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General Booth and the Salvation Army online

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father and his children. He has no personal intercourse


with them, his view being, as I understand it though
it is difficult to understand that he has no children
outside the Salvation Army. If they return to him
repentant, he will welcome them to his arms and once
more to the service of the Salvation Army. But the
public, who honour the General's name and fame and
consider that with all his limitations he has raised
a work which is destined to become a subject of wonder-
ment for all time, cannot but be pained, that as the
evening shadows of life fall, he does not recognise, as all
leaders in political and religious life do, that differences
of opinion as to methods ought not to interfere with
the courtesies and duties of social and domestic obliga-
tion. It is not a happy reflection that the General
of the Salvation Army, who is spending his last days
in visiting the sick and fatherless, should deprive
himself because of some fantastic interpretation of
the line of Providence of the consolation of seeing
freely his children, all of whom are engaged in Christian
work, and in their own sphere are happily being
honoured with the esteem of good people,
i I believe there ought to be a reconciliation, and there
are two men at the International Headquarters who,
if entrusted with the task of drawing up the conditions
of a reconciliation based on family considerations alone,
would in a few weeks' time prove successful in bringing
about a permanent termination to the present estrange-
ment, and thereby close a sad chapter in the General's

And why not ? This is a question not for the public
to discuss ; it is put by a " wanderer from the fold,"


whose perspective has been rightly adjusted since he
ceased to follow the Flag of the Army, and who hopes
that the tribute he has paid to former comrades will
be sealed by a successful attempt on the part of the
Staff to repair the rifts in the family lute of the



His Appearance A man of Action and Intuition His Loyalty to
Friends Contradictions His Moral Courage A Striking
Episode The Qualities of a Statesman

As a man the General of the Salvation Army is pyra-
midical. His mind and body are built on a large scale.
No one ever thinks of him, and he certainly does not
think of himself as capable of looking at the world with
the binocular of his perspective power reversed. He
takes a large view of most things, especially of every-
thing done to promote the work of the Salvation Army.
In physique he was a striking figure, until old age
and the care of the Churches shrivelled and bent his
once erect, tall, and symmetrical frame. In a crowd
of men, whether in the street or in a public assembly,
he would be accepted at sight as a Colossus. His
leonine head, adorned with a wealth of snow-white
hair, denotes a magnetic personality. It rests upon
broad shoulders, and as it is moved by the dynamic
force of an active mental and physical energy, one
is at once impressed with an extraordinary sense of the
man's importance. A glance of the face is indicative
of a man under some great dominating influence. In
repose it is the human window of a soul who has been
subdued into an unnatural resignation to fate. His



fine, healthy, pinkish skin would, had he preserved the
buoyancy of middle life, impart a serene and benignant
dignity ; but in his eighty-third year the face conveys
the impression of one who has just received the news
of some bereavement. A tinge of sorrow is diffused
over the countenance.

As he paces a room or talks to his secretary, his
body jerks, the fingers twitch, and there is a rapidity
of motion in his deportment that suggests that these
little excrescences of character are the result of a
strenuous life. An inveterate worshipper of men of
action, one can discern almost at a first acquaintance
that he is not likely to brook delay or a long explana-
tion on a subject. He is an old man in a hurry, with
a young man's energy.

Engage him in a conversation, and the man, able
to put himself en rapport at once with a stranger,
intuitively perceives the point of your address and
compels instant attention and decision. The large,
piercing, quick, luminous eyes arrest and command
your thought. You feel that these eyes are scanning
your very soul. There is a mannerism about the old
man's optics that suggests the deductive aptness of a
Sherlock Holmes. Your dress, jewellery, and face are
swept with their searchlight power, and at times his
gaze may kindle a spark of resentment. But the
face warms into a contagious brightness when your
words convince him that your heart is in the right
place with respect to his work. The eyes dance with
ihe pleasure that you afford him. The firm, thin, and
wittily shaped lips relax, and if you pass an original


