, as experience has
proved to my full satisfaction, not legislated for, that is, not duly
provided with suitable and appropriate methods of education. To see
this was one thing, to provide a remedy for it and to _invent plans_
for carrying out that remedy, was another. The systems of Bell and of
Lancaster were then commencing operations, but were quite unsuitable
for children under seven years of age at least, and therefore took
little or no cognizance of that early period, which I had been
inwardly convinced was of such eminent importance. I was destined for
business, and served the usual apprenticeship to become qualified for
it, and also continued in it for a short period on my own account.
Even at this time the thought ever haunted me as to what should be
done for young children. At length the germ was developed at one of
the Sunday Schools, which were then rising into general notice. For
years I attended one of these in London, and here circumstances again
befriended me, regarding the matter so frequently in my thoughts. The
teachers mostly preferred having a class to superintend that knew
something, and I being then a junior, it fell to my lot to have a
class that knew little or nothing. I mean nothing that it was the
object of the Sunday-school to teach. It soon appeared clear to me,
that such a class required different treatment to those more advanced,
and especially the _young_ children. Nobody wanted this class, it was
always "to let," if I did not take it. The result was, I always had
it. Others looked to the post of honour, the Bible-class. I soon found
that to talk to such children as I had to teach, in the manner the
others did to the older and more advanced children, was useless, and
thus I was forced to simplify my mode of teaching to suit their state
of apprehension, and now and then even to amuse them. This succeeded
so well, that in the end my class became the popular class, and I
became still further convinced of the desirableness of an _especial
plan for teaching the very young_. I, however, still thought that the
alphabet should be taught first, with the usual things in their order.
At length, shortly after my marriage, which was rather early in life,
an opportunity presented itself for trying an experiment on a larger
scale; from having explained my views on early education to a friend,
I was solicited to take the superintendence of an asylum for young
children, about to be formed in a populous part of London. Having thus
an opportunity of carrying out my wishes, thoughts, and feelings, in
a way that I could not have anticipated, I gave up my connexion with
business, and devoted myself to the object. Great and unforseen
difficulties however had to be encountered. The first week was
dreadful. I began with too many children, and we had six whom the
mothers afterwards confessed they sent to _wean_. These not only cried
themselves, but set all the others crying also, and we regretted
having begun the experiment. At length, driven almost to despair, it
became evident that something new must be done to still the tumult. As
an expedient, I elevated a cap on a pole, which immediately attracted
their attention and occasioned silence. Thus I obtained a clue to
guide me, and my mind instantly perceived one of the most fundamental
principles in infant teaching, in fact of most teaching, and which
long experience has proved true, and that is, to appeal to the SENSES
of the children. After this, every day developed something new to me,
the children became happy beyond my expectations, and my course
onward was gradually progressive. Children and teachers became happy
together; difficulties vanished as we proceeded, and at length my wife
and I made up our minds to devote our whole lives to the perfecting of
our plans, and the carrying them out extensively. The novelty of the
thing drew numbers of visitors to a district, where the carriages of
the nobility and gentry had not been seen before; but the labour to us
was so greatly increased by this, that my wife sunk under it, and I
was left with four young children, to prosecute my plans alone in the

From the day I caught the idea, that a great secret in teaching the
young was to teach through the _senses_, the various implements now in
such general use in infant schools, were step by step invented by me.
Objects of all kinds were introduced, and oral lessons given upon
them, to teach their qualities and properties, and amongst the various
visitors most frequently present at such times, was the gentleman who
has acquired fame by publishing "Lessons on Objects," which little
work has elsewhere been highly commended by me, albeit it came forth
into the world several years after the period I now speak of. To give
such lessons I found it requisite to have the children altogether, so
as better to attract their attention simultaneously. This was first
attempted by placing them at one end of the room, but it was found
inconvenient; then parallel lines were chalked across the floor, and
they sat down in order on these; but though attention was gained, the
posture was unsuitable. Cords were then stretched across to keep them
in proper rank, and various experiments tried with seats, until they
ended in the construction of a permanently fixed gallery of regularly
ascending seats. This implement or structure has now come into almost
universal use in infant schools, and, in fact, they are considered
incomplete without one; and also they are in much request in schools
for children of every age. To give an idea of number through the eye,
I had recourse at first to buttons strung on strings across a frame,
and this led to the substitution of wooden balls on wires, and other
improvements through experience, until the arithmeticon, hereafter
described, was fully formed. It having been found a useful instrument,
the credit of contriving it has been impugned, by liking it to the
Roman Abacus and Chinese Swanpan; but were those instruments like in
structure, or designed especially to teach the multiplication table?
if not, they are no more similar than "a hawk to a hand-saw." The
former I have never seen, and the first time I saw one of the Chinese
instruments was some five or six years ago in the Museum at Hull. The
clapping of hands, the moving of arms, marching in order, and
various other motions, all of which are now become the especial
characteristics of an infant-school, were gradually introduced as
circumstances or nature dictated, partly to obtain simultaneous action
and obedience, and partly to provide that physical exercise which
beings so young perpetually require, and which they are constantly
taking when left free and unrestrained. It is not requisite to make
mention here of the swing--the play grounds--the flower borders--and
various other matters which are fully treated of in the following
portions of this work, further than to add, that they are now
generally adopted in schools, and especially in some of the principal
training establishments in the British Empire. As these plans and
instruments are used by a certain religious infant-school society,
which professes to have imported its system from Switzerland,
where such things never had their origin, I feel it necessary most
emphatically to repeat, that they are entirely of my own invention.

After the severe bereavement mentioned above, I still persevered in
my favourite study, and learned more from my own children than I did
before, having to act in the double capacity of father and mother. I
am well aware of the loss my children sustained by the above calamity.
In the matter of training, nothing can replace a good mother,--and
such indeed she eminently was! I felt the heavy stroke more severely,
and my children did also; but I consoled myself with the reflection,
that my loss was her gain, and that she had lived to witness fruits of
her unparalleled labours, to the thorough abandonment of self, and the
glory of her Maker. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these
little ones, ye have done it unto me." Night and day, when I had time
to think, such promises as these cheered and sustained me in doing
what I could for my own motherless children, and more and more
cemented my affections on the children of others, and, finally,
enabled me to mature my plans, and gave me strength and courage to
carry them out, first in the villages and places near London, and,
ultimately, single-handed and alone, through more than a quarter of
a century, in many of the chief cities, towns, and villages of the
United Kingdom. Simply to state this fact is all that is requisite
here to answer my present purpose, and to enlarge more upon it is
needless, as a full detail of the whole career is given in my "Early
Discipline Illustrated; or, the Infant System Progressing and
Successful," third edition, published in 1840, and to which much
more would require adding to bring it down to the present time, if a
further edition should be called for.

