"In Darkest England and The Way Out"
General William Booth
Part 2 out of 7
to get there? It is just what he cannot do. And so it is with the
drunkards. If they are to be rescued there must be something more done
for them than at present is attempted, unless, of course, we decide
definitely to allow the iron laws of nature to work themselves out in
their destruction. In that case it might be more merciful to
facilitate the slow workings of natural law. There is no need of
establishing a lethal chamber for drunkards like that into which the
lost dogs of London are driven, to die in peaceful sleep under the
influence of carbonic oxide. The State would only need to go a little
further than it goes at present in the way of supplying poison to the
community. If, in addition to planting a flaming gin palace at each
corner, free to all who enter, it were to supply free gin to all who
have attained a certain recognised standard of inebriety, delirium
tremens would soon reduce our drunken population to manageable
proportions. I can imagine a cynical millionaire of the scientific
philanthropic school making a clearance of all the drunkards in a
district by the simple expedient of an unlimited allowance of alcohol.
But that for us is out of the question. The problem of what to do with
our half of a million drunkards remains to be solved, and few more
difficult questions confront the social reformer.
The question of the harlots is, however, quite as insoluble by the
ordinary methods. For these unfortunates no one who looks below the
surface can fail to have the deepest sympathy. Some there are, no
doubt, perhaps many, who--whether from inherited passion or from evil
education--have deliberately embarked upon a life of vice, but with
the majority it is not so. Even those who deliberately and of free
choice adopt the profession of a prostitute, do so under the stress of
temptations which few moralists seem to realise. Terrible as the fact
is, there is no doubt it is a fact that there is no industrial career
in which for a short time a beautiful girl can make as much money with
as little trouble as the profession of a courtesan. The case recently
tried at the Lewes assizes, in which the wife of an officer in the army
admitted that while living as a kept mistress she had received as much
as #4,000 a year, was no doubt very exceptional. Even the most
successful adventuresses seldom make the income of a Cabinet Minister.
But take women in professions and in businesses all round, and the
number of young women who have received #500 in one year for the sale
of their person is larger than the number of women of all ages who make
a similar sum by honest industry. It is only the very few who draw
these gilded prizes, and they only do it for a very short time. But it
is the few prizes in every profession which allure the multitude, who
think little of the many blanks. And speaking broadly, vice offers to
every good-looking girl during the first bloom of her youth and beauty
more money than she can earn by labour in any field of industry open to
her sex. The penalty exacted afterwards is disease, degradation and
death, but these things at first are hidden from her sight.
The profession of a prostitute is the only career in which the maximum
income is paid to the newest apprentice. It is the one calling in
which at the beginning the only exertion is that of self-indulgence;
all the prizes are at the commencement. It is the ever new embodiment
of the old fable of the sale of the soul to the Devil. The tempter
offers wealth, comfort, excitement, but in return the victim must sell
her soul, nor does the other party forget to exact his due to the
uttermost farthing. Human nature, however, is short-sighted.
Giddy girls, chafing against the restraints of uncongenial industry,
see the glittering bait continually before them. They are told that if
they will but "do as others do" they will make more in a night, if they
are lucky, than they can make in a week at their sewing; and who can
wonder that in many cases the irrevocable step is taken before they
realise that it is irrevocable, and that they have bartered away the
future of their lives for the paltry chance of a year's ill-gotten
Of the severity of the punishment there can be no question. If the
premium is high at the beginning, the penalty is terrible at the close.
And this penalty is exacted equally from those who have deliberately
said, "Evil, be thou my Good," and for those who have been decoyed,
snared, trapped into the life which is a living death. When you see a
girl on the street you can never say without enquiry whether she is one
of the most-to-be condemned, or the most-to-be pitied of her sex.
Many of them find themselves where they are because of a too trusting
disposition, confidence born of innocence being often the unsuspecting
ally of the procuress and seducer. Others are as much the innocent
victims of crime as if they had been stabbed or maimed by the dagger of
the assassin. The records of our Rescue Homes abound with
life-stories, some of which we have been able to verify to the letter
--which prove only too conclusively the existence of numbers of
innocent victims whose entry upon this dismal life can in no way be
attributed to any act of their own will. Many are orphans or the
children of depraved mothers, whose one idea of a daughter is to make
money out of her prostitution. Here are a few cases on our register: --
E. C., aged 18, a soldier's child, born on the sea. Her father died,
and her mother, a thoroughly depraved woman, assisted to secure her
P. S., aged 20, illegitimate child. Went to consult a doctor one time
about some ailment. The doctor abused his position and took advantage
of his patient, and when she complained, gave her #4 as compensation.
When that was spent, having lost her character, she came on the town.
We looked the doctor up, and he fled.
E. A., aged 17, was left an orphan very early in life, and adopted by
her godfather, who himself was the means of her ruin at the age of 10.
A girl in her teens lived with her mother in the "Dusthole," the lowest
part of Woolwich. This woman forced her out upon the streets, and
profited by her prostitution up to the very night of her confinement.
The mother had all the time been the receiver of the gains.
E., neither father nor mother, was taken care of by a grandmother till,
at an early age, accounted old enough. Married a soldier; but shortly
before the birth of her first child, found that her deceiver had a wife
and family in a distant part of the country, and she was soon left
friendless and alone. She sought an asylum in the Workhouse for a few
weeks' after which she vainly tried to get honest employment. Failing
that, and being on the very verge of starvation, she entered a
lodging-house in Westminster and "did as other girls." Here our
lieutenant found and persuaded her to leave and enter one of our Homes,
where she soon gave abundant proof of her conversion by a thoroughly
changed life. She is now a faithful and trusted servant in a
A girl was some time ago discharged from a city hospital after an
illness. She was homeless and friendless, an orphan, and obliged to
work for her living. Walking down the street and wondering what she
should do next, she met a girl, who came up to her in a most friendly
fashion and speedily won her confidence.
"Discharged ill, and nowhere to go, are you?" said her new friend.
"Well, come home to my mother's; she will lodge you, and we'll go to
work together, when you are quite strong."
The girl consented gladly, but found herself conducted to the very
lowest part of Woolwich and ushered into a brothel; there was no mother
in the case. She was hoaxed, and powerless to resist.
Her protestations were too late to save her, and having had her
character forced from her she became hopeless, and stayed on to live
the life of her false friend.
There is no need for me to go into the details of the way in which men
and women, whose whole livelihood depends upon their success in
disarming the suspicions of their victims and luring them to their
doom, contrive to overcome the reluctance of the young girl without
parents, friends, or helpers to enter their toils. What fraud fails to
accomplish, a little force succeeds in effecting; and a girl who has
been guilty of nothing but imprudence finds herself an outcast for
life. The very innocence of a girl tells against her. A woman of the
world, once entrapped, would have all her wits about her to extricate
herself from the position in which she found herself. A perfectly
virtuous girl is often so overcome with shame and horror that there
seems nothing in life worth struggling for. She accepts her doom
without further struggle, and treads the long and torturing path-way of
"the streets" to the grave.
"Judge not, that ye be not judged" is a saying that applies most
appropriately of all to these unfortunates. Many of them would have
escaped their evil fate had they been less innocent. They are where
they are because they loved too utterly to calculate consequences, and
trusted too absolutely to dare to suspect evil. And others are there
because of the false education which confounds ignorance with virtue,
and throws our young people into the midst of a great city, with all
its excitements and all its temptations, without more preparation or
warning than if they were going to live in the Garden of Eden.
Whatever sin they have committed, a terrible penalty is exacted.
While the man who caused their ruin passes as a respectable member of
society, to whom virtuous matrons gladly marry--if he is rich--
their maiden daughters, they are crushed beneath the millstone of
social excommunication. Here let me quote from a report made to me by
the head of our Rescue Homes as to the actual life of these
The following hundred cases are taken as they come from our Rescue
Register. The statements are those of the girls themselves. They are
certainly frank, and it will be noticed that only two out of the
hundred allege that they took to the life out of poverty: --
CAUSE OF FALL.
Drink .. .. .. 14
Seduction .. .. 33
Wilful choice .. .. 24
Bad company .. .. 27
Poverty .. .. .. 2
CONDITION WHEN APPLYING.
Rags.. .. .. 25
Destitution .. 27
Decently dressed 48
Out of these girls twenty-three have been in prison. The girls suffer
so much that the shortness of their miserable life is the only
redeeming feature. Whether we look at the wretchedness of the life
itself; their perpetual intoxication; the cruel treatment to which they
are subjected by their task-masters and mistresses or bullies; the
hopelessness, suffering and despair induced by their circumstances and
surroundings; the depths of misery, degradation and poverty to which
they eventually descend; or their treatment in sickness, their
friendlessness and loneliness in death, it must be admitted that a more
dismal lot seldom falls to the fate of a human being. I will take each
of these in turn.
HEALTH.--This life induces insanity, rheumatism, consumption, and
all forms of syphilis. Rheumatism and gout are the commonest of these
evils. Some were quite crippled by both--young though they were.
Consumption sows its seeds broadcast. The life is a hot-bed for the
development of any constitutional and hereditary germs of the disease.
We have found girls in Piccadilly at midnight who are continually
prostrated by haemorrhage, yet who have no other way of life open, so
struggle on in this awful manner between whiles.
DRINK.--This is an inevitable part of the business. All Confess
that they could never lead their miserable lives if it were not for its
A girl, who was educated at college, and who had a home in which was
every comfort, but who, when ruined, had fallen even to the depth of
Woolwich "Dusthole," exclaimed to us indignantly--"Do you think I
could ever, ever do this if it weren't for the drink? I always have to
be in drink if I want to sin." No girl has ever come into our Homes
front street-life but has been more or less a prey to drink.
CRUEL TREATMENT.--The devotion of these women to their bullies is as
remarkable as the brutality of their bullies is abominable. Probably
the primary cause of the fall of numberless girls of the lower class,
is their great aspiration to the dignity of wifehood;--they are never
"somebody" until they are married, and will link themselves to any
creature, no matter how debased, in the hope of being ultimately
married by him. This consideration, in addition to their helpless
condition when once character has gone, makes them suffer cruelties
which they would never otherwise endure from the men with whom large
numbers of them live.
One case in illustration of this is that of a girl who was once a
respectable servant, the daughter of a police sergeant. She was
ruined, and shame led her to leave home. At length she drifted to
Woolwich, where she came across a man who persuaded her to live with
him, and for a considerable length of time she kept him, although his
conduct to her was brutal in the extreme.
The girl living in the next room to her has frequently heard him knock
her head against the wall, and pound it, when he was out of temper,
through her gains of prostitution being less than usual. He lavished
upon her every sort of cruelty and abuse, and at length she grew so
wretched, and was reduced to so dreadful a plight, that she ceased to
attract. At this he became furious, and pawned all her clothing but
one thin garment of rags. The week before her first confinement he
kicked her black and blue from neck to knees, and she was carried to
the police station in a pool of blood, but; she was so loyal to the
wretch that she refused to appear against him.
She was going to drown herself in desperation, when our Rescue Officers
spoke to her, wrapped their own shawl around her shivering shoulders,
took her home with them, and cared for her. The baby was born dead--
a tiny, shapeless mass. This state of things is all too common.
HOPELESSNESS--SURROUNDINGS.--The state of hopelessness and despair
in which these girls live continually, makes them reckless of
consequences, and large numbers commit suicide who are never heard of.
A West End policeman assured us that the number of prostitute-suicides
was terribly in advance of anything guessed at by the public.
