The Infant System
Samuel Wilderspin

Part 2 out of 7

support. Numbers of little girls thus go out before they are twelve
years old, and teach the little children all they know,--commonly
to be deceitful, and not unfrequently to be dishonest. The parents,
careless or unsuspecting, only make inquiry when they return home if
the children have been good and quiet, and of course receive an answer
in the affirmative. In the course of a few years the evil consequences
begin to show themselves, and then the good folks wonder how or when
the seeds of such depravity could have been sown. Many I know will be
inclined to smile at the insignificancy of the cause pointed out. I
can only say, it is from such springs, however regarded, that the
great stream of vice is supplied; and what we laugh at now, for its
insignificant origin, will hereafter, in its maturity, laugh at us for
our impotence, in vainly endeavouring to stem it. What are parents to
do with their children, situated as those are of whom we have just
spoken? And very many are so situated. Is it possible for them to
perform their duty, as protectors of their children? It requires all
their time to labour for their support, and they therefore leave them,
unavoidably, either in such hands as we have described, or to take
care of themselves; to range the streets, and form such associations
as may there happen to fall in their way. They get into company with
older delinquents, and become first their instruments, and then their
associates; till at length they find their way into a gaol.

This is no delusive way of accounting for the matter,--it is a
solution which experience and observation have taught and established.
I have traced the progress of delinquency, in actual life, from
its earliest stages,--from the little trembling pilferer of the
apple-stall, not more than four or five years old, to the confirmed
thief of nine or ten years--who had been in gaol three or four times,
and was as proud of his dexterity in thieving, and hardihood under
punishment, as he could have been of the most virtuous accomplishment,
or the most becoming fortitude. The infant thief, conscious of shame,
and trembling with fear, will tell you on detection, that "Tommy," or
"Billy," some older associate, set him to do it; you let him go: he
joins his companions, who laugh at the story he tells, ridicule him
for his fears, praise him for his dexterity, and rejoice in his
escape. It will be very easy to imagine how, under a course of such
treatment, the young offender so soon dismisses both shame and fear;
and learns to forget everything but the gain and glory of his crimes.

It is no small matter of credit with older thieves--(by older thieves
I still mean boys of nine or ten years old)--to have under their
tuition two or three pupils. I have seen in my walks as many as seven
or eight sallying forth from the alleys in the neighbourhood of
Spitalfields, under the command, as it were, of a leader, a boy
perhaps not more than nine or ten years old. I have watched their
plans, and have noticed that it was usual to send first the youngest
boy to attempt the theft--perhaps the object to be obtained was only
a bun from the open window of a pastry-cook's shop; if he failed,
another was sent, whilst the rest were lurking at the corner of some
court, ready to flee in case their companion was detected; and I have
sometimes seen, that after all the rest had failed, either from want
of skill, or the too great vigilance of the shop-keeper, the boy
who acted as leader has started out, and by a display of superior
dexterity, would have carried off the prize, had it not happened that
some one was thus purposely watching his conduct. When detected, if an
old offender, he will either look you in tire face with the greatest
effrontery and an expression of defiance, or he will feign to cry,
and tell you he was hungry, has no father nor mother, &c.; though
frequently, on further inquiry, I have found the whole story to be

Alas! there is _one_ class of children, with whom I know not how to
deal, I mean those without the natural protectors. The man can for a
more trifle get rid of all responsibility, though in general, most
able to bear it, the woman has the dead weight, which often proves the
destruction of her offspring, and herself, suicide and murder are
the first-fruits frequently to her, but she loves her offspring, and
perhaps he who deceived her, and for both their sakes fights the
battle against fearful odds; for a few years at least, she will not
last long, at length she sinks! she dies! where, oh! where! is the
guardian for her child! Reader, there are many thousands of such!
What becomes of them? But there are other mothers of this class,
more ignorant, have less of feeling, no education, no training, they
advance from bad to worse, until they have five or six children, here
are circumstances for children to come into the world grievously
against them. What becomes of these? To avoid painful details I will
answer the question, they become a pest to society, each a demoralizer
of others, living upon the public--as tramps, begging impostors,
thieves, teachers of thieves, and _cost the country more than five
times their number born under other and better circumstances_. God
grant that spiritual light, philosophical light, and scientific light
united, may enable us to find the remedy!

The two grand causes of juvenile delinquency, we have seen then, to be
the evil example of parents themselves; and the bad associations
which children form at an early age, when, through neglect, they are
suffered to be in the streets. In the first instance, the parents of
the children are wholly without excuse; in the second, though in some
cases we may blame them, in others we cannot justly do so; but must
admit, as an exculpation, the unfortunate circumstances of their
condition in life.

It would be easy to shew, by a multitude of instances, the evil
effects produced on children of a tender age by street associations.
But I think enough has been said to convince every reflecting mind
that it is highly necessary that we should interfere in behalf of
children so situated; and I shall conclude the present chapter by some
remarks on the various habits and practices of the poor classes, which
have at least an injurious tendency on the character of the rising

As children are such imitative beings, I cannot help making a few
observations on the tricks which are usually introduced into our
_pantomimes_. It is well known that those of the clown form a
principal part of the entertainment. It is also equally well known,
that the pantomimes are particularly designed to amuse children, for
which reason they are generally represented during the Christmas
holidays, If, however, they were merely intended to _amuse_ them, they
who have introduced them have, perhaps, gained their object; but what
kind of _instruction_ they afford, I shall here attempt to shew. I
do not recollect to have seen a pantomime myself without _pilfering_
being introduced under every possible form, such as shop lifting,
picking pockets, &c. &c. Can it then be for a moment supposed
improbable that children, after having witnessed these exhibitions,
should endeavour to put the thing into practice, whenever an
opportunity offers, and try whether they cannot take a handkerchief
from a gentleman's pocket with the same ease and dexterity as the
clown in the play did; or, if unsuccessful in this part of the
business, that they should try their prowess in carrying off a
shoulder of mutton from a butcher's shop,--a loaf from a baker,--or
lighter articles from the pastry-cools, fruiterer, or linen-draper?
For, having seen the dexterity of the clown, in these cases, they will
not be at a loss for methods to accomplish, by sleight of hand, their
several purposes. In my humble opinion, children cannot go to a better
place for instruction in these matters, or to a place more calculated
to teach them the art of pilfering to perfection, than to the theatre,
when pantomimes are performed. To say that the persons who write and
introduce these pieces are in want of _sense_, may not be true; but I
must charge them with a want of sufficient thought, right feeling and
principle, in not calculating on their baneful effects on the rising
generation, for whose amusement it appears they are chiefly produced.
Many unfortunate persons, who have heard sentence of death passed upon
them, or who are now suffering under the law, in various ways, have
had to lament that the _first seeds of vice were sown in their minds
while viewing the pilfering tricks of clowns in pantomimes_. Alas!
too little do we calculate on the direful effects of this species of
amusement on the future character of the young. We first permit their
minds to be poisoned, by offering them the draught, and then punish
them by law for taking it. Does not the wide world afford a variety
of materials sufficient for virtuous imitation, without descending to
that which is vicious? It is much easier to make a pail of pure water
foul, than it is to make a pail of foul water pure. It must not be
supposed that I wish to sweep off every kind of amusement from the
juvenile part of society, but I do wish to sweep off all that has a
pernicious tendency. The limits which I have prescribed to myself will
not allow me to enter more at large into this subject; otherwise
I could produce a number of facts which would prove, most
unquestionably, the propriety of discontinuing these exhibitions.

A conversation which I once heard between some boys who were playing
at what is called _pitch-in-the-hole_, will prove the truth of my
assertions. "Bill," said one of the boys to the other, "when did you
go to the play last?" "On Monday night," was the reply. "Did you see
the new pantomime?"--"Yes." "Well, did you see any fun?"--"Yes, I
believe I did too. I saw the clown _bone_ a whole _hank_ of sausages,
and put them into his pocket, and then pour the gravy in after them.
You would have split your sides with laughing, had you been there.
A.B. and C.D. were with me, and they laughed as much as I did.
And what do you think A.B. did the next night?"--"How should I
know."--"Why," replied the other, "he and C.D. _boned_ about two
pounds of sausages from a pork shop, and we had them for supper." This
conversation I heard from a window, which looked into a ruinous place
where boys assembled to toss up for money, and other games. This fact
alone, without recording any more, is sufficient to show the evil of
which I have been speaking. And I do most sincerely hope that those
persons who have any influence over the stage, will use their utmost
endeavours, speedily, to expunge every thing thus calculated to
promote evil inclinations in the minds of children, and vicious habits
in the lives of men.

It is not impossible that scenic exhibitions might be made a most
powerful means of instruction to the young, and tend to promote virtue
and happiness, as well as be a means of rational amusement, but as
they now exist, their extirpation is desirable.

As I have had much experience from being brought up in London, I am
perfectly aware of the evil impressions and dangerous temptations that
the children of the poor are liable to fall into; and therefore most
solemnly affirm that nothing in my view would give so much happiness
to the community at large, as the taking care of the affections of the
infant children of the poor.

There is, moreover, a practice very prevalent among the poor, which
does greater mischief than the people are generally aware of, and that
is, sending their children to the _pawnbrokers_. It is well known that
many persons send children, scarcely seven years of age, to these
people, with pledges of various sorts, a thing that cannot be too
severely condemned. I know an instance of a little boy finding a shawl
in the street; and being in the habit of going to the pawnbroker's
for his mother, instead of taking the shawl home to his parents, he
actually pawned it and spent all the money, which might never have
been known by his parents, had not the mother found the duplicate in
his pocket. It is evident, then, that many parents have no one but
themselves to blame for the misconduct of their children; for had this
child not been accustomed to go to such a place _for his parents_, he
would never have thought of going there _for himself_; and the shawl
most likely would have been carried home to _them_. Indeed, there
is no knowing where such a system will end, for if the children are
suffered to go to such places, they may in time pledge that which does
not belong to them; and so easy is the way of turning any article
into money, that we find most young thieves, of both sexes, when
apprehended, have some duplicates about them. Those persons,
therefore, who take pledges of children (contrary to the act of
parliament, whether they know it or not,) ought to be severely
reprimanded; for I am persuaded, that such conduct is productive of
very great mischief indeed.

Taking children to _fairs_, is another thing which is also productive
of much harm. At the commencement of the first school, seventy or
eighty children were frequently absent whenever there was a fair near
London; but the parents were afterwards cured of this, and we seldom
had above twenty absentees at fair-time. Several of the children have
told me that their parents wished to take them, but they requested to
be permitted to come to school instead. Indeed the parents, finding
that they can enjoy themselves better without their children, are very
willing to leave them at school.

It is a difficult matter to persuade grown persons of the impropriety
of attending fairs, who have been accustomed to it when children;
but children are easily persuaded from it; for if they are properly
entertained at school, they will not have the least desire to go to
such places.

