Being an Account of the Social Work of The Salvation Army in Great Britain.
H. RIDER HAGGARD
I dedicate these pages to the Officers and Soldiers of the Salvation Army, in token of my admiration of the self-sacrificing work by which it is their privilege to aid the poor and wretched throughout the world.
H. RIDER HAGGARD.
MEN'S SOCIAL WORK, LONDON
SPA ROAD ELEVATOR
GREAT PETER STREET SHELTER
FREE BREAKFAST SERVICE
MEN'S WORKSHOP: HANBURY STREET, WHITECHAPEL
STURGE HOUSE, BOW ROAD
CENTRAL LABOUR BUREAU
INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION DEPARTMENT
WOMEN'S SOCIAL WORK IN LONDON
HEADQUARTERS OF THE WOMEN'S SOCIAL WORK
HILLSBOROUGH HOUSE INEBRIATES' HOME
MATERNITY NURSING HOME
MATERNITY RECEIVING HOME
'THE NEST,' CLAPTON
TRAINING INSTITUTE FOR WOMEN'S SOCIAL WORK
WOMEN'S INDUSTRIAL HOME, HACKNEY
WOMEN'S INDUSTRIAL HOME, SOUTHWOOD
WOMEN'S SHELTER, WHITECHAPEL
SLUM SETTLEMENT, HACKNEY ROAD
PICCADILLY MIDNIGHT WORK
WORK IN THE PROVINCES, LIVERPOOL
MEN'S SOCIAL WORK, MANCHESTER
OAKHILL HOUSE, MANCHESTER
MEN'S SOCIAL WORK, GLASGOW
ARDENSHAW WOMEN'S HOME
WOMEN'S LODGING-HOUSE, GLASGOW
LAND AND INDUSTRIAL COLONY, HADLEIGH
SMALL-HOLDINGS SETTLEMENT, BOXTED
IMPRESSIONS OF GENERAL BOOTH
THE CHIEF OF THE STAFF
NOTE ON THE RELIGION OF THE SALVATION ARMY
The author desires to thank Mr. D.R. DANIEL for the kind and valuable assistance he has given him in his researches into the Social Work of the Salvation Army.
He takes this occasion to make it clear that this book does no more than set out the results of his investigations into some of that vast Social Work, and his personal conclusions as to it and those by whom it is prosecuted.
To obviate any possible misunderstanding as to the reason of its writing, he wishes to state further that it has not been compiled by him as a matter of literary business.
WHAT IS THE SALVATION ARMY?
If this question were put to the ordinary person of fashion or leisure, how would it be answered?
In many cases thus: 'The Salvation Army is a body of people dressed up in a semi-military uniform, or those of them who are women, in unbecoming poke bonnets, who go about the streets making a noise in the name of God and frightening horses with brass bands. It is under the rule of an arbitrary old gentleman named Booth, who calls himself a General, and whose principal trade assets consist in a handsome and unusual face, and an inexhaustible flow of language, which he generally delivers from a white motor-car wherever he finds that he can attract the most attention. He is a clever actor in his way, who has got a great number of people under his thumb, and I am told that he has made a large fortune out of the business, like the late prophet Dowie, and others of the same sort. The newspapers are always exposing him; but he knows which side his bread is buttered and does not care. When he is gone no doubt his family will divide up the cash, and we shall hear no more of the Salvation Army!'
Such are still the honest beliefs of thousands of our instructed fellow-countrymen, and of hundreds of thousands of others of less degree belonging to the classes which are generally typified under the synonym of 'the man in the street,' by which most people understand one who knows little, and of that little nothing accurately, but who decides the fate of political elections.
Let us suppose, however, that the questioner should succeed in interesting an intelligent and fair-minded individual holder of these views sufficiently to induce him to make inquiry into the facts concerning this Salvation Army. What would he then discover?
He would discover that about five and forty years ago some impulse, wherever it may have come from, moved a Dissenting minister, gifted with a mind of power and originality, and a body of great strength and endurance, gifted, also, with an able wife who shared his views, to try, if not to cure, at least to ameliorate the lot of the fallen or distressed millions that are one of the natural products of high civilization, by ministering to their creature wants and regenerating their spirits upon the plain and simple lines laid down in the New Testament. He would find, also, that this humble effort, at first quite unaided, has been so successful that the results seem to partake of the nature of the miraculous.
Thus he would learn that the religious Organization founded by this man and his wife is now established and, in most instances, firmly rooted in 56 Countries and Colonies, where it preaches the Gospel in 33 separate languages: that it has over 16,000 Officers wholly employed in its service, and publishes 74 periodicals in 20 tongues, with a total circulation of nearly 1,000,000 copies per issue: that it accommodates over 28,000 poor people nightly in its Institutions, maintaining 229 Food Depots and Shelters for men, women, and children, and 157 Labour Factories where destitute or characterless people are employed: that it has 17 Homes for ex-criminals, 37 Homes for children, 116 Industrial Homes for the rescue of women, 16 Land Colonies, 149 Slum Stations for the visitation and assistance of the poor, 60 Labour Bureaux for helping the unemployed, and 521 Day Schools for children: that, in addition to all these, it has Criminal and General Investigation Departments, Inebriate Homes for men and women, Inquiry Offices for tracing lost and missing people, Maternity Hospitals, 37 Homes for training Officers, Prison-visitation Staffs, and so on almost ad infinitum.
He would find, also, that it collects and dispenses an enormous revenue, mostly from among the poorer classes, and that its system is run with remarkable business ability: that General Booth, often supposed to be so opulent, lives upon a pittance which most country clergymen would refuse, taking nothing, and never having taken anything, from the funds of the Army. And lastly, not to weary the reader, that whatever may be thought of its methods and of the noise made by the 23,000 or so of voluntary bandsmen who belong to it, it is undoubtedly for good or evil one of the world forces of our age.
Before going further, it may, perhaps, be well that I should explain how it is that I come to write these pages. First, I ought to state that my personal acquaintance with the Salvation Army dates back a good many years, from the time, indeed, when I was writing 'Rural England,' in connexion with which work I had a long and interesting interview with General Booth that is already published. Subsequently I was appointed by the British Government as a Commissioner to investigate and report upon the Land Colonies of the Salvation Army in the United States, in the course of which inquiry I came into contact with many of its Officers, and learned much of its system and methods, especially with reference to emigration. Also I have had other opportunities of keeping in touch with the Army and its developments.
In the spring of 1910 I was asked, on behalf of General Booth, whether I would undertake to write for publication an account of the Social Work of the Army in this country. After some hesitation, for the lack of time was a formidable obstacle to a very busy man, I assented to this request, the plan agreed upon being that I should visit the various Institutions, or a number of them, etc., and record what I actually saw, neither more nor less, together with my resulting impressions. This I have done, and it only remains for me to assure the reader that the record is true, and, to the best of his belief and ability, set down without fear, favour, or prejudice, by one not unaccustomed to such tasks.
Almost at the commencement of my labours I sought an interview with General Booth, thinking, as I told him and his Officers (the Salvation Army is not mealy-mouthed about such matters) that at his age it would be well to set down his views in black and white. On the whole, I found him well and vigorous. He complained, however, of the difficulty he was experiencing, owing to the complete loss of sight in one eye, occasioned by an accident during a motor journey, and the possible deprivation of the sight of the other through cataract.
Of the attacks that have been and are continually made upon the Salvation Army, some of them extremely bitter, General Booth would say little. He pointed out that he had not been in the habit of defending himself and his Organization in public, and was quite content that the work should speak for itself. Their affairs and finances had been investigated by eminent men, who 'could not find a sixpence out of place'; and for the rest, a balance-sheet was published annually. This balance-sheet for the year ending September 30, 1909, I reprint in an appendix.
With regard to the Social Work of the Army, which in its beginning was a purely religious body, General Booth said that they had been driven into it because of their sympathy with suffering. They found it impossible to look upon people undergoing starvation or weighed down by sorrows and miseries that came upon them through poverty, without stretching out a hand to help them on to their feet again. In the same way they could not study wrongdoers and criminals and learn their secret histories, which show how closely a great proportion of human sin is connected with wretched surroundings, without trying to help and reform them to the best of their abilities. Thus it was that their Social operations began, increased, and multiplied. They contemplated not only the regeneration of the individual, but also of his circumstances, and were continually finding out new methods by which this might be done.
The Army looked forward to the development of its Social Work on the lines of self-help, self-management and self-support. Whenever a new development came under consideration, the question arose—How is it to be financed? The work they had in hand at present took all their funds. One of their great underlying principles was that of the necessity of self-support, without which no business or undertaking could stand for long. The individual must co-operate in his own moral and physical redemption. At the same time this system of theirs was, in practice, one of the difficulties with which they had to contend, since it caused the benevolent to believe that the Army did not need financial assistance. His own view was that they ought to receive support in their work from the Government, as they actually did in some other countries. Especially did he desire to receive State aid in dealing with ascertained criminals, such as was extended to them in certain parts of the world.
