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Title: A Letter of affectionate remonstrance addressed to the members of the Established Church in Norwich and in Norfolk and occasioned by the proposed exclusive system of infant education
Author: Alexander, John L.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Letter of affectionate remonstrance addressed to the members of the Established Church in Norwich and in Norfolk and occasioned by the proposed exclusive system of infant education" ***

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Transcribed from the 1836 J. Fletcher edition by David Price.

                                 A LETTER
                        AFFECTIONATE REMONSTRANCE
                              TO THE MEMBERS
                          THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH

                        In Norwich and in Norfolk,

                            AND OCCASIONED BY



                            INFANT EDUCATION.

                                * * * * *

                            BY JOHN ALEXANDER,

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

    “There are still some who wish to confine the element of water to
    their own well, and
    to find the full ripe corn only in their own fields.  With them, I
    confess, I have
    no sympathy.”

                                                        SAMUEL WILDERSPIN.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *


                   SOLD BY J. FLETCHER; JARROLD & SONS;
                        AND THE OTHER BOOKSELLERS.

                            _Price Fourpence_.


IT would have been most agreeable to the author of the following letter
to have published it anonymously; but he thought that, however
insignificant a writer might be, it was more respectful to the parties
addressed to affix his name to his publication.  His object, in writing
it, he can truly say, has not been to offend, but to convince; and,
though he feels deeply on the subject of the letter, it would have been
highly unbecoming, when addressing a respectable and influential body of
persons, to convey his remonstrance in any other language than that of
affectionate fidelity and firmness.  He has never yet come forward, on
any occasion, to widen the distance which may exist between any
denominations of Christians; and he feels, increasingly, the importance
of employing his single talent in promoting the salvation of sinners, and
the holiness and peace of the Christian Church.

_Norwich_, _March_ 28_th_, 1836.



AN advertisement has appeared in the Norwich papers of the 26th instant,
announcing that “a public meeting of members of the Established Church
will be held in the Hall in the Market, Norwich, on Thursday, 7th of
April, for the purpose of forming a Society to promote the extension of
the Infant School system in the County and City.”  It is somewhat
remarkable that a notice of such importance, and addressed to a large and
respectable body of Christians, should have been inserted in the public
papers _anonymously_, and that you should be called upon to assemble in
the Hall, without knowing by whose authority such an assembly is
convened, and without even knowing who is to preside on the occasion.
Believing, however, that the advertisement does proceed from some
competent authority, and perceiving, from the terms in which it is
expressed, that all the inhabitants of this City, except “the members of
the Established Church,” are prohibited from attending the meeting, I
take the liberty, as one of the excluded party, of addressing you from
the press—and my object in so doing, is to explain to you the principles
on which the Infant schools in Norwich have hitherto been conducted, and
to recommend those principles to your adoption at the approaching

You are probably aware that several friends to the education of children,
and especially to their moral and religious education, have originated,
and, for some years, supported Infant schools in this neighbourhood, the
principal of which are to be found in Lakenham, in Crook’s Place, and in
the parish of St. Miles.  These schools have hitherto been conducted not
on sectarian, but on catholic and Christian principles.  Children of all
classes have been admitted as scholars, and, besides imparting to them
the elements of general knowledge, they have been taught, according to
their capacities, the facts and histories recorded in the Holy
Scriptures, and the great doctrines relative to the sinfulness of man,
and to the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, on which the majority of
Christians are agreed.  The committees of these schools are composed of
members of the Establishment and of other Christian churches, all of
whom, without the slightest degree of jealousy, or of difficulty, have
cordially united in carrying into effect both the intellectual and the
religious parts of the system.  The committee of the Lakenham school,
though it, as well as the other schools, is, I believe, chiefly supported
by Dissenters, has, I am informed, regularly invited the respected
clergyman of the parish to attend its meetings; and my connexion with the
school in St. Miles’, enables me to declare, most confidently, that
repeated efforts have been made to induce members of the Established
church to afford greater help in directing its concerns, as well as in
defraying its expenses.  I have no doubt that in the other schools,
equally liberal measures have been adopted.