I cannot quit this subject without relating one or two more very bad
habits to which children are addicted, and which are, perhaps, fit
subjects for the consideration of the _Mendicity Society_. As it is
the object of that society to clear the streets of beggars, it would
be well if they would put a stop to those juvenile beggars, many of
whom are children of respectable parents, who assemble together
to build what they call a GROTTO; to the great annoyance of all
passengers in the street. However desirous persons may be of
encouraging ingenuity in children, I think it is doing them much harm
to give them money when they ask for it in this way. Indeed it would
appear, that some of the children have learned the art of begging so
well, that they are able to vie with the most experienced mendicants.
Ladies in particular are very much annoyed by children getting before
them and asking for money; nor will they take the answer given them,
but put their hats up to the ladies' faces, saying, "Please, ma'am,
remember the grotto;" and when told by the parties that they have
no money to give, they will still continue to follow, and be as
importunate as any common beggar. However innocent and trifling this
may appear to some, I am inclined to believe that such practices tend
to evil, for they teach children to be mean, and may cause some of
them to choose begging rather than work. I think that the best way to
stop this species of begging is, never to give them any thing. A fact
which came under my own observation will shew that the practice may
be productive of mischief. A foreign gentleman walking up Old Street
Road, was surrounded by three or four boys, saying, "Please, sir,
remember the grotto."--"Go away," was the reply, "I will give you
none." To this followed, "Do, pray sir, remember the grotto." "No, I
tell you, I will give you nothing." "Do, sir, only once a-year." At
length, I believe, he put something into one of their hats, and thus
got rid of them; but he had scarcely gone 200 yards, before he came
to another grotto, and out sallied three more boys, with the same
importunate request: he replied, "I will give you nothing; plague have
you and your grotto." The boys however persevered, till the gentleman,
having lost all patience, gave one of them a gentle tap to get out of
the way, but the boy being on the side of the foot-path fell into the
mud, which had been scraped off the road, and in this pickle followed
the gentleman, bellowing out, "That man knocked me down in the mud,
and I had done nothing to him." In consequence, a number of persons
soon collected, who insulted the gentleman very much, and he would
certainly have been roughly handled, had he not given the boy
something as a recompence. He then called a coach, declaring he could
not walk the streets of London in safety.

Those who know what mischief has arisen from very trifling causes,
will, of course, perceive the necessity of checking this growing evil;
for this man went away with very unfavourable impressions concerning
our country, and would, no doubt, prejudice many against us, and make
them suppose we are worse than we are.

Nearly allied to this is, "Pray remember poor Guy Faux;" which not
only teaches children the art of begging, but is frequently the means
of their becoming dishonest, for I have known children break down
fences, and water-spouts, and, in short, any thing that they could lay
their hands upon, in order to make a bonfire, to the great danger of
the inhabitants near it, without producing one good effect. Yet how
easily might this practice be put down. The ill effects of it are so
self-evident, that there can be no need for further enlargement.

I also disapprove of children going about begging at Christmas; this
practice is calculated to instil into the children's minds a principle
of meanness not becoming the English character, and the money they
get, seldom, if ever, does them any good. If persons choose to give
children any thing at this time of the year, there can be no objection
to it, but I dislike children going about to ask for money like common
beggars; it cannot be proper, and should be generally discountenanced.
All these things, to some men, may appear trifling, but to me and
others they are of consequence; for if we mean to improve the general
character of the labouring population, there is nothing like beginning
in time; and we should, amongst other things, get rid of all mean and
improper customs.

Before concluding this chapter I would hint to travellers not to give
children money for running after a coach. I have seen children of both
sexes run until their breath failed, and, completely exhausted, drop
down on the grass; merely because some injudicious persons had thrown
halfpence to them. I have also seen little boys turn over and over
before the horses, for the purpose of getting money, to the danger of
their own lives and of the passengers; and I recollect an instance of
one boy being, in consequence, killed on the spot. In some counties
children will, in spring and summer, run after a carriage with flowers
upon a long stick, thrusting it in the coach or the faces of the
travellers, begging halfpence, which habit had been taught them by the
same injudicious means.

The most virtuous and pious of men, on looking back to their early
lives, have almost invariably confessed that they owe the first
seeds of what is excellent in them, to the blessing of God, on the
instruction and example of their parents, and those around them in the
years of their childhood.

Reflections like these ought to make us humble and thankful for the
advantages we have enjoyed, and cause us to look with an eye of pity,
charity, and commiseration on the vices and delinquencies of the poor,
rather than to judge them with harsh and cruel severity. Had we been
in their places, might not--would not--our character and conduct have
been as theirs?--Still further, ought not such thoughts as these to
touch our hearts with deep compassion for them, and excite us to
strenuous endeavours to remedy these lamentable evils, by the most
powerful and effective measures that can be found; and more especially
to strive if possible to rescue the rising generation from the
contamination of surrounding vice and misery.



_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 accidents, 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 objections illustrated--Lectures on the subject of
infant training_.

* * * * *

"The most likely and hopeful reformation of the road must begin with
children. Wholesome laws and good sermons are but slow and late ways;
the timely and most compendious way is a good education."--_Archbishop

* * * * *

Having brought the prevalency of juvenile delinquency immediately
before the eyes of my readers, by various examples in the second
chapter, and in the third exhibited a few of the causes of it, I shall
now proceed to point out what, in my humble opinion appears to be the
only efficient remedy, namely, the education of the infant poor.
It may not be amiss, however, to glance at the means which have
heretofore been employed, and found, though productive of some good,
inefficient for the end proposed.

As preventives, I may notice the numerous national and Sunday schools,
tract societies, &c., established throughout the kingdom. These have
doubtless much good effect, and deserve the zealous support of every
one who has at heart the welfare of society in general, and the
improvement of the labouring classes in particular. Many have been
plucked, "as brands from the burning," by these institutions; which
are a blessing to the objects of their benevolence, and an honour to
their conductors and supporters. That Sunday schools are not wholly
efficient, in conjunction with other institutions, to accomplish
the end desired, is to be attributed, on the one hand, to the small
portion of time in which their salutary influence is exerted; and, on
the other, to their not admitting children at a sufficiently early
age. At the period usually assigned for their entrance, they have not
only acquired many evil habits, but their affections have become
so thoroughly perverted, as to offer great, and, in some cases,
insuperable obstacles to the corrective efforts of their teachers.
Each child brings into the school some portion of acquired evil,
making, when united, a formidable aggregate, and affording every
facility for mutual contamination. Add to this, the counteracting
effect which the bad examples they meet with in the course of six days
must have upon the good they hear on the seventh, and it will be seen
how little comparatively is really practicable. I do not say this to
dishearten those who are engaged in this labour of love, or to abate
the zeal of its promoters. At the same time that their experience
confirms the truth of my observations--and I know they would candidly
confess that it does so--they must have many gratifying instances of a
contrary nature, in children, who from evil habits have been won to
a love of goodness and religion, shewn not merely in a punctual
attendance at their school, but in that good-will toward their
fellow-scholars, and grateful love to their teachers, which are the
only infallible signs of a change in the affections. These things
encourage them, in spite of many difficulties and mortifications, to
persevere in well doing; and may the God of love bless their labours
with an increase of fruitfulness! It is only my purpose here to state,
that the most likely human means to produce such an increase, is the
establishment of infant schools;--schools designed, particularly, for
the cultivation of the affections,--for preparing the heart to receive
that wisdom which teaches us to love God supremely, and to love our
neighbour as ourselves. As to the system of instruction pursued in
Sunday schools, as well as other free schools, it is, indeed, my
opinion, that some alteration for the better might be made, but as I
intend to speak of this matter in a future place, I shall say no
more on the subject at present, but pass on to notice prison
discipline--which is, I fear, entitled to any term but that of a

That the end of punishment should be the prevention of future crime,
rather than the gratification of vindictive feelings--whether those of
states or of injured individuals--but few will venture to deny; and
yet how little calculated is the punishment usually inflicted on young
offenders in this country, to answer that end! They are shut up in
a prison, in company with other thieves, perhaps older and more
experienced than themselves, and all that was wanting to complete
their education in dishonesty is here attained. Previously to their
confinement within the walls of one of these places, in spite of the
assertions of their hardened associates, that it was nothing to fear,
it is probable, dread or apprehension hung over their minds; the last
vestige of shame had not been banished by a public appearance as
criminals--and this, properly taken advantage of, might have made
their reformation possible! But, having encountered the object of
their fears, and endured the shame of a trial--shame and fear are
alike gone for ever; and when once they find their way into those
sinks of iniquity, there is very little hope of amendment. From that
period a prison has not the least terror for them. Being a place of
idleness while there, it calls forth the evil inclinations of
its inmates, and as they have opportunities of indulging those
inclinations, it not only loses all its utility, but becomes
incalculably injurious. I heard a boy who had been confined in Newgate
say, that he did not care any thing about it; that his companions
supplied him with plenty of victuals, that there was some good fun to
be seen there, and that most likely he should soon be there again;
which proved too true, for he was shortly after taken up again for
stealing two pieces of printed calico, and transported. This, with a
multitude of similar facts, will shew that there are few who do not
become more depraved, and leave such places worse than when they
entered them. A gentleman who visited Newgate informed me that he had
been very much surprised at finding so many children there; some of
whom were ironed; and on his inquiring the cause of such severity
towards children so young, he was told by one of the turnkeys, that
_he had snuck more trouble with them than he had with old offenders_.
This fact has been verified by the chief officers of the Wakefield
Model Prison,--the boys give most trouble. In the matter of treating
juveniles as delinquents, I am sure we are wrong. I have seen both the
magistrates and the judges insulted on the bench by juveniles brought
before them, and taunted with the following: "You can do no more, you
with the big wig! I wish you may sit there until I come out!" And in
the month of May, 1852, the magistrates of Wakefield were insulted by
a boy 15 years old, who had been taken up as an impostor, with his
arm doubled in a sling, and shamming to be deaf and dumb,--a healthy
strong youth, able and fit for work--and when asked why he did not
work, answered, because he could get more by his own method! Hear!
this ye indiscriminate alms-givers! And, further, when expostulated
with by the magistrates for the sin and wickedness of pretending to
be lame, &c., he laughed at them outright for being so silly as to
suppose that he should not _live well if he could?_ When told he
should be committed for three months, he had the impudence to tell the
court that he would do the same again, when he came out, clapped his
hat on in open defiance, and shouted, "That's all you can do!" The
chairman expressed sorrow that he could not order a whipping, but
the prisoner laughed at him, and said, "I am too old for that." Such
things were not known in my younger days. I am afraid we have erred
in this matter. A little wholesome correction did wonders. In such
matters, it, at least, made the parties civil, and, I think, deterred
from crime. I am fearful that in this age mankind aim in some things
to be more perfect than the Great Ruler of the Universe!

To the bad habits of a prison, and the association with guilt, must be
added the deplorably unprovided state, in which, at the termination of
their period of imprisonment, they are sent forth into society. What
friends have they but their former companions? What habitations,
but their former resorts of iniquity? What means of procuring a
livelihood, but their former evil practices? We accordingly find, that
it is not unfrequently the case, with these young offenders, that
scarcely a day elapses after their liberation, before they find
themselves again in custody, and within the walls of a prison. One
cannot, indeed, view the exertions made by the "Society for the
Improvement of Prison Discipline" in this respect, without feelings of
gratitude to those who take an active part in it[A]; neither should we
forget to return thanks to the Author of all good, that he should
have encouraged the hearts of persons to venture even their lives, to
improve the condition of the prisoners in Newgate and elsewhere;--that
even females are found, who, conquering the timidity and diffidence
of their sex, have visited these abodes of vice and misery, for the
purpose of ameliorating the condition of their inhabitants. There have
been men, claiming to be considered wise men, who have ridiculed the
exertions of these daughters of philanthropy, and have made them
objects of ridicule, but, happily, they are impervious to the shafts
of folly; and as heedless of the unjust censures, as they are
undesirous of the applause of man. Their aim is, the good of their
fellow-creatures,--their reward, the pleasure of doing good, and the
approbation of Him who is goodness itself. That their well-meant and
praiseworthy exertions are not more successful can only be accounted
for by the awfully depraved affections which habitual vice produces;
when every principle of action, which should be subservient to virtue,
becomes actively employed in the cause of wickedness; for, whatever
may be the impulse which first induces offenders to do wrong, they
become, in course of time, so totally lost to all sense of what is
good as to "glory in their shame." Whether it maybe possible to devise
any plan of prison discipline sufficient to remedy the evil, I
cannot pretend to say; and I shall only repeat the burthen of my
song--_educate and protect the infant poor_; and it will be found that
_to prevent_ is not only better, but easier, than to _cure_.

