THE TEN CONGRESSES
"We ought to resolve the economical problem, not by means
of an antagonism of class against class; not by means of a war of workmen
and of resistance, whose only end is a decrease of production and of
cheapness; not by means of displacement of capital which does not increase
the amount of social richness; not by the systems practised among
foreigners, which violate property, the source of all emulation, liberty,
and labour; but by means of creating new sources of capital, of production
and consumption, causing them to pass through the hands of the operatives'
voluntary associations, that the fruits of labour may constitute their
Address to the Operatives of Parma (1861).
THIS comprehensive summary of co-operative policy
exactly describes the procedure and progress gradually accomplished in
successive degrees, at the ten Congresses of which we have now to give a
The Central Board have published every year during its
existence closely-printed Reports of the annual Congress of the societies.
Ten Reports have been issued. 
They contain the addresses delivered by the presidents, who have mainly
been men of distinction; the speeches of the delegates taking part in the
debates; speeches delivered in the town at public meetings convened by the
Congress; the papers read before the Congress; foreign correspondence with
the leading promoters of Co-operation in other countries. These
reports exhibit the life of Co-operation and its yearly progress in
numbers, conception, administration, and application of its principles.
Though the Reports are liberally circulated they are not kept in print,
and thus become a species of lost literature of the most instructive kind
a stranger can consult. These annual reports, and the annual volumes
of the Co-operative News, can be kept in every library of the
stores, and every store ought to have a library to keep them in.
There have been three series of Congresses held in England
within forty years—a Co-operative series, a Socialist series, and the
present series commencing 1869. The first of the last series was
held in London.
The following have been the Presidents of the Congresses and
names of the towns in which they were held:—
1869. Thomas Hughes, M.P., London.
1870. Walter Morrison, M.P., Manchester.
1871. Hon. Auberon Herbert, LP., Birmingham.
1872. Thomas Hughes, M.P., Bolton.
1873. Joseph Cowen, Jun.,
1874. Thomas Brassey M.P., Halifax.
1875. Prof. Thorold Rogers, London.
1876. Prof. Hodgson, LL.D., Glasgow.
1877. Hon. Auberon Herbert, Leicester.
1878. The Marquis of Ripon, 
Mr. Thomas Hughes, M.P., was the president of the first
Congress. He was one of the chief guides of the co-operative
Israelites through the wilderness of lawlessness into the promised land of
legality. From the Mount Pisgah on which he spoke he surveyed the
long-sought kingdom of co-operative production, which we have not yet
Among the visitors to the first Congress of 1869 were the
Comte de Paris, Mr. G. Ripley, of the New York Tribune, the Hon. E.
Lyulph Stanley, Mrs. Jacob Bright, Henry Fawcett, M.P.; Thomas Dixon
Galpin, T. W. Thornton, Somerset Beaumont, M.P. ; F. Crowe (H.B.M.'s
Consul-General, Christiania, Norway), Sir Louis Mallet, Sir John Bowring,
Colonel F. C. Maude, William Shaen, the Earl of Lichfield, and others.
Prof. Vigano, of Italy, contributed a paper to this Congress;
and a co-operative society of 700 members, at Kharkof, sent M. Nicholas
Balline as a delegate. On the list of names of the Arrangement
Committee of the Congress was that of "Giuseppe Dolfi, a Florentine
tradesman, who, more perhaps than any other single person, helped to turn
out a sovereign Grand Duke, and remained a baker." 
He was a promoter of the People's Bank and the Artisan Fraternity of
Florence. There was an Exhibition of co-operative manufactures at
this Congress, which has been repeated at subsequent Congresses.
The following list of names of the first Central Board of the
Co-operators, which was appointed at the 1869 Congress, includes most of
those who have been concerned in promoting the co-operative movement in
the Constructive Period. Mr. Pare and Mr. Allen have since died:—
Thomas Hughes, M.P.
Walter Morrison, M.P.
Anthony J. Mundella, M.P.
Hon. Auberon Herbert, M.P.
William Allen, Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineers'
Robert Applegarth, Secretary of the Amalgamated Carpenters
and Joiners' Society.
Edward Owen Greening, Managing Director of Agricultural
and Horticultural Co-operative
James Hole, Secretary of the Association of Chambers of
George Jacob Holyoake.
John Malcolm Ludlow.
E. Vansittart Neale.
William Pare, F.S.S.
Hodgson Pratt, Hon. Secretary of the Working Men's Club
and Institute Union.
Henry Travis, M.D.
Abraham Greenwood, Rochdale.
Samuel Stott, Rochdale.
T. Cheetham, Rochdale.
William Nuttall, Oldham.
Isaiah Lee, Oldham.
James Challinor Fox, Manchester.
David Baxter, Manchester.
Thomas Slater, Bury.
James Crabtree, Heckmondwike.
J. Whittaker, Bacup.
W. Barn At, Macclesfield.
Joseph Kay, Over Darwen.
William Bates, Eccles.
J. T. McInnes, Glasgow, Editor of the
James Borrowman, Glasgow.
The Congress of 1870 was held in the Memorial Hall,
Manchester. The practical business of Co-operation was advanced by
it. Mr. Walter Morrison, M.P., delivered the opening address, which
dealt with the state of Co-operation at home and abroad, and occupied
little more than half an hour in delivery. Subsequent addresses have
exceeded an hour. The example of Mr. Morrison was in the direction
of desirable limitation. As a chairman of Congress Mr. Morrison
excelled in the mastery of questions before it, of keeping them before it,
of never relaxing his attention, and never suffering debate to loiter or
diverge. Mr. Hibbert, M.P., presided the third day. At this
Congress, as at subsequent ones, during Mr. Pare's life, foreign delegates
and foreign correspondence were features.
The Birmingham Congress of 1871 met in the committee-room of
the Town Hall. The Hon. Auberon Herbert, M.P., was president.
He spoke on the fidelity and moral passion which should characterise
co-operators. Mr. Morrison, M.P., occupied the chair the third day.
Mr. George Dixon, M.P., presided at the public meeting in the Town Hall.
The Daily Post gave an article on the relation of Co-operation to
the industries of the town. All the journals of the town gave fuller
reports of the proceedings of the Congress than had been previously
accorded elsewhere. At this Congress a letter came from Herr
Delitzsch; Mr. Wirth wrote from Frankfort; Mr. Axel Krook from Sweden.
Dr. Muller, from Norway, who reported that co-operative stores were
extending to the villages; and that there is a Norwegian Central Board.
Prof. Pfeiffer sent an account of military Co-operation in Germany—a form
of Co-operation which it is to be hoped will die out. Denmark,
Russia, Italy, and other countries were represented by communications.
The Congress of 1872 was held in Bolton.
Bolton-le-moors is not an alluring town to go to, if regard be had alone
to its rural scenes or sylvan beauty; but, as respects its inhabitants,
its history, its central situation, its growth, its manufacturing and
business importance, its capacious co-operative store, and the hospitality
of distinguished residents, it is a suitable place to hold a Congress in.
The town has none of the grim aspect it wore of old, when it was warlike
within, and bleak, barren, and disturbed by enemies without. Flemish
clothiers sought out the strange place in the fourteenth century, and
possibly it was Flemish genius which gave Arkwright and Crompton to the
town. In 1651 one of the Earls of Derby was beheaded there.
The latest object of interest in the town is a monument of Crompton, who
made the world richer, and died an inventor's death—poor. Bolton,
however, did not owe Co-operation to Flemish, but to Birmingham
inspiration. Forty-two years before, Mr. Pare delivered the first
lecture given in Bolton upon Co-operation, in March, in 1830. He
spoke then in the Sessions Room of that day (which is now an inn), mostly
unknown to this generation. I sought in vain for the Bolton
Chronicle of the year 1830, to copy such notice as appeared of Mr.
Pare's meeting. Unluckily, the Chronicle office had itself no
complete file of its own journal. The public library of the town was
not more fortunate. The volumes of the Chronicle about the
period in question in this library are for 1823, 1825, 1829, and 1835.
The 1830 volume was not attainable, so that the seed was not to be traced
there which was found upon the waters after so many days. 
Many remember it as the Bolton wet Congress. Even
Lancashire and Yorkshire delegates were not proof against Bolton rain.
The Union Jack persevered in hanging out at the Congress doors, but
drooped and draggled mournfully, and presented a limp, desponding
appearance. Even the Scotch delegates, who understand a climate
where it always rains, except when it snows, came into the hall in Indian
file, afraid to walk abreast and confront the morning drizzle, against
which no Co-operation could prevail. Some unthinking committee
actually invited Mr. Disraeli, then on a visit to Manchester, to attend
the Conference. Crowds would be sure to surround the splendid
Conservative, and it would be sure to rain all the time of his
visit—everybody knew that it would in Manchester—and yet the
co-operators invited him and the Countess Beaconsfield to come dripping to
Bolton with the 10,000 persons who would have followed. The town
would have been impassable. The Co-operative Hall held a fifth part
of them; and there would not have been any business whatever transacted
while Mr. Disraeli sat in the Congress. It is not more foolish to
invite the dead than to invite eminent living persons, unless it is known
that they are likely to come, and can be adequately entertained when they
do come. To the outside public it is apt to appear like ignorant
ostentation. I have known a working-man's society, without means to
entertain a commercial traveller pleasantly, invite a cluster of the most
eminent and most engaged men in the nation, of such opposite opinions that
they never meet each other except in Parliament, to attend the opening of
a small hall in an obscure town, where the visitors pay ninepence each for
tea, when a great city would deem it an honour if one of them came as its
This Congress held a public meeting in the same hall where
Schofield, the republican, was murdered not long before in the Royalist
riots in the town. It was during this Congress that Professor
Frederick Denison Maurice died. Knowledge of his influential
friendliness to Co-operation caused every delegate to be sorry for his
loss. Few co-operators probably among the working class were able to
estimate Mr. Maurice's services to society, or measure that range of
learning and thought which has given him a high place among thinkers and
theologians. A man can be praised by none but his equals, but the
tribute of regret all who are grateful can give, in the respects in which
they understand their obligations. This co-operators could do, for
they were aware he had founded Working Men's Colleges in London to place
the highest education within the reach of the humble children of the
humblest working man in the nation. Mr. Neale, to whom I suggested
the propriety of such a resolution, and to whom it had not occurred, said
I had better write it—which I did. It was carried with grateful
At this Congress M. Larouche Joubert informed us that the
Co-operative Paper Manufactory made £20,000 of profits between June, 1870,
and June, 1871—a period so disastrous to France. It used to be the
common belief that Co-operation would fall to pieces in trying times, but
in Lancashire it stood the test of the great cotton famine, and in France
it stood the test of war. Equally during the German war the
co-operative credit banks were unshaken. Professor Burns, writing
from Italy, told us of the interest taken by Baron Poerio in a
Co-operative Society of Naples, which actually existed among a generation
reared under a government of suspicion. M. Valleroux reported that
not a single productive society gave way in Paris neither under the siege
nor the Commune.
Mr. Villard, the secretary of the Social Science Association
of America, supplied a survey of co-operation in America, and papers were
expected from M. Élisée
and his brother M. Élie Reclus, of
France, eminent writers on Co-operation. They would have been
present had not the suppressors of the Commune laid their indiscriminating
hands on one of them. Too late M. Élisée
Reclus was liberated from Satory, where he was confined by misadventure,
on account of alleged complicity with the affairs of the Commune, which he
opposed and deplored, being himself a friend of pacific, social, and
industrial reform. He was (and his brother also) a prominent member
of a society for promoting peace and arbitration of the national
differences which led to war. Élisée
Reclus being an eminent man of science, whose works have been translated
into English, great interest in his welfare was felt by men of science in
this country. M. Élisée's
work upon the "Earth" is held in high repute among geographers. The
memorial signed in this country, and presented to M. Thiers on his behalf,
bore many eminent signatures, and was happily successful, as M. Reclus's
life was in danger from privation and severity of treatment.
The Congress of 1873 was held in the Mechanics' Institution
of Newcastle-on-Tyne, Mr. Joseph Cowen, jun., being president. His
was the first extemporaneous address delivered to us, and its animation,
its freshness of statement, and business force made a great impression.
It was the speech of one looking at the movement from without, perfectly
understanding its drift, and under no illusions either as to its leaders
or its capacity as an industrial policy.
At this Congress was recorded the death of Mr. Pare. It
was he who first introduced the American term Congress into this country,
and applied it to our meetings. For more than forty years he was the
tireless expositor of social principles.
Newcastle is an old fighting border town; there is
belligerent blood in the people. If they like a thing, they will put
it forward and keep it forward; and if they do not like it, they will put
it down with foresight and a strong hand. There is the burr of the
forest in their speech, but the meaning in it is as full as a filbert,
when you get through the shell. Several passages in the speeches of
the President of the Congress give the reader historic and other knowledge
of a town, distinguished for repelling foes in warlike times, and for
heartiness in welcoming friends in industrial days. The delegates
were handsomely taken down the Tyne by Mr. Cowen in the Harry Clasper
steamboat; there was a Central Board meeting going on in the cabin, and a
public meeting on the deck. If co-operators held a Congress in
Paradise they would take no time to look at the fittings, but move
somebody into the chair within ten minutes after their arrival. On
leaving the Harry Clasper a salute of forty-two guns was fired in
honour of the forty-two elected members of the Central Board, a tribute no
other body of visitors had received in Newcastle, and no Central Board
anywhere else since. The delegates were welcomed to the Tyneside
with a greater hospitality even than that of the table-namely, that of the
Press. The Newcastle Daily Chronicle accorded to the Congress
an unexampled publicity. It printed full reports of the entire
proceedings, the papers read, the debates, and the speeches at every
meeting. When the British Association for the Advancement of
Science, and the kindred Society for the Promotion of Social Knowledge,
visited Newcastle-on-Tyne, the Daily Chronicle reported their
proceedings in a way never done in any other town of Great Britain or
Ireland, and the Co-operative Congress received the same attention.
Double numbers were issued each day the Congress sat, and on the following
Saturday a supplement of fifty-six columns was given with the Weekly
Chronicle, containing the complete report of all the co-operative
deliberations. Thanks were given to Mr. Richard Bagnall Reed, the
manager of the Newcastle Chronicle, for that tireless prevision
which this extended publication involved. Of the Chronicle,
containing the first day's proceedings of the Congress, 100,000 copies
were published, and 90,000 sold by mid-afternoon. The same paper
contained a report of a great meeting on the Moor, of political pitmen,
which led to the large sale; but the cause of Co-operation had the
advantage of that immense publicity. The Newcastle Moor of 1,200
acres was occupied on the first day of the Congress by a "Demonstration"
of nearly 100,000 pitmen, and as many more spectators, on behalf of the
equalisation of the franchise between town and county. The richly-
bannered procession marched with the order of an army, and was the most
perfect example of working-class organisation which had been witnessed in
Mr. Cowen, the president of the Congress, was chairman of
this great meeting on the Moor. The Ouseburn Co-operative Engineers
carried two flags, which they had asked me to lend them, which had seen
stormier service. One was the salt-washed flag of the Washington,
which bore Garibaldi's famous "Thousand" to Marsala, and the other a flag
of Mazzini's, the founder of Italian Co-operative Associations, which had
been borne in conflicts with the enemies of Italian unity. The best
proof of the numbers present is a publication made by the North Eastern
Railway Company of their receipts, which that week exceeded by £20,224 the
returns of the corresponding week for 1872, which represented the
third-class fares of pitmen, travelling from the collieries of Durham and
Northumberland to the Newcastle Moor. The Congress also made
acquaintance with the oarsmen of the Tyne. A race over four miles of
water between Robert Bagnall and John Bright was postponed until the
Wednesday, as Mr. Cowen thought it might entertain us to see it, and it
was worth seeing, for a pluckier pull never took place on the old Norse
war-path of the turbulent Tyne.
