Victorian England: Aspects of English and Imperial History, 1837-1901

By L. C. B. Seaman | Go to book overview
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10


Towards a Modern State

1850-85
(2) Education and the Public Service

There is no cloud so dark and dangerous in our political horizon…as the existence of… perhaps half a million children…who are growing to man’s estate…to be a cause of poverty, instead of a cause of wealth, to the nation that has given them birth.

GEORGE MELLY, M. P., 1869

…those whose abilities do not warrant an expectation that they will succeed in the open professions…and those whom indolence of temperament or physical infirmities unfit for active exertions, are placed in the Civil Service, where they may obtain an honourable livelihood with little labour, and with no risk.

THE NORTHCOTE-TREVELYAN REPORT, 1853

The establishment by the Education Act of 1870 of elementary schools maintained wholly out of public funds was long overdue. Its tardy achievement was due, in detail, to Palmerston’s unwillingness during his last ministry to sponsor a reform with which he came to agree in principle; but more general reasons for the delay were the sustained resistance of the Established Church and the survival of fears among the propertied and employing classes that almost any form of education would cause the labouring poor to become

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