« PreviousContinue »
the necessity there is for giving them sound principles in their early years. I shall then examine Mr. Lancaster's system of morals and religion, as displayed in his different pamphlets, and speak boldly in defence of the provision made for the proper instruction of the young members of the church and state, by the Act of Uniformity. Perhaps I may venture to show, from authentic documents, the effect of such a generalizing plan as Mr. Lancaster's on the continent, &c.
• A few days ago, my sons, who have among their works a manufactory for tiles, received a letter from him, desiring to have some for his new building I suppose, or rather the extension of his school in the Borough. His seal carried the impression of PEACE! It is a curious fact that he was not originally a quaker, but an anabaptist, intended by his father (who is a preacher himself in this town) for what they call a minister. Whether he changed for the love of a pretty quaker, whom he married, or whether the broadbrim was the best cover for his scheme, I cannot say; but certainly, in the quakerhabit, (from the too liberal indulgences of our church and state to that humbly supercilious sect), he may take liberties, and press forward to notice, more than a member of the establishment could do, even with the same degree of effrontery. I was told by one, to whom he boasted of it, that, at his first interview with his sovereign, he stood with his hat upon his head and made a long oration, while his Majesty remained condescendingly uncovered, or at least holding his hat above his head.'
Dr. Bell, thus afresh and more deeply excited by poison so insidiously conveyed, again writes in a tone every way disgraceful to him. He is acknowledging the receipt of Mrs. Trimmer's book.
"You have achieved a work of great national importance. J. L. would not have been unmasked for years but for you. Ever since I conversed with him, and read some of his familiar letters, I have suspected that he has much assistance in his published works of
He is illiterate and ignorant, with a brazen front, consummate assurance, and the most artful and plausible address, not without ability and ingenuity, heightened in its effects under the Quaker's guise. His account of his family in unguarded moments -Dissenters, Roman Catholics, Infidels — is most extraordinary.
While I am writing I am favoured with yours of the 10th, and rejoice exceedingly in the debut which your admirable production has made. The great defects of J. L's system are detected with such perspicuity, as must carry conviction to every son of the church; and you have gone a great way to show his want of originality, which may easily be followed up.'
And yet this very man had, only two short months before, admitted to the same correspondent, that Lancaster displayed much originality,' both in the application of the monitorial system, and in his individual improvements. We shall say no
more on this long since deceased controversy ; less we could not refrain from stating, in justice to the memory of an ill-used and calumniated man.
With renewed pleasure we now resume the narrative of Lancaster's progress, associated as his efforts ever must be with the subsequent spread of knowledge, the growth and enlargement of the popular mind, and the moral and intellectual improvement of the labouring classes of society in these realms. Even his enemies were constrained to allow, (no mean praise) that to him,—to his 'zeal, ingenuity and perseverance,' were to be attributed the awakening of the public mind to the duty of caring for the instruction of the poor, and the exhibition of an agency by which it could be promptly, economically, and efficiently accomplished.
We left him busy in the new room for which he was mainly indebted to the late Duke of Bedford a thousand children daily gathering for instruction, and a few friends supporting him by their annual subscriptions. Nothing can be more beautiful than the account given of his position and character at this time. He was always domesticated with his pupils. In their play hours he was their companion and their friend. He accompanied them in bands of two, three, and (on one occasion) of five hundred at once, to the environs of London for amusement and instruction.
Nor did he care only for their intellectual necessities. Distress and privation were abroad ;-he raised contributions, went to market, and between the intervals of school presided at dinner with sixty or eighty of the most needy of his flock. The character of benefactor he scarce thought about; it was absorbed in that of teacher and friend. On Sunday evenings he would have large companies of pupils to tea, and after mutually enjoying a very pleasant intercourse, would conclude with reading a portion of the sacred writings in a reverential manner. Some of the pupils would vary the exercise occasionally by reading select pieces of religious poetry, and their teacher would at times add such advice and observations, as the conduct of individuals, or the beauty and importance of the subject required. Is it any wonder that with pupils so trained, to whom so many endearing occasions presented, evidences should abound of affection, docility and improvement? In them he had many ready co-operators, and, however incapable of forming designs, never were agents more prompt and willing to execute.' These were his best and most joyous days. Happy would it have been for him, though certainly not for mankind, had he never emerged from this scene of humble quiet usefulness, into the turbulence of a world, which distracted him by its excitement, injured him by its praise, and finally cast him off, for faults of which itself had been the parent.
He was now rapidly becoming an object of public attention. His school-room was visited by 'foreign princes, ambassadors, peers, commoners, ladies of distinction, bishops and archbishops ;' his publications were passing rapidly through editions, each larger than its predecessor: his school, ably and zealously conducted by youths trained under his own eye, and imbued with his own enthusiastic spirit, was forsaken for lectures in all the principal towns of the kingdom, in every part of which he was received with the most marked and flattering attentions from all classes; even the monarch did not disdain to admit him, uncovered to his presence, but sustained, encouraged and applauded him. The interview which took place at Weymouth in 1805, is described by Mr. Corston, and is too characteristic to be omitted.