It was this year that Mr. Walter Morrison, M.P., presented
the Congress with eight handsomely, mounted minute glasses, which, out of
compliment it would appear to the Ouseburn Engineers, were described as
Speech-Condensing Engines. Four of the glasses ran out in five minutes and
four in ten minutes. The object of the gift was to promote brevity and
pertinence of speech. There has been engraved upon each glass a couplet
suggesting to wandering orators to moderate alike their digressions and
warmth; to come to the point and keep to the point—having, of course,
previously made up their minds what their point was. The couplets are
Often have you heard it told,
Speech is silver, silence gold.
Wise men often speech withhold,
Fools repeat the trite and old.
Shallow wits are feebly bold,
Pondered words take deeper hold.
Time is fleeting, time is gold,
When our work is manifold.
If terseness be the soul of wit,
Say your say and be done with it.
Fluent speech, wise men have said,
Oft betrays an empty head.
Conscious strength is calm in speech,
Weaker natures scold and screech.
Patience, temper, hopefulness,
Lead you onward to success.
In Athens, an accused person, when defending himself before
the dikastery, was confronted by a klepsydra, or water glass. The
number of amphoræ of water allowed to
each speaker depended upon the importance of the case. At Rome, the
prosecutor was allowed only two-thirds of the water allowed to the
accused. At the Congress, the five-minute glass was generally in
use, the ten-minute one when justice to a subject or a speaker required
the longer time.
The Congress of 1874 was held in Halifax, when Mr. Thomas
Brassey, M.P., was president, who gave us information as to the conditions
of co-operative manufacturing. The authority of his name and his
great business experience rendered his address of importance and value to
us. The store at Halifax had come by this time to command attention,
and the co-operative and social features introduced into the manufactories
of the Crossleys and the Ackroyds rendered the meeting in that town
Professor Thorold Rogers, of Oxford, presided at the London
Congress of 1875. He stated to us the relations of political economy
to Co-operation, sometimes dissenting from the views of co-operative
leaders, but always adding to our information. It is the merit it of
co-operators that they look to their presidents not for coincidence of
opinion but for instruction. Not less distinguished as a politician
than as a political economist, the presence of Professor Rogers in the
chair was a public advantage to the cause.
Mr. Wendell Phillips, of America, was invited by the Congress
to be its guest. The great advocate of the industrial classes,
irrespective of their colour, would have received distinguished welcome
from co-operators who regard the slaves as their fellow working men, and
honour all who endow them with the freedom which renders self-help
possible to them. Mr. Phillips was unable to leave America, but a
letter was read to the Congress from him.
At this Congress in a paper contributed, N. Zurzoff explained
the introduction and progress, of Schulze-Delitzsch's banking system in
Russia. It was met by a very unfavourable feeling on the part of the
Russian Government and the people. They did not understand it and
did not want it. It took Prince Bassilbehikoff no little trouble to
make it intelligible in St. Petersburg. In 1870 thirteen banks were
got into operation; in 1874, more than two hundred. At the same
Congress Mr. Walter Morrison read a paper giving an English account of the
history, nature, and operation of the Schulze-Delitzsch German Credit
Banks, the fullest and most explicit.
A proposal was made at this Congress to promote a
co-operative trading company between England and the Mississippi Valley,
and a deputation the following year went out to ascertain the feasibility
of the project. Friendly relations have been established between the
better class of Grangers. It is necessary to say better class,
because some of them were concerned in obtaining a reduction of the
railway tariff for the conveyance of their produce, by means which
appeared in England to be of a nature wholly indefensible. But with
those of them who sought to promote commercial economy by equitable
co-operative arrangements, they were anxious to be associated. The
plan devised by Mr. Neale, who was the most eminent member of the
deputation, would promote both international Co-operation and free trade;
objects which some of the co-operative societies made large votes of money
to assist. 
At the Glasgow Congress of 1876, Professor Hodgson, of
Edinburgh, was our president. In movements having industrial and
economical sense, Professor Hodgson's name was oft mentioned as that of a
great advocate of social justice whose pen and tongue could always be
counted upon. The working class Congress at Glasgow had ample proof
of this. Political economy has no great reputation for liveliness of
doctrine or exposition; but in Professor Hodgson's hands its exposition
was full of vivacity, and the illustrations of its principle were made
luminous with wit and humour.
At this Congress, Mr. J. W. A. Wright was present as a
delegate from the Grangers of America, who had passed resolutions in their
own Conferences to promote "Co-operation on the Rochdale plan." Mr.
Neale and Mr. Joseph Smith promoted an Anglo-American co-operative trading
The Museum Hall, Leicester, was the place in which the
Congress of 1877 was held. The Hon. Auberon Herbert was president
this year, and counselled us with impassioned frankness against the
dangers of centralisation and described merit, unseen by us in the
adjusting principle of competition. He owned we might regard him as
a devil's advocate, to which I answered that if he were so, we all agreed
the devil had shown his excellent taste in sending us so earnest and
engaging a representative. For the first time a sermon was preached
before the delegates by Canon Vaughan, whose discourse was singularly
direct. It dealt with the subject knowingly, and with that only; and
the subject was not made—as preachers of the commoner sort have often
made it—a medium of saying some thing else. It dealt with
Co-operation mathematically. Euclid could not go from one point to
another in a shorter way. No delegate at the Congress could
understand Co-operation better than the Canon; he made a splendid plea for
what is regarded as an essential principle of Co-operation—the
recognition of labour in productive industry—the partnership of the
worker with capital. The church was very crowded, and there was a
large attendance of delegates.
The Tenth Congress, that of 1878, was held in Manchester,
where great changes had occurred since the Congress of 1870, Balloon
Street had come to represent a great European buying agency; the Downing
Street store had acquired some twelve branches, and the Congress of 1878
was more numerous and animated in proportion. On the Sunday before
it opened, the Rev. W. N. Molesworth, of Rochdale, preached before the
delegates at the Cathedral, augmenting the wise suggestions and friendly
counsel by which co-operators had profited in their earlier career.
The Rev. Mr. Steinthal also preached a sermon to us the same day.
The Marquis of Ripon presided at the Congress, recalling the delegates to
the duty of advancing the neglected department of production. We
criticised with approval the Marquis's address. My defence was that
it was our custom, as we regarded the Presidential address as Parliament
does a royal speech, concerning which Canning said Parliament receives no
communication which it does not echo, and it echoes nothing which it does
not discuss. On the second day the Lord Bishop of Manchester
presided, making one of those bright cheery addresses for which he was
distinguished: showing real secular interest in co-operative things.
His religion, as is the characteristic of the religion of the gentleman,
was never obtruded and never absent, being felt in every sentence, in the
justice, candour, and sympathy shown towards those whose aims he discerned
to be well intended, though they may have less knowledge, or other light
than his, to guide them on their path. The Rev. Mr. Molesworth
presided on one day as he had done at the Congress of 1870. Dr. John
Watts was president on the last day, delivering an address marked by his
unrivalled knowledge of co-operative business and policy, and that
felicity of illustration whose light is drawn from the subject it
There was one who died during this Congress time, once a
familiar name—Mr. George Alexander Fleming. Between 1835 and 1846
there was no Congress held at which he was not a principal figure.
He was editor nearly all the time (thirteen years) of the New Moral
World, a well-known predecessor of the Co-operative News. We
used to make merry with his initials, "G. A. F.," but he was himself a
practical, active agitator in the social cause. A border Scot by birth
(being born at Berwick, Northumberland), he had the caution of his
countrymen north of the Tweed; and though he showed zeal for social
ideas, he had no adventurous sympathy with the outside life of the world;
and Socialism had an aspect of sectarianism in his hands. He was an
animated, vigorous speaker, and there was a business quality in his
writings which did good service in his day. After he left the movement he
soon made a place for himself in the world. Like many other able
co-operators, he was not afraid of competition, and could hold his own
amid the cunningest operators in that field. He took an engagement on the
Morning Advertiser, and represented that paper in the gallery of
the House of Commons until his death. He founded, or was chief promoter
and conductor of, the South London Press. He first became known to the
public as an eloquent speaker in the "Ten Hours' Bill" movement. All his
life, to its close, he was a constant writer. Of late years he was well
known to visitors at the Discussion Hall, in Shoe Lane, and the "Forum,"
in Fleet Street. He had reached seventy years of age, at which a man is
called elderly. About a year before, he married a second time. He was
buried at Nunhead. Many years ago, at a dinner given at the Whittington
Club to the chief Socialist advocates, he boasted, somewhat reproachfully,
that he then obtained twice as much income for half the work he performed
when connected with the social movement. But that was irrelevant, for the
best advocates in that movement did not expect to serve themselves so much
as to serve others. I have seen men die poor, and yet glad that they had
been able to be of use to those who never even thought of requiting them. The consciousness of the good they had done in that way was the reward
they most cared for. Mr. Fleming's merit was, that in the stormy and
fighting days of the movement, he was one of the foremast men in the
perilous fray, and therefore his name ought to be mentioned with regard in
these pages. Like all public men who once belonged to the social movement,
he was constantly found advocating and supporting, by wider knowledge than
his mere political contemporaries possessed, liberty both of social life
and social thought. I have often come upon unexpected instances in which
he was true to old principles, and gave influence and argument to them,
though quite out of sight of his old colleagues.
The hospitality to delegates commenced at Newcastle-on-Tyne has been a
feature with variations at most subsequent Congresses, the chief stores
mainly the hosts of the delegates. In Bolton and in Leicester, as on the
Tyneside and London, eminent friends of social effort among the people
entertained many visitors.
The Central Board have published a considerable series of tracts,
handbooks, special pamphlets, and lectures by co-operative writers, and
money every year are devoted to their gratuitous circulation. Any person
wishing information upon the subject of Co-operation, or the formation of
or models of rules for the constitution of societies, can obtain them by
applying to the Secretary of the Co-operative Union, Long Millgate,
The sons of industry owe respect to the co-operators who preceded them. They furnished the knowledge by which we have profited. They had more than
hope where others had despair. They saw progress where others saw nothing,
and pointed to a path which industry had never
before trodden. The pioneers who have gone before have, like Marco Polo,
or Columbus, or Sir Walter Raleigh, explored, so to speak, unknown seas
of industry, have made maps of their course and records of their
soundings. We know where the hidden rocks of enterprise lie, and the
whirlpools of discord and disunity. We know what vortexes to avoid. The
earlier and later movement has been one army though it carried no hostile
Its advocates were all members of one parliament, which, though several
times prorogued, was never dissolved.
A movement is like a river. It percolates from an obscure
source. It runs at best but deviously. It meets with an immovable
obstacle and has to run round it. It makes its way where the soil is most
pervious to water, and when it has travelled through a great extent of
country, its windings sometimes bring it back to a spot which is not far
in advance of
its source. Eventually it trickles into unknown apertures which its own
impetus and growing volume convert into a track. Though making
countless circuits, it ever advances to the sea; though it appears to
wander aimlessly through the earth, it is always proceeding; and its very
way implies more distributed fertilisation on its course. So it is with
human movements. A great principle has often a very humble source. It
first slowly, uncertainly, and blindly. It moves through society as the
river does through the land. It encounters understandings as impenetrable
and has to find a passage through more impressionable minds; it digresses
but never recedes. Like the currents which aid the river, principle has
pioneers who make a way for it, who, in they cannot blast the rocks of
stupidity, excavate the more intelligent strata of society. Though the way
and lies through many a channel and maze, and though the new stream of
thought seems to lose itself, the great current gathers unconscious force,
outlets seem to open or themselves, and in an unexpected hour the
accumulated torrent of ideas bursts open a final passage to the great sea
THE FUTURE OF CO-OPERATION
"So with this earthly Paradise it is,
If ye will read aright, and pardon me,
Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss
Midmost the beating of the steely sea,
Where tossed about all hearts of men must be;
Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay,
Not the poor singer of an empty day."
The Earthly Paradise.
To the reader I owe an apology for having detained him so long over a
story upon which I have lingered myself several years. Imperious
delays have beset me, until I have been like one driving a flock to
market, who, having abandoned them for a time, has found difficulty in
re-collecting them. No doubt I have lost some, and have probably
driven up some belonging to other persons, without being aware of the
Mr. Morris's lines, prefixed to this chapter, are not
inapplicable to the story of labour seeking rights. For myself I am
no "singer," nor do I believe in the "empty day" which the poet modestly
suggests. No day is "empty" which contains a poet.
Nevertheless, I am persuaded that "the isle of bliss" will yet arise
"midmost the beatings of the steely sea," and that the "ravening
monsters," industrial and otherwise, which now intimidate society, "mighty
men" will one day "slay."
Society is improved by a thousand agencies. I only
contend that Co-operation is one. Co-operation, I repeat, is the new
force of industry which attains competency without mendicancy, and effaces
inequality by equalising fortunes. The equality contemplated is not
that of men who aim to be equal to their superiors and superior to their
equals. The simple equality it seeks consists in the diffusion of
the means of general competence, until every family is insured against
dependence or want, and no man in old age, however unfortunate or
unthrifty he may have been, shall stumble into pauperism. His want
of sense, or want of thrift, may rob him of repute or power, but shall
never sink him so low that crime shall be justifiable, or his fate a
scandal to any one save himself. The road to this state of things is
long, but at the end lies the pleasant Valley of Competence.
