Johann A Schürmann ~ Correspondence

British and Foreign School Society -- 39th Anniversary Meeting

6 May 1844 | Report.

Shurman participated at the 39th Anniversary Meeting of the British and Foreign School Society.


Monday, May 6 [1844], at xii; at Exeter Hall; Lord John Russell M.P. in the Chair: Col. 69£ 10s. 4d.

Movers and Seconders:

Lord Monteagle; and Sir Charles Lemon M.P. -- Rev. George Clayton; and John Sheppard, Esq. of Frome -- Rev. Wm. Arthur, of Mysore; and Rev. J.A. Schurman, of Benares -- Rev. John Burnet; and Adm. Sir Edward Codrington -- David Barclay; Esq. M.P., and Wm. Tooke, Esq.


-- That this Meeting rejoices in the extended efforts which are now making by different denominations of Christians in favour of elementary education, assured that such exertions will prove highly beneficial to the country, and ultimately strengthen the position, and enlarge the operations of this Society.

-- That this Meeting, while deeply anxious for the extension and improvement of Education at home, continues to feel a deep and lively interest in its spread over the whole world; and trusts that every effort, consistent with more immediate and pressing claims, will be made by the Society to promote the establishment of Schools of Scriptural Instruction in Foreign Parts, but especially in the Colonies of the British Empire.

Stale of the Funds:

Receipts 10,081£. 1s. -- Expenditure 9476£. 16s. 1d. The Society owes 800£.

Why Shurman attended this meeting is as yet not clear. According to Wikipedia,
The British and Foreign School Society (BFSS) offers charitable aid to educational projects in the UK and around the world by funding schools, other charities and educational bodies. In the 19th century it supported free British Schools and teacher training; it continued in the latter role until the 1970s.
Joseph Lancaster's School in Borough Road, Southwark, London, established in 1798, was an important development in the provision of universal free education for children. A teacher training institution, Borough Road College, was added soon afterwards in 1801.
Subsequently, the Society for Promoting the Lancasterian System for the Education of the Poor was formed in 1808 to continue Lancaster's lead. The Society was founded by Joseph Fox[disambiguation needed], William Allen and Samuel Whitbread. This was supported by several evangelical and non-conformist Christians, including William Wilberforce. In 1814, the Society was renamed the British and Foreign School Society for the Education of the Labouring and Manufacturing Classes of Society of Every Religious Persuasion. During the 19th century, based on non-sectarian principles, the Society started a number of 'British Schools' and teacher training institutions, which in many places maintained an active rivalry with the 'National Schools' of the Established Church. It also established schools abroad, helping with the provision of staff and other support.
The Lancasterian system (or monitorial system) used older children who had already been given some education to teach the younger children. It was designed to provided a cheap basic education with limited resources and numbers of teachers.
Today, the British & Foreign School Society gives grants to charities for educational activities.1 ]

The full proceedings of this meeting are documented as the QUARTERLY EXTRACTS. Proceedings of the Thirty-ninth Anniversary of the British and Foreign School Society, held at Exeter Hall, on Monday, May 6th, 1844. (No 70 June 29 1844).,  in
The Sunday School Teachers' Magazine and Journal of Education. Third Series. VOL. 1, 1844. Pages 1-11 (pdf pages 600-610).2 ]

Following are some extracts:

[Pages 1-2]

