DANGERS OF PREMATURE EXPERIMENTS—A STORE RESOLVED
UPON—CO-OPERATIVE MAXIMS—COMPLAINTS TAKEN BY THE THROAT—AN
INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE—THE ACCUSATIONS DISPROVED—A TRANSFORMATION
SCENE—DIRECTORS DISMISSED—THE NEW DIRECTORS FOLLOW THE SAME POLICY
FOR WHICH THEIR PREDECESSORS WERE REMOVED—THE FIRST SHOP OPENED IN
BRIGGATE—A FIGHTING YEAR—A TRUSTEE COMES TO THE FRONT—JOHN HOLMES
TAKES THE FLOOR— THE PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY—MR. EMMERSON'S COGENT
THE store idea
had slumbered but not slept. The agitation was renewed.
Queenswood community commenced too soon, ceased before it should
have been born. Any reputed failure of a new idea terrifies
two English generations. In progress, a step not well provided
for, is a step backwards. The Queenswood cloud hung over
Leeds, and distrust checked every proposal of social reformers.
Even Lloyd Jones had not recognised the power or place of the new
co-operation, destined to such distinguished success; and his scheme
of 1,000 members was not for a store society, but for a community.
But always for progress, he went with the new movement which
Rochdale began and had now proved its vitality.
The question of adding the sales of provisions to the sale of
flour had gained strength during repeated discussions. At the
end of fierce debates an average spectator would think that both
sides were of the same opinion still. But as all discussions
show, the auditors are not of the same opinion next day. The
knowledge of new facts dissipates prejudice and informs the
judgment. The profits being made by the Rochdale Provision
Society were now becoming considerable, and were attracting outside
attention. When a meeting was called in April to consider the
question, Mr. Lloyd Jones delivered a powerful and telling speech,
and it was resolved unanimously that the directors be empowered to
extend the business of the Society to the sale of groceries and
provisions. A committee was appointed, of whom Lloyd Jones and
James Hole were members, to carry out the object of the resolution.
This was the second deliberate step onward, taken by the forward
This year was made lively by complaints of the quality of
flour and the general management of the mill, in which the
complainers were quite wrong, and were therefore more confident than
men usually are when they are in the right.
There are peculiarities of experience in the Leeds Society
different from other stores, and which other societies will find
instructive. One distinction lay in the excellent reports made
by it. Another feature is the occurrence of maxims which all
societies need, which many never hear, and which many who do hear
them forget, namely, that a co-operative society is an honest
association, whose members have no interest in cheating each other.
A great deal of very hard work is done for nothing, and those whose
interests are thus promoted gratuitously should not be quick to make
aspersive charges, and should be sure of their facts when they do
complain. New members cannot be expected to know these facts;
they will be the better when they do.
The directors took the complaints by the throat and shook the
errors out of them. They appointed an Investigation Committee,
 made on a motion by Mr.
Jones and Mr. Pease. The "People's Flour Mill" had now become a
The investigation was not delayed, and did its work with
singular thoroughness. It inquired into everything—rumour,
suspicion, or complaint; it was also a report of great ability of
statement, and produced a good effect. One charge against Mr.
Emmerson, the mill manager, was that he went to the mill on Sunday
morning to get his books ready for the directors on Monday. He
had so much to do that he had, against his will, to sacrifice part
of his Sunday to keep his accounts well in hand. This was
really a complaint against an important servant for doing too much
and being too zealous in the service of his accusers. The duty
of the complainants was to move that an assistant be appointed to
relieve him of his overwork; to profit by his industry, and complain
of him for it, was meanness as well as narrowness.
The management of the mill was proved to have been
excellently conducted—economically, efficiently, and profitably.
Vivid charges were found to be based on rumour, and those who made
the charges had no proof to offer.
By a certain peremptoriness, or abruptness of manner, it was
admitted that Mr. Emerson had given offence to members. This
obliterated in their eyes the sense of the real zeal, business
knowledge, and devotion by which the manager had served the Society.
Fault of manner is an unfortunate fault, but it is a lesser evil
than the loss of the services of an able servant, and at that time
Mr. Emmerson's services could not be replaced. It was better
to put up with irritation than risk the prosperity of the mill, by
which all profited.
Then a transformation scene arose which the Society has not
seen since. The directors were requested to dismiss the
manager—tried, true, and capable—by a resolution so instructing
them. They refused to deprive the Society of a servant whose
worth they knew. William Campbell made a motion to dismiss
them and their secretary, Mr. Gaunt seconding the motion, which
showed that there was believed to be real necessity for the motion.
A society may be destroyed by dissatisfaction, however good its
management. Since then we have seen Governments destroyed
through the contemptuousness of one or two Ministers. There
are always people who think more of discourtesy to, or neglect of
themselves than of the interests of the State or a society.
Nevertheless, when directors refuse to carry out instructions
lawfully given, their duty is to resign. The motion made ended
with the dismissal of eleven directors only, Lloyd Jones being one
of them. Mr. Samuel Haigh was elected vice-president, and
afterwards president, and served the Society well for many years,
and also as the grocery manager and buyer. Among the new
directors elected was Mr. Bell, afterwards president. He had
long been a hard worker for the Society. Whether on the board
of directors or not, he was always to the front when there was any
work on hand, in speaking at the meetings or elsewhere. The
curious thing was, when the new directors got into harness, they
found that the affairs of the Society had been much better managed
than they supposed, and did not remove the officer they were elected
to dismiss. Mr. Emerson remained in the service of the Society
long after, and ultimately resigned of his own free will, which
proved that the directors so summarily dismissed were right in their
judgment. They were as good servants as the Society ever had.
A review was made this year of the nine years' position of
the Society, when it was found that a profit during that time had
been made of £9,456. The statement was signed by W. Emmerson,
Discussion had produced conviction. A new thing was now
seen. A grocery committee was in operation, and was granted
£700 for the purchase of their first stock. It was thought a
commanding front shop was necessary for business, and one was taken
in Briggate at a rental of £100 and all rates. Though the
members voted unanimously for the opening of the shop, it did not
meet with the support which was expected. The flour agents
proved impediments which were not calculated upon, and the Leeds
public saw the first co-operative shop opened in their midst as a
novelty which did not excite their enthusiasm.
This was a fighting year. A "trustee" came out with a
remarkable address prophetic of the future of the Society, and even
of the old-age pension so much talked of now. It said: "I
Accumulate capital (without which we shall always be powerless);
provide all other food, as well as flour; grow our own corn, as well
as grind it; extend and build our own houses, and soon the clear
income of the Society will be sufficient to pension off all old and
incapable members with 10s. a week and a house rent free."
When Charles I. [Ed. Charles II.?] lingered longer than
suited the convenience of his courtiers he "begged their pardon for
being such an unconscionable time in dying." But it is not my
fault that this year's affairs are on such an unconscionable length
or, like King Charles, I would apologise for it. It is all
owing to the interest of the events.
The Parliamentary Committee on Adulteration issued their
report this year. We must look at it, it concerns this
The Chairman, my townsman and friend, William
Scholefield, said to the Leeds mill manager, "I suppose the Leeds
Society thought they could make flour cheaper than the millers?"
Mr. Emmerson: Yes, and we have done it. We have
sold at 2d. per stone less than the millers.
Mr. Scholefield: What do you do with your seconds?
Mr. Emmerson: We do not make any seconds.
Seconds are made by a different process. We have only one
process. There are many ways of adulterating flour without
being subjected to penalty. The Society adopted none, as they
had no interest in cheating themselves. Egyptian wheat is
about 20s. per quarter less than the corn bought by the Society.
Yet it is very deceptive. It looks beautiful to the eye, but
it has not much nutrition in it. Millers use it largely to
adulterate flour with, and purchasers, who knew nothing of quality,
did not like the pure flour of the Society, which was not so white.
Just as the Egyptian wheat is used to adulterate flour, so sharps
are used to lessen the price of oatmeal. It cannot be detected
by the eye. You cannot discover but what it is oatmeal.
Mr. Villiers asked what check the Society
had against adulteration in its own mill ?
Mr. Emmerson: The directors are appointed to see there
is no mixture.
Mr. Villiers said the Society sets up as being
superior to its neighbour. What security have you that you are
better than other people?
Mr. Emmerson: The directors are the
security. They have no interest in adulteration. Mr.
Emmerson added: Mr. Dresser, a chemist in Leeds, has written to the
Leeds Mercury saying that bread he had purchased from five
principal bakers was found to contain 5 lbs. of alum to 20 stones of
flour, and, in the purest instance, 2lbs. of alum to 20 stones of
flour. Barley is about 40s. a quarter, and wheat 70s.
One quarter of barley to three quarters of wheat would make good
average flour, and perhaps would lessen the price 3d. or 4d. per
Mr. Emmerson further said: I made a mixture to bring
before our general meeting of one-quarter barley to show what could
be done. It was acknowledged by the members at the meeting—who
did not know what it was made of—to be very good bread. They
said they did not wish to have any better. The cost of that
was 4¾d. per stone less, but it
would not be pure flour, nor have the quality of pure flour.
It would have been a fraud upon the members in the name of
cheapness. The members could not find out that anything was
wrong with the bread, but it would not be as nutritious as it ought
to be, nor would it be pure as we profess to give it. Had the
Society intended to enter into competition with the millers, it
could have undersold them and made a large profit.
Mr. Peacock and Mr. Moffat, members of the
Committee, wanted to know whether the Society took any trouble to
find out whether adulteration on the part of their neighbours took
place, and to prosecute them.
Mr. Emmerson: The Society set up to
conduct an honest business themselves, and not to act as public
prosecutors for the town.
It was asked why workmen, who were injured by adulteration,
did not prosecute them.
Mr. Emmerson: There was a difficulty in
workmen becoming prosecutors. It would be awkward for them, since
they were mostly everywhere in debt with shopkeepers. Besides,
how could they give the time to attend three or four days at
magistrates' courts, to take out a summons, get up evidence, and
conduct the prosecution? A few very independent workmen might
do it, but they must make considerable sacrifice for the good of
[This even gentlemen did not do on behalf of their poorer
neighbours, whom they knew were daily consuming deleterious food.]
Mr. Emmerson incidentally explained to the Committee
the domestic habits of Leeds in that day.
Yorkshire people bought their flour, made their own bread,
and had their own ovens. The Society had then 3,000 members.
They had bankers, merchants, and magistrates connected with the
Society, but principally working men. The Society's flour is
what we designate "made from pure wheat." The oatmeal is made
from pure shellings of oats.
Being asked the question, "Do you never put potato starch
into your flour?"—
Mr. Emmerson: We never put anything of any description
into it, it is all pure, genuine flour, and has been from the
Viscount Goderich asked: "Is not inferior flour sold
at lower prices?"
Mr. Emerson: Yes, but we make but one kind and of the
best wheat. Mr. John Blakey, at Keighley, Rushworth Brothers,
of Ingrove, near Keighley, Mr. East, of Nottingham, and other
adulterating millers, were named as having been fined, and some did
hard labour who did not pay the fines.
Viscount Goderich, whom we know as the Marquis of
Ripon, was on the Committee, so was Mr. Villiers; the present father
of the House of Commons. William Scholefield, the chairman of
the Committee, was the author of the Act which established limited
liability in business, and enabled co-operative employers to share
profits with their servants without becoming responsible for their
debts, or the servants being liable for their masters' debts.
