History of Co-operation (9)
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CHAPTER XXVIII.

INDUSTRIAL PARTNERSHIP


"It is a natural and not an unreasonable wish for every man to form that he should have some interest in, and some control over, the work on which he is employed.  It is human nature, I think, that a man should like to feel that he is to be a gainer by any extra industry that he may put forth, and that he should like to have some sense of proprietorship in the shop, or mill, or whatever it may be, in which he passes his days.  And it is because the system introduced of late years of co-operative industry meets that natural wish that I look forward to its extension with so much hopefulness.  I believe it is the best, the surest remedy for that antagonism of labour and capital."—EARL DERBY (then Lord Stanley) at Opening of the Liverpool Trades Hall, October, 1869.


ONE form of Industrial Partnership is a business in which the employers pay to the hands a portion of profits made in addition to their wages, on the supposition that the men will create the said profit by increased interest and assiduity in their work.

    M. Le Comte de Paris, the author of a wise and readable book on Trades Unions, describes "Co-operative Societies for production as transforming the workman into a capitalist by securing to him a share of the profits of the undertaking in which he has invested the capital of his labour."  A co-operative workshop does more, it divides not a share, but all the profits among the producers. [209]

    Earl Derby was distinguished among public men by the faculty of seeing a question from which he may dissent from the point of view of those who accept it; and such is his clearness of statement that those who listen to him find their own case put as it were by themselves, when they see it most completely and state it best to their own satisfaction.  The question of industrial partnerships is contained in the following passage from the speech mentioned at the head of his chapter:—


    "In participation there are losses as well as gains; but the very fact that these occur will make the men who share in them understand and feel better than they ever did before the responsibilities and the difficulties of the employer; and if, as is quite possible, many having felt its difficulties, prefer the certainty and security of fixed wages, they, at least, have had heir choice between the two systems.  It is quite probable that there are some trades, some kinds of businesses in which it cannot be brought about; but it seems to me that it is in that direction that the efforts of the best workers and the ideas of the best thinkers are tending, and we are not to be disheartened by a few failures, or disappointed because we do not at once hit on the best way of doing what has never been done before."


    Partnership in industry seems to have entered the Irish mind before it did the English, if regard be had to legislative evidence.  In Dublin as early as 1788 there was "issued by George Grierson, printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty" (there has been a good deal of Majesty since 1788 which has not appeared "Most Excellent" to anybody), an "Act to promote Trade and Manufacture by regulating and encouraging partnerships."  The words "Chap. XLVI." were annexed thereto.  Its preamble set forth that "whereas the increasing the stock of money employed in Trade and Manufacture must greatly promote the commerce and prosperity of this kingdom, and many persons might be induced to subscribe sums of money to men well qualified for trade (but not of competent fortune to carry it on largely) if they (the subscribers) were allowed to abide by the profit or loss of the trade for the same, and were not to be deemed Traders on that account or subject hereby to any further or other demands than the sums so subscribed."  This is excellently put.  The whole theory of joint-stock partnerships is here.  Mr. Schofield, M.P. for Birmingham, when he carried his Bill in the English louse of Commons eighty years later, could not have constructed a more relevant preamble.  Though valuable in its way, joint-stock partnership is not Co-operation.

    It was Mr. Owen, at Lanark, who first showed masters they might, with honour and profit, do by voluntary partnership with those they employed.  The law did not permit participation of profit with workmen in those days.  It could only be done in the form of gifts.  Only patronage Co-operation was possible.  Mr. Owen made these in the form of education, recreation, improved dwellings, and increased wages.  All these were revocable—the law forbade contracts of participation with workmen.  Industrial equity bore the name of benevolence, and dividends of profit reached workmen in the form of a discriminating charity.

    Mr. Owen was a Paternalist.  He believed in the general goodness of humanity, and that goodness could guide it; but he had no conviction that it could guide itself.

    Industrial Partnerships owe to Fourier the principle of making labour attractive instead of repulsive, and of distributing the profits in proportion to the capital, skill, and labour, contributed by each; Fourier made definite the idea of labour becoming the partner of capital, instead of merely its servant.

    It is, however, to the practical genius of an Englishman, Mr. Charles Babbage, that we owe the earliest proposal, made by a writer of repute in England, in favour of workmen being associated as participators in the profits of a manufactory.  On the south coast of England it was known that one-half of all the fish caught belonged to the owner of the boat and the net, the other half being divided in equal portions among the fishermen using the net and boat, they being bound to make repairs when needed.  Cornish miners were paid in proportion to the richness and produce of the vein worked.  Thus they naturally became quick-sighted in the discovery of lodes and in estimating their value, and it was their interest to avail themselves of every improvement in bringing the ore cheaply to the surface; Mr. Babbage therefore argued that if some joint participation of profit in manufactures was devised, the result of such arrangement would be:—


1. That every person engaged in it would have a direct interest in its prosperity; since the effect of any success would almost immediately produce a corresponding change in his own receipts.

2. Every person in the factory would have an immediate interest in preventing any waste or mismanagement in all the departments.

3. The talent of all connected with it would be strongly directed to its improvement.

4. When any additional hands were required, it would be the common interest of all to admit only the most skilful; and it would be far less easy to impose upon a dozen workmen than upon the single proprietor of a factory.

5. And by no means least, there would be removed, by common consent, the causes which compel men to combine for their own separate interests.


    It is said an Englishman never knows when he is beaten, but a workman of any sense does know when he has won, or when fairness of an employer has conceded to him the opportunity of benefit in the trade in which he is engaged.  So that there would exist a union between employer and workman to overcome common difficulties and promote a common interest.  Lieutenant Babbage, in a letter which I had the pleasure to receive from him, says that his father advised co-operative manufactories, as the chapter in his work shows, entitled "A New Manufacturing System."

    Mr. Babbage's wise scheme met with very scant co-operative recognition.  The Editor of the New Moral World saw no good that was likely to come of industrial partnerships.  The scheme which has attained ascendancy and rendered great service to the working class, was dismissed with these discouraging editorial words, "As a temporary expedient we are very doubtful of the value of Mr. Babbage's plan, while as an adequate amelioration of the condition of the industrious classes, we can have no faith in schemes that render them dependent for subsistence on the chances of employment" [210]

    The Chartists among the working class thought Free Trade a Whig scheme to deceive them; Trade Unionists suspected it as a contrivance to get more work out of them.  No attention was paid by any manufacturer to this sensible and well-put plan.  Mr. Babbage might as well have spoken down a well, as far any response was concerned.  Nobody then had any real confidence in mutual relations between
capital and labour.  But it remains an encouraging fact that great mathematician should give the actual details of the industrial policy of the future as exact as the calculation of the appearance of a new planet.

    In some cases employers pay large wages from pure goodwill to their men, or provide news-rooms, or dining-rooms, or schools, or provide them with good habitations at low rents, or pension old workmen, or contribute to provident or other societies for their personal advantage.  Such employers do virtually establish an industrial partnership, of goodwill though not of right.

    Lord Brassey evidently takes more than his father's interest in the commercial welfare and industrial security of the working class.  He pointed out in his Halifax address how it comes to pass that "the rich, gathering themselves together in the most eligible situation in every town, the price of land becomes so enormous that it is impossible to erect houses at rates which, while not exceeding what workmen can afford to pay, will be remunerative to the owners and builders.  Hence the working class are compelled to occupy more remote suburbs.  They live in daily contact with no other class but their own, and a consequent danger is incurred of social disunion.  This state of things is practically inevitable under our existing system."  Then the existing system requires altering.  In the town of Leicester the wealthier portion of the population have taken possession of all the higher and salubrious parts, and the poor have no choice but to live in the lower and unhealthier.  Mr. Stansfeld, M.P., had in view to introduce a Bill to enable corporations to acquire land, in the vicinity of large towns, so as to secure the poorer population some opportunity of healthy existence.  Undoubtedly "the tendency of modern industry," as Lord Brassey remarks, "has been, and will continue to be, towards the concentration of capital in large corporate or private establishments."  There must be contrived some participation of these inexorable and unhinderable profits among the artisan class; else the many will have no choice but to combine against the few, and stop in some disagreeable way that which stops them from existing endurably. [211]  Common people increasing in intelligence cannot be expected to perish in the sight of ever-increasing affluence, and die gratis.

    The saying that "it is liberty which is old, and despotism which is new," oft recurs to a writer on industrial welfare.  It seems a new thing to propose now that employers should be studious to provide for the welfare of those who labour.  In Egypt the pyramids endure; the huts of the Fellahs, of the makers of bricks, have been destroyed and renewed a thousand times since Pentaour watched their misery.  But other ancient nations showed noble regard for workmen.  At Mocke the great pyramid of the Chimus remains built by the ancient Peruvians.  The mighty Peruvian pyramid still stands imposing in its decay, and by it equally remain, no less permanent, the dwellings of the masons and metal workers, "organised," says a recent explorer, "with an order and a system which a Socialist phalanstery might despair of rivalling." [212]  In all the dominions which the Incas ruled as monarchs or suzerains, this combination of love of display and care for the well-being of the humblest subjects, speaks of a wise consideration for the people.

    A "sentimental" man is one who does what is right because it ought to be done.  A "practical" man is one who does what is right because it pays.  The practical man I respect because he raises Co-operation into the region in which it can live.  The sentimental man I honour because he raises Co-operation above the region of dividends into the nobler region where the indispensable pursuit of gain is purified by the loftier feeling of duty.  There are those who think a man "practical" who gets dividends anyhow.  He who willingly does wrong because it pays, is a fool or a rascal.  He may profit by it, but he fills his little money-bag with a scoundrel shovel; and the executive business of perdition will be very badly managed if there be not somebody's janissary on the other side the grave waiting for these knaves.  Sentiment is as yet unmacadamised ground, and some stumble thereon.  There is all the difference between light and twilight—of pursuing equity from a sense of justice and pursuing it for mere gain.

    Political economists, with a perspicacity unexercised until lately, now discern that "all extra remuneration that is awarded to labour in excess of the wages that are earned by labour is, in reality, given, not for the pure or simple labour itself, but for the greater skill, ability, knowledge, or intelligence with which it is accompanied; and these additional qualifications which accompany labour are regarded by Adam Smith as a species of capital that is fixed and realised in the persons of those who possessed them, and the value of which is to be estimated by their worth in simple labour." [213]

    "Some years ago," says Dr. Doherty, "it was reported in the public press that a great saving of coke had been effected by the managers of the Belgian railways; the work formerly done by ninety-five tons now being accomplished with forty-eight tons.  And this is the way in which the saving was made.  It was known that the men who used the coke to heat the locomotives on the line were not careful of the fuel.  Ninety-five kilogrammes of coke were consumed for every league of distance run, but this was known to be more than necessary; but how to remedy the evil was the problem.  A bonus of 3.½d. on every hectolitre of coke saved on this average of ninety-five to the league was offered to the men concerned, and this trifling bonus worked the miracle.  The work was done equally well, or better, with forty-eight kilogrammes of coke, instead of ninety-five; nearly one-half, saved by careful work, at an expense of probably less than one-tenth of the saving." [214]

    Mr. Thomas Hughes, writing to the Pall Mall Gazette, in reply to an article which suggested that if no profits were made at Methly there would be no means of paying the labourers, who while they would share the profits would not stand to any of the losses, remarks that "In the first Year of the partnership a very considerable surplus profit may be made.  By the articles, the board of directors—consisting of the former employers and several of their foremen—have the power of setting apart and investing a large proportion of these profits as a reserve fund, which may be used at any time in aid of wages or in making up the fixed interest on invested capital in future years.  If this power is exercised, and the first year or so is profitable I think the danger is overcome.  I believe that as a rule the periods are not long during which a properly managed business does not return enough to pay the average rate of wages, and the interest on capital usual in the trade, be it 7 or 10, or 15 per cent.  The reserve fund once established may fairly be looked to, to enable the partnership to tide over these slack times without a reduction of the wages of labour or the fixed interest on capital."

    Lord George Manners, who projected an industrial partnership on his farm, answered a similar objection.  He said, "True, I may have to pay wages some years when there has been a loss, but I do not forget that the best work the labourers could do may have decreased that loss, and in other years have increased my profits materially."  This implied a generous feeling and perfect perception of the question.