The Hall was unusually crowded by a highly respectable audience. On the platform were many noblemen and gentlemen, and most of the leading friends of education in the Metropolis.
Lord JOHN RUSSELL, on taking the Chair, observed:
In proceeding to consider how education was to be provided, those who founded this Institution had to consider, first, what were the means in existence when they began this Institution; secondly, if those means were insufficient, how the deficiency was to be supplied. That the means then in existence were insufficient, no one, I think, can deny. The state, as a state, took no charge of the general education of the people. With respect to endowments, although there were endowments existing, and which still exist, to the amount of some hundreds of thousands a year, yet, partly from the misapplication of their funds, partly from the nature of the will of the donors, and partly from the local restrictions which existed, it had not been found possible to apply those large funds in the manner in which they might be most usefully directed to the purposes of general education. It became necessary, in the opinion of those who founded this Institution, to attempt by voluntary subscriptions, relying upon the spirit of the people themselves to promote the great cause of education. Among those who held this opinion, we have to number his late Royal Highness the Duke of Kent ...
Such were the men who began this institution. What were the objects to which they first directed their attention? The first object to which they directed their attention was the religious instruction of the peolplle; the first object which they had in view was scriptural education. e question was, how this scriptural education could be afibrded in such a manner as to unite the greatest number of the people, or to afi'ord, to use the phrase of the late lamented friend whom I have just mentioned, "schools for all." It was to be recollected, with this view, that, generally speaking, the people of England are a Protestant community, and that “the Bible," as has been said by a great writer, “ is the religion of Protestants." Upon that ground all could meet; the churchman and the dissenter could 'act in one spirit and with one view, animated by the same spirit of charity, united in the same bond of peace. Such, then, was the large and comprehensive view which the Society, in its origin, took of religious education.
With respect to the other branch of education, viz., secular education, the only endeavour was to furnish that education to as great an extent as possible, and, if means could be obtained, to extend it to all. While, with respect to religious education, no improvement could be, or has been, made, during the last eight-and-thirty years—the period during which the Society has existed—while nothing could be carried beyond that first principle of education in the Scriptures; on the other hand, with respect to secular education, great improvements might be made, and great improvements have been made, from time to time, and from year to year, in the nature and description of that secular education. Such being the great principles upon which this Society was founded, the fruits which resulted from it were soon apparent. In the first place, schools were established in many great cities, and in various parts of the country, where day-schools had hitherto been unknown. In the next place, within three or four years after the foundation of this Society, the Church began to establish schools—the National Society was formed; and, I will not say in rivalry, but in juxta-position with the schools of this Society, arose many places of instruction to diffuse scriptural education more generally over the country. In this manner we have proceeded, and I am happy to say that, as the increasing wants of the community have required a greater difiusion of education, so we have found that, during the last few years, and, I believe, particularly during the last year, there has been a considerable increase of the means of education. For all particulars, and for all details. on this subject, I must refer you to the Report ...

J. A. Shurman seconds a proposal by his Wesleyan fellow missionary from India, Rev. William Arthur:

"That this meeting, while deeply anxious for the extension and improvement of education at home, continues to feel a deep and lively interest in its spread over the whole world, and trusts that every effort, consistent with more immediate and pressing claim, will be made by the Society, to promote the establishment of schools scriptural instruction in foreign park, but especially in the colonies of the British empire."
He said, the character of the resolution was his only justification for appearing before the meeting. It referred to operations connected with Christian instruction and education in foreign lands, and especially in the British colonies. There was no name in the present day more familiar to the ears of Englishmen than the name of British India; and yet he believed there was hardly any word which conveyed a less distinct and a less adequate idea. The extent of that country was insufficiently appreciated, and the amount of its population very imperfectly understood. It remained an unsettled question, whether the population of British India is one hundred or two hundred millions, two writers, of high authority, taking opposite views. His own conviction, founded on the best information which he could obtain, was, that the population was about 150 millions. When the eye of the British philanthropist was directed to India, there immediately came under his notice the overwhelming spectacle of 150 millions of human minds; and those minds, though presenting an endless variety of character, all possessed some traits of interest in common. On all hands there was a deep impression of British greatness, an unbounded admiration of British skill, and ahigh sense of British progress; and, he would add, in most cases there was a contented subjection to British rule.
We had now to deal with this great mass of human beings; and with respect to the extent of education in India, it was much greater than was generally supposed in this country. He had never entered a Hindoo village of any the school did not form one of the most prominent objects, and the schoolmaster one of the leading persons, of the place. There was, in fact, a large amount of education diffused throughout the whole country. The very numerous class of the Brahmins was an educated class; and they were not to form an idea of the extent of that class by the proportion borne by the clergy in this country to the great mass of the population. Almost all those who claimed to be of the second and third castes possessed some degree of education. A very large proportion of the fourth class were also by something like education; and even the labourers in the field could read and write.
There was one large class of the population which was entirely excluded from the benefits of education; and who had no means of learning except such as were supplied to them by the various missionary societies. It was a painful fact to mention, that the female sex was also entirely excluded from the advantages of education, and that, with the exception of the unhappy women, who from childhood were devoted to the temple and to infamy, sowing, the decorating of their persons, and inferior occupations, occupied the whole time of the Hindoo women. It would not possibly be doubted that such a system must be attended with the worst social effects; the mother, however degraded, could not but exercise an influence over the whole character of her offspring.
He then proceeded to state to the meeting the appearance presented by the schools in the Indian villages. There were school so higher character, which were confined almost entirely to the Brahmins. Beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic, almost all the higher branches of instruction were taught orally. But now he was prepared to assert, without fear of contradiction from any practical man who had mixed with the Hindoos, that every step which the Hindoo tool: in education, after reading and writing, and arithmetic, was a step in ignorance; if, that is, he might be allowed to include under the term ignorance, not merely the absence of all ideas, but the presence of false ones.
The flrst fact which he learned with respect to the world in which he lived was, that it was 129 millions of miles in extent. He next learned that this immense world consisted of seven islands, and seven seas. He learned that the tides were caused by the heavings and contortions of an immense tortoise. He learned that earth quakes resulted from the windings of a great serpent, and that mountains were placed under the earth to keep it steady.
The Rev. Gentleman then proceeded to specify a number of other particulars connected with the teaching of the Hindoos in morals, and in religion, with a view of showing that the education afforded was an education in ignorance. He complained of the conduct of the Indian Government in entirely excluding the Bible from the schools which it supported. He must say, with great deference to the noble lord in the chair, that in his judgment there was, in the purely atheistic character of the Government schools, a most deplorable political error, as well as a grievous departure from every principle of Christian truth and of elevated British morality. One thing, at least, he was prepared to prove; namely, that if the Bible were introduced the schools would be just as well attendedas they were upon the present system. One fact might tend to show the truth of this statement. The present Rajah of Mysore established a school upon the Government, and a missionary established one upon the missionary, plan. At length the missionary went to the Rajah, and proposed to him that his school should be broken up, and transferred to the missionary school. He said, "I make one condition, the boys must read the Bible." Strange to say, the Rajah at once gave uphis own school, and subscribed money to the missionary school, his grant being at first 100 rupees; he had since raised it to 150. He had given a very valuable house in which to conduct the school; and the spectacle had twice been witnessed in the great city of Mysore, of the man whom the arms of England had restored to the throne of his ancestors at the siege of Seringapatam, sitting in his palace examining the élite youth of his own capital in the Word of God. Nor was this all. All the schools in the Mysore were givenup to the management of the missionaries; and having been obliged to beg from the heathen, for want of sympathy at home, they had obtained 2,000 rupees from the Rajah for missionary, or, rather, for educational purposes. Would that his example were copied l Would that the same generosity were exhibited in this country! Then would the British and Foreign School advance with accelerated speed, and God, even their own God, would abundantly less them.

