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Thursday, April 25,1850
In answer to the assertions contained in Mr. Anderson's
letter which appeared in your columns on Monday, I must first recapitulate as
briefly as possible the nature of the facts that I collected concerning the
influence of the Ragged Schools.
Those facts were of two kinds - statistics and the testimony of individuals. I showed by reference to the Government returns-
1. That the number of juvenile offenders in the metropolis had been steadily increasing every year since the institution of the Ragged School Union.
2. That whereas the number of criminals who cannot read and write has decreased from 24,856 (in 1844) to 22,968 (in 1848) - or no less than 1,888 in that period - the number of those who can read and write imperfectly has increased from 33,337 to 36,229 - or 2,857 - in the same time.
3. That the connection which was usually supposed to exist between an increase of education and a decrease of crime was a fallacy; for I proved by tables showing the relative amount of education and crime in the different counties of England and Wales, that Middlesex contained not only the greatest number of persons who could read and write, but the greatest number of criminals; whereas North Wales, which was the least criminal country of all, ranked among the least instructed.
The ability to read and write, I would
observe, was taken as a type of the kind of education received at Ragged
"So vast an educational machinery as the Ragged Schools," I said at the time of citing the above statistics, "cannot have been entirely powerless. A thousand teachers instructing seventeen thousand scholars of the lowest and most depraved propensities and habits, must have produced some effect. If they had not been reforming, at least they must have been educating the juvenile criminals of London. Of this, I added, the returns for the metropolis afford us positive proof; the number of those who cannot read and write have decreased nearly 2,000, and those who can read and write imperfectly have increased nearly 3,000 since the institution of the Union. Then, as a further demonstration of the non-reforming power of such an education as that received at Ragged Schools, I proved by statistical facts that the most highly criminal county is the least ignorant, and that the least criminal county is one of the most ignorant, in England and Wales.
I wish the reader to bear in mind the last two facts especially, as I consider the mere circumstance of the increase of the juvenile offenders of the metropolis a matter of comparatively little weight against the Ragged Schools. The evidence that I believe to be conclusive against those institutions, viewed as correctives of crime, is the co-existence of that fact with the decreased ignorance and increased education of the criminal class, as well as with the equally important fact, that the ignorance and crime of different counties bear no relation to one another. He therefore who seeks to account for the increase of juvenile offenders since 1844, must - in order to do so successfully - be likewise able to account for the increased education of the class.
The testimony that I obtained concerning the influence of Ragged Schools consisted of the evidence of Ragged School boys, Ragged School apprentices (to whom I was expressly referred by the secretary of the Union), tradesmen living in the neighbourhood of Ragged Schools, policemen on duty in the districts of Ragged Schools (to whom I was directed by the police authorities as officers having the greatest experience concerning the influence of the Schools in their particular localities), juvenile criminals who had attended Ragged Schools and were then in prison, and lastly, the Governor of Tothill-fields Prison and his officers.
Surely this was the best possible testimony that could be obtained exterior to the Ragged Schools. In order that I might do the institutions no injustice, I was particularly anxious to collect information from those parties only who had the best means of judging. Accordingly I applied to the Commissioners of Police to be permitted to avail myself of the evidence of their most experienced officers concerning the effects of Ragged Schools upon the boys in particular districts, and to Lieutenant Tracy, the governor of Tothill-fields Prison, to be allowed to interrogate, in his presence, some of the Ragged School boys that he had under his charge.
The result of my inquiries was, that the indiscriminate association of boys of the most vicious nature with children of better dispositions, but who, from their extreme poverty, were the most liable of all persons to temptation, was fraught with great and almost inconceivable evil.
In my remarks appended to a letter recently addressed to you by Mr. Doulton, I stated that the facts I had collected were either true of false. If true, I said that Ragged School teachers should feel grateful for having such things made known to them for the first time; but if they were false, and could be proved to be so, I added that no man would be more ready than myself to acknowledge my error in the most public manner possible. This I here repeat.
The Secretary of the Ragged School Union, seeing the dilemma in which I had placed the Society, and feeling that the only thing left to be done was to throw discredit upon my statements, endeavours to do so in a long letter, by four means: - 1st. He questions my statistics; 2nd. He asserts that I obtained the statements I received in answer to unfair leading questions out by me to the witnesses; 3rd. He charges me with publishing downright falsities; and 4th. He impugns my motives, declaring that he looks upon me "as an infidel who would deprive society of the Word of God." Mr. Anderson's arguments in reply to my letters, therefore, may be said to be of three kinds - counter-statistics, counter-testimony, and personal abuse. The first two I shall endeavour to disprove; to the last I shall of course pay no heed.
I shall first deal with the statistical part of the subject.
The increase in the number of juvenile offenders, which has occurred since the institution of the Ragged School Union, has been referred to a variety of causes by the speakers at the recent Ragged School meetings. One gentleman attributes it to the increased vigilence of the police though he forgets to tell us how it is that the police have had to arrest, every year since the institution of the Ragged School Union, a greater number of those who can read and write imperfectly, and a less number of those who cannot read and write at all. Another thinks the increase is due to bad harvests. A third ascribes the difference of crime in the several counties to the difference in the amount of property they contain, declaring that the crime of robbery is in proportion to the temptation, and to the property exposed to it. This, if tested by the Government returns, will be found to be untrue. But Mr. Anderson takes a bolder and wider range than all. He is not contented with merely one cause, but - determined to be right somehow - he refers the increase of juvenile offenders to no less than four distinct phenomena - viz., the Irish famine, the Larceny Act, the railway panic, and the French revolution. To no one of these surmises, however, is any test what ever applied. All is mere vague conjecture, and to show how wide such guesses come short of the truth, we will now put to the proof the most plausible of all the above theories - viz., that which attributes the increase of crime to seasons of unusual distress or the greater scarcity of food. The following table exhibits the average price of corn and the number of criminals committed for a series of years: -
TABLE SHOWING THE PRICE OF CORN ACCORDING TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, AND IT'S INCREASE AND DECREASE PER CENT. IN EACH OF THE YEARS FROM 1839 TO 1848; ALSO THE NUMBER OF PERSONS COMMITTED FOR TRIAL, THROUGHOUT ENGLAND AND WALES, AND THEIR INCREASE AND DECREASE PER CENT. IN THE SAME YEARS.
