The Salvation Army and the Working Class

(continued from September issue.)


Look on This Picture !
The Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk Railway Companies have agents all over the British Isles. In Winter these agents give free lantern lectures at the companies’ expense. In Spring and early Summer they advertise extensively “Men Wanted,” “Immediate Employment,” etc., the chief object on this side being, of course, the intending emigrant’s passage money. Which of us has not seen those bewitching pictures of “the Golden North-West,” which in all the colours of the rainbow setting forth the glowsand glories of the Western world, adorn the windows of Canadian emigration offices—Salvation and otherwise ? Which of us when down-at-heel and pinched by want has not flattened his nose against the good plate glass, and gazed in wonder at those bronzed and bearded sons of toil garnering the golden sheaves which stretch, to the very horizon ? And those lovely women and lovelier ruddy-cheeked children picking monstrous apples or wading breast-high through, acres of flowers !

And on This !

Then the cunning limning of the emigrant’s future home—the hearty life of freedom (!) out of doors—-the enormous demand for labour in all its branches the high wages you can earn once you get there ! But never a word about the purchasing power of those wages ; never a word about the terrible loneliness, which must be felt to be appreciated ; never a word of the long, pitiless winter, when practically ali farm work is at a stand-still and the mercury in the thermometer drops to a point undreamt of in these climes !

In good scoth our mouths have watered at the glorious prospect held out to us—despite the kindly warning that we “must be prepared to work hard.” Oh ! we don’t mind that—we have worked hard all our lives, ard would now if we could get a job out there.

The patient working-man—the one who occasionally thinks a little—is beginning to ask himself seme very pertinent questions, e.g.. Why this feverish activiiy, this indecent haste on the part of these on the other side to procure newcomers for “out Empire beyond the seas” ?

Will You Walk into My Parlour ?
On the Canadian side ihe object aimed at is, of course, cheap farm labour. Most of the Canadian provincial governments (Ontario particularly) have mapped out their provinces into districts, and for each district a “Government employment agent” is engaged. The farmers apply to this agent for men (inexperienced men are mostly wanted). The employment agent communicates with the English side, giving a glowing account of the prospects for emigrants. This employment agent receives from the Government $2 per emigrant placed.

The emigrant on arrival finds that the story of “immediate employment” is quite true, but having spent his little all on the passage out, also finds himself entirely at the mercy of the gentle farmer as to terms. This question of wages is cunningly evaded on this side, or else—as in the case of the Salvation Army—the intending emigrant is told “Oh, take the first work that offers, preferably on the land, after that you will no doubt find a job in or near a town at your own trade.”

Most of the farmers only require one or two experienced hands to tend their machinery, the remainder of the drudgery being piled on to the raw emigrant for little more than his board. Even this latter is often of the worst description. “Good Church members” (to which category practically all small employers in Canada belong) are ready to give “immediate employment,” and then impose upon the unsuspecting immigrant who has been only too ready to swallow the bait dangled before him on this side of the herring pond. In some cases board and shelter only are given ; in others half the usual wages are offered. Moreover, the God-fearing and patriotic speculating builders in and around Toronto and other towns aie ever ready to take advantage of the newcomers’ ignorance and helplessness by hiring them at half or two-thirds the customary time rates and piece-work prices. The following extracts from the “Second Report of W. R. Trotter, British representative of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada” (dated Sept. 1909) give one “furiously to think.”

Lessons in Law-Dodging
“The issue of the ‘Programme for 1909’ during January, marked the beginning of this year’s Salvation Army emigration effort. Very little that was new appeared in it except except the statement as to how the Government restrictions might be evaded in regard to the possession of a certain amount of money by emigrants. We quote the paragraphs as they appeared :

‘Through our Labour Bureau passengers can secure employment, and are thus enabled to comply with the Government requirements—without being possessed of the £5 referred to. No evasion of the law. No risk of being denied admission to the Great Dominion.
‘It is of course obvious that any suitable person who has not in his possession the extra £5 now ordinarily required from the passengers landing can easily comply with the Government requirements by securing a situation through our Labour bureaux. The emigrant thus benefits by the Army’s unique organisation. It is a simple statement of fact and a clear presentment of undoubted advantage to emigrants.’