remark, or ask a sympathetic question, or should he
think that you hold in your hands the reins of a new
driving power for his organisation, the old man will
be transformed. The intentness of his purpose will
animate his talk, and when he has measured your
equation, and knows how to match the bait of know-
ledge to your palate, he becomes all-absorbing.
Humour impregnates and saturates his conversation,
and the practical is never once absent from his thoughts.
He is not only impressive he is aggressive. He talks
for effect ; and the effect that he aims at producing is
that you may see as he sees, feel as he feels, and act as
he acts. If, on the other hand, you display a cynical
spirit, he will be curt and abrupt. He is a miser of
minutes, and when you have gone, and if the unfortu-
nate secretary has been responsible for introducing
you to his attention, the General will use expletives
that cannot be misunderstood.

Get into the General's heart, however, and there
is no warmer and more indiscreet lover. He will trust
the greatest Judas with the confidence of blindness if
he makes the mistake of taking him to be a saint,
which explains the bitter disappointment that he has
experienced in some of the officers who have been his
private secretaries.

For years a Major acted as his confidential secretary,
whom he trusted implicitly, in face of the united dis-
favour of the whole British Staff. The man eventually
sold him for a mess of pottage, and lost to the Salvation
Army the richest and most influential friend that the
General ever had to stand by his side ; how rich will


be gathered from the fact that at the close of a power-
ful meeting in which the General had delivered an
address sparkling with humour and point, this friend
took him aside and said, " General, you will do me
a favour by kindly accepting this cheque as a small
mark of my appreciation for what you have been the
means of doing for me."

The General unfolded the slip of paper, and per-
ceiving that the gift amounted to 20,000, he embraced
the giver ! And the Pharisaical secretary was respon-
sible for the loss of this friend to the Salvation Army !
But General Booth is now utterly incapable of learning
and applying the moral. It is a defect in his knowledge
of human nature that has led him to trust men and re-
ceive their slavish devotion. His faith in men is often
without reason, and his reason, when he is driven by
force of circumstances to rely upon that alone, is with-
out faith.

This contradiction, or combination of opposites in
a complex nature, is illustrated in other ways. He
can be as stern and unbending as a royal high execu-
tioner one hour, and as merciful as an indulgent mother
the next. A Colonel in charge of South Africa did not
rise to the General's expectations in extending the
Army, and on his return to London to give an account
of his stewardship the General reproved him very
severely, without the officer having been tried or heard
in his defence. Being by nature a sensitive, nervous
man, with little of the steel of anger in his composi-
tion, he gave way to his emotions and told the General
that he was cruel. The General has no use for men who


shed tears except over the transgressions of mankind,
or unless they spring from a spirit crushed by repent-
ance, and the leader of the Salvation Army said so to
his officer. This strong aversion to this form of emo-
tion, which the General inherits by nature, and which
has been nurtured by the exercise of his power as a
General, has so developed that at times it is exercised
in an arbitrary manner.

His first visit to a distant colony, where he was
revered as a god by Salvationists, was in danger of
ending in a tragedy by a display of this same spirit in
the presence, unknown to the General, of a number of
minor officers who at the time had only had an oppor-
tunity of seeing this side of his character. They were
simply dismayed, confounded and saddened, by what
they overheard, and so grieved were they that they
actually met in secret and drew up a letter for presenta-
tion to the General, in which they demanded to know
whether the remarks that they had overheard were
consistent with the doctrine of holiness to which they
listened later on !