There is no equality in nature, of strength or stature, of
taste or knowledge, or force or faculty. Many may row in the same
boat, but, as Jerrold said, not with the same oars. But there may be
equivalence, though not equality in power: the sum of one man's powers may
be equal to another's if we knew how to measure the degrees of their
diversity. It is in equality of opportunity of developing the
qualities for good each man is endowed with, that is the immediate need of
Machinery has become a power as great as though 100 millions
of giants had entered Great Britain to work for its people. And
these giants never feel hunger, or passion, or weariness, and their power
is immeasurable. Yet the lot of the poor is precarious, and the very
poor amount to millions. Yet somehow the giants have not worked
adequately for the many as yet. It is true that a higher scale of
life is reached by the poorer sort than of old; still they are but the
servants of capital, and are hired. Co-operation opens the door to
When "Distribution shall undo excess and each man has enough"
for secure existence, the baser incentives to greed, fraud, and violence
will cease. The social outrages, the coarseness of life, at which we
are shocked, were once thought to be inevitable. Our being shocked
at them now is a sign of progress. The steps of society are—(1)
Savageness; (2) The mastership by chiefs of the ferocious; (3) The
government of ferocity tempered by rude lawfulness; (4) Rude lawfulness
matured into a general right of protection; (5) Protection insured by
political representation; (6) Ascendancy of the people diminishing the
arrogance and espionage of government; (7) Self-control matured into
self-support; when the philanthropist becomes merely ornamental and
charity and disease unnecessary evils. We are far from that state
yet; but Co-operation is the most likely thing apparent to accelerate the
march to it.
Sir Arthur Helps has told the public that "what Socialists
are always aiming at is paternal government, under which they are to be
spoilt children." Sir Arthur must have in his mind State
Socialists—very different persons from co-operators, who are Next Step
The co-operative form of progress is the organisation of
self-help, in which the industrious do everything, and devise that order
of things in which it shall be impossible for honest men to be idle or
ignorant, depraved or poor: in which self-help supersedes patronage and
Co-operation has been retarded by a spurious order of
"practical" men. These kind of people would have stopped the
creation of the world on the second day on the ground that it was no use
going on. Had the law of gravitation been explained to them, they
would have passed an unanimous resolution to the effect that it was
"impracticable." Had the solar system been floated by a company they
would not have taken a share in it, being perfectly sure it could never be
made to work; or if it were started they would have assured us the planets
would never keep time. Were the sun to be discovered for the first
time to-day they would not look at it, but declare it could never be
turned to any useful account, and discourage investments in it, lest it
should divert capital from the more important and more practical candle
movement. Had these people been told before they were born that they
would be "fearfully and wonderfully made"—that the human frame would be
very complicated—they would have been afraid to exist. They would
have looked at the nice adjustment of a thousand parts necessary to life,
and they would have declared it impossible to live.
The hopeless tone of many of the working class has been
changed by Co-operation. An artisan begins to see that he is a
member of the Order of Industry, which ought to be the frankest, boldest,
most self-reliant of all "Orders." The Order of Thinkers are
pioneers—the Order of Workmen are conquerors. They subjugate Nature
and turn the dreams of thought into realities of life. Why, then,
should not a workman always think and speak with evident consciousness of
the dignity of his own order, and as one careful for its reputation?
It is absurd to see the sovereign people with a perpetual handkerchief at
its eyes, and a constant hat in its hands. The sovereign people
should neither whine nor beg. A workman having English blood in his
veins should have some dignity in his manner. More is expected from
him than from the manacled negro, who could only put up his hands and cry,
"Am I not a man and a brother?" The English artisan ought to be a
man whether a "brother or not." I hate the people who wail.
Either their lot is not improvable, or it is. If it be not
improvable, wailing is weakness: if it be improvable, wailing is
When I first entered the social agitation long years ago,
competition was a chopping-machine and the poor were always under the
knife. If an employer had a reasonable regard for the welfare of the
operatives engaged by him, his manner was hard (as still is the manner of
many), and never indicated good feeling. He lacked that sympathy the
want of which the late justice Talfourd said, was the great defect of the
master class in England. The master at best seemed to regard his men
as a flock of wayward sheep, and himself as a sheep-dog. He indeed
kept the wolf from their door, but they were not sensible of the service,
because he bit them when they turned aside. Owing to this cause
creditable kindness when displayed was not discerned. At no time in
my youth do I remember to have heard any expression which indicated esteem
on the part of the employed towards their employers; and when I listened
to the conversation of workmen in foundries and factories in the same
town, or to that of workmen who came from distant places, it appeared that
this state of feeling was general. The men regarded their masters as
commercial weasels who slept with one eye open, in order to see whether
they neglected their work. Employers looked upon their men as clocks
which would not go, or which if they did were right only once in
twenty-four hours; and that not through any virtue of their own, but
because the right time came round to them.
Employers now, as a rule, have more friendliness of manner.
Factory legislation has done much to improve the comfort of workshops and
limit the labour of children and women. Farm legislation will come,
and do something to the same effect for agricultural working people.
Besides these, consideration, taste, and pride in employers have done
more. The warehouses of great towns are less hideous to look upon by
the townspeople and less dreary to work in. Workshops are in many
places opulent and lofty, and are palaces of labour compared with the
penitentiary structures, which deformed the streets and high-roads
generations ago. The old charnel houses of industry are being
everywhere superseded. Light, air, some grim kind of grace, make the
workman's days healthier and pleasanter; and conveniences for his comfort
and even education, never thought of formerly, are often supplied now.
The stores and mills erected by co-operators show that they have set their
faces against the architects of ugliness, and the new standard can never
go back among employers of greater pretensions.
Under the self-supporting example of the common people the
better classes may be expected to improve. The working class will be
no more told to look to frugality alone as their means of competence.
"Frugality" is oft the fair-sounding term in which the counsel of
privation is disguised to the poor. We shall see the opulent advised
to practise the wholesome virtue of frugality (good for all conditions).
They might then live on much less than they now expend. There then
would remain an immense surplus, available for the public service, since
the provident wealthy would not want it. Advice cannot much longer
be given to the people which is never taken by those who offer it, and
which is intended to reconcile the many to an indefensible and unnecessary
The unrest of competition produces disastrous consequences in
diseases which strike down the most energetic men by day and night,
without warning. Some quieter method of progress will be wished for
and be welcomed. In the old times when none could read, save the
priest and a few peers, learning was a passion, and the thoughtful monk,
who had no worldly care or want, toiled in his cell from the pure love of
study, and carried on the thought of the world as Bruno did, with no spur,
save that supplied by genius and the love of truth. Now the printing-press
has called into activity the intellect of mankind—ambition and emulation,
industry and discovery, invention and art, will proceed by the natural
force of thought, however Co-operation may prevail. Indeed,
Co-operation may facilitate them. If Peace hath her victories as
well as War—which a poet was first to see—concert in life has its million
devices, activities, and inspirations. The world will not be mute,
nor men idle, because the brutal goad of competition no longer pricks them
on to activity. The future will not be less brilliant than the past,
because its background is contentment instead of misery.
People who say that the world would come to a standstill were
it not for the pressure of hunger and poverty, and that we should all be
idle were we not judiciously starved, should spend five minutes in the
study of the ceaseless, joyous, and gratuitous activity of the first Lord
Lytton. Of high lineage, of good fortune, of capacity which
understood life without effort, occupying a position which commanded
deference, and of personal qualities which secured him friends, he had
only to live to be distinguished, yet this man, as baronet and peer,
worked as many hours of his own will as any mechanic in the land, and of
his own natural love of activity created for the world more pleasant
reading than all the House of Lords put together, save Macaulay.
The present casts its light of change some distance before,
and the near future can be discerned—Co-operation bids fair to clear the
sight of the industrial class as to what they can do for themselves.
Men as a rule have not half the brains of bees. Bees
respect only those who contribute to the common store, they keep no terms
with drones, but drag them out and make short work with them. Men
suffer the drones to become kings of the hive, and pay them homage.
Co-operators of the earliest type set their faces against uselessness.
With all their sentimentality they kept no place for drones. They
did not mean to be mendicants themselves nor to have mendicants in their
ranks. They had no plan either of indoor or outdoor relief for them.
The first number of the Co-operative Magazine for 1826 made its
first condition of happiness to consist in "occupation." Avoidable
dependence will come to be deemed ignominious. As wild beasts
retreat before the march of civilisation, so pauperism will retreat before
the march of co-operative industry. Pauperism will be put down as
the infamy of industry. A million paupers—a vast standing army of
mendicants—in the midst of the working class is a reproach to every
workman now. Workmen will learn to clear their way, and pay their
way, as the middle-class have learned to do. Every law which
deprives industry of a fair chance, or facilitates the accumulation of
immense fortunes, and checks the equitable distribution of property, will
be stopped, as far as legitimate legislation can stop it. Not long
since a politician so experienced as Louis Blanc made a great speech in
Paris, in which he said, "Most frankly he admitted that the problem of the
extinction of pauperism, which he believed possible, was too vast and
complicated to be treated without modesty and prudence, and he would even
add, doubt." In our English Parliament I have heard ministers use
similar language, without seeming aware that no legislature would
extinguish pauperism if it could. If the proposal was seriously
made, on every bench in the House of Commons, peer and squire and
manufacturer would jump up in dismay and apprehension. The sudden
"extinction of pauperism" would produce consternation in town and county
throughout the land. Were there no paupers there would be no poor.
Nobody would be dependent, service of the humble kind that now ministers
to ostentatious opulence would cease. The pride, power, and
influence that comes from almsgiving would end. In England, as in
America, the "servant" would disappear and in his place would arise a new
class, limited and costly, who would only engage themselves as "helpers"
and equals. Besides, there would be in Great Britain opposition
among the paupers themselves. The majority of them do not want to be
abolished. They have been reared under the impression that they have
a vested interest in charity—humiliation sits easy upon them. It is
not Acts of Parliament that can do much to alter this, it is the means of
self-help which alone can bring it to pass.
At a public meeting in the metropolis, some years ago, Prince
Albert was one of the speakers, and he was on the occasion surrounded by
many noblemen. The subject of his speech was improvement in the
condition of the indigent. The Prince, looking around him at the
wealthy lords on the platform, and to some poor men in the meeting, said,
very gracefully, "We," looking again at a duke near him, "to whom
Providence has given rank, wealth, and education, ought to do what lies in
our power for the less fortunate." This was very generous of the
Prince, but men look now for a surer deliverance. Providence was not
the benefactor of princes and dukes. He gave them no possessions.
They got them in a very different way. The wealth of nature is given
to all, not to the few, and Co-operation furnishes means of attaining it
to all who have honesty, sense, and unity.
Nothing is more astounding to students of industrial progress
than to observe among commercial men and politicians the utter absence of
any idea of distribution of gains among the people. The only concern
is that the capitalist or the individual dealer shall profit. It is
nobody's concern that the community should profit. It is nobody's
idea that everybody should profit by what man's genius creates. It
does not enter into any mind that disproportionate wealth is an aggressive
accumulation of means in the hands of a few which ought to be, as far as
possible, diffusible in equity among all for mutual protection. The
feudalism of capital is as dangerous as that of arms.
It was stated by the editor of the Co-operative Magazine
in 1826, in very explicit terms, that "Mr. Owen does not propose that the
rich should give up their property to the poor; but that the poor should
be placed in such a situation as would enable them to create new wealth
for themselves."  This is
what Co-operation is intended to do, and this, let us hope, it will do.
The instinct of Co-operation is self-help. Only men of
independent spirit are attracted by it. The intention of the
co-operator has been never to depend upon parliamentary consideration for
help, nor upon the sympathy of the rich for charity, nor upon pity nor the
prayer of the priest. The co-operator may be a believer, and
generally is, but he is self reliant in the first place, and a believer in
the second. Pity is out of his way, because he does not like to
distress people to give it. Help by prayer is the most compendious
and easy way of getting it, but the co-operator, who is generally a modest
man, does not like to give the priest the trouble of procuring it, whose
machinery seems never in order when it is most wanted to work. When
the working class have learnt the lesson of self-support and
self-protection there may be piety and devotion and the love of God among
them, but they will owe their fortunes to themselves. Co-operators
know, however excellent faith may be, it is not business. No trades
union can obtain an increase of wages by faith. No employer will
give a man a good engagement in consideration of what he believes.
His chances entirely depend on what he can do. The most celebrated
manufacturing firm would be ruined in repute if the twelve apostles worked
for it, unless they knew their business. Piety, ever so conspicuous,
fetches no price in the labour market. There is no creed the
profession of which will induce a Chancellor of the Exchequer to remit the
assessed taxes, or a magistrate to excuse the non-payment of local rates.
People have been misled by the well-intentioned but mischievous lesson
which has taught them to employ mendicant supplication to Heaven.
When the evil day comes—when the parent has no means of supporting his
family or discharging his duty as a citizen—the Churches render no help,
the State admits of no excuse: it accords nothing but the contemptuous
charity of the poor law. The day of self-help has come, and this
will be the complexion of the future.
Co-operation, in imparting the power of self-help, abates
that distrust which has kept the people down. Above all projects of
our day co-operative industry has mitigated the wholesale suspicion of
riches and capitalists. This means good understanding in the future
between those who have saved money, and the many who need to save it, and
mean to save it. The old imbecility of poverty is disappearing.
The incapacitating objection to paying interest for money is scarcely
visible anywhere. What does it matter how rich another grows,
whether he be capitalist or employer, whether he be called master or
millionaire, providing he who is poor can contrive to attain competence by
his own aid? Jealousy or distrust of another's success is only
justifiable when he bars the way to those below him, equally entitled to a
reasonable chance of rising. War upon the rich is only lawful when,
not content with their own good fortune, they close every door upon the
poor, give no heed to their just claims, deny them, whether by law or
combination, fair means of self-help, discouraging the honest, the
industrious, and the thrifty from ascending the ladder of prosperity on
which they have mounted. Property has no rights in equity when it
owns no obligation of justice, and ceases to be considerate to others.
If the wealthy proposed to kill the indigent, they would provoke a war in
which the slain would not be all on one side; and since the powerful must
consent to the weak existing, that consent implies the right of the weak
to live, and the right to live includes the right to a certain share of
the wealth of the community, proportionate to the labour and skill they
contribute in creating it. Property has to provide for this or must
permit it to be provided by others, or it will be itself in jeopardy.
The power of creating a pacifying distribution of means is afforded by
practical Co-operation. As I have said, it asks no aid from the
State; it petitions for no gift, disturbs no interests, attacks nobody's
fortune, attempts no confiscation of existing gains, but clears its own
ground, gathers in its own harvest, distributes the golden grain equitably
among all the husbandmen. Without needing favours or incurring
obligations, it establishes the industrious classes among the possessors
of the fruits of the earth. As the power of self-existence in nature
includes all other attributes, so self-help in the people includes all the
conditions of progress. Co-operation is organised self-help—that is
what the complexion of the future will be.
AN OUTSIDE CHAPTER
Reply to "Fraser's Magazine."—The only notice of my first volume
to which I desire to reply is one which Professor Newman did me the honour
to make in Fraser. 
Mr. Newman was alike incapable of being unfair or unjust, and to me he had
been neither, but he had misconceived what I had said about State
Socialism and capitalists. I blame no one who misconceives my
word—I blame myself. It is the duty of a writer to be so clear that
obtuseness cannot misapprehend him nor malice pervert what he says. Mr.