DEPTHS TO WHICH THEY SINK.--There is Scarcely a lower class of girls
to be found than the girls of Woolwich "Dusthole"--where one of our
Rescue Slum Homes is established. The women living and following their
dreadful business in this neighbourhood are so degraded that even
abandoned men will refuse to accompany them home. Soldiers are
forbidden to enter the place, or to go down the street, on pain of
twenty-five days' imprisonment; pickets are stationed at either end to
prevent this. The streets are much cleaner than many of the rooms we
One public house there is shut up three or four times in a day
sometimes for fear of losing the licence through the terrible brawls
which take place within. A policeman never goes down this street alone
at night--one having died not long ago from injuries received there
--but our two lasses go unharmed and loved at all hours, spending
every other night always upon the streets.
The girls sink to the "Dusthole" after coming down several grades.
There is but one on record who came there with beautiful clothes, and
this poor girl, when last seen by the officers, was a pauper in the
workhouse infirmary in a wretched condition. The lowest class of all
is the girls who stand at the pier-head--these sell themselves
literally for a bare crust of bread and sleep in the streets. Filth
and vermin abound to an extent to which no one who has not seen it can
have any idea. The "Dusthole" is only one, alas of many similar
districts in this highly civilised land.
SICKNESS, FRIENDLESSNESS--DEATH.--In hospitals it is a known fact
that these girls are not treated at all like other cases; they inspire
disgust, and are most frequently discharged before being really cured.
Scorned by their relations, and ashamed to make their case known even
to those who would help them, unable longer to struggle out on the
streets to earn the bread of shame, there are girls lying in many a
dark hole in this big city positively rotting away, and maintained by
their old companions on the streets. Many are totally friendless,
utterly cast out and left to perish by relatives and friends. One of
this class came to us, sickened and died, and we buried her, being her
only followers to the grave.
It is a sad story, but one that must not be forgotten, for these women
constitute a large standing army whose numbers no one can calculate.
All estimates that I have seem purely imaginary. The ordinary figure
given for London is from 60,000 to 80,000. This maybe true if it is
meant to include all habitually unchaste women. It is a monstrous
exaggeration if it is meant to apply to those who make their living
solely and habitually by prostitution. These figures, however, only
confuse. We shall have to deal with hundreds every month, whatever
estimate we take. How utterly unprepared society is for any such
systematic reformation may be seen from the fact that even now at our
Homes we are unable to take in all the girls who apply. They cannot
escape, even if they would, for want of funds whereby to provide them a
way of release.
CHAPTER 7. THE CRIMINALS.
One very important section of the denizens of Darkest England are the
criminals and the semi-criminals. They are more or less predatory,
and are at present shepherded by the police and punished by the gaoler.
Their numbers cannot be ascertained with very great precision, but the
following figures are taken from the prison returns of 1889: --
The criminal classes of Great Britain, in round figures, sum up a total
of no less than 90,000 persons, made up as follows: --
Convict prisons contain.. .. .. .. .. .. 11,660 persons
Local prisons contain.. .. .. .. .. .. 20,883 ,,
Reformatories for children convicted of crime .. 1,270 ,,
Industrial schools for vagrant
and refractory children .. .. .. .. .. 21,413 ,,
Criminal lunatics under restraint.. .. .. .. 910 ,,
Known thieves at large .. .. .. .. .. .. 14,747 ,,
Known receivers of stolen goods .. .. .. .. 1,121 ,,
Suspected persons .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 17,042 ,,
The above does not include the great army of known prostitutes, nor the
keepers and owners of brothels and disorderly houses, as to whose
numbers Government is rigidly silent. These figures are, however,
misleading. They only represent the criminals actually in gaol on a
given day. The average gaol population in England and Wales, excluding
the convict establishments, was, in 1889, 15,119 but the total number
actually sentenced and imprisoned in local prisons was 153,000, of whom
25,000 only came on first term sentences; 76,300 of them had been
convicted at least 10 times. But even if we suppose that the criminal
class numbers no more than 90,000, of whom only 35,000 persons are at
large, it is still a large enough section of humanity to compel
attention. 90,000 criminals represents a wreckage whose cost to the
community is very imperfectly estimated when we add up the cost of the
prisons, even if we add to them the whole cost of the police.
The police have so many other duties besides the shepherding of
criminals that it is unfair to saddle the latter with the whole of the
cost of the constabulary. The cost of prosecution and maintenance of
criminals, and the expense of the police involves an annual outlay of
#4,437,000. This, however, is small compared with the tax and toll
which this predatory horde inflicts upon the community on which it is
quartered. To the loss caused by the actual picking and stealing must
be added that of the unproductive labour of nearly 65,000 adults.
Dependent upon these criminal adults must be at least twice as many
women and children, so that it is probably an under-estimate to say
that this list of criminals and semi-criminals represents a population
of at least 200,000, who all live more or less at the expense of
Every year, in the Metropolitan district alone, 66,100 persons are
arrested, of whom 444 are arrested for trying to commit suicide--life
having become too unbearable a burden. This immense population is
partially, no doubt, bred to prison, the same as other people are bred
to the army and to the bar. The hereditary criminal is by no means
confined to India, although it is only in that country that they have
the engaging simplicity to describe themselves frankly in the census
returns. But it is recruited constantly from the outside. In many
cases this is due to sheer starvation. Fathers of the Church have laid
down the law that a man who is in peril of death from hunger is
entitled to take bread wherever he can find it to keep body and soul
together. That proposition is not embodied in our jurisprudence.
Absolute despair drives many a man into the ranks of the criminal
class, who would never have fallen into the category of criminal
convicts if adequate provision had been made for the rescue of those
drifting to doom. When once he has fallen, circumstances seem to
combine to keep him there. As wounded and sickly stags are gored to
death by their fellows, so the unfortunate who bears the prison brand
is hunted from pillar to post, until he despairs of ever regaining his
position, and oscillates between one prison and another for the rest of
his days. I gave in a preceding page an account of how a man, after
trying in vain to get work, fell before the temptation to steal in
order to escape starvation. Here is the sequel of that man's story.
After he had stolen he ran away, and thus describes his experiences: --
"To fly was easy. To get away from the scene required very little
ingenuity, but the getting away from one suffering brought another.
A straight look from a stranger; a quick step behind me, sent a chill
through every nerve. The cravings of hunger had been satisfied, but it
was the cravings of conscience that were clamorous now. It was easy to
get away from the earthly consequences of sin, but from the fact--
never. And yet it was the compulsion of circumstances that made me a
criminal. It was neither from inward viciousness or choice, and how
bitterly did I cast reproach on society for allowing such an
alternative to offer itself--'to Steal or Starve,' but there was
another alternative that here offered itself--either give myself up,
or go on with the life of crime. I chose the former. I had travelled
over 100 miles to get away from the scene of my theft, and I now find
myself outside the station house at a place where I had put in my
"How many times when a lad, with wondering eyes, and a heart stirred
with childhood's pure sympathy, I had watched the poor waifs from time
to time led within its doors. It was my turn now. I entered the
charge room, and with business-like precision disclosed my errand, viz.
that I wished to surrender myself for having committed a felony.
My story was doubted. Question followed question, and confirmation
must be waited. 'Why had I surrendered?' 'I was a rum'un.' 'Cracked.'
'More fool than rogue.' 'He will be sorry when he mounts the wheel.'
These and such like remarks were handed round concerning me. An hour
passed by. An inspector enters, and announces the receipt of a
telegram. 'It is all right. You can put him down.' And turning to me,
he said, 'They will send for you on Monday,' and then I passed into
the inner ward, and a cell. The door closed with a harsh, grating
clang, and I was left to face the most clamorous accuser of all--
my own interior self'
"Monday morning, the door opened, and a complacent detective stood
before me. Who can tell the feeling as the handcuffs closed round my
wrists, and we started for town. As again the charge was entered, and
the passing of another night in the cell; then the morning of the day
arrived. The gruff, harsh 'Come on' of the gaoler roused me, and the
next moment I found myself in the prison van, gazing through the
crevices of the floor, watching the stones flying as it were from
beneath our feet. Soon the court-house was reached, and hustled into a
common cell, I found myself amongst a crowd of boys and men, all bound
for the 'dock.' One by one the names are called, and the crowd is
gradually thinning down, when the announcement of my own name fell on
my startled ear, and I found myself stumbling up the stairs, and
finding myself in daylight and the 'dock.' What a terrible ordeal it
was. The ceremony was brief enough; 'Have you anything to say?'
'Don't interrupt his Worship; prisoner!' 'Give over talking!'
'A month's hard labour.' This is about all I heard, or at any rate
realised, until a vigorous push landed me into the presence of the
officer who booked the sentence, and then off I went to gaol.
I need not linger over the formalities of the reception. A nightmare
seemed to have settled upon me as I passed into the interior of the
"I resigned my name, and I seemed to die to myself for henceforth.
332B disclosed my identity to myself and others.
"Through all the weeks that followed I was like one in a dream.
Meal times, resting hours, as did every other thing, came with
clock-like precision. At times I thought my mind had gone--so dull,
so callous, so weary appeared the organs of the brain. The harsh
orders of the gaolers; the droning of the chaplain in the chapel;
the enquiries of the chief warder or the governor in their periodical
visits,--all seemed so meaningless.
"As the day of my liberation drew near, the horrid conviction that
circumstances would perhaps compel me to return to prison haunted me,
and so helpless did I feel at the prospects that awaited me outside,
that I dreaded release, which seemed but the facing of an unsympathetic
world. The day arrived, and, strange as it may sound, it was with
regret that I left my cell. It had become my home, and no home waited
"How utterly crushed I felt; feelings of companionship had gone out to
my unfortunate fellow-prisoners, whom I had seen daily, but the sound
of whose voices I had never heard, whilst outside friendships were
dead, and companionships were for ever broken, and I felt as an outcast
of society, with the mark of 'gaol bird' upon me, that I must cover my
face, and stand aside and cry 'unclean.' Such were my feelings.
"The morning of discharge came, and I am once more on the streets.
My scanty means scarcely sufficient for two days' least needs. Could I
brace myself to make another honest endeavour to start afresh?
Try, indeed, I did. I fell back upon my antecedents, and tried to cut
the dark passage out of my life, but straight came the questions to me
at each application for employment, 'What have you been doing lately?'
'Where have you been living?' If I evaded the question it caused doubt;
if I answered, the only answer I could give was 'in gaol,' and that
settled my chances.
"What a comedy, after all, it appeared. I remember the last words of
the chaplain before leaving the prison, cold and precise in their
officialism: 'Mind you never come back here again, young man.' And now,
as though in response to my earnest effort to keep from going to
prison, society, by its actions, cried out, 'Go back to gaol. There
are honest men enough to do our work without such as you.' "Imagine,
if you can, my condition. At the end of a few days, black despair had
wrapt itself around every faculty of mind and body. Then followed
several days and nights with scarcely a bit of food or a resting-place.
I prowled the streets like a dog, with this difference, that the dog
has the chance of helping himself, and I had not. I tried to forecast
how long starvation's fingers would be in closing round the throat they
already gripped. So indifferent was I alike to man or God, as I waited
for the end."
In this dire extremity the writer found his way to one of our Shelters,
and there found God and friends and hope, and once more got his feet on
to the ladder which leads upward from the black gulf of starvation to
competence and character, and usefulness and heaven.