Fortunately 1 happened to hear of the secret con-
clave, and asked to be allowed to read the document.
When I had imparted to the officers a little light upon
the General, and argued that if they thought he was
a meek and mild saint who would gloss over a manifest
failure to apply Salvation Army principles which was
really what the old man was denouncing in very strong,
perhaps a little too strong language they had mis-
understood the meaning of the term " General," and
that the officer concerned might thank his stars that


he was getting off without a more severe castiga-
tion, the complaining staff saw their leader in
a new light and asked me to destroy the letter,
which of course I did, and kept the matter in the

Incidents of a similar nature could, however, be
multiplied by the thousand, illustrative of the General's
indifference to what his officers may think when he is
convinced that he is right and that it is his duty to
administer some disagreeable medicine. In this re-
spect the General is worthy of his title. Saintship and
soldiership with him are synonymous terms. As a
result he is often misunderstood, especially by that
order of Christians whose notions of an exemplary life
are after the ideal of Madame Guy on. Quietness is
their strength, and if it be possible they live at peace
with all men. General Booth is seldom at peace,
because he finds so many occasions for proclaiming
war. There is a right and a wrong way of doing a thing
his way is sure to be right ! and as the majority
of us open a door too furiously, or are ignorant of the
best methods of packing a portmanteau, or entering a
cab or train, or giving precise instructions to our ser-
vants, General Booth's daily life is interspersed with a
host of sermonettes to all with whom he comes in con-
tact on these and other matters. Oh ! the poor rich
who have entertained him, and have, with the best in-
tentions in the world, served up tea that has been cold
and toast that has been heavy and scarcely browned !

There is an element of courage, not petulance and
mere bigotry, in this characteristic of the General.


Some have declaimed against it and called it evidence
of bad manners and of a dyspeptic temper. I contend
that it supplies the key to his courage, for courageous
General Booth undoubtedly is.

Let me relate a couple of incidents that demon-
strate his splendid disregard of popular feeling,
when that feeling is running contrary to his ideas.
One such incident transpired in Berlin during the
prevalence of the pro-Boer agitation then carried on
in Germany. The General was announced to give
a lecture in the Germania Salle upon the Salvation
Army, and as the neighbourhood in which the hall is
situated is one of the Socialistic centres of Berlin, a
large proportion of Socialists were present. The hall
was crowded, and the police authorities were a trifle
uneasy about the gathering, on the ground that the
Army had not held such a large meeting in the neigh-
bourhood before. Extra police were called in to aid
in maintaining order.

About an hour before starting the General received
a private telegram that King Edward's Coronation had
been officially postponed owing to His Majesty's ill-
ness, and that he was then lying dangerously ill at
Buckingham Palace. The news sent a thrill of appre-
hension through the English-speaking members of the
General's Staff, and as late editions of the Berlin
papers were out with the news, Commissioner Oliphant,
the Army's chief representative in Berlin, at once con-
ferred with the General and advised that no reference
should be made in the meeting to the unfortunate


It was possible, almost certain, he suggested, that
the Socialist element would use the event to demon-
strate their antagonism to the British, and that would
complicate their standing with the police. The General
sought the advice of other members of his Staff, and
all were agreed, as well as the representative of a lead-
ing London newspaper, that it would be most unwise
to refer to the subject publicly.

" What," asked the General, " do you mean to say
that Germans whether they are Socialists or anar-
chists would in the face of such a world calamity re-
sent a non-political statement of the fact and a request
that they should pray for the distressed nation and the
sick monarch ? I have more faith in the humanity of
the Germans than to doubt their sympathy on such an
occasion. I am going to mention the fact and call
upon them to pray. I am going to act according to
the dictates of my own feeling on this matter."

And he did.

Only those who are familiar with the deep-seated
bitterness felt towards the English in Germany during
the Boer War can appreciate the decision of the General
of the Salvation Army and understand the temerity of
his officers in Berlin.

There was a buzz of expectant sensation when the
General, before starting his meeting, asked the audi-
ence for permission to make a special statement.
Then amidst a death-like calm he proceeded to describe
the preparations that had been made for the Corona-
tion of King Edward, the gathering of great and royal
personalities from all parts of the world, the illness


of the King, the postponement of the ceremony, and
the dangers of the situation created by this unexpected
blow to the Royal Family of England, among the rela-
tives of whom was their distinguished Emperor of

" Under such circumstances," he went on, "I am
sure that you will all feel that I would be wanting in
good feeling if I did not ask you to sympathise with
the Royal House that has been so suddenly plunged
into anxiety. Our sense of common humanity prompts
us to at least pray that the life of this great monarch,
who desires to live at peace and in goodwill with all
men, may be spared."