[Footnote A: I will make a short extract from one of its reports,
to shew, that the chief end they have in view, is the prevention of
crime. They state, that "in the course of their visit, to the gaols
in the metropolis, the Committee very frequently meet with destitute
boys, who, on their discharge from confinement, literally know not
where to lay their heads. To assist such friendless outcasts has
been the practice of the society; and to render this relief more
efficacious, a temporary refuge has been established for such as
are disposed to abandon their vicious courses. This asylum has been
instrumental in affording assistance to a considerable number of
distressed youths, who, but for this seasonable aid, must have
resorted to criminal practices for support. On admission into this
establishment, the boys are instructed in moral and religious duty,
subjected to habits of order and industry, and after a time are placed
in situations which afford a reasonable prospect of their becoming
honest and useful members of society. To extend these objects, and to
render its exertions more widely beneficial, the society solicits the
aid of public benevolence. Its expenses are unavoidably serious, and
its funds are at present very low; but it is trusted that pecuniary
support will not be withheld, when it is considered, that on the
liberality with which this appeal is answered, depends, in a great
measure, the success of the society's objects--the reformation of the
vicious, and the prevention of crime."]

That this remedy is effectual, experience has taught me and many
others; and experience is a guide on whom we may safely rely. It has
shown me that by taking children at an early age out of the reach of
contamination in the streets, and removing them in a great measure
from the no less baneful influence of evil example at home, we may lay
such a foundation of virtue, as is not likely to be shaken. Nor do I
think it difficult to show the reason of this. It is confessed on all
hands that our first impressions are the most powerful, both as to
their immediate effects and future influence; that they not only form
the character of our childhood, but that of our maturer years. As the
mind of a child expands, it searches for new objects of employment or
gratification; and this is the time when the young fall an easy prey
to those who make a business of entrapping them into the paths of
dishonesty, and then of urging them to crimes of deeper dye. What,
then, but a most salutary result can ensue from placing a child in a
situation, where its first impressions will be those of the beauty of
goodness,--where its first feelings of happiness will consist in the
receiving and cherishing kind ness towards its little neighbours? In
after years, and in schools for older children, it is reckoned an
unavoidable evil, that they should be congregated together in numbers;
not so in the infant school; it is there made use of as a means of
developing and exercising those kindly feelings, which must conduce
to the individual and general comfort, not only there, but in society
generally. It is not merely by instructing them in _maxims_ of honesty
that we seek to provide against the evil; but by the surer way of
exciting that feeling of love towards each other--towards every
one--which, when found in activity, must not only prevent dishonesty,
but every other species of selfishness.

Consider the difference of the cases. In the one case we behold
a child associated, in happy communion, with a society--a little
world--of its own age and feelings,--continually proving the
possibility of giving and imparting happiness by receiving
and exercising kindness to its companions--secured from every
danger--supplied with a constant variety of amusement, which is at
the same time instruction; and all this under the care of a master or
mistress; acting the part, not of a petulant school-dame, or a stern
pedagogue, but of a kind and judicious parent.

In the case of the child not thus befriended, we see it, either
exposed to the dangerous associations of the street, or to the
bad examples of its parents; to their unkindness and severity, or
misguided indulgence; and presented, moreover, with every facility, as
well as every temptation, to do wrong. Now, is it to be wondered at,
that, in the former case, kind, obedient, honest characters should
be the result; and in the latter, such as we have, in our preceding
examples, exhibited? Reason tells us such a consequence is likely, and
experience has shewn us that it really happens. I could enumerate a
thousand cases of honest principle in the infants who have been
under my own care; but I can only mention one or two circumstances
illustrative of the matter.

I once had, for example, two little boys to travel with me; their
assistance was extremely valuable in organizing schools. They were
often invited to accompany me at dinner; the guests generally gave
them presents. I have watched them under many tempting circumstances,
and never found them steal. It is my firm conviction that dishonesty
is chiefly the effect of neglect. No child can be _born_ a _thief_,
in the strict sense of the term. In many schools, too, there are
fruit-trees planted in the play-ground, to which the children will not
do the least injury, nor will they touch the fruit. Flowers in pots,
such as geraniums, auriculas, and other plants, are placed in the
middle of the play-ground, without the least danger of being injured.
Such is their respect to private property.

Another instance particularly excited my notice amongst the children
in the first establishments in London. They were permitted to bring
their dinners with them, and there were boxes in the school to put
them in. Every child in the school had access to these boxes, for they
were never locked, and yet I never knew a child to lose his dinner, or
any part of it, notwithstanding many of the children, to my knowledge,
had been kept extremely short of food. I have known an instance of a
slice of bread and butter being left in the box for several weeks, by
some child that could not eat it, but none of the other children would
dare to touch it. I have found in the boxes two or three pieces of
bread, as hard as possible, and as a proof that many were hungry, and
that it did not remain there because they could not eat it, but out of
pure honesty, I have offered it to some of the children, and they have
eaten it in that state. Cold potatoes, pieces of fat, &c., were not
unacceptable to them when given; but sooner than take any thing
without leave, they have actually left it to spoil. These are facts
which shew, that notwithstanding all the disadvantages to which the
poor children are exposed, their character may be so far formed as to
produce the effects above described. "Would you take a piece of bread
out of this box that did not belong to you?" said I to the children
one day. "No, sir," replied a little girl of four years old. "Why
not?" "Because," said the child, "it would be thieving." "Well, but
suppose no one saw you?" Before I could speak another word, a number
of the children answered, "God can see everything that we do." "Yes,"
added another little boy, "if you steal a cherry, or a piece of
pencil, it is wicked." "To be sure," added another, "it is wicked to
steal any thing."

I cannot do better than introduce in this place the opinion of Judge
Bosanquet, on the subject of the education of the infant poor; and
some valuable hints will likewise be found in his remarks on prison
discipline. It is an extract from a charge to the jury delivered at
the Gloucester assizes for April, 1823. "Gentlemen, I have reason to
believe, that the offences for trial on this occasion, are rather less
than usual at this season, and, to whatever the diminution of crime
may be ascribed, I cannot forbear earnestly to press upon your
attention, a constant perseverance in two things, _which, above all
others, are calculated to diminish crime_,--the first is an unremitted
attention to the education of the children of the poor, and of all
classes of society, in the principles of true morality and sound
religion; the next is the constant and regular employment of such
persons as may be sentenced to imprisonment, in such labour as may be
adapted to their respective ages and conditions. I believe that these
observations may be considered as quite superfluous in this county,
and therefore I have taken the liberty of using the word perseverance,
because I believe your attention is already strongly drawn to that
subject, and it requires no exhortation of mine to induce your
attention to it. I am not quite sure whether in the gaol for this
city, the same means are provided for the employment of those persons
sentenced to terms of imprisonment, which are provided in the gaol
for the county. The magistrates for the city are equally desirous of
promoting the education of all the poor under their care, I have no
doubt; and I do hope and trust, if the means of labour have not been
provided in their gaol, that no time will be lost in providing those
means by which imprisonment may be made a real punishment, by which
offenders may be reformed during their imprisonment, and by which the
idle and dissolute may be prevented from any inclination to return

[Footnote A: From the time the judge referred to made the above
remarks, other judges, down to the present time, have added similar
sentiments. From 1823, until 1852, proof upon proof, has been added,
to show us the advantage of early training; and though much has been
cramming, and not training, still the results have been good. What
would they have been had the schooling given, really been _training?_
and what, if the training of children had been studied as _art_, if
the public looked on the teachers as artists, and treated them with
the consideration they deserve? Anticipations cannot be too sanguine
in estimating the results that must accrue to society from a system of
spiritual, intellectual, and moral culture, becoming universal, and
worked out by minds who will, I am sure hereafter, be able fully to
develope, from study, and practice of the _art_ of teaching, the great
principles of spiritual truths, intellectual vigour, and the moral
strength of the coming generations, which have been allowed to remain
in a state of torpor in the present.]

I have hitherto only being considering the _prudential_ motives which
should induce us to promote the education of the poor. I have shown,
that it will be for the benefit of society, inasmuch as it is likely
to decrease the number of those who transgress its laws--that it will
prove a greater security to our persons and property than laws or
prisons afford. But there are other motives which, if these selfish
ones were wholly wanting, might be sufficient to advocate, in every
humane heart, the same course of conduct. If the duty of promoting
honesty amongst the labouring classes did not exist, that of
increasing happiness and piety amongst them would not be the less
imperative. That there is much room for an augmentation of both, few,
I think, will be inclined to deny; the less so in proportion as
they have had the greater opportunity of ascertaining their actual

Let us now for a few moments consider how great a blessing an infant
school is, even when regarded as a mere asylum to take charge of the
child's bodily welfare. I have mentioned before, that the poor are
unable to take that care of their children which their tender age
requires, on account of their occupations; and have shewn, that it is
almost certain, that the children of such persons will learn every
species of vice. But there are other kinds of dangers which more
immediately affect the body, and are the cause of more accidents
than people in general imagine. I shall here notice some of the most
prominent, and hope to be able to convince the unprejudiced mind, that
it would be a charity to take charge of the infant poor, even leaving
the idea of their learning any thing good at school entirely out of
the question; and surely those persons, who disapprove of educating
the poor at all, will see the propriety of keeping, if possible, their
children safe from accidents, and preserving the lives of many little
ones, who would otherwise be lost to their country, from their falling
a prey to surrounding dangers.

It is well known that many poor people are obliged to live in garrets,
three or four stories high, with a family of six or seven children;
and it will not appear improbable that, when the children are left by
themselves, they should frequently meet with accidents by tumbling
down stairs; some breaking their backs, others their legs or arms;
and to this cause alone, perhaps, may be traced a vast number of the
cripples that daily appear as mendicants in our streets. When the
poor parents return from their daily labour, they sometimes have the
mortification of finding that one, or probably two, of their children,
are gone to an hospital; which of course makes them unhappy, and
unfits them for going through their daily labour. This dead weight,
which is continually on the minds of parents, is frequently the cause
of their being unable to please their employers, and the consequence
sometimes is, they are thrown out of work altogether; whereas, if
they were certain that their children were taken care of, they would
proceed with their daily labour cheerfully, and be enabled to give
more satisfaction to their employers than they otherwise can do.

Other parents I have known, who, when obliged to go out, have locked
their children in a room to prevent them from getting into the street,
or falling down stairs, and who have taken every precaution, as
they imagined, to protect their children; but the little creatures,
perhaps, after fretting and crying for hours at being thus confined,
have ventured to get up to the window, in order to see what was
passing in the street, when one, over-reaching itself, has fallen out
and been killed on the spot. A gentleman said, at a public meeting at
Exeter, when referring to this subject, "I have myself, twice in my
life, nearly occasioned the death of children. In one instance, a
child left to itself, ran out of the hedge by the road-side; I was
fortunately able to stop, and found the child, unconscious of its
escape, raising its hands to the reins of the horse. And on another
occasion, my horse threw a child down, and I had but just time to pull
up, and prevent the wheels from passing over the infant's head." And
it was stated in a Bristol paper, that in the short space of _one
fortnight, seven_ children were taken to the infirmary of that city so
dreadfully burnt that four of them died. Numerous cases of this kind
are to be found in the public prints, and hundreds of such accidents
occur which are not noticed in the papers at all. Many children,
again, strolling into the fields, fall into ponds and ditches, and
are drowned. So numerous, indeed, are the dangers which surround the
infant poor, as to make a forcible appeal to the hearts of the pious
and humane, and to call loudly on them to unite in rescuing this
hitherto neglected part of the rising generation from the evils to
which they are exposed.

