History of Co-operation (1)
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CHAPTER I

NATURE OF CO-OPERATION


"Distribution should undo excess,
 And each man have enough."
—King Lear.


IT is the duty of him who pleads a cause, or solicits the attention of the public to any subject, to state distinctly what the subject is—if he knows it; so that those who confer upon him the favour of their attention at the outset may possess the means of deciding whether or no they will continue it.

    Dr. Furnivall could tell all about the origin of the term Co-operation and when it first crept into our language.  I find less of it than I expected in quarters in which I have looked.  "The Encyclopædia Metropolitana," 1845, says the French have the word co-operer, the Spaniards co-operar, the Italians co-operare, the Latin co-operare, and derive it from co- and operari, which simply means to work—to labour together, to endeavour for some common purpose.  Sir Thomas More, speaking of the Sacrament, mentions that "in certain respects it doth nothing work, nor co-operat thereto."  Crashaw, in his "Sacred Poems," writes:—


"Bring all your lutes and harps of heav'n and earth;
 Whate'er co-operates to the common mirth."


    Hammond, in his "Sermons," was, so far as I am aware, the first to use the word in the form with which we are now so familiar.  He says, "Men will see the original of all the wealth, called such, immediately from God; without any co-operation of ours."  Holland, in his "Plutarch," makes a quotation from Timotheus, the poet, in which a form of the word which has never come into use, is employed:—


"Both boldness stout and fortitude,
     With mental discipline,
 In war, which are co-operant,
     With virtue doth combine."


In Boyle's Life there is given a pretty instance of the personal form of the term: "And the success will perhaps invite many more to be co-operators with the truth."

    Co-operation, in the industrial sense of the word, means the equitable division of profits with worker, capitalist, and consumer, concerned in the undertaking.  From the commencement of human society Co-operation has been common in the sense of two or more persons uniting to attain an end which each was unable to effect singly.  As society grew, crowds were coerced into acting together by king or chief, who took the profit.  In modern days the capitalist has it.  It is still common to regard the labourer as being under great obligation for mere subsistence, while he aids in creating the wealth of his employer.  The new Co-operation, of which I here write, begins in mutual help, with a view to end in a common competence.  A co-operative society commences in persuasion, proceeds by consent, seeks success by common efforts, incurs risks, and shares losses, intending that all its members shall proportionately share whatever benefits are secured.  The equality sought is not a mad equality of


"Equal division of unequal earnings," [1]


but an equitable award of gains proportionate to work done.  There is equality under the law when every man can obtain justice, however low his condition or small his means; there is equality of protection when none may assault or kill the humblest person without being made accountable; there is civil equality when the evidence of all is valid in courts of justice, irrespective of speculative opinion; there is equality of citizenship when all offices and honours are open to merit; there is equality of taxation when all are made to contribute to the support of the State according to their means; and there is equality in a co-operative society, when the right of every worker, shareholder, or purchaser is recognised to a share of the common profit, in the proportion to which he contributes to it, in capital, or labour, or trade—by hand or head.  There is no complete Co-operation where this equality is not the rule.

    Co-operation, after being long declared innovatory and impracticable, has been discovered to be both old and ordinary.  Mr. John Macdonell counts Jacob tending Laban's flocks as a very early co-operator, he being a servant directly interested in the profits of his master. [2]  Mr. Nasse has shown that there existed agricultural communities in Europe in the Middle Ages, and that there was a co-operative use of land in England which it would be deemed revolutionary to propose now.  It is remembered now that Greek sailors in the Levant, American sailors engaged in the whale fishery and China trade, the Chinese traders in Manilla, the Cornwall lead miners, and the lead and copper miners of Flintshire and Cumberland, have long been either equal or partial participators in profits.  The Metayer system [3] is a familiar illustration with political economists.  A modern author, who has written with discernment of social theorists, says, "The words Co-operation and Cooperative have been used by communist writers to denote that all the members of a community are to work together for the common benefit, instead of working, as at present, each on his own account." [4]  This explanation is on the line of truth, and goes forward some distance upon it.

    Co-operation turns toil into industry, which is labour animated—working willingly, knowing the reason why—because the profit of each, in proportion to his work, is secured to him.  Co-operation leaves nobody out who works.  Those who do not know this do not understand Co-operation; those who do know it and do not mean it, are traitors to the principle.  Those who mean it and do not take steps to secure it, or are silent when others evade it, or do not advocate it when occasion offers, are unseeing or supine.  Co-operation touches no man's fortune; seeks no plunder; causes no disturbance in society; gives no trouble to statesmen; it enters into no secret associations; it needs no trades union to protect its interests; it contemplates no violence; it subverts no order; it envys no dignity; it accepts no gift, nor asks any favour; it keeps no terms with the idle, and it will break no faith with the industrious. It is neither mendicant, servile, nor offensive; it has its hand in no man's pocket, and does not mean that any other hands shall remain long or comfortably in its own; it means self-help, self-dependence, and such share of the common competence as labour shall earn or thought can win.


 
CHAPTER II.

THE EVIL DAYS BEFORE CO-OPERATION BEGAN


"Defend me, therefore, Common Sense, say I,
 From reveries so airy—from the toil
 Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
 And growing old in drawing nothing up."—C
OWPER.


MATTERS were at a very bad pass—as they had often been before—with the working people in England when Co-operation began.  There was a certain statute of Edward VI., which set forth in its preamble "that partly by the foolish pity and mercy of them which should have seen godly laws executed" the poor and unemployed had become troublesome: and therefore, in order that godliness might do its duty to society, it was enacted that—"If any person shall bring to two justices of peace any runagate servant, or any other which liveth idly or loiteringly by the space of three days, they shall cause that idle and loitering servant or vagabond to be marked with a hot iron on the breast with the mark of V, and adjudge him to be slave to the same person that brought him for two years after, who shall take the said slave and give him bread, water, or small drink, and refuse him meat, and cause him to work, by beating, chaining, or otherwise, in such work as he shall put him unto, be it never so vile: and if he shall absent himself from his said master, by the space of fourteen days, then he shall be adjudged by two justices of peace to be marked on the forehead, or the ball of the cheek, with a hot iron, with the sign of an S, and further shall be adjudged to be slave to his said master for ever."

    In the days when this Act was passed, it was easy to see that gentlemen knew what they were about; and at the beginning of the last century there were worthy and worshipping persons, who regretted, as many do still, the decay of vigour in the governing classes.  What they had come to in 1822 Francis Place has recorded. [5]  In that year a poor farrier had travelled from Alnwick, in Northumberland, to London in search of work.  On the same day a shopman to a grocer—long out of employ—arrived penniless from Shropshire.  Both had come up to London, and met, companions in destitution, in the pens of Smithfield market, where they ventured to think they might be allowed to sleep in the bed of beasts.  They were seized by constables and taken before a magistrate of the city.  Both begged to be discharged, and promised to make their way home in the best way they could; but to this humble request the magistrate would not accede.  He said "he was of opinion that the prisoners were not justified in coming to town without any prospect before them, for they must have known that, in the present state of trade, no one would take them in, nor would any one be justified in taking in a perfect stranger; but whether their conduct arose solely from ignorance or not he considered was immaterial; the magistrates could not know the minds of the prisoners, and could make no distinction."

    The Lord Mayor agreed with the Alderman on the bench who had delivered this decision, and who consulted him.  "The City magistrates," the Mayor said, "wish it to be known in the country at large that in future they should feel themselves bound to send all to hard labour for the term enacted (which was not less than one, and as much as three, months), whether they were actuated by a vicious spirit of vagabondage, or with whatever professed object or speculation they came to town.  In short, they would put the law in full force against all who could not prove reasonable assurance or certainty of employment as their motive for coming to London."  Farriers and shopmen unable to obtain employment in their own parish were warned that they must stay there and perish.

    In 1825 a dinner was given to Joseph Hume, M.P., in Edinburgh, on which occasion Francis Jeffrey made a speech in favour of the combination of workmen.  The substance of Mr. Jeffrey's speech occupies twenty-three pages octavo.  Judging from the facility and persistence with which some Scotch bailies who come to England on deputations speak, [6] this dinner may have lasted a week.  The purport of Mr. Jeffrey's speech was to explain the toast "Freedom of Labour," which was expressed as follows: "Freedom of Labour.  But let the labourer recollect that in exercising his own rights he cannot be permitted to violate the rights of others."  It was generous of Francis Jeffrey, himself a Whig reviewer, to speak at all in defence of combination by workmen; [7] but at that time, and for years after, it was a perilous business for the labourer to attempt to unite, or to be known to be friendly with those who counselled him to do it.  There was no necessity to warn them not to abuse the power they dare not use.

    Now homilies are read to them against cultivating class feeling.  In the day of which I write, it was a great point to get them to understand that they were a class at all.  At that time a very uncomfortable monitor of the people existed, who attracted a large share of attention, and who gave the poor a "bit of his mind," which they have not forgotten yet—the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus.  This is what he said to them, in deliberately chosen sentences, and in large type: "There is one right which a man has been generally thought to possess, which I am sure he neither can nor does possess—a right to subsistence when his labour will not fairly purchase it." [8]  "I firmly believe," he says, "that such persons, by the laws of nature, which are the laws of God, have no claim to support."  Only the rich had the right to live.  Malthus had the ear of legislators, and he wrote for them; and this is what he said to them: "As a previous step to alteration in the poor-law, which would contract or stop the increase of the relief to be given, it appears to me that we are bound in justice and honour formally to disclaim the right of the poor to support."  "To this end," he continues, " I should propose a regulation to be made declaring that no child born from any marriage, taking place after the expiration of a year from the date of this law, and no illegitimate child born two years from same date, should ever be entitled to parish assistance." [9]

    This language informed the poor that they had better get good information as to how things are going on in the world before they come into it.  He would logically interdict "lying-in" houses as encouraging sexual improvidence—he would abolish hospital aid for diseases arising from poverty.  The St. Augustine tone prevailed in the churches.  Piety was not only dogmatic, it was insolvent.  It dictated to men their beliefs.  The struggling, whom it could not help—the miserable, whom it could not save, it interdicted from thinking for themselves.  The workman was regarded as holding his soul under a ticket-or-leave from the churches; and men of free thought in religion, or politics, or science were treated as a criminal class.  Common men were vassals—the mitre their souls—the State their means.  And, what was worse, many of them had no more sense than to put themselves, like dry sticks, under the cauldron of corruption.

