Imágenes de páginas

tioned by the last speaker, or one of the girls from the training home will sing a solo, accompanying herself on her instrument, while all join in a rattling and rollicking chorus."

Here then, unquestionably, is a ray of light in the darkness. The "shelter" has all the merit of being a simple, practical, and readily intelligible plan. It may serve to save those who are in danger of falling into still lower depths; it opens a door of escape for those who are already submerged. There is an easy feeling of homeness and sympathy and hearty fellowship in the atmosphere of those resorts, which, as compared to the alternative of the Embankment or the doorstep, or even the common lodging-houses of the slums, must be a great help towards rousing these wretches from despair, and giving them a disposition to retrieve. We may perhaps be a little shocked at the religious diversion provided for the refugees; but when we come to consider the characters and minds of those who are likely to be drawn thither, we must admit that no small judgment is shown in the selection of the method of arousing a religious sentiment. The people who crowd thither have most of them lived on the excitement of vice and crime and of shifty means of living. The Salvation services supply a counter - irritant and substitute for ruinous and wasting excitement, one that, at all events, is harmless, may be beneficial, and must, to say the least, be infinitely preferable to that which it supersedes. General Booth is honest enough to admit that these services do not impress all alike, and it would be strange if it were so; but we have no doubt, if the system of shelters were carried out to an extent adequate to meet the mass of des

titution, a great impression for the better would necessarily be made on the misery of our great cities.

But the unfortunate who has been received as General Booth's guest, and whose supply of fourpences is practically at an end, must be provided with work, else he is no better off than before. General Booth has to fall back upon the labour-test, as the poorlaws had to do before him. So he has workshops and factories in operation, an extension of which is the next great part of his scheme. In these, under strict rules, enforcing orderly habits, correct conduct, and industrious application, men who have been unable to obtain work are em

ployed. These workshops were opened in Whitechapel last spring, and people are engaged there in various occupations until some means are found of providing them with an independent livelihood. It is now proposed to extend factory operations on a large scale, and in a variety of branches into which we cannot enter. In his light-heartedness General Booth overlooks difficulties, both natural and economic, which will tax to the utmost the resources both of his ability and capital. We shall at all events learn important lessons from the struggle which he will inevitably have to carry on with these forces. He has shown himself a shrewd and able business man, he has a strong organisation under his control, and he has one important advantage which his socialist predecessors deprived themselves of. He has the stimulating assistance of religion, which ought not to be left out of count as an important, if not the most important, auxiliary in such an undertaking. It was its antiChristian character that ruined Robert Owen's attempt; Chris

tian principles form the basis of General Booth's operations, and afford our most confident hope that they will be blessed with some measure of success. As a useful pendant to these two institutions, General Booth's idea of a Labour Bureau may be mentioned. It will ascertain what work a man can do and assist him in getting employment, thus it is to be hoped establishing him in a suitable livelihood, and ridding the General's hands of him. With such assistance, a large number of unfortunate persons, who are still possessed of ability to work and a modicum of character, might be kept from swelling the normal population of Darker England, especially if employers of labour on a large scale give their countenance to the scheme, as we think they might very well do.


immediate demand for the bulk
of the farm produce. Here is
the way it is proposed to set to

"After having got the farm into some kind of ship-shape, we should select from the city colonies all those who were likely to be successful as our first settlers. These would consist of men who had been working so factory, or had been under observamany weeks or days in the labour

tion for a reasonable time at the shelters or in the slums, and who had given evidence of their willingness to work, their amenity to discipline, and their ambition to improve themselves. On arrival at the farm they would be installed in a barracks, and at once told off to work. In winter - time there would be draining, and roadmaking, and fencing, and many other forms of industry which could go on when the days are short and the nights are long. In spring, summertime, and autumn some would be

employed on the land, chiefly in spadesystem of intensive' agriculturehusbandry, upon what is called the such as prevails in the suburbs of Paris, where the market - gardeners literally create the soil, and which yields much greater results than when you merely scratch the surface with a plough.'