When I was a publisher in the city of London, I shared profits with
those I employed, which made them my partners in law. They
could carry away my books or property and did it—I had no redress. 
Mr. Scholefield's Act altered all this, and made co-operative
participation of profit in business, legal.
The millers had their friends on the Committee who were sharp
on Mr. Emerson, and endeavoured to corner and confuse him; but he
had his wits about, and very good wits too. His evidence was
given with directness, clearness, and force.
Mr. Farrand, of the Rochdale Corn Mill, was also examined.
He said "they found persons judge wheat by the colour. They
preferred white, which was injurious, to darker flour entirely
wholesome. The eye seemed harder to please than the stomach."
But as the purchasers became instructed that whiteness was produced
by alum and other mixtures, their preference for it began to
Alum, a medical witness explained, has a bad effect upon the
teeth, the gums, and the mucous membranes of children. It
creates irritability in the bowels, producing constipation and at
times the contrary. It was given in evidence that chicory is
adulterated with Venetian red and treacle to give it a brighter
colour. It also increases the weight. In one
manufacturing department 700 tons of carrots and 350 tons of
parsnips were used for adulterating purposes.
Here were arguments in plenty in favour of providing members
with other articles than flour, sold in a pure state. Had all
the dramatic facts and picturesque incidents of this inquiry been
selected and circulated in Leeds, it would have been worth £500 to
the Society. It was worth that as an advertisement and
vindication of the Society in the eyes of tradesmen, adversaries,
and members. Readers, high and low, would have read it with
amusement, wonder, and instruction. Parliamentary authority
was worth a thousand testimonies of partisans, however honest.
Mr. Lloyd Jones's wise motion was rejected by persons who had
no outside mind. Mr. Jones had, and knew that the
progress of co-operation depended upon the view which the public
took, and the impression its proceedings made upon them. It
will be seen that working men and their families were being poisoned
three times a day by dangerous flour, and were charged more for it
than good flour ought to cost, and that by good judgment and
combination they had freed themselves from these dangers.
Every man becoming sensible of these risks would have been disposed
to join the sole rescuing society.
FROGS ABOUT—ORGANISATION OF THE AGENTS—A PENITENT
AGENT—CONSPIRACY OF AGENTS—THE BRIGGATE STORE LANGUISHES—VICTORY OF
IGNORANCE—THE BRIGGATE STORE DIES—A GREAT TEMPTATION—ANOTHER
THE failure of
the Briggate shop, which occurred this year, gave comfort to
prophets of disaster. Store keeping had won no success, which
alone could silence the guttural cries of those born with frogs in
The change of title which presaged the sale of provisions
still caused perturbation. Then uprose all the inexperienced,
timid, foreboding, suspicious, and imputative members. "The
new speculation," they said, "would ruin the prosperous society.
The directors would never make the new trade pay. The
competition was too keen and too great—besides, they had no
knowledge of the new business; "all of which was said against
starting the mill. Furthermore, the advocates of the change
were accused of "being anxious to make places for themselves."
The voices of the croakers were loud in the land. When the
march of progress was commenced, the frogs of obstruction leaped
about in shoals and did all they could to embarrass the advance, and
went very nigh to fulfilling their own predictions.
For the information of the chance reader, it is necessary to
recount the constitution and career of the agents who now begin to
figure as insurgents.
There was good judgment of business device, in which the
Leeds Society has excelled, in the early organisation of the "Flour
Agents," the term by which they became technically known. The
agent was prohibited from selling any other flour than that of the
Society, and at a price fixed by the committee and communicated to
him from time to time; so that a purchaser always knew whose flour
he was buying, and that the price was not determined by the caprice
or the cupidity of the agent, but was the authorised price appointed
by the responsible managers of the Society. The agent was paid
1s. 6d. per bag of twenty stones (280 lbs.), a reasonable amount
being allowed for leakage. The agent was required to pay into
the bank a sum sufficient to cover his order, and produce the
banker's receipt. Thus loss was avoided. The agencies
were eagerly sought for, though not lucrative; but what gain there
was, was without risk, unless the agent gave credit, when it was
upon his sole responsibility. Many agents sold from twenty to
thirty bags of flour per week, and thus made a fair living; some of
them also were, as we have said, small shopkeepers, and sold other
goods on their own account. If the price of flour rose, the
agent paid the excess upon his stock; if the price fell, he received
a rebate upon his stock, but, in a few cases only, an agent would
continue selling flour at the higher price. In one instance an
agent, who had been allowed £3. 13s. 4d. rebate on twenty bags,
continued to sell at the old price the stock of flour on which he
received the rebate; but he had, when detected, to refund the amount
and lose his agency. The man was not dishonest at heart and
always regretted the error into which he had fallen, and it remained
as a serious sin upon his conscience, and on his death-bed he
expressed his sorrow for it to Mr. Campbell.
The agency system, above described, remained without change
until the Society established stores of its own. The new Briggate
store was not at all to the agent's mind. It did not make the
progress its well-wishers expected; assailants shot at it from
concealed trenches; but the directors were clear in their decision
that it must be sustained. They had become convinced that if towns
of much inferior extent to Leeds could make a grocery department
succeed, Leeds could do it; and they voted £500 more to strengthen
the Briggate store, but without success, as the reader has seen. The
flour agents were most of them, as we have said, little grocers
also, and they naturally resented the creation of the Briggate
grocer's shop, at which all members were expected to deal. Their
customers for flour, more or less, dealt with them for groceries.
Many of the members had what were called "shots," or credit scores,
with the flour agents, and could not leave them if they would; and
the agent-creditors did not facilitate their release, but bestirred
themselves to dissuade members from dealing at the Briggate store.
Then they demanded of the Society a commission of 7½
per cent, which was given them. Afterwards, a demand of 10 per cent
was made. They represented that they had obtained 10 per cent from
grocers for selling their goods. They could not warrant the grocers'
goods, but they could the flour mill's goods, which meant a
preferential increase of custom to them. But of this advantage they
were silent. They were accorded the 10 per cent—nevertheless the
Briggate store languished.
The Briggate store got worse and worse. A traveller was
appointed to wait upon members and families of greater income than
working men, to induce them to deal at the Brigade depôt,
with a view to establish family trade. But this did not mend
matters, nor did it shake the settled co-operative purpose of the
directors, who had steered the flour ship through stormy waters.
They stood stoutly at the helm of the new craft, which they believed
they could steer into smooth seas.
Slowly the directors came to understand there was a rebellion
among the agents. They had reared an enemy for themselves.
They had created a vested interest, which now turned against them.
In their report for this year (1857) the directors say: "One
great disadvantage of this Society has been the want of information
among the members—not only on the management of its own affairs, but
on the important power of co-operation in general." The same
trouble would have befallen the Rochdale Society, had they not begun
with an education rate.
The directors were beaten by ignorance, yet the opposition of
interest would have been ineffectual had the members been
enlightened. After languishing, the Briggate shop showed signs
of pectoral consumption. All unsupported stores die of
"disease of the chest." The bright shop had to be given up.
When it was closed there was a fine opportunity for the
croaking prophets of disaster to predict the impossibility of
co-operation ever succeeding.
Here was an alluring shop in the best business part of the
town, with ample funds and plentiful provisions, which could not
keep its doors open. Who could have foreseen then that
co-operation would be one day the most splendid success not only in
Leeds, but in the land?
Difficulties of another kind beset the directors. The
white flour trouble returned. Some members craved white flour;
having been reared on alum bread without knowing it to be injurious,
they wanted the Society to give them white flour. There was,
as the reader knows, an inferior sort of wheat which gave very white
flour, but it was deficient in gluten and innutritious. It was
a great temptation to a society seeking custom, to gratify this
unwise demand. Many directors in other societies have, in such
cases, decided for cheapness against principle, saying honesty did
not pay. But the Leeds directors had the courage to refuse to
supply dishonest flour, whether they lost custom or not. In
the end the Society was a great gainer, for people had confidence in
it, and then it was found honesty did pay. It is impossible to
estimate too highly this honourable courage, which risked loss of
members for the sake of maintaining principle.
Studious of financial confidence, the directors had the books
and the accounts of the Society again examined by another of the
best accountants in Leeds, Mr. E. Bolton, who certified that the
books had been well kept, and that the Society was making steady
progress in trade, capital, number of members, and profit.
AN AMAZING ANNOUNCEMENT—PLATO'S REPUBLIC TERRIFIES
THE WISE MEN OF LEEDS—SIR EDWARD BAINES ON THE
PARALLELOGRAM—POLITICAL ECONOMY OPPOSED TO COOPERATION—ROCHDALE
VISITED—THE AGENTS SUPERSEDED—A NEW "ANGLE" PAYS BETTER THAN THE OLD
FANGLE—MR. PRENTIS'S SERVICES.
AN amazing, not
to say incredible, announcement was made this year. At a
public meeting, the chairman (Samuel Haigh) said that some persons
1. That the Co-operative Society set up labour against capital.
2. That it consisted of persons of certain sects in religion.
3. That they had an idea of setting up a Plato's republic or an
Is it possible that in those days there were persons in
Leeds, not in a lunatic asylum, who thought co-operators—whose
object from the beginning was to acquire capital—were against
They must be asylum men who objected to the Society because
it contained persons of different sects in religion. This is
an objection to Parliament, to an insurance society, or a railway
The Society never proposed to set up a parallelogram in
Leeds. It would much have improved the town if it could have
been done. The incredible thing is the Plato idea. The
wildest dreamer who had visited Leeds never thought of it.
Probably not 100 persons in Leeds had ever read Plato's work, and
not ten who understood it. However, it is hard to say how mad
persons, counted intelligent, were in those days.
No one appeared to know that in 1819 the Guardians of the
Poor in Leeds sent Mr. Edward Baines, one of a deputation, to New
Lanark to visit Mr. Owen, the inventor of the parallelogram, and
that Mr. Baines reported that "Mr. Owen's plans were superior to any
the deputation ever witnessed, and dispensing more happiness than
perhaps any other institution in the kingdom." So it was not
the co-operators of 1858, but the Guardians of the Poor of 1819, who
first brought praise of the parallelogram to Leeds.
The Rev. Dr. Hook, who was, deservedly, received with great
enthusiasm, related, among other things, a similar instance of
cultivated insanity to be found in the educated circles in which the
Rev. Doctor moved. He said that when he mentioned the Leeds
Society it was remarked, "Oh, it is the Co-operative Association; a
Co-operative Association is contrary to the principles of political
economy." This objection, which it is denied now that it ever
existed, was in full blast then.
Dr. F. R. Lees, the Rev. M. Philips, Mr. R. M. Carter, Mr.
David Green, and Mr. Campbell spoke at this meeting effectively, and
Dr. Baker, Factory Inspector, at great length.
Trouble with the flour agents still continued, and a
resolution was passed requiring all agents, who would not sell the
Society's groceries, to give up the flour agency, as others would be
appointed in the neighbourhood who would do it. The agent who
had been created by the Society, and nurtured by it, became open
enemies within its own borders. Those members who had been
opposed from the first to the provision business, joined with the
agents in harassing the directors. Several of these
adversaries were so demonstrative and defiant of the chairman that
they had to be fined. One member was twice fined one shilling
at the same meeting.