    Historical knowledge was a weak point of the people.  Those of them who were politicians believed that the history of the world began with the French Revolution.  Old Midland politicians half believe now that liberty began with the Birmingham Political Union of 1830.  A stout Radical of mark in Bradford, Squire Farrar, built himself a house early in the last century, and over the door, cut in stone, still appears the date of the declaration of American Independence; and there is a general impression in many quarters here, as well as across the Atlantic, that the world recommenced at that period.

    However, without troubling much when the world began, workmen were to be found who were bent on improving it.  Trades unionists were among the most active of this class.  We need not go far for an example which will sufficiently illustrate their condition and their sense as well as their spirit.

    The wool combers and stuff weavers of Bradford published in 1825 a notable statement of the workman's case in local verse, which commences thus:—


"Lads, pray what's the matter?
 Are you with master about to fight?
 'Yes, sir, we are, and well we might,
 For let us work hard as we will,
 We're ne'er the better for it still.'"


    Bradford men always had a stout, unyielding way of expressing dissatisfaction with their condition.  So the Bradford Homer proceeds to sound this note of battle, of which the world has heard a good deal since.  Answering the masters, the poet sings:—


                                "We are most willing
 To work twelve pen'orth for a shilling.
 But more we neither can nor will;
 We'd rather all, at once, stand still,
 And form a
UNION of our own
 As men have done in many a town."


    The verse of the stuff weavers' bard, it must be owned, is a little woolly, but its texture is virile.

    Things were not in a satisfactory state in England when men like Southey and Coleridge thought of seeking in another land more hopeful conditions of life.  Southey's noble invocation to the wealthier classes, said—


      "Train up thy children, England.
Where hast thou mines—but in their industry?
Thy bulwarks where—but in their breasts ?
      O grief, then—grief and shame,
If in this flourishing land there should be dwellings
Where the new-born babe doth bring unto its parents' soul
No joy!—where squalid poverty
Gives it the scanty bread of discontent." [10]


    The rise of machinery was the circumstance that filled the working class with despair.  The capitalist able to use machinery grew rich, the poor who were displaced by it were brought in great numbers to the poor-house.  A man so strong thinking as Horace Greeley had his mind inclined to protection by the misery he witnessed in his father's household, when handloom weaving was superseded by merciless inventions.  Even Owen exclaimed, "We are pressed down by the weight of inventions and improvements." [11]   Indeed, in 1807, things were so hopeless for the people that Mrs. Barbauld wrote that "they considered even depredators usefully employed in lessening the inequalities of rank."

    Goldsmith relates how he found the reflective shoemaker who had but one regret, that by changing his street he had abandoned a stall where a successor " had amassed a handsome fortune," and died at last over his lapstone, "with seven pounds, all in hard gold," stitched in the waistband of his lucky breeches.

    The introduction of machinery for years lowered wages, and pushed the mass of the workmen with increased force against the walls of the workhouse.  Mr. Thompson, of Cork, commenced an address, in 1826, to the distressed Spitalfields weavers, thus: "All kinds of labour, agricultural and manufacturing, are rapidly approaching their fated equality—the starvation price, the lowest that even in times of average employment will support a miserable existence."  If one whom fortune had placed above want, and education above prejudice, had these impressions, no wonder the poor desponded.

    No wonder Social Reformers became world-sick.  They called this the "old" world, as though they had a new one on hand.  Mr. Charles Bray, the early friend of George Eliot, wrote so late as 1844 to ask whether "commerce and the mechanical arts do not really point to a declining age?  "All the dismal facts of the day were brought to the front, as though society had the small-pox and had never been vaccinated; whereas the great creature called society has "a pulse like a cannon."  True, there is "something the matter with its head," since the rich could display themselves conspicuously in the midst of a squalid people, as some one has said, like jewels in the hair of a mendicant woman.

    True, Carlyle is a grim and often a brutal preacher, but to him is greatly owing the improved regard since shown for craftsmen.  He created "captains of industry," who thought of equity as well as gain. [12]  The capitalist was a new feudal lord more cruel than the king who reigned by conquest.  The old feudal lord had some care for his vassal, and provided him with sustenance and dwelling.  The new lord of capital charges himself with no duty of the kind, and does not even acknowledge the labourer's right to live.  His condition is no affair of his employer.  Thoughtfulness for the workman might be manifested as an act of patronage, but not as an act of duty or right.

    Nevertheless there are few so poor or miserable in civilised society as they would be in savage society.  They may die early of insufficient food and through an unhealthy dwelling in a civilised town, but they would die earlier and suffer more as savages; while every one may find twenty chances of rising to some sort of comfort, and even to riches, which would never happen to one savage in ten thousand.

    Sir Richard Burton, in his "Unexplored Syria," relates that he went out to visit Mount Lebanon.  Lured by writers, whom he says had "Holy Land on the brain," he found life there, though ages removed from the barbarian state, such that he exclaims: " Having learned what it is, I should far prefer the comfort of Spitalfields, the ease of the Seven Dials, and the society of Southwark."  Hoarded earning is the beginning of progress.  Capital is the handmaid of civilisation.  Lord Brabazon points out that "the higher the civilisation of a country the more marked is the difference between rich and poor." [13]  This Only means that as the refinements and luxuries of the wealthy increase, the contrast grows greater between the condition of rich and poor.  This does not necessarily imply that the condition of the poor is worse than it was.  This is hardly possible, seeing that in every age it is declared to be as bad as it can be, and always worse than it ever was before.  Civilisation gives the poor, who are wise, a better chance than the starvation stage.  If a man is Lazarus it is better for him to catch the crumbs falling from the table of Dives than lie waiting for those which may drop from brother Lazarus's table.

    The sole sensible question for the poor to ask is, Can they better themselves?  The French, demoralised by centralisation, lacked the English habit of working for majorities and winning them by agitation.  The tradition of the camp in France was their disqualification for progress by reason.  It is showier, swifter, and more natural to man to fight out a difference than persuade men out of it.  The peril and imprisonments which resulted from political movements in England the first half of the last century were occasioned by men who had been in the army and wanted their associates to arm.

    To live in a state in which capital can exist is an advance.  It is only in that stage that emancipation is possible.  It is by concert in industrial operations that wealth arises.  A man being one of the chief instruments in creating wealth, he ought to get a reasonable share of it.  This he may obtain, not by taking it from those who have amassed it, which can only be done by bloodshed, and waste, and by setting a precedent which will expose him to similar attacks in his turn.  One remedy is by employing the economy of Co-operation to save capital and entering into industrial partnerships to earn it.  This has been the lesson taught by co-operative thinkers, and by them alone.


 
CHAPTER III.

THE UTOPIANISTS WHO FORESAW BETTER TIMES


"Now if . . . .any one should propose anything that he had either read in history or observed in his travels, the rest would think that the reputation of their wisdom would sink, and that their interests would be much depressed if they could not run it down, . . . as if this were a great mischief, that any should be found wiser than his ancestors."—SIR THOMAS MORE, Utopia.

"WORLD-MAKERS" seems a more relevant term than Utopianists.  Those conversant with the history of social projectors will know that the phrase "world-making" is a fair description of the ambitious schemes of most of them.

    Co-operation in England was born of world-makers, and it becomes more intelligible when its order of descent is seen.  An idea recurring from age to age, and among various peoples, may be a pertinacious one, since experience shows that silly ideas are more likely to recur than wise ones—folly being ever ready-made, while sense has to be acquired.  But if it be a matter of history that certain ideas, oft recurring and widely agitating dissimilar peoples, have been mostly originated by philosophers and only promoted by thinking people, the presumption is that there is something relevant to human needs in such projects.  Co-operative ideas have been of this character.  Men of sense and spirit want to know how it is that knaves are born on the bank and honest men in the ditch.  Only the wise and bold venture on untried existence.  Then there have been in all ages classes of men who found things so much to their advantage that they loudly recommended mankind not on any account to disturb them, knowing well that men are never the same any more after they have once seen a new thing.

    When Co-operation arose nearly everybody said it was contrary to human nature.  What was new to them they concluded was new to humanity. [14]

    The sentiment of mine and thine, which now seems part of human nature, was once an invention. "Even when agriculture had been introduced," Herder remarks, "it cost some pains to limit men to separate fields and establish the distinctions of mine and thine." [15]  Mr. James Mill says, in his "History of British India," that "the different benefits included under the idea of property, at different periods of society, are not the offspring of nature but the creatures of will chosen by society as that arrangement with which is, or is pretended to be, the best for all."  According to Aristotle, there were nations who held the land in common and divided the produce, and there were others who divided the land and stored the produce in common.  Minos, who, according to the legend, aimed at establishing equality among the Cretans, would not suffer any of them, whatever might be their rank, to lead an indolent life.  Persons of all classes sat at common tables, partook of the same diet, and at the public expense.  These laws subsisted in force for nearly a thousand years—a long time for a scheme of life to last which would now be held to be contrary to human nature.  Lycurgus governed Sparta as grandly as Mines did Crete.  Obedience to the law, and the dread of living for himself, were the earliest lessons imprinted on the mind of a Lacedemonian; and this education is reputed to have endured four hundred years.  This "dread" of a man living for himself alone has been long extinct in modern society.  It is a true saying that it is liberty which is old; it is despotism which is new.  Plato had the sagacity to foresee and reason upon the danger of over-population, and considered it would be impossible to preserve equality in any State without regulating the number of the inhabitants—a question society has not made up its mind to look at yet.

    The noblest body of Jews, unlike any others of which history has made mention, were the Essenes.  They deemed riches to consist in frugality and contentment; nor had they any slaves among them.  All were free, and all in their turn administered to others.  Among them there was no house, however private, which was not open to fraternal reception.  Nor were they enervated by their communistic principles.  Josephus attests the heroic fortitude with which they met their sufferings in defence of their opinions and mode of life.  Jesus evidently thought well of their principles, and commended them.  But not himself foreseeing the rise of the commercial and manufacturing systems of Europe, he left no directions—which approve themselves to practical men—for continuing a plan of life in which men should have "all things in common."  Indeed, political economists, with one consent, ignore him in that great department of progress which is their especial study.  Nothing can be more disastrous to the struggling poor than that a teacher of the highest repute among them should bequeath to them plans of social life so crudely stated that men should be contemptuously counted as "enthusiasts" who seek to reduce them to practice.

