History of Co-operation (6)
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        "By my hearth I keep a sacred nook
 For gnomes and dwarfs, duck-footed waddling elves
 Who stitched and hammered for the weary man
 In days of old.   And in that piety
 I clothe ungainly forms inherited
 From toiling generations, daily bent
 At desk, or plough, or loom, or in the mine,
 In pioneering labours for the word."

GEORGE ELIOT, A Minor Prophet.

THE Pioneer Period in every great movement best displays the aims, the generosity of service, the impulse of passion, the mistakes of policy, the quality and force of character, of leaders and followers.  Any one conversant with struggling movements knows that most of the errors which arose were due to the actors never having been told of the nature and responsibilities of their enterprise.  Ten men err from pure ignorance where one errs from wilfulness or incapacity.  How often I have heard others exclaim, how often have I exclaimed myself, when a foolish thing had been said, or a wrong thing had been done, why did not some one who had had this experience before tell us of this?  Co-operators who master and hold fast openly, and always, to a policy of truth, toleration, relevance, and equity, succeed.

    The unremembered workers described in the words of the poetess, placed at the head of this chapter, have abounded in the social movement.  Less fortunate than the religious devotee, who sailed more or less with the popular current, the social innovator has few friends.  Rulers distrusted him.  His pursuit of secular good, caused him to be ill-spoken of by spiritual authorities, and he had no motive to inspire him save the desire or doing good to others.  Too much is not to be made of those who die in discharge of well-understood duty.  In daily life numerous persons run risks of a like nature, and sometimes perish in the public service.  To know how to estimate those who stand true we must take into sight those who never stand at all—who, the moment loss or peril is foreseen, crawl away like vermin into holes of security.  These are the rabbit-minded reformers, who flee at the first sound of danger, or wait to see a thing succeed before they join it.  Those who flee a struggling cause are a great army compared with those who fight.

    Yet the world is not selfish or cold.  It is like the aspects of Nature: large parts are sterile, bleak, inhospitable; yet, even there, the grandeur of view and majestic grimness delight the strong.  In other parts of physical Nature—warmth, light, foliage, flowers, make glad and gay the imagination.  So in society—strong, tender, wise men will give discriminating aid to strugglers below them; strugglers, indeed, perish unhelped, oftimes because they are unnoticed, rather than because of the inhumanity of the prosperous.  There are, as experience too well tells, men who do not want to help others; while there are more who do not help, simply not knowing how.  But there are others, and it is honest to count them, whom affluence does not make insensible, and who feel for the poor.

    The agitation had for leaders many disinterested gentlemen who not only meant what they said in sympathy, but were prepared to give, and did give, their fortunes to promote it.  There was not a man of mark among them who expected to, or tried to, make money for himself by these projects of social improvement.  Some, as Abram Combe and William Thompson, gave not only money but life.  Others absolutely divested themselves of their fortunes in the cause.  They indeed believed that they were founding a system of general competence, and that such share as was secured to others would accrue to them; and with this prospect they were content.  Some or them might have retained stately homes and have commanded deference by the splendour of their lives.  And when their disinterested dream was not realised, their fortune squandered, and disappointment, and even penury overtook them, as happened in some cases, they never regretted the part they had taken, and died predicting that others would come after them, who, wiser and more fortunate than they, would attain to the success denied to them.  Gentlemen connected with Co-operation were not wanting in the spirit of self-sacrifice, who died, like Mr. Cowell Stepney, of caring for everybody's interest but their own. [118]   This is not at all a common disease in any class, and takes very few people off.  Yet few are remembered with the reverence accorded to those who die these deaths.  Were their services understood they would receive honour exceeding that of those greeted by—

"The patched and plodding citizen,
 Waiting upon the pavement with the throng,
 While some victorious world-hero makes
 Triumphant entry; and the peal of shouts. . .
 Run like a storm of joy along the streets!
 He says, 'God bless him!' . . .
 As the great hero passes. . . .
 Perhaps the hero's deeds have helped to bring
 A time when every honest citizen
 Shall wear a coat unpatched." [119]

    Ignoring certain noisy adherents, who infest every movement, whose policy is conspicuousness, and whose principle is "what they can get"; who seek only to serve themselves, never, except by accident, serving anybody else; who clutch at every advantage, without giving one grateful thought, or even respectful word, to those who have created the advantage they enjoy—my concern is not for these adherents, whose very souls are shabby, and who would bring salvation itself into discredit were it extended to them.  My last care is for the honest, unobtrusive workers, who drudged, without ceasing, in the "cause" who devoted the day of rest to correspondence with unknown inquirers.  The just-minded took the services with gratitude; the selfish took them as their right, never asking at what cost it was accorded.  Knowing that self-help meant self-thinking, and that no deliverance would come if the people left it to others to think for them—these advocates counted it a first duty to awaken in their fellows the inspiration of self-action.  But in thus making themselves so far the Providence of others, the most generous of them had no time left to be a Providence to themselves.  But it is not for us to forget the self-forgetting, whose convictions were obligations, and whose duty was determined by the needs of others.  During the ninety years over which this history travels there have been humble compeers who drudged in stores during what hours fell to them after their day's work was done.  They travelled from street to street, or from village to village, on Sundays, to collect the pence which started the stores.  They gave more than they could afford to support periodicals, which never paid their conductors, for the chance of useful information thus reaching others.  For themselves, they reaped in after-days dismay and disregard at their own fireside, for their disinterested and too ardent preference of others' interests.  Many gave their nights to the needful, but monotonous duties of committees, and to speaking at meetings at which few attended, returning late and weary to cheerless rooms.  Some were worn out prematurely, and died unattended in obscure lodgings.  Some lingered out their uncheered days on the precarious aid occasionally sent them by those who happened to remember that they were benefiting by the peril which had brought the old propagandists low.  Not a few of them, after speeches of fiery protest on behalf of independence, in political movements to which they were also attracted, spent months and years in the indignity of prison, and at last died on a poorhouse bed, and were laid in a pauper's grave. [120]  I have met their names in struggling periodicals advocating social an political progress.  Many of them were my comrades.  Foreseeing their fate, I often tried to mitigate their devotion.  I stood later by the dying bed of some of them, and spoke at the burial of many.  They lie in unremembered graves.  But there was inspiration in their career which has quickened the pulses of industry.  Though the distant footfall of the coming triumph of their order never reached their ear, they believed not less in its march.







"A new mind is first infused into society;. . . . Is breathed from individual to individual, from family to family—it traverses districts—and new men, unknown to each other, arise in different parts. . . . At last a word is spoken which appeals to the hearts of all—each answers simultaneously to the call—a compact body is collected under one standard, a watchword is given, and every man knows his friend."—THE FIRST LORD LYTTON.

MOVEMENTS, like men, die—some a natural, some a violent, death.  Some movements perish of intellectual rickets, from lack of vitality; or, falling into blind hands, never see their opportunities.  It is true of movements as of men—those who act and do not think, and those who think and do not act alike require an early coffin.  In days of social storm, insurrection, revolution, every word of counsellors entitled to be heard has significance.  Change is but a silent storm, ever beating, ever warning men to provide for it, and they who stand still are swept away.  But movements do not often die in their beds—they are assassinated in the streets.  Error, fed upon ignorance, and inspired by spite, is commonly strong and unscrupulous.  Truth must fight to live.  There is no marching on without going forward and confronting the enemy.  Those who know the country and are resolute, may occupy more of it than they foresee.  It is a delusion to think that pioneers have all the ground to clear.  Men's heads are mostly vacant, and not a few are entirely empty.  In more cases than are imagined there is a brain-hunger for ideas.  Co-operation, after thirty years of valorous vicissitude, died, or seemed to die, in 1844-45.