|Year||Price of Wheat per Quart.||Number of persons committed for trial||Corn||
|Increase per. Cent||Decrease per Cent.||Increase per. Cent||Decrease per Cent.|
The above table shows that from 1839 to 1842 the price of
what decreased gradually from 70s. to 57s. per quarter, whereas, the
number of persons committed for trial in England and Wales increased just as
gradually from 24,443 to 31,309 in the same period. On the other hand, it
will be seen that from 1843-44 the price of wheat increased from 50s. to
51s. the quarter, whereas the number of criminals committed decreased from
29,591 to 26,542. Again, in 1847-48 the price fell from 69s. to 59s. the
quarter, or as much as 27.5 per cent. Crime, however, instead of decreasing in
a like proportion, rose from 28,833 to 30,349, or 5.2 per cent. In the last ten
years, it will be observed, wheat has decreased in price from 70s. to
the quarter, or 28.5 per cent., whereas crime has increased in the same
time from 24,443 to 30,349, or 24.1 per cent.
In all the theories which have yet been advanced as a means of accounting for the increase of juvenile offenders, since the establishment of the Ragged School Union, none pay the least regard to the increased education of the criminal class; and upon this subject in particular - as well as the fact that the least criminal counties are some of the most ignorant, while those that are the least ignorant are the most criminal - the matter mainly hinges. This, as I said before, appears to be the most important point of all; but concerning it Mr. Anderson is silent. The question simply is whether such an education as is received at Ragged Schools is likely to prove a corrective of crime. That the facts are against such a conclusion I proved by tables which I constructed expressly, as a means of demonstrating the point. These, however, Mr. Anderson does not even notice, but advances four distinct theories to account for the increase of crime, not one of which does he consider it necessary to put to the least practical test, though it certainly would have been very easy for him to do so, before making his assertions. As yet, I have seen but one theory advanced on this subject, that is in any way consistent with the facts, and that is the one propounded by the Constabulary Commissioners, who, after patiently investigating a large variety of cases, declare that crime is mostly the result of a desire to obtain property with a less degree of labour than by regular industry. Whether we are likely to overcome this indisposition on the part of the criminal class to labour for their living, by giving them a knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic, I leave men of common sense to decide. I would not, however, have it inferred from the above remarks that I am adverse to the diffusion of a knowledge of reading and writing among the poor. I am but desirous of impressing upon the minds of zealous persons that reading and writing are no more education than (as Dr. Cooke Taylor used to say) a knife and fork is a good dinner; in a word the ability to read and write is not knowledge, but merely the means of knowledge, and may be used for the acquirement of bad as well as good principles. The thief who is taught to read may as easily apply his learning to the perusal of "Jack Sheppard" as of the Holy Scriptures, and my experience of the class convinces me that our juvenile criminals are far more likely to devote themselves to the study of the one than the other. Those who believe that criminal practices are induced by want, will find it distinctly stated by the most experienced persons who were examined under the Constabulary Commission that poverty is seldom the cause of crime.
"The notion that any considerable proportion of the crimes against property are caused by blameless poverty or destitution, we find," say the Constabulary Commissioners, in their first report, "disproved at every step. The tenor of the evidence on this subject is conveyed in such testimony as that of the following. We cite that of Mr. Wontner, the late governor of Newgate: - 'Of the criminals who came under your care what proportion, so far as your experience will enable you to state, were by the immediate pressure of want impelled to the commission of crime? By want is meant the absence of the means of subsistence, and not the want arising from indolence and an impatience of steady labour! - According to the best of my observation scarcely one-eighth.'"
Mr. Anderson, in disproof of my statistics, constructs the following table, wherein he shows that there has been no increase in the number of juvenile offenders since the institution of the Ragged School Union: -
METROPOLITAN JUVENILE OFFENDERS.
|Taken into custody||Numbers of persons under twenty years taken into custody during the five years preceding the establishment of the Ragged School Union in 1844||Taken into Custody||Number of persons under twenty years taken into custody during the five years preceding the establishment of the Ragged School Union in 1844|
|In 1839||13,587||In 1844||13,600|
The Ragged School Union, be it observed, was instituted in
April, 1844; and yet Mr. Anderson does not hesitate to ascribe the decrease in
the number of criminals which occurred in that year - a decrease of no less than
2,716 - to the influence of the Ragged Schools, though the funds at their
disposal were then only £61 per annum; whereas, in 1848, when the number of
juvenile offenders was nearly 17,000, those funds had increased to upwards of £4,000!
"It would be absurd to say," acknowledges Mr. Gordon (a Ragged School
teacher), in a letter in reply to the facts advanced by me, that in the year
1844 any effect was produced by Ragged Schools, "that being the year in
which the Union was formed, and little or nothing done." Mr. Anderson,
however, does not think it absurd to do so - nor to credit the Ragged Schools
with the entire decrease of "the number of persons under 20 years taken
into custody since the establishment of the Ragged School Union in 1844.