    The "Utopia" had great influence on social thinkers.  Considering More's position, and the eminence of the persons and interests which were satirised in his "Utopia," it was a bold book.  What kind of book the "Utopia" is, and what manner of man the brave author was, has been told by one whose pen lends charm to the meanest fact and worthily recounts the noblest.  Mr. Ruskin says: "We have known what communism is—for our fathers knew it. . . . First, it means that everybody must work for his dinner.  That much, perhaps, you thought you knew.  The Chelsea farmer and stout Catholic, born in Milk Street, London, three hundred and ninety-one years ago, 1480, [17] planned a commune flowing with milk and honey, and otherwise Elysian, and called it the 'Place of Well-being,' or Utopia. . . . Listen how matters really are managed there."  [It is Sir Thomas More who says what follows.]


    "Consider how great a part of all other nations is quite idle.  First, women generally do little, who are the half of mankind; and if some few women are diligent their husbands are idle.  Then consider the great company of idle priests, and of those that are called religious men; add to these all the rich men, chiefly those that have estates in lands, who are called noblemen and gentlemen, together with their families, made up of idle persons that do nothing but go swaggering about.  Reckon in with these all those strong and lusty beggars that go about pretending some disease in excuse for their begging; and upon the whole account you will find that the number of those by whose labours mankind is supplied is much less than you did perhaps imagine.  Then consider how few of those that work are employed in labours that men do really need; for we, who measure all things by money, give occasion to many trades that are both vain and superfluous, and that serve only to support riot and luxury. . . . If all those who labour about useless things were set to more profitable trades; and if all that number that languish out their life in sloth and idleness, of whom every one consumes as much as any two of the men that are at work do, were forced to labour, you may easily imagine that a small proportion of time would serve for doing all that is either necessary, profitable, or pleasant to mankind."


He who said this, Mr. Ruskin adds, "was one of the sternest Roman Catholics of his stern time; and at the fall of Cardinal Wolsey became Lord High Chancellor of England in his stead."

    Sir Thomas More wrote in 1516.  One hundred and forty years later—1656— Harrington dedicated his agrarian "Oceana" to Cromwell.  Hume considered it to be "a work of genius and invention, and the most valuable model of a commonwealth which had been offered to the public."  Cromwell thought there was mischief in it, and is stated to have said that "what he had won by the sword he was not going to be scribbled out of by Mr. Harrington."

    One hundred and fifty years after his death any espousal of his scheme brought persons into difficulties; and His Majesty's Attorney-General, in 1793, spoke of him in a very unpleasant way.  When the abusive Attorney-General sat down, Erskine rejoined: "Yet this very Harrington, this low blackguard as he is described, was descended (you may see his pedigree at the Herald's office for sixpence) from eight dukes, three marquises, seventy earls, twenty-seven viscounts, and thirty-seven barons, sixteen of whom were knights of the Garter."  He was the most affectionate servant of Charles I., from whom he never concealed his opinions, for it is observed by Wood that the king greatly affected his company; but when they happened to talk of a commonwealth he could scarcely endure it.  "I know not," says Toland, "which most to commend—the king for trusting an honest man, though a republican, or Harrington for owning his principles while he served a king."  At Charles's death the "Oceana" was written.  It was seized by Cromwell as a libel, and the way in which it was recovered was remarkable.  Harrington waited on Cromwell's daughter to beg for his book, and on entering her apartment snatched up her child.  He said: "I know what you feel as a mother; feel, then, for me.  Your father has got my child," meaning the "Oceana."  It was afterwards restored on her petition, Cromwell answering, in his tolerant way, "Let him have his book; if my government is made to stand, it has nothing to fear from paper shot." [18]

    Forty years after Harrington's scheme of public life founded on equipoise, came the proposal, by John Bellers, of a College of Industry—a remarkable instance of practical and co-operative sagacity.  It appeared in 1696, and was the first known instance of a complete plan of an industrial community for immediate adoption.  Robert Owen, who received it from Francis Place, had it printed in the old type in which it first appeared.  Bellers' scheme required £18,000 in the money of that time to carry it out.  Had it been adopted by the statesmen to whom he addressed it, pauperism would have become a tradition in England before this time.  Like Mr. Owen, Bellers appealed directly to the heads of the State, and prayed the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled to give ear to his plan, "by which the common people could be trained in the art of taking care of themselves."  He also addressed the "thinking and public-spirited," who appear not to have been more numerous in those days than now.  He adopted for his motto the wholesome words, "Industry brings plenty," and the uncompromising intimations that "a sluggard should be clothed with rags," and "he that will not work shall not eat."  Lest these sentiments should escape notice, Bellers  placed them on his title-page.  His pamphlet was "printed and published by T. Sowle, in White Hart Court, in Gracious Street, London, 1696."  Bellers began by quoting Lord Chief Justice Hale, who said that "they that are rich are stewards of their wealth"—a doctrine which was thought very new when first Sir John Sinclair and afterwards Mr. Thomas Drummond preached it in the House of Commons.  "The best account," according to Lord Chief Justice Hale, "which the rich could give of their wealth was to employ it in the reformation and relief of those who want either money or wisdom;" and reminded them that "he who said, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' was one of the worst of men."  "The want of a due provision," the Chief justice said, "for the education and relief of the poor in a way of industry is that which fills the gaols with malefactors and the kingdom with idle persons.  A sound, prudent method for an industrious education of the poor will give a better remedy against these corruptions than all the gibbets and whipping-posts in the kingdom."  Bellers himself remarks that "it is the interest of the rich to take care of the poor."  He seems to have had an idea in his mind that there were no poor, some of whose ancestors had not been rich, and that there were none rich then, some of whose ancestors had not been poor; and that in the revolutions of society the posterity of the rich might be poor again, and that it would be good sense to put a stop to any more people becoming poor.  He insisted that an industrial college could produce all its members required.  The shopkeepers of this generation will be astonished to learn that their original enemy was Bellers.  He enumerated persons and things of which he intended to save the cost in his system: He named shopkeepers and all their servants and dependents.  Bad debts. (He was evidently opposed to the credit system.)  Saving the labour of many women and children.  Saving of much separate house room, firing, and cooking.  Securing that the land should be better tilled by the labourers being owners.

    The profits of the college were to be divided among the shareholders, but the workers were to be guaranteed security in and for all things necessary in health or sickness, single or married, wife or children, and if the parents die early, the children would be well educated and preserved from misery.  The workers as they grew older were to be abated one hour a day of their work.  Punishments were to be rather abatements of food than stripes, and that those deserving of greater punishments should be expelled.  His plan for teaching languages to the children contained the germ of that system which Mr. Prendegast has since made famous, and Bellers proposed the same abridgment of the hours of learning for children which Sir Edwin Chadwick mercifully justified.  Bellers proposed, as Pestalozzi and Froebel have since done, "to raise the child's love to what he should learn."  Beating children to make them learn he thought silly, and spoiled their natural parts.  "Understanding," he contended, "must rather be distilled as children can take it, than be driven into them."  He was for giving them sensible employment, as he thought a silly employment left the mind silly.  "A good education," he said, "though with but a little estate, makes a happier man than a great estate without it."

    Bellers gave no account of himself as to who he was—what station he occupied—from what reading or experience he derived his thoughts, and nobody has asked; but he was clearly sensible and original.  His scheme is worth consulting by any community-maker, for it defines the number and proportions of persons in every department of industry who should be brought together.  His was not a voluntary, but a State scheme of co-operation, and the only one ever proposed in England.  He ended his proposal by answering a number of objections which he considered might be brought against it.  One is "Why should he propose to get the chief share of the profit of the poor's labour, and not let them have all the profit themselves, but give the larger portion to the rich, who are to supply the funds to the college?"  His answer is: "Because the rich have no other means of living but by the labour of others; as the landlord by the labour of his tenants, and the tradesmen by the labour of the mechanics."  It did not much matter that Bellers gave the surplus to the capitalists, seeing that he first made it a condition that every reasonable want of every member should be well provided for.  His college of labour would have stood a good chance of succeeding because it would have been governed.  It was no sentimental scheme in which those who set it going found the capital, and those who used it did as they pleased.  Bellers' college was a despotism founded on industrial justice—i.e., free participation by the workers in the advantages they created.  I learn, through the researches of Mr. W. E. A. Axon, that John Bellers was a member of the Society of Friends, the father of Fettiplace Bellers.  John Bellers died February 8, 1725, and was buried in Bunhill Fields.

    The reprint by Owen of Bellers' book made a great impression when it appeared, and was reproduced in periodicals.  There was another writer subsequent to this social-minded Quaker—one Morelly, a Frenchman, who wrote in the eighteenth century.  Mr. Owen was much influenced by what he came to know of his views.  Francis Place gave some account of Morelly.  Morelly was distinguished for the precision of his ideas and for the mathematical nature of his mind.  He said the "problem" of social reform was "to find that state of things in which it should be impossible for any one to be depraved or poor."  No theorist ever expressed the work to be done so well before,—no social reformer has expressed it better since.  This is what social thinkers are always aiming to bring about.

    The Marquis of Mirabeau, in a letter dated 1762, made mention of a family of the name of Pinon, living a few leagues from the town of Thiers, in Auvergne, France, the head of which, a farmer, having lived to see his sons marry, requested them to continue a distinct tribe, and to maintain inviolably the sacred bond of union, by community of wealth and property amongst them.  "After having been established, at this period, above a century," says the marquis, "this amicable institution has so greatly prospered, that the Pinons have not only a family seat in the mountains, supplied with all the conveniences of life, with elegant apartments for strangers of the highest rank, who are treated with the most generous hospitality, but they have also several villages appertaining to them, whose clergy, lawyers, and other professional persons are branches of the same stock.  The necessary arts of life are exercised in this tribe for the emolument of the whole; and the superfluities sold at the adjacent fairs and markets, where every one carries with him his family credentials.  One tradition of their origin is that an ancestor of great wealth and a numerous progeny, well advanced in years, explained to his children "that their splendid way of living must be greatly diminished if, after his death, they should, as was customary, divide his fortune into separate portions; but that, if they desired to be better economists than the rest of mankind, they should live in the united state they had done under his roof."