As he was then, however, there are hundreds--nay, thousands--now.
Who will give these men a helping hand? What is to be done with them?
Would it not be more merciful to kill them off at once instead of
sternly crushing them out of all semblance of honest manhood?
Society recoils from such a short cut. Her virtuous scruples reminds
me of the subterfuge by which English law evaded the veto on torture.
Torture was forbidden, but the custom of placing an obstinate witness
under a press and slowly crushing him within a hairbreadth of death was
legalised and practised. So it is to-day. When the criminal comes out
of gaol the whole world is often but a press whose punishment is sharp
and cruel indeed. Nor can the victim escape even if he opens his mouth
CHAPTER 8. THE CHILDREN OF THE LOST.
Whatever may be thought of the possibility of doing anything with the
adults, it is universally admitted that there is hope for the children.
"I regard the existing generation as lost," said a leading Liberal
statesman. "Nothing can be done with men and women who have grown up
under the present demoralising conditions. My only hope is that the
children may have a better chance. Education will do much."
But unfortunately the demoralising circumstances of the children are
not being improved--are, indeed, rather, in many respects, being
made worse. The deterioration of our population in large towns is one
of the most undisputed facts of social economics. The country is the
breeding ground of healthy citizens. But for the constant influx of
Countrydom, Cockneydom would long ere this have perished.
But unfortunately the country is being depopulated. The towns, London
especially, are being gorged with undigested and indigestible masses of
labour, and, as the result, the children suffer grievously.
The town-bred child is at a thousand disadvantages compared with his
cousin in the country. But every year there are more town-bred
children and fewer cousins in the country. To rear healthy children
you want first a home; secondly, milk; thirdly, fresh air;
and fourthly, exercise under the green trees and blue sky. All these
things every country labourer's child possesses, or used to possess.
For the shadow of the City life lies now upon the fields, and even in
the remotest rural district the labourer who tends the cows is often
denied the milk which his children need. The regular demand of the
great towns forestalls the claims of the labouring hind. Tea and slops
and beer take the place of milk, and the bone and sinew of the next
generation are sapped from the cradle. But the country child, if he
has nothing but skim milk, and only a little of that, has at least
plenty of exercise in the fresh air. He has healthy human relations
with his neighbours. He is looked after, and in some sort of fashion
brought into contact with the life of the hall, the vicarage, and the
farm. He lives a natural life amid the birds and trees and growing
crops and the animals of the fields. He is not a mere human ant,
crawling on the granite pavement of a great urban ants' nest, with an
unnaturally developed nervous system and a sickly constitution.
But, it will be said, the child of to-day has the inestimable advantage
of Education. No; he has not. Educated the children are not.
They are pressed through "standards," which exact a certain
acquaintance with A B C and pothooks and figures, but educated they are
not in the sense of the development of their latent capacities so as to
make them capable for the discharge of their duties in life.
The new generation can read, no doubt. Otherwise, where would be the
sale of "Sixteen String Jack," "Dick Turpin," and the like? But take
the girls. Who can pretend that the girls whom our schools are now
turning out are half as well educated for the work of life as their
grandmothers were at the same age? How many of all these mothers of
the future know how to bake a loaf or wash their clothes? Except
minding the baby--a task that cannot be evaded--what domestic
training have they received to qualify them for being in the future the
mothers of babies themselves?
And even the schooling, such as it is, at what an expense is it often
imparted! The rakings of the human cesspool are brought into the
school-room and mixed up with your children. Your little ones, who
never heard a foul word and who are not only innocent, but ignorant, of
all the horrors of vice and sin, sit for hours side by side with little
ones whose parents are habitually drunk, and play with others whose
ideas of merriment are gained from the familiar spectacle of the
nightly debauch by which their mothers earn the family bread.
It is good, no doubt, to learn the ABC, but it is not so good that in
acquiring these indispensable rudiments, your children should also
acquire the vocabulary of the harlot and the corner boy. I speak only
of what I know, and of that which has been brought home to me as a
matter of repeated complaint by my Officers, when I say that the
obscenity of the talk of many of the children of some of our public
schools could hardly be outdone even in Sodom and Gomorrha. Childish
innocence is very beautiful; but the bloom is soon destroyed, and it is
a cruel awakening for a mother to discover that her tenderly nurtured
boy, or her carefully guarded daughter, has been initiated by a
companion into the mysteries of abomination that are concealed in the
phrase--a house of ill-fame.
The home is largely destroyed where the mother follows the father into
the factory, and where the hours of labour are so long that they have
no time to see their children. The omnibus drivers of London, for
instance, what time have they for discharging the daily duties of
parentage to their little ones? How can a man who is on his omnibus
from fourteen to sixteen hours a day have time to be a father to his
children in any sense of the word? He has hardly a chance to see them
except when they are asleep. Even the Sabbath, that blessed
institution which is one of the sheet anchors of human existence, is
encroached upon. Many of the new industries which have been started or
developed since I was a boy ignore man's need of one day's rest in
seven. The railway, the post-office, the tramway all compel some of
their employes to be content with less than the divinely appointed
minimum of leisure. In the country darkness restores the labouring
father to his little ones. In the town gas and the electric light
enables the employer to rob the children of the whole of their father's
waking hours, and in some cases he takes the mother's also. Under some
of the conditions of modern industry, children are not so much born
into a home as they are spawned into the world like fish, with the
results which we see.
The decline of natural affection follows inevitably from the
substitution of the fish relationship for that of the human. A father
who never dandles his child on his knee cannot have a very keen sense
of the responsibilities of paternity. In the rush and pressure of our
competitive City life, thousands of men have not time to be fathers.
Sires, yes; fathers, no. It will take a good deal of schoolmaster to
make up for that change. If this be the case, even with the children
constantly employed, it can be imagined what kind of a home life is
possessed by the children of the tramp, the odd jobber, the thief, and
the harlot. For all these people have children, although they have no
homes in which to rear them. Not a bird in all the woods or fields but
prepares some kind of a nest in which to hatch and rear its young, even
if it be but a hole in the sand or a few crossed sticks in the bush.
But how many young ones amongst our people are hatched before any nest
is ready to receive them?
Think of the multitudes of children born in our workhouses, children of
whom it may be said "they are conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity,"
and, as a punishment of the sins of the parents, branded from birth as
bastards, worse than fatherless, homeless, and friendless, "damned into
an evil world," in which even those who have all the advantages of a
good parentage and a careful training find it hard enough to make their
way. Sometimes, it is true, the passionate love of the deserted mother
for the child which has been the visible symbol and the terrible result
of her undoing stands between the little one and all its enemies.
But think how often the mother regards the advent of her child with
loathing and horror; how the discovery that she is about to become a
mother affects her like a nightmare; and how nothing but the dread of
the hangman's rope keeps her from strangling the babe on the very hour
of its birth. What chances has such a child? And there are many such.
In a certain country that I will not name there exists a scientifically
arranged system of infanticide cloaked under the garb of philanthropy.
Gigantic foundling establishments exist in its principal cities, where
every comfort and scientific improvement is provided for the deserted
children, with the result that one-half of them die. The mothers are
spared the crime. The State assumes the responsibility.
We do something like that here, but our foundling asylums are the
Street, the Workhouse, and the Grave. When an English Judge tells us,
as Mr. Justice Wills did the other day, that there were any number of
parents who would kill their children for a few pounds' insurance
money, we can form some idea of the horrors of the existence into which
many of the children of this highly favoured land are ushered at their
The overcrowded homes of the poor compel the children to witness
everything. Sexual morality often comes to have no meaning to them.
Incest is so familiar as hardly to call for remark. The bitter poverty
of the poor compels them to leave their children half fed. There are
few more grotesque pictures in the history of civilisation than that of
the compulsory attendance of children at school, faint with hunger
because they had no breakfast, and not sure whether they would even
secure a dry crust for dinner when their morning's quantum of education
had been duly imparted. Children thus hungered, thus housed, and thus
left to grow up as best they can without being fathered or mothered,
are not, educate them as you will, exactly the most promising material
for the making of the future citizens and rulers of the Empire.
What, then, is the ground for hope that if we leave things alone the
new generation will be better than their elders? To me it seems that
the truth is rather the other way. The lawlessness of our lads the
increased license of our girls, the general shiftlessness from the
home-making point of view of the product of our factories and schools
are far from reassuring. Our young people have never learned to obey.
The fighting gangs of half-grown lads in Lisson Grove, and the
scuttlers of Manchester are ugly symptoms of a social condition that
will not grow better by being left alone.
It is the home that has been destroyed, and with the home the home-like
virtues. It is the dis-homed multitude, nomadic, hungry that is
rearing an undisciplined population, cursed from birth with hereditary
weakness of body and hereditary faults of character. It is idle to
hope to mend matters by taking the children and bundling them up in
barracks. A child brought up in an institution is too often only
half-human, having never known a mother's love and a father's care.
To men and women who are without homes children must be more or less of
an incumbrance. Their advent is regarded with impatience, and often it
is averted by crime. The unwelcome little stranger is badly cared for,
badly fed, and allowed every chance to die. Nothing is worth doing to
increase his chances of living that does not Reconstitute the Home.
But between us and that ideal how vast is the gulf! It will have to be
bridged, however, if anything practical is to be done.
CHAPTER 9. IS THERE NO HELP?
It may be said by those who have followed me to this point that while
it is quite true that there are many who are out of work, and not less
true that there are many who sleep on the Embankment and elsewhere, the
law has provided a remedy, or if not a remedy, at least a method, of
dealing with these sufferers which is sufficient: The Secretary of the
Charity Organisation Society assured one of my Officers, who went to
inquire for his opinion on the subject, "that no further machinery was
necessary. All that was needed in this direction they already had in
working order, and to create any further machinery would do more harm
Now, what is the existing machinery by which Society, whether through
the organisation of the State, or by individual endeavour, attempts to
deal with the submerged residuum? I had intended at one time to have
devoted considerable space to the description of the existing agencies,
together with certain observations which have been forcibly impressed
upon my mind as to their failure and its cause. The necessity,
however, of subordinating everything to the supreme purpose of this
book, which is to endeavour to show how light can be let into the heart
of Darkest England, compels me to pass rapidly over this department of
the subject, merely glancing as I go at the well-meaning, but more or
less abortive, attempts to cope with this great and appalling evil.
The first place must naturally be given to the administration of the
Poor Law. Legally the State accepts the responsibility of providing
food and shelter for every man, woman, or child who is utterly
destitute. This responsibility it, however, practically shirks by the
imposition of conditions on the claimants of relief that are hateful
and repulsive, if not impossible. As to the method of Poor Law
administration in dealing with inmates of workhouses or in the
distribution of outdoor relief, I say nothing. Both of these raise
great questions which lie outside my immediate purpose. All that I
need to do is to indicate the limitations--it may be the necessary
limitations--under which the Poor Law operates. No Englishman can
come upon the rates so long as he has anything whatever left to call
his own. When long-continued destitution has been carried on to the
bitter end, when piece by piece every article of domestic furniture
has been sold or pawned, when all efforts to procure employment have
failed, and when you have nothing left except the clothes in which you
stand, then you can present yourself before the relieving officer and
secure your lodging in the workhouse, the administration of which
varies infinitely according to the disposition of the Board of
Guardians under whose control it happens to be.
