Methods of social advance; short studies in social practice by various authors online

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to be bled by the few hundreds all because of the fetish of
the * Liberty of the subject ' ?

I contend that the laws laid down in the Statute Book
are wide enough to clear the streets of the people referred
to. What is wanted is sufficient men, and strong-headed
administrators, to bring up for trial, where moral suasion
will not avail, all the habituals known to the authorities, and
let them feel and know that there is to be a period of strict
application of the laws.

For philanthropic purpose and full appreciation for the
wants of the poor of the cities there is no country like
Germany. That country is time and again referred to as the
pioneer in all that is good ; but running alongside we have a
thoroughgoing strict application of the laws for cleanliness
and for charity. There is no mealy-mouthed (a Scotch
expression) sentimentality about hose washing out a dirty
house or tenement, and sending the inmates thereof to
shelters in the country.

To come from the general to the particular, let us look at
some of the evidence given at the recent inquiry in Glasgow
upon the housing of the poor, alluded to at the outset of this
paper. As one of the expert witnesses before the Commission,
I there stated that the existing legislation was quite sufficient
if properly and consistently applied, that it was quite
unnecessary to proceed to eviction if the present laws
against landlord and tenant were enforced. The late plague
in Glasgow was instanced, where the sanitary authorities
adopted drastic measures in the infected area, and it was
suggested that similar areas of the everyday plague should
be undertaken in the same way. Here again there were
veiled doubts of the sufficiency of the existing laws for such
an action ; all the questions put were chiefly of a negative
character where were the statutes, sections, &c., for such
authority ? They were there already, but no one seemed to
be able to put his finger on them. The very people who


ought to have had them at their finger ends had to get them
pointed out, and all the while the fear was that by this
drastic proceeding people would be dishoused ; and why not, I
ask, when they were physically and morally unfit to keep a
house ? If they had been dishoused they would have found
shelter in the places prescribed for them by law. I was
asked, ' Your solution is that you would lock all these people
up ? ' I said I would. Then I was asked if I knew what it
would cost ; and my reply was, that if 500 of them were con-
fined for three months it would cost about 800. The idea
of such a thing was too much for some of the Commissioners,
and I was asked what would be done with the lot after the
three months, and I answered, ' Put them in again, if they
will not work.' If they will not work neither should they eat.

As a sound investment against dirt, destitution, and
death, I have time and again suggested that every local
authority should employ an expert to wade through the miles
of statutes, public and private, and now fallen into desuetude
by reason of changes in the representation of elected
authorities and the administrative staffs, and he would
find abundant material to work upon which has lain fallow
for years.

It not infrequently happens that an adverse decision has
been given in a prosecution on a particular point, and there
it is allowed to lie, the same points, though arising every
day, are never tried again or made the grounds of a strong

So far as local administration is concerned there need
be no legislation for years, or at all events till the resources
of the existing statutes have been strained to the very break-
ing point.

J. E, M.





I PROPOSE to answer to the best of my ability some questions
that have been given to me by your Society on certain topics
touched upon in my book, ' Rural England,' or rather to dwell
upon them for a while.

The first clause on the paper which has been submitted to
me runs thus : ' To show the general bearing of the remedies
suggested in your book on the conditions of large towns, with
special reference to the physical and economic competence of
the people.' Now, what are the remedies which I have
ventured to suggest in my book ? They are briefly these :
That a greater care should be shown by those in authority
towards the land of England that a more active agricultural
policy, as I might call it, should be pursued by English
Governments. Then, in order to follow up this suggestion, I
put forward various, I can scarcely call them remedies, I will
call them palliatives that should be adopted which, if followed
out, would in my opinion go far towards producing a
healthier and a better state of affairs. These palliatives I
may say in the main tend towards one thing, the establish-
ment of a greater number of persons upon the land of
England as workers or owners of that land.

Briefly, one of them is that credit banks should be esta-
blished under the authority and control of Government.
Now these credit banks are, as you may have heard, very


largely in force upon the Continent. The system is called
the ' Kaffeisen,' and it practically amounts to this, that all
the members who can borrow from such a bank agree mutually
to guarantee the credit of any other member ; that is to say,
if six of them combine to form a bank, and if one of these
fails, the remaining five have to pay. The result of that, of
course, is pretty clear they are very careful as to whom they
admit into its membership. At first this sounds rather a
new idea, but anyone who has lived on the Continent must
have often seen it at work. I am not certain whether it was
in Austria alone, or in Austria combined with one or two
neighbouring countries where the system has been established,
that in 1901 a very large sum, I believe eleven millions, was
turned over by means of these credit banks, and not a half-
penny was lost. There are a few of them in existence in
England. I myself inspected one at Scawby, in Lincolnshire.
I have no time to go into the details of what I saw there, but
I can assure you this single small bank, with its tiny capital
of a few hundreds, had done an astonishing amount of good
in that neighbourhood. I was convinced by what was told
me and by its written records that this credit society had
succeeded in establishing quite a number of small people
upon the land. The establishment and multiplication of such
banks, then, is one of the remedies or palliatives that I have

