More on William Fox Part 3

The wholesale trade in which Mr Fox had engaged made it necessary for him to take frequent journeys through the several counties or shires of England, which afforded him frequent opportunities of witnessing the deplorable ignorance of the poorer classes. He often found hamlets and even villages where the poor were entirely without the Bible—and what made this destitution still worse, he discovered that when they were presented with a copy, not one in twenty could read it. This deplorable state of things gave him food for much serious reflection, and caused him to spend much time in devising means to remedy the evil. The friends with whom he consulted gave him little encouragement, because they thought nothing short of legislation by Parliament could effect anything worth the trouble—there being no system of free schools in England. So Mr. Fox felt, and accordingly applied both personally and by letter to many of its leading members in both houses—but was compelled soon to relinquish all hope of getting assistance for such an object from the government.
It was about this time (1783 or ’4) that Mr Fox purchased the manor of Clapton in his native village; thus accomplishing what he had resolved to do at 10 years of age, while fighting the birds from his brother's corn. This gave him an opportunity to commence his benevolent efforts in favor of education in his native place. His first step towards this object was to clothe comfortably all the poor people in the village—men, women and children. He next set up a week-day school for the free instruction of all who were willing to attend it. In this school the reading was confined to the Bible, and as there was no chapel in the village the children and all those who partook of his bounty, were directed to attend service on the Sabbath at the parish—(Episcopal)—church. Mr Fox had long been desirous, and had made known his wishes several years before to some of his friends, “that every poor person in the kingdom might be able to read the Bible,” and in the most pressing manner recommended the establishment of a Society equal to the carrying out of such an object. The magnitude of the undertaking seemed too great, and there was no one willing to take the lead—consequently Mr Fox himself undertook the work, and at the Baptist Monthly Meeting held at the King's Head tavern in the Poultry, in May, 1785, introduced the subject, and submitted to their consideration the question whether there might not be some plan adopted by which all the children of the poor might receive a scriptural education by being taught to read the Bible. *
The Chairman on this occasion was Henry Kane, Esq, of Walworth; he was a deacon in the Baptist church at Mazepond, of which the Rev James Dove was pastor. Mr Fox introduced his subject by the following address— ....
Thus we have in the above address of Mr Fox, the commencement of that discussion which led to the formation of the first Sunday School Society, although the idea of Sunday Schools had not at that time entered his mind. Every one must be astonished at the thought of doing by voluntary contributions that which not more than half of our States have been able to do by land appropriations and taxation. We have reason, however, to believe that Mr Fox's plan was not deemed chimerical by those present from the fact, that measures were immediately taken to raise a committee –and it was agreed that a meeting should be called to take the matter into serious consideration. A subscription was commenced at once for carrying it into effect. The Chairman of that meeting, Mr Henry Kane, said to Mr Fox, “I presume, sir, you intend to con. fine the plan to our own denomination, for then we shall go on in harmony.” Mr Fox replied—“Sir, the work is great, and I shall not be satisfied until every person in the world be able to read the Bible—and therefore we must call on all the world to help us.” The proposed public meeting was fixed for August 16th, at the same place, the King's Head Tavern in the Poultry. ...

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