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18 and when he left Glasgow two or three years afterwards, about seven hundred eagerly and constantly attended the class.
For some time after Dr. Birkbeck's departure, the lectures of his able and worthy successor Dr. Ure were well frequented; and when the number of the students began to decline, probably from the circumstance of their having no direct share in the management of the Institution, the Professor happily thought of adding to it a library for the use of the mechanics, and entrusting the direction of it entirely to a committee chosen by themselves. This gave new life to the enterprise, and the Gas Light Company having in return for some services rendered them by the Professor, agreed to light the book-room two evenings in the week, a custom arose among the men who came to change their books, of remaining to converse upon the subjects of their reading, and an extraordinary impulse was thus given to their spirit of inquiry. The Library Committee, too, being chosen by the whole body, became in some sort its representative, and claimed to interfere in the management of the Institution. It soon happened that some of their suggestions were not attended to; and a difference, at first to be regretted, led to consequences highly beneficial; for a great number seceded from the lectures and formed an Institution entirely under the management of the mechanics themselves. It has been successful beyond all expectation; a thousand working men attended it last winter, while the numbers of the parent establishment were scarcely diminished. Out of these public associations has arisen one upon a more confined but most useful plan, applicable to every large manufactory. The Gas Light Company's men, between 60 and 70 in number, have formed themselves, on the suggestion of Mr. Nelson the foreman, into a club for mutual instruction; laying by a small sum monthly, they have collected about 300 volumes, and the Company giving them a library room, which they light and heat, the men meet every evening, to converse upon literary and scientific subjects, and once a week to lecture; any one who chooses, giving a fortnight's notice that he will treat on some subject which he has been studying. The books are of all kinds, with the exception of theology, which from the various sects the men belong to is of necessity excluded.*
It is somewhat singular, that although there are many towns in Scotland, and some within a short distance of Glasgow, where hundreds of artisans are collected, yet twenty years elapsed before the example was followed, and men profited by an experiment, which,' for so long a period, was constantly before I owe this
interesting information to an admirable letter of Mr. D. Bannatyne to Dr. Birkbeck, in the Mechanics Register. Mr. B. as early as 1817 strongly recommended to the country the extension of Dr. B.'s plan, in a valu. able paper which he contributed to Mr. M. Napier's Encyclopædia.
and attended with such remarkable success.
The promoters of the measure began by drawing up a short sketch of the proposed institution, and causing it to be circulated among the principal master mechanics, with a request that they would read it in their workshops, and take down the names of such of the men as were desirous of being taught the principles of those sciences most useful to artisans. In the course of ten days, between 70 and 80 names were entered; and a private meeting was held of a few gentlemen who were disposed to encourage the experiment. These resolved to begin a subscription for the purpose. In April 1821 they circulated a prospectus among the mechanics, announcing the commencement of a Course of Lectures on Mechanics, and another on Chemistry, in October following,—with the opening of a Library of Books upon the same subjects, for perusal at home as well as in the room; the hours of lecture to be from eight to nine in the evening, twice a week, for six months; and the terms of admission to the whole, both lectures and library, fifteen shillings
year. A statement was then issued to the public at large, announcing the establishment of a “School of Arts,” with the particulars of the plan; and so well was it received, by all classes, that in September, notice was given of 220 mechanics having entered as students, and such a sum having been subscribed by the public, as enabled the Directors to open the establishment in October. When 400 had purchased tickets, the two courses of lectures were delivered by Dr. Forbes and Mr. Galbraith; to which one on architecture and one on farriery were added, with a class for architectural and mechanical drawing during the
The Mechanical Lectures had hardly begun, when some of the students, finding the want of mathematical knowledge, proposed to form themselves into a class, under one of their own number, a joiner, who had agreed to teach them gratuitously the Elements of Geometry and the higher branches of Arithmetic. This suggestion was warmly approved of by the Directors, and some assistance in books being given, thirty met once a week for Geometry, and once for Arithmetic; and adopting the plan of mutual instruction, they arranged the class in five divisions, each under the best scholar as a Monitor, and going over in one night the lessons of the night before. The number of this class being limited to thirty, those who were excluded formed another ou the same plan, under a cabinet-maker, also a student of the School of Arts. The joiner's name is James Yule; the cabinet-maker's, David Dewar; and their successful exertions te teach their fellow-workmen are deserving of very great commen
dation. Mr. Galbraith, the Mechanical Professor, adopted the plan of setting exercises to his pupils; and a list has been published of those who chiefly distinguished themselves by the number and accuracy of their solutions, being 25 persons.
The average receipts of the two first years were, from subscriptions, 4481. yearly, and from the students 3001. rage expenditure was about 6201., and a saving of 300l. was made towards building a lecture-room. The expenditure includes, for furniture and apparatus, 2161. a year; for books and binding, 110l.; and for expenses incident to the subscriptions, as advertisements, collection and meetings, about 701. ;-leaving, of current necessary expenses, about 2201. only: so that, if the extrinsic subscriptions were at an end, or were confined to the accumulation of a fund for building, the students could themselves carry on the establishinent, and have a surplus of 80l. a year for the wear and tear, and increase, of the apparatus and the library; and if their contributions were increased to a pound yearly, which would probably make very little, if any, difference in the numbers of students, an additional 1001. would be afforded for the better payment of the Lecturers, or, if they continue satisfied, for the establishment of new lectures. This statement is important, as confirming the calculation formerly given, and showing, that, in places where the rich are less liberally inclined than in Edinburgh, the same invaluable establishments may easily be formed and perpetuated, by a judicious encouragement given at first to the mechanics, and without the necessity of relying upon continued assistance from those who first promoted and aided them."
