ON approaching Edinburgh from the west, after the general features which distance presents, - dome, and spire, and antique piles of building, the Castle standing in the foreground, while Arthur Seat raises its lion-like back between the city and the sea, - the first object which attracts the eyes of a stranger is a structure of exquisite and surpassing beauty. It might be a palace for our Queen:- it is an hospital. Near by, embowered in wood, stands an edifice of less pretensions, but also great extent :-it is another hospital. Within a bow-shot of that, again, some fine open towers rise from the wood over a fair structure, with its Grecian pillars and graceful portico:- it is another hospital. Now in the city, and wheeling round the base of the Castle rock, he drives on by Lauriston. Not far away, on the outskirts of the town, pleasantly planted in a beautiful park, bordered with trees, stands an old-fashioned building - it is another hospital. In his way along Lauriston, within a stone-cast of him, his eye catches the back of a large and spacious edifice, which looks beautifully out on the Meadows, the low Braid Hills, and the distant Pentlands : - it is another hospital. A few turns of the wheel, and before him, within a fine park, or rather ornamental garden, stands the finest structure of our town, - a master-piece of Inigo J ones, - with a princely revenue of £15,000 a-year : - it is another hospital. The carriage now jostles over a stone; the stranger turns his head, and sees, but some hundred yards away, a large Dutch-like structure, stretching out its long lines of windows, with the gilded ship, the sign of commerce, for weathervane, on its summit : - that is another hospital. Our friend concludes, and not without some reason, that, instead of the “Modern Athens,” Edinburgh might be called the City of Hospitals.
I have no quarrel at present with these institutions: their management is in the hands of wise, excellent, and honourable men; and, in so far as they fail to accomplish the good intended, it is not that they are mismanaged. The management is not bad; but in some of its elements the system itself is vicious. God never made men to be reared in flocks, but in families. Man is not a gregarious animal, other than that he herds together with his race in towns, a congeries of families. Born, as he is, with domestic affections, whatever interferes with their free play is an evil to be shunned, and, in its moral and physical results, to be dreaded. God framed and fitted man to grow up, not under the hospital, but the domestic roof - whether that roof be the canvas of an Arab tent, the grassy turf of a Highland shieling, or the gilded dome of a palace. And as man was no more made to be reared in an hospital than the human foot to grow in a Chinese shoe, or the human body to be bound in ribs of iron or whalebone, - acting in both cases in contravention of God’s law, - you are as sure in the first case to inflict injury on his moral, as in the second on his physical constitution. They commit a grave mistake who forget that injury as inevitably results from flying in the face of a moral or mental, as of a physical law. So long as rice is rice, you cannot rear it on the bald brow of a hilltop : it loves the hollows and the valleys, with their water-floods; and so long as man is man, more or less of injury will follow the attempt to rear him in circumstances for which his Maker never adapted him.
But apart from this, who and what are the children that, under the roof of these crowded hospitals, receive shelter, food, clothing, and instruction? It is much deplored by many, and can be denied by none, that in some of these hospitals not a few of the inmates are the children of those who are able, and ought to be willing, - and, but for the temptations these institutions present, would be ready, - to train up their children as olive plants around the domestic table, and rear them within the tender, kind, holy, and heaven-blessed circle of a domestic home. There are nursed those precious affections toward parents, brothers, sisters, and smiling babes, which, for man’s good in this life, and the wellbeing of society, are worth more than all Greek and Roman lore. I cannot better convey my ideas and feelings on this matter than by saying, that when a Governor of Heriot’s Hospital, - an hospital which enjoys the care and attention both of the Town Council and the city clergy, - I was astonished to be applied to by a respectable man on behalf of his son. Let me not. be misunderstood. I do not much blame parents and guardians for availing themselves of these hospitals, even when they might do otherwise. A well- furnished table, lodging the most comfortable, a first- rate education, in some instances valuable bursaries, and occasionally, when launched into the world, a sum of money to float the favoured pupil on, - these present the temptation to tear the child from a mother’s side, and send it away from a father’s care, which it is not easy to resist.
Still, to resume my narrative, I was amazed to receive such an application from such a quarter. The applicant was a sober and excellent man, living in what the world would count respectable circumstances. Knowing this, nevertheless I asked him, “Can you give your boy porridge in the morning ?“ “Yes,” said he, surprised at such a question. “ Potatoes to dinner?” “Certainly.” “Porridge at night ?“ He looked astonished: he knew, as I and all his neighbours did, that he was able to do a great deal more. “Then,” I said, “my friend, were I you, it should not be till they had laid me in my coffin that boy of mine should lose the blessings of a father’s fireside, and be cast amid the dangers of a public hospital.” I may perhaps add, that I thought him a wise man, for he took my advice. And before leaving these hospitals, I think it right also to add, in justice to the management of Heriot’s Hospital, and to the honour of Mr. Duncan Maclaren, by whom the scheme was proposed and carried, that some £3000 a-year is applied to the maintenance of schools scattered up and down the city, where the children of decent tradesmen, mechanics, and labourers, receive a good gratis education.
Now, to resume, for convenience sake, the company of my stranger friend. Skirting along the ruins of the old city wall, and passing down the Vennel, we descend into the Grassmarket, - a large, capacious place, with the exception of some three or four modern houses, still standing as it did two centuries ago, - the most perfect specimen in our city of the olden time. Its old massive fronts, reared as if in picturesque contempt of modern uniformity, - some with the flat roofs of the East, and others of the Flemish school, with their sharp and lofty gables topped by the rose, the thistle, and the fleur de lis, - still look down on that square as in the days when it was one sea of heads, every eye turned to the great black gallows, which rose high over all, and from which, amid the hushed and awful silence of assembled thousands, rose the last psalm of a hero of the Covenant, who had come there to play the man.
In a small well-conditioned town, with the exception of some children basking on the pavement, and playing with the dogs that have gone over with them to enjoy the sunny side, between the hours of ten and one, you miss the Scripture picture of “boys and girls playing in the street.” Not so in the Grassmarket. In two-thirds of the shops, on one side of this square (for we have counted them) spirits are sold. The sheep are near the slaughter-house, - the victims are in the neighbourhood of the altars. The mouth of almost every close is filled with loungers, worse than Neapolitan lazzaroni, - bloated and brutal figures, ragged and wretched old men, bold and fierce-looking women, and many a half-clad mother, shivering in cold winter with her naked feet on the frozen pavement, and a skeleton infant in her arms. On a summer day, when in the blessed sunshine and warm air misery itself will sing, dashing in and out of these closes, careering over the open ground, engaged in their rude games, arrayed in flying drapery, here a leg out and there an arm, are crowds of children. Their thin faces tell how ill they are fed. Their fearful oaths tell how ill they are reared. Yet the merry laugh, the hearty shout, and screams of delight, as some unfortunate urchin, at leap-frog, measures his length upon the ground, tell that God made childhood to be happy, and how even misery will forget itself in the buoyancy of youth.