Such are Mr. Anderson's own words, though at the very time he wrote down the
figures against the year 1844," he must have known that it was not until the
April of that year, when four months had already elapsed, that the Union was
Now concerning Mr. Anderson's attempted disproof of the testimony advanced by me. This Mr. Anderson attacks in several ways. He charges me, as I said before, with publishing statements that were positively false, and with obtaining others by means of leading questions put to the parties whose evidence I adduced, as well as being animated by a disposition to seek out only the worst cases. For myself, I can but declare most emphatically and unequivocally that such assertions, and the evidence by which they are attempted to be supported, are utterly destitute of truth. I am anxious, however, that the contradiction to these accusations, should not rest upon my own statement, and I beg, therefore, to subjoin the following letters: -
TO THE EDITOR OF THE MORNING CHRONICLE.
SIR - I was directed by your Special Correspondent to obtain for
him the addresses of some of the boys and girls who attended the Ragged School
in Westminster, so that he might be able to visit them at their own homes. Your
Correspondent desired me to take the names of the first parties that came to
hand, so that neither particularly good nor bad cases might be selected, but
such as might be presumed to be fair average examples of the practical tendency
of the school in question; and I now solemnly assert that each of the cases I
met with were obtained quite promiscuously, and that they were not chosen by me
for him as instances to bear out any particular opinion. Indeed, it was your
Correspondent's express wish, that "all selections of cases might be
avoided." The parties with whose addresses I furnished your Correspondent are
those whose statements have appeared in your paper. This I can positively assert
from my own knowledge, because I was afterwards requested by your Correspondent
to inquire into the characters of the parents of the children, before he printed
their statements. I did so, and found that the parties were worthy of credit.
In conclusion, I beg to be permitted to state, that, having been engaged in performing the same office for him for these several months past, it never has been his practice either to select his cases or to publish the statements of individuals without previously obtaining some voucher for their credibility. I can conscientiously declare that I have never received instruction from him to furnish him with the addresses of such parties as might not be justly considered fair types of the class into whose condition he has been inquiring at the time.
I am, sir, yours obediently, R. KNIGHT
Late of the "City Mission."
18, Great Warner-street, Clerkenwell.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE MORNING CHRONICLE
SIR - My attention has been called to a letter addressed to
you by Mr. A. Anderson, impugning the veracity of your Metropolitan
Correspondent on the subject of Ragged Schools. I beg to say that I myself
took the statements of the apprentices alluded to by Mr. Anderson, and gave my
notes to your Correspondent for publication. These notes contained a simple
report of the facts narrated to me by the apprentices - facts not narrated
in answer to "leading questions," but in the course of inquiry as to the
general character of Ragged School boys. I perfectly well remember being
impressed at the time with the conviction that these boys were understating
the truth, and that they merely told what they knew to be notorious facts.
This understating is not imputable to any improper motive on the part of the
boys; they naturally may look for further aid in their course through life from
the supporters of Ragged Schools; or they might feel gratitude for their having
been apprenticed to good masters, and be unwilling to tell the whole truth of
institutions from which they at least had derived benefit. To suppose, as
Mr. Anderson does, that the facts detailed to me were in any way twisted or
perverted by me or your Correspondent to answer any purpose whatever, is
ridiculous. Previously to the inquiry my predilections were decidedly in favour
of Ragged Schools; nor, considering the benevolent aim of these institutions,
can I wonder at my having been so short-sighted, for we are prone to think good
is done where good is purposed.
I may add that I was also present when the statements of all the policemen were taken, and they spoke most guardedly, and with an evident desire to tell as little as possible that might hurt the feelings of so good a man as they all represented Lord Ashley to be, as well as to avoid anything, in the way of a statement or opinion, that might lead to their being further questioned on the subject. They frequently said as their words were taken down before them: "I think you had better leave that out; let us be on the safe side," or words to that effect. The especial statement (of a policeman) which Mr. Anderson has endeavoured to upset was printed as the policeman gave it to your Correspondent in my presence, and the officer spoke with the official guardedness of the others, and evidently wished to say all he could, with truth, in favour of Ragged Schools. I perfectly remember the policeman stating that he heard the Ragged School boys sing Nigger songs when the hymns were being sung, and that the lads swore and used bad language on leaving school. These two truths, indeed, pervaded, incidentally, his whole course of conversation, guarded as he was. Nothing like the course of leading question and answer (such as it has pleased Mr. Anderson on detail) took place between your Correspondent and the policeman in question, nor was a word said about "five or six boys stopping on the previous Sunday to pay off their bibles." Neither did your Correspondent say, "Never mind that; we don't want to put that down." In fact, I never heard him say so on any occasion - unless, indeed, concerning some statement too personal, or utterly irrelevant. The statements made by Mr. Anderson, to impugn your Correspondent's veracity, are altogether false. The matter which was printed in The Morning Chronicle was, to my knowledge, detailed as it appeared, and obtained and checked with every care to ensure even minute accuracy.
As to the Nigger-song singing in Ragged Schools, permit me to refer you to the January number of the English Journal of Education, and, indeed, to the subsequent numbers. They contain a very excellent series of articles - "The Diary of the Master of a London Ragged School" - which fully accord with the evidence collected for your journal on the same subject. Of the existence of these articles I was not aware until Tuesday last, when my attention was called to them by the publisher.