I think, further, with reference to the question of rural
housing, that Government should advance the money for
building where it is necessary. Mind you, I do not ask for
anything to be given, only that individuals or public bodies
who so desire should be allowed to borrow at reasonable rates
of interest that are inclusive of a Sinking Fund, to enable
them to put up cottages and farm buildings on small holdings.
I think, also, that the limits of the Parcels Post should be
much enlarged, say to 100 Ibs., so as to enable the small man
to get his produce to the markets night by night. The state
of affairs in this country is really very strange when you



consider that we have the finest markets in the whole world,
and that these markets are eager and craving for produce of
every sort, and yet where does our produce come from ?
Three-fourths of it from abroad, from foreign countries, where
Governments are not above attending to these matters and
adopting these minor remedies. Here we have a land that
was never more fertile here we have men who certainly
would be willing to work here we have a hungry market,
and yet most of our foodstuffs come from abroad. Such,
stated very briefly, are some of the remedies which I have
suggested, but upon which I cannot now stop to dwell, as I
have to go on to comment upon the various points that have
been raised in your paper of questions.

Now I pass to * the general bearing of the remedies sug-
gested by you (i.e. by myself) on the condition of large towns
with special reference to the physical economic competence
of the people.' You ladies and gentlemen who belong to this
admirable Society, if I may say so, are better acquainted with
the conditions of the poor in large towns than I am. I only
know of such matters as a general observer. As a general
observer, of course, I see certain things which I cannot but
see ; for instance, that the youths and girls and the men and
women whom you meet now in the lower parts of the cities
are very different beings to the men and women you meet in
the country side. I gather also from various reports of
medical men and persons well acquainted with these matters
that the inhabitants of these great cities, such as London or
Manchester or Bristol, are deteriorating very much physically,
mentally, and morally. I have been told even, though I do
not know whether the fact is capable of being proved, that
after three generations they are practically worthless unless
reinforced by some new blood, and indeed die out. At any
rate, I think we may take it that there is no person in this
theatre who will disagree with me when I say, as regards the
matter of physical competence, that their physical competence
is not in any way to be put upon a par with the physical


competence of those who dwell in the fields and in the villages
of England.

To come to the economic side of the question. I suppose
when this question was put to me about the economic com-
petence of the town-dwelling folk, the meaning was what such
people could earn. Generally speaking, their value to the
State may be summed up thus : The young and strong who
come to the town may do better than those who remain in the
country, for they earn a better wage while they are young
and strong, but how the results work out for those of the ages
of, say, between fifty and seventy is another matter. My own
opinion is, then, taking them over the average, that the
economic competence of the inhabitants of cities is not in any
way equal to the economic competence of the ordinary dweller
in the country.

Yesterday I was reading a Sunday paper and I happened
to look down the advertisements and I saw one which I cut
out, because it seemed to me to have what I might almost
call a painful and an ominous meaning. It runs thus :
' Grey hair ; no need to be unemployed though looking old.
One shilling per bottle/ and so on. Well, of course, it seems
a slight thing, but there is a deal of significance in that puff
of a patent hair-dye. Why did the advertiser put that notice
in the paper ? It was because he knew there is a demand for
his stuff and for the reason stated, that grey-haired people in
the towns find it more and more difficult to get employment.
Now, compare that with the country.

Taking the country through, I should say the majority of
labourers working the land are grey-haired men. I have seen
many of them in the most decrepit condition, but still able to
find work. In short, there is in London and the other great
cities an eager market for the very pick of young men and
women, but for the person who is growing old and can no
longer perhaps put in quite a full day for the person who must
trudge from employer to employer to tout for work when he
grows old there is no market there is no demand in the

F 2


town for the weakly, the failing, and the aged. Also, this
movement of the people to the towns has a still larger and
more far-reaching issue. It should, I think, be considered in
relation to the national welfare. Of course, that issue raises
the whole question of the present-day rush to the cities.