If, however, you have not sunk to such despair as to be willing to
barter your liberty for the sake of food, clothing, and shelter in the
Workhouse, but are only temporarily out of employment seeking work,
then you go to the Casual Ward. There you are taken in, and provided
for on the principle of making it as disagreeable as possible for
yourself, in order to deter you from again accepting the hospitality of
the rates,--and of course in defence of this a good deal can be said
by the Political Economist. But what seems utterly indefensible is the
careful precautions which are taken to render it impossible for the
unemployed Casual to resume promptly after his night's rest the search
for work. Under the existing regulations, if you are compelled to seek
refuge on Monday night in the Casual Ward, you are bound to remain
there at least till Wednesday morning.
The theory of the system is this, that individuals casually poor and
out of work, being destitute and without shelter, may upon application
receive shelter for the night, supper and a breakfast, and in return
for this, shall perform a task of work, not necessarily in repayment
for the relief received, but simply as a test of their willingness to
work for their living. The work given is the same as that given to
felons in gaol, oakum-picking and stone-breaking.
The work, too, is excessive in proportion to what is received.
Four pounds of oakum is a great task to an expert and an old hand.
To a novice it can only be accomplished with the greatest difficulty,
if indeed it can be done at all. It is even in excess of the amount
demanded from a criminal in gaol.
The stone-breaking test is monstrous. Half a ton of stone from any man
in return for partially supplying the cravings of hunger is an outrage
which, if we read of as having occurred in Russia or Siberia, would
find Exeter Hall crowded with an indignant audience, and Hyde Park
filled with strong oratory. But because this system exists at our own
doors, very little notice is taken of it. These tasks are expected
from all comers, starved, ill-clad, half-fed creatures from the
streets, foot-sore and worn out, and yet unless it is done, the
alternative is the magistrate and the gaol. The old system was bad
enough, which demanded the picking of one pound of oakum. As soon as
this task was accomplished, which generally kept them till the middle
of next day, it was thus rendered impossible for them to seek work, and
they were forced to spend another night in the ward. The Local
Government Board, however, stepped in, and the Casual was ordered to be
detained for the whole day and the second night, the amount of labour
required from him being increased four-fold.
Under the present system, therefore, the penalty for seeking shelter
from the streets is a whole day and two nights, with an almost
impossible task, which, failing to do, the victim is liable to be
dragged before a magistrate and committed to gaol as a rogue and
vagabond, while in the Casual Ward their treatment is practically that
of a criminal. They sleep in a cell with an apartment at the back,
in which the work is done, receiving at night half a pound of gruel and
eight ounces of bread, and next morning the same for breakfast, with
half a pound of oakum and stones to occupy himself for a day.
The beds are mostly of the plank type, the coverings scant, the comfort
nil. Be it remembered that this is the treatment meted out to those
who are supposed to be Casual poor, in temporary difficulty, walking
from place to place seeking some employment.
The treatment of the women is as follows: Each Casual has to stay in
the Casual Wards two nights and one day, during which time they have to
pick 2 lb. of oakum or go to the wash-tub and work out the time there.
While at the wash-tub they are allowed to wash their own clothes, but
not otherwise. If seen more than once in the same Casual Ward, they
are detained three days by order of the inspector each time seen, or if
sleeping twice in the same month the master of the ward has power to
detain them three days. There are four inspectors who visit different
Casual Wards; and if the Casual is seen by any of the inspectors
(who in turn visit all the Casual Wards) at any of the wards they have
previously visited they are detained three days in each one.
The inspector, who is a male person, visits the wards at all unexpected
hours, even visiting while the females are in bed. The beds are in
some wards composed of straw and two rugs, in others cocoanut fibre and
two rugs. The Casuals rise at 5.45 a.m. and go to bed 7 p.m. If they
do not finish picking their oakum before 7 p.m., they stay up till they
do. If a Casual does not come to the ward before 12.30, midnight, they
keep them one day extra. The way in which this operates, however, can
be best understood by the following statements, made by those who have
been in Casual Wards, and who can, therefore, speak from experience as
to how the system affects the individual: --
J. C. knows Casual Wards pretty well. Has been in St. Giles,
Whitechapel, St. George's, Paddington, Marylebone, Mile End.
They vary a little in detail, but as a rule the doors open at 6;
you walk in; they tell you what the work is, and that if you fail to do
it, you will be liable to imprisonment. Then you bathe. Some places
the water is dirty. Three persons as a rule wash in one water.
At Whitechapel (been there three times) it has always been dirty; also
at St. George's. I had no bath at Mile End; they were short of water.
If you complain they take no notice. You then tie your clothes in a
bundle, and they give you a nightshirt. At most places they serve
supper to the men, who have to go to bed and eat it there. Some beds
are in cells; some in large rooms. You get up at 6 a.m. and do the
task. The amount of stone-breaking is too much; and the oakum-picking
is also heavy. The food differs. At St. Giles, the gruel left
over-night is boiled up for breakfast, and is consequently sour; the
bread is puffy, full of holes, and don't weigh the regulation amount.
Dinner is only 8 ounces of bread and 1 1/2 ounce of cheese, and its
that's short, how can anybody do their work? They will give you water
to drink if you ring the cell bell for it, that is, they will tell you
to wait, and bring it in about half an hour. There are a good lot of
"moochers" go to Casual Wards, but there are large numbers of men who
only want work.
J.D.; age 25; Londoner; can't get work, tried hard; been refused work
several times on account of having no settled residence; looks
suspicious, they think, to have "no home." Seems a decent, willing man.
Had two penny-worth of soup this morning, which has lasted all day.
Earned 1s. 6d. yesterday, bill distributing, nothing the day before.
Been in good many London Casual Wards. Thinks they are no good,
because they keep him all day, when he might be seeking work.
Don't want shelter in day time, wants work. If he goes in twice in a
month to the same Casual Ward, they detain him four days. Considers
the food decidedly insufficient to do the required amount of work.
If the work is not done to time, you are liable to 21 days'
imprisonment. Get badly treated some places, especially where there is
a bullying superintendent. Has done 21 days for absolutely refusing to
do the work on such low diet, when unfit. Can't get justice, doctor
always sides with superintendent.
J. S.; odd jobber. Is working at board carrying, when he can get it.
There's quite a rush for it at 1s. 2d. a day. Carried a couple of
parcels yesterday, got 5d. for them; also had a bit of bread and meat
given him by a working man, so altogether had an excellent day.
Sometimes goes all day without food, and plenty more do the same.
Sleeps on Embankment, and now and then in Casual Ward. Latter is clean
and comfortable enough, but they keep you in all day; that means no
chance of getting work. Was a clerk once, but got out of a job, and
couldn't get another; there are so many clerks.
"A Tramp" says: "I've been in most Casual Wards in London; was in the
one in Macklin Street, Drury Lane, last week. They keep you two nights
and a day, and more than that if they recognise you. You have to break
10 cwt. of stone, or pick four pounds of oakum. Both are hard.
About thirty a night go to Macklin Street. The food is 1 pint gruel
and 6 oz. bread for breakfast; 8 oz. bread and 1 1/2 oz. cheese for
dinner; tea same as breakfast. No supper. It is not enough to do the
work on. Then you are obliged to bathe, of course; sometimes three
will bathe in one water, and if you complain they turn nasty, and ask
if you are come to a palace. Mitcham Workhouse I've been in; grub is
good; 1 1/2 pint gruel and 8 oz. bread for breakfast, and same for
F.K. W.; baker. Been board-carrying to-day, earned one shilling,
Hours 9 till 5. I've been on this kind of life six years. Used to
work in a bakery, but had congestion of the brain, and couldn't stand
the heat. I've been in about every Casual Ward in England. They treat
men too harshly. Have to work very hard, too. Has had to work whilst
really unfit. At Peckham (known as Camberwell) Union, was quite unable
to do it through weakness, and appealed to the doctor, who, taking the
part of the other officials, as usual, refused to allow him to forego
the work. Cheeked the doctor, telling him he didn't understand his
work; result, got three days' imprisonment. Before going to a Casual
Ward at all, I spent seven consecutive nights on the Embankment, and at
last went to the Ward.
The result of the deliberate policy of making the night refuge for the
unemployed labourer as disagreeable as possible, and of placing as many
obstacles as possible in the way of his finding work the following day,
is, no doubt, to minimise the number of Casuals, and without question
succeeds. In the whole of London the number of Casuals in the wards at
night is only 1,136. That is to say, the conditions which are imposed
are so severe, that the majority of the Out-of-Works prefer to sleep in
the open air, taking their chance of the inclemency and mutability of
our English weather, rather than go through the experience of the
It seems to me that such a mode of coping with distress does not so
much meet the difficulty as evade it. It is obvious that an apparatus,
which only provides for 1,136 persons per night, is utterly unable to
deal with the numbers of the homeless Out-of-Works. But if by some
miracle we could use the Casual Wards as a means of providing for all
those who are seeking work from day to day, without a place in which to
lay their heads, save the kerbstone of the pavement or the back of a
seat on the Embankment, they would utterly fail to have any appreciable
effect upon the mass of human misery with which we have to deal.
For this reason; the administration of the Casual Wards is mechanical,
perfunctory, and formal. Each of the Casuals is to the Officer in
Charge merely one Casual the more. There is no attempt whatever to do
more than provide for them merely the indispensable requisites of
existence. There has never been any attempt to treat them as human
beings, to deal with them as individuals, to appeal to their hearts,
to help them on their legs again. They are simply units, no more
thought of and cared for than if they were so many coffee beans passing
through a coffee mill; and as the net result of all my experience and
observation of men and things, I must assert unhesitatingly that
anything which dehumanises the individual, anything which treats a man
as if he were only a number of a series or a cog in a wheel, without
any regard to the character, the aspirations, the temptations, and the
idiosyncrasies of the man, must utterly fail as a remedial agency.
The Casual Ward, at the best, is merely a squalid resting place for the
Casual in his downward career. It anything is to be done for these
men, it must be done by other agents than those which prevail in the
administration of the Poor Laws.
The second method in which Society endeavours to do its duty to the
lapsed masses is by the miscellaneous and heterogeneous efforts which
are clubbed together under the generic head of Charity. Far be it from
me to say one word in disparagement of any effort that is prompted by a
sincere desire to alleviate the misery of our fellow creatures, but the
most charitable are those who most deplore the utter failure which has,
up till now, attended all their efforts to do more than temporarily
alleviate pain, or effect an occasional improvement in the condition of
There are many institutions, very excellent in their way, without which
it is difficult to see how society could get on at all, but when they
have done their best there still remains this great and appalling mass
of human misery on our hands, a perfect quagmire of Human Sludge.
They may ladle out individuals here and there, but to drain the whole
bog is an effort which seems to be beyond the imagination of most of
those who spend their lives in philanthropic work. It is no doubt
better than nothing to take the individual and feed him from day to
day, to bandage up his wounds and heal his diseases; but you may go on
doing that for ever, if you do not do more than that; and the worst of
it is that all authorities agree that if you only do that you will
probably increase the evil with which you are attempting to deal, and
that you had much better let the whole thing alone.
There is at present no attempt at Concerted Action. Each one deals
with the case immediately before him, and the result is what might be
expected; there is a great expenditure, but the gains are, alas! very
small. The fact, however, that so much is subscribed for the temporary
relief and the mere alleviation of distress justifies my confidence
that if a Practical Scheme of dealing with this misery in a permanent,
comprehensive fashion be discovered, there will be no lack of the
sinews of war. It is well, no doubt, sometimes to administer an
anaesthetic, but the Cure of the Patient is worth ever so much more,
and the latter is the object which we must constantly set before us in
approaching this problem.
