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ENDOWMENTS 1869 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume V - Essays on Economics and Society Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume V - Essays on Economics and Society Part II, ed. John M. Robson, introduction by Lord Robbins (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967).
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Fortnightly Review, n.s. V (Apr., 1869), 377-90. Headed: “Endowments.” Signed; republished without textual changes in D&D, IV (1875), 1-24. Identified in JSM’s bibliography as “an article headed ‘Endowments’ in the Fortnightly Review of April 1. 1869” (MacMinn, 98). No copy in Somerville College.
The variant at 618a-a derives from the one known MS fragment (Yale University Library), which forms part of the collection obtained from the Sotheby sale of 27 July, 1927. Although the wording is generally close to that of the final text, the fragment is given in full, except for cancellations. (One cancellation—“is an offence both against liberty & against property”—is restored in the final text at 618.22-3. The typographical error at 620.26 (“it it” for “it”) is corrected in D&D, IV.
a few years ago, the question which required to be argued on the subject of endowments, was the right of the State to interfere with them: not merely the right to bring them back to their original purpose when by the corruption or negligence of the managers it had been departed from, but the right to change altogether the application designed by the founder. This question now scarcely needs further argument. Discussion, and the progress of political thought, have done their work. We have well-nigh seen the last of the superstition which allowed the man who owned a piece of land or a sum of money five hundred years ago, to make a binding disposition determining what should be done with it as long as time or the British nation should last; which, after limiting an owner’s power to tie up his property in favour of individuals to the term of a single generation, thinks it spoliation to disobey his orders after the lapse of centuries, when their apparent purpose is connected with religion or charity. These prejudices had nearly ceased to be formidable, even before they received their death-blow from the triumphant passage through the House of Commons of the proposal for disendowing the Irish Protestant Church.[*] Whoever voted, or would vote, for that great measure of justice and common sense, indicates his opinion that the jurisdiction of the State over Endowments extends, if need be, to an entire alteration of their purposes; and even those whose political or ecclesiastical partisanship ranges them on the other side, find it consistent with their principles to propose alternative plans, as subversive as disendowment itself of the legal rights vested by the endowment in collective or fictitious public persons. There is, as on all other great questions, a minority behind the age; which is as natural as that there should be minorities in advance of it. But with the bulk of the nation the indefeasibility of endowments is a chimera of the past; so much so, that those who fought hardest against this superstition when it was alive, are now likely to find themselves under the obligation, not of re-arguing a gained cause, but rather of checking the reaction to a contrary extreme, which so generally succeeds the defeat of an old error, when the conflict has been long.
Such a reaction, in fact, is already commencing. Some of the most effective and valuable champions of State authority over Endowments are claiming assent to doctrines which go far beyond providing for the due application to public uses of funds given for the public benefit. Some go the length of maintaining that endowments, or certain great classes of them at least, even when their purposes have not ceased to be useful, are altogether an evil, as the purposes would be better attained without them. Others stop short of this, but recommend that it should be unlawful to make endowments for any public purpose, except through the medium, and subject to the discretion, of the Government for the time being, or of an authority responsible to Parliament, and to those by whom parliaments and governments are made. In a paper in all other respects deserving of high eulogium,* Mr. Fitch—one of the men whose personal investigations have most largely contributed to make known the abuses of endowments—is not content with calling on statesmen to “estimate the enormous mischief which is done in England under the name of benevolence,” and to “see the need of a more energetic and organised supervision of all public charities,” but urges them “to go a step farther, and, while permitting the free exercise of testamentary rights as between persons and persons, make it illegal to devote any money to public objects except through the agency of some recognised body, which is amenable to public control. Is it too much to expect,” asks Mr. Fitch, “that we shall soon see the wisdom of restraining the power of private persons to tamper with any one of those great national interests such as education and the relief of the poor, which demand organisation and fixed principles, and which still more imperatively demand complete readjustment from time to time, in accordance with the supreme intelligence and will of the nation, as represented in Parliament?”