The children of these schools composed the principal part of the
interesting group which filled the platform in St. Andrew’s Hall, on
Tuesday the 22nd instant, when the mode of teaching in Infant Schools,
and the kind and degree of useful knowledge acquired in them, were
illustrated by the examination, which Mr. Wilderspin conducted, in the
presence of perhaps two thousand spectators; and the satisfaction which
he expressed, both publicly and privately, with the manner in which the
schools had been trained, imperfect as they confessedly are, was in no
small degree gratifying to those who have hitherto supported them amidst
many difficulties and discouragements.

Hitherto, the labourers in the cause of Infant education, in this city,
have been principally Dissenters; but it is well known that they have
always desired, and that they would have gladly received, a greater
number of their brethren in the Establishment as coadjutors.  Whatever
degree of influence they may have had in the schools which have been
referred to, they have never formed any rules or adopted any principles
or plans of education, against which the most scrupulous Episcopalian
need object; and, during the recent visit of Mr. Wilderspin, they had
their full share in contributing to his introduction to this city, to the
support of his Lectures, and to the attendance in St. Andrew’s Hall.  The
very first meeting that was held, to make arrangements with Mr.
Wilderspin, was summoned by a member of the Society of Friends, who,
without partiality, invited both Churchmen and Dissenters to meet Mr. W.
in the Lakenham school.  The Lectures, which Mr. W. delivered in the
Guildhall, were attended by at least as many Dissenters as Episcopalians.
When, after those lectures, a meeting of Clergy and members of the
Establishment, to which no Dissenter was invited, resolved “that there
should be an examination of children now receiving instruction in the
Infant schools of this city,” the committees of those schools, whose
concurrence with the resolution was I believe never asked, kindly
assented to it, and suffered their teachers and children to assemble on
the platform in St. Andrew’s Hall.  The Dissenters in this city, gladly
and gratuitously, sent forms from their chapels, on which the spectators
might be seated.  They purchased tickets, and attended the examination in
very considerable numbers.  They beheld clergymen, and other churchmen,
beginning to manifest an interest in Infant schools, by conducting the
little children to the platform.  And after having, in these various
ways, received assistance from your dissenting fellow citizens, as well
as from others—after having borrowed our schools for a public
examination—after having received our money towards defraying the
expenses of that examination—after having told us that “such an
exhibition of Infant schools would afford a most agreeable testimony of
their efficacy, and be a means of enlisting both the feelings and the
judgment of the audience in their favour”—we were not prepared to expect
that such friendly proceedings on our part would ultimately be used
against ourselves, and that they were to be rewarded by our utter
exclusion from all future participation with you in the system of Infant

Having thus briefly sketched the principles and the proceedings which
have been hitherto adopted by the conductors of Infant schools in
Norwich, I now proceed to direct your attention to the _advertisement_,
by which this letter was more particularly occasioned.  That
advertisement calls upon you, as “members of the Established Church,” to
form “a society to promote the extension of the Infant school system in
the county and city”—and I understand it to mean that the members of no
other Christian church shall be allowed to participate with you in the
formation of the society, or in its committee, or in its operations.
This mode of proceeding, you perceive at once, is the very reverse of
that which has hitherto been adopted; it is contrary even to the bill
which has been passed for the emancipation of the slaves in the West
Indies, which provides that even black infants shall be educated “on
liberal and enlightened principles;” and I ask you, what would have been
your thoughts and feelings, if any other Christian, and Protestant
church, in this city, besides your own, had ventured to suggest a society
for the education of little children so utterly exclusive and illiberal?

Whatever may have been the condition of other parts of the kingdom, this
city has been lamentably deficient in public unity and cooperation in the
accomplishment of that which is good—and a different state of things is
not to be expected from the mere politician, or from any of “the men of
the world which have their portion in this life.”  It is to the religious
only that we must look for the desired reformation; and if mankind are
ever taught to dwell together in love, it must be by those who have
imbibed and who exemplify the spirit of Christianity.  But if the
religious—if those who profess to have “the same mind that was in
Christ,” refuse to associate with those who love the same Redeemer, and
are regenerated by the same Spirit, merely because they differ respecting
some points of discipline in the church—if they thus “set at nought their
brother”—if they thus practically declare that “Christ is divided,” and
so divided that his members cannot unite even in the education of
infants—will not such conduct bring religion itself into dishonour, and
will it not “cause the enemies of God to blaspheme?”  “For if these
things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”