It is much to be regretted that those persons who most need employment
should be the last to procure it; but such is the fact, for there
are so many obstacles thrown in the way of married persons, and
especially, those with a family, that many are tempted to deny that
they have any children, for fear they should lose their situations,
though it is certainly an additional stimulus to a servant to behave
orderly, when he knows that he has others to look to him for support.

Shall I close this appeal for the necessity of educating the infant
poor by another and weightier argument? They are _responsible_ and
_immortal_ beings. It may be thought that I should have given this
plea the precedence of every other. I did not, because I felt
more anxious to make good my ground with the prudent and the
philanthropic--to show them that self-interest and humanity demand our
exertions in this cause. I knew that when I came to urge such efforts
upon the attention of the Christian, I could not possibly fail. No one
who is a sincere follower of Him who said "Suffer little children to
come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom;" no one
who professes to abide by the maxims of Him whose commandment was,
"Love thy neighbour as thyself," can turn a deaf ear to the entreaties
of those who are necessitous and suffering. Thousands there are among
those of whom we have been speaking, who are brought up in as great
ignorance of God and religion, as though they had been born in a
country where the light of Revelation had never shone--where the glad
tidings of salvation have never been proclaimed. With examples of evil
continually before their eyes, both at home and abroad, we see and
hear its consequences daily in the wickedness with which our streets
abound, and in the lisped blasphemy and profanity of those who learn
to curse and swear before they can well walk.

Whilst I was at Lincoln, I was shocked beyond measure by the horrid
language of the boys; to such a pitch had the evil come, that the
magistrates were determined to fine all the men who were brought
before them for profane swearing; and I had the satisfaction of
hearing that four men had been fined whilst I was there. What a
blessing it would be if other magistrates throughout the kingdom would
follow their example!

Any person who has been accustomed to walk the streets of London, must
have heard how frequently children take the name of the Almighty in
vain; seldom or ever mentioning it but to confirm some oath. I have
seen boys playing at marbles, tops, and other games, and who, on
a dispute arising about some frivolous thing, would call upon the
Supreme Being to strike them deaf, dumb, or blind, nay, even dead,
if what they said were not true; when, nevertheless, I have been
satisfied from having observed the origin of the dispute, that the
party using the expressions has been telling a falsehood. Indeed so
common is this kind of language in the streets, that it often passes
without notice. I am inclined to think, that children accustomed to
use such expressions on every trifling occasion, will, when they grow
to riper years, pay very little respect to the sanctity of an oath. It
is, perhaps, one of the reasons why we hear of so much perjury in the
present day. At all events, little children cannot avoid hearing such
expressions, not only from those who are rather older than themselves,
but, I am sorry to say, even from their parents. I have known repeated
instances of this kind. Many little ones, when they first come to our
schools, make use of dreadful expressions, and when told that it is
wrong, will say that they did not know it was so; others, with the
greatest simplicity, have declared, that they had heard their fathers
or mothers say the same words. Hence I have had much difficulty in
persuading them that it was wrong, for they very naturally thought,
that if their parents made use of such language, they might do the
same. How great is the necessity of good example; and did parents
generally consider how apt children are to receive impressions, and to
become imitators, both in their words and actions, they would be more
cautious than they are. There are many parents who make use of very
bad expressions themselves, who would correct their children for using
the same;--as a proof of this, I will mention one circumstance, out of
many others, that took place in the school I superintended many years
since. We had a little girl there, five years old, who was so fond of
the school, that she frequently stopped after the usual hours to play
with my children and some others who chose to stay in the play-ground.
Many of them would stop till eight or nine o'clock at night, to which
I had no objection, provided their parents approved of it, and they
did not get into mischief; it being desirable to keep them out of the
streets as much as possible. It happened, however, one day, that some
of the children, offended this child, and she called them by dreadful
names, such as I cannot repeat; and, of course, the others were
terrified, and told me of them immediately. I was soon satisfied that
the child was ignorant of the meaning of what she said, for, as an
excuse for her conduct, she declared that she heard her father and
mother use the same words. I told the child, that notwithstanding her
parents might have done so, it was very wicked, and that I could not
let her stay another time to play, if ever she did so again. Having
sent for the mother, I informed her of the expressions the child had
used, but did not tell her what she had mentioned relative to her
parents, for if I had, she would have beaten her most unmercifully.
The mother, after having heard me relate the circumstance, immediately
flew into a passion with the child, and declared, that she would "skin
her alive," (this was her expression,) and I had much difficulty to
restrain her from correcting the child in the school. Having pacified
her a little, I inquired where the child could have heard such wicked
expressions. She said she could not tell. I then told her, I hoped the
child did not learn them of her, or her father. To this she made no
answer, but I could perceive that she stood self-convicted, and having
said what I conceived necessary upon the occasion, I dismissed her,
observing that it was useless for ladies and gentlemen to establish
schools for the education of the infant poor, if the parents did not
assist by setting them a good example.

I am happy to state, that the advice I gave her was not thrown away,
as I never knew the child guilty of saying a bad word afterwards; and
the mother soon brought me another child, of two years and a half old,
and said she should be very glad if I would take it into the school,
and that she wished a blessing might always attend the gentlemen
who supported the institution. She also requested me to take an
opportunity of speaking a few words to her husband, for she was
thankful for what had been said to her. And here I would observe, that
although it is most undoubtedly true, that the good taught to children
in our infant schools is greatly counteracted by the conduct they
witness on their return home, yet we occasionally see, that these
little children, by the blessing of God, are made the means of
reforming their own parents. What a gratifying fact it is, that the
adult and hardened sinner, may be turned from his evil ways--from
death unto life--by an infant's precept or example!

Nor is it only in profane expressions that we see the influence of
evil. Some children I have known, in the same neighbourhood, who even
beat their parents. There was a poor widow, very near the school, who
was frequently to be seen with her face dreadfully bruised by
blows from her own son. He had been taken before a magistrate, and
imprisoned for three months, but it did him no good, for he afterwards
beat his mother as much as ever, and the poor woman had it in
contemplation to get the miscreant sent out of the country. One
Sunday, I remember to have seen a boy, under twelve years of age, take
up a large stone to throw at his mother: he had done something wrong
in the house, and the mother followed him into the street with a small
cane, to correct him for it; but he told his mother, that if she dared
to approach him, he would knock her down. The mother retired, and
the boy went where he pleased. These and many similar scenes I have
witnessed; and I am afraid that many such characters have been so
completely formed as to be past reformation. So essential is it, to
embrace the first opportunity of impressing on the infant mind the
principles of duty and virtue.

I am aware that many excellent institutions are in existence for the
spread of the gospel amongst the ignorant and depraved at home as well
as abroad; but I must here again advert to the readier reception of
religious truths in infancy, than by the adult and confirmed sinner.
I would not say to those who are engaged in the painful task--painful
because so often unsuccessful--forego your labours; but I would call
upon all who have at heart the everlasting welfare of the souls of
men, to exert themselves, that the rising generation may not likewise
grow up into that state of perverseness--that they may not in future
years prove themselves to be a generation, which, "like the adder,
turneth a deaf ear to the charmer, charm he ever so wisely." I am
satisfied, from the experience I have had, that an amount of good
is attainable from early and judicious culture, which far, very far
surpasses all that has heretofore been accomplished; and on which not
a few are even unprepared to calculate.

It was a Christian-like wish expressed by King George III., that every
child in his dominions should be able to read the bible; and from the
increased facility of doing so from gratuitous education, the number
of those who cannot is much less than formerly; but in many cases the
necessitous circumstances of the parents prevent them from allowing
their children, except during their infant years, the advantage of
instruction, even though it cost them nothing. The time for the
children of the poor to receive instruction, is between the ages
of two and eight; after that period many are sent out to work, or
detained at home, for they then become useful to their parents, and
cannot be sent to school. There are many little girls who, having
left the infant school, go out to work for a shilling a week, and the
mothers have declared to me, when I have endeavoured to persuade them
to send them to the National School, for at least one year, that they
could not do it, for they were so poor, that every shilling was a
great help; they have, however, promised me that they would send them
to the Sunday school. This may account, in some measure, for there
being so many more boys than girls in almost every school in London,
and chews that great good has been done, and is doing, by those
valuable institutions.[A]

[Footnote A: It is to be observed here, that the children do not come
to or schools on Sundays, but many of them, between five and six years
old, who have brothers and sisters in the national school, go with
them to church, and others of the same age go to a Sunday school in
the neighbourhood. In short, I may venture to say, that almost all the
children that are able, go either to a Sunday school or to church: but
to take them all in a body, at the early age that they are admitted
into an infant school, to any place of worship, and to keep them there
for two or three hours, with a hope to profit them, and not to
disturb the congregation, is, according to my view, injurious if not

Many of my readers, who have been in the habit of noticing and pitying
the poor, may think the detail into which I have entered superfluous,
but I can assure them the want of information on the subject is but
too general, and is sufficient to account for the indifference which
has so long been exhibited.

The objection, that education is altogether improper for poor people
is not quite obsolete. There are not wanting persons who still
entertain the most dreadful apprehensions of the _"march of
intellect,"_ as it has been termed; who see no alternative but that it
must over-turn every thing that is established, and subvert the whole
order of society. I would willingly impart comfort to the minds of
those who are afflicted with such nervous tremours, but I fear, if the
demonstration of experience has not quieted them, the voice of reason
never will. It cannot fail to remind us of the apprehensions of the
popish clergy in former times, who decried the art of printing,
then recently introduced, as a branch of the black art, which, if
encouraged, must eventually demolish the social fabric, and introduce
civil wars and discord into every country. Time, that test of truth,
has shewn us how groundless their apprehensions were. Instead of
injuring that fabric, it has strengthened its foundation so that it
cannot be shaken, and has surrounded it with defences, which bid
defiance to assaults.

Oh! that the time were come when every heart, being imbued with truly
christian principles, would see that the noblest and highest object
that could be set before us, would be to rear up the minds of the
young in knowledge, virtue, and piety; to train them to intelligence
and usefulness in this life, and for happiness and immortality in the
life to come. On such labours the blessing of God would inevitably
rest, and His promise of their success is positive and unconditional.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will
not depart from it."

To the furtherance of the infant system I have devoted for many years
my utmost energies and resources, and to it I purpose to give them, so
long as I am permitted by the gracious Providence of God. I shall be
happy to render it any aid, either by supplying information to those
who need it, or by personal exertions, the expenses of so doing
being defrayed; on application to my Publisher, 22, Portugal Street,
Lincoln's Inn, London, or to myself', at Moor Cottage, Wakefield.