I may add, that many unprejudiced persons, some not knowing the purport of the statements that had appeared in The Morning Chronicle, have expressed to your Correspondent, in my hearing, their opinion of the great danger to the community of institutions like Ragged Schools, because the association of bad children with good must, through emulation and other causes, be prejudicial to the good. Among experienced persons holding this opinion, I may instance a very intelligent schoolmaster, teaching a great number of children in one of Mr. Green's excellent preparatory schools, who dared not, he said, unwilling as he would be to stand in the way of any child's being taught and possibly reformed, admit a boy or girl known to be a thief among his pupils. A schoolmistress (also one of Mr. Green's teachers) made a similar avowal.
In conclusion, I will merely remark that your Correspondent's instructions to me have invariably been, to take average cases and to test their truthfulness by all possible means. His whole endeavour, so long as I have been connected with him in his inquiry, has been to elicit the plain truth - no matter what theory was upset or confirmed.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
4, Woronzow-road, St. John's-wood, April 19, 1850
Mr. Anderson, endeavouring to disprove the statement of one
of the lads in prison who declared that he had been first taught to thieve by
the boys whom he met at the Ragged School, says: "I shall not enter further
into the details furnished from the statements of those children. No one can
read them without perceiving that children could never have given such
answers unless they had been promoted by leading questions."
The following letter (addressed to myself), is from Lieutenant Tracy, the governor of Tothill-fields House of Correction, in whose presence the boys were examined:
Westminster, April 20
"Dear Sir - My attention having been directed to a statement in one of the papers, wherein it is asserted that two boys, inmates of this prison, had furnished some information in reference to a Ragged School in this district, and also commenting on the mode in which such information was obtained, I shall feel obliged, if the opportunity is given you, by your showing to the parties who seem to question its accuracy, the course adopted when you visited this establishment about a month since, by the authority of the Secretary of State. It will be within your recollection, I think, that two boys, named Cook and Blandford, who had been very frequently at the Ragged School in Westminster (Old Pye-street), were questioned with my concurrence, and in my presence, on the manner in which they disposed of their time throughout each day that they were attached to this school. And I deny most emphatically that leading questions were put to them. They were enjoined by me to speak the truth, and only examined in the ordinary way that all juveniles are on being sent here, with a view of ascertaining their habits and course of life, without prejudice to the school before named. Their replies were given in a straightforward manner, in their own usually plain language; and the boy Cook finished, when about to be removed by the officer, by voluntarily observing, that he had been first taught to thieve whilst belonging to the Ragged School.
"Very faithfully yours, dear sir,
"A. F. TRACY
The passage printed in italics was underscored in Lieutenant
The above letters afford full and ample contradiction to the various assertions contained in Mr. Anderson's communication, which, before leaving the subject, I must repeat, is not merely unfounded in one point alone, but in every particular from beginning to end.
To assure myself, however, that I had not been deceived concerning the evil effects arising from the indiscriminate association of the bad with the good children at Ragged Schools, and that I had not been guilty of an injustice which I should ever regret, I determined to pay a visit to the House of Correction in Coldbath-fields, where I had been informed a number of Ragged-School boys were then imprisoned.
Here I saw Captain Chesterton, the governor, and the Rev. Mr. Illingworth, the chaplain of the gaol, both of whom I found strongly impressed with a sense of the evils likely to arise from the indiscriminate association of the bad and good at Ragged Schools. Captain Chesterton said: "I was deeply impressed at one time in favour of such schools - indeed, so much so, that I was indirectly a subscriber to them. But on making an inquiry here very recently as to the number of Ragged-School boys that we had in the prison, and finding that we had upwards of 60, out of 170 youths, the fact of the evil tendency of such institutions appeared to me to be quite conclusive." I then asked Captain Chesterton whether I was at liberty to state publicly that such was his opinion; when he gave me full permission to say that he considered Ragged Schools, from the indiscriminate mingling of the bad and good boys together, calculated to have a pernicious rather than a beneficial effect. The Rev. Mr. Illingworth, the chaplain, said "My impression is, that to bring the children of the poorest people, and consequently the children most liable to be tempted, into connection with boys known to be of decidedly vicious habits, cannot but be attended with evil effects. Until lately I have paid no attention to the subject. I fancied at first that Ragged Schools would do good - if they did nothing else, I thought they would at least keep the poor creatures out of mischief; but upon reconsideration, I do not doubt about the danger of Ragged Schools; but unequivocally condemn the indiscriminate mingling of good and bad children practised in those establishments." Captain Chesterton here again expressed a similar opinion, saying that such was evidently the common-sense view of the matter. "The great difficulty we have to contend with here," continued the chaplain, "is to prevent the association of the prisoners. Our chief object is to keep them separate, and so to guard against evil communications among them." "We are obliged," observed the governor, "even to place steady men between vicious boys, to avoid corruption." "We consider the system of Ragged Schools," observed the chaplain, "as a step back towards that indiscriminate association of thieves, which was formerly permitted in prisons, and from which so much evil is known to have arisen. To prevent this association all our efforts here, of late years, have been specially directed. But if the association of vicious persons is found to be fraught with evil inside a prison, how much more pernicious must it be outside one, in institutions where no supervision and little or no discipline are maintained. A boy may come to the school for the express purpose of seducing others, and our experience here teaches us it is a common practice among expert thieves to decoy boys not previously known to the police as being safer instruments for the perpetration of their crimes. Upon good and poor girls the effect of association with bad ones must be more pernicious still." "It is hardly possible," remarked Captain Chesterton, "to conceive the depravity of exceedingly young bad girls." "I wish you to say," added the chaplain, "that I am speaking from my general impression and experience of human nature, and not from any attention that I have given expressly to the subject of Ragged Schools. My opinions are formed not from any investigation of the matter, but simply from the experience I have had here as to the nature and habit of criminals." I then inquired of Captain Chesterton whether, on making the inquiry as to the number of Ragged-School boys that he had in his custody, he had found the youths who had received instruction at those establishments were a better class than the other delinquents. His answer was, that they were altogether as depraved as the rest. The chaplain then informed me, that until he had seen the subject noticed in the morning papers he had given little or no attention to it. What I saw in The Morning Chronicle I must say certainly convinced me of the great danger of such indiscriminate association as appeared to be allowed at the Ragged Schools. "Of that," said Captain Chesterton, "there cannot be a doubt in the mind of any one practically acquainted with the subject."