Why do people crowd into the cities ? Well, I have had
a good deal of experience ; I have been to many places in
England, and I have questioned hundreds of well-informed
persons upon the point, and these are my conclusions. One
reason that they crowd into the cities I will keep the largest
reason to the last is because of our system of ' education.'
Education, of course, is a very good thing ; we all admit
that, but education as administered in the country districts is
not always that which might be desired. To begin with, the
teachers are town people, nine out of ten of whom know very
little of the country and its needs ; therefore, they give to the
country children a town education. Secondly, under our
system children are kept in school until a period when it is
very difficult to accustom them subsequently to work upon
the land. Many and many an expert, many and many an old
farmer who has had fifty years of experience, have told me that
unless you can get a lad accustomed to horses and cattle and
rural pursuits generally by the time he is about ten or eleven,
he will never be accustomed to them ; after that, he is afraid
of the animals, and he loathes labour on the land.

That is one reason of the exodus. Another is that nowa-
days papers go everywhere, people read about all sorts of
exciting things, and afterwards they find the country uncom-
monly dull. Well, it is no doubt dull at times, and, that
being so, they all want to go to the town, where there are
music-halls and entertainments of every kind, and places to
meet in. Also they find advantages there which they lack in
villages ; for instance, there are such things as water-taps in
London which are generally lacking in the villages, and it is
possible for a child to keep dry-shod in going to school by
walking on the pavement instead of being obliged to trudge a


mile or two along a sloppy village road in every kind of
weather. That is a second reason, and there are others
which I could mention, but I will come at once to the last
and to my mind the greatest.

The real fundamental cause why the people of this island
are flocking towards the cities in such numbers is that the
rural population has no prospect of rising on the land. Such,
at least, is my strong belief. Now consider the life of an
agricultural labourer. He earns in all, let us say, 16s. a week
in my part of the world, a little more in the South and in
Yorkshire ; there it might come to 1 including his haysel and
his harvest. Out of that he pays, let us say, la. Qd. or 2s. for a
cottage. He rears a family. He contributes to his sick club,
and in order to do this he must labour continually ; there are
no little holidays off for him, he has to work week in and week
out, for if he does not work he will not be paid, and if he is not
paid he will starve. He begins to labour, let us say, at fifteen
or sixteen, and goes on labouring, let us say, to seventy or
seventy-five. At that age, or before it, he ultimately breaks
up, and has to be supported or sinks into the workhouse and
dies. No one can say that is altogether an attractive
prospect. I do not think any of us would like to take on the
contract. So what does the agricultural labourer say the
young fellow who has just grown up ? the old man cannot
say anything of course, his day is done. He says : ' My
cousin has gone up to town ; he has got a good berth as a
turncock, or a policeman, or a carman, or such like, and he is
paid so many shillings a week. He is so many shillings a
week better off than I am. He has found a young woman
and married her, and they seem happy enough, and they may
rise to earn 100 a year.' Naturally he wants to join him
and do likewise. But five out of six when they get to London
find that there is no 100 a year waiting for them. When
they are broken down and every new-comer has trodden them
under foot with the selfishness which marks this age, and
probably has marked all ages, they will be heard to wish that


they had confined themselves to their native village. But
then it is too late.

If you have any doubt about the matter, if your special
knowledge leaves you uninstructed, you cannot, I imagine,
do better than read Mr. Kowntree's book upon the condition
of York. Now I know York; it is a small city, compara-
tively, of about 65,000 people quite a minor place, yet you
will see it set out there, in that remarkable work of Mr.
Eowntree's, who perhaps has confined himself to a small
place, because to deal with a bigger one would be beyond the
power of man, that most of those people there, labourers in
the town, are living in a condition of penury. They have
not a penny for any pleasure, for any amusement, or any
alleviation of their lot. No paper, no glass of beer, no pipe
of tobacco, nothing extra, he declares, can be paid for. Yet
remember this : when I was there two years ago the condition
of affairs in Yorkshire was such that many a farmer within
twenty miles of York was glad enough, and frequently was
unable, to procure labour at 1 a week and a good cottage.

Now what a remarkable state of affairs is that, looked at in
the light of circumstances as they now are ! I have been told
that I am a pessimist. When a man writes an important
book of social investigation, he feels gratified by the long
reviews and articles in the Quarterlies and the rest, but all the
same he finds that the writers of these notices will generally,
and very naturally, have their own preconceived opinions. I
do not blame them for it, but they are very apt to look at
things strictly from their own point of view, which is some-
times narrow. They are acquainted with one locality or
perhaps with two out of a hundred dealt with in the work,
and they proceed to argue upon the lines and in the direction
to which their individual characters and experiences attract
them, and they all invariably say that the author of the work
is a little wrong on this point, and greatly wrong on that point,
because his views do not agree with theirs. I dare say I am
very wrong on many points, for I can assure you there is no


more humble creature in this world than I am. I have learnt
so much about these matters connected with the land and its
population that it has taught me how much I have still to learn ;
but at the same time I cannot help remembering this : that
whereas many of my critics are people acquainted perhaps
with their own counties and few others, I have looked at
these things in many lights and many districts of England.

