president, Mr. S. Marshall, stating that “the books are nearly all out at a time, such is the ardour for information.” Original papers upon subjects of science and literature are read at the Quarterly Meetings; no topics being excluded from discussion except those of a polemical and party nature. A course of lectures was delivered upon the Philosophy of Natural History last autumn, and one on Mechanics will be given this spring ; probably one on Chemistry also. “ Great delight is stated to have been expressed by the students who attended the lectures.” Except that perhaps the meetings are too few, and the yearly subscription lower than might easily be afforded, the plan of this Institu- tion is one of the best I have yet seen; and those errors, the last especially, are on the safe side, and may easily be corrected as the want of funds for lectures and apparatus may require, and the pleasure and profit attending a scientific education shall be more and more felt.

The principles upon which this flourishing Institution was founded have since been acted upon at Carlisle; and the fundamental one, which on every account is the most steadily to be kept in view, has been wisely recognized by a formal resolution, " that such institutions are likely to be most stable and useful “when chiefly conducted by the mechanics themselves;" and by a rule that two-thirds of the committee, consisting of 21, shall be operative mechanics; the payment of five guineas, and a guinea year

for seven years makes a life member; the others pay 8s. a year, and are admitted by the committee by ballot, and their sons or apprentices have all the benefits of the Institution. Above 300 volumes have been collected since November; 155 members have joined the Institution ; a course of lectures on Natural Science has been delivered by Mr. Nichol; and the workmen, who had attended it with increasing delight, presented him at the close with a silver box, of four guineas value, with twelve pounds inclosed. The secretary, Mr. Dunbar, has been applied to by some good men in Dumfries, for information upon the manner of establishing a similar institution in that town; and I have a confident expectation that the example will be followed by Whitehaven, if not by the smaller towns. In truth, no place is too small for a mechanics library; and wherever the size will permit, such a beginning is sure to end in a lecture, or at least in some course of private instruction useful to the workmen. The town of Hawick has not above 4000 inhabitants; yet a mechanics society and library has been established there for some time; and Mr. Wilson, from Edinburgh, went thither in the autumn, and delivered a course of lectures on Natural Philosophy to 200 artisans. Out of the Haddington itinerant libraries there grew a School of Arts in 1821, established by some tradesmen who several

years before had formed a society for scientific discussion:

[ocr errors]

and lectures on mechanics, chemistry and the mathematics, have since been successfully delivered to the workmen by Dr. Lorimer, and Messrs Gunn and Cunningham. In like manner, the example of Newcastle has been followed at Alnwick, a town of only 5000 inhabitants, where a library and a society have been founded by the exertion chiefly of Mr. Johnstone; and I have good reason to believe that the same design is in progress both at Morpeth and Hexham.

The great and wealthy and industrious town of Manchester might well be expected to be among the earliest and most zealous in establishing an Institution. This was resolved upon in April, and ample preparations appear to have been made for carrying the plan into execution-7981. had been received before the end of July; of that sum 243l. were annual donations; and 191 mechanics had entered their names as subscribers, at one pound a year. A library is forming, and preparations making, I believe, for delivering a course of lectures. The management of the Institution, however, is entrusted to Directors chosen by and among the honorary members only, and these are persons who either pay ten guineas at entrance, or a guinea a year, beside the subscription of 20s. It becomes me to speak with great diffidence upon the soundness of views which may have been suggested by local considerations unknown to distant observers ; but I cannot avoid expressing my earnest wish that this part of the plan may be reconsidered by the excellent and enlightened men who have promoted so good a work. Perhaps the fact of nearly as many mechanics coming forward to join the societies formed in places like Carlisle and Kendal, upon the opposite principle, as at Manchester, where the population is at least tenfold, and the pursuits far more congenial, and where I know that 1200 of the Mechanics Magazine were sold the first day it ap peared, may give some weight to my anxious but most respectful suggestion

The Mechanics Institution of Leeds has been lately formed, principally through the exertions of Messrs. Gott and Marshall. Any person recommended by two members is admitted upon paying two pounds, and 10s. yearly; and any person for 5s. halfyearly is entitled to all its privileges, except that of taking part the management. Two pounds seems too high for the admission of the workmen as generally as is desirable: à considerable number of them are no doubt members; and as such both vote and are eligible as directors, but the great majority of voters belong to the higher class. A slight change would remove this difficulty, There are 146 members and 136 subscribers already; books of the value of 500l. are purchased ; and every thing is prepared for beginning a lecture, offers of gratuitous assistance having been received. The Institution is a very promising one, and the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

number of ingenious and public-spirited men in that neighbour-
hood ensures its success, provided no impediment be thrown in

of a cordial co-operation on the part of the men. The most exemplary spirit of union among men of very different parties in religion and politics has been exhibited; and the liberality of the masters is sure to be duly appreciated by those in their service.

The Institutions which I have hitherto mentioned are formed avowedly for lectures as well as reading, and most of them have already been able to establish lectures. Some are by their plan confined to reading, and have not hitherto contemplated any further instruction; but they may easily make the step. That of Liverpool deserves the first notice, as being earliest in point of time.