    In Leicester, at a "Treat" given by Messrs. W. Corah & Sons, hosiery manufacturers, to 450 of their workpeople, one of the firm said: "Masters are making profits, and it was nothing but right that those who worked for them should enjoy as far as possible their share of the profits (cheers).  He took it that there were respective duties for employers."  In the same town there are other employers who equally exemplify the sense of industrial equity.  In the North capital as a rule bites.  In Midland England it is friendly in tone to the workman.  In Leicester Michael Wright & Sons made a deliberate effort to introduce the principles of industrial partnership into their Elastic Web Works, but did not find their efforts supported by their workpeople.  In the same town Messrs. Gimson & Co. introduced it into their large engine works.  They adopted the wise plan of first entrusting its operation to a selection of their leading workmen, to whom they offered the advantage of a share of the profits after the attainment of a fair dividend upon capital.  To these selected workmen was left the power or nominating other workmen whom they discerned to be capable and willing to increase the prosperity of the company by zeal and judgment in the discharge of their duties.  This plan had the advantage of limiting the division of profits to those who showed increased efforts in augmenting them, and left the responsibility of excluding the indifferent to their fellow-workmen.  Thus the opportunity was fairly given, and it depended upon the men to make the arrangement permanent by making it profitable. [215]

    Before an employer takes this step he values his entire plant, and prescribes the interest it ought to yield him on the average.  It is the surplus that may arise above this that he proposes to share with his men.  Whether he will do this is a matter of calculation and good sense.  He knows that if a workman has no interest in the business beyond his stipulated wages, he requires to be timed and watched; he adopts the easiest processes; he cares nothing to economise material; he has small pride in his work, and little concern for the reputation or fortune of the firm in whose employ he is.  He changes his situation whenever he can better himself, leaving his master to supply his place as he may by a strange hand, who loses time in familiarising himself with the arrangements of a workshop new to him, or blunders, or destroys property for the want of special local experience.  If the workman has no chance of changing his place for a better, he engages in strikes, imperils the capital and endangers the business of his master.  If his strike succeeds, his master dislikes him because of the loss and humiliation he has suffered.  If his strike fails, the workman is poorer in means and sourer in spirit.  He works only from necessity; he hates his employer with all his heart; he does him all the mischief and makes all the waste he safely can.  He gives his ear to alien counsellors, and conspires and waits for the day when he can strike again with more success.  If an employer has a taste for this disreputable conflict he can have it.  If he does not like it he can prevent it.  The newly-made middle-class gentleman is prone to say, "What is my neighbour to me?"  It is enough for him that his neighbour does not annoy him or does not want to borrow anything from him, nor create any nuisance upon adjacent premises which may reach to him.  Beyond this he thinks very little about his neighbour, and will live beside him for years and never know him, nor want to know co-operative thinker sees in his neighbour a person whom it pays to know.  He has a social idea in his mind, which is not merely kindliness, it is worth money.

    Charles Frederick Abel became chamber musician to the Queen of George III., because none but he could play upon the viola de gamba (a small violoncello with six strings) with equal perfection.  Afterwards came Paganini, who entranced nations by the melody concealed in a solitary cord.  It was genius in him to discover and display it.  We have not yet explored all the mysteries of cat-gut; yet capitalists would assure us that they have sounded all the compass of the most wonderful of all instruments—man; whereas the employer of labour chiefly knows man as an available animal who trots under the whip, or as a hired machine of reluctant action.  The workman has skill and good-will, contriving, saving, and perfecting qualities, which are never enlisted where one man is a mere instrument bound to fidelity only by the tenure of starvation—designing to desert his employer, and the employer intending to dismiss him the moment either can do without the other.  Industrial partnership is a policy of buying the skill and will of a man—his genius and his self-respect, which elevate industry into a pursuit of art, and service into companionship.  It is a scheme of reciprocity.  An industrial partnership is but a superior business arrangement.

    But co-operators can make better partnerships for themselves by establishing workshops of their own.  To supplicate for them would simply give employers the idea that some charity was sought at their hands.  They can be obtained by combination.  Trade unions are the available means for this purpose.  At the Social Science Congress held in Leeds in 1871 I said in the Economy Section, over which Mr. Newmarch presided, that the working classes should be in that position in which they should neither supplicate nor depend upon the will of their masters.  What they had no right to, no entreaty should obtain for them.  What they had a right to, they should be in a position to command.  The conception of working a mine the French express by the word exploiter.  By the phrase l'exploitation de l'homme par l'homme is meant that a capitalist uses a man and works a man as he works a mine; he gets all he can out of him.  There is no great objection to this so long as the man likes it.  Where, however, these partnerships are volunteered, that is a different thing, and too much regard or honour cannot be paid to those whence the offer comes.  A speech quite as important as that of Lord Derby's, considering the rank of the gentleman who made it, is of this nature, I mean the speech which the Right Hon. Mr. Brand, Speaker of the House of Commons, addressed to his labourers at Glynde.  He said, "We shall never come to a satisfactory settlement of the relations between employer and employed until the employed, according to the amount of labour and capital he has invested in the concern, is interested in the good conduct of that concern."

    One merit of this speech was that it was followed by a plan for practically enabling his labourers to become shareholders in the estate at Glynde.  The language and the example are alike important.  To admit labourers as part-proprietors of the Glynde estate, confers upon them a position of pride and self-respect as valuable as it is new.  Such admission, rightly used, would produce more advantages than many agitations, such as are within the means of labourers to conduct.  To have it admitted by a gentleman so eminent and influential as the representative of the House of Commons, that labourers had a social right to share in the profits of the estate which they contributed to cultivate, was an admission of more service to the working people than many Acts of Parliament passed in their name, and professedly for their benefit.  For an humble villager to be able to say that he was a shareholder in the Glynde estate, however small might be the portion which his prudence and frugality enabled him to acquire, however small might be the profits thus accruing to him, his position was entirely changed.  His forefathers were slaves, then serfs, then hired labourers.  He becomes in some sort a landowner.  He henceforth stands upon what Lord Cockburn would call a "colourable" equality with the proprietor himself.  If he had any cultivated spirit of independence in him, such labourer would have more satisfaction in the idea, than many a tenant farmer is able to find in the position which he holds.  It must follow in a few years that the wages of such a man must increase, and by prudence, temper, and good judgment the relation between this body of small proprietors and the chief owner must be pleasant and honourable.  That these labourers were wanting in the disposition, or were ill advised by those to whom they would naturally look for counsel, and neglected to act on the unusual offer made by Mr. Brand, detracts in no way from the value of it.  Men may be taken to the steps of Paradise, and decline to ascend, yet he is not the less meritorious who gives them the opportunity.  A man may not have the sense to ascend—he may not understand his opportunity—he may even distrust it, or think it too insignificant to trouble about, he may have the humility which makes him doubt his own fitness to advance, he may have the diffidence which makes him distrust his own power of going forward, he may even prefer to remain where he is, content that he may advance on another occasion; but he is no longer the same man, he stands higher in his own esteem if he has any self-respect.  He has had the chance of better things, and the old feeling of discontent and sense of exclusion and bitterness at his precarious state are changed, and an inspiration of manliness, equality, and undefined satisfaction takes the place of his former feelings.  A man may have a great opportunity, and for some preference or infatuation of his own he may go past it; he may regret it, but he is happier than he who never had the chance of bettering himself.  So every manufacturer and every landowner who makes overtures of industrial partnership to his men, raises the character of mastership and proprietorship; sooner or later men will accept the offers, and be grateful for them, and turn them to fortunate account.  In the meantime, the whole temper of industry is being changed by these overtures; the mighty doors of conciliation and equality are being opened, through which, one day, all the workmen of England will pass.

    In the meantime the mere dream of this invests the order of industry with new interest and hope.  This will seem sentimental only to those who know human nature second hand.  We all live in ideals.  Those who deny the ideal of others live in one of their own—lower or higher.  The true artist, solitary and needy though he may be, paints for the truth, the thinker thinks for it, the martyr dies for it, the glory of which only his eye sees.  Progress is the mark of humanity.  The aspiration even of the lowest is the ideal which carries him forward; and when it fails, manhood perishes.

    Co-operation has filled the air with ideas of progress by concert.  Men thought the flashes of lightning which play upon the fringe of a coming tempest, were the rainbow arch which denotes a permanent truce between the warring elements, a sign that the storm is passing away.


 
CHAPTER XXIX.

INDUSTRIAL CONSPIRACIES


"My opinion is, we shall never have a satisfactory settlement of the wages question until the labourer receives in some shape or other a share of the profit of the business in which he is engaged.  I refer not only to those employed upon farms, but to those engaged in mining, in manufactories, and in trades of all kinds."—The Right Hon. Mr. Brand's (Speaker of the House of Commons) Speech to Labourers at Glynde, 1876.


HAD declarations of opinion like that of Lord Hampden, above cited, been acted upon by employers, industrial conspiracies, the "conflicts of capital and labour," would not have existed.

    A conspiracy is a secret scheme for attaining certain advantages by coercion.  Modern trades unions have been mostly of this kind, the object being, in their case, increase of wages.  Co-operation is not a conspiracy, it is a concerted industrial arrangement, open and legitimate, with a view to place moderate competence within the reach of workmen and—keep it there.  The end sought by unionists and co-operators is practically the same; the means of its attainment being different is no intrinsic ground of antagonism between them.  Because two companies of excursionists to the same place choose to go, one on foot and the other by railway, is no reason for their hating each other on the road, and not associating at the end of their journey.  Nor if any of the walking party become foot-sore, is there any reason why they should not be invited to come into the train at the first station.

    The co-operators imagine themselves to have adopted the easier, cheaper, and speedier way of reaching the pleasant territory of competence.  They lose no money on the road, they even make what money they expend productive.  They do not annoy masters, nor petition them for increase of wages, nor wait upon them, nor send deputations to them, nor negotiate with them—they make themselves masters.  They supply or hire their own capital, they fix their own wages, and, as has been said, divide the whole of the available profits among themselves.  Thus they attain increase of income without strikes, or incurring absolute loss of money by paying men to be idle.  I am not among those who consider money wasted on strikes.  It is an investment in resistance to inequitable payment, which brings return in increased manliness if not in increased wages.  At the same time it must be owned there is loss of capital in it.  The masters' profits and men's savings spent in strikes, disappear as though they were thrown into the sea.  A strike is war, and all war is loss of the material means of the combatants.  Therefore the co-operator, whose mind turns mainly upon the hinge of economy, holds that employers, when unfair or aggressive, are to be superseded, not combated.  The superseding process has more dignity and costs less.  It a gentleman has cause of complaint against a neighbour, an associate, or a stranger, he explains the matter to him, asks for what in reason he has a right to ask, taking care himself neither to be impatient nor give just cause of offence in his manner of putting his case, and if he fail to obtain redress he avoids the person and takes what steps he can to render it impossible that he shall be treated in a similar manner again.  This is the co-operative plan of dealing with too exacting middlemen or inconsiderate employers.  Nobody quarrels but the bully who has an object in it, or the incapable, who do not know how to put themselves right, except by the primitive expedients of the savage or the washerwoman, by the use of the tomahawk or the tongs.

    Just as there would be a good deal of reverence in the world were it not for theologians, so there would be more peace and better understanding between adversaries were it not for conciliators.  Conciliators are often disagreeable persons who, having no sympathy for either side, see "faults on both," or, having a predilection for one party, lectures the other upon the good sense of giving way to it.  Conciliation is like charity, it is irrelevant where justice is needed—it is offensive where justice is refused.

    A combination of workmen to increase their wages is called "a conspiracy," while a similar combination of employers passes under the pleasant description of "a meeting of masters to promote the interests of trade."

    Trades unions of the guilds came first.  Modern unions grew by a sort of political instinct.  It came to be seen that it was not by revolution that the poor could fight their forlorn and frantic way to competence, nor could they in isolation alter the constitution of society.  In some faint and perplexing way it was discovered to them that by combination they might acquire redress.  Many could resist where the few were crushed; and combination did not require money—only sense.  The poorest could unite.  It cost nothing to cohere, and cohering was strength, strength was resistance, resistance was money, for thus higher wages came.  True, the gain to one set of workmen often proves a serious cost to others, as when masons compel higher wages they put up the house rents of all the poor in the town, and make it more difficult for an artisan to build a house.  Yet it was an advantage to the feeble to learn that combination was power, its right use is the second step.