As nothing can be more useful to the community of that great and enlightened city than the formation of this establishment, so nothing can be more honourable to the inhabitants than the zeal and the harmony with which all ranks have united in conducting it, and all parties among the rich in giving it their support. To Mr. Leonard Horner, in particular, with whom the plan originated and who has principally had the superintendence of its execution, the most grateful acknowledgments are deservedly due; and I trust I may so far use the privilege of ancient friendship, as to express my conviction that there is no one exertion in which his greatly lamented brother would, bad he been preserved to us, have borne a deeper interest, and no object which he would more willingly have seen connected with his
* It has been thought proper to rest the management of this institution wholly in the subscribers. Local considerations, of which I cannot pretend to be a judge, may have rendered this necessary, but it seems, according to the most obvious principles, inconsistent with the prosperity and permanence of
The complete success of Dr. Birkbeck's plan both at Glasgow originally, and afterwards in a place abounding far less with artisans, very naturally suggested the idea of giving its principles a more general diffusion by the only means which seem in this country calculated for universally recommending any scheme its adoption in London. An Address was published by Messrs. Robertson and Hodgkin, in the Mechanics Magazine, October 1823; and the call was answered promptly by Dr. Birkbeck himself
, and other friends of education, as well as by the master mechanics and workmen of the metropolis. A meeting was held in November; the Mechanics Institution was formed; a subscription opened ; and a set of regulations adopted. Of these by far the most important and one which in common, I believe, with all my colleagues, I consider to be altogether essential, provides that the committee of management shall be chosen by the whole students, and consist of at least two-thirds working men. The plan was so speedily carried into execution, that in January Dr. Birkbeck, our president, most appropriately opened the Institution with an introductory address to many hundred workmen, crowding from great distances in the worst season and after the toils of the day were over, to slake that thirst of knowledge which forms the most glorious characteristic of the age ; nor was the voluntary offer of a course of lectures upon Mechanics less appropriate on the part of Professor Millington, who with an honest pride declared to his audience, that he had originally belonged to the same class with themselves. In the course of the year, lectures were delivered by Mr. Phillips on Chemistry, Mr. Doichin on Geometry, Dr. Birkbeck on Hydrostatics, Mr. Cooper on the application of Chemistry to the Arts, Mr. Newton on Astronomy, Mr. Tatum on Electricity, and Mr. Black on the French language, to great and increasing numbers of workmen. About a thousand now belong to the Institution, and pay 20s. a year. Temporary accommodation has hitherto been provided at the chapel in Monkwell-street, formerly Dr. Lindsey's; and if upon such a subject we might make any account of omens, surely a scheme for the improvement of mankind could not be commenced under happier auspices than in the place which so virtuous and enlightened a friend of his country had once filled with the spirit of genuine philanthropy and universal toleration. But extensive premises have been procured in Southampton Buildings, for the permanent seat of the Institution ; and the foundation has been laid there of a spacious lecture-room, and other suitable apartments for the library and apparatus. The sum required for these buildings exceeds three thousand pounds; and it has been generously advanced by Dr. Birkbeck. Others have nade presents of money, books, and apparatus; and I should mention with greater admiration the gift of a thousand pounds
from Sir Francis Burdett, but that those who know him and who mark his conduct, have so long since become accustomed to such acts of wise and splendid benevolence, that they cease to make us wonder. Let me further express my conviction, founded upon information, that the mechanics of this great city are resolved, as they are well able, to perpetuate and extend the system; nor have I a doubt that they will, even if unassisted, erect other Institutions in those parts of the town which are too remote to benefit by the parent establishment.
The proceedings in London gave a great and general impulse to the friends of education in the country, and the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne was the first to profit by it. An Institution for the instruction of mechanics by books, lectures, and scientific meetings, was established in March 1824, and the first meeting was held, under the auspices of Mr. Turner, who opened it with an excellent address on the 11th of May. The members are admitted by ballot; but any person paying 125. a year is eligible; and the Committee of Management consists of the workmen as well as their masters. The library consists already of 600 or 700 volumes. Beside benefactors, there are 240 subscribing members, and the meetings for discussion are held monthly; at these, papers are read and conversations entertained upon any scientific or literary subject, with two exceptions only-controversial divinity and party politics. A fund is forming for the purchase of apparatus, and lectures will soon be commenced. Mr. Turner, indeed, several years before the establishment of the society, had lectured upon Natural Philosophy to the working classes. The Literary Society which has long flourished at Newcastle, supported by the rich, must have contributed greatly to the love of knowledge which is now diffusing its blessings among the other classes ; and the excellent principle which it adopted of vesting no property or privileges in those who paid a sum by way of admission money, but extending an equal share in its management and advantages to yearly subscribers, has been strictly acted upon by the founders of the new institution.
It is remarkable that the next example in point of time should be furnished by so inconsiderable a town as Kendal, of not more than 8000 inhabitants; and this instance is the more instructive because it shows how the system may be carried into effect with most limited resources, In April 1824, it was resolved to form a “ Mechanics and Apprentices Library and Institute;” of which any person paying to the amount of three guineas in money or books, or 4s. yearly, might become a member and be eligible as well as vote for the Committee of Management. There are 150 subscribing members, all of the working classes, beside 50 or 60 by payment for life. The library already amounts to 300 or 400 volumes ; and I have a letter before me from the worthy