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counsel expert legal advice, and settled the provisions
of a Constitution by means of a Trust Deed registered
in Chancery.

But before considering the Army's Constitution upon
its merits, it is desirable that the position in which
the General found himself should be clearly stated.
Whatever action was taken had to be expeditious, for
if it only met the exigencies of the moment and pro-
vided for the sole trusteeship of the property and the
control of the Christian Mission being vested in the
head for the time being, the Deed could be added to
and enlarged later on if circumstances arose that ren-
dered such a proceeding advisable. So that a Founda-
tion Deed and a Religious Trust Deed were registered
on the 27th August, 1878, or only a little more than
a year after the Salvation Army received its christen-
ing, such as I have described.

General Booth did not let the grass grow under his
feet before he secured himself and his enterprise against


schism, or the attack of parties who might for various
reasons have sought to undermine the work that
started under popular auspices. It was quick work,
too quick perhaps.

Generally speaking, the legal instrument of the
Army partakes in its character of the circumstances
under which it was drafted, without showing any
serious corresponding consideration of probable diffi-

What were these circumstances ? First, the servile
N and ignorant class of officers by whom the General was
supported. Excellent evangelists, no doubt, but with-
out any experience of law or business : content if they
had bread and butter and a chance to preach and pray
for the salvation of sinners. Apart from his eldest son,
Mr. Bramwell Booth, and Mr. Railton, and Mrs. Booth,
of course, the General had no one in sympathy with his
object capable of giving an independent and thought-
ful criticism upon the principles that he wished to em-
N body in his first Deed Poll. He saw, or thought he saw,
that it would be in the best interests of the Mission for
the present and the future that a people, moulded in
this groove, should have a Constitution that gave the
General for the time being unlimited powers, and
that settled, once for all, the doctrines that should be
taught and the objects that should be furthered by the
Army. Such a Constitution, he believed, would avoid
the questions on which other denominations had

In the face of his own refusal to obey the dictates
of his Church, here was a man in the nineteenth cen-


tury making an organisation that vested in one man
authority to do with flesh and blood practically what
he liked, send them where he thought best, dismiss them
when he chose, and not even promise to give them any
remuneration, and a host of other drastic things ! The
General was truly made after a fashion that the Caesars
might have coveted in their time.

Then the General had to guard against mission and
Church friends, whose advice was always reactionary.
They hovered about his meetings, talking the rankest
anti-Salvation Army doctrines to his converts, tortur-
ing their poor and ignorant minds about Baptism, the
Second Coming, the Sacraments, and Holiness by
Faith, and so forth, while all the time the new General
was struggling to inculcate the theory that none of
these things was worth the weight of a row of pins,
when contrasted with the opportunity that had arisen
for saving souls and setting them on fire with a passion
for the salvation of the souls of others.

What more natural, then, than that the General
should think of tying up his organisation for all time
with the doctrines that, in his opinion, were essential
to salvation ? He would save his successors from the
agony that he was experiencing, and we have that
attitude amply illustrated in the strange instrument
that sets forth, in legal language, the objects of a work
that was to develop into a kingdom, and which the
General has hopes will swell into the dimensions of an

General Booth submitted his imperial ideas to
several of his friends ; but with the exception of


Mr. J. E. Billups, of Cardiff, one of the signatories to the
Deed, they all with one voice pronounced the scheme
dangerous and ambitious. They pointed out that if
he legislated for the future on the assumption that the
Generals that would follow him would be as reliable as
himself, he would be going straight against the teaching
of all human experience from the jealous hour between
Moses and Aaron to the " fall-out " between Paul and
Barnabas ; but the General was obsessed with the
Army idea. He had already found Biblical references
in support of its foundation principles, and he was
tasting the first-fruits of that power for which he had
longed ever since he was driven from the front entrance
of the Methodist Chapel in Nottingham.

The opinions of some experts in Trust law were
discarded ; the advice of his brothers in the cause was
ruled out of court. Was he not making a new organisa-
tion ? and was not the material from which he was
making the organisation the most ignorant that any
man ever had to handle ? and so he acted upon the
theories that were propounded by Mr. Railton and
half-heartedly supported by his wife at private con-
ferences in their home at Gore Road.

The first Deed Poll, or rather the religious Deed Poll,
is not a long or difficult article of ecclesiastical furni-
ture to understand. It consists of about thirty clauses
only. The object of the Christian Mission is de-
fined as :

" to bring under the Gospel those who were not in
the habit of attending any place of worship by preach-
ing in the open, in tents, theatres, music halls, etc.,


and whereas divers Halls or Meeting houses, School
rooms, Vestries, lands, buildings, and appurts situate
lying and being in various parts of Her Majesty's
Dominions and elsewhere have been or are intended to
be and hereafter may be given and conveyed to certain
persons in such Gifts and Conveyances named and to
be named upon trusts for the purposes therein and
herein mentioned or any of them and generally for
promoting the objects of the said Christian Mission
under the direction of the General Superintendent.
And whereas in order to render valid and effectual such
trusts to remove doubts and prevent Litigation in the
interpretation thereof or as to the terms used therein to
ascertain what is the name or title and what are and
shall be for ever the doctrines of the said Christian
Mission and also in order to preserve the system of the
said Christian Mission generally by means of a General
Superintendent it has been deemed expedient to make
and execute these presents."

