The Rochdale Pioneers (3)
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ROCHDALE is a town which has been in its time equally distinguished for poverty and pluck.  The distress and discontent which existed there before the days of the Reform Bill of 1832 are, happily, no longer, even in the recollection of the present generation of inhabitants, who have ceased to be reminded of it in their daily personal experience.

    In the old hungry Corn Law days, from 1826 to 1830, things went ill with the working classes of Rochdale.  At public meetings of working people in the town statements were made of lowness of wages and domestic wretchedness, which would be deemed incredible now.  Delegates were sent to neighbouring towns to report upon their condition, and deplorable stories they told.  No one would imagine that such persona had the capacity of co-operation in them, or that it was in the power of any industrial device to do them substantial service.  The creditable thing is that Rochdale men, though in desperate circumstances, were not wanting in public spirit.  They had constables who were not pleasant-minded persons and were guilty of some offensive official irregularities, and though they had the power of retaliation on those of the workmen who objected to such proceedings, the weavers resolved to bring them to account, and out of their scanty means subscribed enough to "have the law" upon them, and succeeded.  The old parish records contain, no doubt, particulars of the affair.  Mr. Francis Place preserved the only published account of it I have seen.  The creditable incident is worth recalling.  Scores of local officials, magistrates included, have elsewhere "gone wrong" since that day, without being called to account, as was done by the unappeasable weavers of Rochdale.  Twenty years have now nearly elapsed since the first part of this history appeared.  The two dozen and four adventurous operatives who began the Store in Toad Lane, have come to be spoken of as the "famous twenty-eight."  Most of them are now gathered to their fathers, and the public will be willing to hear final details of them.

    A correspondent to whom I have been heretofore indebted for information says that "in a recent conversation with a member of the Rochdale Educational Committee, he was informed that the old shop in Toad Lane, in which the Pioneers commenced business, was known as 'The Pioneers' Store' for years before it was occupied by them, in consequence of being used as a storeroom for the Pioneer regiment, stationed in Rochdale, before the barracks were removed to Bury.  The place behind the shop is still known as Barracks' Yard, and there may be some truth in this.  If so, it may be that the Pioneers took their name from that circumstance, or it may be a more coincidence."

    My belief is that this was merely a coincidence.  In social and trade union literature before that date, there were publications bearing the name of the Pioneer, and pioneering was in the mind of the early Socialists; it was a common ambition amongst them to be going forward and doing something.  The fact, however, is worth recording, as it has never before been mentioned.

    In the minds of many outsiders, Chartists and the co-operators were so mixed together in the rise of co-operation in Rochdale, that only time and testimony can separate them, and satisfy every one to whom the credit of the movement was really owing.  There never was a doubt entertained among persons living on the spot, or acquainted with the facts, that the Socialists were the persons who first thought of starting co-operation, who counselled it, who originated it and organised it, kept it going, and carried it out.  The fact is, the Chartists were impediments in the way of it.  They were the most troublesome opponents the co-operators had to contend with.  The Chartists were opposed to co-operation.  They took little interest in it.  They treated as apostates those who did.  For a long time they did not understand it, and when they did they distrusted it.  But sixteen years after, when co-operation had succeeded and become a thing of pride and repute, they made attempts to prove they were the persons who commenced it.  Many years after cooperation acquired notice and power, their able and cultivated leader, Mr. Ernest Jones, opposed it in a public discussion at Padiham about 1851 with Mr. Lloyd Jones.  It has been the fate of other movements than that of co-operation to be strenuously opposed throughout all its struggling days, and then to be claimed by its greatest adversaries as their own discovery and as being the cause which they had advocated and befriended.  It is always a good sign when these pretensions are advanced by opponents, since it shows that the principle has triumphed, and its most strenuous adversaries are covetous of the honour of being associated with it.  But it is the business of history to discern to whom the credit of origination belongs, and give it to whom it is due.

    In 1861, the Chartist claim was put forward in the Rochdale Spectator with confident pertinacity by Ambrose Tomlinson.  A Chartist Society existed in Rochdale in 1843.  Mr. Tomlinson denied that the co-operative movement grew out of the flannel weavers' strike of 1843-4.  He said that it commenced with the Chartist Society, who met in Mill Street, the fact being the Mill Street Chartists opposed the movement in its infancy, and, because several of their members joined the Society formed under the name of the Equitable Pioneers, they were denounced by their Chartist brethren as "deserters."  In those days the doctrine was—"The Charter, the whole Charter, and nothing but the Charter."  These oft-repeated phrases still ring in the ears of those who mingled in working-class movements of those times.  To co-operators, to advocates of the Ten Hours Bill, to Corn Law repealers—three separate parties who then occupied public attention—the Chartists everywhere said—"If you will not help us to get what we want, we will prevent you getting anything."  And they did it as far as they were able.  The Chartists did not succeed in carrying their measure by that unfriendly policy, and did not deserve to succeed.  Each movement has a right to do the best for itself, but when it seeks to frustrate the success of those going in the same direction in order that it may win first, it merely helps the common enemy of all, and enables it to be said derisively—"See how these Reformers are fighting amongst themselves."

    Mr. Ambrose Tomlinson, an active Rochdale Chartist of those days, gives an account of what occurred among his comrades, in words nearly as follows:—"The co-operators, the few originators of the movement, who were all Chartists, became so enamoured of co-operation, that they nurtured it in one corner of Mill Street Chartist room.  The Chartist council held their meetings in the opposite corner of the same room; but on many successive occasions the Chartist council corner became very thin of attenders.  At this juncture those of the Chartists who had attended the council meetings reproached the Chartist co-operators who had resolved to attend the co-operative meetings, and neglect Chartist business.  The few sturdy co-operators took umbrage, and resolved to meet together at the Labour and Health beer-house, kept by Mr. Tweedale at that time, not one hundred yards from the Chartist room in Mill Street.  The use of that room at the Labour and Health was secured by Ann Tweedale, a female co-operator, who was sister to the landlord.  She afterwards became the wife of Benjamin Standring, inducing him to become a co-operator soon after their marriage.  The co-operators met there for only a very few weeks before they joined the Chartists at their place of meeting again.  They again became attached as friends, when the Chartists took the Socialists' room from the Socialists, at the time of the failure of the Harmony Hall scheme.  The co-operators went with the Chartists from Mill Street Chartist room to the room situate at the top of Yorkshire Street.  The co-operators remained with the Chartists until the September following.  During that time they were contriving plans for the future of co-operation, drawing up rules, making preparations for commencing; then they resolved to look out for more suitable premises for carrying on business, when they got possession of the building in Toad Lane, formerly known as Bethel School Room." [42]

    One is glad to hear again of the beer-house with the pretty name of "Labour and Health."  But let us hope that the attendance was not too enthusiastic there—because when that is the case "labour" sometimes loses its "health" in those quarters.  No doubt the Chartist opposition to the early Pioneers in Rochdale seems a small thing in 1877, now the Pioneers have grown to many thousands and the Chartists have become nearly extinct—but it was a very different thing in 1844 and long afterwards, when the Chartists were ten or twenty times as numerous as the Socialists.  Every earnest party in which principles are masters of its leaders, instead of leaders being masters of their principles, has its mad days when its advocates think their principles should take precedence of all others. Indeed, they sometimes contend that all other principles are injurious.  Sanity is known by seeing what your place is and working in it.

    The Socialist flannel weavers, after their unsuccessful strike, founded the Equitable Pioneers' Society, and commenced subscribing practically to create a fund with which to begin a small provision store.  At first they met where the weavers had done, in the Bethel School Room, Toad Lane.  Ultimately their meetings were removed to the Social Institution, top of Yorkshire Street, and the Equitable Pioneers' Society dates its establishment from this place.  Mr. John Holt, who had been the treasurer at Mill Street, became the treasurer of the Store Society, and continued to hold that office until shortly before his decease.  The rules of the Equitable Pioneers' Society were drawn up at the Social Institution, and the older heads among the Socialists were those who framed them and organised the Society.  Mr. Tomlinson (February, 1861) handed to the Editor of the Rochdale Spectator the book of the Society existing immediately before the Equitable Pioneers' Association was formed.  The names it contained are worth preserving for historical reference:—

"George Morton, Mount Pleasant; and then follow Charles Ratcliffe, Regent Street; Robert Whitehead, John Dawson, Richard Farmer, Richard Brierley, Thomas Kershaw, Mary Bromley, Mount Pleasant; Ann Tweedale, Mount Pleasant; Charles Holroyd, Lower Fold; Samuel Shore, Healey; John Cain, Richard Street; Benjamin Rudman, Shawclough; Abner Riley, Calder Brow; Abraham Birtwistle, Water Street; Fred. Greenwood, Moss; Miles Ashworth, Spotland Bridge; James Nutall, Bank Side; Samuel Ashworth, Spotland Bridge; John Holt, Shawclough."

    The next matter in the book is the list of parties who received the money from Mr. George Howe, watchmaker, Walk, when he refused to continue secretary.  The names are the same as those above.  The next account is that in which Mr. Alderman Livsey receives as treasurer of the co-operators various sums, amounting in the whole to £8 13s. 6d.  This money was received by Mr. Livsey on the 7th February, 1843.

    The capital with which the Pioneer Society first commenced business was, as everybody knows now, £28; and, by coincidence, the number of members which commenced the Society was also 28.

    In 1865, 21 years after the formation of the Store, the then survivors, 13 in number, were prevailed upon by Mr. Smithies to meet together and be photographed in a group, for the gratification of friends of the great Store. [43]  For the convenience of readers who may meet with the group, I give here the following description of the Pioneers in it, as told me by William Cooper, retaining his own language, not devoid of force and individuality:—

"A short sketch of the thirteen persons who were amongst the early members of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers' Society, now on a photograph taken at the latter end of the year 1865.

    "The photograph being placed before you, commence at the left hand with those sitting in the front.

Thirteen of the original Rochdale Pioneers,
photographed in 1865.

    "No. 1.  James Standring, at the time of the Society's formation a flannel weaver by trade; an Owenite or Social Reformer; was secretary in Rochdale for the Ten Hours Factory Act agitation.  When the flannel weavers turned out in 1843-4 for an advance of wages, and failed in accomplishing their object, he procured a copy of the Friendly Societies Acts, to see whether the remnant of the union amongst the weavers could take advantage of its provisions to form manufacturing or other associations for their self-employment, protection, and benefit.

   "No. 2.  John Bent, tailor by trade, belonged to the Socialist body, was one of the first auditors of the Society.

    "No. 3.  James Smithies, wool-sorter and book-keeper, a Social Reformer, was one of the first directors.  Has at various times held office as president, secretary, trustee, and director in the Society.  Has always laboured to promote the spread of co-operation, and to preserve in it the just and fraternal spirit.

William Cooper, Charles Howarth and John Smithies

    "No. 4.  Charles Howarth, a warper in a cotton mill by trade, belonged to the Socialist body.  Was one of the first trustees of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers' Society.  He mostly drew up the rules by which the Society was to be governed, and proposed that the rule or principle of dividing profits on purchases in proportion to each member's trade, should be adopted.  He has at sundry periods held office on the committee as secretary.  During the Ten Hours Bill agitation he was one of the delegates who went to London to confer with members of Parliament and watch the Bill while before the House of Commons.  Being a mill worker, he was in close contact with the employers, some of whom had no liking for legislation as between them and their employees.  On one occasion he was called into the office by his employers, and they made a proposal something in this way:—He must remain in the office, and they would send for the hands one by one out of the mill, and put the question to them whether they wanted the Ten Hours Bill, with a reduction in wages corresponding with the shorter time.  By this means they said it could be ascertained whether a majority of their workpeople were in favour or against the Ten Flours Factory Act.  Charles Howarth agreed so to do, providing they would consent first for him to have a meeting with the hands in one of the rooms of the mill, to explain and address them on the subject.  The employers did not assent to this, so there was no meeting and no calling of the workpeople into the office.

    "No. 5.  David Brooks, a block printer by trade; a Chartist in politics.  Was the first appointed purchaser of goods for the Society.  He was an honest enthusiast, who spared neither time, labour, nor means to promote the success of the Society.

    "No. 6.  Benjamin Rudman, a flannel weaver by trade; a Chartist in politics.  A man of few words, but a steady supporter of the society.