    The busy, aspiring movement of Co-operation, so long chequered by ardour and despondency, was rapidly subsiding into silence and decay. The little armies on the once militant plain had been one after another defeated and disbanded. The standards, which had been carried defiantly with some daring acclaim, had fallen one by one; and in many cases the standard-bearers had fallen with them, For a few years to come no movement is anywhere observable, Hardly a solitary insurgent is discernible in any part of the once animated horizon. The sun of industrial hope, which kept so many towns aglow, has now gone down. The very air is bleak. The Northern Star, [121] lurid and glaring (which arose in Leeds, to guide the Political Pioneers of Lancashire and Yorkshire), is becoming dim.  The Star in the East promising to indicate that among the managers of Wisbech a a new deliverer [122] has come, has dropped out of the firmament.  The hum of the Working Bee is no more heard in the fens of Cambridgeshire.  The Morning Star—that appeared at Ham Common, shining upon a dietary of vegetables and milk—has fallen out of sight. [123] "Journals" are kept no more—"Calendars" no longer have dates filled in—"Co-operative Miscellanies" have ceased—"Mirrors" fail to reflect the faces of the Pioneers—The Radical has torn up its roots—The Commonweal has no one to care for it—believers in the New Age are extinct—The Shepherd is gathering his eccentric flocks into a new fold [124]—readers of the Associate have discontinued to assemble together—"Monthly Magazines" forget to come out—"Gazettes" are empty "Heralds" no more go forth—"Beacons" find that the day of warning is over—the Pioneer has fallen in the last expedition of the forlorn hope which he led—there is nothing further to "Register," and the New Moral World is about to be sold by auction—Samuel Bower has eaten all his peas—Mr. Etzler has carried his wondrous machines of Paradise to Venezuela—Joseph Smith has replaced his wig—Mr. Baume has sold his monkey—and the Frenchman's Island, where infants were to be suckled by machinery, has not inappropriately become the site of the Pentonville Penitentiary.  The "Association of All Classes of All Nations" has not a member left upon its books.  Of the seventy thousand Chartist land-dreamers, who had been actually enrolled, nothing is to remain in the public mind save the memory of Snigg's End!  Labour Exchanges have become bywords—the Indiana community is as silent as the waters of the Wabash by its side—Orbiston is buried in the grave of Abram Combe—Ralahine has been gambled away—the Concordia is a strawberry garden—Manea Fen has sunk out of sight—the President of Queenwood is encamping in the lanes—the blasts of the "Heralds of Community" have died in the air—the notes of the "Trumpet Calls" have long been still, and the trumpeters themselves are dead.  It may be said, as the Lord of the Manor of Rochdale [125] wrote of a more historic desolation:—

"The tents are all silent, the banners alone,
 The lances unlifted, the trumpets unblown."

    Time, defamation, losses, distrust, dismay, appear to have doe their work.  Never human movement seemed so very dead as this of Co-operation.  Its lands were all sold, its script had no more value, its orators no more hearers.  Not a pulse could be felt throughout its whole frame, not a breath could be discerned on any enthusiastic mirror held to its mouth.  The most scientific punctures in its body failed to elicit any sign of vitality.  Even Dr. Richardson would have pronounced it a case of pectoral death. [126]  I felt its cold and rigid hand in Glasgow—the last "Social Missionary" station which existed.  Though experienced in the pathology of dead movements, the case seemed to me suspicious of decease.  Wise Americans came over to look at it, and declared with a shrug that it was a "gone coon."  Social physicians pronounced life quite extinct.  Political economists avowed the creature had never lived.  The newspapers, more observant of thought it would never recover, which implied that, in their opinion, it had been alive.  The clergy, content that "Socialism" was reported to be gone, furnished with delighted alacrity uncomfortable epitaphs for its tombstone.

    Yet all the while the vital spark was there.  Efforts beyond its strength had brought upon it suspended animation.  The first sign of latent life was discovered in Rochdale.  In the meantime the great comatose movement lay stretched, out of the world's view, but not abandoned by a few devoted Utopians, who had crept from under the slain.  Old friends administered to it, familiar faces bent over it.  For unnoted years it found voice in the Reasoner, which said of it one thing always—"If it be right it can be revived by devotion.  Truth never dies except it be deserted."  Then a great consultation arose among the social medicine men.  The regular physicians of the party, who held official or missionary diplomas, were called in.  The licentiates of the platform also attended.  The subscribing members of the Community Society, the pharmaceutists of Co-operation, were at hand.  They were the chemists and druggists of the movement, who compounded the recipes of the social doctors, when new prescriptions were given out.  Opinions were given by the learned advisers, as the symptoms of the patient seemed to warrant them.  As in graver consultations, some of the prescriptions were made rather with a view of differing from a learned brother than of saving the patient.  The only thing in which the faculty present in this case agreed was, that nobody proposed to bleed the invalid.  There was clearly no blood to be got out of him.  The first opinion pronounced was that mischief had arisen through want of orthodoxy in Communism.  It was thought that if it was vaccinated, by a clergyman of some standing, with the Thirty-nine Articles, it might get about again; and Mr. Minter Morgan produced a new design of a parallelogram with a church in it.  It was shown to Mr. Hughes.  Some Scotch doctors advised the Assembly's "Shorter Catechisms."  A missionary, who had been a Methodist, thought that an infusion of Wesleyan fervour and faith might help it.  A Swedenborgian said he knew the remedy, when "Shepherd" Smith [127] persisted that the doctrine of Analogies would set the thing right.  Then the regular faculty gave their opinions.  Mr. Ironside attested with metallic voice that recovery was possible.  Its condition was so weak that, Pater Oldham [128]—with a beard as white and long as Merlin's—prescribed for it celibacy and a vegetarian diet.  Charles Lane raised the question, should it be "stimulated with milk"? which did not seem likely to induce in it any premature action.  James Pierrepont Greaves suggested that its "inner life" should be nurtured on a preparation of Principles of Being, of which he was sole proprietor.  Mr. Galpin, with patriarchal stateliness, administered to it grave counsel.  Thomas Whittaker presented a register of its provincial pulsations, which he said had never ceased.  Mr. Craig suggested fresh air, and if he meant commercial air there was need of it.  George Simpson, its best financial secretary, advised it neither to give credit nor take it, if it hoped to hold its own.  Dr. John Watts prescribed it a business dietary, flavoured with political economy, which was afterwards found to strengthen it.  John Colier Farn, who had the Chartist nature, said it wanted robust agitation.  Alexander Campbell, with Scotch pertinacity, persisted that it would get round with a little more lecturing.  Dr. Travis thought its recovery certain, as soon as it comprehended the Self-determining power of the will.  Charles Southwell chafed at the timorous retractations of some of his colleagues, avowed that the imprisonment of some of them would do the movement good.  William Chilton believed that persecution alone would reanimate it, and bravely volunteered to stand by the cause in case it occurred.  Maltus Questell Ryall, generously indignant at the imprisonment of certain of his friends, spoke as Gibbon was said to have written—"as though Christianity had done him a personal injury"—predicted that Socialism would be itself again if it took courage and looked its clerical enemies square in the face.  Mr. Allsop, always for boldness, counselled it to adopt Strafford's motto of "Thorough."  George Alexander Fleming surmised that its proper remedy was better obedience to the Central Board.  James Rigby tried to awaken its attention by spreading before its eyes romantic Pictures of Communistic life, Lloyd Jones admonished it, in sonorous tones, to have more faith in associative duty.  Henry Hetherington, whose honest voice sounded like a principle advocated a stout publicity of its views.  James Watson, who shook hands, like a Lancashire man, from the shoulder, with a fervour which you would have cause to remember all the day after, grasped the sinking cause by the hand, [129] and imparted some feeling to it.  Mr. Owen, who never doubted its vitality regarded the moribund movement with complacency, as being in a mere millennial trance.  Harriet Martineau brought it gracious news from America of the success of votaries out there, which revived it considerably.  John Stuart Mill inspired it with hope, by declaring that there was no reason in political economy why any self-helping movement of the people should die.  Mr. Ashurst looked on with his wise and kindly eyes, to see that recovery was not made impossible by new administrative error.  But none of the physicians had restored it, if the sagacious men of Rochdale had not discovered the method of feeding it on profits—the most nutritious diet known to social philosophy—which, administered in successive and ever-in- creasing quantities, gradually restored the circulation of the comatose body, opened its eyes, and set it up alive again, with a capacity of growth which the world never expected to see it display.

