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hortation to persevere; but if these pages should fallinto the hands of any one at an hour for the first time stolen from his needful rest after his day's work is done, I ask of him to reward me (who have written them for his benefit at the like hours) by saving threepence during the next fortnight, buying with it Franklin's Life
, and reading the first page. I am quite sure he will read the rest ; I am almost quite sure he will resolve to spend his spare time and money, in gaining those kinds of knowledge which from a printer's boy made that great man the first philosopher, and one of the first statesmen of his
Few are fitted by nature to go as far as he did, and it is not necessary to lead so perfectly abstemious a life, and to be so rigidly-saving of every instant of time. But all may go a good way after him, both in temperance, industry and knowledge, and no one can tell before he tries how near he may be able to approach him. .
PRINTED BY RICHARD TAYLOR, SHOE-LANE ; AND SOLD BY LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, BROWN, AND GREEN,
FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE LONDON MECHANICS INSTITUTION,
As I have chiefly in deference to your opinion, sanctioned by that of our fellow-labourers in the North, undertaken to make the following pages public at the present moment, I beg leave to inscribe them with
You are aware that they contain a portion of a larger discourse, which more pressing but less agrecable pursuits have long prevented me from finishing, upon the important subject of Popular Education, in its three branches, Infant Schools, Elementary Schools (for reading and writing), and Adult Schools. It is only with the second of these branches that the Legislature can safely interfere. Any meddling on the part of Government with the first would be inexpedient; with the last, perilous to civil and religious liberty. In conformity with this opinion I have brought the question of Elementary Education repeatedly before Parliament, where the lukewarmness of many, and the honest and by me eder to be respected scruples of some, have hitherto much obstructed my design: the other two branches belong to the country at large. Having, in concert with those friends who hold the same doctrines, endeavoured to establish Infant Schools, it seems to follow from the same view of the subject, that I should lend any little help in my power towards fixing public attention upon the Education of Adults ; by discussing the best means of aiding the people in using the knowledge gained at schools, for their moral and intellectual improvement.
A considerable portion of the Observations was inserted in the Edinburgh Review, together with a good deal of other matter, and with one or two statements in which I do not altogether concur.
I BEGIN by assuming that there is no class of the community
It is no doubt manifest, that the people themselves must be the great agents in accomplishing the work of their own instruction. Unless they deeply feel the usefulness of knowledge, and resolve to make some sacrifices for the acquisition of it, there can be no reasonable prospect of this grand object being attained. But it is equally clear, that to wait until the whole people with one accord take the determination to labour in this good work, would be endless. A portion of the community may be sensible of its advantages, and willing at any fair price to seek them, long before the same laudable feeling becomes universal ; and their successful efforts to better their intellectual condition cannot fail to spread more widely the love of learning, and the disrelish for sensual and vulgar gratifications.
But although the people must be the source and the instruments of their own improvement, they may be essentially aided in their efforts to instruct themselves. Impediments which might be sufficient to retard or wholly to obstruct their progress, may be removed; and efforts which, unassisted, might prove fruitless, arising perhaps from a transient, or only a partial enthusiasm for the attainment of knowledge, may, through judicious encouragement, become effectual, and settle into a lasting and an universal habit. A little attention to the difficulties that principally beset the working classes in their search after information, will lead us to the knowledge both of the direction in which their more affluent neighbours can lend them most valuable assistance, and of the part which must be borne by themselves.
Their difficulties may all be classed under one or other of two heads---want of money, and want of time. To the first belongs the difficulty of obtaining those books and instructors which persons in easier circumstances can command; and to the second