    "No. 7.  John Scrowcroft, hawker by trade; nothing in politics; a Swedenborgian in religion.  In the early days of the Society members often came to the Store and had conversations.  Politics, religion, or other subjects, were at times talked over, and occasionally there would be a night set apart—not a business meeting of the Society—by those members who choose to attend, to debate on a stated question.  Of course, religion was sometimes the topic for the evening.  Some of the members who were religious thought it a sin to debate their faith, and they proposed to prohibit such matters being open to criticism; but John Scrowcroft was thoroughly sincere in his religion, and said it was as much a proper subject for debate as any other question.  Indeed, he was certain his was the true faith, and the more religion was examined and discussed the greater number would come to believe it.  The motion to 'muzzle did not get itself carried.'

    "Commencing at the left with those standing in back:—

    "No. 8.  James Manock, flannel weaver by trade; Chartist in politics; has served on the committee at various times as trustee, director.

    "No. 9.  John Collier, engineer by trade; a Socialist.  Has been a committee-man of the Society several times.  He speaks in the broad Lancashire style, and no wonder, as he is a great-grandson of the famous John Collier ('Tim Bobbin'), of Milnrow, near Rochdale, who wrote books in verse and prose in the years 1744 and 1750 in Lancashire dialect, full of wit and droll humour, in which the 'Witch' and the 'Parson' come in for a fair share of satire.  John Collier ('Tim Bobbin') was buried in Rochdale Old Churchyard, 1786, with the following epitaph on his gravestone, said to have been composed by himself about ten minutes before he died:—

"Here lies John, and with him Mary,
 Cheek by jowl and never vary;
 No wonder that they so agree,
 John wants no punch, and Moll no tea."' [44]

    "No. 10. Samuel Ashworth, flannel weaver by trade; Chartist in politics.  Was appointed the first salesman in the Store.

    "No. 11.  William Cooper, flannel weaver by trade; a member of the Socialist body.  Was appointed the first cashier in the Store.

    "No. 12.  James Tweedale, a clogger by trade; a Socialist. Was one of the first directors in the Society.

    "No. 13.  Joseph Smith, woolsorter by trade; a Social Reformer. Was appointed one of the first auditors of the Society."

    Mr Cooper on another occasion, with that sense of justice always a pleasant feature in him, desired me to remark that the photograph does not give all the persons then living in Rochdale who were among the early members of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers' Society.  Partly by oversight and partly by misunderstanding three are left out:—

    "Miles Ashworth, flannel weaver by trade; Chartist in politics.  Was the first president of the Society."

    "James Maden, flannel weaver by trade, teetotaler; nothing in particular in politics or religion."

    "John Kershaw, warehouseman by trade; Swedenborgian and half Chartist."

    Mr. James Smithies, no less considerate and conservative of the repute of co-operative workers, sent me at my request the following notice of David Brooks, No. 5 of the series explained by Mr. Cooper:—

    "Mr. David Brooks, a block printer by trade, whose name has never been mentioned in connection with the Rochdale Co-operative Society in its earliest stages of existence, rendered services of no mean order.  He was the first purchaser appointed by the Society, an office which required much care and ability, besides being the butt at which the scorn and contempt of the shopkeepers was directed.  He never flinched from the post assigned to him, although the foreman of the works at which he was employed was a shopkeeper; yet he still served the Store with a fidelity rarely, if ever, surpassed by a true believer in the emancipation of the working classes by their own exertions.  He frequently left his own employment, at which he could then earn 7s. to 8s. per day, to work for love of the cause, until the Society could afford to pay him something like 3d. per hour for his labour.  For four to five years he was superintendent and purchaser.  Although, like many a flower, 'born to blush unseen,' his services have never been acknowledged; or rather say, until the present panic, which almost annihilated the block printing business, brought the old boy so low in his finances that a notice was given that an application would be brought before the quarterly meeting to make him a present of ten pounds, to assist him to stave off his enemy, poverty; but a generous committee did better, they found him employment at one of the Branch Stores, where he was numbered among the servants of the Society, contented to serve where he once commanded."

    Mr. Smithies does not mention that it was he who made the honourable motion which brought acknowledgment and succour to Mr. Brooks in the day of his decay of means and power.

    It would be well were Mr. Walter Morrison's suggestion acted on, and the old Toad Lane Store purchased by the Pioneers, and held in its old Store state, as a memorial of the early days of their career, and used as a news-room: and portraits, so far as can now be done, painted of the old Pioneers, and preserved in the hall of the old Toad Lane Store.  This would be a graceful memorial, quite in the power of the great Society to preserve, and it would have infinite interest a century hence to all visitors from afar and students of the science of co-operative economy.  From the public spirit of the Pioneers, it may come to pass, as it is in the power of the Store, to remain, if it chooses, the Pioneer Store of the great movement.  Let us hope that the wealthy and historic Society which has grown out of Toad Lane will endeavour to possess and preserve in its original state the humble building in which the organisation of Co-operation was commenced.  One of the Oldham Societies has a "conversation room;" the lower part of the Toad Lane building might serve that purpose, where questions might be continually debated, and the business meeting of the Society elsewhere would be greatly facilitated by the members being personally informed of the questions to be decided.  Other parts of the building might contain the reference library, which business requires to be separate from the great library at the central stores.

    The following are the names of the original Twenty-Eight:—

James Smithies.

John Scrowcroft.

Charles Howarth.

John Hill.

William Cooper.

John Holt.

David Brooks.

James Standring.

John Collier.

James Manock.

Samuel Ashworth.

Joseph Smith.

Miles Ashworth.

William Taylor.

William Mallalieu.

Robert Taylor.

George Healey.

Benjamin Rudmam.

James Daly.

James Wilkinson.

James Tweedale.

John Garside.

Samuel Tweedale.

John Bent.

John Kershaw.

Ann Tweedale.

James Maden.

James Bamford.

    No complete list has been given before of the "original Twentyeight."  One list wanted four names—they are given above.  Mr. George Adcroft, president of the Store, in 1847, three years after its formation, has gone with me over the names of all the early members, and has decided that James Wilkinson, shoemaker, was one; John Garside, cabinetmaker, was another; George Healey, hatter, was the third; and Samuel Tweedale was the fourth, belonging to the "Twenty-eight."  There were two Tweedales among them, James and Samuel.  James was a clogger, and lived at the top of Wardleworth Brow, and kept a cloggers shop there.  Samuel
Tweedale was a weaver at King's the quaker, Oldham Road.  Samuel gave the first little lecture they had in the Toad Lane Store.  It was on "Morals in their relations to every day life."  It was on a Sunday night.  He was considered the "talking man" of the Store.  He afterwards went to Australia.  Among the "Twenty-eight" there were eight Jameses and seven Johns.



WHEN the Rochdale Society began, and for many years subsequent, such associations were not recognised by law.  The members had no defined rights, and were under unlimited responsibility: yet they were incompetent to deal with outsiders, or even with themselves.  Indeed, the cash box might disappear with impunity.  The Society could not hold land above a small quantity; members could only hold a very limited sum in the funds even after the law did begin to befriend them: nor could they devote their savings to self education.  Indeed, it would take pages to explain all the legal disabilities then existing.  By whose generous exertions all this came to be altered is related elsewhere. [45]

    Nobody understood better or cared more for the legal position of co-operation than the Rochdale Pioneers.  The townsmen who had Mr. Thos. Livsey for an alderman, Mr. Cobden for a member, and Mr. Bright for a neighbour, ought to be in advance of other towns, and they were.  The Pioneers, assisted by eminent friends of social reform in London, Mr. E. V. Neale, Mr. Thos. Hughes, Mr. F. J. Furnivall, and Mr. J. M. Ludlow, procured the necessary amendment of the law; and when it was done, they had the grace to distinguish who had served them and to place on record their thanks to each.  On Christmas Day, 1862, an annual conference of 100 delegates from the co-operative societies of Lancashire and the neighbouring counties was held in Oldham.  Seventy-five societies were represented.  Mr. Abraham Greenwood, of Rochdale, presided.  Mr. William Cooper of Rochdale, secretary of the conference committee, stated that when the previous conference met at Rochdale, on the 25th of December, 1861, the Hon. Robert A. Slaney, M.P., who had, up to that time, had the charge of their Bill in the House of Commons, was on the Continent, owing to failing health.  The committee (on the approval of Mr. Slaney and the advice of Mr. Bright, who accompanied a deputation for that purpose) solicited the Government to bring in the Bill.  They declined to bring it in as a Government measure, but intimated that they should not oppose it if it was brought in by a private member.  Mr. Bright then recommended the committee to solicit Mr. Estcourt to introduce the Bill to Consolidate and Amend the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts.  He cordially took charge of the Bill in the Commons, and the Hon. Robert A. Slaney, M. P. (who, we regret to say, soon after died), arrived just in time to second the Bill in its first reading.  The committee sent three separate deputations to London, at various stages of the Bill while before Parliament, to explain it and interest Members in its favour.  Besides these special deputations, their tried friend, Mr. E. V. Neale, living in the neighbourhood of London, was at call to act on behalf of the committee on other needful occasions.  The Rev. W. N. Molesworth generously undertook to use what influence he had with Members of Parliament, on their behalf.  During this time there was much written correspondence going on between those conducting the Bill through Parliament and the committee.

    Mr. Edward Hooson, of Manchester, moved—

    "That this Co-operative Conference presents its grateful acknowledgments to John Bright, Esq., M.P., for the valuable advice he tendered to the promoters of the 'Bill for the Amendment of the Industrial Provident Societies Acts;' for the great service of his personal assistance at every stage of the Bill; for arranging the interviews of the deputation with the Board of Trade, and for his indispensable offices in soliciting Mr. J. S. Estcourt to take charge of the Bill in the House of Commons—services not to be lightly estimated or the less scrupulously and respectfully acknowledged because they are such as the working class, bent upon self-improvement, can ever command from Mr. Bright."

    Mr. Bright's subsequent acknowledgment of the vote was in the following terms, in a letter addressed to Mr. William Cooper, Oldham Road, Rochdale:—

"Rochdale, January 19, 1863.

"Dear Sir,—I have to thank you and the Conference of Delegates for their resolution.  It sets forth far greater services than I was able, but not more than I was wishful, to render you.  I hope the Bill will do much good, which will be a satisfaction to all those who supported it."

    Mr. Greenwood, the chairman, moved—

    "That this Conference convey to the Rt. Hon. Sotheron Estcourt, M.P., the respectful thanks of all friends of Co-operation for the courtesy and liberality with which he undertook the charge of their 'Bill for the Amendment of the Industrial Societies Acts;' giving to it the advantages of his parliamentary position, which ensured it successfully passing the ordeal of the House of Commons."

Mr. Estcourt, who was then in Italy, replied in a letter to Mr. Abram Greenwood as follows:—

"Florence, 16th February, 1863.

    "Sir,—I have just received the complimentary resolution passed at the delegates' meeting of the Co-operative Societies, held at Oldham on the 25th of December, in acknowledgment of the part which I took last session in regard to the 'Bill for the Amendment of the Industrial Societies Acts.'

    "I request you to convey to the delegates the satisfaction which I feel in receiving this mark of their approval; and to assure them that it was a pleasure to me to undertake the work.

    "I cannot forbear reminding you that in the preparation of the Bill and in carrying it through the House of Commons I received great assistance from the President of the Board of Trade and the Solicitor General; that the able lawyer employed by the Government in preparing their measures, was allowed to revise my scheme; and that Lord Portman took charge of the Bill in the House of Lords and greatly conduced to its success by his judicious management.  I am, air, your obedient servant,


Mr. Charles Howarth, the earliest organising co-operator of Rochdale, moved—

    "That the chairman of this Conference be instructed to convey to Lord Portman, on the part of the co-operative representatives present, their sincere acknowledgments of the great service he has rendered to the industrial interests of the English workman by his kindness in undertaking the labour and responsibility of conducting the 'Bill for the Amendment of the Industrial Societies Acts' through the House of Lords, and to assure his lordship that the co-operators of England will know how to appreciate the consideration shown to the rights of labour by the passing of this measure."

    Lord Portman's answer was made in the following terms to Mr. Cooper:—

"Bryanston, Blandford, Jan. 24, 1863.

"Sir,—I have the greatest confidence in the Co-operative industrial and friendly societies, and have laboured to aid them ever since I have been in Parliament, now 40 years; so I am not likely to fail in my exertions while I have strength to be useful.  Your obedient servant,


    Mr. Councillor Smithies, of Rochdale, moved—

"That this Conference would ill discharge its duty if it separated without expressing its high sense of the obligations the co-operators of England are under to Edward Vansittart Neale, Esq., for the munificent interest which he has ever taken in their welfare.  Especially this Conference desires to record its heartiest thanks for his legal and professional services in drawing up this 'Bill for the Amendment of the Industrial Societies Acts'—services rendered with promptness and without stint; for advice, assistance, and influence, watchfully and unintermittently given through every stage of the Bill, for which the members of every co-operative society in the kingdom owe Mr. Neale personal thanks."

