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the habits, and desires of the great body of the people which compose the nation. And, whatever Mr. Denison or his friends may say to the contrary, there is no diversity of opinion among the Protestant inhabitants of England in regard to the source whence all religious instruction ought to be derived. Whether they worship in the cathedral or the conventicle, they hold that Scripture is the only standard of Divine truth, and will not of their own accord desire that the consciences of their children should be enslaved, by the compulsory annexation thereto, as a class-book in their week-day schools, of any other compendium of faith and moral duty, however skilfully drawn up, or reconcilable, by logical process, to the Sacred Text. Are we speaking at random in regard to this fact? Nothing of the sort. The experiment has been tried; it is at this moment in progress; and the results, as far as we have yet been able to trace them, fully bear us out in our opinion.
Some time in the summer of 1846, two gentlemen met on the deck of a river steam-boat, which was plying its usual course from the Nine Elms Pier to Hungerford Market. One was the late Lord Ashburton, better known to the monied and political world as Mr. Alexander Baring; the other was the Rev. G. R. Gleig, now Chaplain-General of Her Majesty's Forces, and Inspector-General of Military Schools. There had occurred not long previously some modifications in Sir Robert Peel's government, by which the present Lord Ashburton, then Mr. B. Baring, was transferred from the Board of Control to the Pay Office. The two passengers by the steam-boat touched many other topics of conversation upon this event, when Lord Ashburton remarked, that this son, though he could not refuse the advancement which had been pressed upon him, was little pleased with his change of office; because as Secretary to the Board of Control, he had been always engaged in important affairs of State, whereas at the Pay Office there was only routine business to attend to, and not very much of that. 'Does Mr. Baring really desire to undertake a great and a difficult work?' 'Certainly,' was the answer, 'provided it be a useful one.' 'A useful work,' and a great one too, even if it do not prove, as we anticipate that it will, the forerunner of another greater than itself, was immediately suggested.
Whatever may be thought of the military talents and statesmanlike opinions of the late Duke of York, nobody can deny that he was a kind-hearted and amiable man. He did great things for the army during his reign as commander-in-chief: and has a right to the merit of having established, as a place of refuge for the orphans of soldiers, the Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea.
Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea.
It was intended to be a home for these children, in every sense of the word, till they should attain the age of fourteen, when the boys were either to be apprenticed out to trades, or enlisted -while, for the girls, situations should be found as domestic servants, or in factories. But, besides clothing, feeding, and otherwise taking care of them, it was determined to educate both classes after the most approved fashion: and Dr. Bell, being then in the height of his popularity, organised the school, and watched over it anxiously. Finally, the desire to educate grew with what it fed on. No sooner were the Asylum children taught to repeat by rote so many words in the hour without understanding them, than His Royal Highness determined to extend a similar boon to the children of soldiers actually serving; and one or more non-commissioned officers from each corps being transferred to Chelsea, learned there all that Dr. Bell undertook to teach, and went back again to communicate the results of their training to their regiments. Time passed, and year by year, the Commissioners of the Asylum entered in their minute-book, records of the flourishing state of the institution. The masters and mistresses were described as attentive and able; the general discipline was mild; the children were healthy, happy, and of good report; the system, as regarded both nurture and education, was perfect. It is true, that on the female side of the house, things occasionally went wrong. Comparatively few of the girls reared there turned out well; indeed, the sore became at last so malignant, that the Commissioners quietly resolved among themselves to receive no more female children into the place. But boys continued to be admitted, though in progressively diminishing numbers, down to the period of which we now write; and there could be no doubt, taking the minute-book as an authority, that their lot was in every respect an enviable one.
There are people in the world who have an awkward trick of distrusting even official documents. The teachers in the Asylum were known to be discharged sergeants, who frequented the low public-houses that abound in that locality, and whose manner of expressing themselves in common conversation was not such as to create a very lively impression of their aptitude to communicate to others either literary tastes or urbanity of manners. A glance within the rails, likewise, exhibited a set of poor, thin, wanfaced, spiritless-looking children, many of whom had their heads covered with black silk caps - a sure token of disease while not a few wandered about dragging heavy logs which were fastened with chains to their ankles. Such outward and visible signs did not very accurately correspond with
the inward and spiritual grace of which the Commissioners boasted; and doubts of the reality of the latter multiplied themselves. How far these were or were not well-founded, will best appear from the following narrative, which we are enabled to give on the very best authority.