The Rev. J. A. SCHURMAN, a German missionary at Benares, seconded the resolution.
In the course of his address, he referred, at some length, to the system of education adopted in the United States, of which, he said, he cordially approved, and expressed an opinion, that if, in that respect, England were to become a second United States, the result would be most beneficial to the general causeof education.  He concurred in the opinion of the preceding speaker as to the impolicy of not admitting the Bible into the Government schools in India.

The resolution was then put and carried.

The Rev. John BURNET said—My lord, our German friend has concluded by wishing that we might become a second United States, and I am going to direct your attention, not to the United States, but to a distinguished sovereign—a very different object indeed. When we come to the question of general education, as maintained bythe British and Foreign School Society, so generous, so liberal, so full and comprehensive, is the system of that society, that everything we say seems to be relevant. We may speak about all the ends of the earth—about all systems of religion, and all systems of anti-religion — about all forms of government, republican, royal, and every other description—and all seems to belong to the British and Foreign School Society. Now, this does certainly show that the Society is well adapted to occupy the position which it holds. If everything be relevant to the object of the meeting, then surely that prejudice must be strong, and that blindness dark indeed, which can object to, or refuse to support an institution, which seems to belong to everybody, everything, every nation in every quarter of the globe. ...


Published in:
Missionary Register containing the Principal Transactions of the Various Institutions for Propagating the Gospel, with the Poceedings at Large of the Church Missionary Society. Volume 32, 1844. Page(s): 250.

Online: Google Books. Viewed: 20.1.2015.

  1. For the history of the BFSS, also see the PhD by Kevin John McGarry, Joseph Lancaster and the British and foreign school society: the evolution of an educational organization from 1798 to 1846.  Aberystwyth University, School of Education & Lifelong Learning. 1985. Download. [ ▲ ]
  2. from the Preface, page 1:
    ...  As, however, this is the oldest of the educational Magazines, having been devoted to the cause of Sunday Schools, and general instruction, since the year 1813, and having, for thirty-two years past, contributed, in no trifling degree towards the advancement of institutions for the public benefit; and as, even at the present time, there does not exist any other periodical which supplies the same amount of intelligence on the subject of religious and common education, it is hoped, that the teachers of Sunday schools, and the friends of education upon evangelical principles, will, by their countenance, support, encouragement, and recommendation, be cheerfully disposed to give an additional impulse to the circulation of this periodical, that more teachers may be benefited, more schools may be improved, and a livelier interest may be excited in the general promotion of education.
    [ ▲ ]

For reference:

Administrator. Johann A Schürmann ~ Correspondence :: 6 May 1844, in: Pirltawardli Research Website. Adelaide 2019.
(Created: 22.01.2015. Last updated: 25.01.2015.)
Direct URL: <>. Viewed 18.08.2019.