Newman was neither obtuse nor malicious. Few men saw so clearly as he into
social questions, or were so considerate as he in his objections. He
scrupulously said I had, "unawares" and "inconsistently" with my known
views, fallen into errors. Mr. Newman did me the honour to remember that I
try with what capacity I have not to be foolish, and that I regard
unfairness and even inaccuracy of statement as of the nature of a crime
I quoted the edict of Babeuf (p. 25, vol. i.), "That they do nothing for
the country who do not serve it by some useful occupation," to show that
extreme communists kept no terms either with "laziness or plunder"—the
two sins usually charged against these theorists. From this Mr. Newman
concluded that I would deny persons the right to enjoy inherited property. Writers on property are accustomed to enumerate but three ways of
it—namely, to earn it, to beg it, or to steal it. Mr. Newman's sagacity
enabled him to point out a fourth way—persons may inherit it. I confess
this did not occur to me, nor did I ask myself whether Babeuf thought of
it. I took his edict to apply only to persons for
whose welfare the State made itself responsible. It was in this sense only
that I thought it right that all should be "usefully occupied."
Mr. Newman said, "I would fain pass off" Mr. Owen's administration of the
New Lanark Mills "as Co-operation." Surely I would not. Mr. Newman said,
Owen patronised the workman." Certainly—that is exactly what he
did, and this is what I do not like. It was at best but a good sort of
despotism, and had the merit of being better than the
bad sort. He proved that equity, though paternally conceded, paid, which
no manufacturer had made publicly clear before.
One who has not written on this subject, Mr. John Bright, but who is as
famous for his familiarity with it, as for his readiness in repartee, said
to me, "There is one thing in your book
to which I object—you speak of the tyranny of capital."
"But it was not in my mind," I rejoined. "But it is in your
book," was the answer. No reply could be more conclusive. Capital may be
put to tyrannical uses; but capital itself is the
independent, passionless means of all material progress. It is only its
misuse against which we have to provide, and I ought to have been careful
For State Socialism I have less than sympathy, I have dislike. Lassalle
and Marx, of the same race, Comte and Napoleon III. are all identifiable
sign—they ridicule the dwarfish efforts of the slaves of wages to
transform capitalistic society. Like the Emperor of the French, they
overflow with what
seems eloquent sympathy for helpless workmen ground to powder in the mill
of capital. They all mean that the State will grind them in a more
way of its own, if working men will abjure politics, and submit themselves
to the paternal operators who alone know what is best for them.
There was a German Disraeli—namely, Prince Bismarck—who befriended the
German Jew as Lord Derby did the English one. It was Ferdinand Lassalle,
handsome, unscrupulous, a dandy with boundless bounce; a Sybarite in his
life, beaming in velvet, jewellery, and curly hair, who affected to be the
friend of the working class. Deserting the party to
which he belonged for not appreciating him, he turned against it, and
conceived the idea of organising German workmen as a political force to
middle class, exactly as the Chartists were used in England. Lassalle's
language to the working men was that "they could not benefit themselves by
frugality or saving—the cruel, brazen law of wages made individual
exertion unavailing—their only trust was in State help." With all who
disliked exertion Lassalle was popular; for there were German jingoes in his day. By dress
and parade he kept himself distinguished, and also obtained an annuity
Countess who much exceeded his age. The author of "Vivian Grey" was
distanced by Lassalle, who told the world that "he wrote his pamphlets
armed with all the culture of his century." In other respects he showed
less skill than his English rival. Mr. Disraeli insulted O'Connell
whom it was known would not fight a duel, and then challenged his son
Morgan, whom he had not insulted, and who declined to fight until he was. Disraeli prudently did not qualify him. Lassalle, less weary, discerned no
discretionary course, and Count Rackonitz shot him, otherwise Bismarck
have been superseded at the Berlin Congress, and a German Beaconsfield had
been President. In blood, religion, and policy, in manners and ambition,
and in success (save in duelling) both men were the same. Our Conservative Lassalle had an incubator of State Socialism for this country and the
England party carne out of it.
Co-operative Methods in 1828.—In 1828, when Lord John Russell was laying
the foundation-stone of the British Schools in Brighton, Dr. King was
to Lord Brougham, then Henry Brougham, M.P., an account of the then new
scheme of Co-operative Stores. It is a practical, well-written
appeal to a statesman, and enables us to see what Brougham had the means
of knowing at that early period of the nature of Co-operation as a new
social force. The following is Dr. King's statement:—
"A number of persons in Brighton, chiefly of the working class, having
read works on the subject of Co-operation, conceived the possibility of
reducing it to
practice in some shape or other. They accordingly formed themselves into a
and met once a week for reading and conversation on the subject; they also
began a weekly subscription of 1d. The numbers who joined were
considerable—at one time upwards of 170; but, as happens in such cases,
many were lukewarm and indifferent, and the numbers fluctuated. Those who
remained showed at once an evident improvement of their minds. When the
subscriptions amounted to £5 the sum was invested in groceries, which
were retailed to the members. Business kept increasing, the first week the
amount sold was half-a-crown; it is now about £38. The profit is about 10
per cent.; so that a return of £20 a week pays all expenses, besides which
the members have a large room to meet in and work in. About six
months ago the society took a lease of twenty-eight acres of land, about
nine miles from Brighton, which they cultivate as a garden and nursery out
their surplus capital. They employ on the garden, out of seventy-five
members, four, and sometimes five men, with their own capital.
They pay the men at the garden 14s. a week, the ordinary rate of wages in
the country being 10s., and of parish labourers 6s. The men are also
allowed rent and vegetables. They take their meals together. One man is
married and his wife is housekeeper.
"The principle of the society is—the value of labour. The operation is by
means of a common capital. An individual capital is an impossibility to
workman, but a common capital not. The advantage of the plan is that of
mutual insurance; but there is an advantage beyond, viz., that the
thus get the whole produce of his labour to himself; and if he chooses to
work harder or longer, he will benefit in proportion. If it is possible
to work for themselves, many advantages will arise. The other day they
wanted a certain quantity of land planted before the winter. Thirteen
members went from Brighton early in the morning, gave a day's work,
performed the task, and returned home at night. The man who formerly had
land, when he came
to market, allowed himself 10s. to spend. The man who now comes to market
for the society is contented with 1s. extra wages. Thus these men
are in a fair way to accumulate capital enough to find all the members
with constant employment; and of course the capital will not stop there.
societies are springing up. Those at Worthing and Finden are proceeding as
prosperously as ours, only on a smaller scale. If Co-operation be once
proved practicable, the working classes will soon see their interest in
adopting it. If this goes on, it will draw labour from the market, raise
wages, and so
operate upon pauperism and crime. All this is pounds, shillings, and pence; but another most important feature remains. The members see
immediately the value of knowledge. They employ their leisure time in
reading and mutual instruction. They have appointed one of their members
librarian and schoolmaster; he teaches every evening. Even their
discussions involve both practice and theory, and are of a most improving
nature. Their feelings are of an enlarged, liberal, and charitable
description. They have no disputes, and feel towards mankind at
large as brethren. The élite of
the society were members of the Mechanics' Institution, and my pupils, and
their minds were no doubt prepared there for this society. It is a happy
"In conclusion, I beg to propose to your great and philanthropic mind the
question as to how such societies may be affected by the present state of
the law; or how far future laws may be so framed as to operate favourably
to them. At the same time, they ask nothing from any one but to be let
nothing from the law but protection. As I have had the opportunity of
watching every step of this society, I consider their case proved; but
others at a
distance will want further experience. If the case is proved, I consider
it due to you, sir, as a legislator, philosopher, and the friend of man,
to lay it before
you. This society will afford you additional motives for completing the
Library of Useful Knowledge—the great forerunner of human improvement."
The First Sales of the Rochdale Pioneers.—In 1866, when Mr. Samuel
Ashworth left the Rochdale store to manage the Manchester Wholesale
presentation was made to him in the Board Room of the Corn Mill. A
correspondent of the Working Man sent to me at the time these
published save in that journal. In the course of the proceedings Mr.
William Cooper related how he and Samuel Ashworth were among the first
who served customers in
the store in Toad Lane; when it was opened in 1844 for sales of articles
in the grocery business. "We then," said Mr. Cooper,
"sold goods at the
about two nights in the week, opening at about eight o'clock p.m., and
closing in two hours after. Mr. Ashworth served in the shop one week, and
week following. We gave our services for the first three months, except
that the committee bought each of us a pair of white sleeves—something
butchers wear on their arms, to make us look tidy and clean, and, if the
truth is to be owned, I daresay they were to cover the grease which stuck
shone upon our jacket sleeves as woollen weavers. At that time every
member that worked for the store, whether as secretary, treasurer,
auditor, did it for the good of the society, without any reward in wages
"When Samuel Ashworth joined the society, in 1844, he was only nineteen
years of age. He was behind the counter on December 21, 1844, that
memorable day when the shutters were first taken down from the shop-front
in Toad Lane, and was one of those stared at by every passer-by. The stock
with which the co-operators opened the shop was as follows: 1 qr. 22 lb.
of butter, 2 qrs. of sugar, 3 sacks of flour at 37s. 6d., and 3 sacks at
dozen of candles, and 1 sack of meal. The total cost of this stock was £16 11s. 11d.; and it appeared they must have had a fortnight's stock of
flour, for there was none
bought the second week. The second week the stock was slightly decreased,
the amount of purchases for the fortnight being £24 14s. 7d."
Those goods Samuel Ashworth and William Cooper had the pleasure of selling
as unpaid shopkeepers—"a bad precedent," remarked Mr. Ashworth, in the
course of a speech made by him, "because even now some of their members do
not like to pay their servants the best of wages." It is instructive
to compare the difference between the weekly sale of goods during the
first fortnight of the society's existence, and their weekly sales twelve
Weekly Sales in 1844.
Weekly Sales in 1856.
220 firkins, or 15,400lb.
170 cwt., or 19,040lb.
2 tons 13cwt., or 5,936lb.
Subsequently, when the price of sugar was rapidly rising, Mr. Ashworth
ordered 50 tons of sugar in three days, and on another occasion he gave an
order for 4,000 sacks of flour at once. The weekly receipts during the
first fortnight of the society's operations did not average £10, twelve
years later, in 1866, the weekly sales were £4,822.
The End of the Orbiston Community.—The most interesting and authentic
account of Orbiston, its objects, principles, financial arrangements, and
that given in the newspapers of 1829 and 1830. The following appeared
under the head of "Law Intelligence—Vice Chancellor's Court"—JONES
MORGAN AND OTHERS—THE
SOCIALISTS.—This case came before the court upon
the demurrer of a lady, named Rathbone, put in to a Bill filed by
several shareholders of the Orbiston Company, on the ground that such
shareholders had contributed more than was justly due from them, and to
recover the excess. The grounds of the demurrers were want
of equity. The case came before the court upon the demurrer
of a person named Cooper. The facts appeared to be these: In the year
1825 a number of persons joined together, for the purpose of forming a
or communist society, under the superintendence of Mr. Robert Owen, the
professed object of which was to promote the happiness of mankind. The
company was to consist of shareholders, the shares being fixed at £250
(though after the formation of the company they were reduced to £200
and it being further agreed that for the first year no shareholder should
be allowed to hold more than ten shares, but that after the lapse of one
the formation of the society, such stock as should then be unappropriated
might be disposed of among the members of the company. The capital
was not to exceed £50,000. The company eventually purchased 280 acres of
land from General Hamilton, at Orbiston, in Scotland, as the site of the
proposed establishment, for which they consented to pay £19,995. This money
was borrowed in three several sums of £12,000 from the Union Scotch
Assurance Company, £3,000 from a Mr. Ainslie, and the remainder from
another quarter. The articles of agreement were then drawn up. The right
voting was to be vested in the shareholders proportionately to
the amount of their respective shares. The necessary buildings were to be
erected, and the necessary utensils supplied, and the company were to be
empowered to borrow money upon the security of the joint property. Several
trustees were named, the first being a Mr. Combe, to whom the estate was
accordingly conveyed. The following are some of the general articles
agreed on: "Whereas the assertion of Robert Owen, who has had much
experience in the education of children, that principles as certain as the
science of mathematics may be applied to the forming any general
that by the influence of other circumstances not a few individuals only,
but the population of the whole world, may in a few years be rendered a
superior race of beings to any now on the face of the earth, or who have
ever existed, an assertion which implies that at least nine-tenths of the
misery which exist in the world have been the necessary consequence of
errors in the present system of instruction, and not of imperfection
our nature by the Creator, and that it is quite practical to form the
minds of all children that are born so that at the age of twelve years
their habits and
ideas shall be far superior to those of the individuals termed learned
men. . . . And that under a proper direction of manual labour Great
Britain and its
dependencies may be made to support an incalculable increase of
population." The 21st article provided for a dissolution of the society if
it should be
found necessary: "That if, unhappily, experience should demonstrate to the
satisfaction of the majority of proprietors that the new system introduced
recommended by R. Owen has a tendency to produce, in the aggregate, as
much ignorance in the midst of knowledge, as much poverty in the midst of
excessive wealth, as much illiberality and hypocrisy, as much overbearing
and cruelty, and fawning and severity, as much ignorant conceit, as much
dissipation and debauchery, as much filthiness and brutality, as much
avarice and unfeeling selfishness, as much fraud and dishonesty, as much
and violence, as have invariably attended the existing system in all ages,
then shall the property be let to individuals acting under the old system,
or sold to
defray the expenses of the institution." In 1825 the society entered upon
the estate, and the lands were divided among the tenants. Among the original shareholders was the present demurring defendant,
Cooper, who took one share, for which he paid £20 as an instalment, that
borrowed from Mr. Hamilton, on the understanding that unless the loan were
repaid by Cooper within two years, the property should belong to Mr.
Hamilton. At the several meetings that subsequently took place Cooper did
not attend, but deputed the trustee, Mr. Combe, to act for him, as he was
permitted to do by the original agreement. In 1827 it was ascertained that
the speculation did not answer, as the company was proved to be
involved in debt to a considerable amount, so as to make it necessary that
the property should be sold and the establishment broken up. Accordingly,
1828, the sale of the estate was effected, and £15,000, the
purchase-money, subject to certain deductions, transferred to the Scotch
Company, as a repayment of their loan. A considerable balance of debts to
other parties, however, still remained due, for which the shareholders
liable. Several suits were prepared in Scotch courts, during which the
estates of the shareholders were declared liable, and several accordingly
paid much beyond what was due, proportionately on the amount of their
shares. Of the original shareholders many were now dead, many out of the
jurisdiction of the court, and many in hopelessly insolvent
circumstances.—Mr. Rolt appeared in support of the demurrer.—In
consequence of the absence
of Mr. James Parker, who was engaged in the Lord Chancellor's Court, the
further arguments were ordered to stand over. The "further arguments"
I have not been able to procure.
The End of the Queenwood Community.—The reader has seen in the chapter on
"Lost Communities" the closing days of Queenwood. Twenty years
after, in 1865, a suit in Chancery being instituted, the property was sold
and the assets distributed.