    The Pinon case is cited because its success was based on secular reasons, which alone are of universal weight.  Certain Jesuits are credited with very great success in carrying out arrangements of common life in Paraguay.  But Jesuits do not encourage self-dependence in life or thought, and when their enfeebling paternalism ended, the population were impotent and idealess as children.  The noble aspiration after truer and higher life, with all the perils, conflicts, and vicissitudes it involves, is better than the softest, smoothest, sleekest, and most steadfast stagnation.

    The only instance in which social equality was the subject of conspiracy occurred in Paris, 1796.  Its great leader was Babeuf.  In those days a blind love of innovation prevailed, not alone in France but in Europe, and was strongest in Paris.  Then hope and eagerness had the force of a passion.  M. de Talleyrand used to say "that only those who had lived near the conclusion of the seventeenth century could realise the worth of the world to man."  Gracchus Babeuf was a young man when the French Revolution occurred.  Ardent, well-informed, of penetrating mind, and able to write with clearness and fire, he soon got himself into difficulties.  Of what kind nothing more need be said than that it was Marat who saved him from the consequences of an order of arrest.  At a later period he obtained the post of secretary to a district administration, and subsequently he got employment in the bureaux of the old cummune of Paris.  Mrs. Wollstonecraft, who knew Babeuf well, declared that "she had never seen any person who possessed greater abilities, or equal strength of character."  His plan was to establish a system of equality by force—needless in a country which has a free press, free speech, and the right of public meetings.  For these means of progress an Englishman would fight; but, having won them, he would count himself a fool if he could not make his way with them.  Babeuf was not a wild reformer in the sense of not knowing what he wanted.  He had a clear and complete idea of what he would put in the place of that he intended to supersede.  His object was to establish a despotism of justice and equality.  Robespierre, on the other hand, held that "without the people's consent none have a right to thrust systems upon them; but with their consent, all systems should be equally accessible to them."  To the credit of the French Liberals many of them objected to violent modes of attaining just objects.  Certainly many of the aims of the conspirators were good.  They were for abolishing mendicity as dishonouring to a free State, and for establishing a system of education in common.  They regarded ignorance as a national danger.  They were friendly to a policy of peace.  They adopted a doctrine of non-intervention.  They would not intermeddle with other nations, nor suffer other nations to intermeddle with the affairs of France.  There were to be no idlers.  "Nature," they said, "had imposed upon every one the obligation to work."  They kept no terms with those who did nothing.  Their words were: "They do nothing for the country who do not serve it by some useful occupation, and can exercise no rights in it."  The common accusation is that men of social convictions seek other people's property—whereas the fact is they seek to make everybody work.  This may be a very disagreeable passion; but it is not laziness, nor is it plunder.  All the schemes of Utopians prove at bottom to be schemes of work and wealth-making.  Shopkeepers will be interested to hear that Babeuf and his colleagues proposed to retain retail dealers.  They meditated censorship of the press, which the Napoleon family afterwards put in execution.  But the conspirators had a ferocious thoroughness and vigour for which Carlyle and other eminent friends of Governor Eyre, of Jamaica, would very much esteem them.  They decreed on the day on which they commenced their insurrection, that "to give or execute in the name of the existing Government ('tyranny' they called it) any order whatever should be punished with instant death."  Some were "to be buried under the ruins of their palaces; which ruins were to be left in that state, as a monument to the latest posterity of the just punishment inflicted on the enemies of equality." [19]  A dismal kingdom of equality France would have been with these murderous ruins defacing it.

    Babeuf and his compatriots failed through a traitor, [20] and came to the block.  They were brave men, neither afraid to avow their designs nor die for their cause.  Babeuf's last letter to his wife contained some wise and lofty sentiments: "It belongs," he said,


    "to the family of a martyr of liberty to give the example of every virtue, in order to attract the esteem of all good people.  I would desire my wife to do all in her power to give education to her children.  I hope you will believe you were always most dear to me.  Speak often of me to Camille; tell him a thousand times I bore him tenderly in my heart.  Tell Caius as much when he will be capable of understanding it.  I knew no other way to render you happy than by promoting the happiness of all.  I have failed.  I have sacrificed myself; it is for you as well as for liberty I die."


    When the conspirators were sentenced, Babeuf and Darthe, the chief leaders, stabbed themselves with their daggers, and were dragged from the court by the gendarmes.  Babeuf's poignard broke, and a piece remained imbedded near his heart.  Both lived long enough to be beheaded next day, but their courage never forsook them.  Their bodies were flung into a ditch.  Some country people buried them.  So ended the first and last conspiracy for equality!  Its conduct justifies the high repute for ability Babeuf won.  It was a masterpiece of organisation.  Nothing was forgotten.  Proclamations, songs, manifestoes, decrees, laws, declarations of rights, were all prepared for issue, conceived with sagacity, and written with brevity, eloquence, and fire.  The labour and secret discussions gone through were immense.  Nothing is more astonishing than the sublime confidence of the conspirators in human nature, to believe that no traitor would betray plans to which hundreds must have been privy.  That only one was false shows that equality must have been a noble inspiration.  Philiipo Buonarroti, a Florentine of high family, a reputed descendant of Michael Angelo—and his brillant powers and daring services corroborated the belief—was a colleague of Babeuf, and afterwards published a history—with documents which he had the courage to preserve—of the famous attempt of Babeuf.  Among them were the "Songs for the Streets," which had not been overlooked.  Equality had its Marseillaise as well as Republicanism, though its notes got stifled with daggers.  I quote it as giving some idea of the aspirations of the time.  Let the reader remember that the French had found no way out of the long oppression under which they and their forefathers had lived save by insurrection; that they believed kingly luxury and tyranny to have been the causes of their misery and subjection; that the people had delivered themselves by the knife; that they had never seen any other means succeed; that the philosophers had all pleaded for them in vain; that they were firmly convinced that before kings arose equality, freedom, and means of subsistence were enjoyed by all who toiled; that everlasting emancipation from slavery and want depended upon themselves alone; and that one united, uncompromising, and thorough blow would redress for ever the wrongs of ages.  Let the reader recall all this, and he is not English if his blood is not stirred by the—


BATTLE SONG OF THE CONSPIRATORS FOR EQUALITY.


By tyrant codes enthralled, by knaves borne down,
Man stoops to man, and villains wear the crown:—
Where is the freeman's voice? the warrior's steel?
Shall we not stoutly fight, as well as keenly feel?
Awake! arise, at Liberty's command!—
Th' Aurora of our freedom is at hand—
And slavery's night is o'er if we'll but bravely stand!

Oh, Nature, or whatever power it be,
Which said to man, "Be happy and be free!"
Say by what strange mischance thy laws o'erthrown
Have yielded place to slavery and a throne.
Is there not one will dare assert the cause
Of outraged manhood and thy broken laws?
How long shall man quail 'neath the despot rule
Of a usurper or, a king-born fool?
Nations! arise, at Liberty's command!—
Th' Aurora of your freedom is at hand!—
And slavery's night is o'er if you'll but bravely stand!

In ancient times, when yet our race was young—
Nor gold nor war the soul to madness stung—
Each in the land possessed an equal share;
No kingly luxury known, no gaunt despair.
Then peace and competence went hand in hand,
Unfear'd the assassin's knife, the foeman's brand—
These days are ours again if we'll but bravely stand!

In those bless'd days when man, of man the friend,
Nor yet had learn'd to borrow or to lend,
Nature on all alike her bounty poured;
No starving wretch was seen, no pampered lord—
Till fraud and priestcraft, by ambition led,
Taught man his kind to hate, his blood to shed;
Then princes, subjects, masters, serfs were known,
And shuddering Freedom fled before—a T
HRONE!
Nations! arise , at Liberty's command!—
Th' Aurora of your freedom is at hand—
And slavery's night is o'er if you'll but bravely stand!

Where is the difference 'tween the serf and peer?
Why meanly quail ye, then, with idiot fear?
Bring front to front the oppressor and the oppressed;
Wealth cannot strength impart, nor title steel the breast.
Lay on! lay on! the death-sigh of the brave
Be ours, and not the death-bed of the slave!
Nations! arise, at Liberty's command!—
Th' Aurora of your freedom is at hand—
And slavery's night is o'er if you'll but bravely stand!


    The only English account of this disastrous conspiracy is the translation of James Bronterre O'Brien, who rendered great service when boldness and historical knowledge were very important to the populace.  He was one of the best-informed of the Chartist leaders.  His translation and comments on Buonarroti's History are still cherished by a few surviving old Chartists.  Traditions of the camp contributed to disqualify the French Liberals for seeking progress by reason.  It is showier, swifter seeming, to fight out a difference than to reason men into the right.  Reason is no doubt ineffective for a time with those who do not understand how to manage a weapon in the use of which they have not been drilled.  Most of the peril and imprisonments in England which occurred in Chartist movements were occasioned by persons who had been in the army.  They said, "What is the use of reasoning when you know you are in the right?  Why waste time in trying to convince those who know they are in the wrong?"  And while their plodding comrades were holding meetings, they were planning fights in the streets—declaring an hour's drill was worth a week of speeches.

    Violence and spoliation are still charged against social improvers.  Judge Thomas Hughes relates in his "Memoir of a Brother" how George Hughes said to him, "You, Tom, don't want to divide other people's property?"  "No."  "Then why call yourselves Socialists?"  Tom answered, "It is only fools who believe or say that a desire to divide other people's property is the essence of Socialism."  "That may be very true," answered his shrewd brother George, "but if you are called Socialists, you will never persuade English people that this is not your object" (pp. 113, 114).

    Godwin's political justice was regarded, next to the works of Paine, as a text-book of working-class politicians.  Published 1793, three years before Babeuf fell, it contained no sanction of his desperate methods.  It advocated equality as broadly as Babeuf did; but Godwin added these warning words: "As the equality contemplated would be the result not of force, but of the serious and deliberate conviction of the public at large, it would be permanent."  English partisans of equality declared themselves in favour of peace, industry, economy, and reason.