That prejudice should assail me, and objections be started as I came
more out into the world, was to be expected. I knew my own intentions,
but the world did not, and I came in for a full share of obloquy and
persecution. This did me much good, and was a preparatory discipline,
to make me careless of the opinion of mankind in the matter, so long
as I felt that I was in the right, and had the approval of my own
conscience. The more I was opposed, the more were my energies lighted
up and strengthened; opposition always sharpened my faculties, instead
of overcoming and depressing me. The whole gradually prospered from
the first, under every disadvantage and notwithstanding the strenuous
efforts of the short-sighted and bigoted. These things laid my first
patrons prostrate, and the Society of great names which followed, was
soon dissolved. Every effort was made by the enemies of true training
and education, to crush the thing in the bud, and not only the thing,
but also the man who developed it and worked it out. Thank God, these
inimical aims did not succeed. Though worldly patrons failed, I had
one Patron who never deserted me, but Who upheld and encouraged me
from first to last, until the end was gained. Not, however, all that
was aimed at, but much of it, and the rest will follow or I am greatly
mistaken. I have in various places seen things that I earnestly
contended for, but which were rejected at the time, at length
established and their value seen. Look at the schools in existence
now, bad as some of them are, and compare them with those which
existed a third of a century ago, and it will be found that they have
progressed, and it may safely be anticipated that they will still
further progress, for there is much need of it. The system pourtrayed
in this book is intended to act on all the faculties of a child,
especially the highest, and to strengthen them at the time the mere
animal part of his nature is weak. The existing schools were not found
fit to take our children when they left us. The dull, monotonous,
sleepy, heavy system pursued, was quite unadapted to advance such
pupils. At this point of the history much damage was done to our
plans. The essence or kernel was omitted and the mere shell retained,
to make infant schools harmonise with the existing ones, instead of
the contrary. There were and are however two great exceptions to
this rule. The Model Schools at Dublin under the Government Board of
Education, and the Glasgow Training Schools for Scotland. At Dublin
all is progression. The infant department is the best in Europe,--I
believe the best in the world. The other departments are equally good
in most things, and are well managed, as far as regards a good secular
education being given, and better I think than any similar institution
in England. At Glasgow the same master whom I taught still exists. I
have not seen the schools for many years, but I hear from those who
have been trained there, that nothing can work better. The Glasgow
Committee, with Mr. Stow at their head, deserve the thanks of the
whole community for having applied the principles on which the Infant
School System is based, to juveniles, and carried out and proved the
practicability of it for the public good. I told them this in lectures
at Glasgow long ago, and exhibited before them children to prove the
truths I promulgated, both there and in other parts of Scotland,
to convince a doubting and cautious public that my views were
practicable. I may add, in passing, that I found the Scotch took
nothing on trust. They would listen to my lectures, but it always
ended in my being obliged to prove it with children. To David Stow
much credit is due, for having written useful books and performed
useful works. I am not the man to deprive him of this his just due,
but I have such faith in the honour of his countrymen in general, that
I believe the time is not far distant when some one of them will give
to me that credit which is fairly and justly due to me with respect to
the educational movements in Scotland. No class of men are better able
to appreciate and understand the principles on which a system of true
education should be based than Scotchmen, and hence, though cautious
in taking up new things, or new views of things, they can do justice
to, and appreciate, that which is worthy of their attention.

At the time I have been speaking of there were no lessons published
suitable for us. I searched the print shops in the metropolis, and
with the aid of drawings from friends, supplied this deficiency. Next
I had suitable lessons printed to accompany them, and also spelling
lessons of such words as could be _acted_ and _explained_. Then
followed suitable reading lessons, prints of objects, and the simple
forms of geometry. When a demand was created for all these, the
publishing trade took them up, and thus the numerous excellent plates
and lessons now published for the purposes of teaching, had their
first origin.

I ant thoroughly convinced that the first seven years of a child's
life is the _golden period_, and if I can induce mankind generally to
think with me, and to act on the principles humbly laid open in the
succeeding chapters of this book, I may feel some consolation that I
have not lived in vain. Sure I am that if the world will only give
man a fair chance, and train him from the beginning with care, with
prudence, with caution, with circumspection, with freedom, and above
all with _love_, he will bear such fruit, under the blessing of God,
as will make even this world as a paradise. From childhood up to age
has this truth been perfecting and strengthening in me, and I have no
more doubt that it is a truth, than I have of my own existence. Who
can look upon a child without admiring it, without loving it? With
my feelings it is impossible! When I compare the Revealed Will of
God,--the Scriptures, with His other Great Book, the book of nature,
which I read so early in life, and read with delight to this present
hour, I see the one illustrates the other. I see that the _best_
ground produces the _rankest weeds_--but not if cultivated. What does
not care do for all things in nature, why not then for man? Let him
run wild through neglect, and undoubtedly he produces weeds; but this,
to my mind, is an argument in his favour, and shews the ground is
capable of producing rich fruits. When we study the true nature of his
mind, with the same assiduity as we now do study the nature of his
body, then will mankind see it in this light, begin at the right
end, and cultivate from the first the beautiful faculties of his
own species. I say beautiful! and are not the budding faculties of
childhood both beautiful and lovely? "Feed my lambs," saith the Lord
Jesus. But, reader, are they all duly fed in this rich, wealthy,
and christian country? How many, on the contrary, are fed with evil
influences, street associations, and are thus poisoned at every pore,
until their being is thoroughly contaminated through neglect, public
and private, and, when not orphans, even parental neglect also; and
then after having increased our county rates, enlarged our prisons,
and built union workhouses (with respect to morals and training for
the young, I say pest-houses) we add ragged schools. We allow them to
become contaminated, and when that is accomplished, we go to work to
undo what has been done. If this does not succeed we punish by law the
poor neglected beings for taking the poisons we really offered them!
Oh, rare consistency in this boasted age of light, and science, and
learning! Let us, therefore, first seek an education worthy of the
name, and then find the best means of carrying it out. What exists at
present is fundamentally defective, especially by beginning too late,
and as regards the plans and principles laid down for infants in many
cases, much has been merely travestied, and many of the most essential
parts entirely set aside or overlooked.

The amount of solid information that may be given to an infant by a
wise and judicious mother, during the first two years only, would
appear to many persons astonishing. I have as clear a recollection of
what my mother taught me at two years old, as I have of that which she
taught me at the age of six. The facts crowd upon me so fast that
I scarcely know where to stop. Those lessons were the germs of the
inventions and babyisms--the hand-clapping, arm-twisting, and the
like--with which the infants are so delighted in their schools, and
which, at the time they were developed, about a third of a century
since, were scouted, and the inventor looked upon as a good natured
simpleton, or a well-meaning fool. I have a rather vivid recollection
of this fact, but in the end, as we proceeded, many who came to sneer,
went away with very different feelings. The plans were for infants,
for infants they answered well, but I wish I could say that no
excresences had grown upon them.

Now the ends to be answered in Infant Education, as intended by me,
are as follows. First, to feed the child's faculties with suitable
food; Second,--to simplify and explain everything, so as to adapt it
properly to those faculties; Third, not to overdo anything, either by
giving too much instruction, or instruction beyond their years, and
thus over-excite the brain, and injure the faculties; and, Fourth,
ever to blend both exercise and amusement with instruction at due
intervals, which is readily effected by a moderate amount of singing,
alternating with the usual motions and evolutions in the schoolroom,
and the unfettered freedom of the play-ground. If these rules be
attended to, the following results are certain,--a higher state of
physical, mental, and moral health. Physical health is essential to
mental vigour if it is to come to manhood. If the physical, mental,
moral, and spiritual constitution be properly acted upon, fed, and
trained, it adds to the happiness of the child; but if this is
not done, it becomes miserable, and as a consequence restless,
troublesome, and mischievous. Such facts were made very evident to me
by the infants under my care in the earlier part of my career, and
also have been fully confirmed throughout it, and they have forced
me as it were to that more lively, interesting, and amusing mode of
instruction, which I have through life endeavoured to propagate.
I found children to be highly delighted with pictures and
object-lessons; hence their value and high importance is so strongly
insisted on in all my books, and the best methods of using them
distinctly laid down. The trouble of rightly using such lessons has
caused them to be almost entirely laid aside in very many existing
infant schools, and in too many instances the mere learning and
repeating of sounds by rote, or what may very properly be called the
"parrot system," has been introduced in their place. But I yet hope
that the good sense of the public will in the end remedy such defects.
In such cases the memory is the only faculty exercised, and that at
the expense of those that are higher. Where this is persisted in, the
infant system is rendered nugatory, and my labours are in vain. It
therefore cannot be too strongly insisted on, and too frequently
repeated, that one of its most fundamental principles, as regards the
unfolding, properly and easily, of the intellectual faculties, is to
communicate _notions_ and _ideas_ rather than words and sounds, or at
least to let them be done together.