Without another word the General called his
translator to his side and asked all to bow their heads
in prayer, and the audience, composed one half of
Socialists and avowedly hostile to England, obeyed
like children the wish of this great Englishman. The
moral effect of his strong announcement took the
Berliners unawares. As one of the policemen remarked
when the incident closed : " There is no need for us
here now. The General is a brigade of policemen in
himself." He possesses the highest form of courage,
which is moral and unmoved by the frown or favour
of Demos.

His first visit to Australia supplied an opportunity of
demonstrating the same quality. His " Darkest
England " Scheme was vehemently assailed by the
Press of the various States, which were not then
federated, on one point, namely, the introduction
of the submerged, converted or otherwise, to Australia.


The policy of a " White Australia " was being pushed
and exploited by all parties in the State. The evils of
Kanaka labour were being resented by the labour
groups, and the contaminating influence of even the
industrious Chinese combined to mould the thought of
Australian statesmen against the incoming of any but
the best strain of European blood, while the party
whose motto was " Australia for Australians " was
making its voice heard somewhat effectually among
the councils of party politicians. The Boer War,
with its imperialising influence, was then undreamt
of, and it was at such a moment that the General
of the Salvation Army announced a propaganda with
a hankering after Australia with its limitless bushland,
uncultivated and uninhabited, as a site for his " Over-
sea Colony."

In vain did he reason with the people ; in vain did
he promise not to send criminals or converted criminals,
and in vain did he diplomatically remind the Aus-
tralians that Australia owed something to their fore^
fathers, who were not selected from the aristocracy of
morality ! But the more he argued in favour of even
a trial, the keener became the criticism of the Press.
Some threatened to retort in unpleasant ways.

The General's soul rose in wrath against all this.
He thought the mean and selfish view that Australian
statesmen took of their great trust was fatal to the
expansion of the country, and at his farewell meeting in
Adelaide he gave a reply with which, for dramatic power,
boldness of tone, and biting sarcasm, I have heard
nothing to compare by any statesman or preacher,


It was delivered in the Exhibition Buildings,
Adelaide. The great building was packed in every
corner. The poorest and wealthiest of the city were
represented, as well as the Government and the
Opposition, all sworn enemies of the policy of " con-
verting the submerged " of England and sending them
across the seas to occupy the pure and virgin soil
of such a land as Australia. In a great address,
pulsating with an enthusiasm for humanity, the
General described the conditions of the submerged.
He extolled Stanley's penetration of the Dark
Continent, and the track which he had made for the
introduction of British enterprise. " Why not," he
asked, " perform a similar task in the interests of the
enslaved sons and daughters of the Motherland ?
We denounce the horrors of the Siberian mines,
and we send our choicest spirits to conquer barbarian
and heathen races by the charm of the gospel of Love.
What about a more practical application of the same
gospel to the emancipation of the dwellers in English
slums ? " In a vein of this character he pursued his
theme. The audience applauded. Then, when he had
delivered his submerged, he continued his interroga-
tions. " Where shall we send them, in order that they
may have a fresh start in life ? "

The audience was at once chilled by the question.
The General perceived the change in the temperature
of the meeting, for there was no mistaking the fact
that Australia wanted and badly needed population,
but " every man and woman must be accompanied
with a certificate of good character. They must all be


George Washing tons." Drawing upon his imagination,
the General indicted the whole nation in a parable that
contained every element calculated to wound the
pride and convict the people of their little imperialism.

