The Salvation Army and the Working Class III


The indirect features of the scheme must not be such as to produce injury to the persons whom we seek to benefit.
While assisting one class of the community, it must not seriously interfere with the interests of another. In raising one section of the fallen, we must not thereby endanger the safety of those who with difficulty are keeping on their feet. . . . It is no use conferring six pennyworth of benefit on a man if, at the same time, we do him a shillings worth of harm.
—”In Darkest England,” page 81.

The Book that Made a Stir
General Booth, when launching onto a sea of controversy his now celebrated book : “In Darkest England and the Way Out,” told his readers that, from calculations he had made himself and from the figures supplied by various authorities on the subject, in these islands fully one-tenth of the population was hopelessly submerged. Hopelessly that is, so far as all previous efforts on their behalf were concerned. This section of the people he nicknamed with his cant phrase “the submerged tenth.”

The purpose of his book was to arouse the public interest in these “lost ones,” and to obtain financial support for the starting of his “social scheme.”

We were shown at great length how hopelessly inadequate to cope with the evils of want and destitution had been the efforts of well-meaning reformers who worked in connection with various “charitable” agencies.

“It is no use trying to bale out the ocean with a pint pot,” said he (“In Darkess England,” page 253). What was wanted, we were told, was an all-embracing plan. “This scheme changes the circumstances of those whose poverty is caused by their misfortune. To begin with it finds work for the unemployed. This is the chief need.”

The Legion of the Lost
The way in which our octogenarian professor of philanthropy proposed to go to work may best be set forth in his own words :

“The Social Problem presents itself before us whenever a hungry, dirty and ragged man stands at our door asking if we can give him a crust or a job. That is the social question, what are you to do with that man? He has no money in his pocket, all that he can pawn he has pawned long ago, his stomach is as empty as his purse, and the whole of the clothes upon his back, even if sold on the best terms, would not fetch a shilling. . . He asks for work, which he will set to even on his empty stomach and in his ragged uniform, if so be that you will give him something for it, but his hands are idle, for no one employs him. What are you to do with that man ? . . . To deal with this man is the problem of the unemployed. To deal with him effectively you must deal with him immediately, you must provide him in some way or other with food, and shelter, and warmth. Next you must find him something to do, something that will test the reality of his desire to work. This test must be more or less temporary, and should be of such a nature as to prepare him for making a permanent livelihood. Then, having trained him, you must provide him wherewithal to start life afresh. All these things I propose to do. My Scheme divides itself into three sections, each of which is indispensable for the success of the whole. In this three-fold organisation lies the open secret of the solution of the Social Problem.
The Scheme I have to offer consists in the formation of these people into self-helping and self-sustaining communities, each being a kind of cooperative society, or patriarchal family, etc.
These communities we will call, for want of a better term, Colonies.
There will be
(1) The City Colony,
(2) The Farm Colony,
(3) The Over-Sea Colony.”

(Before proceeding to our dissection of results we have troubled to quote Booth at some length, in order that those of our readers to whom ”Darkest England” is inaccessible may gain a clear and definite idea as to what his main object was when he set out to conquer “the powers of evil” and bring about “a new heaven and a new earth.”)

The “City” Colony
By the phrase “City Colony” was meant a number of institutions which were to act as “Harbours of Refuge.” Into these havens were to be gathered all who had been “ship-wrecked.” Food and shelter were to be provided in return for work. Employment found for him, the mariner wrecked on life’s stormy sea was to be rescued and “reformed.” He was then to be restored to the joyful bosom of his happy family, or (in case the wild happy family were not having any) he was to be passed on to the Colony of the second class.

The second stage in this new Pilgrim’s Progress was intended to work out as follows :

Farms for the Famished
The Salvation Army would buy land near some great city (the neighbourhood of London being chosen for the first experiment). Buildings would be erected and a farm stocked. The “wretched outcast” having passed through the refining fires of the city shelter and workshop, was then to be dumped down into a real live farm—there to be taught the whole art of husbandry.