As before stated, the gallery had its origin in my desire to teach the
children simultaneously. It enables a teacher more readily to secure
their full attention in all oral lessons, and establishes a sympathy
between them. More real facts may be taught children simultaneously by
the master, than can be taught by all the monitors in a school. The
little infants should always sit at the bottom, and by no means be
confined to another room. They can see and hear all that is going on,
and understand it far more than you would suppose, though they cannot
yet tell all they learn and know; but when the power of speech comes,
they will surprise you with what they have learned. It is therefore a
great error to separate children and cut them off from the advantage
of all object-lessons, and gallery-teaching, because they are the
youngest. They learn more through sympathy and communion with their
five or six year elders, than the most clever adult can teach them. An
infant-school, is, in many respects, a community in a state of nature.
What one does, the other almost involuntarily learns. The merest
infants are not an exception to this rule, and therefore the
separation in many infant-schools of the children, invariably into
two classes, sometimes in two rooms, is a great mistake, and can only
arise from ignorance of the laws under which the young mind
unfolds itself, and a misunderstanding of the first principles of

Perhaps one reason that infant-school teaching has not been kept up to
its proper point and true standing, is, the desire to make a striking
shew before the visitors in a school. I fear the grounds for this
opinion are not slight. Perhaps nothing has lead more to the
multiplication of singing, even to the injury of the children. The
ease with which they learn a metrical piece by _rote_, and the
readiness with which they acquire a tune to it, is surprising, and as
the exhibition of such attainments forms a striking sinew, in many
cases little else is taught them. But to a sensible and thinking mind,
one single piece _understood_, that is, one where clear ideas are
annexed to the words in the minds of the children, is worth a hundred
where this is not the case. Intellectual improvement, and moral
training, are not thus easily exhibited, especially, the latter; but
on dilligent attention to these, the real and permanent utility of the
schools depends.

Many things have been taught most unsuitable for young children, and
that simplicity which is so absolutely requisite, both as regards
matter and language, seriously departed from. Let but the great
principle of teaching through the senses be borne distinctly in mind,
and of giving ideas in preference to sounds, and it will have a strong
tendency to put an end to the evil complained of. How much may
be taught by the simplest object, such as a stone?
Form--weight--hardness, colour, sound, and numerous other qualities
and properties, all of which must be clearly understood, because they
are demonstrated by the sight and other senses. Once give to the mind
a store of clear ideas in regular and natural order, and a series of
words that are distinct and definite in meaning, and you have laid a
firm foundation whereon to exercise the higher faculties of reflection
and reasoning. Still more is it of paramount importance to educate and
bring out the moral faculties, to cultivate the sense of right and
wrong, to enlighten and strengthen the young conscience, to teach the
love of good, and the hatred of evil, and to strive to bring the whole
being under the new commandment of Christ, "that ye love one another."
The golden rule, "to do unto others as ye would that they should do
unto you," is one of the most powerful precepts that can be applied to
awaken just moral feelings; and innumerable instances must occur,
in the varied events which happen in a school, to bring it home
powerfully to the heart, and illustrate it appropriately.

Perhaps in nothing has that simplicity of teaching so requisite for
the young, and so earnestly contended for by me throughout, been
so much disregarded, neglected, and preverted as in the matter of
religion. I taught from the first, by means of pictures properly
selected, scriptural truths and facts, histories and parables; and
also suitable texts, and simple hymns and prayers were added. This
surely was enough for _infants_. I thought so then, and I think so
still, for an overdoing always ends in an undoing, and the mind of a
child should never be crammed with that which it cannot understand, to
the neglect of that which it may. I have opened schools for many sects
and parties, and have been sorry to find them so prone to bind the
"grevious burdens" of their own peculiar dogmas on the feeble minds of
little children, to the neglect of the "weightier matters of the law,
justice, mercy, and the love of God." I hope a time will come when the
distinct precepts of Christ, in this respect, will be more faithfully
regarded. The religion for infants should be a simple trust in "the
love and kindness of God our Saviour," a desire of grace and strength
from Him, and an aim to live thereby in love and duty to their parents
and teachers, and in kindness and affection with their brothers,
sisters, and schoolfellows. Such things as these, their young
minds may apprehend, feel, and apply, and thus be strengthened and
benefitted, but scholastic subtelties, and controverted dogmas, such
as the grey-headed are perpetually disputing about, surely should
never be taught to infants by any one who has carefully considered the
subject, and properly studied the nature of the infant mind.

In all probability advancing years will prevent me in future from
personally labouring much in the cause, and from personally overcoming
objections, by presenting publicly, facts that cannot be refuted. It
is out of my power now to employ agents and pay them. I cannot
take infants by sea and land to convince unbelievers, and silence
gainsayers. Neither circumstances nor remaining strength, will allow
me to repeat these things. I must trust then to my pen, to the
thinkers amongst us, and above all to the good Providence of God, for
further success in behalf of the rising generation. Those who doubt
what I assert about children should recollect one fact--twenty-seven
thousand have passed through my hands, and were for a short time under
my training, and have then been examined by me to convince a doubting
public, on the spot where they happened to be in each town and
country, all this for the period of one-third of a century. Ought not
this to entitle me, as respects the education of children, to say such
a thing is right, or even such a thing is wrong? The abuse of a plan
is no argument against its use. That it has been abused I am well
aware,--that the _parrot-system_ has been revived and also applied in
infant-schools. It was never intended to injure the young brain by
over-exciting it, or to fill the memory with useless rubbish; yet this
is done. I cannot help it. I have done and will do my best to prevent
such a violation of the very first principles of infant teaching. To
conclude, there is much to be thankful for! Since the infant-system
was evolved, a very great improvement has taken place in the character
of school-books, and also in prints. The graphic illustrations and the
simplicity of style, on a variety of subjects, is admirable. The same
may be said with respect to nursery books; I see a great improvement
in all these. This is comforting to one situated as I am, and leads me
to hope much from the future. I trust the intellectual character of
the age will advance, and not only the intellectual but also the moral
and spiritual, and "that truth and justice, religion and piety may be
established amongst us for all generations."



_Teachers of theft--Children the dupes of the profligate--An effort
at detection--Affecting cases of early depravity--Progress of a young
delinquent--Children employed in theft by their parents--Ingenuity of
juvenile thieves--Results of an early tuition in crime--The juvenile
thief incorrigible--Facility of disposing of stolen property--A
hardened child--Parents robbed by their children--A youthful
suicide--A youthful murderer_.

* * * * *

"An uneducated, unemployed poor, not only must be liable to fall into
a variety of temptations, but they will, at times, unavoidably prove
restless, dissatisfied, perverse, and seditious: nor is this all, even
their most useful and valuable qualities, for want of regular and
good habits, and a proper bias and direction from early religious
instruction, frequently became dangerous and hurtful to society;
their patience degenerates into sullenness, their perseverance into
obstinacy, their strength and courage into brutal ferocity."--_The
Bishop of Norwich_.

* * * * *

It has long been a subject of regret as well as of astonishment to
the reflecting and benevolent, that notwithstanding the numerous
institutions which exist in this country for the education and
improvement of the poor, and in defiance of the endeavours of our
magistracy and police establishment, crime should rather increase than
diminish. Many persons have been induced to conclude from this fact
that our Sunday, parochial, and national schools, as well as our Bible
Societies, and institutions of a similar nature, are of little or no
use. Absurd as the inference is, I have known more than one or two
persons draw it; not considering, that although these means may be
insufficient to counteract the cause of crime, or to prevent all
its evil effects, yet, nevertheless, they must certainly check
its progress;--that if there be many offenders, despite of these
institutions, there would, doubtless, be many more were they not in
existence; and hence to revile or neglect them is unworthy of good
sense or good feeling.

It is not my purpose in the present chapter to dwell on the commission
of crime generally, but on juvenile delinquency in particular; and
on this only so far as regards the case of young children. I will,
therefore, make public a collection of facts, some of which were
obtained at considerable personal hazard and inconvenience, which will
place it in a clear yet painful light.

It is said, that in the year 1819, the number of boys, in London
alone, who procured a considerable part of their subsistence by
pocket-picking and thieving in every possible form, was estimated at
from eleven to fifteen hundred. One man who lived in Wentworth-Street,
near Spitalfields, had forty boys in training to steal and pick
pockets, who were paid for their exertions with a part of the plunder;
fortunately, however, for the public, this notable tutor of thieves
was himself convicted of theft, and transported. This system of
tutorage is by no means uncommon, nor is it confined to the male sex.
I remember reading some time back, in the police reports, of a woman
who had entrapped _eight or ten children_ from their parents, had
trained them up, and sent them out thieving; nor was it until one of
these infantile depredators was taken in the act of stealing, that
this was made known, and the children restored to their homes. Here we
see eight or ten children, probably from the neglect of their parents,
enticed away, no doubt by the promise of a few cakes, or of some other
trifling reward, and in imminent danger of becoming confirmed thieves,
from which they were rescued by this providential discovery of their
situation; and we know not how many children may have been led to evil
practices in like manner.