Had the system of Infant schools been the offspring of the Church of
England—could it be shewn that no infants, but such as have been baptized
at its font, had the capacity to receive instruction—or if the Dissenters
of this city had set an example of exclusiveness in infant education,
then indeed some apology or even justification might be offered for the
course which is advertised for adoption.  But it is well known that the
system of infant education is quite independent of any form of
ecclesiastical polity.  It is as much the property of the nonconformist
as of the conformist.  It has nothing to do with the peculiarities of
either; but it asks, and has hitherto cordially received the cooperation
of both.  And the attempt to make it the appendage of a particular
church, and “a great gulph” of separation between Christians—to enlist
infants, just “weaned from the breast,” as parties in ecclesiastical
strife, must be productive of a lamentable influence on the minds both of
infants and adults, and must be highly offensive to Him who rebuked his
disciples and said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and
forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Church of England—established by the authority of parliament—having
dissented from the pale of popery, whose intolerance and exclusiveness
she professes to abhor—declaring that she is emphatically and eminently
the church of Christ—and praying, as she does, not only for “all sorts
and conditions of men,” but “more especially for the good estate of the
catholic church, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may
hold the faith in unity of spirit, and in the bond of peace”—ought, most
assuredly, of all churches, to be the most comprehensive in her charity,
and to set “all sorts and conditions of men,” and the whole “catholic
church,” an example of meekness and conciliation.  But when an
opportunity presents itself, the most favourable for exhibiting these
graces, without the slightest compromise of principle, are all these
professions and all these prayers to be forgotten; and must the
unestablished and self-supported churches of our land be the only
sanctuaries where charity can take refuge, and the only societies whose
members add practice to profession and to prayer?  I hope not, my
brethren; and devoutly as I am attached to the great principles of
nonconformity, because I consider them to be in harmony with
Christianity, yet I should strongly suspect their character if I found
that they prevented me from cooperating with my fellow Christians in any
“work of faith or labour of love.”

If, my brethren, you seize the present occasion for the purpose of
widening the distance between Christians of other communions and of your
own—if you render the Infant school system, which has hitherto been made
a bond of union, a “wall of separation” between yourselves and others,
the sin will lie at your own door, and you alone will be answerable for
the consequences.  I know well that such an exclusive system is not the
desire of you all.  There are some among you who wish to see the Church
of England “national” in her feelings and in her philanthropy, as well as
in her name; and who would be glad to cooperate with other Christians in
educating and in evangelizing the people, but who at the same time deem
it desirable on the whole, to submit to other parties in the church whose
patronage and support are valued.  Permit me to say, however, that such
policy is of a very questionable character; and the course of conduct,
which your acquiescence sanctions, appears to me not likely either to
promote the interests of true religion, or to increase any feelings of
respect for that Establishment which you conscientiously support.  For
if, in the nineteenth century, you legislate as if you were in the dark
ages—if you try to revive again the spirit of “the five mile act,” which
denounced the nonconformist as “incapable of teaching any public or
private schools”—depend upon it that you will find the current of feeling
in the present times to be decidedly against you; and not only so, but
you will sin against the spirit of that religion whose essential
doctrines and whose hallowed influences ought to be far dearer to us all
than any forms of ecclesiastical government.  “For the kingdom of God is
not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy

In many parts of Great Britain, where Infant schools have been
established, the population generally have been united in their support;
and Mr. Wilderspin, in his book entitled “Early Discipline Illustrated,”
furnishes many facts, in addition to his own opinion, to shew that such
schools always succeed well when various Christians are associated in
their committees and in their operations.  “I proceeded to Durham,” says
he in page 45, “where a committee was formed of _Churchmen and
Dissenters_.”  When speaking of Ireland, in page 76, he says, “it may be
well to shew that wherever Infant schools have been established in that
country, and properly conducted, they have been found to be real
blessings _by all parties_, as the following circular will shew.”  That
“circular” was an address of the parish of Booterstown to the Rev. A.
Sillery, from which I extract the following sentence: “That invaluable
institution, the Infant school, which in this parish owes its origin to
you—and the many other excellent arrangements for promoting education and
religious instruction, bear ample testimony to the talent, zeal, and
piety, which characterize their exemplary founder and promoter; whilst
the impartiality with which you administered to the wants of all,
_without distinction of sect or party_, manifest the unbiassed liberality
of your truly Christian mind.”  “I distributed many circulars and papers
at Leicester,” says he, page 87, “but hostility was threatened from one
of the pulpits of the Establishment;” and he then quotes what he justly
calls “an admirable speech, by M. Babington, Esq.” a member of the Church
of England, from which I extract the following sentences.  “I proceed to
that objection on which the greatest stress will probably be laid, that
we are forming an unnatural and improper union of individuals of
different denominations; and that we are undermining the influence and
doctrines of the Church of England.  _It seems to me that those who thus
argue shew some distrust of the excellence of that church_.  The
extension of knowledge can hardly fail to be favourable to the cause of
truth; and as a member of that church, _I am of opinion that its
doctrines will be more fully established by such intercourse_.  But it
has ceased to be a question, whether a mixed committee can succeed
satisfactorily in such an object; for the experiment has been tried
extensively in other towns for nearly seven years, and has lived down the
opposition which was first raised against it.—Really such arguments are
too trifling even for ridicule, if it were not, as it appears to me, _a
suicidal act_, _on the part of our church_, _to urge a system so
repugnant to the feelings of mankind_.”  After relating some interesting
occurrences at Taunton, Mr. Wilderspin says in page 118, that “a
committee of various denominations proceeded with great encouragement,
_intimating_, _by their union_, _that their object was the general good_,
_and that no party apprehended the occurrence of injury_.”  Injury was
however inflicted by unhallowed hands, and a school was set up “on
opposite principles.”  In page 202, when speaking of Joseph Lancaster,
Mr. Wilderspin says, “with one part of his system I was always charmed,
and, so far from the feeling diminishing, it is even now increasing in
vigour,—_I mean its freedom from all shackles_—_its entire exemption from
sectarianism_—_its benevolent and catholic spirit_, _which urges not
merely to the establishment of schools_, _but_ ‘SCHOOLS FOR ALL.’  Often
have I regretted that this is not universally discoverable.  There are
still some who wish to confine the element of water to their own well,
and to find the full ripe corn only in their fields:—with them I confess
I have no sympathy; _on the broadest principle I have hitherto labored_;
_and on that_, _and that alone I propose to act through the remainder of
my life_.”  But I must conclude these testimonies, which might be greatly
multiplied, by recording a sentence or two from page 259, respecting
Sheffield.  “Five Schools,” says Mr. Wilderspin, “containing little short
of one thousand infants, are now in full and efficient operation.  _The
harmony of Churchmen and Dissenters in the work is here most delightful_;
and as a specimen of the generosity displayed, it may be stated, that one
gentleman built a school, at his own expense, which cost £1000.”  These
quotations abundantly prove that “the originator of Infant schools,” who
has visited many of the towns in the three kingdoms, and who is perhaps
better qualified than any other person to form an opinion as to the best
mode of conducting them, is decidedly opposed to the exclusive system
advertised for Norwich.  He has “no sympathy” with it—and he declares, as
the result of his extensive observation and experience, that “the union
between Churchmen and Dissenters is delightful.”

Should the decision of the approaching meeting be in opposition to this
delightful union, and should the ministers and members of the Established
Church determine to prevent the Dissenters from cooperating with them in
this interesting work, the parties thus excluded will not, I trust, be
instigated to pursue a similar course, and to form a society for
themselves alone, to the exclusion of Churchmen.  No.—Let them proceed on
other and better principles.  Let them call a public meeting of all
denominations of Christians who can conscientiously unite in pursuing the
same system of Infant education, which has been hitherto adopted in this
city.  Let them cordially and earnestly invite the cooperation of liberal
and religious Churchmen.  And let them determine that neither conformity
nor nonconformity shall be taught to babes in an Infant school, but that
they shall receive only “the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow

                                * * * * *

                       PRINTED BY JOSIAH FLETCHER.

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