THE CHARITY ORGANISATION SOCIETY AND GENERAL BOOTH.*
THERE are a large number of intelligent people who are, in their relation to General Booth and his social scheme, very much in the attitude of Gamaliel : they have witnessed the rise and fall of a good many schemes of social regeneration, and have seen the hollowness of many a panacea for human suffering ; they have seen enough to assure them of this, that that which is false will come to naught, but if of Goa they will not prevail against it; and they refrain at least from opposition, lest haply they be found fighting against God. A man has risen up amongst us undoubtedly honest in purpose, steeped to the lips in love of his fellow-men, with considerable powers of organisation, with absolute faith in himself and in his divine commission to save socially, and even "the large majority" of the submerged masses of our population. As the outward and visible means towards the accomplishment of this end, he asks this wealthy nation of ours to subscribe a Bum equal to the entire fortune of one of its wealthiest shopkeepers. That we are all so profoundly stirred by the audacity of the demand, is a matter surely for humilia- tion. Nevertheless, when the scheme demands this practical support, we have a right to examine its foundations closely. It is perfectly clear that the question of money ought not to be allowed to stand, in the way of the accomplishment of an end 80 devoutly to be wished, if only we are on the right track to the desired goal.
The Charity Organisation Society, which has for the last twenty-five years been incessantly grappling with the problem before us, has a right to be heard in the matter. And we have, through its able and large-minded chief secretary, in the pages before us, a dispassionate examination of General Booth's Social Scheme. Mr. Loch is not given to generalisa- tion; he takes up point after point, and examines each state. ment on its own merits, "agreeing in the spirit of much that General Booth proposes, but disagreeing on many points in his methods," the object of his little book is "to help in the formation of a sound opinion on his proposals." The main principle laid down by General Booth is this—that "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." And with this principle not only is the Charity Organisation Society in agree- ment, but it is one, as Mr. Loch remarks, which, through good and evil report, they have been urging for years : it is a principle which has been maintained by every Christian teacher for nineteen hundred years ; but, says General Booth, "this [the change of the whole man] we are confident of effecting— anyway, in the great majority of eases—by reasonings and persuasions, concerning both earthly and heavenly advan- tages, by the power of man and by the power of God." But the remedy he (General Booth) urges must be on a scale commensurate with the evil with which it proposes to deal. He declares that the lost for whom he pleads, "lost not in a religious but in a social sense, are those who have lost their foothold in society, those to whom the prayer to our heavenly Father, Give us this day our daily bread,' remains either unfulfilled or only fulfilled by the devil's agency." And this class, he asserts, comprises one-tenth of our entire population. Mr. Loch challenges this statement, and makes what we must consider a very important comparison between s ne Examination of Getioral BootION &via t Scheme. Adopted by Um Council of the London Charity Ocgrolisation Society, 0. S. Loch, Bo:rotary. London : Swan Sonnonsehoin and Co. 1890,
Mr. Charles Booth's figures, in his invaluable work entitled Labour and Life of the People, to which General Booth appeals, and the General's own version of those figures. The pages which deal with this branch of the subject are extremely im- portant,—pp. 35 to 43 of the book before us. We have not space to quote them, but for result we get a submerged seventy-seventh in place of a submerged tenth, and even so the "casual labourer" has to be included ; and, as Mr. Loch asks, "Is it not almost Mauled that General Booth should think of employing, as he suggests, almost the, whole casual labour class, including the dock labourers ? How the price of dock labour would rise under such circumstances ! " Mr. Loch next very carefully examines the statements made by General Booth concerning the remedial measures he would apply. First, the workshop or city colony, on the success of which he in great part bases his scheme, has only been established four or five months,—a period which Mr. Loch, with his wide knowledge of such experiments, deems very insufficient for test- ing its practical utility. General Booth relies on the certainty that men out of work will gladly take it. He is optimistic to an extreme on. this subject, but Mr. Loch directs attention to the evidence which the General adduces. There is a naiveté curiously at variance with the clear-sightedness he often shows in the manner in which General Booth records that, taking 250 men who were on one night inmates of his London shelters, men confessedly in "rags, swarming with vermin, hungry, many of them living on scraps of food, begged or earned in the most haphazard fashion, without sufficient clothing, most of them without a shirt," he said to them; If you were put on a farm and set to work at anything you could do, and supplied with food, lodging, and clothing, with a view to getting you on your feet, would you be willing to do all you could?" and that "in response, the whole 250 replied in the affirmative, with one exception." The veriest