    Its historic policy was that of progress by persuasion.  Among our social innovators have been men who have cared nothing for political freedom.  Many have come among them and have encouraged it, like Napoleon III., because they thought social ideas would beguile them out of political aspirations.  The majority of them, however, have been men and women steadfastly caring for political improvement—not shrinking from sacrifice or peril when it came; but they put not change upon issues of violence.

    Considérant gives an interesting account of the fabrication of Gruyêre cheese in the Jura mountains: "The peasants rent a small house, consisting of a workshop and dairy, with a cellar.  In the workshop they place an enormous copper, destined to receive the milk of two hundred cows.  A single man suffices to make two or three cheeses of from sixty to eighty pounds weight.  These cheeses are placed in a cellar to be salted and cured.  Every day the quantity of milk brought to the dairy is noted on two pieces of wood—one for the milker, the other for the manager.  It is therefore known exactly how much each family contributes.  They can even keep an account of the relative qualities of milk by means of an acrometer.  They sell wholesale to the merchants.  They deduct rent, fuel, and implements, pay the manager in proportion to the general result, and divide the rest among the families, proportionately to the value of their respective investments."  It is clear that Gruyêre should be the favourite cheese of co-operators, as it is the first cheese made on their system.  If Protestants of historic taste take ox-tail soup (Huguenot soup) because the Huguenots taught us to make it, co-operators ought to eat Gruyêre.

    St. Simon, a member of an illustrious French family, born in Paris in 1760, was one of the world-makers.  He served in several campaigns under Washington, but out of the ranks he proposed no violence, nor did any, except when he came to poverty and neglect he attempted to shoot himself.  He, however, survived, regained his generous enthusiasm for human improvement, and prided himself on being the apostle of Industry—a worthy species of apostle who have come rather late in the world.  He took no part in the destructive movement of the French Revolution, but spent nearly all his fortune in instituting "A Grand Establishment of Industry and a School of Scientific Perfection."  In 1814 he published a scheme for the "Reorganisation of Europe."  In 1817 (a notable year, as will appear in another chapter), with English social aspirants, St. Simon published his work on "Industry," upon the organisation of which he never ceased to write.  "Industry," he declared, "was holy, for it serves to ameliorate the condition of the poor."  His system was known by the formula—"To each according to his capacity: to each capacity according to its works"; which meant that the community would expect from each member the best he was able to do, and would reward him according to what he did.  The followers of St. Simon acquired a grand way of speaking.  "If Moses," they said, had promised men universal fraternity, Jesus Christ had prepared it, St. Simon had realised it."  His system attracted many noble minds in France, St. Simon himself shared the common fate of those who think for others more than for themselves, and died poor and neglected in 1825.  One disciple and two or three friends were with him when he expired, to whom his last exhortation was "Be of courage, and go forward constantly."

    In 1832 St. Simonian missionaries came to London to call attention to their principles and plans.  They described themselves as representing the holy religion of progress—a very good religion in its way, but it is one that never had many followers.

    Charles Fourier was the next French dreamer of social worlds who attained great celebrity.  He was born at Besançon, in 1772.  He began his career in a way that gave no promise of the sublime schemes of passional harmony he was destined to amaze mankind with.  His first literary effort was a poem on the death of a pastry-cook, which astonished the professors of the college in which he was placed.  He was hardly seven years old when tarts inspired his muse.  Though of poetical temperament he was attached to business.  His life was several times in danger during the fearful times of the Revolution.  Notwithstanding that he was compelled to enter the army and serve six years, his gentle and kind disposition never changed.  He believed the miseries of humanity to proceed from ignorance; and held that pain, either physical or moral, was the sign of error—pleasure the sign of truth.  He issued in 1808 a statement of his views, under the title of "The Theory of the Four Movements."  His ultimate work of most mark was "The New Industrial World"; but it was not until Victor Considérant became his disciple that his views began to allure cultivated minds.  Fourier founded Phalansteres, and bewildered men more than St. Simon.  His plans were as boundless as the visions of the "Arabian Nights"—his statement of them as dry as mathematical rigour could make them; his divisions and subdivisions were such that no Englishman could hope to master them and live.  Never were such pomp and perplexity presented to working people before.  If Fourier had had his way nobody would have known the earth again.  If the disease of social reformers be world-making, Fourier may be said to have had it in a very violent form.  We have had bad attacks of it in England, but nothing like what Frenchmen have suffered from.  Fourier ends his work on the future of man by the astounding remarks: "The duty of God is to compose a social code, and reveal it to man. . . . The duty of man is to search for the Divine code. . . . It is manifest that human reason has not fulfilled its task.  This neglect has now been repaired, and the passional code discovered" [21]—by Fourier.  His last work, "La Fausse Industrie," was published in 1835.  In 1837 he died, after the manner of his kind, sad and dejected at the non-realisation of his grand and gracious dreams.

    These generous Utopianists put new ideas into the mind of the world.  They made it possible for new men to do more.  The careless verdict of the unregarding public was that they had all discovered perpetual motion, but none of them could get their machines to move.  Before pioneers, for their encouragement, stand the dying words of St. Simon, "Be of courage, and go forward constantly."
 



 
CHAPTER IV

HOW CO-OPERATION ITSELF BEGAN


                                           "All around was dim,
 Yet his face glowed with light revealed to him."
                                                              G
EORGE ELIOT, Jubal.


THE originator of Co-operation was Robert Owen, born so far back as 1771, a year before Fourier.  Nature was in one of her adventurous moods at that period.  In the four years from 1769 to 1772 there appeared Napoleon, Wellington, Goethe, Owen, and Fourier—all historic men in their line: bane and antidote, war and art, world-destroyers and world-makers.  Robert Owen was born May 14, 1771, in Newtown, Montgomeryshire.  He was afterwards known as Robert Owen, of New Lanark.  Many will consider that he was not a proper person to be brought forward in legitimate history.  But history is unceremonious.  Its natural food is facts; and when it gets them it has no choice, no scruples, and no remorse. In Mr. Owen's days few "proper persons" had the faculty of improvement in them of the kind that the world most wanted, and therefore a wilful Welshman took it into his benevolent and fertile head to do what he could.  And thus it came about that Co-operation was a Welsh inspiration.

    Mr. Owen was a very unusual man.  By patience, industry, sagacity, and kindness he raised himself to eminence and opulence.  His life illustrates how much knowledge a man of observation may acquire without books.  He attained distinction by two things—the observance of truth in conduct and experience in practice.  He was known from the first as a man of veracity and reflection.  From being a draper's assistant he became a manager of cotton mills at Manchester.  He had a large population of the working class under his direction in Manchester, from 1791 to 1799, and a still larger number for many years afterwards at New Lanark, where, in 1810, he planned an Institution for the Formation of Character.  He built commodious schoolrooms (one of them 90 feet by 40 feet) for the separate instruction from the time when as infants they were able to walk alone until they were intelligent.  No school board with a town rate to aid it now would venture upon erecting premises so spacious for little children. [22]  These proceedings being too far in advance for his partners, the building was suspended when the walls were half up.  In 1814 he separated from these school-fearing colleagues, made arrangements for new partners, and purchased the whole establishment.  Assent to his measures, for the improvement of the population and the finishing of the institution, were the conditions on which he accepted his new allies into partnership.  The new institution was completed, fitted up, and furnished in the year 1815.  On the first day of the following year, January, 1816, "The Institution" was formally opened, in the presence of all the villagers with their children.  The assemblage exceeded two thousand in number.  There were present also the principal nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood, with some of the clergy of various denominations.  The parents present were astonished at being called upon to send their children to school the very next day.  This was the first infant school ever established.  Lord Brougham—then Henry Brougham—visited it twice.  It was by Mr. Owen's aid in supplying them with teachers that Mr. Brougham, Mr. James Mill, and others were able to open the first infant school set up in England, in Brewer's Green, Westminster.  The first little scholars met there on the 14th of February, 1819. [23]  Mr. Owen was incessant in translating his theories into practice.  It was in these skilfully-devised and long-continued arrangements for uniting intelligence with industry, and industry with working-class competence, that Co-operation was generated.  Mr. Owen acted on the principle that intelligence would prove a good investment.  It did prove so, and thus it came to pass that the education of members has always been deemed a part of the co-operative scheme among those who understood it.

    Though Mr. Owen earned an honourable name for benevolence he was not a man who played at philanthropy.  The working people in his employ were in ignorance, viciousness, and discomfort.  Their great employer's object was to show them how much could be done by mutual arrangement to improve their condition and prospects.  Mr. Owen's provisions in the attractions of the schoolroom, in the appliances for teaching, and the extent and quality of what was taught, have not been excelled in the most generous state in America, and it has never yet entered into the imagination of any English minister to offer, or of any workpeople to ask for such in Great Britain.  The weavers and their wives at New Lanark who witnessed this more than princely concern for their children's welfare, knew that Mr. Owen meant them well, as was manifest also in a thousand acts of thoughtfulness and respectful treatment towards them.  Had Mr. Owen lived in more appreciative days he had been offered a baronetcy.  However, grateful workpeople offered him what he was prouder of, their confidence and co-operation, and their will and skill were new elements of profit in the workshop.  Thus the foundations of Co-operation were laid by Mr. Owen and his associated capitalists by sharing with the labourers and their families a portion of the common gain.  The share falling to the employers was greater than it otherwise could have been.

    Mr. Owen, in his letter to the Times newspaper in 1834, addressing his early friend, who had then become Lord Chancellor Brougham, said: "I believe it is known to your lordship that in every point of view no experiment was ever so successful as the one I conducted at New Lanark, although it was commenced and continued in opposition to all the oldest and strongest prejudices of mankind.  For twenty-nine years we did without the necessity for magistrates or lawyers; without a single legal punishment; without any known poors' rate; without intemperance or religious animosities.  We reduced the hours of labour, well educated all the children from infancy, greatly improved the condition of the adults, diminished their daily labour, paid interest on capital, and cleared upwards of £300,000 of profit."