I will give another instance which occurred at the office at Queen
Square.--A female, apparently no more than nineteen years of age,
named Jane Smith, and a child just turned of five years old, named
Mary Ann Ranniford, were put to the bar, before Edward Markland,
Esq., the magistrate, charged with circulating counterfeit coin in
Westminster and the county of Surrey, to a vast extent.

It appeared that the elder prisoner had long been known to be a common
utterer of base coin, in which she dealt very largely with those
individuals who are agents in London to the manufacturers of the
spurious commodity in Birmingham. She had been once or twice before
charged with the offence, and therefore she became so notorious that
she was necessitated to leave off putting the bad money away herself;
but so determined was she to keep up the traffic, that she was in the
habit of employing children of tender years to pass the counterfeit
money. On one occasion two Bow Street officers observed her at her old
trade, in company with the child Ranniford. The officers kept a strict
eye upon her movements, and saw her several times pass something to
the little girl; and she, by the direction of her instructor, went
into different shops (such as hosiers, where she purchased balls of
worsted, pastry-cooks, tobacconists, and fruiterers), where she passed
the bad money, and received in return goods and change. On the other
side of the bridge, the patroles saw the prisoner Smith deliver
something to the child, and point out the shop of Mr. Isaacs, a
fruiterer, in Bridge Street, Westminster. The child went in, and asked
for a juicy lemon, and gave a counterfeit shilling in payment. Mrs.
Isaacs had no suspicion from the tender age of the utterer, and its
respectable appearance, that the money was bad, and was about to give
change, when one of the officers entered, and took the deluded child
into custody, whilst his companion secured the elder prisoner (Smith),
and on searching her pockets he found twelve bad shillings, some
parcels of snuff, several balls of cotton and worsted, and other
trifling articles, which the child had purchased in the course of the
day. The officers who had secured them, learned from the child that
her parents lived in Cross Street, East Lane, Walworth, and that Smith
had taken her out for a walk. The patrol instantly communicated the
circumstance to the child's parents, who were hard-working honest
people, and their feelings on hearing that their infant had been
seduced into the commission of such a crime, can be more easily
conceived than described. They stated that the woman Smith had
formerly lived in the same street, and was frequently giving
half-pence and cakes to the child, who would, in consequence, follow
her anywhere. Some time since, she removed to Lock's Square, Lock's
Fields, and they (the parents) had not seen her for some time. On the
day referred to the child was playing in the street, and not finding
her come home they became alarmed, and went everywhere, broken
hearted, in quest of her, but they could hear no tidings of her till
the sad news was brought them by the officers. The poor mother was now
in attendance, and her feelings were dreadfully affected, and excited
the commiseration of all present.

The prisoner Smith made no defence, and held her head down during
the examination. The child stood by her, and took no notice of the
proceedings, and they were both fully committed for trial. The mother,
on seeing her infant consigned to prison, became quite frantic, and
wept hysterically, and had it it not been for the gaoler, she would
have inflicted some violence upon the woman Smith, for seducing her

Facts of this kind are sufficient to shew the utility, indeed I may
say, the most absolute necessity of providing some means, far, very
far more efficient than those at present in existence, for the
protection and improvement of the infant poor; that they may not thus
fall into the hands of evil and designing wretches, who make a living
by encouraging the children of the poor to commit crimes, of the
produce of which they themselves take the greatest part.

The younger the children are, the better they suit the purposes of
such miscreants; because, if children are detected in any dishonest
act, they know well, that few persons will do more than give the child
or children a tap on the head, and send them about their business. The
tenth part of the crimes committed by these juvenile offenders never
comes under public view, because should any person be robbed by a
child, and detect him in the act, he is silenced by the by-standers
with this remark,--Oh! he is but a child, let him go this time,
perhaps the poor thing has done it from necessity, being in want of
bread. Thus the delinquent is almost sure to escape, and, instead of
being punished, is not unfrequently rewarded for the adventure, as was
the case in the following instance.

Having had occasion to walk through Shoreditch some time since, I saw
a number of persons collected together round a little boy, who, it
appeared, had stolen a brass weight from the shop of a grocer. The
shopman stated that three boys came into the shop for half-an-ounce of
candied horehound, and that while he was getting down the glass which
contained it, one of them contrived to purloin the weight in question.
Having some suspicion of the boys, from the circumstance of having
recently lost a number of brass weights, he kept his eyes on them,
when he saw one put his hand into a box that was on the counter, take
out the largest weight, and then run out of the shop, followed by the
other two. The boy who stole it, slipped the weight into the hand of
one of the others; but the shopman, having observed this manoeuvre,
followed the boy who had the weight, who, being the youngest of the
three, could not run very fast; he, finding himself closely pursued,
threw the weight into the road, and when he was taken, declared that
it was not he who took it. The man wished to take the child back to
the shop, in order that his master might do with him as he thought
proper, but the by-standers, with a charitable _zeal_ which evinced
little _knowledge_, prevented him; one man in particular seemed to
interest himself much in the boy's behalf, stating that he knew the
child very well, and that he had neither father nor mother. The child
immediately took up this plea, and added that he had had no victuals
all day. The individual before mentioned then gave him a penny, and
his example was followed by many more, till I think the boy had
obtained nearly a shilling. I put several questions to him, but was
checked by this fellow, who told me, that as I had given the child
nothing, I had no right to ask so much? and, after a great deal of
abuse, he ended by telling me, that if I did not "take myself off" he
would "give me something for myself."

Feeling, however, a great desire to sift further into the matter, I
feigned to withdraw, but kept my eye upon the boy, and followed him
for nearly two hours, until I saw him join two other boys, one of whom
I had not seen before, and who had a bag with something very heavy in
it, which, I have every reason to believe, were weights, or something
which they had obtained in a similar manner. Wishing to ascertain the
fact, I approached them, but they no sooner perceived me, than the
little fellow who had been the principal actor in the affair, called
out "_Nose, Nose_,"--a signal-word, no doubt, agreed upon amongst
them,--when they all ran down some obscure alleys. I followed, but
was knocked down, as if by accident, by two ill-looking fellows, who
continued to detain me with apologies till the boys had got safely
away. I have little doubt that this was an instance of that organized
system of depredation of which I have before spoken, and that the
man who took so active a part at the first, was at the bottom of
the business; and, in fact, the tutor and employer of the predatory
urchins. His activity in preventing the boy from being taken back to
the shop--his anxiety to promote a subscription for the boy,--and,
lastly, his threat of personal violence if I interfered in the matter,
by continuing to question the child,--all these circumstances confirm
me in the opinion.

It is only by the knowledge of this fact--the association of infant
offenders with those of maturer and hardened habits--that we can
account for such cases as the following.--On the 17th of July, 1823,
a child _only seven years old_, was brought before the magistrate at
Lambeth Street office, charged with frequently robbing his mother,
and was ordered to be locked up all night in the gaol-room. In the
evening, however, when his mother returned, he forced his way out of
the room, and behaved with such violence that the attendants were
obliged to iron both his hands and legs! There can be no doubt that
this child had been for a long time under the instruction and evil
influence of some old and hardened offender; he must, indeed, have
undergone much training before he could have arrived at such a pitch
of hardihood, as to make it necessary to handcuff and fetter a child
of so tender an age; and to enable him to hold even the magistrates,
officers, and his own parent, at defiance.