    It was not until a new generation arose that co-operative enthusiasm was seen again.  The Socialists were not cowards in commerce.  They could all take care of themselves in competition as well as their neighbours.  The police in every town knew them as the best disposed of the artisan class.  Employers knew them as the best workmen.  Tradesmen knew them as men of business, of disquieting ability.  These societarian improvers disliked the conspiracy against their neighbours which competition compelled them to engage in, and they were anxious to find some means of mitigating it.

    Of two parties to one undertaking, the smaller number, the capitalists, are able to retain profits sufficient for affluence, while the larger number, the workers, receive a share which, by no parsimony or self-denial, can secure them competence.  No insurrection can remedy the evil.  No sooner shall the bloody field be still than the sane system will reproduce the same inequalities.  But a better course is by producers giving security and interest for capital, and dividing the profits earned among themselves, a new distribution of wealth is obtained which accords capital equitable compensation, and secures labour enduring provision.  Thus he advocates of the new form of industry by concert tried to combat competition by co-operation.

    The Concordium had a poet, James Elmslie Duncan, a young enthusiast, who published a Morning Star in Whitechapel, where here it was much needed.  The most remarkable specimen of his genius, I remember, was his epigram on a draped statue of of Venus—

"Judge, ye gods, of my surprise,
 A lady naked in her chemise!"

We had poets in those days unknown to Mr. Swinburne or Sir Lewis Morris.

    The Ham Common Concordium fell as well as Harmony Hall.  The Concordium represented celibacy, mysticism, and long beards.  One night, I and Maltus Questell Ryall walked from London to visit it.  We found it by observing a tall patriarch's feet projecting through the window.  It was a device of the Concordium to ensure ventilation and early rising.  By a bastinado of the soles of the prophet with pebbles, we obtained admission in the early morning.  Salt, sugar, and tea were alike prohibited; and my wife, who wished salt with the raw cabbage supplied at breakfast, was allowed to have it, on the motion of Mr. Stolzmeyer, the agent of Etzler's "Paradise within the Reach of all Men." When the salt was conceded it was concealed in paper under the plate, lest the sight of it should deprave the weaker brethren.  On Sundays many visitors came, but the entertainment was slender.  On my advice they turned two fields into a strawberry garden, and for a charge of ninepence each, visitors gathered and ate all they could.  This prevented them being able to eat much at other meals, for which they paid—and thus the Concordium made money.



None from his fellow starts,
But playing manly parts,
And, like true English hearts,
                Stick close together.


THOSE who sleep on the banks of the Thames, near Temple Bar, as I did several years, hear in the silence of the night a slow, intermittent contest of clocks.  Bow Bells come pealing up the river; St. Dunstan, St. Clement, St. Martin, return the answering clangour.  Between the chiming and the striking there suddenly bursts out the sonorous booming off Big Ben from the Parliament clock tower, easily commanding attention in the small Babel of riverside tinklings, and the wakeful hearer can count with certainty the hour from him.  To me Rochdale was in one sense the Big Ben of Co-operation, whose sound will long be heard in history over that of many other stores.  For half a century Co-operation was audible on the banks of the Humber, the Thames, and the Tyne; but when the great peal finally arose from the banks of the Roche, Lancashire and Yorkshire heard it.  Scotland lent it a curious and suspicious ear.  Its reverberations travelled to France, Italy, Germany, Russia, and America, and even at the Antipodes settlers in Australia caught its far-travelling tones, and were inspired by it.  The men of Rochdale had the very work of Sisyphus before them.  The stone of Co-operation had often been rolled up the hill elsewhere, and often rolled down again.  Sometimes it was being dragged up by credit, when, that rope breaking, the reluctant bell slipped into a bog of debt.  At length some enthusiasts gave another turn, when some watchful rascal made away with its profits, which had acted as a wedge, steadying the weight on the hill, and the law being on the side of the thief, let the great boulder roll back.  Another set of devotees gave a turn at the great boulder, but having theological questions on hand, they fell into discussion by the way, as to whether Adam was or was not the first man; when those who said he was refused to push with those who said he was not, and Adam was the cause of another fall in the new Eden, and the co-operative stone found its way once more to the bottom.

    At length the Rochdale men took the stone in hand.  They invented an interest for everybody in pushing.  They stopped up the debt bogs.  They mainly established a Wholesale Supply Society, and made the provisions better.  They got the law amended, and cleared out the knaves who hung about the till.  They planned employment of their profits in productive manufactures, so that the store and workshop might grow.  They proclaimed toleration to all opinions—religious and heretical alike—and recognised none.  They provided for the education of their members, so that every man knew what to push for and where to place his shoulder, and were the first men who landed the great stone at the top.

    When Co-operation recommenced there, Rochdale had no hall which Co-operators could afford to hire.  There was, however, a small, square-shaped room, standing in the upper part of Yorkshire Street, opposite to St. James's Church, and looking from the back windows over a low, damp, marshy field.  It belonged to Mr. Zach Mellor, the Town Clerk, whose geniality and public spirit were one of the pleasant attributes of official Rochdale.  He was, happily, long of opinion that any townsmen, however humble, desirous of improving their condition by honest means, had as much right as any one else to try.  He treated—as town clerks should with civic impartiality all honest townsmen, without regard to their social condition or opinions.  Through the personal intervention of Mr. Alderman Livesey, always the advocate of the unfriended, this place was let to the adventurous party of half Chartists and half Socialists who cared for Co-operation.  It was in this small Dutch-looking meeting-house that I first spoke on Co-operation, in 1843.  I well remember the murky evening when this occurred.  It was the end of one of those damp, drizzling days, when a manufacturing town looks like a penal settlement.  I sat watching the rain and mists in the fields as the audience assembled—which was a small one.  They came in one by one from the mills, looking as damp disconsolate as their prospects.  I see their dull, hopeless faces now.  There were a few with a bustling sort of confidence, as if it would dissolve if they sat still—who moved from bench to bench to say something which did not seem very inspiring to those who heard it.  When I came to the desk to speak I felt that neither my subject nor my audience was a very hopeful one.  In those days my notes were far beyond the requirements of the occasion; and I generally left my hearers with the impression that I tried to say too much in the time, and that I spoke of many things without leaving certainty in their minds which was the most important.  The purport of what I said, as far as it had a purport, was to this effect:—


