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promising, -for though we hear very often of bad bargains and ruinous speculations, yet I feel sure, however long your life may be, you will hardly, in the course of it, ever meet with a man who will tell you that he regrets the time which he has spent in the acquisition of knowledge, or repents of having become a scholar,resolve if you never did so before, not to lose those precious hours, the weight of which may be prized in gold, while they have the speed and lightness of feathers; and most of all, I wish you to prize beyond all other acquisitions - beyond the acquisition of learning, however solid, or the mastery of accomplishments, however brilliant; prize before them all, the formation of individual character, the building up of moral habits, the whole pervading discipline of duty. Join docility and teachableness in your studies to that independence and resolution of will, which will enable you to apply and to appropriate to yourselves the teachings of others' wisdom, and the lessons of your own experience; so that when the time shall come for your leaving the friendly shelter of this insti. tution, and for launching out your small barks into the wide and stormy sea of life, you may not only carry with you those honourable certificates of approval of your past exertions and conduct, which I have had the satisfaction of delivering to two of your number this day, but you may go forth into the busy arena of the world, and there, whatever may be your special calling,-in literature and art, in science or in business, amidst public avocations or among family connections, you may at last, one and all of you, be fitted and prepared to play the part of useful Christian citizens.
I would now only gently remind even those who have so honour, ably come forward in support of this institution, that while they desire to promote the cause of a creditable and liberal education amongst those members of society for whom it is calculated, they must not forget, that in these times it is most indispensable to the welfare and even to the salvation of the country at large, that the benefits of education should not be confined to any particular class of persons; but that they should be extended to every species of occupation, and to every department of society. Given already to the nobles, to the merchants, to the master manufacturers, they ought not to be withheld from the mechanic, the labourer, and the cottager, You have made ample and splendid provision in order to meet the exigencies of those that are, comparatively speaking, in easier circumstances, and in so doing you have done most wisely, and most well. May those classes enjoy and appropriate the advantages thus held out to them; may we hear of your sons giving themselves up with ardour to all the studies of this place; may they delight in the sublime lay of Homer, and the faultless line of Virgil; may they obtain a proficiency in every polite and graceful accomplishment, or wing their adventurous flight through the highest realms of science! But while they do all this, be it our care also to provide that, if you wiil, a plainer, but still a sound and substantial, nourishment shall be afforded to the bulk of the nation, to those who make the pith and marrow of our people. See that it is put within their reach; see that it offers itself to their notice ; see that it wooes their acceptance; even let it be pressed upon them, though they should at first sight seem unwilling to take advantage of it. While you support Academies and Colleges, give your assistance and your countenance also to working mens' classes, and to Mechanics’ Institutes. While you amply uphold the credit of Huddersfield College, promote also the prosperity of the day-school, and the Sunday-school. Let education be provided for the heirs of poverty and the children of toil, as a genial relaxation from the weary hours of labour ; let it be provided for them as a solid and sustaining nurture for the intellectual, the moral, and the spiritual cravings of their nature. And let me give this parting exhortation to you, that within the whole range of your several spheres, according to the best of your abilities, you should promote the united cause of a free conscience and a universal education.
YORKSHIRE UNION OF MECHANICS' INSTITUTES.
(Wakefield, May, 1844.) It has so happened, that although I have long been most fully alive to the great utility and advantage of the institutions which generally go by the name of Mechanics' Institutes, this is the very first time at which I have been able to attend the regular proceedings of a Mechanics’ Institution within the county of York. To the members, indeed, of these Institutes, to the great body of the mechanics of the West Riding of Yorkshire, I may flatter myself
that I am not wholly a stranger; many of us have met upon other occasions, and upon a different stage ; but however important such occasions may have been, and however interesting or lofty the themes which belonged to those other theatres of action, a gathering like that of this evening has one evident superiority ; it embraces no topics of difference, it marshals us into no opposite ranks of party or denomination, it has nothing to do with conflict ; all it has to do with is co-operation. I look upon Mechanics’ Institutes as both a creation and a type of the days in which we live; the influences of which they were born, and of which they breathe, are wholly of modern growth. The time was when, in 'the im mediate neighbourhood of the place where we are now met, the opposing armies of the rival Roses were drawn up in menacing array, and soon mixed in murderous conflict; but now, gentle 'men, instead of such a competition between us and our good brethren of Lancaster, the objects of our rivalry are, the number and excellence of our respective Mechanics’ Institutes, this is, you will agree with me, a far better sight to exhibit in the eyes of heaven and the world than the brawls between the troopers of Warwick and the retainers of Clifford, when Baron was hewing at Baron, and Franklin hacking at Franklin. These revolting scenes however, have left no other memorial than the exquisite little chapel on the bridge which spans your now peaceful