In order to urge the necessity, and explain the design of infant
schools, I have for some years been accustomed to deliver a course of
lectures, of which the following is an outline:--

FIRST LECTURE.--Affecting state of the children of the
poor--Lamentable condition of young delinquents--What are the
causes?--The question answered--Bodily and mental injuries now
sustained by children of all ranks, described and prevented--What is
the best remedy for existing evils?--Answer given--Origin and history
of the Infant System--Its progress in Scotland, where it might least
have been expected--What are the objections to the system?--Practical
refutation of them--Modes of instruction: The alphabet, spelling,
reading, arithmetic--Moral cultivation enforced, and the means

SECOND LECTURE.--A play-ground made not only delightful, but _mentally
and morally_ improving--The class-room adapted to produce and confirm
religious impressions--Music, its application to improve the feelings
and memory--Representations of natural objects and scriptural
subjects--Variety and extent of information attainable--Lying,
dishonesty, injustice, and cruelty corrected.

THIRD LECTURE.--New plans of reward and punishment--Influence of fear
and love--Great difference in the result--Infant system more fully
explained--Appeals to conscience--Emulation unnecessary--Elliptical
plan of teaching described--Trials by jury--Effect of
sympathy--Infants the instruments of improving one another.

FOURTH LECTURE.--Methods of teaching the elements of grammar,
geography, and geometry--Gallery described, and its application to
many useful purposes--Qualifications of instructors--Injury sustained
from their deficiencies and errors--The system contrasted with former
methods--Ultimate effects of its diffusion--Servants prepared to
become blessings to families--Hints to parents, and the application of
the whole system to children of every grade.

These lectures I am ready to deliver wherever it may be deemed
desirable, and to follow up the effect by the organization of schools.
The necessary apparatus may be obtained of myself.



_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 inquiry should be excited--Gradual development of the young
mind--Neglect of moral treatment--Inefficacy of maxims learned by
wrote--Influence of love--The play-ground a field of observation--The
natural propensities there shew themselves--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 business of education, in respect of knowledge, is not, as I
think to perfect a learner in all or any one of the sciences, but to
give his mind that disposition, and those habits, that may enable
him to attain any part of knowledge he shall stand in need of in the
future coarse of his life."--_Locke_.

"When the obligations of morality are taught, let the sanctions of
Christianity, never be forgotten; by which it will be shewn not that
they give lustre and strength to each other: religion will appear to
be the voice of reason, and morality the will of God."--_Johnson_.

* * * * *

When Agesilaus, king of Sparta, was asked, "What should boys be
taught?" he answered, "What they ought to do when they become
men." Such a declaration was worthy of later times, since the most
intelligent now admit that the great end of all education is the
formation of solid, useful, and virtuous character. This work should
be, doubtless, commenced at the earliest possible period, to it the
system explained in this volume is considered to be adapted, and the
principles on which it proceeds are now to be illustrated. And here it
ought to be particularly observed that nothing is admissible, except
what is appropriate to the state of infancy, calculated to exercise
the physical energies, and likely, by their invigoration, to lay the
basis of a sound and powerful intellect. And yet all this is too often
forgotten. Look at the infant, the very embodying of vivacity and
activity, and its confinement to a particular posture, or the
requirement of a peculiar expression of countenance, is manifestly
unnatural. An inactive and healthy child under six years of age is
never seen. Whatever compels it to be otherwise consequently produces
what is artificial in character. A parent or a teacher may keep his
children quiet, and in what he terms order; but it does not follow
that this is a good preparation for after years. On the contrary,
bondage may issue in excess. The feelings and propensities which,
instead of being corrected, are unduly restrained, will be manifested
in some other ways, and under less favourable circumstances, and
frequently the reaction will be violent in maturity. Hence the system
now recommended is expressly one for _infants_, adapted to them just
as they are, and wholly designed to repress what is evil, and to
cherish what is good.

Accordingly, the utmost attention is given to the cheerfulness
and happiness of those on whom it acts. Instruction in reading,
arithmetic, geometry, and various other things is made exceedingly
amusing; smiling countenances and sparkling eyes are observable all
around when it is communicated; and what was dull and soporific,
according to the old plan, is now insinuated so agreeably, that
the child, while literally at play, is acquiring a large amount of
valuable knowledge. At play he sees Nature's book, that world of
beauties: he loves to look into it, there is no flogging to induce
him to do it. All is enquiry and anxiety on his part. "What is this?"
"What is that?" "What is it for?" "How did it come?" With numerous
other questions of similar import. Oh, that we had teachers to teach
more out of this divine book! Oh, that we had a public who would
encourage and cherish them for so doing! What blessed results even
have I seen, by one's being able to answer such enquiries! The absurd
notion that children can only be taught in a room, must be exploded.
I have done more in one hour in the garden, in the lanes, and in the
fields, to cherish and satisfy the budding faculties of childhood,
than could have been done in a room for months. Oh, mankind have yet
something to learn about teaching children! See how they catch at
truths through the medium of living things! See how it germinates in
them, by so doing; the teacher may forget, they do not, this I have
proved hundreds of times. Music has proved a most important auxiliary
for this purpose, and a stranger would be astonished at the hilarity
and delight with which much is rehearsed, with a full perception
of its meaning, when in any other way it would be irksome and

These attainments, moreover, are accompanied by various movements
and evolutions which exercise the limbs, the joints, the muscles; in
addition to which, set times are appointed every morning and afternoon
for its exclusive enjoyment.

The conduct of inferior animals, when young, shows the propriety of
giving exercise to children. Every other creature makes use of its
organs of motion as soon as possible, and many of them, when under no
necessity of moving in quest of food, cannot be restrained without
force. Such is the case with the calf, the lamb, and many more. If
these creatures were not permitted to frisk about at pleasure, they
would soon die, or become diseased. The same inclination appears very
early in the human species; but as they are not able to take exercise
themselves, it is the business of their parents and nurses to give it
them. This may be done in various ways, and the methods included
in the system are shewn in other parts of this work. It is to be
regretted that men should be so inattentive to this matter; their
negligence is one reason why females know so little of it. Women will
always be desirous to excel in such accomplishments as recommend
them to the other sex; but men generally avoid even the slightest
acquaintance with the affairs of the nursery, and many would reckon
it an affront were they supposed to know any thing of them. Not so,
however, with the kennel or the stables; a gentleman of the first
rank, who is not ashamed to give directions concerning the management
of his dogs or horses, would blush were he surprised in performing the
same office for that being who is to be the heir of his fortunes, and,
perhaps, the future hope of his country.

Arguments to show the importance of exercise, might be drawn from
every part of the animal economy. Without it, the circulation of the
blood cannot be properly carried on, nor the different secretions duly
performed; neither can the fluids be properly prepared, nor the solids
rendered firm or strong. The action of the heart, the motion of the
lungs, and all the vital functions, are greatly assisted by exercise.
But to point out the manner in which these effects are produced, would
lead us beyond the present subject. We shall, therefore, only add,
that when exercise is neglected, none of the animal functions can be
duly performed; and when this is the case, the whole constitution must
go to wreck. Healthy parents, wholesome food, and suitable clothing
will avail little where it is disregarded. Sufficient exercise will
supply many defects in nursing, but nothing can compensate for its
want. A good constitution ought certainly to be our first object in
the management of children. It lays a foundation for their being
useful and happy in life; and whoever neglects it, not only fails in
his duty to his offspring, but to society.

While this is forgotten, let us not complain of weak and thoughtless
children, or of weak and thoughtless servants; for the former are so
from the neglect of their parents and the public; and the latter from
not having been taught to think at all--and yet the very persons that
object to the education of the poor are the first to complain of their

A notion that habits of industry must be established, has, however,
been the means, I regret to state, of a sad perversion of the system
in these respects. The time allowed for amusement and exercise has
been in some cases, very much abridged that the children might learn
and practise sewing, knitting, plaiting, &c. Now, no one can be more
disposed to the encouragement of industrious habits than myself, but I
would say not at the expense of health; which I am certain, in these
cases it must be. Deprive the children of their amusement, and they
will soon cease to be the lively, happy beings, we have hitherto seen
them, and will become the sickly, inanimate creatures, we have been
accustomed to behold and pity, under the confinement and restraint
of the dame's schools. I do not scruple to affirm, that if the
_play-grounds_ of infant schools are cut off from the system,--they
will from that moment cease to be a blessing to the country.

Nothing has given me greater pain than to witness the thorough neglect
of play-ground attendance on the part of teachers and the public;
the former leave the children to themselves at the very time their
attendance is most desirable; and when, if duly watched, the children
will give them _lessons_. Yes! such lessons as no book can give, and
such lessons as every efficient teacher _must_ learn, or efficiency
is out of the question. The public are too fond of hearing tasks and
memory work, and such book-learning as is taught in school, with the
singing, and the amusing indoor work, to the detriment and neglect
of the moral and physical outdoor work. Again and again, I say, the
outdoor training tells most upon the morals and the formation of

The first faculties which develop themselves in childhood, are those
of observation. The infant, who is two months old, will notice a
lighted candle; immediately that sense is gratified, it seeks to
please another, that of _touch_, and every mother knows, if not
prevented, it will put its hand in the flame. The next effort is to
examine other objects: these it will seize if it can, and after having
examined one, it will put it aside to observe another. On its being
able to move about, it seeks objects within its reach, and wishing to
gratify the sense of taste, applies every thing to the mouth; by this
it distinguishes the bitter from the sweet, and on seeing what is
sweet a second time, will point to it and wish to obtain it, whilst
what is bitter will not be desired.

The _mental_ part of the system should now be adverted to. Hence it
has been well remarked, "From the time that children begin to use
their hands, nature directs them to handle every thing over and
over, to look at it while they handle it, and to put it into various
positions, and at various distances from the eye. We are apt to excuse
this as a childish diversion, because they must be doing something,
and have not reason to entertain themselves in a more manly way. But
if we think more justly, we shall find that they are engaged in the
most serious and important study; and if they had all the reason of a
philosopher, they could not be more properly employed. For it is this
childish employment that enables them to make the proper use of their
eyes. They are thereby every day acquiring habits of perception,
which are of greater importance than any thing we can teach them. The
original perceptions which nature gave them are few, and insufficient
for the purposes of life; and, therefore, she made them capable of
many more perceptions by habit. And to complete her work, she has
given them an unwearied assiduity in applying to the exercise by which
those perceptions are acquired."

Such is the education which nature gives her children, and we may add
that another part of her discipline is, that by the course of things,
children must exert all their muscular force, and employ all their
ingenuity, in order to gratify their curiosity and satisfy their
little appetites. What they desire is only to be obtained at the cost
of labour, patience, and many disappointments. By the exercise of the
body and mind necessary for satisfying their desires, they acquire
agility, strength, and dexterity in their motions, as well as
constitutional health and vigour; they learn to bear pain without
dejection, and disappointment without despondency. The education of
nature is most perfect in savages, who have no other tutor; and we see
that in the quickness of all their senses, in the agility of their
motions, in the hardiness of their constitutions, and in their ability
to bear hunger, thirst, pain, and disappointment, they commonly far
exceed civilized nations. On this account, a most ingenious writer
seems to prefer savage to social life. But it is the intention of
nature, that human education should assist to form the man, and she
has fitted us for it, by the natural principles of imitation and
belief, which discover themselves almost in infancy, as well as by
others which are of later growth.

When the education which we receive from men does not give scope to
that of nature, it is erroneous in its means and its tendency, and
enervates both the body and the mind. Nature has her way of rearing
men, as she has of healing their maladies. The art of education is to
follow her dictates, and the art of education is equally to obey her
laws. The ancient inhabitants of the Baleares followed nature in their
manner of teaching their children to be good archers, when they hung
their dinner aloft by a thread, and left them to bring it down: by
their skill in the use of the bow.