Thus only a few weeks before, in Holland, the Parliament had asked the Salvation Army to co-operate in the care of discharged prisoners and gave a grant of money for their support. In Java the tale was the same. There they were preparing estates as homes for lepers, and soon a large portion of the leper population of that land would be in their charge.
General Booth told me the story of a celebrated Danish doctor, an optician, who became attracted to the Army, and, giving up his practice and position, entered its service with his wife. They said they wished to lead a life of real sacrifice and self-denial, and so, after going through a training like any other Cadets, were sent out to take charge of the medical work in Java. A recent report stated that this Officer had attended 16,000 patients in nine months, and performed 516 operations.
In Australia, the Government had handed over the work amongst the Reformatory boys to the Army. In New Zealand, the Government had requested it to take over inebriates, and was now paying a contribution to that work of 10s. per head a week. There the Army had purchased two islands to accommodate these inebriates, one on which the men followed the pursuits of agriculture, fishing, and so forth, and the other for the women. In Canada there was an idea that a large prison should be erected, of which the Salvation Army would take charge. He hoped that in course of time they would be allowed greatly to extend their work in the English prisons.
General Booth pointed out to me with reference to their Social Work, that it was necessary to spend large sums of money in finding employment for men whom they had rescued. Here, one of their greatest difficulties was the vehement opposition of members of the Labour Party in different countries.
This party said, for example, that the Army ought to pay the Trade Union rate of wage to any poor fellow whom they had picked up and set to such labour as paper-sorting or carpentry. Thus in Western Australia they had an estate of 20,000 acres lying idle. When he was there a while ago, he asked the Officer in charge why he did not cultivate this land and make it productive. The man replied he had no labour; whereon the General said that he could send him plenty from England.
'Yes,' commented the Officer, 'but the moment they begin to work here, however inefficient or broken down they may be, we shall have to pay them 7s. a day!'
This regulation, of course, makes it impossible to cultivate that estate except at a heavy loss.
He himself had been denounced as the 'prince of sweaters,' because he took in derelict carpenters at their Institution in Hanbury Street (which I shall describe later), to whom he did not pay the Trade Union wage, although that Institution had from the first been worked at a loss. In this case he had made peace with the Parliamentary Committee by promising not to make anything there which was used outside the Army establishments. But still the attacks went on.
Passing from this subject, I asked General Booth if he had formed any forecast of the future of the Salvation Army after his own death. He replied that there were certain factors in the present position of the Army which seemed to him to indicate its future growth and continuity. Speaking impersonally, he said that the present General had become an important man not by his own choice or through the workings of ambition, but by the will of Providence. He had acquired a certain standing, a great hold over his community, and an influence which helped to concentrate and keep together forces that had grown to be worldwide in their character. It was natural, therefore, that people should wonder what would happen when he ceased to be.
His answer to these queries was that legal arrangements had been made to provide for this obvious contingency. Under the provisions of the constitution of the Army he had selected his successor, although he had never told anybody the name of that successor, which he felt sure, when announced, was one that would command the fullest confidence and respect. The first duty of the General of the Army on taking up his office was to choose a man to succeed him, reserving to himself the power to change that man for another, should he see good reason for such a course. In short, his choice is secret, and being unhampered by any law of heredity or other considerations except those that appeal to his own reason and judgment, not final. He nominates whom he will.
I asked him what would happen if this nominated General misconducted himself in any way, or proved unsuitable, or lost his reason. He replied that in such circumstances arrangements had been made under which the heads of the Army could elect another General, and that what they decided would be law. The organization of the Army was such that any Department of it remained independent of the ability of one individual. If a man proved incompetent, or did not succeed, his office was changed; the square man was never left in the round hole. Each Department had laws for its direction and guidance, and those in authority were responsible for the execution of those laws. If for any reason whatsoever, one commander fell out of the line of action, another was always waiting to take his place. In short, he had no fear that the removal of his own person and name would affect the Organization. It was true, he remarked, that leaders cannot be manufactured to order, and also that the Army had made, and would continue to make, mistakes up and down the world. But those mistakes showed them how to avoid similar errors, and how and where to improve.
As regarded a change of headship, a fresh individuality always has charms, and a new force would always strike out in some new direction. The man needed was one who would do something. General Booth did not fear but that he would be always forthcoming, and said that for his part he was quite happy as to the future, in which he anticipated an enlargement of their work. The Organization existed, and with it the arrangements for filling every niche. The discipline of to-day would continue to-morrow, and that spirit would always be ready to burst into flame when it was needed.
In his view it was inextinguishable.
MEN'S SOCIAL WORK, LONDON
THE MIDDLESEX STREET SHELTER
The first of the London Institutions of the Salvation Army which I visited was that known as the Middlesex Street Shelter and Working Men's Home, which is at present under the supervision of Commissioner Sturgess. This building consists of six floors, and contains sleeping accommodation for 462 men. It has been at work since the year 1906, when it was acquired by the Army with the help of that well-known philanthropist, the late Mr. George Herring.
Of the 462 men accommodated daily, 311 pay 3d. for their night's lodging, and the remainder 5d. The threepenny charge entitles the tenant to the use of a bunk bedstead with sheets and an American cloth cover. If the extra 2d. is forthcoming the wanderer is provided with a proper bed, fitted with a wire spring hospital frame and provided with a mattress, sheets, pillow, and blankets. I may state here that as in the case of this Shelter the building, furniture and other equipment have been provided by charity, the nightly fees collected almost suffice to pay the running expenses of the establishment. Under less favourable circumstances, however, where the building and equipment are a charge on the capital funds of the Salvation Army, the experience is that these fees do not suffice to meet the cost of interest and maintenance.
The object of this and similar Shelters is to afford to men upon the verge of destitution the choice between such accommodation as is here provided and the common lodging-house, known as a 'kip house,' or the casual ward of a workhouse. Those who avail themselves of these Shelters belong, speaking generally, to the destitute or nearly destitute classes. They are harbours of refuge for the unfortunates who find themselves on the streets of London at nightfall with a few coppers or some other small sum in their pockets. Many of these social wrecks have sunk through drink, but many others owe their sad position to lack or loss of employment, or to some other misfortune.
For an extra charge of 1d. the inmates are provided with a good supper, consisting of a pint of soup and a large piece of bread, or of bread and jam and tea, or of potato-pie. A second penny supplies them with breakfast on the following morning, consisting of bread and porridge or of bread and fish, with tea or coffee.
The dormitories, both of the fivepenny class on the ground floor and of the threepenny class upstairs, are kept scrupulously sweet and clean, and attached to them are lavatories and baths. These lavatories contain a great number of brown earthenware basins fitted with taps. Receptacles are provided, also, where the inmates can wash their clothes and have them dried by means of an ingenious electrical contrivance and hot air, capable of thoroughly drying any ordinary garment in twenty minutes while its owner takes a bath.
The man in charge of this apparatus and of the baths was one who had been picked up on the Embankment during the past winter. In return for his services he received food, lodging, clothes and pocket-money to the amount of 3s. a week. He told me that he was formerly a commercial traveller, and was trying to re-enter that profession or to become a ship's steward. Sickness had been the cause of his fall in the world.
Adjoining the downstairs dormitory is a dining and sitting-room for the use of those who have taken bed tickets. In this room, when I visited it, several men were engaged in various occupations. One of them was painting flowers. Another, a watch repairer, was apparently making up his accounts, which, perhaps, were of an imaginary nature. A third was eating a dinner which he had purchased at the food bar. A fourth smoked a cigarette and watched the flower artist at his work. A fifth was a Cingalese who had come from Ceylon to lay some grievance before the late King. The authorities at Whitehall having investigated his case, he had been recommended to return to Ceylon and consult a lawyer there. Now he was waiting tor the arrival of remittances to enable him to pay his passage back to Ceylon. I wondered whether the remittances would ever be forthcoming. Meanwhile he lived here on 7-1/2d. a day, 5d. for his bed and 2-1/2d. for his food. Of these and other men similarly situated I will give some account presently.
Having inspected the upper floors I descended to the basement, where what are called the 'Shelter men' are received at a separate entrance at 5.30 in the afternoon, and buying their penny or halfpennyworth of food, seat themselves on benches to eat. Here, too, they can sit and smoke or mend their clothes, or if they are wet, dry themselves in the annexe, until they retire to rest. During the past winter of 1909 400 men taken from the Embankment were sheltered here gratis every night, and were provided with soup and bread. When not otherwise occupied this hall is often used for the purpose of religious services.