    Lord Brougham, in reply, stated in the Times, what he many years afterwards repeated in the House in Lords, that Mr. Owen was the originator of infant schools in England.  Lord Brougham said: "I have not the least hesitation in stating that the infant school system never would, in all probability, have been established but for Mr. Owen's Lanark schools.  I most distinctly recollect Mr. Mill (Mr. James Mill, father of John Stuart Mill, was the person referred to), Sir C. Grey (afterwards Chief Justice of Calcutta), and myself discussing for some weeks what name we should give these new schools, and . . . after rejecting various names, we fixed upon that of Infant Schools.  The thing as well as the name were equally unknown till then in England."  Mr. Owen added, in a further letter to the Times, that in 1799 he purchased the New Lanark mills for £60,000, and entered upon the premises on the 15th of August of that year; that he published a very full and detailed account of the new institution, which included the infant schools, in his third essay on the "Formation of Character," and that a mutual friend of his and Lord Brougham (Mr. James Mill) corrected the press for him.  It was candid in Mr. Owen to make this acknowledgment of the assistance of Mr. Mill [24].  The reader is conscious of vigour and directness of statement in those essays greater than other works of Mr. Owen's.

    Owen instigated Fellenberg to commence an infant school at Hofwyl, which subsequently uniting industry with education became celebrated.  The self-supporting Pauper Colonies of Holland were owing to Owen's suggestion.  He originated the short-time agitation on behalf of children in factories; he assisted Fulton with money to try his inventions in steam navigation; he purchased the first bale of American Sea Island cotton imported into England, foreseeing at once the future importance to the spinning trade of England of encouraging the foreign supply of raw material.  The great "Utopian" (as persons call him who, following the bent of their own faculties, believe nothing which is not commonplace) "had," his son Dale Owen states, "been received respectfully, and sometimes with distinction, by those highest in position: by Lords Liverpool, Sidmouth, Castlereagh, and by Mr. Canning; by the Royal Dukes of York, Cumberland, Sussex, Cambridge, and especially by the Duke of Kent (Queen Victoria's father); by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Sutton), and by the Bishops of London, St. David's, Durham, Peterborough, and Norwich. Besides Bentham, his partner, he was more or less intimate with Godwin, Ricardo, Malthus, Bowring, Francis Place, Joseph Hume, James Mill, O'Connell, Roscoe, Clarkson, Cobbett, Sir Francis Burdett, the Edgeworths, the statistician Colquhoun, Wilberforce, Macaulay (father of the historian), and Nathan Rothschild, the founder of the house.  He had received as guests at his own house at Braxfield, Princes John and Maximilian of Russia, the Duke of Holstein-Oldenburg, Baron Goldsmid, Baron Just (Saxon ambassador), Cuvier, Brougham, Sir James Mackintosh, and Lord Stowell, father-in-law of Lord Sidmouth.  When he visited Paris he took letters from the Duke of Kent to the Duc d'Orleans (Louis Philippe), and from the French ambassador to the French minister; and he was invited to the Visitor's Chair by the French Academy.  In Europe he made the acquaintance of La Place, Humboldt, La Rochefoucauld, Camille Jourdain, Pastor Oberlin, Pestalozzi, Madame de Stäel, and many other eminent persons." [25]

    These illustrious intimacies show that Robert Owen carried co-operative industry into good company, for the discussion of this subject was the sole reason why eminent persons sought Mr. Owen, or he sought them.

    The gains and economies of Lanark Mill had taught that the working class could, if they had sense to unite, make something by shopkeeping.   One oven, Mr. Owen pointed out, might suffice to bake for one hundred families with little more cost and trouble of attendance than a single household took, and set free a hundred fires and a hundred domestic cooks.  One commodious washhouse and laundry [26] would save one hundred disagreeable, screaming, steaming, toiling washing days in common homes.  It was not far to go to infer that one large well-stocked shop would, properly served, supply the wants of a thousand families, and supersede twenty smaller shops, and save to the customers all the cost of the twenty shop-men and twenty shop rents and rates, in addition to the economy in prices and advantage in quality in buying wholesale, in a degree small shops could not compass.

    When Mr. Owen's plans for the reconstruction of society first dazzled the imaginations of men, hope begat belief that the day of great change was nigh.  Many had a sense that society was ravel and cruelty, as far as competition went.  But the formation of character was more arduous than was thought.  Science has taught men that the improvement of mankind is an affair of a million influences and unknown time.  None now can tell the fascination of that vision of improvement, in which progress was considered to be reduced to a simple problem of State mechanism, of which all the conditions had been discovered.

    The tireless Newtown Utopian instituted a magnificent publicity of his projects.  He made speeches, held meetings, published pamphlets and books, bought innumerable copies of all newspapers and periodicals which gave any account of his proceedings, and distributed them broadcast over the world. [27]   The very day on which he opened his celebrated schools at New Lanark for the formation of character he dispatched to Lord Sidmouth the manuscript copy he had made of all he said, so that the Government might have the earliest and most authentic knowledge of what was going forward.  Where a great co-operative society now spends pounds in diffusing a knowledge of its principles Mr. Owen spent thousands of pounds.  It was this wise, costly, and generous publicity that led the public to attach value to the new social ideas.  Mr. Owen may be said to have impressed mankind with them; for he travelled all over Europe and made repeated visits to America to personally spread the information of the new system of society.  Simultaneously with his efforts in Europe he spent a fortune in America in endeavours to found communities there, but up to 1820 no periodical was started to advocate these views.

    Things were so bad that few saw any hopes of amending them.  The conclusion of most who thought upon the subject was that of the link-boy, who, when Pope, stumbling, cried out, "God mend me," answered, "I think, sir, God had better make a new one."  Social reformers said it was better to make the stumbling world over again.  In the Economist of that day, the first of the name, the editor, Mr. Mudie, was ready to undertake the task, and thus announced the resolution to which he had come:—


    "Though far from entertaining a very exalted opinion of my own powers, yet from the mere conviction that the duty ought to be performed by some one, however humble, I have had the boldness to take upon my shoulders the burden of examining the whole affairs and circumstances of mankind.  The ponderous load is greater than I could sustain, but that I feel a strength beyond my own.  Would that I possessed the power to call around me on the instant the choicest spirits of the earth and the air,—that with a magic touch I could at once dissolve the delusions of error and of prejudice,—and, by the genii of the lamp and the ring, transport mankind in a moment into that new world of delights which is opening upon my enraptured sight." [28]


    The British public, who walk by faith on Sundays, walk by sight only during week-days.  In business they believe only according to results.  Those who had resolved to make a clean sweep of existing institutions, found full employment for disciples of this thorough-going school, and a broom party of reformers was actually formed, who undertook to sweep error and cart it away.

    "Social Science," now well recognised, was then an unknown term.  Mr. Owen was the first public man to insist that there might be a "science of society." [29]  His doctrine was that by the wise use of material means men might make society what it ought to be.  In these happy and latitudinarian days anybody may improve society who can, and society is very glad when anybody gives signs of the capacity of doing it.  His services are accepted, and no questions are asked.  But in Robert Owen's days no one was allowed to attempt any good unless he believed in the Thirty-nine Articles, [30] and down to the year 1840 the Bishop of Exeter made things very unpleasant in the House of Lords to any persons detected doing it.  Our "pastors and masters" held then the exclusive patent for improving the people, and though they made poor use of it, they took good care that nobody infringed it.  Improvement, like the sale of corn, was a monopoly then, but we have free trade in humanity now, though the business done is not very great yet.  The day at length came when the most ardent had to pause.  The world did not subscribe, and it was left to chequeless enthusiasts to find funds to diffuse a knowledge of the new views.  It was then that certain practical-minded persons advised the formation of co-operative stores, where money might be made without subscribing it, and proposed that shareholders should give their profits to a fund for propagandism.

    The first journal in the interest of Co-operation was the Economist of 1821.  It was thought in 1868 an act of temerity to take the name of Social Economist as a title. [31]  The Economist was a title adopted by Mr. James Wilson, the founder of the Economist newspaper, who was likely to have seen Mr. Owen's publication, for there was much early knowledge of Co-operation in the house in Essex Street, where I used to see formidable files, reaching to the ceiling, of unsold Economists, before it became the organ of the commercial classes.  The first number of the co-operative Economist appeared on Saturday, January 27, 1821, price threepence.  It was preceded by a prospectus, as elaborate as an essay and as long as a pamphlet.  The title-page of the volume declared that "The Economist was a periodical paper explanatory of the new system of society projected by Robert Owen, Esq., and a plan of association for the working classes."  "Working people" was the better phrase Francis Place used in his addresses to them.  In the very first number of this Economist mention was made of the formation of a "Co-operative and Economical Society," which is the earliest record I find of a name now so familiar to the public ear.

    The public had been told that human affairs were henceforth to be based on some new principle.  There was a general expectation that the public would soon hear of something to their advantage.  At length one day in the autumn of 1821, the editor of the Economist broke in upon his readers in small capitals, and said to them:

"The SECRET IS OUT: it is unrestrained CO-OPERATION, on the part of ALL the members, for EVERY purpose of social life." [32]  It was a very small, eager, active, manifold thing which appeared in the name of Co-operation, then for the first time distinctively named; but during the next ten years it spread wondrously over the land.

    In the middle of January, 1821, a pamphlet was published describing the Economical Society, at the Medallic Cabinet, 158, Strand, where the Economist itself was published.  The pamphlet was signed by Robert Hunt, James Shallard, John Jones, George Hinde, Robert Dean, and Henry Hetherington.  It professed to be a report of the committee appointed at a meeting of journeymen, chiefly painters, to take into consideration certain propositions, submitted to them by Mr. George Mudie, having for their object a system of social arrangement calculated to effect essential improvements in the condition of the working classes and of society at large.  They took as a motto words from Milton, which were very appropriate to their purpose:—


                                     "Our greatness will appear
Then most conspicuous, when great things of small,
Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse
We can create."


    This is the first co-operative society motto I have found.

    The term Co-operation was used in the sense of communism.  From implying concert of life in community it came to mean concert in shopkeeping.  It was a great descent from the imperial altitude of world-making to selling long-sixteen candles and retailing treacle.  Doubtless, if we only knew it, the beginning of civilised society was not less absurd.  There were in all probability dreamers who stood on the verge of savage life contemplating with satisfaction the future of civilisation, when men should abandon their reckless and murderous habits and master methods of thrift and peace.  And when that new order began, now described as the dawn of civilisation, there must have been persons with a fine sense of contempt for those petty transactions of barter, out of which capital and commerce grew, which have finally covered the earth with palaces and raised private individuals to an opulence surpassing that of monarchs.  Had there been leading articles, reviews, and political economists in those days, how these dreamers who brought about modern society would have been held up to derision and have been glad to hide their abashed heads!

