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Parliamentary reports are generally very voluminous; they are the result of evidence given before committees appointed to inquire into some specific subject. Witnesses are summoned before the committee; their answers to questions put by the members (called minutes of evidence) are taken down; and the report embodies the opinions formed by the committee on the evidence adduced before them. On the occasion of the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the Education of the lower Orders of the Metropolis, which took place in 1816, as many as fifty-two witnesses were examined. The inquiry began on the 22nd of May, and ended on the 19th of June, 1816; and the following report on the subject was issued :
“ Your committee have examined a great body of evidence, which has been reported and ordered to be printed, respecting the state of education among the lower orders in the metropolis ; and they have found reason to conclude, that a very large number of poor children are wholly without the means of instruction, although their parents appear to be generally very desirous of obtaining that advantage for them.
“ Your committee have also observed, with much satisfaction, the highly beneficial effects produced upon all those parts of the population which, assisted in whole or in part by various charitable institutions, have enjoyed the benefits of education.
“Your committee have not had time this session fully to report their opinion upon the different branches of their inquiry ; but they feel persuaded that the greatest advantages would result to this country from Parliament taking proper measures, in concurrence with the prevailing disposition in the community, for supplying the deficiency of the means of instruction which exists at present, and for extending this blessing to the poor of all descriptions.
“Although your committee have not been instructed to examine the state of education beyond the metropolis, they have, in addition to what has appeared in evidence, received communications which show the necessity of Parliament as speedily as possible insti. tuting an inquiry into the management of charitable donations and other funds for the instruction of the poor of this country, and into the state of their education generally. And your committee are of opinion that the most effectual, as well as least expensive mode of conducting such an inquiry would be by means of a parliamentary commission.
“ 20th June, 1816.”
The following list of subjects will furnish the student with exercises in this form of writing. It may perhaps be supposed that such exercises are far too difficult for a learner, and that they require much more extensive information than he can have possibly acquired. But it is not necessary that such writings be descriptive of actual facts; the subjects are only intended as suggestive, and the reports themselves may be wholly fictitious. The object here is merely to give himn practice in a form of composition which he may probably require in after life.
Subjects for Reports. 1. Report on the health of a regiment quartered in a
certain locality. 2. Report on the amount—and species — of crime in
a certain county. 3. On the condition of an agricultural district. 4. On the morals of a manufacturing town. 5. On the sanitary condition of a certain quarter of
a city. 6. On the habits of the population of a sea-port. 7. On the buildings of the poor. 8. On the literature of the day. 9. On the commercial resources of an island. 10. On the produce of a mining district. 11. On the education of the poor in a certain town. 12. On the prevalent diseases in certain localities. 13. On juvenile delinquency. 14. On the condition of an hospital. 15. Report on a grammar school. 16. On the moral and religious condition of the
English soldier. 17. On the condition and prospects of a society (or
company). 18. On the increase or decrease) of pauperism in a
certain parish. 19. On the examination of a class of students in
history. 20. On the condition of a prison.'
EXAMINATION QUESTIONS ON PART II.
1. What is a definition ? 2. Whence is the word “ definition” derived ? 3. Of how many parts does a definition consist ? 4. Give the names of these parts, and explain their meaning. 5. What errors are we likely to fall into, in defining terms ? 6. How does a description differ from a definition ? 7. How should we proceed in describing ? 8. To what cases may description be applied ? 9. What is a narrative, and how does it differ from a descrip
tion ? 10. To what cases may narrative be applicable ? 11. What general principles should be observed in narrative ? 12. What style should be adopted in writing a letter ? 13. What general rules apply to this form of writing ? 14. What general qualities of style are required in a despatch or
FORMS OF ARGUMENT.
COMPOSITION, properly so called, does not consist merely of a string of assertions or remarks. In every well-written piece, the propositions and general assertions must be explained, illustrated, or supported. It is necessary, in order to show that our opinions are correct, that they be proved by arguments. There are, indeed, some propositions so obviously true, that they require no proof, — they are admitted at once: and as every one allows them to be true, they cannot be made subjects of argument. For instance, no one would seriously think of employing his reasoning powers in proving the truth that “two and two make four," or that “two straight lines cannot enclose a space,” &c. But there are many other conclusions of a different nature, and which, though true, may require explanation or illustration, and this explanation, in all forms of composition, is expected of the writer.
The means by which opinions are proved are called “arguments,” and these are derived from various sources; that is, we may prove the truth of an asser