I spoke at hazard with some of those who were sitting about in the Shelter. A few specimen cases may be interesting. An old man told me that he had travelled all over the world for fifty years, especially in the islands of the South Pacific, until sickness broke him down. He came last from Shanghai, where he had been an overseer on railway work, and before that from Manila. Being incapacitated by fever and rheumatism, and possessing 1,500 dollars, he travelled home, apparently via India and Burma, stopping a while in each country. Eventually he drifted to a lodging-house, and, falling ill there, was sent to the Highgate Infirmary, where, he said, he was so cold that he could not stop. Ultimately he found himself upon the streets in winter. For the past twelve months he had been living in this Shelter upon some help that a friend gave him, for all his own money was gone. Now he was trying to write books, one of which was in the hands of a well-known firm. He remarked, pathetically, that they 'have had it a long time.' He was also waiting 'every day' for a pension from America, which he considered was due to him because he fought in the Civil War.
Most of these poor people are waiting for something.
This man added that he could not find his relatives, and that he intended to stop in the Shelter until his book was published, or he could 'help himself out.'
The next man I spoke to was the flower artist, whom I have already mentioned, whose work, by the way, if a little striking in colour, was by no means bad, especially as he had no real flowers to draw from. By trade he was a lawyer's clerk; but he stated that, unfortunately for him, the head partner of his firm went bankrupt six years before, and the bad times, together with the competition of female labour in the clerical department, prevented him from obtaining another situation, so he had been obliged to fall back upon flower painting. He was a married man, but he said, 'While I could make a fair week's money, things were comfortable, but when orders fell slack I was requested to go, as my room was preferable to my company, and being a man of nervous temperament I could not stand it, and have been here ever since'—that was for about ten weeks. He managed to make enough for his board and lodging by the sale of his flower-pictures.
A third man informed me that he had opened twenty-seven shops for a large firm of tobacconists, and then left to start in business for himself; also he used to go out window-dressing, in which he was skilled. Then, about nine years ago, his wife began to drink, and while he was absent in hospital, neglected his business so that it became worthless. Finally she deserted him, and he had heard nothing of her since. After that he took to drink himself. He came to this Shelter intermittently, and supported himself by an occasional job of window-dressing. The Salvation Army was trying to cure this man of his drinking habits.
A fourth man, a Eurasian, was a schoolmaster in India, who drifted to this country, and had been for four years in the Colney Hatch Asylum. He was sent to the Salvation Army by the After Care Society. He had been two years in the Shelter, and was engaged in saving up money to go to America. He was employed in the Shelter as a scrubber, and also as a seller of food tickets, by which means he had saved some money. Also he had a L5 note, which his sister sent to him. This note he was keeping to return to her as a present on her birthday! His story was long and miserable, and his case a sad one. Still, he was capable of doing work of a sort.
Another very smart and useful man had been a nurse in the Army Medical Corps, which he left some years ago with a good character. Occasionally he found a job at nursing, and stayed at the Shelter, where he was given employment between engagements.
Yet another, quite a young person, was a carman who had been discharged through slackness of work in the firm of which he was a servant. He had been ten weeks in the Institution, to which he came from the workhouse, and hoped to find employment at his trade.
In passing through this building, I observed a young man of foreign appearance seated in a window-place reading a book, and asked his history. I was told that he was a German of education, whose ambition it is to become a librarian in his native country. He had come to England in order to learn our language, and being practically without means, drifted into this place, where he was employed in cleaning the windows and pursued his studies in the intervals of that humble work. Let us hope that in due course his painstaking industry will be rewarded, and his ambition fulfilled.
All these cases, and others that I have no space to mention, belonged to the class of what I may call the regular 'hangers-on' of this particular Shelter. As I visited it in the middle of the day, I did not see its multitude of normal nightly occupants. Of such men, however, I shall be able to speak elsewhere.
THE SPA ROAD ELEVATOR
The next Institution that I inspected was that of a paper-sorting works at Spa Road, Bermondsey, where all sorts of waste paper are dealt with in enormous quantities. Of this stuff some is given and some is bought. Upon delivery it goes to the sorters, who separate it out according to the different classes of the material, after which it is pressed into bales by hydraulic machinery and sold to merchants to be re-made.
These works stand upon two acres of land. Parts of the existing buildings were once a preserve factory, but some of them have been erected by the Army. There remain upon the site certain dwelling-houses, which are still let to tenants. These are destined to be pulled down whenever money is forthcoming to extend the factory.
The object of the Institution is to find work for distressed or fallen persons, and restore them to society. The Manager of this 'Elevator,' as it is called, informed me that it employs about 480 men, all of whom are picked up upon the streets. As a rule, these men are given their board and lodging in return for work during the first week, but no money, as their labour is worth little. In the second week, 6d. is paid to them in cash; and, subsequently, this remuneration is added to in proportion to the value of the labour, till in the end some of them earn 8s. or 9s. a week in addition to their board and lodging.
I asked the Officer in charge what he had to say as to the charges of sweating and underselling which have been brought against the Salvation Army in connexion with this and its other productive Institutions.
He replied that they neither sweated nor undersold. The men whom they picked up had no value in the labour market, and could get nothing to do because no one would employ them, many of them being the victims of drink or entirely unskilled. Such people they overlooked, housed, fed, and instructed, whether they did or did not earn their food and lodging, and after the first week paid them upon a rising scale. The results were eminently satisfactory, as even allowing for the drunkards they found that but few cases, not more than 10 per cent, were hopeless. Did they not rescue these men most of them would sink utterly; indeed, according to their own testimony many of such wastrels were snatched from suicide. As a matter of fact, also, they employed more men per ton of paper than any other dealers in the trade.
With reference to the commercial results, after allowing for interest on the capital invested, the place did not pay its way. He said that a sum of L15,000 was urgently required for the erection of a new building on this site, some of those that exist being of a rough-and-ready character. They were trying to raise subscriptions towards this object, but found the response very slow.
He added that they collected their raw material from warehouses, most of it being given to them, but some they bought, as it was necessary to keep the works supplied, which could not be done with the gratis stuff alone. Also they found that the paper they purchased was the most profitable.
These works presented a busy spectacle of useful industry. There was the sorting-room, where great masses of waste-paper of every kind was being picked over by about 100 men and separated into its various classes. The resulting heaps are thrown through hoppers into bins. From the bins this sorted stuff passes into hydraulic presses which crush it into bales that, after being wired, are ready for sale.
It occurred to me that the dealing with this mass of refuse paper must be an unhealthy occupation; but I was informed that this is not the case, and certainly the appearance of the workers bore out the statement.
After completing a tour of the works I visited one of the bedrooms containing seventy beds, where everything seemed very tidy and fresh. Clean sheets are provided every week, as are baths for the inmates. In the kitchen were great cooking boilers, ovens, etc., all of which are worked by steam produced by the burning of the refuse of the sorted paper. Then I saw the household salvage store, which contained enormous quantities of old clothes and boots; also a great collection of furniture, including a Turkish bath cabinet, all of which articles had been given to the Army by charitable folk. These are either given away or sold to the employes of the factory or to the poor of the neighbourhood at a very cheap rate.
The man in charge of this store was an extremely good-looking and gentlemanly young follow of University education, who had been a writer of fiction, and once acted as secretary to a gentleman who travelled on the Continent and in the East. Losing his employment, he took to a life of dissipation, became ill, and sank to the very bottom. He informed me that his ideals and outlook on life were now totally changed. I have every hope that he will do well in the future, as his abilities are evidently considerable, and Nature has favoured him in many ways.
I interviewed a number of the men employed in these works, most of whom had come down through drink, some of them from very good situations. One had been the superintendent of a sewing-machine company. He took to liquor, left his wife, and found himself upon the streets. Now he was a traveller for the Salvation Army, in the interests of the Waste-Paper Department, had regained his position in life, and was living with his wife and family in a comfortable house.
Another was a grocer by profession, all of whose savings were stolen, after which he took to drink. He had been three months in the works, and at the time of my visit was earning 6s. a week with food and lodging.
Another had been a Barnardo boy, who came from Canada as a ship's steward, and could find nothing to do in England. Another was a gentleman's servant, who was dismissed because the family left London.
Another was an auctioneer, who failed from want of capital, took to drink, and emigrated to Canada. Two years later he fell ill with pleurisy, and was sent home because the authorities were afraid that his ailment might turn to consumption. He stated that at this time he had given up drink, but could obtain no employment, so came upon the streets. As he was starving and without hope, not having slept in a bed for ten nights, he was about to commit suicide when the Salvation Army picked him up. He had seen his wife for the first time in four years on the previous Whit Monday, and they proposed to live together again so soon as he secured permanent employment.
Another had been a soldier in the Seaforth Highlanders, and served in the Egyptian Campaign of 1881, and also in the American Army. Subsequently he was employed as a porter at a lodging-house at a salary of 25s. a week, but left because of trouble about a woman. He came upon the streets, and, being unable to find employment, was contemplating suicide, when he fell under the influence of the Army at the Blackfriars Shelter.
All these men, and others whom I spoke to at random but have no space to write of, assured me that they were quite satisfied with their treatment at the works, and repudiated—some of them with indignation—the suggestion that I put to them tentatively that they suffered from a system of sweating. For the most part, indeed, their gratitude for the help they were receiving in the hour of need was very evident and touching.
