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those who are chiefly to reap the benefits. Those benefits are well worth paying for; they are not only of great value in the improvement and gratification which they afford to the mind, but in the direct addition which they make to the pecuniary resources of the labouring classes. Instruction in the principles upon which the arts depend, will repay in actual profit to those who live by the arts, far more than the cost of learning. An artisan, a dyer, an engine-maker, will gain the more in money or money's worth for being an expert chemist or mechanician; and a farm-servant, or bailiff
, for knowing the economy and diseases of cattle. I have before me the extract of a letter from one of the greatest engine-makers in the country, stating, that a young man in humble life had been selected from among many applicants, to fill a considerable place in the manufactory, on account of his proficiency in science. The profit directly accruing from the knowledge of those sciences provides an immediate fund, out of which the cost of acquiring it may be easily defrayed; but a fund is as certainly though somewhat more remotely secured for repaying, with large interest, the expense of acquiring knowledge of a more general description—those branches of learning which improve the morals, expand the understanding, and refine the taste. That invaluable fund is composed of the savings made by substituting pure and harmless and cheap gratifications, in the stead of luxuries which are both grosser and more costly-hurtfal to the health, and wasteful of time.
The yearly cost of a lecture in the larger cities, where enlightened and public-spirited men may be found willing to give instruction for nothing, is indeed considerably less than in smaller places, where a compensation must be made for the lecturer's time and work. But it seems advisable, that, even where gratuitous assistance could be obtained, something like an adequate remuneration should be afforded, both to preserve the principle of independence among the working classes, and to secure the more accurate and regular discharge of the duty. We shall therefore suppose, that the lectures, as well as the current expenses of the room, and where there are experiments, of the apparatus, are to be paid for; and still it appears by no means an undertaking beyond the reach of those classes. The most expensive courses of teaching will be those requiring apparatus ; but those are likewise the most directly profitable to the scholars. Contributions may be reckoned upon to begin the plan, including the original purchase of apparatus; and then we may estimate the yearly cost, which alone will fall upon the members of the Association. The hire of a room may be reckoned at 301.; the salary of a lecturer, 40l. ; wear and tear of apparatus, 201.; assistant and servant, 101.; clerk or collector, 101.; fire and lamps, 51.; printing and advertising, 151.; making in all 1301.
But if two, or three courses are delivered in the same room, the expenses of each will be reduced in proportion. Suppose three; the room may probably be had for 50l., the printing for 201., and the servants for 301.; so that the expense of each course will be reduced to about 1001. Each course may occupy six months of weekly lectures; consequently, if only a hundred artisans are to be found who can spare a shilling a week, one lecture may be carried on for 1301. ; and if 120 artisans can be found to spare a shilling a week, three courses may be carried on during the year, and each person attend the whole. This calculation, however, supposes a very inconsiderable town. If the families engaged in trade and handicrafts have, one with another, a single person contributing, the number of 100 answers to a population of only 770, supposing the proportion of persons engaged in trade and handicrafts to be the same as in the West Riding of Yorkshire; and 710, taking the proportion of Lancashire. If, indeed, we take the proportions in the manufacturing towns, it will answer in some cases to a population of 5500, and in others of little more than 500. But even taking the proportion from towns in the least manufacturing counties, as Huntingdonshire, the population required to furnish 100 will not exceed 900—which supposes a town of about 200 houses. One of three times the size is but an inconsiderable place; and yet in such a place, upon a very moderate computation, 200 persons might easily be found to spare sixpence a week all the year round; which would be amply sufficient for two lectures. In the larger towns, where 500 or 600 persons might associate, five shillings a quarter would be sufficient to carry on three or four lectures, and leave between 150l. and 2001. a year for the purchase of books.
In estimating the expenses I have supposed a room to be hired and the rent to be moderate. To make a beginning, the parties must make a shift with any public room or other place that
may be vacant; the great point is to begin: the numbers are certain to increase, and the income with the numbers, as the plan becomes known and its manifold attractions operate upon the people. For the same reason I reckon a small sum for apparatus. Great progress may be made in teaching with very cheap and simple experiments. Indeed some of the most important, if not the most showy, are the least costly and complicated. By far the grandest discoveries in natural science were made with hardly any apparatus. A pan of water and two thermometers were the tools that in the skilful hands of Black detected latent heat; a crown's worth of glass, threepenny-worth of salt, a little chalk, and a pair of scales, enabled the same great philosopher to found the system of modern chemistry, by tracing the existence and the combinations of fixed air; with little more
machinery the genius of Scheele* created the materials of which the fabric was built, and anticipated some of the discoveries that have illustrated a later age; a prism, a lens, and a sheet of pasteboard enabled Newton to unfold the composition of light, and the origin of colours; Franklint ascertained the nature of light, ning with a kite, a wire, a bit of riband, and a key :—to say nothing of the great chemist of our own day, of whose most useful, perhaps most philosophical discovery, the principle might have been traced with the help of a common wire fire-guard. Even the elements of mechanics may be explained with appa ratus almost as cheap and simple.To take one instance; the fundamental property of the lever (and I may say of the whole science) may be demonstrated by a foot rule, a knife, and a few leaden balls of equal size. The other mechanical powers (which are indeed for the most part resolvable into the lever) may be explained with almost equal ease; and after all, it is those principles that practical men most require to have unfolded, and their application to mechanism illustrated, by figures and instruments. Machinery, even in its complicated form, is more easily understood by them, because they are in practice familiar with its operations and terms, and will follow the description of an engine and its work, ing
without a model, or at most with a drawing, far more readily than the learners of natural science in other conditions of life. The simplification of apparatus for teaching physical science is an important object, and one to which learned men may most usefully direct their attention. There cannot be a doubt, that a compendious set of machines may be constructed to illustrate at a very cheap price a whole course of lectures. may be prepared capable of being formed into various combinations, so as to present different engines; and where separate models are necessary, their construction may be greatly, simplified by omitting parts which are not essential to explain the principle, and show the manner of working. The price, too, will be greatly reduced when a larger number being required of each, they may be prepared by wholesale. A friend of mine is at present occupied in devising the best means of simplifying apparatus for lectures upon the mechanical powers; and cheap chemical laboratories may then receive his consideration. It is likewise in contemplation at a great manufacturing establishment, where every part of the machinery is made upon the spot, to prepare a number of sets of cheap apparatus for teaching, so that any Mechanics Institution may on very moderate terms be furnished at least with what is necessary for carrying on a course of dynamics. The drawings may be multiplied by the polygraphic methods generally in use. The difficulty of obtaining a fit lecturer is one likely for some * A working chemist.