The Mechanics and Apprentices Library at Liverpool, established in July 1823, chiefly through the exertions of Mr. E. Snyith, comes ultimately, if I'mistake not, from a very illustrious stock; for it was formed upon the model of the plans which owe their origin to the Library Company of Philadelphia, founded by Franklin in 1731, and incorporated in 1742*. In six months 800 volumes were collected, and 400 readers subscribed; the library is now considerably increased, and there are above 600 readers. The sum paid is two guineas in money or books, for life, or 10s. 6d. a year; and every person paying either way has the privilege of recommending readers, who receive books on the guarantee of any member. The committee of direction is chosen by the whole members, and all are eligible. The method of keeping the different books of receipt, loan, register, guarantee, and catalogue, is admirably contrived for the quick and accurate dispatch of business; and is found so successful in practice, that 700 or 8.0 books are easily exchanged weekly in a very short time; 250 or 300 volumes being received from and as many given out to 200 readers in little more than an hour without


confusion. Where there is so much to commend, I am unwilling to hint at any imperfection; but certainly a course of lectures might without difficulty be added to this prosperous establishment; and although any mechanic niay for half a guinea enjoy all the privileges of a member as the society is now constituted, it is plain


Although the remote origin of these institutions may be traced to Franklin, Mr. W. Wood has the high merit of establishing them on their present plan and adapting them peculiarly to the instruction of mechanics and apprentices. lle founded the first at Boston in 1820; he has had the satisfaction of seeing the plan adopted in New York, Philadelphia, Altany, and other towns; and I have now before me a letter in which he says that he has succeeded in forming one at New Orleans, where he was called on business. His plan is to obtain loans or gifts of books which almost every one has bevond his own wants; and he reckons 30,000 volumes thus obtained in different towns, and as inany readers,

[merged small][ocr errors]

that the bulk of the members do not belong to this class, although on the guarantee and recommendation of members, by permission of the committee they partake of its benefits. If all were admitted to the library and management on somewhat lower terms, or to the library and lectures upon those terms a little raised, and none allowed to partake of either for nothing, there can be no doubt that a greater interest would be excited among them, and the Institution be more firmly established and more certain of extending its numbers.

A Mechanics and Apprentices Library was instituted at Sheffield in December 1823, and opened in the February following, under the able and zealous superintendence of Mr. Montgomery, a name well known in the literary world, and held in deserved honour by philanthropists. The rules appear to me most excellent. In the workmen is vested the property, in shares of 5s. each paid at first, and they afterwards pay 6s. a year; they form the class of proprietors; the others, the honorary members, present gifts in money and books, and may, if chosen by the body at large, fill the offices, but have no share in the property. The committee may consist entirely of proprietors; and must have two-thirds from that body. Apprentices have the use of the books for 4s. yearly. The librarian is to attend daily and have the care of the property; he is therefore paid: perhaps this might be rendered unnecessary by adopting some of the judicious regulations established at Liverpool, and exchanging the books once a week. Every donor of a book must write his name in it, as a kind of check; and a rule has been made, as I understand, after a very thorough and somewhat earnest discussion, giving an appeal against the admission of books to the ministers of the different denominations who are subscribers; this rule has however never yet been acted upon. Members lose the benefits of the society if in the workhouse or in prison ; but are restored when liberated without payment of their arrears. Of this admirable institution there are now 360 members ; whom 310 are proprietors, and the numbers of these increase daily. There are 1400 volumes, including some most liberal donations; all collected in nine months; and 30 apprentices receive the benefits of the society on the terms already stated. A library and philosophical society has long flourished at Sheffield, and now reckons 350 members, almost all manufacturers and tradesmen. Lectures are occasionally given in it, and I rejoice to hear that there is an arrangement in agitation for admitting the workmen to the benefit of these as soon as the new premises are ready. A letter now before me relates an interesting anecdote for the encouragement of this design.

We have as in our employment a common cutler who found leisure in a “ bad time of trade to amuse himself with entomology, and who


" has made great progress in arranging a collection of insects " for our museum. Another youth in an obscure station is pre

paring specimens of our Flora for the same. Ingenious me“ chanical models have been repeatedly brought before us by

persons from whom little beyond ordinary handicraft could
“ have been expected." The first two circumstances here men-
tioned strongly confirm the opinion which I have expressed
elsewhere*, and which was grounded on actual observation of Mr.
Fellenberg's establishment in Switzerland, that a high degree of
intellectual refinement and a taste for the pleasures of specula-
Lion, without any view to a particular employment, may be
united with a life of hard labour, even in its most humble
branches, and may both prove its solace and its guide.

There are other Mechanics Institutions respecting which I have not the details, as the very thriving one at Aberdeen, which has a library of 500 volumes, a valuable apparatus, and a lecture-room for 600 students, where extensive courses on chemical and mechanical science have been delivered. At Norwich a meeting was lately held, and attended by the most respectable inhabitants of all sects and parties, in order to found a Mechanics Institution. The zeal and information displayed there, leave no doubt whatever of the plan succeeding. Dr. Yelloly stated that the rules of the London Institution had been communicated by Dr. Birkbeck. The correspondence of our London Institution with different parts of the country shows that similar plans are in contemplation in various other districts of England. It should seem that a little exertion alone is wanting to introduce the system universally; and this is the moment beyond all doubt, best fitted for the attempt, when wages are good, and the aspect of things peaceful. But if in any part of the kingdom more than another the education of the working classes is of importance, that part surely is Ireland. I have learned, then, with inexpressible satisfaction, that there the system has already been introduced. In Dublin a Mechanics Institution has been established with the soundest views, the great and cardinal principle being recognised of taking two-thirds of the Directors from the body of the workmen. A similar plan has been adopted at Cork; and I have reason to hope that Limerick and Beltast will follow so excellent an example.

To encourage good men in these exertions—to rouse the indifferent and cheer the desponding by setting plain facts before them has been the object of these details. The subject is of such inestimable importance that no apology is required for anxiously addressing in favour of it all men of enlightened views, who value the real improvement of their fellow-creatures, and the best interests of

[ocr errors]

* Evidence before the Education Committee, 1818.

« VorigeDoorgaan »