The third method by which Society professes to attempt the reclamation
of the lost is by the rough, rude surgery of the Gaol. Upon this a
whole treatise might be written, but when it was finished it would be
nothing more than a demonstration that our Prison system has
practically missed aiming at that which should be the first essential
of every system of punishment. It is not Reformatory, it is not worked
as if it were intended to be Reformatory. It is punitive, and only
punitive. The whole administration needs to be reformed from top to
bottom in accordance with this fundamental principle, viz., that while
every prisoner should be subjected to that measure of punishment which
shall mark a due sense of his crime both to himself and society, the
main object should be to rouse in his mind the desire to lead an honest
life; and to effect that change in his disposition and character which
will send him forth to put that desire into practice. At present,
every Prison is more or less a Training School for Crime,
an introduction to the society of criminals, the petrifaction of any
lingering human feeling and a very Bastille of Despair. The prison
brand is stamped upon those who go in, and that so deeply, that it
seems as if it clung to them for life. To enter Prison once, means in
many cases an almost certain return there at an early date. All this
has to be changed, and will be, when once the work of Prison Reform is
taken in hand by men who understand the subject, who believe in the
reformation of human nature in every form which its depravity can
assume, and who are in full sympathy with the class for whose benefit
they labour; and when those charged directly with the care of criminals
seek to work out their regeneration in the same spirit.
The question of Prison Reform is all the more important because it is
only by the agency of the Gaol that Society attempts to deal with its
hopeless cases. If a woman, driven mad with shame, flings herself into
the river, and is fished out alive, we clap her into Prison on a charge
of attempted suicide. If a man, despairing of work and gaunt with
hunger, helps himself to food, it is to the same reformatory agency
that he is forthwith subjected. The rough and ready surgery with which
we deal with our social patients recalls the simple method of the early
physicians. The tradition still lingers among old people of doctors
who prescribed bleeding for every ailment, and of keepers of asylums
whose one idea of ministering to a mind diseased was to put the body
into a strait waistcoat. Modern science laughs to scorn these simple
"remedies" of an unscientific age, and declares that they were, in most
cases, the most efficacious means of aggravating the disease they
professed to cure. But in social maladies we are still in the age of
the blood-letter and the strait waistcoat. The Gaol is our specific
for Despair. When all else fails Society will always undertake to
feed, clothe, warm, and house a man, if only he will commit a crime.
It will do it also in such a fashion as to render it no temporary help,
but a permanent necessity.
Society says to the individual: "To qualify for free board and lodging
you must commit a crime. But if you do you must pay the price.
You must allow me to ruin your character, and doom you for the rest of
your life to destitution, modified by the occasional successes of
criminality. You shall become the Child of the State, on condition
that we doom you to a temporal perdition, out of which you will never
be permitted to escape, and in which you will always be a charge upon
our resources and a constant source of anxiety and inconvenience to the
authorities. I will feed you, certainly, but in return you must permit
me to damn you." That surely ought not to be the last word of Civilised
"Certainly not," say others. "Emigration is the true specific.
The waste lands of the world are crying aloud for the application of
surplus labour. Emigration is the panacea." Now I have no objection to
emigration. Only a criminal lunatic could seriously object to the
transference of hungry Jack from an overcrowded shanty--where he
cannot even obtain enough bad potatoes to dull the ache behind his
waistcoat, and is tempted to let his child die for the sake of the
insurance money--to a land flowing with milk and honey, where he can
eat meat three times a day and where a man's children are his wealth.
But you might as well lay a new-born child naked in the middle of a
new-sown field in March, and expect it to live and thrive, as expect
emigration to produce successful results on the lines which some lay
down. The child, no doubt, has within it latent capacities which, when
years and training have done their work, will enable him to reap a
harvest from a fertile soil, and the new sown field will be covered
with golden grain in August. But these facts will not enable the
infant to still its hunger with the clods of the earth in the cold
spring time. It is just like that with emigration. It is simply
criminal to take a multitude of untrained men and women and land them
penniless and helpless on the fringe of some new continent. The result
of such proceedings we see in the American cities; in the degradation
of their slums, and in the hopeless demoralisation of thousands who, in
their own country, were living decent, industrious lives.
A few months since, in Paramatta, in New South Wales, a young man who
had emigrated with a vague hope of mending his fortunes, found himself
homeless, friendless, and penniless. He was a clerk. They wanted no
more clerks in Paramatta. Trade was dull, employment was scarce, even
for trained hands. He went about from day to day seeking work and
finding none. At last he came to the end of all his resources. He went
all day without food; at night he slept as best he could. Morning
came, and he was hopeless. All next day passed without a meal.
Night came. He could not sleep. He wandered about restlessly.
At last, about midnight, an idea seized him. Grasping a brick, he
deliberately walked up to a jeweller's window, and smashed a hole
through the glass. He made no attempt to steal anything: He merely
smashed the pane and then sat down on the pavement beneath the window,
waiting for the arrival of the policeman. He waited some hours; but at
last the constable arrived. He gave himself up, and was marched off to
the lock-up. "I shall at least have something to eat now," was the
reflection. He was right. He was sentenced to one year's imprisonment,
and he is in gaol at this hour. This very morning he received his
rations, and at this very moment he is dodged, and clothed and cared
for at the cost of the rates and taxes. He has become the child of
the State, and, therefore, one of the socially damned.
Thus emigration itself, instead of being an invariable specific,
sometimes brings us back again to the gaol door.
Emigration, by all means. But whom are you to emigrate? These girls
who do not know how to bake? These lads who never handled a spade?
And where are you to emigrate them? Are you going to make the Colonies
the dumping ground of your human refuse? On that the colonists will
have something decisive to say, where there are colonists; and where
there are not, how are you to feed, clothe, and employ your emigrants
in the uninhabited wilderness? Immigration, no doubt, is the making of
a colony, just as bread is the staff of life. But if you were to cram
a stomach with wheat by a force-pump you would bring on such a fit of
indigestion that unless your victim threw up the indigestible mass of
unground, uncooked, unmasticated grain he would never want another
meal. So it is with the new colonies and the surplus labour of other
Emigration is in itself not a panacea. Is Education? In one sense it
may be, for Education, the developing in a man of all his latent
capacities for improvement, may cure anything and everything. But the
Education of which men speak when they use the term, is mere schooling.
No one but a fool would say a word against school teaching. By all
means let us have our children educated. But when we have passed them
through the Board School Mill we have enough experience to see that
they do not emerge the renovated and regenerated beings whose advent
was expected by those who passed the Education Act. The "scuttlers"
who knife inoffensive persons in Lancashire, the fighting gangs of the
West of London, belong to the generation that has enjoyed the advantage
of Compulsory Education. Education, book-learning and schooling will
not solve the difficulty. It helps, no doubt. But in some ways it
aggravates it. The common school to which the children of thieves and
harlots and drunkards are driven, to sit side by side with our little
ones, is often by no means a temple of all the virtues.
It is sometimes a university of all the vices. The bad infect the
good, and your boy and girl come back reeking with the contamination of
bad associates, and familiar with the coarsest obscenity of the slum.
Another great evil is the extent to which our Education tends to
overstock the labour market with material for quill-drivers and
shopmen, and gives our youth a distaste for sturdy labour. Many of the
most hopeless cases in our Shelters are men of considerable education.
Our schools help to enable a starving man to tell his story in more
grammatical language than that which his father could have employed,
but they do not feed him, or teach him where to go to get fed. So far
from doing this they increase the tendency to drift into those channels
where food is least secure, because employment is most uncertain, and
the market most overstocked.
"Try Trades Unionism," say some, and their advice is being widely
followed. There are many and great advantages in Trades Unionism.
The fable of the bundle of sticks is good for all time. The more the
working people can be banded together in voluntary organisations,
created and administered by themselves for the protection of their own
interests, the better--at any rate for this world--and not only for
their own interests, but for those of every other section of the
community. But can we rely upon this agency as a means of solving the
problems which confront us? Trades Unionism has had the field to itself
for a generation. It is twenty years since it was set free from all
the legal disabilities under which it laboured. But it has not covered
the land. It has not organised all skilled labour. Unskilled labour
is almost untouched. At the Congress at Liverpool only one and a half
million workmen were represented. Women are almost entirely outside
the pale. Trade Unions not only represent a fraction of the labouring
classes, but they are, by their constitution, unable to deal with those
who do not belong to their body. What ground can there be, then, for
hoping that Trades Unionism will by itself solve the difficulty? The
most experienced Trades Unionists will be the first to admit that any
scheme which could deal adequately with the out-of-works and others who
hang on to their skirts and form the recruiting ground of blacklegs and
embarrass them in ever way, would be, of all others that which would be
most beneficial to Trades Unionism. The same may be said about
Co-operation. Personally, I am a strong believer in Co-operation, but
it must be Co-operation based on the spirit of benevolence. I don't
see how any pacific re-adjustment of the social and economic relations
between classes in this country can be effected except by the gradual
substitution of cooperative associations for the present wages system.
As you will see in subsequent chapters, so far from there being
anything in my proposals that would militate in any way against the
ultimate adoption of the co-operative solution of the question, I look
to Co-operation as one of the chief elements of hope in the future.
But we have not to deal with the ultimate future, but with the
immediate present, and for the evils with which we are dealing the
existing cooperative organisations do not and cannot give us much help.
Another--I do not like to call it specific; it is only a name, a mere
mockery of a specific--so let me call it another suggestion made when
discussing this evil, is Thrift. Thrift is a great virtue no doubt.
But how is Thrift to benefit those who have nothing? What is the use
of the gospel of Thrift to a man who had nothing to eat yesterday, and
has not threepence to-day to pay for his lodging to-night? To live on
nothing a day is difficult enough, but to save on it would beat the
cleverest political economist that ever lived. I admit without
hesitation that any Scheme which weakened the incentive to Thrift would
do harm. But it is a mistake to imagine that social damnation is an
incentive to Thrift. It operates least where its force ought to be
most felt. There is no fear that any Scheme that we can devise will
appreciably diminish the deterrent influences which dispose a man to
save. But it is idle wasting time upon a plea that is only brought
forward as an excuse for inaction. Thrift is a great virtue, the
inculcation of which must be constantly kept in view by all those who
are attempting to "educate and save the people. It is not in any sense
a specific for the salvation of the lapsed and the lost. Even among
the most wretched of the very poor, a man must have an object and a
hope before he will save a halfpenny. "Let us eat and drink, for
to-morrow we perish," sums up the philosophy of those who have no hope.
In the thriftiness of the French peasant we see that the temptation of
eating and drinking is capable of being resolutely subordinated to the
superior claims of the accumulation of a dowry for the daughter, or for
the acquisition of a little more land for the son.
Of the schemes of those who propose to bring in a new heaven and a new
earth by a more scientific distribution of the pieces of gold and
silver in the trouser pockets of mankind, I need not say anything here.
They may be good or they may not. I say nothing against any short cut
to the Millennium that is compatible with the Ten Commandments.
I intensely sympathise with the aspirations that lie behind all these
Socialist dreams. But whether it is Henry George's Single Tax on Land
Values, or Edward Bellamy's Nationalism, or the more elaborate schemes
of the Collectivists, my attitude towards them all is the same.