    Some of you have had experience of Chartist associations, and you have not done much in that way yet.  Some of you have taken trouble to create what you call Teetotalers, but temperance depends more upon social condition than exhortation.  The hungry will feel low, and the despairing will drink.  You have tried to establish a co-operative store here and have failed, and are not hopeful of succeeding now.  Still it ought to be tried again, and will not interfere with Chartism; it will give it more means.  It will not interfere with temperance; it will furnish more motives to sobriety.  Many of you believe Co-operation to be right in principle, and if a thing is right you ought to go on with it.  Cobbett tells you the only way to do a difficult thing is to begin and stick at it.  Anybody can begin it, but it requires men of a good purpose to stick at it.  To collect money from people, who to all appearance have little, is not a hopeful undertaking.  Somebody must collect small subscriptions until you have a few pounds.  A few rules to act upon, a small room to serve as a sort of shop, and small articles such as you are most likely to I sell, as good as you can get them; weigh them out fairly; then a store is begun.  There may be trouble at home; wives prefer going to the old shops, not knowing that credit is catching and debt is the disease they get.  A wife will not always have money to buy at the store, and will want to go where she can do so without; you must provide for this, for buying at the store is the only way to make it grow and yield profit.  What you save will be you own, and your stock will grow, and you will get things as good as your neighbours, and as cheap as your neighbours.  Besides, when you have a shop as large as that of ten shops, you will save the shop-keeping expenses of ten shops, and that will make profit which will be shared by all members.  If you want to help the Community in Hampshire, you will then be able to do it.  You may be able to set apart some portions of your profits for a news-room and little library where members may spend their evenings, instead of going to the public-house, and save money that way, as well as get information.  This is the way stores have been begun.  Co-operators have been instructed that all men are different by nature, and come into the world with passions and tendencies they did not give themselves.  Ignorance and adversity make the bad worse.  Noble self-denial, pettiness, and selfishness will mingle in the same person.  Those who understand this are fit for association.  Anger at what you do not like, or what you do not expect, can only proceed from ignorance taken by surprise.  Tolerance and steadfast goodwill are the chief virtues of association.  The rhyme which tells the young speaker to speak slowly, and emphasis and tone will come of themselves, has instruction for you if we change a word to express it—

"Learn to unite—all other graces
 Will follow in their proper places."

If you do not regard all creeds as being equally true and equally useful, you will regard them as equally to be respected.  In co-operative associations success is always in the power of those who can agree.  There the members have no enemies who can harm them but themselves; and when a man has no enemy but himself, he is a fool if he is without a friend.  Pope tells you that—

"The devil is wiser now than in the days of yore;
 Now he tempts people by making rich, rich, and not by making poor."

There is certain consolation in that.  He has been with you on that business.  Your difficulties will lie, not in negotiating with him, but in stating your case to your neighbours, that they shall see the good sense of your aims.  The main thing you have to avoid is what the Yankees call "tall statements."  We are all agreed that competition has a disagreeable edge.  But if we should be betrayed into saying that we intend to abolish it, we go beyond our power.  But we can mitigate it.  When they open a store to sell at market prices, opponents will ask you how you will find out the market price when there are no markets left.  There are people who would ask the Apostles how they intended to apply the doctrine of the atonement for sin, when the millennium arrives and all people are perfect.  Beware of inquirers who are born before their time, and who spend their lives in putting questions which will not need answering for centuries to come.  If workmen increase in numbers the tradesman does not like it.  It means more poor rates for him to pay.  The gentry do not like it.  It means that they would have to cut you down, if riot should follow famine.  The only persons whom over-population profits are those who hire labour, because numbers make it cheap.  Your condition is so bad that fever is your only friend, which kills without exciting ill-feeling, thins the labour market, and makes wages rise.  The children of the poor are less comely than they would be were they better fed, and their minds, for want of instruction, are leaner than their bodies.  The little instruction they get is the bastard knowledge given by the precarious, grudging, intermitting, humiliating hand of Charity. [130]  Take notice of the changed condition of things since the days of your forefathers.  The stout pole-axe and lusty arm availeth not now to the brave.  The battle of life is fought now with the tongue and the pen, and the rascal who has learning is more than a match for a hundred honest men without it.  Anybody can see that the little money you get is half wasted, because you cannot spend it to advantage.  The worst food comes to the poor, which their poverty makes them buy, and their necessity makes them eat.  Their stomachs are the waste-baskets of the State.  It is their lot to swallow all the adulterations in the market.  In these days you all set up a way as politicians.  You go in for the Charter.  You allow agitators to address you as the "sovereign people."  You want to be electors, and counted as persons of political consequence in the State, and be treated as only gentlemen are now.  Now, being a gentleman does not merely mean having money.  There are plenty of scoundrels who have that.  That, which makes the name of gentleman sweet is being a man of good faith and good honour.  A gentleman is one who is considerate to others; who never lies, nor fears, nor goes into debt, nor takes advantage of his neighbours; and the poorest man in his humble way can be all this.  If you take credit of a shopkeeper you cannot, while you owe him money, buy of another.  In most cases you keep him poor by not paying him.  The flesh and bones of your children are his property.  The very plumpness of your wife, if she has it, belongs to your butcher and your baker.  The pulsation of your own heart beats by charity.  The clothes on your backs, such as they are, are owned by some tailor.  He who lives in debt walks the streets a mere mendicant machine.  Thus all debt is self-imposed degradation, and he who incurs it lives in bondage and shabbiness all his days.  It is worth while trying Co-operation again to get out of this.


    Is there any avenue of competition through which you could creep?  If there be, get into it.  In another country you might have a chance; in England you have none.  Every bird in the air, every fish in the stream, every animal in the woods, every blade of grass in the fields, every inch of ground has an owner, and there is no help except that of self-help in concert, for any one.  If you say you failed through trying to he honest, nobody will believe you; so few run that risk.  It is not considered "good business."  Be sure of this.  Honesty has its liabilities.  There are those who tell you of the advantages of truth, but never of its dangers.  Truth is dignity, but also a peril and unless a man knows both sides of it, he will turn into the easy road of prevarication, lying, or silence, when he meets the danger he has not foreseen, and which had not been foretold to him.  When you have a little store, and have reached the point of getting pure provisions, you may find your purchasers will not like them, nor know them when they taste them.  Their taste will be required to be educated.  They have never eaten the pure food of gentlemen, and will not know the taste of it when you supply it to their lips.  The London mechanic does not know the taste of pure coffee.  What he takes to be coffee is a decoction of burnt corn and chicory. [131]  A friend [132] of mine, knowing this, thought it a pity workmen should not have pure coffee, and opened a coffeehouse in the Blackfriars Road, where numerous mechanics and engineers passed in the early morning to their work at the engine shops over the bridge.  They were glad to see an early house open so near their work.  They tried the coffee a morning or two and went away without showing any marks of satisfaction.  They talked about it in their workshops.  The opinion arrived at was, "they had never tasted such stuff as that sold at the new place."  But before taking decisive measures they took some shopmates with them to taste the suspicious beverage.  The unanimous conclusion they came to was that the new coffee-house proprietor intended to poison them, and if he had not adulterated his coffee a morning or two later they would have broken his windows or his head.  As it was, the evil repute he had acquired ruined his project; and a notice "To let," which shortly after appeared on the shutters, gave consolation to his ignorant indignant customers. [133]


   What of ambition or interest has industry in this grim, despairing, sloppy [134] hole of a town, where the parish doctor and the sexton (who understand each other) are the best known friends the workmen has.  Are there not some here who have lost mother or father, or wife, or child, whose presence made the sunshine of the household which now knows them no more?  Does not the very world seem deserted now that voice has gone out of it?  What would one not give, how far would one not go, to hear it again?  Death will not speak, however earnestly we pray to it; but we might get out of living industry some voice of joy that might gladden thousands of hearts to hear.  In all England industry has no tone that makes any human creature glad.  Listen with the mind's ear to the cry of every manufacturing town.  What is there pleasant in it? [135]  Co-operation might infuse a more hopeful tone into it.

