1849 February: Ragged School Union Magazine; The Ragged School Union: Its Principles And Mode Of Operation

The principles of this Society are benevolent, philanthropic, scriptural; they are, moreover, missionary and aggressive. They are the same as those which glowed in the bosom of Wilberforce, animated the affections of Raikes, and fired the energy of Chalmers; the same as those which roused the philanthropy of Howard, kindled the zeal of St. Paul, and filled the soul of the Divine Saviour himself.


They are, therefore, Bible principles. As old as Christianity itself, and springing out of it, they have entered more or less into the heart and life of every true Christian, ever since the Gospel poured its living flood of light and truth upon a darksome, lonesome, sin-stricken world. But even before Christ came, Old Testament saints—nay, God himself —had declared them. In all the laws of Moses, care for the poor, the needy, and the fatherless, is a prominent feature; and it is very remarkable that nearly all the threatened or inflicted punishments on the Hebrew nation are connected with a neglect of the poor.


In the Psalms of David, too, there are many touching appeals in favour of the poor, none perhaps more touching than that which this Magazine bears on its title-page. But it was Christ who embodied these most fully, exhibited them most practically, and taught them most impressively. To those who acknowledge him as their King, their Teacher, and their Guide, there is no escape from such commands as this:—“Go ye out into the highways and byways, into the streets and lanes of the city, and compel them to come in.”


To seek, and if possible to save, the lost of our fellow-creatures—to bring those who are wandering and out of the way to the feet of Jesus, to the fold of a good Shepherd, who cares more for one such wanderer than he does for ninety and nine who never wander—to draw poor neglected outcasts from paths of sin and error, into paths of pleasantness and peace, is surely a work that Christ looks on with his kindliest smile.


To lift such forlorn, comfortless ones from the “pit of their own degradation”—to bring them to sit with Christ’s people here upon earth, and, perhaps, through God’s blessing, in heavenly places, with Christ himself—to “stamp burning truth upon their soul”—to pour gentle love into their hearts—to bathe their affections in heavenly dews, fresh from God’s life-giving word—to bring their nature into harmony with the divinity that stirs within them, and exists to a certain extent even in such wrecks of humanity as these—surely is the very work that Jesus delights to look upon—the very work he would delight to do if he lived among us now.


The principles of the Ragged School Union are, therefore, Bible principles: they are thus unchangeable as the word of God, which endureth for ever; for, though “heaven and earth shall pass away, that word shall not pass away.” But they are also missionary and aggressive. They do not lead as to cross vast oceans in search of those who sit in darkness and ignorance, but they lead us to the benighted heathens of our own land—our great towns and crowded cities—to the lost, to the ignorant and the degraded of our lanes, courts, and alleys. They do not suffer us to pass by on the other side, but draw us to such haunts of misery and crime, with the Bible in our hand, and the love of Christ in our hearts—with looks of kindness as our passport, and words of peace as our weapons of war.— See Second Report, p. 30.


Our principles are thus unsectarian: it is sad to have to use such a word in speaking of Bible principles or Christian work—for how can such be sectarian ? We are compelled, however, thus clearly to state, that the Ragged School Union is carried on by Christians of various denominations. That we have hitherto gone on harmoniously, desiring to love all who love Christ in sincerity and truth, and believing that those who get nearest to Christ will get nearest to each other —He being the blessed Centre and Sun of Righteousness round which we all move.


We feel, like Nehemiah, that we are doing a great work, and cannot descend to little things or little men, who, with great professions for older, etc., are often but enemies in disguise, having no real love for the work itself, or for those who are doing it. As long as we find earnest Christian men and women rallying around us, and giving their time, and thoughts, and money, to the work of Ragged Schools, we feel bound to extend to them the right hand of fellowship, provided always they take the Bible as the basis of all the instruction communicated.