After this I requested permission of the Governor to see the boys in his custody who had been instructed at Ragged Schools, so that I might ascertain how many times they had been in prison previously to attending a Ragged School, and how many times afterwards. I was desirous of obtaining an answer to these questions, because in a circular which has been "privately and confidentially" sent out by the Ragged-School Union, and which had been forwarded to me by one of the teachers, the same interrogatories had been proposed as a test of the efficacy of those institutions, and I though that I could not deal more fairly with the society than by adopting the very means that they themselves had used. The Governor gave me permission to do as I requested, and, in company with the chief warder, I proceeded round the prison.
The officer, when we entered the several wards, desired the boys who had been to Ragged Schools to stand up, and told them merely to answer all questions truly. They were then asked how many times they had been in prison before they had been at a Ragged School, and how many times after. They were asked also if they had been members of gangs of young thieves who resorted to Ragged Schools; some boys hesitated in giving an answer, and whenever they did so, the question was not pressed. The following are the results, the warder believing them (unless where I have expressly stated so) to be correctly given. I have placed a cipher (0) where there was no committal to prison prior to the boy's having been to a Ragged School, and have placed the word "gang" where the boy avowed his having belonged to a band of young thieves at the school. The average age of the boys, whose years are not specified, the officer considered to be thirteen:
|ROGUES AND VAGABONDS|
|Times in Prison before going to a Ragged School||Times in Prison after going to a Ragged School|
|(The warder said that instead of twice, six times would be a truer statement)|
|(All these 10 committals for felony)|
|" (12 year old)||0||1|
I thought it best, as I proceeded with this inquiry, to give the ages of the individual prisoners: the preceding list, as I have stated, gives an average of boys of 13 years.
|(The warder said this boy had been far more times in prison.)|
|(Many times in prison - couldn't tell how often; was to have been sent out as an emigrant from the Ragged School, but got into prison at the very time.)|
|(Was connected with a gang of young thieves meeting at Pye-street School, Westminster.)|
MISDEMEANANTS AND FELONS
|(Was first taken out to steal from a Ragged School, in George-street, Lisson-grove.)|
|(Was first tempted to steal by boys he met at the Ragged School in Old Gravel-lane, Wapping.)|
|(Was first tempted to steal by Ragged School boys in White Horse-street School, Poplar.)|
On the day of my visit there were in Coldbath-fields Prison
793 male prisoners of all ages, 170 of them being boys of sixteen and under. Of
the 170 youths in Coldbath-fields Prison, 90 - or more than one-half -
had been instructed in Ragged Schools, and among this number there had been 34
imprisonments before going to the Ragged Schools, and no less than 185 after.
As many as nineteen boys confessed to having belonged to gangs of young
thieves at Ragged Schools.
In order to complete my inquiry, I also applied to Lieutenant Tracy, the governor of Tothill-fields, to be allowed to put the same questions to the Ragged-School boys in his prison as I had done at Coldbath-fields. He immediately granted me permission to do so, and gave directions that all those youths who had attended Ragged Schools should be mustered in the school-room of the prison. Here they were interrogated in precisely the same manner. The inquiry was conducted in the presence of the officers of the prison, and the Rev. Mr. Rogers, the assistant chaplain, who gave me permission to state that he considered the indiscriminate association of the good and bad children at Ragged Schools to be fraught with great danger. The opinion of Lieutenant Tracy upon this subject is as decisive as that of Captain Chesterton. The following results were obtained at this prison. I have placed an "f" where the whole of the imprisonments have been for felony; where no letter appears against the number of imprisonments, they have been generally for misdemeanors as well as theft:
|Age||No. of times in prison before going to a Ragged School||No. of times in prison after going to a Ragged School|
|"||13||3 f||2 f|
|(*This lad could not remember how many times he had been imprisoned before going to a Ragged School, and how many times after. I have, therefore, so as to err on the right side, set down the whole of his imprisonments as occurring before.)|
There are 117 boys at present confined in Tothill-flelds
Prison, and of this number it appears 52 - or nearly one-half -
have been instructed at Ragged Schools. Among these there had been 33
imprisonments before attending the schools, and no less than 128 afterwards.
Twenty-three of the fifty-two boys confessed to having heard the boys planning
robberies outside the school doors; 5 knew good boys who had been led
away by young thieves that they had met at the schools; 9 declared that they
themselves had first been taught to thieve at a Ragged School; and 13 protested
that they knew many of the boys went thieving after attending school. The
addresses given by the boys in prison, as well as the principal circumstances
detailed by them, proved to be quite correct, so that there appears every reason
to place credence in their narratives.
