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,
co-operare, the Latin co-operare, and derive it from co-
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," 
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.  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  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." 
This explanation is on the line of truth, and goes forward some distance
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.
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."—COWPER.
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. 
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
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,  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; 
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." 
"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
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
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." 
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
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.
 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
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." 
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.
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
"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. 
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." 
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, 
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
"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
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." 
A dismal kingdom of equality France would have been with these murderous
ruins defacing it.
Babeuf and his compatriots failed through a traitor, 
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 THRONE!
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" —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."
HOW CO-OPERATION ITSELF BEGAN
"All around was dim,
Yet his face glowed with light revealed to him."
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. 
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. 
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 .
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." 
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
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 
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
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. 
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." 
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." 
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,  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. 
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." 
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.