We trust our principles are also patriotic. We desire to save from crime, which is dangerous and dear, and inculcate habits of industry, which are safe and cheap. We labour to make good citizens of those who are anything but that at present, remembering that the children of this generation will be the men and women of the next; and knowing well the grand thing in all education is to fit the young for that station, and for those duties, which they will have assigned to them when they grow up.


Having thus spoken of the principles of the Society, it is time to say a few words on the manner in which these principles are carried into practice. Formed for the express purpose of systematising and encouraging Ragged School efforts in and around London, the Union seeks to help all of every Christian denomination who are striving, by scriptural, and moral training, to ameliorate the condition and improve the habits of the neglected juvenile poor.


This it does in various ways:

  • First, by collecting and diffusing information regarding Ragged Schools in town and country, the best mode of forming and carrying them on, etc.
  • Second, by the regular visitation of an inspector, whose duty it is to see that the destitute classes alone are admitted, and the right kind of instruction given, and whose reports are laid before the Central Committee every month.
  • Third, by the formation of Local Committees, for the right government of each school, consisting of respectable tradesmen and others in the vicinity.
  • Fourth, by meetings of delegates from the Schools, who meet one another quarterly, and report verbally as to the state and progress of their Schools, for the satisfaction of the Central Committee, and the guidance of other schools.
  • Fifthly, by written forms of numbers in attendance, etc., also required quarterly.
  • Sixthly, by grants of money towards fittings, books, rent, teacher’s salary, and other expenses—grants which are always more liberal if the school is situated in a poor locality, where the surrounding Inhabitants are unable to give towards its support.
  • Lastly, by public meetings in various districts, to awaken public attention, collect information, and raise funds for the objects above named.


To these may now be added the establishment of a Monthly Magazine, as a medium of communication between all parties engaged in the work, and a means of increasing its efficiency. The benefit and blessing of such a work, if carried on with the spirit in which it is begun, and supported as it ought to be by the public, it is impossible to estimate.

February, 1849.

The above is a reproduction of the text found in the 1849 February publication of the Ragged School Union Magazine. The article ‘The Ragged School Union: Its Principles And Mode Of Operation’ was written to lay out the principles which aimed to bring together a constellation of free educational projects together in a collective movement.


Some history around the period includes:

“These were the words of the historian Alexis de Tocqueville, writing about 25 February 1848. The French king, Louis Philippe, had just abdicated and fled the country. A protest march by republican students and sections of the middle class had clashed with police outside the ministry of foreign affairs, igniting a spontaneous rising in the poorer, eastern part of Paris which had been the centre of sans-culottes agitation in the revolution of half a century before. Crowds chanting ‘Vive la réforme’ burst through the lines of troops and swarmed through the palaces and the assembly buildings. Opposition politicians threw together a government headed by Lamartine.

To ensure it gained the support of the masses, they included a socialist reformer, Louis Blanc, and, for the first time in history, a manual worker, Albert. The revolution in France was a bomb beneath every throne in Europe. There had already been a brief civil war in Switzerland the previous December and a rising in Sicily in January. Successful uprisings now followed in Vienna, Milan, Venice, Prague, Berlin, and the industrial towns and state capitals of virtually every German principality. In every city, protests led off by the liberal middle classes culminated in huge crowds defeating attacks by the army and the police and taking over palaces and government buildings.

Reactionary politicians like Metternich, the architect of counter-revolution in 1814 and 1815, now fled for their lives. Monarchs and aristocrats remained behind, but only kept their positions by professing agreement with liberal constitutions. Absolutism seemed dead virtually everywhere. Radical democratic reforms seemed achieved—universal male suffrage, freedom of the press, the right to trial by jury, the end of aristocratic privilege and feudal payments. But it was not to be. By the summer the monarchs and aristocrats were regaining their confidence.

They began attacking rather than bowing before the democratic movements and, in the late autumn, crushed the movement in key centres like Berlin, Vienna and Milan. By the summer of 1849 counterrevolution was once more victorious throughout the whole continent. The revolutions in February and March had been victorious because risings involving the mass of small traders, artisans and workers had beaten back armies and police officered by monarchists and aristocrats.

