In consequence of the daily decreasing state of the school both in number and size, and the bad effects these evils entail on the power and importance of the fellows themselves I have thought it right to give a few reasons for this, which have fallen under my notice during my stay at Westminster. In order to warn the future possessors of this book, (as much as it is in my power) against the continuance of these abuses or the formation of fresh ones. The principal reason (as I conceive) of this much to be lamented decrease in the school are 1st the expense of education at Westr and the great cheapness of it at other small schools (district and others) and this too acting upon, the low state of the landed interests, which combined, either entirely prevent a certain class of individuals* from sending their sons to school at all, or else induce them to give the preference to cheaper establishments. To this may be also added the overstocked state of professions which oblige the above mentioned class of persons, to choose inferior situations for their sons, and which need comparatively little or no education, these reasons and the immense increase of schools of all kinds, and the multitude of private tutors throughout England, as well as the rapid march of puritanism in all classes (which induces those afflicted with its tenets to commit their sons to the charge of clergymen of their own opinions) will account of the decrease in numbers of the school. Now let us trace the effects of that paucity of numbers upon the school. 1st the decrease in physical force on the part of the fellows must necessarily diminish their authority and necessary successful resistance to infringements on the part of the masters. 2dly the scarcity of fellows gives the Ushers and Masters more time to examine individually into the proceedings of each boy * and thereby to have more hold of him than he otherwise would have. 3dly The great scarcity also prevents the so close union between the different bodies of the school (viz Home Boarders, King Scholars and Boarders) as is absolutely necessary in order to pressing ahead against the innovations of masters. For as there are fewer fellows, any broil between even two boys of different bodies maybe productive of an estrangement of the whole set, whereas in the fuller state of the school such petty disagreements would pass unnoticed. I will now conclude with urging the proverb so universally adopted at the French Revolution, and which maybe better applied to a conservative subject ‘Union is Force’. Let the school (small as it is) unite together in a common cause, to resist innovations, maintain the most trifling rules, and stand up for their own rights, and I do not yet despair of seeing better times dawn on Westminster which desirable object and “consummation so devoutly to be wished” will never be attained without these precautions and now should future readers lay to m charge any vanity in laying down this advice, let them attribute it to my ardent desire for the welfare of the school, and my dread of its entire ruin.
* I mean the better sort of tradesmen and others of a like stamp.
* Every person who has any regard for their sons, must think, that the more they are looked after, the better; That, therefore, which is here pointed out as a fault, is on the contrary, a very great advantage.
Added by B.G. Astley