[ocr errors]

The other two leading features of the plan are a farm of from five hundred to a thousand acres in some of the home counties within a reasonable distance of London, and a large agricultural settlement in some of our colonies beyond sea. To the first it is proposed to draft from the shel- A code of rules, simple and ters and workshops those who can- workable, is laid down for the not be placed in other employ- conduct of the farm colony, with ment, who may be most properly penalties ranging from being reengaged in agriculture, and whose ported, to expulsion and being reclamation necessitates their with- handed over to the authorities. drawal from the city. This scheme, An elementary school, and a traintoo, carries with it the recommen- ing industrial school, will also dation of common-sense, although form parts of the scheme. The there are many difficulties that farm is also to be "a training will have to be faced. The in- school for emigrants; a place fluence of the seasons, the state where those indispensably practiof prices, the provision and main- cal lessons are given which will tenance of markets, all tend to enable the colonists to know their suggest that the farm's progress way about, and feel themselves at cannot be uniformly smooth, al- home wherever there is land to though General Booth proposes till, stock to rear, and harvests to being his own largest purchaser, reap." Round the farm are to be the operations of the Salvation planted agricultural settlements, Army in the city providing an each with its historical "three

acres and a cow," and the necessary means for prosecuting husbandry for those who wish to remain at home instead of going abroad, and provision is made for the occupant becoming a permanent tenant, subject, of course, to his observing the moral regulations laid down for the others. With regard to the religious care of the Home, the spiritual direction of colonists will be assumed by the Salvation Army; but General Booth assures us that "there will be no compulsion to take part in its services." We cordially commend the General's declaration of toleration, but there can be little question that Gentiles will practically feel that their position of outsiders is an untenable


That they should find themselves in it at all is not, however, General Booth's blame, but that of us who are of their own number.

Of the great emigration scheme -a New Britain beyond the sea whither the approved workers on the farm colony with their wives and families are to be sent to settlements already prepared for their labour-we speak with much sympathy and many misgivings. In these pages we have recently had to regret the failure of similar philanthropic attempts at colonial settlement. Colonies of this description—and there have been many of them in late yearshave almost uniformly resulted in misery and failure. We question whether successful colonists can be made out of the materials that pass through the General's mill; we even doubt if his best efforts will be able to instil into them the spirit of enterprise and sturdy independence which alone can sustain a settler in a new country. But yet he has points in his favour which have been wanting in other schemes of the kind. The initial

training on the home farm; the supervision which will enable the most promising materials to be selected to the rejection of those distinctly unfitted; the fact that the same care which since their rescue has watched over them at home will still remain with them; that every care will be taken to shield them against the temptations and mistakes to which independent emigrants are so freely exposed, are all circumstances which would contribute to this portion of the scheme being successfully carried out. Its importance as providing for the children who have been rescued and trained to work, and for the families of the home farm colonists, cannot be too highly estimated.

The Shelter, the Home Farm, and the Colony beyond Sea are the three practical points in General Booth's proposals that will most commend themselves to the consideration of those who are anxious to see something done for the destitution of our great cities on a scale commensurate with the urgency of the subject. Scarcely less important are the schemes for rescuing fallen women, the intemperate and criminals on their discharge from prison.

The number of subsidiary schemes which General Booth broaches as auxiliaries to his three great means of reclamation-the shelter, the farm, and the colony

are proofs of the thorough study and careful inquiry that he has applied to his subject, but they have a tendency to divert attention from the cardinal features of his undertaking, and to raise a dread lest too many irons be put into the fire. His idea of a Poor Man's Bank has attracted considerable criticism, and there are certainly strong objections to his entering into competition with

the Post Office in a work which must be ultimately based on charity. General Booth, however, is merely following the example of other institutions, such as the Girls' Friendly Society, Bands of Hope, and other bodies, which encourage thrift among their members by savings banks. We should much prefer, for many reasons, to see the managers of such institutions directing their members towards placing their savings in Government hands; and until this is done we cannot wonder that the State is unable to take a more direct interest in national thrift, while it sees so many other bodies intervening between it and the masses. In enforcing thrift, in collecting deposits, and ultimately lodging them in the Post Office, these societies might continue still to do excellent service, and identify the interests of the masses more closely with those of the State. There is something to be said in favour of a mont de piété in connection with General Booth's plans; but the less its accommodation is required, the better for the success of his work.