Calder, raised to make propitiation for the souls of the slaughtered; and the days of the Barons have become the days of Mechanics’ Institutes. Not that the one came in immediate succession to the other. After what may be especially called the feudal era, there came gradually the days of industry and enterprise, of the stout labourer, and ingenious artificer, and busy trader, and active merchant; nor can we say that their day is yet over, nor must we wish it to be over. No; by the activity of our enterprise and the energy of our industry we have raised a population so vast, and reared a dominion so mighty, that we cannot stop, even if we would ; and the wealth which may have onee been only considered as the glittering prize of ambition, has become a condition and a necessity even of our national existence. But within a period of almost the youngest tife amongst us, new influences have been brought to bear, especially; ou the working and industrious classes of the community; à new spirit has been breathed into the dry frame of trade and enterprise; and the education, and the accompanying knowledge, which formerly only graced, and that sometimes very superficially, the more privileged and opulent members of the community in the Warehouse and counting-house, have now struck their kindly roots deeper down, and visited the mechanic at his workshop, and the Weaver at his loom. Instead of merely impregnating the upper layers of the mass, they have penetrated, and warmed, and vivified the whole body beneath. In the process of this, I will not say, revolution, because the word sometimes conveys the idea of some thing violent, formidable, and convulsive; but of this great social recovery, this gradual and genial progress, Mechanics'Institutes and similar institutions have borne a conspicuous and most creditable part, and in the furtherance of Mechanics' Institutes, as in other good things, the men of Yorkshire may claim a very honourable share. Why, they produced from among them Dr. Birkbeck, who I believe may be justly considered their original founder; and they honoured, in the election of Lord Brougham, one of their most efficient patrons and supporters. I say nothing of those who are now prominently engaged in this good field of action. It is, therefore, with much pleasure that I witness such a meeting as this, which, to say nothing of its more ornamental portion, comprises not only so goodly an assembly of the members and mechanics of this fair city of Wakefield, but shows, by the number of representatives and delegates which it has brought together from other similar bodies within the Riding, that there is a sort of corporate life among you, not: perhaps equally vivacious and mettlesome in all the limbs, but still ready to feel sympathy, and to communicate energy; to assist the struggles of the weak, and to applaud the success of the strong. May this wholesome and precious rivalry long continue, in which, while it will be an honour to be first, it will yet
e a pleasure to be outstripped! In truth, the circumstances of this great district ought to command the general prevalence and hearty support of institutions of this character ; you have here the large accumulation of great masses of people ; you have a great diversity and keen competition of employments, exciting ingenuity, and stimulating discovery; the nature of your occupations is such as to call for all that can be procured in the way of refreshment and relaxation. In your busy and engrossing occupations, toiling at your daily task, and for your daily bread, you may certainly be without those opportunities and aids to advancement in study or in discovery which belong to studious ense, or to learnéd leisure ; but
it is not from these quarters that the most brilliant contributions to human advancement have been always made ; it was not from these classes that Watt, or Brindley, or Fulton, or Burns, or Chantrey, came. In
my travels on the great continent of North America, I chanced to fall in with a blacksmith in one of the interior States, who, while he most assiduously performed all the requirements of his calling, accomplished the mastery of, so as to be perfectly able to read, about fifty languages. I have just put down an extract which was made from the journal of this blacksmith linguist; it is a diary of his daily business for five days taken by chance in the course of the year. The extract is from the commonplace book of Elihu Burritt, in 1838. " June 5th. Read fifty lines of Hebrew, thirty-seven of Celtic; six hours of forging. June 6th. Read thirty-seven lines of Hebrew, forty of Celtic; six hours of forging. June 7th. Read sixty lines of Hebrew, sixty lines of Celtic, fifty-four pages of French, twenty names of stars; five hours of forging. June 8th. Read fifty-one lines of Hebrew, fifty lines of Celtic, forty pages of French, fifteen names of stars; eight hours of forging. June 10th (Sunday). 100 lines of Hebrew, eighty-five pages of French, four services at church, Bible-class at noon," For many days he was unwell, and sometimes worked twelve hours at the forge; so that it seems that he did not come within the Ten-hours bill. Now, lest you should be tempted to think that the concerns of his handicraft interfered with or were prejudicial to his course of study, I shall subjoin a remark which was made with respect to him by Mr. Combe, the eminent phrenologist, who travelled in America, and who gave the greatest attention to the developments of the human head, and to the conditions of human health. Mr. Combe says: “ One thing is obvious, that the necessity for forging saved this student's life ; if he had not been forced by necessity to labour, he would in all probability have devoted himself so incessantly to his books, that he would have ruined his health, and been carried to a premature grave.” So you perceive that work may not only be no drawback but even an assistance to the most intense literary labour: the patient achievements of welldirected industry, and the heaven-kindled flame of genius, are cons fined to no order of our fellow-men, and are denied to none, The Mechanics’ Institute is quite as likely as the country churchyard te produce,
“ Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed,
Or waked to ecstacy the living lyre."