The education of nature, without any more human care than is necessary
to preserve life, makes a savage. Human education joined to that of
nature, may make a good citizen, a skilful artizan, or a well-bred
man; but a higher power is wanting in order to produce a Bacon or a

The error of the _past_ system (for such I hope I may venture to call
it) as to _mental development_ was, that the inferior powers of the
mind were called into activity, in preference to its higher faculties.
The effort was to exercise the memory, and store it with information,
which, owing to the inactivity of the understanding and the judgment,
was seldom or never of use. To adopt the opinions of others was
thought quite enough, without the child being troubled to think for
itself, and to form an opinion of its own. But this is not as it
should be. Such a system is neither likely to produce great nor wise
men; and is much better adapted to parrots than children. Hence, the
first thing attempted in an infant school is, to set the children
thinking,--to induce them to examine, compare, and judge, in reference
to all those matters which their dawning intellects are capable of
mastering. It is of no use to tell a child, in the first place, _what
it should think_,--this is at once inducing mental indolence, which
is but too generally prevalent among adults; owing to this erroneous
method having been adopted by those who had the charge of their early
years. Were a child left to its own resources, to discover and judge
of things exclusively by itself, though the opposite evil would be
the consequence, namely, a state of comparative ignorance, yet I am
doubtful whether it would be greater or more lamentable than that
issuing from the injudicious system of giving children dogmas instead
of problems, the opinions of others instead of eliciting their own. In
the one case we should find a mind, uninformed and uncultivated, but
of a vigorous and masculine character, grasping the little knowledge
it possessed, with the power and right of a conqueror; in the other,
a memory occupied by a useless heap of notions,--without a single
opinion or idea it could call its own,--and an understanding indolent
and narrow, and, from long-indulged inactivity, almost incapable
of exertion. As the fundamental principle of the system, I would
therefore say, let the _children think for themselves_. If they arrive
at erroneous conclusions, assist them in attaining the truth; but
let them, with such assistance, arrive at it by their own exertions.
Little good will be done, if you say to a child,--_That_ is wrong,
_this_ is right, unless you enable it to perceive the error of the
one and the truth of the other. It is not only due to the child as a
rational being that you should act so, but it is essentially necessary
to the development of its intellectual faculties. It were not more
ridiculous for a master, in teaching arithmetic, to give his pupil the
problem and answer, without instructing him in the method of working
the question, than it is for a person to give a child results of
reasoning, without showing how the truth is arrived at. But some,
perhaps, will be ready to exclaim, "Surely the teacher should not
withhold the benefit of his knowledge and experience,--the child will
have time enough to examine the merits of his information when he
grows older and be more competent to do so!" To this I answer: in the
first place, nothing should be submitted to the child which it is not
fully competent to understand. To give the child tasks or subjects
too difficult for its mental powers, is a violation of nature; and as
foolish and detrimental as though you were to place a hundred pounds
weight on its shoulders when it is incapable of supporting ten. The
teacher's experience can only be of service to the child so far as it
is applicable to its own state; and as to postponing the period when
it is to think for itself, there is certainly no occasion for it.
Nature has provided food adapted to the powers of the infant's
stomach, and those who would rightly conduct the work of education,
should imitate her in providing its intellectual food. That this may
be done, I am attempting to shew in theory in the pages of this work;
and, that it answers equally well in practice, any one who has a
doubt, may assure himself by visiting any school conducted upon the
plan here laid down.

The charge has been brought against the system, that we are not
sufficiently anxious to teach the children to read. Now, though I may
venture to say, that under no other plan, do the children acquire a
knowledge of alphabetical characters, and the formation of words, so
soon as under the present, yet I am quite ready to concede that
I consider their learning to read a secondary object, to that of
teaching them to examine and find out the nature and properties of
things, of which words are but the _signs_. It is with _things_, and
not _words_ merely, we wish to make our children acquainted. If they
first learn the nature and properties of an object, there is no fear
of their afterwards inquiring its name; but we too frequently find,
that having acquired _names_, they are indifferent to, and forgetful
of, the objects represented.

Let children see and observe an object, and be taught the name of it
at the same time, and then both are indelibly fixed on the memory.
An infant at home is perpetually running around and looking at all
things, and hearing persons speaking about them; it soon becomes
acquainted with their names and properties, and then from time to time
speaks about them. "Ah!" exclaims papa or mama, "What an old-fashioned
child that is; one would wonder where it got such notions." A little
thought and reflection would soon tell where, and this thought
properly carried out would display an important fundamental principle
in teaching the young mind.

Our first endeavour is, therefore, to excite a spirit of inquiry,--to
foster that curiosity which is so natural to young children: till this
is properly done, your information will not be well received, and
it is most likely soon to be forgotten; but having once made them
inquisitive, you are more likely to tire of communicating than they
are of receiving. The skilful teacher will, indeed, rather leave them
with an appetite still craving, than satiate them by repletion. I have
frequently found the most beneficial results arise from the sudden
cessation of a lesson or a lecture on an interesting topic. The
children have looked for its renewal with the utmost impatience,
pondering over what they had already heard, and anticipating what was
yet to come with the greatest interest. Give a child a _task_, and
you impose a burthen on him,--permit him to learn something, and you
confer a favour.

Having excited a spirit of inquiry, the next endeavour is to direct it
to proper objects. These, of course, will be things which relate to
the senses of the child; the nature and properties of bodies, which
may be ascertained by the application of those senses, &c. Having
induced it to examine for itself, you are now to elicit its ideas of
each object respectively; and having taught it to use its reason
and judgment freely, and to express its own notions fearlessly and
candidly,--you are to attempt the correction of what is erroneous, by
putting forth your own views in as simple a way as possible: not so as
to induce the child to give up its own opinions and adopt yours, but
in such a way as to direct it to the attainment of truth; to induce a
comparison between its thoughts and yours, and thus to discover its
own error.

The powers of observation will speedily be improved under such a
course of instruction, and in all the subsequent stages of existence,
will not fail to constitute an independent and shrewd observer. But
some may think we are straining the child's faculties by the plan
recommended,--overstepping nature's laws,--and that the result must be
detrimental to the child, both in mind and body. So far, however, is
this from being true, that we have taken nature for our guide. We
deprecate strongly, most strongly, that unnatural system, which
gives children tasks so far beyond their powers, and for which their
infantile faculties are not qualified;--we would lead them on in the
path which nature has marked out--step by step--taking care that one
thing should be thoroughly mastered before another is attempted.

The mental powers of children are far stronger than is generally
supposed. No one who looks back to his early childhood, can fail of
recollecting, that, at times, his thoughts would even then reach
the very limits of human thought. All the powers of mind that are
exercised in after-life display themselves in infancy, and therefore
they all ought to be quietly and easily brought into exercise. This
maybe done by any object,--even a toy. Were we to tie up several of
our members so as to prevent their use, and at the same time exercise
strongly those at liberty, bodily distortion must result. If we, in
teaching, exercise the memory alone, and that merely with a knowledge
of words and not of things, an absolute mental distortion must result,
and the higher powers of reflection, judgment, and reason will remain
weak, feeble, and deficient from want of exercise. When all the powers
of the mind are brought out into harmonious action, the acquirement
of knowledge be comes pleasurable. Knowledge is the proper aliment to
expand and enlarge the mind, as natural food is for the growth of
the body; and when such as is proper to the age and character of the
recipient is selected, the one will be received with as much pleasure
as the other. As the due exercise of every bodily power causes it to
become strong, healthy, and vigorous, so the right and proper use of
every mental faculty will, in the end, occasion it to become active,
free, and powerful.

As soon as the child enters the school he is under command. He is
required to occupy certain places, to go through various motions, and
to attend to diversified instruction, at the sound of a foot, or the
raising of a hand. From this course no departure is allowed. At first
it is the work of sympathy and imitation, but afterwards it becomes a
matter of principle. Thus, then, the native reluctance of the infant
mind to obey, is overcome, and a solid basis laid for future efforts.
So far, however, the discipline is general; to be particular, the
individual character must be minutely observed. The movements of the
child, when unrestrained, must be diligently watched, its predominant
qualities ascertained, and such a mode of treatment adopted as sound
judgment of character may dictate. Wherever this is forgotten, some
evils will arise. The orders which are given to any other power than
those of sympathy and imitation, are not likely to be obeyed by the
untrained babe; the fact is, that as yet it has no other means of
obedience, and for this on higher principles we must wait till nature
furnishes instruments and opportunities for their exercise. When,
however, success is gained thus far, the way is prepared for
further development and culture, and the powers of observation and
discrimination, then gradually tasked, will accomplish all that is
desired. Thus the infant sits or rises, repeats or is silent, at
first, because those about him do so; afterwards he perceives a reason
for doing so: for example, that, when in the gallery, he can see
what he could not any where else, and, therefore, that he must march
thither, and then he judges that one thing is wrong because the doing
it was forbidden, and that another is right because it was commanded,
or because the one makes him happy and the other the contrary.

Under the old system of education, I must candidly say, _moral_
treatment has been often altogether omitted, and still more frequently
has it been erroneous, and consequently inefficient. Let me
ask,--would it promote a child's health to teach it to repeat certain
maxims on the benefits resulting from exercise? The answer is obvious.
Neither can it be of any service to the moral health of the child, to
teach it to repeat the best maxims of virtue, unless we have taken
care to urge the practical observance of those precepts. And yet this
has rarely been the case. How frequently do we hear persons remark
on the ill conduct of children, "It is surprising they should do
so;--they have been taught better things!" Very likely; and they may
have all the golden rules of virtue alluded to, carefully stored up in
their memories; but they are like the hoarded treasures of the miser,
the disposition to use them is wanted. It is this which we must strive
to produce and promote in the child. Indeed, if we can but be the
instruments of exciting a love of goodness, it will not err, nor lack
the knowledge how to do good, even though we were to forget to give it
any rules or maxims. It is to the heart we must turn our attention in
the moral treatment of children. We must carefully endeavour to elicit
and train out the moral feelings implanted within; and to awaken the
conscience to the approval of good, and the dislike and detestation
of evil. Another grand object of the master or mistress of an infant
school, is, therefore, to win their love, by banishing all slavish
fear. They are to be invited to regard their teacher, as one who
is desirous of promoting their happiness, by the most affectionate
means--not only by kind words, but by kind actions; one of which
influences a child more than a volume of words. Words appeal only to
the understanding, and frequently pass away as empty sounds; but kind
actions operate on the heart, and, like the genial light and warmth of
spring, that dispels the gloom which has covered the face of nature
during the chilly season of winter, they disperse the mists which
cold and severe treatment has engendered in the moral atmosphere.
The fundamental principle of the infant school system is _love_;
nor should any other be substituted for it, except when absolutely
necessary. Let the children see that you love them, and _love_ will
beget love, both toward their teacher and each other. Without the aid
of example nothing can be done; it is by this magnetic power alone
that sympathetic feelings can be awakened. It acts as a talisman on
the inmost feelings of the soul, and excites them to activity; which
should be the constant aim of all persons engaged in the important
work of education. As we find that vicious principles are strengthened
by habit, and good principles proportionally weakened, so, on the
contrary, immoral dispositions are weakened by the better feelings
being brought into action.