    So little attention has been given by historians to projects of the people for protecting their industrial interests, that it is difficult to tell how early trades unions, such as we now know them, began in England.  Ebenezer Elliott told me he believed that the ancient industrial guilds arose in efforts of workpeople to forefend themselves and dignify labour, by creating for it rights which might enable it to raise its head under the contempt of gentlemen and insolence of the military spirit.  Dr. John Alfred Langford—who has himself helped to raise the character of the industrial class by the persistence with which he, a member of it, has acquired knowledge, and the ability with which he has used it—relates in his "A Century of Birmingham Life" curious particulars of an early conspiracy of needlemen in that active town.  The needlemen of Birmingham always knew how to sew ideas together as well as fabrics.  If their strike of more than 128 years ago was the first one, strikes came to perfection early.  Unionists turn to Co-operation in self-defence, showing a mastery of resources not common to this time.  In Dr. Langford's pages we learn that in Swinney's Chronicle of February 13, 1777, the master tailors of Birmingham advertised for 100 hands, who were sure to be able to earn 16s. a week.  They were to apply to William Moyston, 130, Moor Street, in that town.  As the war with America was then about over, many thought that a nude tribe of Red Indians had arrived in Birmingham and needed clothing at a short notice.  Four days later the mystery was explained by a notice to "journeymen Taylors" signed by George Hanley, telling the public "The statement of the masters was false," and that "the prices were stipulated so that he must be an extraordinary hand to get 12s.," and for that reason they were "all out of work."  The masters rejoined by asking for "40 or 50 journeymen taylors to work piece-work, holding out prospects of 16s. to 18s. per week."  The applicants "were not to be subject to the House of Call, as none would be employed but such as called at the masters' houses and are free from all combinations."  It appears, therefore, that "combinations" must have been common then, and the masters' restrictions were precisely what we hear of to-day.  The journeymen in their turn appealed to the public, whose sympathy was with the men.  They said they "objected to piece-work on the ground of their late suffering by it."  They defended their "House of Call as an ancient custom both in London and all other capital towns," and announced "that they had joined together in order to carry on their trade in all its different branches, and that good workmen and those only who applied at their House of Call at the "Coach and Horses," in Bell Street, would meet with good encouragement."  By "hunting the country round" all the masters obtained were "inexperienced lads," whereas the tailors on strike were able to serve gentlemen well.  Thus in Birmingham near 130 years ago a co-operative workshop was devised as the sequel of a strike.  It is the first instance known.  Trades unions in England as this century has known them, were not the device of policy but the offsprings of instinct and courage.  There were splendid trades unions in the days of the English guilds.  Nor would they have arisen again save that men were inspired with boldness by political teachers, and began to combine to offer some resistance.  They little thought of demanding higher wages—they thought it a great triumph to prevent theirs being lowered.  The fable of the bundle of sticks struck them as it did the poor co-operators as a very original story.  As one set of workmen after another faggoted themselves together, the humble and familiar symbol of the tied sticks appeared in their trade journals, and was soon carried on their banners.  Then combination laws were passed against the struggling unionists.  Those who did not get imprisoned or transported like the Dorchester labourers, were told that what they sought was all of no use: supply and demand had been discovered, and in case these failed, the labourer could not be sufficiently grateful that a poor-house had been provided for him, as the workhouse master told the dying pauper who presumed to want to see the clergyman—that "he ought to be glad he had a hell to go to." [216]  Still the workman clung to his union, feeling, but not knowing how to explain it, as Mr. Roebuck subsequently did.  This is the unionist case as put by that master of statement:—


    "The working man, single-handed, as compared with the master, is a weak and impotent being.  The master has him in his own hands, can do with him what he likes, give him what wages he pleases; for there are a large number of persons outside wishing to be employed—labour is cheap and plentiful; and the master decides that he will give the men low wages.  There are 200 or 2,000 men working together, and they say one to another, 'Let us act as one man.'  They bring the whole body of workmen to bear as one man on the master.  Let there be equality on both sides, the working man having the benefit of the only capital he possesses, viz., his labour; and the master having the benefit of that which is absolutely necessary to production—his capital."


    Now everybody admits the right of the workman to combine; but those who admit the right deny its utility, and contend that the workmen had better leave things to take their course, and wages would rise of themselves.  Since, however, employers and merchants who say this are observed never to wait for prices to rise of themselves but combine to help them upwards, the workman came to the conclusion that he had better combine to quicken wages in their laggard movement towards elevation.

    Any one can see that combination is a distant power, only reached by many steps; confidence, organisation, and discipline are some of them.  The working people have conspired in many ways, according to their knowledge.  The reason why political philanthropists have always made it their chief object to promote the education of the poorest class in the State, was their perceiving that workmen would one day expect the exhortations to frugality and prudence, given them by their "betters," to be followed by their "betters," and insist upon it being followed.  When Mr. Malthus and the Political Economists began their protests against the large families of the poor, wise and friendly protests as they were, the day was sure to come when the poor in turn would protest against the large families of the rich, whom the indigent would know had to be provided for at their expense.  If the labourer is to be frugal, and live upon his small income without debt, or need of charity in sickness, he will be sure to wonder, one day, why those who admonish him should need mansions, parks, carriages, and footmen.  Unless the poor are kept absolutely ignorant and stupid, no man can advise frugality to poverty without those who receive the advice expecting that he who gives it will follow it himself.  All monitorial improvement of the lower class must end in enforcing a corresponding improvement in the upper classes.  These ebullitions of sense on the part of the working classes are very infrequent in their history.  I have met with only two or three instances, long forgotten now and buried in the obscure pamphlets of 1832.  Their relevance, however, is not gone, and the vigour of the argument, forcible beyond the defamatory invective on which feeble agitators so commonly rely.  When Mr. Joseph Pease, of the firm of Pease & Co., worsted manufacturers at Darlington, one of the Society of Friends, and a strenuous member of the Anti-Slavery Society, was a candidate for the southern division of the county of Durham, he issued an address to the electors, in which he said, "In all measures for the amelioration of our kind in striking off the chains of slavery and mental darkness, in restraining the oppressor, and in turning the attention of a Christian Legislature to Christian principles, I would be ardent and exertive."  Whereupon a little piecer in his factory was sent to him, with this little infantile speech in her hand:—


"Good master, let a little child, a piecer in your factory
From early dawn to dewy eve—relate her simple history.
Before I came to work for you, my heart was full of mirth and glee;
I play'd and laugh'd, and ran about, no kitten was so blythe as me.
But just when I was eight years old, poor mother, press'd with want and woe,
Took me one morning by the hand, and said, 'To factory thou must go.'
They thrust me in and shut the door, 'midst rattling wheels and noisy din,
And in the frame gait made me stand, to learn the art of piecen-ing.
I often hurt my little hands, and made my tender fingers bleed,
When piecing threads and stopping flys, and thought 'twas very hard indeed.
The overlooker pass'd me oft, and when he cried, 'An end down there,'
My little heart did tremble so, I almost tumbled down with fear.
When at the weary evening's close I could not keep myself awake,
He sometimes strapp'd me till I cry'd as if my little heart would break.
Oh, master! did you know the half that we endure, to gain you gold
Your heart might tremble for the day when that sad tale must all be told.
Ah! then I thought of days gone by, when, far from spindles, din, and heat,
I deck'd my little giddy brow with buttercups and violets sweet.
From year to year I sigh in vain, for time to play, and time to read.
We come so soon, and leave so late, that nought we know but mill and bed.
They tell us you grow very rich, by little piec'ners such as me,
And that you're going to Parliament, to guard our laws and liberty,
They say you pity Negro Slaves, and vow, oppressors to restrain,
To break the chains of ignorance, and Christian Principles maintain.
Oh! when you're there remember us, whilst at your frames we labour still,
And give your best support and aid to Mr. Saddler's Ten Hours Bill.
The poor, we know, must work for bread, but, master, are not we too young?
Yet if such little ones must work, pray do not work us quite so long!
Your 'Christian Principles' now prove, and hearken to the piec'ners prayer,
Soon Christ in judgment shall appear, remember, you must meet us there." [217]


    The other instance occurred in 1833, when Mr. H. Warburton had introduced what was known as the Anatomy Bill, called in Yorkshire the "Paupers' Dead Body Bill," which provided subjects out of the poor-house for doctors to cut up.  As the wives and families of workmen in those days had no prospect before them but that of ending their days in the poor-house, they did not like this Bill, which they believed was intended to bring them all to the dissecting-room.  At the same time, Mr. Wilson Patten, instead of supporting the Ten Hours Bill, which the poor people believed would render pauper subjects scarce, had proposed a commission to inquire into Factory labour, but that subject, they thought, had been inquired into enough, and they thought the Commission a trick intended to delay passing the Bill.  It is a custom of Parliament when people are mad and perishing for lack of some long-denied amelioration, to appoint a "Royal Commission" to inquire whether they want it.  The young girl piecers, or the "pieceners," as they sometimes called themselves, addressed a letter to Mr. Wilson Patten, M.P.  It was shorter than the previous address, somewhat more lyrical, but quite as much to the purpose in its way.  It ran thus:—


"Have you no children of your own,
    Cold-hearted Wilson Patten?
We wish you'd send Miss Pattens down
    All decked in silk and satin.

Just let them work a month with us,
    And 'doff' their nice apparel;
And 'don' their 'brats' like one of us—
    We promise not to quarrel.

We'll curtsey low—say 'Ma'am' and 'Miss,'
    And teach them how to 'piece,' Sir;
They shan't be strapt when aught's amiss,
    They shan't be treated rough, Sir.

We'll call them up at 'five o'clock,'
    When all is dark and dreary;
No miller rude, their tears shall mock,
    Nor vex them when they're weary.

We'll guard them home when work is done,
    At seven or eight at night, Sir,
We'll cheer them with our harmless fun,
    And never show our spite, Sir.

And when they've wrought a month at mill,
    If they do not petition
For us to have the Ten Hour Bill,
    T
HEN SEND US YOUR 'COMMISSION."'


    In Frazer's Magazine at this period attention was called to the evidence of Mr. Gilbert Sharpe, the overseer of Keighley, Yorkshire, who was examined by the Factory Commission.  He was asked whether he had any reason to think that any children lost their lives in consequence of excessive work in the mills.  He said he had no doubt of it, and he gave this instance.  "Four or five months back, there was a girl of a poor man's that I was called to visit; she was poorly—she had attended a mill, and I was obliged to relieve the father in the course of my office, in consequence of the bad health of the child; by and by she went back to her work again, and one day he came to me with tears in his eyes.  I said, 'What is the matter, Thomas?'  He said, 'My little girl is dead.'  I said, 'When did she die?'  He said, 'In the night; and what breaks my heart is this: she went to the mill in the morning; she was not able to do work, and a little boy said he would assist her if she would give him a halfpenny on Saturday; I said I would give him a penny."  But at night, when the child went home, perhaps about a quarter of a mile, in going home she fell down several times on the road through exhaustion, till at length she reached her father's door with difficulty.

    Verse-writers with more or less skill put these facts into song.  Here are two of the stanzas enforcing the argument of contrast of condition:—


All night with tortured feeling,
    He watch'd his speechless child;
While close beside her kneeling,
    She knew him not—nor smil'd.
Again the factory's ringing,
    Her last perception's tried;
When, from her straw-bed springing,
    'Tis time!' she shriek'd and died!

That night a chariot pass'd her
    While on the ground she lay;
The daughters of her master
    An evening visit pay;
Their tender hearts were sighing,
    As negro wrongs were told,
While the white slave was dying,
    Who gain'd their father's gold.


    This is true of another factory child, who just before died of consumption, induced by protracted factory labour.  With the last breath upon her lips, she cried
out, "Father, is it time?" and so died.