It would be both unfair and unreasonable to impute to Mr. Fitch, as a settled conviction, the doctrine here incidentally thrown out—a doctrine breathing the very spirit, and expressed in almost the words, of the apologies made in the over-centralised governments of the Continent for not permitting any one to perform the smallest act connected with public interests without the leave of the Government. But when such a maxim finds its way to the public under such auspices, it is time to enter a protest in behalf of those “private persons” whose power of public usefulness Mr. Fitch estimates so lightly, but whose liberty of making themselves useful in their own way, without requiring the consent of any public authority, has mainly contributed to make England the free country she is; and whose well-directed public spirit is covering America with the very institutions which her state of society most needs, and was least likely in any other manner to get—institutions for the careful cultivation of the higher studies. Whether endowments for educational purposes are a good or an evil is a fair question for argument, and shall be argued presently. But the reason by which Mr. Fitch supports his doctrine—namely, that as education and the relief of the poor require organization and fixed principles, no tampering with them by private persons should be allowed—would avail equally against allowing any private person to set up and support a school, or to expend money in his lifetime on any plan for the benefit of the poor. Such doctrines lead straight to making education and beneficence an absolute monopoly in the hands of, at the best, a parliamentary majority; that is, of an executive government making itself habitually the organ of the prevalent opinion in the country, but liable to spasmodic fits of interference by the country’s more direct representatives. It is hardly necessary to say that Mr. Fitch cannot intend this; but it is those who do not intend a bad principle, but only a particular consequence of it, that usually do the work of naturalising the principle, and making it one of the moving forces in society and government.
While there are few things more true, under due limitations, there are few which in the present day it does more mischief to speak unguardedly about, than the “organisation” and “fixed principles” required in everything which aims at producing a public benefit. It is desirable that every particular enterprise for education or other public objects should be organised; that is, its conductors should act together for a known object, on a definite plan, without waste of strength or resources. But it is far from desirable that all such enterprises should be organized exactly alike; that they all should use the same means for the attainment of exactly the same immediate ends. And Mr. Fitch himself, as we saw, reinforces his argument drawn from the necessity of “fixed principles,” by another grounded on the importance of unfixing those fixed principles from time to time.
The truth needs reasserting, and needs it every day more and more, that what the improvement of mankind and of all their works most imperatively demands is variety, not uniformity. What is called tampering by private persons with great public interests, as if it meant obstructing the Government in what it thinks fit to do for public uses with the funds at its disposal, means trying to do with money of their own something that shall promote the same objects better. It is tampering as those tamper with the religion of the country who build nonconformist chapels. It is healthy rivalry. If the law duly protects these private establishments against interested misappropriation of their funds, many of them will probably do better in some respects, some perhaps better on the whole, than institutions held to “fixed principles” laid down by an Act of Parliament, or by the opinion of the majority. At all events, whether they do or not, they are necessary for the just protection of minorities, whose portion in the public interest deserves the attention of majorities equally with their own, but is far less likely to obtain it.
All this, though its importance is seldom adequately felt but by those who are directly interested in it, is not likely to be called in question, so far as it affects men’s employment of their property during their own lifetime. But there is no reason awhy respect for the free agency of individuals should stop there, unless the power of bequest itself is a nuisance, and ought to be abated. If it is right that people should be suffered to employ what is lawfully their own in acts of beneficence to individuals taking effect after their death, why not to the public? There is good reason against allowing them to do this in favour of an unborn individual whom they cannot know, or a public purpose beyond the probable limits of human foresight. But within those limits, the more scope that is given to the varieties of human individuality, the better. Since trial alone can decide whether any particular experiment is successful, latitude should be given for carrying on the experiment until the trial is complete. For the length of time, therefore, which individual foresight can reasonably be supposed to cover, and during which circumstances are not likely to have so totally changed as to make the effect of the gift entirely different from what the giver intended, there is an obvious propriety in abiding by his dispositions. To set them aside, unless at the command of a still higher principle, is an offence both against liberty and against property. And all that the higher principle requires is, that a term, not too distant, should be fixed—I will not decide that it should be half a century or a century, or even whether it should be the same for all descriptions of endowments—but a term at the expiration of which their appropriation should come under the control of the State, to be modified, or entirely changed, at its discretion; provided that the new purpose to which they may be diverted shall be of a permanent character, to remove the temptation of laying hands on such funds for current expenses in times of financial difficulty.