    Mr. Owen entertained the belief that "if the bad position of men's affairs proceed not from necessity but from errors, there is hope that when those errors are forsaken or corrected a great change for the better may ensue."  "It is comparatively of little avail," Mr. Owen was accustomed to say, "to give to either young or old 'precept upon precept, and line upon line,' unless the means shall be also prepared to train them in good practical habits."  These were the convictions which gave him strength and made him useful.  When passing by the new Royal Exchange, London, he, looking up at it, said to a friend (Thomas Allsop) with him—"We shall have that one day.  The old system must give way.  It will come down of its own weight."  The course of progress in this country is otherwise.  Society does not come down.  The originator of Co-operation never foresaw that a minor part or his views was destined to obtain a strange ascendancy.  Who would have dreamed that flannel weavers, mechanics, and shoemakers of Rochdale, in 1844, were founding a movement the voice of which would pass like a cry of deliverance into the camps of industry in many lands, and since cause shop-keepers in every town and city of the British Empire to scream with dread, cry to members of Parliament, and crowd the offices of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, praying to be rescued from the Red Sea of Co-operation, lest it should submerge their huxtering.  But Co-operation is more merciful than the Egyptian waves, the Pharaohs of capital and competition will be saved, although they have brought—as co-operators contend—plagues of poverty upon the people.  Co-operation, Mr. Owen no more constructed than George Stephenson did that railway system, which a thousand unforeseen exigencies have suggested and a thousand brains matured.  But, as Stephenson made railway locomotion possible, so Owen set men's minds on the track of Co-operation, and time and need, faith and thought, have made it what it is.

 

 

 
CHAPTER V.

THE CHARACTER OF ITS DISCOVERER


"There is a way of winning more by love than fear;
 Force works on servile nature—not the free:
 He that's compelled to goodness may be good,
 But 'tis but for that fit: where others, drawn
 By softness and example, get a habit."—B
EN JONSON.


THERE cannot be an adequate record of the co-operative movement without taking into account the influence of Mr. Owen's proceedings upon its fortunes.  It was often involved in theological conflicts.  Mr. Owen was the chief cause of this.  He could not very well avoid giving battle to several kinds of adversaries, and, being a Welshman, I have no doubt he did it with good-will.

    Robert Owen was the only Welshman I ever knew who did not think Wales the world, and he no sooner comprehended that there was a wider world elsewhere than he acted like one who had taken possession of it, and finding it in disorder, suggested how it might be put straight.  He was the first publicist among us who looked with royal eyes upon children.  He regarded grown persons as being proprietors of the world—bound to extend the rites of hospitality to all arrivals in it.  He considered little children as little guests, to be welcomed with gentle courtesy and tenderness, to be offered knowledge and love, and charmed with song and flowers, so that they might be glad and proud that they had come into a world which gave them happiness, and only asked of them goodness.  Duke Bernard, of Saxe-Weimar said, with admirable comprehensiveness, "Mr. Owen looked to nothing less than to renovate the world, to extirpate all evil, to banish all punishment, to create like views and like wants, and to guard against all conflicts and hostilities."  Finding pious benevolence seeking progress by prayer, which did not bring it, Mr. Owen boldly proposed to substitute for it scientific benevolence, which seeks human improvement by material methods.  "Here," he said, if not in terms in theory, "is the new path of deliverance, where no thought is lost, no effort vain; where the victory is always to the wise and the patient, and the poor who believe will no longer be betrayed."  We know not now what courage it required to say this when Mr. Owen said it.  Gentlemen expected to provide the poor with their religion.  If they subscribed to any school this was their chief object, for very little secular learning was imparted.  In Sunday schools spelling, reading, writing, and arithmetic were subordinated to the Catechism.  Mr. Owen gave lessons in the knowledge of the world in his schools.  Both the clergy and dissenting ministers regarded with jealousy any influence not under their direction, and they made it difficult for social improvers to do anything.

    To teach common people the arts of self-help, the wisdom of choosing their own opinions, and to believe only in that religion which brought them actual deliverance from dependence and want, was not a popular thing to do.  Mr. Owen had the fate of Paine before him.  Paine excelled all politicians in teaching principles.  Ebenezer Elliott told me Paine was the greatest master of metaphor he had known.  Cobbett's writings were vigorous wordiness, compared with Paine's finished thoroughness.  The pen of Paine did as much as the sword of Washington to effect American independence.  He was one whose writings Pitt thought it worth while to study.  He was one of the founders of National Independence whom Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin consulted.

    Owen, like Paine, for protesting against Theology as an obstruction to Humanity, suffered like penalty.  From being the associate of the first men of his time, he had to appeal to working people to give effect to his views.

    Mr. Owen was ready in public speech.  Cambridge scholars, utterly prejudiced against him, were struck with the dignity of his bearing at the memorable meetings at the City or London Tavern in 1817.  After a lapse of fifty-six years one of those present related that when Mr. Owen said, "all the religions of the world were wrong," he thought him beyond the rank of common men.  He seemed to this hearer to grow loftier in stature.  The vast and various audience listened as men breathless.  Then they broke out into tumultuous cheering at the courageous act of the speaker.  Indeed, I modify the terms in which that day has been spoken of to me.  Readers now would not understand the impression made; and for any purpose of persuasion it is useless to say more than will seem probable to those addressed.  Mr. Owen's reputation for great wealth, the munificence of his known gifts, his personal sincerity, his high connections, the novelty of his views,—all lent elements of popular interest to what he said on subjects on which no gentleman, save he, ventured to say anything.  He had made himself the first Captain of Industry.  He had accomplished wonders never attempted before by any manufacturer.  Statesmen from every part of Europe had been allured to New Lanark, and, for all any one knew, he might be able to demonstrate what no statesman had deemed it possible to compass.

    The determination to make the formidable statement described, at that particular time, his son relates, was come to suddenly.  Certain sectarian publications, seeing favourable notices in the Times of his proceedings at his first and second meeting in the London Tavern, began to call upon him to make a declaration of his views on religion, which up to that time he had withheld.  Theological charges were made against him. [33]  He had, however, maintained a proud reticence.  As he enjoyed the personal respect of several eminent prelates—for the best educated are always the most tolerant—Mr. Owen could well afford to pass the lower sort by.  As they were capable of doing harm, Mr. Owen, who was brave and not politic, defied them.  It was the consciousness of this which helped to move the wonder and enthusiasm of the densely packed and excited audience, and of thousands outside trying in vain to obtain admission.  "What, my friends," he began, "has hitherto retarded the advancement of your race to a high state of virtue and happiness?  Who can answer that question?  Who dares answer but with his life in his hand?—a ready and willing victim to the truth and to the emancipation of the world from its long bondage of error, crime, and misery.  Behold that victim!  On this day! in this hour! even now!  Shall those bonds be burst asunder, never more to reunite while the world lasts!"

    This enthusiasm and pluck, moved the admiration alike of those who approved, and those who dissented, from this dangerous and impolitic speech.  The consequences soon came home to him.  He had friends too powerful for his life to be in danger; but those who could save his life could not save his influence.  And in after years, at public meetings in the provinces, his life was often in jeopardy, and he was only saved by the intrepidity of working men, who protected him.  The Times soon wheeled into line against him—the Conservative and influential classes deserted him.  Only the Duke of Kent and Lord Brougham stood by him to the end. [34]

    From being a social reformer he had commenced to be a religious reformer.  An ominous meeting in the Rotunda of Dublin in 1823 was fatal to his new world.  Society set its face against him, and the people were too poor to carry his ideas out.  The father of Queen Victoria stood true.  He said at one of Mr. Owen's meetings, two years after he had denounced all religions, "If I understand Mr. Owen's principles, they lead him not to interfere to the injury of any sect; but he claims for himself that which he is so desirous to obtain for his fellow-creatures—'religious liberty and freedom of conscience'; and these he contends for because his experience compels him to conclude that these principles are now necessary to secure the well-being and good order of society."  This is excellently put, and is really what Mr. Owen meant.  Being always a Theist, he was logically in error in denouncing "all religions."  His province was to maintain, as the Duke of Kent puts it, "religious liberty and freedom of conscience."

    In those alarmed days, when politicians and capitalists were as terrified as shopkeepers at Co-operation, Mr. Owen countenanced the discussion of a new question, which has strangely passed out of the sight of history.  Mr. James Mill had written in the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," as Malthus had done before, that it was both desirable and profitable to limit the families of the poor.  Mill despised working people who crowded the labour market with their offspring, and then complained of the lowness of wages and the want in their homes.  Certainly a man or woman supplicating a relieving officer, treated as a burden on the parish, and advised to emigrate, as the needy shopkeeper assessed for poor-rates is, compelled to begrudge the flesh on their bones—is a humiliating business, so shocking and deplorable that these who come to it had better never have been born.  Any legitimate remedy which the wit of man could devise having this object would seem purity and dignity by the side of this degradation.  Community-makers soon found that the inmates would come to certain ruin if the houses were overrun with children, and they listened to the Malthus and Mill warning.  Mr. Owen, who always gave heed to the philosophers, took steps to give effect to their advice.  No man had a better right than he to invent the maxim he was fond of using—"Truth without mystery, mixture of error, or fear of man."  He was not able to obtain truth free from error; but he was, beyond question, free from the fear of man.

    This question concerned none save the poor, and be boldly counselled them against supplying offspring to be ground up alive in the mill of capital; or be cast aside when the labour market was glutted to fall into the hands of the constable or the parish overseer.  The subject was regarded by the public then as the question of cremation was, which could never be mentioned in any periodical with tolerance.  Cremation, to the surprise of everybody now—a question supposed to be innured with the ashes of Shelley—has become popular.

    No notice of this curious episode in Mr. Owen's life occurs in the biographies of him which have appeared since his death.  Mr. Sargant has brought together a variety of facts which it must have taken considerable research and cost to accumulate.  Though Mr. Sargant's views are antagonistic, he never calumniates, although he often fails to judge accurately; but as he is never dull, never indecisive, and often right in the opinion he forms, he is an instructive writer to those who incline to the side of the innovators.