On entering the royal presence, the king said : Lancaster, I have sent for you to give me an account of your System of Education, which I hear has met with opposition. One master teach five hundred children at the same time! How do you keep them in order, Lancaster?' Lancaster replied, · Please thy majesty, by the same principle thy majesty's army is kept in order-by the word of command.' His majesty replied, 'Good, good; it does not require an aged general to give the command-one of youngeryears can do it.' Lancaster observed, that in his schools, the teaching branch was performed by youths who acted as young monitors. The king assented, and said, Good.' Lancaster then described his system; and he informed me, that they all paid great attention, and were highly delighted, and as soon as he had finished, his majesty said :• Lancaster, I highly approve of your system, and it is my wish that every poor child in my dominions should be taught to read the bible ; I will do any thing you wish to promote this object.' . Please thy majesty,' said Lancaster; if the system meets thy majesty's approbation, I can go through the country and lecture on the system, and have no doubt, but in a few months, I shall be able to give thy majesty an account where ten thousand poor children are being educated, and some of my youths instructing them.' His majesty immediately replied - Lancaster, I will subscribe £100 annually; and,' addressing the queen, you shall subscribe £50, Charlotte ; and the princesses, £25 each; and then added, “Lancaster, you may have the money directly.' Lancaster observed :- Please thy majesty, that will be setting thy nobles a good example. The royal party appeared to smile at this observation; but the Queen observed to his majesty—How cruel it is that enemies should be found who endeavour to hinder his progress in so good a work.' To which the king replied :— Charlotte, a good man seeks his reward in the world to come.' Joseph then withdrew.
At this time money appeared to him to be flowing in, in a perpetual stream. Unaccustomed to its management, and ignorant of its value, he expended it with thoughtless profusion, if not with sinful extravagance. He was, in fact, at this period in so high a state of excitement as to be totally unfit to manage his pecuniary affairs. The day after to-morrow,' he writes from the country to a friend, is my birth-day. I am nine and twenty. I wish all my children to have a plumb-pudding and roast beef; do order it for them, and spend a happy hour in the evening with them, as thou didst this time last year, in my absence in Ireland ; furnish them with money, and when the good Samaritan comes again he will repay thee.' And so he went on. Yet, as might be expected, not without many severe trials and struggles. A faithful and valued friend, still living, who never forsook him either in evil report or good report, and to whom he was largely indebted through life for pecuniary aid, has related to us his own singular introduction to him, which took place about this time. Having heard of Lancaster and his system, he says :- I called at his school to inquire about the training of a teacher, and after some conversation relating to the necessary arrangements for the man's attendance, I slipped a ten-pound note into his hand as an acknowledgment of my obligations. What was my astonishment to see this quiet man, with whom I had a moment before been calmly conversing, at once turn pale, tremble, stand fixed as a statue, and then, flinging himself upon my shoulder, burst into a flood of tears, exclaiming, “Friend, thou knewest it not, but God hath sent thee to keep me from a gaol, and to preserve my system from ruin !'
And this was the state in which he lived for years,—-excited, enthusiastic, the creature of impulse and passion,-his zeal ' eating him up,' his judgment weak and oftentimes perverted. His letters to his friend Corston, without doubt, faithfully reveal the inner man,' and they are always excited, imaginative, and passionate, sometimes enlivened by a tinge of humour oddly contrasting with depression and melancholy. The alternations of hope and fear in his mind are here seen to be rapid and powerful. Yesterday, ‘bile, fatigue and grief overwhelm' him; to day, he has 'the valley of Achor for a door of hope. At one time, the 'iron hand of affliction and sorrow is upon him,' and he is' throwing himself at the footstool of his Saviour and his God, pleading his promises, pleading his fulness, pleading his wants, and there resolving to succeed or perish.' At another time, he is exalted, ' telling the high and mighty ones that the decree of heaven hath gone forth, that the poor youth of these nations shall be educated, and it is out of the power of man to reverse it. One day, he is 'peaceful and resigned,' feeling that he is' sent into the world to do and to suffer the will of God,' and welcoming 'sufferings and the cross as the path the Saviour trod.' The next, he is shouting ' victory, victory, the enemies are amazed and confounded; the stout-hearted are spoiled; they have slept their sleep; none of the men of might have found their hands; the Lord hath cast the horse and his rider into a deep sleep.'
To his enthusiastic and imaginative temperament things innumerable present themselves as ' signal interferences.' He'wonders at Providence' every step he takes. His friends will see 'wonders next spring.' The invisible power of God goes through him ‘far more sensibly than the circulation of blood through his veins. He is at Dover, and after attending two public meetings on education, holds a private conference with a select party; serious conversation takes place; 'a solemn covering' comes over them, — it seemed a power almost apostolic.' After standing an hour amongst them, he closes with solemn prayer, 'going boldly to the throne of grace in the sacred and powerful name of Jesus.' He carries the same spirit into the world with him, and applies it, without discrimination, to his pecuniary circumstances. He is pressed for money, but he cannot believe that, if the Almighty has designed the education of the poor of London, a few poor pitiless creditors can prevent it;' only let the eyes of his friends be opened, and they will see the mountain full of horses of fire, and of chariots of fire, round about Elijah. He is in 'watch and ward' arrested for debt, and in a spunging-house ; he has been there three days, and no one has been to see him ; but he is as happy as Joseph was in the king's prison in Egypt.' Corston visits him, and stays an hour or two with him. After my departure,' he
says: • He rang for the sheriff's officer, to take him to the Bench; but obtained leave to call at home on their way tbither. When he got home, his wife and child, and all his young monitors, were assembled, overwhelmed with grief because he was going to prison. After being with them a little, he opened the parlour door, and said to the man, Friend, when I am at home, I read the scriptures to my family, hast thou any objection to come in?' He replied, “No, sir,' and went in. After he had read a chapter or two, he went to prayer. The man soon became deeply affected, and joined the common grief. After
the man returned into the other room, and Joseph in a few minutes said to him, “Now, friend, I am ready for thee. They had not gone many paces from the door, when the man said, 'Sir, have you got no friend to be bound for you for this debt ?' Joseph replied, 'No, I have tried them all. Well,' replied the man,' then I'll be bound for you myself, for you are an