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Title: Salvation Syrup; Or, Light On Darkest England
Author: Foote, G. W. (George William), 1850-1915
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Salvation Syrup; Or, Light On Darkest England" ***

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DARKEST ENGLAND ***



            *SALVATION SYRUP; OR, LIGHT ON DARKEST ENGLAND*

                                  _By_

                             *G. W. Foote*

                       _A REPLY TO GENERAL BOOTH_


                                 _1891_



CONTENTS


    SALVATION SYRUP; OR, LIGHT ON DARKEST ENGLAND
    POSTSCRIPTS TO SECOND EDITION



SALVATION SYRUP; OR, LIGHT ON DARKEST ENGLAND


Twenty years ago the Hallelujah Band spread itself far and wide, but
soon spent itself like a straw fire. Then arose the Salvation Army,
doing the same kind of work, and indulging in the same vagaries. These
were imitations of the antics of the cruder forms of Methodism. Even the
all-night meetings of the Whitechapel Salvationists, ten years ago, were
faint copies of earlier Methodist gatherings, especially of those in
Cornwall, which were described by the Rev. Richard Polwhele.(1) “At. St.
Agnes,” said this writer, “the Society stays up the whole night, when
girls of twelve and fourteen years of age ran about the streets, calling
out that they are possessed.” At Probus “the preacher at a late hour of
the night, after all but the higher classes left the room, would order
the candles to be put out, and the saints fall down and kneel on their
naked knees; when he would go round and thrust his hand under every knee
to feel if it were bare.” The Salvationists never went so far as this.
Freaks of such description are left, in this age, to the followers of
King Solomon in the Brighton Glory Hole. But a friend of ours, who
visited an all-night Salvation meeting at Whitechapel in 1882, told us
that the light was very dim, the voices were low, cheeks came perilously
close in prayer, and at one moment the proceedings threatened to
develope into a thoroughgoing love-feast.

      1. Anecdotes of Methodism.

As far as a more cultivated age would allow, the Salvation Army
advertised and recruited itself by the familiar practices of what
Professor Huxley calls “corybantic Christianity.” During the last six or
seven years it has grown more decorous, but prior to that time its
vulgarity was excessive. Its songs, its rowdy meetings, its coarse,
imbecile language, its ludicrous street processions, were enough to
furnish a Swift with fresh material for his indictment of mankind. The
names of its officers, as reported in its journal, were curiosities to
the student of human aberration. There was the “Hallelujah Fishmonger,”
the “Blood-washed Miner,” the “Devil Dodger,” the “Devil Walloper,” and
“Gypsy Sal.” Many of the worshippers of success who are now flocking
around General Booth as a new Savior of Society, would be astonished if
they were to turn over the old pages of the _War Cry_.

No one can pretend that “General,” Booth is a man of spiritual genius.
He is essentially a man of business. His faculty is for organisation,
not for the promulgation of new ideas or the creation of new material.
His eye for a good advertisement is unequalled. Barnum forgot Booth in
calling himself the greatest showman on earth. As the present writer
said in 1882, the head of the Salvation Army is “a dexterous manager; he
knows how to work the oracle; he understands catering for the mob; in
short he is a very clever showman, who deals in religion, just as other
showmen deal in wild animals, giants, dwarfs, two-headed sheep, fat
women, and Siamese twins.”

Everything in the Salvation Army is subordinated to “business.” At the
head-quarters a minute register is kept of all the officers. Few of them
are paid a regular salary. They are largely dependent on “results.”
Whatever their faculty may be for “saving souls,” they must rake in
enough shekels, or they are drafted from post to post, and finally
discharged. On the same principle, Booth has married his family “well,”
as the world calls it, and put them into all the higher posts.

By this means he secures a select circle of trusted subordinates, who
convey his orders to the lower circles of the Army, and see to their
execution. While this plan lasts there will be no dangerous mutiny;
especially as, in addition, the whole of the Army’s property is held in
the name of William Booth. There is, in fact, a Booth dynasty; though it
may be doubted if the dynasty will long outlast its founder. Certainly
his death will cause changes, and his empire will probably split up like
Alexander’s.

Eight years ago the General’s eldest sun was married to a young lady of
‘‘great expectations,” who joined the Booths against her father’s
wishes. With a keen eye for business, the General resolved to turn the
marriage into a public show. Of course, the legal ceremony had to be
performed elsewhere, but the Salvation performance came off at the
Army’s biggest meeting-place. The price of admission was a shilling a
head, and £300 was taken at the doors. A collection was also made
inside. During the speech of “Commissioner” Railton, an able man who has
had an eccentric career, the crowd began to press towards the door.
“Stop,” cried Booth, “don’t go yet, there’s going to be a collection.”
But the audience melted faster than ever. Then the General jumped up,
stopped Railton unceremoniously, and shouted, “Hold on! we’ll make the
collection now.”

During the farcical marriage ceremony the General was duly facetious.
His remarks tickled the ears of the groundlings. There was also the
usual spice of blasphemy. Before Bramwell Booth marched on to the
platform a board was held up bearing the inscription,

    “Behold the bridegroom cometh.”

Begging letters were sent out by Commissioner Railton, though cheques
were to be “payable to William Booth, as usual.” It was sought to raise
a good sum, not for Bramwell personally, but to reduce the Army’s debt
of £11,000. The printed slips were headed,

“Wedding Presents to Mr. Bramwell Booth,” who was stated to have worked
so hard for the Army that his hair was grey at twenty-seven. But the
piety was properly mixed with the business, and subscribers were told
that their cash would not only gladden the hearts of the Booths, but
“make the devil tremble,” and “give earth and hell another shock.”