THE GREAT PETER STREET SHELTER
This fine building is the most up-to-date Men's Shelter that the Salvation Army possesses in London. It was once the billiard works of Messrs. Burroughes and Watts, and is situated in Westminster, quite near to the Houses of Parliament. I visited it about eight o'clock in the evening, and at its entrance was confronted with the word 'Full,' inscribed in chalk upon its portals, at which poor tramps, deprived of their hope of a night's lodging, were staring disconsolately. It reminded me of a playhouse upon a first-night of importance, but, alas! the actors here play in a tragedy more dreadful in its cumulative effect than any that was ever put upon the stage.
This Shelter is wonderfully equipped and organized. It contains sitting or resting-rooms, smoking-rooms, huge dormitories capable of accommodating about 600 sleepers; bathrooms, lavatories, extensive hot-water and warming apparatus, great kitchens, and butteries, and so forth. In the sitting and smoking-rooms, numbers of derelict men were seated. Some did nothing except stare before them vacantly. Some evidently were suffering from the effects of drink or fatigue; some were reading newspapers which they had picked up in the course of their day's tramp. One, I remember, was engaged in sorting out and crumpling up a number of cigar and cigarette ends which he had collected from the pavements, carefully grading the results in different heaps, according to the class of the tobacco (how strong it must be!) either for his own consumption or for sale to other unfortunates. In another place, men were eating the 1d. or 1/2d. suppers that they had purchased.
Early as it was, however, the great dormitories were crowded with hundreds of the lodgers, either in bed or in process of getting there. I noticed that they all undressed themselves, wrapping up their rags in bundles, and, for the most part slept quite naked. Many of them struck me as very fine fellows physically, and the reflection crossed my mind, seeing them thus in puris naturalibus, that there was little indeed to distinguish them from a crowd of males of the upper class engaged, let us say, in bathing. It is the clothes that make the difference to the eye.
In this Shelter I was told, by the way, that there exists a code of rough honour among these people, who very rarely attempt to steal anything from each other. Having so little property, they sternly respect its rights. I should add that the charge made for accommodation and food is 3d. per night for sleeping, and 1d. or 1/2d. per portion of food.
The sight of this Institution crowded with human derelicts struck me as most sad, more so indeed than many others that I have seen, though, perhaps, this may have been because I was myself tired out with a long day of inspection.
The Staff-Captain in charge here told me his history, which is so typical and interesting that I will repeat it briefly. Many years ago (he is now an elderly man) he was a steward on board a P. and O. liner, and doing well. Then a terrible misfortune overwhelmed him. Suddenly his wife and child died, and, as a result of the shock, he took to drink. He attempted to cut his throat (the scar remains to him), and was put upon his trial for the offence. Subsequently he drifted on to the streets, where he spent eight years. During all this time his object was to be rid of life, the methods he adopted being to make himself drunk with methylated spirits, or any other villainous and fiery liquor, and when that failed, to sleep at night in wet grass or ditches. Once he was picked up suffering from inflammation of the lungs and carried to an infirmary, where he lay senseless for three days. The end of it was that a Salvation Army Officer found him in Oxford Street, and took him to a Shelter in Burne Street, where he was bathed and put to bed.
That was many years ago, and now he is to a great extent responsible for the management of this Westminster Refuge. Commissioner Sturgess, one of the head Officers of the Army, told me that their great difficulty was to prevent him from overdoing himself at this charitable task. I think the Commissioner said that sometimes he would work eighteen or twenty hours out of the twenty-four.
One day this Staff-Captain played a grim little trick upon me. I was seated at luncheon in a Salvation Army building, when the door opened, and there entered as dreadful a human object as I have ever seen. The man was clad in tatters, his bleeding feet were bound up with filthy rags; he wore a dingy newspaper for a shirt. His face was cut and plastered over roughly; he was a disgusting sight. He told me, in husky accents, that drink had brought him down, and that he wanted help. I made a few appropriate remarks, presented him with a small coin, and sent him to the Officers downstairs.
A quarter of an hour later the Staff-Captain appeared in his uniform and explained that he and the 'object' were the same person. Again it was the clothes that made the difference. Those which he had worn when he appeared at the luncheon-table were the same in which he had been picked up on the streets of London. Also he thanked me for my good advice which he said he hoped to follow, and for the sixpence that he announced his intention of wearing on his watch-chain. For my part I felt that the laugh was against me. Perhaps if I had thought the Salvation Army capable of perpetrating a joke, I should not have been so easily deceived.
This Staff-Captain gave me much information as to the class of wanderers who frequent these Shelters, He estimated that about 50 per cent of them sink to that level through the effects of drink. That is to say, if by the waving of some magic wand intoxicants and harmful drugs should cease to be obtainable in this country, the bulk of extreme misery which needs such succour, and it may be added of crime at large, would be lessened by one-half. This is a terrible statement, and one that seems to excuse a great deal of what is called 'teetotal fanaticism.' The rest, in his view, owe their fall to misfortune of various kinds, which often in its turn leads to flight to the delusive and destroying solace of drink. Thus about 25 per cent of the total have been afflicted with sickness or acute domestic troubles. Or perhaps they are 'knocked out' by shock, such as is brought on by the loss of a dearly-loved wife or child, and have never been able to recover from that crushing blow. The remainder are the victims of advancing age and of the cruel commercial competition of our day. Thus he said that the large business firms destroy and devour the small shopkeepers, as a hawk devours sparrows; and these little people or their employes, if they are past middle age, can find no other work. Especially is this the case since the Employers' Liability Acts came into operation, for now few will take on hands who are not young and very strong, as older folk must naturally be more liable to sickness and accident.
Again, he told me that it has become the custom in large businesses of which the dividends are falling, to put in a man called an 'Organizer,' who is often an American.
This Organizer goes through the whole staff and mercilessly dismisses the elderly or the least efficient, dividing up their work among those who remain. So these discarded men fall to rise no more and drift to the poorhouse or the Shelters or the jails, and finally into the river or a pauper's grave. First, however, many spend what may be called a period of probation on the streets, where they sleep at night under arches or on stairways, or on the inhospitable flagstones and benches of the Embankment, even in winter.
The Staff-Captain informed me that on one night during the previous November he counted no less than 120 men, women, and children sleeping in the wet on or in the neighbourhood of the Embankment. Think of it—in this one place! Think of it, you whose women and children, to say nothing of yourselves, do not sleep on the Embankment in the wet in November. It may be answered that they might have gone to the casual ward, where there are generally vacancies. I suppose that they might, but so perverse are many of them that they do not. Indeed, often they declare bluntly that they would rather go to prison than to the casual ward, as in prison they are more kindly treated.
The reader may have noted as he drove along the Embankment or other London thoroughfares at night in winter, long queues of people waiting their turn to get something. What they are waiting for is a cup of soup and, perhaps, an opportunity of sheltering till the dawn, which soup and shelter are supplied by the Salvation Army, and sometimes by other charitable Organizations. I asked whether this provision of gratis food did in fact pauperize the population, as has been alleged. The Staff-Captain answered that men do not as a rule stop out in the middle of the winter till past midnight to get a pint of soup and a piece of bread. Of course, there might be exceptions; but for the most part those who take this charity, do so because if is sorely needed.
The cost of these midnight meals is reckoned by the Salvation Army at about L8 per 1,000, including the labour involved in cooking and distribution. This money is paid from the Army's Central Fund, which collects subscriptions for that special purpose.
'Of course, our midnight soup has its critics,' said one of the Officers who has charge of its distribution; 'but all I know is that it saves many from jumping into the river.'
During the past winter, that is from November 3, 1909, to March 24, 1910, 163,101 persons received free accommodation and food at the hands of the Salvation Army in connexion with its Embankment Soup Distribution Charity.
THE FREE BREAKFAST SERVICE
On a Sunday in June I attended the Free Breakfast service at the Blackfriars Shelter. The lease of this building was acquired by the Salvation Army from a Temperance Company. Behind it lay contractors' stables, which were also bought; after which the premises were rebuilt and altered to suit the purposes to which they are now put, the stabling being for the most part converted into sleeping-rooms.
The Officer who accompanied me, Lieut.-Colonel Jolliffe, explained that this Blackfriars Shelter is, as it were, the dredger for and the feeder of all the Salvation Army's Social Institutions for men in London. Indeed, it may be likened to a dragnet set to catch male unfortunates in this part of the Metropolis. Here, as in the other Army Shelters, are great numbers of bunks that are hired out at 3d. a night, and the usual food-kitchens and appliances.
I visited one or two of these, well-ventilated places that in cold weather are warmed by means of hot-water pipes to a heat of about 70 deg., as the clothing on the bunks is light.
I observed that although the rooms had only been vacated for a few hours, they were perfectly inoffensive, and even sweet; a result that is obtained by a very strict attention to cleanliness and ample ventilation. The floors of these places are constantly scrubbed, and the bunks undergo a process of disinfection about once a week. As a consequence, in all the Army Shelters the vermin which sometimes trouble common lodging-houses are almost unknown.