We get hold of one of these boys. Poor fellow! it is a bitter day; and he has neither shoes nor stockings. His naked feet are red, swollen, cracked, ulcerated with the cold ; a thin, thread-worn jacket, with its gaping rents, is all that protects his breast beneath his shaggy bush of hair he shows a face sharp with want, yet sharp also with intelligence beyond his years. That little fellow has learned to be already self-supporting. He has studied the arts; - he is a master of imposture, lying, begging, stealing. Small blame to him, but much to those who have neglected him, - he had otherwise pined and perished. So soon as you have satisfied him that you are not connected with the police, you ask him, “Wheie is your father ?“ Now, hear his story, - and there are hundreds can tell a similar tale. “Where is your father ?“ “He is dead, Sir.” “Where is your mother ?“ “Dead too.” “Where do you stay ?“ “Sister and I, and my little brother live with granny.” “What is she?” “She is a widow woman.” “What does she do ?“ “Sells sticks, Sir.” “And can she keep you all?” “No.” “Then how do you live ?“ “Go about and get bits of meat, sell matches, and sometimes get a trifle from the carriers for running an errand.” “Do you go to school?” “No, never was at school; attended sometimes a Sabbath-school, but have not been there for a long time.” “Do you go to church?” “Never was in a church.” “Do you know who made you?“ “Yes, God made me.” “Do you say your prayers ?“ “Yes, mother taught me a prayer before she died; and I say it to granny afore I lie down.” “Have you a bed ?“ “Some straw, Sir.”
Our stranger friend is astonished at this, - not we. Alas! we have ceased to be astonished at any amount of misery suffered, or suffering, in our overgrown cities. You have, says he, splendid hospitals, where children are fed, and clothed, and educated, whose parents, in instances not a few, could do all that for them; you have beautiful schools for the gratis education of the children of respectable tradesmen and mechanics: what provision have you made for these children of crime, misery, and misfortune? Let us go and see the remedy which this rich, enlightened, Christian City has provided for such a crying evil. We blush, as we tell them there is none. Let us explain ourselves. Such children cannot pay for education, nor avail themselves of a or gratis one, even though offered, That urchin must beg and steal, or he starves. With a number like himself, he goes of a morning as regularly to that work as the merchant to his shop or the tradesman to his place of labour. They are turned out, - driven forth sometimes, - to get their meat, like sheep to the hills, or cattle to the field; and if they don’t bring home a certain supply, a drunken father and a brutal beating await them.
For example, I was returning from a meeting one night, about twelve o’clock in a fierce blast of wind and rain. In Princes Street, a shivering boy with a piteous voice, pressed me to buy a tract. I asked the child why he was out in such a night, and at such an hour. He had not got his money; he dared not go home without it; he would rather sleep in a stair all night. I thought, as we passed a lamp, that I had seen him before. I asked him if he went to church. “Sometimes to Mr. Guthrie’s,” was his reply. On looking again, I now recognized him as one I had occasionally seen in the Cowgate Chapel. Muffled up to meet the weather, he did not recognize me. I asked him what his father was? “I have no father, Sir; he is dead.” His mother? “She is very poor.” “But why keep you out here ?“ Then reluctantly the truth came out. I knew her well, and had visited her wretched dwelling. She was a tall, dark, gaunt gipsy-looking woman, who, notwithstanding a cap of which it could be but premised that it had once been white, and a gown that it had once been black, had still some traces of one who had seen better days; but, now she was a drunkard. Sin had turned her into a monster; and she would have beaten that poor child within an inch of death, if he had been short of the money, by her waste of which she starved him, and fed her own accursed vices.
Now, by this anecdote illustrating to my stranger friend the situation of these unhappy children, I added that, nevertheless, they might get education, and secure some measure both of common and Christian knowledge. But mark how, and where. Not as in the days of our blessed Saviour, when the tender mother brought her child for his blessing, The jailor brings them now. Their only passage to school is through the Police Office; their passport is a conviction of crime; and in this Christian and enlightened city it is only within the dreary walls of a prison that they are secure either of school or Bible. When one thinks of their own happy boys at home, bounding free on the green, and breathing the fresh air of heaven, - or of the little fellow that climbs a father’s knee, and asks the oft-repeated story of Moses or of Joseph, - it is a sad thing to look in through the eyelet of a cell-door, on the weary solitude of a child spelling its way through the Bible. It makes one sick to hear men sing the praises of the fine education of our prisons. How much better and holier were it to tell us of an education that would save the necessity of a prison- school! I like well to see the life-boat, with her brave and devoted crew; but with far more pleasure, from the window of my old country manse, I used to look out at the Bell Rock Tower, standing erect amid the stormy waters, where in the mists of day the bell was rung, and in the darkness of the night the light was kindled. Thus mariners were not saved from the wreck, but saved from being wrecked at all. Instead of first punishing crime, and then, through means of a prison education, trying to prevent its repetition, we appeal to men’s common sense, and common interest, to humanity, and Christianity, if it were not better to support a plan which would reverse this process, and which seeks to prevent, that there may be no occasion to punish.
It may be asked, would not this be accomplished by the existence and multiplication of schools, where, in circumstances of necessity, a gratis education may be obtained? We answer, Certainly not. Look how the thing works, and is working. You open such a school in some poor locality of the city; where among the more decent and well-provided children there is a number of shoeless, shirtless, capless, ragged boys, as wild as desert savages. The great mass of those in the district you have not swept into your school; but granting that through moral influence, or otherwise, you do succeed in bringing out a small percentage of these, - mark what happens. In a few days this and that one fail to answer at roll-call. Now, an essential element of successful education is regular attendance. In truth, the world would get on as ill were the sun to run his course to-day, and take a rest or play the truant to-morrow, and be so irregular in his movements that no one could count upon his appearance, as will the work of education with an attendance at school constantly broken and interrupted. Feeling this, the teacher seeks the abode of the child, climbs some three or four dark stairs, and at length finds himself in such an apartment as we have often seen; there is neither board, nor bed, nor Bible. Around the cinders, gathered from the street, sit some half-naked children, - his poor ragged pupil among the number. “Your child,” says he to the mother, “has been away from school.” Now let the Christian public listen to her reply. “I could not afford to keep him there; he maun do something for his meat.” I venture to say, I confidently affirm, that there are now many hundreds of children in these circumstances in Edinburgh. I ask the Christian public, What are we to do? One of two things we must do. Look at them. First we may leave the boy alone. Begging, the trade in which he is engaged, being next neighbour to thieving, he soon steals. He is apprehended and cast into prison; and having been marched along the public street, shackled to a policeman, and returned to society with the jail-brand on his brow, any tattered shred of character that hung loose about him before is now lost. As the French say, and all the world knows, “Ce n’est que le ire mier pas qui coute.” He descends, from step to step, till a halter closes his unhappy career; or he is passed away to a penal settlement, the victim of a poverty for which he was not to blame, and of a neglect on the part of others for which a righteous God will one day call them to judgment.