I am not contending that there should be no limit to the right of making endowments, except a limit of time. There are strong reasons against permitting them to be so made as to tie up land from alienation. It is a matter of course that they should not be permitted for any purpose definitely illegal. I say “definitely,” because the English common law has a number of vague formulae under cover of which almost anything of which the judge disapproves may be declared unlawful. But there are also employments of money which have so mischievous an effect, that they would most likely be prohibited, if it could be done without improper interference with individual liberty; and such an application of funds, though the State may be obliged to tolerate, it may be right that it should abstain from enforcing, on the mandate of the owner, after his death. Of this sort are most of the so-called doles; indiscriminate distributions of sums of money among the poor of a particular place or class, the effect of which may be to pauperise and demoralise a whole neighbourhood. In such cases, until the expiration of the term during which testamentary directions in general may be allowed to be valid, the intention of the testator should be respected so far as it is not mischievous; the departure from it being limited to the choice of an unobjectionable mode of doing good to the persons, or the sort of persons, whom he intended to benefit; as, for instance, by appropriating to a school for children what was destined for alms. And it is important that even this minor degree of interference should be exercised with great reserve. The State is not entitled to consider, so long as the fixed term is unexpired, what mode of employing the money would be most useful, or whether it is more wanted for other purposes. No doubt this would often be the case; but the money was not given to the State, nor for general uses. Nothing ought to be regarded as a warrant for setting the donor’s dispositions prematurely aside, but that to permit their execution would be a clear and positive public mischief.a
What tempts people to see with complacency a testator’s dispositions invalidated, is the case of what are called eccentric wills—bequests determined by motives, and destined for purposes, with which they do not sympathise. And this propensity to count the wishes of the owner of the property for little or nothing, when they are unlike those which we think we should ourselves have had in his place, does not stop at public endowments, but extends to any large bequest in favour of an individual, which departs ever so little from the common practice of the common world. But does not this genuine intolerance of the majority respecting other people’s disposal of their property after death, show how great is the necessity for protection to the rights of those who do not make resemblance to the majority their rule of life? A case of bequest which has been much noticed in the newspapers, and of which it is still uncertain whether it will be allowed to take effect, strikingly exemplifies this need. A person[*] left a sum of money by will to found an hospital for the treatment of the diseases of the lower animals, particularly birds and quadrupeds. He made the mistake of appointing as trustee for the purposes of the endowment, the University of London—a body constituted for special objects, and which could not with propriety undertake a duty so remote from the ends of its appointment. But can it be pretended that an hospital such as was designed by the testator, would not be a highly useful institution? Even if no regard were due to the animals themselves, is not the mere value of many of them to man, and the light which a better study of their physiology and pathology cannot fail to throw on the laws of animal life and the diseases of the human species, sufficient to make an institution for that study not merely useful, but important? When one thinks of this, and then considers that no such institution has ever been established in Europe; that a person willing to employ part of his superfluities in that way, is not born once in several centuries; and that, now when one has been found, the use he makes of what is lawfully his own is a subject of contemptuous jeering, and an example held up to show the absurdities of testators, and the folly of endowments; can one desire a more conclusive evidence of what would happen if donations for public purposes were only valid when the purposes are consonant to the opinion of the majority? Who knows if even the Cornell University, with its “eccentric” provision that every student attending the University must work bodily for his living, would at present have been more than a project, if its realisation had depended on the will of the Government, or of an authority accountable to the majority?
Because an endowment is a public nuisance when there is nobody to prevent its funds from being jobbed away for the gain of irresponsible administrators; because it may become worse than useless if irrevocably tied up to a destination fixed by somebody who died five hundred years ago; we ought not on that account to forget that endowments protected against malversation, and secured to their original purpose for no more than two or three generations, would be a precious safeguard for uncustomary modes of thought and practice, against the repression, sometimes amounting to suppression, to which they are even more exposed as society in other respects grows more civilised. The fifty or hundred years of inviolability which I claim for them, would often suffice, if the opinion or practice is good, to change it from an uncustomary to a customary one, leaving the endowment fairly disposable for another use. Even when the idea embodied in the endowment is not an improvement, those who think it so are entitled to the opportunity of bringing it to a practical test. The presence of such attempts to promote the general well-being by means diverging from the common standard, keeps discussion alive, and obliges the prevailing opinions and customs to seek support from their own merits, and not from a blind acceptance of existing facts.