    Mr. Neale's answer was of a nature to add to the obligations cooperators were under to him. It was expressed in the following letter:

"West Wickham.

"Dear Sir,—I trust that the Bill which I have been instrumental in obtaining for you will inaugurate an era of genuine co-operative effort among the working men of England, whence I am certain that an incalculable amount of good of every sort will arise.  But we must be patient and persevering.  The great thing to impress upon the minds of the workers is the importance of seeking to raise the position of their class, instead of limiting their efforts to raising their own position as individuals.  This lies at the bottom of the dispute about giving workers, as such, a share in profits.  A man who has saved up a little capital may say, 'I shall get more if I take all the profits to myself.'  But will his children get more?  Is it not far more important to him, as a working man, to bring about a state of things whereby his children, or other relatives, will share in the profits of capital, whatever their occupation may be, rather than to get a few more shillings or pounds a year himself; while he leaves the present state of things unchanged for every person connected with him who has not saved up capital, or has not been fortunate enough to place it advantageously?  Very sincerely yours,

"E. V. NEALE."

    Mr. James Dyson, of the Working Tailors' Association, moved the following resolution, which was seconded by Mr. Edwards, of Manchester, and carried:—

    "That this Conference, composed of the representatives of Co-operative Societies, desires to express its profound sympathy with the family of the late Hon. Robert A. Slaney, M.P., in their bereavement; and further desires to convey to them its high sense of, and cordial thanks for his many and valuable labours in the Commons House of Parliament to promote the passing of laws which have given permanence and security to these societies, thus enabling the people of Great Britain to organise for the improvement of their moral, social, physical, and pecuniary condition, and for which the industrial classes will ever hold his memory in grateful and sacred remembrance."

    This resolution was replied to by Captain Kenyon Slaney, son-in-law of the late member for Shrewsbury.

"Walford Hall, Shrewsbury.

   "I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 13th January, enclosing a copy of a resolution passed at a conference of delegates from co-operative industrial societies, held at Oldham, on 25th December, expressing in most kindly terms their warm appreciation of the services rendered to their societies by the late Mr. Slaney, M.P. for Shrewsbury, and tendering their sympathy and condolence to his family under their bereavement.

    "Such a record of Mr. Slaney's services, and of the estimation in which such services were held, is most gratifying to those to whom your communication is addressed.  They know full well the importance Mr. Slaney ever attached to co-operative societies, and the zeal with which he applied himself, in Parliament and out of Parliament, to promote the success of such institutions, and in all ways to advance the interests and improve the condition of the industrial classes.  But it is rarely that such deeds obtain a grateful recognition like that which it is now my duty to acknowledge.  I am desired to convey to the delegates of the co-operative societies, whom you so ably represent, the warm and hearty thanks of every member of Mr. Slaney's family, for the good feeling which has prompted the resolution; for the generous tribute of gratitude and regard which has thereby been offered to his memory; and for the sympathy so kindly expressed for those who mourn his loss."

    In passing these resolutions of thanks, the co-operative delegates spent gratefully and honourably their Christmas Day, 1863.  The North of England Wholesale Agency mentioned in another chapter was founded the same day at the same meeting.

    Oldham at that time was not the most encouraging place in the world to visit on a Christmas Day, and it would be late in the evening before many of the delegates would return by rail home.  When all England, that can get it, devotes itself to roast turkey, festivity, and plum pudding, it is to the credit of these co-operators that they should have given the whole day to railway journeys and prosaic delegate business.  Rochdale would be sure to do its share of this work, as anyone can testify who has had personal intercourse with the Pioneers.  There has been on their part a consciousness of working for society as well as for Rochdale—they desired to show what could be done—that others might be incited to do the same.  They cared for others, and this is why so many care for them.  They wished to raise the class to which they belonged.  They saw that the elevation of the working men as a class was the best security for the individual advancement of its members, and it is this sentiment, more than any success, which has given to Rochdale Co-operators an honoured name.

    The leading co-operators of the Society took the trouble to get the resolutions of thanks recited, as well expressed as they could.  I suppose they knew that most persons carry a stock of hate on hand, and that censure is always ready made.  But praise is a very different thing.  It only proceeds from generosity or gratitude, and those are deliberate sentiments.  A man may rage without art, but he cannot applaud sensibly without it.  This is why the quality of a man's mind is more easily seen in his praise than in his censure.  Defamation shows his feeling, praise his understanding; and if he wishes to give an idea of his strong sense of a service rendered him, he can best do it by showing that he accurately estimates it, and this is the only praise anyone not vain, cares to receive, or which is an actual tribute to him.  The Pioneers put themselves to some cost to get their resolutions into terms which they liked.  They paid me 10s. to draft resolutions which should include the individual services and characteristics of each person, so that each vote should be different, and founded on personal knowledge.

    Sixteen years ago, the Pioneers made a graceful acknowledgment to the present Vicar of Spotland (who was then incumbent of that church), for kindly services to them, and which services, it may now be said, have increased with the years which have since elapsed.  One day they carried to Mr. Molesworth a beautiful bound copy of the "English Hexapla," which bore the following inscription:—

    "Presented to the Rev. W. N. Molesworth (incumbent of Spotland), by the Educational Committee of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers' Co-operative Society, as a testimonial in recognition of his valuable and disinterested services on behalf of the above Society and of Co-operation generally.

    "December 20th, 1861.                                   SAMUEL NEWTON, Secretary."

    The Rev. Mr. Molesworth took a personal interest in the Society almost from the commencement, and visited Mr. William Cooper, and talked to him about it.  It occurred to Mr. Molesworth that he would like to be a member of it in order that he might watch its progress more closely; but he could not overlook that if he joined it, and anything went wrong with it, he would, perhaps, be regarded as morally responsible in respect to it.  A person of position belonging to a society, although he had no connection with its management, would be thought to lend a sort of guarantee of its financial and legal soundness, although all he might have in his mind would be to assist a useful society calculated to promote the social improvement of working people.  Besides, if a society had no legal recognition or limited liability, a person of means might be made responsible in case of losses, for which members without means could not practically be made liable.  More from regard to others than himself, it is within my knowledge that Mr. Molesworth asked Mr. Cooper "whether the liability was limited."  Mr. Cooper said "it was," but he subsequently found he was mistaken.  Mr. Molesworth then considerately pointed out to him what an objectionable thing it was that the members of the Society should each of them be liable to the full extent of his means if anything went wrong.  Mr. Cooper becoming aware of the seriousness of this state of affairs, asked Mr. Molesworth, and one or two others of the leading men of the Society, to meet at his office and consider the matter.  Mr. Molesworth complied with the request, and brought with him several suggestions, which were adopted by the meeting nearly, if not entirely, in the form in which he submitted them.  They were sent to Mr. Vansittart Neale, who returned them and recommended them for adoption, and in that shape they were soon after published.



IT is no mean part of the art of progress to know how to treat outsiders—that is supposing you have a good cause, clear principles, and earnest advocates.  Therefore let us look with curiosity and intelligence on outsiders.  If conversion is reasonably treated, they will be insiders one day.  Here I deal with querulous outsiders—the discontented who are not ignorant—the critics who mean mischief, and know it.  They swarmed about the Rochdale Society for years.  Sometimes the shopkeeper is made an angry adversary by being needlessly alarmed.  A co-operative speaker will say, "Look at the great profits made at the chief stores—£20,000, £30,000, or £40,000 a year.  All this is rescued from the shopkeepers."  Nothing of the kind.  It is by buying wholesale by combination of capital; it is by purchasers buying largely at the stores by combination; it is by economy in distribution; it is by fewer shops, fewer servants, by avoiding advertisements and costly display, that the chief profits are made.  The co-operator gains by avoiding the multiplied shops, the high rents, the heavy taxes, the useless servants, the cost of advertisements, glarish lights, and loss on unsold goods and bad debts.  The co-operator grows rich by picking up what the shopkeeper drops, before he touches the tradesman's actual profits.

    Co-operators are merely miners in the gold fields of commerce, who find what the shopkeeper has overlooked.  Many a shopkeeper is made to grieve by the idea of the loss of profits he never had and never would have had, had co-operators never been born.  The co-operator mainly gains by a superior mode of business and the natural economy of concert.

    The Rochdale Co-operators publish an almanack which may be taken as their annual manifesto.  It records their progress and current opinions.  It is compiled by various hands, and now and then an article appears on the sheet which shows that the new writer is a recent convert who fails to comprehend the traditions of this great Society.  In an almanack now and then there has been an attack on shopkeepers, which a sagacious co-operator avoids.  For instance, in the year 1860 almanack there was a denial of the initiative principle which makes co-operation a wholesome power.  Here is the questionable passage:—

"The present co-operative movement does not seek to level the various social inequalities which exists in society as regards wealth, excepting so far as enabling the labouring man to subscribe a portion of the capital necessary: first, for the purchase of articles of consumption from those, or as near to those as possible, who produce them, so as to appropriate to himself the profits which now flow into the pockets of the retail dealers; and next by enabling him also to assist in the contribution of such capital as is necessary for the carrying on of his own industrial occupation: by this means giving him a chance of participating in the profits of his own labour, and removing it farther out of the reach of men with a little capital to realise princely fortunes out of the energy and industry of the people, while the people themselves are barely, at the best, fed and clothed for the time.  In a word, the present co-operative movement does not seek to enforce, or carry out, any particular doctrines of any particular individual.  This acknowledgment, on the part of the co-operators of the present day, ought to set at rest the hitherto generally believed assertion that co-operation is only the Utopian idea of such enthusiasts as St. Simon, Robert Owen, Louis Blanc, and others, and that it is on that account impracticable."

    Here is a needless tribute to public incompetence. This disavowal of all the antecedents of co-operation might have answered some
purpose in the struggling days of the movement. In the day of its
triumph it was gratuitous. Had it not been for St. Simon, Robert Owen, and Louis Blanc, and others, co-operation might not have
lifted up its head for centuries. Save for the genius of St. Simon, the princely sacrifices of Owen, the brave risks of its eloquent advocates, like Louis Blanc, hundreds of thousands of workmen who have now competence, would have died the death of a blind proletaire, grateful for the permission to toil, breed, suffer, and perish. [46]

    This language was calculated to give the querulous outsider good heart, who would renew his attempt to damage an adversary who was defaming himself.  There were, however, it must be owned, some few cantankerous shopkeepers in Rochdale in the early days of the Store.  One instance, long forgotten, belonging to the pre-store days, deserves to be told.  When the flannel weavers were out on strike in 1844, they were no doubt bad customers to the shopkeepers.  It is very likely the shopkeepers had no reason to admire them.  No doubt their necessities developed in them a strong desire for credit, attended by feeble capacity of payment, and when the men added to their sills of impecuniosity, the actual solicitation of assistance to sustain them on strike, a shopkeeper in Yorkshire Street, in the town, of the outlandish name of Pozzi, startled the weavers.  He, like Mrs. Caudle, gave them "a bit of his mind."  He told them they were "vagabonds, and should go to work."  They were poor, but not idle men.  They were starving, but they were starving on principle.  They had a spirit above vagabondage, and they determined, as they said, "to punish the shopkeepers who insulted them."  Thus resentment, as well as social philosophy, had to do in promoting the Store.  This was thoroughly English.  Seldom does a reform in this country originate because it is reasonable.  It is an outrage or an insult which generally sets the reforming conviction in a blaze.  Many an early co-operative weaver, who found difficulties causing the fire of principle to grow low within him, was blown into flame again by the resentful recollection of "that Pozzi."  After seventeen years, as the Store Almanack of 1860 shows, his enraging memory was fresh in the co-operative mind.  Naturally the weavers on strike were under the impression that, as their wages were principally spent at the shops, it was the interest of the shopkeepers to aid them in increasing their wages.  They, however, obtained but "slender assistance."  Many shopkeepers had no means of aiding largely, and more had no sympathy with them, and not a few were poor themselves by reason of the credit given by them to the weavers.