There is another alternative; and it is that we advocate. Remove the obstruction which stands between that poor child and the schoolmaster and the Bible, roll away the stone that lies between the living and the dead. Since he cannot attend your school unless he starves, give him food; feed him, in order to educate him; let it be food of the plainest, cheapest kind; but by that food open his way; by that powerful magnet to a hungry child, draw him to school.
Strolling one day with a friend among the romantic scenery of the Crags and green valleys around Arthur Seat, we came at length to St. Anthony’s Well, and sat down on the great black stone beside it, to have a talk with the ragged boys who pursue their calling there. Their tinnies were ready with a draught of the clear cold water, in hope of a halfpenny. We thought it would be a kindness to them, and certainly not out of character in us, to tell them of the living water that springeth up to life eternal; and of Him who sat on the stone of Jacob’s Well, and who stood in the Temple and cried, “If any man thirst, let him me unto me and drink.” By way of introduction, we began to question them about schools. As to the boys themselves, one was fatherless, the son of a poor widow; the father of the other was alive, but a man of low habits and bad character. Both were poorly clothed. The one had never been at school; the other had sometimes or attended a Sabbath-school. These two little fellows were self-supporting, - living by such shifts as they were then engaged in. Encouraged by the success of Sheriff Watson, who had the honour to lead this enterprise, the idea of a Ragged School was then floating in my brain; and so, with reference to the scheme, and by way of experiment, I said, “Would you go to school, if, besides your learning, you were to get breakfast, dinner, and supper there ?“ It would have done any man’s heart good to have seen the flash of joy that broke from the eyes of one of them, - the flush of pleasure on his cheek, as, hearing of three sure meals a-day, the boy leapt to his feet, and exclaimed, “Aye will I, Sir, and bring the hail! land too ; and then, as if afraid I might withdraw what seemed to him so large and munificent an offer, he exclaimed, “I’ll come for but my dinner, Sir.”
I have abundant statistics before me to prove that there are many hundreds of children in this town in circumstances as hopeless as those I describe. They must be fed, in order to receive that common moral and religious education, without which, humanly speaking, they are ruined both for this world and the next.
How many there are in still more hopeless circumstances, I never knew, till I had gone to see one of the saddest sights a man could look on. The Night Asylum was not then established; but the houseless, the inhabitants of arches and stair-foots, - those, like the five boys lately sent to prison, who had no home but an empty cellar in Shakspeare square, - found, when they sought it, or dared to seek it, a shelter in the Police Office. I had often heard of the misery it presented; and, detained at a meeting till past midnight, I went with one of my elders, who was a Commissioner of Police, to visit the scene. In a room, the walls of which were thickly hung with bunches of skeleton keys, the dark lanterns of the thief, and other instruments of housebreaking, sat the lieutenant of the watch. Seeing me at that untimely hour, handed in by one of the Commissioners, he looked surprise itself. Having satisfied him that there was no misdemeanour, we proceeded, under the charge of an intelligent officer, to visit the wards.
Our purpose is not to describe the strangest, saddest collection of human misery I ever saw, but to observe that not a few children, having no home on earth, had sought and found there a shelter for the night. “They had not where to lay their head.” Turned adrift in the morning, and subsisting as they best could during the day, this wreck of society, like the wrack of the sea-shore, came drifting in again at evening tide. After visiting a number of wards and cells, I remember looking down from the gallery on an open space, where five or six human beings lay on the bare pavement buried in slumber; and right opposite the stove, with its ruddy light shining full on his face, lay a poor child, who attracted my special attention. He was miserably clad ; he seemed about eight years old; he had the sweetest face I ever saw; his bed was the hard stone pavement, - his pillow a brick; and, as he lay calm in sleep, forgetful of all his sorrows, he looked a picture of injured innocence. His story, which I learned from the officer, was a sad one; but one such as too many could tell. He had neither father nor mother, brother nor friend, in the wide world. His only friends were the Police, - his only home their office. How he lived they did not know; but, sent away in the morning, he usually returned at night. The floor of a ward, the stone by the stove, was a better bed than a stair-foot. I could not get that boy out of my head or heart for days and nights together. I have often regretted that some effort was not made to save him. Some six or seven years are by and gone since then; and before now, launched on the sea of human passion, and exposed to a thousand temptations, he has too probably become a melancholy wreck. What else could any man who believes in the depravity of human nature, and knows the danger of the world, expect him to become? These children, whom we leave in ignorance, and starve into crime, must grow up into criminals, - the pest, the shame, the burden, the punishment of society; and in the increasing expenses of public charities, work-houses, poor-rates, prisons, police- officers, and superior officers of justice, what do we see, but the judgments of a righteous God, and hear, but the echo of these solemn words, “Be sure your sin will find you out !"
From statistics before me, I repeat it again, - and it ought to be repeated till a remedy be provided, - that there are at least a thousand children in this city (others say some thousands, but I would rather understate than in the least exaggerate the case) who cannot receive such an education as will bless them, and make them a blessing, unless, along with the means of education, they are provided with the means of keeping body and soul together. Let the Christian public observe, that while such schools as Lady Effingham’s, Lady Anderson’s, and the Duchess of Gordon’s, and others of the same description, are most creditable to the large-hearted benevolence of these ornaments of the upper and best friends of the lower classes, and are the means of incalculable good to a low class, yet they hardly touch that lowest class for whose interests I have stepped forth from my own peculiar walk, and now venture, through the press, on this appeal. The fact may be doubted by some who have never left their drawing-rooms to visit, like angels of mercy, the abodes of misery and crime; but no visitor of the Destitute Sick Society, - no humble and hardworking city missionary, - no enlightened governor of our prisons, - no superintendent of Night Asylum or House of Refuge, - none who, like myself, has been called on to explore, amid fever and famine, the depths of human misery in this city, and has come in close, and painful, and heart-sickening contact with its crimes and poverty, - I say, none of these will doubt it, - at least I have met with none who doubted it. I implore the public to remember, that we have not here the miserable consolation that the infected will die off. They are mixed with society, - each an active centre of corruption. Around them you can draw no Cordon Sanitaire. The leaven is every day leavening more and more of the lump. Parents are begetting and breeding up children in their own image; while ignorance, and vice, and crime, are shooting ahead even of the increase of that population.