More and more began to be felt the want of information on the
part of the members, on the nature of co-operation, which put power
into the hands of the working class for the improvement of their own
fortunes. This led the directors to institute meetings for the
delivery of addresses and the education of their members and the
public. Though the store in Briggate lost £176 in its first
half year, the flour department made a profit of £1,982. The
Briggate store lost every half year until it was ended.
Therefore, it was resolved to send a deputation to Rochdale to make
inquiries how they managed their business. The inquirers came
home and strongly recommended the adoption of the Rochdale plan,
which was that of selling by their own agents for ready money
payment. The flour agency which worked well for the mill had
now proved a most unfortunate bar to the extension of the grocery
business. To overcome this obstacle it was unanimously
resolved to adopt the Rochdale plan of retailing flour, groceries,
and provisions by the employees of the Society, and the first
half-yearly result was a profit of £44, which continued to increase
ever after. The plan involved the financial education of
members in cash payments. The habit of credit was strong upon
them, and formed a second nature, which subjected working men to
perpetual impecuniosity and humiliating dependence upon others.
Selling its flour, groceries, and provisions by its own servants was
called a "newfangled plan" of the Society. But it paid, and
profit caused it to grow in favour year by year. The spirit of
confidence and enterprise was unabated, and the Society bought 2,272
square yards of land adjoining their own premises for the sum of
£681 for future extension. This year Mr. James Prentis was
appointed secretary, and for sixteen years he was found to be an
entirely honest and upright servant. When age incapacitated
him for his onerous duties the directors found him less fatiguing
THE OVENS OF DISCONTENT—REVOLUTIONS
OF PROGRESS—THE WORKER HIS OWN HELPER—MEMBERS
FOR THE FIRST TIME SUGGEST A NEW DEPARTMENT—TRUSTEES
COUNSEL PARTICIPATION IN PROFIT—CHEAPNESS
MEANS LOW DIVIDENDS.
THE voice of
discontent, if it did not cease, grew lower than formerly. The
bulk of the wiser members had found out that, as a rule, the
fault-finder was the least suggestive as to what could better be
done. Acrimony is not wisdom. A quick-tempered,
explosive critic is as the French wit said of La Harpe, "He is like
an oven—always hot, but never bakes anything." Policemen were
not wanted at the meetings this year. Disturbers had become
During the twelve years of the Society's existence its
progress had involved many changes. The provision trade had
been added to the flour trade; successive kinds of business had been
entered upon which, being new, were met with distrust. The
agents had been superseded. To the sale of flour had been
joined the sale of other commodities under officers appointed by the
Society, who were entirely responsible to it, and were the
administrators of its business. These were so many revolutions
in early customs of the store which, like political revolutions in a
State, created contest and violent divisions of opinion.
This year the directors, as in some previous years, did not
think it good policy to pay out all the amount gained, but added
£271 of the profits to the share capital in proportion to the amount
each shareholder had in the books of the Society.
The grocery profit for the half year ending in June had risen
to £150, promising £300 for the whole year.
This winter the directors got up a series of lectures.
Mr. Bell, who was then president, gave the first in St. Peter's
Street Stone Chapel. His subject was thought characteristic of
him, viz , "Labour, Wages, and Profit—or, the Worker his own
Helper." Other lectures were delivered in different districts.
All were well attended, and new members were added to the Society.
Hitherto the directors had all the labour and responsibility
of initiation. This year, for the first time, the members
shared it, and requested the directors to take another onward step.
They had found onward steps profitable. They had not only
overcome their apprehensions to them, but were beginning to prefer
them. Their request was that a clothing business should be
commenced. It was commenced, but difficulties attended it for
a long time. First they had the perils of inexperienced
managers, and also of managers who wanted to manage, not only the
business, but the directors. As this was decisively resisted,
one of them brought an action against the Society, in which he had
to be content with considerable reduction of his claim. The
directors had asserted their just authority, and not only dismissed
the manager, but made a clean sweep of all the tailors as well.
The advantages of distributing their own groceries, through
their own stores and their own servants, continued to be shown
through successive years. The "new system," as it was called,
during the two half years since its adoption, showed a total profit
of £919, which allowed an award of 2s. in the £ to purchasers.
In 1859 the trustees of the Society made a report "By Order,"
but no names are attached, showing who the trustees were.
Their report, however, showed great vigilance on their part.
They had looked into the workings of the whole Society, into both
flour and provision departments. They ascertained that all
persons in positions of trust were guaranteed in a satisfactory way.
Up to that date each member was expected to hold a £5 share of the
capital. The average amount actually held was not more than
£3. 4s. They recommended the members to take up their full £5
shares. They further recommended that the servants of the
Society be given a stimulus to exertion in the shape of a reward,
conditional upon the increased exertions and improved results in
profit and economy. They thought the servants should be bound
by interest to promote the progress of the Society. Mr. Nussey
was president, Mr. Haigh vice-president, and Mr. Prentis secretary,
when this recommendation was made. It recognises the right of
profit on the part of those whose industry and forethought made it.
"Remunerative " prices were found to be beneficial all round.
Many members never understand that low prices mean low profits, and
those who insist upon low profits do not intend to save, yet they
expect high dividends. The two things cannot go together.
THE PAMPHLET OF AN ENTHUSIAST—A RIVAL CORN MILL—THE
TRUSTEES' REPORT—THE WAREHOUSE OVER THE STABLES—STOREKEEPERS' SHARE
IN PROFITS—CO-OPERATORS AGAINST RETREATING BEFORE SURMOUNTABLE
OBSTACLES—A SERVANT CAUSES A DIVISION—LETTERS TO THE "EXPRESS."
A PAMPHLET of the
clarion kind, but bearing no author's name, appeared. Its
title, singular in its terms, was as follows:—"A few plain words of
advice respecting the future conduct of the members of the Leeds
District Flour and Provision Society towards each other, as well as
several Hints and Suggestions, which may be of some service to the
reader, if he should think proper to make use of them; but none at
all if he does not. By ONE OF THEMSELVES.
(Leeds: Printed by David Green, Boar Lane.)"
This pamphlet, surmised at the time to be from the pen of Mr.
John Holmes, was written with the clearness, point, and directness
which were characteristic of him. It was a little reproachful
in places, but racy of the Leeds soil, with the familiar force of
Cobbett. All the experience then in the minds of members, and
all the difficulties of the Society, were touched upon in a manner
only possible to a man who knew everything upon the subject.
One passage showed that the views of the writer were larger than
mill or store. It showed that he fully believed the majority
of members had the idea, not only of raising themselves, but of
raising the class to which they belonged. "There is no end,"
he said, "to the success within the reach of the working men of this
town if they are but determined to exercise their full power.
Don't talk about mismanagement—that is a thing which can and will be
got over in the end. Go on purchasing at your own store.
Go on saving. What if the Society does lose a few thousands by
mismanagement? The prize for which you are toiling is social
emancipation—good homes, and your own, too, remember; good clothing
for yourself and family; good food and plenty, without fear of
poverty; work of your own, on your own land, or in your own
workshops or factories; your own perfect machinery, too, helping
you; and, above all, your children educated in a way that shall make
them, though workers, the first men and women in the land, both for
usefulness and intellectual attainments; which shall give to your
wives and daughters intellectual and moral culture joined with
graces unsurpassed by any in the land." Here was an enthusiast
of the first water. Few societies have had his equal.
During this year there were several new stores opened, all
promising good results. The Society had clearly learnt the art
of going forward.
About this time some dissentients set up a rival corn mill,
which, however, did not last long, and brought no mischief—except to
its needless promoters.
The trustees, who took an active interest in the affairs they
represented, gave another report of the position of the Society,
which showed as follows:—
£ s d
£ s d
£ s d
Flour ... ... ... ... ... ...
5,807 1 0
49,208 13 6
2,693 3 8
Groceries ... ... ... ...
6,655 19 0
19,168 13 0
613 12 3
Boots and Clothing
2,192 17 2
1,865 5 6½
36 8 0
£14,655 17 2
£70,242 12 0½
£3,343 3 11
The boot sales are here given with clothing sales. The
manufacture of boots was not yet begun, whose success is associated
with a name of mark in the Society—Mr. William Swallow, sen., who
was a member of the first board of directors in 1847, and in 1856
was one of the eleven directors who had the honour to be dismissed
for an act of signal usefulness. His inquiring heartiness of
expression is typical of the enthusiasm demanded in pioneer days.
Beyond his own advocacy, he gave to the service of the Society two
sons. One Mr. J. Swallow, the manager of the boot department,
and another Mr. W. Swallow, formerly the Secretary of the Society.
The advantages of the Society distributing its own goods
through its own employees and stores were shown in the past year,
the most profitable year since they commenced their provision
business. This year a Building Committee was appointed, and
Mr. W. Bell brought before the directors the subject of building new
stores on the Society's land at Holbeck. Their warehouse had
hitherto been over the stables, a very unsuitable place for storing
articles whose excellence consisted in their aroma and intrinsic
purity of flavour. Such a depôt
could do no credit to the taste, and was beneath the dignity which
the Society had now obtained. The directors unanimously agreed
to new buildings being erected. Interest was taken in
principle as well as in progress, and a committee was appointed to
consider the question of "bonus" to labour. This committee
recommended, and the directors adopted, the allotment of sixpence to
all agents and storekeepers for every member they entered, and 5 per
cent bonus to the storekeepers, over and above their wages, on the
gross profits made at each store. The Society had now adopted
the familiar language of co-operation. It had ceased to talk
of "flour agents," and addressed them as "storekeepers." The
old agencies had really become co-operative stores.
The clothing department was in so precarious a condition that the
fainter hearts proposed to give it up, but the stouter minded
co-operators maintained that it was not co-operative to give up a
business which ought to succeed. Co-operators never retreat in
the face of difficulties which experience and courage can overcome.
It was against their pride as co-operative innovators to show to the
public that working men were unable to manage a business for
themselves. The difficulty was purely local. The year's
profit in the flour department was £2,693. The grocery profit
was also good, being £613.
A trouble common to all immature societies arose again.