    The true ground of resentment is not that employers should take children into workshops, for many workmen when they become overseers, and derive a profit on child-labour, do the same thing; it is that any workmen in England should be so base or so indigent as to send children into a workshop, and are not to be restrained save by an Act of Parliament.  If unable to protect their children it showed a humiliating weakness, and it was high time that the better-natured sought power by combination to prevent it.  This at least is to their credit.  These dreary facts of factory life recounted were told in every household of workmen in the land, and no one can understand the fervour and force with which industrial conspiracies were entered into, who does not take them into account.  Mr. Lucas Sargant, of Birmingham, has stated that, "though his interest as employer might lead him to deprecate trades unions and strikes, which have often caused him losses, he had declared in print his opinion that mechanics were wise to enter into such unions, and occasionally to have resort to strikes."

    A sense of right and sympathy always connected co-operators with the industrial conspirators, allies, or advisers.  It was on March 30, 1830, that Mr. Pare delivered his first public lecture in the Mechanics' Institution, Manchester.  He appeared as the corresponding secretary of the first Birmingham Co-operative Society.  It was Birmingham who first sent co-operation officially to Manchester.  The editor of the United Trades Co-operative Journal wrote of Mr. Pare as being "A young man who impressed his audience by his earnestness and wide information," but objected to his tone as to trades unions.  Mr. Pare did not speak in a directly hostile way of them, but suggested the inability and uselessness of combining to uphold wages.  Mr. Pare had caught Mr. Owen's indifferent opinion of everything save the "new system."  But at that early period co-operators were intelligent partisans of trades unions.  The Manchester United Trades Co-operative Journal of May, 1830, justified trades unions by the memorable saying of Sir Robert Peel in the House of Commons: "I wish the people would see their own interests, and take the management of their affairs into their own hands."  "Such is the advice," said the editor, which Mr. Peel, the Secretary of State, has given the working classes.  It is rare indeed that public men, especially ministers of State, offer such counsel, and it is still more rare for those to who the advice is given to act upon it."  It is a remarkable thing and a very honourable distinction that Sir Robert Peel should have conceived and given such advice.  Trades Unions and Co-operation are two of the matured answers to it.

    No advocate can influence others who is devoid of sympathy with them, and is not scrupulous in doing justice to their best qualities.  Co-operative advocates have talked to unionists in as heartless a way as political economists, and attempt to change their policy of action by holding it up to ridicule as financially foolish.  Education in independence which men pay for themselves, is a lesson those who learn it never forget, and is worth a good deal.

    The difference between the trade unionist and the co-operative way of dealing with a strike is capable of historic illustration.  In 1860 a famous strike took place in Colne, Lancashire.  The weavers were out for fifty weeks and 4,000 looms were caused to be idle.  Cogwheel, one of the weavers, put their case thus.  He said, "In Colne there are 4,000 looms.  In East Lancashire there are 90,000 looms.  If the Colne strike had not taken place the prices all over East Lancashire would have been reduced to the Colne standard, and therefore East Lancashire saved money by contributing £20,000 to the Colne strike."  Dr. Watts put the co-operative view of the strike not less concisely thus: "If the Colne people, instead of going on strike for fifty weeks, had kept at work and lived on half-wages, as they had to do during the strike, and had saved the other half, and if the East Lancashire people had subscribed £20,000, as they did, towards keeping the Colne people on strike, the result at the end of fifty weeks would have been £54,000 in hand, and at £15 a loom that money would have set to work in perpetuity for the hands themselves 3,600 looms out of the 4,000 in Colne!  The selfsame effort which threw them into beggary would have raised them into independence." [218]

    The co-operator holds that the right thing to do is to prepare for self-employment before striking.  A trades-union strike is a contest of starvation.  It is the siege of the fortress of capital with a view to its reduction by famine, in which the besiegers are more likely to perish than the besieged.  It seems the modest device of war when the belligerents who have the least strength render themselves helpless in order to fight.  The Comte de Paris happily compares a strike and lock-out to a Japanese duel, in which each combatant is under obligation to honour to put himself to death with his own hand.

    Where trade unions limit the freedom of others in working its union, action is tyranny.  Lord Derby has told the case.  "If what you are doing is for your own interest and for that of your fellow-workmen, in time those who now stand aloof will join you.  In the meantime, 999 men out of 1,000 have no more right to control the single dissentient than the one would have, were it in his power, to control them.  There is hardly a despotism since the world began that has not founded itself on the same plea that it would carry into effect more surely than free citizens the recognised will of the majority.  To refuse to recognise the freedom of your neighbours is the first step towards losing your own." [219]

    The hasty acts and imputations of ignorant workmen have often provoked employers to high-handed injustice.  Yet any one conversant with the literature of strikes must be well aware that the tone and language of men has been far more moderate and deferential to masters than that of masters has been fair and considerate to the men.  The United Trades Co-operative Journal of Manchester relates that in 1830 the dressers and dyers of Manchester and Salford formed a Co-operative Society, the master spinners having a private trades union of their own, had turned out simultaneously all their hands owing to a dispute about wages, and the master dyer had turned all his men out because they wanted an hour for dinner and he would only give them half an hour.  The men fearing all their comrades would be turned out by a general conspiracy of their masters, resolved to begin work for themselves; but as all the premises suitable were in possession of masters, they were driven from Ancoats to Pemberton before they could commence operations.  The masters being holders of all suitable property, or able to influence others who held it, pursued their hands with malevolence.

    Hundreds of strikes would have been averted, years of sullenness and bitterness would have been avoided, had employers reconciled themselves to the admission that workmen were so far equals as to be entitled to conference and explanation.  Middle-class masters have been repellent.  They would not condescend to confer.  They would receive no committee, they would admit no delegates to their counting. house.  It was co-operators who first taught working people how to respect themselves and to cease entreaty.  They said "Do not discuss with employers, dispense with them."  None but co-operators could give this proud counsel. [220]  The great Newcastle-on-Tyne strike of 1866 had been avoided, if employers concerned, who were known to have good feeling towards men, had had ordinary condescension.

    In Newcastle-on-Tyne the Daily Chronicle did more than any other newspaper to prevent loss to employers, by a generous and considerate advocacy of the claims of workmen.  Where it could not approve their claims, it conceded them free publicity of their case and the grounds on which they rested it.  Thus violence was averted which has occurred in other places where workmen have been denied access to the press and treated with contemptuous exclusion, or subjected to contemptuous criticism which they were not allowed to answer.

    Nor have the arguments oft employed by capitalists to restrain union action been well chosen.  Workmen were intimidated by being told that they would drive the trade of the country out of it.  This consideration did cause many of them to hesitate.  In time they came to the conclusion that if they could not get living wages at home, they would be driven out of the country themselves, and therefore, if they did "drive the work out of the country," there might come this advantage to them—that they would know where to find it when they were driven out after it.  Indeed, it was obvious that if trade could not be kept in England except by workmen consenting to accept starvation wages, it could not be kept in England at all—for men on low wages would emigrate sooner or later.

    Few can be aware of what has been the experience of living men, or there would be less severity in the judgment of those who labour.  One bit of real life is more conclusive than many arguments.  The president of the Rochdale Co-operative Society in 1847, Mr. George Adcroft, told me to-day (October 3, 1877) that when he worked in the pit, men got coal without even a shirt on.  They worked absolutely naked, and their daughters worked by their side.  This was seventy years ago.  It was the rule then for the men to be kept at work as long as there were waggons at the pit mouth waiting to be filled.  He and others were commonly compelled to work sixteen hours a day; and from week's end to week's end they never washed either hands or face.  One Saturday night (he was then a lad of fifteen) he and others had worked till twelve o'clock, still there were waggons at the pit mouth.  They at last rebelled—refused to work any later.  The banksman went and told the employer, who came and waited till they were drawn up to the mouth and beat them with a stout whip as they came to the surface.  Despite the lashes they clambered up the chain cage, got hold of the whip, and tried to kill the master.  Negro slavery was not much worse than that.  Mr. Adcroft states that a man who had worked the long hours he describes would not earn more than 17s. or 19s. a week, and half of that would be stopped for "tommy," on the truck system.  Living unionists who passed through this state of things were not well trained for taking a dispassionate and philosophical view of the relations of capital and labour.

    So long as the workman had enough to do to keep himself from the poor-house, he could not be expected to think much about the pride of an order which had nothing to eat.  The invention of the spinning jenny superseded the small spinning-rooms by which so many lived, with some control over their humble fortunes.  The jenny drove thousands into mills, where they were at the mercy of capital and panics.  Manufacturing by machinery put an end to most of the little workshops, and pride in handicraft which a man felt when the credit or discredit of his work was connected with himself.  Any reputation he was enabled now to acquire in the mill passed to the credit of the firm who employed him.  He became merely a machine, a little more trouble to manage than those patented, and he sank, as an artificer, into little more consideration than a man in a large prison, who is known by his number instead of his name.  He had no longer a character to acquire or to lose.  He was only "one of the hands"; his health, his subsistence, or his recreation died out also.  The commencement of the trades unions of the modern kind was the first evidence the workman gave of understanding that he must do something for his own protection.  That he blundered in the method he adopted—that his efforts were marked by waste, coercion, and retaliation, were small things compared with the great merit that he struggled at all for some elevation.  In late years he has had information enough to improve his methods.  Yet no unionist leaders have arisen until the time of Thomas Burt, M.P., who have comprehended, in the same degree as he, the new possibilities of the day.  Mechanics' institutions were established by Dr. Birkbeck, Lord Brougham, Francis Place, and others, which languished for years.  The class-rooms were more or less tenantless, the teachers had few pupils.  Had trades unionists understood what knowledge would do for their children, had they taken note of the inferiority of their sons compared with the educated sons of middle-class masters under whom they worked, they would have crowded the mechanics' institutions with their own sons.  The higher manners, the preciser speech, the greater capacity, the more disciplined mind, the tone of intellectual authority shown by the sons of their employers, should have taught them once and for ever that education was the only equality in their power, and they should have insisted that the sons of every member of the union should be sent to the mechanics' institution.  The leaders of the people who first devised mechanics' institutions expected that this would be done.  The enemies of the people who disliked "institutes," and distrusted them, and feared them, thought so too.  Church dignitaries, Conservative politicians, alarmed employers, and country squires united to condemn the dangerous innovation of knowledge which would make the people discontented with "the position to which it had pleased God to call them."  All those fears were as foolish as they were wicked.  The workmen had, unhappily, not sufficient sense of their own interests, and needed no restraining from using the means of power placed at their disposal.  They were without the intelligence even to see their opportunity.

    The great trade guilds of London have mainly sunk into private dining societies. [221]  They do not represent the great traditions of industrial pride.  The modern masters of guilds are without even the capacity to feel the inspiration which made their forefathers the leaders of art in industry.  To-day, indeed, we hear of the Turners' Company of London, awakening from their long, ignoble sleep, offering prizes to young handicraftsmen for skill at the lathe; and the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, distinguished for discerning generosity, has given the largest sum to be expended in this way.  This is what trades unions ought to have done long years ago, they should have given prizes to the best workmen in each trade.  They could have had the money for asking.  The first persons in the State would have done them the honour of distributing their prizes.  The character of English workmen would have stood the highest in the world in skill and in the self-respecting dignity of labour.  No man should be admitted into a trade union unless he is a good workman, or willing to be made one, and his being allowed to remain a member should be a guarantee to the public that he has skill which can be trusted.  Now, a man being a unionist is small guarantee to any one that he will not scamp his work or do the least for the most he can get.  Some of the first workmen of the day, and men of character and good faith in work, are members of trades unions, but good skill and good faith are nowhere made the conditions of membership.  A trades union council are not leaders of art in industry; they are, with a few exceptions, mere connoisseurs in strikes.  All a union does is to strike against low wages; they never strike against doing bad work.  It will be a great thing for the reputation of industry in England when they do this.  Now they cover themselves with the excuse that their employers want bad and cheap things made.  There is no moral difference in doing bad work and picking the purchaser's pocket.  A bungler is but a thief with a circumbendibus in his method.  Trades unions ought to resent the demand that their members should do bad work, as an affront upon their character as workmen.  Few well-devised strikes on this principle would raise wages as no union has ever done yet, and, what is not less important, raise the whole character of industry in England in a few years.  This is one form of the organisation of labour wanted.