The great defect in the human character is _selfishness_, and to
remove or lessen this is the great desideratum of moral culture. How
happy were mankind, if, instead of each one living for himself, they
lived really for one another! The perfection of moral excellence
cannot be better described than as the attainment of that state in
which we should "love our neighbour as ourselves." The prevalence of
self-love will be very obvious to the observant master or mistress, in
the conduct of the children under their care, and it is this feeling
that they must be ever striving to check or eradicate. Nor need they
despair of meeting with some degree of success. The children may be
brought to feel, that to impart happiness is to receive it,--that
being kind to their little schoolfellows, they not only secure a
return of kindness, but actually receive a personal gratification from
so doing; and that there is more pleasure in forgiving an injury than
in resenting it. Some I know will be apt to say,--that after all, thus
is nothing but _selfishness_ or _self-love_. It is an old matter of
dispute, and I leave those to quarrel over it who please. Every
one knows and feels the difference between that which we call
_selfishness_, and that which is comprehensively termed by the lips
of divine truth, the "_love of our neighbour_." If it must be called
self-love, I can only say that it is the proper direction of the
feeling which is to be sought.

In the work of moral culture, it will be necessary not only to observe
the child's conduct under the restraint of school observation and
discipline; but at those times when it thinks itself at liberty to
indulge its feelings unnoticed. The evil propensities of our nature
have all the wiliness of the serpent, and lurk in their secret places,
watching for a favourable opportunity of exercise and display. For the
purpose of observation, the _play-ground_ will afford every facility,
and is on this account, as well as because it affords exercise and
amusement to the children, an indispensable appendage to an Infant
School. Here the child will show its character in its true light. Here
may be seen what effects the education of children has produced;
for if they are fond of fighting and quarrelling, here it will be
apparent; if they are artful, here they will seek to practice their
cunning; and this will give the master an opportunity of applying the
proper remedy; whereas, if they are kept in school (which they must
be, if there be no play-ground), these evil inclinations will not
manifest themselves until they go into the street, and consequently,
the antidote will not be applied. I have seen many children behave
very orderly in the school, but the moment they entered the
play-ground they manifested their selfishness to such a degree, that
they would wish all the rest of the children to be subservient to
them; and, on their refusing to let them bear rule, they would begin
to use force, in order to compel their compliance. This is conduct
that ought to be checked,--and what time so proper as the first stages
of infancy?

To take another case, a quarrel like this may arise: a boy has
six gooseberries; another boy comes and asks for one; by a little
solicitation he obtains it:--he wishes another;--but the boy who has
them says he cannot spare any more; he has only five, and cannot part
with another. The second boy, however, duns him. He even acts the
hypocrite, and puts into play many of the worst artifices of human
nature, which we so often see in daily practice, and he gains his
end. But he is not yet satisfied; he wishes another. The first boy,
however, will on no account give him more. He again tries all his
arts, but in vain. Seeing he cannot by art or entreaty gain another,
he has recourse to violence. He snatches one out of his companion's
hand and runs off with it. The first boy is irritated at such conduct,
he pursues the fugitive, overtakes him, and gives him a blow on the
face. The second boy is as great a coward as he is a thief. He comes
up and makes his complaint to the master. The master then has a trial
by jury. He does not knock one head against the other according to the
old custom, but he hears both plaintiff and defendant, and having got
the facts, he submits to the children themselves whether it was right
in the one boy to take with violence What was not his own, and shews
them which is the more to blame. Then they decide on the sentence;
perhaps some one suggests that it should be the utmost infliction
allowable, a slight pat on the hand; while a tender-hearted girl says,
"Please, sir, give it him very softly;" but the issue is, a marked
distinction between right and wrong;--appropriate expressions of
pleasure and disapprobation:--and on the spot, "a kissing and being
friends." I am, indeed, so firmly convinced, from the experience I
have had, of the utility of a play-ground, from the above reasons,
and others, elsewhere mentioned, that I scruple not to say, an infant
school is of little, if any, service without one.

Where the play-ground is ornamented with flowers, fruit-trees, &c.
(and I would recommend this plan to be invariably adopted,) it
not only affords the teacher an opportunity of communicating much
knowledge to the children, and of tracing every thing up to the Great
First Cause, but it becomes the means of establishing principles of
honesty. They should not on any account be allowed to pluck the fruit
or flowers; every thing should be considered as sacred; and being
thus early accustomed to honesty, temptations in after-life will be
deprived of their power. It is distressing to all lovers of children,
to see what havoc is made by them in plantations near London; and even
grown persons are not entirely free from this fault, for, not content
with a proper foot-path, they must walk on a man's plantations, pull
up that which can be of no use, and thereby injure the property of
their neighbour. These things ought not to be, nor do I think they
would be so common, if they were noticed a little more in the
education of children. It has been too much the practice with many,
to consider that the business of a school consists merely in teaching
children their letters; but I am of opinion, that the formation of
character while there, is of the greatest importance, not only to the
children, but to society at large. How can we account for the strict
honesty of the Laplanders, who can leave their property in the woods,
and in their huts, without the least fear of its being stolen or
injured, while we, with ten times the advantages, cannot consider our
property safe, with the aid of locks and bolts, brick walls, and even
watchmen and police-officers besides? There must be some cause for all
this, and perhaps the principal one is defective education, and the
total neglect of the morals of the infant poor, at a time when their
first impressions should be taken especial care of; _for conscience,
if not lulled to sleep, but called into vigorous action, will prove
stronger than brick walls, bolts, or locks; and I am satisfied, that I
could have taken the whole of the children under my care in the first
infants' school, into any gentleman's plantation, without their doing
the least injury whatever; and this I could now do in any similar
circumstances_. I will mention, however, one fact.

One day, while I was walking in the play-ground, I saw at one end of
it about twenty children, apparently arguing a subject, _pro_ and
_con_; from the attitude of several of the orators, I judged it was
about something that appeared to them of considerable importance. I
wished to know the subject of debate, but was satisfied that if I
approached the children it might put an end to the matter altogether.
Some of the bystanders saw me looking very attentively at the
principal actor, and, as I suppose, suggested to the party the
propriety of retiring to some other spot, for immediately afterwards
they all went behind a partition, which afforded me an opportunity of
distinctly hearing all that passed, without being observed by them. I
soon found that the subject of debate was a _song_. It seems that one
of the children had brought a song to the school, which some of the
monitors had read, and having decided that it was an improper thing
for the child to have in his possession, one of them had taken it from
the owner, and destroyed it. The aggrieved party had complained to
some of the other children, who said that it was _thieving_ for one
child to take any thing from another child, without his consent. The
boy, nettled at being called a thief, defended himself, by saying that
he, as a monitor, had a right to take away from any of his class any
thing that was calculated to do them harm; and was, it seems, backed
in this opinion by many others. On the other hand, it was contended
that no such right existed; and it was doubtful to me for a
considerable time, on which side the strength of the argument lay.
At last one of the children observed to the following effect:--"You
should have taken it to _master_, because he would know if it was bad
better than you." This was a convincing argument, and to my great
delight, the boy replied--"How much did the song cost?" The reply was,
"A half-penny." "Here, then, take it," says the child, "I had one
given me to-day; so now remember I have paid you for it, but if you
bring any more songs to school I will tell master." This seemed
to give general satisfaction to the whole party, who immediately
dispersed to their several amusements. A struggle like this, between
the principles of _duty and honesty_, among children so very young,
must prove highly interesting to all who love them, and exemplifies,
beyond a doubt, the immense advantage of early instruction.

Another thing to be noticed is, a regard for _truth_. Nothing is so
delightful as this. There is no conversation so agreeable as that of
the man of integrity, who hears without any design to betray, and
speaks without any intention to deceive; and this admitted, we should
strive to the utmost to induce children to remember it. But our
success, in a great measure, will depend on the means we employ. Many
children are frightened into falsehood by the injudicious methods of
those who have the care of them. I have known a mother promise a child
forgiveness if it would speak the truth, and, after having obtained
confession, she has broken her engagement. A child, once treated in
this manner, will naturally be guarded against a similar deception.
I have known others who would pretend not to punish the child for
confession, but for first denying it, and afterwards confessing. I
think that children should not be punished, on any account, after
having been promised forgiveness, truth being of too great importance
to be thus trifled with; and we cannot wonder if it is lightly
esteemed by children, after the example is set by their parents.
Having had several thousand children under my care, I have had
favourable opportunities of observing the bias of the infant mind,
and I must say, that I have not found them so inclined to evil and
falsehood as I had previously imagined.

When morality is adverted to in this volume, let it never be
forgotten, that by it is meant the pure and perfect morality of
the sacred Scriptures. From this source alone the great truths and
precepts can be derived, for regulating the conscience and improving
the heart. The infant system, however, would aim to steer perfectly
clear of the more remote theological opinions entertained by
Christians of different denominations. With these, little children can
have nothing to do, and institutions for their express benefit should
receive the support of all. What kind of religious doctrine and faith
infants ought to be taught, I will not here determine, but leave it
for consideration in a future chapter devoted more expressly to that
subject. It must be the wish of all true Christians that they should
be taught the fundamental truths of the everlasting Gospel. But it is
much to be lamented that what are the fundamental truths of the gospel
is so frequently a debatable point. With such controversial topics
infants have nothing to do, and to teach such matters would rather be
sowing seeds for future scepticism than laying a solid basis for
pure and undefiled religion. In all things, but more especially in
religion, as being the subject of the highest importance, the purest,
simplest, and most unadulterated truths should be taught. The Bible
contains ample and abundant stores of such simple truth, most
admirably suited to infant capacity in texts, precepts, parables, and
histories. The pious and judicious mother or teacher can be at no loss
for a proper selection. Many beautiful and simple prayers are to be
found in the Church of England Prayer-Book, which I think cannot be
mended, and which I have found quite suitable to the infant mind.
Several of the Collects, for simplicity of language and rich fulness
of divine truth, cannot be surpassed. Simple hymns for instruction and
devotion are also requisite, and I have endeavoured to provide such as
these in a _Manual_, recently published in connexion with a friend,
and which may be bad through the publisher of this work.



_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--Rotatory swing--Its management and

* * * * *

"Wisdom seeks the most desirable ends in the use of the most
appropriate means."

* * * * *

I shall now lay before my readers an account of the things necessary
for the establishment of an infant school; previously to presenting
them with the detail of the plan to be pursued in it.

In the first place, it is necessary to provide an airy and spacious
apartment, with a dry, and, if possible, a large play-ground attached
to it. The plot of ground, I conceive, should not be less than 50 feet
wide, and 100 feet long; but if the ground were 150, or 200 feet long,
it would be so much the better, as this would allow 100 or 150 feet
for a play-ground; which is of such importance, that I consider the
system would be very defective without it, for reasons which will be
spoken of hereafter.

There should likewise be a room about fifteen feet square, for the
purpose of teaching the children in classes, which may be formed at
one end of the large room: this is absolutely necessary. As the master
and mistress should live on the premises, a small house, containing
three or four rooms, should be provided for them. The reason for their
living on the premises is, that the children should be allowed to
bring their dinners with them, as this will keep them out of the
streets; and, indeed, of those who do go home to dinner, many will
return in a very short time; and if there be no person on the premises
to take care of them, they will be lost; and not only so, but strange
boys will come in from the streets, and do a great deal of mischief,
if no one be there to prevent it.

The portion of sitting-room that I have allowed for each child is
twelve inches. The scholars should sit all round the school room, with
their backs against the wall; double seats should be round the sides
of the school, like the two first seats in the gallery. A school
according to the engraved plan, will be found large enough for all
the purposes of an infant school; but if it is wished to be more
commodious, it may be of the same length as the plan, and instead of
twenty-two feet, may be made thirty feet wide; this will hold as many
children as ought to be collected together in one place, and as many
as any man and woman can possibly do justice to if it be any longer,
it will be difficult for all the children to hear the master. An
oblong building is the cheapest, on account of the roof. Economy has
been studied in the plan given, without any thing being added that is
unnecessary. This, of course, is a matter of opinion, and may be acted
upon or not, just as it suits those who may choose to build. The
master's house in the plan, it will be seen, projects a little into
the play-ground, to afford him the opportunity of seeing the children
at play while he is at dinner, that he may notice any improper conduct
on the part of the children, and mention it when the accounts of the
day are made up.