I have long felt inclined to add my experience to that of many benevolent and Christian men who have gone before me, regarding the deplorable and dangerous state of the class who form the substratum of society, the miserable provision made even for decent poverty, - for those whom the hand of God has smitten, - and the manifold temptations the poor are thereby exposed to. But the pressure of other avocations, the difficulty of getting the public ear in times of excitement, and the lack of any approved remedy for the evil in its first causes, must explain my silence in the past.
We had been for some time inclined to hold that such a remedy was only to be found in such schools as we now propose; but till the experience of Aberdeen and of Dundee had turned what was but a presumption into a fact, we had not courage to venture on the proposal. We see no way of securing the amelioration and salvation of these forlorn, outcast, and destitute children, but by making their maintenance a bridge and stepping-stone to their education. It has been tried and proved, that without some such instrumentality you cannot get these children to school; at least you cannot get more than the smallest per-centage of them; and though you could, - though you got the hungry shivering creature into your class, - what heart has he for learning, whose pale face and hollow eyes tell you he is starving? What teacher could have the heart to punish a child who has not broken his fast that day? What man of sense would mock with books a boy who is starving for bread? Let Christian men answer our Lord’s question; let every parent think of it : - “ What father, if his child ask for bread, would give him a stone?“ And what is English grammar, or the Rule of Three, or the A, B, C, to a hungry child but a stone?
I have often met this difficulty in dealing with the grown up, who possessed what the child does not, - sense to understand the importance of the lesson. I have seen it in a way not to be forgotten. In the depth of a hard winter, when, visiting in the Cowgate, I entered a room, where, save a broken table, there was nought of furniture but a crazy bedstead, on which, beneath a thin ragged coverlet, lay a very old, grey-headed woman. I began to speak to her, as to one near eternity, about her soul; on which, raising herself up, and stretching out a bare withered arm, she cried most piteously, “I am cauld and hungry.” “My poor old friend,” I said, “we will do what we can to relieve these wants; but let me in kindness remind you that there is something worse than either cold or hunger.” “ Aye, but, Sir,” was the reply, “if ye were as cauld and as hungry as I am, ye could think o’ naething else.” She read me a lesson that day which I have never forgotten; and which, as the advocate of these poor forlorn children, I ask a humane and Christian public to apply to their case. The public may plant schools thick as trees of the forest; but be assured, unless, besides being trees of knowledge, - to borrow a figure from the isles of the Pacific, - they are also bread-fruit trees, few of these children will seek their shadow, far less sit under it with great delight
Is any one so ignorant of human nature as to suppose that, offered nothing but learning, these destitute children may be brought to school by the mere power of moral suasion? I would like to know how many of the well-fed, well-clothed, well- disciplined children, who crowd our schools, would prefer the school-room to the play-ground, unless their parents compelled their attendance. It may be answered, try the power of moral suasion on the parents. Now, we put it to any reasonable man, if it be not true, that to expect an abandoned drunken: ruffian, - a miserable, ignorant, poverty-struck widow, whose powers, both of body and mind, grief and want have paralyzed, - those who themselves are strangers to the benefits of education, - who are living without God and without hope in the world, - who are partly dependent for their own stinted subsistence, and, in too many instances, the feeding of: their vices, on the fruits of their children’s plunder or begging, - we ask, if to expect that such will compel their children to attend school, is not seeking for grapes on thorns, or figs on thistles?
We have already indicated how we propose to meet these difficulties: let us be a little more explicit. What we then propose to do, with the intent of meeting, and the confidence of overcoming, difficulties never yet fairly grappled with, and, with God’s blessing, of engrafting on the fair stock of civilization and Christianity these wild vines, so that they shall yield the wine which is pleasant both to God and man, is this : in place of one great institution, which would be attended by many disadvantages, let there be an adequate number of schools set down in the different districts of the city, so that each school shall contain no more than a manageable number of children,_fbt more than a teacher can thoroughly control and break in. These Arabs of the city are wild as those of the desert, and must be broken into three habits, - those of discipline, learning, and industry, not to speak of cleanliness. To accomplish this, our trust is in the almost omnipotent power of Christian kindness. Hard words and harder blows are thrown away here. With these, alas! they are too familiar at home, and have learned to be as indifferent to them as the smith’s dog to the shower of sparks. And without entering into many details, it may be enough to say, that in the morning they are to break their fast on a diet of the plainest fare, - then march from their meal to their books; in the afternoon they are again to be provided with a dinner of the cheapest kind, - then back again to school; from which, after supper they return, not to the walls of an hospital, but to their own homes. There, carrying with them many a holy lesson, they may prove Christian missionaries to these dwellings of darkness and sin. This is no vain expectation. Our confidence is in Him who has said, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings He ordaineth strength.” And we are all the more confident of his blessing, because we are in this the best way fulfilling the duty laid on us in his promise to the forlorn, “ When thy father and thy mother forsake thee, then the Lord will take thee up.” A faithful God, He does not this by way of miracle, but by way of means; putting it into the hearts of kind and Christian people to do a father’s and a mother’s part to those who are fatherless and motherless, or to those still more unhappy children who have parents, but, would be better without them.
To work this scheme to its greatest advantage and capability of good, we would strongly recommend the adoption of some such plan as this. In place of benevolent individuals contenting themselves with subscribing to its funds, and taking no further interest in the welfare of its objects, let each select one child or more, as his means may warrant, - say one child. The expenses of its education and maintenance at school are met by him: this is known to the child; and thus, taught to regard him as its benefactor, the better and kindlier feelings of its nature are brought into activity, and nurtured into strength. Within the arms of his gratitude man can embrace a benevolent individual, but not a benevolent community. What pauper ever left a charity workhouse with a blessing on its Directors? But individual charity has been remembered in the widow’s prayer; and some have walked our streets who could say with the patriarch, “When the eye saw me, then it blessed me.” We attach the utmost importance to this plan. By means of it, the person through whose kindness the child is placed and paid for at school, - who comes there occasionally to watch the progress of a plant which he had found flung on the highway, to be trodden under foot, but which he has transplanted into this nursery of good, - becomes an object of kindly regard to the child. The boy fears his displeasure, and aims at his approbation. Kindness softens the child’s heart; his love and gratitude are kindled and so we call in the most effectual allies in our effort to save him from ruin. In this way, moreover, the child has secured a patron and protector, - one to take him by the hand when his term at school is closed, and to stand by him in the battle of life. Selecting a boy in whom we have learned to take a kindly interest, we will feel it to be our business to guide him, by our counsel and influence, into some way of well-doing. We will charge ourselves with his welfare. He will not have to complain, - ” No man careth for my soul.” And thus through the influence of kindly feelings on his part, and Christian care on ours, in many a now unhappy child society might gain a useful member, instead of receiving an Ishmaelite, “whose hand is against every man, and every man’s hand against him.”