    It is fair to own that trades unionists recognise the importance of their efficiency as workmen.  Several Congresses of trades have passed resolutions applauding the attainment of technical knowledge by workmen.  The Society of Arts at the Adelphi, London, which does so much for the advancement of popular knowledge, issues yearly a programme of technological examinations, in which mechanics of leading trades and men engaged in agriculture are offered an opportunity of proving their practical knowledge of the nature of their employment.  When they have done so certificates of three degrees of proficiency are awarded them, various prizes in money, and even scholarships.  Mr. George Howell for years transmitted the necessary documents to different trades to induce workmen to enter into these competitions.  This, however, is only approval of knowledge, not insistence upon it.  There is more original artistic thought and pride among the artisan class than they are credited with.  The Matsys and Cellinis are not extinct.  The famous blacksmiths and gold workers have merely had their genius turned in other directions by science.  The old artists who worked for fame in their obscure chambers are succeeded by men who expend genius and devotion in devising wondrous machinery.  They are Pygmalions of invention who impart to inanimate metal the miraculous action of living intelligence.  They think in poverty—they die neglected, and their splendid ingenuity enriches the nation.  The acclaim of their genius never reaches the dull, cold ear of death.  In later generations the tardy monumental bust is erected over their forgotten graves.  The Patent Office is the record of their fine patience and unrequited skill.  Mr. George Wallis has discerningly pointed out that the originality of the artisan class is expressed in machinery in these days.  Living unnoted men see hidden things in mechanics which would have made Archimedes famous.

    Some people are manifestly born before their time; some are born after—a very long while after—and in any well-regulated system ought to be put back again.  There are others apparently born for no time in particular; they are neither offensive nor useful, but chiefly in the way of other people; while there are others who belong to the age and know it, who comprehend very well the opportunities of the hour, who employ them and mean to put them to account.  The alliance between co-operators and trade unionists has been of long standing.  On the 21st of April, 1834, Mr. Owen headed the great procession to Lord Melbourne to ask the release of the Dorchester labourers.  The unionists assembled in Copenhagen Fields.  Lord Melbourne agreed to receive a limited deputation of leaders at Downing Street.  On the list of names handed in to him Mr. Owen's name was not included, it being probably thought that Mr. Owen being known to Lord Melbourne would be admitted.  His lordship, preferring to see the men alone, refused to see any one not on the list he had assented to.  Thus the interview took place without the assistance of their most important advocate.

    During the early period of the co-operative movement the Socialists and Unionists might be heard from the same platform advocating their respective principles. [222]  At Salford the society opened a subscription to support a strike. [223]  In London Mr. Owen was elected the Grand Master of a lodge, and he permitted the trade societies to use his lecture hall. [224]  The Crisis added to its title that of National Co-operative Trades Union and Equitable Exchange Gazette.  Mr. Owen specially charged himself to effect the release of the Dorchester convicts, but the demonstration which took place on the occasion is said to have exercised an unfortunate influence by increasing the severity of the Government. [225]  But that was not Mr. Owen's fault.  It rested with those who devised a demonstration which could only increase the alarm which led to the severity the procession ought to stop.  Mr. Owen must have depended on others influence than that of the streets to effect the release of the men.

    Trades unions are simply fighting powers on behalf of labour, just as employers' unions are fighting powers on behalf of capital.  Masters' unions do not concern themselves with the improvement of manufactures, with excellence of material, or equitable charges to the public.  So far as their action appears they consult only the preservation of profits.  On the other hand, workmen's unions, as such, mainly charge themselves with the protection or increase of wages.  They can issue advice to workmen to refuse, as far as possible, to work except for employers where a partnership of industry exists.  It is quite as legitimate for them to strike against employers who refuse this, as to strike against those who refuse increase of wages.  Indeed, strikes for partnerships would he fairer than strikes for wages, because in partnerships the profits must be earned before they can be had; whereas in strikes for wages the employer is simply plundered if he is forced to yield where he cannot really afford it, just as the public are plundered when unions of capitalists, or merchants, combine to raise at will the price of commodities which the public must have.

    Even at Co-operative Congresses now, we hear from leaders who are making profits in joint-stock companies, vigorous arguments against conceding to workmen a share of profits.  They say, just as competitive employers have always said, capital takes all the risks and the workman has his share of the profits in his wages.  Asking for what they are pleased to denominate a "bonus" on labour, they treat the demand as a gift, and if it is granted they describe it as proceeding from the "benevolence" of the employer.  It is time this chatter of charity on the part of capitalists was ended.  A co-operative store or a co-operative workshop, where the profits belong to the producers, is a mutual arrangement.  But competition is not an arrangement; it is war.  The interests of capital and labour are in conflict; and the demands for participation in profits after capital, management, and expenses have been paid, is no hostile act.  Capital as a rule gives the least it can, and labour as a rule exacts the most it can.  In Co-operation mutual arrangement renders the equitable divisions of profit a right, and "bonus" and "benevolence" pernicious and offensive terms.

    When at the Amsterdam Exhibition some years ago I went one day, at the invitation of Baron Mackay (since Lord Reay), to see the great works of the new canal out in the Zuyder Lee.  Far away on the sands 'mid the North Sea I found what I took to be a Dutch chapel.  Its pretty overhanging roofs and quaint desks and seats within, all out there, surprised me.  On asking what it was, I was told it was the schoolhouse for the education of the children of the Dutch workmen, employed in cutting and building the mighty canal through plains of sand lying out in the North Sea.  "Why do you erect a school-house out here?" I inquired of the chief contractor, who was a Scot.  "You do nothing of the kind in your own country.  Contractors do nothing of the kind in England."  "Oh," was the reply, "it is a convenience for the workmen's families."  "Yes, I understand all that," I answered, "but what sets you upon consulting their convenience in Holland when you never think of it elsewhere?"  "Well, the truth is," he at last admitted, "that the Dutch workmen having good secular schools in every town where their children can be educated, and knowing the advantages of it, having profited themselves when young by it, will not work for any one who does not provide schools where their families can be trained."  This shows what intelligent workmen can do who have the sense to understand their own interests, and this is what English workmen might do with respect to education and participation of profits, if they had as much wit and determination as the drowsy, dreaming, much smoking, but clear-minded, resolute Dutch.

    Adjoining the school-house was a large co-operative store, exactly on the plan of the one first devised by Robert Owen at Lanark.  It consisted of a large wood building containing large stores of provisions, lodged there by the contractors and put in charge of a storekeeper, who sold them at cost price less his wages as salesman.  This was a further economy for the men; it made their wages go farther, and was an additional source of contentment to them, costing the employers nothing save forethought and good feeling.  This was the only co-operative store I ever found on the ocean; it lay in mid-seas.

    Though Co-operation is an English movement, its history takes us a good deal over the world—for as we have said elsewhere—Co-operative devices of industry have appeared in other countries during two centuries past.  Groups of men acting together for their own advantage are historic features of many lands; and countless undertakings, not bearing the co-operative name, illustrate the inspiration of the spirit and power of concert.

    "The Conflicts of Labour and Capital—a History and Review of Trades Unions," by George Howell, may be mentioned as the ablest book yet produced by an English Trade Unionist leader, as the work of Nadaud is the best produced by a French workman.  In point of weight of authority and exhaustive treatment Mr. W. T. Thornton's volume on "Labour" stands next to the writings of Mr. J. S. Mill.  The philosophy and practice of Unionism and Cooperation are dealt with by Mr. Thornton with a completeness and impartiality not elsewhere to be found.


 
CHAPTER XXX.

CO-OPERATIVE FAILURES


"If thou wishest to be wise,
 Keep these lines before thine eyes;
 If thou speakest—how beware!
 Of whom, to whom, and when and where."

BYRON.


WHERE the principle of Industrial Partnership is adopted by workmen it is sometimes superseded rather than abandoned.  Outsiders come in as shareholders, and not caring for Co-operation, they seize the society as soon as they are able, outvote the co-operative members, and convert it into a joint stock business, which they believe to be more immediately profitable to them.  This was the way the Mitchell Hey Society at Rochdale fell.  Though these instances are but perversions, the business is still conducted by working men, which implies that a larger number of working men are acquiring the skill of masters.  This is a progress after its kind, though wanting in the principle of equity and equality, which Co-operation aims to introduce among workmen.  There have been no co-operative failures, save from errors into which commercial men of greater experience occasionally fall.  Dr. John Watts has given an account of the failure of the Queenwood community.  As he was one of those concerned in it, his evidence has weight.  He says "the failure of the Hampshire community was attributable, amongst other causes, firstly, to the extravagant price paid for very poor land; secondly, to the large amount of capital sunk in buildings which were not profitably occupied; and, thirdly, to the attempt to convert skilled artisans, used to good wages, into agriculturists upon bad land; and to satisfy them with agricultural labourers' fare, and no money wages." [226]

    The tone of the press is greatly changed toward the failures of working men in their manufacturing enterprises.  In days of the limited and dear press, newspapers mostly represented the interests of masters; when a working-class enterprise failed the matter was mentioned with contemptuous derision, and was treated as a warning to men not to exhibit the presumption that they could be masters.  When a failure occurs to working men now, it is thought to be a misfortune that they are not able to better their condition by industrial enterprise.  If their failure has arisen through an unforeseen rise in prices, which made their contracts unprofitable, or through the bankruptcy of customers owing them money whose solvency they had no reason to doubt when they took their orders, [227] or if the losses of the men have arisen from unexpected decay of trade, the same allowance is made now in the judgment of their failure as is made in the case of other manufacturers who conduct business on competitive principles.

    When the Ouseburn Engine Works failed the Eastern Daily Press remarked that "Mr. Holyoake would have to chronicle that in his History," which he certainly intended to do; but in justice to the Eastern Press I record that that failure was judged in that journal upon its merits.  It was not, as formerly would have been the case, set down as a failure of the co-operative principle, but regarded as arising from errors in business management, and the outside causes of the loss were fairly taken into account.  The main source of failure was a series of contracts made by an agent (£30,000 under their values), which no manager who understood his business would have permitted.

    The co-operators are the most open creatures who ever entered into business.  So far from concealing a failure, they proclaim it too loudly, their desire being that all may take note what to avoid in the future.  When the Ouseburn Engine Works had lost the £30,000 through Dr. Rutherford making suspicious contracts, the fact was publicly proclaimed.  He was not dismissed, nor did he resign, so that the co-operators were the pity of all the Tyneside for remaining under the management which had brought the great disaster upon them.  Incapacity is of the nature of a crime when it meddles with the fortune of a struggling cause, or does not take itself away when its incompetence is plainly perilous.  The Ouseburn workmen behaved admirably.  When they were informed that false contracts had been taken, involving the enormous loss cited, it was open to them to avenge themselves by executing the work badly; but they honestly resolved to execute it to the best of their ability notwithstanding, and they did so; and no engine works on the Tyneside ever won higher credit for honest and perfect workmanship.  They got through their great and unjustifiable losses.  It was by failure of subsequent creditors that the concern fell into liquidation.

    People who hear now and then of the failure of co-operative engine works or mines imagine they forbode the end of that system and do not take into account that other persons who are not workmen, and who are experienced in business, fail also.  At the time of the Ouseburn difficulty the Daily Chronicle, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, published a list of the failures which had occurred in Cleveland in the course of twelve months, with the amount of the liability in five cases.  The following is the list :—


Sivert Hjerlid, ironfounder, Middlesbrough.
North Yorkshire Iron Co., Limited.
W. A. Stevenson, iron merchant.
Eston Grange Iron Co., Eston.
Thomas Richardson & Sons.
Nicholas Raine, South Hylton Ironworks.
R. Jaques, Richmond Ironworks, Stockton.
J. H. Garbutt, coalowner, Darlington.
E. Watteau, bolt and nut manufacturer, Middlesbrough.
Erimus Iron Company, Middlesbrough.
F. Ireland, iron merchant, Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough Cut Nail Works.
Stockton Rail Mill Co., Stockton.
The Britannia Iron Company, Middlesbrough.
Ross, Willis & Co., Middlesbrough.
Thos. Vaughan & Co., Middlesbrough.
J. B. Walker, shipowner, Middlesbrough.
Swan, Coates & Co., Middlesbrough.
Raylton, Dixon & Co., shipbuilders, Middlesbrough.
Thos. Charlton & Co., coal and ironstone mine owners, Middlesbrough.
South Cleveland Iron Co., Limited.
The Lackenby Iron Co., Middlesbrough.
R. H. Charlton, Stranton Ironworks, Hartlepool.
Messrs. Thomas & Co., ironfounders, Middlesbrough.
J. W. Thomas, Acklam Refinery.
West Hartlepool Iron Co., Limited.