His picture was that of a British emigrant ship in
mid-ocean, filled with happy families bound for
Australia. She was flying the Union Jack. All had
gone prosperously till now, when she had sprung a
leak and was in danger of foundering with all on board.
With no sign of a white sail, captain and crew did their
noble best to calm the fears of their great family. At a
critical moment the ship was overtaken by a mammoth
liner, the smoke curling from its funnels, and clearly
bound for the same destination. As she neared the
ill-fated craft, it was seen that she was also flying the
flag that has floated so long as a symbol of freedom
and hope for the weak and unprotected. Signals of
distress were run up to the masthead, and the crew
and passengers laughed and wept for joy that a
merciful Providence had brought such sure and certain
deliverance to them. Nearer and nearer the vessel
came, till she was discerned as the good ship Australia.
Ah ! all was well !

But suddenly she veered off. The captain signalled
for a reason, and received the agonising answer :
" We have neither place nor room for you." Across the
bow of the emigrant ship was written in bold letters
the name Darkest England, for she was sailing
under no false colours. At the appearance of that
name, the crew and first-class passengers on board
the Australia were not going to be contaminated


by the presence on board of people from White-
chapel and the New Cut ! It was unthinkable !
And so the emigrant ship, with its immortal cargo of
British fathers and mothers and happy, jolly children,
was left to slowly settle in mid-ocean and find a haven
in the heart of the deep !

" But," cried General Booth to Australia, his whole
frame quivering with passion, and his audience pent
up with emotion, " there is a Judgment Day ! We
shall meet again," saying which he sat down.

The audience, smitten with remorse and concealing
their anger, sat silent for a few seconds, and then,
realising the greatness of the speaker's cause, and the
intensity and sincerity of his humanity, broke into a
loud, ringing cheer. I question if any other man,
with so much to gain as General Booth had at that
moment by saying nothing, and so much to lose by
setting his teeth against the policy of the entire nation,
would have had the courage to have said what he did,
and employed such a method of bringing home the
nation's guilt and the shallowness of their imperial

We may differ, and many do most emphatically,
with his ideas, and the machinery by which he is
seeking to realise them, but everyone must respect
the pluck of the man who risked the standing of his
organisation in the estimation of a country where
it was more popular than it was in the Motherland,
rather than stifle his conscience. He has the courage
of his convictions, and, although I think that since he
became the guest of princes, and has had to trim his


sails to suit the winds and moods of political parties,
in order to secure for his movement facilities to carry
on philanthropic work, the old adamant lies at the
foundation of his character.

He was sorely tempted once to surrender his position
for the prospect of a great gain. The General and
Mrs. Booth had delivered speeches in different places,
Mrs. Booth in St. James's Hall and the General in
the Free Trade Hall, reminding the Churches of their
duty and deploring the fact that, in spite of their
efforts to avoid making another sect, it appeared
as if the Army were to be treated as if they were.
The General threw out the suggestion as to whether
the Churches could not ally themselves with the Army
and help it to accomplish at greater speed its own
particular work.

The late Archbishop Tait read these allusions to
the possibility of a working concordat between the
Salvation Army and the Churches with great sym-
pathy, and he and the late Bishop of Durham met
the General at Headquarters, and made such overtures
as led the General to seriously consider the wisdom
of placing the Army under the aegis of the Church of

What transpired at these conferences has not been
reported in detail, and rightly so. But I am in a
position to state that these representatives of the
Churches were prepared to grant to the Army :

1. A full and complete measure of self-government.
Nothing would be interfered with in matters of
administration, organisation, or leadership. The


Army as such could exist as if it had no connection
with the Church of England.

2. No alteration of its creed or its orders was de-
manded, nor would any conditions be imposed as to its

3. No pledge would be required that its members
should, on being introduced to the Army, be called
upon to sign anything that required that they should
attend the Church of England services. The Archbishop
was prepared to advocate assisting the Salvation Army
with funds, and place the influence of the Established
Church at the service of the Army, on condition that
the Corps in their corporate capacity attended a

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Online LibraryA M NicolGeneral Booth and the Salvation Army → online text (page 18 of 25)