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For several years these lectures were continued ; they were also greatly extended, and were very well frequented. Dr. Birkbeck having left the institution, a disagreement arose between the mechanics and their friends, and the government of the institution; in consequence of which, the mechanics seceded. In the year 1821-2, the mechanics of Glasgow, and their friends, formed a school, called “The Glasgow Mechanics’ Institution.” In November 1823, there were 600 subscribers to this institution ;-and it continues in a most flourishing condition. Institutions of a similar kind have since been established at Aberdeen, Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool. There is a school of arts at Edinburgh for the instruction of mechanics, differing in some respects from those above mentioned.
In November 1823, a public meeting was held at the Crown-and-Anchor Tavern in London, for the purpose of establishing a London Mechanics’ InstiTUTION, at which upwards of two thousand persons were present, consisting principally of those for whose benefit the institution was intended. In December following, the officers of the institution were elected. Dr. Birkbeck was chosen president.
The object of the institution is stated to be the instruction of the members in the principles of the arts they practise, and in the various branches of useful science : the means by which that object was to be obtained were,
Ist. The voluntary association of Mechanics and others, and the payment of a small annual or quarterly sum each.
23. Donations of money, books, specimens, implements, models and apparatus.
3d. A library of reference, a circulating library, and reading room.
4th. A museum of machines, models, minerals, and natural history.
5th. Lectures on natural and experimental philosophy, practical mechanics, astronomy, chemistry, literature, and the arts.
6th. Elementary schools for teaching arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry, and the different applications, particularly to perspective, architecture, mensuration, and navigation.
7th. An experimental workshop and laboratory.
In February of the present year, the institution commenced its operations ;-an inaugural address was delivered by the president, and an introductory lecture, on the elementary principles of mechanics, by professor Millington, one of the vice-presidents of the institution.
There were at that time, about 1300 subscribers to this institution, and the number has since increased.
In his inaugural address, commenting upon the laws against the emigration of artisans, Dr. Birkbeck, who appears to be a man of truly liberal and philanthropic feelings, makes the following eloquent allusion to our western hemisphere.
“ Far, however, be it from me to advocate the retention within the circumference of our island, of the arts and sciences, which are our best possessions, and our brightest ornaments.
ornaments. Over the western world, now in the sublime career of independence, calling for their aid, I would have them liberally diffused: thus in part atoning for those wrongs which followed in the train of the genius and enterprise of Columbus.
“ Let European arts and European science, freely cross the western main, to enrich the gay savannahs and the vast mountain plains, in regions distinguished alike by their sublimity and inexhaustible fertility, until all that can be wafted by the winds, or that can be impelled by the all-conquering steam,
except European vices, and European warriors, may be found
" Where Andes, giant of the Western star,
These sentiments, I am sure, will be reciprocated by every friend of liberty, and of the arts, in every part of the world. How unlike is this spirit, to that which actuated the French Government, when an attempt was recently made in the city of Lyons, to form an institution similar to those I have mentioned: this distinguished member of the Holy ALLIANCE,' by its express command, put a stop to the project; not choosing that any institution, even of a scientific character, should be established within its domains, without its sanction, and its immediate control.*
In witnessing the progress of science and the arts abroad, and the noble institutions for their advancement, may we not derive useful hints for our improvement ? And may we not flatter ourselves, that we shall receive the countenance and encouragement of those who by their wealth, talents, and influence in society, have it in their power to render us essential service ? Every patriot, every friend to the arts, must wish us success in our laudable undertaking : he must be sensible that whatever contributes to the wealth, independence, and happiness of the nation, is of sufficient importance to engage
his serious attention.
Let us view, then, the advantage to be derived from encouraging intelligent and skilful artisans and mechanics. The following remarks from an able writerf are to the point. “The most powerful
* See Edinburgh Scotsman. The author is aware that France has produced many men of science, and that the government of that nation has, (particularly during the reign of Bonaparte,) extended a liberal patronage to the arts: but the rigid system of its police, and its severe censorship of the press, bave deprived the citizens of that fertile country of many of the privileges common to those of Great Britain and the United States.
cause of the success of a manufacture is doubtless to be found in the good quality of the articles, and the economy of their fabrication: but the most intelligent man will feel the germs of his industry languish under his hands, if other protecting causes do not facilitate their expansion. If the consumer were to order none but perfect commodities, the workman would soon turn no other out of his hands. If on the contrary the consumer cannot distinguish a faulty from a faultless production, the artist having no interest to study perfection, will, all his life, be satisfied with turning out crude performances. The consumer, therefore, forms the artist by the purity of his taste, and the correctness of his choice but institutions form the consumer,—and not till a good education, the study of the arts, and the sight of good models have prepared a generation, can we hope to find enlightened consumers.”
If instead of decrying every thing domestic, and praising every thing“ far-fetched and dear-bought,” our fastidious consumers, would profit by the hint of the enlightened Chaptal, and be sedulous to improve their own tastes, and that of the manufacturer, they would soon see the good effects resulting from such a course, in the superiority of American productions.
The foregoing remarks are intended to apply to manufactures; and the correctness of them, as regards a manufacturing nation, will be readily perceived.
But they may with equal propriety be applied to any art. The art of building for instance. Were those who build, to employ none but able and experienced architects and skilful mechanics, we should not have to regret so frequently, as we now do, the instances of bad taste and defective execution, in many of our public and private edifices.
The science of Architecture, although sometimes reckoned as one of the fine arts, and in its higher
and decorative branches, it may perhaps be considered as one of them, is so intimately connected with the useful arts, and employs in the executive department so large a portion of operative mechanics, that I deem it not improper in this connexion, to enlarge upon it.
This science, in our own country, is yet in its infancy; I mean, so far as taste in design is concerned. It has not yet arrived at that degree of perfection to which it has attained in the older nations of Europe.
Having as yet no regular schools of art, our architects, on whom much depends, have with few exceptions never received a professional education : they have not acquired that thorough knowledge of the exact sciences, and that cultivated taste which is thought necessary to qualify a man for an architect in Europe. They have been mostly those who, in early life, were devoted to a mechanical profession. Their youth, the season for intellectual improvement, has been spent in manual labour; and for the want of scientific institutions in our country, and books of instruction, they have never been able in after life to obtain that accurate knowledge of the principles of design and construction, so necessary to be acquired by those who are employed to furnish plans for, and to superintend the erection of important public edifices.
How often do we in travelling our country, witness, instead of that beauty which is caused in part by fitness,* a strange mixture of styles ;—a profuseness of ornament, without meaning or application :mere cuttings of the chisel and the gouge.
The authors of some of the uncouth designs which our country presents, remind one of the painter mentioned by Pope,t