After paying the expenses allowed by the court and one creditor, who was
held to be entitled to be paid in full to the extent of £15 10s. 10d.,
remained for division £6,226 19s. 5d. amongst the several persons in the
proportions hereunder mentioned.
All those who had to receive less than £10 obtained it from Messrs.
Ashurst, Morris & Co., of 6, Old Jury, London; those whose dividends
received payment from the Accountant-General, on being identified by a
solicitor upon such application.
The following is a list of the persons and amounts
payable to them:—
incurred by Mr. Pare in carrying out this suit amounted to £360. The suits
were conducted by Mr. George Davis of Mr. Ashurst's firm, and it
was owing to his skill, resource, and mastery of the case that the money
recovered reached so large an amount. The defaulting trustees endeavoured
defame the principles of Mr. Owen, and to prejudice the Master of the
Rolls against the case; it was a matter of justice that they should be
John Romilly exceeded all that was to be expected of any judge, and he
refused to allow the trustees to escape by these means, which in days not
long gone would have been successful. Mr. Davis's control of the case was
surrounded with difficulties which would have deterred many solicitors,
placed the creditors who benefited by his judgment and success under great
obligation to him.
Reciprocity in Shopkeeping.—Often contending that it was in the power of
shopkeepers of wit to apply Co-operation to their own business, I wrote a
circular for a Glasgow tea merchant, who had a large establishment at 508,
Gallowgate, who preferred candour and business explicitness, setting forth
the new method of dealing. Being the first document of the kind, it may be
instructive to tradesmen. Mr. John McKenzie, the tea merchant in question,
thus introduced the principle of Reciprocity:—
"Every one, whether he has been in business or not, knows that the natural
competition of trade keeps the shopkeeper's profits low; and if he makes
gift to his customers upon small purchases, he must be a loser by it. If,
customer is offered such gifts, he has good reason to suppose that the
articles he buys are inferior to what they ought to be, and if he does
suppose it, he
will commonly be right.
"The only way in which profits can be made in business is by numerous
customers, and consequently large sales, which enable the shopkeeper to
the best markets. It is by this reciprocity alone that profit can arise
which can be
divided with purchasers. Therefore, if customers make purchases to the
necessary amount, a real reciprocal plan of giving dividends on purchases
can be carried out.
"The tea trade is one of the best fitted of any business for applying this
reciprocity principle, and we have arranged to make the experiment for one
dating from January, 1878.
"Therefore upon every purchase of tea of the amount of 4d. and upwards a
metal warrant will be given, and when these warrants amount to 5s. a
will be made of 4d. in money, which amounts to a dividend of 1s. 4d. in
the £ sterling.
"We prefer paying the dividend to purchasers in money as the honest way.
When the public have the money in their hands they know that they have
money's worth, which they are not sure of when they are paid a dividend in
of doubtful value and more doubtful use. We try this experiment because we
think a practical and simple form of reciprocity is possible in
shop-keeping, and believe that if the public understand it they will try
it, and if they do try it they will find it satisfactory.
"The public are not generally aware what interest they have in buying the
best teas. The Government duty is uniform, and is sixpence each pound
upon good and bad teas alike; so that if a purchaser buys twenty
shillings' worth of 'cheap' tea, at 1s. 8d. per pound, he pays six
shillings in duty, or a
Government tax of 30 per cent., while if he bought twenty shillings worth
of very fine tea, at 3s. 4d. per pound, he only pays three shillings duty,
Government tax of 15 per cent., and has the value of the other 15 per
cent. in high quality. Thus the public, not being acquainted with the
'cheap' tea, not knowing that it is the dearest tea, and not only dear,
but often dangerous, and they are taxed
enormously for drinking it. Whereas the best tea is not only greatly
cheaper but a luxury to drink, and goes further, because
it has real quality. We have never sought to sell 'cheap' but
'good' teas. We have made our business by it, and we do not doubt being
believed by any who make the experiment of buying from us.
"With accessible, convenient, and commodious premises, and a
well-organised service, it is possible for us to sell a larger quantity of
increased expenses, and it is the profit upon increased sales, without
increased expenses, that enables a dividend to be given. We can thus give
dividend of 1s. 4d. in the £) the same superior quality of tea which we
have always supplied.
"This is our whole case. Were it not explained, the public might think it
a new device to allure custom by seeming to make a gift for which the
purchaser paid either in price or quality of the article he bought. Any
sensible person can
understand the good faith of the plan. We make no change
in price—no change in quality. The dividend is given out of
economy made by larger sales. It would be dishonest to promise what we
could not perform, and foolish to promise
what the public did not see could be performed. We have, therefore,
frankly explained the grounds on which we ask the support of the public in
experiment of honest and substantial dividends in the tea trade, on the
fair principle of reciprocity."
Progress of Co-operative Workshops.—The Marquis of Ripon's address to the
Congress of Manchester, 1878, which drew attention to the tardy progress
of Co-operative Production, increased public interest in it. As yet
competitive employers in many towns are before co-operative employers in
the participation of profits to labour. What visitors to Nottingham hear
from workmen in Mr. Samuel Morley's lace factories in that town, would
remarkable and pleasant chapter in the history of workshops. Some time ago
I received from an eminent auctioneer's firm in London (Debenham and
Storr) their scheme of the recognition of skill, goodwill, and assiduity
in business among their employees,
which had many equitable and kind features. The statement had been
prepared for the Right Hon. W. H. Smith, who is known to have established
similar arrangements in his great business.
Co-operation Proposed to Pope Pius IX.—Astute co-operators, with a turn
of mind for State Socialism, followed in the footsteps of Mr. Owen, and
to interest courts and clergy in their schemes. Mr. John Minter Morgan was
so sanguine of this kind of success, that he sought an audience with the
in 1847. In May, 1846, he had held a public meeting in Exeter Hall,
London, at which the Bishop of Norwich, Lord John Manners, and Sir Harry Verney
were present. The object was to promote self-supporting villages for
people destitute of employment. The number of persons in each village was
300, and £40,000 was the capital required for the undertaking. A vague
reference occurred in the prospectus to "the period when the inmates would
become proprietors"; but whether self-government was then to be a right
was not mentioned. The village was to be a place under favourable
conditions of religion, morals, health, and industry, into which people
were to be invited to come and be good. There were to be two rulers, a
clergyman and a director; and if they were genial and tolerant gentlemen,
a pleasant tame life, undisturbed by Nonconformists or politics, could be
The Secretaries of the scheme were the Rev. Edmund R. Larken, afterwards
one of the principal proprietors of the Leader newspaper; the Rev. Joseph
Brown, who gave poor London children happy days at Ham Common every year;
and Mr. Morgan himself. If the projected villages were to be directed
in the spirit of these gentlemen they would surely have been happy and
popular. There were three bishops, those of Exeter, St. David's, and
Vice-Presidents of the Village Society. Considering how angry the Bishop
of Exeter was at Mr. Owen's community schemes, it was a great triumph of
Morgan to induce this bishop to be Vice-President of another. Lord John
Manners, Mr. Monckton Milnes, M.P. (now Lord Houghton), the Hon. W. F.
Cowper (now Mr. Cowper-Temple, M.P.) were upon the committee, which
included eighteen clergymen. Though these probably had Church objects
in view, the majority, like Mr. Cowper-Temple, whom we know as a real
friend of Co-operation, were doubtless mainly actuated by a single desire
to advance the social improvement of the people. Their prospectus
said that "competition in appealing to selfish motives only, enriching the few and impoverishing the many, is a false and unchristian
principle, engendering a spirit of envy and rivalry."
In 1847 Mr. Morgan carried his model and paintings, of his village scheme
to Rome; he says contemptuously that "the British Consular Agent, being
more favourable to Free Trade and the general principles of Political
Economy, took no interest in the plan." At length Monsignor Corboli Bussi,
Private and Confidential Secretary to the Pope,
"devoted nearly an hour and a half to an examination of the plan, and
informed Mr. Morgan that His Holiness would meet him at three o'clock or
three, as he descended to walk that day, February 23rd, 1847, and that Mr.
Morgan was to attend on Monsignor Maestro de Camera, in his apartment a
little before three."
On that afternoon the Peripatetic Communist and the Pope were to be seen
in consultation together. His Holiness commended the object, and said the
painting had been explained to him. Mr. Morgan asked the Pope to commend
his plan to
the Catholics. He said he would speak to Mr. Freeborn, the Consular Agent. Mr. Morgan wrote to that unsympathetic Consular Agent, who
never replied. Then Mr. Morgan prayed Monsignor Bussi that "His Holiness
should be pleased to direct that he, Mr. Morgan, should be honoured with a
letter implying, in such terms as his superior wisdom and goodness would
dictate, that the theory of the plan appeared to be unobjectionable, and
would be glad to hear of experiments being made according to local
circumstances." "Such a letter," Mr. Morgan added, "would not be
the rule which he understood His Holiness observed of not interfering with
the temporal affairs of other countries."
Mr. Morgan's transparent painting was sent back to him with the civil
intimation that the Holy Father and August Sovereign had "gone so far as
to remit the
printed exposition which accompanied Mr. Morgan's project to the
examination of the Agricultural Commission, presided over by His Eminence
The Christian Village propagandist had interviews with Cardinal Massimo,
and sent to the Pope the assurance that, "that which peculiarly
the proposed Christian colony from the constitution of society in general,
was the power which it afforded of maintaining the supremacy of religion,
only in theory and in precept, and in framing the laws and regulations,
but by suppressing and prohibiting all institutions, practices, and
calculated to impair the love of God and man as the ruling principle of
There is no more instructive example than this of what state or clerical
socialism comes to. Never before was such a proposal carried to Rome by an
English Protestant gentleman. It was an offer to place Co-operative
Industrialism under the conditions of an absolute clerical despotism,
include an Inquisition in every village. No poverty, no precariousness of
competitive life is more abject or humiliating than this tutelage and
Mgr. John Corboli Bussi wrote Mr. Morgan from Quirinal Palace, April 18,
1847, saying, "Very willingly I will place under the eyes of His
august sovereign, the note you have remitted: and afterwards, as I
suppose, it will be communicated to the Agricultural Commission. But I am
not able to
foresee the result. Certainly I cannot but praise your moral principles
and judgment, and I believe every generous and religious heart would
them. But as to the application of these principles to the economy of a
country like ours I could not dare to have an opinion."
Thus ended the negotiations between Mr. Morgan and the Pope. Some respect
is due to the Vatican for allowing the proposal made to it—to pass out of
When old feudality disappeared, and the serf-class passed into dependence
upon the capitalist class, anybody with eyes that could see social effects
discerned that wages which gave industrial freedom would lead to growing
intelligence and social aspiration, which being constantly checked by the
powerful ambition of capital, there would be never-ending hostility
between capital and labour. This opened a field which unscrupulous
enter and obtain a following,
by promising workmen political deliverance. When working
people came to have votes, the same adventurers taught them distrust of
their own efforts, distrust of the middle class, who were nearest to them
sympathy, and who alone stood between the people and the sole rule of the
aristocracy. When this distrust was well diffused, these skilful
sympathy with the people asked for their confidence at the poll, which, as
soon as it was obtained, they set up Personal Government, and put a sword
the throats of those who had given them power, as the Emperor Napoleon
did. State Socialism means
the promise of a dinner, and a bullet when you ask for it. It never meant
anything else and never gave anything else. Co-operation is the discovery
the means by which an industrious man can provide his own dinner without
depriving any one else of his.
THE SONG OF STATE SOCIALISM
"Make no more giants, God,
But elevate the race at once."
FEUDALITY is not out of the bones of people in
England, even now. Free workmen still expect from employers
something of the gifts and care of vassalage, though they no longer render
vassal service. Landlords still look for the allegiance of their
tenants, notwithstanding that they charge them rent for their lands.
In other countries, Despotism, tempered by paternal government, trains the
people to look for State redress and State management. State
Socialism seems one of the diseases of despotism, whose policy it is to
The working man, with no fortune save his capacity of
industry, lives under the despotism of Trade, which, better than the
despotism of Government, leaves him the freedom of opportunity. He
remains subject to the precariousness of hire. It is labour being
imprisoned in the cage of wages, that has inclined its ear to the sirens
of State Socialism. Ferdinand Lassalle, Karl Marx, and Lord
Beaconsfield—three Jewish leaders whose passion has been ascendancy, have
all sung in varying tunes the same song. Lassalle cried aloud to
German workmen: "Put no trust in thrift. The cruel, brazen law of
wages makes individual exertion unavailing. Look to State help."
Marx exclaimed: "Despise this dwarfish redress the laves of capital can
win." Disraeli sent the Young England party to offer patrician
sympathy, maypoles, and charity. Auguste Comte proposed confidence
and a plentiful trencher. The Emperor Napoleon told French artisans
that "Industry was a machine working without a regulator, totally
unconcerned about its moving power, crushing beneath its wheels both men
and matter." They were all known by one sign—Paternal Despotism.
They all sang the same song—"Abjure politics, party, and self-effort, and
the mill of the State, which we shall turn, will grind you benevolently in
a way of its own." If the expression is allowable to me, I should
say—God preserve working men from the "Saviours of Society."
"Property has its duties as well as its rights." If
property is honestly come by, are we under the necessity or duty of
parting with it? When something is required to be done for those who
have no means of doing it for themselves, the richer people are now
expected to assist in providing what is wanted. What is this but a
humanitarian confiscation of the property of those from whom such help is
extracted? What is this but industrial mendicancy on the part of
those who receive it? Why should workmen need to stoop to this?
Why should they not possess the means to provide themselves with what they
need? A municipal town of independence, desiring some improvement,
does not be, it assesses itself for the expense. In the same manner,
the working class anywhere, needing an institution, or an advantage,
should do as co-operators do—pass a levy upon themselves—not pass round
the hat to their richer neighbours. Has property intrinsic duties of
charity? The poor have duties—and it is the first duty of the
industrious poor not to be poor. Because of their helplessness now,
the poor may accept the politic largesses of the rich; but they have no
claim thereto. The obligation lies upon them always and everywhere
to find out why riches accumulate in other hands and not in theirs, and to
take immediate and persistent steps to amend the irregularity. The
rich—if we except the "out-door relief" to the aristocracy, which Mr.
Bright considers is dispensed at the Horse Guards and Admiralty—do not ask
for State Socialism. Only men mendicant-minded do that, or ever
think of it.
The policy of Liberalism is to encourage the people to owe
everything to themselves. The policy of Conservatism is to impress
the people with the belief that they owe everything to their superiors.
By giving back to the people some of the money taken from them, these sort
of rulers obtain the influence of donors, and conceal from the people that
the money given them is their own.
State Socialism being a disease of some of the rich as well
as of many of the poor, is not to be regarded as though it were
necessarily a crime in artisans. The Socialists and Nihilists among
workmen are not the dangerous class they are represented. A little
outrage of speech or act on their part is made to go a long way by classes
more dangerous than they, who, unwilling to accord redress, are glad of
pretexts of repression. 
