A M Nicol.

General Booth and the Salvation Army online

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whether the Army behind him is capable of applying
the reform is very much open to question. The system
as it stands at present is founded upon the barbaric
idea that criminals must be punished. Until the idea
of remaking the criminal, and not only by religious
agencies, is thoroughly woven into the State concep-
tion of its obligations, and the work and education
within prison are reconstructed accordingly, very little
progress towards the diminution of crime and criminals
will be accomplished. Up to the present the prison
work of the Army in this country has been on the
whole well done, but it is on a very limited scale.
The bulk of prison work is done by the Church Army.
6. THE MEN'S SOCIAL WORK. For the last fifteen
years this department has had to sustain onslaught
after onslaught of criticism and has profited by it. The
shelters have been placed under the Common Lodging
House Act, and about 30,000 have been spent
in bringing these shelters, so far as their structural
arrangements are concerned, under the requirements
of the Act and the rules of the Board of Health.


The Army was extremely foolish to kick at first against
the inevitable, and to contend that these institutions
were compatible with the circumstances of the class
of people the Army was raising from the moral and
social quagmires of the City. It was scarcely fair to
itself* The shelters in other lands were examples of
roominess, sanitation, and fittings. The old coffin-
shaped bunk is practically abolished, and thank God
for it. It was a most degrading arrangement, worse
than the casual ward. There the wretched tramp paid
nothing for his bed. Here he had to pay twopence.

A more serious question, one which lies at the root of
all indiscriminate charity, is the value to the com-
munity of these shelters. So far as the men in the
shelters are benefited by them, they do not elevate
them, either physically or morally. A proportion
what proportion ? are weeded out, entirely by the
voluntary action of the men themselves, and given
temporary work in carrying sandwich-boards, address-
ing envelopes, sorting paper, etc. /jBut the cause of
their social dilapidation remains ^unaltered. They
enter the shelter, pay their twopence or fourpence as
the case may be (and few are allowed to enter unless
they do), they listen to some moral advice once a week,
with which they are surfeited inside and outside the
shelter, they go to bed, and next morning leave the
shelter to face the streets as they came in. The shelter
gets no nearer to the cause of their depravity than it does
to the economic cause of their failure, or to the economic
remedy which the State must eventually introduce.

On its religious side, good work is done among
individuals here and there, though here also, while the
good is being done, evils are perpetuated that are de-
basing in their sum total. The shelter officers to a man
declare that their hardest and saddest work is in pre-


venting the hypocrisy that is associated with the peni-
tent form. A profession of religion is part of the
carrying equipment of a growing proportion of the
regular attendants of the shelters. The most honest
and reliable are those who do not make any profes-
sion at all. It may be conceded that the good out-
weighs the evil.

The workshops of the Army are little better than
sweating dens, though I do not think that the evil
associated with these is so serious as it has been de-
scribed. Until the State can devise something better
than the casual ward for these out-of-works, it is sheer
folly for anyone to assail this rough-and-ready method
of affording temporary aid. It is not the Army that is
most blameworthy. It is the apathy of the public.

The fact is that the number of agencies that are
at work, especially in London, along these lines is so
numerous that the time has arrived for the State to
interfere and appoint a Royal Commission for dealing
with these and these alone. The Labour Exchange
has shown us the extent and character of the unem-
ployed. Something is needed to show us what is done
to meet that need, how it is abused, and how ineffec-
tive it is. If such a Commission were appointed, Mr.
Bramwell Booth would be its most competent chair-
man, for if he collected the facts as they have come to
light since the Social Scheme was established and placed
these before the country, there would be an agitation
for a complete and radical change in our vagrancy Acts
and the methods of administering relief to the poor.

an economic standpoint the social experiment of the
Salvation Army stands condemned almost root and
branch. " So much the worse for economics," the
average Salvation Army officer will reply. Perhaps.


But at the end of twenty years the Army cannot point
to one single cause of social distress that it has re-
moved or to one single Act which it has promoted that
has dealt a death-blow at one social evil. Its work has
been purely of the nature of the ambulance, jand God

^ forbid that I should raise so much as a little finger
against all that it has done and is doing in that respect.
I have lost a considerable amount of faith since I ceased
to be a Salvationist in the value of voluntary effort.
Prevention is better than cure. JThe amazing revela-
tions of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law
demonstrate that fact in a negative manner, and until
a good part of the Minority Report is given fair play in
actual practice, we shall not be able to adequately
realise the full force of the old saw that prevention
is better than cure. We are still babes at the business

of saving men, women, and children. We have
stamped out certain diseases which periodically turned
London into a mortuary, and we have done much to
awaken the public conscience to the science of moral
salvation (and the Army has done more in this respect
than any other Christian organisation). But the
General would show himself the true statesman if he
manfully told the world that his social scheme has
not got to close quarters with the evils which he set
out to demolish. By doing so he will eventually raise
himself higher in the public estimation, and what is
of far more consequence, clear the atmosphere of a
lot of maudlin sentiment as to the character of the work
upon which he and others are engaged, and help to
point the way to another and more effective treatment
of the social disease.



TiiSRT2 1936

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