Whenever a leading servant was dismissed two parties were formed—one
for opposing the dismissal, to which the dismissed person is always
an inciter; and another party who rightly sustain the directors, who
being responsible for the management ought to be treated with
consideration even when they err. Major Cartwright said,
"Juries were so excellent an institution that even their errors
should be respected." In one case, where the Leeds directors
dismissed the head miller, the vice-president and some members took
the part of the miller. This is to place the interest of a
servant over the interest of a society, and to risk breaking up the
society in the contention. Beyond unimputated representation,
made to the directors on behalf of the person believed to be
wronged, no members wishing well to the society ought to proceed
without very exceptional reason. If the strongest
representation that can be made on behalf of the dismissed member
fails to secure his replacement, some restitution should be made by
his party to the servant believed to be injured, but the existence
of the society should never be imperilled, nor should members
withdraw from it. Whenever a servant is a party to these
divisions, he is always encouraged by enemies outside to break up
the society by dissension. In the case of the head miller in
question letters were sent to the Leeds Express, and
fly-sheet reprints circulated aiding discontent. Prolonged
meetings were held in the Old Court House about it. Meetings
were adjourned at 11-45 p.m., to the great joy of trading
adversaries of co-operation. Mr. W. Bell, the president,
eventually steered the ship of the Society through the turbulent
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST IN CO-OPERATION—THE MEAT
SELLING DIFFICULTY—IN SEARCH OF PROSPERITY IN VACANT PLACES AND
STREET CORNERS—GARIBALDI FUNDS RECOVERED.
the doctrine of the "survival of the fittest." But the fittest
would not survive if they did not fight for existence. The
directors of the period made the fight, or no record would be needed
Undeterred by difficulties in creating new branches of
business, a meat department was commenced, although it is the most
difficult [for] co-operators [to] undertake. For
reasons that need not be dwelt upon here, the project has failed in
the hands of many stores. Nevertheless the Leeds directors
carried it on for a period with profit, and for more periods with
loss. Eventually it had to be closed altogether, although the
Society had built what was regarded as a superior slaughter-house,
had a good shop and other first-rate appliances. One thing
they lacked they had been unable to find a manager who could make it
pay all round, a difficulty which has led many stores to regard the
meat business as impracticable. The reader will find that on
this account other reverses befell the Society in later attempts,
but Leeds commonly made everything it undertook succeed eventually.
The establishment of stores on the Society's own account seemed
likely to prove the turning point in its successful career.
Prosperity does not come of itself—it has to be fetched.
The leaders of the growing movement went out to look for it, and
bring it in—and not without doing it. Meetings were held at
street corners and in vacant places in the town. A stool and a
table were rostrum and platform. In addition to stores in the
borough, five had been opened outside, as at Clifford, 13 miles
distant; Otley, 10 miles; Pudsey, Idle, and Saltaire, 7 to 9 miles
This year Mr. John Holmes laid the foundation stone of the
People's Hall, Mr. Bell stating that the cost of the hall, stores,
and fixtures would be £2,229, exclusive of the land.
These were Garibaldi times, and Leeds showed great friendship
for "The General," as he was popularly called. Many
co-operators joined in a Leeds subscription for his use. The
amount exceeded £400. The treasurer, for reasons of his own,
retained the money notwithstanding that Garibaldi had written to him
requesting him to transmit the money as he directed. As Acting
Secretary to Garibaldi's London Committee, the writer came to Leeds
and made representations which ended in the Leeds subscription being
forwarded as is elsewhere related.  It was co-operative opinion
which was mainly influential in causing the transmission of the
Leeds gift to Garibaldi.
THE "FANGLE" TERROR OVER—A TEALESS TEA—A WOMEN'S
GUILD WANTED—THE HOSPITALITY OF CO-OPERATION—DRAPERY DROOPS—GENEROUS
SYMPATHY WITH THE AMERICAN CAUSE.
"FANGLE" is a
word of peculiar effect on English ears perhaps on British ears, if
the Scotch were consulted. It expresses or embodies the high
water-mark of contempt for anything not wanted, not liked, and not
understood. Hence the store system, when added to the
organisation of the mill, was called a "new-fangled system."
Many an excellent device has never been tried, and others
extinguished when tried by the "fangle" terror. But "fangle"
did not kill the "new system." It was the rebellious flour
agents who were killed. By this time (1862) they are no longer
an impedimentary force, and the Society is not only undisturbed but
aspiring. It has emerged into public repute, and invites
persons eminent and official in the town, to take part in its
proceedings, which increased its publicity and attracted attention
to the work it was doing. At the annual tea meeting, in the
People's Hall, tables were set for about 500 persons. The
platform had a table for the mayor, aldermen, and other eminences
invited. The platform table abounded with refreshments.
A beautiful silver urn was placed at the head, and Mr. Hunt had the
place of honour (as the president should) among the distinguished
guests of the Society. When all was ready the alderman who sat
before the silver tea urn began to fill the cups, which he observed
to have neither fragrance nor colour.
"Hunt," said the alderman, "what is the matter with the
Co-operative Society? What have we got here?"
"Tea," said the president confidently.
"It seems to me," said the alderman, "to be mere water."
True, it was water. First-class water, no doubt, but it
certainly was not tea. The president found to his confusion
that the tea makers had forgotten to put the tea into the urn.
Mr. Hunt suddenly left the chair vacant, and rushed away to call the
tea makers to their senses, and some favourite blend of Souchong and
Assam soon distilled its amber stream into the aldermen's cups.
Mr. Hunt declared he would never preside again at a public tea
unless they had women to make it. There was no Women's Guild
in those days; the men were caterers at festive parties, and men do
not know how to make tea. There was plenty of good tea in the
canisters, but no one thought of putting it into the pot. The
repasts of tea, or dinner, given by co-operators are always
plentiful and excellent. I have been in many agitations, but
the co-operative movement is the only one which gave its friends
anything to eat. One distinction and advantage of a
storekeeping movement is, that there are always provisions about.
New Acts of Parliament, and the altered business of the
Society, made it necessary again to alter the rules. This year
the Drapery Department was in a very damp condition. What
Americans call the "dry goods" sales, were low, and the directors
summoned a special meeting of the members and explained matters to
them, telling them they must either purchase more drapery or
instruct the board to close the business, but advised its
At this time the cotton famine prevailed in Lancashire, and
the members, willingly and generously, voted £30 to be sent to the
committee engaged in alleviating the distress. All
co-operative societies were friends of the North in the great
American war for the maintenance of the Union and the liberation of
SMOOTH WATER—THE CLOTHING SHIP BECALMED—MEMBERS
DETERMINE TO KEEP IT AT SEA.
THE sea of the
Society was calm now. There were buoyant ripples of prosperity
in all departments, save one—the clothing—which gave no sign of
onward motion. The loss there continued. It was still as
"a painted ship upon a painted ocean," as Coleridge would describe
it. The loss upon the navigation of that vessel (if that
should be called navigation where there is no motion) was not
cheering. As it continued through several half years the
directors themselves lost heart, and requested permission of the
Society to cashier this ship and close this branch of its business.
Herein the members showed the greater courage and declined to
consent to the directors' request, and urged perseverance until they
overtook success—which must be somewhere in front of them.
This happy confidence was itself a presage of improvement.
Profits distributed in June were paid in goods, which met the
household requirements of members and the interests of the Society.
The Clothing Ship did not go into the dock, but went cruising about.
AN IRRITATING ITEM—INTRICACIES OF TRUSTEESHIP—THE
DEVICE OF FREE TICKET MEETINGS—WITHDRAWALS FROM NECESSITY AND
ILL-WILL—OFFERS OF CAPITAL BY MEMBERS—A NEW WONDER COMES TO
obnoxious, reproachful item had long irritated members in successive
balance sheets, under the head of "old losses," which amounted to
more than £1,000. This had been a source of remorseful
controversy at every meeting until this year, when 5s. was deducted
from the account of every member previous to 1863. This was
done to prevent members, who might be withdrawing, from being
accused of leaving losses incurred in their time to be defrayed by
new members joining the Society, who could not be held responsible
for losses occurring before they became members.
Thus "old losses" disappeared for ever, and perturbed
half-yearly meetings no more. There was gladness at their
decease, and nobody wished their resurrection. So long as the
Society was incapable of holding freehold property it had to be held
by trustees. The Society could not even have a license to sell
tea; each license had to be taken out in the name of one of the
trustees, and entered in the rate book of the township where the
store was situated. The one advantage of this necessity was
that the trustee gained both a municipal and parliamentary
vote—though a single vote to a single person would have been thought
fairer all round. But when the law was altered all property
and all licenses were re-transferred to the Society.
Not liking the prevailing system of trade puffing and
advertisements, and yet needing publicity for the business carried
on, a series of tea meetings were devised in various parts of the
town, and a free ticket was given to all members who applied for
them. Thus a great number of the members were brought
together, when a new social feeling and better knowledge of the
Society were the results. The number of members who partook of
these teas was 2,500.
About this time many necessitous members gave notice of
withdrawal from the Society, and others who were dissatisfied beyond
reconciliation did the same. The Society had now funds at the
bank, and could be neither intimidated nor distressed. The
directors made known that all notice givers would be paid at once,
rightly concluding that those who were needy ought to be relieved
without delay, and those who withdrew from ill-will ought to be
released. Dead branches add no vigour to the tree. The
leal members were numerous enough to maintain the
vitality of the Society. The trade was better than it had been
for years, and loans of money were offered to assist the directors
if needed. Happily they were not needed. Time was when
members were not so ready to assist the directors, and had no money
to do it with if they were willing. Now many members had money
which the Society had made for them, and it was honourable in the
new capitalists to be ready to place funds at the service of the
directors. The number of members paid out was 161, and the
amount was £520.
Next it was resolved to reduce the amount of shares from £5
to £2, the reason being that they had more money in hand than the
directors knew how to use. If they held money at 5 per cent
without employing it, it diminished the general dividend, and if
they paid 5 per cent when they could borrow at 4 per cent the
dividend suffered in proportion.
Here a new wonder came to sight, which has since been seen in
other societies—working men, who were told they never could possess
capital, and believed it themselves, had acquired more than they
knew what to do with.
The old pioneers at Rochdale never had difficulty in
employment of accumulated funds. They set up a profit-sharing
spinning mill. It was the promise to establish profit-sharing
workshops that first made co-operation popular. Their
successors in Rochdale lost sight of this noble intention.
Leeds had not taken this step, that was why the Society did not know
what to do with its money.
Yet the directors had the wholesome principle of
profit-sharing in their minds, and on discussion further decided to
give the head storekeeper 10 per cent upon the whole profits when
they reached £15 and upwards, and recommended the storekeepers to
let their shares remain until they reached the amount of their
The successive details the reader has seen of the intelligent
devices of administration the Leeds Society have invented, or
adopted, will be instructive reading in many young stores and
interesting to co-operative students.
This year the disconsolate clothing department, which had
been subject to many misgivings, showed a profit of £105, and
declared a dividend on purchases of 1s. 3d. in the pound. Thus
the judgment of the members was justified in keeping that vessel in
the navy of the stores.
*Ed. - "faithful and true"
BENEFICIAL ABSENTEES—NEW NAME FOR A FEROCIOUS
DEPARTMENT—PROF. F. W. NEWMAN'S ARGUMENT—AN INCREDIBLE CLASS OF
PURCHASERS—A FORMER DEVICE RETRIED.
AFTER getting rid
of the "old losses" item and the disturbing elements had
considerately withdrawn themselves, peace and prosperity set in.
The profits on flour were £1,850, on groceries £568, clothing £91,
on meat £64.
In Scotland meat sellers are called "fleshers," an
uncomfortable term. In England meat sellers are called
"butchers," which is worse, and conveys a brutal idea to the mind.
Repugnance to the fact does not, however, do away with necessity.
There is slaughter all over nature; but that is no reason for
parading the unpleasant fact over our doors and in our balance
sheets, spoiling the daily meal by obtruding associations all the
more painful, since they are now mostly needless. Long ago I
published a letter from Prof. F. W. Newman explaining that the death
of animals for food might be rendered quite painless, and the meat
made of greater value by increase in weight and intrinsically more
nutritious, since loss of blood diminishes weight and wastes the
richest element of animal food. Prof. Newman thought
co-operators the most likely persons to care for profit and
humanity. Anyhow, the horrors of terms may be avoided.