Alarmed power has many friends. A great cry goes up in the Press
against assassins, while few cry out against the oppression which creates
the assassinations of despair. Irritated Paternal Government is
ferocious. The "Father of his People" in Russia will commit more
murders in a day than all the Nihilists in the empire in a generation.
Despotic "Order" has its Robespierres as well as Anarchy.
The armed and conspiring Buonapartes, Bismarcks, and Czars are bloodier
far than the impotent and aspiring poor.
The conditions of the many predispose them to distrust.
Mr. Mill has described them in a comprehensive passage:—
"No longer enslaved or made dependent by force of law, the
great majority are so by force of poverty. They are still chained to
a place, to an occupation, and to conformity to the will of an employer,
and debarred from advantages which others inherit without exertion, and
independently of desert." 
This class of persons, dependent on the mercy, caprice, or
necessities of capital, have a very bad outlook. Hopeless men are
always disposed to listen to any proposal of arranging things on their
behalf. To such persons the idea of looking for help within their
own order does not occur to them. They see no avenue of self-help
open to them. If they did, they would not be despairing.
In the meantime the State—not a thing independent of the
people, but a system under the control of the people—should have charge
only of those general interests which from time to time may be committed
to it. If towns may acquire lands for free parks, provide free
libraries, free education (for a time), tolless roads, improved streets,
acquire waterworks, gasworks, and taverns, the State may take upon itself
other limited public duties, and organise railway transit, and even
acquire the land, using the increment in its value for national
expenditure, as the public welfare may determine.
Free Government is yet in its infancy, and the line is not
yet traced between State action and local life. Many consider that
the State may represent the uniformity of law, protection, order, right,
and national economy; while Social life should keep free, industry,
conscience, education, individuality, and progress. Of one thing we
are sure, that the world has been too much governed by persons whose
talent has lain chiefly in taking care of themselves. There have always
been too many people ready to regulate society in their own interests,
whereas the welfare of the world lies in the direction of self-government.
Humanity has been too much sat upon by rulers—Heaven-born and
Devil-born—the latter class chiefly prevailing. The farseeing prayer
of Browning—that God should make no more giants, but elevate the race at
once—should be put up in all the churches. What we want in society
is no leadership save that of thought—no authority save that of
principles—no laws save those which increase honest freedom—no influence
save that of service. The English working class, if not brilliant,
have a steady, dogged, unsubduable instinct of self-sufficiency in them.
Being a self-acting race, they are alike impatient of military or
spiritual mastery, or paternal coddling, and in their crude but manly and
ever-improving way they make it their business to take care of the State,
and not to call upon the State to take care of them.
FROM 1876 TO 1904
OF MALHAM TARN
TO WHOM CO-OPERATION OWES MORE
THAN IT KNOWS
FOR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE
TRANSFORMATION OF SOCIAL AIMS
ALL the fervour and earnestness of early
Co-operative Societies was not, as the reader has seen, about
Co-operation, as it is now known, but about communistic life. The
"Socialists," so frequently heard of then, were Communists. They
hoped to found voluntary, self-supporting, self-controlled, industrial
cities, in which the wealth created was to be equitably shared by all
whose labour produced it. Participation was to be the cardinal
principle of the new Socialist organisation of society. As the
expense was beyond the means of the people, Mr. Owen proposed that the
funds should be supplied by the State. He sought
State-initiation—not State support—as these cities were to be
self-sustained. Whether communities so originated would end in State
control of production and distribution appears never to have been
discussed, as no State took the steps proposed.
In the "Socialist" agitation taken up by the people, the
State was left out and the people came in. Their communities were
intended to be independent and controlled by the residents for themselves.
This scheme of communist life was sometimes spoken of under
the name of "Co-operation," as indicating that the exertions of all must
be co-operant to the common good.
The theory of equitable Co-operation is—in the workshop—5
per cent. to capital, to the customers what may be necessary, 5 per cent.
to education, 10 per cent. to labour. In the store—5 per cent. to
capital, 5 per cent. to education, 10 per cent. to customers, and the same
to all in the employ of the store.
Capital and custom are always trade charges. Other
divisions are made out of profit and vary as the members direct.
The Rochdale Pioneers founded a new form of Co-operation;
their inspiration was communistic. They were all of that persuasion.
Their intention was to raise funds for community purposes. It was
because they had these aims that they provided for education. They
carried participation into the workshop, as their object was the
emancipation of labour from capitalist exploitation. They had no
idea of founding a race of grocers, but a race of men. Communism
suffered incarnation in their hands, and the new birth was the
co-operative store—a far lesser creation; still that was much. It
put honesty into trade, and increased means to countless families.
Classification of Stores.—The rise of Distributive
Co-operation warrants the division of commercial enterprises into public
and private trading. Co-operators are public traders, who take their
customers into partnership. Private traders are they who conduct
their business for their own personal advantage.
Co-operative Stores may be regarded as divisible into Dark
Stores, Twilight Stores, and Sunrise Stores. The "Dark" Stores are
those which give no share of profits to those they employ—give
credit—which keeps up the habit of indebtedness in their members—and
have no education fund in their rules. The "Twilight " stores are
those which have some features or others of a "Sunrise" Store, but not
all. "Sunrise" Stores are those which have the cardinal features of
ready-money dealing, provision for intelligence, and who give the same
dividend on the wages of all their employees as they give to the consumer
who purchases at their counter, If "Sunrise" Stores increase it will
be owing to the Women's Guilds, when they understand what true
Co-operation means. If a man accepts a principle and finds it takes
trouble to put it into practice, he explains it away, and says he carries
it out—when he does not—and his assurances satisfy the male mind.
But you cannot fool a woman this way. She expects a right principle
to be acted upon, and she will not, if she knows it, connive at its
evasion. It has been no uncommon thing to hear heads of departments,
who never put participation into operation, loudly declare themselves in
favour of it—provided it is not to be carried out. They do not say
so but that is their meaning, judged by their conduct. These evaders
would never impose on a congress of women who had thought upon the
GROWTH OF SOCIETIES
It is not by the purity of the sinless alone, that progress
is advanced. It was not by the monk in his cell, or the saint in his
closet, but by the valiant worker in humble sphere and in dangerous days,
that the landmarks of liberty were pushed forward."—W. R. GREG.
English Co-operative Wholesale Society.—First in
magnitude is the Co-operative Wholesale Society of Manchester, familiarly
known as the "C.W.S." It publishes an annual volume, of pictorial
and literary interest. It is also the statistical authority of the
extent of the Co-operative movement. The reader has seen a table of
the progress of the Wholesale Society from 1864 to 1877 (p.
357). Its amazing growth is shown in the statement published on
its authority in the Co-operative News, June 23, 1904. (See below.)
The business and possessions of this great society
The Scottish Wholesale Society.—The Scottish
Wholesale Society was founded in 1872. True to the traditions of
Cooperation in Scotland—the scene of great manufacturing triumph—at New
Lanark the Society accorded a share of profits to the workers it employed.
Though not enough to be much of an inspiration to workers, it recognises
the principle of participation, which is creditable to the sense of honour
and equity, associated with the Scottish character. In the Table of Great
Societies given elsewhere it will be seen that the Glasgow Distributive
Society gives the same dividend to its workers as to the consumers. There
are in Scotland several co-partnership manufacturing societies. It is a
great merit in the Scottish Wholesale Society that it has never assumed
the character of a mere consumers' association, making the consumer the
unit of co-operative effort-which the late judge Hughes used to call "a
Gut's Gospel." It recognises labour as also worthy of consideration, which
gives an honest flavour to all their productions, and makes Shieldhall,
where their principal factories are, historic ground, which the
co-operative traveller visits with pride. The Scottish Wholesale is
remarkable for the efficiency and economy of its administration, which is
no mean one in extent. The following are its statistics for 1904:—
Number of Co-operative Societies
Number of Members
Amount of Capital—Share and Loan
Amount of Trade
Profits earned, including interest
The Great Baking Society of Glasgow.—When the Great
United Baking Society of McNeil Street, Glasgow, began in 1869 (the year
of the first Co-operative Congress in London) 
in South Coburg Street, Glasgow, it employed one man. In 1904 it
employed 1,102. The Society has a capital of £3,300. It has
reserves of £30,000. The trading profits average over £40,000 a
year, £6,000 of which goes to the employees in addition to their wages,
and £34,000 goes to purchasers. In 1903, 131 societies were members
of it, and their sales amounted to £422,700.
From time to time attempts have been made by some who seem to
regard Co-operation as a predatory movement, to steal from the
hard-working bakers their share of profits, and reduce them to the level
of hired labourers in capitalistic workshops. What right has the
well-fed consumer—whose chief service to the movement is eating for
it—to the profits of the workman who labours for it?
The chief Bakery of the Society in McNeil Street is allowed
by traders to be the greatest in the world, as well as being a notable
structure. Their new Bakery in Belfast is also of fine aspect, as
are some of their branches in Scotland. It is singular that in
Scotland, where parsimony in building would be expected, they have
erections, as in Glasgow, of great architectural beauty,
Rochdale Equitable Pioneers.—Taking a typical
selection of the chief societies in the order of their ages, Rochdale
comes first, as its institution of participation with its members created
a new order of societies. The story of the Rochdale Society of
Equitable Pioneers is familiar throughout the co-operative world.
The reader will find its career recounted in
Chapter XVII. The
table of their progress shows that in 1876 the number of members was
8,892—their funds were £254,000, their business amounted to £305,190, and
their profits to £50,668.
In 1904 the number of members were 11,986, the amount of
funds was £223,313, the amount of business £251,398, and the profits
£36,454, exclusive of interest paid to members. The Education Fund
was £769 in 1903. In 1905 increasing prosperity was setting in.
In opening the new Offices in 1893, Mr. Kershaw, the
President, stated that during the fifty-three years of its existence the
society had done a total business of £10,341,458, and paid its members
interest and profits £1,588,400.
Rochdale Provident Society.—That the original
Rochdale Society has not grown as many other societies have, continuously,
is partly owing to the lack of a contiguous population, which has given to
some other towns opportunities of indefinite expansion; the Equitable
Pioneers, however, appears to represent the ethical co-operative element
in the town.
It must be taken into account that Co-operation, in one form
or other, has a large prevalence in Rochdale. A rival society has
been running for many years, which owed its origin to the success of the
Equitable Society. Readers of the "History of the Pioneers" are
aware that for a long time parliamentary candidates, Mr. Cobden
especially, were vehemently opposed by the Conservative party, because of
friendliness to local co-operators. At length, in 1870,
Conservatives contributed to the formation of a new association, which
bore the name of the "Provident Co-operative Society," which now occupies
a considerable building in Lord Street. A late report shows that it
has a capital of £139,000, and 9,000 members. It professes to be
"established for the social advancement of its Members," but it is very
economical in promoting it. It has no educational department, its
twenty-seven branches have no news-room, it has no library, it maintains
no scientific classes, it copies the business features of its great
predecessor, but gives no pledge of honesty in dealing and genuineness of
commodities. Its aim appears to be to make dividends free from the
impediment of ethical restrictions. Its members derive business
benefits from dealing with it, and obtain good dividends on their
purchases. They owe their advantages to the Pioneers, who taught
them that Co-operation was a method of material improvement. The
Provident is run upon the sordid lines of mere commercialism. Its
fiscal administration was borrowed from the Equitable Society in whose
service its first manager was for several years, and who left because his
proposed methods of business were thought undesirable. Many members
of the Equitable Society are also members of the Provident, which, of
course, diminishes the sales of the Equitable, and accounts for the
reduction of its profits over former years. This Provident Society
is not co-operative, but a cheap selling store.
The Leeds Industrial Society.—The giant store at
Leeds, the largest of all, arose in many contentions and was blown into
substantiality by tornadoes of debate of many years' duration. The
society commenced in 1847, incited by chance reports of the Rochdale
Pioneers, who were then only in the third year of their operations.
Leeds had been for some time the centre of the Socialist agitation, and
had more persons of enthusiasm and initiative ability in it than any other
The earlier years of the society were the most turbulent of
any in store history. Its dramatic story is told in its jubilee
History and need not be repeated here. The society began with
fifty-eight pioneers and arose out of Flour. The adulteration and
dearness of that article was a very serious thing when the co-operators
began to deliver the town from the costly peril. It celebrated its
jubilee in 1897. Though vast it is not a Sunrise store, and shares
no profits with shopmen or workers—it brought great saving to the people
and much social improvement. Shorter hours of attendance came to
every shop server in Leeds, through the influence of the example of the
great store, and had it thought of endowing its many workpeople it would
have been richer than it is, and brought gladness to the workshops
throughout the North of England. Leeds would then be a proud name in
Co-operation. It is now merely a great one.
The magnitude of the society is shown in the fact that it has
49,340 members. At the end of 1904 the net profits for the year
exceeded £200,000, in addition to £26,000 paid as interest on capital.
The produce of the corn mill appears to have amounted to 158,000 bags,
which Dominie Sampson would declare a "prodigious" output. The sales
for the year 1904 exceeded £1,525,000.
After thirty-nine years' debate (for the question of the
intelligence of the members was always in the minds of the best friends of
the society) a resolution was carried to devote
¾ per cent. of the profits to education, which, the profit being so
large, gives the handsome sum of £1,500 for the year. Thus the
society emerged from the Dark store stage, but not with impetuosity, it
must be owned. It has more than ten productive departments. It
has added streets of admirable houses to the town. Its members and
its administration comprise a little nation. It has a great
secretary in John W. Fawcett. Its many and far-extending branches
are without parallel in co-operative annals. Its Jubilee History
exceeds in dramatic incidents that of any other. It publishes a
monthly Record, remarkable for quantity, quality of its paragraphs,
and variety of its information. It is edited by Mr. John Fawcett.
The Great Derby Society.—The Derby Society has
a romantic history. It began in 1850, through reports of a wandering
carpenter made at the House of Call. He had been in Rochdale and
noted the success of the new store there, which had been in operation for
six years. Derby workmen thought they could do what Rochdale workmen
had done, and they commenced a store, which burrowed in alleys that had no
thoroughfare and finally emerged from dark retreats into open day and
opulent streets. It possesses now the most imposing business
property in the best part of the town, and had a membership in 1904 of
18,676. Its sales for 1904 amounted to £455,290. It paid an annual
dividend to members of £56,875, £1,063 to employees, and £578 to
education. The society's land and business premises have cost
£181,853; its various holdings being sixty-four in number, consisting of
houses, warehouses, grocery shops, meat shops, bakeries, stables,
builders' yard, and dairies. It takes two days of swift riding to
visit the whole of them. The operations and extent of this society
are marvellous in their variety and interest. Derby was the third
store that celebrated its jubilee. I had then the pleasure of
writing its history as well as the Jubilee History of Leeds. Both
little volumes are plentifully illustrated, and comprise more incidents,
more dramatic experience, more vicissitudes and triumphs of industrial
enterprise than many other books on Co-operation. Long ago Derby
procured from a Norman king a Charter for keeping ideas out of the town.
