VOL. I.—Pioneer Period,
1812 to 1844. Published by Trübner
Period, 1845 to 1878. Published by Trübner in 1879.
by T. Fisher Unwin in 1906.
Reprinted in 1906 and 1908.
[DEDICATION TO VOL. I.
WHOSE INTREPID ELOQUENCE
HAS EVER VINDICATED
THE CLAIMS OF THE SLAVE, BLACK OR WHITE,
IN BONDAGE TO PLANTER OR CAPITALIST,
THIS STORY OF PIONEER VICISSITUDES
[DEDICATION TO VOL. II. OF
THE RT. HON. JOHN BRIGHT, M.P.,
WHOSE TOWNSMEN OF ROCHDALE
MADE CO-OPERATION A SOCIAL FORCE,
AND WHO IS HIMSELF
A FRIEND OF EQUITY IN INDUSTRY,
THIS VOLUME IS INSCRIBED
EMERSON begins a poem with the words, "God says, I
am tired of kings." Lest the reader should say he is tired of
prefaces, I make this one very short.
Other histories on this subject will be written, but whatever
their merits may be, they cannot be written by any one caring more for
Co-operation than myself, or who has been concerned in its career from the
days of the Rochdale Pioneers, or been personally conversant with the
incidents and persons who made the movement. I have known the
motives of those who have promoted it, of those who have retarded it, and
those who have withstood it, and for seventy years have vindicated it
against its adversaries. The story of this movement is that of an
The Third Part of this work brings the History down to this
date, with brevity, but with sufficient explicitness to enable the reader
to understand the growth and trend of this new Order of Labour.
Industrial Co-operation—voluntary concert, with equitable
participation and control among all concerned in any enterprise—is a
definition that would now be accepted by political economists and
G. J. H.
[It is but consistent with the principle of Participation
represented in this History that the Author should acknowledge his
indebtedness to his daughter, Mrs. Holyoake Marsh and his amanuensis, Miss
Amy Baum, for assiduous reading of the proofs, when sustained attention by
him was impossible—and for suggestions which familiarity with the subject
enabled Mrs. Marsh to make.—G. J. H.]
PREFACE TO VOL. I. OF 1875
MY desire has been to write an account of the origin
and growth of Co-operation, of the literature which fostered it, of the
persons who aided it, the principles which directed it, and the influence
of Co-operation on the future welfare of labour. To this end I have
sought facts of all informed persons, in England and America, saying to
them that any books, pamphlets, rules, placards, papers, letters relating
to the early Co-operative movements, or articles in reviews or periodicals
about it, of sermons preached against it, I should be glad to hear of, to
borrow, or to buy. Recollections of early meetings for promoting it,
names of persons who took part in founding the early stores, or as
promoters, managers, committee-men, writers or lecturers in any place, and
what became of the persons themselves, would be welcome to me. I
desired that none would assume that I might know what they knew. I
wanted to be sure that I knew it. It was said of Hume that his
"History of England" would have been more accurate but for the obligation
he was under of sometimes imagining his facts, from the difficulty of
transporting himself to the bookshelf, where means of their identity lay.
For myself, being as lithe as an Indian and resilient as an American, I
might be depended upon to get at any fact which came within reasonable
distance of me.
My wish has been to give particulars of the persons who made
the movement—it being not enough to treat Co-operation as a bale of
cotton, and discourse of its fineness and value in the market. It
concerns the reader to know who were the artificers of the ultimate
fabric; what were its pattern and colour, its texture and durability.
Let no one fear to pester me with suggestions. Many
counsellors bring no perplexity, provided an author takes his own wilful
way in the end; and he takes it with many advantages, who has his eyes
well open, knowing all that can be said on the subject in hand. The
real peril of the historian is that he may paralyse his readers by
tameness, or kill curiosity by monotony. There are persons who have
a well-founded terror of making suggestions. We have ministers of
State who teach that persons with ideas are to be distrusted, and it is
not counted safe for any one with "notions" in his mind to go about
certain Government departments now.
In some cases, however, information transmitted has not been
very apparent, though worth all the trouble of deciphering. All
penmen are not gifted. A bird pattering out of an inkpot over a page
would be a rival writer to some correspondents, who seem the natural and
ready-made secretaries of Secret Societies, since no expert of the most
suspicious Government known would be able to make much out of their
It has, however, occurred to many correspondents, as it did
to Lord Palmerston, that the purpose of writing is to be read, and that
what is to be readable must be intelligible, and they have practised the
unappreciated art of plainness to my great profit. My letter of
inquiry inserted in the New York Tribune brought many
communications from that wide-awake land. No case of any
undecipherable caligraphy arose in American letters; they make things
pretty plain out there.