Some further observations require to be made on educational endowments, which are in some respects a peculiar case. Of these it cannot be said, in the present day at least, that they provide what, but for them, would not be provided at all. Education there would still be, and the real question is one of quality. Neither, again, has the argument, so important in other cases, of the protection due to uncustomary opinions, more than a limited application here. A very small minority is able to support a private school suitable to its requirements; and it might even seem that minorities are never in so much danger of being left out, as in the case of endowed institutions for education, which are usually more or less bound to opinions widely prevalent, and which, when the time has come for bringing them under the control of the State, fall into the power of the majority. This danger is very serious, when State institutions, or endowments under State superintendence, have a monopoly of education, or when those who are there educated have, as they have usually had, legal preferences or advantages over other people. But if endowed institutions, originally of a national character, or which have become so by the expiration of the term of inviolability, are open to all alike; and open in the only true sense, that is, with full liberty to refuse one part of the teaching while accepting another part; minorities would enjoy all the benefits that the endowments could give, while retaining the full power of providing, at their own cost, any education which they may consider preferable.
The question of educational endowments resolves itself into this: Is education one of those marketable commodities which the interest of rival dealers can be depended on for providing, in the quantity and of the quality required? Is education a public want which is sufficiently met by the ordinary promptings of the principle of trade? I should be the last to speak with sentimental disparagements of trade or its achievements, or to imagine that the motives which govern it can safely be dispensed with in any great department of the service of mankind. But the question is not quite fairly stated in the disjunctive programme, “Endowment or Free-Trade.” Endowment and Free-Trade is the thing contended for. That there should be free competition in education; that law, or the State, when it prescribes anything on the subject, should fix what knowledge should be required, but not from whom it shall be procured, is essential to civil and political freedom. But will this indispensable free-trade in education provide what is wanted, better without than with the help, example, and stimulus of education aided by endowments?
There are many things which free-trade does passably. There are none which it does absolutely well; for competition is as rife in the career of fraudulent pretence as in that of real excellence. Free-trade is not upheld, by any one who knows human life, from any very lofty estimate of its worth, but because the evils of exclusive privilege are still greater, and what is worse, more incorrigible. But the capacity of free-trade to produce even the humblest article of a sufficient degree of goodness, depends on three conditions: First, the consumer must have the means of paying for it; secondly, he must care sufficiently for it; thirdly, he must be a sufficient judge of it. All three conditions are signally wanting in the case of national education. The first case, that of inability to pay, now, happily, requires only a passing notice. That those who are too poor to pay for elementary instruction, should have it paid for by others for them, has, after a battle of above half a century, taken its place in opinion among admitted national necessities. But the concession of this is the concession of all the rest, at least in principle; for, if those whom poverty disables from obtaining instruction by themselves ought to be helped to it by others, either because it is the interest or the duty of those others to take care that they have it, why not also those in whose case the obstacle is not the poverty, but the ignorance or selfishness of parents? With respect to the other two requisites—that the customer should care for the commodity, and that he should be able to judge of it—the tale is soon told. As a general rule, subject to exceptions, the wishes of parents in regard to the instruction of their children are determined by two considerations. First, what will bring in a direct pecuniary profit. Of this they think themselves judges, though most of them judge even of this very incompetently, being unable to see how any studies, except the direct practice of a business, can conduce to business success. Of other kinds of instruction they neither are, nor consider themselves to be, judges; and on these their rule of action is that by which they are guided in most other things of which they are personally ignorant—the custom of their class of society. If we desire, therefore, that the education of those who are above poverty, but who are not, for their own bane and that of others, predestined to idleness, should have any better guide than an extremely narrow conception of the exigencies of a business life, we must apply ourselves to the other of the two levers by which those we seek to act upon can be moved; we must introduce a better custom. It must be made the fashion to receive a really good education. But how can this fashion be set except by offering models of good education in schools and colleges within easy reach of all parts of the country? And who is able to do this but such as can afford to postpone all considerations of pecuniary profit, and consider only the quality of the education; either because, like the English Universities, they are certain of sufficient customers, or because they have the means of waiting many years till the time comes which shall show that the pupils they have trained are more than ordinarily fitted for all the uses of life? The funds for doing this can only be derived from taxation or from endowments; which of the two is preferable? Independently of the pecuniary question, schools and universities governed by the State are liable to a multitude of objections which those that are merely watched, and, in case of need, controlled by it, are wholly free from; especially that most fatal one of tending to be all alike; to form the same unvarying habits of mind and turn of character.