Therefore, in this narrative the "butchering department" is
described under the head of meat selling.
It was not until 1865 that purchasers not members of the
Society were accorded half the dividend given to members. It
seems incredible that it should have required years to take so wise
a step. Why outside purchasers should be refused permission to
increase the profits of members, by making purchases equal to their
own, no human being can tell. It is not less incredible that
there should exist a class of people anxious to get all they can in
a bargain, yet persist in taking only half a share of profits when
they might have a full share. Yet this marvellous class of
people are found in the neighbourhood of every store. There
are those who believe that cupidity is wide eyed, but there are
clearly numerous persons who have their acquisitive eyes only half
Again, a device was acted upon which was tried without result
when the first shop in Briggate was opened—the device of employing a
traveller to call upon the public and non-purchasing members and
canvass for new members, and increase the purchasing tendencies of
non-buying or half-buying members. But again the plan did not
QUEEN ELIZABETH'S SAGACITY—THOUGHT FOR SERVANTS—THE
FIRST FLOOD-BENEFIT OF A RESERVE FUND.
Elizabeth had a new plan of procedure she wished tried, she told her
officers of State that "they might find new instructions
restrictions, but, like new clothes which are a little stiff at
first, they would become easy by wear." By this time the
Society found the truth of the shrewd queen's saying. The new
store system which after ample inquiry had been engrafted on the
flour mill organisation, and which for a time produced explosions
and conspiracy, now worked easily. This year there is little
but confirmed prosperity to recount.
The year was marked by a handsome piece of consideration to
all persons employed. The time of store servants was
shortened, by closing one hour earlier in the evening. Thus
the co-operators were from the first on the side of the early
closing movement, and the Society was considered to have had, by its
example, an influence upon shopkeepers in the town, and benefited
In fact, as far as can be ascertained, they were the
precursors of the movement in Leeds. Besides, the Society made
another concession of similar importance, namely, closing the stores
half a day each week. The directors were the first in Leeds to
give the half-holiday per week to their store employees, an act of
kindly consideration, by which employees elsewhere in Leeds came
afterwards to benefit.
In November the floods came, causing a heavy loss in the
grocery department, the wholesale warehouse being flooded to a great
depth. The loss amounted to about £300; but this did not
affect the share of profit given to members, who found the advantage
of having a reserve fund from which the directors took an amount
sufficient to equalise the dividend by raising it to its expected
amount, 1s. 6d. Had it not been for the reserve fund, the
dividend would have been only 10d.
DISCONTENT DIVINE AND DIFFERENT—COAL TRADE
BEGUN—FLOUR THE STAPLE OF THE SOCIETY'S LIFE-TEST
ORDERED—DISEMBODIED AGENTS WALK ABROAD—WHY STORES LAGGED BEHIND THE
politicians recognise that there is a "divine discontent," but the
Society now and then encountered a discontent which was neither
divine nor reasonable, not being founded on fact. This species
of dissatisfaction recurred at times. Notwithstanding, the
Society progressed step by step and prospered on the whole as it
This year (1867) a unanimous resolution was passed,
authorising the directors to enter into the coal business.
Probably that business warmed the heart of the Society, for from
year to year the coal department always made a good profit.
The Society had now advanced to a position of confidence, and
members were prepared to hand over to the directors any amount of
capital; but for reasons the reader has seen they declined any more
loans. The flour department continued, in all vicissitudes of
time, trade, and contention, to make substantial profits. This
year it made a profit of £1,708 upon a turnover of £30,341, and a
dividend of 3s. per bag was declared. Complaints prevailed of
the quality and price of the groceries. The directors,
therefore, had all their goods tested, which were found equal, and
in many instances superior, to the goods selected from respectable
private traders. But many of those who had complained so
eloquently without knowledge, now had a complaint against the
knowledge which showed their complaints to be groundless. But
more sensible members were glad of the information.
The meat department still showed that there was no flesh of
profit on its bones, and the members at last agreed that meat
selling should be ended. It was a perennial puzzle to the
directors why the flour society should continue prosperous and
robust, while all the other departments were pale in the face,
visibly thin, and some losing flesh. But there appeared no
explanation save that defunct vested interests, disturbed by being
superseded, had risen from their graves and were walking the earth
again. Disembodied agents were certainly about. A good
deal of discontent was owing to the unfamiliarity of members
generally with co-operative action in their own interests, joined to
ignorance of its principles. The pinch of dear flour and bad
flour all the town had felt, but there was no corresponding
experience which they could understand with respect to commodities
in general. Dearness and adulteration were everywhere, but
there had not been sufficient intelligence to detect it and resent
it so effectually as in the case of flour.
Many of the flour agencies had certainly been done away with
as new branches were opened—but not all of them. Thirty years
later (1897), the reader, if he inquires, will learn that seven
shopkeepers in various parts of the town are agents for the sale of
the Society's flour.
A MANAGER DISMISSED—STORM DRUMS RUN UP—A CYCLONE
NEARLY BLOWS THE SOCIETY OVER—THE DIRECTORS IN A MAELSTROM.
THIS was a gusty
year. As a co-operative society is open to all the world,
including "Charley's Aunt," among its new recruits will always be
included a succession of malcontents, some wise and some otherwise.
The controversial contumacy is sure to reappear. This time it
was the dismissal of one of the managers. The old error, of
forming two parties about it, was repeated. Even some of the
directors took the part of the man as angry partisans, and forgot
the cause. They might be justified in letting their opinion be
known, but not of joining a party against their colleagues and
compromising the repute of the Society for orderliness and
constitutional procedure. On this occasion circulars were
issued, even handbills, and letters for and against the dismissal
appeared in the Leeds Express, which intruded questions of
administration of the Society's affairs upon public and unfriendly
attention. This would have done no harm had the language been
considerate and respectful on both sides. Indeed it might have
impressed the public favourably had they seen the spectacle of a
society, feeling strongly on a particular question, always
preserving good temper and self-respect. Instead there were
acrimonious imputations, which unsettled the members, lowered the
public repute of the Society, and deterred many persons from joining
it. In those days Lord Brougham's social schoolmaster was
abroad in the sense of being somewhere else. The remedy being
for these displays was not a timid silence in the face of a supposed
wrong, but a respectful, firm, but nevertheless dispassionate
expression of opinion. At last the storm subsided. Not
even nature can keep up a tempest for ever. The very elements
of heaven get tired of fury and long for rest as much as any
overworked trade-unionist. As Miss Mathilde Blind, who had
sympathy with social betterance, lately wrote—
We are so tired, my heart and I,
Of all things here beneath the sky,
One only thing would please us best
Endless unfathomable rest.
On this principle the Society was glad when the tumult of the
partisan controversy was succeeded by equanimity.
Next trouble came owing to some reputed irregularity in the
election of directors, which was debated in further stormy meetings
to late hours, and adjournments notwithstanding. At length Mr.
Swale, always a wise friend of the Society, made the judicious
motion that "as the next election was near the directors remain
until their successors be appointed," to which a large majority
agreed. Pleasant order was once more re-established, and the
maelstrom dispersed itself in mid air.
A GENERAL MANAGER PROPOSED—MONEY ABOUNDS—LARGE
FORFEITS—SIXTEEN BUYERS AT LARGE IN THE MARKETS—THE DIRECTORS HAVE A
PLAN—THE COAL PLANT BOUGHT—CREDIT TRIED—EXPLODED, BUT NOT KILLED.
experiments were the characteristics of this year. Mr. John
Edison originated a proposal that an intelligent general manager be
appointed, and the number of directors be reduced, although since
1863 their number was but twelve. It was remarked that many
were elected because "they were decent, steady men," a qualification
at no time, nor in any society, to be despised. The
"intelligent general manager" idea did not find favour, nor were the
Again the directors found they had more capital than they
could employ with profit to the Society, and £1,000 of loans were
repaid to the lenders, selecting those who had the largest amount in
the Society. Upwards of £200 worth of shares were forfeited
this year in consequence of not being claimed during five years.
Some members who once thought they never should own any shares had
become rich enough, it would appear, not to want them, or to forget
At that time there were sixteen storekeepers, each of whom
was allowed to purchase such articles as he thought likely to suit
the buyers at the store under his charge. The consequence was
commodities of varying quality, and often inferior, inundated store
shelves. Not only did dissatisfaction arise, but considerable
stocks of unsaleable goods accumulated. Purchasing requires
special knowledge and business faculty, which are not common
qualities. Besides, a storekeeper must have angelic tendencies
to keep clear of presents which may divert his attention or impair
his judgment. He needs to repeat the Lord's prayer every
morning, "Deliver us not into temptation." Some men have tea
and coffee in their blood. One will know good tea by its aroma
or taste. I knew a coffee roaster in Manchester who could tell
good coffee on taking berries in his hand. But these
endowments are far from being general.
Led by the light of experience, the Leeds Society resolved to
trade generally with the "North of England Wholesale" department at
Manchester, the name by which the present Wholesale Society was then
The directors brought forward an elaborate scheme of
organisation—ingenious, but too complex, which did not meet with
approval. It was rightly rejected on the ground of present
impracticability, but had some good points. It was treated
with less respect than it deserved, which tended to discourage
originality where it is always desirable. The plan showed
considerable thought, and must have cost much time to work it out,
and being in the interest of the Society and not of a party, it had
the merit of good intention though not fortunate in other respects.
The grocery department was not very animated—only a dividend
of one shilling being declared. The Clifford store was closed
in consequence of continued losses. It was opened with great
prospect of success, but its distance from the centre of management
caused it to lack necessary supervision. At the same time the
Wellington Road store was opened in December, so that if one store
went out another came in. Another piece of progress was
assured—Mr. John Hunt and Mr. Bell were empowered to purchase the
coal plant at a cost not exceeding £450. This department was
regarded as the most profitable the Society entered upon. The
corn markets were now unsettled, and so unsettled the flour trade of
the Society that it was difficult to sustain the average profit in
it. Nevertheless, £1,184 were realised, which enabled the
dividend of two shillings per bag to be paid. Three shillings
had been paid previously. The clothing department continued
far from robust, and in order to interest members to become
purchasers, credit was allowed under certain conditions. This
step is called, of the Society, an ''accursed device;" anyhow, it
proved to be no remedy, but a new disaster. Debts were soon
contracted but not so soon paid. They were collected how they
could, and the "hateful system of credit was declared to be closed
at once and for ever." But credit is as tenacious of life as a
cat, and sets its back up when you think it is dead.
NO INDEPENDENCE WITH DEBT—ASSOCIATIVE CONFERENCES
ADVANTAGES OF A BUYING SOCIETY—AN END OF BOVILL.
THE Society, as
we have seen, wisely set its face against credit. Debt is
beloved by the shopkeeper, because it chains his creditor to his
counter. He who is in debt is owned by others. The flesh
on the bones of his family belongs to somebody else. The meat
dealer, the baker, the clothier, the tailor, and the shoemaker are
the real proprietors of all they are, or have. It was
co-operation that first taught the working man to own his family and
to own himself.
New social devices came into operation this year. It
was decided to hold quarterly conferences of the board and local
committees, for the purpose of interchanging ideas on the business
and working of the Society—a practice which long proved to be
advantageous. A general meeting assembled, when the members
unanimously decided that it was an advantage to deal with the
Wholesale Society at Manchester, and the directors were "empowered
to join" at once. A wholesale buying house is a great economy
in the market, a guarantee of pure commodities to members, and
protects storekeepers from perpetual temptation.