It succeeded in being for centuries the most stationary, insipid,
vacant-minded town in the kingdom. The only instance of independence
in those days was that of a blind girl who refused assent to the doctrine
of the Real Presence, for which she was burnt alive. But Thought was
too strong for the Charter. It did not for ever keep out ideas, and
made amends by giving birth to William Hutton, an original historian, and
to Herbert Spencer, the prince of scientific thinkers, and putting into
practice Co-operation on a splendid scale.
The Oldham Industrial Society.—One is named the
Industrial, situated in King Street, and the Equitable on Greenacres Hill,
commonly spoken of as the "King Street Store" and the "Greenacres Store."
The Industrial is a year older than the Equitable, and is still the larger
of the two.
The Industrial Society commenced in 1850, and held its
jubilee in 1900. As its first year's dividend amounted to £120 it
probably had 240 members, but no record exists of them. In 1905 its
members numbered 14,996. The share capital in 1850 was £462.
In 1905 it amounted to £ 159,819. In the first year, as we have
said, it paid £120 in dividends. In 1905 its estimated dividend
would be £94,488, nearing £100,000. Its sales for 1904 were
£516,284. The dividend of members is 3s. in the £. Grants to
education average £2,000 a year. Its sheet almanac gives engravings
of three fine buildings, the Central Stores and two noble branches, but
which is which is not indicated. Of course all the members know, but
the almanac compilers commonly forget that it is consulted in distant
places, and often in distant lands, where no local knowledge can assist
the curious reader. This society has its news-rooms in Foundry
Street, and in the branch stores, supplied with all the principal
newspapers, open daily and free to all the members and their families.
It has a library of 17,500 volumes. The store has twenty-seven.
branches. Its quarterly report is the most portable, simple, and
intelligible of any.
Fifty years is the appointed period of deliverance for Jews.
In these later days it is considered the allotted period of a movement
after which it may be said to enter a future life. So little did
many of our societies expect to attain the longevity of a jubilee that
they kept no records of the experience of their youth.
The Oldham Equitable Society.—The Equitable, Mr.
James Wood informs me, has no authentic record for the first twenty years
of its proceedings. In
1870 it had 1,965 members—in 1904 it had 12,368. In 1870 it had six
branches—in 1904 it had twenty branches. In 1870 its net profits were
£7,000—in 1904 they exceeded £43,000. In 1870 its honourable grant to
Education was £136, which increased every year, until in 1903 it
reached the sum of £1,260. Between 1870 and 1903 its Educational grants
amounted to £30,000. Mr. James Wood has been its Secretary since 1870, a
period of thirty-four years—which is one answer to those who think that
democratic service must be fitful, short, and precarious.
The Halifax Society.—Halifax was the first store after Rochdale which
excited public attention and hope. I spent a week at the store, in which a
assigned me, where I wrote the History of the society down to 1866. In
consequence of reports I made to Mazzini and Prof. F. W. Newman, they
the members letters memorable to this day. They appear with other
incidents in the history of the marvellous career of the earlier days of
the society. In
1901 was published its Jubilee History, which does not give the members a
vivid idea of the brave men and true men who made the fortune of the store
which they are so justly proud. Mr. M. Blatchford, the writer, speaks of "his entire ignorance of the history of the society." It would be unfair to
that his pages justify his confession, for he has produced a book of much
historic interest. The society, which began in 1851 in financial
nothingness, was rich in that faith in self-help which has produced all
our great societies.
The Halifax Society possessed at the time of its jubilee thirty-four
branches. In 1904 the number of members was 10,691, the sales for 1904
£312,911, the share capital was £121,875, and the profit, including
interest to members, was £46,481—the dividend to members was 2s. 9d. in
the £, for
grant of £115 is accorded. The number of persons in the
employ of the society are 330. But to these, although the members are
working men themselves, they give no share of the profits they help to
make by their fidelity and labour.
The first history of the Halifax Society I dedicated—
The eminent American journalist,
Who has ever welcomed in the United States of America
Systems of Self-help for the People,
Which he has himself advanced by a generous advocacy,
And illustrated by an unrivalled career.
Manchester and Salford Society.—Few are aware that there is a Sunrise
store in Manchester. The great Co-operative Society of the City and
situated in Downing Street is of this
class. Mr. Charles Wright calls it the "Acorn" store, which
—owing in no
mean measure to his services as its secretary—is
now an Oak store. The "Acorn" was sown at 169, Great Ancoats Street, in June, 1859. It began more hopefully than
most stores. It had 111 members and a capital of £289. Its
sales in the first week were £32. The rent of their shop was only £13, yet
its receipts for the first complete year were
£7,687. Then as now there was generous sentiment in Manchester, which
believed that industrial rightness could be
trusted in the market. There was a Roby Brotherhood then, connected with
the Roby Chapel in Piccadilly of that city, and on Christmas Eve, 1859,
they held a meeting and decided to begin a Manchester and Salford
Equitable, that they might
work for the good of each and all. It was this spirit which
made the society successful. Members who were living at its commencement
gratefully recall every Christmas Eve when
"Peace and Goodwill" came to them through the noble aspirations of the
Like Rochdale, the Manchester and Salford Society took the name of
Equitable, and in consistency to the name commenced, in 1872, to share
its employees, which now number 600, who from that date to March, 1905,
have received £20,581. Up to March, 1905, that society has spent on
educational purposes £14,940. Blessed are the words Equity and
Brotherhood. The oak growth of the "Acorn" society is evident in the fact
that its capital
(March, 1905) was £221,550, its roll of members 16,521, its yearly sales
£370,088. Its bread sales are over 24,000 4-lb. loaves a week. It owns 79
horses, 81 vehicles, 34 10-ton coal waggons for bringing coal direct
from the collieries, property in the city
and suburbs which has cost £107,387. It paid £8,121 interest to its members in 1904, and £38,440 in dividends. Since the society
began (1859 to 1905) its business has amounted to
nearly £9,000,000. Members have received nearly £192,000 in interest, and
in dividend £792,000. The society counts as a distinction that among its members have
been Mr. E. V. Neale, Dr. John Watts, Sir Edward Watkin, and Henry Pitman,
editor of the Co-operator.
There was an earlier Manchester and Salford Industrial Society before
1859. It had a shop at 519, Ashton Old Road, Openshaw, and one in Ardwick,
stone beehive over the
door. The beehive was still there in 1878, but over a toffee shop.
Like Leeds, the Manchester Society has a monthly Herald, alike notable for
wisdom of suggestions and amplitude of information. Its editor was Mr.
Wright, and its pages under his successor, Mr. Harold Denham, display like
Bolton.—Great and Little Societies.—It is good to come upon a real
"Sunrise " store. There are two Boltons—Great and Little. The store bears
It began in 1859. How odd that news of the Rochdale Pioneers had effect in
Leeds when they were but three years old, and after six years'
progress inspired Derby with action. News of their example never reached
Bolton until the Rochdale Society was fifteen years old. That was two
years after the appearance of their history. But no great society, save
Woolwich, has so
improved on the Rochdale system. Bolton surpasses Leeds, and Derby
surpasses Leeds, and Barnsley British does nothing for labour. Bolton
employees more than £3,000, and
a similar sum for Education. Bolton is a true Sunrise store. It has a real
claim upon the zeal and thoughtfulness of its servants which no store has
excludes them from participation in the profits they assist to make. The
members find a response to their act of justice, for their dividend on
3s. in the £. Their share capital is £651,655. Trade exceeds £789,753. The
members number 31,369,
whose profits are nearly £115,000. Its premises are fine, it has branches
and productive works, and gives liberally to public objects. Mr. Beckett
was long one of their chief officers.
Bolton, in the nobility of its citizens, is fortunate and distinguished. It is there Free Trade was born, and Thomas Thomasson was its inspirer. He
was the only manufacturer in the North who understood Political Economy as
a commercial science; at least, if any one else did so, it did not
in a public way. With him freedom of trade was not a mere theory—it was a
passion. He felt that national prosperity
depended on it. He was the inciter and counsellor of Cobden
and Bright. In noble gifts he was as unsectarian as his principles. He was happy in descendants of like quality. His son, John
Pennington Thomasson, gave great gifts to the town and store. He built and
furnished the Thomasson Co-operative Institute, which consists of men and
women's readingrooms, smoke-room, and bath-rooms, and undertook to
supply the rooms with papers, magazines, and to bear all charges
of rates, taxes, lighting, and heating. The Bolton Co-operative Society is
responsible for the management. Working women never had such dainty
accommodation as they enjoy in Bolton, which they owe to Mrs. J. P.
Thomasson's kindly forethought and device. Mr. Franklin Thomasson, the
representative of the family, sustains its noblest traditions.
The Great Plymouth Store.—Plymouth stands next in the order of honour and
time. It commenced in 1860. Its origin was humble and hopeless. Of the
founders, Reynolds, Webb, and Goodanew, I knew the last best, who was good
enough for anything that required faith and courage.
When I first spoke to him about forming a store he was a small,
dark-haired, bright-eyed, ardent man, a shoemaker, following his trade in
book-shop so crowded with unsold publications—radical and
freethought—that he seemed to be buried in them. Now a noble pile of
buildings, with a notable
architectural skyline, represents the great store in Frankfort Street, the
freehold costing nearly £40,000, the total value of their freeholds being
There are thirty-six branches and departments. Their members numbered in
March, 1905, 34,880; the receipt for goods for the year 1904 was
They have the old pioneer rule of 2½ per cent. for Education, which for
the first quarter of 1905 amounted to £615—at the rate of £2,460 a
year—a share of
profits to employees at the rate of £3,200 a year. Mr. W. H. Watkin,
manager of the store dairy, informs me that it can be said of its cream,
"that it is
produced in a co-operative dairy, by co-operative employees, with
co-operative appliances, and from co-operative milk; that the milk comes
co-operative cows, fed on co-operative grass, grown on co-operative land." In a further letter Mr. Watkin adds, what ought to be recorded in honour
this great profit-sharing society: "Our milk vendors are paid a minimum
of 24s. per week. This is between 4s. and 7s. above the pay of that class
of man in
the town. In addition to this they are allowed a commission on all milk
sold above a weekly quantity of 110 gallons. Some men increase their
earnings 25 per cent. in this way, and still in addition to this they
participate in the general bonus allowed to employees out of the profits
made by the
society, which bonus now amounts in the aggregate to considerably over
£2,000 per annum. The total number of employees is about 1,000."
The Leicester Society.—This live co-operative town is a seat of
productive societies. Its co-operative distributive store began in
1860-1. Faithful adherents
brought it through years of precariousness and vicissitude. The idea of
society originated around a factory stove fire. An authorless,
well-illustrated book tells its curious story. Being a yearly visitor to
Leicester from 1843, I used to look in the successive shops in which they
business, assured of their progress, as I was that of the Hosiery Society,
which commenced ten years
later, of which George Newell was the inspirer—bright, ardent, cheery,
and picturesque, with few parallels anywhere.
Not till the third year of the existence of the store did its members
amount to 180. No one among them had any belief that the experience of
their early days
would be of interest in the future. No record of it was made. Now they own
commanding premises in Union Street, and in 1905 the members numbered
18,800, their total capital is £216,855,
their trade for 1904 £442,151. The profit made since their commencement is
£563,302. They have spent upon their
Education Department £10,828. The award to Education is by rule 1¼ per
cent., yielding an average of £650 a year. The employees of this great
store number 350, who participate in its profit to the extent of half the
dividend (2s. 6d. in the £,
paid to members), averaging £1,600 a year. The seal of the store includes
views of trade, commerce, and manufacture, surrounded by the words
"Equitable Participation," words used by no other society, and the store
goes half-way in fulfilment
of it in its recognition of the rights of labour. The Leicester store
stands in the list of the "Sunrise" societies.
The Barnsley British Society.—There was a co-operative store in Barnsley
recorded in Baine's Directory in 1822, the year after the beginning of
represented in the Economist of 1821. The Barnsley Store began among the
weavers of "Barebones." Bare bones were plentiful among weavers in those
days. The "Barebone" store had life in it, for it lasted up till 1840, and
had a library of seventy-two volumes, which perhaps accounts
for its vitality. In 1862 the present Barnsley British Society originated
at Tinker's Temperance Hotel in "Bleak Barnsley," as Lister, the poet,
town. The 1862 society was mainly prompted by George Adcroft, a collier, a
strong man, of strong character and strong co-operative conviction, a
bold and ready speaker. It was a grocer who let them the house in which
Co-operation awoke after a Rip van Winkle
sleep of twenty-two years. It has now many departments and
important productive works. In their yearly balance sheet, December, 1904,
the sales of the corn mill exceeded £180,000, those of mineral waters are
set down at £3,894, and the bakery sales at £6,000. They give with
heartiness 1 per
cent. of the net profits to Education, £758 for the year. The
members exceed 21,000 Their yearly profits amount to £115,320. They
employ 665 persons, and accord them no share of the profit they help to
The society celebrated its fortieth year of its successful existence by
publishing in 1902 a Coronation History of it. It is a sensibly-written
notwithstanding its regal title. There are no less than sixty-nine
illustrations of stores and portraits, the last of which is Thomas Lister,
whose friendship I
was proud to share. He sacrificed a valuable appointment
rather than take an oath. The Coronation History discloses that during
forty years all the presidents were one-initial men. During the first
only one member of committee was elected who had two initials. Out of
seventy-one managers sixty-one are one-initial men. In America every
man would have had three initials. Is it in this way they seek to show
themselves to be British?
All I can learn of the reason for the singular name, "Barnsley British,"
is that the Registrar had on his list another Barnsley Society, and
suggested the term
British. He might as well have selected Barnsley Bacon,  whereas every
society in Great Britain is British.
The Stockton-on-Tees Society.—The Stockton Provident Society may be taken
as an illustration of the rise and progress of many great stores, which to
enumerate would convert these pages into a catalogue. The Stockton store
commenced in 1865, under the usual conditions of resourcelessness and
obscurity, at a meeting at the Unicorn Inn. Its originators were inspired
by the history of the Rochdale Pioneers. Its growth may be
shown in a few lines. In 1876 the number of members was 1,975. That year
the profits were £1,894. For the ten years ending in 1904
the profits made were £277,284, and the
members advanced to 10,901. The employees receive no share of profits, and
the grant for educational purposes is fixed at the
timorous amount of ½ per cent. of the profits. In the two years ending
1904 the trade of the society has increased 20 per cent., when they began
extending their operations to baking, building, plumbing, joinering,
painting, and paperhanging. They have acquired land, and are erecting new
branches, business having outgrown the old ones. They have negotiated for
land for the erecting of two hundred or more houses. The society
has thirteen branches, a flour mill, coal,
and meat depots, and rents a farm of 115 acres. Last year a wise and
informing address, made at the request of the society, and giving a vivid
history of it,
was delivered by the Secretary, George A. McEwen, who has been for years
in the service of the society.