There are three momentous declarations in this Deed
Poll. The first I have indicated. The doctrines are
declared, and to be " FOB EVER " those preached by
the Christian Mission, and are substantially the same
as those embodied in the Articles of War.

The second endorses the despotism of the General of
the Salvation Army for the time being, and gives him
power to select and appoint a successor.

" Thirdly that the said Christian Mission is and
shall be always hereafter under the oversight direction
and control of some one person who shall be the
General Superintendent thereof whose duty it shall be
to determine and enforce the discipline and laws and


superintend the operations of the said Christian Mission
and to conserve the same to and for the objects and
purposes for which it was first originated.

" The General Superintendent shall have power to
expend on behalf of the Christian Mission all moneys
contributed for the general purposes of the said
Christian Mission or for any of the special objects or
operations thereof but he shall annually publish a
Balance Sheet (duly Audited) of all such receipts and

"The General Superintendent shall have power to
acquire by Gift Purchase or otherwise any Hall or
Meeting house School room Vestry Land building and
appurts and any seats fittings furniture or other
Property whatsoever which may in his judgment be
required for the purposes of the said Christian Mission
and to build upon such land or alter or pull down any
such buildings and to hire on lease or otherwise any
land or buildings and to lend give away let sell or
otherwise dispose of any such property land or buildings
as he may deem necessary in the interests of the said
Christian Mission wherein all trustees shall render
him every assistance and he may in all such cases as he
shall deem it expedient so to do nominate and appoint
trustees or a trustee of any part or parts respectively
of such property and direct the Conveyance or Transfer
thereof to such trustees or trustee with power for the
General Superintendent to declare the trusts thereof
and from time to time if it shall seem expedient to him
so to do to revoke any such trusts or the appointment
of such Trustees or Trustee and upon such revocation
the same Property shall be conveyed or transferred to
such persons or person and upon such trusts as he may
direct but only for the benefit of the said Christian


" Fourthly that the said William Booth shall
continue to be for the term of his natural life the
General Superintendent of the Christian Mission unless
he shall resign such Office.

"Fifthly that the said William Booth and every
General Superintendent who shall succeed him shall
have the power to appoint his successor to the Office of
General Superintendent and all the rights powers and
authorities of the Office shall vest in the person so
appointed upon the decease of the said William Booth
or other General Superintendent appointing him or at
such other period as rna.y be named in the Document
appointing him.

" Sixthly that it shall be the duty of every General
Superintendent to make in writing as soon as con-
veniently may be after his appointment a Statement
as to his successor or as to the means which are to be
taken for the appointment of a Successor at the decease
of the General Superintendent or upon his ceasing to
perform the duties of the Office such Statement to be
signed by the General Superintendent and delivered
in a Sealed envelope to the Solicitor for the time being
of the Christian Mission but such Statement may be
altered at will by the General Superintendent at any
time during his continuance in Office upon a new
Statement being signed by him and delivered as before
mentioned to such Solicitor as aforesaid."

General Booth, in the name of consistency, never
perpetrated a more inconsistent act than when he
gave his signature to this piece of paper. Just think
of it ! He was anxious to avoid the creation of a
Church, the basis of whose Constitution is doctrinal
and ecclesiastical. He was a declared opponent of


sects and sectarianism, and yet he puts his name to a
document that is nothing if not ecclesiastical and
doctrinally controversial. He built his claim to be
declared the first Superintendent of the Christian
Mission, and then General of the Salvation Army,
on the assumption, among other things, that what had
^ been accomplished by the aforesaid Mission entitled
him to become a religious Pharaoh. He may be right,
but it has not yet been proved in a court of law that his
pretensions can be supported by the law except in so
far as the Deed Poll identifies him as the General of the
Salvation Army for the time being in his capacity of
the sole trustee. The Salvation Army is not an
incorporated Society, and until someone arises and
contends that a General has diverted funds from the
object for which the Society was instituted, or until a
number of officers demand an amendment of the
doctrines or appeal to Parliament to have them
amended, we shall not know the value of the Founda-
tion Deed of the Salvation Army. For my present
purpose the point is immaterial. The great question
is that the General of the Salvation Army bound the
organisation before it was many months old to preach
and declare for ever such doctrines as the following
is an example of :

" We believe that our first parents were created in
a state of innocence, but by their disobedience they
lost their purity and happiness and that in consequence
of their fall all men have become sinners totally
depraved and as such are justly exposed to the wrath
of God."


