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stances, to obtain which should be the endeavour of those who desire the welfare of Ireland, and which we may hope will produce that peaceful industry and contentment, and those kindly feelings among the various classes of society, which are at once the most valuable result and the surest pledge of prosperity. .
It is easy to point out the wants of the country, and to state the various conditions of prosperity ; but it is a very different matter to show how these improvements can be effected. Various plans have been proposed. Almost every one who writes about Ireland has some remedy of his own. Commission after commission has been appointed, and a great mass of information obtained. Many suggestions have been made in the reports of these commissions, and some of the suggested measures have been tried, and are now in operation.
It may be useful to bestow a little attention on some of the subjects which have been placed before the public as remedial measures, with a view of considering how far they are capable of meeting the present difficulty, and whether they do not require other changes to facilitate their effective operation.
In noticing the wants of Ireland, and the means of improvement, Education claims the first place. The subject has long been prominently before the
public, and its importance, as a means of elevating the character of the people, is universally recognized. A reference to the statistical tables given in the appendix, will shew the great deficiency which exists even in the mere rudiments. Less than one-tenth of the female population of Connaught, over five years of age, are able to read and write ; and even in Down, the most favored county, the number of females, above five years old, who can read and write, is scarcely more than one-fourth of the whole. There is certainly great room for improvement in this respect. A very large number of persons in Connaught cannot speak English, or speak it only imperfectly; these of course cannot read or write, except in a very few instances. However, the knowledge of the English tongue is rapidly spreading into the most remote districts; and, with the present increased facilities of communication, it will probably penetrate into every part of the country before many years elapse.
To be able to read and write, although very valuable as affording the means of further improvement, is certainly but a part of the instruction which ought, and which may well be given in the schools throughout the country; and even the most extended intellectual cultivation is greatly deficient, without that moral and religious
care which alone can be relied on for the improvement of national character.
Nevertheless, the power of reading and writing is in itself highly important. The acquisition of these arts stimulates thought, and cultivates the mind; the possession of them gives new means for the attainment of knowledge, and of wealth. Their diffusion through a community constitutes an important addition to the people's means of subsistence, increasing their power of helping themselves. Habits of order, obedience, and attention, which are valuable in all situations in life, are frequently acquired at school. Some good moral instructions may also be impressed on the memory, but the right education of the feelings, the most valuable moral impressions, are only to be acquired in a well-regulated home.
In the present condition of Ireland, with so large a number of labourers whose want of skill greatly lessens the value of their labour, industrial instruction seems of the greatest importance. This subject has engaged the attention of the National Board of Education. Several agricultural schools established by them are now in operation, and it is intended to establish others. From these schools much benefit may be expected. Perhaps when their usefulness is more fully proved, a trial may be made of industrial instruction in other branches. The erection of working sheds, with a supply of carpenter's tools, &c. in connection with schools, has been suggested, and there are various other ways in which this important object may be promoted. It is obvious that an education which would combine the training of the intellect with an improved manual dexterity, must be of the utmost value to the whole community.
The situation of the poor children in the workhouses, many of whom have been made orphans by the present calamity, most imperatively calls for public attention. Hitherto the education given in the majority of the workhouses has been very defective. It is evident that efforts must be made to fit the youthful inmates for earning a livelihood; or else, when they leave the work house, they will be fit for nothing, and will be driven to crime in order to support existence. Mere reading and writing is not sufficient. Something additional is necessary to supply the loss of the varied information, which the children of the poor acquire in their own homes, both from the necessity of doing much to assist their parents in many ways, and also from constant communication with those who are working around them. Confined from infancy within the walls of the workhouse, secluded from intercourse with the industrious, and exposed as they must be, more or less, to injurious contact
with those, whom idleness, ignorance, or depravity have reduced to want, it is a question of extreme difficulty how to bring them up so that they may be likely to become industrious and well-conducted men and women. But it is also a question of great and paramount importance ; as, if they are not educated for good, they will surely be educated for evil, and will become a burden and an injury to society instead of a support and benefit. It is unnecessary to go farther into the subject, as it is one to which public attention is so strongly directed. Perhaps regular instruction in some handicraft trade, might very usefully form a part of the course of education required for these children. Something that may keep both mind and body actively engaged from an early age, seems essential to their proper training. *
The attention of the government is natural
* The following remarks of Captain Huband, Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, when addressing the Board of Guardians of the North Dublin Union, are given in illustration of the observations in the text :
“ They would never succeed in educating the only portion of their “ inmates who were worth educating, which were the young, so long as “ they were allowed to remain with the old paupers (hear, hear). In “every workhouse, the younger inmates were looked upon already as a “ nuisance, rather than any thing else (hear, hear, hear). The school“ masters were generally persons of very inferior education themselves, “ and were engaged more for the purpose of keeping the boys in order and “ out of mischief than for any other (hear, hear). Let them, however, “not forget to look after the morals of the boys (hear). Let them re“ collect that when these boys went into the world to earn their bread,