The abuses of endowments are flagrant, monstrous, and wholly inexcusable. But what funds, public or private, would not be a prey to malversation if the law took no notice of it; or if, though the law was what it ought to be, there was no individual whose interest and no public officer whose duty it was to put the law in force? There is surely nothing visionary in imagining these things remedied. It cannot be impossible, where there is the will, to prevent public funds from being diverted to private pockets. Nor can it be doubted that the variety of endowed institutions, and the influence of the State exerted within its proper limits, would ensure adequate provision for including in the course of education (either everywhere or only somewhere, according to the necessities of the case) whatever has any just claim to form a part of it. What is feared is, that the teacher’s duty will be idly and inefficiently performed if his remuneration is certain, and not dependent on pupils and their payments. The apprehension is well grounded. But where is the necessity that the teacher’s pay should bear no relation to the number and proficiency of his pupils? In the case of an ordinary schoolmaster, the fees of pupils would always be a part, and should generally be the greatest part, of his remuneration. In an university, or a great public school, even if the fees go to the collective body, it is not a law of nature that every tutor or professor should be paid neither more nor less than a fixed sum. Could anything be easier than to make the whole, or a large part, of his remuneration proportional to the number of those who attended his teaching during an entire term, or during a year? And would it be impossible that he should receive an extra sum for each of his pupils who passes a creditable examination, on leaving the institution, in his particular department? The real principle of efficiency in teaching, payment by results, is easily applied to public teaching, but wholly inapplicable to private school speculations, even were they subject to a general system of public examinations; unless by special agreement between schoolmasters and parents, which also is a thing we have no chance of seeing until the fashion can be set.
And is there any one so blind to the realities of life as to imagine that the emoluments of a private schoolmaster have in general any substantial connection with the merit and efficiency of his teaching? In the first place, he has a direct pecuniary interest in neglecting all studies not cared for by the general public, or by the section of it from whom he hopes for patronage. In those which they do care for, a little trouble goes much farther in aiming at a mere appearance of proficiency, than at the reality. The persons whom he has to satisfy are not experienced examiners, who take pains to find out how much the pupil knows, and are judges of it; but parents, most of whom know little of what is taught at schools, or have forgotten what they knew; many of whom do not test their child’s knowledge by a single question, it being enough for them that he has been at what is called a respectable school—and who desire no better than to take for granted that all is right, and that the certificates or prizes which the children bring home from the master are the earnings of desert, not bribes for the good word of parents. These are not the mere abuses, but the natural fruits, of the trading principle in education; accordingly, the disclosures of the Schools Enquiry Commission[*] have been as damning to the character of the private, as to that of the endowed, schools. When the pupil himself reflects, too late, that his schooling has done him no good, the impression left upon him, if he is one of the common herd, is not that he was sent to a bad when he ought to have been sent to a good school, but that school altogether is a stupid and useless thing, and schoolmasters a set of contemptible impostors. It is difficult to see, in the operation of the trading principle, any tendency to make these things better. When the customer’s ignorance is great, the trading motive acts much more powerfully in the direction of vying with one another in the arts of quackery and self-advertisement than in merit. Those parents who desire for their children something better than what the private schools afford, and do not find that something better in the endowed schools as at present conducted, sometimes combine to form the subscription schools commonly called proprietary. This private election, as it were, of a schoolmaster, by a rate-paying qualification, is an improvement, as far as it goes, for those who take part in it; but as it is only had recourse to by parents who have some perception of the badness of the private schools, it makes the case of these last, if anything, rather worse than before, by withdrawing that small portion of parental influence which would really be exercised, and probably exercised beneficially. And the worth even of the Proprietary Schools depends on that of the high public institutions which are the trainers of schoolmasters, and whose certificates or honours are the chief evidence, often the only tolerable evidence available, to guide the proprietors in their choice.
Those who make the vices of mere trading education an argument for supplementing it by something else, are charged with ignoring the tendency which schools have, in common with other things, to improve with the general progress of human affairs. But human affairs are seldom improving in all directions at once, and it is doubtful if much of the improvement that is now going on is taking the direction of trade morality. Even in commerce properly so called—the legitimate province of self-interest—where it is enough if the ruling motive is limited by simple honesty, things do not look at present as if there were an increasing tendency towards high-minded honour, conscientious abhorrence of dishonest arts, and contempt of quackery. Even there the vastness of the field, the greatness of the stakes now played for, and the increasing difficulty to the public in judging rightly of transactions or of character, are making the principle of competition bring forth a kind of effects, the cure of which will have to be sought somewhere else than in the corrective influence of competition itself. There is more hope, doubtless, on the side of the parents. An increasing number of them are probably acquiring somewhat better notions of what education is, and a somewhat greater value for it. But experience proves that, of all the modes of human improvement, this particular one is about the slowest. The progress of the bulk of mankind is not in any great degree a spontaneous thing. In a few of the best and ablest it is spontaneous, and the others follow in their wake. Where society must move all together, as in legislation and government, the slowest get dragged on, at the price of a deplorable slackening in the pace of the quickest movers; but where each has to act individually, as in sending his children to school, and the power of the more advanced is only that of their opinion and their example, the general mass may long remain sadly behind.