Therefore, before they write me down a pessimist I should
like a few of them to follow in my footsteps, to go round and
collect the evidence and examine the witnesses, and consider
the condition of things all round as I have done, then to write
their own impressions. I should be very much astonished if
in the result such impressions did not tally very closely with
those which I have submitted to the world.

However, it so happens that yesterday I received from
the Central Chamber of Agriculture a report of the Kural
Depopulation Committee. I read it, I cannot say with
pleasure, because it is a sad document, but certainly with
interest, because this Kural Depopulation Committee does
absolutely and very conclusively endorse the decisions at
which I have arrived. I have been told that I misinterpret
the figures, but what do the Committee say ? They say that
they find in the rural districts of a great number of counties
the decrease is from 1 to 8 per cent. They add that in purely
agricultural parishes it is from 12 to 28 per cent., and in
some smaller villages one-third to one-half of the inhabitants.
The causes which they give are exactly those which I have
given in my work. One of them is the spread of education,
that I have already alluded to, venturing to point out some
remedies. I have suggested in my book that the acquirement
of small holdings of various sizes by suitable persons should
be facilitated, and they suggest the same. The Committee
demonstrate, further, that agriculture has been systematically
organised in other countries, and that such organisation would
yield results as good in this country ; and they urge lastly,
what I have dwelt on also, that the State should take such


matters into its earnest consideration, and that within certain
proper limits State aid should be granted with the object of
increasing our rural population and making it prosperous.
You will understand, I have read that report with no little
interest, because sometimes I really began to think that I
must be wrong, and certain of my critics must be right. This
document, however, points to another conclusion.

Now I pass to the next question. You asked me * to explain
whether any system can be adopted by which persons resident
in towns and, after examination, proved to be suitable for
agricultural labour, could be drafted to places where there is
a demand ; ' also, ' whether, in connection with the country
press or in some other way, any system which would be
equivalent to that of a labour bureau might with advantage
be adopted ? ' My answer is that I think all these things
might be done ; labour bureaux might be established, and so
on ; and I would add local agents, with an intelligent know-
ledge of the different places, who would report where men
were wanted, might be appointed.

But I want to qualify this answer. You must remember
this is very largely a question of cost: labour bureaux and
agents and so forth involve a great expenditure, perhaps
greater than your Society would be able to meet ; also you
must remember this : that it is not the slightest use your
spending your funds in sending useless and unfit persons into
the country. Now a very instructive letter was read l to you

1 The letter had been received by an East End Committee from a
man who had been sent down to Somersetshire. He was a town-bred
stevedore, out of work, with a wife and four young children. His health
had been very poor in London, and it was thought that a country life
might set him up. Both he and his wife were keen to go.

' Just a few lines to you to tell you that I can not stop down here
as this place is killing us all we have got no fire place in yet and we
have to get wood in and light a fire on the stone ground and we have the
door open all the time and we are smoke out with that open and the
weather is cold here to have a door open while you cook a bit of food and
we have never been warm since we came down here . . . and their is a
nother thing the house we are in the ceiling are low you can not get in


before I rose. That letter is quite typical, as I know very
well, of the mind of a great number of indigent Cockneys who
while they are in the town announce that they want to go to
the country and work there ; but when they get to the country,
what then ? A week or two ago I read a very amusing article
in one of the London papers, written when there was this
unemployed trouble in London and the people were walking
about shaking boxes in your faces, saying, * Give us work or
give us bread ! ' That London newspaper the Daily Express
selected a man who seemed to be suitable to their experi-
ment, and sent him down with a representative into the
country to see if he could find employment. I think it was
to Wiltshire. This man found farmers who would be glad
to hire him, but they lived some miles from the town it
was Salisbury, I think and he asked for a cab to take him
out to visit them ! Afterwards he met a flock of sheep, which

and out of the bed without knocking your head even the children knock
their head ... he cannot get people to live in a place like we are in we
are right in the woods and when we go to work we have got to climb the
hills to get to the level ground and my heart is so bad I have to set down
when I get to the top and my wife legs are very bad she is broken hearted
with beening here all the children are bad in health I know myself is
getting on very bad its know good to me if I stop here I know I shall be
dead . . . even the villagers tell us what a dreadful place we are in they
say it is a shame to bring people from their comfortable london homes to
bury their lives in a place like this they say he should have come first
before he brought my wife and family in such a place as this their is
9 months of winter here and when I told the villagers the farmer said he
thought if we all come together I would get on better with my family
round me they all laught they can see we was led in a trap and the
other London folks are the same as my self they will not stop they are

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