T The General threw away the book that Dr. Cook, the
professor, put into his hands as a student for the
ministry. Young Booth tossed it against the wall of his
lodgings in disgust. He said he would sooner starve
than preach the doctrine of election. He was a rebel
in those days. Now that he becomes the High Priest
of a new Order he falls into the trap that has destroyed
so many noble-hearted leaders of emancipatory move-
ments. Had he paused to consider what the effect
of that one clause would have on the future, he would
have repeated the act of his indiscreet days. But, alas !
no. The old Methodist was not dead in him, and just
when he had reached a Pisgah from which he might
have seen how to deliver his coming Army from the
Dissenting doctrine of his times, he puts his name to a
set of doctrines that neither the second nor third nor
any other General of the Salvation Army can qualify,
amend, or end. The Army is committed for all time
to this doctrine and many others equally contentious,
and some of which Staff officers no more believe in
than they do that Bacon wrote Shakespeare.

A knowledge of Greek may not be necessary to make
a successful preacher, but does General Booth contend
that the enforcement of the doctrine is likely to help
him or does help him when he speaks to the convicts
in Dartmoor Prison or to the hill tribes of India ?
Is the formal acceptance of the doctrine necessary to
salvation ? If not, on what ground did the General
bind his successors and the hundreds of thousands of
soldiers that follow his Flag to these declarations,
all of which have to be signed by them before they


can be escorted into the inner councils of the
Army ?

It is difficult for the leaders of the Salvation Army
to answer these questions, all the more as they know
that in countries like America and Australia, if they
were to enforce them, they would rend these con-
tingents in twain and scatter the soldiers like a pack
of straying sheep. It is on this rock I fear a day
will arrive when the Salvation ship will strike. But
as it is past amendment it is more charitable to
hope that the day will be long in coming, and that
by that time the Salvation Army Staff will be in a
position to ask Parliament to establish a precedent
and banish all such tests from a movement that
shines best when trying to imitate Christ. Why, if
General Booth had preached, while in Japan, such
doctrines as the one quoted, he would have been hissed
off some of his most interesting platforms. While the
Constitution is based on this foundation it is useless
trying to keep up the pretence that the Salvation Army
is not a sect : it is the most exclusive and pronounced
sect among all sects.

But this is not all. In the Deed Poll the same
principle is applied to the General's privileges and
powers. He is not elected to that office he is selected
by his predecessor. He is not subject to any rule or
regulation except the conditions imposed on him by
the Deed Poll. He is General for the term of his
natural life, and he holds the right the sole right,
the arbitrary right, the most arbitrary right of
selecting his own successor without the advice,


counsel, or other direction of any council of the

As one would expect, the development of the Army,
with the acquisition of the Congress Hall, Clapton,
leasing of large theatres such as the Grecian in City
Road, London, and equally capacious and heavily
rented properties in the provinces, indicated that
something more than a Deed empowering the General
to purchase, hire, sell, and generally control and dispose
of property would be necessary. When the Army ex-
tended its field of activities to the United States,
France, South Africa, and other countries, it was felt
that the Deed generally would have to bear a much
larger significance to the office of the General and
provide for certain contingencies. Hence a third
Deed was registered in Chancery on the 4th October,
1906, confirming the powers vested in the General
and extending the powers specified in previous Deeds,
the object being to " minimise the possibility of doubt,
dispute, or litigation" arising out of the incomplete
character of the original Trust settlement. This
formed the third alteration of the Trust within twenty-
five years, all at the suggestion and by the authority
of one man. Except for the fact that the work was
experimental, and there were no signs at the time that
the second Deed was drawn up (by which the Christian
Mission was merged in the Salvation Army) of the
potentiality of a great world- wide organisation, this
tinkering might have occasioned Mr. Booth and his
friends some anxiety, and the public interested in the
welfare of the new movement serious misgiving. The


circumstances were altogether without precedent. Even
the General himself admits that he had no idea that the
venture would take such ramifications and evolve such
possibilities as it did. As he has frequently remarked :

" The Salvation Army was not made to a plan. It
was a growth, not a dream for a well-thought-out
scheme. The life within it is largely responsible for its
advance. I did not say 'Now is the time to go to
Germany,' and then appoint men and women to seize
a cafe and start preaching salvation in Stuttgart,
The principle of what led us to begin operations in
Germany has prompted many other developments in
the Salvation Army. A German strolled into a
Salvation Army Hall in the Bowery of New York
and gave his heart to God. He imbibed the spirit of
the Army from the officer who dealt with him about
his spiritual condition, and shortly afterwards he
wrote to me that he felt that he ought to devote his
life to the salvation of his Fatherland. I took that
letter to indicate the line of Providence with respect
to Germany, and ordered the German and his wife to
Zurich and there learn more about the Army. He
came, and in the course of time was commissioned to
open Stuttgart and then Berlin. In that incident you
have an illustration of the growth of the Salvation
Army, It was not made to the plan of the General
according to the whim of an ambitious fancy."