Where suggestions have not been acted upon, the reader must
ascribe the error to that opinionativeness, phrase-love, and general
self-contentedness, with which Nature indulgently endows some writers in
lieu of other gifts.
While sitting at the Bolton Congress of 1872, when news came
of the death of Professor Maurice, and seeing with the mind's eye the old
familiar faces flitting, as it were, round the hall—the faces which have
gone, as Bamford expresses it, through the "Pass of Death," and greet us
no more—watching the vacant places (growing more numerous every Congress)
of those who bore the heat and burden of the unregarded day of
Co-operation—whose buoyant, cheery voices we shall never hear again—I
desired, more than before, to write some history of that new power of
industry which will grow mightier year by year.
For loans of works of reference my acknowledgments are due to
Wm. Henry King Spark, of Skirsgil Park, Penrith, for a valuable collection
of books in his possession, collected, bound, and annotated by Francis
Place. Save for the discerning foresight and interest of Mr. Place
in the welfare of the working people, many of the most remarkable facts
concerning their social and political life would be now unknown; also to
Mr. Thomas Allsop, of Redhill; Mr. Truelove, of London; Mr. David Crossley,
of Brighouse; Mr. Melsom, of Liverpool; Mr. George Simpson, of Prospect
House, Mottram; Mr. R. B. Reed, senr., of Winlaton; and Mr. Henry Slatter,
of Tunbridge Wells, for the use of volumes, pamphlets, and papers
illustrative of my subject.
G. J. H.
PREFACE TO VOL. II. OF 1879
IN inscribing this volume to Mr. Bright, a
representative of my native town of Birmingham, my object was to
acknowledge how much the working class owed to him for maintaining in
hostile days the great principle of political and commercial freedom,
without which self-help is impossible to the people.
At that time I was not aware of what Abraham Greenwood
related years after, that one morning subsequent to the resolution being
carried, putting an end to profit sharing in the Spinning Mill of the
pioneers, Mr. Bright met him in the street, and suggested that the
resolution should be reconsidered at another meeting. Mr. Bright had
spoken at times to his parliamentary friends of the great Partnership
enterprise in the Pioneer Mills of his townsmen, and regretted what had
taken place. Had the resolution been rediscussed, with the knowledge
of Mr. Bright's interest in it, the decision, I believe, would have been
different, and the fortune of labour changed for the better by it.
Evil days befel me during the progress of the First Part.
Though I could see my way through my subject, I could not see my subject
when it was through. Fortunately for the reader, Mr. Walter
Morrison, to whose friendship I owed the means of writing this History,
had the kindness to see the book through the press for me. Otherwise
I might have been afraid to recover my sight, lest I should come to read
my own pages.
Once I had a printer—not deficient in care and intelligence
-who would insert an enraging misconception of some doubtful word I had
written. I asked, "How came you to think I meant that? It is
neither common sense, nor theological sense, nor legal sense" (the most
uncertain sense known). "Well," he answered. "I thought so
too, but I supposed it one of your quaintnesses of expression." So I
counselled the Co-operative Printers when sending them my MS. to stop at
any "quaintness" at which they stumbled. In some places I am afraid
they have betrayed me. The previous volume met with more favour from
critics, both in Great Britain and America, than I expected. If this
volume fares as well, I shall be more than content; for those who said it
"was not interesting " said it was "useful," and those who said it "was
not useful" thought it was "interesting."
Travelling to distant places of new co-operative enterprise,
seeing for myself the conditions under which they had been made; editing
reports of Co-operative Congresses; listening to the speeches and daily
conversation of the new race of co-operators, in order to be sure what
manner of men they were, and to judge from what they said, what mastery
they had of its principles; then writing controversial pamphlets in order
to elicit the views of adversaries and learn their quality and reach of
discernment; taking part in discussions at store meetings to discover what
thoughts were uppermost and what passions lay below, have been well
rewarded. It would be an abuse of the attention of the reader, to
beguile him with mere picturesque incidents, and conceal from him the
motives. The only useful history of a movement is a history of its
ideas. The animating idea which never slept or slumbered, which
moved the most diverse co-operators, which was oft defeated, but never
extinguished, covered with ridicule, but never made ashamed, which
returned again and again to generous-minded, equity-loving men, was not
distrust of succeeding themselves by competition, but dislike of it as the
sole method of progress. Co-operation was born of the feeling that
at best unmitigated competition was war, and though war had its bards and
its heroic memories, there was murder in its march; and humanity was
imposture, if progress could not be accomplished by nobler means.
What an enduring truce is to war, Copartnership Co-operation is to the
never-ceasing conflict between Labour and Capital. It is the Peace
G. J. H.
December 1, 1878.