This experiment was so successful that the General has repeated it on
several occasions. But he carried indecency to the point of
disgustfulness at the funeral of Mrs. Booth. The poor lady’s corpse was
dragged hither and thither by the inveterate old showman. It was brought
up from Clacton-on-Sea and exhibited to the public at Clapton.
Collection boxes were well in evidence, and although there was no charge
to see the corpse, there were significant hints that a trifle was
expected. Then the corpse was removed to Olympia, the scene of Barnum’s
triumphs. No effort was spared to secure a great success. Officers were
ordered up from all parts of the kingdom. The rank and file of the Army
were also invited, and tickets were available for any number of
outsiders. With regard to the performance, we must remember that tastes
differ. But one portion of it was calculated to shock every person with
any delicacy of feeling. Booth and his kindred stood up to sing around
the coffin the hymn they sang around Mrs. Booth’s death-bed. The
performers seemed to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen, you were not present
when we sang your mother to glory, but just look and listen, and you
will see how it was done.”

For a third time the corpse was shifted to Queen Victoria-street.
Unlimited advertising brought a tremendous crowd of sight-seers. Booth
headed the procession, followed by the Booth dynasty, and all of them
bowed and smiled to the cheering multitude.

Even in a funeral coach the Grand Old Showman had an eye to business.

Such being General Booth’s attitude towards the public, what is his
attitude towards the Salvation Army? Any one who reads his “Orders and
Regulations” will see that he has his cattle well in hand, and not only
can drive them where he pleases, but flick them smartly on any part with
his long-reaching whip. He subjects them absolutely to his persona!
despotism. Every part of his soldiers’ lives is regulated. They must
court and marry within the ranks. “Should a soldier,” he says, “become
engaged to an officer who afterwards gives up or forfeits his or her
commission, the soldier would be justified in breaking off the
engagement.” The General wishes to _breed_ Salvationists. He tells them
what to eat and what to wear. He informs them that they are only
passengers through this world. “Though still living in the world,” he
says, “the Salvationist is not of it, and he has, in this respect no
more business with its politics— that is, the public management of
affairs—than he has with its pleasures.” When the General wants his
soldiers to vote or act politically, he will issue a manifesto, and
every one is then expected to “act in harmony with the rules and
regulations laid down for him by his superior officers.” These superior
officers, who take _their_ orders from General Booth, must be perfectly
obeyed, for “they have the Spirit of God, and will only command what is
right.”

Now it is well to remember all this in discussing General Booth’s new
scheme of social salvation. He insists on retaining absolute command of
all the funds, and on working the whole scheme through the Salvation
Army. All who assist him, therefore, are helping to promote the
development of a vast body of religious fanatics, under the despotic
control of a single man, who will not scruple, when it serves his
purpose to, use his voluntary slaves, for political as well as social
objects. For General Booth has his own notions— crude as many of them
are—and it is not in human nature to refrain from using power for the
realisation of one’s ideas. And Pope Booth is more absolute than Pope
Pecci. The Vicar of Christ at Rome is unable to move without his Holy
Council of Cardinals; but the Vicar of Christ in Queen Victoria-street,
London, is the unchecked and irresponsible ruler of the whole Salvation
Army.

General Booth’s success as an organiser is great, though he has had a
comparatively easy task in organising _sheep_. Now, however, he proposes
to deal with the _goats_. Some of his scanty leisure has been devoted to
studying the social question, and as the interest in the Army’s old
methods is obviously declining, he proposes to raise a million of money,
and reform that part of the population which John Bright called “the
residuum.” In other words, the wily old General has launched a new boom.

Plaudits are heard on nearly every side. The religious bodies give him
the homage of fear. They shout approval because they dare not show
hostility. Next come the mob of cheap philanthropists. This consists of
rich ladies and gentleman, who feel twinges of remorse at living
sumptuously while others are starving, and who are ready to pay
conscience-money to any social charlatan. When they have written out a
cheque they feel relieved. “On with the dance, let joy be unconfined.”
But it is not thus that the spectre of poverty and misery will be laid.

    Evil is wrought by want of thought,

    As well as by want of heart.

If the so-called lower classes are to be elevated, the so-called upper
classes will find they will have to do some _thinking_. Social knots
cannot be cut, they must be untied. The Sphinx says you must _read_ her
riddle. All the money-bags in the world will never smooth her terrible
brow.

General Booth’s scheme of social salvation is before the world in the
form of a book. Let us examine the prophecy of this would-be Moses of
the serfs of poverty and degradation.

An ordinary author would sign himself “William Booth,” but this one is
“General” even on a title-page. In Darkest England is an obvious
plagiarism on Stanley, and The Way Out is suggested by his long travel
through the awful Central African forest.

In the preface General Booth acknowledges the “valuable literary help”
of a “friend of the poor, who, though not in any way connected with the
Salvation Army, has the deepest sympathy with its aims, and is to a
large extent in harmony with its principles.” The friend is Mr. Stead.
This gentleman has “written up” the scheme in the manner of “the born
journalist,” that is, in the fashion of the Modern Babylon” and the
adventures of Eliza Armstrong. He contributes the descriptions, the
gush, the hysterics, the sentences crowded with adjectives and adverbs.
Sometimes he writes a whole chapter, unless our literary scent misleads
us; sometimes he interpolates the General, and sometimes the General
interpolates Stead. One result of this twofold authorship is that the
book is twice as big as it should be; another result is that it often
contradicts itself. For instance, the General states in the preface that
he has known “thousands, nay, I can say tens of thousands,” who have
proved the value of _spiritual_ means of reformation, having “with
little or no temporal assistance, come out of the darkest depths of
destitution, vice, and crime, to be happy and honest citizens and true
sons and servants of God.” Elsewhere (p. 243) he speaks of them as
“multitudes.” Yet in the very next paragraph of the preface Mr. Stead
(if we mistake not) breaks in with the assertion that “the rescued are
appallingly few,” a mere “ghastly minority.”

This little contradiction may throw light on the rumor that Booth has
been urged into this scheme of temporal salvation. Once upon a time he
was down on “Commissioner” Smith, whose tendencies in this direction
were obtrusive; and how long is it since he wrote in the new Rules and
Regulations, that the members of the Salvation Army had nothing to do
with the world, its politics, its business, or its pleasures? The hand
is the hand of Booth, but the voice seems the voice of Stead.