Under the latest Trust Deed (1906) provision is
made for the appointment of a General in the event
of a General for the time being becoming incapacitated
for that office by reason of lunacy, bankruptcy, or
unfitness. The introduction of that provision marked


a great stride in the direction of a modification of the
system under which General Booth hoped to per-
petuate, establish, and extend the work when he
changed the name of the Christian Mission to that
of the Salvation Army. It was tantamount to an
admission that he had already failed as an autocrat,
and that events had taken the government to some
extent out of his hands, It was an admission that
certain eventualities might occur which would place
the property of the movement in danger, in fact,
that is virtually declared in the opening words of the
latest Deed an interesting corollary to the fact
(almost ludicrous if it were not so serious) that a
movement that is divinely conceived and that, accord-
ing to its leaders, is founded on " the principles of
everlasting truth and righteousness," has to be pro-
tected from possible disintegration by the uncertain
arm of the law.

Then there was still another confession of weakness
in the Trust revision. By it the thin end of the wedge
of the democratic principle was driven into the very
foundation of the organisation.

How could a General be declared a bankrupt or an
imbecile without some intervention on the part of an
officer or a number of officers ? And how could a
successor to a deposed General be appointed without
the exercise of an authority that was not, till this
Deed was made, strictly founded on the military
principle ?

Here was a problem that brought the General and
his advisers up against a radical departure from the


principle of the first Trust Deed. That Deed placed
all power in the hands of the General. It gave the
General for the time being power to appoint his
successor without reference to anyone or to any
council. He could name him from motives of caprice,
or jealousy, or personal ambition. This Deed, on the
other hand, recognised the fallibility of even a General
of the Salvation Army. If a son could desert the
colours, if a Commissioner could commit some offence
by which he forfeited his place in the war, or if a
Colonel could lose his reason, then a General of the
Salvation Army might fall a victim to like circum-
stances. With that reasoning so obvious that it is
remarkable that at the start of the Christian Mission
no provision is made for it when the first Deed was
registered the General was advised before the
assembly of the Great Council of the Army in London
in 1906 to register a Deed correcting and including
these and other omissions. And it was all done
privately, quietly, and legally.

Now under this larger legal instrument a High
Council is provided for, composed of all the Com-
missioners on the active list, for dealing with the
circumstances that would follow in the event of a
General becoming unfit for his office. What will
happen then is this : A declaration to the effect that
the General has been declared unfit will be sent
by the Chief of the Staff to all the Commissioners.
Then the High Council, in harmony with rules for its
constitution, assembly, procedure, decisions, and
dissolution which are elaborated in the Deed, will be


called together in London or some convenient place,
and the removal of the General and the appointment
of another General in his place voted for according
to a nine- tenths majority. Here one will naturally
ask, If the High Council is, in the opinion of the framer
of this Deed, capable of removing a General and
appointing a successor under such trying circum-
stances, how comes it that the General, when he was
preparing it, did not include the lesser and easier duty,
namely, place the power in the High Council (to which
it is, I believe, bound in time to revert) of always
appointing the General, instead of relying upon the
dangerous expedient of a General naming his suc-
cessor and lodging that name in the pigeon-hole of
a solicitor's office ?

The question is not a personal one. The omission of
such a provision is suggestive of the elemental character
of the General, and of that aversion to democratic
ideas that lies behind all that the General has devised
for the Army in matters of government. The Army
is not based on a trust of the people. It is established
on the theory that the members cannot manage their
own affairs. They must be controlled. " One man is
born to lead and nineteen to follow." So declares this
oracle of a benevolent autocracy, though it has not
occurred to the General, who is but a man after all,
that it removes from his successors the temptation to
do wrong by placing the selection of a leader in the
hands of the twenty. Are they not likely to be actuated
in their collective capacity with less bias and with
more accuracy of judgment than one man, who must


be to a large extent the creature of the circumstances
of his position ?

However, there it is. The selection of the second
General will not, according to present appearances,
be attended with any complication. I point out in
another chapter that there is only one man in the
organisation qualified to fill the office, provided his
health does not fall to pieces under the strain of the
responsibility and the events that are sure to arise
during the first years of his generalship. I refer to
Mr. Bramwell Booth.

But it is not the first successor to the General
that is under consideration, nor the third, nor the
fourth. It is the principle. Those who have watched
the Army for the last twenty years fighting against
the spirit of democracy of the age, and reluctantly
conceding to Corps and only to Corps small powers

Online LibraryA M NicolGeneral Booth and the Salvation Army → online text (page 7 of 25)