On the management of these schools we have only to add, that alongside a common and Christia education, we will introduce such work as may suit the age of the children, and their condition in life, with the double advantage of lessening, by its profits, the expense of maintenance, and forming in the children habits of industry, which will fit them for, an honest and useful life. And thus, through these, schools, heaven smiling upon them, we will be able: to address these children in the language of God to: the patriarch, - ” I will bless thee, and make thee a blessing.”
We know no solid objection to which our scheme is open. Not that we mean to say it will prove a good without any mixture of evil, or that it cannot by any possibility be abused; but only that, if these are objections, they are objections to which: the best and noblest schemes of Christian benevolence are exposed. However, our extreme anxiety for the success of this scheme leads us to address ourselves to some objections that may be conjured up against it.
Now, we beg, in the first place, to observe, that this is no scheme to relieve those whose vices have brought them to ruin, or whose indolence keeps them in poverty. We fully accord with this sentiment of the apostle, “He that will not work should not eat.” This is both the judgment of Scripture and of reason. In very mercy to this world, God has linked crime and suffering together; and it is a short-sighted benevolence which, interfering with that law of Providence, attempts to dissolve the connection. Let guilty parents suffer. They have eaten sour grapes, - let their teeth be set on edge. But has not God said, “What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.” And the question which we put to a humane and Christian public is this : - Are we, without any efficient effort to save their innocent and helpless offspring, to allow these guilty parents to draw them down into the same gulf with themselves? We do not propose to contaminate our hospitals with such children. Surely it would be one thing to rear the children of the wicked in affluence, to provide them with a finished education, to house them in splendid palaces; and another thing to save them from the pangs of hunger, and from the crimes to which hunger tempts and drives them; to bless them with a simple education, by which they might live decently in this world, and be taught the way to a better.
Let me put a case! In the College Wynd of the old Greyfriars’ parish, I found a mother, with some three young children by her side, and a pale sickly infant in her arms. She was a drunkard. But there was no bed there save some straw; there was no fire save some smouldering cinders; there was not a morsel of bread in the house. I learnt this from being constantly interrupted, while speaking to her, by the miserable object in her arms incessantly saying something to its mother. On asking what it said, she burst into tears, and told me it was asking for bread, and she had none to give it. They had not broken their fast that day; and it was now past noon. Fresh from a happy country parish, I was horrified at such a scene; and sent out for a loaf. They fell on it like ravenous beasts. Now, the question I ask, and to which I crave an answer, is this :- Should I have left these children to die of hunger because their mother was a drunkard? If not, - if what I did was rather to be commended than condemned, - how ought this scheme to commend itself to the zealous support of Christian men? That food, perhaps, served to spin out for but a little while their feeble thread of life it secured to them no permanent benefit. But let the public observe, that the charity given in the way we plead for does what common charity does not ; - it secures for every child whose hunger it allays, and whose life it saves, the blessings of a common and a Christian education.
We can fancy some people being at first sight alarmed at our scheme, as one which will entail additional burdens on the public. Grant that it did : - the benefit would more than compensate for the burden. “There is he that scattereth and yet increaseth ;“ and, - never were the words more applicable, - ” there is he that withholdeth the hand, and it tendeth to poverty.” But it is not thus that we meet the objection. We meet it fairly in the face. We deny that any additional burden worth mentioning will press on the public. Do you fancy that, by rejecting this appeal, and refusing to establish these schools, you, the public, will be saved the expense of maintaining these outcasts? A great and demonstrable mistake. They live just now; and how do they live? Not by their own honest industry, but at your expense. They beg and steal for themselves ; or their parents beg and steal for them. You are not relieved of the expense of their sustenance by refusing my plea. The Old Man of the sea sticks to the back of Sinbad. Surely it were better for Sinbad to teach the old man to walk on his own feet. I pray the public to remember that begging and stealing, while in most cases poor trades to those who pursue them, are dear ones to the public.
A friend just now tells me of an old beggar, accomplished in his vocation, who used to lament over the degeneracy of the age, saying, that “men now-a-days didna ken how to beg; that Kelso weel beggit was worth fifteen shillings ony day.” These beggars that you are breeding on the body politic are costly as well as troublesome members of society. Catch yon little fellow, with his pale face and piteous whine, and search, as some of us have done, his wallets. You will be astonished at the stores of beef and bread concealed beneath his rags. Don’t blame him, however, because he whines on ; - he must reach his den at night, laden like a bee with plunder. You forget that a sound beating may await him if he returns empty-handed; for he has to keep his mother in whisky, as well as his brothers and sisters in food. You have often tried to put down public begging, the dearest and most vicious way of maintaining the poor; but till some such plan as ours is adopted, you never can. Not to speak of the beggars that prowl about our streets, hundreds of children set out every morning to levy their subsistence for the day, by calls at private houses. They beg when they may: they steal when they can. Is not such a system a disgrace to society? Its evils are legion : and I can fancy no plan that goes so directly, and with such sure promise of success, to the root of these evils, as that I advocate. We say with Daniel Defoe, that begging is a shame to any country: if the beggar is an unworthy object of charity, it is a shame that he should be allowed to beg; if a worthy object of charity, it is a shame that he should be compelled to beg.
We can again fancy some filled with fear lest such institutions should prove “a bounty on indolence, improvidence, and dissipation.” We might answer, that the same objection may be urged against all charity; and that unless we are prepared to run some risk, we shall never either obey the command of God to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, or yield to the better feelings of our nature. But let us look more directly at this objection. We are ready to meet it. Grant that the scheme were to act so in some cases on the parents; still the good more than counterbalances the evil. You are employing the only means whereby the children can be saved from habits of “indolence, improvidence, and dissipation.” Suppose a man already indolent, improvident, and dissipated, to have four children; without this institution, these grow up in their father’s image. And what happens? Let the public observe what happens. The evil is multiplied fourfold. These four, again, become in course of time heads of families, - say, each the parent of four children. And what happens now? The evil by this time is multiplied sixteenfold ; and so it rolls on and deepens, like the waters of the prophet’s vision; first reaching the ankle; then rising to the knee; then to the loins; and by and by “it is a river that cannot be passed over - waters to swim in.”