From Tothill-flelds and Coldbath-fields Houses of Correction then, we have the following facts: - In the two prisons there were altogether 287 boys confined. Of these, 142, or within afraction of one-half, had received instruction in a Ragged School. Among this latter number there had only been 92 imprisonments before attending Ragged Schools, and no less than 313 imprisonments afterwards. Surely no persons, in the teeth of such overwhelming facts as these, will now. maintain that Ragged Schools are unattended with evil.
To make assurance doubly sure, however, I sought out a boy whom I knew to have attended a Ragged School in the vicinity of Wapping, and whom I had met while inquiring into the condition of "the mudlarks." This lad, whose history has been already described in this paper in a letter from a lady, was kindly provided with a situation by Messrs. Bradbury and Evans, and has now for some months past been earning an honest living. Before printing the statement I received from the boy I applied to his employers to know how he had conducted himself in their service, and was favoured with the following answer: -
Whitefriars, April 22,
"Messrs. Bradbury and Evans beg to say that the boy J. C. has conducted himself in a very satisfactory manner since he has been in their employment."
With this preamble, I now give the statement of the lad himself: -
"I am getting
on for fourteen years. My mother used to go out washing. My father has been dead nine years. He was a coal-porter, and
died from falling down between the barges in the river. After his death my
mother was left without any means of living, with myself and two sisters to
keep. My eldest sister is now sixteen, and the youngest twelve. After my father
died my mother went out washing, and when she couldn't get that to do, she used
to go selling fruit - apples and oranges, and gooseberries and cherries - in the
street. When I was nine years old, my mother sent me to Red Lion School, which
is in Greenbank, near Old Gravel-lane, Ratcliffe-highway. She paid a penny a
week for my schooling. I didn't learn much there, and couldn't write at all,
though I could read a little when I left. I was there a year altogether. There
were 200 boys in the school. My mother got so poor and distressed after I had
been a twelvemonth at the school that she couldn't afford to pay the penny a
week for me any longer, so I was forced to go out with my sister selling fish about the streets. 1 was kept at
this for three months, but after that my mother's stock-money was all gone, and
we had nothing to eat until I went down to the shore to pick up a
potful or two of coals. Before this I had been down to the water-side to pickup
bits of wood for my mother's fire, and there I saw the boys picking up coals. I
told my mother, and she bid me do the same. I had been picking up things along
shore for three months before I went to the Ragged School. One night when I came
up from the shore, I went and washed my feet, and I heard the boys talking about
the Ragged School in High-street, Wapping. They was saying what they used to
learn there. They asked me to come along with them, and said it was great fun.
They told me that all the boys used to be laughing and making game of the
master. They said they used to put out the gas, and chuck the slates all about
everywhere. They told me too there was a good fire there; so I went to have a warm, and
see what it was like. When I got there the masters was very kind tome. They used
to give us tea parties; and to keep us all quiet, they used to show us the magic
lantern. I soon got to like going there, and went every night for six months. We
used to begin school at seven o'clock at night, and come out at nine. There was
about forty or fifty boys in the school. The most of them was thieves. They used
to go thieving coals out of the barges alongshore, and cutting the ropes off the
ships, and going and selling it at the rag-shops. They used to get three
farthings a pound for the rope dry, and a halfpenny a pound wet. There was no
pickpockets - the boys was no good at that. Some used to steal pudding out of
shops, and hand it to those outside, and the last boy it was handed to would go
off with it. They used to steal bacon and bread sometimes out of the shops.
About half of the boys at the Ragged School I went to were thieves, and the rest
of the boys were honest. Some had work to do at ironmongers, lead factories,
engineers, soap boilers, and so on; and some had no work to do, but were good boys still. After we came out of school at nine o'clock
at night, some of the bad boys would go thieving - perhaps half-a-dozen, and
from that to eight, would go out in a gang together. There was one big boy of
the name of C- , he was 18 years old - and is in prison now for stealing some
bacon. I think he's in the House of Correction. This C- used to go out of the
school before any of us, and wait outside the door as the other boys came out.
Then he would call the boys he wanted for his gangs on one side, and tell them
where to go and steal. He used to look out in the daytime for the shops where
things could be prigged, and at night he would tell the boys to go to them. He
was called the captain of the gangs. He had about three gangs altogether with
him, and there were from 6 to 8 boys in each gang. The boys used to bring what
they stole to C-, and he used to share it with them. I belonged to one of these
gangs. There were six boys altogether in my gang. The biggest lad, that knowed
all about the thieving, was the captain of the gang that I was in, and C- was
captain over him and all of us. The name of the captain of my gang was C-. There
was two brothers of them. You seed them, sir, on the night that you first met me
at Mr. s house. The other boys who was in my gang was B- B- and B- L-, and D-
B-, and a boy we used to call Tim. These with myself made up one of the gangs -
and we all of us used to go thieving every night after school hours. And when
the tide would be right up, and we had nothing to do along shore, we used to go
thieving in the daytime as well. It was B- B- and B- L- that first put me up to
go thieving. They took me with them one night up the lane (New Gravel-lane), and
I see them take some bread out of a baker's and they wasn't found out, and after
that I used to go with them regular. Then I joined C-'s gang, and after that C-
came and told us that his gang could do better than ourn, and he asked us to
join our gang with his'n, and we did so. Sometimes we used to make three and
four shillings a day, or about sixpence a piece. Sometimes C- used to try and
entice the good boys at the Ragged School to come thieving with his gang, but I
never knew him to take a boy from there. But we often used to plan up our
robberies while awaiting outside the school doors before they were opened. We
used to plan up where we would go to after school was over. All the whole of the
gang would be together while waiting outside the school, and we'd talk over
where we would go to that night. I think I learnt more good than harm at the
school, but I have planned up many times since at the Ragged School to go
thieving with our gang. If it hadn't been for the school we shouldn't have met
together so often of a night, and I don't think we should have stolen so much. I
didn't know not one boy out of our gangs that left off thieving after going to
the school. I know that C- and the captain of my gang (C-) are both in prison. C-
has got six months, and C-,I think, fourteen days of it, or a month, I can't be
sure which. I was taken up once for thieving coals myself, but I was let go again. C- was taken for stealing bacon in
Wapping-wall; it was about half-past nine at night, and after he had been at the
Ragged School. C- was taken for coals one morning. C- has been in prison twice,
and C- three times.