    If you really, think that the principle of the thing is wrong, give it up, announce to your neighbours that you have come to a different opinion.  This you ought to do as candid men of right spirit, so that any adopting the opinion you have abandoned may understand they must hold it for reasons of their own, and cannot any longer plead such sanction or authority as your belief might lend to their proceedings.  If, however, you have convictions that this is a thing that can be put through, put it through.  Progress has its witches, as Macbeth had, but the bottom of their old cauldron is pretty well burnt out now.  There are still persons who will tell you that others have failed, again and again, and that you pretend to be the wise person, whom the world was waiting for to show it how the thing could be done. [136]  But every discoverer who found out what the world was looking for, and never met with; every scientific inventor who has persisted in improving the contrivance, which all who went before him failed to perfect, has been in the same case, and everybody has admitted at last that he was the one wise man the world was waiting for, and that he really knew what nobody else knew, and saw what none who went before him had seen.  If you were to take one of those microscopes which are now coming into use, and gather the stem of a rosebud and examine it, you would see a number of small insects, called aphis, travelling along it, in pursuit of some object interesting to its tiny mind.  The thing is so small that you can scarcely discern it with the naked eye, but in a microscope you see it put forth its little arms and legs, carefully feeling its way, now stretching out a foot, moving slowly along the side, touching carefully the little projections, moving the limb in the outer air, feeling for a resting-place, never leaving its position till it finds firm ground to stand upon, showing more prudence and patience before it has been alive an hour, than the mass of grown men and women show when they are fifty years of age.  The aphis begins to move when it is a minute old, and goes a long way in its one day of life.  It does not appear to wait for the applause of surrounding insects.  So far as I have observed, it does not ask what its neighbours think, nor pay much attention to what they say after it has once set out.  Its wise little mind seems devoted to seeing that in every step forward its foothold is secure.  If you have half the prudence and sagacity of these little creatures, who are so young that their lives have to be counted by minutes, and are so small you might carry a million of them in your waistcoat pocket, [137] you might make Co-operation a thing to be talked about in Rochdale.  Do not, like crabs, walk sideways to your graves, but do some direct, resolute thing before you die.

    I expressed, as I had done elsewhere, my conviction that the right men could do the right thing.  My final words were as positive as those used by a great master in the art of expressing wilfulness [138]:—

                              "This I cannot tell,
Whence I do know it ; but that I know it I know,
And by no casual or conjectural proof;
. . . . . but I know it
Even as I know I breathe, see, hear, feel, speak,
And am not dead,"

that I shall see Co-operation succeed here or elsewhere.

    The audience were glad it was over; something was said which implied the impression that a real fanatic had come to Rochdale at last.  Other advocates oft visited the town.  This address was one of that propagandist time, and will give the reader the arguments of the pre-Rochdale days. [139]  For twenty years after that time, whenever I arrived in Rochdale, some store leaders met me at the railway station, and when I asked, "Where I was to go to?" the answer was, "Thou must come and see store."  My portmanteau was taken there, my letters were addressed there, my correspondence was written there, and my host was commonly James Smithies, or Abram Greenwood.  My earliest recollection is of having chops and wool at Smithies', for he was a waste dealer, and the woolly odour was all over the house.

    The ascendancy of a new movement seems natural in large towns.  The larger the town the greater the need of stores, and the less is the chance of success.  In a large town there is diversity of life and occupation, greater facilities for diversion, greater difficulties of business publicity, greater mobility of employment among workmen, and less likelihood of a dozen or two men remaining long enough together, pursuing one object year after year, necessary to build up a co-operative store.  Glasgow is a town where a prophet would say Co-operation would answer.  The thrift, patience, and clanship of the Scottish race seem to supply all the conditions of economy and concert.  But though the Scotch are the last people to turn back when they once set out, their prudence leads them to wait and see who will go first.  They prefer joining a project when they see it succeeding.  There are men in Scotland ready to go out on forlorn hopes, but they are exceptions.

    It came to pass that the men of Rochdale took the field, and Co-operation recommenced with them.  Alderman Livesey aided the new movement by his stout-hearted influence.  William Smithies, whose laugh was like a festival, kept it merry in its struggling years.  William Cooper, with his Danish face, stood up for it.  He had what Canon Kingsley called the "Viking blood" in his veins, and pursued every adversary who appeared in public, with letters in the newspapers, and confronted him on platforms.  Abram Greenwood came to its aid with his quiet, purposing face, which the Spectator [140] said, "ought to be painted by Rembrandt," possible because that artist, distinguished for his strong contrasts, would present the white light of Co-operation emerging from the dark shades of competition.  And others, whose names are elsewhere recorded, [141] contributed in that town to the great revival.



"They gave me advice and counsel in store,
 Praised me and honoured me more and more;
.                .                .                .                .                .
 But, with all their honour and approbation,
 I should, long ago, have died of starvation;
 Had there not come an excellent man,
 Who bravely to help me along began.
 Yet I cannot embrace him—though other folks can
.                .                .                .                .                .
 For I myself am this excellent man!"

HEINE, translated by Leland.

THE men of Rochdale were they who first took the name of Equitable Pioneers.  Their object was to establish equity in industry—the idea which best explains the spirit of modern Co-operation.  Equity is a better term than Co-operation, as it implies an equitable share of work and profit, which the word Co-operation does not connote.  Among the Pioneers was an original, clear-headed, shrewd, plodding thinker, one Charles Howarth, who set himself to devise a plan by which the permanent interest of the members was secured.  It was that the profits made by sales should be divided among all members who made purchases, in proportion to the amount they spent, and that the shares of profits coming due to them should remain in the hands of the directors until it amounted to £5, they being registered as shareholders of that amount.  This sum they would not have to pay out of their pockets.  The store would thus save their shares for them, and they would thus become shareholders without it costing them anything; so that if all went wrong they lost nothing; and if they stuck like sensible men to the store, they might save in the same way other £5, which they could draw out as they pleased.  By this scheme the stores ultimately obtained £100 of capital from each twenty members.  For this capital they paid an interest of 5 per cent.  Of course, before any store could commence, some of the more enterprising promoters must subscribe capital to buy the first stock.  This capital in Rochdale was mostly raised by weekly subscriptions of two-pence.  In order that there might be as much profit as possible to divide among purchasers, 5 per cent. has become to be regarded as the Co-operative standard rate of interest.  The merit of this scheme was that it created capital among men who had none, and allured purchasers to the store by the prospect of a quarterly dividend of profits upon their outlay.  Of course those who had the largest families had the largest dealings, and it appeared as though the more they ate the more they saved—a fortunate illusion for the hungry little ones who abounded in Rochdale then.

    The device of dividing profits with purchasers was original with Mr. Howarth, although seventeen years in operation at no very great distance from Rochdale.  It is singular that it was not until twenty-six years after Mr, Howarth had devised his plan (1844), that any one was aware that it was in operation in 1827.  Mr. William Nuttall, in compiling a statistical table for the Reasoner in 1870, discovered that an unknown society, at Meltham Mills, near Huddersfield, had existed for forty-three years, having been commenced in 1827, and had divided profits on purchases from the beginning.  But it found neither imitators nor propagandists in England.