The following cases afford further proof of the same lamentable truth;
the first is extracted from a morning paper of the 20th of September,
1824. "A little boy, not more than _six years of age_, was brought
before the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House, on Saturday, the 18th
instant, having been found in a warehouse, where he had secreted
himself for the purpose of thieving. At a late hour on Friday night,
a watchman was going his round, when, on trying a warehouse in which
there was much valuable property, to see whether it was safe, he heard
the little prisoner cry. The persons who had the care of the warehouse
were roused, and he was taken out. In his fright he acknowledged that
a man had taken him from his mother, and induced him, upon a promise
of reward, to steal into the warehouse; upon a concerted signal, he
was to act as directed by the fellow on the outside; but becoming
terrified at being confined so long in the dark, he had cried out
and discovered himself. His mother came forward, and received a good
character as the wife of a hard-working man. The Lord Mayor gave her
son up to her, with an injunction to act carefully and strictly with
him. There was reason to believe, he said, that several considerable
robberies had been recently committed by means of children like the
prisoner, who stole in and remained concealed until midnight, when
they gave admission to the robbers. The police should have their eyes
upon him."

The other instance is from a report of one of the sessions in

"William Hart, an urchin _seven years of age_, was indicted for
stealing twenty-two shillings in money, numbered, from the person of
Mary Conner. The prosecutrix stated, that on the day named in the
indictment, she took twenty-five shillings to get something out of
pledge, but as there was a crowd in Mary-le-bone, assembled to witness
a fight, she was induced to join the mob. While standing there she
felt something move in her pocket, and putting her hand outside her
clothes, she laid hold of what proved to be the hand of the prisoner,
which she held until she had given him a slap on the face, and then
she let him go; but on feeling in her pocket she discovered that the
theft had actually been committed, and that only three shillings were
left. A constable took the urchin into custody, and accused him of
robbing her of twenty-two shillings. The prisoner said, 'I have
twenty-two shillings in my pocket, but it is my mother's money; she
gets so drunk she gives me her money to take care of.' The officer
stated to the same effect as the prosecutrix, and added, that _in a
secret pocket in his jacket he found fourteen shilling and sixpence.
It was the practice of gangs of pickpockets to have a child like this
to commit the robbery, and hand the plunder to them_. Witness went to
his parents, who said he had been absent seven weeks, and they would
have nothing to do with him. Mr. Baron Garrow, in feeling terms,
lamented that a child of such tender years should be so depraved. He
added, 'I suppose, gentlemen, I need only to ask you to deliver your
verdict.' His lordship then observed, that he would consult with his
learned brother as to the best manner of disposing of the prisoner.
They at length decided, that although it might seem harsh, the court
would record against him fourteen years' transportation, and, no
doubt, government would place him in some school; if he behaved well
there, the sentence might not be carried into full effect."

I remember a query being once put to me by a person who visited the
Spitalfields Infant School at the time it was under my management:
"How can you account for the fact, that notwithstanding there are so
many old and experienced thieves detected, convicted, and sent out of
the country every session, we cannot perceive any dimunition of the
numbers of such characters; but that others seem always to supply
their places?" The foregoing instance of the systematized instruction
of young delinquents by old adepts in the art of pilfering, affords, I
think, a satisfactory answer the interrogatory.

The dexterity of experienced thieves shews, that no small degree of
care and attention is bestowed on their tuition. The first task of
novices, I have been informed, is to go in companies of threes or
fours, through the respectable streets and squares of the metropolis,
and with an old knife, or a similar instrument, to wrench off the
brass-work usually placed over the key-holes of the area-gates, &c.,
which they sell at the marine store-shops; and they are said sometimes
to realize three or four shillings a day, by this means. Wishing to
be satisfied on the point, I have walked round many of the squares in
town, and in more than a solitary experiment, have found that _not one
gate in ten_ had any brass-work over the key-hole; it had moreover
been evidently wrenched off,--a small piece of the brass still
remaining on many of the gates. Having practised this branch of the
profession a considerable time, and become adepts in its execution,
the next step, I have been informed, is to steal the handles and brass
knockers from doors, which is done by taking out the screw with a
small screw-driver: these are disposed of in the same manner as the
former things, till the young pilferers are progressively qualified
for stealing brass weights, &c., and at length, become expert thieves.

The following fact will shew what extensive depredations young
children are capable of committing. I have inserted the whole as
it appeared in the public papers:--"_Union Hall_; _Shop
Lifting_.--Yesterday, two little girls, sisters, very neatly dressed,
_one nine_, and the _other seven, years of age_, were put to the bar,
charged by Mr. Cornell, linen-draper, of High Street, Newington; with
having stolen a piece of printed calico, from the corner of his shop.

"Mr. Cornell stated, that the children came to his shop, yesterday
morning; and while he was engaged with his customers at the further
end of the shop, he happened to cast his eyes where the prisoners
were, and observed the oldest roll up a large piece of printed calico,
and put it into a basket, which her little sister carried: the witness
immediately advanced to her, and asked if she had taken any thing
from off the counter; but she positively asserted that she had not.
However, on searching her basket, the calico was found; together with
a piece of muslin, which Mr. Cornell identified as belonging to him,
and to have been taken in the above way. Mr. Allen questioned the
eldest girl about the robbery, but she positively denied any knowledge
as to how, or in what manner, the calico and muslin had got into her
basket, frequently appealing to her little sister to confirm the truth
of what she declared. When asked if she had ever been charged with any
offence, she replied, 'O yes, sir, some time back I was accused of
stealing a watch from a house, but I did not do it.' The magistrate
observed, that the father should be made acquainted with the
circumstance, and, in the mean time, gave the gaoler instructions that
the two little delinquents should be taken care of.

"Hall, the officer, stated that he had information that there was a
quantity of goods, which had been stolen by the prisoners, concealed
in a certain desk in the house of the father; and that a great deal of
stolen property would, in all probability, be found there, if a search
warrant were granted, as the two unfortunate children were believed to
be most extensive depredators.

"Mr. Allen immediately granted the warrant; and Hall, accompanied by
Mr. Cornell, proceeded to the residence of the father of the children,
who is an auctioneer and appraiser, at 12, Lyon Street, Newington.

"Hall returned in half an hour with the father in his custody, and
produced a great quantity of black silk handkerchiefs, which he had
found on the premises; but the desk, which had been spoken of by his
informers as containing stolen property, he had found quite empty.
The father, when questioned by the witness as to whether he had any
duplicates of property in his possession, positively denied that fact.
At the office he was searched, and about fifty duplicates were found
in his pockets, most of which were for silk handkerchiefs and shawls.
There were also a few rings, for the possession of which the prisoner
could not satisfactorily account. He was asked why he had assured the
officer he had no duplicates? He replied, that he had not said so;
but Mr. Cornell, who was present during the search, averred that the
prisoner had most positively declared that he had not a pawnbroker's
duplicate in his possession.

"Mr. Watt, a linen-draper, of Harper Street, Kent Road, stated that
he attended in consequence of seeing the police reports in the
newspapers, describing the two children; he immediately recognised the
two little girls as having frequently called at his shop for trifling
articles; and added, that he had been robbed of a variety of silk
handkerchiefs and shawls, and he had no doubt but that the prisoners
were the thieves. It was their practice, he said, to go into a shop,
and call for a quarter of a yard of muslin, and while the shopkeeper
was engaged, the eldest would very dexterously slip whatever article
was nearest, to her little sister, who was trained to the business,
and would thrust the stolen property into a basket which she always
carried for that purpose. Mr. Watt identified the silk handkerchiefs
as his property, and said that they had been stolen in the above
manner by the prisoners.

"The father was asked where he had got the handkerchiefs? He replied,
that he had bought them from a pedlar for half-a-crown a piece at his
door. However, his eldest daughter contradicted him by acknowledging
that her sister had stolen them from the shop of Mr. Watt. He became
dreadfully agitated, and then said--'What could I say? Surely I was
not to criminate my own children!'

"Mr. Allen observed, that there was a clear case against the two
children, but after consulting with the other magistrates, he was of
opinion that the youngest child should be given up into the charge of
the parish officers of Newington, as she was too young to go into a
prison, and desired that the other girl should be remanded, in order
to have some of the pledged goods produced. The father was committed
in default of bail for receiving stolen goods. The child has since
been found guilty. The prosecutor stated that the family consisted of
five children, _not one of whom could read or write_!"

