Thursday, November 1, 2012

John Douglas's schooling

This blog posts discusses the education John Douglas received in Great Britian prior to emigrating to Australia.

Edinburgh Academy
Douglas attended the Edinburgh Academy, a school founded to stimulate classical learning in Edinburgh.[1]  Here, taught by a Mr Cummings,[2] Douglas received a classical education that, in the sixth class, when aged 15, consisted of Greek, Latin, Ancient Geography, English, Greek Testament, Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra and French.[3]  This classical education broadened Douglas’s horizons and enriched his adult life, for he frequently impressed his critics with his worldly knowledge and grasp of complex and often abstract issues.
In 1843, Douglas was awarded a school prize for “Best Reciter,” but otherwise did not appear to have distinguished himself academically.[4]  These reciting skills were to stand him in good stead throughout his public life; he was once described as a man who “is rich in ideas, and eloquent to express them.”[5] Nonetheless, his presentation could leave something to be desired, with a contemporary deriding Douglas as possessing “rounded periods and sonorous voice” giving “the impression that he was always pronouncing the benediction.”[6]
Towards the end of his life when reminiscing of his time at the Academy, Douglas recalled that he:
had a great liking for history, and consequently for one of the teachers, a Mr. Cummings, who would at times read history to the class.  He was also induced by one of the teachers to go out for walks and recite poetry on the way, to shout out to the hills of Cumberland.[7]
Douglas possessed a fascination for history and geography that he retained throughout his life.  As a parliamentarian, he frequently inserted into debate relevant examples from the experiences of other countries and cultures.  He had a wide-ranging knowledge of geography and exploration and took every opportunity to satisfy his interest in this area through his own travels and research.
Rugby School
In August 1843, Douglas travelled by coach to attend Rugby School, in Warwickshire.[8]  Rugby, an established and distinguished public school, was “an endowed place of education, of old standing, to which the sons of gentlemen resort in considerable numbers.”[9]  The public boarding school system had for centuries prepared boys for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge but by the early nineteenth century the system was in disarray, with misapplied endowments, inefficient organisation, loose and uneasy discipline, indefensible customs, bullying, and an environment where boys, rather than masters, set the tone of the school.[10]  The system was in urgent need of reform, so that its essential characteristics could be retained and many of its abuses overcome.[11] Rugby was revitalised and reformed under the headmastership of Thomas Arnold from 1828 to 1842, when he remade it into a school for ‘gentlemen.’[12]  The effect of Arnold’s educational reforms on Rugby and therefore on the young Douglas’s life were profound, conferring lifelong benefits.
Arnold believed in using the study of classics as an introduction to the study of living problems.  He was a liberal by temperament, and developed methods of teaching to stimulate interest and free inquiry.[13]  He achieved this by elevating a liberal education from a:
totally meaningless ritual for young aristocrats into the subject-matter of competitive advancement ... for middle-class boys ... to act as bell-weathers guiding other boys from the commercial middle class into a sanitised version of the territorial aristocracy.[14]
Arnold used the prefectorial system to raise the discipline and moral tone of the school, and made its chapel a centre of school life.[15]
Above all, as an Anglican priest with a doctorate in Divinity, Arnold stressed the moral aspects of life.[16]  His aim was to make his school a “place of really Christian education.”  What he wanted was “first, religious and moral principle; secondly, gentlemanly conduct: thirdly, intellectual ability.”[17]  As Squire Brown remarked, when he sent his son Tom Brown to Rugby School; “What is he sent to school for?  ...  If he’ll only turn out a brave, helpful, truth-telling Englishman, and a Christian, that’s all I want.”[18]  As will be shown throughout this thesis, this sentiment encapsulated the life John Douglas lived in Australia.  The English public school system also strove to inculcate in its pupils the “ideal of responsible service,”[19] and Douglas’s adult life certainly reflected this.
Durham University
Douglas should have proceeded to Oxford University after leaving Rugby in 1846.[20]  However, as the Oxford Movement,[21] which sought to bring about a return of the Church of England to the High-Church ideals of the later seventeenth century, was active there, his family sent him instead to an “uncontaminated” establishment, Durham University.[22]
Durham University was established in 1832 under the auspices of the Bishop of Durham in the Anglican Church’s hope that if Oxford should “fail in its maintenance of the faith, Durham would still bear witness to the divine truth of the Catholic tradition.”[23]  The following year Durham became the first English university in the nineteenth century to institute a specific course in theology, one designed to improve the standard of theological attainment of ordination candidates.[24] 
On 24 October 1846 Douglas was admitted to Durham University.[25]  He enrolled in the degree of Bachelor of Arts and entered Hadfield College, a residential college within the university.[26]  Here he studied Latin, Greek, Euclid, Theology, Divinity and Ancient History, and played cricket.[27]  In the mid nineteenth century a university education was something only the aristocracy and a few privileged others could aspire to.  As in all university degrees of the era, theology and study of the classics were prominent.  Religious studies provided the young Douglas with an historical and theoretical underpinning to his devoutly religious observance, while his classical education instilled the thoughts and ideals of the eminent philosophers and statesmen of the ancient world.  These influences were to reveal themselves throughout his life in his many published speeches and writings.  Likewise, Douglas’s mastery of Latin and Greek facilitated the clarity and directness of his thoughts and utterances, furthering his consummate command of the English language.