    Mr. Alexander Campbell also claimed to have recommended the same principle in an address which he drew up for the Co-operative Bakers of Glasgow, in 1822: that he fully explained it to the co-operators of Cambuslang, who adopted it in 1831; and that a pamphlet was circulated at the time containing what he said upon the subject.  Mr. Campbell further declared that in 1840 he lectured several times in Rochdale, and in 1843-4, when they were organising their society of Equitable Pioneers, they consulted him, and he advised them by letter to adopt the principle of dividing profits on purchases, and, at the same time, assisted in forming the London Co-operative Society on the same principle.  No one has ever produced the pamphlet referred to, or any copy of the rules of any Scotch society, containing the said plan, nor is any mention of it in London extant.  Yet it is not unlikely that Mr. Campbell had the idea before the days of Mr. Howarth.  It is more likely that the idea of dividing profits with the customer was separately originated.  Few persons preserve records of suggestions or rules which attracted small attention in their day.  All the Pioneers contemporary with him believed the plan originated with Howarth.  The records of the patent offices of all countries show that important inventions have been made again, by persons painfully startled to find that the idea which had cost them years of their lives to work out, had been perfected before they were born.  Coincidence of discovery in mechanics, in literature, and in every department of human knowledge, is an axiom among men of experience.  From 1822 to 1844 stores limped along and failed to attract growing custom, while dividends were paid only on capital.

    It was by taking the public into partnership that the new Co-operation came to grow. [142]  Few persons believed stores could be re-established.  Customers at the store were scarce and uncertain, it was so small a sum that was likely to arise to be given them, and for a long time it was so little that it proved little attraction.  The division of profits among customers, though felt to be a promising step, not being foreseen as a great fortune, was readily agreed to.  No one foresaw what a prodigious amount it would one day be.  Thirty years later the profits of the Rochdale Store amounted to £50,668, and the profits of the Halifax Store reached £19,820, and those of Leeds £34,510.  Had these profits existed in Mr. Howarth's time, and he had proposed to give such amazing sums to mere customers, he would have been deemed mad, and not half a dozen persons would have listened to him outside Bedlam.  When twenty members constituted a society, and they made with difficulty ten shillings a year of profit altogether, the proposal to divide it excited no suspicion.  A clear income of sixpence, as the result of twelve months' active and daily attention to business, excited no jealousy.  But had £50,000 been at the disposal of the committee, that would have seemed a large fortune for twelve directors, and no persuasive power on earth would have induced them to divide that among the customers.  It would have been said, "What right has the customer to the gains of our trade?  What does he do towards creating them?  He receives value for his money.  He gives no thought, he has no cares, he performs no duties, he takes no trouble, he incurs no risks.  If we lose he pays no loss.  Why should we enrich him by what we win?"  Nobody then could have answered these questions.  But when the proposal came in the insidious form of dividing scanty profits, with scarce customers, Mr. Howarth's scheme was adopted, and Co-operation rose from the grave in which short-sighted greed had buried it, and it began the mighty and stalwart career with which we are now conversant.  It really seems as though the best steps we take never would be taken, if we knew how wise and right they were.

    The time came when substantial profits were made—actually paid over the counter, tangible in the pocket, and certain of recurrence, with increase, at every subsequent quarter-day.  The fact was so unexpected that when it was divulged it had all the freshness and suddenness of a revelation to outsiders.  The effect of this patient, unforeseen success was diffused about—we might say, in apostolical language—"noised abroad."  There needed no advertisement to spread it.  When profits—a new name among workpeople—were found to be really made, and known to be really paid to members quarter by quarter, they were copiously heard of.  The animated face of the co-operator suggested that his projects were answering with him.  He appeared better fed, which was not likely to escape notice among hungry weavers.  He was better dressed than formerly, which gave him distinction among his shabby comrades in the mill.  The wife no longer had "to sell her petticoat," known to have been done in Rochdale, but had a new gown, and she was not likely to be silent about that; nor was it likely to remain much in concealment.  It became a walking and graceful advertisement of Co-operation in every part of the town.  Her neighbours were not slow to notice the change in attire, and their very gossip became a sort of propagandism; and other husbands received hints they might as well belong to the store.  The children had cleaner faces, and new pinafores or new jackets, and they propagated the source of their new comforts in their little way, and other little children communicated to their parents what they had seen.  Some old hen coops were furbished up and new pullets were observed in them—the cocks seemed to crow of Co-operation.  Here and there a pig, which was known to belong to a co-operator, was seen to be fattening, and seemed to squeal in favour of the store.  After a while a pianoforte was reported to have been heard in a co-operative cottage, on which it was said the daughters played co-operative airs, the like of which had never been heard in that quarter.  There were wild winds, but neither tall trees nor wild birds about Rochdale; but the weavers' songs were not unlike those of the dusky gondoliers of the South, when emancipation first came to them:—

"We pray de Lord he gib us sign
     Dat one day we be free;
 De north wind tell it to de pines,
     De wild duck to de sea.

 We tink it when the church bell rings,
     We dream it in de dream;
 De rice-bird mean it when he sings,
     De eagle when he screams." [143]

The objects of Nature vary, but the poetry of freedom is everywhere the same.  The store was talked about in the mills.  It was canvassed in the weaving shed.  The farm labourer heard of it in the fields.  The coal miner carried the news down the pit.  The blacksmith circulated the news at his forge.  It was the gossip of the barber's chair—the courage of beards being unknown then.  Chartists, reluctant to entertain any question but the "Six Points," took the store into consideration in their societies.  In the newspapers letters appeared on the new movement.  Preachers who found their pew rents increase were more reticent than in former days about the sin of Co-operation.  "Toad Lane" (where the store stood) was the subject of conversation in the public-house.  It was discussed in the temperance coffee-shop.  The carriers spread news of it in country places, and what was a few years before a matter of derision, became the curios, inquiring, and respectful talk of all those parts.  The landlord found his rent paid more regularly, and whispered the fact about.  The shopkeeper told his neighbour that customers who had been in his debt for years had paid up their accounts.  Members for the Borough became aware that some independent voters were springing up in connection with the store.  Politicians began to think there was something in it.  Wandering lecturers visiting the town found a better quality of auditors to address, and were invited to houses where tables were better spread than formerly, and were taken to see the store, as one of the new objects of interest in the town, with its news-room, where more London papers could be seen than in any coffee-house in London, and word was carried of what was being done in Rochdale to other towns.  News of it got into periodicals in London.  Professors and students of social philosophy from abroad came to visit it, and sent news of it home to their country.  And thus it spread far and wide that the shrewd men of Rochdale were doing a notable thing in the way of Co-operation.  It was all true, and honour will long be accorded them.  For it is they, in whatever rank, who act for the right when others are still, who decide when others doubt, who urge forward when others hang back, to whom the glory of great change belongs.
    Thus the Rochdale Co-operators found, like Heine, "that his best friend was himself."

The original Toad Lane store, Rochdale
The Doffers appear on the Opening Day.



"But every humour hath its adjunct pleasure,
     Wherein it finds a joy above the rest:
 But these particulars are not my measure,
     All these I better in one general best."


THE first we hear of Rochdale in co-operative literature is an announcement in the Co-operative Miscellany for July, 1830, which "rejoices to hear that through the medium of the Weekly Free Press a co-operative society has been formed in this place, and is going on well.  Three public meetings have been held to discuss the principles.  They have upwards of sixty members, and are anxious to supply flannels to the various co-operative societies.  We understand the prices are from £1 15s. a piece to £5, and that J. Greenhough, Wardleworth Brow, will give every information, if applied to."