 

 

Liabilities.

Thos. Vaughan & Co. ... ... ... ...

£1,200,000

Swan, Coates & Co. ... ... ... ... ...

230,000

Lackenby Iron Co.   ... ... ... ... ...

200,000

R. Dixon & Co.         ... ... ... ... ...

175,000

Messrs. Charlton     ... ... ... ... ...

      __270,000

 

£2,125,000


    Only one of these firms was expected to pay more than 5s, in the pound.

    Some years ago the Wholesale Society of Glasgow lost £10,000 by an investment made without their formal authority.  There was, however, no doubt that the investment, though irregular, was made in good faith, and had it turned out fortunate it had been applauded.  The Society remembered this, and quietly provided for the loss, and took precautions that the same thing should not occur again.  Not long ago the Halifax Society lost £60,000 by injudicious investment in Foreign Securities.  The members behaved like men of business.  They knew that had the large profits they calculated upon accrued, they would have thought their directors "smart fellows."  They did not break up their society as a few wild members, stimulated by shopkeepers, proposed; and as their predecessors did a generation earlier, on the loss of less then 160th part of that sum.  They simply arranged to repair the loss from future profits, and made a note to invest more prudently in future.  Working men who have acquired this kind of good sense will very rarely stumble into failure.

    If a series of failures disproved a principle, what must be said of the failures of competition, where twenty men fail for one who succeeds?  Had any one invented competition it would have been hooted out of the world long ago as an infernal contrivance of spite and greed.  To use a phrase made picturesque by Mr. Henley in the House of Commons, competition is an "ugly rush "—an ugly rush after bones, which everybody is equally ambitious to pick.  As to failure, what are the failures of banking? Let those hideous, criminal, calamitous failures be catalogued, and banking must be pronounced unsound in principle.  Co-operation, in its most unfortunate days, will bear comparison with banking.

    Messrs. Fox, Head & Co., of Middlesbrough, proposed, with fair intentions, a partnership of industry with their men; but stipulated that the men should give up their trades unions and sign a contract to that effect.  The company on their part agreed to withdraw from the masters' union.  They were at liberty to please themselves in this matter.  But the condition they exacted from the men was a degrading condition.  What was it to them to what purposes the men put their earnings so long as they fulfilled their contract with them?  The proceeding of this company was an abuse of industrial partnership, and calculated to bring it into disrepute.  It had been far better had they never touched the question.

    The Messrs. Briggs, of the Whitwood Collieries, brought their scheme to an end in a similar spirit.  Their partnership with their men brought them great gain while it lasted.  Some years several thousands of pounds were divided among their workmen, being merely the half-profits made by the increased exertion and care of the men, apart from the exceptional profits of the years when the price of coal rose greatly.  But the total made in the way of profit while the partnership lasted has never been declared. [228]  The Messrs. Briggs appear to have taken advantage of their men attending a certain trades union meeting, which they had forbidden them to attend, to exclude them from the partnership, and even to withhold from some the money they had earned in the partnership.  This dictation to their men in matters outside their duties to the company, was a disastrous lesson to set the men.  It has been inferred that the company found strikes less expensive than fulfilling an honourable partnership.  They may have terminated it because it was more troublesome to them than their interest in the welfare of their men induced them to take.  They have given no satisfactory explanation of the facts, financial or otherwise, involved in the case.  The failure, so far as it is known, has not been on the part of the men, but on the part of their employers.

    When the Messrs. Briggs first proposed to adopt some plan of co-operative partnership in their collieries, I received from them several letters explanatory of their objects, and of the difficulties which presented themselves.  With a view to promote their wise intention, to diminish obstacles which the prejudices of trades unionists might entertain towards the project, and to support the Messrs. Briggs in their views, to justify them in the eyes of other employers, and to increase their public credit for taking a lead in so useful and honourable a design, I solicited opinions of the project from Mr. John Stuart Mill, Professor Fawcett, Louis Blanc, and others, to whom I explained the possible industrial advantages of it.  The letters I received were published, and the words of honour spoken of these employers by such friends of equitable industry were repeated in their praise.  In any way I could I was glad to strengthen their hands; but the letters I received at that time from the Messrs. Briggs did not make me very sanguine that they would carry their plan through, or persevere in it from conviction of its public advantage.  They manifestly inherited a distrust of workmen.  They imputed venality and self-interest to leading unionists who advised their men.  They thought too much of disparaging and destroying trade unions.  They spoke too much of the proposed participation of profits as a "bonus" to the men, as though it were a largess or gracious gift to the workmen arising from their employers' goodness of disposition and depending for its continuance upon the good behaviour of their hands.  Their plan was complex, there were too many conditions, and even the conditions were conditional.  It would, however, be unfair to make much of these peculiarities.  The project was new in their business.  They could not foresee to what administrative inconvenience it might lead.  Conflicting claims, interest, and prejudices are always called into play when any new plan is adopted among the working class more or less uninformed, or unfamiliar with it.  These were real difficulties which might well render the best-disposed employers uncertain as to the measures to which they would commit themselves.  Besides, the Messrs. Briggs were not themselves co-operators.  The principle and definite line of thought which Co-operation implies must have been strange to them.  It therefore remains a credit to them that they entertained the idea of establishing co-operative relations in their works, and actually attempted it.  It would be scant encouragement to other employers to try the same thing if those who do try it, and do not succeed in carrying it forward, or turn back discouraged, were to be treated with less consideration than those who never made any attempt of the kind.  What Mr. J. S. Mill thought of their attempt he stated very strongly in his letter to me from Saint Veran, Avignon (Nov. 21, 1864).  "The Messrs. Briggs have done themselves great honour in being the originators in England of one of the two modes in Co-operation which are probably destined to divide the field of employment between them.  The importance of what they are doing is the greater, as its success would make it almost impossible hereafter for any recreant co-operative societies to go back to the old plan of paying only fixed wages when even private capitalists give it up."  Unfortunately they have returned to fixed wages and given comfort thereby to others besides "recreant co-operative societies."

    The failures of co-operative stores have been infrequent.  Their success as a rule is so overwhelming that any failures have been due to common neglect of well-defined precautions which experience has established.  Mr. J. C. Farn has relevantly pointed out that:


"the art of organisation was in its infancy thirty years ago; now (1878), if it is incomplete in practice, it arises from neglect, and not for want of models.  Popular intolerance in days gone by was a hundred times more powerful than it is now.  Without tolerance, societies cannot permanently succeed.  The co-operative ship of thirty years since had to sail over the sea of difficulty without chart or compass.  Now the rocks are known and marked dangerous, none but unskilful or neglectful pilots need allow the ship to strike upon them.  Finally, with more members, more money, more experience, more support, more confidence, more tolerance, and sounder views, there is no reason to believe that the disasters of former times will be repeated."


    One source of distrust to which co-operative enterprises are subject arises in the enthusiasm in which they are often commenced.  The projectors of a new company, conscious of the purity of their own intentions, behave just as knaves do, when they set floating a fraudulent scheme.  They deprecate all inquiry into it, and regard any one who points out objections or difficulties to be encountered, as a disagreeable person who wants to damp the enthusiasm of others, and destroy the prospects of a company which he does not intend to help.  The enthusiastic promoters are so strong in the honesty of their intentions, that they imagine their wisdom to be as obvious as their integrity, and regard doubts of their success as imputations upon themselves; they do not perceive that just objects, and noble aims, though necessary to the success of an unusual enterprise, do not necessarily make it successful.  There must be fair business prospects and fair business sense in addition, in order that great interest may be taken in any project.  There must be confidence in the capacity as well as the honour of those who promote it; and confidence depends upon the knowledge of the persons and purposes of those with whom it is proposed to work; and it is wisdom in the promoters of any new company to furnish this information, without waiting to be asked for it.  It is good policy to solicit all the objections that can be made at the outset of a concern, so that they may not come when it is too late to profit by them.  The objector is a very valuable person, if enthusiasts knew how to profit by him.  Enthusiasm, desire of personal distinction, or hope of profit, is apt to blind the understanding, and the wise, objector (if he can be found) is the occulist who opens the eyes of the company, and enables the members to see what the facts of the case really are.  It matters not how strong or peculiar the points urged in opposition may be, the general soundness of a sound scheme can always be shown, and shown to far greater advantage when the objector has given his evidence against it in open court, than it could before he was heard.  If the soundness of the project cannot, then, be made clear, it is better for all concerned that the difficulty should be apparent.  Objections may be disallowed, or overruled, but they should be heard, and considered as far as their relevance seems to warrant.  When this is done, the shareholders find themselves well advised and candidly informed, and they go into the undertaking with their eyes open; and if it does not answer they have nobody to reproach but themselves.  They feel none of the bitterness of men who have been misled by others, and they even feel respect for those who afforded them so fair an opportunity of knowing the truth; and the failure involves no loss of self-respect to any one, since a fair measure of prudence had marked the proceedings.  But if critics, suggestors, or objectors, who do the society the service of volunteering advice upon its affairs, are put down as offensive or suspicious persons, the interest of members is foolishly jeopardised.  If the promoters of a doubtful or dishonest company succeed in obtaining the money of the shareholders, everybody can see that it is as criminal a thing as though that money had been taken by an act of burglary, and is more irritating to those who lose by it, because insidious professions have made them parties to their own loss.  The wrong done by honest, earnest projectors of schemes is not less serious in its results because unintended.  But their honest intentions do not absolve them from criminality, if they have incurred risks without the fullest inquiry possible into them, and without communicating the results of that inquiry to all whom they invited to share those risks with them.  Of course there are projects continually started where the profits depend upon celerity and secrecy of action.  In these cases it is obvious that to solicit objections from outsiders would betray the purpose.  In such concerns only a few persons are ever engaged, and they know perfectly what they are doing, and do not go about complaining if their money is lost.  It is public companies where shareholders are sought among persons of large and small means alike, and who invest money and trust in the honour and capacity of the directors of the company, that a scrupulous and complete information should be furnished, as a matter of fair precaution and good faith.  It should be a matter of pride in co-operators that no failure should take place among them.  Their aim should be to acquire the reputation not only for honesty, but for soundness of judgment, and sureness of procedure.  In the days of Harry Clasper and Robert Chambers it was known that when Newcastle oarsmen rowed a match upon any river, they would win if they could—they were never to be bought.  They contested for the honour of the Tyneside; and co-operators should always be known as contesting for the honour of Co-operation.

    A frequent source of failure arises from a cause which involves no imputation upon the honesty of those concerned that is, "commencing a project with too little capital."  Though this implies merely want of judgment, the effect of failure is the same upon the outside public, who never trouble to notice why a thing fails.  The failure itself is enough for them, and the cause with which it is connected is damaged in their eyes.  "Insufficiency of capital" is so vague a cause, and is so often used as an excuse for graver errors, that nobody accepts it for much.  It depends upon whether the scale of expenditure had been prudent and cautious from the beginning, whether the capital is really too small.  Deficiency may be produced by imprudent and disproportionate expenditure.  Deficiency of capital is of course a distinct and determinable cause of failure, and should be guarded against like any other.  It often arises through enthusiasm which impels premature action.  A meeting is called to consider whether a new scheme can be undertaken.  Good and approving plaudits will soon be heard, if the proposal be popular.  Some generous person is inspired by the hearty applause to make a liberal offer of support.  He probably mistakes the enthusiasm for intelligent, well-considered purpose.  Professor Tyndall has proved that heat is a mode of motion.  Prof. Crooks has proved that light is a source of movement, and delicate machines have been contrived for estimating these forces.  But no one has invented a machine which will denote the quality of applause; some men applaud because they are impulsive, some because they approve of the proposal, some because they intend to help it—when it succeeds; but the greater part applaud because they think somebody else is going to aid it; and it frequently comes to pass that experiments are commenced under the contagion of chequeless enthusiasm, which only considerable capital can carry out.  There are always sanguine and dangerous people, who think a right thing will get support if it is once begun.  But wise promoters should never permit action to be taken till reasonable means of carrying it out are secured.