    But if co-operators and trade unionists can be inconsiderate, shopkeepers can be fools when they give their minds to it, and many Rochdale tradesmen have shown desire and ability to distinguish themselves in this way.  In 1859, two years after the issue of the first part of this history, and when they well know that co-operation—like John Brown's soul—"was marching on," they took the field against Richard Cobden because he was known to be friendly to co-operative workmen.  At a subsequent election, the shopkeepers supported Mr. Baliol Brett, a Tory lawyer, who had never done anything and was unknown for any human service to the people.  The shopkeepers of Rochdale—not all of them, but a pretty substantial crowd of them—sought to give the seat of Richard Cobden to an adventuring Conservative barrister.  So far as this was done not from political coincidence of opinion, but with a view to trade interest, it was not creditable.

    To be without honest principle in commerce, is to be a thief—that is what it is called in criminal courts.  To be without honest conviction and clear knowledge in public affairs and prefer your private interest or ambition to the public good—that is to be a thief in politics.  Neither friendliness to co-operation nor opposition to it is a reason for voting for any candidate.  His general fitness to serve the country is the only ground for preferring a member, as nations go in their daily and ordinary march.

    In 1859, the shopkeepers of Rochdale started a Tory gentleman named Ramsay as the Anti-Store Candidate.  He was selected on the respectable principle of local politics, namely, that he had never done anything.  He was the author of no public reform; he had never laboured for any popular and unfriended interest, and therefore was to be electorally distinguished for his inability.  This is the way the tradesmen put him forward.  I quote from one of their bills, taken from the walls and preserved for me.  It runs thus:—


    "The shopkeepers of Rochdale will do well to 'look before they leap' in the approaching struggle.  They will do well to ask this important question, 'Who are the men who are thus busying themselves in adopting means to secure the election of Richard Cobden?'

    "Are the shopkeepers aware that the chief supporters of the Bright-and-Cobdenite faction are also the leading members of the Co-operative Stores?

    "Is it not notorious that George Ashford (and family connections), Jacob Bright, John Petrie, Pagan (and their family connections), Livsey, Kemp and Kelsall (and their family connections), who are in the Radical front ranks, are all part and parcel of these Stores—are aiders and abetters of this iniquitous system?

    "Will the shopkeepers of Rochdale never take a lesson from the past?  Will they never be aroused to the real state of their affairs?  Will they still go on aiding the men who are fostering the system which is destined at no distant period to snatch their daily bread from their very jaws?

    "If the shopkeepers of Rochdale are fully aware of all these facts will they, I ask, give the vital stab to their future prospects by deliberately voting for the Bright-and-Cobden faction?

    "There is but one sane course open to them, and that is to vote for Ramsay, liberty, and justice! and not for Cobden and Livsey's pet bastile!!                                       A S

    This precious bill bore no personal name, but the shopkeepers did not disown it.  It bore no printer's name, so that its parentage could not readily be traced.  The answer to it bore a pretty broad, brief, abrupt and intelligible headline; it bore also a printer's address, and was signed by several distinguished and honoured names.  Here it is.  I have sent the printer one of the original placards to quote from:—


    "A handbill, anonymous, and without printer's name, has been industriously circulated among the shopkeepers of this borough, seeking by absolute and positive falsehoods to prejudice them against Richard Cobden.

    "The statements referred to are to the effect that the leading supporters of Richard Cobden are connected with the Rochdale Cooperative Store.

    "Without expressing any opinion concerning the 'Store,' we, the undersigned, being all the persons named in the handbill, give the most unqualified contradiction to the statement, and assert that we have no connection with that establishment directly or indirectly.

    "Sir Alexander Ramsay's cause must, indeed, be considered hopeless by his friends when they are compelled to resort to such disgraceful means in the vain attempt to secure their ends.

    "Shopkeepers of Rochdale! don't be blinded to your true interests by the silly attempts of the Tories to throw dust in your eyes.  No man has done more for the trade of the country generally, nor for the shopkeepers especially, than has Richard Cobden.  Give him your votes, and show the Tories that tricks and falsehood will never succeed with honest people.


            "Rochdale, April 18th, 1859."

    The placard sent me while the contest raged bore these words: "Richard Cobden will be member for Rochdale.—William Cooper."  And so it proved.  Tradesmen have, however, small cause to complain if the co-operator is sometimes antagonistic to them when they play these tricks.  This is a sufficient example of the cantankerous tradesman on the stump.

    The chief figures which used to come into prominence in the crowd of outsiders would be newspaper correspondents and pamphleteers under the name of "Merchant," "Looker on," or, of course, "Working man," who was a favourite character in which the outsiders appeared.  There was some sense in the objections which the shop keeper put under these disguises.  The stores were inefficient, and these objectors did much to improve them.  In cases in which I wrote pamphlets in reply, [47] I urged upon co-operators that the thing wanted in most districts is a good central, well-supplied depot, on the co-operative plan, which can engage and maintain a good buyer-in. [48]  The goods would then be carefully selected, the profits would be higher, and the smallest store would thus be on a level with the greatest wholesale shopkeeper.  But it takes time to educate co-operative societies to see their own interests.  Many prefer blundering along, making bad purchases for the sake of some immediate gain, while they lose in character, and injure themselves, the members, and the cause in the long run.  This short-sightedness will cure itself in time.  It can be cured by patience and reason.  It cannot be cured by reproaches.  Every society, of course, has a right to buy where it pleases.  We must wait till good sense and enlightened interest gain the day.  Men like our incendiary "Working Men" appear in every place; but they get fewer and fewer as the great principle travels on.  There are errors and failures everywhere, but they are eclipsed by successes so unexpected and so important, that the great Social Reform advances, and co-operation is the now accepted principle of self-help for the people.

    Every society has its "Working Men" objectors.  They appear in every town, occasionally of a very bad type.  They crawl out of the slime of competition.  Sometimes they mean well, and some times they don't.  I have seen them before, and know what they intend to say before they speak, and it would not be difficult to answer them in the dark.  In the early years of a cause it is useful to notice them, and they like it.  If they write like candid men, respect them; if they do not, answer them within certain limits.  Error, misrepresentation, misapprehension, and prejudice are serpents, alive at both ends.  If you cut them in two, they still live; while they can wriggle, they may sting.  Since, however, they are damaged when divided, it is good policy to chop at them.



WHEN the slave war, or rather the war instigated by the Southern American party in defence of slavery, came, it was known that the Cotton Famine would follow: the mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire would stop, hundreds of thousands of families would be without work—and that meant being without food—John Bull would be short of calico, and manufacturers short of profits.  Then it was predicted that co-operation would stop spinning like a top, when the momentum of working-class prosperity was withdrawn.

    The political economists shook their heavy heads in their wise way.  Not the better sort, like Mr. J. S. Mill or Professor Fawcett, who often vindicated co-operation.  The professor, however, sent out in "Macmillan," a small professional moan—chiefly of kindly warning, but still distrustful of the new forces of concerted industry—to stand the shock of the dangerous years coming.  He said:—

    "Will a body of workmen, combined in a cotton' manufactory, be able to keep together during two or three years, at low profits, and withstand the difficulties of a financial crisis?  This is a problem which remains to be solved" [49]

    When the dangerous years (from 1861 to 1864) set in, we had Times correspondents writing from Rochdale.  What they had to tell will be remarkable reading for many years to come.  In 1862 the relief committees had not dispensed very much among the unemployed families.  On December 19th of that year, the Times commissioner wrote from Rochdale, saying:—"It is never very easy to ascertain with any degree of accuracy the extent to which the unemployed have taxed their own resources to meet the calamity which has fallen upon them.  The investments most preferred by the working classes vary in different towns.  In some the savings bank is the favoured depository; in others, building and benefit societies are the fashion; and of late there has been a very general run on the co-operative associations.  On this account, comparison of savings bank accounts will not always be a correct indication of what is going on.  In several towns where I have inquired into the point I have found that the withdrawals in this year of distress very little exceed those of last year, and the explanation given was that the operators had just begun to withdraw their deposits in order to invest them in this new movement.  In Rochdale it may be said that the co-operative societies, which are on a very large scale, have absorbed pretty nearly the whole of the savings of the working classes.  There are here three great concerns managed on this principle—the Store, the Corn Mill, and the Cotton Mill, representing among them a capital of close upon £140,000."

    The "problem" was getting itself "solved" pretty well, and cooperative societies had no small share in enabling the people of the two great cotton spinning counties to resist the recognition of a slave dominion.  But our commissioner relates unexpected facts of the Rochdale Store:—

"Last quarter," he said, "the profit to members on purchases amounted to 2s. 5d. in every pound—in other words, for every 17s. 7d. spent the member got a pound's worth of goods; so that instead of being perpetually in debt, as in the old times, the working man who deals here is absolutely earning for himself the profit which went into the shopkeeper's pocket, [50] and probably gets a better article into the bargain.  The more comfortably he lives, the larger is his share of the profits at the end of the year.  One account taken at hazard, among others which I saw myself in the books of the Store, sets the advantages of the system to the working man in a very clear light.  It was that of a member who in September, 1854, had £7 10s. standing to his credit.  For all the eight years he had gone on clothing and feeding his family at the Store, he had never paid in a farthing in any way to increase his account; on the contrary, he had drawn out at various times £90 odd, and yet at the end of last quarter he had £50 placed against his name.  The profits on his purchases during the last eight years, with interest, had actually produced him £132 10s., or rather more than £16 a year.  In all probability, if he had gone on dealing all this time at an ordinary shop he might have spent 10 per cent. more, and would have been in debt at the end of the time some £5 at the least.  It is only natural that the numbers of the members and the business done should have increased rapidly, and that the working classes in different parts of the country should have endeavoured to copy the very successful model thus set up.  The capital increased so fast, in fact, spite of all the extensions, that it outgrew the necessities of the Society, and it became necessary to find other employment for it.  First a Corn Mill was established, which has now been at work nine years, and in 1861 made a profit of £10,000.  The original capital invested here was £2,000, and it has now risen to nearly £30,000, of which £9,000 has been contributed by the Store.  It does a large trade in the surrounding district, and, like the Equitable Pioneers' Store, supplies other stores round about with goods wholesale.  From this the co-operators took a still higher flight, and entered on an experiment which at first sight seemed not a little hazardous.  They conceived the idea of combining labour and capital, of being their own employers, and sharing among themselves the fruits of their own labour."

    No more impressive account of the practical economy of co-operation has ever been given. The good sense of concerted action pays when it yields £16 a year profit to a working man's family. It is worth listening to a writer whose words have gone all over the world. He says further:—"The Co-operative Manufacturing Society, which was formed in 1857, owns now one of the finest mills in the town, fitted with first-rate machinery, and another of equal dimensions, I am told, is in course of erection.  Its capital is now £68,000, and in 1861, it divided profits to the amount of £5,599.  It appears to have been skilfully managed from the first, and, though it suffers in common with other concerns, it is still able to run three days a week.  I wish to point out how materially the existence here of the co-operative societies must have alleviated the pressure of the distress.  In its early stages the movement had to encounter no little opposition from those who scented Communism, Socialism, and all sorts of bugbears in it; but its improving effects on the character and condition of the working classes are so unmistakable that none but the most selfish could refuse it their support.  Manufacturers, as a rule, prefer co-operatives as workmen; the habits of self-reliance, prudence, and order which their connection with these societies engenders raise them considerably over the ordinary class, and their economy has certainly put them in a better position to bear the strain of the times."

    Thus the "problem" of the political economist got "solved." Co-operation proved to be no hothouse plant, requiring hot-air apparatus and infinite watching, forcing, and coddling; but a hale, hearty, winter shrub, which will take root in any good soil, enjoys a blast, and grows strong by exposure.