impostor who ever begged a sixpence would have made the same rejoinder ; but General Booth is confident that work should be found for everybody, and Mr. Loch goes somewhat at length into the experiments in this direction which have been already tried in Germany and in Holland. In the latter country, the farm system has been tried for a long time for the aid of poor persons and beggars. "For a small number of selected men," Mr. Loch says, it now answers tolerably well, though after the expenditure of a mint of money ; but with regard to the beggars' colony, the evidence of Sir John McNeill, President of the Board of Supervision in Scotland, who visited it in 1853, was that it took fifteen men to do the work of one ordinary field-labourer. Mr. Loch goes carefully through General Booth's suggestions, and weighs them without partiality; but the heaviest item against General Booth's reasoning is the way in which he completely ignores existing agencies :—
"It is no better than a ghastly mockery," writes General Booth, "to call by the name of One who came to seek and to save that which was lost, those Churches which in the midst of lost multi- tudes, either sleep in apathy or display a fitful interest in a chasuble. Why all this apparatus of temples and meeting.houses to save men from perdition in a world which is to come, while never a helping hand is stretched out to save them from the inferno of their present life P" Why indeed ?—but where will such Churches be found ? General Booth speaks as if all shelters, labour bureau; and other good works bad really originated with him ; some agencies, like the Labour Agency and Prisoners' Aid Societies, he completely ignores, though the latter has in reality, Mr. Loch tells us, "a network of societies in connection with every gaol in England." "There are already fifteen homes for prison cases." "The Royal Dis- charged Aid Society in London provided satisfactorily for all but about 15 to 18 per cent. of the 468 prisoners they dealt with." No doubt the per-centage not provided for goes to swell the number of those for whom General Booth labours. With the refuges it is the same. Many as there are (278 Rescue Homes alone are on the Charities Register), and admirable as their work is, doubtless too many of the "rescued" sink back into the slough of vice. Thus, though Mr. Loch reduces General Booth's field of operations to a more manageable limit, so that he has about half-a-million or less, instead of three millions of souls to deal with, there is work enough for him to do ; only, here again, as Mr. Loch points out, "it is not a mass that has to be moved, or a bog that has to be drained :"— " A glance," he says, "at Mr. Charles Booth's map in the Life and Labour of the Pcople shows the black patches of the social life of East. London, not as the swamps of a submerged world, but scattered here and there in dots and lines. Some one—clergyman, minister, doctor, landowner, leaseholder, tradesman, or artisan— is neighbour to these black patches. Let them be tackled one by one, with the united strength of all who care."
It is so much easier to give, even to give largely, to a big
scheme than it is to take trouble for the individual atom, and yet it is as true to-day as ever that we only really touch another human soul when virtue or strength goes out of us. "Some of the most important evidence in regard to the organisation of charity," says Mr. Loch, "is to be found, perhaps, in the early Christian Churches.", "These associations were small bodies acting locally, with officers specially appointed both to ascertain the facts in regard to members in distress, and to take charge of the funds of the association." Out of these bodies grew the parochial system, and "the question is, whether the problem can be solved by reverting more definitely and enthusiastically to the local system, or by introducing a new group of gigantic institutions." The problem, he reminds us, with which General Booth deals as if it were limited and finite, is really infinite in its nature. The old evil will reappear. The demand for relief, especially relief so largely advertised and so freely given, will exceed the supply. 'There is plenty of work for General Booth and his Army to do, work which might well absorb all the funds that will be forthcoming. In the classes with which, he is specially dealing, drink lies at the root of more thai half the misery and crime. Mr. Loch suggests that he would find large scope in the creation of well-managed houses for inebriates, and also in trying whether training-farms could be acclimatised in England. But we think the clear conviction which will be left on the mind of every thoughtful reader of Mr. Loch's
Examination of Genera? Booth's Social Scheme is well expressed in his own words :— "' Whereas in other associations charity was an accident, in the Christian association it was of the essence.' If this, or any- thing like it, be true now, we would appeal to all those who are so associated, nominally or really, and to their loaders, to cast aside all prejudices and hindrances, and boldly to meet and settle how with one accord and systematically they can get rid of the black patches of London by local and well-directed endeavours. Every insane of help could then be turned to account. Progress might be made more decisive and continuous. And institutions, if new institutions were wanted, would not be created except in relation to a local need, or in such a manner as to absorb unnecessarily the energies of the charitable, but simply to do what personal devotion of itself cannot accomplish."