[1] Mason, p. 3; The Edinburgh Academy:  A Brief History.  Internet file (, p. 1
[2] W. T. W. Morgan.  “John Douglas:  An early Durham Graduate in Australia.”  Durham University Journal, vol 81 no 1, December 1988, p. 15
[3] Annual Report by the Directors of the Edinburgh Academy to the Proprietors at their General Meeting.  Edinburgh, The Academy, 1843, pp. 14-15 (Copy held at The Academy.)
[4] Ibid., p. 34; Torres Strait Pilot and New Guinea Gazette 12 September 1903.  Douglass prize on this occasion was “a book of Campbell’s poems.”
[5] Brisbane Courier, 3 September 1869, p. 2
[6] Bernays, pp. 198 & 201
[7] Torres Strait Pilot and New Guinea Gazette 12 September 1903
[8] W. Morgan, p. 15; Letter to Eve Douglas from Rugby School, 22 July 1961.  Douglas Papers, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OM 89-3/D; “Commonwealth and New Year Celebrations.”  Torres Straits Pilot and New Guinea Gazette, 5 January 1901, p. 2.  Douglas was a boarder at School House and graduated in 1846.
[9] Michael McCrum.  Thomas Arnold Headmaster:  A Reassessment.  Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1989, p. 14.  Rugby school was founded in 1567.
[10] Briggs, pp. 148-49
[11] Ibid., p. 150
[12] Rugby School.  Internet file (, p. 1; Thomas Arnold.  Internet file (, pp. 1-2; “Arnold, Thomas.”  Encyclopaedia Britannica.  15th ed.  Chicago, 1993, vol 1, p. 581
[13]E. L. Woodward.  The Age of Reform.  Oxford, Oxford University Press. 1949, pp. 466-67
[14] Christopher Harvie.  Revolution and the Rule of Law (1789-1851) in, Kenneth O’Morgan, ed.  The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain.  Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1984, p. 448
[15]Woodward, p. 467
[16] Lytton Strachey.  Eminent Victorians.  London, Collins, 1918, p. 174
[17] Ibid., p. 178
[18] Ibid. pp. 178-79.  Tom Browns Schooldays was a novel by Thomas Hughes, first published in 1857 and based on his experiences as a student at Rugby during the Arnold era.  Douglas himself said that his experiences at Rugby were similar to those recorded in Tom Brown’s Schooldays.  (“The Quetta Club.”  Torres Straits Pilot and New Guinea Gazette, 12 September 1903)
[19] Briggs, p. 153
[20] Nothing is known of Douglas’s academic achievements at Rugby, as the records have not survived.
[21] Robert Douglas, p. 3; Jones (1904), p. 25.  Indeed, Caroline Douglas, the wife of Archibald William Douglas, the 8th Marquis of Queensberry and John Douglas’s first cousin, had converted to Catholicism.
[22] Durham University was established because: “The great and increasing population of the north of England, and its remoteness from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, long pointed out the expediency of establishing in that part of the kingdom an institution which should secure to its inhabitants the advantages of a sound yet not expensive academical education.”  (C. E. Whiting.  The University of Durham 1832-1932.  London, the Sheldon Press, 1932, p. 32)
[23] Whiting, pp. 31-32
[24] Ibid., p. 259. This was the Licence in Theology.
[25] Robert Douglas, p. 3; W. Morgan, p. 15
[26] Mason, p. 10
[27] Ibid., p. 11