    The Rochdale flannel weavers were always in trouble for want of work.  In June, 1830, they had a great meeting on Cronkey Shaw Moor, which is overlooked by the house once owned by Mr. Bright.  At that time there were as many as 7,000 men out of employ.  There was an immense concourse of men, women, and children on the moor, although a drizzling rain fell during the speeches—it always does rain in Rochdale when the flannel weavers are out.  One speaker, Mr. Hinds, declared "that wages had been so frequently reduced in Rochdale that a flannel weaver could not, by all his exertions and patience, obtain more than from 4s. to 6s, per week."  Mr. Renshaw quoted the opinion of "Mr. Robert Owen at Lanark, a gentleman whose travels gave him ample scope for observation, who had declared, at a recent public meeting in London, 'that the inhabitants of St. Domingo, who were black slaves, seemed to be in a condition greatly to be preferred when that of English operatives.'" [144]  Mr. Renshaw said that "when his hearers went home they would find an empty pantry mocking their hungry appetites, the house despoiled of its furniture, an anxious wife with a highway paper, or a King's taxes paper, in her hand, but no money to discharge such claim.  God help the poor man when misfortune overtook him!  The rich man in his misfortune could obtain some comfort, but the poor man had nothing to flee to.  Cureless despondency was the condition to which he was reduced."  It was this year that the first co-operative society was formed in Rochdale.  The meeting on Cronkey Shaw Moor was on behalf of the flannel weavers who were then out on strike.  The Rochdale men were distinguished among unionists of that time for vigorous behaviour.  It appears that during the disturbances in Rochdale, in the year 1831, the constables—"villainous constables," as the record I consult describes them—robbed their box.  One would think there was not much in it.  However, the men succeeded in bringing the constables to justice, and in convicting them of felony.

    It would appear that Rochdale habitually moved by twopences.  The United Trades Co-operative Journal of Manchester recorded that, notwithstanding the length of time the flannel weavers and spinners had been out, and the slender means of support they had, they had contributed at twopence per man the sum of £30, as their first deposit to the Protection Fund, and that one poor woman, a spinner, who could not raise the twopence agreed upon at their meeting, was so determined not to be behind others in her contributions to what she properly denominated "their own fund," that she actually sold her petticoat to pay her subscriptions.

    At the Birmingham Congress of 1832 the Rochdale Society sent a letter urging the utility of "discussing in Congress the establishment of a Co-operative Woollen Manufactory; as the Huddersfield cloth, Halifax and Bradford stuffs, Leicester and Loughborough stockings, and Rochdale flannels required in several respects similar machinery and processes of manufacture, they thought that societies in these towns might unite together and manufacture with advantages not obtainable by separate separate establishments."  At that early period there were co-operators in Rochdale giving their minds to federative projects.  Their delegate was Mr. William Harrison, and their secretary, Mr. T. Ladyman, 70, Cheetham Street, Rochdale.  Their credentials stated that "the society was first formed in October, 1830, and bore the name of the Rochdale Friendly Society.  Its members were fifty-two, the amount of its funds was £108.  It employed ten members and their families.  It manufactured flannel.  It had a library containing thirty-two volumes.  It had no school, and never discussed the principles of Labour Exchange , and had two other societies in the neighbourhood."  It was deemed a defect in sagacity not to have inquired into the uses of Labour Exchanges as a means of co-operative profit and propagandism.  Rochdale from the beginning had a creditable regard for books and education.  It also appears—and it is of interest to note it now—that "wholesale" combination was an early Rochdale idea.

    From 1830 to 1840 Rochdale went on doing something.  One thing recorded is that it converted the Rev. Joseph Marriott to social views—who wrote "Community: a Drama."  Another is that in 1838 a "Social Hall" was opened in Yorkshire Street.  These facts of Rochdale industrial operations, prior to 1844, when the germ store began, show that this co-operative idea "was in the air."  It could hardly be said to be anywhere else until it descended in Toad Lane, and that is where it first touched the earth, took root, and grew.

    Like curious and valuable animals which have oft been imported, but never bred from, like rare products of Nature that have frequently been grown without their cultivation becoming general—Co-operation had long existed in various forms; it is only since 1844 that it has been cultivated.  Farmers grew wheat before the days of Major Hallett, and practised thin sowing, and made selections of seed—in a way.  But it was not until that observing agriculturist traced the laws of growth, and demonstrated the principles of selection, that "pedigree wheat" was possible, and the growing powers of Great Britain capable of being tripled.  Similar has been the effect of the Pioneer discovery of participation in trade and industry.

    Of the "Famous Twenty-eight" old Pioneers, who founded the store by their humble subscriptions of twopence a week, James Smithies was its earliest secretary and counsellor.  In his later years he became one of the Town Councillors of the borough—the only one of the Twenty-eight who attained municipal distinction.  After a late committee meeting in days of faltering fortunes at the store or the corn mill, he would go out at midnight and call up any one known to have money and sympathy for the cause.  And when the disturbed sympathiser was awake and put his head out of the window to learn what was the matter, Smithies would call out, "I am come for thy brass, lad.  We mun have it."  "All right!" would be the welcome answer.  And in one case the bag was fetched with nearly £100 in, and the owner offered to drop it through the window.  "No; I'll call in the morning," Smithies replied, with his cheery voice, and then would go home contented that the evil day was averted.  In the presence of his vivacity no one could despond, confronted by his buoyant humour no one could be angry.  He laughed the store out of despair into prosperity.  William Howarth, the "sea lawyer" of Co-operation, is no more.  I spoke at the grave of William Cooper, and wrote the inscription for his tomb:—

In Memory of











    The following page of facts tells the progress and triumph of the Pioneers reduced to figures:—

Table of the operations of the Society from its commencement in 1844 to the end of 1876:—



Funds (£)

Business (£)

Profits (£)




































































































































































    These columns of figures are not dull, prosaic, merely statistical, as figures usually are.  Every figure glows with a light unknown to chemists, and which has never illumined any town until the Rochdale day.  Our forefathers never saw it.  They looked with longing and wistful eyes over the dark plains of industry, and no gleam of it appeared.  The light they looked for was not a pale, flickering, uncertain light, but one self-created, self-fed, self-sustained, self-growing, and daily growing, not a light of charity or paternal support, but an inextinguishable, independent light.  Every numeral in the table glitters with this new light.  Every column is a pillar of fire in the night of industry, guiding other wanderers than Israelites out of the wilderness of helplessness from their Egyptian bondage.

    The Toad Lane Store has expanded into nineteen branches with nineteen news-rooms.  Each branch is a far finer building than the original store.  The Toad Lane parent store has long been represented by a great Central Store, a commanding pile of buildings which it takes an hour to walk through, situated on the finest site in the town, and overlooks alike the Town Hall and Parish Church.  The Central Stores contain a vast library, which has a permanent librarian, Mr. Barnish.  The store spends hundreds of pounds in bringing out a new catalogue as the increase of books needs it.  Telescopes, field-glasses, microscopes innumerable, exist for the use of members.  There are many large towns where gentlemen have no such newsrooms, so many daily papers, weekly papers, magazines, reviews, maps, and costly books of reference, as the working class co-operators of Rochdale possess.  They sustain science classes.  They own property all over the borough.  They have estates covered with street; of houses built for co-operators.  They have established a large corn mill which was carried through dreary misadventures by the energy and courage of Mr. Abram Greenwood—misadventures trying every degree of patience and every form of industrial faith.  They built a huge spinning mill, and conducted it on profit-sharing principles three years, until outside shareholders perverted it into a joint-stock concern.  None of the old pioneers looked back on the Sodom of competition.  Had they done so they would have been like Lot's wife, saline on the pillar of history.  They set the great example of instituting and maintaining an Educational Fund out of their profits.  They sought to set up co-operative workshops—to employ their own members and support them on land, of which they should be the owners, and create a self-supporting community.