Another very cruel practice of these young delinquents is, to go
into some chandlers shop as slily as possible, and take the first
opportunity of stealing the till with its contents, there being always
some older thief ready to take charge of it, as soon as the child
removes it from the shop.[A] Many a poor woman has had to lament
the loss of her till, with its contents, taken by a child, perhaps,
scarcely six years of age. There is always a plan laid down for the
child to act upon. Should he be unable to obtain possession of the
till himself, he is instructed to pretend that he has missed his way,
and to inquire for some street near the spot; or, he will address
her with, "Please, ma'am, can you tell me what it is o'clock?" The
unsuspecting woman, with the greatest kindness possible, shews the
child the street he inquires for, or leaves the shop to ascertain the
hour, and for her civility, she is sure to find herself robbed, when
she returns, by some of the child's companions. Should he be detected
in actual possession of the property, he is instructed to act his part
in the most artful manner, by pretending that some man sent him into
the shop to take it, who told him that he would give him sixpence to
buy cakes.

[Footnote A: So complete is the science of pilfering rendered by its
perpetrators, that they have even a peculiar vocabulary of their own,
rendering their conversation, to those who may chance to overhear
them, as mysterious and incomprehensible as though they were
conversing in a foreign tongue; for instance, the scutcheons they
steal from the key holes are called _porcupines_; brass weights,
_lueys_; while purloining the contents of a till, is called _taking
the ding_. In short, they have a peculiar name for almost every

It is not uncommon for these young offenders to stop children, whom
they may meet in the street unprotected, and either by artifice or
violence, take from them their hats, necklaces, &c., thus initiating
themselves, as it were, into the desperate crime of assault and
highway robbery.

Young as the subjects of the foregoing narrations mostly were, I have
little doubt their pupilage commenced at a much earlier age; they
could not otherwise have attained so much proficiency in the practice
of crime, and hardihood on detection. However possible it maybe
thought to reclaim children of so tender an age, I am convinced that
thieves of more advanced years become so thoroughly perverted in
their wills and understandings, as to be incapable of perceiving the
disgrace of their conduct, or the enormity of the offence. I was once
told by an old thief that thieving was his profession, and he had
therefore a right to follow it; and I could plainly discover from
further conversation with him, that he had established in himself an
opinion that thieving was no harm, provided he used no violence to
the person; he seemed, indeed, to have no other idea of the rights of
property, than that described as the maxim of a celebrated Scottish

"They should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can."

When this most lamentable state is reached, it is to be feared all
modes of punishment, as correctives, are useless; and the only thing
left is to prevent further depredation by banishment.

The incorrigibility which a child may attain, who has once associated
with thieves at an early age, is apparent from the following fact.
"Richard Leworthy, aged fourteen, was indicted for stealing five
sovereigns, the property of William Newling, his master. The
prosecutor stated, that he resided in the Commercial Road, and is
by business a tailor; the prisoner had been his apprentice for four
months, up to the 28th of August, when he committed the robbery. On
that day he gave him five pounds to take to Mr. Wells, of Bishopsgate
Street, to discharge a bill; he never went, nor did he return home; he
did not hear of him for three weeks, when he found him at Windsor, and
apprehended him. The prisoner admitted having applied the money to his
own use. He was found at a public house, and said he had spent all his
money except one shilling and six pence. A shopman in the service of
Mr. Wells, stated that in August last the witness owed his master a
sum of money; he knew the prisoner; he did not bring money to their
shop, either on or since the 28th of August. The prisoner made no
defence, but called his master, who said he received him from the
Refuge for the Destitute, and had a good character with him. He would
not take him back again. Mr. Wontner stated, that he had received
two communications from the Rev. Mr. Crosby, the chaplain of the
institution, stating they would not interfere on his behalf. The jury
returned a verdict of _guilty_. Mr. Justice Park observed, that the
best course would be to send him out of the country."

Here we see, that notwithstanding the discipline he had undergone,
and the instructions he had received during his confinement in the
establishment of the Refuge for the Destitute, he had not been more
than four months from that place before he fell into his old habits.
It is moreover to be remarked, that such had been his conduct during
his confinement, that the directors of the establishment thought
themselves war ranted in giving a good character with him. They were
probably little surprised on hearing of this relapse on the part of
the boy,--experience had doubtless taught them it was no uncommon
thing, and we plainly see they were convinced that all further
attempts at reclaiming him were useless.

The facility with which property maybe disposed of, should be
mentioned as a powerful inducement to crime. The following case
suggests it to the mind:

Thomas Jackson, a mere child, not more than nine years of age, was
charged some time ago at the Town Hall, with committing a burglary
on the premises of Mr. James Whitelock, a master builder, Griffith's
Rents, St. Thomas's, Southwark. Mr. Whitelock, it appears, resided
in an old mansion, formerly an inn, which he had divided into two
separate tenements, occupying one part himself, and letting the other
to the parents of the prisoner. In this division he had deposited
building materials to a considerable amount, one hundred weight of
which, in iron holdfasts, hinges, nails, clamps, &c., he missed one
day on entering the room, the door of which had been blocked by a
large copper, and the partition door forced. The character of the
prisoner being of the worst description, he was apprehended, when
he confessed he had taken all the property, and disposed of it to a
woman, named Priscilla Fletcher, the keeper of a marine store, 34,
James Street. The receiver, who is _the last of the family that has
not been either hanged or transported_, refused to swear to the
prisoner, though she admitted she believed he was the person she
bought the property produced from, at the rate of one penny for each
three pounds. It was proved to be worth three half-pence per pound.
Alderman J.J. Smith regretted that the deficiency of evidence
prevented him sending the young delinquent for trial, and thereby
rescuing him from an ignominious death, and told Mrs. Priscilla, who
was all modesty, that he was convinced she had perjured herself,--and
not to exult at her own escape from transportation, a reward he could
not help considering she richly merited, and which in due season she
would doubtless receive.

The hardened child laughed during the hearing, and on being sentenced,
by the oath of the officers, as a reputed thief, spit at his accuser,
and exclaimed, as he was taken from the bar to be conveyed to
Brixton,--"Is this all? I'll torment you yet!"

To add one more case, I may state that, at the Exeter Sessions, some
time since, two children were convicted, who, it is believed, were not
above ten years of age. Previously to this they had been convicted of
felony, and had suffered six months imprisonment at Bodmin; and it
appears that two years before, they started alone from Bristol on this
circuit of youthful depredation.

Having collected the foregoing instances of juvenile delinquency, and
presented them to the public, I cannot refrain from adducing a few
other cases which came under my own observation.

Whilst conducting the Spitalfields' Infant School, several instances
of dishonesty in the children occurred. On one occasion the mother
herself came to complain of a little boy, not more than four years
old, on the following grounds. She stated, that being obliged to
be out at work all day, as well as her husband, she was under the
necessity of leaving the children by themselves. She had three besides
the little boy of whom she was complaining. Having to pay her rent,
she put eighteen-pence for that purpose in a cup at the top of a
cupboard. On stepping home to give the children their dinners, she
found the boy at the cupboard, mounted on a chair, which again was
placed on the top of a table. On looking for the money, she found
four-pence already gone; one penny of this she found in his pocket,
the rest he had divided amongst the other children, that they might
not tell of him. After this relation I kept a strict watch on the
child, and three or four days afterwards the children detected him
opening my desk, and taking half-pence out of it. They informed me of
this, and while they were bringing him up to me the half-pence dropped
out of his hand. I detected him in many other very bad actions, but
have reason to hope, that, by suitable discipline and instruction, he
was effectually cured of his sad propensities.

About the same time, I observed two little children very near the
school-house in close conversation, and from their frequently looking
at a fruit-stall that was near, I felt inclined to watch them; having
previously heard from some of the pupils, that they had frequently
seen children in the neighbourhood steal oysters and other things. I
accordingly placed myself in a convenient situation, and had not long
to wait, for the moment they saw there was no one passing, they went
up to the stall, the eldest walking alongside the other, apparently to
prevent his being seen, whilst the little one snatched an orange,
and conveyed it under his pinafore, with all the dexterity of an
experienced thief. The youngest of these children was not four years
old, and the eldest, apparently, not above five. There was reason to
believe this was not the first time they had been guilty of stealing,
though, perhaps, unknown to their parents, as I have found to be the
case in other instances.