+ A working printer.
time to be much felt, especially in small towns. One method of removing it is by sending an experienced teacher from place to place; and the man qualified for the task, who should fastidiously reject so useful and so honourable an occupation, might be a man of science, but would little deserve to be called a philosopher. No talents and no acquirements are too great to be thus applied; and no use to which parts and learning can be put is more dignified. But another supply of instructors will soon be ready. Each Institution now established must in a short time form teachers. Among a great number of students, some must be found to make such progress as will qualify them for the office. In the Edinburgh School of Arts a joiner has for some time past been teaching mathematics, which he learnt there. At Glasgow, a person of the same trade, who had been taught at the school established by Dr. Birkbeck, has lectured on geography, chemistry, and mechanics. These instances prove that the men will be able to teach ; it is equally clear that the wages of a lecturer will make them turn their attention to this business in places where one is wanted.
After all, it may often happen that a lecture cannot be undertaken on however moderate a plan; in that case it will be advisable to begin with a library, to which a lecture may afterwards be added. - This was the course pursued at Kendal, where a “ Mechanics and Apprentices Library” was begun last spring, and in autumn a course of lectures was delivered upon the Philosophy of Natural History. At Carlisle, and I believe at Hawick, the same method has been adopted.
I have remarked, that in forming these Institutions, it is a fundamental principle to make the expenses be mainly defrayed by the mechanics themselves; it is another principle, in my opinion equally essential, that they should have the principal share in the management. This seems necessary for securing both the success and the independence of the system. Nor is there the least reason to apprehend mismanagement. If benefit societies are, upon the whole, well managed, we may rely upon institutions being still better conducted, where the improvement of the mind being the object, those only will ever take an active part, who are desirous of their own advancement in knowledge, and of: the general instruction of the class to which they belong. Indeed there seems no better means of securing the continued attention of the Directors, than placing the direction in the hands of those who are alone interested in the prosperity of the concern. Neither is there any fear that the suggestions of persons in a higher station, and of more ample information, may not be duly attended to. Gratitude for the assistance received, and the advice offered, together with a conviction that the only motive for interfering is the goocł of the establishment, will give at least their just weight
to the recommendations of patrons; and if it were not always só, far better would it be to see such influence fail entirely, than to run the risk of the apathy which might be occasioned among the men, and the abuse of the Institutions themselves, which might frequently be produced by excluding from the control of their
affairs those whose interests are the only object in view. The opinions of patrons are always sure to have influence as long as their object plainly is to promote the good of those for whom the Institution was founded; and as soon as they are actuated by any other views, it is very fit that their influence should cease. There is nearly as little reason to apprehend, that the necessity of discussing, at meetings of the members, the affairs of the Institution, will give rise to a spirit of controversy and a habit of making speeches. Those meetings for private business will of course be held very seldom; and a feeling may always be expected to prevail, that the continuance of the establishment depends upon preserving union, notwithstanding any diversity of opinion in matters of detail, and upon keeping the discussion of rules and regulations subordinate to the attendance upon the lectures, the main object of the establishment. The time when information and advice is most wanted, with other assistance from the wealthy and the well informed, is at the beginning of the undertaking; and at that time the influence of those patrons will necessarily be the most powerful. Much depends upon a right course being taken at first; proper rules laid down ; fit subjects selected for lecture; good teachers chosen; and upon all these matters the opinions and wishes of those who chiefly contribute to found the several institutions, must receive great attention. What I have now stated, is not merely that which seems likely to happen by reasoning from the circumstances; it has in fact happened in the instances where the trial has been made on the largest scale. We have
inconvenience from this plan during the twelve months that our Mechanics Institution in London has been established. In Glasgow, there is a much longer experience in its favour; with this addition, that a contrary plan having at one time been pursued there, the men ceased to interest themselves in the lecture; and the Institution declined. The extraordinary success of the new Institution, which now places it at the head of all such establishments, may chiefly be ascribed to its administration being in the hands of the men themselves.
I have said that the independence of these undertakings, as well as their success, is to be considered. I really should be disposed to view any advantage in point of knowledge gained by the body of the people, as somewhat equivocal, or at least as much alloyed with evil, if purchased by the increase of their dependence upon their superiors. They will always be abundantly thankful for