This statement was afterwards shown to the mother of the boy, who assured me that it was true in every part of it; and she, moreover, told me, that she herself has known the old thieves come down from Ratcliff-highway and Rosemary-lane to teach the young boys how to steal; and if the young ones would not go with the old thieves they used to make up a gang themselves to go and do the same as the old ones had told them they wanted them for. "The school was a great nuisance at night with the boys both going and coming, and from what I have heard," she said, "from my son, since you saw him, sir, it appears to have been a regular practice with the bad boys in the neighbourhood to meet at the school and plan up their robberies. I know my son has spoken the truth to you, because he told me so quite privately, after you had wrote down what he said, and if he had deceived you I am sure he would have confessed it to me. He has thought of several other things since he saw you, and among the rest that about the old thieves coming down from Rosemary-lane t0 the school, to get hold of the young ones. The boy C-, at the school, was 18 years, and another boy of the name of M'G- was 18 too. M'G- had been a dozen and more times in prison, and these two used to lead the young boys astray. I can swear from what I have since heard from my son, that he learnt more harm than good at the school. It is true he was taught how to read and write there, and Mr. U-, the teacher, was very good to him; all the boys would have done well if they only had followed the good advice he used to give them; but directly they were out of his sight they used to be off thieving all the same, and the big thieves would put the little ones up to things they would never have thought of if they hadn't met one another at the school."
(Since receiving the above statement I have endeavoured to trace the lad, but, owing to a boy, when arrested, seldom giving the same name twice, I have met with considerable difficulty. I am induced to believe, however, from information received at the Thames police-office, that he is now under sentence of transportation for seven years, under another name.)
Now for the evidence of Ragged School Teachers themselves. I have refrained from making any application for information from this source, because I was impressed with the idea that the teachers believed Ragged Schools to be productive of pure unalloyed good. From the silence of the annual reports concerning the evil, or even danger, of the indiscriminate association of the virtuous with the vicious, I considered it idle to make any application in such quarters. I gave the teachers every credit for being honest, benevolent, and zealous men, and felt quite satisfied that were they acquainted with the injurious tendency of those institutions, they would no longer remain connected with them. It appears, however, that several of the teachers have long been impressed with the injurious tendency of such institutions, and have not hesitated to speak out their sentiments upon the subject. The opinions of these gentlemen agree mainly with what I have advanced, and go far to corroborate the very facts which Mr. Anderson seeks not only to deny, but even to brand me as an infidel for daring to publish. The following extracts from the Diary of Ragged School Teacher, printed in the English Journal of Education for January, March, and April, will afford the reader further proof of the truth of what has been asserted in these letters:-
"Oct. 28, 1849.- We prepared the
school by placing benches in situations for the division of the scholars into four
classes, and as they came tumbling and bawling up the stairs, we directed them
to seats In mere schooling they are not behindhand, but in decency of behaviour
or in respect for the teacher, or in discipline of any kind, they are totally
unparalleled. No school can be possibly worse than this. It were an easier task
to get attention from savages Without one exception, these boys are precocious. They
require more training than teaching. The great city has been their book, and
they have read men as such boys alone can do To compose the children, I proposed
that we should have a little music, and sang
very sweetly the first verse of the Evening Hymn. We then invited the children
to follow us, and we got through the first line or two very well, but a
blackguard boy thought proper to set up on his own account, and he led off a
song in this strain: -
"O Susanah, don't you cry for me,
I'm off to Alamabama,
With a banjo on my knee!'
I need scarcely add that every boy followed this leader - aye, girls and all - and I could not check them In the midst of the Lord's Prayer, several shrill cries of 'cat's meat,' and 'mew, mew,' added another fact to the history of this school ... A ll our copy-books have been stolen , and proofs exist that the school is used at night as a sleeping-room. We must get a stronger door to it.
"31st Oct., 1849.- . . . . They have had a great deal of good schooling in a certain sense, or rather much labour has been expended in teaching them to read, write, and cipher well. But I cannot believe that any attention has been bestowed in making this knowledge useful. They are utterly destitute of feeling or propriety; and their technical education, such as it has been, has not made them more civilized or better children. After all, the school must be looked upon as secondary to home teaching. It is apparently worse than useless to expect a man to be made better by merely learning to read and write. Those of our scholars who can do so best are decidedly the most depraved. One boy, who is quite as well schooled as the average number of boys at his age are schooled - (say twelve years of age) - said to me to-day, 'Please, sir, I'll go down on my knees and say the Lord Jesus Christ and the Fellowship of the Holy Ghost for a halfpenny.' Another, as we went along the lanes from school, called after us, 'Glory be to the Father,' &c Any careful observer would come to another conclusion; and that is, that these people do not require the schoolmaster so much as they need some municipal act for the regulation of lodging-houses and dwelling-houses generally. Preaching and teaching can never fructify in the heart or mind of a man who is never alone, it is almost cruelty to talk of virtue or decency to a being who is doomed to sleep and do everything else in a crowd There is a boy in my first class who has made as much as fourteen pence a week by writing begging letters for his neighbours, for which he charged one penny apiece; and he also receives a few coppers now and then from the costermongers, who employ him to conduct their business correspondence. His moral tone is exceedingly low. . . . Are we educating these boys for the purpose of confusing honest men, or for making them more expert in the prosecution of unlawful callings? Surely, the latter is not our object; but it will be the result of our efforts, unless we can find employment for those who are ready and able to do useful work."