I may add that the closest supervision is exercised in these places when they are occupied. Night watchmen are always on duty, and an Officer sleeps in a little apartment attached to each dormitory. The result is that there are practically no troubles of any kind. Sometimes, however, a poor wanderer is found dead in the morning, in which case the body is quietly conveyed away to await inquest.
I asked what happened when men who could not produce the necessary coppers to pay for their lodging, applied for admission. The answer was that the matter was left to the discretion of the Officer in charge. In fact, in cases of absolute and piteous want, men are admitted free, although, naturally enough, the Army does not advertise that this happens. If it did, its hospitality would be considerably overtaxed.
Leaving the dormitories, I entered the great hall, in which were gathered nearly 600 men seated upon benches, every one of which was filled. The faces and general aspect of these men were eloquent of want and sorrow. Some of them appeared to be intent upon the religious service that was going on, attendance at this service being the condition on which the free breakfast is given to all who need food and have passed the previous night in the street. Others were gazing about them vacantly, and others, sufferers from the effects of drink, debauchery, or fatigue, seemed to be half comatose or asleep.
This congregation, the strangest that I have ever seen, comprised men of all classes. Some might once have belonged to the learned professions, while others had fallen so low that they looked scarcely human. Every grade of rag-clad misery was represented here, and every stage of life from the lad of sixteen up to the aged man whose allotted span was almost at an end. Rank upon rank of them, there they sat in their infinite variety, linked only by the common bond of utter wretchedness, the most melancholy sight, I think, that ever my eyes beheld. All of them, however, were fairly clean, for this matter had been seen to by the Officers who attend upon them. The Salvation Army does not only wash the feet of its guests, but the whole body. Also, it dries and purifies their tattered garments.
When I entered the hall, an Officer on the platform was engaged in offering up an extempore prayer.
'We pray that the Holy Spirit may be poured out upon these men. We pray, O God, that Thou wilt help them to take fresh courage, to find fresh hope, and that they may rise once again to fight the battle of life. We pray that Thou mayst bring to Thy feet, this morning, such as shall be saved eternally.'
Then another Officer, styled the Chaplain, addressed the audience. He told them that there was a way out of their troubles, and that hundreds who had sat in that hall as they did, now blessed the day which brought them there. He said: 'You came here this morning, you scarcely knew how or why. You did not know the hand of God was leading you, and that He will bless you if you will listen to His Voice. You think you cannot escape from this wretched life; you think of the past with all its failures. But do not trouble about the years that are gone. Seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you. Then there will be no more wandering about without a friend, for I say to you that God lives, and this morning you will hear from others, who once were in a similar condition to yourself, what He has done for them.'
Next a man with a fine tenor voice, who, it seems, is nicknamed 'the Yorkshire Canary,' sang the hymn beginning, 'God moves in a mysterious way.' After this in plain, forcible language he told his own story. He said that he was well brought up by a good father and mother, and lost everything through his own sin. His voice was in a sense his ruin, since he used to sing in public-houses and saloons and there learnt to drink. At length he found himself upon the streets in London, and tramped thence to Yorkshire to throw himself upon the mercy of his parents. When he was quite close to his home, however, his courage failed him, and he tramped back to London, where he was picked up by the Salvation Army.
This man, a most respectable-looking person, is now a clerk in a well-known business house. In his own words, 'I knelt down and gave my heart to God, and am to-day in a good situation.'
Next a Salvation Army soldier spoke. Four years before he had attended the Sunday morning meeting in this hall and 'found the friendship of God. He has helped me to regain the manhood I had lost and to do my duty. For two years now I have helped to support an invalid sister instead of being a burden to every one I knew, as once I was.'
After the singing of the hymn, 'Rock of Ages,' another man addressed the meeting. He had been a drunkard, a homeless wanderer, who slept night after night on the Embankment till fortune brought him to this service and to the Penitent-Form. Since that time, two and a half years before, no drink had passed his lips, and once again, as he declared, he had become 'a self-respecting, respectable citizen.'
Then a dwarf whom I had seen at work in the Spa Road Elevator, and who once was taken about the country to be exhibited as a side show at fairs and there fell a victim to drink, gave his testimony.
Another verse, 'Could my tears for ever flow,' and after it, in rapid succession, spoke a man who had been a schoolmaster and fallen through drink and gambling; a man who, or whose brother, I am not sure which, had been a Wesleyan preacher, and who is now employed in a Life Assurance Company; a man who had been a prisoner; a man who had been a confirmed drunkard, and others.
Always it was the same earnest, simple tale of drink and degradation, passed now for ever; of the Penitent-Form; of the building up of a new self, and of position regained.
More singing and an eloquent prayer which seemed to move the audience very much, some of them to tears; an address from a woman Salvation Army Officer, who pleaded with the people in the name of their mothers, and a brief but excellent sermon from Commissioner Sturgess, based upon the parable of the Marriage of the King's Son as recorded in the 22nd chapter of St. Matthew, and of the guests who were collected from the highways and byways to attend the feast whence the rich and worldly had excused themselves.
Then the great and final invocation to Heaven to move the hearts of these men, and the invitation to them to present themselves at the Penitent-Form. Lastly a mighty, thundering hymn, 'Jesu, Lover of my soul,' and the ending of the long drama.
It was a wonderful thing to see the spiritually-faced man on the platform pleading with his sordid audience, and to watch them stirring beneath his words. To see, also, a uniformed woman flitting to and fro among that audience, whispering, exhorting, invoking—a temptress to Salvation, then to note the response and its manner that were stranger still. Some poor wretch would seem to awaken, only to relapse into a state of sullen, almost defiant torpor. A little while and the leaven begins to work in him. He flushes, mutters something, half rises from his seat, sits down again, rises once more and with a peculiar, unwilling gait staggers to the Penitent-Form, and in an abandonment of grief and repentance throws himself upon his knees and there begins to sob. A watching Officer comes to him, kneels at his side and, I suppose, confesses him. The tremendous hymn bursts out like a paean of triumph—
Just as I am, without one plea,
it begins, the rest I forget or did not catch.
Now the ice is broken. Another comes and another, and another, till there is no more room at the Penitent-Bench. They swarm on to the platform which is cleared for them, and there kneel down, and I observed the naked feet of some of them showing through the worn-out boots.
So it goes on. At length the great audience rises and begins to depart, filing one by one through a certain doorway. As they pass, Officers who have appeared from somewhere wait for them with outstretched arms. The most of them brush past shaking their heads and muttering. Here and there one pauses, is lost—or rather won. The Salvation Army has him in its net and he joins the crowd upon the platform. Still the hymn swells and falls till all have departed save those who remain for good—about 10 per cent of that sad company.
It is done and the catcher feels that he has witnessed the very uttermost of tragedies, human and spiritual.
* * * * *
Mere common 'revivalism'! the critic will say, and it may be so. Still such revivalism, if that is the term for it, must be judged by its fruits. I am informed that of those who kneel here experience shows that but a small percentage relapse. The most of them become what in the Salvation Army cant—if one chooses so to name it—is known as 'saved.'
This means that from drunkards and wastrels stained with every sort of human fault, or even crime, they are turned into God-fearing and respectable men who henceforward, instead of being a pest to society and a terror to all those who have the misfortune to be connected with them, become props of society and a comfort and a support to their relatives and friends.
Thus is the mesh of mercy spread, and such is its harvest.
The age of miracles is past, we are told; but I confess that while watching this strange sight I wondered more than once that if this were so, what that age of miracles had been like. Of one thing I was sure, that it must have been to such as these that He who is acknowledged even by sceptics to have been the very Master of mankind, would have chosen to preach, had this been the age of His appearance, He who came to call sinners to repentance. Probably, too, it was to such as these that He did preach, for folk of this character are common to the generations. Doubtless, Judea had its knaves and drunkards, as we know it had its victims of sickness and misfortune. The devils that were cast out in Jerusalem did not die; they reappear in London and elsewhere to-day, and, it would seem, can still be cast out.
I confess another thing, also; namely, that I found all this drama curiously exciting. Most of us who have passed middle age and led a full and varied life will be familiar with the great human emotions. Yet I discovered here a new emotion, one quite foreign to a somewhat extended experience, one that I cannot even attempt to define. The contagion of revivalism! again it will be said. This may be so, or it may not. But at least, so far as this branch of the Salvation Army work is concerned, those engaged in it may fairly claim that the tree should be judged by its fruits. Without doubt, in the main these fruits are good and wholesome.
I have only to add to my description of this remarkable service, that the number netted, namely, about 10 per cent of those present, was, I am told, just normal, neither more nor less than the average. Some of these doubtless will relapse; but if only one of them remains really reformed, surely the Salvation Army has vindicated its arguments and all is proved to be well worth while. But to that one very many ciphers must be added as the clear and proved result of the forty years or so of its activity. Whatever may be doubtful, this is true beyond all controversy, for it numbers its converts by the thousand.