    The statements in the Times were written by a man of ability in putting facts, and not without sympathy with self-helping sense among working people.  The profit to a family of well-managed, well-sustained co-operation, was never packed into smaller compass, or brought before the public eye in a more palpable way, than in the sentence in which he says "that a single family saved as much as £16 a year for eight years, while had they continued buying at the ordinary shops, they would have paid 10 per cent. more for their goods, and have been at least £5 in debt."  Here is a distinct, solid, complete, picturesque thing said.  This is one of those portable statements which the most casual reader can carry away in his mind.  Art in statement is like cultivated taste in exhibiting treasures; the picture or statuette must be seen with the glory of space around it.  All crowding is detraction.  Multiplicity is not magnificence, as the uneducated think.  All details have their place in statement, and out of place they are like meaner things which crowd about the nobler, hide the proportions of beauty, and distract, torment, and outrage the trained eye.  The commissioner of the Times notices that communicativeness of the Rochdale Pioneers which has made theirs the great propagandist Store.  He remarks—"Few are so communicative as to their actual position as the Equitable Pioneers, who are too firmly established to fear even this severe strain; but the restricted trade and diminished working capital must have told on the greater number.  The trade of the Rochdale Store in the twelvemonth has fallen off by about one-third on the year, and £21,000 has been withdrawn from the funds, of which, probably, £16,000 at least has been withdrawn by unemployed members in order to meet the distress.  All of it has come back to the Store in the purchase of provisions, and the profits on the purchasers of the year, together with the payment of share subscriptions reduce the actual loss of capital to little more than £1,000.  There is no transfer of stock, but the rule of the Society is that any member may withdraw as much of his capital invested as he pleases down to £5, and, with the special leave of the committee, down to £2.  No deposits are allowed below that amount, and those whose necessities will not allow them to stop there must draw out the whole.  About 300 members have been thus compelled to leave the Society, to rejoin it, it is to be hoped, when better times comes round."

    They all came back, and, as an Irishman would say, many more came back who had never left.  The above statement includes particulars of the rules and practices of the Rochdale Store, which will be informing and welcome to all readers.  Narrative should, like leading articles in a newspaper, resemble a Scotch house, and be self-contained.  The Times itself became the "leading journal" by this art.  When its columns were crowded for five days with reports of Palmer's trial, the leading article upon it on the sixth day, when the case ended, gave a complete account of the fat, horseracing, rascally, surgical poisoner's trial, which the busy man could understand though he had never read a line of the reports.  The article was self-contained.  It was lighted up with outside facts.  The above-cited passages introduce into this story details which make it complete in itself, without irrelevant and formal repetition.  It is of no use listening to a speaker, or reading an author, if you require first to hear or read someone else to understand him.

    But the immediate point before the reader is to understand how Rochdale stood the slave and cotton storm.  Co-operation stood like the Eddystone Lighthouse—as immovable as the north pole.

    In December, 1861, when the cotton panic had commenced, the cash received at the Store over their counters for the sale of provisions and other articles of household and personal use amounted to £176,000.  During the year of 1865, the cash received reached £196,000, showing an increase of £20,000.  Their capital in 1861 was £42,000; in 1865 it was £78,000.  Four years before their members were 3,900; four years later they were 5,300, showing an in crease during the panic of 1,400 members.  This looks as though co-operative crafts were places of safety in a storm.

    In 1862 these Pioneers built a new shop at Blue Pits.  There's a name!—an honest name, however, for the pits deserve it.  This Blue Pit shop cost £700.  Next year they built a slaughter-house and stables, at a cost of £1,000; and also a new shop at Pinfold, which cost £1,000.  This was pretty well for 1863.  In 1864 they put up a Store at Spotland-Bridge, at a cost of £1,500; and another in the Oldham Road, at a cost of £1,700; and in 1863 they finished the Buersil branch, at a cost of £1,000.  The Pioneers modestly said that these buildings do not disgrace the neighbourhood in which they stand.  The fact is, there was little or nothing to disgrace—there being no lively or inspiring buildings anywhere about—and these stores are cheerful, wholesome, and not unpleasing buildings.  The Town Hall, Rochdale; which is a municipal glory now, was not then erected.

    Nor is this all.  The Pioneers commenced excavations in Toad Lane (which ought to be called the Pioneers' Highway, for it goes up a hill, and they have made the hill of difficulty easy) for the purpose of erecting a great Central Store, which they hoped would be an ornament to the town.  There was reason for this hope; for Rochdale needed and deserved some architectural improvement.  During the four years of "famine," the members drew out £83,000; the Society having been a savings bank on this great scale.  Better than this, the Pioneers gave £750 for the relief of the distressed and to other charitable purposes.  And quite as honourable to their intelligence as these gifts are to their humanity, they had appropriated £1,840 to the purposes of self-education.  This is enough to show that the working men of Rochdale know how to dream dreams, and that the weavers' co-operative dream turned out a substantial and instructive reality.

    If the reader has the courage to go through a paragraph having figures in it (p. 142), he may see how the Rochdale Store fared in the eventful years when the slave owners fought for the whip.  The odd hundreds and fractions of pounds, shillings, and pence, usually included in any financial narrative, are omitted here.  The writer recognises—what is not often done—that the general reader is not an auditor.  He can only take figures in the bulk.  The common rule is to fill into any narrative containing figures all the minor amounts and fractions, just as though the reader was going to send for the books and go over them to test the exact truth of the statement, in which case the writer would have to wait a fortnight before the reader would be able to attend to the continuation of the argument.

    In the following statement the reader will find the grand figures in one round honest bulk, with all the fractional edges chipped off, so that they will not scratch the memory nor irritate the understanding.

    Returns from Rochdale show the position of co-operation in that town for the four years preceding and subsequent to the civil war in America.  From 1857 to 1860 the members increased from 1,800 to 4,600, the capital from £15,000 to £57,500, the business from £80,000 to £174,000, the profits from £5,000 yearly to £15,000.

    From 1860 to 1864, the full period of the cotton crisis, the profits increased in uneven gradations from £15,000 to £22,000.  In 1861, the Society felt the effects of the scarcity of cotton.  In the March quarter of that year the receipts for sales were £47,000; in the December quarter they had fallen to £42,000.  In 1862, the cotton famine was the most severe.  Two-thirds of the operatives of Rochdale were almost entirely out of work.  The greater part of the mills were entirely closed, and the people had to subsist to a great extent, on their previous savings.  This year the number of members of the Store decreased 500.  The capital of the Society decreased £4,500.  The cash received for sales decreased £32,000; yet this year the profits made amounted to £17,000.  Not only did co-operation stand its ground during a period which it was supposed would destroy it, but the Store, the Corn Mill, and Manufacturing Society of Rochdale gave together £1,500 for the relief of the unemployed, and the Store alone made £70,000 profit for its members.  The Corn Mill Society made £10,000 a year profit in 1860 and 1861.  In 1862, the profits fell to £8,000, but next year they returned to £10,000 again.  The Manufacturing Society of Rochdale kept up its full payment of wages during the cotton famine, ran more time than any mill in the neighbourhood, and subscribed £3 weekly to the Distress Fund.

    These societies of working men took their place by the side of manufacturers in the mill and market, and it does not appear that they shrunk from any responsibility which gentlemen in times of public distress undertake.

    Productive manufactures fared no less hopefully as far as they went.  We are in the habit of saying productive manufactures, in order to distinguish production from distribution.  Of course all manufactures are productive—either of dividends or deficits—and of course always create articles of utility or desire.  Manufacturing, however, had not then, nor has yet, got into complete co-operative ways.  The mills reputedly co-operative of that date were mainly joint-stock enterprises with a dash of co-operation in the prospectus.  In 1862, manufacturing societies of this nature in Rochdale worked three days a week, which was greatly above average of the time worked by the mills of the town.  In Rochdale and its suburbs there were then 93 cotton mills, rather over three-fourths of which wholly ceased working.  Taking the average of the whole, they worked less than one day per week.  It was a creditable and unexpected thing that a semi-co-operative manufacturing mill which, it was said, would first fall in a cotton crisis, should find itself able to work more time than any of its competitive competitors.

    The question, during the distress from which the working people suffered, was as to whether co-operators were to be entitled to relief.  The Central Executive Relief Committee, of which the Lord Derby of that day was chairman, considered the question of disqualifying co-operators and other persons from participating in the national subscriptions then made.  It was at this time that Lord Derby presented a scheme for the equitable administration of that fund, which was marked by a generous and unforeseen discrimination which has not been forgotten to this day.  Lord Derby said:—

    "The co-operative societies stand upon a peculiar footing.  The societies known by this name comprise provision and clothing stores and flour mills, which are conducted to a great extent on co-operative principles; but cotton manufactories, called co-operative, are generally, if not universally, simply joint-stock companies of limited liability, the capital of which has been subscribed in small shares, chiefly by workmen in the cotton districts, and which are often built and conducted with the aid of loans.  They have arisen out of motives which do the highest honour to the operative classes; and there is no question but they have induced habits of frugality, temperance, and self-restraint, which have operated greatly to the benefit of the working classes morally and physically.  But it is indisputable that the shares in some of the co-operative societies are at the present moment greatly depreciated, and, in some cases, actually valueless.  Is, then, the possession, say, of one or more shares in one of these societies to exclude the holder from a title to relief?  On the principle applied to the savings banks, the answer should be in the affirmative; and the more so, as the investment hitherto has yielded a larger interest.  But it is to be remembered, on the other hand, that whatever has been invested in the savings banks realises, on its withdrawal, the whole of its nominal amount; whereas the co-operative shares are, in many cases, not only depreciated, but, if compelled to be sold, would realise little or nothing to the possessors.  The utmost, therefore, which can fairly be required is, that the holder shall have mortgaged his share, and that he is not at the present moment deriving any pecuniary benefit from it.  In such a case, I think the holder might fairly be entitled to relief, as having, for the time, no other resources."

    Dr. Watts, at the meeting when this was read, pointed out that shares in co-operative stores were not mortgageable; and mentioned instances of great hardship where sums had to be withdrawn, at a loss, before relief could be obtained.

    Lord Derby, in reply, said: "I have not even stated that those conditions should be insisted upon in all cases.  The whole intention of the paragraph is to moderate the application of the strict principle."

    Lord Egerton, of Talton, quoted the previous statement of the committee, that these were cases for forbearance, and that it would not be wise to discourage habits of forethought, adding:—

"I can assure Dr. Watts that it is the general opinion of the Executive Committee that these cases should meet with the greatest forbearance, and be looked most carefully to, so that those who have profited by the opportunity of laying by some small store for themselves may not, in these days of adversity, be left entirely helpless."

    The co-operators were not destined to find on local committees the same sense of industrial justice as animated the committee inspired by Lord Derby.  In the face of these strong recommendations the local committee turned a deaf ear to the appeals of co-operative shareholders.  Hence there arose the co-operative shareholders' Central Relief Committee, which in its public address remarked:—

    "The mere refusal of money is only a part of the injustice.  Thus, the girls of co-operative, shareholders have been refused admission into the sewing classes.  The articles of clothing so generously contributed have been refused to co-operators, though frequently in greater need of them than others who obtained them.  Many have their clothes in the pawnshop, and yet at the release of goods therefrom, a few weeks ago, in Haslingden, not an article was returned that belonged to co-operative shareholders."

    Lord Derby took a just and considerate view of the claims of co-operators; but the shopkeepers on the committees took a shabby revenge upon their humble rivals.  But that distressed them not.  They got through with cheerful hearts.



IN 1844, the Equitable Pioneers, after a long period of controversy and distrust, founded their Store upon the principle of taking purchasers into partnership.  From that time is dated the successful career of co-operative distribution, which before the adoption of that principle was in most towns vacillating, uncertain, and often ignominious in its operations.  Many years later, when the value of partnership in consumption had been triumphantly tested, it was resolved to apply it to productive co-operation.  In 1855, steps were taken to erect a spinning mill, which commenced business with 96 looms.  In 1855, there was fitted up a second mill with new machinery.  The two mills were calculated to run 50,000 spindles.  The principle on which this mill was founded was that of taking the labourer into partnership, and giving him a reasonable share of the profits, which were the joint produce of capital, and the industry, good-will, good skill, and the carefulness of the workmen.  It was strongly hoped that the sagacity of the Rochdale men would successfully set manufactures on the same ground of equity on which they had placed distribution.  The determination of the promoters of the new mills was to carry into workshops the same social advantages they had created in homes.  It was believed that success in Rochdale in creating a permanent industrial partnership would have great influence in other towns.  Even on the Continent the success of the experiment was inquired after with great interest.  It was known as a rule that workmen made bad masters.  The subjection in which they have been kept, the dependence in which they have lived, the beggarly income which, as a rule, comes to them (the lowest for which poverty and competition compel them to sell their unwilling services), the parsimony of life imposed upon them—enter into their souls and narrow their judgment of their fellows.  When they become masters themselves they are often jealous of the success of their late comrades.  They regard good wages for good services, which make them profit, as so much money taken out of their own pockets.  They aim at getting the utmost work out of those they employ, just as the worst master under which they have served did unto them.  What they wished to be done to them when they were workmen, they commonly forget to do to others when they become employers themselves.  Their masters kept all the profits in their own hands, and they determined to do the same thing.  Therefore, friends of industrial progress were very anxious about the success of the co-operative mill, and great admiration was expressed of the Rochdale workmen that established it, when they showed the fine spirit of founding a real industrial partnership.