    A man who has had experience in popular movements becomes a connoisseur in enthusiasm, and is disposed to analyse it before he counts upon it as an element of action.  When Mr, Forster was proposing his 25th clause to the Education Act in the House of Commons he stretched out his arm before the Opposition, and informed them he had Puritan blood in his veins.  I begged a member who happened to be in the Speaker's gallery at the time to go down and ask Mr. Forster to put a drop of that blood into his Bill.  The Nonconformists said "the blood would do no good, it was of a degenerate quality."  I asked Professor Huxley whether he could analyse one of the globules that we might know whether the quality was pure.  This is what has to be done with popular enthusiasm, its blood must be tested before it can be trusted.  If this were oftener done failures of co-operative enterprise, though small in number now, would be fewer still.

    A considerable number of manufacturing and productive societies have been formed which have included the principle of partnership with labour, which have scarcely gone beyond the publication of rules.  In some instances capital has not been subscribed sufficient to enable the undertaking to be commenced, or not sufficient to carry on business long enough for success.  In other cases the accession of new shareholders who joined for profit mainly, not caring about improving the general relations of labour to capital, have, when profits were low, voted against sharing them with workmen.  Sometimes they have done this because the profits were great, and they became covetous of obtaining all for themselves.  Such shareholders being shrewd, and not caring for the advancement of workmen, have calculated that the cost of strikes was less than the loss, through conceding a share of profit to the men, have deliberately elected to take the risk of strikes, and rescinded the rule of participation.  In a new business, depending for prosperity upon sales in the market, greater capital often becomes necessary than was at first calculated upon; and being exigent it becomes necessary to take from any subscribers of shares who may offer, without inquiry as to whether they are co-operators or not.  In the early days of Co-operation every society instituted a propagandist department, for winning co-operators to join them, or of educating them afterwards.  Where this is not done, and shareholders are received without precaution, principle is left at the mercy of new members, and often drifts and disappears.  In this way principle was cancelled very early in the Rochdale Co-operative Manufacturing Society of Mitchell Hey.  In this way it was attempted to be destroyed in the Hebden Bridge Fustian Co-operative Society, but happily resisted successfully by the loyalty of a sufficient number of the members.  The "Fustian" had not got into their brains.

    It is no matter of discouragement that even co-operators turn back after proceeding for awhile along the new path.  Many make their way badly along an unaccustomed road, and naturally return again to the old trodden path with which they are familiar.  All men must live somehow, and industrial or commercial fighting is the only general way in which men have been able to sustain themselves.  Until adventurous pioneers show how the needs of life can be better commanded, the timid, or rapacious, impatient, or distrustful will be uncertain adherents.


 
CHAPTER XXXI.

AMERICAN SOCIETIES


    As wine and oil are imported to us from abroad, so must ripe understanding and many civil virtues be imported into our minds from foreign writings: we shall else miscarry still, and come short in the attempts of any great enterprise.—MILTON'S Hist. of Brit., Book iii.


THE English students of co-operative science found hospitality for their ideas in America when they found none in England.  No English journal of the importance and character of the New York Tribune, founded by Horace Greeley, ever accorded the attention to it, the hearing to it, or the vindication of it which he accorded there.  He himself promoted Co-operation and wrote upon it with that practical clearness by which he was distinguished.  As a journalist he aided whoever assisted by thought and art the improvement of social life.  From sentiments of public admiration, not less than from the regard inspired by his personal friendship, I inscribed to him my "History of Co-operation in Halifax."  While schemes of social life have originated with philosophers and theorists, Co-operation has been generated by the pressure of competition in over-populated cities.

    As to moral scepticism in America, there is no more of it than there is in England, while there are certainly more people in America than in England who sacrifice time, money, and, what is more, personal repute, to try and carry out social schemes of life which can never benefit themselves.  America owes its chief co-operative inspiration to English Socialist emigrants.  Its communities have been mainly originated by European world-makers.  The late Mr. Bellamy Hoare, of New York, possessed the most authentic information as to the earliest efforts to establish Co-operation there.  But the narratives he is said to have left have not yet been obtained.

    A former member of the Socialist Branch 16, Hall of Science, London, Mr. B. J. Timms, was concerned in the affairs of the Sylvania Phalanx and the Co-operative Bakery of the City of New York, which are deemed the original societies of this kind there.  The date of their operations cannot be at present determined, as Mr. Timms so little foresaw that any persons might one day be curious about them, that he sold as wastepaper the printed and manuscript documents relating to them.  These projects were succeeded by what was known as the organisation of Morrisania, devised to purchase land for a village.  The few actual Socialists in the society could not induce the majority to unite further than in buying the land collectively; so that the only co-operative feature in the scheme was the joint effort to obtain land without loss by the competition of each making a separate purchase, and every one searching the original title.  Mr. Timms reports that subsequently they attempted to apply the principle of Co-operation to colonise public lands, but after spending 5,000 dollars of other people's money, that scheme failed.  These facts show how in America (as used to be the case in England) the one story of Co-operation is that it is always failing.  Still the efforts go on, as though there were some industrial destiny in Co-operation.  So long as many who have failed live, very few workers around them have the courage to approach the question; but no sooner do those who have failed die, or the memory of their disaster fades, than fresh pioneers resume the old work—and succeed.  In other cases the fresh adventurers are fortunate enough to meet with some old and brave campaigners who, though they lost their money, never lost their faith, and who never cease to proclaim that others may win though they were beaten.  In America many were willing to see it run, but few ran with it.  Co-operative correspondence from other countries shows that the co-operator abroad is much like the Irishman—a very different person from what he is at home.  In Ireland he is sluggish and despondent; in America he is active and enterprising.  In like manner the discouraged co-operator at home stoutly predicts and stoutly promotes co-operative success abroad, and counts those ignorant who do not understand the principle, and those of an inferior order of mind who do not believe in it.

    The Morrisania, the First Co-operative Village, as it was called, is now a large town.  Dr. Hollick, writing in New York, says: "Co-operative affairs, as far as I can see, went on this plan: some man of money was elected treasurer.  No money was paid to him, and as long as he honoured all drafts made on him the thing prospered; but when he discontinued this obliging arrangement the thing 'bust up.'  Horace Greeley was treasurer to two or three schemes, and his official duty consisted in paying the expenses."

    One of the few co-operative societies of America, English in its vicissitudes, un-English in its mode of working, is one at New Bedford, Fall River.  Provisions being high, and other things, as in England, being costly, a few persons who had been connected with co-operative societies in this country, bethought themselves of setting up one there.  Certain dressers clubbed their money, bought goods at wholesale prices, and at first divided them at their private houses.  Their business soon grew, and they had to open a store.  Then the grocers of Fall River—storedealers, as they are called out there—did as we have found them do in England, went in a body to the wholesale traders, telling them that if they supplied the co-operators they, the storedealers, would no longer buy of them.  The dressers were consequently rejected as customers, and they went to Providence, a town fourteen miles away, and tried to buy there.  The storekeepers at Fall River attempted to terrify the wholesale traders of Providence; but intimidation in business is not so easy in America as in England.  Some of the Providence traders were men of business, and told the storekeepers of Fall River "to go home and mind their own business; for so far as they were concerned they should sell to whomsoever they pleased."  The dressers were customers worth having, and Providence dealers sold to them, and the dressers obtained goods and triumphed.  Shortly the spinners, weavers, and other trades joined the dressers, until twenty-one trades were united, having sixty members each, and the co-operative store soon did a business to the amount of 2,500 dollars a month.  This evidence of success brought the intimidated Fall River dealers to their senses, and then they came and offered to supply the co-operators whom they had rejected, and so Co-operation conquered in Fall River.  The plan of working the society there, which is not common in English experience, is this: a committee manage its affairs at a cost of 4 per cent. for rent, buying, and selling.  On the second Tuesday in each month they receive orders, which are copied out on to a large sheet with printed and descriptive headings.  From the 12th to the 13th they receive money which covers all the orders.  Then their buyer goes to the wholesale traders (who now raise no objection to his visits); to them he gives his orders, paying cash therewith, and on the four following evenings men appointed for the purpose serve out the purchases to the accredited applicants.  The society buys nothing save what is ordered—orders nothing but what is paid for—it keeps no stock—has no bad debts—no paid storekeepers—and having no provisions on hand to keep, a small place is sufficient for its business, and that is open only four or five nights in the month. [229]

    From Lombard Ville Stark Co. I learn, on the testimony of one who has been for thirty-five years a communist, that the fortunes of industry are hampered by combinations and monopolist "rings" out there.  There seems to be no place where these cobras of competition do not crawl around the resources of the poor.

    At the Glasgow Congress (1876) greetings were received from the Grangers of America.  Mr. J. W. A. Wright, who represented them, gave me this extract from the published proceedings of those bodies: "That, having examined the plan of the co-operative societies of Great Britain, popularly known as the Rochdale plan, and the history of the humble beginning, the most remarkable success, and present grand proportions of business enterprises begun and conducted under this plan, we heartily recommend it to the careful consideration of our State and Subordinate Granges, and to the members of our order, and advise such action on the part of the executive committee of the several States as may be necessary to the organisation and operation of such co-operative associations within our order."

    It appears that we were once nearer than we ever shall be again to having a history of American communities.  We learn from what Mr. Noyes relates, that a Scotch printer and a disciple of Mr. Owen, who had settled in New York, devoted himself between 1840 and 1854, to personally collecting materials for the history of the communities in the United States, social and co-operative, their origin, principles, progress, or decline and causes of failure.  Little is known of him save that he was a person of small stature, black hair, sharp eyes, and a good natured face.  In any circular to the societies he signed himself "A. J. Macdonald."  He wisely went himself to the sites of the various communities.  He collected particulars of sixty-nine associative schemes, and portraits and sketches of founders and places; but unfortunately died of cholera in New York about 1854, before he had time to state in a book the results of his investigations.  Mr. Jacobi was another investigator who spent several years visiting the chief communities, but his journeyings also are barren for the purposes of history.  Mr. Jacobi knew the state of these establishments in 1858.

    Some business-like account of all the known social schemes which the hospitable soil of the United States has received or nurtured, would be curious.  Under this impression I took up Mr. Noyes' "History of American Socialisms" with interest, and laid it down without any.  Mr. Noyes is an Oneidaite merely, and has no appreciation for forms of social life, except as they approximate to that peculiar creation of connubial novelties known as Oneidaism.  It is allowable that he should applaud his own theory, but not that he should disparage every other.  Lately there has appeared a new book on "American Communities," by William Alfred Hines.  It is Oneidan in tone, but written with great freshness and vigour.  It is next to Nordhoff's work in force and interest.

    Mrs. Ann Stanley, known to the public as "Ann Lee," proved a most successful community-maker.  She was practically the foundress of the Shakers of 1774.  Eighteen societies exist at this day (1878).  There is a small compendium of Shaker principles, and a Life of Ann Lee, by F. W. Evans, published by Auchampaugh Brothers, of New Lebanon.  The brevity of the book is a recommendation, for it is as much as most persons will be able to bear.  This body of communists are the best known and the most frequently referred to, because they have made communism a by-word in the world by fanaticism and eccentricity.  Mr. Evans's book is worth consulting, that the Shakers may be judged in the fairest way by their own professions.  Ann Stanley, the foundress or chief prophetess of the order, was a Mrs. Abraham Stanley, but her people never called her by her husband's name.  She appears to have had strange and disagreeable conversations with her mother on marriage previous to her own.  However, her reasons for joining the Shaker Society were creditable to her, as she considered them distinguished for the clearness and swiftness of their testimony against sin—a very great merit if they knew what sin was; and if the Shakers of 1878 retain the characteristic which Mrs. Stanley believed the first Shakers to possess, they would be very useful, could they be diffused over Europe, where people of that quality are very much needed.   "Mother Ann," as Mrs. Stanley came to be called, held that it could not be wrong to imitate Jesus the wifeless.