* * * * *
The congregation which I saw on this particular occasion seemed to me to consist for the most part of elderly men; in fact, some of them were very old, and the average age of those who attended the Penitent-Form I estimated at about thirty-five years. This, however, varies. I am informed that at times they are mostly young persons. It must be remembered—and the statement throws a lurid light upon the conditions prevailing in London, as in other of our great cities—that the population which week by week attends these Sunday morning services is of an ever-shifting character. Doubtless, there are some habitues and others who reappear from time to time. But the most of the audience is new. Every Saturday night the highways and the hedges, or rather the streets and the railway arches yield a new crop of homeless and quite destitute wanderers. These are gathered into the Blackfriars Shelter, and go their bitter road again after the rest, the breakfast, and the service. But as we have seen here a substantial proportion, about 10 per cent, remain behind. These are all interviewed separately and fed, and on the following morning as many of them as vacancies can be found for in the Paper Works Elevator or elsewhere are sent thither.
I saw plenty of these men, and with them others who had been rescued previously; so many, indeed, that it is impossible to set out their separate cases. Looking through my notes made at the time, I find among them a schoolmaster, an Australian who fought in South Africa, a publican who had lost L2,000 in speculation and been twelve months on the streets, a sailor and two soldiers who between them had seen much service abroad, and a University man who had tried to commit suicide from London Bridge.
Also there was a person who was recently described in the newspapers as the 'dirtiest man in London.' He was found sitting on the steps of a large building in Queen Victoria Street, partly paralysed from exposure. So filthy and verminous was he, that it was necessary to scrape his body, which mere washing would not touch. When he was picked up, a crowd of several hundred people followed him down the street, attracted by his dreadful appearance. His pockets were full of filth, amongst which were found 5s. in coppers. He had then been a month in the Shelter, where he peels or peeled potatoes, etc., and looked quite bright and clean.
Most of these people had been brought down by the accursed drink, which is the bane of our nation, and some few by sheer misfortune.
Neither at the service, nor afterwards, did I see a single Jew, for the fallen of that race seem to be looked after by their fellow religionists. Moreover, the Jews do not drink to excess. Foreigners, also, are comparatively scarce at Blackfriars and in the other Shelters.
On the afternoon of the Sunday on which I visited the Blackfriars Shelter, I attended another service, conducted by Commissioner Sturgess, at Quaker Street.
Here the room was filled by about 150 men, all of whom had been rescued, and were then working in the various Shelters or elsewhere. I may say that I have seldom seen a congregation of more respectable appearance, and never one that joined with greater earnestness in a religious service.
I will take this opportunity to observe that the Salvation Army enforces no religious test upon those to whom it extends its assistance. If a man is a member of the Church of England or a Roman Catholic, for instance, and wishes to remain so, all that it tries to do is to make him a good member of his Church. Its only sine qua non is that the individual should show himself ready to work zealously at any task which it may be able to find for him.
The rest of that afternoon I spent in interviewing ex-criminals who were then in the charge of the Salvation Army. To give details of their cases in this book is impossible. Here I will only say, therefore, that some of these had been most desperate characters, who had served as much as thirty or forty years in various prisons, or even been condemned to death for murder. Indeed, the nineteen men whom I interviewed had, between them, done 371 years of what is known as 'time.'
I cannot honestly report that I liked the looks of all these gentry, or believed everything that they told me. For instance, when such people swear that they have been wrongly convicted, an old lawyer and magistrate like myself, who knows what pains are taken by every English Court to safeguard the innocent, is apt to be sceptical. Still, it should be added that many of these jailbirds are now to all appearance quite reformed, while some of them are doing well in more or less responsible positions, under the supervision of the Army.
The Salvation Army Officers have authority from the Home Office to visit the various prisons, where the inmates are informed that those who are desirous of seeing them must give in their names. Then on a certain day, the Officer, who, under Commissioner Sturgess, is responsible for the Prison work of the Army in England, appears at the Wandsworth or the Pentonville Prison, or wherever it may be. There he finds, perhaps, as many as 150 men waiting to see him, the total number of ex-prisoners who pass through the hands of the Army in England averaging at present about 1,000 per annum. He interviews these men in their cells privately, the prison officials remaining outside, and stops as long with each of them as he deems to be needful, for the Governors of the prisons give him every opportunity of attaining the object of his work. This Officer informed me that his conversation with the prisoners is not restricted in any way. It may be about their future or of spiritual matters, or it may have to do with their family affairs.
The details of each case are carefully recorded in a book which I saw, and when a convict is discharged and given over to the care of the Army, a photograph and an official statement of his record is furnished with him. This statement the Army finds a great help, as in dealing with such people it is necessary to know their past in order to be able to guard against their weak points.
The Government authorities have now begun to seek the aid of the Army in certain special cases. If they feel that it is unnecessary to retain a man any longer, they will sometimes hand him over, should the Salvation Army Officers be willing to take him in and be responsible for him. General Booth and his subordinates think that if this system were enlarged and followed up, it would result in the mitigation or the abbreviation of many sentences, without exposing the public to danger.
In discussing this matter with them, I ventured to point out that it would be a bad thing if the Army became in any way identified with the prison Authorities, and began, at any rate in the mind of the criminal classes, to wear the initials G.R. instead of those of the Army upon their collars. This was not disputed by Commissioner Sturgess, with whom I debated the question.
What the Army desires, however, is that the Government should subsidize this work in order to enable it to support the ex-convicts until it can find opportunity to place them in positions where they can earn their own bread. The trouble with such folk is that, naturally enough, few desire to employ them, and until they are employed, which in the case of aged persons or of those with a very bad record may be never, they must be fed, clothed, and housed.
After going into the whole subject at considerable length and in much detail, the conclusion which I came to was that this work of the visitation of prisoners by Salvation Army Officers, and the care of them when released either on or before the completion of their sentences, is one that might be usefully extended, should the Home Office Authorities see fit so to do. There is no doubt, although it cannot guarantee success in every case, that the Salvation Army is peculiarly successful in its dealings with hardened criminals.
Why this is so is not easy to explain. I think, however, that there are two main reasons for its success. The first is that the Army takes great care never to break a promise which it may make through any of its Officers. Thus, if a man in jail is told that his relatives will be hunted up and communicated with, or that an application will be made to the Authorities to have him committed to the care of the Army, or that work will be found for him on his release, and the like, that undertaking, whatever it may be, is noted in the book which I have mentioned, and although years may pass before it can be fulfilled, is in due course carried out to the letter. Now, convicts are shy birds, who put little faith in promises. But when they find that these are always kept they gain confidence in the makers of them, and often learn to trust them entirely.
The second and more potent reason is to be found in the power of that loving sympathy which the Army extends even to the vilest, to those from whom the least puritanical of us would shrink. It shows such men that they are not utterly lost, as these believe; that it, at any rate, does not mark them with a figurative broad arrow and consign them to a separate division of society; that it is able to give them back the self-respect without which mankind is lower than the beast, and to place them, regenerated, upon a path that, if it be steep and thorny, still leads to those heights of peace and honour which they never thought to tread again.
This is done not by physical care and comfort, though, of course, these help towards the desired end, but by its own spiritual means, or so it would appear. Its Officers pray with the man; they awake his conscience, which is never dead in any of us; they pour the blessed light of hope into the dark places of his soul; they cause him to hate the past, and to desire to lead a new life. Once this desire is established, the rest is comparatively simple, for where the heart leads the feet will follow; but without it little or nothing can be done. Such is the explanation I have to offer. At any rate, I believe it remains a fact that among the worst criminals the Salvation Army often succeeds where others have failed.
Another point that should not be overlooked in this connexion is that it must be a great comfort to the sinner and an encouragement of the most practical sort to find, as he sometimes will, that the hands which are dragging him and his kind from the mire, had once been as filthy as his own. When the worker can say to him, 'Look at me; in bygone days I was as bad as or worse than you'; when he can point to many others whose vices were formerly notorious, but who now fill positions of trust in the Army or outside of it, and are honoured of all men; then the lost one, emerging, perhaps, for the fifth or sixth time from the darkness of his prison, sees by the light of these concrete examples that the future has promise for us all. If they have succeeded why should he fail? That is the argument which comes home to him.
There remains a matter to be considered. Let us suppose that as time goes by the Authorities become more and more convinced of the value of the Army's prison work, and pass over to its care criminals in ever-increasing numbers, as they are doing in some other countries and in the great Colonies, what will be the effect upon the Army itself? Will not this mass of comparatively useless material clog the wheels of the great machine by overlading it with a vast number of ex-prisoners, some of whom, owing to their age or other circumstances, are quite incapable of earning their livelihood, and therefore must be carried till their deaths? When I put the query to those in command, the answer given was that they did not think so, as they believed that the Army would be able to turn the great majority of these men into respectable, wage-earning members of society.
Thus of those who have been sent to it lately from the prisons, it has, I understand, been forced to return only two, because these men would not behave themselves, and proved to be a source of danger and contamination to others. As regards the residuum who are incapacitated by age or weakness of mind or body, General Booth and his Officers are of opinion that the Government should contribute to their support in such places as the Army may be able to find for them to dwell in under its care.