However this may be, those cannot be accused of ignoring the improvability of private schools, who propose the means by which their improvement may most effectually be accelerated. Schools on the trading principle will not be improved unless the parents insist on their improvement, nor even then if, all other schools that are accessible being equally bad, the dissatisfaction can have no practical effect. To make those parents dissatisfied who care but little for good schooling, or are bad judges, and at the same time to make it a necessity for schoolmasters to pay regard to their dissatisfaction, there is but one way; and this is, to give to those who cannot judge of the thing itself, an external criterion to judge by; such as would be afforded by the existence of a certain number of places of education with the prestige of public sanction, giving, on a large and comprehensive scale, the best teaching which it is found possible to provide.
But it is objected—and this is almost the staple of Mr. Lowe’s vigorous pamphlet[*] —that injustice is done to private schools, and their improvement impeded, by subsidising their competitors—bribing parents by the pecuniary advantages of endowments, and enabling the endowed schools to undersell the unendowed. There would be a great deal in this if the endowed schools were sufficiently multiplied to supply the whole demand for schooling. But a political economist need scarcely be reminded that the price of a commodity is determined by that portion of the quantity required which is produced and brought to market under the least favourable circumstances. So long as private schools are wanted in addition to public ones, there is no more fear of their being undersold by them, than there is lest the owners and occupiers of the most fertile soils should undersell those of the less productive. It may be true that, under the present abuses of endowments, parents are sometimes bribed to accept a bad education gratis; but the reformers of those institutions do not propose that their funds should be employed in giving gratuitous instruction to the children of the well-off classes, or in enabling those who can pay for a good education to obtain it at less than its value. Such, certainly, are not the intentions of the Schools Enquiry Commissioners, who propose a far other application of the funds of endowments than that of artificially cheapening education to those who are able, and whose duty it is, to pay its full price.
The endowments destined by the founders for purely elementary education were not within the scope of the Commission: and respecting these there is no difficulty, as they evidently ought to be applied in aid of that general plan for making elementary instruction universal, which statesmen and the public almost unanimously agree that it has become a duty to provide. The endowments with which the Commissioners were concerned were those that were intended to give an instruction superior to the elementary. These they propose should be taken, large and small together, to form, not indeed one common fund, but funds common to each of the districts into which the country is divided for registration purposes; each of these funds to be managed as a whole, and made to go as far as it can in establishing good and large schools for that district. This most judicious proposal is in accordance with one of the great educational principles with which Mr. Chadwick has so perseveringly identified himself—that there cannot be good teaching at a moderate expense in small schools. In a small school the same master is obliged to teach too many things, and to teach the same thing simultaneously to scholars differing too much in their degree of advancement; to the detriment necessarily of some, and generally of all. The schools proposed by the Commissioners are of three different grades, adapted not to adventitious differences in the quarter from whence the pupils come, but to the number of years which their parents are able and willing to spare for their instruction before they enter into active life. But the most important of all the Commission’s recommendations, showing an appreciation of the duties of society in the matter of education, the most enlightened that ever yet proceeded from any public authority in the United Kingdom, is that of which I have now to speak. The State does not owe gratuitous education to those who can pay for it. The State owes no more than elementary education to the entire body of those who cannot pay for it. But the superior education which it does not owe to the whole of the poorer population, it owes to the élite of them—to those who have earned the preference by labour, and have shown by the results that they have capacities worth securing for the higher departments of intellectual work, never supplied in due proportion to the demand. It is therefore proposed by the Commissioners that the principal use made of the endowments should be to pay for the higher education of those who, in the course of their elementary instruction, have proved themselves to be of the sort on whom a higher education is worth bestowing, but whose parents are not in a condition to pay the price. The fruits of such a proposal, under any tolerable arrangements for carrying it into effect, would be almost beyond human power to estimate. The gain to society, by making available for its most difficult work, not those alone who can afford to qualify themselves, but all those who would qualify themselves if they could afford it, would be but a part of the benefit. I believe there is no single thing which would go so far to heal class differences, and diminish the just dissatisfaction which the best of the poorer classes of the nation feel with their position in it. The real hardship of social inequalities to the poor, as the reasonable among them can be brought to see, is not that men are unequal, but that they are born so; not that those who are born poor do not obtain the great objects of human desire unearned, but that the circumstances of their birth preclude their earning them; that the higher positions in life, including all which confer power or dignity, can not only be obtained by the rich without taking the trouble to be qualified for them, but that even were this corrected (to which there is an increasing tendency), none, as a rule, except the rich, have it in their power to make themselves qualified. By the proposal of the Commissioners, every child of poor parents (for, of course, girls must sooner or later be included), would have that power opened to him, if he passed with real distinction through the course of instruction provided for all; and the feelings which give rise to Socialism would be in a great measure disarmed, in as much of them as is unreasonable or exaggerated, by this just concession to that in them which is rational and legitimate.