    Shaker is an uncomfortable name, and gives most persons the idea of a lean, shivering enthusiast, but their conduct is that of comely, hospitable, warm-hearted persons.  One acquainted with them tells me that once he met an Englishman in Alleghany.  He was an old man, dejected, broken in spirit, altogether a pitiable and hopeless object.  My friend advised him to make his way to a Shaker Society, of which there were then (and may be still) two in the neighbourhood of Cincinnati.  He was not much inspired by the recommendation, but his abject condition overcame his scruples.  A few years later he was seen on his way to Europe in search of his son, whom he desired to bring to the society in which he had found refuge.  On his way he called upon the friend, Robert Aspland Cooper, who had sent him to the Shakers.  His object was to leave a well-stocked trunk in Alleghany until his return.  He said the society had supplied him with two, and one was more than enough.  No longer dispirited or abject, his countenance beamed with happiness and gratitude as he spoke of his Shaker friends, and his hope was to place his son among them, who else probably had no future, save some Poor Law Union in England.  Mrs. Stanley appears to have had good reasons for disliking marriage.  The community is the bride they are advised to wed, which receives all the more attention from the members, their affections not being diverted in any human way.

    The Rappites, though they have a disturbing name, have certainly proved that even religious and restricted forms of co-operation conduce to economy.  Their riches are celebrated by the friends of competition.  They have acquired the name of Economites.  They began in Pa. in 1803.  These were they of whom Robert Owen bought New Harmony town, and 35,000 acres of land in 1824.  The term "Economites," which describes their habits, is derived from the town of Economy, which they built eighteen miles below Alleghany.  My correspondent, who resides near them, says they are counted as millionaires, being reputed to be worth twenty millions of dollars, or about five millions English money, not much for a community to possess, seeing that individuals of the commercial octopus class often obtain more.  But regarded as the surplus wealth of a people who have all enjoyed complete prosperity—among whom no one has been a pauper, no one poor, no one having cause or care for the future, it would be difficult to find any nation so wealthy.  The Economites have been extensive manufacturers of woollen goods and some silk goods.  At present they manufacture nothing.  The few death has left of them are past the time for labour, and unless they take in new members their wealth will probably go eventually to the State.

    The Icarians under Cabet began their community in 1854.  It had 6o members and 1,829 acres of land.  The Cabettians were French Socialists.  Cabet had no illusions like other social leaders among his countrymen.  His ideal was industrial.  He sought to improve life by labour and equity.  Cabet made marriage obligatory in Icaria.

    Disciples of Josiah Warren and Stephen Pearl Andrews have written to me to testify the growth of labour emancipation ideas in America—one proclaims himself a two-meal-a-day convert, which does not of itself point to prosperity.  Whether this is an economical persuasion depends of course upon the quantity eaten, and upon this point no data has been forwarded to me.  If the limitation of meals arise from pecuniary scarcity, it is to be hoped that Co-operation would supply him with the means of trinitarian repasts.  In England, co-operative stores are favourable to those who eat as often as it is wise, and awards its highest premiums to those members who do not neglect their meals.  As a rule, fat reformers are found to be more congenial than lean ones; and they look better at quarterly meetings.  The idea that mankind are to be saved by preaching merely appears to be waning in America, and the conviction is growing that criminals are made by bad social institutions, which ought to be superseded.

    America has been the experimenting ground of schemes, mostly of European origin.  It is only overcrowded cities, where competition is nearly used up, or has nearly used up the mass of the people, that new schemes of social life are desired or devised.  Though caricatured by celibacy and defaced by religious and sexual eccentricities, American communities show what wealth, morality, and comfort can be had in them.  The day will come when men of good sense will add intelligence and art to the material philosophy of Co-operation, and attain results that the people of many a careworn town will gladly seek.  Mr. Nordhoff, a Russian writer on American communities, relates that many of them obtain a higher price in the markets for their commodities than other firms, because their commodities can be trusted.  Whether seeds of the ground or work of the loom, they are known to be honest and good products.  They are the only dealers in America who have known how to make honesty pay.  Some say they are the only tradesmen who have attempted it.  Utopianism makes money—a thing not believed in in England.  Dr. B. W. Richardson has shown in his plan of a Healthy Town, that if capital should take to moral ways, and put itself to scientific uses, communities can be self-supporting, and made to pay in Great Britain, without going to America to try them.  The career of the Amanes or Ebenezers shows abundantly that the crotcheteers of communism beat the "practical" co-operators of this country.

    The "Ebenezers" are a colony of religious Socialists, who consider themselves under the guidance of an invisible spirit, who, however, seems to possess good business ability.  Marriage is regulated by its consent; but the spirit is prudent, and is like Malthus in favour of deferred unions.  This settlement is of German origin, and numbered 600 when they arrived in Buffalo from Hesse Dartnstadt in 1842.  They date their origin two hundred years back.  It would be curious to know what they did, and why they did it, and how they succeeded during the two hundred years of their German career.  Their success could never have been what it has been in America, else we should have heard of them in Europe.  Their social scheme must be as old as that of Bellers, yet no social reformers of this century have been aware of it.  Their distinction, if they had any, at home would have been a fine illustration of the practicability of social theories.  They must have realised what we are told is "contrary to human nature," according to those who are "set in authority over us," or who have put themselves over us—for our good.  These "Ebenezers," a somewhat nasal name, call themselves in lucid intervals by the prettier term of "Amanes."  When they went to the United States they settled upon an old Indian reservation of 6,000 acres, near Buffalo, New York.  They found it too small for their numbers.  About 1857 they moved west.  They have now 30,000 acres at Amana, on the banks of the Iowa River, about seventy miles from the Mississippi—woodland and prairie pleasantly diversified.  They have made progress in agriculture and other industries.  The colony numbers about 1,300 (1878).  They have everything in the way of property in common, but recognise the accepted form of family life, and each family has a separate house or apartments.  Those who join the community contribute their property to the common stock, and, if they become dissatisfied, they receive back just what they put in, without interest or wages.  Property, therefore, is no bone of contention, and no one can regard himself restricted when he is free to go where he pleases.  The objects of the Amanes society are religious association, industrial and domestic co-operation, and the special advancement of the useful arts.  The members dress plainly, live plainly, build plainly, but substantially.  They have extensive vineyards, make and drink wine and lager beer, but drunkenness is unknown among them.  They appear to have no talent for vices, commit no crimes, and have no use for courts.  There is, however, a Committee of Arbitration, to settle differences when they arise.  The government is administered and the whole business of the community is supervised by a board of thirteen trustees, who are elected by the votes of all the adult population, and hold the common property.  Each department of industry has its manager, who is responsible to the board of trustees, by whom he is appointed.  This is what they have done in sixteen years: They found wild lands, and bridged the rivers, made good roads, planted hedges of white willow, cut a canal nearly nine miles in length to supply their needed water power, erected flourishing mills, woollen factories, machine shops, starch, sugar, and vinegar manufactories, all fitted out with fine machinery made by their own machinists.  They have built five villages on the tract, and two of them are stations for the Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, which come to their doors.  They have good school-houses, plain churches, and two grain elevators at the railroad stations, and buildings each of a capacity for storing 80,000 bushels of grain.  The children are kept at school until they are fourteen, and then they are taught a trade or agriculture, and their education is continued in night-schools.  English is taught, but German is the medium of communication in business and social life.  Their religious services are simple, consisting principally of reading the Scriptures, prayer, and singing, and they have some good voices, no "School Board difficulty," and no Mr. Forster.  The women assist in light outdoor work, especially in the vineyards.  Early marriages are discouraged, and men are not considered of suitable age for wedlock until they attain the maturity of thirty-five years.  There is a great deal of intelligence in this community, but no brilliancy.  They have no "population question," no impecuniosity, no misery such as develops such fine virtues among us, and no calamities, from which English moralists deduce the salutary lessons of responsibility.  Having no ecclesiastical expounders to teach them the grounds of duty, they are reduced to the necessity of doing right by good sense, and have hitherto achieved no higher distinction than that of having attained to a state of reasonable enjoyment and tame happiness, deprived of the civilised excitement of crimes; and their monotonous security is not even variegated by murder.  They affront the philosophical connoisseurs of pleasure by being satisfied with satisfaction, and contented with content.

    In 1844 there appeared in America the Social Pioneer, representing the New England Social Reform Society.  Mr. J. P. Mendum, of Boston, was the publisher, and Mr. Horace Seaver was the corresponding secretary—the same two gentlemen honourably known as editors of the Boston Investigator.  In that year (1844) a Conference was held in Phillip's Hall, Boston, with a view of promoting social re-organisation.  This Conference represented the pioneer community of Skaneateles, New York.  One of the persons present was Dr. Charles Knowlton, of Ashfield, Mass., the gentleman whose name has frequently appeared in this country.  The most frequent and eloquent speaker at the Convention was Mrs. Ernestine Rose, a Polish lady well known here.  Mention is made then of her delicate health, which "prevented her speaking with her wonted effect."  It is pleasant to report that more than thirty years later she was still a speaker of remarkable power.  Origen Bacheler, of Rhode Island, famous as the opponent of Robert Dale Owen in the best-expressed discussions of modern times, appeared as an opponent in this Conference.  Another adversary appeared who refused to give his name, except that he was a disciple of Christ.  The chairman (Captain Taylor) accordingly announced that "the disciple of Christ had the floor."  The resolutions submitted to the Conference amounted altogether to the amazing number of nearly fifty.  It would be wonderful, therefore, if they did not contain some expressions to which some one could object, but they were remarkably wise, temperate, moral, secular, and social in their purport.  They mark the progress of popular opinion.  Christians in America and England would be found now generally claiming to agree with the spirit of them.  Just as our co-operative colony at Queenwood was disappearing, the most comprehensive Conference ever held in favour of new forms of social life was held in America.

    Mr. A. J. Macdonald, before mentioned, arrived at New Harmony in 1842, fifteen years after Owen's time; he resided there two years as a bookbinder.  He says after Owen's departure the majority of the population removed, and that the remainder returned to Individualism, and settled as farmers and mechanics in the ordinary way.  In the preface to his unpublished work, written shortly before his death, in 1854, Macdonald says he "imagined mankind to be better than they are, and was sanguine that communism would speedily produce brilliant results, but that years of experience in mingling with the world have shown him the 'stern reality,' and he hopes that his work will help to awaken dreamers."  The fact is Macdonald was one of those capricious enthusiasts who were hopeful when social schemes were incohate and doubtful, and distrustful and despairing when they were really succeeding around him.  He was a Scotch emigrant, who began by having too much fervour for Socialism, and ended, like most persons of that class, with having too little.  He was, however, a man of original ways; he was a sort of Old Mortality of Co-operation, who visited the graveyards of communities in America, deciphering the epitaphs of sixty-nine defunct phalanxes.  Living by his trade, he obtained work in the neighbourhood of a communistic settlement, and spent some time in learning the particulars of its history.  He wrote his account of it, and died leaving them in confusion.  Mr. Noyes, into whose hands they fell, has not printed them.  They deserve publication, as they must contain curious facts unknown to any other author.  Mr. Noyes, who has a very mean opinion of social life, save the semi-spiritual and semi-sexual one of the Oneida pattern, is not a trustworthy reporter of Macdonald's MS.  The account given me by my correspondent of New Harmony Society is probably true.  Every place in which schemes of undisciplined enthusiasm have been put in operation, always prove reactionary in later years.  The residents are ashamed of the failure associated with their place, and in their endeavours to repudiate it deny the existence of any liberalising influences left behind, or find some other paternity for them.  All the persons I have known who have lived to repudiate their early Socialistic faith—have always remained more liberal and enlightened than they would have been had they never held it.  It is singular how men of eminent experience take a partial view of the qualities of a nation, because it falls short of their ideal in a particular respect in which they look for perfection.  We know from Madison's Report "of the Convention that framed the famous Constitution of America," that Washington said that "he believed all the virtues had left the land."  Since, however, modern Americans put down slavery in it, at such a cost of blood and treasure, let us hope that some of the virtues have come back.  Had slavery existed in England for as long a time and to as great a proportional extent, it would have found abler advocates among us than it found in America, and have cost a fiercer struggle to extinguish it.  The population of New Harmony in the year 1877 was but about 1,000.  It had neither market nor railroad, though they were expected.  The place is not what Americans call a "flourishing village."  Tradesmen in it fear that the railroad (the great bringer of business) may injure them, which shows that England is not the only place where antiquated notions can nestle.

________________________

 
    Since this chapter was written an unforeseen co-operative settlement has been founded near St. Louis, Mo., by N. O. Nelson, who has the practical genius of Cabet, but who has achieved more than Cabet's success.



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