I hope that these forecasts, which after all are made by men of great experience who should know, may not prove to be over-sanguine. Still it must be remembered that in England alone there are, I am told, some 30,000 confirmed criminals in the jails, not reckoning the 5,000 who are classed as convicts. If even 20 per cent of these were passed over to the care of the Army, with or without State grants in aid of their support, this must in the nature of things prove a heavy burden upon its resources. When all is said and done it is harder to find employment for a jailbird, even if reformed, than for any other class of man, because so damaged a human article has but little commercial value in the Labour market.
If, however, the Salvation Army is prepared to face this gigantic task, it may be hoped that it will be given an opportunity of showing what it can do on a large scale, as it has already shown upon one more restricted. Prison reform is in the air. The present system is admitted more or less to have broken down. It has been shown to be incompetent to attain the real end for which it is established; that is, not punishment, as many still believe, for this hereditary idea is hard to eradicate, but prevention and, still more, reformation.
The 'Vengeance of the Law' is a phrase not easy to forget; but among humane and highly-civilized peoples the word Vengeance should be replaced by another, the best that I can think of is—Regeneration. The Law should not seek to avenge—that may be left to the savage codes, civil and religious, of the dark ages. Except in the case of the death sentence, which is not everywhere in favour, it should seek to regenerate.
If, then, among other agencies, the Salvation Army is able to prove beyond cavil that it can assist our criminal system to attain this noble end, ought not opportunity to be given it in full measure? Is it too much to hope that when the new Prison Act, of which the substance has recently been outlined by the Home Secretary, comes to be discussed, this object may be kept in view and the offer of the Salvation Army to co-operate in the great endeavour may not be lightly thrust aside? If its help is found so valuable in the solution of this particular problem in other lands, why should it be rejected here, or, rather, why should it not be more largely utilized, as I know from their own lips, General Booth and his Officers hope and desire?
THE MEN'S WORKSHOP
HANBURY STREET, WHITECHAPEL
This Salvation Army carpentering and joinery shop has been in existence for about fifteen years, but it does not even now pay its way. It was started by the Army in order to assist fallen mechanics by giving them temporary work until they could find other situations.
The manager informed me that at the beginning they found work for about thirty men. When I visited the place some fifty hands were employed—bricklayers, painters, joiners, etc., none of whom need stop an hour longer than they choose. From 100 to 150 men pass through this Workshop in a year, but many of them being elderly and therefore unable to obtain work elsewhere, stop for a long while, as the Army cannot well get rid of them. All of these folk arrive in a state of absolute destitution, having even sold their tools, the last possessions with which a competent workman parts.
The Parliamentary Committee of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions have recently stirred up a great agitation, which has been widely reported in the Press, against the Hanbury Street Workshop, because the Army does not pay the Union rate of wages. As a result the Army now declines all outside contracts, and confines its operations to the work of erecting, repairing, or furnishing its own buildings.
Here it may be stated that these complaints seem to be unreasonable. The men employed have almost without exception been taken off the streets to save them from starvation or the poorhouse. Often enough they are by no means competent at their work, while some of them have for the time being been rendered practically useless through the effects of drink or other debaucheries. Yet it is argued with violence that to such people, whom no business firm would employ upon any terms, the Army ought to pay the full Trade Union rate of wages. When every allowance is made for the great and urgent problems connected with the cruel practice of 'sweating,' surely this attitude throws a strange light upon some of the methods of the Trade Unions?
The inference seems to be that they would prefer that these derelicts should come on the rates or starve rather than that the Army should house and feed them, giving them, in addition, such wage as their labour may be worth. Further comment seems to be needless, especially when I repeat that, as I am assured, this Hanbury Street Institution never has earned, and does not now earn, the cost of its upkeep.
It is situated in the heart of a very poor district, and is rather a ramshackle place to look at, but still quite suitable to its purposes. I have observed that one of the characteristics of the Salvation Army is that it never spends unnecessary money upon buildings. If it can buy a good house or other suitable structure cheap it does so. If it cannot, it makes use of what it can get at a price within its means, provided that the place will satisfy the requirements of the sanitary and other Authorities.
All the machines at Hanbury Street are driven by electric power that is supplied by the Stepney Council at a cost of 1d. per unit for power and 3d. per unit for lighting.
An elderly man whom I saw there attending to this machinery, was dismissed by one of the great railway companies when they were reducing their hands. He had been in the employ of the Salvation Army for seven years and received the use of a house rent free and a wage of 30s. a week, which probably he would find it quite impossible to earn anywhere else.
The hours of employment are from 6.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. if the man is engaged on outside work, or to 6 p.m. if he labours in the workshop, and the men are paid at various rates according to the value of their work, and whether they are boarded and lodged, or live outside. Thus one to whom I spoke, who was the son of a former mayor of an important town, was allowed 3s. a week plus food and lodging, while another received 9s. a week, 5s. of which was sent to his wife, from whom he was separated. Another man, after living on the Army for about two years, made charges against it to the Carpenters' and Joiners' Union. He returned and apologized, but had practically to be kept under restraint on account of his drinking habits.
Another man spent twenty years in jail and then walked the streets. He is now a very respectable person, earns 27s. 6d. a week, and lives outside with his wife and family. Another was once convicted of cruelty to his children, whom he placed under the boards of the flooring while he went out to drink. These children are now restored to him, and he lives with them. Another among those with whom I happened to speak, was robbed by a relative of L4,000 which his father left to him. He was taken on by the Army in a state of destitution, but I forget what he earned. Another, the youngest man in the Works, came to them without any trade at all and in a destitute condition, but when I saw him was in charge of a morticing machine. He had married, lived out, and had been in the employ of the Army for five years. His wage was 27s. 6d. a week. Two others drew as much as L2 5s. 11d. each, living out; but, on the other hand, some received as little as 3s. a week with board and lodging.
Amongst this latter class was a young Mormon from Salt Lake City, who earned 4s. 6d. a week and his board and lodging. He had been in the Elevator about three months, having got drunk in London and missed his ship. Although he attended the Salvation Army meetings, he remained a Mormon.
In these Works all sorts of articles are manufactured to be used by other branches of the Salvation Army. Thus I saw poultry-houses being made for the Boxted Small Holdings; these cost from L4 5s. to L4 10s. net, and were excellent structures designed to hold about two dozen fowls. Further on large numbers of seats of different patterns were in process of manufacture, some of them for children, and other longer ones, with reversible backs, to be used in the numerous Army halls. Next I visited a room in which mattresses and mattress covers are made for the various Shelters, also the waterproof bunk bedding, which costs 7s. 9d. per cover. Further on, in a separate compartment, was a flock-tearing machine, at which the Mormon I have mentioned was employed. This is a very dusty job whereat a man does not work for more than one day in ten.
Then there were the painting and polishing-room, the joinery room, and the room where doors, window frames, and articles of furniture are constructed; also special garden benches, cleverly planned so that the seat can be protected from rain. These were designed by a young lady whom I chance to know in private life, and who, as I now discovered for the first time, is also a member of the Salvation Army.
Such is the Hanbury Street Workshop, where the Army makes the best use it can of rather indifferent human materials, and, as I have said, loses money at the business.
STURGE HOUSE, BOW ROAD
This branch of the Men's Social Work of the Salvation Army is a home for poor and destitute boys. The house, which once belonged to the late Dr. Barnardo, has been recently hired on a short lease. One of the features of the Army work is the reclamation of lads, of whom about 2,400 have passed through its hands in London during the course of the last eight years.
Sturge House has been fitted up for this special purpose, and accommodates about fifty boys. The Officer in charge informed me that some boys apply to them for assistance when they are out of work, while others come from bad homes, and yet others through the Shelters, which pass on suitable lads. Each case is strictly investigated when it arrives, with the result that about one-third of their number are restored to their parents, from whom often enough they have run away, sometimes upon the most flimsy pretexts.
Not unfrequently these boys are bad characters, who tell false tales of their past. Thus, recently, two who arrived at the Headquarters at Whitechapel, alleged that they were farm-labourers from Norfolk. As they did not in the least look the part, inquiries were made, when it was found that they had never been nearer to Norfolk than Hampstead, where both of them had been concerned in the stealing of L10 from a business firm. The matter was patched up with the intervention of the Army, and the boys were restored to their parents.
Occasionally, too, lads are brought here by kind folk, who find them starving. They are taken in, kept for a while, taught and fed, and when their characters are re-established—for many of them have none left—put out into the world. Some of them, indeed, work daily at various employments in London, and pay 5s. a week for their board and lodging at the Home. A good proportion of these lads also are sent to the collieries in Wales, where, after a few years, they earn good wages.
In these collieries a man and a boy generally work together. A while ago such a man applied to the Army for a boy, and the applicant, proving respectable, the boy was sent, and turned out extremely well. In due course he became a collier himself, and, in his turn, sent for a boy. So the thing spread, till up to the present time the Army has supplied fifty or sixty lads to colliers in South Wales, all of whom seem to be satisfactory and prosperous.