But the governments and parliaments put in place by them were composed mainly of sections of the propertied middle classes. So the parliament elected for the whole of Germany (including German-speaking Austria) which met in Frankfurt in May contained no fewer than 436 state employees (led by administrative and judicial officials), 100 businessmen and landowners, 100 lawyers and 50 clergymen.87 Such people were not prepared to put their lives, or even their careers, at risk by revolutionary action against the old authorities.”

Page 355-6, Harman, C. (2017). A people’s history of the world.

Maryland slave Harriet Tubman, 29, escapes to the North and begins a career as “conductor” on the Underground Railway that started sometime before 1838. Tubman will make 19 trips back to the South to free upward of 300 slaves, including her aged parents, whom she will bring North in 1857; she will be injured in New Jersey when a railroad conductor pulls her out of her seat and throws her in the baggage car, but although a $40,000 bounty will be offered for her capture, it will never be collected.

California’s Native American population falls to 150,000, down from 350,000 in 1769, as a result of disease and mistreatment. The state’s governor and legislature want to wipe out the Indians, offer bounties for their removal, and finance militias to assist intheir removal: by 1870 only 30,000 will remain, and only 1 percent of the state’s population will be Native American.

News of last year’s gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill brings a rush of 7,000 “FortyNiners” to California, whose non-Indian population reaches 100,000 by midyear and will jump in the next 7 years from fewer than 20,000 to nearly 300,000 as the gold fields yield $450 million in precious metal.

British textile manufacturer and child labor opponent John Fielden dies at his country estate in Kent May 29 at age 65.

Russell & Co. head Robert Bennet Forbes goes back to Guangzhou (Canton), having become a major shipowner (see 1840 ). Now 44, he resumes the company’s opium trade and will serve as U.S. and French vice-consul at Guangzhou until 1851.

Britain reduces duties on food imports to nominal levels under the law passed in 1846.

The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad reaches Chicago; locomotive number 1, the Pioneer, steams into town in April to begin Chicago’s career as America’s leading transportation hub. Ten railroad lines will be serving the city by 1869

Budapest’s Chain Bridge spans the Danube to link the cities of Buda and Pest that will not become one city until 1873.

Paris physician-microbiologist Casimir J. (Joseph) Davaine, 38, observes microorganisms in the blood of patients suffering certain diseases (see Henle, 1840 ). His finding is a milestone in the history of bacteriology (see Pasteur, 1861 ).

A cholera epidemic at London wins support for the Health of Towns Association and its Great Sanitary Movement (see 1842 ; 1848 ; water purification, 1829 ). London clergyman Henry Moule, 48, works indefatigably to aid cholera victims; he will invent a dry-earth system of sewage disposal (see Snow, 1853 ).

The College of the City of New York (CCNY) has its beginnings in the Free Academy that opens on Lexington Avenue at 23rd Street (the CCNY name will be used beginning in 1866). The tuition-free institution of higher learning will become City University of New York (CUNY) in 1961, having enabled thousands of poor immigrants to attain high positions in their work (see 1976 ).

“Resistance to Civil Government” by philosopher Henry David Thoreau describes the author’s overnight imprisonment in 1846 for refusing to pay a poll tax to support the Mexican War that violated his antislavery views. Every citizen has a duty to oppose bad government by acts of passive resistance such as not paying taxes, states Thoreau. He calls the state essentially a malevolent institution and a threat to the individual, and declares, “that government is best which governs least.” The essay will be reissued under the title “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” (see Gandhi, 1914 ); A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers by Thoreau;

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë, who describes the Luddite attack on William Cartwright’s mill in 1812.


Excerpts taken from Trager, J. (1992). The people’s chronology: A year-by-year record of human events

from prehistory to the present. London: Aurum Press.