    This excellent and long-looked-for vision of equity and industry loomed hopefully for a time in the immediate distance, and then went out of sight again.  The "share list" being open to the whole town, shares were taken up by numerous persons who knew nothing of cooperation, and by others who cared little for it, and by many who actively disliked it; and the rule giving a participation of profit to workmen was rescinded.

    The two noble engines erected in the mill of 60-horse power, one named "Co-operation," and the other "Perseverance," [51] had to be rechristened by the more revelant names of "Joint-stock," and " Greed."  As soon as the facts became noised abroad, the advocates of the artisan ceased to look to Rochdale for that organisation of industry which should terminate the increasing and unprofitable war between capital and labour.  Thus co-operation halted on the way.

    An article upon Co-operative Societies in the London Spectator (April 16, 1864), made this assertion:—"At Rochdale, the system of admitting journeymen to participation in profits was abandoned after trial."

    "Abandoned after trial," suggests that it had been tried and did not answer.  The truth is, it was frustrated during successful trial; it was not abandoned, it was put to death.

    Professor Newman observed in a communication to the present writer (Jan. 23, 1863):—

    "Co-operative manufacturing 'hangs fire' in the matter that the members' interest as capitalists overpowers their sympathy with hirelings.  If it be true that, as capitalists, they gain nothing by interesting the hireling in the prosperity of the concern, this means that co-operative capital can compete with private capital on equal terms; then the problem is really simplified.  Each man who saves at all may be capitalist somewhere, though he be merely hireling elsewhere; and, by co-operative stores, and abstinence from strong drink, all who have health and youth can save.  But if co-operative capital cannot—or where it cannot—compete on equal terms with private capital, it becomes the interest of the co-operative capitalists to take the hirelings into quasi-partnership, by some bonus or other on the general success.  But, by one or both methods, I think the way is open for prudent persons whenever moderate prosperity is general.  But until the townsmen understand that the cause of the peasants is their own cause, and that depression of the country people weighs down the artisans, I do not expect any general and considerable elevation."

    Professor Newman, though an author upon Political Economy, distinctly recognises the interest which workmen have when they become capitalists, of taking those in their employ into partnership with them.  At that time, it was believed that the partnership system had been tried in Rochdale, and that the co-operators themselves had relinquished it.  Whereas, they never did so; they never mistrusted the principle—they never gave it up; it was forced from their hands in the fourth year of its trial.  The co-operators, like the Swedish monarch Charles, "were overmatched, overpowered, and outnumbered."  The discredit was not upon the co-operators of that day.  We shall describe the class of persons by whom the evil was accomplished.

    The Almanac of 1860 said:—"The object of the Rochdale Co-operative Manufacturing Society is to provide arrangements by which its members may have the profits arising from the employment of their own capital and labour in the manufacturing of cotton and woollen fabrics, and so improve their social and domestic condition.  The profits which arise from the business of the Society (first paying interest on capital after the rate of £5 per cent. per annum) are divided amongst the members, giving an equal percentage to capital [52] subscribed and labour performed.  Each member has the same amount of votes and influence, whatever the amount of his investments."  In 1861 the editor of the Almanac again repeated the same clear, sensible, semi-equitable and hopeful announcement.

    In 1864 the co-operators hung their harps upon the willows of Mitchell Hey, and sang no more.  At the same time they gave one good-natured but instructive and disowning shriek in the Almanac.  They said:—"The principal object of the founders of this Society was the equitable division of the profits arising from the manufacturing of cotton and woollen fabrics.  They believed that all who contributed to the realisation of wealth, ought to participate in its distribution.  To this principle the Society has proved recreant, to the great regret of its originators."

    When, therefore, the anti-co-operators in Rochdale took the rule by the throat which gave only a share of profit to workmen, and strangled it, the gold-tinted eye of capitalism elsewhere grew bright on hearing of this proceeding, and there was rejoicing in countless counting-houses of manufactories where men had for generations worked like horses and died like dogs.

    Early in 1860, the enemy began to appear in the field, and a great meeting was held in September in the Public Hall, Baillie Street, to discuss the question of "bounty or no bounty to labour."  No doubt those hideous words "bonus and bounty" were the beginning of the mischief, and made the ignorant shareholders believe they were actually giving away their money in some foolish manner.  Whereas, the profits divided on labour represent the profits created by labour, over and above that which, in the long run, would exist, if the participation is withheld.  An unregarded workman gives more than merely dull, sullen, careless, uninterested service, during which he conspires—by trade unions or otherwise—to extort from his employer all he can, because he believes his employer conspires to withhold from him all he is able.  This sort of industry is merely silent spite.  At the great meeting, all the orators of greed appeared to argue that the workman was paid the market value of his labour, and that was the fair end of him.  This sort of argument was for many years in great force in the distributive stores.  It was argued that the purchaser obtained in goods the market value of his money, and what more did he want?  Nearly two generations of men lived and lied and died, among whom this question was argued, before they could be taught to see that, by giving customers an interest in coming to the Store, these customers would themselves, by the certainty and magnitude of their purchases, create the very profits which were to be shared among them.  It will probably take as long before it will be believed that the labourer in a manufactory can equally contribute the profits accorded to him.  The conditions of production are more complicated than those of distribution, and it will take time and patience to discover all the methods whereby every person engaged in a manufactory shall be induced to do his best in consideration of his being a partner in the profits.  At the great meeting of 1860, the old Pioneers stood up stoutly for the maintenance of the principle which recognised the workman as a partner.  One of them said: "It was the duty of the Pioneers to base a manufactory on the same principle as a Pioneers' Store.  It was their duty, as the pioneers of the country, to see that labour had its due."  This was the public and generous propagandist principle upon which the question was argued by the co-operators at the first great meeting.  When the votes were taken, 571 were given against the partnership of industry, and 270 for it.  Nevertheless, the motion was lost, as the rules require a majority of three-fourths for the alteration of any law.  Two years later, the enemy having consolidated their forces, gave battle again, won the day, and put back the dial of manufacturing industrial progress for their time, so far as the example of Rochdale was concerned.  As soon as this was done, the cry went forth that the partnership of labour in Rochdale had failed, and if anyone denied it, he was sharply asked the question, "If it had not failed, why was the law of participation abrogated?"  A rule may be cancelled by cupidity, but it does not therefore follow that it has failed.  Greed of profit on the part of shareholders may have led to procuring the abolition of a law which they thought injurious to them; and who, having power to carry out their will, were not restrained by any feeling of equity to others.  It was freely said "the Society was drifting to dissolution," as members were withdrawing their shares, and placing them in other companies where no participation law was in force.  Several persons really did withdraw their shares, and others threatened to do so.  But no greater number of withdrawals took place than is common in large societies, and this manufacturing company could well afford to spare these retreating members; and it would have been more honourable in them who did not agree with the law, to betake themselves to some other society more congenial to their views, than remain in one they had entered, for the purpose of abolishing the fundamental principle which distinguished it.  There was never ground for the assertion that the Society was in danger of loosing its members or the needful supply of capital by continuing the participation law.  Many months previous to the repeal of this law, the Society ceased taking new members, and, as a consequence, declined taking additional money, except from those already members, because members and money came in so rapidly that the Society did not see how it could use profitably at the time all the capital it possessed.  It was well known that large numbers were ready to come into the Society when the new list should again be opened.  It is a common experience of all societies that a certain class of shareholders who want some special change made will threaten to withdraw from the Society, and, of course, they spread the report that if they do that the Society will break up.  The importance of their remaining, and of having their way, cannot in their opinion be too highly estimated.  Experience, however, shows that a society does not always fail because a few persons think it will, or mean that it shall, or believe that it ought to fail when they leave it.  At that day various writers appeared to defend the reactionary decision of the shareholders.  One would sign his letters under the mask of "Old Pioneer."  This writer strongly asserted that if the "anti-bountites," as they were called, had ceased to be members, the Manufacturing Society could no longer go on.  This was quite an illusion; but it would have been fortunate for Rochdale if they had withdrawn, and formed another society on the mere joint-stock plan, which they had a right to do, and might have done without reproach.  Then they would have left the original Society to test itself and to stand or fall on the principle on which it was founded.  The charge against the "anti-bountites" is, that when they found themselves strong enough to seize this Society, which they had not founded, they did so, and prevented an honest public experiment being tried, and brought discredit on co-operation itself among those not acquainted with the facts of the case.  It was alleged that "co-operators of old standing" voted for the destruction of the partnership of labour rule.  If so they never owned to it.  But the main body of the old co-operators strove by every means in their power, by their advocacy and their votes, to save it.  Mr. William Cooper, who was a member of the first Rochdale Equitable Pioneer Society before and during the time the first rules were drawn up, which was some months before the Toad Lane Store was opened for business, knew all the persons who drew the black jointstock line across the Manufacturing Society.  He testified at the time that this defacement was the act of the "newer members."  When the disastrous night arrived which was to cast conspicuous discredit on the partnership of industry in Rochdale, 162 votes were given for the retention of the labour profit rule, and 502 for its abolition.

    When the white line of partnership of labour is for the first time drawn across a manufactory, it is not a matter of rejoicing to see a black line of the subjugation of labour supersede it.

    Nothing can "pay" permanently, or ought to pay, which is not conducted on a principle of fairness to all concerned in creating its value.  The pyramid of gain which is not based on equity is a mere rascally pile, which an honest man would rather not touch.

    On the recalcitrant night when the anti-co-operative shareholders destroyed the hopeful law of industrial partnership, the Co-operative Manufacturing Society numbered over 1,500, of whom only 664 were present.  There was, therefore, half the members who either did not attend the meeting, or who attended and did not vote, and who may be classed as indifferent, neutral, or satisfied with the Society in its then form.  It is some satisfaction to record that only 502 out of 1,500 members actually lifted up their hands against the recognition of the workman.  If all the consequences to the credit of Rochdale which has since followed upon that step had been foreseen, many of the 502 who brought the discredit about, would, from mere pride of townsmanship, apart from any care for the working class, have withheld their votes, and gone elsewhere and founded another society.  The chief movers against the workers participating in the profits were at the time well-known to be of the class of managers, overlookers, small tradesmen, and such like.  The mover of the motion to rescind the grand rule, and those who spoke on the side of its abrogation, were drawn from these classes.  The committee of the Manufacturing Society were not all of them co-operators, or they would have held as sacred the great law, and would have given all their interest and influence against its repeal.  But the majority of the committee were themselves continually agitating against the principle to the neglect of other important interests of the Society.  One who was within "The Ring," and who knew all about it, put me in possession of the facts at the time.  He admitted that some of the committee were dashing, fast-going men—not the sort of men who usually cared for principle.  Their favourite argument against the labourer's claim of sharing in the profits of his labour, was that of calling it a "Socialist Theory."

    Of course it was a " Socialist Theory."  All co-operative stores are founded on the same "Socialist Theory," which gives profits to purchasers as well as to capitalists.  Shopkeepers of common-sense often act now upon the same "Socialist Theory," and give their customers a share in the profits the customers help to create.  The "Socialist (manufacturing) Theory" is that the capitalist may be made more secure, and even derive increased profits by making it the interest of the labourer to co-operate with him in the production of gain.

    In the great discussion which finally disestablished and disendowed the workman as a sharer in the profits of his labour, James Smithies made one of his best speeches on the occasion.  Mr. Abraham Greenwood and William Cooper were amongst the foremost champions of the claim of the workmen.  Mr. Holden also spoke on the same side.  I possess a full report of all the speeches published in the Rochdale Spectator of the time, annotated with the names of all the speakers, not given.

The under-placed tables show what this Society did down to 1866, when profit was taken from the workers.













































    This company still retains its old style of "Co-operative Manufacturing Society"—fourteen years after it has relinquished the principle.  In the meantime, co-operation has got to re-establish the workman as a participator in manufacturing profits.  Masters may go back, as we have seen at the Whitwood Collieries; but co-operators should not.  The trade unionists could carry the principle; and they will do it when they get advisers who can think above the level of strikes.  I have seen Dutch workmen out in the Zuyder Zee accomplish what English trade unionists have never had the courage to attempt.  As yet the main hope lies among unionists.  In 1872 attempts were made to re-establish co-operative manufacturing in Rochdale by commencing card-making, but sufficient capital was not obtained to keep the Society "on the cards."

