Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sargant, William Lucas

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SARGANT, WILLIAM LUCAS (1809–1889), educational reformer and political economist, was born in 1809 at King's Norton, Worcestershire. His father was engaged in trade in Edmund Street and Whittall Street, Birmingham, as a maker of military arms and other equipments for the ‘African trade.’ Sargant was educated at the Hazlewood school, Edgbaston, which was conducted for many years by Thomas Wright Hill [q. v.], and subsequently by his sons (Sir) Rowland Hill [q. v.] and Matthew Davenport Hill [q. v.] He afterwards entered Trinity College, Cambridge, but left within two years to engage in his father's business. He took an active interest in local affairs in Birmingham, becoming a J.P. in 1849, serving on the town council, and as a governor of King Edward's School, Birmingham, where he ‘greatly aided in the reconstitution of the foundation on a more liberal basis of organisation and reconstruction.’ In all endeavours to improve elementary education he was especially prominent. In 1857 he associated himself with an educational prize scheme for aiding promising scholars at elementary schools, and in 1870 he helped to promote the National Association League, of which he became chairman. As a churchman he advocated religious teaching in elementary schools, and found himself bitterly opposed by an energetic minority of the members of the league; but he held his own in a long and severe struggle. In 1879 he retired from business, and he died at Birmingham on 2 Nov. 1889.

Sargant studied intelligently all political and economical questions, and brought to their examination the practical experience drawn from business. In his published writings those who agreed and those who disagreed with his views alike recognised his sagacity and fairness. His chief publications were: 1. ‘The Science of Social Opulence,’ 1856. 2. ‘Economy of the Labouring Classes,’ 1857. 3. ‘Social Innovators and their Schemes,’ 1858. 4. ‘Robert Owen and his Social Philosophy,’ 1860. 5. ‘Recent Political Economy,’ 1867. 6. ‘Apology for Sinking Funds,’ 1868. 7. ‘Essays by a Birmingham Manufacturer,’ 4 vols. 1869–72. 8. ‘Taxation Past, Present, and Future,’ 1874. 9. ‘Inductive Political Economy,’ vol. i. 1887. He made many contributions to the proceedings of the Statistical Society.

[Birmingham Post and Gazette; Works in Brit. Mus. Libr.; personal knowledge.]

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