Another little boy in the school, whose mother kept a little shop,
frequently brought money with him,--as much as three-pence at a time.
On questioning the child how he came by it, he always said that his
mother gave it to him, and I thought there was no reason to doubt his
word, for there was something so prepossessing in his appearance,
that, at the time, I could not doubt the truth of his story. But
finding that the child spent a great deal of money in fruit, cakes,
&c., and still had some remaining, I found it advisable to see the
mother, and to my astonishment found it all a fiction, for she had not
given him any, and we were both at a loss to conceive how he obtained
it. The child told _me_ his mother gave it to him; and he told
his _mother_ that it was given to him at school; but when he was
confronted with us both, not a word would he say. It was evident,
therefore, that he had obtained it by some unfair means, and we both
determined to suspend our judgment, and to keep a strict eye on him in
future. Nothing, however, transpired for some time;--I followed him
home several times, but saw nothing amiss. At length I received notice
from the mother, that she had detected taking money out of the till,
in her little shop. It then came out that there was some boy in the
neighbourhood who acted as banker to him, and for every two pence
which he received, he was allowed one penny for taking care of it. It
seems that the child was afraid to bring any more money to school, on
account of being so closely questioned as to where he obtained it, and
this, probably, induced him to give more to the boy than he otherwise
would have done. Suffice it, however, to say, that both children
at length were found out, and the mother declared that the child
conducted her to some old boards in the wash-house, and underneath
them there was upwards of a shilling, which he had pilfered at various

The reader may remember too, that during the autumn of 1833, a boy of
_fourteen committed suicide_, and that another of the same age was
convicted of the dreadful crime of _murder_.

It appears he knew a boy a little younger than himself, who was going
to a distance with some money, and having taken a pocket-knife with
him, he way-laid him and threatened to murder him. The poor little
victim kneeled down,--offered him his money, his knife, and all he
had, and said he would love him all the days of his life if he would
spare him, and never tell what had happened; but the pathetic and
forcible appeal, which would have melted many a ruffian-heart, was
vain:--the little monster stabbed him in the throat, and then robbed
him. On his trial he discovered no feeling, and he even heard his
sentence with the utmost indifference, and without a tear.

It would have been easy to multiply cases of juvenile delinquency,
both those which have been brought under the cognizance of the law,
and those which have come to my own knowledge, but I think enough has
been related to shew how early children may, and do become depraved.
I have purposely given most of them with as few remarks of my own as
possible, that they may plead their own cause with the reader, and
excite a desire in his bosom to enter with me, in the next chapter, on
an inquiry into the causes of such early depravity.

Since the above incidents and facts were observed, and reports from
the public prints were recorded, general attention has been drawn more
fully to the very great increase of ignorance, demoralization, and
crime, amongst the lower classes, both old and young. These things
call on us most loudly for active effort and exertion; and it becomes
the patriot and philanthropist, but especially the Christian, to look
around, to think and to consider what effectual means may be found,
and what efficient plans may be adopted to strike the evil fatally at
its roots, and cause it to wither away. If these things be not done,
the moral pestilence must increase, and eventually deprive us of all
that is dear to us as men, and citizens.



_Degraded condition of parents--Dreadful effects of
drunkenness--Neglect of children inevitable and wilful--The tutorship
of wicked companions--Tricks of pantomimes injurious--Mischiefs
arising from sending children to pawnbrokers--Fairs demoralizing--All
Kinds of begging to be repressed_.

* * * * *

"Why thus surprised to see the infant race
Treading the paths of vice? Their eyes can trace
Their _parents_' footsteps in the way they go:
What shame, what fear, then, can their young hearts know?"

* * * * *

Appalling as the _effects_ of juvenile delinquency are, I think we may
discover a principal cause of them in the present condition and habits
of the adult part of the labouring classes. We shall find, very
frequently, that infant crime is the only natural produce of evil,
by the infallible means of precept and example. I do not intend to
assert, that the majority of parents amongst the poor, actually
encourage their children in the commission of theft; we may, indeed,
fear that some do; as in the instance of the two little girls detected
in shop-lifting, whose case was detailed in the preceding chapter; but
still, I should hope that such facts are not frequent. If, however,
they do not give them positive encouragement in pilfering, the example
they set is often calculated to deprave the heart of the child, and,
amongst other evil consequences, to induce dishonesty; whilst in other
cases we find, that from peculiar circumstances the child is deprived,
during the whole day, of the controling presence of a parent, and is
exposed to all the poisonous contamination which the streets of large
cities afford; and hence appears another cause of evil. Here children
come in contact with maturer vice, and are often drawn by its
influence from the paths of innocence; as we have already seen in
many instances. What resistance can the infant make to the insidious
serpents, which thus, as it, were, steal into its cradle, and infuse
their poison into its soul? The guardians of its helplessness are
heedless or unconscious of its danger, and, alas! it has not the
fabled strength of the infant Hercules to crush its venomous
assailants. Surely such a view of the frequent origin of crime must
awaken our commiseration for its miserable victims, and excite in us a
desire to become the defenders of the unprotected.

It will, however, be said by some, "Where are the natural guardians of
the child? Where are its parents? Are we to encourage their neglect
of duty, by becoming their substitutes? It is their business to look
after their children, and not ours." Frequently have I heard such
sentiments put forth, and sometimes by persons in whom I knew they
were rather owing to a want of reflection than of philanthropy. But a
want of thought, or of feeling, it must certainly be; because, on no
principle of reason or humanity can we make the unnatural conduct
of fathers and mothers, a plea for withholding our protection and
assistance from the helpless objects of their cruelty and neglect.
If we do so, we not only neglect our duty towards such children, but
permit the growth and extension of the evil. We must recollect that
they will not merely play their own wicked parts during their lives,
but will also become models to the next generation.

It should be remembered here, that I am treating of an evil which
extends itself to all classes of society; I am appealing to the
prudence of men, that they may, for their own sakes, investigate its
cause; I shall hereafter appeal to them as philanthropists, and, still
more urgently, as Christians, that they may examine the merits of the
remedy I shall propose.

The culpability of many parents is beyond dispute. They not only omit
to set their children good examples, and give them good advice, but,
on the contrary, instil into their minds the first rudiments of
wickedness, and lead them into the paths of vice. Their homes present
scenes which human nature shudders at, and which it is impossible
truly to describe. There are parents who, working at home, have every
opportunity of training up their children "in the way they should go,"
if they were inclined so to do. Instead of this, we often find, in
the case of the fathers, that they are so lost to every principle of
humanity, that as soon as they receive their wages, they leave their
homes, and hasten with eager steps to the public house; nor do they
re-pass its accursed threshold, till the vice-fattening landlord has
received the greater part of the money which should support their
half-fed, half-clothed wives and children; and till they have
qualified themselves, by intoxication, to act worse than brutes on
their return home. To men of this description it matters not whether
or not their children are proving themselves skilful imitators of
their evil example,--they may curse and swear, lie and steal,--so long
as they can enjoy the society of their pot companions, it is to them a
matter of total indifference.

During my superintendence of the first school, I had a painful
facility of examining these matters. Frequently, when I have inquired
the cause of the wretched plight in which some of the children were
sent to the school,--perhaps with scarcely a shoe to their feet,
sometimes altogether without,--I have heard from their mothers the
most heart-rending recitals of the husband's misconduct. One family in
particular I remember, consisting of seven children, two of whom were
in the school; four of them were supported entirely by the exertions
of the mother, who declared to me, that she did not receive a shilling
from their father for a month together; all the money he got he kept
to spend at the public-house; and his family, for what he cared, might
go naked, or starve. He was not only a great drunkard, but a reprobate
into the bargain; beating and abusing the poor woman, who thus
endeavoured to support his children by her labour.