What these good people want to do, I also want to do. But I am a
practical man, dealing with the actualities of to-day. I have no
preconceived theories, and I flatter myself I am singularly free from
prejudices. I am ready to sit at the feet of any who will show me any
good. I keep my mind open on all these subjects; and am quite prepared
to hail with open arms any Utopia that is offered me. But it must be
within range of my finger-tips. It is of no use to me if it is in the
clouds. Cheques on the Bank of Futurity I accept gladly enough as a
free gift, but I can hardly be expected to take them as if they were
current coin, or to try to cash them at the Bank of England.
It may be that nothing will be put permanently right until everything
has been turned upside down. There are certainly so many things that
need transforming, beginning with the heart of each individual man and
woman, that I do not quarrel with any Visionary when in his intense
longing for the amelioration of the condition of mankind he lays down
his theories as to the necessity for radical change, however
impracticable they may appear to me. But this is the question.
Here at our Shelters last night were a thousand hungry, workless
people. I want to know what to do with them? Here is John Jones,
a stout stalwart labourer in rags, who has not had one square meal for
a month, who has been hunting for work that will enable him to keep
body and soul together, and hunting in vain. There he is in his hungry
raggedness, asking for work that he may live, and not die of sheer
starvation in the midst of the wealthiest city in the world.
What is to be done with John Jones?
The individualist tells me that the free play of the Natural Laws
governing the struggle for existence will result in the Survival of the
Fittest, and that in the course of a few ages, more or less, a much
nobler type will be evolved. But meanwhile what is to become of John
Jones? The Socialist tells me that the great Social Revolution is
looming large on the horizon. In the good time coming, when wealth
will be re-distributed and private property abolished, all stomachs
will be filled and there will be no more John Jones' impatiently
clamouring for opportunity to work that they may not die. It may be
so, but in the meantime here is John Jones growing more impatient than
ever because hungrier, who wonders if he is to wait for a dinner until
the Social Revolution has arrived. What are we to do with John Jones?
That is the question. And to the solution of that question none of the
Utopians give me much help. For practical purposes these dreamers fall
under the condemnation they lavish so freely upon the conventional
religious people who relieve themselves of all anxiety for the welfare
of the poor by saying that in the next world all will be put right.
This religious cant, which rids itself of all the importunity of
suffering humanity by drawing unnegotiable bills payable on the other
side of the grave, is not more impracticable than the Socialistic
clap-trap which postpones all redress of human suffering until after
the general overturn. Both take refuge in the Future to escape a
solution of the problems of the Present, and it matters little to the
sufferers whether the Future is on this side of the grave or the other.
Both are, for them, equally out of reach.
When the sky falls we shall catch larks. No doubt.
But in the meantime?
It is the meantime--that is the only time in which we have to work.
It is in the meantime that the people must be fed, that their life's
work must be done or left undone for ever. Nothing that I have to
propose in this book, or that I propose to do by my Scheme, will in the
least prevent the coming of any of the Utopias. I leave the limitless
infinite of the Future to the Utopians. They may build there as they
please. As for me, it is indispensable that whatever I do is founded
on existing fact, and provides a present help for the actual need.
There is only one class or men who have cause to oppose the proposals
which I am about to set forth. That is those, if such there be,
who are determined to bring about by any and every means a bloody and
violent overturn of all existing institutions. They will oppose the
Scheme, and they will act logically in so doing. For the only hope of
those who are the artificers of Revolution is the mass of seething
discontent and misery that lies in the heart of the social system.
Honestly believing that things must get worse before they get better,
they build all their hopes upon the general overturn, and they resent
as an indefinite postponement of the realisation of their dreams any
attempt at a reduction of human misery.
The Army of the Revolution is recruited by the Soldiers of Despair.
Therefore, down with any Scheme which gives men Hope. In so far as it
succeeds it curtails our recruiting ground and reinforces the ranks of
our Enemies. Such opposition is to be counted upon, and to be utilised
as the best of all tributes to the value of our work. Those who thus
count upon violence and bloodshed are too few to hinder, and their
opposition will merely add to the momentum with which I hope and
believe this Scheme will ultimately be enabled to surmount all dissent,
and achieve, with the blessing of God, that measure of success with
which I verily believe it to be charged.
CHAPTER 1. A STUPENDOUS UNDERTAKING.
Such, then, is a brief and hurried survey of Darkest England, and those
who have been in the depths of the enchanted forest in which wander the
tribes of the despairing Lost will be the first to admit that I have in
no way exaggerated its horrors, while most will assert that I have
under-estimated the number of its denizens. I have, indeed, very
scrupulously striven to keep my estimates of the extent of the evil
within the lines of sobriety. Nothing in such an enterprise as that on
which I am entering could worse befall me than to come under the
reproach of sensationalism or exaggeration. Most of the evidence upon
which I have relied is taken direct from the official statistics
supplied by the Government Returns; and as to the rest, I can only say
that if my figures are compared with those of any other writer upon
this subject, it will be found that my estimates are the lowest.
I am not prepared to defend the exact accuracy of my calculations,
excepting so far as they constitute the minimum. To those who believe
that the numbers of the wretched are far in excess of my figures,
I have nothing to say, excepting this, that if the evil is so much
greater than I have described, then let your efforts be proportioned to
your estimate, not to mine. The great point with each of us is, not
how many of the wretched exist to-day, but how few shall there exist in
the years that are to come.
The dark and dismal jungle of pauperism, vice, and despair is the
inheritance to which we have succeeded from the generations and
centuries past, during which wars, insurrections, and internal troubles
left our forefathers small leisure to attend to the well-being of the
sunken tenth. Now that we have happened upon more fortunate times,
let us recognise that we are our brother's keepers, and set to work,
regardless of party distinctions and religious differences, to make
this world of ours a little bit more like home for those whom we call
The problem, it must be admitted, is by no means a simple one; nor can
anyone accuse me in the foregoing pages of having minimised the
difficulties which heredity, habit, and surroundings place in the way
of its solution, but unless we are prepared to fold our arms in
selfish ease and say that nothing can be done, and thereby doom those
lost millions to remediless perdition in this world, to say nothing of
the next, the problem must be solved in some way. But in what way?
That is the question. It may tend, perhaps, to the crystallisation of
opinion on this subject if I lay down, with such precision as I can
command, what must be the essential elements of any scheme likely to
SECTION I.--THE ESSENTIALS TO SUCCESS.
The first essential that must be borne in mind as governing every
Scheme that may be put forward is that it must change the man when it
is his character and conduct which constitute the reasons for his
failure in the battle of life. No change in circumstances, no
revolution in social conditions, can possibly transform the nature of
man. Some of the worst men and women in the world, whose names are
chronicled by history with a shudder of horror, were those who had all
the advantages that wealth, education and station could confer or
ambition could attain.
The supreme test of any scheme for benefiting humanity lies in the
answer to the question, What does it make of the individual? Does it
quicken his conscience, does it soften his heart, does it enlighten his
mind, does it, in short, make more of a true man of him, because only
by such influences can he be enabled to lead a human life? Among the
denizens of Darkest England there are many who have found their way
thither by defects of character which would under the most favourable
circumstances relegate them to the same position. Hence, unless you can
change their character your labour will be lost. You may clothe the
drunkard, fill his purse with gold, establish him in a well-furnished
home, and in three, or six, or twelve months he will once more be on
the Embankment, haunted by delirium tremens, dirty, squalid, and
ragged. Hence, in all cases where a man's own character and defects
constitute the reasons for his fall, that character must be changed and
that conduct altered if any permanent beneficial results are to be
attained. If he is a drunkard, he must be made sober; if idle, he must
be made industrious; if criminal, he must be made honest; if impure,
he must be made clean; and if he be so deep down in vice, and has been
there so long that he has lost all heart, and hope, and power to help
himself, and absolutely refuses to move, he must be inspired with hope
and have created within him the ambition to rise; otherwise he will
never get out of the horrible pit.
Secondly: The remedy, to be effectual, must change the circumstances of
the individual when they are the cause of his wretched condition, and
lie beyond his control. Among those who have arrived at their present
evil plight through faults of self-indulgence or some defect in their
moral character, how many are there who would have been very
differently placed to-day had their surroundings been otherwise?
Charles Kingsley puts this very abruptly where he makes the Poacher's
widow say, when addressing the Bad Squire, who drew back
"Our daughters, with base--born babies,
Have wandered away in their shame.
If your misses had slept, Squire, where they did,
Your misses might do the same.'
Placed in the same or similar circumstances, how many of us would have
turned out better than this poor, lapsed, sunken multitude?
Many of this crowd have never had a chance of doing better; they have
been born in a poisoned atmosphere, educated in circumstances which
have rendered modesty an impossibility, and have been thrown into life
in conditions which make vice a second nature. Hence, to provide an
effective remedy for the evils which we are deploring these
circumstances must be altered, and unless my Scheme effects such a
change, it will be of no use. There are multitudes, myriads, of men and
women, who are floundering in the horrible quagmire beneath the burden
of a load too heavy for them to bear; every plunge they take forward
lands them deeper; some have ceased even to struggle, and lie prone in
the filthy bog, slowly suffocating, with their manhood and womanhood
all but perished. It is no use standing on the firm bank of the
quaking morass and anathematising these poor wretches; if you are to do
them any good, you must give them another chance to get on their feet,
you must give them firm foothold upon which they can once more stand
upright, and you must build stepping-stones across the bog to enable
them safely to reach the other side. Favourable circumstances will not
change a man's heart or transform his nature, but unpropitious
circumstances may render it absolutely impossible for him to escape,
no matter how he may desire to extricate himself. The first step with
these helpless, sunken creatures is to create the desire to escape,
and then provide the means for doing so. In other words, give the man
Thirdly: Any remedy worthy of consideration must be on a scale
commensurate with the evil with which it proposes to deal. It is no use
trying to bail out the ocean with a pint pot. This evil is one whose
victims are counted by the million. The army of the Lost in our midst
exceeds the numbers of that multitudinous host which Xerxes led from
Asia to attempt the conquest of Greece. Pass in parade those who make
up the submerged tenth, count the paupers indoor and outdoor, the
homeless, the starving, the criminals, the lunatics, the drunkards,
and the harlots--and yet do not give way to despair! Even to attempt
to save a tithe of this host requires that we should put much more
force and fire into our work than has hitherto been exhibited by
anyone. There must be no more philanthropic tinkering, as if this vast
sea of human misery were contained in the limits of a garden pond.
Fourthly: Not only must the Scheme be large enough, but it must be
permanent. That is to say, it must not be merely a spasmodic effort
coping with the misery of to-day; it must be established on a durable
footing, so as to go on dealing with the misery of tomorrow and the
day after, so long as there is misery left in the world with which to
Fifthly: But while it must be permanent, it must also be immediately
practicable. Any Scheme, to be of use, must be capable of being brought
into instant operation with beneficial results.
Sixthly: The indirect features of the Scheme must not be such as to
produce injury to the persons whom we seek to benefit. Mere charity,
for instance, while relieving the pinch of hunger, demoralises the
recipient; and whatever the remedy is that we employ, it must be of
such a nature as to do good without doing evil at the same time.
It is no use conferring sixpennyworth of benefit on a man if, at the
same time, we do him a shilling'sworth of harm.
Seventhly: 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.