The Royal Arsenal Society.—The Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society takes
rank as a noble Sunrise store. It was constructed and inspired by the
a Scotsman, Alexander McLeod. On his death, a grateful society put up a
statue to his memory,—the only instance in which a store has thus
the memory of its founder. Yet this great store had a pitiful beginning. Its first quarter's profit was only £1 18s. 11d., its second quarter gave
£4 10s. 2d.; its third quarter yielded £7 8s. 7½d.; while the fourth
quarter fell to £6 0s. 5¼d. The first year of storekeeping yielded only
£19 18s. 1¾d. It was not until the end of the year that a dividend of 6d. in the
pound was declared, and the whole of the fixtures, £7 11s., were
100 per cent. This prudent decision was owing to the judgment of Mr.
as the amount of its profits was owing to his devotion. He went up to
London to buy the stock, brought it down with him, and carried it from the
to the store, to diminish the expense.
The society commenced in 1869, the year of the first Congress. The number
of members then was 47. Now in 1905 there are 24,120. The
original capital of the society
was £27. It is now £352,259. Its sales are £500,000. Its members'
dividends amount now—1905—to £38,219, besides paying £16,173 interest. The
payment of profit to employees commenced in 1873. The amount then was £1
4s. 9d. It is now £2,990, which is shared alike by all—manager and
labourer, men and women, youths and girls, in every department, factory,
and farm—every one finds pleasure and profit in working in such a
The education fund, which begun in 1877, amounted to £20 10s. 6d. then,
and is now £1,032 a year.
The Central Stores are architecturally the largest and most imposing in
England or Scotland, and are surmounted by a fine cupola clock tower. The
effect of this fine building was notable. Since its opening in October,
1903, the society has experienced an increase of from £800 to £900 per
1904 the increase rose to an average of nearly £1,500 per week, an
increase of nearly £83,000 per year, and the increase goes on.
The Lardale Road and Belvedere branches are fine buildings, with handsome
spiral clock-towers. Scotland has nothing finer to show. This may be
owing to Scotch inspiration—seeing Mr. McLeod was the master-spirit of
this remarkable society.
In 1885 the Society purchased the Bostall Farm, lying at the foot of
Bostall Wood. In 1900 they bought the Bostall Estate. The houses erected
are delightfully situated. During the two years—1903-4—they erected and
sold 250 houses. But to name all the notable features of this society
would be to write its history instead of a passing notice.
On the death of Mr. McLeod, he was succeeded by Mr. T. G. Arnold, in whose
capacity his distinguished predecessor had great confidence.
Under his direction all the departments continue to flourish. The great
branches are ten in number, and are increasing.
The Single Store in Herefordshire.—Co-operative sowers need not lose
heart, though they find only one spot of good soil in a county in which
their seed will
germinate. It appears that in 1886 a single seed took root in Hereford,
Mr. J, Thomas, now president, being the chief sower. On no other place in
whole of Herefordshire had co-operative seed taken root. At Leominster,
fourteen miles away, the soil was thought favourable, but no seed would
germinate there. Nevertheless in Hereford a few true men have established
a substantial store on an historic site in Widemarsh Street, where they do
trade of £350 a week. The Rev. C. P. Wilson, who is remembered with great
respect by the Society, was an important friend to it, and for two or
three years its president. Since the commencement of the society in 1886
it has paid its members £1,270 in interest and £5,000 in dividends.
Some Jubilee Societies are Rochdale, Leeds, Derby, Bingley, Oldham
Equitable, Oldham Industrial, Halifax Industrial, and Littleborough.
A SUGGESTIVE TABLE-CURIOUS FACTS AND FEATURES
THE table [below], of 29 of the chief stores, shows
that 21 do not understand that participation is a cardinal principle of
Co-operation. The honourable exceptions are only eight.
Curious Facts and Features.—Very few sheet almanacs or
balance sheets of stores give the date of commencement, while a private
trader in 1905 will be careful to tell you that his business was
"Established in 1904." Yet a store which has continuously grown for
fifty years will leave the outside reader to suppose it is not five years
old. Of course, the reader can infer, from the number of quarterly
or half-yearly reports usually enumerated, the age of the society.
But why leave it to inference?
Halifax, Lincoln, Bishop Auckland, and Huddersfield are the
chief societies known to me who issue their balance sheets in coloured
The movement is on the line of evolution, and societies which
do little for education and nothing for employees, are likely in the near
future to rectify these omissions.
The Aberdeen Society, which describes itself as a "Company of
shareholders," makes a small award to Education, as Aberdeen is amply
provided with day schools and night schools, but none in which
co-operative education is given. Their favourite Lord Rector,
Alexander Bain, would have told them differently had they asked him.
Mr. W. Hartley, the manager of the Bingley store, has written
an intelligent jubilee history of it, in which there are remarkable
passages on co-operative principles and on the "Cruelty of the Credit
System." Bingley resembles Rochdale in its early difficulties, and
in having a Toad Lane in the town.
I saw the Blaydon-on-Tyne store begin and grow, being a
frequent visitor to the village in the earlier years of the store.
It owed much to the advice and friendship of Joseph Cowen, jun.,
subsequently M.P. for Newcastle. Mr. W. Crooks, the store secretary,
in an interesting letter, regrets that the workmen give no award to
Labour. He is the first secretary who has deplored it. To
their honour the Education Committee have held many meetings to induce
members not to forfeit their own claim to equitable treatment by refusing
it to their fellows.
From what I knew of Blaydon workmen, I should conclude they
were the most likely of any workmen in England, from their good sense and
good nature, to accord to those in their service, that share of profits at
their disposal, which they all desired to receive at the hands of those
who employed them. Had they set the example, it would have been
followed by employers in whose service they were, and the income of
thousands of workmen in their neighbourhood would have been increased for
a generation past. If each member had been personally instructed in
the equity of co-operation on joining the store, the state of things which
true-minded members of their committee have in vain endeavoured to
correct, would never have come to pass.
Newcastle-on-Tyne is the most notable Dark store. Until
1905, it gave nothing to Education. Now it has a rule under which it
gives one shilling per cent., which on £78,000 realises but the miserly
amount of £39. This society quotes, as testimony to its merits,
words by Earl Morley, who distinctly praises it, "that the proceeds of
industry are increased" by it, whereas the society does not "increase the
proceeds of industry" by one penny. The directors quote also the "Encyclopædia
Britannica," which asserts that the "wealth [of the society] is
distributed on the principles or equity." But there is no equity
where nothing is given to the workers who assist in furthering its
welfare. The Newcastle Society further prints as one of their claims
to public confidence and respect that it is engaged in "conciliating the
conflicting interests of the capitalist, the worker, and the purchaser."
Yet during forty-four years it has not accorded sixpence to the worker,
but has given everything to the consumer. Certainly the society is
not impetuous in acting upon its principles of "equity."
No light so curious, ample, and instructive is thrown upon
working-class character as is furnished by the study of "co-operators."
The workmen of Newcastle-on-Tyne, in respect of intelligence and public
spirit, are equal to any class in the United Kingdom. Yet where they
have control of the money of their own order, they keep it in their own
hands as capitalists do, and exclude their fellow-workmen from
participation in the wealth jointly created. The democratic door of
Co-operation is left open, and no check-taker is stationed there to see
that those who enter have co-operative tickets. The public go in
without any ticket at all. They are not co-operators who enter, but
mere dividend-seekers, who cast votes for themselves alone, regardless of
the honour of Co-operation, whose motto is, "Each for All."
Stratford has a great store, which began in 1860. For
years it stood aloof from the Union of Societies, but being democratic in
its constitution, more genial members came upon its committee, and the
society grew with more rapidity than any other within the metropolitan
area. It entertained the Congress in 1904. Its shops extend
down two streets. To pass from window to window is like walking
through a great market and emporium where all the products of Nature and
manufacture are to be seen. The business of this great society
commenced in 1860 in a barber's shop, and did business only on Friday and
Sunderland gives us a very able Chairman of the Central
Education Committee—Mr. W. R. Rae—yet though the society has 16,000
members, who receive £42,500 of dividend yearly, they give nothing to 641
employees who help to make it. 
Is there no connection between education and equity? The society has
a Harvest Festival, at which, in 1904, the Rev. Francis Wood conducted the
service, who spoke of the time when "human selfishness had not fenced off
the land on every side, saying, 'This is mine and mine alone.'" Yet
this is what the Sunderland Society has done during forty-six years.
It has "fenced off" its dividends for the purchaser only, contemptuously
or inconsiderately excluding the workers from any participation.
The business report bearing the words "Co-operative Society,
St. George's," does not say in what city the store is situated, which
assumes, on the part of the secretary, that no one outside Glasgow would
care to know where the store is, which deserves to be known, as
co-operators elsewhere would regard it with honour, seeing that it gives
two per cent. to Education—£1,267—and accords to its employees £4,953, at
the rate of 10 per cent., which exceeds Plymouth, the next society
distinguished for its handsome award to Labour.
The balance sheet of the St. Cuthbert's Society, Edinburgh,
is the most analytical I have collected, but the society has no other
merit. With £109,850 annual profit, it gives nothing to employees,
of whom it has nearly 1,100. The Littleborough Society's balance
sheet excels in details, since it gives the financial position of its
nearly 2,000 members.
The secretaries of chief societies ought to be enumerated in
addition to those mentioned, since they display great administrative
capacity, and have been my authorities for local and financial facts which
they have enabled me to give.
Of the persons named elsewhere as members of the first
Central Board at the London Congress of 1869—William Pare, Thomas Hughes,
Edward Vansittart Neale, Anthony J. Mundella, Lloyd Jones, Joseph Woodin,
William Allen, James Hole, Dr. Travis, Thomas Cheetham (Rochdale), Isaiah
Lee (Oldham), James Borrowman (Glasgow), have since died.
ON page 566 are the names of
the Presidents of Congress from 1869 to 1878. The following is a
list of the Presidents from 1878 to 1905:—
Professor J. Stewart, Gloucester.
Bishop of Durham, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
Earl of Derby, Leeds.
Right Hon. Lord Reay, Oxford.
Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, M.P., Edinburgh.
Right Hon. Earl of Shaftesbury, Derby.
Mr. Lloyd Tones, Oldham.
Right Hon. Earl of Morley, Plymouth.
Mr. George Jacob Holyoake, Carlisle.
Mr. Edward Vansittart Neale, Dewsbury.
Professor A. Marshall, Ipswich.
Earl of Rosebery, Glasgow.
Mr. A. H. D. Acland, M.P., Lincoln.
Mr. J. T. W. Mitchell, Rochdale.
Mr. Joseph Clay, J.P., Bristol.
Mr. Thomas Tweddell, J.P., F.R.G.S., Sunderland.
Mr. Geo. Thomson, Huddersfield.
Earl of Winchilsea, Woolwich.
Mr. Wm. Maxwell, J.P., Perth.
Dr. Creighton, Bishop of London, Peterborough.
Mr. F. Hardern, J.P., Liverpool.
Mr. W. H. Brown, Cardiff.
Mr. J. Warwick, Middlesbrough.
Mr. G. Hawkins, Exeter.
Mr. J. Shillito, Doncaster.
Mr. Edward Owen Greening, Stratford.
Dr. Hans Müller, Paisley.
The first Congress report was edited by J. M. Ludlow, the
second by Henry Pitman, the third, fourth, and fifth by the present
writer. Those from 1874 to 1879 were edited by E. V. Neale.
They were edited not in the sense of merely compiling and indexing the
matter, but edited in the sense of interpreting the quality and nature of
the proceedings, which made the Congress report very valuable, both to
members and the public. This form of editing was discontinued
because a member of the Board objected to opinions sometimes expressed.
Yet the opinion of so competent a commentator must always be of value,
though some readers might dissent from it.
Each Congress report has its intrinsic interest. Of
late years the quarto form has ceased, and the report now appears in a
convenient volume, with many attractive illustrations. The reports
extend from 1869 to 1905.
Reference has been made to an early series of Congresses of
which ample reports, for those days, were published. But the reports
began with the second Congress, held in 1830; but no record was known to
exist of the first Congress. It has recently been brought to light
that the first Congress was held in Manchester, May 26, 1827. The
report was drawn up by William Pare. The principal members present
were Robert Owen, Elijah Dixon, of Manchester (in the chair), Rev. Joseph
Marriot, William Pare (Birmingham), J. Finch, and William Thompson, of
Cork. These were all distinguished names in the early co-operative
movement. The report was made on four large foolscap pages, closely
printed, apparently for personal circulation. This is the report
which has been so often inquired for, which no one has hitherto traced.
There were known to be three Congresses. But which was the first
Congress? In what town was it held? In what building was it
held? Who attended it? What was the business done? No
answer could be given to these questions, until I discovered the document
amid the more than 2,000 letters in possession of the Owen Committee of
Manchester, for many years in the possession of Mr. Pare, and were
ultimately presented by his son-in-law, William Dixon Galpin, to myself.
The End of Queenwood Hall.—The letters "C. M." which
appeared on the exterior of the hall were taken to indicate the
Commencement of the Millennium. Certainly had Mr. Owen and his friends
succeeded in building the new world, it had been well done. No cathedral
was ever built so reverently as was Queenwood Hall. Hand-made nails, not
machine-made, were used in the work out of sight. There was nothing mean
anywhere open or concealed. The great kitchen was wainscoted with mahogany
half-way up the walls.
Queenwood Hall of so many noble associations, social and educational, was
destroyed by fire in 1902; Mr. Charles Willmore, who had been its
principal for many years, perished in it. Being fifty, he had for some
time ceased active duty.
When Italy initials the magnificent Emporium Store it has erected in
Milan, it will not need C. M. but C. C. C. (Commencement of Co-operative
Commerce). In 1886 Signor Luigi Buffoli founded the Unione Co-operativa in
Milan among railway men, which has since overrun all the regions round
about. Buffoli adopted the English principle of Participation with Labour
and Trade. It employs over three hundred workpeople, and accords them 10
per cent. for their Provident Fund. The Library and Education Department
are well supported. Members and non-members receive the same amount of
dividend —a logical consistency, nowhere in force
in England. It is the Prince of Stores. It has a frontage of 300 feet, and
150 feet in depth. A vast corridor runs through the whole building. At one
point there are three marble arches. Over these arches—gold mounted—are
the names of Owen, Holyoake, and Neale.  Signor Buffoli has been the
President since 1886—a man of real principle as well as of suburb
initiative. "Storia," the beautifully illustrated history of the Unione
Co-operativa of Milan has a passage
deserving of a place in this "History." "Thanks," it says gratefully, "to
the humble but energetic co-operator, Giovanni Rota, the first
Co-operative Store was established outside Genoa, on the Rochdale System." At the time of the Rochdale Jubilee, Onorota Cassella suggested a
halfpenny subscription with which to have struck a splendid gold medal,
one of the treasures of the Rochdale Society. It was a token of the
friendship of the Milanese co-operators for those of Rochdale.