This year the Society was free of Mr. Bovill on account of
royalty for the use of his "cold blast." It was to the credit
of the directors that they were ready to adopt any improvement which
promised to be advantageous to the Society. Mr. Bovill, with
his intervening patent rights, was never popular with the Society,
as he is always spoken of in the Record "as a person named Bovill."
The miller, believing himself free to use the Bovill "exhaust," had
his patience exhausted by long and unforeseen payments. But
inventors rightly have rights as well as millers, and it will be an
ill-day for mechanical progress when genius and invention have no
reward secured by law.
GROWTH ALL ROUND—STORES TOO SMALL—CUSTOMERS WAIT FOR
HOURS TO BE SERVED—MORE POWERFUL MACHINES ORDERED—INCREASE IN
TURNOVER AND PROFITS—SHORTER HOURS CONCEDED TO MILL HANDS.
OUR chronicle now
arrives at a new kind of dissatisfaction—a salutary species of
discontent that has profit in it. Growth everywhere demanded
extension of premises and increase of machinery.
It was a good sign that the rules had to be again revised—not
in consequence of difficulties, but to meet the growing want of the
members, which was outgrowing the raiment of its youth―a
pleasant sign of vigour and health.
Serious complaints arose anew, but this time of a wholesome
character. Remonstrances came from several districts that the
stores were inadequate to meet the requirements of the purchasers.
This state of things gave the directors no disquietude since they
had ample funds in hand to supply the remedy. They at once
purchased land for new stores at Hunslet, Bramley, Burmantofts, and
Meanwood Road, where new buildings were forthwith commenced.
The members in the Bank district were found to have outgrown the
capacity of the store there. At certain times they had long to
wait before they could get served. Indeed many stores
complained of want of business convenience.
The flour mill also was in a similar robust difficulty.
Its powers of production were severely tried. With all its
facilities for grinding it could not supply the demands made upon
it. Consequently a new and more powerful compound engine was
bought, and other machinery, which, however, only partially met the
requirements. The turnover for this year was £95,095.
The profit was £7,321.
A commendable improvement was made by the time of the
employees in the mill being reduced to nine hours per day.
Quite as many particles of wheat as were good for the lungs could be
inhaled in that period.
The drapery department alone continued, in stock-market
language, considerably "under par," and its administration was
completely remodelled. Its stocks were depreciated by £721,
which was taken out of the reserve fund.
AN HONOURABLE VOTE—SINGULAR EDUCATION CONTEST—VOCAL
WORMS CRAWL OUT—ELOQUENT FIGURES—A PROPHECY COMES TRUE DEEMED A SIGN
OF INSANITY WHEN MADE.
THE manifest and
well-earned prosperity of the Society was followed by an act which
denoted a nobler sense than the unmitigated pursuit of dividend.
The bright feature of this year was the creation of an education
fund, to be managed by a separate committee, and over £200 was voted
to it—1872-4. Many a stormy contest had taken place in years
past upon this subject—not yet ended.
When a grant was asked for education, a curious scene was
witnessed. A carnival of ignorance took place. People
who had done nothing for the progress of the Society, who had never
thought for it, nor spoken for it, nor worked for it, and knew
nothing of the principles which had inspired those who had built up
the Society, which gave them profit—were all up in arms against the
outlay of a halfpenny a month for knowledge. When they heard
an educational vote was to be taken, they streamed into the meeting
from all the purlieus of darkness in which they dwelt. They
appeared to spring out of the floor of the hall, just as in early
morning, when rain has fallen, you find all the walks alive with
worms you did not expect existed in such quantities, and you can
hardly step without treading upon them. So it used to be on
these occasions. All the vocal worms of ignorance suddenly
crawled into sight. Those who knew the least were loudest in
their protests against being enlightened. A small proposal met
the most determined and tumultuous opposition. At a crowded
meeting when a vote of £20 was asked, and Mr. Holmes was showing how
a little more knowledge would tend to progress, a member called out
with a strong voice, and in the broadest dialect of the locality,
"We want no education, give us a bonus." He did not even know
how the word education was spelled or pronounced, and did not want
to know. He was not aware that unless someone had education
there would have been no "bonus" for anybody. The man might as
well have cried out, "We want no flour, give us bread." As
there cannot be bread without flour, there can be no profit without
knowledge how to make it. This year the worms of ignorance had
acquired intelligence enough to see this.
Tables are the least alluring but the most palpably
instructive portion of a narrative, saying more by a few figures
than the pen can with a hundred words. The Society had now
been twenty-three years in existence, and its property stood as
Horses and Carts
Fixtures and Movables
Stock on hand
Cash in hand
Another step of mark was taken this year. The directors
recommended the members to elect a Building Committee to bring into
use a large amount of unproductive capital lying at the bank.
Leeds was the first society which had a building department.
In December, a grand tea and meeting where held in the
People's Hall to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
For the half year ending June, the total profits were £4,614.
10s. 9d.; in the half year ending December, the profits were £6,097,
17s.—making a total of £10,712. 7s. 9d. This was the first
year in which the profits amounted to £10,000 and more.
Mr. John Holmes some fifteen years before this date, in one
of his fervid speeches urging the Society to enter upon the
provision business, predicted that the time would come when they
would make £10,000 profit in a year. It was then that one of
the incredulous members exclaimed, "Johnny has a tile off."
The man who made the exclamation had no tiles to get loose, for he
had no tiles upon his head of the far-seeing kind. Had he
lived to this year, as we hope he did, he would find that the
co-operative prophecy had come true.
A YEAR OF PRINCIPLE—STORES ARISE AROUND—READY-MADE
CLOTHING BEGUN—BOOT MANUFACTURE COMMENCED—STOREKEEPERS ACCORDED
PROFITS—SUPPORT GIVEN TO CO-OPERATIVE WORKSHOPS—LARGE GRANTS—HOUSE
BUILDING FOR MEMBERS—PRODUCERS MORE MERITORIOUS THAN CONSUMERS—A
CONSISTENT CO-OPERATIVE RESOLUTION—STRIKING REPORT OF THE
EDUCATIONAL COMMITTEE—"LEEDS MERCURY" OFFICE BOUGHT—FINANCIAL
IN this year, Mr.
Whalley, who had been in the service of the Society as grocery
storekeeper for about seven years, was appointed to the office of
general manager and buyer of the grocery department.
The increase of members continued and caused such a demand
for flour that the mill had to run day and night, as it had often
done before from a similar auspicious cause.
Land at Beeston Hill was bought for a new store. This
was a notable extension year, no fewer than eleven new stores were
opened. The directors further recommended the members to enter
into another business, that of furniture dealers and ready-made
clothiers, which was becoming a staple business in Leeds.
The retail boot and shoe business was commenced in 1859, and
was worked in conjunction with the clothing business.
The manufacture of boots and shoes was commenced in 1873.
Mr. Joseph Swallow was appointed manager of this department
in February, 1876.
It is further worthy of special record that the Grocery
Committee decided to give a share of profits to storekeepers, as
follows: 10 per cent upon £40 out of every £60 of profit. The
head storekeeper to have one-fifth part, the remainder to be divided
among the assistants according to their wages.
Two investments were made, showing the interest of members in
other co-operative undertakings. One hundred £1 shares were
taken in the Airedale Manufacturing Society, one hundred in the
Hebden Bridge Fustian Manufacturing Company, and two hundred shares
in the Leeds and Yorkshire Coal Mining Company.
The directors wisely began to create a natural, it may be
called a domestic, outlet for surplus capital. They decided to
assist the members to build houses for themselves, and appointed a
practical committee for that purpose. The persons elected
were: Mr. Joseph Judd, bricklayer; Mr. H. Sanderson, joiner; Mr. J.
Newell, builder; Mr. J. Taffinder, painter; Mr. Thomas Howdill,
joiner; to whom the directors made a grant of £3,000, and
subsequently one of £7,000.
The oft-discussed and oft-deferred question of profit-sharing
with labour generally, was again considered by the Society, showing
that members had a permanent conscience. Consistency demanded
that when profit was accorded to the consumer it was also, and more,
due to the producer. There is no virtue in eating—that is a
necessity—but there is virtue in working. Labour is nobler
than appetite. Appetite comes by nature, while labour is a
choice of industrious men, and great numbers never make it, but
strive, or contrive and prefer to live upon the labour of others.
The better class of members agreed with Napoleon's saying, "Respect
the bearer of burdens;" and a resolution was moved, "That the
directors be required to make arrangements for paying the same
amount of bonus on wages that is paid on members' purchases."
This was not carried, in a meeting of whom all were, or had been,
workmen. That they should vote against the interests of their
own order shows how slow improvement marches, and that only
education can accelerate it. Workmen were always slaves, and
the slave spirit seems an inheritance. A different resolution
was passed, "That in the opinion of this meeting 'Bonus to Labour'
is in accordance with the true principles of co-operation."
This was for a time a barren resolution, though useful as a
testimony to principle. It was said at the time "to be no
unusual thing to pass resolutions at meetings and nothing more be
heard of them. Co-operators are no exception to this rule."
Still the principle does not die while thus re-affirmed.
It was not understood in the co-operative movement at large
that true friends of participation in profit always existed in the
Leeds Society. Yet not many understood the motto of the
Leeds Express that "right and duty are like two palm trees which
bear no fruit, unless they grow by the side of each other."
The department of knowledge made a gratifying announcement.
The Education Committee (appointed by the members) reported that
"they had made good use of the grant voted them, having had a series
of first-class lectures on co-operation and kindred subjects,
delivered at the People's Hall and in other localities, to members
and the public free, the whole of which were well attended and
evidently appreciated. They had also agreed to become
guarantors to the scheme of University Extension in Leeds, to
the extent of £40, believing it to be a step in the right direction,
and would urge upon members to join the classes with spirit, and
thus help to make the experiment a positive success."
Reading-rooms and libraries were in operation at Holbeck and Pudsey,
and it was intended to extend them to other places as opportunities
occurred. The following remark is made:—
"It is hoped that when the New
Corn Mill gets fairly in working order that the claims upon us of
the Yorkshire College will not be forgotten, but that the members
will not only vote a sum to the building fund, but that they will
vote a sum to endow a scholarship, to be held by the children of
This was before the scholarships of Hughes and Neale were
founded or thought of.
To secure good central premises which had long been needed,
the committee advertised for a site. Messrs. Hindle and Son
replied, offering the old Leeds Mercury office premises in
Albion Street. Mr. Tabbern, president, Mr. J. Speed, Mr. W.
Bell, and Mr. Thomas were appointed to arrange with Messrs. Baines
and Sons to purchase the premises for the sum of £8,500. The
alterations cost a further sum of £3,000.
The turnover this year reached £249,003; the profit to
£19,933. The number of members now stood at 11,365.