“Kipling is again quoted as a Canadian authority, and they actually print in large type his extravagant gush : ‘Canada wants five millions of Britain’s overflowing population,’ and ‘We must pump in the emigrants faster than ever.’ Whether or not the inveterate little jingo poet was anxious to make amends for his previous reference to Canada as ‘Our Lady of the Snows’ we cannot say, but the Salvation Army is quite willing to man those ‘pumps’—for a consideration.

“Quoting again from the ‘Programme’ we read :

‘THE POSITION IN THE EARLY DAYS OF 1909 . . we are glad to note early evidences of a considerable demand for workers—our Canadian office estimating that they can place 8,000 workers. . . To meet this demand we have decided to arrange (D.V.) as follows.’

“(Then follows a list of sailings.) We cannot help pondering over the deo volente (D.V.)

A Damning Admission
“Under the head of ‘Organised Emigration’ we also read :

‘IT IS NOT—a great or elaborate Colonising Scheme, but just a simple plan for helping and encouraging the right classes by arranging a safe outlet for them through the ordinary channels of the kbour market.
‘IT IS NOT—much use anyone going to Canada unless he or she goes in a cheerful spirit, and with a determination to take the first work that offers.’

“This injunction to thousands of emigrants inevitably means the reduction of the standard of living all round. We have yet to hear of the employer who will “offer” an advance on existing prices to the newcomer.”

“In Nov. 1908 General Booth said ‘Five hundred of our emigrants went to British Columbia to be followed by another 500. This is the kind of thing those on the spot say to us : ‘We have 60 of your party in our valley, and they have proved a perfect God-send to us. Do send us some more.’ These people were next door to starvation in England. They are now earning good wages, and have repaid the cost of their transmission to these parts.”

Now turn to the other side of the story, as shown by two extracts from letters written by Mr. John T. Reid to the Glasgow News (30th Dec., 1908) and the Aberdeen Free Press (March. 6th, 1909). (These letters were sent to the Scottish papers in favour of the British Columbia land;, for fruit farming.)

In the former he says :

“As to getting work, while there was lots of work up fill the beginning of this year, the Salvation Army people brought in a large number of immigrants into this valley last Spring and the result is there is not much work to be had, while I think it is likely they will bring in more immigrants next year. Of course if you like to chance it, possibly you might get a job in the month of March or April, but you might have to wait a month or two to get it.”

From the second letter we quote as follows :

“However, labour demand at present is not great with us, as about 200 emigrants went in last year, and a man should have ten to twenty pounds in his pocket in case he does not get work at once.”

Do They?
It has been claimed on behalf of the Salvation Army in Canada that it refuses to supply men for strike-breaking purposes. During the strike of dock labourers in April 1909, the Salvation Army labour bureau was used in favour of the employing companies. In this connection we are able to reproduce the actual order secured from a labourer acting as strike-breaker on that occasion.


S.A. Free Labour Bureau, 332 Gore Avenue, ‘Phone 259. Vancouver, B.C.
Man sent: Gillion.
Where sent: Union S.S. Co., Union Wharf.
Date: April 2nd. Time:
Nature of work:
N.B. We do not hold ourselves in any way responsible for this man.


What more damning evidence could be adduced that the Army in its self-constituted role of mentor to the working class is really all the while acting on behalf of capital ?

The Army boldly state that during the worst winters in Canada they have “situations” for those who will work. The following letters, culled at random from many we have read, speak for themselves : yet to refuse such an “openin ” is to be dubbed a “won’t work.”

Scurvy Treatment
“Wilton Avenue, Toronto. 10.3.’08.
“Sir,—I am .one of the Salv. Army party. I sailed from Liverpool on the 28th March 1907. I came straight through to Toronto, and went to the headquarters of the Salvation Army in Albert St., and they gave me a job on a farm, where I stopped for 6 weeks. I came to Toronto again, and got a job on my own account in Yonge St. I stopped six months with my last firm, and got a good reference. I went to the S.A. headquarters, and asked them if they would give me work, and they told me the only thing they could do was to send me on a farm.
“I had to pay my own fare $3 (12/- English money). I asked them did I receive any wages or what wage. They told me they did not know and I ought only to be too glad to work for my board. I have been out of work since 2nd Nov. 1907. I might mention that I am a strict teetotaller……-Yours, Charles S——.”