"Law is but morality shaped by Act of Parliament."—MR. BERNAL, Chairman of Committees, House of Commons.

THE device of Mr. Howarth had not carried Co-operation far, had it not been for friendly lawyers and Parliament.  The legal impediments to industrial economy were serious in 1844.  Because "men cannot be made wise by Act of Parliament" is no reason for not making Acts of Parliament wise.  "Law should be morality shaped by Act of Parliament."  None, however, knew better than Mr. Bernal, that if there was any morality in a Bill at first it often got "shaped" out of it before it became an Act.  Nevertheless there is a great deal of living morality in the world which would be very dead had not law given it protection.  A law once made is a chain or a finger-post—a barrier or a path.  It stops the way or it points the way.  If an obstacle it stands like a rock.  It comes to be venerated as a pillar of the constitution.  The indifferent think it as well as it is—the timid are discouraged by it—the busy are too occupied to give attention to it.  At last, some ardent, disinterested persons, denounced for their restlessness, persuade Parliament to remove it, and the nation passes forward. [145]

    The Legislature did open new roads of industrial advancement.  Working men can become sharers in the profits of a commercial undertaking without incurring unlimited liability, an advantage so great that the most sanguine despaired living to see its enactment.  This act was mainly owing to William Schofield, M.P. for Birmingham.

    In a commercial country like England, one would naturally expect that law would be in favour of trade; yet so slow was the recognition of industrial liberty that an Act was a long time in force, which enabled a society to sell its products to its own members, but not to others.  Thus the Leeds Corn Mill, as Mr. John Holmes related, naturally produced bran as well as flour, could sell its flour to its members, and its bran also, if its members wanted it.  But the members, not being rabbits did not want the bran; and at one time the Corn Mill Society had as much as £600 worth of bran accumulated in their storerooms which they were unable to sell to outside buyers.  Societies were prohibited holding more than one acre of land, and that not as house or farm land, but only for transacting the business of the society upon.  The premises of the Equitable Pioneers occupied land nearly to the extent allowed by the Act.  All thoughts of leasing or purchasing land whereon to grow potatoes, corn, or farm produce were prevented by this prohibitary clause.  Co-operative farming was difficult.  No society could invest money except in savings banks or National Debt funds.  No rich society could help a poor society by  a loan.  No member could save more than £100.  The Act prohibited funds being used for educational purposes, and every member was practically made responsible for all the debts of the society—enough to frighten any prudent man away.  Besides these impediments, there was no provision compelling any member to give up such property, books, or records that might have been entrusted to him by the society; so that any knave was endowed with the power, and secured in the means, of breaking up the society when a fit of larceny seized him.

    The Friendly Societies Act of 1846 contained what came to be known as the "Frugal Investment Clause," as it permitted the frugal investment of the savings of members for better enabling them to purchase food, firing, clothes, materials of their trade or calling, or to provide for the education of their children or kindred.  In 1850, Mr. Slaney, M.P., obtained a committee upon the savings and investments of the middle and working classes.  Important evidence was given by various persons, including Mr. J. S. Mill, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Bellenden Kerr, Mr. Ludlow, and Mr. Vansittart Neale.  Mr. Neale has stated that "Mr. Mill rendered a great and lasting service to co-operative effort by the distinction drawn between the conditions affecting all labour carried on by mankind from the nature of the earth and of man, and the mode in which human institutions may affect the distribution of the products of this labour—two matters commonly confused by political economists, who treat the results of human selfishness, intensified by competition, as if they were unalterable laws of the universe." [146]


    The Industrial and Provident Societies Act of 1852 (15 and 16 Vict., c. 31), introduced by Mr. Slaney, in consequence of the report of the Committee of 1850, authorised the formation of societies by the voluntary subscription of the members, for attaining any purpose (permitted by the laws in force in respect to Friendly Societies, or by that Act), "by carrying on in common any labours, trades, or handicrafts, except the working mines, minerals, or quarries, beyond the limits of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the business of banking."  It made all the provisions of the laws relating to Friendly Societies apply to every society constituted under it, except in so far as they were expressly varied by the Act, or any rule expressly authorised or certified by an endorsement on its rules, signed by the Registrar of Friendly Societies, not to be applicable to it.  In consequence, Industrial and Provident Societies, while allowed to carry on trade as general dealers, obtained all the advantages given to Friendly Societies, in regard to the vesting of their funds, without conveyance, in their trustees, protection against fraud by their officers; whence the Corn Mill Society of Rochdale dissolved itself in order to be enrolled under the new Act, that it might recover debts due to it.   In 1855, the position of Industrial and Provident Societies in this respect was slightly amended; but, unfortunately, in another respect it was altered for the worse by the Frugal Investment Clause, under which Friendly Societies were authorised, among other things, to provide for the Education of their children, being struck out. [147]  The Industrial and Provident Societies Act limited itself to authorising application of profits to "the payment of a dividend on Capital not exceeding 5 per cent, per annum [an effective preventive of speculation in the shares of societies], the repayment of loans, the increase of the capital of the society, division among the members or persons employed by the and such provident purposes as are authorised by the laws relating to Friendly Societies.  Thus, indirectly, the effect was that of preventing Industrial and Provident Societies from following the excellent example of Rochdale in regard to the application of their profits, to establish news-rooms, libraries, lectures, or other means of educating themselves.  It was an effect of which probably no one in Parliament thought; for, though the Industrial and Provident Societies Act was amended by the 19 and 20 Vict., c. 40, no notice is taken of this restriction.  The Act of 1862 authorised the application of profits for any purpose allowed by the Friendly Societies Acts, or otherwise permitted by law.  The formation of Educational Funds thus became allowable. [148]

    Dr. John Watts stated at the Social Science Congress, Manchester, 1866, that "in no case which has come under his observation, except in the original one at Rochdale, was there in the constitution of the society any educational provision, and personal inquiry had informed him that this is because the Registrar refuses to allow it.  The managers of one of the Manchester stores had no less than four months' correspondence on the subject, and the result of the refusal was the necessity for a quarterly vote for the reading-room, in order to avoid a quarterly quarrel, which, after all, is not always averted."  Rochdale entered their educational expenses with the expenses of management, and an indispensable and honest place they held there.  There are hundreds of stores which have never taken advantage of the new law to create an educational fund.  And new stores are often opened which have no such provision.  These are known as "Dark" stores.

    "It must not be forgotten," Mr. Neale has remarked, "how the law of England has affected the working classes, that the privileges given them for the first time in 1862 were also granted in the same year for the first time to the commercial classes.  A large part of the evidence before Mr, Slaney's committee is occupied by the question of the desirableness or mischief of granting limited liability to partners in trade by some method less costly than the one at that time in use—by an Act of Parliament, or a Charter from the Crown, which was shown to have cost the Metropolitan Dwellings Association over £1,000.  By the Companies Act of 1862 this was done in the interests of the trading classes, and in the same year the working classes obtained the full measure of legal rights then conferred upon their richer neighbours.

    The Act of 1862, by permitting a member to own £200 in the society, doubled the available capital for the extension of operations, and gave new life to societies which, like Halifax, had lain like Rip Van Winkle twenty years without growth or motion.  This single improvement in the law awakened it, put activity into it, and it became a great society.

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