How easily and successfully the child is trained to the vices of the man, we have had abundant evidence. We have heard a little child of eight years of age confess that he had been carried home intoxicated; and when he gaily and glibly told this story of early dissipation, it only called forth the merriment of the ragged urchins around. The sucking babe is drugged with opium; and spirits are administered to allay the cravings of hunger. When examined on the state of her school, an excellent female teacher in this town acknowledged to us, that she had often been obliged from her own small salary to supply the wants of her hungry scholars. She had not the heart to offer the letters to a child who had got no breakfast; and some days ago, smelling spirits from a fine little girl, she drew from her this miserable confession, that her only dinner had been the half of a biscuit and a little whisky. How early this hapless class are initiated in the use of spirits, came out the other day, to the astonishment of a friend of ours. While walking along the streets, she observed some boys and girls clustered like bees on and around a barrel. She asked them if it was a sugar barrel; and on learning that it was a spirit one, she said, “You surely don’t like whisky?” “For my pairt, Mem,” says one, a little girl, - thinking, perhaps, thereby to recommend herself - ”deed, Mem, for my pairt, I prefer the strong ale.”
In sober sadness we ask, is it not worth running some risk to cure such evils, - such a moral gangrene, - as facts like these disclose? But grant, again, that the dissipated father, because he sees his poor children fed, educated, and disciplined at your expense, and not his own, is thereby encouraged in habits of vice. What happens? If his children are saved by this lnstltution,and remember, they cannot be saved without it, - at his death society suffers no longer. The evil ceases with himself; and, instead of extending along the line of his posterity, and multiplying with their multiplication, it is buried in the drunkard’s grave.
That any decent, sober, church-going, affectionate father, who is at present educating and honestly maintaining his family, will cease to work and take to drinking, because he will get the children whom he loves, and for whom he loves to labour, educated and fed in such a school as we suggest, along with the sweepings of the neighbourhood, is an idea too absurd to be entertained by any reasonable man. It were waste of time, paper, and public patience, to answer an objection so utterly repugnant to human nature, and contrary to all experience.
But I am not content simply to repel the objection, and show that such an institution will prove no bounty on indolence, improvidence, and dissipation. I believe the truth lies altogether the other way; and having had more to do than many with the victims of these vices, I may be permitted to express my thorough conviction, that the uncared-for and desperate circumstances of the poor often prove strong temptations to the waste that leads to want. They are helpless because they are hopeless. It is after they get desperate that they get dissipated. Man thirsts for happiness; and when everything in his neglected, and unpitied, and unhelped sorrows is calculated to make him miserable, he seeks visions of bliss in the day-dreams of intoxication; and from the horrors that follow on excess he flies again to the arms of the enchanter. The intoxicating cup brings - what he never has without it, - though a passing, still a present feeling of joy and comfort. Of course, I here speak of one who is a stranger to the consolations of religion, and the faith of Him who said, “Though the fig-tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit in the vine, I will rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation.” It is easy for those who walk through the world rolled in flannels and cased in good broad cloth, - who sit down every day to a sumptuous, at least a comfortable dinner, - who have never had to sing a hungry child to sleep, nor to pawn their Bible to buy bread, - it is very easy for such to wonder why the poor, who should be so careful, are often so wasteful. “What have they to do with drink ?“ it is said; “what temptation have they to drink ?“ I pray them,-not that I defend the thing, but detest it, - but I pray them to hear the testimony of one who knew human nature well. The Laird and Maggie are haggling about a fish bargain.
"I’ll gie them," says Maggie, "and - and - and - half-a-dozen o’ partans to mak’ the sauce, for three shillings and a dram."
“‘Half-a-crown then, Maggie, and a dram,’ replies the Laird.
"Awed, your honour maun hae’t your am gate, nae doubt; but a dram’s worth siller now, - the distilleries is no working."
"And I hope they’ll never work again in my time,’ said Oldbuck.
"Ay, ay, it’s easy for your honour, and the like o’ you gentle folks, to say sae, that hae stouth and routh, and fire and fending, and meat and claith, and sit dry and canny by the fire-side; but an’ ye wanted fire, and meat, and dry claise, and were deeing o’ cauld, and had a sair heart, - whilk is warst ava, - wi’ just tippence in your pouch, - wadna ye be glad to buy a dram wi ‘t, to be eilding and claise, and a supper and heart’s ease into the bargain, till the morn’s morning?"
There is a world of melancholy truth in this description.
I quote the above as the testimony of a man who had studied human nature: and I now quote what follows, as the inspired words of one whose proverbs contain the most remarkable record of practical observation and every-day wisdom that the world contains. What says Solomon? “The destruction of the poor is their poverty.” He saw the connection between desperate circumstances and dissipated habits; and elsewhere he says, “Let him drink to forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” The truth is, that a poor widow, with a babe at her breast, with three children at her side, and with only a sixpence a week allowed for each, to meet therewith the cost of food, fuel, house-rent, clothes, and education, is often driven to desperation. She struggles on for a while; and, turning into temporary floats, by the help of the pawnbroker, this article and that, with her children hanging on her, she keeps her head awhile to the stream. At length, having taken her last decent bit of furniture or dress to the pawn, she can contest it no longer. She loses heart. Seeing no hope, she seeks to drown in drink the consciousness of her misery, and is borne down the flood of ruin. If you cannot understand this temptation, I will help you to do so. Look at that door, where an officer stands with a sword in one hand, and a finger of the other on the trigger of a pistol ! Who and what are these desperate and haggard men that press in upon him? A band of pirates who have boarded his ship? Does he stand there to guard its freight of gold? No, he guards its spirit-room. Six days ago, the sea was calm, - hope was bright as heaven, - the good ship bounded over the billows, - and not a man of that band but he had only to say to him, “Go, and he goeth.” But the storm came, and the sails flew into ribbons, and the masts went by the board, and the seams gaped to the sea, and the pumps were choked, and the vessel now lies water-logged. The men have strained their eyes for a sail on the wide round of waters, and have ceased to hope. The cry has been raised, “To the spirit-room !“ and by this time they had drowned their sorrows in intoxication, but that that calm, determined man stands there, and having drawn a chalk line across the passage, assures them he will cut down the first that attempts to cross.