Here is another contradiction, and this time a vital one. The General
curls his upper lip (p. 18) at those “anti-Christian economists who hold
that it is an offence against the doctrine of the survival of the
fittest to try to save the weakest from going to the wall, and who
believe that when once a man is down the supreme duty of a
self-regarding Society is to jump upon him.” Without dwelling on the
fact that this is a shocking and perfectly gratuitous libel, probably
meant to pander to Christian prejudices, we content ourselves with
drawing attention to a contradictory declaration (p. 44) that “In the
struggle for life the weakest will go to the wall, and there are so many
weak. The fittest, in tooth and claw, will survive. All that we can do
is to soften the lot of the unfit and make their suffering less horrible
than it is at present. No amount of assistance will give a jellyfish a
backbone. No outside propping will make some men stand erect.” Thus the
General, or Mr. Stead, joins hands with the “anti-Christian economists”
in the doctrine that it is useless to try to save the weakest from going
to the wall. Of course he does not endorse the policy of jumping on
them, but that policy is merely a production of his own pious
imagination.

This contradiction we say is vital. The first statement is a sneer at
Natural Selection, the second is a frank admission of its supremacy.
They represent two antagonistic philosophies. They mark the parting of
the ways between the Christian and the Evolutionist. They are as
incompatible as oil and water, and no thoughtful man would attempt to
reconcile them. But Booth (or isn’t it Stead?) combines incompatibles
with the alkali of sentiment. And this failure to discern the
distinctiveness of opposite first principles shows the book to be the
work of sciolists, and vitiates its scheme of social reform from
beginning to end. No work can succeed without a knowledge of materials.
Every effort at improvement has in it the elements of success or failure
as it recognises or ignores the special laws of human nature, and the
more general laws of biology that lie behind them.

An amusing contradiction occurs in another place (p. 14), to which we
call attention in order to show the chaotic character of the writing;
and this time, we judge from the style, it is Stead contradicting Stead.
Speaking of the harlot, he says—

“But there, even in the lowest depths, excommunicated by Humanity and
outcast from God, she is far nearer the pitying heart of the One true
Savior than all the men who forced her down, aye, and than all the
Pharisees and Scribes who stand silently by while these fiendish wrongs
are perpetrated before their very eyes.”

The theology of this passage is worthy of the wild exaggeration with
which it closes. The poor harlot is “outcast from God,” but near the
“pitying heart” of Christ; in other words, God the Father is on the side
of injustice and cruelty, and God the Son on the side of justice and
mercy. One person of the Trinity is played off against another, and it
is not for us to settle the difference between them. We leave the matter
to the second thoughts of Mr. Stead, or the divine illumination of
General Booth.

Indeed, the entire theology of this book is worthy of Bedlam, and
especially of the criminal lunatic department. A personal Devil is
seriously trotted out (p. 159) for the laughter of intelligent men and
women, and even of decently educated children. Prosperous people, we are
told, see something strange and quaint in the language of the Bible,
which “habitually refers to the Devil as an actual personality,” but
Hell and the Devil are certitudes to the Salvationists who work in the
slums.

Well, if the Devil is so active, what is God doing? Apparently nothing.
Booth is going to reform our drunkards, or try to if we give him the
money, but he candidly admits (p. 181), perhaps in a moment of
forgetfulness, that the confirmed toper will drink himself “into a
drunkard’s grave and a drunkard’s hell,” unless he is “delivered by an
Almighty hand.” It is God alone, then, who can save the most fallen.
Their fate lies in his hands. And what does he do for them? The answer
is to be found in General Booth’s appeal. A million of money, and the
co-operation of a multitude of men and women, are requested for the
purpose of saving at least _some_ of the poor wretches who are beyond
the power of self-help, although “the Almighty hand” could easily pluck
them out of their degradation. Nor does Booth expect that _all_ will be
saved by his scheme, however well supported and successful. It is
perfectly clear, therefore, that the God he worships will allow men and
women to perish whom he might promptly save; yes, allow them to perish
in this world, physically, intellectually, and morally, and afterwards
torment them for ever and ever in Hell. And it is this God, this
incredible monster of wickedness, in whom General Booth trusts, and whom
he bids the Freethinker look up to with admiration and love. Nay, he
regards “trust in Jehovah” (p. 241) as the chief credential of the
Salvation Army for carrying out an enterprise which is to cost a million
sterling. Let the worshippers of Jehovah support him then. The
Freethinker will necessarily regard this insane theology as a rottenness
at the very heart of the experiment.

Without going through all the insane theology of this book, we may—nay,
we must—give a crowning instance of it.

“I am quite satisfied that these multitudes will not be saved in their
present circumstances. All the Clergymen, Home Missionaries, Tract
Distributors, Sick Visitors, and everyone else who care about the
Salvation of the poor, may make up their minds as to that. If these
people are to believe in Jesus Christ, become the Servants of God, and
escape the miseries of the wrath to come, they must be helped out of
their present social miseries. They must be put into a position in which
they can work and eat, and have a decent room to live and sleep in, and
see something before them besides along, weary, monotonous, grinding
round of toil, and anxious care to keep themselves and those they love
barely alive, with nothing at the further end but the Hospital, the
Union, or the Madhouse. If Christian Workers and Philanthropists will
join hands to effect this change, it will be accomplished, and the
people will rise up and bless them, and be saved; if they will not, the
people will curse them and perish.”—(p. 257).

Did ever a human being excogitate such blasphemous nonsense? God is
openly declared to be a passive spectator of the great struggle between
good and evil. At the end of it he will save the succeeders and damn the
failers; although, according to Booth’s own admission, hosts of both
classes are what they are through the pressure of circumstances.
Compared with such a God the bloody Moloch was a respectable deity.