These are the conditions by which I ask you to test the Scheme I am
about to unfold. They are formidable enough, possibly, to deter many
from even attempting to do anything. They are not of my making. They
are obvious to anyone who looks into the matter. They are the laws
which govern the work of the philanthropic reformer, just as the laws
of gravitation, of wind and of weather, govern the operations of the
engineer. It is no use saying we could build a bridge across the Tay
if the wind did not blow, or that we could build a railway across a bog
if the quagmire would afford us a solid foundation. The engineer has
to take into account the difficulties, and make them his starting
point. The wind will blow, therefore the bridge must be made strong
enough to resist it. Chat Moss will shake; therefore we must construct
a foundation in the very bowels of the bog on which to build our
railway. So it is with the social difficulties which confront us.
If we act in harmony with these laws we shall triumph; but if we ignore
them they will overwhelm us with destruction and cover us with
But, difficult as the task may be, it is not one which we can neglect.
When Napoleon was compelled to retreat under circumstances which
rendered it impossible for him to carry off his sick and wounded,
he ordered his doctors to poison every man in the hospital. A general
has before now massacred his prisoners rather than allow them to
escape. These Lost ones are the Prisoners of Society; they are the
Sick and Wounded in our Hospitals. What a shriek would arise from the
civilised world if it were proposed to administer to-night to every one
of these millions such a dose of morphine that they would sleep to wake
no more. But so far as they are concerned, would it not be much less
cruel thus to end their life than to allow them to drag on day after
day, year after year, in misery, anguish, and despair, driven into vice
and hunted into crime, until at last disease harries them into the
I am under no delusion as to the possibility of inaugurating a
millennium by my Scheme; but the triumphs of science deal so much with
the utilisation of waste material, that I do not despair of something
effectual being accomplished in the utilisation of this waste human
product. The refuse which was a drug and a curse to our manufacturers,
when treated under the hands of the chemist, has been the means of
supplying us with dyes rivalling in loveliness and variety the hues of
the rainbow. If the alchemy of science can extract beautiful colours
from coal tar, cannot Divine alchemy enable us to evolve gladness and
brightness out of the agonised hearts and dark, dreary, loveless lives
of these doomed myriads? Is it too much to hope that in God's world
God's children may be able to do something, if they set to work with a
will, to carry out a plan of campaign against these great evils which
are the nightmare of our existence?
The remedy, it may be, is simpler than some imagine. The key to the
enigma may lie closer to our hands than we have any idea of.
Many devices have been tried, and many have failed, no doubt;
it is only stubborn, reckless perseverance that can hope to succeed;
it is well that we recognise this. How many ages did men try to make
gunpowder and never succeeded? They would put saltpetre to charcoal,
or charcoal to sulphur, or saltpetre to sulphur, and so were ever
unable to make the compound explode. But it has only been discovered
within the last few hundred years that all three were needed.
Before that gunpowder was a mere imagination, a phantasy of the
alchemists. How easy it is to make gunpowder, now the secret of its
manufacture is known!
But take a simpler illustration, one which lies even within the memory
of some that read these pages. From the beginning of the world down to
the beginning of this century, mankind had not found out, with all its
striving after cheap and easy transport, the miraculous difference that
would be brought about by laying down two parallel lines of metal.
All the great men and the wise men of the past lived and died oblivious
of that fact. The greatest mechanicians and engineers of antiquity,
the men who bridged all the rivers of Europe, the architects who built
the cathedrals which are still the wonder of the world, failed to
discern what seems to us so obviously simple a proposition, that two
parallel lines of rail would diminish the cost and difficulty of
transport to a minimum. Without that discovery the steam engine, which
has itself been an invention of quite recent years, would have failed
to transform civilisation.
What we have to do in the philanthropic sphere is to find something
analogous to the engineers' parallel bars. This discovery think I have
made, and hence have I written this book.
SECTION 2--MY SCHEME
What, then, is my Scheme? It is a very simple one, although in its
ramifications and extensions it embraces the whole world. In this book
I profess to do no more than to merely outline, as plainly and as
simply as I can, the fundamental features of my proposals. I propose
to devote the bulk of this volume to setting forth what can practically
be done with one of the most pressing parts of the problem, namely,
that relating to those who are out of work, and who, as the result,
are more or less destitute. I have many ideas of what might be done
with those who are at present cared for in some measure by the State,
but I will leave these ideas for the present.
It is not urgent that I should explain how our Poor Law system could be
reformed, or what I should like to see done for the Lunatics in
Asylums, or the Criminals in Gaols. The persons who are provided for by
the State we will, therefore, for the moment, leave out of count.
The indoor paupers, the convicts, the inmates of the lunatic asylums
are cared for, in a fashion; already. But, over and above all these,
there exists some hundreds of thousands who are not quartered on the
State, but who are living on the verge of despair, and who at any
moment, under circumstances of misfortune, might be compelled to demand
relief or support in one shape or another. I will confine myself,
therefore, for the present to those who have no helper.
It is possible, I think probable, if the proposals which I am now
putting forward are carried out successfully in relation to the lost,
homeless, and helpless of the population, that many of those who are at
the present moment in somewhat better circumstances will demand that
they also shall be allowed to partake in the benefits of the Scheme.
But upon this, also, I remain silent. I merely remark that we have,
in the recognition of the importance of discipline and organisation;
what may be called regimented co-operation, a principle that will be
found valuable for solving many social problems other than that of
destitution. Of these plans, which are at present being brooded over
with a view to their realisation when the time is propitious and the
opportunity occurs, I shall have something to say.
What is the outward and visible form of the Problem of the Unemployed?
Alas! we are all too familiar with it for any lengthy description to
be necessary. 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. There he stands, your brother, with
sixpennyworth of rags to cover his nakedness from his fellow men and
not sixpennyworth of victuals within his reach. 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? That is the great note of interrogation that confronts Society
to-day. Not only in overcrowded England, but in newer countries beyond
the sea, where Society has not yet provided a means by which the men
can be put upon the land and the land be made to feed the men.
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 at once 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
co-operative society, or patriarchal family, governed and disciplined
on the principles which have already proved so effective in the
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.
THE CITY COLONY.
By the City Colony is meant the establishment, in the very centre of
the ocean of misery of which we have been speaking, of a number of
Institutions to act as Harbours of Refuge for all and any who have been
shipwrecked in life, character, or circumstances. These Harbours will
gather up the poor destitute creatures, supply their immediate pressing
necessities, furnish temporary employment, inspire them with hope for
the future, and commence at once a course of regeneration by moral and
From these Institutions, which are hereafter described, numbers would,
after a short time, be floated off to permanent employment, or sent
home to friends happy to receive them on hearing of their reformation.
All who remain on our hands would, by varied means, be tested as to
their sincerity, industry, and honesty, and as soon as satisfaction was
created, be passed on to the Colony of the second class.
THE FARM COLONY.
This would consist of a settlement of the Colonists on an estate in the
provinces, in the culture of which they would find employment and
obtain support. As the race from the Country to the City has been the
cause of much of the distress we have to battle with, we propose to
find a substantial part of our remedy by transferring these same people
back to the country, that is back again to "the Garden!"
Here the process of reformation of character would be carried forward
by the same industrial, moral, and religious methods as have already
been commenced in the City, especially including those forms of labour
and that knowledge of agriculture which, should the Colonist not
obtain employment in this country, will qualify him for pursuing his
fortunes under more favourable circumstances in some other land.
From the Farm, as from the City, there can be no question that large
numbers, resuscitated in health and character, would be restored to
friends up and down the country. Some would find employment in their
own callings, 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, namely The Over-Sea Colony.
THE OVER-SEA COLONY.
All who have given attention to the subject are agreed that in our
Colonies in South Africa, Canada, Western Australia and elsewhere,
there are millions of acres of useful land to be obtained almost for
the asking, capable of supporting our surplus population in health and
comfort, were it a thousand times greater than it is. We propose to
secure a tract of land in one of these countries, prepare it for
settlement, establish in it authority, govern it by equitable laws,
assist it in times of necessity, settling it gradually with a prepared
people, and so create a home for these destitute multitudes.
The Scheme, in its entirety, may aptly be compared to A Great Machine,
foundationed in the lowest slums and purlieus of our great towns and
cities, drawing up into its embrace the depraved and destitute of all
classes; receiving thieves, harlots, paupers, drunkards, prodigals,
all alike, on the simple conditions of their being willing to work and
to conform to discipline. Drawing up these poor outcasts, reforming
them, and creating in them habits of industry, honesty, and truth;
teaching them methods by which alike the bread that perishes and that
which endures to Everlasting Life can be won. Forwarding them 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, keeping hold of them with a strong government,
and yet making them free men and women; and so laying the foundations,
perchance, of another Empire to swell to vast proportions in later
times. Why not?
CHAPTER 2. TO THE RESCUE!--THE CITY COLONY.
The first section of my Scheme is the establishment of a Receiving
House for the Destitute in every great centre of population. We start,
let us remember, from the individual, the ragged, hungry, penniless man
who confronts us with despairing demands for food, shelter, and work.
Now, I have had some two or three years' experience in dealing with
this class. I believe, at the present moment, the Salvation Army
supplies more food and shelter to the destitute than any other
organisation in London, and it is the experience and encouragement
which I have gained in the working of these Food and Shelter Depots
which has largely encouraged me to propound this scheme.
SECTION 1.--FOOD AND SHELTER FOR EVERY MAN.
As I rode through Canada and the United States some three years ago,
I was greatly impressed with the superabundance of food which I saw at
every turn. Oh, how I longed that the poor starving people, and the
hungry children of the East of London and of other centres of our
destitute populations, should come into the midst of this abundance,
but as it appeared impossible for me to take them to it, I secretly
resolved that I would endeavour to bring some of it to them.
I am thankful to say that I have already been able to do so on a small
scale, and hope to accomplish it ere long on a much vaster one.
With this view, the first Cheap Food Depot was opened in the East of
London two and a half years ago. This has been followed by others,
and we have now three establishments: others are being arranged for.
Since the commencement in 1888, we have supplied over three and a half
million meals. Some idea can be formed of the extent to which these
Food and Shelter Depots have already struck their roots into the strata
of Society which it is proposed to benefit, by the following figures,
which give the quantities of food sold during the year at our Food
FOOD SOLD IN DEPOTS AND SHELTERS DURING 1889.
Article Weight Measure Remarks
Soup ......... 116,400 gallons
Bread 192.5 tons 106,964 4-lb loaves
Tea 2.5 tons 46,980 gallons
Coffee 15 cwt. 13,949 gallons
Cocoa 6 tons 29,229 gallons
Sugar 25 tons ..................... 300 bags
Potatoes 140 tons ..................... 2,800 bags
Flour 18 tons ..................... 180 sacks
Peaflour 28.5 tons ..................... 288 sacks
Oatmeal 3.5 tons ..................... 36 sacks
Rice 12 tons ..................... 120 sacks
Beans 12 tons ..................... 240 sacks
Onions and parsnips 12 tons ..................... 240 sacks
Jam 9 tons ..................... 2,880 jars
Marmalade 6 tons ..................... 1,920 jars
Meat 15 tons .....................
Milk .......... 14,300 quarts
This includes returns from three Food Depots and five Shelters.
I propose to multiply their number, to develop their usefulness,
and to make them the threshold of the whole Scheme. Those who have
already visited our Depots will understand exactly what th is means.
The majority, however, of the readers of these pages have not done so,
and for them it is necessary to explain what they are.
At each of our Depots, which can be seen by anybody that cares to take
the trouble to visit them, there are two departments, one dealing with
food, the other with shelter. Of these both are worked together and
minister to the same individuals. Many come for food who do not come
for shelter, although most of those who come for shelter also come for
food, which is sold on terms to cover, as nearly as possible, the cost
price and working expenses of the establishment. In this our Food
Depots differ from the ordinary soup kitchens.