It is not with this express purpose that the Commissioners have made the recommendation; it is because they believe that in itself it would be the greatest improvement in national education to which the endowments provided for the superior departments of instruction could possibly be applied. The work would be further carried on by the endowments of the Universities; which are already partly expended in scholarships, to aid the maintenance of those who have shown themselves worthy, but would not otherwise be able, to pursue the studies of the University. There are other important uses, which need not here be discussed, to which University endowments may be, and to some extent are, very suitably applied: for instance, the maintenance of professors, and in some cases the encouragement of students, in kinds of knowledge never likely to be sought by more than a few, but which it is of importance to mankind that those few should have the means of finding; such as those ancient languages which are chiefly valuable philologically; comparative philology itself, which has of late years yielded such a harvest of interesting and valuable knowledge; historical erudition in many of its departments; and, it may be added, the highest branches of almost all sciences, even physical: for the speculative researches which lead to the grandest results in science are not those by which money can be made in the general market.
One more point is too important to be omitted. Common justice requires, and the Commissioners have urged—though their proposals in this respect are far short of what they themselves would probably desire—that in the employment of the endowments equal provision should be made for the education of both sexes. Many of the original endowments were for girls as well as boys; in the progress of abuse the boys have very often had their rights filched from them, the girls almost always. In one of the great endowed establishments of which the efficiency has been least impaired by neglect or malversation, Christ’s Hospital, the foundation was for both sexes: at present those who benefit by it are eighteen girls and 1,192 boys. Considering that, in the eyes of the law and of the State, one girl ought to count for exactly as much as one boy, and that, as members of society, the good education of women is almost more important than even that of men, it is an essential part of a just scheme for the use of the means provided for education that the benefit of them should be given alike to girls and to boys, without preference or partiality.
[[*] ]32 & 33 Victoria, c.42.
[* ][Fitch, Joshua Girling.] “Educational Endowments,” Fraser’s Magazine [LXXIX], for January, 1869, Pp. 11-12.
[a-a]620 MS why respect for the liberty of individuals should stop there, unless the power of bequest itself is an evil which ought to be abated. There is no reason why people should be prevented from employing what is lawfully their own, in acts of beneficence taking effect after their death, to the public as well as to individuals. There is reason for preventing them from doing this in favour of an unborn individual whom they cannot know, or a public purpose beyond the probable limits of human foresight. But within those limits the more scope that is given to the varieties of human individuality, the better. Since trial alone can decide whether any particular experiment is successful, liberty should be allowed of carrying on the experiment until the trial is complete. For the length of time, therefore, which individual foresight can reasonably be supposed to cover, & during which circumstances are not likely to have so totally changed as to make the effect of the gift altogether different from what the giver intended, it is an offence, both against liberty & against property, to set aside his dispositions, unless at the command of a still higher principle, and all that the higher principle requires is that a term, not too distant, should be fixed—I will not decide that it should be half a century, or a century nor even whether it should be the same for all kinds of endowments—at the expiration of which their appropriation should come under the control of the State, to be modified, or entirely altered, at its discretion; provided that the purpose to which they may be diverted shall be of a permanent character, to remove the temptation of taking such funds for the current expenses at a time of financial difficulty.
[[*] ]Thomas Brown, of Dublin.
[[*] ]Parliamentary Papers, 1867-68, XXVIII, i-xvii.
[[*] ]Lowe, Robert. Middle Class Education. Endowment or Free Trade. London: Bush, 1868