Four men are living within sight and sound of each other, and one of
them goes to the bad. Thereupon it is the duty of Smith, Jones, and
Brown to rescue Robinson. If they succeed, God will give him a seat in
Heaven; if they fail, or neglect their duty, God will cast him into
Hell. Thus Robinson’s fate depends upon the sympathy, self-sacrifice,
and wisdom of Smith, Jones, and Brown. Want of heart on their part, and
even want of sense, are alike fatal to his chance of salvation. God lets
them do their best; if they do nothing, he is just as serene; and at the
day of judgment he sends Robinson to bliss or damnation, accordingly as
Smith, Jones, and Brown—separately or collectively—have succeeded or
failed in keeping him out of the gutter.

What a view of God! And what a ghastly, roundabout way of stating the
truth that religion is powerless to save the fallen, that men and women
can only be elevated by secular agencies!

This truth has always been proclaimed by Freethinkers. It is a
commonplace of their teaching. Yet the Churches have ignored or denied
it. Here is General Booth, however, announcing it clearly enough to all
who will take the theological wadding out of their ears. True, the
discovery is late, but better late than never.

It is upon this truth that Booth’s scheme is founded. Sometimes, indeed,
he forgets it, and talks as though the preaching of Christ and him
crucified were enough to regenerate society. But this truth, that man is
very largely the creature of circumstances, and that evil circumstances
should be changed if there is to be any improvement, is the governing
idea of his project.

No doubt the “General” seeks an escape from the logical consequences of
this truth. He says, for instance, that (p. 286) “to me has been given
the idea,” as though God _had_ intervened and selected him as the human
agent. But this is all nonsense. In the first place, if God gave Booth
the idea, he might as well have given him the cash. In the second place,
the idea—or rather, the set of ideas—is by no means a revelation. Every
part of Booth’s scheme has been advocated by other men, and several
parts are already reduced to practice, though not on the gigantic scale
he contemplates. His Farm Colony is admittedly borrowed from Mr. B. T.
Craig, a veteran Freethinker who was the soul of the Ralahine
experiment. With this gentleman Booth has had interviews; indeed, the
“General”—perhaps with Mr. Stead’s assistance—has simply picked other
men’s brains, although he takes care to conceal his indebtedness.

Naturally, too, the astute leader of the Salvation Army recognises the
necessity of a _pious_ appeal to wealthy Christians. He therefore
“asserts in the most unqualified way that it is primarily and mainly for
the sake of saving souls” that he “seeks the salvation of the body” (p.
45). And he declares (p. 3) it must not be supposed that he is “less
dependent upon the old plans” or that he “seeks anything short of the
old conquest.” At the same time (p. 279) he “does not think that any
sectarian differences or religious feelings whatever ought to be
imported into this question.” Is it not better, he asks, that miserable
crowds of men and women should have work, food, clothes, and a home,
even with “some peculiar religious notions and practices,” than that
they should be “hungry, and naked, and homeless, and possess no religion
at all”? Put in this way, of course, the question admits of only one
answer. But this way of putting it begs the wider question; for it does
not follow that Booth’s is the only possible scheme of social reform, or
even that it is calculated to succeed.

The real fact is, disguise it how it may, that Booth’s scheme is only an
extension of the Salvation Army. He promises that there shall be no
compulsion, that the poor he gets hold of shall not be pressed into any
form of faith, that religious freedom shall be respected. But what will
the promise avail? The whole scheme, from top to bottom, is to be worked
by the Salvationists; every penny is to pass through Booth’s hands, and
every order is to issue from his brain. Outsiders are only wanted in the
shape of subscribers. Is it not idle then, to suppose that the scheme
will, in practice, be anything else than a huge recruiting system for
the Salvation Army? We venture to say that if Booth’s _first_ thought
were for the poor, he would invite the formation of an influential
Committee, and not seek the monopoly of all the cash and credit for his
own sect.

Let us now turn to the scheme itself. Let us see what evils are to be
remedied, and the nature of the remedy proposed.

In the opening chapters, written almost exclusively by Mr. Stead, there
is a vivid, but, of course, exaggerated, picture of the diseases of
society. The writer has walked through the “shambles of our
civilisation,” until “it seemed as if God were no longer in this world,
but that in his stead reigned a fiend, merciless as Hell, ruthless as
the grave.” Of course the grave is neither ruthless nor tender; and, of
course, it is not Hell, but the God of Hell, that is merciless. But,
apart from these criticisms, it is evident that Mr. Booth-Stead or Mr.
Stead-Booth, is aware of much preventible evil; nor are we disposed to
quarrel with him for calling it “a satire upon our Christianity,”
although we might suggest the impossibility of satirising a creed which
has to make such shameful confessions after so many centuries of wealth,
power, and privilege, and such a supreme opportunity of cleansing the
world if it had the capacity for the task. This Christianity has failed
—disastrously and ignominiously; yet has it played the dog in the
manger, and refused to allow Science and Philosophy a trial; and even
now, when condemned and self-condemned, it only whines for another
chance, like an old offender for the hundredth time in the prisoners’
dock.

Eighteen centuries after the advent of “the Redeemer,” and in the most
pious country in the world, it is Booth’s calculation that one-tenth of
the population, or about three millions of men, women, and children are
sunk in destitution, vice, and crime. In London alone, the city of
churches, where everything but religion is tabooed on Sunday, there are
100,000 prostitutes, 85,000 thieves, and drunkards galore, to say
nothing of the paupers, the idle, and the temporarily unemployed. And
the disease is getting worse, according to Booth, who declares that
something must be done immediately. Well, we will neither dispute his
statistics nor his forecast, but just take his plan of campaign and see
whether it has the remotest chance of success.

What is General Booth’s scheme for dealing with the “submerged tenth,”
or three millions of the poor, the unemployed, and the vicious? And in
what spirit will he set to work if he gets the hundred thousand pounds
down, with the prospect of the rest of a million pounds afterwards?

Booth is a bold man and his promises are magnificent.

“If the scheme,” he says, “which I set forth in these pages is not
applicable to the Thief, the Harlot, the Drunkard, and the Sluggard, it
may as well be dismissed without ceremony.”