There is no gratuitous distribution of victuals. The following is our
Price List: --
WHAT IS SOLD AT THE FOOD DEPOTS.
For a child
Soup Per Basin 1/4d
Soup With Bread 1/2d
Coffee or Cocoa per cup 1/4d
Coffee or Cocoa With Bread and Jam 1/2d
Soup .. .. .. Per Basin 1/2d
Soup .. .. .. With Bread 1d
Potatoes .. .. .. .. .. 1/2d
Cabbage .. .. .. .. .. 1/2d
Haricot Beans .. .. .. .. 1/2d
Boiled Jam Pudding .. .. .. 1/2d
Boiled Plum Pudding .. .. Each 1d
Rice .. .. .. .. .. .. 1/2d
Baked Plum .. .. .. .. 1/2d
Baked Jam Roll .. .. .. .. 1/2d
Meat Pudding and Potatoes .. .. 3d
Corned Beef .. .. .. .. 2d
Corned Mutton .. .. .. .. 2d
Coffee per cup 1/2d; per mug 1d
Cocoa per cup 1/2d; per mug 1d
Tea per cup 1/2d; per mug 1d
Bread & Butter, Jam or Marmalade per slice 1/2d
Soup in own Jugs, 1d per Quart. Ready at 10 a.m.
A certain discretionary power is vested in the Officers in charge of
the Depot, and they can in very urgent cases give relief, but the rule
is for the food to be paid for, and the financial results show that
working expenses are just about covered.
These Cheap Food Depots I have no doubt have been and are or great
service to numbers of hungry starving men, women, and children, at the
prices just named, which must be within the reach of all, except the
absolutely penniless; but it is the Shelter that I regard as the most
useful feature in this part of our undertaking, for if anything is to
be done to get hold of those who use the Depot, some more favourable
opportunity must be afforded than is offered by the mere coming into
the food store to get, perhaps, only a basin of soup. This part of the
Scheme I propose to extend very considerably.
Suppose that you are a casual in the streets of London, homeless,
friendless, weary with looking for work all day and finding none.
Night comes on. Where are you to go? You have perhaps only a few
coppers, or it may be, a few shillings, left of the rapidly dwindling
store of your little capital. You shrink from sleeping in the open
air; you equally shrink from going to the fourpenny Dosshouse where,
in the midst of strange and ribald company, you may be robbed of the
remnant of the money still in your possession. While at a loss as to
what to do, someone who sees you suggests that you should go to our
Shelter. You cannot, of course, go to the Casual Ward of the Workhouse
as long as you have any money in your possession. You come along to
one of our Shelters. On entering you pay fourpence, and are free of
the establishment for the night. You can come in early or late.
The company begins to assemble about five o'clock in the afternoon.
In the women's Shelter you find that many come much earlier and sit
sewing, reading or chatting in the sparely furnished but well warmed
room from the early hours of the afternoon until bedtime.
You come in, and you get a large pot of coffee, tea, or cocoa,
and a hunk of bread. You can go into the wash-house, where you can
have a wash with plenty of warm water, and soap and towels free.
Then after having washed and eaten you can make yourself comfortable.
You can write letters to your friends, if you have any friends to
write to, or you can read, or you can sit quietly and do nothing.
At eight o'clock the Shelter is tolerably full, and then begins what
we consider to be the indispensable feature of the whole concern.
Two or three hundred men in the men's Shelter, or as many women in the
women's Shelter, are collected together, most of them strange to each
other, in a large room. They are all wretchedly poor--what are you
to do with them? This is what we do with them.
We hold a rousing Salvation meeting. The Officer in charge of the
Depot, assisted by detachments from the Training Homes, conducts a
jovial free-and-easy social evening. The girls have their banjos and
their tambourines, and for a couple of hours you have as lively a
meeting as you will find in London. There is prayer, short and to the
point; there are addresses, some delivered by the leaders of the
meeting, but the most of them the testimonies of those who have been
saved at previous meetings, and who, rising in their seats, tell their
companions their experiences. Strange experiences they often are of
those who have been down in the very bottomless depths of sin and vice
and misery, but who have found at last firm footing on which to stand,
and who are, as they say in all sincerity, "as happy as the day is
long." There is a joviality and a genuine good feeling at some of these
meetings which is refreshing to the soul. There are all sorts and
conditions of men; casuals, gaol birds, Out-of-Works, who have come
there for the first time, and who find men who last week or last month
were even as they themselves are now--still poor but rejoicing in a
sense of brotherhood and a consciousness of their being no longer
outcasts and forlorn in this wide world. There are men who have at
last seen revive before them a hope of escaping from that dreadful
vortex, into which their sins and misfortunes had drawn them, and being
restored to those comforts that they had feared so long were gone for
ever; nay, of rising to live a true and Godly life. These tell their
mates how this has come about, and urge all who hear them to try for
themselves and see whether it is not a good and happy thing to be
soundly saved. In the intervals of testimony--and these testimonies,
as every one will bear me witness who has ever attended any of our
meetings, are not long, sanctimonious lackadaisical speeches, but
simple confessions of individual experience--there are bursts of
hearty melody. The conductor of the meeting will start up a verse or
two of a hymn illustrative of the experiences mentioned 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.
There is no compulsion upon anyone of our dossers to take part in this
meeting; they do not need to come in until it is over; but as a simple
matter of fact they do come in. Any night between eight and ten o'clock
you will find these people sitting there, listening to the
exhortations and taking part in the singing, many of them, no doubt,
unsympathetic enough, but nevertheless preferring to be present with
the music and the warmth, mildly stirred, if only by curiosity,
as the various testimonies are delivered.
Sometimes these testimonies are enough to rouse the most cynical of
observers. We had at one of our shelters the captain of an ocean
steamer, who had sunk to the depths of destitution through strong
drink. He came in there one night utterly desperate and was taken in
hand by our people--and with us taking in hand is no mere phrase,
for at the close of our meetings our officers go from seat to seat,
and if they see anyone who shows signs of being affected by the
speeches or the singing, at once sit down beside him and begin to
labour with him for the salvation of his soul. By this means they are
able to get hold of the men and to know exactly where the difficulty
lies, what the trouble is, and if they do nothing else, at least
succeed in convincing them that there is someone who cares for their
soul and would do what he could to lend them a helping hand.
The captain of whom I was speaking was got hold of in this way.
He was deeply impressed, and was induced to abandon once and for all
his habits of intemperance. From that meeting he went an altered man.
He regained his position in the merchant service, and twelve months
afterwards astonished us all by appearing in the uniform of a captain
of a large ocean steamer, to testify to those who were there how low he
had been, how utterly he had lost all hold on Society and all hope of
the future, when, fortunately led to the Shelter, he found friends,
counsel, and salvation, and from that time had never rested until he
had regained the position which he had forfeited by his intemperance.
The meeting over, the singing girls go back to the Training Home,
and the men prepare for bed. Our sleeping arrangements are somewhat
primitive; we do not provide feather beds, and when you go into our
dormitories, you will be surprised to find the floor covered by what
look like an endless array of packing cases. These are our beds,
and each of them forms a cubicle. There is a mattress laid on the
floor, and over the mattress a leather apron, which is all the
bedclothes that we find it possible to provide. The men undress,
each by the side of his packing box, and go to sleep under their
leather covering. The dormitory is warmed with hot water pipes to a
temperature of 60 degrees, and there has never been any complaint of
lack of warmth on the part of those who use the Shelter. The leather
can be kept perfectly clean, and the mattresses, covered with American
cloth, are carefully inspected every day, so that no stray specimen of
vermin may be left in the place. The men turn in about ten o'clock and
sleep until six. We have never any disturbances of any kind in the
Shelters. We have provided accommodation now for several thousand of
the most helplessly broken-down men in London, criminals many of them,
mendicants, tramps, those who are among the filth and offscouring of
all things; but such is the influence that is established by the
meeting and the moral ascendancy of our officers themselves, that we
have never had a fight on the premises, and very seldom do we ever hear
an oath or an obscene word. Sometimes there has been trouble outside
the Shelter, when men insisted upon coming in drunk or were otherwise
violent; but once let them come to the Shelter, and get into the swing
of the concern, and we have no trouble with them. In the morning they
get up and have their breakfast and, after a short service, go off
their various ways. We find that we can do this, that is to say, we
can provide coffee and bread for breakfast and for supper, and a
shake-down on the floor in the packing-boxes I have described in a warm
dormitory for fourpence a head.
I propose to develop these Shelters, so as to afford every man a
locker, in which he could store any little valuables that he may
possess. I would also allow him the use of a boiler in the washhouse
with a hot drying oven, so that he could wash his shirt over night and
have it returned to him dry in the morning. Only those who have had
practical experience of the difficulty of seeking for work in London
can appreciate the advantages of the opportunity to get your shirt
washed in this way--if you have one. In Trafalgar Square, in 1887,
there were few things that scandalised the public more than the
spectacle of the poor people camped in the Square, washing their shirts
in the early morning at the fountains. If you talk to any men who have
been on the road for a lengthened period they will tell you that
nothing hurts their self-respect more or stands more fatally in the way
of their getting a job than the impossibility of getting their little
things done up and clean.
In our poor man's "Home" everyone could at least keep himself clean and
have a clean shirt to his back, in a plain way, no doubt; but still not
less effective than if he were to be put up at one of the West End
hotels, and would be able to secure anyway the necessaries of life
while being passed on to something far better. This is the first step.
SOME SHELTER TROPHIES.
Of the practical results which have followed our methods of dealing
with the outcasts who take shelter with us we have many striking
examples. Here are a few, each of them a transcript of a life
experience relating to men who are now active, industrious members of
the community upon which but for the agency of these Depots they would
have been preying to this day.
A.S.--Born in Glasgow, 1825. Saved at Clerkenwell, May 19, 1889.
Poor parents raised in a Glasgow Slum. Was thrown on the streets at
seven years of age, became the companion and associate of thieves, and
drifted into crime. The following are his terms of imprisonment: --
14 days, 30 days, 30 days. 60 days, 60 days (three times in succession),
4 months, 6 months (twice), 9 months, 18 months, 2 years, 6 years,
7 years (twice), 14 years; 40 years 3 months and 6 days in the
aggregate. Was flogged for violent conduct in gaol 8 times.
W. M. ("Buff").--Born in Deptford, 1864, saved at Clerkenwell,
March 31st, 1889. His father was an old Navy man, and earned a decent
living as manager. Was sober, respectable, and trustworthy. Mother
was a disreputable drunken slattern: a curse and disgrace to husband
and family. The home was broken up, and little Buff was given over to
the evil influences of his depraved mother. His 7th birthday present
from his admiring parent was a "quarten o'gin." He got some education
at the One Tun Alley Ragged School, but when nine years old was caught
apple stealing, and sent to the industrial School at Ilford for
7 years. Discharged at the end of his term, he drifted to the streets,
the casual wards, and Metropolitan gaols, every one of whose interiors
he is familiar with. He became a ringleader of a gang that infested
London; a thorough mendicant and ne'er-do-well; a pest to society.
Naturally he is a born leader, and one of those spirits that command a
following; consequently, when he got Salvation, the major part of his
following came after him to the Shelter, and eventually to God.
His character since conversion has been altogether satisfactory, and he
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