A few days after the conversation in the steam-boat, noticed above, Mr. Baring, then Paymaster-General of the Forces, called upon Mr. Gleig, and the two gentlemen proceeded together to the Asylum. No announcement having been made of their intention to visit the place, they found it in what may be called its every-day dress. It was school-hour, yet to and fro numbers of boys were passing,-along the walks and about the corridors, some laden with baskets of coals, some carrying filthier utensils, some bearing provisions, some sweeping out the colonnade in front of the building. A large wheel was then used for the purpose of raising water, by the process of the forcing-pump, from certain underground tanks to the top of the house. Three or four unfortunate boys were at work upon this wheel, straining beyond their strength, and in constant risk, should they lose their hold, of having their limbs broken; while others, in the kitchen, seemed to be kept to the tether by the not very euphoneous oratory of the cook, and an occasional box on the ears. Our visitors, after noticing these things, penetrated through the door-way, and were greeted by sounds of the strangest and most discordant kind. The hoarse harsh voices of men rose, occasionally, above the hubbub of children, both being from time to time drowned in the crash of many ill-tuned instruments. Then would come the sound of a smart blow, followed by a shriek; and succeeded by what startled and shocked as much as either, a brief but profound silence. This was not a very promising commencement of their proper business; but it did not deter the visitors from going through with it. They mounted the stairs, opened the schoolroom door, and became witnesses to a scene which neither of them, we should think, is likely to forget in a hurry. The schoolroom was a huge hall, measuring perhaps sixty or eighty feet in length by thirty in breadth. Two enormous fire-places, so constructed as to consume an immense quantity of fuel without diffusing any proportionate amount of heat, testified to the good intentions of the architect, however little they might vouch for his skill. In other respects the fitting up was meagre enough. A single platform, whither, when the writing lesson came on, the children by classes were supposed to repair, occupied about twenty feet in the middle of the room. All the rest was void, except where chairs stood for the accommodation of the masters; and
Remodelling of the Asylum.
cages for the punishment of the boys. For in addition to the cane, which these sergeant-masters appear to have used very freely, they had at their command four instruments of torture, in the shape of iron cages, each occupying a corner of the room. Observe, that these cages were so constructed, as to render it impossible for the little prisoners to stand upright; who were nevertheless required to turn a heavy handle continually; and whose diligence or its opposite was marked by a process, which, if they did not see it, they never failed to feel.
The visitors, if painfully surprised at the ornamental arrangements of this place of study, were still more amazed by beholding its machinery at work. Four or five groups of boys were gathered round as many sergeant-masters, some bawling out sounds, which were not words, though they intended to represent them; some roaring forth arithmetical tables; some repeating the Church catechism at the top of their voices; some conversing, and all shuffling and struggling, among themselves. There was no order, no regularity, no attention: indeed, the latter would have been impossible, inasmuch, as in the very heart of the classes was one, more numerous than the rest, which seemed to be taking lessons on the fiddle. It was altogether one of the strangest, and in spite of other and more bitter feelings, the most ludicrous scenes, which school examiners were probably ever called upon to witness. As to the acquirements of these poor lads, their proficiency proved, on examination, to be exactly such as might have been expected. They had learned nothing. They could not read, they could not write, they could not cipher, they could not spell. They did not know whether Great Britain was an island, or how, if divided from France at all, the two nations were separated. We can't help it, Sir,' said one of the sergeant-schoolmasters, when appealed to on the subject of his school. 'We never learned these things ourselves. How can we pretend to teach them?' The Paymaster-General of the Forces had seen enough. He repaired at once to the War Office, over which Mr. Sidney Herbert then presided, and Mr. Gleig being called in as amicus curia, the work of reform began.
The work of reform is rot easy of accomplishment under any circumstances. A proposal to remodel the Asylum amounted, in the present instance, to a vote of censure on Commissioners, commandant, chaplain, doctor, — on every body, in short, who had heretofore been charged with the management of that institution.* It was resisted, of course, both openly and covertly;
* Our readers must observe, that an entire change of functionaries
but it was carried. In like manner, a project of annexing to the boys' school a normal or training institution for regimental schoolmasters raised a storm in the camp. The Horse Guards became seriously alarmed; the army astounded. What had soldiers to do with book-learning? They did not want people who could read and write,—such were nuisances in the ranks. Mischief enough had been done by the abolition of corporal punishment. If the schoolmaster were brought into cantonments or garrisons, there would be an end of military discipline in a year. The liberal-minded and thoughtful men, who had taken up a wise project, listened patiently to all these remonstrances, and overruled them. The Asylum was remodelled. There was appended to it a training institution for regimental schoolmasters; and the experience of five years has exposed fully, and to the conviction we believe of all parties, the groundlessness of the alarm with which the undertaking was at the outset contemplated. Not only has discipline not been relaxed in the army; it has been braced up. Crime is less frequent than it used to be; men's manners are softened, their very language taking a different tone, in exact proportion to the progress of education among them. And we are happy to say, that to be educated has grown into a fashion. So at least we collect from the evidence of Mr. Fox Maule, the able and indefatigable successor of Mr. Sidney Herbert at the War Office, before the late Committee on Military Expenditure, by which this important subject was very fully investigated.
Do you find,' asks Sir James Graham, that where schoolmasters (meaning schoolmasters trained at Chelsea) have been sent, there is a willingness on the part of the men to avail themselves of the advantages of going to school?'—'To such an extent that the schoolmasters complain that they are overworked, and have no time to themselves; that they cannot overtake the demands made upon them for instruction. The men come to the school in such numbers, and with such a desire for instruction, that we have been obliged, in some instances, to grant the schoolmaster an assistant, for the purpose of overtaking the demands upon him.'
Then, from your experience, as far as it has gone, your opinion is, that when each regiment shall have had the appointed establishment of instructors, the soldiers generally will avail themselves of that advantage, and that the system of instruction will be complete throughout the British army?'-'I am certain that when the system shall be thoroughly spread over the whole army, there will not be a body of better instructed men in any service in the world than in the British army.'
has taken place since 1846. Commandant, Chaplain, Masters, Doctor, &c., being all of recent appointment.