We suspect that the Sluggard will be the toughest subject of all. Booth
has to solve the insoluble problem of how to put nervous energy into a
body in which it is constitutionally lacking. Common sense says the
thing cannot be done. You may galvanise the Sluggard for a while, but
the effect will not last. Energy is not acquired, it is congenital. If
Booth would take the trouble to read Mr. Havelock Ellis’s book on
Criminals, not to mention more recondite ^ works, he would see that the
Sluggard and the Thief are first cousins. Both have a defective
vitality, only the Thief, and the Criminal generally, is capable, like
all predatory creatures, of spasmodic activity. The type is well known
and should be dealt with scientifically. Inveterate criminals should be
segregated. There is no necessity to treat them with cruelty. They
should be surrounded with comfort, but they should be rigorously
prevented from procreating their like. Science shows us that the only
permanently successful way of dealing with these classes is to cut off
the supply.

Certainly there are many persons in gaol who are not congenital
criminals, and these should be dealt with in a spirit of wisdom and
humanity. Were they treated like men, subjected to proper discipline,
and rewarded for good behavior and industry, instead of being punished
so liberally for bad behavior and idleness, most of them would be
reclaimed. In ordinary prisons —so wretched, so inhuman, and so imbecile
is the system—eighty per cent, of first offenders come back again; while
in the one great American prison which is conducted on a better method
the percentage is exactly reversed, only twenty per cent, returning to
gaol, and eighty per cent, joining the ranks of decent society.

General Booth is not a scientist. He knows nothing of the lessons of
Evolution. He is not aware that thousands of men and women are born in
every generation who are behind the age. They are types of a vanished
order of mankind, relics of antecedent stages of culture. Natural
Selection is always eliminating them, and General Booth proposes to
coddle them, to surround them with artificial circumstances, and give
them a better chance. He does not see that most of them, however propped
up by the more energetic and independent, will always bear the stamp of
unfitness; nor does he see that he will enable them to beget and rear a
more numerous offspring of the same character.

The law of heredity is a stern fact, and it will not budge a
hair’s-breadth for General Booth and all the sentimental religionists in
the world.

Take the Harlots, for instance. We are far from denying that many girls,
after being seduced by men, are pushed into a life of vice. Christian
society has no mercy on female frailty; it drives a girl who has
listened to the voice of a tempter, or the first suggestions of her
sexual passions, into a career of infamy; and then, when it has helped
to poison her life, it hypocritically sheds tears over her and sets up
associations for her rescue. This is true enough—damnably true—but it is
not the whole truth. Just as there are congenital criminals, there are
congenital harlots. They are cases of survival or reversion. Discipline
of every kind is hateful to them. They prefer to do what they like, how
they like, and when they like. Animality and vanity are strong in them,
but they have little steady energy and no self-control. In a polygamous
state of society they would find a place in a harem; but in a monogamous
and industrial state of society they are hopelessly out of harmony with
the general environment. Here is an instructive little table from
General Booth’s book. He takes a hundred cases “as they come” from his
Rescue Register.

Twenty-three of these girls had been in prison. Only two were pushed
into vice by poverty. Seduction, wilful choice, and bad company, come to
much the same thing in the end. In any case, one-fourth of the whole
hundred deliberately took to prostitution. Now:

    Causes of Fall:

    Drink                   14

    Seduction               33

    Wilful Choice           24

    Bad Company             27

    Poverty                  2

                     Total 100

if General Booth fancies that the money he spends on these is a good
investment, while a greater number of good girls are trying to lead an
honest life in difficult circumstances, with little or no assistance
from “charity,” we venture to say he is grievously mistaken; and we
think he is basking in a Fool’s Paradise, unless he is trading on pious
credulity, when he looks forward (p. 133) to the girls of Piccadilly
exchanging their quarters for “the strawberry beds of Essex or Kent.”

Facts are facts. It is useless to blink them. The present writer did not
make the world, or its inhabitants, and he disowns all responsibility
for its miserable defects. But when you attempt to reform the world
there is only one thing that will help you. Humanity is presupposed.
Without it you would never make a beginning. But after that the one
requisite is Science. Now all the science displayed in General Booth’s
book might be written large on thick paper, and tied to the wrings of a
single pigeon without impeding its flight.

General Booth himself, in one of his lucid intervals, recognises the
hard facts we have just insisted on. “No change in circumstances,” he
says (p. 85), “no revolution in social conditions, can possibly
transform the nature of man.” “Among the denizens of Darkest England
there are many who have found their way thither by defects of character
which would, under the most favorable circumstances, relegate them to
the same position.” Again he says (p. 204):

“There are men so incorrigibly lazy that no inducement you could offer
will tempt them to work; so eaten up by vice that virtue is abhorrent to
them, and so inveterately dishonest that theft is to them a master
passion. When a human being has reached that stage, there is only one
course that can be rationally pursued. Sorrowfully, but remorselessly,
it must be recognised that he has become lunatic, morally demented,
incapable of self-government, and that upon him, therefore, must be
passed the sentence of permanent seclusion from a world in which he is
not fit to be at large.”

These very people, who are the worst part of the social problem, Booth
will not trouble himself very greatly about. Here are a few extracts
from the Rules for the “Colonists,” as he calls the people who come into
his scheme.

(a) Expulsion for drunkenness, dishonesty, or falsehood will follow the
third offence.

(b) After a certain period of probation, and a considerable amount of
patience, all who will not work to be expelled.

(c) The third offence will incur expulsion, or being handed over to the
authorities.

_Expulsion_ is Booth’s whip, and a very convenient one —for him! He will
soon simplify his enterprise. All who come to him will be taken, but he
will speedily return to society all the liars, drunkards, thieves, and
idlers; so that when the scheme is in full swing, society will still
have the old problem of dealing with the residuum, and in this respect
Booth will not have helped in the least.