PROSPERITY AND SPECULATION—DEMONSTRATIONS TELL—A
MEMORABLE OPENING—A SPLENDID PROCESSION—NOTABLE SPEAKERS AT
NIGHT—INCREASE IN MEMBERS AND PROFITS—THE TALLERMAN
RESOLUTION—AMAZING INVESTMENT IN THE TIPTON GREEN COLLIERY—£19,000
LOST—THE MORLEY COLLIERY A CANDIDATE FOR SURPLUS MONEY—A PRUDENT
AMENDMENT—A CONVALESCENT HOME PROPOSED—THE CREDIT SNAKE STILL
CRAWLING ABOUT—A FURTHER EDUCATION VOTE—MR. FAWCETT BECOMES CASHIER.
WE now come upon
a year of marvellous success and perilous speculation. It was
found that the demonstration of the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the
Society had led to an increase of members and business. The
display of the Society's property in this procession made known to
the public the astonishing growth of working-class enterprise.
The Yorkshire Post reported that on the opening of
these Central Stores a grand demonstration was made by a procession
of the vehicles and wagons belonging to the Society, containing the
officers and chief members, drawn by eighteen of their own horses,
gaily caparisoned. The start was from the Holbeck Stores,
headed by three bands of music—the Leeds Model Band, the Stanningley,
and the Bramley— played through some of the principal streets to the
Town Hall, passing the new Stores in Albion Street, in the front of
which an immense crowd had congregated. The whole route was
lined with spectators, which in Albion Street was most dense.
Afterwards the members and friends of the Society took tea at the
Town Hall—real tea in the urns was made this time for 2,500 people.
Considerably more persons were present. After tea the doors
were thrown open to the public, but the Hall was inadequate to hold
the concourse of people who had been waiting outside. Hundreds
were turned away. At the meeting, Mr. Tabbern (president)
occupied the chair. Among those on the platform were the Mayor
(Alderman Marsden); Alderman Carter, M.P.; Mr. A. Briggs, of the
Whitwood Collieries; Mr. W. Nuttall, then late secretary to the
Co-operative Central Board; Dr. Rutherford, manager of the Ouseburn
Engine Works, Newcastle; Mr. J. Holmes; Mr. J. Crabtree (Heckmondwike),
President of the North of England Co-operative Society; Councillor
Gaunt; the Rev. Dr. Barnes, vicar of Little Holbeck; and Mr.
Vansittart Neale, Barrister-at-Law. Speeches were delivered by
Walter Morrison, Esq., Thomas Hughes, Esq., Q.C., A. J. Mundella,
Esq., Dr. John Watts, Dr. Lees, and others. This was a famous
day for the Society. The names show the historic friends of
the cause in those days, never assembled on any other platform at
the same time. From beginning to end enthusiasm prevailed.
These proceedings gave a further impetus to the Society, and
increased the favour and surprise of the people of the town.
The turnover at the end of the year had increased to £327,812,
capital to £97,566, net profit to £25,761, and the number of members
New stores were opened at Rothwell, Beeston Hill, and Farnley.
At this time Mr. Tallerman, a fervent pioneer of Australian
trade, had heard that the Leeds Society contained a number of
intelligent consumers, and offered to supply the July Conference Tea
with a variety of their meat importations, which were accepted,
eaten, and approved of. After tea an experience meeting was
held as to the quality of the food partaken of. All the
speakers declared that now their practical experience with the
various products of Australia had quite dissipated their prejudices
against foreign meat. A unanimous resolution was passed in
favour of "the meats being both good and nutritious." This was
more than they knew. Nutritiousness is only proved by time.
The friendly resolution was beyond the knowledge of the meeting.
A well-intended investment was made, based upon insufficient
knowledge, which proved unsuccessful, namely, the money invested in
the Tipton Green Colliery; and as it was eventually all lost, there
was a good deal of squealing in the Society.
It is a question whether the directors or the members were
the most in favour of this scheme, which was alluringly laid before
the members by Mr. John Holmes, Mr. R. M. Carter, and others.
The directors recommended that the Society should take up £15,000
worth of shares. The general meeting was made special, so that
the members could legally deal with this question. Mr. John
Holmes moved, "That the directors be empowered to invest in the
Tipton Green Colliery up to £25,000 on behalf of the Society."
An amendment was moved by Mr. W. Swallow, "That the directors be
requested to take two hundred £5 shares in the Morley Colliery
Company in accordance with a resolution passed August 13th, 1873."
The safer amendment was lost. The motion with respect to
Tipton Green Colliery was carried almost unanimously.
At a directors meeting it was decided to receive loans at 5
per cent per annum for the purpose of raising £15,000 for Tipton
Green. This was all done before the company was even
registered. Mr. Holmes applied to be appointed on the Tipton
board of directors, but the appointment was given to Mr. Tabbern,
who was then president. This company paid at first, 10 per
cent dividend, but whether it was ever earned was not known.
Altogether the loss of the Society was £19,298, which was written
off as a bad debt two years later.
Mr. R. M. Carter strongly recommended the directors to take
up £5,000 worth of shares in the "Blakely Hall Colliery Company,
Birmingham." The directors considered the subject at several
meetings. It was decided that several of them should visit the
colliery and see for themselves. This was done, and those who
went reported very favourably upon it. A special meeting of
the members was called in December to consider the subject; and
after considerable discussion a sensible resolution was moved by Mr.
J. B. Baldwin, "That this meeting, having heard the statement
respecting the advisability of investing in the Blakely Hall
Colliery Company, recommend our directors to refrain from making
application at present for any shares therein." The reasons
assigned for this resolution show the shrewdness of some of the
1. Because already one-sixth of our capital is invested in coal
2. Because its operations are so far away from the Society.
3. Because it is desirable when making investments that we should be
actuated by a true co-operative spirit.
After considerable discussion, the resolution was carried
almost unanimously. It was fortunate that the members
declined, for the money would have been lost, like the Tipton Green
The reasons for this Tipton Green venture are difficult to
determine to-day. There were no intrinsic attractions for
co-operators in it. It was a mere capitalistic speculation.
The miners whose lives are at hourly peril were not to be given a
share of the profits. The high dividend expected implied high
risk, and loss could be no surprise. Mr. Baldwin's amendment
has the singular phrase, "the directors be requested to refrain
from investing." There seems to have been an impetuosity that
way. Directors and members alike concurred in the speculation,
and it was unbusinesslike to complain when the colliery turned out
to be a coal well with no bottom.
At a quarterly meeting held in the Philosophical Hall, Mr.
Campbell brought forward a proposal for the establishment of a
Convalescent Home. A committee was appointed of which Mr. Wm.
Bell, Mr. Wm. Campbell, Mr. Richard Tabbern, and five others were
members to contrive a plan. At a further meeting, held in the
Mechanics' Institution, the Society was recommended to lease or
purchase forty or fifty acres of land for the purpose, not nearer
than two miles nor more than sixteen from Leeds. Mr. Campbell
was appointed hon. secretary.
Credit, thought to be dead, again became a trouble.
Credit, like error, is a snake alive at both ends, if cut in two it
still wriggles; they who intend to kill it must keep chopping at it
so long as it moves.
The education of members was well attended to at this time,
for there were newsrooms and libraries at Holbeck, Bramley, Armley,
Pudsey, West End, Hunslet, Bank, Beeston Hill, and Burmantofts, and
at the half-yearly meeting £100 was granted to the Educational
This year Mr. J. W. Fawcett, the present secretary, was first
engaged in the service of the Society as cashier. Testimony
was borne to his notable qualities of industry, uprightness,
honesty, and painstakingness.
NEW ORLEANS COMPANY FLOATERS COME LEEDS WAY—PROFIT
SHARING SUSPENDED—THE MILL ENLARGED AGAIN—MORE LAND BOUGHT—FIFTY-ONE
COTTAGES BUILT—CARLTON HILL ESTATE BOUGHT—THE CONVALESCENT HOME
"INOPPORTUNE"—THE LION ESTATE UNDER CONSIDERATION.
had attraction. Not Tipton Green, but New Orleans this time.
All speculation has restless wings. This time it flew to the
Mississippi Valley. It went further than Tipton Green but
fared no better. Another special meeting was held to hear a
statement from Dr. Worrall, managing director of the Mississippi
Valley Trading Company. We saw Dr. Worrall at the London
Congress that year, but there were no hooks in his story on which
you could hang a safe conclusion. This Worrall Company
purported to be formed for the purpose of exchanging the
produce of the Mississippi Valley for the goods manufactured in this
country. The Leeds Society was to be appointed agents in
England. Mr. Neale, Dr. Rutherford, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and
Mr. John Thomas, of Leeds, were sent over, at the expense of the
company, it was believed, to inspect the land. Their report
was favourable to the undertaking. After a very long and
animated debate, Mr. J. B. Baldwin, heretofore circumspect, moved,
"That the directors be recommended to take up £2,000 in shares in
that company," and at the next board meeting the directors agreed to
apply for and pay the £2,000 for shares. The company exploded,
and the Society lost about £450 in that venture. Thus, as
might have been foreseen, the expenses of the deputation had to be
defrayed by the Society. No account was taken in Leeds of what
was well known in America of the trade rivalry and political
jealousies of North and South, and that no trading transit could be
had without the concurrence of the North, save by deepening the New
Orleans river. A hundred times the amount sunk in the Tipton
Green Colliery had been sunk in the New Orleans river without making
an impression on its navigableness. It did not occur to Dr.
Worrall to tell all he knew, and his colleagues in New Orleans were
not more communicative, so the Society and deputation were misled.
The question of participation in profit by the storekeepers
was especially before the Board, and it was decided, after
considerable discussion, to take it away. But in place of it,
their wages were to be taken into consideration, with a view to
compensating them for the loss of their share. Some thought it
bartering a co-operative right for wages, and that principle dropped
out in the transaction. However, it took away the stimulus of
gain in proportion to exertion, by which the middle class grow
vigilant and rich.
The mill was again unable to supply the necessary quantity of
flour required by the members and the public, consequently extensive
alterations and additions had to be made in the mill, and machinery
to meet the increased demand.
Two new stores were opened and land bought for three more, in
addition to building fifty-one cottages, at a cost of £12,503.
This was far better than Mississippi investments—too far away to be
The Carlton Hill estate was purchased for the erection of a
better class of houses. It consisted of 3,630 yards, and cost
The Committee of the Convalescent Home had inspected a
suitable estate of sixty acres. At the half-yearly meeting
they made their report. The meeting decided that the scheme
was not "opportune." Why could they not think of this useful
term when the Mississippi scheme, was before them?
When the Golden Lion estate was in the market, the directors
were desired to secure the corner site for the new stores.
Before venturing upon its purchase, the directors prudently obtained
plans of the estate, showing what could be retained with advantage
to the Society, and what portion sold. Mr. Ambler, one of the
eminent architects of the town, made the necessary drawings.
After a considerable amount of expense and time had been incurred,
the meeting determined not to buy it. The Lion estates would
have been a Royal holding, even if they had no Unicorn Manor to
match it. There was money in the name.