The evil does not always stop here. Driven to the extreme of
wretchedness by her husband's conduct, the woman sometimes takes to
drinking likewise, and the poor babes are ten thousand times more
pitiable than orphans. I have witnessed the revolting sight of a
child leading home both father and mother from the public-house, in
a disgusting state of intoxication. With tears and entreaties I
have seen the poor infant vainly endeavouring to restrain them from
increasing their drunkenness, by going into the houses on their way
home; they have shaken off the clinging child, who, in the greatest
anxiety, waited without to resume its painful task; knowing, all the
time, perhaps, that whilst its parents were thus throwing away their
money, there was not so much as a crust of bread to appease its hunger
at home. Let it not be thought that this is an overcharged picture of
facts; it is but a faint, a very faint and imperfect sketch of reality
which defies exaggeration. Cases of such depravity, on the part of
mothers, I with much pleasure confess to be comparatively rare.
Maternal affection is the preventive. But what, let me ask, can be
hoped of the children of such parents? What are their characters
likely to become under such tuition? With such examples before their
eyes, need they leave their homes to seek contamination, or to learn
to do evil.

And here I must say, if I were asked to point out, in the metropolis,
or any large city, the greatest nuisance, the worst bane of society,
the most successful promoter of vice,--I should, without a moment's
hesitation, point to the first public-house or spirit dealer's
that met my view. Nor can I, in speaking of the causes of juvenile
delinquency, omit to say, I think these houses, indirectly, a very
great cause of it. Why I think so, my readers will readily conceive
from what I have already said. I am sure that Satan has no temple
in which he is so devoutly worshiped, or so highly honoured, as the
ale-house,--no priest is so devoted as its landlord,--no followers are
so zealous in his behalf as its frequenters.

Let any one in the evening visit the homes of the labouring class in
a poor neighbourhood, and he will find, in many cases, a
barely-furnished room, a numerous family of small children,--perhaps
forgetting the pangs of hunger in the obliviousness of sleep,--a wife,
with care-worn features, sitting in solitary wretchedness, ruminating
on wants she knows not how to supply--namely, clothes and food for
her children on the morrow, and on debts which she has no means of
discharging. But where is he who should be sharing her cares, bidding
her be of good cheer, and devising with her some means of alleviating
their mutual distress? Where is the father of the sleeping babes, the
husband of the watchful wife? Go to the public-house; you will see
him there with a host of his companions, of like character
and circumstances, smoking, drinking, singing, blaspheming,
gambling--ruining his health, spending his money; as jovial as though
he had no wretched wife, no starving babes at home! and as lavish of
money which should procure them food, as the man who is thriving on
his excesses could wish him to be.

I never look on a public-house without considering it as the abode of
the evil genius of the neighbourhood; the despoiler of industry, the
destroyer of domestic comfort; and heartily do I wish, that some means
could be devised for abolishing these resorts of wickedness; that some
legislative enactment may render it unlawful for any one to keep such
places. With respect to a peculiar sort of beverage, it has been
declared to be illegal to afford its purchasers accommodation for
drinking it on the premises. Why not extend it to other liquors? I
know this would be pronounced an infringement on English liberty! The
worst of men would raise this outcry against the measure. But surely
it should rather be called a preventive of English licentiousness. All
good men would consider it as such. I would not rob the labourer of
his daily allowance of a beverage which is believed by many to be of
essential service, when taken in moderation; but I would have him
drink it at home, that his wife and children may participate in his
enjoyment. Perhaps, it will be said, a man closely confined to labour
all day, needs some relaxation from domestic cares--that this can only
be found in change of scene, and in social company. I will concede
this. The plea of health, though often speciously advanced, cannot be
denied. But is it necessary for his health, that this change of scene
should be found in a close tap-room, within a few yards of his home,
where he drinks to a ruinous excess till a late hour,--breathing all
the while a hot atmosphere of tobacco-smoke? Is it not possible to
obtain the change of scene, and the relaxation of social converse, by
mutual visits amongst friends similarly situated,--by a ramble to the
suburbs,--or, in cases where the daily occupation affords too little
opportunity for exercise, are there not places established for
gymnastic exercises,--and might not others be formed for the like
purposes? Certain I am that the abolition of public-houses, in large
cities, as places of daily resort for the adult labouring poor, would
be attended with the most salutary consequences. I know of nothing
that must so certainly tend to their improvement both in character and

No man can witness the scenes, and doings, of many persons who attend
the new beer-houses, without pain and regret, that ever an act of
parliament was passed to legalize such places. I have visited some
hundreds of such, throughout the country, and can positively assert
that the demoralising tendency of too many is awful! Our magistrates
must be more careful in granting licences, or the efforts of the wise
and good will be neutralized, by the evils concocted at such places.
The old inkeepers had a character, and capital at stake. The new
beerhouse-keepers, I should say, a majority of them at least, have
neither, and consequently are less cautious, having less to lose.
Whatever the end of the legislature might have been in enabling the
poor to procure a good and cheap article more easily, to be drunk on
or off the premises, the thing has not answered the end, and no one
can deny, who will take the trouble to visit such places in different
counties, that the _Act_ has been a miserable failure, and has been
the fruitful source of crime and immorality. What a lesson is this for
speculative, short sighted legislators?

Another measure should then be adopted, I would say--destroy the
facility of spirit-drinking, by laying on a heavy duty. It is in vain
that interested sophistry would plead its benefits in particular
cases--such, for instance, as the ludicrous plea of the needfulness
of drams for market-women on wet and frosty mornings.[A] Set these
specious benefits against the dreadful results to men's health and
pockets, from the present low price of spirits, and their consequent
enormous consumption; and then let common sense and honesty deliver
its judgment.

I have spoken thus candidly and at length upon the subject in the
present chapter, though somewhat out of place, because my feelings
would not allow me to be less plain or more brief, or to postpone
the matter to "a more convenient season." Perhaps in talking of
legislative alterations I have been wandering upon forbidden ground;
if so, in returning to my proper path, I will comfort myself with this
thought:--the progress of improvement, however slow, is sure, and it
is certainly advancing in this country; I require no other assurance
than the establishment of Infant Schools and Mechanic's.

[Footnote A: Some conception of the fearful height which drunkenness
has attained, may be gathered from the fact, that in 1829, the
quantity of distilled spirits on which the duty was paid in the three
kingdoms, amounted to 23,000,000 of gallons. To form a due estimate,
however, of the actual consumption, an immense quantity must be added,
obtained by smuggling. Of the rum imported for home consumption,
allowing for that re-exported, the quantity was 5,000,000 of gallons.
Of brandy and other articles imported, 1,500,000 gallons; making a
total, with the omission of all on which the duty was evaded, of
30,000,000 of gallons of ardent spirits consumed in the year.
Five millions of revenue grew out of this, but it cost the people
15,000,000_l_. sterling, a which would have paid half-a-year's
interest of the national debt.]

"No person," says Sir Astley Cooper "has greater hostility to dram
drinking than myself, insomuch that I never suffer any ardent spirits
in my house--thinking _them evil spirits!_--and if the poor could
witness the white livers, the dropsies, the shattered nervous systems
which I love seen as the consequence of drinking, they would be aware
that _spirits_ and _poisons_ were synonymous terms."

Institutions; it _will_ advance, and what the legislature may never be
able to accomplish, the spirit of improvement eventually will.

But having considered those cases, in which wilful neglect and bad
example may be charged upon the parents, we should not forget to tell
those who object to our interference in the duty of a child's natural
protectors, that it is not, in every instance, from _wilful_ neglect
on their part, that their children are left unprotected in the
streets. The circumstances of the labouring classes are such, in many
cases, that they are compelled to leave their children either wholly
unprotected, or in the charge of some one who frequently becomes a
betrayer instead of a defender. The father, perhaps, goes to his daily
labour in the morning, before the children are out of bed, and does
not return till they are in bed again at night. The mother goes out in
like manner, the earnings of the husband being insufficient for the
maintenance of the family, and the children are intrusted throughout
the day to the care of some girl, whose parents are as poor as
themselves, and are glad to let her earn something towards her


Back to Full Books