General Booth’s scheme is thus, in the ultimate analysis, merely one for
dealing with the unemployed. On this point his ideas are simply
childish. He seems to imagine that _work_ is a thing that can be found
in unlimited quantities. He does not suspect the existence of economic
laws. It never occurs to him that by artificially providing work for one
unemployed person he may drive another person out of employment. Nor has
he the least inkling of the law of population which lies behind
everything.

In his Labor Shops, in London, he proposes to make match-boxes. Well,
now, the community is already supplied with all the match-boxes it
wants. The demand cannot be stimulated. And every girl that Booth takes
in from the streets and sets to making match-boxes, which are to be put
on the market, will turn some other girl out of employment at Bryant and
May’s or other match factories.

Similarly with the Salvation Bottles (p. 120) and the Social Soap (p.
136). Booth’s soap, if it gets sold, will lessen the demand for other
people’s soap, and thus a lot of existing soap-makers will be thrown out
of work. If he collects old bottles, and furbishes them up “equal to
new,” there will be so many less new bottles wanted, and a lot of
existing glass-bottle makers will be thrown out of work. The wily old
General of the Salvation Army, owing to a want of economic knowledge,
falls into a most obvious fallacy. He is like the Irishman, who
lengthened his shirt by cutting a piece off the top and sewing it on the
bottom.

Getting hold of fish and meat tins, cleaning them up, and manufacturing
them into toys, is hardly worth all the eloquence spent upon it by
Booth’s literary adviser. Nor is there much to be said in favor of an
Inquiry Office for lost people. If it be true that 18,000 people are
“lost” in London every year, it may be assumed that the majority of them
do not want to be found, and it is the business of the police to look
after the rest. Neither is there any necessity to subvention General
Booth to obtain workman’s dwellings out of town instead of ugly, dreary
model dwellings in the midst of dirt and smoke. Nothing can be done
until provision is made by the railway companies for conveying the
workmen to and fro for twopence a day, and when this step is taken, as
it must be, private enterprise will construct the dwellings without
Salvation charity. With regard to the scheme of the Poor Man’s Bank, it
would have been but fair to say that the idea is borrowed from infidel
Paris, where for many years a benevolent Society has lent money to
honest and capable poor men with gratifying results.

The giving of legal advice gratis to the poor would be a good thing if
it did not lead to unlimited litigation. Of course General Booth does
not say, and perhaps he does not know, that Mr. Bradlaugh has been doing
this for twenty-five years. Thousands of poor men, not necessarily
Freethinkers, have had the benefit of his legal advice. No one in quest
of such assistance has ever knocked at his door in vain. Finally, with
respect to “Whitechapel-at-Sea,” a place which Booth projects for the
reception of his poor people when they badly need a little sea-air and
sunshine, it must be said that this kind of charity has been carried on
for years, and that Booth is only borrowing a leaf from other people’s
book. In fact, the “General” collects all the various charitable ideas
he can discover, dishes them up into one grandiose scheme, and modestly
asks for a million pounds to carry out “the blessed lot.”

Singly and collectively these projects will no more affect “the
unemployed” than scratching will cure leprosy. Every effect has its
cause, which must be discovered before any permanent good can be done.
Now the causes of want of employment (if men desire to find it) are
political and economical. The business of the true reformer is to
ascertain them and to remove or counteract them. Pottering with their
effects, in the name of “charity,” is like dipping out and purifying
certain barrels of water from an everflowing dirty stream.

At the very best “charity” is artificial, and social remedies must be
natural. Work cannot be _provided_. People have certain incomes and
allow themselves a certain expenditure. If they give Booth, or any other
charlatan, a hundred pounds to find work for “the unemployed,” they have
a hundred pounds less to spend in other ways, and those who previously
supplied them with that amount of commodities or service will
necessarily suffer. Shuffle one pack of cards how you will, the hands
may differ, but the total number of cards will be fifty-two.

General Booth talks infinite nonsense about the “failure” of Trade
Unions because they only include a million and a half of workmen. Rome
was not built in a day, and even the Salvation Army, with God Almighty
to help it, is not yet as extensive as this “failure.” Nor does the
world need Booth to tell it the benefits of co-operation. He looks to it
as “one of the chief elements of hope in the future.” So do thousands of
other people, but what has this to do with the Salvation Army?

The only part of Booth’s scheme which is of the least value is the one
he has borrowed from a Freethinker. The Farm Colony is suggested by the
Rahaline experiment associated with the name of Mr. E. T. Craig. But not
only was Mr. Craig a Freethinker, the same may be said of Mr. Vandeleur,
the landlord who furnished the ground for the experiment. At any rate,
he was a disciple and friend of Robert Owen, who declared that the great
cause of the frustration of human welfare was “the fundamental errors of
every religion that had hitherto been taught to man.” “By the errors of
these systems,” said Owen, “he has been made a weak, imbecile animal; a
furious bigot and fanatic; and should these qualities be carried, not
only into the projected villages, but into Paradise itself, a Paradise
would no longer be found.”

The Rahaline experiment was a co-operative one, while Booth’s is to be
despotic. He proposes to put the unemployed at work on a big farm, and
afterwards to draft them to an Over-sea Colony, where the reformed
“thieves, harlots, drunkards, and sluggards” are to lay the foundations
of a new province of the British Empire. Something, of course, might be
done in this way, but it is doubtful if Booth will get hold of the right
material to do it with, or if his Salvation methods will be successful.
Much greater effects than “charity” could realise would be produced by a
wise alteration of our Land Laws, which would lead to the application of
fresh capital and labor to the cultivation of the soil. It is, indeed,
one of the prime evils of Booth’s scheme, no less than of almost every
other charitable effort, that it helps to divert attention from
political causes of social disorders. No doubt charity is an excellent
thing in certain circumstances, but the first thing to agitate for is
justice; and when our laws are just, and no longer create evils, it will
be time enough for a huge system of charity to mitigate the still
inevitable misery.