Far be it from me to say a word in defence of a crime which is the curse of our people, the shame of our country, and the blot of our Churches. But don’t deceive yourselves; you will never starve men into sobriety. No; but you can starve many into drunkenness. One demon never cast out another; although some seem to know as little of human nature as did the Jews of old, when they blasphemously said of our Divine Redeemer, “He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils.” I have seen and admired the efforts which the poor put forth when a ray of hope breaks through the gloom; and, instead of aggravating the evils of dissipation, I am confident that the hope which such an institution would shed on the gloomy prospects of many a forlorn family, would help to charm and chase the demon away. It would make the widow’s heart sing for joy. It would keep up her sinking head, - to see that now her poor, dear children had the prospect of being saved. It would have the same effect on her as the cry of “A sail !“ has had on the mutinous crew, when, in that blessed sight and blessed sound, Hope boards the sinking ship. They return once more to their right mind, and now strain every nerve to keep themselves afloat.
It cannot be denied that at this moment many of our poor are miserably provided for: and, let me ask, how could an addition be so well or wisely made to their wretched pittance, as by securing for their children such an education, as with the blessing of God, would train them up into honest and useful members of society? The present system is vicious and defective. If the State or society is bound to maintain the children of the destitute, it is bound to do, what it does not, - educate them also. It pretends to do the first, - to a large extent it does not even pretend to do the second. By our scheme both would be done. If parents and others are inclined to abuse our charity, and make it minister to their own vices, instead of their children’s maintenance, this scheme goes like a knife to the root of that evil. The children, - the innocent sufferers, - those who, in the case of dissipated parents, become all the more objects of Christian pity, - are, in the institutions we plead for, made sure of food, knowledge, habits of discipline and industry; in short, they are placed beyond the reach of their parents’ rapacity. The principle of our scheme lies here: we feed in order to educate; just because we believe that if you seek the good of the individual child, the benefit of society, and the glory of God, it is better to pay for the education of the boy, than for the punishment of the man.
We never could clearly see our way to the justice which punishes the child, in cases when it may be truly said, that he has less sinned than been sinned against. We are confident that the sentence which condemns is often wrung from reluctant judges. I cannot transfer to paper the touching description of a trial I heard from my friend Mr. Lothian, Procurator-Fiscal for the county of Edinburgh. On the occasion I allude to, he was the advocate of a boy who was charged with theft. The prisoner was a mere child. When he stood up, the crown of his head just reached the top of the bar. The crime was clearly proved; and now came Mr. Lothian’s time to shield him from the arm of the law. By the evidence of two or three policemen, he proved that that untaught, unschooled, untrained, uncared-for infant, had a parent, by whose brutal cruel usage he was compelled to steal. Then, causing the poor child to be lifted up, and placed upon the bar, in the sight of the wondering, pitying court, he turned round to the jury-box with this simple but telling appeal : - “ Gentlemen,” he said, “remember what I have proved; look on that infant, and declare him guilty if you can.”
In such cases justice is perplexed what to do It is not the heart only, but the head also, which is dissatisfied with the punishment. It is not on Mercy, but on Justice, that we call to interpose her shield, and protect the victim from the arm of the law. The guilty party is not at the bar; and when the arm of Justice descends on a child whom its country has neglected, abandoned to temptation, and left without protection from a parent’s cruelty, she reminds us of the figure that stood some years ago over the courts of law in Londonderry. A heavy storm had swept across the country, and, tearing away the scales, had left poor Justice nothing but her sword. The law in such cases may pronounce its sentence; but humanity, reason, and religion, revolt against it. In Scotland, if a man is charged with crime, the jury, in the case of his acquittal, may return either a verdict of not guilty, or not proven. Where there is strong ground to suspect the party guilty, yet some slight flaw in the legal proof of his guilt, - the prisoner is acquitted under a verdict of not proven; and if there are cases where the verdict is in truth, “guilty, but not proven,” - in the case of these unhappy children who are suffering for the crimes of their parents and neglect of society, with what truth might this verdict be returned, “proven, but not guilty!”
No offence can be committed but there is guilt somewhere. In the cases I refer to, however, the guilty party is not the child at the bar. In the parents who have trained the child to crime, and in society, that has made no effective effort to save for him, there are other two parties. It may not be easy for us to decide where the guilt lies, or in what proportion it is shared between them; but we are thoroughly persuaded, that in the day of final judgment there will be found many an unhappy child who has stood at the bar of man, for whose crimes other parties shall have to answer at the bar of God. We don’t say that society can remedy every wrong; nor do we entertain the Utopian expectation that, by these schools, or by any other means, crime can be banished from this guilty world; but certainly institutions which will secure to these children a common and Christian education, and habits of discipline and industry, are rich in promise. We know that the returns of autumn fall always short of the promise of summer, - that the fruit is never so abundant as the flower; still, though not so Utopian as to expect that these schools will save all, we have good ground, both in reason and Scripture, to expect that they will save many who seem otherwise doomed to ruin.
To take the lowest of all ground, - to descend from the high considerations of humanity, morality, and religion, look only at the pecuniary saving. To come down from the profit and loss of souls, to the profit and the loss of money, - we claim for this scheme the public support. It may be laid down as an axiom, that the prevention of crime is cheaper than its punishment. Our schools will more than repay the outlay. Put out of view the return which their work brings in, and which in Aberdeen amounts to a considerable item of the expense, and enter on the one side the expense of these schools, and on the other the saving to the country, through the diminution of crime, and, when the account is closed, we have a large balance in our favour. We pray those who are afraid of the probable expense of our Ragged Schools, to look at the actual expense of our criminal prosecutions. To confine ourselves to the case of convicts ; - does the reader know that there are about three hundred of these annually transported from Scotland? Do the inhabitants of Edinburgh know that our city furnishes about one hundred of these? And that, overlooking the expense of previous convictions, and the money which the subjects of them cost when living by theft and beggary, the actual expense of their conviction of the offence for which they are transported, and of the transportation itself, is not less than One Hundred Pounds a head! For convicts belonging to this city we pay Ten Thousand Pounds a year; and for the single item of the trial and transportation of convicts, who are, after all, but a handful of the other criminals, Scotland pays annually about Thirty Thousand Pounds. Look at the following table, which Mr. Smith, governor of the prison, has kindly furnished. If sensible men only knew what enormous sums are paid for the punishment of crimes, they would, as a matter of mere economy, hail with pleasure a scheme so likely to prevent it. This table will convince many, that in doing so little towards the education and salvation of the unhappy outcasts at our doors, we have been for a long time, to use a vulgar but expressive saying, “penny wise and pound foolish.”
Statement of the Expenditure for Criminal Prosecutions, Maintenance of Criminals, &c., for Scotland, for the year 1846.