The department which General Booth wishes to establish under the title of the Poor Man's Lawyer is even more objectionable, and liable to be misunderstood. We have nothing to say against the Salvation Army using every means to push the interests of its protégés; but the typical cases which General Booth has cited as showing the utility of such a department afford considerable ground for the charge of soliciting subscriptions for organising a black-mailing agency. We think so well of the more practical features of the General's scheme that we trust such a stumbling-block as this will promptly disappear. General Booth would not be the successful enthusiast he is if he

were not at times capable of carrying his projects to the verge of appearing ridiculous and objectionable. There is at the first glance a fine air of absurdity about his Household Salvage Brigade and his Whitechapel-on-Sea, high-sounding titles, which veil schemes for collecting the broken meat and sardine tins of the West End, and for establishing a seaside resort (an estate of some three hundred acres) for the Salvationists and their friends of the slums. There is, however, a common-sense foundation for both projects. If the immense household waste of richer London can be garnered and utilised in General Booth's work, it will afford substantial assistance in both feeding and employing his waifs. The Little Sisters of the Poor have already shown that the waste of West-End kitchens can be utilised in the work of charitable relief, and we are glad to see that General Booth promises that their beats will not be interfered with. But it is scarcely desirable that attention should be diverted at the very outset from the practical and weighty parts of the plan by a multiplicity of details which will in all probability attract either ridicule or objection.

A careful examination of General Booth's proposals, and of the means at his command for carrying them out, warrants our entertaining a reasonable belief that, should he be provided with the necessary funds to give effect to his views, he will be able to make a sensible impression upon the great mass of London poverty and vice. The three main features in his schemethe shelter, the farm colony, and the colony beyond sea-appeal to common-sense and ordinary experience as affording exactly the species of relief of which the destitute in

our great cities stand most in need, and which they are most likely to be persuaded to avail themselves of. As these three branches are the points to which least objections can be attached, and which promise to effect the greatest amount of good, we trust that towards them the greater portion of the stream of outside liberality now flowing in upon the General will be mainly directed. If they succeed, as we trust they will do, no higher service will have been rendered to the nation during the present century. If they fail, we shall surely gather some valuable social lessons from them for future use, as we have done from the wrecks of all previous undertakings of the same description.

The objections which have been already launched against the General's scheme are for the most part fanciful or interested. We have already described it as partaking a good deal of the nature of a forlorn-hope; but that is no reason why we should either oppose or discourage it. Even if it is doomed to failure-which we trust may not be the case-it must do a certain amount of good in passing, and may show the way in which a more successful attack can be led. And if we reject General Booth's offer, who is there to volunteer to take his place? Several eminent writers have justly enough pointed out to us very serious questions that are raised by the acceptance of General Booth's proposal. Well, it would be interesting and perhaps profitable to discuss these; but while we are discussing them there are crowds starving by night on the Thames Embankment, and misery, vice, and destitution running a devil's riot all over the East End. In the face of this, are we to allow the pre

judices which we might under other circumstances entertain against utilising the services of the Salvation Army-prejudices by no means unfair or unreasonable to operate with us in repelling its offer? We can by no means dismiss the subject with the lofty scorn with which Professor Huxley buttons up his breeches-pockets, and passes along on the other side with Levite-like alacrity. Professor Huxley has condemned the whole scheme in very decided language. But has he any special claim to speak with authority on this particular subject? We attach great weight to Professor Huxley's views in his own particular province, but we are scarcely able to accept him in the pronounced position in which he has installed himself of late years-that of an oracle de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis. With regard to the question of national destitution, Professor Huxley's opinion can be of no more interest to practical thinkers than, say, "Mrs Todgers's idea of a wooden leg." It is much easier to condemn than devise. And if we do condemn General Booth's scheme, what other general alternative have we at hand to fall back upon?

A ridiculous attempt has been made to cause alarm by imagining General Booth and his Salvation Army endowed with wealth enough to make them a power in the country, which with its organisation and resources would equal in its influence for good or evil that of the Jesuits or the greater monastic orders in their best days. Such a fear seems to us very farfetched indeed. If the Salvation Army survive in the struggle for existence, it will solely be that the public recognises it to be doing useful work; and when it ceases to

« AnteriorContinuar »