So far we have discovered nothing original in General Booth’s scheme.
Its elements may be reduced to three. There is (a) the reformation of
weak, vicious, and criminal characters, which is a rather hopeless task
especially when the attempt is made with _adults_. Something might be
done with _children_, and in this respect Dr. Barnardo’s work, with all
its defects, is infinitely more sensible than General Booth’s. Then
there is (b) providing labor for the unemployed, which, whether
attempted by governments or charitable bodies is an economical fallacy.
Finally there is (c) the planting of town populations on the land, which
has a certain small promise of success if the scheme were to take the
form of allotments to capable cultivators; but which, on the other hand,
will surely come to grief if the experiment is made with even the
selected residuum of great cities.

But supposing the scheme of General Booth were in itself full of social
promise, a reasonable person would still ask, What are the
qualifications of a religious body like the Salvation Army for carrying
out such a scheme?

First of all, let us take the General. He plainly tells us he is to be
the head of everything. He is not only to be the leader, but the brain;
in fact, he expounds this function of his in a long passage of dubious
physiology. Now, the General is undoubtedly a clever man.

But is he such a universal genius as to “boss” everything, from playing
tambourines to making tin toys, from preaching “blood and fire” to the
administration of a big farm, from walking backwards for Jesus to
superintending a gigantic emigration agency? Unless he combines a vast
diversity of faculties with supernatural energy, he is sure to come to
grief; for absolute obedience to him is indispensable, and if _he_
fails, the whole experiment fails with him.

Even if General Booth prove himself equal to the occasion, the despotic
nature of the management makes the success of the scheme precarious.
Everything hangs upon the single thread of his life, which may be
snapped at any moment. Even if we admit his consummate and comprehensive
genius, what guarantee is there that his successor will inherit it?

General Booth bids us remember that the Salvation Army _has_ succeeded,
and its past achievements are a pledge of its future triumphs. But let
us look into this, and see how much it is to the point.

That the Salvation Army is a striking success is not to be disputed. But
what is the _character_ of its success? This is an all-important
question: for a man, or an organisation, may be very successful in one
direction, and hopelessly impotent in another.

Undoubtedly the Salvation Army caters for hysterical persons who are
sick and tired of the “respectable” forms of religion. But is it true
that the Army reforms the thief, the drunkard, and the profligate? Now
in answering this question it is well to bear in mind that solitary
cases prove absolutely nothing. There is no principle, no system, no
organisation, which has not absorbed some persons who previously led
lives of selfish indulgence, aroused in them an interest in impersonal
objects, and surrounded them with a restraining public opinion. The real
question is this —How is the Salvation Army in the main recruited?

Again and again it has been asserted by outsiders, and admitted by
candid members, that the Army is principally recruited from other sects.
Some years ago this assertion was publicly made in the _Times_ by the
Rev. Llewellyn Davies, who was prepared to prove it in his own parish of
Marylebone. Mr. Davies was answered by “Commissioner” Railton, who
indulged in vague generalities, which were cut short by the simple
request to produce the notorious sinners converted in that parish. Of
course they were not produced: for the most part these “converts” exist
on paper.

The Army’s pretensions are disproved by statistics. It boasts of nearly
ten thousand officers and a million of adherents. Now if these, or a
considerable proportion of them, had been drawn from the moral residuum
of England, a very serious impression would have been made on the ranks
of vice and crime. But what are the facts? While the Education Act has
made a difference in the number of young criminals, there is no
perceptible diminution in the number of hardened offenders. Prostitutes,
also, are as numerous as ever, and the national drink-bill actually
increases.

Revival movements have always boasted of moral successes, but history
shows that they make no real impression on the community. The method is
unscientific and doomed to failure. A salvation meeting, with its noise
and excitement, has as much effect on public morality as a savage’s
tom-tom has upon the heavens. The noisy things in nature are generally
futile. Whirlwinds and earthquakes affect the imagination, but it is the
regular action of air and water that produces the greatest changes, and
the gentle action of rain and sunshine that ripens the harvest. These
“spiritual,” and nearly always hysterical, agencies for human
improvement, are based upon a denial of the physical basis of life, and
of the doctrine of moral causation. They attract great attention, and
their leaders gain tremendous applause. But all the while the real work
of progress is being done by other agencies—by the spread of knowledge,
the growth of education, the discoveries of science, the silent triumphs
of art, and the gradual expansion of the human mind. Agitation is not
necessarily progress. What is wanted is a new ingredient, and that is
furnished by the more obscure, and often lonely men, whose greatness is
only known to a few, although their thoughts are the seed of future
harvests of wisdom and happiness for the human race.

Suppose, however, we concede, for the sake of argument, all the claims
of the Salvation Army as a religious agency of reform. This would afford
a presumption of its continued success _on the old lines_. But the _new
lines_ are a fresh departure. General Booth himself admits that “the new
sphere on which we are entering will call for faculties other than those
which have hitherto been cultivated.” What guarantee has he then, beyond
an unbounded and possibly exaggerated belief in himself, that those
“faculties” will come when he “calls for” them? Will men of the required
stamp of character and ability enrol themselves under the despotism of
General Booth? And if they did, how long would he be able to hold them
together? First of all, at any rate he has to get them. The ordinary
Salvation Army captain is not equal to these things. This is obvious to
General Booth; hence his fervid appeal to persons of greater capacity to
throw themselves into his enterprise. But we do not believe he will
obtain their assistance. It is far easier to extract a hundred thousand
pounds, or even a million, from a gullible public, than to induce men
and women of the stamp required in the successful conduct of a big
social experiment to place themselves at the absolute command of a
religious revivalist.

Let us now turn to a tremendously important aspect of General Booth’s
scheme, which up to the present has been only alluded to. Lady Florence
Dixie has pointed out, with her accustomed courage, that the scheme
would, if successful, increase the pressure of population in the worst
way by multiplying the unfit. Booth does not believe in celibacy, and we
agree with him. But we are far from approving his idea of setting up a
Matrimonial Bureau and bringing marriageable persons together. The
marriages he is likely to promote will, of course, be chiefly among the
classes he will try to reclaim. Such a prospect is anything but pleasant
to those who understand the population question, and is quite appalling
to those who understand the philosophy of Evolution.