Expense of Prosecutions carried on in name and by authority of the Lord Advocate . . . . £13,775
Sums required by the Sheriffs in Scotland to settle accounts for prosecutions . . . . . . . . . £49,000
Expenditure of Prison Boards of counties in Scotland, for maint., &c., of prisoners . . . .. £43,366
Proportion effeiring to Scotland for convicts sent to Millbank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .£3,932
Total Brought forward -£110,073
Proportion effeiring to Scotland for convicts sent abroad . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £28,830
Proportion effeiring to Scotland for convicts at home, Bermuda, Gibraltar, &c. . . . . . . . .£7,193
Expense of Prison Board in Scotland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .£1740
Prison Inspector’s allowances, including travelling charges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .£1200
Justiciary Court and Crown agent for stationery, printing, &c. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £1009
Grand Total . . £150,045
In addition to the above, vast expenses are incurred in the punishment of crime, the amount of which we cannot specify, such as, - Expense of Court of Justiciary, including judges’ salaries, travelling expenses on circuits, macers, &c.; salaries of the Lord Advocate, Solicitor-General, and Depute-Advocates; Crown agent’s salary, including assistants, &c.
The following should also be included :- Expenditure by the several counties, cities, and burghs in Scotland, in supporting their respective police establishments; expenditure by ditto in precognitions and summary prosecutions in criminal cases, not reported by the Sheriff to the Lord Advocate; one year’s interest on capital expended in building prisons, lock-up houses, &c.
Some one has said, “How cheap is charity !“ This beautiful saying might form the motto of our Industrial Schools. No man, we think, can read this table of expense without the conviction being borne in on his mind, that it is high time to be doing more in the way of preventing, that we may have to do less in the way of punishing, crime.
Nothing more strongly recommends the scheme to me than the fact, that it reconciles two great and good philanthropists, who seem to be opposed to each other, - both lovers of the poor, both earnest for their good, - both proposing for the same end what appear different plans, - and yet both right. With Dr. Chalmers we have always thought that it was through moral and Christian machinery that our degraded and deep-sunk population were to be raised. For their permanent good we have no faith in any other scheme. With Dr. Alison, again, we always thought that the maintenance of the poor was miserably inadequate to their wants; and that this stood as a barrier between them and the moral influences by which Dr. Chalmers would ameliorate and permanently improve their character. We agreed with both, and confess that we could never very well see how they seemed to disagree with each other. In, as it were, the presence of such men, I speak on this subject with unfeigned humility The two schemes may go hand in hand. Nay, more, lik the Siamese twins, the presence of the one should insure the company of the other. Our scheme furnishes a common walk for both these distinguish philanthropists. Under the self-same roof the temporal and the moral wants of our forlorn poor are provided for: and both these Doctors meet harmoniously in our school-room. Dr. Alison comes in with his bread, - Dr. Chalmers with his Bible: here is food for the body, - there for the soul. Dr. Alison’s bread cannot be abused, - Dr Chalmer’s Bible is, heard by willing ears, and so this scheme, meeting the views of both, lays its hands upon them both
We have been dealing with objectors and objections, if any such there be If any man into whose hands this appeal may fall is ready to toss it aside as an effort made on behalf of those who are not worth saving, either for this world or the next, let him read the following passage -
‘Push it aside, and let it float down the stream,’ said the captain of a steam-boat on a small western river, as we came upon a huge log lying crosswise in the channel, near to a large town at which we were about to stop. The headway of the boat had already been checked, and with a trifling effort the position of the log was changed, and it moved onward toward the Mississippi. On it went, perhaps to annoy others, as it had annoyed us, - to lodge here and there, until it becomes so water-soaken, that the heavier end will sink into a sand-bar, and the lighter project upward, thus forming a ‘sawyer,’ or a ‘snag.’ It would have taken a little more effort to cast it high upon the land; but no one on board appeared to think of doing that, or anything else, save getting rid of it as easily as possible, for it had not yet become a formidable evil. By and by, if a steam-boat should be going down the river, and strike against it, causing a loss of thousands of dollars, if not of life, hundreds will ask the old question, if something cannot be done to remedy such evils, without stopping to inquire whether they cannot be prevented.
“Now, this is the way in which some of us work, who profess to have a better knowledge than that which belongs to the world. We forget that old proverb, that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, - that that is the truest wisdom which advises the overcoming of the beginnings of evil. It may cost us less seeming labour to ‘push aside’ the boy who stands at the corner of the street on the Sabbath, with an oath on his lips, than to put forth a little extra effort to get him into a Sabbath-school. But he is not yet a formidable evil to society, and so is left to float down with the current of vice, - to continue his growth in sin, and reach his manhood steeped in habits of evil, and fixed in a position that may work the ruin of more than one soul.”
Yes, it is easy to push aside the poor boy in the street, with a harsh and unfeeling refusal, saying to your neighbour, “These are the pests of the city.” Call them, if you choose, the rubbish of society; only let us say, that there are jewels among that rubbish, which would richly repay the expense of searching. Bedded in their dark and dismal abodes, precious stones lie there, which only wait to be dug out and polished, to shine, first on earth, and hereafter and for ever in a Redeemer’s crown.
Dr. Chalmers has eloquently expounded, and often practically exemplified, the principle, that when convinced ourselves, we ought to begin at once; nor delay action till all are ready to move. And in drawing these remarks to a close, we have to mention, that, acting on this principle, an Interim Committee of gentlemen have secured premises, and taken steps for the speedy opening of a Ragged School in this city. We cast ourselves with perfect faith on God, and the support of a humane and Christian public. We hope to see the matter taken up on a large and general plan, worthy of its merits and worthy of the metropolis of Scotland. In the meantime, we are content to be the mere pioneers of this movement; and for such a noble experiment we trust to be provided with funds amply sufficient for the expenses we incur. For such assistance we can promise a richer return than our thanks, - even the blessing of those that are ready to perish.
In closing this appeal, I have only further to add, that we are all but confident of public support. We have brought forth revelations of the state of the poor, which will be new to many. If any of these read this appeal, their ignorance cannot henceforth excuse their apathy. Such schools, in smaller or greater numbers, are needed in many towns. We hope to see Christians of all denominations, and politicians of all parties, throughout the country as well as in Edinburgh, putting forth cordial and combined efforts to establish and extend Ragged Schools. Though, for the sake of the perishing, we may regret the defects and inadequacy of this appeal, we will never regret that it has been made. It were better far in such a cause to fail, than to stand idly by and see the castaway perish. If the drowning man sinks before we reach him, it will be some consolation to reflect that we did our best to save him. Though we bore home but the dead body of her boy, we should earn a mother’s gratitude and blessing. We had tried to save him: and from that blessed One who made Himself poor that He might make us rich, -who was full of compassion, kind and patient to the bad, - and who hath set us an example that we should follow His steps, - we shall at least earn this approving sentence, “They have done what they could.”

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