I shall now conclude with the evidence of a gentleman - a Ragged School teacher of great experience - who, it will be seen, cites facts far more appalling than any that I have yet published concerning the injurious tendency of those institutions.
"Could the full and minute particulars concerning Ragged Schools be made public - but many of those particulars could not, without outraging all decency - the world," he said, "would be shocked and surprised. He had read my letters on the subject of Ragged Schools, and knew, from his own intimate knowledge of those schools, that the facts given, and the inferences drawn, were undeniably correct, but that they were understated. Oaths were very common among the boys, who smoked their short pipes, and laughed at every precept of religion or morality. The language of these boys could not be printed in any newspaper, and their example, when, as is common in Ragged Schools, they came into contact with honest boys, was most contagious and ruinous. My informant knew three previously honest boys who had been taught or tempted to steal in a Ragged School, containing then about forty boys. Neither could all the children whom the benevolent and sanguine supporters of Ragged Schools pronounced reclaimed characters be considered reclaimed. One boy picked a pocket on the very eve of emigration as a reclaimed boy; a girl, selected as a reclaimed character for emigration, refused to emigrate when the time arrived, and was soon after convicted of having stolen a pair of boots from a child's feet, stopping the child in the street for the purpose. Young prostitutes resorted to the school; and of their corrupting influence upon all coming into contact with them in the school there can be no doubt whatever. My informant once asked an excellent gentleman, who expressed an opinion of the good to be accomplished by Ragged Schools if he would allow his daughter to teach a girls' class in that school? The gentleman said certainly not, for it was his duty to take care that his daughter's ears should not be assailed by such language as some of those girls used so shamelessly. My informant then asked him if it were not safe or proper to expose a virtuous young lady, with all the safeguards of Christian principles and the comforts of a good home to ensure her against harm or temptation to such influences, how could it be safe or proper to expose poor, and ignorant, and little cared-for children to those influences? Five bad boys, he said, were enough to corrupt fifty good boys in a school, and so convinced was he of this, so certain of the mischief done by evil communications, which the teachers could not check, at Ragged Schools, that, could it be matter of proof, far more children it would be found had been contaminated than had been reclaimed or benefited by these institutions. Even some boys who were sent out as emigrants, on account of their being reformed characters, had conducted themselves so badly on shipboard, that stocks had to be set up for their punishment and coercion. Some of these young emigrants had sent the strangest letters home. When gentlemen or ladies visited the school - and my informant often was in fear for ladies who might be shocked by hearing language such as they never heard before - the vicious children, either in hope or in possession of a gift, or in expectation of some benefit to themselves or their parents, would behave tolerably well, but indulged in their usual coarseness when the visitors had left. The wit and sharpness of the replies of some of the boys was remarkable, and often exercised in ridicule of religious or moral precepts. Discipline was hopeless, and so was any good and lasting effect among Ragged School pupils. On my asking for proofs of the correctness of his conclusions as to the mischief done, my informant described one Ragged School with which he was acquainted - and all these schools were, more or less, alike - as a perfect nest of corruption and depravity. Boys in the school would expose their persons before the female class, and commit gross acts of indecency before the tittering girls. The boys occupied one end of the school-room, and the girls the other. The girls would, at one period, make any excuse to go into the yard, or would walk out without any excuse; and my informant once detected a boy and girl in criminal intercourse in the water-closet.
That the facts and opinions above adduced have more than confirmed what was previously advanced in these letters, I think the public - and even Mr. Anderson himself - will readily acknowledge. It cannot be said in justice that, in making these disclosures, I have been actuated by any feeling of prejudice against Ragged Schools, or the upholders of them. For myself, I would refer such as may still believe that I entered upon the inquiry with a preconceived aversion to these institutions, to a work entitled "The Magic of Kindness," published last June, and in which I spoke approvingly of them. Subsequent investigation, however, has compelled me to change my opinion. That no other motive has induced me to do so, it is due to myself and the proprietors of this Journal most unequivocally to declare. Our sole object has been - not only in this investigation, but in all our other inquiries - the development of the truth - and it has caused us no little pain to be compelled to denounce institutions that were admitted by all to have been designed and sustained by the purest and most benevolent feelings. We are thoroughly convinced, however, that the facts which have been elicited in the course of this inquiry must be productive of great good, and lead to the immediate reformation of the Ragged Schools; and we feel assured, that the supporters of these institutions will then do us the justice to rank us among their best friends. It is admitted by us that free schools for the children of the honest poor are much needed. These we are ready to advocate most heartily; for though we have felt ourselves called upon to expose the hopelessness of attempting to check crime by a diffusion of the knowledge of reading and writing, we are in no way adverse to the education of the people. We are merely opposed to the instruction of the honest poor in connection with the dishonest, believing that any attempt to educate the two together must necessarily, from the force of association, be productive of more harm than good to the community.