As children are very apt to get into danger, even when at school,
it becomes expedient to exercise the utmost vigilance, in order to
prevent the possibility of accident; for where two hundred children
are assembled together, the eldest not seven years of age, it is most
certain that if there be danger, some will get into. For this reason,
all the doors on the premises should be so secured, that the children
cannot swing them backwards and forwards; if they are not, they will
get their fingers pinched, or greater accidents may occur. The forms
also should be so placed that the children may not be likely to fall
over them. Every thing, in short, should be put out of the way, that
will be likely to occasion any danger. The seats should not be more
than nine inches high; and for the smaller children six inches; and
should be eleven or twelve inches wide; and fixed all round to the

The master's desk should be placed at the end of the school, where the
class-room is. By this means he will be able to see the faces of all
the children, and they can see him, which is absolutely necessary.
They may then be governed by a motion of his hand.

The _furniture_ necessary for the school consists of a desk for
the master; seats for the children; lesson-stands; stools for the
monitors; slates and pencils; pictures and lessons on scriptural
subjects; pictures and lessons on natural history; alphabets and
spelling lessons; brass letters and figures, with boards for
them; geometrical figures, &c.; and the transposition-frame, or
arithmeticon, as it has been called. To these may added little
books, &c. The particular use of these articles will be shewn in the
succeeding pages.

The following is a representation of a lesson-post.

The _lessons_, pasted on wood, to render them sufficiently stiff, are
put into the grooves of the lesson-post; and can then be placed in any
position which is most convenient, and adjusted to any height, as the
master may see proper.

[Illustration: _a b_, is a slip of wood with a groove in it, fixed to
the post by means of the screws _c_ and _d_, on which slip are two
blocks _e_ and _f_; the bottom one, _f_, is fixed with a groove in
the upper side, for the lower edge of the board _g h_ to rest in; the
upper block, _e_, has a groove in the lower side, for the upper edge
of the board _g h_ to rest in, and rises and falls according to the
width of the board on the slip _a b_.--Instead of being made with
feet, the lesson post is generally, and perhaps better, fixed into
the floor of the school-room, and should be very slight, and 4 feet 4
inches in height.]

The following lesson-post has been found to answer better than the
preceding one; and is fixed in a socket, which prevents the necessity
of the cross-bar feet at bottom, and possesses this advantage, that it
may be taken out when done with, and hung up by the side of the
wall, so as to allow the area of the room to be quite clear of any
incumbrance, and to be used for any other purpose. No. 2, is the
socket which should be let into the floor and screwed fast to the side
of a joist, so as to keep it perfectly steady; the socket is to be
open at bottom so as to let the dust pass through: and No. 1, is a
plate, to fit over the socket, to come flush with the floor, to be put
over it when the lesson-post is taken out, to prevent too much dust
from getting into the socket. The little nich represented in plate
one, is too small for the pupils to get their fingers into, so as to
pull up the plate, but wide enough to allow the teacher to put a
very narrow key in, when he desires to pull up the plate to put the
lesson-post in the socket. No. 3, is a front view of the lesson-post,
containing the slides nipping the lessons between them; the other
figure represents a side view of the lesson post, and the small figure
at the left hand side represents the groove of the two sliders to
receive the lesson, and the back part of it the dovetails to clip,
which come down behind the post; these are placed parallel in double
rows down the school, at equal distances, exactly opposite each other;
and flattened brass or iron is to be let into the floor, opposite to
the front of them, as shewn in one of the engravings representing the
area of the school, and the children at their object lessons. I have
found by experience that this invention possesses a decided advantage
over the other, as they always remain perpendicular and parallel to
each other, take up less room, and are more easily put out of the way,
and the children cannot knock them down; they should be numbered in
front as represented in the figure, so that the teacher may always put
the proper post in its own place.


The Arithmeticon, of which a description will be given in a subsequent
chapter, is simple in its construction, but, as will be seen
hereafter, may be variously and beneficially applied. It is indeed
indispensable in an infant school, as it is useful for teaching the
first principles of grammar, arithmetic, and geometry. The expense of
furnishing a large school is about L16.; that of a smaller one about

I must here protest against a violation of the freedom of the infant
mind. A fold, as it is called, is erected in some schools for the
youngest of the children; and thus they are cut off from the society
of the rest, from whom they would learn much more than they could from
any teacher. The monitors having charge of this class, are also cooped
up in the same cage, and therefore suffer the same privation. The
result of my own experience, as well as that of others, is, that a
child is decidedly incompetent to the duties of a monitor, if he
cannot keep the youngest class in order without any such means. I
would therefore deprecate, in the strongest terms, the separation
referred to, as not only altogether unnecessary, but exceedingly

To have one hundred children, or upwards, in a room, however
convenient in other respects, and not to allow the children proper
relaxation and exercise, which they could not have without a
play-ground, would materially injure their health, which is a thing,
in my humble opinion, of the first importance. I would rather see a
school where they charged two-pence or three-pence per week for each
child, having a play-ground, than one where the children had free
admission without one; for I think the former institution would do the
most good. The play ground, likewise, is one of the most useful
parts of the system. It is there the child shews itself in its true
character, and thereby gives the master an opportunity of nipping
in the bud its evil propensities. I am, therefore, most anxious to
recommend that this necessary appendage to an infant school should
not be dispensed with. I moreover observe, that where there is a
play-ground attached to the school, instead of playing in the streets,
where scarcely anything but evil is before their eyes, the children
will hasten to the school, with their bread and butter in their hands,
in less than a quarter of an hour after they have left it, knowing
that they have an opportunity of playing there the remainder of their
dinner-time, so that they love the school, and but rarely wish to be
anywhere else.

The play-grounds of some schools are paved with bricks, which I have
found to answer very well, as they absorb the rain so quickly, that
ten minutes after a shower, the place is dry enough for the children
to play in; which, perhaps, would not be the case with any other kind
of paving. They are commonly placed flat on the ground, but I should
prefer them being put edge-ways, as they would last many years longer,
yet it would take nearly double the number of bricks were they so
placed.[A] If it be not paved, the ground will be soft, and the
children will make themselves dirty. It should be so managed that the
water may be carried off, for, if there are any puddles, the children
will get into them. Some persons have recommended a few cart-loads of
good iron-mould gravel, there being a sort which will bind almost like
a rock, if well rolled; but the children are liable to dig holes if it
is only gravel. If this is noticed in time it may be prevented; but if
they are suffered to proceed, and no notice be taken of it, it will be
very difficult to prevent them from continuing the practice. If money
can be saved by any plan, perhaps it is as well to notice it; but
after having weighed the advantages and disadvantages of gravelling,
I am of opinion, that bricks are preferable. I should also recommend
that fruit-trees be planted in the centre of the play-ground, and
likewise round the walls; which will delight the children, and teach
them to respect private property. If any person doubts the propriety
of this plan, I can only say we leave many play-grounds thus
ornamented: and instead of proving a temptation to the children, it
has so far become the means of confirming principles of honesty in
them, that they never touch a single flower or even a leaf in
the garden. There should also be a border of flowers round the
play-ground, of such sorts as will yield the most fragrance, which
will tend to counteract any disagreeable smell that may proceed from
the children, and thereby be conducive to their health, as well as to
that of those who have the charge of them. They will, besides, afford
the teacher an opportunity of giving the children many useful lessons;
for the more he teaches by things, and the less he teaches by signs,
the better. These things need be no expense to the establishment,
except the purchase in the first instance, for they will afford an
agreeable occupation for the master before and after school-hours,
prepare him in some measure for the duties of the day, and afford him
an ample opportunity of instilling a variety of ideas into the minds
of the children, and of tracing every thing up to the Great First
Cause. I have witnessed the good effects of these things, which makes
me desirous of humbly but earnestly recommending them to others.

[Footnote A: In Lancashire, and other places where flagging is cheap,
it has been found decidedly better than any other plan alluded to
above, the children will not hurt themselves more by falling on flags
than they would on bricks or pebbles.]

With regard to the expense: if 200 children pay two-pence each per
week[A], which is now the usual charge, the annual receipts will be,
deducting four weeks for holidays, about L80, and if the deficiency be
made up by subscriptions and donations from the friends of the system,
it may be easily adopted, and all its advantages secured. A village
school might be furnished for half the money, and supported at less
teachers, with 200 infants in each school.

[Footnote A: In some parts of St. Giles's, Wapping, &c., &c., many of
the parents are not able to pay, and many that are, would sooner let
their children run the streets than pay a penny; yet the children of
the latter persons are the greater objects of charity; and it is the
children of such persons that chiefly fill our prisons. We want three
classes of infant schools: one for the middle class, who will pay; for
skilled mechanics, who will pay 2_d_. or 3_d_. per week; and for the
poor and illiterate who will pay nothing.]

Every year increases my conviction of the great importance of the
play-ground, and of the folly of some of my early views respecting it.
Finding a great variety of lessons and objects necessary to arrest
the attention of children, diversified as they are in disposition and
taste, it was supposed that an equal variety of toys was required for
the play-ground. A good supply of balls, battledores, shuttlecocks,
tops, whips, skipping-ropes, hoops, sticks, and wheelbarrows, was,
therefore, obtained, and we flattered ourselves that this must produce
universal happiness. In thus, however, we were most grievously
disappointed; for the balls frequently bounced over the wall,--the
players, not being able to throw them with the precision of Spartan
children, sometimes struck their comrades, perhaps, in the eye: if we
could succeed in quieting the sufferer, by a kiss and a sugar-plum,
the ear was as immediately afterwards saluted with the cry of, "O, my
chin, my chin," from some hapless wight having been star-gazing, and
another, anxious for as many strokes as possible, mistaking that part
for the bottom of his shuttlecock; while this would be followed by,
"O, my leg," from the untoward movement of a stick or a barrow. In
short, such scenes were insupportable; and what with the accidents
that arose, and the tops without strings, and the strings without
tops, the hoops without sticks, and the sticks without hoops, the
seizure of the favourite toy by one, and the inability of another to
get any thing, it was evident that we were wrong, but not so clear how
we could do otherwise.

It then occurred that we might provide some wood-bricks, about four
inches long, an inch and a half thick, and two inches and a half
wide, and of these a thousand were obtained. With these children are
exceedingly amused from the variety of forms in which they may be
placed, and of buildings which may be erected with them.

The play-ground should always be at the rear of the premises, and as
private as possible, that both teachers and pupils be secure from
annoyance of any kind. The entrance should be only through the school,
and no other way; this secures the flowers, the fruits, and the moral
training of the children.


In addition to these, all that is required is a rotatory swing, of
which the above is a representation. To make one, a pole eighteen or
twenty feet long should be firmly fixed in the ground: three feet of
the but-end should be sunk, secured by sleepers to keep it steady: it
should be at least three quarters of a yard in girth at bottom, and
taper gradually to the top to half that size. An iron rim is to be
driven on the head of the pole to keep it from splitting, and then a
spindle at least an inch in diameter, with a shoulder, is to be fixed
in it; an iron wheel with four spokes turned up at the end like a
hook, to which four ropes are to be fastened, must then be made to
revolve on the spindle. As the ropes reach the ground, four children
may take hold of them and run round until they bear the whole weight


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