DOLOUR IN ALL THE STORES—DIRECTORS CHECK THE PANIC
BUT NOT THE WEEPING—THE PHILOSOPHY OF INVESTMENT—ANOTHER EDUCATION
TUMULT—THE MISTAKE THAT IGNORANCE IS HARMLESS—INCREASE OF STORES,
HOUSES, AND LAND—HANDSOME CONSIDERATION FOR DISTRESSED MEMBERS—NEW
MACHINERY COSTS £4,000—OFFICIAL SHYNESS OF THE MEAT TRADE—DIRECTORS
BETTER PAID—A GENERAL STORE VISITOR APPOINTED—HIS MULTITUDINOUS
WHEN the news of
the loss of the £19,000 in the Tipton Green Colliery got noised
abroad, as such things do, a crowd of those willing to gain without
the risk of losing, and many who had too little not to be alarmed at
losing that, rushed forward to give notice of withdrawing their
shares. The directors prudently called in their balance at the
bankers and met the demands without exacting the usual notice.
This restored confidence, and those who withdrew their money soon
brought it back again. As the members applauded the investment
it was undignified to mourn the loss. In all undertakings the
wise rule is to be prepared to lose as well as willing to gain.
Those invited to invest should be told the risk, then none repent or
have reproach for what they do with their eyes open, nor lose
courage to embrace a good opportunity when it comes.
When new shares had to be taken in an Intelligence Company,
which always pays good dividends, a large number of members were
Mr. F. Curzon, an indefatigable advocate of the power of
education being put into the hands of the working man, succeeded in
obtaining a grant of £100. The meeting, however, was so
turbulent that it was cited as a new argument proving the necessity
of education. The meeting did not conclude until eleven
o'clock. The newspapers report characterise the assembly as
It was worth the while of the Society to agree to a permanent
educational vote, to avoid the scandal which ignorance was bringing
upon the members. Ignorance is not inactive, as some people
suppose. On the contrary it is the most mischievous thing in
the world—either doing harm when it does anything, or doing harm by
preventing other people doing good. The vote that caused all
the tumult was but £100 out of £14,000 of profit. It meant
only one half-pint of beer less in twelve months.
Trade being bad in the district, many notices of withdrawal
were given. As not more than ten persons could withdraw in one
quarter, the directors proposed to make a reduction of 3s. from all
persons withdrawing in excess of the legal number. As this
rule pressed hardest upon the most needy, they decided to pay off at
once all persons who had already given notice, and that in future
all cases of members in distress should be allowed to withdraw down
to the amount of £1.
Later in the same year a great number of withdrawals
confronted the directors. In case of need they found their
bankers were willing to advance £10,000, which by good management
they never required. The withdrawals notwithstanding, the
Meanwood store was opened, thirteen houses at Beeston Hill and
fourteen houses at Burley Fields were completed, and land was
purchased for stores at Hunslet Road and Farsley.
A new condensing engine was bought of thirty-five horsepower,
which cost £1,015. A new forty horse-power boiler cost £40.
Other outlays required made a total of £4,000.
The question of recommencing the meat trade came up for
consideration, motion being made that live cattle should be
purchased and prepared for sale on the Society's own premises.
This was carried unanimously. The directors made exhaustive
inquiries, and alarmed by what they learned and by former
experience, took no steps to carry out the resolution but let the
Owing to the increased and ever-increasing duties of the
directors it was resolved to augment their payment from £30 to £60
per annum, to be equally divided among them. It is wise to pay
well for duties which require thought. Investment in capacity
always yields good results. Mr. Emmerson stated, before the
Parliamentary Committee of 1856, that up to that date, during nine
years the directors had never received one halfpenny for their
anxious, onerous, and laborious services. So it was not too
soon to begin to better remunerate their successors.
The increase of stores made evident the need of a Stores
Visitor. As this required a person in whom implicit confidence
could be placed, Mr. John Thomas was appointed. It is no mean
praise, having regard to his onerous duties, that he gave the
Society entire satisfaction. He proved to be that rare person,
a good all-round man, which he needed to be seeing what his duties
were. He was to visit each store every week, enter in a book,
kept at the store, the condition he found it in, also make a copy in
another book, and enter any remarks he thought might improve the
working of the stores; the book to be laid before the Stores
Committee every week. He was to be at the call of this
committee at any time and also be utilised by the other committees
as circumstances required. He was charged with the collection
of all the rents, to look after the property, and to provide
everything necessary for the great number of teas continually being
held, and a great number of other things, as auctioneers say, "too
numerous to mention."
ANOTHER EDUCATIONAL BATTLE—IGNORANCE WINS—MORE STORES
OPENED—FLOUR MILL MACHINERY AGAIN INCREASED—ITS PRODUCING POWER
BROUGHAM said of
Lord Liverpool, our Premier for fifteen years―"If
you brayed him in a mortar you could not bray the prejudices out of
him." Members of the Lord Liverpool order abounded on the
question of education. Still the leading members stood
gallantly by the question. The subject of making a grant for
this purpose had to be considered every year. As the
consideration of the half-yearly balance sheet and report occupied
the whole of the time of the meeting, it was decided to hold a
special meeting to consider this question, when Mr. Wilberforce
moved "That a grant of £100 be made, same as last year, for
educational purposes." He made an eloquent appeal to the
members not to be behindhand in this all-important question, but to
show to the world that they were not merely dividend-seekers but
friendly to intelligence, the want of which was the chief stumbling
block in the way of industrial progress. If they rejected the
motion, they would some day regret it. The appeal fell upon
stony ground, for it took no root, or withered as it fell, owing to
the arid atmosphere. The majority of the members had made up
their minds that no money should be spent (if they could help it) on
education; thus the subject died this time.
Still general progress went on, which might have gone on
faster, with a greater number of intelligent members to aid it.
New stores were opened at Hyde Park Road, St. Mark's Road,
Larchfield or Hunslet Road, York Road, Hogg's Field (Holbeck), and
one for drapery and boots at York Road.
Further demands were made upon the flour mill, and the
directors were again impelled to increase the corn-grinding
machinery. The Society was then able to manufacture double the
quantity of flour it had previously made.
FURTHER BATTLE FOR EDUCATION—THE PROPAGANDISTS
DEFEATED—AN INDIGNANT NIGHT—A SAGACIOUS MOTION—THIEVES
DISCOVERED—GENEROSITY OF THE SOCIETY AT HOME AND ABROAD—BAREBONE
REPORTS—GROWTH ALL ALONG THE LINE—FOUNDATION OF AN ANNUAL HOLIDAY.
THE motto of
co-operative thrift is that of Epicurus—"Abstain in order to enjoy."
That is true all life through, but only the intelligent know it.
There were still a substantial number of co-operators about Leeds
stores who did not understand this, and would not abstain from
taking all for dividend though they or their children might
otherwise enjoy the princely luxury of knowledge.
A special general meeting was called to consider certain new
building rules, in which a clause was, with good forethought,
inserted, proposing that ¾ per cent
of the net profit should be devoted to propagandist work. This
was the first time the word "propagandist" occurred in a resolution
of the Society. The profits to be assessed—¾
per cent—came assessed out of no member's pocket, but were a
surplusage arising out of transactions which gave them good houses,
otherwise unattainable and unpurchasable by them in Leeds.
Three-quarters per cent was a very small proportion of profit to
give towards increasing their own opportunities of gain, besides
gratefully extending to others that knowledge which had enabled them
to be in a position to vote upon profits accruing to them. But
the mere proposal threw the meeting into a fit of hysterical
economy. It became uproarious and bitter. At last the
president peremptorily closed the meeting at 10-30 without any vote
being taken. Had early and later leaders, directors, and
thinkers been as selfishly economical, there would have been no
Society. They gave, not ¾ per
cent, but 50 per cent of their time, without a penny of reward, and
now the Society was landed in prosperity the members who took the
profits refused with clamour ¾ per
cent for their own instruction.
An indignant night was given by a special general meeting to
the consideration of a handbill signed "Daylight," which might have
been answered by another placard signed Limelight. It was not
worth a night's discussion. A vote of confidence was passed in
the directors, which was paying a great compliment to "Daylight," as
it implied than an anonymous asperser could affect the character of
directors, whom all knew, and who had served the Society well.
Mr. Campbell moved, "That the handbill signed 'Daylight' was
untruthful and malicious, and the writer deserving the strongest
censure." Contempt would have been a fitter word. The
motion was carried unanimously, with the exception of one member,
Mr. B. Wrigley, who was openly accused, and did not deny having
written the condemned handbill.
Again, the directors had on hand more money than they could
profitably employ, and decided to close the loan account. At
this time £11,000 were lying in the bank upon which interest was
being paid and nothing earned by it. It was suggested that the
holdings of the largest shareholders should be reduced by paying
them back part of their saving. Mr. Wilberforce, whose
sonorous voice is itself an argument, opposed this step. It
was said that he spoke in his "usual solemn and persuasive manner."
Weighty would be a better word. At Congresses we have often
heard persuasive speeches from him which had a buoyant vivacity in
them. He urged, on this occasion, that the money be not
returned to the members, which many of them had probably pinched
themselves not a little to save against a rainy day. Some
might spend it not knowing where to invest it. When we need
money we urged them to save. It was not nice to say we don't
want it now—so take it back. He strongly recommended the
directors to lend it on good freehold mortgage security, or to
building societies in the town, and moved a resolution to that
effect, which was carried by a large majority.
At the half-yearly stocktaking in the Albion Street drapery
department, Mr. Tabbern, one of the then directors, appointed to
take this stock, reported a very large deficiency in that
department, and that a quantity of goods were missing. To
clear the matter up, communications were made to the police.
By this promptness the thief and accomplices were soon arrested.
It was found that one of the assistants in the retail department
made arrangements with associates to visit the shop when other
assistants were at dinner. Then the goods were passed over to
them, who either sold or pawned them. Ultimately the assistant
was sentenced to twelve months, and two accomplices for eighteen
months each. The value of goods recovered amounted to near
Great distress prevailing in Leeds, the Mayor opened a
distress fund. The committee generously sent fifty bags of
flour for distribution among needy families. In addition, £10
were voted to the directors to distribute among present and past
members in need. Many co-operators had prudently accumulated
money which enabled them to tide over temporary shortness of work.
There being great distress in the colliery districts in South
Wales, through short work, an appeal was sent to the Leeds Society
which generously voted £50 for their relief, to be sent to the two
co-operative societies there, to be distributed as they thought
In consequence of the new Industrial and Provident Societies
Acts, the Leeds rules were again revised to keep them in accordance
with the new laws.
A proposal was made that the president and directors should
be elected by the local committee in quarterly conference assembled.
It was rejected. For what reason no record tells. It is
a defect of official co-operative reports elsewhere also, that they
state what has been done, but not why it was done, nor indicate the
essence of the arguments for and against the resolution adopted.
This is the most instructive part of a business report, and in a
democratic association essential, if intelligent interest is to be
awakened and sustained. Barebone reports are no help; they
Two new stores were opened at Kirkstall and Farsley.
New stores were opened for boots and drapery at Wellington Road, and
for boots only at Farsley. Premises were purchased at
Littlemoor, Pudsey, and opened as a grocery store; Pudsey store
being found too small for its custom. Land was purchased for
new stores at Tong Road, Roundhay Road, and Whingate Road, Armlet.
The profit made on grocery was the largest realised in one half
The storekeepers and their assistants made application to the
directors to be allowed to make arrangements for a cheap trip on
some Wednesday afternoon, when the stores were closed; the directors
not only granted them their request, but decided that the stores
should be closed the whole of the day. This has now become an
annual holiday trip for the whole of the employees of the Society,
and is now arranged and managed by the directors, and always
anticipated with pleasure. If not new, it was not common in