The Salvation Army and the Working Class


Having now concluded our investigation into the working of Booth’s Social Scheme as exemplified by the City Colony and Elevator, we shall now pursue our enquiry further afield and see what has been done by the Army in connection with the “back-to-the-land” swindle.

The second stage in the General’s Pilgrim’s Progress for the workless was to consist of the “Farm Colony.” Our readers will remember that under the scheme as originally outlined in “Darkest England,” our old friend the wretched outcast, after being put through his paces in the City Elevator, was to be transferred to the Farm Colony. There he would be taken care of, taught how to work on the land, and be generally made a new man of. This training was intended to fit him for work in the Colonies, to which it was proposed in due course to transplant him.

At present the Army has only one Farm Colony in England—that at Hadleigh in Essex. It consists of 2,000 acres of land. (Mr. Haggard’s report on S.A. colonies, 1905.) General Booth’s idea was that this area would be capable of supporting from 6,000 to 9,000 people.

The total population of the colony, including the officials and their families, as well as paid hands, does not usually exceed 500. If we take half this number to represent “out of works,” we shall probable be near the mark.

As usual, with a monotony that becomes deadly the more we enquire, there is a vast difference between promise and performance.

Mr. F. A. McKenzie, in his book “Waste Humanity” tells us what is being done at Hadleigh.

“The land is cultivated on orthodox lines : a working Essex farmer superintends that side of it ; the disposal of the crops is managed very shrewdly and the whole thing is sensibly, soundly, and efficiently done.”
“Work such as this at Hadleigh is sometimes exposed to criticism from one quarter. We are told that the Salvation Army, in taking derelicts in this fashion, is helping to reduce the current wages in trade, and is using bad and inefficient labour to compete with and lower the position of the good. … If this objection were true it would be a very serious one. But the charge is wholly false. . . . Very few of the men who come to Hadleigh are worth even the value of their food during the first few weeks. . . . In the course of a few months, when they have been made valuable by the training given them, they are passed on automatically to outside work in the Colonies or at home.”

Without stopping to criticise at full length the latter part of this apology (this will be dealt with when speaking of emigration) let us, if we can, ask ourselves what the “shrewd” disposal of crops means. Surely they must be sold outside ?

Was it a little bird whispered it in our ear, or did some wandering echo borne on the health giving breeze from Southend-on-Sea tell of bitter complaints by tradesmen in that busy port—complaints that they were being under-sold by S.A. produce in their own vegetable market ? The charge is not wholly false. According to the evidence given by Colonel Lamb of the Hadleigh Colony (before the Special Committee on the Unemployed of the Charity Organisation Society 1903-4), it would appear that of all the persons on the colony, one in five is either a Salvation officer or a member of the permanent staff. Further, we are told on this same officer’s authority, that out of 700-900 persons passing through the Colony in a year, about 300-400, or some 50 per cent., leave within a month. Why do these hundreds leave so early ? In the following digest of facts is to be found part, at any rate, of the answer to this question. Men are sent to the Hadleigh Colony by the Boards of Guardians and also by those respon responsible for the Mansion House (unemployed) Fund.

In the War Cry (Nov. 19, 1904) we were told that: “We received under that Committee (the Mansion House Relief Fund) 400 married men and for their labour on the Colony these men were supplied with board and lodging and 15s. a week.”

To those unversed in the wiles of the S.A. it would appear from this statement that the Army paid the men 15s. a week and also gave them board and lodging. As a matter of fact the Army were paid 10s. 6d. per week (from the Mansion House fund) to cover the cost of each man’s keep, whilst the money paid to the men’s wives (11s. 3d. weekly, not 15s.) also came from the Fund.

What the Salvation Army paid the men in cash was 6d. a week. The men in this case were all picked, the great majority being labourers by trade. In fine, the Army took them in—were paid 10s. 6d. a week per head for doing so—made a handsome profit on their board and lodging, and appropriated the entire value of their labour, minus only the beggarly sum of 6d. a week. (“The cost of feeding the Colonists is now 5s. 3d. per week.” Com. of Enquiry on Dark. Eng. Scheme, ’92.)

And even if the Salvation Army do succeed in isolated cases in reinstating individual in the active labour market (as is possible), these individuals must necessarily push others out. As Mr. Manson. justly points out, “the employment permanently or quasi-permanently on the truck system of a certain number of men who ought no longer stand in need of the Army’s ministrations is rehabilitation of a nature undesirable in itself, and apt to be productive of economic effects tending to increase the evil which it was the purpose of the Social Scheme to cure.”


When, in the year 1890, General Booth brought forward his great scheme of emigration, it was promised that only such men and women should be sent out of the country as had been through the hands of the Salvation Army and rendered fit for the colonisation abroad.

The workers were to be “taught all that it was necessary for them to know about the new country,” etc. Having raised them from the depths and done all this for them, the scheme was to “pour them forth onto the virgin soils that await their coming in other lands.”

In reality the Army has set on foot and is now engaged in booming an immense emigration business, giving its advice, taking passage money, pocketing commission (from steams and railway companies) and doing exactly what other agencies find it to their interest to do. Of the many thousands who go out annually under the Army’s protecting wing, very few have ever been through, or come in contact with, any Army institution at all.

Of the emigrants to Canada by the “Kensington,” sailing on April 5th, 1906, Commissioner Cadman said : “In all the 1,300 there is not one prison case—there is not even a Farm Colony case.”

Let the unemployed worker, male or female, apply to the S.A. emigration bureau. Very quickly he or she will find that the sole thing required is the ability to pay one’s passage money. In one of the emigration pamphlets issued by the Army we are told that “there are neither free nor assisted passages.”

“It is simply criminal,” wrote Booth in 1890, “to take a multitude of untrained men and women, and land them penniless and helpless on the fringe of seme new continent.” (Darkest England, page 75.)

The Salvation Army earns commission from the steamer companies. Not only that, but it receives a grant of £1 per head from the Canadian Government for agriculturists. It does not, therefore, surprise us to learn that, according to the Toronto Globe (Dec. 18th, 1907) Mr. Oliver, Minister of the Interior, stated in the Canadian Parliament that the Government not only made the Army a grant to aid the work of distributing its emigrants, and assisted in paying the rental of its emigration offices in England, but it also took advertising space in the Salvation Army papers.”

The true inwardness of this will presently be made manifest.

[To be concluded.]


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