As the Manager explained, it is not difficult to place out a lad as soon as his character can be more or less guaranteed. The difficulty comes with a man who is middle-aged or old. He added that this Home does not in any sense compete with those of Dr. Barnardo; in fact, in certain ways they work hand in hand. The Barnardo Homes will not receive lads who are over sixteen, whereas the Army takes them up to eighteen. So it comes about that Barnardo's sometimes send on cases which are over their age limit to Sturge House.
I saw the boys at their dinner, and although many of them had a bad record, certainly they looked very respectable, and likely to make good and useful men. The experience of the Army is that most of them are quite capable of reformation, and that, when once their hearts have been changed, they seldom fall back into the ways of dishonesty.
This Home, like all those managed by the Salvation Army, is spotlessly clean, and the dormitories are very pleasant rooms. Also, there is a garden, and in it I saw a number of pots of flowers, which had just been sent as a present by a boy whom the Army helped three years ago, and who is now, I understand, a gardener.
Sturge House struck me as a most useful Institution; and as there is about it none of the depressing air of the adult Shelters, my visit here was a pleasant change. The reclamation or the helping of a lad is a very different business from that of restoring the adult or the old man to a station in life which he seems to have lost for ever.
THE CENTRAL LABOUR BUREAU
This Bureau is established in the Social Headquarters at Whitechapel, a large building acquired as long ago as 1878. Here is to be seen the room in which General Booth used to hold some of his first prayer meetings, and a little chamber where he took counsel with those Officers who were the fathers of the Army. Also there is a place where he could sit unseen and listen to the preaching of his subordinates, so that he might judge of their ability.
The large hall is now part of yet another Shelter, which contains 232 beds and bunks. I inspected this place, but as it differs in no important detail from others, I will not describe it.
The Officer who is in charge of the Labour Bureau informed me that hundreds of men apply there for work every week, of whom a great many are sent into the various Elevators and Shelters. The Army finds it extremely difficult to procure outside employment for these men, for the simple reason that there is very little available. Moreover, now that the Government Labour Bureaux are open, this trouble is not lessened. Of these Bureaux, the Manager said that they are most useful, but fail to find employment for many who apply to them. Indeed, numbers of men come on from them to the Salvation Army.
The hard fact is that there are more idle hands than there is work for them to do, even where honest and capable folk are concerned. Thus, in the majority of instances, the Army is obliged to rely upon its own Institutions and the Hadleigh Land Colony to provide some sort of job for out-of-works. Of course, of such jobs there are not enough to go round, so many poor folk must be sent empty away or supported by charity.
I suggested that it might be worth while to establish a school of chauffeurs, and the Officers present said that they would consider the matter. Unfortunately, however, such an experiment must be costly at the present price of motor-vehicles.
I annex the Labour Bureau Statistics for May, 1910:—
Applicants for temporary employment 479 Sent to temporary employment 183 Applicants for Elevators 864 Sent to Elevators 260 Sent to Shelters 32
Applicants for temporary employment 461 Sent to temporary employment 160 Applicants for Elevators 417 Sent to Elevators 202 Sent to Shelters 20 Sent to permanent situations 35
THE INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION DEPARTMENT
This is a curious and interesting branch of the work of the Salvation Army. About two thousand times a year it receives letters or personal applications, asking it to find some missing relative or friend of the writer or applicant. In reply, a form is posted or given, which must be filled up with the necessary particulars. Then, if it be a London case, the Officer in charge sends out a skilled man to work up clues. If, on the other hand, it be a country case, the Officer in charge of the Corps nearest to where it has occurred, is instructed to initiate the inquiry. Also, advertisements are inserted in the Army papers, known as 'The War Cry' and 'The Social Gazette,' both in Great Britain and other countries, if the lost person is supposed to be on the Continent or in some distant part of the world.
The result is that a large percentage of the individuals sought for are discovered, alive or dead, for in such work the Salvation Army has advantages denied to any other body, scarcely excepting the Police. Its representatives are everywhere, and to whatever land they may belong or whatever tongue they may speak, all of them obey an order sent out from Headquarters wholeheartedly and uninfluenced by the question of regard. The usual fee charged for this work is 10s. 6d.; but when this cannot be paid, a large number of cases are undertaken free. The Army goes to as much trouble in these unpaid cases as in any others, only then it is not able to flood the country with printed bills. Of course, where well-to-do people are concerned, it expects that its out-of-pocket costs will be met.
The cases with which it has to deal are of all kinds. Often those who have disappeared are found to have done so purposely, perhaps leaving behind them manufactured evidence, such as coats or letters on a river-bank, suggesting that they have committed suicide. Generally, these people are involved in some fraud or other trouble. Again, husbands desert their wives, or wives their husbands, and vanish, in which instances they are probably living with somebody else under another name. Or children are kidnapped, or girls are lured away, or individuals emigrate to far lands and neglect to write. Or, perhaps, they simply sink out of all knowledge, and vanish effectually enough into a paupers grave.
But the oddest cases of all are those of a complete loss of memory, a thing that is by no means so infrequent as is generally supposed. The experience of the Army is that the majority of these cases happen among those who lead a studious life. The victim goes out in his usual health and suddenly forgets everything. His mind becomes a total blank. Yet certain instincts remain, such as that of earning a living.
Thus, to take a single recent example, the son of a large bookseller in a country town left the house one day, saying that he would not be away for long, and disappeared. At the invitation of his father, the Army took up the case, and ultimately found that the man had been working in its Spa Road Elevator under another name. Afterwards he went away, became destitute, and sold matches in the streets. Ultimately he was found in a Church Army Home. He recovered his memory, and subsequently lost it again to the extent that he could recall nothing which happened to him during the period of its first lapse. All that time vanished into total darkness.
This business of the hunting out of the missing through the agency of the Salvation Army is one which increases every day. It is not unusual for the Army to discover individuals who have been missing for thirty years and upwards.
THE EMIGRATION DEPARTMENT
Some years ago I was present one night in the Board-room at Euston Station and addressed a shipload of emigrants who were departing to Canada under the auspices of the Salvation Army. I forget their exact number, but I think it was not less than 500. What I do not forget, however, is the sorrow that I felt at seeing so many men in the prime of life leaving the shores of their country for ever, especially as most of them were not married. This meant, amongst other things, that an equal number of women who remained behind were deprived of the possibility of obtaining a husband in a country in which the females already outnumber the males by more than a million. I said as much in the little speech I made on this occasion, and I think that some one answered me with the pertinent remark that if there was no work at home, it must be sought abroad.
There lies the whole problem in a nutshell—men must live. As for the aged and the incompetent and the sick and the unattached women, these are left behind for the community to support, while young and active men of energy move off to endow new lands with their capacities and strength. The results of this movement, carried out upon a great scale, can be seen in the remoter parts of Ireland, which, as the visitor will observe, appear to be largely populated by very young children and by persons getting on in years. Whether or no this is a satisfactory state of affairs is not for me to say, although the matter, too large to discuss here, is one upon which I may have my own opinion.
Colonel Lamb, the head of the Salvation Army Emigration Department, informed me that during the past seven years the Army has emigrated about 50,000 souls, of whom 10,000 were assisted out of its funds, the rest paying their own way or being paid for from one source or another. From 8,000 to 10,000 people have been sent during the present year, 1910, most of them to Canada, which is the Mecca of the Salvation Army Emigration policy. So carefully have all these people been selected, that not 1 per cent have ever been returned to this country by the Canadian Authorities as undesirable. The truth is that those Authorities have the greatest confidence in the discretion of the Army, and in its ability to handle this matter to the advantage of all concerned.
That this is true I know from personal experience, since when, some years ago, I was a Commissioner from the British Government and had authority to formulate a scheme of Colonial land-settlement, the Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, told me so himself in the plainest language. Indeed, he did more, formally offering a huge block of territory to be selected anywhere I might choose in the Dominion, with the aid of its Officers, for the purposes of settlement by poor folk and their children under the auspices of the Salvation Army. Also, he added the promise of as much more land as might be required in the future for the same purpose.
Most unhappily, as I hold, that offer was not accepted by the British Government. If this had been done, by now hundreds of English families would have been transferred from conditions of want at home in the English towns, into those of peace and plenty upon the land abroad. Moreover, the recent rise in the value of Canadian land has been so great that the scheme would not have cost the British taxpayer a halfpenny, or so I most firmly believe.
Unfortunately, however, my scheme was too novel in its character to appeal to the official mind, especially as its working would have involved a loan repayable by instalments, the administration of which must have been entrusted to the Salvation Army or to other charitable Organizations. So this priceless opportunity was lost, probably for ever, as the new and stricter emigration regulations adopted by Canada, as I understand, would make it extremely difficult to emigrate the class I hoped to help, namely, indigent people of good character, resident in English cities, with growing families of children.