    In this place and elsewhere I prefer to use the phrase claim of the workman instead of the term "right."  A right of labour, like a right in politics, is what can be got to be ruled, or conceded.  A claim is what ought morally to be conceded.  A right is what is conceded.  But the claim holds good, and is to be persisted in.  If workmen were gentlemen in means no employed would dare to disallow it.

    Comments on persons who, being directors or shareholders in a co-operative company, and knowing it to be so, and joining it as co-operators, and then turning upon the principle and betraying it or destroying it—do not apply to persons who never were co-operators or accepted honour and trust as such.  They are of the joint-stock species—a different kind of commercial creature altogether.  But co-operation means more and higher.  It means the recognition of the workmen, not indirectly—not in some infinitesimal, impalpable, hypothetical, and abstract way—but directly, plainly, personally, absolutely, permanently, as owner of an equitable share of the profits of labour.

    A co-operative society is one which shares its profits equitably with all engaged in creating them, in labour and trade.

    Mr. John Bright, meeting Mr. Abraham Greenwood, conversed on the subject of the decision of the members of the Society, expressed his disapproval, and asked if it could not be reversed, and the principle given another trial.  Mr. Greenwood expressed the opinion that it would be best to try the principle again de novo, with members who have faith in that mode of working, and that they should be more careful as to who were admitted.  Mr. Bright stated that a large number of members of Parliament had taken great interest in the experiment, and that he also knew manufacturers who would have been quite willing to allow workmen to share in a certain amount of the profits if it could have been carried out without themselves taking part in the business, and if the workpeople would rely on the amounts stated to have been realised, and jealousy not allowed to interfere.  Mr. Greenwood assured Mr. Bright that good workmen believed in profit sharing, and that the principle had attracted a superior class of employees to Mitchell Hey.  Mr. Bright replied that if the scheme had succeeded other manufacturers would have been compelled to offer to employees some inducement for vigilance and better work; that they ought not to be paid as a gift but for making the capital of the employer more remunerative, the machinery do more work, and to exercise greater economy in the material they had to manipulate. [53]

    Mr. Bright's interest in this question is one of the most honourable things in his career.  Experience shows that once a social experiment which has excited great hopes has been defeated, it is seldom that the same generation try it again.  It is a pity Mr. Bright's advice was not acted upon.  Mr. Bright never gave his advice without giving his influence.  Had an attempt been made to reverse the decision against the principle on which the mill was founded, the friendly minority would have been increased and probably inspired to recommence their vital experiment.
    Mr. John T. W. Mitchell, whose name the reader has seen (p. 54), was one of the promoters and chairman—the Rochdale Congress Handbook records—of this manufacturing society.  As such he must have believed in profit sharing.  Had he remained faithful to that principle, the wholesale society had been the promoter instead of the organised discouragement of true co-operation.

    Rochdale holds much of its old ground, and goes steadily forward in many excellent ways, but the ancient enthusiasm—which pushed forward into new paths, or fought its way back to the old principles, when driven out of them by adverse votes—has not been maintained with equal conspicuousness among the new generation of co-operators; else we should have seen the great principle of self-helping industry vindicated in Rochdale before this.



THE murder of the equitable industrial principle effected at Mitchell Hey by the seizure and perversion of the Co-operative Manufacturing Society was noised abroad, and spread discouragement throughout the earth.  It was of the nature of a compliment to Rochdale, that what was done in that town should be thought much of elsewhere.  Rochdale men had come to be considered as really pioneers of industrial progress.  The abandonment of co-operative principle in the Manufacturing Society was treated as a "failure" of it.  It was supposed that the principle had been tried by deliberate, sagacious, patient, earnest men, who had applied all their powers to it, exhausted all their resources upon it, made prolonged sacrifices to give it effect, had afforded ample time for the experiment to be fully tested, and that the failure of the principle was decisive.  It has been shown now how mistaken all these impressions were.  If the people of Oldham can build a new mill every week, the increasing and enterprising population of Rochdale might surely start other manufacturing societies, and try the experiment again and again and restore and increase the reputation of that historic town.

    When I went to the Industrial Exhibition at Amsterdam, owing to the interest taken in it by Mr. Somerset Beaumont, M. P., the first question put to me by Baron Mackay on the Commission of Inquiry, at which he presided, was, "Had the Corn Mill failed?"  The impression in Holland was that failure had set in in Rochdale, and that whatsoever was equitable, fair, and hopeful, and of good report, had been swallowed up by the impetuous dragon of unscrupulous dividend.

    The Corn Mill Society was founded, as has been related (Part I.), in 1850.  An account of its first years, dated now sixteen years ago, was written by Mr. W. Cooper.  The Mill began in a dainty way.  The co-operators had acquired some taste by dealing at the Store, and had learned to dislike as well as detect adulteration, and resolved to imitate the successful example of Leeds, and have a corn mill of their own.  The rules were drawn up mainly by the same sagacious hands which drew up the Pioneers' rules six years before (Mr. Charles Howarth's), who was a factory worker, but was also a kind of "sea lawyer" to the Pioneers.  He would give his nights to the humble work of codification.  It took him a long time to see his way; but he was sure to find it.  He was one of those ocular men who keep on looking until they see something.

    The adventurous promoters of this Mill—though it is plain sailing now, it was quite an affair of unknown navigation then—held their first meetings, as we have said, at the Elephant and Castle Inn, Manchester Road, Rochdale.  Afterwards they met at the Weavers' Arms, and, finally, at the meeting-room of the Pioneer Store, Toad Lane, that Society taking twenty shares of £5 each in the Corn Mill.  John Butterworth carried the first treasury box, which, Mr. Cooper records, "was not very heavy, as it seldom had more than £6 at a time in it."  When a capital of £1000 was provided, steps were taken to look out for a mill.  At first an old one was taken about a mile and a half from Rochdale, called "Holme Mill," at a rental of £150.  Members brought in all the money they could.  Among the first committee were Laurence Melladay, Geo. Greenwood, John Turner, Edmund Hartley, and John Butterworth, of the "treasury box," all of whom subscribed to the extent of their means.  Others put in only a portion of their money, investing at the same time elsewhere, lest the Corn Mill should grind up with the wheat what they had put in it.  Others helped the Corn Mill with their good wishes, waiting to see how it succeeded before they helped it in any more expensive way.  The Toad Lane Pioneers, however, made an investment of £100 more—a good deal for them to risk when their Society was only six years old.  They appointed representatives in whose name the money should be invested, a plan afterwards followed by other societies—the plan being to give one representative to every £5.  Before the end of 1850, the Equitable Pioneers had thirty representatives—quite a detachment—to look after their £200.  About a mile and a half from Rochdale existed a Brickfield Equitable Pioneer Society.  Though fewer in numbers than the Rochdale Society, it was never behind in support of the Mill.  Its members were really what have since been called "bricks."  They appointed representatives and paid their investments, and when the Mill got to work the Brickfield "bricks" bought all their flour from the Mill—good or bad, none else would they sell.  The Rochdale Equitable Pioneers did the same.

    Some persons who joined the Mill Society, conceived a clever little scheme of getting some profit out of it.  They proposed to take at a rental a portion of the Holme Mill, with turning power for willows to break up cotton or other waste.  As this scheme promised to lessen the risks of the Society by lessening its rental, all the timid members were likely to be influenced by it; while others wisely contended that the dust from the waste would get into the flour, and their customers might reasonably object to eat a mixture of cotton waste and wheat.  After argument enough to turn a dozen corn mills, it was decided not to re-let.

    The Pioneers' Almanac, in due course, set forth touching the Corn Mill: "The objects of this Society are to provide for its members and those who trade with it, pure, wholesome, and unadulterated flour at a price and quality equal to what can be done by any miller in the neighbourhood, and divide the profits arising from the trade amongst the members, in proportion to the amount of money expended, having first paid interest upon capital after the rate of five per cent. per annum." [54]  The laws by which the Society is governed are the same in principle as those of the Equitable Pioneers, save in the exclusion of labour from profit.

    In 1861, for the first time, the words "after the rate of five per cent. per annum" were changed into "after the rate of £5 per cent. per annum."  The Toad Lane Store had been going sixteen years then, before it was discovered that an abstract statement of financial profits was not intelligible to the concrete minds of Rochdale.  The increasing number of outsiders who were beginning to come into the stores and buy of the Mill did not quite understand what "five per cent." meant—they perfectly understood what "£5" meant.  It takes a long time to acquire the art of making things plain.

    Never was there a more obstinate corn mill than that of Holme.  The flour would not be good—the mill would not pay—and the profits would not come.  The first report of the Society was ashamed to show itself; the second, of June, 1851, showed a loss of £103; the third report, of September, showed a loss of £338 on the quarter's transactions.  A total loss of £441 attracted an army of croakers.  Mr. Darwin would have had no difficulty in tracing the descent of all of them in a town which had produced Toad Lane.  But the croakers were not born round the mill.  The Pioneers were said to be blundering.  It was plain to everybody they did not understand corn milling.  Their manager had mismanaged.  The Society discharged him, and the directors and president, Mr. Abraham Greenwood, went to market themselves, taking a miller with them to judge the quality of the grain they bought, and they managed without a manager.

    A revolutionary meeting was held at the Pioneers' meeting-rooms, when the prophets of evil were, as is their wont, eloquent in favour of running away.  Some members argued that they had better give up supporting the Corn Mill; that the Store, by selling only the Corn Mill Society's flour, was losing its custom; that the Corn Mill Society was losing money, and could not be made to pay, and that the Mill would go down, and the Store had better shake the Mill off, buy their flour wherever they could buy it cheapest and best, else the Mill would drag the Store down along with it.  Others maintained that private individuals could make it do, and get a fortune out of the business, and why not co-operators?  The causes of the losses were shown to arise from shortness of money to work the business with, necessitating them to take grain from those factors who would give them credit, when sometimes that wheat was neither the best nor the cheapest; from neglect or want of skill, or both, in the head miller; and from want of better support from the members and stores.  It was also said by others that if the Corn Mill Society was to fail, it would be a severe test for co-operation in Rochdale, for how would confidence in the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers' Society be maintained, when the members could be pointed to one Co-operative Society in the town that had already failed?  We have related already how there came into play that vigorous sense and talismaniac faith of the Pioneer idea.  Mr. James Smithies contended that duty, the honour of co-operation and pioneership, called upon them not to forsake the Mill.  A majority voted in favour of continuing it.  Some of the opposition shook their heads, and said the majority would not see their folly until they had brought ruin to the "Pioneers' Society."  But though the Corn Mill Society had got one favourable vote in the Pioneers' Society, it was not yet safe; for an unfavourable one might be passed at some other meeting of the same Society.  Parties went about enthusiastically crying the Mill up, while others were hysterically crying it down.  As the same members belonged to the Corn Mill Committee and the Store Committee, they had to run from one room to another to divert an adverse vote.  Mr. Cooper gives a picture of the social difficulty of doing this—one of those transcripts of the domestic sacrifices of reformers seldom brought into sight, though an important part of social history:—

    "There were the monthly meetings of each of the societies, besides occasional special meetings, and two officers had to attend committee meetings one night, often more, in each week.  Of course the men would be away from home while attending these meetings.  The wife, who is mostly as good a supporter of the mill as her husband, generally putting up with the flour when it was not so good as it ought to be; and when she had a nice baking bread showing it to all neighbours and comers—that they might be convinced what good flour the Corn Mill Society was making.  Certainly some husbands would find fault with the wife when the bread was not good, and say 'she had spoiled the flour,' to which some wives would reply, 'they could bake as well as other people if they had the same flour, and that they would not use the Corn Mill Society's flour if they were to be grumbled at because they could not make good bread out of bad flour.'  The husband would be from home while attending meetings, the wife had to put the children to bed, and would be waiting with no one to speak a word to her, until the husband came from the meeting.  All would be silent except the constant tick of the clock, the rain battering against the windows, and the wind whistling and howling as if it had risen in revolt against the restraints imposed upon it by nature.  To the wife alone, minutes seem as long as hours, she thinks she is neglected, her husband attending meetings, or anything else rather than home.  At another house little Elizabeth has been sickly some days, and father has been at work all day, and now, when his work is done, he has gone to the meeting.  The mother cannot get the child to rest—she thinks it is getting worse.  When the husband comes home, she tells him how sickly the child is, and that he ought not to have gone to the meeting—indeed, if he had any thought for the child he could not go.  He tells her he has come home as soon as the meeting was over, but he cannot persuade her that he ought to have gone at all.  He believes the child will be better in a few days, and promises to help her to nurse and take care of her till it is so.  These, or many similar incidents, will have occurred to most persons engaged in promoting social or other reforms.  But it must not be said that the women are opposed to co-operation; they are and ever have been as much interested and as zealous of its success as the men.  There are many instances where the husband was lukewarm and the wife could not prevail on him to join the Co-operative Society, but she was not to be baffled, so she enters the Co-operative Society herself.  After a while, the husband thinks he should like to have his name on the books.  The wife will then withdraw so that he may take her number, or he will be proposed, and they will both become members."