In fine a regular “Garden City” would arise wherein our friend the W.O. would work out his economic and moral salvation.

Just here we may note a significant remark of the General’s when discussing the prospects of this portion of his scheme. (“In Darkest England,” page 249.)

“As the scheme progresses, it is not irrational to expect that Government, or some of the varied Local authorities will assist in the working out of a plan which, in so marked a manner, will relieve the rates and taxes of the country”.

(The last passage was not originally italicised.) In our examination of the actual, every-day working of this famous scheme, we shall have occasion to again refer to this pious hope that the “authorities” would patronise the concern. He then goes on to say: “From the Farm, as from the City . . . large numbers would be restored to friends up and down the country. Some would find employment in their own callings” (thereby pushing others out and lowering the rate of wages), “others would settle in cottages on a small piece of land that we should provide, or on Co-operative Farms which we intend to promote ; while the great bulk, after trial and training, would be passed on to the Foreign Settlement, which would constitute our third class, viz., the Over Sea Colony.”

As the last-named section of the Scheme has up to the present failed to materialise, we shall not let it worry us.

The Return of the “Golden Age”
The Scheme, in its entirety, was, in the General’s own words :

“To draw up these poor outcasts, reforming them, and creating in them habits of industry, honesty, and truth . . . forwarding from the City to the Country, and there continuing the process of regeneration, and then pouring them forth on to the virgin soils that await their coming in other lands. . Why not ?”

And Echo—after twenty years of scheming and planning, with money poured out like water ; after twenty years of “food and shelter depots,” Elevators, City and Farm Colonies, et hoc genus omne ; after twenty years of bluff and brag in the capitalist Press, self-denial weeks and special collections—shouts across this awful waste of time, “WHY NOT?”

The Answer
The answer must be because the whole “Darkest England” Scheme from top to bottom has proved a gigantic fraud and failure. In our detailed examination of the actual working of the Scheme, reviewing the various divisions in their due order as set forth by Booth in his Vade-mecum, much damning evidence in support of our statement will come to light.

At the base of the “Social Scheme” were to be the food and shelter depots of the City Colony.

It was proposed to establish in connection with every Food and Shelter depot a workshop or labour-yard (ominous term) in which any person who came destitute and starving would be supplied with sufficient work to enable him to earn the 4d. needed for his bed and board.

The Salvation Army’s official figures for 1908 tell us that nearly six million meals were supplied at cheap food depots, and over two million cheap lodgings for the homeless were provided.

Specious and Misleading Advertisements
Judging from the advertisements which appear under the “Army’s” aegis daily in the papers—of which the subjoined taken from the Westminster Gazette is a fair sample—anyone not in the know would naturally imagine that the 6,000 poor referred to had only to present themselves in all their abject misery at a Shelter, and lo and behold—they would be welcomed with open arms.

are found on every hand among the Poor and Outcast by the Officers of the SALVATION ARMY who live among them, and are qualified to help them in the most economical and able manner. PRAY SEND HELP for so needy a work. £150,000 annually needed for the Army’s Central Funds alone. Over 6,000 Poor sleep in the Homes nightly. 170 Branches of Social and Relief work; are in operation.
Please address cheques (crossed “Bank of England, Law Courts Branch”) to GENERAL BOOTH, 101, Queen Victoria-street, London. Balance-sheets forwarded.”

In reality nothing of the kind takes place. “I was a stranger and ye took me in.” Yes, but there’s an if. The tune they play at the door is “The Absent Minded Beggar” with its haunting refrain of “Pay ! Pay ! Pay !” There is no work test applied at these “poor men’s hostels,” and the “crowd of hungry, desperate wretches, without even a penny in their pouch, demanding food and shelter”—over whose woes twenty long years ago William the saintly waxed so tearfully eloquent—unless they can furnish the needful coin of the realm, are met with that sternest of all arguments on a winter’s night, a closed door !

(To be continued)


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