When Archdeacon Farrar was preaching at Westminster Abbey on behalf of
General Booth’s scheme, he made this observation:—“The country is being
more and more depleted, the great cities are becoming more and more
densely overcrowded, and in great cities there is always a tendency to
the deterioration of manhood—morally, physically, and spiritually. Our
population is increasing at the rate of a thousand a day, and the most
rapid increase is among the destitute and unfit.” Precisely so; and it
is among these very classes that General Booth, if he honestly means
what he says, will do his best to promote an increase of population. In
this respect his scheme involves a grave social danger. On the whole, it
seems pretty plain, as Professor Huxley observes, that if General Booth
does sixpennyworth of good, he will do a good shillings-worth of harm.

To conclude. Except for the Farm Colony, which we do not see how Booth
is to manage successfully, we are able to perceive nothing in his scheme
which really touches the heart of the social problem; while as a remedy
for the “unemployed” it seems to us perfectly ridiculous. The whole
project, at bottom, is a new gigantic device for furthering the
interests of the Salvation Army. If the other Christian bodies do not
see this they must be lamentably deficient in insight. It is all very
well to say that no pressure will be put upon the men and women in the
Refuges and the Colonies, for they will be subjected to the omnipresent
influence of the Salvation Army, which is to carry out the scheme to its
minutest details.

Unless we “are greatly mistaken, this truth is very apparent to General
Booth. He insists on having absolute control of the funds and the
arrangements, and although he may have no mercenary motives, he is
doubtless seeking to gratify his ambition and love of power as well as
to promote the “salvation of souls.”

On the whole, however, we shall be glad to see the “General” get the
money he is soliciting. The cash he collects will probably be diverted
from other religious enterprises, and in this respect a Freethinker need
not be in the least afflicted. His experiment will, in our opinion, do a
real service to society. It will demonstrate before the very eyes of
people who know next to nothing of history or economics the absolute
futility of religious efforts to reform the world. When it is discovered
that the poor rates, the statistics of drink, the number of the
unemployed, the condition of the very poor, and the miseries and
degradations of what is compendiously called the social evil, are not
perceptibly affected by General Booth’s efforts, the very dullest will
see the deception of such enterprises, and turn their attention to the
scientific aspects of the great social problem. This will be a great
gain, and will amply compensate for the waste of a hundred thousand or
even a million pounds.



POSTSCRIPTS TO SECOND EDITION


General Booth signalised the inauguration of his Social Scheme by
quarreling with Mr. Frank Smith, who had acted as the chief officer of
the Social Wing of the Salvation Army. Mr. Smith felt obliged to resign.
From the correspondence which appeared in the newspapers, it seems that
the principal ground of his complaint was General Booth’s refusal to
keep a separate account of income and expenditure for the Social Scheme.
The accounts were to form a part of the general book-keeping of the
Army. This was in defiance of the spirit, if not the letter, of Booth’s
promises, and Mr. Smith would not connive at what he considered a
deception. After his resignation, however, the General declared there
had been a misunderstanding, and the accounts would be kept separate.
Whether they have been so kept, is a question which outsiders have no
means of determining.

(2) General Booth has raised his £100,000. He has found, however, that
his success in this direction has diverted about £10,000 from the
ordinary income of the Salvation Army. He does not state—probably he
does not know, and perhaps he does, not care—how much he has diverted
from the ordinary income of other bodies. Many loud complaints have been
raised, which, taken in conjunction with Booth’s own confession, seem to
vindicate our contention that there is a certain amount of money
available for philanthropical purposes, and that what is gained by one
solicitant leaves so much less for division among the rest. Here, as
elsewhere, there is a struggle for existence, and the fittest, in the
circumstances, survive.

(3) Many persons have desired to know how the profits of General Booth’s
book have been alloted. It has had a very large sale, and there must
have been a considerable sum to be disposed of. Probably a generous
remuneration has been received by Mr. Stead, who generally succeeds in
reconciling profit with enthusiasm.

(4) General Booth declares that he has never derived a penny of profit
from the operations of the Salvation Army. This may be literally true,
but virtually it must imply a reservation. Booth began as a very poor
man. He is now in a more flourishing position. It was reported in the
newspapers, a year or two ago, that he had paid £4,000 for a new
residence. Mr. Bramwell Booth recently lost a considerable sum of money
by the failure of a stock-broker. The other members of the Booth family
seem to be well provided for. The present writer has seen them
travelling first-class when he has been riding third, and they looked
fully conscious of their importance as they walked along the platform.

(5) Up to the present the Social Scheme has made no appreciable
impression on the poverty and misery of London. General Booth has set up
a match-factory, and is now selling Salvation matches. They are said to
be worth their price, but it must be remembered that the General gets
all his capital for nothing. It will also be obvious that every box of
matches he sells will diminish by so much the demand for matches
supplied by other firms. He therefore gives employment to one man by
taking it away from another.

(6) The foreign and the colonial tours of General Booth are a curious
illustration of English modesty. It is difficult to understand why the
inhabitants of Berlin and Paris should be expected to contribute towards
the cost of reclaiming the poor and depraved in London. Every country
has its own troubles, and should meet them in its own way. It is worthy
of notice, however, that General Booth recognises far less misery in
“infidel” Paris than in orthodox London.

(7) The recent “riots” at Eastbourne, where the Salvation Army insists
on playing bands through the streets on Sunday, in defiance of the local
bye-laws, suggest a curious reflection. General Booth takes his leisure
and recreation at Clacton-on-Sea, and I am given to understand that he
does not encourage the noises of his Army in that seaside retreat. If
this be true, it must be allowed that he acts like a sensible man—but
why does he keep the Army out of Clacton-on-Sea and inflict it upon
Eastbourne, where other persons go to restore their jaded constitutions?

                                  ————



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