“Toronto, Ont., March 8, 1907.
“Sir,—-I am sorry to inform you that I came to Canada under the auspices of the S.A., and brought my wife and family and have had no work since October. I am sick and weary of trying. I have written to the S.A. officials for them to find me work, and they reply that they are unable to find me anything but farm work, have had the bailiffs put in on me and turned into the street two weeks ago. I came out on the ‘Southwark’ last March and am sorry I ever heard of Canada.—Yours, G. H——.”


The Salvation Army point of view is thus interpreted by the British Columbia Trade Unionist (a Vancouver paper) in the following extract:

“Report of a Speech made by Wm. Booth at Plymouth last Winter.

“I hear a melancholy account of a number of people who have been sent to Canada, and who are settled in Toronto, and who at the present hour do not know which way to turn—too proud to accept soup or to beg. I know nothing at all about that. I am not responsible for the emigration efforts of other people. I should break my heart if I thought that the party I blessed at Eiuston Station were not going to better themselves.’

The Blind Prophet
“The fact of thousands out of employment does not affect the old man so long as his particular proteges of the moment are able to get a footing at any price, and regardless of whether the unemployed may be increased to make room for them. This doctrine is also maintained in another speech made at Manchester.” (Here follows a verbatim report of the usual tosh about taking the outcast in hand and “helping” him.)
“‘But if we find him a place there comes some workers’ organisation buzzing about our ears. You are pushing one of our men out ! What could the Salvation Army do ? With the ladder of labour-under-reasonable-conditions full from top to bottom, why not take away folk from some of the lower rungs and put them where they can do still better when by taking them room can be made for those who otherwise would get no footing at all upon the ladder. . . . One cannot improve the future without interfering with the present, and I shall continue to go on in what seems to me to be the path of duty, benevolence and religion.’
“The formula here presented of alternately stepping down from the ‘ladder of labor’—of giving away a position to Salvation Army proteges, and entering the realm of chance to probably go through the same ‘Salvage procedure’ in turn—while it may afford permanency to the operations of a human salvage society, will scarcely appeal to intelligent working-men who have for generations been travelling in just such a circle—a circle which is yearly becoming more circumscribed, and which they are determined to find a way out of, General Booth notwithstanding.”

This, surely, puts the whole matter in a nutshell. In face of such a criticism vain were it for Booth and his henchmen to utter their string of worn-out platitudes and canting, shuffling humbug. “Great is Truth and it shall prevail.”

Gentlemen of the Jury !
Workers of Great Britain, our task is ended. We have made a searching enquiry into the methods of a vast organisation which extends its operations to the uttermost ends of the earth. Much evidence, did apace allow, might still be adduced with reference to the Army’s treatment of its own wage-slaves. But this lies somewhat outside the scope of our enquiry, which was to determine whether the Army, with its many-sided schemes, was of service to the working class. By those who have followed us but one answer, we think, can be returned. It stands condemned root and branch, as a stupendous fraud.

In spite of vast efforts, extending over years, to improve the conditions of the “lowest stratum” of the casual wage-slave, those conditions remain and are likely to remain the same.

Philanthropists—professional and otherwise,—and-back-to-the-land cranks may preach and scream from the house-tops, may devise and set on foot schemes galore for the “betterment of the working class,” but so long as there remains a master class, the twin wolves, unemployment and poverty, will fix their teeth in the workers’ vitals. Further, for just so long as these factors remain will opportunities present themselves for fanatics like Booth and his disciples to play at blind man’s buff with the workers—to the advantage of the masters. No individual, nay no body of men, however well disposed, can confer any permanent benefit on the class who toil. None but the workers themselves can possibly hope to effect their emancipation from wage-slavery. In order to achieve this end they must unite. If, in this brief estimate, we have succeeded in opening the eyes of even a few to the indiscretions and malpractices of the Salvation Army, we shall not have laboured in vain.



Leave a Reply