    By the end of 1851 fifteen co-operative stores traded with the Corn Mill.  By the end of 1852 they had increased to fifty-two.  Among the individual members of the Corn Mill, in its struggling days, were Mary Hawkes and Elizabeth Stott, James Smithies, Abraham Greenwood, William Cooper, and others familiar to the reader.  In the first year Samuel Ashworth, Thomas Barlow, John Grindrod, John Collier, John Pickles, Edmund Hartley, George Holt, Edmund Rhodes, John Clegg, and William Cooper had each £10 in the Mill, which meant a good deal in those days.

    There was real difficulty about the flour.  Besides its sale not making profit, it was not good—bad wheat being often bought; and when it was really good, numbers of the customers disliked it.  It was not so white as that to which they had been accustomed.  They called it "yellow flour."  It had a cream-coloured look, instead of the nice alum colour with which they were familiar.  They did not know good flour when they saw it, and did not like it when they tasted it.  They had never known the taste of pure flour, and it took a long time to educate their taste.  In taking the falling fortune of the Mill into his hands, Mr. A. Greenwood had to learn the art of buying wheat and the trade of milling, and the proper management of a flour mill.  These difficult duties discharged, in addition to those in a mill of a very different kind where he was employed, made serious inroads both on his time and in his health.  For some years the consequences were serious to him.  He, however, succeeded in mastering the business, and pioneered the Mill out of its difficulties.  Mr. Robert Hoyle, Richard Hoyle, William Ellis, William Taylor, and others, by enthusiasm and address aiding, it came to pass that the first quarter in which the Society had no manager it made a profit of £20.

    We now arrive at the time, plain, tame, prosaic-looking 1855, when the Weir Street Mill first entered into the human mind—that is into that part of the human mind which understood co-operative enterprise in Rochdale.  The fixed stock or fittings and machinery of the Holme Mill, where the Corn Mill first commenced business, cost £1,275.  It really cost four shillings and a penny more (I mention the 4s. 1d. lest anyone should impugn the accuracy of this narrative).  In the early part of the Society's operations nothing could be set aside for depreciation, owing to losses.  When better days came, the losses were cleared off, which was done before any dividend was paid.  At every subsequent report of the Society, £50 or £100, and sometimes as much as £300, were set aside for wear and tear, and by the end of 1855, everything had been paid for, excepting an amount of £27.

    In 1856 a new mill and machinery was established at a cost of £6,827 16s. 10½d. (mark that "halfpenny!")  The co-operators knew exactly what the Corn Mill cost them.  It has since been known as the "Rochdale District Co-operative Corn Mill Society's New Mill, Weir Street, Rochdale."  According to the engraving which represents it, and which I published at the Fleet-Street House, sixteen years ago, it is the most melancholy mill that ever made a dividend.  Bark, thick, murky clouds around it, and the sky line as grim as the ridges of a coffin.  The white glass of the plain front meets the eye like the ghost of a disembodied factory.  A dreary waggon, carrying bags of corn, guided by drivers that look like mutes, is making its way through a cold, Siberian defile.  The builder might have made it pleasant to the eye, with as little expense as he made it ugly.  But in those days nobody thought of comeliness, seemliness, or pleasantness in structure, in which men would work all their lives.  The really pleasant part about the Corn Mill was in the minds of the gallant co-operators who set it going, and kept it going.

    The Almanac repeated that, "The objects of this Society are to provide its members, and those who trade with it, with pure, wholesome, and unadulterated flour.  The profits arising from the trade are divided amongst the members, in proportion to the amount of money expended, having first paid interest upon capital (nothing to the workmen) after the rate of £5 per cent. per annum.  The laws by which the Society is governed are the same in principle [which was not the case] as those of the Equitable Pioneers."

    The wise practice of reducing the cost of the mill by reserves made for depreciation was continued, so that in 1860, when the mill could be sold under the hammer for £6,000, it stood in the books as an asset at £3,862 only.

    At the quarter ending June, 1860, the amount of business done at the melancholy mill amounted to £33,140.  The Directors then announced that "it had then become obvious that their present mill and machinery could not be extended much farther with advantage."  At that time the number of members was 550, the representatives of stores and sick and burial societies included.  It was for the benefit of these societies that they should invest their accumulated funds in co-operative undertaking; for, at the bank, they only obtained two or three per cent, on their deposits, and they knew nothing further about their money, except that they had left it there.  Being men of inquiring minds, they did not quite like this mystery about their money.  At the co-operative societies they could get five per cent., and know where their money was, and what it was doing, and have votes in the management of the society, so as to make sure their money was doing well.  Of course, it took some trouble to persuade the members of sick and burial societies that it was safe to invest their funds in the Corn Mill.  It was necessary that they should be satisfied on this head, for if they had much anxiety about their money the Directors themselves might become sick, and, being sick, not get better, and then the Burial Society might have to inter the Directors.  When the Corn Mill had been some four or five years at work, a lodge in the town took courage and voted to invest some of their money in the Mill, and appointed three representatives to take it.  Mr. Cooper relates that, "when they got there and saw the committee of the Mill they durst not leave the money."  Perturbed, confused, and not knowing how to explain their impressions, they retired shambling, suspicious, and speechless.  They went back to their lodge, where they appeared like the Provost of Linlithgow, looking as though they had been "touched by a torpedo, or seen of a wolf," and related that " they had beheld weavers sitting on the Corn Mill committee, and that none of the committee were rich men, so they had brought the money back to the lodge that it might be safer than in the hands of working men."  They had been swindled by gentlemen before, as when the Savings Bank in the town failed, and brought dismay into thousands of poor families; but they had never been swindled by working men, and so they thought it a sort of duty to lose their money by respectable defaulters only.  The lodge, however, took a more common-sense view of the matter.  They held a consultation upon the subject, and came to the conclusion that weavers were as fit to be trusted as bankers.  They appointed fresh representatives with a little more courage, and sent more money by them than they had entrusted to the first downcast set.  It was all invested, and ever after it remained.

    In later years the Almanac gave this pleasant report of its progress:— "This Society, although one of the most delicate in its infancy, has now grown to be one of the strongest and most healthy.  About seven-eights of the business done is with co-operative societies, there being about 50 who trade with it.  It supplies its members, and others who trade with it, with pure, wholesome, unadulterated flour meal.  Some people have objected to the flour from this mill, simply because, when supplied to them pure, it did not look so well to the eye when baked into bread; we know that when they have been most deceived they have been best pleased.  Those who choose to adulterate for themselves can do so.  The gradually increasing business has necessitated an increase in the productive power; consequently the Society added in 1862 (to its previous working plant) one 25-horse-power steam engine, and six pairs of French stones, which are now at work helping to supply the increased demand.  It has also erected in the past year three cottage houses."

    The difficulty about adulteration, which for a time was so serious, the Society had quite overcome, and was even vivacious about it.  The members had become more intelligent; they had learned the nature of good flour when they had it; their tastes were better educated than that of many gentlemen of the middle class, and the Directors were able to tell the purchasers, in a reckless manner, "if they wanted to adulterate the flour they could do it themselves."  The Society took upon themselves the responsibility of advising the formation of corn mills in different parts of the country where there were co-operative societies to support them.  The propagandist sentiment has always been one of the honourable distinctions of Rochdale.  For this purpose they consulted Mr. John Holmes, of Leeds, always a copious, fertile, quaint, and willing illustrator of co-operative principles.  He had had great experience with the Leeds Corn Mill, of which he was a trustee.  He explained that it may be taken as a general fact that 1,000 families would not support a corn mill, 2,000 will probably do it, and 3,000 families would be certain to do it.  Of course this applied to demand alone.  At Leeds the mill would not have paid with 1,000 members.  At Garforth, near Leeds, where there were 1,500 members, the mill barely existed.  At Rochdale, they fared better with 2,000 members, but then they sold to the public also.  As to funds, the Leeds Society started with 21s. per member, and with this 1,000 could trade.  Perhaps with a mill hired they might find machinery for 1,000 members for £2 each, or 2,000 for 30s, each; but for a freehold mill and works 2,000 people will require 50s. each, supposing all was done well and cheaply.  A mill could not be built, including ground and machinery, for less than from five to seven thousand pounds, to grind for 2,000 people.

    The conclusion to which the Rochdale people came was, that in any district where there are a group of co-operative stores not more than eight or ten miles distant, having altogether three thousand members, and these societies would furnish a capital of, say, 25s, per member, they would be safe in renting a mill and fitting the same up with their own machinery.  The cost would be greater now.

    The progress and fluctuations of the "Rochdale District Cooperative Corn Mill, Limited," is best told in its Almanac reports of 26 years.


Funds (£)

Business (£)

Profits (£)
































































































































































Loss, 2,642













* Account mislaid
Loss £441


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42.      Co-operative News, December 18, 1876.

43.      The last communication I received from Mr. Cooper contained this cartoon; underneath the sitters is the name of each written by Mr, Cooper. I have it framed and it hangs in my chambers before me now.

44.      Rochdale old church, as visitors to the town are aware, stands on an abrupt hill, overlooking the borough; and at the foot of the hill runs the Roach.  It is among the dead on the plateau above where "Tim Bobbin" lies, and old townsmen believe it was on his grave that Mr. Bright made his first public speech in the town.  He was then a young man.  He had come down from One Ash, his father's house, to protest against levying a church rate.  "Tim" must be very proud, if he knew it, that that voice should first be heard over his head, which one day all the world would hear.  Tim Bobbin's gravestone was put down and the verses on it composed long after his death, by a distant relative.  The stone, and the inscription on it, has since been renewed by subscription.  Mr. John Bright did not speak from it at the Church Rate meeting. The authority to whom I am indebted for this information, stood by Mr. Bright on the top of one of the monuments in the old churchyard, from which he addressed the assemblage.  Mr. Bright could not have addressed them from Tim Bobbin's stone, because it was not then raised above the level of the churchyard, and he would have been lost in the crowd, had he stood there.  However, if the dead hear at all, Mr. Bright was quite near enough for Tim to be aware of what was going on.

45.      History of Co-operation in England, Vol. II., Constructive Period.

46.      The editor of the almanack has given this explanation of his views:—"We were charged with 'Socialism,' and 'Communism,' and these terms amongst most of the people we wanted to reach were only synonymous with 'atheism' and 'social anarchy.'  We did not care for the shopkeepers we knew they would always be against us from former experience; but there were the great mass of the working people to whom we wanted to bring the benefits only a few had tasted."  Had the author of this passage confined himself to pointing out that the Rochdale Pioneers were walking in a distinct though coincident, path from that described by those eminent theorist—had he pointed out that the Rochdale Co-operators were working in the same direction of social improvement, of self-created, self-directed, self-sustained, personal prosperity, which the great thinkers who inspired them meditated, he had better defended weavers from injurious misapprehension.

47.      I wrote one for the Hadderdfield Co-operators.

48.      There was no great "Wholesale" in those days.  It had not even been debated at Jumbo Farm.

49.      Professor Fawcett.—"Macmillan's Magazine," October, 1860.

50.      All these profits as we have said did not go into the shopkeepers' pockets.  The co-operator gets the savings by cash payments, no bad debts, by occupying cheaper shops, making no display of gas, or of goods which perish by exposure; by numerous customers and few servants; by buying wholesale; advantages which small shopkeepers cannot command.  Owing to his greater expenses the shopkeeper does not get half the profit the co-operator makes. It, therefore, creates needless ill-will to represent that co-operative profits formerly went into the shopkeeper's pocket.  Co-operators often talk in this inaccurate way, and no wonder that a writer new to the subject fell into the same language.

51.      They first went round August 11, 1860.

52.      This is not co-operation proper, because it treats capital as co-equal with labour, making it a partner, instead of an agent merely.  But co-operation had got no further in that day.

53.      Handbook of the Rochdale Congress, 1892, by William Robertson.

54.      This is so far the right form of productive co-operation; it hires capital and divides all profits among the purchasers who make it. But the Almanac is silent as to including the workmen.



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