    Mr. Dale Owen might have given the world an incomparable life of his father, such as otherwise we are not likely to see.  He had opportunities which no man, save he, possessed.  For a period of half a century almost every man in Europe and America engaged in any forlorn hope of progress had communications at one time or the other with Mr. Robert Owen.  Robert Dale published a work casting limited light on his father's career.  His "Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World" reads as though it were written by a man who had left this.  He has apparently given us from scant notes twenty-seven years of autobiography in "Threading my Way," which, however, serves to show how curious and valuable a history of his father it would be in his power to write.

    That I take to be the manliest reverence which praises within the limits of truth.  The flatterer is either a knave who intends to impose upon you, or a patron who intends to befool you, or a coward who applauds because he has not the courage to condemn you, or a weak-eyed man who can only see one thing at a time.  Those are wise who avoid the men who by wholesale praise hide from a man what he should be and keep him what he is.  Prefer the man who blows hot and cold to him who blows all hot, because it is better to be invigorated than to be stifled.  Believing so, I speak frankly as well as affectionately of Mr. Owen.

    It is no part of my object to represent him other than he was.  Though he was an amiable, he was, doubtless, at times a somewhat tiresome reformer.  When he called a meeting together, those who attended never knew when they would separate.  He was endowed with great natural capacity for understanding public affairs, and was accustomed to give practical and notable opinions upon questions quite apart from his own doctrines.  His society was sought as that of a man who had the key of many State difficulties.  Those know little of him who suppose that he owed his distinction to his riches.  A man must be wise as well as wealthy to achieve the illustrious friendships which marked his career.  He had personally an air of natural nobility about him.  He had, as the Daily News said, "an instinct to rule and command."  In youth and middle age he must have been an actor on the political stage of no mean mark.  He always spoke as "one having authority."  He had a voice of great compass, thorough self-possession, and becoming action.  Like many other men, he spoke much better than he wrote.  When he was but twenty years of age he applied to Mr. Drinkwater for a responsible position.  He was told "he was so young."  "Yes," answered Mr. Owen, "that used to be said of me several years ago, but I did not expect to have it brought against me now."  His boldness never deserted him.  On one occasion William Johnson Fox, the famous preacher and anti-Corn Law orator, delivered a discourse in South Place Chapel on Mr. Owen's co-operative system.  Some of his remarks being founded on a manifest misconception of it, Mr. Owen, who was present, rose before the final hymn was given out, and addressed the congregation in a speech of great dignity and propriety, and corrected the error of the orator.  Though the proceeding was most unusual, and would only have been permitted in a place of worship where freedom of conscience was not only maintained but conceded, Mr. Owen acquitted himself so well that no one felt any sense of unseemliness in what be did. [35]

    Mr. Owen was an apostle, not a rhetorician.  He never looked all round his statements (as Mr. Cobden did) to see where the ignorant might misconstrue them, or the enemy could come up and pervert them.  He said "man was the creature of circumstances" for thirty years before he added the important words, "acting previous to and after his birth."  He had the fatal ideas of the New Testament that equality was to be attained by granting to a community "all things in common" at the commencement.  Whereas equality is the result, not the beginning.  You must start with inequality and authority, steering steadily towards self-government and the accumulation of the common gains, until independence is secured to all.  Mr. Owen looked upon men through the spectacles of his own good-nature.  He seldom took Lord Brougham's advice "to pick his men."  He never acted on the maxim that the working class are as jealous of each other as the upper classes are of them.  The resolution he displayed as a manufacturer he was wanting in as a founder of communities.  Recognising his capacity as a manufacturer, even Allen, his eminent Quaker partner, wrote to him, "Robert Owen, thou makest a bargain in a masterly manner!"  Sir John, then Dr. Bowring, said that the only time Jeremy Bentham ever made money was when he was a partner of Mr. Owen.  No leader ever took so little care as Mr. Owen in guarding his own reputation.  He scarcely protested when others attached his name to schemes which were not his.  The failure of Queenwood was not chargeable to him.  When his advice was not followed he would say: "Well, gentlemen, I tell you what you ought to do.  You differ from me.  Carry out your own plans.  Experience will show you who is right."  When the affair went wrong then it was ascribed to him.  Whatever failed under his name the public inferred failed through him.  Mr. Owen was a general who never provided himself with a rear guard.  While he was fighting in the front ranks priests might come up and cut off his commissariat.  His own troops fell into pits against which he had warned them.  Yet he would write his next dispatch without it occurring to him to mention his own defeat, and he would return to his camp without missing his army.  Yet society is not so well served that it need hesitate to forgive the omissions of its generous friends.  To Mr. Owen will be accorded the distinction of being a philosopher who devoted himself to founding a Science of Social Improvement—a philanthropist who gave his fortune to advance it.  Association, which was but casual before his day, he converted into a policy and taught it as an art.  He substituted Co-operation for coercion in the conduct of industry—the willing co-operation of intelligence certain of its own reward, for sullen labour enforced by the necessity of subsistence, seldom to be relied on and never satisfied.

    Southey, who was a competent judge of public men in his day, said: "I would class Owen in a triad as one of the three men who have in this generation given an impulse to the moral world, Clarkson and Dr. Bell are the other two.  They have seen the firstfruits of their harvest; so, I think, would Owen ere this, if he had not alarmed the better part of the nation by proclaiming opinions upon the most momentous of all subjects.  Yet I admire the man; and readily admit that his charity is a better plank than the faith of an intolerant and bitter-minded bigot, who, as Warburton says, 'counterworks his Creator, makes God after man's image, and chooses the worst model he can find—himself."'  Mr. Owen had an accessible manner and a friendly face.  There was a charm that those who approached him always found in his mind.  Great or low, each felt assured, as the poet puts it


"There can live no hatred in thine eye."


    The impression that Mr. Owen made upon workmen of his time is best described by one who won for himself a distinguished name as a working-class poet—Ebenezer Elliott.  In an address to him, sent by trade-unionists of Sheffield in 1834, Elliott says: "You came among us as a rich man among the poor and did not call us a rabble.  This is a phenomenon new to us.  There was no sneer on your lips, no covert scorn in your tone."  That this distinction struck Elliott shows us how working men were then treated.  It was in reply to this address that Mr. Owen made a remark which is an axiom in the best political Liberalism of these days.  He said "Injustice is a great mistake."  He saw that it was not merely wrong, wicked, malevolent, hateful; he believed that injustice did not answer in business—in fact, that it did not pay.  This is becoming understood now.  Here and there we may hear a wise employer say: "I cannot afford to pay my men badly."  There are co-operative productive societies which have not quite learned this yet.  Indeed, it has taken a long time for employers to see that the workman, like the inanimate tools he uses, can only be efficient when made of good material, is of good temper, and kept in good condition.

    A society in Sheffield, which has never been a sentimental place, bore the sentimental name of the "Sheffield Regeneration Society."  Mr. Owen was in favour of a rule of eight hours' labour; he being a very early advocate of what is now thought impossible.  The Sheffield society did not believe that the world could be regenerated in eight hours, and addressed Mr. Owen for an explanation.  The document was written by Ebenezer Elliott, and was a good specimen of his prose style.  It had this passage: "Dr. Chalmers, though he bids us die unmarried, does not really wish that the noble race of Watt and Burns, Locke and Milton, should become extinct. . . . William Cobbett, almost a great man, and once our only champion [a phrase he afterwards used in his famous epitaph on Cobbett [36]], seems to be mystifying himself and trying to mystify others on the all-important subject; but we do not call him either rogue or fool."  Elliott ended by saying that the appropriate epitaph for the great communist's tomb—when he arrived at one—would be:—


"In the land of castes Owen was a Man."


    When Mr. Owen first proposed to his partners to institute educational arrangements at their works he admitted that there might be loss.  Bentham, Allen, and other of his partners resolved to run the risk, which in the end led to great fame and profit.  When the partners who opposed the outlay retired the Lanark Mills were brought to the hammer.  They depreciated the property, spreading about reports that Mr. Owen had ruined it, and that the business was not worth £40,000.  They intended buying it themselves.  But the philanthropist had an eye to business, and sent his solicitor to bid against them.  The discontented partners bid in person, and actually bid themselves upwards of £110,000 for property they had declared worth £40,000 only.  Mr. Owen bought it for £114,000.  They knew that it was worth greatly more, and regretted all their days their folly and their loss.  They had prematurely invited a large party of friends to a congratulation banquet on the day of the sale, and they had to play the part of hosts without appetite or exhilaration to guests unable to console them.  When the news reached the Lanark workmen that Mr. Owen was to be their future master the place was illuminated.  When Mr. Owen and his new partners went down the workpeople and inhabitants for miles round went out to greet them with music.  The horses were ungeared and, amid the acclamations of thousands, they were drawn in triumph into the town.  Mr. Owen's Quaker partners with him were astounded.  Never before were followers of George Fox sharers in such a demonstration.  And few have been the employers who have been welcomed back by their workpeople as Mr. Owen was.  These facts have had great influence in making employers genial and considerate to persons in their mills, though none have equalled the great founder of the system.  These facts are worth remembering by the new co-operative companies continually forming, animated by the common notion that niggardliness is economy and that shabbiness can bring satisfaction.

    Wesleyanism dotted the country with prayer-meetings—Chartism covered it with conspiring groups of worldly-awakened men—Socialism sought to teach industry power, property its duty, and the working people how to struggle for their improvement without anger or impatience.  It was Mr. Owen who was conspicuous in teaching them the golden lesson of peace and progress.  His heart was with that religion which, though weak in creeds and collects, rendered humanity service.  No affluence corrupted him.  When he saw gentlemen of his acquaintance adding thousands to thousands and acre to acre, and giving themselves up to the pride of family, of title, of position, he himself plotted for the welfare of mechanics and labourers.  He found no satisfaction in the splendour of courts so long as the hovel stood in sight.  He felt as Mr. Bright did who had a mightier power of expressing the great aims which raise the stature of mankind, who said: "I do not care for military greatness or renown: I care for the condition of the people among whom I live. . . . Crown, coronet, mitres, military displays, pomp of war, wide colonies, and a huge empire are in my view all trifles light as air, unless with them you can have a fair share of comfort, contentment, and happiness among the great body of the people."



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